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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 »
It’s a German word – it means “frightfulness“ – and it was used, if memory serves and a brief internet search conforms – as a sort of shorthand for the reprisals exacted by the German Army against civilians during both wars. If not an actual German military field policy in WWI, it had certainly become one by WWII; brutally persecute, torture and execute civilians, and make certain that such horrors became well-known through extensive documentation within the theater of operations, and outside of it. To encourage the others, as the saying goes, but on a grand scale – to make war on a civilian population, once all effective military have departed the area – in hopes of cowing everyone who sees and hears of what brutality has been meted out on the helpless, and especially the helpless.
Was it an explicit policy of the German armies to apply the principle of schrecklichkeit – by that name or another – in the field in those wars? Read the rest of this entry »
(From my archives – my most memorable 4th of July ever!)
The flags are out, like it’s 4th of July every day, like the pictures I saw of the glorious, Bicentennial 4th of 1976… which I actually sort of missed. Not the date itself, just all the hoopla. The 200th anniversary of our nation, celebrations up the wazoo, and I missed every one of them because I spent the summer in England, doing that cheap-student-charter-BritRail-Pass-Youth-Hostel thing. I lived at home and worked parttime, and finished at Cal State Northridge with a BA and enough money left over to spend the summer traveling. I didn’t go alone, either. My brother JP and my sister Pippy were bored with the prospect of another summer in Tujunga, California. I assume our parents thought the world in 1976 was a much safer place than now, or I was responsible enough at 22 to be at large in a foreign country in charge of a 20 and a 16 year old. Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s History Friday column is another in a series focusing on an almost unknown series of military documents from World War II (WW2) called “The Reports of the Pacific Warfare Board,” and specifically Pacific Warfare Board (PWB) Report #35 Armor Vest, T62E1 and Armor Vest T64. (See photo below) This report, like most of the PWB reports, had been classified for decades and only now thanks to the cratering costs USB flash drives and increasing quality of digital cameras has it become possible for the interested hobbyist or blogger to access and write about these reports from the formally hard to use National Archives. And PWB #35 is about one of those hugely important but overlooked details — Infantry Body Armor — that utterly undermine the established historical narratives by the professional Military history community about the end of WW2 in the Pacific. Namely that the Japanese would so bloody attacking American invasion forces the Japanese would “win” – for values of winning – a more favorable settlement of the war.
Pictured is the T64/M12 anti-artillery fragment body armor. It was being combat tested in July 1945 and over 100,000 complete sets were scheduled for completion by the end of August 1945, for the invasion of Japan. The body armor consisted of a 0.125″ 75 ST aluminum plate backed by 8 ply of ballistic nylon and weighed 12 pounds.
According to PWB #35, both the T62E1 and T64 vest (the latter is pictured above and was standardized as the M12 in August 1945) were sent for combat testing to MacArthur’s 6th and 8th Army’s in the Philippines in June and July 1945. The T64 vest was chosen for series production as the M12 in the summer of 1945 with 100,000 supposed to be finished by the end of August. This was sufficient time to ship those vest to the Pacific for all the assault infantry regiments participating the cancelled by A-bomb invasion of Japan, code named Operation Olympic.
Why infantry body armor like the M12 is so disruptive for the established narratives boils down to one word — casualties. The deployment of 100,000 such vests would have reduced American infantry casualty rates from lethal artillery fragments in the invasion of Japan to roughly Vietnam levels. This means roughly 1/3 fewer combat deaths from artillery fragments and about an overall 10% to 20% reduction in total projected combat deaths. Depending on which of the historical casualty ratios you select for measurement, it means something on the order of up to 10,000 fewer battle deaths, in the event that the A-bomb hadn’t made the invasion superfluous.
I would call this a very significant, reality altering, detail.
