Withdrawing from Combat

General naval discussions that don't fit within any specific time period or cover several issues.
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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:37 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Steve Crandell,

you are right on the money now :clap: " ... improperly ..." was the key word and in fact knowing it very well, Capt Leach since the beginning tried to make it a " ... proper ... " action that morning.

That is why we can read on his own radio messages the several " versions " of his " reasons " ... to try to make it " proper " ... on May 24th, and than on May 27th, ... all incorrect of course.

Than somebody explained him that it was NOT the case to continue on that way ... and in fact he changed.

His new set of " proper " reasons can be read into Adm Tovey dispatches together with a new set of incorrect statements.

But those were NOT going to be challenged, ... they were blessed and agreed, ... and driving him to a MEDAL ! ... :shock:

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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RF
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby RF » Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:48 pm

Steve Crandell wrote:
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.


Coming back to the original proposition I would have thought that ''withdrawing from combat'' has to be seen within the context of operational requirements and the overall strategic situation.
The situation at DS at the point of Hood blowing up and POW withdrawing is a very different scenario to some of the situations alluded to in the Pacific and the Med. Even the timing of the POW withdrawal at 6.03 AM creates different arguments that would apply to a withdrawal at 6.13 AM.

Were they all cowards? Well, did the policy of Raeder in issuing instructions to his surface ship commanders to avoid action with equal forces and indeed any forces not directly involved in defending merchant shipping an act of cowardice or a sensible instruction in the prosecution of a naval war? I would have judged the latter given the context that the KM was a numerically inferior surface fleet. Of course that consideration doesn't apply to the Allied navies or even the Reggia Marina in the Med but it is the context of the situation that is crucial.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby dunmunro » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:16 pm

Churchill's considered opinion:

The command now passed to Rear-Admiral Wake-Walker
on his bridge in the cruiser Norfolk. It was for him to decide
whether to renew the fight at once or hold on to the enemy till
the Commander-in-Chief should arrive with the King George
V and the aircraft-carrier Victorious. A dominant factor was
the state of the Prince of Wales. This ship had only recently
been commissioned, and scarcely a week had passed since
Captain Leach had been able to report her "fit for battle."
She had been severely mauled, and two of her ten fourteen
ch guns were unserviceable. It was highly doubtful whether
in this condition she was a match for the Bismarck. Admiral
Wake-Walker, therefore, decided not to renew the action, but
to hold the enemy under observation. In this he
was indisputably right. (p.268)

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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:07 am

Hello everybody,

RF wrote:
Steve Crandell wrote:
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.


Coming back to the original proposition I would have thought that ''withdrawing from combat'' has to be seen within the context of operational requirements and the overall strategic situation.
The situation at DS at the point of Hood blowing up and POW withdrawing is a very different scenario to some of the situations alluded to in the Pacific and the Med. Even the timing of the POW withdrawal at 6.03 AM creates different arguments that would apply to a withdrawal at 6.13 AM.

Were they all cowards? Well, did the policy of Raeder in issuing instructions to his surface ship commanders to avoid action with equal forces and indeed any forces not directly involved in defending merchant shipping an act of cowardice or a sensible instruction in the prosecution of a naval war? I would have judged the latter given the context that the KM was a numerically inferior surface fleet. Of course that consideration doesn't apply to the Allied navies or even the Reggia Marina in the Med but it is the context of the situation that is crucial.



My personal congratulations for a very clear cut analysis " super partes " on how a strategic situation should be analyzed by any historian. :clap:

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

Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:21 pm

If one looks at the reasons each time the Japanese withdrew from the night battles in the Solomons it boils down to two main reasons. If they waited too long to break off action they would have insufficient time to put some miles between them and allied air fields before day light. Secondly, if it was a Tokyo Express they were covering, once the drop had been made, they usually broke off. They were not fighting just for the sake of fighting. A war of attrition was not something they could win.

The problem of the airfields eventually brought another dimension into the battles: The need to bombard the air field each time. It was the failure to complete this portion of the mission that turned the Battle of Cape Esperance, and the Battle of Friday the Thirteenth in to defeats for Japanese even though they dished out as much or more than they received. Heavy Cruisers successfully bombarded the air field between the battles on the 13th and 15th of Nov, but cruiser bombardment usually failed to sufficiently suppress the airfields.

The same applied to the Americans after the fighting shifted farther up the slot in 1943. The American mission was usually bombardment, and/or covering supply convoys. The Americans had to break off action early in order to be in a good position before day light. For both the IJN and the USN failure to break off early often resulted in disaster. For example, Pug Ainsworth hung around for a second helping and got his two remaining cruisers torpedoed without infilicting anymore damage to the enemy. He later told Nimitz: "Nobody knows the folly of chasing Jap torpedo boats with cruisers more than I."
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Steve Crandell » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:31 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:If one looks at the reasons each time the Japanese withdrew from the night battles in the Solomons it boils down to two main reasons. If they waited too long to break off action they would have insufficient time to put some miles between them and allied air fields before day light. Secondly, if it was a Tokyo Express they were covering, once the drop had been made, they usually broke off. They were not fighting just for the sake of fighting. A war of attrition was not something they could win.


