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"What If" The Repulse and Prince of Wales had US Escorts?


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 06:55 AM

I hadn't know about this and how Admiral Hart was going to help the British. In the book "United States Army in World War II The War in the Pacific, The Fall of the Philippines" by Louis Morton this was mentioned,

"During those two anxious days,Admiral Phillips of the British Navy had been in Manila conferring with Admiral Hart. One of his prime objectives had been to get destroyers to screen his two great battleships,Repulse and Prince of Wales,for the British only had six in the Far East waters,all which were needed for detached service. But on learning on the Japanese fleet's heading he took off at once by night for Singapore. Destroyers or no destroyers,he felt that he should be at sea.*

*Since there was no military alliance with Britain at the time,it was a difficult decision for Admiral Hart to make,but by coincidence four of our destroyers were refueling at Balikpapan (Borneo). Hart decided that there was nothing in international law that would prevent U.S. ships from making a indoctrinational cruise with ships of a friendly power. Before Phillips left he ordered the destroyers to Batavia for supplies and recreation. They should have reached Singapore in 48 hours. Unfortunately the Dutch port authorities refused to open the antisubmarine booms at Balikpapan before sunrise, and by the time the destroyers reached Singapore, the two battleships,unescorted,had long since left on thier missions up the Malay coast.6

I wonder if had they been able to sail with the Repulse and Prince of Wales if they would have made any difference in their fate?

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#2 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 08:47 PM

I wouldn't have helped any. All of the US destroyers in the Asiatic Fleet were old WW 1 "four pipers" and lacked any useful AA batery That made them no better as escorts for the conditions the British would face than the old WW 1 destroyers the British themselves were using in this theater (The S, T and V classes).

#3 Carl W Schwamberger

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 12:23 AM

Even if they had been the most modern models with the best crew available the end result would have been the same. The AA directors of the USN, or any other navy of the year could not cope with the speed of the state of the art aircraft. Perhaps a few more Japanese aircraft would have been shot down or permanetly damaged, but the odds were against the Brits.

After the proximity fuze was provided in bulk the US/Brit AA defenses became deadly, but the mechanical time fuzes of 1942 were fairly useless vs low flying torpedo bombers and dive bombers.

More usefull would have been the timely arrival of fighter cover, either from Singapore or the Brit carrier. While the fighters ultimatly would have lost severely theres a chance they could have disrupted enough bombers to save one or both of the Brit ships.
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#4 John Dudek

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 01:37 AM

I wouldn't have helped any. All of the US destroyers in the Asiatic Fleet were old WW 1 "four pipers" and lacked any useful AA batery That made them no better as escorts for the conditions the British would face than the old WW 1 destroyers the British themselves were using in this theater (The S, T and V classes).


Agreed. The WW I vintage "four pipers" were armed IIRC with four, .50 caliber, watercooled machineguns and one 75mm AA gun mounted aft, not exactly an overwhelming punching power against attacking Japanese aircraft. The destroyers 4" main battery could not be elevated high enough to fire against attacking aircraft.

#5 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 04:22 AM

Had the US destroyers been of some of the latest pre-war classes like the Benson - Livermores they could have made a difference. These had Mk 33 or Mk 38 directors that were capable of tracking 400 mph targets with a special "dive bombing" feature going to 500 mph (this is the closure rate not the actual speed of the target). With 5"/38 guns they might have made a significant contribution.
Each DD in these classes also had 8 .50 machineguns for close in defense at the time.

#6 Herr Oberst

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 04:38 AM

More ships would have been sunk, the short answer. Now how many carriers would be needed to effectively escort those battleships out of land based aircraft range?
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#7 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 04:53 AM

More ships would have been sunk, the short answer. Now how many carriers would be needed to effectively escort those battleships out of land based aircraft range?


IIRC the fleet carrier "Indomitable" was supposed to accompany the two but had run aground. Another "What If?"
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#8 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 04:37 PM

Just one carrier. The Japanese had no fighter escort with their bombers that attacked. If the carrier had up just 8 to 10 fighters and these bounced the incoming strike at 40 miles out one could expect 50 to 70% losses. Obviously, that alone would have put an end to Japanese air strikes on these ships for the short term.

#9 Falcon Jun

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 07:07 AM

Just one carrier. The Japanese had no fighter escort with their bombers that attacked. If the carrier had up just 8 to 10 fighters and these bounced the incoming strike at 40 miles out one could expect 50 to 70% losses. Obviously, that alone would have put an end to Japanese air strikes on these ships for the short term.

I agree. Without air cover, those British ships were really begging to be sunk.

#10 mac_bolan00

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 05:51 AM

but then, what allied carrier plane then could have stood against the zero? remember, it was the first and second japanese carrier divisions deployed then (akagi and kaga) --their best pilots.

#11 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:14 AM

but then, what allied carrier plane then could have stood against the zero? remember, it was the first and second japanese carrier divisions deployed then (akagi and kaga) --their best pilots.


What Zeros? There were no Zeros in the attack. They were attacked by Nells and Bettys. If the carrier "Indomitable" had been there then the attack would have been different.And they were all land based. 34 torpedo aircraft,51 level bombers,3 scouting aircraft.
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#12 mac_bolan00

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 06:17 AM

my bad, was thinking of another battle. but zeros could have been brought in on another sortie. the zero's range was more than twice that of US carrier fighters.

