December 31st, 1941
Residennce of CINCPAC
The reception was being held at the residence of CINCPAC soon after the ceremony at headquarters. The new CINCPAC Admiral Chester Nimitz was in the process of greeting some of his many guests when Admiral Pye his predecessor pulled him aside.
“Admiral Nimitz there is someone that I think you ought to meet” escorting him over to where Admiral Rearson stood with Captain’s Strikes and Franklin.
“Admiral Nimitz I would like to introduce you to Vice Admiral Rearson, Captain Strikes CO of the North Carolina and Captain Franklin CO of the Virginia some of the finest battleship commanders I’ve seen in some time”
“Admiral Rearson, Captain Strikes, Captain Franklin” shaking each man’s man in turn “thank each of you for coming to the change of Command ceremony and this reception. Very few of the officers that are present here do I know personally, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
“And you too Admiral Nimitiz under the circumstances”
“Captains if you will excuse us I would like to talk with the Admiral alone”
“Yes sir” they both said and walked away from the pair of Admirals
“Admiral Rearson will you walk with me”
“I’ve taken the liberty of reading your service record, hope you don’t mind, it’s a habit that I had picked up some time ago”
“No sir, as CINCPAC it’s your prerogative and I have nothing to hide”
“Don’t get defensive Admiral on me Admiral Rearson I’m not accusing you of anything it’s just I find your record very impressive, from the way you rose in rank to the operation you led at Wake. The only black mark I see during the Battle of the Convoy’s over in the Med earlier this year. What happened?”
“I don’t understand Admiral Nimitz?”
“Well according to the report the Heavy Cruiser Tuscaloosa was lost as a result of friendly fire. How did this come about Admiral”
“I explained this as my Board of Inquiry”
“Yes I know Admiral Rearson, but I would like to hear it again?”
“Well sir the engagement that we were in was hot and heavy. The Italians were giving us a fight contrary to what the British had told us about them. The Wichita and Tuscaloosa and become separated from the their group as a result of torpedo attacks on them which resulted in the Tuscaloosa getting struck by two Italian torpedoes. Knowing this I ordered a flight of attack aircraft to go after several of the Italian ships, the only flight that was ready was a group of Swordfish torpedo bombers off the Furious. Mistaking the Tuscaloosa and Wichita for a pair of damaged Italian cruisers that were also in the vicinity they launched a torpedo attack only realizing that they were American cruisers after the torpedoes were launched”
“Wasn’t it your responsibility as CIC of the Task Force to disseminate images of all US ships involved in the operation?’
“Yes it was and I believed that I had accomplish it, why the third degree Admiral Nimitz, I was exonerated at the Inquiry. The thing is Admiral Nimitz is that I’m a battleship skipper. I know how to use these ships to great effect but whereas I know how to command battleships I have little experience in the operations of carriers which is evident in that battle against the Italians. What you need is someone with the necessary carrier experience to command them and allow me to engage the Japanese with my heavy ships”
“Admiral Stark realized your shortcomings in carrier operations right after he reviewed the battle reports. There was some discussion of demoting you as a result of not using your carriers to their fullest potential but you seem to have champion in Admiral Stark and using his influence cancelled that demotion. Not to worry Admiral I do have someone who is ideal to command my carriers. Have you heard of Admiral Halsey?”
“Yes sir but by reputation only”
“Well it’s a reputation well earned. While you and Admiral Lee will handle the heavy units he will command the carriers and since he’s senior he will be in overall command of the Pacific Fleet. In fact you will get a chance to meet him shortly”.
“As I said don’t get defensive on me. I felt no fault in the actions that you took either I just wanted to hear from you about what happened. What happened to the pilot of that Swordfish?”
“To be honest I don’t really know”
“Would you be interested to know that as soon as the Furious returned to England he was reassigned to a flight training center and he is still there”
“I’ve no comment on the subject Sir”
“I didn’t think you would, now about the Wake Operation”
“Yes sir what do you want to know?”
