8 June 1945

8 June 1945


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8 June 1945

The Philippines

The US 6th Army reaches the Magat (Luzon)

Pacific

Australian troops fighting on the northern front on Bougainville carry out an amphibious landing at Porton Plantation. They land in the middle of a Japanese base and are forced to evacute. Most troops withdraw on 9 June but some are stuck for several days.



LMUD Presents: This Day in Susanville History – June 8, 1945

That shimmering object in the sky which had thrown Westwood, Chester and Susanville into a mild hysteria the past several days, isn’t a Japanese balloon after all. It’s the morning star, Venus.

Reports that the cylindrical object (the Japanese bomb balloons are reported longitudinal in shape) which some “experts” placed at 10,000 feet altitude, was variously reported over Lake Almanor, Herlong, Westwood, Susanville and Chester.

In Westwood no less than three balloons were noted.

In Susanville some observers declared that the object was parachute in shape.

That the “floating object” was the planet Venus was established by United States army airplanes who took to the skies to shoot the menace down.

Just over one month ago one woman and five children were killed in Bly, Oregon when a 13 year old girl discovered a Japanese balloon in a tree and tried to free it.


Today in World War II History—June 8, 1940 & 1945

80 Years Ago—June 8, 1940: Off Norway, German battlecruisers Gneisenau & Scharnhorst sink British carrier Glorious and British destroyers Ardent and Acasta (1537 killed on 3 ships).

Neptunium (Np), element 93, is discovered by Edwin McMillan & Philip Adelson at the University of California in Berkeley.

US passes Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits taking, possession, and commerce of bald and golden eagles.

60-inch cyclotron at the University of California Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, Berkeley, in August 1939, used in the discovery of neptunium (US National Archives: 558594)

75 Years Ago—June 8, 1945: US & Australian Naval Task Group 74.3 bombards Brunei Bay on Borneo.

Jozef Tiso, former president of Slovak Republic, is arrested by US forces he will be extradited to Czechoslovakia and executed in 1947 for collaborating with Germans and for war crimes.


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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Victory Celebrations, 8th June 1946

Posted on: 04 August 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Of course you are a prime source Ron and may you long continue to be.

As regards the Victory Day Celebrations, you may see the Radio Times TV programme of the event here http://www.tvradiobits.co.uk/tellyyears/june1946.htm About links

This next link is correct, but seems temporarily off it gives the full programme of the Victory Day celebrations http://www.naval-history.net/WW2VictoryParade1.htm About links

Message 2 - Victory Celebrations, 8th June 1946

Posted on: 07 August 2005 by Harold Pollins

I was a member of the 'permanent staff' of the Victory Parade Camp in Kensington Gardens. I wrote about it at A28770642


Due to early colonization by the Spanish, the Philippines is a majority Roman Catholic nation, with 81 percent of the population self-defining as Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center.

Other religions represented include Protestant (10.7 percent), Muslims (5.5 percent), other Christian denominations (4.5 percent). Approximately 1 percent of Filipinos are Hindu and another 1 percent are Buddhist.

The Muslim population lives mostly in the southern provinces of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago sometimes called the Moro region. They are predominantly Shafi'i, a sect of Sunni Islam.

Some of the Negrito peoples practice traditional animist religion.


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10 Worst Moments in US History

This list is a response to the one published a couple of days ago with the topic of &rsquo10 great moments&rsquo in American history. A lot of people objected and asked for a list with &rsquo10 worst moments&rsquo in American history. So here it is, just to present both sides of American history, good & bad. It is in chronological order and if you have any suggestions to make, feel free to do so & constructive criticism is appreciated while argument for the sake of arguing will not lead us anywhere. Anyway, here it is:

The Trail of Tears was the relocation and movement of Native Americans, including many members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in the Western United States. The phrase originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from these southeastern nations had been removed from their homelands thereby opening 25 million acres for settlement by European Americans

The Dred Scott Decision was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants&mdashwhether or not they were slaves&mdashwere not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States. It also held that the United States Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. The Court also ruled that because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court. Lastly, the Court ruled that slaves&mdashas chattel or private property&mdashcould not be taken away from their owners without due process.

The battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties. The Union had 12,401 casualties with 2,108 dead. Confederate casualties were 10,318 with 1,546 dead. This represented 25% of the Federal force and 31% of the Confederate. More Americans died on September 17, 1862, than on any other day in the nation&rsquos military history. Several generals died as a result of the battle, including Maj. Gens. Joseph K. Mansfield , Israel B. Richardson and Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman on the Union side (all mortally wounded), and Brig. Gens. Lawrence O. Branch, William E. Starke on the Confederate side (killed).

