183 votes
Accepted

On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

So I want to know, did the Japanese Navy have the ability to destroy it in a surprise attack, let's say on 1941 Dec 7? I'm asking if the Japanese Navy had the ability. I'm not asking if it was a ...
user avatar
  • 52.6k
146 votes
Accepted

Why were Navajo code talkers used during WW2?

In WW2 we didn't have digital computers. We didn't even have transistors. Even vacuum tubes were state-of-the-art. If you wanted to do cryptography on the battlefield, you used something like this ...
user avatar
  • 52.6k
87 votes

Why didn't Japan take Pearl Harbor when they had the chance?

There are two simple reasons they did not, besides "they couldn't" The "they couldn't" make the airborne assault with paratroopers is underscored by the fact that their longest ...
user avatar
63 votes

Why was capturing the south of Okinawa necessary?

First, you need to remember that the US was expecting to use Okinawa as a military, naval and air base for at least two years. None of the commanders involved knew about the Manhattan Project. They ...
user avatar
  • 28.1k
55 votes

Why didn't Japan take Pearl Harbor when they had the chance?

The specific scenario of using paratroopers is a nonstarter. In addition to @KorvinStarmast's answer on why it's infeasible, Japan actually only had about 1,500 paratroopers. There simply wasn't ...
user avatar
  • 95.8k
53 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

Mistaking the Sims for a cruiser is easy: a Sims-class destroyer has the same number of turrets (3) as the majority of American cruisers, while most American destroyers of the time had two, four, or ...
user avatar
  • 8,292
49 votes

Why were Navajo code talkers used during WW2?

"The Code Book" of Simon Singh mentions several points why code talkers where so useful. Speed: One of the colonels in charge tried exactly that: code machine against Navajo code. The Navajo was able ...
user avatar
  • 5,008
46 votes
Accepted

How was the USA able to win naval battles in the Pacific?

USA was outnumbered or outgunned only during the first year of war. After that they always had naval supremacy. While the number of ships was similar most battles were mostly ties (except for Midway)....
user avatar
  • 4,817
45 votes

Why didn't Japan take Pearl Harbor when they had the chance?

Japan successfully wiped out America's defenses at Pearl Harbor, The basic premise of your question is faulty: the American defenses weren't wiped out. Look at the list of what the Japanese hit (...
user avatar
  • 8,292
40 votes
Accepted

Was Hiroshima targeted because its mountains would "rebound the explosion back into the city for more damage"?

The Wikipedia entry on the atomic bombings cites a few sources that confirm this was indeed a criterion, among others (emphasis mine): In April 1945, Marshall asked Groves to nominate specific ...
user avatar
29 votes
Accepted

Why did the Japanese attack the Aleutians at the same time as Midway?

The traditional historical narrative has been that the Aleutian attack, which happened a day earlier, was intended as a diversionary attack, hoping to spread American forces thinner, and thus make the ...
user avatar
  • 109k
28 votes

Why didn't Japan take Pearl Harbor when they had the chance?

One answer to this question lies in President Roosevelt's "day of infamy" speech. "Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked ...
user avatar
  • 103k
27 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

Misidentifying of ships from scout planes was a consistent problem for both sides in the Pacific Theater. In fact, it seems that getting a scouting report exactly right was more the exception rather ...
user avatar
  • 109k
26 votes
Accepted

Why was capturing the south of Okinawa necessary?

There are some misconceptions in the question which need to be cleared up, and doing so will go some way towards answering the question as posed. The following is sourced from the official US ...
user avatar
  • 1,780
23 votes

How was the USA able to win naval battles in the Pacific?

The Americans were able to "play looser" than the Japanese, which was a major advantage. The fact that American "looseness" caused us to be outnumbered in many of the early battles hid the fact that ...
user avatar
  • 103k
21 votes
Accepted

Were B-17s (rather than B-29s) ever used to bomb mainland Japanese territory during WW2 (at least before the capture of Okinawa)?

No, B-17s do not ever seem to have attacked the Japanese Home Islands. The Chomsky claims are a weird mixture of truth and fantasy. There certainly were B-17s based in the Philippines in 1941, mostly ...
user avatar
  • 28.1k
19 votes

Why were Navajo code talkers used during WW2?

Code talking in an obscure language puts two layers of encryption on the message. The first layer is that it's a language. The second is that it's a code. The code part is usually pretty simple ...
user avatar
18 votes

On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

The Canal is 8400 miles from Tokyo, compared to 4000 miles for Pearl Harbour. The Japanese carriers are stated of having a range of 10,000 miles at a cruising speed of about 16 knots, but remember ...
user avatar
15 votes

On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

Destroying those locks is going to be harder than you think. They are very large, at 110 feet x 1,050 feet, and the lock gates have to have been built to stand up to accidental collisions with large ...
user avatar
  • 28.1k
15 votes

Why did Japan fail to interfere with shipping from America to Vladivostok from 1941-1945?

In addition to the points already raised by @TomAu and @DevSolar... The Pacific lend-lease route skirted the problem by officially being handled by the Soviets. Supervision and routing was handled by ...
user avatar
  • 52.6k
15 votes

Who decided to confront the Japanese at Midway?

I have in my backpack my shiny new xmas present, Shattered Sword, by Parshall and Tully. It mostly covers the Japanese side of things, and I'm barely into it, but the forward by John Lundstrom (who ...
user avatar
  • 109k
15 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

I'd like to provide an alternative explanation that addresses the question of, "How could two independent reports contain exactly the same mistakes?", which isn't specific to this battle, ...
user avatar
  • 1,268
15 votes

To what extent is the flora and fauna on Guadalcanal edible?

Tropical environments like Guadalcanal are rather abundant with food, if you know enough to find it. That of course is the key. That generally requires native knowledge, gathered through generations ...
user avatar
  • 109k
14 votes
Accepted

Why were Japanese submarines not able to defend in the Battle of the Philippine Sea?

By 1944, US submarines were very experienced and had ironed out their problems with their equipment. They had been conducting an extremely successful offensive campaign against Japanese shipping since ...
user avatar
  • 52.6k
13 votes

On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

Canal locks may be much harder to destroy than you think. Ships can catch fire and they can sink. Canal locks won't do either. As kind-of-evidence for this assertion, consider the St. Nazaire Raid. ...
user avatar
  • 16k
13 votes

Did the US really consider demonstrating the atomic bomb to the Japanese by "blowing the top" off of Mt. Fuji?

"US" and "consider" are rather broad terms. I can't find any evidence that the Manhattan Project targeting committee ever considered anything other than conventional military ...
user avatar
  • 8,292
12 votes
Accepted

During the Second World War, did the Germans expect that Japan would declare war on Russia?

The Tripartite Pact explicitly excluded Russia; thus, given the The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, it is hard to imagine that Hitler expected a Japanese attack on Russia. Hitler thought that Russia ...
user avatar
  • 25.5k
11 votes

What were the Japanese defenses for an allied invasion of Kyushu?

The standard Japanese defense plan was in place for opposing Olympic. While the bunkers might not have the complexity of Iwo Jima's due to different geology on Kyushu, they would have been tough ...
user avatar
  • 11.8k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible