Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
Bgile
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by Bgile » Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:58 pm

lwd wrote:Back to the original invasion. I suspect that the Japanese would have considered 5,000 troops adequate. However Midway had about 1,000 defenders at the time. Given the level of planning demostrated at Wake and Midway I'm not at all sure that 5,000 is enough to guarantee success. From what I've seen of the plan for landing at Midway in June it included the very real possibility of the troops having to wade ashore from the reef as their landing boats probably could not have crossed it. If they picked a well defended portion of the beach to attmept to land on they were in trouble.
Well, 5,000 men is the force the Japanese thought would be necessary to take Midway in June of 1942. If you think it would be an insufficient force on Dec 7, 1941 I guess you are entitled to your opinion.

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by winterfell » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:08 pm

Hello everybody!

I really happy about joining this forum.

I understand that this discussion is about the possibility of decisive deep-water battle between US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy in situation when Pearl Harbor didn’t occurred.

In this respect I would like to make some general remarks concerning Japanese naval strategy in World War II. I believe that conception of decisive battle on the beginning of the hostilities was an idea just opposite to real Japanese war planning.

The Japanese paid a lot of attention and studies to their conflict with Russia in 1904-1905 and it shaped (and petrified) their thinking about any future big naval conflict. In my opinion during the Pacific Campaign of World War II de facto they had been trying to implement their experiences from 1904 – 1905.

So I think that the Japanese wanted to have a decisive battle a the end of war just like they have it in 1905. They also took their attack on Port Arthur in 1904, that disabled Russian Pacific Fleet, as a blueprint for the Pearl Harbor. Of course modus operandi was different, but still in both cases it was a surprise peace-time attack on main enemy naval base in the area.

Rationale of the attack on Pearl Harbor was to destroy US Navy offensive capabilities for the time needed for conquering territories in South-East Asia and for fortifying them in expectation of the future American offensive. In the course of that offensive the Japanese planned to wear down American forces and THEN have the decisive battle.

So I believe that Japanese would attack the Philippines, Midway or any other place on the onset of the war only if it would be offering them fair chances of destruction of the considerable part of US Navy. Any other scenario presented some possibility, regardless of the outcome of the battle for the US Navy, that the Imperial Japanese Navy would suffered serious losses in capital ships (i.e. battleships and carriers). In my opinion that constituted a risk that was unacceptable for the Japanese.

Look, even after Pearl Harbor all major naval clashes of 1942 was initiated by the Americans:

1. Coral Sea – Japanese carriers were just screening troops convoy heading for Port Moresby and it was the Americans who made the interception.
2. Midway – after the Doolittle raid Japanese regarded it as a forward base for B-25. Their rationale for that invasion was only to stop another raids. Midway become a decisive battle of Pacific War only because Americans had read Japanese communications and had decided to defend the island. Before the battle the Japanese didn’t see the Midway operation as a very important thing. That’s why they also simultaneously attacked the Aleutians. They weren’t seeking a decisive battle with the US Navy, they were just conducting two limited invasion operations i.e. Midway and Aleutians. For that reason:
• Yamamoto on Yamato with the core of Japanese Navy were placed himself in position to screen the invasion forces conducting both operations;
• Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu weren’t send at Midway with task of finding and destroying American carriers. Their main purpose was to support and screen Midway landing just like Junyo and Ryujo were tasked with attacking Dutch Harbor and screening Attu and Kiska landings.
3. Solomons. Big fighting started only after American landings on Tulagi and Guadalcanal. However even then the Japanese were reluctant to engage their main naval forces there. They have never sent there more than 2 battlecruisers at once.
4. Such actions of Imperial Japanese Navy’s like attack on Darwin and the Indian Ocean raid were maybe spectacular affairs, but they had a little strategic importance.

All in all, I think that Japanese naval strategy was deeply flawed. And that was the reason why the Japanese after Pearl Harbor did nothing to force Americans to accept decisive battle on Japanese terms like invasion of Hawaii (even fake one).

In my opinion attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t Japanese mistake. It was quite good move. However their mistake was to do afterwards virtually nothing against their main Pacific enemy. They chose to give the Americans time to shake down the shock caused by Pearl Harbor and gain some invaluable experience in carrier operations.

