Would WWII Australian public opinion be affected by a Japanese commando attack?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by freebird, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Here is something I was wondering about, what would the effect been on Australian public opinion government policy in WWII if the Japanese had made some actual ground attacks on Australia, (or Canada or the USA), in the form of commando raids?

    Suppose for example that the Japanese had set up a few small "tramp" freighters as commando ships. They would transport on the foredeck a few small pleasure or fishing boats. (eg. 50' - 60' long) They would have Dutch captain officers (German operatives) and Indonesian crew (actually Japanese commandos)

    At the time there was limited patrol in Australian waters, so by avoiding common shipping routes they could approach coastal areas at night probably undetected. In the unlikely event that they are approached they would have fake papers showing that they are a Dutch Indonesian ship evacuating some boats other cargo from the growing tension in the East. A Japanese submarine could shadow the freighter, and 9posing as a U-boat) attack any HMAS cruiser if it was going to search the freighter. The commando ship would also have a few torpedoes 6" guns hidden for defence. (eg like "Kormoran" had against HMAS Sydney)

    When the freighter arrives in Australian waters, late at night on the day before "Pearl Harbour" , in some isolated bay the smaller pleasure craft or fishboats would be lowered into the water. Each would carry 30 or 40 commandos, infantry guns, MG's mortars, plus supplies. The smaller boats with 80 - 150 commandos make a landing on a small sparsely populated island near a major port. For example St. Helena island in Moreton bay near Brisbane, formerly a prison but mainly abandoned after 1935. After the Japanese enter the war by attacking Malaya Hawaii, the commandos create the maximum amount of havoc by sinking a few freighters or HMAS ships, shelling the port, nearby city other infrastructure targets. It would be a suicide mission of course, when attacked the commandos would try to take out as many Allied troops as possible. (eg. like Okinawa or Iwo Jima). When the last commandos are finally wiped out, it would be found that their commander had (how very unfortunate!) failed to destroy papers showing the landing areas for a future Japanese invasion of Queensland, NSW N. Australia etc.

    I wonder what the effect on public opinion would be? The objective of course would be to cause panic in the Allied countries, forcing them to put troops to garrison coastlines in Australia elsewhere. The Japanese would not really intend to invade, but would hope that this disinformation would cause Australia to waste extra troops guarding their coastal areas.

    I was thinking of the story my grandmother told, of the panic created by a Japanese sub shelling a lighthouse on the Canadian West Coast, when there were rumours that the Japanese were going to invade.
     

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  2. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I had heard somewhere that the Japanese did drop a platoon of troops up along the north coast for about a week or two. They stayed pretty much in the same spot and then left. Can't remember where I heard it. But my understanding is the northern coast of Australia is so baren and wild in spots that nobody noticed them.

    But if the Japenese did attack an Austrialian city with a suicide commando attack, it would definitely freak the citizens out in a big way. Same in the US or anywhere else. Especially if it was a sneak attack during the start of a war (as apposed to an action in the middle of a war).

    However, I can't imagine it would be particularly effective from a military point of view. What are they after? What is the mission? Spread terror? You can do that by just bombing them and it would have pretty much the same effect. Or just run a cruiser down the coast and shell the city.

    Expensive attack with limited long term results. Better ways to do it.
     
  3. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Well in 1942 Australians did fear that the Japanese were going to invade the country and the 19th Feb 42 raid on Darwin did cause panic, however due to the Govt. hushing up and down playing the raid, this panic was contained to the people in the Darwin area.
    As for a Commando raid on Brisbane/Moreton Bay area, I'm sure it would cause alarm but probably not panic the population. If anything it would cause the military to review it's defences of key areas and probably bolster its forces in those areas. Most cities and Harbours were defended by Coastal artillery and AA guns (Moreton Is. did have coastal guns defending the approaches to the Bay) plus the Army had several Militia divisions that were purely used in the defence of the main land, particulary the North of Australia so I can't see the Govt. redeploying troops from overseas to fill this role. At the end of the day this is what the Militia was designed for.
    Also looking from a historical perspective, the Australian mainland was raided 64 times in varying degress of serverity, sydney Harbour was attacked by midget subs, several suburbs were shelled by Japanese submarines, Japanese recon flights were conducted over several cities in the South of the country and Japanese and German subs did launch an offensive against shipping off the Australian coast. None of this caused wide spread panic amongst the population and achieved very little for the Japanese. (casused headaches for the RAAF though)
     
