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Old 06-05-2011, 08:22 AM
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Midway, The naval Campaign in the Pacific and a Catch All


We have had this thread running in Cafe Society and it is clearly not the correct forum. There have been quite a few participants and a "robust " discussion has of course had plenty of thread drift.

I'm just restarting the thread so we can fight the war again and front up with our clever tactics. Please feel free to contribute and correct what I will try and answer from the previous thread:

1. It was asked if the conspiracy theory about FDR or Churchil knowing of the attack had any validity. I said that I couldn't see how as having the military forewarned would have saved lives and ships and still given FDR reason to go to war. I think it was John diFool who suggested a book he read had said an attack on the Japanese fleet when it was in position would not have made the American public as committed and the war would have lasted longer.

I would counter that by saying Washington was very aware that Japan had to be seen to be the aggressor and would not have committed to a first strike. It was quite clear that the USA was to avoid firing the first shot.

I think also that Pearl harbour is often seen in isolation- there were Japanese attacks in the Phillipines as well on American forces. There was ample provocation.

(I am aware that the attack on the Panay didn't seem to provoke much reaction).

2. It has been suggested that the USA knew where the Japanese fleet was at Midway and Coral Sea but didn't appear to know where they were before the attack on Pearl harbour.

Well yes, but the American code breakers were a lot more coordinated by the time of Coral sea and Midway. Although the diplomatic code of the Japanese had been broken prior to Pearl Harbor did not give warning of the outbreak of hostilities and certainly not of a direct attack on Pearl harbor. Also, to the military, the idea of the Japanese fleet being able to travel 4,000 miles and attack Pearl harbor was inconcievable (at the time).

Finally, there was also mention of the attack by Catalinas on the Japanese at Midway. I think this is a bit confusing, as from what I have read the attack was on the force going to the Aleutians.

Anyway, I have blithered on enough. Over to you guys.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:54 AM
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Good points all around. The code breakers were certainly more coordinated
at Coral Sea and Midway since over 3,000 of our guys were murdered at Pearl Harbor,
something people in this forum forget.

Last edited by XXX19; 06-05-2011 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:59 AM
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I believe the Japanese changed the key to the JN-25 naval code somewhat before Pearl Harbor and it took the codebreakers some time to catch up. ISTR they did the same before Midway, but not before the US had sussed out the plan.

(Another thing to consider is that codebreaking rarely delivers a word-for-word clear text. Usually less than half comes through; the rest is filled in by circumstantial evidence, inference, and the codebreaker's own experience. Even a radioman's distinctive keying style his "fist" is useful because it may identify his ship even though its call sign changed.)

As for the Catalina attack, I believe it was against the Midway invasion force which was approaching the island from the south.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:05 AM
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Re: Identifying radiomen by how they signal: I've heard this from various different places. Supposedly back in the days when Western Union was the preferred way to send an electronic message, many of the operators could recognize each other just by their keying style. Granted, they were always communicating with each other, both in terms of passing on messages and just having idle chat during the slower hours.

As far as Midway goes, supposedly the radioman on Yamamoto's flagship tapped in such a way that the American codebreakers wondered if he just sat on the radio key and bounced up and down on it.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:34 AM
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I don't know that this is the right forum either. GD or IMHO would both be better, I think.

The claim about foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor is that Roosevelt, and perhaps a couple of people at the Cabinet level and among the Joint Chiefs knew, but didn't not pass along sufficiently explicit warning to the military commands in Hawaii. In fact they did send warnings. One went to the Army command, but it was interpreted to mean a warning against sabotage by locals, and it resulted in lining up aircraft wing to wing out in the open so they could be more easily guarded. That turned out to be a very costly error. There was another, more explicit warning sent that did not get a high enough priority and wasn't delivered until after the attack.

I don't think there's any question that an accurate and more timely warning would have saved many ships and thousands of lives. If nothing else, the battleships wouldn't have been sitting dead in the water at anchor and would have been far more difficult targets. And there would have been hundreds of American fighters in the air instead of lined up as ground targets.

I'm pretty sure that even if the attack had happened and largely failed, the American public's response would have been the same. The public certainly didn't know the extent of the disaster by the time Congress declared war. And as noted in the OP, there were multiple other attacks all around the Pacific within hours of Pearl Harbor.

The story about why we knew about subsequent battles but not Pearl Harbor is that the Japanese fleet left harbor with their orders in hand, and so the orders weren't sent by radio. Once they were at sea, orders to prepare for continuing operations would have to be sent by radio out of necessity.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:38 AM
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This is a great start. I meant to put it in Great Debates. I have had a shit weekend.

Thanks Boyo Jim- if a mod has nothing better to do than help me out a move would be appreciated.
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Old 06-05-2011, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
2. It has been suggested that the USA knew where the Japanese fleet was at Midway and Coral Sea but didn't appear to know where they were before the attack on Pearl harbour.
My understanding is that we did not know "where" the Japanese fleet was prior to Midway and we were uncertain whether their target was Midway or Peal Harbor.

