"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
Chicago Boyz is an Amazon affiliate and earns money from any Amazon purchases you make after you click on an Amazon link on this blog.
Chicago Boyz is also a BlogAds affiliate and earns money from advertising placed on this blog through the BlogAds network.
Some Chicago Boyz advertisers may themselves be Amazon affiliates who earn money from any Amazon purchases you make after you click on an Amazon link on their ad on Chicago Boyz or on their own web sites.
Chicago Boyz will consider publishing advertisements for goods or services that in the opinion of Chicago Boyz management would benefit the readers of this blog. Please direct any inquires to
Chicago Boyz is a registered trademark of Chicago Boyz Media, LLC. All original content on the Chicago Boyz web site is copyright 2001-2014 by Chicago Boyz Media, LLC or the Chicago Boyz contributor who posted it. All rights reserved.
This column has visited established narratives of Pacific war many times to try and validate their worth by “opening the hood” of the “Narrative Car” to see what makes them run. Today’s column does that with the Japanese Kamikaze campaign at Okinawa and rival Invasion of Japan planning in the form of the Japanese “Ketsu-Go Six“ plan — predominantly take from Japanese Monograph No. 85 – and various American “Sphinx Project” reports and the Pacific Theater War Plans for Operation Olympic. Then the column will analyze them via operational realities that are generally missing from even the best end of the Pacific War books like Richard B. Frank’s “Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.”
The genesis of this column began when I recently read THE ULTIMATE BATTLE, OKINAWA 1945 — The Last Epic Struggle of World War II by Bill Sloan. He made a comment to the effect that the Imperial Japanese high command planned during operation TEN-GO – the Kamikaze plan used during the American Invasion of Okinawa — to include 4,085 aircraft for suicide operations.
One of the unexamined operational factors of the canceled November 1945 Operation Olympic invasion of Japan would have been smoke plumes caused by the planned 1-2 punch of defoliant and napalm fire bombing of Japanese cave positions behind the Kyushu invasion beaches by General MacArthur’s Far Eastern Air Forces, as this 2003 satellite photo of southern California grass fire smoke plumes makes clear.
In my last two columns (See article links here and here) I have been following the thread of the US Navy’s visual and radio communications style and how it affected the US Navy’s night fighting and amphibious styles in the Guadalcanal/Solomons campaigns and during the landing at Tarawa respectively. Today’s column continues that US Navy communications thread and weaves it together with several other threads from previous columns including ones on
• Intra-service politics regarding sea mining in the Pacific War,
• Theater amphibious fighting styles,
• A quirk of in promotion policy in the WW2 US Army’s military culture, and
• The Ultra distribution war between MacArthur and both the Navy & War Department intelligence mandarins
(See links here, here, here and here) so as to tell the story of how the US Navy’s interwar mania for controlling radio communications turned into a huge problem of interservice politics that hurt the war effort in the Pacific.
U.S. Navy Shipboard Radio Room showing WWII RAK/RAL & RAO/RBL receivers along with the LM Freq Meter far upper right and the Scott SLR receiver located just below the order binders. Source: Radio Boulevard Western Historic Radio Museum online at http://www.radioblvd.com/WWII-PostWar%20Hamgear.htm
The US Navy’s fighting style, in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor through Okinawa, was characterized by naval centric “joint” warfare where the Navy was always first among equals and most staff work was done under Adm. Nimitz’s eyes. Where that “First among equals” theater fighting style rubbed the US Army wrong most heavily was with the Navy’s centralized style with radio communications.
In my last column I spoke of the impact of the US Navy’s visual communication style on the night fighting in the Solomons, and how it negatively impacted the “Black Shoe” surface ship officer’s ability to adapt to the radar and radio centered reality of night combat with the Imperial Japanese Navy. This column will explore how this communication style impacted the use of LVTs, or “Landing Vehicle Tracked” at Tarawa, and compare and contrast how that style interacted with how the US Army and US Marine Corps approached fighting with LVTs later in the Pacific War, and what it meant for the future.
