SAN FRANCISCO fog smelled good when I stepped off the plane at Hamilton Field early on that gray morning of July 5,1945, after almost two years of blistering heat and blinding sun in the Pacific: two years of corroding, soul-destroying war. The first thing I did when the crewmen swung open the cabin door was to take a deep gulp of cold, moist air. Only twelve hours before I had left behind the roaring surf of Waikiki Beach and the fragrant green valleys of Hawaii. Beyond this deceptive peace lay the road to Tokyo‹the chain of blasted coral islands won from Japan at such bitter cost in young American lives.
The City not only smelled good but looked good that rooming. I knew that under the fog lay the Golden Gate, the symbol of home to every American in the Pacific, the Bay Bridges, the Ferry Building, Market Street, the cable cars, Nob Hill, smart women wearing fur coats in July as they bought nosegays at corner stands; all the rich panorama of a warm-hearted city typifying the America we were fighting for.
During the war, I had passed through San Francisco several times on my way to Washington to confer with General Alexander A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, but this time I was back to stay. I felt that for me, a Marine, the war was over and, perhaps alone in this conviction, I also felt that the war was over in the Pacific.
The Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, of which I had been Commanding General until two days before, had carried the Stars and Stripes from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was kicking open Japan's front door. I had come home with the consciousness
of duty well done: the only worth while reward to a man who serves his country.
San Francisco was a triumphant homecoming in my mind only. Wartime security still veiled all military movements and not even my wife knew I was arriving. As the pilot set down my converted B-24 Liberator on the field and taxied up the runway among hundreds of other planes, my arrival was merely a detail of daily routine at this busy Army terminal.
Reluctantly, I had discarded the faded Marine green utility suit I had worn all over the Pacific in favor of tropical worsteds. My "dungarees" had been through the wash half a dozen times and weren't presentable. As the Japanese (and the bathed war correspondents ) discovered, you can't tell a Pfc from a General in this working outfit, and that's exactly why it was adopted. No amount of pressing will transform our utility clothing into any semblance of a well-tailored uniform. But that morning I was particularly proud of my "dungarees" and regretted I wasn't wearing them. What was good enough for Iwo Jima was good enough for San Francisco.
Major General Julian C. Smith, of the Department of the Pacific, was waiting at the terminal, surprised by our quick trip of 12 hours and 20 minutes from Honolulu. I had known Julian Smith for many years. He was my chief of staff in the Caribbean, my second in command in the Pacific, and he commanded the Second Marine Division at Tarawa. Captain Mac Asbill, Jr., my aide, and Platoon Sergeant William L. BradIey, who had been with me all through the Pacific campaign, were with me on the plane. Outside of General Smith, the "welcome committee" was made up of a ground crew and they weren't too impressed.
Bradley told me later he heard one of the men remark, "A Marine? That old buzzard looks pretty ancient for a Marine. He'd sure have to hit the beach in a wheel chair!"
He was correct in one respect. I was getting pretty ancient. After forty years in the Marine Corps, I was within a year of the retirement age, sixty-four. At my own request, I had been relieved as Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force and my successor, Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger, had been named. I
was ordered to take charge of the Marine Training and Replacement Command at Camp Pendleton, California.
My reasons for seeking relief were twofold. The difference between success and failure in the Marine Corps is the opportunity to show ability and since opportunity is so often linked with higher command, I felt I should not stand in the way of promotion. Furthermore, I knew that future amphibious operations in the Pacific, due to the size of command, would be directed by Army officers. It never has been the policy of the War Department to permit a Marine to command an American army and I had no desire to settle down as an administrative officer at a desk in Pearl Harbor.
At his headquarters in Manila, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander-in-Chief, was working on plans for the grand assault on the home islands of Japan, These plans involved two landings at intervals of several months. OLYMPIC, the code name given the first phase of the operation, provided for a landing on the southern coast of Kyushu, Japan's southernmost island, in November, 1945. Nagasaki, target of the second atomic bomb, is the principal city on Kyushu. CORONET, the second phase, involved a landing on Honshu, the main island, in February, 1946.
