Pacific

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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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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,
airandspace.si.edu

November 27, 1945
1st Cavalry Division,
first-team.us

December 3, 1945
M29 Weasel,
m29cweasel.com

December 8, 1945
M26 Pershing tank next to M4 Sherman tank (models),
warbird-photos.com

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

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

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

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

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,
izquotes.com

December 23, 1945
Sakura-jima and its volcanoes,
photovolcanica.com

December 25, 1945
USS Hazard, minesweeper AM-240 [MUSEUM SHIP],
nps.gov
tripadvisor.com

January 17, 1946
Radiation detection equipment,
national-radiation-instrument-catalog.com

July 18, 1945
PBY-4/5 Catalina flying boat,
pwencycl.kgbudge.com
Consolidated Aircraft plant in San Diego,
sandiegohistory.org
Consolidated Aircraft plant production and products, B-24 and PB4Y-2,
legendsintheirowntime.com
wikipedia.org

December 24, 1945
Pearl Harbor survivors, trapped under USS West Virginia,
nps.gov
community.seattletimes.nwsource.com

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[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.

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[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.

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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,
wikipedia.org

September 17, 1945
Typhoon Ida,
wikipedia.org
navsource.org

September 21, 1945
Antitank Rocket, Methods of Use,
youtube.com

October 10, 1945
Typhoon Louise,
history.navy.mil
danielborgstrom.blogspot.com
navsource.org
glynn.k12.ga.us

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

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

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

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,
ww2gyrene.org

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

November 17, 1945
Helicopter medevac,
olive-drab.com
airspacemag.com

November 19, 1945
Estimate of Japanese tank strength and tactics,
ibiblio.org/hyperwar

November 20, 1945
USS Sanctuary, hospital ship AH-17,
wikipedia.org
158th RCT, “Bushmasters”
ww2f.com
wikipedia.org

November 21, 1945
USS Athene, attack cargo ship AKA-22,
navsource.org
USS Kidd, destroyer DD-661 [MUSEUM SHIP],
usskidd.com
USS Chester, heavy cruiser CA-27,
ibiblio.org/hyperwar
USS Windham Bay, escort carrier CVE-92,
sites.google.com/site/windhambay
USS Comfort, hospital ship AH-6,
dorriehoward.info/comfort
Blood supply,
Giangreco, Hell to Pay, p139 [hardcover, 2009]
USS Firedrake, Mount Hood class,
wikipedia.org
ibiblio.org/hyperwar
USS Orleck, destroyer DD-886 [MUSEUM SHIP],
orleck.org
USS Guam, Alaska-class,
wikipedia.org
wikipedia.org

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

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[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.’

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It must be emphasized that X-Day: Japan is not an academic work. Still, we’re proud of the research and detail that went into it. Some readers have asked for more information about certain details, or for a longer list of references than in the bibliography.

In the margins of the main manuscript can be found links to many of the little facts that decorate the novel. We’ve compiled them into a list, sorted by the Tuttle journal dates in which each was found. A bunch of them are given below. The list will be completed in later installments.

July 16, 1945
FM 30-26 Regulations for Correspondents Accompanying U.S Army Forces in the Field,
archive.org

July 19, 1945
Macarthur’s personal plane, and his assistants,
donmooreswartales.com
ozatwar.com
Flying across the Pacific in a hurry,
wikipedia.org
wikipedia.org
uswarplanes.net

July 22, 1945
USO,
archive.org
Hawaii – it’s history, economy, defenses, and outlook – as of late 1940,
fortune.com
Prostitution in Hawaii,
library.manoa.hawaii.edu
Actual USO show,
gvnews.com
abebooks.com

July 23, 1945
Training on Hawaii up in Camp Tarawa,
Chuck Tatum, Red Blood, Black Sand
DE’s by class and commissioning year,
ibiblio.org/hyperwar/

July 26, 1945
NATS,
wikipedia.org
vpnavy.org
FDR’s line crossing ceremony,
ww2db.com

July 27, 1945
Marpi Airfield, Saipan,
airfields-freeman.com

July 28, 1945
SB2C Helldiver,
wikipedia.org
Marine close air support,
ibiblio.org

July 29, 1945
Facilities and engineers in the Marianas,
ibiblio.org
Floating dry-dock example,
navsource.org
navsource.org
Log of bombing missions from one group,
39th.org

