A Blunted Sickle - Thread II

In the post-Spanish-American War assessments of Subic Bay, the US Navy really liked the harbor but recognized that the Archipelago was going to be very hard to defend against a determined Japanese attack. The US Army hated Subic Bay, for the same general reasons and some specific ones. A 1914 formal tactical assessment of Luzon by Gen Hunter Liggett presciently identified that a large-scale Japanese attack starting at Lingayen Gulf would sweep down Luzon towards Manila, and a flank attack on the Mariveles Heights on Bataan would put both Subic Bay and Manila Bay in easy artillery range. That's pretty much what the Japanese did in 1941-42.

All that assessment work factored into the US War Plans, often updated throughout the early part of the 20th Century
Yes. That's covered in "War Plan Orange" by Edward S. Miller.
 
Didn't the French have a huge naval base in Cam Ranh Bay?
It's a huge natural harbour, the French used it as such. They didn't build the infrastructure to turn it into a huge naval base (either defensive or dock facilities). This is partly because they didn't base a large fleet of big ships in the FE. There was a pre-dreadnought sqn in the area for quite a long time pre WW1, and there may well have been visiting dreadnoughts afterwards, but they weren't based there
 
Well in terms of naval bases out there you have:
Britain:
Singapore
Brunei Bay
Penang
Rabaul
Ceylon
Rangoon
Hong Kong
Port Moresby
Australia and New Zealand:
Exmouth Gulf
Sydney Harbour
Brisbane
Darwin
Perth
Auckland
Wellington
France:
Cam Ranh Bay
Haiphong
Noumea (New Caledonia)
Dutch East Indies:
Surabaya
Palembang
Batavia
Balikpapan
Bali
Bandung
Philippines:
Subic Bay
Manilla Bay
Davao Bay
Portugal:
Macau
Dili (East Timor)

I am sure I am missing quite a few or possibly some of these are wrong, but these ports are the ones that immediately enter my head as to where elements of the Allied navies could be based before war broke out.
 

HJ Tulp

Donor
Well in terms of naval bases out there you have:
Britain:
Singapore
Brunei Bay
Penang
Rabaul
Ceylon
Rangoon
Hong Kong
Port Moresby
Australia and New Zealand:
Exmouth Gulf
Sydney Harbour
Brisbane
Darwin
Perth
Auckland
Wellington
France:
Cam Ranh Bay
Haiphong
Noumea (New Caledonia)
Dutch East Indies:
Surabaya
Palembang
Batavia
Balikpapan
Bali
Bandung
Philippines:
Subic Bay
Manilla Bay
Davao Bay
Portugal:
Macau
Dili (East Timor)

I am sure I am missing quite a few or possibly some of these are wrong, but these ports are the ones that immediately enter my head as to where elements of the Allied navies could be based before war broke out.
For a port to function as a naval base you need facilities like shipyards, defensive positions and fuel storages. A lot of the ports listed lacked those, for example Brunei Bay and Balikpapan. And that's not even talking about ports that are simply to far away from the Southern China Sea.
 
For a port to function as a naval base you need facilities like shipyards, defensive positions and fuel storages. A lot of the ports listed lacked those, for example Brunei Bay and Balikpapan. And that's not even talking about ports that are simply to far away from the Southern China Sea.
In coming up with this list:

I first tried to cover all the naval harbours actually used in the real battles of the Southern China Sea.
Then I tried to write down all the ones occupied by naval ships pre-war thereby showing that these facilities or at least part of them were already in place.
Then I added in Harbours with deep enough harbours where such facilities could be built.
Finally I took a look at the Harbours which the Japanese invaded through thereby indicating at least some level of facility for the transport of men and supplies.

As for the ones too far away. That is more for the fact they tend to be major naval bases such as Ceylon so ships will be sent there pre war anyway. However in the event of war they would presumably be called to the South China Sea and there places taken by damaged ships needing repairs.

This is not meant to be a list of forward bases for immediate combat but rather all the places ships could be stationed by the allies until war starts if they decided to split the fleet. Perhaps it helps to clarify that with the Harbours on the list, what might be stationed at any of these harbours might be no larger than a squadron of cruisers, Destroyers or smaller vessels. I was not necessarily thinking of putting a carrier or battleship in any of these places but rather where could naval ships be based.
 
