Back to previous post: A Visit from Saint Nicholas

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: When Johnny strikes up the band

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

December 7, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:56 AM * 153 comments

7 December 1941:

0342: USS Condor, a minesweeper, sights periscope in restricted water off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Sends message via blinker light to destroyer USS Ward.

0610: Japanese carriers turn into the wind and commence launching aircraft.

0637: USS Ward fires on and sinks Japanese midget submarine in Pearl Harbor approaches.

0702: Opana Point radar station reports 50+ incoming aircraft.

0715: Ward’s report reaches Admiral Kimmel, who decides to wait for verification before taking action.

0720: Ft. Shafter operations center interprets Opana Point radar report as expected flight of bombers from the US.

0733: Based on decrypts of Japanese diplomatic traffic, US Chief of Staff General Marshall sends a war warning to General Short, commanding the Hawaiian defense zone. The message is sent via commercial telegram.

0753: First wave of 183 Japanese aircraft, led by torpedo bombers, arrive at Pearl Harbor.

0854: Second wave (170 aircraft) arrives.

1000: Japanese aircraft return to their carriers.

1145: General Marshall’s message from Washington, warning that the Japanese have broken off talks and this may mean war, arrives at General Short’s headquarters in Hawaii.

1300: Admiral Nagumo decides against launching a third wave and turns his carriers back toward Japan.

US losses: 2,403 (including 68 civilians) killed, 1,178 wounded. 20 ships damaged or sunk. 188 aircraft destroyed. Fourteen individuals win the Congressional Medal of Honor. US Navy loses more in one morning than they’d lost in all of WWI.

Japanese losses: 55 aviators, 9 submariners killed, 1 captured. 29 aircraft fail to return. 5 submarines sunk.

Franklin Roosevelt addressed a joint session of congress on 8 December:

Yesterday, 7 December 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives were lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounded determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, 7 December, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Comments on Remember Pearl Harbor:
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 09:29 AM:

A question for those who know way more than I do about History... Exactly what the hell did Japan think America would do in response to the attack?

#2 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 09:56 AM:

Serge - as far as I remember (from reading - I'm not that old), the plan was:

1. Destroy the US Pacific Fleet.
2. Kick the US out of its Western Pacific possessions.
3. Kick the British out of south-east Asia.
4. Occupy territories roughly along the line Wake-Marshall Islands-Gilbert Islands-Guadalcanal-New Guinea-Java-Singapore-Malaya.
5. In shock, the US will now agree to a peace deal and accept Japan's new territorial gains - after all, it has no Pacific Fleet and thus no alternative course of action except a long and costly war, for which it has no stomach.
6. Undisturbed, exploit the hell out of everything inside the above line, paying particular attention to oil fields and rubber plantations.
7. By this time the British Empire should have collapsed. Move in and take the remains.

And for ten points: which country has a major airport named after a general who fought with the Japanese Empire against the Allies? (Not Japan)

#3 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 09:58 AM:

Because of the US's reluctance to enter the war in the European Theatre, the Japanese believed that we would not oppose their actions in the Pacific -- and that their attack on us would discourage us from retaliating...

They thought that we could not repair our losses with enough speed to be a threat in the Pacific.

They were wrong on both counts.


#4 ::: cw ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 10:29 AM:

I'm currently living in Japan studying the language, and I'm finding it a little weird that I didn't realize what day today (well, already yesterday for me) was.

The way Japan's role in World War II is portrayed/downplayed here is an interesting contrast to the way things are in Germany, where they are quite active in expressing their remorse.

#5 ::: Holly Parkis ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 10:52 AM:

I believe part of Japan's reasoning behind the Pearl Harbor strike was that Hawaii was not, at the time, a state; it was just a territory. They thought the US would respond in about the way Ajay laid out, and didn't expect the attack to be such a red flag.

Again, born well after WWII as well, so this is just from reading.

#6 ::: Sand Storm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Here is a copy of the Honolulu Advertiser from Dec 8th, 1941

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:09 AM:

Did the attack on Pearl Harbor actually wipe out the entire Pacific fleet? (I know; I have a shamefull lack of knowledge about WWII.)

#8 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:12 AM:

Madeline: No. For instance, none of the Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers were in Pearl.

That certainly came back to haunt the Imperial Navy.

#9 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Ajay - I'm guessing India (Bose?)

#10 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Madeleine: Although the attack destroyed or damaged every capital ship in the harbour, crucially the US aircraft carriers were out on manoeuvres.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive article on the battle of Pearl Harbor; I've closed that window or else I will be chasing links until the cows come home...

#11 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Those carriers certainly did, but that was a close thing, too. The Yorktown was nearly sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and was fixed with everything short of chewing gum to make it to the decisive battle at Midway. And even with the code-breaking that was going on, Midway was nowhere near a foregone conclusion.

It's easy to forget just how close we came to losing the war. . .

#12 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:32 AM:

The Bay Area has two freeways named for victorious WWII commanders, General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. I believe the freeways are misnamed. It is the Nimitz Freeway (I-880) that leads you into a fucking awful mess, and it is the MacArthur Freeway (I-580) that offers clear sailing to victory. Somehow that seems backwards.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:39 AM:

So, in a nutshell, Japan thought that America, after being personally kicked in the groin (as opposed to seeing its buddies go thru that in Europe), would just stay down and not fight back? Is it my imagination or do authoritarian societies have a tendency to assume that the other guys, because they like enjoying life, will not switch to self-defense when attacked?

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:42 AM:

Of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor, all but five were raised and repaired. (One of the ships that stayed on the bottom, USS Utah, had already been stripped and was being used only as a target hulk at the time.)

US submarines and aircraft carriers weren't touched, and it was submarines and aircraft carriers that prosecuted the war in the Pacific.

#15 ::: Peter Austin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:42 AM:

While Midway was nowhere near a foregone conclusion, it's actually rather unlikely that a total Japanese victory at Midway would have won the war for the Japanese. American political resolve was such that a defeat would have force a negotiated settlement, and, as far as I'm aware, the Japanese military was at the far end of its logistical capabilities by June 1942. It is, to my mind, extraordinarily unlikely that the Japanese would have been able to invade either the western United States or Panama before the massive, massive American wartime shipbuilding program began to make itself felt. A victory at Midway would have prolonged the war significantly, but I don't think it would have changed the ultimate outcome. There's not a whole lot you can do when the enemy has about ten times your industrial capacity.

As a side note, not only were the American carriers not in Pearl on December 7th, neither was the battleship Colorado, then at Bremerton undergoing a refit. Additionally, the battleships Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania were all very lightly damaged, and were back in service by February 1942, when the Japanese were still conquering the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. Then there's the fact that seven of the U.S. navy's battleships were in the Atlantic at the time - while this included the three oldest battleships, it also included the new North Carolina and the three New Mexico class battleships, which were newer than the Arizona.

Finally, can anyone post me a link to how the 18 ships sunk figure is generated? I was going through a list of ships damaged and I can't really make it work. There's about twenty ships damaged, but a lot of those weren't damaged enouogh in my mind to count as sunk . . .

#16 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:46 AM:

Madeleine, the US Pacific Fleet had other bases on the US West Coast, and, most significantly, the aircraft carriers were not caught in harbour. That gave the US Navy the hitting power it needed to challenge the Japanese. disrupting their later attacks on Allied territory. But it was a close-run thing. Losing a carrier at Pearl Harbor would have had a huge effect in the following six months. The USN had 7 carriers and lost 4 in 1942

On the other hand, the Royal Navy did send a carrier to work with the Pacific Fleet, HMS Victorious in 1943, and both USS Ranger and USS Wasp operated with the Royal Navy. What would have happened if USS Wasp had been diverted from ferrying fighter aircraft to Malta?

#17 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:46 AM:

One point, Serge: I think a case could be made that many people in the US didn't see anyone in Europe as their buddies. For instance, there was a very strong isolationist movement in the US (with close ties to Nazi Germany) that wielded considerable political clout.

The fatal miscalculation the Japanese made was in assuming that their attack on Pearl wouldn't pull the legs out from under the America First movement. It did so, in a pretty spectacular fashion: the America First movement closed up shop almost immediately (though their leadership did continue to meet in secret for a number of years after Pearl Harbor before coming to the conclusion that Nazi Germany was going to lose the war).

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:47 AM:

The Nimitz freeway came first. (I remember when they built the MacArthur freeway.) The spaghetti junction has always been bad; it's the freeways going north out of it that mess it up. And I never liked the late unlamented Cypress structure; it gave me claustrophobia, or something (there was no way out from the lower deck, except through spaghetti junction).

#19 ::: dfinberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Derek, as long as the US maintained resolve, it couldn't possibly have lost the war. The industrial capacity was far too great. The US could have scuttled all of its ships in the pacific in 1944 and still had more ships than japan in 1945.

The US floated 50 CVE's in 43 and 44, to say nothing of the CV's and CVL's.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:59 AM:

And, protected static, there were also quite a few people in Canada who also didn't give a hoot about Europe, namely French-Canadians. They saw the whole mess as an attack on the British Crown, and they couldn't care less.

Anyway, like I said, Japan seriously miscalculated the nature of its ennemy. Was it a case of not being reality-based, of not listening to those whose views didn't fit?

#21 ::: Jerol J ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:10 PM:

I think Admiral Yamamoto (sp?) had some misgivings about the value of attacking Pearl Harbor. I know the "sleeping giant" line is a myth but I believe he did say that at the most the attack would only buy Japan more time.

