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How would you have avoided the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. freebird

    freebird Member

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    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.


    Good post lwd


    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.
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    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.
     
  3. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    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.
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I think they would have thought of something.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    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.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    And the construction is modular, so they only had to build more modules or connect more than one AFD to get 'er done on an ad hoc basis. What I'm saying is "fixes" could be had. And the IJN pilots would never have attacked the drydocks anyway, the targets weren't "butch" enough for them.
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    They couldnt go fast enough to stay with the CV's.
     
  8. freebird

    freebird Member

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    Thanks!
    Indeed, the oil tanks & machine shops could have been repaired in a few months.
    However - the real damage would be the US would be forced to run dozens of trips from the US to PH to bring oil & replace hardware etc.
    These trips would reduce the available Pacific shipping capacity, which was urgently needed to reinforce Australia & the SW Pacific.

    The destruction of the Sub facilities would also have a major impact. They were left intact, and allowed the US to quickly deploy subs which rapidly reduced the japanese merchant marine - which already had a major shortage at the beginning of the war.
     
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    When the CVs were scared, yes. But the squadrons had been operating together for nearly a decade.
     
  10. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I agree with you. I was just adding that the dry docks also would have been a major blow as well.
     
  11. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I've been reading along and guess I'll bite. How would I have avoided the attack? It's hard to offer an opinion knowing what happened but;
    Tensions being what they were the summer of 1941 and knowing the propensity of Japan to start a war with sneak attacks I'd Lie. Okay, dispense dis-information and lay a layer of Smoke and Mirrors about my Naval strength. Picket ships would be directed North, West and South of the islands with flag waving departure ceremonies. Where they would go after leaving port could be left to conjecture. Keep Japan guessing. Sun Tzu said" Know your enemy better than your friends" or near to that. Japan needed and wanted more than any other advantage the surprise factor. With numerous Task Forces (presumably), small or large, roaming the area around Hawaii the 'Wonder where they are question' could be a deterrent.
    Look what would have happened if the Lexington or Enterprise had been to the North of Hawaii the same distance as they were West. Granted if the attack happened they would have been the first casualties but also an early warning for the home Islands. OR, had I said one or both would be steaming North and instead headed for Midway and Wake you have the impression and the factor of the unknown.

    and obviously I'm no strategist/tactician either.
     
  12. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    I think the Pearl Harbor Raid would have happened regardless. The thing to remember is that Japan was not necessarily picking a fight with the US on 7 December 1941, they were also attacking British interests and solidifying Axis control over French interests and the Dutch East Indies. Japan assumed, incorrectly, that a substantial raid at Pearl Harbor would cause the US to continue it's apparent disinterest in world events as it was perceived that the Philippines would not be defended.

    So, as I have said before, had Japan realized that attacking Pearl Harbor would result in them being the recipients of two big buckets of sunshine they would have never so much as shook a fist at Pearl Harbor.
     
  13. freebird

    freebird Member

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    did they really expect a sneak attack? I havn't seen any indication that they did, it was more likely to be an attack in the Far East, perhaps with some sabotage at PH.


    There are really three questions here:

    1.) Did any in command in PH or Washington have any idea that PH migh be the target of a Taranto-type raid?
    (as opposed to the expected hostilities in the PI, or perhaps sabotage)

    2.) Did the loss of 4 - 5 battleships really affect the capabilities of the USN that much?
    (8 operational BB's at Pearl: AZ, OK, CA & WV sunk or disabled for 30+ months, MD, PA & TN minor damage, NV out for 1 year)

    3.) Had the US BB's not been damaged at Pearl, what could the US have done with them in '42, that would have had a substantial effect on the war?

    I agree.

    I don't think I've read that the Japanese expected US disinterest after such a major attack, it was assumed that the US would intervene after an attack on the DEI, and that the best option (actually - least bad option ;) ) was to cripple the US power in the Pacific to give Japan a couple years to consolidate gains.

    Did they really have any other choice (under their own fanatical beliefs)

    The military leaders considered it absolutely unacceptable for Japan to back down in China (and humiliate the Emperor.)
    They also assumed that the US would intervene after an attack on the DEI, and couldn't risk leaving powerful US forces in the Philippines sitting along their supply lines.

    I'm pretty sure that the Japanese anticipated a nasty fight, but they hoped that if they were in an advantageous position in 1942, then a deal could be worked out or the US public would lose enthusiasm for a foreign war.
    (as later happened in Vietnam)
     
  14. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    "did they really expect a sneak attack?"

