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Did FDR know about the Japanese 'secret' attack on Pearl Harbor ahead of time?

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In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2013 2:09:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2013 6:07:41 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:

Thinking over the Battle of the River Plate, the Graf Spee did quite well in beating off three RN cruisers totaling double her tonnage. I think the key to her success was the 5.5" armor on her turrets and 5.9" armor on her conning tower, which kept her 11" guns in action despite numerous 6" hits on the ship.

She seems to have only managed eight 11" hits, all but one on Exeter, destroying Exeter's bridge and putting her 8" guns out of action, and disabled Ajax's aft 6" guns.

The light cruisers had closed to about 7,000 yards at that point so I think Graf Spee did well to hit Ajax and turn away to evade torpedoes before a turret was knocked out.

The light cruisers had been very successful up to then exploiting the accuracy of the German gunnery by chasing the shell splashes.

The British apparently scored 70 6" hits on the Graf Spee, the Exeter's six 8" guns only scoring 3 hits. However, these may have been the hits which destroyed the Graf Spee's desalination and fuel purification plants, limiting her further operation.

Casualties were about equal for both sides, many due to splinters as the cruisers closed range for a torpedo attack. The Graf Spee's eight 5.9" single mounts concentrated their fire on the 6" cruisers but don't seem to have accomplished much. Only one of the 5.9" was put out of action. Ajax had 7 killed and 5 wounded, mostly from the 11" hit, while Achilles had 4 killed and the Captain wounded when splinters from a near miss penetrated the main control position.

Exeter was under repair and modernization for a year and had 61 killed and 23 wounded, while Graf Spee suffered 36 killed and 60 wounded including the Captain.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2013 1:14:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2013 1:18:58 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
IGS, The thing is, a 6" shell is good enough to deal with any "10,000 ton" Treaty cruiser. Even the 25% over-the-limit IJN CA's weren't well enough armored to stand up to a smothering barrage from a 15-6" gun Brooklyn or Mogami.

Only the Italian Zara class and possibly the USN Baltimore class had good armor protection from 6" guns, but even they would have been crippled by destruction of their gun directors, and the radar of the Baltimores.

Look at the Graf Spee. She was more of a "Pocket Battle_Cruiser_" than "pocket BattleShip", with thinner armor than old pre-dreadnought Armored Cruisers (the original CA's) like CA-10 Memphis (ex-ACR Tennessee) with 4-10" guns, 12-6" and 5" belt or the IJN's Tsukuba with 4-12", 12-6" and 4" to 7" belt.

Graf Spee only had a 3" belt (with 6-11" and 8-6" guns), no better than the Exeter (6-8" guns) and Ajax and Achilles (8-6" guns each) which drove her up the River Plate to Montevideo for repairs.

Few Treaty cruisers had much better armor. Only the Zaras managed extensive 6" armor, but ran up against the 15" guns of three radar-equipped Queen Elizabeth-class BB's in the dark. The Baltimore's at 14,500 tons (similar to the old ACR's) managed a narrow 6" belt.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 6:50:53 PM PDT
IGS says:

I rather think the San Francisco got the worst of it. She also blasted the Atlanta likely killing Adm. Scott. And as an aside, had she had those 6" guns the damage to Atlanta likely would have been worse (as if that was possible), it wasn't weight of broadside that mattered, it is weight of shell and muzzle velocity that mattered. 8" rounds deliver over double the explosive power than do 6" at higher velocity, they have greater penetrating power and in ship to ship, better weapons.

As for the USS San Francisco ... next to Franklin she was probably the most heavily damaged ship to survive the war. I have walked over her bridge and looked at the damage. It is real easy to see why all the bridge crew were killed. But that ship was near a wreck.

In my uneducated two cents, 8 inchers were designed to kill CA's, not BB's.

And yep, they were counting on those type 93's. I don't think they ever hit a battleship with one though.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 4:33:21 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
The Italians tried putting a Me 109 1000+ hp V-12 in a Fiat CR-42 Falco biplane. It was nearly as fast as a Zero, but they couldn't get enough of the engines.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 4:28:32 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
The Finns shot down the Polikarpovs first.

Grummans and P-47's could take a lot of punishment, while I think the Brewster was only average.

The quote from the interview with Pappy Boyington sums them up pretty well - the original model supplied to a squadron of the USN and the Finns could "do a roll in a phonebooth", as could those supplied to Belgium.

