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  • Two Pearl Harbor what ifs.

    An observation by Cowboy 31a in the World War II forum about Pearl Harbor is one of two what-ifs here:
    1)
    if standard procedure would have been followed by William Halsey, The Battleships wouldn't have been in Pearl.

    The USN was set up to move in mass. Therefore if following doctrine, the battle wagons should have been at sea following the carriers. The reason they weren't was because Halsey absolutely refused to let "those bastards slow me down." Apparently he flit justified in this, because this was just going to be a delivery run to Wake and Midway dispatching planes to those Islands Lift anchor on Thursday and drop anchor on Sunday type of thing.

    Where the command at Pearl blew it wasn't insisting on the fleet following doctrine. CinCPac allowed the battleships to stay in port, while asking Halsey to put his objections to the battleships going with him.

    IF Kimmel's chief of operations and chief of staff had done their duty in the manor they should have: the battleships would probably have not been in port.
    Would this have been a positive or negative? If no battleships might they
    have sought to hit fuel tanks and storage facilities instead? If so, Halsey, by incredible luck, did a great service to the U.S.

    2) If the U.S. had noted and reacted to radar warnings how might that have effected the strikes, since the Japanese had better aircraft (I believe) and more experienced air crews. Would there have been efforts to clear the harbor of some ships and sufficient time to prepare a defense?

    No doubt much of this has been covered in some fashion in the past but a) it's time consuming to find and read through lengthy replies b) there's something (I believe) to be said for periodically starting a discussion fresh,
    but I certanly understand if many find such a (re?)consideration uninteresting.

  • #2
    Try searching the archive, or other discussion boards, for the previous discussions of this subject. I suspect many people are burnt out on the subject.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Tuor View Post
      An observation by Cowboy 31a in the World War II forum about Pearl Harbor is one of two what-ifs here:
      1)

      Would this have been a positive or negative? If no battleships might they
      have sought to hit fuel tanks and storage facilities instead? If so, Halsey, by incredible luck, did a great service to the U.S.

      2) If the U.S. had noted and reacted to radar warnings how might that have effected the strikes, since the Japanese had better aircraft (I believe) and more experienced air crews. Would there have been efforts to clear the harbor of some ships and sufficient time to prepare a defense?

      .
      As I stated in the original thread, it was indeed proper and correct for Admiral Kimmel to allow Admiral Halsey to use his own iniative to decide how to conduct the Wake Island supply effort with his task force. Taking the USS Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma along with him would have only drastically slowed down the speed of Task Force 8. By 7 December, Task Force 8 would still be somewhere in the central Pacific, on the homeward leg of the journey and not less than 200 miles from Oahu. Task Force 8 would have been seen by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and once the information of their location was passed, they would be easy pickings for the Japanese carrier strike force on their own homeward journey from Pearl Harbor.

      IIRC, the radar station at Opama Point saw the incoming Japanese aircraft within a few minutes of 7am that Sunday morning. Had a war alert been raised, it would have given US ground, air and naval forces between 45 and 55 minutes to prepare for the attack. Most of the Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine fighterplanes could not have been gassed up, armed and in the air, given the time remaining but at least, many of them could have been placed in bomb proof revetments, rather than stacked up in neat rows. There would also have been alot more US aircraft in the air when the Japanese struck, resulting in many more Japanese aircraft being shot down.

      Likewise, a 45 minute grace period wouldn't have been enough time for the battleships in Pearl Harbor to raise enough steam in their boilers to sortie, it would have taken between two and three hours to do that from cold iron, but had the ships been given enough warning time to go to General Quarters and set Condition Zed, by closing all watertight doors, most, if not all of them could have survived the combination of Japanese bomb and torpedo damage. Likewise, all of the ship's anti-aircraft batteries would be armed and the ammunition train from the ship's magazines established. When the Japanese attackers did arrive, they would have been given a decidedly warmer reception than they historically did.
      "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

      Comment


      • #4
        Tuor, you asked,

        2) If the U.S. had noted and reacted to radar warnings how might that have effected the strikes, ...

