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Herodotus
11 Dec 08,, 11:00
An open thread for the discussion of the Pacific Theater of WWII. Covering all phases from 1937-1945. I am not real big on polls on something like this since something will inevitably be left out, but I will start with a couple of basic questions.

1.) What was the turning point of the Pacific Theater? Midway, Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, BIC Theater, etc.

2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable for Japan to win the war, i.e. defeat the US and China?

3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor?

4.) What would have been the outcome of the war had Japan won Midway?


(Here you go S-2), enjoy.

Castellano
11 Dec 08,, 17:03
Thanks Herodotus for opening this thread, we did it almost at the same time. What a mess! :rolleyes:

But this thread should be kept in the terms you propose to discuss the Pacific Theater.

Castellano
11 Dec 08,, 17:24
1.) What was the turning point of the Pacific Theater? Midway, Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, BIC Theater, etc.

Pearl Harbor, as OoE puts it, "got the US into a bloodlust ", it was perhaps not only the turning point of Pacific Theater, but of WWII in general.

2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable for Japan to win the war, i.e. defeat the US and China?

No, especially in hindsight knowing that the US was in the business of developing nukes. But even without the Bomb Japan was almost certainly doomed.

3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor?

I am agnostic on this, is a very interesting point you raise.

4.) What would have been the outcome of the war had Japan won Midway?

More casualties on both sides, but Japan was almost certainly doomed.

Officer of Engineers
11 Dec 08,, 17:33
1.) What was the turning point of the Pacific Theater? Midway, Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, BIC Theater, etc.The decision to invade China. That set a collision course with the US.


2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable for Japan to win the war, i.e. defeat the US and China?There was never a point in which Japan would win. Stalin was just too busy with Hitler but there was never any doubt that his attention would have turned East once he was done in the West.


3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor?Nope. The only thing allowing Japanese expansion was Chinese disunity. Once China was unified, Japan was done.


4.) What would have been the outcome of the war had Japan won Midway?6 months more and I say Tokyo be the 1st under a mushroom cloud.

zraver
11 Dec 08,, 17:46
[B]2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable


No even before the attack the US had 3 carriers all Essex class being built, 2 new battleships in service (North Carolina and Washington) and 10 battleships being built (South Dakota and Iowa classes).

Triple C
12 Dec 08,, 03:23
Yamamoto conceded himself that attacking Pearl Harbor would buy just seven months of time before the US strikes back at which point the emperor's navy was doomed.

zraver
12 Dec 08,, 04:25
3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor?

Possibly, but the only real window for that closed when Japan joined the Axis. I think before that Japan might have found an ally in Britain. Chaing and Mao both being in bed with either Stalin or Hitler the invaders of Poland and Finland. Japan and the UK had been historically close, and Japan as an ally and co-belligerent would have secured India, Australia and the Dutch East Indies for the Allies. This adds a couple of RN battle ships, a light carrier and several divisions for the 8th Army in the desert.

Officer of Engineers
12 Dec 08,, 05:07
Again, that would depend on Chinese disunity. No matter whose side Japan chooses, once China united, Japan was done.

TopHatter
12 Dec 08,, 05:44
1.) What was the turning point of the Pacific Theater? Pearl Harbor. It meant that US isolationism was cast off with a vengeance and the war would not end, ever, until American forces occupied the Home Islands.

2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable for Japan to win the war, i.e. defeat the US and China? Negative. The Japanese solution to one unwinnable war to dive into another one, this time against an thoroughly industrialized foe

3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor? Possible. If they'd attacked only non-U.S. possessions, i.e. the colonies held by European powers that either under the Nazi jackboot or reeling from the same.

The U.S. was not about to go to war to defend the colonies of Europe.

But this all presupposes that the war in China was winnable, which IMO it was not.

4.) What would have been the outcome of the war had Japan won Midway?
Nothing different, just longer, with more casualties. In addition, the occupation of Midway would have been a logistical nightmare for the Japanese.

zraver
12 Dec 08,, 06:01
But this all presupposes that the war in China was winnable, which IMO it was not.


