From: Lone Star Nation
Lt. Commander Daigo Yoshino stood on the tower of the Akagi in angry darkness. Dark because the pre-dawn light had yet to fully assert itself, angry because of the noise of dozens of radial engines just below. Rows of naval aircraft arrayed on the flight deck awaited only a signal from the Bridge before leaping into the skies. The Pacific was poised on the knife edge of war. Yoshino felt the moment would last a lifetime, and reflected on the odd twists of fate that found him here, spectator to the boldest gamble in the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy...
The annoying buzzing in Yoshino's ears slowly resolved itself into incessant rapping on the door to his quarters, accompanied by an equally insistent pounding between his temples. "Lieutenant Daigo Yoshino, you are summoned to the Headquarters of Combined Fleet" said a familiar voice.
"Very funny, Jiro, now leave me alone to suffer" drawled Yoshino. The voice belonged to staff officer and intelligence analyst Lt. Katsamata Jiro, who happened to be a good friend and fellow participant in last night's rather rowdy goings on in a posh restaurant in Kure, Japan to celebrate the conclusion of a naval strategy conference held on board battleship Nagato. To Yoshino's surprise, the tone of Jiro's voice remained formal and grew more insistent. "I'm serious, Yoshi, there's been something of a stir this morning and others are being rousted out of bed today. This could be bad for you."
Something in Jiro's voice compelled Yoshino to stumble up to his washbasin. Peering through saki reddened eyes he could see there was significant work to do along the road to presentability...
Yoshino was intimidated and amazed as he was whisked from his quarters to a staff car and thence to the ornate offices of Combined Fleet. Upon entering the room, his ears registered the closing of the door behind him. The remainder of his body froze as he realized that the room was occupied by Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, commander of Combined Fleet, Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, commander of BatDiv 3 with his flag on Battleship Kirishima, and Commander Genda Minoru of Combined Fleet. Ironically, it was the presence of Genda that caused the greatest concern. Re-assignments, transfers and other administrative matters were sometimes made in the presence of senior officers, but Genda's inclusion gave this meeting the feeling of a cabal. Yoshino's skin began to crawl. He was uncertain whether this constituted an improvement from paralysis or a worsening of his condition.
Genda spoke: "Lieutenant Daigo, it has come to our attention that you discussed certain proposed operations with members of Kirishima's wardroom at last night's, err, spirited celebrations. Please describe what you were told."
It is rare that a person of Yoshino's aristocratic upbringing misreads a situation. As the first son of an influential family, political dealings and subtext were as common to his makeup as snow in winter. In fact, it was his analytical skills (and his Mother's embarrassing insistence to his Father that he be kept out of combat) that got him assigned to his current staff position in the first place. It was thus a testament to his powerful hangover, nervousness and general confusion that he thoughtlessly blundered into one of the great miscalculations of his life. "Oh, is that what this is about?" he said with relief. "Several of my table mates had overheard some nonsense about a separate set of war-games on Nagato that simulated an attack by our carriers on the American fleet at Hawaii."
Mikawa rumbled an odd coughing sound, but Genda's eyes flickered to the battleship officer for only a heartbeat before resuming. "Perhaps you could explain your assertion that such a plan would be nonsense" he said with a strangely taut voice.
Something in his tone awakened Yoshino's numbed instincts, and he began an impromptu summary. "First, it deviates from standard doctrine, which calls for engaging the enemy fleet near home waters in a decisive battle only after submarines, light forces and carriers have attritted his strength in the long approach. Second, it exposes a very expensive strategic asset, namely the ships of Kido Butai and its elite naval aviators, to extreme risks while engaging the enemy near his main base at Pearl Harbor. Third, the distances involved will strain re-fueling capabilities of the fleet or require that it stop at Truk or the Marshall Islands. The former proposal is dangerous while the latter risks discovery and loss of surprise, which would be essential to the operation's success. Fourth, it would leave our forces in the Southern Resource Area without air cover. While strategic surprise has value, and the proposed operation would certainly be unexpected, I would respectfully remind the Commander of the limited success of the surprise attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur at the commencement of hostilities in 1905."
"A textbook summation of the operation's flaws, Lieutenant. Is there anything to recommend it?"
At Genda's question, Yoshino detected the slightest movement from the heretofore passive Admiral Yamamoto, just a momentary leaning forward, like a whispering breeze in a summer garden. Whatever test this was, he sensed it was crucial. "If surprise is maintained, and if our aircraft are capable of prosecuting an attack against a fleet at anchor, one might expect similar results as the recent British assault on the Italian fleet at Taranto. Crippling or sinking significant elements of the American Pacific Fleet could give us time to seize the Southern Resource Area unmolested. However, given the high risk of loss of our carrier strike force, I would only recommend such an operation if for some reason we believed that Japan was significantly overmatched in a potential conflict with the United States and needed to quickly force a decision."
Yamamoto finally spoke. "Lieutenant, assumptions bear careful consideration and should only be discarded once in possession of all relevant information." With that cryptic remark, he stood, indicating the interview was at an end. Two hours later, Yoshino was informed of a brevet promotion to Lt. Commander and given orders to report to Commander Genda on board CV Akagi. Several young officers from Kirishima were quietly transferred to 5th Fleet bases on the far side of Hokkaido on the same day...
Two months of hard work later, Yoshino watched the first Type 00 fighter assigned to combat air patrol take off as dawn approached on December 7, 1941. He still puzzled over Yamamoto's implication that the war now undertaken by the Empire of the Rising Sun was more of a gamble than the air raid on Pearl Harbor, several thousand miles from home...
< Message edited by Cribtop -- 3/11/2011 9:17:31 PM >