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How would you have avoided the attack on Pearl Harbor?


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#1 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:12 PM

Verging on What-If, but basically just a question on strategy.

So, to start. Yamamoto Isoruku guaranteed the IGHQ a "big bag" at Pearl Harbor because Yoshikawa Takeo reported that the Fleet was there in greatest numbers on the weekend, and this happened regularly.

To avoid this precondition for the attack I would suggest that the Fleet first be in Pearl in an unpredictable manner. Second, that some of the Fleet, when in not Pearl, show up on the West Coast of the US, at various places. Third, that the Fleet make appearances at other locations, such as the Canal Zone, Darwin, Australia, Manila Bay, etc. And lastly, that some of the Fleet sail out of sight and stay "unknown location" for irregular periods.

Okay, pick that apart, please.

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#2 belasar

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:23 PM

Absolutely nothing wrong with it what so ever, but then far to common sense for a peacetime navy to do. Senator Blowhard from the Great State of Podunk " You mean to tell this commitee that you are just steaming around in the middle of nowhere so as to confuse some potential attacker? Do you think the Navy is just made of Money?"
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#3 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:27 PM

Absolutely nothing wrong with it what so ever, but then far to common sense for a peacetime navy to do. Senator Blowhard from the Great State of Podunk " You mean to tell this commitee that you are just steaming around in the middle of nowhere so as to confuse some potential attacker? Do you think the Navy is just made of Money?"

Well, that's pretty much covered in the "It's wrong because FDR said it" school of thought.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#4 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:40 PM

If you really believe PH is threatened do you want to prevent an attack on it? Or just be prepaired to counter it? If that's the case starting shortly after the oil embargo ship additional radar, fighters, and AA guns to Hawaii. Some more long range search aircraft would be useful as well. Putting a line of subs out on picket duty might be useful as well. Furthermore exercise should be run that emphasise fighter direction control and quickly maning AA defences and coordination between that army and navy (perhaps an overall commander for the military in Hawaii).

If the Japanese attack PH especially a "sneak" attack then you have all you need for a well supported declaration of war. It really doesn't matter as far as that goes if the Japanese force that attacks gets crippled in the process.

#5 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:44 PM

Agreed, but I'm thinking mainly of ways to prevent Pearl from becoming a target by taking away the guarantee of a "big bag". Constantly shuffling "pieces" and avoid predictability like the plague would do this, I think. I'm no genius with strategy, however.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#6 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:56 PM

The question then becomes how much of a "bang" would the Japanese have needed? There's also the question as to how the US would have percieved what the goals and intentions of the Japanese were.

If you prevent PH how much presure is going to be on the Navy to relieve the Philipines? Can they resist it or do we end up in even worse shape in early 42?

Back to your original post. I think that would have considerable impact. The only problem would be is if the Japanese picked up a pattern and acted on that. Or decided that there were enough valuable targets in Hawaii to go even if they might not catch the fleet.

#7 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 06:15 PM

The question then becomes how much of a "bang" would the Japanese have needed? There's also the question as to how the US would have percieved what the goals and intentions of the Japanese were.

The IGHQ wanted a very big bang. (I guess they weren't creationists?) The target list called for 4 BBs and 4 CVs as the first targets. With Hornet in the Atlantic and Saratoga on the West Coast the list was already going to hell before they arrived.

If you prevent PH how much presure is going to be on the Navy to relieve the Philipines? Can they resist it or do we end up in even worse shape in early 42?

The P.I. had been written off well before this day. WPL-46 confirmed that.

Back to your original post. I think that would have considerable impact. The only problem would be is if the Japanese picked up a pattern and acted on that. Or decided that there were enough valuable targets in Hawaii to go even if they might not catch the fleet.

Non-pattern behavior would be the reason for the dancing around, of course, so that would be monitored by people who didn't have anything on the line, perhaps a team appointed by King from the Naval War College? And, as above, no big bag, no attack.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#8 Marmat

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 06:48 PM


... as you've pointed out, the key to projecting seapower is movement with purpose, ships move, when they do so they're doing their job. It's a strategic fundamental, even a ship out and unaccounted for retains a measure of offence, a ship accounted for in port loses much of its effectiveness, it becomes defensive. This was Kimmel's greatest failure, his deployments invited attack rather than deterrence. I would just add Singapore, Rangoon, Batavia and ...Hong Kong to your list, IF there was to be anything like a deterrent, to attacking what the Japanese really wanted. Of course, there were alternatives to attacking Pearl Harbor.



