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Could the Japanese Defensive Tactics have been improved?

Discussion in 'Land Warfare in the Pacific' started by Hufflepuff, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    The Japanese from 1941 to the end of the war put up a hell of a fight against the allies in the pacific. The numbers show: only 17 Japanese and 129 Korean laborers were taken prisoner at Tarawa alone, out of a force of around 4600. But were these massive losses nessicary? Did the Japanese have to decimate entire armies to defend the islands and eventually, thier homeland?

    In my opinion, the Japanese plan of defense in the pacific was stupid and vastly could have been improved.

    (I would like to make the point that nothing I say here is meant with any degree of racism.)

    The Japanese could have improved thier defensive plans by performing a kind of "fighting retreat," similar to the Russian's style in 1942. By doing this, they would not throw away countless divisions and still induce casualties on the allies. Only the major islands would be defended severely, and when the situations there seemed hopeless, then the Japanese could make attempts to withdraw, if possible.

    Also, the application of Bushido among the soldiers could have been reduced, thus preventing massed banzai charges and fruitless kamikaze attacks that only threw away lives.

    Please post your opinions
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Marines have been quoted as saying they loved Banzai charges, the Japanese jumped up and presented themselves as targets. The Battle of the Illyu River is a classic case in point.
     
  3. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    You might be interested in a certain book: Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War by Wood. I personally did not find the author's arguments very convincing, but I think he's produced a useful thought-provoker. I posted a review at Amazon US.
    Fighting on a land front will not give us a suitable model for defense in an oceanic campaign. The Japanese did select specific islands as strongholds as you suggest, within the limits of the land masses themselves. That does not imply any ability to control the seas around the stronghold or any ability to withdraw. How would the defenders of Tarawa get off the island? They are effectively encircled before the actual shooting begins.
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I have given this some thought and, there were things the Japanese could have done that they didn't that would have made taking their island bases harder. For example:

    Not putting all their eggs in one basket so to speak. That is, they generally defended just one island or a few within an atoll group. Now, resources may have prevented being more spread out, but if they had made more use of the available islands in a group taking the group would have been far harder.
    What I am suggesting here is having say artillery on several islands that is heavily camoflauged from aerial reconnissance that can cover nearby islands as well. The idea here is that an island that is not assaulted can now smother one that is in shell fire. Particularly useful here would have been medium caliber mortars (100 -150 mm) on a relatively small island where they would likely go unnoticed. Their small signature would make them hard to detect and neutralize.

    Making far more use of sea mines and boat obstacles. In particular mine the lagoon area and entries with command detonated mines. The Japanese had these and could have deployed them for this purpose.

    Providing a number of smaller submarines to each group for defense. These would greatly complicate landings and pose a potential threat to the invasion fleet. Even just a handful of sinkings or damaged ships would more than pay for the subs.

    Far more use of landmines. Copy the German S-mine and put it everywhere. Make each island a minefield. Employ scatterable mines of some sort that a defender can throw down after the assault begins.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    They also needed to learn when to retreat (erm, I mean, "fall back to previously prepared positions in good order in the face of an enemy advancing in utter disorder.)
     
  7. barry8108

    barry8108 Member

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    I do not think they could have done much different. The problem with islands is you can only retreat so far and there is no one to take you off. I agree banzai charges were a waste. Small subs would not have helped, look what happned at pearl harbor. Mines would have only delayed the landings, it would not have helped. With out control of the sea there is nothing you can do but either surrender or die. The U.S. just had too many resources.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    When it comes right down to it, the only way to defeat an amphibious assault is to do so at sea. So long as the attacker commands the sea the worst the defender can do is delay the inevidable.
    Look at the history of amphibious assaults. Very few in all of history were defeated. In most cases even if the attacker lost on land he was able to successfully retreat back to sea and try again at a later date.
    Those that were defeated outright almost always happened because the defender had a fleet too and used it.
     
