Operation C

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Francis Marliere
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Operation C

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:17 pm

Gentlemen,

I have two questions on Operation C, the Japanese raid in Indian Ocean, early April 1942.

I know that instead of a raid, Japane Navy (or at least a faction of the navy) wanted to invade Ceylon. The project was wargamed aboard Yamato in February, before the IJA veto that cancelled the operation. I am looking for information on the projected invasion of Ceylon and the wargames organized by IJN, and would appreciate any help on the subject.

As far as I understand things, Britain knew about the Japanese intentions in late March and did not have to reinforce Eastern Fleet (I mean other reinforcements than those who arrived late March with VAdm Somerville). If Britain knew earlier about the incoming Japanese attack, could the RN (and RAF) send some reinforcements ? I guess that some the ships that participed to the invasion of Madagascar (Illustrious, Devonshire, Hermione and several DD) , just one month after Nagumo's raid, could have been dispatched earlier and / more quickly.

Best,

Francis Marliere

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Re: Operation C

Postby alecsandros » Sun Apr 05, 2015 4:35 pm

... I was hoping somenbody with more knowledge on the subject would answer,
But here goes:

As far as I know, Adm. Sommerville knew about the Japanese intentions in late March, and prepared his battlefleet for an all out engagement.

HIs primary strike force was centered around HMS Indomitable, HMS Formidable, HMS Hermes, 5 battleships, 7 cruisers, 14 destroyers, totaling between them 45 Albacores, 12 Swordfishes and 35 modern fighters. Some further 80+ modern aircraft from RAF were present at Ceylon.

Sommerville tried to find and attack Nagumo's strike force, with the hope of launching several Albacore torpedo night-strikes.
He was confident that his naval aviators would greatly benefit from the Albacore on-board radar, which would guide them to the targets.

Allthough repeated searches were made, the enemy could not be accurately located. A possible correct positioning was made on Apr 4th, by 6 Swordfishes from Hermes (operating from Ceylon), but they were immediately intercepted by a patrol of Zero fighters, and all of them were shot down. A second localisation was made on April 5th, by 2 Albacores from Sommerville's force, but 1 was shot down and the other badly damaged, and forced to withdraw.

A further attack, made by RAF bombers based on Ceylon, failed to score any hits. Of the 9 bombers deployed, 5 were shot down and 4 badly damaged above the Japanese carriers.

At least 25 RAF fighters were destroyed during the attack on Ceylon.
===

To try to answer your questions: the only real difference would have been made by adding several fleet carriers.
With only HMS Illustrious available, carrying some 45 warplanes, Sommerville would still have been badly out-matched by the Japanese 5 fleet carriers operating together, plus the independent Ryujo attacking to the north.

With Illustrious, at best, Sommerville might have gathered some 150 carrier warplanes, against some 280 Japanese carrier warplanes (Nagumo), with possible reinforcements from 30 more warplanes coming with Ryujo.

===

Royal Navy's total carrier strength on 1st of March 1942 was: HMS Furious, HMS Eagle, HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable, HMS Formidable, HMS Hermes.
Between them , they carried some 250 warplanes.

===

A possible , but super-hypothetical scenario, in which the ROyal Navy would try to fight directly with the IJN in early 1942, and leave aside Malta and the entire Atlantic without carriers, and they would send all of their carriers to Ceylon, would lead to an early-war devastating battle between 12 carriers (6 for each side), with ~ 600 warplanes.

The outcome of this battle would most likely change the course of the war as we know it, with the winner possibly obtaining many more victories immediately after the major carrier clash.

My option goes for an all out IJN victory, with 4-5 British carriers sunk, and 200 planes lost, in exchange for 1 carrier sunk and 3 damaged, with 100 planes lost for the Japanese.

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Re: Operation C

Postby Garyt » Mon Apr 06, 2015 8:25 pm

... I was hoping somenbody with more knowledge on the subject would answer,


Which is why I refrained from answering :D

I'm glad someone answered the post though.

I'd have to pretty much agree with you assessment though, Alecsandros.

