US Army in the Pacific

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by A Potts, Nov 29, 2007.

  1. A Potts

    A Potts Member

    I recently heard someone sigh when it was suggested that the US Marines fought exclusively against the Japanese in the Pacific.

    Forgeting the Australian and Commonwealth troops, did the US Army do most of the fighting in the Pacific?
     
  2. jacobtowne

    jacobtowne Senior Member

    Forgeting the Australian and Commonwealth troops, did the US Army do most of the fighting in the Pacific?

    No, but the Army fought in plenty of the campaigns, beginning with Guadalcanal. There may be a thread about this already, or perhaps it's on another forum. I'll look.

    A few examples:

    Ground combat in the Philippines and (I think) New Guinea was strictly Army under MacArthur. Tarawa and Iwo Jima were Marines only. Saipan and Okinawa were combined force landings.

    On Guadalcanal, the ground battle was carried by the First Marine Division alone from August to October, when a regiment of the Army's Americal Division landed as reinforcment.


    JT
     
  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    If I remember correctly, there were around 17 Army divisions, plus many independent regiments in the Pacific area of operations, commanded by 2 armies, the 6th and the 8th vs 6 Marine divisions.

    Edit---Found a listing
    Divisions Sent to Theater
    6th Infantry division
    7th Infantry division
    Americal Infantry division (actually formed in theater, not sent as a division)
    24th Infantry division
    25th Infantry division
    27th Infantry division
    31st Infantry division
    32nd Infantry division
    33rd Infantry division
    37th Infantry division
    38th Infantry division
    40th Infantry division
    41st Infantry division
    43rd Infantry division
    77th Infantry division
    81st Infantry division
    93rd Infantry division
    96th Infantry division
    98th Infantry division
    Philippines Infantry division (destroyed 1942)
    11th Airborne division
    1st Cavalry division
     
  4. A Potts

    A Potts Member

    I remember reading that the US 32 Division had more days in active combat than any other US Division in WW2. Would this lend weight to the fact that the US Army pulled more than its fair share in the Pacific?
     
  5. A Potts

    A Potts Member

    Thanks for the post Slipdigit,

    Considering that Australia only had 3 active Divisions, it certainly puts things in perspective.
     
  6. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    The 32nd Infantry Division had more days in combat of any US division in any theater.
     
  7. BuffaloChuck

    BuffaloChuck Junior Member

    OLD THREAD I'M JUST READING.

    The US Army's early encounters with the Japanese forces were relieving the Marines on Guadalcanal. As the Japanese started their retreats to the western end, the Army took over and then let them escape. It would be a trend that MacArthur's "genius" would echo a few more times.

    The Army did spearhead the American efforts in southwestern Pacific operations - New Guinea area, then trying to head to Rabaul before being called off after they'd made so little headway.

    In some ways, the American Army enjoyed so many benefits that the Marines never had (far larger supply bases) but it was still a shoestring operation for all of them. The "Europe First" issue was the convenient excuse, but "lack of preparedness" for 10,000 miles of ocean warfare was the real issue.

    The Marines were usually used as the shock troops - going in first, suffering the first and heaviest casualties, then the US Army coming in on later waves, or else in conjunction with Marines. There were only a few (out of 80?) island campaigns that the Army did "everything". The Aleutians, for example. On the first island, there was a weather nightmare to fight against. Then by the time the Army was re-organized for the 2nd invasion, once again the Japanese had slipped away, only to be shipped off to another island where the Marines had to confront them.

    Fortunately, there were subs that did an amount of whittlin' down too.
     
  8. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Hello all

    I found this on a site called "The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia"
    I don't know anything about the sites contributors or sources.

    The total dead or missing were 41,592 for all U.S. Army ground troops in the Pacific and southeast Asia, with another 145,706 wounded. The Marine Corps and attached Navy corpsmen suffered total casualties of 23,160 killed or missing and 67,199 wounded.

