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Customer Discussions > History forum

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


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Showing 126-150 of 616 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 1:48:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 18, 2012 2:02:54 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
That's what I've proposed in the past. MacArthur didn't want to drag the Philippines into the war - he didn't want Manila to suffer the fate of Nanking. And for FDR to fire MacArthur for refusing to start a war with Japan would Really arouse the Wrath of Congress - he'd be lucky not be Impeached before voters rejected him in November.

President Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth was trying to get his friends in the US Congress to vote for immediate Independence for the Philippines when the Japanese landed. He had hoped to negotiate Philippine Neutrality.

But the Japanese military didn't understand such subtleties. They saw the situation as IGS has just described.

I think the best plan would have been for Japan to secure Malaya and at least Brunei before deciding on attacking the US.

Japan had a total of 49 commercial tankers in 1941, 33 of them fast modern ships around 10,000 tons or better and good for 16 to 19 knots. 75% of their tonnage was called up by the IJN in November. But only the 9 fleet oilers were equipped for refueling at sea. (from KAIGUN)

So they really weren't prepared to fight a major naval war in the Pacific while exploiting the oil resources of the East Indies. They never imported more than half the expected amount per annum from the East Indies. Borneo (including Brunei) could have produced all the oil they could import.

Japan only needed to hold Oahu long enough to assure destruction of the American underground oil tanks and shipyard facilities at Pearl Harbor, which would have crippled US Navy offensive capability for a year or more. As you say, the Americans would have probably done that for them.

Once the Panama Canal locks had been wrecked with the remaining torpedoes and bombs of the attack force, only some aircraft and the IJN submarine fleet might be retained at Hawaii to attack US reinforcements coming by way of Cape Horn.

If a few additional divisions could have been freed from the Kwangtung Army, seizing the Panama Canal would have provided another nice bargaining chip at the Peace Talks. Hitler could have put a sub base in the Caribbean to good use, and an American counter-attack would guarantee destruction of the rest of the Canal.

And most of the adult male population of Hawaii could have been drafted for service in the Kwantung Army. A net gain for the Japanese mlitary.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 2:01:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 18, 2012 2:02:17 PM PST
I think any occupation of American territory would have made FDR's relection a certainty and removed any chance of a negotiated peace. The Japanese might have been able to capture the canal, but they could never have held it. US forces could get there overland. While US forces were a ghost of what they would become, we had at least two armored divisions and two infantry divisions that could march to Panama. The best the Japanese could hope for would be to trade the deaths of their divisions for wrecking the canal. Given the US's ability to tackle major engineering projects, I think the canal could have been put back into operation in less than a year. Again, all it would do is extend the war and infuriate the American population.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 2:57:05 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 18, 2012 2:59:01 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Panama was supposedly an independent country ('tho not the Canal Zone), and half of the population of Hawaii was Japanese or Korean.

Drafting all Korean- and Japanese-Hawaiian males under 40 would easily compensate for two or three divisions.

Whether Mexico would find an overland march any more acceptable than Pershing's Punitive Expedition chasing Pancho Villa in 1916 is another question. Hitler or Tojo might have sent another Zimmerman Telegram, and perhaps arms.

The Pan-American Highway wasn't built until the 1950's, so just carving their way through Central American jungles and mountains would have been quite a challenge.

There was also a good bit of German influence there, possibly resulting in sabotage and attacks on supply lines.

Meanwhile Australia would be feeling isolated if the IJN drove the Royal Navy from the Indian Ocean, as they did after the fall of the East Indies in February 1942.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 3:55:39 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Two different scenarios! One is that the Japanese avoid inflaming American public opinion by occupying the Dutch east Indies and claiming no other ambitions. But the British declare war, so they must invade Malaya, and then the Americans declare war, so they must invade the Philippines. With the American people divided and lukewarm about this war, Roosevelt must pursue an aggressive and successful campaign from the beginning or lose popular support. This means, I think, sending the fleet to Samoa and Australia to relieve the Philippines. And the fleet means the nine old battleships backed by the four (?) Pacific carriers, vs. 10 Japanese old BB's, possibly the Yamato, and the Kido Butai. I think Kimmel would have jumped at the chance to take them on, not having any idea what he was up against. A VERY interesting battle - but I think we'd lose it.
The other scenario, a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, seems pretty dubious. Didn't we have a substantial army and powerful coast defenses there?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 5:33:31 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
I'm with you on the Great Decisive Naval Battle the IJN had been preparing for the past 20 years.