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Re: Operation C

Postby dunmunro » Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:34 pm

An excellent article about Operation C:

http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/assets ... l-1942.pdf

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Re: Operation C

Postby alecsandros » Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:06 pm

dunmunro wrote:An excellent article about Operation C:

http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/assets ... l-1942.pdf


Another excellent read:

http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp

"Admiral Nagumo then headed for Japan as soon as he recovered the aircraft from the Hermes strike. During Operation C, he had destroyed an aircraft carrier, two heavy cruisers, two destroyers, one corvette, and five other vessels, and had shot down 45 aircraft. A separate squadron, with the light carrier Ryujo and several cruisers, sank 21 merchant ships during a concurrent foray into the Bay of Bengal, and the six submarines deployed for the operation sank five more.45 The Japanese lost just 17 aircraft, and no Japanese ship was even damaged."

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Re: Operation C

Postby RF » Sun Apr 26, 2015 7:31 pm

alecsandros wrote:
My option goes for an all out IJN victory, with 4-5 British carriers sunk, and 200 planes lost, in exchange for 1 carrier sunk and 3 damaged, with 100 planes lost for the Japanese.


One point not considered are the long term implications of this operation had it been carried out.

Even with a victory on the scale as quoted, long term the advantages will lie with the Allies, with considerable disadvantages to the Japanese. which I presume is why in reality the IJN cancelled the operation.
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Re: Operation C

Postby Mostlyharmless » Mon Apr 27, 2015 1:17 am

I agree with RF and with Kondo at the time (“The Pacific War Papers” ed. Goldstein & Dillon, page 326) that the Indian Ocean operation did not offer a good chance of improving the IJN's long term prospects. Even a major victory over the RN would have cost Japan time and loses and would thus have made the eventual USN victory easier.

However, from the point of view of alternate history, a Japanese victory might have significantly changed the Post War World. For example, Britain might not have been able to supply Malta or to send reinforcements to Egypt in 1942 after a major IJN victory, so that the German withdrawal from Egypt was forced by Operation Torch rather than by the Eighth Army. It is even conceivable that the Quit India Campaign would have undermined British rule in India over 1942-3. The USA and the USSR would have still won their wars. The British Army would have still entered Germany in 1945. However, we can imagine a Britain in 1945 without that the illusion that they remained a great power and without any influence in the Middle East over 1945-70. We might also have a completely different evolution in the Indian Subcontinent.

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Re: Operation C

Postby RF » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:17 am

Mostlyharmless wrote:. Even a major victory over the RN would have cost Japan time and loses and would thus have made the eventual USN victory easier.


Agreed. The Indian Ocean was a sideshow for the Japanese, the critical theatre was the Pacific.

Another aspect was that if the IJN had started an invasion the Doolittile raid on Tokyo could have caused an immediate abandonment of the invasion without any substantive gains by the Japanese over the RN and would have been a considerable loss of face for the IJN, which in Japanese internal politics would have significant consequences in increasing yet more the influence of the IJA over Hirohito

However, from the point of view of alternate history, a Japanese victory might have significantly changed the Post War World. For example, Britain might not have been able to supply Malta or to send reinforcements to Egypt in 1942 after a major IJN victory, so that the German withdrawal from Egypt was forced by Operation Torch rather than by the Eighth Army.


This is possible - if you are referring to the political situation in Egypt post WW2 there wouldn't be that much difference, as the British left anyway.


It is even conceivable that the Quit India Campaign would have undermined British rule in India over 1942-3. The USA and the USSR would have still won their wars. The British Army would have still entered Germany in 1945. However, we can imagine a Britain in 1945 without that the illusion that they remained a great power and without any influence in the Middle East over 1945-70. We might also have a completely different evolution in the Indian Subcontinent.


Actually I doubt it. India quickly gained independence anyway and the inter communal conflict and genocide spawned the nation of Pakistan. Ceylon was already separate from India, long before it became Sri Lanka.
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Re: Operation C

Postby alecsandros » Mon Apr 27, 2015 11:31 am

RF wrote:

Agreed. The Indian Ocean was a sideshow for the Japanese, the critical theatre was the Pacific.

Another aspect was that if the IJN had started an invasion the Doolittile raid on Tokyo could have caused an immediate abandonment of the invasion without any substantive gains by the Japanese over the RN and would have been a considerable loss of face for the IJN, which in Japanese internal politics would have significant consequences in increasing yet more the influence of the IJA over Hirohito


... Losing the carriers would imply , for the Royal Navy, losing Malta and any sort of CAP over the fleet anywhere in the world.
This would have dire consequences.

