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19 thoughts on “D-Day”
My neighbor down the street was on LST-286 as a gunner on D-Day, and volunteered to go ashore on Utah to help with the offloading. We usually chat when I’m walking the dog in fine weather, and this time I was able to bring him pictures of his ship, and of the last LST still in service as a ferry (the Cape Henlopen).
There are lots of very good D-Day photos at this link:
I was reading SLA Marshall’s piece about how the D-Day histories were edited to remove the worst stories of Omaha Beach. The first wave was decimated. The worst was at the end of the beach adjacent to Pont Du Hoc. One thing that struck me was that the survivors of those companies, especially able and baker companies, joined the Rangers assaulting Pont Du Hoc and fought with them the first couple of days. The horrific experience they’d been through (There were two survivors of able company) had no paralyzed them. They joined the Rangers who were fighting next to them.
I’ve taken my children there to try to understand what happened. We spent a half day in the cemetery above Omaha.
I don’t know military history, though I know enough to be awed. James Earl Rudder is a name that still carries weight around here, long after his (and even his widow’s) deaths. That affection and respect meant he (and most think only he) could bring A&M to a new era – first with non-compulsory corps and then admitting women. He defined that era as his men had defined the greatest generation. I suspect after Pont Du Hoc, he had a broader perspective than most college presidents.
Dusty Miller was a friend of my parents for many years – he passed away a good 10 years ago.
One of my regrets was not attending Thanksgiving dinner with the Millers when invited – Dusty was in the 2nd wave at Omaha and never talked of it until this dinner…..
I had to close my eyes the entire first part of Saving Private Ryan. I can’t rewatch that movie either. Can’t do it. I’ve seen President Reagan’s Point Du Hoc speech linked elsewhere. Need to go listen….
Before D-day, there was Dieppe
The Watery Maze: The Story of Combined Operations by Bernard Fergusson is an excellent book, and very good on Dieppe. He describes the learning process which culminated in D-Day. Dieppe was an expensive lesson, but at least it was not a wasted lesson.
(Fergusson was quite a guy. He also wrote a regimental history of the Black Watch in the Second World War, entitled The Black Watch and the King’s Enemies, which may be the coolest title of a military history book ever.)
Dieppe was a monumental screwup by Mountbatten. It was delayed and then compromised. It should have been canceled but Mountbatten wanted a command. The Germans knew they were coming.
For a bit of alternative history read about Operation Downfall – Coronet and Olympic – the initial invasion of the Japanese home islands – Kyushu and then Honshu.
The beaches were named after American car makes – like Packard and Chevrolet.
Anticipated casualties – killed and wounded – at very low end 1 million – estimated by MacArthur’s staff.
Time to subdue the Japanese Home Islands – invasion to start Nov 1945 running to Nov 1948.
If the bomb hadn’t been dropped….
Bill Brandt said:
>>Time to subdue the Japanese Home Islands – invasion to start Nov 1945 running to Nov 1948.
No. It would have been more like 6-months in the Japanese home Islands and a year elsewhere.
The American military was preparing to gas the Japanese like bugs if the A-bomb had failed to get the Japanese to surrender.
There was a lot going on in the Pacific war that has not made it ot the popular history books, particularly regarding the use of lethal gas by the Japanese that was back ground to those preparations, starting with War Department report “I.B. 152-A”
I.B. 152-A was a War Department secret report on the Japanese military gas attack on the Chinese Nationalists at Ichang, China in October 1941.
The Nationalists extensively documented the attack, which killed 600 and wounded 1,000 more, and judging from the report, had American military attaches there during the investigation. They were further supported by local Episcopal Church medical missionary reports of the treatment of wounded Chinese. These were published on Nov 26, 1941 and were picked up by American news wires and republished in the states the week before Pearl Harbor.
When the war kicked off on Dec 7, 1941. A general order from the Imperial General staff went out not to use chemicals. This was followed like a lot of Japanese General Staff orders…it was ignored when the Japanese chain of command broke down.
Between Dec 1941 and the Summer of 1944 the Japanese used “Chabin” AC blood agent gas grenades twice on western forces which were both documented and accepted as “real” lethal weapon chemical attacks. Once on the 7th Hussar Tank Regiment in Burma in 1942 and twice on American troops on Guadalcanal in 1943.
