Taranto Effect on Naval Warfare

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jonhar
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Taranto Effect on Naval Warfare

Post by jonhar » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:37 pm

I would welcome the informed view of poswters on this site as to my conviction that Taranto not only represents the best of the RN but also had an enormous effect on naval warfare.

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Re: Taranto.

Post by Djoser » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:14 pm

jonhar wrote:I would welcome the informed view of poswters on this site as to my conviction that Taranto not only represents the best of the RN but also had an enormous effect on naval warfare.
It is rather irritating to see Pearl Harbor repeatedly touted as being this dramatic, sudden, shocking proof that battleships were indeed vulnerable to aircraft--especially torpedo aircraft.

Taranto certainly encouraged the Japanese to strike at Pearl Harbor the way they did--and more immediately, had a dramatic effect on the naval war in the Mediterranean.

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Re: Taranto.

Post by José M. Rico » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:48 pm

Djoser wrote:Taranto certainly encouraged the Japanese to strike at Pearl Harbor the way they did--and more immediately, had a dramatic effect on the naval war in the Mediterranean.
yes, I believe Yamamoto did carefuly study the British attack on Taranto in preparation for Pearl Harbor.

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RF
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Re: Taranto.

Post by RF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:38 am

Yes indeed - one of the first visitors to the docks at Taranto in the aftermath of the attack was the Japanese naval attache to Fascist Italy, who sent a detailed report to Tokyo on what he had seen and heard.

In particular he noted the shallow depth of the waters in which the battleships had been torpedoed and the ineffectiveness of Italian AA fire.
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Re: Taranto.

Post by alecsandros » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:02 am

Aaa, very interesting RF!

I didn't know that...

What puzzles me is that no major navy, not even the Japanese, didn't consider upgrading AA systems (quantity and quality) onboard battleships, even after Taranto, and not even after Midway...
Only in late 1942 - early 1943 did the USN and IJN started to upgrade their battleship AA systems...

And this was a huge liability for .... Bismarck, Vittorio Veneto, Prince of Wales... Hiei...

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Re: Taranto.

Post by pg55555 » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:32 am

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I cannot speak for other navies, but the RN appreciated it had weak AA defences in the late-30s and started programmes such as the AA cruiser conversions, AA upgrades on battleships and cruisers and even the Didos.

What the problem was was the vast re-armament programme had many other priorities. What really woke the RN up was the Norwegian campaign, when dive bombers in particular - this led to emergency fitting of what LIMITED guns were available.

The real problem from then on was the availability of oerlikons and bofors to fit - the army lost vast amounts of equipment in France and needed re-equipping, and the RAF grew hugely, let alone the vast effort for the U-Boat war. There was going to be a vast input of guns from the US, but once Pearl Harbor occurred the promises evaporated.

Eventually the oerlikons were produced in reasonably numbers in the UK and Canada, but the dribble of bofors which were spared from the UK production really wasn't sufficient.

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Re: Taranto.

Post by Francis Marliere » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:00 am

alecsandros wrote:What puzzles me is that no major navy, not even the Japanese, didn't consider upgrading AA systems (quantity and quality) onboard battleships, even after Taranto, and not even after Midway...
Alecsandros, are you sure that the Japanese didn't consider it ? The USN wanted to upgrade its AA (ie the King board if my memory is good) but lacked the ressources to update all the ships in time. May be the Japanese did want to upgrade their AA but also lacked time, monay, manpower, shipyard place, etc. ?
I would also point out that while the AA of Japanese BB was not outstanding, it was not so bad compared to US (and some British) ones : 8x5" + 20 x 25mm is better than 8x5" +8x0.50" MG.

Best,

Francis

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RF
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Re: Taranto.

Post by RF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:25 pm

alecsandros wrote: What puzzles me is that no major navy, not even the Japanese, didn't consider upgrading AA systems (quantity and quality) onboard battleships, even after Taranto,
I think it is understandable in the context that Taranto was a first and that the target battleships were stationery at anchor and consequently not at full crew strength, as opposed to warships at sea fully closed up for action.
The real effectiveness of the torpedo bomber against capital ships was demonstrated by the crippling of the Bismarck and later the loss of the POW and Repulse rather than at Taranto or Pearl Harbor in the sense that those three ships in open seas were mobile, fully closed up for action and spitting AA fire. In harbour and taken by surprise such battleships are like a punchbag to a boxer in training.
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Re: Taranto.