“Well I read the after action report on the operation. I’ve just one question for you Admiral why did you split your force when you approached Wake”
Well sir knowing the Japanese position from lookouts ashore I decided to use the island itself as a buffer against possible torpedo attacks while at the same time engaging the Japanese force”
“Wouldn’t have that action put the marines ashore in jeopardy from Japanese shellfire”
“No sir in fact the opposite, by doing what I did I forced the Japanese gunners to shift fire from shore bombardment to engaging us thus remove the marines from any more shelling”
“I see what of your lighter ships Admiral’
“Well while the battleships and heavy cruisers were busy engaging the enemy from off the North Shore of Peale Island. I decided that I would attempt a torpedo attack on my own thus preempting any move the Japanese may make in this area, and it worked to a point”
“Go on Admiral”
“Well sir combined with eh gunfire from the heavy ships and the torpedo attacks from the light cruisers and destroyers we caught the Japanese force flat footed. Between the two we sunk most of the ships except for a heavy cruiser, light cruiser and two destroyers. The ships that remained afloat after the torpedo attack were finished off by aircraft from Wake and the Saratoga”
“As our heavy force past Toki Point on Peale Island the remaining Japanese ships in their effort to escape launched a torpedo attack of their own hitting the North Carolina[I] with a single torpedo, the [I]Virginia with two torpedoes, while 1 hit the Minneapolis. The Japanese heavy cruiser Aoba paid dearly for that action as she was struck by no less than six shells from the two battleships and was blown out of the water. One of the escaping destroyers was struck numerous times and sunk by the heavy cruisers. Only 1 light cruiser and 1 destroyer escaped the carnage.
Our losses unfortunately was 1 destroyer, the Flusser which according to lookouts on other ships nearby was struck amidships on her torpedo mounts which exploded breaking the ship in two. The aft section was the first to go sinking 15 minutes later while the bow section stayed afloat a lot longer. Of her crew only we rescued only rescued 154. The light cruiser St. Louis was struck in the bow by a single torpedo blowing the first 20 feet of it off. Damage Control parties managed to keep her afloat by shoring up what remained of the forward section, 69 of her crew died or were wounded as a result of the hit. Right now she is undergoing temporary repairs for her voyage to the states and Mare Island”
“Outstanding tactics Admiral, glad to have you aboard my command”
“Glad to be aboard Sir”
“With you in charge of my heavy units and Halsey in charge of Carrier operations I feel sorry for the Japanese”
“I sincerely hope so”
“The thing is Admiral I have plenty of destroyer and cruiser skippers, battleship skippers and good ones at that are in short supply which is why you were transferred from the Atlantic Fleet upon my recommendation. The position also calls for a Vice Admiral so you have both the qualifications that I’m looking for”
“But Admiral Nimitz with my two battleships going into the yards you have no battleships”
“On the contrary Admiral, I thought you knew we’re going to be getting the South Dakota and Indiana by the same time your ships will be getting out of the yard. This will give you 4 new battleships to work with and train”
“What of the Massachusetts and Alabama from what I’ve been told they are close to being commissioned, will I be getting them as well once they are?
“At first that was the plan but the Secretary of the Navy and Admiral Stark changed their orders. They will be joining the British fleet until some of her damaged battleships are repaired and the first of the Panther class battle cruisers and Royal Sovereign class battleships are placed in commission. A couple of the Royal Navy’s new carriers the Implacable and Britannia will also be commissioned sometime next year’
“What of our other new construction, just where do they stand?”
“Well several of the new Essex class carriers will; be commissioned towards the end of the year along with half a dozen or so Baltimore class heavy cruisers. A new light cruiser class the Cleveland class will also have several new ships commissioned as well as a couple of Iowa class battleships. Several of the Montana class battleships are nearing their launching point, same as for 2 or 3 of our larger battle carriers, which some congressmen are proposing to name the Wake Island after our first victory over the Japanese.
