Reading Preston and Wise, Men in Arms, pp. 274- 391
Learning Objectives Summarize the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Explain US and Japanese strategy at the opening of WWII. Be familiar with the timeline of key events in the Pacific Theater. Summarize the battles for Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Describe the decisions that led to the employment of the atomic bomb.
Background Japan invades China in 1931. Japan joins the Axis in Sept 1940. US, British, and Dutch impose oil embargo in July 1941 to put brakes on Japanese imperialism. Japanese expect armed conflict, but buy time and surprise through negotiations. US population focused on war in Europe.
Japanese Strategy Three Phases Phase I: Surprise attacks, then strategic defense. Knock out US fleet; seize vital areas; establish defensive perimeter. Phase II: Strengthen perimeter; make any offensive action by the US prohibitively costly. Phase III: Defeat and destroy any forces that attempt to penetrate the perimeter. Long US LOC and natural strength of defense should almost guarantee success.
Pearl Harbor Surprise Deception operations First significant use of carriers. Tactical home run, but strategic foul ball…or strikeout? Healthy fleet could cause problems, but US may not have challenged Japan’s other strategic moves. Failed to hit carriers, subs, fuel, or repair facilities. Failed to exploit initial success. “Cowardly” attack united public opinion against Japan and guaranteed US entry. Critical Vulnerability?? US Pacific Fleet Destruction of battleships proved counterproductive. US carriers proved to be “surface” that cost Japanese the war.
Pearl Harbor Fog B-17s scheduled arrival coinciding with attack force arrival. Mini-subs Friction Sunday AM attack Bad Luck Flight line prepped for terrorist attack.
Unity of Command? Admiral Nimitz POA North, Central, Southern Pacific Primarily open ocean Carrier Air Island Hop General MacArthur SWPA Southwestern Pacific Many large land masses Maneuver Retake PI Island Hop, but more land to use
Island Hopping Campaign LtCol (then Maj) “Pete” Ellis develops OPLAN 712 “Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia” (aka “the Orange Plan”) in 1921. Predicts that Japan will strike first. "... it will be necessary for us to project our fleet and landing forces across the Pacific and wage war in Japanese waters. To effect this requires that we have sufficient bases to support the fleet, both during its projection and afterwards. To effect [an amphibious landing] in the face of enemy resistance requires careful training and preparation to say the least; and this along Marine lines. It is not enough that the troops be skilled infantrymen or artillery men of high morale; they must be skilled watermen and jungle-men who know it can be done--Marines with Marine training."
MajGen Lejeune circa 1923 "... on both flanks of a fleet crossing the Pacific are numerous islands suitable for utilization by an enemy for radio stations, aviation, submarine, or destroyer bases. All should be mopped up as progress is made... The presence of an expeditionary force with the fleet would add greatly to the striking power of the Commander-in-Chief of the fleet.... The maintenance, equipping, and training of its expeditionary force so that it will be in instant readiness to support the fleet in the event of war, I deem to be the most important Marine Corps duty in time of peace."
Logistics Logistics plays a crucial role in the Pacific. Island Hopping to seize advanced (primarily air) bases and cut Japanese LOC. Japanese have qualitative edge in military hardware at the beginning of war. Choose quality over quantity (Zero, Yamato). Unable to replace assets quickly. US is master of mass production. Average quality, tremendous quantity. Implement ideas from captured equipment. US subs operate independently and sink Japanese ships faster than Japan can produce them.
1941 December 7 Pearl Harbor Dec 8 US & GB declare war on Japan Dec 9 China declares war on Japan Dec 10 Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk Japan invades Burma, Hong Kong, Philippines, Guam, Wake, & Borneo
1942 April Doolittle Raid on Tokyo Tactical operation with strategic impact. Shifts morale in both countries Adapt and overcome… May Coral Sea June Midway July-November Guadalcanal Island not officially “secured” until Feb ’43.
Battle of MidwayJune 1942 Japanese get greedy. Not satisfied w/ original perimeter. Want base to bomb Hawaii. Deliver killing blow to US fleet. US breaks Japanese code. Complex plan Aleutians, Midway, Fleet, etc. Yamamoto uses “operational push” instead of “recon pull” tactics. Attacks island to prep for invasion before locating US fleet. First naval battle fought entirely with airplanes.
Midway: The Tide Turns Patrol planes spot Japanese main body just as they are about to RTB. Midway-based A/C strike Japanese TF and inflict minimal damage on ships while losing majority of planes. Japanese A/C attack Midway with little impact. US carrier-based torpedo attack has same outcome as land-based attack, but distract fighters and allows dive bombers to hit TF. Japanese lose four heavy carriers, all planes, and many of their best pilots; US loses Yorktown.
