A Japanese Destroyer In The Sea Of Time
This article was inspired by this post on the alternatehistory.com discussion board and the brief discussion surrounding the improbability of two separate ISOT manga productions.
We will assume that the destroyer arrives a week before Midway and that the crew has no difficulty in figuring out WTF is going on. We will ignore any clinched outcome of the Japanese crew heading to the US, or any spoilsport suggestions that the ship has little in the way of offensive weapons. Re-supply is going to be a problem, of course; see Weapons of Choice for some of the reasons.
The destroyer engages the American carriers at Midway, one assumes before the Japanese carriers launch their strike or the Americans launch the decisive attack that wins the battle. A handful of cruise missiles would sink the American carriers without much in the way of problems, while the handful of American support craft could be ignored or sunk by contemporary Japanese air power. The ship meets up with Admiral Yamamoto and informs him of what happened in OTL, while the Americans are still unsure as to what actually happened.
The thing isÖthis is not going to drive the US out of the war. To some extent, the US expected failure in the Battle of Midway, not least because of the disparity in firepower. The US will reinforce Pearl Harbour and continue its massive military build-up; Midway will remain as irrelevant as it was in OTL, when it remained in American hands. The US doesnít know what happened, but the Japanese have already run short of many of their weapons and therefore American paranoia may not be justified.
The Japanese donít have many choices, particularly once Yamamoto reads through the future history records. (One possibility is that the Japanese might try to sue for peace, but I will discard it at the moment.) The problem is that the Japanese are already overextended and really need some respite, not further adventures. Some technologies can be developed fairly quickly Ė radar, for example Ė but others are too far off for the Japanese to be able to make use of them. One assumes that the Japanese atomic program would be kicked into high gear, but it is unlikely that they can produce a working weapon in time to affect the course of the war. The Germans might have more success, but that is outside the scope of this article. (I can expand it if people are interested.)
Still, Japan has the initiative, for the moment. What do they do with it? They can try for Pearl Harbour anyway, but that would have serious risks involved, even with the help of the new ship and its technology. It would also be pointless; even assuming they win, itís not going to drive the United States out of the war. They can try for Australia, and perhaps they might even succeed in making a landing, but again, they donít have the manpower to take and hold Australia. The final option is going for India, which might be the easiest target, but in the long run, that gains Japan nothing. I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the Japanese try for India, which is the least-bad option, while they work desperately to assimilate what theyíve gained from the destroyer.
Some modest improvements in Japanese tactics will save them ships; a proper convoy escort system and some antisubmarine warfare tactics will make supplying their bases easier. Other changes will be less welcome; the Japanese of that time believed in the primacy of sprit over machines, something about which Marshall Petain had a very pithy comment; fire kills. The Japanese have a much heavier carrier force than they did post-Midway in OTL; some improvements such as radar will make them much more dangerous, but only on a limited scale.
The British defences in India were very weak at the time; the Japanese would be able to chase the Royal Navy away and land their forces. Odds are that Bose and a few other idiots would try to welcome them and collaborate; Gandhi and other dreamers would be very likely to end up in prison, if the Japanese didnít simply shoot them outright, while British forces would try to retreat towards Iran. (Held at that time by a joint USSR/UK force.) It is possible here that pressure from the Japanese could cause the British defences in the desert, against Rommel and his men, to collapse, but that is outside the scope of this essay. India was hit by a famine in 1944; I suspect, with the pressures of a war, that the famine would come earlier, while the ordinary mass of Indians struggled under the weight of their new overlords. Indiaís capability for armed resistance to the British was very limited, but it might develop more against the Japanese; the British had co-opted groups that would otherwise have been a threat to British interests.
By 1943, the Americans will be back on the march. They will have matched Japanís carrier force and they will launch a series of raids against Japanese outposts. At the same time, they will have sent much more war material into the Middle East and Australia, turning Australia into a base for submarine warfare against Japan. The Japanese might be able to launch a second strike with the remaining missiles (Japanese Kongo-class destroyers carry 90 missiles, but some of them will have been taken for experimentation), destroying a second American fleet, but the build up of American power will be overwhelming. American submarines will be cutting Japanís empire apart, while American air power will be working over Japanese bases in the Dutch East Indies. Operation Torch Ė or some version not unlike it, assuming that it happens Ė will have destroyed the Afrika Korps and the British will be pushing back into India. Slimís campaign will be as irrelevant as it was in OTL, but it will keep Japanese minds concentrated. By 1944-46, America will have deployed over thirty new carriers, with newer and better aircraft, and Japan will be starving.
It is possible that Yamamoto will try to sue for peace here, but I doubt that he would be in a position to make such a decision. Nor will it be obvious to many that Japan is running out of time; the factors that will crush Japan without mercy will be almost invisible to most of the Japanese, until the Russians come in on the allied side and sweep through Manchuria. One assumes that the Japanese Army would have made preparations, but the plain fact was that the Japanese simply didnít have the resources to make such preparations. Absent the surrender of Japan, the Russians would attack on their own time and probably move all the way into Korea. Japanís empire in China would come crashing down.
At some point, probably in 1945, there will be a decisive battle and the IJN will be effectively destroyed. The USN will take huge losses themselves, but they can replace them and the JapaneseÖcannot. The US may not waste time with a Philippines campaign; given the logistics, the US might just go for a handful of islands to use as bomber bases and start grinding Japan down into the dust. The Japanese will probably have deployed more and better radar, and better night-fighters. It doesnít matter; the US will just keep grinding them down.
And, in 1945, three atomic bombs are deployed.
At this point, there are two ways it can go. One, the Japanese can surrender. Two, the Japanese can be invaded. (The Allies couldnít have nuked Japan to bedrock; there just werenít enough nukes.) We will assume, for the sake of argument, that the Japanese surrender, at which point the entire story comes out and the US ends up taking whatever remains of the Japanese ship and its crew, under a Paper Clip-like deal. (Or the Japanese may scuttle the ship, leaving it as a mystery for future generations.) The world of ATL will advance, but it will be American, as American as OTL.
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