History Friday: Analyzing The Okinawa Kamikaze Strikes & Japanese/US Planning For Operation Olympic

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.

Satellite Photos of Southern California Grass Fire Smoke Plumes
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.

When I checked my copy of VICTORY IN THE PACIFIC 1945 by Samuel Eliot Morison for details, I found his table of TEN-GO attackers listed only 1465 planes as making suicide attacks (and 1,900 other Japanese aircraft sorties identified by US Navy radar plots).

Using that comparison, only 35.8% of the planned attack force actually reached the American fleet and made attacks.

However, I have read elsewhere that only half the aerial Kamikazes launched from Kyushu actually found targets and those that did not returned to base to try again.

So American military countermeasures against Kyushu airfields stopped 1155 of the planned 4,085 TEN-GO suicide aircraft sorties before they were launched, leaving 2930 (approximate) to make suicide attacks.

Of those 2930, there were 1465 that were successfully engaged by American defenses or attacked ships, leaving a further 1465 to return to base.

The problem with that thought is that no two sources seem to agree on the total number of Japanese sorties launched. Other authoritative sources I looked showed the following:

o US Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) gives around 1,900 Kamikaze sorties & 3,000 conventional sorties

o Takushiro Hattori’s “Dai Toa Senso Zenshi” (The Complete History of the Great East Asia War, 1953) lists 2,571 kamikaze sorties between 3 March – 16 August.

o Richard B. Frank’s “Downfall” gives 1 unnamed source as 2,940 Kamikaze missions and another as giving 3,106 kamikaze missions flown from between October 1944 – August, 1945. The unnamed source 1 listed 1,162 missions & 1,264 missions, respectively, flown during April, 1945.

Okinawa Kamikaze Campaign Analysis —
Richard B. Frank’s “3,106 kamikaze missions flown” during that period would include the Philippines suicide missions as well as Okinawa. And half of between 2,571 Kamikaze (via Takushiro Hattori) and 2,940 Kamikaze missions (via Richard B. Frank) finding and engaging American naval ships or air defenses at Okinawa is roughly the 1465 Samuel Elliot Morison mentions in VICTORY IN THE PACIFIC 1945.

The numbers seem to agree within 10-15%. Given the destruction of Japanese records by American fire bombing and the mass record purge between the August cease fire and the formal surrender and occupation that looks good enough.

Since THE ULTIMATE BATTLE, OKINAWA 1945 says only 570 operational aircraft of all types were left in Kyushu when the last TEN-GO strikes ended. This suggests that of the 1465 Kamikaze missions that did not find a target at Okinawa, that 895 of them —

1) The returned flights were suffering rather high operational attrition, or
2) They were destroyed on the ground after landing and before being
hidden again,
3) They ran to Honshu or Korea (unlikely based on Ultra reports of the time),
4) Some combination of #’s 1, 2 or 3.

The reason I mention this is we are looking at a 895 out of 2930 of 30.6% Kamikaze rate of loss for just taking off!

A lot of authors keep harping on the fact that shorter flight times and an invasion fleet off the coast mean that this rate will be far lower. The problem with that thought are several fold.

First, the mass use of smoke over landing beaches by the American fleet means that a lot of navigation land marks are going to be eliminated for untrained pilots. Even trained pilots in WW2 had a hard time telling ship size over 5,000 feet, unless they were long flight time patrol bomber pilots and/or trained observers, and even those guys made mistakes as Midway makes clear. Low flight time Kamikaze pilots are going to go for the first clear target they find, as opposed to transports.

Second, the American air forces plans for a large scale use of defoliant plus napalm was going to result in huge forest/grass fire smoke plumes that were going to blanket Kyushu making navigation even with radio and radar direction hard to accomplish.

