Which Battle Had a Greater Impact?



  • Midway or Guadalcanal?

    Which battle had a greater impact on the war in the Pacific and quicken the defeat of Japan?

    Midway

    The Japanese lose four carriers and two cruiser, but this does not eliminate all carrier forces of Japan. Japan would later win carrier battles at guadalcanal.

    Guadalcanal

    The IJN losses consist of a entire prewar fleet. The IJA suffer over 50,000 men and the cream of the zero pilots and betty crews.

    The popular answer is Midway, but I must answer Guadalcanal. Yet, the thought rises in my mind what  if the IJN carriers loss at Midway had been used at Guadalcanal?

    What is your opinion?


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    All her best pilots died at Midway. Japan took years on aircraft training preferring on raising cadres of quality specialists because they had the opinion that quality was the crucial factor and that the only way they could compete with our numerical superiority. Losing 4 of the 6 top of the front line carriers could never be replaced and carriers were the primary weapon in the pacific war.



  • I agree if they still had the carriers guadalcanal would of been an american lost. its the carriers that protected the japanese islands. But if your intreasted in the Pacific you might like Battle 360 on the History channel. its a series that follows the US carrier Enterprise thoughout the war. it literally was a apart of most major battles.



  • I agree that Japan’s loss at Midway was major, but it did not tip the scale in the Pacific, it only even the odds.

    However, Guadalcanal loss for Japan doomed the IJN. The air units lost over Guadalcanal numbered over eight hundred. By the end of the Soloman Island battles Japan had no seasoned air units, IJN or IJA.

    While Midway was a major blow to Japan, Guadalcanal was a sink hole for men, ships and air units and resulted in Japan’s doom.



  • Gadualcanal has been fought because Japanese lost at Midway, otherwise no Guadalcanal campaign should be fought.

    Midway is not only the popular answer is also the answer that historians give to this question.



  • Jpn was on the offensive at Midway and Guad was a USA / Allied offensive.  USA industrial might alone would eventually shift the momentum, leading to a Guad-type battle.  The Japanese war planners already understood this before pearl.  They expected the USA to push through 50% of the Pacific within 5-6 years after they started their offensive.  Japan could then sue for peace and still come out ahead of their 1930-something baseline.  The earlier calandar date for our history was dictated by the Midway reversal.  The Midway losses proved a severe limiting factor to IJN responsiveness and shorted the Pacific war by 4-7 years.

    The Japanese planners optimistically planned for 10 years on the USA front provided they sank all of the first line USA carriers at the time.  10 years would have given the IJA enough time to seal off Burma, capture islands within range of  striking Austrailia, and consolidate China, the primary Asia campaign objective.



  • I am in no way playing down the role of Midway. What if Midway was won by Japan? It doesn’t win the war. They could not resupply a garrison on the island and it would have been taken back quickly.

    Japan had no chance of winning a war with the U.S. How could Japan knock us out of the war? Even if all our carriers were knocked out, Japan would still lose. With so few first class pilots Japan would have quickly ran out of qualifed pilots, carriers or no carriers.

    Japan’s only war winning plan should have been to invade India and hope that the British Empire would fall before the U.S acted.  Doing this without the U.S taking action is risky and unlikly.

    You guys rock! I enjoy talking WWII.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Japan could never conquer India. She didn’t have the resources for that. India was better run than China at the time because it was a colony of England. If Japan found itself wasting its resources on attacking ANOTHER GIANT NATION it would be worse than Hitlers two front war with Soviet Union and having the Japanese fleet that far away from home waters would cause a huge hole in the pacific that America would plug up.

    Besides the comparison was supposed to be Midway and Guadalcanal. If japan needed to pick one battle to lose it would lose Guadalcanal w/o question. Of course japan didn’t have any hope to win the war based on what they did to start the war and the first 6 months, but they figured they would have built up the island defenses and make them impossible to capture and generally make the Americans conclude peace terms out of the attrition of protracted inconclusive campaigns. But they didn’t pursue the strategy that allowed for such a war to follow. They needed to keep sinking the new ships we made so it would be clear that Japan was looking for a long war. I think they wasted too much time with complicated plans at Midway and wasted her strength at coral sea and with other carriers sent to the Aleutian campaign.



  • @ABWorsham4:

    I am in no way playing down the role of Midway. What if Midway was won by Japan? It doesn’t win the war. They could not resupply a garrison on the island and it would have been taken back quickly.

    Japan had no chance of winning a war with the U.S. How could Japan knock us out of the war? Even if all our carriers were knocked out, Japan would still lose. With so few first class pilots Japan would have quickly ran out of qualifed pilots, carriers or no carriers.

