Chapter 6: Joint Logistics in the Pacific Theater

Anthony W. Gray, Jr.

World War II was a war of logistics. It was a war of distances, advance bases, and was a strategy driven and constrained by logistics. This was particularly true in the Pacific Theater for both the United States and Japan. The role logistics played has been repeated time and again in subsequent accounts addressing various aspects of the war, the strategic decisions, and the actual campaigns in the theaters of operations. Fleet Admiral King in his reports to the Secretary of the Navy summed it up as follows:

The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics. The ways and means to supply and support our forces in all parts of the world--including the Army--of course have presented problems nothing short of colossal, and have required the most careful and intricate planning. The profound effect of logistic problems is described elsewhere in this report, but to all who do not have to traverse them, the tremendous distances, particularly those in the Pacific, are not likely to have full significance. It is no easy matter in a global war to have the right materials in the right place at the right times in the right quantities.1


As the war in the Pacific was one of logistics for the United States, it was also a war of logistics for Japan. Japan had no more than 10 percent of the industrial potential of the United States and was nearly totally reliant on its sea lines of communication for the importation of raw materials.2

The Japanese strategy, was therefore one of securing interior lines of communications by a ring of fortified bases in the Central, South and Southwest Pacific, as well as Southeast Asia. The U.S. strategy became one of stopping Japan's advance and then penetrating the interior lines of communication.

Joint Logistics in the Pacific Theater

How well the Service and Theater logistics systems worked and whether there was an effective joint logistics system to some degree were in the eye of the beholder or depended upon who was writing the account. One broad interpretation is that the United States and its Allies won the war, therefore our logistics systems were effective. This chapter will focus on the logistics aspects of the Pacific War with emphasis on joint logistics through an examination of the following general areas:
  1. Pre-World War II planning and early wartime situation in the Pacific.

  2. Early logistics issues (shipping and advance bases).

  3. Service and theater logistics organization.

  4. The evolution of logistics systems in the Pacific.

  5. The Pacific campaigns from the logistics standpoint.

  6. Priorities and competition for resources.

  7. Influence of key Commanders.

This chapter will address the war against Japan in the Pacific and Southwest Pacific Theaters. The Southeast Asia Theater, and the China-Burma-India Theater will not be addressed except in passing.


These areas were important--Japan had most of its troops deployed in China and Southeast Asia and took most of its casualties there, and the United States has a major Lend-Lease effort resupplying China, as well as aiding Britain in keeping the Japanese out of India, however they suffered from a lower priority than the European and Pacific Theaters and were ultimately economy of force areas.

A Two-Ocean War

At the outset of World War II, the U.S. military was ill prepared logistically to support a two-ocean war. Our Pacific and Asiatic Fleets had no prior combat experience, whereas the U.S. Atlantic Fleet had been "engaging" Axis submarines and had been on a wartime state of readiness.3

The Pacific and European Theaters were vastly different in geography and military situation. Although a common industrial base and controlling organizations existed in the United States, the logistical problems and requirements were often unique. When the requirements were not unique, there was competition when the same resource was needed by both theaters at the same time. Shipping, landing craft, and support personnel in particular, would become sources of competition and would have significant strategic implications.

The Pacific Theaters involved several types of warfare. It was in varying phases: a naval war wherein the world's last great sea battles were fought; a large scale air war with intense air-to-air, air-to-ship, and air-to-ground combat involving the Navy and Army Air Corps, culminating in the concentrated bombing campaign against the Japanese Home Islands; an island hopping amphibious campaign involving Army, Navy and Marine amphibious units; as well as a significant land war as in the Philippines and New Guinea. Therefore, there was not the clear cut distinction that existed in the European theater of a land war being supported by air and naval forces. In the Pacific, each Service or component at any one time one could


think of the war as primarily a naval, air, or land war with the other services as supporting forces.

It therefore can be said that, whereas in the European Theater the Army was the dominant service, with the Navy playing a major but supporting role, primarily in the areas of anti-submarine warfare, amphibious operations and naval gunfire support, in the Pacific Theater which service was dominant was largely dependent upon the location and time. In the Central Pacific and South Pacific the Navy and the Marine Corps were dominant with key support from the Army and Army Air Corps. In the Southwest Pacific, the Army was the dominant service with the Navy and Marine Corps in supporting roles. The U.S. Navy's campaign against the Japanese Navy and merchant fleet was controlled by the Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC), and encompassed all of the Pacific Ocean area. Which service was the dominant one was frequently in the eye of the beholder, which in part explains some of the inter-service and inter-theater rivalries which reportedly took place in the Pacific.

In the Pacific, geography was key. Initially, complicated logistics problems as well as the definition of logistics were not fully appreciated or understood at the higher levels. As the war progressed, these problems gained a greater appreciation.

Pre-War Situation and Planning

Potential scenarios for a war with Japan in the Pacific Theater had been gamed at the War Colleges, particularly the Naval War College, throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Also, from the early part of the century, some planning had taken place for defense of the Philippines against Japan, especially after Japan's defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War and her emergence as a world power. Planning in earnest began after World War I when, as a result of Japan's participation against the Central Powers, it was given the League of Nations Mandate over the islands formerly colonized by Germany in the Central Pacific (the Marshalls, Gilberts, Carolines and the Marianas less Guam--see map at Figure 1).4


The main war plan for the Pacific was Plan ORANGE, which in 1935 assumed loss of the Philippines and then a progressive U.S. offensive to the Western Pacific through the Marshalls and the Carolines. The Army did not believe that the plan was worth the cost and looked toward the 1934 Philippine Independence Act as a means of cutting back its commitment in the area. The Navy believed that the United States should be prepared to take the offensive in the event of a war with Japan. In 1938 a compromise was reached which took into account the differences between the services in a revised plan which would seek to deny Manila Bay to the Japanese. It was clear, however, that in the event of war with Japan, there would be little hope of reinforcing the Philippines.5 Whether the Philippines could withstand an attack by Japan had always been an issue.

Planners and senior leaders naturally did not want to admit that the Philippines, with its 7,000 islands as well as the lightly defended Guam, were "sacrificial lambs." However, most conceded that, even with the fortress on Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay, a foothold in the Philippines could only be maintained for a few months, which is precisely what happened in 1942. Further, the Bataan Peninsula was also essential to maintaining this foothold because it extended into Manila Bay to within two miles of Corregidor. Bataan's elevation provided an excellent field of fire against Corregidor. Therefore, when Bataan fell in 1942, Corregidor's fate was sealed. The planning situation was further complicated during the years between World Wars I and II, first by assertions in 1923 by retired Army Chief of Staff, General Leonard Wood, Governor-General of the Philippines, that the Philippines could be successfully defended by a properly armed Philippine Army backed up by U.S. power, and subsequently by General MacArthur. In 1941 General MacArthur made essentially the same claim as General Wood, and specifically recommended U.S. manned artillery fortifications and a strong U.S. air element be provided. MacArthur had become the Commander of the Philippine Army upon his retirement as Chief of Staff in 1935. The earlier assertions by Wood had been supported by the Navy, but MacArthur's did not have Navy support.6


As the international situation deteriorated in 1938 and 1939, it became clear that the United States, in conjunction with Great Britain and France, might be called upon to fight a war on multiple fronts against Germany, Italy, and Japan. The service planners were therefore called upon to draft a series of plans which became known as RAINBOW Plans. These plans included hemispheric defense, war against Japan, and war against Germany and Italy in concert with Great Britain and France, in Africa and Europe.7

There were other significant preparations also being made prior to the commencement of the war. In 1938, the Navy, commissioned a board to review the need for advanced bases in the event of war. This board led by Rear Admiral Hepburn reported on the potential for establishing bases in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the Pacific. The report of this board, and a subsequent board convened by the Secretary of the Navy under Rear Admiral Greenslade were to prove very useful in the actual establishment of advance bases.8

The rapid fall of France in 1940 and the fear that Britain would soon collapse brought home the fact that the United States was woefully unprepared for war at that time. When it became apparent that Britain would survive, the primary RAINBOW Plan, RAINBOW 5 was revived and formed the basis for the "Europe First" strategy. Between 1939 and early 1941, Congress authorized the Army to make serious preparations for war which included increasing the regular Army strength to 375,000, calling up of reserves and National Guard personnel and the Selective Service Act of 1940.9 Army and Army Air Corps procurement programs were greatly accelerated, and the Navy underwent a major expansion authorized by the Naval Construction Act of 1940. In December 1940 President Roosevelt made his "Arsenal of Democracy" speech, which led to the Lend Lease Act of 1941 and resulted in a major portion of United States industrial output supporting Great Britain. (This has also been described


by some as a hindrance to our preparedness for war.)10 Further, our shipyards were gaining experience in repairing battle damage to British ships, and tactical doctrine developed in the 1930s, particularly in air and amphibious operations would play a pivotal role in the war.

