“Operation Downfall”

"Operation Downfall"

“Operation Downfall”

The original idea for the invasion of Japan was approved in July 1944 and received constant, precise detailing up until the actual signing of the surrender. Operation Downfall was broken into two separate plans, Operation Olympic which would be followed by Operation Coronet.

With all the devastation already incurred on Japan, a forceful occupation would still be very costly. The Japanese Army controlled the government and their wish was a fight down to the last man, woman and child. Later on, members of that army stated that it would have been an all out suicide effort of every person in Japan to fight to the death.

women posed happily in propaganda photo as beachfront "kamikazes"

women posed happily in propaganda photo as beachfront “kamikazes”

Operation Olympic, which included 750,000 troops were to land on Southern Kyushi 1 November 1945. In the first wave, Army, Navy and Marine personnel – 436,486; the second wave to hold 356,902. (How they managed to be so specific is way over my head.) The air support would total 22,160. The D-Day Operation Overlord would have paled in comparison and this led the Joint Chiefs of Staff to agree that this rendered Russia’s involvement unnecessary.

MacArthur’s estimations of casualties and wounded that he sent to Washington were judged by the invasion of Luzon. Gen. “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell sent his report based on the Okinawa battles; these were much higher.

While Europe’s “Overlord” had beach codes such as: Omaha, Utah, Sword and Gold, “Olympic” had a variety of automobiles for the beaches that were then grouped by type. Gen. Krueger’s Sixth Army, that included the 11th Airborne Division, was scheduled to land at Miyazaki, the eastern prefecture of Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan. The forty-mile long shallow beach areas were coded as ‘Chevrolet’, ‘Chrysler’ and ‘Cord.’ (Highlighted sections on map above.) At the time, there were approximately 126,000 Japanese troops in that zone. Even after both atomic bombs were dropped, the Sixth Army was expected to have 15,000 casualties.

MacArthur had wanted to keep Gen. Eichelberger close to him and direct the operations since his record with the 11th A/B on Luzon was so efficient. As had been mentioned previously, the five-star general felt that Gen. Krueger had led a rather undistinguished campaign thus far.

General plan for "Downfall"

General plan for “Downfall”

The itemized tons of materiel listed in the plans grew beyond comprehension. P-51 Mustang fighters were shipped to Guam still in their crates. Stocking grew on Tinian, Saipan, Samar, Luzon, Hawaii, the Marianas, the Carolines and the west coast of the U.S. (just to name a few). The logistics could only be explained by experts.

In a memo from the Undersecretary of the Navy, a project named “Dagwood” was mentioned, but I am unable to locate any details. MacArthur sent out a deceptive message (with slip-shot secrecy) to be intercepted by the Japanese called “Pastel Two.” This showed a detailed “plan” about Allied landings on the China coast. The Panama Canal had a steady stream of ships loaded with men, equipment and supplies. Seven more atomic bombs were on order for “Olympic” British, Canadian and Australian divisions were to be re-equipped with American weapons and logistical support to standardize the entire operation. The Allied planners felt they would ultimately involve 5 million men. (Operation Overlord in Europe totaled 150,000 men and 1,500 tanks.) They expected opposition from 5,000 kamikazes, which proved later to be correct. The main objective for “Olympic” would be to secure Kagoshima Wan; a great landlocked bay for which men and supplies would flow through for the post-invasion buildup.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Operation Coronet would follow Olympic on 1 March 1946 and would be a more massive invasion. The main objective then would be Tokyo Bay on Honshu.

The Naval plans were also far too complex for me to completely list here, but to give you an idea – Halsey’s Third Fleet was assigned eastern Honshu and the Fifth Fleet would take western Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. The Seventh Fleet would be at Korea (south of the 38th parallel) and Admiral Fletcher’s North Pacific Force would cover Hokkaido.


