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[Not included in the original Kyushu Diary, this Tuttle column is often reprinted on Chirstmas Eve. We share it this week marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.]

I made reference back on the 7th to the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941. For me this date, December 24th, Christmas eve, will always remind me more of that horrible fateful day. Because the destruction from the attack didn’t end on the 7th. One story of loss will stick with me. On December 8th tapping was heard from deep inside the partially sunk battleship West Virginia, where some number of men were trapped deep below deck. On December 24, 1941, the tapping stopped.

The West Virginia is here with us now, along with four of her sister ships from Pearl Harbor’s now infamous ‘Battleship Row.’ The trouble with sinking ships in a harbor, especially Pearl, is that you can’t. It’s too shallow. Big ships settle on the bottom, still half above the surface, and a good harbor has every facility one would want to patch up and re-float the ships. In fact the Nevada, the only big ship to get under way that morning, was deliberately grounded after she took damage so she could be recovered and repaired.

The hit at Pearl was a big one for sure, and permanent for thousands of young servicemen, but for most of the big ships ultimately only temporary. Certainly Japanese planners knew this going in. The U.S. Pacific Fleet was mighty thin for the next year, reduced to hit-and-run harassing strikes with the carriers that by luck weren’t there in Hawaii. But since then, with scores of new and repaired (and upgraded) big ships joining the fleet, it has leapfrogged the worst nightmares of those admirals in Tokyo.

Much has been said about fast aircraft carriers taking over from the battleships of old as kings of the sea. That may well be true on the ocean, where fleets have engaged in air duels well out of gun range many times across the Pacific. But here on dry land, I can certify that the battleship is very much respected, or feared, depending on which side you’re on.

Navy ships sail with bigger guns than any army even attempts to drag along on land. Any place on the Earth within twenty miles of forty foot deep water can be blasted by one ton shells from our newest big ships. Japan is an island nation, and all of her conquests outside of China have been more smaller and smaller islands. All of them are vulnerable to the wrath of naval ordnance over almost all of their surface. Planes could drop bombs of the same size, but low flying planes can be shot down with the smallest of anti-aircraft guns. The only defense against navy guns available to most Japanese garrisons has been to dig and dig and dig, deep down into the rock if they can, and wait to be flushed out by flame throwers once the Army or Marines land under the support of those big old battlewagons.

Here on Kyushu, we found the main beach defenses lined up just exactly beyond the range of most navy guns. At Ariake there were the reverse-slope positions our Navy couldn’t get at until sailing into the bay, and that cost us something. But outside of that, the best tactic the Japanese had was to leave old guns in dummy installations near the shore to soak up shell fire.

The ships that came back from the knock-down at Pearl Harbor were mostly older slower vessels, but they work just fine for work along the shore. Islands don’t move very fast after all. The battleships have been kept very busy. The USS New York just rejoined the fleet after having her guns re-lined. They were worn out from firing so many thousands of big shells at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Back to the story of the West Virginia. Re-floating a damaged ship does take some time. She didn’t make it into dry-dock for repairs until June 18, 1942. Before that many attempts were made by divers and search teams to enter the lower compartments and rescue survivors or recover bodies. That is also necessarily slow work. Cutting into a closed compartment will flood it, and possibly many more compartments if the hatches aren’t all closed. Letting a lot of air out and water in can destabilize the whole ship, sending it over and ruining all chances of rescue or recovery.

I have it on good authority, but off the record, that three young men were recovered from the last compartment opened on the West Virginia. By match light they had marked off the days on a calendar through December 23rd. The Navy has decided never to identify them. They will be officially listed as Killed-In-Action, December 7, 1941.

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I made reference back on the 7th to the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941. For me this date, December 24th, Christmas eve, will always remind me more of that horrible fateful day. Because the destruction from the attack didn’t end on the 7th. One story of loss will stick with me. On December 8th tapping was heard from deep inside the partially sunk battleship West Virginia, where some number of men were trapped deep below deck. On December 24, 1941, the tapping stopped.

The West Virginia is here with us now, along with four of her sister ships from Pearl Harbor’s now infamous ‘Battleship Row.’ The trouble with sinking ships in a harbor, especially Pearl, is that you can’t. It’s too shallow. Big ships settle on the bottom, still half above the surface, and a good harbor has every facility one would want to patch up and re-float the ships. In fact the Nevada, the only big ship to get under way that morning, was deliberately grounded after she took damage so she could be recovered and repaired.

