land based airpower vs carrier power Pt1

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I got this e-mail from another forum. I take no responsibility for its accuracy. I'm only posting it here for discussion.

    Contrary to popular belief, land-based airpower played the key role
    in decimating Japan's World War II shipping.
    Sinking Ships
    By Maj. Lawrence J. Spinetta

    Air Force Maj. Lawrence J. Spinetta is an F-15 instructor pilot and
    former international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign
    Relations. This is his first article for Air Force Magazine.
    Two days after Pearl Harbor, Japanese land-based bombers and torpedo
    airplanes sank the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the
    battle cruiser HMS Repulse north of Singapore in the South China
    Sea.

    Eight hundred and forty sailors died, but the loss of life is not
    what shocked the naval world. The battle marked the first time in
    history that capital ships were sunk by air attack while operating
    on the high seas.

    The efficacy of airpower against naval forces had already been
    demonstrated at Pearl Harbor and, more than a year before that, in
    the British attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto, but both of
    those engagements were against fleets that were sitting in port.

    Naval convention was sometimes difficult to overcome. Off the Malay
    Peninsula on Dec. 9, 1941, Adm. Thomas S.V. Phillips, British force
    commander, believed so strongly in battleship superiority that he
    made no effort to arrange for air cover, even while under attack. He
    was among those killed in the sinking of Prince of Wales and
    Repulse.

    Ironically, Phillips had once counseled a junior officer that
    aviation was "poppycock" and steered the officer away from the
    aviation profession because it would "ruin" his career.

    By the end of the war, Japan was defeated, in large part, by the
    same maritime interdiction strategy it had helped validate. Land-
    based airpower helped destroy Japan's maritime capabilities,
    paralyze the Japanese war machine, and strangle its industries and
    economy.

    As an island nation lacking strategic resources, Japan needed to
    import raw materials and energy to fuel its economy and sustain its
    military power. In 1937, Japan imported 82 percent of its oil via
    sea-lanes criss-crossing the Southwest Pacific.

    Although the atomic bomb delivered the coup de grace, it was the war
    against transportation that sealed Japan's fate in World War II.
    Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was land-based airpower—not
    carrier-based aircraft—that proved most effective in the maritime
    interdiction mission.

    Divergent Approaches
    Halfway across the world, Britain also was dependent on shipping to
    support its wartime operations.

    "The old dispute about whether the airplane could or could not sink
    a battleship has long since been answered, but the issue was always
    somewhat beside the point," observed Bernard Brodie, author of A
    Layman's Guide to Naval Strategy, in 1942. "Discerning observers
    asked not so much how well the warship would fare under air attack
    as whether Britain's vast shipping could be carried on in the shadow
    of the Luftwaffe."

    The Luftwaffe did not emphasize maritime interdiction, but, after a
    slow start, the Allies did. The Army Air Forces was woefully
    unprepared to conduct maritime interdiction missions in the first
    nine months of the war and initially proved almost totally inept
    against Japanese shipping.

    It took vision to improve the AAF's initially weak maritime
    performance. Fortunately for the US and its Allies, Gen. George C.
    Kenney, Gen. Douglas MacArthur's top airman in the Southwest
    Pacific, embraced the maritime interdiction mission. (See "The
    Genius of George Kenney," April 2002, p. 66.) Kenney set about
    improving training and pushed for tactical and technical innovations
    such as "skip bombing," low altitude ingresses, and addition of
    forward firing machine guns.

    The US Strategic Bombing Survey, performed by a team of civilian
    analysts and military officers commissioned by President Franklin D.
    Roosevelt to investigate the effects of bombing, concluded, "The war
    against shipping was perhaps the most decisive single factor in the
    collapse of the Japanese economy and the logistic support of
    Japanese military and naval power."

    The Quiet Force Multiplier
    Airpower played a low profile but critical role as a force
    multiplier in the Pacific campaign. Submarines never were available
    in sufficient numbers to enforce a blockade of Japan on their own
    and, consequently, depended on land-based airpower to supplement
    their search patterns.

    "The development of effective cooperation between the submarines and
    the air arm permitted the results of continual air patrol and search
    to be translated into effective submarine attack, where such attack
    was the most appropriate method to employ," stated the strategic
    bombing survey. "It must be understood, however, that particularly
    as the sea-lanes contracted and more effective escort was supplied,
    the task of the submarine became hazardous and losses were
    considerable."

    Unlike the submarine experience, land-based airpower's effectiveness
    improved as shipping lanes converged, especially when ships were
    funneled into natural choke points.

    Aerial attacks began to exact a dreadful price on Japanese ships,
    even as they hugged the coasts in desperate attempts to escape the
    deadly effects of Allied airpower. Enemy ships became sitting ducks,
    and when bombers found concentrations of ships, the attacks were
    lethal.

    In the March 1943 Battle of the Bismarck Sea, more than 100 Allied
    aircraft swarmed and destroyed an entire Japanese convoy. Japan lost
    some 3,500 troops. Only about 800 of the 6,900 soldiers who were
    being ferried to reinforce critical areas made it to their
    destination. The defeat there was "unbelievable," remarked a
    Japanese destroyer captain. "Never was there such a debacle."
    (See "Victory in the Bismarck Sea," August 1996, p. 88.)

    The Battle of the Bismarck Sea foreshadowed the terrible toll that
    land-based bombers would exert on shipping. The Japanese high
    command soon announced that every soldier would be taught to swim.

