Early Pacific Raids 1942 – The American Carriers Strike Back, Brian Lane Herder

Early Pacific Raids 1942 – The American Carriers Strike Back, Brian Lane Herder

Campaign 392

This is one of the less familiar periods of the Pacific War. Generally accounts of the war in the Pacific in the first half of 1942 cover Pearl Harbor, the period of Japanese conquests and Midway. However in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor the intact US aircraft carrier force was used to carry out a series of small scale raids against the Japanese,

We start with a lengthy look at the strategic background to these raids – the impact of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and their conquests in the south Pacific, the commanders on both sides, the carriers and aircraft available to them and their plans.

We then look at the raids themselves. The senior US commanders had different motives for ordering these raids, with King simply wanting to do something offensive and Nimitz seeing them as a way to protect a convoy heading to Samoa.

It has to be said the Americans were luckly not to run into the main Japanese fleet during these raids. Nimitz split his forces into two, with Lexington in the central Pacific and Enterprise and Yorktown in the south Pacific. The Japanese still had all six of their pre-war heavy carriers, but for most of the time they were engaged much further to the west – while the Americans were raiding isolated Japanese held islands, the Japanese carriers supported the late January invasion of Rabaul and Kavieng, then attacked Darwin in northern Australia and later on moved into the Indian Ocean. At the same time as these raids were being carried out the Japanese were capturing Singapore, conquering the Dutch East Indies and completing the conquest of the Philippines, so they were very much on the edge of events.

The US raids themselves were on a relatively small scale compared to later attacks in the Pacific, so we get very detailed accounts of each one, following each aircraft formation and any surface ships that were involved.

The aftermath of these raids was interesting. Although they did little real damage, they did divert the Japanese combined fleet from its planned operations and instead they were sent on a futile dash east to try and find the American carriers, long after they had retreated, then sent Zuikaku and Shokaku back to the home islands to defend against a possible US raid (ironically they left just before the actual Doolittle raid!).

This is a useful account of these early US counter-attacks, and certainly fills a gap in  my knowledge – I was aware they had happened, but knew very little about what actually happened.

Origins of the Campaign
Opposing Commanders
Opposing Forces
Opposing Plans
The Campaign
The Battlefields Today

Author: Brian Lane Herder
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2023

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