Chapter 13 – Part 1: Okinawa; Hacksaw Ridge; Tokyo conflagration. Part 2: Preparation for invasion; Japan’s defenses; Nuclear bomb development and tests; Hiroshima; Nagasaki
Chapter 14: MacArthur’s Arrival; Meeting with Hirohito; Surrender signing on U.S.S. Missouri; MacArthur – “The savior of Japan”; VJ Day (Victory over Japan).
DELIVERANCE – The Story of WWII
In the spring of 1945 Emperor Michimoniya Hirohito walked alone in his palace garden.
He liked to do that – between air raids. He was considered by his people to be Divine, a descendant of Amateratsu, the sun-goddess. He was “Emperor of the Rising Sun” (Dai Nippon) but it must seem now to be the “Emperor of the Setting Sun.”
Decades before, Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of the Military controlled government, had assured his Emperor that expansion was necessary. By whatever means. The Emperor must have an Empire to have endless supplies of slave laborers, oil, iron, and rubber.
To begin with the conquests had seemed unstoppable. Large parts of China – the old enemy – were now occupied. Island after island had been gobbled up. Whole countries overpowered and occupied.
Then Tojo made a mistake. A big mistake. Huge! He attacked the United States. On December 7, 1941, his planes attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. Since then the Empire had slowly begun to lose all they had gained. The U.S. and their Allies were getting nearer and nearer to the Homeland. Only Okinawa was left.
Hirohito knew the enemy was amassing a powerful invasion force and planned to use Okinawa as a staging area to invade the Homeland. B29 bombers were coming almost daily from the Mariana Islands. If Okinawa fell the Emperor faced the unthinkable, the Homeland could be occupied. The first time for over 2,000 years.
His War Cabinet assured His Majesty, “Okinawa will not fall.”
Okinawa is the main island of the RYUKYU group. It is 70 miles long and approximately 7 miles wide on average.
The American invaders would find large parts of the terrain were cultivated farmlands. The Okinawan farmers grew rice, sweet potatoes, and sugar. The population, in 1945, was about 450,000. Some parts of Okinawa were mountainous and wooded. The Japanese occupiers had built several airfields which U.S. General Curtis Le May coveted for his B29 bombers. The flight to Tokyo and other cities was a mere 350 miles.
The Japanese had poured in at least 67,000 defense soldiers. In addition, 20,000 helpless Okinawan men were made to wear the military uniform and fight for the Empire.
Especially strong were the defenses in rocky pinnacles and steep escarpments. These were tunneled and caved providing cover for artillery, mortars, machine-guns, and other weaponry. The “Maeda” escarpment, 400 feet high ran five miles across the island from one side to the other. One section included 60 feet of sheer rock. This was known as “Hacksaw Ridge”.
In addition to the defenders I have described, all high school boys aged between 14 and 17 were also drafted and trained for frontline action. They were known as “Tekkatsu Kinnataie” – the “Iron and Blood” brigades. Half of them would die. Eventually 240 high school girls were added to assist in medical work. All but 3 would die.
Before the U.S. invasion on land, the Navy was in action. From the aircraft carriers went fighter-bombers to harass or destroy Japanese defensive preparations. Almost all the Japanese aircraft on Okinawa were destroyed. One quarter of the Naval force comprised ships from the British Royal Navy. This included precious aircraft carriers, battleships and destroyers, plus 450 planes.
The Japanese naval defense was not as strong as the Allies, but they had one weapon the Allies did not – KAMIKAZE planes and pilots. They boasted 1,500 willing pilots intending to die for their Emperor. They flew their distinctive white headscarf. The Allied planes and naval guns tried to shoot them down before they could fulfill their deadly mission.
The Kamikazes only hit about 19% of their targets. Nevertheless they sank 200 Allied ships of the smaller variety up to the destroyer class. Although the Kamikazes failed to sink any large warships, such as battleships and aircraft carriers, they did damage some quite severely. Here the British carriers were strong because their carrier decks were especially armored. Damage could usually be quickly repaired. The suicide pilots attacked in multiples – two, or a group, or even a whole squadron. In addition were 184 “lone wolf” pilots. The Japanese also attacked with Kamikaze suicide human torpedoes.
The Empire had another unique weapon – a monster battleship of 70,000 tons with an armory of 9 batteries of 18 inch guns. These could outshoot – in distance and destructive power – any Allied battleship. The super-battleship, YAMATO, was sent steaming from her home port with instructions to destroy as many Allied ships as she could before deliberately beaching herself near the invasion beach. From there the Yamato was to keep up incessant deadly fire. In the event the big ship was spotted mid-ocean on April 7th. For two hours she was attacked non-stop by 300 Allied planes and submarines, and sunk with the loss of 4,907 sailors, including the Captain.
A number of historians have described the naval battle as somewhat one-sided. Nevertheless, in no other battles were so many ships and men lost (including Pearl Harbor) – 4,907 sailors and 7,343 airmen.
The U.S. invasion began on April 1st, 1945, Easter Sunday. It lasted until June 22nd. It has been declared the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. So terrible was it that it resulted in 7 recipients of the Medal of Honor (equivalent to the British Victoria Cross), and more mental breakdowns than any other theater of the War. Over 500,000 men in total, U.S. soldiers and Marines, were involved in this invasion.
A “new” army was formed (the 10th) of cross-branch services under one command – 100,000 Army, 88,000 Marines – plus continuous naval and air power. The commander was General SIMON BOLIVAR BUCKNER. Sadly he was to lose his life just 4 days before the victorious end of the Okinawan campaign, killed by shrapnel and shards of coral from an exploding shell. Buckner was the highest ranking officer killed in World War II.
On April 1st 60,000 U.S. troops landed on the west coast, quickly seizing two airfields. The Japanese defenders mounted a strong counter attack on April 6th with 355 Kamikaze planes released upon the U.S. attackers.
In an overview of this kind it is impossible to describe the individual battles as U.S. soldiers and Marines fought their way across this island. Tanks on the flatter farmland. Mortars, machine-guns, grenades, rockets, and flame throwers for close fighting in a fantasia of cliffs, caves, ravines and tunnels. In some places they even encountered Okinawan women with sharpened spears! Of course the Okinawan civilian inhabitants had been warned what dreadful horrors awaited men – and especially women – who were captured by these “monsters” from America.
I will mention the taking of “Hacksaw Ridge” escarpment because it has recently been made into a feature film. It tells the story of a brave Medic, Private Desmond Doss. This medic was assigned to “B” Company of the U.S. Army. He was unusual in that he was a “Seventh Day Adventist”. The Adventists belong to a branch of the Christian church which observes very strictly Saturday as a Holy Sabbath Day; on that day no work must be done. Adventists also practice in their daily lives total abstinence from meat, alcoholic beverages and smoking. In addition to this, Doss was a “Conscientious Objector”. That is, he refused to bear arms and kill people under any circumstances.
