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D-Day Surprise: No Horses!

From D DAY Through German Eyes – Wehrmacht Soldier Accounts of June 6th 1944, by Holger Eckhertz (DTZ History, 2015), Kindle Loc. 1399-1420:

In the afternoon, the English, I recall, insisted for some reason on sending a German-speaking English army priest in among us [German prisoners] to listen to any spiritual concerns we had; this was met with derision. I still recall the face of the army priest, who was very angry at his reception. We heard explosions and detonations from inland and from the beach throughout the day, and naval bombardments from offshore, the shells of which travelled over us with a sound like an express train going past, and always the sound of engines: planes, tanks and trucks, never stopping for a moment.

In the evening, we were taken out of the square and led to the beach. The guards made no attempt to blindfold us or to prevent us seeing the situation. The scale of the operation then became clear to us all, and most of us fell completely silent at what we witnessed.

The sea wall area was being worked on with armoured bulldozers, creating a huge ramp for vehicles to drive up. There were many destroyed vehicles and tanks, some still burning. I saw my bunker, which was collapsed in the frontal part, over the 88mm embrasures; there was smoke drifting from the rubble.

The beach was completely full of transports, including many vehicles we had not seen and we did not even know how to describe: amphibious trucks, tanks with flotation screens, enormous landing craft that were unloading whole columns of jeeps and tanks, directly onto the sand. The English had already cleared a wide lane through the beach obstacles – how they did that so quickly, I have never understood, perhaps with linked explosive charges – and this lane was an absolute highway on the wet sand and out into the sea itself. There were still many bodies, which were lined in large groups on the sand and partly covered with tarpaulins; despite our lack of religion, many of our men crossed themselves as we passed these.

One thing in particular struck many of us as amazing: all along the beach, there were no horses!

This was a surprise for you?

Yes, we found it astonishing. This huge army had brought with it not one single horse or pack-mule! All their transport was mechanised. It may sound bizarre today, but this impressed us greatly, showing that the Allies had no need of horses anymore, as they had such huge oil resources and production capacity. Because, of course, the German armies used horses for transport on quite a large scale right up until the end of the war, due to limited fuel and constraints on mechanised vehicle production. Every German unit had its stables and veterinarian officer, and here were these English without that need at all. For us, this symbolised the Allied capabilities.

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Defending “United Europe” on D-Day

From D DAY Through German Eyes – Wehrmacht Soldier Accounts of June 6th 1944, by Holger Eckhertz (DTZ History, 2015), Kindle Loc. 1032-49:

Did you have any personal animosity towards the Anglo-Americans?

My brother and cousin had both been killed in the East, at Kharkov, so my animosity lay more in that direction. Ironically, we had a large contingent of Russian troops with us on the Atlantic wall, who were defectors now serving in the German forces, but I had no real contact with them.

As for the English, my father had been in France in 1917 to 1918, and he confided to me that the English were surprisingly similar to us Germans in personal character, but that as a fighting force they were inconsistent, with many brave men but also a big element of shirkers and black market operators. Regarding the Americans, I think that most of us soldiers made a distinction in our minds between the American government, which we believed was a pawn of international finance, and the Americans as individuals. After all, we had all seen US films and magazines before the war, we had read about cowboys and heard jazz music, and all this was exciting and very attractive to us. But despite all this, we knew that the Americans too were intent on attacking France and destroying the unification of Europe under German protection that our leadership had achieved.

This is interesting. The phrase ‘Fortress Europe’ is still widely remembered today, I think, as part of Reich propaganda at the time, but you have reminded me that the phrase ‘United Europe’ was equally common.

Of course it was. Of course. ‘United Europe’ was a universal slogan. We should remember that both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS had huge recruitment campaigns in all the countries under Reich control, with the emphasis that people from all the countries of Europe should unite under arms and defend European unification. If we look at the Waffen SS, we see these very effective non-German units from all over Europe: the French, the famous Belgian-Walloon people under Leon Degrelle, the Dutch, Norwegians, the Croat Muslims with their ‘SS’ emblems on their fez hats, and so on and so on. There was a definite sense that Europe was united under the Reich, and an attack on France would be an attack on the whole structure.

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Okinawa Under U.S. Occupation, 1945–1972

From Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, by George Feifer (Ticknor & Fields, 1992), pp. 554-556:

The [Okinawa] occupation of 1945–1972 was characteristically American: often generous in personal ways and in response to individual cases of hardship, usually ignorant of and insensitive to native ways and needs. When Commodore Perry forced Okinawans to satisfy his “reasonable” demands almost a century earlier, he was certain they would appreciate the “lenity and humanity” of American laws. Now Americans who paid wages to civilian employees and distributed free rations – the only antidote to mass starvation – were similarly convinced of their traditional magnanimity, especially when billions of dollars were poured into the economy in support of operations for the Korean War and other anti-Communist measures. Some of the medical assistance and scholarship grants to top students were indeed admirable. But the twenty-seven years until the occupation ended brought far more shame than honor to Washington and the men in the field who followed or ignored official intentions.

