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What if Japan Avoided Pearl Harbor?

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Was reading a book on the IJN and it brought an interesting question up that I found intriguing, what if the IJN had not have done Pearl Harbor Attack?

Pearl Harbor only angered the American people and brought their industrial might and a strong resolve into the war and most of the damaged or sunk ships were able to be repaired and serve in the war so attack only bought very limited time.

IJN had been preparing for a decisive naval battle and prior to Pearl Harbor the USN would likely have been willing to engage with a surface fleet as IJN wanted since it was Pearl Harbor that truly woke the world up that the age of BBs was about to end, plus CVs were pretty much all USN in the Pacific had left just after Pearl Harbor so one way or the other they had to be center focus of counter attacks.

Book also mentioned that it might have been better for IJN to have followed their more defensively minded War plans instead of Pearl Harbor strike.

In long run the more conservative defensive war without the Pearl Harbor attack could have altered history greatly since people in America would not have been united about fighting the war with out the attack that left so many Americans dead. And America her Fleet divided between 2 oceans and war industry while active was not in maximum production mode until Pearl Harbor.

 

Probably would actually given Germany better standing in the war as well come to think of it since without having to deal with America I have a feeling they could have defeated Russia since they would not have had War on 3 Fronts, just mainly Russian Front and could have kept British at bay on Western Front without America in the War.

 

Also found out the Yamato was completed, commissioned and was being held in reserve along with some other BBs and various ships in anticipation of the Decisive battle while IJN Combined Fleet sailed to attack Pearl Harbor which is interesting considering what IJN was doing at the time. 

 

Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on this. 

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If Pearl Harbour had never happened, the States would have stayed neutral and I think Russia would have conquered all of mainland Europe as well as taken Japan and divvied up East Asia after helping Mao Zedong beat Chiang-kai Shek and not even allow him to stay on Taiwan. With the Russians having benefited from the economic and technological boost of their Military Industrial Complex and without the States having nukes to deter them, World War 3 would have happened with the Soviets invading the States. With the States not having beefed its own Military Industrial Complex up, the Russians would have achieved victory and the Soviet Union would have dominated the Cold War era. 

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5 minutes ago, 1Sherman said:

If Pearl Harbour had never happened, the States would have stayed neutral and I think Russia would have conquered all of mainland Europe as well as taken Japan and divvied up East Asia after helping Mao Zedong beat Chiang-kai Shek and not even allow him to stay on Taiwan. With the Russians having benefited from the economic and technological boost of their Military Industrial Complex and without the States having nukes to deter them, World War 3 would have happened with the Soviets invading the States. With the States not having beefed its own Military Industrial Complex up, the Russians would have achieved victory and the Soviet Union would have dominated the Cold War era. 

We would only have stayed neutral if the Japanese hadn't attacked the Philippines. If they had carried on with the rest of the plan they would have attacked the Philippines which would have gotten them the big fleet action they continued to try to create for the rest of the war after Pearl Harbor.

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More likely FDR would have manufactured an excuse. In any case; we were already in an undeclared shooting war with German subs; neutrality extremely unlikely. If nothing else we would have wound up a declared war with Germany first.

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Yep, war on both fronts was imminent.  We were already supplying Britain with materials and troops, and only needed a tiny nudge to go all in with Europe.  The writing on the wall was there with the Japanese, as well.  The Pearl Harbor attack was just a very unpleasant, quite unexpected slap that jarred us out of our hope that we could put the Pacific off for a while.

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Not much different I bet. The attack would simply have been somewhere else. I think America would still be first to the atom bomb due to it's unparalleled societal diversity (for the time) and it's willingness to accept German refugees more than others. We would still help the British take back France, etc.

 

That said, I think the Japanese would have actually gotten our carriers and set us back farther to start.

Edited by pewpewpew42

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1 hour ago, 1Sherman said:

If Pearl Harbour had never happened, the States would have stayed neutral and I think Russia would have conquered all of mainland Europe as well as taken Japan and divvied up East Asia after helping Mao Zedong beat Chiang-kai Shek and not even allow him to stay on Taiwan. With the Russians having benefited from the economic and technological boost of their Military Industrial Complex and without the States having nukes to deter them, World War 3 would have happened with the Soviets invading the States. With the States not having beefed its own Military Industrial Complex up, the Russians would have achieved victory and the Soviet Union would have dominated the Cold War era. 