When he enlisted he explained that he refused to even carry a gun. He was denied entry into the Army. He was offered civilian work such as farm work, factory work, or work in coal mines. However, Desmond Doss desperately wished to play his part in the U.S. Army by being a medical orderly. Another Board declared him “mentally unsound”!
Eventually the Army gave in and accepted Doss. At “boot camp” and on assignment he was subject to much ridicule, shaming, and the like, from his fellow recruits. But when they saw his courage and expert devotion in saving their lives during bloody battles on GUAM and LEYTE their attitude completely changed. He read from his Bible and prayed before each encounter. He was awarded two Bronze Stars.
So to “Hacksaw Ridge”. Two Divisions had been unsuccessful. Now it was the turn of “B” Company. By stealth they made it to the top but were met with withering fire from the defenders. Doss brought down wounded soldiers as men with terrible wounds cried out, “Medic”, “Help me”, “Help me!” Eventually, the decision was made, 100 would have to be left. Either they would die or be captured. Doss was not ready to be withdrawn. Up and down he went, lowering each man on fixed ropes. After no fewer than 75 of these lives were saved, Doss himself was severely wounded and had to be taken out.
Later, he was promoted and awarded the highest honor, the “Medal of Honor”, by President Harry S. Truman, “For service beyond the call of duty.”
After 82 days of heavy and costly fighting, Okinawa was eventually secured. Casualties were as follows: (bearing in mind different sources count different figures)
U.S. Army: Killed or missing – 12,500
Wounded – 31,000 – many died later from the effects of their wounds
U.S. Marines: Killed or missing – 2,938
U.S. Navy: Killed or missing – 4,907
Wounded – 4874
JAPANESE: Killed – 77,166 + 14,000 Koreans + 150,000 Okinawans (killed or suicide)
School boys: The “Iron and Blood” Brigade – estimated 50% of those drafted
With the fall of Okinawa, Emperor Hirohito desperately began to think of a way to bring this dreadful war to an end by peaceful negotiation. In spite of the U.S. and British demand for “unconditional surrender” maybe the Russians could broker an agreement.
Some members of his WAR CABINET were thinking the same way, but the NATION MILITARISTS were still supreme and declared, “Such talk is treasonable.”
General Curtis LeMay, Commander in Chief of XX1 Bomber Command, had been supplied with squadrons of new Boeing B29s. These huge, four engine bombers, known as “Superfortresses” were based on the newly secured Mariana Islands, especially SAIPAN and TINIAN.
On November 24th, 1944, these planes went on a bombing mission to bomb Tokyo. From now on raids on Japanese mainland cities became a regular occurrence. They also laid mines in strategic ports and waterways. Significantly hampering Japan’s ability to support its population or move its troops.
Apart from the very long distances involved (Saipan was over 1,500 miles from Tokyo) these were daylight raids. They bombed in daylight in order to more accurately meet their targets of factories, airfields and ports, but this made them more vulnerable to artillery fire or attacks by the few fighter planes Japan had kept back for home defense. They bombed from such high altitudes (30,000ft), accuracy was scarce. The targets were often missed by the proverbial mile!
General LeMay thought he had a better idea; night bombing, from low altitude using incendiaries. Japanese buildings were frequently very flammable, especially domestic homes made of wood and with walls of paper. Furthermore, they were tightly close together.
He tried out this new tactic on KOBE, Japan’s 6th largest city. Five of twelve factories burned and two of the largest shipyards were cut in half.
THE HOLOCAUST OF TOKYO
Massive raids on an eastern segment of the capital were planned for March 9 and 10, 1945. Knowing that it would be mostly a civilian area he sent them a warning. Thousands upon thousands of leaflets were dropped. “We do not wish to injure innocent Japanese people. You are advised to evacuate the city.”
Such raids would seek to be justified as attempts to persuade the people to rise up and demand their leaders accede to the Allies demands of unconditional surrender. In addition, intelligence declared that important machine parts were being stored, assembled, or even manufactured in residential areas.
Thus, on March 9th, 334 B29s left the Saipan and Tinian bases preceded by PATHFINDERS. The Pathfinders’ assignment was to mark by fire a cross “X” indicating the center of the target area. Most lights were out, most families asleep.
A terrible holocaust ensued. From almost 3,000ft, 1,665 tons of incendiary cluster bombs rained down. Cluster bombs were designed to disintegrate at about 1,000ft dispersing a shower of canister-like bombs of napalm, white phosphorous, and magnesium. They immediately produced a hellish inferno. The fires were fanned by a strong wind and incinerated 16 square miles of homes and other buildings.
Survivors told of young women running screaming through the street with burning babies strapped to their backs. Others told of desperate people leaping into swimming pools only to be boiled alive. Those who made it to the Sumida River found hundreds of people, standing in the water closely attached to each other – all dead.
A young student rising from her bed early next morning in a home way out west of the center called her parents to see the glowing sunrise in the east. She didn’t know then what she learned later to her horror, 100,000 people and been burned alive or suffocated. More than 40,000 were injured with terrible burns (some authorities claim 100,000).
The pilots told how they could still taste and smell the burning flesh even when they climbed to 9,000ft. Many crew members vomited. I do not know what the crew members thought about what they had done. General Curtis Le May declared the mission “a great success” and sent them back twice more. Four million people were made homeless by the Tokyo raids of March 9-10.
He then expedited similar raids on Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, and Kobe (again). He announced he had a list ready with plans to firebomb 60 other cities. True to his word, through March to August, the holocaust of Tokyo was repeated on Japan’s cities. Raids were preceded by leaflet raids; then came the slaughter. One million people died; 10 million were left homeless. Still there was no surrender.
On his first full day as President, April 13, 1945 the new President, Harry S. Truman, was briefed about a new mega-bomb which would soon be available. It was so “Top Secret” that even as Vice President he had never been told about it. It was called a “nuclear bomb”. This former farmer and haberdasher would be called upon to make one of the most historic and terrible decisions in the history of the world.
THE EVENT WHICH CHANGED THE WORLD
Preparations for Invasion
In early July 1945 General Douglas MacArthur, liberator of the Philippines, was working in his spartan office in City Hall, Manila. He was planning an invasion. MacArthur had been appointed “Supreme Commander of Allied Powers” (SCAP) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, confirmed the appointment.
The invasion MacArthur was planning was that of the Japanese Emperor’s Homeland. When he had re-entered his beloved Manila he was appalled at the horror stories being told. Apparently, before the Japanese soldiers had left the capital every Filipino man they could find had been brutally killed by beheading, bayoneting, or shooting. No woman escaped being raped however old or young. Then she would often be bayoneted. Little Filipino children were murdered in such gruesome and horrific ways I disdain to describe them here. Surely this was an “Evil Empire” which must be destroyed. What he heard and saw only served to strengthen MacArthur’s determination and resolve. After the War the leaders who had ordered this slaughter were brought to trial.
