Friday, March 06, 2009

Why We Dropped The Bombs: Part I

I received the following in an email, and while lengthy, explains the cessation of hostilities with Japan in a detail that was heretofore Top Secret until the late 80's.

An Invasion Not Found in the History Books (or why we dropped the
atom bombs). By James Martin Davis, reprinted from the Omaha World Herald, November 1987

Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington , D.C. ,
hidden for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty
documents stamped "Top Secret". These documents, now declassified, are the
plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan during World War II.
Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of the elaborate plans that had been
prepared for the Allied Invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer
today are aware of the defenses the Japanese had prepared to counter the
invasion had it been launched. Operation Downfall was finalized during the
spring and summer of 1945. It called for two massive military undertakings
to be carried out in succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese

In the first invasion - code named Operation Olympic - American
combat troops would land on Japan by amphibious assault during the early
morning hours of November 1, 1945 - 50 years ago. Fourteen combat
divisions of soldiers and Marines would land on heavily fortified and
defended Kyushu , the southernmost of the Japanese home islands, after an
unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment.

The second invasion on March 1, 1946 - code named Operation
Coronet - would send at least 22 divisions against 1 million Japanese
defenders on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain. Its goal: the
unconditional surrender of Japan . With the exception of a part of the
British Pacific Fleet, Operation Downfall was to be a strictly American
operation. It called for using the entire Marine Corps, the entire Pacific
Navy, elements of the 7th Army Air Force, the 8th Air Force (recently
redeployed from Europe ), 10th Air Force and the American Far Eastern Air
Force. More than 1.5 million combat soldiers, with 3 million more in support
or more than 40% of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 - would be
directly involved in the two amphibious assaults. Casualties were expected
to be extremely heavy.

Admiral William Leahy estimated that there would be more than
250,000 Americans killed or wounded on Kyushu alone. General Charles
Willoughby, chief of intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme
Commander of the Southwest Pacific, estimated American casualties would be
one million men by the fall of 1946. Willoughby 's own intelligence staff
considered this to be a conservative estimate.

During the summer of 1945, America had little time to prepare
for such an endeavor, but top military leaders were in almost unanimous
agreement that an invasion was necessary.

While naval blockade and strategic bombing of Japan was
considered to be useful, General MacArthur, for instance, did not believe a
blockade would bring about an unconditional surrender. The advocates for
invasion agreed that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and
though strategic bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies

So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive
deliberation, issued to General MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Army
Air Force General Henry Arnold, the top secret directive to proceed with the
invasion of Kyushu . The target date was after the typhoon season.

President Truman approved the plans for the invasions July 24.
Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which
called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction.
Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the
world that Japan would ignore the proclamation and would refuse to
surrender. During this same period it was learned -- via monitoring Japanese
radio broadcasts -- that Japan had closed all schools and mobilized its
schoolchildren, was arming its civilian population and was fortifying caves
and building underground defenses.

Operation Olympic called for a four pronged assault on Kyushu .
Its purpose was to seize and control the southern one-third of that island
and establish naval and air bases, to tighten the naval blockade of the
home islands, to destroy units of the main Japanese army and to support the
later invasion of the Tokyo Plain.

The preliminary invasion would begin October 27 when the 40th
Infantry Division would land on a series of small islands west and southwest
of Kyushu . At the same time, the 158th Regimental Combat Team would invade
and occupy a small island 28 miles south of Kyushu . On these islands,
seaplane bases would be established and radar would be set up to provide
advance air warning for the invasion fleet, to serve as fighter direction
centers for the carrier-based aircraft and to provide an emergency anchorage
for the invasion fleet, should things not go well on the day of the
invasion. As the invasion grew imminent, the massive firepower of the Navy -
the Third and Fifth Fleets -- would approach Japan . The Third Fleet, under
Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, with its big guns and naval aircraft, would
provide strategic support for the operation against Honshu and Hokkaido ..
Halsey's fleet would be composed of battleships, heavy cruisers, destroyers,
dozens of support ships and three fast carrier task groups. From these
carriers, hundreds of Navy fighters, dive bombers and torpedo planes would
hit targets all over the island of Honshu . The 3,000 ship Fifth Fleet,
under Admiral Raymond Spruance, would carry the invasion troops.

