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Deaf Smith
09-09-2010, 06:38 PM
Sounds like a contraction doesn't it?

But since Japan’s doctrine called for a ‘decisive’ battle where the U.S. fleet would sail toward Japan and Japanese subs, torpedo boats, aircraft, and finally the Japanese fleet would destroy the American fleet in a decisive battle what if instead at Pearl Harbor they had done poorly?

That is, their attack was with far less aircraft and failed to achieve any real damage to the fleet (but enough to the civilian population to enrage the country.) And then, the U.S., pressed by a population out for Japan’s head, sent the fleet to Tokyo, just as the Japanese wanted and the pre-war American plans were set to do.

But would the Emperor and Admiral Yamamoto be willing to do such a bold deed?

Deaf

Rising Sun*
09-09-2010, 06:51 PM
But would the Emperor and Admiral Yamamoto be willing to do such a bold deed?

Deaf

Almost certainly.

The whole of Japan's naval thinking and strategy was focused on 'the decisive battle'.

There was no assurance of victory at Pearl Harbor before the event. It was recognised that the IJN Pearl Harbor fleet was vulnerable on the way to and during the attack. It was accepted that the plan might fail.

Failure at Pearl Harbor provoking the US to send its fleet to Japan would have played into Japan's hands.

Whether Japan would have won 'the decisive battle' is unknowable, and very much dependent upon what forces America sent and how they used them.

Wizard
09-10-2010, 03:35 PM
Sounds like a contraction doesn't it?

But since Japan’s doctrine called for a ‘decisive’ battle where the U.S. fleet would sail toward Japan and Japanese subs, torpedo boats, aircraft, and finally the Japanese fleet would destroy the American fleet in a decisive battle what if instead at Pearl Harbor they had done poorly?

That is, their attack was with far less aircraft and failed to achieve any real damage to the fleet (but enough to the civilian population to enrage the country.) And then, the U.S., pressed by a population out for Japan’s head, sent the fleet to Tokyo, just as the Japanese wanted and the pre-war American plans were set to do.

But would the Emperor and Admiral Yamamoto be willing to do such a bold deed?

Deaf

It's quite untrue that "pre-war" US plans were to send the US Pacific Fleet to "Tokyo"; no such plans ever existed, and, in fact, the pre-war plan (Rainbow Five) for the Pacific Fleet was to stand on the defensive and protect a defensive perimeter stretching from Alaska to Hawaii to the Panama Canal (known as the "Strategic Triangle"). This defensive phase was to last until the threat of Germany had been countered.

Even in the very beginning, War Plan Orange (WPO) did not contemplate a mad dash across the Pacific by the US Fleet to punish the Japanese for starting a war. It was always recognized by US Navy planners that it would be necessary to establish a fleet base, or bases, in the mid-Pacific before provoking a "decisive battle", probably somewhere between the Philippines and Japan. By about 1934, WPO did not even include plans to go beyond seizing Truk as an intermediate base. There were some vague references to further operations in the southern Philippines, but nothing about a fleet battle or the reduction of the Japanese Home islands.

In 1939, Admiral Stark, possibly motivated by the resistance of Admiral James Richardson to the whole concept of WPO, reassessed US strategic policy in the Pacific, and produced the first of the Rainbow series of war plans. The Rainbow plans recognized the threat represented by Germany to be far greater than that of Japan, and changed the role of the Pacific Fleet from that of waging an aggressive offensive against Japan to a defensive role of ensuring the security of the US west Coast, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal.

This certainly suited Admiral Richardson, who objected not only to WPO, but the entire US foreign policy vis a vis Japan; Richardson believed that a war with Japan was folly and that the US should accommodate Japan's territorial ambitions. The real reason Richardson objected to the Fleet's forward deployment in such strident terms was because he felt it facilitated an aggressive US foreign policy against Japan, and made WPO more realistic. Richardson may, or may not, have believed his criticism of Pearl Harbor as a Fleet base, but it was his failure to support the principles of US foreign policy that got him fired by Roosevelt.

The appointment of Admiral Husband Kimmel, who was known as one of the more aggressive of US Admirals, to replace Richardson implied that the defensive role of the Pacific Fleet would not mean passivity. Edward S. Miller in his book "War Plan Orange", speculates that Kimmel may have had plans, in case of war, to lure a portion of the Japanese Combined Fleet into an ambush somewhere Southwest of Midway. Kimmel, one of the staunchest believers in the Big Gun ships, apparently planned to use his carriers as bait in the northern Marshalls, to draw out Yamamoto and provoke a Jutland-style battle between the opposing battleships.

Whether this would have worked or not is debatable; Kimmel probably would have had a decided advantage in gun ships, but the IJN could have opposed Kimmel's two or three carriers with six of it's own. Whether it would have, and whether the opposing battle lines would have actually met, depends on several variables, not the least of which is how many carriers the Japanese might have committed to a less powerful attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, such a battle in mid-Pacific would not have decided the war by any means; even if the US Fleet had been annihilated, the US would have been able to replace the ships with units from the Atlantic, and still would have been able to adequately defend Hawaii. The US had started, in 1940, to build what was literally a "two ocean" Navy, i.e. a navy that was large enough and powerful enough to control both the Atlantic and the Pacific regardless of what the Axis powers did. The new units of that Navy began being commissioned at the end of 1942, so at best, Japan might have been able to delay it's defeat by six to nine months.

Carl Schwamberger
09-13-2010, 01:16 AM
Wizard... interesting comments there. Had Kimmel been thnking that way I'd fear he'd stumble into a counter trap. Something like Bywater described in his novel 'The Great Pacific War 1934'. But, maybe Kimmel knew something I dont.

Rising Sun*
09-13-2010, 06:44 AM
Nevertheless, such a battle in mid-Pacific would not have decided the war by any means; even if the US Fleet had been annihilated, the US would have been able to replace the ships with units from the Atlantic, and still would have been able to adequately defend Hawaii. The US had started, in 1940, to build what was literally a "two ocean" Navy, i.e. a navy that was large enough and powerful enough to control both the Atlantic and the Pacific regardless of what the Axis powers did. The new units of that Navy began being commissioned at the end of 1942, so at best, Japan might have been able to delay it's defeat by six to nine months.

Wouldn't transferring ships from the Atlantic, in sufficient force to meet Japan effectively on the defensive let alone controlling the Pacific, have caused problems for the 'Germany First' policy and delayed that war?

Wizard
09-13-2010, 12:59 PM
Wizard... interesting comments there. Had Kimmel been thnking that way I'd fear he'd stumble into a counter trap. Something like Bywater described in his novel 'The Great Pacific War 1934'. But, maybe Kimmel knew something I dont.

Of course, such an event would always be possible, however, Admiral Kimmel was aggressive but far from needlessly reckless. The USN, at the beginning of the war, enjoyed a distinct advantage over the IJN in terms of long range over-water air reconnaissance by virtue of the fact that it was able to concentrate many more squadrons of patrol bombers (known as VP) in the Pacific. Kimmel had carefully prepared Wake to temporarily host three VP squadrons especially to act as scouts for his planned ambush. In addition, he wisely chose the ambush point so that it remained under the air search umbrella provided by three VP squadrons slated to move to Midway upon the outbreak of war. Thus, Kimmel would have been operating with strong tactical reconnaissance provided by six VP squadrons. He also would have had the air search capabilities of his three (two, if war had broken out in early December) carriers. By all accounts Kimmel should have been able to conduct his operation without worrying too much about a counter-ambush.

However, this is not to say that such an operation would have been without danger to the Pacific Fleet. We know in retrospect that the IJN was carefully husbanding what it considered it's heavy naval forces in anticipation of a "Decisive Battle", and probably would not have committed any battleships in response to what amounted to mere carrier raids on it's outlying island bases. But there would have been no question but that "lighter" forces (considered by the IJN to be subs, cruisers, and carriers) would have, if possible, given battle in an attempt to attrit the heavy units of the Pacific Fleet.

We know that at least 25 Japanese subs were stationed around Oahu in conjunction with the Pearl Harbor attack, and these would have had an excellent opportunity to attack the Fleet as it sortied and returned after the presumptive battle. In the historical event these subs weren't very effective, but one never knows how they may have affected an alternate history.

Far more serious, in my opinion, would have been a confrontation between the US carriers and the IJN carriers. The IJN would have enjoyed a possible two, or three, to one advantage in numbers of flight decks, and near that in numbers of aircraft. More importantly, the training and experience of the opposing pilots was somewhat better on the Japanese side. I think a scenario where the IJN carriers overwhelm and sink or seriously damage the US carriers, and then go on to nullify Kimmel's air reconnaissance, and fall upon his vulnerable (to air attack) gun ships, is the far more plausible supposition. As Halsey was well aware, Kimmel's gun ships were slow (probably no faster than 19 knots), while the Japanese carriers and their escorts could do a minimum of 28 knots; if Kimmel had to run, he was going to be severely handicapped.

Both Admiral Kimmel, and his chief planning officer, Charles "Soc" McMorris, were stalwarts of the "Gun Club" in the US Navy at the time, and while they clearly understood the value of air reconnaissance, I think Kimmel was overly dismissive of the potential danger of naval air attack on capital ships. In my opinion, he undervalued his carriers, and potentially exposed them to dangers he little understood. I think this was the chief danger in Kimmel's plan. That is, if it did indeed exist, as Miller speculates in his book.

Wizard
09-13-2010, 01:32 PM
Wouldn't transferring ships from the Atlantic, in sufficient force to meet Japan effectively on the defensive let alone controlling the Pacific, have caused problems for the 'Germany First' policy and delayed that war?

If it had been necessary to transfer naval units from the Atlantic to the Pacific to replace ships destroyed in a notional battle at the very beginning of the war, it almost certainly would not have been on a one-to-one basis. In all likelihood, only two carriers, two modern battleships, six or eight cruisers and perhaps twenty destroyers would have been transferred. This is not significantly more than were actually dispatched from Atlantic to the Pacific in the first three months of the war.

Given the historic reluctance of the British to engage in a major confrontation with German forces in 1942 and 1943, I don't think this small reduction in US naval forces in the Atlantic would have had much practical effect on the timing of the war in Europe. Probably the most important effect would have been a delay in Operation Torch.

In the Pacific, the defense of Oahu was based, first of all, on the island's own air forces; naval units were needed primarily to keep the supply routes (never seriously threatened) from the West Coast open, and to prevent IJN heavy forces from raiding the island. The Japanese only seriously threatened the "Strategic Triangle" once, and that was the attack on Midway. If they had taken Midway, it would have been a setback for the Americans that would have to be rectified. But, in any case, Japan had no real chance of holding Midway for any length of time.

The Allied buildup in Australia would have suffered and it's possible that MacArthur's campaign in the Southwest Pacific would have had to have been curtailed or eliminated; the defensive battles fought to protect Australia were mostly fought by Australia troops and would still have occurred. The Doolittle raid may not have happened; that would free up two carriers to defend at Coral Sea. The net effect would have been to delay the USN's offensive in the Central Pacific for several months, until the USN's forces could be built up by the naval construction program begun in mid-1940. There is no doubt that the destruction of the Pacific Fleet in a battle early in the war would have been an Allied setback, but not significantly worse than what actually happened at Pearl Harbor. Such an event would not have that much of an effect on the European war because, except for light naval forces (destroyers, patrol craft, and naval aviation), the USN was not a significant factor in defeating Germany.

Rising Sun*
09-13-2010, 06:52 PM
The Allied buildup in Australia would have suffered and it's possible that MacArthur's campaign in the Southwest Pacific would have had to have been curtailed or eliminated; the defensive battles fought to protect Australia were mostly fought by Australia troops and would still have occurred.