    Carrier-based air attacks were similarly devastating against large
    concentrations of merchant ships, but these strikes were sporadic
    and not part of a continuing program to neutralize enemy shipping
    lanes. The US Strategic Bombing Survey noted, "In general, the
    responsibilities of carrier air were presumed to lie elsewhere and
    to relate more directly to naval operations."

    Kenney thought his land-based aircraft were the best tools to
    support maritime operations, particularly amphibious landings,
    because carrier-based aircraft had limited fuel, range, loiter time,
    and payload. Additionally, aircraft carriers had to periodically
    discontinue flying operations in order to refuel, rearm, and replace
    lost or damaged aircraft.

    "I consider it unwise to rely on carrier units completely," Kenney
    told MacArthur. "Carrier-based aircraft do not have staying power
    and therefore do not have the dependability of land-based aircraft."
    Most importantly, Kenney was concerned about the fact that aircraft
    carriers could be sunk.

    Naval Vulnerability
    Kenney's concern about aircraft carrier vulnerability and fleet
    limitations proved remarkably prescient. American carriers
    experienced severe operating challenges during several campaigns and
    often were unable to protect their accompanying surface fleets.

    Under increasing assault from the air, warships needed more capacity
    to absorb punishment became an ever-more important characteristic of
    wartime vessels. Shortly after the war, the Bureau of Ships applied
    engineering principles to estimate the number of hits required to
    sink each naval vessel and concluded aircraft carriers were the most
    vulnerable class of combat ship.

    results against Japan once anti-shipping efforts were a priority.
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The benefits of aircraft carriers, which provide on-call airpower
    without a need for nearby land bases, are well-known, but the
    limitations of naval aviation are less frequently discussed. Rear
    Adm. Daniel V. Gallery, assistant chief of naval operations, summed
    up an inherent design weakness of the aircraft carrier in a 1949
    Science Illustrated article. "A big carrier is a tank farm, an
    ammunition dump, and an airfield all rolled up into one tight
    package," Gallery wrote. "This is a highly inflammable combination."

    An aircraft carrier is a floating city concentrated into four-and-a-
    half acres. It represents a huge investment in terms of money,
    materials, skilled manpower, and time. A carrier also is a valuable
    target for the enemy because of its mobile combat capability.
    Consequently, the Japanese naval forces made the destruction of US
    aircraft carriers their top priority.

    Those aircraft carriers that were fortunate to survive the Japanese
    onslaught were out of action for repairs an average of 30 percent of
    the time during the last year of the war. This further increased the
    relative importance of land-based airpower, and a series of battles
    illustrate the critical role played by land-based aircraft.

    First, according to the (since declassified) Secret Information
    Bulletin No. 2, carrier forces were withdrawn during the Guadalcanal
    landing of Aug. 7, 1942 because of decreased carrier fighter
    strength, low fuel, and a large number of enemy torpedo and bombing
    airplanes in the vicinity. During the campaign, Guadalcanal's
    Henderson Field remained the key staging location for land-based
    aircraft, despite repeated Japanese attempts to knock it out of
    service.

    Later, during the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf, Rear Adm. Jesse B.
    Oldendorf cabled an urgent plea for air support to Kenney and the
    Thirteenth Air Force commander, among others. His cable was
    indicative of the problems US naval forces were still having in
    dealing with attacking enemy aircraft.

    Oldendorf relayed, "Naval forces covering Leyte report two heavy air
    attacks today. One destroyer has been sunk by torpedo planes. Three
    additional severely damaged. If adequate fighter cover not
    maintained over combatant ships, their destruction is inevitable.
    Can you provide necessary protection?"

    Finally, during the spring 1945 Okinawa campaign, US Navy ships were
    required to operate within range of Japanese land-based aircraft.
    For that campaign, the Navy had 15 carriers in service, with 919
    aircraft onboard, but the flattops proved unable to protect the
    fleet from the Japanese.

    Under the assault from Japan's land-based aircraft, the losses were
    severe—28 US ships sunk and 225 damaged.

    A postwar analysis of the Navy's Pacific Theater experience revealed
    carrier airplanes averaged only one flight every other day while in
    a combat area. Of those sorties, at least a quarter were normally
    assigned to the defense of the naval task force—the burden of
    defending carriers severely limited the offensive airpower provided
    by carriers and the sorties available for maritime interdiction.

    Army Air Forces units, meanwhile, generated unmatched sortie rates
    and firepower. For example, in one three-day span, 167 B-29s
    operating from the Mariana Islands delivered 2.5 times the bomb load
    that 1,091 carrier aircraft did over the same days.

    Aircraft carriers also must operate according to strict launch
    cycles and cannot remain on station indefinitely. Carriers can surge
    to temporarily generate additional sorties, but must eventually
    stand down.

    In contrast, the facilities at a land-based airfield are dispersed
    over an area of several square miles, are frequently open to further
    expansion and enlargement, are cost-effectively constructed of
    ordinary building materials, and are available for use 365 days of
    the year as they never have to return to port or refuel.

    An Unwanted Mission?
    Land-based airpower would have sunk even more ships if not for
    interservice politics that hindered unity of effort. The Army and
    Navy bickered over who should control bombers engaged in sea duty.

    Neither service, though, was particularly interested in a more
    robust use of bombers to attack Japanese shipping and, consequently,
    did not take full advantage of land-based airpower's maritime
    interdiction capabilities. Post-war analysis suggests a more
    concentrated effort against enemy shipping, especially oil tankers,
    could have accelerated Japan's decline.

