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Olympic vs. Ketsu-Go (part 5)

continued from part 4

What did the Japanese Army leaders foresee from the fierce campaign to defend Kyushu? Former Col. Takushira Hattori, in his published study called Dai Toa Zenshi, asserted that IGHQ deemed it imperative to inflict a staggering defeat at least upon the first wave of enemy invaders, thus compelling America to comprehend the mighty fighting spirit of the Japanese forces and population, as well as the difficulty of invading the Japanese home islands. IGHQ, continued Hattori, was of the opinion that Japanese success in the Kyushu fighting could delay if not prevent an American invasion of the Kanto region, or allow Japan to negotiate peace on relatively advantageous terms of compromise. Hence victory in Kyushu must be sought at any cost; it was the last chance to obtain an honorable peace, with conditions. This meant that the Kyushu campaign would be decisive for Japan in far more than the military sense.

As late as surrender time-even after the A-bombs had been dropped-a staff lieutenant colonel, related to the War Minister himself, was fervently convinced that even if the whole Japanese race were all but wiped out, its determination to preserve the National Polity would be forever recorded in the annals of man; whereas a people who sacrificed their will upon the altar of physical existence could never deserve resurrection. It would be useless for the people to survive the war, anyhow, if the structure of the State itself were destroyed. It was better to die than to seek ignominious "safety." But the entire people would not, in fact, be annihilated by fighting to the finish. Despite the continuous Japanese victories in China, relatively few Chinese died. Almost every key point in China had been occupied by the Japanese, but the Chinese Nationalist government could not be crushed. Now, even if a crucial campaign was fought in the main Japanese islands and the Japanese troops were driven into the mountainous regions, relatively few Japanese would be killed. Was the Japanese national will inferior to that of the Chinese? Dignity and practicality demanded Japanese resistance to the end; certain victory might yet be snatched from certain defeat. In this same vein, a last-minute War Ministry statement called upon the Army to fight through the "holy war" to defend the national Polity, even though there was nothing to eat except grass and dirt, and no place to sleep but the open fields. Eternal life was to be sought in death.

The preceding remarks typify the outward views of the fire-eaters. Was there an inner view? Former Col. Saburo Hayashi has given us a rare glimpse in his book Kogun: "Although it was said that there were prospects of success in the decisive battle for the homeland, this did not imply confidence of defeating the American forces' second and third landings when made continuously. All of the Army High Command felt secretly (when they considered the course of the decisive battle in the homeland coolly and concretely) that it was impossible to defeat the American troop landings, because of lack of weapons, ammunition, and food, in case second and third landings were made one after another. This held true even if initial American landing could be frustrated."

The best-informed Japanese civilians sensed as much. Domei correspondent Masuo Kato, for example, was already convinced that no successful Japanese resistance was any longer possible, that perhaps the country was continuing to fight only from habit and because it did not know how to stop. Kato judged that by the summer of 1945 Japan's war had been irrevocably lost, and that the leaders-"floundering in dissension and indecision"-knew it all too well, although the public could not. Terrorized and ignorant, the people might "feel in their skin" that all was not well, but they were obliged to cling desperately to a world of myths, till the end.

These subjective conjectures are supported by classified surveys conducted by the Supreme War Direction Council since the spring of 1945, when the American air offensive was reaching a crescendo. The military and civilian analysts reported evidence of declining Japanese civil morale, marketing and corruption, growing distrust of the leadership, and criticism of the military and government. Although inherently patriotic, the public revealed egotism, lack of spirit, despair and resignation, restlessness, peace-mongering, and even revolutionary tendencies. The president of the Privy Council admitted at an Imperial Conference that public morale had obviously been lowered, that public willingness to glorify the best traditions of the ancestors might suffer "under certain circumstances."

The state of the economy and of the armed forces was deteriorating. Navy units lacked fuel to support more than two sorties by the few remaining destroyers, even in homeland waters; and the last two Japanese battleships had had to be moored in Kure, with skeleton crews. A government estimate judged that because of the critical fuel shortage, ships and small craft could be used only in the harbor AA defense role.

In the Japanese Army and Navy air corps, routine flight training was abandoned, and emphasis was assigned to primary training in the piloting (essentially the takeoff and steering) of suicide planes. Many such pilots were given only 20 to 90 hours of training. Aviation fuel reserves were dwindling to the point where a final sortie by all available planes could not even have been mounted. Army pilots said that oil had become more precious than blood. Wood turpentine and charcoal were used as fuel, and imaginative government chemists worked on many a feckless project designed to create ersatz petrol. One example was the much publicized effort to extract oil from the roots of the pine tree.