Two of our much larger Maine class battleships having been laid down last year are nearing 30% completion and the first should be commissioned in 1944. Oh! Incidentally 2 more ships have been added to the Constitution class battle cruisers, they’re still toying with their names but so far the names that are in the lead right now are the Bon Homme Richard and President. Instead of President others are leaning towards Independence, Franklin or [/I]Columbus[/I] in honor of our first Ships of the Line. We will have to see what name the President chooses
So by the end of the year you should have besides the 2 North Carolina’s, 2 of the South Dakota’s the other 2 South Dakota’s will remain in the Atlantic until the British rebuild their forces, 2 of the Iowa’s, and 2 of the Constitution’s under your command. Impressive lineup is it not”
“I would say so, and Halsey by your count barring any losses should have at least 9 carriers under his command, then we can finally go on the offensive”
“Exactly Admiral Rearson. By the way I have another Admiral, a Rear Admiral Willis Lee who is also an excellent Battleship commander. He will be working for me but indirectly he will report to you. Between the two of you we can form two battles groups thereby giving our Japanese brethren fits. By the way keep all of what I just told you under the hat and off your lips for the time being is that understood Admiral Rearson”
“Perfectly. What of the Wake garrison Admiral?”
“Barring any future attempts to take the island they will be supplied on a monthly basis with whatever supplies that Commander Cunningham will require. By the way he is being recommended for promotion to Captain and Major Devereaux to Lieutenant Colonel”
“A promotion I think that they both deserve Admiral. I wouldn’t mind both of those men serving under my command”
“You and a half dozen other Admirals”
“What of Howland & Baker Islands as well as Palmyra and Johnston’s atolls have the Japanese tried to take them?”
“Surprisingly not Admiral Rearsson, soon after Wake there were no Japanese activity around the islands except for the occasional nuisance bombardment by Japanese submarines which are always chased off by our shore batteries”
“Do you think that they’ll try to take them Admiral Nimitz?”
“Can’t say Admiral Rearson but if they gave it a go they probably will be successful as those islands are not as well protected as Wake is”
“By the way Admiral Rearson let’s hope that your ships are repaired quickly as we have several operations planned next for next year that we can use them in. Can’t tell anything more than that I’m afraid”
“I understand Admiral”
“Good then let us head back to the reception and then I’ll formerly introduce to several of your fellow Admirals including Halsey and Lee”
As they were walking back towards the reception area Admiral Nimitz made one more comment.
“By the way Admiral did you know that you were nominated by Admiral Stark to receive the Navy Cross”
Shock was instantly shown across his face “The Navy Cross Admiral”
“That’s what I said and it came about because President Roosevelt insisted that you get a medal for your actions during the Wake expedition”
“This is unbelievable, I don’t deserve such recognition it’s the men that were under my command that do, especially those proud and few marines”
“Oh don’t worry they’re all getting recognition. In fact your Task Force has been nominated for the Presidential Unit Citation which will include all of those on Wake including the civilians”
‘That’s unbelievably good news, those men deserve the recognition not me”
“Doesn’t matter you’re going to get it Admiral”
“One more thing Admiral Rearson I understand you had a chance to meet Admiral Yamamoto?”
“Yes sir I did when I was Naval Attache in Tokyo. Learned the hard way that he is an adapt card player and well versed in strategy’.
“That’s what I heard also but I have a question what do you think his next move will be?”
“That would be hard to say as there are any number of places that he could hit such as Singapore. Then there is an ongoing operation in New Guinea that might require additional troop landings which of course will require naval support. He also may send a diversion force to an unimportant target drawing off what forces we can spare before hitting his main target. But if I were him I would have 3 key targets in mind. The first is the west coast primarily San Diego and it’s naval base, second is the Panama Canal zone and third Midway. However I would he knows that he would overextend his forces if he decides to attack either San Diego or the Canal Zone. No I think that he will hit Midway when I don’t know”
“Well Admiral Nimitz by controlling Midway he would sit aside the shortest sea routes from the States to Hawaii. Building a sufficient size force he could attack our shipping and prevent us from reinforcing Hawaii. But also by attacking Midway it would be an excellent way for him to attack and destroy what remains of our Pacific Fleet knowing that we would have to respond to such an invasion. And this time Admiral Nimitz he would come in force with that goal in mind”
“I understand then we will have to prepare for such an eventuality. Right naval intelligence is focusing on breaking the Japanese code. If we do it in time then we might be able to confirm your theory. By the way Admiral Rearson your orders are too remain here in Pearl awaiting for the South Dakotas to arrive while your other ships are stateside undergoing repairs. Is that understood?”
