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View Full Version : What if Japan annexes Dutch East Indies instead of attacking USA?



curious
03-01-2010, 11:34 AM
I never understood why the Japanese adopted the ABCD doctrine. Viewing themselves at war with America, Britain, China, the Dutch before the war began.

Since their primary objective was the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies, why not just annex the Dutch East Indies in the same way that they annexed French Indochina?

America had no treaty obligations to defend the Dutch East Indies. The British obligations were being met by empty words.

While on paper it looks like the Japanese invasion force would be putting its head into a noose, with the British on their right flank and the Americans on their left flank, the reality was that even if the British, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders acted in concert with the Dutch, the forces that could be brought to bear to stop the invasion were too pitiful to be successful and were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles of ocean.

While a tactical surprise was impossible, a strategic surprise might have been possible. Local commanders would have seen the invasion force steaming toward Dutch territories but would they have acted on their own initiative to stop them? And by the time that word got to London, Washington, Batavia, Canberra, and Wellington and the politicians had their jawing sessions, and then word got back to the local commanders would it be in time to stop the invasion?

If the annexation of the Dutch East Indies was launched soon after the fall of French Indochina the Allies were woefully underprepared to stop them.

The British and the Americans had said that they would not tolerate a change in the status quo of the Dutch East Indies, but were they prepared to go to war to prevent it? Would the American public have agreed to a war to defend the Netherlands' overseas empire?

By the time sufficient Allied forces were assembled off Malaysia, the Phillipines, or Australia to contest the matter the campaign would have been over.

A gamble yes, but I think it was a gamble worth taking. And no more of a gamble then sending air craft carriers thousands of miles to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Deaf Smith
03-02-2010, 09:15 PM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

Deaf

curious
03-02-2010, 09:24 PM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

Deaf

Are you talking about the air force that was destroyed in a matter of hours historically? And the US Asiatic fleet that was pounded both from the air and the sea everytime they showed themselves?

Or are you suggesting that after Japan annexed the Dutch East Indies that the US would have relocated the Pacific Fleet and the air forces to the Philippines?

Wow, that would have been a disaster of magnitude that would have made Pearl Harbor look like the gunfight at the OK Corral.

The Japanese would have had air and naval superiority and would have been able to force a showdown at the time and place of their choosing, which is what they had planned for.

Unless you mean that the US would have gone on a war footing and sent the kind of fleet they were able to muster in 1944, then you might be right.

I don't see the US going to war to protect the Dutch empire though.

Rising Sun*
03-02-2010, 11:59 PM
Are you talking about the air force that was destroyed in a matter of hours historically?

But that happened only because the Japanese attacked the Philippines, which wouldn't be the case if they confined their action to annexing the NEI. It also happened because MacArthur went into a funk on the first day of the war and refused to give his air force commander the pre-arranged order to bomb Formosa, so the bombers remained in the Philippines.


I don't see the US going to war to protect the Dutch empire though.

Most probably not, but depriving the Japanese of NEI oil is a different issue, especially as annexing the NEI would frustrate the oil embargo imposed by the US and improve Japan's ability to wage a future war against the US or its interests.

Rising Sun*
03-03-2010, 12:04 AM
Since their primary objective was the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies, why not just annex the Dutch East Indies in the same way that they annexed French Indochina?

Because they couldn't.

The Japanese got their forces into Indochina initially through agreement with the Vichy government, although the Japanese soon broke the agreement.

The Dutch government, and particularly Queen Wilhelmina who Churchill once described as the only man in the Dutch government in exile, were steadfast in denying Japan access to the NEI.

Rising Sun*
03-03-2010, 09:17 AM
I never understood why the Japanese adopted the ABCD doctrine.

They didn't.

China was irrelevant in the NEI.

It was ABDA = American British Dutch Australian.

And that was purely an Allied and largely ad hoc organisation, which had no doctrine but merely a common purpose to resist Japan, which it did under a fairly hastily organised and somewhat confused leadership structure despite plenty of warning of what was coming.

Japan's war strategy was focused on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere notion which represented Japan's expansion rather than anything to do with enemy nations affected by that expansion.


Viewing themselves at war with America, Britain, China, the Dutch before the war began.

Why wouldn't they?

Japan had been fighting in China for years. Largely to contest the European and American interests which were also happily exploiting China.

Britain and America had imposed crushing embargoes on Japan.


While on paper it looks like the Japanese invasion force would be putting its head into a noose, with the British on their right flank and the Americans on their left flank,

The NEI if fully occupied by Japan do not fit that geographic position, not least because the Philippines are somewhat north of the NEI.


the reality was that even if the British, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders acted in concert with the Dutch, the forces that could be brought to bear to stop the invasion were too pitiful to be successful and were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles of ocean.

Perhaps not.

If the ABDA forces combined to defend only the NEI then they could have concentrated the forces which were dispersed elsewhere.

Or they might have concentrated not to defend the NEI but to blockade them, which would have dispersed the Japanese forces and risked depriving them of the gains in the NEI.

Which is the point at which these "what if" questions go nowhere, as if the earlier ones went anywhere anyway.

Deaf Smith
03-04-2010, 10:29 PM
It also happened because MacArthur went into a funk on the first day of the war and refused to give his air force commander the pre-arranged order to bomb Formosa, so the bombers remained in the Philippines.

And not to hijack this thread but if only MacAuthur had done just that on the first day. Bet that would have changed the war timeline quite a bit.

Deaf

Rising Sun*
03-04-2010, 11:29 PM
And not to hijack this thread but if only MacAuthur had done just that on the first day. Bet that would have changed the war timeline quite a bit.

Deaf

I'm inclined to think that in the total scheme of the war it probably didn't matter whether Formosa was bombed or not.

But if the bombers were available in the first week or two to resist the Japanese invasion of the Philippines that might have been a lot more significant.

KMDjr
04-08-2010, 03:47 PM
Hello,

"Annexing" in the context used here just means seizing militarily...The Dutch had plans in place dating back to about 1936 for the destruction of their oilfields. As did the British in NW Borneo. Had the Japanese attempted an "annexation" the fields would have been blown regardless, I feel certain. But, neither the British nor the Americans would sit by idly and permit Japan to "annex" the NEI, despite the absence of written agreements or treaties. They were not in as weak a position as the French after that nation fell to Germany, for example.One must also recognize the huge amounts of time/money/technology U.S. & British oil firms had already invested.

The Japanese did indeed refer to the encirclement as "ABCD" in their media, but obviously the situation was created by their own expansionist policies, and not by external threats.

royal744
12-18-2010, 03:49 PM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

I think Curious is right.
People seem to forget that the US could not have unilaterally gone to war against the Japanese in the absence of an attack on American forces because the 1) Neutrality Act and 2) the War Powers Act made that impossible. Roosevelt could not have done it by himself. He would have needed an act of congress to do it and he probably would not have gotten that. It would take a direct attack such as at Pearl Harbor to do it. The Japanese were so incredibly stupid and ignorant of the way the American government worked. They could have taken the NEI and dared the English to do something, anything, to resist them, but the Americans would have been powerless.

Wizard
12-21-2010, 01:12 AM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

This is a highly questionable premise.

The Asiatic Fleet (a few old cruisers, a collection of ancient destroyers, and a handful of subs armed mostly with defective torpedoes) and the US Far Eastern Air Force were primarily defensive in nature and were certainly not strong enough to challenge the Japanese by "cutting off" the transport of oil from Borneo to Japan; attempting to do so would have meant an immediate declaration of war from Japan. US Forces in the Philippines had not a snowball's chance in Hell of preventing Japan from seizing the Southern Resources Area, nor of denying Japan oil until it ran out.


I think Curious is right.
People seem to forget that the US could not have unilaterally gone to war against the Japanese in the absence of an attack on American forces because the 1) Neutrality Act and 2) the War Powers Act made that impossible. Roosevelt could not have done it by himself. He would have needed an act of congress to do it and he probably would not have gotten that. It would take a direct attack such as at Pearl Harbor to do it. The Japanese were so incredibly stupid and ignorant of the way the American government worked. They could have taken the NEI and dared the English to do something, anything, to resist them, but the Americans would have been powerless.

The Neutrality Acts had more to do with Americans trading with and traveling to and from belligerent powers, and nothing to do with declaring war; in any case, the Neutrality Acts had largely been repealed by November, 1941. The only significant provision that remained in effect (and still is in effect) was the requirement for obtaining a license to sell arms to a foreign government.

The "war powers" of Congress certainly would have prevented an immediate declaration of war against Japan without Congress' consent, but the President definitely had the authority to take military action that would have left Congress with no choice but to declare war on Japan. An example of this would be Roosevelt's September, 1941, order to the US Navy to escort convoys and to attack any German naval units encountered in the western Atlantic.

President Roosevelt certainly would have given similar orders to protect US trade with the NEI and the Japanese would not have tolerated such acts, leading to an early declaration of war between the US and Japan.

In planning the conquest of the Southern Resources Area, the Japanese were well aware of the potentiality of this situation, and that is why they planned to attack the US and Britain instead of just the NEI; they assumed (correctly) that Roosevelt would find a way to declare war on them if they seized the NEI.

Rising Sun*
12-21-2010, 06:16 AM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

I don't know to what extent it would have supplied Japan's needs, but there was a decent amount of oil produced in Burma which Japan would have acquired (albeit with refineries destroyed by the retreating British) early in 1942.

Production figures, which I can't find, would show whether the conquest of Burma could have allowed Japan to continue even with the Philippines bypassed.

Wizard
12-21-2010, 12:08 PM
I don't know to what extent it would have supplied Japan's needs, but there was a decent amount of oil produced in Burma which Japan would have acquired (albeit with refineries destroyed by the retreating British) early in 1942.

Production figures, which I can't find, would show whether the conquest of Burma could have allowed Japan to continue even with the Philippines bypassed.

It doesn't matter how much oil was produced in Burma in 1941, to get it to Japan the Japanese would still have to ship it past Luzon which, theoretically, would make it vulnerable to interdiction by hostile forces based in the Philippines.

However, as I have already expressed elsewhere in this thread, I question just how much practical ability the US had to threaten oil shipments to Japan from anywhere in the Southern Resources Area to Japan. The US Asiatic Fleet was far too weak to do much more than control the local waters around Luzon. It's submarines were rendered ineffective by defective torpedoes and poor tactical doctrine. The 35 B-17's and the hundred or so P-40's would not have been sufficient to challenge the massive Japanese airpower the Japanese had assembled on Formosa (Taiwan). The Japanese could have successfully convoyed it's oil through the Taiwan Straits between that island and the Chinese coast with a modicum of air and naval assets.

Since reinforcement of US forces in the Philippines would have required the implementation of the old US War Plan Orange strategy, which had been abandoned in the late 1930's as impractical in view of the world situation then prevailing, it would be extremely unlikely that the US would have attempted to interdict the oil from the SRA, except possibly through submarine warfare. From the Japanese perspective, however, this was enough to warrant eliminating US forces in the Philippines, thus they planned to strike British, Dutch, and US interests in the western Pacific, rather than just seize the NEI (including Borneo and Burma).

Deaf Smith
12-21-2010, 08:00 PM
It's submarines were rendered ineffective by defective torpedoes and poor tactical doctrine.

But sadly we didn't know that till after the shoot'en started. In fact we didn't know that till way way after the shoot'en started!

I guess if we still had B-17s in the Phillippines we would have gone after the source of the oil and not the ships.

Deaf

Wizard
12-21-2010, 10:45 PM
But sadly we didn't know that till after the shoot'en started. In fact we didn't know that till way way after the shoot'en started!

I guess if we still had B-17s in the Phillippines we would have gone after the source of the oil and not the ships.

Deaf

Yes, but we're discussing an alternate history, a "what-if" scenario and that can only be done in hindsight.

royal744
01-11-2011, 03:15 PM
There is a huge distinction to be made between the US experience in the Philippines in WW2 and the Dutch experience at the same time. By and large, the general population in the Philippines supported the Americans and in many cases fought the Japanese alongside them, weak though they were. In Indonesia, the Dutch did not enjoy the support of the local population which says a great deal about their ability to cultivate and inspire loyalty after about 200 years of colonization. Even the English in India managed to persuade the Indian Army to fight with and for them which they did very well.
As for the Asiatic fleet, I concur with the views that it was basically a sacrificial lamb. Though it fought valiantly, it was outgunned and outclassed from the get go.
As for the US entering the war against the Japanese in the absence of a direct attack, I frankly believe that it would not have happened regardless of Japan's land grab. We would, it seems to me, have eventually gone to war against Japan later, but I doubt very much that we would have declared war against the Japanese at that time.

Wizard
01-11-2011, 04:04 PM
There is a huge distinction to be made between the US experience in the Philippines in WW2 and the Dutch experience at the same time. By and large, the general population in the Philippines supported the Americans and in many cases fought the Japanese alongside them, weak though they were. In Indonesia, the Dutch did not enjoy the support of the local population which says a great deal about their ability to cultivate and inspire loyalty after about 200 years of colonization. Even the English in India managed to persuade the Indian Army to fight with and for them which they did very well.

That's an important point to keep in mind. The Dutch had, just prior to the war, undertaken an initiative to improve their relations with the indigenous Indonesians and it failed miserably because, by that time, Indonesian nationalism had become a more potent force. The Dutch NEI Army included large numbers of Indonesian natives who almost universally refused to fight for their colonial masters; this hobbled the Dutch efforts to defend the NEI.

In the Philippines, the Americans had already granted the Filipinos local autonomy (in 1935) and promised complete independence in 1945. This went a long way toward convincing the Filipinos to support the US cause.

In India, the British faced massive problems with Indian nationalism and during WW II kept more British soldiers occupied controlling the Indians than in fighting the Japanese. Most of the Indian soldiers who fought for the British were recruited from the northern provinces where the native cultures had long traditions of warrior elites. Widespread economic stress and unemployment meant that military enlistment appeared attractive to young Indian males from the northern provinces. Still, the appeal of Indian nationalism was strong and the Axis-allied Indian National Army was able to attract many British-trained Indian soldiers to it's ranks. After the war, an independent India treated these men, not as traitors, but as patriots.


...As for the US entering the war against the Japanese in the absence of a direct attack, I frankly believe that it would not have happened regardless of Japan's land grab. We would, it seems to me, have eventually gone to war against Japan later, but I doubt very much that we would have declared war against the Japanese at that time.

I can't agree; I think that given the implications for Britain and the European war, the Roosevelt administration would have been forced to find some way of getting the US into the Pacific war within a month, or at most, two months after it's outbreak. Isolationism/pacificism was a dying force in American politics by 1941, and the public's attitude against Japanese aggression was growing stronger with every news report from Asia. By November, Roosevelt was confident he could provoke an incident, such as an attack on an American naval vessel that would be sufficient to produce a Congressional vote for war.

