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Old 02-20-2016, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
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A column on the opinion page of may local paper, written by a career soldier and WW II / Korean veteran, suggests that the heavy losses suffered by the Marines in the Iwo Jima invasion (61 years ago this week) might have been mitigated by a blockade. Iwo was known as "sulfur island" by the Japanese, and the water there was nearly undrinkable, according to some sources.

We do know that the island was taken primarily to provide an emergency landing site for B-29 bombers returning from saturation bombing missions, and that it had been heavily fortified and the occupying force well-shielded by a network of tunnels and bunkers. The landings themselves were not as great a challenge as finding passage off the beach, and it was at this point that the vulnerable American troops suffered their greatest losses, from artillery shielded on unreachable higher ground. Marine commander General Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith never forgave the other commanders for reducing the duration and intensity of the prepatory naval bombardment.

And we do know, from the surrender of a few pockets of Japanese defenders as late as early 1949, that the water issue might not have been as strong a threat to the occupying force as is sometimes argued; also that the plan to use Iwo (and Okinawa) as a staging area for the fortunately-unnecessary invasion of the Home Islands would probably have presented logistical complications which did not become apparent until the island was in American hands.

But I'd like to hear some other input from anyone at C-D who could supply other parts to the story, possibly provided by ancestors who were there.

Last edited by 2nd trick op; 02-20-2016 at 10:26 AM..
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Old 02-20-2016, 10:49 AM
 
Location: NW Indiana
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I doubt a blockade would have been strongly considered, since plans for attacking Okinawa and them Japan were already proceeding. Realize Okinawa was attacked in April, abouAsst a month after finally taking Iwa Jima.
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Old 02-20-2016, 01:36 PM
 
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Fodder of debate perhaps?
Combining the objectives of Okinawa and Iwo Jima ensured approval by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This alliance between the navy, which was seeking to outflank the army, and the Army Air Forces, which wanted to prove the case for strategic bombing in order to create an independent postwar air service, satisfied their respective interests. However, the U.S. Marine Corps, which paid by far the heaviest price for carrying out Operation Detachment, remained excluded from the decision-making process. When fighter operations from Iwo Jima failed, the military sought additional reasons to justify the costly battle, and historians have perpetuated these illusions.
Worth the Cost? Justificaton of the Iwo Jima Invasion |
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Old 02-20-2016, 02:59 PM
 
Location: Miami, FL
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The X amount of B-29 crews saved always smelled to me like olla podrida.
But never had proof.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:44 AM
 
Location: Texas
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Iwo's primary function was to base P-51s as escorts for the B-29 raids. It also served as an emergency landing strip for damaged B-29s returning from those missions.
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Old 02-23-2016, 08:01 AM
 
Location: Miami, FL
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Sure. The idea was sound. The justification for the losses afterwards is the smelly part.

But as with Anzio it was believed never to withdraw once an attack had been elected even if execution was faulty and resulted in excessive and perhaps unnecessary casualties.
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:23 AM
 
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I have to refer to the book "Flags of our Fathers". Made into a movie of course but the book gives added info into the strategy of taking Iwo.
The necessity of taking the island was not only to use as a bomber repair base and emergency landing strip, but also because of the presence of radar and Japanese fighters on the island. The island was smack dab in the middle of the superfort route to Japan from our bases in the pacific, thus the presence of Japanese fighters were one barrier that the bombers had to fly through. The presence of radar also gave the Japanese on the mainland a two hour warning to prepare defenses for our bombing runs.
After the war it was also concluded that these Iwo based Japanese fighter-bombers actually destroyed more B-29's on the ground in our bases in places like Tianian and Saipan then were lost in all the bombing runs over Tokyo.
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Old 02-23-2016, 11:25 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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I would say no.

First off, before landing troops the entire island was subject to a ridiculously huge and intense naval bombardment and I think US war planners were expecting a far less intense, disorganized and less fanatical mop-up. They had no idea they were sending almost 7 thousand GIs to their deaths and getting another 20,000 wounded.

You've also gotta remember things were being set up for Operation Downfall at the end of the year... beyond it's actual use as an emergency stop for B-29s and launching point for fighter escorts, Iwo would have been an absolutely crucial staging area for the planned invasion of the home islands and it was important to get the island secure and operating for us as soon as possible to meet that end. A blockade would have taken too long and occupied warships that had better uses elsewhere.

Luckily for American GIs, a certain experimental secret project succeeded (which was definitely NOT a given at the time!) and was deployed in record time... rendering the main gameplan unnecessary.

So while we probably didn't "get our (blood) money's worth" out of the Iwo campaign as things happened, nobody could have really known what they were getting into or how the war would end and it was therefore solid planning do do what they did when they did and how they did it.
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Old 02-23-2016, 12:14 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2nd trick op View Post
A column on the opinion page of may local paper, written by a career soldier and WW II / Korean veteran, suggests that the heavy losses suffered by the Marines in the Iwo Jima invasion (61 years ago this week) might have been mitigated by a blockade.
From what I've read a blockade would have suited Japanese planners just fine, since they had no belief that they could hold out indefinitely. The entire Japanese strategy was to simply delay any possible attacks or invasion of the mainland.

It is also my understanding that General Tadamichi Kuribayashi commanding officer and the designer of the island's defense changed the rules of the game that as a result led to the high casualty rate. Defying standing Japanese doctrine, Kuribayashi refused to contest the invasion on the beaches making the initial bombardments pointless, or employ his forces in suicidal open charges of American positions. Instead Kuribayashi oversaw the construction of a massive underground network designed to conduct a guerrilla campaign to delay the fall of the island for as long as possible inflicting as many casualties as possible in the hopes of demoralizing public support for an invasion of the Home Islands.

In that sense Iwo Jima was a partial victory, for Kuribayashi. It did delay the establishment of an airbase for attacks on the main islands and inflicted massive casualties giving policy makers to think heavily of what was to come if an invasion of the main islands was to be undertaken. The only thing that the blockade would have accomplished would have been to eliminate the casualties, the Japanese were dedicated to dying to the last man, by bullet or otherwise.
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Old 02-23-2016, 01:37 PM
 
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One must remember that Iwo Jima was also considered Japanese homeland and thus more precious than Guam, Tarawa, Saipan, and the others. Sacred ground. The general to defend Iwo was handpicked by Hirohito. Marines were kicking in the front door of Japan. Even if perhaps they knew that Iwo was untenable, the loss of the island must have been tremendously demoralizing to the Japanese
But for my reasons given above, a blockade was not the answer unless you role back the clock to the previous year - it was then determined that the strategy for knocking Japan out was not through the back door through Philipines into China (MacArthur's plan), but the front door of island hoping (Nimitz plan).
And again as explained above, the allies thought that air power would devastate the defenses. Bombed for 72 days straight, the record for most bombs dropped on a concentrated locale in WW2. In 1 square mile an recon photo showed 5,000 bomb craters. As everyone knows now, it was ineffective. Back while devising the strategy, allies did not know this.
And once again as explained above, the Japanese were buying time. By 1944 most knew they couldn't win the war, but they could win a negotiated peace by making the war last as long and as bloody as possible and wait for the western democracies to grow war weary, something a totalitarian government does not have to worry about. A long blockade would achieve the same results - war weariness.
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