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Japan decides against Midway and invades Australia instead


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#1 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 03:02 PM

Following the failure of their Coral Sea invasion plan the Japanese shifted direction towards Hawaii once again. But, what if instead they just made a second attempt at Australia from a different direction?

This version occurs in late May early June and is very typical of Japanese operations with multiple approaches and diversions going on.

First, the Japanese send the carriers Hiyo and Junyo along with a regimental sized landing force, including a seaplane tender, to the Aleutians where they invade and take Umnak Island and launch carrier strikes on Dutch Harbor and Unalaska.

Next, the main force consisting of the Kido Butai with their four operational large carriers along with an invasion fleet enters the Timor Sea and proceeds to strike and then land a reinforced division near Darwin that is tasked with taking that city. Now, in February the Japanese had hit Darwin with carrier strikes causing a major panic there so, a return and landing would have likely caused bigger issues for the Australians in general.
The follow up to this landing is a second division that will follow within a couple of weeks.
In addition, the IJA strengthens its air forces on Timor to support this operation once the carriers withdraw. The Japanese hope to capture an airfield or two near Darwin to allow basing forward there as well.

A secondary operation is also launched to occur a few days after the main landings near Darwin. This one puts a weak division (about 12,000 men) at Buna New Guinea. A second operation mounted simulatneously puts about 1,200 men ashore at Milne Bay. Follow up waves are intended to approxmately double this force within weeks.

From the Allied perspective, the Umnak landings would have been unopposed as the island was not occupied in June 1942. There is a US force on Unalaska Island at Dutch Harbor and environs. There are also some USAAF aircraft in limited numbers there. The fighter defense is P-39s at this point.
The Buna landing would have also been unopposed as it was when it occured in August historically. The Milne Bay landing would be facing a company of US engineers and a company of Australian infantry building an airfield at Gili Gili.
The Darwin landing would have faced minor opposition only initially. The US 32nd ID is in Australia but near Brisbane at the time. There are also one or two Australian divisions on the Western coast of the country.
Airpower for the Allies is also fairly weak consisting of about 100 or so operational aircraft between the USAAF and RAAF with only about 30 or so P-40 and a few P-39 flying at the time. This might be reinforced to some extent from the US in a fairly short time but the additional aircraft would be either P-40 or P-39 fighters along with whatever bombers could be scrapped up.
Allied naval forces in the region consist of 5 cruisers and about a dozen DD between the two navies. The USN could send just two carriers (the Yorktown wouldn't be repaired in time to sail to Australia... she barely made it to the Midway operation).

Now, I don't envision the Japanese trying to take all of Australia. Instead, I see this operation as an attempt to force Australia to sue for peace. A side effect would have been an almost certain withdrawal of all or most of Australia's forces in the Middle East. This would have put the hurt on the British as Australian units make up the bulk of their best infantry formations there.
A successful landing on mainland Australia along with the likely fall of New Guinea would have had serious morale implications in Australia. MacAuthur would also have been put in a bind politically as well as militarily. The Australians might see him as incapable of dealing with this new offensive and the US as uncommitted. Even if Australia didn't knuckle under (which is very likely as I don't see them giving up easily) it certainly puts alot more pressure on the US and conserves Japanese naval assets far better than the Midway operation did.

#2 Gromit801

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 04:20 PM

You beat me to this particular "What If" lol.

One sticking point I see, is would Japan want to be in another "China" type of situation, where they can't swallow the whole country, and that country isn't going to surrender.
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#3 LRusso216

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 04:51 PM

I see Gromit's point. If Japan can't take over the whole country, doesn't that present them with the possibility of a drawn out affair, facing hit-and-run attacks, and no possibility of developing an overwhelming force to stop them? Another China-type scenario would cost Japan dearly. I think, in the long run, the outcome of the war remains the same. The US would continue ramping up production, while Japan faced limited resources to match it.

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#4 luketdrifter

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:01 PM

Being the manpower suck China was and had been at this point for years, Australia must have posed a daunting task. Thousands and thousands of square miles of nothing but trouble.
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#5 mikebatzel

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:38 PM

I agree with everyone else. To big of an investment to the "Australian Theater" would be needed with too little RoI. I think it would create a good number of problems for the Allies, but nothing that couldn't be overcome with time.
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#6 ozjohn39

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:39 PM

luketdrifter,


"Thousands and thousands of square miles of nothing but trouble."


