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Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th September 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific, Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war — the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri. See the link enabled list below —
Color photo of the Sept 2, 1945 surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.
Since that ceremony, a whole mythology about that period of history has grown, driven by various institutional and political imperatives following those events. And in particular, with regard to the use of nuclear weapons to end the war.
This year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration deals not with those myths, but with the war plans of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) from May thru August 1945. Too understand the use of the A-bomb in August 1945, you have to understand it in terms of the context of those May to August 1945 plans, not the institutional games that came after, games ably laid out in Michael Gordon’s recent WW2 book FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST — How World War II Became a Nuclear War”.
The short form was that the USAAF institutional leadership, Chief of Staff of the USAAF, General Arnold; operational commander US Army Strategic Air Forces (USASTAF) General Spaatz and Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) General Kenney were trying to win the war with conventional bombing via
1. The Small City Target Plan — Bombing out the smaller, 100,000 person or less, Japanese cities within range of Saipan to ‘induce’ a surrender;
2. The Transportation Plan — A massive two month (1 Oct – 30 Nov 1945) long campaign intended to destroy Japan’s rail system; and
3. Beach Preparations on Kyushu — The proposed B-29 carpet bombing of Kyushu beaches on29, 30 and 31 October with 100 B–29 per beach per day.
Between the agenda of the USAAF bomber generals to form and independent air force and the coming merger of the Navy and War Departments into the Defense Department, much about these three plans never made it out of the secret files — particularly the use of the then high tech SHORAN radio navigation system — to the general public…until now.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th June 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It is amazing the things you find out while writing a book review. In this case, a review of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II. The book is thoroughly revisionist in that it posits that there were no real decisive land battles in WW2. The human and material attrition in those “decisive battles” was so small relative to major combatants’ production rates that losses from them were easily replaced until Anglo-American air-sea superiority — starting in the latter half of 1944 — strangled Germany and Japan. Coming from the conservative side of the historical ledger, I had a lot of objections to O’Brien’s book starting with some really horrid mistakes on WW2 airpower in the Pacific.
However, my independent research on General MacArthur’s Section 22 radar hunters in the Philippines proved one of the corollaries of O’Brien’s thesis — Namely that the Imperial Japanese were a fell WW2 high tech foe, punching in a weight class above the Soviet Union — was fully validated with a digitized microfilm from the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) at Maxwell AFB, Alabama detailing the size, scope and effectiveness of the radar network Imperial Japan deployed in the Philippines.
The microfilm reel A7237 photoshop below is a combination of three scanned microfilm images of an early December 1944 radar coverage map of the Philippines. It shows 32 separate Imperial Japanese Military radar sites that usually had a pair of Japanese radars each (at lease 64 radars total), based upon the Japanese deployment patterns found and documented in Section 22 “Current statements” from January thru March 1945 elsewhere in the same reel.
This is a early December 1944 Japanese radar coverage map made by Section 22, GHQ, South West Pacific Area. It was part of the Section 22 monthly report series.
This Section 22 created map — taken from dozens of 5th Air Force and US Navy aerial electronic reconnaissance missions — showed Japanese radar coverage at various altitudes and was used by Admiral Halsey’s carrier fleet (See route E – F on the North Eastern Luzon area of the map) to strike both Clark Field and Manila Harbor, as well as by all American & Australian military services to avoid Japanese radar coverage to strike the final Japanese military reinforcement convoys, “Operation TA”, of the Leyte campaign. Read the rest of this entry »
But, meanwhile, the top-heavy Japanese nobility also began to fear this newly armed peasantry and within a generation had removed guns from the common people. The “Sword Hunt” of 1588 took away not only the farmer’s swords, but their matchlocks as well. This was, perhaps, the earliest gun control of world history. It was followed by the “Separation Edict” of 1591, which made the farmers hereditary serfs. Previously, the great bulk of Japanese fighting men were citizen-soldiers, farmers most of the time, who answered the call when local noblemen needed infantry support. But after the new edicts, only the Samurai could carry swords or shoot matchlocks. The farmers now had only one job: to pay for everything. And pay they did, up to 80 percent of all they grew now went to support the nobility and the Samurai. The Samurai myth has taken on exaggerated elements of chivalry. Popularly represented as brave swordsmen, defenders of the innocent, the truth was often the opposite, for many Samurai were cold-blooded killers who murdered unarmed commoners for perceived insults as slight as simply making eye contact with them. All were merciless, blue-blooded parasites, living off the toil of people they considered vastly inferior. Once the farmers had been disarmed, it was easy to eradicate their few remaining freedoms. So, by the dawn of the Tokugawa Shogunate (military dictatorship), around 1603, Japan had near-total gun control. This notwithstanding, the Japanese myth of “giving up the gun,” and reverting to the sword, often couched as “putting the evil genie back in the bottle,” is more wishful thinking than historical fact. Matchlocks were not gone, they were now only reserved for a favored few. The Samurai still used them for war and hunting, and practiced constantly: marksmanship competitions were not uncommon.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd September 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
While the time pressures of work and family life prevented me from posting this yesterday, Sept 02, 2015, a commemoration of the official surrender of Japan in WW2 is still in order. Like the commemoration of the atomic bombing of Japan, this post will be about how the events leading to the surrender have been covered in American culture. Specifically, it will be a posting of several C-Span network video links to presentations by the leading historians of the period including Craig Symonds, Richard Frank, D.M. Giangreco, and John Kuehn. Afterwards I will give short reviews of each video.