When the American threat to Saipan, Guam and Tinian was developing, Premier General Tojo wanted to use chemical weapons to defend them. He was opposed by elements of the Japanese military and it didn’t happen.
The only way that “opposition” could have been effective was with the support of Emperor Hirohito, who was also up to his eyeballs in the work of the Japanese bioweapons Unit 731.
After the fall of those three islands and Tojo’s government, another “tairikushi” was issues to remove all chemical weapon stocks from the Pacific and Burma theaters.
This was followed more rigorously, particularly in the Home Islands, but the chain of command issues still existed.
American air power disrupted logistics & prevented chemical weapon removal from the Philippines. So MacArthur’s 6th Army captured Japanese lethal chemical stocks on Leyte.
During the fight for Luzon, Filipino Guerrilla’s reported to 6th Army in January – February 1945 that the Japanese garrison in Davao Mindanao had planted mustard gas land mines and tested the blood agent AC in hand grenade on dogs.
The 1st Cav. Div. then got gassed several times with vomiting agent gas candles and 75mm shells by Japanese naval suicide troops in Feb 1945 during the battle of Manila.
And finally the 24th Infantry Div. where hit by more Chabin style grenades in Mindanao in May-June 1945 during the “Victor II” operations there. The American Army river campaign from the west coast of Mindanao to Davao Mindanao by General Eichelberger is much more easily explained by his need to avoid those reported but later shown as non-existent mustard gas mine fields.
Given non-surrender of the Japanese, and Allied penetration of Japanese military codes, when the planned mass murders of Allied POW and occupied civilian populations by the Imperial Japanese Southern Area Army started on Sept 9, 1945, the date of the British Amphibious Invasion of Malaya (Operation Zipper) kicked off. We would have known in real time. (It might even have started sooner, if the Soviets tried to invade Hokkaido in August-September 1945.)
MacArthur’s planned but little written on plans for the invasion of Java would have happened shortly after wards, if only due to the paralysis Adms King and Nimitz were going to kick off fighting the implementation of Operation Olympic, followed by Typhoon Louise hitting Okinawa.
By Oct/Nov 1945, the British would have been in the dead city of Singapore and the American-Australian Eight Army would have over run the bodies of the white Dutch murdered by the Japanese in Batavia on Java.
The pictures of the bodies would have been daily fair for American newspapers…along with stories of all the interned American civilians and POWs in Japanese hands being murdered by the Japanese in China and elsewhere.
The murderous, volcanic, out pouring of pure hate from the American public would have removed all restraints on American actions. Save those of inter-Allied logistics that got in the way of killing the Japanese everywhere, as soon as possible, with every weapon available, including chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Trent, you could write a very grim alternative history novel based on that scenario.
Trent – I have never heard of this plan. I did uncover a little interesting Tidbit with Hitler – when the war was starting to turn against him – but before D-Day – he called in Speer and a top chemist from IG Farben. I.G. Farben had developed a deadly gas – sarin based? (I forget) – but of course they hadn’t used it.
Hitler had discussed the possibility of using chemical weapons and the IG Farben chemist basically talked him out of it because of the known Allied stockpiles. Although at the time we had no gas equivalent to this German development.
Wish I could remember the chemist’s name – it was a short article in one of the military magazines.
And it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that with Nagasaki the Japanese would surrender – there was a sizable contingent in the war council voting against surrender and it took the intervention of Hirohito to break the deadlock.
We were planning on bombing a 3rd city although after all the firebombing the good targets were rapidly drying up.
I am not disputing you because I have never heard of this plan; simply to acknowledge there’s a lot we don’t know.
But the plans for Operation Downfall were in the final planning stages by Aug 1945.
Page 573 of Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb (Houghton Mifflin (1992) by George Feifer, referring to expected Allied casualties averted by the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, states:
“The total number must include European and Eurasian prisoners of the Japanese, chiefly from English, Dutch and other colonial and military forces. Okinawa was the most important prelude to the climax because its terrain most closely resembled the mainland’s, but non-Japanese elsewhere in Asia would have suffered even more during the new Tenozan. After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi issued an order directing his prison camp officers to kill all their captives the moment the enemy invaded 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 which case up to 400,000 people would have been massacred.”
