Guadalcanal (Operation: Watchtower) as the IJA Stalingrad HASL Module

Wayne

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"WATCHTOWER" was mid-war, chronologically speaking. Early war per the American perspective.
Though smaller and quite different from RB, ASL OWT is historically kind of a RB HASL of the Pacific war.

For the Axis, Stalingrad and Guadalcanal were similar in that in both cases it was an Axis-expansion high-tide and an Axis loss of an entire army.

In both cases too the prevailing Allied force began their discovery of tactics that would carry them forward for the remainder of their war versus the losing Axis power.

Rightfully treating the G-T Blood and Sand HASL as p/o the Guadalcanal operation, ASL inclusion of G-T in an edition of the RS IJA module was kinda akin to inclusion of RB in an edition of BV.

[Maybe some future edition of RS will include OWT? Seems plausible. I only speculate.]

=+=+=

A Whitman's of various Guadalcanal histories both zoomed out and zoomed in (all paraphrased) --

In June '42 came reports of Japanese leveling an airstrip on Guadalcanal on the kunai plains on the Lunga R. It was a clear threat to the South Pacific shipping lane to New Zealand and Australia. The only available amphibious-trained unit was the 1st Mar Div of MAJ GEN Alex Vandegrift. He was a veteran jungle fighter from the Caribbean Banana Wars, as were many in the ranks of this 1940-formed division. Its elements were gathered from sea, Samoa, New Caledonia and Hawaii for a D-Day of 42.08.07, w/10 days of combat supply. Guadalcanal and Tulagi were the objectives.

History of WWII, LTC E. Bauer, 2000, Barnes & Nobel Books, pp 460-461
=-=-=

The unexpected news from Tulagi did not unduly alarm Imperial GHQ. They estimated not more than 2000 Americans were involved and that the action was just a reconnaissance in force. Their error was excusable. The IJN had not only kept secret from the IJA the extent of the Midway disaster, but had inflated American carrier and aircraft losses. IJN data did not allow for the possibility of a serious American offensive in the Pacific before 1943; none the less, GHQ moved w/urgency to counterattack & eject the Americans, so that work could resume on the IJN Guadalcanal airbase.

The Battle for Guadalcanal, Griffith, Univ of Illinois Press, 2000, p 44
=-=-=

The Marine Guadalcanal landing was unopposed but inexperienced coxswains and undersize shore parties landed only 37 days of food & four units of fire before the USN withdrew. Marines soon overran the worker-abandoned airfield and completed it using Japanese grading equipment. Defense and operation of Henderson Field (named for a pilot killed at Midway) became the primary US mission. In the ensuring campaign, airfield bombardments and repeated recapture attempts defined the Japanese counteroffensive as limited-objective US combat & recon operations kept the IJA off balance.

The History of WWII, LTC E. Bauer, 2000, Barnes & Nobel Books, pp 462-65
=-=-=

Many planes were dogfighting in & about the masses of cumulus clouds. I watched two, one chasing the other, pop out of the tower of cloud, trace a small, precise semi-circle, & go back in again. A few moments later, they made another circle, like two beads on the same wire. Other planes popped in & out of their levels in the cloud structure, & the whole area of the sky resounded w/the rattling of MGs; with so many guns firing at once, there was a cumulative effect as loud & as magnificent as thunder.

Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary, The Modern Library, 2000, p. 200
=-=-=

I was sitting on the ridge, looking out over the valley into a throng of Zeros dogfighting w/our Grummans in the clouds. Suddenly, I saw foilage move in a tree across the valley. I looked again, and was astonished to see a man in the crotch of the tree. He seemed to be moving his arms & upper body. I was so amazed at seeing him so clearly that I might have sat there and reflected on the matter if my reflexes had not been functioning--which they fortunately were. I flopped flat on the ground just as I heard the sniper's gun go off and the bullet whirred over my head.

Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary, The Modern Library, 2000, p 207
=-=-=

After the all-clear, I went to the airport and waited until our fighters came down. Most seemed almost hilariously elated as they taxied in and jumped down from their cockpits. It was not a bad score at all: three of our men, missing; 10 Bettys & 11 Zeros, shot down. We drove over the airfield on the way back to camp. In a neighboring field were lines of large craters; Jap bomb sticks (all missed the airport) had overturned a captured truck. That evening were the usual rumors of Japs on their way to attack us. Most of us slept w/our shoes on and w/our helmets nearby.

Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary, Modern Library, 2000, pp 138-39
=-=-=

Shortly after midnight the din of firing grew so tremendous there was no hope for sleep. We knew that the Raiders, COL Edson's people, had their hands full. An artillery observer, his line blown out, came to our dugout to relay instructions over our phone. "Drop it five zero and walk it back and forth across the ridge," he said. We heard the loud voice of the battery officer: "Load...fire!" Minutes later, a runner came in from Edson's lines. "COL Edson says the range is perfect," he said breathlessly. "It's right on. It's knocking the hell out of 'em."

Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary, The Modern Library, 2000, p 202
=-=-=

A grassy ridge S of Henderson led straight to the divisional cmd post & airfield. Astride it was a raider/parachute unit, just in from Tulagi, under COL Edson. A ridge attack was thought unlikely but, on 42.09.12, the ridge was probed; next night, in a heavy rain, 4000-strong Kawaguchi Force emerged fr/jungle; US flanking coys were smashed up onto the ridge center where, just 1000 yds fr/the cmd post, the defenses held: a bn of 105s smothered attack columns & assembly areas as reinforcing 5th Marine coys entered foxholes. By dawn, most IJA had vanished back into jungle.

The History of WWII, LTC E. Bauer, 2000, Barnes & Nobel Books, pp 465-6
=-=-=

The Battle of The Ridge ruined Edson's Paras (55 pct casualties) & Raiders (30+ pct); pursuit of Kawaguchi's troops (20 pct lost in battle) was impossible, but Kawaguchi's 3200 suffered mightily in the jungle: heavy equipment was abandoned or buried; food was gone by the 5th day of the 8 day trek. Barefoot, weak, clothed in tatters, and minus all but rifles, only 500 got back to IJA lines---to find no spare food there (Rabaul had planned on their capturing American food at Henderson Field); as one IJN officer noted later, ``The Army had been used to fighting the Chinese.''

Battle for Guadalcanal, Griffith, Univ. of IL Press, 2000, pp 121--125
=-=-=

Henderson Field covered US troop transport/supply ops while interdicting the IJN. By 43.01, this led to a 2:1 US troop advantage vs 25K isolated IJA troops who were incapable of offensive operations.

GEN Patch, a new US Guadalcanal CIC, was clearing the island when a massed IJN force gave him cause to pause in case of a direct invasion vs Henderson Field. But Rabaul had decided to evacuate: their campaign losses in ships, pilots, planes and troops had been staggering.

On the night of 43.02.07-08, 13K troops Dunkerqued-out; the Japanese never again advanced in the Pacific.

The History of WWII, LTC E. Bauer, 2000, Barnes & Nobel Books, pp 465-6
=-=-=

Piecemeal IJA reinforcement of Guadalcanal and the impetuosity of Japanese leaders played into American hands.

Typically, a few thousand would night-land on a flank and attack almost without delay; furious action at the point of contact would sometimes penetrate US lines, but then a fire brigade would arrive: a fresh bn, tank plt, extra bn of artillery, or a flight of dive-bombers---perhaps all of these at once---and the Japanese would be thrown back by killing fire.

The battle lasted six months; not once did the intensity slacken.

It was "the Stalingrad of the Pacific."

The History of WWII, LTC E. Bauer, 2000, Barnes & Nobel Books, p 465
=-=-=
 

Craig Benn

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Not really.
Stalingrad campaign was much more significant in terms of the result. Entire German 6th army - oversized and with appreciable amounts of armour completely destroyed. Twenty some divisions.

Japanese 17th army was a corps sized formation and about half were evacuated. Only 2 divisions plus some brigades and other units. There were definitely slack moments in the 6 month campaign- it wasn't intense all the time.

Not that it isn't a very interesting campaign or Operation Watchtower isn't a great HASL. Just that if you're looking for a PTO equivalent of Stalingrad- static and intense - other battles fit better. Pelilieu, Kohima, even Buna-Gona.

In terms of losing initiative- after Stalingrad Germans attacked at Kursk, Japanese made large scale attacks in Burma and China.
 

TopT

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Not really.
Stalingrad campaign was much more significant in terms of the result. Entire German 6th army - oversized and with appreciable amounts of armour completely destroyed. Twenty some divisions.

Japanese 17th army was a corps sized formation and about half were evacuated. Only 2 divisions plus some brigades and other units. There were definitely slack moments in the 6 month campaign- it wasn't intense all the time.

