MORE FLUFF: JUST WHAT IS THE USN UP AGAINST IN PLAN DOG?
The Japanese have a peculiar defense setup. Unlike the United States, where coast and port/naval base defense is an American army responsibility which will prove disastrous in WW II and which in this AU is sort of modified as a navy directed effort, the Japanese army and navy both share responsibility for harbor and naval base defense. It in 1931 (RTL) operates something like this:
a.) Mines, nets, and booms and other physical water borne entry barriers are a navy matter.
b.) Land based artillery, both anti-ship and anti-aircraft are mostly an army affair, with navy AAA allowed to defend naval bases. Some coast defense guns (those physically inside naval bases) are manned by the Japanese navy.
c.) Land based air defense is a peculiarity. As far as it can be understood, the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service (IJNAS) is responsible for strategic coastal reconnaissance to prevent the approach of hostile aircraft or ships. It is further responsible to engage those approaching units at long range. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS) is only called upon when the attackers break through the naval outer defense zone, which sort of means local target defense is an army navy affair with all the confusion that arises from divided command and control. In the RTL, the Americans are quick to realize and exploit this confusion (as in the 1944 Mariana Islands and Philippine Islands campaigns).
It should be apparent that in the AU as in the RTL, the chief threat to any attack upon Japan is the IJNAS. Yet, it is telling that in the RTL, the IJNAS did not initially mount any defensive aerial reconnaissance whatsoever to prevent a close approach by a hostile fleet to the Japanese homeland. Instead the Japanese navy posted a line of picket trawlers equipped with radios out to about the distance they expected aircraft carriers could launch aircraft. The trawlers would see the enemy coming and then report. This works against the Doolittle Raid in 1942, except that US cruisers blast the trawler that spots them out of existence, and though it lives long enough to radio its message, US broadband jamming seems to have prevented a clear transmission and/or the weather degrades the trawler transmission signal to the point that it is received as gibberish. The historical record is unclear about the ultimate cause/effects of the failure, but as the RTL is a good indicator for the AU, it can be a safe bet that Imperial General Headquarters will drop the ball and arrange something similar to this confused split-four-ways defensive setup. It will not work against submarines anyway. So much for strategic area defense, Japanese style, circa 1931. Just as the Germans are able to run their battlecruisers with relative impunity up to the English coast to shell British port cities in the northlands in WW I (something nobody likes to mention or remember.), so Japan is vulnerable in 1931 to surprise attack, but one time only. So the Americans better choose the right tools wisely and make it count.
A quick review of Japanese coastal defenses in the home islands in 1931 shows just about what one would expect. The anti-ship coastal guns are sited to meet WW I type naval attacks. Much like the British, the Japanese have a LONG convoluted coastline with ports and harbors too numerous to effectively fortify. Like the British, whose original naval bases were oriented to deal with Spain France and Holland, the original Japanese defended ports, Sasebo and Hiroshima Bay and Kogashima, are oriented to a threat axis to face an expected approach. This was the Europeans coming up along the Chinese coast, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch. Later the Japanese bases at Umuru and in northern Kyushu waters are oriented to face Russia. Yokusuka and its environs; which becomes, almost, to Japan what Hampton Roads is to the United States, one must blame on Commodore Perry.
In all, there are about a dozen major naval bases, shipyards, and commercial ports that Japan has to defend. She has no choice. In modern terms, it is like akin to the problems the modern USN has. There are entry and exit points (Chesapeake, Portland/Seatlle/Puget Sound/Savannah/King George’s Bay, Los Angeles and San Francisco, New London, New York, Boston) that have to be defended. So, an enemy knows this, too. They, the enemy, will even be able to predict what kinds of local defense the Japanese will mount for their ports based on Japanese history, known terrain features /conditions and current own capabilities. Since the Americans are the enemy, what do they think they know?
