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Why Carriers weren't the obvious choice

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There are some things wrong in that video.

Mitchell's bombing of the Ostfreisland was an important experiment the Navy was conducting on the effect of bombs on ships.  Mitchell was supposed to give the Navy time between bombing runs to examine the ship and damage.  He chose to turn the exercise into a publicity stunt and bombed the ship, eventually sank the battleship.  The Navy was livid as they were unable to examine the ship thoroughly as they had wanted and the exercise was ruined.  So was Mitchell's career.  He was hacked to a colonel and shipped off to a remote base in West Texas to spend the rest of his career in what amounted to a US Army exile.

In fact, the USAAC engaged in many publicity stunts in the interwar years trying to gain public and political acceptance for a separate service like the British RAF.  Most of these gained them negative rather than positive results.  In fact, it generated something of a USAAF / USN rivalry that came to a head in the late 40's with "the revolt of the admirals."

In the early 1930's the big thing that really pushed Japan and the US forward into carriers was each nation had to very large ones (Kaga, and Akagi / Lexington and Saratoga).  These convinced both services that big carriers with lots of planes was where naval aviation should head.  What followed in both navies was a attempt to design the optimum sized carrier for the biggest effective air group on the least amount of hull.  The last was due to the WNT restrictions on tonnage.

Britain at the same time was saddled with the dual issues of the FAA essentially being the orphan child of the RAF and starved of funds.  The RN on limited cash retained older carriers that were getting obsolescent in terms of size and speed (the 3 Courageous class and Eagle).  The RN did build the Hermes, but it had been started at the end of WW 1 and by the time it got into service was in the same circumstances.

The Ark Royal was the RN's attempt to match USN and IJN large carrier designs.  It's dual hanger concept, relatively small elevators coupled with a bad design using two different ones between hanger decks, left it with too much hanger space and not enough usable air group.

At the same time, the RN got ahead of the game on AA defense putting in, for the 1930's, some good designs.  The 4 and 8 barreled pom pom (40mm) was a good, if unreliable, design for the time.  The quad .50 likewise.  They put lots of these on their ships in addition to 4" or 4.5" AA guns.  If you look at a RN carrier like Ark Royal, it had several times the AA firepower of its contemporaries in other navies.  This was due in large part to the RN adopting belief that AA guns could protect a ship from air attack in and of itself.

The US at the same time made sure their ships all had an adequate heavy AA battery while delaying lighter weapon development.  This was the reverse of the British, who paid for that mistake later on in that their lighter AA weapons were obsolescent or obsolete by the 1940's and they had no time to develop a really useful dual purpose heavy gun like the US 5"/38.  Japan went the US route developing 4.7" and 5" dual purpose and AA guns but their designs were pretty marginal.  They, unlike the US, didn't have the capacity to quickly adopt or design new lighter AA weapons so they ended up stuck with the marginal 25mm triple.

In terms of tactics and such, the USN grouped their carriers as part of The Scouting Force of the fleet in the 1930's.  Annual exercises showed that the carriers could manage raids and had value operating on their own as well as having some defensive value to the fleet.  But, the later was limited by technology as there was then no real means to coordinate the CAP sufficiently to make it really worthwhile.

The various "prophets of air power," like Mitchell and Douhet, were simply wrong about it.  The were expressing what have more recently been called "non-strategies."  But, part of this goes back to these guys trying to sell the government a program aimed at increasing the size, funding, and status of their branch of service.

Britain's problem at sea with air power was that the RAF did gain ascendency, as a separate service just as the Luftwaffe would.  In both cases, this cost their respective navies heavily in not having a naval air arm that was really proficient, had adequate aircraft (both in numbers and design), and in having to opt for other less useful alternatives.  Had Japan and or the US done likewise, it would have hurt their naval air arms in the same way.

 

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Before the war the CV was looked at as a support ship for the battle line. Pearl Harbor forced the US to look at the CV as the main striking force because we didn't have any BB's in the Pacific and wouldn't for some time. Coral Sea sealed that the CV was capable of being the main striking force and the BB became a support ship for the CV's. The Japanese even though they had a much more developed CV force never made that switch and their constant attempts at getting a big surface action shows that.

The Royal Navy had a very proficient air arm but it was far from adequate because of almost no development of that air arm because of the impact of the Great Depression on the RN's budgets.

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25 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

Britain's problem at sea with air power was that the RAF did gain ascendency, as a separate service just as the Luftwaffe would.  In both cases, this cost their respective navies heavily in not having a naval air arm that was really proficient, had adequate aircraft (both in numbers and design), and in having to opt for other less useful alternatives.  Had Japan and or the US done likewise, it would have hurt their naval air arms in the same way.

