What if? - Battle of Midway in July 1942 rather than June

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Conslaw, Nov 11, 2012.

?

Would it have gone better for the Japanese if they had attacked Midway in July 1942?

Poll closed Dec 11, 2012.
  1. Yes - couldn't have gotten much worse.

    16.7%
  2. No - reinforcement goes both ways.

    83.3%
  1. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    I'm reading Craig Symonds' book The Battle of Midway. It's pretty good, lots of background material, but I like Shattered Sword better over all. It got me thinking about how things had been different if the Japanese had waited until July 1942 for their Midway operation. Perhaps to include Shokaku and Zuikaku in the operation. Would it have gone better or even worse for the Japanese? What do you think? Why? Follow up question: If you were Yamamoto and had decided to postpone the Midway operation until July, would you still go forward with the Aleutians operation in June?
     
  2. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    I think if the Japanese would have waited 1 more month, it would have benefited the US Navy more. The Saratoga would have been available. The carrier aircraft tactics could have been refined/improved since Coral Sea. The Avenger could have replaced the Devastator. Far more build up on Midway.
     
  3. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    The Saratoga is the most likely addition on the American side. Sara arrived in Pearl Harbor on June 6, 1942, the last day of the Midway battle. Apparently the Wasp arrived in the Pacific in June 1942 as well. So in theory, the Americans may have had 5 carriers to go against the Japanese 6. I wonder how many aircraft could have been crammed on Midway. What if there were 20 torpedo-toting B-26s and 20 TBFs? The Japanese would have a hard time defending against A-20 Havocs if they could have been made available as well.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The earlier the IJN strikes, the better. Hopefully, with full weight, rather than to disperse it's forces in a try to lure away USN. It was USN they were after (or they should been after), not Midway.
     
  5. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Quite frankly, I don't think they needed more fleet. What they needed was Midway out of the way, before they met our carriers. Another month would have given us another month to mobilize, too. I'm assuming they catch us the same way in July, i.e., right there on the doorstep with our carriers. Who knows what other resources we'd have been able to bring to bear had we had that extra month? If, on the other hand, you're contemplating catching us unaware in July, I'll say you're underestimating what went wrong for them in June. Had they caught us unaware, they'd have taken Midway out of the fight, before they met our carriers. That striking force they had for that purpose was just that strong. In my honest opinion, anyway. Their battleships, alone, had they had them in range, would have reduced that island to a cinder.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That depends on what the IJN do during the month of June 1942.

    The Aleutian operation was not connected to Midway so it will happen anyway. CVL Junyo and CVL Ryujo should be available during July for Midway.

    The IJN had a bunch of CV capable aircraft operating from airfields on land. The IJN could use those aircraft to bring CV air wings up to full strength.

    So...
    In theory July 1942 Japan could have 5 CVs at Midway plus two CVLs and they could have full strength airwings. Will that happen? It's probably at least as likely as the USN having every operational CV in the fight.

    IMO it's more likely the USN retain Wasp and Ranger in the Atlantic. Meanwhile Japan will not be idle during June 1942. The IJN might take another crack at Port Moresby during June 1942 but this time with 4 CVs and a bunch of battleships (including Yamato) in support. If the USN contest the operation then naval superiority will be determined in the resulting Coral Sea battle and there will not be a major fight at Midway.
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    IJN was overconfident, simple as that. If they had changed their codebooks as planned, and concentrated their carriers, whether that be 6 carriers as in June, or 9 carriers as in July, and stopped telegraphing their plans via a compromised communications system, I dont see the Americans stopping them. In july the US has the Wasp and possibly some further LBA assets, but they would be facing a theoretical 690 carrier based attackers.
     
  8. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    True. Little doubt the Shokaku and Zuikaku could have been there.

    Do we know this for sure?

    If the Japanese took another go at Port Moresby in June, no doubt they would be much more cautious, and that would again split their Naval force. Weaking the upcoming Midway operations more than likely.
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Code books have little to do with superior USN intelligence at Midway.

    Midway had 31 long range PBY recon aircraft. Enough to completely saturate airspace around the atoll to a distance of 700 miles. The USN knew approximately where all the IJN fleets were a day before the main battle. In fact the USN had so many PBYs that a handful were employed as torpedo bombers and they scored a hit on an IJA transport the night before the main battle. Japan had to rely on ship based recon aircraft with less then half the search radius. It didn't help that IJN shipboard aircraft were down to about 75% of authorized strength even before the battle started.

    Why Admiral Yamamoto chose a battle location where the USN had an overwhelming recon advantage has never been explained. Japan could have fought in the Coral Sea where they had long range seaplanes which would level the recon playing field.
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    IJN chose Midway on the following basis. It was close enough to bring Hawaii under constant surveillance by LR IJN search aircraft. nothing could get in or out without the IJN knowing about it. This was known to be unnacceptable to the USN. Attacking Midway forced the USN to a decisive battle which is what the IJN wanted. Destroy the US carrier fleet and the Americans were much more likley to negotiate a peace.