Certainly, the Japanese government at the time, also felt that it was a given that the US would enter the war immediately. The Japanese war planners assumed form the beginning that the US would come to the aid of the British and Dutch in the Pacific as soon as they seized Borneo and Malaya/Singapore. There was, as far as I know, no consideration given to limiting the Japanese offensive to just French and Dutch possessions.

royal744
02-07-2011, 11:55 PM
This is a highly questionable premise.


In planning the conquest of the Southern Resources Area, the Japanese were well aware of the potentiality of this situation, and that is why they planned to attack the US and Britain instead of just the NEI; they assumed (correctly) that Roosevelt would find a way to declare war on them if they seized the NEI.

This is purest fiction. Please cite some or any sources to support this assumption.

royal744
02-08-2011, 12:03 AM
[QUOTE=Wizard;174402]Roosevelt was confident he could provoke an incident, such as an attack on an American naval vessel that would be sufficient to produce a Congressional vote for war.[UNQUOTE]

Give me a break. The US had already been attacked in the Atlantic by German u-boats and this did not result in a declaration of war, so your supposition that a similar incident in the Pacific would result in a declaration of war against the Japanese is more than a little tenuous.

Wizard
02-08-2011, 01:26 AM
This is purest fiction. Please cite some or any sources to support this assumption.

If, as you assert, it is pure fiction that the Japanese had to be aware of the potential for the US entering the Pacific war, even if not directly attacked, that begs the question, why then did they attack the US at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines?

The Philippines had no resources vital to the Japanese, nor even particularly useful, and the attack on Pearl Harbor represented a terrible risk to their major naval striking force, so it would seem that some compelling reason led the Japanese to decide that a pre-emptive attack on the US was necessary. What could it be if they did not believe the US would enter the Pacific war anyway?

H. P. Willmott, in his book "Empires In The Balance" says on page 71-72;

"The Japanese problem in 1941 was to secure the resources of Southwest Asia, the economic factor, as we have noted, being the consideration that shaped Japan's strategic deliberations and intentions. But two noneconomic factors were also present in Japanese thoughts, though in their separate ways even these tied in with economic considerations. First, though the Japanese objectives were mainly in the Dutch East Indies, Japan was aware that any move on her part was almost certain to provoke American intervention. The Americans had committed so much prestige in attempting to force the Japanese to back down in 1941 that it was inconceivable the United States would stand tamely aside and leave China and the European empires to their fate."

So no, it is not "pure fiction" and anyone who believes so is simply ignorant of the true situation.

Wizard
02-08-2011, 01:50 AM
[QUOTE=Wizard;174402]Roosevelt was confident he could provoke an incident, such as an attack on an American naval vessel that would be sufficient to produce a Congressional vote for war.[UNQUOTE]

Give me a break. The US had already been attacked in the Atlantic by German u-boats and this did not result in a declaration of war, so your supposition that a similar incident in the Pacific would result in a declaration of war against the Japanese is more than a little tenuous.

Hardly. The US was already in an undeclared shooting war with Germany in the Atlantic, and it did not serve Roosevelt's purposes at the time to use either the torpedoing of the Kearny or the Salinas, or the sinking of the Reuben James by U-boats as an excuse to ask for a declaration of war against Germany.

But, the situation in the Pacific was different and Roosevelt could easily have been forced, in case of a Japanese attack on the Dutch East Indies to provoke some sort of incident which would lead to a formal declaration of war by the US. That such an incident was on his mind is clearly demonstrated by the Lanikai incident. The Lanikai was a US Navy auxiliary patrol vessel in the Philippines that Roosevelt, in late November, 1941, ordered to sail into the path of suspected Japanese naval forces and provoke it's sinking. Roosevelt intended to use this incident as an excuse to declare war.

See; "The cruise of the Lanikai; Incitement to War" by Kemp Tolley http://www.amazon.com/Cruise-Lanikai-Incitement-Bluejacket-Books/dp/1557504067/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297146676&sr=1-1-fkmr1

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1973/6/1973_6_56.shtml


I don't think you need a break Mr.Royal744, I think you need some more education about this period of American history.

royal744
02-21-2011, 01:15 PM
[QUOTE=royal744;175333]


I don't think you need a break Mr.Royal744, I think you need some more education about this period of American history.

You and I disagree on this point. My take on it is rather simple: the Japanese were stupid and didn't understand how our government works. They assumed that the Americans would react in the same way that they would react. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a huge mistake, an act of national suicide. If they had not done it, the US would not have gone to war to protect the British and Dutch possessions. I understand that you dispute this. I believe you are wrong, but you believe what you believe.

Rising Sun*
02-22-2011, 06:31 AM
My take on it is rather simple: the Japanese were stupid and didn't understand how our government works. They assumed that the Americans would react in the same way that they would react. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a huge mistake, an act of national suicide. If they had not done it, the US would not have gone to war to protect the British and Dutch possessions.

Applying this to other events, such as Western support for or attacks on various countries (notably Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan), the same could be said of the West.

The West assumes, because of its current state of development of social, political, economic, cultural and religious values that everyone else aspires to the same things.

Which, of course, they don't. Because they are at different stages of development and derive that development from different sources of the values applicable to their societies.

So we are doomed to failure in places where our own arrogance about the superiority of our culture and systems is equivalent to that of the Japanese in WWII.

Many of the Japanese leaders were an acute example of that arrogance and stupidity before and during WWII but, for example, Bush II was just as arrogant and stupid (in the sense of not understanding the enemy, it people, their attitudes and circumstances, and the consequences of attacking them) in excursions into the Middle East.

royal744
07-28-2011, 01:27 PM
If we had a war where we still had our fleet and airforce in the Phillipines, I have no doubt we would have cut off their oil from Balikpapan and kept them at bay for the year or so it would have taken them to run out.

Deaf

I have every doubt that we would have gone to war to defend the Dutch East Indies. There was no obligation or treaty to do so and even if we had wanted to help, our Asiatic Fleet was feeble to the point of uselessness. I'm quite sure that Roosevelt would have wanted to assist, but that's not the sane thing as being able to assist either militarily or legally.

royal744
07-28-2011, 01:31 PM
Applying this to other events, such as Western support for or attacks on various countries (notably Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan), the same could be said of the West.

The West assumes, because of its current state of development of social, political, economic, cultural and religious values that everyone else aspires to the same things.

Which, of course, they don't. Because they are at different stages of development and derive that development from different sources of the values applicable to their societies.

So we are doomed to failure in places where our own arrogance about the superiority of our culture and systems is equivalent to that of the Japanese in WWII.

Many of the Japanese leaders were an acute example of that arrogance and stupidity before and during WWII but, for example, Bush II was just as arrogant and stupid (in the sense of not understanding the enemy, it people, their attitudes and circumstances, and the consequences of attacking them) in excursions into the Middle East.

Stupidity is an equal opporunity employer. It is trans-national and changes over time, witness Bush 2's war against an enemy that had not attacked us, or a woefully uninformed war against the Viet Minh and NVA which was really a civil war and which was never a threat against us.

royal744
07-28-2011, 01:56 PM
Because they couldn't.

The Japanese got their forces into Indochina initially through agreement with the Vichy government, although the Japanese soon broke the agreement.

The Dutch government, and particularly Queen Wilhelmina who Churchill once described as the only man in the Dutch government in exile, were steadfast in denying Japan access to the NEI.

C'mon, Rising Sun, the Dutch colonial army - the KNIL - was a complete paper tiger, utterly ill-equipped to resist a modern force. The only support the relatively few Dutch colonials had in Indonesia came from the Indoes - the mixed Dutch-Indonesians. These were good people. but few in number. The general population would have, and did, give up the Dutch for a cigarette or two, so while Queen Wilhelmina "denying" the Japanese access to Indonesia was true on paper, it wasn't worth the electrons used to deliver the message over the shortwave. In the end, the Dutch were about as effective in defending Indonesia as the English were in repulsing the Japanese attack on Singapore. Of course, the British actually outnumbered the Japanese force that attacked them, which was not the case for the Dutch in Indonesia. The exception here were the Dutch submarines which were excellent, succored by the Royal Australian Navy, and which continued to plague the Japanese throughout the war.

Wizard
07-28-2011, 03:52 PM
I have every doubt that we would have gone to war to defend the Dutch East Indies. There was no obligation or treaty to do so and even if we had wanted to help, our Asiatic Fleet was feeble to the point of uselessness. I'm quite sure that Roosevelt would have wanted to assist, but that's not the sane thing as being able to assist either militarily or legally.

This is a rather superficial view of the situation the Japanese, British, and Americans found themselves in just prior to the actual attack on the NEI.

True, both the US and British Empire forces in the immediate area were weak and there was no written treaty obligation for either country to come to the aid of the Dutch. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the US and Britain both would have viewed such an attack as a causus belli and would have declared war on Japan. Yes, it would have been difficult for Roosevelt to get enough votes in Congress for a declaration, but the US did have vital interests in the NEI and would have viewed a Japanese attack there as an indication that Japan was indeed joining the war in Europe; this would have been unacceptable to both Britain and the US.

In his book, "D-Days in The Pacific", pages 5-6, Donald L. Miller states;

"America imported more goods from the Far East than any other place on earth. Three colonies alone -- British Malaya, The Netherlands East Indies, and the Philippines -- accounted for approximately one fifth of all American foreign purchases....In all, the area provided more than half of America's needs for at least fifteen vital commodities, including chromium and manganese, metals essential in the steelmaking process. By 1940, key policymakers in the State Department were prepared to defend America's freedom to trade for those resources, by war if necessary should they come in danger of falling under the control of the Japanese. Fascist Japan in possession of South Asia could cut off trade with the United States and Britain or dictate extortionate concessions to continue it. Secretary of The Navy Frank Knox put America's interest in the region in the sternest possible language in his congressional confirmation hearings of 1940: 'We should not allow Japan to take the Dutch Indies, a vital source of oil and rubber and tin....We must face frankly the fact that to deny the Dutch Indies to Japan may mean war.'"

It is a serious mistake to think that either Roosevelt, the American Congress or the American public had no interest in defending the NEI against Japan, or that Roosevelt wouldn't have been able to get the votes for a declaration of war if Japan had limited it's attack to the NEI. You may doubt such a scenario, but there is no historical support for such a conclusion.

Moreover, the Japanese Navy, after so much lobbying to get it's Southern Strategy accepted as a national policy, refused, once the Southern Strategy was adopted, to participate, unless the plans included aspects that would clearly initiate a war with the US. This was because, only a war in which the US Navy was involved could justify the massive allocation of resources which the Japanese Navy was adamantly seeking. So the Japanese power elites were forced to approve unnecessary military strikes against US territories in order to get the Japanese Navy to agree to the overall plan. In essence, the Japanese could not have attacked just the NEI with any hope of success because the Japanese Navy would not have been on board with such a plan.

Rising Sun*
07-28-2011, 10:50 PM
The exception here were the Dutch submarines which were excellent, succored by the Royal Australian Navy, and which continued to plague the Japanese throughout the war.

And the Dutch merchant marine removed from the NEI, which made a significant and critical contribution to Allied shipping in the SWPA.

royal744
07-29-2011, 12:35 AM
This is a rather superficial view of the situation the Japanese, British, and Americans found themselves in just prior to the actual attack on the NEI.

True, both the US and British Empire forces in the immediate area were weak and there was no written treaty obligation for either country to come to the aid of the Dutch. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the US and Britain both would have viewed such an attack as a causus belli and would have declared war on Japan. Yes, it would have been difficult for Roosevelt to get enough votes in Congress for a declaration, but the US did have vital interests in the NEI and would have viewed a Japanese attack there as an indication that Japan was indeed joining the war in Europe; this would have been unacceptable to both Britain and the US.

In his book, "D-Days in The Pacific", pages 5-6, Donald L. Miller states;

"America imported more goods from the Far East than any other place on earth. Three colonies alone -- British Malaya, The Netherlands East Indies, and the Philippines -- accounted for approximately one fifth of all American foreign purchases....In all, the area provided more than half of America's needs for at least fifteen vital commodities, including chromium and manganese, metals essential in the steelmaking process. By 1940, key policymakers in the State Department were prepared to defend America's freedom to trade for those resources, by war if necessary should they come in danger of falling under the control of the Japanese. Fascist Japan in possession of South Asia could cut off trade with the United States and Britain or dictate extortionate concessions to continue it. Secretary of The Navy Frank Knox put America's interest in the region in the sternest possible language in his congressional confirmation hearings of 1940: 'We should not allow Japan to take the Dutch Indies, a vital source of oil and rubber and tin....We must face frankly the fact that to deny the Dutch Indies to Japan may mean war.'"

It is a serious mistake to think that either Roosevelt, the American Congress or the American public had no interest in defending the NEI against Japan, or that Roosevelt wouldn't have been able to get the votes for a declaration of war if Japan had limited it's attack to the NEI. You may doubt such a scenario, but there is no historical support for such a conclusion.

Moreover, the Japanese Navy, after so much lobbying to get it's Southern Strategy accepted as a national policy, refused, once the Southern Strategy was adopted, to participate, unless the plans included aspects that would clearly initiate a war with the US. This was because, only a war in which the US Navy was involved could justify the massive allocation of resources which the Japanese Navy was adamantly seeking. So the Japanese power elites were forced to approve unnecessary military strikes against US territories in order to get the Japanese Navy to agree to the overall plan. In essence, the Japanese could not have attacked just the NEI with any hope of success because the Japanese Navy would not have been on board with such a plan.

Superficial is assuming things that have no basis in fact. I never said that the US had no interests in the Netherlands East Indies. I said that the US would not have declared war on Japan based on a Japanese invasion. I am quite sure that President Roosevelt would have been inclined to do so but he was constrained at a number of levels.

You and I will have to disagree on this. You imply that it would have been self evident that the US would have gone to war absent an attack on the US. Really? We had vastly greater interests in Europe but I don't recall Roosevelt declaring war on Germany as a result of the invasion of Holland, Belgium, France and the attack on the English. If what you say would be true in the Pacific, then it must also be true in Europe. Only it wasn't. Faute de logique, mon vieux.

royal744
07-29-2011, 12:36 AM
This is a rather superficial view of the situation the Japanese, British, and Americans found themselves in just prior to the actual attack on the NEI.

True, both the US and British Empire forces in the immediate area were weak and there was no written treaty obligation for either country to come to the aid of the Dutch. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the US and Britain both would have viewed such an attack as a causus belli and would have declared war on Japan. Yes, it would have been difficult for Roosevelt to get enough votes in Congress for a declaration, but the US did have vital interests in the NEI and would have viewed a Japanese attack there as an indication that Japan was indeed joining the war in Europe; this would have been unacceptable to both Britain and the US.

