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Japanese Situation Leading Into Midway

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by Bill Murray, Jun 5, 2005.

  1. Bill Murray

    Bill Murray Member

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    While perusing the net today I found these statements that were made by Admiral Nagumo proir to the battle. These statements were interpreted from documents that were retrieved by the US during the occupation of Japan. They give a startling insight to the state of the Japanese naval air arm in the time frame between the Coral Sea and Midway battles.

    Nagumo's statements:
    Although the flight training program was conducted without any major incident, since there had been a considerable turn-over in personnel, practically no one got beyond the point of basic training. Inexperienced fliers barely got to the point where they could make daytime landings on carriers. It was found that even some of the more seasoned fliers had lost some of their skill. No opportunity was available to carry out joint training, which, of course made impossible any coordinated action between contact units, illumination units, and attack units. The likelihood of obtaining any satisfactory results from night attacks, therefore, was practically nil.


    Torpedo Attacks:
    During the middle part of May, mock torpedo attacks were carried out, with judges from the Yokosuka Air Group acting as referees. The records during these tests were so disappointing that some were moved to comment that it was almost a mystery how men with such poor ability could have obtained such brilliant results as they had in the Coral Sea.

    On 18 May, actual tests were made against CruDiv 8 traveling at high speed. In spite of the fact that the speed was 30 knots with only 45-degree turns, the records made by the fliers were again exceedingly poor. With water depth at 40 to 50 meters, about a third of the torpedoes were lost.


    Level Bombing:
    Bomber leaders were concentrated at Iwakuni and practiced level bombing using the Settsu2 as a target ship. The men attained a fair degree of skill, but they had no opportunity to participate in any formation bombing drills.


    Dive Bombing:
    Since the Settsu was limited to the waters in the vicinity of Naikai Seibu (Western Inland Sea) valuable time was wasted by the fliers in coming and going. The men could not participate in more than one dive bombing drill a day without seriously interfering with their basic training. Even this minimum practice could not be conducted satisfactorily because the men were kept busy with maintenance work.

    Air Combat:
    Men engaged in this phase were able to get no further than to actual firing and basic training for lone air combat operations. The more experienced were employed in formation air combat tactics, but even they were limited to about a three-plane formation.


    Landing:
    Since the carriers were undergoing repair and maintenance operations, the only available ship for take-off and landing drills was the Kaga. She was kept busy from early morning to nightfall but even at that the young fliers barely were able to learn the rudiments of carrier landings. The more seasoned fliers were given about one chance each to make dusk landings.


    Night Flying:
    Insofar as the weather permitted, men were trained in this phase every day. Due to maintenance needs and because of the limited time, only the very fundamentals were learned by the inexperienced fliers.

    Because of the need for replacements and transfers of personnel, the combat efficiency of each ship had been greatly lowered. Moreover, since most of the ships were undergoing maintenance and repair work until only a few days before departure, the men's efficiency suffered greatly.

    Training in group formations could not be satisfactorily conducted because of the limitation in time. This was particularly true of the newly formed DesRon 10. Some of the units in it underwent training as anti-air-screening ships, while others were assigned antisub duties. The squadron as a whole never had the opportunity to carry out joint drills.

    That was the situation as far as fleet training was concerned. Added to this, we had practically no intelligence concerning the enemy. We never knew to the end where or how many enemy carriers there were. In other words, we participated in this operation with meager training and without knowing the enemy.

    For further information see;
    web page
     
  2. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    That really explains alot about a question I always had about the suicide pilots. I always wondered why they dove on small ships like transports and destroyers when there were aircraft carriers in the area to attack. I guess most have never been flying before and could not tell the difference between the ships in the air because of so little training. I suppose the army fliers were just as poorly trained. Also the Japanese basic training was alot more brutal than it needed to be and they lost many pilots from that alone. [​IMG]

    I know early in the war the allies had the same problem. The C-47 pilots had little training in night flying over water and they dumped their paratroopers all over the place, including the water.
     