    Japan’s only war winning plan should have been to invade India and hope that the British Empire would fall before the U.S acted.  Doing this without the U.S taking action is risky and unlikly.

    You guys rock! I enjoy talking WWII.

    In WWI British and German fought the Jutland battle, the bigger sea battle in the battleships era (Dreadnought for being precise). Tactically it was a German victory but strategically the battle did not change the power ratio between the two fleets and do not allow the German Hoch See Flotte to break the blockade of the North Sea by the Grand Fleet.

    Why I speak of Jutland? Because Jellicoe, Admiral of the Grand Fleet, was labelled by Churchill as “the man that may lose the war in one afternoon”! The admiral of the German Fleet, Scheer, however, was not the man that may won the war in one afternoon… England is already stifling Germany, the only thing needed was to continue to blockade Germany with the objective to weaken her, more and more. It was like a siege. Sometimese battles have asymmetrical prizes for the opponents involved.

    Now coming back to Midway. Let’s first analyze the history as it went and only after trying to make hypothesis. USA won the battle in such a decisive way that mined the basis of the Japanese strategy. IJN Carriers and aircrafts strength was destroyed. There were few remaining veteran pilots able for teaching and  preparing new pilots. There was no possibility to replace the lost carriers and the expert crews. The overall Japanese strategies was broken. Guadalcanal was simply a consequence of Midway.

    Now we can speculate. What had changed if Japan had won Midway? Nothing. Japan had lost a more longer war, imho. The will of the USA people to avenge Peral Harbour was too strong. Japan, first of all, should have not attacked Pearl Harbour in the way they did. You may find an interesting analysis of Japanese economy and military compared to USA economy and military here:

    http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm

    I will add that a big role in the Pacific war was played by USA submarines. They effectively cut the importation in Japan of resources coming from the new acquired territories. Resources that was the reason for Japan entered the war against USA.

    So the only hope for Japan to win the war was to break USA morale. To “convince” USA politician, military and public opinion that conquering Pacific island after island will take a lot of years and blood. The people that lives during historical events have not all the information at disposal of the people that live after the historical events. War is made also of morale, will and vision not only of materiel. “If” Japan had won at Midaway those factors should have entered in play and who know what should have happen?

    On the other hand. Guadalcanal. Japan was already on the defensive. Usa had the initiative. The obiective was to bleed the Japanese army and navy. What had changed if Japanese have won at Guadalcanal? On the materiel and economic plane nothing. On the morale plane nothing. Why? Because USA having won at Midaway are on the offensive. The USA felt superior to the Japanese. They had confidence in the Navy and in the Admirals.

    So this is, IMHO, the importance of Battle of Midway. If I should ever write an history book on the Second Wolrd War the Midaway Battle will be one of the more important chapters of the book.



  • @Romulus:

    @ABWorsham4:

    I am in no way playing down the role of Midway. What if Midway was won by Japan? It doesn’t win the war. They could not resupply a garrison on the island and it would have been taken back quickly.

    Japan had no chance of winning a war with the U.S. How could Japan knock us out of the war? Even if all our carriers were knocked out, Japan would still lose. With so few first class pilots Japan would have quickly ran out of qualifed pilots, carriers or no carriers.

    Japan’s only war winning plan should have been to invade India and hope that the British Empire would fall before the U.S acted.  Doing this without the U.S taking action is risky and unlikly.

    You guys rock! I enjoy talking WWII.

    In WWI British and German fought the Jutland battle, the bigger sea battle in the battleships era (Dreadnought for being precise). Tactically it was a German victory but strategically the battle did not change the power ratio between the two fleets and do not allow the German Hoch See Flotte to break the blockade of the North Sea by the Grand Fleet.

    Why I speak of Jutland? Because Jellicoe, Admiral of the Grand Fleet, was labelled by Churchill as “the man that may lose the war in one afternoon”! The admiral of the German Fleet, Scheer, however, was not the man that may won the war in one afternoon… England is already stifling Germany, the only thing needed was to continue to blockade Germany with the objective to weaken her, more and more. It was like a siege. Sometimese battles have asymmetrical prizes for the opponents involved.

    Now coming back to Midway. Let’s first analyze the history as it went and only after trying to make hypothesis. USA won the battle in such a decisive way that mined the basis of the Japanese strategy. IJN Carriers and aircrafts strength was destroyed. There were few remaining veteran pilots able for teaching and  preparing new pilots. There was no possibility to replace the lost carriers and the expert crews. The overall Japanese strategies was broken. Guadalcanal was simply a consequence of Midway.

