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"What if the US had lost Midway?" Topic


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1,234 hits since 15 Mar 2018
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TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

So let's say that the outcome was catastrophic for the US instead of Japan at Midway.

Let's say that Japan loses 1 carrier, but the US lose all three of theirs.

Assuming such a victory, we would have to assume that Japan takes Midway in an amphibious landing.

Now what? In other words, Japan achieves it's strategic aims at Midway. What impact does that have for the war moving forward? Just a longer haul for the US to eventual victory (after all, the US still has a far greater industrial capacity). Or does this spell potenial doom for the US going forward?

Is Hawaii basically lost in this event? Or does the US just take Midway back 6 months later?

Piquet Rules15 Mar 2018 11:19 a.m. PST

Even if we'd lost Midway, I'm guessing we could have looked at a map and found it sometime later.

28mm Fanatik15 Mar 2018 11:20 a.m. PST

It will only delay the inevitable, as it has no effect on US industrial capacity and the rate at which our ship yards are churning out carriers which averaged over 40 a year.

Losing 3 out of an eventual 167 carriers is merely a scratch in the grand scheme of the war.

The only way Japan could have won is if losing Midway constitutes such a staggering moral defeat in the wake of Pearl Harbor that anti-war sentiments and isolationists on the home front force us to sit it out. An unlikely prospect.

David Manley15 Mar 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

Ot is by mo means certain that a victory at sea would have guaranteed the Japanese a successful landing on Midway

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 12:04 p.m. PST

The only difference would have been a longer war and likely more casualties than in OT. Our economic strength would win out and even a disaster at Midway wouldn't break the public resolve to win.

Eclectic Wave15 Mar 2018 1:09 p.m. PST

It might have meant more Nukes being dropped. Slows the US advance down, we get fewer airbases in range of Japan when we get nukes, we end up hoarding them until we do have closer airfields, and end up dropping more? Maybe??

Just a thought.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

I would anticipate that in any scenario where the Japanese managed to reverse the results of the naval battle, they would in fact have taken Midway. Examples of other early-war island invasions demonstrate well enough that Japanese landings, when done even on a shoe-string, generally succeeded. And this one was anything BUT a shoe-string operation.

However, just grabbing Midway means very little to the eventual outcome of the war.

Even the IJN plan did not anticipate any wonders to arise from grabbing Midway. Midway was only the bait. It was expected to be intolerable to the USN, and so it would bait their carriers into action. In this they were, of course, quite correct. Where they were demonstrated by actual history to be not correct is:
a ) assuming they would be un-detected in their approach, and so could grab Midway first, and then fight the USN carriers second;
b ) that their main fleet units (their battleships) would be decisive in the action against USN carriers;

And where I believe they were not correct, although history doesn't give us the data to assert it was proven so, is:
c ) that defeating the remaining USN carriers, and thus gaining several more months to complete their consolidation and re-enforcement of their layered defense of island strongholds, would make war too expensive and wearisome to the weak and decadent US public, allowing the Japanese to negotiate an end to hostilities on advantageous terms.

There was no path by which they could place Hawaii at any risk greater than the risk of nuisance raids. But nuisance raids are indeed a nuisance, and so the USN would make the effort to take Midway back. Eventually it would succeed. The IJN would shrug that off. They fully expected to shrug off the loss of several of their island garrisons. They just wanted to make it really expensive to retake so many layers of island garrisons.

After looking at the costs of Tarawa, Maikin, Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima, etc. I find little evidence that the cost of taking back the garrisoned islands reduced the US will to win the war.

So a reversal at Midway may well have delayed things a bit. A few months over the addition of one more island before you can get to the next set. A few more months due to the loss of 2 additional carriers, at a time (1942) when carriers were rare and critical resources. And perhaps a few more months due to the preservation of the IJN's population of well-trained veteran pilots.

By the end of 1943 those delays would have been overcome, and by mid-1944 at the latest, the USN would have been able to dominate any piece of the Pacific that they chose, just as they did in actual history.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Personal logo Striker Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 2:15 p.m. PST

We were still have outproducing Japan. Add extra time to the war.

Legion 415 Mar 2018 2:19 p.m. PST

The outcome would have been the same. Only the IJFs would have lasted a little longer. And the war in PTO would still have ended by the flights of two B-29s …

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

The movie wouldn't have a happy ending.

thomalley15 Mar 2018 3:35 p.m. PST

Assuming such a victory, we would have to assume that Japan takes Midway in an amphibious landing.

