World War II

A place for Sladists to share their thoughts on Michael Slade and his work...

Postby MarylandManson » Thu Feb 16, 2006 2:14 am

This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder. The Pacific theatre of the Second World War was always rather a second fiddle as far as resources go, but it's still staggering to imagine that whole ships and their crews could just "vanish" from the face of the earth, having been sunk without a trace by the Japanese navy. Excerpt below, link follows:

"The Allied sources for these engagements are all based upon postwar interviews of Japanese participants; with the exception of 13 members of Yarra’s crew, and about fifty from Stronghold, no Allied participants survived the war. From the Allied point of view, their stricken vessels sailed into oblivion and their fates are still unclear..."

http://www.microworks.net/PACIFIC/battl ... ements.htm

Of course, even within the context of the Pacific, what usually comes to mind--at least from this Yank's point of view--is carrier warfare and island-hopping U.S. Marines. But then there was the "forgotten" theatre of China-Burma-India, chock full of more misery than even the poor souls on Guadalcanal and a host of other islands had to endure. There may or may not be "degrees" of Hell, but Burma was probably the most miserable of them all--and populated by some damned peculiar, type-A personalities on the Allied side. Interesting to read about Orde Wingate and his Chindits or "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell and his "X Force," as well as the more well-known Merrill's Marauders and Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers.

Burma, though. Good Lord...

http://www.burmastar.org.uk/misery.htm

MM
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Postby Slade » Sun Feb 19, 2006 5:59 pm

MM,

For me, the war in Burma and Thailand is the FIRST image that jumps to mind if someone mentions the Pacific War. That's because my first real introduction to that half of the conflict was when I saw - at age ten - BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. I still consider that to be the best film made about the Pacific theater. What makes it work so well is that it was written by a Frenchman...

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/boulle.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Boulle

...and filmed from the point of view of an American unwillingly caught up in the British military myth. They're into the Thin Red Line and all of that, and he just wants to get his ass home in one piece.

Consequently, we get the rah-rah seen through a very jaundiced eye.

On Thursday, I caught a good show called THE BOYS OF H COMPANY on the History Channel (which is different from the U.S. one). It really puts you in the middle of the battle for Iwo Jima.

http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site ... e_2468.php

'Boys of H Company'

FEB. 19 [last year] marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most famous incidents of World War II--the US invasion of Iwo Jima. The small island 660 miles South of Tokyo was crucial to the US, and the Japanese spent years "digging in" in preparation for the inevitable attack.

Thus, when the invasion started, every inch of ground the Marines took was at extreme cost. The battle raged for more than 30 days. Nearly 7,000 American soldiers were killed and more than 20,000 were injured. For their part, the Japanese lost more than 21,000 men. Of the 80 US Marines awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, 22 of them were at Iwo Jima!

"Boys of H company" is a two-hour special.

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Postby MarylandManson » Sun Feb 19, 2006 6:40 pm

Slade,

I've yet to see the River Kwai movie, but it's long been on the list (I'm a David Lean fan). It sounds like an interesting way in toward study of the Second World War: through the POW aspect as opposed to the combatant aspect (that is, there's the battle and then there's what happens after the dust settles).

Speaking of the multicultural takes on River Kwai, the mishmash of governments and commands on the Allied side is an interesting aspect of the whole SE Asia/SW Pacific theatre. How many times does ABDACOM (American-British-Dutch-Australian Command) get mentioned in discussions of the war? Of course, it was a short-lived command--January 15 to February 25, 1942--but there was quite alot going on then. Maybe the Allied victors were embarrassed as the Japanese army and navy kicked ass between December 1941 and June 1942--definitely Japan's high-water mark.

From at least the naval point of view, the ABDACOM fleet was an underdog that fought reasonably well (given its hastily assembled nature--communication and joint training would have done wonders) but eventually got whomped on by the superior Imperial Japanese Navy. I find no comprehensive overview of the campaign in any single source.

So, for all frustrated ABDACOM fans everywhere, here's a list (cobbled together from many sources) of ABDA surface vessels whose crews saw action, as well as their fates. Many fought bravely and paid the price, and perhaps they warrant more mention than they usually get:

ABDA Fleet (American-British-Dutch-Australian surface combatants)

Key:
CA = heavy cruiser
CL = light cruiser
AV = seaplane tender
DD = destroyer
PG = patrol gunboat or sloop

American

CA Houston (sunk)
CL Boise (damaged, escaped)
CL Marblehead (damaged, escaped)
AV Langley (sunk)
AV William B. Preston (damaged, escaped)
DD Alden (escaped)
DD Barker (damaged, escaped)
DD Bulmer (damaged, escaped)
DD Edsall (sunk)
DD John D. Edwards (escaped)
DD John D. Ford (escaped)
DD Parrott (escaped)
DD Paul Jones (escaped)
DD Peary (sunk)
DD Pillsbury (sunk)
DD Pope (sunk)
DD Stewart (scuttled, raised and used by Japanese)
DD Whipple (escaped)
PG Asheville (sunk)