Japanese-speaking naval officers, some former professors trained in Asian studies and occupation affairs, did good work during the first year or so. But the quality of the occupation plunged when responsibility for it was transferred more fully to the Army, most of whose senior officers knew nothing about their jobs and hardly cared to learn: civil administration was considered a sidetrack from line duty and its promotion. Pentagon officials changed almost as rapidly as occupation personnel. Okinawan duty was considered undesirable enough to be threatened as punishment for “goof-ups” elsewhere in the Pacific. The island became notorious among Americans as a place of exile from the Japanese mainland – a veritable Siberia, as George Kerr called it, known as “the Rock” and “the end of the line” – incompetent colonels and civilian bureaucrats, rather as Tokyo had sent down second-rate administrators for decades before the war.

Soon only a few overseas eccentrics gave a damn about the remote possession. Resuming their civilian lives in the postwar boom, veterans in the States knew nothing about the abysmal conditions on the island. The vacuum of public interest and accountability allowed the generally negligent and incapable performance of the Army’s secondary occupational functions to go unnoticed. The occupation force was composed not of combat troops who had seen at least a portion of the 1945 calamity but of “callow youth,” as one of their officers called them, who were “demanding [their] creature comforts from the armed services.” Or from the Okinawans, just under a hundred of whom they robbed, raped, otherwise assaulted and murdered during the first six months of 1949 alone: predictable distractions of occupation troops banished to the impoverished island.

Those youths felt condescension or scorn for the primitives eking out an existence without commerce or currency. Especially during the first years after the war, when family land was the sole source of self-support and the Army paid no compensation for its appropriations for the military use, scavenging natives lived in miserable poverty, some in areas ravaged by malaria, all in deep shock and bewilderment. The island became a heap of war surplus and smelly junk. A witness described an Assistant Secretary of the Army as “flabbergasted with what he saw” during an unannounced inspection in 1949. Some of the worst outrages were remedied, but native hardship remained severe until the late 1950s.

Destitute Okinawans looked back at the war as confirmation that the island’s salvation lay in pacifism. Not all regretted having fought for Japan, especially some of the young and the elite. But a handful of exceptions proved the rule of enormous regret and corresponding mistrust of everything military. If most Japanese turned fervently antimilitarist after the war, most Okinawans, whose losses made the [Japanese] 32nd Army’s destruction seem almost slight by comparison, did so with stronger feeling.

The proportionally greater damage was followed by slower reconstruction. While Japan was gearing up for economic recovery in the 1950s, Okinawa remained in pathetic poverty, partly owing to the unconcerned, incompetent American generals who conducted a more rigid and repressive occupation than on the mainland, where neon was installed and diplomatic niceties with the Imperial Palace reintroduced. The real business of Okinawa’s governors was to run America’s defense installations, not to care for the natives. Thus traditionally peaceful Okinawa fare worse during the occupation than the historically militarist mainland, which American personnel had no notion of running as one big military base. Those least responsible for the war that hurt them most were also punished afterward.

In 1971, Berlin was the only other major area under occupation as a residue of World War II. When the Ryukyus reverted to Japan the following year, maintenance of America’s bases was central to the deal, which included additional secret arrangements for the two powers to trade Okinawan favors. (Japanese officials assured American generals they could have far greater freedom of action there than on the mainland.) To Americans, those bases have great emotional as well as military significance. Many veterans were understandably angered by the return of Okinawa’s dearly bought 875 square miles to the former enemy. After the loss of so much American blood, the Pentagon’s wish to remain is understandable.

But by this measure, the loss of incomparably more Okinawan blood there makes the Okinawans’ wish for the Pentagon to leave more reasonable. Native anti-Americanism is a political, not a personal, phenomenon: most Okinawans tend to like Yanks in general, and perhaps feel easier with them than with Japanese. But they abhor the beast in their midst, the largest concentration of American military force outside the continental United States.

