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Old March 6th, 2015, 03:29 AM   #1
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Hypothetical Japanese invasion of Australia in 1942


So here’s the scenario.

Its mid 1942. The battle of the Coral Sea ends in a limited Japanese victory; both Lexington and Yorktown are sunk for only the loss of Shoho. The USN is unable to prevent the fall of Port Moresby. The IJN goes ahead with its plan to lure the remaining USN fleet carriers into battle around Midway. Only Enterprise and Hornet are able to contest the Japnese landings at Midway, and both are sunk though the Japanese carriers Akagi and Hiriu are lost in the battle. Midway falls. In June and July, Fiji, Guadalcanal and New Caledonia all fall to Japanese amphibious operations. The Japanese navy finally wins the argument with the army and convinced Tojo that the conquest, or at least a limited invasion, of Australia should be the next Japanese objective in the South Pacific. The target date is set for November 1st 1942, the Japanese army allocates 10 divisions for this operation ( the stated total in actual Japanese plans).

How do you think it goes down? Who wins? How does it go?

Below is an order of battle so you don't have to look it up, but you don't have to use it. If you think something else more likely that's just fine.

Click the image to open in full size.

Allied order of Battle November 1942:

Ground Forces

Commander - Douglas MacArthur

2nd Australian Imperial Force (2AIF): a full time volunteer army equipped as standard British divisions. I've included some info on Australian divisions as many of you are probably not familiar with them.

9th Division 2AIF - the famous 'rats of tobruk' and veterans of three years of fighting in the deserts of North Africa. Just returning to Australia in October after fighting in at second El Alamein. Probably Australia's highest quality infantry division, and arguably the best the nation ever deployed.

7th Division 2AIF - another high quality infantry division which had seen extensive combat at Tobruk, Lebanon and Cyrenaica.

6th Division 2AIF - the 6th division had seen even more fighting than the 7th, as it not only took part in the Lebanon and Cyrenaica, but the disastrous intervention in Greece and the defence of Crete.

1st Armoured Division 2AIF - Australia's highest quality armoured formation; this division had never left Australia and had thus never seen combat. By May 1942 it reached a full strength of over 276 M3 Grant medium tanks and 60 M3 Stuart light tanks.

Citizen Military Forces (CMF) - These partially conscript, partial volunteer forces that were designed for home defence, the CMF forces were legally prevented from serving outside Australia. Though clearly less capable than 2AIF units, their performance in New Guinea and Boganville showed they were still effective fighting formations, easily comparable to US National Guard divisions. Most were at full strength in men and equipment by November 1942. All were equipped as a standard pattern British Infantry Division.

1st Division CMF - Regular Infantry division

2nd Division CMF - Regular Infantry Division

3rd Division CMF - Regular Infantry Division

4th Division CMF - Regular Infantry divsiosn

2nd Armoured Division - Originally the 1st Motorised Division, the 2 Armoured division was converted/established on 21st of February 1942. This division had roughly half the tank strength of the 1st Armoured Division and was constituted by 1 tank brigade and 1 motorised brigade: roughly 130 M3 Grant medium tanks and 30 M3 Stuart light tanks.

3rd Armoured Division - Originally the 2nd Motorised division, the 3rd Armoured Division was historically converted to an Armoured formation on the 15th of November 1942, but for this scenario we will assume this process was accelerated and completed by the 1st of November. The tanks strength was the same as teh 2nd Armoured Division.

United States Army

41st Infantry Division NG - A medium quality National Guard division generally comparable to an Australian CMF division though with increased indirect fire support (a battalion of 155mm artillery)

32nd Infantry Division NG - same as above

USMC

1st Marine Division - elite United States division which, although had not seen combat at this point, fought extremely we at Guadalcanal. Easily comparable to any 2AIF unit.

Total land ORBAT 1st November 1942:

10 Infantry Divisions

3 Armoured Divisions - 500 tanks.

Expected reinforcement within three months.