  4. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the average Australian was very worried about this. I can remember speaking with a WW 2 vet who was from California, near the coast. Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, he described how there was near sheer panic in the US population along the entire west coast. National guard units were called to patrol coastlines, civilians volunteered in whatever capacity they could, frantically planning evacuation routes and stocking on survival provisions. He even witnessed several armed groups of very trigger-nervous/trigger-happy civilians patrolling though their communities and scanning the night sky.

    These things were to some extent recreated in Steven Spielberg's silly and comical film "1941", but in the days and weeks following Pearl Harbor, there were a lot of very concerned people, many of them even paranoid about impending Japanese invasion forces.

    When reliable news is short but rumors fly quickly, and mixed with a lot of confusion, it can create a very dangerous and fearful situation.
     
  5. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    In 1942 it was very barren and sparsely populated.

    [​IMG]


    As Wildcat pointed out the Darwin raid led to a panic flight of military personnel and civilians into the interior. A number of books have been published on the subject and conclude that it wasn't one of Australia's better moments in the war.

    The raid itself, was however, described by Nagumo's biographer, Captain Matsushima Kiezo, as using a "sledgehammer to crack an egg."
     
  6. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    The mission is to create some panic, that would force the government to put troops along the coasts, (where the Japanese have no intention of attacking) instead of sending them to N. Guinea or the Solomons or somewhere where they really are needed. Consider that the British commando attacks on Norway led to Hitler sending several divisions there, which couldn't be used elsewhere. By the end of the war the Germans had put something like 200,000 troops in Norway, the British general Brooke remarked that they might as well have been in a POW camp for all the good they were doing.

    A cruiser would be much more vulnerable, and not quite psychologically the same as actual troops. Although an air attack against the Australian coast might have been possible
     
  7. Heinz

    Heinz Active Member

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    I believe Menzies our prime Minister was suggesting if the Japanese did invade that our defences be in place at Brisbane and then effectively push them back.

    My grandfather was there when they first bombed Darwin for a trival piece of info.
     
  8. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    I can't see the Govt. withdrawing troops from overseas. In WWII Australia basically had two Armies, the 2nd AIF which was a volunteer force to serve overseas and the CMF (Citizen Military Force) also called the Militia which was tasked with the defence of the mainland. A quick browse of the Militia Order of Battle on Dec 7th 1941 came up with the following units:-

    Northern Command - HQ Brisbane, Queensland

    2nd Reconnaissance Battalion
    49th Infantry Battalion Details - Thursday Island
    Torres Strait Infantry Company - Thursday Island
    101st Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    55th Field Park Company, RAE

    1st Motor Brigade
    5th, 11th Motor Regiments

    7th Infantry Brigade
    9th, 15th, 25th, 47th, 61st Infantry Battalions
    5th Field Regiment, RAA
    7th Field Company, RAE

    11th Infantry Brigade
    26th, 31st, 42nd, 51st Infantry Battalions
    11th Field Regiment, RAA
    11th Field Company, RAE

    Eastern Command - HQ Sydney, New South Wales

    53rd Infantry Battalion -
    Located at Sydney preparing for embarkation to New Guinea

    1st Cavalry Division
    1st, 16th Machine-Gun Regiments
    2nd Armoured Regiment
    21st Field Regiment, RAA
    102nd Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    1st Field Squadron, RAE

    2nd Cavalry Brigade
    12th, 24th Light Horse Regiments
    15th Motor Regiment

    4th Cavalry Brigade
    3rd Armoured Regiment
    6th Motor Regiment
    7th Light Horse Regiment
    14th Machine-Gun Regiment

