Operation C 1942

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Peter H
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Operation C 1942

Post by Peter H » 03 Mar 2009 11:50

One source I have read calls Nagumo's foray into the Indian Ocean in March/April 1942 as "a strategic blunder that was to cost Japan dear".

Wouldn't it have been better to have not given the US Navy a respite after Pearl Harbor?


More here on Operation C:
http://warandgame.wordpress.com/2008/10 ... -overview/


Map from: http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp

Image

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pikeshot1600
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by pikeshot1600 » 03 Mar 2009 14:44

Peter,

The perception in the IJN staff was that after Pearl, the USN would be out of action in the western Pacific for a year or more, even though Yamamoto was guarded in his net assessment. Clearing the Indian Ocean of the RN would provide a buffer to the IJN west of Singapore and solidify the defensive bastion that would protect the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere (aka the Japanese Empire). In spring, 1942, this looked realistic.

Even if the US did not sue for peace, the Japanese were confident that their strategy of attrition and their defensive positions in the Pacific could win the war for them. From June to August, this was all turned on it's head by Midway and Guadalcanal.

The Japanese at least ran the battle units of the RN out of the Indian Ocean as they pulled back to east Africa. The conception that both the US and britain were on the ropes in spring 1942 had some perceptual validity, so the operation seems militarily justified.
Last edited by pikeshot1600 on 03 Mar 2009 23:05, edited 1 time in total.

Mostlyharmless
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Mostlyharmless » 03 Mar 2009 21:57

I can agree with your and perhaps Thomas' argument. However, as I posted down at the What If forum recently http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 4&start=30, Operation C "could have" significantly helped Germany. Had Indomitable and Formidable been crippled or sunk by air attack on the afternoon of the 5th April and had Nagumo then spent several days destroying almost all of Somerville's fleet, squadrons of cruisers such as Ozawa's could have stopped all shipping in the Indian Ocean until a new British fleet was sent east.

ps. (off thread) Where do you find your photographs? I even tried Google image searching with 翔鶴 城島高次. Nothing!

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Peter H
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Peter H » 04 Mar 2009 11:29

Thomas also relates that "in a period of four and a half months he[Nagumo] had operated with effect and authority across 120 degress of longitude--one third of the way around the world--from Hawaii to Ceylon".

I guess its sometimes not realised the enormous distances covered by the Carrier Force in this period.

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mescal
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by mescal » 04 Mar 2009 16:38

The downsides of the Indian Ocean foray are quite easy to describe with hindsight. It was mainly the lack of time for rest & refit, and the continuous wear of the aircraft component of Kido Butai. All of those will play a non-negligible role at Midway (that's where the hindsight lie, but it can also be argued that this wear process should be apparent to any IJN staff officer).
Some benefits are also easy to compute : two heavy cruisers and one (albeit old) carrier sunk, the RN pushed back to the other side of the Indian Ocean.

However, giving 'true' values to these costs & benefits is far from easy, as it depends on a lot of assumptions on the views of the IJN staff and the data they had at hand. (For example, what precisely was known to the IJN of the Royal Navy strength and intentions in the Indian Ocean ?).
And there are the opportunity costs which are not to be forgotten : sinking HMS Hermes is good but the value of KB would have been higher if employed to trap and sink USS Lexington or Yorktown, or help invade Australia (pure fictions to illustrate my point, I do not assume it would have been possible).


We have to go back to the purpose of the Operation C : consolidate the Western edge of the Japanese expansion by attacking the Eastern Fleet and its bases. In this respect it was a half-failure since Nagumo was not able to bring Somerville to battle, but Colombo & Trincomalee were hit hard and the RN fell back on Africa - but even if Eastern Fleet is less dangerous at Kilindini than at Trincomalee, it's still more dangerous here than at the bottom of the Ocean.
It may be argued that it was by sheer bad luck that the two fleets did not meet, but I feel that the IJN staff should have been ready to see the RN refuse the fight and retreat -- after the fall of Singapore & Malaya, there was no vital interest for UK which required a fleet for their defense (Burma was doomed anyway, and KB and not the staying power required to inflict real harm on India). Given what was known to both sides of the relative capabilities of the two fleets, a retreat may well have been the best solution for Somerville.
So I think that designing Op. C as an attempt to bring RN to battle was an extremely optimistic view.
The anti-shipping raid was also of little value (it's good to sink 200,000 tons of enemy shipping, but if you cannot do this on a protracted basis, this is not crippling for the enemy (cf. Dönitz who expressed the sinking requirement to starve England not in mere numbers of tons, but in tons/month). But if there is no better employment for those heavy cruisers and if they do not need maintenance, it's perhaps better to have them do commerce raiding instead of sitting at anchor at Hashirajima.

