Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Biak: Thwarting MacAuthur's drive on the Philippines


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 T. A. Gardner

T. A. Gardner

    Genuine Chief

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,855 posts

Posted 07 December 2007 - 08:44 PM

On 27 May 1944 MacAuthur's 7th Army invaded the island of Biak off the northeast coast of New Gueina. Expecting no more than 2,000 defenders and light resistance the US ran into a much larger and very experianced force of defenders numbering about 10,000 men.
The Imperial High Command at first wrote off the island as a lost cause. But, because of the resolute defense mounted by Colonel Naoyuki Kuzme and R. Adm. Sadatoshi Senda they decided belatedly to reinforce the island and try and hold it.
This what if assumes that the Japanese right from the start decide to hold Biak. Their reasoning being that is a stepping stone and real threat to the Philippines and their supply lines from Indonesia.

US forces on the island consisted of two regiments of the 41st Infantry Division, the 186th and 162nd along with the 542nd Engineering Boat and Shore Regiment along with a company of tanks and other small service and support units.
At sea, the US has available the cruisers Phoenix, Nashville, Boise, and Australia along with 14 US destroyers (mostly Fletcher class) and two Australian DD's, Arunta and Warramunga.

The Japanese land forces on Biak consisted of the 222nd Regiment, a long term China veteran unit of regulars, an aviation engineer battalion and a Special base force of IJN troops. They too have about a company of tanks and small service and support units available. There are 4 4.7" DP coast defense guns and an older 6" coast defense gun in addition.
The Japanese relief force for this scenario (taken from the aborted attempts originally made) are an infantry division loaded on an LST, several transport ships and, four destroyers. Covering this force are the battleships Fuso, Yamato, and Mushasi, heavy cruisers Aoba, Kinugasa, Myoko, and Haguro, the light cruiser Noshiro, and 8 destroyers along with two minelayers.

Both sides have about 200 aircraft of various types available for operations. The Japanese have Zeros and the G4M for offensive operations along with a few flying boats. These are flying out the Southern Philippines. The US 13th and 5th Air Forces are flying P-38, A-20, B-25 and, B-24 along with USN PBY patrol aircraft.

Given that the US is simultaneously making landings on Saipan and about to engage the Japanese carrier fleet in the Philippine Sea battle (Marianas Turkey Shoot) the USN is unable to reinforce the above forces.

I think that the Japanese have an excellent chance to actually make a forced landing of their reinforcements on Biak if they act promptly and in force as outlined above. Much would hinge on the ability of the limited Allied naval forces to engage the Japanese convoy at sea. The same is true of their air forces.
The Japanese also have a reasonable capacity to attack the Allied ships with air power if they try and interviene.
For once, the Japanese actually have material superiority over the Allies. Comments?

#2 von Rundstedt

von Rundstedt

    Dishonorably Discharged

  • Dishonorably Discharged
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 678 posts

Posted 08 December 2007 - 03:10 AM

I would be correct to assume that MacArthur would be in Brisbane, Australia at the time of the attack, and if so i would assume that the Americans would take a beating and suffer considerable losses, this could almost turn the tide of the war in that area, but ultimately it would be a delay, but not terminal Japan had begun to lose the war as early as late 1942.

#3 Falcon Jun

Falcon Jun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,281 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 04:01 AM

The parameters of this what-if are very interesting.
Okay, for my two-cents worth: I'd say the Japanese Navy's advantage of longer ranged guns is only on paper. The US has superior gunnery radar which would allow its cruisers to fire at optimum range accurately and faster before the Japanese battleships can bracket the US ships. This evens out the fight.
As for the air side, I say it would depend on when the naval battle takes place. If it's at night, neither side enjoys air superiority and the US radar advantage would give the Japanese a heavy pounding, thus defeating the Japanese attempt at reinforcement.
If at daylight, the US would have air superiority because the P-38 has better range, guns and armor than the Japanese opposition. Once the US claims air superiority, it would be a simple matter for the US to bomb the Japanese convoy.
The victory would go to the side who can maintain a naval presence in the battle area and keeping the line of supply open to their forces on the island.

#4 Falcon Jun

Falcon Jun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,281 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 04:05 AM

As an afterthought, I'd say if the US fails in this endeavor, it would give Nimitz ammunition to discredit Macarthur's plan for going to the Philippines. Nimitz strategy is to bypass the Philippines while Macarthur insists that he has a debt of honor to redeem his pledge of "I shall return."
I'm a Filipino and Macarthur has always been held in high regard in our history.