I agree, but some here would seem to think that one has to have the guts to face the air attack and take your losses, at least if you are in the tradition of the RN, and in this case the Samurai tradition. To me it's simply needless loss of life and material, but somehow PoW at DS is worth losing in the tradition of the RN and anyone who doesn't go down fighting is deserving of a court martial and relevant punishment.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:25 pm

RF wrote: did the policy of Raeder in issuing instructions to his surface ship commanders to avoid action with equal forces and indeed any forces not directly involved in defending merchant shipping an act of cowardice or a sensible instruction in the prosecution of a naval war? I would have judged the latter given the context that the KM was a numerically inferior surface fleet. ...

Additionally, the German fighting instructions forbad them to expose cruisers and battleships to possible torpedo attack at night. This was the reason Marschall broke away from the Rawalipindi with the approach of the British light cruiser- he thought it was an enemy destroyer-not a cruiser- and it was now night time. Kummetz mentions this rule in his operational orders before Barents Sea actually. Once this is known Kummetz's actions make more sense. Since it was a night battle he was very careful to keep the Hipper out of torpedo waters during the time he was trying to get the convoy to turn away to the southward and divert the attention of the British destroyers.

Often perceptions must be considered:

Luetjens broke away from Renown because he thought it was the Nelson with several other units of the Home Fleet. He did not have a crystal ball that told him it was actually only the Renown and destroyers. His first inclination was to fight in retreat despite this. He seemed willing to fight with the advantage of having radar. He only really broke away completely after the Gneisenau's radar was disabled by the 15" hit through the foretop.

Doenitz expressed dissapointment that Bey did not fight it out with Burnett during the first skirmish during N. Cape. Doenitz thought that he could have over powered the British cruisers with a battleship and then fell on the convoy now known to be only 30 miles away. Apparently Bey was putting the mission of attacking the convoy ahead of fighting for the sake of fighting. By breaking off and circling around he stood a good chance of hitting the convoy from a tactically superior position a few hours later-and with the weather gauge of having the artic twilight highlight the targets with his forward radar now destroyed. Further fighting at 0930 hours may have caused yet more damage to the Scharnhorst's fighting abilities. Doenitz also expressed dissapointment that Bey broke off the second engagement between 12:30 and 13:00 hours. Bey had essentially swept the British cruisers aside and the convoy lay only 16km away to the southwest. But Bey was following the the German fighting instructions of not exposing major warships to possible torpedo attack at night. The British destroyers present were indeed making torpedo attacks at the time.

This is the problem of ridgid fighting instructions. They do not allow commanders on the scene the needed flexability in the face of evolving combat situations.

Meddling from higher command from afar is also usually detrimental. Kummetz broke off the action against Burnett's two light cruisers, despite having a heavy cruiser with all guns operational, and which had recently demonstrated some spectacular shooting, and being able to call upon the additional firepower of a pocket battleship. He broke away right when he received a reminder from authorities ashore of Hitler's standing order to not run any unnecessary risks. He should have fought it out at that point regardless.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:01 pm

Hello everybody,

we can have different opinions about PoW retreating at DS.

Facts are that she retreated at 06.01 and 30 seconds after one hit received on the compass platform, while fully engaged and with intact fighting efficiency and just a superficial damage.

If the Royal Navy Admiralty needed to change it initially to 06.13, with considerably reduced fighting efficiency and lots of damages on board, ... it means something.

Probably revealing the truth of the events was considered not so honorable ... isn't it ?

Same goes for the 2 heavy cruisers delaying the engagement at first ,.... and not opening fire after Hood exploded even if being at guns range ( Norfolk ).

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

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:14 am

I don't think it dishonorable. It might not be by the book, but not necessarly wrong. In my opinion he probably did the right thing given the circumstances. I think commanders on the scene should have that flexability right or wrong. Look at many of the Axis naval commanders who were afraid to command. If later on it's not deemed proper or there's a negative pattern developing they can quietly "put him on the beach." If commanders on the scene of battle feel like they will be second guessed for everything they will start becoming indecisive and weak commanders. In my opinion the RN decided they did the right thing, even if it was wrong by the fighting instructions, and this was a way of putting it quietly to bed and to move on, while signaling to other future commanders to go ahead and command decisively. Even if it was thought that they did wrong putting them on trial or making it an "issue" sends the wrong message to the remainder of the officer corps.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby RF » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:26 am

Antonio Bonomi wrote:
Facts are that she retreated at 06.01 and 30 seconds after one hit received on the compass platform, while fully engaged and with intact fighting efficiency and just a superficial damage.
If the Royal Navy Admiralty needed to change it initially to 06.13, with considerably reduced fighting efficiency and lots of damages on board, ... it means something.
Probably revealing the truth of the events was considered not so honorable ... isn't it ?
Same goes for the 2 heavy cruisers delaying the engagement at first ,.... and not opening fire after Hood exploded even if being at guns range ( Norfolk )
Bye Antonio :D


But that is a subjective interpretation of the facts is it not?