Mines: The Japanese do not have good ones for antisubmarine barrier fields. Their basic type pattern is an anti-surface ship Hertz horn mine little better than the ones they deployed during the Russo-Japanese. The Japanese have developed an aircraft-delivered type of this mine which comes in two flavors; moored and free floating. Their doctrine suggests that their Hertz mine stocks (large) in event of war, would be used offensively to create surface transit barriers in shallow straits or to poison seed certain deep water transits (Malaya Straits, Formosa Straits are examples) as circumstances dictate. Harbor entrance moored fields are low on the Hertz mine employment list.
The Japanese do have a shallow water/bottom wire-linked command detonated mine. This device is usually connected to a manned shore station that has both optical and acoustic sensor means to detect intruders. The explosive charge is huge (about 1 tonne) and extremely destructive as it is intended to be an area effect weapon. Not many will be laid at the outer channel approaches to a Japanese harbor, (deep channels) since its effective depth of effect is about 20-30 meters. It will be encountered inside a Japanese harbor; nearer berths, piers and inner anchorages as a pure barrier defense usually no more than two clusters (3 apiece). Such a command detonated mine setup is almost guaranteed to frontage an inner harbor coastal artillery position. Such mines will be easy to spot and plot for Plan Dog. It is not likely that the IJN will moor anything over or even in close proximity to such a device. Why? During the Spanish-American War, and the Russo-Japanese War, the Russians and the Spanish are foolish enough to moor or move ships within the effect zones of their (small) command detonated mines. BOOM. The shore parties responsible apologized or were shot for their mistakes.
How about nets and booms? These first make their appearance in the Crimean War and are a favorite relatively cheap Confederate harbor defense (Mobile Bay, Charleston) during the American civil war. Nets and booms are cumbersome, time consuming, labor and materials expensive to maintain and are only effective to about 15 meters depth in a strong tidal current. A submarine can duck under it, or if equipped with shear gear (An American invention) cut through it
and if equipped with Hell’s Bells (another American RTL invention) can echo probe for gaps. Besides, the Russians tried that trick at Port Arthur and the Japanese torpedo boats still hopped the barrier at speed to deliver their surprise torpedo attacks. (Really remarkable action: give the Russians and Japanese a lot of credit, both. Crewmen froze to death on the Japanese side from exposure on those small torpedo boats, and the Russians stuck to their posts, even as their ships sank under them and they knew they would drown or be burned to death.). Intruders can bet that at least Sasebo will have booms and nets on standby, and maybe Omuru. Yokusuka, Nabutake, and Kogashima Bay? Not likely. Deep water anchorages. Booms and nets are a wartime expedient and a peacetime headache to the transit of commerce. Japan is no different from any other peacetime nation that depends on the sea. She will boom and net only when absolutely necessary.
Air warning system: In 1931, the Japanese do have a reasonable effective 10 minute warning one. As one may remember, from previous fluff, it is based on mobile
ear trumpet detectors very similar to French Farman ear bugles or similar German acoustic 2-d arrays, and is usually assigned (4 sets in company strength) to Japanese army division level formations. Each division will have two such companies for field operations. It is not part of an integrated homeland air defense. That is a navy affair. I have looked at the IJN efforts and sad to report, they do not even have a RED CAR (sound mirror system), set up for Tokyo. Coast watchers are a given, but human eyeballs, aided by binoculars, is too late for air raid warnings in 1931 and definitely 1941. The Japanese will institute radar once they reverse engineer (RTL) captured British gear from their Singapore haul in late 1942. It will be very good gear,(1944) but it arrives too late to affect the outcome of the 1941 war.
The Americans in this AU against the RTL Japanese will have a romp. No Type 93 torpedoes to face in an uneven torpedo technology duel, Comparable in some cases the exact same flight lines to face
(Boeing F4Bs?!? Seriously?) aircraft and obviously for the Americans more pilots and aircrews. Defective Japanese ships that have not had 3rd or 4th Program fixes (1934-1940) to correct top-heaviness and poor torpedo protection (doomed Musashi and Yamato in 1944/1945; ripped them open like unzipped tunas the Mark 13 did. ), an inept Imperial General Headquarters command setup with no Yamamoto, Isoruku, or Toyoda, Seseio to bail it out, an innate Japanese over-aggressiveness pointed in the wrong direction (China) and an overall Japanese laissez affair attitude toward defensive measures top to bottom.. They are leading with their chins. Sounds like Japan 1943. Right?
