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Thread: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

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    Default Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    On the morning of aug 9 rear admiral gunichi mikawa,after leaving 5 cruisers and 2 destroyers sunk or damaged turns his cruiser squadron around and heads back to rabaul.Not fufilling his original mission of destroying the anchorage at lunga roads.what are the implications if he carries out the mission. p.s. mikawa still didnt get all of his ships home safely , kako sunk by 4 torpedoes by S-44 just 70 miles off Kavieng,New Ireland

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    Default Re: fate of the 1st marine division on guadalcanal

    Quote Originally Posted by grenadier99 View Post
    On the morning of aug 9 rear admiral gunichi mikawa,after leaving 5 cruisers and 2 destroyers sunk or damaged turns his cruiser squadron around and heads back to rabaul.Not fufilling his original mission of destroying the anchorage at lunga roads.what are the implications if he carries out the mission. p.s. mikawa still didnt get all of his ships home safely , kako sunk by 4 torpedoes by S-44 just 70 miles off Kavieng,New Ireland
    What were the implications if Admiral Fletcher didn't withdraw his aircraft carriers and Admiral Turner didn't withdraw his transports, leaving the USMC elements more or less stranded on the islands for a while?

    As is usual in most major conflicts, judged with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight then both sides made critical mistakes, but at the time each side was trying to conserve its forces against anticipated enemy attacks and each side probably made correct or at least supportable tactical decisions.

    The end result on land might well have been the same, thanks to Japan's rather silly practice of landing troops well beyond any LOC support capabilities and its expectation that they would survive by foraging after the first few days. In China, maybe. In the SWPA, not a chance. Which reflects very poor military skills and planning by Japan, as do much of Japan's actions in failing to support its great early gains. Which largely is why it couldn't hold them.
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    Default Re: fate of the 1st marine division on guadalcanal

    Yes,i would agree that big mistakes were made by both sides.The Americans had the only operational carriers in the pacific theater in this area at this time and most of the combat shipping was there to.Yamamoto wanted the anchorage hit.And yes the Japanese contempt of enemy forces put them in a bad situation,never sending enough troops to do the job. This is evident with the Ichiki force launching an attack with 1000 men on the evening of 20 aug.A japanese victory at Guadalcanal could set the war back 6 months to a year.

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    the Navy and Marine corp went down there on a shoe string. the bare minimum of everything. the joint chiefs held back the majority of supplies for Europe. at this time the pacific war was a back water operation. Halsey laid it on the line. give me more of everything or you and America will see another Bataan. the suppies and men got there in record time.


    "There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet."- ADM William F. Halsey

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    The transports remained unloading for less than a day. I cant really say if it made much difference leaving in the evening or the morning. If they do leave earlier it makes it more likely either Nimitz or King will sack Admiral Ghormley sooner and possibly Fletcher. A more aggresinve USN leader would try to get another supply mission thru sooner than Ghormley did so either the Japanese will sink more US ships quickly, or the Cactus air/ground force gets supplied sooner.

    The significance of the fight in the Solomons was not in the ground battle. That was a focal point, and in some ways a distraction for the Japanese. The critical battle was the air/naval battle that broke the back of the IJN. This battle or series of battles were spread across a wide swath of the South East Pacific. The paralle battle on New Guinea was part of this, as were the air and naval battles related to that land campaign. In that sense the campaign actually started much earlier when the Japanese first attempted to land on New Guinea in late Febuary. A strike by the carrier Lexington sank one transport and drove the others back to Rabul with damage. The subsequent battles of the Coral Sea, Milne Bay, and the air battles over the Owen Stanley Mountains & Port Morsby were the first half of a nine month running fight against the Japanese effort to expand south East from Rabul.

    If the Japanese retake control of the airfield on Gudacannal the fight would continue surrounding New Guinea, and the US occupied island further to the SE. Get a good quality map and take a look at the numerous lar islands that streatch another 1500 kilometers across the Pacific. Espritu Santu, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, the Fijis, ect.. had US air naval bases scattered across them. The 1st Marine Divsion had occupied defense poistions in that area from April until August. The US Army American Caledonian Div was forming there along with the earliest elements of the 2d Marine Div and other Army units.

