Tactical Defeat of US marines at Iwo Jima?

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Kim Sung
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Tactical Defeat of US marines at Iwo Jima?

Post by Kim Sung » 15 Dec 2006 12:35

Today I've read an interesting article in Bungeishunju (文芸春秋), according to which Japanese tactical victory over US marine at Iwojima can be explained from two points.

First, the Japanese commander Kuribayashi Tadamich forbade his men to commit gyokusai. They fought to the end instead, thus causing enormous loss to US marines.

Second, Kuribayashi didn't apply seashore combat (水際作戦) which usually resulted in slaughter of Japanese soldiers at beaches. Instead, the Japanese waited until Americans landed and take a backlash and constant guerilla warfare.

I know there are other reasons the Americans suffered a huge loss at Iwojima. But these two points are fresh. Any opinions will be welcomed.

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LWD
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Post by LWD » 15 Dec 2006 14:01

Well it was hardly a tactical defeat. While the Marines did take hugh losses so did the Japanese. I think a big part of it is that Tadamich knew he couldn't win. So he didn't try to win he simply tried to inflict as many casualties as possible. Especially early in the battle the US was not ready for this. By the end they had adopted a lot of new or variants of old tactics to counter what the Japanese were doing. This was still a bloody business because the Japanese to a large part were commited to the objective of fighting to the end and causing as many casualties as possible.

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Re: Tactical Defeat of US marine at Iwojima

Post by 419** » 15 Dec 2006 14:08

Kim Sung wrote:First, the Japanese commander Kuribayashi Tadamich forbade his men to commit gyokusai. They fought to the end instead, thus causing enormous loss to US marines.
They still ended up dead, and defeated, possibly due to the tactically doomed idea that
Kim Sung wrote:Second, Kuribayashi didn't apply seashore combat (水際作戦) which usually resulted in slaughter of Japanese soldiers at beaches. Instead, the Japanese waited until Americans landed and take a backlash and constant guerilla warfare.
Repelling the invader before he establishes a beachhead is always going to be more successful at less cost to the defender than allowing the invader ashore and trying to push him back into the sea.

Allowing the invader ashore to fight him inland ensures that, assuming troops of roughly equal quality are opposed to each other, the battle will be one of attrition in which the force with the better lines of supply and reinforcements will win.

The decision not to fight on the beaches indicates that the Japanese defenders already lacked the resources to repel the invaders and that they were bound to lose inland as long as America kept up supply and its reinforcements to its forces.

The quoted Japanese tactical decision indicates defeatism determined to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy before defeat rather than any clever military idea.

EDIT: I've said pretty much what LWD said, but I was typing while he was posting.

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Kim Sung
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Post by Kim Sung » 15 Dec 2006 15:54

LWD wrote:Well it was hardly a tactical defeat. While the Marines did take hugh losses so did the Japanese. I think a big part of it is that Tadamich knew he couldn't win. So he didn't try to win he simply tried to inflict as many casualties as possible. Especially early in the battle the US was not ready for this. By the end they had adopted a lot of new or variants of old tactics to counter what the Japanese were doing. This was still a bloody business because the Japanese to a large part were commited to the objective of fighting to the end and causing as many casualties as possible.
The Japanese goal was not to win the battle, just to inflict as many casualties as possible. In this point the Japanese were fully successful. That's why I call the battle of Iwo Jima a Japanese tactical victory.

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Post by jacobtowne » 15 Dec 2006 16:16

LWD wrote:I think a big part of it is that Tadamich knew he couldn't win. So he didn't try to win he simply tried to inflict as many casualties as possible..
Exactly. And that was the same tactic that Gen. Ushijima followed on Okinawa.

The results are clear: 5,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese died in the fighting on Iwo Jima. I don't see how that can be considered a Japanese victory of any kind.

JT

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Post by Kim Sung » 15 Dec 2006 16:27

jacobtowne wrote:The results are clear: 5,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese died in the fighting on Iwo Jima. I don't see how that can be considered a Japanese victory of any kind.