#22 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:16 PM:

From all the reading I've done (I took a course on American Grand Strategy 1890-Present last year, and we discussed the pacific war in detail) the Japanese never really thought it was likely that they could win a sustained war with America. However, they were dependent upon American and British sources (and the Dutch East Indies, propped up by American and British naval power) for almost all of their rubber and oil. In addition most Japanese industry was dependent on American manufacturers for things like machine tools. Throughout 1941 America, alarmed at the prospect of facing German ascendancy in Europe and an aggressive Japan had been threatening to cut Japan off from these vital supplies, unless Japan abandoned almost all of its conquests on the Asian continent. (This is not to somehow blame the U.S. for the attack; the Japanese campaigns in Korea and China were brutal, nakedly aggressive affairs which occasionally bordered on the genocidal. F.D.R. was right to refuse to support them on moral, as well as realpolitik, grounds)

The Japanese calculation was that a U.S. faced with the iminent danger of a Nazi Germany without rivals on the continent (keep in mind that the Soviets are engaged in a desperate, last-ditch defense of Moscow right now, which recent history suggests will be unsuccessful) and a Japanese empire which can only be rolled back with great difficulty will take back a few islands, win a few sea battles, then negotiate a peace which strips Japan of some of its island holdings, but leaves Japan still in posession of all or most of its continental conquests, and declare victory. Of course F.D.R. caling for unconditional surrender throws a bit of a monkey-wrench into those plans, but the argument seems pretty reasonable if you're running war games in mid 1941.

#23 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Serge said
Anyway, like I said, Japan seriously miscalculated the nature of its ennemy. Was it a case of not being reality-based, of not listening to those whose views didn't fit?

There definitely was a certain amount of the "Americans are rich but soft and lazy, unlike us tough, dedicated, warrior Japanese" attitude in Japan (and Hitler and some of the other Nazis seem to have had a similar attitude).

I'm inclined to think this is a result of the hyper-nationalist/racist ideology dominating Japan at the time, mixed in with the authoritarian/fascist belief that liberal democracy was an inherently weak and irresolute form of government.

Admiral Yamamoto, who was in charge of the Japanese Navy, had actually studied in the US as a graduate student, and did not have that attitude; he recommended not going to war with the US, because he believed that American industrial power meant Japan had very little chance of winning. But when he was ordered to go ahead, he swallowed his doubts and did so. (His prediction was that Japan would be able to "run wild" for about six months, perhaps a year at most; and as it happened, the Battle of Midway was almost exactly six months after Pearl Harbor....)

#24 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:23 PM:

No Serge, it was more the desperation of those who see their alternatives narrowing. The US and allies had been increasingly effective in closing off supplies of such commodities as oil and metal scrap to Japan, supplies that were critical to a military fighting a major war in China. By 1941, the military was no longer controlled by the (shrinking) civilian portions of the government, so there was tremendous pressure to ensure access to these supplies by siezing areas such as Indochina and Malaya. But pulling supplies from those areas opened their flank to the Pacific -- requirig control of much of it.

I think that it was not so much that they were sure it would work, as they were sure that the alternative was not acceptable. There have been reports (that I cannot source this morning) that Admiral Yamamoto knew Japan was in trouble the moment he heard that the carriers were not in Pearl. It was a crapshoot that they lost, even when it looked like they were winning

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:29 PM:

USS Arizona (BB-39), sunk, still on the bottom
USS California (BB-44), sunk, refloated 24 March 1942
USS Maryland (BB-46), damaged, repaired at Puget Sound, February 1942.
USS Nevada (BB-36), beached to prevent sinking, refloated 12 February 1942.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37), capsized, still on the bottom.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), in drydock at the time of the attack, damaged, repaired August 1942.
USS Tennessee (BB-43), damaged, repaired March 1942.
USS West Virginia (BB-48), sunk, refloated 17 May 1942. (70 men were trapped by the sinking; in one compartment below, a calendar was found with the last date scratched off being 23 December.)
USS Helena (CL-50), flooded, repaired June 1942.
USS Honolulu (CL-48), flooded, repaired January 1942.
USS Raleigh (CL-7), flooded, repaired July 1942.
USS Cassin (DD-372), in drydock, damaged (200 holes in hull), rebuilt February 1944.
USS Downes (DD-375), in drydock, damaged (400 holes in hull), rebuilt November, 1943.
USS Helm (DD-388), light damage, repaired January 1942.
USS Shaw (DD-373), in drydock, damaged (50 feet blown off bow).
USS Curtis (AV-4), damaged, repaired January 1942.
USS Utah (AG-16), sunk, still on the bottom.
USS Vestal (AR-4) flooded to the main deck, repaired February 1942.
USS Oglala (CM-4) sunk, raised February 1943.
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9), sunk, raised August 1942.
Floating Drydock (YFD-2), sunk, raised May 1942.

#26 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:32 PM:

Both progressive and conservative historians have argued that Japan felt pushed to war by the U.S. For the conservative take, see Patrick Buchanan's WND Exclusive Commentary Why did Japan attack us? In Howard Zinn's Just and Unjust War, he says,

Our Open Door Policy of 1901 accepted that ganging up of the great powers on China. The United States had exchanged notes with Japan in 1917 saying, "the Government of the United States recognizes that Japan has special interests in China," and in 1928, American consuls in China supported the coming of Japanese troops.

It was only when Japan threatened potential U.S. markets by its attempted takeover of China, but especially as it moved toward the tin, rubber, and oil of Southeast Asia, that the United States became alarmed and took those measures that led to the Japanese attack: a total embargo on scrap iron and a total embargo on oil in the summer of 1941."
#27 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Talking to my mother, I get the feeling that the clincher for many Americans was that the Japanese had not declared war first....maybe hard to believe that it mattered, but theose were more idealistic times for many.

As far as I know, this was actually the result of poor planning on the part of the Japanese, resulting in turn from the slighting of the Japanese diplomatic corps by their military command.

#28 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:42 PM:

And, protected static, there were also quite a few people in Canada who also didn't give a hoot about Europe, namely French-Canadians. They saw the whole mess as an attack on the British Crown, and they couldn't care less.

Serge, I doubt that. By that time France had been defeated and occupied - surely they would have cared about that, even if not about Britain?
But I am reality-based and willing to be informed - any sources?

Midway could have won the Japanese the war if, as Pearl Harbor had failed to do, it had shaken the US enough to bring a negotiated settlement - but in strictly military terms, no, it couldn't. Would it even have lengthened the war very much? I don't know. Say it works, and the US loses all three carriers and Midway Island as well - so what? It's not as though Hawaii is going to be laid open to another Pearl Harbor attack.
What did the carriers do for the rest of the year? How long was it before more were launched?

Very entertained by the crack about the Nimitz and MacArthur Freeways...

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:55 PM:

My sources, ajay? I grew up in Quebec. Lots of French-Canadians over there.

#30 ::: Andrew Kanaber ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 12:58 PM:

The good wikipedia article Jakob mentioned is here

#31 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:04 PM:

Was it a case of not being reality-based, of not listening to those whose views didn't fit?

My, what a terribly familiar scenario.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Pat Buchanan... That reminds me of a joke in an Herb Caen column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Did you know that Pat Buchanan's father died in a concentration camp during WW2?"
"Really?"
"Yes, really. He fall off his guard tower."

#33 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Ajay --

The Quebecois issues were much more about conscription; they hadn't like being expended as non-english-speaking colonial troops in the Great War, and didn't support any mechanism that might return that.

Keep in mind that historical Canadian mobilization rates are very high; 'not as much support as in English Canada' was still substantial support.

#34 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:18 PM:

Other sources for Japan's mistake: they'd seriously kicked the ass of one of Europe's Great Powers in direct naval warfare, they'd fought on the side of the Allies during WW1, their colonial adventures had been legally sanctioned by the US and the European Great Powers, they helped rescue Western civilians and otherwise put down the Boxer Rebellion, and so on. Now admittedly, the Great Power to whom they'd handed the ass-kicking was Czarist Russia, but still - it came as a great surprise to Europe...

After WW1, Japan was treated by the other Allies as a less-than-equal partner, and was ordered to reduce their navy by a greater percentage than other powers. This was seen by Japan as an attempt to relegate them to some kind of quasi-colonial status, and really rubbed them the wrong way.

Toss in the geopolitical issues such as rubber and oil, and, well... There you go.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Yes, Graydon, there is the conscription issue. Once the fight started though, it is my understanding that the French-Canadian gave their all. Even my father tried to join, but he was way too short underweight (think Al Pacino) and instead he went to work in an ammo factory.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Brief observation from the scene today (I live 2 miles north of Pearl): the Hawai'i Air National Guard flew a "missing man" formation overhead at 0755hst.

#37 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:28 PM:

I agree that if the US had maintained its resolve that we would have defeated the Japanese, although losing Midway would have prolonged things terribly. Even as it was, the island-hopping campaign towards Japan was horrible, and got worse and worse as we came closer to the home islands. I wouldn't want to think about what a more prolonged war with Japan would have meant. (E.B. Sledge's memoir "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa" is a good, though understandably sickening, source on what the Pacific conflict was like).

But my comment on the closeness of the war also meant the European theater - starting with the classic "If Hitler hadn't invaded Russia" and on from there. Perhaps I should have said "not winning", because there are many plausible ways that the European and/or Pacific wars could have ended in some sort of negotiated settlement. With, one would think, an even worse (likely atomic) war to follow in another ten or twenty years.

I've long thought that history books in the future will have chapter titles like "The Disastrous Twentieth Century." At least, I hope they will. . .

#38 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:45 PM:

1942 was essentially fought using carriers commissioned before Pearl Harbor.

See the US Navy Carrier list for the details. USS Langley had been converted to a seaplane tended, and four of the seven carriers in commission were lost in 1942, with one new carrier commissioned at the very end of the year.

The list is a bit misleading, as some of the more than 15 CVs listed as commissioned in 1943 were reclassified as CVLs, or around 11000 tons displacement, compared to the 27100 tons of the Essex class.

The battleship and battlecruiser conversions of both navies ran to about 40000 tons displacement.

The British carrier HMS Illustrious had a standard displacement of 23100 tons, and 5000 tons of that was the armoured flight deck, intended to be proof against 500lb bombs. Her sister ship, HMS Victorious, operated with USS Saratoga in May-August 1943.

#39 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:45 PM:

ajay:

After Midway, the carriers were very busy around the Solomons (Guadalcanal, etc,) culminating in the major fleet action of Santa Cruz in November. There woudn't be a significant carrier battle again until 1944, in large aprt because there were no US carriers on hand to fight them.