I also don't see this a given. There were only 2500 landing troop in the landing force and another 2500 construction personnel. Their plan was to disembark at the reef and use rubber boats to get ashore. There were around 2000 marines ashore and they were well dug in, behind wire, mines and had plenty of heavy weapon including a platoon of tanks. There were also 500 Navy, Marine and Army air personnel on shore.
But even if they took the island, it would become a black hole for their merchant fleet, being that close to the subs at Pearl. And the B-17 could keep it under constant bombardment. Almost all discussion of Japan in WWII ignore the horrible state of their merchant fleet. Half the tonnage going into pre-war Japan were foreign hulls which disappeared with the start of the war.

William Ulsterman15 Mar 2018 4:35 p.m. PST

Lots of Great Calls by Captain Hindsight going on here, all of them in favour of the US.

Here are a few calls from Kaigun-daisa Hindosighto:

1. With no US carriers in the Pacific (and no battleships) the Japanese are able to send raiding forces anywhere – Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Panama, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Wellington as well as revisiting Pearl Harbour. How is any great US offensive going to get organised with all that going on? The one US offensive that began in August 1942 after the US navy had won Midway was nearly a disaster – how well do you think they would go if Midway had been lost?

2. The answer is that Watchtower would never had been launched. Therefore the Japanese don't just get another central pacific atoll – they get the entire Soloman Islands chain largely uncontested. Once they have that how does the Australian presence at Port Moresby get maintained?

3. The answer is that it doesn't and the Japanese will either take Port Moresby with a carrier assisted fleet landing force, or over land via the Kokoda Track, given that their supplies will no longer be interdicted.

4. How does an isolated Australia contribute anything of value to the war effort in the pacific? It cannot if the example of Darwin is extended to cover Brisbane and Sydney. The Japanese can then take New Caledonia and be right on the door step of the Australian east coast. Any US convoys to Australia will have to run a considerable gauntlet and the US will have to either make a major commitment to keep Australia relevant, or abandon it.

5. Maybe the Japanese will be able to mount a similar strangulation effort around Pearl Harbour – this could lead to the isolation of the very important submarine base – in 1943 US submarines were to prove a decisive factor in the Japanese navy's failure to be able to keep the Imperial outer defences supplied and begin the process of starving the Japanese home islands (and therefore the Combined Fleet) of oil. If the Japanese can force the US navy away from Pearl Harbour then those submarines can't easily get into the Japanese shipping lanes.

Personal logo Striker Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 5:16 p.m. PST

From what I've read the building plan of US ships would have been enough to stop the IJN. Not to mention their decreasing supplies of oil even before the war began accelerating their decision to go to war with the US. The war would have been extended, and been more costly, but considering the state of Japanese industry they still could not afford losses in ships or pilots, both of which would not have changed if they had captured all but Australia and the US.

US completions and commissionings 42-45:
8 BB, 82 CVE, 354 DD, 30 CV, 48 CA, 203 SS

IJN same period:
1 BB, 3 CVE, 61 DD, 7 CV, 5 CA, 121 SS

The US sub force would still have been active and hunting.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 5:19 p.m. PST

And the B-17 could keep it under constant bombardment.
Nope, too far. B-17s didn't have the range to reach it from any island with an airfield. Midway is really remote, even today.

- Ix

jekinder615 Mar 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

Amazon link: link

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 8:51 p.m. PST

Here are a few calls from Kaigun-daisa Hindosighto:

1. With no US carriers in the Pacific (and no battleships) the Japanese are able to send raiding forces anywhere Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Panama …

Sumemasen, Kaigun-daisa Hindosighto-sama. Tsushuri sumasu*:

1 ) The loss of 3 carriers at Midway does not lead to no US carriers forever. It leads to no US carriers for a couple of days, and fewer US carriers for a few months.

USS Saratoga was refitting after taking a torpedo after the Wake raids. She sailed out, ready for action, about one or two days after Midway IIRC, and was active in the Guadalcanal engagements.

USS Wasp was attached to the British home fleet during the battle at Midway, and after Midway was detached, transited to the Pacific, where she was attached to the USN Pacific Fleet in time for the Guadalcanal engagements.