    What this means is the USN has the assets to continue the fight from a bit further east. Alternately the US can reinforce the Australians on New Guinea, or MacAurthur can kick off his return to the Phillipines a bit early. In each case the result is the same the Japanese are forced into a attritional battle that will ultimatly break their navy.

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    I guess the point i was trying to make was...If the transports are destroyed. This was the majority of combat shipping in the sw theatre.how long would this delay offensive actions in this theatre.If the Japanese retake guadalcanal,this would put the airfield out of range from land based fighters until later, p38 ect.also how long can 1st marine hold out if this happened.Most of their supplies were still hopelessly piled on the beach.the landing of equipment had to be halted earlier because of this.50 betty bombers on the canal would not have been nice.Also what was mac arthurs amphib capability early in the campaign.how hard would it have been to retake port moresby. I do know none of this will have an effect on the end result.american victory just a what if scenario

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    Quote Originally Posted by grenadier99 View Post
    I guess the point i was trying to make was...If the transports are destroyed. This was the majority of combat shipping in the sw theatre.how long would this delay offensive actions in this theatre.
    Sorry to nitpick, but Guadalcanal wasn't in the SW theatre but in the South Pacific command of Nimitz's Pacific Ocean Areas while Papua New Guinea was in MacArthur's SWPA.

    Quote Originally Posted by grenadier99 View Post
    Also what was mac arthurs amphib capability early in the campaign.how hard would it have been to retake port moresby. I do know none of this will have an effect on the end result.american victory just a what if scenario
    I don't know about LSTs and LCTs etc, but MacArthur actually had decent merchant transport available thanks to the Dutch merchant ships which came over after the fall of the NEI and made a critical contribution during the period of Guadalcanal / Papua in 1942-43. http://www.merchant-navy-ships.com/i...d=37,0,0,1,0,0

    The difficulty in retaking Moresby would depend on how long the Japanese had to consolidate, but it would have been a major undertaking by amphibious landing. It might have been converted into a sustained air, primarily from Allied aircraft based in mainland Australia, and naval battle for some considerable time to try to reduce the Japanese position before a landing could be attempted. But with Moresby secured, the Japanese could also build up forces to resist the Allied pressure. Such a situation might have encouraged Mac to go around the western end of New Guinea to isolate the Japanese, but without the war of attrition which actually occurred 1942-44 because the Allies held Moresby and advanced north it is difficult to see how Mac could have done this without attracting potentially effective defensive movements from elsewhere on the island to resist any landing.

    I disagree that your scenario would have no effect on the eventual American victory. Without the thrust to Gona etc at the end of 1942 which translated into the advance to Hollandia in 1944 and jumping off points for the Philippines invasion, and associated naval and air battles which reduced Japanese capacity, the American thrust might well have been limited to a central Pacific thrust. How that would have played out in bringing Japan to surrender is anyone's guess.
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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    Here is a clear and concise appreciation of the Japanese experience of the Moresby - Guadalcanal thrust and its failure.

    Remembering the war in New Guinea
    Japanese occupation of New Guinea (Overview text)
    Module name: Campaign history (Japanese perspective)
    This page was contributed by Dr Arakawa Ken'ichi (National Institute of Defense Studies)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Japanese forces conducted a campaign in 1942 to occupy Papua and New Guinea. The Imperial Navy took the leading role in this campaign with the co-operation of the Imperial Army. The first stage in this strategy was the occupation of Rabaul in January. Expansion of the occupied territories began in earnest with the offensive operations against Port Moresby, and the occupation in September of Ioribaiwa on the southern slopes of the Owen Stanley Range. In the Solomons, an establishment unit had landed on Guadalcanal in July to construct an airfield. An 800 metre landing strip was completed by 5 August.

    In New Guinea, the Japanese had planned to land the main Port Moresby invasion force at Buna on 7 August. However, the Japanese did not anticipate the subsequent offensive landings by American marines at Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Such Allied counter-offensives had not been expected until at least halfway through 1943.

    Consequently, the overland offensive of the Japanese Army towards Port Moresby and the American Naval counter-offensive against Guadalcanal developed simultaneously. Initially, sufficient importance was not placed on these American attacks against Guadalcanal. The strength of the Ichiki Force (comprising one infantry battalion of approximately 1,000 men strengthened with light armour) was considered sufficient to retake the island. However, even though the Force landed safely, it completely failed in its objectives and was totally wiped out.