    1st Infantry Division
    1st, 9th Field Regiments, RAA
    103rd Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    1st, 9th Field Companies, RAE
    51st Field Park Company, RAE

    1st Infantry Brigade
    2nd, 13th, 33rd, 41st Infantry Battalions

    9th Infantry Brigade
    1st, 17th, 18th, 45th Infantry Battalions
    The Sydney University Regiment

    2nd Infantry Division
    21st Reconnaissance Battalion
    7th, 14th, 18th Field Regiments, RAA
    104th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    5th, 8th, 14th Field Companies, RAE
    52nd Field Park Company, RAE

    5th Infantry Brigade
    20th, 34th, 54th, 56th Infantry Battalions

    8th Infantry Brigade
    4th, 30th, 35th Infantry Battalions

    14th Infantry Brigade
    3rd, 36th, 55th Infantry Battalions

    Southern Command - HQ Melbourne, Victoria

    39th Infantry Battalion - Located at Darly Camp preparing for New Guinea
    22nd Motor Regiment - Brighton Camp, Tasmania -
    Attached 12th Infantry Brigade

    2nd Cavalry Division - Victoria
    4th Armoured Regiment
    17th Machine-Gun Regiment
    19th Machine-Gun Regiment - Left for Darwin from Melbourne 14/1/42.
    13th Light Horse
    22nd Field Regiment, RAA
    105th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    2nd Field Squadron, RAE

    3rd Motor Brigade
    1st Armoured Car Regiment
    4th Light Horse Regiment
    20th Motor Regiment
    26th Machine-Gun Regiment

    3rd Infantry Division - Victoria
    8th Reconnaissance Battalion
    2nd, 4th, 8th Field Regiments, RAA
    106th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    4th, 10th, 15th Field Companies, RAE
    53rd Field Park Company, RAE

    4th Infantry Brigade
    22nd, 29th, 46th Infantry Battalions

    10th Infantry Brigade
    24th, 37th, 52nd Infantry Battalions

    15th Infantry Brigade
    57th/60th, 58th, 59th Infantry Battalions

    4th Infantry Division - Victoria
    10th, 15th Field Regiments, RAA
    107th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    2nd, 6th Field Companies, RAE
    54th Field Park Company, RAE

    2nd Infantry Brigade
    5th, 6th, 14th, 32nd Infantry Battalions

    6th Infantry Brigade
    7th, 8th, 23rd/21st, 38th Infantry Battalions

    6th Cavalry Brigade - South Australia
    3rd, 23rd Reconnaissance Companies
    9th Motor Regiment
    18th Machine-Gun Regiment

    3rd Infantry Brigade - South Australia
    (Later in December 1941, 27th and 43rd Battalions to Darwin)
    10th, 27th, 43rd, 48th Infantry Battalions
    13th Field Regiment, RAA
    3rd Field Company, RAE

    12th Infantry Brigade - Tasmania
    12th/50th, 40th Infantry Battalions
    110th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    6th Field Regiment, RAA
    12th Field Company, RAE

    Western Command - HQ Perth, Western Australia

    10th Reconnaissance Battalion
    25th Machine-Gun Regiment
    44th Infantry Battalion
    109th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
    56th Field Park Company, RAE

    13th Infantry Brigade
    11th, 16th, 28th Infantry Battalions
    3rd Field Regiment, RAA
    13th Field Company, RAE

    Military District #7 - Northern Territory

    19th Infantry Battalion - Darwin
    18th Field Battery, RAA - Darwin

    Military District #8 - Rabaul, New Hebrides and New Guinea

    49th Infantry Battalion - Port Moresby, Papua
    Papuan Infantry Battalion - Port Moresby, Papua
    The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles - Rabaul and New Guinea

    {source- www.diggerhistory.com}
    Several other Militia divisions were also raised later on making more then enough troops to deal with Commando raids IMO. Added to this is the many fixed coastal gun defences and AA and searchlight units scattered around the country.
     