Well put!

Of the 3 million square miles (about the same as the '48') less than 20% is what you would call arable land, the rest is desert.

For example you can drive from Adelaide to Perth, about 2500 kms, and not see a bridge over a watercourse of any kind.

You can drive from Darwin to Adelaide, about 3000 kms, and it will be the same except for a couple of permanent rivers in the first 500 kms of the drive. After that it is dry creek beds all the way.

EXCEPT in the 'wet', when the exact opposite is true for the "Top End" at least when you are going to be swept away in a cyclone, or buried in 3 feet of mud.

In 1942, there was virtually NIL made roads West of Adelaide, South of Darwin and North of Perth.

Corrugated gravel tracks if you were lucky, sand dunes if you were not.



John.
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". - Voltaire.

#7 Gromit801

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:45 PM

Truly, Japan would have a harder time in Oz, than if they invaded Hawaii after Pearl Harbor.

A Japanese Desert Army, is an intriguing idea however. I wonder what advice or help they might have gotten from Germany in that matter.
"I love deadlines. I love the 'Whooshing' noise they make when they go by." - Doug Adams

#8 marc780

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 08:42 PM

It's been said the Japanese never seriously contemplated invading Australia since even they realized there was very little to gain and much to lose. The closest they came was their occupation of New Guinea, which gave the allies serious problems throughout the war, mainly because it was a genuine threat to the shipping lanes to Australia and also could have served as a staging point for invasion of Australia itself.

New Guinea also had a huge advantage to the Japanese in being highly defensible, due to the terrain, whereas Australia was anything but indefensible, herself. The Japanese did not have anything like the resources to invade Australia nor occupy a significant portion of it, and such a force would have been destroyed within a matter of months.

Maybe the closest metaphor to the scenario is Attu and Kiska. The Japanese occupied two Alaskan islands, with a small number of troops, in the Aleutians, called Attu and Kiska, in 1942. The purpose of this was mostly as a diversion/feint before the attack on Midway. The Japanese hope was that the Americans would immediately panic and send everything to kick them out, while the Japanese sailed gleefully into Midway against an under-strength American force. Their feint failed miserably as the Americans recognized it for what it was, and knew the untenability of the Japanese position, since the US forces did not even bother with Attu and Kiska (except for occasional bombing), until well into 1943. (When the US Army finally did invade the islands, it took more casualties from friendly fire than it did from the Japanese, most of whom having been withdrawn shortly before the attack!)

It would have been extremely difficult to supply a Japanese Australian-invasion force for long, as it was an impossible distance from Japan, and Japan did not possess nearly enough shipping to attempt such an effort and maintain their other outposts too. Moreover, massive resistance, from the Australians and Americans, would quickly have made China look like a backwater by comparison. The Japanese would have had no way to prevent American forces from reinforcing the Australians, even if they used their entire armed forces in an attempt to do so. The Japanese would have had to expend all their forces to gain even a small toe-hold in Australia, forget about holding onto it. They realized this, and this is probably why they never tried it.

Edited by marc780, 23 October 2009 - 06:56 PM.


#9 Karma

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 10:12 PM

I highly doubt the success of such a campaign to go well. If it involves land, then Japan would have no hope of taking on a such a large area, especially since it's of the Commonwealth. The only way Japan could attempt to hurt Australia would be to engage it navally by cutting it off from the rest of the Pacific and possibly enforcing a blockade. Although Japan could not possibly isolate Australia completely, bombings directed towards major harbors such as Sydney could considerably cause much delay in shipping. If not enough supplies reach Aussie troops, then things could possibly change. But of course, this could perhaps strengthen the people's resolve and become more resilient. Unlike WWI where Australian soldiers fought and died in Europe, in the Pacific War, the Australians were fighting an enemy close to their home front so that would give them a solid reason to not falter under pressure.

#10 ozjohn39

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 10:12 PM

Australia's 3 greatest Generals,

General MILES.

General SANDY.

General MUDD.


John.
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". - Voltaire.

#11 formerjughead

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:24 AM

Well Australia would undoubtely be a case of : " Great we have it, now what" so it would technically open a "second front". The Diversion in the Aleutians would also be a genie they could not get back into the bottle that would result in yet another front opening up. I don't think Japan had enough resources, in their wettist dreams, to fight a battle on so many fronts considering they had their hands full with China and the Pacific.