#5 Falcon Jun

Falcon Jun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,281 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 04:44 AM

ooops. I erred. I should have said Admiral King instead of Admiral Nimitz. My apologies.

#6 skunk works

skunk works

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,156 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 12:34 PM

an interesting little something...

The Undisclosed Truth of Biak

I agree with Falcon, whoever ruled the seas would control the situation. Air as well, but weather/range (night-day) and tiny support puts that ( I think) secondary.
Radar directed weapons is a plus for night battles, but so are torpedo's.
The amount of destroyers, and their Captains abilities are paramount.
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says "Yes", you know he's a crook. Groucho Marx

#7 Falcon Jun

Falcon Jun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,281 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 12:54 PM

an interesting little something...

The Undisclosed Truth of Biak

I agree with Falcon, whoever ruled the seas would control the situation. Air as well, but weather/range (night-day) and tiny support puts that ( I think) secondary.
Radar directed weapons is a plus for night battles, but so are torpedo's.
The amount of destroyers, and their Captains abilities are paramount.


Thanks for the info, skunk works. The things said about Macarthur is typical of him. He had an egotistical streak, which finally caught up with him in Korea. Despite his many character flaws, most Philippine history books still hold him in high regard. We live in a world with different views about historical people.

Mac wasnt the first general to ignore intelligence reports and proceed with a pet project of Biak. Monty had his during Operation Market-Garden.

You were right in mentioning a captain's capabilities and experience. I should have included that factor. I read an account of a night naval battle off Guadalcanal wherein the Japanese gave the US Navy a heavy beating despite the US having gunnery radar.
What happened was that radar was so new on board ships that the US commander at the site distrusted it and did not use it. Thus, the Japanese with their night naval battle experience won the encounter.

At Biak, the US Navy had ample experience already with radar. Now the question that comes up in my mind is this: what would the Japanese naval commander need to do in order to spoof the US Navy's radar advantage at night? I say night because I assume that the Japanese Navy would rather have their convoy arrive off the island at night instead of daylight to lessen their vulnerability to aerial bombers.

#8 Devilsadvocate

Devilsadvocate

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,194 posts

Posted 16 May 2008 - 06:56 AM

On 27 May 1944 MacAuthur's 7th Army invaded the island of Biak off the northeast coast of New Gueina. Expecting no more than 2,000 defenders and light resistance the US ran into a much larger and very experianced force of defenders numbering about 10,000 men.
The Imperial High Command at first wrote off the island as a lost cause. But, because of the resolute defense mounted by Colonel Naoyuki Kuzme and R. Adm. Sadatoshi Senda they decided belatedly to reinforce the island and try and hold it.
This what if assumes that the Japanese right from the start decide to hold Biak. Their reasoning being that is a stepping stone and real threat to the Philippines and their supply lines from Indonesia.

US forces on the island consisted of two regiments of the 41st Infantry Division, the 186th and 162nd along with the 542nd Engineering Boat and Shore Regiment along with a company of tanks and other small service and support units.
At sea, the US has available the cruisers Phoenix, Nashville, Boise, and Australia along with 14 US destroyers (mostly Fletcher class) and two Australian DD's, Arunta and Warramunga.

The Japanese land forces on Biak consisted of the 222nd Regiment, a long term China veteran unit of regulars, an aviation engineer battalion and a Special base force of IJN troops. They too have about a company of tanks and small service and support units available. There are 4 4.7" DP coast defense guns and an older 6" coast defense gun in addition.
The Japanese relief force for this scenario (taken from the aborted attempts originally made) are an infantry division loaded on an LST, several transport ships and, four destroyers. Covering this force are the battleships Fuso, Yamato, and Mushasi, heavy cruisers Aoba, Kinugasa, Myoko, and Haguro, the light cruiser Noshiro, and 8 destroyers along with two minelayers.

Both sides have about 200 aircraft of various types available for operations. The Japanese have Zeros and the G4M for offensive operations along with a few flying boats. These are flying out the Southern Philippines. The US 13th and 5th Air Forces are flying P-38, A-20, B-25 and, B-24 along with USN PBY patrol aircraft.

Given that the US is simultaneously making landings on Saipan and about to engage the Japanese carrier fleet in the Philippine Sea battle (Marianas Turkey Shoot) the USN is unable to reinforce the above forces.

