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"What if the Japanese won at Midway?" Topic


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saxophone Inactive Member25 Mar 2011 4:27 p.m. PST

I'm always on the lookout for possible what-if scenarios for miniature gaming.

What would have happened if the US failed to decode or properly interpret the IJN intercepts and Midway was a complete surprise? Let's assume that the Japanese would have successfully landed their troops and captured Midway. What would happen next?

The IJN mobilized everything for this operation including a task force of their biggest battleships, many of which sat out much of the war, probably due to a lack of fuel. Would these battleships have participated in any post-invasion battle?

Your thoughts?

kyotebluer than blue Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 4:37 p.m. PST

US wins in 1946…

Tgunner25 Mar 2011 4:43 p.m. PST

I doubt that they could have taken Midway.

Wake Island gave them all sorts of fits when they tried to take it and the Midway garrison was far more powerful. In addition to have a full defense battalion the garrison had major elements of a raider battlion, tanks, and actual artillery and mortars. Plus the garrison was armed to the teeth with mgs, bunkers, anti-tank guns, flack guns, bunkers, trenches, radar, and literally dozens of combat aircraft. Sure, Japanese gunfire and airstrikes would have done damage, but not enough.

The landing force the Japanese had on hand was the "Ichiki Detachment" of Guadalcanal fame. It you've read about the Guadalcanal Campaign then you know how this bunch was slaughtered during the Battle of Alligator Creek (AKA Ilu River link Odds are that the Ichiki Detachment would have repeated (?) history but only on Midway instead of Guadalcanal. It really would have been Tarawa in reverse and the Japanese wouldn't have had Amtracs.

Now the naval battle would have been a different story. In the movie "Midway" Admiral Nimitz asked "were we better or luckier?" We were definitely luckier.

A more realistic 'what if' could be what if Nagumo didn't rearm his planes after the strike on Midway and simply took his time? That is, allow the Midway strike time to return and rearm and allow the 'sea action' planes to stay that way. Then when the recce birds from the Tone spot the US carriers Nagumo launches his strike craft… If Santa Cruz and Eastern Solomons are any clue, it would have been bad, very bad.

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian25 Mar 2011 4:56 p.m. PST

I dunno… 5 battleships and 4800 or so rounds of ammunition can do a lot of damage to 1500 acres, dug in defenders or not.

But yes, US wins in '46. Assuming no losses in the meantime, 25 or so Essex class, 2 Midways, Enterprise and the Independences make a compelling argument.

dmclellan25 Mar 2011 5:06 p.m. PST

link

US wins in 1946. See above for data on carriers and aircraft.

There is another article somewhere detailing production figures. One outstanding line is that we built more Fletcher DD's alone than Japan's total DD production from 1929 to 1945.

dmclellan25 Mar 2011 5:08 p.m. PST

Oh, Japan also had an impossible task supplying Guadalcanal from 600 miles away. How do you think they would do with 3-4,000 miles from Midway?

MahanMan Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 5:13 p.m. PST

link

That's already happening. As already noted, the United States wins no matter what in the long term.

Once Pearl Harbor happens, the United States wins.

Japan simply cannot win World War II after attacking the United States, based on an industrial model of warfare.

Also, I'd *love* to be the IJN Rear Admiral trying to re-supply Midway in the face of the USN attacks against it. Talk about your hardship posts.

Tgunner25 Mar 2011 5:17 p.m. PST

"I dunno… 5 battleships and 4800 or so rounds of ammunition can do a lot of damage to 1500 acres, dug in defenders or not."

You would think.

But Tarawa faced a very similar force of US battleships (and more modern ones at that), cruisers, and destroyers. The shelling did a lot of damage, but not enough. Most major positions survived with only minor damage. The 2d MarDiv hit Betio with nearly all of its regiments and was BARELY able to do the job. The Ichiki Detachment numbered around 2000-3000 men total. That's roughly the same number of casualties suffered by the 2d MarDiv which was probably the best trained and equipped amphibious force the world had ever seen until that time.