  3. arthur45

    arthur45 Member

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    Nagumo's claims about the poor quality of the naval air prior to Midway were made after
    the battle and are generally looked upon as nothing but an excuse for his failure. The vast majority
    of pilots were veterans of Pearl Harbor and the performance of the torpedo planes were quite
    good at Midway, as were the fighter pilots. The battle certainly wasn't lost because of any lack of
    pilot quality. Nagumo lost that battle (with plenty of assistance from Yamamoto) and trying to shift
    the blame is typical of the Admiral.
     
  4. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    On a plane for plane basis, the Japanese pilots at Midway did quite a lot better than either the U.S. fliers or the Japanese pilots at Coral Sea, scoring hit rates around 30% while under fire and against targets maneuvering at high speed. You can calculate it fairly precisely from the battle records, but I've loaned out the books I usually refer to (First Team and Shattered Sword) so I won't attempt an exact tally right now.

    Further, I think I'd say that Yamamoto lost the battle and Nagumo helped, but the difference is somewhat academic. Japan had a finely honed weapon and squandered it needlessly on an ill conceived and poorly executed plan with no clear strategic objective and rather dubious tactical merit based on rosey assumptions about enemy reactions. Both clearly made mistakes at different levels and in different ways. There's plenty of blame to go around for that one.
     
  5. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Nagumo was simply the product of the Japanese system which is at fault. Nagumo was not trained nor experienced at dealing with air matters and since he was the senior commander he had to be in charge of KB. It is interesting to wonder if say an air trained commander like Yamaguchi had been in overall command how things would have been different.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

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

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    You're welcome. :cool:
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Shattered Sword notes that almost all the Japanese pilots were Pearl Harbor veterans, and as SP mentioned, their antiship attacks scored 3 hits for 7 dive bombers and 2 for 5-6 torpedo planes.

    The authors did note a lack of opportunity for torpedo practice. Although the dive bombers had sunk several ships in the Indian ocean and elsewhere, I don't recall any torpedo attacks between Pearl Harbor and Coral Sea/Midway - or to put it another way, any torpedo attacks by Kido Butai planes on moving targets thus far in the war.

    Ironically one of the few who lacked carrier combat experience was Tomonaga Joichi, who led both the attack on Midway and the final attack on Yorktown. He had extensive combat service in China but had just reported to Hiryu shortly before the battle. However his attack on Yorktown was ably and heroically conducted, observed by Jimmy Thatch who had severely damaged his plane; Tomonaga held the blazing aircraft on course long enough to make a good drop from Yorktown's starboard quarter before crashing. While his torpedo missed, it prevented Yorktown from turning away from the second Japanese attack group under Lt. Hashimoto [added - attacking on the port side] which did score the crippling hits.
     
  8. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    Carronade, was Tomonaga the actual pilot of the Kate? I thought commanders like Tomonaga usually had the observer's position on the plane.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    They often did, but in this case Tomonaga was the pilot. Lt. Hashimoto normally flew as Tomonaga's observer, and had done so on the morning flight, but Tomonaga was senior. For the strike on Yorktown, Hashimoto switched with another observer so he could lead the second chutai. Another bit of bad luck for the Japanese, Hiryu's attack unit had been the one which suffered the heaviest losses in the attack on Midway; apparently that included some flight leaders.

    It was common for the observer to be the aircraft commander, and it strikes me as a good arrangement, allowing him to conduct the mission and keep track of the overall tactical situation while the pilot concentrates on flying the plane. Fuchida at Pearl Harbor etc. is a good example, also P/O Amari of the famous Tone #4 scout plane. I could also see it in a two-seater like an SBD.
     
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  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One correction, turns out seven Japanese torpedo planes dropped their 'fish', four in Hashimoto's chutai and three of Tomonaga's. Yorktown turned her stern to Tomonaga's group, which had been reduced from five planes to four by an American fighter, so Tomonaga split his flight, sending two planes over to Yorktown's port quarter while he continued his approach from starboard. They were still dropping at unfavorable angles, so the three torpedos dropped all missed, but they helped Hashimoto get a clean shot at Yorktown's beam.
     