Very much so, the RAF also lumbered the Navy with the view that an Observer/Navigator was entirely necessary for over water flying (it wasn't), that the biggest bombs to worry about in the foreseeable future would be 500lbs (oops), and that Dive Bombing was a complete waste of time (the RAF was pathologically opposed to it, when it was highly effective, especially at sea). Some stupid facets of how RAF/RN officers were made pilots didn't help either - a Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander or Commander as a pilot would only hold a rank of Flight Lieutenant for instance which meant he saluted junior officers on RAF bases. The RN also recruited a bunch of observers in the '30's which became somewhat of an 'Observer Mafia' with deleterious consequences.

Meanwhile 'Bomber' Harris wanted 1,000 bomber raids on Germany while 20 VLR Liberators would have made a massive difference in the Atlantic.

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3 minutes ago, mofton said:

Very much so, the RAF also lumbered the Navy with the view that an Observer/Navigator was entirely necessary for over water flying (it wasn't), that the biggest bombs to worry about in the foreseeable future would be 500lbs (oops), and that Dive Bombing was a complete waste of time (the RAF was pathologically opposed to it, when it was highly effective, especially at sea). Some stupid facets of how RAF/RN officers were made pilots didn't help either - a Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander or Commander as a pilot would only hold a rank of Flight Lieutenant for instance which meant he saluted junior officers on RAF bases. The RN also recruited a bunch of observers in the '30's which became somewhat of an 'Observer Mafia' with deleterious consequences.

Meanwhile 'Bomber' Harris wanted 1,000 bomber raids on Germany while 20 VLR Liberators would have made a massive difference in the Atlantic.

Politics, the bian of military's since the first city states. Usually it takes a big shock to force the needed changes.

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58 minutes ago, BrushWolf said:

Before the war the CV was looked at as a support ship for the battle line. Pearl Harbor forced the US to look at the CV as the main striking force because we didn't have any BB's in the Pacific and wouldn't for some time. Coral Sea sealed that the CV was capable of being the main striking force and the BB became a support ship for the CV's. The Japanese even though they had a much more developed CV force never made that switch and their constant attempts at getting a big surface action shows that.

The Royal Navy had a very proficient air arm but it was far from adequate because of almost no development of that air arm because of the impact of the Great Depdid , ression on the RN's budgets.

Portrayed as such. The US had been developing the scouting force /task force application since the 1920's. 

PI would h]ave been lost, and the Carrier raids and Coral Sea would have happened just as they did , even  if the US had not lost 2 BB sunk and 5(?) damaged/non-operational at Pearl Harbor. War plan Orange was not going to happen, US BB fleet or not.  Planes on CV 's and/or on islands precluded GUN Fleets from operating, till those CV's and island s were suppressed of their aircraft (whole story of the  Coral Sea./Guadalcanal  campaign in a nutshell.) Both side lost all their CV's(exceptEnterpirse of course but even she was severly damaged) to attrition and left the battle to  being over one tiny airstrip

Edited by Strachwitz666

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9 minutes ago, Strachwitz666 said:

Portrayed as such. The US had been developing the scouting force /task force application since the 1920's. 

PI would h]ave been lost, and the Carrier raids and Coral Sea would have happened just as they did , even  if the US had not lost 2 BB sunk and 5(?) damaged/non-operational at Pearl Harbor. War plan Orange was not going to happen, US BB fleet or not.  Planes on CV 's and/or on islands precluded GUN Fleets from operating, till those CV's and island s were suppressed of their aircraft (whole story of the  Coral Sea./Guadalcanal  campaign in a nutshell.) Both side lost all their CV's(exceptEnterpirse of course but even she was severly damaged) to attrition and left the battle to  being over one tiny airstrip

I have to disagree, even with the Pacific battle fleet out of action before Kimmel was cashiered and Nimitz took over his plans were completely traditional being focused on the surface ships mostly using the CV's to scout with their planes, that CV supports the battle line mind set again.

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1 hour ago, BrushWolf said:

Before the war the CV was looked at as a support ship for the battle line. Pearl Harbor forced the US to look at the CV as the main striking force because we didn't have any BB's in the Pacific and wouldn't for some time. Coral Sea sealed that the CV was capable of being the main striking force and the BB became a support ship for the CV's. The Japanese even though they had a much more developed CV force never made that switch and their constant attempts at getting a big surface action shows that.

The Royal Navy had a very proficient air arm but it was far from adequate because of almost no development of that air arm because of the impact of the Great Depression on the RN's budgets.

While the CV was pre-war considered part of the Scouting Fleet carriers were already being recognized well before 1941 for their capacity to conduct offensive operations against an enemy on their own independent of the Battle Fleet.