Sorry, my money is on the Ichiki Detachment being slaughtered at the water's edge just like they were at the Ilu.

Personal logo Cold Steel Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 5:26 p.m. PST

I once did some quick counting in Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946 that showed on Dec. 7, 1941, the US had more tonnage under construction just in carriers than the Japanese Navy had total tonnage afloat and built during the war. Kind of hard to defeat that kind of production capability, no matter how many atolls you capture.

MahanMan Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 5:59 p.m. PST

Also, IIRC, the IJN didn't have nearly the kind of training in offshore fire support that the USN had (or *thought* it had) when it came to opposed amphibious landings.

My money's also on the garrison, which means the whole campaign's a waste of time for the IJN anyway…and won't *that* be fun to explain back in Tokyo?

rvandusen Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 6:01 p.m. PST

Good point Cold Steel. To think that Japan's cause was already hopeless only two months after Bataan fell!

I read recently that even the duration of the Bataan campaign was a great humiliation for the Japanese. The Imperial high command thought that Luzon would fall within a month of the landings at Lingayen Gulf, but the rag tag US/Philippines forces managed to hold out on starvation rations for four months. This was a serious 'loss of face'.

Followed so closely by Midway put the writing on the wall rather abruptly.

Tgunner25 Mar 2011 6:37 p.m. PST

This was a serious 'loss of face'

It wasn't too bad. The Japanese were elated with their progress throughout the Pacific and viewed the losses at Bataan as being pretty minor.

However it was the swan-song of Homma's career!

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 7:28 p.m. PST

Canada was a bigger industrial player during the war than Japan. Check the out put of each.

The US built more subs alone than the Japanese built of all combat ships during the war.

Even the most rabid Japanese military leader knew what would happen if the US decided to fight (instead of settling for a negotiated peace because it would be too costly to win as many of the Japanese leaders hoped for).

It is difficult to imagine ANY way that the Japanese could have defeated the US, let alone the US and its Allies.

Dan

dmclellan25 Mar 2011 7:49 p.m. PST

My money's also on the garrison, which means the whole campaign's a waste of time for the IJN anyway…and won't *that* be fun to explain back in Tokyo?

As it was, the IJN hid the defeat at Midway from the IJA for as long as they could.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 8:06 p.m. PST

If the Japanese had won at Midway, a lot more Japanese cities would have been nuked, since we would have had a lot more to drop by the time we got there.

shelldrake25 Mar 2011 8:11 p.m. PST

Guys the question was "what if?", not a call an explanation of historical events.

Any thing might have happened, which is one of the joys of alternative history. No matter how unlikely, you get to tweak history and send it down a path less likely.

Historical events:

"The Japanese operation at Midway was aimed to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War.

The Japanese plan was to lure the United States' few remaining aircraft carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway Atoll as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle Raid. This operation was considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa."

Now, if the US had lost their carriers and the majority of the fleet, and assuming light damage to the IJN, then any number of things might have happened, which is the point of the 'what if?".

Maybe Japan gains breathing space and a greater dominance in the Pacific to build up its Navy and resupply and re-enforce its holdings in the Pacific.

Japan could have launched another attack against Pearl Harbor with the intention of knocking out re-enforcements for the USN.

Without Carriers and islands from which to launch aircraft, it would be harder for the US to drop bombs on Japan as well.

The US might have entered into a non-aggression treaty as was hoped for by the Japanese.

It would make for an interesting wargame campaign.

kyotebluer than blue Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2011 8:15 p.m. PST

Not so much…

Mapleleaf Inactive Member25 Mar 2011 9:28 p.m. PST

The trouble with what if scenarios is that it precludes a lot of actual facts that cannot be taken away

Midway was fought because the US had the information from the intercepted codes. They knew what was going to happen and concentrated there .

If the US did not have the information it is unlikely that they would have had so many forces there. Midway may or may not fall, but the battle would not be what we now call the Battle of Midway. The Japanese could have inflicted more losses then they did but still would suffer losses themselves. It would not be a walkover . The losses they suffer could not be replaced the American's could.