        While it could NOT have happened on the morning of Dec.7'41 for a wide variety of reasons, the American defenders of Oahu did have the right idea of what a FUNCTIONING early air attack warning system could do for them, and were working hard on gettting their planned one, operational.

        "Ironically, less than a month earlier, the Hawaiian Department demonstrated what a trained and ready force could accomplish. During a joint Army-Navy tactical exercise, carrier based planes eighty miles away took off at 4:30 in the morning. Radar picked them up as they headed toward Oahu. The Information Center notified the pursuit squadron within six minutes. Those aircraft launched in plenty of time to intercept the “enemy” thirty miles out.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
          As I stated in the original thread, it was indeed proper and correct for Admiral Kimmel to allow Admiral Halsey to use his own iniative to decide how to conduct the Wake Island supply effort with his task force. Taking the USS Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma along with him would have only drastically slowed down the speed of Task Force 8. By 7 December, Task Force 8 would still be somewhere out in the central Pacific, on the homeward leg of the journey and not less than 200 miles from Oahu. Task Force 8 would have been seen by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and once the information of their location was passed to the Imperial Japanese Navy, they would be easy pickings for the Japanese carrier strike force on their own homeward journey from Pearl Harbor.

          IIRC, the radar station at Opama Point saw the incoming Japanese aircraft within a few minutes of 7am on that Sunday morning. Had a war alert been issued, it would have given US ground, air and naval forces between 45 and 55 minutes to prepare for the attack. Most of the Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine fighterplanes could not have been gassed up, armed and in the air, given the time remaining but at least, many of them could have been placed in bomb proof revetments, rather than stacked up in neat rows on the airfield. There would also have been alot more US fighter aircraft in the air when the Japanese struck, resulting in many more Japanese aircraft being shot down.

          Likewise, a 45 minute grace period wouldn't have been enough time for the battleships in Pearl Harbor to raise enough steam in their boilers to sortie, as it would have taken between two and three hours for them to go from cold iron, to fully functional status, but had the ships been given enough warning time to go to General Quarters and set Condition Zed, by closing all watertight doors, most, if not all of them would have survived the combination of Japanese bomb and torpedo damage. Likewise, all of the ship's anti-aircraft batteries would be armed and the all important, ammunition train from the ship's magazines to the guns been established. When the Japanese attackers did arrive, they would have been given a decidedly warmer reception than they historically did.
          Tuor, I would have you read my above mentioned answers to your question. FYI, I just learned something interesting today. When the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma was raised and righted, it was found that "Condition Zed" had not been set on 7 December and many of her watertight doors were found to be open and unsecured, allowing terminal amounts of water to flood throughout the ship from her numerous torpedo hits. Had the watertight doors been secured, she probably would have survived, if only to be counterflooded and sink upright like the USS West Virginia did.
          Last edited by johnbryan; 07 Sep 09, 23:50.
          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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          • #6
            Two Pearl Harbor what ifs.

            *If* Task Force 8 had decided to 'go after" the Japanese fleet, they would have had the 'clock cleaned.' The attack/torpedo planes on the Enterprise were way behind on what the Japanese had at that curent time, along with the difference in either sides training. The US would have ended up with not only battleships at the bottom of the sea, but one of their few carriers, which they couldn't afford to lose at that time.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ChuckW View Post
              *If* Task Force 8 had decided to 'go after" the Japanese fleet, they would have had the 'clock cleaned.' The attack/torpedo planes on the Enterprise were way behind on what the Japanese had at that curent time, along with the difference in either sides training. The US would have ended up with not only battleships at the bottom of the sea, but one of their few carriers, which they couldn't afford to lose at that time.
              Yet, these were the same planes and crews that did so well 6-7 months later at Coral Sea and Midway?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ChuckW View Post
                *If* Task Force 8 had decided to 'go after" the Japanese fleet, they would have had the 'clock cleaned.' The attack/torpedo planes on the Enterprise were way behind on what the Japanese had at that curent time, along with the difference in either sides training. The US would have ended up with not only battleships at the bottom of the sea, but one of their few carriers, which they couldn't afford to lose at that time.
                Even worse, the Enterprise's Task Force 8 would amount to one lone, aircraft carrier going up against 6 Japanese aircraft carriers. The Enterprise would also be at a decided disadvantage in the numbers of aircraft that they could deploy, as they had already flown off 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Scouting Squadron Six and Bombing Squadron Six, plus 6 F4F Wildcat fighters from Fighter Squadron Six that morning to Oahu. As a result, a number of these aircraft were shot down or damaged during the morning's attack from both Japanese aircraft and friendly fire.
                "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think it was National Geographic that did an excellent episode of Unsolved History on this (or was it the History Channel). Some of these points were well covered.

