Appendices - Hirohito's War
OIL, RAW MATERIALS, AND LOGISTICS: ‘JUST START SWINGING’
US Supply Logistics in the Pacific War: Although there was fierce competition between the rival US services, the logistics of shipping, unlike Japan, were largely unified. Pre-war planning had originally allocated the ‘sea supply’ function to the Navy; in the review of operational weaknesses after Pearl Harbor it was decided that the Navy did not have the resources for this task. A War Shipping Administration was therefore eventually set up in February 1943 that allocated ships to the Army and Navy on a voyage-by-voyage basis. In the early years of the Pacific War, when supplies to Asia were limited by the ‘Europe First’ strategy, it was a structure that saved a great deal of argument and wasted energy.
But shared logistical management between the Army and Navy had been more theoretical than real in the first years of the war, not helped by a division of command between MacArthur in the southwest Pacific area and Nimitz in the Central Pacific.
The weakness of US logistical infrastructure came to the attention of all parties at the Battle of Guadalcanal where Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner noted that “Eighty percent of my time was given to logistics during the first four months of the ‘WATCHTOWER Operations’ (Guadalcanal)… we were living from one logistics crisis to the next.”30 The Joint Plan for the Support of United States Bases in the South Pacific had only been agreed in July 1942 and was certainly not in effect when Operation WATCHTOWER was launched. In late September 1942, General ‘Hap’ Arnold the head of the US Army Air Corp visited the region and concluded “So far, the Navy had taken one hell of a beating and… was hanging on by a shoestring. They did not have a logistical setup efficient enough to ensure success.”31
Both Japan and the United States had supply line problems to Guadalcanal but those of the US were 50 percent longer. To a large extent the Marines and the Navy were dug out of their hole by General Patch, commander of the Americal Division based on New Caledonia, who supplied them with his reserve stock.
Ultimately the desperate situation of the Marines on Guadalcanal was relieved because both Army, and Navy, the Joint Chiefs and even the President came to realize that losing was not an option. After briefings from ‘Hap’ Arnold and others, Roosevelt put ‘Europe First’ on hold and insisted that the Joint Chief should “…make sure that every possible weapon gets into the area to hold Guadalcanal, and that having held in this crisis, munitions, planes and crews are on the way to take advantage of our success.”32 After Guadalcanal, significant supply bases were built up there and at Espiritu Santo so as to obviate the need for the long lines of supply to Auckland in New Zealand. Further inter-service disputes over supply were finally resolved in a joint directive from Admiral King and General Marshall in Washington entitled Basic Logistical Plan for Command Areas Involving Joint Army and Navy Operations [8 March 1943] It was just as well that these issues were resolved after Guadalcanal because, as the Japanese had discovered, the supply of forward air bases was critical to the advance through the Pacific and more so because the Japanese forces, unlike the US Army at the start of the war, were expertly dug into their island defenses.
As the US forces approached Japan, the logistical requirements changed. Forward air bases were not enough to support the vast scale of the invasion forces needed for Okinawa and the planned Operation Olympic (Kyushu Island). A floating armada was needed and delivered. Apart from the oil tankers, Liberty Ships, C4 troop transports and hospital ships, LSTs, and Higgins Boats already mentioned, American industry supplied repair ships, tugs, mine sweepers, concrete fuel barges, ammunition lighters and even floating bakeries and ice cream makers. Distances added to the volume of logistics required. A force of 40,000 US troops based in Australia had to be serviced by a commercial fleet as large as one serving 100,000 troops based in Great Britain.
The scale of the late war operations in the Pacific conflict exceed anything that has ever been attempted before or since. The 14 June landings on Guam, Saipan and Tinian in 1944 needed an armada of 535 ships carrying 80,000 Marines and 40,000 Army soldiers who had to be carried and supplied from Enowetok Atoll over 1,000 miles distant. The planning for this operation, which took just three months, was carried out in Hawaii, 3,600 miles away. It used so many landing craft that had been diverted from Europe that it caused the postponement of ‘D-Day’ by one month.
MacArthur’s invasion of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines with a force of 150,000 troops was larger than the US component of the D-Day landings in Normandy. The Okinawa invasion, needing 183,000 troops launched and supplied from Ulithi Atoll, required an even larger logistical support.