But, depending upon when the 'decisive battle' occurred, possibly with a different result for Australia as it was Japan's need to focus on Guadalcanal which contributed to Australian success on Kokoda, which was the turning point in the first phase of what became the New Guinea campaign.

The US campaign and victory at Guadalcanal was in turn heavily dependent upon USN resources.

A significant reduction in USN forces at Guadalcanal might have seen a different result there, albeit not necessarily an American defeat but not necessarily a victory either if the force became isolated by superior IJN forces.

That, in combination with lack of Australian success on, or even defeat on, Kokoda, would quite possibly have made Eisenhower's earlier assessment that America need not defend Australia a lot more attractive. In turn, and as you say, the desirability of MacArthur's build up and campaigns might well have been rejected. Then again, Guadalcanal might not have occurred after the 'decisive battle'.

I'm already well into alternative history here, so I might as well keep going.

The consequence for the Central Pacific thrust would probably have been to impose much higher casualties on America as the New Guinea campaigns sucked the life out of the IJA in the Pacific. As Henry Frei points out


In a way, for three years the Pacific war really took place in New Guinea. It was an important side theatre that for the length of the war conveniently pinned down 350,000 elite Japanese troops as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Tokyo.

In New Guinea, Japan lost 220,000 troops.[46] In a land that was never imagined to become a battlefield, not by late-Tokugawa southward advance protagonists who envisaged the Philippines as a possible war theatre, not by Meiji intellectuals who saw the prize in Malaya and in Indonesia, not even by the General Staff at the outbreak of war.

It is an irony of Pacific war history that several other islands come to mind immediately when we speak of action in the Pacific, but not New Guinea. The many battles there are little known, except to specialists who study that place and period and to people in Australia, although the war on that island was the most drawn out and frustrating of battles in the Pacific war. http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/AJRP/remember.nsf/03e59ce3d4a5028dca256afb002a4ab9/d879e4837e327092ca256a99001b7456?OpenDocument

A Japanese victory in Papua in late 1942 - early 1943 would have released the vast bulk of those 350,000 (although I have seen other figures at 400,000) troops to Central Pacific defence.

Moreover, it would have greatly shortened Japan's lines of communication and relieved it of the burden of supplying forces in New Guinea and relieved it of the losses in shipping incurred in that process. This would have enabled stronger defences in the Central Pacific, both in troop numbers and materiel, to face the advancing Americans.

However, that might be balanced by the US forces actually allocated to MacArthur being diverted to the Central Pacific thrust. On one hand this creates a 'local' shipping problem as the distance from supply in America to the advancing fronts in the Central Pacific is much greater than from Australia to Papua-New Guinea, but overall it avoids the burden of shipping troops and materiel from America to Australia. This may increase the supply capability of America in the Central Pacific, but minus whatever was lost from Australia as the source of a good deal of supply and transport for American troops in Papua-New Guinea and elsewhere in the region throughout the war.

Meanwhile, there is every prospect that the American thrust across the Pacific would occupy Japan's attention and forces so that there would be no further advance towards Australia from Papua-New Guinea.

This would leave Australia to sit out the Pacific War fearing invasion and holding forces against it, in a stalemate not unlike the Soviet-Japan forces facing but not fighting each until the last weeks of the war.

And MacArthur might then have been captured in the Philippines and be remembered now only as the commander who managed to lose half his bomber force on the ground on the first day of the war and all his forces a few months later.

Wizard
09-13-2010, 10:18 PM
But, depending upon when the 'decisive battle' occurred, possibly with a different result for Australia as it was Japan's need to focus on Guadalcanal which contributed to Australian success on Kokoda, which was the turning point in the first phase of what became the New Guinea campaign.

The US campaign and victory at Guadalcanal was in turn heavily dependent upon USN resources.

A significant reduction in USN forces at Guadalcanal might have seen a different result there, albeit not necessarily an American defeat but not necessarily a victory either if the force became isolated by superior IJN forces.

That, in combination with lack of Australian success on, or even defeat on, Kokoda, would quite possibly have made Eisenhower's earlier assessment that America need not defend Australia a lot more attractive. In turn, and as you say, the desirability of MacArthur's build up and campaigns might well have been rejected. Then again, Guadalcanal might not have occurred after the 'decisive battle'.

I'm already well into alternative history here, so I might as well keep going.

The consequence for the Central Pacific thrust would probably have been to impose much higher casualties on America as the New Guinea campaigns sucked the life out of the IJA in the Pacific. As Henry Frei points out

http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/AJRP/remember.nsf/03e59ce3d4a5028dca256afb002a4ab9/d879e4837e327092ca256a99001b7456?OpenDocument

A Japanese victory in Papua in late 1942 - early 1943 would have released the vast bulk of those 350,000 (although I have seen other figures at 400,000) troops to Central Pacific defence.

Moreover, it would have greatly shortened Japan's lines of communication and relieved it of the burden of supplying forces in New Guinea and relieved it of the losses in shipping incurred in that process. This would have enabled stronger defences in the Central Pacific, both in troop numbers and materiel, to face the advancing Americans.

However, that might be balanced by the US forces actually allocated to MacArthur being diverted to the Central Pacific thrust. On one hand this creates a 'local' shipping problem as the distance from supply in America to the advancing fronts in the Central Pacific is much greater than from Australia to Papua-New Guinea, but overall it avoids the burden of shipping troops and materiel from America to Australia. This may increase the supply capability of America in the Central Pacific, but minus whatever was lost from Australia as the source of a good deal of supply and transport for American troops in Papua-New Guinea and elsewhere in the region throughout the war.

Meanwhile, there is every prospect that the American thrust across the Pacific would occupy Japan's attention and forces so that there would be no further advance towards Australia from Papua-New Guinea.

This would leave Australia to sit out the Pacific War fearing invasion and holding forces against it, in a stalemate not unlike the Soviet-Japan forces facing but not fighting each until the last weeks of the war.

And MacArthur might then have been captured in the Philippines and be remembered now only as the commander who managed to lose half his bomber force on the ground on the first day of the war and all his forces a few months later.

The problem with alternative history is that you can spin it pretty much anyway you like, and I have to reply with, "Yes, it's possible that could have happened." Nothing ever really gets settled in alternative history.

I will only say that a disastrous defeat for Admiral Kimmel in mid-Pacific in early December, 1941, especially the early loss of two carriers, would change the whole dynamic of the Pacific War and make any predictions about specific campaigns and battles highly speculative. But in reality, the loss of two carriers a few months before US carriers were lost historically, would have little overall effect on the end results of the war.

I speculated that the Doolittle raid might have been aborted in the interest of conserving existing carriers. If that had happened, it would have, most likely effected the timing of Japan's Midway operation. Admiral Yamamoto had already received the approval of Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Nagano for the operation, but the timing was still not settled, other operations in the South Pacific still being in competition for the scarce carrier resources, and the IJA was still fiercely expressing opposition to the plan. Only after the Doolittle raid did the IJA drop it's opposition and back the immediate launch of Yamamoto's Midway operation.

If Yamamoto had already destroyed some of the US carriers in December, 1941, and the Doolittle raid did not occur, it's unlikely that the Midway attack would have taken place in June, 1942. It was only Yamamoto's obsession with destroying US carriers that gave urgency to the Midway plan. And it was the results of the Midway battle, more than anything else, which prompted the launch of the Guadalcanal offensive in August, 1942. Suppose no Allied Midway victory, but the Japanese still complete an airbase on Guadalcanal; if no American ground invasion is possible, that airbase would still be within reach of US heavy bombers from New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo. There would be more than one way to neutralize such a base. So the chain of events may easily have precluded any ground invasion of Guadalcanal, at least in mid-1942. I would argue, however, that Guadalcanal, while helpful to the Australian victory on the Kokoda Track, was not essential to that development.

With what amounted to a reinforced Australian division spread between Port Moresby and Milne Bay, and being able to attack only on what was essentially a squad front, and having to move every grenade, bag or rice, and artillery round by foot over one of the most imposing mountain ranges in the world under appalling climatic conditions, I would contend the Japanese had zero chance of prevailing in the Kokoda campaign. And even if they had somehow managed to take Port Moresby, exploiting the area as an offensive air base against northern Australia would have required far better logistics than they were ever capable of in that area. The whole New Guinea campaign might have ended in a stalemate, but such a stalemate neither favored Japan nor threatened Australia.

I don't think a Japanese "victory" in New Guinea in late 1942, would have had the effect you attribute to it; it would not have "released" anything like 400,000 troops for duty in the Central Pacific because the Japanese would have had to guard against a potential attack out of Australia, unless they knew for certain that there was no Allied buildup there; of this they could never be certain.

Moreover, where could 400,000 troops be usefully deployed? Kwajalein? Tarawa? Eniwetok? They might have been employed in the campaigns of 1944 on some of the larger islands like Saipan, Guam, Tinian, or later on Okinawa, but by 1944, the Japanese had lost the ability to move significant numbers of troops anywhere in the Pacific due to the depredations of the US sub fleet, and the dominance of the US 3rd/5th. Fleet. The Japanese were extremely fortunate to be able to evacuate 13,000 starving, disease ridden, scare-crows of soldiers from Guadalcanal. Even then, the Japanese IGHQ was loath to try to re-incorporate these sorry survivors back into organized, combat-worthy units for fear of destroying the morale of the fresher units.

In any case, restricting the US counter-offensive in the Pacific to the Central Pacific would have offered a number of advantages and some disadvantages as well. Probably the biggest advantage would have been avoiding the interservice squabbles over who was to be supreme commander, and the resulting split command. Personally, had I been Roosevelt, I would have taken great pleasure in putting MacArthur in command of all service troops in Greenland, or sending him to Moscow to be the US military representative to Stalin (we could have started the Cold war three years early!), or sending him to China in place of Stillwell, show Chiang what a real tyrant was like!

I still think the Pacific war would have ended on schedule because, once we had captured the Marianas, Japan was doomed. The Manhattan project was going ahead regardless of what happened in the Pacific, and with Tinian in our hands, there was no escape.

Rising Sun*
09-14-2010, 01:10 AM
With what amounted to a reinforced Australian division spread between Port Moresby and Milne Bay, and being able to attack only on what was essentially a squad front,

That's a popular misconception, no doubt derived from the fact that parts of the track are quite narrow and hemmed by jungle which limits movement.

Some engagements were on a very much larger scale than squad contacts, in unit and battlefield size. There are good schematics here of these engagments. Click on the date table that will come up on the left of the map for troop movements.
http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/into-the-mountains/stand-at-isurava.php
http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/into-the-mountains/efogi-disaster.php
http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/into-the-mountains/action-at-ioribaiwa-ridge.php



and having to move every grenade, bag or rice, and artillery round by foot over one of the most imposing mountain ranges in the world under appalling climatic conditions,

The Australians had exactly the same problem, but the further the Japanese advanced the more the positions were reversed in Australia's favour.

The position was different for the Japanese when the Australian counter-offensive pushed them back towards the Buna beachhead as by that stage the Japanese supply line was very poor and the Japanese were generally ill and starving and in a far worse condition than the Australians had been during their retreat.


I would contend the Japanese had zero chance of prevailing in the Kokoda campaign.

I think they had a reasonable chance of succeeding.

The real test would have been when the depleted and not very healthy force tried to break out of their most advanced point at Ioribaiwa Ridge where, to that point, they remained undefeated. But General Horii was ordered to retreat when he was in sight of Moresby, because of the situation on Guadalcanal.

The probability is that the Japanese, by then reduced by disease and hunger, would not have been able to take Moresby.

