Happy V-J Day!

A belated happy Victory over Japan Day.

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.

Map of the 6th Army Operation Olympic Assault Plan
This is a map from the 6th Army Operation Olympic Assault Plan

The best web site presentation on the “Invasion that Never Was” I have found is here.

See the PDF copies of the original documents plus some HTML remapping of the same documents courtesy of the alternatewars.com web site.

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.

42 thoughts on “Happy V-J Day!”

  1. I remember VJ Day very well. My father had a lot of friends who owned taverns because he was in the juke box business (No Mafia). When the news was announced, all taverns had to close. I don’t know if that was national or just Chicago. Anyway, all his friends headed for our house. The tavern owners grabbed a case of whiskey on the way and we had a party that lasted three days. My cousin, who was in her late 20s at the time, went to work every day but just washed her face before leaving and then came back to our house after work. By the third day she had a ring around her neck where the washing stopped. My sister and I were young, I was 7, and had a lot of fun watching the adults celebrate.

    Months later, my parents held parties for all the guys as they came home from overseas. Many of the guys who came to visit from other parts of the country met girls who were friends of my beautiful cousins and married them staying in Chicago. It was a bit different from the atmosphere of “Best Years of Our Lives.” There must have been four or five parties over a year as they came home.

    Frank Flanigan was one of the servicemen who came the parties. There he met Pat Neary as many of the other friends of my cousin Bud did. There was a whole series of marriages that resulted from those parties.

    I have an alternate history book on the war with Japan. One of the alternatives is the attempted invasion when no atomic bombs were available. There was a huge typhoon that hit Okinawa and the southern Japanese islands in October. It sank many ships even though there was no invasion and the war was over. Had there been an invasion under way, the typhoon would probably have broken up the entire operation.

  2. Have we spent the our blood and treasure for Victory – so China that could become the Hegemon of the Western Pacific?

  3. The decisions of 1945 were correct. Saying that some political consequence may occur 70 years later does not change that. People have been predicting a resurgence of China for centuries. 100 years ago there was a whole literature of the “Yellow Peril” overrunning Asia or the whole world. So far it has not happened and it probably never will. China has a full plate at home. We are their biggest debtor and biggest customer. Shooting at us would be an act of insanity or stupidity. The Chicom leadership is many things, but stupid or insane they are not.

  4. Rand Simberg (transterrestrial.com) posted the link to this rare amateur color film made on VJ Day in Honolulu.


    It really puts you back there — just a family, apparently all in uniform, celebrating the day, while impromptu parades and motorcades of soldiers, sailors, and random civilians break out on the streets of Honolulu.

    Everybody in uniform has this “I’ll be damned, I made it through this alive” look, at least that’s how my dad described the feeling. It seems to fit.

  5. Jim Bennett – that footage is amazing. Two observations.

    1. I also would have been drinking straight out of the bottle.
    2. Footage from that time period is interesting to me regarding the weight of people in general. Everyone is always so fit and trim. Yes, most of the people in this film are service members and would have a better physical regimen than the normal populace, but even film from a normal city street from the time period shows a different overall physique than we see today. So many obese people everywhere I look. I think people had to work harder and had less trash cash for food/fewer choices. But that subject isn’t my specialty.

  6. I read an excellent book on the last year of the Pacific war by Max Hastings, called Retribution. It is a companion book to his book on the European Theater. And I am almost finished with a book on the war in Prussia with the Soviets.

    They are all interesting for the “what if” quotient. In the case of Prussia the British at least were “keeping their powder dry” and Montgomery, through Churchill, ordered that the captured German arms were kept close to the German prisoners – having at least entertained the idea of fighting the Soviets to get them out of Western Europe.

    I am in the last past of the book – 1946 – with the forced resettlement of the Germans from Prussia – as one said, “600 years of history erased in a moment”.

    But then, also little known in the West is that the Soviets faced 2/3ds of the Wehrmacht. It was a constant fear both by Stalin and the West that the Germans would make a pact with the other.

    This of course got back to Stalin through Kim Philby.

    In the case of Japan a little remembered battle was the million man + Soviet Army in Manchuria fighting the shell of the Japanese Army there. 100,000 railroad cars transferred the Soviets from Europe to Manchuria. A portion that brought a laugh from me was learning all these Russians who recently fought the Germans telling the captured Japanese “Hande Hohe” – hands up!

    Besides Operation Downfall, The Bomb helped keep the Soviets out of Japan – imagine a Japan partitioned like Germany.

