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Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography?

 
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Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/18/2008 9:48:17 PM   
miral

 

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I have been searching and am surprised at the death of material on him. What there is tends to be highly laudatory, which is ridiculous; he was probably the most overrated military person of WWII. Anyone who could plan and execute the Midway operation is qualified for nothing but the Rube Goldberg award. And, for a man presumeably so knowledgeable about American, he was remarkably ignorant of what the effects of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would be.

But, personal opinions aside, is there just very little published in English on him or am I just looking in the wrong places? Yamamoto is important as the very embodiment of everything that was wrong with the way the Japanese fought the Pacific War.
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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/18/2008 10:34:19 PM   
ChezDaJez


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quote:

ORIGINAL: miral

I have been searching and am surprised at the death of material on him. What there is tends to be highly laudatory, which is ridiculous; he was probably the most overrated military person of WWII. Anyone who could plan and execute the Midway operation is qualified for nothing but the Rube Goldberg award. And, for a man presumeably so knowledgeable about American, he was remarkably ignorant of what the effects of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would be.

But, personal opinions aside, is there just very little published in English on him or am I just looking in the wrong places? Yamamoto is important as the very embodiment of everything that was wrong with the way the Japanese fought the Pacific War.



I would have to disagree with you about Yamamato. He was a very intelligent man but he was also very Japanese. He had no delusions about the results a war with the U.S. would mean and he initially lobbied against it. But when it became obvious Japan was headed for war, he threw his heart and soul into doing the best he could to ensure victory.

He is the man who planned the Pearl Harbor raid... a brilliant and daring feat that few military leaders in the world thought possible. That Japan did not declare war prior to the raid was not of his doing. That was the Japanese government's screw up. Once he learned that the attack had not followed a declaration of war, Yamamato knew that the Americans would not be willing to negotiate a peace settlement. He understood the American psyche far better than most Japanese.

As for Midway, his plan was obtuse and again, very Japanese with all its deceptive elements. Yet, it still had a reasonable chance of success. But American code breaking and the Navy's use of that intelligence provided the tools to defeat Yamamato's plan. It could be reasonable argued that if the U.S. did not have advance intel of the operation, the Japanese most likely have succeeded and inflicted serious damage to the U.S. fleet.

Chez


_____________________________

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VP-40, Mt View, Ca 1981-87
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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/18/2008 10:38:16 PM   
PzB


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Yamamoto - the reluctant Admiral or Yamamoto: The Man Who Planned the Raid on Pearl Harbour.


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 1:01:47 AM   
miral

 

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Pzb, thanks for the suggestion.

chezDaJez, there are certainly many who agree with you but, consider...the Japanese had the same psychological problem as the Germans; they sacrificed everything to the operational, even grand strategy. A man as intelligent as Yamamoto, with personal experience of the U.S., should surely have known that the best way to destroy Japan's strategy of a limited war and then a negociated treaty, would be the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. But politics and strategy had to give way to the chance of a brilliant operational victory. Like the Germans, the Japanese confused the operational and the strategic levels of war. Pearl Harbor was like the Schiflin Plan of 1914; Germany brought into the war against her a world wide empire and the greatest naval power in the world because the generals needed to invade Belgium to make their elegant operational play work.

Second - Midway. Yamamoto's plan was not just bad; it was one of the worst naval plans of operation ever conceived. As Willmott points out in The Barrier and The Javelin, Yamamoto brought the entire strength of the Combined Fleet, the strongest fleet in the world at the time, against the Americans, carriers, BB's, Ca's, everything, and what did he accomplish? He managed to attack one American ship (or two, if you count the DD that took a torpedo meant for the Yorktown). Now, that is downright pitiful.

As to the American's foreknowledge of the attack; this would not have mattered had Yamamoto not frittered away 2 CVs at Coral Sea and kept his huge fleet together rather than scatter it all over the north Pacific. And it was typical Japanese samurai arrogance that it was impossible for the Americans to break their codes anyway.

And after Midway he went the other way, from being over aggressive to being over defensive. The only way to have beaten the Americans at Guadalcanal would have been sustained naval bombardment of Henderson Field. But Y did this only sporatically; he committted naval forces to the battle in the waters around Guadalcanal in fits and starts rather than as part of any coherent operational plan.

