How would the USMC do it today?

The world owes the United States Marine Corps a debt of gratitude for its role in the destruction of Imperial Japan. Despite having all the technological and material advantages of the United States and its immensely powerful Navy, the Japanese inflicted substantial casualties on them.

Take Tarawa, where despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered the Japanese inflicted 3110 casualties; this was after an intense naval bombardment and Americans having mastery of the air.

If today’s USMC had to capture an island like Tarawa in similar circumstances, with a heavily entrenched fanatical enemy that will not surrender, how would they do it? Assume time is of the essence (as it was, since we needed the airfield), so we can’t just blockade and starve them out.

They would do even better today, mostly because of air power. The reason the naval bombardment was unsuccessful was that the Japanese hid in caves and underground during it. Today we have bunker busters and the ability to deliver them where we want them.

Doesn’t the world owe much of the Allied powers a debt of gratitude for the destruction of Imperial Japan? Why is the USMC singled out for recognition?

Because the Marines did the bulk of the fighting against the Japanese.

Nuke them.

1.7 million Chinese military and 20 million Chinese civilians dead over 8 years of fighting - I’d say the world owes at least as much, if not more, to the armies of the Republic of China and Communist China than to the USMC. I’d say no one can justifiably claim to have done the ‘bulk’ of the fighting against Imperial Japan more than them.

Perhaps someone familiar with airfield construction could inform us: How quickly could an airfield be built on a bombed out island?

The timeframes involved would determine how much heavy weaponry would be used. If the airfield could be rebuilt in time, I’m thinking 1) destroyers levelling the shore defenses 2) HE, FAE and bunker busters dropped by B-52s and carrier-based aircraft for inland targets during the day followed by 3) choppers dropping Marines all over the island at night with AC-130 support.

It’s almost certain that the big infantry push would start at night/dusk. That would very much cut down on US casualties.

How do you measure this? Don’t the Marines depend on the combined forces of multiple countries to just get the fight to the point where they could be deployed? All the navies, air forces, supply lines, intelligence gatherers… and all the other countries fighting battles on other fronts to keep Japan distracted.

Tarawa was the first opposed landing for the Marines in WWII. Any number of mistakes were made that were already rectified by the time they invaded Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, etc.
(One factor was the miscalculation of the rising tide that held the invasion landing craft off the beach but under Japanese guns for hours, while the naval bombardment was suspended to allow them to land. The Higgins boats had to circle around unable to cross a reef that the (no longer rising) tide had been expected to cover. In addition, the first generation tracked landing vehicles, (LVT-1 Alligators), did not have sufficient armor to protect their troops under the intense fire that the Japanese, no longer being shelled, were able to bring to bear.)

The issue of who is owed a debt by “the world” is really irrelevant to the actual question being asked.

I suggest that anyone who feels the need to debate that topic open a new thread in Great Debates and forego further hijacking this thread.

[ /Moderating by suggestion ]

I said capture man, capture!

(smushed quotes together)
Just singled out the Marines as I’m interested in how they’d assault an island stronghold today, if casualties inflicted by the defenders would be as bad. I did feel they earned a mention of recognition in their original role doing this as serious sacrifices were demanded of them in these types of actions during WWII.

ETA; Composed before I saw tomndebb’s clarification; as I said, simply wanted to doff my cap to those who did these actions in the first place rather than intending a debate.

Fair enough. Sorry, OP.

The Marines would bypass islands like Tarawa and Kwajalein if they fought a similar war today. The Navy would blockade the islands, bombard them and starve out the defenders. They would concentrate on the “important” islands like Guam, Tinian,Saipan and Iwo Jima to ensure that they could prevent them from being used for resupply of the remote garrisons.

While hindsight is 20/20, if MacArthur hadn’t allowed the Philippines to fall to Japan, the “island hopping” strategy wouldn’t have been possible or even necessary as this would have prevented the Japanese from extending their reach much further south than Indochina.

What is the technological capability of this fanatical enemy? There’s a huge difference between a fanatical enemy armed like the Japanese army in 1945 versus a fanatical enemy with sophisticated integrated air defense systems and modern diesel-electric submarines with wake homing torpedoes.

While the Japanese were certainly technologically disadvantage compared to the US, this wasn’t due to anachronism; I was thinking opponents of today (say North Korea or suchlike) who’d had time to prepare a defence (the Japanese had a year on Tarawa).

But Ravenman has a good point. The US strategy and tactics would depend on what defense systems a theoretical Imperial Japan would have today. The gulf between modern day N. Korea and modern day USMC is much, much greater than that between 1940s Imperial Japan and the US armed forces of the time.

I don’t think Tarawa would last long today even against a peer or near-peer force. Assume local naval superiority as was the case in the historical battle. Further assume the opponent is, say, the Russians and the troops are elite, with modern artillery and air-defense. First the radar gets taken out, than the anti-air sites. This probably takes an hour. Tarawa is tiny. There just isn’t much ground to cover. I suppose maybe there are dozens and dozens of missiles, but at some point that just makes them easier to take out with something like MOAB. Then, as mentioned above, the artillery and fortified positions are utterly demolished by pinpoint bombing. The Russians are probably hiding during this, and Marines are landing during the bombardment, which wasn’t possible in WWII because shelling and bombing weren’t very precise. At some point the bombing stops and the Marines kill whoever sticks his head out.

But taking Tarawa would also be a lot less urgent in a modern war because bombers can operate at such long ranges with air to air refueling.

No, I’m serious, be specific. Because the Marines could almost certainly execute an amphibious landing and rout a North Koean force, but if it was a Chinese force occupying an island within a reasonable distance from China (say, 400 miles) I think there’s very little reason to suspect that a contested amphibious landing would be successful today.

China has extensive capabilities aimed at denying its enemies the ability to approach within hundreds of miles of its shores. The amphibious ships (which would launch the AAVs and LCACs which carry Marines and their equipment) would be very vulnerable to advanced anti ship missiles that the Chinese have.

Meanwhile, the North Koreans have tons of artillery that would be destroyed in a week.

At that point, it wouldn’t be all that different than later WWII battles such as Iwo Jima- well dug in troops would still wreak horrible carnage on the attacking force, that is until the Marines would likely use laser-designated bombs to take out individual bunkers at minimal risk.

Otherwise, it would be bangalore torpedoes, flamethrowers and C4/TNT just like in 1945.

I actually think that in the buildup to the landings, satellite recon would be effective for figuring out where the fortifications are, and a lot of them would probably be hit in the pre-landing bombardment & airstrikes.

Also, helicopters would be really handy for putting the Marines everywhere on the island at once, in a manner of speaking. It wouldn’t be a fight for the beaches, or along a line drawn inland; it would be a very confused sort of melee, and ideally the Marines could take advantage of the current US superiority in C3 and C3 technologies to keep their side relatively organized and avoid friendly fire incidents.

I’d have trouble being more specific I’m not sure which country would be the equivalent of the technology comparison of US/Imperial Japan in 1944 today; one of the MIKT nations maybe?