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Monday, December 12. 2011
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"Hey-Diddle-Diddle Straight up the Middle" is the perfect description of Marine Strategy.
I sat at the "elbow" of the Kuwaiti / Saudi border watching the Army move around behind us getting ready to envelope the Iraqi Army. We always knew we were just going to point ourselves at Kuwait City and floor it.
"We have two companies of Marines running rampant all over the northern half of this island, and three Army regiments pinned down in the southwestern corner, doing nothing. What the hell is going on?"
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., USA, Chairman of the the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the assault on Grenada, 1983
It's a powerful USMC tradition, but on the island of Peleliu in 1944 it made reknowned hard man Lt. General Lewis "Chesty" Puller want to cry.
--that was no knock on Gen. Puller --USN offshore was a sitting duck until those island assaults were secured --
Wouldn't hear me knock Puller. Not a perfect man but a damn good Marine.
--that little scrap of film is during or just after this:
D +6 — September 21st
Chesty Puller’s 1st Regiment has, in less than 200 hours, lost a total of 1,672 Marines – the heaviest losses ever suffered by a regiment in Marine Corps history.
Ray Davis’ 1st Battalion has 71% casualties (only 74 men, my dad among them, were left in its nine rifle platoons and every lieutenant platoon leader in the battalion had been killed or wounded), Russ Honsowetz’s 2nd Battalion has 56% casualties and Steve Sabol’s 3rd Battalion has 55% casualties.
Gen. Geiger orders a vehemently reluctant Gen. Rupertus to evacuate the 1st Regiment to Pavuvu and replace them with the Army’s 321st Regimental Combat Team from Angaur. Pavuvu is an island just north of Guadalcanal in the Russell Islands that was used by the 1st Division to train and stage the Peleliu invasion.
In accomplishing its mission to this point, the 1st Regiment had killed an estimated 3,942 Japanese, nearly a third of the island’s garrison, and reduced the following major enemy positions and installations: The Point, ten defended coral ridges, three large blockhouses, twenty two pillboxes, thirteen antitank guns, and 144 defended caves.
Total 1st Division casualties in the first week of fighting (170 hours) were 3,946 Marines killed or wounded – one man every two and a half minutes day and night.
Peleliu was probably the worst battle Americans fought during WWII. Truly hellish and probably of no real benefit to the overall war effort.
The airfield there could've supported long-range air ops against MacArthur's Filipino campaign --but that was a minor threat --the real reason (said to be) was was the planning had been done (earlier and under a different set of assumptions) and the assault force was in being, but not yet needed for the upcoming decisive 1945 ops. Nimitz is said to've gone ahead with Peleliu because otherwise MacArthur was going to borrow the invasion force --and Nimitz had had trouble getting back some units he had lent MacA for the Bougainville fight.
Pacific war grand strategy in its enormous open distances and languidly hallucinatory settings punctuated by the extreme savagery of the no-quarter hypertempo fights, was Homeric, like the contrast between the gods on Mount Olympus and the Greek and Trojan grunts they assembled down below to lock in mortal combat hand-to-hand.
No knock here as well. And for damn sure there were mistakes made.
But, as a joinder, might not have all been about territory nor strategic thinking. Just maybe, a signal that we will kick your ass, you sonofabitch. Kick it wherever and however we choose.
Hard to second guess those WWII guys, so full of motivations of which we have no inkling.
I seem t remember that Chesty Puller once said something to the effect that "the enemy is behind us, they're to the right of us, they're to the left of us, they're in front of us. They can't get away now."
What a guy. What a fighter.
At the "Frozen Chosin", Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Korea, winter of 1950-51. The enemy was was the Chinese People's Liberation Army, which in a surprise attack had entered the war by swarming, ten or twenty of 'em to every Marine at the Chosin, across the Yalu River, to save the Korean People's Liberation Army from a Puller a-pushing it acrost from the other direction.
What all those people's liberation armies were liberating the people from was 'liberty'.
USMC Tactics Class:
Good morning, Gentlemen and Ladies. During the next period of instruction, you will learn Marine Corps ground tactics. As this slide shows, "Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle." Any questions? Class, Attention! Dismissed!
Maneuver is for sissies and soldiers. Or, "By god, we lost more Marines in five minutes than you dogfaces lost the entire campaign." Yeah, that's something to brag about, "We kill more of our own by 0600 than the Army loses all week."
...somewhere at some point early on, someone heavy said, 'look, we can replace half a Marine division, but a capital ship sunk is a total loss' --meaning, take the island with ALL dispatch, and cut the big ships loose from fire support.
...and it is true, that up until the smoke cleared after the Kamikaze of Okinawa, the vulnerability of the invasion fleet made Hey Diddle Diddle into a sort of high premium catastrophic insurance policy.
'Insurance' being 'to conserve' --'conservative' --means Hey Diddle was really the opposite of reckless. That high premium had to be paid in Gyrenes, was the problem with that model --a problem coped with by "Gung Ho" --making 'gung ho' again, like hey diddle, as sober & smart as wild & crazy.
--a tough world, for sure for sure.
Depends on one's training, as well as philosophy concerning loss of life. I'll take fire and maneuver and fire support over "Charge!"
Sgt. Bob, I respect your opinion, seriously.
But I was taught to charge the ambush, fiercely and with abandon. Peleliu, Iwo, were somewhat like that. No men on-line, just one ambush after another.
Ah hell, who knows. Marines win, that is all I know.
the fight for Sugarloaf Hill on Okinawa, too, was like that, it seems, from what i've read.
--you know, it's funny, what you said up above about those WWII guys' motivations being hard to get a fix on. The country was so wide open then, less than half of today's population, the whole west of the Mississippi still sorta frontier-ish and unlimited that individual persons were --i know this sounds dumb --twice as rare and valuable as today's world --so loaded with replacements.
Yet those guys held their lives as just not that big a deal.
My dad for instance, 23 years old when he found himself in Stalag Luft 1. Right out of Univ of Texas and into the 8th AAF and a B 17 flying against the Luftwaffe from late summer 1943 til they got him (his plane but not his crew, lucky for the proverbial gleam in the eye yet to be me) in early 44.
The family, immigrants fron scandinavia, got him thru college at great sacrifice, the first ever from either side to get out of the rice fields in south Texas (or the herring boats before that), and there he was, flying the early missions that took routine losses in the 10-20% area.
I asked him once, how he handled those odds, how he could lead a crew also facing those odds, at the ridiculous age of 23. He said, "Well, actually it was pretty easy, once we all realized we were already dead and just busy with the details."
Casual --that's the word. So much to live for waiting back stateside, so casual about never getting there again. Ah well, i guess it's the same for combat soldiers thru all of history --WWII just so big, so big in the imagination, in imagining a memory of it for yourself if you'd been there --like all those actors in the WWII movies --LOL --
To be fair, in the traditional Marine role of amphibious assault, there is not usually a lot of strategic flexibility.
Once a Marine Regiment is ashore, they are mostly' on foot without heavy fire or mech support. It is "up the middle" or die on the beach. Speed and "Shock" are our best friends. Airborne and air-assault units sometimes use similar tactics.
When we do have space and time to plan, Marines can use all kinds of nasty tricks - although circuitous routes still offend us. During Desert Storm we ran all kinds of Psych Ops, faked an amphibious landing, and infiltrated a foot-mobile regiment behind enemy lines before the ground war officially started.
--that amphib feint was a beaut --one for the books --off-footed some of Saddam's best --they were out of the fight as if they never existed.