The version sent to Malaya was a DOG, with an inferior engine plagued by oil leaks and supercharger problems and down 200 hp while weight was up 900 lbs. with pilot armor, bullet-proof windshield and self-sealing tanks, radio etc. It couldn't even do a loop.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 3:55:56 PM PDT
Joe Hill says:
"Brewsters never did match the ruggedness of the planes from the Grumman Ironworks."

The Finns had no complaints.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 3:53:01 PM PDT
Joe Hill says:
"Open cockpits forever!"

That could certainly have been the motto of the Regia Aeronautica.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 3:05:09 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
The Mogamis were Another case of the Japanese outsmarting themselves - the USN found 6" cruisers preferable to 8" 'heavies' because they poured out an equal or greater weight of fire per gun, to as great a range as any warship ever scored a hit, and could mount 1/3 to 1/2 more guns.

A no brainer as far as cruiser vs. cruiser & destroyer combat is concerned, but the Japanese were designing their cruisers to refight the Battle of Tsushima again, where 8" cruisers caused serious damage to Russian battleships.

Of course the armored cruisers in 1905 were almost the same size as the battleships, which only had four 11" or 12" guns plus a heavy battery of lighter guns.

I think the USS San Francisco was the only cruiser to do significant damage with guns to a battleship in WW2, when she damaged the upgraded battlecruiser Hiei's steering gear in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal and left her unable to withdraw.

The Long Lance was the IJN cruiser's real threat to Battleships, and the Mogamis were better armed with 15-6" guns than 10-8".

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 1:45:23 PM PDT
Hi, F. Gleaves,

You are exactly right...the very next chapter in the book. The whole issue of trying to appear to meet the various naval "treaties" while actually evading them to the greatest extent possible made for some odd ships in several navies. The "Mogamis" were built as large light cruisers, with a lot of welding in the construction, so that upon abrogation of the treaties, they could be rearmed with 7.9-inch guns and thus become heavy cruisers. Alas, too much had been attempted on too small a displacement, and the "Mogamis" experienced lots of trouble operationally.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 11:24:08 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:

I think the Mogami - class cruisers also qualified. IIRC at least one capsized on launch, leading to the whole class being extensively rebuilt to reduce their instability.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 11:18:54 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:

The Nate may not have had the range for a round-trip flight to the Philippines, but it could have flown from Taiwan to bases on North Luzon seized by the Army.

Likewise when the invasion of Sumatra place on the Fall of Singapore the Nate could operate from bases in Malaya. Bases in Sumatra and perhaps Borneo could then be used for the Battle of Java.

I'm considering this as an explanation of why Wikipedia as well as my old series by William Green say the Nate saw action in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies in the first six months of the war, 'where it (initially) faired poorly against the Brewster Buffalo'.

Wikipedia also says "As the Brewster B-339 aircraft used by the ML-KNIL were lighter than the modified B-339E Brewster Mark Is used by British, Australian, and New Zealand air forces, they were able at times to successfully engage the Japanese Army Ki-43 "Oscar", although both the "Oscar" and the Japanese Navy's A6M Zero still out-climbed and out-turned the B-339 at combat altitudes (the Zero was faster as well). Stanaway 1998, p. 9.

"When the Japanese invaded northern Malaya on 8 December 1941, the B-339E initially performed adequately. Against the Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate", the overloaded Brewsters could at least hold their own if given time to get to altitude, and at first achieved a respectable number of kills. However, the appearance of ever greater numbers of Japanese fighters, including markedly superior types such as the Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" soon overwhelmed the Buffalo pilots, both in the air and on the ground. Another significant factor was the Brewster engine's tendency to overheat in the tropical climate, which caused oil to spray over the windscreen, usually forcing an aborted mission and greatly complicating attempts to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. In the end, more than 60 Brewster Mk I (B-339E) aircraft were shot down in combat... Brewsters claimed about 80 kills, mostly bombers."

The Finns solved the oil problem by inverting one of the piston rings in each cylinder. The poor climb was in part due to supercharger troubles and air starvation above 15,000'.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 11:01:29 AM PDT
BTW, R. Largess, here is something you might find interesting and/or amusing. In 2002, Anthony Preston wrote a book entitled "The World's Worst Warships - The Failures and Repercussions of Naval Design and Construction, 1860 to the Present." Guess which was one of the ships to make this hall of shame: You got it...the "Ryujo."