See these Southern California and Central American satellite fire smoke plume photos —

The photos at this link

The photos at this link

And the video at this link:

Pole Creek Fire Sunset Smoke Plume Sept. 18th 2012 NFS FAIL

Third, the Japanese did not intend to provide the Kyushu Kamikazes much fuel for loitering. That had a number of very vexing implications for those low flight time pilots in terms of target choice, given poor weather and confusing air combat disorienting them and making them lose their escorts, in addition to smoke. Effectively by the second or third day of the battle, I expect that the 30% operational losses for the Okinawa Kamikaze pilots who missed a target will be on the low side for Kyushu.

Fourth, the Japanese low flight hour Kamikaze pilots were going to have a “target fixation problem.” Richard O’Neill’s book “Suicide Squads: Axis and Allied Special Attack Weapons of World War II: their Development and their Missions” estimated that 300+ Kamikaze attacks (or more than 15% of all attacks at Okinawa) were made during April 1945 alone at Okinawa radar Picket Station No. 1. ‘Suicide Squads’ includes a description in the book of how USS Bush met her end — a group of 40(!) aircraft began to circle overhead, with groups of 1, 2, or 3 peeling off for individual attack runs on Bush; and even after it became obvious that Bush was severely damaged, the Kamikazes continued to concentrate on her.

The scary number for the Americans in the Invasion of Japan was the 5% of 10,000 Kamikaze pilots who would be instructors. Those guys would get though unless killed and would know enough to pick transports and not picket ships or gunboats. Thankfully, had the A-bomb failed to cancel the invasion, many of those instructors would have been in wooden biplanes with limited lethality.

Where Ketsu-Go Six Becomes Fantasy –
The last and biggest problem for the Japanese Ketsu-Go Six plan would have been the huge issue of command coordination. There were three big and interrelated reasons that the Japanese Ketsu-Go Six Kamikaze coordination plans were going to fall apart like their aerial plans for the “Decisive Battles” from Midway to the Marianas, through to Leyte. They consisted of the following:

1) Communications,
2) Maintenance, and
3) Flawed operational planning amounting to wishful thinking.

First, the Japanese had problems with both their land line and radio communications for Ketsu-Go Six arising from the lessons the USAAF learned in it’s European transportation bombing campaigns in Italy, the Normandy campaign and by tactical air forces over 1945 Germany. The Japanese railways in Kyushu (and elsewhere in Japan) co-located the telephone and telegraph lines on the railway right-of-ways similar to those of Europe. Most of that right-of-way they were buried and effectively immune to air power. However, that changed at the bridges. This was where these land lines were vulnerable to being cut when a major bridge went down, or a major tunnel was closed by bombing or bombing induced land slides.

As a part of the transportation campaign, the General Kenney’s Far Eastern Air Forces was going to systematically attack the Kyushu railway bridges and tunnels with Azon/Razon bombs radio guided bombs by B-24 and B-32 heavy bombers, via low level skip-bombing by A-20/B-25/A-26 medium and via dive bombing by USMC Helldivers of Marine Air Wing One and Two. This was going to utterly dislocate Japanese land line telephone and telegraph communications. At best, the Japanese were going to have several isolated telephone networks with “patches” consisting of the following;

a. Short distance tactical telephone wired across river gaps through
bridge debris with human operator repeating nodes,
b. Short range directional radio similar to ‘a’ above (more on that later),
c. Motorcycle couriers,
d. Pony express, and
e. Just plain human runners between land line networks.

This would push the Japanese heavily into using radio communications from the planned — and secure — land lines in the weeks before the Ketsu-Go Six operation, revealing many locations that hosted suicide unit base areas to intensive US photo reconnaissance targeting efforts. In fact, the historic October 1945 hurricane that wrecked a portion of the American invasion fleet at Okinawa also struck Kyushu. It would have destroyed many of the “patches” and showed to Ultra a much more detailed footprint of Japanese suicide and land defenses, and how those units communicated under pressure.

Hold that thought.

This takes us to our next Japanese communications issues – American radio jamming. Both the US Navy and the US Army had developed jamming capabilities and doctrine for using it called “Radio Counter Measures” or “RCM”.

