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


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Showing 51-75 of 616 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 9:54:21 PM PST
No, The P38s were dispatched specifically to intercept and shoot down Yamamoto. The codebreakers had his expected location and time of arrival. The pilots weren't told that, just that it was a dangerous, long range mission against a vital target. Yamamoto wasn't concerned since he was far outside the range of the American fighters he was used to dealing with. The P38s were game changers in the Pacific with their seven league boots and the instruction Lindberg gave on fuel conservation.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 4:30:36 AM PST
R. Largess says:
You could well be right, RMS. One of the main reasons the fast battleships WERE fast was due to advances in engine technology. The first "fast battleship" was HMS Hood, designed in WWI, with the same armament and armor as the Queen Elizabeth class, but a speed of over 30 knots. She was also over 40,000 tons and 860 feet long to accomodate all those boilers and engines. Our WWI Coloradoes and WWII South Dakotas were similarly armed and armored but the old timers did 21 knots and the new ones 28 on a similar tonnage of about 35,000. Also, I'd say the world knew a fair amount about some major Japanese warships and rated them VERY highly - such as their heavy cruisers.

Posted on Dec 8, 2012 7:03:36 AM PST
(®_0) says:
I find it bizarre that you would have to have a secret attack to enrage Americans. Wouldn't the act of actual hot war against Pearl Harbor be enough? Why would the US Navy have to act totally clueless? FDR had a plan to destroy his navy so he could build a newer navy? Sounds like an insurance scam.

Also, I find it bizarre how some posters discuss the tactics of the sneak attack. The Japanese didn't have to read it from a book or get the idea from somebody... it was smart, and with the level of technology at the time, was possible. Isn't that what you would do if you could? Maybe the Americans thought the Japanese would never dare do such a brazen attack.... arrogance on both sides.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 9:46:12 AM PST
R.
It was more a case of hull design I think. In WWI and the between wars period speed was achieved by adding horsepower. During the thirties a lot of research was done on fluid dynamics resulting in things like the "bulbous" bow that reduced drag. So one given powerplant you coould get more speed by reducing drag. So the higher speeds with increased fuel efficiency was a combination of more efficient engines with lower drag hulls.

Everyone knew the Japanese heavy cruisers were good, but no one knew how good, or how much they exceeded treaty limits. US and Brit treaty cruisers ran just under the 10,000 ton limit. The only Japanese cruisers to manage that were the Kako/Furutaka class with only 6 eight inch guns. Those four were inferior to allied cruisers, the majority of Japanese heavies ran between 13,000 and 14,000 tons and that's a lot of additional armor and equipment.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 9:53:52 AM PST
FDR didn't need to destroy the Pacific Fleet to replace it. All the ships to expand our navy were already designed, and in the case of Aircraft Carriers, and Capital ships were already well along in the design and construction phase. By 1941 even the Iowas were finishing the design process and the contracts to build them were up for bid.

