An aerial view of smoke from the US artillery and naval bombardment of a Japanese seaplane base at Flores Point, near Tanapag harbor, during the US invasion of Saipan in June 1944.

South China Sea Battle of Saipan offers lessons for US

South China Sea: Battle of Saipan offers lessons for US and China

Some 29,000 Japanese troops, almost the entire force Tokyo put on Saipan, in the Northern Marianas, were killed. US losses totaled almost 3,000 dead and more than 10,000 wounded.

It was a pivotal moment in the war.

Soon after the Battle of Saipan, the US took the nearby islands of Tinian and Guam. On all three islands, the US built runways to accommodate heavy B-29 bombers, the biggest bombers in World War II.

Within months, those B-29s had burned vast swathes of Tokyo and pounded factories supporting the Japanese war machine.

At one point, the US airfield on Tinian — just 5 miles (9 kilometers) from Saipan — was the largest airport in the world, with six runways accommodating almost 270 B-29s.

As the US thrived on these islands, Japan crumbled.

In August 1945, B-29s flying from Tinian dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, spurring Japan’s surrender.

When considering current tensions in the South China Sea, where China has built airstrips, the Battle of Saipan offers important lessons that should not be ignored.

The South China Sea

Controversy has been building for years over the South China Sea — essentially, 1.3 million square miles of international or contested waters and islands.

China has been building runways and military facilities on reclaimed shoals and sandbars there to reinforce its territorial claims in the sea, something the US says endangers free passage.

These facilities also give China a greater strike range by allowing it to deploy aircraft from previously unoccupied territory.

“Chinese long-range bombers if staging through the islands is certainly an issue,” says Peter Layton, a military analyst at Australia’s Griffith Asia Institute. “That would allow air-launched cruise missile strikes into northern Australia airfields and ports, (placing) any USAF bombers and tankers deployed there at risk.”

That means places such as RAAF Base Tindal, near Darwin in northern Australia, must now be defended against a “sophisticated threat,” says Layton.

“This is a major change,” he adds, noting that such bases used to be thought of as “sanctuaries well outside Chinese strike range.”

Underscoring the seriousness of the matter, a 2018 report from the RAND Corp. think tank recommended joint US-Australia air defense exercises as a deterrent against any possible action from China.
US and Australian forces regularly train together in Darwin, and as recently as May US and Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) pilots took part in a bilateral training exercise off Australia’s Northern Territory.

An extra 1,000 miles of range

Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain and instructor at Hawaii Pacific University, says that having runways in the South China Sea effectively adds more than 1,000 miles to the range of China’s biggest bombers, the H-6K.

Those aircraft can be armed with long-range cruise missiles, which allow the bombers to stay out of the reach of anti-aircraft defenses.

Schuster makes another point — one that didn’t necessarily apply in the case of Saipan, but certainly looms large 75 years later. While in 1944, the US had one specific enemy in this region — Japan — in 2019, China seeks to exert influence over a range of countries.

“By controlling the South China Sea, China can project its air and sea power to the Pacific Ocean’s western entry points, Malacca, Sundra and Lombok Straits,” Schuster says.

The means China can “ensure entry and exit of its maritime forces and commerce to and from the Indian Ocean, through which 45% of China’s exports and 60% of raw material imports must pass,” he adds.

A July 2016 image shows a Chinese H-6K bomber patrolling islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

The influence of those runways and military facilities also pushes northwards.

“That control also extends China’s defensive buffer to the southeast by nearly 600 miles, (and) all but ensures leverage against Japan and Taiwan, since those waters are critical to those countries’ economies,” Schuster says.

China says the runways and military assets it has installed in the South China Sea are for defense purposes only, to protect what it claims is its sovereign territory.

Last weekend. China tested an anti-ship missile near the Spratly Islands, in the southern reaches of these waters, and in June it sent J-10 fighters to a deployment on Woody Island in the Paracels.
Image from ImageSat International shows Chinese J-10 fighters deployed to Woody Island in the South China Sea.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army needs to deploy fighter jets at military airports to protect the territorial airspace and sea,” state-sanctioned Global Times quoted Chinese air defense expert Fu Qianshao as saying.

Schuster said the deployment of those fighter jets sent a much broader message.

“It … makes a statement that they can extend their air power reach over the South China Sea as required or desired,” he said.

Supply chains

While small islands can help a country project power with aircraft and missiles, they also offer a more mundane but vital advantage for any military — something Saipan gave the Americans in World War II: a place to shorten the supply chain and stage ground forces.

Saipan, for example, became a vital way to support US operations on islands closer to the Japanese mainland, such as Okinawa, making those campaigns easier to sustain. In the South China Sea, island facilities could give PLA ships safe harbors where they can rest and replenish without going back to bases on the Chinese mainland.

The Chinese-controlled artificial island of Mischief reef in the South China Sea, as seen by CNN from a US reconnaissance plane on August 10, with a runway and area for ships to anchor.

While no one is contending that any conflict — let alone one on the scale of World War II — is an imminent risk in the South China Sea, China’s islands would give it a distinct advantage in the event of war.

And, as Japan failed to recover from the losses sustained on Saipan in 1944, some wonder if it’s too late for the US and its allies and partners in Asia to reverse the gains China has made by constructing the islands.

They “allow China to dominate the central ASEAN region,” Layton said.

“No regional nation … can realistically counter the threat the islands now pose.”

