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what if........The 5 aircraft carriers were based in Pearl Harbor and Japan sunk them

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Sloniksp, Sep 11, 2006.

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  1. mavfin

    mavfin Member

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    Exactly. The entire Midway operation was intended to cause a fleet battle to wipe out the remaining US carriers/large fleet units, on the assumption that a threat to Midway/the Aleutians would draw them out of Pearl. And the operation was set up because of the face lost by the Navy when the Doolittle raid happened. No Doolittle raid, no Midway operation. The original plan didn't go out that far.

    As far as the Coral Sea battle that might not have happened, there could have been some consequences of that. First, Port Moresby might have been taken, and second, the Guadalcanal/Tulagi Japanese might have gotten started on an airfield quicker if they hadn't been bombed by Yorktown planes. Either could have made things take longer to defeat Japan, but, it wouldn't have stopped the US from doing so. I don't think there were ever plans to do more to Australia than isolate them. Japan simply didn't have the troops to take the Australian continent, and they knew it.

    So, while losing all the carriers might have made the Pacific war bloodier, longer, and more expensive, I don't think the Japanese could have stopped the US Navy once they started receiving all their new ships in 1943/44. It would have just delayed it a bit.
     
  2. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    The Midway operation was the Japanese response to the Doolittle raid. The Japanese thought that the bombers came from Midway, not from the carrier Hornet. The US learned of the Japanese plan and decided to confront the move, thus paving the way for the Battle of Midway.
     
  3. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Well, in my view the US would have lossed Midway no argument.. The Americans never would have even landed at Guadacanal becouse the Japs could have easily positioned a carrier there for defence.

    So by the time the yanks have rolled out some of there new carriers, The japs have secured and fortified several key points, And there moral is still intact becouse the doolittle raide was never performed.

    Midway could have powerful airwing, Along with small naval group (Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines etc), Also a good location to monitare Hawii or launch further attacks against Hawii.

    Guadacanal would have powerful air wing, Land based naval guns, Good garrison, Naval units (Carriers, Battle ships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines etc), Also the most important forward loaction, The closest point for cutting/harrasing supplies between Australia/America.

    No doubt americas ability to replace losses is well known, But by the time these units would be reaching the front they would be facing hardened positions against an enemy who is dug in and prepared, Not an enemy that has been taking losses and been in several major defeats already.

    So, America would eventually be able to win, But not before suffering greater losses, But also depends on the American people, It could get to the point that they become so tired of war that they want to just make a deal with japan for it to end.
     
  4. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I am personally surprised with this view. The US making a deal with Japan to end the war is, I believe, far fetched. Though I am willing to concede that your view is remotely plausible, it would really take a lot for such an event to occur. If one takes world history as a guide, the people in the different nations of that era are generally still somewhat accustomed to the idea of waging war and accepting its consequences once war is joined.
     
  5. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    From memory Falcon Jur i think late in the war the American people had grown tired of the war (not to say that they would stop fighting) and they were starting to feel the cost of it as well, Being able to produce massive fleets and arm up huge armies is pointless if you cant pay for it all.
     
  6. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Okay. I did say "far fetched" and "remotely possible" not "it can't happen." You do have a leg to stand on by citing an economic basis but again I will emphasize that it will take a lot more than this to convince the US to negotiate with Japan to end the Pacific War.
    I respectfully suggest that it would be a good habit to always keep in mind that the US is involved in more than one theater of war and is involved with other Allies, thus the US is politically inhibited from acting unilaterally, even for a peace initiative. If one mentions "late in the war," the Allies already have the upper hand. Victory is already in sight or just over the horizon. With this in mind, it means the US taxpayer would tend to believe that the economic costs are worth it.
    Now, if the reverse was happening (Germany actually winning against the Allies and conquering Russia; Japan's buffer zone successfully defeating repeated Allied attempts to penetrate it and effectively isolating Australia), then the economic cost would not be worth it. That, I think, would be the only time the US would be decide to sue for peace. The best, I think, that the Axis would be able to achieve is a stand off with the US. Germany nor Japan could've won in their respective theaters but they won't have enough strength to physically invade the US (of course unless some nation in South America actively sides with the "victorious" Axis powers. That hypothetical nation would be a late comer but would provide the Axis the necessary physical foothold to access the North American continent plus a fresh manpower pool.)
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    That is the more appropriate term.
     
