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Monte Cassino - The Hardest-Fought Battle of WW2?


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#21 hammerlock

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1035 AM

[quote name='Colin Williams' date='Mon 19 Sep 2005 1819']
Looking through Matthew Parker's book of the above title, which claims Cassino as "The largest land battle in Europe, Cassino was the bitterest and bloodiest of the Western Allies' struggles against the German Wehrmacht on any front of the Second World War. On the German side, many compared it unfavorably with Stalingrad."

Excuse me? Even allowing for the sentence above as a necessary clarification of the exaggerated title (and thereby setting aside such Pacific battles as Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Kohima-Imphal, etc. and also anything on the Eastern front from Stalingrad to Berlin) I can't see that one is doing an injustice to the veterans of Cassino to recognize that there were both larger battles (e.g., Normandy) and ones of perhaps equal intensity (e.g., Ortona, Anzio, Normandy again, the Huertgen Forest, the Reichswald, I culd go on and on).



You do see that the tilte say in europe by the western allies, right? So you can't include any battles in the Pacific unless they suddenly became part of Europe... and Its western allies so again does include battles fought by the USSR. SO most of statment just doesn't apply. Is its exaggerated, I think so there were bigger battles, but not having read the book i can't say what he is using to justice this tilte. It did crew up a lot of resouces and men, but so did many other battles. the Normandy break for one, the battle of the Scheldt and many others.
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#22 Rich

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1130 AM

This illustrates my point perfectly.

Excuse me? Even allowing for the sentence above as a necessary clarification of the exaggerated title (and thereby setting aside such Pacific battles as Tarawa,


A battle that took about two days and engaged a single division.

Iwo Jima,

Four weeks, three divisions

Kohima-Imphal,


Three months, 5 1/3 divisions

Stalingrad to Berlin

Years, entire theaters

Normandy


Two months, roughly 30 divisions

Ortona

A week, elements of a single division

Anzio


Which part of the overall campaign? The initial Allied assault? The initial German counterattack? The prepared German counterattack (Phase I or II)? The static phase? The Allied Breakout? So weeks to months and from 2 to 7 divisions.

Huertgen Forest

Effectively individual divisions seriatim for the most part, for a few weeks to as long as a month

Reichswald


Weeks and 3 divisions (IIRC?)

I culd go on and on


Sure, so could I and it would remain as meaningless. :D You cannot define intensity without defining the parameters of the battle. So for some individual small units a few minutes may be more objectively intense than months of battle by entire army groups. Nor can you "compare" different battles unless they are actually comparable, Ortona was not the "same" as Normandy, although Normandy was "similar" to Stalingrad (in terms of time and troops committed, if you count the German attack phase as seperate from the Soviet counteroffensive).



Start with defining the terms and then we can explore the reality rather than the suppositions.

Edited by Rich, 20 September 2005 - 1131 AM.

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#23 lucklucky

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1212 PM

Italy if i am not mistaken was the only place in 2WW that the Allies had more casualities than the Axis when attacking. That must mean something.
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#24 Scott Cunningham

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1259 PM

And I would submit that Tarawa, Pelileu, and Iwo Jima were the most useless battles ever fought.  The high number of casualties was not worth the strategic and tactical total non-value of the objectives.  Okinawa was a bloodbath, but the objective was essential to the eventual invasion of Japan.  MacArthur's push up the north coast of New Guinea went further (in miles), took place more quickly, and had far fewer casualties than Nimitz's run from Tarawa to Saipan.

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I would agree 100% with Pelileu, and possibly Iwo Jima, but I think Tarawa was necessary. You have to start somewhere. Saipan and a few of the others were pretty brutal as well. The US Army was riunning up from the S. Its battles tended to be far less bloody (until Okinawa) but still as effective as Nimitz's central Pacific Drive.

