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All posts for the month March, 2015

December 6, 1945 : X+21 – Kanoya, Kyushu

…Life under artillery fire is an inestimable and unrelenting agony. One is sleep deprived, lonely, scared, and above all helpless to do anything about it. There is no rational response. Some flavor of functional lunacy is required to carry on, be it bitter hardness or detached resignation. Cases of shell shock accumulate when a front is static – one more reason commanders are anxious to maneuver and push forward again.

It is certain that life on the Japanese side is even worse. For every scattering of shells they send, we are carpeting whole hills and valleys. We fire patterns of shells at the taller rocky mountains deliberately on schedule at the same time each day and night. The barrage is not meant to catch anyone by surprise. It is meant to reinforce the idea that we can do this at will and without end. Japanese there are probably hiding deep down in well stocked caves. It’s fine by us if they simply stay there.

Ernie Pyle wrote that in Italy some artillery men there figured that we were spending about $25,000 for every German soldier killed. They wondered what would happen if we just offered each of them that much cash to surrender instead. Pyle didn’t think much would happen.

I put the question to members of a supply company here. They spent some time doing some serious accounting. Their total came to $127,200 for each Jap. They agree with me that few of them would surrender for even that lofty ransom. We are going to have to go get those Japanese soldiers the old fashioned way.

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Before the invasion of Japan some people claimed Kyushu was good “tank country”, where armor and trucks could rapidly move around to surround enemies and focus fire on them. In fact, some of them based timelines and casualty estimates on that assumption.

This is a portion, not unrepresentative, of one of the actual maps they had to use:


Complete map sheet is here.

We have to wonder, what else might have motivated such assertions from top U.S. Army commanders?

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[a portion of the entry for November 29, 1945 : X+14 – south of Kanoya, Kyushu]

…Without breaking stride, two lead tanks rolled onto the bridge, followed by two armored cars. Riflemen and gunners on the north bank eyed the south bank warily. Astride a road parallel to the river was a long cluster of houses and fish processing buildings. Behind those buildings the land again rose steeply into the next forested mountain ridge.

Up to that point we had not seen a living soul since entering town. Upon leaving town they came out to see us. The first tank rolled off the far side of the bridge and turned immediately to face the first buildings on its left. People of all different sizes and attire ran out from behind several buildings, thirty or forty people in loose columns from every alley. Some brandished sticks and clubs, others carried satchels or old suitcases. The lead tank opened up, its machine gunners ignoring spears and clubs in favor of people carrying likely bombs. The second tank pulled up close alongside to join in.

On top of the bridge two scout cars paused to bring their four machine guns into action. But from under the bridge another eight or ten figures crawled unseen over the far railing. Soldiers who had dismounted were immediately in hand-to-hand combat, rifle butt against club. That gang of civilians also had bombs, and they were only feet from the armored cars before being spotted. At least three charges went off, in close succession. The last explosion tossed one scout car, armored, model M3A1, fifteen feet into the air. Men and guns and pieces of each were tossed in all directions. The remains of the chassis came crashing down next to a splintered hole in the bridge deck, and the entire thing went smashing through, taking several bridge girders with it into the fast running water below.

Our tanks had beat off the mob attack, the lead tank taking only superficial damage from one explosion. But they were now stranded, and the hill in front of them came alive with small arms fire against American soldiers around the bridge, who were still getting up from the blasts that wrecked the bridge.

The American line on the near riverbank returned fire, a hail of bullets ripping into the brush and trees opposing us. Without prompting one or more Navy ships to our left added to the fire with automatic cannon. No one could see the enemy under the dense shade of evergreen trees, the low winter sun behind them. But an intense volume of fire was distributed over the entire hillside.

Shortly the bigger Navy guns began to walk a pattern of five inch explosive shells along the hill. The circling attack planes were circling no longer, having been released by their ground controllers to come lend a hand near the shore. They strafed in long passes near the river, after loosing rockets into crevices higher up that Navy shells could not get into.

Under smoke from the bombardment, and a deliberate smoke screen, the tankers disabled their vehicles and got back across the river along one remaining truss of the tattered bridge. All the injured and most of the dead were recovered, and this special task force of the 8th Cavalry Regiment pulled back out of downtown Uchinoura, to the relative safety of “uptown” Uchinoura.

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"Service units available for this operation are limited in number.
 Therefore, it is imperative that each unit commander establish
 within his unit a high degree of efficiency by impressing on all
 personnel the tremendous importance of the successful accomplish-
 ment of missions assigned."

Logistic Instructions No. 1 for the Olympic Operation, 25 July 1945,
Headquarters, United States Army Forces Western Pacific,
Office of the Commanding General.

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