These landings would be joint Army, Navy and Marine operations under General MacArthur. The Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, which I had trained and commanded, was to spearhead both assaults, and plans entailed employment of the largest force of Marines ever used. From two divisions at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Corps had expanded to six divisions with all ancillary troops, organized into two amphibious corps, the V and the III, and sizeable contingents of these two corps had proved their mettle all over the Pacific. Marine Corps aviation had also expanded and by August, 1945, the Fleet Marine Force Air had reached a top total of 78 tactical squadrons.
The V Amphibious Corps, consisting of the Second, Third and Fifth Divisions and including veterans of Tarawa, Bougainville, Kwajalein, Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, was earmarked for Kyushu. The III, consisting of the First, Fourth and
Sixth Divisions of Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa fame, was to land on Honshu at the nearest point to Tokyo.
General MacArthur insisted that a large scale invasion approximating the magnitude of the European invasion was necessary to reduce Japan. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and our Allies were of the same opinion and all plans were based upon this strategical assumption. But despite these grandiose preparations I refused to believe that we would have to fight our way into the country. Japan was licked and it was only a matter of a very short time before the enemy would throw in the sponge. In fact, I was so sure that I told San Francisco newspapermen the war would be over by September 1, 1945.
I met reporters at a press conference at the St. Francis Hotel on the day of my arrival and 1 set that date in answer to a direct question. I don't claim any gift of prophecy and I never gazed into a crystal ball but I did know the war was clue to end soon. My knowledge was founded on the cold facts as I saw them.
Some of the reporters at the conference smiled respectfully. Several looked dubious and one intimated that he had heard the same line from the big brass before, including Admiral William F. Halsey's assertion in 1942 that we would be in Tokyo by the end of 1943. Looking over the newspapers the morning after the conference, I noted one skeptical journal ignored my prediction completely.
The interview was given national prominence and from New York one of my war correspondent friends, a man of exceptional discernment and shrewdness, telegraphed expressing profound disagreement. 1lis telegram offered:
THREE BETS OF FIVE DOLLARS EACH: FIRST, JAPAN WILL NOT QUIT FIGHTING UNTIL WE HAVE KILLED AT LEAST FIVE MILLION OF THEIR SOLDIERS; SECOND, NO AMOUNT OF BOMBING WILL INDUCE JAPAN TO SURRENDER: THIRD, JAPAN CANNOT BE BEATEN WITHOUT INVASION.
He lost all three bets and paid up. Six weeks after the press conference in San Francisco my prediction was borne out. The war ended on August 14, when Japan surrendered unconditionally,
ad so far as the Marine invasion was concerned the Second Division, did land at Nagasaki and the Fifth Division at Sasebo, but "only as temporary occupation forces until Army garrison troops could be organized.
Since that interview I've been asked the same questions dozens of times: How did you know the war would be over so soon? Why did you differ with military experts who predicted another year of fighting and a costly landing against a fanatical. enemy resisting every yard and dying to the last man? Was it because you knew about the atomic bomb that was to be chopped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Everyone inferred that as Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force I must have been informed about the bomb, that I must have known the secret of the Manhattan Engineering] lg project and the terrible weapon it was evolving for use against Japan.
To such questions I can reply quite honestly: No. The atom bomb was kept a complete secret from me. 1 never heard of it until 1 read in the papers here in the United States that the first bomb bad been dropped on Japan at Hiroshima.
Then how did I know? The question persists. I knew because the back of Japan's resistance had been broken. Japan was licked when the Marines captured Saipan. Iwo Jima and Okinawa were the knockout blows. The atom bomb did not win the war; it only completed the job already done and hastened surrender. From conversations with Japanese officers taken prisoner at Saipan and Iwo, I was convinced that Japan was exhausted. The losses suffered during our amphibious offensive and the pressure we were able to bring to bear on her from naval and air bases captured in the Marine drive across the Pacific had knocked Japan to her knees.
Surface, submarine and air action had destroyed the Japanese Combined Fleet, wrecked her air force and sunk her merchant marine. She was crippled by a grave shortage of war materials and was denied by the U. S. Navy the use of rubber, oil and rice from the Netherlands East Indies, Borneo, Burma aud ot]]er parts of her looted empire. Raids by vast fleets of B-29's and
other craft had smashed her war potential and razed entire industrial areas. It was impossible for her to hold out any longer.
The United States Marine Corps played a major part in the victory over Japan. Before the tumult and the shouting dies among a complacent, short-memoried people, who take so much for granted, let me have the honor of describing the Marine contribution to victory.