However, if the early stages of the campaign had gone better and quicker for Japan, as it could reasonably have expected when battle hardened Japanese forces were faced by outnumbered green Australian militia troops, Japan would have been in a significantly better condition to attack Moresby. This probably would have been without having some of the battles along the way as these occurred in part because of the time bought by the unexpectedly strong and effective defence by the green Australian troops, ably led by some battle-hardened officers and NCOs transferred in for that purpose.


I would argue, however, that Guadalcanal, while helpful to the Australian victory on the Kokoda Track, was not essential to that development.

I’m not so sure about that.

The interrelationship between Guadalcanal and the Papuan campaign is dealt with nicely here, starting at p.134. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=NbXccb3rkSUC&pg=PA145&dq=second+world+war+asia+pacific+west+point+histor y+papua+guadalcanal&hl=en&ei=BwqPTP6tI4m8vQOlmMG_Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

It is significant that the Japanese, having defeated the Australians in every battle, were in sight of Moresby when ordered to retreat because of the Guadalcanal situation.

Although the Japanese were by then not in good physical condition and poorly supplied, they still managed to expel a solid Australian force from Ioribaiwa Ridge under those poor circumstances. The Japanese often demonstrated during WWII a great ability to carry on under such adverse conditions. Maybe they could have taken Moresby. The incentive of access to stores might have helped spur them on.

As it was, the defence of Moresby wasn’t put to the test because of the retreat order to Gen Horii, so we’ll never know if he could have taken Moresby in the absence of Guadalcanal, but it is also the case that Australia got a huge advantage from being able to chase troops ordered to retreat rather than forcing them by feat of arms to retreat.

In the absence of the retreat order, and regardless of whether or not Horii could have taken Moresby, it doesn’t follow that the Australians could readily have dislodged him from Ioribaiwa and forced him into retreat.

I think the retreat order was crucial in initiating the Australian advance along Kokoda, which in turn was attributable to the Guadalcanal situation.

In the end, however, Papua and Guadalcanal were both due to Japan’s ‘victory disease’ and to Japan badly over-extending itself, which was due to Japan’s lack of strategic vision which contributed significantly to its eventual defeat.


And even if they had somehow managed to take Port Moresby, exploiting the area as an offensive air base against northern Australia would have required far better logistics than they were ever capable of in that area.

Apart from the major US air base at Townsville in North Queensland, there wasn't much on land in northern Australia to hit from the air from Moresby.

Moresby was the only natural deep water harbour in the region. It would have been better used as a back-up to the IJN base at Rabaul, which in turn was backing up Truk. That assumes, of course, that Japan had the ships, IJN and merchant, to utilise it.

A Japanese naval and or air base at Moresby would have given Japan a good deal of control over movements through the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, which would have interfered with sea supply from the east coast centres to Darwin and anywhere else west of the Torres Strait. It would also have protected Rabaul from air attack from Townsville as Moresby was a necessary staging point on those long missions, although the impact of that on the war as a whole would have been minimal.

The loss of Moresby would have had a greater impact in morale terms in Australia, positively for some and negatively for others, with Japan firmly on our doorstep and apparently poised to invade.


The whole New Guinea campaign might have ended in a stalemate, but such a stalemate neither favored Japan nor threatened Australia.

With the benefit of hindsight we know that, but MacArthur and his commanders didn't share that view nor did the Australia public. All of them, quite reasonably, saw the advance to Moresby as a prelude to Japan's announced intention to conquer Australia.

MacArthur's panic was in part attributable to his fear of losing his command if he lost Moresby.


Personally, had I been Roosevelt, I would have taken great pleasure in putting MacArthur in command of all service troops in Greenland, or sending him to Moscow to be the US military representative to Stalin (we could have started the Cold war three years early!), or sending him to China in place of Stillwell, show Chiang what a real tyrant was like!

On that, we agree.

Maybe Roosevelt thought that keeping MacArthur as far away from him as possible for the duration of the war was the ideal arrangement, and that Australia fitted that bill.

Wizard
09-14-2010, 03:11 PM
That's a popular misconception, no doubt derived from the fact that parts of the track are quite narrow and hemmed by jungle which limits movement.

Some engagements were on a very much larger scale than squad contacts, in unit and battlefield size....

Nevertheless, the Kokoda Trail battles were typically fought as small unit engagements. The restricted terrain, and above all the difficult logistics, prevented both sides from conducting large scale battles. The Japanese, for instance, would have been very hard pressed to attack Port Moresby directly with fresh troops in anything larger than battalion-size formations.

With the majority of of the veteran Australian 7th Division, and after mid-September, major elements of the US 32nd Division, in and around Port Moresby, the Japanese would have been fatally outnumbered in any attack on that locality, even if they had been able to somehow bring forward enough supplies.


The Australians had exactly the same problem, but the further the Japanese advanced the more the positions were reversed in Australia's favour....

Perhaps, but they were able to solve it in different ways. In any case, the Australians benefited from the ability to supply their forward troops by air, difficult as that was; the Japanese never had the transport aircraft to utilize this means of supply. At no point, were the Australians in such a desperate logistical situation as the Japanese on the Kokoda trail. In fact, one of the Australian problems was destroying supply dumps, such as the one at Myola, so that they would not fall into enemy hands.


I think they had a reasonable chance of succeeding.

Only if they had been able to strike out of Buna and capture the Kokoda Trail in it's entirety in the first two to three weeks. This might have allowed them to bring enough force to bear on Port Moresby to capture it before it could be reinforced. The fact that the trail was even lightly garrisoned and the Japanese had very poor intelligence on it (IGHQ was under the impression that it was a "road" capable of supporting motor transport) and it's defenders (After the initial engagements, the Japanese reported that they had defeated an Australian force of 1,200 men; actual numbers, 77 Australians), meant that they never could move fast enough to accomplish their objectives.


The real test would have been when the depleted and not very healthy force tried to break out of their most advanced point at Ioribaiwa Ridge where, to that point, they remained undefeated. But General Horii was ordered to retreat when he was in sight of Moresby, because of the situation on Guadalcanal.

The probability is that the Japanese, by then reduced by disease and hunger, would not have been able to take Moresby....

General Horrii's decision could not have been solely because of the Allied attack on Guadalcanal; he also believed that his troops were so depleted and in such terrible condition that they could not even withstand a determined assault on their positions overlooking Port Moresby, otherwise he would have dug in and awaited developments.

Moreover, had the Americans not invaded Guadalcanal, MacArthur could have called on the First Marine Division (then under Nimitz's command) to reinforce Port Moresby, and the likelihood is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have granted the request. How likely is it that the Japanese, with their starving, disease ridden handful of troops, could have attacked and overwhelmed Port Moresby's defenses, manned by the veteran 7th. Australian Division, the 32nd. US Division, and the First Marine Division? I just don't see any chance for the Japanese, with or without Guadalcanal.


I’m not so sure about that.

The interrelationship between Guadalcanal and the Papuan campaign is dealt with nicely here, starting at p.134. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=NbXccb3rkSUC&pg=PA145&dq=second+world+war+asia+pacific+west+point+histor y+papua+guadalcanal&hl=en&ei=BwqPTP6tI4m8vQOlmMG_Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

It is significant that the Japanese, having defeated the Australians in every battle, were in sight of Moresby when ordered to retreat because of the Guadalcanal situation.

Although the Japanese were by then not in good physical condition and poorly supplied, they still managed to expel a solid Australian force from Ioribaiwa Ridge under those poor circumstances. The Japanese often demonstrated during WWII a great ability to carry on under such adverse conditions. Maybe they could have taken Moresby. The incentive of access to stores might have helped spur them on.

As it was, the defence of Moresby wasn’t put to the test because of the retreat order to Gen Horii, so we’ll never know if he could have taken Moresby in the absence of Guadalcanal, but it is also the case that Australia got a huge advantage from being able to chase troops ordered to retreat rather than forcing them by feat of arms to retreat.

In the absence of the retreat order, and regardless of whether or not Horii could have taken Moresby, it doesn’t follow that the Australians could readily have dislodged him from Ioribaiwa and forced him into retreat.

I think the retreat order was crucial in initiating the Australian advance along Kokoda, which in turn was attributable to the Guadalcanal situation.

In the end, however, Papua and Guadalcanal were both due to Japan’s ‘victory disease’ and to Japan badly over-extending itself, which was due to Japan’s lack of strategic vision which contributed significantly to its eventual defeat.

As I indicated above, Horiis decision to retreat reflected his overall situation and wasn't due entirely to news from Guadalcanal. The fact that Guadalcanal meant he could not count on receiving fresh troops as reinforcements played a part, of course, but had the Japanese enjoyed adequate logistics, and had some prospect of achieving their objective, retreat would never have been considered.

Yes, the Japanese often persevered in adverse situations and occasionally prevailed as a result, but Horii knew he couldn't take Port Moresby with the troops at hand, and had to consider that continuing to attack would open his base at Buna/Gona to possible counter-attack which would jeopardize whatever gains the Japanese had already made. Furthermore, given Horii's logistical realities, simply hunkering down and defending his advanced positions would eventually lead to defeat, so there was no sense in doing that.

Guadalcanal was bad news for Horii, but reinforcing Port Moresby with the troops that were historically used to invade Guadalcanal would have been even worse news. So there were no good options for the Japanese. I agree with you that the real problem was that the Japanese were over-extended and susceptible to the mistaken idea that their opponents would always be as weak as those they had defeated in the opening months of the war. The reality was that the Japanese were beginning to suffer from the disparity in material resources between their Empire and the Allies. On September 23, 1942, there were some 86 Allied ships, totaling 661,200 tons, in Noumea Harbor, waiting to unload, while at the same time the officers of a shipping regiment in Rabaul were frantically searching for ships of any size to transport 1,200 Korean laborers and 16,000 tons of supplies to Buna.

CONTINUED......

Wizard
09-14-2010, 03:12 PM
CONTINUED FROM ABOVE.....


Apart from the major US air base at Townsville in North Queensland, there wasn't much on land in northern Australia to hit from the air from Moresby.

Well, there was the major US air base at Iron Range, where in 1942, at least five bomber squadrons were based. There was also Cairns, where a US transport squadron was based, and Mareeba airfield, just south of Cairns where seven US Bomber squadrons and a three US fighter squadrons were based in 1942. Altogether, there were eight US military airfields on the northeast Australian coast within range of bombers from Port Moresby. This isn't counting RAAF installations in that area.


Moresby was the only natural deep water harbour in the region. It would have been better used as a back-up to the IJN base at Rabaul, which in turn was backing up Truk. That assumes, of course, that Japan had the ships, IJN and merchant, to utilise it.

A Japanese naval and or air base at Moresby would have given Japan a good deal of control over movements through the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, which would have interfered with sea supply from the east coast centres to Darwin and anywhere else west of the Torres Strait. It would also have protected Rabaul from air attack from Townsville as Moresby was a necessary staging point on those long missions, although the impact of that on the war as a whole would have been minimal.

The loss of Moresby would have had a greater impact in morale terms in Australia, positively for some and negatively for others, with Japan firmly on our doorstep and apparently poised to invade.

All of which more or less confirms my contention that Port Moresby probably wasn't worth the effort the Japanese put into taking it.

The Japanese did not have the ships to keep Port Moresby supplied on the scale that would have been required to support either an air or naval base. Even if the Japanese could somehow find the logistical shipping, The Torres straits, a natural chokepoint with a shipping channel only about 20 miles wide, as well as the approaches to Port Moresby through the Coral Sea to the east, would have been heavily disputed by Allied air units based in northern Australia. Supplying Port Moresby, for the Japanese, would have been as difficult and as costly as supplying Guadalcanal. Maintaining any kind of forces there would have involved a very debilitating battle of attrition, and the Japanese would have lost that battle.