I am not so sure about that. China was agrarian, poor and isolated. Without foreign (German and Soviet) supports the Japanese gains would have been even more impressive. Japan had almost the same advantages and handicaps Britain did when Britain set out to build an empire.

Officer of Engineers
12 Dec 08,, 06:09
Japan was in China for over 10 years and still did not land the knock out punch against the much inferior Chinese military. The Chinese divisions in Burma showed that they were more than a match for the IJA with the proper leadership and training. From that point on, the Japanese was only to going to get worst while the Chinese through experience was only to get better.

The only thing stopping both Mao and Chiang from throwing their full weight against the IJA was each other.

Mao has at least shown that he was willing to learn (AUGUST STORM) and Chiang had American trained divisions. Both of these showed that the Chinese soldier was never the inferior of the Japanese soldier, only the leadership were. Once that changed ... and it was bound to under a united China, Japan was done.

TopHatter
12 Dec 08,, 06:11
I am not so sure about that. China was agrarian, poor and isolated. Without foreign (German and Soviet) supports the Japanese gains would have been even more impressive. Japan had almost the same advantages and handicaps Britain did when Britain set out to build an empire.

I don't have the knowledge of the Sino-Japanese War that I do with the broader Pacific War, but I see China as being a massive manpower and resource sump, something that Japan could never make good on.

A couple of differences between Britain's empire building and Japan's war in China:


The British Army was always relatively small, it's manpower needs were relatively easily met.

The British Royal Navy's manpower needs were ravenous, but attainable through utlitization of foreign sailors, among other things.

Britain's resource needs could be met at home or abroad by the rest of her existing empire. Japan had little to no such advantage.

Finally: Britain never attempted military operations against China on the scale that the Japanese did, so it's difficult to make that comparison.

zraver
12 Dec 08,, 06:27
The British Army was always relatively small, it's manpower needs were relatively easily met.

Japan ha da surplus male population and a martial society.


The British Royal Navy's manpower needs were ravenous, but attainable through utlitization of foreign sailors, among other things.

See above, for grunt work and repalcement labor they also had Koreans and Chinese manchukos.


Britain's resource needs could be met at home or abroad by the rest of her existing empire. Japan had little to no such advantage.

In 1941 yes, in 1860 no.


Finally: Britain never attempted military operations against China on the scale that the Japanese did, so it's difficult to make that comparison.
[/LIST]

True, but global commitments add up.

TopHatter
12 Dec 08,, 06:51
Japan had a surplus male population and a martial society.No doubt there, but raising a large enough army and equipping it? I don't know that Japan could have pulled that off.


See above, for grunt work and repalcement labor they also had Koreans and Chinese manchukos.Very good point :)


In 1941 yes, in 1860 no.Small confusion on my part here: You're saying that Britain's empire had the resources in 1941 but not in 1860?

If so, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.


True, but global commitments add up.

They do indeed

zraver
12 Dec 08,, 07:04
Small confusion on my part here: You're saying that Britain's empire had the resources in 1941 but not in 1860?

If so, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.


In 1861 the South seceded from the United States, IIRC the British textile industries went into a panic as king cotton was now in short supply. IIRC Egypt and India eventually made up the short fall, but it took a couple of years. By 1860 the British were also importing 100% of their whale oil.

GraniteForge
12 Dec 08,, 07:13
There is no question that Japan's actions in China were going to eventually lead to some sort of conflict with the US, given the romantic attachment much of the US population had for China at the time.

But the decisive point was Pearl Harbor. I grew up in a neighborhood completely filled with military veterans, most from WW2, and they were still angry about Pearl Harbor in the mid-1960s. That anger was given substance by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the first paragraph of his New Year's Greetings to the Navy, as published in the Naval Officer's Guide in 1943:


All around the world, the men of the Navy are at their battle stations confronting enemies across both oceans. Desiring only peace, war has been forced upon us by the foulest treachery that history records. In self-defense and in self-respect, we have drawn the sword. That sword will not be returned to its scabbard until our enemies, who would destroy liberty, have been themselves destroyed.

TopHatter
12 Dec 08,, 07:20
In 1861 the South seceded from the United States, IIRC the British textile industries went into a panic as king cotton was now in short supply. IIRC Egypt and India eventually made up the short fall, but it took a couple of years. By 1860 the British were also importing 100% of their whale oil.I was thinking more of strategic resources, such as coal and iron.