The story goes Midway sent a message in the clear that their water condenser had broken (it hadn't, it was a ruse). We knew the Japanese were attacking "AF" but did not know what "AF" was. We intercepted a Japanese communication that "AF" had a broken water condenser and we then knew where to send the carriers.

Still, once at Midway they had to find the Japanese fleet and for awhile we couldn't. Knowing the Japanese were after Midway certainly helped but it is a big ocean and we still had to go looking for them.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 06-05-2011 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 06-05-2011, 04:50 PM
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This is a great start. I meant to put it in Great Debates. I have had a shit weekend.

Thanks Boyo Jim- if a mod has nothing better to do than help me out a move would be appreciated.
Moving.
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Old 06-05-2011, 05:40 PM
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The disaster at Pearl Harbor (not "Harbour," no matter where you live - it's a proper noun) is one of the more extensively studied intelligence and operational failures in military history.

I don't mean to be dismissive of the conversation but the case for the U.S. government specifically knowing of the attack and allowing it to happen is about as strong as the case for the attack having been carried out by Martians. It is not only unsupported by direct evidence, but is contradicted by mountains of evidence as well as whole continents of circumstantial evidence and common sense.
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Old 06-05-2011, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
<snip>

I don't think there's any question that an accurate and more timely warning would have saved many ships and thousands of lives. If nothing else, the battleships wouldn't have been sitting dead in the water at anchor and would have been far more difficult targets. And there would have been hundreds of American fighters in the air instead of lined up as ground targets.

<snip>
I'm having a hard time finding a citation, but I recall a quote from Chester Nimitz that kind of contradicts this, at least as far as the USN was concerned. The gist was that had Admiral Kimmel (the Pacific Fleet commander at the time of the attack) known far enough in advance that the Japanese were coming, he would certainly have ordered the fleet out to meet them; and lacking air cover, the battle line would have been sunk in blue water rather than at dockside where they could be salvaged.

(Of the US carriers, only the Enterprise was close enough to Pearl to provide air support, and Bull Halsey would most assuredly have charged into the fray. In that case, he would have had had one carrier with a trained-but-inexperienced air group facing six carriers whose pilots included many China veterans; I'll let the gentle reader draw his or her own conclusions as to the likely outcome.)
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Old 06-05-2011, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
The disaster at Pearl Harbor (not "Harbour," no matter where you live - it's a proper noun)
Minor sidebar, but I have known many places to have different names based on who is talking about them (excellent examples of course including the United States of America and the Empire of Japan).
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Old 06-05-2011, 06:25 PM
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I'm having a hard time finding a citation, but I recall a quote from Chester Nimitz that kind of contradicts this, at least as far as the USN was concerned. The gist was that had Admiral Kimmel (the Pacific Fleet commander at the time of the attack) known far enough in advance that the Japanese were coming, he would certainly have ordered the fleet out to meet them; and lacking air cover, the battle line would have been sunk in blue water rather than at dockside where they could be salvaged.

(Of the US carriers, only the Enterprise was close enough to Pearl to provide air support, and Bull Halsey would most assuredly have charged into the fray. In that case, he would have had had one carrier with a trained-but-inexperienced air group facing six carriers whose pilots included many China veterans; I'll let the gentle reader draw his or her own conclusions as to the likely outcome.)
I suppose it would depend on the timing and specificity of the warning. If the Navy knew approximately the time it was coming, but nothing else, there's a good chance they wouldn't have found the Japanese fleet in order to be sunk by them. And there were certainly enough Army fighters stationed in the area to provide decent air cover -- that is assuming anyone thought it through, which is highly questionable.

OTOH, had the Americans had a LOT of warning, they might have had time to recall the carriers, and fly in a bunch more air power from the mainland.

Any of these possibilities could still have resulted in a American defeat, of lesser or greater severity than the real attack. But at the very least the Americans would have been mentally prepared and properly armed. All the guns would be manned the ammunition lockers unlocked. If the military being prepared would result in a worse defeat than the military being unprepared, well... I just have no idea what that implies except a very bad future.

Personally, I think the best possible outcome would have been if the Japanese had attacked an essentially empty harbor, or an emptying one. And there would be hundreds of Army fighters in the air to do their best against the attacking Japanese planes.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:26 PM
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Don't forget that MacArthur had 24 hour's warning and still had most of his air force caught on the ground. Not to mention all of his other screwups that might have been excused had he been the first target, but not with the warnings he had.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
The disaster at Pearl Harbor (not "Harbour," no matter where you live - it's a proper noun) is one of the more extensively studied intelligence and operational failures in military history.

I don't mean to be dismissive of the conversation but the case for the U.S. government specifically knowing of the attack and allowing it to happen is about as strong as the case for the attack having been carried out by Martians. It is not only unsupported by direct evidence, but is contradicted by mountains of evidence as well as whole continents of circumstantial evidence and common sense.
Some cites would be nice.

It seems to me there are a few possibilities:

1) We knew the attack was imminent and let it happen anyway.

2) The information it was going to happen was there but no one thought to put 2 and 2 together and we were caught flat footed.

3) We had no freaking clue anything at all was about to happen and were caught utterly by surprise.

