Jump to content
You need to play a total of 5 battles to post in this section.
Eboreg2

Three Steps Ahead: how US Navy wargaming won the Pacific War

18 comments in this topic

Recommended Posts

Members
47 posts
16 battles

Hello guys and gals, it's me again and today I wanted to talk about a highly underappreciated facet of the US war effort in the Pacific. Throughout my extensive studies of the Pacific War, one of the great mysteries that seemed to pop up time and again the deeper and deeper I got was how well prepared the Americans were. World War II was their first major naval conflict and their real-world naval experience was close to non-existent yet they didn't bumble around like complete and utter fools. Japan, the victors of the jaw dropping and decisive Battle of Tsushima and the surprise conquerors of China, spent the better part of 6 months planning for the Battle of Midway and in retrospect, many felt that that wasn't enough. The US on the other hand, the pacifist upstarts who had only once ever stepped off their continent before and never won a naval war with a modern power, decided on their strategy within a matter of hours and won. This disparity could partly be explained by the rapid change that naval warfare was undergoing at the time, forcing everyone else to forget everything they ever learned and yet, America's astonishing adaptation to the new era of warfare where true power emerged not from a gun but an airstrip simply defied all explanation. That is, until I learned about the extensive amount of American tabletop wargames at the War College and fleet exercises at sea utilized during the interwar period. I am fairly convinced that without these preparations, the US would have lost the Pacific War and I hope that by the end of this write-up, you'll feel the same way.

Just to drive the point home of how bad American experience was, I want to first cover the wargame called "Tactical IV" or "The Battle of the Emerald Bank" between the not-British Red Fleet and the not-American Blue Fleet in 1923. The Battle of the Emerald Bank carried all of the hallmarks of Mahanian doctrine, a decisive naval clash without any sort of build-up or follow-through, submarines attached to the main battle line, no land objectives or obstructions, a complete lack of understanding on how to use airpower, hell, these motherf'kers were even trying to gain the wind gage! Red Fleet's advantage in battleships proved decisive and by the end of the wargame, every battleship in the Blue Fleet had been sunk or disabled. Later on that year, the War College ran Tactical V or "The Battle of the Marianas". This pitted the not-Japanese Orange Fleet against the Blue Fleet in a more detailed but still very much Mahanian clash. The only advantage the Blue Fleet carried over the Orange Fleet was in airpower but, as earlier stated, the attending officers had absolutely no clue how to use it. Orange team decided not to attack the Blue battleline but instead send their destroyers after the Blue Supply train in a night torpedo attack. While the attack was costly for Orange, Blue was thrown into absolute disarray with many desperate maneuvers, collisions, and massive exchanges of gunfire.

450438124_LaffeyandHieiGuadalcanal.jpg.2f8d27dbd7e29c08caaa35cfbeaf9627.jpg
Sound familiar?

That same year, Fleet Problem 1 pitted Black team against Blue team for control of the Panama Canal. Black launched a carrier raid on the canal shutting it down, trapping Blue on the other side, and essentially winning without a fight. This proved to be the beginning of the US Navy's appreciation of the role of aircraft in naval warfare.

In fact, up until 1927 USN wargames were very amateurish and filled with rookie mistakes with very little advancements except in the way of logistics and in the employment of airpower. Amphibious Landing wargames were carried out but more emphasis was put on setting up telegraph lines than on actual combat. The Fleet Problems did fare a little better with Fleet Problem 3 seeing extensive uses of sabotage culminating in one Black team member sneaking onto a Blue battleship while it was transiting the Panama Canal and blowing himself up in the No. 3 turret sinking the ship and blocking the Canal. If anyone wonders why the US Navy was so worried about sabotage despite no instances of it surfacing during the war, well, now you know. Fleet Problem 4 highlighted the need for better landing craft and submarines. Fleet Problem 5 added to this by showing the need for cryptographic security among ship-borne radio traffic. Fleet Problem 6 saw the introduction of the circular formation in carrier warfare as well as introduce the utility of carrier-borne aircraft for scouting and Fleet Problem 7 cemented the carrier's role as a raider as well as the utility of aircraft in hunting submarines although it did highlight the necessity of procedures to identify friendly submarines to patrolling aircraft.

