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Tarawa What-if

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by solarfox, Nov 27, 2007.

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  1. jacobtowne

    jacobtowne Member

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    Exactly. If the U.S. lost at Guadalcanal, the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Trial could have resumed, threatening not only Port Moresby, but Allied shipping lanes between the West Coast and Australia.

    JT
     
  2. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Depends on how many cargo ships and landbased/carrier aircraft are available afte the 'victory'. The real victory in the battle for Guadacannal was the attrition of the Japanese air fleet, and secondarily in the loss of the Japanese cargo ships, men, & supplies. Continuing the fight in New Guinea is totally dependant on being able to concentrate the supplys and the aircraft to protect them. by October 1943 Japan was on the losing side of the air/supply battle. It is entirely possible the Japanese army could have captured the airfield but still been left with a crippled air arm and insuffcient cargo ships concentrated in the South West Pacific.

    Conversely if the US naval commanders screw up their side of the battle it is possible the Japanese would win the naval air & surface battles decisively, so that the US presence on Guadacannal is meaningless. Unsupplied ground units with no aircraft. There were other islands nearby which Japan could have used for airfields. The coastal plain of Guadacannal was not unique.
     
  3. curious

    curious Member

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    Actually, abandoning the island hopping strategy would have been the best thing the Allies could have done.

    Put into a strategic perspective what good is a garrisoned island out in the middle of nowhere to the Japanese (or anyone else)? They cannot advance from it. They cannot inflict casualties on the enemy from it, unless the enemy is very close. They have to constantly supply it.

    I think Lawrence of Arabia had a much better approach to dealing with far flung garrisoned "islands". His approach was to attack, but not cut, their supply lines. Then the enemy has to waste forces defending the supply lines everywhere, and they lose supplies and transports in the constant attacks.

    So, don't conquer these islands, disrupt their supplies.

    Okay, then what? Well, MacArthur had a very good plan for taking Papua New Guinea - "hit em where they aint". One of my favorite WWII battles is WeeWak, probably also the most strategic land battle of the pacific theatre. What, you never heard of Weewak? Ah, it was MacArthur at his best. The Papua New Guinea version of Inchon. The Japanese had put 100,000 troops into the front at Weewak they were iching to fight the Americans toe to toe. Admirals and generals came to Hollandia to watch the fun. Imagine the looks on their faces when MacArthur's army comes wading ahore at the beach where they are sitting waiting for the battle to begin 350 miles to the east. LOL. "Hit em where they aint". Hollandia fell easily, it was almost undefended, and that sealed the doom of Weewak.

    If Nimitz had been sent to support MacArthur, Papua New Guinea would have fallen much quicker than it did (with few casualties)

    Now, instead of taking the Phillipines, Marshall's plan to take Formosa and then Hong Kong could have been followed. Now the Japanese holdings south of the line Hong Kong, Formosa, Papua New Guinea will wither on the vine, cut off from supply and reinforcement. That would move the war forward by at least a year.
     
  4. solarfox

    solarfox Member

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    I chose Tarawa, Dunkirk and Tobruk because i was interested in them. I also wanted a challenge and to do battles which seemed sort-of inconsequental to the overall plan. I also chose these because they have not really been heavily covered before in what-if scenarios, as opposed to D-Day or Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima. The point of my project is to say the losers COULD win, and prove it, however hard that may be.
     
  5. solarfox

    solarfox Member

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    The Senior Project is pretty much BS, but i am doing something that hasn't been done before. With regards to Astrology, the girl doing that is just going to learn about it... it's really dumb. The students can get away with most anything...
     