    Adm. Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations, primarily wanted
    to use bombers to supplement fleet defense, whereas Gen. Henry
    H. "Hap" Arnold, the Chief of Army Air Forces, was less than
    enthusiastic about assuming maritime duties at the expense of the
    strategic bombing mission.

    King advocated a plan to assign control of the bombers to Navy
    commanders in specified sea frontiers. This would have divided
    operational control, which ran counter to AAF doctrine. King was
    suspicious of any plan that would bolster calls for air force
    independence and potentially steal the Navy's air component.

    Conversely, Arnold was suspicious that King's proposal, if approved,
    might be the "forerunner of the Navy assuming the Army's primary
    responsibilities and functions for operation and control" of a land-
    based air force.

    The Army and Navy negotiated the Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement,
    which divided responsibility for the employment of long-range
    aircraft. "In return for unquestioned control of all forces employed
    in protection of shipping, reconnaissance, and offshore patrol," the
    Navy relinquished control of long-range striking forces operating
    from shore bases.

    The Army transferred its antisubmarine B-24s to the Navy. The
    agreement was designed to prevent each service from encroaching on
    the other's historic responsibilities.

    Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, expressed dismay over
    the two services' inability to work together and disapproved of
    policies that artificially divided the maritime medium. He thought
    the Army and Navy procedures were "neither economical nor highly
    efficient and would inevitably meet with public condemnation were
    all the facts known."

    The limited cooperation between the Army and Navy air arms was
    offset by the enmity between Japanese air arms, which far surpassed
    the American interservice rivalry. The Imperial Japanese Army Air
    Force did not help its naval counterparts to control shipping lanes.

    Expressing discontent, Capt. Minoru Genda, a planner of the Pearl
    Harbor attack and commander of an elite squadron of pilots,
    commented, "The Army fliers didn't like to fly over the ocean"
    and "acted as though they didn't realize the importance of the
    control of the seas."

    Lessons Relearned
    The utility of land-based airpower against maritime forces has been
    repeatedly demonstrated in more recent events. In the brief 1982 war
    with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, Britain almost suffered a
    fate similar to its Dec. 9, 1941 experience.

    During the Falklands campaign, Argentina only had four French-built
    Super Etendard fighters capable of employing Exocet antiship
    missiles. Despite the small size of the threat, British task force
    defenders were unable to stop these aircraft from sinking the
    destroyer HMS Sheffield and a supply ship.

    Other Argentine aircraft, carrying less advanced weapons, also found
    their mark. In the South Atlantic waters around the Falklands, 75
    percent of the British task force was damaged or sunk. The carnage
    could have been far worse for the British forces: At least 14
    Argentine bombs hit their targets but failed to detonate.

    Aircraft carriers may no longer be the most effective way to exert
    control over the world's oceans. Long-range aircraft can operate
    worldwide, reducing the need for forward bases.
     
  3. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Allied Air Attack Damage—By the Numbers

    Carrier-based aircraft in World War II were responsible for sinking
    the greatest proportion of Japan's combat fleet, including five
    battleships and 10 enemy aircraft carriers. It was land-based
    airpower, however, that was most effective against Japanese merchant
    shipping.

    Land-based aircraft (through direct action and mines) sunk
    approximately 23 percent of the total enemy merchant ship tonnage
    sent to the bottom of the Pacific. Carrier-based aviation accounted
    for approximately 16 percent.

    Yet these figures underestimate the contribution of land-based
    aircraft to the maritime fight. Land-based airpower also destroyed
    large numbers of barges and small vessels—of less than 500 tons
    gross weight—not counted in the totals. (Sea-based aircraft
    destroyed relatively few small ships because they spent little time
    patrolling the coastal waters and harbors.)

    The Army Air Forces attacks compare favorably to the efforts of the
    other services—the AAF devoted less effort but dropped more bombs
    and sank a greater number of ships than the other services.

    AAF's Pacific forces flew 7,250 (1.5 percent) of their sorties to
    maritime interdiction and sank 265,360 tons of enemy shipping. In
    comparison, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft flew 25,657 (9.9 percent)
    of their sorties against merchant shipping and sank 102,702 total
    tons.

    The AAF sank 2.5 times the enemy tonnage with less than a third of
    the sorties devoted to the mission.

    The disparity in relative effectiveness is magnified when you
    include Twentieth Air Force's mine-laying campaign. Twentieth flew
    28,826 sorties and delivered 9,875 tons of mines, which sank 287
    enemy ships and damaged 323 others.

    After April 1945, mines dropped by B-29s in Japanese harbors and
    inland waterways accounted for half of all enemy ships sunk or
    damaged.

    This aerial mining crippled Japanese merchant shipping, denied
    damaged ships access to repair facilities, closed strategic
    waterways, and threw the administration of Japanese shipping into
    hopeless confusion.


    There are limits to what constitutes acceptable risk as well. Losing
    a single aircraft is bad enough, but, security affairs writer Robert
    Kaplan has warned, "The effect of a single Chinese cruise missile's
    hitting a US carrier, even if it did not sink the ship, would be
    politically and psychologically catastrophic."

    "The capability for airmen to rapidly respond anywhere in the
    Pacific to sink naval vessels in all weather, day or night, is
    crucial," noted Gen. Paul V. Hester, commander of Pacific Air
    Forces. In 2004, he and Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, PACAF vice
    commander, recognized that the Air Force's ability to contribute to
    the maritime fight had atrophied and sought to reinvigorate PACAF's
    maritime capabilities.