Some 5 minutes later they were both mingling with the guests at the reception and as promised Admiral Nimitz introduced Admiral Rearson to Admiral’s, Fletcher, Spruance, Brown, Callahan, Scott and Halsey. Each Admiral he would have a working relationship in the future.
January 27th, 1942
Admiral Yamamato’s Headquarters
Sitting on his desk were file jackets containing the plans for the next 7 operations. As a result of the disastrous defeat at Wake Island and the loss of so many ships Admiral Yamamoto had to decide which plans would become operational.
· Operation Ha-go – Japanese naval incursion into the Indian Ocean.
· Operation AOB – The invasion of the western Aleutians, Midway diversion.
· Operation AQ – Seizure of Kiska Island
· Operation Ke-GO – seizure of Attu Island.
· Operation MO – Invasion and seizure of Midway Island and Tulagi
· Operation MI – Invasion of Port Moresby in New Guinea
· Operation SR – seizure of Lae and Salamaua in southeast New Guinea.
As he was reviewing each plan he was also going through another file jacket which contained current and future naval construction. There were several pages listing ships by class and planned completion dates. The losses sustained at Wake will easily replaced this year. Like the other major naval powers Japan has embarked on a sizable shipbuilding program. But there was a problem in that Admiral Yamamoto wasn’t positive if the program could be finished in time. The ships to be commissioned this year and added to the fleet were 2 carriers, 3 battleships, 1 battle cruiser, 5 heavy cruisers, 7 light cruisers and 21 destroyers enough ships to form a second fleet if necessary. Next year in 43’ it was anticipated barring any material shortage the navy will be expanded by another 3 carriers, 2 battleships, 2 battle cruisers, another 5 heavy cruisers, 8 light cruisers and 23 destroyers. Surprisingly he hadn’t even noticed the lack of any submarines in the shipbuilding program, a mistake that will prove rather costly in the upcoming years.
Getting back to the upcoming operations for this year he summarily decided on 2 for the moment to be followed through, the others will be postponed for a minimum of 6 months. The 2 that he decided on were the invasion and seizure of Midway Island and the diversion of attacking the Western Aleutians and the seizing of Attu and Kiska Islands and he decided to move them up by 2 months, it would now take place on April 6th. He knew that it would be a hard sell to the high command but he deemed it necessary. If he could lure the remnants of the US Pacific Fleet into a naval battle by invading Midway he thought Japan Would stand a better chance of survival. He was certain like many that the US ships encountered at Wake was all the US could spare without disbanding its Atlantic Fleet. For Midway he would throw in every ship that could sail with only a small force going to the Aleutians. And it would be a sizable force and would include the largest, most powerful battleship afloat the IJNS Yamato.
In the meantime somewhere 100 miles off the southwestern coast of Oahu the US Pacific Fleet was in the middle of a major fleet exercise. The object of this exercise was learn how to incorporate all elements of the fleet into a cohesive fighting force concentrating on carrier operations with a follow up battle with the surface fleet. But this training exercise was not just limited to the surface units and the navy itself as the inclusion of submarines was also included. But what made this training exercise unique was that the Army Air Corps was also included as a major contributor for any future operation in which their services would be needed. It was in essence the training ground for combined arms training. There would be no more competition amongst the services. To paraphrase the 3 musketeers It was all for one and one for all. Each service would contribute what they could in order to obtain Victory. This concept believe it or not came from a simple seaman who had the ear of Admiral Rearson at the time.
