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Thread: Why SP Island battles?

  1. #1

    Default Why SP Island battles?

    AS I study the battles of the south pacific I can't find an answer to a question;

    why did we fight the individual island battles rather than blockading them and move on to the mainland of japan? I am sure there is an answer but, it escapes me to this point.

    I was a 1957-1961 medic, E-4, 82nd airborne, special forces, Europe.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by preston; 12-23-2013 at 03:49 PM. Reason: sp

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    Hi Preston, welcome to our Motley Crew. One of the reasons for not sequestering the islands is that some of them, if not all offered valuable airstrips that the Allies would need to launch a viable,and sustainable Bomber attack plan against the Home Islands. As well as Staging, and support bases for the (at the time) expected land invasion of those same Islands. IIRC some Islands were just bypassed, and left to wither by attrition.
    You'll doubtless get reams of good information by some of the guys here who are well read on this topic.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by tankgeezer View Post
    Hi Preston, welcome to our Motley Crew. One of the reasons for not sequestering the islands is that some of them, if not all offered valuable airstrips that the Allies would need to launch a viable,and sustainable Bomber attack plan against the Home Islands. As well as Staging, and support bases for the (at the time) expected land invasion of those same Islands. IIRC some Islands were just bypassed, and left to wither by attrition.
    You'll doubtless get reams of good information by some of the guys here who are well read on this topic.
    tankgeezer,

    Included in my thoughts also, however, strategicially located and surrounded by sea, one airfield should have been enough.

    The reason I raise the question is, it appears much blood shed would have been avoided.

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    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    i can't say if every one of the islands that was taken needed to be taken but I suspect that they were necessary. One airfield was never enough. The range of bombers and fighters was just not that great and there was no such thing as aerial refueling. Island airstrips were lifesavers for crippled bombers and, as the war progressed in the direction of Japan, bases were needed to stockpile supplies for further advances, and, of course, fleet anchorages were needed for re-provisioning, repair, refit and R&R. Possibly the islands that least needed to be taken in order to defeat Japan were the Phillippines, but Macarthur had promised to return, so return we did. Not that they wouldn't have been taken later - just that they weren't necessary to the invasion of Japan.

    The battles were very bloody and dangerous. The Japanese proved to be exceedingly tough and always willing to fight to the death, Die they did, usually by a factor of somewhere between 5 - 10 Japanese for every American. The concept of surrender appeared to have been alien to their world view and it cost them dearly - and us too. The idea that one should continue fighting after it was crystal clear that they could not win seemed incredibly stupid and wasteful to us, but not to the Japanese.

    After the initial surprise attacks and beginning with Guadalcanal, the Americans (and Australians) never lost a single island campaign.
    Last edited by royal744; 12-23-2013 at 11:37 PM.

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    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    some are in question today, but the majority involved building steppingstones to Japan.
    The Pacific is a vast area.
    Most documenteries clearly mention the need for airstrips either for massing supplies and ordnance or places for returning aircraft to make emergency landings.
    Peleilu comes up as a questionable endeavor at times.

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    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    Here's a good and authoritative summary.


    Strategic Setting



    When United States Army and Navy forces began pushing west into the Pacific after the disaster at Pearl Harbor, they had their ultimate objective, the Japanese home islands, clearly in mind. However, they lacked any detailed list of preliminary objectives that would bring them to the enemy's shores. Each island victory raised anew the question of the next intermediate goal. By the summer of 1944 the Allies faced a number of choices in the Pacific. They could continue directly west from Hawaii on a Central Pacific thrust that had just won them the Marshall Islands. They could continue toward the Philippines on a Southwest Pacific course that had recently won New Guinea. Or they could continue operations along both of these axes simultaneously.

    During 1943 influential personalities in the U.S. Army and Navy lined up behind different strategies for the Pacific. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, favored focusing Allied efforts against Japan in a thrust westward from Hawaii. Seconded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas and Pacific Fleet, King argued that his Central Pacific strategy also represented the most direct route to the Philippines and would, at the same time, place American forces on the enemy line of communications between Japan and the oil-rich East Indies. King repeated his Central Pacific proposal at the Trident Conference in Washington in May, but it was neither approved nor rejected.

    King's major opponent was General Douglas MacArthur, the Allied Southwest Pacific theater commander. MacArthur agreed on the need to return to the Philippines but not via the Marshalls and Marianas. Instead, he proposed a Southwest Pacific strategy: an extension of his own command's operations in New Guinea, which would push Allied forces westward through Morotai and then northward into the Philippines.

    A series of Allied planning conferences in 1943 failed to resolve the issue. The strong identification of each strategy with a different military service Central Pacific with the U.S. Navy and Southwest Pacific with the U.S. Army tended to undermine an unbiased appraisal of either course-of action and to encourage the potentially dangerous pursuit of both with inadequate resources. Finally, toward the end of 1943, a technological development began to influence the issue. The Army Air Forces announced the imminent appearance of a new long-range bomber, the B-29. The new weapon strengthened the Central Pacific strategy, since the island chain particularly desired by Admiral King the Marianas lay 1,270 miles from Tokyo, comfortably within the l,500-mile radius of the new aircraft. At the second Cairo Conference in December 1943 the Allies thus approved seizure of the Marianas, tentatively scheduled for October 1944. Subsequent operations along this axis would include seizure of the Palaus to secure the flank for the turn northwest into the Philippines.

