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MacArthur is killed leaving the Phillipines

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by belasar, May 22, 2011.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Douglas MacArthur is a larger than life and contraversial figure in WWII history. Considered either a fool by some or a brilliant strategist by others, there can be no denying that his force of personality had an impact on the course of the Pacific war. The question is how much? His absence from SouthWest Pacific Area offers some interesting questions.

    Who is given the command of SWPA?

    Is it another American, Stillwell perhaps?

    Could it be a British commander, or even Australian?

    How does this new commander affect the level of forces and supplies sent to the region?

    Is the Phillipines retaken or bypassed by a Central Pacific only axis of attack?

    Does a single axis of attack hurt or help the Japanese defence?

    Is the war longer and more costly, or shorter and less costly?

    How would MacArthur's death effect his legasy?
     
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  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    We normally would not approve this What If because it does not include your opinions in the opening post. But as it seems to differ from the usual "How Could Germany Win?" What Ifs that seem to come in droves, it has been approved. I do ask, belasar, that you add your opinions to your the questions.
     
  3. ULITHI

    ULITHI Ace

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    Wouldn't it have made sense to give it all to Nimitz at that point?
     
  4. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Ace

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    I'll take a stab at a couple of these. This is all personal opinion, and therefore open to dissection, evisceration, ridicule, and/or complete bypassing. First of all, I don't think the person given command would be anybody but another American, since the Allies were committed to a "Europe First" war. I can't see any British general looking at an overall Pacific command as anything but a "backwater" assignment. An Australian would have more of a vested interest in commanding the Pacific forces, since for them it would be personal, as it was for the US. The British seemed to write off the Pacific theater when they gave up Singapore, in my opinion...at least as a main battle effort. As for "who", I would imagine that Nimitz would take over, seeing as how the Pacific Theater is, after all, in the Pacific. A, it has been noted, rather large expanse of water. The Army and Marines would have their Generals, but they would report to Nimitz for overall strategy. I'm not all that read up on him, though, as to how he would take suggestions/criticisms of his strategies.

    As for a two-pronged attack, I have my doubts about whether that would still take place. I envision one massive front, sweeping northward on one general line, instead of two separate axis of advance. From what I've read, the two-prong attack was only devised due to the sheer will and (dare I say) vanity of the two commanders in question. How would this affect the Japanese defense effort? In the beginning, not much at all. They would still be in the banzai-charge mindset, defense on the beach tactics that they were using in early island battles, not the "dig into the caves and hillsides and let the invaders come to us" war of attrition that they learned later on. The big advantage would be in Allied communications, though....what was found to work on one island would be easier to share to other units, without one commander seeming to gloat or dictate the order of battle of the other commander. Again, I'm not sure of the exact relationship between McArthur and Nimitz, and the ease of information flow between the two, but I can't imagine it would have been any easier than the sharing of information under one commanding officer.

    Length of war....probably about the same. You still have the same amount of islands, the same number of dug-in Japanese, the same expanse of ocean, the same number of Army/Navy/Marine/Air Corps units to resupply, and the same production rates in the States. Even only having one commander, and assuming that he still follows the "island-hopping" strategy, it still takes time to assemble troops, provide transport/landing craft, get them to the islands, kick arse, and then get everyone resupplied/reequipped/reinforced.

    His legacy....I can't see, personally, how most folks would know his name today if he had been killed leaving Bataan. Nobody outside of the avid military/history buff could tell you who Stillwell was, or what his contribution to the WW2 effort had been. McArthur would be another name you read about in WW1 history books, and a brief mention of his attempt to fall back to set up a new Army in Australia. There would probably be a lot more talk about his being killed while fleeing or abandoning his troops (more than there already is), but I don't see him as being more than a footnote in WW2 history, going down as the guy who lost the Philippines.

