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#4503720 - 01/14/20 10:32 AM Were the Best Good Enough?  
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http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-067.php

The Performance of Japanese Surface Forces in Torpedo Attack versus the expectations of the Decisive Battle Strategy
By Joseph Czarnecki

The acumen of World War Two Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser and destroyermen in torpedo attack is an accepted fact. The range and power of their Type 93 torpedo (dubbed the "Long Lance" by historian Morison) have become the stuff of legend. To call the Japanese surface forces the best at torpedo attack is easily defensible.

But were they good enough to meet the standard required for their own strategic and tactical preconceptions? Prior to Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku's radical break with pre-war IJN strategy, the accepted method of engaging the US Fleet was a three fold process:

Attrition operations by submarines and surface force raids.
A night attack by fast battleships, Class A cruisers, and Special Type destroyers.
A daylight battle line engagement at dawn following the night attack. If the officer in tactical command judged it appropriate, the battle line could be committed to the night attack if that effort was going better than expected.

Torpedo attack was the cornerstone of the night attack, and a critical element of the day attack intended to rectify Japan's initial 3:5 and worsening deficit in numbers. The night attack force was to launch an intricately coordinated long-range salvo of 130 torpedoes from 11 different groups using half their ready torpedoes. This salvo was designed to converge upon and hit 10 American capital ships with 20 weapons (a rate of ~15%).

After the initial salvo at long range (20,000 meters), the four Kongo Class battleships and 17 Class A cruisers detailed to the night attack force were to break through the American screen - suicidally if necessary - and clear the way for the force's two torpedo cruisers and the light cruiser and 14 destroyers of a destroyer squadron to expend the remainder of their ready torpedoes in a close range attack from as little as 2,000 meters.

Once all ready torpedoes were expended, the night attack force was to fight its way clear, reload torpedoes, and execute further attacks if possible. Survivors would eventually join the battle line for the "Decisive Battle" at dawn.

The daylight Decisive Battle was also to feature torpedo attack, including an initial salvo of 280 weapons at long range. As this salvo began to hit, the battle line would open fire. This massive salvo was expected to cripple or sink 10 American capital ships. When the Japanese Admiral judged the situation ripe, the three light cruisers and 48 destroyers of three destroyer squadrons would charge (again, suicidally if necessary) to close range and expend the remainder of their torpedoes. This charge was expected to be able to ensure the destruction of 16 American capital ships.
The IJN's battle plan reads impressively and dramatically, but it has numerous flaws. Most of these will not be discussed in this article. Here the principle question is thus:

Did the Japanese achieve the required 15% hit rate necessary to successfully execute their pre-war strategic conception of a Decisive Battle, had they fought the war in such fashion?


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#4503724 - 01/14/20 11:02 AM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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NavWeaps articles are awesome.

I believe that as good as the Japanese were at night fighting and torpedo attacks there has been some inflation of their ability. What made them seem so good early on was the lack of experience, lack of training, overconfidence and sometimes ineptness of US Naval crew / officers early on. Once the US stopped underestimating Japanese naval prowess, started trusting radar and got crews trained to the level they should be then the tide turned.


“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” - 2 Chronicles 7:14
#4503744 - 01/14/20 02:23 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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Another factor is that US torpedo design and technology in the early stages of the war sucked big time but that was quickly taken care of as the war progressed.


“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
#4503752 - 01/14/20 03:08 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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I think the Japanese constantly relied, or put too much effort into that 'one decisive engagement'. Also, radar. Like the Germans they lagged too far behind the Allies.

I suppose in theory it sounds good and they did have some decent torpedo attack and night action success, but like Panzer and F4U stated, we weren't sitting around on our butts whistling dixie.


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#4503783 - 01/14/20 05:51 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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I read recently that American Naval Forces at Leyte Gulf were astounded at the poor gunnery of the IJN.

The biggest Japanese naval warfare error seem to me that the IJN made very little effort to protect their merchant marine vessels that were vital to a nation with very little natural resources. Indeed they were very negligent at interdicting the Allied supply and transport ships also.
No honour in attacking or defending such according to the code of Bushido it seems.


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#4503788 - 01/14/20 06:33 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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I think the big issue for the IJN was in clinging to this strategy into the 1940s, had it fought the USN of the '30s in this way I think they would have had great success.

#4503866 - 01/15/20 03:38 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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It might have been a viable battle plan at the start of the war where both sides still considered the decisive battle between lines of battleships a thing, Assuming the USA would commit its fleet to the initial defense of the Phillipines without air dominance - doubtful but interesting question would be if the USA would have done so if Pearl Harbour had not been so successful in sinking most of the US BBs in the Pacific?

In '41/42 it might have worked against an overextending ill-prepared enemy. Later Japan apparently also realized that it will not pan out like that, like they also converted their torpedo monsters (Kitakami + Oi, 40 torps each).

Ironically, to some extend it got then executed by the US forces in the Battle of Surigao Strait, whittling down the approaching Japanese forces by air attack in daylight, torpedo attacks in the night, and then finishing off the remainders with the battleline, in this case mostly consisting of same BBs that were sunk in Pearl Harbour.


Last edited by WhoCares; 01/15/20 04:03 PM.
#4503872 - 01/15/20 03:58 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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The Japanese Navy was often too enamored with the idea of offense, giving little thought to defense. Employing submarines against anything other than a warship was seen as beneath them. They loved complicated plans, sending diversionary strikes off that often did nothing but weaken their main striking force. And for all their love of the idea of fighting to the last man they could give up just on the cusp of a major win (ie failure to send another wave after oil stores at Pearl or retreating from Taffy 3 off Samar). They gave too much credence to the supposed superior fighting spirit of the Japanese military man over technologically superior arms / outclassed logistics. And probably most critically they underestimated the resolve Americans can have when provoked.


“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” - 2 Chronicles 7:14
#4503894 - 01/15/20 08:21 PM Re: Were the Best Good Enough? [Re: KraziKanuK]  
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Imperial Japan's having only 10 or 15% of the economic strength of the contemporary U.S., despite having half the population, and then being starved of energy and raw materials on top of that, ultimately meant that the absolute best they could have hoped for was to hold off the U.S. long enough so that the Soviets would have the opportunity to invade them.


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