    And Recon, whilst good and valuable, is no subsitute for the intell enjoyed by the USN in the lead up to Midway. The USN was blinded by the change from JN25 to JN25B, which led directly to Savo Island, and that was with the full knowledgge of the wherabout of Mikawas squadron. Knowing the enemy is present is different to knowing exactly what and when they are goiunfg to attack. it completely alters the game and who has the advantage.
     
  11. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    I'll play devil's advocate for the Japanese. If they would have had Shokaku and Zuikaku, and if the Americans would have only added Saratoga, then I think the Japanese would have had a fighting chance at a favorable outcome; but only IF American airpower on Midway wasn't greatly enhanced. If they would have changed their codes between June and July, their odds would be improved. Similarly, applying the light carriers (which were assigned the Aleutians mission) to Midway also would have helped their chances.

    Both sides showed a history of piling on a crippled ship rather than knocking the most ships out of action. The Americans' target selection in the historical Midway battle was much wiser than average. The Shokaku and Zuikaku both showed they could take a lot of damage and survive. All of the Japanese carriers would not be needed for the strikes on Midway. It is therefore unlikely that a surprise dive bomber attack would find them all fueling and arming aircraft. In fact, it is unlikely that all of the carriers would be found at the same time much less hit at the same time. Hiryu was in the same formation as the other 3 carriers, but Hiryu was left untouched in the first attack. Taken altogether, even if attacked by surprise by an American dive bombers from 4 or 5 carriers, it is likely that some Japanese flattops would remain undamaged or barely damaged. These surviving ships could deliver a hard blow with their planes and the orphan planes of sunk sister carriers. For historical proof of the diluting factor of large carrier groups, I offer an example of the Battle of the Philippine Sea (the Marianas battle). When the American carrier airmen finally got a crack at the Japanese carriers in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Americans damaged many ships but only sunk one carrier, and the American carrier force in June 1944 was a lot larger than it was in 1942.

    The first team of IJN attack pilots were crackerjacks. If they got a clear shot at American carriers, they would likely score an even higher percentage of hits than the American dive bomber pilots scored in the historical battle. If they would have gotten first shot at the Americans, which would have been more likely with more carriers to share scouting duty, they could have scored hits on 4-5 carriers in the first attack alone.

    In a nutshell, if the Japanese had more carriers, it would have diluted the American attacks, with more Japanese carriers surviving the first attack and an even greater proportion of the planes and surviving to make additional attacks. More carriers would have meant better scouting and more chances to find the Americans. (More American carriers would mean that their formations would take up more space, so they would be easier to find anyway.)
     
  12. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    @ davebender, I agree with you.

    When Yamamoto proposed the Midway plan, it was pointed out to him that the plan violated many of the Japanese tenets for fighting the Great Battle. It was expected that the battle would be fought in a location favorable to the Japanese, with Japanese land-based airpower and within useful distance of Japanese ports and repair facilities. It was also pointed out to Yamamoto that even if the Japanese succeeded in taking Midway. The atoll would be almost impossible to defend since it was much closer to Pearl Harbor than it was to Japan. IMHO, anyway you look at it the Japanese battle plan was really stupid, surpassed in idiocy only by the final voyage of the Yamato.
     
  13. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Seems to me to be very optimistic to expect Shokaku to be available in July. It didn't come out of repair until mid July and apparently was in a training status until mid August when she rejoined Zuikaku for the Eastern Solomons battle.

    At least according to:

    Imperial Flattops
     
  14. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    On Dec.7th 1941 only Naval Patrol Squadron VP-21 was stationed at Midway, yet on 25th of May, VP-44 arrived, May 26, VP-23, May 31st, VP-44, And VP-51 at some point also.
    All these last minute arrivals were just luck I suppose, had nothing to do with the fact that Naval intellegence had broken the codes and knew the IJN was headed for Midway and needed extra patrol coverage in the area to pinpoint exactly where they were so the Navy could counter them.
     
  15. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #15 oldcrowcv63, Nov 12, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
    According to Lundstrom in Black Shoe Carrier Admiral Hard Back page 209, Wasp (CV-7) was brought to the PTO on account of the loss of Lexington. Wasp would definitely have been available and in the fight in a July confrontation. King made the decision on May 9. She was in San Diego in late June.

