All posts tagged Olympic

[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


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.


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,


[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 deviantart.com


Many in the West know the word kamikaze as translating to “divine wind”. It’s worth reminding people of the phrase’s contextual origin.

“13th century Mongolian ship Kublai Khan sent to invade Japan found”
Two armadas sent by the emperor of the Yuan Dynasty to invade Japan decimated by legendary ‘kamikaze’

Mongolian wreck, 13th century invasion of Japan

Several times in history a great storm has wiped out or broken up an invasion fleet meant for Japan. The climax of World War Two was no different.

American commanders really should not have been surprised when the greatest typhoon in living memory set upon the epic invasion support fleet assembled at Okinawa just three weeks before it was due to deliver millions of tons of support materials to the Greatest Invasion. With hundreds of ships taken out of action, a disproportionate number of them assault transports and technical support ships, tough choices had to be made. They made the choices and pushed on ahead.

Typhoon Louise wrecks, one repair ship cut through another


[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.


Ernie Pyle wrote that for the invasion of Sicily Army engineers of just one division brought 83 tons of printed maps. We’ve looked over the actual maps for the invasion of Kyushu and are sure it was several times that for Operation Olympic. Kyushu is a much bigger island, and they mapped it in intricate detail, down to every fishing shack and outhouse.

map snippet

Kyushu was covered by over 150 color folding map sheets, each spanning 25,000 yards, about 14 miles. Tens of thousands of junior officers tracked their men over several of the maps. An artillery battery might cover four at once. Pilots had their own versions, and planners back at base had to translate back to the land versions to coordinate activities. A lot of guys needed a lot of maps.

Now we need a new version – for the readers. Simplified maps were drawn up just for X-Day: Japan, of southern Kyushu and key battle areas. They are being made available here in a stand-alone package. The reader can refer to the maps separately, without having to flip or scroll back in the middle of a chapter.
Click to save the zip package.



[a portion of the entry for November 29, 1945 : X+14 – south of Kanoya, Kyushu]

…Without breaking stride, two lead tanks rolled onto the bridge, followed by two armored cars. Riflemen and gunners on the north bank eyed the south bank warily. Astride a road parallel to the river was a long cluster of houses and fish processing buildings. Behind those buildings the land again rose steeply into the next forested mountain ridge.

Up to that point we had not seen a living soul since entering town. Upon leaving town they came out to see us. The first tank rolled off the far side of the bridge and turned immediately to face the first buildings on its left. People of all different sizes and attire ran out from behind several buildings, thirty or forty people in loose columns from every alley. Some brandished sticks and clubs, others carried satchels or old suitcases. The lead tank opened up, its machine gunners ignoring spears and clubs in favor of people carrying likely bombs. The second tank pulled up close alongside to join in.

On top of the bridge two scout cars paused to bring their four machine guns into action. But from under the bridge another eight or ten figures crawled unseen over the far railing. Soldiers who had dismounted were immediately in hand-to-hand combat, rifle butt against club. That gang of civilians also had bombs, and they were only feet from the armored cars before being spotted. At least three charges went off, in close succession. The last explosion tossed one scout car, armored, model M3A1, fifteen feet into the air. Men and guns and pieces of each were tossed in all directions. The remains of the chassis came crashing down next to a splintered hole in the bridge deck, and the entire thing went smashing through, taking several bridge girders with it into the fast running water below.

Our tanks had beat off the mob attack, the lead tank taking only superficial damage from one explosion. But they were now stranded, and the hill in front of them came alive with small arms fire against American soldiers around the bridge, who were still getting up from the blasts that wrecked the bridge.

The American line on the near riverbank returned fire, a hail of bullets ripping into the brush and trees opposing us. Without prompting one or more Navy ships to our left added to the fire with automatic cannon. No one could see the enemy under the dense shade of evergreen trees, the low winter sun behind them. But an intense volume of fire was distributed over the entire hillside.

Shortly the bigger Navy guns began to walk a pattern of five inch explosive shells along the hill. The circling attack planes were circling no longer, having been released by their ground controllers to come lend a hand near the shore. They strafed in long passes near the river, after loosing rockets into crevices higher up that Navy shells could not get into.

Under smoke from the bombardment, and a deliberate smoke screen, the tankers disabled their vehicles and got back across the river along one remaining truss of the tattered bridge. All the injured and most of the dead were recovered, and this special task force of the 8th Cavalry Regiment pulled back out of downtown Uchinoura, to the relative safety of “uptown” Uchinoura.

"Service units available for this operation are limited in number.
 Therefore, it is imperative that each unit commander establish
 within his unit a high degree of efficiency by impressing on all
 personnel the tremendous importance of the successful accomplish-
 ment of missions assigned."

Logistic Instructions No. 1 for the Olympic Operation, 25 July 1945,
Headquarters, United States Army Forces Western Pacific,
Office of the Commanding General.