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What if MacArthur goes on the offensive in the PI?

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by John Dudek, Dec 11, 2008.

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  1. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Okay, bear with me for a minute. Let's just say that MacArthur successfully pulls off his double retrograde manuver into Bataan, as he historically did, with all of his troops, equipment, but not enough food. After the first major Japanese attack on Bataan that drives the Filippino-American forces partially down the peninsula, MacArthur mounts a blitzkrieg style attack and counterattacks using the two main north/south running roads with all of his armor, anti-tank gun mounted half tracks, support vehicles and troops under a friendly artillery barrage from his still sizable number of artillery pieces. Hindsight being 20-20, we now know that the Japanese never outnumbered the Filippino-American forces on Bataan during the campaign, something that the USAFFE forces never knew.

    Let's say that MacArthur's mobile armored forces break through and gets well into General Homma's rear, cutting off the main Japanese Army from any support behind them. How much death and destruction could they mete out? Could the USAFFE Forces catch Homma's forces in a pincer movement, crush them and turn the tables temporarily on the Japanese?

    Granted, given the time frame, there were only a few dozen P-40 and P-35 fighterplanes left in his air force, but they might have kept Japanese air support at bay. Also, considering Bataan's double canopy forests, how much would that have limited the effectiveness of a USAFFE counterattack?
     
  2. Lost Watchdog

    Lost Watchdog Member

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    An interesting scenario but if it went wrong it could have hastened the defeat of US forces in the PI. Going over to the offensive uses much more men and material, much more the static defence. Also breaks in a static defensive line can be plugged quickly but in mobile warfare smaller tactical reverses can soon spiral out of control.
    The best MacArthur could hope for would be a big smash-and-grab raid aimed at disrupting Japanese preparations for a Bataan attack by destroying bridges, roads, airfields, assembly areas etc and also collecting as much food as possible to bring back to Bataan. The raid could also be used to insert troops and supplies into the mountains of Luzon to run a guerrilla war.
     
  3. barry8108

    barry8108 Member

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    I think MacArthur should have went on the offense rather than stay holed up in Battan. I know he was hoping for reinforcements, but at some pointe he had to have been told none were coming. It would have thrown the Japanese back and i think he would have been able to force the Japanese to divert forces to the P.I. I believe his ego got the best of him and he did not want to admit he was wrong. The amount of men and weapons he had could have made a strong offensive force.
     
  4. AnywhereAnytime

    AnywhereAnytime Member

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    I posted this in another forum that you had asked this question as well. Just my 2 cents.

    ----
    Assuming the time frame of your scenario takes place after the Battle of the Pockets and the Points, several factors would have greatly worked against such a move: (using 20-20 hindsight myself)

    - Assuming Japanese reinforcements couldn't be brought in fast enough, Japanese air support could. They could easily wreak havoc on a USAFFE counterattack. Only the central and lower half of Bataan had double canopy forests. The SPM's and tanks would have had to take the main roads. They'd be sitting ducks to Japanese air support

    - USAFFE artillery could only reach so far. If a counterattack advanced north far enough, they'd have to be brought in closer to the action which would make them vulnerable to air attacks again. Also the I Corp lost most of its artillery when they retreated to the second line. They may not have enough to support a push on the west side.

    - The Philippine Division which was the bulk of the troops that were trained enough to conduct coordinated offensive maneuvers already tried a counter-attack to restore the Abucay line, and they failed. The ample artillery support that was available were ineffective because of the terrain and lack of accurate maps and communications. They had counter-attacked at a time when they were still strong and had relatively few casualties and still failed. A counter-attack after the battle of the Pockets and Points wouldn't have been promising. They were already weakened and suffered heavy casualties from those battles.

    Their situation simply stunk. Not a whole lot of options. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
     
  5. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    By the time in question, the Japanese 5th Air Group and all Japanese Naval aircraft had already been withdrawn to other theatres of war and the number of opposing fighter plane aircraft was roughly equal. A better time for a USAFFE armored offensive would never again have so many possibilities for success.

    Homma's troops were suffering from the same cerebral malaria, dengue fever, beri-beri, dysentary and other diseases that the Filippino-Americans were. A concentrated armored infantry attack on two fronts may have borne rich fruit for the Allies, although it would have only been a temporary victory if at all.
     
  6. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    John, you have a point but I agree with the others that if Mac's push doesn't work, then he would've sealed Bataan's fate sooner.
    However, after reading the other what if you posted about Mindanao, I think the equation changes. Now if the reinforcing of Mindanao is timed with your proposed push in Bataan, it opens up fresh possibilities.
     