When I commanded the landing forces at the sixth of our prewar amphibious exercises on the island of Culebra, off Puerto Rico, in the spring of 1940, the strength of the Marine Corps was 1,410 officers and 25,070 enlisted men; equipment included five tanks you could kick your foot through. The total Marine strength during World War II was 599,693, of which 528,479, or nearly 90 percent, served abroad. Extensive and diversified armament included all the latest weapons, amphibious tanks and tractors and thousands of landing craft, all types of mechanized equipment, improved artillery, rockets and flame throwers, as well as carrier-based and shore-based air units that made the Marines the best equipped troops in the world.
The Corps mounted two separate offensives, distinctive in character and objective, and fought on different terrain. The first, launched ill the South Pacific with landings in the Solomons Islands in August, 1942, pointed north toward the Philippines, The second started in the Gilbert Islands in the Central Pacific in November, 1943, and struck west.
In the South Pacific, the operation was at first a holding move to check the Japanese advance through the Solomons and South Pacific islands to Australia. It involved treacherous jungle fighting, in which large forces could not be employed. Here was a case of individual survival, that brought out the best qualities of the Marine. Once the long Japanese flank was turned at Guadalcanal and the southern march halted, the operation in that theater became offensive. One by one, Japan's bases in those tropical, mountainous and densely vegetated islands were captured or bypassed, and American forces advanced 3,000 miles up the New Guinea-Netherlands East Indies axis for the reconquest of the Philippines.
In the Central Pacific, where I commanded the V Amphibious Corps and later the Fleet Marine Force, the operation was offensive from the very beginning. It was here that the amphibious doctrine I had preached for years, and had made the basis of Marine training since we realized the inevitability of the Pacific war, was fully justified.
The Central Pacific campaign had as its objective the capture of a number of fortified points in the Japanese mandated atolls and the home islands, stretching from the Gilberts to the Volcano and Ryukyu Islands, the outer and inner defences of Japan. In such a campaign among small, low lying coral islands, there could be neither guile nor surprise and few tactical advantages could be exploited. The only type of warfare possible was plain and open assault on strongly fortified positions which, according to a theory propounded before World War II, enjoyed unassailable superiority because the strength of modern defensive weapons was considered too decisive to permit a successful assault from the sea.
The experience of the British in their ill-fated Dardanelles campaign in 1916 was quoted as textbook authority by supporters of this school. The Turks prevented the British seizure of Gallipoli peninsula and, it was argued, the Japanese would be equally successful in resisting us.
But in the twenty-five years between Gallipoli and Guadalcanal, the Marines had developed amphibious warfare to a point where it became a primary offensive tactic, not only in the Pacific but in every other theater where a major force had to land on a hostile and defended shore. In the Central Pacific, the Marines landed where they were assigned and captured every objective, no matter how strongly it was held.
The relentless Marine drive across the Pacific from Tarawa to Iwo Jima and Okinawa was the greatest operation of its kind in recorded history, there is nothing to compare with it in magnitude, extent and distance covered.
Napoleon in 1812 marched his men to Moscow, 1,530 miles from Paris, but actually the staging base for the Grande Armée was the Niemen River in Poland, making his advance only 550
miles. Genghis Khan in the 11th Century more nearly approached the Marine performance in mobility. The Khan's horde advanced 4,000 miles from the shores of Lake Baikal in Mongolia on its conquest of Central Asia, North India and Eastern Europe, reaching the banks of the Dnieper River in Armenia and almost touching the shores of the Mediterranean.
Both these military movements collapsed through clearly discernible causes. Napoleon, like Hitler, was defeated by the Russian winter, a stubborn Russian army and what we today would call poor logistics. The Mongol conquest disintegrated when the organizing brain behind this vast enterprise disappeared with the death of Genghis Khan.
Consider the record of the Marines in the Central Pacific. First and foremost, the campaign was successful. In their advance from Tarawa to Okinawa, via Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, the Palaus and Iwo Jima, they moved 8000 miles. This is more than twice the distance from New York to San Francisco. Taking it another way, if the Marines had started in Seattle and traveled south, they would have overshot Buenos Aires by a thousand miles.