I think that the Japanese have an excellent chance to actually make a forced landing of their reinforcements on Biak if they act promptly and in force as outlined above. Much would hinge on the ability of the limited Allied naval forces to engage the Japanese convoy at sea. The same is true of their air forces.
The Japanese also have a reasonable capacity to attack the Allied ships with air power if they try and interviene.
For once, the Japanese actually have material superiority over the Allies. Comments?



From the Japanese perspective there are just a few things wrong with your scenario. The IJN had been planning another "decisive battle" with the USN for more than a year; It was called the A-GO Operation and assumed that the USN would advance to attack the Marianas or The Palaus. The plan was for the Combined Fleet to sortie and, supported by Japanese naval land-based air, to attack and destroy the US Third Fleet. The bulk of Japan's surviving naval forces had been moved to TawiTawi in order to be both centrally located and also close to a source of fuel oil (Tarrakan crude from the Borneo fields).

However, in order to reinforce Biak the IJN would be forced to make a decision; the options were to proceed with the planned A-GO operation to defend the Marianas or to abandon A-GO and counter the Biak landings with a major reinforcement force. Admiral Ugaki favored the reinforcement of Biak while the Combined Fleet commander, Admiral Ozawa, felt it was far more important to preserve the IJN"s remaining power for the defense of the Marianas. He realized that the loss of the Mariana's would put the Japanese Home Islands in range of American bombers and would, in effect, foreshadow the ultimate defeat of Japan. As a typically Japanese compromise, Ozawa decided to use cruisers and destroyers, backed up by the Fuso to effect the counter landing.

In actuallity, The IJN did act immediately (within three days of the landings) to send reinforcements to Biak, however, there was no division sized ground unit available which could be moved on short notice, and, in any case, not enough transports to move a division. The only unit which was available was the Army's 2nd. Sea Duty (amphibious) Brigade, then on Mindanao in the Philippines. This was a recently formed unit with an authorized strength of about 4,000 men, comprised of three infantry battalions, a 75-mm. mountain artillery battalion of twelve guns, a tank company, and attached engineer, signal, medical, and other service-type units. The entire tank detachment, and some of the infantry and support units had been lost en route to the Philippines due to submarine attack. In the event, only about 2,500 troops were available and these had to be loaded aboard cruisers and destroyers due to lack of transports.

Another problem for the Japanese was that, far from having 200 planes with which to cover the counter landing, they had only a handful to oppose the US 13th and 5th. Air Forces which had well over 200 A-20 attack bombers alone, not to mention additional hundreds of fighters and heavy bombers. The Fifth Air Force had devastated Japanese land based air power in Western New Guinea in early 1944; for example the Japanese 23rd Air Flotilla in western New Guinea which was charged with the air defense of Biak, had only 12 fighters and 6 medium bombers. Efforts to reinforce the 23rd. Air Flotilla proved of no avail as many of the planes dispatched never arrived, and many of the piilots who did make it were immediately struck down with malaria and other tropical diseases. The Japanese launched a bombing mission of between 11 and 15 bombers; seven were shot down by shore-based AA batteries and one was downed by naval AA fire. this was the heaviest Japanese air raid against Biak. Although Allied aircraft were at a range disadvantage, their overwhelming numbers more than made up the difference.

Perhaps the worst defect the Japanese suffered was that US intelligence was reading both the IJN and IJA codes, and was well aware of Japanese intentions. The reinforcement group was repeatedly sighted and shadowed by American recon planes directed by ULTRA decrypts of Japanese operational messages. Although MacArthur's G-2 staff adamantly refused to believe the Japanese could reinforce Biak, constant shadowing of the Japanese reinforcement group kept him informed of it's progress and ultimately convinced his staff. The Japanese could not approach Biak undetected, nor surprise US naval and air forces around Biak. The first attempt at counter landings was discovered by American recon planes and called off by the Japanese. The Japanese themselves were poorly served by their own reconnaissance efforts; Japanese scout planes, at one point reported several carriers and other heavy surface units lying off Biak, causing Ozawa to delay the reinforcement unit.

