June 1944 battleship encounter

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Mostlyharmless
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June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by Mostlyharmless » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:33 pm

What if there had been a battleship encounter at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944? This allows us to offer various alternative scenarios but I think that the American knowledge of the Japanese battleships was sufficiently limited that we can imagine a variety of Japanese forces approaching whilst we keep the American force at a constant strength and position.

The fast battleship force of the USN 3rd Fleet, Task Group 58.7 (TG-58.7) under Vice-Admiral Willis Lee, included seven fast battleships (Washington (flagship), North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota and Alabama), and eight heavy cruisers (Baltimore, Boston, Canberra, Indianapolis, Wichita, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and San Francisco) according to Wikipedia although other accounts only list four heavy cruisers.

According to http://www.microworks.net/pacific/battl ... ne_sea.htm, Rear-Admiral Obayashi Sueo's Carrier Division 3 began launching a strike of A6M Zeke fighter-bombers and B6N Jill torpedo planes at 1637 on 19th June 1944. However, these were recalled shortly afterwards following Vice-Admiral Ozawa's order to retire westwards. The same source also notes that sunrise was at 0542 on June 20th. The point of that is to indicate that a Japanese force including Yamato, Musashi, Haruna and Kongo was less than 350 miles from the American carriers at 1637 and probably significantly closer (I am not exactly sure how close they were but a Zero could not carry a 250 kilo bomb very far and hope to return). If we assume that the Japanese battleline set off towards the Americans at 1637 at 24 knots, then it seems plausible that they could be 312 nautical miles closer after 13 hours. Thus contact at dawn or just after is entirely plausible although American radar equipped aircraft will have detected the Japanese force well before that time.

As we have to predict the American reaction, it is probably worth noting an article http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-084.htm which points out that up to June 1944 the USN assumed that the Yamato class mounted 16 inch guns. Thus it seems plausible that Vice-Admiral Lee will accept action confidently against any imaginable Japanese battleline after dawn on the 20th possibly even without calling for air support if the Japanese carriers are known to be present.

Now we need to define imaginable. I think that TG-58.7 should be able to handle Yamato, Musashi, Haruna and Kongo. We could add Nagato to the Japanese battleline to recreate the Centre Force from Leyte. According to Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Nagato could manage 24.98 knots in October 1944, which might slightly slow the approach but would still allow contact at dawn. We could equally add Fuso and Yamashiro. Historically, these ships were considered of low value and no effort was made to send them after they had been involved in Operation Kon. However, they could have been there and they were only half a knot slower than Nagato. We now have a seven versus seven clash with still an edge to TG-58.7.

To strengthen the IJN battleline further, we need to start changing history more radically. The obvious possibilities are to keep Ise and Hyuga as battleships and/or to avoid smoking in Mutsu's magazines. I suspect the ten versus seven clash should be won by the Japanese until American airpower intervenes.

Finally, if the Japanese had had a die hard battleship Navy minister in 1941-2, such as Yoshida instead of Shimada, we could imagine a very poorly worked up Shinano just making the battleline, probably with workers still on board like Prince of Wales at Denmark Straits.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:53 pm

The main problem I see in this scenario is that it's 7 thoroughly modern battleships against only two modern battleships and five not so modern battleships. I wouldn't expect the older battleships to hold up very long against modern 16" fire.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by Saltheart » Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:40 am

Those 7 US battleships running into 7 Axis ships would be good.

Imagine a scenario where Bismarck was never sent out in May 41 Instead it and Tirpitz are kept in cotton wool year after year by a Hitler determined that these prestige assets will never be lost with the attendant blow to morale. All objections of the Kriegsmarine are overuled.

Finally in 1944 in answer to a Japanese request (completely unrealistic) both battleships leave the Norwegian fjords and head to the Pacific. They avoid detection and arrive in Japan (about as realistic as them cruising to the moon. :wink: ). The Japanese manufacture the shells for their 38cm guns. (Again unrealistic).

Mutsu never blows up, Shinano is completed at a tremendous pace and the Japanese decide on a battleship solution to their situation.

Yamato, Musashi, Shinano, Nagato, Mutsu, Bismarck and Tirpitz head out to have a decisive fleet encounter. :D They encounter the 7 fast US battleships with no escorts, subs or aircraft around. That is a gunfight which would be fascinating. The 3 super battleships would have an advantage over the US ships, the other 4 would be outgunned but still able to penetrate the armor on the US battleships.

This is the only scenario where Axis battleships taking on US fast battleships would have a real fighting chance. I'm not saying they'll defenately win, I'm saying they have a chance. I'd see it as a straight equal 50/50 possibility as to who would come out on top.