    Although these decisions gave priority to the Central Pacific strategy, they did not amount to a rejection of MacArthur's Southwest Pacific proposals. In fact, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirmed in March 1944 that the advance toward Japan would continue on both the Central and Southwest Pacific axes. At the same time, unexpectedly rapid success in the Marshalls allowed planners to advance the assault on the Marianas from October to June.
    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-WestPac/

    Other factors were at play, notably the need to neutralise the major Japanese military and naval base at Rabaul and naval base atTruk, with the former being a combined services operation and the latter a naval and air operation which destroyed numerous IJN and transport ships. Each operation removed the threat of significant IJN operations in the rear of the SWPA and Central Pacific thrusts towards Japan.

    Regardless of the extent to which MacArthur's drive towards the Phillipines arose from his personal motives and conceit, and regardless of the fact that it was not the most direct or best route to Japan compared with the Central Pacific thrust, it made a major and very necessary contribution to the Central Pacific thrust and to overall victory over Japan by drawing in massive numbers of IJA troops (roughly 400,000 in New Guinea alone, from memory) which otherwise would have been available to resist the landings in the Central Pacific and which might perhaps have produced a different result against Allied landings. It's not only the number of IJN troops deployed to the SWPA but also the diversion of Japan's critically short and, as the war wore on, rapidly diminishing transport shipping to attempt to supply them over long distances which also diminished the ability of Japan to defend against the Central Pacifc thrust. Similarly, the Philippines campaign drew in major IJN forces which were severely reduced, thus removing them from the Central Pacific advance and, later, home islands defence resulting in the so-called 'turkey shoot' in the closing stages of the war. The net result of the SWPA and Central Pacific thrusts was that it forced Japan to spread its forces and resources too thinly against an advancing enemy with much greater forces and resources. Either thrust on its own probably would not have brought the war to a conclusion in anything like the same time as actually happened, so the 'island hopping' campaign in both theatres was a necessary step to victory.

    Against that background there were various shades of personal opinion influencing strategy, such as MarArthur's conceit and vainglory pushing for a return to the Phillipines and Admiral King's determination that US forces weren't going to be used help the British recover their Empire so that a Central Pacific thrust kept US forces away from Malaya / Singapore / Borneo (there's an interesting, much better informed than me, and fairly short survey of writings on King and his strategic thinking at http://padresteve.com/2009/11/29/les...pacific-fleet/ which presents King as more balanced and strategically shrewd in his opposition to Royal Navy involvement than the common and more simplistic "I'm not going to help the Limeys regain their colonies" presentation of King).
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Why SP Island battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    The net result of the SWPA and Central Pacific thrusts was that it forced Japan to spread its forces and resources too thinly against an advancing enemy with much greater forces and resources. Either thrust on its own probably would not have brought the war to a conclusion in anything like the same time as actually happened, so the 'island hopping' campaign in both theatres was a necessary step to victory.
    Quoting myself, but expanding on that comment it was the IJN which caused the overreach in the first few months of 1942 when, terminally infected by the victory disease as the Japanese called it, the IJN pushed for an ambitious invasion of Australia. The compromise between the IJA and IJN was an advance into New Guinea and islands eastwards. New Guinea was never more than a provisional target in the war plan, depending upon how the planned invasions of Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) went.

    Thanks to the IJN, the Japanese ended up heavily committed in Papua / New Guinea and Guadalcanal, from the latter of which they were duly ejected by the start of 1943 after suffering significant IJA and IJN losses and from the former of which they were heavily repelled in Papua by the start of 1943 where they also suffered significant losses on land and sea in related operations. Japan reinforced the Papuan failure from then on with increasing numbers of troops and the associated logistical burdens poured into Papua / New Guinea until logistics became inadequate or largely failed and the sometimes starving Japanese were in places reduced to subsistence farming to eke out an existence in New Guinea and other parts of the SWPA as MacArthur's advance gained pace in late 1943 into 1944.

    If the IJN had been less infected with the victory disease and had taken more note of the IJA's cautions that an invasion of Australia couldn't be supported by the necessary number of troops and, more importantly, scarce troop and merchant shipping, Japan's advance would have stopped in the NEI.

    Result: No Japanese forces in New Guinea or further east. IJN base at Truk still threatens central Pacific movements by Allies while the Japanese Mandated Territories provide bases to protect the southern part of the oil route from the NEI northwards. IJA, IJN, and merchant shipping committed to and lost in operations east of NEI from the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 onwards, including Guadalcanal, Kokoda, Milne Bay, Gona, Buna, and Sanananda and more substantial commitments subsequently would have been conserved and consolidated for defence of the NEI and its oil. Japan has everything it wanted in its primary aim in the war, and is well positioned to defend it. MacArthur is presented with a very different problem in launching seaborne landings against well defended sites in the NEI over much longer distances than applied in land based advances in 1942-43 in Papua / New Guinea and without air support based in Australia and countless other problems of distance from his base using equipment he does not have for landings he cannot make with any hope of success.

    The division of Japanese forces and resources between the SWPA and Central Pacific was not authored by the Allied strategy but was a consequence of Japan overreaching itself in the first six months of the war.

    Which was just another aspect of an over-confident Japan biting off more than it could chew against an enemy that some of its better minds knew was capable of biting back a lot, lot harder.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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