Not that it isn't a very interesting campaign or Operation Watchtower isn't a great HASL. Just that if you're looking for a PTO equivalent of Stalingrad- static and intense - other battles fit better. Pelilieu, Kohima, even Buna-Gona.

In terms of losing initiative- after Stalingrad Germans attacked at Kursk, Japanese made large scale attacks in Burma and China.
I would partially agree. You are not taking into account any of the Naval air & ship losses incurred by the Japanese around the Solomon Islands as a direct result of the battle on Guadalcanal. They were significant in skilled naval pilots alone. Guadalcanal shifted the initiative, in the Pacific, to the Allies permanently.

Peleliu was a fait Accompli. The Japanese did not have a chance except to how bad they would make the marines pay for the island.

Kohima could be considered along the lines of Stalingrad but by the time that defeat came, the writing was already on the wall. The 31st Division basically evaporated in retreat. It is a shame this HASL has died on the vine.

Buna-Gona was the conclusion of the Kokoda Track campaign. Together and taken in context with Guadalcanal, they halted Japanese advances in the south pacific permanently thus forcing Japan to come up with their attack towards Imphal/ Kohima in order to attempt to drive the British out of the war with a rebellion in India. It didn't quite work out that way.
 

Craig Benn

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Well....Japanese naval losses at Guadalcanal in terms of ships aren't that significant. Their fleet is shattered in 1944 not 1942. If anything the USN has more serious losses with CV Hornet and Wasp being lost. The Japanese transport losses are probably the most painful.

For air losses, I agree partially - it was the continuationof serious attrition (begun at Coral Sea/Midway). But the Japanese were still capable of large scale air offensives with reasonably good quality pilots in 1943 - for example Operation I in April 1943. And the IJAAF which is 50% of Japanese pilots isn't really involved in the Guadalcanal campaign and not attrited by it. Its the combined effects of Guadalcanal/New Guinea in 1942 and 1943 that reduces pilot quality.

It depends what you mean by initiative. The Japanese plan was never to continue advancing for ever in the Pacific but to stake out a defensive perimeter and get a negotiated peace. After Guadalcanal it's still capable of offensives outside the Pacific and large scale counterattacks in it like Operation I.

I think what I'm trying to say is that in February 1943 when the Guadalcanal/Stalingrad campaigns end , the Germans are in a much worse position. Its pretty clear they're going to be kicked out of Russia. In the Solomons much less clear that a defensive line can't be held.

It's difficult to draw comparisons because the air/naval side is so much more important in the PTO. So maybe we shouldn't.

It's the battle of the Phillipine Sea that ends Japanese hopes. Would the equivalent be Kursk (not nearly as one sided) or Bagration? (a catastrophe but in terms of raw materials getting to Factories less damaging than the USN being able to run riot).

Guadalcanal and Stalingrad just a bit too different to try and shoehorn together I think.

Interesting discussion....
 

Eagle4ty

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Well....Japanese naval losses at Guadalcanal in terms of ships aren't that significant. Their fleet is shattered in 1944 not 1942. If anything the USN has more serious losses with CV Hornet and Wasp being lost. The Japanese transport losses are probably the most painful.

For air losses, I agree partially - it was the continuationof serious attrition (begun at Coral Sea/Midway). But the Japanese were still capable of large scale air offensives with reasonably good quality pilots in 1943 - for example Operation I in April 1943. And the IJAAF which is 50% of Japanese pilots isn't really involved in the Guadalcanal campaign and not attrited by it. Its the combined effects of Guadalcanal/New Guinea in 1942 and 1943 that reduces pilot quality.

It depends what you mean by initiative. The Japanese plan was never to continue advancing for ever in the Pacific but to stake out a defensive perimeter and get a negotiated peace. After Guadalcanal it's still capable of offensives outside the Pacific and large scale counterattacks in it like Operation I.

I think what I'm trying to say is that in February 1943 when the Guadalcanal/Stalingrad campaigns end , the Germans are in a much worse position. Its pretty clear they're going to be kicked out of Russia. In the Solomons much less clear that a defensive line can't be held.

It's difficult to draw comparisons because the air/naval side is so much more important in the PTO. So maybe we shouldn't.

It's the battle of the Phillipine Sea that ends Japanese hopes. Would the equivalent be Kursk (not nearly as one sided) or Bagration? (a catastrophe but in terms of raw materials getting to Factories less damaging than the USN being able to run riot).

Guadalcanal and Stalingrad just a bit too different to try and shoehorn together I think.

