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warheart1992

Best trained Navy of WWII?

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We often compare the performance of WWII era  ships as if they are inanimate objects. But as with any machine of war, be it plane, tank or ship, the crew plays an unbelievably important role in combat performance, often allowing seemingly inferior equipment to triumph.

This is what my question aims at, determining or at least getting some discussion going on which WWII Navy people consider to have had the best trained personnel.

Fire away :etc_red_button:.

Edited by warheart1992

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I don't know, but from what I saw in the US Navy, it's just a series of mistakes that culminate into a mission.

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At the national level, the Royal Navy, an all-volunteer long service professional force which had a solid reserve structure and the most WWI combat experience to guide their training methods for new entry recruits. The UK was and is a sea-oriented island nation and it showed when they maxed out their total commitment to holding on and winning before the US got up to speed and was drawn in. They literally finacially bankrupted themselves as a nation by mid-1941 in the process. At the Individual ship and personnel level, the IJN, which was brutal with its' training methods and that paid dividends while they were winning until mid-1942. At the strategic level, the USN, which had the ability, drawing on her reservists, to implant massive and effective training plans in parallel with their shipbuilding and adapt quickly to changing combat conditions as the war progressed.

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I would say in some respects all navy would see a decline in the amount of training someone got before they first went to sea in WW2, but that would be tempered by the environment offering real life first hand experience to learn once at sea along with all the seasoned people coping with the very real situations of combat and life and death to learn from by actually doing it.

 

ergo you could say the people who had seen combat for the longest with regular naval engagements etc etc probably had the best training in the form of first hand experience and exposure, but its the type of "training" you can not really define on paper as "trained" per se.

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25 minutes ago, GrandAdmiral_2016 said:

At the national level, the Royal Navy, an all-volunteer long service professional force which had a solid reserve structure and the most WWI combat experience to guide their training methods for new entry recruits. The UK was and is a sea-oriented island nation and it showed when they maxed out their total commitment to holding on and winning before the US got up to speed and was drawn in. They literally finacially bankrupted themselves as a nation by mid-1941 in the process. At the Individual ship and personnel level, the IJN, which was brutal with its' training methods and that paid dividends while they were winning until mid-1942. At the strategic level, the USN, which had the ability, drawing on her reservists, to implant massive and effective training plans in parallel with their shipbuilding and adapt quickly to changing combat conditions as the war progressed.

That's a pretty good summary of what I was also thinking, thanks for expressing better than I possibly could :Smile_honoring:.

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20 minutes ago, b101uk said:

I would say in some respects all navy would see a decline in the amount of training someone got before they first went to sea in WW2, but that would be tempered by the environment offering real life first hand experience to learn once at sea along with all the seasoned people coping with the very real situations of combat and life and death to learn from by actually doing it.

 

ergo you could say the people who had seen combat for the longest with regular naval engagements etc etc probably had the best training in the form of first hand experience and exposure, but its the type of "training" you can not really define on paper as "trained" per se.

Experience is the hardest school of all and that is true for any military, air or naval service. The USN paid for its lackadaisical approach to peacetime exercises in ship losses and higher casualties than the Army and the USMC up until the end of 1942. The RN paid for its' lack of investment in modern ships during the entire war, and the Merchant Navy paid a horrible price for the RN's lack of ASW ships until mid-1943. The IJN approach paid dividends while they were winning, but tactical and strategic rigidity from Midway on cost them the war.

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33 minutes ago, GrandAdmiral_2016 said:

At the national level, the Royal Navy, an all-volunteer long service professional force which had a solid reserve structure and the most WWI combat experience to guide their training methods for new entry recruits. The UK was and is a sea-oriented island nation and it showed when they maxed out their total commitment to holding on and winning before the US got up to speed and was drawn in. They literally finacially bankrupted themselves as a nation by mid-1941 in the process. At the Individual ship and personnel level, the IJN, which was brutal with its' training methods and that paid dividends while they were winning until mid-1942. At the strategic level, the USN, which had the ability, drawing on her reservists, to implant massive and effective training plans in parallel with their shipbuilding and adapt quickly to changing combat conditions as the war progressed.

Pre-war I will agree on the RN but with expansion, mostly in ASW ships their quality started degrading but nowhere near as much as the IJN degraded because their losses were not as high and the IJN was taking.

In the air the IJN was the top at the beginning of the war but very quickly the rules to pull people out of combat after a certain time that the US used along with the best pilot training programs in the world cause the US to pull ahead of the Japanese and as the Japanese took more and more losses that gap became a chasm.