How would have the Soviet Union gotten across the ocean to invade the United States?  By using the Chinese navy? Heh.  Had they been able by some unknown way to do so how would they have defeated us on our own turf....the greatest industrial power in the world? Moreover we began the origins tks to FDR of the Manhattan Project (nukes) before Pearl even happened. We also had begun "beefing up" our military before Pearl. You are putting in a bunch stuff that, with all due respect, is not valid. Anyway as has been stated, we were on the cusp of getting in before Pearl. 

Edited by dmckay

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The key answer to this question is SCALING.

How committed are we to this war?  

If Japan formally declared war, just attacking the Philippians and colonial territories points South , rather than hitting Pearl Harbor, the US would have entered the war in a slower but more boastful and blundering manner.  

The US fleet was tactically in very poor condition to fight with the battle hardened IJN at any level.  After Dec 7, Admiral Kimmel was thankfully stopped short and cut off when he tried to assemble the fleet to save Wake Island.  That likely prevented the loss of the entire remaining Pacific Fleet.

The most important purpose of the attack on Pearl Harbor was to convince the Japanese public to have unwavering devotion and confidence in their military.   Gallantly defeating enemies with a single slash of a sword...  

In retrospect..  Nagumo could have won the war for Japan if he instead of attacking, sailed into Pearl Harbor and surrendered the carrier fleet.  

But that's thinking a little too far outside the box.

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2 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on this

 

1 hour ago, BrushWolf said:

We would only have stayed neutral if the Japanese hadn't attacked the Philippines.

 

I disagree with some of what @1Sherman has said; though I do agree with his conclusion that the European war would have boiled down to a German / Russian slugfest. There are a lot of different scenarios to choose from; @1Sherman has one which is possibly the worst for the United States where Japan stays passive while Germany and Russia battle it out. I have little faith anyone would have allowed that to happen, but it is a possibility.

A more likely scenario, in my opinion, is Japan realizing that the US pacific fleet, like the Asian contingents of the British, Dutch, and Austrailian navies, was an outdated paper tiger who could mostly be ignored, dismisses Pearl Harbor altogether and simply takes the American Asian possessions she wishes to keep, and do so like she did with every other nation she attacked, without a formal declaration of war. The USN would no doubt have never tolerated this, and a fully equipped and staffed battle fleet would have been dispatched to retake Manila, not unlike Dewey's expedition.

Upon arriving in the waters near the Philippines, the American Fleet is first targeted by long ranged IJN submarines who engage them and report their positions, are subsequently engaged by IJN land based air (good enough to sink the best of the Royal Navy) who enjoy a significant advantage in aircraft superiority over the outdated USN designs. The US Navy is forced to retreat to the east, where it is engaged from behind by the main IJN fleet which has circled behind the Americans. Any bets on how the navy that has been at war since 1932 will fare against the navy that hasn't fired a shot in anger since 1918?

Because of this humiliating defeat, and the probable loss of the Hawaiian islands as a result, the American public demands a reckoning, and because of American Industry, gets one after a couple of years when a brand new USN fleet departs San Diego to retake the Pacific. And as the US is only fighting Japan, she can devote all her resources towards that one goal.

Imperial Japan survives two years before enduring the most horrific invasion in the history of mankind, where weapons inhumane are used to genocidally remove an entire people we consider to be sub-human; having no nuclear bombs we return to fire and gas and high explosive, which against Japan are much more effective than nukes would ever be. After about a year the Japanese people, as a people, cease to exist.

Then we turn our attention to Europe ...

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Just now, Umikami said:

 

 

I disagree with some of what @1Sherman has said; though I do agree with his conclusion that the European war would have boiled down to a German / Russian slugfest. There are a lot of different scenarios to choose from; @1Sherman has one which is possibly the worst for the United States where Japan stays passive while Germany and Russia battle it out. I have little faith anyone would have allowed that to happen, but it is a possibility.