    And yes, millions of WW2 veterans were thankful they didn’t have to invade Japan on forgotten beach names like Packard and Chevrolet…

  7. Another forgotten issue, that is discussed in the book, Downfall, is the fact that the most experienced US soldiers had already been sent home because they had more “points” for combat. The army that would have been transferred to the Pacific would be the least experienced with a big gap in the noncom ranks because the most senior had been sent home or had been promised going home.

    It would have been an awful mess to get the European army to Japan.

  8. Just watched “Pacific”, an HBO mini-series on 6 DVDs. Based on books by Eugene Sledge (With the Old Breed), Robert Leicke (My Helmet Was My Pillow (?)), and Jim Tatum. It is a Steven Speilberg-Tom Hanks production of pretty good quality given that it was made for TV and is umpteen hours long covering a complex campaign from the perspective of the Marine fighting men.

    All three of the aforementioned authors served in the island-hopping campaign and are characters in the docu-drama. It was in the lower depths of hell.

  9. Orders of magnitude mean things.

    This is a partial list of major military item cancellations brought on by the surrender of Japan.

    The link was my starting point for the list:


    Aircraft Cancellations

    USAAF Fighters
    Lockheed P-38L “Lightning” – 3,267 canceled after V-J Day. (Includes 80 P-38M night fighters)
    Republic P-47N “Thunderbolt” – 5,934 canceled after V-J Day.
    North American P-51D “Mustang” – 1,000 canceled after V-J Day.
    North American P-51H “Mustang” – 1,449 canceled after V-J Day.
    North American P-51M “Mustang” – 1,628 canceled after V-J Day. Single plane built.
    North American P-51L “Mustang” – 1,700 canceled after V-J Day. Never Built.
    Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star — 2583 canceled after V-J Day.
    North American P-82B Twin Mustang – 480 Merlin powered P-82 canceled after V-J Day (250 airframes completed as Allison powered F-82).
    Northrop P-61 – 690 (551 P-61C/139 F-15) canceled after V-J Day

    USAAF Heavy Bombers

    Consolidated B-32 “Dominator” – 1,885 canceled after V-J Day in September/October 1945.
    Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” – 5,092 of multiple variants canceled after V-J Day.

    USAAF Medium/Light Bombers

    North American B-25 – 345 B-25J canceled after V-J Day with another 72 completed and delivered post WW2 on existing contracts.
    Douglas A-26 Invader — 750 A-26D and 2,150 A-26E canceled after V-J Day.

    Naval fighters

    Chance Vought Corsair F4U-4 – 3743 canceled after V-J Day
    Chance Vought Corsair F4U-5’s – (production slowed post-war) 568 built with 315 (55.5%) being radar equipped
    Goodyear built version of the Corsair F4U-1D — 755 canceled after V-J Day.
    Goodyear built F2G-1 Super Corsair – 403 canceled after V-J Day
    Goodyear Corsair F2G-1 – 418 canceled after 10 built
    General Motors FM-2 Wildcat — 746 canceled (when?)
    Grumman Hellcat F6F – 1677 canceled after V-J Day (1047 were F6F-5, night-fighter version with APS-6 radar)
    Grumman Tigercat F7F – 135 canceled after V-J Day (365 of 500 built by 1946)
    Grumman Bearcat F8F – 3134 canceled after V-J Day (1047 night fighters)
    Ryan TR-1 Fireball — 1234

    Naval Torpedo, Scout(dive)bomber, Attack

    Grumman TBM Avenger (Eastern TBM-4 version) – 4126 canceled after V-J Day.
    Curtiss SB2C Helldiver – 2765 (100 SB2C-4, 165 SBW-5 & 2500 SB2C-5) canceled after V-J Day.
    Douglas BTD2-1/AD-1 – 271 canceled after V-J Day.
    Martin AM-1 – 601 canceled after V-J Day.

    Naval Patrol Bombers & Sea Planes

    Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer — 630 canceled after V-J Day
    Consolidated/Convair Catalina PBN-1 Nomad – 124 additional airframes after V-J Day.
    Consolidated/Convair Catalina PB2B-2 – 18 additional airframes after V-J Day.
    Consolidated/Convair Catalina PBY-6A – 1675 additional airframes after V-J Day.
    Consolidated/Convair Catalina PBV-1A – 150 additional airframes after V-J Day.
    Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon patrol bomber – 873 canceled after V-J Day
    Martin PBM/P5M Mariner — 757 canceled after V-J Day


    Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly Helicopter —
    Sikorsky R-5 Helicopter —
    Sikorsky R-6 Helicopter — canceled after V-J Day 262 (plus 20) of 900 completed