Actually, the distance covered by the Marines was far greater. Each operation necessitated the assembly of an assault force at a base thousands of miles from the objective, its transport to the scene of the operation and its return to base. This factor of distance illustrates the fundamental difference between the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. After the capture of each Central Pacific island the Marines had to return to bases like the Hawaiian Islands to rehabilitate and prepare for the next operation. Troops fighting in Europe did not have to come back to New York after each operation. The British Isles, the major staging area for the European invasion, was no farther from the French coast than 100 miles, the widest point in the English Channel.
As a result, the Marines became the most travelled troops the world has ever known. Take the Kwajalein operation as an example. This involved a 5,000-mile round trip between Pearl Harbor and the Marshall Islands. Iwo Jima, only a few hundred
miles off the coast of Japan, necessitated a 7,000-mile round trip, an incredible distance considering the huge amount of equipment and supplies we had to transport to the black lava island.
At first we had no convenient nearby bases in the Pacific. As we advanced, we annexed bases nearer our objectives, but the Tarawa operation actually was staged on the other side of the world, in New Zealand. on D-Day in Normandy, Army troops had been in landing boats from 24 to 48 hours before they reached the beaches. Marines frequently traveled five or six weeks before they set eyes on their objective.
The closer you examine the Marine drive across the Pacific, the more magnificent it becomes as a military achievement. Between our first engagement at New Providence, in the Bahamas, in 1776, until the outbreak of World War II, the Marines made 180 landings in various parts of the world. During the war the Marine score in the Pacific was approximately one hundred successful landings. Never has there been such a succession of victories unmarred by a single defeat or even a setback--and God knows there were moments when the issue seemed in doubt, although never once did I lose confidence in our final success. By this string of victories, the Marines showed beyond question that they were capable of taking any objective assigned to them, however difficult, thus confounding all the defence-vs.-offense doctrines and upsetting military theory, especially among the Japanese, who believed their Pacific bases impregnable.
My Marines were the best fighting men in the world and I never hesitated to tell them so. I'm not going to hesitate now. They might die but they were unconquerable. The Japanese General Staff recognized this fact. Their own troops, made fanatical by semidivine indoctrination and brutally trained, were taught to live and die like animals. They were tough. But my Marines were tougher.
One of the highest tributes ever paid to the Marines came from the enemy, from Major Yoshida, a Japanese staff officer captured at Saipan. Yoshida was the man who wrote the plan for the final desperate banzai attack on Saipan. He was handsome by Oriental standards, intellectual and a graduate of the
Army staff school. He surrendered to us because he admitted frankly Japan had lost the war and he wanted to go home when peace came and live with his family. Immortalization at Yasakuni Shrine had no appeal for him.
"Thee Japanese can never hope to defeat a nation that produces soldiers like your Marines," he told our intelligence officers. "In the Japanese army, we revere the spirit of Yamato Damishii, which means the spirit of Old Japan, and our soldiers will die for it. We have learned that the American Marine also reveres the spirit of his country and is just as willing to die as the Japanese soldier. Moreover, the Marine is a better soldier than the Japanese. His individuality is stronger, his training and fighting technique better, he has arms, ammunition and engineering equipment far superior to ours. Had I not believed this, I would not have surrendered."
This unsolicited tribute to the American Marine stirred me because the author was no ordinary buck-toothed Japanese officer. He was personal representative at Saipan of the Supreme General Staff in Tokyo and belonged to a different military category than Lieutenant General Saito, commanding general of all the Japanese forces on the island.
Yoshida's name was mentioned frequently in Japanese dispatches we seized. His tribute to the Marine as a fighting man so moved me that I almost relented and told him something about his own affairs that he did not know. One intercepted dispatch announced that Tokyo had promoted him to Lieutenant Colonel but I finally decided to keep the news to myself since the war was over for him.
Coming from a representative of the Japanese high command, Yoshida's tribute carried weight. Who should know better the qualities of the Marine than the man fighting him? The Japanese General Staff had only to count their losses in men and bases to make the proper assessment of the Marines.