The period from 1928 to 1934 saw a steep drop in the power and influence of the US Navy due to post-war cuts and the Great Depression and, consequentially, a significant rise in wargames as a highly cost-effective method of officer training. This time period also saw a significant change in the meta in wargames between Blue and Orange teams, more commonly known as War Plan Orange. Instead of focusing over just one tactical map with a single decisive engagement, wargaming began to regularly switch between a strategic map and a tactical map with numerous attritional engagements. There were also instances of nonexistent assets finding their way into the Blue lineup like rigid airships, floating drydocks, and even aviation cruisers akin to the Tone-class that the Japanese actually did build (and found out too late that they were a bit of a waste). I should note that the most common historiography about American war plans states that they called for an immediate thrust across the Pacific to relieve the Philippines but those plans went out the window when America's battleship force was crippled at Pearl Harbor. This is, however, complete [REDACTED] as this "thruster" plan was already drawing fire during this time period at the War College in favor of a "cautionary" plan that focused on slowly but steadily seizing and building up forward bases which, I should note, the US could not do in peacetime thanks to the Washington Naval Treaty. The reason that the thruster plan drew so much fire was that it always fell apart when Orange launched torpedo attacks with aircraft, submarines, and destroyers leaving the Blue battleline badly mauled and unable to hold much of anything. In a great example of great minds thinking alike, Orange team's strategy exactly mirrored that of Japan's war plans for the Pacific War but the biggest problem for the Japanese is that they left it at that while the Americans became increasingly disappointed and started to look for ways to counter this. This was not to say that there weren't innovations: by 1931, the meta of the game focused heavily on pre-emptive airstrikes and from then on, experimentation was focused on what the airstrikes should target, cruisers or carriers. Striking cruisers was attempted on numerous occasions but in every case, the side using this tactic always lost when the enemy attacked carriers. Of course, these innovations still didn't prevent Orange victories under the thruster plan and in 1933, the chair of the Operations Department at the War College opined that the only way Blue could successfully cross the Pacific was under a "great preponderance" of air support.

This time period also saw the real genesis of carrier tactics in Fleet Problems. Fleet Problem 8 between Blue and Orange teams saw Blue use some ingenious maneuvers to reinforce Hawaii well ahead of schedule and also probably seriously limited the Orange commander's career. Shortly afterwards, a Joint Army-Navy exercise (although to me it seems more like Army vs. Navy) staged a surprise air-sea attack on Hawaii. Langley managed to launch 2 full strike squadrons in a very small space of time and achieved complete surprise over Oahu managing to cause a significant amount of damage while tying down the Army Air Corps aircraft on the base. This gave the battleships on Langley's team plenty of breathing space to attack coastal installations. Fleet Problem 9 saw the first deployment of Lexington and Saratoga in these exercises in a battle over the Panama Canal. While Saratoga managed to stage a surprise raid of the canal, she was caught on the surface by defending battleships and sunk as a result of the cripplingly low range of her aircraft. The umpires allowed her to respawn just to get the most data they could for carrier tactics whereupon she was immediately sunk by an enemy submarine. Respawning again, she staged a second, less successful, raid on the Panama Canal then later joined up with friendly battleships for a combined air-sea bombardment, even getting into a gunnery duel with the Lexington, before defending Land-Based aircraft showed up, nearly attacked the Lexington, then sunk Saratoga a third time.

Fleet Problem 10 once again pitted the Lexington against the Saratoga (and Langley) this time in a battle for control of the Caribbean. After a few days of jockeying for position, Lexington scout bombers managed to locate the Saratoga and a preliminary bombing attack put the forward area of Saratoga's flight deck out of commission. 14 minutes later, a full dive bomber strike from Lexington managed to catch Saratoga while her aircraft were arming and fuelling and managed to set off numerous secondary explosions that put Saratoga out of commission and make her a sitting duck for the cruisers on Lexington's team. 4 minutes after that, a second Lexington strike hit Langley hard putting her out of commission as well. Thus was the tide of battle turned in favor of Lexington's team within the space of only 20 minutes.

Midway.thumb.jpg.ae0dd494af6f368fc45116bd6c534929.jpg
Again, sound familiar?

Lexington's dive bombers then turned to the enemy battlewagons disabling numerous turrets with 30-pound bombs as well as providing vital spotting for the battleships supporting Lexington ensuring a victory for Lexington's team. The post-exercise critique provided numerous innovations for American carrier doctrine including the necessity of long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could carry light bombs to make preliminary strikes, like the SBD Dauntless, operational procedures that allowed enough aircraft for scouting and maintaining an offensive reserve, something which the Japanese were found sorely lacking in during the war, as well as the necessity in training pilots in target recognition and navigation, basic but important skills. Most importantly, the critique specifically said, "The suddenness with which an engagement could be completely reversed by the use of aerial power was brought home to the fleet in no uncertain terms." This was a lesson that the Imperial Japanese Navy had to learn the hard way on the morning of June 4, 1942.