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23 minutes ago, BrushWolf said:

Pre-war I will agree on the RN but with expansion, mostly in ASW ships their quality started degrading but nowhere near as much as the IJN degraded because their losses were not as high and the IJN was taking.

In the air the IJN was the top at the beginning of the war but very quickly the rules to pull people out of combat after a certain time that the US used along with the best pilot training programs in the world cause the US to pull ahead of the Japanese and as the Japanese took more and more losses that gap became a chasm.

Very true, the Japanese also trained heavily in night fighting and the USN did not for fear of accidents during training. Early on this disparity led to a number of USN ships getting beat down because they did not have much if any night fighting experience especially during the Guadalcanal campaign.

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2 hours ago, BrushWolf said:

Pre-war I will agree on the RN but with expansion, mostly in ASW ships their quality started degrading but nowhere near as much as the IJN degraded because their losses were not as high and the IJN was taking.

In the air the IJN was the top at the beginning of the war but very quickly the rules to pull people out of combat after a certain time that the US used along with the best pilot training programs in the world cause the US to pull ahead of the Japanese and as the Japanese took more and more losses that gap became a chasm.

Japanese aviation suffered mightily as the war progressed:

By the end of 1943, the army and navy had lost about 10,000 pilots. As American Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney reported to Washington, “Japan’s originally highly trained crews were superb but they are dead.” When matched to pilot production of 5,400 army and 5,000 navy in the same period, and when one considers the expansion in units, missions, tempo and geographical separation, it is clear that Japan’s pilot strength had not increased at all. Worse, the vast majority of prewar and even 1942-43 veterans were dead or wounded, and their replacements had none of the veterans’ experience. Japan's Fatally Flawed Air Forces in WWII.

 

What happened with the Axis air forces was IMO a big snowball effect.  Aviator losses, loss in experience while their enemies start surviving more while their newer pilots get all the training they need as they arrived.  The Luftwaffe, Japanese army and navy air forces, etc.  As you said, it became a chasm.  1943 was the last year that the Axis air forces were still a bonafide threat.  But as time progressed, especially by 1944, it was Game Over for Axis aviation.

 

For IJN aviation, Midway was a big blow, but the fighting for Guadalcanal and the Solomons was where the heart of their once elite core of aviators died.  That was 1943.  They never could replace them.  The IJN basically took a year before their Carriers were back in action.  Shokaku, Zuiku, the 2 Pearl Harbor and earlier Guadalcanal veterans, with brand new Taiho.  They got enough replacement pilots back that the IJN felt confident enough to engage the Americans who were attacking Saipan.  But these replacement pilots met the veteran aviators of the Allies for the Battle of the Philippine Sea in mid-1944 and were massacred, the Marianas Turkey Shoot.  The experience level of Allied aviators and the mass of airpower they had was just too much.  IJN Carrier Aviation died for good there.

 

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The problem with considering whom is the "best" trained navy of WWII is that "best" is vague and subjective.  It's difficult to quantify "best" when it comes to training.

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1 minute ago, Royeaux said:

The problem with considering whom is the "best" trained navy of WWII is that "best" is vague and subjective.  It's difficult to quantify "best" when it comes to training.

I am aware of this, was just curious to see some subjective opinions of course on the subject on which Navy had the best trained sailors. By "best" in that case I would consider very well drilled crews that take good care of their ships, are able to perform in very difficult situations and can often succeed in the face of adversity because of that training. Of course then you would have to take into account the higher ups as well, to finally reach the strategic level and how efficient some training programs were.

I think @GrandAdmiral_2016 answered that question pretty convincingly.

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4 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

I think @GrandAdmiral_2016 answered that question pretty convincingly.

He never answered the question at all.  He only provided a summary of the training of various navies and provided no conclusions on whom the "best" was.

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1 hour ago, Royeaux said:

He never answered the question at all.  He only provided a summary of the training of various navies and provided no conclusions on whom the "best" was.

The RN. They carried the heaviest load for the longest time, which is why I mentioned them 1st.

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13 hours ago, warheart1992 said:

We often compare the performance of WWII era  ships as if they are inanimate objects. But as with any machine of war, be it plane, tank or ship, the crew plays an unbelievably important role in combat performance, often allowing seemingly inferior equipment to triumph.

This is what my question aims at, determining or at least getting some discussion going on which WWII Navy people consider to have had the best trained personnel.

Fire away :etc_red_button:.

I personally believe that the best navy at the start of WW2 was the Japanese Navy since they dominated their sphere of influence against the US and European powers from the get-go. 

Toward the end, it was the US since they learned from those early mistakes and adapted on them, churning out some great designs and fantastic tactics to counter the decaying Japanese force. 

