Leapfrogging (military)

Leapfrogging (military)

Leapfrogging was a military strategy employed by the Allies in the Pacific War against Japan and the Axis powers during World War II. It involved attacking some islands but not others, effectively strangling the unattacked islands by not allowing them to be resupplied or to take part in trade. This saved time, men, and supplies. General Douglas MacArthur greatly supported this "island hopping" strategy in his effort to regain the Philippines.

Leapfrogging, also called island hopping, was the American strategy of skipping certain Japanese strongholds in the Pacific during World War II and invading only strategically chosen islands in order to make the most direct advance toward Japan. In other words, the forces of the United States would “leapfrog” certain Japanese held islands. This strategy began to be implemented in late 1943. [Roehrs, Mark D., and William A. Renzi. World War II in the Pacific. 2nd ed. London: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 2004, p 122.] While General Douglas MacArthur claimed to have invented the strategy, it initially came out of the Navy. [Id.] Leapfrogging had a number of advantages. It would allow the United States forces to reach Japan more quickly and not expend the time and manpower to capture every Japanese-held island. Also, perhaps most importantly, it would give them the element of surprise and keep the Japanese off balance, giving the Allies the initiative. [Id. at 119.] The overall leapfrogging strategy would involve two prongs. A force led by Admiral Nimitz, with a smaller land force and larger fleet, would advance north towards the island and capture the Gilbert and Marshall Islands and the Marianas, going in the generally direction of the Bonin Islands. [Collier, Basil. The Second World War: a Military History. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1967, p. 480] The Southern prong, led by General MacArthur and with larger land forces, would take the Solomons, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, advancing toward the Philippines. [Id.] However, the principal of leapfrogging was not always followed in the Pacific. MacArthur, when he moved south to attack Mindanao, after capturing the Philippines, and when instigated the reconquest of portions of Borneo, violated the “basic tenets” of island hopping. [Roehrs and Renzi, supra note 1, at 151.] However, at least in the first case, that was an almost due choice since MacArthur while leavin+ had promised Philippines people to come back as soon as possible. And he did hold his promise.


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