I think #3 has been debunked. So pick between #1 or #2.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:42 PM
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I don't think there's any question that an accurate and more timely warning would have saved many ships and thousands of lives. If nothing else, the battleships wouldn't have been sitting dead in the water at anchor and would have been far more difficult targets.
I'm not sure that would have actually helped the US, instead of hindered us.

If the battleships had survived, that would have left the 'big gun' admirals in charge of the Pacific Fleet, using their obsolete WWI strategy. But since they were sunk, the US Navy was forced to move to a carrier-based strategy ahead of other navies, which turned out to be a good thing for us.

(Note how the German Navy had Bismarck & Tirpitz (instead of the couple dozen submarines they could have built instead), and the British had the Home Fleet sitting at Scapa Flow to counter them, etc. Most of these navies were still controlled by 'big-gun' Admirals.)
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:45 PM
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Don't forget that MacArthur had 24 hour's warning and still had most of his air force caught on the ground. Not to mention all of his other screwups that might have been excused had he been the first target, but not with the warnings he had.
Well, MacArthur was a screwup in general, IMHO. Look at the rest of WWII, then his administration of Japan after the war, then his service in Korea.

But that should be another thread.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:13 PM
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Don't forget that MacArthur had 24 hour's warning and still had most of his air force caught on the ground. Not to mention all of his other screwups that might have been excused had he been the first target, but not with the warnings he had.
IIRC it was more like 8 hours. The Japanese air attack was delayed several hours by heavy fog over their Formosa bases. MacArthur's fighter planes had taken off to avoid getting caught on the ground, but hours later had to land to refuel. Unfortunately they were running out of fuel and landing about the same time as the Japanese attack arrived overhead.

MacArthur did get a lot of flack for not using his own bombers to strike at the Japanese bases. And since the Japanese planes were stuck on the ground for several hours, they would also have been sitting ducks. It's one of those things that just might have changed the course of the war.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:23 PM
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The disaster at Pearl Harbor (not "Harbour," no matter where you live - it's a proper noun) .
I mentioned Pearl Harbor 5 times in the post. Three times I managed to force myself into (for me) the unnatural spelling. Yet you need to correct me. Is it not clear that I am aware of what the spelling should be? This is really nit picking that is not going to tell me anything I didn't know.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:41 PM
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Some cites would be nice.
It's hard to cite in this message board's format the product of 65 YEARS of research. It's like me saying "Evolution is fact" and you asking for a cite.

Google "Pearl Harbor Intelligence Failure." Start with the first hit and go from there, seriously. You'll get informative hits for much longer than you will have time to read them. The U.S. didn't analyse the data right. They over-relied on electronic warfare. The intelligence agencies did not work well together. They didn't understand their enemy; more tragically, they were contemptuous and racist in their analysis of Japanese capabilities (which is one of the reasons the conspiracy theory about Pearl Harbor exists, to justify being ass-kicked by the Japanese; I am not saying you hold such views, only that this is one of the reasons the theory has been as popular as it has.)

For one of the cites you can find with that search:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Piacine
Commander Layton was the first permanently assigned intelligence officer to the Pacific Fleet staff when he reported for duty in December 1940. This position was an additional duty prior to that time, and no files, records, or current intelligence on Japanese forces were kept.
This is probably the best read I've found freely available on the net, by the way:

http://www.blackvault.com/documents/ADA397295.pdf

I find this fact truly amazing. It's not like the Japanese started building their navy in 1940; they had LONG since been the major threat to Western interests in the Pacific and quite obviously the most likely dangerous enemy, and it took until then to assign one damned officer to oversee the compiliation of intelligence about the Japanese? That's positively imbecilic. It is exactly as crazy as if the USA had only decided last year to have someone look into the military capabilites of these North Korean folks.

In addition to the staggering failure in intelligence, operationally, they made a dozen or more errors.

Quote:
It seems to me there are a few possibilities:

1) We knew the attack was imminent and let it happen anyway.

2) The information it was going to happen was there but no one thought to put 2 and 2 together and we were caught flat footed.

3) We had no freaking clue anything at all was about to happen and were caught utterly by surprise.

I think #3 has been debunked. So pick between #1 or #2.
With due respect, those are simply NOT the only possibilities.

An organization the size of an industrialized nation's armed forces isn't like a single person who's either caught unawares or ignorant or in the know; the failure of intelligence in December 1941 was the product of a very complex set of errors, both human and systemic, that led to the Japanese being wildly successful. 1, 2 and 3 are ALL wrong; the U.S. certainly did not know of the strike against Pearl, and of course 3 is false. 2 is only sort of true; the fact is that everyone knew something was going to happen sooner or later but it's not a matter of putting 2 and 2 together, it's more like coming up with the third derivative of a hideously complex function except you're working with 180 other guys all of whom have a different part of the word problem you have to plug your function into to come up with the right answer, and not all of them want to do their work or help you out or are even working on the same problem at all.

Pearl Harbor was a disastrous error of intelligence, but World War II is positively RIFE with disastrous errors of intelligence, so it's not like Pearl was unique.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:28 AM
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I'm not sure that would have actually helped the US, instead of hindered us.

