Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 Mar 2022 02:28

The excellent book War Plan Orange neatly encapsulates the strategic incoherence under which the Allies were operating in 1941:
In 1941 U.S. war plans contained a defect of logic that strategists in
Washington seemed unwilling to face. A fundamental goal, handed down
from the Rainbow Two and Three studies, was to restrict Japan’s access to
oil. When the oceanic diversionary strategy was first proposed, planners
expected that demonstrations in the central Pacific would help the Malay
Barrier hold out for three months, long enough for a strong British fleet to
arrive after a journey from Europe estimated by the Admiralty at seventy to
ninety days.50 But during the year losses in the Mediterranean and Atlantic
diminished the Royal Navy’s capacity for a rescue (although the British
clung to the hope that a weaker relief effort might do the job).51 Prolonged
resistance at the barrier for the strategic purpose of denying Japan
petroleum could therefore be achieved only if the U.S. Pacific Fleet
advanced to positions from which it could jeopardize Orange traffic with
Malaysia. But the deferral of the Eniwetok assault until M+180 and Truk
until at least M+360 meant the almost certain collapse both of the barrier
defense and of the coordinated alliance strategy. It is unclear whether the
American and British planners misunderstood the mismatched timing of
their missions or indulged in self-delusion.
Note that this book is not a hatchet job on the USN. It later states, "The naval planners made no blunders of decisive consequence during the war" - reflecting perhaps its own "defect of logic."

This is the fundamental reason why the British lost in Malaya. The US was unwilling - perhaps unable - to provide the support that its ally needed to hold the Malay barrier. It was also unwilling to communicate clearly this unwillingness/inability:
For all the bravura talk to the British in 1941, there is little evidence that U.S. leaders thought the Malay Barrier could be held for longer than a few months.
The broader strategic context is a USN that, under Rainbow Five, jumped imprudently on the "Germany First" bandwagon. While I assess that Germany First was the proper grand strategic disposition, it does not follow from that assessment that the USN's battle fleet had much role to play in such a strategy. The Atlantic offered no opportunity for the USN's fleet battle groups to contribute decisively against Germany, while defeat in the Pacific threatened to undermine political support for Germany First. Because the USN incorrectly perceived a need to deploy its battle fleet in service of Germany First, and because it was unwilling or unable to combine main effort with its ally, the world's two largest navies failed to check Japan at sea for six months.

AHF will of course howl reflexively that this is hindsight but of course it is not, because of course the USN had intelligent planners who foresaw the political risks of losing too much to Japan while focusing on Europe:
The two-ocean deployment violated Mahanian orthodoxy of
concentration, but OpNav strategists reasoned that partition was acceptable
if the Pacific Fleet stayed intact and within reassembly range of the decisive
Atlantic theater, literally within a twenty-one-day cruise of Panama.8 It must not,
Stark said, venture far to the west, where it could be mauled by Japan, because it
might have to disengage in response to an actual or potential collapse of the British Isles,
or suffer any defeat that would arouse a public outcry to beat Japan first.
It was foreseeable, in other words, that Germany First was politically feasible only on condition that Japan was properly checked by Pacific defensive strategy. When the Allied defensive strategy brought humiliating defeats one after another, public opinion rapidly roused against it and the US was largely unable to execute Germany First in the first year of the war.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

paulrward
Member
Posts: 665
Joined: 10 Dec 2008 20:14

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by paulrward » 12 Mar 2022 00:58

Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941
It was foreseeable, in other words, that Germany First was politically feasible
only on condition that Japan was properly checked by Pacific defensive strategy. When
the Allied defensive strategy brought humiliating defeats one after another, public opinion
rapidly roused against it and the US was largely unable to execute Germany First in the
first year of the war.

Hello All:

I have been delayed in responding to this thread both by issues relating to weather, as well as my
desire to check several sources, the best of which, ' And I Was There ' by Rear Admiral Edwin Layton,
to ensure I had my facts in the correct order.