The hit at Pearl was a big one for sure, and permanent for thousands of young servicemen, but for most of the big ships ultimately only temporary. Certainly Japanese planners knew this going in. The U.S. Pacific Fleet was mighty thin for the next year, reduced to hit-and-run harassing strikes with the carriers that by luck weren’t there in Hawaii. But since then, with scores of new and repaired (and upgraded) big ships joining the fleet, it has leapfrogged the worst nightmares of those admirals in Tokyo.

The ships that came back from the knock-down at Pearl Harbor were mostly older slower vessels, but they work just fine for work along the shore. Islands don’t move very fast after all. The battleships have been kept very busy. The USS New York just rejoined the fleet after having her guns re-lined. They were worn out from firing so many thousands of big shells at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Back to the story of the West Virginia. Re-floating a damaged ship does take some time. She didn’t make it into dry-dock for repairs until June 18, 1942. Before that many attempts were made by divers and search teams to enter the lower compartments and rescue survivors or recover bodies. That is also necessarily slow work. Cutting into a closed compartment will flood it, and possibly many more compartments if the hatches aren’t all closed. Letting a lot of air out and water in can destabilize the whole ship, sending it over and ruining all chances of rescue or recovery.

I have it on good authority, but off the record, that three young men were recovered from the last compartment opened on the West Virginia. By match light they had marked off the days on a calendar through December 23rd. The Navy has decided never to identify them. They will be officially listed as Killed-In-Action, December 7, 1941.

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[Night action! Companies all along the line moved forward in a largely improvised attack, trying to overrun a retreating Japanese column. It was tough going.]

The end of our wait was a nervous twenty minutes, as the barrage line walked out of the valley, right up towards us. With ten minutes to go we could see the explosions directly, and the noise was becoming uncomfortably loud. Most men gave up spectating for a place back in their foxholes.

With two minutes to go the world again fell silent. The appointed minute came, and we moved out.

Captain Leonard figured we could manage the terrain ahead with modest difficulty. He was worried about men to our left, where three severe peaks broke up the landscape. It would be impossible for them to move in clean lines at any speed. And if they tried to work around the mountains, they would have to navigate in the dark to regain their place in the larger line.

We made our way down the face of our hill and picked through the forest below for a quarter mile before heading up again. It was relatively easy going under the mature forest canopy, where even the dense evergreens had thin lower limbs. Progress slowed in patches of shorter brush and was dead slow where our artillery had made a quick demonstration.

Felled limbs and shattered trunks littered the woods. In the harsh light of our star shells broken trees were levered aside or simply climbed over. Some weren’t stable and shifted or rolled under the weight of a scrambling GI. We suffered a casualty when one man had his leg broken under a falling twisting log. It cost us two men when his lieutenant detailed another man to wait with him until first light when he could be safely moved.

A distant rumble suggested that an American armored column was moving down to our right, out of the forest hills, into the outskirts of the city. It was confirmed by the sound of a series of small cannon shots from the same direction. Division was pulling out all stops to trap the Japs ahead of us this time.

We had started about 10 pm. It was just after midnight that we ran head on into the company to our right. That wasn’t supposed to happen, so another fifteen minutes were spent going over maps, arguing about which wavy contour line was which by artificial star light. The line got squared away, and we were off again, moving due south with only the near ends of our units in earshot of each other. We had only a mile to go to be at the road on our left (it ran northeast to southwest in our assigned zone).

With a half mile left we found our first band of Japanese, holed up behind a small knob, about 200 feet in elevation above the road bed.

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[Aboard a transport in Ariake Bay, Tuttle witnessed a kamikaze attack of unprecedented scale and coordination.]

An occasional dull thud or distant crack sounded out from the front lines on land. I was standing under a lashed assault boat to stay out of steady rain, two cups of coffee in me, when the sea all around erupted with gun fire.

Radar directed five inch guns were quickly elevated from shore support positions to fire at aircraft somewhere in the dark rain clouds. I saw scattered flashes of light from land where anti-aircraft batteries had been set up. They must have been firing blindly, following whatever the Navy guns were doing.

Sailors on the Athene ran all directions toward battle stations. Soldiers moved down into the holds, where they were instructed to wait out any attack. I ran, field glasses in hand, toward any ladder I could find that took me up higher for a better sightseeing location.