Despite the fact, however, that we were practically in an undeclared war with Germany as the "arsenal of democracy" for Great Britain, and that preparations for war were accelerating, the United States was nonetheless unprepared for a two-ocean war--at least not as soon as December 1941. However, until the threat of war in Europe became apparent, Army planning had only included protection of U.S. territory in a war with Japan which would be primarily a naval war. In fact the Protective Mobilization Plan of 1939 and its supporting Industrial Mobilization plan had envisioned just that.11

The Army (which had been expanding at a rapid rate and was beginning to deploy forces overseas to bases in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippines) had only 10 percent of its forces deployed outside the United States by December 1, 1941. Further, of the 27 infantry divisions, 5 armor divisions, 2 cavalry divisions, and 200 air squadrons, only 7 of these divisions could be equipped for combat service. Had these troops been fully equipped, lack of shipping would have prevented most of them from being transported overseas.12

When it became apparent that Army plans were woefully inadequate, General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, directed that a whole new set of plans be prepared in the spring of 1941. The primary result of this process was the "Victory Plan," produced by then Major Wedemeyer who subsequently became Chief of War Plans. The "Victory Plan" had three main objectives:

  1. Enforce the Monroe Doctrine by defending the Western Hemisphere from foreign attack.

  2. Protect U.S. possessions in the Pacific and maintain a sufficient force to deter war in the western Pacific.


  1. Create task forces capable of fighting in the Americas, the Caribbean, and in conjunction with Great Britain in Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe.13

Personalities, Initial Organization, and Theater Alignment

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor there was no theater command organization as such in the Pacific. There were four commands in the Pacific: one Army and one Navy in the Philippines, and one Army and one Navy in Hawaii. The Navy's Asiatic Fleet, commanded by Admiral Hart, was based in the Philippines. In addition to the 22,000 man U.S. Army Command in the Philippines under Lieutenant General Wainwright, General MacArthur, as noted above, was in command of the 100,000 man Philippine Army. In April 1941, the Philippine Army was brought under U.S. Army control, and General MacArthur was recalled to active duty and placed in command of the defense of the Philippines with the title "Commander in Chief U.S. Army Forces Far East (USAFE)."14 The Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor was Admiral Kimmel and his Army Counterpart, was Lieutenant General Short, Commander of the Hawaiian Department. Both of these officers were relieved following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Additionally, Admiral Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations was relieved in early 1942 (subsequently to serve as Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe), and Admiral King assumed duties as Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet.

Prior to the war, the four commands in the Pacific had operated more or less independently, and joint operations were the exception. After the war began it became obvious that unity of command would be essential in order to successfully prosecute the war. The Pacific had traditionally been a Navy domain, but with MacArthur in Australia after the fall of the Philippines, senior to all other U.S. flag officers and a national hero, there was strong pressure to make him the


overall Pacific Theater Commander. The Navy naturally opposed this, and after considerable debate Admiral Nimitz, who succeeded Admiral Kimmel as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, was made Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Area, and General MacArthur was made Commander in Chief Southwest Pacific (see map at Figure 2). Additionally, three sub-areas were established under Admiral Nimitz; North Pacific, Central Pacific (both commanded by Nimitz) and a South Pacific Area to be commanded by an officer designated by Admiral Nimitz. Vice Admiral Ghormley was the first officer to command this area, succeeded in October 1942 by Admiral Halsey. It has been argued that this command arrangement (two coequal commanders in the Pacific) led to ". . . duplication of effort and keen competition for the limited supplies of ships, landing craft and airplanes."15

Operational Situation in the Pacific 1941-1942

General MacArthur's recall to active duty in April 1941 and his optimism regarding defending the Philippines resulted in his receiving top priority for receiving combat aircraft. By the end of April, 272 B-17 bombers and an additional 360 heavy combat aircraft and 260 fighter aircraft were promised before April 1942. Troops and equipment also began to arrive and a doubling of troop strength was promised by the end of December as well as heavy artillery in 1942. The aim was to make the Philippines a "self-sustaining fortress" survivable for 180 days. In November 1941, the Joint Army-Navy Board endorsed this plan for a "strategic defense" of the Philippines. Although the Navy sent 12 submarines to the Philippines in October 1941, the Commander of the Asiatic Fleet, Admiral Hart, was ordered to abandon the area once war broke out.l6 Unfortunately, the efforts at buildup in the Philippines were too little too late (particularly in the face of an overwhelming Japanese force), and events progressed in the Western Pacific generally as predicted


in Plan ORANGE. This did not, however stop some desperate efforts to save the Philippines as well as the then Dutch East Indies. In mid-December 1941, then Brigadier General Eisenhower, serving on the Army Staff; proposed a plan which was accepted by General Marshall for a base in Australia from which to reinforce the Philippines and the East Indies. A U.S. Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA) command was established and the allied forces in the East Indies came under the American, British, Dutch, Australia (ABDA) command under British General Wavell. By February 1942, however it was apparent that this effort was doomed. Overwhelming Japanese force in the area and a blockade of the Philippines thwarted any resupply effort. Reinforcement shipping for the Indies as well as nearly the entire U.S. Asiatic Fleet and the ABDA fleet were destroyed. A large scale Japanese air raid on Darwin, Australia on February 19 destroyed several supply ships and large quantities of supplies. With the conclusion of the Battle of the Java Sea in late February 1942, the Dutch East Indies were firmly in Japanese hands. In March 1942 General MacArthur was ordered to Australia where he was initially made Supreme Commander Allied Forces Australia and the Philippines. He subsequently assumed command of the Southwest Pacific area and USAFIA.17

The first few months of 1942, therefore, found the U.S. Military with a Pacific Fleet heavily damaged, an Asiatic Fleet destroyed, and Army and Army Air Corps assets heavily damaged or lost. The U.S. possessions--Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines had fallen to Japan, as well as the Dutch, British and French colonies in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Midway Island and Hawaii as well as Australia and New Zealand were threatened. The Japanese fleet had broad freedom of movement throughout the Pacific and was consolidating its hold on the Central Pacific and moving into the South Pacific. Most importantly, tens of thousands of American personnel had been killed or captured, as well as several thousand allied personnel. The initial task of the U.S. military in the Pacific, along with our allies was one of survival, centered on saving Australia and New


Zealand from Japanese attack, and trying to blunt the efforts of the Japanese fleet.

In late January 1942 the Japanese captured Rabaul on the Island of New Britain in the Bismarks close by to New Guinea, exposing the thinly manned Australian garrison at Port Moresby. Effectively, Japan controlled the sea approaches to Australia, thus leaving it open to attack or invasion. By Spring 1942 the Japanese had moved into New Guinea from the north, had established a major base at Rabaul, and had moved into the Solomons. By June, they were building air bases on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Not only were Australia and New Zealand threatened, but also New Caledonia and the Fiji Islands.18 The limits of Japanese advance are depicted on the map at Figure 2.

After the string of disastrous defeats and the threat of further reverses, American and Allied morale was boosted by the strategic naval victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea (taking place as Corregidor fell in May 1942), and the battle of Midway in June 1942, the turning point of the Pacific war. These victories had been costly, for both sides. The Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942 had given American morale another psychological boost and had demonstrated to Japan that even the home islands were not invulnerable to air attack. Early on, the U.S. Navy had also declared unrestricted submarine warfare on all shipping flying the Japanese flag and began to penetrate its interior lines of communication.19

Europe First--Holding Action in the Pacific?

