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  • Memorial Day 2016

    Posted by David Foster on May 29th, 2016 (All posts by )

    A powerful and beautifully-done music video:  The war was in color

    Neptunus Lex:  We remember them

    Also from Lex:  A memorial day message from 2004

    Update: Bookworm’s Memorial Day essay for this year is up at her site

     

     

    23 Responses to “Memorial Day 2016”

    1. Roy Lofquist Says:

      Born in 1943, I was weaned on the music if WWII. “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn has always had a special place my memories. I particularly like this cover:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9OU_NpGDSo

    2. David Foster Says:

      Note that the video ends with headlines & photos marking V-E day, not V-J day, which was of course when the war really ended. Indeed, the war in Europe is more prominent in American historical memory than the war in the Pacific.

      In a world where did atomic bomb had not been developed or did not work, I feel certain that V-J day (if it had ever come at all) would have been remembered far better, marking the end of a campaign whose American casualties would have totally dwarfed those of the European war.

    3. Mike K Says:

      ““We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn ”

      I have a number if her songs on the iPod that I listen to in the car when driving.

      I have “A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square” and “White Cliffs of Dover.”

    4. TangoMan Says:

      In a world where did atomic bomb had not been developed or did not work, I feel certain that V-J day (if it had ever come at all) would have been remembered far better, marking the end of a campaign whose American casualties would have totally dwarfed those of the European war.

      I’m not so sure. I think you make a good case for your position but because you omit one factor I think is important you also omit the influence of that factor and I think the influence would overpower the case you make.

      What’s that factor? The war in Europe was a political war against the Nazi regime more so than against the German civilization whereas the war against Japan was a far less civilized war and it was against the people, the race, the culture of Japan.

      People are not in the habit of celebrating an anniversary after they go through a bitter divorce, even though the marriage was entered into with joy and there were many happy memories in the marriage. Bringing up memories of the war involves acknowledging the enemy, not championing the enemy, simply acknowledging that we fought the Germans, oh and as an after thought the Japanese too. That’s like acknowledging your divorced spouse. When the divorce is especially bitter many people want to erase the marriage from their lives as best they can. If V-J Day arrived without the bombings and had involved millions of American dead from invading the Japanese homeland there would have been a lot of atrocities involved, directed at Americans and also committed by Americans. Dredging that up every year would focus on dishonor, rather than honor.

      I agree with you that the Pacific War would have been more historically significant but I’m not so sure that it would be seen as the honorable war that WWII is seen as. The details of the Pacific theater war are not hidden, they were reported at the time, and yet during the war and is the decades since, the European theater is where we find most of the popular heroes, the dramatic stories, etc and this is so because the brutality of the war against the Japanese was in a different league, to the degree that most people don’t want to think about it.

    5. David Foster Says:

      Tango…was the fire bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities really any more brutal than that which was inflicted on the German cities? Is there any serious doubt that the atomic bomb would have been employed against Germany if it had been ready before V-E day?

      Regarding the ground fighting, yes there was more racism expressed, but this was surely in large part owing to the Japanese mistreatment of Allied prisoners, combined with their refusal to surrender in virtually all circumstances.

    6. Trent Telenko Says:

      >>…this is so because the brutality of the war against the Japanese was in a different league, to
      >>the degree that most people don’t want to think about it.

      There are four words described the Imperial Japanese military as a fighting organization — Smart, Driven, Capable, and above all, DEADLY.

      And one more, as a culture — ALIEN.

      The Battle of Buna–Gona campaign of 16 November 1942 until 22 January 1943 saw the Japanese eating the human flesh of wounded Australians and Japanese alike.

      After that, war with the Japanese was a war of annihilation.

      It is hard to be heroic, or tell heroic stories to the future, if all the fighting is race to the bottom where the choices are extermination or death.

    7. TangoMan Says:

      …was the fire bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities really any more brutal than that which was inflicted on the German cities? Is there any serious doubt that the atomic bomb would have been employed against Germany if it had been ready before V-E day?

      I do think there is serious doubt about dropping an A-bomb on Berlin. The Russians might have, considering the cost of lives and destruction that they faced, but not the Americans/British. Too many “cousins” would get killed. The Germans were conducting the war is a language that the Americans/British understood.

      As to the brutality, one of the reasons actually cited for dropping the bombs was that all were confident that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would escalate Japanese resistance and brutality, so appeals to European brutality don’t create an equivalence. The Tokyo firebombing didn’t involve solider to soldier, soldier to civilian, death matches, it was a relatively clean, no fuss, operation from the air. No American pilot saw a burning woman, no tail gunner poured gasoline onto a child and lit him up.

