G-Man

I often disagree with Galrahn at Information Dissemination, but I also greatly enjoy his work and especially the thought provoking discussions in the comments over there.

Two great posts over there right now. First, the challenge for the Army to be expeditionary in light of the “Pacific Pivot” strategy.  The challenge is finding a way to make the Army light enough to deploy, and yet heavy enough not to get blown off the map. Obviously, I disagree with G on how best to achieve that. But I’m not blind to the fact that it IS a challenge.

Second, a look at what the fleet’s disposition will be in coming years. G looks at the various theaters, and the expected forces that will be available to them.

The pivot to the Pacific has completed, and this major pivot ends up being 4 Littoral Combat Ships, 3 amphibious ships, and 2 Joint High Speed Vessels. I am very unclear how the politics of the pivot to Asia somehow became a public diplomacy centered around the maritime domain with the US Navy doesn’t even move a single major surface combatant or submarine to the Pacific as part of this touted pivot.

The obvious answer to G’s question in that paragraph is that the Navy learned its lessons about forward basing prior to World War II. It’s arguably safer to forward deploy, than to forward base.  The Japanese were capable of striking Pearl Harbor. If the fleet in December ‘41 had been stationed in San Diego (as the commander wished), they wouldn’t have been able to gut the heart of the fleet. The inherent Mahanian flexibility of a fleet is its ability to move to where the action is.

4 thoughts on “G-Man”

  1. Though, if they’d based the fleet in San Diego, the Japanese might have simply invaded Hawaii and we’d have had a fleet based on those heavy BBs. My suspicion is that without the vivid demonstration of the effectiveness of the CVs that Pearl Harbor represented, Navy leadership might have opted to build more BBs over the course of the war. Well, at least in the early years, until the effectiveness of the Japanese carrier arm sank the BBs at sea when they tried re-taking Pearl in mid-42.

    1. The Japanese couldn’t have invaded Hawaii. The attack at Pearl was little more than a highly successful raid, and that pushed the IJN to its limits. That’s one of the reasons there wasn’t a third wave.

      No, I think that if we hadn’t given them the plum target at Pearl the Japanese would have gone ahead with their invasion of the Philippines and kept Nagumo’s fleet behind to attempt a reprise of Tsushima against our relief force. Given our performance against the IJN early in the war, especially at night, there’s a good chance they would have been successful.

    2. “…Navy leadership might have opted to build more BBs over the course of the war. ”

      Maybe… then again, there is plenty of evidence senior leaders in the Navy had already recognized the value of the carrier by December 1941. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US had just commissioned one new carrier (USS Hornet), had five Essex-class carriers under construction, and three more projected for construction once the slips were clear. This represented a 150% increase in the number of carrier decks. Still, ship building is a long-game endeavor. Had the war begun a year later in December 1942, the USN might… might… have had three of those flat tops.

      On the battleship side, the North Carolinas had just received their commission in 1941. All four of the South Dakotas were either in the water or close to launching, but would not be completed before the spring of ’42. And of course all four Iowas were laid down before Pearl Harbor. Yes, eight BBs. But that represented only an accelerated “replacement” program aimed to phase out the pre-World War I designs.

      I have never bought the argument that Pearl Harbor ushered some great change in the USN’s doctrine regarding carriers/aviation. Hard to believe that smart folks with names like King and Nimitz were oblivious to the lessons the Brits learned in 1939-41. More importantly, some fellow named Roosevelt had already asked the Navy to accelerate carrier construction, proposing conversions of light cruiser hulls in August 1941.

  2. Jeff, agreed. If nothing else, the Japanese logistics train was, well, a wreck. 🙂 They would have been lucky just to effect a landing, much less support it.

    David, a lot of folks in the Navy wanted more carriers. The only difference was that pre-war doctrine required the carriers to screen for the battleships, whereas in the actual fighting it ended up the other way around. I might add here that Japan still insisted on building battleships despite their own successes with carriers. I cite the Shinano in evidence.

    My question with respect to the post is: just why or when would we need the Army in the Pacific? Are the Marines taking a year off?

    No, seriously; the old rule used to be “when the Marines go in, it’s an incident; when the Army goes in, it’s a war.” Has that changed? Under what circumstances would we need to deploy the Army in the Pacific, and where?

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