I think it would've likely occurred in February, as the 'Big Convoy' MacArthur was awaiting neared Guam. Probably while MacArthur was still refusing to attack Japan and Congress debated.

I think we got off cheap with Pearl Harbor!

I think the Hawaiian coast defense emplacements were mostly vulnerable to air attack at the time, although those built during the war were excellent. I've got the relevent books, so I'll peruse them at my leisure after dinner. I may get back to you this evening, if I don't doze off in the Lazy-Boy!

The Japanese considered 3 divisions would be required for a successful invasion. The Japanese 14th Army which invaded the Philippines had 2 crack Divisions plus a Brigade, 2 tank regiments and supporting units so it was just right.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 6:43:11 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes, even if the US fleet was reinforced by the three New Mexico's and the two Atlantic carriers - and why do that without the shock of Pearl Harbor to convince us the Japanese might be better than we are? - the effectiveness of the Japanese torpedo bombers and the incredible range of the 24 inch "Long Lance" would have been massive shocks. I think it's likely the Japanese destroyers would have won the battle for them. Back to scenario two - it seems that Japanese air was ineffective against the Corregidor guns, which mostly were old and unprotected from above. It seems that heavy fixed guns were very hard to take out - not vulnerable to anything but a very precise direct hit. And Hawaii had very long-range 16 inchers, capable of engaging battleships beyond their maximum range.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 9:45:42 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 18, 2012 9:48:07 PM PST
patrick says:
that attack certainly caused worthwhile damage compared to the size of the force and naval effort committed, and vs the token losses, see 'to war in a Stringbag" for a great account of it by a key participant...

But I dont think Taranto was the primary reason that the Italian navy never fought an effective war in the Med, compared to what the British themselves reckoned with.
the damage at Taranto could soon have been patched up and them come out punching, if the Macaronis' hearts had been in it.

After all, their own frogmen commandos did nearly equivalent damage to the RN battlefleet at Alexandria, to what the Stringers did at Taranto..

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 9:57:08 PM PST
patrick says:
absolutely, my theory for years...

can you imagine what it would have been like if battleship row, all of those Arizona-Texas-Oklahoma-Tennessee class ships had sallied out to the other side of the Pacific to fight the Japanese fleet out there?

Can you possibly imagine how that would NOT have ended in catastrophic disaster, would have made Tsushima look like the codfish ball?

they were deathtraps , same as most of the RN battleships and battlecruisers were at wars beginning.
And the Japanese had several ways to go about taking them all out, and all would have been pretty effective.
Better to have them scuttled in harbor in Hawaii than clay-pigeoned at far side of Pacific in open sea, And America might not have even had the moral outrage of PEarl Harbor to carry them through the further disasters that followed PH.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 10:41:30 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Thinking of Manila Bay, it took continuous bombardment by 240mm howitzers from Bataan (after the troops there were starved into surrender) to finally overwhelm the gun emplacements. And the 'concrete battleship', Fort Drum with its pair of twin 14", extra heavy armored turrets, held ot until the surender. But I think the air attacks were all by twin-engine horizontal bombers from Formosa rather than carrier attack planes.

There were a pair of single 16" guns either side of the entrance to Pearl Harbor which could hit anything on Oahu and well beyond, but nothing with overhead cover until the 8" turrets from Saratoga and Lexington became operational on concrete emplacements late in 1942.

I think the open guns would have been very vulnerable to the Val dive-bombers and suffered heavy crew losses to strafing as well. The guns in Manila were finally silenced when there wasn't time enough between bombardments to repair them.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 11:30:44 PM PST
I think the Italian navy was never very effective because it was timidly commanded and poorly supplied. The Italians had good ships, especially for use in the Med, good crews, adequate weapons, but poor leadership at the higher levels. The Brits were able to establish a moral superiority much as they had against the French in the Napoleonic Wars so the Italians were rarely, if ever, willing to engage in a serious battle on even odds against Cunningham.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012 11:35:52 PM PST
Another "advantage" of the old BBs being sunk in Pearl was that their priceless well trained crews were saved. Those men were the kernals around which a lot of green ships crews were built. Most of them would have been killed in a battle to free the Phillipines.