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RF
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by RF » Fri Sep 27, 2013 6:14 pm

Saltheart wrote: Finally in 1944 in answer to a Japanese request (completely unrealistic) both battleships leave the Norwegian fjords and head to the Pacific. They avoid detection and arrive in Japan (about as realistic as them cruising to the moon. :wink: ). The Japanese manufacture the shells for their 38cm guns. (Again unrealistic).
Well, you could consider a summer 1943 scenario in which Bismarck/Tirpiz shoulder their way along the North-East Passage to the Bering Strait with two or three of the large KM tanker supply ships in company. The Soviets would not have been able to stop them and the Germans could have got to Japan....
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by Saltheart » Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:09 am

RF wrote:
Saltheart wrote: Finally in 1944 in answer to a Japanese request (completely unrealistic) both battleships leave the Norwegian fjords and head to the Pacific. They avoid detection and arrive in Japan (about as realistic as them cruising to the moon. :wink: ). The Japanese manufacture the shells for their 38cm guns. (Again unrealistic).
Well, you could consider a summer 1943 scenario in which Bismarck/Tirpiz shoulder their way along the North-East Passage to the Bering Strait with two or three of the large KM tanker supply ships in company. The Soviets would not have been able to stop them and the Germans could have got to Japan....
Fascinating. I never even thought of that.
For a photo op it would be fantastic to have B and T alongside Y and M at Truk. I suppose the German duo would look a bit small (but cool).

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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by tameraire01 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:24 pm

We would not let them escape. Look at what we did to the rest of the KM battle fleet, We hunted them down and sunk them. The FAA tried sinking tirpitz at anchor, The RN tried sinking it with mini subs and the RAF 617 dropped tallboys and grand slams to finally sink it. We would not let them leave Europe in one piece.
Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. Joseph Stalin

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RF
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by RF » Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:29 am

All of these attacks you cite were made possible by the Tirpitz being largely immobile in northern Norwegian waters, relatively close to the UK and also to Soviet airfields.

At longer ranges and with full mobility it becomes far more difficult. The safest place for German warships during WW2 was not home waters but in the outer oceans, even when the Allies had reliable radar.
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:34 pm

Saltheart wrote:
RF wrote:
Saltheart wrote: Finally in 1944 in answer to a Japanese request (completely unrealistic) both battleships leave the Norwegian fjords and head to the Pacific. They avoid detection and arrive in Japan (about as realistic as them cruising to the moon. :wink: ). The Japanese manufacture the shells for their 38cm guns. (Again unrealistic).
Well, you could consider a summer 1943 scenario in which Bismarck/Tirpiz shoulder their way along the North-East Passage to the Bering Strait with two or three of the large KM tanker supply ships in company. The Soviets would not have been able to stop them and the Germans could have got to Japan....
Fascinating. I never even thought of that.
For a photo op it would be fantastic to have B and T alongside Y and M at Truk. I suppose the German duo would look a bit small (but cool).
The IJN had such serious fuel problems it couldn't operate Y and M very much. Bismarck and Tirpitz would also have sat unused at Truk until time for a suicide mission.

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RF
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by RF » Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:29 pm

I think that if you care to reread my earlier post that you have quoted I did suggest up to 3 of the KM Tanker supply ships accompanied the two battleships, which would keep them supplied for a while. Also the tanker prizes seized by the Thor would come in useful, as they were retained in the Far East. The Germans also had a number of blockade runners available, some such as the tanker Brake were supplying U-boats into 1944.
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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by LeopardTooth » Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:34 am

although other accounts only list four heavy cruisers
Spruance transferred older CAs Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Wichita (as well as CLs Birmingham, Honolulu, and St. Louis and twenty-one destroyers) from Turner's invasion fleet/Oldendorf's shore bombardment fleet to Mitchner's fifth fleet as sea battle became immanent. They joined up at 18:00 on June 18th.
a summer 1943 scenario in which Bismarck/Tirpiz shoulder their way along the North-East Passage
I cannot think of a plausible motivation why the Germans would want to do this.

As for the originally hypothesized seven-on-four/five/seven/ten battleship battle, I imagine that it would be over quickly and decisively. As tough as the Japanese ships were, all seven US battleships would have been newer, faster, and more powerful than all of their opponents save Yamato, and with the most up to date fire control radar available. But, more importantly, the battle as described would have taken place in early daylight within a quick five minute flight of fifteen American carriers flying ~800 combat aircraft. It would be like PoW/Repulse or Cornwall/Dorsetshire or Gloucester/Fiji/Greyhound, but on a larger scale and quicker.

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Re: June 1944 battleship encounter

Post by LeopardTooth » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:04 am

It would be like PoW/Repulse or Cornwall/Dorsetshire or Gloucester/Fiji/Greyhound
Or like Musashi, 24 Oct 1944, and Yamato, 7 Apr 1945, for that matter.

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