Armchair General: Iwo Jima

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Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:47 pm

I just got done reading the book Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor by Bill D. Ross. It describes in detail the horrific conditions faced by the Marines in trying to assault the entrenched Japanese in their network of tunnels. The Marine leadership never got the length of naval bombardment they wanted pre-invasion, but it seems clear that with how well fortified the Japanese defenses were, it still wouldn't have made much of a difference. Thousands of underground pillboxes, sniper hides, mortar nests, artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns, land mines, and tanks buried up to their turrets cover the eight square mile island.

You have been made overall commander of the invasion and been told you have ANY military resources available to you (in 1945) to take the volcanic island with the least amount of American casualties. Unlike in 1945, the strength of the defender's fortifications is known.

How do you go about attacking 20,000+ Japanese soldiers buried underground on a volcanic island? I'll save my thoughts until some other people have chimed in.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Vonz90 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:00 pm

JustinR wrote:I just got done reading the book Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor by Bill D. Ross. It describes in detail the horrific conditions faced by the Marines in trying to assault the entrenched Japanese in their network of tunnels. The Marine leadership never got the length of naval bombardment they wanted pre-invasion, but it seems clear that with how well fortified the Japanese defenses were, it still wouldn't have made much of a difference. Thousands of underground pillboxes, sniper hides, mortar nests, artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns, land mines, and tanks buried up to their turrets cover the eight square mile island.

You have been made overall commander of the invasion and been told you have ANY military resources available to you (in 1945) to take the volcanic island with the least amount of American casualties. Unlike in 1945, the strength of the defender's fortifications is known.

How do you go about attacking 20,000+ Japanese soldiers buried underground on a volcanic island? I'll save my thoughts until some other people have chimed in.


Bombard and bypass. They had no offensive capability away from the island. We did it to provide a drop off base for damaged B-29's coming back from the Japan. Very much not worth is as we lost more lives taking it than we gained from having the airfield.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby MarkD » Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:08 pm

Napalm, lots and lots of napalm. After they've all suffocated in their holes, start landing the B29s there.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby MarkD » Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:25 pm

Vonz90 wrote:
JustinR wrote:I just got done reading the book Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor by Bill D. Ross. It describes in detail the horrific conditions faced by the Marines in trying to assault the entrenched Japanese in their network of tunnels. The Marine leadership never got the length of naval bombardment they wanted pre-invasion, but it seems clear that with how well fortified the Japanese defenses were, it still wouldn't have made much of a difference. Thousands of underground pillboxes, sniper hides, mortar nests, artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns, land mines, and tanks buried up to their turrets cover the eight square mile island.

You have been made overall commander of the invasion and been told you have ANY military resources available to you (in 1945) to take the volcanic island with the least amount of American casualties. Unlike in 1945, the strength of the defender's fortifications is known.

How do you go about attacking 20,000+ Japanese soldiers buried underground on a volcanic island? I'll save my thoughts until some other people have chimed in.


Bombard and bypass. They had no offensive capability away from the island. We did it to provide a drop off base for damaged B-29's coming back from the Japan. Very much not worth is as we lost more lives taking it than we gained from having the airfield.


I'm not so sure Iwo wasn't worth taking. Not in terms of lives spent vs lives saved by having a place to land damaged B29s, but:

1) Instead of seeing the dug-in defense-in-depth the Marines saw on Iwo Jima, the US wouldn't have encountered it to that extent until Okinawa. Much bigger operation, and without the experience on Iwo that would have led to higher American casualties on Okinawa.

2) Don't underestimate the morale hit the Japanese took from having a one of their home islands taken. Yeah, a miserable little fly-turd of an island, but still part of the Emperor's domain. Maybe having the Emperor on your side DIDN'T assure victory?

3) The flag, and resultant picture, were a morale boost at home. The American people were sick of the war by then, and were about ready to (a) stop buying war bonds and (b) insist that we allow a conditional surrender (which would have meant World War III around the time I was in High School in the late 70's).

While we could argue the strategic value of Iwo Jima as a place to land bombers that were damaged over Japan, I doubt the rest of the war, or the post-war situation in the Pacific, would've looked the same had it not gone the way it did. With a conditional surrender, and Japanese bullshito Bushido still in effect, without an American occupation force there AND without ever having opened two cans of sunshine on them, what might they have gotten up to? And with the US busy in Europe with the Russians after the war, how much attention would we have paid to what Japan was doing until Pearl Harbor 2.0?

