OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

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OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by fflaguna »

I've been wonder, if the US carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have been able to detect an incoming raid or launch fighters after the first surprise attacks began?

Are sudden "emergency! get your planes in the air now!" operations possible on carriers like those in WW2?
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by wdolson »

If the carriers had been in port, the air group would have been on bases ashore. They would likely suffered the same fate as the other planes at bases around Pearl. More importantly, the carriers would have most likely been sunk.

In the first months of the war US fighters were not prepared to fight the Zero. Any that got airborne probably wouldn't have done all that well.

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by gradenko2k »

I believe one of the scenarios for HPS Simulations' Naval Campaigns: Midway examines this hypothetical, although it assumes that the carriers are out and sailing about with their aircraft on-deck, instead of ashore as wdolson supposes.

It's quite likely that some or all of them would have been sunk, but it also opens up the possibility, however slim, of one of the Japanese carriers getting hit as well, and any damage to the KB at that junction could have a lot of butterfly effects later on, as opposed to the US carriers being lost in the shuffle of 1944's Essex'es.

Wargamer.com did an AAR of the hypothetical here:
http://www.wargamer.com/article/3134/af ... gns-midway
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by mike scholl 1 »

ORIGINAL: wdolson

If the carriers had been in port, the air group would have been on bases ashore. They would likely suffered the same fate as the other planes at bases around Pearl. More importantly, the carriers would have most likely been sunk.

In the first months of the war US fighters were not prepared to fight the Zero. Any that got airborne probably wouldn't have done all that well.

Bill

You're right about them being ashore (SOP) and as vulnerable as any other A/C parked along the runways..., but the few fighters that actually DID get airborne that morning actually gave better than they got. But a few more in the air weren't going to make that much difference.
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Shellshock »

You always hear it said that the loss of the battleline at Pearl Harbor forced hidebound admirals in the US to turn away from battleships, use it's carriers more aggressively and eventually see carriers as the primary weapon of the Pacific War. So, if one or two carriers are sunk and the BBs survive does that lesson still sink in?
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Commander Stormwolf »

In the first months of the war US fighters were not prepared to fight the Zero

Yep. And yet they had plenty of P-36 hawk fighters to practice dogfights with..
..seems like tactics could have been developed if they spent more time training.. less time on the beach [:D]

remember, "can't out run a zero, so don't try.. have to out fly em [;)]"
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Cavalry Corp »

Would it be fair to say the carriers were not at PH because they knew the attack was coming?
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Shellshock »

ORIGINAL: cavalry

Would it be fair to say the carriers were not at PH because they knew the attack was coming?

The Enterprise was doing her best to get back into Pearl. Her first ETA was Saturday evening, but a storm delayed her. The next time set was 7 AM, 55 minutes before the attack started, but that proved too optimistic as well. She was, however, close enough to Pearl to send her aircraft ahead to land at Ford Island, and some of them were shot down by "friendly fire."

What really crushes the "carriers hustled out of port" myth is the fact that Enterprise was scheduled to be in port on Dec. 6th and 7th, as shown in the Employment Schedule promulgated in August, '41. No orders were ever recieved to change this. The mission to Wake was planned to coincide with the original schedule so that it would not be known that the island had recieved additional air support. The trip was kept secret, even the loading of the planes had a "cover story".


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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by crsutton »

If the carriers had been in port, they all would have been sunk or put out of action in the first strike.

If the carriers had been at sea then it would be a toss up. If the Japanese spotted the American carriers then just as at Midway, they would be faced with the tactical dilemma of dealing with a carrier task force and a significant land based air contingent. As we all know, there is no easy solution to that. In addition, assuming the Japanese search doctrine was just as weak six months prior to Midway as it was at Midway, there is always the chance that the Americans would launch the first strike. Given what we now know about Japanese AA ability, fighter vectoring, ship design and doctrine, a two or three carrier American strike-even if poorly coordinated would have had a very good chance of hurting the Japanese fleet. Even a mutual strike might have been significant for the Allies given Japanese damage control and the fact that any damaged carrier would have been very far away from a suitable port of refuge.