In his book, "D-Days in The Pacific", pages 5-6, Donald L. Miller states;

"America imported more goods from the Far East than any other place on earth. Three colonies alone -- British Malaya, The Netherlands East Indies, and the Philippines -- accounted for approximately one fifth of all American foreign purchases....In all, the area provided more than half of America's needs for at least fifteen vital commodities, including chromium and manganese, metals essential in the steelmaking process. By 1940, key policymakers in the State Department were prepared to defend America's freedom to trade for those resources, by war if necessary should they come in danger of falling under the control of the Japanese. Fascist Japan in possession of South Asia could cut off trade with the United States and Britain or dictate extortionate concessions to continue it. Secretary of The Navy Frank Knox put America's interest in the region in the sternest possible language in his congressional confirmation hearings of 1940: 'We should not allow Japan to take the Dutch Indies, a vital source of oil and rubber and tin....We must face frankly the fact that to deny the Dutch Indies to Japan may mean war.'"

It is a serious mistake to think that either Roosevelt, the American Congress or the American public had no interest in defending the NEI against Japan, or that Roosevelt wouldn't have been able to get the votes for a declaration of war if Japan had limited it's attack to the NEI. You may doubt such a scenario, but there is no historical support for such a conclusion.

Moreover, the Japanese Navy, after so much lobbying to get it's Southern Strategy accepted as a national policy, refused, once the Southern Strategy was adopted, to participate, unless the plans included aspects that would clearly initiate a war with the US. This was because, only a war in which the US Navy was involved could justify the massive allocation of resources which the Japanese Navy was adamantly seeking. So the Japanese power elites were forced to approve unnecessary military strikes against US territories in order to get the Japanese Navy to agree to the overall plan. In essence, the Japanese could not have attacked just the NEI with any hope of success because the Japanese Navy would not have been on board with such a plan.

Superficial is assuming things that have no basis in fact. I never said that the US had no interests in the Netherlands East Indies. I said that the US would not have declared war on Japan based on a Japanese invasion. I am quite sure that President Roosevelt would have been inclined to do so but he was constrained at a number of levels.

You and I will have to disagree on this. You imply that it would have been self evident that the US would have gone to war absent an attack on the US. Really? We had vastly greater interests in Europe but I don't recall Roosevelt declaring war on Germany as a result of the invasion of Holland, Belgium, France and the attack on the English. If what you say would be true in the Pacific, then it must also be true in Europe. Only it wasn't. Faute de logique, mon vieux.

Rising Sun*
07-29-2011, 07:51 AM
Moreover, the Japanese Navy, after so much lobbying to get it's Southern Strategy accepted as a national policy, refused, once the Southern Strategy was adopted, to participate, unless the plans included aspects that would clearly initiate a war with the US. This was because, only a war in which the US Navy was involved could justify the massive allocation of resources which the Japanese Navy was adamantly seeking. So the Japanese power elites were forced to approve unnecessary military strikes against US territories in order to get the Japanese Navy to agree to the overall plan. In essence, the Japanese could not have attacked just the NEI with any hope of success because the Japanese Navy would not have been on board with such a plan.

This illustrates one of the problems in trying, as Westerners, to understand Japan's entry into and conduct of its war.

While we conventionally refer to 'Japan' and 'the Japanese' as if this represents the sort of unified national control of strategy and operations which, despite various political and inter-service and even intra-service rivalries, were typical of the English speaking Allies and the Soviets, the IJA and IJN were separate principalities not subject to overriding governmental control in the same way as the Allies mentioned.

The vigorous and at times bitter and almost violent February/March 1942 disputes between the IJA and IJN on the future conduct of the southern thrust exemplify how those two organisations determined from below what appeared from the outside to be national policy imposed from above.

I doubt that many, perhaps any, Western strategists understood this at the time, not least because Japan had been pretty much closed to the West from an intelligence viewpoint for some years before Pearl Harbor. On the other hand, I'm not sure that a clear understanding of it would have provided many opportunities for the Allies to improve significantly their operational or strategic positions as it seems there was little that the Allies could have done to exploit conflict between the IJA and IJN.

Wizard
07-29-2011, 06:35 PM
Superficial is assuming things that have no basis in fact. I never said that the US had no interests in the Netherlands East Indies. I said that the US would not have declared war on Japan based on a Japanese invasion. I am quite sure that President Roosevelt would have been inclined to do so but he was constrained at a number of levels.

No, "superficial" is an adjective denoting an analysis or approach which is not in depth, or which merely touches the surface of the issue.

The fact is the US not only had vital trade and strategic interests in the NEI, the Roosevelt administration was determined, even at the cost of war with Japan, to protect those interests. Had Japan attacked the NEI, an ally of Britain, it would have been joining the European war on the side of the Axis. This alone wold have been enough to provoke the US into a war, as it was already in a shooting war in the Atlantic with Axis forces. Roosevelt would have been able to overcome the few remaining constraints against a declaration of war with Japan.


You and I will have to disagree on this. You imply that it would have been self evident that the US would have gone to war absent an attack on the US. Really? We had vastly greater interests in Europe but I don't recall Roosevelt declaring war on Germany as a result of the invasion of Holland, Belgium, France and the attack on the English. If what you say would be true in the Pacific, then it must also be true in Europe. Only it wasn't. Faute de logique, mon vieux.

You argue that because the US did not immediately attack Germany when it went to war against Britain and France, the same reasoning could be applied to a Japanese attack against the NEI. This completely ignores the fact that the situation in Europe in 1939 was totally different from the situation in Southeast Asia in 1941. First of all, when Germany attacked Poland, initiating the European war, it appeared that Britain and France would be able to win the war on the European continent without military intervention by the US; it wasn't until the late spring of 1940 that that view was proven false. By that time, it was also apparent that the US, with an Army just beginning to be rebuilt, was completely incapable of doing anything to prevent Germany's victory on the Continent. Moreover, Britain, with the material help of the US, was able to achieve a military stalemate with Germany by 1941, and it was clear that neither the US nor Britain would be able to launch an offensive for at least another year; there was no point in declaring war on Germany until that was possible. As for trade interests in Europe, the US required no vital commodities from Europe and while there were strong trade connections with Europe, none were considered critical to the US economy.

The situation in Southeast Asia in 1941 was completely different. It was a given that no Allied forces in the Pacific would have any chance of standing against a Japanese attack without active US support. Furthermore, the US Navy was the only force that could provide that support and, though not completely prepared in 1941, the US Navy believed it could significantly slow or outright stop a Japanese attack against the NEI. And because the Roosevelt administration was determined to stop the Axis advance, Japan launching an offensive in the Pacific would have severe negative global consequences in the view of the Roosevelt administration.

Therefore, applying the logic of the European war to the scenario of Japan launching an attack solely against the NEI is faulty reasoning because it does not take into account the vast differences that pertained in the two different situations.

Rising Sun*
07-30-2011, 08:32 AM
It was a given that no Allied forces in the Pacific would have any chance of standing against a Japanese attack without active US support.

A given by whom?

The British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya were capable of repelling a Japanese attack if (a) Percival wasn't hamstrung by Churchill's determination to keep British forces out of Thailand so that Britain wouldn't be seen as the aggressor and thus risk losing US support for entry into the war against Japan and (b) if Churchill hadn't denied Malaya the air resources his commanders advised were necessary and which were available if Churchill chose to divert them. Malaya wasn't lost because of a lack of active American support but because of Churchill's interference in its defence. Despite that, nowhere in Churchill's or Percival's planning was there any mention of or reliance upon America coming to Malaya's aid when Japan attacked.

Australian forces reversed the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track in 1942 and reduced their beachheads at Gona, Buna and Sanananda, albeit with American assistance at Buna.

Austalian forces were the first to defeat the Japanese when they repelled them at Milne Bay in 1942.

So far as the land war went in 1941-42, and for that matter in 1943 to early 1944 in the SWPA (which excludes Guadalcanal), Australia bore the brunt of the land fighting to hold and repel the Japanese in preparation for MacArthur's thrusts with American forces.

American forces in the Philippines were defeated by the Japanese, so where was the active US support for them?

There wasn't much in the way of 'active US support' in the Pacific, in the sense of 'the Pacific' including Nimitz's and MacArthur's areas of repsonsibility, in the critical early days from 7 December 1941 to mid-1942 to stem Japan's land operations.

The fact is that the US didn't give any 'active support' to stem the Japanese land advances to mid-1942 in Allied areas outside its own interests in the Philippines, because it didn't have the forces to do it.


Furthermore, the US Navy was the only force that could provide that support and, though not completely prepared in 1941, the US Navy believed it could significantly slow or outright stop a Japanese attack against the NEI.

That belief turned out to be entirely wrong, starting with the sinking of the USS Houston less than three months into the war, shortly after HMAS Perth went down in the same action in the Sunda Strait as they attempted to defend the NEI while failing to stop a Japanese landing force.

royal744
07-30-2011, 01:04 PM
And the Dutch merchant marine removed from the NEI, which made a significant and critical contribution to Allied shipping in the SWPA.

True, Rising Sun. MacArthur's sealift capability, especially against New Guiinea, was thanks mostly to the Dutch merchant marine.

royal744
07-30-2011, 01:07 PM
No, "superficial" is an adjective denoting an analysis or approach which is not in depth, or which merely touches the surface of the issue.

LOL, Wizard, have it your way. We simply disagree and no amount of "suasion" on your part changes what I know from my in depth study of the subject matter.

Wizard
07-30-2011, 03:18 PM
A given by whom?

The British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya were capable of repelling a Japanese attack if (a) Percival wasn't hamstrung by Churchill's determination to keep British forces out of Thailand so that Britain wouldn't be seen as the aggressor and thus risk losing US support for entry into the war against Japan and (b) if Churchill hadn't denied Malaya the air resources his commanders advised were necessary and which were available if Churchill chose to divert them. Malaya wasn't lost because of a lack of active American support but because of Churchill's interference in its defence. Despite that, nowhere in Churchill's or Percival's planning was there any mention of or reliance upon America coming to Malaya's aid when Japan attacked.

Yes, but unfortunately neither of those conditions actually existed at any time either before or after the Japanese attack.

And if American support wasn't desired in the defense of Malaya, why did Churchill try to get the US to station several capital naval units at Singapore prior to the war?

In any case, defending Malaya successfully is not the issue; it was the defense of the NEI in which it was a given that only the US could provide sufficient naval support to generate any hope of making it successful.


Australian forces reversed the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track in 1942 and reduced their beachheads at Gona, Buna and Sanananda, albeit with American assistance at Buna.

Austalian forces were the first to defeat the Japanese when they repelled them at Milne Bay in 1942.

Of course they did and more glory to them, but all that ignores the fact that the US Navy had turned back the Japanese Navy at the Coral Sea in May, 1942, and stopped it dead in it's tracks at Midway in June, 1942. Moreover, the Japanese were forcing the Australians off the Kokoda Trail until late August, 1942. By then the US had invaded Guadalcanal which meant the Japanese could no longer count on reinforcements for the Kokoda battles. Milne Bay, of course, wasn't fought until late August, 1942, by which time the Japanese had focused on retaking Guadalcanal.

Moreover, such a pronouncement ignores that fact that the Australian troops relied heavily on American aircover and air transport to support their logistics. It's really a stretch to imply that Australian troops, without strong American support could have stepped the Japanese short of the Australian continent.

But again, the issue isn't New Guinea, but the defense of the NEI.


So far as the land war went in 1941-42, and for that matter in 1943 to early 1944 in the SWPA (which excludes Guadalcanal), Australia bore the brunt of the land fighting to hold and repel the Japanese in preparation for MacArthur's thrusts with American forces.

No doubt about it, the Australians did do much of the ground fighting in New Guinea. But without US naval and air support, it's very questionable whether that fighting would have been successful, or whether it could even have taken place.


American forces in the Philippines were defeated by the Japanese, so where was the active US support for them?

In the scenario in question this would not have taken place and would have been completely irrelevant.


There wasn't much in the way of 'active US support' in the Pacific, in the sense of 'the Pacific' including Nimitz's and MacArthur's areas of repsonsibility, in the critical early days from 7 December 1941 to mid-1942 to stem Japan's land operations.

The fact is that the US didn't give any 'active support' to stem the Japanese land advances to mid-1942 in Allied areas outside its own interests in the Philippines, because it didn't have the forces to do it.

The scenario pertinent to this thread is that Japan launches an attack only on the NEI; that means no Pearl Harbor, no attack on the Philippines and no attack on Malaya, so the US reaction probably would have been quite different in terms of deployment of forces. Regardless of the irrelevant points you have put forth, the US was the only country that had any military forces strong enough to challenge a Japanese attack on the NEI and that was a given. Neither Britain nor the Netherlands had any chance of stopping such an attack. Without Pearl Harbor, (and consequently the German declaration of war against the US) it's likely that the US Navy would have sent stronger forces to challenge the Japanese Navy and very possibly could have stalemated the Japanese offensive.


That belief turned out to be entirely wrong, starting with the sinking of the USS Houston less than three months into the war, shortly after HMAS Perth went down in the same action in the Sunda Strait as they attempted to defend the NEI while failing to stop a Japanese landing force.

Not really. It's true the un-reinforced US Asiatic Fleet had little chance against the Japanese Navy, but without Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war, it's entirely likely that far stronger naval forces would have engaged the Japanese Navy in the defense of the NEI. As Coral Sea and Midway proved, the US Navy was strong enough to defeat the Japanese Navy and that would have spelled the end of any Japanese offensive against the NEI.

pdf27
07-31-2011, 02:43 AM
And if American support wasn't desired in the defense of Malaya, why did Churchill try to get the US to station several capital naval units at Singapore prior to the war?
Same reason behind most of his other interactions with the US - he was desperate to get the US to enter the war on the British side. Japan entering the war against Britain without a US entry to the war would have been catastrophic - so basing US ships in Malaya was desired as it pretty much guaranteed the Japanese couldn't invade without starting a war with the US.

Rising Sun*
07-31-2011, 09:59 AM
And if American support wasn't desired in the defense of Malaya, why did Churchill try to get the US to station several capital naval units at Singapore prior to the war?

I don't know.

Why did he?

How could he have achieved this when he had no power before the war?


In any case, defending Malaya successfully is not the issue; it was the defense of the NEI in which it was a given that only the US could provide sufficient naval support to generate any hope of making it successful.

But a given by whom?

What contemporary papers or statements support this?


Of course they did and more glory to them, but all that ignores the fact that the US Navy had turned back the Japanese Navy at the Coral Sea in May, 1942, and stopped it dead in it's tracks at Midway in June, 1942.

That is not disputed.

I was referring to the land war, which is where the Japanese land advances were stopped.


Moreover, the Japanese were forcing the Australians off the Kokoda Trail until late August, 1942.

That is not disputed.

But the Australians pushed the Japanese back up the Kododa Track and defeated them by the end of 1942.


By then the US had invaded Guadalcanal which meant the Japanese could no longer count on reinforcements for the Kokoda battles.

Nor could the Japanese reinforce Guadalcanal because of their Papuan operation.


Milne Bay, of course, wasn't fought until late August, 1942, by which time the Japanese had focused on retaking Guadalcanal.

Then it's surprising that the Japanese put so much effort into the Milne Bay assault with the intention of flanking the Kokoda operation if they were really focused only on Guadalcanal.