“Operation Downfall” was the code name for what was to be the final invasion of the “Dai Nippon” homeland. My readers will recall the Empire of Japan consisted of nearly 7,000 islands. Even the inhabited small islands were defended ferociously costing precious American, British, or Australian lives.
Four islands were regarded as the Sacred Homeland which Japanese people believed were drops from a god: KYUSHU, SHIKOKU, HONSHU and HOKKAIDO.
MacArthur predicted it would require 5 million U.S. troops plus 1 million British to bring about total victory over a people determined to fight to the death.
Operation Downfall was to be a two-stage invasion. In November 1945 the U.S. 6th Army would storm the beaches of KYUSHU, the southernmost of the Home islands. The invasion would be preceded, as usual, by intensive bombing. Success would provide strategically useful airfields for the second stage: namely the invasion of HONSHU and the drive across the plains to TOKYO (the capital). Also on HONSHU ISLAND was KYOTO, the old capital. Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had forbidden the bombing of Kyoto for it had religious and historical importance to the Japanese people.
MacArthur doubted if this second phase could be attempted before March 1946 and then it would require 1.5 million men. Already sailing were 30 Divisions from Europe to strengthen the invading forces.
JAPAN’S DEFENSES – “KETSU-GO” – Operation Decision
Of course the Empire’s military leadership had also been planning for this, and they either guessed or had been informed by their Intelligence, where the first invasion would come, and when.
Consequently over 2.5 million Japanese regular troops were being deployed on KYUSHU Island. In addition, half a million troops were available in the garrisons, as well as 32 million militia-men (like Home Guard). All males 17-60 years of age were already trained and armed, so too females 17-45 years old. Every Homeland civilian must have a weapon, if only a sword or bamboo spear. Stockpiled also were ancient muskets and bronze cannon.
Children were taught how to strap onto themselves high explosive devices and roll under enemy tanks. They were called “Sherman Carpets.”
Aircraft – Fifteen hundred (1500) Kamikaze suicide planes and pilots had been kept on the Homeland at the ready. Even Kamikaze wooden biplanes were hidden and were undetectable by radar.
Every beach barrier invented was dug into the beaches of KYUSHU and in the hinterland enormous underground caves were stocked with food and ammunition. Suicide motor boats would ram landing craft.
The Japanese war cabinet was hoping the casualties’ cost to the American public would be such that they would demand of the President downward, to begin negotiations to stop the war.
Of course, MacArthur and his team must present estimated casualties to the Chiefs of Staff and President in Washington. First they must know MacArthur believed it would take 2 years to gain total victory costing one million casualties with from 25,000 to 46,000 dead.
Secretary for War, Henry Stimson, believed those figures too optimistic. He estimated 1.7 million casualties; with up to 220,000 deaths.
POTSDAM CONFERENCE – July 17 to August 2
All these plans and figures were of great consideration to three important men meeting 5,000 miles away in the western Berlin suburb of POTSDAM. These were: President Harry Truman (United States); Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Great Britain); Marshall Stalin (Soviet Union). Truman had met Churchill in Berlin a few days before but he had never met Stalin.
Most of the talk concerned the occupation of Europe now that Nazi Germany had been defeated. Where would the borders be? What would be the “spheres of influence” of the great powers? Germany was to have four zones and even Berlin so divided.
Regarding Japan, Stalin reiterated the promise he had made at Yalta to tear up his “neutrality treaty” with Japan and declare war against them. He said, “By mid-August the Red Army will be in Manchuria!” Actually even during Potsdam massive Russian forces were assembling on the borders of Japan-occupied China.
Truman decided he should make mention to Stalin of the U.S. discovery and development of a new devastatingly destructive weapon. Stalin merely shrugged. Probably, through his spy network, he already knew of it.
Two other points of interest: one of the other leaders invited to attend Potsdam was Clement Atlee. From 1940-1945 the British Coalition Government, Conservatives and Labour, worked together. However, on July 26, 1945, Clement Atlee’s Labour Party won a General Election. This was largely because Labour’s stated plans were of a very generous mildly socialist, welfare state. So, before Potsdam was over Churchill had been fired! Because Atlee was leader of the majority party he was now Prime Minister.
I understand Truman was mystified; Stalin even more so. Stalin could not understand why Winston hadn’t “fixed it” in advance! Churchill, this great giant of a leader, who had inspired Britain when she stood alone in 1940-1941, appeared to be now discarded. Whatever next!
MacArthur, meanwhile continued with his planning. He was never told about the nuclear bomb program until late July. I think he also shrugged. It had not yet been tested. Perhaps it wouldn’t work.
Well, it would soon be tested – and it did work. A coded message to that effect was sent to President Truman at Potsdam.
Feelers were still coming in from the “peace party” in the Japanese War Cabinet, encouraged by the Emperor. They wanted a negotiated settlement.
Truman, with the support of the other Allied leaders, had a message broadcast “to the people of Japan”. Unless Japan agreed immediately to “Unconditional Surrender” Japan would face “prompt and utter destruction.”
Prime Minister Suzuki’s response: “No comment”. But to the Press “mokasatsu” – “I treat that with contempt.”
DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
As the U.S. and Allies prepared a monster military force to invade the main islands…American scientists were bringing to a climax development of a bomb the destructive power of which the world had never seen. A nuclear bomb. Let us briefly describe its development.
1931 Enrico Fermi – Italian physicist – bombarded a piece of URANIUM (E93) with neutrons. The uranium split in two releasing great energy – nuclear fission – energy which had held the atoms together.
Through the mid-1930s scientists at the Keiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin repeated and confirmed Fermi’s work and developed it. The physicists were Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassman, Lise Meitner and Dr. Otto Frisch.
Nuremberg Laws were enacted by the Nazis in 1935, Professor Meitner lost her job because she was Jewish. She fled to Sweden. Many other great Jewish scientists made their escapes to America, including Albert Einstein. When Mussolini turned also against Jews, Enrico Fermi, who had been awarded a Nobel Prize, used the prize money to emigrate to the U.S.
Much of the research was based upon Einstein’s famous equation: E=MC². In addition to nuclear FISSION, others developed nuclear FUSION, where two atoms are “fused together” making a greater one and releasing even more energy. In 1942, in Chicago, Fermi built the first nuclear-chain-reactor.
British scientists were calculating how much uranium would be needed to make a bomb. Answer: a great deal. Only Uranium E-235 would work. Usually only tiny amounts are found in its natural state. They calculated that it would take 27,000 years to collect one gram of the many kilograms that would be necessary to build a bomb. However, scientists working in concert learned how to enrich uranium. With enriched uranium only 5 – 10 kilograms would be required. At the same time the scientists at the University of California Berkeley discovered how to develop a uranium-based man-made element which they named PLUTONIUM – E94.
