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Island hopping?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by LRusso216, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    OK, in two books I've read recently, the term "island hopping" is used in two different ways; one refers to MacArthur's idea of skipping some islands and landing behind the Japanese so the army there was cut off, the other refers to island hopping as the preferred term for the Marines going from island to island getting ever closer to the Japanese mainland. Since I'm far from an expert on the Pacific Theater, I got very confused (I know, that's my natural condition). Which is correct? Which way do you use the term? I'm curious as to your answers.
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I've always thought of island hopping as hopping over some islands - to me, that's what makes it a distinct strategy. You wouldn't really need a name for the obvious method of taking every island in turn.

    Ironically MacArthur was largely hopping along the north coast of New Guinea; better examples might be going direct to Kwajalein and bypassing the eastern Marshalls or skipping over Kolombangara in the Solomons.
     
  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Its the same thing Lou. In the Marine campaigns whenever possible they attempted to bypass the most strongly held islands. On Bougainville the attacked the lightly held portion of the island and set up a defensive line across the island leaving the japanese in possession of the northern half. In the Gilberts they bypassed Nauru which would have been even worse than Betio on Tarawa.
    MacArthur later attempted to lay claim to have originated the strategy, but it had actually appeared years earlier in a proposal by Major Earl H. "Pete" Ellis. The Naval services had long been aware of and practicing the technique.
     
  4. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    Lou, I always thought both terms were applied to the US strategy. Hop islands to get closer to Japan. I would say it was a leapfrog concept. Bombing and harassing, but bypassing strongholds like Truk and Rabual. Just isolate them to die on the vine. Besides some hindsight on a couple of battles, I think the concept worked well. IMO
     
  5. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I look at it as "Leap-frogging" when they by-passed one Island for another and "Hopping" when going from-to each island in order. Guess it all depends on the writers preference.

    This backs up Bob's explanation;

    A drive from the Southwest Pacific Area, on the other hand, possessed several advantages which General MacArthur explained as follows:

    The attack from the Southwest Pacific Area departs from a base that is closest to the objective and advances against the most lightly organized portion of the enemy's defenses, effecting a decisive penetration. It is the only plan that permits an effective combination of land, sea and air power. The advance can be made by a combination of airborne and seaborne operations, always supported by the full power of land-based aviation and assisted by the fleet operating in the open reaches of the Pacific. A penetration of the defensive perimeter along this line results in by-passing heavily defended areas of great extent that will fall, practically of their own weight, to mopping-up operations with a minimum of loss.[SUP]


    http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/MacArthur Reports/MacArthur V1/ch07.htm
    [/SUP]

     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Both terms are interchangeable.
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Interesting. I came across the first definition in Maharidge's book Bringing Mulligan Home. He seemed to differentiate between MacArthur's (or whomever) idea of isolating the Japanese and the Marine idea of assaulting each island in an attempt to get closer to Japan. His father was a Marine who assaulted Okinawa.He suffered from blast concussion which led to PTSD. Maharidge seems to be a supporter of MacArthur. Barrett Tillman, in Whirlwind, seems to favor the second definition. I'm not sure the authors would agree with the contention that the term is interchangeable. I'm now more confused than I was before.
     
  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Central Pacific Axis had fewer islands that could be bypassed but they had their share.
     
  9. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Here you go Lou:
    Island hopping - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The other thing to consider is that MacArthur was was HMFIC of all ground forces in the Pacific, so in theory his definition is the only one that mattered. Another aspect to look at is that both definitions only have subtle differences with MacArthur's being the broad strokes and the Marine definition (AA Vandergrift) being the logical well thought operational one. In the end most of the islands ere secured even those that had been bypassed to keep up the tempo of advance.
     
  10. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Mac adapted the idea, but he did not invent it and was resistant to adapting it at first. He had to be told that no you cant invade Rabaul.
     
  11. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Perhaps Maharidge should have used the term "leap-frogging"" when discussing the idea of skipping islands and leaving the Japanese troops behind. I tend to think of "island hopping" as the term describing the Marine advance. Maybe that would have cleared things up for me. I think they were really talking about two different things..
     
  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    For the most part, the terms are used interchangeably, a simple Google search will answer that.

    As to the Nimitz's Central Pacific Campaign, several strongholds were bypassed: Truk, Yap, Woleai, Mille, and Jaluit, just to name a few. Wake and Marcus are sometimes considered "bypassed", but they were outside the main thrust of Nimitz & Co.

    It was just that much easier for MacArthur, since he had many many islands dotting his way back to the Philippines, as opposed to Nimitz's jumps of several hundred miles between atoll/island chains.
     
  13. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I see your point. The terms might be interchangeable, but the two authors used them in far different ways. Maharidge seems to try to prove that MacArthur's method was far superior to what he perceived as the reason for the PTSD in his father and others.
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    MacArthur was was HMFIC of all ground forces in the Pacific

    No offense, but that isn't true, though MacArthur's Southwest Pacific did get the lion's share of Army forces in the Pacific theater. The North, Central, and South Pacific were Navy commands under Nimitz; they controlled the six marine divisions almost all the time and eleven of 21 Army divisions at one time or another. Five Army divisions - 23, 25, 37, 43, 93 - saw their first combat in the Solomons under SOPAC, although they were later employed in MacArthur's Philippine campaigns. 7th Division fought in the Aleutians and then CENPAC, where it was joined by 27th and 77th. 81st served in the Palaus, then Philippines, 96th at Leyte, then Okinawa; and the 98th, the only division in the Pacific not to see combat, was in Hawaii at the end of the war.
     
