Pearl Harbor, 7th December 1939.....

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Not an what if, just a question of curiousity....

    How would the USN have handled the '41 attack if it had came two years earlier, would it have suffered worse, could it have responded like it did two years later, how did the USN and IJN compare in '39?
     
  2. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    An interesting thread, Lucky13 but I'm always not good at "what if" story except machine mechanisms:(
     
  3. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Will await response too. Had me scared there Jan... I was like 1939!
     
  4. Night Fighter Nut

    Night Fighter Nut Well-Known Member

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    From what I've read, and in my humble opinion, I believe it would have been a little worse. The Japanese were going through a massive aviation modernization program through much of the 1930s while the U.S., being an isolationist nation at the time, were taking their time. The big thing that saved our bacon in '41 was that our carriers were not in the harbor when the Japanese attacked. Had those carriers been in the harbor, we would have lost Midway. Looking through my Military Aircraft encyclopedia, many of our planes were designed either in the late '20s or early '30s. Still we had a much larger industrial base and source of raw materials than Japan had. Infact that was the big reason Japan went to war in the Pacific in the first place. They needed more raw materials to support an ever growing Imperial economy and they wanted to be like the West. They wanted to be a superpower and dictate their own terms in trade. United States would not work with them. Since we held several territories in the Pacific at that time, they figured they needed to cripple the United States to prevent them from stopping Japan from doing a land grab.

    Actually the question would really hinge on one particular problem.
    I think I remember that it was us who showed the Japanese how to do torpedo bombing. The only problem we had with torpedo bombing at the time was the water had to be deep and the harbor wide. We didn't know how to drop torpedoes in a small shallow harbor and still hit shipping. The Japanese solved that by putting wooden blocks on the back of the torpedoes so they wouldn't go so deep when dropped. I don't remember what date that was when they solved this. If it was after '39 then the attack on Pearl Harbor couldn't have happened.
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I don't think the concept would have occurred without the British at Taranto. Until then, it was just an idea until the Brits proved it could work. You have to understand that the aircraft at that time wasn't really considered a major component of warfare, at least not to the extent it was by the end of the war or even '41. So convincing military leaders it was feasable without Taranto would have been difficult.
     
  6. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    In the year preceeding the attack on Pearl, the Japanese used Karisima Bay to practice in. The depth of the bay, (which is comparable to Pearl) led them to alter thier torpedoes.

    The aircraft found at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 differed very little from the aircraft that were there in 1939. The fact that the entire world was erupting in flames all around the U.S. seemed of little importance to the people in Washington who were managing to not only hold the purse-strings closed, but keep thier head in the sand at the same time.
     
  7. Night Fighter Nut

    Night Fighter Nut Well-Known Member

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    I accept that. I never heard of Taranto. :shock: Can you tell me more about it?
     
  8. Night Fighter Nut

    Night Fighter Nut Well-Known Member

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    As for the torpedoes, Perhaps they would have discovered this earlier if they were planning to attack earlier. :?: I was just thinking of the idea to torpedo bomb in a harbor. If the idea already existed well before '39 then may the solution to the problem have been found earlier as well?

    That is correct about the aircraft but Germany just started the war in '39 and most U.S. citizens didn't want to get entangled in yet another European war. I don't think that anyone knew this would be a world war until after Japan attacked. I think most people at that time wanted to remain an isolationist nation. I remember reading that FDR kept telling the people that the U.S. wouldn't get involved even though he personally felt that we should. Not saying that what Washington did was correct but politicians being what and who they are did what they did so that they could get re-elected. What do you think?
     
  9. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Alot of our military leaders saw the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. And when the U.S. placed an embargo on exports to Japan, they knew the clock was ticking.

    The majority of nations, the U.S. included, lagged behind in aircraft development and new threat upgrades all the while the belligerent nations were producing top of the line machines. That should have been a serious wakeup call right there.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    In 1939, wasnt the US fleet based at San Diego instead of Pearl? An attack on Hawaii might be problematic if the fleet isnt there.
     
