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Differences between the ETO and the PTO

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by LG'96, Mar 2, 2014.

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  1. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    I know this is probably the 5th or 7th thread dedicated to this kind of topic. But i would like to discuss (again)
    what were the Military, political, historical and social differences from the PTO and ETO. Unrelated note: Since HBO's Pacific, there has been more attention to the PTO, but the ETO (arguably, it might have changed) remains the culturally definitive one. I hope we can discuss about this but the first 4 are more important. As ww2 veterans are (sadly) passing away, WW2 risks becoming a mass hagiography with the reality of it likely to disappear. It will only be 25 or so years until the centennial. So, a re statement, what were the military, political, historical and social differences?
    (Ps: talking to an 82 year old psychiatrist, he said the PTSD was identical, his judgement was that ETO probably had better air support.)
     
    Johnesgef and (deleted member) like this.
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Topic moved to more appropriate forum.
     
  3. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Infrastructure!

    In the SWAP and Central PAcific there was none. Literally! No large towns, no industry, no railways, no roads ... nothing. Tech-heavy military forces found themselfs in an environment that was rather pre-historic than just pre-industrial. The Philipines and Burma were infrastructure-heaven by comparision.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The ETO probably had more air support, but not necessarily better. IIRC, the US Marines were well versed in providing close air support and preferred to use their own pilots for the job, as opposed to getting support from aircraft flown by USN or AAF pilots.

    As to the military, political, historical, and social differences. Well, you could probably write books on each of those differences.
     
  5. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I think one of the biggest differences, at least culturally, was the race component with its accompanying increase in savagery. After this, was the fact that U.S. military personnel were more motivated in the PTO due to a surprise attack that was almost universally seen in the USA as perfidious. Militarily, the PTO was different in that many of the land battles were accompanied by major naval/air engagements.
     
  6. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    do you recommend any books on the PTO to compare and contrast?
     
  7. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    What about the perception back home, How were the perception of the PTO and ETO press different?
     
  8. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Another difference is each unit's time on the line. In the ETO, when your unit (company, battalion, regiment, division, etc) was committed to combat, you were usually there for months on end, with the occasional 3 day or so R & R in the rear. After that it's right back in the line. In contrast, in the PTO when your unit was committed, usually in a amphibious assault you were there until the island was secured. Yes, it was hot and heavy for the entire time there, and if you were lucky to get through it relatively unscathed, your unit was sent to another island for some well deserved R & R. Then it was more training and preparation for the next objective, which was guaranteed to be another near-hell experience. I don't know what would be worse, depends on the individual I guess.
     
  9. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    A critical difference is there was one supreme commander in the ETO and in the Pacific there were three different ones. Nimitz and Mac were equals on the American side and Mountbatten on the British.
    Also units of division size had a chance to rotate out of action in the Pacific, there weren't enough troops to do so in the ETO
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Hmm where does one start...

    Politics - different enemies and peoples. The Asian dimension. The Allies were all some form of colonial powers and the local population had other goals than ante bellum. The communism v Fascism is more ETO. Different rationale for genocide..The PTO was always a lower priority for the UN allies in the ETO. national survival was not at stake for any of the European powers in the PTO . .

    From the US Military point of view the ETO had to be dominated by the US Army and the PTO by the competition.The US Navy. Lots of WW2 decisions fall from that issue. The japanese were much much weaker than Nazi germany, They were always going to lose unless the US accepted Pearl Harbour as a fait accompli. The Nazis could have won between 1940- 41. Nature of warfare in ETO v different because of the terrain and the scale of the armies. Comnsider the turning points Stalingrad, El Alemein and Midway.

    Historical? What do you mean? Wjhat happened? or How it has been covered by historians? The coverage of WW2 is patchy. Far more about the ETO than the PTO (unless ships are your thing in which case it is reversed). DBI in the PTO and the Eastern Front in the ETO less well covered. Lots more books and films about Americans than anyone else - though of course the fact that a band of US Aiormen both won the battle of Britian and saved Pearl harbour is a unifying featured ;)

    The soldiers experience was not disimilar. It is doubtful whether there can be any measures of hellishness that could distinguish the Kokoda Trail, Guadalcanal the appenine mountains in winter or some of the extreme climates in Russia.
     
  11. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    Any good books on the Aussies of Kokoda or the Brits during the liberation of Europe?
    Why is PTO considered secondary to ETO both today in culture and back then?
     