2nd Marine Division USMC - infantry division comparable to the 1st Marine Division

Americal Division - Regular infantry division

25th Infantry Division - Regular infantry division

Allied Air Force Order of Battle

USAF

3 Fighter Groups (6 squadrons) - 8th, 35th, 49th - equipped with P-38's and P-40's.

4 Heavy Bombardment Groups (8 squadrons) - 3rd, 19th, 43rd, 90th - primarily B-17's though 1 group of B-24's.

2 Medium Bombardment Groups (4 squadrons) - 38th, 22nd - B-26 & B-25's.

RAAF

A total of 25 squadrons were active in Australia in November 1942, and another 14 were serving in the UK or in the western desert. We can assume that all but three specialised squadrons serving in Europe would have been redeployed to Australia, bringing total RAAF strength in the theatre to 36 squadrons, though around thee squadrons had suffered heavily in the fighting the Pacific to date.

Fighter Squadrons (primarily P-40E but some Spitfire Mk V as well): 16
Bomber Squadrons (primarily Beaufort and Boston medium bombers, 2 squadrons of Halifax heavy bombers): 14
Maritime Patrol Squadrons (PBY's): 6

Total Allied Air Strength

Fighter Squadrons: 22
Bomber Squadrons: 26
MPA squadrons: 6


Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) Order of Battle - I have less information regarding Japanese units.

Commander IJA forces - Tomoyuki Yamashita

16th Infantry Division - saw action as part of 14th Army in the Philippines campaign.

48th Infantry Division - also saw action as part of 14th Army in the Philippines campaign.

5th Infantry Division - participated in the Malaya campaign and performed very well.

18th Infantry Division - also participated in the Malaya campaign and performed very well.

2nd Infantry Division - fought with such tenacity on Guadalcanal.

38th Infnatry Division - also Guadalcanal veterans (though that battel never took place in this scenario.

51st Infantry Division - fought in New Guinea

20th Infantry Division - fought in New Guinea

41st Infantry Division - fought in New Guinea

79th Infantry Division - transferred from Kwantung Amry

1st Tank Division - transferred from 36th Army

Potential reinforcements

There are large Japanese formations in Manchuria and China, including 3 more Tank divisions. However these have already been drained of some five divisions to act as garrison forces for Malaya, the Solomon,s Fiji and New Guinea. This operation has stretched Japanese forces thinly on mainland Asia, so though it is possible than more units could be transferred to Australia, that could come at the price of compromising the war in china or inviting a Soviet assault.

Total land ORBAT 1st November 1942:

10 Infantry Divisions

1 Tank Division - 200 tanks.

IJA Air ORBAT - I simply extrapolated the strength of 5th Kikōshidan during the Philippines campaign which supported 2 Divisions.

Fighter Regiments - 10

Bomber regiments - 15


Didn't have time to list the Naval ORBATs, but the Japanese have sunk 4 fleet carriers for the loss of 2 fleet and 1 light carriers. But remember if the campaign drags on into 1943 the Essex class fleet carriers will start to make their presence felt - Essex commissions just two months after D-Day for this operation - so the current Japanese superiority will not last forever.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 06:42 AM   #2

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The Grant was probably better than any Japanese tank then and it would've been tough for the Japanese to supply such a large force. US subs would maul their logistical tether. I doubt the invasion would succeed. It would be an awful, risky waste of resources.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 11:47 AM   #3
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The Grant was probably better than any Japanese tank then and it would've been tough for the Japanese to supply such a large force. US subs would maul their logistical tether. I doubt the invasion would succeed. It would be an awful, risky waste of resources.
Its also a very different kind of fighting to what the Japanese had experienced in the SWPA; there's a lot of open terrain in Northern Australia which is far more akin to the western desert than the Philippines or Malaya. Mobile forces would have been far more important.

The Japanese would have had naval superiority though, so If they had have landed in mid north Queensland, and drive south along the eastern sea board, they could have outflanked any defensive positions around the sea flank. Thus MacArthur would have had to maintain significant units further south to counter other landings. Kesselring had this problem in Italy and the allies always pinned more German divisions there then they actually had in the theatre.

Morale was also very high amongst Japanese forces.

Also I think they allocated 1.5 - 2 million tons of shipping to move and supply 10 divisions in such an operation.

