Enola Gay Exhibit, First Draft-Final Draft

UNIT 2: A FIGHT TO THE FINISH 

(first draft)

Source: The entire first draft of the script can be found in Judgement at the Smithsonian (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1995) 

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In 1931 the Japanese Army occupied Manchuria; six years alter it invaded the rest of China. From 1937 to 1945, the Japanese Empire would be constantly at war. 

Japanese expansionism was marked by naked aggression and extreme brutality. The slaughter of tens of thousands of Chinese in Nanking in 1937 shocked the world. Atrocities by Japanese troops included brutal mistreatment of civilians, forced laborers and prisoners of war, and biological experiments on human victims. 

In December 1941, Japan attacked U.S. bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and launched other surprise assaults against Allied territories in the Pacific. Thus began a wider conflict marked by extreme bitterness. For most Americans, this war was fundamentally different than the one waged against Germany and Italy--it was a war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western imperialism. As the war approached its end in 1945, it appeared to both sides that it was a fight to the finish.

UNIT 2: A FIGHT TO THE FINISH 

(final draft)

Source: The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II by the Curators of the National Air and Space Museum 

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COMBAT IN THE PACIFIC

As the Pacific War entered its final climactic stage during the first half of 1945, the fighting reached unprecedented levels of ferocity and destructiveness. Fearing that unconditional surrender would mean the annihilation of their culture, Japanese forces fought on tenaciously. 

To many on the Allied side, the suicidal resistance of the Japanese military justified the harshest possible measures. The appalling casualties suffered by both sides seemed to foreshadow what could be expected during an invasion of Japan. Allied victory was assured, but its final cost in lives remained disturbingly uncertain.

COMBAT IN THE PACIFIC

As the Pacific war entered its climactic stage during the first half of 1945, the fighting reached unprecedented levels of ferocity and destructiveness. To many on the Allied side, the casualties suffered by both sides seemed to foreshadow what could be expected during an invasion of Japan.

THE STRATEGIC SITUATION, SPRING 1945

By the time of the German surrender, the Allies had reversed Japan's dramatic 1941-42 sweep into the Pacific and southeast Asia. U.S. forces advancing through the southwest Pacific had reconquered most of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. Pacific Fleet had destroyed the bulk of Japan's navy, had blockaded the Japanese home islands with submarines and had either cut off or captured most of Japan's southern and central Pacific island outposts. British forces had advanced into Burma. 

Although disorganized resistance continued in the Philippines and Japanese armies remained intact in Southeast Asia, China, and Manchuria, the Allies began to execute their strategy for the final destruction of the Japanese Empire. The cost proved shockingly high, however, as Japanese forces used suicidal tactics in the air and on the ground to defend islands close to their homeland. 

THE STRATEGIC SITUATION, SPRING 1945

By the time Germany surrendered, the Allies had reversed Japan's dramatic 1941-42 sweep through the Pacific and Southeast Asia. U.S. forces had advanced through the southwestern Pacific and had recaptured most of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. Pacific Fleet had destroyed most of the Japanese navy, blockaded the Japan with submarines, and cut off or captured most of Japan's southern and central Pacific island outposts. British forces had advanced into Burma. 

Although resistance continued in the Philippines, and Japanese armies remained intact in Southeast Asia, China, and Manchuria, the Allies began to execute their strategy for the final defeat of the Japanese Empire. The cost proved shockingly high, however, as Japanese forces used suicidal tactics in the air and on the ground to defend islands close to their homeland. 

Map needed 

The pacific theater, spring 1945. 

NO HOLDS BARRED--IWO JIMA AND OKINAWA

American war plans for the first half of 1945 centered on landings on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, combined with an aerial bombing campaign against Japanese cities. Planners selected Iwo Jima to provide an emergency airfield for B-29s returning from raids on Japan. They expected massive U.S. firepower to annihilate the enemy garrison there in a matter of days. Okinawa, only 640 kilometers (400 miles) from the southern tip of Japan, was expected to provide a base for assaults on the Japanese home islands. 

Instead of proving easy operations against an enemy on the verge of collapse, Iwo Jima and Okinawa became costly battles of attrition taking weeks longer than hoped. By the end of the fighting on the two islands, total U.S. casualties for the first half of 1945 had exceeded those suffered during the previous three hears of the Pacific war. To those in combat, Iwo Jima and Okinawa were a terrible warning of what could be expected in the future. 

"...a passionate hatred for the Japanese burned through all marines...My experiences...made me believe that the Japanese had mutual feeling for us...This collective attitude, Marine and Japanese, resulted in savage, ferocious fighting with no holds barred...This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands." 

Private First Class Eugene B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division, in "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa"

NO HOLDS BARRED--IWO JIMA AND OKINAWA

American war plans for the first half of 1945 centered on capturing the islands of Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and intensifying the bombing campaign against Japan. Iwo Jima was chosen to provide an emergency airfield for B-29s returning from raids on Japan. Okinawa, only 640 kilometers (400 miles) from the southern tip of the main Japanese islands, , was chosen to provide a base for an invasion of those islands. 

Both Iwo Jima and Okinawa became costly battles of attrition taking weeks longer than expected. By the time the fighting ended, total U.S. casualties in the Pacific for the first half of 1945 had exceeded those suffered during the previous three years combined. To those in combat, Iwo Jima and Okinawa represented an ominous warning of what could lie ahead in an invasion of Japan, where the entire population would be involved 

Map/photograph of Iwo Jima needed. 

Map photograph of Okinawa needed. 

The free-floating quotations that follow will be distributed throughout the section on the Pacific war 

A MARINES'S WAR

Eugene B. Sledge, a college freshman from Montgomery, Alabama, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on December 3, 1942. He served with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Sledge's memoir of combat in the Pacific, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa , offers rare insight into the experience of a combat infantryman. The veteran Marine survived he war, returned to college and became a university professor. 

"The corpsman was on his knees bending over a young Marine who had just died on a stretcher. A blood-soaked battle-dressing was on the side of the dead man's neck. His fine, handsome, boyish face was ashen. "What a pitiful waste," I thought. "He can't be a day over seventeen years old." I thanked God his mother could not see him. The corpsman held the dead Marine's chin tenderly between the thumb and fingers of his left hand and make the sign of the cross with his right hand. Tears streamed down his dusty, tanned, grief-contorted face while he sobbed quietly." 

E.B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division, describing a scene on the island of Peleliu, 1944

"In a shallow defilade to our right...lay about twenty dead Marines, each on a stretcher and covered to his ankles with a poncho--a commonplace, albeit tragic, scene to every veteran.... I saw that other Marine dead couldn't be tended to properly.... Every crater was half full of water, and many of them held a Marine corpse. The bodies lay pathetically just as they had been killed, half submerged in muck and water, rusting weapons still in hand. Swarms of big flies hovered about them." 

E.B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division , describing a scene on Okinawa, 1945

"The combat fatigue cases were distressing. They ranged in their reaction from a state of dull detachment seemingly unaware of their surroundings, to quiet sobbing, or all the way to wild screaming and shouting. Stress was the essential factor we had to cope with in combat, under small-arms fire, and in warding off infiltrators and raiders during sleepless, rainy nights for prolonged periods; but being shelled so frequently...seemed to increase the strain beyond that which many otherwise stable and hardened Marines could endure without mental or physical collapse." 

E.B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division , describing the fighting on Okinawa, 1945

"It was common throughout the campaign for replacements to get hit before we even knew their names. They came up confused, frightened and hopeful, got wounded or killed, and went right back to the rear by the route which they had come, shocked, bleeding or stiff." 

E.B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division, describing the fighting on Okinawa, 1945.

"I imagined Marine dead had risen up and were moving silently about the area. I suppose these were nightmares, and I must have been more asleep than awake, or just dumbfounded by fatigue.... The pattern was always the same. The dead got up slowly out of their water-logged craters or off the mud, and, with stooped shoulders and dragging feet, wandered around aimlessly, their lips moving as though they were trying to tell me something. I struggled to hear what they were saying. They seemed agonized by pain and despair. I felt they were asking me for help. The most horrible thin g was that I felt unable to aid them." 

E.B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division, describing the fighting on Okinawa, 1945

"...a passionate hatred for the Japanese burned through all marines...My experiences...made me believe that the Japanese had mutual feeling for us...This collective attitude, Marine and Japanese, resulted in savage, ferocious fighting with no holds barred...This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands." 

Private First Class Eugene B. Sledge, 1st Marine Division, in "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa"

IWO JIMA: A SLICE OF HELL On Iwo Jima, the Japanese garrison controlled the island's high ground. They had constructed an interlaced network of underground fortifications in the side of Mt. Suribachi, a dormant volcano dominating the 29 square kilometer (11 square mile) island. Instead of leaving cover to attack the landing force on the beaches, the Japanese defenders remained in their dugouts and poured a deadly rain of fire on the U.S. Marines. 

Rather than a few days, wresting control of the island from the dug-in defenders took nearly five weeks of bitter fighting that cost the Marine Corps over 6,800 dead and almost 20,000 wounded. Japanese losses were also horrendous. When fighting on Iwo Jima ended on March 26, only 200 of the Japanese garrison of 20,700 remained alive as prisoners. 

IWO JIMA: A SLICE OF HELL The Japanese garrison controlled the high ground Iwo Jima. They had constructed an interlaced network of underground fortifications in the side of Mt. Suribachi, a dormant volcano dominating the 29 square kilometer (11 square mile) island. Instead of leaving cover to attack the landing force on the beaches, the Japanese defenders remained in their dugouts and poured a deadly rain of fire on the U.S. Marines. 

Wresting control of the island from the dug-in Japanese took nearly five weeks of bitter fighting that cost the Marine Corps over 6,800 dead and almost 20,000 wounded. Japanese losses were even higher. When the fighting ended on March 26, only 200out of 20,700 remained alive as prisoners, reflecting the Japanese refusal to surrender. 

Marines under fire on Iwo Jima, February 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

A dead American Marine on Iwo Jima, February 1945. 

OKINAWA: A BATTLE OF UNPRECEDENTED FEROCITY

As the first waves of the American assault force landed on April 1, 1945, Okinawa's Japanese defenders put up little resistance. Instead of engaging in a hopeless attempt to repel U.S. forces on the beaches, the Japanese 32nd Army largely abandoned the northern portion of the island. It withdrew to fortifications and caves in the hilly terrain near the ancient strongpoint of Shuri Castle to the south. Such positions offered excellent fields of fire, allowing the Japanese defenders to exact a heavy toll for every piece of territory surrendered. 

As the soldiers and Marines of the U.S. Tenth Army struggled to root out the island's 83,150 defenders from their underground shelters, American artillery and bombs transformed the island into a devastated wasteland of craters and corpses. In spite of vast American material superiority, Japanese resistance was not finally crushed until the end of June, at a cost of over 12,500 U.S. dead and 35,5000 wounded. 

OKINAWA: A BATTLE OF UNPRECEDENTED FEROCITY

As the first assault waves landed on April 1, 1945, Okinawa's garrison put up little resistance. Instead of making a hopeless attempt to repel U.S. forces on the beaches, the Japanese largely abandoned the northern part of the island. They withdrew south to fortifications and caves in the hilly terrain near the ancient strongpoint of Shuri Castle. Such positions offered excellent fields of fire, allowing the Japanese to exact a heavy toll for every piece of territory surrendered. 

As U.S. soldiers and Marines struggled to root out the island's 83,150 defenders from their underground shelters, American and Japanese artillery transformed the southern part of the island into a wasteland of craters and corpses. Despite vast American superiority in material, Japanese resistance was not crushed until the end of June, at a cost of more than 12,500 U.S. dead and 35,5000 wounded on land and at sea. 

WAR WITHOUT MERCY

"The Japs had to be killed anyway because of how they fought; there was no other way. But what made you want to do it was your friends. When you saw their corpses day after day, your hatred--oh God, hatred--built day after day. By June, I had no mercy for a single Japan who was trying to surrender." 

Evan Regal, a U.S. Marine Corps flamethrower operator on Okinawa, 1945

By the third week of June, Okinawa's remaining defenders had withdrawn to the island's southernmost tip with no hope of evacuation. Surrender, even for those inclined to do so, proved extremely difficult. Americans were reluctant to take prisoners and Japanese officers and NCOs often shot those attempting to give up. Over 10,000 surrendered nonetheless, the largest number to do so during the war. But most chose suicide or battle to the death. In the end, the Japanese Army lost over 70,000 men. 

Thousands of Okinawan refugees, their homes and villages destroyed, also found themselves trapped by the fighting. Caught in crossfire, at least 80,00 civilians perished. 

WAR WITHOUT MERCY

By the third week of June, the remaining Japanese troops on Okinawa had withdrawn to the island's southernmost tip with no hope of reinforcement. On June 19, Lt. Gen. Ushijima, commander at Okinawa, ordered those soldiers who were left "to fight to the last and die." Then he and his staff committed hara-kiri , a ritual form of suicide. 

Surrender, even for those inclined to do so, proved extremely difficult. Many Americans were wary of taking prisoners, in part because surrendering Japanese sometimes used concealed weapons to attack their captors. Under the Bushido code of the samurai, Japanese soldiers were told that surrender was dishonorable, cowardly, and illegal, and some were even shot by their superiors while attempting to give up. Over 10,000 soldiers, laborers, and Okinawan auxiliaries surrendered nonetheless, the largest number to do so during the war. But most of the Japanese--more than 70,000--chose suicide or fought to the death. 

Thousands of Okinawan refugees, their homes and villages destroyed, also found themselves trapped by the fighting. Caught in the crossfire, and sacrificed by their own troops, at least 80,000 civilians perished. 

A Japanese soldier surrenders on Okinawa, 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

photograph 

Japanese dead near Shuri Castle, Okinawa, 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

A Marine with friends killed on the Shuri line, Okinawa, 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

(free-floating quote) 

"Honor was bound up with fighting to the death. In a hopeless situation a Japanese soldier should kill himself with his last hand grenade or charge weaponless against the enemy in a mass suicide attack. But he should not surrender. Even if he were taken prisoner when he was wounded and unconscious, he 'could not hold up his head in Japan' again; he was disgraced he was 'dead' to his former life." 

Ruth Benedict, 1946 , The Chrysanthemum and the Sword 

COMBAT FATIGUE

The protracted fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and high U.S. casualties caused severe combat fatigue for many U.S. soldiers and marines. As the fighting on the islands dragged on far longer than initially expected, lack of opportunity for rotation out of the combat zone began to undercut the morale of some troops. Many believed that after eighteen months in the war zone they deserved to be shipped home. Instead, planners selected their units for the invasion of Japan, offering only the prospect of more bitter fighting to the survivors of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. 

"Okinawa was a killing field. In the 82 days of battle for that island, an average of 2,500 people died every day. Under those conditions, with death everywhere, I seemed to have gone into a sort of trance. It was as if I had left my body and was looking at myself in a movie. I just did not feel anything." 

Peter Milo, American soldier on Okinawa, 1945

COMBAT FATIGUE

The protracted fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and high U.S. casualties caused severe combat fatigue for many U.S. soldiers and marines. 

original painting 

The Two-Thousand-Yard Stare by Tom Lea, a painting made during the vicious fighting on the island of Peleliu. Lea's notes state: "He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has tropical diseases.... He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two thirds of his company has been killed or wounded...he will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?" 

Lent by the U.S. Army Center of Military History

A flight nurse tends a wounded Marine during preparation for a medical evacuation flight. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASION OF JAPAN

As the Okinawa battle reached its bloody climax during June, the United States began to gather the forces required to execute the largest amphibious operation in history. U.S. Planners believed that the assault would be met with formidable opposition, including suicide attacks by aircraft, midget submarines, piloted torpedoes, motor boats, and even explosives-laden swimmers. To those responsible for planning and executing the invasion of Japan, the potential for appalling casualties was clear. 

THE KAMIKAZE

"Even if we are defeated, the noble spirit of this kamikaze attack corps will keep our homeland from ruin. Without this spirit, ruin would certainly follow defeat." 

Vice-Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, sponsor of the kamikaze corps, 1945

During October 1944 Japanese navy and Army pilots began a desperate campaign of suicide crash dives against Allied ships. Called kamikaze or "divine wind," the attacks took their name from a typhoon that destroyed a 13th century Mongol invasion fleet before it could reach Japan. 

Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, who orchestrated the formation of the kamikaze corps, hoped that the suicide attacks would enable Japan to overcome the material superiority of the Allies or at least salvage a spiritual victory for Japan. The kamikaze campaign proved enormously costly to the Allies, particularly in the invasion fleet off Okinawa, but failed to reverse Japan's decline toward defeat. 

THE KAMIKAZE

"Even if we are defeated, the noble spirit of this kamikaze attack corps will keep our homeland from ruin. Without this spirit, ruin would certainly follow defeat." 

Vice Adm. Takijiro Onishi, sponsor of the kamikaze corps, 1945

During October 1944 Japanese navy and army pilots began a desperate campaign of suicide crash-dives against Allied ships. Called kamikaze (divine wind or wind from the gods) the attacks took their name from a typhoon that destroyed a 13th century Mongol invasion fleet before it could reach Japan. 

Vice Admn. Takijiro Onishi, who helped create the kamikaze corps, hoped the suicide attacks would enable Japan to overcome the Allies' military and industrial superiority or at least salvage a spiritual victory for Japan. The kamikaze campaign proved enormously costly, particularly to the invasion fleet off Okinawa, but it failed to stop the Allied advance. 

photograph 

Kamikaze pilots of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1945. 

Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Navy

THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI

"Without regard for life or name, a samurai will defend his homeland."

From a letter by kamikaze pilot Teruo Yamaguchi, 1945

Proponents of suicide attacks appealed to pilots' patriotism and to their belief that death in battle would insure their afterlife as spirit-guardians of Japan. Kamikaze pilots who endorsed such sentiments often considered themselves the embodiment of the samurai values of self-sacrifice and devotion to the Emperor. To demonstrate their commitment, many wore samurai-style hachimaki (headbands) and swords during their final flights. 

THE RITUAL OF DEATH

"Please do not grieve for me, Mother: It will be glorious to die in action. I am grateful to be able to die in a battle to determine the destiny of the country." 

From the last letter of kamikaze pilot Ichizo Hayashi, April 1945.

Ritual and mysticism accompanied kamikaze pilots' preparations for suicide attacks. Before climbing into their aircraft on the day of a mission, the flyers received a ceremonial toast of sake or water, which signified spiritual purification. As another symbol of purity, pilots often flew their final missions in clean uniforms or even burial robes. 

For good luck, many wore sennibari (thousand stitch wrappers), a cloth belt for which a pilot's mother had solicited contributions of a single stitch each from women in her community. Others carried small dolls belonging to daughters or family photographs as charms to insure the success of their crash dives. 

MOTIVATION OF THE KAMIKAZE

Americans were horrified and puzzled by the suicidal fury of the kamikaze attacks. The letters and diaries of the kamikaze pilots, however, reveal motives that were complex and deeply rooted in Japanese culture. A sense of inescapable moral obligation to family and the Emperor, who embodied the nation, was very important. 

The Japanese honestly believed that an uncompromising determination would enable them to overcome a more powerful enemy whom they regarded as "weaker willed." The ancient and deeply rooted tradition of heroic figures in Japanese history who sacrificed their lives for honor or principles in a noble, but often hopeless, cause was also a factor. 

Peer pressure was so effective during the early stages of the kamikaze campaign that official coercion was not required. By the end of the war, however, flying school graduates were being drafted directly into the kamikaze corps. 

(free-floating quote) 

"Please do not grieve for me, mother. It will be glorious to die in action. I am grateful to e able to die in a battle to determine the destiny of our country." 

From the last letter of kamikaze pilot Ichizo Hayashi, April 1945

photograph 

A kamikaze pilot ties on a squadron mate's hachimaki before a mission, late 1944. 

Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute

hachimaki

Kamikaze pilot's hachimaki (headband), 1945. 

sword 

Kamikaze pilot's ceremonial sword, 1945. 

FLOATING CHRYSANTHEMUMS

The invasion of Okinawa for the first time placed a large part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet within range of aircraft attacking from bases in Japan. From April to June 1945 Imperial Navy and Army pilots flew over 1,800 individual suicide sorties as part of ten mass assaults of up to 400 aircraft against U.S. ships. Called Kikusui or "floating chrysanthemum" operations after the emblem of 14th-century samurai hero Masashige Kusonoki, these kamikaze attacks sank 28 ships and damaged 176. 

The scale of the kamikaze operations off Okinawa expended pilots at an alarming rate. To make up these losses, replacement pilot training became severely abbreviated, causing the already poor quality of Japanese flyers to deteriorate further. Some reached their units barely able to take off and land. In spite of these problems, advocates of suicide operations hoped to meet allied landings in Japan with over 5,000 kamikaze aircraft. 

THE DEADLY "FLOATING CHRYSANTHEMUMS"

The invasion of Okinawa for the first time placed a large part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet within striking range of aircraft based in Japan. From April to June 1945 Imperial navy and army pilots flew over 1,800 individual suicide sorties as part of 10 mass assaults of up to 400 aircraft each. Called Kikusui ("floating chrysanthemum") operations after the emblem of 14th-century samurai hero Masashige Kusonoki, these kamikaze attacks sank 28 ships and damaged 176, killing almost 5,000 Allied sailors. 

The Okinawa attacks expended pilots at an alarming rate. To make up these losses, replacement pilot training was severely shortened. Some reached their units barely able to take off and land. Despite these problems, advocates of suicide operations hoped to meet Allied landings in Japan with over 6,000 kamikaze aircraft. 

FIGHTING THE KAMIKAZE

While supporting the invasion of Okinawa, the U.S. Navy suffered its heaviest losses of the entire war, primarily from kamikaze attacks. Although the kamikaze campaign failed to drive the U.S. fleet away from the island, the mass suicide attacks proved a severe shock to the Allies. U.S. military and naval commanders, fearing the psychological effect of the kamikaze , ordered a news blackout on reports of the suicide attacks that lasted until the end of the Okinawa fighting. To the ships' crews, the experience seemed to confirm Japanese fanaticism and offer a grim foreboding of what they would endure in future operations. 

