Forum: Ask the Pearl Harbor Historians
Topic: What Would You Have Done?
started by: jayfoster

Posted by jayfoster on Jun. 18 2001,2:12
What would you have done had you known the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor?

Would you have engaged them out at sea?  Would you have waited until they got closer or what?


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 18 2001,5:17
Tough question.

How soon do you know they're coming?  Kimmel said with two hours notice he would have sortied the fleet.  He's an admiral, I'm not, but I wouldn't take the fleet out to meet Kido Butai.  Ballard would be looking for the whole Pacific Fleet today.

If the radar sighting was the first warning you only have an hour.  In that hour the Navy would man all the guns, fire up the boilers, set water-tight integrity and disperse the planes at the airfields.   Get a line of destroyers 100 yards east of Battleship Row to nulify torpedo attacks and let fly at anything that's in the air over the harbor.  Notify the Army that the area is a "you-fly, you-die" zone.

The Army gets ammo out to all guns and gets them manned.  

Elliott and Lockard have been relieved by now, and they're back at Fighter Informatin Center giving info on their sighting.  This info goes to Com14th and Enterprise and Lexington team up and move to intercept.

IF the fleet is out to sea, Japan hits targets of opportunity, which means the infrastructure for our submarine war is seriously damaged.  

AND Arizona is in Tokyo Bay for the surrender cerimonies.

(Edited by Larry Jewell at 8:21 pm on July 1, 2001)


Posted by jack50 on Jun. 19 2001,2:29
I THINK THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION IS EASY..TO LAUNCH A MASSIVE AIR ATTCK AGAINST JAPANESE CARRIERS BEFORE THEY LAUNCHED THEIR PLANES AND DESTROY THEM..BASICALLY WHAT HAPPENED IN BATTLE OF MIDWAY..IF THE JAPANESE
WERE DISCOVERED  EARLY THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN IN DEEP TROUBLE, SHIPS COULD HAVE BEEN FULLY PREPARED AN LAUNCHED TO SEA

(Edited by Larry Jewell at 6:03 am on June 20, 2001)


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 19 2001,3:05
I would be worried in sending two USN carriers against six IJN carriers.  Especially with the complete lack of combat experience we had at the time.  Air support from Hawaii wouldn't have been much good, there were only six flyable B-17s on Hawaii before the attack.  The ones coming in from the States had no ammo or bombs.

A lost here would mean no Halsey.  As has been said elsewhere, "nobody's irreplacable, but some are priceless."


Posted by jack50 on Jun. 20 2001,4:40
300 us planes were destroyed or damged during raid on pearl harbor..what were doing on the island with no torpedoes or bombs !!! a land based attack on carriers could have been disasterous for the Japanese.
imagine few dozen us planes appearing over Japanese carriers with their surface covered with planes fuel..bombs ..torpedoes to would been alike a dynamite waiting to ignite...the Japanese relied on suprise for the operation to be succesful ..had a even few planes gone and meet them at sea to let them know they were spoted they might have turned back

(Edited by Larry Jewell at 5:36 am on June 21, 2001)


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 20 2001,5:44
First, please do not use epithets or slurs.  We want a board that respects people, and not one that is just a repeat of the flame war so common on the Internet.

As for the planes, most were fighters and patrol planes.  The Army did not allow its pilots to travel more than fifteen miles from land on a routine basis.  Obviously the bombers that flew in from the mainland traveled farther, but one of their goals in Hawaii was to learn over-the-water navigation.

A land-based attack on the Striking Force would have been less successful than that launched during the battle of Midway (which scored zero hits on enemy ships) because we only had six functional B-17s on the island.

Finally, the Striking Force would not have turned back if they were spotted within 24 hours of Hawaii, they had specific orders to press home the attack if located by US forces during that time.  Any time between 24-72 hours before the attack and it would have been the commander's choice whether or not to proceed.

(Edited by Larry Jewell at 7:42 pm on June 20, 2001)


Posted by Philip Payton on Jun. 26 2001,11:09
ok 6am I know the attack will happen in the next two hours, but not from which direction, so :

1) Place all aircraft on full alert and move the majority to Ewa, Hickham and Bellows airfields fully loaded and ready for take off.  

