By Rob Morgan
(This is a note I wrote for the Naval Wargames Society newsletter recently. I thought it might be of interest to one or two SWA members who fight the Pacific Campaigns, and have wargamed the sea fight at Okinawa.)
The American Fleet at Okinawa during Operation Iceberg was truly immense, and was accompanied by the small British task force. The critical point of the operation, massive kamikaze attacks aside, must have been the Japanese surface attack, Operation Ten Ho, the final voyage of Yamato. She was destroyed by US air power of course, but during the fighting on Okinawa there was a period of bad weather known as the ‘plum rains.’
What if Ito’s small force had attacked during the bad weather? If air power had been ineffective for reason of adverse weather conditions? Well. Halsey, of course, had no fewer than eight fast modern battleships — USS Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and New Jersey.
He could also call on HMS King George V and HMS Howe. In all, 72 16-inch guns, plus 20 14-inch guns against nine18-inch. There were as well 10 older US battleships in the bombardment groups, USS Texas, Idaho, Nevada, etc. with an immense number of 12-inch and 14-inch guns carried. The Japanese ‘raid,’ as it’s so often described, could, quite possibly, have been the last battleship encounter in history. On paper, not only one-sided, but a clear wipe-out. Or not? Has anyone in the NWS ever wargamed this potential encounter, particularly in less than good weather conditions?
This must surely have been the largest concentration of battleships in one campaign since Jutland. How would the Yamato have fared before being overwhelmed? I’m reminded, incidentally, that one of the US warships, USS Washington, was the only modern American capital ship to engage an enemy vessel of similar size, the old pre-WWI battlecruiser Kirishima in 1942.