Sounds to me like they had some type of naval base there.
As I said, it's a natural harbour and they used it as such. including building some infrastructure, but by no stretch was it a huge naval base, although I suppose huge is subjective. It definitely wasn't on a par with Singapore, which is how I interpreted huge (i.e. able to repair and refit a substantial WW2 era capital ship sqn/fleet).
 
As I said, it's a natural harbour and they used it as such. including building some infrastructure, but by no stretch was it a huge naval base, although I suppose huge is subjective. It definitely wasn't on a par with Singapore, which is how I interpreted huge (i.e. able to repair and refit a substantial WW2 era capital ship sqn/fleet).
.... It would be straightforward to turn it into the equivalent to Scapa though....
 
France:
Cam Ranh Bay
Haiphong
Noumea (New Caledonia)
As of 1939, the only port in French Indochina that had an organized naval base was Saigon - Cap-Saint-Jacques (present day Vũng Tàu), which is where the French Far East Squadron was stationed in the OTL. Saigon had a complete naval base organization, including a naval arsenal and repair facilities. Cap-Saint-Jacques (present day Vũng Tàu) is a naval anchorage located on the coast at the approaches to Saigon.

The French had plans to develop Cam Ranh Bay into a major naval base, but construction was halted in the OTL due to the war in Europe. It will be up to pdf to determine if the presence of major naval forces in the Far East would justify continued construction at Cam Ranh Bay ITL.

Haiphong is an important commercial port, but its location at the far upper end of the Tonkin Gulf gives it very little strategic importance beyond coastal defense. The French did not maintain an organized naval base at this port.

In the South Pacific, the main strategic base maintained by the French was at Papeete, in French Polynesia, which is where they stationed their small Pacific Squadron. They did also occasionally use the port facilities at Noumea (New Caledonia) and Port-Vila (New Hebrides).
 
I guess the main difference between Singapore and Subic Bay is that the Americans never made a full commitment to Subic Bay the way that the British did to Singapore with Pearl Harbor being the main location. So in the event of a war with both the Entente and the Americans, the idea of the USN docking at Singapore isn't that out of the question (Did the RN and USN use the same fuels?)

A very specific route through the South China sea may be needed to avoid air recon, but I guess normal commercial traffic could be able to be somewhat of a tripwire. (As opposed to the North Pacific)

Sounds like even with Carriers, the RN would still be in a position where closing with the Japanese would be to their advantage. (Would a good strategy be the RN carriers aircraft don't attack the Japanese Carriers, instead they provide CAP over the RN battleships as they get close enough to shell the Japanese Carriers?)

Since it is the US's bans which are affecting the Japanese, appeasement would be allowing scrap metal sales, etc. And once the kicks off, I doubt those would be removed.

Unclear to me whether ABC and MacArthur ever met iOTL. I'm curious as to whether they will meet here. I know that MacArthur is more likely to meet with the leaders of the Entente Armies, but given that I don't think that any American Admiral would be stationed that far forward, MacArthur probably still ends up in Singapore at some point.
  1. Americans operating out of Singapore is a big no-no politically. King would flip.
  2. ASV radar is a complete game-changer for air reconnaissance, the British and French have it deployed in the region (the French on SM.79s) and the Japanese not only don't really know about the technology but even if they had it are out of the range of land-based ASV aircraft if they want to play in the South China Sea. They've also got a lot of submarines out there, forward deployed as far as Hong Kong.
  3. I can't imagine the RN planning to give up the striking ability of the carriers and relying on the gun line to sink enemy carriers. They're very well aware of the threat posed by air power, and it's sacrificing a major potential advantage of theirs. The point was rather that the Japanese are likely to think they can close with the RN and win a night gun battle, and are likely to get a very nasty surprise if they try.

.... It would be straightforward to turn it into the equivalent to Scapa though....
Doesn't help much - Scapa was only ~280 NM from Rosyth and ~480 from the Clyde, both major ports with some of the biggest and best dockyards in the world. Doing the same at Cam Ranh Bay basically means you're still entirely reliant on Singapore - Saigon isn't even close.
Scapa was chosen because it controls a major choke point for Germany, the North Sea exits - and the RN was already well provisioned to cover the channel. Having an anchorage at Scapa therefore adds a lot of value as it means the fleet can comfortably support a distant blockade of Germany. Singapore does the same for the South China Sea - to bypass it you need to go through the Philippines - and combined with the dockyard facilities it absolutely counts as Vital Ground for the UK to hold. Forward basing makes your ships vulnerable while making it harder for them to actually defend Singapore.
 