    Consequently, the November 2004 Resultant Fury exercise demonstrated
    the ability of fighters and bombers to hit and sink moving ships,
    with precision weapons, in all weather conditions.

    The exercise showcased prototype technology. Strike aircraft coupled
    the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition with the developmental
    Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement system.

    Air Force and Navy forces worked together to destroy multiple mobile
    seaborne targets, including a decommissioned tank landing ship, USS
    Schenectady. Tracked on the move by E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, the
    targets off Hawaii came under fire from B-1 and B-52 bombers flying
    nonstop from Andersen AFB, Guam, and Dyess AFB, Tex., among other
    aircraft.

    Resultant Fury was judged a resounding success, demonstrating that
    Air Force aircraft can sink moving targets. AMSTE is still a
    developmental system, however, so the exercise did not reflect
    current operational capabilities.

    The fact that land-based airpower is effective against active
    shipping and naval forces is well-understood today. During World War
    II, however, this was a new concept that achieved spectacular
     
  4. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Interesting read. The only thing I am wondering about is the whole tonnage thing. Maybe I missed it, is that just one year or season or something, because according o that one paragragh in part 3, it says the US sank only a little over 300,000 tons of Japanese ships.

    Did I misunderstand that? Was is just merchant shippng or what not, but that 300,000 tons is just a few carriers and battlships, so if I read it right, that is quite wrong.

    I know you did not write it syscom. I am just wondering if I read it wrong, or is it just really screwed up at that part.

    Very interesting to read though, eitherway. Good thread and posting.
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Yes, it does say 300,000 tons. But thats for air sorties only.

    But I think the author is being intellectually dishonest.

    Land based aircraft did sink a lot of Japanese shipping through the end of 1943. But these were really only ships in the SW pacific, at the "front". They never went after convoys in the high seas between japan and its possesions simply because they were too far away. Once the US subs got torpedo's that worked, the Japanese merchant fleet went to the bottom quickly, or in some instances, couldnt even sail.

    It was the sub fleet that strangled the Japanese homeland. The B29 mining operations were just icing on the cake.

    For me, I would summarize it this way:
    If the ship is within range of land based airpower and has no air cover, then it is as good as sunk.

    If its not in range, then a sub (with working torpedo's) will put it into Davey Jones locker.

    For WW2, untill land based bombers were located in the Philipines, there was no way for the AAF to interdict the shipping far from the "front".

    It was the subs that shattered the Japanese merchant marine and strangled the Japanese homeland.

    B29 mining misisons didnt occur untill late in the war when it was just one of the "coupe de grais"
     
  6. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    I totally agree with you, I like the little comment about "working torpedos". lol
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Do know the story about the debacle with the US sub torpedo's?

    The more I read about it, the more I truely believe that if there ever was a reason for some high ranking naval officials to be executed for malfeasence in wartime, this was the case.
     
  8. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    Yes I know that was why I was laughing about it. You slipped it in there nicely. Well done. Subtle
     
  9. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Yep, but don't forget that role the Black cats played in mining Japanese held ports and sea lanes. I don't know about the USAAF/USN, but the first RAAF mine laying mission flown by PBY's was conducted in April of 43. Further raids were flown as far as the Philippines and to the Chinese coast.
     
  10. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    I fail to see why one or another needs to be lauded over the other. I have never questioned why the Navy had aircraft any more than why the Army has aircraft. Nobody should have aircraft except the Air Force then by that logic.

    The article is decently written but the theme of why the US should rely on one aerial attack contingent is rather redundant. Might be valid for some small country without much $$ to ponder whether they should have Naval aircaft, but not here.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The PBY mining missions in the Solomons and New Guinie (in 1943 and 1944) had some effect, but once the medium bombers started hunting down the Japanese ships, then the ships didnt even sail at all.

    The RAAF mining missions in the Mollucca's did occur early in the war, but also didnt seem to have much of an impact. In 1945, the mining missions were in full swing, but the Japanese didnt even have much of a navy to sail at that time, so there effectivness cannot be deduced.

    The mining missions against The PI did not occur untill the fall of 1944 (at the very earliest), and the Chinese coast untill early 1945.

    There could have been some 10th and 14th AF mining missions along the chinese coast before 1945, but the very few aircraft available to do the missions meant there was little if any impact on Japanese shipping.

    The B29 mining missions over japan were effective, in that the inland sea region was targeted, and even it was a natural chokepoint. At that time, many of the Japanese coastal vessels plying that sea route were still coal fired, and could operate regardless of the petroleum shortages.
     
  12. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Response to Spinetta Article - Part 1 of 5

    While certainly an eye opener for the general public, I hardly think that the professional aviator or surface warfare officer was at all surprised . . . here’s a couple of capital warships and four escorting destroyers wandering around an area known to be inhabited by some very aggressive enemy air types and suddenly they’re faced with a series of combined aerial bomb and torpedo attacks which overwhelm what little AA capability they possess. No, to the professionals, this was not a surprise. Even beyond mere theory, the writing was on the wall. Cases in point:

    (1) witness the fateful torpedo hit on Bismarck, which caused the damage that allowed the pursuing RN surface forces to close in for the kill.
    (2) The turning for home by the Italians after modest and partially successful attacks from HMS Formidable at Cape Matapan, including aerial torpedo hits on Vittorio Veneto and Pola which caused a slowing that allowed Cunningham’s surface forces to overtake (from 80 miles away) them.

