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Great Naval Commanders And Notable Engagements


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From my knowledge of military history, Naval warfare is one of my weakest.

But from what I know of, I will put in Adm. Nimitz of the U.S.Navy from WWII.

Basically placed in charge of the US Pacific Fleet after the disaster at Pearl Harbor.  He led the USN all the way until Japan's surrender.

Good enough that the USN named their greatest Aircraft Carrier class after him, the Nimitz Class CVN's.

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amen to that, Nimitz did an outstanding job in leading pacfleet and putting up with MacArthur. Based on what I've read, he was one of the most affable individual in the navy, but more than that, he knew how to get results from his people.

Other note, it's too bad that the rest of the Nimitz class got named after a bunch of politicians. (although some of them were really leaders, but Carl Vinson and John C. Stennis? Give me a break)

As for Nelson, he was charisma personified in the days of the best days of the British navy. His band of brotheres (fellow captains) were quite legendary, it's a very odd tribute that he died on the day of his greatest triumph, but there are worst ways to go out than on the top of your game.

Edited by kalvasflam
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there has never been a more inspirational nor more important Naval Commander than Horatio, Lord Nelson. I celebrate every October 21, which is the anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar.

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Werd to that. I was in Portsmouth this time last year. I learned more about Nelson than I ever wanted to. H.M.S. Victory is a truly awesome ship.

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there has never been a more inspirational nor more important Naval Commander than Horatio, Lord Nelson. I celebrate every October 21, which is the anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar.

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Werd to that. I was in Portsmouth this time last year. I learned more about Nelson than I ever wanted to. H.M.S. Victory is a truly awesome ship.

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She is beautiful.

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Some very good reasoning.  I think though that the Japanese may have better been able to consolidate their gains in the key battle area (South Pacific) where things truly mattered.  The fleet that would have come out from Pearl if the US hadn't been hit would still not have matched the Japanese forces qualitatively in early 1942.  Witness Guadalcanal for example, where the IJN dominated earlier on, and lost really thru attrition. 

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I was reading through Wikipedia's coverage on the Guadalcanal and Solomon naval battles, and there's an interesting pattern. I've only read up to about '43, so there's some parts that I hadn't cover yet, but...

In the Guadalcanal and Solomon naval engagements, aside from the very first (Battle of Savo Island), the focus of IJN has always been to support its ground troops (which was committed in a very piecemeal fashion). The IJN never entered any of the latter battles with the intent to destroy the opposing fleet; it's usually (a ) a bombardment fleet, (b ) a reinforcement fleet or (c ) an escort fleet that got intercepted by a USN Task Force or blundered into each other.

Aside from Yamamoto and his primary deputy, Nagumo, there were very few offensive IJN fleet action designed solely to draw out the enemy fleet and to destroy it conclusively. Yamamoto tried it in two or three places: Pearl Harbour, Indian Ocean (after Pearl Harbour, where Nagumo took most of the fleet carriers to try to destroy the British fleet presence there) and Midway.

(Aside: In a way, I see Yamamoto and Nagumo as excellent foils for each other; Yamamoto is the aggressive strategist, and Nagumo is the conversative tactician. Both balanced each other off -- Yamamoto went for the big prize, high risk/ high return, and Nagumo kept his forces intact enough to actually catch the prizes and bring it home at a reasonable cost.)

Guadalcanal and the Solomons though, has nothing really concerted there -- it's a bunch of accidental run-ins or interception by the USN (which typically knew of the presence of the enemy fleet through signal interception and was expressedly there to engage and deny/ destroy the enemy). IJN didn't really try to bring the USN into combat in an environment where they are ideally suited for -- tight quarters which favours torpedo combat at night.

Reading through the engagements, one can gain a sense of frustration. The IJN units were being expended for no visible results. In many sense, the IJN was sucked into a war of attrition that is not in its favour and didn't realised it. Guadalcanal and the Solomons were the stake in IJN's heart.

Not only that, when IJN won engagements, IJN admirals tended to be very conservative and casualty-conscious (probably because they knew they were losing in a war of attrition) and didn't push hard enough. There were several battles where the IJN won tactically, but pulled back and lost the strategic advantage the victory gave them. These allowed the USN to recover and come in again.