  11. General Sultan

    General Sultan New Member

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    I Believe japanese pilots actually performed superior in torpedo/dive bombing attacks, especially in santa cruz, Coral sea, Indian ocean, Dive-bomber pilots were able to fend off for themselves using more then just the rear-machienguns but also dogfighting capabilities

    other then that, they managed to, as said, achieve great results in dive-bombing often against moving and zig-zaging targets, the japanese were the only faction to master bombing, level bombing, and torpedo bombing, evidently they hit the manuevering and zig-zaging force Z and other ships at the indian ocean raid while the US were not able to achieve such a feat until late in the war, even TF58 In the battle of kure, against docked, static enemy targets the USN used massed dive-bomber attacks against large static battleships while achieving inadequate resullts as opposed to the japanese in the similar incident of pearl-harbor. the japanese were able to score hits under fire on fast-moving ships as seen in santa cruz-island battles.
     
  12. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    In "Incredible Victory," an AA gunner on the Yorktown watched the Hiryu dive bombers coming in: "It was clear that this was their varsity... They were a far cry from the sloppy bunch we encountered at Coral Sea..."
     
  13. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    I don't know about Yamaguchi. He certainly would not have been able to save Yamamoto's ruined battle. Two commanders I think MIGHT have had an impact would have been Ozawa and Hara. Hara's performance at Coral Sea suggests he would not have let Genda's search plan pass and I do not see Ozawa recklessly risking Hiryu after things fell apart.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Initially they went after the larger ships i.e. carriers, battleships, and cruisers but they had rather poor luck at it. So they switched to the picket destoryers. They were often far enough out that CAP wasn't immediatly available and they didn't have lots of other ships around with interlocking AA fire so they were more vulnerable.
     
  15. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I am not convinced that resistance was the primary reason picket ships bore the brunt of later attacks, but rather the poor quality of pilots who were 'psyched' up to die and picked the first target they saw. in reading A Glorious Way To Die senior Japanese commanders stressed over target selection and accepted at face value claims of hits on larger targets when they suspected that a large percentage were taking the first target the pilots saw.

    Recall that most Kamikaze pilots had barely mastered take offs and landings prior to being sent out to die and even during the high tide of Japanese carrier aviation target recognition was a challenge to veteran pilots who frequently confused destroyers with cruisers and cruisers with battlewaggons. To be completely fair allied pilots had much the same problem.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I agree, it had nothing to do with a change in Japanese tactics. The pilots often dove on the first thing they came across, which was usually the pickets.

    Complicating matters of target recognition was that, at least at Okinawa, the destroyers were often accompanied by two to four smaller craft, such as LCS(L)s, LCIs, and LSMs. Thus giving the appearance that the destroyer was a more valuable "target."

    For instance, the action on May 11, 1945, at Radar Picket Station #15. I can't believe that the Japanese would send some 150 aircraft in five raids just to sink two destroyers, three LCLs, and an LSM.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm pretty sure I've read that there was a significant change in targeting during Okinowa. With attacks on the carriers and bigger ships predominating at first but shiffting to almost all attacks on the picket DDs. Of course part of this may have been the US moving them far enough out that they were sighted well before any of the bigger ships.

    Hmmm doing a bit of research looks like we both may have been wrong. A couple of interesting points from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze
    Looks like it may have been a deliberate attempt to push in the screen.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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  19. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I suspect belasar and Takao might be right. When the Japanes used up their trained pilots, the higher ups took the claims of the pilots as truth. It has been shown elsewhere that Japanese target information was sketchy at best. I don't think there was any change in tactics so much as poor piloting and identification.
     
  20. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Coming into this more than just a bit late . . . one might note that in the entire series of strikes conducted by TF-38 aircraft, and specifically by TBMs, on the Japanese home islands during the period 10 July through 15 August 1945, not a single, not one, torpedo was dropped.