Unfortunately, the American high command occasionally allowed recognition of Marine efforts to get lost in headquarters files. Few Pacific battles were fought without Marine support. Marines participated in General MacArthur's recapture of the
Philippines. The bulk of the Corps Artillery of the V Amphibious Corps, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas E. Bourke, and the Air Liaison Sections of two Marine Assault Signal Companies were part of the assault force at Leyte. Later, four Marine fighter squadrons operating from Tacloban airfield helped provide close air support. A Marine night fighter squadron, urgently requested by General George C. Kenney, commanding the Far Eastern Army Air Force, to replace slower, outranged Army night fighters, also operated from Tacloban. Ultimately, two full Marine Air Groups provided support for the Army in this operation. All performed their duties with bravery and distinction, according to independent reports.
You can search MacArthur's communiques describing the Philippines fighting and you will be unable to find a single reference to the Marines. The average American can be excused for believing the Philippines exclusively an Army show. I wager that not one newspaper reader in a thousand knows there were Marines at Leyte and Luzon unless he had a Marine in the family who was there. Granted that Marine numbers were small in comparison with the Army, nevertheless, the Marines were there when the Philippines were recaptured. Seventeen squadrons of Marine planes were employed in the Philippines--and that's quite a few planes to cloak in anonymity.
I met one of our young Marines who was being flown back from Leyte. He was in great pain but it was not the physical suffering that worried him. "I don't mind losing a leg, sir," he told me bitterly, "but at least Doug might have mentioned that Marines were there!"
Being omitted from MacArthur's communiques was no new experience for Marines. In 1941 and 1942, during the heroic and tragic defense of Bataan and Corregidor, although MacArthur's command included the veteran 4th Marines, evacuated from China in the nick of time, the public was kept in ignorance of their presence. After a period of the MacArthur silent treatment, the Navy Department became somewhat nettled to read of the exploits and presence of virtually every Army and Philippine unit, while seeing nothing of the Marine regiment on Corregidor.
Finally, after tactful representations had fallen on deaf ears, the Navy in Washington began issuing its own communiques in simple justice to the Marines who were silently sharing the perils and privations of Bataan and Corregidor beside much-publicized Army comrades.
Even after this inter-Service brush--which never should have happened--MacArthur had his innings again: the Marine regiment was absent from the General's list of units awarded the Army's Distinguished Unit Citation. Since this list was otherwise as inclusive as God's forgiveness, it came as a relief to me and to most Marines that General Jonathan M. ("Skinny" ) Wainwright, noted for his fairness and generosity, rectified this omission after MacArthur departed for Australia and left him to continue the forlorn defense of the Philippines.
A strange sidelight on the amorphous American command in the Pacific during World War II was the fact that MacArthur and I never met. By fate or circumstance, our paths never crossed during the war or before the war. We both were leaders of victorious troops moving toward the same goal but we were total strangers. My superior was Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, CINCPAC (Commander-in-Chief, Pacific) and CINCPOA (Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas). Our commands never overlapped and the first time more that two Army divisions were employed jointly with Marines, command went to the Army. This was at Okinawa.
There have been widespread charges that the Marines resented serving under Army leadership. Nothing is farther from the truth. As Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger told the Senate Military Affairs Committee on December 7, 1945:
In our 170 years we [the Marine Corps have never acquired the view that to support another arm or branch in the performance of a service to the country was to suffer either an indignity or a loss of prestige.
I was not invited to attend the surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 1, 1945. This was a great personal disappointment after fighting all those
weary miles from Tarawa. However, the Marines are a team, not a collection of individuals, and our team was ably represented by General Geiger, who succeeded me as Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force.
From our entry into the war until the Japanese surrender, nearly every major offensive launched by the United States was initiated by an amphibious assault. This specialized form of operation put Army troops ashore in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, the Philippines and the Aleutians, and penetrated Japan's powerful defense perimeter running from the Aleutians almost to Australia. This type of warfare represented a unique achievement of the Marine Corps, although it later was adopted by the Army. Perfected amphibious warfare was a gift of the Marines to the Army and was essential in solving the new problems World War II brought in its train.
The success of its modern application dates back to the early 1920's. While most of the world's military leaders were studying and analyzing World War I, just ended, and were still thinking in terms of trench fighting and great continental wars of position, the Marines were applying themselves to the problems of assaulting fortified beaches. Between Gallipoli and Guadalcanal, the Marines developed the doctrine, organization, tactics and equipment necessary to wage this difficult and complex warfare because we knew it was the answer to the conditions future wars would create.