With the benefit of hindsight we know that, but MacArthur and his commanders didn't share that view nor did the Australia public. All of them, quite reasonably, saw the advance to Moresby as a prelude to Japan's announced intention to conquer Australia.

MacArthur's panic was in part attributable to his fear of losing his command if he lost Moresby.

This is true, but alternative histories are always argued with the benefit of hindsight.

As for Japan's intentions, I don't believe they ever announced their intention to invade Australia. In fact, by September, 1942, American intelligence was certain, based on radio decrypts, that Japan had neither the desire nor the capability of invading Australia. I don't know whether this insight was shared with MacArthur or not. In any case, Mac was typically dismissive of any intelligence which did not accord with his current view of the situation, or which tended to negate the importance of his own personal involvement.

Give the Devil his due, one thing MacArthur seldom did was panic. I don't think he ever feared loss of command while in Australia; he did fear not getting a regular ration of favorable press.


On that, we agree.

Maybe Roosevelt thought that keeping MacArthur as far away from him as possible for the duration of the war was the ideal arrangement, and that Australia fitted that bill.

Seriously, I am quite convinced that Roosevelt tolerated, indeed encouraged, the absurd command arrangement in the Pacific precisely because he wanted MacArthur safely in Australia where he wasn't likely to stir up domestic political trouble for Roosevelt. Saddling the poor Australians with Mac was also one way of preventing possible bloodshed on the JCS which already Admiral King to contend with.

Rising Sun*
09-14-2010, 09:33 PM
Perhaps, but they were able to solve it in different ways. In any case, the Australians benefited from the ability to supply their forward troops by air, difficult as that was; the Japanese never had the transport aircraft to utilize this means of supply.

Agreed, but maybe not all that much of a benefit to some or all of the fighting troops. I heard an oral history recently in which several veterans of the Kokoda campaign said that the air dropped supplies rarely landed where they were accessible to them.


At no point, were the Australians in such a desperate logistical situation as the Japanese on the Kokoda trail. In fact, one of the Australian problems was destroying supply dumps, such as the one at Myola, so that they would not fall into enemy hands.

Some of those supplies fell into Japanese hands during the Japanese retreat, to their further disadvantage. The Australians fouled them before abandoning them. The Japanese were so desperate in retreat that some ate the fouled supplies and became ill.


... the Japanese had very poor intelligence on it (IGHQ was under the impression that it was a "road" capable of supporting motor transport) and it's defenders.

Poor intelligence wasn't limited to the Japanese.

One of MacArthur's senior American officers in Australia (can't recall who), on learning that the Kokoda Track went through a pass, thought that it would be a simple measure to block the pass and hold the Japanese there. He seemed to think it was a narrow pass of the type beloved of cowboy movies, when in fact it was miles wide and incapable of a blocking defence.

I think the greatest deficiency in Allied command of the Kokoda campaign was that MacArthur and, far worse, Blamey as field commander in Moresby never even flew over the Track in the crucial Australian retreat period and refused to accept their field officers' description of terrain and conditions. Neither had any realistic appreciation of the ground or conditions or what was feasible for the troops and local commanders. Consequently both of them made unrealistic demands of their subordinates and were unduly harsh in their adverse responses to their subordinates' defeats by the Japanese. Blamey was an excellent commander and tactician in certain respects, but his command during the Australian retreat was, at best, uninspiring.

Wizard
09-14-2010, 11:47 PM
Agreed, but maybe not all that much of a benefit to some or all of the fighting troops. I heard an oral history recently in which several veterans of the Kokoda campaign said that the air dropped supplies rarely landed where they were accessible to them.

Yes, I understand that air-dropped supplies were as frequently lost in the jungle as retrieved by the intended recipients. However, the ability to air drop supplies at places like Myola (once the correct dry lake bed was identified) meant that not every pound of supply that reached the front-line Australian troops had to be man-carried; this was not the case for the Japanese.


Some of those supplies fell into Japanese hands during the Japanese retreat, to their further disadvantage. The Australians fouled them before abandoning them. The Japanese were so desperate in retreat that some ate the fouled supplies and became ill.

Interesting. I also understand that the Japanese were so desperate that it was suspected, after some Australian corpses were found with body parts missing, that they were resorting to cannibalism.


Poor intelligence wasn't limited to the Japanese.

One of MacArthur's senior American officers in Australia (can't recall who), on learning that the Kokoda Track went through a pass, thought that it would be a simple measure to block the pass and hold the Japanese there. He seemed to think it was a narrow pass of the type beloved of cowboy movies, when in fact it was miles wide and incapable of a blocking defence.

Probably Sutherland.

MacArthur and his staff were frequently accused of ignoring or misusing intelligence information, particularly during the first year of the war. Mac's intelligence organization tended to distance itself from the usually very efficient Joint Intelligence Center/Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA), and as a result Mac's planning staff was often not on the same page as the rest of the Allied forces in the Pacific. Even when they shared a consensus, MacArthur might easily discount intelligence information if it didn't match his preconceived notions.


I think the greatest deficiency in Allied command of the Kokoda campaign was that MacArthur and, far worse, Blamey as field commander in Moresby never even flew over the Track in the crucial Australian retreat period and refused to accept their field officers' description of terrain and conditions. Neither had any realistic appreciation of the ground or conditions or what was feasible for the troops and local commanders. Consequently both of them made unrealistic demands of their subordinates and were unduly harsh in their adverse responses to their subordinates' defeats by the Japanese. Blamey was an excellent commander and tactician in certain respects, but his command during the Australian retreat was, at best, uninspiring.

Yes, I have read of incidents involving Blamey such as the "running rabbits" speech; I gather he was held in rather low esteem by his field commanders and troops.

With MacArthur, it was probably more often a situation where reality conflicted with his plans and ambitions, with his subordinates getting caught in the middle. MacArthur's ego simply would not let him tolerate unfavorable press, and God help the subordinate who might encounter obstacles which could potentially result in making Mac look less than Olympian.

Rising Sun*
09-15-2010, 05:27 AM
Yes, I understand that air-dropped supplies were as frequently lost in the jungle as retrieved by the intended recipients. However, the ability to air drop supplies at places like Myola (once the correct dry lake bed was identified) meant that not every pound of supply that reached the front-line Australian troops had to be man-carried; this was not the case for the Japanese.

Another aspect which advantaged the Australians was that, unlike the Japanese who raided the local population's subsistence gardens and stock and oppressed them in other ways, the Australians didn't alienate the local population, so Australia had a significant and crucial force of native carriers (who despite contemporary myths which still inform popular opinion were perhaps no more than indentured labourers exploited by the Australians) to bring supplies up and take wounded down, as well as providing local knowledge. But that is not to say that the local population was universally opposed to the Japanese as there were many who aided them, although sometimes with fatal consequences under Australian control. http://exkiap.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=805

The Japanese also lacked the local knowledge and intelligence gained from Australians and other Europeans who had long lived in Papua.


Interesting. I also understand that the Japanese were so desperate that it was suspected, after some Australian corpses were found with body parts missing, that they were resorting to cannibalism.

It wasn't suspected. There was evidence of cooking the body parts.

In fairness to the Japanese, it was probably driven by desperation rather than their common gratuitous torture and butchery of an enemy. When the Gona - Buna - Sanananda beachhead was being reduced by the Australians and Americans at the end of 1942, the Japanese resorted to cannibalism of their own dead. I think I posted something on this forum some years ago referring to or extracting entries in a Japanese soldier's diary concerning his and his comrades' starvation and desperate resort to cannibalism of their own dead. Can't recall whether the source of the diary was internet or paper, but quite possibly here http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/ which is a great resource.


Probably Sutherland.

Although he was a ***** in so many respects, I'm inclined to think it wasn't him.


Yes, I have read of incidents involving Blamey such as the "running rabbits" speech; I gather he was held in rather low esteem by his field commanders and troops.

The troops probably had a generally low opinion of him, but he had some solid supporters among officers under his command.

I've read a lot about him, both primary and secondary sources, and find it difficult to come to any firm conclusion about the man. Like MacArthur and many other important military figures, he is not a one-dimensional figure. His supporters and opponents often give diametrically opposed versions of the same event.

The 'rabbit who runs' episode is a perfect example. His supporters say he was not hostile to the troops and his comments were misunderstood while some of those present say the troops became mutinous and a nasty event was avoided only by the control of NCOs and officers, even though some of those officers soon after declined, in what amounted to calculated and serious military rudeness bordering on insubordination to a superior, to attend a subsequent gathering with Blamey.

In case you haven't heard of it, a sequel to the 'rabbit who runs' speech illustrates a lot about the Australian soldiers of the time, and something about Blamey. When he returned to Moresby, Blamey visited a hospital holding troops wouned on the Track. Accompanied by the usual retinue of medical staff and flunkeys, he entered a ward to find all the troops sitting up in bed munching on lettuce leaves, like rabbits. Blamey walked through the ward, saying nothing. Nothing eventuated from it.

Rising Sun*
09-15-2010, 08:18 AM
Well, there was the major US air base at Iron Range, where in 1942, at least five bomber squadrons were based. There was also Cairns, where a US transport squadron was based, and Mareeba airfield, just south of Cairns where seven US Bomber squadrons and a three US fighter squadrons were based in 1942. Altogether, there were eight US military airfields on the northeast Australian coast within range of bombers from Port Moresby. This isn't counting RAAF installations in that area.

I was thinking more of major permanent or difficult quickly to replace targets, the destruction of which would have had a significant impact upon the Allies' ability to fight Japan. I can't think of anything apart from Townsville. Unlike the south east corner of Australia where the major industrial capacity was concentrated, and where much of the grazing and agricultural capacity sat, north Queensland was pretty barren from a critical target viewpoint. Japan could have occupied it for the whole war without, apart from obvious morale and counter-force issues, doing significant damage to Australia's capacity to wage war. Which is precisely why that area was, if necessary, part of the area to be evacuated and left to the enemy if it invaded in undefeated force, so that Australian forces could be concentrated in the south east corner to protect the things that really mattered for the long term war.


All of which more or less confirms my contention that Port Moresby probably wasn't worth the effort the Japanese put into taking it.

Agreed.

Papua New Guinea wasn't worth any Japanese effort, nor (with the possible exception of Rabaul which doesn't make a lot of sense on its own) was anything after the NEI from any intelligent strategic assessment based on protecting the conquests Japan wanted, and wanted to hold until the Allies accepted its acquisition as a fait accompli, which was about the limit of misguided Japanese strategic thinking on how the war would end in its favour.

The 'ribbon defence' notion which extended to Guadalcanal, and logically to Easter Island and the west coast of South America, made a basic strategic mistake of lacking an anchor point about which everything revolved. It was little more than eastward expansion for the sake of protecting the last expansion and achieving the improbable isolation and surrender of Australia, without regard to Japan's primary objectives which were the resources which did not extend beyond the NEI. All it achieved was to thrust a narrow and extraordinarily long salient (of isolated and hard to supply islands) into hostile territory which could not be controlled from the salient because of Japan's lack of necessary forces and resources.

Which, coming back to the original topic, is another indication of why Japan would not have won even it lost at Pearl Harbor.


The Japanese did not have the ships to keep Port Moresby supplied on the scale that would have been required to support either an air or naval base.

Japan's primary problem was that it did not have the shipping to supply and exploit its conquests. This was obvious to the meanest intelligence before the war. Add in Japan's inability to replace losses and it was doomed from the outset.