    While, ultimately, sinkings in these two actions were accomplished by the surfaces forces, these at-sea air strike instances made it clear that a capital ship, without air support, had little chance of emerging unscathed from an air attack and pointed, especially when the small size of the FAA strike groups in each action is taken into account, that large strike forces were sure to achieve a capital ship sinking sooner or later.

    This general ability of air forces (note small case) to get through defenses, strike, score hits, and even sink naval or merchant shipping, even in the presence of airborne defensive assets, is a given; especially the more willing an attacker is to accept losses to do so (witness the late war Kamikaze attacks, the ultimate guided missiles). The position espoused by Major Spinetta in his article is simply a rephrasing and recitations of a litany of this basic truism.

    Again, hardly earth shattering revelations, first a night attack (and night being the really important part of the attack that most people miss – torpedoing a docked vessel is not all that difficult, but night attacks from carriers, in 1940, were really unusual) on an enemy anchorage and the second against a somewhat warned (“This is war warning”), but unprepared non-belligerent at its home base.

    Air cover originally was to have been supplied by HMS Indomitable, which was removed from the equation through hull damage in a November grounding. One might wonder how the unescorted Japanese G3Ms might have faired against a defense offered by Indomitable’s Sea Hurricanes and Fulmars. I suspect, however, that even despite the low fuel (the Japanese had been off searching in all the wrong places), lack of escorting fighters, and the uncoordinated and piece-meal nature of the attack by the Saigon based 22d Air Flotilla (note, an IJN unit, not an IJAAF) that any airborne defenders, whether from Indomitable or even shore based fighters would, too, be overwhelmed simply by the weight of the attack. Again, Spinetta is overly simplistic. As with the examples of Bismarck and Cape Matapan, combined with the experiences of operating with range of enemy airfields off Norway, the Admiralty, and I suspect, Phillips, (and since Spinetta can make his supposition without attribution, so shall I) was well aware of the danger posed by enemy aircraft. In fact, Phillips did request air cover and was turned down as his initial plan was considered “too far” for coverage. Spinetta ignores the high speeds maintained by Force Z and a, truly wishful, reliance on poor weather and cloud cover to provide some shielding from prying Japanese air searches. There is also some evidence to indicate that the British were unaware of the true capabilities and strength of the air forces arrayed against them and even then there was a failure by the intelligence folks in the Singapore command to communicate what little they did know to either Phillips or his staff. Spinetta either doesn’t know or ignores that there was, indeed, even a later call for air cover when Phillips changed the direction of his sortie and then found that he was being shadowed by enemy search planes; however, the 11 Brewster Buffaloes dispatched arrived on the scene long after the Japanese departure and Prince of Wales and Repulse had gone down. Further, Spinetta ignores the shear weight of the attack. Ultimately, there were 49 torpedoes dropped (11 hits) and 23 bombs (2 hits). I would not be at all surprised at any similar sized naval force not faring well against a similar weight of attack. Spinetta has yet to present anything anyone did not, then, or does not, now, already know. Also, Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk in attacks that occurred on December 10, 1941, not on December 9th. All in all a fairly poor research job.

    Not an uncommon thing for senior officers to say to juniors seeking to enter naval aviation in those days and earlier. My father’s division head aboard USS Arkansas in the spring of 1940 said the same thing. He retired as a Commander, my father, designated a naval aviator in November 1941, retired as a Rear Admiral. One found the same point of view in the US Army. If one expected to get ahead, there were far more senior billets for Ground and Service Forces officers than Air Corps officers. Basic fact of military life in the 1930’s; there were only so many billets for a finite number of personnel. There was, in the RN, the further complication that the FAA, up until 1937, was subordinate to the RAF, thus a movement to the FAA could, indeed, ruin the career of an RN officer. USAF boosters, and, perhaps, Spinetta, offering Phillips’ sentiment in this matter seem to forget that inconvenient arrangement and present his (Phillips) opinion seemingly as one uttered on the eve of the battle.

    And here, Spinetta is correct, land-based airpower DID help destroy Japan’s maritime capabilities . . . along with submarines, surface warships, and, yes, carrier aircraft.

    This is a classic straw-man exercise. Even I, as most long time posters here know, a most vociferous proponent of carrier airpower, do not consider carrier airpower as the most effective in the maritime interdiction mission to be the conventional wisdom. So, Spinetta sets up his efficacy of carrier-based aircraft strawman and proceeds to bash away at it through a recitation of AAF propaganda.

    How true, but, in fairness, in the first months of the Pacific war, with what was the AAF supposed to attack Japanese shipping or even naval forces? Most of the airpower in the Philippines got wiped out; the A-24’s sent to Australia and then forward to New Guinea were basket cases on arrival and were mostly lost to operational accidents; and the B-17 drivers persisted in thinking they could sink Japanese carriers with high altitude bombing.
     
  13. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Response to Spinetta Article - Part 2 of 5

    The Navy already knew that in order to sink a ship of any kind you had to get down where the ship was, not from bombs from high above. Kenney was hardly espousing a sudden epiphany, or maybe it was, for him. Obviously, if you are approaching a vessel at low level, the more firepower you can bring to bear, the better. Again, hardly rocket science. The AAF used skip bombing, the USN, torpedoes; both accomplished the same thing, let the water in where it shouldn’t be.