    Cargo aircraft

    DOUGLAS DC-3/C-47 SKYTRAIN – 1674 canceled after V-J Day
    CURTISS C-46 COMMANDO – 1796 canceled after V-J Day
    Douglas C-54 Skymaster – 235 (C-54G troops carrier) canceled after V-J Day
    Fairchild C-82N Packet – 789 canceled after V-J Day
    Lockheed C-69 – 167 canceled after V-J Day
    Douglas C-74 Globemaster – 36 canceled after V-J Day (only 14 built)
    BOEING C-97 STRATOFREIGHTER – 9 canceled after V-J Day
    Consolidated RY-3 — USN Transport version of B-24N/PB4Y-2

    Cruiser Cancellations
    CL-94 Youngstown (Cleveland) – Canceled 12 August 1945.
    CL-108 Newark (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945 at 67.8% complete.
    CL-109 New Haven (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-110 Buffalo (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-111 Wilmington (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-116 Tallahasee (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-117 Cheyenne (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-118 Chattanooga (Fargo) – Canceled 12 August 1945

    CA-126 Cambridge (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-127 Bridgeport (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-128 Kansas City (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-129 Tulsa (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-137 Norfolk (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-138 Scranton (Baltimore) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-141 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 7 January 1946
    CA-142 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-143 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 12 August 1945

    CL-146 Vallejo (Worchester) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CL-147 Gary (Worchester) – Canceled 12 August 1945

    CA-149 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-149 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 12 August 1945
    CA-149 (Unnamed Salem) – Canceled 12 August 1945

    Battleship Cancellations

    BB-65 Illinois (Iowa) – Canceled 11 August 1945 when 22% complete

    Carrier Cancellations

    CV-35 Reprisal (Long Hull Essex) – Canceled 11 August 1945 at 52.3% complete.
    CV-46 Iwo Jima (Long Hull Essex) – Canceled 11 August 1945

    CVE-124 Bastogne (Commencement Bay) – Suspended and scrapped beginning 12 August 1945.
    CVE 125 Eniwetok (Commencement Bay) – Suspended and scrapped beginning 12 August 1945.
    CVE 126 Lingayen (Commencement Bay) – Suspended and scrapped beginning 12 August 1945.
    CVE 127 Okinawa (Commencement Bay) – Suspended and scrapped beginning 12 August 1945.

    CVE-128 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-129 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-130 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-131 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-132 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-133 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-134 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-135 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-136 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-137 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-138 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.
    CVE-139 (Unnamed ship and class; improved Commencement Bay) – Canceled 11 August 1945.

  10. The amount of crap we were going to throw at them boggles the mind.

    I have read that we were going to put nerve gas onto Japan, spraying it out of aircraft.

    Trent: Is there a record somewhere of the orders to manufacture that material, and further orders canceling it?

    Look at all the PBYs.

    We were expecting hundreds of planes to have to ditch in the sea.

  11. There are records all around the internet on the various aircraft.

    I have not made a search of the US national archives to back up what I have found thus far.

  12. Thanks, Trent. I was anonymous above.

    I am sure the aircraft and ship orders and cancellations are well documented.

    I have also seen lists of hospital supplies and hospital construction orders and cancellations, for the expected casualties, which were anticipated to be in the high hundred thousands, and that is just the ones serious enough to be sent all the way back to the USA.

    But I do not know about the allegedly anticipated chemical warfare onslaught we were going to put onto the Japanese.

    To supply that much nerve agent would have required a long lead time and specialized facilities to make it, handle it, store it, ship it, and deliver it onto the enemy, and onto the civil population.

    That would have been a huge cash outlay to make happen. If we were really going to do all that, there would be a large footprint somewhere in the records.

  13. I believe the US already had quite a large stock of chemical weapons by 1945; we explicitly had a lot to serve as a deterrent.

  14. I’m a semi regular reader of this blog, and it was quite a surprise to see my website (alternate wars) linked here!

    I have a personal link to the planned invasion, because my maternal grandfather graduated from a Washington DC area High School in the spring of 1945.

    That meant he was in the cohort that would have been called upon by the draft boards to provide replacements for casualties from DOWNFALL.

    He wouldn’t have waded ashore in the first waves in Fall ’45; but he would likely have been part of the replacements marching towards Tokyo in ’46.

    Trent; is it okay if I update my ‘cancellations’ page with the information you found?

    Lexington Green: There was some consideration given by the US/UK for ‘recycling’ German nerve gas bombs captured after the defeat of Germany for the invasion of Japan.

    I’ll dig through my notes to find the source that said this and post it later.