Doesn't help much - Scapa was only ~280 NM from Rosyth and ~480 from the Clyde, both major ports with some of the biggest and best dockyards in the world. Doing the same at Cam Ranh Bay basically means you're still entirely reliant on Singapore - Saigon isn't even close.
Totally agree, I was trying to say that it wasn't a replacement or substitute for Singapore. The claim I was disagreeing with was that it was a huge naval base. My point was that it was a harbour in the sense that ships could shelter there and not in the sense that ships could refit or repair there. Whether someone thinks that makes it a huge base depends on the definition you're using. I think it could be useful as a forward base but definitely not a main base.

On its location, you're right, but that's not the whole story. Once war broke out defending Singapore would not be the goal, defeating Japan would be. Pre WW2 the UK planned to move forward from Singapore, for which Cam Ranh Bay (or somewhere nearby) could be useful, especially if Japan is established in Southern China or the Philippines. The preWW2 British war plan was for the fleet to move to Singapore, then to HK and then to establish a base in or around the Ryukyu Islands from where they would impose a distant blockade. The plans got increasingly vague at each step due to the increasing unknowns about how the campaign would evolve. A distant blockade based on Singapore alone was unlikely to be effective against Japan, unlike a distant blockade based on Scapa against Germany.

So I imagine that in this timeline the allied battle fleet would remain at Singapore until war broke out while light forces might be deployed forward to defend Indochina. What the battle fleet did if war in the FE broke out would depend on whether America joined the war and what happened at HK in the first month or so.
 
Totally agree, I was trying to say that it wasn't a replacement or substitute for Singapore. The claim I was disagreeing with was that it was a huge naval base. My point was that it was a harbour in the sense that ships could shelter there and not in the sense that ships could refit or repair there. Whether someone thinks that makes it a huge base depends on the definition you're using. I think it could be useful as a forward base but definitely not a main base.

On its location, you're right, but that's not the whole story. Once war broke out defending Singapore would not be the goal, defeating Japan would be. Pre WW2 the UK planned to move forward from Singapore, for which Cam Ranh Bay (or somewhere nearby) could be useful, especially if Japan is established in Southern China or the Philippines. The preWW2 British war plan was for the fleet to move to Singapore, then to HK and then to establish a base in or around the Ryukyu Islands from where they would impose a distant blockade. The plans got increasingly vague at each step due to the increasing unknowns about how the campaign would evolve. A distant blockade based on Singapore alone was unlikely to be effective against Japan, unlike a distant blockade based on Scapa against Germany.

So I imagine that in this timeline the allied battle fleet would remain at Singapore until war broke out while light forces might be deployed forward to defend Indochina. What the battle fleet did if war in the FE broke out would depend on whether America joined the war and what happened at HK in the first month or so.
Distant blockade all depends on what they are trying to do. Most of a distant blockade is done in shipping offices not on the High Seas, As long as the US will not allow its ships to sail to Japan ( by its own sanctions or just refusing to let them sail into a declared war zone ) , Japan only has to be stopped from getting oil and scrap from other sources to cripple its economy. These trade routes , apart from supplies from China/USSR, can be interdicted by ships based in Singapore.
Given the relations Japan had with the USSR, its unlikely much will flow from that source and stopping supplies from China would always be more of a submarine war. Add in that Japan is painfully short on ships, from memory it only had about about 6.5 million tons of merchant shipping but had a need for around 10 million pre war, its not looking rosy. This gap was filled by foreign shipping in peacetime, not much of which will be available in wartime so Japan is going to suffer badly even without taking into consideration the military requisitioning shipping for its needs ( and that would be in the millions of tons) .
 
