Withdrawing from Combat

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Steve Crandell
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Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Steve Crandell » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:15 am

It has occurred to me that with all the discussion about Capt Leach and company (conspiracy with the cruisers too) withdrawing from combat with the Bismarck and PoW, that there are probably lots of American officers one could accuse in this way.

Capt Gatch withdrew South Dakota from action while his main and secondary batteries were still in action. Admiral Lee withdrew from the area of the engagement with his flagship completely undamaged. In theory, he could have pursued the IJN ships on up the slot.

Essentially every USN officer involved in those night battles around Guadalcanal whose ship was not disabled in the fighting, eventually withdrew from action instead of bravely pursuing the Japanese up the slot.

After the battle of Midway, the USN task forces withdrew from the area instead of bravely confronting the rest of the IJN fleet in a night battle around Midway Island. They didn't try to pursue them back toward Japan, either.

Were they all cowards? I don't think so, but if we measure them against the measure being applied to Capt Leach maybe we have to label them that way.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by dunmunro » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:50 am

Excellent post... :ok: :ok:

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tameraire01
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by tameraire01 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 2:02 pm

Sometimes it,s better to retire your ship than push a bad position and get sunk. It totally depends on the situation, like Leach when he withdrew PoW against Bismarck. He was in a two vs one the hard way, with i think one turret damaged.
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:47 am

Steve Crandell wrote: "It has occurred to me that with all the discussion about Capt Leach and company (conspiracy with the cruisers too) withdrawing from combat with the Bismarck and PoW, that there are probably lots of American officers one could accuse in this way."
Hi Steve, I don't know enough the story of the Naval battles in the Pacific ocean during WWII to comment on your cases, but there are a lot of examples of withdrawing a battleship also in the Mediterranean Sea. Italians and British both did it at Spartivento, Iachino didn't pursue the RN ships at the second battle of Sirte, and (as Duncan mentioned in another thread) also Tovey retreated his cruisers at the battle of Calabria (where Campioni retreated his BB's after sustaining a single (serious) hit on Giulio Cesare). There are several more examples.

However, in all these cases the strategic and tactical situation was very different as there were consistent forces at sea and the battle resulted in indecisive confrontations, without serious consequences. The mission purposes and orders were also very different in all these cases.

At the DS, after Hood exploded, PoW was the only ship that could prevent BS to start her mission in Atlantic (Tovey was at some 24 hours distance) and it was not the case of pursuing the enemy or not, the battle was at its peak and PoW was hitting BS very hard (albeit receiving hits as well of course).

Therefore, in this case, the retreat was a give up of the mission orders (as it was also the decision of Wake Walker not to open fire and not to re-engage after the battle), for this reason it would have been normal to have a Board of Inquiry to establish whether the decision of Leach was wise or improper. At Spartivento Somerville was obliged to defend his decisions at a Board of Inquiry (and his behaviour was correctly judged as wise) for a much less "evident" retreat.
Instead, at DS, medals were given......

Bye, Alberto

P.S. @Temeraire01: no PoW turret was out of action when the decision to disengage was taken, this story was "invented" after the battle to partially justify the decision..... Just one gun in A turret was blocked during the engagement. Please refer to the (mega)thread "DS and the Articles of War" for a correct reconstruction of the battle and to other threads for the details of the damages actually sustained by PoW.
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Steve Crandell
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:01 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote: ... this story was "invented" after the battle to partially justify the decision..... Just one gun in A turret was blocked during the engagement. Please refer to the (mega)thread "DS and the Articles of War" for a correct reconstruction of the battle and to other threads for the details of the damages actually sustained by PoW.
A few of us do not agree with that premise. My point was that a lot of similar situations (and at least a few were bloody battles with lots of casualties and ships sunk) the leaders weren't prosecuted any more than Leach was. There were mistakes made resulting in terrible things happening (much worse than with PoW's disengagement), but the commanders did what they thought was best, however misguided their decisions were. Just like Leach. In fact, the disengagement of PoW at DS wasn't decisive at all. Bismarck was sunk.