The Royal Navy is possibly a close second, but arrogance in the form of Force Z did kick them out of the Pacific and lose HMS Prince of Wales - a very handy capital ship.  Of course, fighting the Regia Marina and Kriegsmarine at the same time was no easy feat, but they effectively had to leave the Japanese Navy to the Americans and the few Europeans that remained like the Dutch.

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I think it depends on what aspect of naval operations you are looking at.

The Japanese had excellent night surface action training and was probably more proficient at that than any other navy.

The Royal Navy got ASW down pat by 1941 and it was simply a matter of getting enough equipment to sea that slowed their victory after that.  The RN also developed the best fighter direction center techniques for carriers, even as the rest of their carrier operations were pretty mediocre.

The USN easily had the best damage control techniques and carrier operations of any navy.  Another area the USN excelled in beyond any of their competition was in underway replenishment.

In terms of naval pilots, the US and Japan started out pretty evenly matched, while Britain was hurt by the awful aircraft the FAA was saddled with.  Yes, the USN pilots had roughly equivalent time in training and flight hours to the Japanese ones.  Even the British pilots often had high hours.

In gunnery I think the Germans and Americans were probably the best but this is really difficult to say for sure.

By 1944 the USN had clearly pulled ahead in ship operations with the British in second place.  One reason the USN got out ahead was the US had more resources to pour into improving and upgrading ships than the British did.

One area that the USN paid more attention to, and put in more design effort was in how the crew was quartered and the day-to-day amenities afforded them on ships.  This is really important when you spend a lot of time at sea.

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31 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

One area that the USN paid more attention to, and put in more design effort was in how the crew was quartered and the day-to-day amenities afforded them on ships.  This is really important when you spend a lot of time at sea.

Ah yes, USN paid special attention to providing their crews with ice cream.  "In 1942, as Japanese torpedoes slowly sank the U.S.S. Lexington, then the second-largest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s arsenal, the crew abandoned ship—but not before breaking into the freezer and eating all the ice cream. Survivors describe scooping ice cream into their helmets and licking them clean before lowering themselves into the Pacific." - https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/08/ice-cream-military/535980/

I suppose that's one way to reduce the morale shock of abandoning ship.

The USN even custom build the famous Ice Cream Barge during WWII that created 10 gallons of ice cream every seven minutes, distributing ice cream to ships incapable of making their own.  A contrast to the austere amenities and cramped crew quarters afforded to the average crewmember on an IJN ship. 

15000805_1253216454757930_24611593815600

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1 hour ago, Murotsu said:

One area that the USN paid more attention to, and put in more design effort was in how the crew was quartered and the day-to-day amenities afforded them on ships.  This is really important when you spend a lot of time at sea.

This is an understatement with the USN.  Some quick examples:

Air Conditioning, especially for submarines, not only for crew comfort when in warm waters, but in protecting electronics.

And don't forget the secret weapon of the USN in WWII:

Spoiler

 

Ice Cream, or at least from the larger vessels!

V425LzK.png

 

There's also stories of Carriers trading tons of ice cream to ships that were on duty to pick up pilots from the water after their aircraft went down.  Some humor about it, because some pilot stories joke that they weren't sure if the DD crews saved them out of them being Americans needing help, or more for the ice cream they were getting in return for bringing them back to the Carrier.

 

Small comforts help out in morale.  Been out in the middle of the desert for ages and not see a d*mn thing but living in tent city.  A warm meal is greatly appreciated, a decent place to sleep is a godsend.  Hell, some guys don't even get that chance to wash up for a good while, depending on where you're at.  Being able to take a warm bath or shower and not wash by a bottle of water or canteen and a hand rag.  The comforts we get back home we take for granted, is a big f--king deal when you no longer have it.

 

Not navy related, but...

Image result for world war 2 ice cream

 

 

On the flip side, I've read about some of the sh*tty crew quarters on a number of the IJN CVs with the downward pointing exhaust.  The lines ran through ship's berthing and heated the spaces uncomfortably.

 

Some navies cared about how their sailors lived.  Some didn't care at all.

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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A very important one most miss is that in the 1920's the USN started providing bunks for all crewmen.  Most navies still used hammocks for the crew.  The reason the USN switched was because they did medical studies that showed a marked decrease in health problems, particularly back injuries, from using bunks.

The Japanese navy treated crew miserably.  Hammocks were provided with little room.  Ventilation was often nonexistent in crew spaces.  Fresh water for bathing / showering was an unheard of luxury.  Crew were frequently referred to as "cattle" by the officers and while punishment in the IJN was less severe than in the IJA, it was still often physical and brutal.