Best regards,
winterfell

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by Tiornu » Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:47 am

Greetings, winterfell. You've made some interesting observations, and I think I can add to them.
I believe that conception of decisive battle on the beginning of the hostilities was an idea just opposite to real Japanese war planning.
It's very true, as you said, that the IJN became institutionally rigid in anticipating a repeat of Russo-Japanese War. However, certain individuals remained flexible. Yamamoto was a member of the "treaty faction" and an advocate of carrier warfare. These two intellectual positions were possible only for someone capable of critically reviewing his beliefs. This means we have the naval establishment and the fleet commander possessing very different views. The Pacific War got underway just as Yamamoto had begun his campaign to change the way the IJN approached its mission, and his reorganization of the carrier force dramatically illustrates the way he was headed. Some of the man's successes and failures are obvious, but it's easy to overlook this quiet administrative initiative.
In any case, when we look at the Pearl Harbor attack, we must discern what emerged from the Port Arthur tradition and what emerged from Yamamoto's new approach. In my view, the admiral's famous comment that he would run wild in the Pacific for six months and his well known belief that Japan could not defeat America indicate he saw the Pearl attack as something different from the Port Arthur precedent. I believe he intended, if not THE Decisive Battle, then something that would prove decisive in a Japanese victory. He never had faith that the IJN could win a prolonged campaign--in fact, even the leaders of the rigid "fleet faction" acknowledged that Japan would likely lose a campaign dragging out over the course of some years.
So I think Yamamoto did hope for the initial blow to be decisive in causing America to pursue an early peace, even if established IJN war planning did not foresee things the same way.
Midway become a decisive battle of Pacific War only because Americans had read Japanese communications and had decided to defend the island.
I think Karl will join me in highly recommending the book Shattered Sword by Parshall & Tully. The authors have done a fine job of correcting misconceptions about Midway that have resulted from a Western-centric view of the battle. By digging into Japanese resources, they show that the Aleutians operation was politically necessary and not part of any coherent IJN strategy. Yamamoto's strategy was, in fact, to initiate a final showdown with the USN. That was his primary goal, and the capture of the island was a minor concern. He knew quite well that the Americans would respond, but he failed badly in preparing for that response.
All in all, I think that Japanese naval strategy was deeply flawed.
I agree completely. It was hopelessly misdirected.
In my opinion attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t Japanese mistake. It was quite good move. However their mistake was to do afterwards virtually nothing against their main Pacific enemy.
Here I think I must disagree with you, but we have a difficult topic to isolate. I see Pearl Harbor as a mistake for this reason--while a war with the USA was almost certain to end in a Japanese defeat, the nature of the Pearl Harbor attack directed the war toward not only a Japanese defeat, but a Japanese catastrophe. However, Yamamoto was given the certainty that Japan would wage an aggressive war on the US--that is, he already faced the probability of a catastrophe. You could argue that his Pearl Harbor plan at least created a window when the IJN would have a dramatic advantage, maximizing the hope for a beneficial outcome. So your judgment on whether or not this was a mistake can be a matter of perspective.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:00 am

Tiornu:
The authors have done a fine job of correcting misconceptions about Midway that have resulted from a Western-centric view of the battle. By digging into Japanese resources, they show that the Aleutians operation was politically necessary and not part of any coherent IJN strategy. Yamamoto's strategy was, in fact, to initiate a final showdown with the USN. That was his primary goal, and the capture of the island was a minor concern. He knew quite well that the Americans would respond, but he failed badly in preparing for that response.
Shattered Sword argues, also, that Midway is, at the end, not the decisive battle whatsoever. In a desicive battle the Japanese would have the capability of winning the war after winning the battle. And that, gentlemen, could have never happened. So, it wasn´t as decisive.

Best regards
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by Tiornu » Sat Dec 06, 2008 7:10 am

I suspect we'd all agree that Japanese strategy was terribly flawed, and one of the worst flaws had to so with the results of the planned Decisive Battle. The Japanese did not conceive it as a vehicle for their own victory; rather, it was an occasion for the enemy to lose. This is the distinction I am trying to make: the Decisive Battle was seen as a way to defeat America's attack, not a way to press an attack on America. So when the battle was over, the Japanese had no leverage to demand an American surrender. It was hoped that America would just give up and ask for terms to end the fighting. If America failed to do this, Japan had no back-up plan to force its will on the enemy. In this sense, then, Midway was a passable version of a Decisive Battle.

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by jonsidneyb » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:23 am

Was Midway a bad move on the IJN's part?

I thought we had an intelligence advantage that they were not aware of and that the USN could have still lost Midway in a big way.

I thought many circumstances came out for the USN that played in the favor of the American. To me it seems there were moments of luck but when luck showed itself it was pursued with a vengence.

I thought if Midway could be done over and over again an IJN victory could have happened.

