Marianas Turkey Shoot

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by renrich, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #1 renrich, Jul 29, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
    During the Battle of the Philipine Sea (Marianas Turkey Shoot) on the afternoon of June 20, after putting up a succesful defense against all the IJN carrier strikes and bagging around 400 EA, TF 58 launched it's own air strike against the IJN force. This strike comprised around 226 VFs, VBs and VTs and was at the extreme range of around 300 miles and because of the late launch time, recovery would have to be at night. Few of the USN pilots were night qualified. The IJN force included 5 BBs and numerous CAs and CLs as well as CVs. The BBs incuded Musashi and Yamato. Task Group 58.7 had 7 fast BBs, including Iowa and New Jersey as well as CAs and DDs. TF 58 had AC with night radar capability to use as snoopers. What could have happened if, instead of launching the air strike, TG 58.7 had cranked up and gone after the IJN battle force. If they had started the pursuit at 1600 hours at a speed of 25 knots, they could have probably have made contact at around 0500 hours, sunup on the morning of the 21st, for a day surface action.
     
  2. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    I understand that by that time in the War, the Japanese heavies including the Musashi and Yamato were severely undermanned and were essentially best used as decoys and not equipped for a full scale engagement.... correct?

    How many subs of both sides were in the area?
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Now that would have been an interesting battle.
     
  4. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    My understanding of the US Battlefleet at that time was it wasn't up to taking on the Japanese Battlefleet. The best part of the US Navy was the carrier groups. The Battleships were great ships but all of them were working with fairly new crews due to the expansion of the Navy for the Pacific/Atlantic naval wars. The Admiral in charge of the US Battlefleet, I think it was Lee, voiced the opinion that he did not want to get into a gunfight with the Japanese at that time. Not as the primary, maybe as cleanup.

    I had not heard the Mushashi and Yamato were understrength.
     
  5. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    I think a battleship duel at that time played into the Japanese strengths.
    It would have also led to many more casualties on the US side.
    With the possible/probable loss of some US capital ships.
    It was a risk that was not necessary due to the US carriers being available, IMO.


    Wheels
     
  6. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    So if the two battle groups saw each other, do you think the American's would have turned to keep their capital ships out of reach, then used their carriers for the battle, or do you think they would have used everything available to slug it out?
     
  7. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    #7 comiso90, Jul 29, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
    Thats a hallmark of a great commander... history is full of incidences of where a better trained crew won the day. They have no business steaming into battle if they aren't ready...

    The BBs were earning their keep just as AA platforms... let the aircraft do the dirty work.

    .
     
  8. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    IMHO, if you're that close, the question is solved and you're in a gunfight. Don't think the US Battlefleet would've turned tail and run. They would've fought, but like wheels said, the casualty rate would've spiked for the non-carriers.

    Matter of fact, the BBs might've been sent in to cover the CVs. The way the fleet was set up at the Marianas, the BBs were out in front in their own Task Force. I think there were 4 of them with attendent escorts. They were a buffer for the Japanese air attacks. So, you figure heading west towards the Japanese, they are the first bunch to bump into the Japanese surface forces. At that point, Spruance would have to figure "We are way too close to these guys (considering his CVs here)". Turn the CVs around and head out at top speed leaving the Battleline to cover (not neccesarily a retreat but putting a little space between the fleets).

    At this point in the war, the BBs were no longer the queens of the sea. The CVs were. Sad to say, but losing a BB would not affect the strategic balance the way losing a CV would. They were more expendable than the CVs.
     
  9. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    It is correct that "Ching" Lee expressed the thought that he did not want to get in a night surface engagement at the beginning of the battle, but how about a day battle, after the IJN carrier air assets were pretty well exhausted? A few months later, the IJN gunnery, at Leyte Gulf was nothing to write home about.
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Dunno. Good question. What changed in the 4 or so months between the two battles. I gotta believe it wasn't much in terms of training. There wasn't any time for it.

    So it comes down to air power and position. The Japanese Fleet got that much closer to the US Invasion Fleet at Leyte Gulf (at the Marianas, the fleet was on the far side of the islands, away from the fighting). Proximity might've limited the options for the Battlefleet as well.
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Some interesting points about the battle, ( at least to me.) The TF58 strike sank only one IJN CV, Hiyo. Previously two CVs were sunk by US subs. 80% of the downed US flyers were picked up. In the battle, the Japanese lost 476 planes and 445 pilots and aircrewmen. Another 440 or so IJN aircrewmen were lost during sinkings. The US lost 76 fliers. In the air strike, 84.3% of the Helldivers were lost, while only 15.3% of the SBDs went down. The Beast was not very survivable. Cook Cleland flew an SBD in the battle. Old timers like me will remember he won a number of air races in Corsairs, post war. During the scramble to find a carrier and get aboard, an F6FN and F4U2N were launched and with their radar helped find and lead groups of AC to a deck. The Corsair was not even officially approved for carrier operations at that time, much less at night.
     
  12. Ivan1GFP

    Ivan1GFP Member

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    Joining in late as usual:

    In my opinion, a undermanned WW2 battleship actually doesn't lose much in a surface action. A lot of crew is needed for all the AAA that was typically shipped. AAA becomes irrelevant in a surface action against other battleships.

    A night action favors the USN because of the excellent radar that was typical. A daytime action makes it much too fair of a fight. A daytime surface action plays into all the remaining strengths of the IJN in my opinion. Why give the other side an even break when you don't need to?

    - Ivan.
     