The assault on the island of Betio, in the Tarawa atoll, was the worst 76 hours of bloodletting in the history of the USMC. In the words of Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret):
The final casualty figures for the 2d Marine Division in Operation Galvanic were 997 Marines and 30 sailors (organic medical personnel) dead; 88 Marines missing and presumed dead; and 2,233 Marines and 59 sailors wounded. Total casualties: 3,407. The Guadalcanal campaign had cost a comparable amount of Marine casualties over six months; Tarawa’s losses occurred in a period of 76 hours. Moreover, the ratio of killed to wounded at Tarawa was significantly high, reflecting the savagery of the fighting. The overall proportion of casualties among those Marines engaged in the assault was about 19 percent, a steep but “acceptable” price. But some battalions suffered much higher losses. The 2d Amphibian Tractor Battalion lost over half the command. The battalion also lost all but 35 of the 125 LVT’s employed at Betio.
Two destroyed LVT’s in the Tarawa Lagoon in 1943. They lacked radios and their crews were untrained in US naval visual signals
The Marines lost roughly 333 men killed a day, or 13.25 men killed an hour for every hour for the assault at Betio. And for every man killed, two more fell wounded.
There were a number of reasons for this. The standard narrative speaks to inadequate naval fire support and bombing by the air forces of the Army and Navy, of Betio being surrounded by reefs that cut off the LCVP Higgins boats from the island, save at high tide, and a once in several decades “super neap tide” — where the combination of a strong solar perihelion tide, weak lunar apogean tide plus the expected last-quarter moon neap tide could combine for a no-tide period — that prevented the high tide from rising enough, thus forcing troops to cover hundreds of yards of machine gun and artillery swept shallows just to get to shore.
One of the objectives when I started writing my “History Friday” columns was to improve the public’s understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. A recurring focal point has been trying to answer the “counterfactual” or “What If” question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 if the A-bomb failed?” in ways that challenge current academic narratives about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific.
This History Friday column returns to that theme by examining a technology forgotten and a technology familiar and using the combination to challenge the standing academic narrative of “If America invaded Japan in 1945 without the A-bomb, Japan had a chance of winning.” The “Forgotten” is the “Brodie Device” a “cableway” technology for launching and landing small fixed wing aircraft. The “Familiar” are small general aviation planes of the Piper Cub class and television. Early television created in the form of the “Block III” missile guidance seeker of R.C.A.’s WW2 era chief scientist Dr. Vladimir Zworykin. And taken together, they represented the qualitative aspect of the American materialschlacht – battle of material – that was actually on a sharp upward slope in the closing months of WW2. Creating for the cancelled Operation Olympic Invasion of Japan something that looked like a direct ancestor of the 2013 Robert J. Collier Trophy winning MC-12 Liberty. A Hawker Beechcraft King Air “Manned UAV,” which is flying combat missions over Afghanistan today.
This is the Brodie Device in its land based, freighter and LST configurations
The “Brodie Device” was the invention of one Lieutenant, later decorated with the Legion of Merit and promoted Captain, James H Brodie of the USAAF Transportation Corps. Brodie’s day job was redesigning freighters in the Port of New Orleans to carry aircraft to the front. He saw any number of ships with his work torpedoed and sunk by U-boats, and unlike most, he could and did something about it. He designed a cableway device to give his freighters their own Piper Cub air spotters. With much politicking on his part, he was given $10,000 and designed a 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg) cableway launch and landing system that began testing in April 1943. By July 1943 he was pestering transient USAAF pilots to test fly an L-4 “Grasshopper” Piper Cub into his contraption. Finally he found a B-26 pilot, named Maj James D Kemp, with enough bravery and shear craziness to do both a take-off and landing on 3 Sept 1943.
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.