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Surrenders Rise on Okinawa, June 1945

From Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, by George Feifer (Ticknor & Fields, 1992), pp. 484-485, 519-520, 548-550:

In mid-June, a week before the official end of the campaign, Japanese began surrendering in sizable numbers. Until then, the average had been four men daily. Many American companies fought for eight or ten weeks without taking a single prisoner. Many saw no enemy soldiers at all apart from dead – certainly never saw one try to surrender or allow himself to be taken unless he was physically or mentally disabled by bombs or artillery shells. But the 32nd Army’s teetering morale [after their withdrawal from the Shuri Line] began going over the edge in some units whose last lines of communication were gone. White flags, or substitutes, became a common sight….

The daily average rose from the four in mid-June to fifty during the third week of the month, soaring to 343 on June 19 alone, a huge number by Japanese standards. One four-man patrol captured 150 prisoners after their officers bowed, surrendered their swords, shot some Okinawan women who had been accompanying them, and killed themselves. In all, almost three thousand Japanese were taken prisoner during the second half of June, about a third of the number killed during the same period….

Such surrenders were new in Japanese history. Although the percentage remained very slight in relation to those killed in action, the absolute count leaped to nearly a thousand – probably half of them conscripted Okinawans – on June 20 and 21. That was the number of prisoners taken. The number shot will never be known….

It is worth repeating that Japanese who wanted to capitulate faced perhaps a greater chance of of being killed by Japanese bullets than American, and General Buckner’s men came to realize that when they saw Japanese throw grenades at other Japanese who carried surrender leaflets. One Japanese lieutenant who had graduated from an Ivy League college gave himself up with one of his sergeants. Soon a sniper started firing, apparently more at them than at the Marines to whom they surrendered. The Japanese calmly took the fire until one of the Marines to whom they surrendered told “you dumb bastards” to take cover, whereon they did what they were ordered and were saved.

Language provided moments of comic relief. At one large cave thought to contain natives [Okinawans], bullhorns insistently blared that no one with his hands up would be hurt. “We’re sorry for you civilians, so please come out right now.” Finally, women, children and old men did emerge. The cave mouth was on a slope below a small plateau. Gripping his weapon in one hand, a Marine Hercules stood above the mouth to snatch the civilians with the other and lift them, one by one, to level ground. “Up you go, Mac.” “That’s right, Mac, out you come.” When a Japanese [soldier] appeared at the mouth, the trigger fingers of the Marine fire team instantly tightened on their rifles and automatics. “Easy, Mac, no trouble – okay?” proposed the big Marine. “My name’s not Mac,” the Japanese soldier answered in startlingly clear English. “My name’s Yoshio and I’d rather be in Texas, where I should be.” To the astonishment of the watchers, who included General Lemuel Shepherd, commander of the 6th Marine Division, Yoshio explained that he had traveled from his San Antonio home to visit Japanese relatives in 1941. This was his first friendly contact with Americans since Pearl Harbor stranded him in Japan, where he had been drafted.

Kojo finally reached his cave on some high ground about five miles north of Shuri in the dark of an early September night. Overjoyed to see each other alive, the two twenty-four-year-old captains held hands while Shimura announced he was going to surrender that morning. The war, he explained, was over; Japan had been defeated.

Kojo went into shock. Staring at Shimura, he thought of his months of hunger, misery, and frantic efforts to stay alive in order to reach his trusted comrade. When he fought off his faintness, he still could not formulate an answer. Shimura quietly elaborated that he felt he must obey the Emperor’s will and an Imperial order. “You’re right,” Kojo replied at last. “You have three hundred men to feed and you should surrender. But I’m responsible only for myself. I’m going on alone.” Part of him believed that Japan was defeated; a stronger part could not accept it….

More months passed in the dark of various caves. Later in the autumn, Okinawa’s civilians freed from their internment ventured into one of them. Kojo almost shot them for trying to persuade the men to surrender, but he realized other civilians would report them sooner or later. Sure enough, a jeep appeared before he had time to find another hiding place. The search party consisted of an American driver, two Nisei interpreters and a Japanese officer using an assumed Okinawan name. They spoke in a friendly way about the end of the war and the folly of further resistance. Kojo stood apart when a second visit convinced most inhabitants of the cave they would not be killed if they submitted. The men had an absolute right to surrender, but he had his own code.

However, something intrigued him about an enemy who conducted himself without the slightest hint of a victor’s haughtiness or display of superiority, even in weaponry. Maybe the truck that accompanied the jeep hid a machine gun, but the curiously relaxed Americans didn’t carry even pistols. Kojo had never seen a “blue-eyed devil” outside of combat…

He was prepared for Americans flourishing guns and for insults to his honor. He would have shot anyone like that who entered the cave, then shot himself – but would such a display make sense now? The first party had asked the stragglers to please give up their weapons. Some now did; others had buried theirs. Kojo told himself it was the responsibility of the senior Japanese present to observe closely. He inched closer. Then, in a kind of daze, he handed his pistol to an American lieutenant outside – which the latter returned, asking him to unload it. Was he an enemy or a wiser man? Kojo’s realization of how easily he could have shot the lieutenant forced him to accept that the war had ended. He returned the pistol to the American, who invited him into the jeep. After five months of nocturnal existence, the sunlight blinded him. When the men were in the truck, all were driven to a military police post and [given] cigarettes, then to a POW camp in the north.