Post by RF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:35 pm

alecsandros wrote:
What puzzles me is that no major navy, not even the Japanese, didn't consider upgrading AA systems (quantity and quality) onboard battleships, even after Taranto, and not even after Midway...
Going off at a tangent and as an aside there were two other things the Japanese missed in looking at the Taranto attack.

Firstly they failed to recognise that the British had an effective navy and would be a dangerous enemy if Japan went to war with them. Obviously the fall of Malaya and Singapore could suggest otherwise, but the British came back and defeated the Japanese in Burma......

Secondly they failed to consider that Italy was a complete military liability to the Axis cause and would be of no help to Japan. This happened because Japan had no grand strategy or interest in matters outside their immediate sphere; but even so the performance of Fascist Italy in WW2 during 1940/41 should have led to a re-examination of Japanese policy towards Germany and Italy, especially as they went to war against the USSR without even warning their Japanese allies that they would do so.
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Re: Taranto.

Post by alecsandros » Fri Oct 05, 2012 2:12 pm

Hi all,

Well, as far as I know, the only real heavily-AA-armed battleships were the upgraded NOrth Carolinas and South Dakotas, in late 1942 [and the upgraded armament proved devastating against incoming enemy bombers]
This was 1 full year after Pearl Harbor, and 3 years into the war...

KGV class only got a strong AA suite in late 1943-early 1944, Tirpitz in mid-1943, Yamato class 1943-1944... Vittorio Veneto... never...

Of course, the refitted Richelieus, Vanguard and Iowas came out with exceptionaly strong AA systems, but they were mid-to-late war "products"...

---

Timing seems to coincide with the great aero-naval battles of the Pacific war...

Cheers,

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Re: Taranto.

Post by Keith Enge » Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:15 pm

I think that you all are rather overstating the importance of the Taranto raid. Its name is significant, it was a mere raid. The following discussion is pulled from the hypertext section of my WWII era database and explains my point:

Evaluating the Taranto raid

The British raid by carrier aircraft on Taranto harbor in November 1940 was a success but has been overly lauded. Some have called it the British Navy's equivalent to the RAF's Battle of Britain. Others said that it acted as a blueprint for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor a year later. If so, the Japanese had to scale it up from a gardening shed to the Empire State Building.

The British raid consisted of one carrier, launching only 21 obsolete Swordfish, only 11 of which carried torpedoes. The rest carried either bombs or flares (bombs for level bombing, flares to backlight the target area). Furthermore, those 21 planes were actually separated into two waves, attacking an hour apart. Two planes were lost. By contrast, the Japanese had six carriers launching 355 planes, in two waves only slightly separated. The breakdown was 132 divebombers, 104 level bombers, 79 fighters, and 40 torpedo bombers. They lost 29 planes, a lesser percentage than the British. Even the name is significant, Taranto was a nighttime raid to protect the vulnerable Swordfish; Pearl Harbor was a daytime attack.

Thus, the size of the Taranto raid obviously didn't make it special; perhaps, it was its effect instead. The damage caused at Pearl Harbor is well-known and won't be recounted here. At Taranto, the modern battleship, LITTORIO, was hit by three torps and deliberately beached herself to aid salvage. Two reconstructed old battleships took a torp apiece. One of these wasn't ever repaired, her limited value made the effort not worth it. Unexploded bombs slightly damaged a cruiser and destroyer. There was also some damage ashore and to auxiliaries.

An unexploded torpedo under LITTORIO delayed her movement to a drydock for a month and then her repairs took another three months. This four months is nothing compared to the time lost by the US battleline, those that could be repaired. It is also overshadowed by the year and a half lost by QUEEN ELIZABETH a year later as a result of the chariot attack on Alexandria harbor.

The damage itself, therefore, wasn't devastating; perhaps, psychological damage was more extensive. This premise too is flawed. The Italians definitely weren't paralyzed by the raid; the battlefleet sortied only six days later and a large fleet action, the battle of Cape Teulada, took place only two weeks later. In addition, the battle of Cape Matapan took place in March. In fact, the Italians didn't seem to need LITTORIO. After her repairs were completed, she remained inactive for another five months. The Taranto raid, therefore, wasn't significant, it is a curiosity, a mere footnote in naval history. If the British wanted to make a truly significant attack, they should have used land-based torpedo bombers staged through Malta. It is surprising that this was never done; it may have been too dangerous to permanently base these planes there but surely a one-time short refuelling stop would have been feasible.