#13 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 05:23 PM

but then, what allied carrier plane then could have stood against the zero? remember, it was the first and second japanese carrier divisions deployed then (akagi and kaga) --their best pilots.


You might want to check out the record of the F4F Wildcat in combat between 7 Dec 41 and 7 Dec 42. The kill ratio between the F4F and the A6M Zero was almost dead even when there was combat between the two. The reasons for this were that US Navy pilots were every bit as good or better than their Japanese opponets. Most had as many hours flying time as the Japanese. The second reason was US Navy tactics were far superior to those of the IJN aviatiors. Teaching of deflection shooting was part of US Navy instruction; a true anomoly at the time as this was the only major aviation force in the world doing it. Tactics like the Thach Weave (mutual section support) also gave Navy pilots an advantage. Lastly, the US had a immeasurable advantage in their system for deploying CAP and using their fighters to intercept Japanese raids. Radar and radio along with a dedicated fighter direction system gave Navy pilots the edge they needed. It allowed their slow climbing Wildcats to be at the right place at the right time and allowed them to rack up major victories over their Japanese Naval aviator opponets.
When the US finally began to put far better aircraft into operational use this advantage was overwhelming.
At Midway, as just one example the inadequitacy of Japanese CAP tactics was the primary contributor to their disasterous losses. Their CAP intercepted raids too close to their own ships, and lacking radar and even radios in many Zeros (the pilots often removed them feeling they were just dead weight and unnecessary) the Japanese CAP was unable to effectively be positioned for later US raids that showed up unmolested and sank their carriers. By comparison, the two raids launched by the surviving carrier Hyryu suffered over 70% casualties each in attacking the Yorktown. Even had the Japanese carrier survived its airwing, like those of Zuikaku and Shokaku at Coral Sea would have been so badly decimated it would have taken a year or more to replace it.
The only thing going for the Zero was that it was a highly maneuverable and long-ranged aircraft. Its major flaw wasn't the aircraft itself but the poor system and tactics with which it was deployed. In warfare, superior technology employed in inferior ways will always succumb to inferior technology employed in superior ways.

#14 mac_bolan00

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 11:57 PM

midway was a poorly drawn-out plan and even the zero's superior qualities, and the first and second carrier divisions' SUPERIOR pilots would not have tipped the eventual outcome. what could be dumber than smashing at an island's defenses, and at the same time guessing when the enemy carriers are going to show up?

are you going to bet your wildcats against another guy's zeros, assuming everything else was even?

but swerving back to the topic, what kind of respite from the first wave of torpedo bombers would have benefitted force Z and even singapore? hardly anything, i think.

#15 Slipdigit

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 12:11 AM

my bad, was thinking of another battle. but zeros could have been brought in on another sortie. the zero's range was more than twice that of US carrier fighters.

It would not matter if the Zero's range was 5x that of the Wildcat, the Zeros (and I guess larger-ordinance carrying aircraft) had to come to the Repulse and PoW. All the Wildcats would have to do is fly out and meet the incoming aircraft as they did throughout the war.

midway was a poorly drawn-out plan and even the zero's superior qualities, and the first and second carrier divisions' SUPERIOR pilots would not have tipped the eventual outcome. what could be dumber than smashing at an island's defenses, and at the same time guessing when the enemy carriers are going to show up?

The idea behind bombing the island was to draw out the Pacific Fleet, which according to the plan, the US had not broken the Japanese codes and didn't know the Japanese fleet was there.

are you going to bet your wildcats against another guy's zeros, assuming everything else was even?

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#16 mac_bolan00

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:22 AM

hehe, a conditional answer.

it should have been kondo's second fleet that stuck its neck out towards midway islands. he didn't need carrier force to attack. his submarines and secondary ships could have rushed in and pulverised the island.

nagumo should have stayed at the rear with yamamoto. once fletcher's carriers were spotted, that's when he should have come out.

#17 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:42 AM

Just to note: Between December 1941 and June 1942 (eg., the start of the Pacific War to Midway) in nava fighter - on - naval fighter combat the Japanese lost 17 fighter aircraft (3 A5M4 and 14 A6M Zeros) with16 pilots killed. The US Navy lost in that same period 10 F4F Wildcats with 7 pilots killed.
This covers just Wildcat on Zero / Claude combat and not losses to other causes.
Between 7 August 1942 and 15 November 1942 (the Guadalcanal campaign and associated carrier battles) the Japanese lost in figther on fighter combat 25 Zeros to the US losing 31 F4F Wildcats.
So, on the whole the Zero didn't stack up as the killer machine it usually is made out to be in fighter on fighter combat even early in the war. Much of this can be attributed to the superior tactics and use of mutual support by US Navy pilots that played to the strengths of the Wildcat and on the weaknesses of the Zero.

#18 mac_bolan00

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 09:19 AM

agreed. that's why you have to do ceteris paribus for those two. and no combat is rushed to by both sides to the death. if possible, one attacks only when there's opportunity. and tactics create opportunity.




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