    The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: Casualties

    Dave
     
  9. ethan

    ethan Member

    My understanding is that:

    The US Army suffered 55, 145 fatalities fighting Japan, not an insignificant number when you think that the British (not including commonwealth) lost about 30,000 men dead from Army Navy and Air force combined in the fight against the Japanese

    The USMC lost 19,163 dead, the US Navy lost 29, 263 dead (submariners had the worst fatalities at about 1/4 dead.)

    I think the reason the US army contribution is sometimes overlooked (and it certainly is) is that they suffered far higher (almost three times) death rates in Africa/Europe fighting Vichy/Italy/Germany. Also the Marines proportional losses must surely have been greater, and the marines were primarily committed to the fight against Japan, though I believe a handful were killed aboard ships elsewhere.
     
    Dave55 likes this.
  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Also the Marines proportional losses must surely have been greater, and the marines were primarily committed to the fight against Japan, though I believe a handful were killed aboard ships elsewhere.

    That was a good post. I'd like to add this.

    I'm sure it wasn't the only reason but a possible contributing factor for the lack of US Marines in Europe was Marshall's pride. He still resented the publicity that the 'Devil Dogs' received in the American press during WWI, especially for the Battle of Belleau Woods. I'm paraphrasing but his quote was something like, 'No Marines will serve in Europe as long as I'm Chief of Staff.'

    They did occupy Iceland in 1941, though.

    Dave
     
  11. adam elliott

    adam elliott Junior Member

    The marines went ashore at Cape Gloucester on New Britain and at Empress Augusta Bay which is on Bougainville, in November and December 1943 respectively. Both islands were part of the Australian mandated territory of New Guinea.
    The US army led the landings on the north coast of PNG in 1944, including Aitape and New Hollandia.
     
  12. BuffaloChuck

    BuffaloChuck Junior Member

    One of the good questions to pose is, "MacArthur was a millionaire general in the Philippines for the 1930s, supposedly training the Filipino forces and in charge of the American Army personnel, too. Why weren't they a better trained force for that kind of tropical war-fare?"

    No idea. His was a shoestring operation, a backwaters place where has-been's and unwanted's were posted, but when he fled to Australia, he still relied on the small ANZAC forces as his spearheads and 'experts'. They were considerably more bloodied than his Army forces for that reason - they charged in, and MacArthur would use the US Army as reserves or 2nd Waves.

    This is what the Marines were used for, as well, with the exception of the two Aleutian re-conquests. And that was at least half-a-muckup.

    I have a feeling MacArthur expected to have millions of trained troops and, without that, he muddled around and took things so slowly that Japanese withdrawals were common-place. Even in the Philippines - the October 1944 landings never cleared Japanese resistence even past August, 1945. This was one reason that the Marines were going to be spearheading the invasion of Kyushu in Nov, 1945 - because Mac's forces still hadn't finished off the Japanese around Bagio City in norther PI.

    But that's not to be taken lightly either. The PI was no "single square mile" ,and even on small islands, there would be Japanese soldiers popping up for decades later all over the Pacific.
     
  13. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  14. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I'll point out the factual errors found in BuffaloChuck's posts and leave it to future readers to decide if the rest is worth anything.

    The US Army's early encounters with the Japanese forces were relieving the Marines on Guadalcanal. As the Japanese started their retreats to the western end, the Army took over and then let them escape. It would be a trend that MacArthur's "genius" would echo a few more times.


    MacArthur did not have theater command over Guadalcanal. The South Pacific theater was under Halsey.

    The Army did spearhead the American efforts in southwestern Pacific operations - New Guinea area, then trying to head to Rabaul before being called off after they'd made so little headway.


    The decision to isolate Rabaul was the start of the strategy to island hop past Japanese strongholds. The lessons of Tarawa should have been clear to everyone.

    In some ways, the American Army enjoyed so many benefits that the Marines never had (far larger supply bases) but it was still a shoestring operation for all of them. The "Europe First" issue was the convenient excuse, but "lack of preparedness" for 10,000 miles of ocean warfare was the real issue.


    The Marines were equipped to the extent that the Navy allocated.