The evidence seems to point to the success at Taranto being a fluke. The British made other similar attacks later on ports or airfields with meager results. Their carriers had neither enough planes nor good enough planes to both deal with opposing fighters and really neutralize a target. In contrast, US carrier taskforces later employed the "big blue blanket" when attacking similar targets in the Pacific. They had enough fighters with good enough endurance that they could suppress any opposition by flying continual patrols over airfields until attack planes could fly enough missions to bomb it out of existence. The British couldn't do this and it led to problems.

For example, during the Crete operation six months after Taranto, Formidable's planes attacked the airfield on the Greek island of Scarpanto. The relatively undamaged target then retaliated, sending planes that damaged CV Formidable and DD Nubian. Formidable was out of the war for nine months while Nubian lost her stern and required six months of repair.

Two months later, as a show of solidarity with the Russians, Churchill has CV Victorious attack German ships in Kirkenes harbor in arctic Norway. Again, little damage was done but, at least, this time the target didn't have the means to retaliate. The defenders did, however, have some AA, three Bf 109s, and six Bf 110s. Therefore, of twenty attacking Albacores and nine Fulmars, eleven and two didn't return to the carrier. This was an expensive PR gesture, costing experienced pilots that were hard to replace.

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Re: Taranto.

Post by RF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:01 pm

Keith Enge wrote:I think that you all are rather overstating the importance of the Taranto raid.....Others said that it acted as a blueprint for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor a year later. If so, the Japanese had to scale it up from a gardening shed to the Empire State Building.
That description of the scale of gradation is an exagerration. The significance of the Taranto raid was that it did provide a basic template for the attack on Pearl Harbor. A basic template only, as the Japanese only knew that three battleships were torpedoed in shallow water, with minimal loss to the attackers. They certainly wouldn't have known about the British logistics involved, they developed their own and wargamed it. From that they decided to use six carriers instead of only three. As for daylight attack, yes. Surprise was the cover here, clear visibility makes the actual execution of a surprise attack easy.
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Re: Taranto.

Post by RF » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:09 pm

Keith Enge wrote:
Thus, the size of the Taranto raid obviously didn't make it special; perhaps, it was its effect instead.

The damage itself, therefore, wasn't devastating; perhaps, psychological damage was more extensive. This premise too is flawed. The Italians definitely weren't paralyzed by the raid; the battlefleet sortied only six days later and a large fleet action,
The Italians weren't paralysed, they simply became less aggressive and more ineffective, with the major warships still serviceable moved to ports further north.
All that conformed to what Somerville wanted, which is why he conceived the raid.
Most of the Italian Fleet sorties were fairly timid and limited affairs, certainly when you compare them to the tactics of the IJN sorties into the Indian Ocean for example.
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Re: Taranto.

Post by Keith Enge » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:26 pm

The Italian Fleet sorties were "fairly timid and limited affairs" not because of Taranto but because of the scarcity of oil. That is why they didn't bother repairing large ships and made others inactive. They simply didn't have the oil to support the whole fleet. If they did sortie the whole fleet, they wouldn't have enough oil to sortie again for months. They thus had to prioritize the supply runs to North Africa, using smaller vessels that didn't use as much oil even if those smaller ships would be at a disadvantage if they ran into larger British ships. This is also why the Italians couldn't capitalize on the period after QUEEN ELIZABETH was disabled; they had a period of superiority in capital ships but couldn't exploit it because their battleships and even heavy cruisers were stuck in port with empty bunkers. Germany had promised a regular supply of oil from the Romanian Ploesti oilfields but never met the promised quota so long term planning was compromised too.

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Re: Taranto Effect on Naval Warfare

Post by pg55555 » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:08 am

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Keith Enge

I'm afraid you have been reading too many of the revisionist histories of the Italian navy.

There are many reasons to both praise and blame the Taranto Raid, however you miss the main advantage of the raid, it reduced the available Italian battlefleet to a size that could be contained, and even controlled by either the Mediterranean Fleet or Force H. (I was vastly amused however about your inaccuracies in assessing the damage to the Italian ships - try re=reading the reports.)

Your ideas of comparing it with the damage to Queen Elizabeth and Valiant merely highlights the disasterous performance of the Italian navy at Second Sirte.

Overall, trying to blame everything on "oil" shows that you have swallowed the revisionist history fiasco which ignores poor leadership, poor inter-service co-operation, poor planning and procurement, useless preparations for war and a total inability to understand how to mount both an offensive and, more especially, defensive merchantile war.

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