Supposing the Japanese had succeeded in taking Midway by surprise...

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by VBF-13, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Two questions...

    (1) Where, specifically, do they think they're going from there? Midway is in the middle of nowhere. It's certainly a long drive from the Western Pacific. It's also a good five-day drive to our West coast. To hold it, they'd need more than they could cram onto that tiny Island. Had everything gone right for them, was Pearl their next objective? If that's the case, I still don't see why Midway was all that strategically-important to them. Why not another surprise attack on Pearl, in lieu of Midway? The only thing I can figure is, they expected to meet our carrier fleets at Midway, which would have been a distinct advantage over their meeting us at Pearl. I think they knew they didn't have enough, even in terms of that big Striking Force, to meet our carrier fleets at Pearl, and deal with Pearl. That's why they went for that confrontation at Midway.

    (2) As a corollary to this, is it a foregone conclusion our carrier fleets would have been deployed to the Island while that big Striking Force was still there, or would we rather have waited for that Striking Force to have gone home before doing that? Personally, I don't know. I do think, though, there's a fair possibility we'd have let that Island go for a more opportune time.

    I'll let you go at that. What do you think?
     
  2. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Midway, had the Japanese taken it, would have been a refueling stop for submarines or flying boats on their way to harass Pearl Harbor. It could also have been a place from which to watch the U.S. fleet go by. Other than that, I see no real importance. They could not have amassed enough forces to use it as a kick off point for the invasion of Pearl Harbor.

    Charles
     
  3. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    I'm just trying to think out their objectives clearer, Charles. Yes, all that makes perfect sense to me, too.
     
  4. ColesAircraft

    ColesAircraft Member

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    After Japan had achieved her first objectives in the Pacific, she frankly didn't know where to turn next. But the Japanese were keenly aware that their time was running out if they were ever going to force the U.S. to negotiate a peace. They knew that with every passing month they were growing weaker in relation to the U.S. war machine. They were alarmed that all of their offensives had not forced the 'decisive battle' with the U.S. navy that they were desperate to provoke and win - as they had at Tsushima Strait in 1905. Yamamoto's Midway plan was primarily to lure the U.S. Navy into fighting that battle on his terms. He believed that the threat to U.S. interests by an occupied Midway was something his enemy couldn't ignore - and they didn't.

    The problem was that this originally simple objective became mired in conflicting priorities as the plan evolved - one was to lure the Americans into a fight, the other was to physically occupy Midway and achieve surprise and thus the seemingly self-defeating diversionary sortie to invade the Aleutians was included in the plan. But the worst error was that Yamamoto did not bring all of his big carriers to the fight. Four carriers constituted a superior but beatable Japanese force at Midway, while all six would have been literally unbeatable - as they had been up to that point in the war.

    If the Japanese had occupied Midway it would have been impossible to supply, as it was beyond their 'strategic terminal point'. Many Japanese strategists had made that argument during the planning stage, but by then Yamamoto's clout was too insurmountable.
     
  5. BobR

    BobR Member

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    Would it not have made more sense to go after New Caledonia rather than Midway?
     
  6. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    #6 VBF-13, Nov 20, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
    Bob, why would you say that? I think their whole objective was to try to draw us out. They just didn't think we'd be right there on the doorstep waiting for them. Yamamoto's reaction when he heard about that is well-documented. "Oh ship(sp?)!"

    PS: Well, maybe not in those exact words. ;)
     
  7. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    the us knew it was a trap from decoded messages and so yamamoto's idea of surprise or dictating the fight on his terms were lost at the onset. did the us know that only 4 carriers were going to be sent there? and if they knew 6 were coming now would that have changed their response? would they have been able to compensate in some way or would letting the island be taken be their only option. if they withdraw they would run the risk of the japs knowing that thier code had been compromised...
     
  8. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Coles, give them the six carriers. We don't snap at the bait. Now where are they? That Striking Force has been at sea for quite some time. Do they go looking for us at Pearl? If they just turn for home their Occupation Force at Midway is a goner. They go for Pearl. And, that's one big "aircraft carrier," isn't it? That's how they'd see Pearl, I'm saying. And I just don't think they were ready to tangle with our carriers and Pearl. That's why they tried to draw us out at Midway, and not Pearl. Does that make sense?
     
  9. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    A surprise occupation of Midway would leave Japanese forces in an indefensible forward position at the end of a long supply train without having reduced US Naval strength one bit. The entire reason for the operation was to draw the remaining US carriers into a battle against what the Japanese thought would be a one-sided battle against an overwhelmingly large Japanese force. It was not really to occupy the islands. My guess is that, had the Midway Operation been successful, the Japanese might well have abandoned the Island on their own as the war eventually turned against them.
     
  10. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    i dont think they would have abandoned it completely...i believe they would have kept a small garrison on there for what ccheese said...fuel up subs and float planes, etc.. it would have been a forward observation post that would extend their sphere of observation... that being said..i doubt they would have defended with any tenacity were it to be attacked.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    To make your scenerio plausible there cannot be any long range U.S. aircraft on the atoll. Otherwise they will track IJN fleets a day prior to the main battle just as happened historically.
     
  12. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    The only thing I can think had they taken the Island is they could have held back some of the Striking Force to defend it. Coupled with the occupation, that would have given them a respectful defense. Still, over the long-haul, I agree with what Zoomar said, it would have been very difficult for them to keep up and maintain. I don't think we'd have let any such occupation stand for very long, however, anyway. At the right opportunity, with perhaps half that Striking Force gone, I think we'd have hit them there with everything we had.
     
