Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

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Von Schadewald
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Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Von Schadewald » 10 Jun 2021 00:59

The Japanese, smarting from the April 1942 Doolittle Raid on their capital, decide to repay the favour and bomb Washington DC.

Like the Americans, the Japanese manage to squeeze 16 Mitsubishi G4M Bettys on to their largest carrier. The carrier has a 10,000 mile range, and the Bettys up to 3000 miles.

Taking the north Pacific route and arriving undetected in June 1942, the carrier launches two flights 100 miles from off the fog-shrouded coast of the boglands of Oregon. Each Betty carrying three 500lb bombs at 200mph at extreme range, eight set off the 1850 miles to Chicago, and the other eight the 2450 miles to bomb Washington DC.

The mission is one way and all aircraft are lost, but with none being shot down or challenged the entire way. Some crews bail out and are captured. Others dive out of fuel in to Lake Michigan and the Potomac. Others deliberately crash in to factories, power and train stations.The physical damage caused is moderate, with 400 Americans killed, with one bomb actually hitting the White House narrowly missing Roosevelt, and one landing on the Capitol Building.

But as with the Doolittle Raid, the effect of the psychological damage, civilian panic, and hurt US pride at seeing Red Meatballs in formation floating by unmolested over the Washington Monument is huge, whilst the propaganda victory restores Japanese morale.

With the authorities in charging of defending the mainland USA being scandalized, how might this raid effect the Pacific war & the American strategy for Europe, given the shrill demands for the futile diversion of vast amounts of war effort, materiel and weapons for the US's own coastal artillery and city AA defences, instead of going to desperate Britain and the USSR, in the short term?
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by OpanaPointer » 10 Jun 2021 13:01

During the trip they would have been spotted and a hornet's nest of fighters would have been stirred up.
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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by T. A. Gardner » 10 Jun 2021 17:00

I think OpanaPointer is correct. They would be spotted and intercepted. The Chicago flight is looking at about 10 hours to target, flying time and the flight to Washington about 12. That means in April they are looking at making some or all of the flight in daylight. The odds of being spotted and reported are very high.

At that time, virtually none of the US Army or USAAF had been deployed overseas. This means there are 34 divisions scattered across the US, along with dozens of AA battalions and regiments, and hundreds of fighters and other aircraft around.

Image

It is likely that the two attacks would not be coordinated so even if the Chicago one was a complete surprise, the Washington DC one wouldn't be. The first attack would stir up a hornet's nest of response and the second attack found and shot down to the last plane.

I'd also think the Japanese pilots would have a hard time selecting good targets. The Japanese knew far less about the US in terms of where factories and such were located and then you have the added difficulty of the crews not being sure on picking them out.

Of course, the Japanese also would have little or no idea what the weather on route or over the target is. They could easily arrive in heavy rain and low overcast at their targets complicating things greatly, or find a thunderstorm or cold front over the mid-West (tornado territory) that creates route problems.

Image

Just towering thunderhead cloud formations alone would be an issue.

It isn't like the Doolittle raid where the bombers arrived at their targets almost immediately after crossing the Japanese coastline. Japan's coast defense system and home air defense system were both pretty pathetic in 1942. The Japanese military simply assumed an attack on the homeland was nearly impossible for the US to carry out.
Here, you have Japanese bombers flying across the entire US over population centers, military bases, and who knows what else. They will get spotted and even if civilians calling in are dismissed initially, as the calls mount somebody will take notice.

Along the Pacific coast, you have USAAF and USN aircraft patrolling out to sea. It's possible the Japanese task force runs into one of these patrol planes. There's also merchant traffic going up and down the coast and up to Alaska. Flying anywhere near Puget Sound or the Columbia river will get the raid detected on radar from the coast defense fortifications in those locations (yes, they had radar in 1942).
As the Japanese fly inland, they have to avoid commercial and military air traffic, and would be flying over territory where people on the ground could observe them. It might take no more than a few calls by hysterical farmers or other civilians about "Jap bombers..." to get the attention of authorities who decide to send a fighter or two to take a look.

