Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

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alecsandros
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Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 17 Aug 2017 12:17

Suppose Yamamoto decided for a different organization for Op. MI, and place all carriers (excluding Hosho, kept near the invasion force due to his slower speed) under Nagumo's command, with the task of destroying Midway defences and destroy in battle USN expected carrier counterstrike.

That leaves Kiska, Attu without air support, and also leaves the heavy battleship force without immediate air support.

Knowing the airgroup of the 7 carriers (108 fighters, 90 dive bombers, 99 torpedo bombers), and proposing the attack on the island to be done with Akagi/Kaga/Zuiho , while CAP, reconnaissance and antishipping strikes to be ensured by Hiryu/Soryu/Ryujo/Junyo, how much of a pyrhic victory could Nagumo be reasonably expected to obtain ?

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by paulrward » 17 Aug 2017 16:16

Hello All ;

To Mr. alecsandros :

Probably one of the best ' What Ifs ' of the war. About thirty years ago, a group I was in gamed Midway extensively, with a lot of games of the ' What If ' variety. Two stand out.


The first, we had Nagumo with the OTL four, plus Zuikaku. Zuikaku was set up with the survivors of the Coral Sea, plus the 40 odd A6Ms that were being hauled to Midway to serve as CAP after the successfull Midway conquest. To serve as the scout force, Nagumo had the Chitose, Chiyoda, and Nishin with their seaplanes. This gave the IJN a much better scouting capability.
Following a half day behind ( 300 miles ) came a second group, with Junyo, Zuiho, Ryujo, and Hosho. These were teamed with a scout force of the two Tone's.
Each IJN carrier group had two Kongo's and four CA's, along with destroyers.

It was a slugfest. The USN sank the Kaga, Soryu, and crippled the Akagi. The IJN sank the Yorktown. The USN damaged the Hiryu. The IJN sank the Enterprise and Hornet. The IJN took Midway. End of battle.


A second Midway had the IJN with the OTL four, plus Zuikaku, Ryujo, and Zuiho. The USN had the OTL three plus Saratoga.

It was a bloodbath. The IJN was left with only the Zuiho and Ryujo, with the Ryujo out of action due to flight deck damage. The USN was left with ..... nothing. Then the IJN attacked Midway with the remnants of the Zuiho air group plus every float plane they had, and invaded. Another bloodbath, with the loss of over 75% of the IJN landing force, but the ultimate conquest of the islands.


In both cases, the IJN captured MIdway. In the second, we came to the conclusion that, with their losses, they would have lost the island by the middle of 43. In the first case, however, we proceeded to an IJN conquest of Hawaii. ( And, to anyone who thinks the IJN couldn't have taken the Hawaiian Islands, the U.S Army and the USN disagree - their own studies show that, given a loss a Midway, and the strategic and logistical problems facing the USN in the summer of 1942, while it would not have been a pushover for the Japanese, they would have taken the Hawaiian chain in the same bloody fashion that they took the Philippines.)


Hope this is of some interest.


Respectfully ;

Paul R. Ward
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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by Phaing » 17 Aug 2017 17:52

Would they have even needed that many, of Nagumo had detailed a pair of carriers to the Midway raids and kept the other pair as a ready reaction force?

Spreading the participation among all four hobbled them needlessly, especially since less than half of the available aircraft were sent to hit Midway.
P.P.P.P. Proper planning prevents poor performance.

And the only effect the pair of carriers in Alaska had was to mount a 16-plane raid on Dutch Harbor, and expose themselves to possible counter-attack. Nobody was going to be fooled by such tiny raids.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 17 Aug 2017 18:07

Hello Mr Paul Ward,
Very interesting wargames propositions.

I should add the excellent wargame proposed by Dallas Isom in his "Why did the Japanese lost the battle of Midway ?" essay. As far as I understand it, the writer proposed the exact historical setup (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu) , in the exact same historical constraints, EXCEPT for the time of the information pertaining to USN task forces being discovered by IJN (Isom mentions in the wargame that Nagumo actualy receives and decodes the message at around 7:00AM), AND for the possibility of Nagumo to actualy launch a 2nd wave (1st being the attack on Midway itself) fully directed against the USN carriers (historically he couldn't due to the continous manouvres due to the US air attacks that forbidden the transfer of planes from teh hangars up to the flight decks).