South China Sea: Battle of Saipan offers lessons for US and China

Some 29,000 Japanese troops, nearly all the drive Tokyo placed on Saipan, within the Northern Marianas, had been killed. US losses totaled nearly 3,000 useless and greater than 10,000 wounded.

It was a pivotal second within the struggle.

Quickly after the Battle of Saipan, the US took the close by islands of Tinian and Guam. On all three islands, the US constructed runways to accommodate heavy B-29 bombers, the largest bombers in World Conflict II.

Inside months, these B-29s had burned huge swathes of Tokyo and pounded factories supporting the Japanese struggle machine.

At one level, the US airfield on Tinian — simply 5 miles (9 kilometers) from Saipan — was the most important airport on the earth, with six runways accommodating nearly 270 B-29s.

Because the US thrived on these islands, Japan crumbled.

In August 1945, B-29s flying from Tinian dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, spurring Japan’s give up.

When contemplating present tensions within the South China Sea, the place China has constructed airstrips, the Battle of Saipan offers necessary lessons that shouldn’t be ignored.

The South China Sea

Controversy has been constructing for years over the South China Sea — primarily, 1.Three million sq. miles of worldwide or contested waters and islands.

China has been constructing runways and army amenities on reclaimed shoals and sandbars there to strengthen its territorial claims within the sea, one thing the US says endangers free passage.

These amenities additionally give China a larger strike vary by permitting it to deploy plane from beforehand unoccupied territory.

“Chinese language long-range bombers if staging by means of the islands is definitely a difficulty,” says Peter Layton, a army analyst at Australia’s Griffith Asia Institute. “That may enable air-launched cruise missile strikes into northern Australia airfields and ports, (inserting) any USAF bombers and tankers deployed there in danger.”

Meaning locations similar to RAAF Base Tindal, close to Darwin in northern Australia, should now be defended towards a “subtle risk,” says Layton.

“It is a main change,” he provides, noting that such bases was once thought of as “sanctuaries properly outdoors Chinese language strike vary.”

Underscoring the seriousness of the matter, a 2018 report from the RAND Corp. assume tank beneficial joint US-Australia air protection workouts as a deterrent towards any attainable motion from China.
US and Australian forces recurrently prepare collectively in Darwin, and as not too long ago as Could US and Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) pilots took half in a bilateral coaching train off Australia’s Northern Territory.

An additional 1,000 miles of vary

Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain and teacher at Hawaii Pacific College, says that having runways within the South China Sea successfully provides greater than 1,000 miles to the vary of China’s largest bombers, the H-6K.

These plane will be armed with long-range cruise missiles, which permit the bombers to remain out of the attain of anti-aircraft defenses.

Schuster makes one other level — one that did not essentially apply within the case of Saipan, however definitely looms massive 75 years later. Whereas in 1944, the US had one particular enemy on this area — Japan — in 2019, China seeks to exert affect over a variety of nations.

“By controlling the South China Sea, China can venture its air and sea energy to the Pacific Ocean’s western entry factors, Malacca, Sundra and Lombok Straits,” Schuster says.

The means China can “guarantee entry and exit of its maritime forces and commerce to and from the Indian Ocean, by means of which 45% of China’s exports and 60% of uncooked materials imports should cross,” he provides.

A July 2016 image shows a Chinese H-6K bomber patrolling islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

The affect of these runways and army amenities additionally pushes northwards.

“That management additionally extends China’s defensive buffer to the southeast by practically 600 miles, (and) all however ensures leverage towards Japan and Taiwan, since these waters are crucial to these nations’ economies,” Schuster says.

China says the runways and army property it has put in within the South China Sea are for protection functions solely, to guard what it claims is its sovereign territory.

Final weekend. China examined an anti-ship missile close to the Spratly Islands, within the southern reaches of these waters, and in June it despatched J-10 fighters to a deployment on Woody Island within the Paracels.
Image from ImageSat International shows Chinese J-10 fighters deployed to Woody Island in the South China Sea.
“The Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Military must deploy fighter jets at army airports to guard the territorial airspace and sea,” state-sanctioned World Occasions quoted Chinese language air protection knowledgeable Fu Qianshao as saying.

Schuster mentioned the deployment of these fighter jets despatched a much wider message.

“It … makes an announcement that they’ll lengthen their air energy attain over the South China Sea as required or desired,” he mentioned.

Provide chains

Whereas small islands might help a rustic venture energy with plane and missiles, in addition they provide a extra mundane however important benefit for any army — one thing Saipan gave the People in World Conflict II: a spot to shorten the provision chain and stage floor forces.

Saipan, for instance, grew to become a significant approach to help US operations on islands nearer to the Japanese mainland, similar to Okinawa, making these campaigns simpler to maintain. Within the South China Sea, island amenities might give PLA ships protected harbors the place they’ll relaxation and replenish with out going again to bases on the Chinese language mainland.

The Chinese-controlled artificial island of Mischief reef in the South China Sea, as seen by CNN from a US reconnaissance plane on August 10, with a runway and area for ships to anchor.

Whereas nobody is contending that any battle — not to mention one on the size of World Conflict II — is an imminent threat within the South China Sea, China’s islands would give it a definite benefit within the occasion of struggle.

And, as Japan didn’t get well from the losses sustained on Saipan in 1944, some marvel if it is too late for the US and its allies and companions in Asia to reverse the good points China has made by establishing the islands.

They “enable China to dominate the central ASEAN area,” Layton mentioned.

“No regional nation … can realistically counter the risk the islands now pose.”

Facts Source: https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/asia/battle-of-saipan-lessons-75-years-later-hnk-intl/index.html

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