The US Navy doctrine was built around fleet actions during the Central Pacific Campaign and the twin shocks of the German Fritz-X/HS-293 radio guided bombs in 1943 and surprise Japanese deployment of low frequency aerial radar for night torpedo bombers in Oct 1944 off Formosa, which the US Navy’s capital ship TDY radio jammers for the Fritz-X/HS-293 threat could not defeat.

USN RCM doctrine — first fully implemented at Iwo Jima in February 1945 — called for the isolation of the landing target via destruction of radio transmitters at the target and the jamming of both Japanese and American radio frequencies during the assault. The Japanese radar and radio frequencies would be jammed at the target by ships – usually LCI(R) gunboats — and TBM single engine torpedo bombers outfitted to deal with Japanese amplitude modulated (AM) band tactical radios.

The Navy’s 4-engine patrol bombers would fly race track pattern directional jamming between the landing target and known by Ultra code breaking and direction finding Japanese radio receivers during a short period prior to and after the assault, to deny the Japanese intelligence of our amphibious traffic.

Meanwhile, a radio/radar feint with a naval bombardment deception unit would happen elsewhere during this period with simulated amphibious traffic, jamming and low level barrage balloons with radar corner reflectors to draw Japanese attention. This happened at Chichi Jima during the Iwo Jima campaign using elements of Pacific “Beach Jumper” deception units.

Japanese aerial radio was left alone to allow naval radio direction finders to vector CAP fighters onto incoming Japanese aircraft formations.

Japanese aerial radar was jammed whenever possible and F6F(N)5 Hellcat night fighters were being fitted with radio frequency direction finding (RF/DF) gear hunt those radar planes at war’s end.

The intent of this USN doctrine was not to completely fool the Japanese, but to delay their effective reaction long enough for the landing force to get the initial beach head secured.

American Army and in particular USAAF strategic bombing Air Forces developed a jamming capability aimed at German ground control intercept (GCI) radar/fighter communications and gun laying/search light radars. Early on — before long range escort fighters – The USAAF was very interested in using British night fighter channel jamming capabilities to spoof/deny German day fighters “good radar dope” to vector onto American bomber streams.

Later, as they realized that ground observers with telephones in France could warn Germany of incoming bombing streams and that the answer to defending fighters was long-range escort fighters. They redirected interest from GCI link jamming to stopping German radar directed flak via active jammers on bombers and window/rope drops. Fighter GCI link jamming was replaced by using radio direction finding to vector American escorts on assembling German fighter formations for similar reasons to the USN in the Pacific.

This is the RCM template that the 20th Air Force brought with it to the Marianas in Oct 1944 and only got to partially implement prior to war’s end. And what the experienced European Theater RCM officers of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces were bringing Olympic/Majestic.

Please note that both American Naval & USAAF fighters had very high frequency (VHF) band frequency modulated (FM) voice radios while Japanese aircraft used medium and low frequency AM radios. American jammers could use AM band jamming wave forms on the VHF frequencies leaving the FM radios still usable, if shorter ranged.

The USAAF deployed a whole family of jammers aimed at German AM band tank radios that left American FM tank radios unaffected. These jammers were used during American counterattacks in the Battle of the Bulge.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Signal Corps units had taken the information of Japanese aerial radars to heart and developed a family of ground based jammers to blanket port and anchorage areas filled with amphibious shipping with electronic jamming “smoke” to go with the real smoke from both the CWS’s and USN’s smoke generators.

The Japanese planned an Air-Surface-Subsurface suicide combined arms defense of Kyushu built around radio-radar coordination. A coordination they would not have in the face of a RCM buzz saw that was lined up for Kyushu.

In terms of maintenance, the Japanese were executing a “hide and strike” plan that put many if not most engines, explosives and radios for their suicide units in underground, dark, wet environments with hydrocarbon fuels heavily blended with alcohol.

This was asking for a great deal of trouble as aircraft have to be run continually or they develop faults that can only be cured by a lot of skilled maintenance and test flights.

