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Decisive Battle

Printed From: WorldHistoria Forum
Forum Name: General Military History
Forum Description: General disccusion of Military History that is not specifically covered at the subforums
Printed Date: 04 Aug 2021 at 17:17
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Topic: Decisive Battle
Posted By: franciscosan
Subject: Decisive Battle
Date Posted: 11 Aug 2020 at 12:00
The Japanese in World War II followed the decisive battle theory espoused by the American Admiral Mahan in his book (late 19th c., early 20th c.(?)).  For that they built two huge Battleships and late in the war, a huge aircraft carrier.  The battleships were the Yamato and the Musashi.  The Americans failed to cooperate with the Japanese plan.  The Musashi (after a legendary Samurai) was sunk in a battle (by planes I seem to recall), the Yamato (name of the Imperial family) at the end of the war did a kamikaze run during the battle of Okinawa and was sunk.  I don't know if it was just airplanes or if allied ships got in on the deal of doing her in.  The giant aircraft carrier was rather late in the war, and was sunk on its maiden voyage, by a US submarine.  I want to say its name was Hiryu, but I am not sure.  It was built in secret and there are like two pictures of it known.

Of course, WWII presented a shift from battleships to aircraft carriers dominating naval exercises.  The Japanese for Pearl Harbor imitated the British (against the Italians) at Taranto.  In that battle, a group of biplane carrier based torpedo planes damaged 3 or 4 major ships and destroyed the oil depot at the Italian harbor of Taranto.  The biplanes were actually hard to shoot down, because they were so slow, "leading" them (with the machine-gun fire) did not work well.  A swordfish biplane also was instrumental in damaging the rudder of the Bismarck.  But I digress.  The Japanese had a model in the battle of Taranto for their training and execution of Pearl Harbor.  Midway was going to be the decisive battle for the Japanese, and perhaps it was, but not in the way they expected.  Trying to set up a decisive battle did not really work after that.  The Japanese faced what largely was a war of attrition, with the American industrial might eventually dominating the Pacific theatre. 

Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2020 at 03:04
I don't know when Mahan wrote his book, but he is the source of the _decisive_battle_theory_, my source is an audiobook that I have long passed on.  The Japanese built the giant Yamato and Musashi battle ships specifically for the decisive battle theory, they could outshoot anything else with their big guns, which never got used as they were intended.

I am not sure about the importance you are placing on a source for forum purposes, I think the information that I got about Taranto is from Mark Felton's videos on youtube.  If you know what decisive battle theory is, it is pretty clear that Midway was meant by the Japanese to finish off the American carriers and be a decisive battle.  Of course, Pearl Harbor was supposed to be a decisive battle, but the carriers were not at Pearl Harbor, it is hard when the enemy does not cooperate.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2020 at 13:13
Why are you doing this to one of our most senior members.

Anyone who has read about WW2 knows the story behind Musashi and Yamoto, they were sunk without ever really playing the role for which they were built.

Quote -

and -  
and there many source references for each of these sites.

Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2020 at 14:27
No, its okay toyomotor, I am big boy, I can take it.

I did "vague it up" a little and I'm sure V. might have thought I was doing that with Decisive Battle theory, but that is really what Mahan called it, and the Japanese bought into it, and it is pretty self-explanatory.  But I was pretty vague with the 3 or 4 Italian ships sunk by torpedoes at Taranto, I seem to remember one ship (battle ship) sunk, and two (or three) other ships (cruisers) damaged and taken out of action.  Some were raised, then again so were some at Pearl Harbor.  I am also a little vague on the giant Japanese carrier's name, but it really is only a footnote in history, having been sunk by an American submarine before it did anything.  The Battle of Taranto meant Britain's dominance of the Mediterranean, that and the sinking of the French fleet at Oran, although France did scuttle its navy (in France) when the Nazis showed up to seize the ships.  But again, there is a few facts about it that I am vague about.

Posted By: caldrail
Date Posted: 18 Aug 2020 at 21:11
The Japanese recognised the rising importance of air power in naval operations. They also had viable torpedoes for air launch (unlike the Germans, who despite setting up a purpose built experimentation facility off the coast of Poland failed to create something similar). Of course it is also true that the Japanese were forward thinking in technology and industry in that era - the desperate need for resources was what underpinned their aggression in the first place) - restricted a little by their own peculiar perspective. They did after all send out the largest battleship of WW2 (it was sunk).

The success of the Americans at Midway was very important. Although it wasn't the miracle they often claim it to be - they had slightly more aeroplanes available for the battle than the Japanese could muster) - the hard won battle was clear in its lesson. Surface ships were vulnerable to air attack  - a prediction made before the war by the enlightened minority.


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2020 at 02:24
Oh, I don't think it was a miracle, but I do think that it was luck, generally good decisions on the American part, and some bad decisions on the Japanese part.  The Japanese didn't _have_ to loose a fourth carrier, and if they had the equivalent of American fire control, they might not have lost all the other three either.

