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"Bypass the Philippines" Topic


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Action Log

03 Dec 2018 5:44 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to WWII Discussion board
  • Crossposted to WWII Naval Discussion board


801 hits since 3 Dec 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian03 Dec 2018 5:35 p.m. PST

Should the Philippines have been bypassed by the U.S. in their Pacific Campaign?

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

Nope it would have been a bastion in the Allied rear area and been a broken promise to the Filipino people.

mwindsorfw Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:10 p.m. PST

No. The U.S. had a special relationship with the people of the Philippines. They needed to be liberated. Had the Philippines been bypassed, and Japan been invaded (as anticipated), one can imagine what abuse might have been leveled on the population by otherwise impotent Japanese troops hearing that their homeland was falling.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:12 p.m. PST

Good question – the casualty ratio was certainly in the US favour but the Filipino people had it pretty rough

Perhaps strategically it did not make sense but it did lead to the Japanese committing almost all of their mobile reserves – plus the US and Filipino public kind of expected it

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:16 p.m. PST

Agree with all of the above.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:38 p.m. PST

As do I.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:45 p.m. PST

Agreed. That wasn't one we could miss.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 6:59 p.m. PST

Had to do it. At the time the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States. That meant the US had an obligation to defend and protect the Philippines.

Dn Jackson03 Dec 2018 8:49 p.m. PST

Agreed.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 11:33 p.m. PST

Rallynow – excellent point

advocate04 Dec 2018 12:04 a.m. PST

I'll start by saying that I know nothing about the strategic situation. And I'm sure the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was very bad. But the British ignored the Channel Islands and went straight to Normandy. Fewer casualties, civilian and both militaries, than 'liberating' them by force. So there is a case for letting the Japanese garrison wither on the vine.

Legion 404 Dec 2018 7:32 a.m. PST

No … for all reasons already mentioned here and more … The PI had to be retaken by force.

Bill N04 Dec 2018 9:22 a.m. PST

I do not agree that the U.S. was under any obligation to liberate the Philippines except as a condition of ending the war. If the U.S. could have ended the war on the same terms, quicker and at a lower cost by bypassing the Philippines, then I think the U.S. would have been justified in doing so.

My problem is with whether the U.S. could have done it quicker and at a lower cost. The Philippines campaign allowed the U.S. to inflict significant damage on Japanese naval resources. It removed the Philippines as a base for Japanese air operations against the U.S. in 1945. Couple this with the moral effect of liberating territory captured by the Japanese at the start of the war and liberation of some POWs and it seems the U.S. was smart not to bypass the Philippines.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2018 11:11 a.m. PST

Starting soon after the December 1941 Japanese invasion, the Philippinos waged a very effective guerilla war, which the Americans supported with weapons and supplies. By the time of the American invasion in the fall of 1944, the Japanese only held about a quarter of the territory of the Philippines.

It is possible that the Philippinos could have liberated themselves without an American invasion, especially as Allied naval action cut off Japanese resupply. That -- defeat of a great army by a supposed third-rate force -- would have been as devastating to Japanese morale as the Japanese conquest of Malaya was to British morale at the beginning of the war.

panzerCDR04 Dec 2018 11:59 a.m. PST

Yes. It would have allowed a greater concentration of the fleet in the Atlantic to blockade Cuba and liberate Puerto Rico. The Philippine Islands are really not a valuable addition to the US, unless a base in Manila is desired to support the "Open Door" policy in China. We really don't want to get involved in any taxing long term problems in Asia or the western Pacific. Destroy the Spanish fleet and let Aquinaldo do the work of unifying the islands under a post colonial government. Maybe take Guam as it looks like an easy addition. Avoid being sucked into any imperial obligation anywhere!

Ahh . . . . in World War Two . . . ;)

Mark 104 Dec 2018 12:55 p.m. PST

The U.S. had a special relationship with the people of the Philippines. They needed to be liberated.

At the time the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States. That meant the US had an obligation to defend and protect the Philippines.

I disagree with that line of reasoning.

But the British ignored the Channel Islands and went straight to Normandy. Fewer casualties, civilian and both militaries, than 'liberating' them by force.