    Now we can speculate. What had changed if Japan had won Midway? Nothing. Japan had lost a more longer war, imho. The will of the USA people to avenge Peral Harbour was too strong. Japan, first of all, should have not attacked Pearl Harbour in the way they did. You may find an interesting analysis of Japanese economy and military compared to USA economy and military here:

    http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm

    I will add that a big role in the Pacific war was played by USA submarines. They effectively cut the importation in Japan of resources coming from the new acquired territories. Resources that was the reason for Japan entered the war against USA.

    So the only hope for Japan to win the war was to break USA morale. To “convince” USA politician, military and public opinion that conquering Pacific island after island will take a lot of years and blood. The people that lives during historical events have not all the information at disposal of the people that live after the historical events. War is made also of morale, will and vision not only of materiel. “If” Japan had won at Midaway those factors should have entered in play and who know what should have happen?

    On the other hand. Guadalcanal. Japan was already on the defensive. Usa had the initiative. The obiective was to bleed the Japanese army and navy. What had changed if Japanese have won at Guadalcanal? On the materiel and economic plane nothing. On the morale plane nothing. Why? Because USA having won at Midaway are on the offensive. The USA felt superior to the Japanese. They had confidence in the Navy and in the Admirals.

    So this is, IMHO, the importance of Battle of Midway. If I should ever write an history book on the Second Wolrd War the Midaway Battle will be one of the more important chapters of the book.

    Great reply Romulus! I have had to reconsider my question. We all should start posting good WWII thoughts and questions for discussion.



  • I would answer none of the 2 choices.

    Japan lost at Pearl Harbor when they failed to sink the USA carriers. They lost from the start.

    That failure haunted them later at Midway and Guadalcanal was more of a desesperate last stand in an already lost war.

    Had Japan sunk the carriers, they would have occupied midway and probably Hawai too, being able to come to terms as they planned.



  • @ABWorsham4

    Thanks ABWorsham4! By the way there is a section in this forum that is dedicated to WWII Discussion. In fact I think that this thread more correctly belong to that section.

    @Corbeau Blanc

    I quote myself:

    Now we can speculate. What had changed if Japan had won Midway? Nothing. Japan had lost a more longer war, imho. The will of the USA people to avenge Peral Harbour was too strong. Japan, first of all, should have not attacked Pearl Harbour in the way they did.

    I intended that the “nature” of the attack was key to USA willing to defeat Japan. The problem was that they attacked before a formal war declaration was delivered.
    What could have happened if Japan had destroyed the USA Carriers at Pearl Harbour? I suppose that United States had mobilized their industrial power in the same way they did and built Carriers, aircrafts and all the other needed weapons in order to overpower Japan the same way they did.

    If Japan had not attacked at all Pearl and if they had destroyed USA fleet in battle things could have gone differently.

    But there are too many “if” here. History is not made with “if”. History is the analysis of the fact as they have happened regarding the actual outcome and cosnidering it in respect to the theoretical alternatives.

    So the original question of ABWorsham4 was well placed. IMHO the answer in still Midway.



  • Debatable.

    USA had still options after the attack and it’s best units still at sea. There was still hope.

    I’m not convinced the will of vengeance would have been enough to overcome the despair of having no means to fight. Rebuilding from scratch rather than from the backbone of their full carrier force would have been a really different story.

    I would not have seen the Japaneses hold back in thoses conditions, the very US west coast would have been endangered. It took everything and lots of luck to win midway. I say luck causes it was sheer luck to take out 2 carriers minutes before their fully loaded planes launched, not morale like in Guadalcanal.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    They should have sunk that ocean liner in the panama canal to force a delay on transfer of war material to fight Japan.

    They should have attacked in 3 waves and finished off these Battleships

    They should have invaded Hawaii from the start, American power was not capable after the defeat to retake it too soon.

    but really if they left french indo-china alone they could have easily established their empire and not had any war. If they invaded the dutch colonies in say 1938-39 while Germany was drawing attention away from the world stage, they would have their oil and FDR would not have any support to DOW on Japan.

    They could have successfully raged war on China for as long as it took, and avoided war with USA. Nobody cared about China except a few British who were worried about their properties in Asia.

    If they had to attack USA, they should have wiped out the Ceylon fleet AND the pacific fleet at the same time, followed up with all those invasions. But after 10 years in China they could not even finish the job, proving that attacking USA was stupid, because China was totally backward in this time proving Japan didn’t have the capabilities to fight normal armies.



  • @Corbeau:

    Debatable.

