Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

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TheMarcksPlan
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 May 2022 17:57

EwenS wrote:This article explains the USN Pacific Fleet oil position in Dec 1941.
https://faculty.cc.gatech.edu/~tpilsch/ ... onovan.pdf
Thanks. I've read this before but didn't save it.

It has good points/info but contains a lot of the superficial "logistics!" crap. For example - Nimitz saying that strikes on PH oil would have extended the war by 2 years and Kimmel saying that Pac Fleet would have needed 75 oilers in 1941 to operate heavily at sea. This is the kind of obvious BS that professionals talking about logistics can say because they know everybody else is too bored to question "logistics!" Not even the author of a "logistics!" paper bothers to question these absurd statements. That Kimmel would make BS excuses when testifying to Congress is too obvious to bear.
EwenS wrote:The extent of the problem is summed up in the fact that in the 9 days following PH the Pacific Fleet consumed nearly the equivalent of the capacity of its entire tanker fleet in the Pacific.
Pac Fleet burned 760k barrels or 17% of the PH stockpile - presumably much of the burn was drawn from the West Coast though.

Even assuming all was drawn from PH, Pac Fleet could have operated for 2 months at that rate with ZERO replenishment from ConUS. Those two months are the critical period for not letting a relatively puny country conquer a big chunk of the world and wreck your grand strategy (Germany First).

Maybe instead of prioritizing fastidiousness in inventory management, USN should have prioritized actual fighting. For all that the author and the "logistics!" crowd love to obscure it, a military's main job is to kill the other guys. While the Japanese military was busy conquering and killing, the US Navy was busy doing very little of strategic value. They didn't even prevent a handful of German subs from destroying US logistics in the Caribbean.
EwenS wrote:One question in my mind is the civilian capacity. Given that most of Japan’s oil was shipped from California in US registered tankers and the oil embargo went into effect on 1 Aug 1941, this should have released tanker tonnage for the lift from California to PH. Where did they in fact go? More research required.
Good point and I'm glad you're asking questions.

I'd also question the author's assertion that only 4 US oilers were capable of at-sea replenishment. Even if true - why? Was it because the USN planned to sit around watching Tirpitz? Might they have made the necessary physical/training modifications to their oilers, had their 1941 strategy involved actually doing something in the Pacific?
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 05 May 2022 18:07

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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 May 2022 18:30

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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 May 2022 22:25

Someone still hasn't read Grey Steel and Black Oil.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by jbroshot » 06 May 2022 03:49

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 May 2022 22:25
Someone still hasn't read Grey Steel and Black Oil.
Available for reading at Hyperwar

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/GSBO/index.html

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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by EwenS » 06 May 2022 06:33

The first chapter of Beans, Bullets and Black Oil is worth reading as it sets out the pre-war plans relating to the supply of the US Pacific Fleet.
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/l ... k-oil.html

Note that fuelling at sea was considered more of an “emergency stunt” and not the standard means it became. Fuelling was intended to be carried out at advanced bases seized for the purpose.

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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 06 May 2022 12:26

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 May 2022 22:25
Someone still hasn't read Grey Steel and Black Oil.
No, but I digitized it. 8-)
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 06 May 2022 12:27

EwenS wrote:
06 May 2022 06:33
The first chapter of Beans, Bullets and Black Oil is worth reading as it sets out the pre-war plans relating to the supply of the US Pacific Fleet.
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/l ... k-oil.html

Note that fuelling at sea was considered more of an “emergency stunt” and not the standard means it became. Fuelling was intended to be carried out at advanced bases seized for the purpose.
And we didn't think the IJN could refuel at sea at all IIRC.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 May 2022 14:31

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 May 2022 22:25
Someone still hasn't read Grey Steel and Black Oil.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 May 2022 15:04

EwenS wrote:
06 May 2022 06:33
The first chapter of Beans, Bullets and Black Oil is worth reading as it sets out the pre-war plans relating to the supply of the US Pacific Fleet.
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/l ... k-oil.html