USMC battles in the Pacific were usually over in several bloody days. The Army campaigns were more drawn out. Both were effective.
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#25 larrikin

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1446 PM

What gets me about Monte Cassino is that Juins turning movement through the mountians is exactly what Freyberg and Tuker wanted to do months earlier, but weren't aloowed to..:(
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#26 Old Tanker

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1459 PM

I would agree 100% with Pelileu, and possibly Iwo Jima, but I think Tarawa was necessary.

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The worst thing about Tarawa was it could of been considerably less bloody.

The U.S.M.C. raided nearby Makin in Aug. of '42 as a cover for Watchtower.

The IJN then decided to strengthen the area including Tarawa, but they didn't start real seriously until March of '43.

The U.S. could of taken and held Tarawa in Jan. - Feb. of '43 at minimal cost.
Instead they waited until Nov. , bad decision making IMHO.
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#27 Colin Williams

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1546 PM

Colin, not wanting to spoil the ending of the book, etc. but can you relate how he justifies this, especially the 'largest land battle' part? Most curious....  Cheers,  Ken

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Ken,

I'm only on page 36, but a quick look through via the index suggests that the author doesn't focus much on casualties or other measures above the battalion level. There's certainly a great deal on personal histories. The ending? I believe Mark Clark wins the war and gets the glory! :D
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#28 Colin Williams

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 1558 PM

This illustrates my point perfectly...You cannot define intensity without defining the parameters of the battle. So for some individual small units a few minutes may be more objectively intense than months of battle by entire army groups. Nor can you "compare" different battles unless they are actually comparable, Ortona was not the "same" as Normandy, although Normandy was "similar" to Stalingrad (in terms of time and troops committed, if you count the German attack phase as seperate from the Soviet counteroffensive).
Start with defining the terms and then we can explore the reality rather than the suppositions.

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Rich,

Admittedly it's a difficult problem. One could, for example, scale among all battles/campaigns by looking at the casualties as a percentage of those engaged, with some clearly defined boundary on size of unit (since many battles thought to be comparatively mild at the army or corps level might involve the near complete destruction of an individual company or battalion). But, this doesn't cover the duration effect. Soldiers in Normandy or Anzio might have been in greatest danger during D-Day or the attack on St. Lo or during the German Fischfang (sp?) counteroffensive, but in many cases their personal stories focus on the day-to-day hazards of fighting and living in the bocage or the wadis. Baron's examples of New Guinea add an interesting third perspective because there the jungle environment wasn't just something that constrained the nature of the fighting but was actually more of a hazard than enemy action.

One thing that strikes me about Cassino in particular and the Italian campaign in general (especially Anzio and the Gothic Line battles) is the progressive wearing down of individual divisions then replaced with others that are worn down in their turn and so on for many months. In this regard there are strong analogies with the Huertgen.
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#29 KingSargent

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 2053 PM

The worst thing about Tarawa was it could of been considerably less bloody.

The U.S.M.C. raided nearby Makin in Aug. of '42 as a cover for Watchtower.

The IJN then decided to strengthen the area including Tarawa, but they didn't start real seriously until March of '43.

The U.S. could of taken and held Tarawa in Jan. - Feb. of '43 at minimal cost.
Instead they waited until Nov. , bad decision making IMHO.

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They could have gone right past Tarawa at least to the Marshalls, which were hardly defended at all at the time. They couldn't have done it before November, though, they didn't have the amphibious capability.

As to the way the battle was fought, it was pretty stupid. Gallant, butstupid.
I suggested some time ago that they could have landed on the island next to Betio in the Tarawa ring (which was totally undefended), set up artillery, and kept the Jap airfield suppressed and prevented re-supply efforts. The Japanese had no way to get to the other island to push them off. I recently found out that precisely that was proposed during the planning stages by USMC artillery officers.

There was at least one island in the group other than Betio that could have supported an airstrip, and the CBs could have built one from scratch faster than they could clean up the mess on Betio and build another airstrip on top of it.
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#30 KingSargent

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 2101 PM

"The Enema Place"?