If the battleships had survived, that would have left the 'big gun' admirals in charge of the Pacific Fleet, using their obsolete WWI strategy. But since they were sunk, the US Navy was forced to move to a carrier-based strategy ahead of other navies, which turned out to be a good thing for us.

(Note how the German Navy had Bismarck & Tirpitz (instead of the couple dozen submarines they could have built instead), and the British had the Home Fleet sitting at Scapa Flow to counter them, etc. Most of these navies were still controlled by 'big-gun' Admirals.)
Yes, I made much the same point in the thread before this one. In this thread I was talking about the outcome of the Japanese attack in the battle rather than on long-term strategic impact.

And had the US battleship fleet remained intact or nearly so, who knows what the long term impact on Japanese thinking might have been?
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:53 AM
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It's hard to cite in this message board's format the product of 65 YEARS of research. It's like me saying "Evolution is fact" and you asking for a cite.
I was not asking for every cite that ever existed.

If the research on this is as pervasive as you suggest (to support your argument) then a few cites should be no problem.

That is usual for this message board.

I am not disputing your claims but I'd like to see citations for them.

ETA: You have provided some and I'll check them out. Main point here is if you make an assertion backup citations are a good thing. If you can establish your own expertise in the subject then that is good too.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 06-06-2011 at 12:57 AM.
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Old 06-06-2011, 09:36 AM
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I was not asking for every cite that ever existed.

If the research on this is as pervasive as you suggest (to support your argument) then a few cites should be no problem.

That is usual for this message board.

I am not disputing your claims but I'd like to see citations for them.

ETA: You have provided some and I'll check them out. Main point here is if you make an assertion backup citations are a good thing. If you can establish your own expertise in the subject then that is good too.
Start reading:

http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/myths/

http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/congress/

http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/
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Old 06-06-2011, 10:21 AM
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Also, FWIW The Master weighed in on this question, so you can get his take:

Quote:
The American military had broken Japanese codes.

Yes. However, what they had broken were diplomatic codes. During the pre-war negotiations with Japan, Roosevelt often knew what the Japanese were prepared to offer and willing to settle for. The messages sent on December 6th made it perfectly clear to Roosevelt that the Japanese government was planning to declare war upon the United States.

So the American government knew an attack on Pearl Harbor was coming.

No. The Japanese government was not in the habit of informing its diplomats of planned military strikes in detail. So while the Americans knew that Japanese diplomats had been instructed to deliver a certain message to the U.S. government at 1 p.m. on December 7 and then destroy their cipher machine and secret documents, and from this deduced that something big was about to happen, they did not know where to expect the initial attack. The Pacific Ocean's a big place, and there were lots of targets available to the Japanese--the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Singapore, etc. Admiral Stark recognized that the Japanese were planning to attack somewhere, but told his subordinates it would be "against either the Philippines, Thai, or Kra Peninsula or possibly Borneo." As is well known, the American military failed to take advantage of what little warning it did have through bad luck and incompetence.

But the carriers were out to sea on maneuvers, leaving behind several outdated battleships. So the Pearl Harbor attack wasn't nearly as successful as it could have been. Doesn't that mean that someone had ordered them to take precautions by sending out the carriers?

Try telling Roosevelt's staff and the navy that the Pearl Harbor attack wasn't nearly as successful as it could have been. Most of them believed that the Pearl Harbor attack had completely obliterated American strength in the Pacific.

As for the carriers, it would be another six months before their importance would be proven beyond a doubt, at the battle of Midway. At the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, nearly all naval leaders--including the Japanese--considered carriers and their aircraft best suited to reconnaissance. The real fighting would be left to the battleships, many of which were sunk or badly damaged after Pearl Harbor.

While the Americans knew some attack was coming, they did not know what type of attack. Had the air raid been followed up with an invasion, Pearl Harbor could not have held out for long, and the United States would have been without one of its major bases in the Pacific, in addition to having lost the fleet.

Even so, without the Japanese attack, America would never have declared war upon Japan.

Not true. Most people point to the August 1941 resolution to keep draftees on duty for more than twelve months, a measure that passed by the narrowest of margins, 203-202. But antiwar sentiment was waning quickly, especially in the wake of German U-boat attacks upon American vessels. In September, a poll showed 67 percent of the American public felt the United States should risk war rather than allow Japan to grow more powerful; 70 percent felt the United States should risk war with Germany. Many in Roosevelt's cabinet and the press felt that the President would have no difficulty in getting a declaration of war against Japan following the breakdown in peace negotiations in late November. But it was Roosevelt who refused to push the issue, instead waiting for Japan to make the first move.
Conclusion?