Fleet Problem 11 showed very little in terms of tactical improvements except for the need for better communications procedures, especially when sending messages to carriers about what damage they had sustained and how long flight operations would be suspended during exercises. It did also cement the overwhelming necessity of striking first in a carrier duel. Fleet Problem 12, once again, posited a fight over the Panama Canal with attempts to make sense of how to use four new heavy cruisers and even the airship Los Angeles. Some notable events included the battleship Arkansas nearly losing a gunnery duel against the heavy cruisers, Lexington having to turn on searchlights in order to help returning strike aircraft land late at night,

1107639528_Turnonthelights.thumb.png.f320175002b6cd35c11c37ab6283b18a.png
Like at the Battle of the Philippine Sea

...the US Navy deciding that airships just weren't worth the effort, the decision that dive-bombing was the best way to attack shipping, even two carriers running into enemy battleships and escaping only with the help of speed, luck, and the gallant effort of their escorts.

640448707_LeeroyJohnston.jpg.5190d0e4250ae794b12a25b3ee32717e.jpg[
Like at the Battle off Samar

Fleet Problem 13 probably should have served as a greater cautionary lesson to the US Military than it did. In it, Lexington and Saratoga launched a surprise raid on Oahu and managed to cause significant damage to the Army airfields, support facilities, and even the fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.

1670731318_PearlHarbor1.thumb.jpg.57fb203ec39b18a4d9cf319dd54076d3.jpg
I'm pretty sure that a certain Rear Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was observing this exercise. For some reason.

Naval aviators were actually rather pissed at the stinginess of how the umpires awarded damage during this raid, allowing the land-based aircraft to take off and get in a counter-strike. While the issue was certainly debatable at the time, given the events of December 7, 1941, the aviators are beyond any sort of criticism today. Later on, the exercise entered a second phase where Saratoga squared off against Lexington and Langley over much the same patch of ocean as before. After some jockeying for position including the use of submarines to scout out Saratoga's task force, combat began when Saratoga and Lexington launched airstrikes against each other causing minor damage to both. It was then that Captain Ernest King of the Lexington, who some of you might find familiar, convinced his commanding officer to detach Lexington and her escorts from the main battleline in order to hit the Saratoga from the flank. He succeeded at this catching the Saratoga when her aircraft were returning from a strike against heavy cruisers and knocked out her flight deck for the remainder of the exercise. Once again, the lack of Saratoga's airpower against the presence of Lexington's airpower proved decisive in giving Lexington's team the victory.

Fleet Problem 14 saw Lexington and Saratoga launch another carrier raid on Hawaii with much the same results as in Fleet Problem 13 despite the Army bringing some new-fangled anti-aircraft guns to the fight. Lexington and Saratoga then split up to raid two separate objectives on the West Coast, Lexington attacking San Francisco and Saratoga attacking San Pedro. This did not go well for the carriers, however, and Lexington got separated from her escort in bad weather then blundered into gunnery range of not one but two enemy battleships. This ended about as well as you'd expect with Lexington getting ruled sunk and the escorts showing up just in time to become the battleship's next victims. Saratoga did marginally better and although she was intercepted by enemy battleships while her strike was returning, she did manage to recover her aircraft and make a getaway albeit with some damage to her and her escorting heavy cruisers. The decision to split the two carriers was heavily criticized and aviators once again called for longer-ranged more heavily armed bombers. The carriers were also let down by a lack of screening destroyers and the decision to focus on land targets before dealing with enemy air and sea opposition was also heavily criticized.

Fleet Problem 15 saw extensive use of constructive, that is fictional or surrogate, forces in order to make up for the fleet's low budget given that this was 1934 and the Great Depression was in full swing. This caused a considerable amount of confusion as in many cases, comanders weren't sure how many ships/planes they were looking at and of what type. However, this exercise did show the effectiveness of night-time torpedo attacks with all six of the Blue team's battleships being sunk in this manner. The post-battle critique also noted that 100-pound bombs were simply not enough for anti-shipping work and carrier-based planes would have to be armed with 500- or 1000-pound bombs.