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Guadalcanal: Place Where God Put Hose When World Need Enema.
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#31 KingSargent

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 2118 PM

MacArthur's push up the north coast of New Guinea went further (in miles), took place more quickly, and had far fewer casualties than Nimitz's run from Tarawa to Saipan.

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And contributed nothing to the war effort. Well, maybe as much as Churchill's second foray into Greece.

I totally agree that most Central Pacific landings were mainly useless, even in terms of providing B-29 bases. The B-29 was driving strategy at the time.

At the two best bases in the Pacific aside from the Marianas - Majuro and Ulithi - the US just moved in and set up shop. In Majuro's case, the atoll was within range of four Japanese-occupied atolls which land-based air from Majuro had no trouble suppressing.

In the case of the Marianas, the Japanese had minimal defenses until we had taken the Gilberts and the Marshalls. Our strategy allowed them to fortify new places while we were attacking the ones in front. Apparently nobody thought of just going past the ones and in front and taking the ones in the rear before defenses could be built. Well, Wilkinson did, even before the war, but he wasn't in charge.

When the Marianas campaign was going on, TF58 sent TGs to raid any island that looked close enough for Japanese based there to be a problem. The one assigned to Iwo Jima (Jocko Clark IIRC?) noted the island was undefended even if an airstrip had begun and suggested the floating reserve force in the Marianas be sent to occupy it. This simple and completely possible operation in 1944 would have saved a lot of lives that were lost there a year later.
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#32 Ken Estes

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 0114 AM

King, just as it is argued that No Africa and Sicily were vital for giving experience to army units, it is hard to see how the USMC could have performed well in 1944 without the harsh lessons of Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Comm, ship-to-shore movement, air-ground, naval gunfire, tank-infantry and infantry tactics all had a long way to go from 1941. Since the 4th MarDiv sent observers to Tarawa, including the C/S Carlson, they took the lessons seriously and the two divisions worked over Saipan and Tinian to good effect.

As for the most wasted battles, Peleliu was manifestly unnecessary. It has taken decades before the Iwo lore could be countered ['for every marine lost, an airman was saved' and so forth; most important was Forrestal's comment as the flag went up on Mt Suribachi: "...means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years"] but it now appears that we can do so, and the old books are upstaged recently by a USMC major's article in the J of Mil Hist to that effect.

I think the USN lacked confidence to take Kwajelein [a useful base for the rest of the war, still is] first, thinking the Marshalls strongly fortified, but they did use the reserve to take Eniwetok. They did bypass Truk and numerous other garrisons. Probably nobody thought Iwo worth the same effort in the summer of '44, not on anybody's scope yet and there were a lot of unoccupied islets tht could have been seized. Garrisoning them might have been seen as a drag.
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#33 KingSargent

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 0205 AM

King, just as it is argued that No Africa and Sicily were vital for giving experience to army units, it is hard to see how the USMC could have performed well in 1944 without the harsh lessons of Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Comm, ship-to-shore movement, air-ground, naval gunfire, tank-infantry and infantry tactics all had a long way to go from 1941. Since the 4th MarDiv sent observers to Tarawa, including the C/S Carlson, they took the lessons seriously and the two divisions worked over Saipan and Tinian to good effect.

Agreed that the USMC and the Navy amphibious landing ships, could not have done as well without the examples of Tarawa the way the war was fought. (I see eyes rolling, "Ogawd, here he goes again!")
My contention is that it would not be necessary to fight in head-on assaults as the USMC did, if a little initiative in the choice of objectives had been shown. It's not just my hindsight, either. Even before the war VADM Wilkinson - who later became one of the star amphibious commanders - had said that the way to get across the Pacific was to bypass Japanese fortified islands and set up bases on unoccupied areas to cut off the Japanese units marooned on their island. He as for a time MacArthur's Amphib commander, so I have an idea where the 'bypassing strategy' that everyone slobbers on Big Mac's shoes about came from.

