It has become something of a tradition for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific, Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war — the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri. See the link enabled list below —
2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
2011 – Happy V-J Day!
Since that ceremony, a whole mythology about that period of history has grown, driven by various institutional and political imperatives following those events. And in particular, with regard to the use of nuclear weapons to end the war.
This year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration deals not with those myths, but with the war plans of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) from May thru August 1945. Too understand the use of the A-bomb in August 1945, you have to understand it in terms of the context of those May to August 1945 plans, not the institutional games that came after, games ably laid out in Michael Gordon’s recent WW2 book FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST — How World War II Became a Nuclear War”.
The short form was that the USAAF institutional leadership, Chief of Staff of the USAAF, General Arnold; operational commander US Army Strategic Air Forces (USASTAF) General Spaatz and Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) General Kenney were trying to win the war with conventional bombing via
1. The Small City Target Plan — Bombing out the smaller, 100,000 person or less, Japanese cities within range of Saipan to ‘induce’ a surrender;
2. The Transportation Plan — A massive two month (1 Oct – 30 Nov 1945) long campaign intended to destroy Japan’s rail system; and
3. Beach Preparations on Kyushu — The proposed B-29 carpet bombing of Kyushu beaches on 29, 30 and 31 October with 100 B–29 per beach per day.
Between the agenda of the USAAF bomber generals to form and independent air force and the coming merger of the Navy and War Departments into the Defense Department, much about these three plans never made it out of the secret files — particularly the use of the then high tech SHORAN radio navigation system — to the general public…until now.
(More at page 2)
PLANNED BOMB TONNAGE NUMBERS AND HISTORY
Here are some air bombardment planning numbers from a 19 July 1945 message from the USASTAF Administrative headquarters in Hawaii to the War Department, courtesy of www.Alternatewars.com webmaster Ryan Crierie’s research into the 20th Air Force Record Group 18 files in the National Archives.
The plans above were merely for the USASTAF B-29 fleets. The carrier planes of the US Navy, and General Kenney’s Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) heavy, medium, and light bombers, plus USAAF & USMC fighters he controlled, would be dropping on the order of 1000 tons of conventional explosive a day in October 1945 in addition to the B-29s. Given 30 days in October, the bomb tonnage of these “tactical” planes would be double the 15 kiloton yield of the Hiroshima A-bomb!
For additional perspective, historically, the US Strategic bombing campaign dropped these tonnages of bombs on Japan with the these results:
Incendiaries —– 105,978 tons (USSBS*)
High Explosives — 65,082 tons (USSBS)
Deaths ———– 305,500 (averaged from numerous sources)
Wounded ———- 415,000 (averaged from numerous sources)
Homeless ——– 9,200,000 (Pittsburg Press 24 Nov 1945)
* United States Strategic Bombing Survey
This worked out a casualty ratio of
2.88 Deaths per ton of Incendiary Bombs (IB)
3.92 Wounded per ton IB
86.81 Homeless per ton of IB
The small city target plan — AKA hitting all the cities of 100,000 or larger that had not been hit as of 30 July 1945 — amounted to a Pacific Theater equivalent of “Operation Clarion” as far as its terror inducing aspects. See Operation Clarion here:
The USASTAF Administrative documents mentioned above showed that for Aug-Sept 1945, the following bomb tonnage drops were going to be dropped on Japan’s small cities —
80,066 ton IB
28,515 tons of HE
108,581 total tons
This would have caused, based upon the historical casualty ratio posted above, the following total Japanese civilian casualties:
Without the A-bomb, the USAAF intended to kill and wound 1/2 million Japanese civilians — and render homeless another almost 7 million — in further urban firebomb attacks burning out 84 square miles of Japanese urban area during August-September 1945. Those 230,589 Japanese are the minimum number of Japanese lives saved by the A-bomb had the fighting lasted until 30 Sept 1945. And this was before the transportation campaign kicked off during 1 Oct- 30 Nov 1945!
ASSESSING THE TRANSPORTATION PLAN
There are lots of things about WW2 that didn’t make the history books. The era of 1945-46 is a historical gray area where many “impossible” things were happening simultaneously, in the same armed forces/intelligence bureaucracies, and directly against the stated policy goals of many of the nation-state combatants. The institutional histories of that era, and the narrative myths arising from them, edit out those “impossible’ things for the sake of the reputations and power of the Elites. There is a reason Thomas Pynchon wrote his 1973 book “Gravity’s Rainbow” as he did.
