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What If #2: Battle Of Midway

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  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Goffstown, NH
What If #2: Battle Of Midway
Posted by New Hampshire on Monday, April 01, 2013 5:40 PM

Well, the first What If seems to have gone well.  So now lets keep the ball rolling, and this time give a nod to the Pacific Theater in this What If....

What If:

At the Battle of Coral Sea, the mighty USS Yorktown was badly damaged, but was still floating and was able to make it back to Pearl Harbor.  Repair time was estimated to take about 2 weeks, but she was ordered to sail with the Task Force headed for the Midway operation, and sufficient repairs were made to get her into battle ready status.  As we know from here history shows she played a major part in the battle to come, her dive bombers helped fatally destroyed 3 Japanese Fleet carriers in one go.  And while her contribution to the battle were great the other 2 Fleet Carriers, Hornet and Enterprise, also had their share of the importance in this battle.  So this now begs the big What If question.....what if Yorktown had not been able to make it into battle for the Midway Operation?  Could Hornet and "Big E" have won the day, with or without Yorktown?  How might this battle have turned out without the extra support of Yorktown's dive bombers, fighters and torpedo planes?

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Monday, April 01, 2013 7:28 PM

The main "if" in this is involving Hornet's Air Group. IF they had turned like Enterprise's north instead of south and made contact with the Japanese carriers on the morning of June 4th and added two squadrons to the two from Enterprise. Potentially all four Japanese carriers could have been hit between 1020-1030  that morning. But then if not, potentially Hornet and or Enterprise could have been hit or sunk in the Japanese counterstrikes and theoretically Midway still captured.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Spartanburg, SC
Posted by subfixer on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 12:14 AM

Say Midway had been captured. What would the Japanese been able to do with it? It was too small to support a fleet of any significant size and too close to Hawaii to avoid strikes from the intact submarine force stationed there.  It was also within range of heavy bombers which the Japanese lacked. It was too far from Japanese assets to be defended for long. It would probably be just a short lived prestige victory that would have eventually fallen back to the US in short order. The Japanese were doomed the moment they set out to bomb Pearl Harbor in the first place no matter if they won at Midway or not.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

  • Member since
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  • From: Goffstown, NH
Posted by New Hampshire on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 6:01 AM

A friend of mine made the excellent point that the number of planes attacking Nagumo's task force is what helped lead to the indecision that caused the carriers planes to be rearmed from land attack (Midway) to sea attack (carriers), and which caused said planes to still be on deck when the fatal attacks were commenced.

Midway itself was never really meant to be about land occupation.  The Japanese were ardent believers in one giant fatal blow, like what happened with their battle of Tsushima against the Russians.  This operation was more about luring the American carriers that escaped their destruction at Pearl Harbor to a place where the Japanese believed they could sweep down in one fell swoop and end the American threat long enough for the Japanese to be in a better bargaining position.  Honestly I don't think we would ever have let up, and the destruction of the American carrier force would only have delayed the Americans war effort, not ended it.

  • Member since
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  • From: Western North Carolina
Posted by Tojo72 on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 8:34 AM

subfixer

Say Midway had been captured. What would the Japanese been able to do with it? It was too small to support a fleet of any significant size and too close to Hawaii to avoid strikes from the intact submarine force stationed there.  It was also within range of heavy bombers which the Japanese lacked. It was too far from Japanese assets to be defended for long. It would probably be just a short lived prestige victory that would have eventually fallen back to the US in short order. The Japanese were doomed the moment they set out to bomb Pearl Harbor in the first place no matter if they won at Midway or not.

The book "Shattered Sword" makes a good case that the Japanese landing force would have been insufficent to take Midaway in any case.   And like you said there would have been no way they would have been able to supply or defend it.

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 11:30 AM

Midway itself was very much a unsustainable outpost for the Japanese as pointed out above. But lets go with the premise of no USS Yorktown, Hornet's Air Group performing as poorly as they did on June 4, and a Japanese victory in the sea battle, with Hornet and Enterprise either sunk or knocked out for the rest of 1942 due to the survival of Hiryu and Soryu. The landing is repelled or at best a pyhrric victory for the landing force. But now comes the "Domino Effect"- There is not enough offensive US naval strength left to launch Guadalcanal, and Japan is able to get that base operational and continue with her South West Pacific drive to successfully isolate Australia. Yes the war goes on for far longer,  but as we have seen, the US public can get war weary and not demand total victory.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Goffstown, NH
Posted by New Hampshire on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 6:50 PM

You make some very good points Stik about what the consequences of a disaster at Midway could have as a domino effect.  It would have taken a long time to rebuild the carrier force, and as history has shown there could have been no serious bomber offensive against Japan without suitable bases, and as we have seen the carriers played a very huge roll in the offensives that took the islands those bases were to become.