Japanese suicide aircraft were in many cases reconditioned obsolete models with “doubtful” stocks spares parts. By which I mean they would be old, ill-stored and built with poor tolerances that required mechanics to machine them to proper fit prior to use. The upshot was that the part machined to fit on one aircraft often could not be salvaged and made to fit on another.

This problem was endemic in the Japanese aircraft industry of the time and was the biggest reason for the superb Japanese air power performance in the first few months of the Pacific War, when operating from at-start bases & ships filled with stocks of machined parts with skilled mechanics. Which then fell apart in the Solomons & New Guinea campaigns after those stocks were used up, newer aircraft models were introduced without the years of pre-war tweaking to build up the mechanic knowledge base to maintain them, and the large numbers of the pre-war skilled mechanics were stranded on by-passed islands.

Asking ill-trained mechanics to operate equipment not conditioned for long term exposure to damp environments in a low light cramped environment is not conducive to high levels of operational readiness.

This leaves aside the problems of support equipment like generators and radios, which the US Naval and USAAF technical intelligence investigators found were inoperative when they looked inside many of these Japanese cave facilities in October-November 1945.

Finally, this takes us to the Operational planning style of the Japanese that retreated increasingly into fantasy as the war progressed.

The Imperial Japanese Military liked big, complicated operational plans with lots of moving parts, where everybody got a piece of the action. This worked with the consensus style of Japanese leadership in that it let the various military factions participate with the least amount of political friction. When there was a lot of time to plan and collect intelligence. There were highly trained forces that had long lead times to execute rehearsals of the plan, and most importantly an unprepared foe. This style worked. It was the “Short Victorious War” planning style.

When the Imperial Japanese faced a prepared foe with anything approaching equal capabilities, they got locked in a war of attrition. Then, when they went for the “Big Plan” decisive battles, they got their heads handed to them as the command consensus could not adapt to the changing realities fast enough and started to believe in fantasy in order to cope.

Retreat into fantasy is the best way to describe Ketsu-Go Six’s operational assumptions.

At Kyushu, the Imperial Japanese would be facing a prepared American foe with superior capabilities that was reading their communications in real time and had a template of the Imperial Japanese fighting style to apply it’s overwhelming force upon.

True, the Japanese had successfully hidden a huge number of Kamikaze in Kyushu, Shokaku, Western Honshu, Korea and Formosa.

True they had hidden the fuel for them.

What was not true, and assumed to be so, was that the Japanese would have the ability to coordinate large numbers of them, with disparate flying characteristics, over a wide area to achieve large, hourly, time-on-target pulses of 300 Kamikaze at a time off individual landing beaches. Which -is- what the plan assumed.

One of the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) Far Eastern Air Technical Intelligence reports I read spoke of a cave hanger with 13 ‘modern fighters’ investigated in Oct-Nov 1945. It went into detail about how well hidden the hanger was to include a description of the light rails with hand mine cars filled with vegetation constructed in front of the hanger entrance to hide it from the air.

Then the report spoke to the practical reality of this cave as a working hanger.

o There was one string of electrical lights run by generator, for which there was limited fuel. Most work was done by torch or candle light.
o The cave floor was mud save for a wooden walk way.
o There were no vehicles to move the airplanes, only draft animals and people.
o There was no room to stage operational aircraft at the back of the cave past inoperative aircraft closer to the cave mouth.

So come the day, if the facility was to get out seven aircraft, and the seventh operational plane was number 13 at the back of the cave. The entire cave had to be cleared of planes to get that plane airborne…by hand. And all the planes had to be placed back in the cave — or pulled away some distance from it and camouflaged – before day light or roving American fighter-bombers would pounce and napalm and fragmentation bomb the whole area, then seed it with tamper fuzed M-83 butterfly-bombs. The modern term of art for the tamper fuzed M-83 is air delivered scatterable mine. This points out the most effective way the American military planned to beat the Japanese Kamikaze. The way to stop a human Kamikaze was to use a non-human, cheap and easily manufactured Kamikaze of its own…a land mine.