I would also suggest Norway as another example. Yes, we had an "obligation" to liberate Norway from the Germans. But that did not mean launching a months-long land campaign that would reduce Oslo and Trondheim to rubble, cost the allies tens of thousands of casualties and see tens or hundreds of thousands of Norwegian civilian deaths.

It was a much better idea to bypass Norway, leave the large German garrison in place and cut-off, and defeat Germany directly. This also had the effect of liberating Norway, but in a manner that was more economical in lives to both the Allied forces and the Norwegian people.

And the Norwegians do not seem to have concluded they were abandoned by the allies as a result.

The Philippines campaign allowed the U.S. to inflict significant damage on Japanese naval resources.

Any US action would have allowed the US to inflict damage on Japanese naval resources. There was nothing unique about the Philippines in that regard. In fact it placed the USN at greater risk, since it drove fleet actions in a zone within range of very substantial Japanese Army aviation forces. Fortunately the USN had a substantial enough advantage by that time to handily defeat both naval and army aviation, but if the goal was defeating their fleet, this was a poor choice of location for doing that.

It removed the Philippines as a base for Japanese air operations against the U.S. in 1945.

Only by making the Philippines a base for Japanese air operations against the US in 1944.

The logic of the statement is inverted. USN forces were more capable of facing the Japanese in 1945. And the better Japanese army aviation fighters did not have the range that their naval fighters had. IJA long range anti-shipping strikes were often un-escorted, or perhaps escorted by long-obsolescent Ki-43s. So bypassing would have greatly reduced the threat posed by Japanese air assets on the Philippines.

If the U.S. could have ended the war on the same terms, quicker and at a lower cost by bypassing the Philippines, then I think the U.S. would have been justified in doing so.

This is largely my view. But I'm not quite on board with the "quicker" part. I think that the campaign in the Central Pacific was the campaign that mattered. If the US had focused, instead of spreading, it could have reached the shores of Japan sooner. But alas, this only leads to an earlier end to the war if we somehow believe in a magical change to the Japanese government. Which I do not subscribe to.

So the only impact I see in bypassing the Philippines would have been saved lives: Allied servicemen, Japanese servicemen, and Philippino civilians. The Philippino guerrillas would probably have continued to take casualties at about the same rate (their activity level was driven as much by supplies as anything else, and I see no reason not to keep the supplies running).

And as callous as it sounds, saving lives was not the principal objective of the allied war effort. Defeating Japan was. Nor was saving lives the primary objective of the Philippino resistance effort. Liberating their country was.

I don't see it as a war changer either way. I understand why the campaign happened as it did. I would suggest it would have been smarter to bypass the Philippines, but not as clearly so at the time, so I find little to criticize in the decision to invade.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

RudyNelson04 Dec 2018 1:10 p.m. PST

Strategic planning is not all about the military operations. As Rallynow aid they were part of America, so that was a major factor. Just as the Americans spent much needed resources to kick the Japanese out of Alaska which had a similar status. The Hawaiian islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and other islands held the same and Recon quest plans were at the Pentagon and lower levels.

From an operational level, the Philippines were an essential location for stockpiling supplies for operation into SE Asia and Japan as well as harbors for the navy. So taking them back were key operationally as well as Strategic-politically.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2018 1:42 p.m. PST

War is politics, said that famous Prussian whose book everyone pretends to have read.
The Japanese kicked us out of the Philippines. The American people, voters, expected us to get them back.
How do we KNOW that we would have gotten them back in a peace settlement and agreement? Only in hindsight can we speculate on that.
"Hey people. We're working on the atom bomb. We got this."
No. I don't think so.

Lion in the Stars04 Dec 2018 3:47 p.m. PST

Norway could be left to wither on the vine because it was out of the way, only the Murmansk convoys went past it.

The Philippines needed to be taken back to remove it as a fighter base. Had we left the PI alone, there would have been hundreds of fighters to intercept the B29s hitting the Home Islands.

Mark 104 Dec 2018 7:30 p.m. PST

Norway could be left to wither on the vine because it was out of the way …

I believe the same is true of the Philippines, if you don't run a campaign across the South Pacific.

