Pacific War: McArthur vs Nimitz: Who Was Right?

I did not see a link? In any case American submarines, the mighty Aircraft Carrier fleets, and the United States Marines, won the war in the Pacific, with a little help from the army here and there but nothing from McArthur.

Some even say it was the submarines that won the war. There is a very strong argument to be made for this concept. Of course others would say it was the U.S. carriers who simply had their way anywhere they went in the Pacific, won the war… But we still need the marines to take those vital islands and airstrips.

Again, not one airstrip in McArthur’s theater was ever used to bomb Japan.

By the way McArthur did not return to the Philippines until October of 44. By this time Nimitz had already taken Saipan.

Well, we are limiting to just Mac?

I mean Okinawa was taken by a joint Army/Marine force, more Army than Marines. Same with the Mariana Islands. Those were the two primary places planse bombed the Main islands from.

Note that my dad was just a Noncom but he despised Mac. He never considered himself part of the Bataan gang.

That is great for your father. I can not imagine what suffering he must have endured. My father never spoke much about his military service during the war. He was in Europe.

I have already acknowledged that the army participated in many campaigns across the Pacific with the navy. They were in fact under navy and marine command. We can debate their contribution another day. The subject at hand is who has the best strategy for winning the war in the Pacific. And clearly that was Nimitz.

Thank you for telling my about your dad. The type of jungle fighting he endured must have been terrible.

And it is true the marines could not have taken Okinawa without the army. The army was certainly present in large numbers throughout the Pacific. In fact there were many soldiers in Europe dreading that they might have to fight in the Pacific.

Yeah, he had nightmares about the mosquitoes. Malaria weakened his heart and finally killed him, but not until age 75. He was in HQ, so wasnt on the front line, but one of his duties was running dispatches up to the front.

Mold was everywhere, in the morning you shook the bugs out of your boots and scraped the mold off before putting them on.

But in a way Malaria saved his life- he arrived as a civilian aircrew for Boeing on Dec 8th, volunteered, caught malaria and was invalided to Australia then home before the Philippines fell. Otherwise Bataan death march.

Then someone in the Bataan gang requested my Dad back into HQ. Almost certainly not Mac himself.

Wow! What a story! Far, far worse than whT I had imagined. Thank God for men like your father who sacrificed so to protect our country. What a story! Thank you for sharing it!

It’s possible that MacArthur’s campaign were part of drawing the Japanese fleet out to fight, when otherwise they might have sat tight and waited until they could choose to fight on advantageous terms.

Other than that, you’re right. The Navy’s blockade and the capture of a few strategic islands suitable for bomber bases and that had Japanese forces that could threaten the resupply of those bases, were what really put Japan on their knees, not MacArthur’s land conquests.

It would not have mattered, by the time McArthur got in the fight, Oct 1944, the U.S. Navy had it’s way with the Japanese, on the sea, in the air, on the ground capturing islands and under the sea with great devastation via submarines. The navy carriers, by the end of 1944, we’re supreme In every Theater of the Pacific and regardless of what the Japanese Navy did or did not do they were not able to withstand the U.S. Navy domination.

I don’t know about that; prior to the invasion of the Phillipines, MacArthur was in command of the Allied fighting in New Guinea aimed at eliminating Rabaul as the main naval base for the Japanese forces in the Pacific (outside of Japan). That was completed in early-mid 1944.

That’s pretty important, and the Navy definitely needed that.

No, actually Rabaul proved to be insignificant. The Navy by-passed Rabaul and let them starve because they were cutoff. And for practice the Navy would send their flat tops over to pound Rabaul for good measure. The bottom line is that it was the Navy who decided to by pass Rabaul because they had control of the sea and had pounded all their planes into the ground. McArthur was, well let us leave it hear…

Oops that should be here

What other areas of the Pacific or the ETO are up for discussion? It is enjoyable to read various opinions and discuss history.

A really good friend of my father’s in Fresno California was Army, and he went ashore as part of the advance team in Okinawa 24 hours before the invasion. His hair literally turned white overnight (think Leslie Nielson).

McArthur’s return to the Philippines is pretty widely acknowledged as a side show and not an essential part of defeating the Japanese.