And his failures cannot be viewed as simply part of a Japanese mindset; I was wrong to speak in such a general way. The Japanese were not all as obtuse as he, though he was quite representative of the majority mindset. The Imperial Naval Staff strongly opposed Midway with many coherent and logical arguments (again see Willmott and also Shattered Sword). The wargames played before the operation showed that the japanese would lose but Admiral Ogaki, one of Y's close collaborators, arbitrarily changed the outcome.

And the final comment on Y's brilliant Pearl Harbor attack is this; in 1945 every American BB 'sunk' at Pearl was off the coast of Japan, shelling the hell out of the Japanese homeland. Should not Y have known that you cannot sink ships in shallow water, unless you destroy them almost completly?

But, is it not interesting that so little is said or written about Yamamoto after Midway? Historians, too, have little to say. It is as though Y, the dominant figure of the war until Midway, suddenly shrinks out of sight, into relative insignificance. Most strange.

(in reply to PzB)
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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 1:09:14 AM   
John 3rd


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I agree with the Reluctant Admiral as a very good Yamamoto read.  It really talks about his time in the USA, role with the Washington and London Treaties, and his love of gambling.  There hasn't been anything really recent about him.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 1:17:14 AM   
wdolson

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: miral

I have been searching and am surprised at the death of material on him. What there is tends to be highly laudatory, which is ridiculous; he was probably the most overrated military person of WWII. Anyone who could plan and execute the Midway operation is qualified for nothing but the Rube Goldberg award. And, for a man presumeably so knowledgeable about American, he was remarkably ignorant of what the effects of a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would be.

But, personal opinions aside, is there just very little published in English on him or am I just looking in the wrong places? Yamamoto is important as the very embodiment of everything that was wrong with the way the Japanese fought the Pacific War.


I vaguely remember reading a review of a new book about Yamamoto in World War II magazine. I can't recall how recent it was, but it was within the last year. I tried searching on Amazon and came up with 2600 hits. There were two that came up early in the search, The Reluctant Admiral is a classic, though it's about 20 years old. There was a newer book on the list from 2001 which was a biography of him.

quote:

ORIGINAL: ChezDaJez
I would have to disagree with you about Yamamato. He was a very intelligent man but he was also very Japanese. He had no delusions about the results a war with the U.S. would mean and he initially lobbied against it. But when it became obvious Japan was headed for war, he threw his heart and soul into doing the best he could to ensure victory.

He is the man who planned the Pearl Harbor raid... a brilliant and daring feat that few military leaders in the world thought possible. That Japan did not declare war prior to the raid was not of his doing. That was the Japanese government's screw up. Once he learned that the attack had not followed a declaration of war, Yamamato knew that the Americans would not be willing to negotiate a peace settlement. He understood the American psyche far better than most Japanese.

As for Midway, his plan was obtuse and again, very Japanese with all its deceptive elements. Yet, it still had a reasonable chance of success. But American code breaking and the Navy's use of that intelligence provided the tools to defeat Yamamato's plan. It could be reasonable argued that if the U.S. did not have advance intel of the operation, the Japanese most likely have succeeded and inflicted serious damage to the U.S. fleet.

Chez


If the Japanese had achieved surprise at Midway, they may have been able to take the island, but they would not have been able to hold it. The nearest friendly island would have been close to 1000 miles away and the American supply lines for a counter offensive would have been short. Probably the first thing the US would have done is base every available B-17 in Hawaii and bomb the Japanese base on Midway every day until there wasn't anything left. It would have been the first place for an American offensive instead of Guadalcanal.

In December 1941, the plan was Europe first, but only after the Pacific situation had stabilized. If Midway was taken, an argument could have been made that the situation wasn't stable yet, and more resources would have been poured into the Pacific instead of going to Europe. The air offensive in Europe would have been delayed a few more months, but Midway would have been retaken.

BTW Chez, I thought you lived up around Whidbey somewhere? I notice your avatar box says you live in Centrlia now? Did you move, or did I just misremember? (I live in Clark County east of Vancouver.)

Bill

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 2:51:01 AM   
miral

 

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The point about Midway being untenable even if captured by the Japanese is well taken. The lack of material on Yamamoto is indeed most interesting and mystfying. Here is one of the important figures of WWII and, it could be argued, of the 20th century and there is this, if not historical silence, then historical murmur. And, again, after Midway comment on Y almost stops. Yet was he not Head of Combined Fleet for over another year?