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy formally declared war on the United States, and at the famous Christmas 1941 meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in Washington, the decision was formally taken for the "Europe First" strategy, while maintaining a holding action in the Pacific. The Europe First strategy, (embodied in RAINBOW 5) had initially been proposed


by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Stark in 1940 and concurred in by General Marshall. In January 1941 it had been approved by the Joint Army-Navy Board and confirmed in secret conversations with British staff officers.20 This fact notwithstanding, there was pressure to wage a concentrated effort against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor21 (certainly from the Congress and the American public as well as from within the military). The Europe First strategy remained in effect throughout the war, however the terms "holding action" and "limited offensive" in the Pacific were subject to various interpretations and modifications of plans by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and at allied leaders conferences. This resulted in considerable competition for resources, particularly in the latter stages of the war as operations were greatly accelerated in both theaters. Frequent conflicts arose among the senior commanders of the Pacific and European Theaters as well as within the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was however, the strategic situation in the Pacific and the logistics situation which governed our early actions and placed initial primary emphasis on the Pacific.22

In order to conduct a holding action in the Pacific and protect Australia and New Zealand, it was necessary to deploy large numbers of troops (approximately 75,000 in the first few months of 1942) to Australia and build a major logistics base there as well as establish a presence in New Zealand and advance bases in New Caledonia, Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, and other areas. Initial plans to create a "second England" out of Australia proved infeasible due to the geography of that vast continent and an inadequate road and rail system. However, Australia was to become the anchor of defense in the Southwest Pacific.23

One U.S. Army division was ordered to Australia in February 1942, and in March two additional divisions were sent, one to Australia and one to New Zealand on the request of Prime Minister Churchill so that divisions from those countries could remain in the Middle East.24 This large deployment to the Pacific actually had the effect


of aiding the "Europe First" strategy. The U.S. was taking on the responsibility for defending Australia and New Zealand so that the experienced troops from those countries could remain deployed against German forces.

Early Logistics Issues

Along with our unpreparedness, the central role that logistics would play throughout World War II was probably poorly understood by many of the key players. Regarding the Pacific Theater, Samuel Eliot Morison wrote that ". . . logistics problems were so vast and so novel that the story of how they were solved is of surpassing interest."25

In the Pacific Theater, there were two major problems: first, getting there; and once there, sustaining forces at great distances from the United States and its possessions. The two most critical needs in this regard were shipping and advance bases.


The Joint Army-Navy War Plans of 1941 assigned the Navy the responsibility for sea transportation in the event of war. Specifically WPI-46 of May 1941 tasked the Navy to "provide sea transportation for the initial movement and continued support of Army and Navy forces overseas. Man and operate the Army Transport Service."26

This tasking was unfortunately based upon the experience of World War I where a one-theater war was waged and the British merchant marine was the primary shipping resource for the allies. The requirements for World War II shipping would be vastly different. The requirements of U.S. Merchant shipping in World War II have been described as:

  1. Logistic support for Armed Forces overseas

  2. Lend-Lease shipments to the allies


  1. Shipments to sustain allied civilian populations

  2. Imports of raw materials to the United States

  3. Normal Western Hemisphere sea trade27

By December 1941, it was discovered that the Navy was ill-prepared for this transportation role. The Naval Transportation Service, an organization under the Chief of Naval Operations, was small, understaffed, and existed largely on paper. Further, the transport ships owned by the Navy were largely assigned to fleet support, and the Navy did not have available personnel to man the Army Transport Service ships. (The Navy was reportedly also reluctant to man these ships because of their poor condition.) The Navy had begun to address this problem as early as September 1939 with the establishment of Port Directors in the principal U.S. ports to procure merchant shipping (in conjunction with the Maritime Commission) to fill emergency Navy needs. Immediately after December 7, 1941, efforts were made by the Port Director of San Francisco and the Maritime Administration to solve Pacific shipping problems. This was an ad-hoc arrangement and the lack of any centralized control led to the establishment of the War Shipping Administration in February 1942, which placed control of all U.S. merchant shipping under a single authority. Ships were allocated to claimants (Army and Navy) on a voyage basis.28

Advance Bases

As stated above, the need for advance bases was recognized well before the beginning of World War II and our entry into it. Fortunately the U.S. had some experience in establishing overseas advance bases in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Canada as a result of the 1940 "Destroyer for Bases Deal" with the United Kingdom. Additionally, as part of the 1941 Lend-Lease Act, we were planning to build bases in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Plans were also being prepared for a base in the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. In December 1941, a site for a fueling station was selected on Bora Bora, in the French Society Islands to the southeast of Samoa. This was a joint Army-


Navy undertaking to be manned by 3,900 Army personnel for the garrison and 500 Navy personnel to construct the base and operate the fueling facility. The expedition sailed in January in spite of problems with shipping and cargo-handling equipment. Equipment to establish the base was taken from stocks destined for British bases. Considerable problems were encountered with Bora Bora. Proper maps were not available and much of the equipment was unsuitable. Further the Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) were not fully trained.29 In spite of these problems, there were many important lessons learned and soon bases were being established in the South Pacific in Samoa, the New Hebrides as well as New Caledonia. These early bases were critical in order to contain the Japanese in the Central Pacific and protect the lifeline to Australia. (See maps at Figures 1 and 3.)

As the war progressed, the bases took on different meanings to the services. In the very beginning they were critical to the Navy, as fueling and supply depots for the fleet. As the Navy developed an afloat mobile logistics system fleet, units became less dependent upon the advance bases. However, as the U.S. offensive moved across the Pacific, advance bases remained critical staging areas for subsequent operations. As we moved closer to the Japanese home islands, these bases enabled long-range, land-based bombers to launch a bombing campaign against the home islands and other key Japanese held areas. They also enabled our Submarine Force to move its primary logistic support forward from Pearl Harbor to Guam. No matter what anybody's perception is of the purpose of the advance bases, the bottom line is that they gave us strategic reach and enabled the U.S. military to penetrate and destroy Japan's interior lines of communication. Fleet Admiral King described the role of advance bases to the Secretary of the Navy as follows:

As we progressed across the Pacific, islands captured in one amphibious operation were converted into bases which became spring boards for the next advance. These bases were set up for various purposes depending upon the next operation. At first they were mainly air bases for the support of bombers and for the


use of protective fighters. This gradually changed to the establishment of staging bases for the anchoring, fueling and refitting of armadas of transports and cargo ships, and for replenishing mobile support squadrons which actually accompanied the combat forces and serviced them at sea. Further advances made necessary the development of repair and refitting bases for large amphibious forces. As we progressed further and further across the Pacific, it became necessary to set up main repair bases for the maintenance, repair and servicing of larger fleet units.30

Joint Logistics Situation/Organization at the Outset of the War

According to Logistics in World War II: Final Report of the Army Service Forces, at the beginning of the war the Navy and War Departments had little in common in logistics, and real cooperation had not yet begun. Each service had its own separate logistics system even to the extent of separate ports of embarkation for overseas movement.31 The Army, as noted above, had its own shipping. Logistics were further complicated by the fact that both the Army Air Corps and Naval Aviation had their own systems of procurement and supply. Some progress had been made in the area of munitions. The Army had begun to procure small arms ammunition for both services, and the Army and Navy Munitions Board had been established to prepare plans for industrial mobilization. In general, however there was no effort between the two services to coordinate their logistics efforts in order to eliminate waste and avoid duplication. The Army Service Forces Report further states that nearly 3 years, of the war passed before real coordination of logistics was realized.32

Service Logistics

Service logistics organizations were vastly different. Although logistics organizations were established for each service, a significant


amount of logistics planning remained with the War Plans Divisions of the Service Staffs.