Our battle line would probably been about the equal of the Japanese, but Japanese naval air would have made a huge difference as well as the damage done by night fighting by Japanese light forces. That was the battle the Japanese had been training for years to fight. It's what their navy was trained and designed to do.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 1:41:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 19, 2012 1:49:42 AM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Despite the loss of Conte Cavour and serious damage to Caio Duilio and Littorio (beached and out of service 5 months or more) at Taranto 11/12 November, the Italians were back in action 17 November with Vittorio Veneto, Giulio Cesare, and supporting units to disrupt Ark Royal and Argus attempting to fly reinforcements to Malta. Argus and Ark Royal launched at long range and returned to Gibralter, half the planes running out of fuel short of Malta.

27 November Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare, 6 heavy cruisers and 14 destroyers were sent after another Malta relief convoy of 4 freighters and corvettes covered by the carrier Ark Royal, old Battleship Ramillies and battlecruiser Renown, 6 cruisers and 7 destroyers. This represented all the serviceable heavy units of the Italian Navy, so they sailed with orders to avoid combat with an equal force. The Italian cruisers had already received orders when the got into an hour-long shooting match with the British cruisers, which was slightly in the Italian's favor until the Brits turned away when 15" salvoes from the Vittorio Veneto began falling too close. Only two ships were damaged.

And then there was the Italian disaster off Cape Matapan, Greece March 29, 1941 when 3 of Italy's finest heavy cruisers blundered within 3800 yards of Barham, Valiant and Warspite in the dark, resulting in a convincing demonstration of what 15" shells can do to a cruiser. It didn't help that the Italians didn't consider 8" guns suitable for night combat, so they didn't train 8" cruisers at night.

The Italians had thought they faced one battleship and the carrier Formidable, plus an equal cruiser/ destroyer force. Serious damage to the Vittorio Veneto from a Fairey Albacore's torpedo kept the Italians out of action for a few months, but they said it was really all about the poor coordination with landbased aviation that deprived them of air cover.

Limited fuel also curtailed operations, while the British knew the Italian force was on the way because the Germans had insisted the Italians use their 'unbreakable' Enigma machine instead of the Italian Naval code - which truly was never broken!

Mentioning action in the Med in this forum of course brings up memories of HMAS Sydney and her successful fight chasing the Italian light cruisers Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and Bartolomeo Colleoni off Cape Spada, Crete 19 July 1940. Has there been anything found at her wreck to cause doubt about the story told by the merchant raider Kormoran's survivers of her sinking off western Australia 19 November 1941? It sounds like there's nothing to the sea story that a Japanese sub sank her.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 12:58:29 PM PST
patrick says:
exactly....whereas as it was, only ther Arizona had very heavy loss of life proportion of its crew, that I know of..

the way the Arizona brewed up even b4 it capsized and sank, gave an indication to what they were going to be like in battle at sea.
And as you say, the US admirals like Kimmel, had absolutely no idea what kind of force they would have been sailing up to fight.

The planes have been mentioned, the Japanese destroyers as at the Solomons have been mentioned, but I havent seen any mention of the danger posed by the Japanese I-boats even, which of course was a very professional force, and dedicated to fleet warfare far more than to commerce warfare.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 1:07:24 PM PST
patrick says:
my reading of it.
6" crruiser "Bartolomeo Coleoni", lost in a battle with an Australian cruiser near Crete, was the fastest large surface ship in the world, I believe..

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 9:19:58 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Only 16" shells don't normally impact at 90 degrees to deck armor. They only manage 45 degrees at upwards of 40,000 yards. No batteship ever scored a hit at over 27,000 yards which would be less than 30 degrees from horizontal.

Aside from the USS Indianapolis and USS Wasp I can't think of any large undamaged ships sunk by Japanese subs, although they finished off a few cruisers and carriers. The USS North Carolina was damaged by the same spread of torpedoes from I-19 that sank USS Wasp and the destroyer O'Brien. The badly damaged USS Yorktown was under tow and looked like damage control efforts would succeed when torpedoes fired by I-168 broke USS Hamman alongside in half and gave Yorktown the Coup de Grace.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 9:44:03 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
I think the French Le Fantastique of about 2500 tons was about the fastest other than a few torpedo boats in calm water, although she was only half the tonnage of Bartolomeo Coleoni and Bande Nere.

