glenn239 wrote:I think Isom exaggerates the point. 205nm was not a guarantee there would not be a fighter escort as the carriers could follow the strike to recover them closer, and the demonstrated performance of the CAP against the Midway strikes could not have assured Nagumo's staff that the CAP could prevent the majority of a 36-72 dive bomber group from reaching drop position.
That is true, but we know it with hindsight. THe problems then and there were based on more precarious information.
Also, Nagumo's turn towards the enemy at 0930 would assist enemy fighters so is not consistent with the calculation Isom describes, (If worried about escorts, Nagumo should turn away from the contact).
I agree, but Ngumo thought that his own strike was just about to get launched, and that the enemy was just entering attack range - therefore the enemy was just about to launch, then form up the strike, and then travel 1.5 hours towards him. Therefore, Nagumo probably expected the enemy carrier-based strike at 11:30 or later.
Given that US carriers could carry 80, 10 planes hardly sounds like a CV strike, let alone 3 CV's letting fly with an ambush So, under this hypothesis the reason why Nagumo was caught is because he underestimated the threat level and assumed it was a surface force, upon which he could deliver a crushing blow before turning back on Midway in the afternoon. Had Tone 4 reported at 0800-0830, "3 Yorktown Class carriers sighted" and "100+ aircraft heading towards you" I personally doubt Nagumo sails towards the enemy or tries to prepare some grand strike using even the Midway aircraft at 1030.
It's possible, but who knows for sure?
Some hints on the enemy strength were available to Nagumo - such as the size of the escort (5 cruisers and 5 destroyers, which was an incorrect assessment, could actualy hint that the enemy was stronger then in appearance). Another hint came in the form of Chikuma5 seaplane, which reported zero enemy ships in the area, just 1.5hours before. IF another seaplane passed by and reported nothing, who knew if the enemy was comprised of just that force, or there were others as well, lurking underneath the cloud base ?
Other informed guessings came in the form of immediate history - Doollittle Raid, battle of Coral Sea, raids on Lae and Salamua, were examples in which USN carriers worked in pairs. If there was 1, almost always there was another nearby, if not in the same task force.
If 36 dive bombers counterattack with an escort then they may disable 0-2 carriers. But if 1st Division also participates then maybe 18 or so Kates will attack, armed with a mix of bombs and torpedoes. Level bombers will not achieve much, but they will draw CAP defenses and allow more dive bombers to get through, and give Hiryu more aircraft for later that day. Also important, fewer aircraft aboard the IJN carriers to burn at 1030.
Indeed, but it's a bigger stretch to include CarDiv1 in the launch.
If that were to happen, Japanese air losses would be heavy (Yorktown HOrnet and Enterprise had over 50 available F4F4s on board, of which 50% can be expected to make interceptions, while IJN airstrike had very few, if any , A6M2 Zeroes as escort). Japanese carriers could escape immediate destruction, but the historical hits would still happen, as the ~79 SBDs would already be flying at 9:30. OF those, only 50 would attack, crippling Kaga and Soryu, and jamming the rudder of Akagi. If they wouldn't be sunk or nearly sunk by raging fires, the carriers would still be out of comission.
Later, if all 3 USN carriers are disabled , more strikes would come from Midway (were all USN surviving aircraft would go anyway), and the IJN damaged carriers , with reduced speed and little defensive force left, would go down. If not all 3 USN carriers would be disabled, then a combined Midway+carrier attack would still sink the damaged carriers.
My personal impression is that Nagumo's "window of opportunity" closed at about 7:00AM, when Chikuma5 seaplane exited the area occupied by TF17 and TF16 and not seeing anything. IF that seaplane would have sent a sighting report of enemy carrier(s) at 6:30, Nagumo could have a complete strike wave on it's way by 7:15-7:30 at the latest, making first torpedo runs on the enemy at around 9:00. Such a early wave had a good chance of tangling with the SBD inbound strike waves (as happened almost every time during the Pacific carrier wars of 1942), and thus had a good chance of stopping some SBDs before actualy attacking. They would also report to Nagumo the large force of dive bombers inbound, which would trigger a certain alertedness of IJN combat air patrol and better discipline.
The net (probable) result IMHO would be the a reduction in number of SBD bombs dropped from 48 to 36-40, and consequently a reduction of hits from 9-10 to 6-7, and thus potentialy "saving" AKAGI.
At the end of the day, Nagumo would have 2 operaitonal heavy carriers, with a mix array of aircraft of board (from all carriers). Kaga and Soryu could still be sunk.