air force

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[Tuttle rode forward with a group of reporters to see the American line finally be joined continuously across Kyushu.]

1st Lieutenant Millard Wells drove his own jeep, which he succeeded in filling with three reporters. I rode in back with Bob Bellaire of Collier’s. John Elliot sat up front as the Australian representative.

It took some time to get back near corps HQ, continue southeast on a good secure (and freshly rebuilt) road, and finally get up to the front lines near Kagoshima Bay.

We turned the drive into an hour long press conference. Lieutenant Wells shared what he could about the larger situation. Fifth corps had top priority on everything for the current breakout – ammo, air support, even toilet paper stocks were advanced to keep the divisions ‘moving.’

What Lieutenant Wells had gathered us to see was the planned meeting of American units at the north end of Kagoshima Bay. Once connected there, the American front would finally be one unbroken line all the way across Kyushu.

He described the shore there as dense with small cities. They were well situated as a hub for commerce, closer to inland parts of Kyushu than any of the larger ports. Industrial development of the coast was sparse, but in aggregate it was something worth taking.
Intelligence suggested the area was still well populated with people. The lieutenant didn’t know why, but it was another reason we had not and would not thoroughly bomb and shell the area before moving in.

We drove right to the water’s edge north of Kagoshima city. Lieutenant Wells pointed northeast across the bay. “That flat land runs north all the way into the next really big mountain [Karakuni-dake]. The 12th Cav already tried to get across once and got lit up by big artillery. Then them and the 158th [Regimental Combat Team] got shelled at random all night after pulling back.”

I asked the lieutenant if there was anything we were going to do about the long range artillery before they moved out again. He hesitated a moment then answered without looking away from the road ahead, “Not really. Heavy bombers will carpet the mountains, but they did that twice already.”

This morning found me situated with forward observers for the heavy mortars of the 322nd Infantry Regiment. We were staked out on a small hill, hurriedly cleared of brush, looking down into one of the coastal towns on the north end of Kagoshima Bay.

Behind us was a similar town, one held by American forces for many days. That town had experienced tough urban fighting, followed by heavy artillery fire from the recently pacified Sakura-jima. It was less than a ghost town. Its few charred remaining buildings offered no outline of the former city streets. Paths cleared by American engineers went straight through, with no thought to the original map.

The town ahead was pristine. One could imagine people getting up for work that morning, and children running off to school along the quiet safe streets. In fact, a keen eye could pick out heat and faint smoke from cooking fires down below. I didn’t think they had made enough breakfast for the ten thousand guests they were about to get.


[Still recuperting on a hospital ship, Tuttle had to get second hand news about a heavy kamikaze raid on the city.]

Japanese Army bombers joined the kamikaze wing this time, covered by a few of their newest top-line fighter escorts. The bombers came down out of the clouds in four or five waves, mostly dead-on target. They were hunting fixed locations on a land mass which would be well familiar to them.

They say our fighters actually intercepted and damaged most of the Jap heavies, but the mass of each bomber, and its substantial payload, isn’t deflected by a few machine gun bullets. High explosive and incendiary bombs, wrapped in plane parts, first hit on and around the facilities in Miyazaki harbor. The largest old wooden pier burned for hours. One newly built metal causeway was cut in half by a recently erected metal crane which fell through it into a freshly dredged corner of the harbor.

The Japanese were lucky to find a laden tanker car in the main rail yard. The odds were good since there is almost always a tanker loading there, to bring fuel forward to our thirsty heavy armor. Some hundred thousand gallons of gasoline lit the city for an hour, consuming untold other buildings and equipment with it.

At least one road bridge was cut in two. A number of the more densely occupied building blocks were also hit. The Japanese seemed to know just where the key facilities were set up. First Corps headquarters was barely missed. Medical staff on my ship are anxious to get word about the hospital complex, which had a falling bomber explode just outside the largest building. The building was badly damaged and may not be usable. Dozens of patients and staff were killed.

I was more motivated than ever to get back into the action, but all I could do was write about activities and conversation on the hospital ship. There is little for men to do on a ship like this but to one-up each other with combat stories, or try to chat up the outnumbered nurses. I held a losing hand at either game, so I caught up on news from far away.