USS Ranger was on duty with the Atlantic fleet during Midway. She remained in the Atlantic, and served during the November Torch landings in Morocco. If she were needed to protect Hawaii or Australia from immanent danger, she could have also been transferred to the Pacific.

Even if the IJN sank all 3 US carriers at Midway, that would not have been all, nor even fully half, of the USN carriers. The 4 carriers the IJN actually lost at Midway were in fact a rather larger portion of the IJN carrier force at that time, than the 3 US carriers were of the USN fleet. And they were a MUCH larger portion of the IJN fleet that could have been in place in 1943, than the 3 US carriers were of the USN fleet that would be in place in 1943.

Even if we assume all 4 IJN carriers survived Midway (as opposed to 3 as the OP suggests), and assume they don't lose a single additional carrier, and we include Hosho (terribly long in the tooth by then), they would still only have had 10 carriers by the end of 1943. If the USN lost all 3 at Midway, they would have had more than TWENTY in commission by the end of 1943, and the rate of USN carriers being commissioned didn't really hit its stride until 1944.

2 ) The presence or lack of carriers, or even battleships, was not a gating item on any potential IJN activities in the eastern pacific. The IJN needed underway refueling to raid the US Pacific Coast or Panama. They didn't have it.

There were no safe anchorages for them to refuel in between Hawaii and North America. So there was no path by which they could sail anything bigger than a submarine to engage and return. Got nothing to do with carriers or battleships, got everything to do with IJN being wholly incapable of going that far.

Oh, and by the way, that same issue prevents them for keeping their fleet around Midway, or around Hawaii. If they tried to encircle and cut-off Hawaii, the USN could simply wait in port for a week, then sail eastward to engage them with relative impunity. It's not hard to beat a fleet that has no oil.

So no, Midway was not a potential magic wand for the IJN. It was in their best scenario nothing more than a way to delay their destruction, based on the strategic plan that said if they didn't die too fast, the US would loose interest in killing them. There is little in the US behavior of that time to suggest that this was a reasonable belief, but that was the basic assumption for the Japanese strategy for the war.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

*Sorry for the very weak spelling. I'm not very good at writing Japanese transliterations with Roman letters.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 9:28 p.m. PST

There were two alternate history works that addressed this premise. Unfortunately all my books are still packed away from our move to Florida (don't yet have shelves to put them on) so I can't look up the titles. One assumes the Japanese conduct major carrier raids on the west coast and then attempt a carrier attack on the Panama Canal in which the US uses its remaining carriers to essentially create a Midway type defeat. The other one looks at this from a strategic decision perspective; the Midway defeat weakens the navy resulting in a decision to back McArthur's scheme rather than the island hopping scheme. The novel then follows the Pacific War that results ending with an invasion of Japan due to setbacks in developing the A bomb (and George Patton accepting a Japanese surrender much to McArther's dismay).

advocate16 Mar 2018 3:43 a.m. PST

A loss, rather than a clear win, at Midway would have affected morale. I wonder if that might have resulted in a drop in emphasis on the European theatre – especially if a large effort were required to secure New Guinea and Australia.

All in all, a slowing down of the war, perhaps on all fronts. The end result probably not in question though.

Dynaman878916 Mar 2018 9:35 a.m. PST

The end result may have meant the first atomic bomb falls on Berlin rather than Hiroshima.

Personal logo herkybird Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2018 12:29 p.m. PST

I think I remember someone saying the Midway force was going to aid Rommel by landing a force in the British rear!

Sounded far fetched then, and still does to me.

I think an IJN victory would have just delayed the inevitable, as most others here think.

thomalley16 Mar 2018 1:10 p.m. PST

USS Saratoga was refitting after taking a torpedo after the Wake raids.
Actually, she was 2 day or so from Pearl.

Raiding Pearl again would have be a tough. There wouldn't be another surprise. Radar, CAP, submarine picket line.

By June the Japanese were getting less oil than before the war. During the Solomon's, they were having to refuel ships be draining the Yamoto. Again, not enough merchant fleet to move enough product.

Fred Cartwright16 Mar 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

A loss, rather than a clear win, at Midway would have affected morale.