The Primary reason for the Allied defeat in the first six months of WW2 was due primarily to one,
single element: TIME. As Napolean told his Marshalls, " I can give you anything you ask for except
TIME ! "


From the start of the War in September, 1939, Britain and the United States had an unspoken
agreement to collaborate in the defeat of Germany, and, to further that end, to avoid making
any moves to halt Japanese aggression in China. Thus, up until the end of June, 1941, essentially,
every time Japan advanced further into China, Churchill and Roosevelt would publicly wring their
hands and denounce Japan's actions, but would do nothing more. Further, in an effort to avoid
antagonizing Japan, and providing them with a cassus belli which would create a Pacific War that
neither the U.S. or Britain desired, both of the Allies avoided reinforcing their Pacific territories
militarily to any great extent. A few obsolete warships were sent, a few squadrons of aircraft
that were aging into obsolescence, but little else.

With the Signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the USSR had been a de-facto member
of the Axis, and when Japan attacked on the Nomonhan in the spring and summer of 1939,
it was seen as beneficial to the Allies. Then, after Germany attacked Poland, the Japanese
abandoned their attacks on Soviet Territory, and signed a Non Aggression Pact, similar to the
Molotov Ribbentrop Pact. In effect, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USSR were now, to the
Allies, one single enemy. But, on June, 21, 1941, Barbarossa began, and things changed
radically. The USSR joined the Allies. Suddenly, the U. S. and Britain had to come up with
supplies to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the possibility of Japan attacking
the USSR on a Pacific Front became an absolute, existential threat to the Allies. Thus, Japan's
position with respect to the U.S. and Britain had changed - they were now an active enemy that
had to be suppressed - but this had to be done carefully. None of the Allied leaders wanted
Japan to actively enter the war against Russia, and at the same time, they wanted to prevent
Japan from either conquering China, or seizing any of the Colonial Territories of the Allies,
territories that were rich in the resources needed by both the Allies and Japan.

We must understand that the three major leaders had three different agendas. Churchill wanted
the U.S. to enter the war, at almost any cost, in order to defeat Germany quickly before a
bankrupted Britain lost control of it's Empire. The Soviets wanted the U.S. to continue supplying
them with military aid and equipment, in order that THEY could defeat Germany, and take
Eastern Europe and Germany by force. And Roosevelt, who in 1940 had campaigned on a
promise of no foreign wars, wanted to continue to supply the other two Allies with military
aid, equipment, and supplies, all sold to them at a profit. For Roosevelt, getting into the war
was NOT his first choice - he would go to war if there were no alternative, but as long as the
U.S. could profit from the war, both economically and in terms of international power, he was
content to allow the U.S. to continue to be the ' Merchant of Death ' for any of the allies,
including the Netherlands East Indies and China, who had the cash to pay for weapons.

The problem was, China. As the war in China continued, Chiang Kai Shek's Koumintang suffered
reverse after reverse. Weapons sold to them by the U.S. were invariably lost in hopeless battles,
the Japanese were gradually taking the major Chinese cities, and the entire coastline was being
occupied, which would eventually cut China off from international arms shipments, and lead
to their speedy defeat. As the U.S. was in no position, politically, to go to war, the only weapon
that Roosevelt could deploy was an economic one - the twin swords of Embargo and Credit Freeze.
( If this is sounding a bit familiar, yes, it is..... )

With the start of Barbarossa, the U.S. ramped up it's supply of materiel to Russia. Then, in
July, 1941, the Japanese, with German cooperation, invaded Vichy held French IndoChina.
To the Roosevelt Administration, this was a dramatic turning point. To Washington, it appeared
likely that Japan would use it's power in the Pacific to take ALL of the European colonies,
including the NEI, Malaya, and possibly even U.S. territories such as the Philippines. For
the U.S., this was unnacceptable.

Immediately, while Japan was still occupying IndoChina, Roosevelt cut off their Oil, as well
as all other materials, and froze all Japanese Assets in the U.S. He then arranged for a summit
meeting at Argentia with Churchill, in which they attempted to hammer out a joint strategy.
This meeting was a failure. Churchill, knowing how weak Britain was, wanted the U.S. to
commit to continue to supply Britain and the USSR, ( But Especially Britain ! ) while at the
same time, putting all the other available assets into a war against Japan, if Japan threatened
the British Empire. He wanted the Pacific Fleet moved to Singapore, as well as large numbers
of troops to be sent to the Pacific, in order to subdue Japan by a huge show of strength. This
was, at the same time, to be accompanied by increased USN commitment to fighting the U-boats
in the Atlantic.