Army Logistics Organization

Shortly after Pearl Harbor it became apparent that not only was there no semblance of joint logistics, but within the Army:

Lack of effective top level coordination and the dispersion of procurement and supply activities among the supply activities again threatened to delay the service and supply of the Army as mobilization measures quickened after Pearl Harbor. As had been the case in 1917, the demands of war revealed serious weaknesses in the organizational machinery. There was, in fact no machinery for the close coordination of the whole logistics area anywhere below the Secretary of War himself.33

The situation was further complicated by pressures from the Army Air Corps for a greater degree of autonomy. Accordingly, in March 1942 the War Department underwent a major reorganization which included the establishment of the Army Service Forces under General Brehon Somervell, and was based upon General Pershing's World War I logistics organization for the American Expeditionary Force. The establishment of the Army Services Forces resulted in ". . . authoritative direction over the supply services. . . . ," however it also reportedly resulted in confusion in the Army Logistics System, because the individual supply services continued to function as they formerly did. Further, the Service Forces taking most of the functions of the G-4 led to the logistics planning function being subsequently assumed by the War Plans Division of the Army Staff.34

Navy Logistics Organization

During World War I much of the Navy's logistics planning was done by the Technical Bureaus under the control of the Secretary of the Navy, and in fact the position of Chief of Naval Operations was not established until 1915. Logistics planning and the determination


of requirements did not become firmly established under a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics until World War II. Initially, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations oversaw the logistics functions. The logistics staff however relied heavily upon the Technical Bureaus for much of the determination of logistics requirements in close coordination with the strategic plans division.35

The foregoing notwithstanding, early on in the war the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral King and General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army recognized the need for logistics cooperation. Marshall redesignated the Army Supply and Services Command as the Army Service Forces with the greatly expanded duties discussed above under General Somervell. Admiral King charged his Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Admiral Frederick Home, with the responsibility for the Navy's logistics planning, procurement, and distribution. Horne and Somervell worked closely throughout the war.36 Also throughout the war the issue of a unified logistics system was repeatedly addressed at the Joint Chiefs level, at the service level and the theater and sub-theater level. As can be seen from the following, what evolved were agreements at the top level which in their implementation at the operational level reflected the unique situations in each theater and sub-theater.

Theater Logistics

Pacific Theater

Admiral Nimitz' principal logistics organizations after late 1943 were the J4 section of the CINCPAC Staff, and the Service Force Pacific Fleet. The Service Force was responsible for implementing all Navy logistics plans except for Naval air and Marine Corps who had their own logistics organizations. Army plans were implemented by the component Army Service Forces Command. During 1942 and much of 1943, however, joint logistics and supply matters were handled on an ad hoc basis by logistics committees at the CINCPAC level. The initial inter-service logistics issues arose in the Central and


South Pacific areas relative to the establishment and reinforcement of advance bases. The problems were both administrative and logistic. The Navy exercised operational control but administrative and supply support were the responsibilities of the services, consequently problems arose at bases garrisoned by the Army. Administration of the Army elements was a shared responsibility of the War Department, the San Francisco Port, the Hawaiian Department, and even in part by USAFIA. The only well-established Army command in the Pacific in the initial months of the war was the Hawaiian Department, commanded by General Emmons. He was therefore assigned a large degree of the responsibility for the island bases by the War Department. However, this responsibility was assigned on a piecemeal and ad hoc basis. The situation was further complicated by the fact that until June 1942 no South Pacific Area Commander was on the scene. In July 1942 the Army established a separate Army component command for the South Pacific under Major General Harmon who was also the Chief of the Air Staff under Vice Admiral Ghormley. As Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces South Pacific Area (USAFISPA) he was responsible to the War Department for administration and supply of Army forces in the area. He exercised no operational control but assisted Commander South Pacific (COMSOPAC) with Army force planning. The establishment of this separate Army command separated these forces from the Central Pacific and USAFIA.37 As is so often the case the issues of joint logistics and supply were worked out initially and informally at the tactical level.

As early as April 1942 the Joint Chiefs were examining the issue of a joint supply system for the Pacific. Joint purchasing boards were created at the newly established Navy supply point in Auckland, New Zealand, as well as in Australia in order to take advantage of local resources and eliminate duplication. The Joint Chiefs also posed the question to the theater CINCs as to the desirability of a joint supply system and the pooling of shipping resources for distribution to the advance bases. Nimitz favored a joint supply system for the SOPAC area under the command of COMSOPAC as part of the Service Squadron South Pacific, and with a joint supply center in Auckland. His proposal included joint usage of shipping and storage facilities.


Purchasing would be under joint agreement with interservice coordination. General Emmons supported the Nimitz proposal. The Army planners, however, rejected the proposal on the grounds that the Army controlled its own shipping and supplies and did not wish to go to divided responsibility. The Army Service Forces had just been established, and the Army was concerned over the capability of the Navy's logistics system. This issue was revisited at the end of 1942.38

The agreement ultimately worked out between Gen. Somervell and Admiral Horne was the Joint Logistical Plan for the Support of United States Bases in the South Pacific Area and directed:

  1. The Army to supply rations to shore based personnel (except in Samoa) which could not be obtained through the Joint Purchasing Board.

  2. The Navy to provide all fuel.

  3. The Navy to provide all local purchase items through the Joint Purchasing Board including clothing, construction materials, and rations.

  4. All Services to request items not available from the above sources from their parent services.

The agreement generally followed the recommendations made by Admiral Nimitz. However, as far as the Army and Navy supply organizations in the United States were concerned, each service retained its own supply system.39

Southwest Pacific Theater

Since this theater was an Army dominated area with a preponderance of Army personnel, joint logistics, at least in the first 2 years of the war, did not become a major issue. Due to his personality and influence, General MacArthur dictated priorities. Although he had a Joint/Combined staff, in effect it was an Army staff: Additionally, early in the war the majority of Army forces flowing into the Pacific were going to Australia, and MacArthur was charged with that country's defense as well as building a military infrastructure to support


subsequent operations in the Southwest Pacific. Although the Army Service Forces established a major Services of Supply Command for the theater, in practice it had much less authority in the area than initially envisioned, and much of its supply activities were devoted to operating bases in Australia and New Guinea. Because Gen. MacArthur controlled shipping and determined logistics priorities, confusion reportedly existed between the supply services command and the CINC's staff regarding functions.40

The Challenge of Theater Logistics: Guadalcanal (WATCHTOWER)--The Crucible

Eighty percent of my time was given to logistics during the first 4 months of the WATCHTOWER operations (because) we were living from one logistics crisis to another.

--Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner41

Perhaps no other operation in the Pacific theater brought early logistics problems into greater focus than this campaign, particularly the issue of advanced bases, shipping problems and joint coordination.

Up until the August 1942 landings on Guadalcanal, much of the services' efforts had been focused on their areas of competence. The Navy was focused on primarily a defensive battle to stop the advance of the Japanese fleet. After the loss of the Philippines, the Army was focused on establishing a base of operations in Australia to ensure that nations's survival. With Japan's Northern Pacific advance blunted at the Battle of Midway, attention was turned to a limited offensive to stop Japan's occupation of the Solomon Islands and the threat it posed to Australia and New Zealand.

The South Pacific Sub-Theater was a transitional theater between the Pacific and Southwest Pacific areas. In fact the Southern


Solomons, including Guadalcanal, were in the South Pacific Command's area, while the Northern Solomons were in the Southwest Pacific Command area. As WATCHTOWER was commencing, General MacArthur sent an Australian force along with the U.S. 32nd Division to Port Moresby in order to counter a Japanese offensive. Thus began the long and protracted New Guinea campaign.42 Guadalcanal was the first U.S. amphibious operation of the war, it was the first test for amphibious doctrine developed in the inter-war years by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and it would be the Navy's first indoctrination into amphibious warfare. Guadalcanal and the subsequent battles for the other Solomon Islands would include some of the worlds last "slugfests" between capital ships. Most importantly, the battle for Guadalcanal was paid for dearly in blood and treasure. Iron Bottom Sound, Savo Island, Henderson Field still have a haunting ring, particularly in Navy and Marine Corps circles. The name Guadalcanal is proudly emblazoned on the First Marine Division emblem. Guadalcanal was the crucible. For both the United States and Japan, logistics was the critical element and the outcome came down to our ability to keep Guadalcanal resupplied and Japan's inability to do so.

