Home / Robert Farley / Saturday Night Linkage

Saturday Night Linkage


You’ll note that we have a permalink to the podcast feed in the near right sidebar, just above the Donate button.  That’s really a placeholder until I figure out a better place to put it.

I’ve determined, without too much soul-searching, to support Baltimore in tomorrow’s “Super” “Bowl.” I hate the Niners for most of my youth, but that’s faded; I also feel the need to represent for the West Coast.  However, my general preference for the AFC and relatively (3 years) recent time in the Charm City predisposes me to favor the Ravens.

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  • Michael Confoy

    Sorry, no on Java Sea and Guadalcanal was many battles. Also, Pearl Harbor wasn’t really much of a battle. If you had to pick one from WW 2 it should be either Midway or Leyte Gulf.

    • russiannavyblog

      Any list of great naval battles of Asia-Pacific that doesn’t have Midway, Tsushima, and Leyte Gulf some combination of one, two, and three is just inviting ridicule. Hell, how many more naval battles were more important than Midway? Trafalgar? Salamis? Tsushima, for the geo-political implications?

      • Question. Let’s say the US loses Midway. This delays the United States military crushing of the Japanese Empire by what, six months? A year?

        • russiannavyblog

          Well, lets say that the Japanese actually did the right thing and concentrated their forces on Midway, instead of dispersing them in theater and in the Aleutians. I don’t think its unreasonable to assume that better tactical leadership and operational strategy should have resulted in the destruction of the US carrier fleet in the Pacific (and aircrews) and occupation of Midway. The US would have been left with one carrier (the Saratoga), which was undergoing repair in San Diego until the commissioning of the Essex in December 1942. That means the Japanese essentially cut off Australia. Land based aircraft get to pummel Australia at will, while carrier based aircraft get to hit Pearl Harbor for practice, with the threat of raids on the West Coast or pinching off the Panama Canal always in the cards. That’s six months to wear down American will, more really, since the Essex and the Saratoga still aren’t worth that much due to the loss of three carrier air wings.

          So yeah, maybe it goes your way – American determination is re-doubled, and we merely wait for our huge industrial advantage to weigh in. Or, we throw in the towel, say “Fuck it, they kicked our ass twice for some islands we don’t give a shit about,” conclude a separate peace and concentrate on the European theater.

          We’ll never really know.

          • Murc

            The US would have been left with one carrier (the Saratoga)

            I’d forgotten about the Saratoga, but I believe you’re forgetting about the Wasp.

            • russiannavyblog

              I think the Wasp was in the ‘Lant, or transiting to the Pac when Midway happened…They planned to move her over, so yeah, she would have been available…It still would have been five or six Japanese fleet carriers vs. the newly arrived Wasp and a kind of crippled Saratoga for a long time though.

              • dave brockington

                And CV-4, Ranger, though she had limitations of her own.

          • Dave Haasl

            I’m not so sure the Japanese had significant carrier aviation to augment the Midway invasion short of delaying the attack to allow Shokaku and Zuikaku to participate. They had a CVL that was taking part in the Aleutians and a really old CVL that was sailing with deep in the rear. But these did not carry many aircraft and one was still operating biplane torpedo bombers (whatever model the Kate replaced). On paper the Japenese had the superior force but were unlucky (in large part to US code breaking and bad command decisions).

          • You’re right, we will never really know. But I don’t see the American government or the American people saying “fuck it” and throwing in the towel that early.

        • Murc

          How are we defining a loss here?

          Midway wasn’t important for the U.S keeping the Japanese off of the atoll in question so much as it was for sinking the core of their carrier fleet in a single go while only trading for the Yorktown in exchange.

          If Japan loses, say, three carriers, but the Enterprise and Hornet retire from battle and the Yorktown still sinks, I don’t think much changes. The Japanese take Midway, but aside from having to take it back the operational tempo across all theaters doesn’t change a whole lot. Hell, Yamamoto might decide to abandon the island after trashing it if he’s stung that badly in taking it.

          But suppose you mean a mirror universe Midway, where Japan sinks the Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown, and only loses one carrier, that it manages to get many crew and planes off of.

          That’s might conceivably delay the crushing of the Japanese Empire by a LOT. I mean a lot a lot. That sort of loss might have caused Roosevelt and Marshall to adopt a defensive stance in the Pacific while they concentrated on the European Theater; it also might have caused them to decide that devoting resources to Europe was a lower priority than regaining control of a rapidly deteriorating situation.

          With Midway in their hands and the only remaining American heavy carrier in-theater being, I believe, Wasp, Yamamoto would probably have seriously considered striking at Pearl Harbor again. How that would have gone is anyone’s guess.

          • That sort of loss might have caused Roosevelt and Marshall to adopt a defensive stance in the Pacific while they concentrated on the European Theater

            That was the original plan, after all. Midway and Coral Sea changed things a lot. But it’s unlikely that Japan, even given an extra year of control in the Pacific, had the productive capacity or raw materials to win against the Allies once the focus shifted away from Europe.