Moreover, such a pronouncement ignores that fact that the Australian troops relied heavily on American aircover and air transport to support their logistics. It's really a stretch to imply that Australian troops, without strong American support could have stepped the Japanese short of the Australian continent.

Not on Kokoda, where air support for ground troops was virtually non-existent and where air logisitics were little better.

As for Milne Bay, the RAAF provided the air fighting power.

The fact is that Australian land forces stopped and repelled the Japanese short of the Australian continent in Papua in the second half of 1942, without one American combat soldier involved in that campaign.



No doubt about it, the Australians did do much of the ground fighting in New Guinea. But without US naval and air support, it's very questionable whether that fighting would have been successful, or whether it could even have taken place.

That is not disputed but, as I said in my original post, I was referring to the land war which was what stopped the Japanese land advance.

Land advances are what matter in the end because it is the taking and holding of land which usually wins wars.

Wizard
07-31-2011, 03:45 PM
Same reason behind most of his other interactions with the US - he was desperate to get the US to enter the war on the British side. Japan entering the war against Britain without a US entry to the war would have been catastrophic - so basing US ships in Malaya was desired as it pretty much guaranteed the Japanese couldn't invade without starting a war with the US.

That is certainly a stretch. Every historian I have ever read who has commented on the issue has said that the British wanted the US Naval units deployed to Singapore as a deterrent to a Japanese attack on Malaya and Singapore.

But perhaps you have some sources that say otherwise? I certainly would be interested in reading such sources if you would be so good as to cite them.

Wizard
07-31-2011, 03:48 PM
LOL, Wizard, have it your way. We simply disagree and no amount of "suasion" on your part changes what I know from my in depth study of the subject matter.

Well, yes we do disagree, and my extensive reading on the matter convinces me that what you "know" is incorrect

Wizard
07-31-2011, 04:23 PM
I don't know.

Why did he?

How could he have achieved this when he had no power before the war?

Sorry, I should have said "the British" instead of Churchill.

And actually, no one in Britain had such power at any time, but it sure didn't prevent them from trying. Such a decision was reserved to Knox and Roosevelt.


But a given by whom?

What contemporary papers or statements support this?

It was a given as far as the British and American leadership was concerned. The fact that the British readily agreed to the Americans taking overall command in the Pacific supports the idea.


That is not disputed.

I was referring to the land war, which is where the Japanese land advances were stopped.

Well, a little bit of mis-direction certainly doesn't hurt. The fact that Naval power was absolutely crucial to conducting any kind of land war or land offensive in the NEI is the point. The Japanese could never have launched the NEI offensive if the full force of the US Navy had been deployed as would have been entirely possible absent Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war against the US.


That is not disputed.

But the Australians pushed the Japanese back up the Kododa Track and defeated them by the end of 1942.

Which proves what about the hypothetical Japanese offensive against the NEI?


Nor could the Japanese reinforce Guadalcanal because of their Papuan operation.

Which is totally irrelevant since in the hypothetical instance of the scenario, neither would have taken place.


Then it's surprising that the Japanese put so much effort into the Milne Bay assault with the intention of flanking the Kokoda operation if they were really focused only on Guadalcanal.

Not really. The truth is, the Japanese made a only half-hearted attempt at taking Milne Bay. Not to detract from the heroism and sacrifice of the Australian forces, but the Japanese committed only about 1,800 troops supported by about 350 non-combat support troops. The Allied forces numbered almost 9,000 men, with 4,500 being infantry. It was an important battle, but as Pacific battles went, not particularly large.


Not on Kokoda, where air support for ground troops was virtually non-existent and where air logisitics were little better.

As for Milne Bay, the RAAF provided the air fighting power.

The fact is that Australian land forces stopped and repelled the Japanese short of the Australian continent in Papua in the second half of 1942, without one American combat soldier involved in that campaign.

Sorry, but that's BS. American air logistics and air support did make a big difference at Port Moresby (where the Australian logistics base for the Kokoda Trail was located) and on the Kokoda Trail itself. It's true that much of the supplies air dropped to the Australians on the Trail were lost, but those that were recovered made a difference, as did American air strikes against Japanese air bases supporting the Japanese offensive and against Japanese shipping attempting to deliver supplies to the Japanese forces.

In any case, such a statement demeans the very real contributions made by the US Navy in the South Pacific. Australia could not have sustained troops in New Guinea without the assistance of the US Navy and without the defeats the US Navy inflicted on the Japanese Navy..


That is not disputed but, as I said in my original post, I was referring to the land war which was what stopped the Japanese land advance.

Land advances are what matter in the end because it is the taking and holding of land which usually wins wars.

And as I pointed out, the Japanese land offensive against the NEI could never have taken place if the IJN had faced the full force of the US Navy, as they would have if Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war had never taken place as implied by the scenario under discussion.

The land war in New Guinea is completely irrelevant because it would never have taken place in a scenario where Japan limits its Southward advance to the NEI.

royal744
08-02-2011, 09:27 PM
Not really. It's true the un-reinforced US Asiatic Fleet had little chance against the Japanese Navy, but without Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war, it's entirely likely that far stronger naval forces would have engaged the Japanese Navy in the defense of the NEI. As Coral Sea and Midway proved, the US Navy was strong enough to defeat the Japanese Navy and that would have spelled the end of any Japanese offensive against the NEI.

Wow. Talk about unwarranted and unsupported supposition. In my estimation, the fantasy you propose would never have happened.

Wizard
08-02-2011, 09:53 PM
Wow. Talk about unwarranted and unsupported supposition. In my estimation, the fantasy you propose would never have happened.

I guess you just like to ignore evidence that doesn't support your opinion.

In May, 1942, the US Navy, with essentially the same fleet units it had possessed in December, 1941 (minus, of course, the units lost at Pearl Harbor), stopped the advance of the Japanese navy against New Guinea. A month later, the same US fleet gutted the offensive capacity of the Japanese navy. There is no reason to believe that had these actions taken place in defense of the NEI that the outcomes would be any different.

Your "estimation" does not really impress me.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 03:02 AM
In May, 1942, the US Navy, with essentially the same fleet units it had possessed in December, 1941 (minus, of course, the units lost at Pearl Harbor), stopped the advance of the Japanese navy against New Guinea.

I don’t agree that the USN by itself ‘stopped the naval advance on New Guinea’.

It wasn’t a naval advance on New Guinea (strictly Papua) but naval support for an invasion force headed for Port Moresby.

The USN didn’t operate entirely alone but had the assistance of two Australian cruisers and land-based US aircraft, both of which played critical parts in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The USN Coral Sea force wasn’t essentially the same (Pacific) fleet units the US possessed on 7 December 1941. The Australian cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Hobart, which with USS Chicago and three US destroyers turned back the Japanese invasion force heading for Port Moresby during the Battle of the Coral Sea, weren't part of the US fleet in December 1941 or subsequently. Without them blocking the Jomard Passage (and surviving an attack by American land-based bombers as well as Japanese land-based bombers), the Japanese invasion fleet had a clear run to Port Moresby once the other USN forces had withdrawn on 8 May 1942 and left the invasion fleet in position to proceed through Jomard Passage to its destination. It’s questionable whether the land-based Allied air forces could have turned them back.

As you’re using Coral Sea to predict the result of a Japanese invasion of the NEI if facing only the USN, and given that without non-American cruisers in Coral Sea it’s quite likely that the Japanese would have landed in Port Moresby, it follows that it’s quite likely that the Japanese would have landed in the NEI if they attacked only the NEI.

It becomes much more probable if Japan attacked the NEI as a surprise attack in the same way it did Pearl Harbor, Malaya and the Philippines because, despite an attack solely on the NEI being a strong possibility facing US defence planners, the USN was not deployed to defend the NEI. The nearest ships would have been the Asiatic Fleet based in the Philippines. Whether many could or would have been dispatched to the defence of the NEI after a Japanese attack on only the NEI is unlikely, as the Americans could be expected to regard an attack on the NEI as a prelude to an attack on the Philippines and so concentrate on defence of their own territory. As it happened, the Asiatic Fleet was no match for the Japanese fleets it faced so there is no reason to believe it would have performed any better when reinforced by the Pacific Fleet against Japanese fleets reinforced by the fleets used against Pearl Harbor and to support the invasions of Malaya and the Philippines plus other expeditions such as Rabaul and Truk.

As it happened, the USN didn’t fare too well when defending only the Philippines as “By the end of December 1941 the Japanese, in addition to striking the United States Navy a crippling blow at Pearl Harbor, had destroyed for all practical purposes the Far East Air Force, had driven the American Asiatic Fleet, together with the remnants of Patwing 10, from its Philippine base to the Netherlands East Indies.” http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/I/AAF-I-10.html And the American Asiatic Fleet, along with British, Australian and Dutch naval forces fared even worse in defence of the NEI.

There is no reason to believe that the USN would necessarily have fared better if the Japanese attacked only the NEI, and using Coral Sea as an indicator just reinforces the prospect that the Japanese would have got their invasion force ashore in the NEI. The simple fact is that in December 1941 to mid-1942, Japan was vastly superior to its opponents in its southern thrust and would probably have defeated them wherever it struck.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 08:04 AM
Not really. The truth is, the Japanese made a only half-hearted attempt at taking Milne Bay. Not to detract from the heroism and sacrifice of the Australian forces, but the Japanese committed only about 1,800 troops supported by about 350 non-combat support troops. The Allied forces numbered almost 9,000 men, with 4,500 being infantry. It was an important battle, but as Pacific battles went, not particularly large.

Your reference to a 'half-hearted attempt at taking Milne Bay' exemplifies your condescending attitude to forces other than the US. If the US had been the main force at Milne Bay you'd be touting it as the greatest feat of arms since Thermopylae.

Alas, Australians were the main force at Milne Bay and it was the first defeat the Japanese suffered in their southern thrust. It was a huge morale booster after a devastating succession of Allied defeats down the South East Asian land chain as it demonstrated that the Japanese were not invincible. As Bill Slim noted: "Australian troops had, at Milne Bay in New Guinea, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land. If the Australians, in conditions very like ours, had done it, so could we. Some of us may forget that of all the Allies it was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army; those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember."

Apart from Kokoda and Guadalcanal, name three other land battles or campaigns that were going on around the same time in the SWPA or Pacific which were larger. Or even half the size of Milne Bay in forces committed by both sides.

Apart from Gudalcanal and the Kokoda campaign, which terminated with the reduction of Gona, Buna and Sanananda, name three other land battles or campaigns where the Japanese were defeated on land in 1942.

As for Milne Bay being small by comparison with later battles and campaigns, yes, it was. But without defeating the Japanese at Milne Bay and Kokoda and Guadalcanal those later battles and campaigns would not have been possible. In the second half of 1942 they were the only battles and campaigns that mattered. And, so far as I am aware, the USN did not win them all by itself or, as I shall deal with in my next post, even make the contribution you assert.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 08:47 AM
In any case, such a statement demeans the very real contributions made by the US Navy in the South Pacific. Australia could not have sustained troops in New Guinea without the assistance of the US Navy ...

MacArthur, who was in command of the whole exercise in Papua (which almost everyone insists on calling New Guinea) and who was possibly slightly better informed at the time than you are now, disagreed.


From the beginning of the Guadalcanal fighting MacArthur had been left with virtually no naval strength at all . After the Japanese landed at Milne Bay he had to weigh the necessity for reinforcements against the risk of sending them under the protection of a single destroyer, the only sizeable surface craft then available in the
South-West Pacific Area . On 6th September he radioed General Marshall personally.

"Due to lack of maritime resources, I am unable to increase ground forces in
New Guinea as I cannot maintain them . . . it is imperative that shipping and naval
forces for escort duty be increased to ensure communication between the Australian
mainland and the south coast of New Guinea . With these additional naval facilities
I can despatch large ground reinforcements to New Guinea with the object of
counter-infiltration towards the north, and at the same time make creeping advances
along the north coast with small vessels and marine amphibious forces . Such action
will secure a situation which otherwise is doubtful. If New Guinea goes the results
will he disastrous."

But MacArthur had little chance of getting the naval forces he sought while the struggle for the Solomons continued . And in any event Admiral King was unwilling to entrust his precious aircraft carriers to the command of MacArthur or any other army officer who might commit them to unjustifiable risks."

p.188, Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 – Army - Volume Vol 5
Volume V – South–West Pacific Area – First Year: Kokoda to Wau (1st edition, 1959)http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/second_world_war/volume.asp?levelID=67907

This is the reality of the absence of USN support in the Papuan campaign, from a commentary which is quite supportive of the US.


Despite Japanese command of the seas in the Solomons-New Guinea area--the U.S. Navy had withdrawn from the area in late October after losing an aircraft carrier and seeing another badly damaged--the Allies were asked to take advantage of the shallow coastal waters of New Guinea. In their advance from Milne Bay the Allies moved troops and supplies by fishing boats, tuggers, rowboats, and even outrigger canoes. p.9 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-Papua/index.html

Perhaps this is just another instance of my bottomless ignorance, but I'm inclined to the view that in 1942, or even 1941 in anticipation of the war, US shipyards weren't turning out a lot of outrigger canoes and that Annapolis didn't have a lot of semesters devoted to commanding an outrigger in shallow tropical waters because the USN has pissed off and left the US Army and its Allies to fend for themselves.


Naval gunfire and aircraft could have partially compensated for the lack of artillery and land-based air support, but the enemy's presence and a support mission in the Solomons reduced the availability of such support. Twice Navy ships withdrew from the southwest Pacific area in response to the Japanese fleet movements. Both of these withdrawals reflected the Navy's reluctance to expose its carriers and transports to enemy air squadrons based at Rabaul. General MacArthur opposed the withdrawals because they exposed friendly units ashore to enemy air attack and delayed ship-to-shore movement of troops and supplies. pp. 20-21 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-Papua/index.html

I suggest that you read the full article in the last two links to find out just how ineffective air support was in many respects.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 10:03 AM
Sorry, but that's BS. American air logistics and air support did make a big difference at Port Moresby (where the Australian logistics base for the Kokoda Trail was located) and on the Kokoda Trail itself.

Well, to confirm that I'm talking bullshit, how about naming one battle where American (or any other nation's, including Australia's) air support to Australian ground troops made a big difference to the result in that battle on the Kokoda Track.



It's true that much of the supplies air dropped to the Australians on the Trail were lost, but those that were recovered made a difference, as did American air strikes against Japanese air bases supporting the Japanese offensive and against Japanese shipping attempting to deliver supplies to the Japanese forces.

Rowell and Potts, the latter of whom relied upon woefully inaccurate assertions about the quantity of rations stored from the air at Myola and whose troops accordingly ran short of rations, would disagree with you, although of course they were only the commanders on the ground and lacked your better knowledge of how very well they were supplied from the air, by any air force.

royal744
08-03-2011, 11:04 AM
I guess you just like to ignore evidence that doesn't support your opinion.