  • Member since
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  • From: Spartanburg, SC
Posted by subfixer on Tuesday, April 02, 2013 11:38 PM

Well, the way I see it, at the least, the US heavy bombers could have operated out of Australia against the Japanese forces in the Solomons and New Guinea for a while. And the submarine force (provided they got the torpedo problem fixed a little quicker) could have held the Japanese at bay from invading Australia for a while. Who knows? But sooner than later, the industrial strength of the US would prevail. 

Also, I think the US public was made of sterner stuff in those days, especially after the Pearl Harbor attack was still fresh in their collective minds. I know it took that Iwo Jima flag raising photo to fire them up a bit later in the war, but that was three years down the road.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Wednesday, April 03, 2013 1:43 AM

Yes, the US sub force would have continued their moderately effective (at that time) efforts against the Japanese merchant marine and navy in that same time out of Western Australia and Pearl Harbor. But if Guadalcanal becomes an effective forward base for Japanese bombers and they can project further south and east into Samoa, Fiji, and the New Hebrides the Allied use of Australia for offensive operations is potentialy negated. The IJA forces sent to Guadalcanal can be used instead in New Guinea for the either the overland drive at Kokoda Track or Milne Bay and turn the tide in either of those battles in favor of Japan. Yes the US public had a bigger grudge and more backbone in the 1940s, but with the war extended into 1946 or 1947 due to the delays of a loss at Midway and no Guadalcanal campaign to attrit the IJN naval and air strength, there is the possibility of a better end of war position for Japan.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
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  • From: SW Virginia
Posted by Gamera on Thursday, April 04, 2013 9:02 AM

From what I've read the Japanese at that time had expanded as far as they felt safe and were digging in and fortifying what they had so I don't think they'd have continued pushing any further. As said above Midway was an attempt to draw in the Allied fleets for a big knock-out punch that would have given Japan time to build up their current holdings.

Had the war went on into '46 - '47 I'd figure we'd have seen pretty liberal use of A-bombs against a number of targets even if the B-29s couldn't reach the Japanese home islands. At that time no one really understood that clearly fallout and the other nasty after effects of such weapons. Had the war continued I'm not sure they'd have been much of Japan left plus considering if Stalin had joined in and more than just Korea ended up divided into two opposed nations.  

"I dream in fire but work in clay." -Arthur Machen

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Thursday, April 04, 2013 11:04 PM

Midway was the IJN and particularly Admiral Yamamotos pet project. The IJA wanted to continue the campaign in the SW Pacific to complete the capture of Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea, and either the isolation of or invasion of Australia. Both camps were divided and pushing their own agendas (much as MacArthur and Nimitz would be in 1943/44) until the Doolittle Raid brought the issue of bringing the US carriers to battle as the prime issue. Preperations for the Tulagi/Port Moresby invasions were far enough along where they were not sidelined for the Midway plan, once it was approved in late April. Otherwise the 5th Carrier Division, Shokaku and Zuikaku would have been recalled to Japan for Midway instead of Port Moresby.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: SW Virginia
Posted by Gamera on Friday, April 05, 2013 12:59 PM

Ah I swear I read somewhere about the IJN going on the defensive. I can't even remember where it was now, ah well not the first time I've been wrong and I am sure it won't be the last...

"I dream in fire but work in clay." -Arthur Machen

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 05, 2013 2:19 PM

Yes, some of the IJN General Staff wanted to switch to a defensive posture to follow pre war planning. All pre war objectives had been achieved, and at a lower price for the most part than anticipated. But Yamamoto won out over those, while at the same time that the IJA was advocating the drive south towards Australia and Polynesia.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Goffstown, NH
Posted by New Hampshire on Friday, April 05, 2013 5:09 PM

Yup, the long term strategic plan was for the Japanese to secure the necessary lands to supply them the raw materials they needed.  Yammamoto, after the Doolittle raid,played up Midway to be as a sort of bumper.  The Japanese did not think this island could have been a world of use to them militarily since (despite what some may have thought) they never intended to invade America.  What Yammamoto was most worried about was the Americans using it as a forward base from which to push naval operations into the Japanese held territory.  The long term plan of Japan was to early on strike a quick blow to the American Naval fleet (first at Pearl Harbor, and then when that was not accomplished, Midway) effectively removing them as a threat so that they could sue for peace from a platform of strength.  But as with the Germans they began to see how quickly they were making gains, and before long they started to overstep themselves.  With America it was only a question of time when they would be back up and running in the Pacific because all we needed for war material was easily at our disposal in our own backyard.  Japan, alas, needed a very long, very exposed supply line across the Pacific to achieve this.  As was shown, even moderate submarine warfare was a hurt on that supply line for Japan.