                  Scenario 1: The US Navy was grossly outnumbered in terms of carrier air power, as pointed out by others here.

                  I've got a couple of points to add. The Japanese had a good intel network in Oahu at that time. If the battleships were not in harbour, the attack would not have been launched.

                  The question is whether the Japanese Combined Fleet would be hunting down the Enterprise and Lexington, and the battleships. Hard to tell. A surprise attack on Pearl Harbour was Plan A for Yamamoto and ... that's it. There was no real Plan B. In all likelihood, the Japs would have waited for the fleet to return first.

                  Scenario 2: In terms of air defence, it will depend on what type of aircraft the USAAF throws up, in what numbers. I don't think the USAAF had a good number of aircraft of the Zero's quality, not to mention experienced combat-hardened pilots employing the right tactics. Judging from what happened subsequently in other early battles, USAAF pursuit aircraft might well have been shot down in significant numbers and the attack aircraft would still have gotten through and done enormous damage.

                  However, on the issue of anti-aircraft fire, I think these would most probably inflict much more serious damage on the Japanese.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ogukuo72 View Post
                    I think it was National Geographic that did an excellent episode of Unsolved History on this (or was it the History Channel). Some of these points were well covered.

                    Scenario 1: The US Navy was grossly outnumbered in terms of carrier air power, as pointed out by others here.

                    I've got a couple of points to add. The Japanese had a good intel network in Oahu at that time. If the battleships were not in harbour, the attack would not have been launched.
                    I found "In the event that, during this operation, an enemy fleet attempts to intercept our force or a powerful enemy force is encountered and there is danger of attack, the Task Force will launch a counterattack." at http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/monos/097/index.html
                    which I think is a good indication that the Kido Butai would have launched IF they could find a suitable USN target. We know that Nagumo launched 2 cruiser scoutplanes, one to check Pearl Harbor and the other to search the USN's Lahania Roads (that was the official "plan B" target) anchorage for USN warships, as well as launching 4 more catapult scouts to watch the waters between Oahu and the Kido Butai for any American surface warships bent on attacking the Kido Butai's carriers.

                    The question is whether the Japanese Combined Fleet would be hunting down the Enterprise and Lexington, and the battleships. Hard to tell. A surprise attack on Pearl Harbour was Plan A for Yamamoto and ... that's it. There was no real Plan B. In all likelihood, the Japs would have waited for the fleet to return first.
                    With the scheduled Malaya invasion landings at Kota Bharu underway, Nagumo couldn't just wait. The Pacific Fleet might have already been on it's way back to San Diego because the Kido Butai had been spotted approaching Oahu.

                    If he were to at all perform his mission, he would HAVE TO launch some of his strike planes as scoutplanes instead. To at the least search the US Pacific Fleet's usual operations/training areas to the south of Oahu for battleships and carriers.

                    However, this situation seems unlikely to me. Had the Pacific Fleet received an advanced warning and done an emergency sortie out of Pearl Harbor then the Japanese RDF types would have picked up MUCH radio traffic from within Pearl Harbor. An advanced tip-off for Nagumo. Also, Yoshikawa and company in Honolulu would have noticed the USN's scramble and might have got a message off to Tokyo to alert Nagumo and the 28 IJN submarines deployed around Oahu to watch and track the departing Americans.