The Philippines needed to be taken back to remove it as a fighter base. Had we left the PI alone, there would have been hundreds of fighters to intercept the B29s hitting the Home Islands.

Not sure I'm with you on that. I don't know any form of geometry that places the Philippines along side a line from the Marianas to Japan. The distance to Saipan or Tinian is beyond the reach of a Ki.61 Hien on a one-way ferry flight, nevermind on a round trip air superiority mission. And the flight path of the bombers from the Marianas goes NorthWest, while the Philippines are Southward. So the bombers get farther away from the Japanese in the Philippines for every mile they fly towards Japan.

I believe the Ki. 43 Hayabusa might have had the one-way range to reach the bases, but by 1944/45 it was rather hopelessly outclassed. I'm pretty sure it was slower at all altitudes than a B-29 (although maybe not slower than a B-29 climbing with a full load), but I don't know how much success one would expect from a one-way trip to intercept B-29s when you only carry 2 x 12.7mm MGs.

And that's the bases, which were … um … WELL defended. Radar, fighters, flak … all the things that make an interceptor's job harder, even if he CAN catch and hurt his prey.

The land-based fighters involved in the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" staged mostly from Guam, IIRC. And the Japanese airfields at Guam had been shot to pieces long before Leyte.

So no, the Philippines were in fact pretty much out of the way, unless you were going that way. Much like Norway. Which is kind of the point.

Or so it appears to me. Don't actually claim to be particularly well versed on the Pacific theater, so my hull is not immune to leaks on these matters.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Mark 104 Dec 2018 7:50 p.m. PST

How do we KNOW that we would have gotten them back in a peace settlement and agreement? Only in hindsight can we speculate on that.
"Hey people. We're working on the atom bomb. We got this."

The US policy at that time was to prosecute the war until "unconditional surrender". There was no politically viable alternative of liberating the Philippines and then negotiate a settlement with the Japanese. That contingency was not in planning or consideration.

We may say unconditional surrender was uncertain in 1944. OK. But taking steps that make it LESS likely do not, to me, seem like good solid strategy.

Leaving a sizeable Japanese land force and air force isolated and impotent, without any direct cost to US forces, and focusing on the issues that bring the fight to the enemy's homeland, with those protected US resources still in hand, seems to me to be a stronger strategy. More likely to succeed.

Taking substantial forces and devoting them to combat with otherwise isolated enemy forces, which out of position and unable to provide any support to attacks on their own homeland, seems like a poor decision. One very basic tactical concept is to divide the battlefield and isolate enemy forces from providing mutual support. That had already been achieved -- by 1944 it was virtually impossible for the Japanese to transit any substantial material or manpower between the Philippines and the home islands. So let 'em rot, and go for the heart.

I agree that such a concentration would not have worked yet in 1942 or 1943. It was too soon to strike where the enemy might be strongest at that time. But by 1944 the Solomons / New Guinea operations and the Central Pacific operations had already driven the imbalance to a point where I think it was time to focus and "git er' done!".

Except, as I noted, I don't think the Japanese would have surrendered in any case until either a full blown invasion of the home islands (shudder!), or the A-bombs.

But having US fleet assets cruising up and down the coasts of Japan bombing and bombarding at will would have been more effective against their war making potential than any defeat they suffered in the Philippines, even if it didn't drive them to a quicker surrender.

My views. Your mileage may vary.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2018 9:18 p.m. PST

It is very easy to look back some 70 years and talk of the bypassing of the Philippines in the cold light of strategy and military necessity. But as with all wars what made sense on paper does not make sense in reality. Norway has been touted to be the model for why the Philippines should have been bypassed. But I would offer Paris as a model.

In 1944 as the Allied Army came close to the vicinity of Paris, an insurrection lead by the Free French Forces had begun. Eisenhower saw no military reason to re-capture Paris. It would divert badly needed resources from defeating the German Army in the field. It made perfect sense.