(Not to discount the importance of the textile industries)

Do you have a reference to Britain importing all of it's whale oil at that point? :confused:
I wasn't aware that Britain's whaling fleet had vanished by then.

zraver
12 Dec 08,, 16:33
I was thinking more of strategic resources, such as coal and iron.

(Not to discount the importance of the textile industries)

Do you have a reference to Britain importing all of it's whale oil at that point? :confused:
I wasn't aware that Britain's whaling fleet had vanished by then.

Just wiki, last British whaling ship was 1958. After that is was all North American, Northern European and Au/NZ imports.

also-Pg 22 Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island, Lynn Whithey. Details the whale oil trade with Britian. Showing that even before the British fleet vanished, Britain was a net importer.

Johnny W
12 Dec 08,, 20:07
Just wiki, last British whaling ship was 1958. After that is was all North American, Northern European and Au/NZ imports.

also-Pg 22 Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island, Lynn Whithey. Details the whale oil trade with Britian. Showing that even before the British fleet vanished, Britain was a net importer.


I assume you meant 1858. :)

zraver
13 Dec 08,, 00:32
I assume you meant 1858. :)

yup

Herodotus
13 Dec 08,, 05:23
Thanks all for the comments. So I take it the consensus is once Pearl Harbor had happened the clock was ticking on the Japanese. So let's say for arguments' sake that Japan had gained control of Port Moresby either by sea-Coral Sea, or overland-Kokoda and threatened Australia. Would it have mattered at all once the Americans went into action in earnest in Fall 1942?

I am just wondering what Japanese strategic thinking was like after Midway...what they hoped to still accomplish, or could accomplish etc.

zraver
13 Dec 08,, 08:22
Japan had gained control of Port Moresby either by sea-Coral Sea, or overland-Kokoda and threatened Australia. Would it have mattered at all once the Americans went into action in earnest in Fall 1942?

No, Japan's highly trained pilots carried them as far as they did but new allied aircraft and tactics were taking a dreadful toll on them. By the battle of the Kokoda Trail the IJN was being supplemented by the IJAAF, but pilot training for both services was not up to replacing the losses fast enough this plus fuel issues meant training had to be cut. This sorry state of affairs was brought on by Japan drawing the wrong lessons from air combat in China. The Japanese built fighters designed to win a 1 v 1 low altitude medium speed dogfight. They did not use team work and let each man fight his own battle.

Their doctrine emphasized agility, range and skill. The agility and range could only be had by sacrificing everything else and increasing wing size meaning high level combat was out. This meant most Japanese planes could not take damage or fight above 20,000'.

The lack of armor, decent self sealing fuel tanks, 350+mph speeds, high level combat abilities, and a shortage of airplane mechanics meant there were a lot of avenues open for the Allies to develop counters. These counters had a steady effect on the pool of Japanese pilots. Japan started the war with arguably the most skilled aviators in the world. Their training was so good, that most pilot cadets washed out. In peace time having the best is good, in war all you want is good enough, but the good enoughs didn't cut it until it was too late, and by then all they had left- will have to dos.

As allied planes, tactics and pilots got better, Japanese planes and pilots got worse and so the air war that started out in Japan's favor would swap and Japan's pilots would effectively become suicide troops (for the fighter and bomber pilots) or real suicide troops (Kamikaze).

The counter to the growing allied air strength would have to have begun before WWII (larger pool of pilots using the good enoughs, team work, and tactics) and major changes to how Japan protected her merchant shipping so that she would have had enough fuel. But to make the changes in the air and recognize the danger a submarine force represented the Japanese would have had to disregarded the reports out of China, and focused on the battles in Europe. Mimicking Europeans goes contrary to the nationalist Japanese mindset in 39-41.

As soon as Japan chose war, she chose eventual defeat.

TopHatter
13 Dec 08,, 08:45
As soon as Japan chose war, she chose eventual defeat.