                    Scenario 2: In terms of air defence, it will depend on what type of aircraft the USAAF throws up, in what numbers. I don't think the USAAF had a good number of aircraft of the Zero's quality, not to mention experienced combat-hardened pilots employing the right tactics. Judging from what happened subsequently in other early battles, USAAF pursuit aircraft might well have been shot down in significant numbers and the attack aircraft would still have gotten through and done enormous damage.
                    With pre-warned radar installations and all possible USN/USAAF/Marine fighters accurately vectored in, the air battles would have been ugly. With ALL of the USN's and ALL of US Army's AA guns deployed and FULLY supplied with ammunition, the American flak would have been much worse. With only few hours worth of warning, many of the Pacific Fleet's warships would have at least been completely watertight against the progressive flooding which historically sank them.

                    Damaged to be sure but NOT likely enormously so.

                    However, on the issue of anti-aircraft fire, I think these would most probably inflict much more serious damage on the Japanese.
                    More AA guns + more ammo = more Kido Butai warplanes shotdown.
                    .

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ogukuo72 View Post
                      Scenario 2: In terms of air defence, it will depend on what type of aircraft the USAAF throws up, in what numbers. I don't think the USAAF had a good number of aircraft of the Zero's quality, not to mention experienced combat-hardened pilots employing the right tactics. Judging from what happened subsequently in other early battles, USAAF pursuit aircraft might well have been shot down in significant numbers and the attack aircraft would still have gotten through and done enormous damage.
                      If the US manages to get sizeable numbers of Army, Navy and Marine Corps fighter aircraft stacked up, aloft and waiting at high altitude, they will have the decided first strike advantage over the incoming Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes and will probably scatter a number of their squadrons, while shooting down a high percentage of them before the Zeros are even able to take an active role in the fight. Even an old P-26 Shooting Star can shoot down a slower Japanese bomber or torpedo plane in a diving attack, as evidenced in the Philippines.
                      "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                      • #12
                        Had the radar report been taken more seriously I doubt much would have changed considering it was a Sunday morning, the US was at peace and no one on duty had any real idea of the scope of approaching attack.

                        - First we have a couple of privates, newly trained on the radar telephoning in a contact to a junior lieutenant at an operations centre that is all but closed for the weekend.
                        - Had the young officer taken the threat more seriously he would have sent a report up the chain of command until it reached a colonel or so who had authority to launch a few flights or a squadron to go and see what was going on.
                        - While Colonel So-and-So was trying to organise his ready flights (was there even such a thing) he will be trying to get in touch with his superiors. These gentlemen must then begin the entire process of liaison with other services if they decide that something is up. Has Kimmel or Short been advised by this point? Probably not,... the 'contacts' could still be B-17 from the US.
                        - Once the reconnaissance flight actually reaches the Japanese formations and reports they are under attack an alarm could be sounded. This helps the navy but the air force,... not so much.
                        - The aircraft are still sitting in massive parks in the centre of the runways. They would be both unarmed and without fuel.
                        - The armourers, mechanics and fuel crews, like everyone else are off for the weekend. The few on duty might be in the process of readying a few more aircraft but where are the pilots?
                        - The pilots are at home with the wife, in a hotel with a sweetie, a lay from the night before, the odd prostitute. Others might be laying about their quarters some ways away from the airfields sleeping off the booze or just relaxing. How many could get to the airfield before the Japanese arrive and how many planes could be ready for them in only a quarter hour or so?

                        In the end the actual response might put 'some' aircraft aloft but not enough to change matters. Japanese losses may have been heavier but the end results would not have changed much. You just don't go from Sunday at peace to a full war footing in 60 minutes. Military machines don't work that way.
                        Last edited by The Purist; 17 Sep 09, 18:22.
                        The Purist

                        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                          Had the radar report been taken more seriously I doubt much would have changed considering it was a Sunday morning, the US was at peace and no one on duty had any real idea of the scope of approaching attack.