  13. ColesAircraft

    ColesAircraft Member

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    Yamamoto was gambling that the U.S. Navy would take the bait, as forcing a big confrontation was his whole original motive. Up to that point the U.S. had avoided risking its assets in a single showdown-style battle. I think Yamamoto would have looked foolish if the U.S. Navy had ignored Midway, with the Japanese Navy cruising around it like a pit bull protecting its squeak toy against nothing. But I think that was unlikely. The Americans put their navy at great risk defending Midway as it was by no means likely that they'd defeat the Japanese. God - if Yamamoto had brought all of his six fleet carriers and had sortied his surface fleet along with them, instead of splitting them up . . . the U.S. Navy would not have had much of a chance.

    With respect to a successful Japanese invasion: I think that so many factors would have had to have been different to facilitate that possibility that it's hard to take it seriously. Because the U.S. was reading Japanese codes they knew Midway was a target, and they responded by flooding it with all the troops it could hold. Even if Yamamoto had sent the U.S. Navy to the bottom of the sea, there's little doubt that the invasion force would have been thrown back as it was overwhelmingly outnumbered. If the U.S. had not broken the Japanese codes - then the whole war would have taken on a different character - not just Midway.
     
  14. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    Japan’s war objective, and accordingly its tactics, has never made much sense to me. Digging back a bit, it appears that the Meiji revolution superimposed a modern technical industry on a medieval feudal society. The IJA was modeled on Germany’s and the IJN was modeled on Britain’s. England and Germany had (waning) empires so, to be first rate, Japan needed one too. The depression ridden US had little empire and was actually giving the Philippines back so it would have little capacity or interest in opposing Japan’s ambitions. It would be just a matter of discouraging the US with a few major defeats. Rather like the battles with Russia earlier in the century.

    Other than the bothers of the Coral Sea incident and Doolittle, things were going according to expectations. England, a valid power, had been beaten in the Pacific and Hitler was an ally occupying them in Europe while polishing off the Soviets. It was just a matter of finishing off the US carriers –and perhaps taking Hawaii for good measure- before suing for peace.

    Japan had no idea of what it was dealing with. Taking Midway would have been right up there with taking Guam.
     
  15. BobR

    BobR Member

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    New Caledonia had ore they could have used in their war effort, plus a fair number of Japanese citizens working the mines there.
     
  16. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    if yamamoto was going to entice the us fleet to come out the "cheese" would have to be something they ( the us ) thought was strategically important to protect/defend. and it would have to be far enough away from a land mass that could launch a mass air bombardment from fleet of B 17s or 24s. so i would think another attack against pearl or the us west coast would be out. even though midway had some B 17s were any even used against the IJN?
     
  17. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Midway launched a number of B-17 strikes against various elements of the the IJN advancing naval units. None were actually effective, but according to a number of sources, early reports claimed the B-17s had destroyed all the carriers with no help from the USN. Needless to say that caused a few bar fights when the carriers returned to port.
     
  18. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #18 oldcrowcv63, Nov 20, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
    Planning for an advance to take New Caledonia, IJN operation FJ, would have had some serious consequences for the allies and was, according to recent histories, an early allied concern even before Midway and a proposed objective for IJ. The initial phase of the US advance through the Solomon Islands was staged out of New Caledonia. (Adm Ghormley commanding starting around June followed by Halsey in October). New Caledonia was the logistical base for most of the material sent to the South Pacific area for the Solomon campaign, much to the chagrin of Big Mac. he wanted to run the show and the area was divided up so it would be a navy show. So it's perhaps not surprising that FJ planning was in the early spring of 1942 to follow success of the Port Moresby operation and the airfield construction on Guadalcanal. The whole point was to neutralize and Isolate Australia. That would have been devastating to the allied war effort to retake lost territory.

    The surprise is that Yamamoto couldn't get out of the prewar plan for a central pacific fleet battle to decide the war. He abandoned worthy objectives with strategic import to adhere to a plan that had become obsolete with the success of his own raid on Pearl Harbor. He essentially ignored or dismissed the South Pacific operations as sideline distractions to his primary objective: destruction of the US fleet.
     
  19. Olson

    Olson New Member

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    The Japanese Navy based all of their early war plans of Pacific conquest on a large surface fleet engagement to destroy America's Pacific Fleet, leaving them free to roam the Pacific at will, and completely isolate themselves from any further threat from the US. The failure to eliminate the United States fleet carriers in the Pearl Harbor attack did not deter them from pursuing the "grand fleet battle" (ala 1905) concept, albeit adjusted for the "new" style of battle utilizing carrier based aircraft to suppliment the capital ships. The fact that air power based on carriers rendered any pure surface fleet action totally obsolete was not yet wholly appreciated by the military leadership of the IJN, even at this point in the war. The occupation of midway was a initially secondary consideration to Y's plan, that became a second primary objective due to overenthusiastic evaluation of all of their early successes throughout the entire Pacific campaign (Indonesia, the Phillipines, Singapore, Pearl Harbor, and their prolonged advance in China).
     
  20. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    What if Japan had taken Midway by surprise - no fleet opposition? Would a second raid on Pearl Harbor have been feasible? Let's assume they had the fuel to do it (and I have serious doubts about that), what were the defenses of Pearl Harbor like 6 months after Dec. 7, 1941?
     
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