Quote:
In order to believe that Roosevelt knew about the coming Pearl Harbor attack but kept mum, you have to believe he had better information than any of his subordinates in the government or the military--information that since has been destroyed, since no one has been able to find it. Moreover, you have to believe that Roosevelt was willing to sacrifice most of the Pacific fleet, and possibly one of the most important American naval bases in the Pacific, probably crippling American operations against Japan for the next two years (by which time the Japanese would likely have taken over the Pacific and begun operations against the American West Coast) in order to gain public support for a measure the public already supported by a two-to-one margin. You also have to believe that Roosevelt--who had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who always claimed that if he hadn't gotten into politics he would have liked to have been an admiral, whose first campaign song for President was "Anchors Aweigh" (before being replaced by the more appropriate and upbeat "Happy Days Are Here Again")--would countenance the deaths of thousands of U.S. sailors for a few extra votes in Congress--again, for a measure that many observers felt would pass easily.
-XT
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay
I find this fact truly amazing. It's not like the Japanese started building their navy in 1940; they had LONG since been the major threat to Western interests in the Pacific and quite obviously the most likely dangerous enemy, and it took until then to assign one damned officer to oversee the compiliation of intelligence about the Japanese? That's positively imbecilic.
Intelligence was a dead-end career choice. Promotion boards favored folks who operated in "real" commands (i.e. ships and squadrons), not something administrative, and the career minded officers knew this. This probably was a major disincentive to get into Intelligence and code breaking.

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Originally Posted by Cicero
Finally, there was also mention of the attack by Catalinas on the Japanese at Midway. I think this is a bit confusing, as from what I have read the attack was on the force going to the Aleutians.
This is described here: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/e...way/mid-1m.htm

In a nutshell, the Japanese were divided into several different task forces. One to the Aleutions, one (the Kido Butai) carrier strike force, one was the trasport force with the Midway invasion force, and the "main" force (where Yamamoto hung his cape) with the battleships. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midway_...Combined_Fleet

The Catalina's were sent against the occupation force, at night. Scored one hit.

One of the errors the Japanese made was to divide their superiority into forces that were too far apart to support each other.

Most folks know that the main carrier strike force had four carriers in it. (Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu, Soryu)

There were also the Zuiho, Hosho, Ryujo, Junyo CVL types (granted, these are slightly slower 20-25 knot ships), and three capable float plane tenders that could have beefed up the aerial scouting assets.

No plan survives contact with the enemy. The Japanese should have kept it simple.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:30 PM
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I agree that splitting up the Midway task force was a disaster for the Japanese. What on earth did the Japanese stand to gain in the Aleutians? They managed to capture some woirthless (strategically) islands-which tied down several crack army divisions-for no gain whatsoever.
The Japanese naval command seemed to follow the same idea over and over:
"gee, if we can lure the US Navy into a decisve battle, and sink their carriers, the Americans will sue for peace".
Nope, never would have happened. Meanwhile, the IJN was strung out over islands thousands of miles apart, and relying in the navy to supply them-which lost steadily to S submarines in this role.
The telling thing-by 1943, Japanese forces on Guadacanal, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands were eating rats and whatever they could scrounge.
Unfortunately, the intelligent navy command (Adm. Yamamoto) had no power over the insane army commanders-which led them into disaster after disaster.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:51 PM
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I agree that splitting up the Midway task force was a disaster for the Japanese. What on earth did the Japanese stand to gain in the Aleutians? They managed to capture some woirthless (strategically) islands-which tied down several crack army divisions-for no gain whatsoever.
There's a school of thought that says that it was diversionary, but it sort of makes sense if you're Japan to take the Aleutians, just because it would protect Hokkaido, and, in fact, after the Americans retook the islands, bombers were based there to strike Hokkaido.
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:57 PM
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One of the errors the Japanese made was to divide their superiority into forces that were too far apart to support each other.

No plan survives contact with the enemy. The Japanese should have kept it simple.
An elaborate (read: overly complex) plan that involved dividing their forces was practically a requirement for any plan put together by the IJN throughout the entire war.
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Old 06-06-2011, 02:04 PM
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The most amazing thing to me is that the Japanese never figured out their codes were broken. The Pacific is a BIG ocean, yet everywhere they went, there we were waiting for them.

Also, there overly complex plans worked beautifully for them early in. Odds are, had we not known the gist of their plans they would have worked at Midway too. Come to think of it, odds of them succeeding were very high even though we DID know their plans.
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Old 06-06-2011, 03:07 PM
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The most amazing thing to me is that the Japanese never figured out their codes were broken. The Pacific is a BIG ocean, yet everywhere they went, there we were waiting for them.

Also, there overly complex plans worked beautifully for them early in. Odds are, had we not known the gist of their plans they would have worked at Midway too. Come to think of it, odds of them succeeding were very high even though we DID know their plans.
I think they needlessly reduced those odds by seperating their forces so widely.
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Old 06-06-2011, 03:28 PM
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I agree that splitting up the Midway task force was a disaster for the Japanese. What on earth did the Japanese stand to gain in the Aleutians? They managed to capture some woirthless (strategically) islands-which tied down several crack army divisions-for no gain whatsoever.
The Japanese naval command seemed to follow the same idea over and over:
"gee, if we can lure the US Navy into a decisve battle, and sink their carriers, the Americans will sue for peace".
The idea was not to get the USA to sue for peace, but to destroy the aircraft carriers so Japan could win the war. The carriers had already proved to be a menace at the Coral Sea and an embarassment in the Doolittle Raid; without them, the U.S. Navy simply would not have had any effective means of stopping Japan from doing as it pleased.