A massive drop in value of the stock market helped trigger the Great Depression which lasted until the increased economic activity spurred by WW2 got us going back in the right direction. The Great Depression had devastating effects in virtually every country, rich and poor. Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices dropped, and international trade plunged by a half to two-thirds. Unemployment in the United States rose to 25% and in some countries rose as high as 33%. Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60 percent.

The US government came to the conclusion that interning Japanese-American citizens was the best of a number of bad options. Roughly a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans ended up in camps. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 on February 19, uprooting Japanese Americans on the west coast to be sent to Internment camps. The order led to the internment of Japanese Americans or AJAs (Americans of Japanese Ancestry) in which some 120,000 ethnic Japanese people were held in internment camps for the duration of the war. Of the Japanese interned, 62% were Nisei (American-born, second-generation Japanese American and therefore American citizens) or Sansei (third-generation Japanese American, also American citizens) and the rest were Issei (Japanese immigrants and resident aliens, first-generation Japanese American).

A decision was taken to drop atomic bombs on Japanese civilians killing roughly 200,000 people in total to &lsquoshorten&rsquo the war. ( It completely ignored the fact that war is between armies, not civilians). On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, the nuclear bomb &lsquoLittle Boy&rsquo was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000. Approximately 69% of the city&rsquos buildings were completely destroyed, and about 7% severely damaged. On August 9, 1945, Nagasaki was the target of the world&rsquos second atomic bomb attack (and second plutonium bomb the first was tested in New Mexico, USA) at 11:02 a.m., when the north of the city was destroyed and an estimated 40,000 people were killed by the bomb nicknamed &ldquoFat Man.&rdquo According to statistics found within Nagasaki Peace Park, the death toll from the atomic bombing totaled 73,884, as well as another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

Kennedy&rsquos decision to go forward with the invasion and then deny them air support doomed the entire enterprise to failure. Today, 44 years later, Fidel Castro, a diehard enemy of the United States, is still in power. The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exile combatants in three days. Bad Cuban-American relations were made worse by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The invasion is often criticized as making Castro even more popular, adding nationalistic sentiments to the support for his economic policies. Following the initial attacks by 8 CIA-owned B-26s on Cuban airfields, he declared the revolution &ldquoMarxist-Leninist&rdquo. There are still yearly nationwide drills in Cuba during the &lsquoDia de la Defensa&rsquo (Defense Day) to prepare the population for an invasion.

The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived, beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S. troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers. The Case-Church Amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress in response to the anti-war movement, prohibited direct U.S. military involvement after August 15, 1973. U.S. military and economic aid continued until 1975. The capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese army in April 1975 marked the end of Vietnam War. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.

Terrorist madmen attack the Twin Towers and Pentagon, kill nearly 3000 Americans, and set off a war on terrorism. (Some accounts suggest it was an inside job, or a horrific case of neglect). Afghanistan invaded to destroy the groups (Taliban & al Qaeda) America itself made, trained & armed to fight the Russian invasion. The campaign is still going on and has spilled into neighboring Pakistan, India & Iran, highlighting the inability of American forces to contain the war. The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength. T he war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda&rsquos movement than anticipated. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production, and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul


8 June 1945 - History

Map Description
History Map of World War II: The Pacifc 1945

Map a)
Sothern Okinawa, Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru
XXIV Corps Operations
April 9 - May 6, 1945

Map b)
Southern Okinawa, Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru
Tenth Army Operations
May 10 - June 30, 1945



Credits
Courtesy of the United States Military Academy Department of History.


8 June 1945 - History


In theory, the 4 occupying zones together were to decide upon Germany's future, and upon Berlin's future. However, immediately after the war it became evident that this concept would not work. Both the USSR and the western allies paid lip service to their commitments regarding the control council, but proceeded taking unilateral steps in their respective zones of occupation.
When the CURRENCY REFORM was undertaken in the three western zones - ostensibly initiated by German authorities (LUDWIG ERHARDT), the allied military administrations refused any credit for it, it was done without informing the USSR : a fait accompli. The Soviet Union refused to allow the new currency to be used in it's zone of occupation - Germany's economic unity was ended. Stalin was especially infuriated about the introduction of the new DM in the western sectors of Berlin, carried out without consultation of the USSR. He ordered the roads, railway lines and canals connecting west Berlin and western Germany to be severed. The BERLIN BLOCKADE had begun.
West Berlin, (half) a city, over 2 million inhabitants suddenly found their supply lines cut, most importantly the supply of food and fuel. Stalin offered to supply them, but the Berliners, lead by city mayor ERNST REUTER, refused, fearing for the city to become dependent on the USSR. The western allies then organized the BERLIN AIRLIFT, supplying the city from the air with food (potatos) and coal for 11 months. In 1949, after 11 months of bad press, Stalin gave in and ordered the streets, railway lines and canals leading to Berlin to be reopened.