I suggest that Y's sudden lack of aggression was caused by the Midway defeat; that Midway broke him pschologically. That he, too, had been infected with 'victory disease' and Midway shook him out of this into depression and inertia. He may well have understood from the start that defeat was inevitable (though he did not act like that) but he could only hasten it by his method of use of the Combined Fleet in dribbles and drabs, until the New American Fleet built after the war started, was so huge that nothing could be done. Yes, I am aware that there were 2 carrier battles fought around Guadalcanal and a bunch of surface actions but look at the number of Japanese ships in any of these; a fraction of the Combined Fleet. Continually, from the start of the war on, Y violated the usually sound military principal of concentration of force. For the first 100 days he got away with it because of the weakness and disorganization of his enemies, but eventually it bit him, hard.

But again, why the comparative lack of scholarly work on him and his command methods by western writers? One would think there would be dozens of books. Look at the number of writings on Rommel, for instance.

(in reply to miral)
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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 5:40:15 AM   
John 3rd


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Trivia Question:

In American history who has more biographies written about him then any other?

Answer:  Robert E. Lee

Seems like there is ALWAYS a new book that has just come out about him and his life...


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 1:05:47 PM   
ChezDaJez


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quote:

BTW Chez, I thought you lived up around Whidbey somewhere? I notice your avatar box says you live in Centrlia now? Did you move, or did I just misremember? (I live in Clark County east of Vancouver.)

Bill


I retired from the Navy at Whidbey Island and then moved to Kalama. Lived there for about 4 years until my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He lived just outside of Centralia so the family packed up and moved up there to care for him until he passed away a year later.

Unfortunately, the downside of living in Centralia is that it also happens to be where my mother-in-law lives.

As to Midway, Yamamto's entire reason for attacking the island was to draw out the U.S. carriers and destroy them. The Japanese never planned to occupy the island with any significant forces.

Without prior intelligence of the operation, the U.S. carriers would have been in a reactive mode vice a proactive mode. The IJN carriers would most likely have been ready and waiting rather than still engaged in attacks on the island.

Anyways,

Chez

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 2:58:47 PM   
OG_Gleep

 

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quote:

As to Midway, Yamamto's entire reason for attacking the island was to draw out the U.S. carriers and destroy them. The Japanese never planned to occupy the island with any significant forces.


Yes this was my understading as well. They never achieved their tactical objective at Pearl Harbor, from what I remember reading Midway's intent was the same as the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 3:49:29 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: John 3rd

Trivia Question:

In American history who has more biographies written about him then any other?

Answer:  Robert E. Lee

Seems like there is ALWAYS a new book that has just come out about him and his life...


Not surprising, considering many (Southern) high schools are named after him, and most of the books in the Library of Congress are abt the Civil War.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 4:03:46 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ChezDaJez

... As for Midway, his plan was obtuse and again, very Japanese with all its deceptive elements. Yet, it still had a reasonable chance of success. ...


Not sure about that; Yamamoto took a superior naval force and managed to scatter it all over the Pacific, temporarilly nullifying any numerical superiority at Midway.

Shattered Sword said he spent too much time gambling w/geishas after this PH victory. Despite his insight and intelligence, over time I think Yamamoto lost his edge and began to believe in his own greatness.

A fall was inevitable ...


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 9:27:22 PM   
ChezDaJez


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quote:

Not sure about that; Yamamoto took a superior naval force and managed to scatter it all over the Pacific, temporarilly nullifying any numerical superiority at Midway.



Yes, they scattered their fleet however I don't think additional battleships and cruisers would have changed the historical outcome. The IJN needed carriers. With Shokaku and Zuikaku recovering from Coral Sea, that only left 4 fleet carriers immediately available to them. And with Japan believing Yorktown sunk or out of action from Coral Sea, it's easy to see why they thought CarDivs 1 and 2 sufficient for the job. And when you consider that the plan was to destroy the remaining U.S. carriers and that the carrier odds were 4:3 in Japan's favor, Japan did have a reasonable chance for success IF the U.S. had no advance notice.

The problem was that the U.S. didn't react the way Japan thought they would and that was simply due to timely and actionable intelligence derived from code-breaking. The U.S. got in the first strike and it was devastating. Had the U.S. not had this intelligence and had Japan gotten the first strike, I firmly believe the outcome could have been considerably different. Just consider what a small, hastily put-together strike from Hiryu accomplished. Then multiply that potential by 4 carriers.


Miral said:
quote:

I suggest that Y's sudden lack of aggression was caused by the Midway defeat; that Midway broke him pschologically.


That would be a difficult statement to disagree with except Midway did not break him. It did put him on the defensive. He no longer had the carrier firepower to go toe-to-toe with the U.S. and had to regroup and retrain. But before this could happen, the U.S. invaded Guadalcanal.