      The human conscience can deal with abstract horror and guilt more easily than personal horror and guilt. It’s easier for Obama to give an assassination order or a bombing order than it is for Obama to go up to a person and shoot a person in the head or direct a flamethrower at a terrorist and set him on fire and smell the burning flesh. Those pilots who wrestled with their conscience only knew at the abstract level what a firebombing did to the citizens of Tokyo and so have an easier time living with their actions, and this is granting them the honor of doing their duty, fighting to protect their nation, etc. An invasion of the home islands would have put millions of American men down on the ground, fighting person to person, against a people willing to die the most horrible deaths in order to protect their Emperor and their home land.

    8. David Foster Says:

      Cousinhood didn’t do much good for the cousins in Hamburg (45000 dead), or Pforzheim (21000 dead) or Dresden (25000 dead). Of course, much of this was done by the Brits…they had cousins in German too. Indeed, there were heavy civilian casualties in *France*, an occupied allied country, as part of the pre-D-day effort to destroy the transportation network. So I’m not sure why dropping an atomic bomb would have been considered beyond the bounds.

      OTOH, an invasion of Japan would have been a truly dreadful experience especially given the intent of the Japanese High Command to arm the civilian population. You are probably right that it would have changed America’s self-concept in a way that the actual termination of WWII did not.

    9. TangoMan Says:

      So I’m not sure why dropping an atomic bomb would have been considered beyond the bounds.

      I not aware of any historical documents which discussed dropping nukes on Germany, so I’m merely arguing based on extrapolations of how the war in the two theaters was conducted. There was more alienness in the Japanese and so, I surmise, this makes the decision to drop the bomb more justifiable.

      Popular culture filters real events. In Band of Brothers, the last episode occurs after the German’s surrender. The soldiers are manning checkpoints along with German soldiers, they’re treating the returning German soldiers as guys who were doing their duty for their country, just as the Americans did for their country, they allowed the German General to address his troops, the German officer hands his firearm to Major Winters, Winters allows him to keep it. There is a level of humanity still present between the Allies and the Germans (exempting the SS.) I haven’t read any historical reports of anything like this in the Pacific theater. My thinking is that it is easier to justify dropping the bomb on the Japanese enemy than on the German enemy due to how the Americans perceived the two enemies differently.

      I understand that I might very well be weaving an elaborate rationalization here but I do believe that there is more moral wiggle room in justifying a firebombing of Dresden where the people have a chance to run, to hide, to escape, and so they are not assured a death sentence than there is in dropping the bomb and vaporizing people on the ground. The effects in terms of death tolls could be engineered to reach parity but the efforts to achieve parity would not be equal nor would the moral reasoning to get there.

    10. Mike K Says:

      “The Germans were conducting the war is a language that the Americans/British understood.”

      American and British POWs (not Russian) were treated well in most cases. That was after the POW reached the camps. I know a guy whose femur fracture was not treated for weeks as he was tossed in a box car to be transported east when his B 17 was shot down.

      However, the intra-medullary rood for femur fractures was invented by a German and POWs were also treated using it. The POWs who returned home at war end brought the news of this great advance in orthopedic surgery.

      The Japanese were barbaric to POWs.

      Big difference,

      The Japanese were playing for an armistice after 1942. I’m still reading Toland’s book and it is clear that they knew they could not win a long war. The Japanese army, which is often made the villain of the story, knew they did not have enough shipping and opposed the “Victory Disease” after Malaya and Java. Yamamoto made a catastrophic strategic error in attacking Pearl Harbor and, especially as a surprise. Had they stayed in Asia and attacked Malaya and Java and left Hawaii alone, they might have avoided war altogether. Roosevelt might have had trouble getting the war declared,

      The shift of the European army to the Pacific was a very questionable enterprise from what I have read. A huge problem was The Point System, which would have resulted in all the senior noncoms and junior officers being sent home and the invasion army would have been full of new troops. There might have been a serious risk of mutiny.

      I think the US would have recoiled from the invasion at the end, after Okinawa, and gone for the starvation plan of the Navy. The result would have been millions of Japanese deaths.

    11. Grurray Says:

      It wasn’t all handshakes and cigars between Americans and Nazis.
      During the Battle of the Bulge the German vanguard took no prisoners in a campaign designed to terrorize the Allies, and as a result we didn’t take any prisoners in retaliation. The commander, Joachim Pepper, was later convicted of war crimes and was eventually killed decades later by a hit squad.