  11. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The U.S. Pacific Fleet relocated it's headquarters to Hawaii in 1941, but Pearl Harbor has been a primary fleet base since the late 1800's.
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think Chris made a very valid point, The Battle of Taranto is what gave the Japanese the idea of using aircraft and in 39 IJN only had 6 commissioned CV's in total.

    The military facilities at Pearl Harbor in 39 were nowhere near what they were in 41 and I don't believe Midway had any facilities of note. If they were able to, it would have been a great time to invade and conquer them both.
     
  13. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Actually, Pearl Harbor was pretty well developed by 1939.

    Much of the building and dredging of the harbor occurred during the earlier part of the century. The latest significant addition was the drydock, which was rebuilt during WWI.
     
  14. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    First of all the IJN didn't have 6 Fleet carriers in 39, nor did they have the aircraft to do the job...the first examples of the Zero hadn't even been made yet, and at that time they didn't actually have a reason to pick a fight with the US, they were more interested in expanding their interests in China....
     
  15. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Matter of fact, in '39, the Japanese were in Manchuria pushing up against the eastern borders of Soviet Russia. The Japanese were anticipating a war with Russia, not the U.S. at that time. The non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia plus the U.S. export restrictions changed alot of things...
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Japan was heavily engaged in China, attempting to force the KMT to the surrender table. There was a sizable faction that wanted to strike against the Soviets, believing the Russians to be weak and easily defeated. There was no reall reason to attack the west at that point, because the west was not applying effective pressure against Japanese agression.

    However, a hypothetical battle would nevertheless have been interesting. The Japanese would have been able to field the Akagi, Kaga,, Hiryu (possibly, she was completed July 1939, but I am unsure as to when she was fully worked up), and Soryu. Hosho was an old training carrier, the Zuikakus were still under construction, as were the Shohos. Ryujo was being rebuilt.

    The Americans would have been able to field the two Lexingtons, the Ranger, and two of the Yorktowns. One, possibly two carriers would need to stay in the Atlantic

    So that means the Japanese would have four carriers to to the US 4 or 5. Japanese carriers would have gone to war with Claude fighters, Kate torpedo Bombers and either Val or A4N1 divebombers. The US would have gone to war with F3Fs
    SB2U Vindicators and TBD Devastators

    The US economy was at a very low state of readiness, having not been mobilized by British Lend lease money. The US was short of first line destroyers, her fleet speeds would have been around 18 knots, to allow her battle wagons a chance to keep up, and thjis would have made the USN highly vulnerable to Japanese I-Boat attacks as they executed their Orange war plan and fought their way across the Pacific. . There would have been an even greater gap in the pilot training and experience levels than was the case in 1941. There would have been no radar, no sonar (in the USN) and no MAGIC Intelligence to assist the USN at that stage

    My money is that the japanese would still have been defeated, but the US would have suffered much greater losses than she did historically, and these losses would have been at sea and not in port, where salvage could be undertaken
     
  18. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Battle of Taranto - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "The naval Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11 November 1940 – 12 November 1940 during World War II. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft naval attack in history, flying a small number of aircraft from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea and attacking the Italian fleet at harbour in Taranto. The effect of the British carrier-launched aircraft on the Italian warships foreshadowed the end of the "big gun" ship and the rise of naval air-power."
     
  19. Night Fighter Nut

    Night Fighter Nut Well-Known Member

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    That is correct. The main torpedo plane, D3A1 Val, that attacked Pear Harbor didn't go into service until 1940 and the Zero was only just starting to see service in March '39... Source: Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft.
     
  20. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The Pacific Fleet spent a lot of time in San Diego. It wasnt untill sometime in 1940 that FDR ordered the fleet moved to Pearl.

    I would say that the IJN is going to have to be able to sail its fleet at a moments notice when the USN was actually at Pearl.
     
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