Just my humble two cents worth.

#12 luketdrifter

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 11:22 AM

Of the 3 million square miles (about the same as the '48') less than 20% is what you would call arable land, the rest is desert.


Holy Cow! I guess I never realized how massive Australia is!
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#13 GermanTankEnthusiast

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 12:52 PM

i reckon they wouldnt meet resistance in the outback theyd just die of starvation and thirst, cos the little homesteads wouldnt supply one dammed jap we would blow it up before they got ther. so in conclusion they would take darwin and broome and then get stuck if they travel south they will have massive lines of trucks supplying them everything would hav to come via truck. p.s they would probably think the croc is some kind of demon animal sent from hell lol

#14 lwd

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 07:02 PM

...if they travel south they will have massive lines of trucks supplying them everything would hav to come via truck. ...

Except of course they didn't have "massive lines of trucks".

#15 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 07:26 PM

What I proposed initially wasn't a conquest of Australia but, rather a serious diversion of attention by Australia (and the US in turn) away from the Pacific theater and more important Japanese conquests. That is why I only proposed the Japanese land and take the area near Darwin along with the off shore islands. There is a single track going to Darwin and I would suspect no paved roads whatsoever in 1942. Darwin offers a port and several decent airfields in the immediate area. For the Japanese moving supplies to Darwin is not a particularly daunting task. They can haul them to Timor and then load them in small coasters or barges and either move across the Timor Sea or along the New Guinea coast then across to Darwin. Either would make unprofitable targets for aircraft and submarines.
At the same time the Australians and US would be facing the daunting task of supplying their troops at the end of that 1000 mile rail line. Of course, I'd expect it to be improved substancially. The US likely would also build some roads, even a few paved ones I'd bet. But, all this and the troops that this would support takes away from other operations. It possibly would have stalled the US occupation of Guadalcanal in favor of more troops to Australia. New Guinea likely would fall in its entirety to the Japanese.

And, then there is the Middle East. How would it have been effected when 8th Army loses some of its best infantry formations to home defense in Australia?

The scenario I proposed didn't have the Japanese taking, or even trying to take, all or most of Australia. I completely agree it is far beyond their means. But, in June of 1942 the landing of say, 20,000 Japanese troops total in the Darwin region and their move tens, or possibly as much as a hundred miles inland would have definitely panicked Australia, even if that panic was short lived to just a few weeks or a month or two. It would have forced a US response. It doesn't expose the IJN to any real risk and there was some support within the IJA for such an operation.

#16 ozjohn39

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 08:04 PM

TAG,


"At the same time the Australians and US would be facing the daunting task of supplying their troops at the end of that 1000 mile rail line. Of course, I'd expect it to be improved substancially. The US likely would also build some roads, even a few paved ones I'd bet."



As an aside yet again,

The need for a reliable road/rail system from Adelaide to Darwin was seen very early in the Pacific War. In fact I believe that planning was well on the way before it broke out.

The job was given to the 'Allied Works Council', and they farmed out large sections to each of the 'Country Roads Boards' of each of the States to construct.

The job started at both ends and consisted of a 18' (I think) sealed road from about Adelaide River to Alice Springs.

Simultaneously convoys of "semi-trailers" (your 18 wheelers) began moving the men and supplies north. This of course soon began to break up the bitumen as soon as it was laid, and in fact by the time the job was finished it became obvious that it was unsuccessful. So the did it AGAIN, this time with a 18" concrete strip down each edge. Examples of these works can still be seen at many points just off the fancy new (2 lanes) Stuart Highway


I had a mate, since gone, that was a driver on those convoys. He started in 1942, driving from the Alice to Darwin, 5 days up, 2 days loading/unloading and maintenance and 5 days back to the Alice.

He did that to the end of the War without a days leave.

The southern half from the Alice to Adelaide remained as an unpaved track, and the men and goods went via "The 'Ghan". This was an antiquated steam train first introduced in the early 1900s. The ground there was so hard packed, and the rain so infrequent that they laid the line on sleepers without ballast, on the bare earth. When it DID rain, the trainline was often washed away.


The Stuart Highway was finally sealed all the way to Darwin in 1988!!!!!!

The rail line to Darwin was completed in about 2000. The world class 5 Star 'Ghan' train is now one of the great train journeys of the world.



John.