The landing ships and craft which were to play such a crucial role in later amphibious operations in all theaters of the war were still largely on the drawing board at the time of Guadalcanal. Consequently,

the guts of logistical support for the first phase of WATCHTOWER had to be winch-lifted out of deep, deep holds of large transports and cargo ships, and loaded like sardines into small landing craft dancing on the undulating seas, and then hand lifted and piled at a snail's pace onto the beaches by tired sailor men or by combat-oriented Marines . . .43

The problem of getting the right stuff at the right place at the right time was exacerbated by the issue of combat loading versus commercial loading of ships. Even as the learning curve progressed, there was still the problem of the operational situation dictating


changes in unloading priorities.44 Again, many of these problems were eliminated in subsequent operations with the availability of landing ships and craft which could be rapidly off loaded as well as by taking advantage of lessons learned from earlier operations. Many of the logistics problems associated with WATCHTOWER resulted from decisions made outside the South Pacific area, and stemmed from a lack of appreciation of the logistics situation. Soon after their establishment, the Naval elements of advance bases requested and received their logistic support directly from their agencies in the United States rather than through CINCPAC. The Army directed its activities to be supplied directly through the Port of Embarkation, San Francisco. Therefore, none of the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, or Marine Corps forces at the advance bases had joint logistics support. Each Service had its own individual procedures.45 Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet had offered to handle logistics support for all of the bases in the South Pacific area whether they were Army or Navy in order to eliminate the confusion from differing instructions.

Although the Joint Logistics Plan for the Support of United States Bases in the South Pacific Area had been agreed to in July, it was just beginning to be implemented when WATCHTOWER took place. In the meantime a supply center had been established in Auckland, New Zealand to serve as a clearing house for all requests. The result was an extremely long supply line from San Francisco. In one instance Marines on Guadalcanal did not receive their rations until October 1942.46

An example of the distances in the South Pacific area alone from logistics support to Guadalcanal is depicted in Figure 3. Although both the United States and Japan had problems in resupplying Guadalcanal, the U.S. supply line from the nearest advance base was 50 percent longer than the distance from Japan's nearest advance base. This situation prevailed until the base at Espiritu Santo was fully operational, which did not occur until February 1943. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the harbor at


Noumea, New Caledonia was inadequate for large scale support. Additionally, U.S. forces in the Guadalcanal area were under nearly constant attack and resupply operations frequently had to be suspended. Army and Marine troops on Guadalcanal frequently subsisted on captured Japanese rations.47

In late September 1942 General "Hap" Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, visited the area and made the following observations:

It was so obvious the Navy could not hold Guadalcanal if they could not get supplies in and they could not get the supplies in if the Japanese bombers continued to come down and bomb the ships unloading supplies.

. . . So far, the Navy had taken one hell of a beating and . . . was hanging on by a shoestring. They did not have a logistic setup efficient enough to ensure success.

General Patch (Commanding General, Americal Division based on New Caledonia) was very insistent that the Navy had no plan of logistics; that the Marines and the Navy would both have been in one hell of a fix had he not dug into Iris reserve stock and furnished them with supplies.48

General Arnold added that he was not sure whether it was worthwhile to send Army Aircraft to the South Pacific that could be better ". . . used against the Germans. . . ." In his further travels in the region, General Arnold gained the distinct impression that the Navy considered the war against Japan as the Navy's fight and in the South Pacific area wanted to carry out the Guadalcanal campaign with as little help as possible from the Army. In his report to General Marshall, General Arnold stated:

Naval planning and operations to date have demonstrated a definite lack of appreciation of the logistic factor, and as a consequence, operations to date have lacked continuity by reason of the shortage of essential supplies and installations to support military operations.49


General Arnold's reports and briefings succeeded in focusing the highest level of attention on the situation on Guadalcanal and on October 24, 1942 President Roosevelt directed the Joint Chiefs to:

. . . 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.50

President Roosevelt's directive was particularly significant in view of the previous pressures exerted on the South Pacific command for troops and shipping to support General MacArthur's forthcoming operations in the Southwest Pacific, and for the pending North Africa landings. Supply shipping had been reduced to a mere handful due to losses to Japanese submarines and aircraft. In spite of the "Europe First" strategy Roosevelt had no choice but to ensure WATCHTOWER's success. To do otherwise would have dealt a devastating blow to U.S. morale and probably would have meant political suicide for Roosevelt. However it has been reported that, had the high level decision makers had a full appreciation for the logistics problems associated with Guadalcanal, the operation probably would not have taken place with the possibility that Japan would have been that much more difficult to dislodge from the Solomons.

In October 1942, then Vice Admiral Halsey assumed command of the South Pacific area and moved his headquarters ashore in Noumea, New Caledonia and directed the development of a full blown logistics support base there eliminating the need for the extended line of communication to Auckland, New Zealand. It would be well into 1943 before this base, Espiritu Santo, as well as Guadalcanal were sufficiently developed to support further amphibious operations in the Solomons. Some of these delays could be attributed to early confusion beginning in August 1942 regarding the precise role of the advance base unit (code named CUB) commander for Espiritu Santo who was also charged with establishing the advance bases on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, but was unaware of this latter mission until


he arrived in the area. There was further confusion as to who this CUB unit commander (Commander Compton) worked for with the result that he often received conflicting orders from several senior commanders. In Commander Compton's words:

The basic difference between Kelly Turner (Admiral R.K. Turner) and me was: Why were the CUBS in SOPAC--to build bases or support troops?51

Progression in Joint Logistics--1943

The problems of separate supply systems and attendant duplication and waste caused the issue of a joint supply system to be revisited at the end of 1942. This time the Army pushed for a unified supply system for all services. After a trip to the South Pacific, Brigadier General Lutes, Somervell's deputy, recommended to General Somervell:

. . . that a unified Services of Supply be organized in all theaters for the supply of Army, Navy and Marine forces ashore, and that a unified control of cargo shipping, exclusive of those vessels normally under the fleet commander for supply for vessels afloat be established for the supply of both fleet and shore forces.52

Somervell ultimately agreed with Lutes and proposed additionally that, since 75-90 percent of all military forces overseas were Army that the single supply services commander should be an Army officer. Navy objected, preferring "closely coordinated, possibly unified supply systems in theaters of joint operations." The critical argument actually came down to who would control the shipping and shipping priorities. Further, the Navy supply system which evolved during 1942 was far more decentralized than the Army's. The Army's supply system was geared to support ground forces ashore while the


Navy's was designed for fleet support. Although the Army system was more structured, the Navy's was more flexible.53

Huston in Sinews of War provides the following assessment of these differences:

The Army, geared for massive land campaigns, had developed a system of centralized control and orderly distribution. The Navy, emphasizing the support of forces at sea, retained a high degree of decentralization, concentrating its depots at the ports, relying on the supply bureaus to carry out their responsibilities without close over-all command, and granting much autonomy and flexibility to supply distribution in forward areas. . . . With fuel, ammunition, provisions, and other supplies, as well as repair facilities, afloat, the fleets had the "long legs" needed to move and fight almost indefinitely without returning to any fixed advanced base. The Navy system might well have been more readily adaptable to the Army's island warfare needs than the closely organized communications system that worked so well in Europe.54

The end result of the inter-service dispute over supply was that Admiral King and General Marshall issued a directive on March 8, 1943 entitled Basic Logistical Plan for Command Areas Involving Joint Army and Navy Operations. The plan directed that logistics organizations in areas of joint Army and Navy operations be brought under the Unified Command. It further provided that the theater commanders organize joint logistics staffs. In the CINCPAC area an Army-Navy Logistics Board ran joint logistics planning initially until the logistics division of CINCPAC staff (described below) was established in September 1943. Theater Commanders were also directed to:

  1. Establish unified supply systems.

  2. Determine joint personnel and material requirements.

  3. Prepare consolidated shipping priority lists.55


the end result was that CINCPAC's joint logistics procedures in support of the amphibious operations in the Central Pacific were the most advanced. The commander in each phase of an operation was responsible for logistics. (Amphibious Assault Phase--Amphibious Task Force Commander, Ashore Phase--Landing Force Commander, Garrison Phase--Base Commander from the designated service). The Army was given a major role in base planning in much of the Central Pacific.

