Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Part 10.5
Extract from ch.9, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green

The deficiencies of the Japanese plan for the attack on Midway have received endless discussion. Those deficiencies, however, dovetailed with the tactical limitations of the IJN in such a way as an earlier age might have called providential. When one also considers that the Doolittle raid, the precipitating factor for operation MI, caused trifling damage, one can only conclude that the entire story would be considered unacceptably improbable in a work of fiction...

The Japanese fleet arrived in its strike position on schedule on 3rd June, and Midway Island would have to endure a sore ordeal over the next twenty-four hours. By the end of the day, three successive Japanese air strikes had left it apparently in ruins. Admiral Nagumo felt deep concern over the casualties to his air groups - the American defences, mainly AA fire, had hurt them badly, with over fifty aircraft shot down or damaged so badly as to be beyond immediate repair. Hiryu had only two of her dive-bombers still operating. This would seriously impair his striking power if the US fleet appeared. However, since the first stage of the operation had gone roughly according to plan, he felt he had no choice but to allow the landing attempt to go ahead the next day.

A catastrophe resulted. Although the aircraft, airfield buildings and AA gun positions had been destroyed or suppressed, American casualties had been light. The Midway garrison worked through the night to make good such damage as they had suffered, and as day broke all but a handful of the island’s guns and machine guns were in working order. Naval gunfire support from the Japanese cruisers offshore was curiously ineffectual - in some cases even counter-productive, as at least one landing craft was destroyed by it. The Japanese attackers found themselves trying to wade ashore under a hail of fire. A troop of light tanks made short work of the few invaders who reached the Marine defensive positions. Few even of the Japanese landing craft managed to escape the fiasco. This, combined with the failure on Sumatra, marked the effective end of Imperial Japan’s amphibious capability.

By midday all was over on the atoll, and a bizarre conference ensued aboard the Akagi, in which Admiral Nagumo and his staff tried to make reality conform to the plan. However, at this point the US Pacific Fleet made its presence felt. The Japanese reconnaissance first report of Admiral Fletcher’s forces came in at almost the same time as the first American air attacks.

Fletcher had suffered some delays owing to uncertain intelligence, the need to provision four carriers and to change its command arrangements at the last minute. But as matters developed his timing proved perfect. The Japanese strike forces had suffered severe losses attacking Midway; the Japanese fighters had been distracted by the need to give air cover to the landings; and the American strike, though ill coordinated, came in such strength as to overwhelm the IJN’s early warning and fighter direction capabilities, not to mention its AA defences. The FAA had shown the limitations of these in its night attack on 2nd Carrier Division in January. They were now shown to be inadequate by day as well as night.

Lexington’s strike drew first blood, with incapacitating hits on the Soryu. In the opinion other commander, her repairs had not brought her back to full efficiency. ‘She was never as sharp as before after Borneo,’ Captain Yanagimoto had complained, and now the Blue Dragon was left burning from multiple hits. Her half-sister Hiryu had hastily launched all the Zeroes on her deck and these pursued the retreating bombers, but failed to intercept a further wave of bombers, hidden by cloud, which struck their mothership. Meanwhile bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise crippled the Akagi and Kaga

The disaster was complete. With all four carriers out of action - two of them to sink before midnight - there was nothing to protect Admiral Tanaka’s Occupation Force, detected by PBYs from Midway. A further strike from TF17 savaged Tanaka’s ships as they retreated, with six transports and a destroyer being sunk by the victorious American flyers. Only navigational errors by TF16’s aircraft saved Tanaka from total annihilation… With Midway evidently secure, and the Japanese fleet having suffered catastrophic losses, Fletcher took his fleet back to Pearl Harbor. The only slight damage suffered by his ships in the whole operation came when Lexington collided with one of her escorts on the return home. Henceforth the Allies would enjoy the initiative in the Pacific - and beyond.
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Yamamoto gets the battle he wanted...but not the victory.
Operation MI had every prospect of disaster, as the recent historiography makes clear, given the deep-seated problems the IJN had. Here I’ve just made the disaster bigger than OTL.
Operation MI had every prospect of disaster, as the recent historiography makes clear, given the deep-seated problems the IJN had. Here I’ve just made the disaster bigger than OTL.

Well I mean, look at the bright side over OTL! They didn't lose Mikuma! That definitely compensates for the Americans not losing Yorktown, right? :evilsmile:
Operation MI gets better described by its medical acronym: Myocardial Infarction.

Or: Act Now! Our new book will show you how to lose a navy and army in just one day! Supplies are limited!
I wonder what sort of DoubleThink the IJN will get up to when they have to confess the scale of the disaster to the Emperor, or worse, their true mortal enemy, the Imperial Japanese Army.
Soryu and which other? All three were hit.
Honestly I haven’t fixed on exactly which carriers went down, and possibly one or two even get home. However, any survivors will need months of repair and have lost their air groups. By 1943 oil shortages alone will practically immobilise the IJN. In short the IJN’s war just virtually ended. They will not have the capability to even mount the level of OTL effort that they put into the Solomons, they might not have the ability to mount anything like the OTL Leyte Gulf operation.
I wonder what sort of DoubleThink the IJN will get up to when they have to confess the scale of the disaster to the Emperor, or worse, their true mortal enemy, the Imperial Japanese Army.
Very much as OTL I expect. They will obfuscate and deny as much as they can, deny the survivors home leave, and transfer them to distant theatres to die quietly. The IJA will find out regardless, and celebrate the disaster like a victory (again as per OTL). Parshall and Tully give good if appalling details on this.
I really need to actually finish Shattered Sword one of these days.