  9. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    I don't think it would be very effective for the Japanese to invade, they might find out that the Aussies can be a disagreeable bunch, with a nasty temperament, especially when invaded! :D {I lived in Queensland for 6 months so i have some idea.} :)

    The Australians were probably more prepared for war than Canada or the US, but a commando raid would still cause some concerns i think.


    Thanks for the info Wildcat. Was the RAAF also divided too? Or were the home defence overseas aircraft in the same organization?
     
  10. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    G'day Freebird, the RAAF was one organisation which had some squadrons deployed solely for defensive duties of the mainland and others that were used offensively throughout the Pacific and Europe. Alot of squadrons however rotated between the two, particularly Beaufort sqns which would be used in the ASW role around the Oz coastline before deploying to New Guinea in the bombing/torpedo/patrol role. I believe it was a case of utilising what few resources we had for such a large area with the aircraft/resources available.
     
  11. Emac44

    Emac44 Active Member

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    Very interesting scenerio I must admit. Reminded me of the attacks by Australian Commandos in Singapore Harbour. However I would imagine there would have been some initial panic by the Australian Population but not to the degree of a widespread route from coastal areas like Brisbane or Darwin or Townsville or even Cairns. Even though when the suburbs of Sydney had been shelled by Japanese Submarine this still didn't have a desired effect the Japanese would envision it should have. Remember this was the time of losing HMAS Sydney and several other heavy and light cruisers of the Australian Navy. Australia had at the time been involved in World War 2 right from day 1 in September 1939 and the Australian Population had grown accustomed to the events of War. I also have to point out that convoys leaving Australia were only too well aware of submarine and surface vessel contacts and so was the Australian Navy at the time Free. So approaching an unknown or suspicious vessel as your scenerio quotes and with a registar of a Submarine contact on a HMAS Cruisers Sonar would definitely raise some suspicious by the HMAS Cruiser Crews if the crew was alert and well trained even in home waters and you also mentioned the Kormoran that would have been in recent memory in this scenerio. So a freighter popping up some where even in less travelled sea lanes would definitely caused some concerns. For your scenerio to work Free I would imagine that the freighter avoid all contact and I see you have it that the freigther travelled at night to work more effectiviely and to isolated coastal areas. However the Coast of Brisbane isn't isolated even during World War 2 and travelling down the Queensland Coast I would summize the Freighter would have been spotted and an investigation would have occured already long before reaching St Helena Island. The Japanese Submarine would have had more success then the Freighter scenerio in my opinion Free. As for the Bogus Paper work left by the Freighter Commander those would have been evaluated by Military Intelligence for what they were and decided upon with formal investigations taking place on the paper work. How they would be evaluated like your scenerio has a myrid of possiblities
     
  12. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Thanks! :D

    Emac, the point would be mainly dis-information, if the Aus government thought that they were a serious target, much more material energy would be spent on coastal garrisons defences. The Axis never even came close to matching the British, who excelled in disinformation, like Operations Mincemeat, Bodyguard, Quicksilver Zeppelin. {We were the best at deception probably because we were fighting the war on a shoestring!!}

    Emac Were there regular Maritime patrols of coastal waters by Beauforts or other aircraft in 1941? Or was that only after the Japanese attack?

    If the attack took place in early Nov 1941, this would be before the Kormoran incedent.

    Did the convoys in your waters not start AFTER Pearl Harbour?

    I wonder how much chance there would be to detect a sub by sonar in peacetime? It seems like they were not all that successful even later in protected convoys.

    Eemac, would not paperwork be evaluated on the spot? they couldn't really send it back to Sydney while the Merchant waited?

    I think you might be right though, Submarine insertation would probably be the best. Again, its only going to be a 50 - 60 man "suicide squad", with mortars, MG's light portable artillery guns.

    Also I think Australia would be the MOST prepared for this, an attack on the US or Canadian west coast would have a FAR Larger impact, as the people are not expecting a Japanese attack, unlike the Aussies, who had been eying the Japanese Empire with concern for many years.
     
