Could Japan have won in the Pacific . . .

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. . . . if the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, had been better planned and executed?

    As we all know, the attack on Pearl Harbor was horribly devastating as it actually happened, yet what if . . .

    The carriers had been actually in port as planned and were destroyed in the attack?

    The Japanese had attacked the submarine base and destroyed the subs then in harbor.

    Attacked and destroyed the ship-repair facilities at Pearl.

    Had destroyed the oil storage facilities at Pearl.

    Had launched a third strike, as Nagumo was urged to do, instead of retiring after the first and second strikes.

    Had attacked and occupied Midway in January 1942 instead of waiting until June to make the attempt.

    And worst of all, had invaded the Hawaiian Islands immediately after the attack.

    Just food for thought . . .
  2. bdfinst

    bdfinst New Member

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    I think that at most they would have prolonged the war. I don't think they could have successfully invaded Hawaii due to the logistical situation. The supply lines would have been too long. If they had hit the carriers, we would have been in a world of hurt for a bit and probably would have lost Midway.

    Anyone know how soon after Pearl we launched our first new fleet carrier?
  3. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Actually, PS, there was no way the Japs could have invaded Hawaii, much less supply it after they did, in 1941, they WERE spread pretty thin. MAYBE Naval Landing troops would have taken Midway, but they would have been unable to supply them any better in 41 or early 42 than they could have if they took it in June 42.....even WITHOUT our remaining subs blockading it.

    And it was just a "Navy" show, the Army was tied up in China, with actually very few troops committed even for the Philippines and indonesia. (You can't forget the REAL war the Japs were fighting was between the IJA and the IJN, with only OCCASIONAL fighting against the OUTSIDE enemies....)


    Now having pooh-poohed your last couple of points, I think your first points are good ones, and it WAS a close run thing....lucky we didn't lose the carriers, but more important than even that was saving the Oil Farms and the repair facilities.

    Without the third strike, the Japs actually LOST the "Battle of Pearl Harbor," but you have to give the devil his due, Nagumo was doing what no one had ever done before, nobody REALLY knew even then that Carriers had eclipsed surface forces, his "Strike force" was not very big or heavy, except in carriers, and he WAS told to "Be careful...." Plus he had taken SOME losses, and a third strike would have taken some time, to rearm and refuel, all the while in range of landbased air that he did NOT know for SURE was totally knocked out, plus where WERE those carriers......

    Actually, I still do not think they could have won, BUT it might have changed the whole concept of "Germany First." Politically, FDR would have had to put EVERYTHING into the pacific, and Germany, (and England) would have had to wait.


    We had Yorktown, and Wasp, in the Atlantic, even not bringing along Ranger, we would have had a viable fleet left, and we had quite a few ships left in Diego and the Atlantic, including subs and BBs. And ALL those ships laid down in 1938-1941 for the Naval expansion would have been put on a fast track for construction and launching, spare no expense, no diversion of effort. We might have even seen Essex, and the Princeton class converted cruiser CVLs in action in late 42, instead of late 43, granted, flying Wildcats instead of Hellcats....but still deadly....

    We would have based the remaining reinforced US Pacific Fleet (still powerful) on the West coast, if we couldn't use Pearl, and later based them in New Zealand or Australia.


    I'm not COMPLETELY sure the outcome in the Pacific would change much, if 90% of our effort and output went to the pacific, instead of the shoestring we actually fought it with diverting so many men and material to Europe.


    But the KEY would probably have been no North Africa, Italy, or cross channel attack in 1944, maybe even 1945..... but then again, without planning those operations, there wouldn't have been the delay in producing DDs and DEs and SCs caused by giving landing craft and LSTs priority....
  4. Essentially, Polish, I think you are correct as far as the ultimate outcome of the war is concerned. Japan overmatched itself by far when they took us on, as Yamamoto had warned. I do think that my "what ifs" are meaningful though, in that such damage--which could have been inflicted--would have made life far more difficult than it actually was for American forces in the Pacific, and might even have forced us back to the mainland for at least a time. Indeed, Guadalcanal could not have happened when it did, which means that very likely Australia would have fallen to Japanese occupation. Another thought: If, as you suggest, our main concentration was turned against the Japanese instead of the Germans, England might well have fallen and we would have had no base from which to bomb Germany or launch Operation Overlord. And what about the possibility that Germany, unhindered by bombing, might have developed the atomic bomb before we did.
  5. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Or else we put more priority to it and get the B36 operational in 45 instead of 46, and "Little Boy" goes to Tokyo, and "Fat Man" goes to Berlin....directly from the States....
  6. Possible, of course, but the Germans did have the capability to build the bomb, and planes fly in two directions.
  7. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    bd, The first Essex class were launched in 42, but didn't become operational until mid to late 43...a lot of that had to do with developing the Hellcat for them too, they MIGHT have been rushed up a little sooner had the carriers all been lost earlier, but we were down to only banged up Enterprise not too long after we invaded Guadalcanal, and had to "borrow" a couple from the Brits, so I'm not sure we could have gotten them up much more quicker....you'd think they would have been trying like heck already....