Kill and Be Killed? The U-853 Mystery

Moments before the torpedo exploded in a deafening geyser of deadly fury, Captain Charles Prior and his crew of the SS Black Point were thinking only of how soon they would get into Boston and how grateful they were the war in Europe was ending. They could not have imagined that 12 of the 46 men on board were about to die.

The formal signing of Germany's surrender at Reims, France, on 7 May 1945 was only 48 hours away. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, presently in command in Germany following Adolf Hitler's suicide, issued a radio communiqué on 5 May, calling on all U-boats to cease offensive operations at 0800 (German time) the next morning and return to home ports. "VE Day" would soon end years of horror and sacrifice—but not quite yet.

Target: Black Point

Around 1700 on 5 May, only four miles off the coast of Rhode Island and in sight of Point Judith, 24-year-old Lieutenant (junior grade) Helmut Frömsdorf, commander of U-853, began working out his underwater attack solution. At periscope depth, he lined up his boat on the 5,000-ton collier Black Point as she slowly made her way into the western end of Rhode Island Sound. The unsuspecting ship was on the last leg of a journey up through the safety of the coastal waterway from Norfolk, Virginia, with thousands of tons of coal in her hold. She left her protective convoy while passing New York Harbor and, unescorted, was not even zigzagging in these presumably friendly waters.

U-853, with a crew of 54, had sortied out of Stavenger, Norway, on 24 February 1945, reaching the U.S. East Coast in late April. She was a type IXC/40 snorkel boat. Whether Frömsdorf never heard Dönitz' cease-fire call or chose to ignore it will never be known. Nor can we know why he took such a chance so close to a defended shore.

At 1740 that afternoon, U-853 opened torpedo fire. Seconds later, a full 40 feet of the Black Point's stern was completely blown off into the sea. At the Point Judith Coast Guard Station, Boatswain's Mate Joe Burbine, on watch at the time, saw the Black Point in his binoculars just as he heard a muffled explosion and watched the ship stagger to a halt.

The torpedo hit the starboard side just aft of the engine room. Several of the victims were killed in the explosion, and the mortally stricken ship quickly began to fill and settle as Captain Prior gave the order to abandon ship. The collier rolled over 25 minutes later and went down by the stern, carrying the bodies of 12 crewmen with her. Captain Prior said later he never saw the torpedo, but the captain and first mate of the nearby Yugoslav freighter SS Kamen said they saw it—too late. The Kamen quickly sent out an SOS, alerting other ships to the presence of a hostile submarine while rescuing 34 men, including 4 wounded, who were taken to the Coast Guard station. The Black Point was the last sinking victim of a German U-boat in U.S. waters. And now, in the final combat of the war against Nazi Germany, the hunt for U-853 began.

On the Attack

At 1742 the Coast Guard-manned frigate Moberly (PF-63), 30 miles to the south, heard the SOS. This ship, along with the Navy destroyer escorts Amick (DE-168) and Atherton (DE-169), were part of Task Force 60.7, which had just delivered a convoy to New York and was now headed for Boston. Lieutenant Commander L. B. Tollaksen, commanding officer of the Moberly, was the senior officer present since the fourth warship, the destroyer Ericsson (DD-440), under Commander F. C. McCune, was by then far ahead in the western end of the Cape Cod Canal approaching Boston. Tollaksen turned north and steamed toward the site of the sinking at full speed.

For some unknown reason, Captain Frömsdorf, instead of departing the scene as quickly as possible, lingered in the area after his attack. For U-853, it was a fateful decision. It would be more than an hour and a half before the U.S. warships could get there, but even then the sub was still hugging the bottom only eight miles from where the Black Point went down. A total of 11 Navy and Coast Guard ships arrived about 1930 and immediately set up a barrier force while initiating a sweep search with echo ranging that started at the northern tip of Block Island. At 2014 the Atherton's pinging sonar suddenly registered an unusual echo. U-853 had been located near the bottom, moving on a course of 090 degrees.

Lieutenant Commander Lewis Iselin, skipper of the Atherton, barked out the orders. At 2029, the ship dropped 13 magnetic depth charges, one of which exploded. But no one could determine if it had hit the sub or one of the many wrecks on the ocean bottom in that area. A second attack run employed hedgehogs. The Atherton lost contact on that run because of the disturbed water condition in the 100-foot waters. As the crashing charges exploded around her, rocking the sub, Frömsdorf continued to move. The Atherton suspended her attack and tried to pinpoint the sub's new location. By this time, the Ericsson had arrived on the scene and Lieutenant Commander Tollaksen turned over command of the search to her skipper, Commander McCune.