Repairs to the North Carolina and Virgina was actually ahead of schedule and would be rejoining the fleet in another 12 days. Repairs to the San Francisco and Honolulu were already completed at Pearl, the Minneapolis was in San Diego and like the battleships would ready in less than a week. It was different for the St. Louis as she had to have her bow replaced with the work being done at Mare Island.
Back at Yamamoto’s headquarters the Admiral was deep in thought was suddenly he was brought out of it by a knock on the door.
“Yes what is it” he responded sounding slightly annoyed at being disturbed
“Excuse me admiral but I thought that you would find this of interest, it seems that same American admiral who engaged and captured the German battleship Bismarck and who also led the Anglo-American fleet against the Italians was the same one who led the American naval force off of Wake Island, an Admiral Rearson”
“Did you say Rearson?”
“Yes Admiral why?”
“Well I once knew an American officer by the name of Rearson some years back in Tokyo. He was at the time the Naval Attache to the US Embassy but he was just a captain then. From what I can recall he was quite a poker player. When a group of officers both ours and Americans would get to together for an impromptu game it would usually come down to the 2 of us competing for the pot. So he’s an Admiral now eh Matome?”
“Yes Admiral it appears so. Vice Admiral I believe”
“Excellent it seems my friend is also an outstanding battleship commander and tactician, he would make a worthy opponent if our paths were to ever cross paths. Is there anything else Matome?”
“Yes Admiral this report is a few weeks old but it seems that an additional 2 more modern battleships have joined the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl. The report is uncertain as to the class but it appears that both are of the South Dakota[I] class. Same armament as that of the [I]North Carolina’s but better protected with improved armor protection”
“No word on any new carriers?”
“It’s just as well as it is a matter of time before they do arrive and then it begins”
“You know that I opposed to getting involved in a war with the US from the beginning as I know what they and their industrial might are capable of doing. They are like a sleeping dragon Matome, once awoken they will burn you with fire. But as a Loyal Japanese I’m sworn to fight for Japan. I foresee for the next 2 years that both the Imperial Japanese Navy and US Navy will grow and be equal in strength but I also see over the next 2 years many battles between us with losses on both sides. In the end it will come down to just 3 things, leadership, the will to win and who can outlast the other”
“Right before you knocked on the door I was going through my files and have made a decision that might in the long run determine the future of Japan. I’m moving up the invasion and seizures of Midway and the Aleutian Islands. Soon I will begin to issue orders to begin to assemble the fleets as well as which ground forces we will use. But this time there will be no repetition of Wake is that clear?”
“Yes Sir Admiral Yamamoto. Do you think the Americans will get wind of our plans?”
“I’m unsure but in either case we shall be prepared. One thing I’m certain of is that if they do they will respond with whatever forces they can muster and we engage them we will annihilate them. We will center our heavy units on our newest battleship Yamato which is more than a match for any 2 American battleships be they of old or new construction, and we will have our top battleship commander in command of the surface units, Admiral Togo Minoru son of the legendary Admiral Togo Heihachiro Saneyoshi”
According to my list of new ship construction we shall in the next 2 years will be commissioning the following:
· Carriers Shoho, Junyo, Hiyo, Ryuho, Chiyoda,
Taiho, Kiyo, Tatsu
· Battleships Fuji, Shikishima, Kashima, Satsuma, Mikasa
· Battle Cruisers Tokachi, Asama, Iwaki
· Heavy Cruisers Kita, Naka, Kasa, Tengu, Yakushi,
Furano, Neishi, Ishikari, Takari, Akanagi
· Light Cruisers Saru, Abashiri, Iwaki, Omono, Aka,
Kurobe, Yoshii, Hino, Saba
This list of course does include destroyers, transports, oilers and such”
“Admiral Yamamoto do you believe this enough to offset American ship construction”
“My answer to that question is no. I’m as certain of this as we are of having this conversation. Taking into account that they are already on a massive shipbuilding program I’m pretty sure that they out number us at least 3:1 in ship construction and this ratio will only get worse for us”