All posts for the month June, 2015

[This is the preface from the book X-Day: Japan.]

Guide for the Modern Reader

The book Kyushu Diary was originally published in 1946, in which Walter F. Tuttle combined his own columns and other notes into an edited compilation. The second edition of 1952 was also by Tuttle’s own hand, with added footnotes, a map, some previously censored sections, and a post-script from the author. We are not calling this new book a 3rd edition. We have left Tuttle’s own 2nd edition of his compilation intact. X-Day: Japan starts with the second edition of Kyushu Diary and expands on it with extra features for a 21st century presentation.

The target audience of Walter F. Tuttle’s original Kyushu Diary is a newspaper reader of 1945. That person speaks a slightly different language from someone in the 21st century. That reader was persistently exposed to an argot of military affairs during six years of global war. Some of the words and concepts novel to that reader are mundane to us now, and many common phrases or jargon of that fast-changing time quickly became anachronistic or forgotten.

Tuttle wrote that “logistics” was a new word to many people then, as fielding a large army into undeveloped territory across a vast ocean was an unprecedented concept. In our modern post-jet-age economy, “logistics” is found in perky ad slogans of major companies.

Our modern world has been shaped by things we call “low intensity conflicts”, “limited war”, and “counter-terrorism operations”. These are all terms that would have been completely unknowable to a reader of the pre-nuclear 1940s. To help the modern reader bridge those gaps of time and language, we have included a section of brief historical context, and a small glossary.

Histories are generally either top-down views, summarizing the whole situation, or narratives from an individual perspective. Tuttle’s Kyushu Diary is at its heart a personal narrative. But Tuttle went to some trouble to paint a complete picture of the scene in the Pacific, from the home front all the way across to the battlefields in Japan, for the benefit of American readers who had been shown mostly news from Europe in the preceding years. Toward that effort we add this guide, additional maps, a list of further reading, and a judicious few additions to the text footnotes.

Tuttle believed in the spontaneous uncertainly of momentous events, which could turn out vastly different from changes in decision making or from natural flukes, and he was keen to communicate this to readers. In that spirit we also include a list of books of alternate histories or historical fiction novels, fantastic explorations of entirely possible what-ifs in this part of history. Popular topics in this genre are ‘What if we forced Japanese surrender by dropping atomic bombs on cities instead of military targets?’ and ‘What if we dropped atomic bombs on cities and they kept on fighting anyway?’

The book is not a parade of military hardware or a treatise on combined arms tactics. It does not get into any high level politics or command decisions. As before the war, Tuttle wrote about people and how they over came their own local problems. As a reporter he provided regular updates about the progress of each battle and the larger situation, but his real interest was in setting the stage for human stories to play out.

The text of Kyushu Diary varies considerably from the columns that were published under Tuttle’s byline during the war. The columns were worked over by many editors, and parsed out to fill some number of column-inches three days a week. Tuttle did not actually write to a format or deadline; he submitted when he could. The book was written directly from Tuttle’s own notes and original submissions. Many boring days are skipped, and some busy days have a dozen pages of dense material. That’s war for you.


[Today’s peek behind the scenes is adapted from a post on Shawn D. Mahaney’s personal blog,]

I compiled a book about the largest amphibious invasion in history. Trouble is, people hardly know about it. So to help people get a handle on the project I planned to reference that other better known invasion, the one known simply as D-Day. There’s no use fighting a nebulous thing like a public consciousness; “D-Day” will forever be the landings at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Never mind that there was a d-day for every major plan leading up to that, amphibious or otherwise. Large amphibious d-days were a weekly occurrence in the Pacific of World War Two. Forget about it. I decided early that I would play along (aided by the fact that the military changed the lingo after D-Day, and called my event of interest “X-Day”).

The first stop if one is going to do promotions on the internet is Google’s keyword planner. Lesson number one: riding the coat-tails of D-Day is done in a limited window of opportunity. Practically all the search traffic is bunched up in late May and early June.

People don’t seem to have any problem remembering the date of June 6th, but they don’t have much interest outside of that particular time period.

So, a bunch of keywords were chosen, a slightly painful budget amount set for the week long campaign, unique ads created [“Bigger than D-Day!” “After D-Day…”, etc.], and the push was on.

You people are so weird!

Following are some of the top searches by which people found the X-Day: Japan project web site during D-Day Week, 2015. I grouped some together, and marked a few others for comment.