    That said, most of the chemical weapons dropped on Japan would have been the good old “traditional” WWI era chemicals such as Mustard gas; and we had several arsenals in WWII that did nothing but crank out gas bombs and shells.

    Huntsville Arsenal was one of those arsenals. It was active during WWII and Korea doing nothing but filling chemical weapons. They filled 45~ million shells at that single arsenal alone.

    Three days after the Japanese surrender, Huntsville Arsenal was ordered to shut down; and it quickly demilitarized.

    In 1949, Huntsville Arsenal was deactivicated formally and combined with several other entities to become Redstone Arsenal, home of the Army’s ballistic missile team, led by von Braun.

  15. Found the Source regarding using German Nerve Agents against Japan:

    “The Secret History of Chemical Warfare” by N.J. McCamley, published in the United Kingdom in 2006.

    The Western Allies captured about 71,000~ 250 kilogram (551 lb) aerial bombs that had been filled with Tabun in Germany. They also captured about 250,000~ tons of ‘other’ chemical weapons.

    The US/UK Governments discussed over what to do with it, and in a memorandum found in the UK government archives; both governments agreed on the statement:

    “Stocks of this material both in bulk and in charged weapons should be retained for possible use in the Far East.”

    When Japan surrendered; the UK Chiefs of Staff transferred the 71,000 aerial bombs to a sea-side airfield called RAF Llandwrog, and forgot about them for most of a decade; letting them sit and rust in the salt air before deciding to get rid of them by dumping them at sea in 1955-56 during Operation Sandcastle.

  16. Lex,

    The 630 PB4Y-2 Privateer was a navy version of the USAAF B-24 (J?) and the Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon was a twin engine take of of the Hudson. They were heavy and light bombers respectively, not SAR seaplanes

  17. >>Trent; is it okay if I update my ‘cancellations’ page with the information you found?

    Be my guest.

    I’ll also forward you my working draft file with the links I harvested the data from, if you send me an appropriate e-mail address.

  18. See this link:


    For the article titled:

    The CWS Effort to Obtain German Chemical
    Weapons for Retaliation Against Japan

    By Reid Kirby

    >Much snippage<

    LE-100, also known as Agent GA or Tabun, was one of the new Nerve Agents discovered with the fall of Germany. Some 23,000 tons of 250-kg bombs and 6,000 tons of 10.5-
    cm shells filled with LE-100 were discovered. CWS Chief MG William Porter requested 3,000 250-kg bomb and 5,000 10.5-cm shells filled with LE-100 be obtained with the highest priority so that the agent could be utilized for charging 4.2-inch chemical mortar shells for immediate testing.6 This required the bombs to be punched and drained at Edgewood Arsenal for filling U.S. weapons.

    Field evaluation of LE-100 in 4.2-inch mortar rounds at the Suffield Experimental Station, Canada, and in modified M70 (E46) bombs at the Army Chemical Center showed that U.S. chemical weapons were not entirely suitable for employing LE-100. Due to the low volatility of LE-100 and the small size of U.S. bursters, only 10% to 20% of the agent was liberated into an initial vapor/aerosol effect. Additionally, the U.S. seems to have disagreed with both German and British authorities on the potency of LE-100. Germany believed it to have a LCt50 of 300 – 400 mg·min/m3. The British estimated it to be about 100-mg more. The U.S. estimate was 800 mg·min/m3. LE-100 from U.S. weapons was thus considered to have little more than a harassing effect.7

    In July 1945 the Ordnance Department noted, without endorsement, that German 10.5-cm projectiles could be used in U.S. 105-mm howitzers so long as the rotating bands were turned down, or the howitzers had worn tubes. German 10.5-cm shells were 0.3-inches wider than U.S. 105-mm shells.8

    “Though the United States would not produce its own Nerve Agent weapons until the 1950’s, the effort to obtain German chemical weapons to augment the United States arsenal represents the first effort to adopt the Nerve Agents.

    Fortunately Operation DOWNFALL never materialized. Japan surrendered after two nuclear strikes and the U.S. was not compelled into chemical retaliation. The activities of the CWS through late Spring and early Summer 1945 showed its officers were capable of addressing emergency preparedness and finding unorthodox solutions.”

    About the Author: Mr. Kirby is a CBW technology history
    scholar and subject matter expert for the United States Army
    Chemical School Historical Office and Chemical Corps
    Museum, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

  19. What’s also left out is the buildup of land-based airpower that would have been thrown against Japan.

    The British would have gotten into the act with their TIGER FORCE; which would have consisted of ten squadrons of 220 aircraft, which would have been Avro Lancasters or Lincolns.