The US started the war with five large carriers and two smaller ones. By the end of 1942, three of the large carriers (Lexington, Yorktown, and Hornet) and one of the small ones (Wasp) had been sunk, and the two remaining large ones (Saratoga and Enterprise) needed major repairs that kept them out of action until the end of 1943. The other small carrier (Ranger) was in the Atlantic and was regarded as unsuitable for the Pacific War.

The first of the US replacement fleet carriers weren't available until mid-1943 (Essex commissioned on December 31, 1942 but needed time to be combat-ready). The scale of production was illuminating: 6 large carriers and 9 light carriers in 1943 (more than the entire pre-war fleet), followed by 7 large carriers in 1944 and 3 more before VJ-Day in 1945. Of course, most of the 1943 large carriers had been started in 1941, before the US entered the war.

#40 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:47 PM:

Derek, I share your hope. I fear, however, that the chapter on the Twenty-First Century (typos to shudder by: the Twenty-Frist Century) will begin with "If the Twentieth Century was a disaster, the Twenty-First was a nightmare..."

It's the fear and the hope that keep me going. We have to stop these bastards before there's another World War to stop an aggressive imperialist nation - and this time, it will be the United States.

#41 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 01:52 PM:

As far as the French-Canadians, consider also that the last time any of them were IN France was about 1760.

#42 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:00 PM:

Looking at these links, I'm reminded of the odd fact that December 1941 was the last time that the United States declared war. Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq I, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq II -- billions of dollars spent, thousands of American and hundreds of thousands (quickly checks Wikipedia; make that millions) of others killed, but no declarations of war. (I'm sure I've left a few conflicts out...)

So: why not?

#43 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:05 PM:
"A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy;' in fact, to have it pointed out is more a matter of shame. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack, whether it be a full-scale engagement on the sea, air raids on Japan itself, or a strong attack against the main units of our fleet." -- Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, Imperial Japanese Navy, letter to Ogata Taketora, January 9, 1942.

(Found here.)

I always thought one of the most interesting (and oddest) parts of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon was the chapter from Admiral Yamamoto's point of view, where he thinks about the terrible mistake the Japanese made with Pearl Harbor (right before getting killed). Though obviously totally fictional, the mix of contempt and grudging respect Stephenson's Yamamoto displayed toward the U.S. played pretty true to how he's been historically depicted.

I wish I could find a direct quote, but the gist of what Stephenson's Yamamoto thought was their fatal error (besides stupidly assuming that all Americans are stupid) was that the Japanese at the time simply did not understand the ways in which the American notion of pride (both national and personal) differed from their own. If it had been Japan who was attacked in that way, their response would indeed have been much like the way ajay laid it out above, so why shouldn't the Americans' response be the same?

Their other mistake (Stephenson's Yamamoto thinks), is that his superiors had had no concept of the extent to which the U.S. could hold a grudge.

#44 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:20 PM:
Anyway, like I said, Japan seriously miscalculated the nature of its ennemy. Was it a case of not being reality-based, of not listening to those whose views didn't fit?

There was definitely some of that. In addition to the Yamamoto statements cited by others, I offer the example of the wargames the IJN ran in preparation for the Midway campaign (sadly I no longer recall where I read about them). They ran the game once - the Japanese team lost. They ran the game again - another Japanese loss. Since this was clearly wrong, they ran the game a third time, this time ignoring results they didn't like, and this time the Japanese team won.

Of course, given what a close battle Midway was, an accurate simulation would probably have been somewhere in the middle. However, the attitude displayed was the big problem, rather than the specifics of the wargame.

#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:20 PM:

The Pearl Harbor Raid, from Wikipedia.

A Pearl Harbor timeline.

President Roosevelt calls for war against Japan.

The point: Compare and contrast a president who faced a surprise attack with another, more recent president faced with similar circumstances.

#46 ::: Sand Storm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:21 PM:

The conscription issue and Quebec's determination to be recognized were all over before Pearl Harbor. Canada entered into the war in Sept of 1939.

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:26 PM:

That attitude toward wargames wasn't limited to the Japanese. In 1932, during wargames simulating an attack on Hawaii, Admiral Harry Yarnell, playing the opposition force, put carriers northwest of Pearl Harbor and attacked early on a Sunday morning. Although the judges declared that he had created a great deal of distruction, and his task force remained undetected for 24 hours, the results were thrown out because the battleship screen would have stopped the carriers well short of Hawaii.

As Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels put it, "We no longer fear a Japanese attack in the Pacific: Radio makes surprise impossible."

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:27 PM:

What I remember hearing from my dad about the conscription is that MacKenzie-King ran a campaign that promised French-Canadians that there would be no conscription and that, the moment he came into office, the conscription happened. Of course, my dad was biased, and not the best-informed person.

#49 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:32 PM:

There's an alt-fic anthology called "Rising Sun Victorious" which is a collection of stories on how Japan could have won, or at least, not surrendered. Pretty interesting.

#50 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Mayakda: There's another called Red Sun: The Invasion of Hawai'i After Pearl Harbor that came out a few years ago.

#51 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:45 PM:

Cryptonomicon's chapter on Pearl Harbour itself is also kind of brilliant, in that you don't realize that's what you're reading until it's well underway.

I really recommend the Wikipedia piece--I'm a military history buff and there's stuff in there that's new to me. Scholarship has been on the move since I last looked at the attack...

#52 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Wasn't it General Zinni who won Middle East wargames a couple of years ago and had his results ignored by the Pentagon?

Plus ça change, and all that.

#53 ::: Lex ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:14 PM:

For some insight into the thinking of Japanese military and political leadership prior to and during WWII (although this isn't the main subject of the book), "Flyboys" by James Bradley is excellent. The book overall is also a helluva piece of historical/military detective work.

#54 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:17 PM:

I understand that General Zinni used guys on motorcycles rather than electronic communications -- harder to intercept and harder to jam.

#55 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:23 PM:

Alex R -- Why no declaration of war --

BECAUSE if we declared war, we would have to treat any captives taken as prisoners of war. While the U.S.A. has never signed the Geneva Conventions, it has given the appearance of abiding by them...

#56 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Linkmeister: yeah - and he used small boats as suicide bombers, like the Tamil Tigers. IIRC, he took out two aircraft carriers that way because the carriers' close-in defenses assume aerial attack, not surface.

#57 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:38 PM:

There's not a whole lot you can do when the enemy has about ten times your industrial capacity.

Well, it's possible to invade and turn that industrial capacity into your own. It's the part about ten times the capacity, being physical huge in comparison, and across a giant ocean that screws you.

USS West Virginia (BB-48), sunk, refloated 17 May 1942. (70 men were trapped by the sinking; in one compartment below, a calendar was found with the last date scratched off being 23 December.)

Creepy, but my 'improbable' triggers are being hit. First, the experience of sunk subs seems to be that the air goes bad quite fast; given that other compartments are described as flooded, it's hard to believe they had access to any substantial amount of air outside their compartment, and sixteen days supply of air for three men is a *lot * of air.

The other thing is -- the calendar is described as 12"x14" and marked off in "big red Xs". Three men, a pen, a large writing surface, sixteen days with nothing to do... and no one writes any personal notes? No last words to family and friends? No journal? No message to the Navy about what happened? They just wake up every "day" and X off a square and that's all?

#58 ::: Cat Eldridge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:44 PM:

Alex R comments:

Looking at these links, I'm reminded of the odd fact that December 1941 was the last time that the United States declared war. Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq I, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq II...

Ok, how'd Bosnia get in here? Because of The Dayton Agreement?

#59 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 03:48 PM:

Linkmeister, James: I think you're talking about Paul Van Riper, not Tony Zinni. Van Riper was the one running the OPFOR for the Millemiium Challenge 02 wargames. Zinni was once Centcom and has been critical of the post-war planning. Interesting how they're both Marines, isn't it?

#60 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:00 PM:

What were the Japanese thinking?

I think they were thinking like Japanese. A quick skim through Wikipedia supplies the terms "shame-based culture" vs. "guilt-based culture." I learned the first as face-based, but it describes the same thing: the primary social control of behavior is based on public shame, not private guilt. One doesn't necessarily regret having done something bad, one regrets the blow to one's standing and reputation, one's face, when one is known to have, well, screwed up. Western cultures tend to use personal guilt, feeling bad for having done something wrong whether anyone knows about it or not, as their primary social control of behavior.

I'm not a sociologist, I don't play one on television, and I don't even have one as a close personal friend, as far as I know. However, it seems to me that the bombing of Pearl Harbor is where those two value systems meet and clash. The Japanese were assuming that the United States, so publically humiliated, would admit defeat. The Americans, in contrast, felt so guilty about having been so unprepared that they were highly motivated to earn salvation/expiation/whatever. It's kind of like like the difference between committing suicide to regain honor and entering holy orders -- not that Western cultures aren't fond of committing suicide as an alternative, especially the French. But anybody that ever thought that humans fit neatly into boxes never met any.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Tom S... 'fess up. You're a Marine, aren't you? If you indeed are, I have two questions.

Is it true what they say, that once a Marine, always a Marine? That might explain something about the hubby of one of my co-workers. He's a Democrat and a former Marine, but he won't express his opinion about Dubya. I guess he still considers Dubya his commander-in-chief.

Is it true that the US Marines were the first American military group to ever be issued formal unforms?

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:04 PM:

...not that Western cultures aren't fond of committing suicide as an alternative, especially the French...

Huh?

#63 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:14 PM:

I once got sucked into a competition playing the Americans in the game Midway. They needed one other player and I at least knew how to throw dice and read charts. We all figured I'd be out the next round. The guy I played couldn't find his head with his hat and could not have been reading the same charts I was. I won and had to go on and play a second round. I again played the American side and almost won against a competent player. Either Midway was a serious crap shoot, or I was a better player than we all thought.

#64 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:15 PM:

I also understand that one reason the ships at Pearl Harbor came back so quickly is the Japanese failed to destroy some or all of the dry docks.

#65 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:29 PM:

Alan Bostick: It is the Nimitz Freeway (I-880) that leads you into a fucking awful mess, and it is the MacArthur Freeway (I-580) that offers clear sailing to victory. Somehow that seems backwards.