Distant blockade all depends on what they are trying to do. Most of a distant blockade is done in shipping offices not on the High Seas, As long as the US will not allow its ships to sail to Japan ( by its own sanctions or just refusing to let them sail into a declared war zone ) , Japan only has to be stopped from getting oil and scrap from other sources to cripple its economy. These trade routes , apart from supplies from China/USSR, can be interdicted by ships based in Singapore.
Given the relations Japan had with the USSR, its unlikely much will flow from that source and stopping supplies from China would always be more of a submarine war. Add in that Japan is painfully short on ships, from memory it only had about about 6.5 million tons of merchant shipping but had a need for around 10 million pre war, its not looking rosy. This gap was filled by foreign shipping in peacetime, not much of which will be available in wartime so Japan is going to suffer badly even without taking into consideration the military requisitioning shipping for its needs ( and that would be in the millions of tons)
British plans for how to conduct a distant blockade of Japan took all of this into account
 
What was the difference in this timeline that allowed the Netherlands to hold out?
In a nutshell:

The change in Entente plans directly led to it. After making the call to be more conservative, the Entente told the Dutch that they weren't dashing all the way to Breda from the Franco-Belgian start line. This led to the Dutch realising that it was "Very well, alone." at least in regard to responding to the initial invasion. So they blew bridges sooner. In OTL, several demolitions were delayed to wait for French reinforcements. The Germans arrived first, and seized the bridges; compromising the Waterline. Here, the bridges are blown, and the German attack stymied.

Failure to take it on the bounce might not be fatal, but the Panzers then get cut off in Paris. Nobody is going to focus on finishing the Dutch off when the cream of the Wehrmacht are trapped in the enemy capital. As a result, Fortress Holland just about holds.
 
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How likely is a detente between Japan and the soviets based on a mutual opposition to western powers? Despite their earlier hostilities, it seems not too different from the soviets allying with the nazis. The soviet 'anti-imperialist' propaganda and the 'co-prosperity sphere' of Japan could be wedged to look a bit similar if one isn't paying very close attention.

How likely would the western powers believe such a thing might come to be?
 
How likely is a detente between Japan and the soviets based on a mutual opposition to western powers? Despite their earlier hostilities, it seems not too different from the soviets allying with the nazis. The soviet 'anti-imperialist' propaganda and the 'co-prosperity sphere' of Japan could be wedged to look a bit similar if one isn't paying very close attention.

How likely would the western powers believe such a thing might come to be?
I recall reading years ago in a book on the Japanese perspective on the war that there was an active debate between Japanese Army and Navy on who Japan should attack to get the resources needed to continue the war in China. IIRC, the Army wanted to attack the USSR to seize the mineral resources in Siberia and the Navy wanted to go south to seize the oil resources in the Dutch East Indies, which would necessarily lead to war with the US. The Navy won the debate because Siberia had no oil, which was the critical shortage at the time due to the American oil embargo.

Btw, I'm sure that it was just mere coincidence that the Army's and the Navy's mutual perspectives happened to align with which service would have the more important role in the two strategies. 🤨
 
Failure to take it on the bounce might not be fatal, but the Panzers then get cut off in Paris. Nobody is going to focus on finishing the Dutch off when the cream of the Wehrmacht are trapped in the enemy capital. As a result, Fortress Holland just about holds.
One additional wrinkle - unlike Norway in OTL, Holland represents a bridgehead over the Rhine. That means once the initial panic is over, it's going to get as much support as needed from the British and French to ensure it can hold out.

How likely is a detente between Japan and the soviets based on a mutual opposition to western powers? Despite their earlier hostilities, it seems not too different from the soviets allying with the nazis. The soviet 'anti-imperialist' propaganda and the 'co-prosperity sphere' of Japan could be wedged to look a bit similar if one isn't paying very close attention.
There's a key problem here. Stalin at the time is busy going around recovering the territories lost by Nicholas II. There aren't many left - Congress Poland and Finland are likely to be both difficult nuts to crack and were somewhat semi-detached from Russia pre-revolution. South Sakhalin is pretty much the last one left.
 
There's a key problem here. Stalin at the time is busy going around recovering the territories lost by Nicholas II. There aren't many left - Congress Poland and Finland are likely to be both difficult nuts to crack and were somewhat semi-detached from Russia pre-revolution. South Sakhalin is pretty much the last one left.
Port Arthur could be a nice goal I guess.
 
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