I got to my best vantage point, forward and several decks up on the superstructure, just as the medium anti-aircraft pieces across the invasion fleet came alive. All guns were firing to the northwest, over land. Whatever the threat was, it was coming from the interior of the island. In my binoculars I could just make out flaming planes falling out of the sky, one and two at a time. A few flew down out of the clouds under power, still over land – over our lines. Pulling up and turning clumsily, surprised at the lack of water and naval targets, each was chewed up by ground fire shortly after coming into view.

Ships in the fleet began to slew their AA batteries different directions, as the radar targets came almost directly overhead. Some guns were at maximum elevation before the first live planes came diving out of the sky. Just as those planes came diving, more planes, slow and low flying, were spotted coming out over land at tree top. Patrolling Navy fighters, helpless to intercept the cloud-covered waves, shot out to intercept those low flying bogies while they had a chance.

Planes diving out of the clouds had a short window in time to find a target. They had no fighter escorts, all were suicide bombers. Most were probably inexperienced pilots flying old planes, but there were hundreds of them, and they were right on top of the fleet.

Kamikazes came down so thick that for a time it looked more like part of the weather than a contrivance of man. American gunners kept up a furious pace of firing. The hardest part of their job was choosing which target to work on, out of so many deadly options. Airplane wreckage and small oil slicks littered half the bay before the first of the suicide planes found success.

I watched myself as the destroyer USS Kidd was hit twice. The old cruiser USS Chester took three impacts amidships and was still burning at noon when she was abandoned. But the focus of the onslaught was clearly the transports. Most of the troops were already ashore, but our heavy support equipment was largely still waiting on the water. In close sequence I saw a heavily laden cargo ship and two tank landing ships next to her put down with multiple impacts from one well-disciplined formation of suicide planes. Behind them the tanker USS Kishwaukee, loaded with aviation fuel, lit up the eastern sky brighter than the sun after just one near vertical impact drove straight through the ship, flooding the sea with burning fuel.

After an intense few dozen minutes, the assault from above and over land was down to a few stragglers, aircraft which got up late or got lost. One at a time they were easy prey for fighters and Navy guns. Then an alert went out about more planes coming from land to the northeast. Practically out of the ground around Takahata-yama another thirty-some planes launched toward the rear of our fleet.

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[Tuttle went along with a medical team on its way to reinforce the exhausted doctors on Tanega-shima.]

A call went out for volunteers on clean calm hospital ships to go get dirty for a while. Lead nurse Chief Evan Fields tells me half the ship volunteered, so this group was chosen by lottery. The group of seven is from eight different states, spanning the continent from Maine to Oregon. Pharmacists Mate Paul Atha was born on a Kiowa reservation nineteen years ago in Oklahoma. We sang him happy birthday over the sound of our ship’s engine.

Each person in the medical team had a heavy foot locker with him, and other boxes and crates, all barely luggable by one man. I needled them about their excess baggage but Dr. Federowicz corrected me. “All we have with us is the clothes on our backs. They’ve been tearing through medical supplies on the island, so we brought our own tools and all the consumables we could carry.”

Our ship tied up at a temporary pier off the south end of the American beach head. It was supposedly the safest place on the still hotly contested island. I unloaded crates for the team, as they were put to work immediately loading injured soldiers onto another boat. I followed bedraggled corpsmen and stretcher bearers to the aid station the stretchers were coming from. Their dirty green uniforms were damp with sweat in the mid afternoon sun. Just that morning they had been dry for the first time in days.

The aid station is nothing more than three twelve foot square tents. Under clear warm skies the tent flaps are wide open. One can watch four teams of surgeons working two of the tents, wading through loose bundles of dirty uniform pieces and bloody gauze on the ground at their feet. As I passed stretcher bearers took one case off the last table, carting him over to a quiet corner of the loosely organized compound. There laid rows of poncho covered bodies, some with a stake at the head holding some memento left by comrades who were still standing. Stretchers were in short supply and not left with the dead.

For a moment the bustle and flow of the scene reminded me of a casino with popular table games. Gamblers come in and out, each trying his luck. The doctors and nurses are just dealers and croupiers, they have no stake in the game, however they might cheer for the lucky and anguish over the losers. The House is death itself, and the house is doing terribly well, paying out absolute loss to losers but only meager victories to the winning gamblers.

The surgeon from that losing table stepped out into the sun, resting his weight on his knees for a moment, staring passively at the well worn dirt trail in front of his work place. After a routine cleaning of the operating table corpsmen brought another priority case into the tent. The surgeon joined his team in the third tent to change his apron and gloves and move on to their next case.