JT
Japanese casualties : American casualties = 21,000 : 27,000

There is no other battle except initial battles in which the Japanese fought as effectively as the battle of Iwo Jima.

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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 15 Dec 2006 22:16

Kim Sung wrote:
jacobtowne wrote:The results are clear: 5,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese died in the fighting on Iwo Jima. I don't see how that can be considered a Japanese victory of any kind.

JT
Japanese casualties : American casualties = 21,000 : 27,000

There is no other battle except initial battles in which the Japanese fought as effectively as the battle of Iwo Jima.
Well you can't compare these two numbers. Because all the Japanese are dead, On the American side, wounded and I think non-battle sick and injured are included so most of these guys will be back to fight/serve again. So you wind up with about 21000: 6-7000?, +3:1 which is pretty good considering the Japanese had an extreme dug-in defensive advantage with no flanks. While this is one of the better casualty ratios of the Pacific war, it certainly isn't the best battle operation the Japanese did. I would rate their defense of the Phillipines as being better and there are definitely some battles in the BCI that they performed better also.

here are the US casualties figure (minus non battle casualties?)
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/US ... a-III.html

Sure they did managed to hold out for a month which was longer than the planned week that the Americans thought they would need. However, with the landing, the Japanese lost all use of Iwo as a fighter base and early warning station , and it was only two weeks until the Americans were using the airstrips for emergency B29 landings. In other words, the Americans accomplished half their goals on day one and the other half in two weeks.The last two weeks were "mopping up " of isolated Japanese bunker postions that had almost no offensive capabilities at all, and weren't dangerous except for "digging them out". Excuse me for sounding innoculous/dismissive about that , If any old marines who were there, want to show up at my house , I got a beer(s) for you.


While Iwo can be seen a rather wasteful "exchange" for both sides over a marginal piece of real estate , I suppose overall the total gain to America( including the denial of Iwo to the Japanese) for taking it out weighed the losses.

About the only way it could be called a Japanese tactical victory was if they had repelled the ,or a, landing, which they didn't. Although the Japanese on the island did think they repulsed an invasion right before the actual invasion when the UDT teams went in and then withdrew,losing I think "2" ? LCI's gun/rocket, I don't think that qualities, unless you are a Japanese soldier buried on that island.

Chris

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Post by mars » 16 Dec 2006 00:21

Kim, I would prefere call battle of Iwo Jima a hard won American victory, no matter what some Japanese would like to call it, would not change this fact.
ChristopherPerrien, though, we shall be a liitle fair to Japanese, the reason the deaths of Japanese was larger than Americans was very simple, those wounded Americans mostly could expect to be evacuated and survied, most of those wounded Japanese would die.

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Post by Kim Sung » 16 Dec 2006 02:28

ChristopherPerrien wrote:While Iwo can be seen a rather wasteful "exchange" for both sides over a marginal piece of real estate , I suppose overall the total gain to America( including the denial of Iwo to the Japanese) for taking it out weighed the losses.
What you wrote is about a strategical viewpoint. Although Americans won strategically, the Japanese initial goal (inflicting as much as loss to the Americans) was achieved. When we consider American superiority in number and weapons, the Japanese fought effectively.
mars wrote:ChristopherPerrien, though, we shall be a liitle fair to Japanese, the reason the deaths of Japanese was larger than Americans was very simple, those wounded Americans mostly could expect to be evacuated and survied, most of those wounded Japanese would die.
Wounded Japanese soldiers couldn't expect the luxury that wounded Americans enjoyed. And it takes considerable time for these wounded American soldiers to return to their duty.

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Post by mars » 16 Dec 2006 05:02

Kim, from whatever point of view, strategical or tactic, American won that battle, the entire Japanese garrison was destroyed, the island itsself was secured, the only problem was the price was a little high, if you choose to call it a Japanese victory, well, we can say Japanese and German won every battle after 1942, since, see, strategically war was lost for sure, allie had the manpower and firepower superiority, and Japanese and German indeed inflicted as many losses to Ally as they could, so they won the battle tactically.