Japan's intent with regard to the spring offensive was to force the U.S. carrier group into battle in a place of their choosing. As has been pointed out, the Pacific is a big place - indeed, unless you leave the planet, it's the biggest place. Allowing the U.S. fleet to attack at a time and place of its choosing was not going to be a winning approach, since it's difficult to impossible to guess where it'll be; the U.S. could simply jab and retreat whenever it pleased, especially after Coral Sea sort of nixed any hope of advancing into Australia (a plan the Japanese weren't especially keen on, anyway.) Midway was intended to force the carriers to be in a known place so they could be destroyed.

Yamamoto's intention was that an attack against Midway would draw U.S. forces to it after the fact, placing his task forces in position to close and destroy the American rescuers. Had that been the case the Japanese would have had a significant advantage in terms of tactical readiness and the opportunity to gather intelligence on the location and order of battle of the American forces moving into the area. What messed his plan up was the Americans - quite famously, of course - knew the plan ahead of time and, consequently, were already there, lying in wait.

On top of that, the US force was larger than Japanese intelligence beleived it so be, since they thought Yorktown had been destroyed.

The Japanese plan was perhaps overly complex, but it's hard to say if combining their forces would have made a difference. If the battleship group was a few hundred miles forward, so what? Unless battleships have a magical way of finding enemy carriers two hundred miles away one would presume the battle would have proceeded more or less as it did and the Japanese would still have lost three carriers in fifteen really horrible minutes, at which point the entire force has to run away anyway, which is what they did; the battleships could not have remained in the area without air support.

The Pacific battles demonstrated time and again what is still true today of naval warfare; if you're seen first, you're dead. If you read a full account of the battle, things happened as they did more or less because the Americans found the Japanese carriers first. The planes that would sink Kaga, Akagi and Soryu were in the air before Nagumo made any of the critical decisions that morning.
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Old 06-06-2011, 03:41 PM
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If you read a full account of the battle, things happened as they did more or less because the Americans found the Japanese carriers first. The planes that would sink Kaga, Akagi and Soryu were in the air before Nagumo made any of the critical decisions that morning.


I hear that a lot. Supporters of this idea make it sound like Nagumo should have stayed in his cabin, listening to smooth jazz.
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Old 06-06-2011, 06:49 PM
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I hear that a lot. Supporters of this idea make it sound like Nagumo should have stayed in his cabin, listening to smooth jazz.
Nagumo could have made decisions that might have changed the outcome, but the critical fact was that he was detected first.

Can you still win? Sure. Is it one Christ of a lot harder? A lot harder.
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Old 06-06-2011, 08:15 PM
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Yamamoto's intention was that an attack against Midway would draw U.S. forces to it after the fact, placing his task forces in position to close and destroy the American rescuers. Had that been the case the Japanese would have had a significant advantage in terms of tactical readiness and the opportunity to gather intelligence on the location and order of battle of the American forces moving into the area. What messed his plan up was the Americans - quite famously, of course - knew the plan ahead of time and, consequently, were already there, lying in wait.

On top of that, the US force was larger than Japanese intelligence beleived it so be, since they thought Yorktown had been destroyed.
The telling thing for me was that the Japanese didn't try to hastily rebuild a new air wing for the Zuikaku (out of the survivors of both her own group and that of her damaged sister ship Shokaku after the Coral Sea). But of course we run into that doctrine thing again-unlike the Americans, they simply didn't swap air wings around, as they were considered "married" to their carrier.
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Old 06-08-2011, 12:09 AM
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Well, MacArthur was a screwup in general, IMHO.
Heh, beat me to it. Mac's airforce being caught on the ground was sort a trademark...a problem he made for himself repeatedly with great stubbornness. Note he was also surprised by the Japanese landings in the Philippines, allowed the Japanese to seize his undefended heavy equipment by positioning it too far forward while keeping his troops well back, and failed to score any hits at all with the largest submarine fleet in the world. He was later surprised by the Chinese intervention in Korea (twice!)
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Old 06-08-2011, 12:11 PM
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[MacArthur] failed to score any hits at all with the largest submarine fleet in the world.
That's not his fault. He did not excercise tactical control of the subs in the Phillippines.

That was the job of Admiral Thomas C. Hart, Commander, U.S. Asiatic Fleet.

The reasons for the failure of the subs to stop the invasion of the P.I. were several. Off the top of my head:

1. Overestimation of the effectiveness of Sonar and air power. This lead to the sub commanders to be "overly" cautious. The commanders stayed submerged longer, did not close the enemy as closely as they did later in the war. (The majority of hits would be scored under 1500 yards or so, although there are some impressive lucky long range hits.) This caution was drilled into the commanders heads by prewar exercises.

2. Overestimation of the effectiveness of [sub] attacks made by passive sound tracking only. Prewar training emphasized the minimum use of the periscope. (C.O.'s getting "poor" marks for unnecessary use of the scope in prewar exercises.) But water bends sound in funny ways, and understanding of this was rudimentary at the beginning of WW2.

3. Faulty equipment. The Mk14 torpedo had several design faults: Poor depth keeping (they ran deeper than set), faulty magnetic detonator, faulty contact detonator.