    Those are my thoughts, for what they're worth. Coals are stoked, got a nice bed of hot ashes....feel free to rake my thoughts over them!
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    My guess would be that an American would still be chosen as relations between Britain and the Australian PM Curtin were strained to say the least, and I cannot think of an Australian who had the stature to command the theater.

    Stillwell would seem the most logical choice as he wanted an active combat command and wanted no part of a political posting such as China. He also had the respect of Marshall I believe.

    I believe FDR saw MacArther's posting to Australia as a garruntee to the Australian government that the US would defend Australia. MacArthur saw it as a place from which he would gather forces to retake the Phillipines. I feel that MacArthur used the political capital to get forces/supplies that might not otherwise have come that way. So I have doubts that another commander would have gotten as much.

    Without MacArthur to push for it I suspect that the Phillipines are bypassed in the most part. Besides if he is killed during his breakout, he has no oppertunity to utter his iconic words "I Will Return". Nimitz favored a Central Pacific axis of attack, and would now likely get it.

    I suspect Japan would get something of a break out of a single line of approach attack. Not enough to change the final outcome but some. As to cost and time that is a tough one. No Phillipine invasion ( and the SWPA battles that led up to it would mean fewer casualties, but they might be off set by landings on Formosa and the Chinese mainland as once proposed. Further if the pace of a Central Pacific attack speeds up it places US forces at Japan's doorstep perhaps 6 months or a year sooner. No atomic bombs would be available to froce a surrender, and the US would still have major land combat operations in Europe underway. The US would only have the options of Blockade or Invasion.

    In some ways history might be kinder on him for falling in battle, but he would not have the moments of accepting the surrender of Japan and Inchon.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If someone was really thinking they'd put Slim in charge. Don't think it would happen though. He was probably one of the best generals of the war and managed to get along with Stillwell!
     
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  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Slim would be an excellent choice, and might be palatable to the Australians.
     
  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    Would we have really have fought for New Guinea if MacArthur was gone? "Hopping" that hell hole would have advanced that front considerably, IMHO.
     
  9. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    With MacEgo out of the rotation, Nimitz would possibly been supreme commandant of the PTO, or at least the South, Central and Northern Pacific areas. I think that Roy Geiger would have been an excellent choice to command the ground operations. He commanded both Army and Marine forces at Guadalcanal, Bouganville and Guam, and took over the 10th Army at Okinawa after General Buckner was KIA.

    The "Slim scenario" in the SWPTO sounds good too. Perhaps as OP mentioned the by-passing of New Guinea could be seriously considered, and Australian and New Zealand troops could have been more game-fully employed as opposed to side-shows in Indonesia that happened along the historical timeline.
     
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  10. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Probably Nimitz, as he was already in the theater, as opposed to Stillwell, who was in the CBI theater at the time. Slim would have been a good choice, but I doubt that the US would approve. Likewise, I think it is highly unlikely for a marine general to get command of the SWPA given the rivalry betwen the Army/Navy and the USMC. I think that if Nimitz was put in, it would have only been temporary until a "ground commander" was selected - maybe Alexander Patch.

    I think that the strategy would have remained relatively similar, but there probably would have been better co-operation between the ground forces and the navy, and there likely would be the need to split the command structure between Nimitz and the ground commander, which caused a great deal of confusion during the war.

    Probably bypassed. There may have been some light operations conducted on some of the more remote islands, but I don't see the Philippines becoming a major battleground if MacArthur wasn't there. Tactically, it made little sense. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops were bottled up there, and they could have easily been bypassed to move onto the more "strategic" islands.

    I would say about the same. One of the main reasons why the Japanese were driven to surrender so rapidly was the atomic bombing, and the time frame for its development and deployment wasn't really dependant on the conditions on the ground. However, I do think that the Allies would have made it closer to the Japanese mainland than Okinawa, given that they wouldn't waste resources on the Philippines.