So you think they would make an invasion in the north, get bogged down somewhere, suffer logistically and then be forced to retreat?

Last edited by hypernova; March 6th, 2015 at 11:59 AM.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 11:58 AM   #4
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I guess the question, or Myth in trying to examine here is really about the Coral Sea and Midway. My grandmother always tells me stories of hearing there was a battle off Queensland that meant the difference between Australia falling to the Japanese or remaining free, and how she huddled with her kids around the radio waiting for news, only to be so happy that the allies had won a victory. She still say's "those yanks saved us at the Coral Sea, we would have all been speaking Japanese otherwise". That's the myth I'm trying to test here.

In Australia we even have a day, called the 'Battle For Australia' day which celebrates and remembers the Allied victories in Kokoda, the Coral Sea and Guadalcanal, which 'saved' Australia.

Now I don't mean to play down US aid to Australia one bit, after all tens of thousands of US servicemen would have taken part in any defence of the Australian mainland, and the allied commander was an American. But the question is, did these actions really 'save' Australia. Assuming we lost all of them, could the Japanese invaded with any chance of success in 1942?
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Old March 6th, 2015, 03:54 PM   #5
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Would the Americans retreat after such loses in the naval arena and leave Australia on its own?
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Old March 6th, 2015, 04:17 PM   #6
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Would the Americans retreat after such loses in the naval arena and leave Australia on its own?
Maybe, but even by Midway MacArthur was already in command of Australian military forces and there were 2 US divisions on Australian soil.

But lets say they did retreat, withdrawing all US forces from Australia, can the Japanese effectively invade with only Australian units defending the place? After all, the vast majority of Allied divisions and combat squadrons in the SWPA in 1942 were Australian. Lets say the US continues to ship arms and munitions though.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 04:21 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hypernova View Post
I guess the question, or Myth in trying to examine here is really about the Coral Sea and Midway. My grandmother always tells me stories of hearing there was a battle off Queensland that meant the difference between Australia falling to the Japanese or remaining free, and how she huddled with her kids around the radio waiting for news, only to be so happy that the allies had won a victory. She still say's "those yanks saved us at the Coral Sea, we would have all been speaking Japanese otherwise". That's the myth I'm trying to test here.

In Australia we even have a day, called the 'Battle For Australia' day which celebrates and remembers the Allied victories in Kokoda, the Coral Sea and Guadalcanal, which 'saved' Australia.

Now I don't mean to play down US aid to Australia one bit, after all tens of thousands of US servicemen would have taken part in any defence of the Australian mainland, and the allied commander was an American. But the question is, did these actions really 'save' Australia. Assuming we lost all of them, could the Japanese invaded with any chance of success in 1942?
The whole 'Battle for Australia' thing is a bad case of historical revisionism. The Japanese had never planned to invade, but to take Port Moresby, Fiji and New Caledonia to cut the sea routes between the US and Australia. Their unexpected success in the early months of the war caused them to carry out a feasibility study, however it concluded that the manpower and logistic requirements could not be met, and any attempt at invasion would fail.

It has suited various jingoistic politicians and vested interest groups to play up the danger of a Japanese invasion that never really existed, and invent a commemorative day that has little foundation in fact.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 04:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Belgarion View Post
The whole 'Battle for Australia' thing is a bad case of historical revisionism.

It has suited various jingoistic politicians and vested interest groups to play up the danger of a Japanese invasion that never really existed, and invent a commemorative day that has little foundation in fact.
I agree.

Quote:
The Japanese had never planned to invade, but to take Port Moresby, Fiji and New Caledonia to cut the sea routes between the US and Australia. Their unexpected success in the early months of the war caused them to carry out a feasibility study, however it concluded that the manpower and logistic requirements could not be met, and any attempt at invasion would fail.
From what I've read there was significant discussion on the topic and several plans were made in December 1941 through February 1942 and presented to the Supreme War Council, though none were finally adopted as policy or actual strategic aims.