A brilliant piece of strategical thinking and planning from an island nation about to embark on the most ambitious and rapid expansion into countless islands across the seas in history.



As for Japan's intentions, I don't believe they ever announced their intention to invade Australia.

Agreed, but Japan's posturing and Tojo's statements demanded Australia surrender while its advances made it appear that it intended to invade, as indeed was the subject of hot debate in early 1942 between the 'pro' IJN and 'anti' IJA.

Nobody at the time had the benefit of the knowledge we now have which shows that Japan couldn't invade. Much the same as we now know that Sealion wasn't going to happen, but that doesn't alter the legitimate concerns in Britain at the time that invasion was imminent or at least highly likely.


In fact, by September, 1942, American intelligence was certain, based on radio decrypts, that Japan had neither the desire nor the capability of invading Australia.

There were Magic decrypts which supported this view. Much has been made of this, in isolation from surrounding circumstances indicating different intentions by Japan and conveniently ignoring the fact that other Japanese codes had not been broken, by Dr Peter Stanley in some contentious articles mentioned at #6 here http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php?4574-Invasion-Australia&highlight=australia+invade


I don't know whether this insight was shared with MacArthur or not. In any case, Mac was typically dismissive of any intelligence which did not accord with his current view of the situation, or which tended to negate the importance of his own personal involvement.

I'm rusty on this, but I think that anything coming to the Australians from US decrypts would have come through MacArthur, or at least his HQ, as the local American commander. It might be covered in Dr Stanley's article but I'm too short of time to re-read it.


Give the Devil his due, one thing MacArthur seldom did was panic. I don't think he ever feared loss of command while in Australia; he did fear not getting a regular ration of favorable press.

My recollection is that his position was vulnerable in the second half of 1942 and that he feared that a loss in Papua would result in the loss of his command, possibly to another Army commander but more probably to the USN.

I'm relying heavily on my imperfect and aged memory at the moment as I'm building a new house and have almost all of my remaining (i.e. what's left after I unwisely disposed of thousands of books a few years ago) books in storage.


Seriously, I am quite convinced that Roosevelt tolerated, indeed encouraged, the absurd command arrangement in the Pacific precisely because he wanted MacArthur safely in Australia where he wasn't likely to stir up domestic political trouble for Roosevelt.

IIRC that didn't stop Mac giving a great deal of thought to running in the 1944 Presidential election, and receiving considerable, but ultimately inadequate, support for his candidacy if he chose to run.


Saddling the poor Australians with Mac was also one way of preventing possible bloodshed on the JCS which already Admiral King to contend with.

Not entirely.

Mac's arrival here was in part the consequence of our Prime Minister's entreaties to America for American forces and leadership, to keep America in our war for our survival after Britain had largely abandoned us after happily using us for its European and Mediterranean wars, and us happily being used to that point.

Mac was an arrogant, self-promoting, self-aggrandising, publicity-seeking arsehole of the first order, and a failure in the Philippine defence, and his 'island hopping' strategy was not his unique invention, but the fact remains that he turned out to be a very good and very effective, and when required a personally brave under fire, commander from 1943 onwards. We could have done a lot worse.

Wizard
09-15-2010, 11:48 AM
....In fairness to the Japanese, it was probably driven by desperation rather than their common gratuitous torture and butchery of an enemy. When the Gona - Buna - Sanananda beachhead was being reduced by the Australians and Americans at the end of 1942, the Japanese resorted to cannibalism of their own dead....

Yes, I believe most instances of cannibalism by Japanese troops occurred in circumstances where it was the only alternative to death by starvation. I have, however, also read of documented incidents of ritual cannibalism indulged in by well fed Japanese officers. Stories of livers being removed from still-living POW's, cooked, and eaten sometimes even name the officers responsible; a certain Colonel Tsuji, a prominent Japanese staff officer, comes to mind.

I first heard of such events from my father, who served as a carrier pilot in the Pacific throughout the war. He said they circulated as rumors; he and many of his colleagues thought they were merely "sea stories", calculated to frighten the new guys.


The troops probably had a generally low opinion of him, but he had some solid supporters among officers under his command.

I've read a lot about him, both primary and secondary sources, and find it difficult to come to any firm conclusion about the man. Like MacArthur and many other important military figures, he is not a one-dimensional figure. His supporters and opponents often give diametrically opposed versions of the same event.

The 'rabbit who runs' episode is a perfect example. His supporters say he was not hostile to the troops and his comments were misunderstood while some of those present say the troops became mutinous and a nasty event was avoided only by the control of NCOs and officers, even though some of those officers soon after declined, in what amounted to calculated and serious military rudeness bordering on insubordination to a superior, to attend a subsequent gathering with Blamey.

In case you haven't heard of it, a sequel to the 'rabbit who runs' speech illustrates a lot about the Australian soldiers of the time, and something about Blamey. When he returned to Moresby, Blamey visited a hospital holding troops wouned on the Track. Accompanied by the usual retinue of medical staff and flunkeys, he entered a ward to find all the troops sitting up in bed munching on lettuce leaves, like rabbits. Blamey walked through the ward, saying nothing. Nothing eventuated from it.

Yes, I read about the lettuce munching incident. I also read somewhere, can't recall the source, that, at a certain formation where the ranks passed in review before Blamey, most of the men refused the "eyes right" command. I don't remember whether this was before or after the "running rabbits" speech. One of the accounts I read of the "running rabbits" incident claimed, seriously I assume, that Blamey was fortunate on that occasion, to escape with his life.

I gather that much of Blamey's appalling reputation with his troops stemmed from interwar politics and accusations of corruption, and that it was not enhanced by the nature of his relationship with MacArthur.

Deaf Smith
09-15-2010, 06:36 PM
Mac's arrival here was in part the consequence of our Prime Minister's entreaties to America for American forces and leadership, to keep America in our war for our survival after Britain had largely abandoned us after happily using us for its European and Mediterranean wars, and us happily being used to that point.

Mac was an arrogant, self-promoting, self-aggrandising, publicity-seeking arsehole of the first order, and a failure in the Philippine defence, and his 'island hopping' strategy was not his unique invention, but the fact remains that he turned out to be a very good and very effective, and when required a personally brave under fire, commander from 1943 onwards. We could have done a lot worse.

Actually I'm quite impressed with 'Dougout Doug'.

While in the Central Pacific they invade islands and pushed the Japanese out, killing them to the last man (and at grievous cost), Gen. Douglas MacArthur instead used a form of containment. He took what he needed and STOPPED!

As a result he left an awful lot of Japanese soldiers stranded forcing them to either stay put or do a frontal assault on an entrenched enemy. Which was not unlike what they got us to do to them in the Central Pacific!

Yes it tied of troops, but those soldiers would have been wounded or killed in vicious fighting for the very Japanese in caves that instead would have had to do the same to the Allies.

His way was much wiser. We had plenty of manpower so no need to do the ‘Hi-diddle-right-up-the-middle’ as was done so often in the island campaigns.

Deaf

Rising Sun*
09-15-2010, 07:59 PM
I have, however, also read of documented incidents of ritual cannibalism indulged in by well fed Japanese officers. Stories of livers being removed from still-living POW's, cooked, and eaten sometimes even name the officers responsible; a certain Colonel Tsuji, a prominent Japanese staff officer, comes to mind.

Tsujii is a fascinating, if repellent, character, as much for his post war career as for his war time career, starting with planning the Malayan invasion and the Sook Ching massacre. He was 'Mr Everywhere Man' in 1942, bouncing around the SWPA and arrogating to himself more authority than he had, notably with his orders to commanders more senior than him to execute Allied prisoners on the basis that he was relaying orders from a more senior commander when in fact no such orders were given. I respect the commander (can't recall who) who declined to follow the orders until they were confirmed in writing, which of course never happened.

Tsujii is said in some secondary sources to have eaten enemy livers after the Philippine victory, and perhaps elsewhere in the SWPA, and to have exhorted other officers to do the same thing. I've never been able to determine whether it is fact or fiction.

This may be the source of the allegations, but it’s hearsay so far as the war correspondents were concerned.


Tsuji by this time had managed to move 33rd Army headquarters 80 miles into China, to Mangshih. As a Japanese biographer related the story in 1953, he put on a remarkable banquet to which he invited several war correspondents. An air raid destroyed the bridge leading to Mangshih, so they were unable to attend, but afterward they were told that Tsuji and some other staff officers had eaten the liver of an enemy pilot. In this version, the pilot was British. The same story was told by a Japanese army officer, Major Mitsuo Abe of the 49th Division who was actually present at the macabre meal; according to him, the pilot was an American lieutenant named Parker. In this version, the banquet was spontaneous. Parker was shot down in a raid, questioned by Abe and Tsuji, and refused to give any useful information. Another air-raid killed two Japanese soldiers and persuaded the officers that they must pull back from Mangshih. There was a clamor for Parker's execution, both for revenge and for the practical consideration that there was scarcely enough transport for the Japanese staff, without taking the American along. The two officers supposedly refused to have him executed. Instead, Parker was killed while they were at dinner, "while trying to escape." It was then and there, in this version, that the pilot's liver was brought in.

As the war correspondents heard the story, the liver was cut up and roasted on skewers. "The more we consume," Tsuji proclaimed, "the more we shall be inspired by a hostile spirit towards the enemy." Some officers merely toyed with their portions, some ate a bit and spit it out. Tsuji called them cowards and ate until his own portion was finished. http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-19564.html

There’s some interesting stuff on cannibalism as ‘not a war crime’ and instances of cannibalism, including Tsujii’s, here http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=21498



One of the accounts I read of the "running rabbits" incident claimed, seriously I assume, that Blamey was fortunate on that occasion, to escape with his life.

There certainly seems to have been considerable anger and some movement in the ranks during his speech.

Not wise to upset armed men, who have recently returned exhausted from killing people, by accusing them of being cowards.



I gather that much of Blamey's appalling reputation with his troops stemmed from interwar politics and accusations of corruption

I don’t know that they would have been all that well informed on it.

Blamey was chief of the Victorian state police between the wars where he pursued a strong anti-communist line, which wasn’t uncommon for public officials in the Western world at the time. He was also involved in a secret army based on WWI veterans who would assume military control in the event of a communist insurrection. His attitudes probably weren't all that different to MacArthur's around the same period when Mac ordered the assault on the Bonus Army.

Ultimately Blamey was caught out lying about a police incident and forced to resign. This was in large part because he got the press off-side over previous issues, particularly a still unexplained incident soon after his appointment where his police badge was presented to police by a man apprehended during a raid on a brothel. The press was merciless when he was caught out lying in the later incident. More here http://www.pacificwar.org.au/KokodaCampaign/Blamey_quit_police_job.html

As Blamey’s divisions weren’t all from Victoria it’s likely that most troops didn’t know much or anything about his past as police commissioner as news reporting was much more parochial in those days.

It’s more likely that the following issues under his command in North Africa and Greece caused the initial contempt, which was reinforced by the ‘rabbit that runs’ speech and other issues in the SWPA.

The first issue starts in North Africa and finishes in Papua. Chester Wilmot, later a significant war journalist in Europe, believed Blamey was corruptly profiting from his office as commander in North Africa. Presumably Wilmot got this from other sources, which suggests that it may have filtered down to the troops.


Blamey hated the press and with good reason. The Melbourne newspapers were unrelenting in pursuing the still unexplained, thirties scandal of Police Commissioner Blamey’s official badge tuning up in bordello.

Later Blamey’s gave a good as he got. Using the powers of wartime controls and censorship, he destroyed Chester Wilmot’s career in Australia. When Wilmot persisted in investigating Blamey’s corruption in the Middle East, he was thrown out of New Guinea his military accreditation withdrawn.