The practical use of these discoveries could be harnessed for machinery power (as we know) but also for destruction – bombs which could wipe out a city. Because of the latter, in 1939 a group contacted Albert Einstein, the German born Jewish physicist, asking him to write to President Roosevelt warning him of the terrible consequences if these weapons fell into the hands of Adolf Hitler.
Einstein’s prestigious reputation added weight to his letter and convinced FDR to form a government funded research group, known as the MANHATTAN PROJECT.
These developments were “Top Secret”, but Churchill and the British were kept constantly informed.
There were numerous laboratories and production plants at sites in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, including Chicago; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and in Hanford, Washington State. The main laboratory complex, however, was built on 9,000 acres, 7,000 feet above sea level in New Mexico.
It was named LOS ALAMOS and was heavily protected by razor wire, military guards, and attack dogs. In charge was Brigadier General Leslie Groves. He was to work with top physicist, Harvard PhD, Robert Oppenheimer. Under these two were a host of highly qualified scientists, including a smattering of Nobel Prize winners, together with military men and women. Los Alamos grew until it was like a small town with a hospital, medical staff, cinema, dining, and sleeping facilities. To describe it as TOP SECRET is almost an understatement.
Even the Vice President, Harry S. Truman, knew nothing about it until April 13, the day after he became President.
Hitler had been told of these possibilities but, providentially, showed little interest. He backed the weapons of Wernher von Braun – ROCKETS. These were developed into the V-2s with which he hoped to terrorize Britain into surrender. They certainly rained terror upon London (see my chapter 6).
ALAMOGORDO – THE BOMB TESTED
125 miles southeast of ALBERQUERQUE, New Mexico, lies Alamogordo Army Base. Here General Groves and Professor Oppenheimer decided to arrange for the first ever live test of a nuclear bomb. In a remote corner of the base was an old army bombing range 24 by 18 miles in area.
Here was erected a 100ft high steel tower on top of which would sit the “gadget” – as Oppenheimer called his bomb. Even more, seemingly incongruous was his choice of name for the site and its test, “TRINITY”.
Base camp was set up 10 miles from ground zero, and to it were invited 425 people. Among these were very distinguished scientists, including Dr. Enrico Fermi, Sir James Chadwick – Nobel Prize Winner for discovering the “neutron”, and Dr. Kenneth Bainbridge of Harvard, who would be in charge.
Four miles closer to the bomb were several trenches, including Oppenheimer’s and Groves’. All concerned had shelters prepared. They were urged to listen carefully to the loudspeakers as they gave the countdown, then turn away from the bomb site, and on no account look at the flash. Anyone even glancing at it would be instantly struck blind.
Military guards surrounding the bomb site were given a warning 30 minutes before detonation. They were then to race away in jeeps provided, never looking back!
After some delays, on the early morning of July 16, the plutonium bomb was detonated by remote control. In a fraction of a second the blinding flash, ten times brighter than the sun, and one mile wide soared skywards to 8,000 feet, followed by a gigantic cloud of mushroom shape, ascending to 41,000 feet in 5 minutes.
100 seconds after the flash, which lit up the desert, came the BOOM – described like mighty thunder or masses of exploding bombs. As a matter of fact, the explosion was measured as 20,000 tons of TNT – four times greater than expected. The steel tower vaporized and windows shattered over 100 miles away. The light was seen up to 180 miles before it dimmed and the explosion heard up to 100 miles.
Of course, newspapers, radio and other media news reporters asked what had happened. They were told that an ammunition dump had exploded by accident.
Observers struggled to find words to describe their experience.
One said, “It was as if the Creator had said, ‘Let there be light.’”
Another, “It was the nearest thing to Doomsday one could imagine.”
Oppenheimer, asked why he chose the name “TRINITY” quoted from the eastern religious scripture “The Bagharad Gita” – “Now I am become death, the shatterer of worlds.”
Later, thousands of miles away, reading all the confidential reports, Churchill said it was as “…the Second Coming in the fire of God’s wrath which Scripture predicts.”
He may have been referring to 2 Peter 3:10,”But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” – a remarkable prophecy.
“LITTLE BOY” and “FAT MAN”
In the early weeks of July 1945 the heavy cruiser USS INDIANAPOLIS was moored in the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California. The Indianapolis had seen honorable victories in the Pacific until she had been severely damaged by a Kamikaze pilot at Okinawa. After extensive repairs the cruiser was being prepared to transport a secret package to TINIAN Air Base in the Mariana Islands. Not even the Captain knew what this heavy package contained, but it was guarded by U.S. Marines day and night. In actual fact it was a 5 ton uranium-235 type nuclear bomb.
A tube-like structure, 10 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, was code-named “LITTLE BOY”.
The Indianapolis sailing at high speed on July 16th, calling briefly at Hawaii, reached Tinian on July 26.
A second bomb was due to arrive in Tinian also. This was a PLUTONIUM implosion device transported in separate parts by C54 cargo planes from ALBUQUERQUE and B29s from HAMILTON FIELD, California.
This bomb, though of a similar weight to “Little Boy” was nicknamed “FAT MAN” because it was bulbous in shape with a diameter of 5 feet and a length of 12 feet. “Fat Man” was assembled on site at Tinian.
President Harry S. Truman had already authorized the dropping of these first two bombs, on the understanding that the decision would be revoked if the Empire of Japan “unconditionally surrendered”. The President knew that the Empire had made overwhelming preparations to repel the expected invasion. The leaflets, and the fire-bombing of city after city, seemed only to strengthen the Japanese resolve to fight to the death for every inch of every island, especially the Homeland.
Both General Douglas MacArthur and Secretary of State for War, Henry Stimson, had years of personal experience of the mind of the Japanese people, both military and civilian. Surrender would be dishonorable whereas to die for the Emperor and the sacred Homeland would be preferred. Iwo Jima – 1,000 miles from Tokyo and only 8 square miles in area – in 36 days cost 5,931 U.S. dead and 17,372 wounded.
Truman’s responsibility, he explained later, was to save American and Allied lives. He had seen that the Potsdam Declaration had been – at best – ignored, and – at worst – treated with contempt. I mentioned earlier Secretary of War Stimson’s estimation of American deaths in a Homeland invasion, 220,00 deaths, 1.7 million casualties. President Truman also had on file an estimate by Joint Chiefs in 1944 that the invasion would cost 1 million U.S. lives and even more wounded. Hiroshima would go ahead.
At Tinian airbase B29s were being prepared to fly overnight to HONSHU Island and deliver the atom bomb upon the port city of Hiroshima.