Roosevelt was no fool, and the result of the Argentia Conference was nothing more than a
statement supporting the ideas of the Four Freedoms. The military staffs of Britain and the
U.S. DID confer, and ideas of mutually supporting strategies were discussed, but NO commitment
of U.S. forces to support Britain in the event of an attack by Japan were agreed upon, as such
an agreement would have required the consent of the U.S. Congress, which was unlikely to go
along with any such accord.

However, the twin events of Barbarossa and the Occupation of IndoChina had lit a fire under
Roosevelt's Wheelchair. He was suddenly ending his plans to move ships from the Pacific to
the Atlantic, and further, he began a program to actively reinforce the U.S. territories in the
Pacific, particularly the Philippines.

And here is where a mass program of Self-Deception began: The USAAF had for nearly a decade
been dominated by a group of officers who were collectively known as ' The Bomber Barons ',
whose thesis was that wars could be either easily won, or even prevented, by huge fleets of
four engine bombers that could threaten any enemy nation.

This group convinced, first George Marshall, and then Roosevelt, that a force of some 200
Boeing B-17s, based in the Philippines, with protecting fighters and support equipment,
could so threaten Japan's industrial centers that the Japanese would be unwilling to risk
a war.

The U.S. began, even as the Japanese were occupying IndoChina, to carry out this plan.
On July 27, MacArthur was re-activated in the Army, and the following day was promoted
to Lt. General ( This was done so that he would NOT outrank Marshall ! ) The USAAF began
making plans to deploy B-17s to the Philippines, and the rest of the Army began to deploy
additional units to strengthen MacArthur's forces. This included light tanks, S.P Guns which
were to serve as Tank Destroyers, another Infantry Division, and support units. In addition,
some 100 Curtis P-40s were dispatched to serve as Air Defense for the islands.

The Plan by the U.S. was to send three squadrons of B-17, or 36 aircraft, each month for
six months, for a total of over 210 bombers. Over 100 fighters were being send immediately,
with more in the future. All of the ground forces were to be dispatched as soon as the summer
Army Maneuvers were completed. In all, it was believed that in less than one year, Japan
would find itself running out of Oil and in no position to seize any from the NEI. The first
three squadrons of B-17s, taken from Hawaii, were sent in November, and the next three
were to follow in December. In fact, the fourth squadron was in transit, with nine bombers
arriving over Oahu on December 7th.

The Allies had to not only move Bombers to Manila, but build airfields, hangers, train mechanics,
( and pilots for the P-40s - the USAAF pilots sent were just out of flight school, with ZERO flight
time in a P-40 ! ) , in other words, build the infrastructure to support the huge force being sent
from the United States. This was completely impossible under the circumstances, with the
constraints of time, money, manpower, and equipment available. In effect, Roosevelt and
Marshall were gambling that the mere presence of the bombers, whether or not they could
fly and fight, would be enough to intimidate the Japanese. The United States was bluffing
with a pair of threes. The Japanese were holding a straight flush, and called their bluff.

Because, for the Allies, TIME had run out ! The Japanese, from the moment Roosevelt
imposed his Oil Embargo on them, had begun preparations for their attack. They had
determined that the U.S. was the most important enemy, so the IJN was tasked with disabling
the USN at Pearl Harbor, while the IJN took the Philippines, Malaya, the NEI, and a few other
islands to help make up the Defensive Perimeter of the Greater East Asian Co Prosperity Sphere.

This massive offensive overwhelmed the Allies. The rapid conquest of Malaya, and the fall
of Singapore, ( with the loss of two British Capital Ships ) prevented the British from having
any effect on stopping the Japanese. The rapid conquest of the NEI, assisted by a native
population that was, for all intents in and purposed, apathetic to the Allied cause, meant
that the Allies could not prevent the Japanese from getting the Oil they needed for their
Empire. And, while MacArthur and his forced managed to hold out for nearly three times
the length of time that Japanese had allotted to the conquest of the Philippines, they were,
in the end, defeated. and the G.E.A.C.P.S. was essentially complete. The Japanese now had
the Oil of the NEI, the Bauxite, Rubber, and Coal of Malaya, the Tungsten, Tin, and Iron of
French IndoChina, and the Timber, sugar, and rice from the Philppines and IndoChina.

The Allies were defeated because, in large part, they never expected to be attacked everywhere
at once ! They literally could no cooperate in defense, because they were all being simultaneously
overwhelmed, and had no reserves they could allocate to their allies.