    I doubt it but the thread question is "How would you avoid the attack". If I'm not mistaken Japan had a history of attacking then declaring War. Actions at Pearl in regards to sabotage shows they did expect 'something' to happen, just what, where and when was questionable. I tried to show how not to get attacked by depicting a strong elusive military presence 'somewhere in the vicinity'.
    As I said in the post, it is difficult to answer or opine what we could or should do without getting into a "What If". What happened after or may have happened after tends to lead in that direction.
     
  15. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Freebird you might consider reading a little deeper. I am not going to categoricaly argue each point as I have made each of my points many times on this forum.
     
  16. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    A refinement of an earlier point already made. The Japanese knew we didn't have powerful forces in the P.I., they wanted to deny that area as a forward base for the USN, forcing us to steam several thousand miles and go into "The One Big Battle" after being at sea for weeks, as well not having a nearby base for cripples to withdraw to.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    My understanding was that they could have been repaired fairly quickly. Nothing really complex about a dry dock. As it is most of the ships went back to the West Coast for repairs (San Diego, San Francisco, or Bremerton). The dry docks at Pearl were used primarily to get them in good enough shape to make it to the West Coast.
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Place three decommissioned WWI battleships Utah, Wyoming & Illinois (BB-7) alongside Ford Island.

    You get a point for research for finding that Illinois (renamed Prairie State Jan 8, 1941) was still afloat, but since she looked like this:

    File:USS Prairie State IX-15.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    she was hardly more suitable than any other hull for being faked up as a BB. Oregon (BB-3) was also still around and had been preserved as a memorial, presumably closer to her original appearance.

    Utah and Wyoming were very useful in their training roles; the fleet commanders would have been reluctant to lose them.

    The British also built a number of decoy capital ships on merchant hulls in WWI, not sure about WWII, but that might have been the way to go. Incidentally fake carriers wouldn't need planes on deck, common practice was to fly them ashore before the ship berthed.

    The problem in Pearl Harbor is people like the Japanese consulate staff were freely able to observe the harbor and ships. Something that could fool a pilot on his bomb run might not stand up to prolonged scrutiny or monitoring of its non-movements.
     
  19. freebird

    freebird Member

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    Feel free to post a link to the thread if you have made a better case for the point elsewhere.

    I was just pointing out that FDR & the US was anything but "disinterested", Lend Lease & the Oil Embargo meant that they were getting pretty involved in world affairs.
    The IJN planners for the Pearl Harbour raid also noted that this would buy Japan a year or two in a war with the US, not that they expected US would be disinterested enough to walk away from the Pacific.

    I had considered that, but Oregon is much shorter.
    Either way it would take some work to remove superstructure etc etc.


    However, (as mentioned earlier) the whole idea of mitigating or avoiding damage pre-supposes that anyone in the USN command thought that any type of major raid at PH was likely.

    I'd be interested on your opinion on the 3 questions that I posted above.

    No reason that they couldn't continue the roles at PH, in fact the Utah was at Pearl, and was sunk there. (although was on the opposite side of Ford from the BB's

    Even if the 2 German ships (dressed up as Yorktowns) weren't used as a decoy, they could have created some very interesting possibilities.

    Hmm, I didn't know that
    Well that would certainly be one of the better defensive measures available to the US - with the hostile relations with Japan in the second half of '41, they should have restricted access to any place that overlooks PH, and certainly forbid Japan's consul staff from any sensative areas.



    Even with detailed observation, it would be very difficult to judge a CV's capabilities, even if they figured out that it was a merchant hull and not built as CV, it could still be a very capable carrier with 60 or 70 aircraft.

    The Utah & Wyoming (with fake primary turrets) would also be difficult to tell apart from functional BB's, as they are the same size and very similar design to other active BB's like Arkansas, New York or Texas.

    Illinois does pose some tricky problems (as you mentioned) but with some ingenuity it could be overcome to pass casual obsevation. A Japanese spy taking detailed photos would show up the Illionois, at least
    Remove the superstrucre (the house sitting on top :D ), cover part of it with a tarp, have workmen installing AA mounts to make it look like a BB being re-fitted or something like that.

    How well did the Japanese spies observe the PH ships before the raid? Were they able to give detailed info, or was it just to give a tally? (7 BB's in Pearl, 2 CV's)


    And again, this all pre-supposes that there would be any real reason to put decoys there, unless Kimmel or Nimitz had a crystal ball......
     
  20. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yoshikawa Takeo gave very good information about the ships in the harbor, including where they were anchored when the "Bomb Plot" system was put into place. (Bomb Plot being a CTer euphemism, the pilots were perfectly capable of seeing the harbor from 5,000 feet and didn't need a map to find their targets.) I'm not sure what "detailed info" you want. Yoshikawa couldn't get on board the ships or even into Pearl itself, but he did have a grandstand view from what is now Pearl City.
     

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