operation coronet

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[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


[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,


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,


[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.


The general made a few comments to his aide and turned back toward our guns. I got my binoculars back this time. He gave final instructions to the artillery captain before heading back out.

“See what you can do about the Jap artillery down there, and for god’s sake don’t let them retreat. We didn’t want to have Japs wedged in between us, stabbing us in the back. But while they’re here we might as well kill them.”


November 16, 1945 : X+1 – off Kyushu

…This morning the weather brought low clouds with a chance of rain and heavy kamikaze showers. Before that a wave of suicide boats made out from the many nooks on Koshiki-retto, through a dim pre-dawn haze. The 160th regiment of the 40th infantry division has been working to clear any threats from that island since X-4, together with Navy destroyers circling the jagged shore. Much ordnance has been expended against the rocks there, blasting any suspicious looking crevice which might hide a small ship. But there are a great many crevices and clearly some of the deadly boats survived.

Kamikaze planes were expected at the first bit of bad weather, but the risk from attack boats was supposed to be eliminated. Destroyer picket screens against incoming aircraft are well beyond Koshiki-retto from this invasion fleet. Just one destroyer was patrolling between our big ships and the island, and she was busy this morning just keeping them at bay from her own hull. The USS Charette claims five shinyo sunk, with another probable. That may have been most of them, but we know at least three more got through, because they found the cruiser USS Little Rock and my recent acquaintance the USS Red Oak Victory. The Red Oak was back to her old job of at-sea re-supply of ordnance to Navy ships. The Little Rock did her share of pre-invasion shore bombardment, and was to continue the job of delivering fire support after taking on more deadly packages.

The Red Oak Victory was parallel to the shore, less than two miles off, tethered to the Little Rock. Gunners on the Red Oak may have hit some of the attacking boats, but the Little Rock reports that two of them got close enough to blow big holes in her hull, possibly starting off secondary explosions in the holds, and put her under in a blink. It was all the cruiser could do to cut the transfer lines and get clear of the sinking ship so they wouldn’t smash any swimming survivors. Little Rock’s gunners barely caught a glimpse of a final suicide motorboat gunning past the rolling wreck. The boat closed the last few dozen yards to the Little Rock and its multi-hundred-pound bow charge ripped through the light cruiser’s armor. I have no word on fatalities from below, but one machine gun crew on deck reported injuries from wood splinters and impact from one severed human hand.

The Little Rock is still afloat, after a scary stretch of fire fighting and damage control work. As the news came in, I sat in my corner of the radio room with an angry knot in my stomach at the certain fate of so many of my friends from the hard-working Red Oak Victory. Radio traffic continued its steady professional cadence. Hold picket screen, do not adjust. Oakland to assist. Task two fleet tugs. Notify USS Comfort.

Radio calls picked up urgency as two radar pickets ships saw a swarm of objects at the same time. A loose mass of objects came at cloud level from the direction of Nagasaki . Dozens more stragglers spanned fifty miles behind the main body. It was just at first light , so our radar equipped night fighters were still on station. One at a time they braved the cloud layer to hunt by glowing scope. Flying singly in strict zones to avoid collisions, they would do little to reduce the pack.

Close flying through clouds is no picnic, even for veteran pilots. Our second line of picket ships reported at least one pair of wrecked planes tumbling down out of the clouds, probably after a mid-air collision. Minutes later the outer ring of destroyers in our invasion fleet opened up with radar-directed flak at the approaching mob. Other ships joined in before I heard excited Japanese from one of the radios which had been silent.

I ran outside to look, brushing aside a scolding ensign, who shut the hatch behind me. Scores of Japanese planes dropped down out of the clouds. Two dozen Navy fighters, up and ready from the early radar picket alert, were inbound from the west to meet them. Once the forces merged it would be impossible for ships’ gunners to target Japanese planes without endangering American pilots. This rarely stopped American gunners under kamikaze attack.

One Japanese plane broke out, faster than the others, directly at my ship. I didn’t run or even flinch. Some how I knew she was not meant for me. The Jap plane streaked along low and level, shifting sideways just enough to be difficult to hit. The pilot was cool and experienced. I could see that his plane had no bomb. He did have two U.S. Navy “Hellcats” on his tail. The Japanese plane tore over my ship and I recognized it as one of the newest types, a Shinden, faster and stronger than the famous Reisen “Zero” that gave the world so much trouble through 1942.

Behind the Shinden were the two American fighters. Behind those were three older Japanese Navy planes just coming into view, each with an oversize bomb slung below. Our F6s were almost upon the dodging Shinden, and the lead Hellcat tore into it, throwing .50-caliber slugs through its structure and making the engine smoke. The Jap pilot pulled up into a full 180 degree reversal, adding a half barrel roll near the top, keeping up airspeed along the way. The surprised American fighters started a long level turn to come around and finish their prey. But the lead Japanese pilot had done his job. His three followers stormed ahead free of opposing fighters. They weaved near wave top, daring Navy gunners to shoot so low they could hit other ships. Gunners did fire, from every angle, and shortly the left plane erupted into a shower of debris which scattered over the water. The other two bore on, absorbing minor hits, engines screaming.

Just 300 yards forward and to port of my ship was the transport USS Montrose, also carrying elements of the 5th Marine Division. Like us she was still full, waiting for the division to get orders ashore. With barely a dozen yards to spare, gunners on the Montrose found the right plane in the remaining suicide pair, causing it to break apart, but it was too late. Most of both planes plowed into the side of the lightly armored transport, the bomb from the damaged plane impacting somewhere below the water line. In a dramatic flourish the injured Shinden pilot finished his flaming dive directly into the superstructure of the rapidly listing transport.

The Montrose sank in eight minutes. The Third Battalion of the 28th Marines ceased to exist.