This facility would have been expected to handle further aircraft staged from elsewhere after the original planes were gone while American intelligence would be busy correlating pilot reports, radar plots and signals intelligence to steer day and night air patrols and photo intelligence flights looking for it.

A single plane crashing on take-off or landing would be a smoking beacon drawing American fighter-bombers and medium bombers for miles around to come look.

Now multiply that example 100 times and you see after the first couple of days the Kyushu suicide campaign would have been a continual and irregular stream of planes over several weeks and not a 10-day orgy of coordinated Kamikaze strike pulses Ketsu-Go 6 assumed.

Sometime during this period– between 3 and 7 days after the Japanese Kamikaze plan kicks off is my guess — the American military would start orbiting B-29 and US Navy patrol bomber jamming platforms over Kyushu to blot out Japanese radio communications to stop coordinated aerial Kamikaze strikes. However the fighter pilots complained, because it would reduce ship loss/damage rates by keeping the Kamikaze numbers low at any one time. Thus preventing the Naval/USMC/USAAF CAP from becoming overwhelmed and letting the Naval ships outside the smoke screens concentrate automatic weapons fire on a few leakers at a time rather than coordinated waves that covered Okha/Baka suicide rocket-bomb launches.

The American military would have taken a lot of losses from the close-in bombardment gun boats manning the smoke line for the transports on all the various beaches. I think something on the order of Picket Station No. 1. multiplied by at least four in the first 3-to-7 days, and the instructor pilots would get hits on the transports, closest CVEs and the old BBs no matter what we did.

In the end, however, the Japanese Ketsu-Go Six Kamikaze plan would have been a failure, like every other decisive battle plan they had after Dec. 7th 1941.

Notes and Sources:

1. Richard B. Frank’s “Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.” Penguin Books, New York, ©1999 ISBN: 9780141001463

2. Japanese Monograph No. 85 – Preparations for Operations in Defense of Tbe Homeland, July 1944 – July 1945, copy obtained on line at Hyperwar WW2 archive.

3. Kuehl, Daniel T., Lt Col, “The Radar Eye Blinded: The USAF and Electronic Warfare, 1945-1955” AFIT/CI, Wright-Patterson AFB OR 45433-6583, 1992, AD-A265 494 pages 31 – 41 (48 thru 58 of the 295 page Dissertation)

4. Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States naval operations in World War II, v. 14., Victory in the Pacific : 1945, Little, Brown, Boston, 1960. OCLC Number: 7649498

5. O’Neill, Richard, “Suicide Squads: Axis and Allied Special Attack Weapons of World War II: their Development and their Missions” St. Martin’s Press, New York ©1981.

6. Price, Alfred , The History of US Electronic Warfare. Volume 1- “The Years of Innovation-Beginnings to 1946”, The Association of Old Crows; ©January 1, 1984, ASIN: B000H48XLW

7. Project Sphinx, 14th Supplimental and Final Report — Defoliation and Burning. A Joint Report by special Projects Division, Chemical Warfare Service, Camp Detrick Maryland, and Armored Medical Research Laboritory, Fort Knox, Kentucky. 15 September 1945

8. Sloan, Bill, “THE ULTIMATE BATTLE, OKINAWA 1945 — The Last Epic Struggle of World War II,” Simon & Schuster, New York, ©2007 ISBN: 9780743292467


10. Streetly, Martin. Confound & Destroy. London: Macdonald and Jane’s (Publishing) Company Ltd., ©1978. ISBN 0-354-01180-4.