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Langenator » Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:52 pm

Anyone for chemical warfare?
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby PawPaw » Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:24 pm

Langenator wrote:Anyone for chemical warfare?

Negative. Chemical warfare is abhorrent, irregardless of the legality, it is morally repugnant.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby randy » Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:56 pm

PawPaw wrote:
Langenator wrote:Anyone for chemical warfare?

Negative. Chemical warfare is abhorrent, irregardless of the legality, it is morally repugnant.


What he said. And from the pragmatic side, it's never been a particularly effective weapon. It's primary affect is to make simple operations a pain in the ass for both sides (i.e. see the after action reports of it's usage in WWI). If it had been effective, do you think either the Germans, Japanese or the Soviets would have hesitated to use them in WWII?
...even before I read MHI, my response to seeing a poster for the stars of the latest Twilight movies was "I see 2 targets and a collaborator".

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:27 pm

MarkD wrote:Napalm, lots and lots of napalm. After they've all suffocated in their holes, start landing the B29s there.


That was what I was thinking too. Re-task the B-29 fleet to do a low level saturation bombing with only napalm, hopefully creating such a firestorm that it sucks the oxygen out of the cave systems and asphyxiates the defenders. It might take two to three days to completely saturate the island in sections, but that seems like the best way to go about it.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby MarkD » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:30 pm

PawPaw wrote:
Langenator wrote:Anyone for chemical warfare?

Negative. Chemical warfare is abhorrent, irregardless of the legality, it is morally repugnant.


Personally, given the way the Japanese conducted their side of the war, I wouldn't worry overly much about stretching the definition of what's acceptable in warfare. My main concern would be about how effective it was, and on an island in the middle of nowhere the answer would likely be "not very".

Which brings me back to my suggestion of napalm.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Vonz90 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:25 pm

All a waste of time, effort, lives and money. Better off skipping it and going straight into Okinawa, although even that was marginally important at best

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JAG2955 » Tue Feb 02, 2016 12:38 am

I don't know if a firestorm would work on Iwo Jima. I don't think that there's quite enough combustibles in certain areas on the island to create the same effect that we had in Tokyo. Of course, looking at contemporary satellite imagery versus the photos during the campaign, it's hard to tell what deforestation was caused by the bombardments and what occurred during the Japanese occupation. Most of the greenery appears to be grass and small shrubs. There are large areas of rock that would have been without combustibles.

I do think that we're splitting a very fine hair if we say that a carpet napalming to the extent that the defenders die of asphyxiation is moral and just, and chemical warfare isn't.

Chemical warfare would be about the only way to make it "easy". Even then, it still wouldn't be 100%, but at least we'd have the intact infrastructure. Blanket it with non-persistent nerve, mustard, and mask-bursters. A few days later, and the sunny parts of the island are toxin-free.

Whether it's right or not is a completely other story. If we had the knowledge of the Japanese atrocities that we do now, which are too long to list, back then, would we have elected to do it? Maybe. We could meet the criteria for a proper reprisal through the laws of war and take the island with less casualties. But if we do it, we had better make certain that they can't phone home and let anyone know, or we need to be prepared to do it for each and every island thereafter.

Short of that, we'd be talking about things like identifying their water supply and storage and bombing it round the clock to prevent repair. I don't know how long that would take until they exhaust their supplies in the caves and bunkers.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Aesop » Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:01 am

Langenator wrote:Anyone for chemical warfare?


I'll be the contrarian.
Hell yes!

First off, "chemical warfare" covers things like tear gas. I have no problem whatsoever deploying that on Iwo ca. 1945 by the metric fuckton, and then strafing and shelling those forced to the surface around the clock.

Secondly, we're talking about an enemy force that won't surrender. We know that, at this point, because of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, The Philippines, and every other campaign since 1942. So we have an isolated island swarming with fanatical little shits willing to die for their Emperor.
Fair enough, I vote to let them.

Thirdly, functionally, there are non-persistant agents. Dropping a daily dose for a week is no different than spraying for termites, except more fun, and better for the human race.

Fourthly, it was no such morally repugnant, then or now. Biological agents, maybe. Chemical, hell no. It was practiced with glee by both sides in WWI, and no one is maligned then or now for doing it. What it was, as was noted correctly, is a huge pain in the ass: if you use persistent agents, and if the other side has the capability to respond in kind. There is neither of those considerations in play here.
Gas the shit out of the rock, daily, around the clock, for a week. Wait another week or two while blockading it. Stroll ashore. Mop up the pitifully few remaining defenders after tear-gassing them to the surface.