Moving back to the chalkboards, the time between 1935 and 1941 saw the War College gain new importance as it seemed increasingly likely that the lessons it taught would have to be put to practical use very soon. It was also at this time that the War College finally ditched the thruster strategy for the cautionary one deciding not to relieve the Philippines immediately but to retake it after an extensive campaign. The 1935 wargame saw the first use of this strategy ending in a tactical draw (possibly due to the lack of ship construction in-game). 1935 also saw extensive use of simulated gas attacks ultimately convincing the US Navy that they were too unpredictable. By 1938, the War College was including political consequences and amphibious operations in its wargames with large emphasis given to co-ordination between landing forces and naval artillery. Also by this point, after more than a decade of constant Orange dominance, Blue team was actually winning. All it took was the early-war abandonment of the Philippines.

Although the Fleet Problems of that time did not see as many tactical improvements, there were still some important lessons. Lexington ran critically low on fuel during Fleet Problem 16 causing extensive research into underway replenishment of carriers. Fleet Problem 17 saw Saratoga being tied directly to the battleline by the Admiral in charge of her team, which inevitably led to her sinking when enemy battlecruisers crossed the battleline's T. It also highlighted the importance of seaplane tender-based patrol aircraft leading to the development and adoption of the Catalina flying boat. It was also the first time destroyers were regularly and extensively refuelled from the heavy ships they were escorting. However, Fleet Problem 18 once again saw carriers being tied to the battle line which allowed bombers from the newcomer to the carrier force, Ranger, to easily find Saratoga and inflict heavy damage on her. The post-battle critique seems to me like an attempt for the commanding officer that tied Saratoga to battle line to cover his butt with very little in the realm of actual lessons learned but reports from other commanders did still have some important points like the need for all-weather carrier aircraft.

Fleet Problem 19 in 1938 showed that American commanders were able to learn from their mistakes when the carriers were now allowed to operate separately from the battle line. Submarines, on the other hand, did not fare well as they had to rely on deep-submergence sonar attacks in order to not get bombed from the air. The reviewers failed to realize just how much of this poor showing was due to the fact that the entire fleet problem took place in daylight and almost entirely in calm weather. Finally, the Fleet Problem once again showed just how effective carriers were at attacking land targets with Admiral Ernest King leading Saratoga, Lexington, and Ranger to launch two very effective raids on bases at Mare Island and

...Pearl Harbor. Again. Now, I should note that despite tight operational security on the part of the Navy, word of this second raid managed to get leaked to the press in 1939 and I'm fairly certain that one particular Japanese admiral was paying attention.

761101999_PearlHarbor2.thumb.jpg.9613861e3cdc60325e7bcb8ad5d188d5.jpg
Not naming names.

Fleet Problem 20 was probably the most sophisticated exercise of the bunch consisting of a massive set-piece carrier duel between Lexington, Yorktown, and Enterprise on the White team and Ranger on the Black team. This was probably the most vicious fighting of the bunch with the exercise having to be called off early due to the sheer amount of aircraft losses compounded by the fact that Enterprise had been ruled as sunk thanks to a powerful strike from Ranger and Lexington being lightly damaged as a result of a strike from Catalina flying boats. Nevertheless, White team had accomplished its objective and although no winner had been officially declared, many believed that White had availed itself better. Interestingly though, during the exercise a night-time torpedo attack, up until now a constant thorn in the sides of American planners, had been detected by USS New York's XAF radar completely spoiling the attack. This led to the general neglect of night tactical exercises leading up to the declaration of war.

Lastly was Fleet Problem 21 in 1940. Interestingly enough, a decision to pair Yorktown with its friendly battleships caused a lot of enemy aircraft to get shot down when it came under attack but this was counterbalanced by the fact that said battleships were 21-knot Standards seriously limiting Yorktown's tactical mobility and letting it come under attack and get seriously damaged in the first place. This may have been part of the reason why the North Carolina-, South Dakota-, and Iowa-class battleships were constructed in the first place. I should, however, note that the aviators unsuccessfully complained to the umpires about how many losses their aircraft took to battleship-based gunfire but given what South Dakota pulled at the Battle of Santa Cruz, I'll have to side with the umpires on this one.

There were plans to hold Fleet Problem 22 in 1941 but they were scrapped in light of the deteriorating political situation. Arguably the wiser choice to make.