The Japanese didn't get the tactics they used from anyone else. What they got from the Taranto raid was the idea that torpedos could be used in a shallow harbor like Pearl. Other than the lucky hit on the Arizona, the torpedos were the shipkillers. Even the Oklahoma which turned turtle was eventually raised, but it was to late to need to get her back into service so she was scrapped.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 10:45:18 AM PST
R. Largess says:
RMS - You're right, hull design was a part of it, but much more efficient high-pressure, high-temperature engines meant more speed AND more compact engine spaces and more space and tonnage for protection, armament, etc. The best modernized WWI battleships - the queen Elizabeths and Kongos I would say - got much better speeds with much reduced boiler spaces. But, alas, I would say everybody thought those Japanese heavy cruisers were good, but everybody thought they were better than they really were. They weren't overweight because the Japanese planned it that way. They did design them with heavier armament and armor than anyone else's, and with fabulous speeds, but there was a price to be paid. All but the last two (Tone and Chikuma) had serious defects. They were overweight, topheavy, unstable, and had dangerous weaknesses in their hull structures. As a result, all but the last two had to be extensively rebuilt - strengthened and bulged, increasing their submerged volume to counter the overweight, reducing speed somewhat but improving stability. They all spent much time in the yard until the designers got it right. Western designers had an impossible time equipping ships of similar armament (the five double turrets on the Japanese ships seemed wasteful of tonnage) and speed with adequate protection. They thought the Japanese were either design geniuses or lying about their protection. Adding a few thousand tons made them acceptable ships, but they still had problems: their weak hulls flexed at high speeds, reducing the accuracy of their gunfire, and making them very vulnerable to breaking in two from a torpedo hit (as at Leyte Gulf). Their REAL superiority came from those 24-inch oxygen propelled torpedoes. The British developed a similar weapon but made no use of it. By the way - I hang around the fringes of these threads for months at a time waiting for a chance to talk about Japanese heavy cruisers.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 11:00:47 AM PST
R.
I agree, the Japanese always tried to get a quart into a pint bottle. You've got to remember as well that the Tones and Mogamis were designed as large light cruisers like the US Brooklyns, then rearmed as heavies to circumvent the tonnage restrictions. Based on results in Iron Bottom Sound, the Japanese would probably been beter off leaving them light cruisers. In the night fighting at knifepoint range the rate of fire from the light cruisers was murderous and there wasn't much difference in damage between a 8" and 6" shell.

If I remember correctly, the Kongos were lengthened by 30 meters as well as the powerplant improvements. On a displacement hull, length means speed. Much of the Japanese superiority in surface warfare came not only from the torpedos (which came as a total surprise to everyone), but the the training of their crews in night fighting. Until 1943, the Japanese owned the night. Radar changed that, but until US commanders developed the skills and trust to use it properly the Japanese had a huge advantage. As usual the war was between Japanese manpower and US technology and over time Japanese manpower declined in skill and US technology increased in effectiveness.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 1:26:11 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Nimitz found that there was only enough oil storage capacity in the Pacific in 1942 to operate either his carrier task forces or the battleships, not both. Which is why a Japanese attack on the fuel depot at Pearl Harbor could have been even more crippling than the attack on the battleships.

The new battleshps were fast enough to keep up with the carriers and their powerful 5"/38 AA armament and modern fire control made them useful escorts for the carriers so he used a couple in the later part of the year at Guadalcanal, but he'd abandoned the idea of a battleline.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 4:57:23 PM PST
R. Largess says:
I'd say the last huge surprise the Japanese Navy presented us was their consummate skill at night-fighting and those 24 inch torpedoes that claimed so many of our ships off Guadalcanal. And the battleships' finest hour was when Halsey sent in Washington and South Dakota - from Enterprise's screen - to take on the Japanese at night and close quarters in Ironbottom Sound Nov.14. He had to; all his cruisers had been sunk or punished the night before. But this was one big risk! All four of their escorting destroyers were sunk by torpedoes, and a ton of them were fired at both battleships. Beautiful luck none hit. And how many of those monsters would it have taken to sink the South Dakota? Four? Or more? Could have happened! All I can say is if I had been Halsey, and I had had two of the old battleships handy - Colorado and Maryland, say - I would have sent them in instead of sending my two new ones in among all those 24 inch torpedoes. Call me chicken, but it was one close thing.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 6:12:30 PM PST
F. Gleaves says:
Worse yet - the whole Guadalcanal campaign was hanging on the Washington after the South Dakota's electrical systems failed.

Fortunately Washington's skipper was an expert in radar-controlled gunnery, and the USN cruisers had taken out the Kirishima's sister Hiei in that sacrificial battle two nights before, fought so close that the Long Lance torpedoes failed to arm and bounced off the US cruisers' hulls without exploding.

Washingon's battle was fought at 'relatively' long range of about 9,000 yards. She did a good bit of torpedo dodging.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 9:08:14 PM PST
BRNIZED says:
Have you heard about the new information recently released by the Freedom of Information Act? Here is a web site telling how FDR did know of the impending attack by the Japanese. Very interesting .

"Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor?" http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=408

Posted on Dec 8, 2012 9:16:09 PM PST
BRNIZED says:
Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor?

This is the title of an article by Douglas Cirignano. I had heard about the release of some papers from WWII, which proved FDR did know of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=408

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 11:02:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2012 11:03:28 PM PST
aLocher says:
RB-N: This article is ten years old. It is co-authored by by Robert Stinnet, who also wrote "Day of Deceit," to flesh out his theory that Roosevelt had foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, and indeed, tried to provoke the Japanese into attacking.

IMHO, if you read the entire book, his analysis and conclusions are full of holes.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 12:15:01 AM PST
BRNIZED says:
It was my understanding the papers were just recently released. Is that not the case? Sorry I missed the date on it. I should have looked more closely.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 1:20:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2012 1:27:06 AM PST
I am quite enjoying the comments here.

Michener, who was there, says Guadalcanal was our worst defeat in history. Our Navy's most humiliating shame. He bases this on the fact that at Savo, we had our cruisers ready for action, knew a Japanese assault force was forming to the north, with known speed, direcxtion and intention. Yet, we let it slip into the very shadow of our guns and destroy the backbone of our sea force.

Until the P38's arrived American planes took a severe beating. The saying was "If you are alone and you meet a single Zero, you had better run as fast as you can because you are outnumbered".

Michener admits Guadalcanal can be counted as a victory, but the price made it a loss.

Any comments on this?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 8:17:31 AM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes, FG, I'd absolutely agree with that statement - the whole Guadalcanal campaign was hanging on the Washington. Her remarkable performance redeemed the sacrifices and fumbles of the other ships and commanders there, including the South Dakota. Battleships may be obsolete, but when you need one, it's great to have it. But I've heard it said that Abe could have finished off the crippled US force after the Nov.13 fight, and turned a tactical victory into something decisive. Is that possible?
And WD, I would say the calling our grim defeat at Savo Island a humiliating shame is unfair. We fumbled badly - but that's to the credit of the Japanese, who were VERY professional, though they made their own fumbles too. But I would say a good part of night fighting with ships is "keep it simple, stupid". At Savo the Japanese came in a single line ahead, flying long pennants for visual identification - and they still got split up.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 8:40:38 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
F. Gleaves says:

[Fortunately Washington's skipper was an expert in radar-controlled gunnery, and the USN cruisers had taken out the Kirishima's sister Hiei in that sacrificial battle two nights before, fought so close that the Long Lance torpedoes failed to arm and bounced off the US cruisers' hulls without exploding.]

You're hitting on two subjects that are interesting for me.

Is it correct that the U.S. had the advantage of radar aimed guns but the Japanese didn't ? Did the Japanese even have radar at that time ?

Torpedoes are interesting for me because I heard the water focuses the effect of the explosion and makes it more devastating. I guess the water creates a sort of shaped charge effect.

It sounds like the American ships lucked out in this case since the Japanese torpedoes didn't have enough distance to arm. What was that minimum required distance and why was this even necessary ? Why weren't they armed before launching ?

Jeff Marzano

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 9:22:42 AM PST
Savo Island was a defeat. The Japanese did something that the American commanding admiral didn't think they would do. The recon reports didn't identify a cruiser force, but a seaplane carries and couple of destroyers and he thought they were setting up a base on another island. That being said he didn't prepare for any eventually, his cruisers weren't at a standby condition and most were sunk without getting off a singe round in self defense. We weren't prepared to fight a night engagement and it turned out to be a Japanese specialty.