11. Summary TECHNICAL REPORT OF DIVISION 15, NDRC, VOLUME 1, RADIO COUNTERMEASURES, 1946, Ch 14 & 15, Office of Scientific Research and Developement, Wash DC

12. Takushiro Hattori, “Dai Toa Senso Zenshi” (The Complete History of the Great East Asia War), Tōkyō : Hara Shōbo, ©1965 ISBN: 9784562001279

13. United States Strategic Bombing Survey, “Japanese Air Power,” Military Analysis Division, July 1946, See pages 21 – 25

Internet links Consulted–

14. Smoke background

a. The photos at this link

b. The photos at this link

c. And the video at this link:

Pole Creek Fire Sunset Smoke Plume Sept. 18th 2012 NFS FAIL

15. B-29 Jammer planes over Japan


“Radar jamming missions[edit]Early in the war, it was identified that although the Japanese had sophisticated radar, it was not used effectively. The job of the 330th BG Radar Countermeasures Section (RCM) was to ensure that this was the case. The dramatic fall in 330th BG losses to zero in July and August 1945 was due, no doubt, to luck, but also to the work of this section. The RCM participated in all BG missions from 4 May 1945 till 15 August 1945. They searched for Japanese radar, spot jammed individual Japanese radar units and barrage jammed target areas with specially equipped B-29s called “Porcupines”. Locating Japanese radar required specialized electronic equipment which was installed in these aircraft. The equipment included; a) a tuner-analyzer to measure the radar frequencies and strength and presumably the pulse width and pulse repetition frequency and b) four to five transmitters producing static noise, in effect drowning out Japanese radar signals.
They could determine whether the signals were emitted by gun laying radar or radar-directed searchlights or air-to-air radar carried by Japanese fighters. The radar countermeasures observer also noticed the coincidence of enemy signals with enemy action and the weather. What was not observed was just as important. The Japanese night fighters had no airborne radar. In a few cases, they were observed to have air-to-surface vessel (ASV) type radar. The Japanese radar operated on 75 and 200 megahertz bands but no 540-megahertz band radar was observed. The latter was the frequency of German Wurzburg radar which produced devastating results for the 8th Air Force in the European theater.
On BG missions from 4 to 25 May 1945, radar signal analyzers were carried, but no radar jamming was permitted. Only “chaff” was used during this period. Due to the concentration of gun-laying radar around Tokyo, jamming was requested but it was denied. The 20th Air Force lost the largest number of B-29s over Tokyo on 25–26 May 1945. On all subsequent missions, either spot jamming or barrage jamming of enemy radar signals was done. The “chaff” consisted of spools of foil packaged in breakout containers and each spool gave the impression on enemy radar of a B-29. B-29 gunners stated that searchlight beams sometimes followed the chaff as it floated down. A variation on the foils were packets of “straws” -straw shaped strips coated with aluminium- packed 20 to a packet and dropped by the Navigator; these gave the impression on enemy radar of 20 B-29s.
Further reports stated that the foils falling across bare electric power and communication lines shorted them out, further complicating Japanese existence.”

20 thoughts on “History Friday: Analyzing The Okinawa Kamikaze Strikes & Japanese/US Planning For Operation Olympic”

  1. This is another fantastic post and I was completely unaware of our jamming efforts on this scale. One minor tweak is to fix the spelling of “history” in the title of this post.

  2. Excellent work. What always struck me as simply amazing was that the Japanese were so confident in their complex plans. They seemed to just believe that they were going to work every time.

  3. One item that comes out for me in these posts is that the Japanese were innovating and changing tactics as the war progressed. In Okinawa they gave up on the beaches and fought from better ground and they were very effective in their anti tank efforts (I always had little luck with 37mm guns when I played war games but apparently there is a lot more to it as Trent points out). The Kamikazees themselves were a major innovation.

    They were a fearsome adversary even until the end and with all of their flaws, many of them were outweighed by their willingness to fight to the death.

  4. The prominent subtheme running thru these posts shows up again in this one. American technological advances and tactics taking advantage of them would have made an invasion far more effectively destructive than the Japanese had yet experienced. But the Japanese had made and were continuing to agree to a group choice to continue the fight. That meant their loss would have cost a far greater percentage of Japanese lives than even informed histories suggest.

