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Thread: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

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    Default Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    I've uncritically accepted, and repeated, the assertion is various secondary sources that America devoted only 15% to the Pacific War.

    I assumed that this represented the proportion of the total war effort, being industrial as well as military, as it didn't make a lot of sense if confined just to military and especially naval resources applied to the Pacific.

    I've become sceptical about the accuracy of this percentage in recent reading which shows that the Allied landings in Sicily and Italy were restricted, and planning for D Day was hampered, by the bulk of landing craft being in the Pacific in accordance with Admiral King's preoccupation with that theatre regardless of the Germany First policy.

    I happened today in another secondary source upon the opinion from King at the Quebec conference in August 1943, opposing British proposals for Mediterranean operations, that "if some 15 per cent of the resources of the Allies were then deployed against Japan, an increase of only 5 per cent would add one third to our strength in the Pacific while decreasing the forces employed against the Axis in Europe by only 6 per cent." The source is given as Fleet Admiral King, E.J King and W.M Whitehall, 1953, p.275

    I'm wondering if this is the fount from which sprang the 15 per cent figure for American resources, as distinct from King's reference to Allied resources?

    Anyone got any ideas on this, and especially whether the American forces employed in the Pacific and Europe could justify the 'only 15 per cent' figure?

    There is also the question of when this applied, as it seems to me to be more likely that a greater proportion of American forces were engaged in Europe after 1943 when King made his reported comment.

    Then there is the issue of the vast distances in the Pacific War which would have consumed vastly more in shipping than the Atlantic crossing, but without the losses caused by the German submarines in the Atlantic.

    And so on, which makes me wonder if one could accurately determine that any specific percentage of America's total war effort, as distinct from deployment of armed service forces and probably merchant marine, was devoted to any theatre.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 09-05-2014 at 05:32 AM.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Off the top of my head, I have no idea how accurate the 15% figure is, but think it is an aggregate figure, not a goal for each service arm. But it does seem natural the US Navy would be allocating a greater effort in the PTO. Relative to the ETO, US Army and AAF were light, and may have amounted to less than 15% of their resources. Pragmatically, the strategy in the PTO was of course utterly dependent on landing craft, so I can see how for selected items, the PTO may have had a higher priority, despite a lower priority in general.

    Besides: lies, damn lies, and then statistics: whatever the source, what was the 15% referring to: budget? manpower? industry and other, as you suggested? I think you have to identify with certainty the original source -- King or otherwise -- first. JMHO.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    I was just about to make much the same point, Ardee. To answer the question of whether the "15 per cent" is valid, we are faced with the preliminary question, "15 per cent - of what ?". I have seen the "15 per cent" figure often enough, but no indication that anybody had ever done the sums, even to validate it as a crude exercise in accountancy. Best regards, JR.

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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Off the top of my head, I have no idea how accurate the 15% figure is, but think it is an aggregate figure, not a goal for each service arm. But it does seem natural the US Navy would be allocating a greater effort in the PTO. Relative to the ETO, US Army and AAF were light, and may have amounted to less than 15% of their resources. Pragmatically, the strategy in the PTO was of course utterly dependent on landing craft, so I can see how for selected items, the PTO may have had a higher priority, despite a lower priority in general.
    The impression I get from reading over the years is that King frustrated ETO operations at every opportunity because of his desire to prosecute the war against Japan.

    As for calculating forces deployed in a theatre compared with another theatre, I think that is probably fairly simple to do on a man / gun / tank / landing craft / ship / etc basis if one has access to all relevant data, which might be available but which I haven't found.