"Jap planes and bombs were hitting all around us. Some of our ships were being hit by suicide planes, bombs, and machine gun fire. It was a fight to the finish...How long will our luck hold out?" 

Seaman First Class James J. Fahey, aboard the light cruiser Montpelier, 1945 (from "Pacific War Diary") 

FIGHTING THE KAMIKAZE

The U.S. Navy suffered its heaviest losses of the entire war at Okinawa, mainly from kamikaze attacks. Although the mass suicide attacks failed to drive off the U.S. fleet, they severely shocked the Allies. Fearing the psychological effect of the kamikaze, US. Military commanders ordered a news blackout on reports of the suicide attacks. The blackout lasted until the end of the Okinawa fighting. To the ships' crews, the experience confirmed Japanese fanaticism and offered a grim foreboding of what they would face in an invasion of the home islands. 

"Jap planes and bombs were hitting all around us. Some of our ships were being hit by suicide planes, bombs, and machine gun fire. It was a fight to the finish...How long will our luck hold out?" 

Seaman First Class James J. Fahey, aboard the light cruiser Montpelier, 1945 (from "Pacific War Diary") 

The U.S. aircraft carrier Bunker Hill , after suffering two kamikaze hits off Okinawa, May 11, 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

photograph 

Damaged by antiaircraft fire, a kamikaze Zero fighter plunges breathtakingly close to the U.S. aircraft carrier Essex off Okinawa, May 14, 1945. 

photograph 

U.Ws. Navy gun crews nervously scan the skies for suicide planes, 1944. 

Lt. Cmdr. (ChC) Joseph O'Callahan, Navy chaplain on board the aircraft carrier USS Franklin , administers the last rites to a seaman injured during an attack by a Japanese dive bomber in March 1945. Gutted by flames, listing badly, and having suffered more than 1,000 casualties, the Franklin managed to steam thousands of miles back to port. O'Callahan was awarded a Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry" for his action during the attack. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

His engine engulfed in flames, a wounded Navy pilot struggles to free himself from his cockpit. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

This chaotic scene is the hangar deck of the escort carrier USS Sangamon , the morning after the ship was hit by a kamikaze aircraft in the Ryukyu Islands on May 4, 1945. The carrier lost 86 dead and 116 wounded in the attack. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

A PILOTED BOMB: THE YOKUSUKA MXY7 OHKA

Proponents of the kamikaze corps expected the Ohka (Cherry Blossom) piloted suicide bomb to prove even more destructive than conventional kamikaze airplanes. Conceived by Navy Lieutenant Ota during 1944, the Ohka was carried aloft by a mother plane and released up to 96 km (60 mi) away from its target. Solid-propellant rockets in the rear boosted the bomb's speed to over 800 kph (600 mph) during the final dive to the target, making it nearly impossible to shoot down with anti-aircraft fire. Its 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) warhead was sufficient to sink or severely damage any ship unlucky enough to be hit. 

In practice, the Ohka proved far less formidable than hoped, leading U.S. sailors to nickname it the Baka (foolish) bomb. The lumbering mother planes, usually Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers, were often shot down before flying close enough to the U.S. fleet to release their payloads. Over 750 Ohka Model 11s were produced, of which several hundred were used against the U.S. fleet off Okinawa. Only a handful of Ohka pilots succeeded in hitting ships and they sank only one. 

THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM'S "OHKA"

The National Air and Space Museum's Ohka is a Model 22, the successor to the Model 11 used at Okinawa. Unlike the rocket-powered Ohka Model 11, the Model 22 was powered by and early type of jet engine, which was expected to double the bomb's range. Although it had only begun flight testing during early 1945, proponents of the Ohka Model 22 hoped to meet the expected Allied invasion fleet with hundreds of the new type. Nearly sixty had been produced before the end of the war terminated further development. 

The wartime history of the National Air and Space Museum's Ohka remains obscure. The museum's Ohka was brought from Japan to the U.S. after its capture by the Navy, spending a short time at Alameda, California, during 1946. The Navy then transferred the suicide bomb to the Smithsonian in 1948. After years in display storage at the museum's Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland, the Ohka Model 22 was restored for this exhibit during 1993 and 1994. 

A PILOTED BOMB: THE YOKUSUKA MXY7 "OHKA"

The Ohka (Cherry Blossom) piloted suicide bomb was expected to be even more destructive than conventional kamikaze airplanes. Conceived during 1944, the Ohka was released by a mother plane up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) from its target. Solid-propellant rockets boosted the bomb's speed to over 800 kilometers (600 miles) per hour during its final dive to the target, making it nearly impossible to shoot down. Its 1,200-kilogram (2,600-pound) warhead was powerful enough to sink or severely damage any ship unlucky enough to be hit. 

But the Ohka proved far less formidable than hoped, leading U.S. sailors to nickname it the Baka (foolish) bomb. The lumbering mother planes were often shot down before flying close enough to the U.S. fleet to release their payloads. Over 750 Ohka Model 11s were produced, of which several hundred were used against the U.S. fleet off Okinawa. Only a handful of Ohka pilots managed in hitting ships, and they sank only one. Conventional Japanese aircraft proved far more devastating, taking thousands of American lives. 

THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM'S "OHKA"

The Ohka displayed here is a Model 22, the successor to the Model 11 used at Okinawa. Unlike the rocket-powered Model 11, the Model 22 was powered by and early type of jet engine that was expected to double the bomb's range. Although flight testing had only begun during early 1945, the Japanese hoped to meet the expected Allied invasion fleet with hundreds of the new craft. Only about 60 were ever produced. 

The wartime history of the National Air and Space Museum's Ohka remains obscure. The museum's Ohka was brought from Japan to the U.S. after its capture by the Navy, spending a short time at Alameda, California, during 1946. The Navy then transferred the suicide bomb to the Smithsonian in 1948. After years in display storage at the museum's Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland, the Ohka Model 22 was restored for this exhibit during 1993 and 1994. 

PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASION OF JAPAN

As the Okinawa battle reached its bloody climax during June, the United States began to gather the forces required to execute the largest amphibious operation in history. The assault was expected to meet formidable opposition, including suicide attacks by aircraft, midget submarines, piloted torpedoes, motor boats, and even explosives-laden swimmers. To those responsible for planning and executing the invasion of Japan, the potential for appalling casualties was clear. 

photograph 

Tanks intended for the invasion of Japan were stockpiled by the U.S. Army in the Philippines, spring 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

photograph 

Part of the massive Allied fleet scheduled to support the planned invasion of Japan was anchored at Ulithi Atoll, 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

A TORCH TO THE ENEMY: THE STRATEGIC BOMBINB OF JAPAN

While the Allies struggled to destroy the remaining Japanese forces in the Pacific during the first half of 1945, the U.S. strategic bombing campaign against Japan, begun the previous year, escalated dramatically. The raids flown after late February razed every major Japanese city and killed several hundred thousand civilians. 

This campaign against Japanese urban centers represented not only the culmination of U.S. plans for bombing of Japan, but also the ultimate demonstration of the destructiveness of strategic bombing as predicted by air power theorists before and during World War II. Although Germany, Italy and Japan had been widely condemned in the 1930s for attacks on civilian populations, during World War II civilians themselves had become the target. 