The Commander, chosen some six months before, was Colonel Paul W. TIBBETS Jnr. He and his team of flyers had been training for pin-point accuracy by using dummy bombs (shaped like “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”) on uninhabited areas. Until August 5th only Tibbets and his bombadier knew what the true nature of the eventual bombs would be. Tibbets named his B29 “ENOLA GAY” after the name of his mother. Various crucial parts of “Little Boy” had been flown in and now were fitted. However, the bomb would not be finally armed until the flight was in progress over the sea in case of accident on the runway.
There would be 12 men aboard Enola Gay, including the bomb-aimer, co-pilot, and navigator. There would be 5 other B29s in the flight including one to go ahead to give a weather report over Hiroshima, one with photographers, and one loaded with scientific instruments to record the event. A warning was sent to all ships to be at least 50 miles away from HONSHU island.
Catholic Mass was offered at 10:00 p.m. and a Protestant service at 10:50. Most crew members attended one or the other. Enola Gay and the other B29s left at 2:45 a.m. to fly to the target 1,500 miles away.
General Curtis LeMay had already sent his B29s to drop millions of leaflets over cities, including Hiroshima. It read: “Civilians. Evacuate immediately! These leaflets are being dropped to notify you that your city has been listed for destruction by our powerful air force…See how powerless [your military rulers] are to protect you…Overthrow the military government.”
President Truman had issued a broadcast to the Japanese people, “Expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has not been seen on this earth.” Thousands of civilians heeded the warnings. Alas, thousands either did not or could not.
DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
In 1945 Hiroshima had a population of approximately 350,000.The Old Castle was the Headquarters of the Japanese 8th Army and Hiroshima was also the Marine Headquarters, a large depot of military supplies, and an assembly point for convoys.
The weather report for the area on August 6th was “clear skies” and Enola Gay arrived on time. At precisely 8:15 a.m. “Little Boy” was dropped and 45 seconds later, at 1,890 feet, the bomb exploded.
The flash, 10 times brighter than the sun, lit up the skies and at least 60,000 people were instantly incinerated. Citizens of Hiroshima became little piles of charcoal. The flash was silent but the boom of the explosion blast followed. In the central square mile, 9 out of 10 people died.
Traveling at 2 miles per second the blast destroyed two-thirds of the city of Hiroshima. The instruments in the accompanying B29 measured the blast as equal to 15,000 tons of TNT. The explosion was followed by toxic radiation. Above the hypo-center, towering ever higher was the mushroom cloud.
The effects of radiation would kill people for months and years to come. From 1945 to 1952 60,000 more people died from injuries and diseases. They were known in Japan as “hibakusha” – (“explosion affected people”). Among the total dead of 150,000 were 20,000 Japanese troops and 20,000 Korean slave laborers.
The moment he had released the bomb, Col. Tibbets banked away as sharply as he dared. The long journey back to Tinian was uneventful. Back at base preparations were already underway to drop a second bomb.
A SECOND BOMB
The B29 now being loaded was to carry “FAT MAN”, the plutonium implosion-type nuclear bomb. The pilot was Major Charles SWEENEY, who had returned from Hiroshima where he had piloted one of the accompanying B29s.
The date fixed to deliver this bomb, always assuming no surrender request had come from Tokyo, was August 9th. As a matter of fact, on August 8th the Japanese Ambassador Naotake Sato was in Moscow desperately seeking a meeting with Foreign Minister Molotov. The Ambassador had been deputed to try to persuade the Russians to broker a negotiated ceasefire with the Americans and Allies. Molotov was just back from Potsdam but he agreed to see Sato at 5:00 p.m. He kept the meeting – but brutally told Sato that Soviet Russia declared war against the Empire of Japan!
Exactly as Stalin had promised, on August 9th the Red Army of tens of thousands swept over the border of Manchuria and Japan suddenly had a new foe to contend with.
Major Sweeney’s B29 was nicknamed “BOCKSCAR” (after Captain Fred Bock who first flew the Super Fortress), and first choice for the plutonium bomb was KOKURA, on KYUSHA Island. However, on arrival Sweeney found visibility impossible and rendezvous with his flight-accompanying planes also not happening. After almost one hour, in danger from anti-aircraft fire, he flew on to the second choice of the list of targets, NAGASAKI.
Nagasaki was an industrial city, population 267,000, home to Mitsubishi Steelworks and torpedo factory and with a large natural harbor for navy ships. It was also a cultural center and had given inspiration to PUCCINI for his opera “MADAM BUTTERFLY”; and spiritual strength to Catholics in the Urakami Cathedral.
The BOCKSCAR was slightly off course and “Fat Man” was dropped in the Urakami valley running through the city. This limited the extent of the blast somewhat. Hiroshima had been flat.
At 1,800 feet “FAT MAN” exploded. Nevertheless, as one writer put it, “in one millisecond Nagasaki became a graveyard. 40,000 people were killed by the incinerating heat and the explosive blast. A further 40,000 were to die of wounds.
So high a percentage of medical personnel were killed there were few left to help the wounded. Over half of those killed were mothers, children, and the elderly.
Fifty percent of the city was destroyed with the Mitsubishi factory now totally inoperable and the Cathedral totally destroyed.
The Bockscar was so short of fuel they had to scramble to Okinawa and refuel.
In TOKYO, Prime Minister Suzuki called an Extraordinary Emergency Meeting of the Imperial War Cabinet.
PEACE AT LAST
The Big Six
On the evening of August 9th 1945 Prime Minister of Japan, Kantaro Suzuki, called an Emergency Meeting of the Imperial War Cabinet
The meeting would be in the bunker complex beneath the grounds of the Imperial Palace. The situation was dire. Suzuki knew they must urgently decide whether to accept the Allies’ Potsdam Declaration demanding Unconditional Surrender, or refuse it. They now realized what President Truman meant by his warning of “prompt utter destruction”.
As the Meeting convened eleven men were present. First and foremost the “Big Six” as it was known: the two military chiefs, Navy and Army, plus Cabinet Member politicians. The chiefs were in full dress uniform and the politicians in formal attire, notwithstanding the almost unbearable stuffiness of the unventilated meeting place. In addition to the “Big Six” were secretaries or aides.
The Emperor arrived from his private quarters and took the vacant chair prepared for him. He, too, was in full formal dress. Discussion began at midnight.
No one needed reminding that on August 6th Hiroshima had been destroyed and three days later Nagasaki resulting in terrible loss of life. The enemy (America) had used new powerful nuclear bombs. For Suzuki the final straw was the action of Russia. Instead of seeking to broker a negotiated settlement to the war – as Japan had asked of them – they had now treacherously launched a massive invasion against Imperial Japanese forces occupying Manchuria. (Suzuki must have forgotten about Pearl Harbor!)