If you want officers to crucify there is a very rich crop in the Pacific and you can begin there after you are through with Leach and Walke-Walker. Lots of hangings to go around. There is a quote by a Frenchman from back in the days of sail which goes something like "We find we need to shoot an admiral every so often just to keep the others in line". I'm sure that's not exact, but you get the idea.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:52 pm

Steve Crandell wrote: "A few of us do not agree with that premise."
Hi Steve, which premise ? The number of PoW guns working is a fact and not my opinion, please see the thread on the Article of War (and the count of salvos and shells delivered by PoW during the engagement). The proof that this story was invented is that the number of working guns increased in Leach own messages from 3 to 7, to 9. However the "many guns out of service" story was repeated endlessly by the authors that wrote about the battle until today.

On the other hand, of course, the judgement on Leach behaviour is just my personal opinion as a Navy officer and everyone can disagree. My opinion is supported by the fact that the BS, free in Atlantic, was going to be a serious threat to the British vital commerce routes and (neither knowing that BS was already damaged, nor guessing that she would have been doomed by a torpedo 2 days later) the duty of PoW on May 24 at 6:00 was to stop or at least damage her.

I agree that with the knowledge of what happened after, the decision of Leach was indeed the right one (as BS was sunk and PoW preserved), but nobody (starting from Sir Churchill and the Admiralty) was so confident about this outcome after the battle that very day.

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:43 pm

I'm not going to renew that argument here; it's obviously been thoroughly hashed out on the other thread.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by dunmunro » Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:48 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:

1) At the DS, after Hood exploded, PoW was the only ship that could prevent BS to start her mission in Atlantic (Tovey was at some 24 hours distance) and it was not the case of pursuing the enemy or not, the battle was at its peak and PoW was hitting BS very hard (albeit receiving hits as well of course).

2) Therefore, in this case, the retreat was a give up of the mission orders (as it was also the decision of Wake Walker not to open fire and not to re-engage after the battle), for this reason it would have been normal to have a Board of Inquiry to establish whether the decision of Leach was wise or improper. At Spartivento Somerville was obliged to defend his decisions at a Board of Inquiry (and his behaviour was correctly judged as wise) for a much less "evident" retreat.
Instead, at DS, medals were given......

Bye, Alberto

3)P.S. @Temeraire01: no PoW turret was out of action when the decision to disengage was taken, this story was "invented" after the battle to partially justify the decision..... Just one gun in A turret was blocked during the engagement. Please refer to the (mega)thread "DS and the Articles of War" for a correct reconstruction of the battle and to other threads for the details of the damages actually sustained by PoW.

1)Leach did not know that PoW had hit Bismarck, OTOH he did know that if his own mobility was impaired that Bismarck would then be free to carry out attacks on any convoy she might come across. He also knew that Bismarck was inside PoW's immune zone and in combination with PE could overwhelm PoW and then sink her with torpedoes, and the loss of Hood and PoW together would alter the global naval balance of power and would be a staggering blow to Commonwealth morale. Leach could not risk the RN's newest battleship, with a partially trained crew in an unequal battle and W-W and Tovey concurred with that decision. He also knew that Tovey's force consisting of two battleships and a carrier along with many other RN ships were already converging onto Bismarck's track and would continue to do so as long as W-W could maintain contact with Bismarck.

2) If Somerville had seen Renown blown up at Spartivento it is somewhat unlikely that his decision not to pursue would have been subject to a court of inquiry.

3) Alberto please provide some proof of this (the invented story), or at least state that it is your own, unproven opinion. PoW had several other guns that were out of action for varying lengths of time, and from salvo 15 onward (~0600:30) only 7 guns were in action. Again it is my opinion that Leach intended to open the range and then re-engage at ~0605 but this course of action was blocked after Y turret jammed.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:10 pm