Majuro and Ulithi, taken at no cost at all aside from accidental injuries, proved more valuable to the US than any place that was assaulted at such cost. The Marianas were considered necessary as B-29 bases; the B-29 project was the most expensive in US history, surpassing the Manhattan Project. Basing B-29s in China was not working out, they needed some place to fly them from (and nobody mention the Aleutians or I'll have you spend a winter there! :P ). But the Marianas could have been almost as much of a walkover as Majuro and Ulithi were if the Fleets and the Marines had gone there while the Japanese were fortifying the Gilberts and Marshalls.

As for the most wasted battles, Peleliu was manifestly unnecessary. It has taken decades before the Iwo lore could be countered ['for every marine lost, an airman was saved' and so forth; most important was Forrestal's comment  as the flag went up on Mt Suribachi: "...means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years"]but it now appears that we can do so, and the old books are upstaged recently by a USMC major's article in the J of Mil Hist to that effect.

Agreed. Peleliu was a waste even is one considers the Pacific strategy to have been divinely inspired.

I think the USN lacked confidence to take Kwajelein [a useful base for the rest of the war, still is]first, thinking the Marshalls strongly fortified, but they did use the reserve to take Eniwetok. They did bypass Truk and numerous other garrisons. Probably nobody thought Iwo worth the same effort in the summer of '44, not on anybody's scope yet and there were a lot of unoccupied islets tht could have been seized. Garrisoning them might have been seen as a drag.

Wilkinson didn't lack confidence; but it wasn't his say.
Kwajalein was at least 50% waste. Even if it was vital, all that was really necessary was to take the less-defended Kwajalein end of the atoll and build an airstrip there to keep the Japanese on Roi-Namur quiet. Instead the USMC did the 'hey-diddle-diddle, right up the middle' trick, took a lot of casualties, killed a lot of Japanese doing it, and totally wrecked the Japanese installations so the ruins had to be bulldozed under before a US airstrip could be built. And they built another one on Kwajalein, too.
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#34 Ken Estes

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 0247 AM

Heh, that's good one on us King, but once you taught table manners and how to run a division to the marines of Belleau Wood and the Banana Wars, where and when were you going to teach them some form of Hutier tactics, when all the USN promised was a Higgins Boat ride to the nearest machine gun nest on a sandy beach?

Once again, we must go to what the people thought they were doing at the time they were doing it. None of the senior leadership had a clue how fast a full-up airstrip could be built from scratch in coral atolls. The aircraft required to tamp down JA/IJN garrisons in the archipeligos were still on the drawing boards and the squadrons did not fill out until 43/44. The doctrine was the defense and seizure of advance bases in support of an island hopping strategy in the Pacific...thus bases would be seized, not isolated pieces of land, and they would perforce be defended. There would also be a major fleet action at about the same time, so making lots of landings might have to wait the outcome of these. Shaking out of this mindset [not USMC alone] has taken us to today's OMFTS/STOM that still has too few adherents and far too little funding, and perhaps rightly so if we face only continental opponents [the IJN will not be back for yet a few generations].
Ken
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#35 KingSargent

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 0306 AM

Heh, that's  good one on us King, but once you taught table manners

:huh: Marines were taught table manners?!! You kidder, you... :P

and how to run a division to the marines of Belleau Wood and the Banana Wars, where and when were you going to teach them some form of Hutier tactics, when all the USN promised was a Higgins Boat ride to the nearest machine gun nest on a sandy beach?