Questions like “was d day before the bombing” make me worry about the state of humanity. But they also motivate me to keep putting out what is hoped to be good “info-tainment” material, fact-based fiction which helps paint a clear picture of a major turn in history.

On the weird side I really wonder who wants or is even expecting to find “d day t shirts” or D-Day greeting cards. This is not a sorority fund raiser or family barbecue! Has anyone ever tried to have a group bar mitzvah for the occasion??

I really don’t even know where to start on “d day recipes”. Surely no one would try to knock up Higgins boat burgers and Pont du Hoc fries. Still, this is the internet…

The bane of anyone trying to do pay-per-click marketing is kids doing homework. They type in searches rich with specific topical keywords, because that’s exactly how their teachers wrote out the assignments. The students don’t know or care that it costs the advertiser a quarter (or several dollars) to click their sidebar ad. One can filter them out most of the time, but this kid was determined:
“what are the reasons of world war 2 in japan , its result and steps taken by govt. to deal with problem & loss of life & property”
That sounds like an all-semester project. And since it’s already June, I wish the youngster luck. [If the book were ready, he could get a full page about the invasion of Japan and the nuclear bombing of Hitoyoshi, but it’s just not done yet.]

Today I’m going to turn off most of the ads, saving up the budget for the next big push, around August 6th. In the mean time, I’ll have to check out that “Dino D-Day game”!


[This portion of Tuttle’s entry for November 15 is shared for the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the well known D-Day this week, June 6, 1944. D-Days like at Normandy were routine jobs in the Pacific.]

I don’t like to think that there is anything fundamentally different for the average soldier between preparation for an amphibious invasion and any other long planned attack. The guys who can eat, eat. The guys who can’t eat, give their chow to the other guys. Special church services are held. Gear is checked and re-checked. Blades are sharpened, rifle actions cleaned and oiled. Veterans do whatever they did last time, because it worked. New guys don’t know what to do. Some sing, some sleep, most can’t sleep and just stare at the bunk above them, where the next man is doing the same thing at the bunk above him, until they get to the poor guy on top who has nothing to stare at but the bare gray ceiling.

There are mechanical differences between an amphibious operation and an attack over land. For starters, amphibious troops launch miles away from the real starting point. The big ships lay well back from land until the final morning, for their own safety. The troops ordained to go in can’t even see the objective but as a fuzzy line on the horizon until that morning.

In staged battles of old knights and footmen could look directly across the chosen field, and even see smoke from their opponent’s camp fires. Even in the muddy fields of 1917 France, today’s majors and colonels were lieutenants looking through field glasses (or periscopes) directly at the front berms of the enemy trenches.

On the way in an amphibious trooper is blind and helpless. There is absolutely nothing to do but crouch down in the assault boat and hope it doesn’t get hit. Or get stuck. Or break down. The soldier has to take it on faith that all the sailors do their jobs and line the boats up right and move them in good order and get them ashore where they are supposed to be.

Then the solider has to take it on faith that the reconnaissance was good, that the map is accurate, that the navy divers took out their assigned obstacles, that the naval bombardment hit what it was scheduled to hit, and that the first objectives for his unit are where they are supposed to be. Marching under a flag by trumpet or charging out of a trench the infantry man can see his own unit all the way, and the unit can do what it needs to do to stay organized. The unit is divided and helpless during the approach to a beach.

Incidentally, if terrain like a beach was all dry land and it was in a manual of military tactics, the manual would say “Do not under any circumstances attack here!” On a beach one is attacking uphill, approaching in the open, against prepared defenses on high ground, often with trees and brush covering them. It’s a bad way in, but it’s the only way in when one attacks an island, so this is our lot.

For this assault I’ve set myself among support staff and reserves. No one from this ship is going in on the first day. (They did lower a few of our boats, but I’m told those are just spares.) I’ve been around the nervous tension of men going in with the first wave before. I wanted to see how it is for the other guys.

There’s plenty of nervous tension here. In fact, I think it may be worse. For all the reasons above, the guys going in for the invasion have a sense of resignation to them. There’s nothing they can do about the whole trip in, and to cope with that I think they detach a little. The men here don’t have that. They have their own work to do, from minute zero on, and they all believe lives depend on it. Each man wants to be sure his part goes flawlessly.

Thing is, there’s not much some of them can do about it either. 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.