Guadalcanal 7 August 1942 First offensive action of the war. 1 st Marine Division Critical airfield. First plane makes emergency landing on 12 Aug. 2 USMC squadrons arrive on 20 Aug. Only one “healthy” carrier left by end of battle. Lightly opposed landing Navy bugs out, taking majority of supplies with them. Later redeem themselves during critical 12 Nov naval battle when they turn back major Japanese force.
Guadalcanal Japanese piecemeal counterattacks. Maneuver, mass, and surprise all hampered by jungle. 8 day forced march USMC conducts vigorous patrols. 2d Raider Bn conducts month-long patrol. Japanese attempt to reinforce by sea, but suffer significant losses in the process. (7 of 11 transports) Jungle causes significant casualties. Over 1k new cases of malaria per week. Army comes in to mop up in November.
Results Island “secured” in Feb ’43. Japan suffers critical losses in all areas. 600 a/c, 2300 aircrew 25k soldiers (1/2 in combat, ½ to illness) 2 BB, 3 CV, 12 Cruisers, 25 destroyers Roughly same number as US, but Japan unable to replace. Institution of CATF/CLF.
1943 March Bismark Sea (limited Japanese reinforcement of Southern Pacific) November Tarawa and Makin (Gilberts) 1944 February Kwajalein & Eniwetok (Marshalls) February-June New Guinea June-August Saipan, Tinian, Guam (Marianas) B29s now able to be recovered after hitting Japan October Leyte Gulf Destroyed much of Japanese Navy
The Low Road MacArthur leap-frogs through his AO. Skips heavily defended islands and areas and leaves them to “wither on the vine” by taking less well defended surrounding islands and cutting off LOC. Seizure of New Guinea puts him in a position to retake Philippines. Works around coast of NG to take advantage of naval superiority, again bypassing and cutting off strong points.
1945 February-March Iwo Jima March Tokyo raids Low level incendiary bombing runs with much destruction. Designed to force surrender but didn’t. April-June Okinawa August 6th Hiroshima 9th Nagasaki 14 th Japan surrenders. September 2 VJ Day
Iwo Jima D-Day 9 Feb 1945 Airfields again the objectives. 450 ships Pre-invasion bombardment shortened from 12 to 3 days. Weather limited effectiveness of even this. 3, 4, 5 MARDIV 1 st wave gets ashore, but when bombardment lifts for them to move inland, all hell breaks loose. Southern half of island in US hands by D+2. Takes 34 more days to secure remainder of island (8 square miles total).
Iwo Jima Nothing fancy; simple but costly. “Throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete.” 36 days, 26k US casualites including 6k KIA. 1k of 20k defenders survived 2400 B-29s w/ 27k crewmen made unscheduled landings on island by the time the war ended. 27 Medals of Honor awarded.
"The battle of Iwo Island has been won. The United States Marines by their individual and collective courage have conquered a base which is as necessary to us in our continuing forward movement toward final victory as it was vital to the enemy in staving off off ultimate defeat. By their victory, the 3d, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the 5th Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue. " Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Okinawa D Day 1 April Last stop before the mainland. 1200 ships 1, 2, 6 MARDIV + 3 Army divisions USMC heads north; secures northern ½ of island by D+4. Combined Army/USMC battle determined Japanese defenders until late June. Gen Geiger named to command Tenth Army when Buckner is KIA. Better job of using combined-arms, but still ugly.
Desperation Kamkaze = Divine Wind 1900 planes launched against US during Battle for Okinawa. 6 April 355 launched 22 get through defenses 3 US ships sunk.
The Costs US 7k KIA 31k WIA Japan 130k KIA 10k POW Lost 700+ aircraft
Victory was never in doubt…What was in doubt, in all our minds, was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end, or whether the last Marine would die knocking out the last Japanese gun and gunner. Let the world count our crosses. MajGen Graves Erskine, CG 3d Marine Division, following the Battle for Iwo Jima What platoon are you guys? Platoon, hell! We’re the 2nd Battalion, 22d Marines, what’s left of us anyway. Exchange between Marines following the Battle for Sugarloaf Hill on Okinawa, May 1945
A New Formula for Mass Japan warned, but refused to surrender. Planners estimate 3-5x as many casualties as at Okinawa. Hiroshima 6 August 1945 60-70k killed or missing Nagasaki 9 August 40k killed Compare Dresden 35-135k Tokyo 120k KIA/WIA Logical outcome of “Total War”?