The second reinforcement attempt took place a few days later and included heavy surface vessels such as Yamato ad Musashi. However, before the transport unit could approach the island, word of the American armada closing on Saipan reached Admiral Ozawa and he called off further attempts at any counter landing, ordering the fleet units near Biak to rendezvous with his carrier's in preparation for the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

If the Americans could not significantly reinforce their forces fighting for Biak, the Japanese were in an even worse situation, caught between the Biak offensive, which if successful would prevent naval operations near the Palaus and in the Philippine Sea, and the Marianas offensive which had to be stopped if Japan was to avoid strategic bombing of the Home Islands. Japan had neither enough ships, aircraft, nor oil to counter both, and was particularly deficient in aircraft and troops which could be deployed in the defense of Biak. In reality, they never had a chance to hold Biak, nor inflict a major defeat on MacArthur's forces because airpower was the key and Japanese airpower in Western New Guinea had been literally annihilated in the preceding months by the 5th. Air Force. Further, US carrier raids had destroyed much of the air power that Japan had counted on to either reinforce island bases like Biak, or defend the Marianas. The statement that "for once the Japanese actually had material superiority over the Allies" is totally inaccurate.

See this link: HyperWar: US Army in WWII: The Approach to the Philippines

#9 T. A. Gardner

T. A. Gardner

    Genuine Chief

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,855 posts

Posted 17 May 2008 - 04:52 AM

Given Japan's situation and the nature of naval warfare in the Pacific, of which the Japanese were now painfully aware, there is no reason they shouldn't have gone forward with their reinforcement attempt. The ships involved were of little value against the 5th Fleet and carriers. Their absence from the Marianas operation would have made little or no difference.
However, if the Japanese were able to land say, another reinforced regiment on Biak, disrupt the US landings and contest the island for say, another three or four months it would have been a major setback to the US planning for the Philippines invasion.
Yes, the US likely would have beefed up their efforts there. Yes, the US Navy could have reinforced the area too to prevent more reinforcements.
But, all of this is a distraction that keeps the US from moving forward. Think about the overall campaign. What if the Japanese did this and set US operations back say four months? This means the Soviets invade Manchuria in 1945 before nuclear weapons are dropped or, that the weapons drops occur earlier into the US bombing campaign.

#10 Devilsadvocate

Devilsadvocate

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,194 posts

Posted 17 May 2008 - 06:27 AM

Given Japan's situation and the nature of naval warfare in the Pacific, of which the Japanese were now painfully aware, there is no reason they shouldn't have gone forward with their reinforcement attempt. The ships involved were of little value against the 5th Fleet and carriers. Their absence from the Marianas operation would have made little or no difference.
However, if the Japanese were able to land say, another reinforced regiment on Biak, disrupt the US landings and contest the island for say, another three or four months it would have been a major setback to the US planning for the Philippines invasion.
Yes, the US likely would have beefed up their efforts there. Yes, the US Navy could have reinforced the area too to prevent more reinforcements.
But, all of this is a distraction that keeps the US from moving forward. Think about the overall campaign. What if the Japanese did this and set US operations back say four months? This means IIRC some years ago Electric Joe posted an analysis that more or less debunked the myth of the conservative battleship admirals dominating thought and holding back development of carriers. I don't recall the particulars, but at the time the post made a lot of sense to me. And EJ always did his homework.
.



It's only in hindsight that the surface ships involved in the KON Operation can be said to have had little value for the Japanese in the Philippine Sea battle. Before the battle, the Japanese were certainly counting on them to perform significant functions which would enhance Ozawa's offensive and defensive power. The US battleships in the same battle actually were deployed in a way which significantly aided in the defense of Mitscher's carriers. Therefore, the Japanese were completely justified in thinking that their battleships could also be useful to Ozawa; both sides wanted their surface gun platforms available for the battle and the performance of the US battleships validated that strategy.

A heavily reinforced Biak was actually a trap for the Japanese, because MacArthur could simply by-pass Biak by taking Halmahara, which he did in late 1944, and Nimitz taking the Palaus, which Nimitz did in September, 1944. The Japanese simply didn't have the logistical shipping available in the summer of 1944 to keep either the Biak garrison, or an effective air force on that island, supplied. Japanese air power on western New Guinea had been destroyed by General Kenney and the measly few aircraft that remained available to the Japanese to reinforce any Japanese air bases in the entire area could not have made any difference in the timing of the assault on the southern Philippines. The Fifth Air Force would have simply neutralized an Japanese air fields on Biak, as it had done time and time again on New Guinea. The Japanese did contest the island for some period of time, but the Fifth Air Force was using the airfields anyway. In any case, the Japanese IGHQ reasoned, correctly, that holding Biak might delay the invasion of the Philippines, but holding Saipan delayed the commencement of the bombing of the Japanese Home islands, which was far more important to the Japanese military.