Ultimately he proposes 84 machines (12 A6Ms, 36 D3As and 36 B5Ns) to be launched against TF17 (the first to be discovered), with the result of sinking the Yorktown, and losing 50% of the attack wave.

At the same time, the 55 SBDs deliver crippling blows onto the Japnaese carriers, BUT without them having the avgas pipes extended for refueling, they suffer fewer damage, and only Kaga and Soryu are sunk, with Akagi being damaged but operational, and Hiryu untouched.

By 12:00 AM, Akagi and Hiryu launch a second wave against TF16 (by this time spotted), with approx 50 warplanes, that manage to cripple Hornet. Fletcher has no more machines to send until 14:00AM , when he slowly recovers the surviving SBDs and F4Fs from all 3 carriers.

While he struggles to refuel/rearm a full strike wave, Akagi/Hiryu do the same, and a final evening attack is done by both forces, causing Akagi to be crippled (but not sunk), and Enterprise badly damaged and out of action.

Hiryu remains with approx 70 onboard machines (40 immediately operational), while Akagi retains approx 20 machines on board, non of which can be launched - and Akagi requires repairs in Japan.

Finally, on June 5th Hiryu battles with remaining survivors on Midway, and Zuiho and Hosho join her later in the day. On June 6th, Junyo and Ryujo join in. Total warplanes available to Nagumo are approx 80 (operational), and he slowly destroys Midway defensive.


BUT Japan is left with only 1 frontline carrier (Hiryu), with a crippled aircorps, and loses the initiative.

===

BUT this is a "double" non-realistic scenario (as the author explicitly mentions), by offering correct and timely information to Nagumo (which meant the Tone seaplane to be launched in time, and his message correctly deciphered, etc), AND by giving Nagumo a "perfect window of time" to launch a fully-armed 84-machines strong strike wave somewhere before 9:00AM (historically impossible because of the constant movements of the fleet to avoid bombs and torps).

By using "realistic" information and time windows, I would propose using Zuiho/Ryujo/Junyo, and see what happens.

My opinion is that USN would lose 2 CVs and 1 crippled, while IJN would lose 2 or 3 CVs and 1 damaged (not crippled).

Midway would fall, but it would not be kept by Japan, as supplying the islands would be a nightmare. Aircorps loses (approx 150 machines) would be replaced only by Dec 1942, leaving the IJN without strength to push forward in the Pacific.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by maltesefalcon » 18 Aug 2017 00:08

The whole plan was conflicted and overly complicated at the same time. The Aleutian invasion was at least in part supposed to draw US Naval forces away, to enable Midway to succeed. Yet it was also supposed to be secret, so how did they expect the US to take the bait? (Japanese had no way of knowing US was reading their coded messages)
But Midway was supposed to be the coup de grace for the US Navy as well. So yes probably better to keep all the eggs in one basket and finish the naval war in one engagement one way or another.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by T. A. Gardner » 18 Aug 2017 00:26

alecsandros wrote:Midway would fall, but it would not be kept by Japan, as supplying the islands would be a nightmare. Aircorps loses (approx 150 machines) would be replaced only by Dec 1942, leaving the IJN without strength to push forward in the Pacific.
I suspect that Midway doesn't fall and the Japanese amphibious assault fails. The Japanese are left in a quandary. They can't make a second attempt on the island, can't keep their fleet there indefinitely, so their only option is to withdraw. Midway stays in US hands.

Here's some previous discussion:

/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=113320&hilit=Colonel+Ichiki

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=211477

The landing force at Midway was divided into two units one to take Sand Island, one to take Eastern Island. The 2nd Combined SNLF to take Sand was a two battalion sized naval infantry unit with the 5th Kure and 5th Yokosuka SNLF making it up. The unit had about 1500 men.

