Amphibious landings

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
User avatar
Pips
Member
Posts: 1278
Joined: 26 Jun 2005 08:44
Location: Country NSW, Australia

Amphibious landings

Post by Pips » 11 May 2023 06:29

This is a general question regarding all theatres in WWII, so if it belongs under another heading Admin please feel free to move. :)

It's been said that Amphibious landings (as opposed to raids) were considered to be one of the most hazardous operations to conduct in war. In WWII there were a multitude of opposed landings across most theatres, yet I am only aware of three that failed i.e. Castellorizo in the Aegean in 1941; Dieppe in 1942; and the first attempt on Wake Island in the Pacific in 1942.

With such a high success rate am curious as to why amphibious landings are considered so difficult.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 10032
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Amphibious landings

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 11 May 2023 18:48

Multi part answer.

Part of the difficulty is in transiting from boats to land. That increases non combat casualties in men and equipment. There is no set formula for estimating these operational losses, as there are variables in weather, beach conditions, boats and disembark methods, training...

If the land operation is against a defended shore it gets hairy very fast and bloody. The landings on OMAHA Beach or Betio island were successful, but they also have very high combat casualties per meter of assault front. Its preferable to land across lightly defended coast and march overland to the objective, but not always practical.

Successfully fighting across that beach requires immense training, and coordination of support. If your signals and communications plan is flawed its going to be difficult. Its not mentioned much in the documentaries, but one of the principle reasons OMAHA Beach was so difficult was the radio communications failed during the first two hours. It was almost 08:30 before the Naval Gunfire links to the assault battalions were functioning. They were supposed to be established minutes after the first wave touched shore at 06:35.

Back when I was paid to do amphibious warfare I found most of the planning went into other things than the beach assault. That was a small part of it. A immense amount of time went into planning and executing the naval side to it, from bringing the correct ships together, getting them loaded, having the fire support where it needed to be, protecting the amphib fleet and landing operation. A example of the last being botched was when Kuritas battle fleet got into Leyte Gulf. A bad command and communications arraignment at the top allowed that, compounded by a over focus on one part of the enemy forces. Planning and executing the follow up, with fighting inland from the beach and getting the follow up landed was also larger than the assault planning.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries the Brit Royal Navy and Army both ran hundreds of successful combined operations against the worlds littorals. But, in the Great War they manage to botch a couple, and canceled others as too hard or not worth the effort. Many drew the wrong lessons there & claimed amphib ops were obsolete in the modern industrial world. Others like the Brits and USN or Japanese refocused on applying the new technology correctly. If most amphib ops or littoral ops succeeded its because the militaries involved had put a lot of effort into training their leaders on how to Plan, Organize, and Execute these ops. Where they failed it was because some one did not pay attention to the details and half assed it based on false assumptions.

An example of a badly done littoral operation would be the Japanese effort on Guadalcanal. Their initial landing and follow up building the airfield was extremely vulnerable to counter attack, over the course of the campaign they landed some 40,000 Army and Naval personnel and got 28,000+ killed. Logistics planning consisted of a hope to capture the US supply dumps and a initial belief there would be no effective attacks on the cargo ships, attacks were made with very bad intel & ignoring the intel they had. Coordination between the Navy & Army was bad, operational assumptions made by each were far off reality. Despite having participating forces of combat experienced veteran units and those being arguably better tactically than most US forces, and with good weapons bad assumptions and horrible planning ensured a embarrassing & costly defeat.

A badly planned tactical amphib assault might be Op RESERVIST. The operation was based on assumption the defense would be both surprised and slow to react. There was no allowance for that not being true. The result was a complete failure and massacre.

Some amphib landings were unsuccessful in that they were canceled at the last minute. The first assault on Wake island was repealed by sinking part of the attacking fleet. The landing force did not even try. Another would be the first try at Milne Bay. The amphib group was ordered to turn around and not try during the battle of the Coaral Sea. Despite that the Japanese decided they had won the carrier battle the admiral lost confidence he could cover the apmphib flotilla & psortphoned the operation.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 10032
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Amphibious landings

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 11 May 2023 19:09

Pips wrote:
11 May 2023 06:29
It's been said that Amphibious landings (as opposed to raids) were considered to be one of the most hazardous operations to conduct in war. In WWII there were a multitude of opposed landings across most theatres, yet I am only aware of three that failed i.e. Castellorizo in the Aegean in 1941; Dieppe in 1942; and the first attempt on Wake Island in the Pacific in 1942.
There were a bunch of obscure 'landings' that failed. Obscure because they were small tactical ops. The Japanese had a small landing force on Battan massacred. The Red Army and Navy had a couple tactical landings destroyed or driven off. At a larger scale there were several. I was trained to think of these things in terms of Littoral Warfare or Operations. In that context the failure rate goes up & is more spectacular. I already mentioned the Japanese effort at Guadalcanal. The Red Army managed to lose a similar operation across the Kerch Strait. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea saw a reinforcement to the forces ashore in New Guinea neutralized at sea. The evacuation of Wake island did not occur because the US fleet commander could not resolve refueling problems for his force, and the threat of enemy naval forces. The German Sea Lion operation never got off the docks for any number of reasons.

Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”