We were prepared, within months, to nuke up to 8 cities to end the war (when we would have run out of fissile material). We had been firebombing the mainland, and already snuffed Dresden out. Don't cry to me about "morally repugnant".

The only expedient in war is to win it, by getting it over as fast as possible with the fewest friendly casualties.

GA (Sarin) the hell out of it. The biggest problem afterwards will be bulldozing over the tunnel outlets to seal in the stench of decomposing bodies.
Which is one helluva lot better than digging mass graves for friendly casualties from the first three assault waves, from where I'm sitting, and far more humane than letting them stave to death over weeks. If they weren't prepared for the death sentence, they shouldn't have done the crime of starting the war. And there is no such thing as a "proportional" response in wartime. Quite literally, kill them all, and let God sort them out.

With the added bonus that on Iwo, the civilian pop. was a pittance.
And the only reason it wasn't used early in the war was the threat of reciprocity. By 1945, we simply didn't want the mess or the bother, as reciprocity was a distant concern in the Pacific.
In Europe, it was a concern right up until the Germans surrendered.
Knowing the (needless) casualties we suffered for Iwo and Oki, I'd have been running Dow Chemical three shifts a day seven days a week, and pouring the product on both islands until even fish and birds wouldn't go near the place.
There's always the chance that the A-bomb might not have worked. One WMD is as good as another. ;)
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Tue Feb 02, 2016 2:23 am

The pictures in the book, and the descriptions of the island, both point toward very little natural vegetation, mostly some scattered grasses and weeds, so not much in the way of natural combustibles. Also, the few Japanese civilians that had lived on the island had long since been evacuated back to Japan by the time the invasion came around. When the Marines invaded, the engineers dug wells down to the water, which was high in sulfur but useable. I must assume the Japanese had done the same within their bunkers.

So, except for the fact it makes building an emergency airfield for B-29's impossible, do you test out atomic bombs on the island and turn it into one giant volcanic glass sarcophagus, instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby mekender » Tue Feb 02, 2016 8:50 pm

Aesop wrote:
Langenator wrote:We were prepared, within months, to nuke up to 8 cities to end the war (when we would have run out of fissile material). We had been firebombing the mainland, and already snuffed Dresden out. Don't cry to me about "morally repugnant".


Ayup... Starting from March 1945 (3 weeks before the invasion of Iwo Jima) when we firebombed Tokyo and destroyed somewhere above 7% of the city... By June, in just three major cities (Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya), we had leveled more square footage of civilian cities than the entire amount we and the British had leveled in Germany during WWII. In the end, more than 65 cities were completely devastated.

Adding another 20,000 to the casualties list would have done little to the results...
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby mekender » Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:11 pm

JustinR wrote:The pictures in the book, and the descriptions of the island, both point toward very little natural vegetation, mostly some scattered grasses and weeds, so not much in the way of natural combustibles. Also, the few Japanese civilians that had lived on the island had long since been evacuated back to Japan by the time the invasion came around. When the Marines invaded, the engineers dug wells down to the water, which was high in sulfur but useable. I must assume the Japanese had done the same within their bunkers.

So, except for the fact it makes building an emergency airfield for B-29's impossible, do you test out atomic bombs on the island and turn it into one giant volcanic glass sarcophagus, instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


Maybe...

Doing so would have had no real strategic value... Certainly no more than bypassing the island would have. Either way the island and its forces would have been irrelevant.

Destruction would have been total with perhaps the exception of some of the deepest tunnels... The overpressure would have collapsed or gutted most of the length of the some 11 miles of tunnels on the island. Assuming that the target would be north east of the mountain, the pressure would have exceeded 5psi over almost the entire surface of the island and been significantly higher in the tunnels. Radiation would have killed off everyone remaining on the island with the exception of those in the very deepest tunnels, those would have likely starved to death or died of lack of oxygen after being trapped underground. With the mountain only being 169m above sea level, the bomb would have detonated with enough altitude above it to cause blast effects to both the north and south face although it is possible that some very "lucky" individuals might have survived if they had been in tunnels near sea level on the opposite side of the mountain.