The rapid Japanese advances, at sea and on land, in the first few months were the result of
detailed planning, well trained, equipped, and supplied forces, and their opposition being
confined to weak, understrength colonial forces, many of which had little incentive to fight,
and less ability to do so.


While the U.S. never abandoned the ' Europe First ' Grand Strategy, the first year in the Pacific
put a slight crimp on their program, as did the disastrous first year of war against the U-boats,
which saw some 400 mercantile ships sunk in the Western Atlantic, including some 100 tankers,
which greatly inhibited USN operations and overall fuel supplies to the Allies until the tanker
shortage could be made up at the end of 1943.

Could the United States and Great Britain have prevented the Pacific Disaster in the first half
of 1942? Yes. it could have been easily prevented. But only if the United States had begun
in January, 1940 the preparations it instituted so belatedly in the second half of 1941.


Respectfully :

Paul R. Ward
Information not shared, is information lost
Voices that are banned, are voices who cannot share information....
Discussions that are silenced, are discussions that will occur elsewhere !

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5849
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by glenn239 » 13 Mar 2022 14:29

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Mar 2022 02:28
The Atlantic offered no opportunity for the USN's fleet battle groups to contribute decisively against Germany...
But it did. The American strategic incoherence you outline was actually deeper than what you suggest. The US fleet did have a decisive role to play in a Germany first strategy in 1942 under bold and decisive Allied leadership. But the Allies had neither in 1942, it was war by committee with muddling results that year. (I wouldn't want to exaggerate Anglo-American strategic blunders in 1942 because in part the caution underpinning them reflected the overwhelming long term inevitability of Allied victory. Not taking risks in 1942 such as defending the Malay Barrier was a logical departure from the Rainbow concepts you outline because it did not matter in the long run whether Japan got the oil or not, it would still lose).

The opportunity the Allies had in Europe in 1942 were a better concept for Torch aimed at Toulon and Marseilles. To contemplate a direct landing there, the Allies would need the bulk of the US Pacific Fleet carriers, and all the British carriers. If successful the Germans would be out of France before the end of 1943, as a drive from the south would allow a 1943 invasion in the north.

OpanaPointer
Financial supporter
Posts: 5595
Joined: 16 May 2010 14:12
Location: United States of America

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 13 Mar 2022 18:38

http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/extra.html

Jump down to "Pre-War Allied Planning."
Come visit our sites:
hyperwarHyperwar
World War II Resources

Bellum se ipsum alet, mostly Doritos.

Lethl215
Member
Posts: 59
Joined: 19 Mar 2019 00:00
Location: Texas

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by Lethl215 » 13 Mar 2022 20:22

OpanaPointer wrote:
13 Mar 2022 18:38
http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/extra.html

Jump down to "Pre-War Allied Planning."
I’m sure the authors are familiar, but a review of the links posted, especially WPL-46, PACFLT and LANTFLT Tasks, along with Section VIII and Appendix 2 generally show planned movements and what’s available. Remember, the enemy has a vote, and so does the public in democracies. Also, Singapore was off the table early in ABC-1 when Turner shut the door hard on the British delegation.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Mar 2022 00:05

glenn239 wrote:
13 Mar 2022 14:29
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Mar 2022 02:28
The Atlantic offered no opportunity for the USN's fleet battle groups to contribute decisively against Germany...
But it did.
How so?

USN sinks every German fleet unit... Then what?

Are you talking about the fleet supporting earlier/stronger action in Norway or the Med? I could see an argument there, perhaps, but I don't think it's decisive if Germany defeats the SU. You're on record disbelieving the possibility of such German victory, which is fine, but the Allies are unambiguously on record as believing that such German victory was entirely feasible - even in 1942. They're also on record in believing that such German victory would preclude decisive action against Germany "indefinitely."

So if we remove the hindsight of RKKA defeating Ostheer, I can't see how anything but Sledgehammer enables decisive Allied action in 1942. And I don't see any role for the USN in Sledgehammer.