For example, in 1929 in fleet exercise 9, the Lexington and Saratoga conclusively demonstrated that larger carriers with more aircraft had major advantages over smaller ones like Langley or Ranger.  The big carriers could launch larger and more strikes having more deck space.  Their flight decks being higher above sea level allowed them to operate their aircraft in sea conditions previously thought too rough for aircraft to launch and land.  That exercise ended discussion on the issue and future US carriers were built big, first to treaty limits, then to air group size limits.

Catapults were suggested by the early 30's to allow more cycling of strikes as it was felt that the current system made it impossible to have landings and take offs occurring simultaneously or switching between them in a short period of time do to having to respot the deck park.

The USN adopted a policy where only US Navy aviation officers were given command of carriers.  It was felt doing this ensured these ships were commanded by officers who knew and understood how best to employ their aircraft.

In other fleet exercises, the carriers conducted raids on the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor, the later being eerily reminiscent of what the Japanese would do.  These demonstrated that massed naval aircraft could conduct raids successfully.  They also showed the value of offensive air power in reducing an enemy's surface fleet through attrition prior to engaging the battle force.

Britain's lack of an adequate air arm at sea had as much to do with politics as money.  Even when some became available, the FAA ended up taking mediocre aircraft in many cases simply to have sufficient numbers for the various roles they had to perform.  For example, the Blackburn Skua was a rough equivalent of the SB2U Vindicator or SBD Dauntless.  It was a dive bomber, but the FAA also intended its use as a fighter, a role that hardly suited it.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

While the CV was pre-war considered part of the Scouting Fleet carriers were already being recognized well before 1941 for their capacity to conduct offensive operations against an enemy on their own independent of the Battle Fleet.

For example, in 1929 in fleet exercise 9, the Lexington and Saratoga conclusively demonstrated that larger carriers with more aircraft had major advantages over smaller ones like Langley or Ranger.  The big carriers could launch larger and more strikes having more deck space.  Their flight decks being higher above sea level allowed them to operate their aircraft in sea conditions previously thought too rough for aircraft to launch and land.  That exercise ended discussion on the issue and future US carriers were built big, first to treaty limits, then to air group size limits.

Catapults were suggested by the early 30's to allow more cycling of strikes as it was felt that the current system made it impossible to have landings and take offs occurring simultaneously or switching between them in a short period of time do to having to respot the deck park.

The USN adopted a policy where only US Navy aviation officers were given command of carriers.  It was felt doing this ensured these ships were commanded by officers who knew and understood how best to employ their aircraft.

In other fleet exercises, the carriers conducted raids on the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor, the later being eerily reminiscent of what the Japanese would do.  These demonstrated that massed naval aircraft could conduct raids successfully.  They also showed the value of offensive air power in reducing an enemy's surface fleet through attrition prior to engaging the battle force.

Britain's lack of an adequate air arm at sea had as much to do with politics as money.  Even when some became available, the FAA ended up taking mediocre aircraft in many cases simply to have sufficient numbers for the various roles they had to perform.  For example, the Blackburn Skua was a rough equivalent of the SB2U Vindicator or SBD Dauntless.  It was a dive bomber, but the FAA also intended its use as a fighter, a role that hardly suited it.

 

 

Only by the CV proponents and the BB admirals had the political pull.

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34 minutes ago, Strachwitz666 said:

Portrayed as such. The US had been developing the scouting force /task force application since the 1920's. 

PI would h]ave been lost, and the Carrier raids and Coral Sea would have happened just as they did , even  if the US had not lost 2 BB sunk and 5(?) damaged/non-operational at Pearl Harbor. War plan Orange was not going to happen, US BB fleet or not.  Planes on CV 's and/or on islands precluded GUN Fleets from operating, till those CV's and island s were suppressed of their aircraft (whole story of the  Coral Sea./Guadalcanal  campaign in a nutshell.) Both side lost all their CV's(exceptEnterpirse of course but even she was severly damaged) to attrition and left the battle to  being over one tiny airstrip

Actually, WP Orange was generally followed by the USN in the Pacific.  Nimitz himself said so, noting the only real surprise was the Japanese use of Kamikazes.

Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands were the first group to be invaded and taken.  Guadalcanal, Florida, and the Russell Islands became major staging grounds for the first forward operating base for the USN.  Tulagi harbor on Florida island became a serious port.  Guadalcanal got three airfields eventually and was a major logistics staging ground for supplies.  The Russell group was a staging ground for equipment.  The lower Solomon island chain became a huge US forward base to support the next move forward:  Taking the Gilberts (eg., Tarawa).