Not so fast. Whether in the RTL or AU, the 1931 Americans have serious handicaps. Japan’s army has tanks. By 1941 standards the tanks are junk, but in 1931 these IJA tanks are as good as the Vickers 6 tonne and that spells trouble for the American army which is stuck with the FT-17 as their mainstay. The Japanese have (IJN) medium bombers better than the American Keystones. Their seaplane and flying boat line is at least as good as Italy’s, which means they are among the best in the world.
And though the Japanese are not going to make the smart decisions when it comes to national policy, from 1931 onward, they are not sloppy in tactics or in the operational art. Their 1931-1941 campaigns are masterful examples of warfighting against numerically superior and often better equipped enemies (That includes the Chinese and Russians). They are willing to trade bodies for technical deficiencies. And when technologies matter and they do not let their all offense or nothing mania delude them, their (IJN) equipment is superb.
The Japanese army is an example of what I mean. Make-do is the IJA, but it is formidable. The Japanese navy gets the best of what the Japanese can throw at it, in equipment, resources, men, and leadership. Woe is the Imperial Japanese Navy, the popular histories decry: the Japanese army calls all the shots and gets all the goodies. Hunh? The Japanese 1931 government budget when one breaks it down has about 36% applied to defense or war related enterprises. (An earthquake recovery program is still in effect along with other massive social welfare programs and emergency infrastructure projects.) Roughly speaking, Japan spends in monies what the USA does for defense in 1931 after all adjustments. That is a lot of scarce monies and resources for Japan. Who gets the military gravy? The navy does. There are a couple of carriers to finish up, four battlecruisers that undergo their first modernization just finishing up, new cruisers and destroyers abuilding , an expanding naval air force (1500 machines, the army by contrast can only field 600 or about 40 “aviation battalions” in 1931.), a huge research establishment working on torpedoes, improved shells, bombs, poison gas, but curiously not sound gear or mines . The navy consumes 3 out of 5 military yen, and some sources claim it is closer to 5 out of 7 yen. The IJN is scarcely 80,000 strong. The 500,000 man Japanese army of `1931 has to scrape by with the bottom of the recruit barrel, other scraps as far as officers and material goes and it has a full blown continental war with China on its hands. How do they manage it with so little in the way of resources?
Well, the RTL answer is ultimately they do not. They are kind of like WW II Italy. Their mostly 1890s era equipment is just good enough to delude them that they can handle a European enemy. Given good plans, fanatically trained troops and a mission-oriented officer corps, that despite its overall poor material and leadership quality throws up more than a few good generals (Yamashita and Ushishima RTL) and staff officers (Colonel Hiromichi Yahara as an example); the impoverished IJA can accomplish miracles on rice and fish meal logistics by using what is essentially an Asian peasant army armed with bolt action rifles^1 (and in this AU, Maxim machine guns, though in the RTL they use BRNO and Hotchkiss origin machine guns.).
^1 One must be careful when citing period statements. The people who make those statements have biased viewpoints that reveals a innate bigotry which to us is unjustified, but which was as natural to them as describing the appearance of the moon at night. The Japanese foot soldier is probably almost as effective as a US Marine. That is your run of the mill Japanese “low grade” draftee army recruit. U.S. Marines are elite volunteer specially trained troops picked for their fighting spirit and adaptability to unusual situations and circumstances one encounters in amphibious warfare. The average RTL (1931) Japanese army recruit is ruthlessly and savagely trained to a similar standard.
There is nothing “inferior” about an Asian peasant army of such conscripts; Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese. I hope that my point about how high quality these soldiers actually are; is quite well understood?
The 1931 RTL American army is not in the same league. The 1941 RTL American army is not in the same league as the 1931 IJA. Those are harsh facts. And it does not improve for the Americans as the Mariana Islands, Philippine Islands and the Okinawa campaigns at the end of the war demonstrate.
