Hornet's SBDs at Midway

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pinehilljoe, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. pinehilljoe

    pinehilljoe Member

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    Torpedo 8's gallantry does not need to be repeated. But what if Hornet's SBDs had formed up with Enterprises group or had navigated correctly and found Kido Butai. Would Hiryu have been sunk with the first strike? The newer books on Midway are not kind to the Hornet air group.
     
  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps, but I don't remember them even having seen Hiryu. Wasn't she hidden in a squal or just too far off to see?
     
  3. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #3 oldcrowcv63, Oct 15, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    From what I recall ( from books not experience :oops: ) the Hiryu was somewhat separated from the other three carriers due to its maneuvering to avoid (in the Hiryu's case) giving the attack by VT-3 a decent launch aspect. The other three carrier's were trying to avoid attacks from other directions. Some accounts seem to suggest that VT-3's attack on the Hiryu was a long, drawn-out affair becoming a tail chase, with the TBD possessing, under no-wind conditions, only about a 60-70 mph speed advantage over the carrier!

    The Hornet air group had a number of problems as recounted in some histories. She also had a fair haired brown shoe boy in its skipper, Marc Kitschier who would go in to considerable renown despite a few epic blunders during the battle. It may be that some confusion about the IJN order of battle and disposition contributed to his decisions, which appear, to some degree and in retrospect, almost mutinous IIRC.

    Perhaps its greatest problem was the inexperience of the air group, who suffered the forced-operational inactivity of a a flight deck crowded with B-25's during much of its brief time in the Pacific. The biggest problem with what you propose is that it was not in accord with USN carrier doctrine to combine air groups in a coherent strike. Each carrier operated essentially independently. The Japanese had mastered that particular craft but it took the USN some time before it could mount a coherent multi-carrier air-group strike. The only two that might have brought some experience in such operational art were the Lexington and Yorktown task group and of course Lexington was at the bottom of the Coral Sea. It seems that separating its carriers and operating them somewhat independently was at different times both the bane and the salvation of USN carrier operations during the first year of the war.
     
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  4. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Of course, if the Hornet group had not been so disastrously led astray looking for a nonexistent IJN CV force almost due west instead of the existing one present to the Southwest, it should have made a major difference. Being the most powerful single carrier strike unit deployed during the battle by either side, it might have done some serious damage. Two additional squadrons of SBDs could have put an early end to the Hiryu's career. Although that depends much on the performance of their aircrews which were also among the least trained and combat ready of any CV-based unit deployed in the battle. Later in the battle the Hornet SBD aircrews performed rather poorly, so perhaps they would not have made much of a difference.
     
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  5. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    One of histories great what if's, but also consider that if Hiryu had suffered the same fate as her sisters during that one attack, the Americans would have had Yorktown at the end of the battle. What impact would THAT have had even a bit later in the war? Maybe the Navy would have stuck around longer at Guadalcanal, having more options for air cover?
     
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  6. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Yorktown had been on line for a long time (January thru early June, 1942), involved in two major battles and several raids. She had suffered significant bomb damage at Coral Sea and rushed to the front for the Midway battle with what some claimed to be superficial repairs. Her air group was a combination of veteran units (VF-3 and VF-42) and Saratoga unit walk-on's to replace the losses at Coral Sea. (VS-5 replaced by VB-3 and VT-5 replaced by VT-3) It is quite likely that Yorktown suffering some additional aircrew and aircraft losses at Midway, would have been sent East for a refit and repair period and like Hornet, which spent Watchtower in Hawaiian waters training, been absent from the invasion and not allowed Fletcher to remain on the scene. retreating in the face of the significant F4F losses to A6Ms during the IJN counterattack on August 9. Yorktown might have played a very significant role at Santa Cruz (assuming she was not picked off by submarine like the Wasp). Or simply provided a more target rich environment to the significant and capable IJN naval air force arrayed against the USN.
     
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  7. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Fascinating all. We'll never know...
     
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  8. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    yep...
     
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  9. Peter Gunn

    Peter Gunn Active Member

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    Having just finished "Shattered Sword" (finally) I thumbed through it again, and my take is that if VB-8 had either followed VT-8 or just headed Southwest it's quite possible that Hiryu would not have survived the attack. According to Parshall and Tully, Kido Butai was stretched out in a rough line abreast formation with Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu running from SW to NE. It's totally possible (to me) that resources could have been devoted to putting down Hiryu in the same attack. All it would have taken was a couple of hits and Yorktown lives to fight another day.

    On Yorktown however, I agree with Oldcrow, she'd have needed a Major refit, probably in the states but would have been a pretty valuable asset in the later stages of the Guadalcanal Campaign, and as you (oc63) say, she may not have survived 1942 anyway, just another 'what if' that we all love.
     
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  10. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #10 oldcrowcv63, Oct 19, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
    More possible and likely than I first realized. I just reread Lundstrom's account of the 6 June, SBD attacks on the cruisers Mikuma and Mogami. I had not recalled that the 26 VB/VS-8 SBDs that attacked the two cruisers scored up to 6 hits on the two cruisers and her escort. During a second attack, they put another 8 bombs into or near the two cruisers and her DD escort. While the Cruisers were probably dead in the water or nearly so, hitting a presumably maneuvering DD is another matter. That's a lot better performance than I recalled. I was biased by their poor performance during the June 4 afternoon attack on the Hiryu's screen when no hits were scored. The subsequent day's performance suggests that at least one of the 34 SBDs of VB-8 & VS-8 might have scored a hit and ended the Hiryu's career or operations, if only because the carrier was a bigger target than many of the screening vessels. It may also be that the intense enforced training acquired during their brief combat experience and errors were sufficient to refine their aim. Another unanswerable what if.... :cry:
     
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