Why didn't Yorktown rendezvous with Hornet and Enterprise at Midway?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pinsog, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    I know Yorktown had a rush repair job from Coral Sea and left Hawaii late, but seems like they should have steamed directly to Enterprise and Hornet and joined forces as soon as possible. The combined CAP from 3 carriers should have stopped the Japanese attacks that crippled Yorktown.
     
  2. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #2 oldcrowcv63, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
    USN Policy for better or worse through much of 1942 was to keep about 10-20 miles separation between carrier groups. This was thought to be avoiding keeping all their precious CV eggs in one basket by the USN airedale intelligencia. Coral Sea experience provided the justification for dividing the CAP. Fletcher believed (with von Clausewitz), that the best carrier defense was concentration of CAP forces. But in so doing, he lost the Lex at Coral Sea, a loss for which King never forgave. To be fair it is not at all clear that concentration caused loss of the Lex. That was more likely the result of inexperienced fighter direction and CAP deployment. Remember Coral Sea was the first such massive CAP battle, excepting of course the Med experience of the FAA on occasions like the Excess convoy (1/10/41). Anyone know at what altitude the JU-87s attacked the Illustrious on that occasion? The IJN forces (including initially the Kates!) attacked from well above the 10,000 foot standard USN CAP deployment altitude IIRC.

    Fletcher was severely chastised and thereafter evidently towed the party line at Midway and Eastern Solomons. Other leaders suggested even larger separations. This is an example (In my mind at least), of the USN implementing a cockamamie notion. Concentration of forces would have maximized the AAA and the CAP defense although it would create serious surface maneuverability issues. (although Fletcher seems to have made appropriate allowance in his surface deployment.)
     
  3. Denniss

    Denniss Active Member

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    If you have all your precious and highly valuable carriers in one force, one recon bird or air strike may nail them all. By separating them you'll raise the chance that at least one carrier group stay undetected for longer.
    Japanese followed a different strategy and you know what happened ad Midway. A divided strike force may have lost only two carriers while the other two were able to support and strike back.
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The CAP during the attacks on Yorktown had fighters from the other carriers in it. One thing that hampered the CAP was that there was no one controller for the CAP and different carriers used different commands over the radio. All of the action that took place during Midway regarding the US CVs was kind of mixed up.:)
     
  5. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    AFAIK, fighter direction was hampered because of inadequate radar and not enough communication channels, so that air defence control became hopelessly overloaded when too many CAP aircraft were airborne.

    The RN developed the armoured carrier precisely because they realized that effective fighter and AA defense of CVs was just not workable prior to effective radar fighter direction, which was not on the table in 1936 (and didn't really become fully feasible until high res centimetric radar with height finders were introduced in 1943, along with VT ammunition). In 1940, the RN pioneered radar directed CAP but it couldn't cope with large scale attacks because the low res radars would get swamped with returns, especially at closer ranges. Even in 1942 during Pedestal, fighter direction broke down if there were too many aircraft on the radars.

    During Operation Excess (Jan 10 1941) the Stukas came in at 12000ft but the CAP had been drawn down low to thwart a torpedo bomber attack. Illustrious was covering a vital convoy to Malta, and there was a certain expectation that the convoy, and not Illustrious, would be the focus of the attack. Illustrious's defense was further hampered because of the low speed of the convoy and the need to provide the convoy with AA support, which greatly reduced the AA which could be put over Illustrious. In the Pacific the CV's were invariably the focus of the attack, and the defences could be deployed around the CV, but in the Med, the convoy had greater strategic value than the CVs, and the escorts were necessarily dispersed around a much larger perimeter.
     
  6. krieghund

    krieghund Member

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    Seems history repeated itself...but the ball was played against the other goal..
     
  7. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #7 oldcrowcv63, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
    An excellent summary of the philosophy that governed the USN CV deployment at Midway, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. Only during Eastern Solomons did the philosophy seem to be somewhat effective although that may have been due to IJN difficulties more than surface dispersion. 10 to 20 miles separation is not sufficient to prevent a scout's detection of dispersed enemy CVs, since that distance is well within the unobstructed view of the horizon. At Midway, the IJN was concentrated to provide effective strike coordination which they had developed to an art form and was something the USN struggled with throughout the war. As the PTO war evolved and more USN CVs became available, the doctrine was modified to include groups of 2-4 carriers in separate well separated defensive formations. The advantage of early concentration was primarily due to the use of RADAR fighter direction which the IJN didn't have and The USN was fortunate enough to possess due to collaboration with its British allies. IIRC, most of the early FDOs were RN trained.
     
  8. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #8 oldcrowcv63, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
    Yes, there were certainly difficulties with FD at Midway and the other PTO CV vs CV battles of 1942, and they were indeed subject to swamped defenses. However the initial VB strike against Yorktown was intercepted (barely) and severely mauled by RADAR directed fighters. The fact that Yorktown was hit by the roughly 7 VB that survived the initial intercept by a dozen F4Fs is testament to the skill of the IJN aircrew. Unlike the very skilled Luftwaffe pilots of Fleigercorps X in their armored Stukas, the VALs were more likely to press home an attack even if it mean certain self-destruction. Both sides had pilots willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and both had pilots who in jettisoning their ordnance, chose to live to fight another day, but on average, I'd say the IJN Pilot was simply more willing to make that choice. The fact that more Vals weren't destroyed may have something to do with the F4F-4's decreased ammo supply or its slow climb rate, but its a close call at best.

    Enterprise VF-6 pilots came to the rescue during the latter phase of the IJN VB attack but failed to produce due to jammed guns. The subsequently fatal VT attack on Yorktown was successful largely due to the dispersal strategy. Yorktown's bomb hits causing it to be temporarily DITW, delayed recycling its own CAP until the absolute last minute prior to the attack. IIRC, CAP reinforcements from Enterprise and Hornet just weren't in a position to help out.

    That's a really interesting perspective, regarding the relative value of the convoy vs the RN CV.
     
  9. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Just a footnote. While the Yorktown was listing badly, she withstood the air attack. She was finished off two days later while she was under tow by the same sub that sank her escort destroyer, the Hammann.
     
  10. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Ooops forgot about that... :oops:

    and IJN DDs delivered the coup de gras on Hornet.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You don't change operational doctrine on the fly. The USN fought as they had been trained.
     
  12. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and the USN VF pilots defending the CVs during the early carrier battles had trained with typical ammo loads of 100 rpg. In short, their training had reinforced their combat response to instinctively behave as though they were flying aircraft a good bit lighter (1,040 rounds worth of weight in the F4F-4 and 1,320 rounds for the F4F-3) than they actually weighed in combat.

    I am not sure what else you are referring to when you say "change operational doctrine on the fly". It was pretty much "make it up on the fly" continuously through 1942 as lessons from each battle were absorbed and understood or misunderstood.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That happens during after action reviews and the changes are practised during training exercises. Not as you are going into battle.
     
  14. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, its a slow process of doctrine modification by post-battle analysis memos distributed over time followed by a period of dissemination and unit adoption. doesn't happen over night and must be incorporated into the normal regimen of daily activities. Its priority may be subject to variables like unit commander's personality, method of leadership and the operational commitments of the unit. It doesn't end with a uniform product before battle. Like life, the ideal and reality are often very different.
     
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