Interesting discussion....
The biggest problem with comparing actions in Russia, Europe and the Pacific and determining a true turning point or thee comparable HASL with the same effect of Stalingrad is that in the campaign against Imperial Japan the Japanese Army and Navy never had a comprehensive combined strategy and suffered stunning war aims changing defeats at different times. Add to this often times the two services worked at cross purposes with vastly different objectives. Additionally the immense areas covered by the Japanese war effort makes it hard to determine a single battle or campaign that materially affected their war aims let alone capabilities at any given point in time.

If one just looks at land actions in the South/Southwest Pacific area (only) as a comparable point, probably the IJAs repulse against Port Moresby along the Kokoda Trail by the Australians was comparable to Stalingrad to the point it stopped the attack creep mentality of the Japanese army in that theater at least operationally if not strategically. In fact, by Jan of 1943, even with the reverses suffered at Guadalcanal and before Port Moresby, the Japanese still held the strategic initiative as well as the preponderance of ground and air assets not to mention the same for naval assets available in the area. Indeed by Feb 1943 the Japanese were still contemplating an offensive land action aimed at Port Moresby and envisioned the addition of a full division (the 20th from Korea) to reinforce Guadalcanal once again. It was only after the Battles of the Bismark Sea 2-4 March 1943, conducted by Kinney's 5th Air Force and the 9th Operational Group of the RAAF against the 51st Division's convoy headed towards Lae, New Guinea that any further thoughts of offensive actions in the south/southwest Pacific by the Japanese were put to final rest. In those actions the Japanese would lose approximately 2890 troops of the 6900 in the convoy (~2700 personnel minus equipment were rescued and landed at Rabaul while the remainder in various stages of combat worthiness made landfall in western New Guinea). The IJN along with army and naval air assets would lose 12 transports, 3 cruisers. 7 destroyers and 55 aircraft to the combined USAAF/RAAF loss of 1x B17, 3x P38s, 1x B25 & 1x RAAF Beaufighter along with 10 airmen KIA & another 8 wounded. The follow-on convey carrying the IJA 20th Division would be redirected, successfully landing in western New Guinea never to see the shores of Guadalcanal, thus ending forever any thoughts of a strategic offensive in either theater.

For pure ferocity of combat as measured by personnel losses though, the Buna-Gona campaign far outstrips the actions on Guadalcanal. On Guadalcanal the front line infantry formations would lose ~1 of every 35 personnel available KIA to enemy action whereas in the Buna-Gona area the Australians & US Amy troops would suffer ~1 of every 11 infantryman committed as a KIA to enemy action, the Australians suffering the majority of the losses at a comparative rate of 60:40%. Of course the strategic and operational objective were different as the 1st Marine Div and attached US Army troops of the 164th RCT, Americal Division were at least strategically on the defensive in Guadalcanal whereas the Australian (7th ID) and US Army troops (32nd ID) at Buna-Gona were strategically and operationally on the offensive. For non-combat related casualties (disease, undernourishment, etc) and WIAs as a percentage of total casualties suffered in either campaign, they exacted approximately the same percentage of the total of the forces involved under very similar circumstances and conditions. For the Japanese the estimated casualties weren't even close. Their casualties at Buna-Gona (almost all KIA by a combination of reasons) exceeded those on Guadalcanal by ~ a 5:1 margin. For the Allied forces in either campaign the respective units were considered combat ineffective for an extensive period of time following the campaigns; for the Japanese the units involved were all but eliminated as an effective and cohesive force for the remainder of the war and most simply disappeared from the Japanese order of battle altogether.

For my money though, the engagement that had the equivalent impact on the Japanese (at least in the Pacific) that Stalingrad had on the Germans is Operation Galvanic, the invasion of Tarawa 20-23 November of 1943. With the Marine's victory over the Japanese on that defended island it became clear to both sides that the Japanese idea of an impenetrable outer defensive zone was was unattainable. To paraphrase Winston Churchill's quote and apply it to the Pacific, "It may not have been the beginning of the end, but it certainly marked the end of the beginning."
 

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Guadalcanal was a "sinkhole for Japanese airpower".
 

PresterJohn

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I have listened to talks where the speakers have said that the oil problems for Japan began to become significant when the USN got to work on Japanese shipping in 1943. Was it the failure of military campaigns like Guadalcanal that majorly reversed the Japanese outlook, or simply the eventual crushing deprivation of oil that "turned the tide" for Japan.
 