British

CA Exeter (sunk)
CL Danae (escaped)
CL Dragon (escaped)
CL Durban (damaged, escaped)
CL Emerald (escaped)
DD Electra (sunk)
DD Encounter (sunk)
DD Express (escaped)
DD Jupiter (sunk)
DD Scout (escaped)
DD Stronghold (sunk)
DD Tenedos (escaped, later sunk)
DD Thanet (sunk)

Dutch

CL De Ruyter (sunk)
CL Java (sunk)
CL Tromp (damaged)
DD Banckert (scuttled, raised but not used by Japanese)
DD Evertsen (beached)
DD Kortenaer (sunk)
DD Piet Hein (sunk)
DD Van Ghent (beached)
DD Van Nes (sunk)
DD Witte de With (scuttled)

Australian

CL Perth (sunk)
CL Hobart (escaped)
DD Vampire (escaped, later sunk)
PG Yarra (sunk)

Timeline

January 23-24 (Battle of Balikpapan)

Boise damaged, John D. Ford damaged

January 27

Thanet sunk (action off Endau)

February 4 (Battle of Makassar Strait)

De Ruyter damaged, Houston damaged, Marblehead damaged

February 15 (action off Bangka Island)

Barker damaged, Bulmer damaged, Van Ghent beached

February 17

Van Nes sunk (en route Billiton to Batavia)

February 18-19

Piet Hein sunk, Stewart damaged, Tromp damaged (Battle of Badung Strait)
Peary sunk, William B. Preston damaged (action at Darwin)

February 27

Langley sunk (action south of Tjilatjap)
De Ruyter sunk, Electra sunk, Java sunk, Jupiter sunk, Kortenaer sunk (Battle of the Java Sea)

February 28-March 1

Evertsen beached, Houston sunk, Perth sunk (Battle of Sunda Strait)
Encounter sunk, Exeter sunk, Pope sunk (Battle of the Java Sea)
Edsall sunk (action southwest of Tjilatjap)

March 2

Banckert scuttled, Stewart scuttled, Witte de With scuttled (action off Surabaya)
Stronghold sunk (action in Bali Strait)
Pillsbury sunk (action in Bali Strait)

March 3

Asheville sunk (action south of Java)

March 4

Yarra sunk (action southeast of Tjilatjap)

Note: The Japanese navy kept good records, and there are comprehensive lists available that describe the Japanese combatant vessels and their crews, who also fought well. So if the above list appears one-sided, there's the reason.

Cheers! MM
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Postby Slade » Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:58 pm

MM,

Never seen BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI!! Well, then you have a treat. Although LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is considered to be Lean's best film - and it really opens your eyes to what's now going on in the world - BRIDGE is probably more enjoyable. As an American, you'll have fun identifying with William Holden and his predicament.

Watch it soon.

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Postby raasnio » Sun Feb 19, 2006 9:29 pm

Bridge on the River Kwai. Admittedly, I don't like too many of the older war films. Bridge, on the other hand, is one that stands out as being one of the most enjoyable. I've seen it a couple of times. I'd definitely recommend it.

I've never seen Lawrence of Arabia, though.
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Postby Slade » Sun Feb 19, 2006 10:19 pm

raasnio,

Then you, too, have a treat!

T.E. Lawrence has to be one of the most intriguing men of the 20th Century, and Peter O'Toole - in his first movie role - brings the enigma to life.

http://www.lawrenceofarabia.info/

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Postby MarylandManson » Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:16 pm

...and what's the connection between the ABDA fleet and BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI?

http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/remembering ... script.htm

"In a night battle, under fire from Japanese cruisers and destroyers, Perth and Houston steamed in a great semi-circle nearly ten miles or sixteen kilometres across. All the while they were under fire from torpedoes and shells.

...the Perth heeled over and sank. The Houston too fought on until it sank after hits by torpedoes.

Those who survived were gradually picked up by Japanese warships and became prisoners of war. They were held at first in Java, then were sent north to labour on the Burma-Thailand railway."

Cheers! MM
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Postby MarylandManson » Tue Feb 28, 2006 2:53 am

Slade,

No doubt you're familiar with the Battle of Kohima. I can't help but think of Rorke's Drift while imagining a British garrison completely surrounded by Japanese jungle fighters. Then there's the shake-your-head surreal quality of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Tennis_Court

Ever since you posted that quote by William Slim, I've been reading about Burma. Of all the military leaders I've studied, Slim seems right up there as one I'd most want to serve under, if I had to. Even "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell felt that way.