    Also It is true that IJN VB was superb but so was USN. The differences are marginal. Just look at the bomb pattern around Akagi depicted in Shattered Sword by 3 SBDs (page 253 258 ). It is every bit as compelling a case for excellence as that if the Hiryu VB squadron on Yorktown. IJN had is share of misses as well as hits just as did the IJN. Moreover the max bomb load of a VAL was ~500 pounds while the SBDs typically prefered to attack with 1,000 pounders, so any marginal difference in hit probability would most likely have been offset by damage inflicted. The 1,000 lb hit on the Shokaku's bow at Coral Sea was nearly fatal damage to the ship. (from same web site as above)

    "Final leg home commences - successfully avoiding further submarines en-route; however, with the high speeds and gashed port bow, the ship takes on so much water she nearly capsizes en route.(Note: water entering the shattered bow apparently caused steep lists at speed, but the day or position of greatest crisis has not been found. Presumably in a time of heavy seas.)"
     
  16. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Your conclusion is for the most part conceded. But I still hear you resolving all your variables in favor of the prosecution. Let's just take one such variable and resolve it in favor of the defense; namely, what another month could have done for Midway, assuming, of course, had we had the drop, as we had. That could very conceivably have meant trained dive-bomber pilots in those SBDs, who were accustomed to the blackouts when they pulled out of those steep, high-speed dives, so they wouldn't instead have had to rely on gliding those bombs in. As it was, those initial strikes faced the heaviest fighter-cover, and yet, they still managed to get off several direct hits. Make those aircraft coming in on dive-bombing trajectories, as opposed to those slower, flatter, and more vulnerable glide-bombing trajectories, and now figure the damage inflicted, bearing in mind, a 500-pound bomb, even a 100-pound bomb, smashing into a carrier deck, is very likely going to disrupt, if not cripple, those operations.
     
  17. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #17 oldcrowcv63, Nov 12, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
    According to Lundstrom Black Shoe Carrier Admiral, Page 300 note 49: Sometime in late June, Nimitz evidently sent King a memo recommending that all marine VF defending island bases replace their F4F and F2A aircraft with P-40F. How long that might have taken is unknown but almost certainly not in time for a July clash at Midway, unless it was accomplished by USAAF Hawaiian based units replacing USMC VF on Midway. Of course, the motivation for that missive was the Midway results so with no June battle there is no mid-June recommendation by CINCPAC.

    On the other hand another shipload of USN castoff F4F-3s, culled from the Hawaiian BATFOR pool, might have been possible to reinforce the Marine VF and replace the F2As. According to First Team: When the Sara rendezvoused with the Enterprise and Hornet she had an Air Group of 107 aircraft including replacements. 47 F4F-4, 45 SBD and 15 TBF. By mid June there was no longer quite the shortage of fighters that had plagued the fleet since December 7. I have heard that the IJN apparently tied the invasion of Midway to the lunar cycle so given the 29 day lunar cycle, the time frame of the operation would have been scheduled around July 3. Too early for Shokaku and probably a stretch for Wasp. So with more modern land based dive bombers, CV based TBFs both flown by trained pilots and basic parity in CV based aircraft (the additional smaller flight decks would barely have made up the disparity in the larger number of aircraft each USN carrier embarked). It seems to me the USN is still a strong favorite to win the battle (or I should say it is in a stronger position to win than it was in the actual confrontation in June). If the Marines on Midway had been supplied with folding wing F4F-4, then the land based complement could have increased by about 50% without additional crowding. This abundance might have argued more strongly for escorted strikes on the IJN fleet which should have proven more effective.
     
  18. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    One of the tragedies in those Midway strikes is they had dive-bombers they didn't know how to utilize as dive-bombers. Give them another month, I'm suggesting, and it's not inconceivable they'd have had that issue resolved.
     
  19. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #19 oldcrowcv63, Nov 12, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
    With respect to the 18 SBD-2's of VMSB-241, I have to agree. These aircraft had only just arrived on May 29th and the pilots were new to the aircraft. CO Maj. Henderson, took command of that component as a virtual separate squadron while XO Maj. Noris took command of the 12 SB2U-3 Vindicators (aka "Wind Indicators" to the pilots). These pilots had been flying this aircraft since before December 1941 when they made the longest single engine formation flight in history from Ewa to Midway and so were probably reasonable competent in that type by June 4, albeit reinforced by green replacements as the SBDs arrived. Whether the newly arrived SBD-2s (USN castoffs when replaced by fully armored SBD-3s) or the older SB2Us had SS tanks or armor is unknown to me. AFAIK, no Midway based aircraft scored better than a near miss on IJN ships in Nagumo's Kido Butai and that by an SBD during a glide bombing attack on the Hiyru. The SB2Us under Norris attacked the Haruna without scoring a hit. Info from "A Glorious Page in Our History"

    This may be indicative of the level of skill and experience required to be an effective dive bomber. Time in the cockpit was no substitute for practice on moving maritime targets. How much of such practice the SB2U pilots actually got of that sort during their 5+ month sojourn on Midway Island is unknown but I expect not much. In contrast, both Yorktown and Enterprise SBD pilots were by the time of Midway well experienced and quite effective as their collective performance shows.
     
  20. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Some good reading here :)
     
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