    12. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I not aware of any historical documents which discussed dropping nukes on Germany, so I’m merely arguing based on extrapolations of how the war in the two theaters was conducted. There was more alienness in the Japanese and so, I surmise, this makes the decision to drop the bomb more justifiable.

      I think that’s incorrect. I understand that those working on the Manhattan Project understood their target to be the NAZIs. My source for that being Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

      An excellent book on the air campaign in the Pacific Theater, brutal and depressing as it was, is Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard Frank. He provides lots of evidence that the Japanese leadership had absolutely no intention of surrendering prior to the atomic bombings. They were organizing to fight in depth for every inch of Japan. They didn’t intend to surrender even after Hiroshima. Nagasaki did it. The devastation wrought by two single bombs broke the illusion they could possibly win. There is no doubt in my mind those bombings saved millions of lives, both American and Japanese.

    13. Trent Telenko Says:

      The plan was to drop an A-bomb on both Japan and German simultaniously

      See the following Studs Terkel interview of Paul Tibbets:

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/731073/posts

      ==============
      US Planned to Drop an Atomic Bomb
      on Europe During WWII

      In early August 2002 Studs Terkel interviewed Paul Tibbets, the pilot who flew the Enola Gay on its mission to nuke Hiroshima. In the middle of this fascinating interview, General Tibbets dropped a bombshell of a different sort. Tibbets relates that after being briefed about his upcoming mission by General Uzal Ent (commander of the second air force) and others:

      General Ent looked at me and said, “The other day, General Arnold [commander general of the army air corps] offered me three names.” Both of the others were full colonels; I was lieutenant-colonel. He said that when General Arnold asked which of them could do this atomic weapons deal, he replied without hesitation, “Paul Tibbets is the man to do it.” I said, “Well, thank you, sir.” Then he laid out what was going on and it was up to me now to put together an organisation and train them to drop atomic weapons on both Europe and the Pacific–Tokyo.M

      Studs Turkel:
      Interesting that they would have dropped it on Europe as well. We didn’t know that.

      Paul Tibbets:
      My edict was as clear as could be. Drop simultaneously in Europe and the Pacific because of the secrecy problem–you couldn’t drop it in one part of the world without dropping it in the other.

      This is the last thing Tibbets says about nuking Europe, and Turkel never follows up! Thus, we don’t know which city was to be targeted (presumably it was a German one) or why the plan wasn’t carried out. The Memory Hole has written to Tibbets, asking these logical follow-up questions. Assuming he responds, we’ll let you know what he says.

      Later in the interview, Tibbets reveals another important piece of hidden history–that the US was just about to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan when it surrendered:

      Studs Terkel:
      Why did they drop the second one, the Bockscar [bomb] on Nagasaki?

      Paul Tibbets:
      Unknown to anybody else–I knew it, but nobody else knew–there was a third one. See, the first bomb went off and they didn’t hear anything out of the Japanese for two or three days. The second bomb was dropped and again they were silent for another couple of days. Then I got a phone call from General Curtis LeMay [chief of staff of the strategic air forces in the Pacific]. He said, “You got another one of those damn things?” I said, “Yessir.” He said, “Where is it?” I said, “Over in Utah.” He said, “Get it out here. You and your crew are going to fly it.” I said, “Yessir.” I sent word back and the crew loaded it on an airplane and we headed back to bring it right on out to Trinian and when they got it to California debarkation point, the war was over.

      Studs Terkel:
      What did General LeMay have in mind with the third one?

      Paul Tibbets:
      Nobody knows.

      Source: “‘One Hell of a Big Bang'” by Studs Terkel. Guardian (London), 6 Aug 2002.

    14. Mike K Says:

      “The devastation wrought by two single bombs broke the illusion they could possibly win.”

      I think they still were hoping to make the invasion so expensive for Americans that an armistice would be possible. Even then,

      “Paul Tibbets is the man to do it.” I said, “Well, thank you, sir.” Then he laid out what was going on and it was up to me now to put together an organisation and train them to drop atomic weapons on both Europe and the Pacific–Tokyo.M

      I wonder if you remember that Paul Tibbets was the pilot of the B 17 on the first raid on Germany. Frank Armstrong, the general portrayed by Gregory Peck in “12 o’clock High” was the commander of the mission but the pilot was Tibbets.

      Armstrong led the first daylight heavy bomber raid made by the USAAF over Occupied Europe, receiving the Silver Star and an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was also awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross for the initial mission, the first U.S. officer to be so honored. Because he had not yet been checked out as a combat pilot in the B-17, Armstrong flew the first mission as the co-pilot of a Fortress piloted by Major Paul W. Tibbets, one of his squadron commanders.