Once it was learned that Hitler ordered the city to be destroyed. Charles de Gaulle threaten to order the French Armored Division to assault the city alone. Finally, on orders from FDR, Ike ordered the city to be attacked and liberated. It may have not made military sense. But it was the right thing to do, both politically and morally.

Unlike Norway, in the Philippines there were thousands of American POWs where hundreds died every day. They were under the constant threat of execution. Unlike Norway, it made military sense. It cuts off most if not all shipping from the South to Japan. It would be a base of operations for invading Formosa or Okinawa. Unlike Norway, we had a special relationship with the Philippines. It wasn't always pretty but they were part of the United States and we had a scared obligation to liberate the Philippines.

William Ulsterman04 Dec 2018 10:26 p.m. PST

The retaking of the Philippines was the same category as the Australian landings in Borneo in 1945. Largely a needless effort and coming dangerously close to using a sledgehammer to crack a coconut, when a standard hammer would do. After Leyte Gulf the Philippines posed no threat whatsoever and the Japanese aircraft on the Philippines were over 2000KM from Saipan (where the USAAF bombers were) the only Japanese fighter with the range was the Zero, which by 1944 was obsolete and would have been chewed to bits by USAAF and USN fighters, it would have been a replay of the Marianas Turkey shoot.

As others have said the Japanese army and navy troops in the Philippines weren't going anywhere and there were a lot of them over 500,000 troops in all. This included many of the best troops left in Japanese army their 1st Infantry Division, the 2nd Armoured division and 10,000 very good Naval Landing troops. All of that commanded by the one Japanese General who actually knew how to fight a Western army Yamashita. It should have been left strictly alone.

The Philippines was the subject of a high level discussion between MacArthur, Nimitz and Roosevelt. Opinions differed about whether to attack Taiwan or the Philippines. It was not a clear cut decision Roosevelt didn't make a clear decision until he was back in Washington in August 1944.

Fred Cartwright05 Dec 2018 2:20 a.m. PST

Once it was learned that Hitler ordered the city to be destroyed. Charles de Gaulle threaten to order the French Armored Division to assault the city alone. Finally, on orders from FDR, Ike ordered the city to be attacked and liberated. It may have not made military sense. But it was the right thing to do, both politically and morally.

I think you are stretching things with that analogy. Over both Paris and Strasbourg the French threatened to go it alone if Ike didn't do what they wanted and on both occasions they got their way. I have no doubt it was a serious threat by the French. However there was no free Phillipino army threatening to invade if the Americans didn't so I don't see any corollary at all.

Unlike Norway, in the Philippines there were thousands of American POWs where hundreds died every day. They were under the constant threat of execution. Unlike Norway, it made military sense.

Unlike the Phillipines Norway based aircraft and naval assets were inflicting regular losses on allied shipping. As for Japanese shipping it had been cut off already, taking the Philippines added nothing to the naval blockade of Japan. Airbases on Norway could have shut down Swedish iron ore imports to Germany, strangling German production.

Legion 405 Dec 2018 7:33 a.m. PST

Too many IJFs in the PI to leave there/behind. Along with all the US etc. POWs, abuse to the locals, etc.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2018 11:57 a.m. PST


The US policy at that time was to prosecute the war until "unconditional surrender".

Stated policy. The end of the war was a long way off. In hind sight, we can say it worked. But there was no guarantee for that.
What if no atomic bomb? As has been said, the biggest secret about the atomic bomb was that it worked. The rest is engineering. Germany thought it MIGHT work, but didn't have the resources.
We had the resources, plus unreachable research sites, and the scientists who fled Germany. What if they were on the wrong track, like Germany was?

Where is the guarantee that we could impose Unconditional Surrender?
No atomic bomb, horrible casualties in Olympic. We may have had to negotiate.
And all this is speculation 70+ years after.
We were obligated to get the Philippines back and invading was the only option available. Nobody in planning knew anything about the bomb, and if they had a clue, it was nothing but 4F mad scientists. Nothing to make plans around.

Durrati05 Dec 2018 4:30 p.m. PST

Interesting thread. I am surprised by so many people arguing that invading the Philippines was the correct decision – on somewhat tenuous grounds.