The doctrine also led to the reorganization of the Marine Corps and from this forward thinking emerged the Fleet Marine Force, a revolutionary offensive unit.
In the years before the war we made amphibious technique the keynote of all Marine training. In my opinion, this was the most significant development in the art of war ever conceived and all our maneuvers took the form of simulated landings on heavily defended beaches, attacking the impossible positions that the old school of military opinion, drawing on World War I and earlier conflicts for analogies, declared would not yield to assault.
We laid the foundation for our belief in maneuvers and
proved our doctrine sound in combat. Marines trained in this type of warfare could assault and capture positions which were deemed impregnable. It sounded startling but it was true. Given adequate naval and air support, they could go ashore on any beach and take any objective. I could nave landed them in the mouth of hell if the Joint Chiefs of Staff had picked that target. (Iwo Jima was a fair substitute.) Success was a question of proper planning and coordination. The training and the spirit were there. Tested in actual combat on the tough road from Guadalcanal to Tokyo, the doctrine stood firm. True, we progressed by trial and error--many errors in some cases--but each error was converted into a lesson applied to the next operation. The Marines were committed to a novel principle of war, the principle of doing the impossible well. In fact the way they captured some of the most heavily fortified positions in the world made amphibious warfare appear easy.
Back home, when people picked up the paper to read of another Marine landing, they accepted victory as the natural corollary and paid no further attention beyond scanning developments. In the public mind, victory became merely a question of when,, not how, and the public lost sight of the difficulties we had to overcome. The deceptive ease with which we gained our victories, due to a combination of training, morale and equipment all functioning like parts of a perfectly adjusted machine, even blurred the Navy perspective and made it increasingly difficult for us to obtain the amount of naval gunfire necessary to insure the success of our landings.
In this connection, the reader must realize how essential to a landing is the prior naval and air bombardment of enemy positions, which destroys defenses and softens up opposition before the assault waves hit the beach. The stronger the defenses the heavier, more prolonged and more effective should be the bombardment, over periods as short as three days and as long as ten days. During the war our old battleships, including some of the revitalized ghosts of Pearl Harbor, were invaluable in this work. They were able to stand close inshore and use their heavy armament with terrific effect.
The Navy reaction to our successful landings was to wonder if they were giving us too much gunfire and prejudicing their primary mission, which was to protect us against possible Japanese naval action. Perhaps, the Navy reasoned, the Marines could get along with less gunfire. As if a few rounds of ammunition mattered when it was a question of reducing casualties. The way I have always reckoned, shells are cheaper than lives. One of my biggest and most hopeless fights with Admiral Nimitz and with almost every other Admiral associated with me on an operation, was to get them to see my viewpoint on naval gunfire.
At Iwo Jima, I asked for ten days' bombardment and had to compromise on only three days' fire to prepare for the Marine landing on perhaps the strongest fortified island in the world, where every yard of volcanic terrain was covered by Japanese guns. The Navy idea of battle economy often reached unbelievable proportions.
The big colored map in Admiral Nimitz's planning room at Pearl Harbor showed our advance toward Japan but he could not have recorded that progress unless the Marines had taken those islands for him. The Marines made it possible and instead of enjoying easy victories, as they appeared to the superficial observer, the battles were bloody and hard fought.
I have been blamed for the relatively high casualties suffered by the Marines under my command in the Central Pacific. I have been called "butcher," "cold blooded murderer" and "indiscriminate waster of human life." One mother wrote Secretary of the Navy Jame Forrestal (now Defense Secretary) during the Iwo Jima operation as follows: "Please, for God's sake, stop sending our finest youth to be murdered on places like Iwo Jima. Why can't objectives be accomplished some other way?" To which the Secretary replied: There is no short or easy way."
This is not an attempt to excuse the Marine casualties. To do so would insult the memory of the brave men who died so willingly for their country. The total U.S. Marine Corps casualties from December 7, 1941, to August 31, 1945, in all theaters, including the Central Pacific, were 89,585. Excluding wounded, these are the details:
Killed in action 15,130 Died of wounds received in action 3,392 Missing, presumed dead 901 Total 19,423
In addition, 106 officers and 1,841 enlisted men were taken prisoners of war. These included the 4th Marines in China and the Philippine; survivors of the Marine detachment aboard the USS Houston sunk off Java; personnel of the Marine barracks at Guam and the Marine detachment commanded by Colonel James Devereux, responsible for the heroic defense of Wake Island, nearly all captured in the early days of the war when the Japanese overran the Pacific.