The following symposia video titles & descriptions, plus links, are from C-Span
Historians talked about the turning point in the Pacific theater
during World War II. Craig Symonds argued the Battle of Midway was the
decisive engagement that shifted momentum in the Allies favor, while
Richard Frank asserted that the Guadalcanal campaign thwarted future
Axis plans and resulted in a permanent blow to the Japanese war
machine. A video clip from “Victory at Sea” was played without sound.
After each author made his presentation, they held a discussion and
responded to questions from members of the audience.
“Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” was part of The
Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series WWII & NYC of
The New York Historical Society.
Richard Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire,
spoke about the events leading up to Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. He talked about American and Japanese strategies and operations in the closing months of the war, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s surrender, and the fall of the Japanese Empire.
D.M. Giangreco talked about the American offensive directed at Japan’s
northernmost island, Hokkaido. He also spoke about the Soviet Union’s
involvement, including the influence of logistics and diplomatic
“The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics
John Kuehn talked about Japan’s decision to surrender to Allied forces
in August of 1945.
“A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics.
Each of the above presentations was hugely informative. In the “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” argument, I side with Richard Frank on its impact on Japanese military capability. The Guadalcanal campaign hurt the Japanese far more than the “Decisive battle” of Midway. I recently received a Kindle Copy of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II (Cambridge Military Histories) that convinced me of the importance of Guadalcanal over Midway in terms of killing off the best Japanese naval pilots, most of whom survived Midway.
In the second video on July 14, 2015 Richard Frank basically gives a presentation drawn from his coming trilogy on the “Asia-Pacific War” that highlights the Japanese military preparations to defend Japan, including the mobilization of a 20 million strong civilian-militia to back up the military, and how important the A-bomb was as compared to the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria in getting the Japanese to surrender. Frank also speaks to the King-Nimitz efforts to challenge Olympic and the total casualties up to August 1945 and how many more would have died from starvation had the war lasted even a short time longer. Frank tends to be US Navy centric and did not think much of MacArthur’s Olympic plans.
The third video, by D.M. Giangreco of a presentation titled “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion”, goes very heavily into Japanese, Soviet & American plans to alternately defend or invade the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Short form — The Soviets had enough American provided sealift for a light infantry division, but not enough airpower to protect it, and the available Japanese ground forces and Kamikazes would be able to make any Soviet lodgment a Pacific Anzio.
The final video, by John Kuehn, titled “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” goes deeply into the Japanese high command, civilian leadership and the Showa Emperor’s maneuvering to achieve a surrender. I found it particularly useful in getting a better understanding of the irrationality that dominated Japanese decision making. And the point that Kuehn made that the “Big-Six” represented the Japanese military “Moderate factions” was chilling.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th August 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for western leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.
I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth-destroying commemorations of my own explaining why leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:
My Chicago Boyz commemoration is different this year in that it is a list of reviews from popular culture video and books that show how American culture looks at what might have happened — if Japan had continued fighting World War 2 after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and there had to be “The Invasion That Never Was”. Each review will be a text thumbnail of the content, a link, my impression and at the end of all the reviews I’ll share what I see as the problems that all of them share. Problems that amount to a cultural paradigm blind spot that I mentioned in my “Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job” back when I started these annual columns in 2010.
The first review is of the old History Channel series “Secrets of War Declassified” Episode 2 of 20: “Japan: The Invasion That Never Was”. This Charlton Heston narrated video is available through both Amazon.com and its current content-rights owner, Mills Creek Entertainment, at this link.