As to the ability to use the island afterwards, that is actually a toss up in my eyes. With the island being mostly volcanic rock and having a fairly small soil depth, how much radiation that would have been left behind would be minimal, especially with an airburst as we saw in Japan... Fallout would have drifted out to sea. Based on the stories of the Able test during Operation Crossroads, we would have probably been able to land on the island within a day or two. Rebuilding and upgrading the airstrips would have probably been doable within a week or two.

The biggest question mark of the idea in my head is that the island is a volcano... Such a blast very well might have kick started the fires of hell and caused a much bigger problem than the blast itself.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Langenator » Tue Feb 02, 2016 10:59 pm

Refresh me, was Iwo used to base P-51s to fly escort for B-29s in addition to being an emergency field?
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby mekender » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:11 am

Langenator wrote:Refresh me, was Iwo used to base P-51s to fly escort for B-29s in addition to being an emergency field?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Field_(Iwo_Jima)

Yes, it looks like they also had some B-29's stationed there.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Wed Feb 03, 2016 6:00 am

Langenator wrote:Refresh me, was Iwo used to base P-51s to fly escort for B-29s in addition to being an emergency field?


Yes. P-51's were immediately based there for bomber escort duty, along with P-61 night fighters and some PBY seaplane tenders off shore for SAR. The book I read said even with the P-51's range, it needed to take off from Iwo to be able to get to Japan and back with the B-29's. I haven't looked up numbers to verify this but I believe it is correct. As to the necessity of fighter escort that late in the war with American carriers unopposed... that I don't know.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Aesop » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:32 am

American carriers were far from "unopposed", as the 33 ships sunk or severely damaged by 1500+ kamikaze attacks at Okinawa from April to June 1945 demonstrate.
P-51s were not simply a convenience until very late in the war.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby slowpoke » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:44 am

JustinR wrote:
Langenator wrote:Refresh me, was Iwo used to base P-51s to fly escort for B-29s in addition to being an emergency field?


Yes. P-51's were immediately based there for bomber escort duty, along with P-61 night fighters and some PBY seaplane tenders off shore for SAR. The book I read said even with the P-51's range, it needed to take off from Iwo to be able to get to Japan and back with the B-29's. I haven't looked up numbers to verify this but I believe it is correct. As to the necessity of fighter escort that late in the war with American carriers unopposed... that I don't know.

Quite necessary. The P51s annihilated their airforce and prevented and hindered the training of many kamikaze pilots. It also allowed the b29s to fly lower missions which significantly increased their bomb loads and leathality. Getting that island may not have been strictly necessary knowing the a bombs coming, but it provided a hell of a return, and may in fact have been necessary to pave the way for those bombers.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Wed Feb 03, 2016 4:16 pm

Aesop wrote:American carriers were far from "unopposed", as the 33 ships sunk or severely damaged by 1500+ kamikaze attacks at Okinawa from April to June 1945 demonstrate.
P-51s were not simply a convenience until very late in the war.


I meant virtually unopposed by the Japanese navy by that point. Even some ships at Iwo and one escort carrier were damaged or sunk by kamikazes.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Wed Feb 03, 2016 4:50 pm

slowpoke wrote:Quite necessary. The P51s annihilated their airforce and prevented and hindered the training of many kamikaze pilots. It also allowed the b29s to fly lower missions which significantly increased their bomb loads and leathality. Getting that island may not have been strictly necessary knowing the a bombs coming, but it provided a hell of a return, and may in fact have been necessary to pave the way for those bombers.


That's what I figured, but in reading it's been hard to separate fact from fiction, as some people have said US leadership at the time were desperate to justify the losses at Iwo Jima after the fact, and that most B-29 landings weren't emergencies. I would hazard a guess however with relatively young, inexperienced bomber crews, the great distances involved, combat damage, and unexpected jetstream winds, having Iwo as an available landing field DID save many lives and aircraft in the long run, plus as you said the availability of P-51's.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:11 pm

JustinR wrote:
Aesop wrote:American carriers were far from "unopposed", as the 33 ships sunk or severely damaged by 1500+ kamikaze attacks at Okinawa from April to June 1945 demonstrate.
P-51s were not simply a convenience until very late in the war.


I meant virtually unopposed by the Japanese navy by that point.


The B-29's weren't going to be intercepted by, or need escort from, the Japanese Navy.