Home front news which should be encouraging was bemusing at best to men deployed here. A rush to demobilize and kick start the peacetime economy was both exemplified and fueled by boat loads of servicemen returning from Europe. Tokyo Rose reminded us often that guys at home had a head start on taking all the good jobs – and good women. I myself couldn’t help but scan the major newspaper mastheads for new editors and feature columnists.


[Tuttle took this day to catch the reader up on action around Kyushu.]

The 43rd Division is being pulled out, entirely. Its losses of officers and equipment can’t be replenished fast enough to make it worth feeding its idle units until that time comes. Its healthy men will be redistributed to other units, which are thirsty for veteran replacements.

The 1st Cavalry is the one division here to have four regiments, most others switching to three before the war. This may have been a compensation to the division for losing its horses in favor of trucks and scout vehicles. But that compensation is over. The 7th Cavalry Regiment is being split up, too expensive to rebuild while other units are too depleted to function. If it remains an active regiment, it will materialize somewhere back in the States as the regimental colors are presented to a column of new boot camp graduates.

The 40th Division is still being landed, charged with defending the whole middle of the line while everyone else prepares to move back into the mountains around Ariake Bay.

In the west, the Marines did take Kagoshima and Sendai, experiencing tough urban fighting, and attacks by civilians, after a week of slogging through a maze of defended hills. They scarcely hold either city though, as every night and some days heavy artillery from vantage points looking down into the cities hit known key points in each. The 2nd and 3rd Marine divisions hold the Sendai-Kagoshima line, having took in multiple waves of reinforcements to keep the advance going, ten miles in ten days.

South of Kagoshima the 5th Marine Division has been making painful progress down the five mile wide peninsula. It is a ¾ scale model of southern Okinawa, but there is only one Marine division instead of two Marine and two Army divisions working to clear pits and caves and tunnels which defend each other. All of it is in range of Navy guns, and I don’t doubt that it’s quite a show when they light up a stubborn hill. Engineers got to work in earnest on an airfield behind the Marines yesterday, sure that it’s now out of Jap artillery range. It should boost by half the volume of ground support flights they can run on a good day.

South of the Marines, the 77th and 81st infantry divisions made good progress at first, pushing through open flat land west of Kaimon-dake, which was undefended. The small mountain was expected to be a tough fort and the Navy was almost disappointed at not getting to blast at it. The Army divisions are now coming into hilly territory and finding the going considerably slower and more bloody.

In the east around Miyazaki the story has been mixed. In from the beach is a plain almost ten miles deep. American spotters can observe all of it and direct Navy guns on any part quickly. The Japanese did not try to fortify it. Miyazaki itself was largely deserted, save for bands of scared or angry civilians who did not evacuate with the others. Some of them attacked American soldiers in small groups, to limited direct effect but it makes our soldiers ever more wary.

South of Miyazaki the 25th Division did the tough job of taking hills close to the beach, which overlook American camps. There the Japanese did defend, and it was all the 25th could do to take the first line of mountain ridges before digging in to rest. Miyazaki will become the first developed place we really hold on Kyushu. Its port and airfields will be opened up ‘soon.’

Early on the beach head at Miyazaki faced a dress rehearsal of the big counter attack that just finished in Ariake Bay. They figure that parts of “only” two veteran Japanese divisions drove into American lines, supported by about fifty tanks. The attack at Ariake was more than twice as large.

One thing that has everyone surprised is the number of Japanese tanks that have been thrown at us. Intelligence men are optimistic that we’ve already seen most of what they can muster, but when pressed they have to admit they just don’t know for sure. Movement of troops far to the north has been seen by our aircraft when weather permits. When weather does not permit observation, Japanese reinforcements can move without aiding our insight.


[Tuttle found himself literally in the middle of the long pre-planned great Japanese counter-attack on Kyushu.]

This was no frenzied banzai charge. The Japanese moved quickly, but fought from cover and applied combined arms to reduce our hasty defenses and keep American units moving backward. It was all by the book, right from the latest war college papers* [*I had a lot of time to read on Okinawa].

Progress for the Japanese was terribly expensive. Their vehicles were easy prey to the growing variety of field guns packed by U.S. infantry. Long range naval fire was not an option for us with the Japs intermingled among American forces, but the destroyers which had come in close yesterday had positioned themselves to put direct line-of-sight fire on key roads and passes. In one surreal scene a Japanese tank commander brought his team of four tanks into a side-by-side line just a mile from the beach. They began to fire on the destroyer John C. Butler. The destroyer lined up her 5 inch guns and dueled mano a mano with the armored squadron. The destroyer won.