  5. Very interesting analysis, as always.

    Something I came across today, reading Leary’s “We Shall Return,” collection of essays on MacArthur’s top commanders, to add to the file of “service politics possibly prolonging the war effort.”

    As with the drop tank issue in Europe, this one falls on the Air Corps and their fixation on strategic bombing as the prime justification for an independent Air Force. In the essay on George Kenney, the author mentions that at some point, prior to the first B-29s being sent to China or the Marianas, Kenney tried to get Gen. Arnold to send him some B-29s, which he would base in NW Australia and use to bomb Japanese oil production on refinery facilities in the Dutch East Indies. This would have been the first actual strategic bombing campaign carried out by the Fifth AF/Far East Air Forces. However, Arnold wanted to concentrate all the B-29s for use against the Japanese homeland; and, perhaps more importantly, he didn’t want them placed where they would be controlled by the (Army) theater commander, vice being an independent bomber arm.

    Given the success of the 8th AF’s bombing campaign against Germany’s oil facilities, one has to wonder how much a similar campaign directed against Japanese oil facilities in the East Indies, perhaps including a mining campaign against the oil ports, would have hamstrung the Japanese war effort.

    It would not have been an easy effort – Balikpapan lies well beyond the range of even drop-tank equipped P-38s operating from Australia, perhaps requiring a diversion of effort from the New Guinea campaign to establish fighter bases on islands closer to the targets (which MacArthur probably wouldn’t have sanctioned). But I think it might have been worth the effort. (And, in any case, the B-29s flying out of the Marianas didn’t have fighter escorts until after the capture of Iwo Jima.)

    Something for a future post, perhaps?

  6. Either Richard Frank or his editor needs a swift slap for naming his book “Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.” I mean, what else would imperial Japanese chaps be doing except building an empire?

  7. Last night I happened to watch the end of the war in Europe episode of “WW-II in Color”; and a comment there about British forces still in the Pacific got me thinking. At that time the British Pacific Fleet was operating with our fleet. And while the Olympic landings were to be an all-American invasion, there was planning for a Commonwealth Brigade for Coronet.

    The BPF was a not inconsiderable force: 4-BB’s,6 CV’s, 15 CVL/CVE’s. Plus its own escorts and fleet train.

    Even though there was commonality of purpose, and to a certain extent of equipment between the BPF and our Navy; the operational doctrines and equipment differed, and that included things like ECM/RCM. Do you know if we were going to force our means and methods on them [never an easy thing], or were we just going to keep them out of the way, operating away from the actual landings? British carriers, being armored, had smaller airgroups, but were far more Kamikaze resistant. Would they be used, functionally, as Kamikaze bait?

    The plans for Coronet were less firmly set, of course, than Olympic. But the landing of a Commonwealth Brigade, and follow-on units, would have brought up the same problems of differences in doctrine and equipment translated to land. We saw those differences in Europe, where there was fortunately enough room for each Ally to operate as they would. The Kanto Plain is much smaller. Have you encountered anything about how those differences would be resolved?

    Subotai Bahadur

  8. I have read that the Navy didn’t use the Brits in the US fleet maneuvers as they were “short legged” with more frequent logistic needs.

  9. Roy said:

    >>That meant their loss would have cost a far greater percentage of Japanese lives
    >>than even informed histories suggest.

    The 6th Army has a 25-to-1 Japanese to American battle death ratio on Luzon.

    IIRC, this ratio had been increasing from 2-to-1 in early New Guinea to 10-to-1 in late New Guinea to 15-to-1 in Leyte.

    Note that this ratio did not include psychiatric or disease casualties.

  10. Heartless Libertarian Said:

    >>Something for a future post, perhaps?

    I touched on some of this in the Sea mine politics column.

    The two key issues were political and military.

    FDR wanted to be bombing Japan as soon as possible, even if it was not really effective, because of the need to avenge Pearl Harbor.