 

 

Without our Lend Lease material the Soviets would never have been able to push the Germans back. Now it would have been a bloody drawn out action but eventually they would have thrown in the towel.

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2 minutes ago, BrushWolf said:

Now it would have been a bloody drawn out action but eventually they would have thrown in the towel

Not while Stalin had a breath left in his body or a citizen left to threaten.

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Just now, Umikami said:

Not while Stalin had a breath left in his body or a citizen left to threaten.

Quantity has a quality all its own only works when you have the material to back it up and they didn't.

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3 minutes ago, BrushWolf said:

Quantity has a quality all its own only works when you have the material to back it up and they didn't.

You have no idea how many men have made that same mistake.

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12 minutes ago, Umikami said:

 

 

I disagree with some of what @1Sherman has said; though I do agree with his conclusion that the European war would have boiled down to a German / Russian slugfest. There are a lot of different scenarios to choose from; @1Sherman has one which is possibly the worst for the United States where Japan stays passive while Germany and Russia battle it out. I have little faith anyone would have allowed that to happen, but it is a possibility.

A more likely scenario, in my opinion, is Japan realizing that the US pacific fleet, like the Asian contingents of the British, Dutch, and Austrailian navies, was an outdates paper tiger who could mostly be ignored, dismisses Pearl Harbor altogether and simply takes the American Asian possessions she wishes to keep. The USN would no doubt have never tolerated this, and a fully equipped and staffed battle fleet would have been dispatched to retake Manila, not unlike Dewey's expedition.

Upon arriving in the waters near the Philippines, the American Fleet is first targeted by long ranged IJN submarines who engage them and report their positions, are subsequently engaged by IJN land based air (good enough to sink the best of the Royal Navy) who enjoys a significant advantage in aircraft superiority over the outdates USN designs. The US Navy is forced to retreat to the east, where it is engaged from behind by the main IJN fleet which has circled behind the Americans. Any bets on how the navy that has been at war since 1932 will fare against the navy that hasn't fired a shot in anger since 1918?

Because of this humiliating defeat, and the probable loss of the Hawaiian islands as a result, the American public demands a reckoning, and because of American Industry, gets one after a couple of years when a brand new USN fleet departs San Diego to retake the Pacific. And as the US is only fighting Japan, she can devote all her resources towards that one goal.

Imperial Japan survives two years before enduring the most horrific invasion in the history of mankind, where weapons inhumane are used to genocidally remove an entire people we consider to be sub-human; having no nuclear bombs we return to fire and gas and high explosive, which against Japan are much more effective than nukes would ever be. After about a year the Japanese people, as a people, cease to exist.

Then we turn our attention to Europe ...

The U.S. navy prevailed at Midway in June of 1942 and also, with difficulty, prevailed where we chose to attack the Japanese advance first....the Solomon's not the Philippines.. Poor poor U.S. navy. We then proceeded in a bloody campaign to take back all of the island groups the Japanese had taken after Pearl. The "great" IJN never was able to stop this.  Just saying. 

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3 minutes ago, dmckay said:

The U.S. navy prevailed at Midway in June of 1942

Yes they did; thanks in a large part to some incredibly dumb luck. No one is arguing that the US couldn't take the IJN, so what is your point?

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43 minutes ago, dmckay said:

Moreover we began the origins tks to FDR of the Manhattan Project (nukes) before Pearl even happened

Check your dates; they're way off.

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1 minute ago, Umikami said:

Yes they did; thanks in a large part to some incredibly dumb luck. No one is arguing that the US couldn't take the IJN, so what is your point?

Hmmmm. You did when you put forth your what would have happened if we headed for the Philippines right off the bat scenario.  Did I misunderstand you? 

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2 minutes ago, Umikami said:

Check your dates; they're way off.

I am not way off. The initiatives to begin the quest to build a bomb began BEFORE Pearl.  Einsteins letter to FDR got the ball rolling.  These initiatives were consolidated into the Manhattan Project commanded by Gen Groves after Pearl. 