At Wake, a 1500 man SNLF took on about 500 Marines who were almost totally manning heavy weapons of some sort. The Japanese took about 1000 casualties taking Wake. Here, the same sized unit would be facing about 1500 + Marines, Army, and Navy personnel who have the added advantage of concrete bunkers, pillboxes, barbed wire obstacles, and more coast defense and 3" AA guns than on Wake.
Worse, unlike Wake where the Japanese ran the landing ships aground to get their forces rapidly on the island, at Midway the plan was to send in a polyglot of small boats of various types... like whalers and lifeboats... to land over the reef that surrounded the island. If the boats hung up on the reef, rubber boats brought along, would be used to take the troops ashore.
That is a recipe for disaster for the Japanese. Imagine the USMC trying that at Tarawa...

The other landing force, the Ichiki detachment has zero amphibious training and would land similarly against about 1000 - US defenders with about 1500 of their own number.

I could see the 7" and 5" coast defense guns not being taken out any more than the ones at Wake were by Japanese bombardment that would largely be short and random. If the defenders wait until the transports anchor off shore to unload in the usual Japanese doctrine style, and then open fire, the Japanese landing forces might not even get off their transports intact or alive to land at all.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 18 Aug 2017 05:47

... If the Japanese try to do the same thing as at Wake (minor bomber support, limited destroyer gunfire support), they had maximum chances of not even setting foot on Sand or Eastern islands.

But if they somehow manage to keep operational ~ 50 bombers (50% Vals, 50% Kates), on all the 7 carriers, and properly use them, AND earmark several heavy cruisers for continous heavy gunfire support, I suppose they would have some realistic chance of taking at least one island (and the other to fall by starvation), or even both.

The soil at Midway was soft coral and sand, which was easily perforated by the 805kg heavy B5N Kate bombs. Hence the substantial array of tunnels and pillboxes could be destroyed, or anyway badly damaged and unusable.

The naval artillery emplaced on Eastern and Sand islands was up to 7" in diameter, with maximum range of ~ 20km (and effective range of 14-15km). That is well below the maximum range of Japanese heavy cruisers which, given enough time (and ammo), might be able to badly damage the non-hardened batteries.

---

The interesting evolution might be the possible attack by Task Force 1 (USS Saratoga with 36 a/c and 70 spares), which may cause substantial panic on the Japanese side - not to mention probable loss of another carrier.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 18 Aug 2017 05:57

maltesefalcon wrote:The whole plan was conflicted and overly complicated at the same time. The Aleutian invasion was at least in part supposed to draw US Naval forces away, to enable Midway to succeed. Yet it was also supposed to be secret, so how did they expect the US to take the bait? (Japanese had no way of knowing US was reading their coded messages)
.
From what I understand of Japanese planning,
the Aleutian invasion and Midway first air attacks were supposed to be executed simultaneouly on June 3rd. At that time, the USN carrier fleet was expected to be in Hawaian waters, thus requiring ~ 2-2.5 days before getting in attack position.

They thus expected air battle with enemy carrier planes as of June 5th in the afternoon or June 6th in the morning - by which time the Midway air garrison would have been totaly annihilated. Thus they expected to have "only" the USN carriers to do battle with, not Midway + carriers simultaneously.

Poor scouting, disregarding (intentional or not ?) of signs that something is not how is supposd to be, all contributed to their catastrophic demise.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Aug 2017 11:13

paulrward wrote:Hello All ;

To Mr. alecsandros :

Probably one of the best ' What Ifs ' of the war. About thirty years ago, a group I was in gamed Midway extensively, with a lot of games of the ' What If ' variety. Two stand out.


...

Wondering what the remnants of the Japanese air wings counted out to at the end of these two games.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by paulrward » 20 Aug 2017 05:27

Hello All :

To Mr. Carl Schwamberger :


In the first game, the IJN was left with about half of the composite group of the Zuikaku, and about half of the composite group of the Hiryu, all on the Zuikaku. Along with this, they had the air groups of the Junyo, Zuiho, Ryujo, and Hosho, and most of the floatplanes of the Chitose's. These were what ultimately gave the IJN the victory, as, after the first day, the US had only the B-17s and PBYs on Midway, and these could provide no air defense for the island. As I recall, the IJN players spent two days bombing Midway, and then invaded, supported by naval gunfire from eight CAs and all four Kongo's.
Also, the damaged Akagi and HIryu were successfully towed back to Japan for refit. ( This may not have been accurate, based on what we now know about seamanship issues in the IJN )


In the second game, the IJN was left with much less. In this game, the IJN team was forced to rely on a much reduced air capability, with the only aircraft available being the survivors of all the groups that were capable of fitting on the Zuiho. In this game, the IJN relied more on gunfire support, the fighting was longer with heavier casualties.

