All posts tagged navy

[Tuttle explains the name “X-Day” and bemoans the popular presumptions around “D-Day”.]

We are in Fifth Corps (amphibious), with three Marine divisions, the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. Two other similar size corps, Eleventh and First, will assault the island elsewhere. The augmented 40th Infantry Division is already ahead of us landing on some of the smaller islands off Kyushu. Another whole corps, the Ninth, is staging a feint far to the northeast, and there are an ‘unspecified number of follow-on units.’

So far as I am told, until recently it was U.S. military practice to always call the day of an invasion, amphibious or otherwise, “D-day.” (They also call the hour that it starts “H-hour.”) Something changed in the last year, now that “D-day” has become something of a brand name.
Newspapers take D-Day to mean specifically the June, 1944 expansion of the war against Germany with landings on the Normandy coast of France. They already forget about the other fights which raged even then in all corners of Europe.

If they do that much in a year, I have to wonder what people will be told of this war fifty years from now. There might be just one D-day, which decided the whole fight in Europe. Never mind the massive land war in Russia, the back-and-forth turf wars in north Africa, or the painful struggle through Italy. In a hundred years they may just call it “The D-Day War” .

Anyway, since Normandy and “D-Day” are forever linked in the public mind, the military had to get more creative. For the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines they called it “S-day.” At Okinawa, April 1st, which happened to also be Easter Sunday, was called “Love Day,” much to the chagrin of superstitious or wry-witted soldiers and Marines who saw the setup of a bemusing but possibly bitter irony.

This time around our invasion of the island of Kyushu, set for November 15th, 1945, will begin on “X-day.” That makes today X-4. I for one am glad we are back to a simple single letter.

Operation Olympic - X-Day


[Tuttle is away with the invasion flotilla, surveying conditions on their temporary floating home.]

The Barrow is a purely military ship, but actually more comfortable than some of the hurriedly converted passenger liners that were used as transports early in the war. A space that has bunks for a hundred men actually has ventilation for a hundred men, unlike the converted cargo holds of the civilian ships. The mess halls can take a steady stream of hungry servicemen at long rows of benches. Even the toilets are a production line affair – a relief to a nervous row of men all trying to relieve themselves at the same time before boarding assault boats.

One thing that hasn’t changed with the new ships is that troop ships are still over loaded. High-level planning documents show an allowance of 33,000 men for each combat division. The current T/O for a Marine Corps division has it at 19,176 men, fully staffed. The quantity of men and supplies attached to an assault division grows with every operation, as they learn about new needs. It never goes down, and the increasing distance from US home ports only multiplies the problem.

Since the Navy can’t just stretch each ship to match new paper requirements, there are still men assigned “quarters” that are nothing more than a bit of shade under an assault boat up on deck. They get a good view of the sky at night, but will trade favors for a dry place to stick their butts and gear when rain comes.

Top man in our room is Marine Captain Gerald Holtom, from central California. He is one of the Japanese interpreters. He tells me they don’t expect to be very busy. “The average rate of surrender or capture of Japanese troops at last count is barely one percent. It might have been better in the last surrounded pockets on Okinawa or Luzon*, but those dumb guys had been in combat under shelling for literally months and had no other hope of survival, or even of doing any damage.

“As it was we went hole-by-hole back over every square inch of Oki after it was ‘secure’ and it was hit or miss when we found Japs holed up if we could talk them out. If not we would just blow the thing shut and bury them alive.” Holtom will go ashore not long after the initial assault. He isn’t looking forward to the job ahead, but he’s sure his part is both small and a good ways out in the future.

* It was; about 5% on Okinawa and 2.5% on Luzon.


[With orders in hand to get packed up and ready to fight, men on Okinawa had many loose ends to tie up and business to wind down before leaving their months-long home.]

A new frenzy of activity swept over many parts of the island. Men ran through lists of chores, most of which could have been completed long before. The sudden imposing deadline exposed all procrastinators. Letters home could be mailed, but would be held until the invasion was landed.