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Simply put there aren't enough tankers and associated ships for the Pacific Fleet to immediately sortie to relieve the Philippines which were expected to hold out for much longer than they did. If we go by what historically happened the Philippines would fall long before everything was ready. Significant American naval forces would have their first meeting with their Japanese counterparts somewhere other than the Philippines and the aircraft carrier is still likely to quickly prove itself as the key asset.


How all of the "standard" battleships will be utilized is an interesting question. It will soon become apparent that their slow speed is a hindrance to the fast carriers. On the other hand they're likely to perform better than heavy cruisers did.

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2 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Was reading a book on the IJN and it brought an interesting question up that I found intriguing, what if the IJN had not have done Pearl Harbor Attack?

Pearl Harbor only angered the American people and brought their industrial might and a strong resolve into the war and most of the damaged or sunk ships were able to be repaired and serve in the war so attack only bought very limited time.

IJN had been preparing for a decisive naval battle and prior to Pearl Harbor the USN would likely have been willing to engage with a surface fleet as IJN wanted since it was Pearl Harbor that truly woke the world up that the age of BBs was about to end, plus CVs were pretty much all USN in the Pacific had left just after Pearl Harbor so one way or the other they had to be center focus of counter attacks.

Book also mentioned that it might have been better for IJN to have followed their more defensively minded War plans instead of Pearl Harbor strike.

In long run the more conservative defensive war without the Pearl Harbor attack could have altered history greatly since people in America would not have been united about fighting the war with out the attack that left so many Americans dead. And America her Fleet divided between 2 oceans and war industry while active was not in maximum production mode until Pearl Harbor.

 

Probably would actually given Germany better standing in the war as well come to think of it since without having to deal with America I have a feeling they could have defeated Russia since they would not have had War on 3 Fronts, just mainly Russian Front and could have kept British at bay on Western Front without America in the War.

 

Also found out the Yamato was completed, commissioned and was being held in reserve along with some other BBs and various ships in anticipation of the Decisive battle while IJN Combined Fleet sailed to attack Pearl Harbor which is interesting considering what IJN was doing at the time. 

 

Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on this. 

 

Well, it depends. 

 

The United States was aggressively attempting to halt Japanese expansion into China and SE Asia.  At that time, the United States was the Saudi Arabia of oil which it exported in large quantities and which Japan needed simply to run their industry, much less their ongoing war with China.  The US had decided to increase the pressure on Japan to halt their war in China by threatening to cut off their supply of oil and other critical resources.

 

The Japanese calculated that they had reserves on hand for about 3 to 6 months of operations should the United States proceed with an oil embargo so, Japan was left with only a few palatable choices.  One was to give into American pressure, the other was to defy the American's and have their nation grind to a halt in a few months, or they could secure an alternative source of oil.  

 

One such source existed in the Dutch East Indies and that region of the Pacific.  If Japan could grab that source and others in the region which held critically needed resources, the Japanese could carry on their activities despite the US embargoes.  

 

Japan judged that if they were to take that step, it would convince the United States to go to war.  To prevent the United States from intervening in this plan, the Japanese needed to destroy the United States' ability to effectively respond and this, in turn, led to Pearl Harbor.

 

The question you are asking is, were the Japanese correct in their assumption.  Would the United States actually go to war if Japan acted to seize the resource rich areas that they needed.  If not, then Japan would have conquered all of SE Asia outside of US possessions there (which included the Philippines at that time) and chances are they would have been able to hold on to those possessions as well as the bulk of the major population centers in China.  It's even possible, though less likely, that they would have done the same with Australia and New Zealand and possibly portions of India. 

 

If, on the other hand, the US had decided to intervene and had their Pacific Fleet intact, there is an excellent chance the US Navy would have been able to stop or seriously disrupt the Japanese plans.  For example, had the Pacific Fleet been able to move forward and begin basing operations out of the Phillipines, they would have sat astride the Japanese access routes to SE Asia and the oil rich Dutch East Indies. Had that happened, the Japanese would have then had to attempt to neutralize the US Fleet without the advantage of surprise, most probably in a combined surface ship/carrier campaign in which the IJN would likely have have been outnumbered.  There is a good chance that the Japanese would have lost such a conflict and probably lost it early on when their supplies of critical oil and other resources was cut off.  