  • Member since
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  • From: Vancouver, the "wet coast"
Posted by castelnuovo on Friday, April 05, 2013 10:10 PM

Hey New Hampshire, I really love these "what if" posts. Do you mind if I ask the next one?

Cheers...

  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Goffstown, NH
Posted by New Hampshire on Saturday, April 06, 2013 4:19 AM

By all means, feel free.  There is no monopoly here. Big Smile

  • Member since
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  • From: Yorkville, IL
Posted by wolfhammer1 on Sunday, April 07, 2013 3:39 PM

Had the US lost at Midway, and we had to delay the carrier war and island hopping in the Pacific, there could have been more of a push in the CBI to get the bombers flying out of China instead of using islands as air bases.  If we could have kept any pressure us in the Pacific, maybe with submarines and flying out of Australia and New Guiney, it is possible that the B-24s would have taken the fight to Japan before the B-29 would have been available.  They had enough range to fly out of China, although the bases would not have been as secure.  In fact, if we had pushed in the CBI, we could have rolled back the Japanese island bases, as they withdrew troops to fight in China.  What do you think?

  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Goffstown, NH
Posted by New Hampshire on Sunday, April 07, 2013 4:52 PM

The problem with China was that for the B-29's to operate safely they had to use the Chinese bases as only forward operating bases.  As LeMay wrote in his book "Superfortress" they had to basically fly 6 missions from rear bases in India, over the hump, emptying reserve fuel at the Chinese bases, then flying back.  As said they would do this about 6 times, and it took that number of missions to pack away enough fuel at the Chinese advance bases before they had enough to fly a full blown mission to Japan.  Could America have focused more on China itself as a front, pushing back the Japanese to open up more secure bases in China that avoided having to fly "the hump"?  Possibly, but remember that the China front was a heavily convoluted mess because Mao and Kai-Shek were as much at odds with each other as with the Japanese.  They basically held off trying to obliterate each other just long enough to keep the Japanese at bay.  It was later learned that a lot....A LOT.....of the supplies America was sending to Kai-Shek was basically being squirreled away and not being used to fight the Japanese but rather to hold in reserve for when the war ended and he could go back to fighting Mao.  So basically this meant America would have to deal with fighting the Japanese in China on their own.  So I think overall Roosevelt, MacArthur and the rest of the army  really did not want to have to deal with the huge pile of politics and headaches a front in China would have given them.

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  • From: Yorkville, IL
Posted by wolfhammer1 on Monday, April 08, 2013 8:56 PM

True about the mess in China.  That being said, if we had gotten the act together there, and got the Burma road completed earlier, some of the logistic issues of flying out of China would have been alleviated.  In addition, the presence of many Allied troops in China may have had the effect of moderating the fight between Mao and Kai-Shek, at  least until the war was over.  A focused push to get Japan out of the CBI(which the British could have gotten behind as well) could have pulled the  attention of the Japanese off of the Pacific to guard their back door and the resources the CBI represented.  Also, securing the CBI would have allowed supply to come from the West, making the bomber offensive that much easier.  Another option would have been to isolate China, and work through the rest of SE Asia.  Thailand and Vietnam would have been good jumping off points to the Philippines and Indonesia and would have threatened the Japanese supply routes that ran through the area.  It would have been a total change in focus, to commit to CBI instead of the Pacific, but we would not have needed the carrier fleet that fought the battle of the Pacific to take the fight to the CBI.  It would have been a way to put lots of pressure on Japan, using equipment that was available at the time of Midway, especially if we had suffered a defeat at that battle.  Our invasion could have been Burma, instead of Guadalcanal.

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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Monday, April 08, 2013 9:03 PM

Yes, China was never a very viable option. The logistics challenges of that theater, Chinese politics notwithstanding, would never have supported a sustained bomber campaign against Japan. China was THE theater where the IJA could amass superiority to pretty much keep the Chinese on the run or at best on the defensive, even well into 1945. They were able to drive back the Chinese forces in late 1944 from the forward operating bases there enough to force the B-29 campaign into the Marianas.