By the time of Iwo the IJN was done. Between ship losses, interdiction of their fuel supplies, their naval aviation having been destroyed recreated and destroyed again several times already getting weaker each time.... They were done.

The IJA, on the other hand, was *not* done. And the Army also had aviation, which we had not already wrecked several times over.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:24 pm

Greg wrote:The B-29's weren't going to be intercepted by, or need escort from, the Japanese Navy.

By the time of Iwo the IJN was done. Between ship losses, interdiction of their fuel supplies, their naval aviation having been destroyed recreated and destroyed again several times already getting weaker each time.... They were done.

The IJA, on the other hand, was *not* done. And the Army also had aviation, which we had not already wrecked several times over.


Ok, let me clarify what I meant here.

Let's say you bypass invading Iwo Jima. Why can't carrier-based fighters launch to rendezvous with the B-29 formations and provide the same fighter escort that the P-51's did, and then return to their carriers?
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Vonz90 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:33 pm

JustinR wrote:
That's what I figured, but in reading it's been hard to separate fact from fiction, as some people have said US leadership at the time were desperate to justify the losses at Iwo Jima after the fact


Yes this. Remember that the planning for Iwo Jima was flawed from the beginning because the intel was tremendously flawed. They thought Iwo was lightly defended and they would have a relatively easy time taking it, then get the benefit of having the airfield. Since the cost was way more than they bargained for, they ex post facto talked up the value of the asset.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Wed Feb 03, 2016 6:17 pm

JustinR wrote:
Greg wrote:The B-29's weren't going to be intercepted by, or need escort from, the Japanese Navy.

By the time of Iwo the IJN was done. Between ship losses, interdiction of their fuel supplies, their naval aviation having been destroyed recreated and destroyed again several times already getting weaker each time.... They were done.

The IJA, on the other hand, was *not* done. And the Army also had aviation, which we had not already wrecked several times over.


Ok, let me clarify what I meant here.

Let's say you bypass invading Iwo Jima. Why can't carrier-based fighters launch to rendezvous with the B-29 formations and provide the same fighter escort that the P-51's did, and then return to their carriers?


You have to realize it was a major logistic feat, and also risky dangerous and expensive, to have a major carrier force stay on station to provide that kind of support for a time period of days. (It was only much later in the war when our carrier forces had grown enormously in power and the Japanese weakened, that we would try it at all.)

Also monopolizes a major portion of your fleet, and you might have other uses for that.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:12 pm

Vonz90 wrote:
JustinR wrote:
That's what I figured, but in reading it's been hard to separate fact from fiction, as some people have said US leadership at the time were desperate to justify the losses at Iwo Jima after the fact


Yes this. Remember that the planning for Iwo Jima was flawed from the beginning because the intel was tremendously flawed. They thought Iwo was lightly defended and they would have a relatively easy time taking it, then get the benefit of having the airfield. Since the cost was way more than they bargained for, they ex post facto talked up the value of the asset.


Also possible the asset turned out to be more valuable than initially bargained for.

I've read a few things that suggested, later in the war we consistently underestimated the number of aircraft available to Japan. In that context, having the P-51's on Iwo and the effect they had may have turned out more useful than initial expectations.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby MiddleAgedKen » Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:23 am

JustinR wrote:Ok, let me clarify what I meant here.

Let's say you bypass invading Iwo Jima. Why can't carrier-based fighters launch to rendezvous with the B-29 formations and provide the same fighter escort that the P-51's did, and then return to their carriers?


Carrier fighters are pretty short-legged compared to P-51s, if memory serves (caveat: it may not). I'd also want to look at the service ceilings of F6Fs and F4Us (and more to the point, performance at altitude) before commenting further. B29s operated waaaaaay up there. :)
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby MarkD » Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:55 am

My Dad earned a silver Star on Iwo. Just tossing that out there.

Hindsight is always 20/20. They expected it to be a cakewalk. It wasn't. Once they landed they had to take it. Intel notwithstanding, once you put the marines ashore you need to take the island.

Knowing then what we know now of course we might have done things differently. Nobody wanted to kill 6,000 marines and wound another 20,000. But they didn't know. They thkught t it was lightly defended and had a nice airfield we could use. They hadn't experienced the kind of defense the japs would use from then on, including if we'd invaded the home islands.

So imagine we bypassed Iwo jima. And maybe okinawa too. Then would we have dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or would we have invaded and suffered a million more casualties?

