Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
amnesia=war
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Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby amnesia=war » 12 Feb 2017 05:01

Two things puzzle me about the oddly named pacific war.

Why was crushed japan able to so destructively launch kamikazes in the last stages, when surely USA had the ability to blitz any japanese airfields within range?

Even carrier based planes off the coast could dominate japanese skies?

Why was USA bothering with the huge losses of okinawa etc., when all they had to do was back off and wait for the bomb to happen mere weeks later?

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Kingfish
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby Kingfish » 12 Feb 2017 17:16

[quote="amnesia=war"]Why was crushed japan able to so destructively launch kamikazes in the last stages, when surely USA had the ability to blitz any japanese airfields within range?/quote]

Blitzing an airfield and putting it out of action are two entirely different things. Unless the effort against it is maintained even the smallest airfields can be brought back on line relatively quickly.

Case in point, Henderson field on Guadacanal, much smaller than many Japanese homeland airbases, received a major beat down from the IJN battleships Kongo and Haruna on 10/13/42. Despite the damage and loss the Cactus airforce was in action the next day.
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby OpanaPointer » 12 Feb 2017 17:24

amnesia=war wrote:Two things puzzle me about the oddly named pacific war.

Why was crushed japan able to so destructively launch kamikazes in the last stages, when surely USA had the ability to blitz any japanese airfields within range?

Even carrier based planes off the coast could dominate japanese skies?

Why was USA bothering with the huge losses of okinawa etc., when all they had to do was back off and wait for the bomb to happen mere weeks later?

The Japanese had 5,000 aircraft in reserve for kikusui tactics against the invasion of the Home Islands.

The atomic bomb was another weapon in the Rain of Ruin. It wasn't considered to be a war-winner on its own.
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Wellgunde
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby Wellgunde » 15 Feb 2017 08:48

During the Okinawa campaign in March and April 1945, the Manhattan Project had yet to test a nuclear device. It was not known until the completion of the Trinity test in July 1945 that the bomb would actually work. Additionally, General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, the two field commanders responsible for prosecuting the war in the Pacific had no knowledge of the existence of the bomb until much later. Hence, their plans were all formulated along conventional lines.

As pointed out, airfields can be restored to operational condition with some effort. Japan had, in 1945, around 250 airfields and landing strips. Of course, not all of these were in western Japan and not all of them were dedicated to use by the special attack units. Tactically, the carrier emphasis had to be on defending the fleet against the attacks rather than running off to try and destroy their bases.

The kamikaze campaign may have been destructive but results must be measured against the effort undertaken to achieve them. 2800 planes and pilots lost to sink only forty-seven mostly minor ships can be viewed as a U.S. victory.

It is also wrong to describe Japan as crushed in the spring of 1945. With several million men still under arms and capable of putting up a fight, the war had a long way to go before the dragon was defanged.
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby LineDoggie » 17 Feb 2017 03:10

Wellgunde wrote:
The kamikaze campaign may have been destructive but results must be measured against the effort undertaken to achieve them. 2800 planes and pilots lost to sink only forty-seven mostly minor ships can be viewed as a U.S. victory.

Yes Sunk was a small number
Damaged including massive damage like done to USS Franklin was far greater

Damaged 368 Ships, killed 4,900 US & UK/Commonwealth sailors, wounded 4,800 US & UK/Common wealth sailors
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Takao
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby Takao » 17 Feb 2017 17:05

LineDoggie wrote:Damaged including massive damage like done to USS Franklin was far greater

The USS Franklin suffered only moderate damage at the hands of the Kamikaze. Her first kamikaze attack, October 9, 1944, caused insignificant damage and did not interrupt flight operations. The second caused moderate damage to her with the loss of 33 aircraft, 56 killed, and 60 wounded.

The attack that she is famous for, was a conventional bombing attack, and not a kamikaze attack.

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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby cstunts » 17 Feb 2017 17:16

One of the very worst tokko attacks was against USS BUNKER HILL during the Okinawa campaign. She was hit on the morning of Friday, May 11, 1945 in quick succession by two kamikaze a/c carrying 500kg bombs. (info recording these as 250kg is not accurate.)

Extremely heavy loss of life, and one of the largest--if not THE largest--burials at sea in the history of the USN. In excess of 350 men, if I recall correctly, were buried the following day--May 12, 1945.

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Takao
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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby Takao » 18 Feb 2017 12:42

Wellgunde wrote:During the Okinawa campaign in March and April 1945, the Manhattan Project had yet to test a nuclear device. It was not known until the completion of the Trinity test in July 1945 that the bomb would actually work. Additionally, General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, the two field commanders responsible for prosecuting the war in the Pacific had no knowledge of the existence of the bomb until much later. Hence, their plans were all formulated along conventional lines.

Actually, Nimitz was told about the atomic bomb in February, 1945. MacArthur was told sometime later, but I have not been able to pin down when.

Still, given the unproven nature of the Bomb, both men proceeded planning the war along conventional lines.

Wellgunde wrote:As pointed out, airfields can be restored to operational condition with some effort. Japan had, in 1945, around 250 airfields and landing strips. Of course, not all of these were in western Japan and not all of them were dedicated to use by the special attack units.

