Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

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Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:53 am

Hello,
Many discussions were waged around the Pearl Harbor attack and it's outcomes. But what if the Japanese plan went according to their expectations, and Enterprise, Saratoga and Lexington would have been caught several miles off Oahu, performing hypothetical squadron-sized drills ... ?

I would imagine they would be discovered shortly after the second wave of attack would have delivered it's payload.

Thus, the Japanese force would still have 6 carriers and their escorts, but about 320-330 planes in operational status.

The US carriers would know very well about the attacks, and would form a defensive group centered around the 3 fleet carriers. The escort would comprise 8 CAs and CLs and 20 DDs. The US fleet carriers would have between them some 180-190 operational planes - F4Fs, SBDs and TBDs. [http://bluejacket.com/ww2_12-07-41_carriers.html]

What happens next ? Would the Japanese press on an attack against a fully aware USN battle fleet ? Would the Americans discover and attack with their SBDs the Japanese Fleet ?

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:14 pm

alecsandros wrote:The US carriers would know very well about the attacks, and would form a defensive group centered around the 3 fleet carriers. The escort would comprise 8 CAs and CLs and 20 DDs. The US fleet carriers would have between them some 180-190 operational planes - F4Fs, SBDs and TBDs.


Alecs, USN carriers did not operate together early in the war. The USN did not have much faith in the ability of CAP and AAA to stop an air strike. Hence SOP said to separate widely CTF in order not to loose several carriers in a single attack. If you are interested by the subject, I suggest you have a look at the various posts that Mark Horan made in Combined Fleet and J-Aircraft forums.

As far as I remember, Saratoga was in the West Coast when PH was attacked. Hence your scenario opposes the 6 carriers of Kido Butai to USS Lexington and Enterprise. Please consider that so early in the war, the carriers were not yet battle ready : planes lacked things such as pilot armor, self sealing tanks, IFF that proved so usefull later, pilots and sailors did not have yet the valuable experience that they gained in the early raids, etc. Hence a confrontation between 2 unprepared USN carriers and the 6 Japanese ones at their zenith can IMHO only end in a disaster for the US Pacific Fleet.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby Steve Crandell » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:49 pm

The only thing I would suggest is to fly all the aircraft to Oahu and use the "land carrier" for air ops. Send the carriers back to the west coast for new air wings. Since the Oahu radar is not going to be ignored anymore, it would be a tough place to attack and could mount offensive operations against the IJN carriers, which are on the end of a very long and fragile logistics tail. They can't stay there very long.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:00 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:
Alecs, USN carriers did not operate together early in the war. The USN did not have much faith in the ability of CAP and AAA to stop an air strike. Hence SOP said to separate widely CTF in order not to loose several carriers in a single attack. If you are interested by the subject, I suggest you have a look at the various posts that Mark Horan made in Combined Fleet and J-Aircraft forums.

As far as I remember, Saratoga was in the West Coast when PH was attacked. Hence your scenario opposes the 6 carriers of Kido Butai to USS Lexington and Enterprise. Please consider that so early in the war, the carriers were not yet battle ready : planes lacked things such as pilot armor, self sealing tanks, IFF that proved so usefull later, pilots and sailors did not have yet the valuable experience that they gained in the early raids, etc. Hence a confrontation between 2 unprepared USN carriers and the 6 Japanese ones at their zenith can IMHO only end in a disaster for the US Pacific Fleet.

... I didn't know about their shortcomings early war. I was thinking about the good fights put up by LExington and Enterprise in Fev 1942, and I thought they were in some sort of battle preparedness.
I know about Saratoga being close to the West Coast, but my hypothetical concerns the possibility that the Japanese planning turns out correct and all 3 Pacific fleet carriers are discovered at Pearl... or close to it...

Indeed, the Japanese would have the first chance, but I wouldn't bet on a fast and easy victory...

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:01 pm

Steve Crandell wrote:The only thing I would suggest is to fly all the aircraft to Oahu and use the "land carrier" for air ops. Send the carriers back to the west coast for new air wings. Since the Oahu radar is not going to be ignored anymore, it would be a tough place to attack and could mount offensive operations against the IJN carriers, which are on the end of a very long and fragile logistics tail. They can't stay there very long.