The 2 major bodies of naval war planning; the Japanese Naval General Staff and Combined Fleet, disagreed as to how to commence hostilities with the West. As is well known, Yamamoto, C.-in-C. Combined Fleet, familiar with the US after time spent there, advocated a preliminary strike on the USN at its PearlHarbor base, and his wishes prevailed.


However, Nagano, Chief of the IJN Naval General Staff had spent time in Washington as well. His plan was much more orthodox and cautious. He stayed firmly with the principle of maximum concentration of force, and striking southward to capture the oil areas of the Netherlands East Indies at outset of hostilities – the eventual goal of both plans. The seizure would be accomplished before the U.S. Pacific Fleet could interfere, and if it did come out to attack, the Japanese Fleet would intercept and destroy it in the western Pacific, what in effect it had been designed to do since the Washington Treaty had limited it to an unfavourable ratio vis-à-vis the USN.


Nagano was not a forceful character, certainly not in Yamamoto’s league but “what if” the Japanese strike south first…


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#9 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 06:54 PM

Thanks for adding the UK colonies and NEI, I spaced out there. Squadrons appearing and disappearing along the Malay Barrier would have been disconcerting for the Japanese. Sadly, US policy was to stir up no trouble in that area, vainly hoping that the Japanese wouldn't actually do what they clearly intended to do.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#10 Marmat

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:21 PM

... as well, tried to edit but was locked out twice. IF Kimmel was projecting sea power and the IJN, unable to predict when to get that "Big Bag" in Pearl Harbor, moved south as per Nagano, in all likelyhood US ship(s) in the area would become embroiled, and a US declaration of war would result.

What would be the result of any post-declaration clash between the IJN and USN/RN be? A greater US/RN loss than Pearl Harbor & Malaya?

"Where is the hunter when the reindeer has its hoof in a pool of lava?" - Russian Proverb, Bartalamyeh Fyodorevitch


#11 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:25 PM

... as well, tried to edit but was locked out twice. IF Kimmel was projecting sea power and the IJN, unable to predict when to get that "Big Bag" in Pearl Harbor, moved south as per Nagano, in all likelyhood US ship(s) in the area would become embroiled, and a US declaration of war would result.

There would be the complication of "what were they doing there anyway" from the isolationists, but very likely the dec. would pass easily.

What would be the result of any clash between the IJN and USN/RN be? A greater US/RN loss than Pearl Harbor & Malaya?

Depends. Squadrons would have one CV, 2-3 OBBs, and auxiliary ships. There would be a real problem of the lack of a fleet train, we had two tankers at that time, IIRC.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#12 George Patton

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:31 PM

I like the idea of spreading out the ships, but I think this is still a possibility:

If there was not a large fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese likely would have still paid attention to it because there it was still a sizable US base. If they determined it is important enough to attack despite the US fleet being spread out, I think they may have placed an emphasis on knocking out the support infrastructure (mainly the dry docks, oil tanks and warehouses). I'm not an expert on this, but I say this would be more damaging than sinking the BBs.

If a good portion of the support infrastructure was completely destroyed, the USN would have effectively lost a major support base. With the loss of the support facilities at Pearl, US ships would have to go back to San Francisco for major refurbishment or repairs, which would reduce the size of the US fleet available in the combat zone.

What are you thoughts on this?

Edited by George Patton, 11 January 2012 - 08:48 PM.

Best Regards,
Alan


#13 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:33 PM

General, they ignored the infrastructure in real life, so I don't think it would have been a worthwhile target without the ships. Yamamoto wanted to keep the USN off his back as long as possible, and damaging the infrastructure with carrier aircraft wouldn't have been a way to do that, I think.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#14 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:39 PM

I"ve been having problems replying to this thread as well.

The IGHQ wanted a very big bang. (I guess they weren't creationists?) The target list called for 4 BBs and 4 CVs as the first targets. With Hornet in the Atlantic and Saratoga on the West Coast the list was already going to hell before they arrived.

I took that as what they hoped for. My question is what would they have settled for? I certainly don't have a good idea. There's also the question of whether one of these squadrons you are moving around would be tempting enough bait and moving through an area where they could get enough intel to target it.

The P.I. had been written off well before this day. WPL-46 confirmed that.