  13. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    G'day Freebird. The RAAF had been conducting maritime patrols around the Australian coast pretty much from the beginning of WWII, remembering that German surface raiders had been operating in Australian waters from mid 1940. Before Japan entered the war this was carried out by mainly Hudsons , Ansons and Wirraways.


    Correct, convoys weren't instituted until June 1942.

    In Nov 41 I believe a sub would have an excellent chance of dropping off commandos onto the coast. Australian ASW efforts were hampered throughout the war because of a lack of adequte ASW equipment, and not enough aircraft and naval ships to patrol such a massive coastline. In Nov 41 it would have been even less effective then in 1943 when the Japanese launched their sub offensive and our anti-sub defences were in full swing.



    Agreed

    True, Australia had been slowly gearing up for a conflict in the Pacific, with the Government deploying several RAAF squadrons and Army units to Rabual, Port Moresby, Singapore etc. However these units were small, under equipped and generally undertrained, most of our resources were being sent to Europe and North Africa.
    If a Commando raid was conducted, taking into consideration the amount of time it would take to deploy forces against it, I believe it would probably be a success. However once the Army was alerted it would only be a matter of time before the raiding party was destroyed. No doubt the RAAF would also be on the hunt for the offending sub aswell. Even if the raid was only moderatly successful and if the sub was sunk, this would be a huge propaganda coup for the Axis nations and if it did not put fear into the Australian public, it would atleast cast doubt and questions onto the Governments handling of home defence which does have the possibility of altering the way the Australian Govt. conducted its war efforts.
     
  14. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Give me 75 Brandenburgers, elite soldiers of the Abwehr trained by the FallschirmJägers, GebirgsJägers, Panzergrenadiers, Pioniers, Wehrmacht Luftwaffe to be no less than an excellent SOF.

    Lets say the year is 1942, and either a German flying boat (Or Japanese) or a Japanese sub drops off the German SOF's near the Australian coast, close to a major city.

    The German Commandos would need the following equipment;

    30 x FG-42's : These will serve as LMGs, combat rifles sniper rifles in the unit, therefore most will be equipped with this weapon. The 4X ZFG 42 scope will be available to all, as-well will 40 round mags.
    10 x K98k's (Two with 8X scopes): Sharpshooters 2 x Long range sniperrifles, plus close support by use of rifle grenades.
    4 x MG-42's : Primary support MG
    2 x MG-34's with tripod : HMG, excellent for extreme long range fire.
    10 x 50mm Mortars : Light artillery support
    5 x 81mm Mortars : Medium artillery support
    5 x 120mm Mortars : Heavy artillery support
    4 x 10.5cm LG.40 recoilless cannons : AT gun (Very effective with HC projectiles), medium artillery support.
    4 x 20mm Rheinmetall Solothurn S-18's : Long range anti-personnel rifle AT rifle.
    20 x MP-40's : SMG
    50 x P-38's : Sidearm

    Additional equipment: Lots of plastic explosives, silencers, stick, apple, smoke bundle grenades. Some AT Anti personnel mines. Light long range radios. Lots of rifle grenades. etc etc etc.. I could go on and on...

    A Brandenburg unit equipped like the above could last a very long time in Australia, causing some serious havoc, utilizing guerilla tactics with hit run attacks on towns cities causing panic all round.
     
  15. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    And they'd be dead within a month without transport
     
  16. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Pb The whole point for the Axis would be to shock public opinion in the Allied nations, US, Canada Australia. I just finished reading Eisenhower's book "Crusade in Europe", he writes (working for Marshall) that after Pearl Harbour they took so many requests from West Coast mayors to station a company or battalion of troops in their city because they were so nervous about a Japanese attack. - Enough to use up 300% of the total available US troop strength!

    Now imagine that the public is not reading about far-away tropical Hawaii, but about actual Axis attacks on Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, or New York!

    Some of the Germans might be removed by sub, otherwise worst-case the wounded would surrender after a few weeks. The Japanese of course would be on a one-way mission, and fight to the death.