If, OTOH, the SU survives then Allied victory is only a matter of time and Germany should be defeated first. On that contingency branch, a diversion of resources to the Pacific slows the VE timeline. As such a diversion is inevitable - on well-foreseen political grounds - if Japan sees too much initial success, and as only the USN can prevent such initial Japanese success, it follows that USN should be overwhelmingly Pacific-focused to preserve the grand strategy of Germany First.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Mar 2022 00:18

Lethl215 wrote:
13 Mar 2022 20:22
Turner shut the door hard on the British delegation.
The question is whether one declining alcoholic's strategic evaluation reflected a full analytical treatment of all global options.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Mar 2022 01:05

paulrward wrote:
12 Mar 2022 00:58
This group convinced, first George Marshall, and then Roosevelt, that a force of some 200
Boeing B-17s, based in the Philippines, with protecting fighters and support equipment,
could so threaten Japan's industrial centers that the Japanese would be unwilling to risk
a war.
This is an aspect of global American strategic delusion. It's classic motivated cognition: If you're averse to fighting a massive ground war, convince yourself that the shiny new object has forever obviated such wars. The delusion held some sway in Britain as well.
paulrward wrote:Roosevelt was no fool, and the result of the Argentia Conference was nothing more than a
statement supporting the ideas of the Four Freedoms. The military staffs of Britain and the
U.S. DID confer, and ideas of mutually supporting strategies were discussed, but NO commitment
of U.S. forces to support Britain in the event of an attack by Japan were agreed upon, as such
an agreement would have required the consent of the U.S. Congress, which was unlikely to go
along with any such accord.
Are we sure that making arrangements for later US support of the British along the Malay Barrier would have required Congressional authorization? There was, e.g., a plan to send a carrier group (IIRC Yorktown's?) via the Torres Strait at some point.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Mar 2022 03:42

OpanaPointer wrote:
13 Mar 2022 18:38
http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/extra.html

Jump down to "Pre-War Allied Planning."
I've always thought these plans' emphasis on defending the Western Hemisphere (even after "Hemispheric Defense" was formally abandoned/transcended) exhibit an incredible logistical naivete. The notion of Germany threatening Brazil or Bermuda or even the Azores is just facially absurd. Even supposing that the Axis could sneak an expeditionary force into any of those territories, the Allies should have welcomed them to commit to such unsupportable disasters - then bag the expeditionary forces and easily destroy their supporting assets.

That American planners thought like children regarding enemy transoceanic logistics tells me they just weren't thinking hard or were using these fears as phantasms to justify force dispositions on other grounds (e.g. an eagerness to get into the European war). Because of course they weren't children logistically so they must have been pretending to be.

An example of this is Admiral King urging a strong defense of Australia/NZ because they were "white men's countries" that the Asiatic Japanese shouldn't be allowed to conquer. Do we really believe King was logistically naive enough to believe Japan could have supported a conquest of Australia? Of course not. KIng was only pretending to be stupid and using race-baiting as a weapon for more resources in the Pacific.

[I am aware, btw, that part of the envisioned hemispheric threat involved Axis subversion of governments. I do not see how this changes the picture meaningfully, however.]
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 14 Mar 2022 03:59, edited 1 time in total.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

OpanaPointer
Financial supporter
Posts: 5595
Joined: 16 May 2010 14:12
Location: United States of America

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 14 Mar 2022 03:59

The plans were "leaked" to certain countries to show that we wouldn't be abandoning them.

And remember, attacking Pearl Harbor was an absurd notion at one point.
Come visit our sites:
hyperwarHyperwar
World War II Resources

Bellum se ipsum alet, mostly Doritos.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 14 Mar 2022 04:02

OpanaPointer wrote:
14 Mar 2022 03:59
The plans were "leaked" to certain countries to show that we wouldn't be abandoning them.
That would be an acceptable explanation had we leaked stupid plans and then not followed them. What happened is we made stupid plans and followed them.
Opana Pointer wrote: And remember, attacking Pearl Harbor was an absurd notion at one point.
Nothing about the stupidity of not adequately defending against Japan, and of inventing a critical USN strategic mission in the Atlantic, has anything to do with whether PH happens.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

OpanaPointer
Financial supporter
Posts: 5595
Joined: 16 May 2010 14:12
Location: United States of America

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by OpanaPointer » 14 Mar 2022 11:47

Oh, I agree.
Come visit our sites:
hyperwarHyperwar
World War II Resources

Bellum se ipsum alet, mostly Doritos.

Fatboy Coxy
Member
Posts: 856
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 18 Apr 2022 20:04

Putting a British perspective on this, the ABC talks between January and March 1941, cemented Germany First to Churchill and Britain's satisfaction, but maybe Britain overplayed it. British interests in the Far East were left practically unprotected, except for the faith Churchill placed in Roosevelts strategy on dealing with and containing Japan.