It's this sort of thing that make Japan victory scenarios even more grating to me than Nazi ones. The Japanese were screwed the moment they bombed Pearl, and it took two nukes to make them even consider just how screwed they were.
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^^^ I think at one point in time or another, many countries come to believe their own mythology much more than they should. Usually, the longer their collective leadership clings to the myth instead of any unpleasant reality, the worse the situation ends.
Good grief, entirely plausible and absolutely brutal. As much as this is a theoretically a disaster of no greater proportion than the original Midway, it sets up the Solomons Campaign for decisive Allied success. More aircraft downed over and around Midway means more permanent aviator losses (they mostly made it off the carriers IOTL) and the US has many more decks available to support operations. Plus the transport ships and personnel, which are always hard to track but probably doesn't bode well for Japanese supply concerns. Really, the worry now is that the Allies will be far enough ahead of schedule to have time to attempt a landing on the Home Islands before the nuclear weapons and Soviets come into play.
Really, the worry now is that the Allies will be far enough ahead of schedule to have time to attempt a landing on the Home Islands before the nuclear weapons and Soviets come into play.
I do have a concern around this from a storytelling perspective. What really are the prospects for such an acceleration? The Guadalcanal campaign ended OTL in early February 1943. Here that gets butterflied. To get near the Home Islands I assume a need to follow an offensive along the line Gilberts/ Marshalls - Marianas - Okinawa (roughly). How quickly can that happen? Or to put the question more precisely: assuming that the demands of other theatres are more or less constant (itself a shaky assumption, as I think the Mediterranean Theatre will make fewer overall demands, relative to OTL, in 1943) can the USN move up its timetable for the central Pacific offensive by, say, six months? Also: the US advocates of a China-based strategy will have a stronger argument, since the Burma Road remains open.
Not sure, I guess it's possible that greater UK/FR influence and prestige in the Pacific theatre results in the adoption of a more casualty-averse peripheral strategy (this strategy is also likely paying dividends in the Med, further convincing the US). A strong conventional strategic bombing campaign from the islands plus a serious infusion of power to a China based strategy (both peripheral and popular in the US) may cause the Japanese to be kicked off the continent and left with nothing to do but starve and no position to negotiate from.
Part 11.1
Part 11. Ou est le preux Charlemaigne?

Extract from Memoires by Guy Lemoine, ch.8

The American invasion, we called it. Even before December 1941, they had become a common sight all over North Africa. The old-stagers said that in the old days, the only Americans one saw were tourists and low-life chancers fleeing justice, who came to Africa to smuggle or run night-clubs. Now we saw a better class of “Yank”. There were railway engineers, who became very welcome when people noticed how much smoother the trains had become. Not only that, one could now board a train in Tunis and go right through to Tripoli, at a good speed and even in some comfort. Then there were many airmen and aero-engineers - whenever planes flew overhead we could not help feel impressed by their speed and the deep note of their engines. Even we groundlings could see we were getting the best. Many experts also came to the building across the road from our hospital, which was supposedly top secret, though all of us knew it was EMME, the Ecole Militaire des Moyens Électromagnétiques, better known as ‘La Boulangerie,’ since that was its former function. To that building, and to others, in the spring of 1942 we saw military officers arriving, to observe and plan.
‘In 1917,’ said Didier to me one day, ‘I lived in Paris, just a kid. I saw the same thing then - you see a few, then a few months later they are everywhere. Buy an interest in a night-club now, is my advice.’
‘I tried,’ I replied, ‘I talked to Berthier, but the price is already through the roof.’
He laughed. ‘Then we should set one up ourselves. Maybe in that old shack round the back.’ He referred to the oldest building in the hospital, which had fallen into disuse long ago, and really the authorities ought to have demolished it.
‘Not if we value our lives,’ I said. ‘The La Goulette boys would soon take an unhealthy interest.’
‘Then we cannot take up an honourable trade, and are condemned to medicine,’ he said, and stubbed out his cigarette. ‘I’ve got a good case I’d like to show you, want to see?’
‘Who is it?’
‘You’re an aviation enthusiast, you’ll be pleased.’ He grinned. ‘Not every day we have a Stork on the ward.’
My ears tingled. I had heard, of course, that they had re-created the old GC12, and by all accounts they flew as bravely as the first edition. ‘Special treatment for this one,’ I said.
We went back inside. In his office he introduced me to a pilot. ‘Clostermann, this is my friend Lemoine,’ he said, ‘stay out of his clutches if you value your life, given your condition.’ He grinned.
We shook hands. ‘Touch of fever, that’s all it is,’ Clostermann protested.
‘Pierre, you can’t go back on operations for at least a fortnight, that’s just how it is,’ said Didier. ‘Guy, tell him.’
I did a quick inspection. ‘His symptoms remind me of that case a few months back,’ I said. ‘What did he call himself? That strange youth?’
Didier looked puzzled a moment, then comprehension dawned. ‘Oh, him. Meursault, wasn’t it?’
‘Something like that,’ I said. ‘What became of him? Did he recover?’
‘Last I heard, he’d been locked up for killing an Arab.’
‘Just the sort of thing that idiot would do.’
Our patient coughed, and brought my attention back to him.
‘My apologies, sir. I have to agree with my colleague, you must be grounded.’ He began to protest, but I cut him short. ‘Fly in your state and you’ll not last long,’ I said.
‘I see how it is,’ Pierre replied. ‘Well, far be it from me to risk a valuable military asset.’
Didier laughed. ‘You mean yourself?’
‘My Type 81 I mean,’ he said, laughing also.
‘I thought we had lots of those now,’ I said, my interest sparked.
He shook his head. ‘Not so many of the new variant,’ he said. ‘Six guns, and the range to reach the mainland. We’ll show them soon enough.’
After he had left I started thinking. ‘Something big is brewing,’ I said.
‘High time,’ said Didier. ‘I think we should start thinking about moving one of these days. We won’t be in Tunis for ever.’