Derek Lowe: Even as it was, the island-hopping campaign towards Japan was horrible

William Manchester's books, American Caesar and Goodbye Darkness, have different views from this, to put it mildly. It would be easy to retroactively impute incompetence to MacArthur based on his treatment of the Bonus Army, his fall-out with Truman, or his, in retrospect highly perceptive, insistence that in a nuclear age to win a war you have to use nukes. But these are political matters not military ones; do you have specific examples of a "fucking awful mess"?

#66 ::: Kirilaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:33 PM:

Serge said:
What I remember hearing from my dad about the conscription is that MacKenzie-King ran a campaign that promised French-Canadians that there would be no conscription and that, the moment he came into office, the conscription happened. Of course, my dad was biased, and not the best-informed person.

What Mackenzie King actually promised was the beautifully ambiguous "conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription". He did eventually bring in conscription, but not until nearly the end of the war. Which does not appear to have placated your dad any. :)

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:43 PM:

No kidding, Kirilaw. Me, I'm so glag I'm away from those grudge fights.

#68 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Cat wrote, after quoting me: Ok, how'd Bosnia get in here? Because of The Dayton Agreement?

No, it got there through my error, of course... I meant to refer to the Kosovo War and the associated NATO/US bombing of Yugoslavia. Of course, the big ones were Korea, Vietnam, and (moving up the charts...) Iraq II, with Afghanistan and Iraq I a ways behind and the others even further.

The point still stands -- how did the US get out of the habit of declaring war when it goes to war?

Amusingly, the Wikipedia article on the Korean War mentioned that it was referred to as a "police action" due to some discomfort with the absence of a declaration of war. I wasn't alive during the Korean War, but the Vietnam War had occurred recently enough as I approached adulthood that I distinctly remember it being frequently referred to as an "undeclared" war.

Nowadays, it seems that the notion of an official declaration of war -- if mentioned at all -- is treated as a relic of yesteryear. No one has repealed the clause of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to declare war, but I'm not sure what exactly it means anymore.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:49 PM:

I'm glad, not glag, to be away from those grudge fights.

#70 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:50 PM:

Oh, I didn't mean that the island-hopping war was conducted in an incomptent manner. I don't think it was any more or less so than the other major parts of the war. I referred to the fighting itself, which became (I believe) more savage than the Western Front war did (not that that wasn't plenty bad enough, and I'm putting the Eastern Front in a separate category for a reason).

The Japanese fight-until-the-last-man ethic made taking each of those islands a horrific task. And it just got worse on the way to Okinawa, which was the worst yet.

#71 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 04:51 PM:

You seem like a group of people well up on the Pacific War.

So, if the war in Europe had ended with a negotiated peace in May of 1941, and Hitler invaded Russia on schedule, what do you think would have happened with Japan?

#72 ::: Cat Eldridge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:01 PM:

ALex R. asks 'The point still stands -- how did the US get out of the habit of declaring war when it goes to war?'

Apparently when we got into the habit of military engagements authorized by Congress. Vietnam. Lebanon, Panama, Iraq I, Afrghanistan, and Iraq II were all authorized by Congress. Blame it on the War Powers Act which can only take place when the United States is under a state of emergency. No state of emergency, no ability to declare war.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:01 PM:

USS Phoenix, a Brooklyn-class light cruiser, was a Pearl Harbor survivor. She was decommissioned after the war and sold to Argentina, where, under the name General Belgrano, she was sunk by British torpedoes during the Falklands war.

I saw her underway, once. She was very pretty.

#74 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Various Excellent Folk: thanks for the responses. I was fairly sure that the fleet hadn't been utterly destroyed, but as I say, my knowledge of WWII is better on politics and social issues than on military history.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Destroying a drydock is harder than it looks. (Consider what the Brits had to do in order to take out the Normandie Dock.) The Japanese also failed to destroy the fuel stores and machine shops in Hawaii. Taking those out would have made the war in the Pacific more difficult.

What would have happened if the war in the Atlantic ended in summer '41, Hitler had attacked Russia in summer '41, and the Japanese had attacked the US in winter of '41?

The Japanese would have gotten their asses kicked, and the Germans would have gotten their asses kicked. Timetable a little different, that's all. The Iron Curtain would have wound up on the west coast of France, rather than down the middle of Germany.

#76 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:26 PM:

So, if the war in Europe had ended with a negotiated peace in May of 1941, and Hitler invaded Russia on schedule, what do you think would have happened with Japan?

Good question - my own flip/off-the-cuff guess is that Japan would still have attacked the US. Probably not in 1941, but maybe in 1942 or 1943. After all, our Pacific territories were in the way of Japan's 'Co-Prosperity Sphere'. By then, they might have consolidated their gains in Asia and been able to compensate for their relative lack of industrial output.

I don't think the outcome would have been any different, though. Certainly not once the US got its industrial capacity cranked over to war production. Probably bloodier, maybe some shelling or bombardment of the US Pacific coastal cities, but in the end: mushroom clouds, game over.

Then the Cold War starts: Nazi Germany vs. the US...

#77 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:38 PM:

Jo, I think a lot would depend on the Dutch.

A negotiated settlement might lead to the Japanese having access to the resources in the Dutch East Indies without having to fight a war, even if the US started getting stroppy. Similarly for French Indo-China and Malaya. But the oilfields were really important.

Here, Australia and New Zealand could be significant. They're not colonies, they're able to make their own decisions, and Germany isn't a credible threat to them. But Japan? A big chunk of the war in 1942 was about protecting Australia and the sea route between Australia and North America. The Guadalcanal campaign was about the threat a Japanese air base would be to the sea route, while the fighting in New Guinea and the Battle of the Coral Sea were more direct threats.

On the other hand, with peace in the Atlantic, the USA has fewer distractions.

I think it's possible that open war would have been delayed, and the start would have been much less of a surprise. Also, Japan wouldn't have had the same pressure to do everything.

#78 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Jo, give soc.history.what-if the background -- what parts, even if improbable (or impossible), are set in novelistic stone -- and we'll figure out the rest.

#79 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 05:45 PM:

For WW2 what-ifs as observed in America, Philip Roth's recent book "The Plot Against America" (my review here) was excellent.

#80 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 06:25 PM:

...In addition to the Yamamoto statements cited by others, I offer the example of the wargames the IJN ran in preparation for the Midway campaign (sadly I no longer recall where I read about them). They ran the game once - the Japanese team lost. They ran the game again - another Japanese loss. Since this was clearly wrong, they ran the game a third time, this time ignoring results they didn't like, and this time the Japanese team won.

Almost certainly from Midway the Battle that Doomed Japan by Mitsuo Fuchida, Masatake Okumiya, with Raymond A. Spruance (Foreword), Clarke H. Kawakami (Editor), Roger Pineau (Editor), Thomas B. Buell (Introduction). Long considered the leading primary source it has been somewhat criticized recently perhaps as more memoir with some scores/appeasement than totally reliable history. The notion there is of the war as the army's idea - they wanted to keep looting Manchuria with a rape pillage and burn agenda. The navy, per Fuchida, iirc had no power to prevent war and reluctantly went along when the oil embargo made the navy a wasting asset use it or lose it means use it.

Notice that the man who led the airplanes for the raid on Pearl Harbor said to the man who piloted the first A-bomber - "you did the right thing".

Worth noting as part of the thread drift that the defense of Henderson Field was as determined as any could be and arguably persuaded some of the Japanese Army they had misjudged American will to fight. Worth remembering that I'm dreaming of a White Christmas is as sad as any song can be for people still living.

Is McClusky Turn for a chance decision which results in triumph actually used by anyone?

#81 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 07:10 PM:

thinking about this line here:
0715: Ward’s report reaches Admiral Kimmel, who decides to wait for verification before taking action.

and comparing it to this from a recent Wired article, quoted below:
The first problem is that specialized warning systems are infrequently used, and usually fail under stress. But the second problem is more serious: Humans are encoded with a tendency to pause. When we receive new information that requires urgent action, we hesitate, testing the reality of the news and thinking about what to do. Emergency managers are all too familiar with this feature of human nature. They call it milling.

#82 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Alex --

After Hitler's War and the Great Pacific War reached their expensive, bloody conclusions, the victorious Allied Powers banned war. (One of the things the UN was being created to enforce. The only legal war is one sanctioned by the Security Council.)

That's why the US has a Secretary of Defense now, instead of a Secretary of War, and why there have been no declarations of war. The rules changed.

#83 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 07:34 PM:

I had to tell two store managers to drop their flags to half-staff today. The City and the post office had it right.

#84 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 08:13 PM:

Sometimes the U.S. cheats \in/ the wargames, rather than throwing out the results it doesn't like. cf the recent Smithsonian Air & Space article by a pilot who flew a "Russian" bomber in "invasion" games some decades ago; the way he describes his orders sounds rather like the contemporary Cosby routine "Toss of a Coin" ("We get to wear anything we like and shoot from behind rocks and trees and everything, while you and your men must wear red and march in a straight line.") When his group disobeyed orders and flew as they thought invaders would (frequent course changes, low altitude) they were unstoppable, but the fighter jocks complained.

#85 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 08:29 PM:

Serge: Heck no, I'm not a Marine. I just work with a bunch of them. There is some truth to the "once a Marine, always a Marine" idea, but it's not always extreme. I have known some long-retired types who are still gung ho, and some just out who hardly care.

The reason I commented on the fact that both Zinni and Van Riper are Marines is that the Corps tends to cultivate a certain outspokenness and willingness to question authority that the other services don't. Your typical Marine corporal is far more likely to talk to a reporter, or sound off to his CO, than his Army counterpart, for example. The Marines encourage this, on the belief that more openness is generally better for the service. Of course, it's understood that if you say something truly stupid, you will hear about it. They accept candor, not insubordination.

As for the uniform thing, it's possible but I wouldn't bet on it. The Continental Marines did get standard uniforms before the bulk of the Continental Army (1776 vs 1979) but I think some units of the Army had been issued their own uniforms back in 1775.

#86 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 10:09 PM:

Way, way, way back, cw wrote: I'm currently living in Japan studying the language, and I'm finding it a little weird that I didn't realize what day today (well, already yesterday for me) was.