            They certainly wouldn’t have been more interested in negotiation when things started to go badly (as they would), nor was their innovation/development cycle likely to keep up with the US/UK. China certainly wouldn’t have been settled by then.

            • Murc

              But it’s unlikely that Japan, even given an extra year of control in the Pacific, had the productive capacity or raw materials to win against the Allies once the focus shifted away from Europe.

              That’s true, but the question wasn’t ‘does Japan win’ but ‘how much longer does it take them to lose?’

    • greylocks

      Guadalcanal was many battles

      When people refer to the “Battle of Guadalcanal” in a clearly naval context, I assume they mean the final major naval engagement, and not the entire campaign. We should probably cut the author a bit of slack there.

  • ChrisTS

    “I’ve determined, without too much soul-searching, to support” no team in the end-of-the season brain damage bowl.

    • BlueLoom

      I like the concept of the “Brain Damage Bowl.” More of that kind of talk, and it may begin to catch on among parents of high school football players. But if ya gotta pick one team, why not the only team in US pro football whose name is a literary reference. (This comment is from one who is stuck in the land of the “Racist Nickname” team.)

      • Rarely Posts

        I also like the “Brain Damage Bowl,” though it immediately reminded me of the Republican primaries, which really isn’t fair to professional football.

  • William Berry

    Yeah, the Guadalcanal thing is pretty strange. This was a campaign that lasted what, eight months?, and was roughly equal parts naval, land, and air operations. There were, if I recall, five major naval actions, all quite distinct and none large enough individually to qualify.

    And the Yalu River thing is just weird. Nothing China did militarily from the early 1800s (at least up to 1949) was particularly important given that the history of China for that period was really just one long arc of decay and disintegration.

    And also agree with guys upthread on Midway and Leyte. At least Midway. If decisiveness is a factor, Leyte might be a tad anti-climactic.

    • William Berry

      I should expand on and clarify my second paragrph: not that this wasn’t a big victory for the Japanese at the time, but even had they been defeated, it would have made little difference in the long run.

  • montag2

    WRT the B-52 crash analysis, it sounds pretty much on the mark, but the roots of it go back well before 1991. Almost from the day the plane went into service, pilots were claiming that the aircraft would do more than what the Boeing engineers said were the absolute limits on the airframe. This was only enhanced by widely repeated (and possibly apocryphal) stories during the Vietnam war of a pilot who rolled a B-52 as a consequence of a maneuver to evade a SAM.

    Add to that early exploits that did involve practicing flying below the radar at about 50 feet altitude (one of the worst B-52 accidents occurred in Montana with a plane (55-0108) flying out of Larson AFB on a very low-level practice mission which literally flew into gradually rising terrain at nearly 500 knots), and there was a rich mythology of the aircraft’s abilities.

    It’s readily apparent that the pilot in question was a hot-dog nearing retirement who wanted to finally do what he’d been hearing about all his career, before he no longer had the chance. Commanders should have realized this guy was in the grip of fantasy fulfillment and should have lifted his license, just to keep him from killing himself.

    Even though this was an aircraft with some pronounced limitations (one crashed after having its tail section torn off by storm turbulence, another had a wing ripped off in a high-speed dive after an electrical failure) and flying one was like waltzing with an elephant, the myths persist. I ran into a couple of ex-B-52 drivers at Pease in the middle `80s who predictably insisted that the airplane “would do a lot more than the engineers said.” (The boneyard at Davis-Monthan, not coincidentally, is littered with B-52s with worn-out, overstressed airframes.)

    By 1994, the plane had a well-delineated accident history that, had it been drummed into the heads of the Bud Hollands of the time, may have prevented a few more accidents, including his.

    • J. R. in W. Va.

      I found the analysis of leadership failure fascinating.

      Also the fragility of the B-52 itself. Given that those aircraft still constitute an important part of our ability to project military power after, what 60+ years, you can get the false impression that they are indestructible flying machines.

      Too true about the boneyard… but there are many thousands of planes out in the SW deserts. Google earth or Google maps show them quite well.

      • montag2

        There’s a crash history of the B-52 here:


        One listed was a crash at take-off (killing all aboard) in 1969 from Andersen AFB, Guam, where the wing completely separated from the fuselage just as the plane started rotation….

        I know the boneyard well. I used to walk the fence for miles in the late `50s. Still remember walking for more than a mile and seeing the same model propeller assembly stacked up along the fenceline.

  • Bexley

    Surprised you didn’t link to Mitt Romney’s bad news.

  • cpinva

    i’m surprised you didn’t link to iran’s introduction of its new, super-duper fighter jet, that doesn’t appear to ever have left the ground, in spite of “thousands of hours of test flights”. it even seems to have a radio in it.

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