From the wiki page:

[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposed_Japanese_invasion_of_Australia_during_Wor ld_War_II]Proposed Japanese invasion of Australia during World War II - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Quote:
Originally Posted by wiki
The Army and Navy's calculations of the number of troops needed to invade Australia differed greatly and formed a central area of discussion. In December 1941 the Navy calculated that a force of three divisions (between 45,000 and 60,000 men) would be sufficient to secure Australia's north-eastern and north-western coastal areas. In contrast, the Army calculated that a force of at least ten divisions (between 150,000 and 250,000 men) would be needed. The Army's planners estimated that transporting this force to Australia would require 1.5 to 2 million tons of shipping, which would have required delaying the return of requisitioned merchant shipping.[10] This invasion force would have been larger than the entire force used to conquer South-East Asia.[11] The Army also rejected the Navy's proposal of limiting an invasion of Australia to securing enclaves in the north of the country as being unrealistic given the likely Allied counter-offensives against these positions. Due to its experience in China the Army believed that any invasion of Australia would have to involve an attempt to conquer the entire Australian continent, something which was beyond Japan's abilities.[12]

The possibility of invading Australia was discussed by the Japanese Army and Navy on several occasions in February 1942. On 6 February the Navy Ministry formally proposed a plan in which eastern Australia would be invaded at the same time other Japanese forces captured Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia, and this was again rejected by the Army. On 14 February, the day before Singapore was captured, the Army and Navy sections of the Imperial General Headquarters again discussed invading Australia and during this discussion Captain Tomioka argued that it would be possible to take Australia with a "token force". This statement was labelled "so much gibberish" in the Imperial General Headquarters' secret diary.[13] General Tomoyuki Yamashita:[14]

He said that after he had taken Singapore, he wanted to discuss with Tojo a plan for the invasion of Australia... Tojo turned down the plan, making the excuse of lengthened supply lines, which would be precarious and open to enemy attack...

The dispute between the Army and Navy was settled in late February with a decision to isolate rather than invade Australia. The Army continued to maintain its view that invading Australia was impractical, but agreed to extend Japan's strategic perimeter and cut Australia off from the US by invading Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia in the so-called Operation FS.[15] The question of whether to invade Australia was discussed by Imperial Headquarters for the last time on 27 February and in this meeting the Army stated that it believed that Australia was defended by a 600,000-strong military force. During a further meeting held on 4 March the Imperial Headquarters formally agreed to a "Fundamental Outline of Recommendations for Future War Leadership" which relegated the option of invading Australia as a "future option" only if all other plans went well. This plan was presented to the Emperor by Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō and in effect ended discussion of invading Australia.[16] The FS Operation was not implemented, however, due to Japan's defeats in the Battle of the Coral Sea and Battle of Midway and was canceled on 11 July 1942.
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Old March 6th, 2015, 04:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Belgarion View Post
The whole 'Battle for Australia' thing is a bad case of historical revisionism. The Japanese had never planned to invade, but to take Port Moresby, Fiji and New Caledonia to cut the sea routes between the US and Australia. Their unexpected success in the early months of the war caused them to carry out a feasibility study, however it concluded that the manpower and logistic requirements could not be met, and any attempt at invasion would fail.

It has suited various jingoistic politicians and vested interest groups to play up the danger of a Japanese invasion that never really existed, and invent a commemorative day that has little foundation in fact.
And anyway, I'm just curious as to what everyone thinks would have happened had the USN been disastrously defeated in 1942 and the Japanese had changed their plans and actually tried to invade. How would that have gone down?
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Old March 6th, 2015, 04:38 PM   #10
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Maybe, but even by Midway MacArthur was already in command of Australian military forces and there were 2 US divisions on Australian soil.

But lets say they did retreat, withdrawing all US forces from Australia, can the Japanese effectively invade with only Australian units defending the place? After all, the vast majority of Allied divisions and combat squadrons in the SWPA in 1942 were Australian. Lets say the US continues to ship arms and munitions though.
No, I don't think they could. It would take too many resources and the Aussies would know the terrain like the back of their hand. This would make it very difficult for Japan. Australia could easily, like Russia did, retreat into a scorched earth policy. The country is big enough.
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