    The Marines were usually used as the shock troops - going in first, suffering the first and heaviest casualties, then the US Army coming in on later waves, or else in conjunction with Marines. There were only a few (out of 80?) island campaigns that the Army did "everything". The Aleutians, for example. On the first island, there was a weather nightmare to fight against. Then by the time the Army was re-organized for the 2nd invasion, once again the Japanese had slipped away, only to be shipped off to another island where the Marines had to confront them.


    There were no Marine landing forces in the Aleutians operations. Major US Army island operations includes Admiralty, Biak, Hollandia, Aitape, Wadke, Noemfoor, Morotai and the numerous PI operations (with Marine air support).

    ...
    No idea. His was a shoestring operation, a backwaters place where has-been's and unwanted's were posted, but when he fled to Australia, he still relied on the small ANZAC forces as his spearheads and 'experts'. They were considerably more bloodied than his Army forces for that reason - they charged in, and MacArthur would use the US Army as reserves or 2nd Waves.


    Austrialian and US Army forces fought together at Buna and Gona on Papua and into New Guinea in 1942/43. After that, and much to their displeasure, ANZAC forces would be used for clearing out isolated Japanese garrisons and later clearing the Dutch East Indies.

    This is what the Marines were used for, as well, with the exception of the two Aleutian re-conquests. And that was at least half-a-muckup.


    There were no Marine landing forces in the Aleutian operations.

    I have a feeling MacArthur expected to have millions of trained troops and, without that, he muddled around and took things so slowly that Japanese withdrawals were common-place. Even in the Philippines - the October 1944 landings never cleared Japanese resistence even past August, 1945. This was one reason that the Marines were going to be spearheading the invasion of Kyushu in Nov, 1945 - because Mac's forces still hadn't finished off the Japanese around Bagio City in norther PI.


    The plan for the invasion of Kyushu included one Marine amphibious corps and two Army corps each with their own landing areas.

    But that's not to be taken lightly either. The PI was no "single square mile" ,and even on small islands, there would be Japanese soldiers popping up for decades later all over the Pacific.

    Killing every enemy soldier, no matter how isolated and ineffective they are, is the hard way to fight a war.

    There are a lot criticisms that can be made against the US Army's SWP operations (were they even necessary) and particularly against MacArthur (would the Army have even conducted any offensive operations in the SWP if MacArthur was not there). But all I see in these posts are an intent to discredit the service of many US Army soldiers who sacrificed much and have now been forgotten.
     
    A-58, tedhermantor and Dave55 like this.
  15. BuffaloChuck

    BuffaloChuck Junior Member

    As I said repeatedly, the Army had 100% of the Aleutians, including letting the Japanese escape undetected from the second island, like they did at Guadalcanal, allowing them to have more forces for future island defenses.

    And MacArthur protested the discontinuation of Operation Cartwheel and bypassing Rabaul (according to US Army History), but finally accepted the decision because the Central Pacific campaigns were well past it.

    The decision to isolate Rabaul was the start of the strategy to island hop past Japanese strongholds.

    Actually, the bypass of Truk had been completed by that time. Rabaul was the start of MacArthur's realization, but the other US Forces had moved past that. This also coincided with the arrival of more than 4 operational US carriers then, too, which provided the airpower that wasn't constantly available for the stair-step campaigns in the Solomons.

    I have no intention of discrediting the Army's efforts, but rather giving them proper credit. MacArthur's decision earn him that.
     
  16. adam elliott

    adam elliott Junior Member

    There is a strong perception that the Japanese were 'allowed' to get off Guadalcanal and this was a strategic failure. Having lived on Guadalcanal for eight years I have to confess I dont find it strange that it worked out that way.
    In 1942 / 1943 it would have been a very hard place to live for Europeans who were not acclimatised, and under combat conditions I cant imagine. Is it at all possible that the Americans were happy to see them go and consolidate their gains and prepare for what was to come next? I think it is only from a distance that we can so confidently say that the Japanese evacuation represents a failure. I wonder how many or what percentage of the Japanese evacuated were actually able to recover and fight effectively again. Keeping in mind the conditions on Guadalcanal would have pretty much been replicated on New Georgia and Kolumbangara and all the other islands - heat, humidity, constant observation and harassment from land sea and air, lack of medical equipment and expertise, lack of resupply, reliance on local food sources which would turn the native population, poor communication and as Guadalcanal evidenced, strategic leadership.
    The time of the withdrawal - December January February is the wet season here. The wet season presents challenges even now that means we have no roads west of Honiara (Henderson Field) beyond those built by the Americans. The Americans had New Caledonia and Vanuatu (New Hebrides) behind them. They had the recent gains in the fighting on New Guinea. I dont blame them for taking a breath.
     