Joining the Final Fight

Thousands of miles away at Reims, Colonel-General Alfred Jodl, representing the German military, was reluctantly preparing to sign his name the next day to the surrender document. But off southern New England, the last fight was just under way.

For the farmers, fishermen, and townsfolk of little Block Island, this latest eruption of naval action was not new. Sitting out in the ocean 12 miles off Rhode Island's southern coast the islanders had seen or heard numerous nearby engagements over the years against the deadly U-boat menace. In fact, the Navy had authorized a reconnaissance patrol made up of fishing boats from the island to report on the sightings of periscopes and surfacing U-boats. Such sightings were especially common in the first years of the war as enemy submarines prowled America's East Coast in killer Wolf Packs, sinking hundreds of thousands of tons of Allied shipping. Eight tall concrete lookout towers had been erected on Block Island to watch for enemy ships and planes.

On 25 May 1944 British warplanes had attacked U-853, then under Lieutenant Helmut Sommer, on the surface, but she got away. On 15 June that year, U.S. Navy aircraft and several destroyers caught her on the surface but she dived and escaped again. Two days later, two Wildcat aircraft from the American escort carrier Croatan (CVE-25) heard her radioing weather information back to Germany. They spotted her and attacked, killing two of her crew and wounding 12 others, including Captain Sommer, before he took the sub deep. By that time Navy seamen had given the elusive U-853 the nickname "Moby Dick," while the submarine's crew gave Captain Sommer his own moniker, "Der Seiltaenzer" ("The Tightrope Walker"). Damaged, the U-boat returned to Lorient, France, for refitting, repair, and crew replacement. Now, a year later, she was on her final patrol. But this time, Frömsdorf, Sommer's young, handsome, former second in command, was the new Kapitan.

Contact!

After assuming command of the U-boat hunt, Commander McCune ordered several smaller ships to maintain the barrier patrol while sending the Atherton searching to the north and the Moberly to the south. Finally, after several false alarms, at 2343 the Atherton's sonar relocated the target, believed to be 100 feet down, 4,000 yards east of her previous position, lying dead in the water with propellers silent. One can only imagine the scene inside the sub by this time. The temperature of the hot, fetid air would be going up. Light bulbs were broken, glass gauge faces were cracked, and leaks may have appeared. Movement and noise were kept to a minimum as Frömsdorf and the sweating crew waited in fear for the next jarring explosion. Moments later, it came, in another devastating hedgehog attack. And this time the attackers could see results. Bubbles of air and oil and pieces of broken wood rose to the surface. The Atherton circled for 20 minutes. U-853 was hit but holding, and Commander McCune ordered another attack to try and split the submarine's pressure hull. Again, air bubbles and oil rose to the surface, but now a pillow, a life jacket, and a small wooden flagstaff were also spotted.

Exploding depth charges in such shallow water knocked out the Atherton's dead-reckoning tracer, so the determined McCune ordered the Moberly to move in. Incredibly, the Moberly's sonar revealed the submarine was moving again. Captain Frömsdorf was cutting south across her course at a speed of four to five knots. McCune ordered another attack. Both the Atherton and Moberly were having sonar difficulties, but they soon determined the sub's speed had dropped to two or three knots. By this time, Frömsdorf and his cornered crew must have known the end was near.

At about 0200, the Moberly raced in over the target, dropping a concentrated hedgehog barrage. After that attack, U-853 stopped moving and appeared to have bottomed. Soon, in the faint light of dawn, American seamen could see heavy pools of oil rising to the surface. Escape lungs, life jackets, and other debris bobbed up as well. Moby Dick was apparently dead. Even so, McCune ordered more explosives dropped to break the sub apart.

Now came an unusual moment in this already unlikely battle. At about 0600, two Navy blimps (K-16 and K-58) from Lakehurst, New Jersey, arrived on the scene to photograph the area, fix the sub's position with smoke and dye markers, and drop a sonobuoy to pick up any underwater sounds. Sonar operators on both blimps reported what they described as "a rhythmic hammering on a metal surface which was interrupted periodically." They said the hammering sound was then lost in the engine noise of the last attacking ships. The Navy has never officially commented on the possible source of that sound.

At 1230, McCune sent most of his ships on to Boston, while a diver from the USS Penguin (ASR-12) went down to attach a line to the sub. He landed on the conning tower and reported the sub's side split open with bodies strewn about inside. It was all over.

Despite wishful stories and rumors on Block Island, no secret treasure or any other valuable cargo was on board. In Old Harbor, fishermen gathered to talk about the end of the war and this last battle so close to their shore. In the shack of fish buyer Henry Heinz, one grizzled gentleman sitting by the coal stove remarked, "If you ask me, the damned Heinie sold out cheap . . . for a coal hod!"