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On 3/11/2019 at 9:25 AM, Murotsu said:

A very important one most miss is that in the 1920's the USN started providing bunks for all crewmen.  Most navies still used hammocks for the crew.  The reason the USN switched was because they did medical studies that showed a marked decrease in health problems, particularly back injuries, from using bunks.

The Japanese navy treated crew miserably.  Hammocks were provided with little room.  Ventilation was often nonexistent in crew spaces.  Fresh water for bathing / showering was an unheard of luxury.  Crew were frequently referred to as "cattle" by the officers and while punishment in the IJN was less severe than in the IJA, it was still often physical and brutal.

No man, it was just ice cream!

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I don't think there's a clear winner between the U.S., Britain and Japan. Germany was close, but there was too much "party interference" in command-level decisions (for example, the refusal to allow Bismarck to either pursue KGV or - being damaged herself - return to Norway because of "Hitler's orders"). 

Italy and Russia don't bear discussion, and France wasn't a major enough participant to judge.

In some ways, I think a more interesting debate would revolve around the navies of WWI. Japan is still fresh from her victory over Imperial Russia, the U.S. is less of a clear equal with Britain, Germany's High Seas Fleet is SLIGHTLY more free to make decisions at sea than its WWII successor, etc.

Edited by Battleship_Elisabeth

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On 3/10/2019 at 11:10 AM, warheart1992 said:

We often compare the performance of WWII era  ships as if they are inanimate objects. But as with any machine of war, be it plane, tank or ship, the crew plays an unbelievably important role in combat performance, often allowing seemingly inferior equipment to triumph.

This is what my question aims at, determining or at least getting some discussion going on which WWII Navy people consider to have had the best trained personnel.

Fire away :etc_red_button:.

I think the hardest part is trying to identify the best most rounded naval personnel.

Many of the navies trained and became experts in doctrines they thought would best suit how they expected to fight a war

For example

The Japanese were easily at elite level when it came to night fighting - Until radar destroyed that advantage

Similarly the US were by far the best at damage control and saving their ships from battle damage. Which was funny given the obscene level of production they achieved in the war.

The British were extremely good at fleet maneuvers and general seamanship with a minor in naval gunnery.

Then there are intangibles like confidence, attitude and flexibility. In this area I would suggest the US navy would win. Many times they got into situations where on the spot innovation and flexibility in command gave them a battle winning edge a number of times.

 

 

 

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On 3/12/2019 at 1:48 PM, Battleship_Elisabeth said:

Italy and Russia don't bear discussion, and France wasn't a major enough participant to judge.

 

I think the Italians do deserve a mention. Some of the insane level missions they undertook in very poorly designed ships is a tribute to their bravery and commitment to their country. It is easy to look good when you are on board the Yamato or New Jersey. Less so when you are in the underpowered and critically under armored Pola 

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39 minutes ago, MG1962 said:

I think the Italians do deserve a mention. Some of the insane level missions they undertook in very poorly designed ships is a tribute to their bravery and commitment to their country. It is easy to look good when you are on board the Yamato or New Jersey. Less so when you are in the underpowered and critically under armored Pola 

Wait, what? Pola was one of the best-armored heavy cruisers of all time.

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I'd say, over all, that at the beginning of WW2, The Royal Navy was number one in terms of training and preparing its men. They had the most experience in terms of Naval warfare from WW1. They did lag behind in ship development, refit, and replacement. By the end of the war, though it wore out many ships and men, the RN was still a very highly trained fighting force.

The IJN would be number 2. While they lacked the size of the RN and USN, they built some fairly strong ships and weapons. They also trained constantly and got more 'training' with their war in China. The problem was most men remained on the same ship for their entire life. Thus new ships had essentially green crews. They didn't rotate experienced men back to help train the next batch.

Same with the CVs. Note, when the Shokaku was damaged and Zuikaku lost most of it's aircraft, they didn't simply move the Shokaku's squadrons over to Zuikaku. Had they done so, they could have had a 5th Carrier at Midway instead of 4. Also, the pilots pretty much continued flying till injured or dead. They were never rotated like the USN did, thus passing on their experience to the new pilots.

The Kriegsmarine would be 3rd. It's kinda hard to place them. Their navy did pretty much cease to exist after WW1. For the most part, after it's reforming, they trained fairly well. They did likely still have veterans of the High Seas fleet to train them. They also had much more 'modern' ships then the RN did, though they did not have 'quantity'. Their submarine force was definitely number 1 at the beginning of the war. 