Ironically Blamey’s revenge backfired because Wilmot was free to work for the BBC, cover the Normandy landing and hence write ‘Struggle for Europe’.

Slessor had something to say about Blamey and it was not flattering. In his only other war poem ‘An Inscription for Dog River’ Slessor tells how Blamey had an inscription cut in the rock marked the capture of Damour by Australian troops under his command.
“Having bestowed on him all we had to give
In battles few can recollect,
Our Strength, obedience and endurance,
Our wits, our bodies, our existence,
Even our descendants’ right to live –
Having given him everything, in fact,
Except respect”. http://cewbean.com/Sekuless.htm


Back in Port Moresby, Wilmot was caught up in the clash between the commander-in-chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey, and the commander of New Guinea Force, Lieutenant General (Sir) Sydney Rowell. When Blamey sacked Rowell, Wilmot protested to Prime Minister John Curtin. His representations failed and in November Blamey cancelled his accreditation as a war correspondent. The stated reason was that Wilmot was undermining the authority of the commander-in-chief by continuing to express in public his suspicions that Blamey had engaged in corrupt conduct in the Middle East. It is more likely, however, that Wilmot was removed from Papua because a report on the campaign that he had written for Rowell (who included it in his dispatch) implied inefficiency on the part of Blamey's headquarters.

Rumours circulated that Blamey planned to have Wilmot conscripted into the army. Offered a position with the British Broadcasting Corporation's programme, 'War Report', he started work in London in May 1944. He landed in Normandy by glider with the British 6th Airborne Division on D-Day (6 June) and soon became one of the most famous of the correspondents reporting from Europe. After covering many of the major British operations, he recorded the ceremony at Lüneberg on 4 May 1945 in which German forces surrendered to Field Marshal Sir Bernard (Viscount) Montgomery. http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A160666b.htm

The second issue involves favouritism towards Blamey’s only surviving son. When the 6th Division evacuated, defeated, from Greece, Blamey took his son, a major of no military importance, on the last plane out with other senior officers. That sort of conduct is always going to be resented by the rank and file left to fend for themselves. Although, in fairness to Blamey, the rank and file were evacuated in relatively good order because one of the first things Blamey did when he arrived in Greece, realising it was probably a doomed campaign, was to identify the embarkation point to be used if evacuation became necessary. This was typical of his thoroughness and forward thinking as an excellent staff officer, but a less good field commander.

The third issue may be that news of Blamey’s probable depression and extended period of ineffective leadership in the early part of his command in North Africa may have got down to the troops.

The fourth issue is Blamey’s drinking and sexual affairs in North Africa, which were two things of great interest to the troops and two things they didn’t get much of. Again, things that breed resentment where the brass gets the cream and the grunts get nothing.

Rising Sun*
09-15-2010, 07:59 PM
and that it was not enhanced by the nature of his relationship with MacArthur.

MacArthur held Blamey in contempt because of his personal qualities as a drunk and lecher. I wish I could recall the quote by Mac on that point.

MacArthur did all he could to deprive Blamey of all power as his deputy, and did it well. Blamey was seen by many Australians as a toady to MacArthur, which I think is unfair to Blamey.

Blamey did all he could, and did it very effectively, to prevent Australian units being used piecemeal by the British in North Africa and to ensure that Australian troops remained under Australian military and government control in the face of assumptions by British commanders that they could do what they liked with Australian units. He tried to do something similar under MacArthur but MacArthur had the upper hand as the commander favoured by our Prime Minister and pretty much sidelined Blamey by about the end of 1943 as he converted the SWPA war into an American / MacArthur undertaking rather than an Allied one.

Wizard
09-15-2010, 09:38 PM
Actually I'm quite impressed with 'Dougout Doug'.

Yeah, he impressed a lot of people, especially those who took his war time press dispatches at face value.


While in the Central Pacific they invade islands and pushed the Japanese out, killing them to the last man (and at grievous cost), Gen. Douglas MacArthur instead used a form of containment. He took what he needed and STOPPED!

Rubbish!

MacArthur would sometimes by-pass Japanese garrisons in the New Guinea campaign, leaving them to "wither on the vine", but this was not something he invented. It was first suggested by Navy planners on Nimitz's staff, and first implemented in the Central Pacific offensive.

In the Philippines, MacArthur, in defiance of direct orders from the JCS, conducted more than a dozen major amphibious assaults on non-essential islands because he wanted to "liberate" all of the Philippine islands. These assaults caused thousands of needless American casualties and contributed nothing to the defeat of Japan. Had the Japanese garrisons been left alone, they would simply have sat out the rest of the war and surrendered, as so many others did, in August and September, 1945.


As a result he left an awful lot of Japanese soldiers stranded forcing them to either stay put or do a frontal assault on an entrenched enemy. Which was not unlike what they got us to do to them in the Central Pacific!

Exactly the same thing was done in the Central Pacific; only the most essential central Pacific islands were invaded; the others were by-passed and the garrisons left in a starving condition. Mac made plenty of mistakes in his Cartwheel campaign, that cost US and Australian casualties. Nimitz made some mistakes too, his worst being the invasion of Peleliu which was probably not required. Neither command had any monopoly on error-free planning.


Yes it tied of troops, but those soldiers would have been wounded or killed in vicious fighting for the very Japanese in caves that instead would have had to do the same to the Allies.

But Mac didn't care, most of the "tied up" troops were Australian, and he didn't want them messing up his personal PR campaign by copping some of the favorable headlines in important advances.


His way was much wiser. We had plenty of manpower so no need to do the ‘Hi-diddle-right-up-the-middle’ as was done so often in the island campaigns.

Deaf

He was able to use the tactics he did not because he was wiser, but because the geography and tactical situations were different. Mac seldom faced the kind of small, heavily fortified islands that forced Nimitz forces to make the only possible kind of frontal assault that produced heavy casualties for a relatively short period of time.

MacArthur constantly trumpeted his "lower casualty rates" during the war to justify his demand to be named overall commander in the Pacific. But historian Richard Frank, who studied casualty rates of all the Pacific theaters for his book "Downfall", found that Mac's casualty rates were no better, and in some cases worse, than were Nimitz's. Overall, in the Pacific War just as many Americans were killed and wounded under Mac as were under Nimitz. Moreover, it was found that Mac's troops were usually less well trained and had poorer leaders, and this was found to be a contributing factor in Mac's casualty rates. This was something that a better commander would have corrected; Mac never did.

Rising Sun*
09-20-2010, 09:43 AM
The second issue involves favouritism towards Blamey’s only surviving son. When the 6th Division evacuated, defeated, from Greece, Blamey took his son, a major of no military importance, on the last plane out with other senior officers. That sort of conduct is always going to be resented by the rank and file left to fend for themselves.

Maybe Blamey was rather restrained in this respect.

I just watched a WWII documentary which referred to Patton sending a force deep into enemy territory to rescue his son in law from a German prison camp, which was not something I had ever heard of before.

The essence of the allegations is here: http://www.taskforcebaum.de/main1.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Task_Force_Baum

Wizard
09-20-2010, 06:00 PM
I was thinking more of major permanent or difficult quickly to replace targets, the destruction of which would have had a significant impact upon the Allies' ability to fight Japan. I can't think of anything apart from Townsville. Unlike the south east corner of Australia where the major industrial capacity was concentrated, and where much of the grazing and agricultural capacity sat, north Queensland was pretty barren from a critical target viewpoint. Japan could have occupied it for the whole war without, apart from obvious morale and counter-force issues, doing significant damage to Australia's capacity to wage war. Which is precisely why that area was, if necessary, part of the area to be evacuated and left to the enemy if it invaded in undefeated force, so that Australian forces could be concentrated in the south east corner to protect the things that really mattered for the long term war.

Well, aside from airfields, that is probably correct. No major sea ports, manufacturing centers, or even vital raw materials extraction operations, just miles and miles of....miles and miles!

Which would mean that had the Japanese captured Port Moresby and developed an offensive airbase, it would have resulted in an attritional air war against Allied air bases in north Australia. And that would have been a war the Japanese would have lost as the Allies built up their air forces in 1943


Agreed.

Papua New Guinea wasn't worth any Japanese effort, nor (with the possible exception of Rabaul which doesn't make a lot of sense on its own) was anything after the NEI from any intelligent strategic assessment based on protecting the conquests Japan wanted, and wanted to hold until the Allies accepted its acquisition as a fait accompli, which was about the limit of misguided Japanese strategic thinking on how the war would end in its favour.

The 'ribbon defence' notion which extended to Guadalcanal, and logically to Easter Island and the west coast of South America, made a basic strategic mistake of lacking an anchor point about which everything revolved. It was little more than eastward expansion for the sake of protecting the last expansion and achieving the improbable isolation and surrender of Australia, without regard to Japan's primary objectives which were the resources which did not extend beyond the NEI. All it achieved was to thrust a narrow and extraordinarily long salient (of isolated and hard to supply islands) into hostile territory which could not be controlled from the salient because of Japan's lack of necessary forces and resources.

Which, coming back to the original topic, is another indication of why Japan would not have won even it lost at Pearl Harbor.

I definitely concur with this assessment.

But I have seen some relatively well-informed people argue two related points; the first being that the more territory the Japanese were able to seize, the better their bargaining position, if peace negotiations could be opened with the Americans. The second argument is that the Japanese military had no alternative but to stay on the offensive because neither the IJA nor the IJN had enough aircraft or ships to adequately defend even a minimal defensive perimeter sufficient to hold onto the NEI, which was the whole object of the war.

My personal opinion is that this is simply illogical. After Pearl Harbor, no one in the US was willing to even suggest negotiations with the Japanese, and the US Navy, which, through Admiral King on the JCS, was largely driving Pacific war strategy, had always advocated total war against Japan. The prospect of a negotiated end to the war was dead the second the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor.

As for a continual offensive, Japan simply did not have the material resources to pursue such a strategy. Sooner or later, as their resources were stretched thinner and thinner, they would stumble and fail, giving the US an opening to seize the initiative. Midway, of course, was the inevitable outcome of a policy of the continuous offensive.




Japan's primary problem was that it did not have the shipping to supply and exploit its conquests. This was obvious to the meanest intelligence before the war. Add in Japan's inability to replace losses and it was doomed from the outset.

A brilliant piece of strategical thinking and planning from an island nation about to embark on the most ambitious and rapid expansion into countless islands across the seas in history.

Agreed.

Considering that Japan had been unable to successfully conclude a four-year war with a much less powerful nation, the nonchalant attitude of the Japanese leadership toward war with America has always baffled me.

Japanese perceptions of a "gutless, effeminate, pacifistic America", and a "nation of shop-keepers", are, of course, well known, but the very subjectivity and imprecision of such attitudes should have set alarm bells ringing in the more sophisticated circles of the leadership. I find it ironic that the two men who, among the Japanese leaders, knew more about Americans than any others, Matsuoka and Yamamoto, forced such terrible blunders as the signing of the Tripartite Pact and the Pearl Harbor attack.


There were Magic decrypts which supported this view. Much has been made of this, in isolation from surrounding circumstances indicating different intentions by Japan and conveniently ignoring the fact that other Japanese codes had not been broken, by Dr Peter Stanley in some contentious articles mentioned at #6 here http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php?4574-Invasion-Australia&highlight=australia+invade

If I recall correctly, John Prados mentions that IJA codes were never broken precisely because they were never extensively used in the Pacific areas where they were likely to be intercepted and provide material that would allow cryptographers to unravel the codes. The Japanese naval codes, the use of which would have been mandatory in any invasion of Australia, however, had been broken and were being assiduously read and scrutinized throughout most of 1942 for any hint of an operation aimed directly at Australia; no such hint ever surfaced. After Midway, Allied intelligence realized that, regardless of Japanese intentions, Japanese capabilities precluded any serious invasion of Australia.