To quote Douglas Macarthur (and he ought to know), “the Japanese army are the most efficient ruthless trainers and users of incompetent infantry in the world”. I would personally amend that racist statement by omitting the word “incompetent”. In the 1930s, the IJA make the most of their poor situation through their training programs, top to bottom. And that is enough to kind of make Plan Dog work the way it does. It has to be entirely naval to avoid the IJA at all costs. As in Burma 1944, and the American island campaigns of the same year will demonstrate; one, if he is a sane American, (Macarthur forgets this lesson he previously applies with great success through `1943; when he confronts Yamashita during the Philippine campaign. Ego trumps generalship? Another case of Macarthur at his worst as he ignores what wins New Guinea and makes Cartwheel a success.), one does not want to meet a Japanese field army if one can avoid it. And I do not care what the Russians claim about Khalkin Gol. They outnumber the Japanese 5-2, have tanks and artillery in 4-1 abundance, have Marshal Zhukov to lead them and still come away from it all by the skin of their teeth. The Russians want no more of it so they sign a neutrality pact. They still do not tell one, the Russians do not, that they humiliatingly lose the air battle
against the outnumbered Japanese army air service in that little dust up.
FLUFF: SOME 1920S RTL LESSONS THE AMERICANS IGNORE, THAT HAD THEY BEEN APPLIED, COULD HAVE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR MISTER HOOVER’S AU NAVY
1.) It is not just the Americans who run naval wargames in the 1920s and early 1930s that reveal how dangerous ORANGE is. The Russians ran some honest war-games in 1902-1903 that should have warned the Czar that he plays with dynamite
when he incites Japan.
2.) This is a quote from what the Russian Navy concluded:
The deductions to be drawn from the different war games may be summarized thus:-
(1) The insufficiency of our naval forces in the Pacific.
(2) Insufficient equipment of our bases: Port Arthur and Vladivostok.
(3) Necessity of fighting preparation of the squadron instead of its lying in reserve at Port Arthur and Vladivostok.
(4) Probability of a sudden declaration of war.
(5) Warning stationnaires in Korean and Chinese ports of opening of hostilities by telegrams alone not sufficient.
(6) Danger of anchoring vessels in Port Arthur outer anchorage; necessity of preparing booms against torpedo attacks.
(7) Possibility of enemy sinking transports at only entrance of Port Arthur.
(8) Impossibility of leaving Dalny with all its workshops undefended.
(9) Impossibility of Dalny as a base owing to its defenselessness.
(10) Impossibility of Port Arthur as a base owing to its insufficient equipment.
(11) Necessity of an intermediate base at Masampho.
(12) The only possible place for the main base of operations of the Pacific Squadron-Vladivostok
An interesting comparison with what the General Board reports to the Secretaries of the Army and Navy in the US high command of 1924 reveals;
1. Insufficient naval forces in the Pacific.
2. Pearl Harbor and Bremerton unready to support their war missions. Manila and Subic Bay undeveloped.
3. Hostilities expected to commence with no warning to either side.
4. Current Peace manning and training economies not recommended due to prevailing hostile relations. War manning and training levels are necessary as a prudent deterrent to Japanese aggression.
5. Communications by submarine cable and radio to Pacific bases is incomplete and/or insufficient to command and control Pacific forces prior to war. This is especially critical as regards Hawaii and the Philippine Islands.
6. Pearl Harbor with its single entrance is a trap that Orange can plug with a blockship. It is also vulnerable to attack by enemy aircraft.
7. Manila/Luzon as a forward base cannot be used until the decision to upgrade its facilities for both naval and air service purposes is carried out.
8. Necessity to develop Guam at least into a defended anchorage.
9. The only US base of operations currently adequate for naval operations in the Pacific area is San Francisco and even that base must be upgraded to first class standards. Failing that requirement, the next most economical candidate is Bremerton.