Z, I may not agree 100% with you on Japan Vs. Britain against China, but that was a fantastic write-up on Japanese aviation, thumbs-up :cool:

Herodotus
13 Dec 08,, 08:56
Yup, that pretty much covered it Z, thanks. Won't broker any argument from me. We could link to that post in case anyone ever comes along and wants to argue in favor of the Japanese air force. :))

zraver
13 Dec 08,, 09:40
Yup, that pretty much covered it Z, thanks. Won't broker any argument from me. We could link to that post in case anyone ever comes along and wants to argue in favor of the Japanese air force. :))

Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific
by Eric M. Bergerud

This is the book and the guy that deserves the credit, it is a fantastic read. He goes in depth without getting boring. Some of the interesting things he brings up. Japan was a high tech society (for the time) in that they had most modern technology. But most of the population was still low tech. This meant there was a shortage of people familiar with technology, and who could tinker with it. Thus airplane mechanics only knew what they were taught.

In contrast American kids often grew up building their own cars and where comfortable tinkering with anything and everything. What this meant in practice was that if a plane broke down and it wasn't something taught in school it didn't get fixed and the plane got used for parts or set out as a decoy.This implies a lack of ability to properly diagnose a problem, a problem made worse on unconventional platforms like the inline engined Tony.

It also means while Americans were inventing chin turrets for B-17's that would later be made standard, or turning up the boost and manifold pressures on P-38 etc which would filter back to the States. All Japan was getting was combat reports and requirements, not practical solutions to the problems.

There was also very little institutional memory, not just among the ground crews, but among the pilots. Masses of Japanese fighters were called gaggles and swarms because that was what they were- no team work just a general direction of travel. Older pilots would share their experience, but without tucking the new kid under a wing literally as a wing-man it was just talk. As the prewar pilot pool got thinned out there was less and less knowledge remaining to be passed on.

And Japan did almost nothing to protect its combat pilots. By comparison the US fought with teams, had good armor and self sealing tanks and a network of subs, coast watchers, friendly natives and flying boats to find and rescue downed pilots. Then we rotated our best back to be trainers and role models, so that our pilots got progressively better.

If a Japanese pilot went down-he was gone. He was probably already dead, or burning and soon to be dead from the lack of protection, but even if he survived the crash he is hundreds of miles from his base with no hope of rescue. If that pilot had 50 or 60 kills, or discovered a nifty new way to even the fight, got valuable intelligence on a new plane etc all that was gone with no hope of return.

A bomber pilot shot down over occupied Europe had a better chance of getting back to England than a Japanese super-ace had of getting a second in the air if chance if shot down.

TopHatter
13 Dec 08,, 09:50
I think that book probably also brings out the stunning qualities of the IJN aviators during the early part of the war, through the Guadacanal meatgrinder.

They were an extremely impressive and talented group, just not set up for a long, protracted, industrialized war...as Z's points showed.

Albany Rifles
15 Dec 08,, 16:06
1.) What was the turning point of the Pacific Theater? Midway, Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, BIC Theater, etc.

I agree w/ OOE on China. In the context of the US, I say the turning point was the failure of the Japanese to destroy the Submarine Force infrastructure and all of the repair an dlogistics facilities at Pearl Harbor. The US submarine force would go forth from 7 December onward and eviscerate the Japanese merchant marine, guaranteeing the collapse of the island nation.


2.) Was there a point after Pearl Harbor wherein it was still conceivable for Japan to win the war, i.e. defeat the US and China?

No. The US was in the war to win, period. Our industrial mobilization was just under way. There were 3 Essex class carriers on the ways...25 more would follow. The landing craft which would be used all across the PAcific had not even been designed yet, let alone built. The personnel mobilization was just getting underway. Japan hit us as we were awaking. It was just going to be how long would it take.


3.) Could Japan have achieved their goals in Asia without attacking Pearl Harbor?

Japan could not have achieved its goals, period. The USSR and the Western Powers would have halted it no matter what. It just took longer since the Western Allies and the USSR were busy in Europe and Africa.


4.) What would have been the outcome of the war had Japan won Midway?

It would have been a longer war but it would have ended the same way...with more atomic bombs available. And a variable of that equation needs to be how bad would the loss have been in IJN carrier pilots? As bad as losing he carriers was it was worse to lose the irreplacable pilots.