My overall (hindsightfull) view on this question is that it was a big investment which yielded relative small returns. Even if no other operation promised better returns, rest & refit for KB became by that time more and more necessary.
The purpose of stabilizin the Indian Ocean flank could have been obtained by basing 2 to 4 old battlewagons of BatDiv 2 (Fuso, Yamashiro, Ise, Hyuga) and 2 second-line aircraft carriers (among Zuiho, Shoho & Ruyjo - later more probably Hiyo & Junyo) at Singapore, to free KB to more critical missions.

But, given the way of thinking at the Japanese Navy headquarter at that time, it really made more sense.
Actually, it's perhaps less of a blunder than a proof of the difficulties in Japanese planning in March/April 42. They had reached most of their objectives (Singapore, NEI, Rabaul, Malaya ...) or were close to doing so (Burma), while losing few resources (= ships). They had to enter a next step of their strategy, but were never able to have a clean design for this second step.
In this light, if this second step was to attack India and move West, then operation C was mandatory. On the contrary, if Australia was the main target, it was of very little value.
As it was, without any clear target, Operation C was some "second best" or lesser evil -- and only if you do not consider the tempo of operations, which required a break for rest & refit.
Olivier

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Peter H
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Peter H » 04 Mar 2009 23:49

If Nagumo's carriers had been available for Operation MO perhaps the aim of isolating Australia could have been achieved.Port Moresby,Samoa,New Caledonia,Fiji could have been seized.Fletcher would have been brushed aside at the Coral Sea?

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Mar 2009 02:20

Possibly Fletcher would have been brushed aside, or worse. Alternatly the US might have identified the strength of the enemy fleet and stepped aside until the Japanese carrier group headed back to base, then made another of those anoying raids that scattered the Japanese transports and disrupted the overall operation. Worse case for the Japanese is that more carriers available results in another overly complex operations that falls apart in a ambush.

Aside from the Oahu raid of December what were the Japanese carrier actions that favorablly decisive results in 1942?

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Peter H
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Peter H » 05 Mar 2009 06:20

Japanese photos of HMS Hermes being sunk
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Peter H
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Peter H » 05 Mar 2009 07:03

HMS Cornwall,Dorsetshire hit as well
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Brady
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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Brady » 05 Mar 2009 07:13

Fantastic!, I had only ever sean the Top Picture of Hermes, and the HMS Cornwall,Dorsetshire , I hadent sean the first two before, very cool Indead.

Not to long ago I read The Emperor's Sea Eagle: A Memoir of the Attack on Pearl Harbor by Abe Zenji :

http://www.arizonamemorialbookstore.org ... 4,276.html

He was a Val Piolet, and was in on the atack on the HMS Cornwall,Dorsetshire, their hit rate was astounding.

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Mostlyharmless » 09 Mar 2009 23:10

I have been trying to find what the Japanese intended to achieve in Operation C. One source is Toshikazu Ohmae (the family name is Ohmae also written Omae) in The Japanese Navy in WW2 ed. David C. Evans, pages 105-118. He states that the original request was from the Army to cut off India from Britain and America (10th January 1942). The Imperial General Headquarters reached an agreement on this (15th Jan. 1942). Captain Kuroshima of the Combined Fleet drew up a plan aimed destroying the British Fleet, taking Ceylon and making contact with the Germans (27th January). However, the Army declined to supply troops for the attack on Ceylon and a plan for a raid on Ceylon was substituted on 14th February. This was war gamed on 20-22 February and the operation ordered on 9th March. The orders gave two objectives: to smash the British Fleet and to destroy the British Airforce in the Bay of Bengal.