The Italians generally performed their trials very llght and without armament, running dangerously high boiler pressure to gain builders a bonus. The whole class made their rated 36.5 knots and reached 42 knots for 30 minutes at 128,000 hp vs. the rated 95,000 hp.

But they were now 10 years old and Bande Nere must have been pushing her boilers to the limit to escape.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 9:20:08 AM PST
The Japanese I boats (with the exceptions of the I400 class) weren't very good subs. The had shallow depth limitations, were slow and noisy underwater and from my readiing were technolgically far behind the US boats and U boats. I don't beileve they even had SONAR, just hydrophones.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 9:24:47 AM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes. FG, the French Fantasques broke 40 knots in service and were good for VERY high speeds in service, as were the larger Mogador and Volta. The Italian Attilio Regolo's were good for similar super speeds. Interesting that the French worked up from destroyers and the Italians down from cruisers to produce very similar ships. The Bande Nere and Colleoni could not make these super speeds in service, but had excellent engines and at 10 years old were still very fast. The Sydney and accompanying destroyers had a very hard time overhauling them until the Sydney scored a lucky hit on the Colleoni, I believe.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 9:29:24 AM PST
Debunker says:
The escort carrier Liscombe Bay was sunk by a Japanese sub on 11/24/43.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 9:42:29 AM PST
An escort carrier was hardly a large warship. They were built on merchant hulls to merchant standards and were very vulnerable to battle damage of all sorts. Gambier Bay was disabled by one 8" hit in the Battle of Samar which stopped her and left her a sitting duck for the ships of the center force to destroy.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 12:41:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 20, 2012 12:43:20 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
RL,
The 5000 ton 'Condottieri' were designed for scouting in the Med and raiding the French coast, and to support the 1900-ton Navigatori class fighting the slightly older French Chacal- and Guépard-class 'Super Destroyers' of about 2,100 tons.

Following on the Fantasques the Mogador and Volta with 8- 5.5" guns virtually matched the slower 'Condottieri' class on 3,000 tons, so the Italians countered with the 3747 ton Regolo of the 'Capitani Romani' class with 110,000 hp and 8 faster-firing 5.3". I call that a Real 'Naval Race'!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 12:55:11 PM PST
Debunker says:
Well the O'Brien and Herrmann were "hardly large warships" either and he mentioned them. Since it was an escort carrier, carrying out war-like activities, I offered it up. Sorry you don't approve.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 12:57:32 PM PST
*Today, 12/7/12, is Pearl Harbor Day. I'm reminded of one of the BIGGEST conspiracy questions of all time: Did Franklin Roosevelt know of the Japanese 'secret' attack ahead of time?

No, we missed that one. We did provoke Japan but strategic intellegence missed that one just like they missed the Ardens Offensive. We created new agencies after the war bacause of mistakes and blind spots of the war.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 12:59:52 PM PST
*I've read books that claim FDR wanted to force the reticent American people into the "greater" conflict in Europe, but I suspect the attack on PH was not the desired excuse. The Japanese didn't just provide justification by attacking Asian US bases, they went for the jugular. A brilliant act of treachery, not declaring war or anything. One thing I'm not clear on though I've seen the movies: Was the Japanese declaration of war really accidentally delayed by circumstances?

The used their experience from their attack on Russia 40 years before. In that case they were able to win a war and their plan was simply to knock out the US fleet and get out of a war before we could really respond. The attack was because they were no longer get the materials then needed in their operations in China.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 1:03:31 PM PST
*I had read much on both sides of the argument at that time and to tell you the truth I JUST DON'T KNOW at this point!

Doubt it, has they know the attack would have had the same effect and more lives could have been spared. I do think that FDR did want more US involvment but it would be more likley to have the Germans sink some ships and get us into the war. Say Japan attacked us and Germany stayed out. Had Hitler not joined Japan there would be no rational to attack Germany. Without US involvment Germany would have had a much better shot at russia without so many resourced being drained off in the west.
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