One of the focal points in my writing these History Friday columns has been trying to answer the question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 if the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column returns to that theme by examining one of many “reality lives in the detail” changes in material, training and doctrine that the US Army was making for the invasion of Japan. This column’s focus is on the use of napalm as a weapon. In reading about napalm as a weapon in World War 2, you see the following (from the Global Security web site) standard narrative explanation and not much more —
Napalm was developed at Harvard University in 1942-43 by a team of chemists led by chemistry professor Louis F. Fieser, who was best known for his research at Harvard University in organic chemistry which led to the synthesis of the hormone cortisone. Napalm was formulated for use in bombs and flame throwers by mixing a powdered aluminium soap of naphthalene with palmitate (a 16-carbon saturated fatty acid) — also known as naphthenic and palmitic acids — hence napalm [another story suggests that the term napalm derives from a recipe of naphtha and palm oil]. Naphthenic acids are corrosives found in crude oil; palmitic acids are fatty acids that occur naturally in coconut oil. On their own, naphthalene and palmitate are relatively harmless substances.
The aluminum soap of naphthenic and palmitic acids turns gasoline into a sticky syrup that carries further from projectors and burns more slowly but at a higher temperature. Mixing the aluminum soap powder with gasoline produced a brownish sticky syrup that burned more slowly than raw gasoline, and hence was much more effective at igniting a target. Compared to previous incendiary weapons, napalm spread further, stuck to the target, burned longer, and was safer to its dispenser because it was dropped and detonated far below the airplane. It was also cheap to manufacture.
There is a lot more to napalm than just that, and you can’t really understand combat after action reports, the detailed reality, of the WW2 Pacific Theater without being aware of the capabilities and limitations of napalm as a weapon. The following list is from my own research over the last few years on the subject of tank-mounted mechanized flamethrowers that were in my last column.
1) Napalm flame fuel was a “Non-Newtonian Fluid” as compared “Newtonian fluids” like water and gasoline. Everyday examples of “Non-Newtonian Fluids” include corn starch and milk gravy, alcohol hand sanitizer, hair gel, and ketchup. This meant that Napalm mixtures acted somewhat like a semi-solid glue when at rest and like fluid under pressure or when aerosolized. For example, if one takes a bottle full of water and a bottle of ketchup, then try to shoot fluids from both through a potted plant to a board behind it. The water will push the plant aside and predominantly move through to the board. The ketchup will stick to the plant, and the resultant flow will have far less will reach the board behind it, let alone hit where it was intended.
This had huge implications in 1943-1944 when fighting in triple canopy jungle, dense undergrowth or in tall Kunai Grass. The South Pacific was noted for all of the above. In thick foliage napalm mixtures fired from flamethrowers stuck to plants rather than pushed past them like a Newtonian fluid. Quite literally, plant vegetation concealment _WAS COVER_ for firing apertures in bunkers of any sort. You also could not do an arcing overhead stream for fear of the plants so disrupting the flow that you would hit some of your own troops.
New Georgia Flamethrower attack using thin flame fuel with little or no napalm — Source: ‘Chemical Corps Monograph No. 4 Portable Flame Thrower Operations in World War II’
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 »
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.
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.
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.
On August 14th in 1945 Imperial Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and averted Operation Downfall, the two stage invasion of Japan. This invasion would have resulted in at least a million American casualties and likely millions of Japanese dead from direct effects of the invasion plus the mass starvation that would have been sure to occur in its aftermath.
The best web site presentation on the “Invasion that Never Was” I have found is here.
Were it not for the two atom bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria shocking the Imperial Japanese into surrender, many of us would not be here today because our parents and grandparents would have died on the shores of Kyushu and Honshu.
Richard Fernandez, AKA blogger Wretchard the Cat, has a post on Pajamas Media titled The Foundations of Our World on the modern politically correct myths surrounding Hiroshima — America was the original “nuclear sinner” and war criminal while Japan was “innocent victim” — that have become “The Narrative” that the Ruling classes promulgate through the Western education establishment and main stream media.