The USN did provide help in the western North Atlantic prior to the United States being drawn into the conflict of WW2, but maybe it was more than Britain needed. Would the USN capital ships transferred into the North Atlantic in response to the ABC talk outcomes, have been better used in the Pacific, or would they have become just merely more damaged or sunken ships at Pearl Harbor?
Regards
Fatboy Coxy

Currently writing https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/ ... if.521982/

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 18 Apr 2022 20:17

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
18 Apr 2022 20:04
Putting a British perspective on this, the ABC talks between January and March 1941, cemented Germany First to Churchill and Britain's satisfaction, but maybe Britain overplayed it. British interests in the Far East were left practically unprotected, except for the faith Churchill placed in Roosevelts strategy on dealing with and containing Japan.
Churchill wasn't sufficiently concerned about the Far East. He explicitly stated he'd rather lose Singapore than the Nile, which is bad strategic judgment.
Fatboy Coxy wrote:Would the USN capital ships transferred into the North Atlantic in response to the ABC talk outcomes, have been better used in the Pacific, or would they have become just merely more damaged or sunken ships at Pearl Harbor?
Those USN ships should have been based in Trincomalee.
Fatboy Coxy wrote:Currently writing https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/ ... if.521982/
I don't like reading alternate history stories but am interested in counterfactual proposals phrased in analytical terms. What's the short version of yours?
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
T. A. Gardner
Member
Posts: 3521
Joined: 02 Feb 2006 00:23
Location: Arizona

Re: Allied strategic incoherence in the Pacific, 1941

Post by T. A. Gardner » 19 Apr 2022 03:31

I see this a bit differently.

The US did want to and tried to support actions in Asia that would contain the Japanese. The problem they faced was not just one of time but one of, let's say motion. That is, moving what was necessary to Asia to accomplish that goal wasn't easy and couldn't be accomplished with the then existing shipping resources.

For example, the US recognized that China needed a better air force to counter the Japanese. To that end, they got civilian parties to form and open the CAMCO (Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company) in China. The plan was to ship crated aircraft like the Curtiss Hawk 75 to China where CAMCO would assemble the planes for use. A pilot training program would accompany the factory.
The program was marked by a degree of incompetence on the part of the management but also by Japanese advances that forced repeated relocation of the plant disrupting production. In the end, CAMCO ended up in India where it would eventually become Hindustan Aircraft, a company still in business today.

The buildup of forces in the Philippines was another case of too little, too late. Certainly, MacArthur didn't put as much urgency into standing up a Philippine Army as he could have, and the US material build up there was severely limited by available shipping space. The same could be said of Wake Island for the same reason. The number of cargo ships available for US government contracting was seriously limited as the majority were already taken by the civilian economy, something Congress was loathe in peacetime to disrupt.

In Malaya the British top commanders were mired in a combination of peacetime thinking as to urgency along with not wanting to upset the local government and powerful civilian figures over things like training and construction of suitable defensive works to hold the peninsula. It didn't help that the local forces were undermanned, often poorly trained, and regularly syphoned off of for replacements in other theaters.

Pearl Harbor was mostly a result of political decisions from the FDR administration than something the USN wanted. The Navy wanted the battle fleet held on the US West Coast, FDR wanted it in Hawaii as a forward presence to intimidate the Japanese. I doubt, with hindsight, that it would have made much difference if it was on the West Coast rather than in Hawaii other than the cost and efforts put into salvage wouldn't have occurred.

Again with hindsight, the US probably should have put more surface units into the Asianic Fleet than they did as this likely would have made a significant difference. But at the time, the reasoning was that doing this would just result in more losses and was cost ineffective. Had the US Asianic Fleet been larger--say several more cruisers and several more destroyer squadrons--it is likely that the Japanese would have faced far greater difficulty taking the DEI than they did. The US could have afforded the losses, but that is with hindsight knowing what wartime production became.

Imagine that the US adds a second heavy cruiser with Houston, a second Omaha class light cruiser with Marblehead, and the Erie and Charleston (both "expendable"), along with two more destroyer squadrons of 4 pipers. A second destroyer tender and a seaplane tender are sent to Manila. That would have given the Asiatic Fleet some real teeth versus the Japanese while doing relatively little to US naval readiness elsewhere.

Return to “WW2 in the Pacific & Asia”