  8. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Falcon jur, Please in no way think that im trying to imply that you said it couldnt happen, As for the two scenarios about the tax payers money. I believe thoe there is a third option.

    In either scenario either the Axis are winning or losing, But with my argument, The japanese have secured there defensive line, But that does not help germany at all, They would still be suffering a slow defeat, Even thoe making the Allies pay for it dearly, Non the less they would be losing. While Japan is fighting off attemp after attemp by the Allies.

    And yes i agree the US would be un-able to act unilaterally due to there alliances, How ever, It may take a few more years but how long do you really think it would take the entire allied force.. Not even near the size of the US navy to relise they are just throwing away lives.

    The only way they could really affect Japan is via Russia, Which wouldnt be until 1945.


    Just a small thought, With the Japanese defensive line set up, Whats the possibility of them sending out ships to either the Indian, Southern Atlantic, or into the Southern pacific Oceans.

    Indian Ocean - Able to harras allied supply ships and access the Southern Atlantic and its not in direct danger via US navy

    Southern pacific - Is in direct danger to the US navy, But if able to make it there un detected you should be fine, But you just got to get past alot of Island groups first

    Southern Atlantic - Is in danger from US and UK navys, How ever can do alot of harm with combined Italian/German navys operating towards same goals. Can be accessed via either the Indian or Southern pacific. Also allows access to Northern Atlantic.

    I would rather choose the Indian Ocean and into the Atlantic from there, Less danger from the US navy and gives greater halp to there Axis allies, By cutting off/Harrasing the supply route for the Allies in NA they effectively give the Germans/Italians the upper hand, or at the least a level playing field, And i dont see the allies winning on a level playing field.
     
  9. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Von_noobie, thanks for pointing that out. I may have misunderstood your post. And it's Falcon Jun, not Falcon Jur (apparently it's not a typo because it was used twice LOL).
    Let's stick to the parameters of this what if and let's work together from there:
    Premise: US loses its carriers during Pearl Harbor attack
    My conjecture: Allows Japan to consolidate defensive Pacific buffer. War of naval attrition results with US winning because it could sustain its losses.

    Your conjecture: The loss of the US carriers allows Japan to consolidate defense. American people loses taste for war with Japan because of economic costs. Japan gains ability to continuously fight off Allied attempt to the point that Japan has enough ships to venture in other oceans.

    I hope you agree that the above is an accurate summary of what we've discussed.
     
  10. tikilal

    tikilal Ace

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    Which was the point behind the bonds. The American people paid for most of the war effort there.
     
  11. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Sounds about right Falcon Jun (yay spelt it right ... for once =P )
     
  12. mavfin

    mavfin Member

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    One of the more interesting comparisons I've seen of the economic side of the Japanese war (and this includes a small discussion of the carriers possibly being lost at Pearl Harbor, iirc) is here:

    Grim Economic Realities

    PS. I may have even found the above site from a post in this forum somewhere. :D
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem with the Japanese "securing their defensive line" shows up in the early Pacific War US counter operations like Mankin Atoll. On that island the US launched their first offensive expedition against a Japanese held island. Although intended as just a raid with no intention of staying put, the US demonstrated to the Japanese several things that were more than a minor shock to their belief that their defenses as currently set up were more than adequite to stop a US attack.

    First, the US forces got ashore virtually intact. This alone was a rude shock, particularly after the drubbing the US gave the Japanese at Wake.

    Next, the US forces took the island and pretty much wiped out the Japanese defenders in short order. Again a bit of a shock. Since the Japanese also did not fully understand the size or composition of the attacking force (due to their loss of the island), they were at a disadvantage intelligence-wise.

    Lastly, the Japanese had banked on the US either not trying to assault islands they held or if they did being repulsed with heavy losses. At Mankin both beliefs were thoroughly shattered. It was now apparent to the Japanese that the US would try and assault islands they held and that the US had a good chance of succeeding.

    Guadalcanal drove this lesson home with massive force. Once again a Japanese unit was overwhelmed as at Mankin in no time at all and the island lost. This time the US stayed put and then beat off every Japanese attempt to retake the island. Obviously, something needed to be done and done immediately.

    The result of the Mankin raid and Guadalcanal was that Japan embarked on a crash program to upgrade their island defenses. Most SNLF forces on Pacific islands received more men, a great deal more heavy weapons, and more coastal defense artillery. These units were instructed to start construction on heavy permanent and field fortications as well as beach and island obstacles.