In sharp contrast, the USN weren't very good tactically -- the early Pacific engagements were universally USN losses -- but very aggressively strategically. USN admirals were pretty aware of the big picture and were willing to gamble, such as sending in the Washington and South Dakota after the Kirishima one night after the Kirishima and another IJN BB beat the living tar out of a USN fleet.

If you want to say a decisive naval engagement in the Pacific.. really only Pearl Harbour was decisive; Midway evened the odds, but the Solomons series killed the IJN in the sort of attritional warfare that they should have controlled and won.

To me, Japan fought the equivalent of a two front war with just one force.  They needed to fend off MacArthur's counterattack from Australia, and stop Nimitz's navy from pounding across the central Pacific.  I think it would've been better if the Japanese had entirely eliminated the MacArthur threat by taking Australia or cutting the communications lane to Australia.  There the carrier formation in the early days could've made a big difference, possibly even in taking out MacArthur himself and eliminating the southern US sub force that caused so much grief later on.  The only area that they lacked if they were to take on Australia was the amphibious elements.  They certainly had troops enough in China to do this.  The fact that they didn't I think was a big mistake.

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Japan was fighting a two-front war, but the first front was in China. It's involvement in China was quite extensive (almost the entire coastline!) and the war was pretty low intensity -- not much battle, plenty of unrest, a troop sink really.

In the Pacific, it wasn't so much a matter of two-fronts, more of overextension. To fend off MacArthur's Australian threat, the Japanese need to hold New Guinea; to hold New Guinea, you need to hold the SE Pacific islands to prevent a buildup of enemy forces on your flank. And to hold the SE Pacific islands, you need to hold the Central Pacific to secure your supply lines.

When you get down to it, the minute Japan decided to invade the Philippines, they basically had no choice but to go all the way into Indonesia; without securing Indonesia, you cannot secure the Philippines -- too much landmass that allowed a buildup of land forces to come across, and the Philippines is notorious for being hard to prevent a landing.

Basically, the conquest of SE Asia and the Pacific is a mistake; no nation, not even today, can attempt it without getting overextended. The nature of the geographical layout forces you to keep extending all the way till the northern tip of Australia, and that exposes way too much flank for anyone.

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I read a book about Roman and Greek military tactics a few years back (phalanx, hoplites, ballista, etc)

Anyway, there were some interesting sections about 'Greek Fire' Apparently the Greeks would spray some combination of chemicals and it would burn like crazy, and supposedly, burn underneath the water as well. The book said no one was for sure how Greek Fire was used or made.

Any of you Naval war buffs have any insight into this? Curious as the book indicated that other ships and fleets were scared s,hitless when they thought another ship had Greek Fire capability.

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Actually, Greek fire wasn't really Greek. It was a weapon of the Byzantine Empire after Rome had fallen. Your book is right in saying that we don't know the exact mixture, but likely it included naptha and sulpher.

Another important commander/battle was Don Juan - Lepanto.

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I was reading through Wikipedia's coverage on the Guadalcanal and Solomon naval battles, and there's an interesting pattern. I've only read up to about '43, so there's some parts that I hadn't cover yet, but...

In the Guadalcanal and Solomon naval engagements, aside from the very first (Battle of Savo Island), the focus of IJN has always been to support its ground troops (which was committed in a very piecemeal fashion). The IJN never entered any of the latter battles with the intent to destroy the opposing fleet; it's usually (a ) a bombardment fleet, (b ) a reinforcement fleet or (c ) an escort fleet that got intercepted by a USN Task Force or blundered into each other.

Aside from Yamamoto and his primary deputy, Nagumo, there were very few offensive IJN fleet action designed solely to draw out the enemy fleet and to destroy it conclusively. Yamamoto tried it in two or three places: Pearl Harbour, Indian Ocean (after Pearl Harbour, where Nagumo took most of the fleet carriers to try to destroy the British fleet presence there) and Midway.

(Aside: In a way, I see Yamamoto and Nagumo as excellent foils for each other; Yamamoto is the aggressive strategist, and Nagumo is the conversative tactician. Both balanced each other off -- Yamamoto went for the big prize, high risk/ high return, and Nagumo kept his forces intact enough to actually catch the prizes and bring it home at a reasonable cost.)

Guadalcanal and the Solomons though, has nothing really concerted there -- it's a bunch of accidental run-ins or interception by the USN (which typically knew of the presence of the enemy fleet through signal interception and was expressedly there to engage and deny/ destroy the enemy). IJN didn't really try to bring the USN into combat in an environment where they are ideally suited for -- tight quarters which favours torpedo combat at night.