  17. BuffaloChuck

    BuffaloChuck Junior Member

    The Japanese evacuation (late Jan, early Feb, 1943) occurred a few months after the Army had relieved the Marines and were just starting their encirclement campaign. And none of the American forces had be on that northwestern tip of the island but the 'vets' had been aware that, around every bend, past every crest, could be a whole new world.

    In addition to the ground-force relief, the air corps were replaced, too. And again, lack of prolonged familiarity led to failures in recon and awareness.

    Finally, the Naval forces - never known for brilliant night-time campaigning - had undergone another reshuffling.

    The Americans opened this door, and the Japanese almost magically coordinated this withdrawal in that precise gap. The Japanese decisions to evacuate came after two months of arguments, finally in December it was decided but it took another month before shipping AND MORALE tolerated the 'evaucuation'. Some of the on-island commanders argued for a chance to fight to one last glorious death throe but only a few sick, grenade-clutching remnants were left behind.

    The forces were withdrawn to Rabaul for the most part, and only a few were shipped on to Truk and eventual other postings but there's a chance few of the Guadalcanal survivors contributed to other island campaigns - except leadership. And even those were often shamed into silence, disregraded or located in backwaters. I haven't found any translated-into-English books about life on Rabaul or other bypassed locations.
     
  18. rlyoun3910

    rlyoun3910 New Member

    I'm just getting into some of these discussions, albeit quite late, but just in case folks are still watching. My two cents:
    I did PhD work in part researching MacArthur, very deep and lengthy. What I found out then, and this requires more research mind you, was that Mac asked for troops from the US as early as 1939/40 because of Japan's known/suspected ambitions. The 20th Infantry Division was weak in manpower, equipment, &c. He suspected war with Japan imminent. (this cadre formed the hub of resistance in the PI upon MacArthur's doing) He petitioned for combat troops from the US time and again. He reiterated that need once he set foot in Australia. He specifically asked for the 2 and 3rd Cavalry Divisions. (Mac had an affinity for the Cavalry, but I think both the 92d and 93d were slated for Africa, which never happened, yet 10% of the US military power at the time) However, both those Divisions were manned by "colored" troops. Washington refused as they were planning placing those troops in perfunctory jobs/roles. Three of the most competent combat formations; trained, with honed leadership, was being denuded. Further, several Separate Infantry Regiments were subsequently split up much to Mac's chagrin. Washington promised Mac national guard divisions to which he said stow it, but those orders were already issued. Mac remembered when his father commanded national guard troops in the PI previously. Not good, especially in the Pacific because the preponderance of NG troops were from northern states (Minn, Wyo, Mich, Wisconsi). And, the NG troops slated for the SWPTO were again all from the northern US such as Mass, New Jersey, New York, &c. Mac asked for troops from both Puerto Rico and Panama: again denied. Based on his experiences in the PI he set up jungle training in Australia. Thanks to the return of Australian forces from Africa, but that after the mass surrenders in Singapore.

    Incidentally the first troops into Alaska were from Arkansas and Missouri. The Engineer troops allocated to the Alaskan Highway were those trained combat troops from the Cavalry

    At the beginning of WW II, a majority of experienced, trained, and manned units in the US Army were in deed "colored" formations. The US Army had nearly three divisions manned and equipped; however, they were labeled "colored" and were subjected to dissolution. Two divisions of cavalry and one division of infantry constituted a large sum of trained & ready troops to deploy to the various theaters of war early in WW II. Other combat units were fully manned and equipped such as Engineer, Artillery, Tank/Armor, Air Defense (AA), medical, and Coastal Artillery. (Coast Artillery probably represented some of the most complicated or advanced duties and missions such as communications, firing direction control, radar, acoustics, air intelligence, and radio direction finding) These formations, or better known as Missions Tables of Organization, do not reflect such US Army units there were, in deed, already integrated.