  13. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    Tim sums my thoughts up pretty well.
    I don't think the US fleet would have turned tail and run either.
    They didn't when they took a pasting at Savo Island earlier in the war.
    If the fleets had ran into one another I also believe that the BB and destroyers would have been sacrificed over the CV's.
    THE CV's give you the option of fighting at a distance whereas the BB's and destroyers are in close and dirty.
    Why fight that close when you don't have to if you use the CV's ?


    Wheels
     
  14. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #14 renrich, Jul 29, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
    Ivan, Admiral Lee specifically did not want to engage in a night action because of the IJN night fighting skills, especially the torpedoes. Might not a day fight favor the US because they would be able to visually and with radar keep track of the enemy ships and possible torpedo launches, like at the Komondorskis? The idea behind the surface fight would have been that the air strike was a long shot because of the extreme range and the fact that the returning AC were not night operation capable. In the event, the air strike was not very productive. A suface attack in the daylight might have yielded much better results.
     
  15. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Wasn't the Clash between USS Washington/South Dakota IJNS Kirishima/Hei(?) at night?
     
  16. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Nov 13/14 of 1942. Japanese though they were fighing one BB. Fight was pretty much over when they realized there were two. Guess darkness doesn't always do you a favor.
     
  17. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I think that Lee was pretty spooked that night off Guadalcanal because of IJN torpedoes. He lost several DDs and torps were exploding in his wake. He probaly felt that in 1944 he did not want to confront that situation again.
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    A day surface action in the Pacific was a very rare bird. I think the possibility is extremely remote to be honest. The calculations for an intercept dont take into account course changes or the current fuel status of the US fleet. I understand some elements had started the operation from Pearl, some from Kwajalein, so chances are that at least a portion of the US fleet would be short of fuel.

    A rough comparison might be to compare the RN experiences in hunting down the Bismarck. Only after the Bismarck had been immobilized by carrier strikes was it possible for the British to close for the surface engaement. And even though the Bismarck was easily within range of the RN bases in terms of the ships endurances, the need for constant changes of course and speed, meant that by the time the interception had been effected, the British ships were running dangerously low on fuel. Bottom line is that it is extremely difficult to engage an enemy with surface forces that does not wish to be engaged

    The difficulty also with this scenario is that at least a portion of the USN would need to be kept back to protect the amphibious forces.

    So even though the USN outnumbered the Japanese, it is highly unlikley that in an actual battle that the full strength of the USN could be used. The DDs in particular are highly unlikely to make it.

    In a stern chase situation, one might expect the Iowas to push ahead of the main fleeet, to attempt to slow down the main portions of the Japanese fleet. Whilst their top speeds were 33 knots, their best sea speeds were no more than 30 knots (commonly US reported speeds are the speeds as new, not taking into account refit, engine wear and the like). Against this the sea speed of the Mobile Fleet was 24-26 knots. The Iowas would therefore be closing at just 4 knots, or 8000 yds per hour. Assuming the Yamato and Musashi were detailed as Stern Guards, they would commence firing at a whopping 42000 yds. The immune zone of the Iowas against 18 shells ceases below about 36000 yards (outside of that, the belt would not be penetrated, but they still risk deck penetrations, or damage from fire or "special damage"....like the Hood). In exchange, the 16 in shells cannot really hurt the Yamatos until the range is something like 20000 yds (more or less). That means that the Iowas must endure a sustained bombardment for more than 2 hours. If they heave to for a full broadsides, the time is even longer, as a general rule, if this broadside to approach is adopted, the rate of closure is about half that of a direct, Nelsonian charge. So the Iowas are going to be under attack for something like 3 hours before they can effectively return fire.

    The South Dakotas have an effective sea speed of only 27 knots, so they are not going to reach the battle. The destroyers will have to reduce speed to conserve fuel. The cruisers can keep up with the Iowas, but they will need to close to under 15000 yards to be effective, and that exposes them to concentrated Long Lance attack.

    This appraisal is far from complete, but it should be obvious that when you look at the detail, a surface engagement is most unlikley to favour the US, in the circaumstances presented at Phillipinnes Sea.
     
  19. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Great discussion fellas....
     
  20. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    #20 timshatz, Jul 30, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
    Parsifal. Good analysis. Giving different speeds of the units and effective ranges is helpful. But I wouldn't think any Admiral worth his salt is going to let his units get strung out and defeated in detail. So keeping up is less the question, than the formation speed. My guess is the US Fleet would be able to do a 27 knot formation speed. Give the Japanese a 24 knot formation speed.

    However, I'm not convinced the Japanese would've run. When the Air Strike hit them, they were in a refueling pattern. The Admiral in charge was doing everything possible to stay in the fight as he believed a substantial part of his air power was still intact on Guam. Further, the Japanese were more inclined to engage in a surface fight than the USN. It wasn't the US Navy's perfered way of fighting (a method forced on them by the Japanese when they sank all the BBs at Pearl Harbor). To put it another way, the US put it's money into Carriers, the Japanese still believed in the Battleline concept (but knew the CV was the principal warship). If the Japanese knew the US was going to force a surface action some time around daybreak, it is probable they would've moved towards the US Fleet rather than ran from it.

    In short, I don't see the Japanese as running from a surface fight as much as I see the US trying to avoid it. Such a fight did not play to the US strengths, but did so to the Japanese strengths.

    Good points on the fuel states. As a matter of fact, that is an excellent point that is to often overlooked. A variable to the equation.

    One last point that should be brought up about the Marianas Battle. The US was also concerned there was a Japanese fleet (unknown composition) to the south of the US fleet. They knew about the fleet to the West from Sub interceptions and contact reports, but were under the impression there was a second fleet to the south, doing one of those patented Japanese pincer attacks. It was only late in the battle that the threat was dismissed. However, I do not know when in the battle that was.
     
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