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Most epic battle of WWII?

Discussion in 'War in the Pacific' started by USMCPrice, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Samar is another of my favorite battles. After reading "Neptune's Inferno" I dug "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailor's" (also by Hornfischer) and read it again. It is truly an epic fight and one of the US Navy's most heroic moments. I didn't chose it as the EPIC battle because the Japanese only enjoyed local superiority during the action. In the larger scope of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Japan was at a great disadvantage in naval forces, aircraft, supply, material, and lacked air superiority. They just managed to hit a weak spot in our lines, so to speak. It was however the great David vs Goliath story of the war!
     
  2. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    That's why I consider it "epic"; because, it wasn't just a defense in the classic sense. VMF-211 and Henry Elrod (First Aviator to recieve the Medal of Honor) kind of took the fight to the Japanese. Wake Island set the tone for combat in the Pacific. There was an almost 7:1 kill ratio meaning that for every American the Japanese killed the Marines (and construction workers) killed 7. Those are some pretty hard to beat numbers.
     
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  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Oh and you forgot the shore batteries, the Marines had 6 5"/51's and during the first invasion attempt really shot up several Japanese ships. They sunk the destroyer Hayate, the first Japanese surface ship sunk during the war, and heavily damaged the cruiser Yubari. Adding to his air victories your man Elrod and his wildcats sink the DD Kisaragi. The landing fails and the Wake defenders are credited with handing the Japanese their first defeat of WWII. When the Japanese come back with more ships and more men the shore batteries sink two converted Momi-class destroyers. Yeah it was an epic defense, and combined all three elements land, air, naval, the Americans enjoyed no advantage in any area except troop quality:D sorry couldn't resist:eek:.
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Medal of Honor Citation

    8 to 23 December 1941 - *ELROD, HENRY TALMAGE, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps.
    Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 211, during action against enemy Japanese land, surface and aerial units at Wake Island, 8 to 23 December 1941. Engaging vastly superior forces of enemy bombers and warships on 9 and 12 December, Capt. Elrod shot down two of a flight of 22 hostile planes and, executing repeated bombing and strafing runs at extremely low altitude and close range, succeeded in inflicting deadly damage upon a large Japanese vessel, thereby sinking the first major warship (destroyer "Kisaragi", the other "Hayate" was sunk by the shore batteries) to be destroyed by small caliber bombs delivered from a fighter-type aircraft. When his plane was disabled by hostile fire and no other ships were operative, Capt. Elrod assumed command of one flank of the line set up in defiance of the enemy landing and, conducting a brilliant defense, enabled his men to hold their positions and repulse intense hostile fusillades to provide covering fire for unarmed ammunition carriers. Capturing an automatic weapon during one enemy rush in force, he gave his own firearm to one of his men and fought on vigorously against the Japanese. Responsible in a large measure for the strength of his sector's gallant resistance, on 23 December, Capt. Elrod led his men with bold aggressiveness until he fell, mortally wounded. His superb skill as a pilot, daring leadership and unswerving devotion to duty distinguished him among the defenders of Wake Island, and his valiant conduct reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
     
  5. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I'm confused...I thought the Americans had to be involved? If not then the complete
    battle of France 1940. The order of battle is like trying to understand a cricket match in the rain.
     
  6. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    That's my bust Urgh, I had specified American involvement but when Stalingrad popped up, well epic is epic and I broke my own criterion. I apologize.


    But the France 1940 idea is interesting, care to further elaborate?
     
  7. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Epic all arms battle. Naval action especially off Dunkirk, Air warfare at its best as to
    regards, fighter and bomber activity both sides. Use of armour in a way never
    before used. Command structures that were unworkable, leaving a hotch potch of
    individual actions, where the individual either lost or saved the day. The old understandings of how to fight a battle were changed forever.
     
  8. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    I didn't forget the shore batteries, I just didn't use them to illustrate my point. :)
     
  9. ResearcherAtLarge

    ResearcherAtLarge Member

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    Well, since this is in the Pacific Theater section I'll stick with Pacific battles. I would say that if I have to include land action, it would probably be Guadalcanal, but if I don't, it would be Midway.

    P.S. I have a 1943interview of Foss posted here.
     
  10. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    while Midway was not a "Land Battle" per se it was a battle over real estate. There is more to history than what is portrayed in theaters and TV.
     
  11. 693FA

    693FA Member

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    Not to take away from any of the other battles but I would have to put my vote in for Tarawa "76 hours of hell". Similar casualties but they were accumulated in a shorter time span....Also had a definite materials advantage but that was taken away for awhile by the reef system and the tides, causing equipment loss due to Japanese artillery then machine guns cutting down Marines as they waded in from the reef. Marines also had to overcome poor communications, tainted water supplies not just to mention it was the first use by the Japanese of defenses that would also be seen later on Iwo and Okinawa.
     
  12. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    About the Pacific (in ww2) I alway think of Iwo Jima for some reason...
     