The way Japan's role in World War II is portrayed/downplayed here is an interesting contrast to the way things are in Germany, where they are quite active in expressing their remorse.

I agree that the official policy is very much in the "La-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you" vein, but weirdly, when I was there in 1998, I had multiple people apologize for Pearl Harbor. I still don't know what to say to that.

I wrote up some scattered thoughts about WWII while I was there. In one of the stranger Google moments ever, that page showed up for a while as the top result in a search for information about the Dolittle raid on Tokyo. That got me a lot of web traffic when Pearl Harbor came out, but probably confused a lot of people...

The more recent odd quirk of that page is that two different people have emailed me to ask permission to use one of the random artsy shots I took at the Yasukuni Shrine. Go figure.

I'll shut up now, before this gets any more JVP than it already is.

#87 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 10:15 PM:

Is it true that the US Marines were the first American military group to ever be issued formal unforms?

So far as I know, pending a real expert - AKICIF this gets into really tricky define your terms issues. The leatherneck may have been - likely was - there from the beginning.

What does American mean in context - national as opposed to colonial? - and military group and issued and to be pedantic/facetious formal - when I knew something about it formal uniforms (worn for white tie occasions) were more likely to be bought from a uniform allowance and tailored not issued - as opposed to fatigues or battle dress.

Indeed I know people commissioned after Pearl Harbor who partied on their uniform allowance and who never bought formal uniforms and didn't need them until they either died or retired/resigned their commissions. I'd wager Robert Heinlein didn't need a cocked hat for any of his 3 weddings?

FREX Rogers' Rangers, originally formed as the Ranger Company of Blanchard's New Hampshire Regiment. They were paid by the King but not regulars nor yet provincials and so perhaps Americans? American only for the time as they fought for the King in the American Revolution - capturing Nathan Hale and leading to Hale's execution.

Roger's men wore green frieze jackets varying within each company. Might have been an issue uniform - they had standard gear per the famous standing orders - might have been a bring your own. I don't know but I'd suspect something in between: a uniform allowance and a group purchase.

Uncle Sams Misguided Children go back to the Tun Tavern November 1775 by act of the Continental Congress. Making them I think the Senior Service here by date of enactment if you will - colonial land forces had been sent by the colonies as militia but not incorporated into a federal service by act of the Continental Congress? - one of the issues in holding the army together at Valley Forge was state rather than national enlistments if I recall correctly? Raising a national army doesn't come up until the Constitution (and we all know the 2nd Amendment)

The Marines were reconstituted in 1798 (—”any other duty on shore, as the President, in his discretion, shall direct.” dates to 1798 - origin of send the Marines as the President's Own) - so far as I know first use of the blood stripe in the form of red piping was 1798 - it wasn't I think called a blood stripe until later.

During the Revolution, the Marines had worn green coats [rifleman wear] with white breeches, and when the Corps died, this uniform died also. The new Marines, in 1798, wore surplus army uniforms, including scarlet waistcoat and facings and dark-blue coats and trousers, but by 1804 something more special was devised—blue coats faced with gold and scarlet, white pantaloons, and plumed shakos. Also included was a leftover from the original costume—a stiff leather stock, or neckpiece, worn about the throat, which did not remain part of the uniform forever but which did leave marines with their enduring nickname: “leathernecks.” ft was also regulation, in the early 1800’s, for marines to wear long pigtails....Bruce Catton

#88 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2005, 11:26 PM:

A link or two on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

It's also 30 years since the Indonesian 'incursion' into East Timor. (Less than a week before the election that changed the Fraser caretaker Coalition government that had replaced the sacked Whitlam Labor one to an 'official' government. It was a busy year, 1975.)

#89 ::: Keith Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 04:06 AM:

Alex R writes:
Looking at these links, I'm reminded of the odd fact that December 1941 was the last time that the United States declared war.

June 1942, actually.

US Declarations of war:
December 8, 1941: Japan
December 11, 1941: Germany, Italy
June 5, 1942: Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 08:00 AM:

Tom wrote that "[y]our typical Marine corporal is far more likely to talk to a reporter, or sound off to his CO, than his Army counterpart, for example..."

That explains something my father-in-law once said when we caught a cheesy Michael Pare action flick, where he played a Marine. There is one scene where he is out of uniform when his superior comes in. Pare salutes. Then, my Navy father-in-law started griping that Marines do NOT salute when they're out of uniform. Of course, he also gripes about the military inaccuracies in the Crosby & Kaye movie White Christmas...

#91 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 08:17 AM:

So, if the war in Europe had ended with a negotiated peace in May of 1941, and Hitler invaded Russia on schedule, what do you think would have happened with Japan?

The tensions between the US and Japan would certainly still be there, though it's maybe worth noting that the proximate cause of the final US embargo of Japan -- which tilted the Japanese government towards an immediate war -- was Japanese occupation of bases in French Indochina. I have no idea if a "negotiated peace" would have affected this step or not.

Another point is if the European war became Germany-USSR only in late 1941, Britain would have been less distracted, and perhaps more able to respond in force to the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore. Which might possibly have dissuaded the Japanese.

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 08:34 AM:

What was the explanation for the setup in Len Deighton's Fatherland? I never read the book, but I saw the movie with Rutger Hauer and Miranda Richardson. It's set in the early Sixties and I remember a scene of Occupied London and, on a wall, a poster for a Beatles album. Intriguing that this kind of music would have been allowed to exist in plain sight under the Nazis...

#93 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 08:57 AM:

Actually I reread 'Fatherland' a couple of months ago. As far as I remember, the setup is that the U-boats change to another encryption system in '41 and Britain therefore loses the Battle of the Atlantic and is forced to negotiate peace. The states of Europe are either occupied or drawn into a German-dominated European Community. Germany takes Moscow and, the next year, Stalingrad, and continues (the novel's set around 1964) to fight a guerrilla war against US-backed Soviet partisans in the Urals - although, as the book opens, a Nazi-sympathising President Kennedy (that's Joe Kennedy) has agreed to end support for the partisans.
And the Beatles (based in Hamburg) are permitted, but officially disapproved of for playing 'negroid' music.
I can't remember any mention of a war against Japan at all.

#94 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Fatherland is by/ Robert/Harris. Deighton's effort is SS-GB.

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 09:12 AM:

Right, Niall... Say, what is the premise behind SS-GB's England having been defeated?

#96 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:16 AM:

My husband is another military buff/gamer, and we were talking about Pearl Harbor last night. He mentioned (as best I can recall) Japan doing a similar naval wipe-out -- on the Russians, I think -- back in WWI, when they were "on our side," making Pearl Harbor just a repeat tactic in a different context (disastrously different, as it turned out for them). He also said Roosevelt had been giving covert support to the British Navy's war in the Atlantic and was looking for an excuse *not* to stay neutral and isolationist. And then there were those economic sanctions against Japan, mentioned above -- all the worse for a small country with no oil reserves and no readily available iron.

I'm oversimplifying and perhaps getting some of this wrong, but he did raise some considerations that haven't been mentioned yet in this thread. The other military buffs here can probably supply links to the sources of his info; to me he just seems stupendously well-informed about both the big picture and the tiniest details of every conflict since the invention of writing!

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:28 AM:

Didn't Turtledove have Days of Infamy out this year? I think it is about the attack on Pearl Harbor turning out differently, but with the final outcome of the war not changing that much.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:48 AM:

That would be the start of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. The Japanese attacked Port Arthur three hours before the Russians received their ultimatum.

The war ended with a negotiated peace in 1905. (Treaty of Portsmouth, for which Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize.)

Other precursors to Pearl Harbor include the attack on the Italian fleet by the British during WWII. The Brits used air-launched torpedoes in shallow water at the anchorage at Taranto, November 1940. That pretty much took the Italian Navy out of the fight.

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:56 AM:

Trivia: Admiral Way, in the Marina del Rey area of LA, was originally named Admiral Togo Way. (I think it probably got changed on December 8th, 1941.)

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 11:00 AM:

While in the realm of military adventures that didn't quite work out as intended?

Why did Hitler invade Russia?

Let me guess. He thought that Napoleon failed because he didn't have modern technology. Besides, he was French. Right?

#101 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:12 PM:

Let me guess. He thought that Napoleon failed because he didn't have modern technology. Besides, he was French. Right?

Had Barbarossa gone off on time (i.e. had Mussolini not been such a twit), Hitler probably would have been right, too.

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:16 PM:

But what was the point of invading Russia, Anarch, compared to the densely populated western part of Europe?

#103 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:37 PM:

But what was the point of invading Russia, Anarch, compared to the densely populated western part of Europe?

In one word? Lebensraum.

There were legitimate strategic reasons too -- Ukraine, the breadbasket of Russia/Eastern Europe/Europe, depending on who's doing the telling; the oilfields in the Caucasus; crippling the Soviet military and economic capacity; and so forth -- but realistically I think the prime motivator was simply a combination of Lebensraum, pathological hatred of Slavs, Jews and Communists [not that Hitler made much distinction between the three categories after about 1938], and an obsessive need to crush his Titanic rival Stalin. The ultimate "clash of civilizations", if you will. Any military objectives would have been purely incidental, or at least subordinate to the larger goals of the Herrenvolk.

#104 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:38 PM:

My husband is another military buff/gamer, and we were talking about Pearl Harbor last night. He mentioned (as best I can recall) Japan doing a similar naval wipe-out -- on the Russians, I think -- back in WWI, when they were "on our side," making Pearl Harbor just a repeat tactic in a different context (disastrously different, as it turned out for them). He also said Roosevelt had been giving covert support to the British Navy's war in the Atlantic and was looking for an excuse *not* to stay neutral and isolationist. And then there were those economic sanctions against Japan, mentioned above -- all the worse for a small country with no oil reserves and no readily available iron.

Before anyone goes off on a Roosevelt-conspiracy trip: yes, it's reasonable to say that Roosevelt was looking for excuses not to stay neutral and isolationist with respect to the European war. Getting into a fight with Japan wouldn't have helped at all. (The only reason the US did get into the European war is that Hitler foolishly declared war on the US several days after Pearl Harbor.)