    The Guadalcanal battles had a significant effect on the Port Moresby campaign. The main force dispatched to capture Port Moresby, the South Seas Force (comprising one strengthened infantry regiment of approximately 5,000 men), landed at Buna on 17–18 August. Australian resistance on the precipitous slopes of the Owen Stanley Range had been swept away after only a month, when the Japanese had advanced as far as Ioribaiwa. Japanese troops could see the Gulf of Papua and the lights of Port Moresby. At that time, the replacements for the Ichiki Force, the Kawaguchi Force (comprising one strengthened infantry regiment of approximately 5,000 men), also failed in its efforts to retake the island. The Headquarters of the Japanese 17th Army was prosecuting the campaigns on both these fronts. Consequently, it ordered the Port Moresby invasion force to cease its advance and to adopt a defensive stance. The failure of the Kawaguchi Force resulted from heavy losses suffered from Allied carrier-based air attacks while it was en route to Guadalcanal. It could not therefore mount a sufficiently strong landing when it finally reached the island.

    The Guadalcanal campaign became the focal point in the Papua and New Guinea theatre from then until the end of the year. The campaign to occupy Port Moresby stagnated and developed into a defensive withdrawal to Buna. The Buna Garrison suffered a glorious sacrifice in December 1942, while a decision had been made to cease operations in Guadalcanal and withdraw. This took place in January 1943, and the Japanese forces at Buna retreated to Lae and Salamaua in early February. This heralded the end of the 1942 Japanese campaigns to occupy Papua and New Guinea, and the end of Japanese offensive operations in the region.
    http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/ajrp/remember...4?OpenDocument
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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    I never saw any real strategic value to the canal at all. true it had an airfield. but for for the Japanese is was just another step south. but the Americans said thats it. not one more step. it was the first ground battle of the war. but it had no real value to the war effort. it turned into a battle of will power. a test of will on both sides. so they threw everything they had into it here. and it was almost another disaster for the Americans. pitifull Naval support against far superior enemy forces. the supply transports could not deliver the goods because they were under constant attack. when they did there was not enough men to do the unloading job. the marines ashore ran out of everything and forced to scavenge the dead Japanese for guns and ammo and food. morale??? there was none. it was a fight for survival.
    ..Wahington saw this as poor leadership. so they sacked Ghormley and replaced him with Halsey. who did raise morale ashore and came up with some stunning naval victories at sea. when he conviced Washington there was a real disaster here they responded and sent the badly needed help.
    link includes photo of burning transport under attack.
    Ghormley relieved
    ..........this could have very easily turned into another Bataan death march


    "There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet."- ADM William F. Halsey

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    Quote Originally Posted by namvet View Post
    I never saw any real strategic value to the canal at all. true it had an airfield. but for for the Japanese is was just another step south. but the Americans said thats it. not one more step. it was the first ground battle of the war. but it had no real value to the war effort.
    It wasn't the first ground battle of the war with Japan ( e.g. Malaya and Philippines), but it was one of the first the Allies won.

    It had huge value, because it stopped the Japanese moving eastwards in pursuit of their Operation FS plan to isolate Australian from America.

    Together with Allied victories in Papua around the same time, it showed that the Japanese could be stopped; turned back; and beaten.

    This was of huge psychological value to the Allies who, to that point, had experienced the Japanese only as invincible.

    Guadalcanal marked the limit of Japan's eastward advance and, together with the Allied wins in Papua, the beginning of Japan's defeat after a string of victories.

    It also assured American LOC to Australia and the build up of American forces there to advance towards Japan.

    From a strategic viewpoint, if Guadalcanal and Papua had been won by Japan, it's debatable whether America would have continued its investment in Australia as its base for attacking Japan from below. This would have altered the conduct of the war dramatically.
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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    Quote Originally Posted by namvet View Post
    I never saw any real strategic value to the canal at all. true it had an airfield. but for for the Japanese is was just another step south.
    Correct, the island itself was only of tactical value. As was port Morseby & New Guinea. The stratigic fight was the series of ari and naval battles fought over the islands from April to November. While Midaway was a spectacular and important victory the bulk of the fighting that defeated the Japanese Navy was done in the seas surrounding Port Morsby and the Solomon islands. The culmative losses in surface ships were critical, and the losses in skilled combat pilots crippling. Beyond that there was a even worse effect on Japans cargo ship fleet and ultimatly industrial production.

