Admiral Chester Nimitz
A Pitch Meeting
Admiral Chester Nimitz: Commander in Chief United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT)
Representatives from the Office of Naval Planning:
Vice-Admiral Overly Optimistic; Captain Ignore the Risks
Admiral Nimitz’s Aides: Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee”; Master Marine Gunnery Sgt “Really Salty”
Vice-Admiral Overly Optimistic & Captain Ignore the Risks are escorted into Admiral Nimitz’s office at Pearl Harbor by Master Chief Petty Officer Coffee. Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty stands in the corner.
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Admiral! Have we got a plan for you!
Nimitz: “Well let’s hear it”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Lets send Enterprise and Yorktown (two of our three fleet carriers in the Pacific) to raid targets in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands!”
Nimitz: “Aren’t Enterprise and Yorktown essential to keep the Jap Fleet out of Hawaii?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes Sir, but this is hardly a problem. Barely an inconvenience.”
Nimitz: “Excuse me?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “The Japs would never imagine our sending most of our fleet carriers to raid the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.”
Nimitz: “I’m sure they would not expect it. Are there any worthwhile targets in the area?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Absolutely not sir! In fact, this is a backwater with a couple of airfields, 8 air squadrons, three refueling depots and some small garrisons.”
Nimitz: “So you want to raid an area with low value targets?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir, that is a primary feature of our plan!”
Nimitz: “Aren’t those targets spread very far apart – so far that we would have to split our already thin force to hit all of them?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir they are, that is one of the highpoints of this plan.”
Nimitz: “The raid would take place over a period of days because it is impossible to strike all of them at once?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir! Having the targets spread out over a huge area will also eventually alert the Japs we are in the area no matter how asleep at the switch they are.”
Nimitz: “Are the 8 squadrons a threat to our carriers?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir they are!”
Nimitz: “I’m guessing there are not any Jap naval units in the region.”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Guess again sir! Intelligence suggests there are at least 14 naval units in the region plus an unknown number of submarines.”
Nimitz: “And each of those Jap ships carry long lance torpedoes which can be used to deadly effect against large naval targets?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir!”
Nimitz: “Isn’t the Jap navy a considerable danger? Don’t you consider this a problem?”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Exactly sir, that is one of the primary advantages of our plan. Our inexperienced carrier pilots can hit widely scattered air, ground, and naval targets almost every single day they are in danger. Think of the combat experience they will gain!”
Nimitz: “Let me summarize. We send Enterprise and Yorktown which are irreplaceable and essential to the defense of Hawaii to hit low value targets in a backwater theater of operations. In that backwater are 8 land-based air squadrons capable of damaging and sinking our carriers. The carriers must split to hit all of the targets. There is an unknown naval threat in the region, and if our units blunder into a sub pack, cruisers, or a battleship they could be sunk.”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Yes sir! The people back home and President Roosevelt will love it!”
Nimitz: “And if it fails, I’ll be commanding a WW1 destroyer tasked with sailing across the Pacific towing extra fuel on a raft to launch a solo torpedo attack on the Jap Fleet in Tokyo Bay. I’ll be sure to remember both of you when I need busted Lieutenants to run the mess hall and steer the fuel rafts.”
Overly Optimistic & Ignore the Risks: “Gulp! Permission to leave sir?”
Nimitz: “Permission granted.”
The door closes.
Nimitz: “Spit it out you two.”
Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee” – “Can you believe these two? They even seemed sober.”
Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty – “These are the officers senior gunny’s who served in the Spanish-American War said were best suited to individually captain rafts carrying bulls eyes for naval gunnery practice.” [Both senior nom-coms laugh a lot, then they realize Admiral Nimitz is not laughing with them. Both snap to attention].
Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee” – “Permission to speak Admiral.”
Nimitz: “Always in private Coffee when I’m not up to my eyeballs in reports.”
Master Chief Petty Officer “Coffee”: “You are not really considering enacting this plan are you sir?”
Nimitz: – “I think the worst the Navy can do is to become predictable. Until the new fleet carriers start arriving in 1942, we must use our limited assets to keep the Japs off balance. Otherwise, they will concentrate their forces and destroy us, take Hawaii, take Australia, and it will be 1950 until we can knock them back to Tokyo. Sometimes a good poker player has to win some small pots when all of the big cards ae running against them.”
