Hypothetical Scenario: Java 1942

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Vassili Zaitzev, May 1, 2012.

  1. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Hello everybody-

    I was talking with Parsifal via PM about how the outcome of Java Sea could be different. While wargaming is above my experience, I wish to start a discussion on the topic. I have a basic understanding of the battle, and how Doorman was stopped several times attempting to intercept the invasion convoy.

    I guess I can make this a two pronged question: 1. Historically, could the ABDA have done anything different to change the outcome? 2. This would be a what if scenario. For example: If HMS Hood was not destroyed at the Denmark Straits, survived up till '42, and was sent along with HMS Exeter to the Far East, what impact would she have made? (A little warning: From what I gather for wargames, if one side can change their parameters, so can the other. So if HMS Hood is included for the ABDA, than the IJN can include other forces, say the Kirishima?)

    Have fun guys! Mind the size of the images.

    I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with the battle, but I'll include a few links and a map.
    Battle of the Java Sea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Java Sea Battle, February 1942
    The Battle of the Java Sea: February 27, 1942, by Vincent P. O'Hara
    jav-batarvo.jpg
    jav-batnite.jpg
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Winning the battle means sinking Imperial Japanese Army transports before they can land troops.
    Japanese warships should be mostly avoided until after the transports are sunk.
    Intelligence is the key if you want to slip between IJA transports and their IJN escort. You might also employ a decoy.

    Attack at night.
    Sacrifice a couple cruisers for the IJN to chase (and probably kill).
    After the IJN (hopefully) take the cruiser bait every available ABDA destroyer falls on the IJA transport fleet. Don't piddle around. Use torpedoes for quick results. Any transports still floating after torpedoes are gone get killed with gunfire. After transports are sunk the mission is over. ABDA ships including any surviving cruisers from the decoy force should flee into the darkness at flank speed. There is nothing to be gained by fighting IJN warships.
     
  3. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Interesting scenario. I wonder though if the American torpedoes would be effective, the early ones had a tendency to be duds.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    ABDA cannot do anything to change that situation. Just fire all torpedoes and let the chips fall where they may. If torpedoes don't get the job done then gunfire will.
     
  5. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Guess your right. I just wonder if the DD's can take care of the transport fleet before the IJN neutralize the cruiser diversion. Still, sinking even a fraction of the invasion fleet is better than the historical outcome.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't take much to sink a transport. Not even with 4" guns like the USN flush deck DDs had. And they certainly cannot run away from a destroyer.
     
  7. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    U.S. Navy, 7.12.1941
    Submarines and aircraft aside, they had 13 destroyers and two cruisers. Plenty for attacking a transport fleet but you cannot piddle them away. They must be held in readiness outside enemy air range and wait for a troop transport fleet to appear. Then you attack with the entire Asiatic Fleet. A more aggressive Asiatic Fleet commander might have attempted this in the Philippines.

    H.M. Australian Squadron, RAN, 8.12.41
    Australia had a significant fleet too. 5 cruisers and 4 destroyers. The same strategy applies. You cannot piddle them away escorting the RN around Malaya. The RN ought to know how to fight a naval battle and assemble a balanced fleet. They shouldn't need Australian help.

    The entire Australian fleet should be held back in the vicinity of Borneo or the East Indies, waiting for a chance to attack IJA troop transports en masse.
     
  9. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    If Hood had been present in the Java Sea, she would have been sunk just like Repulse and POW. ABDA was hopelessly outclassed in every way and was doomed.
     
  10. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    ABDA was well equipped for sinking IJA troop transports and that's how amphibious invasions are defeated.
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #11 renrich, May 29, 2012
    Last edited: May 29, 2012
    The only way that ABDA was going to have any success against invasion forces was at night and the IJN was the master of the night at that time. ABDA was well equipped with nothing. The ships were worn out and outclassed. The men were worn out. Many of the weapons either did not work or were outclassed. The leadership was poor and the communications were hopeless. There were shortages of everything and ABDA did not control the air or ground. The Boise was just dad gummed lucky to hit a rock. Other than that, they were in good shape. They had a little success at Balikpapan but that was a pinprick against the IJN. My uncle swapped out with another petty officer who wanted to go to the Asiatic Fleet and that fellow wound up on the Houston and my uncle went to the Salt Lake City. Guess who survived the war?
     
  12. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The DDs four inch guns would have a dickens of a time trying to sink a cargo ship. When submarines used to surface and try to sink a ship with their deck guns, it would take many rounds to get the job done. The DDs could not do it at night because they could not see to shoot and in the daylight they could not hang around long enough to get the job done. The US torpedoes mostly did not work and they were in short supply also.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The real problem.

    The IJN were not supermen. They had good leaders who knew how to train ship crew. With good leadership ABDA could fight at night also.
     
  14. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #14 renrich, May 30, 2012
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
    If you read up on the Pacific war you realise that the USN did not get proficient at night surface engagements until well into 1943 and even then they had many mix ups because of the teething problems with radar. My uncle in Salt Lake City was in the Battle of Cape Esperance which was after the disaster at Savo Island. Cape Esperance was, more or less, an American victory. After the American cruisers opened fire at close range on the IJN ships the US flagship ordered them to cease fire because it was thought we were firing on our own DDs. Some of the cruisers complied but my uncle said Salt Lake City did not comply because they knew they were firing on IJN ships. My uncle was the CGM in charge of the 5 inch/38s and they were firing as fast as they could becuse they had crossed the T of the Japanese. My other uncle was a CGM on Chicago at Savo Island. Chicago was the only Allied CA that survived although heavily damaged. He said they were totally surprised and had no idea the Japanese were about until Chicago was hit with a torpedo. The IJN were pretty close to being supermen when it came to night surface engagements for the first couple of years in the war.