    TIGER FORCE would have been based on Okinawa; and there was a possibility of it growing to twenty squadrons of 440 aircraft.

    (The British planners felt 20 squadrons was the minimal force, while US planners felt the minimum was 10 squadrons.)

    J.C.S. 1120/1 BRITISH PARTICIPATION IN VLR BOMBING OF JAPAN (HTML)> or 4.5 MB PDF original of the same

    Good portions of the 8th Air Force would have been transferred to the PTO, as well.

    JCS 1455: Requirements for Land-Based and Carrier-Based Aircraft to Accomplish the Defeat of Japan or 15.7 MB PDF Original of JCS 1455

    They originally planned to transfer five B-17 Bomb Groups from the 8th Air Force to the PTO; before later increasing this to seven B-17 Groups. In raw terms, this would have been 500~ B-17s.

    However, they had second thoughts and chose to instead deactivate the B-17 groups, using the retrained B-17 crews to build up the 20th Air Force’s strength from 23 B-29 groups to 40 groups (!!).

  20. Another issue is the near total collapse of the Japanese rice harvest in 1945.

    Link to Graph based on Official Japanese Statistics 1939-49

    The numbers would have gotten worse as US airpower began to destroy Japanese transportation infrastructure in preparation for DOWNFALL.

    Also, large amounts of chemical defoliants would have been used against not only the invasion beaches and near them; but also against agricultural areas in an attempt to destroy good portions of the Japanese agricultural harvest in order to force a quicker collapse.

  21. Interesting posts about the last months of the war with Japan.

    In the book Retribution, Hastins made the assertion that because we made so many B29s – 4,000 of them even though our Navy had effectively blocked Japan’s supply lanes LeMay had to find a use for the B29s –

    Historical Revisionism?

    I don’t know.

    But I do know that it was designed to operate way about 20,000 feet – and they couldn’t understand why their bombs were so far off target – not knowing about the jetstream.

    That’s when LeMay decided on low altitude ~ 1,000 feet – firebombing.

    And by the time of Hiroshima most of Japan’s cities were already burned out – it was the shock of such devastation at once that helped them surrender – but even then – it took the intervention of Hirohito to break the deadlock.

    Another bit of “what if” trivia I came across recently – the USAAF had terrible loses of their B17s and 24s over Europe until the P51 – around 1944 – that could escort them all the way.

    The Navy had a wonderful fighter – the F4U Corsair – that was offered to the Army and they wouldn’t take it. This is a good year before the Mustang (which the British turned from an “OK” fighter to one of the best with the Merlin –

    Was it just old Army Navy politics that caused them to refuse it? Production problems with the potential huge added numbers?

    I don’t know.

    In the Pacific the British were nothing more than a token force; their forces exhausted by Hitler. One great sea battle mentioned by Hastings (forget which) but Nimitz turned away offers of British help because of the hassle of co-ordination vs what they could bring to the battle. I know the Battle of Leyte Gulf was one rarely mentioned but a massive battle.

    I have been just scrolling back and forth – so many interesting points made by you guys – I can’t imagine another 5,000 B-29s on order when 4,000 was overkill as it was.

    BTW an acquaintance of mine who was a B29 crewman immediate post war ((look up the Raven Project sometime) – said that LeMay was despised by the B29 crews.


    It was a 14 hour round trip flight from Saipan or Tinian and if you came back with what Lemay thought too much fuel – he would order more bombs and less fuel for your plane next mission.

    That is a large reason why so many ditched in the sea.

  22. Bill Brandt:

    It’s worth noting in any discussion about WW2 production numbers is that this was a much different time.

    Aircraft losses/downtime were seen as the “price” of doing business — 772 B-29s were lost during WWII according to the USAAF World War II Statistical Digest; and 260 of these losses were within the USA.

    That’s about 20% of all of the 3,763 B-29s the USAAF accepted from 1942 to August 1945.

    B-29 Monthly Acceptances; 1942-46

    Also, in keeping with accepting this loss rate; you had a large training establishment to supply new aircrew. This is why according to the AAF Statistical Digest, in August 1945, the available B-29 count in the USAAF was roughly:

    1,042 B-29s in the 20th Air Force.
    763 B-29s in the Continental USA in Training/Technical units.

    Also, LeMay was under intense pressure by Hap Arnold to justify the huge cost that had been sunk into the B-29 — it cost more than the Manhattan Project — so that the USAAF would be able to justify it’s existence as a separate service post-war.

    F4U Corsair Stuff

    The Army was primarily interested in high altitude fighters to escort their heavy bombers — the B-17/24s generally bombed from 25,000 to 28,000 feet.