Not convinced. I think more likely a shuffling of assets between Atlantic and Pacific. Possibly a delay to Torch, but I doubt it, by early 43 the US has made up its carrier losses from new production.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Mar 2018 7:21 a.m. PST

If the Americans had been sufficiently panicked by a big loss at Midway it might have forced them to call off the Torch landings in order to send more ships to the Pacific. So the war, east and west probably lasts longer, but the ultimate outcome is the same. Oh, and at the time of Midway the Americans had eight operational battleships stationed on the west coast, so they weren't entirely naked there.

Legion 421 Mar 2018 7:46 a.m. PST

A loss, rather than a clear win, at Midway would have affected morale.
Yeah … a .. no … IMO …

Americans at that time period, if you kick them, they kick back only harder and repeatedly.

Today … Not so much … frownwink

Lion in the Stars21 Mar 2018 10:01 p.m. PST

Guys, I've BEEN to Midway. Well, 10 hours sailing from it. We got a message that my boss's dad had passed away unexpectedly. We then turned around and spent 3 days driving to Pearl Harbor (because it was easier logistics than trying to get a C130 out to Midway and a small boat out to get my boss).

There's a pretty long string of islands going west from Hawaii. There is not a damn thing between Hawaii and the West Coast.

Japanese merchant and IJN supply ships getting within a week's sailing of Pearl Harbor would have had the entire US Pacific Fleet subs drooling.

4th Cuirassier22 Mar 2018 8:32 a.m. PST

@ Mark

I agree with your general analysis and its conclusions except in two regards.

USS Ranger was not a viable fleet unit any more by 1942, otherwise she'd have been doing fleety-type-stuff. I don't see her as being addable to the front line.

Two, US carrier forces did not have a great record when opposing similar numbers of IJN carriers. Japanese aircraft and pilots (though not the ships) were generally superior at this stage to those of the USN (until they weren't of course). Hence Japanese tactical victories at Coral Sea and Santa Cruz, but defeat at Midway where they were outnumbered in the air by 5 to 3.

I struggle with the idea that Saratoga and Wasp would have accomplished much against six intact IJN fleet carriers plus the two Junyos. Move forward to 1943 however and it doesn't matter what they would or would not have accomplished.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2018 8:06 p.m. PST

USS Ranger was not a viable fleet unit any more by 1942, otherwise she'd have been doing fleety-type-stuff. I don't see her as being addable to the front line.

4thC -

I would not be so quick to dismiss USS Ranger.

A more fair characterization might be that she was not considered a 1st rate fleet carrier by 1942, but she was most certainly not rated as unable to participate in fleet action. In fact she was the flagship of the USN Atlantic Fleet for most of 1942!

I would rate USS Ranger in 1942 as more capable than any carrier in service with any navy in the world EXCEPT the USN and IJN. Sure, she was no Lexington. And she was no Kaga or Shokaku. But she was miles ahead of Hosho or the Junyos.

By USN standards the biggest shortcomings of the Ranger were that she did not carry as large of an airgroup, she was not able to service those planes as quickly, and she was a little slower than the larger and later US fleet carriers. So yes, agreed, she is not the best the USN had.

But she carried more planes, and could sortie them faster, than the HMS Glorious, Illustrious, or the later Implacable or Colossus classes. And RN carriers did indeed serve with USN fleet units in the Pacific.

During the Torch landings Ranger managed almost 500 combat sorties in 3 days. That ain't too shabby.

I understand why the USN kept her in the Atlantic. She was the least capable fleet carrier we had -- the smallest of the big boats, if you will. Better to use her as the biggest fish in the small pond, rather than a smaller fish in the big pond. But that doesn't mean she couldn't be used in the Pacific if need called.

As to the US carriers' record against IJN … largely agree. But my point was not that sending Ranger and Wasp to the Pacific would have allowed the USN to dominate an intact Kudo Butai. It was only that one should not assume that since the USN could only muster 3 CVs for Midway, that was all the CVs available to the USN for any period of time.

The Japanese might well have saved a good deal of their own critical strength by not losing at Midway, but even if they lost at Midway the USN could still have had as many CVs for the Guadalcanal campaign if they chose to. And as I think you agree, by the end of 1943 the USN would still have had a crushing edge in CV numbers.

I guess one might make the case that a USN loss at Midway means a loss at Guadalcanal, or perhaps just a delay in counter-attacking at Guadalcanal. And if we delay the US attack, that means perhaps that the IJN (or was it IJA?) is able to complete the airfield there.