2) All ships to go to general quarters and prepare for an aerial attack.  Battleships to prepare to make for open sea followed by cruisers.

3) UNS Enterprise approx 200 miles from Pearl to launch a couple of squadrans to search for IJN Fleet, Lexington at approx 400 miles away too far to offer support but to make best speed back for Pearl.

4) patrol aircraft to be sent on a spiral search of the area surrounding O'ahu Island starting towards Japan and working clockwise

7:55 am

5) Fighters launched to protect the harbor, Wheeler and Kaneohe airfields.  Also Scout aircraft to be launched for the purpose of following japanese aircraft back to home.

"Isn't hindsight grand"


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 27 2001,6:47
RE: "3)"

Let's not launch the Enterprise planes yet.  She's 200 miles west of Pearl, the IJN ships are 200 miles north of Pearl, that makes the hypotenuse of the triangle (okay, the straight line distance between them) over 300 miles.

If we know they're coming, but not from which direction we use the radar stations to get a bead on incoming flights.  This gives us the quadrant to search.  Enterprise steams northeast and launches a CAP and a series of scouting missions.  One of these reports "six carriers" before being shot out of the sky.  Halsey passes this info to Kimmel.  What's his call? He has an open phone line to Stark, who has Marshall and FDR in his office.  What do they say about the odds?


Posted by Philip Payton on Jun. 27 2001,7:24
Ok, I see the flaw here, however Enterprise still to head for pearl,
The main reason being fleet against fleet the Enterprise is outnumbered by 6 to 1 carriers with the japanese being able to launch almost five times the amount of aircraft approx 420.  The Enterprise could field 100 aircraft but it would have unloaded so many at Midway.  Also without recon to see how many vessels the jap fleet had any attack would be possible suicide.

IJN :
6 Aircraft Carriers
423 Aircraft
2 Battleships
3 Cruisers
? Submarines


USN :
1 Aircraft Carrier
90-100 Aircraft
3 Heavy Cruisers
9 Destroyers

Also all ships in Pearl to begin a smoke screen so as not to give the jap high level bombers an easy target.

I'm still thinking about possible solutions


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 27 2001,7:45
"I'm still thinking about possible solutions"

Enterprise hooks up with Lexington and delivers some payback.  Hit 'em at dawn on the 8th (Hawaii Time).  If Lexington is north of the Kido Butai at that time you're hitting them from two directions.  Lots of pilots and planes get used up, but maybe we get a carrier or two.  Having the carriers in different areas doubles the difficulty of finding them.  Don't forget, the Japanese had "lost" the USN carriers just as we had lost the IJN ships.

The only thing two hours gives us is the information that we should brace ourselves, and the ability to use the radar information that was received.  Two hours steaming time for the carriers was less than 50 miles.


Posted by Philip Payton on Jun. 28 2001,8:00
Ok, Scouts from Enterprise report that the IJN has a fleet of 6 Carriers, 2 Battleships, 2 Heavy Cruisers, 2 Light Cruisers, 9 Destroyers and 7 Tankers, (the japanese also had 28 Subs some with the fleet but the majority ahead)

As you said Halseys task force could move 50 miles in 2 hours which would put him about 230 miles away from the japanese navy and coming from a direction that they were not expecting;

So Pearl sends out it's fleet, not including vessels in dry dock this could be as many as 7 Battleships, 2 Heavy Cruisers, 6 Light Cruisers, 27 Destroyers and 4 Submarines.

plus within 400 miles there is a further 7 Heavy Cruisers, 14 Destroyers and 8 Submarines..

1) So the attacking IJN airforce finds that Pearl is all but deserted before they can figure out what is happening the O'ahu air cover begins its attack.

2) Aircraft from the Enterprise begin to attack the IJN thier target the landing decks of the 6 carriers

3) The Lexington steams north parallel to the japanese navy with the intention of ambushing any returning vessels as they make a run for japan thier surprise attack having failed.

4) Enterprise and several vessels sunk by japanese subs

possibly...


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jun. 28 2001,9:47
We would need until the 8th to get anything close to properly positioned for a two-carrier strike against Kido Butai.  Lexington needs to get into range for a strike, and Enterprise is too far south of the IJN to be effective.  