A summary quote from the book: "The 'Ryujo' was the inevitable victim of the IJN's obsession with trying to get a quart into a pint pot."

This book is very interesting overall.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 10:28:13 AM PDT
BW: Are you telling us that you don't believe Roosevelt baited the Japanese?

BPL: Poor old Japanese fascists... FDR FORCED them to bomb Pearl Harbor, invade Manchuria in 1931, kill a million civilians in Nanking... oh, wait, they did that on their own. Duh.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 9:20:44 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
RL, I've read the Buffalo had some success against the Nate. I think that'd require quite a good pilot though. Also that the Nate saw action in All of the campaigns you mention - they could have covered the landings on Luzon and possibly ferried to bases north of Manila from the Japanese airbases on Formosa (Taiwan).

There were only 40 Ki-43 Hayabusa in service on Deember 7, but my rather old source credits them with Malaya, Burma and DEI but not the Philippines (until after the American surrender, since MacArthur's AAF was wiped out early on.) The Hayabusa outclassed the Buffalo.

The Claude was a second-line fighter by the Summer of '42.

Did you ever see a picture of the experimental A5M3 with Hispano-Suiza V-12 engine and motor-cannon, and shallow belly radiator/air scoop ?

About the most beautiful open-cockpit fixed-gear aircraft ever!

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 8:08:41 AM PDT
Nates might have been involved in Malaya, but they didn't have the range for the Easi Indies or the Philippines.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 7:39:20 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2013 8:09:53 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
The Buffalo had triple the firepower, self-sealing tanks and pilot armor as well as superior level and diving speed vs. the Nate, so as long as they spotted the Nate in time and didn't try to outmaneuver them Buffaloes were effective against the Nate or Claude.

Unfortunately the added weight degraded handling, and with their export-model (or rebuilt) engines it took 30 minutes to reach 21,000'. Brewsters never did match the ruggedness of the planes from the Grumman Ironworks.

Maybe if they'd used the same engine as the Wildcat they wouldn't have been quite so hopeless against the Zero.

Aside from the first batch built on a USN contract but shared with the Finns, they had to use commercial engines for the British and Dutch export contracts. IIRC supply was tight and being a newcomer to aviation wthout priorities or old friends in the industry, Brewster was reduced to buying well-used Wright Cyclones from the airlines and rebuilding them to try to meet their contracts.

Brewster & Co had been the preferred carriage-builder to the American Elite back in the days of the horse-drawn carriage trade, their perfection winning the Gold Award at the Paris Exposition of 1878 and the Legion of Honor for Mr. Brewster. When gasoline engines replaced the horse the likes of the Astors and Vanderbilts naturally went to them to body their new chassis.

At the end of WW I Rolls-Royce decided to take advantage of the supply of skilled craftsmen and machinists in Springfield Massachusetts and shifted all production of chassis for the American market there, and bought a large share in the Brewster Co on Long Island to be the in-house bodybuilder. Aside from a few Rolls brought back by their owners after a summer in Europe, nearly all Rolls sold in the US in the Twenties were built in Springfield and many were bodied by Brewster.

If you see a Rolls from the Twenties or early Thirties at a car show and it has particularly wide and handsome fenders, odds are it's a Brewster body.

When the carriage trade dried up in the depression Rolls-Royce closed the Springfield plant and Brewster turned to building Town Cars and Limos on stretched Ford V-8 chassis. Then their Aero division hired a couple good engineers and went after some Navy fighter and dive-bomber contracts.

Unfortunately the switch from semi-custom bodies for the carriage trade to Government contracts didn't go as well as hoped, and Brewster never really got a good handle on efficient mass-production or even light but rugged construction to match their Long Island neighbors at the Grumman Ironworks and Republic/Seversky Aviation.

"You're the top! You're a Ritz hot toddy. You're the top! You're a Brewster body."
-Cole Porter, "You're the Top"

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 6:22:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2013 6:24:20 AM PDT
Off the top of my head (no time to go to the references at the moment), I think the Nates and Claudes performed in the Far East longer than generally assumed (I remember reading something to this effect in the distant past). The Zeros were reserved mostly for the carriers and Ki-43s for more active theaters. This, plus the fact that the Flying Tigers were going after the bombers as much as possible, (also plus the fact Allies were utilizing mostly P-36s, Brewster Buffalos ,and P-40's being flown as dogfighters early) probably accounted for the successes the Nates did have early in the Far East, and allowed them to be employed longer than generally thought.