Which has the drastic impact of … yawn … slowing down the conduct of the war for a few months. Yes it makes it a bit easier for the Japanese to control access to Eastern Papua New Guinea. But you still have Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji to protect US sea lanes to Australia, and you take Guadalcanal back (or cut it off/bypass it) in 1943 when you can put 6 or 8 new CVs off of the Solomons while STILL hitting Tarawa or some other central Pacific targets.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Lee49423 Mar 2018 8:03 p.m. PST

Mis-informed question. Wasn't going to happen. Too much going for US. Better leadership, intelligence, radar, AA, damage control and ship building. Best Japs could have hoped for was a bloody draw which would have had little impact on the war as their few remaining carriers would have had decimated air groups.

More interesting question what if US had lost Guadalcanal?

A few more losses like Savo in the night battles might have caused the US to pull out. Many consider that Guadalcanal, not Midway, was the true turning point. There were times that both sides had one or even no carriers available. Precisely the same situation would have prevailed if both sides had taken massive losses at Midway. Had the Japs sunk the US battleships and driven us off the island the Pacific War timeline might well have been impacted.

But the end result of US victory was inevitable. David vs Goliath and Japan, short of building the A Bomb first had no slingshot or lucky rocks.

Cheers! Lee

4th Cuirassier26 Mar 2018 7:14 a.m. PST

Hi Mark

Ranger was able to be the Atlantic fleet flagship chiefly, I think, because in that capacity she wasn't expected to operate against other carriers. Had she done so, the fact that she was barely half the size of other USN carriers would have exposed her weaknesses pretty fast. Besides deficiencies in her range, habitability, and command facilities (by 1942 standards obvs), she also had constraints on things like how much ordnance she could carry for the air group. A carrier that runs out of aerial torpedoes and bombs is not much of a threat.

But the wider point is correct. Even if somehow all four IJN carriers had survived Midway and all three Yorktowns had been lost, all that would happen is that Guadalcanal would not have taken place in late 1942. Instead something similar would have eventuated somewhere else on the Japanese perimeter in 1943.

In fact, had the IJN got over-confident following a naval win at Midway (the land invasion would have been diced regardless), there might easily have been an alt-Midway somewhere else in 1943 that caught the schedule up. If three USN carriers could destroy four IJN in June 1942, I can't see why ten rather better ones couldn't have destroyed six, or four, or some other unwisely divided part of the IJN carrier force in June 1943.

Personal logo foxbat Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2018 12:11 p.m. PST

I think E J King gets sacked, and a much less agressive COMINCH gets the job, which may mean Nimitz is out as well. Not all US admirals were cut on this model, Ghormley, high ranking at that time, comes to mind…
This gives Japan more time to fortify their conquests and absorb them. Would it have been enough, who can tell? Yamamoto seemed to doubt it, guaranteeing 6 – 12 months of the fleet's dominance, and after that a huge necessity to conclude the war. Certainly the 1942 elections, which were not that good for Roosevelt anfd the DEmocrats; would have been a subject to pondrr in the pursuit of the war?

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2018 1:27 p.m. PST

This is a fun discussion, but surely one of us has tried to answer this question by gaming the Pacific War. This is a wargames forum. Where are the wargame AARs that shed light on this topic?

The closest I came was playing Pacific Victory by Columbia Games, but that game sucked as a simulation. Rather than try to fix it, I got rid of it.

I'd be especially interested to read how this works in Dai Senso, because I liked Totaler Krieg so much. Maybe some day I'll play it myself.

I'd also be interested how a reversal at Midway works out while playing the Avalanche game The Great Pacific War, the PTO version of the updated Third Reich system. I did not enjoy the old AH Third Reich, but I did like it's attention to historicity.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2018 4:00 p.m. PST

Looking around boardgamegeek.com, it looks like the update to the old Dunnigan SPI game USN Deluxe might be a great option to test this theorem. Has anyone tried this?

This system looks like it would handle the kind of high-resolution air/sea combat this group craves. It also looks like a decent basis for generating miniatures battles, if you can figure out how to convert surface task forces to individual ships.

At one week per turn, it would probably only take about 50-100 turns to see how the war changes course after a reversal at Midway…

- Ix

4th Cuirassier28 Mar 2018 1:56 a.m. PST

The best WW2 game I've played was Carriers at War on the PC, but unfortunately it only did individual air-sea battles. At great effort you could have constructed a campaign set up, but even then, you'd have needed to transcribe and re-enter the details of surviving ships at the end of each battle.