Moby Dick is Dead

By this time, of course, the war was ending. The surrender document was signed, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Helmut Frömsdorf had wasted a total of 66 men's lives in a senseless, final, violent act in a war that had already recorded a new level of horror and violence. In the years that followed, divers made numerous trips down to U-853.


Truman’s Nightmare: U.S. Invasion of Japan, 1945-46

The operation for the occupation of Japan following the landing may be a very long, costly and arduous struggle on our part. The terrain, much of which I have visited several times, has left the impression on my memory of being one which would be susceptible to a last ditch defense such as has been made on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and which of course is very much larger than either of those two areas. According to my recollection it will be much more unfavorable with regard to tank maneuvering than either the Philippines or Germany.

– Secretary of War Henry Stimson to President Harry S. Truman, July 2, 1945

Safely removed more than half a century from the brutal World War II Pacific battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, critics of Harry S. Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan in August 1945 confidently maintain that an invasion of the home islands – Kyushu in the south and central Honshu near Tokyo – would have resulted in far fewer casualties than were generated by the atomic attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, Truman’s critics fail to consider the horrifically lethal conditions GI invaders would have faced: unpredictable weather, daunting terrain, and millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians willing to fight to the death.

“TARGET-RICH ENVIRONMENT”

Beyond the facts that the Imperial Army was in somewhat better shape than is commonly assumed today and that the Japanese had correctly deduced the designated landing beaches and even the approximate times of the American invasions, a host of lethal tactical challenges faced GI invaders. For example, although the Japanese had never perfected central control and massed fire of their artillery, this fact would be largely irrelevant to the type of defense they were organizing. The months that the Imperial 16th Area Army on Kyushu had to wait for the American landings would not be spent with the soldiers and the island’s massive civilian population sitting idly, and their ability to dig in and pre-register their artillery cannot be casually dismissed.

To borrow a phrase from a later Asian war, each of the three initial Kyushu invasion areas was going to present Japanese defenders with a “target-rich environment” where artillery would methodically do its deadly work on a large number of U.S. Soldiers and Marines whose luck had run out. There was already ample evidence of artillery living up to its deadly reputation. In one notable instance on Okinawa, U.S. 10th Army commander Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner was killed June 18, 1945, by Japanese artillery fire when the campaign was ostensibly in the mopping-up phase.

It has also been claimed that U.S. invasion troops need not have worried about Japanese cave defenses since combat experience had proved the effectiveness of the Americans’ self-propelled 8-inch and 155 mm howitzers against caves and bunkers as well as the caves’ vulnerability to direct fire from tanks. Yet the Japanese were also well aware of American cave-busting tactics and were arranging defensive positions accordingly from lessons learned on Okinawa and in the Philippines. This fact was not treated lightly in the Pacific as the Japanese had repeatedly demonstrated – on Okinawa, for example – that they could construct strongpoints that could not be bypassed and had to be reduced without benefit of any direct-fire weapons since no tanks – let alone lumbering self-propelled guns – could work their way in for an appropriate shot. Indeed, a U.S. I Corps intelligence officer who examined Kyushu’s terrain after the war found that the extensive rice fields were “held in by many stone terraces ranging in height from four to six feet [thus] precluding the off road movement by any type of military vehicle.”

Similarly, regarding the Japanese ability to defend against tanks, the Army and Marine armor veterans of the Pacific fighting would be amazed to learn from some of today’s historians that U.S. tanks would have had little to fear during the invasion. Despite the fact that Japan’s obsolescent 47 mm anti-tank guns “could penetrate the M-4 Sherman’s armor only in vulnerable spots at very close range” and that its older 37 mm guns were ineffective against Shermans, in reality, the Japanese through hard experience were becoming quite adept at tank killing.

During two actions on Okinawa, the Japanese knocked out 22 and 30 Shermans, respectively. In one of these fights, Fujio Takeda stopped four U.S. tanks with six 400-yard shots from his supposedly worthless 47 mm gun. As for the 37 mm, its use would depend on the terrain. Along likely axes of attack in valleys containing extensive rice fields, 37 mm guns would be positioned to fire into the highly vulnerable undersides of tanks rearing high in the air to cross the rice paddy dikes. In areas with irregular ground and vegetation, anti-tank fire would not be intended to destroy tanks but to immobilize them by blasting tracks and road wheels at short ranges to render the vehicles easier prey for the infantry suicide teams that had proved so effective on Okinawa.

Naval gunfire support has also been claimed as the American invaders’ trump card, since 25 U.S. Navy battleships and “big-gun” cruisers would be arrayed against Japan in the planned November 1945 invasion. The power of this force was unquestionably immense, prompting one awed author to state: “That the [Japanese] coast defense units could have survived the greatest pre-invasion bombardment in history to fight a tenacious, organized beach defense was highly doubtful.” As with many aspects of the planned invasion, however, perceived force ratios were not always what they seemed.