Could it not alternatively be that in looking at the timing of POW's withdrawal at 6.01 to 6.03 the Admiralty and Tovey would have found the ninety second time period since Hood exploded difficult to believe and infer from that that the timing of 6.03 was an error and 6.13 sounded more likely?
If so that would be a genuine mistake on their part and not part of a conscious attempt to cover up a ''dishonourable'' act.

As a layman I initially found the ninety second time period of POW disengaging after Hood exploded difficult to believe - can a battleship withdraw so quickly under specific order from a captain who at the same time is dazed by a strike from a non-exploding shell? To decide immediately after Hood exploded to disengage from the action for the reasons Leach gave in his reports would logically take longer than ninety seconds, particulary if the decision-making is slowed down by the effects of a shell impact - it could be that a more expert person such as Tovey could reach the same conclusion and identify a ten minute or so period rather than ninety seconds?
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Byron Angel » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:11 am

Has anyone looked into the details of PoW's gunnery practices @ Scapa Flow? It strikes me as important that this information be placed on the table before any criticisms of "lack of nerve" can fairly be directed at Captain Leach.

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Steve Crandell » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:52 pm

RF wrote:As a layman I initially found the ninety second time period of POW disengaging after Hood exploded difficult to believe - can a battleship withdraw so quickly under specific order from a captain who at the same time is dazed by a strike from a non-exploding shell? To decide immediately after Hood exploded to disengage from the action for the reasons Leach gave in his reports would logically take longer than ninety seconds, particulary if the decision-making is slowed down by the effects of a shell impact - it could be that a more expert person such as Tovey could reach the same conclusion and identify a ten minute or so period rather than ninety seconds?


I agree completely. :ok:

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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:14 pm

Hello everybody,

you must be joking guys ... :shock:

Now you are back on " try to believe and sustain " the 06.13, ... this is simply incredible and unacceptable by any mean.

First of all you have to rely on PoW gunnery plot and Rowell submitted map ( plus many other PoW official tracks available ), ... which shows 06.01 and 30 seconds, ..not to refer to Hunter-Terry timing, the German timing ... etc etc etc

Than you have to believe the Royal Navy Admiralty that " corrected " back the 06.13 to a more reasonable 06.03 referencing the real PoW cease fire of the Y turret in local control time showed on the previous maps , ... even if at that point PoW had already clearly turned away.

90 seconds for you were not enough to turn away a battleship at 28/29 knots ?

Well try to look at the reaction time of a battleship trying to avoid a Torpedo launched to her from an airplane, ... and you will see how long it takes.

Capt Leach was very likely only merely shaken ... and recovered almost immediately ... giving the order from his Compass Platform while probably in panic mode state ... than he went to the conning tower ( 2 levels below and well protected ) ... and not even to the Admiral bridge only one level below ...

Those are the facts and the timings and nothing will change that given what we have today ... :wink:

I would have loved to listen and read Rowell and Gilbert about how it really went in the PoW Compass Platform during those minutes ... :think:

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

Postby RF » Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:43 pm

Antonio Bonomi wrote:Hello everybody,

you must be joking guys ... :shock:

Now you are back on " try to believe and sustain " the 06.13, ... this is simply incredible and unacceptable by any mean.


I am not doing anything of the sort.

If you care to reread my post above you will see that there is nothing to say that I disagree with the POW withdrawal timing at 6.03.

What I did say was that I initially found the timing at 6.03 difficult to believe. I didn't say it was wrong. I went on to say that if I could find it difficult to believe as a first reaction then it may well be that Tovey and the Admiralty had the same reaction. In their case, without any contradictory evidence open to them at the time, they could conclude that 6.03 was an error and that 6.13 was the intended timing.

None of that is to say that 6.03 is wrong. What I am saying is that Tovey and the Admiralty could have made a genuine mistake in the timing, as opposed to your subjective assertion that they did so deliberately to ''cover uo'' an alleged ''dishonourable'' act.
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Re: Withdrawing from Combat

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Aug 01, 2014 2:28 pm

The event timings are not being called into question so much. The disagreement is with the speculation about motives and rationales of the RN officers and higher command. And how can we know? We can't know what they thought or their perceptions at the time, except where they told us what they thought and perceived. We should not attempt to read their minds too much. When we do speculate about motives of actions by men who fought battles, and we must in some cases, we should clearly state that it is speculative.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.


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