Just because this is “The Narrative” does not make it the objective truth. There is still a lot of historical information still being unearthed about that era. Information highly destructive of the politically correct narrative in the form of the unearthed history of the Japanese chemical warfare program.
The bottom line up front is that Hiroshima was a center of chemical weapons production for the Japanese and the weapons produced there were used in against Chinese, British and American troops in World War Two. Read the rest of this entry »
These are post strike USAAF photo of the Aug 06, 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima
The best way I can think of to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is to review an article by historian Richard B. Frank that was published in the Weekly Standard in 2005. In it, Frank lays out the competing visions of history that have grown up after the event, and its most recent turns, that refresh our understanding of that day.
Why Truman Dropped the Bomb
Sixty years after Hiroshima, we now have the secret intercepts that influenced his decision.
by Richard B. Frank
08/08/2005, Volume 010, Issue 44
The sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima seems to be shaping up as a subdued affair–though not for any lack of significance. A survey of news editors in 1999 ranked the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, first among the top one hundred stories of the twentieth century. And any thoughtful list of controversies in American history would place it near the top again. It was not always so. In 1945, an overwhelming majority of Americans regarded as a matter of course that the United States had used atomic bombs to end the Pacific war. They further believed that those bombs had actually ended the war and saved countless lives. This set of beliefs is now sometimes labeled by academic historians the “traditionalist” view. One unkindly dubbed it the “patriotic orthodoxy.”
But in the 1960s, what were previously modest and scattered challenges of the decision to use the bombs began to crystallize into a rival canon. The challengers were branded “revisionists,” but this is inapt. Any historian who gains possession of significant new evidence has a duty to revise his appreciation of the relevant events. These challengers are better termed critics.
The critics share three fundamental premises. The first is that Japan’s situation in 1945 was catastrophically hopeless. The second is that Japan’s leaders recognized that fact and were seeking to surrender in the summer of 1945. The third is that thanks to decoded Japanese diplomatic messages, American leaders knew that Japan was about to surrender when they unleashed needless nuclear devastation. The critics divide over what prompted the decision to drop the bombs in spite of the impending surrender, with the most provocative arguments focusing on Washington’s desire to intimidate the Kremlin. Among an important stratum of American society–and still more perhaps abroad–the critics’ interpretation displaced the traditionalist view.
These rival narratives clashed in a major battle over the exhibition of the Enola Gay, the airplane from which the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, at the Smithsonian Institution in 1995. That confrontation froze many people’s understanding of the competing views. Since then, however, a sheaf of new archival discoveries and publications has expanded our understanding of the events of August 1945. This new evidence requires serious revision of the terms of the debate. What is perhaps the most interesting feature of the new findings is that they make a case President Harry S. Truman deliberately chose not to make publicly in defense of his decision to use the bomb.
I hope the last line whets your curiosity enough to go to the link and finish reading the article.
The fighting on Okinawa saw many M4 Sherman tanks destroyed by the improved Japanese anti-tank defense build around the 47mm Type 01 anti-tank gun. Mid-May 1945 the US Army Ordnance branch took upon itself the task to send 12 of the Sherman’s successor tank, the M26 Pershing, to Okinawa. In my previous post on the priority shipments to Okinawa spoke of a LCT convoy from Okinawa to Hawaii to pick up M26 Pershings on Hawaii.
That story was wrong.
Korean War Mail Delivery, M26 Pershing Style
I found several references after that post including Kenneth Estes’ MARINES UNDER ARMOR: The Marine Corps ans Armored fighting Vehicles, 1916-2000 that had dates of Pershing Delivery varying from 21 July to 31 July 1945. It turns the 31 July 1945 date is correct and the landing craft tank (LCT) I mentioned were at Okinawa the whole time, not in a round trip convoy to Hawaii.
I ran across more data on the priority shipping CDL Tanks and deploying Recoilless Rifles for Okinawa that made some of the things I posted my here factually wrong. There was also additional information of the “VT” proximity fuse in US Army artillery.
