seabees

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[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

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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 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.

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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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[Tuttle wrote in real time as he was flown over the U.S. Navy’s island-smothering buildup on the Mariana Islands.]

Our plane ascends into an expansive blue field of distant white puffs, scattered high clouds well above our sight-seer’s flight plan. We start west bound, with a warm mid-morning sun behind us. As we gain altitude Tom makes a long lazy turn to the north. We level off and he points out some of the minor islands north of Saipan. After the big fighting was over we secured a few of them. Others are simply cut off. Whatever Japanese garrisons are left there will be tending vegetable gardens until the end of the war.

Turning back to the south, we pass Saipan on our right. Some areas where the fighting was hard are still pock marked and denuded. Other substantial areas are clear-cut and developed, including multiple airfields larger than the one we left. The 2nd Marine Division is camped somewhere between the clusters of runways and rows of Quonset huts. The rapidity of development since just last fall is awesome.

Tinian comes up quickly, and if our bases on Saipan are impressive, Tinian is simply gob-smacking. The whole island looks like it lost a fight with a giant cat. Parallel lines of broad white scratches cut across it at irregular intervals, with raw blisters of new buildings and other facilities ringing each big paw swipe. The largest ‘wound’ is called simply North Field, which has four parallel 8,000 foot runways and scattered parking for a secret but triple-digit number of heavy bombers.

Tom intends to cut across the middle of Tinian, to get me a better look, and communicates that to the appropriate party by radio. He is reminded to steer clear of the north end of the island, but otherwise cleared. We cut altitude and airspeed and move toward the center of the island, which from a low approach still looks tranquil and lush with green fur. Clearing the first line of trees, and conspicuous gun emplacements, the scene changes quickly.

I can barely see the ground for all the variety of patrol planes, long range fighters, inky black night fighters, and broad acres of shiny metal bombers. Most are parked out in the open, on pads off of curving paths that slink off of the runways and service ramps. The pads are scattered and staggered so an attacker can’t wreck a bunch of parked aircraft at once, but I think I could drop a rock from this plane at random and have even odds on dinging two of them in one go.

A southerly turn and another twenty some minutes flying brings us to Guam. I am still writing notes about Tinian as the facilities on Guam make themselves clear. Guam is the new home-away-from-home for a large part of the United States Marine Corps. The scene from Tinian is repeated, a dense clutter of war material making up most of the landscape. But the shiny bombers are here replaced by long rows and expansive clusters of tents, Quonset huts, and a growing variety of more permanent structures.

Guam today hosts two divisions of the United States Marine Corps. Before the war there wasn’t even such a thing as a Marine Corps division. Now there are six.

Seabees base 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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[With road construction season kicking off over much of the U.S., we thought it would be timely to share another of our favorite quotes from the book.]

One can hardly say enough about the Seabees and what they’ve done out here. Graded land and hard surfaced roads are placed almost as if the Seabees have them in suitcases ready to fold out when they check in to each tropical hostelry they visit. I understand a great deal of dynamite was actually involved.

If you’ve ever complained about the quality and condition of roads in your home county, instead of writing letters to the local newspaper editor, I suggest you write to some ambitious foreign power asking to be invaded. With any luck, the Navy will have a hand in taking your town back, and will bring the Seabees with them.

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