Thanks for the way into what is, for me, a new chapter of Second World War awareness.

Cheers! MM
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Postby Slade » Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:09 am

MM,

Here's something you'll appreciate. Max Hastings, in BOMBER COMMAND, did a thorough assessment of that aspect of the war. His conclusion: "The two great achievements of the Allied strategic air offensive must be conceded to the Americans: the defeat of the Luftwaffe by the Mustang escort-fighters, and the inception of the deadly oil offensive."

In the end, it ALWAYS comes down to oil.

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Postby MarylandManson » Tue Feb 28, 2006 6:48 pm

Slade,

I guess I'll have to buy the Hastings book and find out how he arrived at two seemingly esoteric conclusions. Just for fun, I'll post some contrary opinions now, then we'll see how "wrong" I was after reading Hastings.

Although the P-51 was the best of the best, it's perhaps unfair not to mention the later Spitfire models and the P-47 Thunderbolt as escort-fighters that contributed to the final destruction of the Luftwaffe. Spitfires and Thunderbolts could tip doodlebugs or engage German jet fighters as well as Mustangs. And it's tough to compare a plane like the Thunderbolt to the Mustang--totally different advantages re: weight, armor, diving capability, speed, etc. But both were devastatingly effective against the Germans, largely in different roles but sometimes in the same (fighter-escort) role.

And anyway, a discussion of effective Allied fighter-escorts would necessarily address the mismatch in Allied and German pilots' experience and fatigue. As the Mustang came on the scene, the Allies could easily manage to rotate their pilots to preserve manpower/energy within their fighting forces. The Germans had no such luxury. Not that the aircraft doesn't matter, but there's plenty of evidence to show that the pilot/plane relationship counted a whole lot. Hence the Flying Tigers' effective use of the otherwise "obsolete" P-40 Tomahawk against the "superior" Zero and the Finns' effective use of the otherwise reviled Brewster Buffalo.

Finally, the Luftwaffe was doomed almost from the beginning, when its Chief of Staff Walther Wever died in 1936. Wever advocated the strategic use of long-range heavy (four-engine) bombers. His successors, and in fact Goring and Hitler, opted for the use of dive bombers and medium-range twin-engine bombers. Imagine the different outcome of the Battle of Britain if Wever's ideas had held sway. Of course, the Allies used the long-range bombing strategy to deadly effect. And imagine the effectiveness of the Me-262 upon Allied bombers if Hitler hadn't insisted upon the jet's use and fitting out as a bomber. Maybe Hitler was the best ally the Allies had.

As for oil in the Pacific, I'm guessing that Hastings refers to the Tenth Air Force "bridge busters" depriving the Japanese of oil from areas such as Yenangyaung. I wonder how he addresses the question of oil available from other sources like the Dutch East Indies. Even more worthy of mention, given Japan's utter dependence upon open sealanes, are the submarine forces that sank so much Japanese merchant shipping and Japan's inability to even approach the U.S. shipbuilding output of the submarine-chasing destroyers that escorted convoys.

Although the Tenth dropped millions of tons of ordnance in a relatively short time, I like George Kenney and the radical innovations he fostered as his Fifth Air Force destroyed the Japanese around New Guinea. There's something scary about the thought of a B-25 "commerce destroyer" fitted with forward-firing .50-calibre machine guns. Not to mention the skip-bombing A-20 Havocs, the M-47 "Kenney Cocktails," and the parafrags that trashed so much of the Japanese air capability while it was still on the ground.

Well, that was fun. More so to see how Hastings upsets my applecart. Thanks for the recommendation!

Cheers! MM
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Postby MarylandManson » Fri Mar 17, 2006 12:34 pm

Here's an interesting take on the Pacific war from a macroeconomic perspective. Wheeeee!

http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm

"When the American giant awoke, it did not lapse into despair as a result of the defeats that Japan had inflicted upon it. Rather, it awoke in a rage, and applied every ounce of its tremendous strength with a cold, methodical fury against its foe. The grim price Japan paid -- 1.8 million military casualties, the complete annihilation of its military, a half million or so civilians killed, and the utter destruction of practically every major urban area within the Home Islands -- bears mute testimony to the folly of its militarist leaders."

The whole site is chock full of fascinating stuff (see the links at bottom), all centered on the Imperial Japanese Navy as appreciated from a Yank's perspective, including loads of cool paintings from the boxes of scale models (for the Testor's paint aficionado).

Cheers! MM
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Postby Cawdorgraves » Sun Mar 19, 2006 5:45 am

Sir Alec Guinness hates that he was forever known as Obi Wan Kenobi but his works for sure in Bridge over the River Kwai was fabulous.

The explosion at the end is a visual spectacle. Even by today's standards.

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