How about this:

Lexington steams east as fast as she can.  Enterprise gets between the IJN and Hawaii and s****ers the attack force into friendly air cover.  While Enterprise  and the USAAF are duking it out near Opana Point, Lexington strikes the IJN.  The Battle Force, gets up steam and make a rendezvous with Lexington north of Midway for a second strike.

The forces at Johnston Island are sent screaming west to cover Wake.

What if...


Posted by Philip Payton on Jul. 01 2001,10:17
Ok,

Thats definetly a possibilty, after looking through some of the links on the message board here and about, Pearl Harbor had available : (Ships receiving Non Crippling, minor, negligable or no hits) 2 Heavy Cruisers, 3 Light Cruisers, 26 Destroyers and 4 Submarines plus aux vessels.  

1) The Lexington Task Force heads South East, at the time of the attack she is 800 - 900 miles NW of the IJN.  30N, 170W

2) The Enterprise Task Force heads North East between Kaua'i and O'ahu in an attempt to force Nagumo to turn his fleet 180 degrees to engage the Enterprise.  

3) South East about 200 miles away from the IJN (22N 155W) is 3 Subs heading for Pearl they instead head North East to protect the Enterprise from Sub attack.

4) USN Destroyer Litchfield and The USN Submarine Thresher head north to hook up with the Enterprise Task Force.

5) Fleet from Pearl leaves to engage the Jap TF.

6) Fighters and remaining bombers from O'ahu launch to attack the IJN only if the ploy to turn them works so that they come back in range.

Finally as I see it Nagumo would have three choices: Run, Turn and fight hoping his superior carrier and submarine force could decimate the us forces, or split his force in two send 3 carriers the cruisers and 10-12 subs south to engage the Enterprise and continue North West with the remainder and escape.



Posted by Larry Jewell on Jul. 01 2001,12:17
"Finally as I see it Nagumo would have three choices: Run, Turn and fight hoping his superior carrier and submarine force could decimate the us forces, or split his force in two send 3 carriers the cruisers and 10-12 subs south to engage the Enterprise and continue North West with the remainder and escape. "

Nagumo had orders to try and keep his force intact.  Remember that it was just borrowed from the thrust into the Southern Resources Area (SRA).  He didn't launch the second attack on Hawaii because the force was needed to cover the SRA.  

So, since we're speculating:  Nagumo hears the USN is out in force after him.  He decides to call off the attack, despite orders.  He is assassinated (or effectively removed from command) and the new boss, faced with gekokujo (David, is that the right term?) has to lead the force into a battle.  After first contact all bets are off.


Posted by USSBOWFINSS287 on Jul. 01 2001,9:10
And perhaps, if we woulda had some DECENT torpedoes...we coulda sent some of our subs to do some hunting!!  Sorry, had to put that plug in for the Silent Service!


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jul. 01 2001,9:31
Quote
Quote: from USSBOWFINSS287 on 8:10 pm on July 1, 2001
And perhaps, if we woulda had some DECENT torpedoes...we coulda sent some of our subs to do some hunting!!  Sorry, had to put that plug in for the Silent Service!

You're making an old "skimmer" nervous :scared: .

We had 22 submarines in the Pacific, total.  If 3/4 of them were grouped north of the launch point, with "some DECENT torpedoes" we'd have had quite a party.  Since Japan's experience with actual combat ASW was on a par with ours, i.e. zippo, some of the subs might have made it home afterwards.  Combine that with two carriers' worth of warplanes to pick off the wounded ships and we could have had a credible bag.

Sad, isn't it, that a bunch of armchair admirals can come up with some many ways to respond to the impending attack other than "just let it happen"?  


Posted by USSBOWFINSS287 on Jul. 06 2001,11:08
Not to take any credit away from the surface fleet...but I wonder how "fact" as we know it in the Pacific Theatre would have differed if "fiction" would have afforded our subs with reliable torpedoes?

And I don't just mean immediately following Pearl...but the "whole bag" of  battle!!!  I posted (much) earlier that my uncle was anchored in harbor (Darnit, can't remember which one!) in the "combat area" of the South Pacific when the initial "fireworks" were going off and they couldn't do a dang thing about it!

Not that things weren't "hairy" in the Atlantic....but there was a TON more area to cover in the Pacific than off our Eastern shores!