Since the Japanese would have to fly below 15,000 feet (they don't have enough oxygen on board for a 10 to 12 hour flight at altitudes above that) they're going to get spotted and identified at some point.

The raid is likely to fail and be a propaganda coup for the US. "Sixteen Japanese bombers shot down trying to attack..."

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by T. A. Gardner » 10 Jun 2021 18:22

Looking at a great circle map route from Seattle to Washington DC and Chicago shows both flights go over Chicago then over the heart of the industrialized US and some of the most densely populated parts of the country at the time. They're going to get spotted, particularly the DC flight.

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by historygeek2021 » 10 Jun 2021 19:54

It would have been a big propaganda victory for the U.S. military industrial complex if the Japanese had bombed any major U.S. city. Pearl Harbor would be a footnote in history in comparison.

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by danebrog » 10 Jun 2021 21:16

With the Japanese mentality, where capture was dishonorable, an attack flight would most likely be a one way ticket.
And since the attack is purely propagandistic in concept anyway:
Why fly over the entire USA, of all places, when a suicide attack on the Golden Gate Bridge would be much more promising?
After all, THE landmark on the West Coast, where even damage would have considerable symbolic character. 8O

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by maltesefalcon » 10 Jun 2021 21:29

Von Schadewald wrote:
10 Jun 2021 00:59
Like the Americans, the Japanese manage to squeeze 16 Mitsubishi G4M Bettys on to their largest carrier. The carrier has a 10,000 mile range, and the Bettys up to 3000 miles.
Just curious about that 3000 mile range figure. That's farther than a B-29 could fly and that was pretty far for the time.

My research indicates range for a Betty bomber is about half the figure quoted. Of course there is the possibility of enhanced range by fitting auxilliary fuel tanks in the bomb bay or on the wings. IRL this was done to ferry four engine bombers across the ocean from US and Canada to the UK.

But in the case of a Betty bomber would there be room and weight capacity to carry bombs as well?

Perhaps it would be easier to hit Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles instead? If the raid was merely symbolic, then they would have made their point.

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by OpanaPointer » 10 Jun 2021 22:30

The Doolittle raiders carry, IIRC, one ton of bombs. (And every one of them hit a school, hospital or orphanage.)
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Kingfish » 10 Jun 2021 23:31

A Japanese Doolittle would mean the Op MI is postponed. This delay benefits both sides. Yorktown would get more time in the paint and body shop, and Saratoga would return to front line service. Wait a bit longer and Wasp could join the party.

On the IJN side CarDiv5 would likewise return to KB.
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Rob Stuart » 11 Jun 2021 00:25

Kingfish wrote:
10 Jun 2021 23:31
A Japanese Doolittle would mean the Op MI is postponed. This delay benefits both sides. Yorktown would get more time in the paint and body shop, and Saratoga would return to front line service. Wait a bit longer and Wasp could join the party.

On the IJN side CarDiv5 would likewise return to KB.
Or, MO is cancelled so that CarDiv5 can do the reverse Doolittle. The Shokakus were the fastest and longest-legged Japanese CVs, so it seems to me that they would the obvious carriers to assign to this mission.

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Rob Stuart » 11 Jun 2021 01:50

Von Schadewald wrote:
10 Jun 2021 00:59
Like the Americans, the Japanese manage to squeeze 16 Mitsubishi G4M Bettys on to their largest carrier. The carrier has a 10,000 mile range, and the Bettys up to 3000 miles.
Presumably the carrier you're thinking of is Kaga, which was slightly larger than Akagi and had a range of 10,000 nm at 16 knots. However, although its flight deck was about 815 feet in length, it had a maximum speed of only 28 knots. The Shokaku class would have been a better bet. They had a comparable range at a higher cruising speed, 9,700 nm at 18 knots, and a higher top speed, 34.25 knots, although the flight deck was 21 feet shorter, at 794 feet. The other thing is that your reverse Doolittle raid would have to conducted by two carriers, with the second one carrying its normal air group so that it could provide CAP, and Shokaku and Zuikaku were the only carriers, other than Kaga, with the necessary endurance. Having one of them accompany Kaga would break up CarDiv1 and CarDiv5, so for that reason, and because it would make sense to have sister ships sail this mission together rather than two carriers with different characteristics.