Taken together, what didn’t make it to Okinawa would amount to a technological surprise for the Japanese defending the beaches of Kyushu, had the A-bomb failed to get a surrender.
The M3 CDL tanks were assembled at Rock Island Arsenal. Instead of a main gun turret the tank chassis mounted a steel box containing a 13 million candle power carbon arc lamp backed by mirrors to focus the beam, a machine gun and fake cannon. A 10Kw generator was mounted on the back and run by a power take off from the engine. The 75mm sponson gun was retained. Some 500 M3 CDLs were produced in 1943-44. Some 300 entered US Army service with a few used during the battle for the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, Germany. Eighteen CDL arrived on Okinawa in June 1945 after the fighting ended
First, it turns out that the June 1945 arrival of the M3 Grant medium tank based “Canal Defense Light” (CDL) tanks was not based on a April 1945 emergency request during Okinawa fighting like the Pershing, but instead was due to a trip by a US Army Ordnance officer working for 10th Army to Washington DC months earlier.
ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT
Chapter 23, pages 453-453
Colonel Daniels thought good use could be made of Canal Defense Light tanks. The Japanese in their campaign in Malaya had successfully made end runs at night along the coast, landing tanks from boats, and could be expected to do the same thing along the coast of Okinawa. Against such attacks, the CDL’s with their blinding searchlights might be used to very good effect. General Buckner had never heard of the CDL’s but after having been furnished a description he gave Daniels permission for a flight to Washington to round up a company. When Daniels got to Washington, he found that all of these special tanks had gone to England for shipment to France, but that he might expect some in several months. Accordingly, he put in a request for about 18 or 20 CDL’s, and an officer and men trained in operating them. They did not arrive until late June 1945, after the Okinawa campaign was over.25
25. Ltr, Brig Gen Robert W. Daniels to Lida Mayo, 23 Nov 63, OCMH. When the CDL’s arrived Daniels got one ashore and showed it to Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, who had succeeded Buckner as Commanding General of Tenth Army. Stilwell was impressed. Ibid.
On Okinawa, the Japanese headquarters on Hill 89 is taken by the forces of the US 32nd Infantry Regiment, part of US 7th Division. The body of General Ushijima, commanding the Japanese 32nd Army is found nearby.
Five hours after 10th Army commander USMC Major General Geiger declares Okinawa “Secure” the Japanese high command delivered its last kikusui or “Floating Chrysanthemum” suicide strike of the Okinawa campaign.
Several Kamikaze slip through and strike ships at the at the Kerma Ritto anchorage. Sea Plane tenders Kenneth Whiting and Curtis are both struck and the Curtis is heavily damaged by fire.
LSM-59 is hit and sunk towing the hulk of the decommissioned USS Barry, which is also sunk in the same attack. The Barry’s new mission was to be a kamikaze decoy, for which it succeeded sooner than intended.
RAISING THE AMERICAN FLAG on 22 June denoted the end of organized Japanese resistance.
On Okinawa, Mount Yuza is captured by the US 381st Infantry Regiment. Fighting continues on the south of the island.
At sea, the Japanese air offensive against American ships slackens, but the Japanese still sink 1 destroyer and damage 1 escort carrier.
The destroyer, the USS Twiggs, was struck close to shore at twilight on bombardment duty by a low level torpedo plane. Her crew had 188 survivors with 126 men lost, dead and missing, including her captain.
The USMC, at the beginning of the Okinawa campaign, had used previous island assaults as the base line for provisioning spares and supports for it’s landing vehicle tracked (LVT).