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[Still on a command ship, Tuttle watched action toward the shore through his trusty field glasses.]

Early in the day the 5th Marine Division sent one battalion south as a reserve for the Tanega-shima fight, and now it has lost another permanently. Staff officers are generating stacks of paper to reassign veterans to head up replacement companies. Over a thousand raw Marines, fresh from basic training, will be absorbed into the division, and it will have no opportunity to train them before it gets ashore.

Once the orders come down, our small boats will be very busy moving men around between transports. So I took the opportunity to get a ride in to the beach while I could. Late in the afternoon I climbed over into a Higgins boat, under the occasional shadow of a heavy shell streaking in to a requested coordinate. Fighting on the beach was mostly out of sight by then, but the sounds of modern war echoed out to fill the air over the entire fleet.

An ethereal calm settled over the battle as a novel apparition materialized. First a rhythmic slow strum, like off a cracked old out-of-tune cello, began to fill the quiet instants between rifle cracks and mortar tube ‘whoomps.’ Then the battle stopped altogether as the first helicopter anyone there had ever seen came into view.

The curious non-flapping bird moved quickly across the water, seeming dangerously low over the trundling transport boats, but probably well above them. Our own heavy guns had stopped firing to clear its passage into the center of our beach head. The helicopter slowed as it approached the shore line, lowering to a hover just above a deliberate clearing amongst all the debris of war, about 100 yards from the water.

It dropped to the ground and its body came to a rest, rotor still spinning almost too fast to make out the blades. Medics moved confidently under the blades, as if they’d practiced the maneuver (I assumed they had). Some critically wounded Marine was loaded in behind the solo pilot. The noise of the rotors picked up its rhythm before the medics were even clear, and the nature-defying aircraft was up again, moving the precious cargo to a hospital ship out in the fleet.

Another helicopter was already heading in to the beach. The hole in the combat noise caused by the first whirlybird began to close. Small caliber guns opened up on targets of opportunity, such as an individual Japanese soldier or American Marine who had stuck his head up to catch the side show. Larger Japanese guns, including some that had been hidden and discretely silent, began to bark as the second helicopter came close to landing.

Our medics worked fast to load the next injured man, and Marines shot back to silence the new entrants into the battle, but the Japanese guns were pre-sighted and quickly found their mark. The second helicopter was ten feet off the ground when it exploded into a shower of hot metal scraps and one screaming dying engine.

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[Tuttle described the relief plan of the tough situation the early landing troops on Tanega-shima were in and the first suicide boat (shinyo) attack.]

I do not expect many readers to absorb all the detail of this improvised operation. I spell it out in detail to make clear just what a big wrench in the works it is. The Japanese are sure to lose the entire substantial force which garrisoned Tanega-shima. All their effort digging caves and camouflaging guns there will be overcome and eventually lost to time. But that price has bought them a large impediment to the complicated plan of their enemy, of an inestimable value.

Yet much of that plan still unfolds, on schedule. Yesterday afternoon saw the two lead divisions at each of the three main beach heads land two combat regiments. That much was according to plan. The plan of course assumes some resistance from the enemy, but that has been consistently inconsistent. Our landed soldiers and Marines got through the first mile and more inland finding only disorganized resistance. The worst were pairs of light machine guns hastily set up in the rubble and craters made by our pre-invasion bombardment. They are also being harassed by long range fire from inland mountains and high points to the sides of each landing beach. There is nothing to do about it but to push into those heights. Forces are moving and timetables are being adjusted.

This morning the weather brought low clouds with a chance of rain and heavy kamikaze showers. Before that a wave of suicide boats made out from the many nooks on Koshiki-retto, through a dim pre-dawn haze. The 160th Regiment of the 40th Infantry Division has been working to clear any threats from that island since X-4, together with Navy ships circling the jagged shore. Much ordnance has been expended against the rocks there, blasting any suspicious looking crevice which might hide a small ship. But there are a great many crevices and clearly some of the deadly boats survived.

Kamikaze planes were expected at the first bit of bad weather, but the risk from attack boats was supposed to be eliminated. Destroyer picket screens against incoming aircraft are well beyond Koshiki-retto from this invasion fleet. Just one destroyer and a few patrol boats were patrolling between our big ships and the island. The USS Charette claims five shinyo sunk, with another probable. That may have been most of them, but we know at least three more got through, because they found the cruiser USS Little Rock and my recent acquaintance the USS Red Oak Victory.