As before the “Big Six” was divided. The Admiral of the Imperial Navy declared, “We do not believe it possible to be defeated. To fight on is the only way to keep our honor.”
The General of the Army agreed and declared, “The Imperial Army still has the ability to deal a smashing blow to the enemy. It would be inexcusable to surrender.” Hirohito listened in silence.
A message was read out from the Japanese forces in China, “We have several million healthy, picked troops.”
These expressions were now backed up by half the Cabinet
The Emperor continued to listen as the “No Surrender Party” and the “Peace Party” made their arguments again. Arguments such as: Most cities have been devastated by U.S. fire-bombing. The Enemy probably has more of these cruel nuclear bombs. Tokyo should expect to be next. Soldiers cannot fight without bullets. Arms factories are almost totally destroyed. The Japanese people are close to starving. So it went on… The Cabinet had debated for well over two hours. It was stalemate.
Suzuki stood and asked for silence. He then asked the Emperor to make the decision.
Hirohito, from the beginning, stated why he supported the “peace party”. “Continuing can only mean destruction for the nation, bloodshed and cruelty.” He said he could not “bear to see innocent people suffer any longer.” The Emperor changed to speaking of the loyalty, faithfulness, and bravery of his troops. However, we “must bear the unbearable.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. Others, realizing the inevitable also began to sob – heads in hands.
Suzuki summed up: the decision was made. They must honor their Emperor’s wishes and recommend to the Full Cabinet, acceptance of Potsdam.
Suzuki adjourned for a full Cabinet Meeting at 3:00 a.m. (Aug 10th) at his house. Outside terrible things began to happen as leaders, sensing all was lost, began to commit seppuke (ritual suicide) even on the steps of the palace buildings.
The full Cabinet met and, as anticipated, the decision of the Imperial War Cabinet was accepted in accordance with His Majesty’s wishes. It is rather ironical that when Emperor Hirohito began his reign in 1926 he chose a new name by which he wished to be known, “SHOWA” means “PEACE”. Now, after all these years allegedly supporting his military government in the plans and operations to expand Japan’s Empire by invasion, slavery, destruction and killing; he at last was living up to his chosen name “PEACE”.
Preparations were made for the decision to be relayed to the Allies, and for the Emperor to broadcast to his troops scattered across the Pacific, and to his people.
Coded messages were sent to the U.S. and Allies – via Sweden and Switzerland. The Imperial Government of Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, adding, so long as: “said Declaration does not compromise any element which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler.”
News of the Japanese cable of surrender reached Washington very early the morning of August 10th (U.S. time being 13 hours behind Tokyo).
Now it was the U.S. Cabinet which was to show its divisions. It was immediately pointed out that the Japanese Government had added a condition: namely the continued rule of the Emperor. “Unconditional surrender” surely meant what it said, “No conditions”.
Truman knew he must tread carefully.
The majority of Americans believed the Emperor must go. No more “Royal House”. It was to be, as Potsdam had laid down in its details accompanying the surrender demand, “future government was to be decided by the Japanese people.” Only as few as 7% in the U.S. were in favor of the Emperor continuing. Indeed, a majority polled that Hirohito was just as guilty of the atrocities and war crimes as the other Japanese leaders. Some demanded the death penalty.
President Truman, however, knew several important leaders thought otherwise.
General MacArthur, Commander in Chief of Pacific forces, who knew the Japanese people well declared, “Japanese troops will not surrender unless Hirohito tells them to do so and continues to lead”. They believe he is a god and “they need a god to guide them”. The Emperor would be, MacArthur said, “a unifying factor.” MacArthur, of course, was designated to have the potentially difficult job of keeping peace in occupied Japan. He needed the Emperor
Secretary of State for War, Henry Stimson, who also knew the Japanese mind and culture, agreed with MacArthur.
Secretary of State James F. Byrne added his voice to the others. “The Empire of Japan comprises over 7,000 islands. At least 200 of them are inhabited and defended. If we do not accept this surrender offer we shall face scores of bloody Iwo Jimas and Okinawas.” He offered a compromise: “The Emperor’s authority would be subject to the Commander of the Allied Powers during the occupation.”
The U.S. Cabinet agreed upon this and ascertained the agreement of Great Britain and her Dominions – as well as China; and the Soviet Union (Russia).
On August 14th Emperor Hirohito made a recorded broadcast to be played next day to the Japanese people everywhere. In accordance with the U.S. and Allied Directive he would also read out a rescript (instruction) on the terms of the surrender. All Japanese troops must lay down their arms immediately.
The recording was hidden overnight in a pile of documents because word had come to the Government that young officers planned to prevent the broadcast.
A COUP PLOT
While the War Cabinet had been debating and all subsequent decisions being taken, others were plotting a coup. The plotters planned to murder the leaders who had so dishonored the Empire. These junior officers were convinced the Emperor had been forced into this action. Hirohito must be detained and persuaded differently. The plotters sought out support from prestigious top brass – Generals and Admirals – but they failed to persuade any.
Yet still about 100 junior officers and men would not give in. During the night of the 14th they stormed the palace, killing the Royal guards in the process. They hunted through the labyrinth of rooms to find and destroy the phonograph recording. They failed to find it because it had been smuggled out in a laundry basket of ladies’ underwear!
Soldiers loyal to the Emperor hunted down the rebels and executed them. A few of the escaping rebels were doing their own hunting – for the members of the “Big Six” – so much so that these leaders had to keep moving and sleeping in different locations until the attempted coup was totally put down.
THE EMPEROR SPEAKS
Early on the morning 15th August an announcement was made on Japanese radio. At noon they would hear the voice of the Emperor as he speaks to his people. Soldiers, at their stations; camps, fortresses, caves, airfields and so on, were told to “stand by” to hear the broadcast by shortwave radio. Japanese people had never heard His Majesty’s voice before. As noon approached, traffic stood still. People gathered around their radio sets and loud speakers. Some bowed their heads.
Hirohito’s voice was high-pitched and he spoke in somewhat archaic Japanese:
To our good and loyal subjects. After pondering deeply the general trends of the world, and the actual conditions obtaining to our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
The “measure” was, of course, to adhere to the conditions and demands of the Potsdam Declaration. The Emperor exonerated his country for going to war. He spoke of “the gallant fighting of military and naval forces.” He said, “The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb…taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but the total extinction of human civilization.” He ended by saying, “We must endure the unendurable and suffer that which is insufferable.”
The Emperor never used the word “surrender” but most listeners gathered what he meant. Peace, but also occupation.
Reaction was varied. Mothers and wives were sobbing with relief. Sons and husbands would now come home. Some were mystified. The Land of the Rising Sun – superior to all other races and nations – does not surrender and has never been occupied by an enemy for over two thousand years. Some were ashamed. More than a few were angry. Sadly, again, some officers gathered at the Palace gates and shot and/or disemboweled themselves.