Reading through the engagements, one can gain a sense of frustration. The IJN units were being expended for no visible results. In many sense, the IJN was sucked into a war of attrition that is not in its favour and didn't realised it. Guadalcanal and the Solomons were the stake in IJN's heart.

Exactly, the reason, the Japanese wanted one decisive engagement, and they were being denied that, and so they were forced to dance to the American tune:

Here is a favorite site of mine, I think far superior to Wikipedia:

http://www.combinedfleet.com/kaigun.htm

It talks about the battles in some details.

I think the problem with the IJN was that they could never have won through attrition warfare. Remember, Yamamoto knew ahead of time that his only chance was to cripple the US in such a way that its political will to fight collapsed. Otherwise, they would be grounded under by the US economy. With the Solomons, it was a slog, but if you're only done through 1942, most of those were Japanese victories, in 1943, that's when the tide really turned.

Guadalcanal essentially put a majority of the US cruiser force out of action (either sunk or requiring major repairs). The problem for the Japanese was that even if they were getting a 3:1 kill ratio, they would still lose at the end of the day.

In Guadalcanal, if you had read through Sam Morrison's books, it clearly talks about the Japanese trying a couple of times to bring off a decisive engagement. Remember, they sunk the Hornet and the Wasp in the general area. They lost a couple of carriers. What mattered is what a precetpion of a decisive engagement is. In IJN terms, it was one massive battle to determine who the champ is. To the USN, it was a long grinding campaign to start whittling away some of the Japanese advantages, and building up for their own decisive tactical battle, which occurred in the form of Marianas, and then Leyte in 1944.

You know what it really came down to? Oil.

Japanese in the guadalcanal campaign tried to run these idiotic Tokyo express, that was tactically very successful, and a disaster strategically. Because those destroyers wasted far more fuel than a conventional transport in bringing in troops. But what choice did the Japanese have? Their merchant marine sucked, no real amphib capabilities, and with the skies under contest, they couldn't guarantee the safety of the few transports they did have. Never mind the fact that the US sub force started to rape the Japanese merchant fleet (such as it were). See the battle of Bismarck seas to understand why the Japanese opted for these high speed destroyer runs.

So, the point here is that because they didn't bother with Australia, they gave the Americans the important advantage of having a land base close to the battlefield from which to launch their troops. After all, if the USN had to cross the Pacific to deliver all those marines and army divisions, it would be a lot tougher than how they did it going from just Australia and New Zealand.

Not only that, when IJN won engagements, IJN admirals tended to be very conservative and casualty-conscious (probably because they knew they were losing in a war of attrition) and didn't push hard enough. There were several battles where the IJN won tactically, but pulled back and lost the strategic advantage the victory gave them. These allowed the USN to recover and come in again.

In sharp contrast, the USN weren't very good tactically -- the early Pacific engagements were universally USN losses -- but very aggressively strategically. USN admirals were pretty aware of the big picture and were willing to gamble, such as sending in the Washington and South Dakota after the Kirishima one night after the Kirishima and another IJN BB beat the living tar out of a USN fleet.

If you want to say a decisive naval engagement in the Pacific.. really only Pearl Harbour was decisive; Midway evened the odds, but the Solomons series killed the IJN in the sort of attritional warfare that they should have controlled and won.

Remember, Marianas was technically speaking decisive too. It was just that the odds were so lopsidedly in the USN's favor, it didn't seem like it. And no, Japan could never have won an attritional war with the US. Not when the other side is outpacing you in production, and your fleet mobility is always in question because of oil.

As for Kirishima and the Hiei, their original mission was to bombard Henderson field on Guadalcanal, to put it out of business long enough so that the IJN could run more troops in to take Guadalcanal and deny the Americans their airbase, which was a real threat to the IJN surface forces.

Japan was fighting a two-front war, but the first front was in China. It's involvement in China was quite extensive (almost the entire coastline!) and the war was pretty low intensity -- not much battle, plenty of unrest, a troop sink really.

In the Pacific, it wasn't so much a matter of two-fronts, more of overextension. To fend off MacArthur's Australian threat, the Japanese need to hold New Guinea; to hold New Guinea, you need to hold the SE Pacific islands to prevent a buildup of enemy forces on your flank. And to hold the SE Pacific islands, you need to hold the Central Pacific to secure your supply lines.