Secondly, I was able to run to my bookshelves and pick up a reference where I knew some information was readily available. You are correct: this reference says in December, 1941, the "Hosho" carried 11 Claudes and 8 Kates; the "Zuiho" carried 16 Claudes and 12 Kates; and the "Ryujo" carried 16 Claudes and 18 Kates...

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 4:02:52 AM PDT
R. Largess says:
Were Nates involved in the invasions of Malaya, Dutch E.Indies, and the Philippines? If so, I wonder how they performed? Also, I believe the Ryujo, the sole carrier supporting these operations, was still equipped with Claudes at the time. Open cockpits forever!

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2013 6:35:27 PM PDT
Great info, F. Gleaves! It squares with most of the data I have consulted as well.

I would like to get ahold of the book Joe Hill recommends at some point in the future, but I think I have burned up my book budget for the near future! Perhaps the local library can secure it for me on loan. If you get it first, please post some of your findings on this forum. I find the the dynamics of the Far East air war from 1937 to approximately 1942 fascinating.

Posted on May 3, 2013 3:35:22 PM PDT
The West in general and the USSR in particular SHOULD have known how good the Japanese were by May, 1939:

"Chennault was preparing his report on the Chinese Air Force when the Japanese engineered the Marco Polo Bridge incident as a pretext for the invasion of China in July 1937."
Ron Heiferman, "Flying Tigers - Chennault in China," (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971), p. 13.

Chennault subsequently made several trips to the USA (1937-1941) attempting to buy planes on behalf of the Chinese. I have to believe he was telling anyone who would listen about Japanese air power. Admittedly, Chennault was "persona non grata" in US military circles during this period.

"The arrival early in 1938 of substantial quantities of war materal in China from the Soviet Union brought a resumption of Chinese resistance in the air. Not only were I-15s and I-16s supplied to the Nationalist Air Force, but volunteer units of Russian fighter pilots equipped with these aircraft also appeared to fight alongside them. At the same time the Japanese were reinforced by more A5Ms of the 12th Ku...
"...Heavy fiighting followed, and on 25 February 1938 Momoto Matsumura and Sadaaki Akamatsu of the 13th Ku claimed 4 and 3 probables, while the 12 Ku's Tetsuze Iwamoto became the first Japanese pilot to claim five in a day (three I-15s and two I-16s). Iwamoto was to claim four more Polikarpov fighters in a single combat over Hankow on 29 April, and when he returned to Japan in September he was the top scorer of the fighting in China, with 14 victories in 82 sorties."
Christopher Shores, "Air Aces," (Novoto, CA: Presido Press, 1983), p. 53.

Note this is well before the May, 1939 start of the Nomohan Incident. I would believe that at the Russian pilots' debriefing sessions, they had to be talking about these pilots and planes they were meeting in the air, and this information was filtering back to Moscow. Hard to tell, though, in the atmosphere of the USSR at that point. I would not have wanted to be the bearer of bad tidings to the Kremlin in 1938-'39 - It might have been unhealthy for the messenger!

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2013 2:48:52 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
HPD, Luckily for Soviet morale, I don't think they knew the JNAF was even better.. ;^)

But research since 1991 has shown the 1340 kills claimed by the Japanese were more than Six times Soviet losses, which were about 28% more than those of the JAAF. Personnel losses were even closer.

The Ki-27 Nate gave the JAAF air superiority at the start of the Nomohon Incident, but by the final phase of Khalkin Gol the latest model of I-16 could match the Nate's speed at altitude with greater diving speed and much greater firepower, while the new I-153 biplane matched the Nate's maneuverability with triple the firepower from its four fast-firing 7.62-mm ShvKAS mg.

By the end the Soviet pilots were departing from the earlier rigid formations at low to moderate altitude to make hit and run attacks using superior speed or altitude. The JAAF acknowledged 62 Ki-27 shot down and 34 too badly shot up to repair, with another 124 damaged. 66 other JAAF aircraft were destroyed. The Soviets lost 163 fighters and 45 bombers in combat, and 42 more to other causes.