In May, 1942, the US Navy, with essentially the same fleet units it had possessed in December, 1941 (minus, of course, the units lost at Pearl Harbor), stopped the advance of the Japanese navy against New Guinea. A month later, the same US fleet gutted the offensive capacity of the Japanese navy. There is no reason to believe that had these actions taken place in defense of the NEI that the outcomes would be any different.

Your "estimation" does not really impress me.

Wizard, voluminous as your detailed knowledge of minutae certainly is, your "softer" conclusions as to what would have prompted the US to oppose the Japanese absent an attack on American forces, has all the solidity of well-vented Swiss cheese. Since we are discussing matters of speculation, I will concede that we will never know, but methinks you should concede the same. To quote you from another of your posts elsewhere, "Nothing ever really gets settled in alternative history."


Try and calm down.

Wizard
08-03-2011, 01:19 PM
MacArthur, who was in command of the whole exercise in Papua (which almost everyone insists on calling New Guinea) and who was possibly slightly better informed at the time than you are now, disagreed.



p.188, Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 – Army - Volume Vol 5
Volume V – South–West Pacific Area – First Year: Kokoda to Wau (1st edition, 1959)http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/second_world_war/volume.asp?levelID=67907

This is the reality of the absence of USN support in the Papuan campaign, from a commentary which is quite supportive of the US.

p.9 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-Papua/index.html

Perhaps this is just another instance of my bottomless ignorance, but I'm inclined to the view that in 1942, or even 1941 in anticipation of the war, US shipyards weren't turning out a lot of outrigger canoes and that Annapolis didn't have a lot of semesters devoted to commanding an outrigger in shallow tropical waters because the USN has pissed off and left the US Army and its Allies to fend for themselves.

pp. 20-21 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-Papua/index.html

I suggest that you read the full article in the last two links to find out just how ineffective air support was in many respects.

Well, if you want to quote MacArthur, you can find very serious words to the effect that the US Navy had no effect at all throughout the entire Pacific war and that the Japanese were stopped only because of the superb personal courage and intelligence of General MacArthur. So I tend to discount his pronouncements on the matter.

For an objective person to claim that the US Navy was not crucial in stopping the Japanese in the South Pacific in 1942 seems to me to be rather curious. To further suggest that US air power in the South Pacific in 1942 had very little, or no, effect on the battles of 1942 seems even more churlish. Yes, the USN was spread mighty thin in 1942, and yes, it did seem that precious little support reached New Guinea in 1942, but to argue that nothing the USN did mattered or that Australia could have stopped the Japanese all by themselves doesn't hold water.

Wizard
08-03-2011, 01:23 PM
Well, to confirm that I'm talking bullshit, how about naming one battle where American (or any other nation's, including Australia's) air support to Australian ground troops made a big difference to the result in that battle on the Kokoda Track.

Rowell and Potts, the latter of whom relied upon woefully inaccurate assertions about the quantity of rations stored from the air at Myola and whose troops accordingly ran short of rations, would disagree with you, although of course they were only the commanders on the ground and lacked your better knowledge of how very well they were supplied from the air, by any air force.

All of them. I suppose you think Port Moresby, the supply base for the Kokoda Trail battles, could have been defended absent US air and naval support? In trying to make your point, your ignoring the very important logistics routes that essentially ran all the way back to the US. They weren't being defended by Australian forces.

Wizard
08-03-2011, 01:26 PM
Wizard, voluminous as your detailed knowledge of minutae certainly is, your "softer" conclusions as to what would have prompted the US to oppose the Japanese absent an attack on American forces, has all the solidity of well-vented Swiss cheese. Since we are discussing matters of speculation, I will concede that we will never know, but methinks you should concede the same. To quote you from another of your posts elsewhere, "Nothing ever really gets settled in alternative history."


Try and calm down.

I think you ought to try to calm down a bit.

I will always concede that hypothetical scenarios are never susceptible to conclusive proof. That makes your speculation no more valid than mine. So your "swiss cheese" ends up just as ventilated as any.

royal744
08-03-2011, 01:40 PM
I think you ought to try to calm down a bit.

I will always concede that hypothetical scenarios are never susceptible to conclusive proof. That makes your speculation no more valid than mine. So your "swiss cheese" ends up just as ventilated as any.

Absolutely right, Wizard. Thank you for confirming my point. Is it windy in here?

Wizard
08-03-2011, 02:28 PM
I don’t agree that the USN by itself ‘stopped the naval advance on New Guinea’.

It wasn’t a naval advance on New Guinea (strictly Papua) but naval support for an invasion force headed for Port Moresby.

The USN didn’t operate entirely alone but had the assistance of two Australian cruisers and land-based US aircraft, both of which played critical parts in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

I see. It wasn't really the carrier battle that doomed the Japanese effort to take Port Moresby by sea, but the two Australian cruisers in the Jomard Passage that turned them back. This despite the fact that the Japanese invasion fleet (or any Japanese naval forces) never made contact with the Australian cruisers and the invasion fleet actually turned back because the Japanese carrier Shoho had been sunk and could not provide air cover for the invasion fleet.

From http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww2/bfa/coralsea.html#battlemap

"Part of the Allied fleet, including the two Australian ships, was now sent towards Papua to wait for and attack the expected Port Moresby invasion fleet. Unknown to the Allies the main Japanese invasion fleet had turned back – they were too vulnerable to land-based bombers without the air support of the Shoho.

This left the Australian ships waiting to engage an invasion fleet that would never come."

What "critical parts" did the Australian cruisers and US land-based air play in the battle if I might ask?


The USN Coral Sea force wasn’t essentially the same (Pacific) fleet units the US possessed on 7 December 1941. The Australian cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Hobart, which with USS Chicago and three US destroyers turned back the Japanese invasion force heading for Port Moresby during the Battle of the Coral Sea, weren't part of the US fleet in December 1941 or subsequently. Without them blocking the Jomard Passage (and surviving an attack by American land-based bombers as well as Japanese land-based bombers), the Japanese invasion fleet had a clear run to Port Moresby once the other USN forces had withdrawn on 8 May 1942 and left the invasion fleet in position to proceed through Jomard Passage to its destination. It’s questionable whether the land-based Allied air forces could have turned them back.

Which completely ignores the fact that the real reason the Japanese turned back was a lack of carrier air cover due to the Japanese carriers being either sunk or severely mauled by the USN carriers.

And yes, the USN fleet that turned back the Port Moresby invasion was essentially the same as what the USN possessed in December, 1941. Two Australian cruisers did not make much difference and by themselves were not a factor in turning back the Japanese Navy in the South Pacific.


As you’re using Coral Sea to predict the result of a Japanese invasion of the NEI if facing only the USN, and given that without non-American cruisers in Coral Sea it’s quite likely that the Japanese would have landed in Port Moresby, it follows that it’s quite likely that the Japanese would have landed in the NEI if they attacked only the NEI.

The two Australian cruisers in the Coral Sea were NOT a factor in turning back the Japanese invasion fleet, as it had already withdrawn when they were sent to block the Jomard Passage (see above). And absent the USN the Australian Navy had absolutely no hope of stopping the invasion. UI stand by my original statement that only the US Navy was strong enough to have a chance of stopping the Japanese Navy in the Pacific.


It becomes much more probable if Japan attacked the NEI as a surprise attack in the same way it did Pearl Harbor, Malaya and the Philippines because, despite an attack solely on the NEI being a strong possibility facing US defence planners, the USN was not deployed to defend the NEI.

There was no possibility of a "Pearl Harbor-style surprise" attack on the NEI. In fact, the attack on the Philippines and Malaya were not surprise attacks either. The gathering of the necessary troop transports was well known to the Allies days in advance of the Malaya and Philippines attacks. The same would have been true of any attempt to attack the NEI; it would be impossible to keep the gathering of troop convoys a secret.

True, the USN was not deployed to defend the NEI, but USN units stationed at Pearl Harbor could have struck at the Japanese Navy forces assigned to defend the troop convoys and logistics routes. The Japanese would never have launched a sea-borne offensive against the NEI under such circumstances.


The nearest ships would have been the Asiatic Fleet based in the Philippines. Whether many could or would have been dispatched to the defence of the NEI after a Japanese attack on only the NEI is unlikely, as the Americans could be expected to regard an attack on the NEI as a prelude to an attack on the Philippines and so concentrate on defence of their own territory. As it happened, the Asiatic Fleet was no match for the Japanese fleets it faced so there is no reason to believe it would have performed any better when reinforced by the Pacific Fleet against Japanese fleets reinforced by the fleets used against Pearl Harbor and to support the invasions of Malaya and the Philippines plus other expeditions such as Rabaul and Truk.

The Asiatic Fleet was never intended to be anything more than a "tripwire". It was never the US Navy's plan to defend the Philippines and thus the Asiatic Fleet contained only token units. Any defense of the NEI would have been conducted from Pearl Harbor, and in fact, at one time, the USN did have a plan to conduct carrier warfare against the Japanese Navy to defend the NEI. It certainly would not have relied on the Asiatic Fleet to do so.


As it happened, the USN didn’t fare too well when defending only the Philippines as “By the end of December 1941 the Japanese, in addition to striking the United States Navy a crippling blow at Pearl Harbor, had destroyed for all practical purposes the Far East Air Force, had driven the American Asiatic Fleet, together with the remnants of Patwing 10, from its Philippine base to the Netherlands East Indies.” http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/I/AAF-I-10.html And the American Asiatic Fleet, along with British, Australian and Dutch naval forces fared even worse in defence of the NEI.

In the scenario being discussed, the Pearl Harbor attack does not occur.

As I stated above, the USN had no plans to defend the Philippines in case of Japanese attack. However, it's likely that Pearl Harbor units plus units of the Asiatic Fleet would have combined under the scenario we are discussing and would have been strong enough to stop or at least seriously impede any attack on the NEI.


There is no reason to believe that the USN would necessarily have fared better if the Japanese attacked only the NEI, and using Coral Sea as an indicator just reinforces the prospect that the Japanese would have got their invasion force ashore in the NEI. The simple fact is that in December 1941 to mid-1942, Japan was vastly superior to its opponents in its southern thrust and would probably have defeated them wherever it struck.

Well, I certainly disagree with that analysis. Had the Japanese attacked only the NEI, they would have had to deal with the full force of the US Navy in the Pacific, especially if there was no German declaration of war as happened after Pearl Harbor. In fact, the Japanese Navy had several flaws and these flaws were revealed by the battles of Coral Sea and Midway. These were the first battles in which the full force of the USN was deployed to counter the Japanese and they proved that the Japanese Navy was not as invincible as some seem to think. The Japanese Navy was particularly vulnerable when trying to support land offensives and he USN was able to exploit that vulnerability. Defeating a handful of aging cruisers and destroyers operating without adequate aircover or reconnaissance is not the same thing as taking on carrier task forces. When the Japanese Navy was forced to fight against odd that were anywhere near equal, it was found wanting.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 08:26 PM
Well, if you want to quote MacArthur, you can find very serious words to the effect that the US Navy had no effect at all throughout the entire Pacific war and that the Japanese were stopped only because of the superb personal courage and intelligence of General MacArthur. So I tend to discount his pronouncements on the matter.

As you do the comments and opinions of everyone who doesn't agree with your views.


For an objective person to claim that the US Navy was not crucial in stopping the Japanese in the South Pacific in 1942 seems to me to be rather curious. To further suggest that US air power in the South Pacific in 1942 had very little, or no, effect on the battles of 1942 seems even more churlish. Yes, the USN was spread mighty thin in 1942, and yes, it did seem that precious little support reached New Guinea in 1942, but to argue that nothing the USN did mattered or that Australia could have stopped the Japanese all by themselves doesn't hold water.

It would be better for you to respond to what I said rather than twist my words into extreme positions I didn't take or imply.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 08:30 PM
All of them. I suppose you think Port Moresby, the supply base for the Kokoda Trail battles, could have been defended absent US air and naval support? In trying to make your point, your ignoring the very important logistics routes that essentially ran all the way back to the US. They weren't being defended by Australian forces.

My comment related specifically to support for ground troops on Kokoda. As usual, you choose to respond to something that wasn't said.

Rising Sun*
08-03-2011, 08:33 PM
I see. It wasn't really the carrier battle that doomed the Japanese effort to take Port Moresby by sea, but the two Australian cruisers in the Jomard Passage that turned them back. This despite the fact that the Japanese invasion fleet (or any Japanese naval forces) never made contact with the Australian cruisers and the invasion fleet actually turned back because the Japanese carrier Shoho had been sunk and could not provide air cover for the invasion fleet.

From http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww2/bfa/coralsea.html#battlemap

"Part of the Allied fleet, including the two Australian ships, was now sent towards Papua to wait for and attack the expected Port Moresby invasion fleet. Unknown to the Allies the main Japanese invasion fleet had turned back – they were too vulnerable to land-based bombers without the air support of the Shoho.

This left the Australian ships waiting to engage an invasion fleet that would never come."

What "critical parts" did the Australian cruisers and US land-based air play in the battle if I might ask?



Which completely ignores the fact that the real reason the Japanese turned back was a lack of carrier air cover due to the Japanese carriers being either sunk or severely mauled by the USN carriers.

And yes, the USN fleet that turned back the Port Moresby invasion was essentially the same as what the USN possessed in December, 1941. Two Australian cruisers did not make much difference and by themselves were not a factor in turning back the Japanese Navy in the South Pacific.



The two Australian cruisers in the Coral Sea were NOT a factor in turning back the Japanese invasion fleet, as it had already withdrawn when they were sent to block the Jomard Passage (see above). And absent the USN the Australian Navy had absolutely no hope of stopping the invasion. UI stand by my original statement that only the US Navy was strong enough to have a chance of stopping the Japanese Navy in the Pacific.



There was no possibility of a "Pearl Harbor-style surprise" attack on the NEI. In fact, the attack on the Philippines and Malaya were not surprise attacks either. The gathering of the necessary troop transports was well known to the Allies days in advance of the Malaya and Philippines attacks. The same would have been true of any attempt to attack the NEI; it would be impossible to keep the gathering of troop convoys a secret.

True, the USN was not deployed to defend the NEI, but USN units stationed at Pearl Harbor could have struck at the Japanese Navy forces assigned to defend the troop convoys and logistics routes. The Japanese would never have launched a sea-borne offensive against the NEI under such circumstances.



The Asiatic Fleet was never intended to be anything more than a "tripwire". It was never the US Navy's plan to defend the Philippines and thus the Asiatic Fleet contained only token units. Any defense of the NEI would have been conducted from Pearl Harbor, and in fact, at one time, the USN did have a plan to conduct carrier warfare against the Japanese Navy to defend the NEI. It certainly would not have relied on the Asiatic Fleet to do so.



In the scenario being discussed, the Pearl Harbor attack does not occur.

As I stated above, the USN had no plans to defend the Philippines in case of Japanese attack. However, it's likely that Pearl Harbor units plus units of the Asiatic Fleet would have combined under the scenario we are discussing and would have been strong enough to stop or at least seriously impede any attack on the NEI.