As James pointed out above, Japan did carry out a successful surprise attack on the Russian base at Port Arthur, at the start of the Russo-Japanese War. The really spectacular victory, though, was the Battle of Tsushima, against the main Russian fleet, which had sailed all the way from Europe. No surprise attacks, just superior training, sailing, and tactics on the part of the Japanese.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:40 PM:

So the Russian Front could be described as someone wanting to show someone else who has the biggest pair of nuts. (I know, I know, Hitler had only one.)

#106 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Oklahoma was raised late in the war; she sunk while being towed to the West Coast for scrapping. So, yeah, she's still on the bottom, but not on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

Midway was indeed a near-run thing, though not as near-run as sometimes assumed. (There's a great new book just out, Shattered Sword, that summarizes a lot of what's been learned about how the Japanese navy operated its carriers... highly recommended.)

The US probably still would have won the war even if it had lost three carriers at Pearl Harbor or at Midway; it would have been harder (and more so since a lot of 1944 US carrier plane doctrine depended on lessons learned in the 1942 battles; if they don't have that learning experience they might have to learn some of the lessons later and harder), but the July 1944 Marianas Turkey Shoot featured 16 US carriers against 9 Japanese, and was pretty much a total Japanese defeat. And most of those carriers were post-1942 additions to the fleet (the Essex-class carriers). And that doesn't count all the CVLs that could have been used in an emergency.

Destroying the fuel oil tankage at Pearl Harbor probably would have prolonged the war by at least a year (without that tankage, the Navy would have had to operate out of the West Coast instead of Pearl), but the Japanese awareness of logistics during the war was abysmal (and I mean that in the full, deep, dark, nasty Sumerian underworld sense of "abysm")...

As Yog pointed out, destroying drydocks is hard (they're basically big concrete bathtubs, and while the doors and pumps can be destroyed, they can also be replaced.) You'd need a direct hit with an A-bomb to physically destroy the dockyard structure.

#107 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:14 PM:

So the Russian Front could be described as someone wanting to show someone else who has the biggest pair of nuts. (I know, I know, Hitler had only one.)

Goering, however, had two -- but they were very small.

#108 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Didn't Himmler have something simmler?

#109 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:28 PM:

And Göbbels was known as Il Castrato by the Italians.

#110 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:35 PM:

Serge: IIRC the premise behind Deighton's SS-GB was a successful Operation Sealion. Oink oink! (Anyone who thinks this was plausible needs to read this .)

James: yes, the Japanese jumped the gun with a surprise attack on Russia in 1904, but if the timeline here is to be believed (and it at least tries to cite sources) the background includes the salient fact that Japanese military intelligence had gotten wind that the Russian military had been assigned attack plans: with Tsarist ministers muttering about how Russia needed a "short, victorious war", and Russia expanding aggressively in Manchuria, it's hardly surprising that the Japanese government felt threatened.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:42 PM:

So, Charlie, SS-GB isn't really a what-if story. It really is a story that relies on a whole bunch of other what-ifs happening before that.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 01:43 PM:

The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent war in the Pacific, turned Japanese attention to the east. That allowed Marshal Zhukov to strip the Soviet east and Siberia of troops that he brought to the defense of Moscow. The Germans reached the ends of the trolley lines that led to Red Square, but advanced no farther.

#113 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 02:19 PM:
I agree that the official policy is very much in the "La-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you" vein, but weirdly, when I was there in 1998, I had multiple people apologize for Pearl Harbor. I still don't know what to say to that.

I took a young Japanese lady to see Pearl Harbor when it came out here in the UK, I guess that was 2001? The devil made me make the suggestion, but she was quite happy to go see it. But, when we were talking about the film afterwards, she expressed some puzzlement about the scenes showing the Japanese preparations for the attack. After some discussion -- she spoke much better English than I spoke Japanese, so I don't think I misunderstood -- it emerged that she'd been taught that the attack had been a reaction to American belligerence in the Pacific, and she couldn't quite square this picture she'd had of Japan being provoked into it with it being planned so much in advance.

I don't really know whether this was a case of bad history teaching or bad history studying, but I wonder if Japanese indirectness, combined with the war generation's natural reluctance to speak about the reasons for defeat, have led to a situation where some of the present generation of Japanese have a quite false idea of the war.

#114 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 02:36 PM:

Interestingly, yesterday the Army posthumously awarded the Army Commendation medal to the switchboard operator who tried to pass along the news of the attack he was getting from the two radar ops at the North Shore. One of those two got out of the Army, went to work for New Jersey Bell, and died in 2003.

#115 ::: Karl Kindred ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Why don't we declare war anymore? The answer has several factors at play.

First, there hasn't been another F.D.R. moment before congress. Bush came the closest after 9-11 but without a clear villain to blame...no president wants to make the speech that is almost as good as the "day that will live in infamy" speech.

Second, we haven't had a single, uber-evil enemy that you can look at, size up, and make a war bill over. The only enemies that are evil enough to make war with now are ideological; i.e. drugs, terror, hunger, poverty, etc. Abstracts make for nice war targets because the definition of winning (and more importantly losing) is as hazy and insubstantial as the target itself.

Third, and in my opinion the most important: international law and the United Nations Conventions (to which we are a signature nation) require that you fix what you break in a war. Such a huge responsibility loadstone doesn't exist for police actions, and U.N. Resolution enforcement engagements.

What president wants to start a war when all the money you were gonna spend on more bombs and guns and oil-deals and Halliburton catering contracts has to be used to actually fix roads and power plants and water treatment systems in a audit-able and open way? Where's the money-laundering...I mean fun...where's the fun in that?

Post-U.N. Ratification, any actual-honest-to-god-declared-voted-consented war became a legal definition with international law restrictions, neutral body oversight, and financial repercussions. Anything short of that is still essentially negotiable.

The executive branch prefers to maintain as much independent control as possible, so declaring war is counter-intuitive.

Oddly enough, in this country we still train our solders and military leaders in colleges of war. Real, honorable, legal war. And we keep electing executive branch representation that want anything but that.

We the people...

---

Personally I blame the decreasing status of history in the american classroom over the last half century. We are doomed to repeat the history we ignore or simply can't understand, and the similarities between early twenty-first century America and the late-decline Roman Republic give me shivers.

#116 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 03:07 PM:

I don't really know whether this was a case of bad history teaching or bad history studying...

I'm told by them that know that it's primarily the former. YMMV.

In a related vein I had a conversation with a German friend of mine a few years back and the topic of WWII came up (despite all my best efforts). It was the first time I'd ever heard the theory that Hitler had invaded Poland and France because he'd overheated the German economy and needed shore up their battered tax base (?!?!). She was quite a good friend of mine and a reasonable person otherwise so I vacated the room with all haste rather than try to explain what a pile of BS that was.

It's often very intriguing (in a grisly sort of way) watching how people cope with the burden of ancestral national guilt. Cf the Germans and the Holocaust, the Japanese and (say) the Rape of Nanjing, the US and the destruction of the Indians, the South and slavery, Belgium and the Congo, and so forth. [I'm not sure there's any analogous movement for regarding Communist atrocities in this way, since the places most likely to feel that also tend to regard the Communists as foreign or invaders, which itself could be regarded as a form of denial I suppose.] It's truly fertile ground for weird alternate histories, mass revisionism and acts of genuine altruism and atonement and, at a distance at least, makes for oddly compelling viewing. Up close though... not so much.

#117 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 03:14 PM:

Destroying a drydock is harder than it looks. (Consider what the Brits had to do in order to take out the Normandie Dock.) The Japanese also failed to destroy the fuel stores and machine shops in Hawaii. Taking those out would have made the war in the Pacific more difficult.

My WWII-fu is far inferior to yours, but I've always heard that the survival of the fuel stores on Hawaii was the single biggest failure of Pearl Harbor for the Japanese as they would have been the hardest to replace. Had those stores been destroyed, the story went, American logistics in the Pacific would have been crippled for at least a full year (lacking any centrally-located refuelling depots) thus allowing the Japanese to not just secure SE Asia but maybe even Hawaii itself before the American counter-attack. They probably would have fallen to the vastly superior American industrial capacity, true, but it would have a) been a much, much tougher fight and b) increased the probability of some kind of negotiated truce wherein Japan gave back some of the (American) Pacific holdings but kept most of the formerly-colonial Asian holds -- the ideal Japanese outcome AFAICT.

#118 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 07:07 PM:

NelC: Anarch's answer (bad teaching) sounds plausible, given that Japan appears still to be in denial about Korean comfort women, the rape of Nanjing, the inappropriateness of worshipping at a shrine containing the tombs of war criminals, etc. China is grossly partisan (and loses credibility given what it says about its takeover of Tibet), but the complaints reported from there and elsewhere concerning what Japanese textbooks say about that period seem to have some accuracy.

#119 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 07:49 PM:

I'm pretty sure there is a case to answer with respect to Hitler having overheated the German economy; IIRC it's been said that Germany would have had to declare bankruptcy no later than March 1940 if he hadn't gone on the hostile-takeover-and-looting spree to all end HTAL sprees.

Not that I think the impending fiscal crisis was Hitler's primary motivation at all, but it was certainly a factor in what happened: the increasing costs of maintaining the war machine required more and more resources to throw into the bottomless maw, which in turn dictated more and more conquest.

#120 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 09:45 PM:

... the similarities between early twenty-first century America and the late-decline Roman Republic give me shivers.

What would you say the similarities were, Karl? Only I have a student writing something similar for me at the moment, and I'm not sure what I think about it. I'd be interested to hear someone else make the case.

#121 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:24 PM:

Anarch --

Much though it has been forgotten today, preventing the partition of China was a core American war aim, and had been from the early 1930s when War Plan Orange stopped being paper studies and started to generate pressure to build ships. The US had all the designs it fought the Great Pacific War ready to go and many ships actively building by the time of Pearl Harbor.

Also somewhat forgotten is just how much casual racism there was, and just how angry absolutely everyone was within the US military establishment; it is something of a triumph of civilization that the war was pursued with an aim of unconditional surrender, rather than total obliteration.