    USA had still options after the attack and it’s best units still at sea. There was still hope.

    I’m not convinced the will of vengeance would have been enough to overcome the despair of having no means to fight. Rebuilding from scratch rather than from the backbone of their full carrier force would have been a really different story.

    I would not have seen the Japaneses hold back in thoses conditions, the very US west coast would have been endangered. It took everything and lots of luck to win midway. I say luck causes it was sheer luck to take out 2 carriers minutes before their fully loaded planes launched, not morale like in Guadalcanal.

    Debatable?

    In Yamamoto words: “I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success.”

    (By the way Midway happened 6 months after Pearl Harbour…)

    Japan only one possibility was to win breaking USA morale, defeating them and breaking the will of combat in order to obtain recognition of status quo of their conquests.

    Attacking as they did at Pearl Harbour achieved the opposite. They could even managed to sink the entire Hawaiian island sending all to the bottom of the sea: USA had not given up.

    Yamamoto, when once asked his opinion on the war, pessimistically said that the only way for Japan to win the war was to dictate terms in the White House, requiring them to eventually invade the United States and march across the country while fighting their way to Washington — i.e., Japan would have to conquer the whole of the United States. Yamamoto’s meaning was that military victory was completely impossible - a rebuff to those who thought that winning a major battle against the US Navy would end the war.

    Midaway was a lucky battle for sure but USA worked to obtain those victory. The task force 16 and 17 were there to wait the enemy AC because Nimitz knew of the coming attack having decripted Japanese messages. Moreover Nagumo do not performed well in command of the Japanese Carrier Force in that battle. Too much indecision in the planning of the attacks. He did not expected any opposition because according to plan USA forces should arrive there only after Midway invasion. He was then caught by surprise in the worst situation his Carriers may be. Furthermore USA soldiers, seamen and pilots were moved by a terrible resolve to avenge Pearl Harbour.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Yes and also it was the way the Japanese started the war that sealed their fate. They could just left us alone, which would have made king FDR in a poor position to convince anybody that Japan was worth fighting over. Eventually of course FDR would have created some excuse to get in the war. To prove the point he said he was very much relieved when Germany blundered and declared war on USA, which FDR could not get in this war if he got dropped off in his wheelchair with a BAR shooting Germans in france. Hitlers mistake was saving grace for the Allies.

    Funny that Japan was smart about leaving the Russians alone because they were too strong, but attacked USA instead.



  • I completely agree with you IL! It is the point that I had tried to made!



  • Well if you read the views of the Japanese (particually good is John Tolands The Rising sun in which he interviewed and documented the Japanese view of the Pacific War) they viewed Guadalcanal as the bigger disaster.

    They understood the defeat at Midway, but many viewed this as a Navy disaster, which the Army did not support nor believed needed to be undertaken. The loss of the 4 carriers and the aircrews was not viewed as particually alarming by the leaders in Tokyo at the time (not counting the Navy men of course).

    Guadalcanal, however became a struggle that the Japanese Army and Navy waged together (although they really didn’t always work together) and that consumed resources the Japanese could not afford to lose. The Japanese made supreme efforts to stop the US at Guadalcanal, and ultimately cost the IJN far more ship losses than Midway and finished off her naval aviator veterans. The Japanese Army also got a drubbing that was so severe that they abandoned GC…something they usually did not do.

    Certainly both battles were disasters for the Japanese but their view was GC was the point when they were thrown on the defensive and ultimately on the road to defeat.



  • Great post Legion6, you supported my original statement far better I than I could have.



  • The Japanese feeling and point of view are importants.
    Naturally the History have to listen to the witnesses but have also to work on the global picture of the historical events.

    The fact the Japanese are not willing to accept defeat can not change the importance of the Midway Battle. Its outcome was devastating for the IJN.

    The Imperial Japanese Army was fighting China from 1937 Being unable to defeat it. What could have done against the USA Navy? Defended each island to the last man? They did and still did not win the war.
    Hardly Imperial Japanese Army defending the island, may have defeated the USA Navy. Such idea is a signal of the erroneous evaluation of the relative strenght of the two country.

    The fact that Japanese politician did not understood that losing four irreplaceable carriers with all their veteran pilots is not a motive of praise. In fact, having not understood that the balance of sea power was related to the Aircrafts carrier and not the the Battleships was one of the big mistakes of the Japanese leadership.

    Japanese entered the war with a really powerful squadron of six Aircraft Carriers and veteran pilots. They considered them expendable. After six months four of them was sunk and the other two had lost almost all their veteran pilots. Looking at those facts (not opinions) it is obvious that Japan was losing the war before the battle of Guadalcanal even began. No matter what Japanese feels.

