All posts for the month August, 2015

[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.’


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,

July 19, 1945
Macarthur’s personal plane, and his assistants,
Flying across the Pacific in a hurry,

July 22, 1945
Hawaii – it’s history, economy, defenses, and outlook – as of late 1940,
Prostitution in Hawaii,
Actual USO show,

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

July 26, 1945
FDR’s line crossing ceremony,

July 27, 1945
Marpi Airfield, Saipan,

July 28, 1945
SB2C Helldiver,
Marine close air support,

July 29, 1945
Facilities and engineers in the Marianas,
Floating dry-dock example,
Log of bombing missions from one group,

July 30, 1945
458th Squadron, 33th Bomb Group,
mission log including radio report from Ray Clark,

August 3, 1945
Baseball in wartime,
Navy reports on typhoon of June 1945 (Connie),
USS Red Oak Victory, cargo ship AK-235 [MUSEUM SHIP],
Shortage of loading berths at Okinawa,
Nimitz Gray Books [multiple references]

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

August 9, 1945
Trial of Captain McVay of the Indianapolis,

August 10, 1945
Active airfields on Okinawa, 1945,

August 16, 1945
USO show on Okinawa,
Betty Hutton,


[Fighting the elements on Okinawa with the bivouacked troops was the USO, working hard to keep spirits up.]

Among the list of #1 priorities for the engineers here, and all their jobs are #1 priorities when making up a whole functioning civilization from practically nothing, was theater areas. They have multiple uses, not just entertainment, but today this one was dedicated to fun.

Curving rows of stout benches, most with straight board backs, run in semicircles up a terraced curving hill side. They arc almost 180 degrees around a tall Quonset-hut-style building at the bottom of the strategically chosen hill. A stage platform extends twenty feet out from the building about four feet off the ground. Everyone has a good view when the performers come out.

My companions took over a block of bench space about twenty rows back from the front. The rain took a break just then and most men took off their ponchos before settling in. Down front the usual “bald headed row” of high ranking officers and VIPs showed themselves true to form, reflecting some of the bright gray sky in the middle of a sea of olive green. I kept my own hat on as I walked down to the stage.

Most of the performers tonight were the friends I made back in Honolulu, crossing paths again with them on Guam. I pulled rank to get back stage, showing my press ID, and got to catch up with them again before their second show of the day.

For my money, not that I was spending any, the centerpiece of the show was pianist Arthur Zepp. He supported every act in the show, and in the middle took center stage for a couple solo pieces. The troops heard comedy from Dell Chain and songs from Emma Lou Welch. Virginia Carroll also sang, but what got the troops to sit up and lean in was her acrobatic act. The headliner was the surprisingly funny Betty Hutton. She sang until they drug her off stage, and I had a side stage view of all of it.


[Tuttle and all the troops had time to kill during prolonged bouts of summer rain on Okinawa.]

People who don’t have to be outside are cooped up and getting restless. Poker games with well-worn decks are running continuously in the usual tents, campaign currency and paper IOUs moving around fluidly. No one has much stomach for setting up pranks in this depressing weather. Most write letters or sit and read in their off hours.

One well-worn bit of reading material is a copy of Yank magazine from back in June. The big cover story is a piece that directly asks the question, “How Long Will We Have to Fight the Jap War?” It’s the standard question here, and it has a lot of standard answers. Answers run from confident predictions to uncertain humor like “Golden Gate in ’48!” to more somber reflections that other soldiers don’t want to hear.

The piece in Yank gives a summary of the situation, and plenty of stats, but nothing in the way of any predictions. It ends with an admonition from the war department that however tough it gets, we have to keep up the pace or it will only get tougher. “The War Department plan calls for redeploying men from the ETO and the States so fast that the Japs will not have time to build up defenses or assemble reinforcements at spots where the Japs may figure the next invasions will come. ‘Speed is essential, for it is vitally important that we do not give the enemy time either to rest or reorganize his defenses.’”

Last I looked, there still weren’t any units from Europe in the Pacific. I suspect the boys already here will carry on with what they have for at least the next big job.

Pinup reading Yank by warbirdphotographer at


I talked my way into the air control room for Kadena. It was busy, as expected, and the atmosphere was tense. Bad weather was moving in earlier than predicted. They would need to recover planes under thick clouds bearing heavy rain. Radar screens and radio stations received the keen focus of the controllers’ attention.

Added to the mix was a flight of new B-29 bombers coming in for deployment at Bolo point to the northwest. Those pilots would likely be unfamiliar with the airfields and landmarks around them. Most of the landing strips here are parallel to each other, running with the prevailing winds. Controllers don’t need to give multiple headings and control crossing flight paths, if they can get each plane into the right corridor. They have a system for it, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Late in the day, with minimal sunlight pushing through the low rain clouds, a B-29 came down in front of me, right on top of a smaller plane. The A-20 “Havoc” had just landed, gun belts and bomb racks emptied, coming to a slow roll only halfway down the generous runway. It was completely demolished. The pilot of the B-29 probably lined up on the wrong runway. We’ll never get the chance to ask him or his co-pilot. The nose of their bomber broke off cleanly and bounded down the runway in a violent twisting tumble. It remained intact but their bodies were shattered.