    The military reason was because Gen. Kenney would not have used B-29s to deliver sea mines and the early B-29’s were not really capabile of the kind of strategic bombing required in 1944 for a lot of technical reasons.

    Logistics in Australia would have been better for B-29’s than India, but the air defenses around Balikpapan were much better than targets on Kyushu. It took a lot of P-38’s and P-47’s to grind that air defense down and as you pointed out.

    Likely it would have taken the same for the B-29’s to do the same job a little sooner. MacArthur could have altered his engineering priority tomore figher strips sooner in lieu of B-25 and B-24 strips.

    This would not have been anything the Bomber Mafia could have lived down or hidden in the post war narratives…which was one of the reasons it didn’t happen.

  11. Subotai Bahadur said:

    >>The plans for Coronet were less firmly set, of course, than Olympic. But
    >>the landing of a Commonwealth Brigade, and follow-on units, would have brought
    >>up the same problems of differences in doctrine and equipment translated to land.

    The British were bringing an Australian AIF and a British volunteer division in their British amphibious shipping to Coronet, and a Canadian division was joining the Commonwealth corps in American shipping fron the West Coast of North America.

    There might have been a New Zealand Brigade to go with that, but the war ended before the politics of that were worked out.

    All of the Commonwealth ground forces were to be armed and equipped identically to American troops to simplify logistics.

  12. Trent – If I recall correctly, a lot of American pilots were lost over Japan during the closing months due to experienced Japanese pilots flying very good aircraft. It was thought that most experienced pilots from Japan were lost, but many remained in China and Manchuria. These experienced pilots seemed to get through all anti- kamikaze efforts and hit the ship they were after. The question is how many of these guys were left. You say 5 percent, but no accurate records seem to be available. We definitely would have won, but at what cost?

  13. If anyone is interested in a real inside view of what was happening in the Pacific, there is now a collection of Admiral Nimitz diaries (? looks like all order/memorandums to me) available on line at http://usnwc.edu/Academics/Library/Naval-Historical-Collection.aspx#items/show/849. Orders, informational exchanges, the “why” of attack plans. Great reading!

    I have managed to get through the first huge file (800+ pages) and it delivers facts and details at levels I have never seen before along with some insider political pissing and moaning.

    The French do not appear often in there but let’s just say they do not come off looking either competent or useful.

    Keep maps and/or an Atlas handy while reading.

  14. HistoryBuff – That is a great site, thank you. I do find it somewhat ironic that French Battleships were considered some of the finest in WWII, after they were re-fitted in American naval yards. Their naval command structure was just as effective as their field armies.

  15. This post has been updated with the notes and sources.

    This was the best I could do this week as far and my column was concerned.

  16. Nice piece, but it fails to understand the whole point of the Japanese strategy: To whit, Japan was not preparing to defend itself, it was preparing to immolate itself. The Japaneses people had been found wanting (by virtue of their military defeat by the Americans), and so would seek an honorable death. Communications are essential to a prolonged battle, less so to a pre-planned suicide.

  17. Leif,

    The Japanese Military didn’t have a military-political strategy, they had a collective fantasy.

    And what some factions of the Japanese military wanted to do was not what the Emperor wanted to do or what the Japanese people wanted to do.

    The war ended because the Emperor enforced his will over the Japanese Military die-hards due to the dual shocks of the A-bomb strikes and the Soviet Invasion neutralizing the Japanese High Command’s resistance to follow orders, rather than further engage in their death-cult fantasies.

    The planned mass killing of Allied PoWs and interned Allied civilians by the Japanese Military High Command prior to the invasion of Kyushu would have lit a fire in the bellies and put blood in the eyes of the American public that American government and military could not control, only marginally direct, if they were very smart about it.

    In an alternate reality where that Japanese Surrender didn’t happen, the die-hard’s ability to resist and the potential collapse of will to fight by Japanese civilians in the face of truly huge American conventional military improvements and the very likely genocidal use of weapons of mass destruction during the invasion are issues we can only guessed at.

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