  12. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Because Churchill and Roosevelt chose to make it a secondary front. Germany first remember. Making a little worse, most "PTO" battles were fought in places most people never heard of and even today are far more remote to visit by Europeans and North Americans. Finally the vast majority of all combatants fought in the "ETO", or at least of those who left any written record of what they did.
     
  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    What belasar said. Nazi domination fo Europe was far more important to the North Atlantic dominated world because the world powers were either European or dominated by people originating from Europe. The neg;lected war is the longest in WW2 , between the Japanese and Chinese..

    From the very start, Germany First was agreed between Churchill and Roosevelt because the defeat of Nazi Germany would help in the defeat of Japan, while the opposite was not the case, and the germans were the more immediate threat with the risk of defeating the Soviet Union.

    In popular culture the narrative of the ETO is stronger. It is easier for Americans and Europeans to identify with the heroes, villains and victims of the ETO than the PTO. The origins of the PTO are harder to fit to the simple good v evil narrative and the end is very messy with WW2 segueing into the conflicts in indo china and elsewhere in the SW pacific
    2.
    2. The PTO s caused a problem
     
  14. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    What was the problem?
     
  15. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Plenty of good accurate answers here...
    I think the relevance factor plays a large part...people can imagine pine trees and roads and country villages...most cant imagine tropical bush...and im not surprised, until you experience it, theres nothing that compares. I also think that Europoeans dieing hit home far more than groups of people Europeans have little dealings with...ie: Japanese, islanders etc...There unfortunately was an attitude that they other races didnt matter as much as "cultured Europeans". An that includes us Aussies...
    I think the simple answer if there is one is: Relevance to the reader/viewer...
    Just my opinion.
     
  16. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    My take is that the War in the ETO was seen as the liberation of the numerous Countries (lands of our Ancestors) wrest from the Nazi's, whereas the PTO was seen as a series of battles liberating not much more than a few islands here and there. No where near the Truth but seen as such. The fluid and constant moving of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines & the Air Corp from one nondescript area to another did not compare to the ETO where more civilians were affected. Other than the Philippines most of the other areas of the PTO conflict where just exotic names bringing forth images of palm trees and hula dancers. If the headline read: "New Guinea Is Now Free", I think most would ask "Where, What"? Paris, Amsterdam, Poland would evoke instant recognition.

    The best place for reading material I've found for the Pacific Theater is HyperWar & CMH. It takes some digging but there are some great stories buried within the reports and studies.
     
  17. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I think we're on the same page Biak...
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Sorry half finished thought.

    The biggest problem comprehending the "PTO" is the challenge understanding the scale and nature of the conflict in land in China. Until recently very few people had any knowledge or exposure to china and might find its countryside and people hard to visualize except in a very stereotypical way. . The US perception of the "PTO" is deeply coloured by the naval campaign and island hopping.The British add the shame of Malaya & Singapore, the horrors of the PW experience and a bit of jungle warfare in Burma - where even the veterans regarded themselves as a forgotten army.

    But the vast majority of the action and casualties took place in China, with a background of brutality that makes the German conduct in Eastern Europe benign. Between one sixth and one third of the estimated 60m WW2 war dead were Chinese. After over a decade of war only a few hundred live Chinese prisoners were handed over. Thanks to the representations of the holocaust in literature, art film and museums, we can visualize the holocaust. Indeed we are encouraged to reflect on its lessons. . There is no comparable cultural representation of the dreadful treatment of the Chinese by the Japanese. The rape of Nanking is a statistic which lacks any common shared images of say ,a selection at Auschwitz.

    Nor is it easy to comprehend the vast land campaigns. Most members of this forum, given a blank map could mark up the locations of the main events in the ETO and the bit of the PTO that involved US, British or commonwealth forces. We could probably draw up a time line too. How many of us could do that for the actions in China? How many can name any land battles other than Nanking and the fall of Hing Kong?

    Yet the PTO WAS fundamentally about China. The Japanese attack on the USA and the colonial powers was in response to the US Oil sanctions, imposed because of Japanese policy to China. No Sino Japansese war ; no PTO The final land campaign of WW2 was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the conflict between the communists and nationalists went on until 1949 - and frozen as cold war across the strainghts of Formosa.
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    At least here in the States, China was not part of the PTO. China was part of the CBI - China Burma India Theaters of Operations.

    That was the truly forgotten theater.
     
  20. LG'96

    LG'96 New Member

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    The Flying Tigers should get a freaking movie and HBO miniseries.

    Takao, do you have any good books on the PTO?
     

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