I stood at the window watching ground crews scramble to put out fires and clear debris from the wet coral pavement. Calm but forceful voices behind me issued rapid instructions to dozens of inbound planes, diverting them to other fields. The rain kept coming into the night so I found a quiet corner of the base office block to camp in.

B-29s burning at Isley Field on November 27, 1944


[Tuttle got to meet his roommates for his Okinawa stay, Major Lawless making an immediate impression.]

Actually camp life truly isn’t hard here. The tent cities are well graded and drained. We have elevated wood floors. The climate is mild. And we can get to a hot shower without too much effort. I’ve been in worse shape at a cheap hotel in South Dakota.

I’m getting the feel of the place, and it has a real living pulse. A routine flow has taken hold, now that the fighting is over and facilities are up enough to support operations. Not that we’re by any means done building up Okinawan bases.

Every expansion is met with a ready need for more. A tank farm is barely filled for the first time before a line of trucks or ships or planes has formed ready to take on fuel. Each new mess hall only slightly shortens the lines at three others. Freshly paved road lanes are set upon promptly by hordes of loaded trucks, requiring constant maintenance.

This morning I walked with Major Lawless over the island to watch planes take off for a big raid that we were tipped off to. From the right vantage point one can see the airfields at Kadena and Yontan, which we took from the Japanese and promptly expanded, plus a new extra-long airstrip at Bolo point.

We were sending everything including the kitchen sink for a remodel of southern Japan that day. Long range fighters were going up almost side by side with Liberator bombers. Bunches of our new twin engine attack planes formed up over the East China Sea before droning off into the high overcast sky.

We watched for over an hour as the formations came together for their deadly migration. Thousands of men on the ground wrangled equipment, shifting from the hustle of fueling and arming planes to preparations for receiving them back, making repairs, and starting all over again.

F4U Corsair being loaded at Kadena


A big thanks goes out to all our readers, especially in the UK, for putting X-Day: Japan on Amazon top-100 lists for:
Books > History > Military History > World War II (UK)
Kindle Books > History > Military (UK)
Books > History > Military > Weapons & Warfare > Nuclear (US)

These are serious categories with good competition for your money and readership. It means a lot to be listed next to some great titles.

We also make a sake and vino toast (actually we’ll use American bourbon) to whoever put the book in the top five of the relevant English language lists in Japan and Italy, all three readers!


[After finally getting ashore on Okinawa, Tuttle was shown around the island.]

“Job one here was air fields. The Army went right for the two big ones when we landed here at the beginning of April. By mid month they were flying fighters out of there directly into the fight.” We crested the center ridge line of the island just then and I could see the handy work of the engineers at Kadena and Yontan airfields. New long runways, composed largely of local coral, shone in the sun. Aircraft parking areas ran off in all directions, and more were being graded. “The 8th Air Force is still coming over from England, picking up B-29s along the way. Two other air forces are already here, running long range fighters and medium bombers.”

I asked about some large tent camps that were briefly in sight at the northernmost leg of our journey. I could just make out barb wire topped fences around the camps. “Those are for the Okinawan civilians, and the Jap POWs. For now they’re one and the same to us. Interrogators are sorting them out, which is gonna take a while. But it’s not like there’s anywhere for the actual civilians to go anyhow.”

We turned to the south, along the west coast of the island, and the narrative turned to shipping. “Once the airfields were laid down, the top priority was getting the ports dolled up. Naha,” he pointed just ahead and to the right, “has the only port to speak of here, but it’s small. As you saw we set up dozens of new piers in the other bay to add capacity.”

The race is on to get enough port capacity to support the big bombers once they get up to speed here. All that bomb tonnage has to go from shore-to-ship-to-shore before it is delivered by air to Japanese factories and harbors and airfields. I was deposited back on to the largely naval side of the island, where I could forage for basic essentials I would need until my luggage showed up from Guam.

A stunning bit of news came and stuck around today. Unofficial reports say the large cruiser USS Indianapolis was sunk with great loss of life over a week ago. I checked up and there is no official word or press report about it, but guys ‘in the know’ swear that radio traffic went around about a big search and rescue operation that should be still going on.

One of my new tent mates is particularly anxious for news. Warrant Officer Henry Weber served on the Indy with her float plane team until last October. He was an old salt compared to most recruits coming in. “We had just taken on a batch of new kids in the aviation group when I was transferred. I took a real shine to my one machinist’s mate. I hope Mitchell got off, and good word gets to his momma. He used to write home just about every day.”