Not even that, dude. Higgins was a gleam in some rumrunners' eyes when the Marines were landing using whaleboats and improvised lighters and balancing a prototype tank on a sub deck!
Wasn't it you who told about the problems Marines had with tanks because nobody knew just how much a ship's boom could lift? (I have another book(s) on the development of the USMC FMF doctrine and practice Between The Wars, and I sometimes get you confused... :blink: :huh: :unsure: )

Once again, we must go to what the people thought they were doing at the time they were doing it. None of the senior leadership had a clue how fast a full-up airstrip could be built from scratch in coral atolls. The aircraft required to tamp down JA/IJN garrisons in the archipeligos were still on the drawing boards and the squadrons did not fill out until 43/44. The doctrine was the defense and seizure of advance bases in support of an island hopping strategy in the Pacific...thus bases would be seized, not isolated pieces of land, and they would perforce be defended. There would also be a major fleet action at about the same time, so making lots of landings might have to wait the outcome of these. Shaking out of this mindset [not USMC alone] has taken us to today's OMFTS/STOM that still has too few adherents and far too little funding, and perhaps rightly so if we face only continental opponents [the IJN will not be back for yet a few generations].
Ken

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That would be a valid put-down if it was just me, but a man considered by many to be the smartest in the Navy developed other plans pre-war, after it became apparent that PLAN ORANGE was unworkable. Man, you think German planning for Barbarossa was a mess, at least they didn't have the same division in two places at the same time like ORANGE did.

BTW, anybody who worked on the Great Dams or the big bridges BTW knew what US engineers could do and how fast they could do it..
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#36 Old Tanker

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 1018 AM

They could have gone right past Tarawa at least to the Marshalls, which were hardly defended at all at the time. They couldn't have done it before November, though, they didn't have the amphibious capability.

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I disagree , the shipping was available in the PTO . However not truly amphibious.

The panic reaction of the U.S. people caused a considerable build up for the W. Coast and Alaska over the Jap. invasion of the Aleutians . The shipping used or tied up for the Attu/Kiska operations could of more wisely been used other places.
Such as Tarawa in the spring of '43. We did have shipping to land the 7th ID and the 1st SF in Aleutions in May'43.
We also had put over 50,000 on G'canal , 10,000 on the Russel Islands and Tulagi.
Plus numerous landings had occured in N.G. .

As to overall strategy . The SWP & SP campaigns were learning grounds for Allied forces plus attrition grave yards for the I.J.F.
In addition the people of Oz. and N.Z. were as concerned about the I.J.F. as were the Alaskans etc.
You also had two major commanders looking out for their AO , King and MacArthur. King unofficially ran the Central Pac. while Mac concentrated on getting back to Manilla.

BTW, the 15% PTO 85% ETO split was consistantly by passed by King helped by the Aleutian panic . Overall 28 U.S. divs. were commited to the PTO vs. 68/69 to the ETO. So the 15% was more myth than fact.
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#37 KingSargent

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 1740 PM

I disagree , the shipping was available in the PTO . However not truly amphibious.

It was the amphibious craft I was thinking of.
The transport might have been present, but emplacing and supporting a unit in the PTO/SWPA took three times as much shipping as getting a similar unit into combat and keeping it there in the ETO/MTO.

The panic reaction of the U.S. people caused a considerable build up for the W. Coast and Alaska over the Jap. invasion of the Aleutians . The shipping used or tied up for the Attu/Kiska operations could of more wisely been used other places.
Such as Tarawa in the spring of '43.

We might have been able to take Tarawa in the spring of '43, but we couldn't have done the "hot" assault landings required to take it in November. Which, I suppose, is why we should have taken Tarawa (and the rest of the Gilberts) in the spring... :D Assuming anyone actually wanted Tarawa at all... :D :P ;)

We also had put over 50,000 on G'canal , 10,000 on the Russel Islands and Tulagi.
Plus numerous landings had occured in N.G. .

None of these were "hot" assault landings on heavily-defended beaches. Tulagi on 7Aug42 comes close, and Gavutu-Tanambogo were definitely "hot" beaches, but they were the last seen in the PTO until Tarawa.

As to overall strategy . The SWP & SP campaigns were learning grounds for Allied forces plus attrition grave yards for the I.J.F.