    Note that Spinetta is drawing his USSBS quotes from the 1947 US Air Force report, not from the USSBS summary report.

    This is, again, an USAF 1947 interpretation and not exactly true. USN submarine losses, as a percentage of available assets actually declined as the war progressed. Certainly the loss of the crew of a single submarine equates to the crews of 10-15 bombers, but there were considerably more bomber crews lost than submarine crews.

    As a statement on the efficacy of air power, true, but as a observation of submarine operations this is not a true statement. Choke points were just as likely to be submarine infested as covered by airpower, in fact, the submarine had the advantage of being able to remain on station, good weather and bad, night and dark, something airpower, generally, could not do.

    But land-based aircraft are only able to inflict such losses on those enemy vessels which happen to enter their operational ranges. Land-based are exactly that and are tied securely to their home bases. While the Bismarck Sea convoy attacks, hardly what one would call a “battle,” were devastating to the Japanese, all were conducted well with the operating ranges of the aircraft involved, thus allowing for multiple sorties to keep the pressure on. Any large concentration of transports and cargo vessels with only destroyers as escorts and no air coverage of it’s own is in danger, whether from air-based or carrier-based aircraft. One wonders just what point Spinetta is trying to make here.

    Again from the highly partisan 1947 USAF report. And is one to presume that the Bismarck Sea 'Battle' was the norm for the USAAF land-based forces or just a spectacular one time occurrence? Just how many times was this success repeated? On how many occasions were Japanese convoys waylaid by carrier-based aircraft? And should one suppose. based on Spinetta’s comments, that carrier-based strikes on Japanese merchant and naval vessels had no apparent purpose except to litter the bottom of the ocean with scrap metal? And Spinetta forgets one important factoid. Once within the range of land-based bombers, be they USAAF or USN, an 'enemy shipping lane' was no longer such, it was a target area. To truly attack enemy shipping lanes requires entering deep into enemy controlled seas, something that requires aircraft carriers or submarines and something not particularly done well by land-based aircraft when such lanes lay beyond the range of the land-based airplane. While carrier aircraft, it is true, were more oriented toward disposing of their naval adversaries, each such adversary removed was one less potential escort for merchant shipping, so, though Spinetta does not see it, there was, indeed, a method to the madness.

    Really? . . . and just who was providing air support to various invasions when, specifically, Kenney and company could not seem to get their acts together enough to move their assets forward as per plans and establish forward airfields? Why were carriers stuck off the coasts of the Philippines and Okinawa? Why was the AAF unable to live up to their claimed capabilities? None of this argument, in this and the next eight paragraphs has anything to do with the relative efficacy of carrier-based or land-based aircraft in the destruction of Japanese maritime and naval capability. Spinetta cannot seem to stay on subject, not does he appear to be completely familiar with the history.

    Yet, Kenney could not move his assets per plans and thus unnecessarily exposed carrier task groups to repeated attacks while supporting invasions through his consistent failure to do so.

    Specifically?

    My, my, my . . . copious quantities of fuel, av gas, and munitions, gee, that is certainly a surprise.
     
  14. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Response to Spinetta Article - Part 3 of 5

    See above, and Gallery did not say anything anyone did not, or does not, know. Yet, when we need to get airpower somewhere, who goes first? Carrier-aircraft or land-based aircraft? Ahh, now we get to Spinetta’s point . . . we don’t need aircraft carriers . . . and one presumes the Air Force can do the job better?
    Aide: 'Mr President . . . we have a problem in Lower Elbonia . . .'
    President: 'Where is the nearest carrier?'

    Actually, by the end of the war, the Japanese realized that their real target was the transports, not the warships, and specifically not the carriers. The Kettsu-Go plan for the defense of the home islands in the event of invasion called for massive kamikaze attacks on the transport fleet, not the warships.

    Only those actually seriously hit. Others were hit and never left the line until their time for regular rotation. Spinetta apparently thinks that routine relief and refit equates to losses from air attack.

    Most of which were carrier type aircraft, brought in by carrier and routinely rotated in carrier squadrons. Also, in the summer of 1942, the USN was not exactly suffering from an overabundance of carrier decks . . . how was the AAF doing?

    And Kenny and the 13th AF could not comply nor render any assistance as they had yet to move their assets to set up a reliably operating air operation out of Tacloban. There were no sufficient AAF assets in place, hence, one never hears of 13th AF aircraft involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Guess Spinetta forgot that, too.

    Not that there were any land-based AAF aircraft to assist. Again, carriers were supporting both the landings and trying to defend against the kamikaze threat . . . and here, if the enemy is truly willing to die to score a hit, unless you can shoot them all down, someone is going to get through. The carriers, and the rest of the fleet, were there because Okinawa was beyond the range of AAF tactical aircraft . . . does Spinetta think the invasion should have gone off with no air support whatsoever?

    .

    Yes, some of the greatest USN losses of the war, and yet, the USN continued with the mission of supporting the invasion and was not driven off . . . oh, yeah, they also sank the Yamato and all but one or two destroyers in her task group in the process . . . beyond the range of AAF tactical air.

    And a large portion of carrier time is spent getting from point A to point B and it really doesn’t pay to fly one’s entire air group every day, especially when transiting waters where prospects of enemy contact are slim and none. In fact, with carrier groups, only one carrier per day had the duty and, under such conditions, maintains the AirCAP and SubCAP as necessary, something on the order of, maybe, two divisions of fighters (8 planes) and four scouting sections (each 1 or 2 TBF/TBMs with two fighters escort per section). So figure the typical task group with, say, 250 planes would only have a maximum of 24 planes in the air on a routine transit. Kind of brings one’s daily average down. And how many flights per day per aircraft did the USAAF generate in the Pacific? I don’t know, but it was sure nice of Spinetta to offer some sort of legitimate comparison.