Float planes being handled on USS Indianapolis


[Tuttle hopped aboard a cargo-hauling “Victory” ship for the last leg of his trip to Okinawa.]

I called the Red Oak Victory a Liberty ship, but she is actually a newer “Victory” ship, technically of the Boulder class. The Victory ships carry a little bit more than the Liberty ships, and go a lot faster. They take more than a week off a trans-Pacific route, and then get back another week sooner ready to take another load.

Mariners will have noticed that I called this ship a “USS” and I am not mistaken in that. The Red Oak Victory is under U.S. Navy command and crewed entirely by officers and sailors. She is not a civilian Merchant Marine vessel. Her main job up to now has been hauling ammunition, and delivering it directly to other ships while the fleet was still at sea.

This ship is armed almost as well as the small destroyer I was on in Hawaii. Small and medium caliber guns ring the upper decks, making air attack dangerous (to the aircraft). The one big gun is on the back, all the better for making distance between us and a submarine running on the surface. These guns would be run by a Navy contingent on a Merchant Marine ship. Merchant Marine ships have seen plenty of action in this war, some scoring multiple aircraft kills in a single attack.

As I write this Okinawa is already in sight. A ship like this can get from the Marianas to the Ryukus in four days, even when running a zig-zig course to frustrate a submarine captain trying to time a torpedo into the same place as our ship. The run is not done in convoys; the whole shipping lane is patrolled from the air. Navy sea planes get regular catches of big tin fish with bombs and depth charges, but the situation makes the Atlantic veterans in this crew nervous. A line of well armed destroyers would certainly make a more reassuring security blanket.

We made this run without incident, and are ready to unload. But we’re on the familiar military schedule of ‘hurry up and wait.’ Okinawa still does not sprout enough piers and cranes for our ships to be unloaded fast enough. We will anchor in the far spread arms of what has been renamed Buckner Bay on the east side of the island, before getting directed to a pier, which could be at the nearby naval base or all the way around the island at Naha.

I am taking the opportunity to catch up on reading. The ship has a decent little library, and takes on new magazines and books when it can. Much of the recent news is from the big conference at Potsdam, Germany. President Truman should be just on his way back from that big to-do, where it is supposed that the whole post-war world was neatly drawn up.

Except of course that sketch depends on the Japanese playing their part according to the artists’ vision. Toward that end they issued an ultimatum to the Japs, that people are already referring to simply as the ‘Potsdam Declaration.’ It is not a long document. It spells out concisely that we intend to completely re-make Japan, not just defeat her, and that we have the means to do both. I read the whole text, and took particular note of the end.

“We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative is deliberate and thorough destruction.”

We are here to unload a full cargo of heavy bombs for the heavy bombers. I survey the vast mob of other ships anchored here waiting to unload assorted deadly cargoes, and I have no doubt about the thoroughness we intend to exhibit.

SS Red Oak Victory museum ship


Born August 3, 1900, Ernie Pyle told the story of America by telling the stories of Americans. When he perished under fire in the Ryukus, an enormous void was left behind in the world of journalism and in the hearts of soldiers, mothers, sailors, bothers, tradesmen, and every other sort of reader everywhere. Even our own Walt Tuttle was speechless over the event.

Among many lengthy obituaries, the New York Times had this to add.

Ernie Pyle was haunted all his life by an obsession. He said over and over again, “I suffer agony in anticipation of meeting people for fear they won’t like me.”

No man could have been less justified in such a fear. Word of Pyle’s death started tears in the eyes of millions, from the White House to the poorest dwellings in the country.

President Truman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt followed his writings as avidly as any farmer’s wife or city tenement mother with sons in service.

Mrs. Roosevelt once wrote in her column “I have read everything he has sent from overseas,” and recommended his writings to all Americans.

For three years these writings had entered some 14,000,000 homes almost as personal letters from the front. Soldiers’ kin prayed for Ernie Pyle as they prayed for their own sons.

While terribly modest about it, Pyle’s fame allowed him into places other people could not intrude, especially into the confidence of greasy workers and low-level enlisted men. [Tuttle confessed to riding Pyle’s coattails into low places many times.] He had this story to share about one modest but distinctive honor.

“Whenever a flier was fished out of the North Sea or the Channel, the RAF
rescuers gave him a little felt insigne about an inch high, in the form of a half
wing — showing a fish skipping over the water. This was a membership badge in
the ‘Goldfish Club.’ It was sewn under the lapel, and displayed when occasion
demanded. It wasn’t worn outwardly because, I presume, we didn’t want German
agents to know how many guys had been fished out of the water.

The boys had another memento of their salt-water bath. They all had Short
Snorter bills. But they had started a new series of signatures on bills which they
called ‘Dinghy Snorters.’ Only fliers who had had to ditch were allowed to sign
those bills. They flattered me by asking me to sign, and said mine would be the
only non-Goldfish signature permitted on their bills.”