I'm rusty on this, but I think that anything coming to the Australians from US decrypts would have come through MacArthur, or at least his HQ, as the local American commander. It might be covered in Dr Stanley's article but I'm too short of time to re-read it.

Not according to what I have read. Most American intelligence in the Pacific area during WW II was conducted by the US Navy. The British had operated a sigint operation out of Singapore prior to the loss of that location and had cooperated with the Americans. The Dutch also had their own intelligence operations and these also cooperated with the Americans and British. The Australians had their own (independent of the British) sigint operations in the western Pacific.

After Singapore and Corregidor had fallen, the remnants of the British "Far East Combined Bureau" (FECB), and the US Navy's CAST Station (formerly on Corregidor) were combined with the RAN cryptography unit headed by CMDR Eric Nave, to form "Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne" (FRUMEL). MacArthur continued to operate the Army Central Bureau sigint operation independently of FRUMEL, but, as in the Philippines, there was an interchange of intel information. Interestingly enough, Mac's Army Central Bureau maintained a "Purple" machine the output of which went only to MacArthur.

FRUMEL and FRUPAC (Nimitz's intel operation in Hawaii) communicated intel information to each other and both Nimitz and MacArthur as well as the commander of the British Far Eastern Fleet, and both eventually became units of the Joint Intelligence Center/Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA). FRUMEL and FRUPAC were both tied into Admiral King's intel center in Washington, so, in theory, if it was known in Washington or London, it was also known in Hawaii and Melbourne. Of course, intel information was disseminated on a "need to know" basis which tended to limit the distribution of assessments, but both FRUPAC and FRUMEL interchanged all raw data between themselves and could make their own assessments.

It did not follow however, that just because Australian intelligence (a term used to encompass all intel agencies) knew of something that Australian military or political leaders also knew about it. Throughout the war, the same applied to the leaders of almost all countries as intelligence organizations were notoriously security minded and tried to limit dissemination of information as much as possible.

As an Allied Theater Commander, MacArthur was privy to most, but by no means all, high level intelligence data. More than most military leaders, Mac seemed inclined to be skeptical of sigint intelligence and tended to be dismissive of data which was contrary to his view of the situation. The complaint was often heard from CAST, and later FRUMEL, personnel that Mac and his staff didn't know what to do with the intel data they were given, or that they simply disregarded it. This may have reflected Mac's distrust of anything that originated within US Navy circles, or it may have simply been his nature.

CONTINUED BELOW..........

Wizard
09-20-2010, 06:01 PM
CONTINUED FROM ABOVE..............


My recollection is that his position was vulnerable in the second half of 1942 and that he feared that a loss in Papua would result in the loss of his command, possibly to another Army commander but more probably to the USN.

I'm relying heavily on my imperfect and aged memory at the moment as I'm building a new house and have almost all of my remaining (i.e. what's left after I unwisely disposed of thousands of books a few years ago) books in storage.

Perhaps it's a matter of interpretation, but I have never read of any anxiety on Mac's part about being relieved of command during WW II, except possibly in the few weeks of the disastrous defense in the Philippines. Mac had a number followers among conservative newspaper editors in the US who dutifully published all the nonsense that Mac's press office released about his brilliant, heroic, courageous, bla, bla, bla...... Roosevelt's many detractors in the US ate that up and made any action Roosevelt might want to take in regard to MacArthur political dynamite, particularly if it was contrary to Mac's wishes.

Beyond that, the Republican Party, speculating on candidates for high political office, kept Mac's name conspicuously on he list of potential presidential candidates. Roosevelt knew that Mac was popular among conservatives and had excellent relations with conservative newspaper editors, and thus felt he was potentially a serious political competitor. In any case, he didn't want MacArthur in the US contesting his decisions at every turn. If Roosevelt wanted to relieve Mac, he would have had to find some other equally important post for the man, just to keep him out of domestic politics.


IIRC that didn't stop Mac giving a great deal of thought to running in the 1944 Presidential election, and receiving considerable, but ultimately inadequate, support for his candidacy if he chose to run.

Mac actually was in the running and, initially, had enough party support to have a good shot at the nomination. But Mac really didn't understand American political party dynamics and made a number of minor mistakes in the early running. What eventually ended his candidacy was a private letter he wrote which was highly critical of Roosevelt's conduct of the war. Mac made a number of valid points in the letter, which unfortunately became public, but the Republicans felt that criticism of Roosevelt, during the course of the war, was unpatriotic, and that the letter from one of Roosevelt's (nominal) subordinates would be viewed by many Americans as a "stab in the back" by MacArthur. The Republican Party thus called on Mac to end his candidacy and Mac, realizing his support was eroding, did so.


Not entirely.

Mac's arrival here was in part the consequence of our Prime Minister's entreaties to America for American forces and leadership, to keep America in our war for our survival after Britain had largely abandoned us after happily using us for its European and Mediterranean wars, and us happily being used to that point.

Mac was an arrogant, self-promoting, self-aggrandising, publicity-seeking arsehole of the first order, and a failure in the Philippine defence, and his 'island hopping' strategy was not his unique invention, but the fact remains that he turned out to be a very good and very effective, and when required a personally brave under fire, commander from 1943 onwards. We could have done a lot worse.

America could have done much better by Australia, too. MacArthur was in Australia, not because he was the best man for the job, but because it was convenient for Roosevelt to keep him out of the US.

After having been used by the British, and then essentially left to their own devices, the Australians fell into the clutches of another opportunistic character who used them to advance his own agenda. Granted, that the early campaigns directed by MacArthur were primarily for the defense of Australia, but MacArthur's misuse and mistreatment of Australian troops after the Japanese drive on New Guinea was contained was just as bad, if not as consequential, as that of the British.

Rising Sun*
09-21-2010, 10:56 AM
Wizard, I don't have time to respond to every part of your last post at the moment, so I'll start with the easiest bit (which upon completion took a great deal longer than I anticipated).


America could have done much better by Australia, too.

America didn't have any obligation to do well by Australia.

Despite all the propaganda for public consumption and morale about fraternal ties etc, America used us as a base for its operations in its own interests. If the positions were reversed, we would have done exactly the same as all nations, quite reasonably, act in their own interests.

As Australia did in WWII in a little-known example of Australia's imperiousness when dealing with a less powerful neighbour, when to meet the Japanaese threat to Australia we sent troops into Timor against Portugal's wishes.



After having been used by the British, and then essentially left to their own devices

I think that's a bit harsh on the British.

At the start of WWII many Australians had a conception of themselves as British living in an outpost of the Empire. They were all British subjects at that time. Australian citizenship wasn't invented until after WWII. http://www.citizenship.gov.au/_pdf/cit_chron_policy_law.pdf In my childhood in the 1950s and even after our government under Prime Minister Curtin had separated us from Britain during the war http://john.curtin.edu.au/education/nhchallenge2006.html , our school atlases still had a good part of the globe covered in the pink possessions of the British Empire and we were instructed in that proud (if rather sanitised) imperial history. One of the highlights of my early childhood was Empire Day in early June each year, when we celebrated the Empire (originally Queen Victoria’s birthday, despite her being a Hun) with a cracker night. http://www.nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2008/may08/story-4.pdf Even now that holiday is celebrated as the Queen’s Birthday but, alas, without the crackers due to the fun police having removed all things which might be fun or even remotely connected to it. (We also had another cracker night on 5 November each year to commemorate Guy Fawkes’ attempt in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament, which shows how committed we were to cracker fun before the fun police got control.) As a child I encountered occasional teachers and adults who, though their families had been here for some generations, referred to Britain as 'Home' and ‘the mother country’.

Those sentiments, being exactly the opposite of the independent citizens of the American Republic, were much stronger in my parents' and grandparents' generations before WWII. That is not to say that there were not strong elements which opposed this view and involvement in both world wars, at least as far as the European component was concerned. This opposition was primarily among the minority Irish Catholics and socialist / communist elements which, with considerable justification, saw the wars as British, European or capitalist wars of insufficient relevance to Australia to warrant sending our troops to fight in them.

Australians served Britain willingly in the war against Germany to 1941, and without being used by the British any more than they were willing to be used. This was at personal levels in the 2nd AIF, RAN, and RAF as well as at national levels of providing food and other resources to Britain (although Churchill complained that Australia was unfairly profiting from this), including military gifts such as 20,000 .303 Lee Enfields to replace losses in France and which gift when Japan attacked acquired greater significance as we tried to mobilise.


…the Australians fell into the clutches of another opportunistic character who used them to advance his own agenda

It was more complicated than that.

Australia, or at least its Prime Minister John Curtin, knew it was a minnow in the war between great powers; that it didn’t rate much in the dealings of the major Allies; and that it could be ignored or gobbled up in the strategies of the major Allies and left stranded in the face of Japan’s advance and apparent intention of invading, and undoubted intention of subjugating, Australia.

To the extent that we fell into MacArthur’s clutches, it was because we wanted to, and because we wanted America involved to protect us. Much as we did a couple of decades later when we encouraged America to get involved in Vietnam for our own protection in the age of the domino theory, which theory resonated with us more than anyone else because we were at the end of the line. Unless someone wanted New Zealand, which seems rather unlikely. ;) :D

There is a good survey of the serious writings on Curtin and MacArthur’s relationships here http://john.curtin.edu.au/macarthur/assessment1.html Note that at the bottom right of the linked page you can click on Next to take you to the next page. I have read Horner’s and Day’s books mentioned in the link, and others of their works, and think that they are very well researched and reasoned accounts.


Granted, that the early campaigns directed by MacArthur were primarily for the defense of Australia, but MacArthur's misuse and mistreatment of Australian troops after the Japanese drive on New Guinea was contained was just as bad, if not as consequential, as that of the British.

Leaving aside any Australian sentiments about national pride, the greatest and unforgiveable flaw in MacArthur’s use of Australian troops from 1944 onwards was simply that he failed to use a huge body of well trained and well equipped Australian troops, often led by battle hardened officers and NCOs and with battle hardened troops in their ranks. While there is modest justification for his purported concerns about the lack of commonality in equipment, munitions and so on between American and Australian troops, these were logistical issues which were no more difficult to resolve than supplying American units with, say, the different calibres of infantry ammunition routinely used by them.

MacArthur’s ‘misuse’ of those troops was compounded by using them to release for his westward thrust some not terribly efficient American units from static positions facing neutered, semi-starved, and isolated Japanese forces whose primary concern was tending their vegetable gardens so they could subsist on those meagre rations. Australia’s aggressive attacks upon the Japanese in these situations created resentment in Australian forces and civilians about unnecessary Australian casualties to no purpose.

This contrasts with British ‘misuse’ of Australian troops which thrust them into action, and notably on the Western Front in WWI where Australian troops were at times employed as shock troops, and with some effect. By WWII this did not happen, in large part due to Blamey being resolute in trying to keep his formations intact in the face of British demands for units from those formations in the Middle East.

At least the British used Australian forces under their command as fighting troops, where MacArthur used them to bear the brunt in New Guinea when it suited him while building up his own forces and then sidelined the Australians while pursuing his personal American legend.

Britain made much more effective use of Australian troops than MacArthur. Perhaps this was because, even if there was some residual disdain towards colonial troops in some British quarters, Australian troops were never placed under a British commander who was so self-centred and so committed to pursuing his own legend as MacArthur that he couldn’t bear any contribution by Australian troops.