The video gives a reasonable back story to a 1990s cable channel audience on the historical military and political forces leading to the alternative decisions of invasion or to drop the atomic bombs by President Truman. It is told predominantly from the American professional academic military historian point of view, which while I agree with generally, leaves out much of the Chinese, Russian and British Commonwealth perspective on these events. This was reasonable editorial choice, as there is only so much you can put in a 51 minute video for an American cable channel audience. Overall the video has aged well in terms of production values from its original History Channel airing and the rich-voiced Charlton Heston narration make it a must-own for those interested in the era.
Full Episode is also on Youtube and a link is embedded above.
There has been much talk of late about the influence of money in politics. Rarely mentioned is the power of in-kind contributions, such as that represented by the NYT’s predictable favorable coverage of Democratic versus Republican candidates.
How much would it cost to buy the advertising equivalent of NYT’s support for, say, Hillary Clinton? The answer has to be at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th May 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Back on July 25, 2014 I posted a column here called “Future History Friday — China’s Coming “Days of Future Past” where I stated that China’s hyper-aggressiveness with its neighbors would make Japan act like a “normal nation,” increase its military defenses of the Southern Ryukyus and make military alliances with its neighbors to contain China. Today, a “flaming datum” of that prediction arrived. Japan has just announced steps to bring those “Days of Future Past” closer for China. The Japanese are moving to militarily garrison Miyako and Ishigaki with ground troops and mobile anti-ship missile batteries.
JGSDF Type88 Anti-ship cruise missile in truck mobile launcher. Batteries of which are to be deployed to the Southern Ryukyus islands. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Miyako and Ishigaki were air bases for Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Kamikaze planes based on Formosa — modern day Taiwan — during the March – June 1945 Battle for Okinawa. Today, they are being prepared to support any operations Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are ordered to do by the Japanese government…including communications to and air support of Taiwan in case of a Mainland Chinese Invasion.
A Google map of Miyako and Ishigaki islands, part of the Okinawa Prefecture. In March – June 1945 they were forward bases for Kamikazes attacking the US Navy. Today they are become the site of Japanese Self-Defense Force Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile Batteries, as well as Japanese ground troops to secure them.
In 2011, Jonathan worried that the cultural memory of the event is being lost, and noted that once again Google failed to note the anniversary on their search home page, whereas Microsoft Bing had a picture of the USS Arizona memorial.
(12/7/2014: same thing this year, at least as of this posting)
Shannon Love analyzes how Admiral Yamamoto was able to pull the attack off and concludes that “Pearl Harbor wasn’t a surprise of intent, it was a surprise of capability.”
Trent Telenko wrote about the chain of events leading to the ineffectiveness of the radar warning that should have detected the approaching attack.
Via a Neptunus Lex post (site not currently available), here is a video featuring interviews with both American and Japanese survivors of Pearl Harbor.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th August 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
One of the more interesting things in researching the end of World war II (WW2) in the Pacific is the way certain individuals or certain technologies keep showing up over and over again. Whenever flame tanks come up in Pacific histories, you find the name Col. George Unmacht. When you see the Brodie Device, Lt and later Captain Brodie is not far behind. This is pattern is something most academic diplomatic or military history researchers miss, either because their various thesis’s are too narrow to see that pattern for them. Or if they do, it is an exercise in minutia that doesn’t make the cut. This is a great loss to the general public.
Fortunately for you, I’m not an academic and I like what they consider minutia.
It turns out in Ryan Crierie and my latest adventures through the record groups in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), found one of those discarded patterns, in spades, with Dr. Vladimir Zworykin’s Block III television technology. The technology crossed over from the General Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific Warfare Board, to the ‘Sphinx Project’ files of the US Army’s New Developments Division in the Pentagon, to Army Air Force Records Group 18 (RG18), to Secretary of War Stimson’s RG107 “secret consultant” files of Dr. W.B. Shockley and then, finally, to the US Navy’s Secret Weapons files. The darned thing showed up everywhere, to include the cancelled by Japanese surrender Cadillac III Airborne Early Warning (AEW) planes as a data down link. This “Where’s Waldo” performance across NARA explained a number of questions Ryan and I both had on how the heck MacArthur got what amounted to a crewed UAV surveillance system
This is a photograph of the installation of block III TV Camera in the Stinson L-5 Sentinel. This aircraft was a World War II era liaison aircraft used by all branches of the U.S. military and by the British Royal Air Force. It was slated to play the role of a “Manned UAV” providing live television of the invasion of Japan.
According to the US Army Air Force files, there were 2,500 of Zworykin’s Block III television seekers built for all the various War and Navy Department programs it was involved with by December 1944. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th August 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for Leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.
