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View Full Version : Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) and the Japanese Submarine war



Deaf Smith
09-03-2010, 10:05 PM
I realize the Japanese had a much different strategic philosophy about how the war would be fought at sea (the ‘decisive battle’) but, could not the Kriegsmarine and the Nihon Kaigun have worked together at the first of the war and pursued a combined effort to destroy the shipping capabilities of the United States? Could Operation Drumbeat have been played out on both coast?

Consider the fact that the Japanese had the best torpedoes in the war, longest ranging submarines, started with 63 open sea boats many of which could easily reach the west coast of America.

So one wonders, was there any high level talks between Germany and Japan to do just that?

Deaf

Wizard
09-04-2010, 11:35 PM
I realize the Japanese had a much different strategic philosophy about how the war would be fought at sea (the ‘decisive battle’) but, could not the Kriegsmarine and the Nihon Kaigun have worked together at the first of the war and pursued a combined effort to destroy the shipping capabilities of the United States? Could Operation Drumbeat have been played out on both coast?

Consider the fact that the Japanese had the best torpedoes in the war, longest ranging submarines, started with 63 open sea boats many of which could easily reach the west coast of America.

So one wonders, was there any high level talks between Germany and Japan to do just that?

Deaf

I cannot find an indication that there were ever any "high level" talks between Germany and Japan aimed at coordinating submarine warfare against the United States. Remember, that Japan's primary concern prior to Pearl Harbor was keeping it's attacks against Britain and the United States a secret; Germany was completely taken by surprise by the outbreak of war in the Pacific, and in fact, Hitler was embarrassed and angry that the Japanese had not informed him of their intentions. Clay Blair, his book, "Hitler's U-Boat War" Vol.1, Page 442, states that as of 1996, no information had come to light of any coordination between Germany and Japan as far as submarine attacks off the US coasts were concerned.

At the time, Germany had committed most of it's subs to supporting German forces in North Africa. Donitz was overjoyed to have an excuse to resume sub operations in the Atlantic, but had available only nineteen Type IX's, which were the only German U-boats which had the range to patrol effectively off the US East Coast. Some of these nineteen boats were already committed to convoy battles or under overhaul; just six Type IX's sailed in the first wave to attack shipping off the US east coast in Operation Drumbeat. In late December, 1941, the British staged a major commando raid on the Norwegian coast which rekindled Hitler's paranoia that Norway was the target of a potential British invasion. This caused him to order Donitz to reassign several U-boats to the Norwegian area diminishing the number available for patrols to the Western Atlantic.

The Japanese also had more commitments than subs; there were a total of just 30 boats in the Sixth Fleet on 7 December, 1941. Although the Japanese had more subs, they were engaged in training, overhaul, or research. Three subs escorted the Japanese Pearl Harbor strike force as it transited the North Pacific. Twenty-five other Japanese subs were deployed at, or near, Hawaii on 7 December, 1941. By January, 1942, around ten of those subs had re-deployed to the US West Coast where they sank two American tankers and damaged five other tankers plus two American freighters. One of the reasons for the sparse results may have been that Japanese submarine doctrine called for the use of only one torpedo against merchant ships; Japanese industry could not keep up with the constant demand for more torpedoes, and the IJN wanted to save most of their "tin fish" for use against warships.

These disappointing results probably played a major role in the decision of the Japanese IGHQ Navy section to redeploy many of it's submarines to the Indian Ocean where they might be able to find and sink British warships. In any case, neither the German subs in the Atlantic nor Japanese subs operating in the Pacific ever had the potential of destroying the shipping capabilities of the United States.

Carl Schwamberger
09-09-2010, 06:50 PM
Wizard.... that chart matches, more or less, a couple books I have on the shelf here. What is the source? I'd like to be able to refrence it if needed.

thanks

Wizard
09-09-2010, 09:14 PM
Wizard.... that chart matches, more or less, a couple books I have on the shelf here. What is the source? I'd like to be able to refrence it if needed.

thanks

The source of the chart is the excellent Hyperwar series, specifically page 80 of the document at the following link;

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/BigL/BigL-1.html

Rising Sun*
09-10-2010, 10:56 AM
I realize the Japanese had a much different strategic philosophy about how the war would be fought at sea (the ‘decisive battle’) but, could not the Kriegsmarine and the Nihon Kaigun have worked together at the first of the war and pursued a combined effort to destroy the shipping capabilities of the United States?

Deaf

This would have required a common purpose by Japan and Germany.

It never existed.

Each pursued their own objectives, without much or any regard to the other's and without any coordination of their actions and, worse, their aims.

The difference with the Allies is that they had a clear and combined objective, where the Axis powers had none.

Apart from that, Japan had little prospect of destroying America's naval and merchant marine capacity, not least because it lacked the oil to support such a sustained action over a vast ocean. Germany had a greater oil problem trying to get a force into the Pacific when it could not go through the Suez Canal. And all this is without looking at the naval ships available to the Axis powers.

It is instructive that for most of the Pacific war American ships went largely unescorted across the Pacific compared with Atlantic convoys, and with very few sinkings as a result.

As for Japan having the 'best torpedoes in the war', that was a double edged sword.

One edge was that the great range ended up in some spectacular 'own goals' during the Battle of Sunda Strait when Japanese torpodeos fired at Allied ships succeeded in sinking half a dozen Japanese ships engaged in the Japanese landing, including a ship carrying the the IJA commander General Imamura. Not that it affected the ultimate Japanese victory.

The other edge was that the oxygen propellant rendered a vessel carrying them subject to more serious damage if detonated by enemy attack than Allied vessels carrying Allied torpedoes.