    ...now converting the light cruisers into the CVLs just might have happened sooner, the Intrepid class CVLs didn't take long to convert once they got the idea, and actually carried a decent complement of 35-50 planes and were fast too.... Generally speaking two Intrepids actually had slightly more power than one Fleet carrier, were more flexible, and smaller targets, they just couldn't take the damage a CV could, and couldn't operate in as rough seas...but they served well until the end.
  8. Rommelvon

    Rommelvon New Member

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    If the carriers had been at pearl, the war would have taken a lot longer, I saw a documentary recently where several thousand Japanese troops actually landed near Alaska, built an Airstrip and set up a defensive line, but US air power blasted them and US ground troops took them out. as far as japanese taking and holding the entire pacific, I dont't think so, I think if that were the case US commanders would have pulled some of the N atlantic fleet to dispense of any ships
  9. To some extent that is true, Rom. The Alaska campaign, though, was very undermanned and for a long while, there was little that could be done against the Japanese on Attu and Kiska except harrass them with occasional bombing raids. It wasn't until 1943 that the U.S. began to recapture the islands in the Aleutians held by the Japanese. As for reinforcing the Pacific from the Atlantic fleet, there wasn't really very much to reinforce them with in the first year or so of the war. What little we did have was occupied escorting convoys across the Atlantic, or involved in the North African campaign.
  10. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Oh, PS, we had a lot more in the North Altantic than that at the beginning, including the Wasp and the Ranger, and a couple of battleships, a couple of cruiser squadrons, and several Desrons NOT actively engaged in escort actions.

    Now things DID get pretty desperate, and there was even talk of putting the paddle-wheel training carriers from Lake Michigan into service in the Atlantic as escort carriers, but don't forget the RN had pretty decent carriers that they eventually lent us in the Pacific during the "dark days" of early 43 when all we had left was the damaged Enterprise, after Wasp was sunk, that they would have lent us sooner, in late 42, if needed, as long as we got them fitted out with Avengers more quickly to replace the "Stringbags," but they were already flying Wildcats...they were short-legged and carried half the planes of our Yorktown class, but could take a LOT of punishment, Victorious, Indomitable and Illustrious escorted by our new North Carolina class fast BBs would have been a good deterrent to further Jap expansion...and just MAY have been ready for Midway, although without any Dauntlesses....but then again, maybe they WOULD have had them, HHHmmmm....
  11. williamd

    williamd New Member

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    In fact, they were sure in charge of most of the Pacific for some time until we kicked them off the islands ... the islands we gave back! I agree that it could have prolonged things because we would have had to regroup and launch our effort w/o bases in the Pacific and Aleutians. But, it would have increased anxiety and drive in continental US. The Japanese would not have invaded US mainland (in fact, they were not prepared to do so), they knew/admitted that there was a rifle/shotgun behind every schrub ... and THAT generation was not afraid of the shadows).

    Plus, in those days we had a Democratic president with guts. Harry S would have hesitated even less to use tyhe bomb(sssssssss).

    Maybe the Japanese should have 'won' in the Pacific for a while longer???:rolleyes:


    PS: Been to Hawaii of late?? If so, in your opinion who runs it?? There is winning/losing, and there is losing/winning!!


    Next question: What if we have left France as part of Germany??? Can we still do that????
  12. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

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    To answer your very possible scenarios Pistol... should any of them really happened, we'd all be using chop sticks at mealtime, wearing kimono's, and expressing gratitude by saying "domo arrigato!" In short, the odds of winning the war if Midway would have turned out differently and/or the Japanese would have taken a third or fourth swipe at Pearl Harbour, would have GREATLY reduced.

    Good thread.
  13. obxned

    obxned New Member

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    We would have won, but a few years later, and with more nucs!
  14. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Pat, do you really think much would have changed if we lost at Midway?

    I mean, obviously, if the Japs didn't lose any carriers, and we lost all of ours, it would have been disastrous for us, BUT Spruance was under orders to be careful, and besides he was a prudent admiral, I think we may have bloodied Nagumo a little, and lost the Yorktown regardless, and the results would have resembled Coral Sea, a tactical defeat...

    This is probably what WOULD have happened had we not broken their code, we wouldn't have been blundering around with everything hanging out in the breeze BEFORE they took Midway if we didn't kNOW.

    So what then would have happened? Yes they take Midway, BUT there was NO WAY they could have held it that far from ANY logistic support. Their fleet could NOT have been in range indefinitely, in fact only a few DAYS per month at best. And their CLOSEST base for support was Wake, too far away for any air service except perhaps a few trips by their scarce mavis Flying Boats, or "stripped down" Betty's...nothing in the way of any "air bridge...."


    EVERY sub we had would be blockading Midway, our remaining carriers would be shuttling attacks virtually EVERY day, with B-17s hitting it from Pearl with impunity. They would NOT have a chance to get Midway operational as a base, and it's aircraft would be destoyed on the ground, without spare parts, and without fuel or ammo.


    No, Midway could ONLY have been a "loss" for us had we followed Yamamoto's script in his overly complicated ballet and ALSO sought the Mahanian "Decisive battle," committing EVERYTHING we had in a "last ditch" fight. And there is no way Nimitz falls for it even if we didn't have "Magic."


    The A-Go operation was doomed from the start for Japan, too many conflicting objectives, not enough logistics to support ANY of the many facets, really just a waste of precious fuel and resources to do SOMETHING.....the fact we knew it was coming and jumped them the way we did just was icing on the cake.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  15. In short, Polish, the A-Go plan was typically Japanese, i.e., too complex and focused only on the tactical rather than the strategic. No, the Japanese might not have held Midway for long, but its capture might well have made Hawaii untenable, at least for a a year or so. Now consider, had the Japanese taken Hawaii using Midway as a base of operations, with its repair and fuel facilities reasonably intact, we would really have had our butts hung out to dry. I think it is well to remember that at that time--mid 1942--it was the Japanese Navy, not the American, that ruled the Pacific Theatre. Granted, the Japanese had little staying power in a long war of attrition, but they began the war with one hell of a powerful navy. That is precisely why Yamamoto warned that Japan must win quickly if it were to win at all.
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