Posted by Larry Jewell on Jul. 07 2001,8:10
"but I wonder how "fact" as we know it in the Pacific Theatre would have differed if "fiction" would have afforded our subs with reliable torpedoes? "

"What-if" they worked properly?  How do you estimate that?

You could start by figuring how many failures there were. Assume the torpedoes actual worked. Determine if the original spread of torpedoes would have sunk or seriously disabled the target.  Then take the additional torpedoes, if any, expended against that target and apply them to other ships.  Do the theoritical sinkings affect and Japanese operations?  Does the sucess of the silent service change the plans of the Japanese?  If so, how?

Interesting speculative track.  


Posted by johnbryan on Sep. 28 2008,8:11

(Philip Payton @ Jul. 01 2001,8:17)
QUOTE
Ok,

Thats definetly a possibilty, after looking through some of the links on the message board here and about, Pearl Harbor had available : (Ships receiving Non Crippling, minor, negligable or no hits) 2 Heavy Cruisers, 3 Light Cruisers, 26 Destroyers and 4 Submarines plus aux vessels.  

1) The Lexington Task Force heads South East, at the time of the attack she is 800 - 900 miles NW of the IJN.  30N, 170W

2) The Enterprise Task Force heads North East between Kaua'i and O'ahu in an attempt to force Nagumo to turn his fleet 180 degrees to engage the Enterprise.  

3) South East about 200 miles away from the IJN (22N 155W) is 3 Subs heading for Pearl they instead head North East to protect the Enterprise from Sub attack.

4) USN Destroyer Litchfield and The USN Submarine Thresher head north to hook up with the Enterprise Task Force.

5) Fleet from Pearl leaves to engage the Jap TF.

6) Fighters and remaining bombers from O'ahu launch to attack the IJN only if the ploy to turn them works so that they come back in range.

Finally as I see it Nagumo would have three choices: Run, Turn and fight hoping his superior carrier and submarine force could decimate the us forces, or split his force in two send 3 carriers the cruisers and 10-12 subs south to engage the Enterprise and continue North West with the remainder and escape.


The only problem with this scenerio is, the Enterprise Task Force is extremely low on fuel and will have to enter Pearl Harbor within 48 hours to re-fuel and re-provision before going back out on the hunt for the Japanese Aircraft Carriers.
Posted by johnbryan on Nov. 01 2008,8:15
Also, the Lexington Task Force is alot closer to Midway than it is to Oahu and Pearl Harbor.
Posted by Desertmole on Nov. 02 2008,6:57
From what I've read over the years, it would take longer than 2 hours to get up steam and be away.  So the question is how much time?

If it were, say, 12 hours, I'd take the fleet to sea and send them South.  After that, work on arranging a rendezous with Halsey.  At least then you have some limited air cover.

I would launch every available PBY in a night attack.  They just might surprise the Japanese and maybe even hit something.

Next, I'd continue South or Southeast.  Put more space between me and the Japanese.

I know this sounds quite cowardly, but consider this.  First, the Army pursuit squadrons were forbidden from flying more than 15 miles from shore.  No practice means they can't provide CAP.  I'd keep them to CAP the Airfields and maybe fly escort for bombers.

Next, I'd fly the VB and VT squadrons from Enterprise and base them at Ford Island.  I'd keep the VF and VS squadrons to protect the fleet.

With 12 hours notice, the AAF guys should be able to get at least a few more planes operational.  I'd throw all the attack and bomber squadrons at Nagumo, along with VB-6 and VT-6.  My hope?  Bust a deck or two and shoot down as many Japanese planes as possible.  Chances are slim.  After all, B-17s only hit like one warship in the entire war, and I doubt the B-18s would do any better.  They might give the dive bombers of VB-6 a chance to crack a deck, and if we were EXTREMELY lucky, VT-6 might actually get a hit.  After all, the biggest failing of the Mk XIII torpedo was its speed and fragility if launched too high or too fast.  It did not have the exploder problems the sub and surface torpedoes had from what I have read.

The Lexington Group is, in the meantime, steaming Southeast to meet up with the Fleet.

After about 24 hours I'd then bring the fleet Northwest.  Make the rendezvous with Lexington ASAP and maybe look for cripples.  