When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. Today’s column is focusing on an almost unknown series of Documents called “The Reports of the Pacific Warfare Board,” and in specific reports No. 31 and 50. This professional lack of interest by the academic history community in these reports represents a huge methodological flaw in the current “narratives” about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific. These two reports amplify and expand an earlier column of mine hitting that “flawed narrative” point titled History Friday: Operation Olympic – Something Forgotten & Something Familiar. A column that was about a WW2 “manned UAV” (unmanned air vehicle AKA a drone), an L-5 artillery spotter plane with an early vacuum tube technology broadcast TV camera, pictured below.
Brodie Device with L-4 and L-5 Spotter Planes In Land and Sea Based Configurations, 1944-1945
Dr. Vladimir Zworykin of RCA’s Block III Broadcast TV Surveillance Equipment
These Pacific Warfare Board (PWB) reports have been classified for decades and unlike their more well know, examined by many researchers, and posted on-line European Theater equivalents. Almost nothing from them has made it to the public since their mass declassification in the 1990′s. There are good reasons for that. The National Archive has a 98,000 file, 80 GB finding aide. One that isn’t on-line. Until recently, the only way you can get at archive files like the Pacific Warfare Board Reports is to learn that finding aide and make your own copies using National Archive equipment. This was usually time consuming and cost prohibitive to all but the most determined researchers or hired archivists.
Thanks to the cratering costs USB flash drives and increasing quality of digital cameras built into even moderately priced cell phones over the last few years, this is no longer true. And as a result, the academic history profession is about to have its key institutional research advantage outsourced to hobbyists and bloggers.
While this explains a great deal why the American intelligence community was blindsided by the collapse, it leaves a huge strategic level issue for the Obama Administration. Will they protect American hired private military corporation personnel from torture-murder by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Forces? The failure to do so would be a huge strategic blunder that would cripple American conventional force projection for literally decades.
Why this is requires explaining “LOGCAP.”
LOGCAP or “Logistics Civil Augmentation Program” was established in 1985 primarily to pre-plan for contingencies and to “leverage existing civilian resources.” It was not really used in a large way until the 1st Gulf War of 1990-1991, to take advantage of the Saudi and Gulf States civil economies to replace uniformed American logistical support. This was as much a political move by the Pres. George H.W. Bush Administration to manage American anti-war, and primarily Democratic anti-war, opposition to retaking Kuwait as it was a logistical exercise. (Hold that thought!)
LOGCAP was later expanded by the Clinton Administration to cover “operations other than war” in places like Somalia, Southwest Asia, Haiti, the Balkans, and East Timor. This allowed the Clinton Administration to exercise a muscular and multi-lateral foreign policy with the minimum of senior uniformed military opposition. Opposition which balked at “operations other than war” as the American Senior military leadership’s version of the “Vietnam War syndrome,” as the US Army’s deployments during the Kosovo war made clear.
This Clinton Administration “work around” approach to American military “Flag Rank” opposition was hugely apparent with the Croat “Operation Storm” in Bosnia, where “Military Professional Resources Incorporated” acted as an American military surrogate to plan the Croat Offensive that broke Serbian power in Bosnia.
LOGCAP after 9/11/2001
The two Pres. George W. Bush Administrations further expanded the use of LOGCAP after 9-11-2001, not only to manage public opposition to the “War on Terror” but also as a “Fight the War on the Cheap” exercise because your average logistics/garrison specialist first class (SFC) with government income, free medical care, education benefits, and housing allowances for three dependents earn earns arguably 125-150K in “benefits.” A DynCorp or KBR contractor costs the US government up to twice what a SFC costs in terms of annual income, but it is a known, predictable, fixed cost incurred and gone; whereas the Federal government will pay for the SFC and his dependents for another 20+ years in terms of benefits obligated by service.
This was in fact one of the reasons Democrats in Congress hated private military corporations doing uniformed military work in the War on Terror. Their extensive use in the 1st Gulf War plus the on-going operations in Iraq and Afghanistan hugely reduced the long term opportunity for graft and corruption via the Congressional administration of uniformed veterans education and medical benefits.