Japan did have six carriers with highly trained crews and pilots but the fact remains that in air to air carrier combat, each side was totally inexperienced with no precedent to guide them. Anything could have happened.
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by treespider »

ORIGINAL: crsutton

If the carriers had been in port, they all would have been sunk or put out of action in the first strike.

If the carriers had been at sea then it would be a toss up. If the Japanese spotted the American carriers then just as at Midway, they would be faced with the tactical dilemma of dealing with a carrier task force and a significant land based air contingent. As we all know, there is no easy solution to that. In addition, assuming the Japanese search doctrine was just as weak six months prior to Midway as it was at Midway, there is always the chance that the Americans would launch the first strike. Given what we now know about Japanese AA ability, fighter vectoring, ship design and doctrine, a two or three carrier American strike-even if poorly coordinated would have had a very good chance of hurting the Japanese fleet. Even a mutual strike might have been significant for the Allies given Japanese damage control and the fact that any damaged carrier would have been very far away from a suitable port of refuge.

Japan did have six carriers with highly trained crews and pilots but the fact remains that in air to air carrier combat, each side was totally inexperienced with no precedent to guide them. Anything could have happened.

All this is fun and well to speculate about and one can easily feign bravado....but unfortunately for the righteous American CV captain...would he have launched the first strike you suggest and plunge his country into as an yet undeclared war?

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by mdiehl »

You're right about them being ashore (SOP) and as vulnerable as any other A/C parked along the runways..., but the few fighters that actually DID get airborne that morning actually gave better than they got. But a few more in the air weren't going to make that much difference.


Agree with that completely.
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by mdiehl »

All this is fun and well to speculate about and one can easily feign bravado....but unfortunately for the righteous American CV captain...would he have launched the first strike you suggest and plunge his country into as an yet undeclared war?

Halsey would have. He was on the Midway resupply mission and his standing order as of 3 December was that they would attack any Japanese vessel operating in search radius as presumed hostile.
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by MarkMohrifield »


ORIGINAL: cavalry


The Enterprise was doing her best to get back into Pearl. Her first ETA was Saturday evening, but a storm delayed her. The next time set was 7 AM, 55 minutes before the attack started, but that proved too optimistic as well. She was, however, close enough to Pearl to send her aircraft ahead to land at Ford Island, and some of them were shot down by "friendly fire."

What really crushes the "carriers hustled out of port" myth is the fact that Enterprise was scheduled to be in port on Dec. 6th and 7th, as shown in the Employment Schedule promulgated in August, '41. No orders were ever recieved to change this. The mission to Wake was planned to coincide with the original schedule so that it would not be known that the island had recieved additional air support. The trip was kept secret, even the loading of the planes had a "cover story".

Wow! No wonder one of Enterprise's nicknames was "Lucky E".
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Nikademus »

ORIGINAL: wdolson

If the carriers had been in port, the air group would have been on bases ashore. They would likely suffered the same fate as the other planes at bases around Pearl. More importantly, the carriers would have most likely been sunk.

In the first months of the war US fighters were not prepared to fight the Zero. Any that got airborne probably wouldn't have done all that well.

Bill

Agreed. PH already had enough instrinsic fighter defenses to make a conventional attack bloody. Suprise was the biggest factor. Had a few more fighters gotten in the air, most likely the result would have been more Japanese bombers lost because with suprise achieved, the Zeros moved from escort to ground attack and dispersed somewhat. This and the need for the Japanese to spread out to hit their targets allowed the few fighters that did get into the air to score....mostly via ambushes against undefended bombers.

This would have been more than balanced by damage or loss caused to the CV's themselves allowing the Japanese a greater period of operational freedom.