    Units from Puerto Rico, Dominica, Panama, or Virgin Islands were not considered "colored" unless they performed duties in the continental US. Very striking.--Ray
     
  19. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member

    Just a few notes on the issue at hand concerning the US Army in the PTO and the Marines in the ETO.

    I've read that Mac turned down the offer of a second US infantry regiment to bolster the 12th Infantry Division (Philippine Division). He felt that he had sufficient US Army forces (mainly the US 31st Infantry Regiment and the 4th Marine Regiment), supplemented by several regiments and smaller units of Philippine Scouts that rounded out the Philippine Division. The 4th Marines, had units withdrawn from China, garrisoned Corregidor. The 31st Infantry and the rest of the Philippine Division, along with reserve Philippine units called to active duty manned the line at Bataan. When US forces surrendered there, they outnumbered the Japanese Army facing them by several thousand. Of course the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops had run out of ammunition, food, medical supplies and the physical ability to continue the struggle, compelling them to surrender or be crushed by a determined assault. I figure if they had known what fate awaited them (Bataan Death March and slow death in POW Camps), they would've opted for an Alamo style ending that Mac had called for.

    The US 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts) made the last cavalry charge of the US Army when some of it's units ran into Japanese forces moving inland from landings at Lingayen Gulf. Several US National Guard Tank battalions (armed with Stuart tanks) also fought delaying actions in support of the 26th Cavalry as well.

    In the landings at Attu in the Aleutians, the US 7th Infantry Division conducted landings there. Prior to deploying to the North Pacific, the 7ID conducted extensive motorized training in California's Death Valley in anticipation of being deployed to North Africa. As a result of this last minute change in employment, the division suffered over 2,100 cold weather casulties in addition to the 1,700 battle casulties suffered. As far as the Army letting the Japanese escape from Kiska Island, I figure it was more of the Navy's fault there, and to some degree the AAF as well. Not much can be done by ground forces to stop anything from happening on another island that is out of artillery range. Kiska is several hundred miles from Attu. US bombers flying out of Kiska conducted the first bombing missions against Japanese territories when they bombed targets in the Kurile Islands.

    And concerning the USMC's perceived non-appearnce in the ETO, well seems that one Marine company landed with Patton's Task Force in Moroccoo. It moved inland and secured an airfield. And also later during the Normandy Invasion, a Marine company stood by just off-shore ready to go to the support the Ranger Battalion assaulting Point du Hoc, in case things went south. Of couse we all know that things well, not south in that little part of the war that day, so no Marines were needed afterall, much to their chagrin.
     
  20. OllieTSB

    OllieTSB New Member

    I don't think the US Army 'let' the Japanese escape from Guadalcanal, no more than Roosevelt led the Japanese air force, bombing Pearl Harbor.

    But the US Army was always slower moving and allowed many many escapes by Japanese forces, many of which were facing the Marines again on beachheads later. I doubt that any of the Marines recognized unit-patches over the dead and fallen. Not that it mattered.

    Logistics were the real issue in the massive Pacific Theater. Despite the "Europe First" agreements with Churchill, it would take until 1944 before sufficient ship-bottoms were available to overcome the massive distances in both theaters. And while I believe no belittlement of MacArthur is too much, it was to the American's advantage that the Japanese were continually confused over which force-commander - Army or Navy - would lead every next charge forward. MacArthur's whiny-boy "I must have my way and no one is allowed to have theirs!" nonsense would have resulted in years and years of battle, perhaps fulfilling the idiocy of Japan's leadership idea: "The Americans will tire of war and ask for peace." They probably knew MacArthur's opus all too well because, while he was in Manila, he actually accomplished little because WashDC didn't want to give him anything. His head was swollen enough with his own fantasy. And no need to bring up the 14-year-old girlfriend.
     

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