I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth destroying commemorations of my own explaining why Leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:
Today’s column addressing those myths is about the weapons of mass destruction back-up plans for the Atomic bomb. They were in many ways worse than the A-bomb and there was more than one — two coming from the Sphinx Project, one from General Douglas MacArthur — and they all involved the use of poison gas, American, Australian, and amazingly enough captured German nerve gas!
German 250-kg Chemical Bombs capable of carrying Phosgene, Mustard or Nerve gases, formerly in the Chemical Corps Museum’s collection (U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum, C. 1950)
Posted by Trent Telenko on 25th July 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
This Friday column on Chicago Boyz is normally reserved for the unknown stories of the End of World War 2 (WW2) in the Pacific, aimed at answering the question of “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 had the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column, takes a completely different tack from any previous History Friday column. Rather than deconstructing the P-51 narrative, being a book review — See this link and this link — or exploring the moral character of the IDF’s Barak Brigade on the Golan Heights in 1973, this column will use the military geography of the past to explore the near future. And in specific, it will use the military geography of the 1945 Okinawa campaign and the proposed invasion of Japan, to explore the patterns of “future history” between Japan and China in the coming age of Unmanned Warfare. It is a column about China’s coming “Days of Future Past.”
The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of the unarmed Global Hawk aircraft to Japan for the first time at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. This move greatly enhances the U.S. military’s efforts to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea, Chinese naval operations in the region and respond to natural disasters and assist in humanitarian aid operations.
To begin at the beginning, see this Defense One column and this AP Column on the arrival of American Global Hawk Drones in Japan and Japan’s announcement that it is now a “Normal Power,” one that is able to sell arms internationally.
And in particular pay close attention to this passage from those links:
Figure 1: This is US Army Signal Corps photo of a Hawaii built Flamethrower of the 713th Flame Tank Battalion on Okinawa. This was the second generation of Hawaii flame tanks used in combat in the Spring of 1945.
To take you there this time, first imagine a weapon who’s range and effectiveness varied from shot to shot. Who’s performance was dependent on the wind. Whether it was raining or it got soaked in salt water. Whether a rubber O-seal held pressure or the connection in which it was placed was properly seated. A weapon who had a two component ammunition, solid and liquid, you had to mix in the field before use. That required the chemicals in the solid component of ammunition to be properly ground to a consistent powder with no trace manufacturing contamination, and that required air and water tight packaging of your ammunition hold up in shipment. Which also required of the liquid batch of ammunition you were using not to have had too much water or alcohol contaminating it. And whose mixed performance rapidly and unpredictably deteriorated within hours to weeks since the manufacture of that batch of ammunition, when you did everything right.
It gets better.
This weapon has an effective range of 10 to 20 yards depending on all of the above, requiring a team of 7-15 other soldiers to cover you, as you move up to use it. Your last live fire training — in fact, any training at all — in using this 70 lb back pack weapon with your team happened more than 30 days before you use it. Which, by the way, has an effective firing time in combat of 8-to-10 seconds, and you as its operator are the enemy’s priority target on the battlefield.
Your mission, your life, and the lives of around you, are depending on this weapon. And worse, for all those problems, it was the only effective weapon you have…when it works.
Those were the facts of life and death for every American portable flame thrower operator in World War 2. It took 18 months of bloody infantry close combat from December 1943 to June 1944, with four increasingly better and more dependable portable flamethrower designs, to work out all those facts.
And it was not until November 1943, with the shatteringly high U.S. Marine casualties during the assault of Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, that the American military began to seriously entertain fielding a flame throwing tank. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 16th August 2013 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
One of the biggest problems with World War II (WW2) military histories is the issue of “lanes.” WW2 history writers tend to focus on their one thing, use the institutional historical narratives of their particular military theater and service and then make some appalling inaccurate statements of fact without understanding the wider background. Yet, they are in the generally understood narrative limits of the historical “lane” and everyone nods in agreement. This is an especially difficult problem with understanding MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area (SWPA) institutional culture and amphibious fighting style, as compared to the both the the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operation (ETO and MTO) and the Central Pacific style that dominates the post-war amphibious operations narrative.
For example, there were more and larger US Army run amphibious landings in WW2 than US Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) Central Pacific Drive, yet there is very little real examination or understanding of them as amphibious operations compared to the US Navy’s Central Pacific drive. Very few WW2 history writers try and trace the development of a military concept across several military theaters and see how it is expressed in various theaters’ institutional culture and war fighting styles. This is a vital methodology in understanding the ground truth of what happened.