It has often been said that the road to success is paved with failure and the US Navy failed many, many times at its wargames and exercises before finally succeeding. One can easily imagine the Japanese war plans seeing success after success which, paradoxically, led to their ultimate failure when war was declared. This is borne out by the fact that throughout the war, Japanese Kantai Kessen doctrine seemed to focus on countering an immediate American thrust towards the Philippines and inflicting attritional losses ending in a decisive naval battle. However, that battle never came and the Americans acted off script from day 1. They didn't send an immediate thrust to the Philippines, they didn't attack under enemy air cover, they relied heavily, later exclusively, on airpower to win the day, they kept their carriers acting in small, fast raiding parties, and what's more, they didn't try to gain the f'king wind gage! When Admiral Ernest King took command of the US Navy in the wake of Pearl Harbor, he brought with him a wealth of training experience in the proper employment of the carrier which served him well until war's end. In fact, just about every big name in the US Navy, William Halsey, Chester Nimitz, Marc Mitscher, Raymond Spruance, all gained their first victories on the chalkboards of the War College and in the calm oceans of the Fleet Problems. So the next time you ever hear of the US Navy losing a wargame against any of its potential adversaries, keep in mind that in preparing for war against Japan, that same force lost every single wargame for over 10 years before it finally started winning.

Edited by Eboreg2
  • Cool 17

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
462
[PQUOD]
Members
1,672 posts
8,823 battles

I am currently out of thumbs up. However +1 my friend. Very good job.  Had read about the"Fleet problem" exercises before. Yes very intuitive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,968
[RLGN]
Members
10,029 posts
19,421 battles

Japan waiting for the decisive battle and not ‘recognizing’ it when it came.

Wonder how the November reinforcement convoy to Guadalcanal would have fared, if it had been escorted by every possible unit at Truk, instead of the ‘just enough’ forces the IJN did send. (Though what a hellova tale that would have been if Washington had managed to successfully bully Yamato, instead of just Kirishima.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14
[W_K_A]
Members
103 posts
559 battles

At the time the US was preparing for the possibility of many wars we had plans for wars with Britain, Germany, and Japan but Japan was at the top of the list given how aggressive they were in the Pacific. It also helped that many US ship captains, marines, and aviators showed initiative rather then sticking too the doctrines of the High Command, especially when those doctrines were outdated. In terms of the wargames themselves I would have to say that the high command in the Interwar Period was indeed biased since many still clung to Mahan's theories (much like the Japanese High Command did) that said the Japanese were also suffering from wining too much owing to the war in China, and the early battles of the Pacific War. Looking at these wargames it's pretty easy to call them rigged in the Old School's favor 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
216
[WOSV]
Members
574 posts
2,902 battles

I'm not the only one who's somewhat surprised that Japan never thought of a scenario in which the US would take a more reserved, defensive approach? Wouldn't it be logical for the enemy to go defensive following a hard-hitting surprise attack deep in their own territory, rather than a mad dash to a very wayward territory? Wasn't it ever even considered?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
529 posts
16 minutes ago, Halonut24 said:

I'm not the only one who's somewhat surprised that Japan never thought of a scenario in which the US would take a more reserved, defensive approach? Wouldn't it be logical for the enemy to go defensive following a hard-hitting surprise attack deep in their own territory, rather than a mad dash to a very wayward territory? Wasn't it ever even considered?

The Pearl Harbor attack plan was only made in 1941, far too late to wargame the scenario as it would make the US extremely suspicious.  At the same time, the US Naval doctrine largely adhered to the concepts delineated by Mahan.  U.S. Navy planning focused on preparing to fight a decisive battle with the Japanese fleet somewhere in the western Pacific. Consequently, the Battle of Jutland was studied in great detail at the Naval War College.  So it would be completely logical for the Japanese to wargame this out since they know what their opponent is thinking.  Japanese planners continued to envision the US Pacific Fleet advancing from Hawaii, being reduced by air and submarine forces along the route to Japan, and then being decisively engaged near Micronesia by the main battleship fleet. The IJN's strategy was to wait and react, forcing a decisive battle with the USN in the western Pacific, near the Mariana or Marshall Islands. There they would defeat the American fleet with superior ships with longer ranged guns.

The problem was that they did not successfully wargame a scenario where they won with this strategy which is why Admiral Yamamoto threw out the plan and decided to improvise with the Pearl Harbor attack.  This made the USN much harder to predict to the IJN which may have seemed more appealing then playing out a scenario that the wargames showed was extremely flawed.