The latest kamikazes had only a limited impact, but one of their successes was to hit the destroyer Heerman, just once but low near the water line. The Heerman, no stranger to a tough fight, beached herself to keep from sinking and kept up fire support against targets on land.

American planes raged through the sky all day. Many of them went up with oversize rockets built for crushing hardened concrete bunkers deep under many feet of rock. I saw first hand one of those giant rockets slam into a Jap tank, practically re-smelting the entire steel monster, redistributing its constituent elements back into the earth from which they came.

Troops on Japanese trucks soon learned they were also priority targets. They quickly dismounted, by choice or by explosive force. The Japanese attack eventually slowed to a foot soldier’s pace. They kept coming though, merely tightening the focus of the attack. They were driving right through the middle of the 98th Division, the least experienced large unit in the invasion, whether they knew it or not.

My particular platoon of the 98th eventually made it back to a low long hill one mile in from the beach, where the 391st Regiment had regrouped to set up a fighting line. The acting commander, by that point a Lieutenant Colonel, had thought we were long lost and had set up the line without us. We were sent all the way back to the short dikes by the beach – right where we were supposed to have landed – to be the true last line of defense.

Tiny Tim rocket


[Not a field report, but included in Kyushu Diary, Tuttle gave readers an overview of the American battle plan.]

The primary focus of operations at the end of 1945 was to get as many troops as available onto Kyushu before winter set in. The troops available would be all the Army divisions MacArthur had used in the Philippines, and whichever Marine corps divisions were not heavily involved on Okinawa, the most recent operation.

Four multi-division army corps were set up, under a general command called the Sixth Army under General Walter Krueger. Planning staffs had labeled over 30 possible landing beaches on the southern third of Kyushu, naming them in alphabetical order from east to west by automobile brands. The final plan had us using eight of them in three clusters for the X-day assault.

The Marine Corps sent its 2nd, 3rd, and 5th divisions as the Fifth Amphibious Corps. They would land on the west coast, south of the city of Sendai. The First Corps, Army divisions 25th, 33rd, and 41st, would land on the east coast, either side of the city of Miyazaki.

South of that in Ariake Bay the 1st Cavalry Division, 43rd Infantry Division, and the Americal Division would land as the Eleventh Corps. Another corps, the Ninth, on X-2 has already made an elaborate fake landing operation toward Shikoku far to the northeast. Its 77th, 81st, and 98th infantry divisions can land as needed later. They are penciled in for a landing south of the Marines on X+3 or X+4. Ninth Corps also had the 112th “Regimental Combat Team” , which could deploy independently. Incidentally, the 98th is an all new unit, the only one here with no combat experience.

Ahead of the multiple corps, the 40th Infantry Division, reinforced with the 158th Regimental Combat Team, started landing on the smaller islands south and west of Kyushu, to eliminate them as threats to the main fleet once it arrived.

What we need out of Kyushu most of all is airbases. You may have noticed, B-29 bombers are not small. They need room to stretch out those long wings, and they prefer wide long runways. In addition, there are supply depots and workshops and barracks for a million men (or more) to build. But Kyushu does not have an abundance of flat land to offer. It is woven from a coarse thread of steep ridges and volcanic peaks, interrupted only briefly by flat valleys and a few small plains. To get enough space for our uses, and secure it from Japanese long range artillery or sneak attack, we plan to push well into the hills north of the last set of valleys.

As a layman looking at all this, the invasion plan at first looked like a focused application of awesome force, and it was impossible to see how such a large and well equipped invader could be turned away. But I had been at this a little while by then, and I did a little calculating. I’m sure real staff officers in many headquarters and Pentagon offices had run the same numbers many times.

Okinawa is about 5 miles across in its southern portion where we had four divisions abreast fighting stiff resistance for two months to advance about 15 miles, taking casualties all the way. Southern Kyushu is 90 miles wide, and we plan to land maybe 13 divisions. That would spread forces out almost six times as thin. Total area to be taken is well over 5,000 square miles. They talk about having ‘maneuver room’ and ‘flexible force concentration’ to overcome this. Time will tell.

Planned hospital beds for evac casualties from Operation Olympic


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,


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