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What were Axis & Allied naval strategies in 1942-43?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: January 15, 2013 
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During WWII, did the war at sea make a possible projection of Allied power against the Axis and at the same time impose a severe limitation on further Axis expansion?  

And then I am not sure what the Allied and Axis naval strategies were and the results during the years 1942 to 1943.

Can you shed some light?

Erica Woodard

? ? ?

Dear Erica,  

Entire books have been devoted to each of the strategies you want to know about.  I'll try to sum them up as succinctly as I can, but if you are really interested, you should read up on them.  

1942, Atlantic, Arctic and Mediterranean:  

Axis: Germany was essentially trying to choke off the Allied convoy routes, mainly using submarine wolf packs. In February 1942 Adolf Hitler transferred the last of his major surface warships from Brest up the Channel to northern ports to use, in conjunction with U-boats and aircraft, against Allied convoys to the Soviet port of Murmansk. In the Mediterranean, Italy and Germany focused on eliminating the British air and naval base of Malta, which was a major hindrance to their convoy routes to North Africa.  

Allied: Primarily a struggle to overcome the U-boats in the North Atlantic, and to protect their seaborne invasions of North Africa in November 1942.  

1942, Pacific and Indian Oceans:  

Axis: While Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto tried to drive the British and American fleets from the Pacific and Indian oceans, and hoped to force them to sue for peace rather than bring what he knew to be their overwhelming military potential into play, the Germans and Japanese tried to work out a division of labor in the Indian Ocean for their submarines and surface raiders.  

Allied: While the British invaded Vichy French-held Madagascar lest it become a Japanese submarine base, the Americans fought to stop the Japanese onslaught—finally succeeding at Midway in June—and then reverse its momentum by invading Guadalcanal, attended by a succession of sea battles that by the end of the year had secured the initiative at sea in American hands  

1943, Atlantic, Arctic and Mediterranean:  

Axis: Germany struggled to keep up the pressure on Allied convoys, the turning point of which was reached in May. When Italy capitulated in September 1943, the Germans tried to either take over its warships or destroy them before they could go over to the Allies.  

Allied: The primary goal was to get the better of the German U-boats, which in the latter half of the year began to tell as hunter-killer groups, combining anti-submarrine vessels and escort carriers, became increasingly effective. In the Mediterranean, the Allies established enough predominance to invade Sicily in July, and the Italian mainland in September.  

1943, Pacific and Indian Oceans:   

Axis: Japan adopted a defensive policy of maintaining its buffer zone of island bases, relying on land-based aircraft and the islands' defenses to defend its empire while replacing its warship losses for a later confrontation.  

Allied: While the British focused on holding the eastern Indian Ocean and rebuilding its fleet for a later offensive, the Americans, acquiring a new generation of aircraft carriers and other modern warships and aircraft, fought their way up the Solomons and later began an offensive across the Central Pacific. Meanwhile, the American submarine fleet, aided by improvements in its previously faulty torpedoes, steadily increased its activities against the Japanese merchant marine.  

Hope that helps as far as the "big picture" goes.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History



3 Responses to “What were Axis & Allied naval strategies in 1942-43?”

  1. 1
    Robert Kapanjie says:

    I agree that the Japanese naval plan in 1942 was to drive the Americans and the Brits from the high seas. I believe the strategy to accomplish this was to lure the allied fleet(s) into an epic battle, destroy them with superior numbers and firepower, and thereby force allied capitulation— at least until Midway. Is this correct ?

  2. 2

    [...] What were Axis & Allied naval strategies in 1942-43? ( [...]

  3. 3
    Lyndon says:

    What were the casualties of each side during the naval battles of Guadalcanal?

    If Justine and Co. had read your excellent dissertation on naval warfare 1942 -1943, they would \not have to ask such a superfluous question.

    Have a life you guys!

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