LOGCAP as a Foreign Policy Disaster
LOGCAP in Iraq and Afghanistan is only part of the private military corporation portfolio. The DEA uses a number of private military corporations in the Drug wars in Latin America for aerial electronic surveillance and training of local security forces. The American government also uses a number of private military corporations to furnish spares for things like the ATK built AC208B light gunship in Iraq.
The torture-murder of any of those Iraq private military contractors will utterly cripple current American foreign policy as implemented since the late 1990’s by the Defense Department regional commanders.
The lack of trust such a mass abandonment of private military contractors by the Obama Administration — a lack of trust that is already bad since the abandonment of both the American Ambassador and his private military contractor bodyguards at Benghazi, Libya — will result in demands for far more money up front in the form of letters of credit in foreign banks not under US Government control to pay for both private pre-paid “go to hell plan” preparations and death benefits.
That sort of change will increase private military corporation contractor support costs to such a degree that it will require uniformed US military in much larger numbers to replace private military corporations. The functional impact will be the reducing of American military type “hard power” projection world-wide for decades…and increase the amount of graft flowing through Democratic interest groups if the security threat warrants the use of a lot of uniformed military to address an existential foreign threat.
Isn’t it funny how things work out like that with the Obama Administration?
Republican Majority Leader Cantor, and next in line to replace the current House Speaker, lost his Republican primary by 10%. The following voter turn out numbers pretty much say it all as to why.
In 2012 Majority Leader Cantor won 79% of a total of 47,037 votes cast in his Republican primary election, 37,369 for him.
Yesterday there were 65,008 votes cast in the VA 7th District Republican primary and Cantor’s opponent got 56% or roughly 36,500 votes.
College professor David Brat both brought in approximately 18,000 more new grassroots Republican primary voters, while he also pulled a small number of Cantor’s 2012 voters to win.
This is why Cantor’s pollster was so wrong. With all the modern polling tools that $5 million and a 10-to-1 money advantage can buy, all polls are built upon a “turn out model,” an educated guess really, as to who will show up on election day based on past data. If the guess is wrong, so is the poll…and so is the media coverage based upon those “insider candidate polls.” Cantor’s pollsters, McLaughlin & Associates, just didn’t see the small town’s worth of new primary voters the Tea Party brought to the table in Virginia’s 7th House District primary election coming.
Establishment Republicans have just been delivered the very stern lesson that when you “do a #2″ on your primary base voters in a “safe Republican district,” they can and more importantly *WILL* return the favor…be the issue amnesty or anything else.
That is what they were called in towns and cities in Spain – the main plaza or town square, which served as the center of civic life, around which were ranged the important civic buildings, the biggest church; this the regular market place, the assembly area for every kind of public spectacle imaginable over the centuries. Every plaza mayor in every Spanish town is alike and yet different; different in size and shape, and in the confirmation of the buildings around it. Some are bare and paved in cobbles, and some have trees and gardens in them now. Read the rest of this entry »
When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. One of the least explored aspects of MacArthur’s fighting style was his highly flexible approach to logistics, which he described as “We are doing what we can with what we have.” Logistics being the ability to transport and supply military forces. In describing MacArthur’s flexibility, and poor documentation of same, I wrote previously:
“One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendent to tell their stories in the modern American military.”
The importance of logistics is the reason for the adage, “Amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics.”
Today’s column is the story of one of those many “throw away” logistical institutions. In this case, it was MacArthur’s “human porter logistics” — native workers provided by the Australian and Dutch East Indies colonial authorities — married to the 5th Air Force’s primitive bootleg radio beacon navigation. A mid-20th century great-great-grandfather of today’s Global Positioning System radio beacon satellites.
American and Australian casualties, with Papuan Stretcher Bearers. Men like the ones pictured were key in moving supplies from forward air drop zones to Australian and American troops in New Guinea.
One of the focal points in writing this History Friday column has been trying to answer the question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 had the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column is focusing on an almost unknown aircraft, the Curtis SC-1 Seahawk light patrol seaplane as one of many “reality lives in the detail” changes in material, training and doctrine that the US military was making for the invasion of Japan. Then placing the Seahawk in the wider context of the contrasting US versus Imperial Japanese fighting styles, of American “matériel battle” aka “Materialsclacht” versus Japanese “Samurai spirit.”