Half of these ships – 12 new “fast” battleships and battle cruisers screening the carrier task forces – were never slated to come within sight of Kyushu, although during the summer of 1945 some of them had bombarded steel mills along the Honshu coast in a failed effort to lure out Japanese aircraft. Additionally, the pre-Pearl Harbor battlewagons were to be divided up among four widely separated invasion zones, thereby diluting the effect of their shore bombardment fires.

Similar confident assertions about the decisiveness of planned naval bombardments had been made before yet, even though every square inch of the much smaller islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa had been well within the range of the U.S. Navy’s bombardment by 8-, 14-, and 16-inch guns during those campaigns, enough of the Japanese garrisons had survived to kill or wound 67,928 Soldiers and Marines.

KANTO PLAIN

What was Secretary Stimson getting at when he told President Truman that Japan’s terrain “will be much more unfavorable with regard to tank maneuvering than either the Philippines or Germany”? Stimson, a former artillery colonel during World War I, had conducted a leisurely tour of Honshu as a private citizen and visited twice in an official capacity. This presented him numerous occasions to cast his soldier eyes on the wide expanse of the Kanto Plain surrounding Tokyo. Stimson knew firsthand the daunting terrain GI invaders would face.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff set the date for the Kyushu invasion, called Operation Olympic, as X-Day, November 1, 1945, and for Honshu, Operation Coronet, as Y-Day, March 1, 1946. To reduce the number of casualties and lessen the chance of a stalemate, the launch of Coronet would await the arrival of two armored divisions from Europe. Attached to 8th Army, their mission was to sweep up Honshu’s Kanto Plain from the southernmost beachhead at Sagami Bay and cut off Tokyo before the seasonal spring rains, followed by the summer monsoons, turned it into vast pools of rice, muck and water, crisscrossed by elevated roads and dominated by rugged, well-defended foothills. East of Tokyo lay the invasion sites assigned to 1st Army.

Long before the British experienced the September 1944 Operation Market-Garden tragedy of trying to push XXX Corps’ 50,000 men up a single road through the Dutch lowlands to the “bridge too far” at Arnhem, U.S. planners were well aware of the costs that would be incurred if the Kanto Plain was not secured for mobile warfare and airfield construction prior to the wet season. Intensive hydrological and weather studies begun as early as 1943 made it clear that an invasion in early March 1946 offered the best mix of weather conditions for amphibious, mechanized ground, and tactical air operations, with movement becoming more difficult as the months progressed.

Weather in the Kanto Plain has always been unpredictable at that time of year. Indeed, the Tokyo area after the war experienced “sub-Arctic” conditions on the original March 1, 1946, invasion date, with several subsequent days of snowfall. March, the “transitional period between the dry winter months and wet summer months,” could well be “very dry or very wet,” but was thought not likely to present serious obstacles to tactical operations. April was a question mark – literally. In a staff study widely disseminated by U.S. invasion commander General Douglas MacArthur’s intelligence section, a very conspicuous question mark occupied only one of the 492 sections on the table-filled foldout containing weather data. Under the category “Rice Fields Flooded,” meteorological and geographical specialists refused to hazard either a “yes” or “no” answer as the extremely well-documented history of April weather in the Tokyo region demonstrated that there was too much seasonal variation in rainfall to accurately predict the condition of the ground.

Thus, with good luck, tolerably free movement across the Kanto Plain might be possible well into April. Unfortunately, this assumed that the snow runoff from the mountains would not be too severe, and that even during a “dry” March the Japanese would not intentionally flood the fields while waiting for the weather to lend its divine assistance sometime in April. Although subsequent postwar prisoner interrogations did not reveal any plans to deluge low-lying areas – interrogators did not ask, and Japanese prisoners did not comment on things about which they were not questioned – a quick American thrust up the Kanto Plain would not have been as speedy as planners desired.

First, none of the 5,000 vehicle bridges on the Kanto Plain (Stimson had personally traveled over many of them) were capable of carrying vehicles over 12 tons. Every tank, every self-propelled gun, and every prime mover would have to cross structures specifically erected for the event. Next, logistical considerations and the sequence of follow-up units would require that armored divisions not even land until Y Day+10. This would give defenders time to observe that the U.S. infantry’s tank support was severely hampered by “drained” fields that were almost never truly dry and to develop ways to make things worse for the invaders.