  6. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Ellis in his book 'Brute Force' argues a similar line in the final chapter. He favored MacAurthurs recomendation for attacking towards the Phillipines from New Guinea as more effcient than attacking across the Central Pacific. Unfortunatly he does not provide much in the way of numbers to support this. Which is curious since 'Brute Force' is primarily a comparitive study of resources & how they were used. Earlier in the book Ellis does note that MacAurthurs estimates for what he needed to attack towards the Phillipines, made in mid to late 1942 and again in early 1943 were far less than what was actually required. John Costello in his 'Pacific War 1941 - 1945' remarks on MacAurthurs claim in a Spring 1942 message to Marshall/Roosevelt that he could turn the war around in just two weeks if they would just give him the two divsions in Hawaii. MacAurthers message had nothing about where the ships for moving all this might come from. Or how the Japanese battle fleet, which was still undefeated then was to be dealt with.

    I think you are misunderstanding the nature of the USN campaign across the Central Pacific. Most of the Japanese garrisoned islands were bypassed. Those taken by the USN were choosen as necessary to provide airbases, ship anchorages and dry land for the logistics route to Japan. Adm King made the argument that the Central Pacific islands route also led to Formosa, and by a shorter line (from the supply source in the US). Plus it provided bases closer to Japan that could be used to attack it much more directly directly (ie: the Ryukyus, or the Bonins), unlike the Phillpines.

    A look at the map shows that nuetralizing key Japanes bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls straightens the ship route to Australia, eliminating the dogleg though the Line Islands archipelligo. Reducing the tranist time 10 to 15% is not trivial as it saves that much in fuel, repairs, cargo embarkation time.

    The numbers vary according to how its counted, but the USN Central Pacific campaign only combated one of three to one of five Japanese soldiers in the Gilbert, Marshal, Caroline, and Mariana archipelligos. Large garrisons such as at Truk were bypassed more often than not. This fit the prewar plans and wargames of the USN that dated back to the 1920s. In those exercises and planning documents the bypassing of garrisons of stratgically and operationally unimportant islands was outlined.
     
  7. solarfox

    solarfox Member

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    Yes, but how could have the Japanese have actually won. The point of my life right now (dramatization) is to say they could. Tell me how you think they could have. There have been some clever ideas. And if you need more, get a What-if book. Stephan Ambrose (god rest his soul) wrote one about if D-Day failed. Easy to do, but i deliberately chose a hard one. Sorry to be so anal:eek: but the school administration is starting to crack down on me (losers and a-holes) but I need to prove this. I want to prove this. I have started it, and I will end it. Dunkirks Easier, but right now I have a Tarawa Vetern who is willing to let me pick his brains, so that's where I began.

    Sorry aboiut all this nitpicky ness, but I am not going to change my Battles. Thank you for dealing w/ this.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Ok my vision for how the Japanese might have won Tarawa, or at least really put the hurt on the US in taking it:

    First a few explanitory notes: The Japanese Navy had responsibility for the defense of Tarawa. It is unlikely that the Army would be involved due to the intense interservice rivalry that existed. Also, this presupposes that the Japanese intend to make a stand at Tarawa that reflects a realism about the power of America's military. Oh, a map of the Tarawa atoll would be useful in following some of this. Maybe someone more energetic than me could post one up.

    1. The Japanese build at least three airfields on Betio, Buariki, and Buoti islands.
    2. They bring in an additional 3 SNLF and base forces bringing the total defense to about 15,000 men.
    3. In addition to having more coast defense batteries up to 8" in size, the Japanese dig these in on a number of islands. They also bring in some field artillery that can be moved in and out of bunkers for firing.
    4. The Japanese plant a large number of command detonated sea mines in the lagoon including the entrance. A battery and command station on Betio and Bikeman Islands could operate the mines.
    5. Half a dozen Sensuikan Kaichu submarines like the RO 36 or RO 100 class to the atoll along with a small tender.
    6. A good portion of the islands in the Atoll chain now have hardened defenses on them.
    7. The Japanese make liberal use of ground mines on most islands along with wire and other obstacles.
    8. A number of small patrol and dispatch vessels are assigned to the islands for utility purposes and to assist in placing mines, running cable, ferrying supplies, and other such duties.
    9. A number of tanks are made available and placed on less defended islands with the local defenses.