Agesilaus Inactive Member25 Mar 2011 9:31 p.m. PST

A wargamer friend of mine who studied the Battle of Midway extensively said that it could be likened to a wargame where on a D6, a 1-5 was a Japanese win. The Americans rolled a six.
Never mind the occupation of the island. Suppose the Yorktown Class had been annihilated, and the Japanese carriers had all made it home.
1. The Japanese (by the end of 1942) have 8 heavy and 5 light fleet carriers to America's Saratoga and Wasp. The IJN would be omnipotent in the Pacific and Indian Oceans until mid 1944.
2. No Solomons Campaign with no carriers. No huge drain on the Japanese Naval Airforce making long range attacks from from Rabaul.
3. Australia is isolated. What about India? Japan constructs airfields everywhere.
4. Does America just give up for 2 years or do they lose more forces in desperate probing attacks on the Japanese?
5. When the Essex Class comes on line does America wait until they are fully operational, or do they jump early against the veteran Japanese.
6 By 1944 the Japanese would be able to field as many as 9 large and 6 small fleet carriers. By this time the Japanese could be fully equipped with trained aircrews and improved aircraft. What if the Marianas Turkey Shoot went the other way?
Never mind when the war ends. There is some real fodder for alternative scenarios here.

David Manley25 Mar 2011 10:25 p.m. PST

"A wargamer friend of mine who studied the Battle of Midway extensively said that it could be likened to a wargame where on a D6, a 1-5 was a Japanese win. The Americans rolled a six."

Its worth eading Parshall and Tully's book on Midway. Using the above analogy they essentially argue that in fact the wargame was more akin to "The US win on a 1-9". Despite the "incredible victory" tag, they present a scenario where the odds are stacked well against the Japanese and its a battle that the US can only throw away.

Personal logo Wyatt the Odd Supporting Member of TMP Fezian25 Mar 2011 10:53 p.m. PST

Had the Japanese been able to attempt a landing, it would've been worse than Tarawa was for the Americans simply because of the reef surrounding the island. The Japanese barges would've had to drop troops off over a hundred meters off-shore where they would've had to wade through chest-high water under heavy fire. "Shattered Sword" noted that the Japanese did not bring enough resources to take the island.

If they stayed to slug it out, all of their fleet would've been easy pickings for the US submarines (assuming the torpedoes worked).

Wyatt

saxophone Inactive Member25 Mar 2011 11:26 p.m. PST

I'm the original poster.

Yes, I agree that the outcome of the war was a forgone conclusion. It was just a matter of how long and how many nukes it would take. Also, if the war had dragged on for another year or two, you'd see more active participation by the Soviet Union, and post-war Japan might have been partitioned.

But my main interest in posing my question is what would happen in and around Midway after the Japanese successfully land? If the US falls for the trap, what exactly is the trap? What sort of scenario would this present?

I read a lot of postings about how tough the Midway garrison was, but wasn't that partially because the US knew of the Japanese plans? After Nimitz concluded that Midway was the target, he ordered every resource sent to Midway. If the US were caught by surprise, would the garrison still be that tough?

From a gaming perspective, Nagumo's carrier group didn't seem to have a lot of screening vessels. Could Haruna and Kirishima been added to add additional AA to the carriers? Would it have made a difference?

Agesilaus Inactive Member26 Mar 2011 12:03 a.m. PST

Counter-factual History is just that. The Americans won because they won. I get it.
But to say that they couldn't have lost unless they threw the battle away is a little excessive.
First of all, anyone can lose a battle.
2) There were many missed opportunities. Broken radios, malfunctioning catapults, and the fact that the U.S. carriers narrowly missed sailing over the I boat picket line. But we know all that.
3) The Japanese Carrier Fleet certainly had the strength to destroy the American carriers. Yamaguchi took out the Yorktown with a ragtag assortment of aircraft, but without arguing the details of the battle let's try a different tack.
The Japanese 3rd Carrier Division got the upper hand at Coral Sea, and it was considered the least effective Division at the time. In the Guadalcanal campaign the Japanese bested the American carriers strategically and tactically, even outnumbered, with new untested ships (Hiyo and Junyo) and poorly trained aircrews.
Why couldn't the 1st and 2nd Division have defeated the Americans at Midway? They had more ships, better planes (except the SBD), and better trained aircrews. They were the pride of the Japanese Navy, but pride goeth before the fall.