The Claude may have been more maneuverable than the Nate, but the Nate was 13 to 20 mph faster.

The earliest I-16 could better the top speed of the Claude - 283 vs. 273 mph - and the last nearly matched the early Zeros' top speed - 326 vs 334 mph - except for one big difference: the Soviets used a license-built copy of the Wright Cyclone 9 set up for maximum power at sea level, so performance fell rapidly with altitude particularly above 10,000', while the Claude got its top speed at 9,840' and the Nate got its 286 mph at 16,400'.

The I-16 Type 17 introduced in 1938 had two 20mm and two 7.62 and with 1,000 hp could match that speed at 14,765' as well as out-diving the Nate, but wasn't as maneuverable.

In Spain it was the same with the Condor Legion, the Me 109B had better speed and climb above 10,000' so they'd fly well above the mass formations favored by the Soviet-trained pilots and dive down to pick off the inexperienced stragglers at the rear, often nailing a few without the formation leaders noticing and causing heavy attrition with few losses.

The Germans found even the I-16 a nimble opponent, and the early I-16's flown for China by Soviet volunteers had proven a fair match for the Claude, with better level and dive speed making up for the Claude's maneuverability. The I-153 used at Khalkin Gol had retractable landing gear and was about as fast as the Claude and USN Grumman F3F-3 biplane at altitude, 267 mph at 16,400', and as nimble.

The Finns flying Brewster Buffaloes were able to deal with the Polikarpovs almost as well as the Zero dealt with the Buffalo, the later models used in the Pacfic and SE Asia were weighed down with armor and lost some of the rate of climb and beautiful control response of the early model sent to the Finns, so while they were a delight to fly they couldn't quite match the Zero in any category, and even with equal pilots they didn't have much of a chance. They did better against the Nate.

I'd say the Soviets lagged in pilot training and tactics, with the Japanese initially having the altitude advantage. The 1,000 hp Soviet fighters of the last month of the campaign took the advantage away from the 710-hp Nate. The I-153 had excellent maneuverablity and a higher service ceiling than any of them. The Soviet planes also had a 9-mm armor plate behind the pilot which could stop even the Japanese 12.7 mm bullets.

Most of the Soviet losses were the early I-15 or I-15 bis, early I-16's and some later I-16's that tried to dogfight with the Japanese. 16 of the I-153 were also lost in combat.
(Wikipedia data from a 2001 Russian book) - I'll correct this if necessary when I get the book recommended by Joe Hill.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2013 10:47:34 AM PDT
Joe Hill says:
Good book on the topic: In the Skies of Nomonhan: Japan Versus Russia May-september 1939 (Crecy Classic) (A Crecy Classic)

Posted on May 3, 2013 8:35:29 AM PDT
I have enjoyed the last few posts.
I agree that the Soviet airforce was outclassed by the Japanese and tended to swan around in huge and rather ineffectual gaggles.
Nevertheless the fact that all fighter pilots of W.W.2 tended to dramatically overclaim their "kills"is also true.Certainly the Soviet records do not accord with the Japanese claims.Rather like those of the R.A.F and the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2013 8:22:46 PM PDT
No western nation was aware of how good the JNAF pilots were. I'm not sure how the JAF pilots compared, but considering they were flying planes even flimsier than Zeros they had to be pretty good to survive.

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2013 5:01:03 PM PDT
RMS says: "Well, to be fair the Japanese were flying Claudes and Nates against Polikarpov I15 Biplanes and I16 monoplanes, both almost a generation older than the Japanese aircraft."

My point exactly: The Russian brass had to evaluate their air war after the conclusion of the Nomohan Incident and realize they were well behind in aerial technology (the Nate being quite superior to the I-15 and I-16, and even the I-153) and pilot efficiency (very few pilots with the capability to be aces versus many capable pilots/aces in the JAAF).

And on top of this, the Japanese Naval Air Force didn't even participate in the Nomonhan Incident (it was heavily employed in China at the time). The JNAF pilots were to superior to the JAAF pilots and their fighter aircraft (the Claude) was superior even to the Nate. Plus the JNAF was getting ready to convert soon to a new fighter that some authorities thought might be pretty good - the Zero.

So the Russian brass had to swallow the fact that they had been kicked around the Mongolian skies by Japan's second team - a pretty sobering thought.
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