    Specifically in strikes on the remnants of the IJN at Yokosuka on 18 July and in the Kure area on 24, 25, and 28 July, the attacking aircraft, especially of the torpedo plane variety, faced some daunting problems. Useable approaches for typical torpedo type attacks were nearly non-existent, targets were often protected by torpedo nets/barriers as well as break waters, and AAA guns, often removed from the very ships be targeted, were emplaced in the hill surrounding the anchorages. Some of these emplacements were so sited as to be able to fire downward on any approaching torpedo planes in a torpedo attack profile (and indeed, egressing VB pilots leaving the scenes at low level reported taking AAA fire from above). The problems with the target areas were identified in pre-strike photo recon.

    The USN had been long aware, long before Billy Mitchell’s minions ever approached an unmanned, stationary, undefended, and already damaged former German battleship, that the very best way to sink a ship is to let water in the hull, not by poking holes in the topsides, and that a nearby underwater explosion, such a by a bomb of suitable size would fill the bill quite nicely. Better to bash in a few hull plates with overpressure that to blow up the crockery in the Petty Officers’ Mess on the third deck aft.

    It was decided at the TF-38 staff level, that there would be no torpedo attacks. VB squadrons would perform their usual divebomber role against naval targets; VT squadrons would serve as level bombers, sometimes against naval targets, but mostly against land targets and the VF and VBF squadrons would perform high cover and flak suppression. While no one would be put in hack for actually scoring a direct hit on these IJN holdouts, the true object was to place one’s ordnance as close to the ship as possible without actually hitting it. When looking at strike photos one often sees distinct signs of bombs which, to be charitable, hit probably too far away for optimal effect, and some so far away that you might wonder exactly what was the target. But all in all, with some notable exceptions, the concept worked rather well. A summary report produced on 26 August 1945 describes the action on 18 July at Yokosuka (one of those notable exceptions despite a massive effort, the report extract is offered as it describes the thinking behind the strike concept):

    “29. On July 13th TF 38 tried again, this time the weather after a poor start cleared sufficiently to allow strikes to be launched just before noon. The NAGATO at Yokosuka was the target for one large combined strike bur fighter sweeps over enemy airfields extending 200 miles North and 120 miles West of Tokyo were also carried out.

    “30. The NAGATO was lying along side a dockyard wall at Yokosuka in 40 feet of water in such a position that is was not possible to use torpedoes against her. As all armor piercing bombs (including 1600 AP) has insufficient penetrating power to pierce her armor if dropped in a normal dive bombing attack, it had been decided to attack her with 1000 lb G.P. bombs fused with a water discriminating fuse in the nose and a delay fuse in the tail. The point of aim was give as the center of the waterline on her outboard side and it was hopped that a sufficient number of bombs would explode under her causing serious damage and possibly capsizing her. The normal bomb pattern to be expected would also cause damage to her upper works. TF 37 did not take part in this attack primarily because of the shorter range of her aircraft. Because of the restricted line of approach approximately 30 degrees either side of her port beam and the heavy AA defense which was to be expected, 153 aircraft of the 360 taking part were to concentrate on AA positions and were armed with the 260 lb VT fused bombs. All Helldivers, 100 in number and carrying 1000 lb bombs were to attack the NAGATO (See Appendix C)

    “31. The NAGATO strike was launched in poor visibility, but the various groups formed up quickly and were soon on their way. No air opposition was encountered, but the flak in the vicinity of Yokosuka was both heavy and accurate. However the AA in the line of approach was kept well down by the anti-flak aircraft. The target was soon obscured, but some hits and near misses were seen. A few photographs taken during and after the bombing showed some very wild bombing but that the ship had been hit amidships. Nevertheless she remained on even keel and to this day the damage caused cannot be assessed. 2 destroyers and one old cruiser were sunk and a flak ship heavily damaged.

    “32. Own losses were very much less than expected, 5 aircraft out of a total of 11 lost that day, this was considered to be due to the effectiveness on the VT fused fragmentation bombs as well as the liberal use of rope and window and the work of RCM aircraft.”
    (Report of CDR C.E.A. Owen, RN to CinCBPF 26 Aug 45, an original copy in my possession)

    Nagato, as we know was not sunk in this attack and was offered up as a target for atomic testing at Bikini.

    The “Appendix C to which CDR Owen refers is below:

    [​IMG]

    Anyway, all those splashes? Well, that was the plan all along.

    Rich
     

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