royaleddy Inactive Member26 Mar 2011 1:42 a.m. PST

if the Japanese won at Midway the Americans would fear attacks on their West Coast.
this may have changed the 'Germany First' policy.

Oddball26 Mar 2011 6:06 a.m. PST

If the Japanese had taken Midway, they could not have held it due to the supply line distance.

The naval battle is a different story. If the US had lost the three carriers without an exchange to the Japanese carriers then Japanese maintain the offensive.

With a couple more carriers available, I don't think Guadalcanal can be held. Australia gets cut off and possibly knocked out to the war. I don't think the Japanese would have landed anywhere except a few north coast towns, Darwin would fall.

Then the grinding match in the central pacific takes place with the US coming out on top in '48 (The Golden Gate in '48).

Tgunner26 Mar 2011 6:26 a.m. PST

"I read a lot of postings about how tough the Midway garrison was, but wasn't that partially because the US knew of the Japanese plans?"

Yes. Midway was reinforced because the US knew that the Japanese were coming BUT Midway was already strongly garrisoned even before the Midway Campaign. The US knew that Midway was the first line of defense for Hawaii and had begun to reinforce Midway since December of '41. Many of the reinforcements meant for Wake were diverted to Midway and from January '42 all the way up to May '42 (when the US learned about the Japanese plans) there was a steady flow of men and materials to Midway.

The actual Midway Campaign reinforcements amounted to a tank platoon, another defense battalion flak unit, and two marine raider infantry companies, and a number of USAAF units. Prior to that you had a complete defense battalion plus major elements of another one, a full MAAG, and various attachments (PBY recce, submarines, etc).

During the time leading up to the battle the Marines were busy setting up gun emplacements, laying wire (a triple belt all around the island), laying anti-boat mines on the likely landing points, and mining exits from the beach. It was a scary beach defense to say the least. The 'damage' to the Japanese landing plan was already done. These reinforcements were just 'gravy'.

On the other hand, the Ichiki Detachment, while consisting of good troops lead by one of Japan's best know infantry tacticians, amounted to just a reinforced infantry regiment. IIRC, it had a basic B class infantry regiment with some engineering detachments assigned to it. A strong and capable force to be sure, but not one that would have all the specialized equipment and training that the 2d MarDiv brought with it to Betio. Crud, to my knowledge, the Ichiki Detachment didn't have a single AFV to its name. Let alone amtracs and other specialized landing craft/equipment. The Ichiki Detachment would be perfect for a pick-up force to grab an undefended, or at best, a poorly defended beach.

But Midway? It would have been ugly.

So yes, the Midway garrison would have been tough enough to do the job.

Here's a link with the low down on the Midway garrison and it's preparations for the Japanese attack:

link

This book gives you a decent order of battle for a US Marine Defense Battalion:

link

While these books would give you an order of battle for the Ichiki Detachment:

link

link

It would be an interesting situation to game out.

Tankrider26 Mar 2011 6:56 a.m. PST

"To think that Japan's cause was already hopeless only two months after Bataan fell!"

To quote, or as closely quote as memory serves, the late great Richard Pryor – "They only knew about those laid back American people in California. They had never met those folks from Alabama and Mississippi!"

Matsuru Sami Kaze26 Mar 2011 7:11 a.m. PST

Oops.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2011 7:51 a.m. PST

Japanese land troops at Midway and while they take the island, they suffer appalling troop losses and probably either decide to go over completely on defensive or to concentrate in New Guinea and northern Australia.

US sets out to arm the Hawaiin islands like nobody's business. They also spend considerable more effort in building up the West coast, Alaska and the British Columbian coast.