In Europe, should the allies have bypassed Sicily and Italy? Would it have been a better use of resources to concentrate on defeating Germany?

William Ulsterman05 Dec 2018 5:57 p.m. PST

At the time, when the plans were being made, at the Hawaii conference, the options were A. Attack the Philippines and B. Attack Taiwan there was nothing else on the table.

The US were always going to go after either of these and it was decision Roosevelt made. Taiwan would not have been a softer target and Taiwan also contained a great many POWs as well as the Japanese tended to shift their POWs around quite a bit. Also, the Philippines were not completely retaken at the end of the war there were still about 150,000 Japanese troops at large, occupying quite a large area of the interior of Luzon, north of Manila. Therefore, it was not the complete Liberation of the Commonwealth some people proclaimed. If those troops could be happily bypassed, why not apply the same principle to the entire archipelago? After Leyte Gulf the Japanese forces could not go anywhere and no assets with any range to menace any US fleet.

Obligated to get the Philippines back? But that same obligation did not extend to Wake Island? (also the home of POWs treated even more brutally). It is amazing how flexible the application of these obligations can become.

Skarper07 Dec 2018 9:48 p.m. PST

It can be hard to imagine not doing what actually was done. This makes games like 3rd Reich a little dull! [in my experience anyway].

It is true the Filipinos would have suffered under the brutality of the Japanese garrison. But they also suffered by being a battlefield.

I would say, if it was not strategically necessary to invade, then better to bypass. Minimal force is the best approach.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 10:07 p.m. PST

Wake is not a good comparison. All the Americans were shipped to Japan. I don't see how Wake compares to the PI.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 10:30 p.m. PST

You guys don't get it. Strategy and tactics do not operate in a vacuum. The re-conquest of the Philippines was as much a political and moral decision as it was a military decision. The Douglas Macarthur propaganda bandwagon was churning out "I shall return" slogans almost as soon as he left the PI.

He made the cover of Time Magazine in December 42. I don't think you are appreciating how popular he was back in the states. Why do you think he got the Medal of Honor and a fifth star for losing the PI? If it had been anyone else he would be sitting behind a desk in DC. Politically FDR had no choice.

By the way Nimitz unlike in the movie, also argued for the invasion for military reasons. It provides a large port for the build up to invade Formosa or Okinawa and eventually Japan. Not just military support but logistical support. It allows a Naval base astride the main shipping lanes from the south to Japan.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 11:19 p.m. PST

About the shipping being completely cut off. The Navy didn't care to here that. They were pushing their sub skippers to sink more ships. They would not want to hear about Japan being cut off. As far as they were concern there was still shipping getting through. No one was saying that Japan was cut off in 1944. Could not assume that.

The main concern Marshall and King had was that the Japanese had begun to pull back their infantry from throughout asia in anticipation of an invasion. If you look at the traffic between Marshall and Mac. you will get an idea of how urgent the situation was.

Itelligence reports indicated a massive build up in Kyushu. So much so that the odds went from 3 to 1 in favor of the Allies to even odds. In spring 1945 Marshall suggested to Mac. that he consider changing the location of the invasion further north. Clearly transports were making it through the blockade.

Murvihill08 Dec 2018 11:25 a.m. PST

If we avoided the Philippines is it possible for the troops to withdraw to Japan? Was that a concern for the Americans? How many troops were withdrawn from China to reinforce the home islands?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2018 12:02 p.m. PST

The China army was by far Japan's biggest commitment of troops.
Take a train to Manchuria, to Korea. Then it's a short hop to the Home Islands.
Then imagine how easy to withdraw troops from the Philippines.

If we were able to get intelligence out of Japan on troop buildup and where, I'm impressed.

Mobius09 Dec 2018 2:00 p.m. PST

There's a big gap between Saipan and Okinawa that ships and planes have to cross. Plus the floating dry docks were at the Admiralty islands. They were to be used to repair ships without having to go back to Pearl. That is to the south east of the Philippines. Leaving a unsinkable aircraft carrier to ones flank leaves a lot to chance.

One might as well think that the Burma and Malaysia were pointless side shows.

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