Rescript A “Rescript” (an official decree in writing) was read out on the military shortwave, “The Emperor orders all his troops to lay down their weapons and obey the orders of the U.S. and the Allies.”
Fearing possible rebellion the Emperor sent out emissaries – including members of the Royal Family – to go out in person to the various military stations and deliver this order.
The people of Tokyo and other Japanese cities mourned and wept, contemplating with apprehension and even fear what “occupation” would mean.
Thousands of miles away the people of Washington D.C. began to gather outside the White House as early as August 14th. Eventually there were hundreds of thousands cheering and chanting, dancing and kissing. They chanted, “We want Truman” and he came out briefly and spoke to the crowds at the White House gates. As one magazine described it, “The capital city celebrated with a screaming, drinking, paper-tearing, kissing demonstration. A combination of New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras.”
It was the same in New York, Times Square; London, Trafalgar Square; Sydney, Australia; and other cities. One sad note was that in San Francisco, city of a huge naval base, drunken sailors commandeered cars, driving uncontrollably down the streets and avenues. Twelve pedestrians were killed and six young women raped. Sad, so sad.
Otherwise, the cities, towns and villages of all those who delivered us from evil rejoiced with exuberant joy, accompanied by relief. In Church services everywhere thanks were given to Almighty God for His deliverance.
Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, had little or no time yet for celebrations. He was anxious about the fate of Allied prisoners of war. He had heard a rumor that plans were afoot in Imperial Japan to murder in cold blood all POWs before the surrender was signed. Some such atrocities had already taken place.
From a camp near Tokyo, 11 POWs were herded into a truck; taken to a field surrounded by trees, and hacked to death one by one. Most barbarous of all the murderers took girl friends or wives to watch the blood bath.
Marshall therefore wasted no time and began to arrange and dispatch units of paratroopers to drop near to known camps, arrest the guards, and rescue the POWs. They were known as “Mercy Missions” landing outside identifiable camps in China, Borneo, and many islands. The paras were met by crying, cheering, emaciated skeletons of men. Many – if not most – had been starved and brutally treated.
AMERICANS ARRIVE IN JAPAN – ATSUGI AIRFIELD
Eighteen miles south west of TOKYO lies ATSUGI AIRFIELD. It had been home base for a squadron of Zero fighter aircraft and one of the main bases for KAMIKAZE suicide pilots.
On August 28th a U.S. transport plane CT47 brought COLONEL C.T. TENCH and 14 other men from Okinawa. They wondered what would await them and checked their side-arms again and again. The U.S. officers and men were somewhat comforted to fly over U.S., British, and Australian warships at anchor in Tokyo Bay.
Alarmingly the pilot overshot the runway. As the U.S. party nervously began to disembark a frantic group of Japanese military came running towards them. Thanks be to God, the Americans did not shoot. It would have been a disaster.
Lieutenant General SEIZO ARISUE of the Imperial Japanese Army breathlessly stopped, saluted, and introduced himself to Tench as the Commander of the “Reception Committee.” Greetings were kept on a formal basis until, once inside of Arisue’s office building, drinks were offered and Arisue lit a cigar!
Tench then gave a message to those following that all was well, and C54’s began landing, one every two minutes disgorging their contents. The Americans soldiers commenced to set up a base camp. Hour after hour they came.
“The Occupation had begun.”
PEACE AT LAST
MACARTHUR ARRIVES IN JAPAN – AUGUST 30TH
Two days after the Tench advance party the new Commander in Chief arrived at Atsugi Airfield. Five-star General Douglas MacArthur was accompanied by High Command Officers and their aides. As they were approaching the airfield MacArthur ordered all passengers to disarm themselves of any weapon, including their side-arms. Clearly his staff were uneasy at this order. General Sutherland said to MacArthur, “There were plotters a few days ago prepared to kill their Emperor – and they believe he is a god. What will they want to do to you!”
The Supreme Commander was unfazed. He pointed out, “If the Japanese have set a trap, your pistols won’t be much good. I want them to see we come in peace. We are not afraid.”
After landing he paused a little before going to the doorway of the plane. He had, in typical MacArthur fashion, donned his aviator sunglasses and lit his corn-cob pipe. A military band began to play a marching tune and the 200 photographers and journalists – mostly Japanese – began scribbling and clicking.
MacArthur was politely welcomed and accompanied to the first “limousine” of several. The procession was led by a bright red, rather ancient, fire-engine which kept breaking down! Most of the vehicles were charcoal-burning since vehicles were hard to find and fuel almost impossible.
The party set off to drive the 18 miles to YOKOHAMA. The defeated Japanese had arranged, surprisingly, a welcome. No fewer than thirty thousand (30,000) soldiers lined the route, both sides of the road. Each soldier stood at “parade attention” armed with rifles, their bayonets fixed and glistening in the sunshine. Most strikingly, they all stood, backs to the road, as they would do for the Emperor. It was a mark of respectful submission. They could also watch for any sniper lurking “with intent”. In one sense General Douglas MacArthur was their new Emperor.
As they reached the outskirts of Yokohama, the new Commander in Chief experienced the terrible damage the B29 bombers had done. Approximately 80% of the city had been damaged or destroyed.
One of the few buildings still standing was the “Grand Hotel”. MacArthur was welcomed by the owner in formal frockcoat who “hoped the General would be comfortable in the rooms reserved and prepared for him.” Before long MacArthur had taken off his tie and would soon enjoy his first meal on Japanese soil. He would dine, he said, not privately, but in the Dining Room with his staff.
CHURCHILL later wrote, “Of all the amazing deeds in the war, I regard General MacArthur’s personal landing at Atsugi as the bravest of the lot.”
In the days that followed; along with daily administrative decisions, MacArthur was re-united with old friends. One, a very emotional reunion with a dreadfully emaciated General Wainwright, one of those recently liberated from cruel captivity by Marshall’s “Mercy Mission” paratroop units.
General Jonathan Wainwright, had been required to be left in command of the besieged U.S. forces in Corregidor, Philippines. After brave defense Wainwright decided the task was hopeless and surrendered to the Japanese. He spent 3 years as a POW and was cruelly treated with starvation, beatings and torture.
Also meeting MacArthur was British General Arthur Percival who had experienced the same dreadful handling after surrendering the British Garrison of Singapore.
USS MISSOURI – SEPTEMBER 2, 1945
One of General MacArthur’s first tasks was to complete the arrangements for the signing of the surrender documents.
The venue chosen was to be a warship moored in Tokyo Bay, and the ship chosen was the USS MISSOURI. This was a battleship named after President Truman’s home State and was the flagship of Admiral Halsey. Three hundred be-flagged warships from the U.S., Britain, and Australia moored in impressive formation in Tokyo Bay.
The signing took place on September 2nd at 9:00 a.m.