The concentration offsets what the US would have sent out to the South Pacific, specifically Guadalcanal and Australian defense. Australia goes it alone for 12 to 18 months.

The outcome of the US winning doesn't change. The timeline might be backdated anywhere from 12 to 24 months though.

MahanMan Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2011 8:20 a.m. PST

Frankly, the L-L priorities are probably rearranged so that the USSR and anyone NOT the UK/Commonwealth go down on the priority list, since they're not fighting in the PTO.

FDR can say he wants to rearm the Russians all he wants, since they're killing Germans, but the American public will be saying that killing Japanese is much more important in this scenario, and FDR is, in the end, a politician.

Also, I always thought it was I-168 that sank Yorktown, as she was being salvaged after the last wave of strikes…

Mark Plant26 Mar 2011 2:14 p.m. PST

Australia gets cut off and possibly knocked out to the war.

You must have a very low opinion of Australia!

"Cut off" means nothing. Australia could feed itself. (Which is more than Japan could do.)

It's a very large country. No Japanese campaign at that distance could possibly conquer it in a go. I would suggest that in defence of their homeland, that the Australians would be quite a handful.

The idea that Midway won the Japanese would be able to build "airfields everywhere" is quite ridiculous. The Japanese lost precisely because they could not maintain industrial and technical production. The more their sphere enlarged, the worse that issue got. There was no getting away from that, just because one more island was conquered.

The US beat Japan in four years despite "Europe first". Their industrial power and willingness to adapt and learn were not going to be lost due to Midway falling.

If you get away from that you're not playing "what if". You are playing an alternative reality.

Agesilaus Inactive Member26 Mar 2011 5:38 p.m. PST

"Europe First" was a policy adopted by the United States to overstate the obvious. There could be no major offensive against Japan until 1944 when the Essex Class carriers came on line. So why not Europe first while we're waiting. That situation would not have improved if Japan had twice as many carriers in the Pacific and the Americans had none.
As for Australia. With no way of resupplying with modern munitions and total Japanese control of the sea, Australians would have had to defend their island with a few Boomerangs, Wirraways and Sentinel tanks. I don't think the Japanese would have invaded, but they definitely would have raided the coast to train their aircrews.
CY6 Boomerangs vs Zeros. A very real situation if Japan had won at Midway.

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member26 Mar 2011 7:46 p.m. PST

The Japanese Army never contemplated taking Australia. It was not just the Aussies themselves that were the problem. It was the vast distances involved. After all Australia is almost as large in land mass as the United States. Its huge and the Japanese knew they lacked the motorized power to take it.
They could well have isolated Australia, but comments about the country being able to feed itself are quite true. After all Australia was feeding other countries besides itself.

Munitions were being made in Australia….I drove through the old munitions making zone in my state only a few days ago…and the factories were already producing aircraft on UK license.

If they won at Midway the Japanese would still never have won the war. Even their own naval leaders knew the best they could do was hold off counter attacks for a year or so and hope to achieve enough wins to bring on a peace settlement. It was a war fought not to conquer the enemy…but to WIN A PEACE SETTLEMENT. It was expected the peace settlement would give them the SE Asia territories Japan wanted for oil and other war materials.

Battles such as Midway were seen as steps in putting the great barrier of defense into position. The US would then supposedly batter itself to bits trying to penetrate that barrier and thus have to give up and negotiate a peace. It was a war in which the aggressor was seeking territory to set up a defense!

As for the Yanks. If they had lost Midway it would have just made them all the more determined to win. If the Japanese put troops on the US West Coast it would have made them just all the more determined to win. Any troops put on the west coast would have been doomed in view of the troops that could be eventually brought against them and the industrial power of the east that would be backing them.

The Japanese Army knew it did not have the strength to occupy the vast continent of Australia, nor to defeat the vast strength of the USA on land. Hence the whole war was planned so as to set up a defensive shield to cover Japan's early gains.

Winning at Midway would have enabled most of the Barrier Shield to be finally in place. But it would have been completely in vain because it then depended on the USA giving in and seeking peace. That they would never have done.