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Projected World War II Casualties after Sept. 1945

From Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, by George Feifer (Ticknor & Fields, 1992), pp. 571-574:

American anticipation of the bloodbath [awaiting them when they invaded the main islands of Japan] was evident in the forty-two divisions they allotted to the invasion. Seven had fought on Okinawa.

The planners calculated the landing alone would cost a hundred thousand American lives. The full securing of the home islands was expected to cost ten times that number, or four times the combined losses of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. General MacArthur, whose estimates of casualties in previous battles had been uncannily accurate, made a careful study of the mainland operation at President Truman’s request and predicted one million men would be killed or wounded in the invasions of Kyushu and Honshu alone…. Final victory might easily cost more American casualties than in the entire war until then, in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

The predictability of the [Okinawa] veterans’ renewed love of the bomb when they saw what it saved them from at mainland landing sites is no reason to dismiss arguments for its use. Of course it killed many people, but the equation, if there is one, must include the people it saved, to the extent that saving now seems likely and the number can be estimated. Although the American fighting men who cheered Little Boy and Fat Man did not care as much about others’ survival as their own, consideration of the larger issue must include possible Japanese losses.

The ratio of Japanese combat deaths to American was well over 10 to 1 on Okinawa. It might have been marginally different during fighting in the enemy’s heartland rather than on isolated islands, where Japanese garrisons were often cut off from reinforcements. Civilian deaths assuredly would have been much higher, if only because the mainland had many more civilians with a commitment to die for Emperor and country. The best estimates of probably total Japanese deaths in a mainland campaign are around twenty million; if civilian suicides and suicidal resistance had generated hysteria – a likely prospect in light of the experience on Guam [sic; Saipan?] and Okinawa – the toll would have been higher. The country would have been leveled and burned to cinders. Postwar life, including economic recovery, would have been retarded if Russia, a full Allied partner during the ground combat from 1945 to 1947 or 1948, would have insisted on dividing Japan like Korea and Germany.

Any estimate of lives saved by the atomic bombs must include hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians in China, Manchuria and other territories still fought for and occupied, often viciously, by Japan. There would have been tens of thousands of British casualties among the 200,000 set to invade the Malay Peninsula – to retake Singapore – on September 9, a month after Nagasaki. Six divisions, the same number as at Normandy, had been assigned to that operation. It was expected to take seven months of savage infantry fighting, over half the time required to defeat Hitler’s armies in Europe.

The total number must also include European and Eurasian prisoners of the Japanese, chiefly from English, Dutch, and other colonial military and civilian forces. Okinawa was the most important prelude to the climax because its terrain most closely resembled the mainland’s, but non-Japanese elsewhere in Asia would have suffered even more during the new Tennozan. After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi issued an order directing his prison camp officers to kill all their captives the moment the enemy invaded his southeast Asia theater. That would have been when those 200,000 British landed to retake Singapore, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender. There was a real chance that Terauchi’s order would have been carried out, in which case up to 400,000 people would have been massacred. Even more were doomed to die soon after of “natural” causes. The Japanese treatment of their prisoners grew more brutal as the military situation worsened and their hatred swelled. Laurens van der Post, who had been a prisoner for more than forty months, was convinced that the majority of the half-million captives in the hellish camps could not possibly have survived the year 1946. Dying every day in droves throughout the summer of 1945, nearly all would have perished of disease and starvation in the months that followed.

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Cost Ineffectiveness of Kamikaze Operations

From Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, by George Feifer (Ticknor & Fields, 1992), pp. 213, 225, 229:

Many kamikaze pilots, even knowing they could not seriously damage the American fleet, hoped their demonstration of sublime dedication might shock the spiritually inferior enemy into defeat. Actually, however, they prompted the reverse reaction: the “diving madmen” reinforced Americans’ conviction that only utter prostration was good enough for the demented Japanese. Even if the men of the [U.S.] 10th Army and 5th Fleet had known that what attracted many kamikazes was less killing others than dying well themselves, precious few would have been interested. So much stark evidence of “degenerate” thirst for blood at such “inhuman” cost nipped any desire – slight to begin with among most Americans – to probe deeper into the unfathomable Oriental mentality. The cost ineffectiveness of kamikaze operations also comforted few Americans at Okinawa. After the lifting of the censorship of casualty and damage figures in July [1945], following the campaign’s official end, the Navy revealed that thirty-three ships had been sunk, chiefly by kamikazes, and 368 ships and craft damaged, more than fifty seriously. Carriers also lost 539 planes, but the Japanese cost remained staggering, as on the first mass attack of April 6–7, when almost half the planes were lost. Of 182 “bogeys” to penetrate within shooting distance of [U.S.] Task Force 54, the big-gun bombardment force, on the afternoon of April 6, 108 were claimed shot down. TF 58 recorded a further 249 splashes, 65 by a single carrier (according to Essex’s own tally) on that day alone. On some days, up to 90 percent of the planes delivering mass attacks, conventional and kamikaze together, were destroyed – a total of 7830 for the three months of the Okinawan campaign. The kill ratio of the latter [i.e., kamikaze] alone was naturally far higher, and most of the tiny percentage that managed to crash on ships instead of into the sea did so on superstructures, where they caused relatively superficial damage. Huge as the attack of April 6–7 was, the [U.S.] fleet comprised more ships than the nine hundred Japanese planes – and none larger than a destroyer was sunk that day or later. Some four thousand treasures of the [Japanese] nation died for this strategically minor wounding off Okinawa, most of them less than twenty-one years old.

The military irrationality of the kamikaze effort as a whole was aggravated by wasting far too much of it on the picket ships. It was almost inevitable that those unarmored little craft took a disproportionate share of the dives; many shaky pilots were unable to keep their rickety planes aloft long enough to reach the choicer targets of the carriers and transports. Leutze, Newcomb, Bush and Calhoun were among the destroyers and destroyer escorts that footed most of the crash bill. Kamikazes badly damaged thirteen American carriers, ten battleships and five cruisers off Okinawa, but only smaller ships, with their skimpier antiaircraft armament, went down: a dozen between late March and the end of June, in addition to three sunk by conventional air attacks.

The Tenth Floating Chrysanthemum [“Kikusui” mass air raids] on June 21–22 would muster only forty-five kamikazes, down from the 355 of the First, of April 6–7. On average, the eight in between (on April 12–13, 15–16, 27–28; May 3–4, 10–11, 23–24, 27–28; and June 3–7) involved progressively fewer planes but without proportionate relief of strain on the targeted ships. And those Japanese numbers decreased partly because officers on the home islands had already begun husbanding for the struggle there, for which they would be able to muster ten thousand or more planes for kamikaze use.

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World War Two Naval Mines in Japanese Waters as of 2015

According to a chart in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Museum in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, the U.S. military placed a total of 10,703 naval mines in Japanese waters during World War Two, of which 4,157 were disposed of during the war and 6,249 have been disposed of since the war ended. As of 17 May 2015, 297 American naval mines from World War Two remain unaccounted for. On that date a mine was discovered and disposed of in the eastern entrance to the busy Shimonoseki Straits between Kyushu and Honshu.

A record of recent mine disposal results lists the following.

  • 2008 – 3 mines – off Sanuki City on the Inland Sea; off Kasaoka City on the Inland Sea; and on the Moji side of the Shimonoseki Straits
  • 2009 – 2 mines – one on each side of the Shimonoseki Straits
  • 2010 – 1 mine – off Uruma City in Okinawa
  • 2011 – 3 mines – at Port Island, Kobe; off Kanda Port near Kitakyushu Airport; south of Manjushima, Shimonoseki
  • 2012 – 0 mines
  • 2013 – 1 mine – Shimonoseki Straits, off Wakamatsu
  • 2014 – 1 mine – Shimonoseki Straits, off Shimonoseki
  • 2015 – 1 mine – Shimonoseki Straits, eastern entrance

Mine disposal efforts continue to this day.

According to a display map, Japan itself laid 55,347 mines to defend its perimeter: 15,474 along the Tokai and southwestern island chain, 14,927 in the northern Honshu and Shikoku regions, 10,012 along the coast of Kyushu, 7,640 along the south coast of Korea and across the Yellow Sea, and 7,294 around Taiwan. The same map shows that the U.S. laid most of its naval mines in the Inland Sea and along the Japan Sea coast (to destroy economic supply routes).

The museum focused almost entirely on the JMSDF’s minesweeping and submarine capabilities. The Japanese Navy’s significant contribution to minesweeping off Korea during the Korean War was a major factor in its getting back into the good graces of the U.S. military, resulting in the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty signed in 1952 and amended in 1960.

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