So again, at that point, the choices go back to the South West Pacific Campaign to remove the threat to Australia and head back to the Philipines, or the Central Pacific Campaign of Atoll hopping. But Japan's carrier force in late 1943 will not have been attrited of her best and most experienced Naval Aviators during the Guadalcanal Campaign, and she will potentially have at least two carriers survive Midway and used en masse with all Japans other carriers, a larger and eventually equal carrier fleet into 1944.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
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  • From: Beaverton, OR
Posted by Ghostrider114 on Thursday, April 11, 2013 7:39 PM

What one must remember is that Midway island itself was not the only Japanese goal of that battle.  The Japanese Navy was also out to sink what was left of the Pacific Fleet.  If they had succeeded in sinking our flattops, it would have severely hindered our war effort.  Would the Japanese be able to capitalize on that advantage in time, I don't know, it would depend if we were able to rally the remaining carriers.  Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise was the balance of the carrier force in the pacific at the time, loosing both the Big-E and the Hornet would have been a huge blow to the fleet.  The Carriers played pivotal rolls in the Soloman Islands campaigns.  If they hadn't been there to block the combined fleet, it's likely that Henderson Field would have fallen, leaving Australia and New Guinea open for attack.

  • Member since
    April, 2005
Posted by ddp59 on Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:29 PM

Ghostrider114,  if the american carriers had been sunk at midway then Guadalcanal would not have been taken by the americans. no naval air support means no invasion.

  • Member since
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  • From: Spartanburg, SC
Posted by subfixer on Friday, April 12, 2013 7:11 AM

So, in the meantime, the US would be performing a defensive operation in the Pacific. They could stay the Japanese there until the war in Europe was over. The development of nuclear weapons would continue and the Soviet Union, now freed up from the war with Germany, would be able to turn its military power to Manchuria and pushing back the Japanese there. And, sooner or later, the US would go nuking its way in a race with the USSR to Japan.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 12, 2013 11:34 AM

ddp59

Ghostrider114,  if the american carriers had been sunk at midway then Guadalcanal would not have been taken by the americans. no naval air support means no invasion.

Exactly- the US victory at Midway set up the conditions that allowed for the Guadalcanal Campaign. Without that victory, presuming both Enterprise and Hornet are either heavily damaged or sunk at Midway due to no Yorktown, that leaves only Saratoga in the Pacific until Wasp arrives there in July. Perhaps Admiral Nimitz would still have launched the Guadalcanal campaign with only 2 instead of 4 carriers and knowing the IJN is still far stronger rather than roughly equal in that area. But the odds of that succeeding would have grown exponentially longer. 

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Beaverton, OR
Posted by Ghostrider114 on Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:36 AM

For the record, Fletcher was so cautious in providing air support for the landings that the flattops were not as important a player as they could have been.  Although without the promise of the support, it is probable that the invasion would have been called off.  Perhaps then I should have said Henderson would have remained in Japanese hands, regardless it would have still threatened Australia.  As it was the Soloman Islands provided just the thorn in Japan's side to keep the pressure off MacArthur and the Aussies.

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Rain USA, Vancouver WA
Posted by tigerman on Sunday, April 14, 2013 8:40 PM

In some ways a moot point, though very interesting. The war would have definitely been prolonged if the scenarios lined up like the discussion. That being said, if we still got our A-bomb on schedule and they didn't, then we would have rained them down on them in 45 like we did, assuming that we were in striking distance at that point. I still believe that the A-bomb would have ended the war. We might have had to drop more then the two we did.

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 Eric 

  • Member since
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  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Monday, April 15, 2013 9:14 PM

subfixer

 The development of nuclear weapons would continue and the Soviet Union, now freed up from the war with Germany, would be able to turn its military power to Manchuria and pushing back the Japanese there. And, sooner or later, the US would go nuking its way in a race with the USSR to Japan.

Now there is an interesting concept- the US is not able to begin a counteroffensive in the Pacific until mid to late 1943, thereby delaying that timetable. But going with the concept that the rest of the war proceeds as it did historicaly. The war in Europe ends in May 1945 and the Soviets begin their war against Japan on August 8th.  But with the war in the Pacific running behind the schedule we know today, potentially Japan has not been firebombed to ashes by that point and US forces are possibly only attacking the Marianas and the Phillipines. The Russians could easily have overrun most of China, Manchuria, Korea, and potentially even have landed on the Kurile Islands before the Atomic Bombing raids are possible. The post war picture is greatly potentially complicated- Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Occupation of Japan (being divided into spheres of occupation/influence like Germany)

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

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