"The American government and the American people have for some time pursued a policy of whole-heartedly condemning the unprovoked bombing and machine gunning of civilian populations from the air."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 2, 1939

"I want no war against women and children, and I have given the Luftwaffe instructions to attack only military objectives." 

Adolf Hitler, September 1939

"We can all strongly condemn any deliberate policy to try to win a war by the demoralization of the civilian population through the process of bombing from the air. This is absolutely contrary to international law..."

Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, September 14, 1939

A TORCH TO THE ENEMY: THE STRATEGIC BOMBING OF JAPAN

In 1943 President Franklin Roosevelt had urged that Japan be bombed "heavily and relentlessly." In early 1945, the U.S. Army Air Forces launched a major incendiary (firebombing) campaign. They had tried high-altitude daylight precision bombing and found it relatively ineffective, due to operational difficulties and the widely dispersed nature of the military and industrial targets in and around Japanese cities. 

The only effective way to destroy such targets proved to be incendiary area bombing, a tactic already tried by other in Europe. Such bombing could not discriminate between strategic targets in cities and the cities themselves. By end of the war, the American incendiary campaign severely damaged Japan's ability to wage war, razed almost every major Japanese city, and killed several hundred thousand people. 

FROM THE BLITZ TO THE FIRESTORM

In spite of early war statements condemning strategic air campaigns against civilians, all of the belligerent powers quickly succumbed to the temptation to strike at the enemy's heartland from the air. By the fall of 1940, catastrophic losses suffered in daylight attacks led the German Luftwaffe to undertake the first night area raids against British urban centers. Although extraordinarily destructive, this campaign failed to undermine British civilian morale. Instead, the attacks provoked a desire for massive retaliation against Germany. 

Between 1940 and 1943, initial small-scale attacks by the Royal Air force's Bomber Command escalated into massive "thousand bomber" raids aimed at the destruction of entire German cities. By 1945 incendiary (fire) bombs and high explosives had reduced great cities such and Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden to smoking ruins. 

FROM THE BLITZ TO THE FIRESTORM

The precedent for bombing Japanese cities had been set even before the war began. In the 1930s, Japan and Germany had bombed civilians in China and Spain, to the horror of much of the world. After World War II began, Axis air attacks increased, setting off a cycle of escalation. German bombers destroyed large parts of Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and other cities. Having no other means to strike the enemy directly, the British retaliated with "area bombing" of German cities that was ultimately 10 times as destructive. 

Between 1940 and 1943, small-scale attacks by the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command expanded into massive "thousand bomber" raids aimed at destroying entire German cities. By spring 1945 incendiary (fire) bombs and high explosives had reduced much of Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden to ruins. 

source: Amer. Heritage 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands, after the German air raid of May 1940. 

Courtesy of the Netherland State Institute for War Documentation

British civilians being rescued from the rubble after a German air raid during the Battle of Britain, 1940-41 

Courtesy of Popperfoto/Archive Photos

famous picture--statue over Dresden ruins 

Ther German city of Dresden after the Allied firebombing raids of February 1945. 

THE AMERICAN BOMBING CAMPAIGN IN EUROPE

The leaders of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) entered World War II determined to prove the value of daylight precision bombing against carefully selected targets. Their aim was to destroy Germany's ability to make war by attacking key factories, oil production facilities, transportation networks, and other strategic objectives. 

American planners persisted in the face of British skepticism, heavy losses and difficulties in achieving accuracy. By mid-1944 the gradual erosion of German air defenses combined with a massive buildup of U.S. bomber forces enabled USAAF commanders to continue their policy of daylight attacks on industrial targets. But true precision bombing was difficult to achieve. Cloudy weather often resulted in less accurate drops by radar. The desire to undermine civilian morale also caused USAAF leaders to expand the campaign to large-scale daylight attacks against German cities. 

THE AMERICAN BOMBING CAMPAIGN IN EUROPE

The leaders of the U.S. Army Air Forces entered World War II determined to prove the value of daylight precision bombing. They intended to destroy Germany's war-making ability by attacking key factories, oil production facilities, transportation networks, and other strategic objectives. 

The Army Air Forces persisted in the face of British skepticism, heavy losses, and mixed results. True precision bombing was difficult to achieve. Cloudy weather often resulted in less accurate drops by radar. But by mid-1944 the gradual erosion of German air defenses, combined with a massive buildup of U.S. bomber forces, allowed daylight attacks on industrial targets to continue. 

THE LONG ROAD TO TOKYO

"...we'll fight mercilessly. Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won't be any hesitation about bombing civilians--it will be all-out." 

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, November 15, 1941

During 1941, U.S. air planners began to formulate plans for bombing Japan as relations between the two countries deteriorated. Except for the daring April 1942 raid by aircraft-carrier-launched bombers led by Col. James H. Doolittle, the skies over the Japanese home islands would remain free of American aircraft until 1944 

Protected from air attack by the enormous distances separating it from Allied bases, Japan was not struck again until June 14, 1944, when small numbers of the new B-29 Superfortress began attacks from China. The stage for the final bombing campaign of World War II was not set, however until the capture of the Marianas Islands, situated 1,300 miles from Tokyo. 

THE LONG ROAD TO TOKYO

In 1941, as Japanese aggression in Asia brought war with the United States ever closer, the Army Air Corps began to formulate contingency plans for bombing Japan. Then came the Pearl Harbor attack and the sudden Japanese advance in the Pacific. Except for the daring April 1942 raid by aircraft-carrier-launched bombers led by Col. James H. Doolittle, the skies over Japan remained free of American aircraft. 

Protected by the enormous distances separating it from Allied bases, Japan was not struck again until June, 1944, when small numbers of the new B-29 Superfortress began attacks from China. The stage for the final bombing campaign of World War II was not set, however until the capture of the Marianas Islands, situated 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) 

"Bomber lanes to Japan," published in United States News , October, 31, 1941. 

TOKYO IN FLAMES

Dismayed with the results of early raids, General Curtis E. LeMay proposed a radical change in tactics after taking command of the Marianas-based bombers in January 1945. Instead of striking individual factories in daylight precision raids with high-explosive bombs, his B-29s would attack urban areas at night with incendiary (fire) bombs. 

LeMay ordered a major test of his new tactics on the night of March 9-10, 1945. Flying in three 600-km (400 mi)-long streams, 334 B-29s struck Tokyo for nearly three hours. Within thirty minutes of the first bomb, fires were burning out of control. At the center of the ensuing firestorm, temperatures reached 1000 C (1,800 F). Water boiled in canals and cisterns. Approximately 100,000 people perished and a million were made homeless. Fifty years later, the March 9-10 Tokyo raid remains the single most destructive nonnuclear attack in human history. 

"This blaze will haunt me forever. It's the most terrifying sight in the world, and, God forgive me, the best."

A B-29 pilot following the raid of March 9-10, 1945

"I couldn't tell if they were men or women. They weren't even full skeletons. Piled on top of each other. The bottom of the pile all stuck together..." 

Kobayashi Hiroyasu, a survivor of the Tokyo firestorm, March 9-10, 1945

"Although Mother never expressed it in words, I think she had the most difficult time. She had let the child on her back die. We don't know if she left him somewhere, or if he just burned up and she fell...She's now eighty-eight years old. When she could still et around, I used to take her to pray at the graves. She'd pour water on them and say: 'Hiroko-chan, you must have been hot. Teroko-chan, you must have been hot.'" 