Edited by Royeaux

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
551
[TOG]
Members
3,408 posts
17,664 battles

One of the tactical failings that exercises did not uncover is the need for CV's to be massed together along with the escorts.  An issue also was that I believed no one wargamed a Plan Orange scenario where the Philippines was not going to be relived with in 6 months.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
47 posts
16 battles

I should probably mention my sources: To Train the Fleet for War by Albert A. Nofi goes into extensive detail about the Fleet Problems and Playing War by John M. Lillard goes into a similar amount of detail about wargaming at the US Navy War College. I feel that many of you should check them out if you ever get the chance.

Also, it seems that a good number of self-styled historians posting here don't realize that you can't just throw away an old doctrine and replace it with a new one overnight yet that's exactly what the Americans seemed to do. Well, that is, until you realize that pre-war planning did a lot to develop that new doctrine that the Japanese inadvertently validated with the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Also, yes, the Americans did study the Battle of Jutland quite a bit at the War College but in my research, I've found that this was more to get new students familiar with the wargaming methods then to teach any sort of tactical lessons.

Yes, the Americans did focus too much on a decisive naval battle as well but they also focused on the lengthy buildup to get vital air supremacy at said decisive naval battle. The only criticism I can find to this approach is that they didn't realize the full implications of the fact that taking on an enemy Surface Combat Task Force that had air superiority was tantamount to suicide. They realized that gaining air superiority was important but didn't realize that any enemy would also take this lesson to heart and just retreat from said "Decisive Naval Battle" if they ever lost the air war.

And finally, I have to talk about the idea of initiative since training your officers to take initiative takes a LOT more effort than training them to just follow orders due to the fact that taking the wrong initiative will end up giving you that one absolute moron that threw the match except in this case, said "match" is an actual battle and people's lives are at stake. Yes, the higher command's doctrine may have been a little outdated but the point of this write-up is that a new doctrine had already been created. I also find the idea of the higher-up's doctrine being outdated rather hard to believe when you have Ernest King, the guy who staged a genius maneuver for 1938 in the form of a simulated surprise carrier raid on Pearl Harbor, rising to the very top of the US Navy shortly after the Japanese stole his idea and pulled off the raid for real.

You know, I'm starting to think that a lot of the posters here didn't actually read the full write-up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
551
[TOG]
Members
3,408 posts
17,664 battles
On 5/7/2019 at 8:37 PM, Eboreg2 said:

Yes, the Americans did focus too much on a decisive naval battle as well but they also focused on the lengthy buildup to get vital air supremacy at said decisive naval battle. The only criticism I can find to this approach is that they didn't realize the full implications of the fact that taking on an enemy Surface Combat Task Force that had air superiority was tantamount to suicide. They realized that gaining air superiority was important but didn't realize that any enemy would also take this lesson to heart and just retreat from said "Decisive Naval Battle" if they ever lost the air war.

Well, the IJN and the USN were focused on the decisive battle prior to WW2. The IJN were focused on it  even after they lost control of the air. And I'm calling it after Guadalcanal, not Midway. The USN had at least a system of innovation during the war, even if it was ad hoc in the beginning. The development of the CIC which started during the Guadalcanal campaign and evolved after that was one example. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14
[W_K_A]
Members
103 posts
559 battles
On 5/6/2019 at 1:33 PM, Royeaux said:

The Pearl Harbor attack plan was only made in 1941, far too late to wargame the scenario as it would make the US extremely suspicious.  At the same time, the US Naval doctrine largely adhered to the concepts delineated by Mahan.  U.S. Navy planning focused on preparing to fight a decisive battle with the Japanese fleet somewhere in the western Pacific. Consequently, the Battle of Jutland was studied in great detail at the Naval War College.  So it would be completely logical for the Japanese to wargame this out since they know what their opponent is thinking.  Japanese planners continued to envision the US Pacific Fleet advancing from Hawaii, being reduced by air and submarine forces along the route to Japan, and then being decisively engaged near Micronesia by the main battleship fleet. The IJN's strategy was to wait and react, forcing a decisive battle with the USN in the western Pacific, near the Mariana or Marshall Islands. There they would defeat the American fleet with superior ships with longer ranged guns.

The problem was that they did not successfully wargame a scenario where they won with this strategy which is why Admiral Yamamoto threw out the plan and decided to improvise with the Pearl Harbor attack.  This made the USN much harder to predict to the IJN which may have seemed more appealing then playing out a scenario that the wargames showed was extremely flawed.