4. Enemy action/Poor supplies. The Japanese (probably unknowingly) scored a major "victory" when they bombed Cavite Navy Yard, destroying a major stockpile of torpedoes and spare parts for the subs.

5. Lack of experience. Submerged torpedo attacks rely (pre radar) on good observations of the target. Errors of a few degrees in angles, or a few knots in speed will mean a miss. It's hard to really fault folks on this one, but it affected shooting anyway.

You're peering through a scope. You see a target, or at least parts of one. You must estimate target course, speed, distance. If you think a target is 500 feet long as it moves across the field of view, you may get a speed estimate. If the target was actually 350 feet long, it may be moving slower than you thought [I think], resulting in your torpedoes crossing ahead of the target. These periscope observations [that the estimates are based on] must be quick, like no more than 10 or 20 seconds of exposed scope time. robby will probably correct me here. No calculators (other than the TDC), math must be done long hand or with slide rules.
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Old 06-08-2011, 07:34 PM
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They also were using the old S class tubs, whose only virtue was good underwater speed (11 knots). In any event the war winning doctrine simply wasn't in place yet (as mlees said very eloquently).
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Old 06-08-2011, 07:42 PM
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They also were using the old S class tubs, whose only virtue was good underwater speed (11 knots). In any event the war winning doctrine simply wasn't in place yet (as mlees said very eloquently).
I may be misremembering this, but IIRC they had the additional virtue of older torpedoes with the older style contact detonators. This made them considerably more reliable than the new torpedoes with magnetic detonators that failed most of the time through the first year of the war.
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Old 06-08-2011, 08:02 PM
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...over 3,000 of our guys were murdered at Pearl Harbor,
something people in this forum forget.
That's because we're busy forgetting that a similar number of people were murdered on 9/11.

Oh shit, I forgot to forget it.

Now I'll have to start all over again.

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Old 06-08-2011, 08:33 PM
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"sufficient" warning would not have mattered. the US was not psychologically prepared to meet a massed carrier plane attack. they would have needed more than 3 days for all the ships to clear to blue water.

regarding that comment that 2,000 planes would have been in the air, this is what happened just before the attack: the escorting zeros were already hovering above the harbor. p-40s were circling below them FOR A FULL 10 MINUTES. the zeros didn't attack because they were ordered to wait for the bomber force. the p-40s simply didn't know what to make of things. remember, there was no declaration of war. even if an attack was eminent, they would have scrambled up to meet the zeros and leave the harbor free for the dive bombers and torpedo planes to plaster.

similarly, the fighter force that attacked clark field in the philippines saw american fighters and bombers circling the field below them. neither side did anaything for more than 10 minutes. and they knew fully well that pearl harbor was destroyed nearly 3 hours earlier. only when the betty bombers arrived did things get exciting.

so a planned attack, kept secret as much as possible, during peacetime, is hard to deflect. pearl harbor and clark were inevitable distasters, IMHO.
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Old 06-08-2011, 08:36 PM
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my other rant is the defense of the philippines. i believe macarthur could have built up a mechanized and armored force strong enough to repel any invasion force the japanese could have thrown in (not more than 4 infantry divisions or 40,000 men.) seems doug wasn't really that good when it came to mechanized fighting.
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Old 06-08-2011, 08:46 PM
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my other rant is the defense of the philippines. i believe macarthur could have built up a mechanized and armored force strong enough to repel any invasion force the japanese could have thrown in (not more than 4 infantry divisions or 40,000 men.) seems doug wasn't really that good when it came to mechanized fighting.
Where would he get tanks and armored vehicles? Hardly any existed in the US inventory before the war started.
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Old 06-08-2011, 08:55 PM
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they had tanks during the bataan battle, remember?
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Old 06-08-2011, 09:00 PM
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"sufficient" warning would not have mattered. the US was not psychologically prepared to meet a massed carrier plane attack. they would have needed more than 3 days for all the ships to clear to blue water.
If in fact it is true that it would have taken three days for the fleet to get out of Pearl Harbor, how does this constitute a lack of "psychological" preparedness?

Quote:
regarding that comment that 2,000 planes would have been in the air, this is what happened just before the attack: the escorting zeros were already hovering above the harbor. p-40s were circling below them FOR A FULL 10 MINUTES.
I don't suppose you have a cite for this?
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Old 06-08-2011, 09:49 PM
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too many sources. read the account of fuchida at pearl and sakai over clark. the george welch biography says 2 p-40s tried to scramble only after the attack began at 7:55 but were shot down almost immediately. however, there were not just 2 p-40s shot down from the air between 7:55 and 9:45. they included 2 p-36s, the 2 p-40s and a couple of trainers. others say 4 p-40s were shot down, not destroyed on the ground. what's clear is that 2 tried to scramble once the attack began.