Long lines formed to ship armfuls of belongings back home. Personal effects, trophies, and mementos burdened the slow moving columns of apparent refugees. Some parcels were suspiciously close in size and shape to the more memorable signs and street markers that our engineers perpetually replace across Okinawa.

One fellow I met had only an old pair of tattered boots in hand. They were his first combat boots, veterans of three Mariana islands. He had a one year old son he’d never met. He wanted to be sure the boy had something to remember him by, whatever might happen.

Some of the men shipping out have been on Okinawa for several months. They had two days or less to reduce their personal effects to one duffel bag of material. Whatever homey touches they had accumulated in their tents or barracks had to go, by barter or disposal.

Special trash piles were started and soon were adorned with prints of the least favorite pin-up girls. Only the dearest images would wind up in wallets or combat packs. Hollywood producers might be surprised at which of their carefully promoted personas made the cut.

At night more than a few contraptions were added to the junk piles which might be recognized as liquor stills. They may have been moved discretely because of their prohibited distilling potential, or because most were made of materials pilfered from military stockpiles.

comic v-mail


Today we conclude this series of specific references behind the details in X-Day: Japan. These are not formal citations, as they are not all root sources and the book is not an academic volume. The use of real historical elements for X-Day: Japan serves to educate the reader about the time, add interest to the story, and honestly it just made the thing easier to write!

November 23, 1945
Jumbo air-to-ground rocket,

November 27, 1945
1st Cavalry Division,

December 3, 1945
M29 Weasel,

December 8, 1945
M26 Pershing tank next to M4 Sherman tank (models),

December 9, 1945
War Department Technical Manual TM-12-247,
Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel,

December 10, 1945
U.S. Army Center of Military History style guide,

December 11, 1945
Battle Formations – The Rifle Platoon, for NCOs (1942)

December 21, 1945
Hospitalization and evac plan for Operation Olympic,
Logistic Instructions No. 1 for the Olympic Operation, 25 July 1945
USS Sanctuary, hospital ship AH-17

December 22, 1945
Russian communists vs Chinese communists,
– Tom Clancy, The Bear and the Dragon
Chiang Kai-shek quote on the communists vs the Japanese,

December 23, 1945
Sakura-jima and its volcanoes,

December 25, 1945
USS Hazard, minesweeper AM-240 [MUSEUM SHIP],

January 17, 1946
Radiation detection equipment,

July 18, 1945
PBY-4/5 Catalina flying boat,
Consolidated Aircraft plant in San Diego,
Consolidated Aircraft plant production and products, B-24 and PB4Y-2,

December 24, 1945
Pearl Harbor survivors, trapped under USS West Virginia,


[After helping to stabilize his own camp, Tuttle moved around Okinawa to see what damage Typhoon Louise had done to the rest of the preparations for Operation Olympic.]

Buckner Bay is the new home to several dozen naval monuments. For example, some 50 yards in from the normal waterline sits a full size model of an American Sumner-class destroyer. I am sure it is full size, because it is the actual USS Laffey, DD-724. I found the Laffey with her bow pointed out to sea, and her stern jammed deep into the earth. She was leaned over a few degrees to port. The skin of her starboard side showed a long deep wrinkle, running vertically from mid height right down to the keel…

…other less lucky ships line the beach and shallows. I quit counting at forty-something, with a long way to go. Some are capsized, others broken apart. Anonymous debris thoroughly litters the beach. I picked through some of it, trying to guess what any of it used to be. I stopped to find someone to tell about a body that graves registration hadn’t found yet.

No planes are flying from here. Zero. I can’t say how many planes we have here, but ‘hundreds’ does not cover it. Runways are being cleared of debris, but every single aircraft is grounded until each is inspected for damage. So far every bird has failed inspection, and they are cued up for work ranging from skin patches to engine swaps to outright scrapping.

A plane engine can be heard overhead periodically. I’m told we are flying limited CAP with long range fighters from elsewhere, just in case the Japs try to take advantage of our situation. I can’t imagine what they would find worth bombing.