Curtis SC-1 Seahawk floatplane — National Archives #80-G-399644
“While only intended to seat the pilot, a bunk was provided in the aft fuselage for rescue or personnel transfer. Two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns were fitted in the wings, and two underwing hardpoints allowed carriage of 250 lb (113 kg) bombs or, on the right wing, surface-scan radar. The main float, designed to incorporate a bomb bay, suffered substantial leaks when used in that fashion, and was modified to carry an auxiliary fuel tank.
You can see a nice You Tube video titled “SC-1 SeaHawk Seaplane Fighters in Combat Operations!” at this link:
The Seahawk served the US Navy from 1944 through 1948 and was replaced by helicopters. It is at best a footnote in the most detailed histories of World War 2. It is also a perfect metaphor for the fighting that would have happened, but didn’t, thanks to the ultimate in WW2 Materialsclacht…the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Secretary of Defense Hagal has recalled most Department of Defense (DoD) civilians back to work Monday. The legal reasons why were in the NY Times Sunday 6 Oct 2013 edition this morning.
The following is the fine print behind the “Mostly” –
“I expect us to be able to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process,” Mr. Hagel said.
Mr. Hagel warned that “many important activities remain curtailed while the shutdown goes on,” and he cited disruptions across the armed services.
Late Saturday, the Defense Department comptroller, Robert F. Hale, said that Mr. Hagel’s order would recall Pentagon employees who work in health care, family programs, commissaries and training or maintenance.
Additionally, the order will recall to work those civilian Pentagon employees whose jobs, if interrupted, would cause future problems for the military; those categories include contracting, logistics, supply and financial management.
While the numbers have not been finalized, officials estimated that only 10 percent of the furloughed employees would not be recalled, including Defense Department civilian employees who work in auditing, some in legislative and public affairs, and Pentagon employees who service other government agencies.
Most of DCMA will be back to work Monday, as will DFAS, DCAA and DLA.
The DoD Inspector General (I.G.), civilians in the various uniformed Service I.G. offices and DoD civilians involved in things like planning DoD assistance to disaster relief efforts are still going to stay home.
When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. One of the themes that has developed, and that I intend to explore in this and future columns, is that the “military historical narrative” of World War 2 (WW2) has roughly the same relationship with historical truth that “Gerrymandering” of political district boundaries has to do with US Constitution driven 10-year census redistricting. The objective of both is incumbent protection of the most powerful poltical factions with safe districts, at the expense of accountability to voters, with a secondary objective being the punishment of those who do not stick to the party line. Where I have found this most blatantly is with the 1943-1947 Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee or (JANAC), which you can find at this link:
Cover from Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee Report — NAVEXOS P 468
Where JANAC drew it’s “gerrymander line” after WW2 was at ships and craft of below 500 tons of displacement. This had a huge effect on on the historical record of WW2 and particularly on MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area and the Southern Pacific theater prior to the start of the Central Pacific Campaign at Tarawa. In other words, the entire Operation Cartwheel offensive of 1943-1944.
Operation Cartwheel Encirclement 1943-1944
Here is a simple logistical thumbnail of why that is the case:
1) One large Japanese powered barge below 500 tons could supply a 6,300 man Imperial Japanese Army independent regiment for a day.
2) Three large Japanese powered barges below 500 tons could supply a triangular Imperial Japanese Army infantry division for a day.
3) Fifty large Japanese powered barges below 500 tons could supply a triangular Imperial Japanese Army infantry division at a distance of 300 miles.
4) There were 250 such barges shuttling between Rabaul and northern New Guinea in late August 1943.
5) During the month of September 1943 MacArthur’s Fifth Air Force destroyed 90 of those barges.