In the second game, the USN was left, after the battle, with only the Wasp and Ranger, along with a half dozen CVEs. The IJN had Shokaku, Zuiho, Ryujo, ( all after repairs ) and the Hosho, along with the newly completing Junyo and Hiyo, the Taiyo, Unyo, and, in November 1942, the Chuyo. Thus, for the rest of 1942, the USN had only about eight carriers, with only two of them being the equivalent of larger CVLs and the rest being CVEs, while the IJN could put together one task force of three fast carriers, ( one CVA, two CVLs) and a second task force of five slow carriers ( two CVA and three CVE ) plus the Hosho for training.

While we never gamed this second scenario further, the concensus of opinion was that the USN could spend a year guarding Hawaii, and playing Cunctator, and then go out and fight the rest of WW2.


These games took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the players ranged from wargamers in their teens ( high school students ) to college students ( Some ROTC ) and a number of older players, including naval officers stationed at NAS Moffet and NAS Alameda. We had a large, diverse group with many interests and a wide variety of experience and knowledge. Some of the officers were WW2 and Korea veterans, with some of the younger ones having served in SEA and the Atlantic in the 1960s-70s.

We all learned a lot.

Respectfully ;

Paul R. Ward
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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by Kingfish » 21 Aug 2017 02:27

From my understanding the US had a very detailed picture of the IJN OOB and anticipated dates for their arrival off Midway, so why should we assume that given this beefed up Kido Butai the USN goes out to meet them in battle?

Is withdrawing the Midway garrison and concentrating on a Hawaiian defense out of the question?
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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 21 Aug 2017 05:37

The size , composition and intentions of the Japanese fleet were not fully known by US Inteligence services (for instance the attack on Dutch Harbor was not anticipated, or if it was, no plans were made to counter it). They did have some very good information , but those informations were not complete and were not considered to be complete not even on June 5th or 6th.

Not knowing the ultimate intentions of the Japanese fleet, USN command went as far as to set up a "last bastion", in the form of 5 old battleships and 1 escort carrier (USS Long Island), to patrol along the western coastline, in the eventuality that the USN fleet at Midway gets destroyed and that the Japanese were actualy pushing towards the West coast (in retaliation against the Doollittle raid).

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 21 Aug 2017 06:34

paulrward wrote: In the second game, the IJN was left with much less. In this game, the IJN team was forced to rely on a much reduced air capability, with the only aircraft available being the survivors of all the groups that were capable of fitting on the Zuiho. In this game, the IJN relied more on gunfire support, the fighting was longer with heavier casualties.
Reading the accounts pertaining to the Battle for Coral Sea, we see that for each total loss , there were also substantial damaged aircraft, kept on board to be repaired, but non-usable for a duration of time.

On May 8th 6:00AM, Zuikaku and Shokaku counted a total of 95 operational machines (+ 2 damaged).
On May 8th 18:00 (after the battle), Zuikaku counted a total of 36 operational machines (+16 damaged). Shokaku counted 5 total machines (number of operational/damaged unknown) as she retreated.
On May 12th, after coducting onboard repairs and in the absence of other battles, Zuikaku counted 45 operational machines (+ 7 damaged).

By substraction, I get air losses for Zuikaku+Shokaku on May 8th as: 97 - 36 - 16 - 5 = 40 machines.
Badly damaged and non-repaired on board: at least 7 machines.
Damaged but repaired in a few days: at least 9 machines.

Note the extreme attrition suffered by Zuikaku/Shokaku, caused by heavy fighting with US attack waves/CAP/AAA gunfire / insufficient landing space for surviving aircrafts.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by alecsandros » 21 Aug 2017 19:08

... Fiddling with the 7 carriers setup,
the following order can be presented:

Attacks on Midway: AKAGI/KAGA/ZUIHO: 1st wave - 32 fighters, 28 dive bombers, 36 level bombers; 2nd wave - 21 fighters, 8 dive bombers, 21 level bombers

Defense and strike against enemy fleet (HIRYU/SORYU/JUNYO/RYUJO):

Reconnaissance: 1st recon (4 hours) - 5 floatplanes from support ships, 2 D4Ys, 5 B5Ns; 2nd recon (4 hours) - 3 floatplanes from support ships, 9 B5N.