Indeed but there likely would be considerable public and political pressure to "do something". Likely the navy could have figured out something that wouldn't have hurt too much to loose. There's also the question of whether or not the Japanese then go for the Philipines hopeing to draw the US out or ignore the US all together hopeing they'll stay out of it. I don't know enough about the decision makers and politics to guess which way they would jump here.

Non-pattern behavior would be the reason for the dancing around, of course, so that would be monitored by people who didn't have anything on the line, perhaps a team appointed by King from the Naval War College? And, as above, no big bag, no attack.

That would probably do it as we're only talking a year or so. Your comments on the required fleet train are significant. If the USN started this in say August of 41 I would expect the need for a larger train to be pretty obvious by September. How soon could they do anything about this? One alternative could be the US stopping by friendly powers to resupply. New Zealand and the Dutch possessions as well as Australia and perhaps Singapore suggest themselves.

Note that when the IJN heads south it means that any fleet in that area is going to go to war alert and be less vulnerable to a premptive attack. They won't assume they are save like they did in Hawaii.

#15 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:45 PM

Going to be out for while, I'll get back to you in a few hours. Prange covers the bag limit, must dive into the vaults.

"One of our King Tigers could take five of your Shermans, but you always had six of them."


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#16 jroyal

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:55 PM

If you really believe PH is threatened do you want to prevent an attack on it? Or just be prepaired to counter it? If that's the case starting shortly after the oil embargo ship additional radar, fighters, and AA guns to Hawaii. Some more long range search aircraft would be useful as well. Putting a line of subs out on picket duty might be useful as well. Furthermore exercise should be run that emphasise fighter direction control and quickly maning AA defences and coordination between that army and navy (perhaps an overall commander for the military in Hawaii).

If the Japanese attack PH especially a "sneak" attack then you have all you need for a well supported declaration of war. It really doesn't matter as far as that goes if the Japanese force that attacks gets crippled in the process.


Interesting discussion, and this post by IWD is pretty close to my thinking on this. It really comes back to readiness,I think it was a threat that we could not conceive at that time.

#17 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:04 PM

Going to be out for while, I'll get back to you in a few hours. Prange covers the bag limit, must dive into the vaults.

References? What are you trying to do scare off the CT'ers? :)

#18 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:44 PM

ADWS, page 237, "...Shortly after the war games the Combined Fleet staff had agreed upon November 21--a Friday-- as a tenative attack date. But on second thoughts Yamamoto and his officer preferred to launch the strike on a Sunday morning, when a maximum number of American ships should be at anchor...."

There's another reference The Reluctant Admiral, but I don't trust that book too much, the author claims Yamamoto was upset that the "declaration of war" had not been delivered before the attack.

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#19 George Patton

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:45 PM

General, they ignored the infrastructure in real life, so I don't think it would have been a worthwhile target without the ships. Yamamoto wanted to keep the USN off his back as long as possible, and damaging the infrastructure with carrier aircraft wouldn't have been a way to do that, I think.


Proponents for a third wave in the actual attack were turned down by Nagumo because he felt that, among other things, the American defenses would be more alert and could inflict serious casualties. For the sake of arguement, lets say that 3 or 4 battleships were in harbor on the day of the attack. The first wave of the attack concentrates on the heavy ships and the airfields. Nagumo/Yamamoto deem this strike to be enough to destroy the BBs, but there are still enough aircraft left for a second wave. I think that the Japanese still would have launched the second wave, and would have allocated at least one group of that wave aimed at the drydocks and oil stores. With the pacific fleet spread out, it would not pose much of a threat to the IJN until it joined together. With a good chunk of its tonnage at the bottom and (much more importantly in my opinion) its support base at Pearl knocked out, it would be very difficult to hold the Japanese at bay.

I know the paragraph above is bordering on "what if", but I don't think scattering the ships alone would have been enough to discourage an attack. Pearl was still a big target even without the American fleet. Alternatively, if Pearl Harbor was not attacked, what would the Japanese do to start the war? San Francisco is out of reach, while Manila isn't as important as Pearl.

These are just some thoughts - I welcome the opinions of those that know more about Pearl than I do.
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#20 OpanaPointer

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 09:08 PM

Nagumo would not have launched a second attack, his orders were to attack specific targets and then get out of town. Risking the carriers to destroy oil tanks would have been a faux pas.

We would have gone to war over the P.I., Dougie Mac's PR had been enough to make it necessary to avenge him if nothing else.