    Barrett Tillman’s Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea explains quite well why the Army didn’t go with the Corsair:

    Below 10,000 feet the bent-wing Vought was superior to any Army fighter and held its own up to 15,000 or 20,000 feet. At higher altitudes where they were designed to perform, the Republic P-47 and North American P-51 held the advantage. Along the East Coast, Thunderbolt pilots tired of losing races and dogfights to Corsairs and sought other sport. Pulling alongside the F4Us, they would hold up their oxygen masks and point upwards. A smart Corsair pilot would shake his head and break off.

    The anemic high altitude performance of the Corsair wasn’t rectified until very late in the production run with the F4U-4 which became operational in 1945.

  23. The British Pacific Fleet was more than token — 17 carriers, for a start — and was used heavily from Okinawa onward. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Pacific_Fleet). What was true, as Ashley Jackson discusses in Britain and the Second World War, was that the Royal Navy had never operated large modern fleets in the deep Pacific and discovered they did not have the gear or the procedures the USN had evolved for operating over those distances. For example, they hadn’t ever practiced side-by-side underway fueling or replenishment, and realized that they literally could not keep up with the Yanks for long periods of time. This was probably what Nimitz had been considering, as well as issues like spare parts and ammunition supplies, for which separate logistics systems were needed. So they tended to operate relatively close to Japan and Taiwan, and used Sydney as their logistics base.

    The WWII experience was one reason why NATO has spent so much time and effort on weapons and parts compatibility.

  24. Ryan – Jim – good to know about the Corsairs and British in the Pacific. With the horrendous loses 8th and 15th AAF were taking I am glad the reasons for the rejection were more than just politics. Until the Mustang a crewman’s odds of not being killed or seriously injured before completely his required 25 missions was 66%, not very good odds!

    Interesting too if you want to read another great book (actually one of the best I have had recently) read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – a B24 flyer who crashed in the Pacific and was adrift for 57 days, then spent years in Japanese POW camps.

    In the Pacific flyers had to complete – if memory serves me – always suspect – 60 missions. Unlike Europe you would have have long uneventful multi hour missions only to meet the Japanese around some island.

    I read that each B29 cost an astounding (at the time) $600,000 – and yes its cost was comparable – or more – with the Manhattan Project – and they had to be justified. The point of Hastings in his book was that the massive firebombing was, by this point – largely unnecessary (but then don’t historians like to speculate?)

    if you want op visit one of those interesting places (if you like military history) visit the Wendover Airport near the NV-UT border.

    Today it is just a small underused airport where a lot of movies are made – like Independence day – but in WW2 all the heavy bomber crew – including the Enola Gay’s – were trained there.

    There is a great movie about that made in the early 50s with Robert Powell.

    Finally Jim brought up a good point about the Navy’s at sea refueling capability. That is what is supposed to distinguish it from the rest of the world and makes it so exemplary.

  25. >>I have been just scrolling back and forth – so many interesting points made by you guys
    >>– I can’t imagine another 5,000 B-29s on order when 4,000 was overkill as it was.

    Attrition. The entire force of B-29 bombers in service at August 1945 would be replaced by new ones, plus their would be additional B-29 bomber groups to be added plus the training establishment for all of the above.

  26. Jim Bennett, Lex, Micheal,

    Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen wrote and sold three versions of this POISONOUS INVASION PRELUDE article I am quoting for below, once in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, once in the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute and once in the Fall 1995 issue of the Journal of Military History.

    This is as far as I am going to push “fair use” in a blog comment:

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)

    August 4, 1995

    Edition: SOONER
    Section: WORLD
    Page: A-1


    While most known documents discussing U.S. use of poison gas in the war addressed tactical operations, the newly disclosed report of June 1945 raised the killing of enemy civilians to a level far beyond anything seen in World War II. No known military document from World War II recommends such wholesale killing of civilians.

    To reach the magnitude of 5 million deaths, historians must turn to the Holocaust, the killing of nearly 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany. By comparison, the German bomber blitz of London in 1940-1941 killed 40,503; Allied bombing killed about 45,000 in Hamburg, Germany, in July 1943 and 135,000 in Dresden in February 1945; and the firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945 killed more than 83,000.

    On Pacific major battlefields, the death tolls had been: Okinawa (1945) 12,000 Americans, 100,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians; Iwo Jima (1945) 7,000 Americans, 23,000 Japanese soldiers; and Saipan (1944) 16,500 Americans, 51,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians.

    Three officers of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Warfare Service wrote the study and on June 9, 1945, submitted it to the chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, Maj. Gen. William N. Porter, who approved their plan.