The USN moved their fleet train that had been gathering since the beginning of the war to the Funafuti atoll where it was turned into a major fleet base in about 90 days.  Once an airfield existed, USAAF B-24 began to regularly bomb Tarawa from it.  The lagoon was dredged to accommodate up to 100 ships and had a fully operational ship repair and replenishment facility consisting of tenders and barges that carried out all the usual shipyard functions.  Mobile floating drydocks arrived to broaden the repairs possible.

All of this was in WP Orange, if not including the exact locations or island names.

Next came the Marshalls.  Then the Carolines were neutralized.  Then movement to the PI, etc.  It was the original island hopping plan with a massive fleet train to make operations possible thousands of miles from the US. 

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Careful. The Southern and Central Pacific advances were entirely separate, and only met up with the invasion of the Phillipines, which in of itself was a part of the Southern advance. The Southern advance was only done to keep Australia in the War/Shore up the British Empire and to placate MacArthur so he would not become a presidential opponent of Roosevelt in 1944. As part of the southern advance, it was not even finished by the end of the war. 

 

As to the Central advance, its purpose was basically done with three Island group hops , Marshalls ,Gilbert s, and Marianas, . One the Marianas were taken the most expensive program the US did could start (The B-29) attacks, supplemented by the second most expensive program The Manhattan project.

 

Now War Plan Orange presupposed a Central Advance leading top a big Fleet Action to releive PI and force a surrender of Japan. Howver PI was lost , and the "return" by Dugout Doug was actually the Southern advance and share no similiarity with Orange. Neither did the Central advance to reach bombing range coincide with Orange either. now it could be argure that Orange would have been done to allow for B-17 bombing of Japan(which was the original plan), but  with the advent B-29 program and its far greater range the [Philippine were unnecessary, except to keep Mac from being the Republican candidate in 44.

 

You have to be careful of Nimitz and his quotes and the context he was speaking at the time. He also said , if the Japanese had bombed the fuel tanks at Pearl Harbor it would have pushed us back to Continental US and lengthened the war by two years. He said that to cover up the existence of the Red Hilll underground fuel depot which became operational in Summer of 42 and fully operational by the fall of 42. The existence of Red Hill was not public knowledge until the 1990's .Which is an example of a subterfuge done by a high US officer to cover what was actually going on.

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The SWPA advance only occurred at all because MacAuthur was rescued from the Philippines and the US Army got involved in that theater.  Had MacAuthur not been in Australia it would have remained a secondary theater mostly holding ground rather than an actively offensive one.

The Nimitz quote I was referring to:

Quote

The war with Japan had been enacted in the game rooms at the War College by so many people and in so many different ways that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise—absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war. We had not visualized these.




 

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The problem with any weapon system, is that until its actually tested in combat its abilities are theories.

In regards to the carrier, there were many theories as to how it should be used.  If one looks at the three major carrier navies, you see a difference in design and theory.  In fact one could say the hunt for the Bismarck was the classic, per-war theory on how carriers were to be used.

Scout for the enemy, weaken the enemy ships, and bring in the battle line for the final blow.  If your side loses, the carriers were to provide support for the retreating ships.

During the interwar years design and theories couldn't keep up with the pace of development of aircraft, especially at a time when it seemed like the moment a plane went into production it was already obsolete.  It was also a time of accusations, like the RAF ignoring dive bombing, or Mitchell stating it was easier to hit a moving target.

Its easy to look back now and go, yep, the carrier was a dominate projection of power.  But in the interwar period, it wasn't as clean-cut.  You had the correct theories muddled in with ridiculously ones.  And to make matters worse, both types of theories came from reliable sources, or in some cases, the same source.

 

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The British did do some stuff right.  They got fighter control for the CAP right.  The US copied most of their system adding it to their existing own.  The USN figured out PDQ that CAP needed to be much bigger than pre-war estimates had it.  At Coral Sea each carrier was putting up just 4 fighters along with two on the deck ready to reinforce those.  The SBD was being used as a low level CAP and ASW plane on patrols.

At Midway the CAP nearly tripled in strength.  It was also vectored out further to intercept raids.  More radio channels were fitted for control.  By Eastern Solomons the CAP was even larger and cruisers were starting to get fighter controllers aboard to push the CAP out even further.

This was something the Japanese didn't get right.  They still relied heavily on their CAP pilots spotting and intercepting targets on their own.  It made USN strikes more effective as fewer planes were lost in approaching targets and sometimes the strike went unspotted, as at Midway.

The US also put in a lot of effort to teach pilots how to attack ships successfully.  The USAAF built the "Muroc Maru" in the Mojave Desert to let their bomber crews practice on a realistic target.

muroc_maru2.jpg

Edited by Murotsu

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Like has been said new and unproven.

which i believe has led to over compensation post-WWII in new technology being viewed as super game changing 

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