From this point on, Japan would be reacting to U.S. and allied moves and Yamamato had only a few months left to live.

Chez

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/19/2008 9:56:18 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ChezDaJez
quote:

Not sure about that; Yamamoto took a superior naval force and managed to scatter it all over the Pacific, temporarilly nullifying any numerical superiority at Midway.


Yes, they scattered their fleet however I don't think additional battleships and cruisers would have changed the historical outcome. The IJN needed carriers. With Shokaku and Zuikaku recovering from Coral Sea, that only left 4 fleet carriers immediately available to them.


Yes, but the 2 CVLs assigned to the ill-advised Aleutians Operation might have made a difference, and the presence of the Yamato and other big guns could at least have contributed to the IJN's flak; the flak guns on the Akagi were obsolete and scheduled for replacement after Midway.

In retrospect, the element of surprise wasn't worth scattering all your fleets so far apart that they couldn't support each other if something went wrong.

But since nothing ever went wrong before, I guess they didn't take that into acount ...

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 1:57:49 AM   
OG_Gleep

 

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quote:

Yes, but the 2 CVLs assigned to the ill-advised Aleutians Operation might have made a difference, and the presence of the Yamato and other big guns could at least have contributed to the IJN's flak; the flak guns on the Akagi were obsolete and scheduled for replacement after Midway.


Any additional carriers would have found themselves in the exact same tactical situation as the rest of the fleet....ambushed on their way to an ambush. Best case scenario, it would have dispersed the damage a bit by eating a few of the bombs.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 3:17:42 AM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: OG_Gleep

Any additional carriers would have found themselves in the exact same tactical situation as the rest of the fleet....ambushed on their way to an ambush. Best case scenario, it would have dispersed the damage a bit by eating a few of the bombs.


If that were the case, then it wouldn't have mattered if Shokaku and Zuikaku were available either.

But w/o them, the odds (historically) were just about even if you consider Midway's airstrip as an unsinkable carrier.


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 8:23:25 AM   
OG_Gleep

 

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If it were the odds played a role in the Japanese disaster at Midway, then you'd have a point.

But it wasn't. You have to put them into the scenario as it played out. The only way additonal carriers would have made a difference would have been to change the tactical situation. The only thing I can think of is one of the additional carriers launched the search plane that was tasked to where the US carriers were waiting. That would have changed one of the major factors...the silent search plane, and as such the Japanese carrier force wouldn't have been in the absoulte worst position when the American planes came in.

If the plan would have gone off as executed then your right, additional forces would have been very valuable, and less would have ment failure.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 8:29:02 AM   
OG_Gleep

 

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The plan btw, as I understood it, was to attack Midway with Carrier Air groups, fienting the preperation for an invasion. This would draw out the US carriers rushing to drive off the invasion force (which was non-existant), which would be met and destroyed, completing the mission the original strike on Pearl Harbor was ment to achieve..the destruction of the US carrier force.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 8:49:32 AM   
John 3rd


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You MUST read Shattered Sword!


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 3:29:51 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: John 3rd

You MUST read Shattered Sword!


Non-existant (Midway) invasion force? I second J3's motion!


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 6:03:18 PM   
Mike Scholl

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: OG_Gleep

The plan btw, as I understood it, was to attack Midway with Carrier Air groups, fienting the preperation for an invasion. This would draw out the US carriers rushing to drive off the invasion force (which was non-existant), which would be met and destroyed, completing the mission the original strike on Pearl Harbor was ment to achieve..the destruction of the US carrier force.



You are miss-informed. An invasion force was definately part of the Japanese plan, and at sea in route to Midway. In keeping with the half-thought-out nature of the whole plan, it was probably insufficient to the task given the defenders numbers and preparations.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/20/2008 7:14:48 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mike Scholl

... In keeping with the half-thought-out nature of the whole plan, it was probably insufficient to the task given the defenders numbers and preparations.


Half-thought-out? The IJN may be the first modern navy to ever "think" itself out of a victory.

Re Shattered Sword: " ... drafted by Kuroshima and ratified by Yamamoto-- it (the plan) was incomprehensively complex. More than a dozen different surface formations, and numerous goups of submarines, were expected to particpate in this tightly scripted operation."

The authors go on to decry that Yamamoto dissipated his numerical superiority so that the centerpiece of the operation -- the neutralization of Midway -- was to be accomplished by only 22 warships, about 1/10 of the total number of vessels in pursuit of various objectives, many of which were irrelevant to Midway.