After the fall of Saipan, Japan knew they were forced to strengthen their homeland defenses. Yet this progress was moving slowly; labor was scarce, with the lack of fuel their mobilization was slow, production, food and weapons were decreasing rapidly. The country was becoming very tired of war. Covering the Japanese islands were four ground armies of eight divisions and 14 cadre divisions; plus three air defense divisions. Immense manpower groups were expected to bring this to 56 divisions, 38 brigades, somewhere in the vicinity of 2 million new men. War materiel was to be brought in from Manchuria. The Japanese plan of defense was called “Ketsu-Go.”

Japanese defenses

Japanese defenses

I realize the map is difficult to view even after you click on it, but try to see the black squares which represent Japanese defenses with artillery.


The 11th Airborne, training the reinforcements and handling the “mopping-up” details on Luzon were beginning to set odds on whether or not the war would end before “Olympic” went into play. The combined “Operation Downfall” was a “go” up until the ink on the surrender papers dried.

For Paul Putnam for his father Robert, a veteran of the 11th Airborne

Robert Putnam

Resources: ‘The Last Great Victory’ by Stanley Weintraub; History Learning Site; U.S. Army Heritage; ‘The Angels’ by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; ibiblio.org


Guest post #4 at Greatest Generations will be posted next Tuesday, please stop in and read about the vehicles, civilian and military during the WWII era. Let Judy and I know what think or even add some more info for us. Thank you.

About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 10, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. My Dad, Robert L. Putnam, was in the 11th and spent 1946 as part of the Occupation Force. I have a photo of him wearing his “Swing Cap” but have no idea how to post it here. He went back into the Army, again with the 11th at Ft. Campbell, KY, during Korea & will be 92 in April. He is 100% disabled, having suffered a broken back at Campbell in 1955, as well as loss of hearing during his first stint, in the 1940s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PLEASE thank your father and shake his hand for me! I am honored to be hearing from another child of the 11th A/B. If you have your father’s picture in your computer, please send it to ******** and I will be very happy to include it right here on this post by your comment. Was your father in Europe during Korea or in the 187th RCT? If he would care to have any story here on the site, I would be very happy to have it. My father usually stuck to humorous stories, that I loved hearing, but any story is appropriate.
      Thank you for contacting us, Paul.


  2. Thank you for explaining the details of the invasion. I’m so glad they were never carried out!


  3. Ron Scubadiver

    You give life to this slice of history.


  4. My grandmother DID practice with sharpened bamboo spears on a school ground in Tokyo. Very nice summation once again, gpcox!


    • Thank you, Mustang. It must have been so hard on the Japanese civilians trying to defend their country like that. What else did your grandmother say?


      • She had mentioned the training officer was an older, retired military man… and you know what? Now that I am revisiting your story here, I may have misspoke. While I am relatively sure she said Tokyo, it may have been in Fukui, on the Japan Sea side of Japan. When the firebombing just started, they apparently (the family) moved to Fukui to escape the carnage. She may have trained there. But one thing is for certain. Nothing remained of her neighborhood, known as “Shimbashi 5 Chome”.


        • If you look at the map again, no matter where the family moved to, they would have had to train. Downfall basically surrounded Japan. What trepidation they must have felt.


  5. Thanks for a highly informative piece GP 🙂


  6. Great details, as usual.


  7. Wow, I had heard about these operations before but have never taken the time to read about it. Thank you for this post. Well done. Jim


  8. Thanks again.

    These posts want to make me revisit WW II in greater detail. Then again, I could just wait for your posts. Actually, that sounds like a great idea.


  9. I have not read this aspect of the Pacific War. I suppose the two atom bombs and the Surrender eclipsed everything.

    This helped fill a gap for me.

    Thank you,


  10. I know it is part of planning but it must be hard to calculate casualties and be realistic about the fact that they will happen.


  11. Pierre Lagacé

    I knew just a little bit about the planned invasion. Now I can say I know a whole lot more.
    This is a very informative.


  12. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    The planned invasion of Japan.


  13. Congratulations!

    I have nominated your blog for the Liebster Award.

    The rules of this award are at



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