Contents - Hirohito's War
28 Pacific Island Hop: The Gilberts, Marshalls, and Carolines
[May 1943–June 1944]
[Maps: 28.1, 28.2, 28.3, 28\.4, 28.5, 28.6]
Admiral King’s Central Pacific Strategy (p 793) TRIDENT Conference 12 May 1943 (p 795) QUADRANT Conference 17 August 1943 (p 797) Operation GALVANIC: Bombardment of Tarawa Atoll (p 798) The Rikusentai (Special Japanese Marines) Dig In (p 799) DAY-1: Amphibious Assault on Tarawa (p 802) DAY-2: Tarawa (p 806) DAY-3 and DAY-4: Tarawa (p 808) Cost and Lessons of Tarawa (p 810) General MacArthur and Pacific War Politics (p 812) ‘Brown Shoe’ versus ‘Black Shoe’ (p 814) Operation FLINTLOCK: Onwards to the Marshall Islands (p 815) Occupation of Majuro and the Battle of Roi-Namur (p 817) The Battle of Kwajalein and the Battle of Eniwetok (p 818) Operation HAILSTONE: The Destruction of Japan’s Main Pacific Garrison at Truk Atoll (p 820) Raids on the Marianas and Palau (p 823) Retreat to Mindanao, the Death of Admiral Koga and an Intelligence Coup (p 824) Admiral King’s Central Pacific Strategy Vindicated (p 825)
Admiral King’s Central Pacific Strategy: [Map: 28.1] The Central Pacific component of America’s two-pronged strategic advance toward Japan started to be planned as soon as ‘turnaround’ victories had been won by the Australians in southeastern New Guinea and by the Marines on Guadalcanal. With the Japanese clearly losing their grip on Guadalcanal, which had been the focus of the war in the South Pacific in the second half of 1942, the question the Navy faced at the beginning of 1943 was, what now? At the Casablanca Conference (codename SYMBOL) in January 1943, attended by Roosevelt, Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, the main decision was to put off the European Theater second front, the invasion of France, for another year—much to Stalin’s chagrin. The British had concluded that the Allied invasion of France would have to be delayed until 1944 because the German Army would be able to reinforce troops in France quicker that the Allies. Nevertheless, in the wider picture ‘Europe First’ was again confirmed as the key strategy to win the war against the Axis powers.
However, Asia was not ignored. King demanded that resources for the Pacific should be increased from 15 percent of the total war effort to 30 percent. Both MacArthur and Nimitz would benefit from a promise of a doubling of war matériel.
As for strategy in the Pacific, MacArthur was convinced that Admiral King’s Pacific Navy should act only as a supporting role for his drive up through New Guinea, the Philippines, southern China and then on to Japan. In essence MacArthur wanted the Navy, under his command, to deploy as he thought fit in the pursuance of his strategy. His championing of a ‘unified command’ in the Pacific was entirely self-serving. Admiral King’s naval strategy, and the one ultimately supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not assume the passive supporting role for Nimitz’s US Navy that MacArthur had counted on. Plan ORAN GE, detested by MacArthur [see Chapter 6: Plan ORANGE and MacArthur’s Philippines Debacle], which had been the master plan to deal with Japanese aggression from the early years of the twentieth century, called for a Central Pacific drive starting with the capture of the Marshall Islands. King urged action along this line.
At the Joint Chiefs of Staff meetings, chaired by Admiral Leahy, Roosevelt’s most relied-on adviser who became increasingly influential as the war progressed, King was strongly supported by General ‘Hap’ Arnold, Commander of the US Army Air Force. He favored a rapid advance through the Central Pacific Islands so that he could get close