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Saturday, 07 December 2013


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On the relative lunacy stakes, I think the Japs beat the Bosche. The Japs even assassinated members of their own ruling elite who disagreed with them. Even Kaiser Bill didn't do that, as far as I know.

True, because their younger military officers were out of control. Even Yamamoto, the operational leader of the navy who knew in his heart that war with the US was a potential disaster, went in fear of his life.

Wish somebody had told the Aussies in Changi and on the Burma railway that the Japanese had lost.
That would have cheered them up.

The absolute lynch-pin for the initial surprise attack on Pearl Harbour was to knock out the two American carriers which were based in Hawaii along with the rest of the US Pacific Fleet. There had been fierce debate inside Japanese naval circles as to whether or not the aircraft carrier had replaced the big battleship as the queen on the naval chessboard. Opinion remained divided ...

Seeing as David you're preparing to, as you constantly illustrate for us your, er, "faithful readership" to, Bore for Britain I thought perhaps an older link might be of some interest [assistance] to you:

Prior to clicking the "Read the full article" thingie David, might read the few comments. Noteworthy is the Illustrious action at Taranto as well as some (apparently pre-Tora Tora Tora) Japanese photos of what we post-WWII USN sailors know as "un-reps."

I seem to recall a TV programme several years back where it was alleged that British intelligence failed deliberately to inform the US of an imminent incoming attack on Pearl Harbour. The British were apparantly desperate for the US to get involved. However inspite of the conspiracy theories the US had to get involved eventually and we should thank them and honour their service personnel.

Thanks for the link, JK, although I couldn't find any 'comments' or photos. Short of time now but I will read it later. As it happens, when I was designing my talk I did come across some terrific aerial photos of Pearl Harbour taken about a month before the attack. Filled with ships at anchor and all the planes on Ford Field neatly lined up - the phrase 'ducks in a pond' came to mind. I also have some photos taken during the attack which shows the ferocity that was unleashed on that quiet, 'peaceful', Sunday morning.

Jimmy, alas, whilst it is true that we wanted the Americans in there is no historical evidence that we knew anything substantial prior to the attack. In fact, the Americans knew far more than us because they had broken the Japanese diplomatic and naval codes. The persistent *rumour* is that FDR knew the attack was coming and kept quiet because he, too, wanted America in. No-one has ever been able to substantiate this conspiracy theory which I, for one, do not believe.

Andra, and there-in lies the pity of war. They knew they had lost but even after the first A-bomb the leadership wanted to keep fighting.

I have now read JK's link and it is excellent - well worth a read!

David, you design your talk??!!!

Then why not your blog-posts? The only ones I notice (any/much) preparation for are the jokes you copy off Andra!

Ooooooh, bitchy! I 'design' my mil-hist talks, JK, because I use PowerPoint, indeed, in some quarters (not too far from this garret) I am known as the Cecil B. de Mille of PowerPoint! But, as any film-maker will tell you, in the end it is the script that counts! As for my blog posts, they strive always, well, most of the time, to be *conversational*. What you read here are the sundry burps and belches - and the occasional fart - produced by my spur of the moment mental impulses. Anyway, rubbish they might be but they have kept you as a regular visitor for some years now!

I was shifting around in your archives David for something related to Pearl (why you Brits insist on the added "u" I'll never understand) but David ... you might recall a grander time ... [and I'm figuring this inclusion to be in your Duke of Boot tradition likely to be "a fine run thing" ...

Quoteth Andra: ...ahh remember the days when ...

OK DD & JK, sadly, I accept what you're saying to me.

I will, reluctantly, have to admit that some men, many possibly in positions of high trust, may not be infallible.

Ahhh David. Those were the days were they not?


I'm tempted to make Andra search ... however:

Even if Japanese colonized our country for 3 long years, I'm still thankful for the strong ties we have with their people and their government.

Tell that to the good folks of Nangkin Lisa. Or better yet, the Philippines.

Even "three short years" under Imperial Japan - and that's what this December 7th Commem Commemorates. Fine to be thankful now (given what's what now) not so much I think from about 1939 through 1945.

There's people alive who'd "be happy" to give you a little History. My Uncle Lyndal certainly might, but General MacArthur didn't request his crewing a certain PT boat.

Not convinced by your statement The absolute lynch-pin for the initial surprise attack on Pearl Harbour was to knock out the two American carriers. Certainly this was correct in retrospect but not at the time.

The accepted doctrine at the time in all navies including the Japanese was the need for a decisive battle which was assumed by all to be a battleship vs battleship duel. Hence their investment in Yamato.

Despite the weakness of Wiki the following quote illustrates:

A further important disadvantage—this of timing, and known to the Japanese—was the absence from Pearl Harbor of all three of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga). Ironically, the IJN top command was so imbued with Admiral Mahan's "decisive battle" doctrine—especially that of destroying the maximum number of battleships—that, despite these concerns, Yamamoto decided to press ahead.