On a more localized look, I also doubt that the Japanese landing forces could have taken Midway even if the naval forces won their part of the battle. Had they somehow succeeded even the Japanese knew that resupply would be a nightmare.

The fault with the entire Japanese war plan was that it relied on the enemy giving up. It made provision for a defensive shield, but even then the plan still relied on the enemy being unable to penetrate it…and giving up. Over all the plan expected the US

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member26 Mar 2011 7:52 p.m. PST

The Japanese Army never contemplated taking Australia. It was not just the Aussies themselves that were the problem. It was the vast distances involved. After all Australia is almost as large in land mass as the United States. Its huge and the Japanese knew they lacked the motorized power to take it.
They could well have isolated Australia, but comments about the country being able to feed itself are quite true. After all Australia was feeding other countries besides itself.

Munitions were being made in Australia….I drove through the old munitions making zone in my state only a few days ago…and the factories were already producing aircraft on UK license.

If they won at Midway the Japanese would still never have won the war. Even their own naval leaders knew the best they could do was hold off counter attacks for a year or so and hope to achieve enough wins to bring on a peace settlement. It was a war fought not to conquer the enemy…but to WIN A PEACE SETTLEMENT. It was expected the peace settlement would give them the SE Asia territories Japan wanted for oil and other war materials.

Battles such as Midway were seen as steps in putting the great barrier of defense into position. The US would then supposedly batter itself to bits trying to penetrate that barrier and thus have to give up and negotiate a peace. It was a war in which the aggressor was seeking territory to set up a defense!

Conquest for defense, not conquest to achieve more conquests and therefore victory by overwhelming conquest of enemy territory.

As for the Yanks. If they had lost Midway it would have just made them all the more determined to win. If the Japanese put troops on the US West Coast it would have made them just all the more determined to win. Any troops put on the west coast would have been doomed in view of the troops that could be eventually brought against them and the industrial power of the east that would be backing them.

The Japanese Army knew it did not have the strength to occupy the vast continent of Australia, nor to defeat the vast strength of the USA on land. Hence the whole war was planned so as to set up a defensive shield to cover Japan's early gains.

Winning at Midway would have enabled most of the Barrier Shield to be finally in place. But it would have been completely in vain because it then depended on the USA giving in and seeking peace. That they would never have done.

On a more localized look, I also doubt that the Japanese landing forces could have taken Midway even if the naval forces won their part of the battle. Had they somehow succeeded even the Japanese knew that resupply would be a nightmare.

The fault with the entire Japanese war plan was that it relied on the enemy giving up. It made provision for a defensive shield, but even then the plan still relied on the enemy being unable to penetrate it…and giving up. Over all the plan expected the US to lose battles and then give up.

Should the 'give up' part of the plan fail, there were no provisions for an alternative. Indeed it was all totally inflexible. Occupying the whole Hawaiian Islands, the West coast of the USA, or Australia were all outside the scope of the plan. So even if the Japanese won at Midway, the 'plan' would be to then expect an American peace proposal. Which of course was just not going to happen.

Most of the Japanese Army was actually fully committed in China which is another reason why the plan could not be flexible enough to go beyond the original shield. There were simply not enough troops to follow up and take advantage of situations, let alone expand the plan.

MahanMan Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2011 9:03 p.m. PST

Why on Earth would the US *wait*? In the scenario postulated, it isn't the German navy that defeated us at Midway…so don't you think that just maybe the Essex-class priority might be moved up *just* a bit…along with *everything* else on E. J. King's wish list for the PTO, while telling the ETO to look out for itself?

What about this scenario doesn't make sense? The West Coast would be screaming that they're going to be at the mercy of the IJN, so why wouldn't the USN rebuild RIGHT NOW and leave the USSR/Europe to Germany's tender mercies?

Incidentally, you're granting the IJN CVs a lot more staying power than they had in OTL if they suffer *no* damage whatsoever while wiping the seas clean of *all* USN CV forces. That's handwavium on a grand scale.