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Post by Kim Sung » 16 Dec 2006 05:19

mars wrote:Kim, from whatever point of view, strategical or tactic, American won that battle, the entire Japanese garrison was destroyed, the island itsself was secured, the only problem was the price was a little high, if you choose to call it a Japanese victory, well, we can say Japanese and German won every battle after 1942, since, see, strategically war was lost for sure, allie had the manpower and firepower superiority, and Japanese and German indeed inflicted as many losses to Ally as they could, so they won the battle tactically.
Yes, Germany inflicted many losses to the allies but Japanese didn't. There are a lot of battles in which the retreating Germans inflicted huge losses to the Soviets, but for the Japanese in their war against Americans, the battle of Iwo Jima is the only meaningful case even if some other minor cases exist. That's why I'd like to put a high point for the battle of Iwo Jima.

And please call me Sung. :wink:

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Post by Peter H » 16 Dec 2006 09:16

The Japanese doctrine of "Endurance engagements" was not new,already used at Biak and Peleliu:

http://www.thomas5.com/tribute/History3.html

It also must be remembered that the Iwo Jima pre landing naval bombardment was for 3 days,not for the 10 or so as orginally planned.A shortage of ship munitions was being experienced at the time ,not helped by MacArthur's Luzon landing requirements either.

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Post by Ron Klages » 16 Dec 2006 09:17

Sung,

A defeat or victory at Iwo could be discussed for ever but to me the real impact of the Japanese approach of fighting to the end to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy, as was the approach at Iwo and Okinawa, only made the decision to drop A-Bombs much easier for the American commanders. They did not wish to invade and experience those high casualities.

best regards,

Ron Klages

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Post by Peter H » 16 Dec 2006 13:44

Faulty US Intel on Iwo Jima:

http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13 ... P1,00.html

Why did these intelligence mistakes occur? In brief, the main reasons are:

- Photo interpreters did not receive good coverage of the entire island until one month before the Marines landed. This meant two things: analysts did not have enough effective media to analyze early in the intelligence operation, and when they did receive it, they had less time to analyze it because of their dissemination deadline.

- The loss of experienced photo interpreters in late January decreased the JICPOA's ability to analyze February photos that showed a dramatic increase in defensive installations on the objective. The loss also kept the center from helping Marine intelligence do its job. The Navy rotation policy that forced the incident was an incredible miscalculation.

- Captured documents that foretold Japanese strength on Iwo had proved reliable for past operations, specifically, Guam, Tinian, and Peleliu. But although the Iwo Jima-related documents proved correct, they showed only part of the picture. Since intelligence analysts relied largely on the documents to estimate the size of Iwo Jima's garrison, their estimates were wrong. They did achieve source corroboration between the documents and photographs in three cases that dealt with Japanese weaponry, and such evidence must have compelled the JICPOA to believe it had better intelligence than it did.

- Photographs of extensive layered trench lines and pillboxes just off Iwo's beaches reinforced JICPOA's belief that the Japanese would defend from the shoreline. They had used the beach defense, or a variant of it, in many successive campaigns, so a pattern existed. As of February 1945, the Japanese also were continuing to string 6,700 yards of wire and dig 42,100 yards of trenches along the eastern beaches. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese commander on Iwo Jima, purposely left the trenches in the open to deceive U.S. forces, and he ordered 135 pillboxes built on or near the beaches at the request of Navy officers under his command. They believed in the shore-based defense. The general did not. A Marine G-2 after-action report indicated that dummy positions along the island's beaches fooled U.S. forces into thinking that the Japanese would use a beach defense.

- On Iwo Jima, the Japanese conducted the most effective counter-intelligence operation of any island yet attacked under Admiral Nimitz's command. Aside from brilliant deception operations, the Japanese had used camouflage to the maximum, and "most of the gun positions were totally hidden." This effective tactic hid hundreds of enemy positions from U.S. reconnaissance efforts.

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Post by Tom Houlihan » 16 Dec 2006 14:33

Not having references handy, although a large number of Marines were killed on that island, I believe an equal if not greater number of USAAF air crews were saved by being able to land on Iwo Jima. That should be factored in as well.

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