American production would have I am sure caught things up but In my mind a USN loss at Midways is a big set back in time.

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by Bgile » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:36 pm

I don't think Midway was a "bad" move on the part of the Japanese. I pretty much agree with your points.

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by lwd » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:46 pm

The concept of attacking Midway to draw out the US fleet was not necessarily a bad move. However the plan they used was flawed both in planning and execution. If you are interested in this battle especially from the Japanese side Shattered Sword as mentioned above is highly recommended.

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minoru genda
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by minoru genda » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:59 pm

jonsidneyb wrote:I thought if Midway could be done over and over again an IJN victory could have happened.
I've just started a new thread about this hypothetical Japanese victory at Midway.
viewtopic.php?f=14&p=20827
Tora! Tora! Tora!

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by winterfell » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:17 pm

@Tiornu,

Thank you for good words.

I have actually bought The Shattered Sword, but I haven’t read it yet. Too much work and too many hobbies other than naval history. I would like to assure you that that book is placed high on my long list of books to read.
Of course you are right that the Japanese naval command wasn’t doctrinal monolith and Yamamoto had some new ideas. But still a great part of Japanese naval commanders followed old ways of thinking what resulted in the Indian Ocean, the Coral Sea and the Aleutians.
I have a rather bad opinion on Yamamoto despite his remarkable success in creation of the Kido Butai. I don't know details about the way of Imperial Japanese Navy's decision-making process in period starting from December 1941 and lasting to June 1942, but knowing his high position in the Japanese command structure I blame him for not taking any serious actions against Americans during that period. He made famous six-month statement, but only on the end of that period he prepared a plan aimed on destruction of American carrier fleet. Such a plan should be implemented in January 1942.
I have no doubts that the Japanese made a terrible blunder deciding to go on war with the US. But if they decided to do that they should concentrate themselves on hitting the USA really hard. That's why I think that they starting from December 1941 should relentlessly keep pressure on the Americans. Without such distractions like the Indian Ocean or Port Moresby Kido Butai (+ battleships + cruisers) most probably would be able to destroy the US Navy. Afterwards the Japanese would be free to grab their wanted territories and wait for the American offensive till summer or even fall 1943.
And the last one. Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only reason for which the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japan. More important one is that that the Japanese had decided to fight to the end. Should they decided to ask for peace after Leyte or Okinawa there would be no Hiroshima and no Nagasaki. Moreover, I am also convinced that even without the Pearl Harbor there would be Hiroshima and Nagasaki if Japanese decided to fight to the end.

@jonsidneyb,
You are totally right that the US Navy's victory at Midway wasn't decided matter. For some sound reasons it is sometimes called 'The Miracle at Midway'. But I think that it supports my point that the Japanese naval command (as a whole) wasn't really concentrated on seeking and winning decisive battle with the US Navy. It is an old truth that the Japanese had a big problem with the application of the rule of concentration of the main forces on the main objective.
In consequence, the American success at Midway, besides their good measure of luck, was also a result of their determination to commit to the fight almost all their accessible resources. Had the Japanese did the same even the luck wouldn't be enough to save the American carriers .

winterfell

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by jonsidneyb » Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:38 am

I think everyone forgot about Pearl Harbor day.

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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by RF » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:30 pm

RNfanDan wrote:What am I missing, here?

If the Japanese begin the war the same way but do not attack Pearl, what would Japan attack otherwise, that would compel the US to war--the Philippines?
Good question - indeed why attack the Phillipines at all? Wouldn't the Japanese have been better to gamble on no US military intervention by only going to war with Britain and the Dutch?

I have been told on other threads that the Japanese Army recognised that they could not win in a long war with the US, so the PH attack was done in order to win a short war. So I don't understand why the Japanese would start a war on the US without a PH or other dehabilitating surprise strike.
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by lwd » Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:57 pm

The Dutch, British, and US had an understanding that an attack on one by Japan was an attack on all. Forces in the Philipines clearly threaten Japans logistics to just about anywhere except parts of China and Korea.

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RF
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by RF » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:50 pm

This was an understanding, not an alliance. If the Japanese had moved into the Dutch and British territories without attacking the US, would Roosevelt have been able to get Congress to declare war?
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Re: Pacific War without Pearl Harbor

Post by RF » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:54 pm

I might add, lwd, that Britain is a member of NATO, an alliance which states that an attack on one members territory would be regarded as an attack on all NATO members. Argentina in 1982 invaded British territory and the NATO provisions did not come into play on that one. And Japan in 1941 was far more a substantial military power than Argentina was in 1982.
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