    But it's different if one wants to calculate America's, or any other nation's, 'war effort' as the sum of industrial and military force, and other relevant factors such as agricultural production. For example, I expect that the cost of an airborne soldier with all his training and equipment and the cost / industrial effort behind it was rather more than the cost of an untrained kitchen hand on a naval ship, and that the cost of a jeep was rather less in man hours and materials adjusted for skill and materials compared with a Flying Fortress or an aircraft carrier, while the cost of a farmer producing food to feed the airborne soldier and the naval kitchen hand was exactly the same for both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Besides: lies, damn lies, and then statistics: whatever the source, what was the 15% referring to: budget? manpower? industry and other, as you suggested? I think you have to identify with certainty the original source -- King or otherwise -- first. JMHO.
    That's what I'm trying to do.

    And it seems to me that the King source I quoted could well be the origin of the 15 per cent claim, because nothing else I can find supports the view that, at least for the USN, it had only 15% of its resources devoted to the Pacific, unless there were USN aircraft carriers and capital ships in the Atlantic / Mediterranean / and Indian oceans in much greater numbers than I know about and have been able to find in my, admittedly, superficial internet searches.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 09-05-2014 at 10:38 AM.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    I just recently read that Gen. Eisenhower actually requested U.S. Marines be sent to the ETO because of severe manpower shortages the Army had during and right after the Battle of the Bulge. I think it was King, via Marshall, that told him to pound salt and that there were huge manpower needs in the PTO with the coming invasion of Japan...

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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    To answer the original question, it does not seem that the 15% figure has validity. To quote from the official US Army Historical Office, "...although the Army devoted at least one-third of its resources to the Pacific war, even at the height of war in Europe." Initially, the PTO actually was getting more resources than the ETO, due to the need to stabilize the overall situation. The resource allocation seemed to be in a constant state of flux. The quote by king might have captured the situation at a specific point in time, but I suspect a certain amount of hyperbole may have been involved. http://www.history.army.mil/books/AMH/AMH-23.htm

    With the usual caveat about salt, you can also look at the Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe_first
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    To answer the original question, it does not seem that the 15% figure has validity. To quote from the official US Army Historical Office, "...although the Army devoted at least one-third of its resources to the Pacific war, even at the height of war in Europe." Initially, the PTO actually was getting more resources than the ETO, due to the need to stabilize the overall situation. The resource allocation seemed to be in a constant state of flux. The quote by king might have captured the situation at a specific point in time, but I suspect a certain amount of hyperbole may have been involved. http://www.history.army.mil/books/AMH/AMH-23.htm

    With the usual caveat about salt, you can also look at the Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe_first
    Those links, and other figures I recall along with my general impression, reinforce my suspicion that the 15% figure is hopelessly inaccurate as far as "American" resources were concerned.

    It could well be that for the war as a whole only 15% of Allied resources were devoted to Japan when we factor in Soviet forces which were exclusively devoted to Germany until the last few days of WWII, and allow for the distribution of British and its Commonwealth forces in the ETO versus against Japan, plus lesser Allied forces such as the Free French.

    I'd like to track down the source of the common claims that only about 15% of American resources were employed against Japan. I'm inclined to think it's one of those things that has gained credibility by being often stated but quite probably goes back to some misunderstanding of King's statement or sloppy work looking at specific rather total resources. But that cuts both ways as, for example, if one looked at US Marine employment it would suggest that 100% of American land forces were devoted to Japan.

    It would be a mammoth task to calculate the 15%, or any other figure, accurately for Allied forces, and probably impossible as the Soviets were less than forthcoming with information about their resources nor probably, given Stalin's harsh treatment of pre-war population census takers who came up with a figure he didn't like, accurate in any event.

    If King's comment isn't the source, or the only source, I wouldn't be surprised if the 15% came from some reliable source such as the strategic bombing survey which looked only at one military force across theatres, and which then gained currency by being uncritically accepted and repeated as I have done until now.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Taking the above Wiki link numbers at face value, the raw numbers don't give any real understanding of the forces available and applied nor is it probably possible to make a meaningful comparison of apples and oranges.
    As late as December 1943, the balance was nearly even. Against Japan, the U.S. had deployed 1,873,023 men, 7,857 aircraft, and 713 warships. Against Germany the totals were 1,810,367 men, 8,807 airplanes, and 515 warships.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe_first

    The total crew of three or four aircraft carriers in the Pacific was about equivalent to a US Army infantry division, but most of the carrier crew weren't fighting men like most of those in an infantry division. On the other hand, the carrier crew supported a large number of fighter aircraft which could deliver a punch equivalent to or greater than an infantry division in their own realm, e.g. battles of Coral Sea and Midway.