It wasn't helped that the imperial navy was split into rival camps the ones who favored focusing on airpower and submarines and those who stuck to the Kantai Kessen plans, and it was the ones who stuck to the plan that dominated the Imperial Navy's General Staff  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
529 posts
8 hours ago, snakes3425 said:

It wasn't helped that the imperial navy was split into rival camps the ones who favored focusing on airpower and submarines and those who stuck to the Kantai Kessen plans, and it was the ones who stuck to the plan that dominated the Imperial Navy's General Staff  

It wouldn't matter.  The IJN simply didn't have the strength to win a naval war with the USN.  The big problem with the Japanese War games is that they exposed their losing strategy and they wouldn't even admit it to themselves.  I believe they even successfully predicted the Battle of Midway with some of their own CVs posing as USN CVs and sinking their own CVs, but the Japanese referee disqualified that war game.  Either to save face, or for political reasons or for a combination of both.  It was practically 1984 with the level of doublethink going on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
47 posts
16 battles
26 minutes ago, Royeaux said:

It wouldn't matter.  The IJN simply didn't have the strength to win a naval war with the USN.  The big problem with the Japanese War games is that they exposed their losing strategy and they wouldn't even admit it to themselves.  I believe they even successfully predicted the Battle of Midway with some of their own CVs posing as USN CVs and sinking their own CVs, but the Japanese referee disqualified that war game.  Either to save face, or for political reasons or for a combination of both.  It was practically 1984 with the level of doublethink going on.

I actually find this rather interesting since early American wargames showed the USN/Blue Team taking excessive losses that many agreed, realistically, would make a war against Japan unpopular at home in much the same way the Russians lost the Russo-Japanese War. Did Japanese wargamers utilize the cautionary plan for the American team earlier on? Actually, for that matter, I would like to know you sources about Japanese wargaming so I can study them myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
529 posts
35 minutes ago, Eboreg2 said:

I would like to know you sources about Japanese wargaming so I can study them myself.

I believe it's from an episode of Battlefield about Midway, I'll rewatch the episode and get back to you.

 

Edit: Found it.  

https://youtu.be/1w30FkSXyTE?t=1924

"The results of war games simulating the coming battle were also ignored.  When one such game resulted in the intervention of American bombers from Midway Island and the sinking of two Japanese Carriers, the outcome was deemed unacceptable, and was overruled by the umpire."

Edited by Royeaux

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,010
[STW-M]
Members
2,926 posts
6,956 battles
53 minutes ago, Eboreg2 said:

I would like to know you sources about Japanese wargaming so I can study them myself.

Some sources from this link:

  •  Willson A., War gaming, Pelican Books 1970
  • Curry J. (Ed), Thomas Allen's War Games, Professional Wargaming 1945-1985, History of Wargaming Project 2009.
  • Fuchida M., Okumiya M,, Midway, The Battle that Doomed Japan, Naval Institute Press, 1955
  • Prange G.W., Miracle at Midway, McGraw-Hill, 1982
  • Moulé V.A., A Comparison of Operational Leadership in the Battle of Midway, A paper submitted to the Naval War College as part of the requirements of the Department of Joint Military Operations, 1995
  • Willmott H.P., The Sword and the Javelin, Naval Institute Press, 1983.
  • Parshall, J.B., Tully A.P, Shattered Sword, Potomac Books 2005
  • Goldstein D., Dillon K., The Pearl Harbor Papers, Potomac Books, 1999

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6,120
[WOLF3]
Members
19,154 posts
17,521 battles
On 5/3/2019 at 3:39 PM, Estimated_Prophet said:

Japan waiting for the decisive battle and not ‘recognizing’ it when it came.

Wonder how the November reinforcement convoy to Guadalcanal would have fared, if it had been escorted by every possible unit at Truk, instead of the ‘just enough’ forces the IJN did send. (Though what a hellova tale that would have been if Washington had managed to successfully bully Yamato, instead of just Kirishima.)

That's all on Yamamoto.  His leadership and planning varied significantly from the early successes in the Pacific war and then in the Post-Midway era, i.e. Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands not long after.

 

In "Japanese Destroyer Captain," Capt Hara Tameichi describes Yamamoto as a leader:

Spoiler

 

The great Han Dynasty of China was founded by General Liu Pang in 202 BC after he had emerged victorious from a series of many battles in a great civil war.  On day, after gaining the throne, Generalissimo Liu was chatting with his chief of staff, General Han Tsin:

Liu: "How do you rate me as a general?"

Han: "I think Your Majesty can command, at most, an army of a few divisions."

Liu: "And what is your own ability?"

Han:  "The more armies of as many possible divisions I command the better I work."

Liu:  "How does it happen that I am an emperor while you remain a general?"

Han: "You are a born leader of leaders."