  9. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Was Gallipoli then an exception? The Turks did not control the sea.

    What about the British invasion of the Mississippi delta in 1815? The British Navy controlled the sea, yet their invasion ultimately failed.

    I haven't really thought about it, but I believe there are too many examples which go both ways to generalize on the topic as you have.
     
  10. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I concur with this line of reasoning.

    The fundamental problem the Japanese faced in defending their Pacific conquests was that they were very badly overmatched in terms of air and sea power. After mid-1943, the US could deploy overwhelming numbers of ships and carrier-based aircraft which the Japanese had no hope of effectively challenging. Tactics don't matter when your opponent can bring to bear ten to twenty times more ships, aircraft, troops, and material than you can.

    The pace of the US assaults, beginning at the end of 1943, was beyond anything the Japanese had ever experienced, or even imagined; it kept them off-balance and unable to respond effectively anywhere in the Pacific

    Beyond this problem, the Japanese were essentially out thought and out fought. Despite, the loyalty, dedication, and astonishing courage of the Japanese soldier, US forces consistently displayed better doctrine, tactics, equipment, and discipline. That is why the US never had an amphibious assault thrown back, and always inflicted far more casualties than they took even when they were forced to confront dug-in defenders on terrain which heavily favored the defense.
     
  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    At the end of WWII the United States Navy had over 100 flight decks in operation in the Pacific. Japan never had a chance.
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The Turks only contained the invasion. It didn't fail. The British just failed to break out of their beachead.


    The landings succeeded completely. What failed was the following British land campaign to take New Orleans.

    The one from WW 2 that clearly failed was Dieppe. The Canadians / British failed to establish a viable beachhead and were forced back to sea.

    The first Wake landing is another example. There, the Japanese were stopped before they could actually make the landings. This is possibly the only example of a complete amphibious landing failure. In this case the naval portion was defeated at sea by defending coastal defense guns.
     
  13. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    That's splitting hairs.

    Gallipoli is considered by almost every historian who has written about it, as a failed amphibious operation. The Allies never were able to achieve the objective of the landings.

    Ditto for this comment.

    The British weren't able to break out of their beachhead and never achieved the objective of the landings. That's "succeeding completely"?

    It's specious to claim an amphibious operation is successful if it only establishes a lodgment on the beach, but fails in the ultimate objective of the operation.
     
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The US Marines studied the Gallipoli landing in the 1920s and wrote their amphibious doctrine according to the lessons learned from Gallipoli. In their estimation, it WAS a failed amphibious operation. :cool:
     
  15. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I'm looking at this purely from the get ashore, stay ashore point of view. If a naval power can do that against a land power the later has serious problems. That on a strategic level is what 3000 + years of history shows.
     
  16. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Well, it's obvious that just getting ashore and securing a beachhead doesn't mean your landing has been successful; that's only half the battle.

    An amphibious landing, to be considered successful, has to be done in such a way that it facilitates achieving the main objective. Gallipoli wasn't, neither was the British landing at New Orleans.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    There's no fine line dividing these events into clear cut "win" and "lose". Dieppe was a raid, never meant to be a long-time stay. On the other hand, you could say that Xerxes failed in his amphibous assault of Greece, albeit quite a while as he arrived. Each case has to be taken on its own merits and judged accordingly.
     
  18. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Just to clear something up about Gallipoli, the invasion was not beaten back to the beach it was abondoned by the British and commonwealth forces. Although they were forced into a retreat, they still did control the sea, so as TA is saying, they could have regrouped and tried again somewhere else because they had the ability to.
     
  19. bf109 emil

    bf109 emil Member

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    good point the Gallipoli battle lasted 8 1/2 months, and failed mostly while troops where fed in piecemeal, or ships where denied...one can say a failed amphibious landing if a typical landing being planned was to exceed 8 monthsWW1 Gallipoli
     
  20. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    As far as the "amphibious" part goes it is.
     

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