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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 1:58:45 AM   
OG_Gleep

 

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I haven't read the book and am probably misinformed (I often am)but the entirety of ground troops didn't exceed 5,000 correct? I was under the impression that the entire operation was a fient to make the US believe that the Hawaiian Islands were next to be invaded (the non-existant part).

*edit*
Stand corrected. Maybe he did intend to invade Hawaii. Did not know that.

< Message edited by OG_Gleep -- 4/21/2008 2:08:58 AM >

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 2:22:50 AM   
Mike Scholl

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Mike Scholl

... In keeping with the half-thought-out nature of the whole plan, it was probably insufficient to the task given the defenders numbers and preparations.


Half-thought-out? The IJN may be the first modern navy to ever "think" itself out of a victory.



I meant that they had thought it all out very meticulously for BOTH sides..., ignoring the fact that half of the participants hadn't recieved the "script", and might "ad lib" their dialog instead of entering stage on que and promptly dropping dead as the "script" called for.

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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 2:52:33 AM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mike Scholl

I meant that they had thought it all out very meticulously for BOTH sides..., ignoring the fact that half of the participants hadn't recieved the "script", and might "ad lib" their dialog instead of entering stage on que and promptly dropping dead as the "script" called for.


Mike, you must have a copy of Sword too:

"Fleet exercises often featured exquisitely coordinated maneuvers on the part of the Imperial Navy being met w/conveniently inept countermoves by the oafish Americans, who never failed to go lowing obediently to their choregraphed slaughter."


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 3:01:14 AM   
John 3rd


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Well quoted!


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RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 3:24:06 AM   
Joe D.


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Re Shattered Sword, Yamamoto was considering operations for the Combined Fleet in the Central Pacific ever since failing to sink the US carriers at PH; he even ordered Adm. Ukagi to reexamine an invasion of Hawaii in order to precipitate a decisive battle to draw out the American CVs, but Naval GHQ thought this invasion was too risky.

Op MI would have probably been filed and forgotten had not Doolittle's Raid made sinking the US CVs an urgent priority in order to safeguard the Japanese home islands from further US attacks. If successful, Midway would be a springboard to again threaten Hawaii.

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Post #: 27
RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 3:48:38 AM   
Mike Scholl

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Mike Scholl

I meant that they had thought it all out very meticulously for BOTH sides..., ignoring the fact that half of the participants hadn't recieved the "script", and might "ad lib" their dialog instead of entering stage on que and promptly dropping dead as the "script" called for.


Mike, you must have a copy of Sword too:

"Fleet exercises often featured exquisitely coordinated maneuvers on the part of the Imperial Navy being met w/conveniently inept countermoves by the oafish Americans, who never failed to go lowing obediently to their choregraphed slaughter."




Read a borrowed copy once and found it interesting.., but I'd realized this particular weakness of Japanese planning for this and other operations long before Shattered Sword was written. Any serious student of Military History can't help to notice the "wishfull" nature of most Japanese Strategic and Tactical planning during WW II.

(in reply to Joe D.)
Post #: 28
RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 4:40:08 AM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

Op MI would have probably been filed and forgotten had not Doolittle's Raid made sinking the US CVs an urgent priority ...


From The Eagle has Landed:
"A simple exercise in logistics, nothing very complicated: he merely wants Winston Churchill brought from London to Berlin. And we are ordered to make a feasibility study. Today's Wednesday. By Friday he will forget it, but Himmler will not."

Can anyone remember what philospher/philosophy -- was it Kant? -- Col. Max Radl (played by Robert Duvall) later quoted in order to explain how the previously unthinkable study to abduct Churchill became feasible? There's a connection here w/the Doolittle Raid, which made the unlikely implementation of OP MI possibile as well, but I can't find Duvall's dialogue to identify the exact philosophical term he quoted.

The film is from a Jack Higgins novel.

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(in reply to Joe D.)
Post #: 29
RE: Can anyone recommend Yamamoto biography? - 4/21/2008 11:50:00 AM   
Adnan Meshuggi

 

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Think about Pearl... it was undoable for most people... but it happen.

So, if Midway would have work (say 3 sunk american carriers, 4-6 destroyers and cruisers, 5000 men dead and midway destroyed by bbs artillery and captured) we would not ask about the missing carriers.

Sure, i never understood why not all carriers were involved (you allways love to have a reserve to fight back), but that is 20/20...

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