Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 696
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by aurora » Thu Dec 18, 2014 11:46 am

Spruance's Decision at the Battle of the Philippine Sea

The Japanese forces had been sighted by American submarines as early as June 15. By June 16 Admiral Spruance, commanding the US Forces (the Fifth Fleet), was satisfied that a major sea battle was approaching, and made plans accordingly. By the afternoon of June 18 Task Force 58 (the Fast Carrier Task Force under Admiral Mitscher) was concentrated near Saipan ready to meet the Japanese fleet.

More intelligence of the Japanese fleet's movements, from submarines and radio intercepts, came in during June18. Shortly before midnight 18/19 June Admiral Nimitz sent Spruance a message from Pacific Fleet Headquarters indicating that the Japanese flagship was approximately 350 miles to the west-south-west of Task Force 58. Shortly afterwards Mitscher sought Spruance's permission to head west during the night to what - as Mitscher and his staff considered - would be an ideal launch position for an all-out dawn air attack on the enemy force.

However, Spruance refused. Throughout the run-up to the battle he had been concerned that the Japanese would try to draw his main fleet away from the landing area using a diversionary force, and would then make an attack around the flank of the US carrier force - an "end run" - hitting the invasion shipping off Saipan. Such methods were a long-standing part of the Japanese Navy's tactical doctrine .

Spruance was intensely conscious that protection of the invasion shipping was his paramount responsibility, and should take precedence over the destruction of the Japanese fleet. Moreover, the Admiral considered, as he was later to observe, that "if we were doing something so important that we were attracting the enemy to us, we could afford to let him come - and take care of him when he arrived." This was to be in effect what happened.

Mitscher and his staff were aghast at Spruance's decision. Captain Arleigh Burke, The Task Force 58 Chief of Staff, bitterly commented that it "meant that the enemy could attack us at will at dawn the next morning. We could not attack the enemy." The Fifth Fleet Commander was adversely criticised by many naval officers after the battle and continues to be condemned - by some writers - to the present day.

A still common allegation is that Spruance decided as he did because he was not an aviator, and therefore could only have had an inadequate understanding of carrier warfare.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 696
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by aurora » Thu Dec 18, 2014 4:04 pm

I personally am of the opinion that the overall commander on the scene should make all tactical decisions in the light of ultimate and paramount objectives,strategic and national;even it means ignoring the destruction of enemy armed forces as his primary objective-and this is precisely what Spruance did.
I certainly do not expect everyone to have the same opinion as I; but I am hoping for a lively debate.Hope Springs Eternal. :ok:
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

Steve Crandell
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:05 pm

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Steve Crandell » Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:19 pm

aurora wrote:I personally am of the opinion that the overall commander on the scene should make all tactical decisions in the light of ultimate and paramount objectives,strategic and national;even it means ignoring the destruction of enemy armed forces as his primary objective-and this is precisely what Spruance did.
I certainly do not expect everyone to have the same opinion as I; but I am hoping for a lively debate.Hope Springs Eternal. :ok:
I think Spruance was proven correct by the end results. The loss of trained air crew was probably worse than the loss of ships for the Japanese. Both would be better, but of course this decision has been compared with Halsey's aggressive pursuit of an IJN decoy fleet later in the war, which could have resulted in serious damage to the US invasion fleet.

Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Garyt » Thu Dec 18, 2014 7:46 pm

The right call was made by Spruance IMO.

So many Japanese planes were lost in the battle, and carriers without planes are useless. This was the last battle that the Japanese Naval Aviation did anything using conventional tactics.. One might say the Japanese carriers with poorly trained pilots and flammable planes were useless before the battle :D , but Spruance did not know that.

Spruance may or may not have known how bad the Japanese carrier force was off after this battle, and that they would never have a viable carrier force after this battle, but he made the right move protecting the landings.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 696
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by aurora » Tue Dec 23, 2014 10:46 am

Spruance was strongly criticized by aviators for failing to aggressively pursue the Japanese fleet at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Spruance understood his primary mission to be supporting the invasion of Saipan, and he took no chance of a Japanese force slipping in behind him. His fear was not unreasonable.

Prados (1995) reports that Spruance had an intelligence digest, based on documents captured from Combined Fleet chief of staff Fukudome by Filipino guerrillas, indicating Japanese plans for such an end run.

King supported Spruance, telling him that "Spruance, you did a damn fine job there. No matter what other people tell you, your decision was correct" (Tuohy 2007). Spruance's fast carrier commander, Marc Mitscher, told Arleigh Burke that.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Dec 27, 2014 3:25 am

It was more complicated than that. While Spuance didn't want to go on with the carriers or the whole 5th Fleet, he hoped to set up Lee's battleships with a great opprotunity to destroy the Japanese warships in a surface battle. Indeed the battleships had already been concentrated together as a task group and were operating separately from the carriers. This caused a bit controversay because the carriers had to rely mainly on the CAP for air cover and the battleships did not contribute to protecting the carriers from the air attacks. In the event it made no difference to Japanese planes shot down as Spruance predicted.