July 30, 1945
458th Squadron, 33th Bomb Group,
rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ny330bg/
mission log including radio report from Ray Clark,
rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ny330bg/

August 3, 1945
Baseball in wartime,
baseballinwartime.com
Navy reports on typhoon of June 1945 (Connie),
history.navy.mil
USS Red Oak Victory, cargo ship AK-235 [MUSEUM SHIP],
navsource.org
navy.memorieshop.com
richmondmuseum.org
Shortage of loading berths at Okinawa,
Nimitz Gray Books [multiple references]

August 6, 1945
Yonabaru Naval Air Station,
rememberingokinawa.com
Buckner Bay and Navy HQ buildings,
rememberingokinawa.com
Sinking of the USS Indianapolis,
history.com

August 9, 1945
Trial of Captain McVay of the Indianapolis,
ussindianapolis.org

August 10, 1945
Active airfields on Okinawa, 1945,
wikimedia.org

August 16, 1945
USO show on Okinawa,
rememberingokinawa.com
Betty Hutton,
bettyhuttonestate.com

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[It wasn’t all work and no play even in the raw Pacific theater.]

Baseball is nuts here. Every base has a team, with natty custom uniforms and groomed fields to play on. Every field unit, down to battalion size or even smaller, has a competitive team with whatever equipment they can get a hold of. Somehow every ship with more than 9 sailors on it shows up with a team itching to play (I suppose they practice over the water with sharks and rays as bases). Leagues form up spontaneously any time two teams are within a day hike of each other. The Navy formally organizes a larger league for the whole Marianas. You’ve probably read about the top level leagues run by the military. If you don’t follow, know that last year Navy beat Army for the “Pacific World Series” in Hawaii. Both are dead serious about putting up good teams for the rematch this year.

Today a top-flight match was played on a professionally laid field. Construction teams here did not neglect sport and recreation facilities, and Trimble Field is one of their best. Named after Jimmy Trimble, who passed on a pro contract to fight with the Marines and was killed at Iwo Jima, the field has a fine scoreboard and a few small grandstands. The top teams of the Third and Sixth Marine divisions faced off for a full nine inning game. It’s an open secret that major leaguers in the military are kept out of risky combat roles, but the Marine divisions still have plenty of ringers.

I hitched a ride up to the field, which wasn’t hard because practically everyone was heading there. Upon arrival I gave up hope of watching much of the action. The few grandstands were burdened with brass, and guys were standing ten or twenty deep along the foul lines, all the way out further than Ty Cobb’s longest home run. People watching was going to be my sport for the afternoon.

Baseball on Guam, 1945

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[As always, Tuttle took time to sit down with the low ranking servicemen who make everything work.]

Over lunch I talked to some of the technicians based here. They work in different units, each of which has a job to do that changes as each base evolves. The Navy has got base building itself down to an art form, after lots of practice. Building an airfield, operating an airfield, operating planes out of the airfield, and doing heavy maintenance are jobs of different units. They each move into a new area in that order, just as some of the people and gear from the previous units are moving on to the next raw island.

Warrant Officer Lloyd Daniel, of Livingston, Montana, ran a team of earthmovers as the Seabees were expanding the small air strip the Japanese had here before. That airstrip is now almost twice as long as it was, and it has new brothers. His bulldozers are somewhere in the Philippines now, and most of his team is right behind them. He expects to fly out after finishing paperwork here.

Herman Davis, from Bowling Green, Florida, is an electrician’s mate with the unit that actually runs the base. They take over from the Seabees, and “make it civilized,” as he says. Sitting next to him is aviation ordnanceman Tom Close, of Pensacola, Florida. Tom works on guns and bomb racks, and often runs parts for the heavy maintenance guys.

I found these guys from different units sitting together not because of their common professional interests, but because of baseball. They are the core of the infield for the base team, and they’re worried about what to do for a shortstop once Mr. Daniel leaves. I’m sure they’ll do fine, but they’re from a relatively small base. The other bases each have a top notch squad, as does each combat division in the Marianas. They have a competitive league going, and big games coming up.

I asked the guys about other topics of interest, like the British election and the big conference at Potsdam, Germany. I couldn’t get a stated opinion on any of it, though they get regular world news here. They are much less concerned about how Prime Minister Clement Attlee will get along with President Truman than the number of combat aircraft they can help get in the air over Japan. They will debate the Potsdam proceedings only after the Japanese throw their own guns into the sea and give up.

Atlee, Truman, Stalin at Potsdam

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