This is not to say that there were not problems. There was pressure from the Army for Nimitz to delegate command of the Central Pacific Sub-Theater. Further, Gen. Richardson who succeeded Gen. Emmons in the Hawaiian Department, and became Commander of Army Forces Central Pacific in August 1943, supported jointness so long as it did not impinge on Army prerogatives regarding centralization of logistics. Therefore, at least around the Hawaii area, there was never a unified logistics system. Close logistics integration did exist in many cases in the forward areas, and Nimitz' logistics staff was described by one senior officer as the most competent group he had ever worked with. It has been further described in Sinews of War as the only "truly functioning theater joint staff of the war," and it would subsequently serve as the model for joint staffs.56

The J4 section of CINCPAC staff which replaced the committee system was directed by Army Major General Leavey and was organized as follows:

Two branches of the Operations Directorate, J3, Combat Readiness and Communications, were responsible to the J4 for planning ammunition and communications equipment requirements. All direction


of logistics planning emanated from the CINCPAC headquarters.57 This organization, and by 1943, the extraordinarily capable Service Force Pacific Fleet, developed largely as a result of the necessities of the Central Pacific Campaign which began in the fall of 1943. Throughout 1942 the main focus had been on standing up and supporting SOPAC and the Guadalcanal Campaign. By early 1943 a reasonably effective system of logistics coordination existed at the local level in the South Pacific area.

In the Southwest Pacific Theater, as noted above, the issue of joint logistics was not as acute. Coordination was done at the top through "centralized planning" and not at the operational level. Therefore, very little of the Basic Logistics Plan was reflected in General MacArthur's organization. There were no major changes made in the system of supply and logistics at that time. The service components each maintained their own supply systems. General MacArthur dictated overall priorities and believed the services should maintain their own supply services. The Navy component, the Seventh Fleet, was supported bv Service Force Seventh Fleet in much the same fashion as the Army forces were supported by the Army Service Forces command in the theater. There was cross servicing support provided. Local procurement was used as much as possible. The Army provided the Marine Corps with supply support except for those items unique to the Marine Corps. As in several of the other areas of the Pacific, the Army provided food for shore based personnel, and the Navy provided fuel. The Navy also provided spare parts and other support for the landing craft provided to Army amphibious units. Another unusual aspect of the area was that it had significant numbers of local shipping of various types; Dutch which had escaped from the East Indies, Australian, and others, both civilian and military, some Army manned and some Navy manned. This was a carry-over from the early days and a local expedient.58

In the South Pacific area the issue of interservice coordination


was far more pronounced because Army and Navy forces were deployed in almost equal numbers. Admiral Halsey preferred each service to rely on its own sources for supply and execute local cross servicing agreements for certain items. Admiral Nimitz insisted on a more joint approach and issued a Base Logistics Plan for the area in April 1943 which provided for a Joint Logistics Board comprised of representatives from the various component commands. Eventually, in early 1944 a fully joint logistics staff was established in the SOPAC area. The system of cross servicing of supplies was further refined, and included: the Army providing fresh and dry provisions and operating cold storage plants; Navy delivering fresh provisions in refrigerator ships; Army operating repair facilities at some bases, Navy at others; and establishing common stocks for vehicle parts and some types of ammunition. Navy continued to provide fuel. The Navy controlled all of the shipping within the theater although some of the harbor craft were operated by the Army.59

Overall Strategy for 1943 and Early 1944

Whereas in 1942 operations in the Pacific has been largely defensive and aimed at stopping the Japanese advance, interpretations of the Europe First strategy and modifications thereto left ample justification for maintaining "unrelenting pressure against Japan" throughout 1943 and 1944. During 1943, the war in the Pacific was going at almost the same level of intensity as in Europe since that year was one of relatively limited offensives in the Mediterranean and preparation for the assault on fortress Europe. The Army, during 1943 and 1944, committed fully one-third of its resources to the Pacific. However, the flow of troops to the Pacific during 1943 was nmch less than to the European Theater. The great force build-up in the Pacific was in the Navy. The fleet strength grew by leaps and bounds. Many of the new combatants were a result of the 1940 building program. Although most of the heavy combatant ships were going to the Pacific, these were also ones not needed for the Atlantic.60


Combatant ships mostly needed in the Atlantic were destroyers and other anti-submarine warfare ships. Later in the war they were escort carriers and ships for naval gunfire support of amphibious landings. Due to shorter distances, older and slower cruisers and battleships were more than adequate for the naval gunfire support role. Due to availability of airfields in England and after 1942 in North Africa, carrier based air played a very limited role in the European Theater.

The strategy in the Pacific is often termed a strategy of opportunism, in part because there was lack of agreement on any one path of advance toward Japan, and also because it had been necessary to move against Japan's advance in several areas at once.61 Until the fall of 1943, most of the action, at least against Japanese-held islands, was in the South Pacific.

Operations in the South and Southwest Pacific

In March 1943 a Pacific Military Conference was held in Hawaii which laid out goals for that year. The goals for Admiral Halsey were to advance up the Solomons as far as Bougainville. Meanwhile MacArthur was to occupy the northern coast of New Guinea as far west as Madang and to take Cape Gloucester on the Island of New Britain. The objective of these two converging forces was to be the key Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain. This operation involving the forces in two adjacent theaters was code named Cartwheel and it lasted from June 1943 until March 1944.62

During this period assault operations by Halsey's forces included operations against New Georgia, Vella Lavella, Arundel Island, the Treasury Islands, Emirau Island, and Bougainville.

Advanced bases and airfields, including Guadalcanal and Tulagi, were key to these operations. These were hard fought battles with the Japanese Navy making repeated attempts to reinforce these islands from its bastion at Rabaul. (Rabaul was subsequently reduced


by bombing, isolated and bypassed.) As the line of demarcation between the South Pacific and Southwest Pacific areas actually cut through the Solomons, these operations of necessity were closely coordinated. (See maps at Figures 1, 2, and 4). Meanwhile, MacArthur's forces conducted assaults along the northern coast of New Guinea and on several of the offshore islands, as well as Cape Gloucester, New Britain, and Manus Island in the Admiralties. Manus later became a key base for operations against the Philippines. MacArthur relied heavily on his amphibious craft operated by Army personnel to leapfrog along the New Guinea coast.

Operations in the Central Pacific

While operations in the South and Southwest Pacific were rolling back the Japanese, attention was being focused by Admiral Nimitz on the Central Pacific. A Central Pacific campaign had been the key objective of the old Plan ORANGE. The Central Pacific, however presented several new and unique challenges. Whereas some of the key challenges in the South Pacific had initially been long steaming distances and establishing advance bases as a defensive perimeter for fleet support, and from which to stage subsequent assault operations, the problem with the Central Pacific was that there were no potential locations for advance bases between Pearl Harbor and the Islands to be taken, the Gilberts, Marshalls, and Carolines. For example, Espiritu Santo was over 1,000 miles from Tarawa, and Pearl Harbor was 2,100 miles from Tarawa. The challenge was to resupply the Gilbert Islands after they were taken while at the same time prepare for an assault on the Marshalls.63 (See maps at Figures 1 and 2).

The answer was a mobile logistics base--a floating base. Under the able direction of Vice Admiral Calhoun, Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet, Service Squadron 4 was created and commissioned on November 1, 1943 just before the Marshall Islands operations commenced. The Navy had by the time of World War II developed a system of underway replenishment for its fleet units; however,


Figure 1


Figure 2
Source: Joint Force Quarterly, Spring 1994


Figure 3
Source: Source: Dyer, Amphibians Came to Conquer.


