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04/03/2003

Operation Downfall

Update 4/9: Hott Spotts will return April 17. For now, I couldn''t
be prouder to be an American...and we wish the Iraqi people the best
as they shape a new nation. I also want to once again thank our
allies, especially Britain and Australia.

---

As I write this on Wednesday, the news from the front in Iraq
is very promising. We now wait to see what happens in the
assault on Baghdad.

Last February while I was in Australia, Tony Maniaty had an
article in The Australian newspaper concerning the proposed
invasion of Japan that was to end World War II, before President
Truman opted to use the atomic bomb instead. Some of the
thoughts from that era are interesting in light of today’s conflict.

What was codenamed “Operation Downfall” was to be launched
on November 1, 1945. The United States was planning on using
5 million troops, almost half the entire American military.
Additionally, there were to be some British and Australian
forces. [There’s your first parallel.]

The first invasion was to take place on the southernmost home
island of Kyushu. After consolidating forces there, the Allies
would then move onto Honshu in the spring, with a push through
Hiroshima before heading to Tokyo.

In March 1945, Tokyo had been firebombed, resulting in the loss
of 90,000 lives in one night, yet the Japanese didn’t back down
(much as the firebombing of Dresden didn’t result in Hitler’s
surrender). When some in America criticized the Tokyo attack,
General Curtis Lemay said, “We’re at war with Japan. Would
you rather have Americans killed?”

The rhetoric of the time was similar to today, with Truman
Administration representatives talking of dealing a final blow
against “an evil regime,” while for his part Emperor Hirohito
described the last phase as a “holy war.” And like Saddam
Hussein’s utterances, Hirohito added, “The barbaric tribe of
Americans are devils in human skin.”

By summer of 1945, Japan still had 3 million soldiers. Their
plan, labeled “Ketsu-Go,” “Operation Decision,” incorporated an
additional 25 million civilians, most armed with just bamboo
spears and pitchforks, in the defense of the homeland. Kamikaze
pilots would then hit U.S. warships and troop carriers.

One of the reasons Truman was so queasy about an invasion,
though, was the action on the island of Okinawa that spring.
180,000 American troops landed on April 1. At first there was
little resistance as the Japanese pulled back to their most heavily
fortified sector. Okinawa’s 450,000 civilians were dragged with
them human shields. Fighting raged until June 21 and in the
end over 12,000 Americans lost their lives. The Japanese lost an
unbelievable 100,000 – with another 90,000 civilians losing
theirs (many of these took their own lives). Kamikazes sank 30
U.S. vessels.

With this awful background, it’s no wonder Truman had second
thoughts. He sought opinion both inside and outside government
on what the casualty figures may be for an invasion. [Yes, no
different than the Defense Policy Board of today and its
influence on President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld.]

Army Chief-of-Staff George Marshall estimated that the invasion
would cost 250,000 American lives and the other projections fell
between 30,000 and one million. Truman had solicited the
advice of former President Herbert Hoover, who wrote a series of
papers in which he estimated a loss of life between 500,000 and
one million. Everyone was in agreement that the territory would
be taken street by street. Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote
Truman, “We shall in my opinion have to go through a more
bitter finish fight than in Germany.”

In another parallel to today, Admiral William Leahy, having met
with Truman, passed a memorandum around stamped URGENT
to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Leahy said the President
wanted to meet on June 18 to discuss “the losses in dead and
wounded that will result from an invasion of Japan proper,”
adding, “It is his intention to make his decision on the campaign
with the purpose of economizing to the maximum extent possible
in the loss of American lives.”

The meeting took place, with all the participants in agreement on
the costs. Author Dennis Giangreco notes in the current issue of
American Heritage that Secretary of War Stimson said he
“agreed with the plan proposed by the JCS as being the best
thing to do, but he still hoped for some fruitful accomplishment
through other means.” Giangreco writes, “Those other means
ranged from increased political pressure brought to bear through
a display of Allied unanimity at the imminent Potsdam
Conference to the as-yet-untested atomic weapons that might
‘shock’ the Japanese into surrender.”


The authors of a recent book titled “Codename Downfall: The
Secret Plan to Invade Japan,” Thomas Allen and Norman
Polmar, have their own estimate on the cost of an invasion based
on new archives and facts not available in ‘45 147,500
American dead. They think that the initial assault on Kyushu
would have been the single bloodiest battle in history.

[Japanese warfare is based on the traditional concept of
“bushido,” which requires warriors to die in battle rather than
face the shame of surrender.]

In the article for The Australian, Giangreco is quoted separately
on the mindset of Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

“You could easily get the same situation we had in the invasion
of Europe, where you had extremely bloody conflict (with the
Germans) going on in one area and not far away, mass surrenders
taking place. This is the most likely scenario in Iraq, whereas in
Japan there was a determination in the armed forces to go all the
way.”

Author Richard Frank, who has written of the Imperial Japanese
Empire, opined that he doubted many Iraqis would lay down
their lives for Saddam. “His regime hasn’t instilled the
fanaticism in the population that, say, North Korea has.”

[Again, much of the above is from an article written about six
weeks ago.]

Of course in the end, Truman dropped the first atomic bomb on
Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, killing about 140,000 people. Tokyo
still refused to give in, whereupon Truman warned:

“If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of
ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth.”

A second bomb hit Nagasaki. Hirohito finally gave in, saying in
a radio address that he bowed to U.S. supremacy, noting the
“trends of the world were not advantageous to us.” As reporter
Maniaty notes, “It was the first time most Japanese had ever
heard his voice.” There was no need for Operation Downfall.

---

Brian Trumbore

*Hott Spotts will return April 17.