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Oil supply was one of the factors that hastened the turning of the tide against Japan, especially for the IJN, but it wasn't the root cause of their defeat. However the reasons for the lack of oil supply most certainly was, especially in the South Pacific. That is to say the application of Allied air and sea power to cripple the Japanese supply system had a deleterious effect on their ability to plan and execute military operations in far flung locations that relied upon a tenuous sea route for logistical support. In essence there was no "Stalingrad" land battle that had the same effect in the PTO but air and sea battles like The Bismark Sea and Philippine Sea essentially accomplished the same objective in the South Pacific that Operation Uranus had against the Germans at Stalingrad. By April 1943 when we shot down and killed ADM Yamamoto, most of the objectives of Operation Cartwheel, the reduction of Rabaul as a strategic powerful Japanese base, had been accomplished, and outlying areas such as the Solomon's, New Guinea, Dutch East Indies and the Gilbert's were untenable outposts cut off from effective resupply.
 

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I have listened to talks where the speakers have said that the oil problems for Japan began to become significant when the USN got to work on Japanese shipping in 1943. Was it the failure of military campaigns like Guadalcanal that majorly reversed the Japanese outlook, or simply the eventual crushing deprivation of oil that "turned the tide" for Japan.
I'd say that the outlook for Japan were unfavorable even before the war began. We have to remember that the oil embargo vs. Japan by the US with the intention of inhibiting the imperial policy was one of the reasons to begin the war. Its economic prowess was by far inferior, which Yamamoto was acutely aware of using the picture of "waking the sleeping giant".

From a logistical perspective, Japan's position was highly unpleasant: For its war machine to function, it had insufficinent resources in its home territory. Oil from the Dutch East Indies was far away, the sea lanes were always a challenge even without opposition.

In short, time was against Japan from the outset.

At the beginning of the war, the Japanese carrier forces were superior to any other carrier force in the world. Their pilots were an extremely well-trained elite. The air-wings were capable of and trained for operations which closely coordinated the aircraft of more than one carrier while airborne. This force posed a formidable threat because it would be superior wherever it appeared. Just where that would be, was the question: It could be dominant in one spot, but if you didn't know just where that was, the threat was everywhere. Even at the beginning of the war, though, the logistical challenge to keep such a force deployed, was staggering.

The battle of Midway dealt a serious blow to this decisive force, opening the door for future Allied naval operations that would otherwise have been too risky at the time. Japan "lost time" of supremacy by losing the important fleet carriers early. Even if they had not, the US would have prevailed but then it would have needed more time for wrenching the supremacy from the Japanese by out-building them.

Even the full power of the Japanese carrier forces were overstreched at the beginning of the war to cover the vast spaces of the Pacific. After the defeat at Midway, this was even more true and it allowed the US to face the Japanese potentially on par earlier.

The role of the US submarine force vs. the Japanese shipping lines and thus the vital logistics is often underestimated. For quite some time, the submariners were plagued with torpedo issues - they worked badly, very often failing to detonate. This obscured the fact, that Japanese logistical shipping was very vulnerable, once the Allies had established some forward bases, which would not have been possible as early as it was accomplished without Midway. The Japanese put a low priority on escorting their freighters and were always lacking destroyer escorts for the purpose. Through the entire war, the Imperial Navy was obsessed with a "decisive naval battle" vs. the Allies. Furthermore, escorting some lowly slow freighters was deemed having not much honor in it. These factors cumulatively put Japanese sea lines of communication increasingly at peril, especially when the torpedo-problems were finally overcome and the Allied submarines did their "silent service".

So IMHO the incapability of maintaining lines of communication was decisive. Without it, they could not sustain military operations or only at unbearable cost like at Guadalcanal. Nor could they sustain oil supply without them. Thus, IMHO the real question should be:

What broke the logistics to establish and to maintain the Japanese war effort?


von Marwitz
 

PresterJohn

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Interesting that the Japanese fighting spirit should be implicated in their lack of attention to the details of war. Supposedly amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics. In this light the blame would lie with the Japanese staff colleges. Did they have such things? Or perhaps they were too busy fighting the Army/Navy "war".
 

Old Noob

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Too busy fighting the Army/Navy "war" to the point that the IJA was building supply submarines of their own, to resupply cut-off bases.
 

ParaMarine

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It's a game I have but never even considered playing. Might have to. Guadalcanal was the decisive battle of the Pacific War. Naval and ground it was the turning point for Nippon. It must never be forgotten as the great victory of WW2.
 
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