For the research I am doing on the canceled invasion of Japan, knowing that US Army amphibious experience is absolutely essential to understand the orders for Kyushu invasion, since the US land based air forces were planning to replicate and improve on the Normandy D-Day aerial bombardment by dropping 200,000 tons of bombs on Kyushu in Oct 1945 plus another 80,000 tons of conventional bombs (180KT total!) on the Nov 1, 1945 X-day landing. (By way of comparison, Hiroshima was a 15KT nuclear blast.) US Army Air Force Generals Spaatz & Doolittle were commanding 20th & 8th Air Force to deliver that tonnage. That tonnage was in General Hap Arnold’s diary as a promise to MacArthur in the summer of 1945, yet USMC historians investigating Operation Olympic speak of the low density of naval fire support there would be on X-day compared to Okinawa and Iwo Jima, like that aerial bombardment didn’t exist!
SWPA M-18 Hellcat Landing in the Philippines
This column on “MacArthur’s Amphibious Fighting Style” will use that “tracing an idea across historical lanes” methodology to compare and contrast the various American WW2 amphibious fighting styles with short “thumb nail” descriptions so you can understand this problem with the WW2 historical narrative and appreciate the coordination issues for the “canceled by atomic bomb” Operation Olympic landing in Japan.
In a BOOKWORM post about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Book’s mother was in a Japanese concentration camp at the time–read the link), the discussion turned to the Japanese maltreatment of prisoners. I noted that Japanese treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese war (1904) seems to have been quite decent, in strong contrast with their abominable treatment of just about all prisoners in the period…only 30 years later…beginning with the invasion of Manchuria and continuing through the Second World War, and I said:
“It is interesting and frightening how quickly a culture can change. If you were looking for a place to live in Europe in 1913, Germany would have looked pretty good…even (especially?) if you were Jewish. Only 20 years later, a significant % of the population was barking mad, and almost all of the rest were clueless or cowed into submission.”
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Spengler has a new column that points out the coming collapse of Islam as a demographic entity. I have thought for years that Iran, if the population ever succeeds in overthrowing the regime, will abandon Islam as its first priority. Spengler points to a column by David Ignatius that belatedly recognizes a phenomenon that has been noted by others for years.
Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.
The second class status of women in the Muslim world has led to important changes in their beliefs, especially about the religion that oppresses them.
Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.
The present fertility rate in Iran is about equal to that of irreligious Europe.
Until recently, the world’s only flyable WWII B-29 bomber was “Fifi,” operated by the Commemorative Air Force. Unfortunately, the airplane has…at least temporarily…lost its flyable status due to the need for expensive engine repairs. You can contribute to Fifi’s engine fund here.
The B-29 Superfortress was the most technically advanced bomber of WWII: it featured pressurization, a centralized fire-control system for its guns, and both higher speed and a greater bomb load than the B-17. Visually, it is also a very beautiful airplane, at least to my eye. Design of the aircraft that was to become the Superfortress began in 1938 with the receipt by Boeing of a request from the Army Air Corps–Boeing funded much of the initial development itself since the Air Corps did not at that point have funding for the project. The initial production order was not placed until May 1941…remarkably, production aircraft were being delivered by the end of 1943…total production would reach almost 4000 aircraft. Thousand of subcontractors were involved. My back-of-the-envelope calculation based on numbers in this factsheet suggests that there must have been somewhere around 100,000 workers involved at one level or another in B-29 production.
Japanese fighter pilot Ryuji Nagatsuka described his first encounter with the B-29, on a combat training mission in late 1944:
At a distance of 1000 feet, I had a clear view of this famous bomber for the first time. It was like some fabulous flying castle. Its elegant, uncamouflaged fuselage made me think of a monstrous flying fish. What imposing fins, what a rudder! The most disquieting thing about it was those six domes: two gun turrets on its back and four defense turrets operated by remote control…The four engines developed 8800 horsepower. The white star that stood out against a black background seemed to me like a challenge. It was the mark of the enemy.
The efficacy of the B-29’s centralized fire control system…which provided not only remote control of the guns but automatic computer calculation of necessary offsets (“leads”) to hit the target…has been questioned–but Nagatsuka gives it a good review:
Their central firing computer, controlling the gun turrets by remote control, had proved extraordinarily efficient. An isolated B-29, on a photographic mission one day over the Nipponese archipelago, had been attacked by more than ninety of our fighters, and, lo and behold, the enemy plane, which was not equipped for a bombing mission, managed to repulse their attack by climbing to a very high altitude and putting on all possible speed. During this battle, which lasted more than half an hour, he shot down seven of our fighters and finally escaped.