[Typhoon Louise ripped through Okinawa at its peak on October 9th, severely reducing the preparations made for Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese home islands.]

We were told to expect significant rain two days ago, but it turned into an epic windstorm, much worse than what we saw last month. Whole camps are totally wiped out. Ocean going vessels of many sizes are stranded in mud a hundred feet in from the normal shore line. Many ships were moved out into deep water, and they are still being counted. Some of them will never return.

The Navy weather station here had little to tell me. I didn’t bother them too long, because like many here their office is now mixed into a field of rubble. Some information has come in by radio from Guam, where weather observing B-29s are based. They knew a typhoon was running through to the south of us. But for no reason, perhaps the whim of a bored Greek god, it stopped and turned north, growing stronger by the hour as it was nudged along by that neglected ancient immortal.

Anyone who was living in a tent, without exception so far as I have seen, is now homeless. Torn patches of wet green canvas littered the adjacent hillsides this morning. Now many of the larger pieces are laid out over stacks of junk, in the hope they will dry when the sun comes out again. Men spent all day salvaging personal gear and essential equipment, those who were healthy that is. Medics are scrambling to care for the injured, using what supplies they can scrounge.

Anyone who could not find cover yesterday was subject to abuse from a mad circus of debris. A storm is not dangerous to a person just from its wind and rain. Real damage comes when solid objects are wrested from the earth and mixed into the storm like rocks in a polishing tumbler. Examples are everywhere – a sheet metal bar wrapped around a utility pole, a long shard of wood stuck into the ground like an arrow, or a wrecked vehicle with damage all around from being rolled over the ground a dozen or more times.

The weather guys told me that officially winds got up to 130 miles an hour. They admitted that their instruments only go up to 130 miles an hour, not that I could check them on it as their wooden building is gone and their instrument tower is a twisted wreck.


Today we continue letting the reader see some of the specific references behind the details in X-Day: Japan. These are not formal citations, as they are not all root sources and the book is not an academic volume. The use of real historical elements for X-Day: Japan serves to educate the reader about the time, add interest to the story, and honestly it just made the thing easier to write!

August 30, 1945
Purple heart orders and production,
Giangreco, Hell to Pay, p187-193 [hardcover, 2009]

September 10, 1945
Typhoon Ursula,

September 17, 1945
Typhoon Ida,

September 21, 1945
Antitank Rocket, Methods of Use,

October 10, 1945
Typhoon Louise,

October 11, 1945
USS Laffey, destroyer DD-724 [MUSEUM SHIP at Patriot’s Point],

October 28, 1945
Downfall operational plan, 5/28/45, Annex 3 – estimated lift requirements

November 6, 1945
Petition to make Ernie Pyle’s house a national landmark,

November 9, 1945
Men lined up waiting to use the head before an assault,
Sledge, With the Old Breed
Surrender rates of Japanese soldiers,
Frank, Downfall, p28-29 and p71-72 [Penguin paperback, 2001]

November 11, 1945
Diagrams of amphibious assault boats,

November 16, 1945
USS Charette, destroyer DD-581, which had a remarkable career with the Greeks as the Velos,
USS Montrose, attack transport APA-212,

November 17, 1945
Helicopter medevac,

November 19, 1945
Estimate of Japanese tank strength and tactics,

November 20, 1945
USS Sanctuary, hospital ship AH-17,
158th RCT, “Bushmasters”

November 21, 1945
USS Athene, attack cargo ship AKA-22,
USS Kidd, destroyer DD-661 [MUSEUM SHIP],
USS Chester, heavy cruiser CA-27,
USS Windham Bay, escort carrier CVE-92,
USS Comfort, hospital ship AH-6,
Blood supply,
Giangreco, Hell to Pay, p139 [hardcover, 2009]
USS Firedrake, Mount Hood class,
USS Orleck, destroyer DD-886 [MUSEUM SHIP],
USS Guam, Alaska-class,

November 22, 1945
USS Heerman (DD-532), USS John C. Butler (DE-339), – legends of Taffy-3,
“The outcome is doubtful, but we will do our duty.”
Rear Admiral Robert W. Copeland,


[Another big storm hit Okinawa, much stronger than the previous. It was not to be the last, nor the worst.]