Had the IJN planned out their conquest to go all the way to Australia/New Zeland, then there wouldn't have been a MacArthur threat at all. Then, it's a matter of crushing some native islanders on a bunch of small islands to hold everything west of Hawaii. Now, suddenly, it becomes a different ball game.

When you get down to it, the minute Japan decided to invade the Philippines, they basically had no choice but to go all the way into Indonesia; without securing Indonesia, you cannot secure the Philippines -- too much landmass that allowed a buildup of land forces to come across, and the Philippines is notorious for being hard to prevent a landing.

Basically, the conquest of SE Asia and the Pacific is a mistake; no nation, not even today, can attempt it without getting overextended. The nature of the geographical layout forces you to keep extending all the way till the northern tip of Australia, and that exposes way too much flank for anyone.

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There is a fundamental misunderstanding here. The whole point of the war was Indonesia, not Phillipines, because Indonesia is where the oil was. The conquest of Phillipines was a necessity for Japan because they couldn't leave an entrenched enemy inside their line of communications. Remember, the entire reason for Japanese going to war was because the US had cut off their fuel supply to try to force the Japanese hand in China. No oil, then the IJN couldn't operate, and that meant it would be highly vulnerable to US naval forces.

They should've concentrated their forces to take Australia/NZ, even if it meant siphoning off troops from in China. It would've given them a huge geographical advantage. As you rightly pointed out, the IJN was overextended. But they had the ability to keep that from happening had they taken out Australia and New Zeland along with the rest of SE Asia. Then, the nearest point of US assault comes from Hawaii. And that's a long distance to go to for naval operations, and it would've really helped to whittle down the submarine threat, and secured the interior of the IJN lines of communications.

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  • 8 years later...

I'm not big on thread necromancy, but in light of recent events like the rediscovery of the IJN Musashi and yet another panel of mine being accepted for Anime Boston(Kancolle: The Weapons Behind The Women) I think its time to resurrect this thread like a Space Battleship rising from its grave.

Here's news footage covering the Musashi.

Anyways since my panel is going to be focusing more on historical facts than which girl is cutest and have a complete overview of the Pacific campaign is there any ships or battles aside from the obvious(like Yamato, Shimakaze, Pearl, Midway, Leyte) I should focus on? Anything you feel I should include?

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Anyways since my panel is going to be focusing more on historical facts than which girl is cutest and have a complete overview of the Pacific campaign is there any ships or battles aside from the obvious(like Yamato, Shimakaze, Pearl, Midway, Leyte) I should focus on? Anything you feel I should include?

If you do end up talking about which girl is cutest, the correct is Kirishima BTW. :p

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  • 1 month later...

Well... Looks like my panel got uploaded to youtube. I know I'm going to regret it, but here it is for those that want to watch. And yes I'm aware I made some goofs that I'm still kicking myself for(stupid japanese subs looking alike). I hosted the panel early sunday morning on the third day of Anime Boston, after I had to get my car out of the police impound lot late saturday night so I'll chalk it up do that.

I tried to keep it light hearted and attempted to avoid a massive info dump, while also cramming as much info that I could into the hour I had given to me. Unfortunately I had to cut off at Leyte Gulf and barely touch upon operation ten-go with Yamato.

I welcome all feedback and don't be afraid to be critical. Its the only way I'll improve. :)

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Hey Renegade

I've got a couple of points to help you out.