Because those barges were all 499 tons or less displacement, JANAC stripped that data from the US Military historical narrative as if they did not exist. Read the rest of this entry »
In April 1945 the US Army’s 27th Infantry Division launched an attack against the Kakuza Ridge position held by the Imperial Japanese Army on Okinawa with the 193rd Tank Battalions 30 thirty tanks, self-propelled assault guns, and attached armored flame throwers from the 713th Flame Tank Battalion. When the battle was over, 22 of the 30 armored fighting had been destroyed in a coordinated ambush by Japanese anti-tank guns, artillery, mortars and suicide close assault teams. Among the dead was the battalion commander of the 193rd, on whom blame was laid for attacking without American infantry in close support. This battle is referenced in almost every narrative account of Okinawa as proof of the tougher defenses American soldiers and marines would face in an invasion of Japan.
This is a M4 Sherman Tank after striking an aircraft bomb land mine in front of Kakuza Ridge
It turns out that while this particular narrative has a great deal of truth, it isn’t the whole truth and hides the most important one. In a photo film negative image of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s comment that “In war, The Truth must have a bodyguard of lies,” This narrative has a huge lie buried in a bodyguard of truth.
The most important truth of this battle was that American troops suffered a technological surprise. The Japanese were listening to the SCR-300, SCR-500 and SCR-600 series frequency modulated (FM) radios of American infsntry, tanks and artillery forward observers at Kakuza Ridge (and other battles through out the Pacific in 1945) with Japanese Type 94 (1934) Mark 6 walkie-talkie radio that was issued to every Japanese infantry battalion.
Consider the difference between using a rotary phone land line communications and wireless smart phone internet device simply in terms of daily conversation and ability to know things. It is hard for the “100 texts a day smart phone generation” to get in the head of someone who has such a radically different, available daily, tool set.
Now take for a second example how we deal with computers in the 21st century versus how they dealt with them in 1940′s. World War 2 (WW2) computers were mechanical analog devices that predicted ballistic trajectories. How friction worked was very important to their use. Friction is the amount of force needed to start and keep something moving when in contact with something else. If you look further into the world of friction, you will see it categorized as either “static friction” or “dynamic friction.” It takes more force to overcome a “static friction” than a “dynamic friction.” In other words, a slight vibration made WW2 computers work better. The name for doing this is “Dither.” When you check out the word “Dither” in Wikipedia, you will see a reference to mechanical analog computers in aircraft. The vibrations of planes while airborne reduced the friction between all the gears in the mechanical analog computer making it run smother. This was taken advantage of with the Norden bomb site. Which was a 1940′s high tech mechanical analog computer.
“Dither” also showed up in the case of WW2 anti-aircraft (AA) guns. There was a small electric device with an off center weight on it that kept the gun platform jiggling to reduce the friction, so when gunners were aiming the gun, it could respond faster. A similar device was added to the mechanical analog fire control computers — also called “directors” — that aimed the guns. All that induced vibration was “dither.” Having the gun platform and associated directors jiggling just a little with a “dither” was important to improving AA gun system performance.
In the age of electronic digital computers, the term “dither” and it’s meaning in context with its associated technology has been largely forgotten. (See the once common phrase “Quit dithering!”) That “dither” and analog mechanical computer example is one of the things I am running into in my WW2 writing project.
81st Infantry Division’s Aerial Tramway Moving Supplies on Peleliu, Sept – Nov 1944
The fact is that many of the technologies used in late WW2, like the “Aerial Tramway” device in the photo above were taken for granted in the reports of the time, but have huge differences in understanding today when “the smart phone generation” looks at what the “slide rule generation” is talking about.
Recently, my understanding of both the logistics and how fighting would have unfolded in General Douglas MacArthur’s proposed Kyushu land campaign, had the A-bomb failed to get Japanese surrender in August 1945, just changed radically away from the established narrative — “It would have been a mutual blood bath the Japanese had a chance to win.”
When I got the 81st Infantry Division’s 1944 Peleliu and 1945 post-Peleliu Operation reports and then looked up the military history of WW2 Tramway and Cableway technology. That research changed my understanding of what the “Slide-rule generation” was saying. A completely different narrative of possible events emerged, simply from understanding what that technological tool kit meant in context.
