22 July 2021

One for the history buffs.

During trying time, or even annoying times, it is sometimes pleasant to consider trivial matters.

It is a favourite pastime amongst history buffs to play the 'What if...?' game.  Naval Historian and YouTuber Drachinifel (If you like naval history at all, his channel is a must) examines the question of what might have happened had Task Force 34 been present at the Battle Off Samar.

This sort of thing is really fun to debate, and Drachinifel here does a very good job of it, but his analysis, I'm afraid, also draws out the problem with trying to come up with the 'most likely' result of any 'What if...?' scenario.  You see, the real history result was that a large force of Japanese battleships, (including the Yamato, the largest battleship ever built)  cruisers and destroyers did not run into Task Force 34, a strong American force that nearly matched the Japanese in ships.  That force was supposed to have been deployed if the Japanese appeared to be coming through the San Bernadino Straits- which they did- but was taken by Admiral Halsey along with the rest of 3rd Fleet when Halsey decided to chase after the Japanese decoy force, leaving the Straits and the American invasion forces almost undefended.  What happened instead was the Japanese forces came upon the northern tip of the American forces for the invasion of the Phillippines, which was defended by Taffy 3, a small group of destroyers, destroyer escorts and escort carriers, and in a mismatch of epic proportions (the Yamato alone outweighed all of Taffy 3 put together) that has gone down in naval lore, the Americans stopped, turned around, and ultimately ran off the Japanese force. And therein lies the problem.  Let us suppose that what Drachinifel here proposes as the most likely scenario was what in fact happened, and we history buffs of today tried to play a game of  'What if TF 34 wasn't at the Battle off Samar?', I don't think for a moment that anyone could have come up with a scenario wherein Taffy 3 wasn't completely wiped out, much less victorious.  

It doesn't mean the game isn't fun, or even instructive, but it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Incidentally, Drachinifel has a very good episode on the actual events of the battle, subtitled 'Odds? What are those?' 


DP said...

A very good video, thank you. I saw it after you alerted me to it.

What ifs are indeed hard to game out, but in this one, I would be comfortable putting my money on Willis Augustus Lee.

Bear said...

Oh yeah, I imagine Admiral Lee would come out on top. As Drachinifel points out, two of the ships Washington would have been facing were the sisters of the ship Washington dispatched in five minutes a few years earlier. Also, as Drach says in the video of the real Battle off Samar, Kurita's decision were so poor that it would almost make more sense for Kurita to have been a secret American agent, so perhaps we would have the Japanese under a leader making poor decisions when TF 34 showed up. On the other hand, this battle was more of the sort of battle the Japanese had prepared for... my money is on Lee.