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What if the Japanese strike at Hickham and Pearl Harbor succeded but the one at Clark failed?


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#1 Falcon Jun

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:50 AM

Reading through all the posts about the PTO had led me to pose this question:

What if the initial Japanese strikes at Hawaii succeed but the ones aimed at the Philippines didn't. The Pearl Harbor and Clark and Cavite strikes were just hours apart despite the difference in dates, December 7 and 8. The difference was due to the international dateline.

A failure at Clark would mean leaving an intact US Army Air Corps in the Far East, an organization which had the largest concentration of B-17 bombers outside of the continental US.

How would this affect the course of the war in the PTO?


This is my idea. With a virtually intact air force, a Japanese invasion of the main island of Luzon would've been a very iffy thing. Also, the continued basing of the bombers would've given the US a long range punch to interdict SLOC's. With the air cover, Admiral Hart's Asiatic Fleet would've been more effective and could've been used to attack Japanese naval targets once spotted. Supplies would not have been an immediate problem. The US had a Naval Yard in Cavite and a major air base at Clark.

With Cavite active, US submarines could've ranged further and earlier into Japanese sea routes, thus impeding further Japanese expansion.

The survival of Clark Field on December 8 would make it easier for the US to risk sending a convoy to the Philippines in early 1942. Unfortunately, such an action would entail that the US would concentrate more on the Pacific instead of Europe because the US would be reinforcing a US territory that's actually holding and succeeding against the Japanese instead of a UK reeling from being kicked out of the European continent.

#2 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 06:34 PM

This is a reasonable position, that the Japanese would meet alert opposition in the PI. After all, the US had nearly 9 hours warning that they were now at war.

As to the effectivenenss of the USAAF in the PI, this is more debatable. The US had about 100 or so fighter aircraft in the PI total. Of these about half were either early model P-40 or older obsolesent P-36 or P-35s. These aircraft would have proved very marginal against the Japanese and would have been quickly lost in aerial combat. The more modern P-40Es would likely have put up a decent fight before being reduced to ineffective numbers as well.
The problem for the US is that they cannot readily reinforce or replace their losses while the Japanese could. Additionally, the US also lacked the means to readily repair their airfields after bomb damage again reducing their effectiveness.
I really doubt that given the pathetic level of US leadership at high levels in the PI....Sutherland MacAuthur's CoS and Brereton his air commander in particular.... the USAAF would have made a stellar performance in any case. These same two proved incapable of using air power in New Guinea when it was available following the loss of the Philippines. I would use that as a baseline to likely events in the PI as well.
So, other than causing the Japanese some additional aircraft losses the USAAF still would not have made a significant contribution to the defense of the Philippines in any case.

#3 tikilal

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 07:02 PM

Yeah TA is on the money here, the fighters that were there were obosolete the Japanese bombers could fly higher than the US fighters so the airfields would ahve been easy pry to them. The B-17s that were there would have not contributed much other then to destroy some of the anchored landing ships, the problem with sending help to Luzon was that there was no help to send. Even if sacrifices were made to free up men, there was no way to supply them at the time.

The conquest could have been delayed by the planes there but not prevented.
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#4 John Dudek

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:33 PM

This is a reasonable position, that the Japanese would meet alert opposition in the PI. After all, the US had nearly 9 hours warning that they were now at war.

As to the effectivenenss of the USAAF in the PI, this is more debatable. The US had about 100 or so fighter aircraft in the PI total. Of these about half were either early model P-40 or older obsolesent P-36 or P-35s. These aircraft would have proved very marginal against the Japanese and would have been quickly lost in aerial combat. The more modern P-40Es would likely have put up a decent fight before being reduced to ineffective numbers as well.
The problem for the US is that they cannot readily reinforce or replace their losses while the Japanese could. Additionally, the US also lacked the means to readily repair their airfields after bomb damage again reducing their effectiveness.
I really doubt that given the pathetic level of US leadership at high levels in the PI....Sutherland MacAuthur's CoS and Brereton his air commander in particular.... the USAAF would have made a stellar performance in any case. These same two proved incapable of using air power in New Guinea when it was available following the loss of the Philippines. I would use that as a baseline to likely events in the PI as well.
So, other than causing the Japanese some additional aircraft losses the USAAF still would not have made a significant contribution to the defense of the Philippines in any case.


There was also the problem that the American fighter plane's guns had never been adequately tested and zeroed in because of lack of ammunition. This was a problem that continued throughout the Luzon and Bataan Campaigns. For every American Ace like "Buzz Wagner", there were dozens of others who could not get their guns to function properly or at all, when they were most needed and when it counted most.

#5 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:46 PM

Now, on the other hand, the "wet dream" version where the US does everything right would be, I think, something like this:

First, the USAAF has actually linked by phone and radio the two SCR 286 radar stations available to a fighter direction center at Clark Field. The Army has practiced its fighters to operate something like the RAF did in the middle and later stages of the Battle of Britain. That is, they have the aircraft aloft on a warning of approaching enemy aircraft and at altitude in plenty of time. The modern P-40s are instructed to strike first going for the escorts and drawing them off. The P-36 and P-35 then follow these fighters in in a second wave and blast the now unescorted (and in the Japanese case, nearly defenseless) bombers.
Hacking down a few raids on the scale the US did later at Guadalcanal or Midway where the Japanese suffer bomber losses of 50 to 75% would have definitely put the hurt on the Japanese. In such conditions the US might have been able to hold air parity if not superiority but in reality such things were not going to happen in the PI in 1941.

#6 lwd

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 11:45 AM

The biggest impact might be if either directily or due to intelligence gained from the aircraft and/or the extra time the US was able to seriously damage or sink a few more Japanese tankers early in the war.

#7 Falcon Jun

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 10:15 AM

This is a reasonable position, that the Japanese would meet alert opposition in the PI. After all, the US had nearly 9 hours warning that they were now at war.

As to the effectivenenss of the USAAF in the PI, this is more debatable. The US had about 100 or so fighter aircraft in the PI total. Of these about half were either early model P-40 or older obsolesent P-36 or P-35s. These aircraft would have proved very marginal against the Japanese and would have been quickly lost in aerial combat. The more modern P-40Es would likely have put up a decent fight before being reduced to ineffective numbers as well.
The problem for the US is that they cannot readily reinforce or replace their losses while the Japanese could. Additionally, the US also lacked the means to readily repair their airfields after bomb damage again reducing their effectiveness.
I really doubt that given the pathetic level of US leadership at high levels in the PI....Sutherland MacAuthur's CoS and Brereton his air commander in particular.... the USAAF would have made a stellar performance in any case. These same two proved incapable of using air power in New Guinea when it was available following the loss of the Philippines. I would use that as a baseline to likely events in the PI as well.
So, other than causing the Japanese some additional aircraft losses the USAAF still would not have made a significant contribution to the defense of the Philippines in any case.


One factor that seems to have been overlooked is the fact that the Japanese Zeros who were in the raid in Clark had whatever armor plating in the aircraft removed. This was done to lighten the aircraft and extend its range so that it can reach and attack Clark. Arriving at Clark, they were at the very limit of their fuel reserves so even if the US had tecnically inferior aircraft to the Zero, the Zero would not be able to linger and fight to its full potential. This would have evened out the fight.

I learned about how the Zeros was modified from the autobiography of Saburo Sakai, Japan's leading ace in World War II.

#8 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 10:01 PM

One factor that seems to have been overlooked is the fact that the Japanese Zeros who were in the raid in Clark had whatever armor plating in the aircraft removed. This was done to lighten the aircraft and extend its range so that it can reach and attack Clark. Arriving at Clark, they were at the very limit of their fuel reserves so even if the US had tecnically inferior aircraft to the Zero, the Zero would not be able to linger and fight to its full potential. This would have evened out the fight.

I learned about how the Zeros was modified from the autobiography of Saburo Sakai, Japan's leading ace in World War II.


I thought the Japanese aircraft attacking the Phillpines were army aircraft. Zeros were naval aircraft designs for aircraft carriers & would not have equipped IJA squadrons. The IJA fighters were good designs and their pilots experinced and well trained too, but we must get the details correct.

#9 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:06 PM

One thing that would definitely say is going against the US is USAAF doctrine and equipment. The raids on Clark Field et. al. were carried out by the Japanese flying in the altitude range of 20,000 to 25,000 feet. This has serious implications and problems for the US.

First, the standard AA guns the US had in the PI in 1941 were 3" pieces and incapable of firing on targets at that altitude. This means virtually all of the US air defense guns are worthless in this fight.

Second, USAAF (at least in the PI) doctrine was to put up standing partols on a air attack warning (say with the enemy an hour out or more) and then reinforce these when the target became clearer and the enemy attack got closer. However, the standard practice was to set the defending fighters at about 15,000 feet. This represents roughly the maximum useful altitude of most 1940 vintage Allison engined fighter aircraft like the P 40. It is also about as high as older models could reasonably manage like the P 35 and 36.
By flying another 5,000 + feet higher the Japanese gave themselves an advantage of not only position but also one of virtual invulnerability. Even the P 40 would take as much as 15 or more minutes to climb the additional 5,000 feet due to the poor altitude performance of the Allison. This means the Japanese bombers are going to go unintercepted in many cases and that their fighter escorts can pick and choose how they engage the Americans.

#10 John Dudek

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 01:00 AM

Now, on the other hand, the "wet dream" version where the US does everything right would be, I think, something like this:

First, the USAAF has actually linked by phone and radio the two SCR 286 radar stations available to a fighter direction center at Clark Field. The Army has practiced its fighters to operate something like the RAF did in the middle and later stages of the Battle of Britain. That is, they have the aircraft aloft on a warning of approaching enemy aircraft and at altitude in plenty of time. The modern P-40s are instructed to strike first going for the escorts and drawing them off. The P-36 and P-35 then follow these fighters in in a second wave and blast the now unescorted (and in the Japanese case, nearly defenseless) bombers.
Hacking down a few raids on the scale the US did later at Guadalcanal or Midway where the Japanese suffer bomber losses of 50 to 75% would have definitely put the hurt on the Japanese. In such conditions the US might have been able to hold air parity if not superiority but in reality such things were not going to happen in the PI in 1941.