The USN would be 4th. It wasn't that there was a training issue, the USN trained it's sailors well. The fact that the ships at Pearl Harbor were able to respond to the attack within minutes with AA shows that. That many ships survived the damage to fight again is another. Even Nevada was able to get underway. The damage control was second to none. The issue is, that in the pre-war, the wargames showed the danger a CV force would be and those in command basically ignored it. The Battleship was still considered 'the Queen' and all battle plans involved the battleships in some way. Now yes, it is true the IJN thought the same, but they also had Yamamoto who saw the power of the aircraft and used it well. It took the destruction of the US Fleet at Pearl to force the USN to change their plans. For most of the beginning of the war the USN was rocked back on its heels. It slowly clawed its way back and eventually became a very well trained fighting force.

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As a list of different qualities, I'd sum Navies in WW 2 up more or less like this:

Seamanship:  All the major players were about equal, the USN, RN, KM, IJN, etc., all could go to sea and sail competently.  The USN started the war with one big advantage in this area.  They had developed new formations for sailing during the interwar period based on wargaming at the Naval War College.  The circular formation, or ring formation, for ASW and AAW was something nobody else was practicing in 1939.  The world standard outside the USN was to still steam in traditional formations like line ahead or column of divisions and it was largely every ship for itself when it came to defending against aircraft and to a lessor extent, submarines.  Worst?  Probably the Soviet Union.  That's what happens when you don't go to sea and stay there.

Damage Control:  Hands down the USN both in terms of fighting damage and in terms of salvage.  No other navy could have raised, repaired, and put back in service the losses at Pearl Harbor.  Worst?  IJN.  An almost neglected subject usually left to a junior officer of lessor repute on any ship.

Carrier operations:  USN with the RN being a close second.  The USN's use of deck parks and general launch-land cycles was superb.  The RN had the edge with better CAP and fighter control.  They also did far more night operations.  So, sort of a wash.  The IJN never developed carrier controlled intercept (CCI) like the USN and RN did.  Without CAP coordination they were at a defensive disadvantage.  Their deck operations were slower in cycle times as well.

Aviation:  USN and IJN are tied early on.  The RN is a close second.  There is little to choose on pilot quality here.  All three services started the war with long-service high hour and well trained pilots and aircrew.  None really had an advantage there.  The biggest detractor for the RN is the poor quality of aircraft they offered.  Up to 1942 the FAA was lagging well behind the USN and IJN in aircraft quality.

The USN began to pull ahead by developing better and better tactics for air combat while the IJN almost stagnated.  It wasn't just declining aircrew qualities that hurt the IJN, it was also that the USN was getting far better at intercepting raids, and making effective offensive strikes.  US use of CCI moved from carriers to screening cruisers then to destroyers on picket.  Intercepts of Japanese air raids shifted from 20 to 30 miles early in the war to 75 to 100 miles out by 1945.  It almost ensured that any Japanese raid was doomed before it ever saw the target.

The RN, with smaller air wings, chose the torpedo as the weapon of decision for naval strikes.  They did make night air strikes a major component of their training and were definitely well ahead in this respect.  The US was somewhat reluctant to follow, but by 1944 the Enterprise had become a specialist carrier for night carrier operations.  However, the torpedo by 1944 was becoming a weapon that aircraft could no longer deliver against targets without suffering unsustainable losses.  Dive bombing and rockets were taking it's place, and guided weapons were becoming a reality.  On the later, the Germans and US had the lead on those like Fritz X, or the Hs 293 (German), or the BAT and Gordon (USN).

Submarine operations.  The KM.  The Germans had this one cold.  Second place the USN.  Worst:  Easily the Soviet Union which lost more subs than sank ships.

Replenishment at sea:  Far and away, the USN.  Nobody else could come close to the USN at going to sea and staying there for prolonged periods.  The USN had been planning and training to fight a naval war without bases halfway around the world since 1905.

Gunnery:  It's a wash / tie between the USN / RN / KM.  All three exhibited good to excellent gunnery and were much better than the IJN at it.

Night actions at sea:  The IJN and RN.  Both trained and excelled at this sort of battle.  The British certainly demonstrated this versus the Italians in the Med.  There the British repeatedly trounced the RM in night actions.

Technical advancement:  Tie between the USN and RN.  The later was really handicapped by a lack of economic means to exploit technology on the scale and with the speed the US did.  The Japanese started off at a deficit in this respect and would never catch up.  The KM often neglected this field but did produce some top notch innovations such as the Gruppenhochtgerät (GHG) large array sonar.  This was well in advance of Allied submarine sonar technology.

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