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The effectiveness of US and British naval war plans against Japan, 1920–1941

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  • The effectiveness of US and British naval war plans against Japan, 1920–1941

    Hi

    I hope this free access article is of some interest:-

    This article reconsiders the traditional claim that the setbacks which the US and British naval forces faced during the opening stages of the war against Japan in 1941–2 were the result of poor strategic planning. It illustrates how, during the decades leading up to the outbreak of the Pacific War, naval staffs drew up a detailed course of action which paid due attention to many of the moves that needed to be undertaken to defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy, including the establishment of a clear line of communication to the western Pacific region, the development of advanced bases, and the imposition of a maritime blockade to undermine Japan's war effort. The main cause for the failure to provide an adequate defence against the Japanese onslaught was the various obstacles which the US and British governments faced in allocating sufficient money towards naval expansion during the interwar period, which meant that by the time hostilities broke out in December 1941, neither power was able to deploy an adequate force to safeguard their interests in Asia.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/...59.2015.994875

    Regards

    Andy H
    "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

    "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

  • #2
    Navy Basic War Plan-Rainbow No. 5 (WPL-46) is the plan the US actually used.
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    • #3
      I note the following from the article:

      The main factors which prevented the US and Great Britain from making adequate preparations were the various obstacles which their national governments faced in allocating sufficient money towards defence spending.
      By the late 30's the US had started to invest sufficiently in defense of places like Hawaii and the Philippines. The big stumbling block wasn't material or manpower, it was shipping. The US simply couldn't come up with enough free (as in extra) shipping to move the available supplies, material, and manpower to where they were needed.
      For example, Wake had just shy of 400 Marines on it. The defense battalion there was supposed to have 952 men assigned but only 388 had been placed on Wake when the war started. This was because there was a lack of shipping to send the entire unit. Instead, it was being brought in a handful at a time. The SBD squadron for Wake was sitting at Pearl Harbor (MCAS Ewa) at the outbreak of the war awaiting transportation there.

      So, the paper gets this wrong.

      The solution was to play for time so that further reinforcements could be sent to the Philippines. During autumn 1941, the Army Air Forces commenced the transfer of B-17 bomber squadrons to the western Pacific. On 5 November, Stark suggested to President Roosevelt that by the middle of December, US air and submarine strength in the Philippines were likely to become a ‘positive threat’ to any Japanese operations against areas south of Formosa.63
      With regard to the US Asiatic fleet and the Philippines, there was a realistic plan in place to make the archipelago defensible. The problem was one of time and shipping space. The US at the outbreak of the Pacific War was moving what would eventually have been the equivalent of a US Corps of support troops and one, possibly two infantry divisions to the Philippines. The Philippine division would be brought up to a full 16 to 19,000 troops along with the raising of 10 Philippine Army divisions. Equipment for the later was being shipped as space allowed.
      The "Pensacola" convoy in route when war broke out was carrying additional USAAC service personnel, 54 A-24 dive bombers, large quantities of small arms, artillery, a National Guard artillery battalion, and several batteries of coast defense guns for the islands. The aircraft transport Langley had an additional 40 P-40E aboard.
      The US Asiatic fleet was based on a strategy of commerce raiding and defense of US naval bases rather than one of having a strong surface fleet. The intent was it would primarily strike at Japanese shipping rather than engage the IJN in battle. The same problem was present for it, lack of space and support ships like tankers to move what this fleet would need to where it was needed.

      At least for the US, there simply wasn't enough time and shipping space to do what needed to be done. Cash generally wasn't the issue so much as simply getting stuff where it was needed. There was also a peacetime "Business as usual" aspect to preparations. The urgency wasn't present yet.

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      • #4
        Hi

        Alastair Mars in his 'British Submarines at War 1939-1945' on page 21 discusses a British pre-war RN plan to deal with a Japanese battlefleet, these were the 16 'O', 'P' and 'R' classes of submarine based mainly at Hong Kong with the depot-ship Medway. They had exercised and got to know the waters in the area. Unfortunately when the Japanese attacked they had all been sent to the Mediterranean to deal with the Italians, these were waters totally unsuited to the boats but the war situation apparently demanded it. The RN did not have enough vessels to engage German, Italian and Japanese fleets.

        Mike

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        • #5
          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
          I note the following from the article:



          By the late 30's the US had started to invest sufficiently in defense of places like Hawaii and the Philippines. The big stumbling block wasn't material or manpower, it was shipping. The US simply couldn't come up with enough free (as in extra) shipping to move the available supplies, material, and manpower to where they were needed.
          For example, Wake had just shy of 400 Marines on it. The defense battalion there was supposed to have 952 men assigned but only 388 had been placed on Wake when the war started. This was because there was a lack of shipping to send the entire unit. Instead, it was being brought in a handful at a time. The SBD squadron for Wake was sitting at Pearl Harbor (MCAS Ewa) at the outbreak of the war awaiting transportation there.