The USAAF Transportation Plan for destroying the Japanese Railways before, during and after the Operation Olympic-Majestic lives in one of those “gray areas.” The actual plans of May thru August 1945 touched upon post war budgets of both the newly independent US Air Force and US Navy as well as — and perhaps especially — the leadership succession to General “Hap” Arnold as Chief of Staff to the newly independent US Air Force.
Starting with the “white” part of this gray area, are the two halves of the Transportation Plan. East of Kyushu, the railways of Honshu, the largest of the Japanese home islands, belonged to the USASTAF B-29 fleets of the newly transferred 8th Air Force on Okinawa and the 20th Air Force in the Marianas Islands. A figure showing targeted ‘choke points’ — tunnels and bridges — is below:
SHORAN was a 300 Mhz (AKA between US TV channels 13 and 14) radar beacon system for high precision navigation and bombing. In a well mapped piece of terrain, the system could set up two beacons to put a radio “X marks the spot” on any place related to those two surveyed spots.
In cases where the maps were bad, the two beacons could generate coordinates on photos taken by any special SHORAN camera equipped photographic survey flight guided by it. And the higher the photo planes flew, the farther SHORAN signals reached. SHORAN in many ways laid the foundation and set a precedent for the later Global Positioning System. SHORAN’s use as a mapping tool after WW2 caused many maps to be reissued, because of SHORAN’s accuracy made earlier maps obsolete. (Hold that thought, it will be important later.)
The full suite of equipment on-board a SHORAN equipped aircraft includes a AN/APN-3 Radio set, an operator’s console and a K-1A model bombing computer.
This was equipment functioned with two AN/CPN-2A ground stations with functioning radar beacons located approximately 100 miles apart. With this system, the flight path of the aircraft is an arc of a circle about either one of the ground stations, with the other station being used to determine the bomb release point.
The aircraft AN/APN-3 radio sent pulses to one of the ground stations and the system calculated the range in statute miles by clocking the elapsed time between transmitter pulse and the returned signal.
The SHORAN system was designed so that as the aircraft faces the target, the low-frequency station would be on the left, and the high-frequency station on the right. This allows four separate arc approaches to a target as the computer triangulates the two stations and the target.
The system was intended for accurate bombing runs in poor visibility. It could and did do a lot more.
Between January 1945 and the German surrender in May 1945, the USAAF’s 42nd Bombardment Wing (M) in France flying B-26 Marauders, and the 57th Bombardment Wing (M) flying B-25 Mitchells in Italy, proved the system was as good or better in any weather or visibility as the Norden bomb site was in clear air with a clear and high visual contrast from the background aim point.
[SHORAN 12 JUNE]
FOR MCCLELLAND, TRUMP, AND HENDERSON FROM GRIGGS
FEAF IS NOW DISCUSSING PLANS FOR COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM ON SHORAN – DOWN TO SQUADRON LEVEL, SO THAT EVERY FORMATION OVER JAPAN MAY BE SHORAN LED, AFTER THE INVASION. TO START SUCH A PROGRAM WE WOULD NEED CAPT ALDRICH, A 42ND WING BOMBARDIER, CAPT WHITLOCK, 42ND WING RADAR OFFICER, A CADRE OF THEIR COMPUTING SECTION, AND FROM RADLAB CHARLIE WEST AND BILL HOSIER, PLEASE ADVISE US OF POSSIBLE SERIAL NUMBER OF OFFICERS AND AVAILABILITY OF WEST AND HOSIER.
The plan was to have the few SHORAN-equipped planes drop marker flares that the rest of the bomber fleet would use with their Norden bomb sights to provide a protection zone for our invasion troops. In July 1945 Green joined the SHORAN Project team in its flight to Manila to work with the Navy team who would deliver the ground station equipment and personnel to two locations each some 100 or so miles from the planned Kyushu beachhead.
The document was from Lt Col A.V. Hazeltine of the General Staff Corps, office of Sec of War, to Gen Borden, the chief of the War Department’s New Development’s Division (NDD), that includes two letters from David Griggs to Ed Bowles — the OSRD Radar Liaison to the Sec of War — and to Lt. Gen B. M. Giles, the commanding General Army Air Force Pacific Ocean Area (COMGENAAFPOA), the then deputy commander of the 20th Air Force.
Griggs was a European Theater Radar Bombing expert with a specialization in SHORAN (AKA “SHort RAnge Navigation” WW2’s radio ground beacon version of today’s GPS).
Griggs two letters outline the 20th Air Force area incendiary bombing to date, Radar’s role in them, and steps needed to improve the use of Radar for the 20th Air Force small city attack plan, the Transportation Plan and the battlefield preparations for the invasion of Japan.