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.
I have stated in an earlier Chicago Boyz column that:
“One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendent to tell their stories in the modern American military.”
Today’s column is the story of one of those “throw away” logistical institutions, one that started as MacArthur’s “Mission X”, what became the small boats and coastal freighter fleet that served MacArthur from 1942 through 1947 as Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP) in post-war Japan.
A Liberty ship and two captured Japanese sampans discharge and load cargo at an unnamed advanced base.
Small Boats and Coastal Freighters
General Douglas MacArthur had three more or less distinct types of coastal shipping pools operating with the World War II (WW2) Southwest Pacific Area (SPWA) theater’s 7th Fleet:
1) Large vessels that were US Army or War Shipping Administration vessels assigned to Army including Dutch East Indies tramp steamers and Vichie French vessels (along with freighters commandeered by MacArthur as floating storage when they arrived with intentions of return). These were the Army Transport Service (ATS) vessels that were, under a 1941 reorganization, integrated into the Water Division of the US Army Transportation Corps. They were manned by American and; Australian merchant seamen in part, but primarily by the US Coast Guard on newer ship after mid-1944.
2) The small ships and boats section with watercraft of less than 1,000 tons displacement, almost exclusively of local SWPA origin with some built for the U.S. Army in Australia’s small boatyards, that were essential for operating in the coral filled waters of Northern Australia, the Coral Sea, Papua/New Guinea and the scattered islands of the Philippines. They were crewed primarily by a mix of citizens from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, some as young as 15-years old after February 1943, due to a world wide merchant seaman shortage.
3) The US Army Engineer Special Brigades (ESB) in LCVP and LCM landing craft. Each US Army Engineer Special Brigade — and MacArthur had three in the Philippines, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Brigades — was equipped to transport and land a division in a “Shore to shore” operation of under 135 miles. (which was the practical maximum overnight range of a LCM combat loaded with a M4 Sherman tank.) These brigades required a force of 7340 men, 540 LCMs and LCVPs, and 104 command and support boats to move that division. You can find an excellent site dedicated to the ESB’s here — http://ebsr.net/ESBhistory.htm
Of the three coastal shipping pools, the second was the only one MacArthur had for the first 18 months after he came to Australia. It was made up primarily of anything the Australians would let “Mission X”, what later became the US Army Small Ship Service (USASS), impress from Australian harbors. Two and three mast sailing ships, tugs, fishing boats and 40 year old coal powered tramp steamers less than 1,000 tons fit to be hulks were the main components of that fleet.
This small boat “fleet” operated in the face of Japanese air superiority without even Destroyers for escort — the USN did not allow any US Navy warships past Milne Bay. If these small watercraft had escorts, they were Australian motor launches, US Navy PT-Boats and US Army ESB landing craft gunboats. Read the rest of this entry »
The injudicious use of which has led to Paula Deen being booted from the Food Network, never mind that she was speaking under oath, and is a lady of a certain age and of a background where the n-word was … well, I honestly can’t say how current was the use of that word back in Paula Deen’s early days. It’s certainly scattered generously all over 19th century literary works like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn like chocolate sprinkles on a frosted Krispy Kreme donut, and piled on by the handful in the 20th century oeuvre of rap artists and edgy comedians of color… Read the rest of this entry »
I have mentioned in a previous column (http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/36669.html) that researching and understanding MacArthur’s WW2 fighting style was an exercise in frustration due to existing institutional historic narratives plus the patchwork and mayfly-like lives of some of the institutions MacArthur created and used to fight in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). Organizations that were discarded by the US Army after WW2 and then hidden behind bureaucratic walls of classification for decades. One of my internet searches stumbled across another example of these many, small, ‘here today and gone tomorrow’, narrative busting organizations in MacArthur’s South West Pacific Theater, his Sioux Indian Code Talkers.