  15. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Oh good grief....I am not going to argue with you. Nimitz was given those divisions by direction from MacArthur who used them to execute his plan.
     
  16. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    It wasn't my intent to start an argument. Stay on topic.
     
  17. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    He started it
     
  18. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    .
     
  19. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    They may have used two terms, but militarily there is virtually no difference. MacArthur preferred one term, and tried to credit himself with developing the concept, and the other term was generally used to describe the navy's operations. You could differentiate them by "leap frogging" being basically shore to shore amphibious operations and "island hopping" as ship to shore amphibious operations, which they generally were. The problem with this definition is there are too many exceptions. For example, the assault on Tinian was a shore to shore landing from Saipan, but part of island hopping and the Philippines invasion was a massive ship to shore invasion, but was part of MacArthur's leap frogging campaign.


    Roger wrote:
    Same, same with the Navy's version except the "from base that is closest to the objective" part. Even this is not always true though. Objectives were targeted due to their strategic value, but the most heavily defended were bypassed where possible. Once, they did seize an objective they often used it as a base for follow on assaults within the opreation.

    This portion is inaccurate, except that in MacArthur's operations land based sometimes played a larger role than sea based airpower. Generally speaking, central Pacific operations chose targets due to a strategic value, either the objective had terrain suitable for building airfields for basing land based aircraft, was valuable for harbor or anchorage capacity, or a combination of both. The general scheme of operation was reconaissance and preliminary bombardment by land based air, assault phase supported by sea based air in support, rapid seizure of an airfield, repair and expansion of the same, land based air brought in, sea based air released from the objective (the carriers are most vulnerable when tied to the objective while supporting the assault), objective is secured, assault troops pulled out and replaced by garrison/mopping up units, a logistical buildup, operations against lightly held ancillary targets (this is generally done by elements of the assault formations once they have been pulled from the primary objective), isolation and attritional attacks of heavily defended, bypassed, positions using the land based air. Look at virtually all Central Pacific operations and the sole reason for the target being selected was 1.) It's being in range of land based air for preliminary operations and 2.) Capable of accomodating land based air for follow on operations.

    No difference at all here.

    If I might drift off track for just a moment to editorialize. It was Saipan and Tinian that allowed for effective strategic bombing of the Japanese home islands targeting their populace and industry, effectively (in conjunction with the submarine campaign targeting their resource supply line) destroyed their warmaking capability. The later war engagements would have been even more bloody had we not attacked their industrial base using strategic, land based air. The major reason for the Iwo Jima landing was to provide emergency landing strips for these strategic bombers and a base for land based escort fighters. If we had followed MacArthur's proposed strategy alone, instead of the dual-advance strategy the Joint Chiefs adopted, the Pacific would have been even more costly.

    Lou wrote:
    Because the author does not feel the terms are interchangeable does not mean that they are not, it is their opinion, from their perspective. I do find it interesting that while, based upon what you have written, Mr. Maharidge is a big supporter of MacArthur, many 1st Division Marines felt that the toughest battle psychologically, was Cape Glouchester on New Britain, while serving under MacArthur. The division fought fiercely to get away from his control and he fought just as hard to keep it. (This attitude is well depicted in episode 4 of the Pacific, you can watch it here:
    The Pacific1x04 Gloucester Pavuvu Banika - YouTube
    You don't have to watch the whole episode unless you'd like to, but the archival footage, Tom Hanks commentary and the comments by the veterans at the first will show what I'm referring to).
    The battle where the 1st Divison was shot to pieces, Peleilu, was initially undertaken at MacArthur's insistance, to secure his flank for his Philippines invasion. When the strategic situation changed so that the assault was no longer necessary, no one would cancel it.
     
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  20. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Another thing to consider is the fight in the Pacific was entirely an Island War. Albeit some were larger than others. There was no other way to reach Japan other than going from Island to Island. So the term "Island Hopping" to my way of thinking became a 'catch-phase'. The same strategy was used in a land war. Towns or areas would be bypassed if there was no strategic value and it was prudent to do so. In other areas the full force would be applied to push forward toward what otherwise may have been nothing more than a crossroads. They could have used a term like "Hop, Skip & Jumping" around towns-regions in the land war of Europe. Just like today's media : Framing the article and catching the eye of the viewer.
    MacArthur was foremost a 'politician' which at that rank one had to be. He would always explain his way was the best and only way. Much like Montgomery. Plus Mac's ego was his driving force more than anything else. In my opinion anyway :)
    Reading the reports or Memoirs of the various Generals there is a clear determination that each considered their strategy the best. I just finished reading Omar Bradley's and a book on LeMay's command of the B-29 forces, both indicated the problems of their predecessors and how "they" changed things around.
     

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