Representing the Allies were, for the U.S.; besides MacArthur, General Wainwright, Admirals Nimitz and Halsey; for the British and British Empire and Commonwealth, General Arthur Percival; and especially invited representing Australia and New Zealand, General Thomas Blainey.
May I remind my readers of the heavy price paid by Australia and New Zealand to bring to an end the evil regimes of Nazi Germany, and that of Japan. Almost 1 million military personnel from Australia and New Zealand served. They were involved in costly victories in North Africa, Europe and especially Java, Borneo, New Guinea (formerly Dutch East Indies), Singapore and Burma. 27,000 were killed and 23,000 wounded.
Representing the Japanese – 11 men. Some were in full dress uniform and some in top hat and tails with striped trousers. They signed on behalf of the Emperor, the Government, and the People of Japan. Two thousand crewmen climbed for a view wherever they could.
General MacArthur was dressed in khaki; the British in tropical formal dress of shorts and white knee stockings.
The Japanese delegates signed first followed by MacArthur using several pens – one for Wainwright, another for Percival, for West Point, the Archives, and so on.
He then said – for all the millions around the world listening by radio – “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.” He concluded with the words, “These proceedings are now closed.” It had lasted just 23 minutes.
A massed flight of B29s flew overhead.
Of course, one matter of concern was the fact that several key territories were still occupied by Japanese Imperial Forces: Hong Kong, Malaya and most of Dutch East Indies. Priority must be given to ensuring these enemy forces laid down their arms and surrendered. On September 10th Lord Louis Mountbatten organized a surrender ceremony at Singapore. Royal Navy Admiral Cecil Harcourt accepted the surrender of Hong Kong on September 16th.
The Commander in Chief faced a formidable task in fulfilling his intentions. He wrote, “Never in history had a nation and its people been more completely crushed.”
General LeMay’s air fleets had destroyed 2 million homes. Millions of the bewildered, defeated people were without food or homes. MacArthur set up army kitchens and cabled Washington that he needed 3,500,000 tons of food (three and one-half million). One million, two hundred and seventy thousand (1,270,000) had been killed or committed suicide. Nevertheless 7 million Japanese soldiers in “Greater Japan” (including China, Korea, French Indo-China (Vietnam) and Malaya) were now demobilized and repatriated. Somehow 4 million dwellings needed to be provided.
The occupation of Europe faced the very same problems. Five million homes had been destroyed and the roads of Western Europe were clogged with 12 million refugees leaving the East. They had to be temporarily housed in refugee camps and were known as Displaced Persons. Emergency aid had to be supplied by the United Nations Relief Fund and American Agency.
A FIRM, BENEVOLENT RULER
General MacArthur announced to the people he was now appointed to rule that his role was “not concerned with how to keep Japan down, but how to get her on her feet again.”
His spokesman said, “We must restore security, dignity, and self-respect to a warrior nation which has suffered an annihilating defeat.”
The General said he wanted the Japanese people “to regard him as a protector, not a conqueror.”
MacArthur moved his location to the commandeered Insurance building in Tokyo, Dai Lehi. He took an office on the sixth floor overlooking the palace gardens. One day, when the lift arrived for him to descend a carpenter was already in the lift. The carpenter immediately stepped out to leave the elevator entirely for the Commander. MacArthur at once urged him to get back in and they would ride down together. The carpenter wrote to MacArthur expressing his astonishment and gratitude. He said no Japanese General would have ever done such a thing. This story, and the carpenter’s letter, was printed in the Tokyo national newspaper.
Such incidents showed the people the General was as good as his word. He began to receive over one thousand letters each month, and all those including an address received a reply.
DICTATOR MEETS EMPEROR
The U.S. Intelligence services and military police were hunting down those commanders who had been guilty of dreadful atrocities. They were brought to trial. At least 200 were found guilty. Only 7 paid the ultimate price.
MacArthur judged, however, that Hirohito was not to be one of them. First: because there was confusing evidence regarding how much the Emperor knew and how much did he encourage. Traditionally the Emperor was a figure-head who was divine. He stood above all politics. Furthermore, although he could advise through a sort of “Privy Council” of former Prime-Ministers, he had no power. He did not even have the power of a veto. This would be similar to the role of the British Monarch to this day.
It has to be said, of course, MacArthur wanted the Emperor to influence his people to obediently accept the occupation and co-operate. Hirohito was a figure-head who would unite the people.
With all this in mind MacArthur invited Emperor Hirohito to visit him in his residence, now in the American Embassy. So, on September 28th the royal Rolls Royce carried the Emperor the short distance to the Embassy. Hirohito was clearly very nervous as, entering all alone except for a translator, he was greeted warmly by MacArthur. Gripping his hand, MacArthur said, “You are very welcome, Sir.” Whereupon Hirohito bowed as low as he could go.
MacArthur, addressing him as, “Your Majesty” invited him to take a seat by the fire.
Hirohito said, “I come to you, General MacArthur, to offer myself to the judgment of the powers you represent as the one to bear sole responsibility for every political and military decision made and every action taken by my people in the conduct of the war.”
MacArthur was clearly moved and assured Hirohito today’s meeting was not about “judgment” but about rebuilding Japan and working together. The discussion lasted about forty minutes and terminated with the taking of an official photograph of the two standing side by side – MacArthur dressed fairly casually, Hirohito otherwise.
This famous photograph was printed throughout the Empire in newspapers and the Japanese people were astounded. This was something they could never have expected in their most fantastic imaginations.
It was the first of eleven meetings they would have and MacArthur’s biographer later said it was like a father-son relationship. It wasn’t all lovey-dovey! MacArthur urged Hirohito to issue an official rescript for the news media that he, the Emperor, was NOT a god, and the Japanese people were not superior to all other people and races, fated to rule the world. Hirohito endorsed all MacArthur’s decisions.
The Prime Minister later wrote, General MacArthur’s respectful bearing toward the Mikado “more than any other single factor made the occupation a success.”
A bronze tribute to MacArthur in Yokohama was inscribed, “General Douglas MacArthur. Liberator of Japan.”
When, in 1951, President Truman called MacArthur back to America, one-quarter of a million grateful Japanese lined the twelve-mile route to the airport at 6:30 a.m. Emperor Hirohito was distraught.
1952 – A peace treaty was signed between the U.S. and Japan ending the occupation. Japan is one of our closest allies.
This completes our 14 chapters of “DELIVERANCE – The Story of WWII. I am grateful for those who have encouraged me in this project.
Still to come – hopefully.
AFTERWORD – “LEST WE FORGET”
Attempts to briefly answer such questions as:
- Why did you choose to write this overview of World War II?
- What lessons should we “never forget”
- Why do you believe Almighty God had something to do with our victories? Deliverance?
- What message need we to hear today?