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Military History/Island hopping toward Japan



Why did U.S. forces systematically attack Japanese held islands instead of quarantining them and attacking the Japanese mainland instead?  Wouldn't that have saved thousands of lives and millions of dollars?  Did an airstrip need to be made on every island?  Weren't U.S. aircraft carriers sufficient?

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The US needed land bases to launch large 4 engine bombers to attack Japanese targets.  Also you donít want large enemy forces in your rear that cause all sorts of chaos.  The island hopping strategy was conceived to hit islands that had airfields because airfields cannot be sunk unlike aircraft carriers.  In1942 the US lost the carriers USS Wasp, USS Yorktown, USS Lexington and USS Hornet.  In addition the USS Saratoga was damaged by a torpedo and had to spend time in Dry dock in 1942.  Seabees would in a matter of days repair or build an airfield provide the island was big enough.  The Japanese had the largest submarines during World War 2 and used them to keep garrisons supplied after an island was by passed.  

Carriers are great offensive platforms but they lack the ability to carry enough bombers to damage large scale land targets.  You need large bombers such as B-29s to attack Japanese cities.  Also the atomic bomb was too large for a carrier based aircraft to carry.  

Air bases were not needed on every island but on enough to protect ships and troops.  The Japanese at the beginning of World War 2 had very long range fighters such as the A6M Zero and bombers such as the Beatty bombers had better range then US aircraft but at the expense of self sealing fuels tanks and armor to protect the crew.  So the US could not leave any island with Japanese aircraft alone.  Also the Japanese had float plane fighters and many of their seaplanes could be used as bombers.  The Rufe was a Zero with floats on it so it could land and take off on water.  It was slower that the standard Zero but in the hands of a good Pilot it was dangerous.

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Paul Sutton


I can answer questions on World War Two weapons, tactics, and strategy. I can answer questions on Weapons systems and their development. I can answer guestions on Space exploration history. I am a World War 2 expert. I study Military Weapons Systems and the usage of those systems.


I work for Saint Petersburg College as a TRS or Technology resources specialist. I read 10 to 15 books a year on World War 2 and weapon systems. I also have a BA in History from USF.

I have a BA in history from USF.

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