Several days before the invasion, the battleships, heavy cruisers
and destroyers would pour thousands of tons of high explosives into the
target areas. They would not cease the bombardment until after the land
forces had been launched. During the early morning hours of November 1, the
invasion would begin. Thousands of soldiers and Marines would pour ashore on
beaches all along the eastern, southeastern, southern and western coasts of
Kyushu . Waves of Helldivers, Dauntless dive bombers, Avengers, Corsairs, and
Hellcats from 66 aircraft carriers would bomb, rocket and strafe enemy
defenses, gun emplacements and troop concentrations along the beaches.

The Eastern Assault Force consisting of the 25th, 33rd and 41st
Infantry Divisions would land near Miyaski, at beaches called Austin,
Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford, and move inland to attempt
to capture the city and its nearby airfield. The Southern Assault Force,
consisting of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 43rd Division and American
Division would land inside Ariake Bay at beaches labeled DeSoto, Dusenberg,
Essex, Ford, and Franklin and attempt to capture Shibushi and the city of
Kanoya and its airfield.

On the western shore of Kyushu , at beaches Pontiac , Roe, Rolls
Royce, Saxon, Star, Studebaker, Stutz, Winston and Zephyr, the V Amphibious
Corps would land the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Marine Divisions, sending half of its
force inland toSendai and the other half to the port city of Kagoshima ..

On November 4, the Reserve Force, consisting of the 81st and 98th
Infantry Divisions and the 11th Airborne Division, after feigning an attack
of the island of Shikoku, would be landed -- if not needed elsewhere -- near
Kaimondake, near the southernmost tip of Kagoshima Bay, at the beaches
designated Locomobile, Lincoln, LaSalle, Hupmobile, Moon, Mercedes, Maxwell,
Overland, Oldsmobile, Packard and Plymouth.

Olympic was not just a plan for invasion, but for conquest and
occupation as well. It was expected to take four months to achieve its
objective, with the three fresh American divisions per month to be landed in
support of that operation if needed.

If all went well with Olympic, Coronet would be launched March 1,
1946. Coronet would be twice the size of Olympic, with as many as 28
divisions landing on Honshu .

All along the coast east of Tokyo , the American 1st Army would
land the 5th, 7th, 27th, 44th, 86th, and 96th Infantry Divisions along with
the 4th and 6th Marine Divisions.

At Sagami Bay , just south of Tokyo , the entire 8th and 10th Armies
would strike north and east to clear the long western shore of Tokyo Bay and
attempt to go as far as Yokohama . The assault troops landing south of Tokyo
would be the 4th, 6th, 8th, 24th, 31st, 37th, 38th and 8th Infantry
Divisions, along with the 13th and 20th Armored Divisions.

Following the initial assault, eight more divisions - the 2nd,
28th, 35th, 91st, 95th, 97th and 104th Infantry Divisions and the 11th
Airborne Division -- would be landed. If additional troops were needed, as
expected, other divisions redeployed from Europe and undergoing training in
the United States would be shipped to Japan in what was hoped to be the
final push.

Captured Japanese documents and post war interrogations of
Japanese military leaders disclose that information concerning the number of
Japanese planes available for the defense of the home islands was
dangerously in error.

During the sea battle at Okinawa alone, Japanese kamakaze aircraft
sank 32 Allied ships and damaged more than 400 others. But during the summer
of 1945, American top brass concluded that the Japanese had spent their air
force since American bombers and fighters daily flew unmolested over Japan .

What the military leaders did not know was that by the end of
July the Japanese had been saving all aircraft, fuel, and pilots in reserve,
and had been feverishly building new planes for the decisive battle for
their homeland.

As part of Ketsu-Go, the name for the plan to defend Japan -- the
Japanese were building 20 suicide takeoff strips in southern Kyushu with
underground hangars. They also had 35 camouflaged airfields and nine
seaplane bases.

On the night before the expected invasion, 50 Japanese seaplane
bombers, 100 former carrier aircraft and 50 land based army planes were to
be launched in a suicide attack on the fleet.

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