The island battles seem gameable though.

thomalley12 Apr 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

B24 Range 2,850 miles (with 5,000 lb bomb load)round trip to Midway 2600 miles. And they could have shaved another couple hundred miles by using runways on Kauai. Don't know if that range includes the added fuel tanks that could be put in one on the bomb bays, but it is a larger load that a full up B17.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2018 10:53 a.m. PST

B24 Range 2,850 miles (with 5,000 lb bomb load)round trip to Midway 2600 miles.

This is the primary reason that the B24 became the USAF's primary 4-engined bomber for the Pacific campaign.* It had greater payload-over-range, and most importantly greater range-over-payload, than other bombers until the B29 became operational. And while it was surpassed by the B29 in range and payload, it always maintained a significant operational efficiency edge over the B29 (higher sortie rate with lower resources required per sortie). So the B29s were used mostly for bombing Japan proper, and a few other high-value very long range targets, while B24s remained the workhorse for operational-level raids on outlying garrison facilities.

But that was a 1943-1945 story. The B24 was a later model than the B17, and it was B17s that were already available in place in 1942.

*This, despite the fact that the B24 could not be safely ditched, making it significantly inferior in survivability compared to the B17 when fighting over large tracks of ocean.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

thomalley12 Apr 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

This, despite the fact that the B24 could not be safely ditched.
Having attend several reunions of the 44th Bomb Group, I had dinner, several times, with a gentleman that ditch his B-24 in the North Sea will no losses. Of course the flak that brought down the plane shredded the life raft, fortunately the Royal Navy was near by. My wife has recently interview one of the squadron CO's (who just died in February) and he landed his in the Med, again the Royal Navy was near by. Now it wasn't easy, but it could be done.
B24 was in service in June of 1942.

Mobius12 Apr 2018 6:14 p.m. PST

William Ulsterman has a good point. The US navy had to skirt the mid Pacific for a number of years to get to Australia. If the Japanese had established bases in the central Pacific it would of been very difficult to get supplies to Australia. The US would have to send in CVs in dribs and dabs to try to defend her and not wait until they had a massive fleet.

thomalley12 Apr 2018 8:03 p.m. PST

Just a point to remember. In 1939 the UK had Merchant ships 6722 ships, 17,891,134 tons to supply an island of 46 million plus the support from the US and the rest of the Commonwealth.

Japan had 1609 ships, 5,996,607 tons, to feed an island of 75 million. Japanese were getting less oil imported after December 1941 than before.

Japan's only hope was that the Americans were as morally weak as the Japanese had convinced themselves.

4th Cuirassier13 Apr 2018 8:52 a.m. PST

@ Mark 1

The issue around B24s was surely availability in this time frame. They were in urgent demand to close the Atlantic air gap, and I suspect still would have been in this ATL. Two dozen VLR Liberators would have made a huge difference keeping U-boats away from convoys but almost none in the Pacific bombing atolls. When you've got 500 that changes of course.

This doesn't affect the outcome it just postpones when certain of its aspects would have come into play.

@ thomalley

Very interesting stats re merchant hulls. IIRC the oil situation was actually even worse than that though. I am sure I've read that *no* oil made it from overseas to Japan after December 1941; and that in fact, they couldn't even get the crude to the refineries or the refined products to the fleet. Hence the fleet ran on crude oil and betrayed its presence by the clouds of unburnt black matter in its funnel smoke.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2018 1:48 p.m. PST

This, despite the fact that the B24 could not be safely ditched.
Having attend several reunions of the 44th Bomb Group, I had dinner, several times, with a gentleman that ditch his B-24 in the North Sea will no losses. … Now it wasn't easy, but it could be done.

Thomally:

Interesting. Thanks for adding that.

I have only ever spoken with one WW2 B24 crewman, and frankly the issue of ditching never came up, given that most of his talking was focused on defending the honor of his mount from the criticisms of a B17 crewman who was also present.


I've also only ever flown in a B24 once.


That one flight happening to also be the only time I've made a mock bombing run on an Iowa class battleship.

Both comments of course having nothing to do with our discussion, but which I thought I would toss in just for fun.

Back on topic, though …

My readings have always given me the impression that SOP was not to ditch a B24 over water, but rather to bail out. It was pretty well known that ditching a B24 was a very risky business, exceeding the risk of crewmen parachuting into water (ALWAYS a risky proposition) and being widely separated from the life-raft in the process (I can think of few things that would be more terrifying than floating about in mid-ocean alone with no raft).