  13. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Ace

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    Iwo Jima was hell, and my hat's off to every man who stepped foot on that God-forsaken speck of real-estate....but Iwo Jima was, essentially, unnecessary. There was no port facility, it was too small to have anything but one, maybe two runways of sufficient length for the "emergency B-29 strips", and due to the aforementioned lack of ports, any and all supplies for the island (including drums of fuel/oil for the escort fighters briefly based there, as well as fresh potable water) had to be offloaded into landing barges or DUKW's and swam ashore. Which took more time and effort than it was worth. Iwo Jima was one of those battles that, just looking at a map, looked like a good idea, but in reality, once you go there, would have worked better by being one of those islands left to wither on the vine. The Marines on Iwo would have been put to much better use on Okinawa. I guess, in one sense, it was useful, in that it illustrated just how drastically the Japanese defensive tactics were changing, from glorious banzai charges (I imagine the conversation going something like this= Japanese commander: "It is glorious to die for your emperor!" Chesty Puller: "Yes it is! C'mon, we'll oblige ya!") to dug-in defenses and use of caves/tunnels.
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    OK if its the Japanese theatre...Then New Guinea. Both forces on a shoe string
    battling nature as much as each other.
     
  15. emu

    emu Member

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    I am not an American but, Guadalcanal for me

    The Japanese were still on the offensive. Noone had the benefit of hindsight and the guys on the ground did not know that the Japanese were over extended but they did know their shipping had left Guadalcanal with most of their gear and that they were eating rice that had been left behind by previous occupants.

    The Marines did not have enough men, equipment or supports for a defense in depth so they held a perimeter, which they didnt leave much for 4 months. As others have mentioned the nightly shelling of the airstrip and perimeter by the Tokyo express, the air raids and those do or die attacks on the mataniko and Bloody Ridge were near won things. The environment alone would have been tough enough for those not used to it.

    The Marines on their own did not defeat the Japanese of Guadalcanal. Simultaneous you had the Australians fighting and defeating them at Milne Bay and over the Kokoda Track. Then there was the hubris and indecisive response from the Japanese who couldnt work whether to defend or attack Papua New Guinea or the Solomons.

    The issue for the guy in the foxhole was then it was all in the balance, and they had not built on a chain of wins yet. They were isolated without the overwhelming superiority the Americans developed as the campaigns progressed.
     
  16. Krystal80

    Krystal80 Member

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    Excellent read so far. I have nothing intelligent to add, but I see the reasons behind so many of the places named. Carry on
     
  17. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Ace

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    Heh. Give it a try...you might surprise yourself! Heck, if I can put together two semi-coherent statements, anybody can!
     
  18. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    There is no right or wrong answer, so like RabidAlien said give it a shot.
     
  19. DogFather

    DogFather Member

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    Germany wasn't contesting control of the seas? That wasn't what the Battle of the Atlantic was about?
    Wasn't it Churchill who said it was the Battle of the Atlantic that really scared him?

    Yes, this is true, but the US had BBs WAshington and South Dakota, which were superior to Japanese
    BBs, in several respects. Radar perhaps being the biggest. They also had better armor and bigger guns
    (16 in vs 14in)

    From this web site: Grim Economic Realities. You can see the US having 41.7% of
    the worlds war making potential, with Germany having 14.4% and Japan having only 3.5%.

    Germany also had war making capacity, from occupied countries. The Wafen SS was even able to get
    men even from the Ukraine, as well as France, Denmark, the Flemish in Belgium and other countries. Nazi
    propaganda did work pretty well in some cases.

    Germany also had excellent technology, some even better than the Allies. Like Jet Fighters and guided
    missiles. This is why the Allies chose the Germany First strategy.
     
  20. Vinny Maru

    Vinny Maru Member

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    Limits: Pacific, U.S.
    Personal choice: Guadalcanal
    Reasons:
    First large scale operation where both sides had a reasonable probability of defeating the other side. Meaning that there was roughly balanced forces available to each side, and access to reinforcements and material within reasonable limits. Not an isolated garrison without any hope of help.

    Personal Opinions
    Both sides had commanders who believed their own propaganda, more than their common sense, and acted accordingly.

    The U S navy appears to have been poorly trained, and up until the latter stages of the campaign, had their rear ends handed to them repeatedly. They also seemed to unable to recognize that the Japanese were clearly superior to them initially in night combat, and refused to recognize the torpedo advantage they had. We acted like we were fighting the propaganda cartoon caracters as they were portrayed.

    The Japanese on the other hand, seemed to believe their propaganda in that one of their soldiers was better than many of ours despite their experiences engaging our troops on Wake and in the Phillipines, wasting their troops needlessly. Not that this was unique to this fight.

    The savagery of the combat was probably no less than many of the previously mentioned high profile battles (Tarawa, Iwo Okinawa and I add Pelilieu), but was fought under totally different conditions more akin to the MacArthur campaigns, as far as terrain etc, and not the 24 hour a day fighting until everyone was killed.

    We were not fighting hopelessly cornered rats with no hope of winning, but an army with an honest belief in winning, and chance of doing so.
    The fight hung in the balance for months, and kept the home front engaged. It was not a predetermined outcome, with the only unknown being how many would die in the end.

    As bad as they were, most of the other big eastern pacific fights were just extermination campaigns.
     
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