    The leadership of ABDA was Dutch and the Allied "fleet" was a scratch group with little or no experience working together. There were language problems and signals problems. The Allies had very little knowledge about IJN torpedo doctrine and night fighting ability. It was a fiasco waiting to happen and it did. It would have made little difference if the Allied force had been homogeneous and all one nationality at that stage of the war. At Coral Sea and Midway, the US commanders were smart enough to know they wanted nothing to do with the IJN in a night surface engagement. They had little choice later at Guadalcanal.

    Was reading a book a number of years ago about the Java campaign and it told the story of Houston getting ready to leave the harbor at Surabaya (sp?) for what turned out to be the Battle Of the Java Sea. A British CA, either Exeter or an Aussie CL, Perth ( I think it was Perth) had her band lined up on the fantail as they steamed out of harbor. The band was playing " A Hunting We Will Go" That account brought tears to my eyes (and still does) to think about what was in store for our sailors.
     
  15. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    A more plausible scenario might be if the Prince of Wales Repulse are withdrawn as soon as Japan attacks, and sent (along with HMS Hermes perhaps) as cornerstone of "ABDA".
    Perhaps as part of a deception plan they take a well publicized short trip up to Hawaii in late Dec to put in an appearance and have Japan think that they are part of the West Coast fleet.
    PoW is a new ship and has a modern radar set.

    Another option is if the Allies deploy some radar equipped naval strike aircraft.


    Great maps BTW!
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You go to war with the leaders you promoted during peacetime. If peacetime promotion choices were largely based on politics rather then professional ability then your armed forces get hammered at the start of the next war. Without better leadership an ABDA victory would be largely a matter of luck rather then different strategy.
     
  17. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    No matter how much luck ABDA had they were doomed. The USN was no more afflicted by poor leadership because of politics than any other navy. On December 7, 1941, the US had a relatively small navy although a massive expansion was under way. The USN had not really fought a war since 1898, the Spanish American War. They had three fleet carriers in the Pacific. Two BBs fit to operate with carriers but none in the Pacific, (all others were too slow) A total of 24 cruisers in the Pacific but 6 of those were obsolete and of little use. There were three more fleet carriers fit for the Pacific but they were in the Atlantic. The 8 BBs at PH were useless as far as modern warfare ( carrier based air strikes) were concerned. The Asiatic Fleet consisted of one CA, one modern CL and an outmoded CL. These ships already counted above. They also had a few ancient S boats ( subs) and some four stack DDs. They were vastly outnumbered by the Japanese. The USN was just learning about the use of radar. The USN had many outstanding naval officers, Nimitz, Fletcher, Halsey, Spruance, King, Leahey and many in aviation like Thach and Flatley. However the USN, like all the other navies except for Japan had not developed the massive, coordinated carrier air strike, the torpedo doctrine and the surface night warfare. The IJN had overall the most modern navy in the world with the most modern shipboard aircraft. They had the most lethal torpedoes in the world. They were far in advance of the other navies in those areas. However, their submarine training and doctrine was lacking.

    The USN learned on the job and learned fast. The IJN turned out to be not very adaptable but was ultimately doomed by the massive industrial capacity of the US and by Japan's own puny ( relatively) industrial capacity.
     
  18. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    I tend to agree with Renrich, given the ad-hoc nature of ABDA it would be tough for them to do much better.

    On the other hand, talks between US UK about how to arrange a joint defence of the Pacific (ie ABDA) before war broke out could have been very helpful
     
  19. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The problem the US and the UK faced in the Pacific regardless of how much pre planning they did and regardless of their knowledge that Japan was getting ready to start something was that the Allies had limited resources. The UK was stretched thin coping with Germany and Italy and the US voters were largely asleep and the US was unready for war. On December 7, the USN had fully as much naval power in the Atlantic as they did the Pacific and the carrier air groups were having great difficulty scraping up enough "modern" AC to outfit the carriers. It is truly amazing how far behind the US was for fighting a modern war. It is also truly amazing how fast they learned and how fast they caught up. As mentioned above, the IJN, on December 7, probably had the best, overall, navy in the world. But they were like a football team with the best eleven offensive players in the world, a not very good defensive eleven and no depth at all.

    To me, what is an interesting question is what would have happened if the Japanese had only attacked the colonial powers possessions and left the US alone. If Japan leaves the US alone, I question whether FDR could have cajoled Congress into interfering in the Pacific at least initially. Hitler would probably not have declared war on the US and the UK would more or less been on it's own against Germany and Japan until the US woke up.
     
  20. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    I have to agree with renrich that the Boise was lucky to hit a rock and get away to fight another day, but I expect it might have given a pretty good account of itself had it remained in theater. Its 15 rapid firing 6 inch rifles pumping out 150 AP HE rpm might have been almost as much a perceptual shock to the IJN as their Long Lance was to the USN although probably not as effective in the damage it could inflict on an armored vessel. Evidently, at Cape Esperence, the Boise and her sister Helena provided just that kind of shock in late '42. I would guess the Boise RADAR suite did not yet include the enabling SG. But aparently it possessed a first generation Fire Control RADAR (which it apparently used for navigation as well as FC) and ammo that was much superior to that aboard the other US ships, based on the entries in this forum:

    Pacific War 1941-1945: Asiatic Fleet AA weapons
     
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