PS,


The 'Ghan' takes its name from the Afghan camel drivers of the 1800s, when the ONLY way to shift freight in the outback was by camel trains. Their descendents, (both drivers and camels), are common in outback Australia.
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". - Voltaire.

#17 GermanTankEnthusiast

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 08:00 AM

Gardner if you look at the history of the australian army they were moved out of north africa in early 1942 when singapore went. so regardless of your what if the best fighting material in north africa left when war basically broke out in asia.funny enough some of those quality men went in the bag with the singapore garrison,. which made pulling them out of north africa pointless.
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#18 Lost Watchdog

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 12:48 PM

Darwin would become another Rabul, the garrison would be stuck in the Top End and cut off. Aircraft from the rest of Australia could bomb at leisure from their bases out of Japanese range, submarines from far away Fremantle could sit off the coast sinking any attempt at resupply and horse mounted Commandos could keep them hemmed in. As others have said, unless you acutally live here, it is hard to imagine just how bloody big and empty our sunburnt country is.
The Australian government had considered the possibility of a partial Japanese invasion. The infamous/mythical Brisdane Line was a supposed plan to withdrawn behind defences in southern Queensland if invaders ever landed.
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#19 Glenn239

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 04:46 PM

It would have been extremely difficult to supply a Japanese Australian-invasion force for long.



A ship sailing from Japan could offload its cargo in Darwin, then sail over to Southeast Asia and haul raw materials back to Japan. A ship supplying Rabaul or Midway could never come back to Japan loaded with material. So (at least in theory), the Japanese want to fight at Darwin if for no better reason than their supply ships are loaded going in both directions. Then again, maybe this gives too much credit to the compartmentalized Japanese shipping system...

But, in June of 1942 the landing of say, 20,000 Japanese troops total in the Darwin region and their move tens, or possibly as much as a hundred miles inland would have definitely panicked Australia.



Provided the Japanese were careful not to permit the invasion to evolve past the outlines you give, it may have proven a highly useful diversion. The Allies were certain to overreact in response to Australian demands that the Japanese be ejected ASAP, and this would weaken Allied operations in more useful theatres of the Pacific.

#20 ozjohn39

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 05:56 PM

LW,


"The infamous/mythical Brisdane Line was a supposed plan to withdrawn behind defences in southern Queensland if invaders ever landed."


Yes, the "Brisbane Line" was infamous, but probably not mythical. There seems to be enough references to it for it have been a well formulated plan. There are still traces of the preparations north of Brisbane to see I believe. And when the 7th Division arrived back home they went first to points just North of Brisbane (Maleney) for some weeks.

Looking at a line drawn from about Gympie, Qld to about Port Augusta and the iron mines of Iron Knob and smelters at Whyalla in South Australia, takes in 90% of the population, industry and agriculture of Australia.

It was a perfect 'last resort' plan, and it trades land for time and also adds to the attackers vast problems of supply pointed out in previous posts. It also reduces the supply chain for the defenders.

Agree about the first points in your post.


John
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". - Voltaire.

#21 ozjohn39

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 06:02 PM

Glenn,

Every mile a supply convoy has to sail adds to the danger to that convoy.

The USN were well aware of the importance of shipping to the jap war effort, and they concentrated their attention to eliminating that vital part of it.

The Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea would have been 'happy hunting grounds' for the US subs.



John
"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". - Voltaire.

#22 Gromit801

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 03:54 PM

I think a good analogy might be made in comparing the Japanese invasion of Attu and Kiska, with Oz. The difference of course being the weather.

In either case, the Japanese are stuck at a dead-end, until the Allies felt like taking them out.
"I love deadlines. I love the 'Whooshing' noise they make when they go by." - Doug Adams

#23 Glenn239

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 11:27 PM

The Allies overreacted to the Alaskan landings as well.

#24 skywalker

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 07:55 AM

Looking at a line drawn from about Gympie, Qld to about Port Augusta and the iron mines of Iron Knob and smelters at Whyalla in South Australia, takes in 90% of the population, industry and agriculture of Australia.


You work in the mining industry ? Its not often I hear Whyalla or Iron Knob mentioned on the net, lol.

#25 skywalker

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 07:57 AM

If the Japanese did manage land could it realistically have been possible to garner their forces in a way as to place them in some heavy fire zones ?

Bush Fires are a problem over here and logistically could destroy and invading army, in certain regions anyway.




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