Funato Kazuyo, a survivor of the March 9-10, 1945, raid

TOKYO IN FLAMES

Dismayed with the disappointing effects of early raids on Japanese industry, and under pressure from Washington to launch a more effective firebombing campaign, Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay changed tactics a month after taking command of the Marianas-based bombers in January 1945. Instead of striking individual factories in daylight precision raids with high-explosive bombs, his B-29s would attack urban areas at night with incendiary (fire) bombs. 

LeMay ordered a first major test of his new tactics on the night of March 9-10, 1945. Flying in three streams 650 kilometers (400 miles) long, 334 B-29s struck Tokyo for nearly three hours. Within 30 minutes of the first bomb, fires were burning out of control. About 100,000 people perished and a million were made homeless. 

photograph 

Ordnance crewman prepare a maximum load of incendiary bombs for an aptly named B-29, 1945. 

UNPRECEDENTED DEVASTATION

The great Tokyo raid marked the beginning of a five-month period during which Japan would suffer incredible devastation. Moving from one city to another, B-29s destroyed one half the total area of 66 urban centers--burning 460 square kilometers (180 square miles) to the ground. Some cities, like the chemical and textile manufacturing center of Toyama, were completely destroyed. The five-month-long USAAF incendiary campaign against Japan probably took more civilian lives than the half million killed during the five years of Allied bombing of Germany. 

"No matter how you slice it, you're going to kill an awful lot of civilians. Thousands and thousands...We're at war with Japan. Would you rather have Americans killed?" 

Major General Curtis E. LeMay, 1945

MASSIVE DESTRUCTION

The great Tokyo raid marked the beginning of a five-month period during which Japan would suffer widespread devastation. B-29s bombed one city after another, destroying half the total area of 66 urban centers, burning 460 square kilometers (180 square miles) to the ground. Some cities, like the chemical and textile manufacturing center of Toyama, were completely destroyed. The five-month incendiary campaign lowered the overall industrial output of Japan by 60 percent, reduced the production of key materials like oil and aluminum by 90 percent, and took several hundred thousand lives. 

"No matter how you slice it, you're going to kill an awful lot of civilians. Thousands and thousands...We're at war with Japan. Would you rather have Americans killed?" 

Major General Curtis E. LeMay, 1945

B-29s of the 73rd Bombardment Wing, XXI Bomber Command, shower Yokohama with incendiary bombs, May 25, 1945. 

U.S. Air Force map of cities destroyed during the incendiary campaign, with U.S. cities of similar populations included for comparison. 

Starting in June 1945, American aircraft dropped millions of leaflets like this one over dozens of Japanese cities, including Hiroshima, warning people to leave cities that were to be bombed. The leaflets were intended to save lives and counter Japanese accusations of "indiscriminate bombing of civilians." 

OPERATION STARVATION

In addition to the all-out air attacks on Japanese cities, the USAAF and U.S. navy took additional steps to bring Japan to its knees. By spring 1945, U.S. Submarines had succeeded in destroying the Japanese merchant marine. A B-29 campaign aptly code-named "Operation Starvation" completed the process of isolating the home islands by mining Japanese harbors and coastal waters. Carrier-based aircraft contributed to the operation by bombing and strafing a wide variety of targets. By early summer, shipping, manufacturing, transportation, and food distribution had largely ground to a halt. 

OPERATION STARVATION

Besides the all-out air attacks on Japanese cities, additional steps were taken to force Japan to surrender. By spring 1945, U.S. Submarines and aircraft had destroyed the Japanese merchant marine. A B-29 campaign aptly code-named "Operation Starvation" completed the process of isolating Japan by mining its harbors and coastal waters. Carrier-based aircraft contributed to the operation by bombing and strafing a wide variety of targets in Japan. By early summer, shipping, manufacturing, transportation, and food distribution had largely ground to a halt. 

A Japanese freighter starts to burn after being strafed by a U.S. Navy fighter, summer 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

TWO NATIONS AT WAR

The United States and Japan remained insulated from the harsh reality of total war longer than any other major belligerents of World War II. As the Pacific War entered its fourth year in 1945, both had nonetheless undergone profound change. For Japanese civilians, the horror of war had finally come home in the form of daily air raids, severe privation, and the threat of invasion. For many Americans, combat in the Pacific remained a distant series of events reported through a veil of censorship in newsreels, newspapers, magazines and radio. The cost of victory in American lives, however, represented a very real concern for all with loved ones in the Pacific. 

The distance separating Japan and the United States underscored the cultural gulf separating the two societies. Ignorance about the other's culture, combined with racism, desire for revenge, and the strain of total war produced virulent hatred on both sides. 

HOME FRONT, U.S. A.

World War II energized the United States as had few events in our national history. By the spring of 1945, government spending for weapons, munitions, vehicles, clothing, and thousands of other items had brought the Great Depression to an end. Wages soared and unemployment plummeted. Women and members of minority communities entered the work force in unprecedented numbers. 

With consumer goods in short supply, and rationing in force, American saved as never before. They invested in war bond drives, lending the government the funds needed to finance the war effort. But after over three years of war, Americans were tired. They longed for peace, the return of their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers, and the realization of their deferred dreams of material prosperity. 

TWO NATIONS AT WAR

HOME FRONT, U.S. A.

World War II energized the United States as had few events in our national history, while inflicting many new hardships. With consumer goods in short supply and rationing in force, American saved as never before. They invested in war bond drives, lending the government the funds needed to finance the war effort. Women and members of minority communities entered the work force in unprecedented numbers. Almost everyone--from children to senior citizens--also participated in community projects to help the war, such as recycling metals and other items in short supply. But after three years of war and the loss of a quarter of a million servicemen in combat, Americans longed for peace, the return of their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers, and a return to normal life. 

photograph 

Children from the Washington Elementary School in Butte, Montana, collect scrap metal for the war effort, 1942 or 1943. 

Courtesy of Helen Claire McMahon

Ration Stamps 

Gold stars like this replica were hung in windows to commemorate loved ones killed in the service of their country. 

The dreaded telegram: Patrick E. King of Elkins, West Virginia, a U.S. Navy Seabee, was killed when his ship was sunk in the Philippines on Christmas Day 1944. 

A letter of consolation from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to the father of Patrick E. King. 

The flag used in the reburial of Patrick E. King after the return of his body to the United States in 1947. 

All items from Patrick E. King lent by the heirs of P.F. King: Mary Catherine Cole, Patricia Cochran, and Frank Florentine

The Purple Heart awarded posthumously to Patrick E. King. 

THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY

By the spring of 1945, the United States had become, as President Franklin Roosevelt predicted, "the arsenal of democracy." The miracles achieved by wartime industry demonstrated the enormous untapped power of the American economy. During the course of World War II, U.S. industry produced 296,429 airplanes; 87,620 ships; 102,357 tanks and self-propelled guns; 372,431 artillery pieces; and 44 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition. At the 1943 Teheran Conference, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, no admirer of capitalism, toasted: "American production, without which this war would have been lost." 

THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY

By 1943 the United States had become, as President Franklin Roosevelt had predicted, "the arsenal of democracy." The miracles achieved by wartime industry demonstrated the enormous untapped power of the American economy. During the course of World War II, U.S. industry produced 299,000 airplanes, 88,000 ships, 102,000 tanks and self-propelled guns, 372,000 artillery pieces, and 44 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition. At the 1943 Teheran Conference, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, no admirer of capitalism, toasted: "American production, without which this war would have been lost." 