from fuchida's own record, they approached the harbor at 7:20. american radar already picked them up (fuchida was piloting a bomber while the zeros were already at high cover. other zeros were low, preparing to attack wheeler and hickam.) at 7:40 with no opposition (more than 10 minutes) fuchida dropped his first flare. at 7:49, radioed 'to-to-to!' at 7:53, 'tora-tora-tora!' at 7:55 the first bomb exploded.
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Old 06-08-2011, 10:44 PM
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too many sources. read the account of fuchida at pearl and sakai over clark. the george welch biography says 2 p-40s tried to scramble only after the attack began at 7:55 but were shot down almost immediately. however, there were not just 2 p-40s shot down from the air between 7:55 and 9:45. they included 2 p-36s, the 2 p-40s and a couple of trainers. others say 4 p-40s were shot down, not destroyed on the ground. what's clear is that 2 tried to scramble once the attack began.

from fuchida's own record, they approached the harbor at 7:20. american radar already picked them up (fuchida was piloting a bomber while the zeros were already at high cover. other zeros were low, preparing to attack wheeler and hickam.) at 7:40 with no opposition (more than 10 minutes) fuchida dropped his first flare. at 7:49, radioed 'to-to-to!' at 7:53, 'tora-tora-tora!' at 7:55 the first bomb exploded.
None of what you have typed here supports your previous claim that American fighters were circling under sighted Japanese aircraft and did nothing about it.
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Old 06-08-2011, 10:59 PM
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None of what you have typed here supports your previous claim that American fighters were circling under sighted Japanese aircraft and did nothing about it.
can't find that exact account but we know japanese planes were above the target area at least 10 minutes before tha attack (it takes only 2 minutes to scramble) and that more american planes appear to have been shot down than those who scrambled after the attack.
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Old 06-08-2011, 10:59 PM
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"sufficient" warning would not have mattered. the US was not psychologically prepared to meet a massed carrier plane attack. they would have needed more than 3 days for all the ships to clear to blue water.

regarding that comment that 2,000 planes would have been in the air, this is what happened just before the attack: the escorting zeros were already hovering above the harbor. p-40s were circling below them FOR A FULL 10 MINUTES. the zeros didn't attack because they were ordered to wait for the bomber force. the p-40s simply didn't know what to make of things. remember, there was no declaration of war. even if an attack was eminent, they would have scrambled up to meet the zeros and leave the harbor free for the dive bombers and torpedo planes to plaster...
No one said 2,000 planes. I said "several hundred", and looking it up, I see that I overstated it, but not by a whole lot. I found this page listing the American aircraft at Pearl Harbor, and the fighters add up to 200. And they were all obsolete to a greater or lesser degree. Some probably wouldn't have been serviceable, OTOH depending on how much warning there was they might have been put in service in time. .

Still, there were only 108 Japanese Zeros in the entire Japanese attacking force. That many American fighters in the air would have seriously disrupted the Japanese bombing runs.

I don't recall anything about p-40s in the air before the attack. How many? I would assume they were simply on some kind of practice flight and perhaps weren't even armed. Had they been launched with orders to attack incoming planes, they wouldn't have just circled around aimlessly.

Two American fighters took off after the attack had already started and shot down at least 7 planes between them.
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Old 06-08-2011, 11:02 PM
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can't find that exact account but we know japanese planes were above the target area at least 10 minutes before tha attack (it takes only 2 minutes to scramble) and that more american planes appear to have been shot down than those who scrambled after the attack.
Where do you get it takes two minutes to scramble? Maybe it does, if the pilots are sitting in their planes, and their planes are fully loaded and fueled. My WAG for how many planes would be on standby like that at the time -- zero.
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:39 AM
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Two American fighters took off after the attack had already started and shot down at least 7 planes between them.
As I recall the story, something like seven American planes got in the air during the attack, mostly obsolete P-35s, and a pair of P-40s that were stationed at a smaller airstrip (and thus missed the attention of the first wave that hit Wheeler and Hickam). Not sure how the P-35s did (fun fact: They were a predecessor of the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the ones stationed in Hawaii had metric instruments because they were originally built for the Swedes). IIRC, the P-40s that took off each got one or two kills against Japanese bombers before having to return to base due to damage and limited ammo.

As for why it might take so long to get the fleet out of the harbor, part of it might just be that, if they were prepared to fight a war, they wouldn't have the whole fleet in the harbor to begin with. Also, ships would be more likely to be prepared to leave in a hurry (steam engines require time to warm up and produce steam pressure before they can do anything). Through the course of the attack, for instance, only one of the battleships (USS Nevada, BB-36) got underway, and she didn't even make it clear of the channel. being forced to run aground after taking too much damage.

Even discounting the time it takes to heat up a set of boilers, some of the ships might have even been in a mild state of disrepair, their crews having no particular time-critical incentive to have everything ready to go.

Mind you aside from the boilers, that's all pure conjecture on my part. I also recall that many of the personnel were still in bed when they got attacked. There is a big difference in your ability to react and respond if you are awake and paying attention as opposed to hungover and passed out in your rack.
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:40 AM
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Where do you get it takes two minutes to scramble? Maybe it does, if the pilots are sitting in their planes, and their planes are fully loaded and fueled. My WAG for how many planes would be on standby like that at the time -- zero.
Yeah, the 2 minutes to scramble sounds optimistic, unless the planes were sitting at the ends of the runway with the pilot sitting there sipping his coffee in the cockpit.
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