    The difference shows up at Tarawa where the US was for the first time taking an island that met the new standard. Even then, the US won a somewhat phyrric victory. But, they won. The Japanese began to push harder to defend their remaining outposts.
    But, even then some things were beyond their comprehension. The inner ring of islands like the Bonins and Saipan were still left largely undefended. These were truly Japanese territory and it was simply unthinkable that the US could ever get that far.

    So, from the point of view of a heavy loss of carriers from the outset of the Pacific War, I really doubt that much would change. The US would have implemented liner conversions (outlined elsewhere here), built escort carriers, pushed far harder to get the Essex class in commission, and would have meantime still pursued the Pacific War with the means at hand.
    Mankin could still have occured. Guadalcanal could still happen. Midway was defendable against a carrier air strike and certainly against a Japanese landing. Elsewhere, not having carriers does not preclude use of land based air power in its stead.
    I really doubt this scenario changes much of anything early in the war.
     
    USS Washington and mikebatzel like this.
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    First of all, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation as to exactly how many carriers might have been docked at Pearl Harbor on December 7; the Japanese thought there might be as many as five. In fact, there were only two carriers, Enterprise and Lexington, near Hawaii at the time, and both of them were delivering aircraft to reinforce Midway and Wake. Enterprise had delivered planes to Wake and was scheduled to return to Pearl Harbor on Saturday, December 6, but bad weather delayed her and she was still some 2oo miles away on the morning of the 7th. The third Pacific Fleet carrier, Saratoga, was in San Diego picking up a new airgroup after having been dry docked at Mare Island for a minor refit. The other US fleet carriers, Ranger, Hornet, Wasp, and Yorktown were all in the Atlantic.

    So the maximum number of carriers the Japanese might have damaged or sunk at Pearl Harbor is two. That would still leave five fleet carriers for operations in the Pacific once the Atlantic carriers had been transferred to the Pacific. As for the impact on the war, it would have been a blow to the USN, but probably wouldn't have immediately affected strategy or operations. I suspect, as some one else has pointed out, that the USN would rapidly salvage the damaged or sunken carriers and return them to service, probably in time for Coral Sea or Midway, at the latest.

    Another point that seems not too well understood is the defense of Hawaii in relation to the "Europe First" policy. The US had three main priorities in it's war strategy, they were in order of importance, 1. The defense of North America (which was defined as the United States, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and the "strategic triangle", i. e. a line drawn through Alaska, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal.) 2. The defeat of Nazi Germany, and 3. the total defeat of Japan. A careful reader will note that the defense of Hawaii carried a higher priority than the defeat of Nazi Germany ("Europe First"), therefore men, planes, ships, equipment, and supplies needed for the defense of Hawaii came before the buildup in Europe and even before war aid to Britain and the Soviet Union, and this held true throughout the war. Had the Pacific Fleet lost two carriers in the initial attack, there would have been no question of transferring the Atlantic carriers to the Pacific and reinforcing Hawaii's defenses with whatever was needed. Historically, Hawaii's air defenses were actually very quickly reinforced after the attack.

    So what would have been the impact be on the war? Well, none to speak of. The USN would still have operated four or five carriers in the Pacific, and the two sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor would have had the highest priority for salvage and repair, being returned to the fleet sometime in mid 1942. The light fleet carrier conversion program which enjoyed a high priority in 1942, would still deliver nine light fleet carriers in 1943. The Essex class carriers, under construction at the time, all enjoyed the highest priority in materials, labor and yard space, and most were delivered many months early, so that will not change. The lead ship, Essex, will still be commissioned on the last day of 1942.

    The Japanese may be a little more complacent, but the first USN carrier raids will quickly change that and the Doolittle Raid will still lead to a battle of Midway which, in all probability, the USN will win. Guadalcanal will go forward pretty much on schedule and the Japanese will make the mistake of entering into a battle of attrition that will leave the IJN too weak to exploit it's advantage of interior lines when the US launches it's Central Pacific offensive in the latter half of 1943. I would think the major impact would be in the Atlantic where the Ranger will likely not be available for the North African Campaign in November, 1942, and the Wasp will not make deliveries of British aircraft to Malta; the British will have to use their own aircraft carriers for these tasks.
     