Compared with Army casualties the Marine percentage was higher. However, statistical comparisons fail to give the complete picture. The proportionately higher Marine ratio is accounted for by these facts:
Former Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson recently stated: "Troop transport and assault landings are traditionally the most difficult and most dangerous of all military operations." Every time the Marines landed it was a Normandy on a smaller but more intense scale. In two wars I have fought Germans and Japanese. Throw a hand grenade into a German pillbox and they come out with hands reaching for the sky and shouting "Kamerad!" Throw a hand grenade into a Japanese pillbox and they throw it right back at you.
- A larger percentage of Marines served overseas. (Marines 90 percent, Army 70 percent. )
- The Marines were fighting a different type of war.
- The Marines were assaulting more difficult objectives.
It has been said that the Army is long on strategy and short on tactics while in the Marine Corps we are short on strategy and long on tactics. Perhaps so; but one point must no be overlooked, particularly in any comparative assessment of the Pacific war. Our two converging drives on Tokyo had two distinctly different command set-ups. MacArthur was in supreme command in his
own theater and could pick his own targets. He picked the easiest. Mine were picked for me by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, who indicated the objectives and left me the task of capturing them.
I have no desire to belittle the Army's contribution to our common victory but in defense of the Marines I must put on record the fact that when the Army had a difficult amphibious objective at Okinawa, the operation took three times as long as any Marine operation with the exception of Guadalcanal. When the First and Sixth Marine Divisions finally were thrown in, momentum was added. Total casualties were higher at Okinawa than in any Marine operation, although the Army enjoyed the initial advantage of landing unopposed. My Pacific experience was that the first half mile from the beach took the heaviest toll in lives.
Since I first joined the Marines, I have advocated aggressiveness in the field and constant offensive action. Hit quickly, hit hard and keep right on hitting. Give the enemy no rest, no opportunity to consolidate his forces and hit back at you. This is the shortest road to victory in the type of island war the Marines had to fight and is most economical of lives in the long run.
In the words of Frederick the Great, "By making your battle short, you will deprive it of time, so to speak, to rob you of men. The soldier who is led by you in this manner will gain confidence in you and expose himself gladly to all danger."
Marines were trained along these lines for their job in the Pacific and they responded to leadership of officers indoctrinated in the principle of short, lively, intense campaigns. We took the Pacific islands the only possible way. Any other method would have prolonged operations and cost more lives.
War is a costly undertaking and the Marines paid the bill. The Duke of Wellington once said, "Nothing except a battle lost can be so melancholy as a battle won." This is the summation I must make on the Pacific war: If the Marines had received better co-operation from the Navy our casualties would have been lower. More naval gunfire would have saved many lives. I had to beg for gunfire and I rarely received what the situation
demanded. I had to fight not only for gunfire but for aviation, for the requisite number of staff officers to accompany me on operations and against Navy interference. The Navy transported us, landed us and protected us against Japanese naval and air attack. We could not have reached the islands without the Navy, but at that point their duties should have ended. Instead, they tried to continue running the show.
The Navy's mental arteriosclerosis made it hard for me in other ways. Procurement of equipment was a source of trouble. This difficulty dates back to long before the war but it was emphasized in operational planning. In 1939, when I was given command of the First Marine Brigade in the Caribbean, I concentrated on the amphibious aspect of training because it was obvious war was coming and therefore imperative that the Marines be ready. However, it was not simply a question of training men. Equally important were the development of equipment and weapons for use in amphibious warfare and the task of bludgeoning Washington into providing money and matériel.
It was a long and continuous fight to get what I wanted. I was constantly being slapped down by the Navy Department for what they dismissed as "grandiloquent representations." When I did convince the top Navy brass of the practical nature of my requirements, opposition took a different form. The new weapons I asked for suddenly presented insurmountable procurement or manufacturing difficulties. During this phase there was no immediate or overt opposition to my ideas. They were always well received but somewhere in the corporate mind of the naval oligarchy these ideas often vanished until I dragged them out again and got them on the planning table.