Combat air patrol: 1st patrol - 12 fighters; 2nd patrol - 12 fighters; 3rd patrol - 12 figthters; 4th patrol - 12 fighters. Reserve - 8 fighters.

Anti-shipping strike: 12 fighters, 48 dive bombers, 40 torpedo bombers.

---------

Running the historical timings, the anti-shipping strike could be launched fully at 8:30 - 9:00AM, and attacking Yorktown at 11:00, probably sinking her.

However, the problems of combat air patrol (lack of discovery of enemy dive bombers and not enough fighters left at high altitude) would still remain. Thus the attacks by the 55 SBDs at ~ 10:30 would probably still happen, and hit with 8-10 bombs as historically. HOwever, with the strikes fully launched by then, the lack of avgas pipes and bombs/torps on decks would make the damage to Akagi/Soryu/Kaga more manageable, with possibly only 2 of them badly damaged (1 crippled and possibly later scuttled). The 3rd would possibly remain operational, or be brought back to operations the following day.

---------
Situation at 12:00AM would be: Nagumo in the process of recovering ~ 240 machines from the 2 strikes on Midway, the 2 recon sweeps, the 1 strike on Yorktown, and from the 4 combat air patrols. With only 4 landing decks available, the process would be long and problematic, with operational losses of at least further ~ 30-40 machines by 15:00 (out of gas, etc.).

Fletcher in the process of recovering ~ 120 machines from the anti-shipping strikes, and combat air patrols (including survivors from Yorktown. With 2 landing decks operational, the process would take a long time and cause operational losses as well (~ 20 machines).

--------
With insufficient time left to refuel/rearm/relaunch/attack the enemy, both sides would perform emergency repairs on planes and prepare for a final battle on the second day (June 5th).
-------

On June 5th 5:00AM, Nagumo would produce a large attack, with 4 carriers, totaling 108 machines (36/36/36), keeping 30 A6Ms for defence, mostly on Akagi (not used in the anti-shipping attack). A 2nd strike would launched by 6:30, with 12 A6Ms, 20 D3As and 20 B5Ns.
Fletcher would launch at 5:00AM as well, totaling 30 F4Fs, 50 SBDs and keeping 40 F4Fs for combat air patrol.

Thus Nagumo would attack Fletcher with ~ 160 machines, sinking both Enterprise and Hornet.
Fletcher would attack Nagumo with 80 machines, sinking Akagi and badly damaging Hiryu (towed to Japan along with Soryu).

----

On the return , the 130 surviving a/c from Nagumo's strike would try to land on Zuiho/Ryujo/Junyo, relatively small carriers. The combat air patrol would try to land on them as well. Thus operational losses would mount to at least 30-40 machines.

ON the return, the ~ 60 surviving a/c from Fletcher's strike would have nowhere to land, and ditch near the DDs/CAs. Most of the crews would thus be saved.

Thus , at 12:00AM, Nagumo woudl have sea control and air control around Midway, with 3 carriers and approx 130 machines on board, of which ~ 30 damaged and non operational.

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Re: Nagumo with 7 carriers at Midway

Post by T. A. Gardner » 21 Aug 2017 20:00

The oddest thing about this is that there was really no reason the Zuikaku couldn't have gone to Midway. She was undamaged following Coral Sea. While her air wing was decimated, it was easily possible that the Shokaku's remaining planes and air crews could have been transferred to the Zuikaku along with some from the smaller or secondary carriers as replacements to bring the group up to strength.

Yet, the Japanese instead chose to let the carrier sit out the battle while training up a new group rather than simply transfer in replacements that were already trained from other carriers.
ON the return, the ~ 60 surviving a/c from Fletcher's strike would have nowhere to land, and ditch near the DDs/CAs. Most of the crews would thus be saved.
I think the planes would have likely been told by radio to head to Midway rather than return to the carriers if there weren't ones they could land on.

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