  15. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Ok, true there were only the possibility of 2 carriers been sunk at Hawii, But it is a what if so lets stick with the 5 carriers of this topic.

    Midway - Yes it had a powerful air group, But didnt it take a masive beating in the opening Japanese air strike on the Island, So that air group wouldnt help at all, The planes were destroyed or damaged on the ground, and the yanks got real busy running around removing bombs and munitions to prevent secondary explosions. The Japanese invasion force my take severe infantry casualties (MAY) but they still had to do there shore bombardment, who knows what effect that could have on the defending Infantry.

    Simply, The Americans could not hold midway with out here carriers, The Japanese force simply would have over powered them.

    Guadacanal - Ok, If the Americans destroyed the Japanese carriers at Midway then of course the Americans would win at Guadacanal, How ever, In this scenario the Japanese carriers were not able to be destroyed and as such would have been able to provide a security force until the air field was built up aswell as the Island defences.

    Simply, Carriers provide defence until Guadacanal fully operational, Nothing the yanks can do about it any time soon.

    As for the Americans being able to put damaged or sunked carriers back into use, Possibly depending on there condiction, How ever, A ship, flooded, Hit numerous times by bombs and torpedos, As well as being flooded, Would take a long time to put back into action.
    First they have to be refloated, then they have to basically rip the gutts out of them becouse its all been stuffed by water, As well as new flight decks, crew replacements and hull repair, This all assuming it structerly sound would take upto a year to complete, Minimum of 8 months. they would not make it to Midway And would be lucky to even have the possibilty of making Guadacanal.
     
  16. mavfin

    mavfin Member

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    We can do that.

    Whoops. No carriers=no Doolittle Raid=no Midway operation. Scratch this one out. Instead, in the Coral Sea, with no carriers,*maybe* Port Moresby gets taken. On the other hand, the US may expend the resources to get land-based air in there, and stop the invasion in a different way, without a carrier battle. Unknown. Worst case? New Guinea is taken, and the Japanese get a lead in the Solomons.


    Soon being a year, perhaps. By early 1943, the Essex class is coming into service, along with the Independence CVLs, the Cleveland class cruisers, the first two new BB classes, and several new aircraft, including the Hellcat, the Corsair, the TBF, and the 5th Air Force probably gets built up quicker than it did (in reaction to the no carriers) to help defend Australia's lifelines. Remember, there were never any Japanese plans to take over Australia. They knew they didn't have the manpower, they were just going to isolate.

    Moot point, really, with what I've written above. By early '43, the US industrial advantage would have done what it did historically, and the Japanese would lose their advantage. The war would still be won by the US, it would just cost more time, blood, and treasure, but, after an attack like Pearl Harbor, the US isn't going to want to make peace with the Japanese short of defeat.

    I think more land-based air would have been thrown in to compensate for the carriers. Also, it might have put Torch off somewhat, as some of the manpower used for Torch, and some of the ships and planes would have been used to shore up Australia, so, the Guadalcanal situation might not be as bad as it seems in your writing above. Lots of maybes and what-ifs and other variables in this whole scenario, really.
     
  17. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Much as I want to explore this what if under the parameters we agreed upon, I have to unfortunately point out a weakness in the points you raised about constantly using Japanese carriers.
    Consider the carriers' air crew. Let's say that the Japanese carriers do lord it over the Pacific without any opposing US carrier. The Japanese defeat US attempts with carrier airpower, as you envision. But the Japanese would still have suffer losses. Planes will be shot down and experienced air crew lost. Even if the Japanese constantly win air battles, their naval aviation crews will still suffer losses and it's a fact that the Japanese system wasn't designed to provide a quick turnover of newly trained air crew and pilots.
    So for the short term, Japan might be able to hold but attrition is still against them, even without losing any carriers!
    Another point to consider: The Japanese naval mind generally thought in terms of seeking battle with major fleet units in order to deal one smashing blow to an enemy. It would be a highly incompetent US naval commander who would fight on Japanese terms, especially if the Japanese held an advantage. The logical and prudent thing to do would be for the US to strike in places where the Japanese fleet is absent or few until the US marshals enough strength to dictate the terms of the fight. This historically happened. If the Japanese decides to spread out its fleet and forces to defend their entire buffer zone, they would probably lose. Look again at how history unfolds: generally, those who defend everything, ends up defending nothing.
    The best that the Japanese could hope for is to delay the US as long as it could. The Japanese might attempt to shore up their defensive dike but the US flood is growing higher and higher. Eventually, the Japanese dike will get swamped.
     