Over 3,000 B-24 Liberator bombers were built during the war at Consolidated's Fort Worth, Texas, plant. 

Courtesy of Lockheed Fort Worth

Welders, Todd Erie Basin dry dock, Pennsylvania, 1943. 

Courtesy of the Bookstore of Congress

THE ROOTS OF A NEW AMERICA

American society underwent fundamental change during the war years. "Rosie the Riveter" became a cultural heroine as women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers, often employed in jobs previously held only by men. American youngsters, with time on their hands and money in their pockets, transformed a New Jersey band singer named Frank Sinatra into the first teen entertainment idol. Newspaper and magazine writers worried about the rise of juvenile delinquency, and wondered how many "quickie" wartime marriages would last. While Americans longed for a return to "normal," they sensed that things would never be the same. 

THE LIMITS OF DEMOCRACY

"A viper is a viper, wherever the egg is hatched--so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, grows up Japanese, not an American." 

Los Angeles Times, 1942

A sense of dedication and national purpose marked the American home front during World War II. But the pressures of wartime life and the desire to present a united front to the enemy had underscored the extent to which some Americans were not yet full citizens. 

In the spring of 1945, tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry remained in the ten camps in which they had been summarily incarcerated since 1942. Black migrants moving from rural areas to higher paying jobs in American cities quickly discovered that they too had not left racism behind. Hispanics faced similar problems in Los Angeles and much of the Southwest. 

The contrast between the actual treatment of minorities and the public expressions of an international fight for freedom and democracy would provide an important foundation for post-war movements for social equality. 

"Probably in all our history, no foe has been so detested as were the Japanese. The infamy of Pearl Harbor was enough; but to it were soon added circumstantial accounts of Japanese atrocities at Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally and most appallingly, upon American prisoners in the Philippines...Emotions forgotten since our most savage Indian wars were reawakened..." 

Allan Nevins, "While You Were Gone," 1946

A HATED ENEMY

"Probably in all our history, no foe has been so detested as were the Japanese. The infamy of Pearl Harbor was enough; but to it were soon added circumstantial accounts of Japanese atrocities at Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally and most appallingly, upon American prisoners in the Philippines...Emotions forgotten since our most savage Indian wars were reawakened..." 

Allan Nevins , While You Were Gone, 1946 

source: Dower 

This 1943 British cartoon was published in the New York Times Magazine

anti-Japanese propaganda posters, buttons, etc., from NMAH 

American anti-Japanese propaganda 

THE YELLOW PERIL

With deep family roots in nations such as Germany and Italy, most Americans had little difficulty understanding their European enemies as good people misled by evil leaders. Anti-Asian racism, long a factor in American life, made it impossible to view the Japanese enemy in that fashion. 

Plunged into war by the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and horrified by accounts of Japanese mistreatment of prisoners of war in the Philippines and elsewhere, Americans regarded their Pacific enemy as a nation of treacherous and inhuman fanatics. Wartime advertising and propaganda portrayed the Japanese as sub-human "monkey-men," vicious rodents, or venomous insects. Cartoon from the U.S. Marine Corps monthly Leatherneck, March 1945

FINISHING THE JOB

Americans celebrated the victory in Europe in May 1945, then went back to work, determined to achieve total victory over Japan. The job was far from over, and looming on the horizon was the prospect of the losses that might be suffered in an invasion. 

FINISHING THE JOB

While Americans celebrated the victory in Europe in May 1945, they knew the job was far from over. Looming on the horizon was the prospect of terrible loss in an invasion of Japan. 

poster - "Next" 

War bond drive poster, 1945. 

THE JAPANESE HOME FRONT AT WAR

By the summer of 1945, Japan was a nation on the brink of collapse. American land, air, and naval forces had finally arrived on the doorstep of the home islands. B-29s of the 20th Air Force were systematically burning Japanese cities to the ground. The submarine campaign and aerial mine laying operations had cut lines of supply and communication. After the fall of Okinawa, the Japanese people waited in their island fortress, prepared to repulse the enemy on the beaches. But their conditions would increasingly undermine their power to resist. 

THE JAPANESE HOME FRONT AT WAR

By the summer of 1945, American land, air, and naval forces had finally arrived on the doorstep of the home islands. B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force were systematically destroying Japan's ability to wage war. The submarine campaign and aerial mine laying operations had cut lines of supply and communication. 

After the fall of Okinawa, the Japanese people waited in their island fortress, prepared to repulse the enemy on the beaches. Even as their deteriorating situation was increasingly undermining their ability to resist, surrender remained unthinkable, and the war had considerable popular support. 

Tokyo street scene, 1943. The advertising slogan beneath the Japanese soldiers on the billboard reads, "We won't stop shooting!" 

Courtesy of Asahi Shimbun

HARDSHIP ON THE HOMEFRONT

"Everything goes to the military, the black marketeers, and the big shots. Only fools queue up." 

Kiyosawa Kiyoshi, diary entry, April 30, 1943

By fall, 1944, the Japanese people could no longer adequately feed or clothe themselves. The shortage of farm workers and lack of chemical fertilizers drastically cut domestic agricultural production. The Allied blockade had cut the supply of vital rice and soy products once imported from Korea and China. 

Although silk remained available, cotton and other imported fibers had vanished. Clothes were now manufactured of sufu , a cloth in which small amounts of cotton were woven with wood pulp, goat hair, and tree bark. 

Dwindling supplies of food and clothing led to rationing, price controls, and long lines outside those stores where goods were available. In spite of stiff penalties, prices soared and the black market became a fact of life. As early as the spring of 1944, rice was 14 times the official price. 

HARDSHIP ON THE HOMEFRONT

"Everything goes to the military, the black marketeers, and the big shots. Only fools queue up." 

Kiyosawa Kiyoshi, diary entry, April 30, 1943

By fall, 1944, the Japanese people could no longer adequately feed or clothe themselves. The demands of the Japanese war machine caused a shortage of farm workers and lack of chemical fertilizers for agriculture. The Allied blockade had cut the supply of vital rice and soy products once imported from Korea and China. 

Although silk remained available, cotton and other imported fibers had vanished. Clothes were now manufactured of sufu , a cloth made of small amounts of cotton woven with wood pulp, goat hair, and tree bark. 

Dwindling supplies of food and clothing led to rationing, price controls, and long lines outside stores. Despite stiff penalties, prices soared and the black market thrived. As early as spring of 1944, rice sold for 14 times the official price. 

Civilians queue in Tokyo for their weekly food allotment, 1945. 

Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

items from Japan to be obtained if possible 

Food ration stamps, circa 1945. 

LABOR

"On the night shift, after standing up for hours, we were marched into a dining hall where we had our supper. Supper was a bowl of weak, hot broth, usually with one string of a noodle in it and a few soybeans on the bottom. We would gulp it down, then go back to work in the factory." 

Hirako Nakamono, a school girl employed in a Hiroshima aircraft factory, 1945

Japanese industry suffered from a severe labor shortage throughout the war years. By 1944 the situation had become critical. Farm workers judged unsuitable for military service were conscripted for factory labor. Women went out to work in unprecedented numbers. Junior and senior high schools closed as students were assigned to industry, public transport and the construction of roads and fire-breaks. 

LABOR

"On the night shift, after standing up for hours, we were marched into a dining hall where we had our supper. Supper was a bowl of weak, hot broth, usually with one string of a noodle in it and a few soybeans on the bottom. We would gulp it down, then go back to work in the factory." 