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-04/03/2003-      
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Hot Spots

04/03/2003

Operation Downfall

Update 4/9: Hott Spotts will return April 17. For now, I couldn''t
be prouder to be an American...and we wish the Iraqi people the best
as they shape a new nation. I also want to once again thank our
allies, especially Britain and Australia.

---

As I write this on Wednesday, the news from the front in Iraq
is very promising. We now wait to see what happens in the
assault on Baghdad.

Last February while I was in Australia, Tony Maniaty had an
article in The Australian newspaper concerning the proposed
invasion of Japan that was to end World War II, before President
Truman opted to use the atomic bomb instead. Some of the
thoughts from that era are interesting in light of today’s conflict.

What was codenamed “Operation Downfall” was to be launched
on November 1, 1945. The United States was planning on using
5 million troops, almost half the entire American military.
Additionally, there were to be some British and Australian
forces. [There’s your first parallel.]

The first invasion was to take place on the southernmost home
island of Kyushu. After consolidating forces there, the Allies
would then move onto Honshu in the spring, with a push through
Hiroshima before heading to Tokyo.

In March 1945, Tokyo had been firebombed, resulting in the loss
of 90,000 lives in one night, yet the Japanese didn’t back down
(much as the firebombing of Dresden didn’t result in Hitler’s
surrender). When some in America criticized the Tokyo attack,
General Curtis Lemay said, “We’re at war with Japan. Would
you rather have Americans killed?”

The rhetoric of the time was similar to today, with Truman
Administration representatives talking of dealing a final blow
against “an evil regime,” while for his part Emperor Hirohito
described the last phase as a “holy war.” And like Saddam
Hussein’s utterances, Hirohito added, “The barbaric tribe of
Americans are devils in human skin.”

By summer of 1945, Japan still had 3 million soldiers. Their
plan, labeled “Ketsu-Go,” “Operation Decision,” incorporated an
additional 25 million civilians, most armed with just bamboo
spears and pitchforks, in the defense of the homeland. Kamikaze
pilots would then hit U.S. warships and troop carriers.

One of the reasons Truman was so queasy about an invasion,
though, was the action on the island of Okinawa that spring.
180,000 American troops landed on April 1. At first there was
little resistance as the Japanese pulled back to their most heavily
fortified sector. Okinawa’s 450,000 civilians were dragged with
them human shields. Fighting raged until June 21 and in the
end over 12,000 Americans lost their lives. The Japanese lost an
unbelievable 100,000 – with another 90,000 civilians losing
theirs (many of these took their own lives). Kamikazes sank 30
U.S. vessels.

With this awful background, it’s no wonder Truman had second
thoughts. He sought opinion both inside and outside government
on what the casualty figures may be for an invasion. [Yes, no
different than the Defense Policy Board of today and its
influence on President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld.]

Army Chief-of-Staff George Marshall estimated that the invasion
would cost 250,000 American lives and the other projections fell
between 30,000 and one million. Truman had solicited the
advice of former President Herbert Hoover, who wrote a series of
papers in which he estimated a loss of life between 500,000 and
one million. Everyone was in agreement that the territory would
be taken street by street. Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote
Truman, “We shall in my opinion have to go through a more
bitter finish fight than in Germany.”

In another parallel to today, Admiral William Leahy, having met
with Truman, passed a memorandum around stamped URGENT
to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Leahy said the President
wanted to meet on June 18 to discuss “the losses in dead and
wounded that will result from an invasion of Japan proper,”
adding, “It is his intention to make his decision on the campaign
with the purpose of economizing to the maximum extent possible
in the loss of American lives.”

The meeting took place, with all the participants in agreement on
the costs. Author Dennis Giangreco notes in the current issue of
American Heritage that Secretary of War Stimson said he
“agreed with the plan proposed by the JCS as being the best
thing to do, but he still hoped for some fruitful accomplishment
through other means.” Giangreco writes, “Those other means
ranged from increased political pressure brought to bear through
a display of Allied unanimity at the imminent Potsdam
Conference to the as-yet-untested atomic weapons that might
‘shock’ the Japanese into surrender.”


The authors of a recent book titled “Codename Downfall: The
Secret Plan to Invade Japan,” Thomas Allen and Norman
Polmar, have their own estimate on the cost of an invasion based
on new archives and facts not available in ‘45 147,500
American dead. They think that the initial assault on Kyushu
would have been the single bloodiest battle in history.

[Japanese warfare is based on the traditional concept of
“bushido,” which requires warriors to die in battle rather than
face the shame of surrender.]

In the article for The Australian, Giangreco is quoted separately
on the mindset of Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

“You could easily get the same situation we had in the invasion
of Europe, where you had extremely bloody conflict (with the
Germans) going on in one area and not far away, mass surrenders
taking place. This is the most likely scenario in Iraq, whereas in
Japan there was a determination in the armed forces to go all the
way.”

Author Richard Frank, who has written of the Imperial Japanese
Empire, opined that he doubted many Iraqis would lay down
their lives for Saddam. “His regime hasn’t instilled the
fanaticism in the population that, say, North Korea has.”

[Again, much of the above is from an article written about six
weeks ago.]

Of course in the end, Truman dropped the first atomic bomb on
Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, killing about 140,000 people. Tokyo
still refused to give in, whereupon Truman warned:

“If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of
ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth.”

A second bomb hit Nagasaki. Hirohito finally gave in, saying in
a radio address that he bowed to U.S. supremacy, noting the
“trends of the world were not advantageous to us.” As reporter
Maniaty notes, “It was the first time most Japanese had ever
heard his voice.” There was no need for Operation Downfall.

---

Brian Trumbore

*Hott Spotts will return April 17.