Facts of war support decision to drop atomic bomb
I noted with interest the letters on the atom bomb drop on Japan. Perhaps the following may be of interest to readers.
One thesis, I gathered, was that we can’t trust our reps in Washington. I fully agree. Possibly, if the Allies hadn’t demanded an unconditional surrender, had stated that the Japanese could keep their government and their emperor, an armistice could have occurred without dropping the bomb.
But we didn’t, and the Japanese, who rejected our unconditional surrender ultimatum, were determined to defeat America. I’m convinced they would have been successful, but at a terrible cost in lives to Japan and to the Japanese culture.
Once momentum for battle begins it is difficult to stop as readers of “Guns of August” (World War I) by Barbara Tuchman and “Arguments without End” (Vietnam) by the former defense secretary Robert McNamara will attest.
There was momentum for the American invasion and for the Japanese defense.
Any troop operation requires control of the air. The reason the World War II German offensive “Operation Greif,” called the Battle of the Bulge, was so successful was that we couldn’t fly and protect our troops in the bad weather.
The Japanese were feverishly building new planes, underground hangars, and camouflaged airfields and had deliberately not opposed our bombers and fighter sweeps over Japan. They were hoarding their planes for the decisive invasion battle for their homeland.
Top American brass had estimated the Japanese had no more than 2,500 aircraft. They actually had 5,561 army and 7,074 navy aircraft. Additionally, they had developed a rocket-propelled bomb- much like the usually harmless Gennan V-1 – but flown by a suicide pilot.
And the Japanese knew where and when we were going to invade. On the night before the 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 invasion fleet.
These would not be kids trained as kamikaze pilots, named after the Divine Wind hurricane that had wiped out the Mongol invasion fleet, but would be experienced pilots attacking, I believe, en masse and probably not at a low dive angle.
In the battle of Okinawa, kamikazes sank 32 Allied ships and damaged more than 400 others. The U.S. Navy says 20 sunk and 312 damaged, but I bet the Japanese would have changed their tactics for the invasion, and the results would have been catastrophic for us.
As horrible as the battle of Japan would be off the beaches, it would be on Japanese soil that American forces would face the most cruel and fanatical defense encountered during the war.
Some British ships would aid the bombing, but the invasion would be solely American.
More than 1.5 million combat soldiers with 3 million more in support would have been involved directly in the two planned amphibious assaults, one called Olympic on Kyushu and the other Coronet on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain on 1 March 1946.
Throughout the island-hopping Pacific campaign, Allied troops had always outnumbered the Japanese by two to one or more. In Japan it would have been different.
Facing the 14 American divisions landing at Kyushu would have been 14 Japanese divisions, seven independent mixed brigades, three tank brigades and thousands of naval troops.
Odds would be three to two in favor of the Japanese. And the defenders would not be poorly trained and ill-equipped work battalions the Americans had often confronted. They now would face the hard core of the home army, well-fed and well-equipped.
They were familiar with the terrain, had stockpiled arms and ammunition and had developed an effective system of transportation and supply almost invisible from the air. Reminds you of Vietnam?
Many were the elite of the army and swollen with a fanatical fighting spirit.
In addition to the use of poison gas and bacteriological warfare, which the Japanese had been experimenting, Japan had mustered its citizens and 28 million Japanese had become part of the nation’s Volunteer Combat Force armed with ancient rifles, lunge mines. Molotov cocktails, satchel charges, one shot black powder mortars, swords, long bows and bamboo spears. (Think of Palestinian suicide bombers.) Incidentally, the beaches had been honey-combed with tunnels for defense of the beaches.
Had the atom bomb not been dropped, one can only guess how many civilians would have committed suicide in the protection of their homes. Operation Olympic and Ketsu-Go (Japan’s name for its defense operation) might have resulted in the worst bloodbath in the history of modem warfare.
And Japan would have been devastated as a nation and possible as a culture.
Prior to the bombing, we had planned to firebomb the remaining Japanese cities. The cost of life from the two atom bombs would be small compared to the losses from this aerial disaster, as Japanese spokesmen have admitted.
And with American forces locked in combat, little could have prevented the Soviet Union from swarming into northern Japan and Japan could have been partitioned much like Germany, Korea and Vietnam.
So, you might say President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb saved us from Operation Downfall made by those bastards in Washington. It undoubtedly saved many Japanese and American lives – including mine. My P-38 squadron was loading its LST for a move to Okinawa.
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