Many tents were either torn from their rope anchors or simply ripped apart in place. The reader should note, the tent stakes in use here are not like what a civilian hiker has in his or her backpack. These are serious steel posts, driven into the earth with two-fisted hammers. Also the canvas of the tents is a heavy weave, and doped with sealant. The tents are tied down with taut ropes as thick as an adult finger. These are not trivial shelters. Still, the wind made them seem little better than a child’s couch cushion fort.

A check in the base hospital shows that there were injuries, some of them serious. Two dozen or so beds are freshly occupied, in a facility serving about 10,000 men, and I have reports of similar results elsewhere. There is no word yet on fatalities, but it is still early and there are piles of debris to sort through.

I didn’t have to go anywhere to observe damage to the fleet. From our battered tent camp (my particular shelter was one of the lucky ones), one can look directly down on Buckner Bay. Multiple transport and service ships are beached on the shore. A few have damage apparent even from this distance. I did go down to the bay to get better word. A tug captain tells me they’re going to start surveying the damaged ships and pulling the relatively healthy ones back out in the water. He won’t be the one doing it as his boat was smashed against a pier before being tossed ashore upside down.


[Tuttle had a grandstand view for every manner of amusement, some of it put on by devious pranksters.]

…It is also not unusual to see a bridge drive by. Not a truck carrying bridge sections, but an actual self-propelled self-deploying bridge. It can drive up to a river bank, fold itself out over the span, and be driven right over.

Oh, there are people here besides the engineers. The bombers and long range fighters make some racket as they sortie and return. Ships come and go, taking supplies and liberty, heading back out into the fight or to bring us even more stuff.

The ground combat units here, who mostly just stayed on after conquering the place, are the 1st Marine Division, the 7th Infantry Division, and the 27th Infantry Division. The Army and Marine Corps units are camped generally on their respective sides of the island. They are refitting and retraining, as you might expect, but the pace of it leaves some of them restless.

Pranks are to be expected. Inter-service pranks especially. Add in the presence of a hundred thousand technical specialists, and the jokes can get intricate.

Colored smoke grenades are a favorite booby trap device so far. A delay mechanism is set in some way, so a machine will get along a ways before green or red smoke billows out from the engine compartment – or fills the driver’s cab. One group of on-looking Seabees thought it was hilarious to see an Army crane run straight over a jeep, the driver blinded by a well timed smoke bomb, until it turned out that it was the personal jeep of a Navy captain, who only got out a minute before.

Those Seabees kept the Navy officers’ latrines spic and span for the duration of their stay.


[Tuttle observed the highly efficient rumor mill in the American military camps, and took one chance to float his own tidbit through it.]

“Look here! The Navy just bought another 125,000 purple heart medals . Forget what they said about Japan keeling over before we get there!” He had a point in that – whatever the Navy said, it would have to buy hardware to go with what it really thought.

Seeing my opportunity to add a marker to the story, a tag for me to watch it run around, I interjected something else I’d learned. On a tour of the Philadelphia mint just a few months before, they showed me how the medals were being made of molded plastic instead of more precious materials. It had as much to do with holding the thing together as conserving war materials, but I didn’t include that part.

I hung out near the mess tent coffee urns for the rest of the day. Within hours the Navy order had jumped to a quarter million. The Army got in on the act for another 400,000 . No one really knew what a purple heart medal was made of in the first place, so quickly there were critical shortages of: brass, copper, silver, or even purple paint. The best story had a German spy try to blow up Fort Knox, causing a run on gold.

Satisfied that the rumor mill here was working at full efficiency, I took a walk through Naha in the warm setting sun. I wondered if when the sun came up again there wouldn’t be a story about crates of medals being air dropped to us, ‘just in case.’