The Red Oak was back to her old job of at-sea re-supply of ordnance to Navy ships. The Little Rock had done her share of pre-invasion shore bombardment, and was to continue the job of delivering fire support after taking on more deadly packages.

The Red Oak Victory was parallel to the shore, less than two miles off, tethered to the Little Rock. Gunners on the Red Oak may have hit some of the attacking boats, but the Little Rock reports that two of them got close enough to blow big holes in the cargo ship’s hull, possibly starting off secondary explosions in the holds, and put her under in a blink. It was all the cruiser could do to cut the transfer lines and get clear of the sinking ship so they wouldn’t smash any swimming survivors. The Little Rock’s gunners barely caught a glimpse of a final suicide motorboat gunning past the rolling wreck.

The boat closed the last few dozen yards to the Little Rock and its multi-hundred-pound bow charge ripped through the light cruiser’s armor. I have no word on fatalities from below, but one machine gun crew on deck reported injuries from wood splinters and impact from one severed human hand.

Shinyo attack, from squadron monument marker.

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[Off the western beaches, Tuttle got a direct view of the initial landings near Kushikino.]

Our boats over here in the west were starting to move forward and Mr. Morris and his mates got too busy to entertain me. Control boats checked in as each line formed up. This information was relayed to the bombardment destroyers so they knew when to get out of the way, or to continue firing and keep enemy heads tucked down under ground.

Radio calls came in at an even tempo, from firm calm voices. Those voices had made the calls before, as they’ve had plenty of chances to practice and perform this act of the play. Boats at 2000 yards. Destroyers finishing last sweep. Boats at 1000 yards. Supporting guns cease fire. First wave still line abreast. Second wave moving on time.

The voices wavered only a little as the enemy got in on the act. Boats hit, beach Winton-3. Can you see the gun? First wave dry, Stutz beach. Taking fire, right of Stutz. Air control Winton, can you see it?

I stepped outside for a minute and looked down to the main deck. It was heavy with Marines, watching the action to our starboard quarter. They all had helmets and small arms with them, the daily uniform for today’s duty, which was to stand ready as the reserve division and as targets for any kamikaze raid that might come in.

I looked toward the beach myself. It wasn’t hard to find, being the source of a lot of noise and smoke. With my field glasses I could occasionally make out armored AMTRACs on the beach, moving inland and to the flanks. I looked up to watch a Navy attack bomber fly overhead toward the fracas. Another plane followed twenty seconds behind the first. Between the two I heard a louder “chump!” from the beach. I looked to the beach again, and the wind cooperated with my field glasses, clearing smoke from my view. I saw two figures leap from a flaming amphibious tank. Other dark shapes around the tank were infantry who had dived into the sand and gravel when the tank was hit.

The two from the dead tank moved back toward another group of dark specs behind another two AMTRACs. I imagine there was much yelling and pointing, as the two amphibians split up, steering clear of where their cousin had been wrecked. The view was again obscured as that unit of Marines worked through their first live field problem of the day.

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[The invasion start found Tuttle in a busy radio room, catching action all around Kyushu from a unique perspective.]

I found one of the radio men, Ensign Gaston Morton, from Stillwater, Minnesota, studiously memorizing the lists of ships from our invasion flotilla and every other squadron and fleet on this job. “There’s a slim chance I would ever need to relay a call for a destroyer on the far side [of Kyushu], and I could look them up in a minute anyway. But the only other thing I could do right now is clean and polish the vacuum tubes on the radio sets. What about you? What do you do when you’re waiting around to start an important job?”

I’m not used to my interview subjects asking back! I told him that, first of all, I don’t recall ever having a particularly important job to do. But if I did, to pass the time waiting for such a job to start, I would probably go interview someone else about his job.

There was very little time left to pass, so Mr. Morris got back to his radio set and I got back to staying out of the way. About 5 am the pre-landing bombardment kicked off, starting with the very big guns. Our shelling of the shore in the previous three days had been done during daylight. Each ship could fix its position by visual cues on land, then work accurately through its scheduled target list. Tonight the moon had set just after midnight. The pre-landing bombardment was done in pitch darkness. It was just a rolling line of thunder with no particular target except the island ahead of us.