    Oh, good, let us compare apples and oranges . . . B-29’s bomb hauling capacity versus SB2C capacity. And how many carrier planes were on strike bombing missions and how many were on strike fighter missions. I can assure all that TF-58 or TF-38, with some 1200 aircraft did not dedicate all of them to bomb hauling. And I thought this article was about sinking ships? How many merchant ships did B-29’s sink on the high seas? How many capital ships did B-29’s sink on the high seas?

    And land bases are often out of range. And I don’t recall B-29’s operating over Japan flying out of the Marianas on a 24-7 basis. I could go on in this vein, but I won’t. This article is degenerating into the typical USAF anti-aircraft carrier screed that they trot out every few years. History has shown that the Air Force, once it gets going, is pretty damn good, but that to respond internationally, to project power RIGHT DAMN NOW, requires aircraft carriers. So, I’ll refrain from comment on Spinetta’s, oh, so, astute, discussion of the air base versus the aircraft carrier.
     
  15. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Response to Spinetta Article - Part 4 of 5

    No, fleet defense had nothing to do with it. A bomber, such as a B-24 or a B-17 offers absolutely nothing to fleet defense. King wanted them, first, for ASW patrols and, second, and later, long-range reconnaissance patrols.

    King offered the option for USN control of AAF assets because he knew the AAF would not go for it. King wanted long-range ASW and reconnaissance capability for the Navy, that is, he wanted the planes, not their crews . . . eventually he got what he wanted.

    As far as the USAAF was concerned, the USN should have been restricted to single engine types.

    Which they did not have in the first place, but developed by the end of the war.

    Marshall, of course, was correct, but it was the intransigence of the AAF in trying to keep the land-based multi-engined national assets under its control and denying them to the USN for a legitimate maritime mission.

    Not that the Falklands has anything to do with the relative performances of the AAF and the USN against Japanese maritime shipping and, Jeez, I guess Spinetta kinda forgot about the Argentinean’s Douglas A-4’s contribution in the strike role, small wonder since the A-4 is a carrier base designed aircraft . . . probably didn’t want to mention a non-air force aircraft. The Falklands was the first modern use of stand-off anti-ship missiles and has little to do with the efficacy of carriers. And just how would Spinetta plan on wresting the Falklands back with just long-range aircraft? This mission required ships and troops. That’s the only way I know of taking possession of real estate. So all the aircraft in the world makes no difference. Besides, missions from Argentina to the Falklands are hardly “Long Range” in modern terms. And long range aircraft can only operate world wide if one has the will to do so. Anyway, if he wants to play this game, I note the somewhat less than outstanding contribution by the USAF B-1 and B-2 community to Bosnian campaign. And frankly, running round-trip sorties from the US Midwest to Iraq does not strike me as particularly efficient.

    And how much of that land based aviation was carrier type aircraft operated by naval aviators? Let’s look at the numbers a different way . . . Japanese warships: 745K tons by USN aircraft alone, 167K tons by USN aircraft and other agents, 540K tons by USN submarines alone, 278K tons by USN surface vessels alone, 73K tons by USAAF aircraft and mines, and 157K tons by all other agents and combinations. How about these tankers Spinetta mentions . . . 696K tons sunk by USN submarines, 399K tons sunk by USN aircraft alone, 95K tons sunk by USAAF aircraft and mines, 81K tons sunk by all other agents and combinations. Looks like the AAF had a problem recognizing the critical target . . . USN submarines and aircraft sunk 86.1% of Japanese tankers versus the AAF’s 7.4%. I’ll address overall merchant losses below.

    Of course, for the USAAF to run long-range missions from places like the Marianas that allow them to plant as many mines in Japanese home waters as they did, first you have to capture the islands; which, of course requires an invasion, and to prevent the enemy from interfering with said invasion and to provide close air support requires . . . aircraft carriers, maybe?
     
  16. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Response to Spinetta Article - Part 5 of 5

    Barges and small, under 500 gross tons vessels . . . as did USN carrier and land based aircraft . . . for example for the period 10 July 1945 to the end of the war, operating off the coast of Japan in 13 strike days interspersed with refueling, re-arming, and dodging a couple of typhoons, USN carrier aircraft sank or damaged over 800K tons of enemy vessels, merchant and naval, including:
    Sunk: 31 warships at 118K standard tons – 1 BB, 1 BB/XCV, 1 CA, 1 CL, 2 old CA, 2 AM, 2 SS, 4 SSM, 3 DD, 4 old DD, 7 DE, 2 PC, 1 WARC; 55 Merchants vessels at 113.5K gross tons – 8 Train Ferries, 1 SAL, 2 SAI, 4 SAS, 2 SBL, 1 SBS, 2 SCL, 12 SCS, 7 , TC, and 16 FTD. Total 86 ships at 231.5K tons plus an additional 207 (here’s your under 500 tons types) luggers and other small craft sunk.
    Damaged: 73 warships at 301.2K standard tons - 1 BB, 1 BB-XCV, 1 CA, 1 CL, 4 CV, 1 CVL, 2 CVE, 2 old CA, 2 AG, 1 CM, 1 WAG, 2 AK, 9 SS, 6 SSM, 5 DD, 4 old DD, 23 DE, 3 PC, 2 LSM, 1 APD, 1 AVP; 115 Merchant Ships at 267.5K gross tons – 1 Train Ferry, 1 Passenger Ferry, 1 TA, 2 TB, 1 SAL, 4 SAI, 7 SAS, 4 SBL, 4 SBS, 3 SCL, 23 SCS, 1 FA, 2 FB, 1 FU, 1 FTA, 3 FTB, 16 FTC and 40 FTD. Total damaged 188 vessels for 568.7K tons plus an additional 411 luggers and other small craft.