Gudalcanal on the whole was a resounding defeat for the Japanese and did a lot of damage to their surface force which it never recovered from. The US could replace sunken ships in fairly quick order and the Japanese couldn't. The Japanese didn't launch a single heavy cruiser and only about four light cruisers in the entire course of the war. Gudalcanal, the Solomons and New Guinea were the graveyard of both Japanese Naval Aviation and Army Aviation. Most of the good Japanese pilots died there and the Japanese had no mechanism to rotate pilots or units out of combat to serve as seed corn for the next generation of pilots. They fought until they either died, or were so sick or badly injured they had to be evacuated. Long before the P38s arrived, the Marines had evolved tactics to counter the Zero and had a high kill to loss ratio. The IJA and IJN lost the equivilent of four to five elite divisions in the ground fighting, the the few that they were able to evacuate at the end were so debilited by starvaton and disease that most never fought again. So by no standard can you count Gudalcanal as a US loss. It was attritional warfare that we could afford to fight and the Japanese coundn't

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 9:31:51 AM PST
The Japanese had very few radar sets in early WWII and they were very primitive. On the other hand, their night optics were every good and they were well trained in their use. The Japanese trained for night fighting between the wars and the US didn't and we payed a steep price to learn how.

Torpedos, bombs and shells all have a minimum arming distance to protect the ship or plane launching or firing them. Torpedos in particular hit the water detonator first quite hard when they are launched from either a surface ship or bomber, so without a delay in arming they would detonate upon hitting the water.

As far as the explosions are concerned, water, unlike air is uncompressible so while it doesn't focus a blast like a shaped charge, it confines the blast so it can to the maximum amount of damage. In air, something like 90% of blast is wasted.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 9:47:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2012 9:51:10 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
Richard M. Smith says:

[Gudalcanal on the whole was a resounding defeat for the Japanese and did a lot of damage to their surface force which it never recovered from.]

Was it on Gudalcanal where one American using a 3 inch gun did so much damage to the Japanese ships ?

I recall a TV show where when the Japanese finally reached shore they were looking for the guy who had been firing the 3 inch gun.

Jeff Marzano

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 9:50:51 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
Richard M. Smith says:

[Torpedos, bombs and shells all have a minimum arming distance to protect the ship or plane launching or firing them.]

I know someone who had been in the army during Viet Nam and was trained now how to fire artillery although fortunately for him he never actually went to Nam. He said the shells had some sort of switch on them that would tell them how far to travel before detonating.

According to him one of the artillery crews accidentally set their shell wrong and it exploded almost immediately after firing, killing some people.

It doesn't seem like that should even be possible unless the intent was to booby trap the weapon.

Jeff Marzano

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 10:10:54 AM PST
I believe that was Wake Island. I haven't ever heard of land batteries fighting Japanese ships on Gudalcanal.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 10:19:33 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 9, 2012 10:20:21 AM PST
Jeff, what your friend was talking about was that American fuzes have a switch and a revolution counter inside to prevent premature detonation. The switch has to be moved to the rear by the acceleration of being fired down the gun tube, and the rev counter has to register a certain number or rotations before it allows the firing pin to align with the primer.

As to the accidental detonation, artillery shells can have time fuzes, but what he was probably referring to was either a shrapnel or beehive round designed to burst close to the gun for anti-personnel usage. I'm talking off the top of my head now and trying to remember facts from over 40 years ago, but normal artillery fuzes need at least 30 meters before they arm.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2012 11:08:26 AM PST
R. Largess says:
The story of the Japanese Navy in WWII is well worth studying, if for no reason other than the light it sheds on the question of whether an inferior force can defeat a superior one with better tactics, better quality of personnel, or better material - as the German navy tried to do against the British in WWI, or Lee tried to do against the Army of the Potomac. One case where it worked was the Japanese against the Russians in 1904-5. The Japanese Navy fought a very professional campaign on a shoestring then, and were trying to apply some of their lessons learned again in WWII.

Posted on Dec 9, 2012 11:13:03 AM PST
A large part of the problem was that the codebreaking duties were divided between the Army and Navy, and they communicated as little as possible. A much better question might be: Did the British know about the attack on Pearl Harbor? It's pretty clear that they did, and that Churchill sat there at dinner, with Averill Harriman, knowing the attack was imminent, waiting for the attack to be reported.
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