I went back and forth between watching the action outside and listening in on radio traffic. Layered groups of fighter planes could be seen weaving a curtain to the north. Boats and amphibious transports were loaded and launched toward control lines throughout the bombardment. The other landing armies were going through the same routine at the same time. Across the island on the eastern shore they were landing on either side of the port city Miyazaki, a straight bit of coastline similar to our objective here around the town of Kushikino. In the southeast they are landing on an ideal bit of long gentle shoreline, inside Ariake Bay. But, the sides of the bay are solid lines of steep bluffs and mountain peaks.

The first serious trouble came from Ariake Bay. Over the sound of our big battleships firing in front of us, my friend Mr. Morris tuned in the Navy frequencies for the bombardment group in Ariake. The pre-invasion bombardment did not have Navy gunships enter the bay until this morning. Army bombers laid several thousands of pounds of bombs per acre all around Ariake that morning, a repeat of what they’d done three days in a row at all the invasion sites.

In a surprising development, the Navy gunships found themselves in a shooting duel with land based guns which were not hit in the earlier bombing, and which chose to reveal themselves today. Calls went out for return fire on each new enemy gun. We see the flash, in the shadows. Target square 99-11, grid S! might be one call. Mr. Morris helped me find a few of them on a copy of the same map.

The Navy had help from ground-attack aircraft under a clear sky, but still lost a cruiser and a destroyer sunk, and other ships damaged. Some number of airplanes were also lost. They had to fly low over enemy held land to make rocket attacks on the back sides of hills.

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[Not a field report, but included in Kyushu Diary, Tuttle gave readers an overview of the American battle plan.]

The primary focus of operations at the end of 1945 was to get as many troops as available onto Kyushu before winter set in. The troops available would be all the Army divisions MacArthur had used in the Philippines, and whichever Marine corps divisions were not heavily involved on Okinawa, the most recent operation.

Four multi-division army corps were set up, under a general command called the Sixth Army under General Walter Krueger. Planning staffs had labeled over 30 possible landing beaches on the southern third of Kyushu, naming them in alphabetical order from east to west by automobile brands. The final plan had us using eight of them in three clusters for the X-day assault.

The Marine Corps sent its 2nd, 3rd, and 5th divisions as the Fifth Amphibious Corps. They would land on the west coast, south of the city of Sendai. The First Corps, Army divisions 25th, 33rd, and 41st, would land on the east coast, either side of the city of Miyazaki.

South of that in Ariake Bay the 1st Cavalry Division, 43rd Infantry Division, and the Americal Division would land as the Eleventh Corps. Another corps, the Ninth, on X-2 has already made an elaborate fake landing operation toward Shikoku far to the northeast. Its 77th, 81st, and 98th infantry divisions can land as needed later. They are penciled in for a landing south of the Marines on X+3 or X+4. Ninth Corps also had the 112th “Regimental Combat Team” , which could deploy independently. Incidentally, the 98th is an all new unit, the only one here with no combat experience.

Ahead of the multiple corps, the 40th Infantry Division, reinforced with the 158th Regimental Combat Team, started landing on the smaller islands south and west of Kyushu, to eliminate them as threats to the main fleet once it arrived.

What we need out of Kyushu most of all is airbases. You may have noticed, B-29 bombers are not small. They need room to stretch out those long wings, and they prefer wide long runways. In addition, there are supply depots and workshops and barracks for a million men (or more) to build. But Kyushu does not have an abundance of flat land to offer. It is woven from a coarse thread of steep ridges and volcanic peaks, interrupted only briefly by flat valleys and a few small plains. To get enough space for our uses, and secure it from Japanese long range artillery or sneak attack, we plan to push well into the hills north of the last set of valleys.

As a layman looking at all this, the invasion plan at first looked like a focused application of awesome force, and it was impossible to see how such a large and well equipped invader could be turned away. But I had been at this a little while by then, and I did a little calculating. I’m sure real staff officers in many headquarters and Pentagon offices had run the same numbers many times.

Okinawa is about 5 miles across in its southern portion where we had four divisions abreast fighting stiff resistance for two months to advance about 15 miles, taking casualties all the way. Southern Kyushu is 90 miles wide, and we plan to land maybe 13 divisions. That would spread forces out almost six times as thin. Total area to be taken is well over 5,000 square miles. They talk about having ‘maneuver room’ and ‘flexible force concentration’ to overcome this. Time will tell.

Planned hospital beds for evac casualties from Operation Olympic

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