One difference between Japan and America (and other western powers?), is that Billy Mitchell excepted, the US and other western powers had a great deal of institutional ossification, against new ideas.  The Japanese did not necessarily have that because of their modernization.

The Japanese in World War II were also looking back to the decisive battle they had in the Russo-Japanese War, when the Russians steamed their 'Baltic' fleet half way around the globe only too late to relieve Port Arthur.  Instead of taking a more indirect route to Vladivostok, they came through the strait between Tsushima Island and Japan at night with their lights off.  However, a fishing vessel saw the hospital ships with their lights on and alerted the Japanese.  The Japanese went out with their navy and crossed the T' of the Russian Navy, which allowed them to bring most of their guns to bear, whereas the Russians, in the vertical line of the T, could only bring the forward guns to bear, if that.  The Battle of Tsushima was an outstanding victory for the Japanese.  The Japanese, however, felt that the following peace treaty brokered by Teddy Roosevelt did not properly respect and reward them, which added to their resentment which feed into WWII and another Roosevelt.

Russo-Japanese War 1905-1906?  First major defeat of a Western power by a non-Western power, unless you want to count the British and a million-zillion screaming Zulus.

Posted By: caldrail
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2020 at 21:27
I suppose luck has a part to play as always. The Japanese had chosen to send two aircraft carriers from the fleet south to the Coral Sea. What would have happened had they been at Midway? Also, the Americans spotted the invasion fleet early enough to respond with some planning. Luck? yes, in that the US flying boat that spotted the ships had a brief window in the cloud, but not completely because unless the aircraft had been sent out in a properly conceived pattern, they would have missed the ships irrespective of the weather. 

Again, luck in that if an airman looks one way and not another, it decides whether the enemy pilot gets the drop on him. Even aces fall victim sometimes. But there are so many factors that are less fickle and more to do with training, preparation, numbers, and resources. The Americans had slightly more aeroplanes available in total (this is often ignored in more heroic accounts) with aeroplanes less susceptible to battle damage, and with air sea rescue facilities the Japanese did not consider worthy of their warrior class. Also, since the Americans were operating from a land base as much as naval forces, the Japanese couldn't sink all the T/L positions.


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 27 Aug 2020 at 12:29
The USMC has a saying, something like 'execution=opportunity+preparation' execution is not the right word, but you get the picture.  It is not that you are lucky, but that you have prepared to maximize the advantage and minimize the disadvantage of anything that happens.  Was the Yorktown misfortunate enough to be hit twice, or were the Americans lucky that the Japanese wasted a whole wave of planes on ship they thought was already sunk?  That probably would not have happened if the Americans had such good fire control, for example, when they were not in use, they put nitrogen in the fuel lines.  The Japanese carriers, on the other hand, were fueling planes when they got hit and had ordinance on the flight deck.  The Japanese were caught with their pants down, it was not just them having the misfortune of being discovered by the Americans, but things they did conspired to make it worse.  But, the American torpedo planes where ineffective in attacking the Japanese fleet (2 waves?), however, they had the effect of bringing down the Japanese fighters, scattering them and making them use up their fuel.  Not exactly the glorious battle that a pilot might imagine, but in the overall scheme of things, it made a big difference in setting up the carriers and fighter cover, for when the American dive bombers came in.

Midway couldn't be sunk, but it couldn't be moved or hide either.  It seems to me that a lot of the American planes were considered obsolete, or at least dated.  I also don't know about the auxilary ships (non-carriers), on both sides.  For example, if the carriers (and air base) were neutralized (on both sides), would Japanese battleships and cruisers pound the heck out of Midway?  I suspect that without the air support, the Americans would have been quite disadvantaged in a fight.  Both because the rest of the Japanese fleet and the troup-transports coming in.  Fortunately, for US it didn't get that far.  

Posted By: caldrail
Date Posted: 21 Oct 2020 at 23:21
Obselete or dated aeroplanes were common in the earlier parts of the second world war. All nations had them, the inventory of the thirties and lesser designs brought in quickly, including the Japanese - who admittedly had invested in naval air power to good effect.

However, the presence of up-to-date designs does not necessarily equate to tactical or strategic advantage. Much depends on the skills, training, and motivations of the aircrew (one Luftwaffe veteran said clearly that aeroplanes were just machines - it's the pilot that matters). it is true that one design might be superior to others yet there are plenty of examples of aircrew using older or less capable machinery to good effect because they were committed and aggressive.


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 23 Oct 2020 at 12:11
If one looked upon the goal of all those American torpedo planes as merely to launch a torpedo, they failed miserably.  But, they pulled down the air cover and so set it up for the dive bombers. They were fodder, but without them, one would not get the end result of scratch four Japanese carriers.

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