However, most of the gunnery equipment was removed from the B-29s when US General Curtis LeMay ordered a change in tactics from high-altitude day bombing to low-altitude night bombing, focusing on the use of incendiary bombs. Wide areas of Toyko and several other cities were destroyed: the total number of Japanese killed in these raids has been estimated variously but was certainly at least 100,000.
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school
They said, ‘Here are the maps’; we burned the cities.
We’ve talked here before about the dangers of the loss of historical knowledge. I believe that keeping FiFi flying is a useful contribution to maintaining the continuity of American historical memory. Again, you can donate here.
ShrinkWrapped has published his father’s recollections of flying 50 missions as a B-24 tail gunner. There are 6 different posts in the collection–start at the bottom for the first one.
Thoughts about strategic bombing at my post Dresden
Excerpts of some of Randall Jarrell’s WWII Air Corps poems, here
The Ryuji Nagatsuka quotes are from his memoir I Was a Kamikaze (obviously, an unsuccessful one)…an interesting book that is worthy of a review one of these days.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th December 2012 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It isn’t often that a book utterly alters my understanding of the past, but the book “ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC — An overview of Allied Air Warning Radar in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Campaign” by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith has done just that for me regards for both WW2 in general, and for today, Pearl Harbor.
ECHOS is the story of Australian and wider Aglosphere efforts to field radar in the Pacific during WW2. I am still reading it at page 60 of under 300 pages — but it has these passages regards Pearl Harbor:
Page 18 —
The following is summarised from Radar in WWII by Henry E Guerlac and an article ‘The
Air Warning Service and The Signal Company, Aircraft Warning, Hawaii’ by Stephen L
The strategic importance of Oahu was recognised in late 1939 and the Air Warning Service
(AWS) was to provide warning of approaching enemy aircraft using the newly developed
Extensive negotiations were needed as the sites, for the three SCR271s received in Hawaii on
3 June 1941, were located on land owned by either the Department of Interior National Parks
Service or the Territory of Hawaii. In addition access roads, power supply, water supply,
buildings et cetera had to be constructed – which occasioned even further delay. The net
result was that none of the SCR271s had been installed by 7 December 1941 !
Six mobile SCR270Bs arrived in Hawaii on 1 August 1941 and were shortly thereafter put
into operation because very little site preparation was required. Extensive testing of the sets
was carried out in the next few months on installations at Kaaawa, Kawailoa, Waianae and
Koko Head, Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.
. On 27 September 1941 the SCR270Bs were tested in an exercise which, in retrospect,
resembled to a remarkable degree the actual attack of 7 December. The exercise began at
0430 hours. Attacking planes were detected by the equipment at Waianae and Koko Head as
they assembled near the carrier from which they had taken off 85 miles away. When they had
assembled, the planes headed for Hawaii. The ‘enemy’ were clearly seen on the cathode ray
tube and fighter aircraft were notified within about six minutes.They took off and intercepted
the incoming bombers at about 25 miles from Pearl Harbour.
Under the control of the Signal Corps, Air Warning, Hawaii, the Schofield training SCR270B
was moved to the site at Opana about two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbour. The
construction of a temporary Combat Information Centre (CIC) was in progress and training
of the personnel at the centre was under way with reporting coming from six mobiles
SCR270Bs. Ironically the program was to hand the CIC over to the Air Corps when the
installation had been completed and the personnel had been properly trained – scheduled for
about two weeks after Pearl Harbour.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th August 2012 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become an annual rallying point for the Left to beat up America for doing what needed to be done to win World War Two with the minimum amount of blood. In recent years a few people including me have started taking this moment to remind people of the truth of the cost of invading Japan as opposed to the Left’s revisionist history/morality play on the A-bomb. See my past Happy V-J Day! and Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 year! posts. This year most of my work in trying to draft such a reminder was done by FORBES contributor Henry I. Miller, who wrote “ The Nuking Of Japan Was A Tactical And Moral Imperative!“
See this text:
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated that an invasion of Japan’s home islands would result in approximately 1.2 million American casualties, with 267,000 deaths. A study performed by physicist William Shockley for the staff of Secretary of War Henry Stimson estimated that the invasion of Japan would cost 1.7-4 million American casualties, including 400,000-800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese deaths. These fatality estimates were of course, in addition to those who had already perished during four long years of war; American deaths were already about 292,000. In other words, the invasion of Japan could have resulted in the death of twice as many Americans as had already been killed in the European, North African and Pacific theaters!