  18. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I guess I didn't state my point explicitly enough on this issue. My contention is that much more would have to change in US policy for there to be many more than two carriers at Pearl Harbor at any one time. First Roosevelt had been warned by Admiral Richardson long before the attack on Pearl Harbor that the base was vulnerable to attack, so to allow more than two carriers at a time to be there was a known risk. Secondly, the seven USN carriers were very busy at the time, not only in the Pacific but also in the Atlantic. The USN had only three carriers in the Pacific at the time and they were constantly shuttling back and forth between the West Coast, Hawaii, and other outlying bases, not to mention training at sea. Third, Pearl Harbor could not really accommodate five carriers and their airgroups at one time. Besides congestion in the harbor itself, it was standard practice to fly off the carrier airgroups to shore bases to continue pilot and aircrew training when the carriers were in port; there were not enough air fields on Oahu to operate some 300-350 planes in addition to the normal air garrisons. So a lot more would have to be changed than just a decision to base five aircraft carriers at Oahu in order for the "what-if' to make any sense.


    A lot depends on how badly they might be damaged. But, assuming the historical attack, the Japanese first target priority was the battleships, carriers were only second, so they wouldn't have that many planes assigned to attack them. And when in port, the USN carriers did not have their airgroups aboard, fuel lines were drained and secured, and munitions either removed or secured in the magazines. So the chance of uncontrollable fires, which was what damaged or destroyed most carriers during the war is greatly reduced. If hit by dive or level bombers using ordinary bombs (the Japanese were very short of armor piercing bombs) most of the damage will be restricted to the flight and hangar decks. Repairs to these two areas are relatively easy, the biggest problem being repairing the elevators if they are damaged. The Yorktown took severe damage to her flight deck and hangar at Coral Sea, yet enough was repaired to get her battle-worthy in just 72 hours. If the ship is hit by torpedoes, the hull will be damaged and flooding will take place, but worst case, the ship will settle to the bottom and flooding will be localized. The Saratoga was hit several time by torpedoes during the war and in no case did it take longer than three months to repair her, and this included a refit and modifications. Bottom line, any carriers at Pearl Harbor could expect to receive less damage than the battleships, and it would be much easier to repair because of the nature of carrier design. The Essex class ships were built from the keel up in an average of 16 months; repairing damage to an already existing carrier will take no longer than a third of that time.


    Well, you might want to read "Shattered Sword" by Joanathan Parshall and Anthony Tully for a different take on just how easy it would have been for the Japanese to capture Midway, even without US carriers in the mix. But Midway was not all that important to the US and would have represented a tremendous defensive and logistical liability to the Japanese. It could not be effectively used for air attacks on Hawaii, it was too small and too far away. If it required US carriers to defend it, that went double for the Japanese to defend it after capture;as soon as the Japanese carriers returned to their base, Midway would be defenseless against any US counter-attack. And the Japanese couldn't keep their carriers there for more than a week or two.


    The American public did not begin to exhibit "war weariness" until the troops in Europe starting coming home in the May-June, 1945 time frame, and then it was mostly because the end was in sight and they began to be impatient for all the troops to come home; no one wants to be the last one killed in a war. As for economic issues, they just weren't part of the equation. Nobody in the US suffered much economically from the war. In fact, the US was the only belligerent country where civilian consumer spending went up during the war, and the greatest worry was about post-war recession which really didn't happen. Opinion polls taken in the spring of 1945, showed that the American public supported the policy of total defeat of Japan and were willing to make whatever sacrifices that entailed. After Pearl Harbor, there was absolutely ZERO chance of negotiation for Japan, no matter what reverses the US suffered. In fact, the British historian H. P. Wilmott contends (as do I), that Pearl Harbor was the battle that doomed Japan.
     
  19. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    But the question is what if they were all sunk...
     
  20. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Even "what-if" questions have to have some basis in historical fact or they're meaningless and can't serve as a departure point for conjecture. As I've pointed out, there is no historical basis for supposing that five carriers might have been at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; as stated the question is pointless. I could, with equal basis in reality, claim that Roosevelt would simply put 3,000,000 unemployed Americans to work in the shipyards, and build five new carriers in two months. Neither event has the remotest possibility of occurring because each ignores the real circumstances.
     
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