  7. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    As AA points out US/PI Army efforts to attack usually failed. If limited objective counter attacks could not suceed then how can a small number of mechanized companys suceed at a attack with such ambitious goals? The Japanese soldiers were reasonablly trained, experinced, and led, Not hastily mobilized reservists or new conscripts that could not cope in Poland, Belgium, or the USSR.
     
  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    "Big Mac" was most surely told that "re-enforcements" would NOT be coming, but I believe he was not told that the resupply would be as minimal as it was in reality. I seem to recall reading that until he was ordered to leave he believed that supplies at least would be sent or were on the way. But in reality they were not in any meaningful fashion. That had been set as policy within a week of Pearl being bombed. When D.D. Eisenhower reported to D.C. to work for General Marshall he was fully aware of the latest Rainbow 5 war plans, whether or not MacArthur was fully aware of them or not is not known to myself.

    "…Eisenhower wanted command of combat forces rather than assignment to another staff job, but George Marshall was the highest ranking general and the most respected officer in the U.S. Army. No soldier questioned his orders or tried to have them changed.

    "Eisenhower reported for duty in General Marshall’s office on a bright Sunday morning exactly one week after the disastrous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For about twenty minutes they discussed the general situation in the Pacific. With the pride of the Pacific fleet sitting in the mud at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and not enough support vessels available to escort aircraft carriers on long-range missions, the Navy was essentially out of business in that area of the world. The Army Air Force had been largely destroyed in Hawaii and the Philippines. The clamor for ground and air reinforcements in Hawaii and both coasts of the continental United States was urgent, as further Japanese attacks were expected everywhere.

    "Ike had never previously talked with Marshall for more than a minute or two at a few military ceremonies over the years. When he thought they were just getting into the conversation Marshall abruptly asked, "What should be our general line of action?" Ike answered, "Give me a few hours." That said, the meeting was over and Ike left to find his new desk.

    "Eisenhower did not come to his meeting with General Marshall unprepared to analyze strategic questions and develop practical answers. During his assignment to Panama in the early 1920’s he had been personally tutored on global war strategy for two years by General Fox Conner, one of the Army’s top strategic thinkers. Later, Ike had graduated first in his class from Command and General Staff School and gone on to assignments that required him to examine world-wide military matters, mobilization of armies, and the issues connected with converting the industrial capacity of the nation to a war footing. Perhaps most importantly for Marshall’s first assignment, he had recently spent four years in the Philippines helping to build their military forces and defenses. He was no stranger to East Asia.

    "As he knew, the Pacific war situation that mid-December Sunday morning was appalling. The area in peril was 7,000 miles from America’s West Coast and there was neither the transportation capacity nor the naval escort necessary to carry meaningful relief to the American and allied troops in the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, and other vital Pacific posts. There were supply ships and escort vessels being used in the Atlantic convoys to sustain Great Britain, but these were barely enough to do the job. They could not be diverted. All the desktop calculations Eisenhower could do simply verified the fact that the United States could not rescue the thousands of American soldiers defending the Philippines before the unopposed invading Japanese forces would capture the archipelago. Support could be dribbled in by submarine and blockade runners, but the garrisons were doomed.

    "Given this awful recognition, Marshall’s question still remained. What should America be doing? Eisenhower used his remaining time with pencil and pad outlining his recommended Pacific strategy. He then returned to General Marshall and advised:

    We can not prevail in the Philippines, but we must send what little aid is available. The allied countries might excuse failure, but would never accept abandonment.

    Our central strategy should be to open and maintain water and aerial supply routes between the U.S. west coast and Australia. We must build up the ground and air forces that will be required to eventually attack north and recapture the Philippines and other points that the Japanese will have invaded and occupied. (emphasis mine)

    "Many high level studies would be done, many meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief, President Roosevelt, would be held in the months to follow. But America’s military strategy to make Australia the base for the U.S. Army and Army Air Force response in the Pacific would remain precisely as Dwight Eisenhower envisioned during three hours of thoughtful study on that Sunday in 1941. His many years of study and careful preparation paid off for Eisenhower, for Marshall, and for the United States.


    From:

    Ike Stories - Ike Sets Wartime Pacific Strategy - Eisenhower Memorial Commission - Ike Sets Wartime Pacific Strategy

    Don't forget that when the Trans-Pacific cable was lost after Wake was taken, there was no secure communication line between Washington and Manila. The radio at the time was less than reliable, and code breaking was rampant. Especially against the ancient American codes.

    We didn't have CIGABA in place and working yet, that would be later by a few months. That code machine was never broken in its life-time, and was only abandoned in the late fifties when speed of communication became more important.
     