Only problem was, virtually none of the US Fighter Pilots had ever test fired their guns in their planes, because of lack of any practice ammunition and there were a load of various "bugs" in the gun solenoids and other mechanisms that were never completely "ironed-out" throughout the campaign. The recent book "Doomed at the Start" is very clear about this.

#11 John Dudek

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 02:51 AM

Perhaps too, had someone bothered to read Claire Lee Chennault's critique of the Japanese Fighter Planes and their combat tactics of the day, while adopting the same combat tactics as the AVG "Flying Tigers", maybe the US fighter planes in the Philippine Islands would have lasted alot longer and scored a much higher kill ratio of Japanese Planes and Pilots than they actually did.

#12 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 03:05 AM

Well certainly a better air warning system would have helped along with more modern AA The FEAF lost fully half of its 107 P-40s and 35 B-17s the first day due to Japanese attacks. IMO Though I think the system that Chennault used in China wouldnt have worked in the Philippines. The FEAF also lacked enough bases for proper dispersal of the fighters and bombers. Not to say also that they lacked the repair facilites and equipment to service the damaged aircraft. IMO it wasn't just the tactics that doomed the FEAF.
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#13 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 10:55 PM

Good article about Clark Field.

Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941
by Michael Gough

Military History Online - Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941
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#14 Slipdigit

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 11:26 PM

Arrrggghhhh! another article added to stack to read.

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#15 John Dudek

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 12:00 AM

Both versions of P-40 Pursuit Planes in the PI were performance inferior to their Japanese counterparts in all but two terms. Both P-40 versions could outdive and more importantly, outrun the Japanese fighterplanes at low altitude, although the P-40's could shoot the Japanese aircraft to pieces with their superior armament, while enduring much greater punishment because of their overall armor protection.

#16 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 12:49 AM

Arrrggghhhh! another article added to stack to read.


Sorry there Jeff :( LOL.
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#17 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 12:54 AM

Both versions of P-40 Pursuit Planes in the PI were performance inferior to their Japanese counterparts in all but two terms. Both P-40 versions could outdive and more importantly, outrun the Japanese fighterplanes at low altitude, although the P-40's could shoot the Japanese aircraft to pieces with their superior armament, while enduring much greater punishment because of their overall armor protection.


Alot better then the P-26 or P-35 :)
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#18 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 03:06 AM

Of course it doesn't help that the US 3" AA gun can't effectively engage aircraft at roughly 20,000 feet either meaning the Japanese are flying above virtually all of the AA fire too.

#19 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 03:13 AM

Of course it doesn't help that the US 3" AA gun can't effectively engage aircraft at roughly 20,000 feet either meaning the Japanese are flying above virtually all of the AA fire too.


There is that too. They needed more modern and up to date AA.

Here is some info on the Philippine Army Air Corps victories against the Japanese with the P-26. :)

PAAC P-26
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#20 John Dudek

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 10:10 PM

Of course it doesn't help that the US 3" AA gun can't effectively engage aircraft at roughly 20,000 feet either meaning the Japanese are flying above virtually all of the AA fire too.



The 90mm AAA guns promised by General Marshal had not been cleared by the Army testing boards before 7 Dec. '41.

#21 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 06:32 PM

Right now Im reading "They Fought With What They Had" by Walter D. Edmonds. The book is about the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Philippines and Java in 1941 and 1942. Its very informative. It really shows how unprepared and underequipped the forces were in the Phillipines.

http://www.airforceh...at_they_had.pdf
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#22 Falcon Jun

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 10:47 AM

Interesting stuff posted on what happened at Clark. Thanks for referring these stuff. Lt. Jesus Villamor and his fellow Filipino pilots didn't down a single enemy aircraft but they did succeed in disrupting a bombing run using inferior planes.

#23 John Dudek

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 03:42 AM

Right now Im reading "They Fought With What They Had" by Walter D. Edmonds. The book is about the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Philippines and Java in 1941 and 1942. Its very informative. It really shows how unprepared and underequipped the forces were in the Phillipines.

http://www.airforceh...at_they_had.pdf


An excellent book, by the way!

#24 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 03:49 AM

An excellent book, by the way!

I agree! Alot of information in over 500 pages LOL. And free is a very good price :).
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#25 Falcon Jun

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 10:11 AM

Right now Im reading "They Fought With What They Had" by Walter D. Edmonds. The book is about the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Philippines and Java in 1941 and 1942. Its very informative. It really shows how unprepared and underequipped the forces were in the Phillipines.

http://www.airforceh...at_they_had.pdf




Finally finished reading this. It answered a lot of questions I had. Thanks again, JC.




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