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Re: Operation C

Postby RF » Mon Apr 27, 2015 1:58 pm

The Axis would still have to take Malta and this means prodding a reluctant Regia Marina into action. There would be no German paratroop drop as Hitler had forbade it after the losses in Crete.
Given the level of commitment the Germans had on the Russian front, there was not much scope for any greater German force in the Med than there already was. Also there was a growing US presence in the theatre. On balance I think Malta would hold out - just.
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Re: Operation C

Postby alecsandros » Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:57 pm

RF wrote:The Axis would still have to take Malta and this means prodding a reluctant Regia Marina into action. There would be no German paratroop drop as Hitler had forbade it after the losses in Crete.
Given the level of commitment the Germans had on the Russian front, there was not much scope for any greater German force in the Med than there already was. Also there was a growing US presence in the theatre. On balance I think Malta would hold out - just.

... Malta was saved, IMHO, by the constant stream of Hurricanes and Spitfires brought by the British and American carriers. If it weren't for the deliveries made by Argus, Victorious, Furious, Wasp, and others, Malta would have succumbed to air and naval attack by starvation...

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Re: Operation C

Postby RF » Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:45 pm

Air attack possibly, yes.

Naval blockade - well that would be down to the Italians, I wouldn't ''hold my breath'' on that one.

While the British hold Gibraltar, Alexandria and the Suez Canal there is a chance of keeping Malta supplied, even if all it does is keep Luftwaffe units away from the Russian front. After June 1942 American carriers and battleships would start to become available and I would expect Torch to be brought forward - especially if Malta did fall.
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Re: Operation C

Postby alecsandros » Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:56 pm

RF wrote:Air attack possibly, yes.

Naval blockade - well that would be down to the Italians, I wouldn't ''hold my breath'' on that one.

While the British hold Gibraltar, Alexandria and the Suez Canal there is a chance of keeping Malta supplied, even if all it does is keep Luftwaffe units away from the Russian front. After June 1942 American carriers and battleships would start to become available and I would expect Torch to be brought forward - especially if Malta did fall.

But what would change if British fleet carriers are taken out in early 1942 ?

Convoys to Malta and Arctic Ocean would have no more carrier protection.

This would make the USN necessary. If the USN would intervene more in the Atlantic, it would imply diminishing their carrier force of the Pacific...

Ultimately, the USA would still save the day, but the overall cost to the Allies would be higher, and the war could possibly last longer.

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Re: Operation C

Postby RF » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:54 am

alecsandros wrote:
This would make the USN necessary. If the USN would intervene more in the Atlantic, it would imply diminishing their carrier force of the Pacific...


Correct. The USN already had one carrier in the Med.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Operation C

Postby Carl Schwamberger » Thu May 28, 2015 2:13 am

alecsandros wrote:...
To try to answer your questions: the only real difference would have been made by adding several fleet carriers.
With only HMS Illustrious available, carrying some 45 warplanes, Sommerville would still have been badly out-matched by the Japanese 5 fleet carriers operating together, plus the independent Ryujo attacking to the north.

With Illustrious, at best, Sommerville might have gathered some 150 carrier warplanes, against some 280 Japanese carrier warplanes (Nagumo), with possible reinforcements from 30 more warplanes coming with Ryujo.

===

Royal Navy's total carrier strength on 1st of March 1942 was: HMS Furious, HMS Eagle, HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable, HMS Formidable, HMS Hermes.
Between them , they carried some 250 warplanes.

===

A possible , but super-hypothetical scenario, in which the ROyal Navy would try to fight directly with the IJN in early 1942, and leave aside Malta and the entire Atlantic without carriers, and they would send all of their carriers to Ceylon, would lead to an early-war devastating battle between 12 carriers (6 for each side), with ~ 600 warplanes.

The outcome of this battle would most likely change the course of the war as we know it, with the winner possibly obtaining many more victories immediately after the major carrier clash.

My option goes for an all out IJN victory, with 4-5 British carriers sunk, and 200 planes lost, in exchange for 1 carrier sunk and 3 damaged, with 100 planes lost for the Japanese.


If all this based on daylight battles, only night attacks, or some combination of both? I've not read a lot on Sommervilles intent, but he seems to have been set on a night strike & avoiding a daylight encounter. This may have contributed to failing to fix the IJN location. What is your take on Sommervilles intent?


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