      Tibbets had an amazing career.

    15. TangoMan Says:

      I wouldn’t call Tibbets testimony official US government documentation. This isn’t what historians would source, it’s not in archives, it’s one man making a claim and if accurate it still doesn’t indicate US policy, only details of conversations he was privy to. For instance, some Generals could have been making a case to their superiors, so he was hearing advocacy and taking it as policy.

      I’m not claiming the last word here, just stating that my research on this hasn’t uncovered anything, but my research wasn’t in-depth. I’m happy to concede if someone does know what official policy really was with respect to dropping the bomb on Germany. If Tibbets is talking about official policy then surely there must be ways to verify his claim and it shouldn’t be coming up as newsworthy in a Studs Terkel interview.

    16. TangoMan Says:

      War sure can be good for promotions.

      LeMay was a 1st Lt. on Jan. 25, 1940 and promoted to Major General on March 3, 1944.

    17. Trent Telenko Says:

      The Atomic bomb program was started with Germany in mind by all concerned.

      Paul Tibbets has always said (for decades) that General Ent directed him to have the 509th Bomb Group capable of delivering the bomb simultaneously in the ETO and PTO.

      The reality was the A-bombs would not be ready until the summer of 1945 and German was on its last legs when the May 1945 A-bomb targeting meeting was held.

      The original planning for bomb targeting was broached in a May 1943 meeting where there was a huge concern over dropping an atomic dud on Nazi Germany for German scientists to examine and salvage fissionable materials from.

      The Japanese were thought to be a better target because it would be harder for the Japanese to recover the bomb from deep water, as the original Japanese A-bomb target was to be the Truk Lagoon fleet anchorage.

      See:

      http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/10/04/atomic-bomb-used-nazi-germany/

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/remembering-hiroshima-the-bomb-that-was-meant-for-hitler-a-368205.html

    18. Mike K Says:

      “War sure can be good for promotions.”

      Eisenhower was another example.

      Some of this was Marshall’s “black book” where he kept notes on outstanding officers he had encountered. The only dud from that book was, in my opinion, Mark Clark.

      Clark went from Lt Colonel to Brigadier General without being a Colonel. He was a staffer and was good at that but a failure as an Army commander. I’m not the only one.

      It was announced on 20 January 1946, that the US 36th Division Veteran’s Association had unanimously called for a Congressional inquiry into Clark’s actions during the 36th Infantry Division’s disastrous crossing of the Gari River (erroneously identified as the Rapido) on the night of 20 January 1944.

    19. Will Says:

      Holy crap. I had no idea about LeMay. That’s crazy.

      I was in boot camp with a guy who I encountered four or five years later (as a civilian) in a local watering hole in a Chief’s uniform. I was incredulous, I asked him “what are you doing in a Chief’s uniform? He looked at me as if I was nut’s, replying “because I am a g*damned Chief!” To this day I wonder how it was done. E-1 to E-7 in five years. Usually, this takes twenty years on average.

    20. Trent Telenko Says:

      Mike K,

      Marshall’s “black book” had at least two more failures.

      o Major General Edward Almond
      o Lieutenant General Lloyd Fredendall

    21. Mike K Says:

      Almond may not have been as bad as Clark and Fredendall. He was given an impossible role by MacArthur in Korea.

      Almond and X Corps later took part in the defeat of the Chinese offensives during February and March 1951, as well as the Eighth Army’s counter-offensive, Operation Killer.

      He was not the star that Marshall thought him to be but I don’t think much of Bradley, either.

    22. Trent Telenko Says:

      Almond was a great staff officer, a poor commanding racist fool — See his tour as commander of the “colored” 92nd Division in WW2 Italy — and a tool used by both MacArthur and Ridgway to influence Marshall as Secretary of Defense.

    23. Mike K Says:

      I don’t know what to think about the “colored” division. I’ve read a bit but it may have been racist junior officers and noncoms. I don’t know about who the officers and noncoms were.

      World War I

      a cadre of 154 NCOs transferred from the four Regular Army regiments, mostly led by inexperienced black junior officers fresh out of training and commanded by indifferent white officers.

      World War II

      According to Colonel Howard Donovan Queen: “Whatever shortcomings the 92nd had, it rested entirely on the shoulders of Major General Almond. His entire staff was incompetent, excepting for Brigadier General (William H.) Coburn, the artillery commander, whose artillery was rated among the best on the front.”

      I dunno. He doesn’t seem to have done very well.

      Terry Allen and Ted Roosevelt Jr were relived by Bradley and they were excellent officers who did well after D-Day.