I think it's very unlikely that 16 G4Ms could have been launched from any of the Japanese CVs. Consider the differences between the G4M and the B-25:

B-25 (H model):

Length: 52 ft 11 in (16.13 m)
Wingspan: 67 ft 7 in (20.60 m)

G4M1:

Length: 65 ft 6 in (19.97 m)
Wingspan: 81 ft 8 in (24.89 m)

Hornet's flight deck was 814 feet in length, which was the same as Kaga's. Given that the G4M1 was 13 feet longer than the B-25, then it is obvious that fewer of them could be carried and launched, assuming that the G4M1 would have had the same take-off run as the B-25 when taking off from a carrier, which was simply do not know. If the G4M1 had poorer acceleration or a higher stalling speed, that would further reduce the number which could be carried.

Please also note that the wingspan of the G4M1 was about 14 feet greater than that of the B-25. What was the distance between the starboard wingtip of the G4M1 and its port main wheel? Was it too long to permit a G4M1 to safely pass the carrier's island without an undue risk of either hitting the island or going of the side?

I think it is almost certain that no Japanese CV could carry and launch 16 G4M1s. If you wish to show that your Japanese Doolittle raid was possible, you need to do some more research about the G4M1's take-off run with a full fuel load and your proposed bombload and related issues. Would your mission be worth the risk if only six Betty's could be launched ?

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Kingfish » 11 Jun 2021 10:38

Rob Stuart wrote:
11 Jun 2021 01:50
Please also note that the wingspan of the G4M1 was about 14 feet greater than that of the B-25. What was the distance between the starboard wingtip of the G4M1 and its port main wheel? Was it too long to permit a G4M1 to safely pass the carrier's island without an undue risk of either hitting the island or going of the side?
For what it's worth I found this image on the Matrix Games website:
Image

A quick thumbnail comparison shows the 2000mm width of the fuselage is roughly the same length as edge of fuselage to engine/wheel center line.
That works out to 9.8ft from aircraft center line to wheel. Add that to half the total wingspan gets you roughly 50ft from starboard wingtip to port main wheel.
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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by Rob Stuart » 11 Jun 2021 13:22

Kingfish,

I've now dug out my copy of Mark Peattie's Sunburst and on p. 301 there is a sketch of a G4M1 with a scale, and it looks to me that the distance from the starboard wingtip is 55 or 56 feet, so a bit more than your estimate.

The same source says on page 233 that Kaga's flight deck was 100 feet wide and on page 243 that the flight deck on the Shokaku class was 95 feet wide. If one of the latter were used the clearance to port and starboard would be about 20 feet. Using Kaga would give you only an extra two feet on either side. That leaves very little room for pilot error or any momentary issue with one of the engines. I think the odds of planes going over the side to port or hitting the bridge and blocking the flight deck would be significantly higher than it was for Doolittle's B-25s on Hornet.

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by maltesefalcon » 11 Jun 2021 14:22

So I checked a little more and apparently there was a possibility of carrying enough fuel for the one way trip. But this was at the overload rating, so I ask again if there would be the possibility of a flight while also carrying bombs?

Bearing in mind they need to take off from a carrier...

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Re: Japanese carry out their own Doolittle Raid & bomb Washington DC

Post by glenn239 » 11 Jun 2021 14:23

Rob Stuart wrote:
11 Jun 2021 13:22
That leaves very little room for pilot error or any momentary issue with one of the engines. I think the odds of planes going over the side to port or hitting the bridge and blocking the flight deck would be significantly higher than it was for Doolittle's B-25s on Hornet.
First question is whether it's a G4M Betty or a G3M Nell. The advantage of the latter was that it was going obsolete anyways.

The second question is which between the G3M and the G4M could have more of its wing clipped to deal with the deck clearance issue you describe.

The third question is how many bombers could be kept in a deck park before the flight deck was closed. The limiting factor is space forward of the crash barrier - I'm thinking maybe about 6?

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