Why were the allies so aggressive at the end of WW2? I'm referring to the Battles of Berlin (≈ 350 000 Russian casualties), Iwo Jima (≈ 25 000 US casualties), Okinawa (≈ 60 000 US casualties) etc.

In the Battle of Berlin, couldn't the Russians "just" surround Berlin and starve it? Of course there would have been some German counter attacks but defending is much easier than attacking and if the encirclement was a bit outside the actual urban area, in open agricultural areas, behind a a river or similar, it is even easier.

In the two examples in the Pacific, it was easy to cut off the Japanese garrisons from getting resupplied. Other islands where left unconquered during the island hopping campaign.

The first objection is of course that the defenders were fanatic and wouldn't give up, but so what? Just let them starve for a month or two while you fly by and drop propaganda leaflets explaining the only death they can expect is not the glorious die for your leader/emperor but from starvation (and possibly by cannibalism from your comrades!) and their will to fight would decrease/will to mutiny would increase.

Time was heavily skewed to benefit the attackers.

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    You do realize that you are cheating by looking in the back of the book to see how it all comes out? By late 1944 the Allied leaders had were sure of victory, but they had no idea what it would take to achieve it. All experience to date was that neither the Germans nor the Japanese would surrender, but would have to be defeated mile by mile and man by man. (Monday morning quarterbacks know better, of course.) – Mark Olson Apr 24 at 14:46
  • @MarkOlson Yes of course, but that always apply to questions about history. But they knew that they could cut off and surround the enemy because the Germans and Japanese were much weaker, and besieging someone should be cheaper in human lives than bitter street fighting or mopping up intricate bunker systems with defenders preferring to die rather than surrender. – d-b Apr 24 at 16:24
  • Why is my question downvoted? – d-b Apr 24 at 16:24
  • @MarkOlson The Courland Pocket is an interesting case in this context. – d-b Apr 24 at 16:39
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    When you are living amidst the fog of war and don't know how it is destined to all turn out, you do your damndest to win. You base your decisions on what you know (e.g., that the Japanese never surrendered) rather than what you might hope. – Mark Olson Apr 24 at 16:50

On the Pacific theater, there was a plan to invade Japan (Operation Downfall), and it is very helpful to have land bases for your B-24s, P-51, etc. So bypassing Iwo Jima or Okinawa is not really helpful, since you need a large island for the troops and airfields, and there aren't that many options. Also a month is not enough time. Rabaul was bypassed in late 1943, and still had living troops at the end of the war. Also I think you don't fully the willingness to keep fighting. Japanese soldiers were holding out until at least the 1970s and possibly longer.

  • That link lists a holdout from 1989! – Pieter Geerkens Apr 24 at 14:24
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    @d-b: Note that the situation in Europe was completely different from the situation in the Pacific. In Europe, the Soviets held a "personal" grudge against the Germans after suffering casualties, both military and civilian, that the average US citizen simply cannot imagine. Also, there was a race on for who would control how much of Europe after the war. Indeed, there was a possibility that hostilities would continue between the Soviets and the Western Allies pretty soon. So this question would have to be split up, in the very least. – DevSolar Apr 24 at 16:37
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    @d-b 350.000 casualties for taking the enemy's capitol could be considered "light" when compared to the casualties suffered pretty much all through that war. There was prestige to be won, Stalin's orders to be carried out, the potential of capturing some of those responsible alive, making an example of crushing the last of the enemy's defenses... Russia rebounded from almost losing it's capital in 1941. They wanted to make certain Germany did not rebound from this -- or that the Western Allies show up while they are still besieging Berlin, and start the next phase of the war... – DevSolar Apr 24 at 18:10
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    @d-b how long did Leningrad hold out until the city surrendered? – Jan Apr 24 at 19:39
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    @d-b Yes, Courland Pocket, "cut off and surrounded by the Red Army for almost a year". Whereas counterattacks and attempts to relieve pockets in the Berlin area happened as late as 24th of April, about the same time the ring was eventually closed. With Stalin ordering the Reichstag to fall in time for May 1st. Yet still you are here, looking for a counterfactual, telling both the Soviets of the time and everyone trying to help you out how wrong we all are... – DevSolar Apr 25 at 16:23

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