By July 1945, production of civilian goods was below the level of subsistence. Munitions output was less than half the wartime peak-a level they could not be expected to support sustained defensive operations against an invasion. The vital railway net was overburdened, defenseless, and deteriorating. Production and raw-material shortages were felt in all sectors of the economy-oil, transport, aircraft, coal, steel. The manufacturers of suicide boats, for example, could provide only 20 to 40% of the total force projected for the end of September 1945. Quality control was also suffering. By the end of 1944, 70% of the output of new planes broke down before ever entering combat. To conserve air strength, the Japanese High Command issued instructions in July 1945 that direct combat with enemy task force sweeps and bombardments was to be avoided. Little Japanese resistance was being put up against American carrier planes, bombers, and warships that were now hammering at the homeland. Serious (but ineffective) thought was given to the dispatch of airborne raiding teams against B-29 bases in the Marianas, or surprise attacks by submarine launched planes. Planes were actually readied at Misawa air base to fly teams out, but the concentration was destroyed by US carrier planes on 14 July 1945.

The Japanese leaders might be publicly calling for a struggle of flesh against iron, of spirit against materiel, in the Japanese tradition (which, after all, despised surrender). And the Diet might be passing a "volunteer military service" law for boys of 15 and men of 60, for girls of 17 and women of 40. But even the highest-ranking government were horrified at the Army's primitive notions for militia defense. In July 1945, Premier Suzuki and his associates were invited to visit an amazing display of weapons to be issued the Japanese citizenry: Single-shot, muzzle-loading muskets; longbows and arrows (effective range 30-40 meters, hit probability 50%, said the placards); bamboo spears; pitchforks. The ordinarily phlegmatic old prime minister mumbled to his secretary, "This is awful!" The secretary agreed, in fury and despair. There was a limit to deceiving the people, he felt; this was hardly a sane way of fighting in the 20th Century. Something must be done to achieve peace....

In those last months of the war, work was rushed on the still-unsatisfactory coastal defenses. Operational preparations in Kyushu and Shikoku were more advanced than in the Kanto district. Units at the former places were expected to be fully outfitted by around October 1945; those in the Kanto area by next spring. Beach defenses at main coastal sectors in Kyushu, Shikoku, and the Kanto reached 60 to 80C% of the goals by August. The imperativeness of construction overrode considerations of training. Provision supply lagged all over. Steel and concrete were in particularly short supply. Japanese inspectors described much of the fortifications as primitive and toy-like, hand-made and crude.

OLYMPIC was unique in its provision for a delayed landing. Maj. Gen. C. W. Rider's IX Corps (77th, 81st, and 98th Infantry Divisions) was to land from Adm. B. J. Rodgers's Reserve Force (TF-43) on X+3 or later. Rider's orders were flexible in order to meet any contingencies. The 98th Division would land either on the Kaimondaike beaches or on one of the existing beachheads as a reinforcement; 81st Division and Corps troops would go ashore at Kaimondaike; while 77th Division, not scheduled to arrive until X+5, would land where needed. Once established ashore, IX Corps would push on to the Sesekushi-Chiran-Otonai-Shirasmazu line and clear the southwestern shore of Kagoshima Wan. Like the other corps it was to start construction immediately on airfields and other installations.

Once Kagoshima Wan was cleared, Adm. Rodgers was to take charge as Senior Officer Present, Afloat and begin construction of naval installations there. A Naval Operating Base was to be constructed at Takasu, a section base for local defense craft at Uchinoura Wan, and a PT base at Yamakawa Ko. As soon as they could be safely transferred the Koshiki Retto facilities would be moved to Kagoshima Wan.

Until X+22 (23 November) the 13 divisions of the assault force would have to carry the burden of the fighting. Then Sixth Army reserve, 11th Airborne Division, would arrive. Presumably, however, this would have been a sufficiently large force to allow the Sixth Army the requisite superiority to reach its Phase III line, Tsuno-Sendai. The securing of that line would bring OLYMPIC to a close and as the Sixth Army order for the campaign said it would then undertake "such additional overland and amphibious operations on Kyushu and in the Inland Sea as may be directed subsequently."

At a climactic last Imperial Conference, War Minister Anami was still talking about going on with the war, of meting out a terrible blow to the enemy and achieving a good opportunity to end the war. Japan must press forward courageously, seeking Life in Death: certain victory was not assured, but neither was utter defeat. The terrain was working in favor of the defenders, and so was the inflexible national unity. But just in case a massive blow against the enemy proved not possible, it seemed appropriate for the name of Nippon to be inscribed forever in history by the annihilation of her 100 million loyal subjects, etc., etc. And tears welled into the eyes of the earnest War Minister.

When the Emperor, by a thrilling act of personal courage, opted for peace-and surrender-he too was weeping. He reminded his stunned auditors that ever since the outbreak of the war there had been frequent cases when Army and Navy actions differed from plans. Now the armed forces were preparing for decisive battle in the homeland and were claiming that the prospects of victory were satisfactory. But this very point troubled His Majesty. The Army Chief of Staff had recently described the defense plans for Kujukurihama, yet this appeared to be at considerable variance with a report rendered by the Imperial Aide after an on-the-spot inspection. Construction of defenses at Kujukurihama was definitely behind schedule, could not be finished before the end of August. It had also been alleged that the outfitting of a certain new infantry division had been completed, but the Emperor had learned the fact that even small arms had not been issued.

continued in part 6