All posts tagged logistics

Easter Sunday, 1945, was also April 1st. In addition it was chosen as the start of the American invasion of Okinawa, cheerily code-named “Love Day”. (D-Day by this time had become a brand name, forever associated with the French Atlantic coast.)

In today’s post we want to point the reader to an excellent online book. The work focuses on Marines, but gives a good deal of both context and detail, from logistics challenges to combined arms problems.

nps.gov – The Final Campaign: Marines in the Victory on Okinawa
The link starts at the second section of the book, where it is pointed out that the landing would put ashore six divisions, supported by an enormous fleet, while campaigns were still not finished in the Philippines or on Iwo Jima. This focus of power so far from the USA was a tremendous strain on the logistics chain in place, which at times would be a limiting factor in the American advance.

Such a heavy reliance on artillery support stressed the amphibious supply system. The Tenth Army’s demand for heavy ordnance grew to 3,000 tons of ammo per day; each round had to be delivered over the beach and distributed along the front. This factor reduced the availability of other supplies, including rations.

On land, facing clever and coordinated defensive infantry and artillery tactics, American forces were stymied to make fast progress (at acceptable casualty rates). With three divisions at a time, with replacement regiments rotating in, across a span of as little as four miles, advances were halting.

General Buckner favored a massive application of firepower on every obstacle before committing troops in the open. … Colonel Wilburt S. “Big Foot” Brown, a veteran artilleryman commanding the 11th Marines, and a legend in his own time, believed the Tenth Army relied too heavily on firepower. “We poured a tremendous amount of metal into those positions,” he said. “It seemed nothing could be living in that churning mass where the shells were falling and roaring, but when we next advanced the Japs would still be there and madder than ever.”

These oft-repeated quotes played an important part in gaming of Operation Olympic for X-Day:Japan. On Kyushu three times as many divisions would have to be supported over a front twenty times as long. Japanese reinforcements, from infantry to shovel-wielding workers, would continue to flow in. The monumental clash of forces would be ugly and slow. Medals would be awarded by the crate – if the crates could ever be delivered.


[Supplying a moving force can be a hit or miss proposition.]

We crossed a small but fast running river several times as we wound our way out to the front. Most standing vehicle bridges were temporary ones laid down by American engineers. We passed several small foot bridges, ancient structures of classical oriental design and ornamentation. Their limited capacity was all that had saved them from bombardment or sabotage as the land around them was contested.

Corporal Shanahan gunned his engine to push us around or through patches of mud on the abused road. We neared Miyanojo from the south as I noticed fresh columns of smoke on the small mountain to our right. The steady rain, which had started two days before, would put them out quickly, but just then the hill was still being fought over.

Engineers and artillery men were already working to push big guns up to the marginally secure near end of the mountain’s long top. Saws and bulldozers cleared steep lanes while trains of tractors were chained together three at a time to pull one gun at a time up the wet slope.

We approached the outskirts of the city proper and were immediately pointed down a small side street to clear the main road. A steady stream of vehicles came through the other way, moving out of the town to the southwest. Finally a quartermaster man approached to find out what we had and to send us somewhere useful.

The 8th Marines had spent all the previous day fighting into the city. They got to the river which divides Miyanojo and found all its bridges gone. Any reasonable place to ford or place a temporary bridge was targeted by Japanese artillery. In fact, every part of the plain holding the city and its adjoining towns was vulnerable to fire from big guns hidden in mountains that push up abruptly about eight miles north.

Most of the 8th Marines was going to move back some and try to circle around on the left, under cover of some smaller hills. The 6th was to continue fighting from hilltop to hilltop on the right. We were directed to a new supply dump back a bit, between the rears of both regiments.


[In this snippet from the book, Tuttle takes the time to learn from the enemy’s ancient teachers.]

In preparation for my adventure in the Pacific, I took to reading up on the Japanese and what it is they read. In Japan they look at ancient Chinese texts the way we read ancient Greek plays, history, and philosophy. One of the oldest texts on the topic at hand is a short treatise called The Art of War, by a fellow they call Sun Tzu. At the time of writing, Chinese lords had been fighting back and forth for territory and prestige for over a thousand years. They’d made a regular business out of it, and Sun Tzu had plenty of examples to work from.

One section caught my eye, about fighting far away from home and how enormously expensive it is. Sun Tzu even listed tables of expenses and his commentators gave logarithmic ratios of how it’s a hundred times more expensive to fight ten times farther away. When there are chariots carrying nothing but spare parts for other chariots, and food for the chariot drivers, and food for the troops guarding the chariots, only a fraction of the supplies that leave home will actually get to the army in the field. Fighting far away from home is terribly expensive.

In this war we literally could not be fighting any farther from home, unless the Japs have a base on Mars and we decide to attack that too.