History, after the fact, shows that the Russians do nothing pre-war and they lose. The US builds the Clark Field air complex, upgrades Subic Bay, and tries to build an army in the Philippines. On paper, the Americans look like they do a good job there. Elsewhere in the Pacific they really put the work in from 1941 on in California, in Washington, in Hawaii, Wake Island and Guam, but they run out of time. Everything the General Board wants in 1924 is actually underway and scheduled for completion by March 1942, when I think Roosevelt wants to pull the trigger and demarche the Japanese into a corner. If the Japanese play into his timetable, he might just have been able to bluff them down from their China war, by presenting them with at least the façade of a prepared enemy too tough for even the nut; Tojo, Hideki to want a war with. But the Japanese push the timetable faster than anyone on the American side expects. The French Indo-china crisis comes too soon and Roosevelt has to demarche early. Maybe he thinks that America can still bluff it out? I do not know. The US records lie too much, and the Japanese records are destroyed or are inaccessible.
Infrastructure and logistics is 80% of warfighting as an art form. It is not just having it. It is having it in the right places. Whether RTL or AU, the 1931 Pacific is a wasteland, a watery desert dotted with islands that with the exception of Dutch Indonesia and Australia, is undeveloped, resource poor and positively a horror show of a place for a military logistician. The Philippines do not offer local materials (iron, coal, oil), that will support military/industrial activity. Hawaii has to import everything of technological consequence, too, from raw materials to finished good, although it offers the rare advantage of both a large potable water supply and it is a grainery for any military forces based there.
The only two developed Pacific powers in 1941 are Japan and the United States. They are about 7,500 kilometers apart. Curiously the shortest direct attack axis between them lies through Hawaii. The Japanese in the RTL will try it twice. The first time it is a raid. In and out; it is a qualified tactical success. The second time they are whacked at Midway. So from a logistics point of view the Japanese demonstrate that any leapfrog of more than 3,500 kilometers from a developed port or supply base
is a guaranteed disaster in the making. The Americans will find that one out the hard way at Guadalcanal, which is their naval Stalingrad. They do not like to talk about that naval part of the campaign, (preferring to laud the heroic Marines), because of how they botch that campaign’s logistics and mishandle the war at sea, too. (Ghormley has an excuse. He goes insane from a brain tumor. Fletcher has an excuse, he is wounded in battle and is worn down from too much previous combat. Halsey is the one who has no excuse. And he will never have one. My opinion only and it is based on extensive research into that over-rated admiral who is America’s David Beatty^1. Look up the Battle of Rennell Island
and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands for just two object reasons of many why that is so.)
^1 The official record Halsey supplies, when checked against other evidence, is so full of alibis, outright lies and unbelievable excuses as to defy belief. How he is not Bynged by the USN for incompetence is beyond me, but from when he runs his destroyer aground early in his career to “The Battle of Bull’s Run” during Leyte Gulf, to running the Pacific Fleet into not one, but TWO typhoons with loss of life and ships in both cases, his career reads like an utter disaster. And we are hard on Macarthur for two terrible mistakes? With Halsey; it is in the dozens.
Anyway, the point is that Hector C. Bywater actually hits the nail on the head with this one aspect of naval warfare when he writes that a steam turbine propelled fleet has automatically tethered itself to a logistics base or anchorage that cannot be more than 2000 nautical miles away unless it has the luxury of at sea refueling and tankers: lots and lots
of tankers. Even then, during battle, refueling becomes task critical not within days, but actually within hours once combat is joined
. Here is an example: the Japanese go to war with the stated critical need of one oil tanker (5000 tonnes capacity) for every aircraft carrier they deploy. The Americans will find that two oil tankers (at least 10,000 tonnes fuel capacity total) for every aircraft carrier is not enough.
FLUFF: FLEET PROBLEMS; I-XIII; THE RTL POINTS THE WAY FOR THE AU ONE BUILDS
When I try to build a plausible AU, I try to avoid hindsight. There are reasons, good ones, why things happen in the RTL, the way the events did. So by restricting the plausible to what is known and doable at the time, the AU makes more sense. But here is the thing; even under these restrictions (what is known at the time and what can be done differently about it?), small changes, especially early ones, can have major butterfly effects and introduce unbelievable distortions.