Lee rejected Spruance's plan to send the fast battleships at that time because it would have been a night battle, and Lee thought that would put the fast battleships at a great tactical disadvantage. Lee often expressed that he would never again expose his battleships to such risks as he had to run at Guadalcanal in 1942, and that USN battleships were not designed for, and the crews poorly trained for, night battle. Attempts to bring off the battle in daylight were hampered by the need to slow to a crawl and refuel the escorting destroyers and the overall max task group speed. Lee just couldn't catch up with the Japanese warships by then.

The lost opprotunity had deterimental affect on the morale of the battle line, and this figured into Halsey's determination to go after the IJN carriers during daylight with the fast battleships at Leyte.
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.

Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Garyt » Sat Dec 27, 2014 5:17 am

Lee often expressed that he would never again expose his battleships to such risks as he had to run at Guadalcanal in 1942, and that USN battleships were not designed for, and the crews poorly trained for, night battle
So much for the superiority of US Battleships at night with their radar fire control :D

Really though, I think radar was definitely an advantage at night. However, I think it's often overrated by those who look at WW2 radar fire control as having the accuracy of modern smart bombs.

It's almost comical in some of the battleship vs. battleship discussions by those who say "the Ioawa's would just stay at a distance where the Japanese could not hit them and lob shell after shell on a Yamato". :stubborn:

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Dec 27, 2014 3:16 pm

Radar was a great asset for night battle but it wasn't a panacea. The way some see it today is post ergo. At the time, people like Lee had to work within the practical reality of what was theoretical vs the actual battle experience gained up until then. Lee wanted to use the battleships for relatively long range combat and stay clear of torpedo water. Night battle works against long ranges regardless of radar capabilities for many reasons. Not the least of which is contact identification.

In 1944 Allied naval IFF was a complete mess, with many warships not equipped with the right equipment, any equipment at all, and many captains refusing to operate it if they had it. There was great uncertainty about what radar contacts may represent. Identification of radar contacts on radar indication alone was mostly guess work. Previous experience with phantom radar contacts, and the Battle of the Pips, did not improve confidence.
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.

pgollin
Senior Member
Posts: 371
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:01 pm

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by pgollin » Sun Dec 28, 2014 4:40 pm

.

In addition, radar was still unreliable and poor weather could effect it.

from 1942 the RN started to mount radar jamming sets and in 1944 window (chaff) anti-radar shells which equipped the Home Fleet and then Eastern Fleet and BPF,

The RN did NOT think that radar could be 100% relied upon until the mid/late-50s.

.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 696
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by aurora » Wed Dec 31, 2014 11:03 am

Agreed- but did this concept not come from the RAF?????? USN engineer Fred Whipple co-
invented this for the USN late in the war
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

pgollin
Senior Member
Posts: 371
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:01 pm

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by pgollin » Wed Dec 31, 2014 11:24 am

.

Which ?

Window/chaff was separately invented by the British (rope/window), Germans (duppel ???) and USA (chaff) ( I THINK in that order, but I may well be wrong ???? ).

Anti-radar jamming was first British, then German with the US first copying British and then doing their own.

As far as I know only the British produced window/chaff anti-radar shells and rockets in WW2 with US forces using some British supplied rockets at D-Day (which is when the British first fielded them).

.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 696
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by aurora » Wed Dec 31, 2014 1:37 pm

pgollin wrote:.

Which ?

Window/chaff was separately invented by the British (rope/window), Germans (duppel ???) and USA (chaff) ( I THINK in that order, but I may well be wrong ???? ).

Anti-radar jamming was first British, then German with the US first copying British and then doing their own.

As far as I know only the British produced window/chaff anti-radar shells and rockets in WW2 with US forces using some British supplied rockets at D-Day (which is when the British first fielded them).

.
I would say that about covers this subject nicely-thank you
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Spruance's Decision-Right or Wrong

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Dec 31, 2014 3:03 pm

The Germans knew about Window/Dueppel probably at about the same time that the British did, but they didn't employ it until after the British did, hoping the British didn't also invent it (not wanting to give the idea to the enemy in case they didn't). After the use of Window to facilitate the big Hamburg bombing raid in mid 43, then the Germans used Dueppel extensively in the Med. German U-boats and some warships were equipped with chaff dispensers from late 43.

The British and the German were already playing the radar counter measures and counter counter measures games as early as 1940, once they realized that radar capabilities were not exclusive.

The Americans developed radar counter measures, and counter counter measures, in anticipation to Japanese advances in radar capabilities and radar counter measures, that the Japanese never developed into practical applications.
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.

Post Reply