    Japan started it war against th Allies in Dec woth less than 70% of the cargo ships it needed. In 1940 a little over 35% of the freight entering and leavin Japan was carried on forigen flagged ships. In 1941 the US, British, and Dutch mechant ship companys stopped contracting Japanese cargos. Others were pressured into droping Japanese contracts, or were bought off with high paying cargos for the US or Britian.

    So it was that Japan could not move enough raw materials to the home islands or take finsihed good out to sustain its industry at prewar levels. Japan did start a program to increase its cargo fleet, but this would require three years to complete. For the short run Japan did have a stockpile of raw materials in the industrial districts which off set a severe shortage, but these reserves ammounted to much less than a years worth of the balance missing. This situation was aggravated by the necessity to divert a large part of the cargo fleet to supporting campaigns across the Pacific. Japans government had expected the war would be over by late spring and recovery of imports would begain in the summer.

    Instead the demand for cargo ships for military operations held steady, and then losses to US and Australian attack begain. Even if not a single Japanese cargo ship had been sunk off Guadacannal the diversion of several hundred merchant ships to haul fuel, food, ammunition, aircraft parts, and men to Rabul and the broader battle zone slowed Japans industrial production at a critcal moment. The dozens of ships sunk off New Guinea and the Solomns were a bonus.

    Similarly Japan had depended on the oil from Indonesia to refuel industrial production. Instead the fuel was leaving Japans refinerys to be burned away in a series of lost battles. The struggle of a few thousand lightly armed Marines on the hills surounding the airfield are a clear illustration of the 'Butterfly Effect", where a seeming trivial event has shattering effects across a vast region.

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    Papua New Guinea and Guadalcanal were, like most of Japan's advances south eastwards after the NEI, opportunistic expansions either (a) upon only a provisional target (Papua New Guinea) or (b) compromises between the conservative IJA and belligerent IJN elements not even contemplated by the original plans for the first phase of the war.

    Both arose from 'victory fever' in the first few months of 1942 when hubris flowing from Japan's great victories made anything seem possible to some, mostly IJN, leaders, rather than from any carefully thought out national strategy for the conduct of the war and the achievement of war aims.

    This led to over-extension by the Japanese, albeit in pursuit of the strategically sound aim of isolating Australia from America to prevent an American build up on Japan's flank (or rear, or front, depending how one looks at the maps) and ultimately to force Australia to surrender or come to terms with Japan.

    Expanding upon Carl's comments about the naval effects of the thrust to Papua New Guinea and beyond, another consequence was that the mauling the IJN received and subsequent demands upon IJN and Japanese merchant resources made it impossible to supply IJA troops properly in areas beyond the NEI, which in turn reduced their fighting capacity as they were often reduced to scavenging from the natives and subsistence vegetable farming just to survive.

    In many respects the IJN encouraged the IJA to advance past the NEI but abandoned the IJA to its fate in the long term.

    Things would have been very different if Japan stopped its advance in the NEI and consolidated there, and used its merchant fleet to exploit the resources it had gained thus far and used the IJN to protect its commerce lanes.

    The primary reason for this was that Japan lacked a government with total control of strategy and the armed forces, while the IJA and IJN each ran their own war in many respects and made the nation pay the price for the lack of unity of aim and supporting strategy.
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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    the solomon campaign started aug 7 1942 with landings on the canal ,tulagi,gavutu and tanambogo.named operation watchtower.and concluded with the landings on cape gloucester,new britain,dec 1943 by the 1st marine div.and mac arthur taking the admiralty islands on feb mar 1944 concluding operation cartwheel which isolated rabaul which held out till the end of the war,suffering an almost daily pounding by aircraft.

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    Default Re: Fate of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal

    One other note. Maj Gen Vadergrift who commanded the 1st Mar Div did have a contingency plan for a loss of supply. He intended to abandon the airfield and move the men into the central hills where the Japanese could have extreme difficulty getting at them. The upland also was not as disease ridden as the swampy jungle of the costal plain. He hoped to build some parchute drop zones and wait things out...

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