    What the Japanese do / plan is to fortify not a single island as they did originally but instead spread their defenses over the entire atoll, dozens of islands. They have their heavy batteries sighted not just for anti-ship activity but, they are also zeroed in on the other islands as well. This means if the US lands on say, Betio, Buakiri island's batteries can now fire on Betio accurately. This means the US is now under heavy, concentrated, and sustained fire from artillery, something they did not have to deal with once ashore on Betio originally. The field batteries being in bunkers and moved out to fire will be very hard to neutralize without actually overrunning the positions as opposed to coast defense batteries that remain exposed.
    By mining the lagoon and entrance with command mines (see chapter 3 of [i[Survey of Japanese Seacoast Artillery[/i], GHQ USAFPAC Seacoast Artillery Research Board 2/1/46 for example) they could very likely sink one or more US ship in the entry making the lagoon inaccessable. An alternative would have been to have a prepositioned block ship or two available to do the same thing.
    Denying the US access to the lagoon of the atoll puts half the landing beaches out of reach. With the command mines the Japanese might wait until the initial landing forces are in the lagoon to act. This would severly reduce or eliminate follow-on waves of troops cutting off the initial landing forces.
    With several airfields and radar available the Japanese should be able to mount a credible initial air defense with their defending fighters. Forcing the US to split their attacks between multiple targets on different islands spreads out the damage more and makes it likely more defense measures will survive the pre-invasion bombardment.
    By mining the islands, particularly the beaches and, even putting some mines in the shallow portion of the lagoon, the Japanese would have made life very difficult for the Marines. Mines would have slowed their operations and made them wary of advancing without clearing the mines. On less well defended islands these might have caused substancial delay and a number of casualties slowing operations sufficently to allow a useful response.
    The spreading of defenses also dilutes the US bombardment. The USN only has so many shells it can throw into the bombardment. The ships must keep a certain number for their own defense.
    The submarines are deployed upon notice the US is coming. Their orders are to wait until the US starts to invade to actually attack any ships. This will have two effects: First, the Japanese might sink or damage several ships using their submarines. Second, the US will now be forced to use their destroyers to hunt submarines. This deprives the Marines of one of the most effective sources of artillery they have, the destroyers.
    Even if the US recognizes that the Japanese have more defenses and send additional troops their naval forces accompanying them will still be roughly the same as originally assigned. Basically, there aren't any more for the operation.
    The Japanese tanks are placed with weaker defended islands to provide a mobile response to a Marine landing. Given the smaller Marine forces landed a tank could very likely prove a tough nut to crack and give the defenders the edge for a while against a company or two of Marines lacking much in the way of AT weapons.
     
  9. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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  10. solarfox

    solarfox Member

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    Thanks T.A Gardner, this is exactly what this thread is about. I defiantly see this plan coming together. This of course might not have helped at all, but as you are well aware, my project is mostly speculation supported with facts. I am deeply indebted to you and your superior mind.

    I do agree that the Japanese would never have actually won at Tarawa, which is why this challenge enlightens me. I do however think that it would have been possible for the Japanese on the island to inflict substantially more casualties. While the USMC WOULD NOT HAVE RETREATED, i do think their battle plans in the future would come under even further scrutiny and slow the war, which would cause even more casualties.

    Thanks for your help everyone.

    Thanks Slipdigit, for the pic.:D
     
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  11. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    That's a very insightful post on how the Japanese could have better fortified their hold on Tarawa, T.A. Gardner.

    It's a solid plan that would give any attacker a very bloody nose.
    The use of submarines against the US fleet is a good idea. Fortunately for us, we both know that historically, the Japanese failed to use their subs properly.
    Your mention of subs and the use emplaced artillery and mines to deny an enemy use of a bay or lagoon makes me recall how the US successfully denied the Japanese entry to Manila Bay in early 1942. It worked then and successfully prevented the Japanese from using the ports of Manila for a good while (of course until Bataan and Corregidor were secured by the Japanese). Such a plan would also work for the Japanese but given enough time (as what happened in Manila Bay), the US would eventually take Tarawa, admittedly at a heavier cost.
     
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