Note that fuelling at sea was considered more of an “emergency stunt” and not the standard means it became. Fuelling was intended to be carried out at advanced bases seized for the purpose.
Thanks there's some good info there but no laying out the global distribution of oilers in late Dec. 41 or the rationale thereof. Still more research needed though certain important facts are clear:
  • only 4 of USN's 12 fast oilers were in the Pacific
  • USN was focused on watching Tirpitz, which was a super scary German demon ship
Beans/Bullets/Oil has good discussion of the logistics of the early-war carrier raids in Gilberts/Marshalls/Wake. Each CV taskforce brought along only one fast oiler, though the authors appropriately state this was risky. Had USN planned to operate offensively with 5 (or 6, if they use Ranger aggressively) CV's in the Pacific, that would have required 5/6 fleet oilers. Pac Fleet didn't have that many fast oilers but USN certainly did. This requires taking some (2 IIRC) of the Cimarrons off the PH-West Coast oil shuttle but that capacity can be replaced by merchants, who can be drawn from elsewhere (tell Britain to dig into stocks a bit while we save their ass in the Pacific, for example).

What to do with 5/6 CV TF's? Avoiding the immediate Asiatic Reinforcement discussion for a moment, these could have planned to fight for or relieve Wake Island - an obvious and anticipated Japanese target. That is, of course, what actually happened. Fletcher's errand was a bad one because he had only 1 CV - here he steams out with 5 or 6. If IJN does as in OTL they probably lose 2 carriers in the ensuing fight.

USN would then keep operating in the Central Pacific, reinforcing Wake and raiding the Marshalls/Gilberts and maybe even Marianas. It is purposely sticking its noise out because, being strategically competent, it is willing to pay a price to prevent Japan conquering Southeast Asia.

It is not inconceivable that IJN would stumble into a disastrous defeat trying to take a meaningless island in the Central Pacific. It wouldn't make USN strategy good - it would have relied on the enemy being stupid - but it's at least better than watching Tirpitz while Southeast Asia falls.

Let's say the USN merely fights IJN to a draw in the Central Pacific, heavy attrition favoring neither side. If Britain hasn't neglected the Far East and the Admiralty hasn't crafted a forward-operating strategy in false reliance on US intentions, then they should be able to hold somewhere in Malaya for at least 3 months. With IJN heavily attrited, global Allied naval supremacy can be concentrated in ABDA to contest the South China Sea successfully and hold the Barrier. From Singapore, do carrier raids against Japanese LoC's supporting the siege of Bataan, probably run a few supply ships into the garrison there.

I'd also have changed the nature of US Philippine reinforcement, which reflected the US cult of the B-17. Probably could have sent a few hundred P-40's instead of those B-17's (ground support of HB's being enormous). With a coherent strategy, those P-40's make their way to Malaya and help hold there.

------------------------------------------

With Japan stopped short of the oil fields and lacking naval supremacy for further offensive operations, Allies can put the Pacific on pause from Spring '42 or so. They can maybe do Torch in July as originally envisioned, then invade France in 1943. Millions fewer deaths in Europe and Asia.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 May 2022 15:41

EwenS wrote:
28 Apr 2022 10:26
In 1936 the total Admiralty oil fuel storage in Australia & New Zealand totalled 120,000 tons. Only part of that was at Darwin (11 tanks IIRC).
What was the status in 1941 and what could have been the status given a coherent inter-Allied strategy to defend Southeast Asia?
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 May 2022 16:09

I'd like to address something from Boyd's Royal Navy in Eastern Waters...

Boyd rightly praises the Admiralty's post-PH "white paper" treatment of Far East strategy for recognizing the importance of the Indian Ocean and gathering forces sufficient for its defense. He rightly points out that Singapore was not necessary to defending IO LoC's, as events demonstrated.