    On June 14, other documents show, Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King received a secret report on poison gas from Marshall. These two men were the principal advisers of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his successor, Harry S. Truman, who had become president on April 12, 1945.

    Truman had announced a sweeping endorsement of Roosevelt’s war policies — including a demand for the unconditional surrender of Japan. But he had not publicly spoken on the subject of use of poison gas.

    But in June 1945 — with Marshall and King considering use of poison gas — Truman met with his principal military and civilian advisers in the White House to discuss the future of the war. The principal topic of the June 18 meeting was Operation Downfall, the overall plan for the invasion of Japan.

    The minutes of that meeting refer to other, undisclosed topics that were discussed behind closed doors in the White House. It is now known that the atomic bomb was discussed.

    It appears that the gas attack proposal had reached the highest level of government. On June 21, orders went out to step up production of several types of poison gas to bring stockpiles up to the massive amounts urged in the study.

    The largest poison-gas raid would be on Tokyo because an “attack of this size against an urban city of large population should be used to initiate gas warfare.”

    The planners targeted 17.5 square miles (45.5 square kilometers) directly north of the Imperial Palace and west of the Sumida River. In that area were 948,000 people. Within two miles of the target area were another 776,000 more people; they would probably be in the path of wind-carried gas.

    The plan was to launch the gas attack on Tokyo at 8 in the morning, when the greatest number of people would be concentrated in the city.

    Bombers would drop either 21,680 gas bombs weighing 500 pounds or 5,420 bombs weighing 1,000 pounds, depending upon the availability bombs. All of the bombs would be filled with a gas known as phosgene.


  27. Phosgene! Wow. Hirohito himself authorized the use of phosgene gas on the Chinese in the thirties. Wouldn’t that have been sadly ironic if it would have come home to roost.

  28. The planners targeted 17.5 square miles (45.5 square kilometers) directly north of the Imperial Palace and west of the Sumida River. In that area were 948,000 people.

    Reading these comments, and other documents, about Operation Downfall .. one thing seems clear.

    Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved millions on millions of Japanese. I doubt we could or would have exterminated the Japanese as a race as Halsey promised.

    But it might have been a near thing.

  29. Brian D,

    That was only one of the plans to Gas the Japanese during Olympic.

    There were others.

    The Chief Chemical officer Pacific Ocean Areas had a offensive gas attack plan put together for him by the Office of Field Services that included field tests of lethal gas on Japanese positions in the Item Pocket on Okinawa.

    Similar OFS tests were about to happen on Japanese positions dug into Corregidor, in Manila bay, when the A-bomb was used on Japan

  30. >In the book Retribution, Hastings made the assertion that because we made so many B29s –
    >4,000 of them even though our Navy had effectively blocked Japan’s supply lanes LeMay
    >had to find a use for the B29s –

    The most effective blocking of Japan’s supply lines was by B-29 delivered sea mines.

    The evolution of low level fire bombing was from many sources, not just LeMay.

    Check this link:


    and this catalog cite:


    Fire and the air war;
    Corporate Author: National Fire Protection Association.
    Other Authors: Bond, Horatio.
    Language(s): English
    Published: Boston, Mass., National fire protection association, international [1946]
    Subjects: Fire prevention
    Atomic bomb
    Projectiles, Incendiary.
    Physical Description: xii, 262 p. illus. (incl. maps) diagrs. 24 cm.
    Original Format: Book
    Original Classification Number: TH 9115 .N28
    Locate a Print Version: Find in a library

    The following Chemical Warfare Service texts on-line are also very useful:

    The Chemical Warfare Service in World War II, a report of accomplishments

    The Chemical Warfare Service : chemicals in combat (2002)

    The Chemical Warfare Service; from laboratory to field

    The Chemical Warfare Service : organizing for war (2004)

  31. Oh, we would also have bombarded Japan with dozens, possibly hundreds of V-1 Buzz Bombs a day.

    Production of 12,000 JB-2 Loons had begun, and we canceled 10,600 of them after V-J day.

    Primary method of launch would have been modified ships off the coast of Japan.

  32. According to Wikipedia, we were going to manufacture 75,000 JB-2 Loons, and presumably shoot all of them at Japan.

    I had never heard of the JB-2 Loon until 5 minutes ago. You learn something new all the time around here.

  33. Last year, I spent a few days reading through the General Correspondence of the Manhattan Engineer District at the National Archives II.

    I found quite a lot of red tabbed “we think this is fun and important so we’re reclassifying it – sucks to be you” papers dated from 2005 throughout the files. There are some yellow tabbed reclassification notices from 1994; but they’re outnumbered by the 2005 stuff.

