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Pacific War - Three Roads to Tokyo

Between 1940 and 1947, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby starred in five of the Paramount “Road pictures”, parodies of various popular globe-hopping adventure genres. The character names changed from picture to picture, but they nearly always started out as fast-talking song-and-dance men, who never took even the direst life-or-death situation too seriously. They are some of the best-loved film comedies ever created, mainly films made to provide a little escapism from the war.

The American counter-offensive would consist of several sequential phases. First, stabilize the front to preclude further Japanese advances. Second, advance towards Japan, eventually closing within range of the new B-29 Superfortress bombers, which could destroy Japanese warmaking potential from forward airfields. Finally, stage an amphibious assault on the Japanese home islands. The strategy was unlike that of the European theater, where operations entailed progressively rolling back Axis forces from their wartime conquests. Instead, large pockets of Japanese occupied territory in China, South-east Asia, and Pacific Islands, would be bypassed on the path to striking at the heart of the enemy.

The United States envisioned at least three approaches to the Japanese home islands. The first approach, under "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, envisioned moving overland, from Burma up through China, where airfields could be built to bombard Japan. The second approach, under General Douglas MacArthur, called for moving toward Japan along the larger island chains, from New Guinea to the Phillipines. The third approach, under Admiral Chester Nimitz, called for moving across the smaller Pacific islands.

  1. The "Forgotten War" in the China-Burma-India Theater was so dubbed because it lacked the priority the Southwest and Central Pacific campaigns received in Washington. This approach, under US General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell eventually petered out in the face of innumerable difficulties and the massive Japanese "Ichi-go" counter-attack in 1944. A few B-29s made it to China, but dropped only a trivial number of bombs before they were withdrawn. The original policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall succeeded - China stayed in the war and prevented sizable numbers of Japanese troops from deploying to the Pacific.

  2. Since 1942 Army troops and Marines in the south Pacific had thrown the enemy back from his furthermost advances in New Guinea and the Solomons, traveled 1500 miles up the New Guinea coastline, and conquered the Admiralty Islands, Biak and Morotai. The Japanese Army, given the losses of the Japanese Navy and logistical constraints, had been virtually powerless to stop the Allied advance in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in 1943. Meanwhile, Marines and Army troops were cleaning up in the Solomons and the Palaus. In October of 1944 these achievements culminated in the landing of American troops in Leyte. Four months after MacArthur had returned, the Allies freed Manila.

  3. Westward across the Central Pacific other Marines and Army units, in hard fought battles, forced the Japanese back four thousand miles. Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima were the stepping stones. Army and Marine divisions slowly but steadily swept the Japanese from Okinawa. Tinian, a small island in the Bonins, was transformed into an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" from which B-29 bombers rained destruction down onto Japan. This "island hopping" strategy proved decisive.

During 1944 the war situation in the central Pacific grew worse for Japan. In the summer of that year Saipan and Guam fell into American hands and an invasion of the Philippines was imminent. Imperial General Headquarters planned to strengthen defenses on Okinawa and Formosa in order to meet any attempt by the enemy to sever lines of communication between the Japanese Homeland and the southern areas.

In April 1944, Operation ICHI-GO, the largest military operation in Japanese history, was an effort by the Japanese Army to at least push back Allied airfields out of bomber range of the Japanese Home Islands, if not to to force China out of the war and vanquish all of mainland China. It was coordinated with the Operation U-GO invasion of India. One year before the end of the War of Resistance Against Japan, the Japanese army, which was devastated, launched the "mainland war". On thousands of kilometers of front, Japanese tanks ran rampant.

Virtually the only American combat force in China when the Japanese launched Operation Ichigo, 14th Air Force aircraft hammered Japanese men and equipment. The attacks disrupted timing, but could not contain the land offensive. Japanese analysis did attribute over 75 percent of resistance to their Ichigo ground offense to the airmen and aircraft of the 14th Air Force.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:08:56 ZULU