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by treespider »

ORIGINAL: mdiehl
All this is fun and well to speculate about and one can easily feign bravado....but unfortunately for the righteous American CV captain...would he have launched the first strike you suggest and plunge his country into as an yet undeclared war?

Halsey would have. He was on the Midway resupply mission and his standing order as of 3 December was that they would attack any Japanese vessel operating in search radius as presumed hostile.


And Halsey probably would have used common sense as Kimmel instructed him to do...before departing on the resupply mission for Wake (he was on the Wake run...Newton was on the Midway run) Kimmel asked Halsey if wanted to take the battleships.

Halsey's response - "Hell No!" "If I have to run I don't want anything to interfere with my running!"*

Halsey also asked Kimmel how far Kimmel wanted him to go, "Fully appreciating that he might be standing into big trouble..." Kimmel responded "GD, use your common sense!"*

(* Quotes are from At Dawn We Slept, Prange, p. 401)

As I said, it is easy to foist bravado on our heroes...it is one thing, when Halsey could possibly have been looking at odds of 1:6, to launch a "pre-emptive first strike" against a carrier fleet, versus the other option of notifying Pearl of the danger and retreating to safer waters, or what Halsey anticipated...encountering a Japanese submarine and engaging it.
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by crsutton »

ORIGINAL: treespider

ORIGINAL: crsutton

If the carriers had been in port, they all would have been sunk or put out of action in the first strike.

If the carriers had been at sea then it would be a toss up. If the Japanese spotted the American carriers then just as at Midway, they would be faced with the tactical dilemma of dealing with a carrier task force and a significant land based air contingent. As we all know, there is no easy solution to that. In addition, assuming the Japanese search doctrine was just as weak six months prior to Midway as it was at Midway, there is always the chance that the Americans would launch the first strike. Given what we now know about Japanese AA ability, fighter vectoring, ship design and doctrine, a two or three carrier American strike-even if poorly coordinated would have had a very good chance of hurting the Japanese fleet. Even a mutual strike might have been significant for the Allies given Japanese damage control and the fact that any damaged carrier would have been very far away from a suitable port of refuge.

Japan did have six carriers with highly trained crews and pilots but the fact remains that in air to air carrier combat, each side was totally inexperienced with no precedent to guide them. Anything could have happened.

All this is fun and well to speculate about and one can easily feign bravado....but unfortunately for the righteous American CV captain...would he have launched the first strike you suggest and plunge his country into as an yet undeclared war?


As I said, all is speculation and anything could happen. Who is to say that the attack on Pearl had not already happened? The American carriers could still have been undiscovered and pulled off an attack.[;)]
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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by wdolson »

ORIGINAL: cavalry

Would it be fair to say the carriers were not at PH because they knew the attack was coming?
ORIGINAL: Shellshock
The Enterprise was doing her best to get back into Pearl. Her first ETA was Saturday evening, but a storm delayed her. The next time set was 7 AM, 55 minutes before the attack started, but that proved too optimistic as well. She was, however, close enough to Pearl to send her aircraft ahead to land at Ford Island, and some of them were shot down by "friendly fire."

What really crushes the "carriers hustled out of port" myth is the fact that Enterprise was scheduled to be in port on Dec. 6th and 7th, as shown in the Employment Schedule promulgated in August, '41. No orders were ever recieved to change this. The mission to Wake was planned to coincide with the original schedule so that it would not be known that the island had recieved additional air support. The trip was kept secret, even the loading of the planes had a "cover story".

One of the primary reasons the Enterprise was late was not just the storm, but trying to refuel the DDs in rough seas. The US struggled quite a bit with refueling in anything but placid conditions in the first months of the war.

Another factor that hasn't been brought up yet was that the USN learned a heck of a lot in the first six months of the war. The force that faced the KB at Midway knew what they were doing far better than the CVs in December 41.