Excerpt:
The paper maintained that the best way to protect the Indian Ocean
remained a balanced fleet at Singapore able to dispute command of the
South China Sea with Japan. This remained the Admiralty’s goal. However,
it was impossible to provide an adequate fleet to meet Japanese southern
forces, comprising perhaps five capital ships and five aircraft carriers, in the
foreseeable future. Singapore must depend on land, air and submarine
power while a new Eastern Fleet concentrated in the Indian Ocean. After
calculating the minimum forces required in the Atlantic, taking account of
US Navy support there, and withdrawing the eastern Mediterranean battle fleet,
the paper anticipated up to nine battleships and three fleet carriers
were available for this Eastern Fleet. However, apart from the four ‘R’-class
battleships, most of these could not deploy until February or later. The fleet
would initially base at Trincomalee and Port T (Addu Atoll). Both would
need improved support facilities and air defence. The paper concluded that
under these proposals, three-quarters of Royal Navy strength in major war
vessels would be in the Indian Ocean. This might be considered
disproportionate. However, the Royal Navy faced greater enemy forces in
the East, and the consequences of a Japanese attack on Australasia were
incalculable. A drastic change in policy was justified.
What Boyd does not permit himself to explore is whether something like this "drastic change in policy" would have saved Singapore and Southeast Asia. What had changed in Europe on Dec. 7 to enable concentration of 75% of RN in the Pacific? Not much, of course.

Boyd rightly emphasizes the strategic importance of the MidEast but does not query the sub-strategic/tactical question of whether ME could be held at El Alamein or the Nile or Suez instead of at the Egyptian border. Despite all the great research in Boyd's work and Miller's, each is constrained by a fundamentally patriotic orientation that praises the respective navies.

Foregoing Crusader and authorizing Auchinleck to defend flexibly with lesser forces in the Western Desert cannot have produced a strategic disaster. Rommel could not leap from Bardia to Baghdad. If an emergency developed, the Far East could always be weakened to address it.

The Empire also held multiple divisions watching the "Northern Front" against a possible German invasion via Turkey. This was a waste because, as later conceded, Britain had no prospect of holding the Northern Front if the conditions for German attack there eventuated (collapse of Russia and/or Turkish accession to Axis).

Moving some of these Egypt/ME resources to Malaya could have given time to execute a coherent broader strategy for stopping Japanese expansion, had the Allies formulated such a strategy.

The old saw "Defend everything = defend nothing" applies here. Only it's worse because Britain went with "defend everything and attack [Crusader]." It didn't help that Britain had a stupid strategic partner in the USN but her inability to demonstrate commitment to Barrier defense played into American shortsightedness and passivity.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 May 2022 21:05

Came across this in Hitler's American Gamble:
the president prefaced this last remark by suggesting the [Pearl Harbor] attack was designed to “bring about the transfer of American naval vessels from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” and he was determined “to avoid this if at all possible,”
So even AFTER Pearl Harbor, when there's no longer any question of avoiding war in the Pacific and Japan has already landed in Malaya, and when he's not even sure he'll get a war in the Atlantic, FDR still wanted to keep the USN focused on the Atlantic.

Profoundly shortsighted and wrongheaded but, as we see over and over in the history of war, plans often do survive contact with the enemy - at least for longer than they should.
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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 May 2022 19:02

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 May 2022 16:09
What had changed in Europe on Dec. 7 to enable concentration of 75% of RN in the Pacific?
A great question, although worth noting that the paper doesn't call for concentration of 75% of the RN in the Pacific!

It's not 75% of the RN - but of "major war vessels".

It's not the Pacific - but the Indian Ocean.

And it didn't happen anyway.

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Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 May 2022 02:59

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
23 May 2022 19:02
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 May 2022 16:09
What had changed in Europe on Dec. 7 to enable concentration of 75% of RN in the Pacific?
A great question, although
What had changed in Europe on Dec. 7 to enable concentration of 75% of RN heavy units in the Indian Ocean?
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