Master Marine Gunnery Sgt. Really Salty – “Sounds like a good way to lose a lot of money at poker Admiral.”
Nimitz: “Maybe so, but I’m one of the best poker players in the fleet.”
Primary Objective – Do not lose a carrier. My carriers will be well behind a screen of scout planes and will stay 1+ turn flight away from land air bases until the air units at that base have been destroyed.
1] Destroy 8 Jap Squadrons – there are 5 widely scattered airfields. To ensure success for this goal the two carriers must be split into separate task forces.
2] Destroy 10 enemy ships – There are no known ship locations or concentration points. Logically, ships may be close to the three fuel depots.
3] Destroy 3 fuel depots – Their location is known to US Naval Intelligence.
4] Avoid any damage to US Carriers – This secondary objective clashes with the other three secondary objectives. To achieve the other secondary objectives, the carriers must be put at some degree of risk.
You begin with the carrier Enterprise. I purchase the Yorktown and an air wing consisting of one squadron of F4F Wildcats and two squadrons of SBD3 Dauntless Dive Bombers. Most targets are land based purchasing torpedo squadrons makes little sense.
I have two Carrier Groups. The Enterprise group is to the North and is first targeting the Maloelap Atoll. After it is reduced the next target is the Wotje Atoll. Then the threat situation will be reassessed and if feasible they will target Kwajalein Atoll – the target furthest to the West.
The Yorktown group initially targets the Mili Atoll. After it is reduced, they steam South to attack Butaritari Island. If I am able to destroy the air wings, fuel depots, and any shipping in the area the Yorktown group will steam North, Northwest towards Kwajalein Atoll. It is unlikely that the Yorktown group will be able to attack Kwajalein with anything other than aircraft because of the distance they have to sail to hit Butaritari Island.
Turn 1 – Only one squadron can be launched per turn from a carrier. When the mission starts Enterprise’s squadrons are in the hangers. My research goal of acquiring every radar advance has paid off – a Jap ship is spotted on the horizon. My two Kingfisher float plane scouts will move ahead. Enterprise will launch its SBD Dauntless and the group will steam East.
Yorktown started with all three squadrons airborne. A costal gun is spotted on Mili Atoll. Costal Guns are bad news and it must be reduced before any ships steam into range. Two unidentified Jap ships are in the harbor. No Jap aircraft are in the skies and the airfield is just out of ground spotting range. The SBD Dauntless dive bombers should nail the costal gun next turn while the F4F Wildcat strafes the airfield.
Turn 2 – Yorktown’s dive bombers destroy the coastal gun on Mili. The F4F will strafe the airfield. The Jap ships in the harbor are a gunboat and a supply ship – neither of which have long range guns. My destroyers can now sail close to Mili to destroy the fuel depot and the ships. My aircraft will destroy the airfield. The oil depot is the lowest priority target because it cannot attack or move.
Enterprise: My superior radar allows my scout planes to move further out without being spotted by the 2 Jap ships. My Dauntless will attack next turn.
Turn 3 – Yorktown Group – Mili Atoll – The Jap squadron was destroyed on the ground. The only AA fire was from the gunboat and it was ineffectual. The destroyer and cruiser escorts steam towards Mili to bring the Jap ships under naval gunfire.
The Enterprise Group’s Dauntless destroyed half of the Jap supply ship. All squadrons are in the air and the naval escorts (excepting the support ship providing AA cover) steam towards the retreating Jap supply ships attempting to reach Maloelap Atoll.
Turn 4 – Enterprise Group East of Maloelap Atoll – The Enterprise air wings sink one Jap supply ship. Escort ships are ready to engage the remaining supply ship. If there are Jap planes on Maleolap, they have not taken off.
Yorktown Group – Mili Atoll – The Jap ships were sunk by the air wings and naval gunfire.
Big Picture – the Enterprise and Yorktown task forces are moving further away from each other. My scout planes are covering the North and East. Southeast and South are largely unknown outside the radar range of the Yorktown’s air wings.
Turn 5 – After sinking four ships, destroying an airfield and a costal gun, and blowing up an oil depot the Japs must be on alert.