          So, the paper gets this wrong.



          With regard to the US Asiatic fleet and the Philippines, there was a realistic plan in place to make the archipelago defensible. The problem was one of time and shipping space. The US at the outbreak of the Pacific War was moving what would eventually have been the equivalent of a US Corps of support troops and one, possibly two infantry divisions to the Philippines. The Philippine division would be brought up to a full 16 to 19,000 troops along with the raising of 10 Philippine Army divisions. Equipment for the later was being shipped as space allowed.
          The "Pensacola" convoy in route when war broke out was carrying additional USAAC service personnel, 54 A-24 dive bombers, large quantities of small arms, artillery, a National Guard artillery battalion, and several batteries of coast defense guns for the islands. The aircraft transport Langley had an additional 40 P-40E aboard.
          The US Asiatic fleet was based on a strategy of commerce raiding and defense of US naval bases rather than one of having a strong surface fleet. The intent was it would primarily strike at Japanese shipping rather than engage the IJN in battle. The same problem was present for it, lack of space and support ships like tankers to move what this fleet would need to where it was needed.

          At least for the US, there simply wasn't enough time and shipping space to do what needed to be done. Cash generally wasn't the issue so much as simply getting stuff where it was needed. There was also a peacetime "Business as usual" aspect to preparations. The urgency wasn't present yet.
          Wouldn't it be acceptable to say the problem in finding transport could have been resolved through additional spending, a reluctance to spend being part of the article's argument?

          If the US was looking for "free" shipping, then that suggests they weren't willing to spend extra to transport their men and equipment where it was needed.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Daemon of Decay View Post
            Wouldn't it be acceptable to say the problem in finding transport could have been resolved through additional spending, a reluctance to spend being part of the article's argument?

            If the US was looking for "free" shipping, then that suggests they weren't willing to spend extra to transport their men and equipment where it was needed.
            It was a matter of what money was available for what. Most military movement was being made on either USN or US Army ships with some of it contracted out. The later was expensive comparatively so the military wasn't willing to shell out cash for it preferring to use their own ships.

            I'd characterize it as more a case of it being peacetime and that mentality still prevailing.

            Most of the spending was going to infrastructure around the world. The US was building bases in some pretty strange places before they entered the war.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
              It was a matter of what money was available for what. Most military movement was being made on either USN or US Army ships with some of it contracted out. The later was expensive comparatively so the military wasn't willing to shell out cash for it preferring to use their own ships.

              I'd characterize it as more a case of it being peacetime and that mentality still prevailing.

              Most of the spending was going to infrastructure around the world. The US was building bases in some pretty strange places before they entered the war.
              True, I think the mentality of the military and government had much to do with it, including spending and focus. Maybe a bit of the French-inspired idea of fortresses being a strong deterrence.

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              • #8
                The hulls were there. For example, Nimitz chartered 21 tankers shortly after he took command of the US Fleet.
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                Hyperwar, Whats New
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                The best place in the world to "work".

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Daemon of Decay View Post
                  True, I think the mentality of the military and government had much to do with it, including spending and focus. Maybe a bit of the French-inspired idea of fortresses being a strong deterrence.
                  No, that really wasn't the case. MacArthur was offered a second US Infantry division for the Philippines but turned it down. He thought the 10 Philippine divisions and one US one were sufficient. The US also had sent over 100 tanks and another 100 + tank destroyers to the PI with more on the way. Corps artillery, engineers, and other forces were in the pipeline along with 240mm and 155mm coast defense batteries that would have covered most of the landing sites the Japanese used.
                  90mm AA guns were in the US to eventually get shipped to the PI but didn't make it before the war started.
                  For example, in route to the PI when war broke out was:

                  2nd Bn 131st FA, 1st and 2nd Bns 147th FA, 1st Bn 148th FA, 2,600 USAAC personnel (mostly ground units), 58 P-40 fighters, 52 A-24 dive bombers, and major amounts of supplies. B-17's were flying out regularly (including those caught coming in from the West Coast at Pearl Harbor). Given a convoy took better than a month to make the round trip there, the build up was very much limited by that factor.
                  As I pointed out about Wake, a single merchant was being used to bring in most of the material for the Marines, while the troops arrived with fuel shipments on tankers in small batches.

                  In the case of the PI it was mostly a combination of personalities that caused the debacle. MacArthur relied on his Chief of Staff, Sutherland who was in terms of military competence a buffoon and dictator. Brereton, commanding the USAAC let Sutherland browbeat him into incompetence. MacArthur really did nothing to fix any of the personality conflicts and was often absent from decision making.

                  The shortage of shipping space continued to plague the Pacific War almost into 1943. For example, Guadalcanal took all available assault transports and cargo ships to occur. That Japan didn't push in and sink some of them at First Savo Island was a major strategic blunder. It might well have caused the operation to fail on its own.

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