Shannon Love wishes everyone a happy Isoroku Yamamoto Appreciation Day, as he describes what might have happened if the Japanese hadn’t attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor:
American public opinion remained stubbornly isolationist until February 14th 1942 when the American cruiser Indianapolis was torpedoed by an unknown submarine with substantial loss of life. Using the incident, FDR narrowly won a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan on March 7th 1942. Many have since argued that FDR hoped that Hitler might follow through on his Tripartite treaty obligation and declare war on the U.S but Hitler never rose to the bait.
The declaration of war was followed by a series of stinging and humiliating defeats for America. Japan seized Guam on March 9th and destroyed two battleships and cruisers that had been sent to defend the island. Following a long established plan, the entire U.S. Pacific fleet of 13 battleships and four aircraft carriers had previously moved from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines. They sailed to the relief Guam on March 21st and encountered the combined Japanese fleet on March 24th.
Unfortunately, the U.S. forces were commanded by the inept Kimmel who was a big gun battleship man to the core. By contrast, the Japanese commander, Isoroku Yamamoto was a world class innovator in the use of naval air power. Yamamoto deployed seven of Japans 9 carriers in the battle against Kimmel five carriers. The warnings of the Col. Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers in China about the quality of Japanese aircraft and the skill of their pilots were ignored. The Enterprise, Lexington,Hornet and Wasp were sunk and the Yorktown badly damaged against the loss of just one carrier for the Japanese. The Japanese competence with battleships likewise surprised the Americans during the subsequent night actions.
Kimmel limped back to the Philippines just in time to suffer a surprising and devastating air attack by long range Japanese bombers from Taiwan. Two carrier based attacks soon followed. Shorn of air cover, the American battleships fled the Philippines leaving the islands open to invasion on April 14th. The battleships were harassed by Japanese carriers all the way to Australia and by submarines all the way back to Pearl Harbor.
Yamamoto placed a capstone on his brilliant actions by launching a long range carrier strike on Pearl Harbor on June 5th 1942. He caught two of the last three remaining American Carriers, the Ranger and the Saratoga in port and destroyed them. (They had survived the battle of Guam by being in transits from the Atlantic at the time.) Then, almost as an afterthought, he seized Midway Island.
In a span of three short months, the Pacific had become a Japanese lake. Although five American aircraft carriers were being built at the time, only the wrecked Yorktown was still afloat and it could not possibly stand against Japan’s seven fleet carriers and their superb pilots and aircraft.
In August, faced with the very real possibility of an invasion of Australia, the British sued for peace. America soon followed. America had entered the war sharply divided and a stunning series of defeats in open battle had proved to many that isolationism was the way to go. Few Americans saw anything in the Pacific worth fighting for and Japan had proved itself a worthy and honorable foe. The peace was signed in December 1942 and America’s 9 month participation in WWII came to an end. FDR lost resoundingly to the isolationist Dewey in 1944.
Read the whole thing.