    Soren I would think that the Germans would only supply some tactical advice to the Japanese. The Brandenburgers would be best employed making simultaneous attacks on the US East coast.

    Soren you posted earlier that the 10.5 cm recoiless gun had a range of about 5 miles (8 km) did the Japanese have anything similar? did the Germans have anything infantry-portable with a range greater than 8 km?

    I figured that the best plan would be for the commandos to land the night after the "Pearl Harbour" and seize a small island {wooded if possible} within a few miles of a major city, then shell some ships, port facilities random targets. The advantage would be that an amphibious counter-attack by lightly trained militia would be very costly. The disadvantage is that it might be more difficult to slip away.

    Good candidates would be Hat Island Blake Island in Puget Sound (near Seattle Everett) and Long Island or Thompson Island near Boston, Mass. Both have small wooded islands within a few miles of the port. Also Cat Island, Mississippi, close to Gulfport, it is also in the middle of the ship channel approaching New Orleans.

    The West Coast attacks could be done by the Japanese, the East Coast by the Germans.
     

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  17. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Pbfoot,

    I don't think you've got any idea how easy it would be for the German commandos to just take the transport vehicles they'd need. It's endlessly simple really; Stop some native trucks and cars at night and commandeer them out of the natives hands, stealing them, and taking the natives as hostages. The Brandenburgers were experts at covert ops and many spoke fluent english, so they could easily disappear when needed.

    Also utilizing guerilla tactics with hit run tactics the German commando unit could keep operating on Australian soil for very very long time.

    Let me construct a hypothetical attack here;

    The German commando's land, two days later they set up their artillery 3-4 km outside some Australian city. As night falls they stop and commandeer around 5 native trucks and a few cars, the natives are taken prisoner. Early next morning as the sun rises the German commandos open up with all their artillery bombarding the nearby city. Panic strikes the city, people running everywhere.

    The Australian military is emmidiately alerted and at once sends 20 truckloads of soldiers on their way! The German commandos being experts in guerilla tactics have however already taken this into account and have placed 30 man unit in an ambush position on the road to the city. The trucks appear in the distance the commandos prepare. At 500m the Germans unit's snipers open fire taking out the far forward rear trucks with the 20mm S-18 rifles. The convoy is noew brought to a halt, and emmidiately the German commandos start pouring a rain of machine gun fire on the trucks, which within seconds are completely shreded. The few Australian troops that get out of the trucks alive are targeted and picked off by the German snipers. In the end it's a massacre, there being nothing the Australian troops could've done.

    After looting the destroyed Australian convoy the German commando's pack up and leave the area, deploying on the other side of the city whilst keeping track on anything leaving or coming toward the city. Now ofcourse from then on is where it really gets tough but by smart utilization of tactics the commandos can inflict major panic in Australia and inflict some terrific damage to its armed forces.

    Freebird,

    I see what mean, and yes the Brandenburgers would be best used to infiltrate the US.
     
  18. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Sorry i forgot they were German and the Aussies didn't have any kryptonite
     
  19. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Very constructive Pbfoot, very constructive! :thumbleft:
     
  20. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I have been a little slow getting to this thread but it is an interesting idea. I don't think that a suicide mission would do much good. It may well cause some damage ad even a minor panic but there is one problem with a suicide mission.
    The attackers are dead, the defenders can prove it, the attacks stop and the defenders can claim victory.
    You need something more to be effective, continual small strikes that can cause significant damage, that happen again and again, spread uncertainty.
    Targets should be infrastructure based, water pumping stations, power lines, fuel pipelines, bridges, almost anything that impacts the civilian population. Anything that makes them question their goverment and what they are being told.

    A base preferably on an island about 100 miles from the coast, where troops can rest, train and plan, but is within easy range of being transported by submarine. Four man teams would probably be best and the large Jap subs would be ideal as they could deploy the men in small boats giving them transport and a chance to escape. Attacks would be best spread over the coast forcing the defenders to spread their resources and reducing the risk to the attackers

    Anything that involves lots of men and/or heavy weapons is doomed to failure
     
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