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#21 freebird

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:03 AM

Verging on What-If, but basically just a question on strategy.
To avoid this precondition for the attack I would suggest that the Fleet first be in Pearl in an unpredictable manner. Second, that some of the Fleet, when in not Pearl, show up on the West Coast of the US, at various places. Third, that the Fleet make appearances at other locations, such as the Canal Zone, Darwin, Australia, Manila Bay, etc. And lastly, that some of the Fleet sail out of sight and stay "unknown location" for irregular periods.
Okay, pick that apart, please.


That's one option, but why bother, since PH was all planned by FDR anyways... :P Just Kidding!!!! (sorry, couldn't resist)

The plans to reduce exposure to a raid really pre-supposes that anyone in high command thought that an attack on PH was a possibility.
My own understanding is that they were anticipating an attack against the Philippines and/or Malaya with PH only vulnerable to sabotage or perhaps some kind of commando raid.
However, you've researched PH far more than I have, did anyone in Kimmel's or Short's command think that a major attack was likely?

As for avoiding damage in an attack, there is another option....

If they really thought that it was vulnerable, perhaps better to set up a series of decoys, and move most of the fleet elsewhere.
Place three decommissioned WWI battleships Utah, Wyoming & Illinois (BB-7) alongside Ford Island. (They had been disarmed, and now served as AA or gunnery training ships) Construct fake wooden turrets to replace those removed.

This was in fact what the British did with their two leftover pre-WWI battleships (then training ships), HMS Centurion & HMS Iron Duke.
They were given fake superstructure to look like King George V battleships, and served as decoys in Plymouth & in Egypt during the war

Use the two large ex-German liners Kaiser Wilhelm II (1901) and Kronprincess Cecilie (1907) that were confiscated from Germany after WWI.
(info can be found here - look for the date constructed 1901 & 1907)
They have been gathering rust in the Patuxent River since the 1920's, in 1940 they were offered to the British as troop transposts, but the Admiralty declined due to their old age & large expense needed to refit them for regular service.

Instead, they could be given quick makovers as CV's. Both are 707' long, enough to pass off as the 760' long Yorktowns. They could be give rudimentary wooden decks & fake islands (to resemble Yorktown CV's). Put some reserve aircraft on the decks (P-26 Peashooters, Northrop BT etc)

Then you might consider fitting out a berth for the real BB's, in an inlet of Pearl, and camoflaged from the air.
Only have the BB's arrive or leave during the night so that spies can't see where the real ships are berthed.


The question then becomes how much of a "bang" would the Japanese have needed? There's also the question as to how the US would have percieved what the goals and intentions of the Japanese were.

If you prevent PH how much presure is going to be on the Navy to relieve the Philipines? Can they resist it or do we end up in even worse shape in early 42?


Good post lwd

General, they ignored the infrastructure in real life, so I don't think it would have been a worthwhile target without the ships. Yamamoto wanted to keep the USN off his back as long as possible, and .



Actually OP, damaging or destroying the oil tanks and sub facilities would have been far more damaging to the US war effort than losing a few old WWI battleships.

#22 OpanaPointer

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:10 AM

Good input, freebird! Only the last point is somewhat iffy. I've seen studies that the tanks would be back in action in months if not weeks. And the berms around them were designed to contain total failure of the structures, so putting the fires out would save most of the oil.

As for the machine shops, remember that the Tractor Factory at Stalingrad was rarely out of action. Machine tools are damn hard to kill with bombs or artillery.

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#23 George Patton

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:19 AM

Actually OP, damaging or destroying the oil tanks and sub facilities would have been far more damaging to the US war effort than losing a few old WWI battleships.


Damaging the dry docks would have the most impact. As I've said before, with the dry docks out of commission ships would have to go back to San Francisco for repairs. If the gates were destroyed, they would have taken a long time to repair.

Best Regards,
Alan


#24 OpanaPointer

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:22 AM

I think they would have thought of something.

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#25 George Patton

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:40 AM

In 1941 the USN had three floating dry docks. One was severly damaged at Pearl, and the other was scuttled in Manila. None of the three could a large battleship or carrier. If I recall correctly, floating drydocks large enough to support a battleship weren't comissioned until late 1943.

EDIT: The largest of the three was the Dewey, which could support a battleship, was stationed in the Phillipines and later scuttled -- it could not have been used as a replacement for the Pearl drydocks.

Best Regards,
Alan





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