Friday, October 29, 2010

Fullbore Friday

I'm moody today.

When researching a larger story - in this case the week that was the Battle of Leyte Gulf - you can find a little vignette that in its own way is poignant. Even when it is the enemy - it makes you pause.

In less time than it took to develop the NWU, the Imperial Japanese Navy's Aircraft carrier
ZUIKAKU went from being one of the CV that attacked Pearl Harbor to - 2 years and 10 months later - the last of her kind.

She found herself at the rough end of
Halsey's Folly,
Ozawa's "Northern Force" comprised four aircraft carriers (Zuikaku — the last survivor of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the light carriers Zuihō, Chitose, and Chiyoda), two World War I battleships partially converted to carriers (Hyūga and Ise — the two after turrets had been replaced by a hangar, aircraft handling deck and catapult, but neither battleship carried any aircraft in this battle), three light cruisers (Ōyodo, Tama, and Isuzu), and nine destroyers. His force had only 108 aircraft.
The force which Halsey was taking north with him — three groups of Mitscher's Task Force 38 — was overwhelmingly stronger than the Japanese Northern Force. Between them, these groups had five large fleet carriers (Intrepid, Franklin, Lexington, Enterprise, and Essex), five light fleet carriers (Independence, Belleau Wood, Langley, Cabot, and San Jacinto), six battleships (Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington), eight cruisers (two heavy and six light), and more than 40 destroyers. The air groups of the 10 US carriers present contained a total of more than 600-1,000 aircraft.
At the tactical level - the results came as expected.

Things that come to mind: the desperation of the conversion of the HYŪGA AND ISE as Japan did not have the industrial base to do as we did and build proper CV.

The shortage of good if any aircraft - not to mention pilots - and the sad death of a storied Flag Ship ZUIKAKU. More than anything though - the lesson I take away is in a photograph.

Picture what was going on in the minds of these Sailors. As their Flag Ship sinks, the flag is lowered. A crystal clear, blue Pacific day.

Just ponder.


Eric Palmer said...

Chief, I noticed some aren't saluting. I want a list of names when we are out in the boats. 

Eric Palmer said...

But yeah, joking aside, the Pacific war has always been close to me in thought ever since I  learned to read and had picked up Walter Lord's "Incredible Victory". This was the first "big" book I ever read (in the second grade!) and it had a large impact on me.

Those guys in the photo? Way different than us at the time (and most of these guys were the more "enlightened" part of the IJN). They are all OK with me. I would hope some of them got home. But I fear not.

ewok40k said...

While they were fighting for evil cause, IJN carrier aviators of the first days of war were among the best fighting units in history. Wrecks from Pearl Harbor, Colombo, Coral Sea, Midway, Santa Cruz are testament to their deadly proficiency.

DeltaBravo said...

Ah, Phib.  You got me in a bad mood today.  I look at that and think "They'd have done it to our guys if we didn't get to them first."  Serves 'em right. 

Maybe later I'll be able to contemplate the kind of man who can stand at attention and salute while his ship sinks out from under him.

JimmyT said...

Powerful image.  I don't know if I could stand there saluting while my ship was slipping into the deep blue.  I do want to shamelessly plug my site but I'll do it with a link to a tribute I did to someone of that generation, someone who was there flying a Dauntless SDB off the Enterprise.  My Naval Science Instructor from my NJROTC days passed away recently.  Captain TF Schneider one of the Greatest Generation (link here   

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Aubrey said...

Give a read to "Japanese Destroyer Captain" by NI Press.

The man who planned Pearl Harbor (Minoru Genda) ended up being Chief of Staff of the JSDF air force, and was even awarded the US Legion of Merit in 1962...

The man who led that attack (Mitsuo Fuchida) became a Christian missionary following the war...

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for redemptive stories, but I also was not a participant in the War so can't hold personal animosity to those who did fight.  Although yes, I will admit to some hypocrisy there and say that I do hold some animosity to those who earned it (Nazis, those involved at Bataan, Nanking, etc...).

bullnav said...

So powerful, so noble.  Yet from a people who had no problem machine-gunning American survivors in the water, transporting POW's in warships (witness USS SCULPIN survivors), or not reporting POW's to the Red Cross.  Then it's not so nice.

AW1 Tim said...

" stand and be still, to the Birkenhead drill..."

  That scene's been repeated before. A mark of discipline and professionalism. Honor.

   Lots of emotions brought up by that image.  I'll leave it at that.

Andrewdb said...

Aubrey -

My grandfather (USNR Ret., may he rest in peace) had 7 stars on his Asia-Pacific Ribbon.  By the end of his life he agreed with you.

C-dore 14 said...

One of the most chilling photos I've seen from the Battle of Leyte Gulf shows a liferaft filled with survivors of a Japanese ship sunk in the Sibuyan Sea being surrounded by outriggers filled with Filipino natives.  I think we can guess how that story ended.

pk said...

i knew a fellow who had an apa/aka torpedoed out from under him . he (with a dislocated shoulder) and a few friends floated a 50 foot work boat off of the sinkinging vessel cruised around collecting about 30 other friends out of the water and then took the boat to the nearest port. the whole evoloution took about a month.  they did lose a few in the process. when they got to port no one greeted them and they had to go looking for someone to report to. (by then most everybody in the boat was in pretty bad shape).

(not a sea story lads, as i read the tale from the awards sheet from his personnel folder).


Someone_Blogged said...

Not I, that photo only serves to remind me of what our men went through by way of the Japanese.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Truly one of the great ones. It was an honor and a privilege to serve under his command, few measured up to him after knowing him. Also CO/Professor of Naval Science at UNM Albuquerque 65-68. Total gentleman. Fair winds and following seas.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

Jimmy T: Read your blog. Very fine tribute.

"<span> </span>Lessons like getting the job done at all costs, watching out for your shipmate, and that we were all serving in the finest Naval Force the world had ever seen.<span> "  That was the Captain.</span>
<span>Thanks for giving him his due. Lest we forget.</span>