A critical element of Shockley’s analysis was the assumption of large-scale participation by civilians in repelling invading forces. This assumption is supported by the research described in, “The Most Controversial Decision,” by the Rev. Wilson Miscamble, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, who blames “the twisted neo-samurai who led the Japanese military geared up with true banzai spirit to engage the whole population in a kind of kamikaze campaign.” He added, “Their stupidity and perfidy in perpetuating and prolonging the struggle should not be ignored.”
Much has been made of the moral line that supposedly was crossed by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but far more significant in that regard were the decisions earlier in the war to adopt widespread bombing of civilians – initially by Hitler in attacking English cities and later by the Allied devastation of, for example, Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo.
Historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson has called attention to two factors that for both tactical and ethical reasons argued for the use of America’s nuclear weapons against Japan. First, “thousands of Asians and allied prisoners were dying daily throughout the still-occupied Japanese Empire, and would do so as long as Japan was able to pursue the war. (Gideon Rose, the editor of the journal Foreign Affairs, has estimated that during every month of 1945 in which the war continued, Japanese forces were causing the deaths of between 100,000 and 250,000 noncombatants.)
Thank God for the Atomic Bomb.
It saved millions, including my wife’s grandfather, who was one of the men slated for the Operation Olympic.
Complete article for the quoted text above at this link:
Another year passes. One feels the cultural memory slipping away.
Again Google ignores it and Bing.com makes a point of showing a USS Arizona Memorial wallpaper pic. Perhaps Bing only does this as a counterpoint to Google. Whatever the reason, it’s good that someone notes the date.
Perhaps some of us here will post more on this anniversary. In the meantime, here’s a link to previous Chicagoboyz Pearl Harbor posts.
In the newly revealed 20-page memo from FDR’s declassified FBI file, the Office of Naval Intelligence on December 4 warned, “In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.”
That’s supposed to be a significant revelations? What, previous memos only warned about Japan’s keen interest in Minnesota? I hate to tell people who are all a twitter about this memo and other similar “revelations” but nobody in the American military or government was really surprised there was an attack on Pearl Harbor or any other major US pacific military asset. The entire Pacific was under a war warning and the entire US military was prepping for a possible Japanese attack somewhere. The US carriers were not caught at Pearl Harbor because they had been deployed to ferry aircraft to points in the western Pacific where an attack was anticipated, e.g., Wake Island.
Pearl Harbor wasn’t a surprise of intent, it was a surprise of capability.
No one in the US Navy thought the Japanese had the physical capability to strike Pearl Harbor with carrier aircraft. That was the surprise.
Yamamoto surprised the US Navy, and everyone else, because he was a “black swan”, i.e., a rare and unpredictable outlier.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th September 2011 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Sixty six years ago today, had Japan not surrendered to the Allies after the dual A-Bomb attacks and the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria, the armed forces of the British Empire would have stormed the western beaches of Malaya at Port Dickson and Port Swettenham with two infantry divisions, one infantry brigade, lead by a regiment of DD-tanks and flame throwing landing vehicles. This invasion would have set off a chain of events that would have seen hundreds of thousands, if not millions, murdered and killed before the Allies put down the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, starting with Allied Prisoners of War. The word of that atrocity would have prevented a later Japanese surrender as the British and American public’s rage would have left the American President and British Prime Minister no other options.
This is was a very near run thing as Britain’s ambassador to Japan Hugh Cortazzi (1980 to 1984) said here:
On Aug. 15, 1945, the Japanese authorities “announced that although Nippon had agreed to unconditional surrender, Field Marshal Count Terauchi, Commander in Chief of the Southern Army, did not associate himself with it and intended to fight on. What we did not know then was that a plan existed at Count Terauchi’s Saigon headquarters to execute all prisoners in case of invasion.”
“After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchin issued an order directing his prison camp officers to kill all their captives the moment the enemy entered his southeast Asia theater. That would have been when those 200,000 British landed to retake Singapore, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender. There was a real chance that Terauchi’s order would have been carried out, in case up to 400,000 people would have been massacred.”
And it would not have stopped there. When the British reached Singapore, it would have found a repeat of “The Rape of Nanking without wartime censorship being able to cover it up. More importantly, Allies Ultra and Magic code breaking let Allied leaders know this was on the table.
I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.
Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.
We won the race of discovery against the Germans.
Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
Emperor Hirohito took the hint and sent a personal representative known to Field Marshal Count Terauchi to get the Count to enforce a surrender on his troops.
