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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Looking Back on the Island-Hopping Strategy

The part of the island-hopping strategy that involved bypassing some Japanese-held islands was sensible. In retrospect, I think there were too many landings. The invasion of the Philippines was completely
unnecessary and was only done so General MacArthur  could keep his foolish promise to return.

The Japanese navy was basically destroyed during the battles of Midway, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte. Without a navy to protect their merchant fleet, the Japanese army units stationed on various islands were doomed to starvation. Indeed, that was the fate of some units on Japanese-held islands.

The bloody battles fought to capture islands like Tarawa, Peleliu , Okinawa, and Iwo Jima were pointless because those islands were not used as bases for B-29 bombers. It was the bombing raids which finally compelled the Japanese to surrender. Thus, the only islands that really needed to be captured were the Marianas islands, which is where the B-29 bases were.

In fairness, the commanders at the time believed that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would be necessary to force an unconditional surrender (another bad idea), so they saw a need to capture islands as future staging areas.

I think it would have been a shorter, less bloody war if the US had focused on destroying the Japanese navy with mines and submarines and then strategically bombed Japan until they agreed to withdraw from all the territories they had captured. I can understand the general feeling was a desire to punish and humiliate Japan, but that feeling made the war much longer and bloodier than it could have been.

US leaders would have been wise to follow the advice of Sun Tzu: do not push a desperate foe too hard.

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