                          - First we have a couple of privates, newly trained on the radar telephoning in a contact to a junior lieutenant at an operations centre that is all but closed for the weekend.
                          - Had the young officer taken the threat more seriously he would have sent a report up the chain of command until it reached a colonel or so who had authority to launch a few flights or a squadron to go and see what was going on.
                          - While Colonel So-and-So was trying to organise his ready flights (was there even such a thing) he will be trying to get in touch with his superiors. These gentlemen must then begin the entire process of liaison with other services if they decide that something is up. Has Kimmel or Short been advised by this point? Probably not,... the 'contacts' could still be B-17 from the US.
                          - Once the reconnaissance flight actually reaches the Japanese formations and reports they are under attack an alarm could be sounded. This helps the navy but the air force,... not so much.
                          - The aircraft are still sitting in massive parks in the centre of the runways. They would be both unarmed and without fuel.
                          - The armourers, mechanics and fuel crews, like everyone else are off for the weekend. The few on duty might be in the process of readying a few more aircraft but where are the pilots?
                          - The pilots are at home with the wife, in a hotel with a sweetie, a lay from the night before, the odd prostitute. Others might be laying about their quarters some ways away from the airfields sleeping off the booze or just relaxing. How many could get to the airfield before the Japanese arrive and how many planes could be ready for them in only a quarter hour or so?

                          In the end the actual response might put 'some' aircraft aloft but not enough to change matters. Japanese losses may have been heavier but the end results would not have changed much. You just don't go from Sunday at peace to a full war footing in 60 minutes. Military machines don't work that way.
                          The majority of the pilots were in their barracks that morning, as most of their wives and dependants had been sent back stateside the year before. Historically speaking, the airfield armorers, ground crew and pilots did quite well for themselves. During the attack, some 25 US fighterplanes managed to scramble and get aloft; albeit, a number of them being quickly shot down at low altitude by Japanese aircraft or friendly anti-aircraft fire. Adding 15 or more minutes grace time before the Japanese attack could easily double or triple the numbers of armed US fighterplanes that were aloft and clawing for altitude. This could have made a huge difference in the final numbers of downed Japanese aircraft, especially the all important bombers and torpedo planes.

                          A 15 minute grace period would have also helped the Navy immeasureably. Such a respite would give the ships in the harbor the needed time to go to General Quarters, getting their AAA suite fully manned, locked and loaded and the ammunition powder train from the magazines filled. Most importantly, there would also be the needed time for all of the ships in the harbor to set "Condition Zed," securing all watertight doors for full, watertight integrity and much greater anti-torpedo and bomb protection. Black gangs could light off all boilers to start the slow, laborious process of getting up steam from "cold iron" to full manueverability. 2-3 hours for a battleship, 1 hour for a destroyer.
                          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by johns624 View Post
                            Yet, these were the same planes and crews that did so well 6-7 months later at Coral Sea and Midway?
                            A sweeping statement and not one that can be totally defended.

                            The TBD Devestator squadrons at Midway were blasted out of the sky. This drew the zeros down low and gave the Dauntless pilots a clear attack. THEY did so well because of the amount of fuel and weapons the Japanese had all over their decks.

                            to the USN pilots for their skill and bravery, but the overall result required a hell of a lot of things to go right and I wouldn't chance the same good luck happening twice.

                            6-7 months combat time really sharpens the skills too. The first half of 1942 put the US armed forces on a very steep learning curve.

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                            • #15
                              On one point above:
                              Originally posted by Peter_Sym
                              The TBD Devestator squadrons at Midway were blasted out of the sky. This drew the zeros down low and gave the Dauntless pilots a clear attack. THEY did so well because of the amount of fuel and weapons the Japanese had all over their decks.
                              Given that the Shokaku and Zuikaku were taken out of participation at Midway because of damage and loss of planes/aircrew at Coral Sea, even without fuel/weapons rife on IJN carriers at Midway might not the bulk of the Japanese main carriers have been effectively out of action at least through 1942? That is, that the list of "luck" elements in the USN win is not quite as high as generally viewed, since disabling IJN carriers for 1942 would still have effectively stabilized the situation long enough for the US to build up numbers and training in AC and planes? Not as disastrous to the IJN as the actual results, but repairs to several carriers would have been time consuming and (I would think) difficult, and even if some pilots might be saved, Japanese planes would still be lost since unable to land on crippled carriers.

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