The three changes I attempt are first; the result of Mister McKinley Navy. The USN has American technological base problems from 1900-1918 that amateur and even professional naval historians never consider when one reads their analysis. The major technological problems can be summed up in three areas; manufacture of fuses, manufacture of steam turbine power plants, and surprisingly; the manufacture of the rifled breech-loading gun in all calibers and bores. The minor problems: training, doctrine and logistics, are interesting to read about, but it is not what occupies the US navy at the time. It is really fuses, ship power plants and guns, that worries the American naval establishment.
Fuses will never be solved to a satisfactory degree (down to the present). Spinning unlock gate fuse clocks are well known to American designers (American civil war), and will be a standard time fuse in American shell designs (why I chose 3 cm guns as the smallest for US naval AAA. The US nose contact fuses are simply too sensitive, and 3 cm bore size shells are the smallest that can use base inertia hammer fuses or the spinning gate fuses. That is doable with American (automotive) technology (1914).
Ship power plants: did one know that the USN wants to keep reciprocating steam engines for its warships, almost a decade after most European navies switch to steam turbines? (Fleet Problem II, some of the Standard battleships’ turbine engine plants break down under simulated wartime conditions. ) There is a reason for this. Steam turbines not only have soldered casings that leak and lose pressure, require even more coal (or oil) at the time than their triple expansion counterparts, and most importantly require step down gearing and transmission systems for final drives so that speeds can be regulated efficiently. The US Navy does adopt turbines, but the Americans, for many of their capital ships, adopt the electric final drive as a solution. Well. That does eliminate the need for a backing turbine for a ship’s power plant, but it is heavy and cumbersome. The turbine, though, leaves a big engine compartment that floods. The US Navy at the time does not like that at all. But to compete (speed), the turbine is all there is. Okay, what is an AU alternative? Diesels. The French begin working on diesel electric trains around 1920. The US follows. Both nations will eventually get there by 1930, and in the meantime, submarines from both countries have to use the licensed German designs. This is a real leap. It demands that someone in America make a 16,000 kWatt diesel. The Germans will attempt a large marine disel, fumble it, and finally produce the Deutschland class diesel powered cruiser (around 1930-1934). This is the one item where I really overreach. The US develops a marine diesel for its submarines by 1910 (RTL L class; Neselco, MAN license.). Lack of need probably makes it RTL impossible. Militaries, at least the ones that serve democracies, depend on need to convince the treasuries to fund new technology development. Submarines have the need for diesels, (US gasoline engine subs were catching fire…) but the surface fleet? Turbines work now and so do steam engines, why fund this new engine technology? Someone visionary has to push it. William H. Moody is my selected AU victim. Roosevelt’s navy secretary. Wilson’s bunch of unimaginative progressives would never do it. And once started such an American trend has a tendency to continue. My RTL example is the USN’s nuclear reactor program. Again submarines prove the impetus and the need, but it takes a Hiram Rickover to shove it down the USN’s and Department of Treasury’s throat.
Hmm. Torpedoes: The Hunt rocket shell (1862-1864)? Rocket torpedoes are only now becoming possible. Nope. Not a viable solution. Electric battery powered torpedoes are the only AU item possible to solve that American torpedo problem. That problem shows up in Fleet Problem V by the way when American torpedoes then in use are live fired and fail
. (The real impetus for new 1930s American torpedoes.). See? Need=funding. The money is appropriated but the execution is bungled (Ralph Christie + Rhode Island politics = Mark 14 disaster.). Electric torpedoes allow guidance problems to be more directly addressed.
Guns, sort of solve themselves. American guns are hoop or monobloc construction since their civil war. Wire wrapping is tried when some British guns were tested RTL, but the results are catastrophic. The USN adopts in experimental desperation (1890-1904) about a half dozen French or British invented interrupted screw breech plug systems, some with door knob obturators, some which had plate obturators, some with three point and some with four point pivot hinge articulation. None which are safe or work well in combat conditions. Finally the USN acquires the Wellin system (still in use.). The Krupp wedge is heavier, faster, safer and simpler
. So Mister McKinley’s (Cleveland’s actually) Navy solves that problem (Endicott Mission) (Fleet Problem I, it still appears.) before it ever becomes a modern problem.
It is these simple things that make the AU Mister Hoover’s Navy so interesting.