    However, transferring the crews of three or four carriers from the Pacific to land in the ETO wasn't going to help the land war there, any more than transferring an infantry division from the ETO to the Pacific to crew non-existent carriers there would change the PTO.

    The US forces in Europe (as distinct from the Mediterranean / North Africa) in late 1943 actually fighting were heavy bomber and, to a lesser extent, fighter crews. American (and Allied) fighting aircraft arrayed against Japan were predominantly fighters and light to medium bombers. So there were much smaller aircraft crews and correspondingly smaller ground crews against Japan, but they needed men and spares transported across greater distances to service aeroplanes operating in more demanding service conditions than those in Europe.

    American ground forces in Britain at the end of 1943 up to D Day weren't fighting, but were building for the crucial invasion of Western Europe. Just because they weren't fighting doesn't mean they weren't useful.

    Meanwhile, American forces in the SWPA and PTO had to cover vast distances in continuous amphibious operations with massive naval,fleet train, and cargo support, where, without trivialising it, D Day required only a short hop across the Channel.

    I could go on illustrating the difficulties in trying to compare dissimilar theatres and situations, but I think there are opportunities for at least several Ph. D. theses examining these issues in minute detail, which could well result in the candidates being permanently hospitalised after catastrophic mental breakdowns before completing their theses.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 09-06-2014 at 07:46 AM.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    It could well be that for the war as a whole only 15% of Allied resources were devoted to Japan when we factor in Soviet forces which were exclusively devoted to Germany until the last few days of WWII...
    Or if you count things like Lend-lease to the USSR (and the related shipping and other logistical resources) as part of the total US resources, maybe the 15% is a little closer to being accurate. That thought kind of undermines my previous comment. I agree you are courting madness is trying to come up with a number, unless you first find a definition...and finding a definition that matches the 15% a wild goose chase.

    But that cuts both ways as, for example, if one looked at US Marine employment it would suggest that 100% of American land forces were devoted to Japan.
    Just to quibble (or underscore your larger point), you know that lots of marine served in the ETO -- just that most (not all) stayed on board their ships.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Those links, and other figures I recall along with my general impression, reinforce my suspicion that the 15% figure is hopelessly inaccurate as far as "American" resources were concerned.

    It could well be that for the war as a whole only 15% of Allied resources were devoted to Japan when we factor in Soviet forces which were exclusively devoted to Germany until the last few days of WWII, and allow for the distribution of British and its Commonwealth forces in the ETO versus against Japan, plus lesser Allied forces such as the Free French.

    I'd like to track down the source of the common claims that only about 15% of American resources were employed against Japan. I'm inclined to think it's one of those things that has gained credibility by being often stated but quite probably goes back to some misunderstanding of King's statement or sloppy work looking at specific rather total resources. But that cuts both ways as, for example, if one looked at US Marine employment it would suggest that 100% of American land forces were devoted to Japan.

    It would be a mammoth task to calculate the 15%, or any other figure, accurately for Allied forces, and probably impossible as the Soviets were less than forthcoming with information about their resources nor probably, given Stalin's harsh treatment of pre-war population census takers who came up with a figure he didn't like, accurate in any event.

    If King's comment isn't the source, or the only source, I wouldn't be surprised if the 15% came from some reliable source such as the strategic bombing survey which looked only at one military force across theatres, and which then gained currency by being uncritically accepted and repeated as I have done until now.
    I've seen the same figure many times. I have a book somewhere on the PTO that has facts and figures in it but don't know where it is at the moment. Howver, thr largest single invasion of the Pacific War took place at Okinawa. It took a total of 2,000 ships of all types and included about 13 carriers. The largest amphibious operation of the European war at Normandy, used 4,000 ships of all types.