My view, with the advantage of hindsight, is that aiming to cutoff India and to destroy the British Fleet were sensible objectives. Trying to invade Ceylon and to fight the British Airforce in the Bay of Bengal was much less sensible. It was also necessary to find the British Fleet in order to destroy it and there was not enough reconnaissance in the plan. The correct plan was to land SNLFs to establish a base at Addu Atoll for flying boats, submarines and raiders! This would not have gone smoothly but would have achieved the two critical objectives (and found the British Fleet!!).

Ohmae quotes H.P. Willmott, Empires in the Balance: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies in April 1942, page 438, as writing "Had the Japanese risked everything on a major military and naval effort in the Indian Ocean, then both Britain and the USSR might have been forced out of the war." I think that that is a huge overstatement. However, had the British Fleet been destroyed, it would have had to be replaced and allied transports could not have used the Indian Ocean until it had been replaced. If nothing sailed to Egypt during May, June and July, Egypt might well have fallen to Axis forces. In August 1942, the British could reinforce Malta and the Americans could invade Guadalcanal. I am not sure that both operations are possible if a new fleet is needed for the Indian Ocean.

As well as the problems mentioned earlier, apparently not being able to send ships to Ceylon would hurt Anglo-American production in an unobvious way as Ceylon (with Brazil) became important as sources of natural rubber and some natural rubber needed to be blended with the BUNA for several applications.

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Mar 2009 23:47

Mostlyharmless wrote:Ohmae quotes H.P. Willmott, Empires in the Balance: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies in April 1942, page 438, as writing "Had the Japanese risked everything on a major military and naval effort in the Indian Ocean, then both Britain and the USSR might have been forced out of the war." I think that that is a huge overstatement. However, had the British Fleet been destroyed, it would have had to be replaced and allied transports could not have used the Indian Ocean until it had been replaced. If nothing sailed to Egypt during May, June and July, Egypt might well have fallen to Axis forces. In August 1942, the British could reinforce Malta and the Americans could invade Guadalcanal. I am not sure that both operations are possible if a new fleet is needed for the Indian Ocean.
How much of the Japanese fleet must remain in the Indian Ocean to ensure traffic to Egypt is adaquately reduced?

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Mostlyharmless » 11 Mar 2009 01:56

Carl Schwamberger wrote:How much of the Japanese fleet must remain in the Indian Ocean to ensure traffic to Egypt is adaquately reduced?
A less than serious answer is a force stronger than the escort of such traffic. I was thinking of Ozawa's force of heavy cruisers and the light carrier Ryujo as used in the Bay of Bengal. Clearly, had a second carrier and/or one or two of the Kongos been sent, a much stronger British escort would have been required.

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 11 Mar 2009 02:28

I guess the next serious question would be how that would draw on the IJN fuel supply. Picking thru the literature I noticed remarks about the curtailing of capitol ship operations in mid to late 1942 in the Solomons/New Guinea due to fuel considerations. Not sure what that means in terms of 'curtailment' but if in fact battleship, carrier, or heavy crusier sorties were reduced in a critical campaign in the South Pacific I wonder what wide ranging operations across the Indian Ocean would imply. Another one of those questions requiring more research than I have time for. :x

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Re: Operation C 1942

Post by Mostlyharmless » 11 Mar 2009 15:40

There is an article by Tony Tully at http://www.combinedfleet.com/guadoil1.htm on how oil constrained the possibility of repeated IJN operations in the Solomons. However, the problem for Britain would have been that after a single sweep or pincer by Ozawa between the Mozambique Channel and Aden, they would have hesitated to send unescorted merchant ships northwards unless they knew that there was no IJN force at sea. IJN submarines in the Mozambique Channel (which were actual reasonably successful in June and July 1942) might have reported a convoy in time for it to be attacked by a force of cruisers loitering anywhere in the Indian Ocean.

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