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member27 Mar 2011 6:49 a.m. PST

Incidentally, you're granting the IJN CVs a lot more staying power than they had in OTL if they suffer *no* damage whatsoever while wiping the seas clean of *all* USN CV forces. That's handwavium on a grand scale

None the less, that is what a Japanese Navy badly infected with 'victory disease' were expecting.

They also thought one US carrier was not able to be present and the opposition therefore even weaker. So victory was expected and spiced with a huge dose of over confidence.

I've also read that there were some in the IJN who thought that because of earlier damage to its carriers, the USN may not oppose Midway at all, preferring to keep out of action until they could raise a larger battle force. It was even a premise on which the Barrier idea was built.

Any scenario written in the light of the Japanese having won Midway, would probably have to take into account the IJN being even more dangerously over confident.

An efficient and veteran fighting force…far too confident of itself and misjudging their enemy was partly what defeated them at Midway. If they won that one it would be even worse next time.

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member27 Mar 2011 7:00 a.m. PST

so don't you think that just maybe the Essex-class priority might be moved up *just* a bit

It was already rattling along at an incredible rate, taking advantage of the ability to work at night as well as by day. So I doubt it could have been ramped up even more. It was only after the first four Essex class carriers, the Independence class, and the Casablanca class had entered service that some other priorities were attended to.

The US built the entire Casablanca class in one year and a day. While not fleet carriers their presence (along with the other CVE's already built) would have enabled to USN to apply naval air power elsewhere, thereby presenting the Japanese carriers with multiple threats if combined with the Essex class and the surviving CV's.

That in itself could present some scenario ideas. As it was by the time that happened the main Japanese Carrier force had been decimated. But it would be interesting to see how things would have gone had it not been knocked out before the USN began its big Pacific drive.

sloophmsstarling Inactive Member27 Mar 2011 11:09 a.m. PST

It looks like a couple of interesting wargames might be played to further the discussion along. First one might be a tactical game assuming that the Japanese prevailed in the carrier battle and the invasion was on, sort of a reverse Tarawa … I'm not sure what some reasonable games for this might be, but it could be interesting.

Second would be to assume that the tactical game went well for the Japanese and they seized Midway, now what … set it up that way on Fire in the Sky, or Mark Herman's old Victory Games-Pacific War, or the even older SPI War in the Pacific, or if anyone still plays the really old SPI Global War, and battle it out and see what happens.

I'm fresh out of time to do this right now, but it is an interesting scenario, so if anyone does game it out, tactical or strategic, I would enjoy reading an AAR on it.

If I ever get the time, it will probably after Mark Herman finishes his update on Pacific War, and I might give it a shot then, meanwhile I have a lot of convoys to run!

Agesilaus Inactive Member27 Mar 2011 12:18 p.m. PST

That's it Mal. The Essex Class carriers took 3 years to complete. That's why the wait. Order 1 or order 1000 they each take three years + to build, commission, and familiarize aircrews. The WWII aircraft carrier was a very complex weapons system, but very deadly when when properly designed and built and manned with trained veteran aircrews. The loss of the Yorktown or the Akagi at Midway wasn't just "scratch one flattop". These were ships that had proven their worth and their crews and aircrews could be used to train new personnel as new carriers came on line.
At times there was only one operational American carrier in the Pacific. Of course it was Europe first. There was no choice.
In Saburo Sakai's book he says that Japanese carrier pilots had a minimum of 4 1/2 years of training at the beginning of the war, and many were combat veterans of the war in China. You can't train new pilots to that level of skill during a war that is less than 4 years long. Midway was a disaster of monumental proportions to the Japanese carrier fleet, especially because of the aircrew losses.
But the Japanese were confident they would win at Midway and they weren't stupid (but they were overconfident). If things had turned out differently in that battle the whole Pacific war would have been an alternative scenario. Japanese commanders (army and navy) were aware of the huge difficulties involved in the invasion of Australia or the Hawaiian Islands. There would have been lots of carrier raids and probably more incursions into the Indian Ocean.
As for those who are sure that the U.S. couldn't have lost the carrier battle at Midway, here's an alternative scenario. Suppose the Japanese had just waited a couple months. The Shokaku and Zuikaku would be repaired, and the Junyo and Hiyo would be commissioned. Now you potentially have the Japanese fielding 8 large and two small fleet carriers (and over 600 aircraft, more if the Hosho and Taiyo Class escort carriers ferried reserves). The Americans could only field five fleet carriers (with 470 aircraft), unless you add the Ranger which was not considered suitable for operations in the Pacific.
How's that for a "What if Midway scenario".