Well, some military leaders actually did object to the idea.

Not everyone in the USA, or other Allied nations, was all “just kill 'em all.” There remained debate and argument over how far the Allies should go. Bombing of civilians remained a somewhat contentious issue throughout the war, for instance.

Well, yes i will concede that. But I wont concede that the Army did nothing in the Pacific.

Of course the two brass hats, one Army, on Navy advocated plans that waged was as they best understood it. This is only natural. Both truly believed their command held the key to victory.

The whole Pacific War was an elephant (the Japanese Army) versus a whale (the American Navy). The Japanese wanted a land fight and the Americans wanted a naval/aviation war. Like the preceding paragraph, both wanted to play their strongest cards.

There was no easy way out of this mess. The promises made by the technical warriors are chimeras. But naval blockade and air bombardment are cruel and blunt weapons. Further, even their best hopes of victory were years away.

(Do you think Churchill would have given up to strangulation by U-boats? It is foolish to think the Japanese were not made with the same toughness.)

The American people would not put up with another two or three years of starving the Japanese people. Further, such a plan meant that millions of Chinese, Koreans and other people would have been under Japan’s boot.

(If not for the Holocaust, Japanese atrocities in China would be the defining cruelty of the war.)

So a clean hands-off victory (as the Americans wanted) was years away at best. At some point the American Army would have to kill the Japanese Army. No way around it, it always comes to this.

No American victory in China, Taiwan, the Philippines, or Korea would defeat the Japanese. We had to kill them in Japan. An invasion was need to kill the Japanese Army. No way around it.

OK then, so we have to invade. It would be massively difficult to embark an invasion force in California and sail them to Honshu. We needed intermediate bases. Big ones. We needed places to base our planes, to overhaul our ships and to store mountains of stuff.

Despite McArthur’s plans to take Taiwan, the Philippines would serve as our nearest big base with a string of smaller ones suitable for airfields closer to the target.

MacArthur’s command may have taken Manila for the wrong reason, but it was valuable real estate.

OK, so now it is November 1945. The Olympic landings are fixin’ to happen. Some ships actually sailed from California months ago, some from Hawaii, many more from “nearby” bases. The Japanese now got what they wanted the whole time, the Americans at the limit of their naval power and about to face a huge land battle at the end of a long supply line.

And you know what? I bet the Japanese would have won at this point. It is commonly said this invasion would have been “Three Okinawas.” The difference would have been the Japanese air attack on the fleet would have been much more than at Okinawa. Basically, the Japanese invented the cruise missile and planned to launch swarms of them against the Americans.

It would have been a bloodbath at sea, followed by one on land. Even then, it is not clear that the Japanese would have surrendered. A second invasion, Coronet was planned for.

Nope. Nimitz’s well-thought-out scheme was an American pipedream. The Japanese would not have surrendered promptly under blockade and bombardment. To let them stave would have been to let the Chinese suffer even more. A delay would have let the Red Army march all over northeast Asia.

Honestly, when you look at it all and punch the numbers into your calculator, they way the war ended was a flipping miracle. That is a very hard conclusion to come to.

I feel MacArthur’s southern pacific campaign did serve a legitimate strategic purpose. Like the war in China it forced Japan to spread out its limited resources. Nimitz’s central pacific campaign may have been the primary campaign in the war against Japan but it would have faced much stiffer resistance if the other campaigns weren’t being fought.

Ultimately the Japanese would have lost. Ultimately. The possibility Operation Olympic would have been a horrifying bloodbath, however, was much likelier than not, in part because as we now know, the Japanese knew where it was going to happen. Geography dictated how an invasion had to be conducted and the Japanese knew south Kyushu was going to be the first target, so their plan was to resist that invasion with more or less everything they had on the assumption - probably a correct one - that immediate victory was their only hope of stopping the Allies.

I think the Allies would have punched through but it would have been indescribably awful.

In addition to all that, the Japanese over-estimated Allied strength. They were anticipating, and preparing, for up to 90 Allied divisions to land on Japan. The actual amount of planned Allied strength was way below that; hence an invasion would have been even harder to pull off than anticipated.