Moreover, the Japanese didn't have a regiment to reinforce Biak, they had one badly depleted 2500 man amphibious brigade, which would have faced extremely effective aerial opposition had the IJN tried to put even that unit ashore. The Fifth Air Force had already made a name for itself by ravaging Japanese reinforcement convoys, beginning with the battle of the Bismarck Sea in March, 1943, where the Japanese lost something like 12,000 men and thousands of tons of equipment and supplies, not to mention 16 out of 20 ships, including four fleet destroyers.

The "distraction" you mention would not have had any real effect on the US time table, as the Japanese were overwhelmingly outmatched in 1944 and could not stop one offensive, let alone two simultaneous offensives. It was the Japanese who suffered from the "distraction" of trying to stop the US juggernaut which was bearing down on them.

You claim that a four month delay in taking Biak would have meant that "the Soviets invade Manchuria in 1945 before nuclear weapons are dropped or, that the weapons drops occur earlier into the US bombing campaign." I find that a curious contention because Japanese retention of Biak would have had absolutely no bearing on the timing of either event. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria was dictated solely by the time line of the war in Europe, while the dropping of the atomic bomb, was dependent on the pace of development of the bomb in the US, and the possession of Saipan, which could only have been accelerated by the Japanese attempting to reinforce Biak. The only potential result of the Japanese retaining Biak is a short delay in the invasion of the Philippines, and that is very debatable.

#11 syscom3

syscom3

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,240 posts

Posted 29 June 2009 - 01:03 AM

Lets just suppose they did reinforce Biak and fought the US to standstill.

MacArthur would just push for the invasion at Noemfoor Island (and then Sansapor) at an earlier date.

In fact, prior to the invasion of Biak, Noemfoor was looked at as an alternative airbase location precisely if there were issues with Biak.

In the end, a stalemate on Biak would accomplish exactly nothing. The invasion of the PI for that fall, would happen as planned.

#12 mac_bolan00

mac_bolan00

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 495 posts

Posted 29 June 2009 - 08:24 AM

my first question would be, are the seas surrounding the area conjusive to night fighting?

#13 syscom3

syscom3

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,240 posts

Posted 29 June 2009 - 05:14 PM

my first question would be, are the seas surrounding the area conjusive to night fighting?



The allied radars aboard the warships were quite effective by that time of the war.

#14 Devilsadvocate

Devilsadvocate

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,194 posts

Posted 01 July 2009 - 02:52 PM

my first question would be, are the seas surrounding the area conjusive to night fighting?


Are you asking if it gets dark in the waters around Biak?

If so, the answer is yes.

Exactly why this is pertinent to a Japanese defense of Biak in mid-1944 is not clear. By that time, the IJN had lost it's edge in night-fighting capability to Allied radar and experience. Furthermore, the IJN could no longer afford the attrition imposed by naval night skirmishes.

In any case, it should be clear from my earlier posts that Biak, had the Japanese been successful in reinforcing it with the paltry ground forces they then had available, still would have fallen to MacArthur's forces. And had the Japanese somehow been able to achieve a significant reinforcement of it's troops on Biak, The option to simply by-pass the island was still open to the Allies.

By 1944, the Allied offensives in the Pacific had assumed the inevitabailty of a steamroller which the Japanese could do little to stop. Biak was important to the Japanese defense of Indonesia, but that was not nearly as vital to their war strategy as the defense of the Marianas, which were within heavy bomber range of the Home Islands.

The fact was the Allies threatened the whole of the Japanese Inner Defense Perimeter and the Japanese barely had enough strength left to defend a single point on that perimeter. The IGHQ did not believe the US could launch two major operations within a few weeks of each other, but they were wrong. While MacArthur attacked Biak, supported by his 215-ship strong 7th. Fleet, which the Americans viewed as a "shoestring navy", Spruance prepared his 5th. Fleet at Majuro and Pearl Harbor to attack the Marianas. The IJN thought their "decisive battle" opportunity was at Biak, against MacArthur's fleet, but the real blow to their defense perimeter would come a few weeks later at Saipan in the Marianas.

The Japanese really had no choice; Biak was important, but the Marianas were crucial. Lose the Marianas and heavy bombers would, within a matter of weeks, begin to hammer the Home Islands. And Japan couldn't defend both places, so they fought the last sea battle of the Pacific war in which they had even the remotest chance of winning; the Battle of the Philippine Sea, otherwise known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, in defense of the Marianas.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users