    There were some who agitated to place Toyko back onto the list of approved targets:

    GEN Farrell recommends adding Tokyo Back on 10 August

    The plan if the Japanese hadn’t folded was to assemble and drop Fat Man Units F101, F102, and F103 as dummy test devices with plaster blocks and/or low-quality HE castings to prove out the assembly procedures and the latest batches of electronic components.

    In case you’re wondering where the designation F101 etc came from…it was their designation for shipping purposes.

    It was decided on Tinian to continue to refer to the bomb units by their shipping numbers; which were Lx if it was Little Boy, or Fx if it was Fat Man.

    In case you’re interested, L11 was Little Boy and F31 was Fat Man.

    Fat Man Unit F32 apparently was slated to receive an active sphere (read, plutonium).

    It would have had the Plutonium shipped over from New Mexico on 12-13 August; and it would have been available from 17-18 August; though Groves hedged and said “first good weather after 24 August” in the memo below:

    ‘Next Bomb of Implosion Type’ letter from Groves

    Telephone Conversation between GEN Hull and COL Seaman on 13 August 1945

    In the Telcon linked above; Seaman says that the third bomb can be dropped on August 19th.

    He also says that the fourth bomb will arrive in the first half of September, with a possibility of a fifth bomb in the latter half.

    By October 1945, the production line would have been tooled up to produce a FAT MAN device every ten days, or three bombs a month.

    General Hull also said what we were thinking of regarding tactical atomic bomb use for DOWNFALL:

    We might do it a couple or three days before [the invasion]. You plan to land on a certain beach. Behind which you know there is a good road communication and maybe a division or two of Japanese troops. Neutralization of that at some time from H Hour of the landing back earlier, maybe a day or two or three. I don’t anticipate that you would be dropping it as we do other type bombs that are in support of the infantry. I am thinking about neutralizing a division or a communication center or something so that it would facilitate the movement ashore of troops.

  34. Lex,

    There were all sorts of things you have never heard of set for use in invading Japan.

    One of the mind blowing for me was the USAAF and the Chemical Warfare service making standard a field expedient of turning 55-gal drums into finned 500lb Napalm bombs for drop from B-29’s.

    The 20th Air Force wanted to have a back up to drop more fire bombs if/when the supply of standard CWS incendiary clusters ran out on them again.

    This effort was part of a wider program by the CWS to adapt fighter fuel tanks as napalm bombs for USAAF Heavy and Medium bombers.

    What the CWS was doing at it’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah it wasn’t making widely known to the USAAF was that it was also adapting those same Napalm tanks to deliver phosgene,Mustard and other lethal chemical agents.

    Reading between the lines, I can easily see the 20th Air force losing it’s CWS incendiary clusters to lethal gas again by the field expedient means of washing out Napalm of the clusters into 55-gal drums with gasoline, remixing the result aggregate to “bomb grade” gel for “substitute standard” Napalm bombs.

  35. The whimpering about the atomic bombing is laughable the more of this stuff you read.

    The Japanese were on the verge of being physically exterminated by conventional means.

    Thank God for the Atom bomb. Sincerely.

  36. Lex,

    My readings of the relevant documents have lead me to believe one of the larger and unspoken reasons that MacArthur didn’t take Australian troops in his drive from New Guinea to the Philippines was that the British designed anti-mustard gas over wear the Australian Army had induced toxic shock in its wearers in a tropical environment.

    By the time extra American mustard over wear suits were arriving in the numbers necessary to reequip the Australians in late 1944, the 6th Army was about to leap to the Philippines.

    There was not the coastal shipping or air transport in the south west pacific area necessary to get the suits to the Australians and get the Australians to the staging areas for the accelerated leap to Leyte.

  37. This wouldn’t be the first time that anti-gas considerations impacted military utility in WWII.

    I read someplace (can’t give you a source unfortunately), that a lot of heatstroke/sunstroke casualties on and immediately after D-Day were due to the special anti-mustard gas cream we made a lot of the invading troops slather on themselves.

    Unfortunately, this cream essentially made it almost impossible to sweat…and well…you can figure it out from there.

  38. Ryan,

    That dovetails very closely to a 1943 Sussex, Canada test station report I read about operating in a mustard gas contaminated bridgehead.

    The Canadians slathered up volunteer engineers with anti-mustard gas cream on their hands, masks and anti-mustard cloths and had them put together a bailey bridge with live agent contaminating the area.

    The general conclusion is that all of the above worked and that a bridgehead could be established in a chemical environment.

    We were prepared to be hit with chemicals at Normandy.

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