The small city plan involved the following —
1. Getting 60 inch dia. radar antennas, improved computers and improved plan position indicator (PPI) scopes for AN/APG-13 (also called “H2X”) radars across the B-29 fleet along with improved training;
2. Using AN/APQ-7 Eagle Radar equipped B-29s as “Heavy Pathfinders” for all B-29 Groups with the “NOSMO” integrated Norden-radar bomb sight and improved PPI radar scopes.
3. Adding SHORAN to the B-29 force.
Griggs ideas for that addition involved —
a. 25% of the B-29 with SHORAN A-kits (the racks and power cables for SHORAN electronics) and 100% A-kits on B-29s fitted to carry British “Grand Slam” and “Tall Boy” super heavy bombs;
b. US Navy submarine emplaced SHORAN off-shore ground beacons;
c. US Navy Lifeguard submarines carried SHORAN beacons with a special radar and computer navigation system for SHORAN beacons;
d. A special light pathfinder based the A-26 light bomber with specialized SHORAN co-ordinate generating photography equipment for visual and radar photo runs.
Ryan Crierie’s research into the national archives (aka NARA) in Maryland found this document confirming the submarine beacon program was approved by Adm Lockwood, Commander Submarine Fleet Pacific (COMSUBPAC) on 27 July 1945, after Lockwood fought it when first proposed to him 24 June 1945.
There were a number of good reasons why Adm Lockwood fought this proposal. The most important was that the original concept had his subs fully surfaced in Kamikaze filled skies close to Japan. Given that a Japanese Kamikaze dove on a periscope of a crash diving sub and heavily damaged it in early June 1945, this was a “non-starter. ”
This opposition changed when David Griggs worked with Mr. John Pellam, a civilian operational analyst in the Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Operational Analyst Group. Pellam found a way to use a Fleet Submarine’s periscope torpedo fire-control optics and the SJ radar to interface with the SHORAN equipment while completely submerged at periscope depth.
See this RG107 radiogram message, courtesy of Ryan Crierie’s research, below –
SHORAN 12 JUNE
W-40 GRIGGS FROM CUSHMAN.
EXCELLENT REPORT ON SUBJECT WE DISCUSSED HERE PREPARED BY PELLAM OF SUBMARINE OPERATIONAL RESEARCH GROUP HAS BEEN SENT TO CINCPAC PEARL ALSO CINCPAC GUAM FOR RECOMMENDATIONS. ONLY MAJOR CHANGE IN PLAN IS USE OF PERISCOPE ANGLE PLUS ST RANGE ON PEAKS OR ROCKS NEAR HORIZON FOR STATION LOCATION AND KEEPING WHEN VISIBILITY IS GOOD OR SJ ONLY WHEN VISIBILITY IS POOR. THIS IS SOMEWHAT LESS ACCURATE BUT MUCH IMPROVES SECURITY OVER OUR PLAN. CAN YOU DISCUSS WITH NAVY PEOPLE WHO MAY HAVE PIPELINE TO COMSUBPAC GUAM.
Pellam’s report to Adm Lockwood on these changes sold Lockwood on the concept. By the third week of September 1945 the first pair of SHORAN beacon subs would be field testing practice strikes with B-29s in the Marianas. If successful, they would have steamed directly from there into combat as a part of the 1 Oct – 30 Nov Transportation campaign.
However, to use these submarines successfully, points along the shore of Japan has to be located, photographed and mapped both visually and by radar for planned strike targets. And for bomb damage assessment (BDA) after these SHORAN strikes, a SHORAN equipped photo reconnaissance plane was needed for ‘pre’ and ‘post’ strike photos to assess the results. And with this, we return to that SHORAN photographic method thought marker I dropped earlier.
FA-26 SHORAN INVADER…ARRIVING.
The need for a light “pathfinder” photo plane capable of both visual and radar photography incorporating SHORAN was recognized at the highest levels of the FEAF and USASTAF. See the following General Doolittle (Commander 8th Air Force on Okinawa) to General Spaatz (Commander USASTAF on Guam) on the deployment of these specialized planes.
Spaatz Papers, page 164 of 217
01 Aug 1945
3. Subject: A-26 Squadron for 8th AF
From ComAF 8
To: ComGenUSASTAF CMDX 330 300144
When in Washington General Doolittle requested 1 squadron
of A-26 aircraft be assigned 8th Air Force. This is restatement
of that request and recommend A-26 aircraft be equipped with SHORAN
A and B kits plus 10 percent spares with test equipment and high
resolution K-Band radar sets with GP beam plus 10 percent spares
with test equipment. Aircraft to be used as pathfinders, for low
level attacks on pin point targets and for SHORAN reconnaissance.