 

Would the US have entered a war with Japan under these circumstances, yes, they probably would.  Unlike in Europe, the US had a number of possessions and important interests in the Pacific and they would have likely reacted much differently than they were to a war in Europe where the vested interests of the United States were less direct,  While seizing the Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia may not have immediately led to war, it is highly likely that it would have led to war in the near future and in such a war, US possession of the Philippines was simply something the Japanese could not afford to let happen.  

 

Possibly a more interesting question is what would have happened after Pearl Harbor if the US had gone to war only against Japan.   After all, neither Germany, Italy or any of the European Axis powers had anything to do with Japan's attack on the US.   In fact, the US did not officially declare war against the other axis powers until December 11th, when Germany declared war on the US that the US reciprocated and declared war on the other axis powers.  

 

That opens up an entirely new can of worms.  Could the Russians have survived without the massive shipments of war materials made possible by the United States, could England have held on to Egypt without the massive support of material and equipment which the US sent to the Empire much less undertaken any action to invade the European mainland.   If Germany had not needed to provide strong garrisons in Europe and had been able to exert almost their full power against the Russians, would that have been enough to push the Soviets past the brink?  

 

Anyway, interesting conjecture in the land of "What if". 

 

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I think considering the US's raw industrial capability, Imperial Japan was doomed to lose an all out-war with them really no matter what they did

It's rather difficult to beat an enemy who can pump out 10 Battleships and 20+ Fleet Carriers (on top of everything else) over a span of around 5 years

Japan was kinda forced into the attack on Pearl by the US oil embargo against them, strangling their ability to continue their resource gathering efforts

They probably would've preferred a few more years of naval buildup before entering such a large scale conflict, but it likely only would've extended the war by a couple years at most 

This, of course, assumes that the US repeats the decision to drop the nukes, since Operation Downfall would've likely extended the war well into the early 1950s

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1 hour ago, AVR_Project said:

After Dec 7, Admiral Kimmel was thankfully stopped short and cut off when he tried to assemble the fleet to save Wake Island.  That likely prevented the loss of the entire remaining Pacific Fleet.

 

Admiral William S. Pye, Commander, Battleships, was in actual charge at Pearl at the time. Kimmel was already gone.

 

Fletcher procrastinated, for good or ill; and because he decided it would be imprudent to risk battle and leave the fleet in even worse shape than it already was before Nimitz arrived; PYE ordered Fletcher and the other potential relief groups to pull back.

 

 

Edited by Estimated_Prophet

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8 minutes ago, Estimated_Prophet said:

 

Admiral William S. Pye, Commander, Battleships, was in actual charge at Pearl at the time. Kimmel was already gone.

 

Fletcher procrastinated, for good or ill; and because he decided it would be imprudent to risk battle and leave the fleet in even worse shape than it already was before Nimitz arrived; PYE ordered Fletcher and the other potential relief groups to pull back.

 

 

From the wiki:

"He had reservations about Kimmel's plan to send a relief force including the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga to the aid of Wake Island, but continued with the plan until 22 December. Then - after reports of additional landings on Wake - Pye decided the operation was too risky and recalled the relief force. This decision was highly controversial, as it amounted to abandoning the Wake Island garrison, which had defeated a Japanese landing on 11 December."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Pye

 

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2 hours ago, Umikami said:

You have no idea how many men have made that same mistake.

It worked for the Soviets in WWII because they were getting cubic material help from Lend Lease.

 

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2 hours ago, dmckay said:

The U.S. navy prevailed at Midway in June of 1942 and also, with difficulty, prevailed where we chose to attack the Japanese advance first....the Solomon's not the Philippines.. Poor poor U.S. navy. We then proceeded in a bloody campaign to take back all of the island groups the Japanese had taken after Pearl. The "great" IJN never was able to stop this.  Just saying. 

Midway worked because Spruance wasn't given impossible mission rules. he was basically told to only attack if he felt he was going to really hurt the Japanese. Ironically because the torpedo groups were not able to form up with the dive bomber groups and the TB's were slaughtered the DB's had a free shot and they took it with a vengence.

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