There really wasn't any hope at all of a negotiated settlement after Pearl Harbor; unrestricted submarine warfare, against an island nation dependent on trade, isn't a strategy you adopt to force concessions.

#122 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 10:29 PM:
...unrestricted submarine warfare, against an island nation dependent on trade, isn't a strategy you adopt to force concessions

The same could be said for the Battle of the Atlantic.

#123 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2005, 11:33 PM:

Charlie Stross: I'm pretty sure there is a case to answer with respect to Hitler having overheated the German economy; IIRC it's been said that Germany would have had to declare bankruptcy no later than March 1940 if he hadn't gone on the hostile-takeover-and-looting spree to all end HTAL sprees.

Oh, I agree that Hitler had messed with the German economy; there's only so much totalized Keynesian pump-priming a country can stand and certainly the economic momentum built up by conquest can be a vicious cycle. [Just ask the Romans.] I don't think that this was any factor at all in the attacks or conquests, however, since to acknowledge this would have been tantamount to acknowledging a failure of the Fuhrerprinzip and that was simply impossible.

Graydon: Much though it has been forgotten today, preventing the partition of China was a core American war aim...

Oh, I know. My grandparents were missionaries in China through the '30s (were in Shanghai for the famed attack, actually) and went right back in the late 40s until the Communists evicted them in the 50s.

#124 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 07:21 AM:

Charlie: absolutely right.
"Sealion" would have been a complete disaster, of Stalingrad proportions, for the Germans - in a way it's a shame they never tried it. There's an interesting alternative history, if you like... how does history go on after Ninth Army has been cut up on the English beaches?

I'm reading Churchill at the moment, and he describes the approach to invasion as "As far as I understand our service chiefs, our strategy will be to drown as many of them as possible on their way over, and knock the rest on the head as they crawl ashore."
Peter Fleming (Ian's brother), in 'Invasion 1940', is good - and very funny - on the subject, and CS Forester also wrote a short AH on the subject.

#125 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 08:23 AM:

James --

Of course it could. There is very little doubt that the Battle of the Atlantic was over the survival of the British Empire.

It's a very good thing that the German/Japanese co-operation didn't extend to using their (excellent and numerous) fleet submarines in the Atlantic early in the war. Or, for that matter, that the IJN saw submarines purely as fleet scouts, rather than as an independent force able to interdict lines of supply.

#126 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 09:21 AM:

As bad as the Sealion plan was, it was miles better than the plan that Gingrich and Forstchen came up with for their novel 1945.

#127 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 10:30 AM:

As bad as the Sealion plan was, it was miles better than the plan that Gingrich and Forstchen came up with for their novel 1945.

Which was? I know it involved pouting sex kittens at some point, but I'm hazy on the details. (I haven't actually read the book; it's just that one paragraph that keeps being resurrected for mockery purposes.)

1945's a bit late to be invading Britain, anyway, isn't it?

#128 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 11:22 AM:

I actually met one of the people who met in what they called "Grand Coven" to prevent Hitler from invading Britain. They were doing magic I think to change his mind, but had the invasion actually been launched I think they would have progressed to outright baneful tactics in short order.

The idea of 40-50 Witches all sitting in an Anglican church (!) doing manipulative magic, even on so dire a figure as Hitler, sends shivers up my spine.

And of course it was completely effective. And if you keep snapping your fingers every so often, you can walk through the deepest jungles of Africa with no fear of tigers at all!

#129 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Fleming mentions something slightly similar: the British government reckoned that, since Hitler was known to use astrologers a lot, there might be "a place for a British astrologer in, as it were, a counter-battery role" - not to advise Britain, but to infer what sort of advice Hitler's astrologer might be giving him on invasion dates, places and so on.
I presume that the Grand Coven was operating without the same degree of official sanction... although one never knows: Churchill did say, referring to his support for the Soviet Union, that "if Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." And it's not as though it would have been a tremendous strain on the budget.

It's an interesting idea, English amateur witches earnestly invoking the Powers of Air and Darkness against Hitler: a sort of combination of "Dad's Army", "Station X" and "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell".
Where's Charles Stross when you need him?

#130 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 12:39 PM:

AFAIK they had no official sanction. They were completely secretive at the time; remember that Witchcraft was still illegal (yes, illegal) in Britain until the early 50s. And while no one had been convicted in England since the early 18th Century, there was a conviction in Scotland in 1944. So they kept things quiet.

As for 'amateur' -- well, there are hardly any professional Witches. There will be none downstream of me, for example, because we're all oathbound not to take money for any act which flows from the Craft. We're not ALLOWED to make our living by doing magic.

#131 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 12:43 PM:

It's an interesting idea, English amateur witches earnestly invoking the Powers of Air and Darkness against Hitler: a sort of combination of "Dad's Army", "Station X" and "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell".
Where's Charles Stross when you need him?

Katharine Kurtz, Lammas Night, IIRC.

#132 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 01:56 PM:

ajay, PJ: this thought has crossed my mind.
<book-plot>
It is documented that when Major-General J. F. C. Fuller -- the guy who invented the tactics the German general staff picked up and renamed 'Blitzkrieg' -- died in the mid-1970s, among his personal affects was found an unfinished novel manuscript titled "Masks of the Illuminati".

Fuller was an odd fish: the only retired General officer not recalled to active duty during WWII, allegedly due to his connections with the British Union of Fascists, he had, prior to the Great War, been number two to Aleister Crowley in the Order of the Silver Star.

What if the real reason he wasn't officially recalled to duty was not because of his politics, but because he was serving in a different (and highly classified) capacity?
</book-plot>

#133 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 03:10 PM:

Jim Macdonald: As bad as the Sealion plan was, it was miles better than the plan that Gingrich and Forstchen came up with for their novel 1945.

Serge: Which was? I know it involved pouting sex kittens at some point, but I'm hazy on the details.

The definitive take is probably the Red Mike review.

#134 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 03:17 PM:

Actually, Chad, it's ajay who brought up the pouting sex kittens. Me, I prefer 45-year-olds like Tilda Swinton.

#135 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 04:36 PM:
It's an interesting idea, English amateur witches earnestly invoking the Powers of Air and Darkness against Hitler

Didn't Disney do that already?

#136 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 05:37 PM:

NelC, I haven't seen that, I just added it to my Netflix queue. The movie I watched Wednesday night was also about witches and one of my all-time favorites: Hocus Pocus. I can quote most of the lines, but I still love watching it.

#137 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 11:12 PM:

<alcohol type="sake" liter="1"><lurking value="true">In response to Xopher's (and other's) commentary about British witches against Hitler... So, I was just listening to Steve Haberman's commentary track on the DVD of Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim. (Get the new Val Lewton box: Highly recommended for anyone who cares about fantasy or horror.) Apparently, Lewton sent screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen off to New York to find out about Satanism/Witchcraft in New York City. (Yes, I know that Satanism and Wicca are two different things, but I don't think that was well recognized in 1943, even by literate people.) Sure enough, Bodeen manages to score an invite to observe a coven meeting in Greenwich Village c. 1943. Haberman quotes Bodeen many years later as saying a) they were just like the coven in Polanski's Rosemary's Baby: a bunch of old women crocheting and knitting, and old men shrinking in their clothes, and b) that he wouldn't want to have been Hitler, considering all the black imprecatations that the Greenwich Village witches were working against him. So, it wasn't just the British witches who were fighting Hitler; there were a fair number of American witches whose spells fought fascism as well.</lurking></alcohol>

#138 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 11:34 PM:

Even though it stars Jim's-bane, Angela Lansbury, I LOVE Bedknobs and Broomsticks, I saw it originally in the theater with my sister, I think as a first run movie. Great fun.

#139 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 11:50 PM:

I think you meant to set your lurking value to "false."

I'm always appalled by reports of baneful magic. OTOH...it was HITLER. I'm glad to know that American Witches were doing something too.

And the oath I took...I'd break it if another Hitler arose.

The BritWitches were just trying to keep him out of Britain. But in America...I can see wanting to do more.

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 12:47 AM:

Paula, why is Angela Lansbury Jim's bane?

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 12:51 AM:

And wasn't Angela Lansbury Mr. Limpett's girlfriend before devolution turned him back into a fish that fought the Nazi Navy?

#142 ::: wrye ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 06:03 PM:

I missed ajay's comment at first:

Midway could have won the Japanese the war if, as Pearl Harbor had failed to do, it had shaken the US enough to bring a negotiated settlement - but in strictly military terms, no, it couldn't. Would it even have lengthened the war very much? I don't know. Say it works, and the US loses all three carriers and Midway Island as well - so what? It's not as though Hawaii is going to be laid open to another Pearl Harbor attack.
What did the carriers do for the rest of the year? How long was it before more were launched?

If Midway falls, Hawaii has a serious problem, at least-- but what's missing here are the implications for Australia. If the USN can't effectively sortie into the western Pacific, I would think that the defence/recapture of New Guinea and the solomons--and from there, Australia--during 1942 becomes very problematic. Yes, Australians are tough and Australia is big, but so was China--Australia may not fall entirely, but instead of a bloody slog in New Guinea and the Solomons in 1942, you have one in Australia during 1943 and possibly 44, while vitally-needed ANZAC forces are diverted from places like Africa and Italy.

Damn, now I'm curious how this would play out in a wargame campaign.

#143 ::: Jake McGuire ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 09:04 PM:

Doesn't WWII end in 1945 or 1946 anyway, when the US starts producing nuclear weapons in quantity? Probably with many more millions of dead Japanese civilians, and maybe with the Japanese still in possession of a few islands here and there?

The Japanese could have made life hugely more difficult by taking ASW seriously, but I still don't see how they manage to win.