Hirako Nakamono, a school girl employed in a Hiroshima aircraft factory, 1945

Because of military conscription, Japanese industry suffered from a severe labor shortage throughout the war years. By 1944 the situation had become critical. Farm workers judged unsuitable for military service were drafted for factory labor. Women went out to work in unprecedented numbers. Junior and senior high schools closed as students were assigned to industry, public transport, and the construction of roads and fire-breaks. 

SLAVE LABOR

The Japanese government turned to slave labor to ease the severe manpower shortages. Some 667,000 Koreans and 38,000 Chinese who had labor contracts to work in Japan ultimately became slave laborers. Forced to work under armed guard at difficult and dangerous tasks during the day, they were housed behind electrified fences at night. Protests were punished by beatings, floggings and execution. During the course of the war, an estimated 67,000 Korean and Chinese slave laborers would die in Japanese custody. 

By 1945, most Allied prisoners of war being held in Japan were also treated in a manner indistinguishable from slave laborers. Like their compatriots in Japanese camps overseas, they often starved, beaten and tortured. 

SLAVE LABORERS AND PRISONERS OF WAR

The Japanese government turned to slave labor to ease the severe manpower shortages and provide prostitutes for its troops. Some 667,000 Koreans and 38,000 Chinese who had labor contracts to work in Japan ultimately became slave laborers or were forced to be "comfort girls." They worked under armed guard by day and were housed behind electrified fences at night. Protests were punished by beatings, floggings and execution. During the war, an estimated 67,000 Korean and Chinese laborers died in Japanese custody. 

By 1945, some 10,000 of almost 26,000 American prisoners of war had died or been executed. Those held in Japan were also treated as slave laborers. Like their compatriots in Japanese camps overseas, they were often starved, beaten and tortured, and executed. 

Time/life, Japan at War , p. 162 

A blindfolded American flyer in Kobe, Japan, after capture. Beside him is his inflated survival raft. 

Courtesy of Mainichi Shimbun

Newly liberated American prisoners in the Philippines, February 1945. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

THE COMING OF THE "B-SAN"

The first B-29 raids were directed against industrial targets and took few lives. "We went through those early bombings in a spirit of excitement and suspense," one journalist recalled. "There was even a spirit of adventure, a sense of exultation in sharing the dangers of war even though bound to a civilian existence." People joked about the "regularly scheduled service" of the "honorable visitors." The B-29s, lovely silver specks glittering in the sun as they flew at altitudes of over 30,000 feet, became popularly known as the "B-San," or "Mr. B." 

Long insulated from the personal experience of war, Japanese civilians were ill-prepared for the incendiary raids of 1945. With most men absent in military service, the burden of civil defense fell on women and the elderly, who were organized into neighborhood associations. The only equipment they had were primitive, hand-operated pumps supplemented by bucket brigades and wet mops. 

"Air raid. Air raid. Here comes an air raid!
Red! Red! Incendiary bomb!
Run! Run! Get mattress and sand!
Air raid! Air raid! Here comes an air raid!
Black! Black! Here come the bombs!
Cover your ears! Cover your eyes!" 

Song designed to teach the basics of civil defense to Japanese children, 1944

"Proper air raid clothing as recommended by the government to the civilian population consisted of a heavily padded hood over the head and shoulders...to protect...from explosives...The hoods flamed under the rain of sparks; people who did not burn from the feet up burned from the head down. Mothers who carried their babies strapped to their backs, Japanese-style, would discover too late that the padding that enveloped the infant caught fire." 

Robert Guillian," "I saw Tokyo Burning" (1981)

THE COMING OF THE "B-SAN"

The first B-29 raids were directed against industrial targets and took few lives. "We went through those early bombings in a spirit of excitement and suspense," one journalist recalled. "There was even a spirit of adventure, a sense of exultation in sharing the dangers of war even though bound to a civilian existence." People joked about the "regularly scheduled service" of the "honorable visitors." The B-29s, lovely silver specks glittering in the sun as they flew at altitudes of over 30,000 feet, became popularly known as the "B-San," or "Mr. B." 

Long insulated from the personal experience of war, Japanese civilians were ill-prepared for the firebombing raids of 1945. Since most able-bodied men had been drafted into the military, the burden of civil defense fell on women and the elderly, who were organized into neighborhood associations. But the government gave them only primitive, hand-operated pumps, bucket brigades, and wet mops for fighting fires. 

photograph 

Air raid drill, 1944. 

Photograph courtesy of Mainichi Graphic

THE DEMONIC OTHER

"It has gradually become clear that the American enemy, driven by its ambition to conquer the world, is coming to attack us...the barbaric tribe of Americans are devils in human skin...Western Barbarian Demons." 

From an article published in "Manga Nippon," a popular magazine, October 1944

Like Americans, the Japanese people viewed their enemies in racist terms. Allied people and leaders were pictured as inhuman demons, lice, insects, and vermin. Wartime propaganda made frequent reference to the "Jewish" nature of the Allied cause. Japanese soldiers and civilians alike were convinced that American troops were waging a "war of extermination" against Japan. The mass suicides on Saipan and Okinawa demonstrated that Japanese mothers would kill themselves and their children rather than allow themselves to fall into the hands of the "devilish" U.S. Marines. 

THE DEMONIC OTHER

"It has gradually become clear that the American enemy, driven by its ambition to conquer the world, is coming to attack us...the barbaric tribe of Americans are devils in human skin...Western Barbarian Demons." 

From an article published in "Manga Nippon," a popular magazine, October 1944

Japanese propaganda convinced soldiers and civilians alike that American troops were waging a war of "extermination" against Japan. The mass suicides on Saipan and Okinawa demonstrated that Japanese mothers, expecting to be raped and murdered, would kill themselves and their children, rather than allow themselves to fall into the hands of the "devilish" U.S. Marines. They did this despite the best American attempts to convince them to surrender and to assure that they would not be harmed. 

from Dower, War Without Mercy

A Japanese magazine cover, depicting President Roosevelt as a demon, 1943. 

100 MILLION HEARTS BEATING AS ONE

By the summer of 1945, every man and woman in Japan over the age of 13 was a member of the People's Volunteer Army, and subject to military discipline. All across Japan, the subject-soldiers of the Emperor drilled with spears and other makeshift weapons in preparation for the final battles of the beaches. If the invasion came, the Japanese people were prepared, as one of them later recalled, to "match our training against their numbers, our flesh against their steel." But the ability of the Japanese people to fight was increasingly undermined by blockade, starvation, overwhelming Allied air power and the collapse of industrial production. 

JAPAN PREPARES TO MEET THE INVASION

On June 12, the Japanese legislature passed laws requiring military service from all males 15 to 60 and all females 17 to 40 years of age. The government declared martial law. Thus the Japanese homeland became a war zone and nearly all its adults became soldiers. 

Beginning in the spring of 1945, the Japanese military began to husband aircraft in the home islands. By mid-summer, Japan had over 6,000 planes available as kamikazes. The military had dispersed them to improvised airfields and planned to target not warships, but slow-moving, crowded troop transports and landing craft. On the ground, the Japanese army correctly guessed likely landing sites and prepared heavy defenses. 

Women training with bamboo spears, 1945. 

Photograph courtesy of Shunkichi Kikui

if available 

Japanese bamboo spear for home defense, 1945. 

Lent by the Marine Corps Museum

 



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