August 14, 2010

Dr. Miyafuji's Gun

I only recently learned about "Chekhov's Gun":

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

So if you toss in a reference to something and do camera closeups of it in the first episode, then it absolutely must be important, albeit not necessarily  to appear again by ep 3.

In Strike Witches 2, we've clearly got an example of that. It's the mysterious letter that Yoshika received in the first episode. In plot terms it served to get Yoshika to visit the Navy base, to learn about the disaster that happened to the 504th, to meet Sakamoto again, to steal a striker and chase the flying boat, and to end up in Romagna to rejoin the war. All well and good, but definitely not all there is to it.

What I'm assuming is that he developed some sort of war-winning weapon. For mysterious reasons he sent pieces of the schematics to a bunch of people, including his daughter. That eventually all the pieces will surface and be collected at the weapons lab in Japan, who will build the device.

And... though it can win the war, it will require a witch as an operator who has far more power than your average witch. In other words, it won't work unless Yoshika runs it. She's the only one who can.

Alternatively, it will be a multi-crew weapon, requiring fully 11 witches to operate it (just by coincidence). But I'm leaning towards the former.

The other thing is that it will have to be based on something that really existed in the war, or might have.

The first choice that springs to mind is the Ohka, but there's no way the writers would use that. To require Yoshika to commit suicide in order to win the war is out of the question. This isn't that kind of show.

I think I know what it's going to be. Near the end of the war, a U-boat was sent on a mission to Japan. It delivered the plans for the ME-262, plus example hardware. It didn't turn out to make any difference. Japan was never able to build their own version, in our timeline.

We've seen the Me-262 appearing in this series, but it was buggy. What if Dr. Miyafuji had access to early plans of the Karlsland effort, and figured out what was wrong? What if all those mysterious plans are for a Japanese jet-striker, one that doesn't have the bugs of the Karlsland version? Barkhorn demonstrated the potential of the jet-striker, before it nearly killed her. A working one with reduced magic consumption could be a war-changer.

And what if Yoshika defeats the nest that conquered Venezia while flying it? Anyone buy that? (Alternatively, what if everyone in the squadron gets re-equipped with them?)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 01:53 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
Post contains 496 words, total size 3 kb.

1 I've been wondering when that gun would go off.  Yes, I can buy that.

Posted by: ubu at August 14, 2010 03:37 PM (GfCSm)

2

Another "gun" that's been hanging on the wall is the fact that Yoshika's raw magical power is far greater than anyone else's. They mentioned it again a couple of times in the first two episodes of this series. Once was the tech in the hanger when Yoshika powered up the striker, and another was when Yoshika used her shield to protect the flying boat and Hijikata was stunned by how large and strong the shield was.

They kept hinting about her power level in the first series, too, and I was really frustrated that in the end nothing came of it. I think this time it will.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 14, 2010 04:03 PM (+rSRq)

3 Apropos of little, every time I think about weapons like the Ohta I feel kind of sick inside.  What a waste.

Posted by: atomic_fungus at August 14, 2010 04:22 PM (gLbEB)

4

To some extent, that was the logical result of the nature of the war by thaat point.

American air defense had gotten so good that making normal air attacks against the Allied fleet was pretty much suicide anyway. The logic behind the Kamikazes was that they were on a one-way trip regardless, but if they accepted that ahead of time and determined to die in a ramming attack, they at least had a better chance of scoring a hit on the enemy.

And once you get to that point, then it's only one small step further to something like the Ohka, or the Kaiten. (To the credit of the guy who thought up that idea, he piloted the first one.)

But yeah, in some ways it's sickening. When you study WWII you can see how everyone did a slippery-slope in a lot of regards, getting to the point (small step by small step) by the end of the war of routinely doing things which five years before would have been considered horrifying and unacceptable. Things like mass incendiary attacks on enemy cities. In 1940, no one in the US would have imagined that just five years later there would be a deliberate attempt to kill a hundred thousand enemy civilians in a single night -- yet it happened.

That's sickening, too. (No, I am not playing the moral-equivalence game here. OK?)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 14, 2010 05:13 PM (+rSRq)

5 Honestly, I think it was more a case of the various aggressor nations having set bad precedents earlier in the war. Germany bombed Rotterdam, they bombed a lot of military targets in Britain, and they attempted to bomb the ever-loving heck out of London; even if you were against the idea of area bombing of civilians in abstract, clearly it was legitimate as a reprisal against the Germans. (The Japanese didn't shy away from bombing cities themselves - Nanking, for example, though that's not what people remember.)

There were other areas in which the Allies were prepared to answer tit for tat, but the Germans never got around to tit. Churchill had promised Stalin that the use of poison gas would be reciprocated against Germany, and the UK had significant stocks of the stuff against just such an eventuality, but neither side ever resorted to gas.

Unrestricted submarine warfare had the same pattern. Initially it was something that the US was opposed to - but by the time the US was involved in the war, it was clearly a valid tactic to use against the Axis.

I'd never thought of the use of suicide attack vehicles as a direct response to increased AA effectiveness of US ships (though you're right, that's when they introduced the proximity-fuse shell, correct?) The histories I've seen usually chalked it up to a dramatic fall in the average flight experience of Japanese aviators - neither service had a sufficient training program to replace losses at anything like the rate of attrition that Japan suffered. Of course, maybe it's a little from column A, a little from column B?

It's clear, though, that the Japanese view of surrender (i.e. "don't") affected the attitudes of US troops, and it would be weird if it didn't also affect the command as well...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 14, 2010 06:22 PM (btzdu)

6

Some of it was the proximity fuse. A lot of it was the introduction of the F6F plus the sheer number of flight decks (resulting from America's shipyards).