    Really?

    Not knowing all that much about USAAF performance statistics, I shall presume Spinetta’s AAF numbers are correct. And his count of USN gross tonnage? Sorry, but it looks to me as though Spinetta is off by quite a bit more than an order of magnitude. According to USN sources, total tonnage of Japanese merchant ships of 500 gross tons or more sunk by USN aircraft works out to 1,543,000 gross tons. And his USN sortie count? He's a little closer, but the USN count looks to me like 26,460 sorties (14,388 against merchant vessels over 500 gross tons, 10,987 against merchant vessels under 500 gross tons, and 1,085 against tonnage unreported shipping), which works out to 10.2% of all USN action sorties. This number includes both land-based and carrier-based USN and USMC sorties in the Pacific operating areas.

    Of course, one wonders how each service counts sorties, and, I suspect, there is a differing sortie accounting system which skews the data. Perhaps another subject at another time. I know how the USN counted sorties, I’d be interested to know how the USAAF counted sorties.

    Now then, if Spinetta wants to talk about carrier-based results against Japanese merchant shipping

    (remember that was his thesis from which he keeps wandering),

    12.9% of carrier-based strike sorties were against merchant vessel targets (8.9 greater than 500 GT, 3.6 under 500 GT, and 0.4 unreported GT) and 7.2% of land-based sorties (1.8 greater than 500 GT, 4.9 under 500 GT, and 0.5 unreported GT). What does this mean in real numbers? Note that “strike sorties” means exactly that and does not count fighter-to-fighter action sorties.

    So, how many strike sorties is this?

    Well, total carrier-based strike sorties were 137,904. Of these strike sorties 12,257 were against merchant vessels over 500 GT, 5,035 under 500 GT, and 488 unreported GT, for a total of 17,780 sorties against merchant vessels. The numbers for total carrier-based aircraft gross merchant tonnage sinkings I can find are only for those merchant vessels of 1000 GT or more and comes to 1,293,875 GT in 275 sinkings (and just for the sake of clarity, land-based USN sinkings of merchant vessels over 1000 GT came to 182,583 tons in 50 sinkings). What does that mean?

    Again, presuming that Spinetta’s AAF sortie count and credited tonnage are correct, as I would presume that he would want to show the USAAF in the best possible light, then, carrier-based aircraft flew 2.45 times the number of maritime strike sorties as the USAAF. It also means that the USAAF averaged some 36.6 GT sunk per shipping strike sortie. And using the now corrected carrier-based aircraft anti-shipping strikes numbers results in something more than 105 GTs per shipping strike sortie (taking into account the difference between the reported 500 GT sortie rate and the 1000 GT sinkings tonnage . . . i.e., the error is on the conservative side, less tonnage, more sorties). This means that, per anti-shipping sortie per merchant gross ton, the carrier-based aircraft 2.9 times more efficient.

    Somehow I don’t think this is the result Spinetta is looking for.

    Demonstrably untrue.

    But again, none of those mines could have been delivered without someone capturing the Marianas (remember the guys who stand on a smoking piece of ground with bayonet tipped rifles?) and that would not have happened without an invasion fleet, and that would not have happened without aircraft carriers.

    Another earth shattering statement . . . and it would be catastrophic for the Chinese as well. This guy hangs with some real geniuses.

    The rest of this article is USAF propaganda . . . looks to me like they are afraid naval aviation will be getting a larger piece of the budget pie when someone looks close at air operations in the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

    It is late; I’m not going to waste any more time on Spinetta’s nonsense.

    Regards to all,

    Rich
     
  17. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Good reply's Leonard.

    I also would like to point out that on the occasions that carrier aircraft caught the Japanese flat footed in their protected anchorages at Truk and Rabaul, the results were stunning.
     
  18. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    There's no need to defend the Navy since the premise of the article is basically flawed simply because it assumes that the USA did not NEED Naval air power. That may be fine for some tin horn little country back then or even now but we could well afford Naval aviation so there is no reason not to have it.

    The author comes up with a topic and then proceeds to "prove" why he is right when there is no right or wrong on this topic, at least for the US.

    If they Navy wants to have a jet-ski combat floatilla that's fine too since we can afford it! If Naval aviation was disbanded tomorrow does anyone actually think they'd personally benefit monetarily? Your esteemed elected officials would simply squander the budget for some outlandish crapola.

    It's the same as saying the Army doesn't need any aircraft since the USAF came into being. The point doesn't require arguement.
     
  19. red admiral

    red admiral Member

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    Shinano was definitely sunk by torpedoes from USS Archerfish, not from aircraft.
     
  20. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    BB/XCV refers to Ise and Hyuga type hybrid battleships with aft flight decks. Has nothing to do at all with Shinano. Shinano was not a BB, but was totally converted, albeit somewhat inefficiently, to a CV.

    Rich
     
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