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Aesop » Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:34 am

Which is why I still say, gas the f**k out of it, and we're up by 20,000:0.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Jericho941 » Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:51 am

MarkD wrote:My Dad earned a silver Star on Iwo. Just tossing that out there.

Hindsight is always 20/20. They expected it to be a cakewalk. It wasn't. Once they landed they had to take it. Intel notwithstanding, once you put the marines ashore you need to take the island.

Knowing then what we know now of course we might have done things differently. Nobody wanted to kill 6,000 marines and wound another 20,000. But they didn't know. They thkught t it was lightly defended and had a nice airfield we could use. They hadn't experienced the kind of defense the japs would use from then on, including if we'd invaded the home islands.

So imagine we bypassed Iwo jima. And maybe okinawa too. Then would we have dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or would we have invaded and suffered a million more casualties?

It would take someone with better available info than I to answer this conclusively. However. I think it's worth considering that we're looking at the island battles with the benefit of hindsight, and not conferring the same for what came after. For example, instead of fighting to the last for those islands, imagine how much more panic-inducing the threat of Allied invasion would've been when they reach you that much faster.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:58 am

MiddleAgedKen wrote:
JustinR wrote:Ok, let me clarify what I meant here.

Let's say you bypass invading Iwo Jima. Why can't carrier-based fighters launch to rendezvous with the B-29 formations and provide the same fighter escort that the P-51's did, and then return to their carriers?


Carrier fighters are pretty short-legged compared to P-51s, if memory serves (caveat: it may not). I'd also want to look at the service ceilings of F6Fs and F4Us (and more to the point, performance at altitude) before commenting further. B29s operated waaaaaay up there. :)


Yes, those carriers would have to be on station rather close to the home islands.

In the immortal words of Sallah (from RotLA) "Very dangerous. You go first."

Note, we didn't really like to keep our carriers on station to cover amphibious attacks, left them too vulnerable. And that was far from the home islands, where the Japanese were isolated with crappy logistics, and after (we had a policy of doing this) we had not only raided and brutally suppressed nearby airfields, but all the other airfields within reinforcing range of the nearby airfields.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby JustinR » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:46 pm

I saw this on Facebook this morning, and is worth watching in it's entirety.

https://archive.org/details/TheLastBomb1945
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Vonz90 » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:56 am

Carrier raids on the Japanese mainline started in February '45, so it was certainly feasible from that point forward.

On the other hand, my point is that Iwo Jima screamed to be bypassed. If you want to take an island for an airbase, either take one that is easy to take (which they thought would be Iwo) or take one with enough strategic value to warrant the effort. Which was not Iwo.

Bypass it, if you can't find one easy to take, then take Okinawa earlier. Okinawa was important as a jumping point into the mainland and also provided the same (actually better) situation for airfields.

If you want to take some lightly defended island for an airbase, make sure it is lightly defended.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:12 am

Vonz90 wrote:Carrier raids on the Japanese mainline started in February '45, so it was certainly feasible from that point forward.


There's a major difference between a raid, and being on station.

The one is in and out quickly enough that you face only local resistance - from what's there, at that moment. That's important.

If you want to use carrier aircraft to escort B-29 raids, you're going to have to position yourself in a relatively constrained area, over and over, for a long period of time. That kind of predictability makes your life much more dangerous. (Aside from all the other problems previously mentioned.)
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:16 am

Vonz90 wrote:
On the other hand, my point is that Iwo Jima screamed to be bypassed. If you want to take an island for an airbase, either take one that is easy to take (which they thought would be Iwo) or take one with enough strategic value to warrant the effort. Which was not Iwo.

If you want to take some lightly defended island for an airbase, make sure it is lightly defended.


On the whole, the argument for bypassing Iwo is that they should have acted as if they knew something that they did not, in fact, know.

It boils down to 'they were wrong about it being lightly defended'. OK then.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby mekender » Fri Feb 05, 2016 8:41 am

Greg wrote:
Vonz90 wrote:Carrier raids on the Japanese mainline started in February '45, so it was certainly feasible from that point forward.


There's a major difference between a raid, and being on station.

The one is in and out quickly enough that you face only local resistance - from what's there, at that moment. That's important.

If you want to use carrier aircraft to escort B-29 raids, you're going to have to position yourself in a relatively constrained area, over and over, for a long period of time. That kind of predictability makes your life much more dangerous. (Aside from all the other problems previously mentioned.)