    Moreover, I repeat: without Midway victory there should not be a Guadalcanal battle.
    With Midway victory USA takes the initiative and even if they had lost at Guadalcanal they had won the war.



  • Certainly no one is debating the decisive nature of Midway. And the Japanese really had no chance to win a war against the US. Economically the Japanese were at a huge disadvantage. consider only about 15 % or so of US military output went to the Pacific.

    The US might have lost the war by being weak, losing its nerve, or having the american press or people turn on the conflict. Thank goodness previous american generations wern’t as comfortable as we currently are.

    But really wars are not waged based on logic of having a chance, even those who may know they have no chance still will sometimes role the dice. You never know what might happen and sometimes you just have to fight.

    Poland had no chance against Hitler but they refused to give in to his demands and they fought.

    Czechoslovakia probably had a chance against Hitler but were sold out and did not fight.

    The Confederacy had little chance of really beating the Union.  Should have quit after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, should have quit after the fall of Atlanta and the reelection of Lincoln. But by then it was too late. And when the South attempted a peace conference in early 1865, Lincoln and his generals told them to pack sand.

    The Romans at their height lost wars. The people beating them probably had no chance to win but win they did.

    The continentals had little chance of really beating the British. - but they did

    Iraq had little chance of beating the US. - in either war but fight both of them they did.

    and on and on throughout history.

    And once your in the war its real hard to make peace. The Japanese would never had looked for peace after one defeat. Heck it took them getting nuked twice and they still debated fighting on and even had a junior officer’s revolt to keep the war going.



  • Ok legion3, I see your point. You are right and also I am convinced that war is not a matter of logic or percentage. I have also exposed my point of view on this in my previous posts and my vision is similar to yours one.

    Historical analysis have to take in account the facts for understanding how the things are really went and the possible alternatives. For a battle this means that the possible outcome should be weighed in respect of the possible effect on the course of the war.

    Midway is important for the reason you are stating. A Japanese victory hardly had changed their economic inferiority but could have had a dangeroous moral impact on the USA. At Guadalcanal they coul not reach the same objective.



  • This question is created some great discussion.



  • I agree with you, a Japanese victory at midway would (probably) not have changed the inevitable outcome, might have prolonged it, and I don’t think that generation of Americans would have trimbled and lost heart.

    Loss at GC would also not have done anything more than give Japan further breathing space but America’s untouchable economy would have eventually plowed under Japan.

    Japan simply did not have either the economic resources or the military power to wage a long war, frankly neither did the Germans.

    A good book to read is KAIGUN Strategy, Tactics and Technology of the IJN 1887-1941 by Evans and Peattie. Apart from the technical aspects of the IJN and its early victories over china and russia, the book goes into great detail of the war the Japanese planned to fight, hoped to fight but in the end was unable to fight do to the changing nature of the Pacific War and the modern economic face or war.



  • Both battles give examples of lessons not learned. When the Japs were clearing the Brits from Ceylon and the surrounding area the search pattern they used to find naval units proved flawed. Since the Japanese met their objectives due to weight of numbers they used the same search pattern at Midway. Stupid.

    The Japanese had a habit of splitting naval forces with the thought of having them meet IN THE COMBAT ZONE. That worked exactly zero times when the tactic was discovered. So they approached Midway with a Landing Force and a Carrier Group. I’m going to go out on a limb to say if the Japs kept both groups as one the millions of additional rounds they could have thrown at the attacking American aircraft may have proved helpful.

    The actions leading up to Leyte Gulf were the result the Japs learning nothing from Midway and other battles. They went into the Phillipines with three naval forces and these were handled one at a time. One force was mualed twice in fact. Of course with a little more resovle the Japanese could have turned Leyte into an American grave yard.

    The Pacific war was filled with stories of needless sacrifice on the part of the Japanese service member. Guadalcanal showed the banzai charge to be a less than useful tool in modern warfare. Yet it happened over and over throughout the war. I can imagine some NCO or officer saying “Ammo’s low. Time to get shot. Let’s go gang! BANZAI!” Kiss my a$$ sarge. I’m going coconut hunting.

    Even when the outcome was no longer in doubt the Japanese military leadership poured resources into Guadalcanal. This was the result of them not being able to accept being wrong. In the end that would prove to be the biggest mistake the Nipponese would make. It took entirely too much convincing to get them to admit being wrong.

    The biggest contribution of both battles was no contribution at all for one side. The Japs learned nothing from their mistakes. Our boys used that to tactical, operational, and strategic advantage throughout the war.


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