    As others as said, he would likely have become a footnote, and probably would have been written off as a failure who nearly lost the pacific war. The real reason why he is known is for his flamboyant style, leading the advance across the Pacific, and this would not have happened if he was killed. He likely would have been regarded as a lacklustre, flamboyant and self-centered commander if he was killed leaving the Philippines.
     
  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    Skip the PI, take Formosa as a staging area for Downfall. Retake Hong Kong while we're at it, for another staging area.
     
  12. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Formosa is and was densely populated. There would be massive civilian and military casualties there. I'm not sure how many Japanese troops were posted there, but I'm sure it would be comparable to the Philippines. Also it must be taken into account the urban areas to fight in. The first time that was encountered in the PTO was in Manila, and that was a meat grinder. I don't see how skipping the PI and going to Formosa would be easier.
     
  13. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Bypassing all recent comments, i'd say there were a handful (probably less) of Austrlians that would have done a sterling job...The British were earning a reputation of not being aggressive enough in the pacific and aggression is what was needed...taking the war to Japan rather than reacting and fortifying. The United States had plenty of aggression "never forget pearl!" I personally don't rate MacArthur...plenty in the forces at the time didn't either...but many countries in the region (phillipines as an example) really needed a face and voice of hope at the time rather than a faceless war machine to tell them everything was going to be alright...so a "personality" was needed in the pacific at the time, a face a name to rally behind...As a general i think he was B-grade, as the man for the moment he was probably perfect.
     
  14. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    By-passing New Guinea may have been militarily a less costly option, but would it be acceptable to Australian government?

    It does seem interesting that everyone seems to agree that MacArthur's absence would have a profound change on the course of the war. I wonder if this has some to do with the strong feelings he generates in others. It seems hard to think of another general of the period who has as much influnce on 'how' the war is fought.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    He was a prima donna of the first degree, arrogant beyond his capabilities.


    Oh, and I don't like him much either.
     
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  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If Mac isn't there then the SWPac might be downgraded quite a bit. Nimitz might be put in charge of the overall Pacfic in which case a British commander in the SWPac might make sense.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mountbatten as "Theater Commander" for "Pacific/Indian Ocean Area of Operations Commander"?
     
  18. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    Having a Brit in charge would be a non-starter. They would see the theater through the lens of a colonial empire that needs to be retaken. And thats not what the US military establishment would tolerate. Having an Aussie in charge of anything pertaining to NG would probably be tolerated as long as not to many US divisions were employed there.

    I dont think Stillwell would be offered the job. He was too valuable a man to have in China. In the end, its either Eichelberger or Krueger who gets the job, reporting to Nimitz.

    One thing to remember about bypassing NG; it wasn't until two full years of war that the USN had the amphib. capability to venture into the central Pacific. Until that happened, NG was going to be fought for as per the Cartwheel strategy in reducing Rabaul.
     
  19. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    The US allowed the retaking of Burma, and Malaya, yes? I think you're looking at this with Marshall in mind.
     
  20. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I’ve been thinking about this question for a number of days, and if one eliminates those men who had little to no chance of being appointed to replace MacArthur because they were not "American", not army, or not liked by others like ("Vinegar Joe") Stilwell, who didn’t get that nickname in jest, or who had been left in the Philippines by MacArthur (Wainwright) when he fled the list is pretty small.

    Now we know that Marshall wouldn’t be removed from D.C. by FDR, but there was another retired man whom every other general in the American service both admired and respected. He too could have been recalled from retirement (like MacArthur) to active duty, and was only a few years older than MacArthur. I’m thinking of Major General Fox Conner, who would have been about 67 (I think) in 1942, had been retired since 1938, but remained one of the men most respected by other American generals.

    I don’t doubt that if recalled to duty, Conner would have responded in great style and effectiveness. Conner was admired and respected by Pershing, Marshall, Patton and Eisenhower as one of the finest military minds in America. Those men didn’t have the same respect for MacArthur exactly.

    Conner was a proven quantity in the role of strategist and tactician, where younger men might have been hard put to match his military mind in the American list.
     

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