  9. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Both Ike and MacArthur almost certainly had to be aware of Rainbow 5 which had been adopted in 1939. Admiral Stark was the brain behind Rainbow 5 and Ike's recommendation to Marshall after the beginning of the war basically amounted to following the Rainbow 5 plan. It's an exaggeration to say that Ike "set wartime Pacific strategy", it had already been determined by Roosevelt's agreement with the British in 1940-41.

    MacArthur had to be aware that of the decades-long debate within the US military/naval establishment about whether the Philippines would be "written off" or not. If he had any illusions about receiving resupply or reinforcement, it was because neither Roosevelt nor Marshall could bring themselves to tell Mac that there was nothing to send and no ships in which to send it. This painful duty was made even more difficult by the brief period between July and December, 1941, when the Roosevelt administration hoped that the hasty reinforcement of the Philippines might deter Japan.
     
  10. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That statement was from the site, not me. Since it is a site devoted to Eisenhower I left it as I found it. But, as I mentioned, I wonder just how much of the plan Mac had input into since he had resigned and been on the Philippine Islands for those years. That is all I was pointing out, he may have let his ego assume the system wouldn't "write HIM off" no matter what they planned in the cool back rooms of peace time.
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Raher than speculate about what Roosevelt, Marshal, or King might have told Mac I'd recomend taking a close look at Stimsons communications to Mac. Unlike the others Stimson had a much more optimistic view of defending PI. Judging from quotes and summarys of Stimsons correspondence or memos Mac may have accquired a false impression of the resources available.
     
  12. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I understand that Clint, my remarks were directed at the author's of the site.

    I base those remarks on the War Department document relative to Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare; HyperWar: Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942 [US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II] The basic war plan which the Allies more or less adhered to throughout WW II was basically agreed to almost a year prior to Pearl Harbor. It was a comprehensive scheme for the prosecution of a global conflict, and as such, included the framework of the Pacific theater strategy. For that reason, Eisenhower's role in the establishment of Pacific strategy necessarily would have been limited to the details of implementing the aforementioned strategic plans.

    MacArthur probably didn't have much "input" to the Rainbow 5 plan, at all. My understanding was that it was largely Admiral Stark, and I would assume, the staff of the Army-Navy planning Board who revamped War Plan Orange into the Rainbow series of war plans. MacArthur, as you correctly point out, was retired at that time and resident in the Philippines.

    It would be very difficult to imagine, however, that MacArthur, upon being called back to Army service in July, 1941, would not have been familiarized with the overall current war plan for the Pacific theater, and the role the Philippines were to play. If nothing else, it would be incumbent upon any theater commander in that situation to inquire about such plans to make sure that he was current relative to what was expected of him.

    You may very well be correct about Mac's unwillingness to accept the finality of the plans (WP 46). To be honest, it seems to me that the behavior of Marshall and Roosevelt in sending massive reinforcements and material to the Philippines just prior to the war had the unfortunate effect of introducing a strong element of confusion over exactly what the Administration's plans actually were with regard to the defense of the Philippines. So, I believe Mac did have some case for refusing to accept the verdict of Rainbow 5, that the Philippines were hopelessly indefensible.
     
    brndirt1 and Falcon Jun like this.
  13. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Exactly! Given the degree of the massive amounts of money, modern military supplies, equipment and manpower that the Philippines received in the preceding year, how could MacArthur ever think otherwise? In the space of a single year, the Philippines received more US military aid and material than in all of the years since the First World War.

    According to "American Caesar", MacArthur was utterly shocked beyond belief upon landing in Australia, after leaving the Philippines, only to be told that not a single US Army Combat Division or Regiment was currently in country. That's when he fully knew that the Philippines were truly doomed.
     
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    MacArthur was partially to blame for the confusion over what US policy towards the Philippines should be. It's true that Roosevelt and Marshall poured aircraft, equipment, and material into reinforcing him in the Philippines in 1941, but that decision was based on two things. The first was the USAAC over selling the capabilities of the B-17 bomber, and it's ability to deter the Japanese by threatening long range bombardment of their Home Islands. The other reason was MacArthur's BS about how well trained were the Philippine troops for which he was responsible. He had assured Marshall he would have over 200,000 well trained, well equipped Philippine troops ready to contest any Japanese invasion. In fact, he didn't even have a small per centage of that number, and he certainly should have known it.

    Furthermore, MacArthur's bungling defense of Luzon and inept handling of his airpower, was what convinced Roosevelt, here was no point in committing additional air, naval, or ground forces to his command. Rather than being "shocked" by there being no US troops in Australia, he should have been shocked that he wasn't ordered to undergo a court martial.
     