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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    The largest amphibious operation of the European war at Normandy, used 4,000 ships of all types.
    Perhaps proving another point about lies and statistics: I've seen figures for Normandy that go as high as just a hair under 7,000 for ships "of all types" -- landing craft, tenders, warships, supply ships, etc. Somewhere (I looked briefly but didn't find) in Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy books, there's a description -- I believe either of Italy or Sicily -- of an invasion that was "even larger" than the invasion of Normandy, in terms of the number of ships. Again, I suspect it depends on variables as definition of "ship," "fleet," and perhaps even "invasion." If, for, example, part of your plan is to have a decoy force sailing towards a different possible invasion site, is the feint part of the invasion, or separate from it?
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Or if you count things like Lend-lease to the USSR (and the related shipping and other logistical resources) as part of the total US resources, maybe the 15% is a little closer to being accurate. That thought kind of undermines my previous comment. I agree you are courting madness is trying to come up with a number, unless you first find a definition...and finding a definition that matches the 15% a wild goose chase.

    Just to quibble (or underscore your larger point), you know that lots of marine served in the ETO -- just that most (not all) stayed on board their ships.
    Not really the case. Few to none marines served in the ETO. Shipboard numbers were miniscule. There were only six divisions of Marines in total during WW2 and ALL of them served in the Pacific. Marine divisions were larger than army divisions.

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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Perhaps proving another point about lies and statistics: I've seen figures for Normandy that go as high as just a hair under 7,000 for ships "of all types" -- landing craft, tenders, warships, supply ships, etc. Somewhere (I looked briefly but didn't find) in Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy books, there's a description -- I believe either of Italy or Sicily -- of an invasion that was "even larger" than the invasion of Normandy, in terms of the number of ships. Again, I suspect it depends on variables as definition of "ship," "fleet," and perhaps even "invasion." If, for, example, part of your plan is to have a decoy force sailing towards a different possible invasion site, is the feint part of the invasion, or separate from it?
    Can't give a source, nor recall a likely one, but I seem to recall reading at various times that an oddity of WWII was that the US Army ended the war with more ships than the USN.

    Which, of course, goes back to your point about the definition of 'ship'.

    Maybe the Army had more boats, excluding submarines which in many quarters are regarded as boats, designed for landing, lighter and coastal work.

    Or maybe the Army had LCTs, Higgins Boats, etc in much greater numbers than the USN had destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers.

    The point being, the number of vessels may be rather less significant than the type of vessel. A dozen battleships on their own are useless for an amphibious assault, while a thousand LCTs and their like are even more useless in a major naval engagement between capital ships and aircraft carriers.

    Be all that as it may, my recollection is that the USN under the influence of Admiral King in his usual Pacific focused style was a severe impediment to Mediterranean operations and the invasions of Sicily and Italy in particular by wanting to keep amphibious landing craft in the Pacific.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 10-10-2014 at 05:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

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    Default Re: Did US really devote only 15% of war effort to Pacific War?

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    Not really the case. Few to none marines served in the ETO. Shipboard numbers were miniscule. There were only six divisions of Marines in total during WW2 and ALL of them served in the Pacific. Marine divisions were larger than army divisions.
    In any case, as many as about 6,000 US Marines served in the ETO. I'd call that more than "few to none," though you're free to argue about their significance as a percentage of all those serving. The article below mentions things like Operation Torch, Normandy etc. While I didn't see it in my quick scan of the article, I believe Marines were also involved at Anzio. Several more places are mentioned as well. It also gives an idea of the size of shipboard detachments.
    http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/USMCETO.html
    Last edited by Ardee; 10-10-2014 at 08:48 PM.
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