People can train for combat, but until the actual war happens, all tactics are theoretical. US CVs had never been to war and were an untried force. The crews knew the basics very well, but they didn't know yet what would work and what wouldn't. Various raids on Japanese outposts around the Pacific in the first months of 1942 gave the crews the first hand experience they needed to hone their skills.

Nobody flying in the USN had ever done a live weapons drop in anger. No fighter pilot had ever fired his guns at another plane.

I think it highly likely that if the Lexington or Enterprise had found the KB on Dec 7, they would have flubbed the attack and possibly lost the ships.

The difference in skills could be seen at Midway. Most of the Enterprise and Yorktown pilots were combat vets and they scored big. The Hornet's air group was pretty green and the only squadron that was really combat ready was VT-8 because of Waldron's aggressiveness. When the rubber hit the road, Stanhope Ring, CAG-8 lead VS-8 and VB-8 off in the wrong direction and caused half of VF-8 to be lost due to fuel exhaustion. When it came to strikes on the Hiryu, VS-8 and VB-8 were the two most complete squadrons available, but they scored no hits. They didn't do very well against the damaged cruisers later in the battle either. Hornet's air group made virtually no contribution to the battle except to sacrifice an entire VT squadron to distract the Zeroes.

It wasn't until the Vietnam War that the US realized that most planes shot down were flown by rookies. If a pilot got in 10 missions, their chances of surviving the tour were much higher than they were in the first 10 missions. This is why the Top Gun school exists. It's an attempt in peace time to give pilots as many of those skills from the first 10 missions they can without live fire.

The results of Pearl for the US CVs is probably the best possible outcome for them. They were not ready to take on the KB and they were out of position to even try.

The inexperience at carrier fighting was also evident on both sides at Coral Sea. Both sides launched full deck strikes at the wrong targets. The US did in the Shoho and the Japanese launched everything at the Neosho and Sims. Later the Japanese launched a dusk strike that flew right over the US carriers without finding them. The two opposing carrier TFs almost sighted one another and Japanese aircraft tried to land on US decks by mistake.

The Japanese had their two least experienced carrier groups in the battle and it showed. The Yorktown and Lexington's groups were about average seasoned for the USN at that time, but they were green compared to the 1st string KB flyers on the Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu, and Soryu.

Combat experience is a major factor, both individual and institutional. Something that continually grew for the USN as the war went on and dropped for the Japanese. The US did a much better job than Japan of capturing institutional knowledge about combat as the war went on. As a result green air crews knew more and more about what to expect by the time they got into combat and the learning curve was ever flatter.

On Dec 7, 1941, the USN was at the bottom of a learning cliff. People talk about how tough it is to learn this game. The real thing was even tougher.

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by Blackhorse »

People talk about how tough it is to learn this game. The real thing was even tougher.

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by jmalter »

ORIGINAL: fflaguna
I've been wonder, if the US carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have been able to detect an incoming raid or launch fighters after the first surprise attacks began?
an interesting question, fflaguna.
depends on whether or not USN CVs were 'in port' at Pearl (w/ their airgroups flown off to land base), or if they were 'on patrol' in active defense. & i don't know what amount of air-search KB used on the day.

given what we know historically, it's hard for me to mentally construct any scenario that doesn't result in an even more 'orrid defeat for the USN. i'd assume that the USN CV ability to detect an incoming raid could only be 'very low', & their ability to provide effective CAP over PH would be negligible.

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RE: OT: If the carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, would they have put up a reasonable fight?

Post by wdolson »

The air defense of the Hawaiian islands were the realm of the USAAF. The Navy did not have any role. And the services did not get along with one another very well. I would expect USN fighters on shore would be unarmed. Any airborne on CAP over the carriers would have been kept over the carriers and the CAP would have been reinforced as soon as word of the attack got out.

The Japanese probably were flying some kind of search. The Tone and Chikuma were along with their large sea plane contingent. These two cruisers were designed to use their air group as air search for the KB.

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