It was utterly inadequate in the face of the reality of protracted combat on Okinawa:
At the beginning of the campaign, the 4th and 9th Amphibian Tractor Battalions with a total of 205 LVTs were attached to the 6th Marine Division. Added to those in the 1st and 8th Battalions attached to the 1st Marine Division, the total number of LVTs available to IIIAC was 421. IIIAC AR, chap VII, p. 101. The resupply of spare parts for LVTs was totally inadequate, especially in the case of such vitally needed basic items as tracks, track suspension system parts, front drive assemblies, and transmission parts. The lack of all of these deadlined a good many LVTs and severely limited the amount of support they could have provided during the drive to the south and in the Oroku landing. At the end of the campaign, 75 LVTs had been completely destroyed as a result of enemy action, or, having been badly damaged, they were cannibalized for spare parts. Of the 346 vehicles remaining, 200 were deadlined for lack of spare parts. Ibid., p. 102.
There were 421 LVT-3 and LVT-4 on 1 April 1945. By the end of the campaign only 146 of that 421 were operational. A number a hair under 35% of the original starting force.
The logistical implications of those numbers for Operation Olympic in November/December 1945 were daunting.
On Okinawa, the Japanese resistance in the Oruku peninsula ends. The US 6th Marine Division records a record 169 Japanese prisoners as well as finding about 200 dead. (This is a large total when compared with previous numbers of Japanese prisoners reported.)
The fighting continues to the southeast, especially in the Kunishi Ridge area where a regiment of the US 1st Marine Division suffers heavy casualties.
The US 24th Corps uses armored flamethrowers in the elimination of the Japanese held fortified caves on Mount Yuza and Mount Yaeju and on Hills 153 and 115.
Battle line on the Kiyan Peninsula, 10-19 June 1945
On Okinawa, fighting continues on the Oroku Peninsula, where the forces of the US 6th Marine Division have reduced the Japanese pocket to about 2000 square yards. Heavy Japanese losses are recorded in nighttime counterattacks.
Meanwhile, on the south of the island, the US 1st Marine Division suffers heavy losses in the successful capture of a hill west of the town of Yuza.
The US 24th Corps forces, to the left, launches a major offensive against the last Japanese defensive line, the Yaeju-Dake Line. Japanese resistance is evidently weakening.
YAEJU-DAKE was brought under American artillery fire shortly before the infantry attempted its first advance to the escarpment. Burst at upper left is white phosphorus.
LVT amphibious tractors move past LCI(M)-809 (center), bound for the Okinawa landing beaches, 1 April 1945.
The redoubtable Colonel Unmacht of Hawaiian flame throwing tank fame was also responsible for another major innovation in off-shore fire support in WW2 — the 4.2 inch Mortar Gunboat.
They were simply LCVP, LSM and LCI landing craft given one to four 4.2 inch (107mm) mortars to provide fire support for landings. The inability of naval gunfire to hit reverse slopes and the short 1,200 yard range of naval 4.5 inch and 5 inch rockets means that the 3,500-4,500 yard range 4.2 inch mortar was ideal to hit the backs of hills and mountains fronting landing beaches.
This is the time line of 4.2 inch gunboat development which supported not only the Central Pacific, but also General Mac Arthur’s SWPA command and the invasion of Sicily!
1942 – Developing doctrine and experimenting
July 1943 – Sicily
Spring 1944 – Saipan, Marianas Group – aborted operation
21 June 1944 – Bougainville, first successful amphibious combat operation
August 1944 – Training in Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Solomon Islands
15 September 1944 – Peleliu, Palau Islands: first LCI(M) combat use
20 October 1944 – Leyte, Philippine Islands
9 January 1945 – Luzon, Philippine Islands
19 February 1945 – Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, northwest Pacific basin
1 April 1945 – Okinawa, the Ryukyus Islands, northwest Pacific basin
On Okinawa, two regiments of US 6th Marine Division make landings on the Oroku peninsula in an attempt to outflank Japanese defensive positions.
The battle line on Oroku Peninsula, 4-13 June 1945
However, this is the base area of the Japanese Navy on Okinawa. The local IJN commander, after at first obeying orders to retreat to the Kiyan line, dislikes his new position. He disobeys orders and has his troops reoccupy their original cave positions at Oroku.