Figure 4


supporting a large armada of combatant and amphibious shipping so far from a logistics base was a new experience. The mobile logistics base thus constructed consisted of repair ships, tugs, mine sweepers, concrete fuel barges, barges loaded with general stores, and ammunition lighters. Although the atoll of the Central Pacific provided little in the way of infrastructure ashore except for their potential as airstrips, they frequently provided excellent protected anchorages for the mobile logistics bases and for fleet units and therefore as staging areas. This was not only true for the United States but for Japan. Ulithi atoll in the Carolines provided an excellent fleet anchorage for the United States as did Truk for the Japanese. The mobile base included enough food to supply 20,000 personnel for 30 days, vehicle fuel for 15 days. During the Campaign against the Gilberts, fleet oilers were able to operate unescorted outside the range of Japanese aircraft and provide service to the fleet. When the Marshalls campaign began, they had to be escorted.64

Shortages Become an Issue

With operations now in full swing in the Central, South and Southwest Pacific Theaters and with operations in Europe accelerating, shortages of shipping became a critical issue. Shipping in general had always been in short supply worldwide. A key reason for this shortage was combat loss, particularly in the Atlantic due to submarines, and to both submarines and aircraft for ships making the "Murmansk run" to supply the Soviet Union with war material. Net shipping losses in the European Theater decreased significantly when ship production exceeded losses in late 1942 and when allied sinkings of U-Boats exceeded Germany's capacity to produce them. Combat losses in the Pacific were also significant but primarily due to Japanese air attack. Aside from the problem of combat losses, however, it simply took more shipping to move and maintain an Army force in the Pacific than it did in the European Theater. For example, a force of 40,000 in Australia required nearly as much shipping as a force of 100,000 in the United Kingdom. The great


distances involved and widely dispersed forces in the Pacific precluded the establishment of central reserve stocks and a systematic flow of supplies through depots.65

In order to mount the Central Pacific Campaign larger amphibious assault shipping were needed. In particular, Attack Transports (APAs) and Attack Cargo (AKAs) ships were needed to cover the long distances discussed above. Larger landing ships such as LSTs and all manner of small landing craft were needed, especially tracked amphibian craft to traverse coral reefs on the atolls of the Central Pacific. Transports, landing ships and craft were also in short supply in the South and Southwest Pacific. The biggest impact was felt at Bougainville where Admiral Halsey had only enough APAs and AKAs to lift one division because the operation was being conducted at the same time as the landings in the Gilberts.66 These shortages resulted in some shifting of assets among the theaters. Phasing was further complicated by the fact that operations in the Central Pacific were progressing at a faster rate than initially anticipated.

The competition for shipping between the European and Pacific Theaters, particularly in landing craft, (the "Europe First" strategy notwithstanding) intensified with the march across the Pacific on the one hand and our greatly accelerated buildup commencing in early 1944, for the Normandy Invasion. The problem was further complicated by competition for shipping and landing craft between Nimitz and MacArthur for their simultaneous campaigns in the Central and Southwest Pacific. The acceptance of these simultaneous campaigns was the result of compromise on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Huston describes this process in the following manner:

Central direction of the war was not characterized by hard decisions . . . the committee procedures of the Joint Chiefs of Staff resulted in a strategy of opportunism where it was easier to agree on specific operations as opportunity presented than it was to agree upon a consistent grand design . . . Faced with dilemmas growing out of limitations of resources, when no decision could


have satisfied everybody but when a clear-cut decision on priorities . . . might have seemed desirable . . . the Joint Chiefs at times had a tendency to fight the problem, such as accepting over optimistic assumptions about the availability of shipping rather than make a firm choice.67

The Joint Chiefs did caution the Theater Commanders that the shipping shortage could adversely affect both the European and Pacific Theaters unless all concerned made maximum effort to conserve resources. Further, it was clear that the shortage in landing craft would remain until after the Normandy invasion.68

Shipping was not the only shortage in the Pacific. Army logistics personnel were also a critical item. As we continued to capture Pacific islands and developed them into bases for subsequent operations or as security perimeters, the task of garrisoning many of them fell to the Army. In addition to garrisoning the islands, considerable base development had to be accomplished. Unlike Europe where existing infrastructure could be used by our advancing forces, in the Pacific most of the islands had either none initially, or had it completely destroyed in its capture. Even though nearly the entire U.S. Marine Corps was deployed to the Pacific as well as most of the Navy's Seabees, the job called for large numbers of Army logisticians. Further, even as preparations were being finalized for the Normandy Invasion, seven new divisions were being transferred to the Pacific for a total of twenty divisions by June 1944, six in the Central Pacific and fourteen in the Southwest Pacific. Each new division being transferred either from the United States or from another area in the Pacific required shipping and logistics support. In the words of General MacArthur:

The great problem of warfare in the Pacific is to move forces into contact and maintain them. Victory is dependent upon the solution of the logistics problem.69


The Marianas Campaign

At the Cairo Conference in November 1943 the Combined Chiefs agreed on a plan for the defeat of Japan. The key decision taken here was that the main avenue of approach to Japan should be through the Pacific instead of through China, thereby further reducing the Southeast Asia and China-Burma and India Theaters to minor roles. The Marianas became key objectives, particularly in light of the need for bases to stage the new B-29 bombers for a bombing campaign against Japan now that the China basing option was ruled out. It was agreed that Guam, Saipan, and Tinian would be taken, that Truk would be reduced by bombing, and that the Carolines would be isolated. Admiral King had long believed that the Marianas were key to the Pacific campaign but until the basing for the B-29s became an issue he did not have much support.70

As stated above, due to the competition between file Central Pacific and Southwest Pacific advocates (read Navy and Army), the Joint Chiefs maintained the position of the "two pronged" approach to either the Philippines or Taiwan (formerly Formosa).71 There was considerable disagreement among the Joint Chiefs as to whether the Philippines or Taiwan should be the next operation beyond the Marianas which would ultimately lead to the defeat of Japan. Several approaches, including one from the North Pacific had been examined during the course of the war, but finally the choices were reduced to the Philippines or Taiwan. Throughout much of the war, the Joint Chiefs believed that positions must be occupied on the China coast prior to any operation directly against Japan. Admiral King therefore argued for attacking Taiwan as the logical next step after the Marianas. General MacArthur, supported by General Marshall argued for retaking the Philippines. MacArthur considered the Philippines the logical next step to his advance through the Southwest Pacific. He also felt strongly that the Philippines should be retaken on moral grounds based upon his close ties with the islands. He went as far as to argue against the taking of the Marianas asserting that the forces planned for that operation could be better used in the


Philippines. The issue also hinged on relatively short island hopping between shore bases in the Southwest Pacific, and more modest shipping requirements, versus long steaming distances and large requirements for shipping.72 The argument further reflected Service Chief and Theater Commander positions. An attack against Taiwan would be led by Admiral Nimitz and a attack against the Philippines would be led by General MacArthur. In addition to the shipping question it reflected a difference between Army and Navy logistics philosophy. The Army believed in large land bases to support subsequent operations, whereas the Navy had been quite successful with mobile seabased logistics and carrier-based air in the Central Pacific.73

The landings on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian took place on June 15, 1944, 9 days after the Normandy landings. The force consisted of 535 warships, amphibious ships and support shipping, and 127,500 men, two-thirds of whom were Marines. The force was staged from Eniwetok atoll 1,000 miles away. The planning phase done from Pearl Harbor 3,600 miles away took only 3 months. The timing of this amazing undertaking still sparks controversy today, because of the large number of landing craft used in the operation had been diverted from Europe and had forced the delay of the landings in southern France by 1 month until August 1944.

Retaking of the Philippines

In the end the argument of the Philippines versus Taiwan hinged upon resources. By the summer of 1944 it was determined that sufficient troops (particularly service troops) and cargo shipping for an assault on Taiwan would not be available until they could be released from the European Theater. Further, based upon a carrier raid on the Philippines, and a recommendation by Admiral Halsey, approval was given in September for an amphibious assault on Leyte Gulf for October 1944. The Taiwan debate was laid to rest.74

The force which invaded Leyte in October 1944 consisted of


150,000 troops--larger than the U.S. assault elements at Normandy and the largest amphibious operation to that date in the Pacific. The force staged from Manus Island and Hollandia on the Northern New Guinea coast. With an amphibious operation of this magnitude, moving logistics over the beach was a particular problem, complicated by the lack of adequate beach exits, unfavorable terrain, stiff enemy resistance, and bad weather. It was November before decent logistics bases were established. Support shipping was constantly harassed by enemy aircraft and the Japanese were able to reinforce their positions due to the U.S. delay in being able to establish airfields. Also the kamikaze had begun to make its appearance. Some of the last great naval battles of the war were fought in the Philippines at this time. It was near the end of 1944 before Leyte was secure, paving the way for landings in Luzon in January, 1945.75

Iwo Jima and Okinawa

The battle for the Philippines went on for most of the rest of the war, but in order to establish air bases still closer to the home islands, and bases for staging the invasion of the home islands of Japan, the Taiwan option had to be abandoned. The costly invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were launched in February and April 1945, respectively. The Marine Corps suffered more casualties on Iwo Jima than in any other battle in history, and the Okinawa operation was the costliest operation of the Pacific War.