Japanese pilot inexperience was another factor, and a lot of the credit for that goes to American submarines, because of the effectiveness of the blockade (once the bugs got worked out of the Mark XIV torpedo). Japan stopped giving their pilots an adequate amount of air time during training because Japan could no longer afford the fuel.

The point is that the Battle of the Philippine Sea showed what it was going to be like for the rest of the war. Better than 75% of the Japanese pilots who participated in that battle were lost, and it was only going to get worse.

If three quarters of your pilots and planes are going to be lost anyway, then you may as well accept it. Sending the planes out without enough fuel to return had the added benefit of saving precious petroleum, as well.

So by the time of the Philippine invasion, the new Japanese doctrine was in place. HMAS Australia was first to feel the bite, but far from the last.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 14, 2010 08:36 PM (+rSRq)

7

By the way, there was some precedent. There were cases earlier in the war where Japanese planes had hit American ships. Yorktown was hit by a plane at Midway, for example, and it did a lot more damage than an ordinary bomb hit would have.

Anyway, the logic of it really does make sense, in a weird sort of way: If your pilot is going to die anyway, then if he flies his plane into an enemy ship he'll do more damage. And if he's going to be doing that anyway, then why not give him a custom ship which is faster when it's flying and more destructive on impact? And then you get the Ohka.

Fortunately for the Americans, it had the huge drawback of short range, which meant that there was a chance to shoot down the ferry bomber before that point.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 14, 2010 08:49 PM (+rSRq)

8 If you look at the sortie results of the Ohka on its wiki page, it pretty much paints the picture.  Most attacks resulted in few, if any, of the Betty bombers carrying them returning, with no hits reported by the Allies on those days.  The Bettys should have been able to stay out of 5" range during the attack runs, so they were most likely shot down by planes.

Ohkas launched from shore installations with small rocket motors would probably have been much nastier against the final invasion fleet, if it had happened.  The Navy had a valid reason for wanting to blockade, rather than invade.

Posted by: BigD at August 14, 2010 08:52 PM (LjWr8)

9

The Betties were shot down by American CAP. Radar spotted them coming in, plenty far enough away to permit intercept.

This was after the advent of the Kamikazes, and the Americans had become plenty jittery about incoming Japanese aircraft no matter what they were. Anything with wings and meatballs was gonna get taken out, as far from the fleet as possible. And American picket destroyers were going to spot them a long way away. (Admiral Spruance was a careful man.)

By that point in the war, most American CVs carried about 75% Hellcats and 25% Avengers, while some carriers were 100% Hellcats. It had been learned the hard way that there was no substitute for swarms of fighters, and that mix was practical because the F6F could also carry a 1000 pound bomb or a half dozen rockets. Even when there were no enemy aircraft, the Hellcats could provide bombing support for the ground forces.

And that meant there were plenty of American fighters for those kinds of air battles.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 14, 2010 09:03 PM (+rSRq)

10 It's my understanding that the reason the American CAP was effective in stopping the Bettys on Ohka runs was that the Okha had a very short range, meaning the Betty had to launch within the CAP coverage.

There are plenty of anecdotes about pilots of just about any nation in the war choosing to deliberately crash a damaged aircraft into a target.  If  you've realized you're not going to survive, choosing to take someone else with you is a logical next step.

And there's little difference between the Japanese behavior and most of the other major combatants when it comes to those desperate last days of the war (or days that may potentially have been the last days) aside from the fact that the Japanese declared outright that theirs were suicide missions, which is inevitable given that their biggest threat at the time was naval instead of land based.  Both the Germans and the Russians issued 'Not One Step Back' orders for their units to hold position regardless of the situation, which were effectively suicide orders, and sending a 60 year old Home Guardsman with an obsolete rifle and an improvised grenade to fight the German army "on the beaches... on the landing grounds", etc., would have been suicide as well.

Posted by: Civilis at August 15, 2010 03:00 AM (MrKDq)

11 In the closing months of the European war, Germany trained a special force of pilots to ram Allied bombers in mid-air.  It was not intended as a 100% suicide solution, as they were trained to hit the plane along the top, to break it's back.  They expected the casualties to be 50%. The aim was to get the allies to break off the air bombing for six weeks, so they could get the ME-262's into production.

Out of 140+ attempts, the first day they tried it, only two succeeded.in ramming and returning, and the damage wasn't enough to force the Allies to break off..  The plan was immediately abandoned.

See http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?17778-Rammkommando-German-Kamikaze-WWII, second article,for a first person account of one of the Allied pilots hit on that day.

Posted by: ubu at August 15, 2010 07:51 AM (GfCSm)

12 Yorktown was hit by a plane at Midway, for example...

I hate to disagree with our host, but that isn't the case.  The closest thing to a kamikaze attack (either intentional or accidental) to occur during the Battle of Midway was actually executed by a USAAF plane. 

One of the B-26s that made torpedo runs early on June 4th nearly turned the Akagi's bridge crew (including Adm. Nagumo himself) into a hood ornament, but narrowly missed.  Nobody is sure if it was a conscious decision to crash, or if the controls were shot away.

No Japanese planes crashed into American ships at Midway.

Posted by: Wonderduck at August 15, 2010 07:59 AM (iJfPN)

13 ...and if they give all the girls jet-strikers, they can sell a completely new set of figures!

-j

Posted by: J Greely at August 15, 2010 01:13 PM (2XtN5)

14 Who gets the F-15J strikers?

Posted by: BigD at August 15, 2010 08:47 PM (LjWr8)

15 Shirley, of course!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 15, 2010 09:07 PM (+rSRq)

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