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Looking at our recent wars with 20/20 hindsight and a willingness to reject the way it was always done

Posted by John Reed on

After graduating from West Point, I did a tour in Vietnam. We lost. It was the first time America ever lost a war. 

Could we have won? Yeah. Our invasion of Cambodia, which happened while I was there and involved my battalion, was extremely effective. I never heard another shot fired for the rest of my tour after it. Before, I heard incoming and outgoing fire regularly. We also should have invaded North Vietnam. The Russians and Chinese admitted after the Cold War that they were bluffing about our invading Vietnam starting World War III.

World War I

What about World War I? We should not have gotten involved at all. The reasons were the sinking of the Lusitania and the German offer of Mexico getting back the SouthWest U.S. if they joined the Germans in war against America. The Lusitania was illegally carrying arms and ammo in violation of neutrality. It was a legitimate target, not a reason to go to war. The offer to Mexico was a joke. Futhermore, the Allies in Europe did not need us. They would have eventually won without us.

World War II

World War II? No choice. The Axis declared war on us.

Should we have fought the war in the Pacific differently? Hell. yes. No amphibious invasions, though. Just wipe the ocean clean of Japanese subs and ships, which we did.

To get the stepping-stone island airstrips we needed to get close enough to attack the home island, Just encircle them one at a time just out of range of their guns and starve them to death by preventing resupply. Would that take too long? No. It would have taken less time. Amphibious invasions took all sorts of planning and gathering of men, ships, supplies, etc. Starving just meant shooting down planes and sinking supply ships and subs.

Fresh water

Many of the airstrip islands had no fresh water. If the Japanese had desalination equipment, we could have destroyed it by bombs or naval bombardment. You die of thirst after about 3 days of no water—probably faster in South Pacific heat. Vietnam had South Pacific heat—worst I ever experienced. I doubt any World War II in the Pacific invasion was ever set up in three weeks let alone three days.

At the end of the war, Japanese were on the home islands were weeks away from mass starvation when they surrendered. You can only go about three weeks without food.

So all the casualties we suffered in the Pacific War were unnecessary? Most. We still needed to shoot down the enemy planes, sink their ships and subs, and dodge their kamikazies. Those battles would have incurred some losses. The invasion of the Philippines was especially egregious. Thousands died for nothing but MacArthur’s “I shall return” ego.

The Japanese military strategy in World War II was utterly moronic. Had we done it the way I’m saying, casualties on both sides would have been minimal other than starved or suicide-committing soldiers on the islands we selected as stepping stones. All we needed to do was naval and air blockade the home Islands and starve them into surrender.

World War II in Europe

What about World War II in Europe? Did we need to attack North Africa? Nah. Leave the Germans there until the end of the war, just as we should have left millions of Japanese on the islands we did not need in the Pacific.

How about Italy? No way. Very tough terrain. No strategic value. Italy, like North Africa, was the European equivalent of the islands we did not need in the Pacific.

The Battle of the Atlantic (getting rid of German submarines) and the Battle of Britain (ending German blitz air attacks) were necessary, but the British with our help generally got it done themselves. We were more necessary in the anti-sub warfare than in the blitz.

What about D-Day? Postpone it six months or a year. Cut back on materiel aid to the Soviet Union a little so the Russians and the Germans slug it out for a longer period of time with little movement but lots of expenditure of lives and resources like oil. We tied up just as many Germans by being in England as we did invading Normandy. No need to kill them sooner.

During the postponement, we should have perfected the preparatory naval bombing and air corps pre-invasion bombardment. Both were disasters on D-Day. We could also have utterly eliminated the German Navy and Air Force in the West during that time. We also could have done additional intelligence gathering to pick the weakest spots to land. We could have eventually reduced the German bunkers to rubble from the air had we kept it up and experimented with better bombs. The location of the invasion—between Calais and Cherbourg, was probably the best place still, but maybe on a broader front with the second wave going into the beach where the first had been most successful—Gold, not Omaha.

Skip the paratroopers and rangers altogether. Neither was viable or successful in that invasion. Rangers succeeded at Cabantuan in the Philippines, but that was a rare success. (I was an airborne ranger when I was in the Army.) Also, refraining from invading the Philippines to begin with would have obviated the need to raid Cabanatuan which was an American POW camp.

Korea? Vietnam?

Korean War? MacArthur was right. No land wars in Asia. Nuke ’em.

VIetnam? Already discussed. 

Iraq? Afghanistan?

Iraq? Just kill all their military from the air. Afghanistan? Totally non-strategic worthless piece of crap. Ignore it.

Iran? Read my forthcoming novel The Unelected President.

Harvard Business School and football coaching, not West Point

Did I learn to analyze like this at West Point? Nah. Harvard Business School, and by being a football coach for 16 seasons. West Point is a “World War II in Europe” reenactor school. Artillery barrage, then charge at the enemy shooting a rifle. 18th century bullshit.

It’s like the finesse-versus-brute-force debate in football coaching. I wrote eight books on football coaching. When finesse works, you use finesse. It has fewer injuries. Same applies in warfare. Using finesse—water deprivation—in the Pacific in World War II would not only have saved American lives, it would have saved Japanese lives.

Too much of warfare is proving-your-manhood charges and not enough getting the job done as quickly and at the lowest cost possible. The Department of Defense should grow up.

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