Squadron not to be delayed in reporting at Okinawa because of
inavailability of requested equipment but to report. Requested
equipment may be installed in field as it becomes available.
Two months earlier General Kenney’s FEAF sent this radiogram message (again in Record Group 107) regards the SHORAN cameras in these FA-26 –
SPECIAL SHORAN CAMERA
12 JUNE 45
AS A RESULT OF YOUR CABLE, SPECIAL DEMONSTRATION UNIT ON SHORAN TENTATIVELY PLANS TO LEAVE FOR FEAF BY JULY 15. PROBABLE MEMBERS INCLUDE CAPT. WOODWARD AND MAJ. DIXON, ARMAMENT LAB., MAJ WINN AND ED HINSDALE OF RCA, TWO COMPUTER OFFICERS AND SEVERAL ENLISTED MEN. EQUIPMENT WOULD CONSIST OF 4 AIRBORNE SETS, 2 COMPLETE GROUND STATIONS, AND AN AIRCRAFT EQUIPPED WITH STABILIZED CAMERAS RPT CAMERAS. THERE ARE ONLY THREE CAMERA SET-UPS IN EXISTENCE: THIS WOULD BE ONE OF THESE. HOWEVER, ORDER IS NOW BEING PLACED FOR 100 RECORDING CAMERAS.
(Bold by author)
The unit that would be flying Kenney’s, Doolittle’s and Spaatz’s FA-26s was the 47th Bomb Group. According to Ryan Crierie Google Books searches; the 47th BG(L) (‘L’ for light bomber) flew A-26s in Italy, before returning to the US after V-E Day. They reassembled at Seymour Johnson AFB to prepare for re-deployment to the PTO for night pathfinder operations against Japan; but V-J day scrubbed that and they then moved to Lake Charles, LA for about a year.
Doing some more googling Ryan Crierie also found an Angelfire dot com site which had some interesting photos of these full pathfinder equipped FA-26s —
So, the trail thus far shows us that SHORAN had a major role at the end of WW2. And that it was known by all the major players in the Pacific war. Yet it vanished from the institutional histories…an example of Thomas Pynchon “Gravity’s Rainbow.”
The answer, as it turns out, revolves around the second marker in this article, the General Hull and Colonel Seaman telephone transcript plus the following David Griggs file excerpt on the accuracy of SHORAN.
NUKES, SHORAN AND GRAVITY’S RAINBOW
When David Griggs briefed General George Kenney on SHORAN, he made the following comparisons in the excerpt below –
The B-29s carrying the A-bomb — later code named “Silverplate” were equipped with the “H2X” radar Griggs mentioned. See how accurate they were compared to SHORAN (8000 versus 450-600 feet). Now read this passage from the General Hull and Colonel Seaman telephone conversation discussing A-bomb use in the invasion of Kyushu, paying very close attention to the 500 foot circular error probability (CEP) Griggs mentioned for SHORAN above.
General Hull and Colonel Seaman — 1325 – 13 Aug 1945
S — I have studied that a good deal. Our own troops would
have to be about six miles away. I am not sure the Air
Forces could place it within 500 feet of the point we want.
Of course, it is not that “pinpoint. Then the stage of
development has to be considered. The work it is liable to be
used for is more or less has to be the explosive effect. It
would be just a gamble putting or sending troops through.
H — No the same day or anything like that. We might do it a
couple or three days before. 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 sometime 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 types
of bombs 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
And there you see why SHORAN in the Pacific War disappeared into GRAVITY’S RAINBOW.
There was no way a Silverplate B-29 equipped with the H2X radar could put an atomic bomb 500 feet from the aim point and be at a high enough altitude to escape the blast of the bomb…unless it was using SHORAN.
The B-29s for the Invasion of Japan were going to be equipped with SHORAN to be able to deliver nuclear bombs in all weather, day or night, on point targets like Japanese Divisional and Army headquarters, as were the photo reconnaissance supporting them.
And the secrecy about that fact — how America’s nuclear delivery system worked and how accurate it was — resulted in the Early Cold War scrubbing of the history of the end of WW2.
Special thanks is extended to Ryan Crierie, whose research efforts in the national archives made this column possible.
On 14 August, the 20AF with 115 aircraft bombed the Iwakuni yard, and put the entire Sanyo railroad line out of service for 102 hours. This was the only strategic railroad attack done by 20th AF in the war.