The surprise factor here really shouldn’t exist in our minds. I mean the mega-disaster of a tsunami plus and earthquake plus a nuclear meltdown in Japan – well, those three are already highly linked. Japan highly depends on nuclear power, it’s one of the most seismically active island chains in the world, and tsunami is a Japanese word. So if you are going to put a forty year old very aging early technology nuclear power plant right on the coast in Japan, the only mega-disaster you’re going to get there is an earthquake-triggered, tsunami-delivered nuclear meltdown. So these are not surprising connections, we’re just bumping into the connectivity that’s natural and only becoming more expansive as globalization advances.
That’s exactly right – and Hokusai should have been an early warning.
The only thing missing from Barnett’s analysis, and present in Hokusai, is Mt. Fuji – or what TS Eliot (to circle back again to “verbal” poetry) would call “the still point of the turning world”.
Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th March 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
My son, Emlyn, turns sixteen today.
He’s not terribly fond of computers to be honest — but he does follow xkcd with appreciation, as do I from time to time: indeed, I am led to believe I receive some credit for that fact.
So… this is a birthday greeting to Emlyn, among other things. And a round of applause for Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd. And a post comparing more reliable and less reliable statistics, because that’s a singularly important issue — the more reliable ones in this/ case coming from a single individual with an expert friend, the less reliable ones coming from a huge corporation celebrated for its intelligence and creativity… and with a hat-tip to Cheryl Rofer of the Phronesisaical blog.
Today, xkcd surpassed itself / his Randallself / ourselves, with a graphic showing different levels of radiation exposure from sleeping next to someone (0.05 muSv, represented by one tiny blue square top left) or eating a banana (twice as dangerous, but only a tenth as nice) up through the levels (all the blue squares combined equal three of the tiny green ones, all the green squares combined equal 7.5 of the little brown ones, and the largest patch of brown (8Sv) is the level where immediate treatment doesn’t stand a chance of saving your life)…
The unit is Sieverts, Sv: 1000 muSv = 1 mSv, 1000 mSv= 1 Sv, sleeping next to someone is an acceptable risk at 0.05 muSv, a mammogram (3 mSv) delivers a little over 50,000 times that level of risk and saves countless lives, 250 mSv is the dose limit for emergency workers in life-saving ops — oh, and cell phone use is risk-free, zero muSv, radiation-wise, although dangerous when driving. [I apologize for needing to write “mu” when I intend the Greek letter by that name, btw — software glitch with the ZP version of WordPress.]
The xkcd diagram comes with this disclaimer:
There’s a lot of discussion of radiation from the Fukushima plants, along with comparisons to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Radiation levels are often described as “ times the normal level” or “% over the legal limit,” which can be pretty confusing.
Ellen, a friend of mine who’s a student at Reed and Senior Reactor Operator at the Reed Research Reactor, has been spending the last few days answering questions about radiation dosage virtually nonstop (I’ve actually seen her interrupt them with “brb, reactor”). She suggested a chart might help put different amounts of radiation into perspective, and so with her help, I put one together. She also made one of her own; it has fewer colors, but contains more information about what radiation exposure consists of and how it affects the body.
I’m not an expert in radiation and I’m sure I’ve got a lot of mistakes in here, but there’s so much wild misinformation out there that I figured a broad comparison of different types of dosages might be good anyway. I don’t include too much about the Fukushima reactor because the situation seems to be changing by the hour, but I hope the chart provides some helpful context.
In other radiation news, the New York Times may have maxed out on the potential for causing radiation hysteria. They’ve got a graphic that shows everybody dead within a mile from the Fukushima plant. As I noted yesterday, you need dose rate and time to calculate an exposure. The Times didn’t bother with that second little detail.
In any case, many thanks, Cheryl — WTF, NYT? — and WTG, xkcd!
Once again, xkcd nails it.
I’ve run into this problem myself, trying to use Google to gauge the relative frequencies of words or phrases that interest me — things like moshiach + soon vs “second coming” + soon vs mahdi + soon, you know the kinds of things that I’m curious about, I forget the specific examples where it finally dawned on me how utterly useless Google’s “About XYZ,000 results (0.21 seconds)” rankings really are — but the word needs to get out.
Minutes ago I received an Email. It seems that the US military has ordered a “voluntary evacuation of military dependents from the Tokyo/Yokosuka region.”
As my source has a very young child, her husband and daughter will be leaving the country very soon. Details are sketchy at this time, but it appears that they will be flown to Korea before repatriation to the States.