The U.S. assault force which landed on Okinawa was the largest launched against Japan, consisting of 183,000 Army and Marine Corps troops, carried in 430 ships and craft, and over 747,000 measurement tons of cargo, staged from Ulithi atoll in the Carolines (a major fleet anchorage and staging base), Eniwetok, Saipan and Leyte.76 The determination with which the Japanese fought in these two operations in spite of the fact that by this time in the war their Navy and merchant fleet had been destroyed along with most of their Air Force, and the damage they were still able to inflict with


the kamikaze, were a clear indication that the invasion of the home islands being planned for October 1945 would be extremely costly.

Redeployment--Preparations for Invasion of Japan

This operation, had it taken place, would have been the largest and most involved logistics operation ever engaged in by the U.S. military. It entailed the redeployment of 1.2 million troops from Europe to the Pacific. It was envisioned that 400,000 would come directly from Europe and 800,000 via the U.S. Ten million tons of equipment and supplies were to be transferred out of Europe, 5 million tons to the Pacific and 5 million tons to the U.S. After V-E day the 8th Air Force redeployed to the Pacific and troops began to be staged in the Philippines and on Okinawa. Planning called for the first landing on November 1, 1945 on Kyushu. General MacArthur was to be the Supreme Allied Commander for the operation; however in this restructuring of the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz did not become subordinate to MacArthur, but a "coordinating commander." Because General MacArthur's command had never achieved any significant degree of jointness in logistics, or at least not to the extent achieved by Admiral Nimitz' command, logistics for this final operation represented a step back to each Service doing its own logistics planning. With the war's end, only an administrative landing was required in Japan.77


From the standpoint of joint logistics, it can be said that they never approached the level of unification envisioned by General Somervell or as agreed by Admiral King and General Marshall, nor should they have. The Army Services Forces organization was designed for the support of a European style land war. In the Pacific


it was more or less suitable for the Southwest Pacific, but it would not have worked for the Navy. What worked best for the Navy in the Pacific was a decentralized flexible system, in spite of the fact that there was duplication particularly as regards shipping and port facilities. The logistics systems that evolved in the Pacific resulted in large measure from the unique requirements of the theaters and subtheaters. Jointness in logistics planning as well as in other functions was best achieved on the CINCPAC Staff. Cross servicing agreements, formal and informal, were in place at various levels, and probably worked best at the tactical level. Could logistics have been more joint in the Pacific? Certainly. Did logistics work about as well as could be expected owing to the circumstances? Probably. Fleet Admiral King, in his Second Report to the Secretary of the Navy Covering Combat Operations 1 March 1944 to 1 March 1945 summed them up as follows:

Supply operations in the Pacific are not solely naval. The Army has a task of at least equal magnitude in supplying its air and ground forces. The supply systems of the two services have been merged together, as much as possible, under Fleet Admiral Nimitz in the Central Pacific and General of the Army MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific. In some cases, in which only one service uses an item, that item is handled entirely by the service concerned . . . In other instances, it has been found convenient to have one service look out for the needs of both.78

Although the 50 years since the end of World War II have witnessed considerable consolidation of logistics functions in the Armed Forces, they have vet to reach the level of centralized control as envisioned by General Somervell, nor should they. The unique requirements of the Services dictate flexibility. The Services are responsible for providing, equipping, and training forces for the CINCS. The CINCS have limited control over logistics. The system is far from perfect and needs to be continually improved. Many of the improvements made in logistics over the years have been as a result of lessons learned in World War II, particularly in the area of transportation and common user supply.


Whether the Europe First strategy was a limiting factor in the War in the Pacific, or diversions of resources to the Pacific put an undue strain on the war in Europe, is still being debated. In the early days of the war, the Pacific was a priority area by necessity in order to contain Japan. Pacific Theater priorities also became convenient for the U.S. in order to dampen the British focus on the gradual approach to Germany through the Mediterranean. The strong personalities of both Admiral King and General MacArthur also had much to do with resource allocation for the Pacific. One thing is certain, the key decisions of the war were logistical decisions dictated by logistics considerations, and the continuing debates over priorities between the war against Germany and the war against Japan as well as the intra-theater debates, precluded any long-range logistics planning.79


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1. Office Of the Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy at War 1941 1945, Official Reports to the Secretary of the Navy by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Department, 1946), 36.

2. James A. Huston, The Sinews of War: Army Logistics 1775-1953 (Washington D.C.: Center for Military History, U.S. Army, 1988), 425.

3. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy at War 1941-1945, 33.

4. Edward S. Miller, War Plan ORANGE (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1991), 77-85.

5. Huston, 406-407.

6. Miller, 53-62.

7. Charles J. Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941, (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1992), 47.

8. Rear Admiral Julius Augustus Furer, USN, Administration of the Navy Department in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval History, Department of the Navy, 1959), 699-701.

9. Kirkpatrick, 47-49.

10. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, US Navy at War 1941-1945, 36.

11. Kirkpatrick, 48-49.

12. Huston, 414.

13. Kirkpatrick, 92.

14. Miller, 61.

15. Jason B. Barlow, "Interservice Rivalry in the Pacific," Joint Forces Quarterly, Spring 1994, 80.

16. Miller, 60-61.

17. Richard M. Leighton and Robert W. Coakley, U.S. Army in World War II: Global Logistics and Strategy 1940-1943 (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1955), 166-174.

18. Ibid., 173-174.

19. Paul Kemp, Convoy Protection: The Defence of Seaborne Trade (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1993), 67.

20. Huston, 126-127.

21. Ibid., 427.

22. Ibid.

23. Leighton and Coakley, 166-169.

24. Ibid., 174.

25. Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, vol. VII, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942-April 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951), 100.

26. Furer, 718.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid., 718-721.

29. Ibid., 699-705.

30. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy at War 1941-1945, 197.

31. War Department General Staff, Report to the Under Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff, Logistics in World War II: Final Report of the Army Services Force (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993), 198-199.

32. Ibid.

33. Huston, 414.

34. Ibid., 414-418.

35. Furer, 695-696.

36. Morison, 101.

37. Leighton and Coakley, 186-187.

38. Ibid., 187-192.

39. Ibid., 191.

40. Huston, 544.

41. Vice Admiral George Carroll Dyer, The Amphibians Came to Conquer. The Story of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, 1972), 404.

42. Leighton and Coakley, 388-389.

43. Dyer, 404.

44. Ibid., 404-405.

45. Ibid., 405-407.

46. Ibid., 407.

47. Ibid., 415-419.

48. Ibid., 413.

49. Ibid., 413-414.

50. Ibid., 414.

51. Ibid., 416, 423-425, 428-434.

52. Leighton and Coakley, 656.

53. Leighton and Coakley, 655-660.

54. Huston, 540.

55. Vice Admiral George C. Dyer, Naval Logistics (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1969), 166-167.

56. Huston, 545-548.

57. Morison, 104-105.

58. Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton, The U.S. Army in World War II: Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943-1945 (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army, 1968), 435-441.

59. Ibid., 441-444.

60. Ibid., 392-394.

61. Ibid., 395.

62. Ibid., 398-399.

63. Morison, 102.

64. Ibid., 105-108.

65. Huston, 542.

66. Coakley and Leighton, 401-403.

67. Huston, 435.

68. Ibid., 436.

69. Ibid., 434-436.

70. Coakley and Leighton, 403-405.

71. Huston, 436.

72. Coakley and Leighton, 406-408.

73. Huston, 437.

74. Coakley and Leighton, 406-415.

75. Huston, 550-556.

76. Ibid., 556-557.

77. Ibid., 438-439, 557-559.

78. Office of Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy at War 1941-1945, 157.

79. Huston, 439-440.

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