I think this may come down to a degree of indiscipline and tolerance of public self-promotion in American forces and government control of them which allowed MacArthur and Patton, and perhaps others of whom I am unaware, to present themselves favourably to the public and a potential electorate through their publicity machines.

I can’t think of a British equivalent to MacArthur or Patton so far as self-promotion is concerned, or at least one who was even remotely equivalent in creating such an image, even if the nature and office of all very senior commanders is that they are political animals and politically adept. That is not to say that some such as Montgomery were not political animals and politically adept, but just that they never managed to create the same unwarranted public persona that MacArthur and Patton managed to creat

Wizard
09-21-2010, 06:06 PM
.....America didn't have any obligation to do well by Australia.

Despite all the propaganda for public consumption and morale about fraternal ties etc, America used us as a base for its operations in its own interests. If the positions were reversed, we would have done exactly the same as all nations, quite reasonably, act in their own interests...

Of course nations act in their own self interest; always have, always will. Presidents act in their own self interest, as well, doing their damndest to justify their acts in terms of what's best for the nation. That doesn't change the fact that the US had better men than MacArthur to help defend Australia and defeat the Japanese. And it doesn't change the fact that MacArthur ended up in Australia because it was personally convenient for Roosevelt to keep the man as far away from the US as possible.


I think that's a bit harsh on the British.

At the start of WWII many Australians had a conception of themselves as British living in an outpost of the Empire. They were all British subjects at that time. Australian citizenship wasn't invented until after WWII. http://www.citizenship.gov.au/_pdf/cit_chron_policy_law.pdf In my childhood in the 1950s and even after our government under Prime Minister Curtin had separated us from Britain during the war http://john.curtin.edu.au/education/nhchallenge2006.html , our school atlases still had a good part of the globe covered in the pink possessions of the British Empire and we were instructed in that proud (if rather sanitised) imperial history. One of the highlights of my early childhood was Empire Day in early June each year, when we celebrated the Empire (originally Queen Victoria’s birthday, despite her being a Hun) with a cracker night. http://www.nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2008/may08/story-4.pdf Even now that holiday is celebrated as the Queen’s Birthday but, alas, without the crackers due to the fun police having removed all things which might be fun or even remotely connected to it. (We also had another cracker night on 5 November each year to commemorate Guy Fawkes’ attempt in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament, which shows how committed we were to cracker fun before the fun police got control.) As a child I encountered occasional teachers and adults who, though their families had been here for some generations, referred to Britain as 'Home' and ‘the mother country’.

Those sentiments, being exactly the opposite of the independent citizens of the American Republic, were much stronger in my parents' and grandparents' generations before WWII. That is not to say that there were not strong elements which opposed this view and involvement in both world wars, at least as far as the European component was concerned. This opposition was primarily among the minority Irish Catholics and socialist / communist elements which, with considerable justification, saw the wars as British, European or capitalist wars of insufficient relevance to Australia to warrant sending our troops to fight in them.

Australians served Britain willingly in the war against Germany to 1941, and without being used by the British any more than they were willing to be used. This was at personal levels in the 2nd AIF, RAN, and RAF as well as at national levels of providing food and other resources to Britain (although Churchill complained that Australia was unfairly profiting from this), including military gifts such as 20,000 .303 Lee Enfields to replace losses in France and which gift when Japan attacked acquired greater significance as we tried to mobilise.

I don't think it's being harsh on the British at all.

Regardless of how willing the Australians were to let the British use them, the fact remains that's exactly what the British did. The Australian feelings about being members of the British Empire with a strong sense of obligation to defend that empire were never without the understanding that the "Mother country" would also come to the aid of Australia should that ever be necessary. But it turned out that when the chips were down Britain was unable and unwilling to send aid to Australia.

I might add that I am well aware of Australia's history and relationship with Britain, courtesy of my wife who, though she was born in the then British colony of Sarawak, later became an Australian citizen


It was more complicated than that.

Australia, or at least its Prime Minister John Curtin, knew it was a minnow in the war between great powers; that it didn’t rate much in the dealings of the major Allies; and that it could be ignored or gobbled up in the strategies of the major Allies and left stranded in the face of Japan’s advance and apparent intention of invading, and undoubted intention of subjugating, Australia....[?QUOTE]

Not really all that complicated. I understand why it happened, and realize Curtin and Australia simply took the options which they judged best for Australia. But MacArthur was indisputably in control, at least as far as military matters stood, and MacArthur being MacArthur, he did his best to promote his own interests, often at the expense of Australian troops.

[QUOTE=Rising Sun*;171648]....Britain made much more effective use of Australian troops than MacArthur. Perhaps this was because, even if there was some residual disdain towards colonial troops in some British quarters, Australian troops were never placed under a British commander who was so self-centred and so committed to pursuing his own legend as MacArthur that he couldn’t bear any contribution by Australian troops.

I think this may come down to a degree of indiscipline and tolerance of public self-promotion in American forces and government control of them which allowed MacArthur and Patton, and perhaps others of whom I am unaware, to present themselves favourably to the public and a potential electorate through their publicity machines.

I can’t think of a British equivalent to MacArthur or Patton so far as self-promotion is concerned, or at least one who was even remotely equivalent in creating such an image, even if the nature and office of all very senior commanders is that they are political animals and politically adept. That is not to say that some such as Montgomery were not political animals and politically adept, but just that they never managed to create the same unwarranted public persona that MacArthur and Patton managed to creat

Patton never came close to MacArthur in terms of self-promotion. In fact, I can think of no other American military figure in history who approached MacArthur's penchant for self-aggrandizement, and very few individuals from any country who suffered from such an ego as his. Mac was indeed unique and should probably be considered a dysfunctional personality type. As a military commander, MacArthur was definitely over rated due almost entirely to uncritical acceptance of his own claims, most of which have turned out to be fraudulent.

imi
10-01-2010, 06:42 AM
The Japanese "Bushido" cogitation was strong but the Japanese force was impossible to won the american japanese war.
The united states has infinity supply and several soldier,advanced tanks,stronger navy.
The japanese attack was suprised the americans.
If we thinking about a war "Japan vs. United States" was a good joke,or total suicide no more.

imi
10-01-2010, 06:51 AM
I'm not understand Japan why attack the United States,it was total faliure from the beginning

royal744
12-18-2010, 02:33 PM
Wouldn't transferring ships from the Atlantic, in sufficient force to meet Japan effectively on the defensive let alone controlling the Pacific, have caused problems for the 'Germany First' policy and delayed that war?

By the time of Iwo Jima, the fleet assembled offshore was equal in size to all of the navies of all of the countries of the rest of the world, and this didn't include any of the rest of the ships in the Pacific or the Atlantic or the Mediterranean.

The Atlantic fleet for most of the war didn't make much use of cruisers and battleships - it was a war of corvettes, destroyers and sub-chasers for the most part until the invasion of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and later, Normandy.

In terms of overall resources, the US effort in the Pacific never exceeded 10% of the total American effort during WW2. The Japanese might reflect on the fact that they were beaten badly by an enemy who invested such a small amount of its national treasure in the effort.

Deaf Smith
12-18-2010, 09:50 PM
I'm not understand Japan why attack the United States,it was total faliure from the beginning

Self delusion is the answer. They deluded themselves with their own propaganda saying they were superior (not unlike the Nazis.) And the ones at the top, at least some of them, believed it! They really thought an ‘indomitable spirit’ could defeat machineguns and bombs.

And don’t think this is the first, or last, time in history that has happened. Those that don’t study history tend to repeat it, and there are plenty of those who don’t even know what happened 100 years ago, much less one thousand!

Deaf

mario50
07-06-2012, 04:36 AM
The big mistake of japan was thinking that destroyng perl harbour the US power was finish, if the defence listend YAMAMOTO he wante to hammer more the american navvy haway in that moment could be invaded by japan and the was could be finish in different way, off course USA it so big and strong economically but if jap0anese followed to hammer american flet Japan could be having anothe end, off course the atomic bom was one hammer in the japanese head as beat ine toddler by cassius clay off course in faithing any one use the power he have, japanese used kamikaze with successifull and american two atomic bomb , if they had niot the atomic i think wasd there combatting till now

JR*
07-11-2012, 08:28 AM
Interesting discussion. It occurs to me that, even if Japan had adopted a "luring in" strategy, this would have amounted to an alternative means of engineering a "decisive battle". "Decisive battle", in this sense, was essentially a Western concept that had crystallised in the thinking of Clausewitz, and had been adopted by the Japanese wholesale. Hardly surprising; such experience as they had in foreign wars up to 1941 tended to confirm that this was the correct approach. As for the "luring on" option itself - I suppose a "Japanese Manstein" might have advocated such an idea, but there was no "Japanese Manstein". In any event - like most "classic Manstein" plans - it would have been ultra-high risk. It seems to me that Japan's hopes of victory lay in a delusion, a misinterpretation of the USA as a "soft", decadent country that, faced with the certainty of a bloody and economically costly war, would tolerate Japanese rule/hegemony in the Western Pacific and Far East, even when this had been achieved by military means directed in part against US forces and territory. This was a disastrous error. I do not believe that, following an outrage like Pearl Harbour - however "successful" such an incident might have been in pure military terms - there is any way that the US would have held back from exacting full retribution from Japan, however great the cost might have been in blood and treasure. There are, of course, no absolute certainties - but I find it hard to see how Japan, really, had much hope of achieving the favourable, but necessarily partial, victory over the US that they seem to have desired. Best regards, JR.

Nickdfresh
07-11-2012, 10:18 AM
It should be noted that the Pearl Harbor operation was essentially a mixed bag and was not completely successful as they missed the carriers, hit mostly obsolete battleships or ones nearing obsolescence...

JR*
07-11-2012, 10:34 AM
A good point, Nick. Without wishing to trivialise, I am reminded of a scene in the Mel Brooks movie, "Blazing Saddles" in which a man-mountain called "Mongo" appears. "Don't shoot him," says the Sheriff, "it'll only make him mad". In a way, however successful it might have been, Pearl Harbour was a Japanese way of, so to speak, shooting Mongo ... Best regards, JR.

Nickdfresh
07-11-2012, 11:47 AM
LOL @ the 2:15 mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwNJla8WvoY

I forgot to mention the biggest single failure of the Japanese airstrike was not hitting the fuel storage depots. Whether this would have made any difference in the grand scheme of the war I don't know. But it would have set the U.S. Navy back several months at least IIRC...

Chevan
07-16-2012, 12:32 AM
It should be noted that the Pearl Harbor operation was essentially a mixed bag and was not completely successful as they missed the carriers, hit mostly obsolete battleships or ones nearing obsolescence...
Its' irony , but this statement is one basic argment of revisionists.The japanese actually targeted what they've found in harbour.COuld it be possible the US navy command deliberately send out the modern aircraft carriers , leaving the obsolet battleships in harbour, expecting ( or provoking) the Japanese strike?

mario50
07-16-2012, 01:44 AM
The us command havent sent out the moder carier , the US did not know and did not immagine, Hirohito did not listen the adveise of many admirals that suggested to get peral harbuor and made it as a base for bonb USA, so politic won again on soldiers

Nickdfresh
07-16-2012, 08:06 AM
Its' irony , but this statement is one basic argment of revisionists.The japanese actually targeted what they've found in harbour.COuld it be possible the US navy command deliberately send out the modern aircraft carriers , leaving the obsolet battleships in harbour, expecting ( or provoking) the Japanese strike?

The Americans were clearly expecting hostilities. But the revisionist argument misses the fact that the aircraft carriers were ferrying aircraft to island bases where the Japanese hostilities were considered likely. I'll have to check, but I believe one of the islands that received fighters was Midway...