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2011 6:36 p.m. PST

I guess what we're discussing here is the difference between fictional alternative history and how history might have changed based on a simple/single event or choice.

Suggesting the Japanese could have won at Midway requires a lot of things to have changed in their favor, thus I'd say it is fictional alternative history. No one thing would have made enough of a different to have allowed the Japanese to capture Midway in that sense.

I'm more inclined to look at historical situations where a single change (personal decision, mechanical issue, weather, etc.) is to me 'believable', rather than something pulled out of a hat. For example I'd find a game based on the lagging Japanese search plane getting off on time and finding the US fleet earlier, or the Japanese decision to change weapon loads, or if the Japanese had no Zero aircraft (but were still using the Claude as their front line fighter), etc.

Hitler, since it was his choice entirely, not declaring war on the US would seem to me to be in this guise, while suggesting that a successful Nazi invasion of the UK could have happened would not be.

Dan

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member27 Mar 2011 7:24 p.m. PST

Midway was a disaster of monumental proportions to the Japanese carrier fleet, especially because of the aircrew losses.

Actually, recent research suggests that the greatest loss was not the aircrew but the highly trained aircraft maintenance teams, armorers and deck handling people. Surprisingly the majority of veteran pilots actually survived the sinking's and were subsequently lost when Yamamoto decided to put them ashore in Truk for the air offensive over Guadalcanal.

There again is an alternative scenario. The Japanese carriers live to have their experienced crews take part in the Guadalcanal battles from their decks instead of ashore.

Chouan28 Mar 2011 3:38 a.m. PST

I'm not aware thatr the Japanese had developed razzing to the same degree as the USN. That being the case, the Japanese, even if they'd taken Midway, still wouldn't have had an effective mid-Pacific naval base. They could have based aircraft on Midway, obviously, but a round trip from Truk, for example, to the US pacific coast would have been pushing it. Hawaii would have been so well defended by that stage that it wouldn't have been a worthwhile target. So, the Japanese, even by winning at Midway, still wouldn't have been able to win the war.

saxophone Inactive Member28 Mar 2011 9:55 a.m. PST

Original poster here again. Thanks for a wonderful discussion, everyone. You've shed some light on some what-if scenarios which is what I was looking for.

For example, Nagumo's carriers survive and are employed around Guadalcanal.

Another would be that Nagumo's carriers survive, but the US loses more than the Yorktown. So the US bides its time until the Essex carriers come online. Now you could have a scenario between some of these Essex carriers and Nagumo's carriers plus the other Japanese carriers that were not present at Midway.

wpilon Inactive Member28 Mar 2011 5:39 p.m. PST

If the US loses a couple of carriers at Midway, I think the Allies just redouble their Land based air efforts in New Guinea to control the sea lanes to Australia. the fact is that the Japanese were simply NOT IN THE LONG TERM POWER PROJECTION BUSINESS.

They were very, very good at short duration offense action, but simply couldn't accept the wastage of an attritional campaign against the US anywhere.

BTW< the flower of Japanese air crews weren't lost at Midway where they only lost 250 aircraft there (and recovered a few of the crews), but in the Solomons where they lost 1500 aircraft!

If the Japanese win Midway, then American industrial a/c production destroys the Japanese in the skies above New Guinea instead of the skies above Guadalcanal.

carne68 Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2011 7:27 a.m. PST

It seems like we have gone down this road before.

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