That would be very nice...
They could operate together with the surviving air wings of Oahu perhaps ?

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby RF » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:46 pm

alecsandros wrote:What happens next ? Would the Japanese press on an attack against a fully aware USN battle fleet ? Would the Americans discover and attack with their SBDs the Japanese Fleet ?


I don't think that the Japanese have any choice other than to go all out to destroy all three US carriers. Whether Nagumo would actually have done so, I doubt it.

Ultimately, whichever way, the outcome of the war would have been the same, concluding with the mushroom cloud.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Thu Mar 05, 2015 6:37 am

RF wrote:
alecsandros wrote:What happens next ? Would the Japanese press on an attack against a fully aware USN battle fleet ? Would the Americans discover and attack with their SBDs the Japanese Fleet ?


I don't think that the Japanese have any choice other than to go all out to destroy all three US carriers. Whether Nagumo would actually have done so, I doubt it.

Ultimately, whichever way, the outcome of the war would have been the same, concluding with the mushroom cloud.

...
Very true.
Still, if Nagumo would succeed in taking out the 3 fleet carriers so early, this could mean quite alot of changes for 1942 timeline, including occupation of more land by the Japanese, no Doolittle raid, no battles for Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, no invasion of Guadalcanal.

IF carriers were to be re-deployed from the Atlantic (Ranger, Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown with their support ships), that would leave Malta re-supply effort to the ROyal Navy alone. It also means no operation Torch for some time...

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby RF » Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:35 pm

alecsandros wrote:Still, if Nagumo would succeed in taking out the 3 fleet carriers so early, this could mean quite alot of changes for 1942 timeline, including occupation of more land by the Japanese, no Doolittle raid, no battles for Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, no invasion of Guadalcanal.


I have my doubts on that. Logistically the Japanese had already outstretched themselves and would be unable to invade/occupy any further substantial land mass such as Hawaii or Australia or India. Even overrunning New Guinea proved beyond them.

Doolittile raid? I think it would have happened, indeed even more likely, using carriers drawn from the Atlantic.

Given that 85% of the US war effort was directed against Germany, not Japan, Torch would certainly have happened, arguably it becomes more likely and urgent because of the supply situation for Malta. The Americans can do this because Japan poses no real invasion threat to Panama or the US west coast, indeed none of the Axis powers can reach inside the US hinterland.


IF carriers were to be re-deployed from the Atlantic (Ranger, Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown with their support ships), that would leave Malta re-supply effort to the ROyal Navy alone. It also means no operation Torch for some time...


The key point here is that the Axis is unable to invade Malta, they can only try to blockade it. This is the disastrous consequence of Mussolini not invading in June 1940.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Sun Mar 08, 2015 6:14 pm

RF wrote:I have my doubts on that. Logistically the Japanese had already outstretched themselves and would be unable to invade/occupy any further substantial land mass such as Hawaii or Australia or India. Even overrunning New Guinea proved beyond them.

Doolittile raid? I think it would have happened, indeed even more likely, using carriers drawn from the Atlantic.

Given that 85% of the US war effort was directed against Germany, not Japan, Torch would certainly have happened, arguably it becomes more likely and urgent because of the supply situation for Malta. The Americans can do this because Japan poses no real invasion threat to Panama or the US west coast, indeed none of the Axis powers can reach inside the US hinterland.



... In the highly hypothetical scenario where all 3 USN fleet carriers are taken out of the battle on Dec 7th 1941, things would be more complicated for the USN.

They had 4 more carriers left, all in the Atlantic. The earliest date at which another carrier would join those 4 would be spring 1943.

So they had the following options:
1) split the 4 carriers into Atlantic/Pacific, and try to make the best of them.
2) send all carriers to Pacific and leave the Atlantic to the Royal Navy
3) keep all carriers in the Atlantic and focus on the Germans, while leaving the Japanese un-opposed...