Well, I certainly disagree with that analysis. Had the Japanese attacked only the NEI, they would have had to deal with the full force of the US Navy in the Pacific, especially if there was no German declaration of war as happened after Pearl Harbor. In fact, the Japanese Navy had several flaws and these flaws were revealed by the battles of Coral Sea and Midway. These were the first battles in which the full force of the USN was deployed to counter the Japanese and they proved that the Japanese Navy was not as invincible as some seem to think. The Japanese Navy was particularly vulnerable when trying to support land offensives and he USN was able to exploit that vulnerability. Defeating a handful of aging cruisers and destroyers operating without adequate aircover or reconnaissance is not the same thing as taking on carrier task forces. When the Japanese Navy was forced to fight against odd that were anywhere near equal, it was found wanting.

It's pointless responding to you because you insist upon responding to things that I haven't said. I can't be bothered defending points I didn't make with someone who ignores what I said and who continually evades direct questions which challenge his tunnel vision view of history.

tankgeezer
08-03-2011, 08:51 PM
******

Wizard
08-03-2011, 10:15 PM
As you do the comments and opinions of everyone who doesn't agree with your views.

Damn right I do and so do you and so does practically everybody else on this board. That's because I have only formed my opinions after years of reading just about everything I can find on the Pacific war. You've probably read the same books and articles; the only reason our opinions differ is because we've interpreted those documents somewhat differently. So unless someone comes up with some objective new evidence, and no one on this thread has, neither one of us are going to change our opinions very much.

As for MacArthur, you and I both know he hardly ever gave anyone else credit if he could somehow spin the case to make himself look good. And he particularly disliked the US Navy because that was his main competition in hogging the glory for the Pacific war.


It would be better for you to respond to what I said rather than twist my words into extreme positions I didn't take or imply.

Tell you what, I will if you will. My original statement was that the US Navy was the only force in the Pacific which had any hope of successfully challenging the Japanese if they attacked the NEI. You seem to be intent on arguing that the Australian Navy and Australian Army would have been able to oppose a Japanese attack on the NEI and that credit for Coral Sea and Midway should go to them. I disagree.

Wizard
08-03-2011, 10:18 PM
My comment related specifically to support for ground troops on Kokoda. As usual, you choose to respond to something that wasn't said.

I know it did.

Unfortunately, that was not pertinent to the original argument; you claimed that US forces in New Guinea played no role in stopping the Japanese in 1942. That is flat out wrong in my opinion and that is why I cited the contributions of the US Navy and US land-based air in 1942.

Wizard
08-03-2011, 10:24 PM
It's pointless responding to you because you insist upon responding to things that I haven't said. I can't be bothered defending points I didn't make with someone who ignores what I said and who continually evades direct questions which challenge his tunnel vision view of history.

In other words, the two Australian cruisers you make such a fuss about really were not a factor in turning back the Japanese Port Moresby invasion force. I do believe you did claim they were an important (you used the term "critical") factor in the battle of the Coral Sea. So now that has been refuted, you're saying you didn't make that claim?

tankgeezer
08-04-2011, 02:14 AM
Wizzy, you havent been able to prove anything one way, or the other, which is the thing with obscure points, no way to really prove a thing. It must be a very safe, and risk free position for you to work from. You seem to have taken the time to read, and learn from the books you have read, but you squander the benefit of your efforts through pointless, and fruitless arguing. This isn't a contest, there are no prizes to win, or lose. Think of it as a pool party with some history.

Wizard
08-04-2011, 11:35 AM
Wizzy, you havent been able to prove anything one way, or the other, which is the thing with obscure points, no way to really prove a thing. It must be a very safe, and risk free position for you to work from. You seem to have taken the time to read, and learn from the books you have read, but you squander the benefit of your efforts through pointless, and fruitless arguing. This isn't a contest, there are no prizes to win, or lose. Think of it as a pool party with some history.

No one is ever able to "prove" anything in discussing hypothetical scenarios but that
doesn't keep them from "pointless and fruitless" arguing. It does take two to argue you know, so apparently you think Rising Sun and Royal744 are also engaging in a "pointless and fruitless" exercise? Or is it just me?

I wonder about that? I keep getting criticized for arguing, but my opponents don't; why the double standard, Geezer? In any case, I don't care; as long as someone tries to trash my logic and arguments, I will respond with counter points. Isn't that what a hyothetical scenario is all about?

Rising Sun*
08-04-2011, 11:52 AM
No one is ever able to "prove" anything in discussing hypothetical scenarios but that
doesn't keep them from "pointless and fruitless" arguing. It does take two to argue you know, so apparently you think Rising Sun and Royal744 are also engaging in a "pointless and fruitless" exercise? Or is it just me?

No, anyone who disputes anything you say is engaging in a pointless and fruitless exercise.

But it takes some of us a while to see that our efforts are pointless and fruitless, and then we disengage.

tankgeezer
08-04-2011, 12:25 PM
The difference lies in how its done. there are ways to do it well, and ways to do it ugly. You need to work on your finesse Wizzy, being blunt, or over bearing will not help you win any points in the topic, or with the others who use the site. Its been said that one gets back what they send out, you may find that to be true in how you interact with the other members here. Like I said, nothing to win, nothing to lose, its supposed to be an enjoyable passtime.

Rising Sun*
08-06-2011, 09:34 AM
'What if' is often a bit of fun, at least until it goes off the scale with feral notions, but it's rarely consistent with the facts known to those with a deep understanding of the issue. As in this case, where Wizard believes that the USN could have saved the NEI while the Dutch, British and Australians were impotent, yet in reality the USN and US were absent during the real events when it was the Dutch, Australians and British, in that order, which actually made preparations for and committed forces to face Japan's advance while America held back from defending the NEI in a material, or materiel, sense. Despite it being 'a given' that only the USN could defend the NEI which, in reality, the USN failed to do.



1. Introduction

{1} Despite the growing menace of Japanese military expansion during the 1930s, the Commonwealth of Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with an extensive colony in the Far East, had come to neither formal nor informal agreement on a common defence policy. For the Australian Government, it was of vital interest that the Netherlands East Indies should not fall into Japanese hands, but they hoped to prevent such a fate by adhering to Imperial Defence, that is, to the British promise that the Royal Navy would defend Australia and British interests in the Far East. That policy was seen to be the best guarantee that there would be no Japanese incursions into the Dutch territories in south-east Asia.

{2} On the other hand, the Dutch Government maintained a strict policy of neutrality in the hope that, as in the First World War, Holland itself would be spared invasion. The small size of The Netherlands and its limited industrial base, however, precluded a credible defence of the colony, which was an archipelago of more than 13,000 islands covering a surface equal to that of Europe from Scotland to the Caucasus and from the North Cape to Sicily. The Dutch Government, however, reasoned that none of the three Powers (Japan, Great Britain and the USA) interested in any possible invasion of the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) would ever allow either of the others to do so. Consequently, these powers would adhere to the status quo. Should the Japanese strike, it was implicitly assumed that Britain would certainly intervene and that the USA might [1].

{3} Both the war in Western Europe, resulting in the occupation of The Netherlands in May 1940, and the constitutional impossibility of the US Government’s adopting a strong foreign policy aimed at restricting the totalitarian rgimes in East and West, transformed everything. This article deals with the change in attitude at government level both in Australia and within the Dutch government in exile, resulting in defence agreements being drawn up whereby Australia not only took over the defence of the eastern part of the NEI but also developed a strong system of defence co-operation against Japan in the latter part of 1941. For the Dutch, this meant not only total reversal of its diplomatic tradition of neutrality that had existed for 125 years but also radical abandonment of that neutrality. The principal reasons for these changes were the loss of the mother country and the growing realisation by both the Dutch and Australian governments that they had common interests. The article makes use of sources in Dutch archives, not easily accessible to Australian researchers without the help of translators.

2. Early Australian-Dutch relationships

{4} Although they had previously discovered the western and southern parts of Australia, Dutch interest in Australia was almost non-existent until the 1850s and the goldrush in Victoria. That event created trading opportunities, resulting in the appointment of commercial agents and consuls in Melbourne and Sydney [2]. Despite the strong anti-British sentiment in The Netherlands due to the Boer War, the East Indies Government convinced the Dutch Government to send a warship to attend the festivities celebrating Federation in 1901. The armoured cruiser HNMS Noord-Brabant of the East Indies fleet arrived at Melbourne on May 1, 1901 to take part in the International Fleet Review, gaining much acclaim by the Australian press and other authorities [3]. Trade relationships thereafter remained excellent, and even increased in importance. This is illustrated by the fact that the Australian Government appointed a Trade Commissioner to the British consulate in Batavia in 1916 even before the appointment of such commissioners in Paris (1917) and New York (1918) [4].

{5} Although East Indian imports and exports declined overall in the early 1930s, trade with Australia increased. Many products, such as flour, dairy produce, coal and horses for the Royal Netherlands East Indian Army (KNIL [5]) were imported from Australia. Sugar, kapok, rice, crude oil and oil products were exported to Australia. The Dutch entry in the London to Melbourne air race of 1934 resulted in much positive publicity, and a regular air service between Batavia and Sydney via Darwin was established in 1938.

{6} The Australian Goodwill Mission to the Far East under J.G. Latham started their tour to Asia with a ten-day visit to Java, where the mission was extensively entertained by both military and civil colonial officials, from 1 to 11 April 1934 [6]. In his secret report on the Mission, Latham recommended closer co-operation between the Australian and Dutch navies. At the very least he proposed that a number of Australian naval officers should familiarise themselves with the Dutch language [7]. Apparently, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) took this recommendation to heart, for a number of naval officers consequently mastered the Dutch language.

{7} The increasing threat of Japan, and especially the interest of the Japanese in gaining a concession for oil exploration in Portuguese Timor, caused considerable consternation both in The Hague and in Canberra. During the Disarmament Conference in Brussels in November 1937, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, A.C.D. de Graeff, talked at length with the Australian High Commissioner in London, S.M. Bruce. The matter of defence, however, was not discussed. Following that meeting, the Australian Government sent Vice-Consul Edward Lambert from Batavia to Dili to talk with the Portuguese authorities. He reported that no concession as yet had been granted to the Japanese, but he also concluded that Portuguese authorities harboured strong anti-Dutch feelings because of the misuse the Dutch had made of the monopoly of their inter-insular shipping line, the Royal Packetboat Company [8].

{8} In these circumstances, the Australian government considered it wise to sound out the Dutch concerning closer political co-operation between the two governments. R.G. Menzies suggested in a letter to the Prime Minister, J.A. Lyons, on 23 December 1937, that the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, should pay a goodwill visit to Batavia on his way to London in April 1938. Lyons accordingly requested that an official invitation from the Dutch to Lord Gowrie be secured through official diplomatic channels [9].

{9} This request caused real consternation within the Dutch Government. Very upset indeed was the Dutch Governor-General in the East Indies, A.W.L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, because of the precedent it would have given to other, less welcome, visitors, like the Governor-General of Japanese Taiwan, or - worse still - the new President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. A visit by the latter could have been seen as a most unwelcome encouragement to Indonesian nationalists. The Governor-General therefore said that no official invitation should be sent, but the following face-saving procedure was put forward: the Dutch Government, learning of the planned holiday visit by the Australian Governor-General to the NEI on his way to Britain, would invite him to visit the Dutch Governor-General in Batavia. This plan of action was accepted by the Australians. From the correspondence between the Dutch Governor-General and the Cabinet in The Hague it is, however, abundantly clear that the Dutch were not at all happy about the Australian initiative [10].

{10} Nevertheless, the visit itself was a complete success. Lord and Lady Gowrie arrived at Bali on April 2, 1938. They were escorted by Lt. Col. F. Milius of the KNIL and Dr. K.F.J. Verboeket of the Cabinet of the Governor-General. On April 5, 1938 they were entertained by the KNIL at their headquarters in Bandoeng for an entire day. The next day they witnessed an air show by the KNIL Air Force, which displayed their newly acquired Glenn Martin bombers. On 7 April they paid a formal state visit to the Governor-General in Batavia, and a day later visited him informally at his palace at Buitenzorg, south of Batavia. Lord and Lady Gowrie left for Singapore on April 9.

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11} Considering the program of the visit and the Australian Governor-General's military background, it is inconceivable that military matters were not discussed between them. The official reports by both Australian and Dutch participants, however, make no mention of defence [11], a silence most likely explained by the strong neutral attitude of the Dutch government at the time. The articles which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 and 7 April regarding Anglo-Dutch defence co-operation thus caused acute embarrassment. The Dutch Consul-General, T. Elink Schuurman, formally requested some kind of official statement by the Australian government that no defence issues had been discussed [12]. Lyons obliged, and made a statement in the House of Representatives on 27 April 1938, in which he referred to Lord Gowrie's visit and emphasized that, contrary to press speculation, the visit had "had no political or military significance whatsoever" [13]. It may easily be deduced, however, that informal discussions on defence matters had definitely taken place because a letter sent by the Colonial Office in London to the Foreign Office stated that if the Committee on Imperial Defence objected to proposals for closer collaboration with the Dutch, Lord Gowrie should be informed without delay [14].

{12} Another indication that defence cooperation had indeed been discussed informally may be found in the report on a meeting between Lord Gowrie and the Dutch Minister in London on 11 May 1938. Lord Gowrie talked freely about Australian re-armament plans and about the defence of Singapore, which he had inspected after his visit to Java [15].

3. Tentative Australian-Dutch defence discussions before May 1940

{13} The genesis of military co-operation between the Dominions and the Netherlands originated not in Australia, but in New Zealand. The Dutch Consul in Wellington, M.F. Vigeveno, reported on March 23, 1939 on the frank discussions he had had with Commodore Horan, the Chief of Staff of the Royal New-Zealand Navy (RNZN). Horan strongly emphasized the need for Dutch co-operation in the defence of the Pacific and therefore stressed the importance of Dutch naval representation at the ensuing Pacific Defence Conference, which was planned to take place in Wellington from 14 to 16 April 1939 [16].

{14} On account of their neutrality the Dutch did not participate in that conference. Those nations present at the Conference (Britain, Australia and New Zealand) concluded unanimously that The Netherlands government should be approached [17]. It was decided that the Australian Naval Chief of Staff, Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin, should contact the Dutch Consul-General in Sydney about the possibility of a visit to the NEI to discuss mutual naval matters [18]. The request was politely yet firmly turned down by the NEI authorities.

