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Old November 10 2011, 12:32 PM   #36
7thsealord's Avatar
Location: Australia
Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
7thsealord wrote: View Post
So, the main allegation is that FDR sacrificed a fleet of obsolescent battleships (plus crews), but took special care to move the essential aircraft carriers out of danger. This notion totally ignores the strategic naval thinking of the time. Staunch carrier advocates existed on both sides, but most were relatively junior and all were regarded as at least slightly loony.
I am with the gist of your comments but I have to disagree on that point. By 1941 the US Navy had some very senior leaders who were not only enthusiastic about aviation but in positions do do something about it. A carrier admiral, Joseph M. Reeves, had reached the position of Commander-in-Chief US Fleet back in 1934. Another, Harry Yarnell, had commanded the Asiatic Fleet in the buildup of tension with Japan including the Panay incident. At the time of Pearl Harbor, another carrier admiral, Ernest King, was leading the quasi-war with U-boats as CinC Atlantic Fleet, and would soon be called upon to take command of the entire wartime US Navy. One of the navy's three vice admiral slots was reserved for the fleet carrier command, equal to the fleet battleships. The Navy Bureau of Aeronautics had a strong presence in Washington, more powerful than any comparable body in the UK or Japan (or the War Department).

The top brass in the RN, the USN, and the IJN still regarded battleships as all-important - and aircraft carriers as a very experimental adjunct to the hallowed Line Of Battle. This was despite the notable early successes of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (at Taranto and versus the Bismarck) - noting also that Taranto was the inspiration for the Pearl Harbour attack.
The Fleet Problems of the 1930s had dramatically demonstrated to all but the most hidebound members of the Gun Club that naval aviation was too important to be a sideline. How carriers should be operate with the battle line was still being worked out, but the USN was well on its way to being an "air navy" at the time of Pearl Harbor. Appropriations for aircraft and air training in the late '30s and the positioning of key aviation leaders in important fleet posts laid much of the groundwork that enabled the USN to defeat the Japanese carrier force at Midway (which wasn't pure luck as some like to say).

Aside from the fine points made earlier, a FDR Pearl Harbor conspiracy doesn't make sense by simple logic: Once the armed Japanese planes enter T.H. airspace, there's the casus belli, they don't have to sink anything. The forewarned battle fleet could have steamed out Saturday night and left an empty harbor and FDR would still have justification for war.

Points very well taken, and I certainly was not denigrating the USN. But the Battleship mentality was still very strong despite these changes - hence the move of stationing a buttload of battleships ready to move against Japan. As regards the state of the US carriers in 1941, while changes were on the way they were only "just" getting rid of the godawful 'Brewster Buffalo' fighter, for example.

Consider the IJN, who arguably had an equal if not somewhat stronger carrier fleet (at least on paper). This was kept incredibly busy in the early stages of the Pacific War, raiding as far south as Darwin and as far east as Ceylon. The majority of Japan's battlehips, however? They (including the superbattleships Yamato and Musashi) were nicknamed the "Hashirajima Fleet", because they spent most of the war at that port - mainly waiting for the huge Jutland-style "decisive battle" with the USN that the IJN's Admiralty was CERTAIN would come. But it never did - at least, not as they thought it would.

.... And, yes, the US victory at Midway was not pure luck. It can be argued quite solidly that nearly all the mistakes made before or during the battle were by the Japanese. Fuchida himself admits this in a book he co-wrote post-war. But luck was still pretty derned important. As is often the case.
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