Ron, what good is a training ground that teaches you how to take worthless swamp and contract horrible tropical diseases? Combat experience is good to a point (burnout), but few of the actual combat techniques were applicable later.
Most of the "lessons learned" (eg, that you needed amtracs to get over coral reefs) had been anticipated and production of the "problem-solvers" was underway. The only "lesson" that not having enough amtracs at Tarawa taught is, "If you want more amtracs, they're on order. Wait for us to build them."
As for attrition, it worked both ways. Japanese and Allied total combat casualties were often equal, it was the KIA ratio that weighted so heavily in the Allies' favor - partly due to the Japanese non-surrender culture.
Just bypassing the fortified positions and going for their rear areas (which is a lot easier to do at sea than on land) and leaving the fortified areas to starve/die of disease would have worked. Wilkinson thought so pre-war, and I think the war proved him right.

In addition the people of Oz. and N.Z. were as concerned about the I.J.F. as were the Alaskans etc.

A bit of rational thinking might have overcome their fears.
I wasn't in Alaska in 1942 (unless you count genes floating around in my father), but from what I hear from those who were, the only people hysterical were newsmen and editorial writers (Hmmm... that sounds familiar somehow.. <_< ) The feeling in Alaska (at least today) is that Kiska and Attu were damned fine places to have the Japanese occupy. Let them suffer. :P Alaskans know just how little is threatened from there, and how much effort it would take for the IJF to get anywhere close to civilization.

You also had two major commanders looking out for their AO , King and MacArthur. King unofficially ran the Central Pac. while Mac concentrated on getting back to Manilla.

Now there you have a point. But getting back to the PI was personal for Mac, not necessarily the best strategic option. I think you slightly overrate King's input. He kept a close eye on things fershure, but most of the Navy was there and it was his job to keep an eye on the Navy. The operations in the CP were run by Nimitz, and actual strategy came from the JCS and CCS, and we all know how well committees run things. Of course King was on the committees, too. ;)

BTW, the 15% PTO 85% ETO split was consistantly by passed by King helped by the Aleutian panic . Overall 28 U.S. divs. were commited to the PTO vs. 68/69 to the ETO. So the 15% was more myth than fact.

The number of divisions is not really germane, the methods and duration of combats were vastly different between PTO and ETO. When you look at what the war cost in money, equipment, and lives, the 85%-15% is generally about right.
It is true that the PTO got more goodies after 1942, but that was more a result of US changed perceptions after Casablanca (where it was made clear that 1943 was to be spent dicking around in non-vital areas) than any "Aleutians scare."
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#38 swerve

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0318 AM

As for attrition, it worked both ways. Japanese and Allied total combat casualties were often equal, it was the KIA ratio that weighted so heavily in the Allies' favor - partly due to the Japanese non-surrender culture.


e.g. Tarawa -

Japanese casualties 4836 (total loss of garrison)
Dead 4690
Captured 146
Of whom 129 Korean labourers.

Of the garrison, about 2600 were marines, plus 1000 Japanese & 1200 Korean labourers.

US casualties.
Dead 990 (included missing & died later)
Wounded 2311
Total 3301

Edited by swerve, 22 September 2005 - 0319 AM.

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#39 Ken Estes

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0340 AM

Back to Colin's book and the q of the biggest and baddest battle of WWII....

I suspect that the claim of the largest battle of WWII comes by counting the entire campaign to break the Gustav Line, as Cassino rarely saw more than two divisions in the attack, 1+ in defense. I wondered how such a confined battle area could produce the largest battle of the war; so much for semantics?

From http://www.mod.uk/ab.../montecass2.htm
A few spurious clips:

The four battles for Monte Cassino in Italy took place between January and May 1944.