  • Large Cruiser: this is a long running debate about the Alaska Class, and personally I feel they are battlecruisers. Going back to the 1907, battlecruisers were intended to fight against cruisers and run away from Battleships. That meant an armor that was only good vs cruiser armaments and speed to get away from everything else. That's basically what the Alaska class is. It was designed to combat high speed commerce raiding by Japanese heavy cruisers (which the IJN actually resisted doing). That's why there were over six originally projected to be built: you needed a lot to defend against such a transient strategy. Its just simpler to add Alaska to the battlecruisers' line and describe it as a battle/territory.
  • There really isn't a consistent naming convention for IJN carriers: Hiyo Taiyo, Jun'yo are birds; Shoho, Taiho are Phoenixes; Kasuragi, Amagi and Kasagi are mountains.
  • Destroyers: One of the key functions of the destroyers was screening for a fleet. Certainly that meant attacking other screeners, ect. but it also meant smoke screens, which could hide large battle line movements from an enemy fleet.
  • Also, I think its really important to give a sense of why Japanese and American designs were so different. The Japanese, under the Washington Treaty Limitations knew they could not win in the numbers' game vs the United States. So they built extremely well armed vessels to counter their numerical inferiority. They basically developed an intricate understanding of the combat power the U.S. Navy could bring to bear in the Pacific, then developed a strategy to defeat it in a large scale naval battle ala Jutland. For example the Yamato's size was what it was because the IJN wanted to build a warship that the US Navy could not develop a counter which could fit through the Panama Canal. This would presumably prevent the U.S. from effectively concentrating their combat power before that decisive battle. Torpedoes were a critical part of this strategy. They had some significant successes with them during the Russo-Japanese War, so they invested in the technology which resulted in the famed Long Lance Torpedo, as well as ships like the Shimikaze. Unfortunately, many IJN ships were too heavily armed which made for poor seakeeping. See this article on the 4th Fleet Incident.
  • You mentioned that Pearl Harbor was the most influential aircraft bombing ships battle. If you ignore the strategic effects it had on bringing the U.S. into the war, then I'd argue that Taranto was more influential. It influenced Japanese navy thinking of the possible effects of a surprise attack. It also disabled 1/2 of the Italian fleet at a crucial time during the war: it basically prevented them from destroying the base in Malta and other operations in the Mediterranean. Japanese basically destroyed a bunch of battleships that were not altogether useful in the coming war, and failed to destroy the logistical base that the Americans would use to mount their offensive.
  • I think you've confused the sinking of the Shinano, with the Taiho. The Shinano capsized due to progressive flooding after being torpedoed. Taiho sank due to the fuel leak you mentioned. Both were considered Japanese supercarriers.
  • Your list of major battles should include the Battle of the Java Sea. It was a major battle that showed the inherent superiority of Japanese seamanship in surface warfare. It was also a tactical and strategic disaster for the Allies, particularly the Dutch, which culminates in the total takeover of the Dutch East Indies.
  • The Kido Butai was a force to be reckoned with for seven months between December 7th 1941 and June 4th 1942. They were everywhere in the Pacific. This is the highlights of the Akagi's movements during that time.
  1. Rabaul 19th January 1942
  2. Port Darwin 19th February 1942
  3. Invasion of Java 5th March 1942
  4. Indian Ocean Raids 26th March 1942 (destroyed a carrier, cruiser and several other major vessels in support of the invasion of Burma.)
  5. Defence of Japan (Doolittle Raid Pursuit) 18th April 1942
  • I've got a couple of more points about the economic dimensions of the war: where the Japanese got their oil, and sea lanes of control, which I think would be of interest to you. Unfortunately I don't have time to finish a response tonight.

hopefully you find this helpful.

Edited by Noyhauser
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I'm not big on thread necromancy, but in light of recent events like the rediscovery of the IJN Musashi and yet another panel of mine being accepted for Anime Boston(Kancolle: The Weapons Behind The Women) I think its time to resurrect this thread like a Space Battleship rising from its grave.

Here's news footage covering the Musashi.

Anyways since my panel is going to be focusing more on historical facts than which girl is cutest and have a complete overview of the Pacific campaign is there any ships or battles aside from the obvious(like Yamato, Shimakaze, Pearl, Midway, Leyte) I should focus on? Anything you feel I should include?

I posted these in the Yamato 2199 thread, but may as well post them here too. Never before seen image of IJN Musashi.

b41a53a66220958be9360a6c147625775534f315

2d067bc1941c2a10b89aa42a095f340e347ae17d

I was in Japan last week and saw this on the news, took forever to find images online.....in his case, Google was not my friend.

Edited by peter
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The Battle of the Atlantic. Even Churchill stated it was the only part of the war that really worried him.

Also, the naval clashes between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine during the Norway campaign, which effectively ended any hope the Germans had of carrying out Operation: Sealion (the later planned invasion of the U.K; it was always going to be a dodgy proposition in ideal circumstances, but losing many of the required escort vessels didn't help much).

Not sure it counts as a "battle" as such, but the D-Day landings.

Oh, and the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean - Taranto was a bit of a pointer for the Japanese when they were planning a certain something thats also being discussed here... :)

Edited by F-ZeroOne
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  • 1 month later...

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