Does this total include the 40-50 airfields on Formosa/Taiwan?

And What about the air bases in Korea that were used to base many Kamikazes during the Okinawa Campaign.

Wellgunde wrote:Tactically, the carrier emphasis had to be on defending the fleet against the attacks rather than running off to try and destroy their bases.

In the preliminary attack to the Okinawa invasion, the carriers were raiding Japanese airfields in an attempt to suppress Japanese aerial opposition to the landings. Then, later in the Campaign, once Marine and USAAF fighter units had established their presence on Okinawa and could take over fighter cover for the island, the carriers did return to suppress Japanese airfields.

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Re: Why the huge US losses on the home run?

Postby Takao » 19 Feb 2017 03:17

amnesia=war wrote:Why was crushed japan able to so destructively launch kamikazes in the last stages,...

As others have pointed out, the Japanese military was far from "crushed". In fact about the only element of Japan that was effectively "crushed" by early 1945, was the Imperial Japanese Navy's surface fleet - Most of those ships that were not sunk, were being used as floating AA batteries, because they did not have enough fuel to put to sea. Japan basically drained the last of her bunker oil reserves so that the Yamato Task Force could put to sea to aid in the defense of Okinawa.

The Japanese were able to wage an air campaign at Okinawa, because the were drawing on their remaining aircraft within the Empire. Aircraft were flown in from as far away as Singapore and several of their Chinese air bases, as well as using the aircraft that remained in the Home Islands. Basically, Japan was throwing everything she had at the Americans around Okinawa including floatplanes, training aircraft, as well as, the more capable combat aircraft. To fly these aircraft, Japan was increasingly relying on pilots that had less and less training.


amnesia=war wrote:...when surely USA had the ability to blitz any japanese airfields within range?

First, the Americans lacked the ability to effectively "Blitz" some 250 air fields scattered around Japan, another 50 or so in Formosa/Taiwan, and rear area air fields in Korea and China. The Americans could, and did "Blitz" the more important air fields in Japan and Formosa - both prior to the Okinawa invasion and during the Okinawa invasion. But, as others have pointed out, airfields can be made operational again in a relatively short time. IIRC, at best the airfield was knocked out for a few days, at worst, it was missed completely(more than a few Japanese villages nearby Japanese airfields were obliterated when bombs from American B-29s overshot their intended target.)

Second, the Americans underestimated the Japanese aerial response to their invasion of Okinawa, and this may have been because of the few Japanese aerial attacks at Iwo Jima(Japan had shot her aircraft bolt defending the Philippines, and was in the process of rebuilding her air forces.) Thus, the Japanese were able to mount 3 large Kamikaze raids (Kikusui #1, Kikusui #2, and Kikusui #3) before the Americans were able to bring their B-29s to bear on Japanese airfields in the Home Islands. Still, even though the B-29s were brought to bear on Japanese airfields(somewhere around 75% of the B-29 effort was now directed against Japanese airfields from mid-April, 1945 through mid-May, 1945, this did not stop the Japanese Kamikaze raids(the launched 7 more Kikusui Raids during the Okinawa Campaign). They did hinder the ability of the Japanese to launch the large raids that they had done early in the Campaign.

Third, the Japanese were not the complete idiots that you seem to think they were. Once the large American air raids started hitting their main airfields, the Japanese pulled back their operational aircraft to more distant bases in the Home Islands and Korea. Now with their aircraft safely out from under the American bombs, they only had to stage through the Kyushu airfields, to refuel and possibly arm, on their way to Okinawa. This greatly reduced the time that they were on the ground and vulnerable to American bombers.


amnesia=war wrote:Even carrier based planes off the coast could dominate japanese skies?

Dominating Japanese skies does not guarantee 100% success, as several American carriers found out to their detriment.

Further, Kamikazes could simply go around the American carrier fleet...If they decided not to attack it outright. You see, the American carriers could only contest a portion of Japanese airspace, and since the Kamikaze were on one way missions, they had a far greater range than American carrier aircraft.

Not to mention, that while you might be dominating over Japan...Formosa is not being touched, and their Kamikaze are not facing any opposition.


amnesia=war wrote:Why was USA bothering with the huge losses of okinawa etc., when all they had to do was back off and wait for the bomb to happen mere weeks later?

The Atomic bomb was not successfully detonated until after Okinawa was secure...Even then, there were grave doubts that the Bomb would work when dropped on Japan. For instance, in one of the last test drops of a "Pumpkin"(an Fat Man bomb shell without the Plutonium core), the Pumpkin sailed past it's detonation altitude and impacted with the Pacific Ocean without emitting the looked for puff of smoke that signal that the Bomb's detonators had worked as expected. Given that the Bomb was not foolproof, nor was it guaranteed to end the war - the Americans were burning Japanese cities to ash, and yet the Japanese still fought on. The only option available to the Americans was to continue the war as if the Atomic Bomb did not exist, and Okinawa was necessary as the main staging & forward supply base for the invasion of Japan.


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