The practice of having carriers on station for combat operations was not one that was used very often during WWII I believe...
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby D5CAV » Fri Feb 05, 2016 9:45 am

Vonz90 wrote:Bombard and bypass. They had no offensive capability away from the island. We did it to provide a drop off base for damaged B-29's coming back from the Japan. Very much not worth is as we lost more lives taking it than we gained from having the airfield.


Agree, but I'd save the ammo and forget about bombard.

The Japanese had no way to continue supplying that island with what little naval power they had left.

Leave a couple of subs and an escort carrier to interdict any supply ships that try to get close and continue on

20,000 men on a desert island get hungry pretty fast.

As Patton said, "Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man."

Unfortunately for the soldiers who had to fight and die on Iwo Jima, Patton wasn't in charge, just another stupid man with a very well politically connected mother.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Vonz90 » Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:36 pm

Greg wrote:
Vonz90 wrote:
On the other hand, my point is that Iwo Jima screamed to be bypassed. If you want to take an island for an airbase, either take one that is easy to take (which they thought would be Iwo) or take one with enough strategic value to warrant the effort. Which was not Iwo.

If you want to take some lightly defended island for an airbase, make sure it is lightly defended.


On the whole, the argument for bypassing Iwo is that they should have acted as if they knew something that they did not, in fact, know.

It boils down to 'they were wrong about it being lightly defended'. OK then.


If this was and isolated incident, then maybe.

Except that they used the same methods to estimate the Japanese force that time and again proved to vastly underestimate the level of Japanese forces on different islands. At this point, when you made the same mistake dozens of times over the course of 3+ years, it is past the normal fortunes of war and well into general screw up territory.

Short answer was that did not do their due diligence before they committed a bunch of lives to a major battle. There are times when that is necessary, but by that point we were fully in possession of the initiative so there was no particular reason not to make sure you know what you need know first.

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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby randy » Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:50 pm

MiddleAgedKen wrote: B29s operated waaaaaay up there. :)


Actually, not in this context. When LeMay took over XXth AF one of the changes he made (along with stripping weapons and armor from the B-29's and having them go in at night) was to deliver firebombs from comparatively low altitude (10,000 ft or lower).

Altitude restrictions would not have been an issue for USN carrier borne fighters, but extensive night operations might have been. In addition to the previously posted concerns about keeping your Carrier TF inside a constrained predictable box.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Langenator » Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:29 pm

mekender wrote:
Greg wrote:
Vonz90 wrote:Carrier raids on the Japanese mainline started in February '45, so it was certainly feasible from that point forward.


There's a major difference between a raid, and being on station.

The one is in and out quickly enough that you face only local resistance - from what's there, at that moment. That's important.

If you want to use carrier aircraft to escort B-29 raids, you're going to have to position yourself in a relatively constrained area, over and over, for a long period of time. That kind of predictability makes your life much more dangerous. (Aside from all the other problems previously mentioned.)


The practice of having carriers on station for combat operations was not one that was used very often during WWII I believe...


There were two times when the carriers had to remain offshore of an island/landing area for extended periods of time, both to provide air cover for troops ashore and to provide close air support.

The first was at Leyte, due to the fact that, even though the U.S. had controlled the Philippines for 40+ years and GEN MacArthur had actually been stationed on Leyte as a Lt., the engineers' predictions as to the suitability of the terrain for the construction of airfields was very, very wrong, which greatly delayed getting airfields built so land-based planes could take over the job.

The second was Okinawa.
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Re: Armchair General: Iwo Jima

Postby Greg » Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:23 pm

Vonz90 wrote:
Except that they used the same methods to estimate the Japanese force that time and again proved to vastly underestimate the level of Japanese forces on different islands. At this point, when you made the same mistake dozens of times over the course of 3+ years, it is past the normal fortunes of war and well into general screw up territory.


You can't really argue with that, no.

Short answer was that did not do their due diligence before they committed a bunch of lives to a major battle. There are times when that is necessary, but by that point we were fully in possession of the initiative so there was no particular reason not to make sure you know what you need know first.


The island *was* quite useful, there was just the issue of paying too much for it.

At this point in the discussion, one wonders how deep the problem went. What would it have taken to fix whatever it was that caused us to consistently underestimate enemy forces available (in what I've read recently, it was most noticeable to me in our estimates of air strength), and could we realistically have done it while the war was underway?
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