  15. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    MacArthur was basing his military suppositions on the belief that there would be no war in the Pacific until after the monsoon season was finished, sometime after September, 1942. Given the amount of US money, men, supplies and material already in the pipeline, it's safe to say that MacArthur would have had 200,000 well trained, well equipped, Filippino Troops ready to contest any Japanese invasion by that time frame. Marshall assured MacArthur that he would have priority of all the things on his military shopping list, except 90mm anti aircraft guns, as they had not yet cleared their ordinance trials.

    It takes time to build and train an army of that enormous size. Unfortunately, that was one commodity that MacArthur never had in his favor.
     
  16. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Marshall might have been able to supply a lot of things to MacArthur, but well trained Philippine troops was not one of them. MacArthur claimed he would have those troops before the next Spring, yet he had to know that was impossible, he had to know that he was lying to Marshall because he didn't even have a training program in place after five years of being responsible for training the Philippine Army. Hell, there were generals in Washington, including Eisenhower, who knew he was lying.

    MacArthur wasn't a novice general, he knew it would take time to train troops. If he hadn't been able to do it in the previous five years, how the hell did he expect to do it in less than a year? Mac just bought into the false hope, along with Roosevelt and Marshall, that the B-17's would be able to bluff the Japanese and that he actually wouldn't have to produce those 200,000 well trained Filipino troops. Turned out he was dead wrong.
     
  17. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    MacArthur gave the go-ahead to begin the complete mobilization of Filippino Troops on 1 September, 1941. Before that time, there were only plans and little else put forth towards a training program for the Philippine Army, mainly because there was no money forthcoming to finance the construction of military camps, barracks and etc. There was also little to no equipment available before this time to support and equip an expanded Filippino Army of 10 Divisions. At that time too, the only trained, reliable division available to MacArthur was the Philippine Division that consisted of over a third US servicemen.

    I wouldn't be so tough on MacArthur. He did the best that he could with what he had at his disposal. I think his greatest failure was not being aggressive enough during the long, double retrograde manuver into Bataan after WPOIII was put into effect. A few major counterattacks utilizing his armor and combined arms could have thrown the Japanese off their game plan and forced them temporarily onto the defensive. That alone could have bought him some valuable time with which to stock Bataan full of munitions and food supplies.
     
  18. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I will grant you that MacArthur had problems with funding for most of the time that he was supposed to be training the Philippine armed forces. The money was supposed to come from the Philippine Commonwealth, not the US. However, MacArthur surely was aware of the shortcomings of the Philippine Army troops which he had been responsible for training for the last five years. He should have, and almost certainly did, realize that there was no way he could produce 200,000 trained and equipped Philippine troops by April, 1942. To continually assure his superiors in Washington that he would do so, is nothing short of a deliberate deception.

    Did MacArthur "do the best he could with what he had at his disposal"? The answer is a resounding, NO! MacArthur knew from at least the end of July, 1941, that his was the responsibility for carrying out the US defensive plan in the Philippines. This plan called for the fortification of the Bataan Peninsula and the stockpiling of supplies, munitions, medicine and food enough to last the defenders for at least six months. Had he started to perform this duty in the fall of 1941, there would have been more than enough time to accomplish everything he had been ordered to do. But MacArthur delayed until it was far too late to do anything other than to retreat into unprepared positions on Bataan with little or no supplies and provisions.

    It's not as though the war came as any great surprise to MacArthur, or indeed anyone in the Philippines. He had received numerous war warnings from Washington, and from his own code breakers and intelligence people in the Philippines. MacArthur relied on his aircraft and the Navy's submarines to slow and damage the Japanese offensive, but he let his planes be destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the war, and clearly had no clue as to the limitations and requirements of the Navy's submarine force. In his arrogance, he discounted the fighting prowess of the Japanese. He also overestimated his own ability and military knowledge. MacArthur failed, and failed big time in the Philippines. He was extremely lucky that circumstances conspired to grant him a second chance.

    Military History Online - MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
     
  19. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Jut to stir the MacAuthur pot a bit...

    Rober H Ferrel of the University of Missouri has recently published 'The Question of MacAurthurs Reputation'. In short this examines the cicumstances surrounding the attack of the 42d Div, on the "Cote de Chatillion" hill position from 14 thru 18 October 1918. Brigadier Gen MacAurthur was nominated for the Medal of Honor from that action, specifically for leading the 167th & 168th regiments through a 'gap' in the barbed wire barriers. Ferrels book descibes what many historians and other have know sicen 1918, that the logbooks and staff of the brigade CP of the two regiments show Mac never left the CP during the entire day.

    Much of Ferrells book analysis why Mac recived a Distinguished Service Cross. The other portion describes the battle and sorts out what officers of the two regiments actually were key leaders in making the attack sucessfull.
     
  20. justdags

    justdags Member

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    What if during Mac's push in the enemy their snipers got HIM
     
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