That does not mean that B24s were never ditched. Only that it was a very dangerous plane to ditch.

This was well enough known that some effort was devoted to studying how to ditch B24s, and / or how design changes could make the plane safer to ditch.

To that point the USAAF made 3 B24s available to NACA for testing of ditching in the fall of 1944. The test ditching of one of those planes in the James River (near Langley) was covered in the local press (I have a transcribed copy of a newspaper article from the event), and detailed study was done of many films made of the test:

YouTube link

One can see in the film the issues of design that made a B24 dangerous for ditching.

1 ) High wing – the fuselage comes into contact with the water. There is no flat surface to plane over the surface of the water, as with a B17. The fuselage of a B24 is shaped more like a torpedo, and … well … torpedoes don't just skim along the surface, do they?

2 ) Long nose, and long bomb bays with articulated bomb bay doors – as the middle of the plane comes into contact with the water, the water pressure tends to crush in the bomb bay doors. The rush of water into the fuselage tends to stop the back half of the plane and pull it down fast. But not the front half. So the plane breaks in half. In the film you can clearly see the back of the plane is broken, with the nose almost fully separated from the rest of the fuselage right at the front of the wing / front of the bomb bay.

And that, all in perfectly calm river water with a plane in perfect working order and, from the written report, the pilot taking the time to make 3 approaches before actually conducting the ditching.

So, yeah, it must not have been easy. More kudos to the pilot(s) who managed to do it and bring his crew through safely!

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

thomalley13 Apr 2018 2:24 p.m. PST

I can think of few things that would be more terrifying than floating about in mid-ocean alone with no raft.

Yes, near freezing water in most of ETO, really big sharks in the PTO. Never asked Mr. Hruby why he chose to ditch. See page 6.

PDF link

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2018 7:17 p.m. PST

I can think of few things that would be more terrifying than floating about in mid-ocean alone with no raft.

Yes, near freezing water in most of ETO, really big sharks in the PTO. …


I have jumped off of boats into deep ocean water. It is cold. Cold down to the depths of your soul. No matter what the temperature is, when you hit that water you feel cold. Particularly if you drop into it (rather than maybe just going over the side of a raft). I jumped off of a boat deck that was only maybe 6 or 8 feet above the water, and even that was too much. I am a strong swimmer, confident on high dives, etc., but dropping into deep ocean water, sinking under the surface, knowing that you need to swim your way back to the surface, that you will NEVER reach bottom to push off and come back up (as you would in a pool) … it's just cold. Really cold.

Never asked Mr. Hruby why he chose to ditch. See page 6.

An interesting read. I just love accounts written with the information provided by those who "been there, done that".

If I were to venture a guess, I think the reason he chose to ditch is that he was trying to milk every bit out of the plane to get as close as possible to England. Note that they were only at 5500 ft at low RPMs (and so, at passably low speed) when the engines finally quit.

Much like the P-51, the B24 had a relatively low drag wing (relative to bombers, that is), which contributed to it's ability to fly faster and farther with a decent bomb load. But a low drag and high speed wing generates relatively little lift at low speed.

In other words, a B24 glides like a piano.

So here he was, at 5,500 feet and at low speed, and the engines cut out. To retain any control over the plane he had to put the nose down and keep his speed up. So he went from 5,500 to below 3,000 PDQ, and now he's too low to bail out, particularly as he is still descending and he has a crew of 8 or 9 guys that all have to get out before him, if they're jumping.

And he knew this would be the case. So he determined from the outset, when his engineer told him they had a fuel leak, that if he was going to try to make it back to the UK he had to anticipate ditching, not bailing.

A risk/reward decision that SOP would have told him to take in the other direction, but that he took his own way, and made it pay off.

But even from that association newsletter you can see that it was indeed known that, well, you just don't ditch B24s. I mean just look at the title of the article describing his ditching: "LT. HRUDY'S RENOWNED FEAT: He ditched … and everybody survived!"

This, in a publication that reaches a bunch of veteran flyers. So yeah, if you want to say it's a renowned feat to that body of readers, it better be something genuinely impressive.

An interesting discussion. But perhaps I should step away from the keyboard and let someone post about Midway.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

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