U.S. Naval Gunfire Support in the Pacific War
A Study of the Development and Application of Doctrine
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
On November 20, 1943, the United States invaded the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands as part of the first American offensive in the Central Pacific region during World War II. This invasion marked more than one first, as it was also the introductory test of a doctrine developed during the interwar years to address problems inherent in situations where amphibious assaults require support by naval gunfire rather than land-based artillery.
In this detailed study, Donald K. Mitchener documents and analyzes the prewar development of this doctrine as well as its application and evolution between the years 1943--1945. The historical consensus is that the test at Tawara was successful and the experience increased the efficiency with which U.S. forces were able to apply the doctrine in the Pacific theater for the remainder of the Second World War. Mitchener challenges this view, arguing that the reality was much more complex. He reveals that strategic concerns often took precedence over the lessons learned in the initial engagement, and that naval planners' failure to stay up to date with the latest doctrinal developments and applications sometimes led them to ignore these lessons altogether.
Though the weapons, techniques, and strategies of the U.S. armed forces have changed dramatically over the years, Mitchener compellingly argues that a nuanced understanding of the historical application of doctrine is necessary in order to protect soldiers' and sailors' lives. U.S. Naval Gunfire Support in the Pacific War presents an important analysis that highlights the human cost of misinterpreting strategic and tactical realities.
Why Naval Gunfire Support?
Doctrine, the Tentative Manual, and FTP 167
Operation Stalemate II
Appendix A: Tables
Glossary of Terms
"This meticulous work finally gives us a long overdue stern but shrewd assessment of the evolution of U.S. naval gunfire support doctrine for Pacific amphibious landings. It reflects a host of still useful insights into the formulation of multiservice doctrine. Among the most important of these are the critical value of a shared understanding of terminology, a rigorous pursuit of empirical data to identify combat 'lessons,' and the difference between the good intention to incorporate combat 'lessons' into doctrine and actually incorporating those 'lessons.' Its most timeless finding is that precision targeting counts far more than tonnage of explosives. This is a must-read for any serious student of amphibious warfare history." -- Richard B. Frank, author of A History of the Asia-Pacific War, Vol. 1, Tower of Skulls and Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
"Technology reflects the influence of human innovation. Yet, the key social and political aspects of technological innovation are often obscure within the literature of maritime history, naval strategy, and operations. Considering developments in doctrine and technology, Donald K. Mitchener provides an important analysis of fundamental trends in American maritime strategy and naval command in the era of the Second World War. Drawing new perspectives from primary sources as well as the historiography, Mitchener offers fresh conclusions and his work will be an indispensable addition to any library. U.S. Naval Gunfire Support in the Pacific War will be required reading for examining the trends which shaped the struggle to achieve precision in supporting U.S. Navy amphibious operations in the Second World War and beyond." -- David Kohnen, director of the John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research, U.S. Naval War College