The Allies were aware of this order by Terauchi via decryption of Japanese Army codes, and of that 200,000 Feifer mentioned, roughly 32,000 were American servicemen captured with the fall of the Philippines.
This is why MacArthur had contingency plans for a hasty invasion of Java, using non-Operation Downfall ground forces. His ground force pool included Australian troops, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 93rd Infantry Division — the only black division in the Pacific — for the fall of 1945.
Also see Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945 (Modern War Studies) (University Press of Kansas 2009) by Edward J. Drea, and Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army (Random House 1992) by Meirion Harries.
>>Trent, you could write a very grim alternative history novel based on
I had a visual for a story set in that alternate time period that invaded my dreams for weeks.
The bear bones of the story:
Java, during mid-September 1945, after the Japanese coup against surrender put Tojo back into power.
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment is dropping in from C-54’s over Batavia trying to save Western civilian detainees from slaughter by the Japanese with the follow on cavalry being a ‘slap together from nothing’ shore-to-shore landing of the 368th infantry regiment of the colored 93rd Infantry Division via one of MacArthur’s Engineering Amphibious Brigades.
The opening image is of a sky filled with D-32 Dominators dropping thousands of 23 lb fragmentation bombs on an air field outside Batavia prior to a aircraft smoke screen covered assault paradrop.
The 503rd’s surprise landing saves some, but not many of the detainees and is in “Ft Apache Batavia” with detainees being protected, Japs all around and a flying column of the 386th is trying to break through from the landing beaches.
Mac Arthur’s Central Bureau captured a copy of the Japanese Army high level code in Holliandia. It was being read regularly by his command so that message would have been on his desk in June 1945.
General Eichelberger, Mac Arthur’s 8th Army CO, was alerted in April 1945 to prepare a contingency plan to invade Java if the Navy and Army Air Corps won the argument of invasion versus blockade/bombardment in June 1945.
Truman went for invasion, but General Carl Spaatz. and Adm Nimitz were setting up for a second round of opposition in August when the A-bomb made the whole fight moot in august 1945.
Mac Arthur was highly sensitive to the fate of civilian detainees, and allied POW given what the Japanese did in Manila in March 1945.
Operation Zipper, the British invasion of Malaya was set for 9 Sept 1945, whatever happened with regards to the American invasion of Japan.
The Aussies were going to provide three squadrons of B-24 support to the Operation Zipper Malaya landings on Sept 9th from Northern Borneo.
Gen Kenney’s Far Eastern Air Forces were going to stage two more groups of B-24 (3-4 squadrons of 16 planes per USAAF heavy bomber group) on 6-9 Sept from the Philippines through that Northern Borneo base as well.
When Operation Zipper went in, the Japanese Army in SE Asia would start their mass killings.
General Eichelberger had the amphibious shipping and logistics to throw two regimental combat teams, with a couple of weeks of logistical support, with about five days warning at Java.
MacArthur had the 503rd PIR sitting as a part of his AFPAC reserve in Leyte deciding what he was going to do with it as the 11th Airborne was already committed to Olympic.
The 93rd ID (colored) was not a part of either Olympic or Coronet, but was a part of the 8th Army in the Southern Philippines.
Japan’s Puppet regime Javanese Army was going to be in a very tight spot as Operation Zipper was being telegraphed as they either would be ordered to assist with killing the interned Dutch, POW Aussie, captured Americans, and fellow Javanese.
Or they would have been forcibly disarmed and killed themselves.
Knowing the Japanese, they would have acted to disarm their puppets first, after the way the Indian National Army disintegrated in Burma.
That disarmament would have gone down ugly, brutal and uncoordinated with some units of the puppet armed forces scattering, armed, to the countryside to join the other “pro-allies” rebels in the hills.
Ugly and confused doesn’t begin to cover what the 503rd RCT would have been dropping into at Batavia.
That is why the damned scene is sticking in my head…and also why it hasn’t been written yet.
>>> D-32 Dominators
Grr…that should have been _B_-32 Dominators.
They were the only very long range heavy bombers that MacArthur directly controlled at the time.
Wow. I have been obsessed with WWII since before I could read, and I never heard of the B-32 Dominator until today.
The USAAF/USAF did its best to make sure no one heard of it either.
See this chapter of the USAAF history “From Matterhorn to Nagasaki” at this link, and search for “B-32”
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