The danger was recognized by MacArthur’s intelligence shop, which, in “Summary of Weather Conditions, Tokyo Area – March,” carefully outlined the areas most susceptible to defensive flooding, while leavening its analyses with hopeful observations that the gooey belts at some locations were “narrow, mostly 100 to 200 yards wide” and “very narrow, from 50 to 300 yards wide.” Other areas that defied an upbeat assessment were simply described along the lines of “a 5- to 6-mile belt of large rice fields.”

The officers reading the intelligence group’s study needed no elaboration of the terrain’s tactical challenges to understand the statement: “During late spring, summer, and early fall, movement is, in general, restricted to roads, dikes, and embankments by floods and wet rice fields.” Likewise, the full-color chart “Effect of Rice Land, Natural, and Artificial Flooding on Cross-Country Movement” from the same document was also guaranteed to send chills up the back of any Soldier looking at it.

The principal effect of these materials was to reinforce, in clear, unambiguous terms, that the Kanto Plain must be seized by Y Day+45, or better yet, as close as possible to Y Day+30. A late start or loss of momentum on Honshu would leave American forces to fight their way up flood plains that were “dry” only during certain times of the year, but that could be suddenly inundated by the enemy. If the timetable slipped for either Olympic or Coronet (and virtually every major operation during the previous year had fallen far behind schedule), Soldiers and Marines on Honshu would risk fighting in terrain similar to that later encountered in Vietnam’s waterlogged Mekong Delta region – minus the helicopters to fly over the mess – where all movement was readily visible from even low terrain features and vulnerable convoys moved only on roads above sodden, impassable rice paddies.

This was a subject filled with immense implications because a maneuver problem of this scale could not be adequately addressed even if every bridging pontoon and associated piece of engineer equipment in the U.S. inventory could miraculously be sent to Kanto and be immediately available when and where it was needed.

The highly defensible terraced rice fields were a common feature on both islands and usually could not be easily bypassed because of the nature of their locations. The rice paddies stretch for miles along valley floors, and even when ostensibly dry they present formidable barriers to tracked movement and cannot be traversed by wheeled vehicles. Moreover, the sodden nature of most dikes and paddy floors are unsuitable for effective operation of devices like the hedgerow cutters eventually used by the Allies to “bust” through the bocage country in Normandy.

The rice paddies would have to be seized in a seemingly endless series of tedious, set-piece struggles through use of tactics similar to those employed in France’s bocage country before the appearance of the hedgerow cutter. Meanwhile, the armored elements fighting north up the roads past Tokyo in the west, and toward the capital in the east, would frequently find themselves limited to a one-tank front, as happened to the British when they were delayed reaching Arnhem by minimal German forces in the Dutch lowlands. U.S. attempts at flanking movements would be impossible or slowed to a crawl by a deadly combination of terrain and anti-tank weapons.

Japanese infantrymen were prepared to take on U.S. tanks with various personal anti-tank weapons, such as hollow-charge rifle grenades, the usually suicidal hand-placed satchel charges and a plethora of hand-operated hollow-charge mines. And when used in the proper tactical setting, traditional, if obsolescent, direct-fire weapons would become deadly tank killers during the invasion – especially on the Kanto Plain terrain. One of these, the Type 97 20 mm semi- or fully automatic anti-tank rifle, had thus far seen little use against American armor but had performed well against landing craft.

Even the comparatively thin frontal protection of the Sherman was too thick for the Type 97 to penetrate, but in the paddy fields it was a different story. At short range from expertly camouflaged positions, even a mediocre rifleman firing a semi-automatic to improve accuracy would be able to pump from two to a half-dozen 20 mm rounds into the half-inch belly armor of a Sherman as it reared up high over a dike. Once inside the tank, the rounds would smash into turret personnel, engine compartment and stored ammunition with catastrophic results.

The number of anti-tank rifles per Japanese division fluctuated according to the unit’s structure, but 18 was generally the minimum number. More robust formations, such as the Kwantung divisions sent to the home islands from Manchuria, fielded eight Type 97s per rifle company – some 72 per division. Likewise, the number of anti-tank guns ranged from 22 to 40, most of which were the more tactically flexible 47 mm. Nevertheless, great numbers of the 37 mm guns existed in artillery parks.

With Japan’s extensive preparations to use obsolete and obsolescent weapons in clever and unexpected ways to help repel GI invaders, it is certain that the Imperial Army would recognize that the dike structure presented unique opportunities for the effective employment of anti-tank weapons. Close coordination among American infantrymen and tankers could well keep losses from reaching intolerable levels but there would be no quick armored thrusts on the Kanto Plain before the rainy season.

JAPANESE ARTILLERY THREAT

And then there is the matter of the Imperial Army’s long-range artillery. If there is one thing clear about the various operational schemes for the 1946 mechanized thrust out of the Sagami lodgment (hashed over in plans formulated as far back as the summer of 1944), it is that all appear to have been produced by planners who seemed blissfully unaware that a wall of mountains, the Kanto Sanchi, and their rugged foothills stretched north along the Americans’ left flank the entire distance of the planned 40-mile drive north.