@Dunmunro:
1) as I said, everyone can have a different opinion about Leach decision to disengage and I respect your one. Having been an officer myself, I have my one: Leach should not have disengaged as the mission to stop BS was a priority. He should have executed his orders, not act as he was a strategist at the Admiralty (and he was not a good one in my opinion). He was just lucky that BS was finally stopped and NOT by the Tovey's forces, but by Somerville's carrier that on May 24 at 6:00 AM was not yet involved in the BS chase !
2) No threat to Britain was posed at Spartivento by the Italian fleet that was going to get back to her ports (the action of the RM was dictated more by "morale" reasons than other, to demonstrate that the Italian battlefllet could still go out and fight after Taranto.....). In the hypothetical case that the Italian battlefleet was going out to support e.g. the invasion of Malta, then even with Renown blown up, I'm sure that Somerville would not have disengaged.....
3) :negative: enough to debate about this ! Please refer to the thread "Articles of War" or "5,25" ". PoW had all guns working except a single one in A turret. Her output (that is a different thing than having guns unserviceable) was not exceptional but not bad enough to justify his decision as also McMullen (gunnery officer) was feeling: "everything is fine with guns".
The story was invented by Leach himself that stated in his first message that only 3 guns were in action when he disengaged: no innocent transcription error as you tried to say, no need for me to proof anything as it is in Leach's messages (3 guns, then 5 guns than 9 guns working). The story lasted until now and still people reads on several books that PoW had a lot of guns out of action. IT WAS ONLY 1 !
The story of the guns out of action lasted for 73 years, now it's over. Sorry for you, if you don't accept all the facts that the researches of Antonio Bonomi have demonstrated.

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by dunmunro » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:33 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
The story was invented by Leach himself that stated in his first message that only 3 guns were in action when he disengaged: no innocent transcription error as you tried to say, no need for me to proof anything as it is in Leach's messages (3 guns, then 5 guns than 9 guns working). The story lasted until now and still people reads on several books that PoW had a lot of guns out of action. IT WAS ONLY 1 !
The story of the guns out of action lasted for 73 years, now it's over. Sorry for you, if you don't accept all the facts that the researches of Antonio Bonomi have demonstrated.

Bye, Alberto
Alberto, you know that wireless Morse transcription errors were common in that era - why do you adamantly refuse to accept the most likely explanation, in favour of one that requires a massive conspiracy?

PoW's course after Hood blew up been public knowledge ever since the declassification of Battle Summary 5 and PoW's GAR an that happened many decades ago. The idea that this is a new revelation is completely FALSE!

I have worked quite hard over the years, via this and other forums, to clarify the true state of PoW's turrets during the action and again this information has been publicly accessible for years and it was I who provided and clarified this information to Antonio on the HMS Hood forum. The mistaken information for the number of guns in action on PoW seems to have mainly come from R&R's Britsh Battleships and G&D's Allied Battleships and they came to their erroneous conclusions because they misread the footnotes on page 197 of Pow's GAR; Leach's radio messages have had very little or nothing whatsoever to do with it! In fact I would wager that very few people have even read PoW's radio messages until they were made available on this forum. Certainly Pursuit by Kennedy, published in 1974 doesn't refer to Leach's messages, nor do I recall any other books that do.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:16 am

Dunmunro wrote: " it was I who provided and clarified this information to Antonio on the HMS Hood forum"
You are absolutely right. As I said on another thread, Antonio's researches were made possible by the contribution of all the other very knowledgeable people including you. Sorry for forgetting your specific contribution here.

So, now that we all agree on the real status of the guns on PoW (only 1 gun in A turret out of action + misfires in other guns, as usual in every battleship including BS), let's see the "invented story". All books I have read give the impression that "heavy damages" occurred to PoW and that she had severe problems with guns and gunnery training, including Kennedy and the Baron. This is a story. We know that damage was superficial (much lighter than BS damages) apart from casualties and "everything was fine with guns" as per McMullen words and per the excellent recent statistical analysis of Marco Santarini in his book "Bismarck and Hood" ('PoW fire accuracy was not lower than BS's').
It was Leach himself, in his messages, who contributed to create this story.

Pease don't try to say that the incorrect information provided by Leach to the Admiralty are due just to transcription errors as I'm sure that a Captain is very careful and review the messages when they can carry him in front of a Court Martial for "improperly withdraw from the fight". If an error occurred, he would have immediately corrected it and outlined the error in the subsequent messages. He just changed version in each following message instead (forced by the evidence), up to getting to the truth in the last narrative when he admitted he broke off the engagement due to HIS OWN lack of confidence in the ship and in the guns, NOT due to the sustained damages or actual guns problems.
I simply don't believe that the different statements in his previous messages were just innocent errors as they all go in the direction to justify his decisions, and slightly move toward the final version. :negative: Also too many things have been altered to cover the truth in the DS battle (see the "Plot", the timing and sequence of the PoW received hits according to Leach, the PoW retreat timing at 6:13, the declarations of WW at the two Hood boards of inquiry) to allow any reasonable doubt of "innocent" errors here.....