#144 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 12:19 AM:

Implications for Australia/New Zealand of a major US defeat at Midway, and absolute Japanese naval domination of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans east of Ceylon:

Well, we wouldn't have starved, as Britain would have if the Germans had managed to win the Battle of the Atlantic. But we would have been left impotent to fight an offensive war. We would, most likely, have been able to defend our homelands against invasion, at least in their vital and most populated parts, but that would have been mainly because nearly all of northern and central Australia consists of almost uninhabited desert, a huge emptiness which the Japanese were poorly placed to cross. They lacked mechanisation, and had nothing in the nature of a genuine long-range strategic bombing force, nor any plans or capacity to develop one. We'd have suffered air raids on our cities, even naval bombardment - but to invade south-eastern Australia either from across the continent, or amphibiously from bases far to the north, would have been an enterprise beyond the capacity of the Japanese armed forces. After all, they tried a short-range amphibious landing at Milne Bay, and were defeated.

They did initiate staff studies of an invasion of northern Australia - but with no great enthusiasm. After all, there was nothing there that they wanted. An amphibious end-run aimed at Port Moresby in New Guinea was thwarted by the US Navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea. (We remember that to this day. May 3-7, 1942. Vale Lady Lex. Her name, and those of her valiant crew, will live here in honour forever.) And then our own troops halted the Japanese at Imita Ridge, thirty miles short of Moresby.

If the Japanese had won Midway, and had been able to land a real invasion force near Moresby, we'd have put up a stiff fight for it, and lost. New Guinea would have fallen, and the Japanese would have had an airbase near enough the northern coast of Australia to give Darwin and the northern towns (such as they were, then) much more of a pasting than they got. But at worst it would have been a drop in the ocean compared to what Germany took.

The Japanese would still be thousands of miles from Australia's major centres of population, their supply lines would have been a quartermaster's nightmare, and they would have had to fight on our turf. We had enough of a manufacturing base to outfit and supply a basic defensive army. We were starting to manufacture aircraft. We had a decent lateral railway network in the south, and we could feed ourselves. It would have been a hard, dour, slogging fight, but I think we'd have come through it, and at the same time pinned down enough Japanese troops to make easier the job of our allies elsewhere.

Yeah. But I'm glad it'll only ever be a map wargame. Mind you give sufficient consideration to the logistics. They'll be a doozy.

#145 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 11:19 PM:

Dave L: fascinating points. I may know a bit more Aussie geography than most of the non-Aussies here (due to that version of Empire Builder, which does not tightly match reality), but I hadn't thought about the problem of taking a country the size of the contiguous U.S. with most of its people on the far side of a thousand miles of hostile country. (cf an old discussion of what happens if Mongol invasion of Japan succeeds, pushing refugees into the clockwise currents around the ring of fire; argument was that any who get near present-day L.A. will just die out as they're used to being short of resources but not to being short of water.) Would they have done serious damage by bombing Queensland farms and ranches, or is Q agriculture too diffuse?

#146 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 02:23 AM:

A thousand miles of hostile country? As we say here, "and the rest".

In 1942, Darwin was the only northern port with the capacity to support an invading army. The others - Wyndham, Cooktown, Cairns, Broome, Townsville - were tiny fishing villages incapable of berthing more than a small coaster.

As the bird flies, Darwin is about 1800 miles from Brisbane, the most northerly substantial city in Australia, and McArthur's first headquarters. But in 1942 there was no road or rail link south from Darwin. The US Army built a two-lane blacktop from the railhead at Alice Springs in 1943. This was the only sealed road and the only road with actual, you know, water and other supplies on it, for the whole 2000 miles or so across the Dead Heart.

(The Western coast road was finally sealed in 1990 or so. There is still nothing like a real road to Queensland from the north or west. The Birdsville Track and the so-called Gunbarrel Highway from the Western Australian goldfields to Alice Springs are among the worlds most notorious horror stretches. You are very likely to break down, or just not be able to get any further. In that event, if you have not taken the right precautions, or do not do the right things, you will die horribly.)

Darwin got bombed rather a lot, but the Japanese failed to damage the port facilities much. I don't think they could have damaged the Queensland pastoral industry to any great degree from the air, and I can only hope that they would have tried, the waste of resources being so enormous.

I don't doubt that a closer Japanese base would have made an invasion of northern Australia possible, but I don't believe that it would have gotten very far south. The supply lines are just too long, and the Japanese armed forces were simply not set up for logistics on that scale. Even in New Guinea - much closer to their bases - most of their troops simply starved once they had stopped coming forward. If they'd taken Darwin, what they'd have got for their trouble would have been pretty thoroughly demolished, anyway.

Even if the Japanese had managed a successful invasion in the north - something that I think was well beyond their capacity - any Japanese naval superiority in the Western Pacific would necessarily have been fleeting. If the US had lost all three carriers at Midway to the Japanese none, and Midway Island as well, the only result would have been that the Imperial Japanese Navy would have had to fight Midway all over again in about December 1942, against an eight- or ten- carrier fleet. Or fifteen. Or twenty. They'd have lost or had to retreat from the West and South Pacific.

They might have been able to use a temporary superiority to win and hold the Solomons including Guadalcanal. I don't know. But the outcome would have been the same, given another year or so. We would have held on that long, I think, for sure. But it would have been a holding operation, waiting for the US victory.

For it was a US victory. We did our best, and our best was by all accounts pretty good, but there weren't enough of us, and still aren't. Australians won the Kokoda track, and we threw the Japanese back into the sea at Milne Bay, and we won Rabaul, and provided most of the troops that won Gona and Buna and Lae. The RAAF tore a Japanese invasion force to pieces at the Battle of the Bismark Sea, and Australian coastwatchers helped a lot at Guadalcanal. We took Balikpapan and Tarakan, all by our ownsome. All true, and all remembered with honour, and tears. But they were sideshows compared to Saipan and Okinawa and the Philippines. We were bit players in the story of our own salvation, and we are still uncomfortably aware of the fact.

#147 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 02:32 AM:

"We were bit players in the story of our own salvation, and we are still uncomfortably aware of the fact."

Er, isn't that being a little hard on yourselves? What was the population of Australia at the time? What was the industrial capacity?

The US didn't get that nickname "Arsenal of Democracy" as a joke, after all; nearly every ounce of production we had went toward war materials, or so I've read. It still took 3+ years to win, with a lot of help from other Allies, including you folks.

#148 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 04:40 AM:

Population: 8 million, or thereabouts, I believe, nearly all of it in the crescent defined by the points Brisbane-Canberra-Adelaide-coast. We could, and did, field a ten division army, plus another five for home service only. New Zealand provided another two plus two, one of them the elite 1st New Zealand, Freyburg's own.

Industrial capacity: Small. Developing, but still not great. We were manufacturing rolling stock, some shipping. We could make smallarms and ammunition, some field artillery, even some motor vehicles and light armour. Steelmaking was well established, and there were substantial works at Whyalla, South Australia and Newcastle and Port Kembla in NSW. We built and flew combat aircraft of competitive quality - a range of British and US types under licence, and designed a few of our own - the Boomerang fighter/ground attack, which could hold its own with the Zero, and an interceptor that compared quite well to the P51, but was simply not needed because US equipment was far easier to obtain. There was no lack of raw materials. Main constraints were machine tools and skilled labour. Direction of labour was well accepted. The general level of organisation was good.

If Australia had been actually invaded, the British would have accepted the return of all our troops from the Middle East, and the Australian component of the RAF, to defend our own shores. We had two divisions in the front line at El Alamein in October 1942, you know, and supplied about 20% of the total operational strength of Bomber and Coastal Commands of the RAF, even in 1943 and 1944. These were veteran infantry and aircrew, and would have given a very good account of themselves.

So yeah, we'd have made a fight of it. But it's still a drop in the bucket of the Pacific War. If the US had signed a separate peace, as the Japanese thought they would, we'd have probably still held our heartland, but could have done no more than that. Eventually we'd have been forced to a peace that left Japan in possession of its East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (ie new Empire).

But the Japanese were wrong. Comprehensively, floridly, grandiloquently wrong. Wrong to such an extent and to such an effect as to make it necessary to find a word that means "wronger than wrong". The US never for one moment considered the possibility of a separate peace, or any outcome other than the total defeat and dismantlement of the Empire of Japan, no matter what. Any US administration that even canvassed any other possibility would have been hurled from office in a moment by the outraged citizenry.

Just as well for us.

#149 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 04:42 AM:

In my copious free time I am working my way slowly through Churchill's massive, opinionated and highly readable "History of the Second World War"; the latest intriguing bit is a table that compares the number of US army units in action worldwide against the Axis to British units over the course of the war. I was somewhat surprised to find out when the US total actually passed the British total - it's July, 1944. Not what I would have guessed at all.

(Of course, from July 1941 on, the Soviets were fielding at least three times as many as the British and Americans put together; before anyone points it out.)

#150 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Oh, quite so. World War Two was won on the steppes of the Ukraine and western Russia, at Stalingrad (as was) and Leningrad (ditto), and it was won by the Red Army and the almost limitless capacity of the Russian people for soaking up punishment and giving it back. No argument. You read it, and you wonder how on earth they did it. And, given the state of Russia before the ordeal, the starvation and the gulags, the terror and the repression, why.

#151 ::: James Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Faber & Faber just published an excellent book on the Red Army called IVAN'S WAR, by Catherine Merridale, which concentrates on the experience of the Russian soldier. (Declaration of interest; she and I have the same editor.)

War apologism is certainly big in Japan, though more common than 'we were pushed into it by the evil Americans!' is 'War is a terrible thing!' - which is an admirable sentiment, but also a way of avoiding thinking about your national sins. One of my absolute favourite books, John Dower's EMBRACING DEFEAT, is very good on this.

National memory is an important thing, especially when it goes wrong. I spend a lot of time in Beijing, and the obsession of Chinese youth with the Japanese invasion is disturbing. These are middle-class, pampered kids, and they can spill gallons of bile about the Japanese dwarfs. It's partially, I think, because the even worse events of the 1950s and 1960s still aren't that easily discussed, meaning that a wealth of national trauma is pushed back onto the Japanese. It's also worrying that these kids largely have a pre-1914 sense of what war is - all guts and glory and heroic Chinese throwing themselves on Japanese tanks - which is why they're so keen to call for it.

#152 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2011, 06:17 AM:

Same message as another post on another thread, but different name and same URL.

#153 ::: Naomi Parkhurst sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2011, 06:26 AM:

(my browser keeps deleting the "sees spam")

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.