It would be extremely difficult to believe that , following the attack of Pearl Harbor, the Americans would not try to fight back. And to fight back, they badly needed carriers.

So it was either option 1 or 2, but either of them would post-pone Torch, and make Malta more susceptible to falling.

===
Considering option 3, the Japanese would have taken Papua New Guinea, Midway, keep Guadalcanal and the Solomons for the entire duration of 1942.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby Francis Marliere » Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:19 am

alecsandros wrote:Considering option 3, the Japanese would have taken Papua New Guinea, Midway, keep Guadalcanal and the Solomons for the entire duration of 1942.


For the sake of the argument : if there are no US carriers in the Pacific Fleet, Japan has no reason to attack Midway, since reason to attack was to force a battle with the US carriers and sink them.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:52 am

Francis Marliere wrote:
alecsandros wrote:Considering option 3, the Japanese would have taken Papua New Guinea, Midway, keep Guadalcanal and the Solomons for the entire duration of 1942.


For the sake of the argument : if there are no US carriers in the Pacific Fleet, Japan has no reason to attack Midway, since reason to attack was to force a battle with the US carriers and sink them.

Very true,
But wouldn't a reduce USN force allow Japan to expand as much as possible ? And Midway was easily within their possibilities.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby Francis Marliere » Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:29 am

alecsandros wrote:But wouldn't a reduce USN force allow Japan to expand as much as possible ? And Midway was easily within their possibilities.

If there are no US carriers to sink, the Japanese have no real reason to capture Midway (it would turn in a logistical nightmare for no gain). For Japan, it makes more sense to expand in the South Pacific (Fidji, Samoa, New Caledonia) rather than in the Central one.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:49 am

Francis Marliere wrote:
alecsandros wrote:But wouldn't a reduce USN force allow Japan to expand as much as possible ? And Midway was easily within their possibilities.

If there are no US carriers to sink, the Japanese have no real reason to capture Midway (it would turn in a logistical nightmare for no gain). For Japan, it makes more sense to expand in the South Pacific (Fidji, Samoa, New Caledonia) rather than in the Central one.

... It would the same as the Aleutins.

They woudl expand in the south pacific, and also to Midway - an excellently positioned reconaissance, ressuply and bomber base.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby Francis Marliere » Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:06 pm

As far as I understand things, an offensive in the Aleutians is still possible in your scenario because the Japanese though (wrongly) that the American could bomb northern Japan from there.
Midway as a base has very little value for the Japanese, IMHO. The island would prove very difficult to supply because of the distance between Midwaay and Japan, the proximity of US submarine bases and the lack of harbor. Any garrison would loose quickly any fighting capacities and be soon comdamned to starvation. Anyway, even if the Japanese cut their offensives elsewhere and manage to supply Midway (and that's a big IF), they have very little to gain in doing so because IJN fighters lack the range to escort bombers as far as Oahu. Bombers would have to go unescorted and would be cut to piece, IMHO.

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Re: Pearl Harbor - all 3 USN carriers are discovered and attacked

Postby alecsandros » Mon Mar 09, 2015 4:50 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:Midway as a base has very little value for the Japanese, IMHO. The island would prove very difficult to supply because of the distance between Midwaay and Japan, the proximity of US submarine bases and the lack of harbor. Any garrison would loose quickly any fighting capacities and be soon comdamned to starvation. Anyway, even if the Japanese cut their offensives elsewhere and manage to supply Midway (and that's a big IF), they have very little to gain in doing so because IJN fighters lack the range to escort bombers as far as Oahu. Bombers would have to go unescorted and would be cut to piece, IMHO.

...
At the very least it would be a (continous) reconaissance and forward bomber base, and excellent beacon in the case USN forces decide to move across the central Pacific.

As it was in 1942, the Americans hosted ~ 120 warplanes and several thousand men on the islands, so I don't see why the Japanese wouldn't be doing the same.

Continous operations would be out of the question (because of the resupply issues), but scouting and occasional bombing runs on any squadron unwise enough to get close...

As we well know, the Japanese actualy had plans to invade Midway, so they necessarily had plans and capabilities to keep Midway resupplied. [1942]


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