There was always an evident attempt of Leach to emphasize the damages (see the thread on Compass Platform hit, the one about the HACS fore directors, etc.) and the malfunctions on board of PoW to justify his decision to retreat that, as he immediately understood, was a very debatable one. However the evidences were forcing him to change version when he realized that it would have been simply ridiculous to try to say that PoW had only 3 guns working when he turned away.

Of course, we can still discuss whether the decision of disengaging in itself was a wise or an improper one. I have my opinion and I see that your opinion is quite different....

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:44 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:Of course, we can still discuss whether the decision of disengaging in itself was a wise or an improper one. I have my opinion and I see that your opinion is quite different....

Bye, Alberto
Indeed. You apparently think it was better to get PoW completely wrecked or sunk, along with one or more of the cruisers. How would that have changed the eventual outcome? They'd have gone down in the greatest tradition of the British navy, like Hood? Wonderful. Then we could have had KGV at Singapore with Repulse. :wink:

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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:22 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Steve Crandell,

I do not know about US Navy, ... but Royal Navy on 1941 had the " Articles of War " in place.

You can read them in the Naval Discipline Act 1860 :

http://www.pdavis.nl/NDA1860.htm

Read carefully point II par 3, ... where it state : " ... or who in Time of Action shall improperly withdraw from the Fight, ... "

Now it is all about that, ... with a fully efficient battleship, ... while engaging an enemy warship with the clear order received to destroy her, ... whether you like it or not, ... it was considered an improper withdraw from the fight.

You may like to watch the movie : Master and Commander ... and you can have an idea of what the expectation was in the London Admiralty.

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:09 pm

I own the movie and read the Patrick O'Brien series several times now.

The key word in your quote is "improperly".

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:32 pm

@Steve Crandell:
hi Steve, you seem to think that, continuing the battle, PoW was going to be sunk: no other outcome in your mind.

IMHO it is well possible that PoW would have been wrecked (not blown up as her magazines were very well protected,, being so deep in the hull, below the shell rooms).

However, in the meantime, she would have probably damaged BS so seriously that Tovey could finish her directly in the DS or nearby. Before Hood blew up, PoW managed to damage BS much worse than BS did with PoW after.

It's true that PoW lost her precision when she started the turns to avoid Hood remains, however McMullen was confident to be able to straddle again without the 160° turn to port to disengage under smoke. At around 6:02:30, 6:03:00 BS turned sharply to starboard to avoid torpedoes (false alarm...) loosing her precision as well. It's not a case (and not only due to the smoke) that no hit reached PoW after 6:02 and few seconds. Therefore, had PoW continued the engagement, she would have had a great opportunity to hit BS while she was not.

It's impossible to predict the outcome of an hypothetical prolonged battle of course, but in the same way, your assumption that continuing the fight was just a stupid suicide is not proven and not realistic.

For sure Sir W.Churchill would have sacrificed PoW to get BS after Hood blew up (please don't forget that he was ready to sacrifice KGV to sink an already doomed BS on May 27). He was the one who decided what was strategically good and what was bad for Britain, not Leach, who had just to obey orders and do his duty. That's why in my opinion the withdrawal was improper as PoW was well able to damage BS at that distance (as she had done already at a greater one).

Of course if you mean that Leach was right retreating because BS was anyway sunk on May 27 without any additional loss from British side, I do agree with you !
He did the right choice, but ONLY with hindsight and with a lot of luck. On May 24 at 6:00 the final outcome of the BS chase was not known (and not so probable, I would add) and Leach was in my opinion wrong retreating his ship from the fight.

Bye, Alberto

P.S. had BS escaped the fatal torpedo, I don't think Churchill would have sent any modern battleship to Singapore as they would have been all badly needed in home waters and in Atlantic to take care of Bismarck and Tirpitz.....
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:56 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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