Unlike the much more publicized US Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker program, this smaller “Code Talker” program used Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Sioux Native American soldiers in MacArthur’s South West Pacific Theater and in Europe. The program was not declassified until the mid-1970′s and the US Army has never seen fit to publicly recognize their Sioux code talkers to the extent that the USMC has with its Navajos. It does not fit the narrative on MacArthur.
“During the fall of 1943, more changes came to the Division. On 11 October, the firepower of the Division was improved by the activation of the 271st Field Artillery. In the reorganization of 04 December, weapons troops “D” and “H” were added to each of the regiments. The 7th Reconnaissance Squadron was reorganized into the 603rd Light Tank Company and the 302nd Reconnaissance Troop (Mech). The 302nd had a specific Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) which incorporated a unique radio unit with troops of Lakota and Dakota Indian Tribes who used their ancient tribal Sioux language to communicate with other divisional headquarters troops. This secret organization, formed in the foothills of Australia and later to be known as “The Code Talkers” was recruited at the direction of General MacArthur. The close-knit group of individuals, Phillip Stoney LeBlanc, Edmund St. John, Baptiste Pumkinseed, Eddie Eagle Boy, Guy Rondell, and John Bear King took their task seriously. They saved many American lives using their language as an unbreakable code to fool the Japanese throughout the subsequent Island Campaigns.”
In the foundation-legend of the Swiss confederacy, Alberect Gessler was a cruel and tyrannical overlord installed by the Austrians, who installed his hat atop a pole in the public marketplace and decreed that all should bow to it … to his hat, not merely his person. Such a declaration was, I think, a way of rubbing in his authority over the common citizens – indeed, rubbing their noses in the fact that he could make them do so, and do so in front of everyone else. Read the rest of this entry »
I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental for some observers. Supposing the existence of a conspiracy explains shattering and usually random events all very neatly, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Read the rest of this entry »
(From the old SSDB archive – a reminiscence about the search for the perfect Christmas tree, December, 1981.)
It really takes a gift to find yourself on a soggy-wet mountainside in on a Sunday afternoon in December, with a fine drizzle coagulating out of the fog in the higher altitudes, slipping and sliding on a muddy deer track with a tree saw in one hand, and leading a sniffling and wet (inside and out) toddler with the other.
Yep, it’s a gift all right, born of spontaneous optimism and an assumption based on the map on the back page of the Sacra-Tomato bloody-f#$*%^g Bee newspaper, and a promise to Mom. Said map made the %$#*ing Christmas tree farm look like it was a couple of blocks, a mere hop-skip-and-jump from the back gate of Mather AFB’s housing area, an easy jaunt on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, a lovely and traditional Christmas pastime, choosing your own tree from the place they were growing in! Read the rest of this entry »
It was said of Texas that it was a splendid place for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses. Every now and again though, there were women who embraced the adventure with the same verve and energy that their menfolk did; and one of them was a rancher, freight-boss and horse trader in the years before the Civil War. She is still popularly known as Sally Skull to local historians. There were many legends attached to her life, some of them even backed up by public records. Her full given name was actually Sarah Jane Newman Robinson Scull Doyle Wadkins Horsdorff. She married – or at least co-habited – five times. Apparently, she was more a woman than any one of her husbands could handle for long. Read the rest of this entry »
Among one of the small stories that I remember hearing, or reading after the monster tsunami that struck South-East Asia on the day after Christmas several years ago was the one about the clouds of mental-health professionals, breathlessly hurrying in to offer grief and trauma counseling to the understandably traumatized survivors – only to discover that – well, most of them were getting along fine. And if not fine, at least reasonably OK, Yes, they were grieving, they were traumatized by all sorts of losses, their lives and livelihoods, their communities and their families had been brutally ripped apart, but a large number of the survivors seemed inclined to be rather stoic about it all. They seemed to be more interested in pulling up their socks, metaphorically speaking, and getting on with it. It appeared that, according to the story, their culture and religion predisposed them to a mind-set that said: the incomprehensible does indeed happen, wheel of life, turn of fate and all that, and when it happens, pull up your socks and get on with it. Read the rest of this entry »