{15} After the outbreak of the war in Europe, Australian anxiety about a change in the status quo of the East Indies increased, as it was feared that Holland might soon be occupied by Germany. On 10 November 1939 the Australian Government inquired in London whether the British Government had any contingency policy should that occur [19]. The British view was that, if Germany attacked The Netherlands, the Dutch would resist, and that in the East Indies the Dutch would actively co-operate with the British in catching German ships leaving East Indian ports. This expectation was based on a report by the British Commander-in-Chief, China Station, Vice-Admiral Sir Percy Noble, who had visited Batavia harbour on board his flagship, HMS KENT, in April 1939. There he had met the Dutch Naval and Military Commanders-in-Chief, who had given him confidential information on Dutch policy on Japanese aggression. His report [20], a copy of which was sent to the Australian Naval Board, stated unequivocally that "the use or occupation of any part of the Netherlands East Indian Territory by the Japanese will at once be countered by bombing, and the Dutch will immediately declare war themselves in the event of Japanese aggression". Before this report was issued, there was uncertainty in British and Australian defence circles about the willingness of the Dutch to defend themselves in the face of a Japanese attack. The report even mentioned an informal Dutch proposal to the effect that the British Fleet and Air Arm would operate in the Singapore-Sumatra-Borneo theatre, with Dutch forces operating east of it based on Surabaya and Ambon. The report, for which no equivalent has yet been found in Dutch archives, is the first documentary evidence of informal discussions at the highest military level between Dutch and British commanders. It contains highly secret information, for example, about the existence of concealed Dutch airfields in the jungle of Borneo.

{16} In October 1939 secret talks were held between the trade representative of the Dutch Consulate-General, Mr. J. van Horst Pellekaan, and the Australian Controller-General of Munitions Supply, N.K.S. Brodribb, on the possibility of obtaining defence supplies for the Netherlands East Indies. Brodribb then went to London with R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development. At the same time the Australian Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington was approached by the Dutch Minister, Dr A. Loudon, asking whether a meeting between Australian and Dutch officials would be feasible in order to discuss the possible supply of war materials to the NEI from Australia [21]. Concurrently, the Dutch Consul-General in Sydney enquired whether Casey and Brodribb could talk with Dutch army officials on their return to Australia from London [22]. This was indeed arranged, both men speaking to Dutch army officers on the day of their arrival by Qantas flying boat at Surabaya on December 14, 1939. The subject of the secret talks was the supply of ammunition to the Dutch [23]. From all these secret talks it is clear that, although the formal Dutch policy of neutrality was strictly sustained, the likelihood of German occupation of The Netherlands was considered highly probable, an event which would cut off their source of ammunition supplies. The NEI Government wanted a safe supply of weapons and ammunition, but was not yet interested in any closer defence co-operation.

{17} The secret meeting at Surabaya resulted in a formal request from the Dutch to the Australian Government to explore the possibility of Australia supplying munitions to the NEI. Bruce informed Prime Minister Menzies about this matter on January 25, 1940 [24]. He stressed that the Dutch Government was interested in long range policy rather than fulfilling immediate supply needs. Menzies answered positively, stressing that Commonwealth officers were aware of the Dutch needs (as outlined at Surabaya), but that the Dutch Consul in Sydney had agreed that the Australians needed more time in order to examine their capacity to fulfil them [25]. It can be inferred that the discussions at Surabaya had already been very detailed with respect to the Dutch requirements. It can also be concluded that the KNIL had not until then really been in a hurry to improve their armaments position. Holland was still a free country, and when the Australians asked for more time, the Dutch did not object. As far as we know, no further contact, either formal or informal, was made between Dutch and Australian armed forces representatives until October 1940.

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4. The period of secret talks, June-December 1940

{18} This laissez-faire attitude gave way when Dutch policy makers realised the full consequence of the loss of the motherland in May 1940. In June 1940 the Dutch trade commissioner in Sydney, van Holst Pellekaan, contacted the Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, Colonel Hodgson. The Dutch wanted to send a military mission to discuss the delivery of Australian arms and munitions. As no formal reply was received, the Consul-General, Elink Schuurman, urged by his Government, sent a second request in stronger terms on August 26, 1940 [26]. On August 15 the Dutch Minister in London also approached Bruce on the same issue [27]. On 16 September the Australian Government decided that a small KNIL-Commission would be allowed to visit Australia. At the specific request of the Dutch, the visit was to be as low-key as possible, and the Commission was to be referred to in public as an Industrial Research Commission [28].

{19} The Commission consisted of three KNIL Officers: Colonel P.H.T van der Steen (Artillery Commander, Coast Artillery Surabaya), Air Force Major Dr. G. Otten, and Artillery Captain F.B. Kroese. They arrived on October 23, 1940 as civilians on a regular KNILM flight. With the exception of Van der Steen, who stayed for about a week, the members of the Commission were taken on a very extensive tour of the complete Australian Defence establishment, leaving the country early in December 1940 [29]. The Commission visited 65 factories producing weapons and munitions, and a number of military installations and testing grounds. The members of the commission were very appreciative of the openness and high degree of co-operation displayed by Australian officials at all levels. In their official report, however, they expressed amazement at the lack of urgency shown by the Australian workers, who, they wrote, even organized strikes while their country was at war.

{20} The semi-official Dutch history of The Netherlands in the Second World War makes no mention of the attempts by the KNIL to secure weapons and munitions from Australia. Only one passing remark has been found about some Australian assistance to Dutch weapon factories in Java, which is also off the cuff [30]. This is all the more surprising because the list of Dutch requirements was quite extensive. They were divided into two categories, one immediate, and the other prospective (three to six months). The immediate requirements were for 5 million rounds of .303 inch small arms ammunition, and 500,000 pieces of links to feed these bullets into machine-guns. Furthermore, 500 trench mortars, over 3 million mortar grenades, and 380 tons of TNT were needed. The equipment ordered consisted of anti-tank guns and ammunition, tanks, searchlights, armour piercing shell and aircraft bombs. The commission stated that the total long range requirement for small arms ammunition was about 100 million rounds per annum and therefore that it was necessary to establish a new small-arms munitions factory in Java. Both plant and equipment were to be obtained from Australia [31]. The commission’s report implied that there was a debate within the Dutch defence establishment on exchanging the existing .265 inch rifle barrel for the (British) .303 inch type of rifle and machine-gun. Should this exchange become definite, an additional 100,000 rifle barrels and 5,000 machine-gun barrels would be needed.

{21} The Australians responded to the Dutch requests on 25 November 1940. It was agreed to supply the 5 million rounds of small arms ammunition asked for, but because of the tight supply situation it was impossible to fulfil the other immediate Dutch requirements. It was, however, agreed to give the Dutch the specifications of the fuse of the Australian 3-inch mortar grenades and of the 250-pound aircraft bomb, and full specifications of the characteristics of TNT manufactured in Australia. As their part of the agreement, the Commission had handed to the Australians full information on the (Swedish) anti-aircraft fire control instruments being used by the KNIL, and drawings and specifications of the air bombs used in the NEI [32].

{22} It can therefore be concluded that, although official Dutch policy in the NEI was still neutral, by the end of 1940 a number of secret and informal contacts at higher political and defence levels in both administrations had been established. This virtually drew the Australians into the defence of the NEI against the likely common enemy, Japan. And as long as the Australian involvement was kept secret, it was welcomed by the Dutch. The next step would be the formalisation of the contacts which had been established. Although the original Dutch request regarding munitions and weapons supplies was only partly met by the Australian Government, both parties had worked together in remarkable unity and at great speed to produce in a mutually satisfactory conclusion. The Dutch military command then even decided to equip all KNIL/ML Air Force personnel with .303 inch rifles, as almost all the planes in service also had .303 inch Vickers and Colt/Browning machine-guns. This would also mean that if the KNIL/ML Air Force ever had to carry out duties in conjunction with the RAF and RAAF, no supply difficulties would arise from the use of different types of weaponry [33].

{23} On 1 October 1940 the Australian Minister in Washington reported that the British Ambassador, Lord Lothian, had been approached by the US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull. He had asked for immediate private staff meetings to be held between the USA, Britain, Australia and The Netherlands to discuss technical problems should these countries be involved in united defence action, although Hull stipulated that these talks were to be technical, and would have nothing to do with political policy [34]. It was the start of a chain of events which lead eventually to staff talks between all four powers, two of which were officially neutral.

{24} In a military appraisal in early August 1940, the British Chiefs of Staff had already expressed their view that "One aim of our policy should be ultimately to secure full military co-operation with the Dutch"[35]. It is therefore not surprising that both the Australian and British Governments welcomed the American initiative and made immediate plans for these talks. After some haggling about the place (both London and Washington were suggested), agreement was reached for the talks to take place in Singapore, and the British Government approached the Dutch about being present [36]. The Dutch Government, however, supported Governor-General Tjarda's opinion that even secret staff talks formed a breach of Dutch neutrality, and could represent a pretext for the Japanese to intervene if they got to hear of them. Due to their excellent intelligence, this would only have been a matter of time. The fact that the Americans did not show up worsened matters. Roosevelt faced an election challenge on November 5, 1940 and did not want to do anything which might endanger his re-election. Their involvement in staff talks was postponed for the time being [37]. Accordingly, on 22 October 1940 the Defence Conference at Singapore was attended only by Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The report of the conference, however, had two appendices which listed points for discussion with Dutch and American authorities as soon as that became politically possible [38]. The report also revealed such an alarming weakness in the defences of Singapore that the Australian Cabinet decided that Menzies should travel to London to discuss this and other matters directly with Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff [39].

{25} With Roosevelt safely re-elected, new invitations went out for staff talks in Singapore. The Americans attended as observers, and the Dutch Government in exile had put pressure on Tjarda to comply with any agreements made. On 26-28 November 1940 these talks between all four powers took place. The British Government had spelt out the objectives of these talks and had sent copies to the other governments involved [40].

{26} The results of this conference were considerable. It was agreed that liaison officers would be appointed with utmost urgency. Commander G.B. Salm was appointed Dutch naval liaison officer with the Australians. The Australian Government appointed Commander V.E. Kennedy RAN as liaison officer in Batavia. The Dutch also agreed to provide fuel, spares and ammunition for the RAF and the RAAF at their military airfields in Sumatra, Borneo and the Eastern NEI The Dutch indicated that they lacked adequate stocks of small-arms ammunition and asked for assistance in replenishing them.

{27} About a month later, on 29 December 1940, Elink Schuurman had a long and frank talk with Menzies, who strongly expressed his misgivings about the Dutch policy of being allied with Britain in Europe, while remaining shy of co-operation with Britain and Australia in the Far East. He strongly urged that secret staff talks be held directly between Australia and the NEI, and emphasized Australia’s vital interest in their integrity. For reasons of British foreign policy, not wanting to give the Dutch a unilateral guarantee without the backing of the US, it was impossible for Australia to give the Dutch a similar guarantee; but the former would, out of self-interest, do their best to provide weapons and munitions to the NEI [41].

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. Staff talks, January-May 1941

{28} On 12 January 1941 the Australian Minister for the Army, P.C. Spender, visited the Dutch Governor-General at Batavia and obtained his agreement to hold staff talks between the Australians and the Dutch directly. The Australian Government reacted very quickly. On 22 January 1941 Menzies accepted the Dutch invitation dated January 18 to send a military delegation to Batavia. This delegation consisted of Wing Cdr W.L. Hely and Squadron Leader H.W. Berry of the RAAF, Cdr V.E. Kennedy of the RAN, and R.H. Doyle, Controller of Production, Munitions Department. On 11 and 12 February 1941 they met officers from both the Dutch Royal Navy (KM) and the KNIL in Batavia to discuss a number of issues concerning defence co-operation. Kennedy reported to the Australian Naval Board on February 14, describing the meetings as open and pleasant. Agreements were reached on informing each other of the positions of ships bound for or leaving the Dutch East Indies and the Australia Station. To his amazement, Kennedy found out that the Commander-in-Chief of the British China Station, Vice-Admiral Geoffrey Layton, was already reporting the position of Australian warships to the NEI authorities [42]. This showed that far more informal but effective Anglo-Dutch naval co-operation at operational level had been taking place than had been approved by the respective governments. A very good personal friendship between Layton and his Dutch counterpart, Vice-Admiral C.E.L. Helfrich, helped considerably. The Dutch also gave them information about the positions of minefields, and advised the Australians that they would re-route all their shipping to and from the US West Coast through the Torres Straits to minimise Japanese interference. It was also agreed that Tjilatjap harbour on the south coast of Java would be expanded to handle more freight.

{29} It was intended that the Dutch Army Chief of Staff, Major-General H. ter Poorten, would attend the meeting between the British Commander-in-Chief, Malaya Command, Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, and the Australian War Cabinet scheduled for February 10-17. At the last moment, however, this visit was cancelled by the Governor-General himself because of threatening Japanese moves, to the considerable embarrassment of Schuurman, because some of the Australian generals and politicians had interpreted it as a signal of appeasement by the Dutch towards the Japanese [43]. But Brooke-Popham did have the opportunity to talk to the Governor-General and afterwards to Ter Poorten as well during a short stop in Batavia on his way to Melbourne. Ter Poorten attended the second Four-Power Staff Conference at Singapore at the end of the month in person. He also visited Australian Army headquarters at Melbourne between 15 and 28 March 1941. The result of these extended talks was that an agreement was reached, not only to detach six officers from the tank corps at the Australian Tank Corps School at Seymour, but also to extend an invitation to the commander of the Australian Coast Artillery to visit the coastal defences of Surabaya. This invitation was accepted and the visit subsequently took place [44].

{30} The fact that the Qantas airline service from Sydney to London used the Batavia airport for refuelling made it possible for Australian officials to have more frequent contact with their Dutch counterparts on their way to and from London than would otherwise have been the case. These facilities meant that it was easy to arrange a meeting on January 28, 1941 between Menzies and the Dutch Governor-General. Tjarda's report sent to the Minister of Colonies on that meeting stated that Menzies was willing to go to war against Japan should Dutch territory be taken. It also mentioned the willingness of the Australian Government to discuss the possibility of garrisoning an Australian Army Division on Java [45]. Based on the information he got from Tjarda, Menzies started his first meeting at the Foreign Office in London on 26 February 1941 by asking "whether we regarded the Netherlands East Indies as vital" (meaning that the invasion of that territory would be a casus belli) [46]. The Foreign Office left the question unanswered for the time being. The Naval Staff were less diplomatic, for during talks between Menzies and the Vice Chief of Naval Staff on 8 March 1941, Vice-Admiral T.S.V. Phillips stated that "we should not go to war with Japan over their occupation of any part of the Netherlands East Indies; this would only add to the number of our enemies, and if Germany could first be defeated we could turn to Japan later and deal with her" [47]. It was a straight answer, but not the one Menzies was expecting.

{31} After their meeting with Dutch senior officers, the Australian military delegation went straight from Batavia to the second Four-Power Staff Conference at Singapore, which took place on 22 February 1941. The Dutch were present in force, as were the Americans, who again attended as "observers". At that conference, it was agreed that Australia would take over the defence of Ambon and Timor if war broke out in the Pacific. Australian forces at Ambon were to be under Dutch control at the outset. The Allied Forces in Dutch Timor, however, would come under Australian control on the arrival of their army units. The Australians would contribute to the defence of the Ambon-Timor-Darwin triangle with two Hudson Bomber squadrons and two army brigades. This was later reduced to a force of about 1,200 men each for Ambon and Timor. The RAAF units were not to be stationed permanently at Ambon and Koepang, but advance parties were to prepare the bases for their transfer. The Australian War Cabinet agreed with the recommendations issued after the Singapore Conference, but in collaboration with the Dutch authorities it was also decided that radio equipment, vehicle transport, bombs and ammunition, aviation fuel and general stores should be sent to Ambon and Koepang in advance. The equipment and stores would bear Dutch markings and would be charged to the KNIL [48].