Yes, I am probably thinking with 20/20 hindsight, but Kimmel would be foolish to try to intercept the Kido Butai.  That would only lead to disaster.

Posted by johnbryan on Nov. 07 2008,8:51

(Desertmole @ Nov. 02 2008,4:57)
QUOTE
From what I've read over the years, it would take longer than 2 hours to get up steam and be away.  So the question is how much time?

If it were, say, 12 hours, I'd take the fleet to sea and send them South.  After that, work on arranging a rendezous with Halsey.  At least then you have some limited air cover.

I would launch every available PBY in a night attack.  They just might surprise the Japanese and maybe even hit something.

Next, I'd continue South or Southeast.  Put more space between me and the Japanese.

I know this sounds quite cowardly, but consider this.  First, the Army pursuit squadrons were forbidden from flying more than 15 miles from shore.  No practice means they can't provide CAP.  I'd keep them to CAP the Airfields and maybe fly escort for bombers.

Next, I'd fly the VB and VT squadrons from Enterprise and base them at Ford Island.  I'd keep the VF and VS squadrons to protect the fleet.

With 12 hours notice, the AAF guys should be able to get at least a few more planes operational.  I'd throw all the attack and bomber squadrons at Nagumo, along with VB-6 and VT-6.  My hope?  Bust a deck or two and shoot down as many Japanese planes as possible.  Chances are slim.  After all, B-17s only hit like one warship in the entire war, and I doubt the B-18s would do any better.  They might give the dive bombers of VB-6 a chance to crack a deck, and if we were EXTREMELY lucky, VT-6 might actually get a hit.  After all, the biggest failing of the Mk XIII torpedo was its speed and fragility if launched too high or too fast.  It did not have the exploder problems the sub and surface torpedoes had from what I have read.

The Lexington Group is, in the meantime, steaming Southeast to meet up with the Fleet.

After about 24 hours I'd then bring the fleet Northwest.  Make the rendezvous with Lexington ASAP and maybe look for cripples.  

Yes, I am probably thinking with 20/20 hindsight, but Kimmel would be foolish to try to intercept the Kido Butai.  That would only lead to disaster.

It took about 2 to 2-1/2 hours for a pre-WWII battleship to get up enough steam to manuver.  There were no US Aircraft Carriers nearby.  Halsey's Task Force was some 200 miles from PH,  low on fuel and needing provisions.  Newton's Lexington Task Force was about 450 nautical miles from Midway on 7 December and would be unable to render any assistance for a number of days.

Midway through the Japanese air attack, the Battleship Sortie Order was revoked, not that they were going anywhere anyway.

Posted by johnbryan on Jan. 25 2009,7:56
Although Kimmel said that he would have sortied his fleet had he received 2 hours warning notice, the reason that the battleships were in Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning was because the carriers Lexington and Enterprise were out making aircraft deliveries to Midway and Wake Islands.  Kimmel's Pacific Fleet SOP was that whenever the carriers were unavailable, then the BB's were in port.

Even one hour's warning would have been more than enough time to get a number of Army, Navy and Marine Corps fighter planes armed, fueled and aloft, while getting the fleet into an acceptable level of GQ readiness and most importantly, gain "Condition Zed" water tight integrity.

Posted by PPP on Jan. 05 2010,12:37
Depends-with 2 Hour warning-sortie all ships out to sea.
Anything less than that -put enough steam in the battleships so their guns can be used as anti-aircraft batteries

Posted by Larry J on Jan. 05 2010,12:48
Most of them were supplying their own steam anyway, IIRC. Getting the DDs ready to fight would have been crucial. They had the best 5" guns and smaller AAA. As they were anchored out they had one boiler apiece going, so they could have powered guns with no problem. And the pit snipes would have been doing miracles to get the rest of the boilers lit off.
Posted by PPP on Jan. 05 2010,1:35
related link < http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtop....343783c >
Posted by Larry J on Jan. 05 2010,1:42

(PPP @ Jan. 05 2010,11:35)
QUOTE
related link < http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtop....343783c >

That's a long thread.  Anyway, the initial premise needs sourcing. Did anyone say where the Yamamoto information came from? As I understand it, the Imperial Headquarters allowed the attack on Pearl to proceed as long as the southward advance wasn't interfered with. So the idea that there would be an invasion of Hawaii has some problems.
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