Tuesday, July 7, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 27 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“There is a beautiful result. In the meantime things are held up, there are delays, but they did their best.”
- Inez Feddema  
- on Bellevue road work  

 

Looking Back - John KinnearAs time goes by the reasoning for decisions taken at critical points in history can tend to become clouded or polarized. This is especially true of World War Two in which we find that some of the original interpretations of the why’s and wherefore’s are being altered by the release of information sealed for over 50 years. To revisit this history is a huge undertaking and requires dedicated research and years of hard work by determined historians to accurately uncover the truth.
When I first started writing in 1995 one of my first columns talked about Little Boy and Fat Man, those innocuously named nuclear devices that turned Hiroshima and Nagasaki into seas of radioactive destruction. Back then I wrote that some historians had questioned the validity of the estimates of potential battle losses used to justify these extraordinary measures. Recently I purchased a remarkable book entitled “No End Save Victory” that shed some light on this question. It is an anthology of essays done by respected military historians that presents different perspectives on critical events of the war. In it is an essay by Edward J. Drea, a former chief of research for the U.S. Army Center of Military Research that left me quite unnerved. It was entitled “Previews of Hell” and dealt with the impending invasion of Japan in 1945.
 Atomic bombs aside it was America’s intent to invade Kyushu, Japan’s most southerly island, in November of 1945 in a campaign to be called Olympic. The Allied invasion was to be in the order of 400,000 men (larger that the recently commemorated Normandy invasion) and their estimated opposition, from initial intelligence, was in the order of 300,000 men. That initial intelligence was garnered using “Ultra”, a code-breaking system that allowed the Americans to monitor every coded Japanese message. In the spring of ‘45 General MacArthur was told to prepare an invasion plan and was given complete control over all U.S. forces in the southwest Pacific. His intelligence chief, General Willoughby gave him the original enemy defense estimates and continued to monitor, through Ultra, troop buildups on Kyushu. That monitoring, into June and July, revealed some mind-boggling statistics. By the end of July the Japanese buildup on Kyushu had reached 525,000 men and was still growing.
Ultra revealed that Kyushu was being turned into a mighty bastion. It also revealed an even more frightening fact which was that nowhere in the decoded messages could they detect any pessimism or defeatism. Japan’s military leaders were determined “to go down fighting and take as many Americans with them as possible.” By then the world had had a glimpse of Japanese military fanaticism in places like Okinawa and Guadalcanal and it was realized that this invasion would meet with an unrelenting dose of the same.
Every available Japanese aircraft was being turned into a suicide plane, float planes and biplanes included. The use of Japan’s 2,000 training biplanes isn’t as ridiculous as you might think as these flimsy wood and fabric machines were not detectable by American radar. Kamikazes, on one way missions, were to crash their planes into Allied landing craft and ships. Japanese army construction battalions were building underground aircraft hangars and workers in Northern Kyushu were working double shifts to build suicide boats and kaiten (human piloted torpedoes) to be deployed along the island’s southern coast.
 
The Japanese number one target was enemy tanks, the backbone of Allied ground units. They built hundreds of antitank defenses at the water’s edge and planned to demolish all coastal roads forcing surviving tanks into rugged terrain. There they would meet with small suicide units. All officers and men, regardless of branch of service, were ordered to carry out suicide attacks. Surrender was a court martial offense punishable by death.
It all added up to a horrific preview of hell with huge Allied and Japanese losses. MacArthur, in typical arrogant fashion, refused to put any serious weight into all this intelligence and also refused to move his place of invasion from the beaches of southern Kyushu.  By August 6th Washington’s estimates of Japanese troops there was 560,000 and still growing.
Now here is where it gets scary. The Allies would need every weapon they could muster to get them inland with the fewest losses. This by then included using the atomic bomb as a tactical weapon.
Their use on the beaches at Kyushu was actually reviewed and contemplated by U.S. Army chief General Marshall. On August 6th the bombing of Hiroshima with its loss of over 140,000 human beings did not shock Japanese leaders into surrender. In fact they were apparently unaffected by a previous Tokyo City bomber raid that killed 100,000 people. August 8th the Soviets declared war on Japan and attacked from the north. August 9th Nagasaki, (a Kyushu port city) suffered the second atomic attack. On August 13th Marshall’s idea of using atomic bombs in direct support of operations for Olympic were discussed by General Hull, Marshall’s assistant Chief, and Colonel Seeman, an aide to General Groves who was Director of America’s atomic bomb program. Seeman said seven more bombs could be ready by the invasion date and would clear the beaches while U.S. soldiers and marines stayed about 6 miles offshore. They were to land 2 or 3 days later. On August 15th Japan finally agreed to an “unconditional” surrender and all these aforementioned machinations and preparations were mercifully stopped.
But what if no surrender had come? It came a lot closer to not happening that most people realize but that is another story. The carnage on Kyushu’s shores would have turned Hiroshima and Nagasaki into mere footnotes of history. American G.I.’s and marines would have landed on radioactive beaches. No one had yet grasped the implications of radiation poisoning back then. Thank God it didn’t come to that.
Here is a scary footnote for you to ponder. It is unrelated to Kyushu but will leave you shaking your head. Petroleum engineers with the Richfield Company once planned to shake the bitumen loose from the Fort Mac Murray tar sands by detonating a nine-kiloton nuclear bomb underground 100 km. south of that Alberta town. The plan was studied and approved in 1959 by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and (get this) also by special technical committees of the Alberta and Federal governments. Final approval was withheld by the Feds because we were pushing for an international moratorium on nuclear explosions back then. But what if we hadn’t been?
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