{32} The Australian Government was less happy about the failure of the conference to draw up a co-ordinated naval defence plan for the Far East and it therefore urged that a third conference be held to formulate such a plan [49]. During the parallel US - British Staff Talks held in Washington from January to March 1941, the British secured the American commitment to attend the next Singapore conference as official participants. In that capacity they had already attended the Anglo-Dutch-Australian-American Combined Services Communications Conference which had taken place on 27 February 1941. At that conference the four parties disclosed to each other the frequencies and station calls of ships and shore installations and air bases. The Dutch representatives disclosed the existence and call signals of the top-secret Samarinda-II and Singkawang-II airfields in Dutch Borneo, and codes and ciphers were standardised and exchanged. The importance of this conference has been overlooked in most official military histories of the countries concerned.

{33} The third Four-Power Singapore Staff Conference took place on 21-27 April 1941, with the Americans now as full participants. It was an important conference which laid the foundation for the later ABDA-Allied Integrated Command, the first of its kind during the Second World War. During this conference the Dutch-Australian agreements with regard to the eastern part of the NEI were upheld against the wishes of the British delegates, who wanted to focus specifically on the defence of Singapore and its surroundings [50]. It was here that, for the first time, the Australians used the expression "Malay Barrier" to describe the importance of the NEI for the defence of Australia.

{34} The importance of this third and last Singapore Staff Conference was the feeling of all parties that, despite the political expediency of delaying declaration of a guarantee towards the NEI, the prospective allies were all in the same boat. The Dutch were officially still neutral, at least in south-east Asia, but at the operational level the frequency of contact had increased considerably since the last conference. It was the feeling of no longer being isolated that gave the Dutch the courage to join the American embargo against Japan a few months later, even though, politically, they had no obligation to do so and, militarily, it meant that a Japanese attack on the NEI oilfields would only be a matter of time.

6. The unofficial alliance, May-December 1941

{35} Based on the agreements of the second and third Four-Power Singapore Staff Conferences, the Australian Army produced a detailed plan on May 6, 1941 for the reinforcement of Timor and Ambon [51]. Two battalions of the 23rd Infantry Brigade AIF were to be employed. Meanwhile, 360 tons of military equipment were already on board two KPM freighters on the way to Ambon and Koepang. Six Dutch military planes arrived in Darwin on 17 May and went back to Koepang with a reconnaissance party on board, consisting of the Commander of the 23rd Brigade AIF, Brigadier E.F. Lind, and the battalion commanders of the two battalions in question, the Lt-Cols L.N. Roach and G.D. Youl [52]. As well, maintenance parties consisting of one officer and seven men were despatched to each of both areas to take charge of the military equipment. The results of the reconnaissance were the recommendations to have both the battalions and the maintenance parties strengthened and to set up a direct link with Dutch military headquarters in Bandoeng [53]. For military and political reasons, however, the Australian Government did not implement these recommendations.

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{36} The Australian Government did, however, carry out the recommendation to reinforce the Australian maintenance parties. They neglected to contact the Dutch Government directly on this issue, however, but made do by sending a request to the British Government [54]. The Foreign Office knew that the Dutch would angle for a guarantee on the integrity of the NEI, a guarantee which the British were unwilling to give. It took almost a month before the negative reply was given on August 7. The Dutch position thus remained as stated by the Commanding Officer KNIL, Lt-Gen. Berenschot, in a cablegram to liaison-officer Salm, dated May 8, 1941: that no Australian maintenance parties were to be allowed above the two seven-man teams, and that Dutch maintenance personnel would be supplied, "who will be instructed by so called factory personnel in civilian clothes" (that is, the seven-man teams already mentioned).

{37} In the period July-September 1941 the Australians shipped a number of motorcycles, a few lorries and ten Bren-carriers to each of the two sites at Koepang and Ambon. Ammunition, explosives, and two 6-inch coastal guns to be assembled protect its Koepang harbour were also sent [55]. As their equipment would already have been in place at the outbreak of the war, the two battalions would only have needed to carry their personal equipment with them at the time of transport to Koepang and Ambon. The Dutch government meanwhile offered assistance in the servicing of the 6-inch gun battery at Koepang before the arrival of the Australian crew, and this offer was accepted by the Australians. Two KNIL non-commissioned officers and 18 artillery men arrived at Koepang on 6 August 1941 for this purpose [56].

{38} It was only after repeated urgings by the Australians that the British Government (in early October) finally contacted the Dutch Government in exile about the issue of larger advance parties in uniform. This was to ensure discipline, which could not be maintained among soldiers wearing civvies. The new Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, tired of British foot-dragging, instructed Bruce to contact the Dutch Government in exile immediately on this matter. On 23 October 1941 he met the Dutch Minister to talk the subject over [57]. The Dutch government agreed to the Australian request concerning maintenance parties of 100 Army personnel and 52 Air Force personnel being based on Ambon, and 100 Army and 19 Air Force personnel being sent to Koepang in uniform. Nevertheless, the Dutch rejected the proposal to establish more troops at those sites before the outbreak of war because they feared "undesirable incidents with the population", especially at Ambon [58]. Their real fear, though, was loss of face in the eyes of the local population because of the obvious Dutch inability to defend their colony.

{39} This incapacity became especially clear in the dispute between Dutch and Australian authorities on the issue of the command structure on Ambon. At the Singapore conferences it had been agreed that the local Dutch commander, a lieutenant-colonel, would also command the Australian troops. After his reconnaissance trip, however, Brigadier Lind recommended that his headquarters should be at Ambon. A lieutenant-colonel could not be superior to a brigadier. The Dutch feared loss of respect by the very loyal local population if they realised that an Australian was in command at Ambon [59]. The Australian Chief of Staff therefore suggested that the brigadier should not to be sent to Ambon, and that the possibility of combined HQ at Ambon be negotiated with the Dutch authorities.

{40} Notwithstanding these problems, by October 1941 a solid foundation had been laid for close Dutch-Australian defence co-operation. The Australian liaison officers in Batavia and Bandoeng did not hide their presence any longer, and they were allowed to wear their uniforms. Warships and aeroplanes called at each other's harbours and airfields. It was a far cry from the situation which had existed just one and a half years before.

{41} On 5 December 1941, three days before Pearl Harbour, the NEI Government asked the Australian Government to send aircraft to Ambon and Timor [60]. The War Cabinet approved, and at dawn on 7 December, 1941 two flights of Hudson bombers from the 13th RAAF squadron flew to Laha Field in Ambon, and one flight of No 2 squadron flew to Koepang. That day, Brigadier Lind received orders at Darwin to move the 21st Battalion ("Gull Force") to Ambon, and the 40th Battalion ("Sparrow Force") to Timor. The troops were quickly shipped to their destinations, where their heavy equipment was waiting for them. As was planned, Australia took over the defence of a large part of the eastern part of the NEI at the moment that hostilities started. It was a momentous and unprecedented occasion, and it crowned the development of closer relationships between Australia and the Dutch East Indies in mutual defence.

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7. Summary and conclusions

{42} During the last few years of peace, there was a growing realisation in both the NEI and Australia that both countries had common interests. For Australia, the integrity of the NEI was a vital security need, as the island chain was a barrier between the Australian heartland and Japan. For the Dutch, Australia represented a much-needed industrial hinterland. This need became even more pressing after the loss of contact with the mother country following the German occupation. But, as has been observed, there were powerful obstacles to the emergence of an open alliance between the two countries. Australia was snared within the doctrine of Imperial Defence, and for the British under the leadership of Winston Churchill, the Far East had low priority. A guarantee to the NEI was out of the question.

{43} Among the Dutch there was a 130-year-old legacy of neutrality and aloofness, combined with lingering suspicions about British design on "the richest colony of the world". In the first few months after the catastrophe in Western Europe, there was still doubt as to whether Britain would be able to stand up to the expected German onslaught. This called for a prudent policy by the Dutch Government in exile, even when it was hosted by the British and based in London. As this government was in disarray during its first few months in London, the Dutch Governor-General in Batavia had wide freedom of action to determine local policy. That resulted in strict neutrality and aloofness, even with respect to the British ally in the Far East. All this was to the amazement and growing irritation of the Australian Government, which used its trump card - the overriding need of the Dutch colonial army to re-arm - most skilfully. This resulted in promising links even before the German occupation of Holland. The success of the military mission to Australia at the end of 1940, coupled with both the British victory in the Battle of Britain and increasing Japanese aggression, resulted in a complete change of Dutch policy at the end of 1940. Secret staff talks between British, Australian and Dutch officers then became possible [61]. Following Australian pressure put on the Dutch Governor-General during Menzies' visit, the way was clear for Dutch participation in the second and third Singapore Conferences. As late as October 1941, however, the Dutch authorities were still unwilling to allow Australian forces to enter their assigned areas of operations in the Moluccas and Timor.

{44} There were many factors which prevented early and effective co-operation between the Dutch and Australian Governments. First, although they disagreed with the British because of the vital interest they had in their own defence, the Australians adhered strictly to the British policy of not giving any guarantee for the territorial integrity of the NEI. This resulted in a serious loss of time. Secondly, the Dutch adhered to their traditional policy of aloofness as upheld by the Governor-General. This resulted in a year’s delay in the establishment of closer defence co-operation. Thirdly, Australia failed to achieve all-out industrial mobilisation before Pearl Harbour, as is evident from the production loss due to labour strikes. Consequently, the Dutch became dependent on one supplier of weapons only: the USA, which also had other interests to consider with respect to their prospective allies. The fourth factor was the weakness and vacillation of the Dutch Government in exile during their first year in London. This gave the Governor-General the opportunity to determine his own foreign policy, leading to much doubt in Australian, British and American political and military circles about the willingness of the Dutch to defend themselves should the Japanese attack. There was always the possibility that the Dutch administration in the East Indies would adopt the "French Model" of Indo-China if the Japanese put more pressure on them. Consequently, there was great reluctance by the US Government to export weapons to the NEI, especially in 1940 and early 1941. Dutch political and military aloofness as executed by the Governor-General therefore proved self-defeating [62]. It must be said, however, that Menzies did not share these doubts; early on he instructed his government to assist the Dutch to obtain modern weapons wherever possible.

{45} Of all prospective Dutch allies, Australia took the most positive stand and assisted them most in the two difficult years following the German occupation of Holland. It was in Australia's own interest to maintain the Malay Barrier as a protective shield, but the Australian Government faced formidable problems with the British Government in trying to justify this difference in attitude. The Dutch, however, appreciated the Australian position. In May 1941, the then Chief-of-Staff of the KNIL noted that co-operation with the Australian counterpart was excellent, remarking that Ambon and Timor had seen more Australians in the previous few weeks than in the hundred years before [63]! This appreciation of the positive Australian attitude towards the NEI can also be found in a cablegram, sent by the Governor General to the Dutch Colonial Minister on 14 April 1941 [64]. It was therefore no coincidence that after the Japanese invasion the Netherlands East Indies Government in exile established itself in Australia with the remnants of their armed forces, in the vain hope that the colony would be recaptured from there. That attempt was described in depth by Jack Ford [65] in his monumental study of Australian-Dutch relationships during the Second World War, and falls beyond the scope of this article.

http://www.awm.gov.au/journal/j29/herman.asp

royal744
08-07-2011, 03:40 PM
No, anyone who disputes anything you say is engaging in a pointless and fruitless exercise.

But it takes some of us a while to see that our efforts are pointless and fruitless, and then we disengage.

Feeling a tad "disengaged" myself! Every discussion that turns on speculation and opinion usually starts as fun and interesting but since the rival assertions are un- provable - because the "events" being discussed never actually took place - sometimes descends into acrimony. This is too bad. I don't mind agreeing to disagree after the opposing viewpoints have been clearly delineated, but the arguments don't need to go on ad infinitum. In rereading some of this I can tell you that I am impressed by Wizard's rather encyclopedic knowledge of the ithe Pacific War's details and yet still find myself convinced that my take on the issue is fundamentally correct, if unprovable.

Rising Sun*
08-08-2011, 09:26 AM
In rereading some of this I can tell you that I am impressed by Wizard's rather encyclopedic knowledge of the ithe Pacific War's details

As am I.


and yet still find myself convinced that my take on the issue is fundamentally correct, if unprovable.

My attempts at discussion with the Wizz haven't been to put my own take on the issue but to challenge his dogmatic pursuit of a particular position which, in my view, isn't supported by what happened as a basis for extrapolating to a 'what if' version.

Rising Sun*
01-23-2012, 06:26 AM
With the benefit of some recent reading (The Reluctant Belligerent: American entry into World War II, Robert A Divine, John Wiley & Sons Inc, New York, 1965) it seems that Japan would not have averted war with the US by avoiding the Philippines.

At page 149 he quotes Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 14, p. 1062 that on November 5 1941 the Joint Board of the Army and Navy headed by Admiral Harold Stark and General George C Marshall recommended that any attack by Japan on American, British or Dutch territory would have to be met by military action against Japan. He goes on to say


Roosevelt wondered what he should do if Japan bypassed American territory and struck only at British and Dutch possessions. At a cabinet meeting on November 7 [1941] Roosevelt put this question to his advisers, and they answered unanimously that in such a contingency the American people would undoubtedly back the administration and support a declaration of war against Japan. p. 149

Following intelligence about massive Japanese troop movements in Indo-China in the first week of December, Roosevelt pledged armed support if Japan attacked British or Dutch territory, which was consistent with the Joint Board's recommendation in early November but to which Roosevelt had not committed himself until the first week of December in discussions with the British ambassador. (pp. 153-4)

Divine's interpretation of events leading to Pearl Harbor is that Roosevelt was very cautious to avoid committing himself or America to armed conflict with Japan, because of uncertainty about how isolationists in Congress and the Senate would respond while being moderately confident that the majority of the American people would be supportive, until developments late in November and early December as Japan moved towards war encouraged him to take a more definite position.

Boutte
02-08-2012, 01:14 AM
Wow! Good argument! I'm impressed with both sides knowledge and give the edge to Wizzard although I think he's wrong. The US would not have had the resources to defend Indonesia. I'm certainly not nearly as informed on the subject as either of the opposing sides but it seems unlikely that the US naval forces based in Pearl Harbor could have successfully opposed the invasion from so many thousands of miles away. But I do agree that the U.S. would have declared war on Japan. Who knows how things would have developed from there?

royal744
08-31-2012, 11:17 PM
LOL. Until the election of "Shrub" Bush, firing the first shot was not an American tradition. The isolationists were mighty powerful. The Japanese would have been very smart to a) not attack Pearl Harbor and B) not attack the Phillipines. This would have started a firestorm of controversy in the US Congress, the outcome of which in my estimation remains quite doubtful.