 

Liu was one of the greatest emperors and Han one of the greatest generals in history.  Few admirals have enjoyed such a high reputation as did Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in World War II.  He had great ability, but I feel that his reputation as a naval leader was greater than he deserved.  I do not mean to compare Yamamoto categorically with Liu, but in respect of their actual abilities, they are comparable.

 

Despite Japan's miserable defeat in the Pacific War, the nation is inclined to regard Yamamoto as a hero.  Postwar writings have criticized other military and naval leaders, but not Yamamoto.  If my remarks on Yamamoto seem severe it is not that I have any personal feelings against him;  this is just the first writing by a Japanese military man to be at all critical of him.

 

To me Admiral Yamamoto was a born leader of leaders and for that he deserved the almost religious aspect accorded him.  But he was not qualified to command a million tons of ships and their crews.  It was tragic that he was chosen to head the Combined Fleet.

 

Many of my colleagues believe that Yamamoto would have been an ideal Navy Minister, and there was a movement under way among certain Naval officers to have him named to this post.  Their idea was that Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai should command the Combined Fleet.  That move collapsed when Yonai, who strongly opposed war, refused, saying, "I am not a fighting admiral, and would only make things worse with the Army.  Furthermore, if such a stiff-necked man as Yamamoto becomes Navy Minister he will surely be assassinated by Army hotheads."

 

The real trouble was the Army.  When the war began the cabinet was headed by General Hideki Tojo.  Admiral Shigataro Shimada, the Navy Minister, was known as a Tojo stooge.  The Navy chief of staff, Admiral Osami Nagano, was not strong enough to oppose Army plans.  In criticizing Yamamoto, his actions and inaction, consideration must be given to all these factors which served to hamstring him.

 

Throughout his career Yamamoto was known to be a superb gambler.  He was skilled in all games of chance, especially poker.  His decision to attack Pearl Harbor was a gamble which paid tremendous odds.  It is strange, therefore, that Yamamoto never again played his cards for all they were worth, as a gambler should.  The lessons of the Coral Sea battle were not applied to Midway, where Yamamoto split his forces----to his detriment---between his prime objective and the Aleutians.  Yamamoto was undoubtedly preoccupied with preserving his forces.

 

 

The preservation and playing it safe at Guadalcanal by Yamamoto started before Midway it seems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14
[W_K_A]
Members
103 posts
559 battles
On 5/11/2019 at 1:17 PM, Royeaux said:

It wouldn't matter.  The IJN simply didn't have the strength to win a naval war with the USN.  The big problem with the Japanese War games is that they exposed their losing strategy and they wouldn't even admit it to themselves.  I believe they even successfully predicted the Battle of Midway with some of their own CVs posing as USN CVs and sinking their own CVs, but the Japanese referee disqualified that war game.  Either to save face, or for political reasons or for a combination of both.  It was practically 1984 with the level of doublethink going on.

The games proved Yamamoto right, he talked openly (despite the danger) that Japan couldn't win a protracted war. For the junior officers they believed firmly that their fighting spirit alone would carry the day, and when Yamamoto brought up the idea that the US would have more planes then the Japanese in the air the flight leader responed that the IJN could defeat three American planes with a single Zero, a belief harkening back to an infamous boast made by the Confederacy during the civil war "One Reb can whip twenty Yanks" pretty much the same idea: a martial culture alone would triumph over a better trained, and equipped foe

Edited by snakes3425
incomplete thought

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
292 posts
684 battles
On 5/3/2019 at 3:26 PM, Eboreg2 said:

Some notable events included the battleship Arkansas nearly losing a gunnery duel against the heavy cruisers

Can you provide more information on this part? I mean I trust you, it just sounds like something fun to read. 

(Also, you got a 1+)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Members
47 posts
16 battles
2 minutes ago, MS406france1940 said:

Can you provide more information on this part? I mean I trust you, it just sounds like something fun to read.

 

Well... the basics of that engagement were that Arkansas ran into Pensacola and Northampton off Coiba Island whereupon the two cruisers decided to use the range advantage of their main guns to stay out of Arkansas's range and pepper her with 8-inch fire. Unfortunately for them, they were unable to launch their catapult aircraft due to bad weather making their shellfire largely inaccurate. Arkansas managed to take advantage of the bad weather to get away and both Pensacola and Northampton retired that night to serve as convoy escorts.

I imagine that that engagement is part of the reason Arkansas was relegated to second-line duties during the war.

  • Cool 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×