What confuses the issue, TDK, is the division inside Japanese naval command between the exponents of the battleship as against the carrier. Thus, as you rightly say, they produced the biggest battleship of them all in the Yamato BUT at the same time they also produced a six fleet carrier force. I think that the CinC, Yamamoto, realised that the potential for naval air power exceeded mere reconnaissance but part of him still believed the big battleship would allow them to win a decisive fleet battle. That belief must have been severely dented by the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first in which none of the capital ships involved ever saw or fired on each other!

Both Genda (the prime advocate of naval air power) and Fuchida (the aerial commander of the Pearl Harbour attack force) were desperate to extend the attack on Hawaii if only to try and draw out those pesky missing American carriers. They knew that despite the damage to the American fleet and the destruction of the vast majority of the land-based air force, they had not truly won a *decisive* battle. Nor, six months later, was Yamamoto whose prime aim in attacking Midway was to draw out the American carriers and destroy them. Instead, of course, it was *his* carriers that were sunk and he must have known that from then on all was lost. The Americans also were quick to realise how the game had changed because they ordered such battleships as they possessed back into west coastal waters where, for the most part, they remained for the rest of the war.

Here's a link to a conspiracy theory.

No doubt FDR, who was bent as a nine bob note, would have enjoyed such a conspiracy, but could it really have been kept secret for so long? The alternative, that the peacetime top brass in the Navy and Army were duds doesn't seem unlikely. That FDR's administration was sleepy and incompetent is beyond doubt: just read about HMG's desperate attempts to make them take up the Manhattan project. HMG even had to recruit Einstein as an agent before they could get the buggers to move.

Well, to be fair, DM, there was (as JK just reminded me) one American commander with perceptive intelligence and the courage to speak out - and a fat lot of good it did him!

Also, it is wrong to under-estimate the difficulties facing US naval intelligence in 1941. As JK's other (excellent) link indicates, the whole concept of grouping carriers together and thus combining their air power into a massive 'sledgehammer' was only developed by the Japanese in the Summer of 1941! This was revolutionary thinking similar to the German all-arms concept of blitzkrieg. As the article points out, perceptively, all too often military intelligence only concerns itself with finding out if your potential enemy has thought of the things you have thought up - and if you haven't thought of them then there is no reason why you would go searching!

the U.S. Navy was professionally disinterested in enemy doctrine. According to historian Douglas Ford: “U.S. commanders tended not to monitor foreign doctrines and weapons development in a methodical manner. Naval intelligence was subsequently not tasked to investigate ongoing innovations unless the Americans were simultaneously pursuing them.”

I think the words "duds", "sleepy" and "incompetent" are justified by that quotation.
Especially after Taranto.

Yeees, or you could just call them human! Anyway, no more dud-ish, sleepy or incompetent than our very own military apparently unaware of German all-arms doctrine (partly originated by the British!)or the possibility of the Japanese fighting there way south through the Malayan jungle and attacking Singapore from the north!

Also, DM, Taranto, which was not at all the same sort of operation as Pearl Harbour, was only a year ahead of the Japanese attack and the Japs didn't start getting their idea of massed carrier fleets going until about 6 months ahead. You can't expect intelligence agencies to collect definitive information from a closed, military society inside 6 months!

Interestingly, the Japanese think the turning point was Guadalcanal, not Midway. Not many people know this, but (with all due respect to the USMC) the United States sustained significantly more naval than land and air casualties there in the most ferocious sea battles in WW2 bar none! Iron Bottom Sound was given its name because in terms of lost vessels it contains the equivalent of a couple of peace-time navies.

Two things proved decisive. Firstly, the Japanese, with their limited industrial capacity and relatively small population, could replace neither the sunken ships or personnel. Yamamoto's famous line about 'wakening a sleeping giant' was to prove all too true as America with her huge industrial capacity and population was easily able to sustain the losses, replace them and increase the size of her fleet many times over.

Secondly, in the Battle of Savo Island (off Guadalcanal) the USN suffered its worst ever blue water defeat at the hands of the IJN and this was to prove a catalyst. Hard questions were asked, dead wood was removed and new tactics and SOPs were formulated which was to transform the USN from an amateurish peace-time navy into the most professionally competent navy of modern times, a position that it retains to this day. The IJN, was outnumbered, outclassed and although extremely professional itself proved completely unable cope.

The failure to destroy the carriers at Pearl Harbor, Midway or Guadalcanal? Personally, I think that there are strong arguments for each!

Fair enough, Richard, but whatever, it's a fascinating subject.

By the way, are you coming back to 'God's Little Acres' in time for the RSS Xmas party?

Richard. Midway was decisive as it broke the back of the Japanese and put them on the backfoot and had to defend instead of what they though was imminent victory.
I still feel a bit sorry for Charlton Heston when he failed to land safely on the flat top.

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