The First Battle of Cassino (12 January - 9 February 1944)

As the US Fifth Army mounted the attack on Anzio with its VI US Corps, the II US Corps, X British Corps and the French Expeditionary Force, under General Alphonse Juin, attacked the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino was to be bypassed by the French and British, who would attack on either flank followed by a decisive thrust by the Americans up the Liri Valley along Route 6.
The 36th US Division lost some 2000 casualties and by the end of the battle it was effectively down to one-third of its fighting strength. The 34th US Division now attacked across the Rapido and tried to capture Cassino from the north. After grim fighting they pushed to within 1000 yards of the monastery but were stopped by the network of German machine-gun posts. It was the same in the fighting for the town itself where every building had been turned into a strongpoint. The Americans fought their way forward with heavy losses over steep broken ground where any movement or attempt to get supplies and ammunition forward was seen and fired on by the German defenders. Both sides fought to the point of exhaustion.

Second Battle of Cassino (15-18 February 1944)

Freyberg initially planned to avoid Cassino and attack from the north in an encircling movement. However, lack of mule transport necessary for resupply in the mountains made that plan impossible. Instead he decided to commit 4th Indian Division to an attack on Monastery Hill while the New Zealanders would attack across the plain, taking the railway station and the town of Cassino itself. It was a repeat of the American attacks on the same approach and in the New Zealand Corps there was pessimism at all levels as to the likelihood of success.
The second battle of Cassino cost 4th Indian Division 590 casualties and the New Zealand Division 226. Unknown to the Allies the German defenders had suffered 4470 casualties in the first three weeks of February 1944 and were in no position to repel another heavy attack.

Third Battle of Cassino (19 February - 23 March 1944)

Wet weather delayed the third battle until 15 March 1944. This time Freyberg's Corps attacked Cassino from the north with the Indian troops again attacking the monastery and the New Zealand troops advancing into the town along Route 6. This time the town was flattened by intensive bombing followed by an artillery bombardment of over 1000 guns. However, poor coordination was again evident as the monastery itself was not included as one of the targets. The bombing devastated the Axis defenders but it created equal problems for the Allied attackers who had difficulty bringing their tanks forward. Vicious house-to-house fighting took place in the ruins of Cassino with often the same building being occupied by both sides. Bravery and endurance were displayed by the soldiers such as the 9th Gurkhas, the 1st/4th Essex and the Rajputana Rifles who had fought their way forward and held Hangman's Hill. 24th New Zealand Battalion seized Point 202, a tenacious German defence was stretched to breaking point. The third attempt to break through at Cassino had been halted.

The Fourth Battle of Cassino (11 May – 5 June 1944)

The fourth battle of Cassino was incorporated into Operation DIADEM (the code name for the planned spring offensive in Italy 1944). It would be fought and conducted with a level of planning and resources that Freyberg lacked in the two previous battles. No longer would it be uncoordinated attacks on a narrow front. This time Alexander’s armies would be employed in a carefully coordinated offensive that would make best use of Allied air power and artillery resources. Both the US Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army would combine in a two-fisted punch while VI US Corps at Anzio would break out and threaten the German rear. The German defensive line was threatened along a 20-mile front. Kesselring was led to believe that a further amphibious operation was planned, which forced him to hold his reserves back from his overstretched frontline divisions.
On the coastal front the Americans and French fought their way forward. By 13 May they had cracked open the German defences on their front by advancing on and breaking into the Hitler Line, the next defensive position across the Aurunci mountains, six miles behind the Gustav Line. Here French troops used their ability to fight in the mountains and provided the key to the breakthrough.
In the north Major-General Richard Heidrich’s paratroopers grimly defended Monte Cassino against attacks by General Anders, II Polish Corps. Attacking in a wide encircling right hook from the north, Anders’ Polish troops were initially held and driven back in savage fighting. The Polish Carpathian and Kresowa Divisions attacked again on 16 May. It was savage fighting against a stubborn defence with Heidrich’s paratroopers determined to hold onto ‘their Monte Cassino’. However, holes had been torn in the Gustav Line in the Liri Valley below and by the US Fifth Army further towards the coast. On 17 May the garrison slipped away and the ruins were abandoned.


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#40 MiloMorai

MiloMorai

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 0529 AM

Should the Allies have tried to bypass Mt Cassino with a more vigerous attack(flanking manuever) up the east coast of Italy?
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