Mount Fuji at its southern extremity is the feature’s most famous peak, and the mountain line comes complete with its own moat, the steep-banked Sagami River, which “forms a barrier to maneuver through or against the western foothills[’]” last 19 miles to the ocean. Broad expanses of the river’s lower regions could also be flooded to depths that would impede vehicle traffic but even without assistance from the Imperial Japanese Army, “this river is deep and in [the] wet season floods to 1 mile wide.”

MacArthur’s intelligence section duly noted that “on the other hand, [the Sagami] also offers some protection to the west flank of a northward movement” so perhaps the lack of interest was a byproduct of the military truism that a given piece of terrain may affect an enemy’s offensive operations just as much as it affects yours. Or perhaps it was a simple assumption that 8th Army’s assault would be conducted with such speed and violence that the mountains essentially would be irrelevant to the ground offensive. They weren’t.

There is no doubt that the lower Sagami was an effective block to Japanese ground operations launched from the foothills, but the principal threat from this area would have come not from enemy infantry but from Japanese artillery. Reinforcing the divisional artillery belonging to the mobile and coastal defense formations would be long-range guns placed well back into the foothills. A network of roads weaves its way through the heights, and while most were little better than trails by American standards, they were more than adequate for Japanese needs, principally because the Japanese had designed their artillery to be extremely compact and horse-mobile.

Although Japanese cannons were judged to be “not as rugged as those of comparable calibers in other armies,” they were perfect for the killing job at hand and received rave reviews in a U.S. War Department intelligence guide distributed down to platoon level: “Japanese artillery weapons exhibit the outstanding characteristic of lightness, in some cases without the sacrifice of range.” Not pleasant reading for a GI hitting the beach near Tokyo!

The entire expanse of the invasion area could be readily observed from anywhere along the foothills and mountains to their rear, with a clear view all the way to Tokyo Bay. U.S. forces could maintain reasonably effective smoke screens over the lodgment since the northern breeze averaged a workable 6 miles per hour that time of year, but with nearly all vehicle movement confined by terrain to known, preregistered targets, Japanese artillery literally would have been shooting fish in a barrel as American engineers and transportation elements struggled to clear blasted wrecks from the congested single-lane roads and restricted staging areas.

If well emplaced – and there is no reason to believe they would not be – these guns would be extraordinarily difficult to find and destroy by either air attack or counterbattery fire. The sky over the foothills would be far too “hot” for effective use of artillery spotting aircraft against the carefully camouflaged and protected guns. The long-range weapons themselves would not be diverted from their task by ground operations aimed at silencing them because, in terms of artillery, a variety of much shorter-range howitzers and mountain guns were available to defend the line of foothills to their front.

The dearth of American forces available for such an infantry-intensive task would be felt almost immediately as a brutal series of hill fights similar to that in Italy two years earlier (and in Korea five years in the future) was not anticipated by planners but would be thrust upon the Americans. Moreover, as U.S. forces clawed their way deeper into the plain, more and more of their left flank would be exposed to artillery in these foothills. At some point before Coronet, planners would certainly realize this but as of August 1945, it had not yet been anticipated. Consequently, no significant number of troops had been allocated to this critical mission that would require a large and growing manpower commitment.

“OVER A MILLION CASUALTIES”

Stimson, the old artillery colonel during the brutal fighting of World War I, had personally viewed much of this ground, and Truman would not take lightly his appraisal of the targeted Japanese terrain. On the subject of casualties, the president did not need Stimson to explain to him what he meant by “an even more bitter finish fight than Germany” in his analysis in a June 18 conference with the president and the Joint Chiefs. All at the meeting knew it had cost roughly a million American all-causes casualties to defeat the Nazis, and that the number of American casualties was actually small when compared to those of the major allies. Moreover, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall told President Truman the same thing at the meeting: that because of Japan’s terrain, “the problem would be much more difficult than it had been in Germany.”

Stimson’s warning to Truman that “we shall incur the losses incident to such a war” was equally clear. Stimson later recounted the meeting in a high-profile Harper’s Magazine article after Japan’s defeat. For any readers not understanding his assertion, he spelled it out: “We estimated that if we should be forced to carry this plan to its conclusion, the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest. I was informed that such operations might be expected to cost over a million casualties.”

D.M. Giangrecoserved for more than 20 years as an editor for “Military Review,” published by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He has written and lectured widely on national security matters and is an award-winning author of numerous articles and 12 books, including “The Soldier From Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman” (2009, Zenith Press) and “Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-47” (Naval Institute Press, 2009).

Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Armchair General.


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