The ramp boat was typical. In China, the Japanese had been using ramp boats along the coast and up the shallow creeks for years. We did not possess a single boat of this type. Yet, without it, the Marines never could have landed on a Japanese island and the Army would have been crippled in Europe. To get the boat, we went straight to the builder, Andrew Higgins, discussed plans with him and he built the ramp boat while the Bureau of Ships was still dazed by the temerity of the suggestion.
With World War II in Europe spurring preparedness efforts, my private war for weapons and equipment began to bear fruit and in command of the First Brigade in the Caribbean I intensified Marine training for the amphibious task ahead since I was convinced the United States would join the battle against Fascism on two continents. If the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, the Japanese bases in the Pacific were captured on the beaches of the Caribbean, where the problems involved were worked out in Marine maneuvers.
Certain strategic Japanese islands were captured by plans drawn up as early as 1920--so sure were we of the course of history. On the beaches of Culebra, an island off the Puerto Rican coast which was the principal Marine training base, we superimposed maps of Japanese bases and made trial assaults which became reality a few years later. These dress rehearsals for the Pacific war were the most vivid I ever witnessed. I often remembered them against a background of smoking Japanese islands.
These Marine exercises were no secret from the Japanese. When we attacked Guam in 1944, 1 was convinced by the Japanese commander's disposition of his forces and the location of his defenses that the enemy had obtained a copy of our original plan for the recapture of Guam, rehearsed years before.
Unfortunately for the Japanese, the plan had been altered since it was first written. Originally we intended landing on the east coast of the island but this was changed to beaches on the west coast‹-north and south of Apra Harbor. Strong forces waited for us on the east coast, obviously misled by the discarded plan, and we went ashore on the west coast without too much opposition, although the main enemy strength was concentrated there. Typically, the Japanese military failed to take into consideration the possibility that our plan might have been altered in subsequent years.
A Japanese agent would have had no difficulty in obtaining the plan. Before the war we had a childish habit of broadcasting our military activities by publishing them in service journals available on the newsstands, but we circumvented Japanese intelligence
by neglecting to reveal that the original plan for Guam had been scrapped.
Marine operations in the Pacific underscored the nation's growing understanding of the functions of the Corps in relation to national defense. In prewar days, the Corps was popularly associated with the idea of an international police force. When missionaries were threatened in China or businessmen got into trouble in Central America, the cry went up, "Send for the Marines!" We were regarded as an international riot squad, instantly available to handle any disturbance involving Americans on the street corners of the world. In a larger sense, the dispatch of Marines to the Mediterranean, the new danger spot in the world picture, was another instance of this peacetime employment.
To be sure, this is a part of our duty and has taken us an over the globe, but it is a limitation of our basic program. The Marines always have been an integrated, well organized military unit, very advanced in tactical thought. Ten years before it started Marine Corps planners were forecasting the character of the Pacific campaign in World War II. That was a period when acceptance of the inevitability of World War II was just as unpopular as mention of World War III is today.
While we were envisioning World War II, we could not foresee the mental climate in which the war would be fought. World War II, although the most completely successful in our history, was also the most peculiar. Generals who lost battles and Captains who lost ships were promoted and decorated. A General took his wife and family to war with him. Generals competed with Admirals to acquire the largest number of stars. Generals, both Army and Marine, who were relieved from command for inefficiency, were continued on active duty in important commands. The correct disposition of top echelon insignia was as careful a staff study as the correct disposition of troops in our operations. Never in our history did gold braid sweep so high up naval sleeves nor so many stars adorn Army and Marine shoulders.
When I served in China I met a curious personage holding
the rank of Admiral-General. This Oriental package show, presented with suitable fanfare, shook me, but the height of our fantasy in high command was even more theatrical. We had Generals who were Admirals and Admirals who wanted to be Generals. Generals acting as Admirals are bad enough but it was the Admirals who wanted to be Generals who imperilled victory among the coral islands.
Coral was a great ally of the American forces in the Pacific. With coral we built airstrips, roads, piers and breakwaters and saved thousands of tons of shipping that would have been necessary to transport material from the United States if this natural product had hot been abundantly and readily available. Coral is a living organism. After being blasted from the reefs that impeded our landing and utilized in military construction, it continued to work for us instead of against us. I would hesitate to place in the same useful category a lot of our brass in the Pacific.
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