Okinawa, August 1945

"Betty" bomber, Io Jima, 1945

“Betty” bomber, Io Jima, 1945

19 August 1945, Japanese Lt. General Kanabe and fifteen other emissaries secretly left Kazarazu air base in two Mitsubishi “Betty” bombers, painted white with green crosses, as ordered by General MacArthur, to comply with the surrender of the Philippines at Manila. After landing at Nichols Field and met by General Sutherland, they surrendered their swords. During the initial meeting, the Japanese were instructed to have 400 trucks and 100 sedans at Atsugi Airfield in readiness to receive the 11th Airborne. This caused much concern with the dignitaries. Atsugi had been a training base for kamikaze pilots and many of them were refusing to surrender. There were also 300,000 well-trained troops on the Kanto Plain of Tokyo, so MacArthur moved the landing for the 11th A/B to the 28th of August; five days later than originally planned.

Gen. Kanabe & Japanese delegation on Io Jima

Gen. Kanabe & Japanese delegation on Io Jima

There was much discussion as to whether or not the 11th Airborne would fly into Japan or parachute down. Troopers tried jumping from the B-24s on the island, but it proved to be an awkward plane for that purpose. To carry the men to Japan and then return was impossible for the C-46, therefore C-54s were brought in from around the world and crammed onto the island.

Parachute packing on Okinawa, 1945

Parachute packing on Okinawa, 1945

GHQ ordered General Swing to form an honor guard company for General MacArthur. Captain Glen Carter of the 187th regiment became the company commander. Every man was required to be 5′ 11″ or taller.

18-20 August, the Soviet army overran the Kwantung Army in central Manchuria, taking three cities in three days. They continued south in the quickest campaign of Soviet history, killing 80,000 Japanese.

11th Airborne Division patch

11th Airborne Division patch

28 August was to be the intended date for U.S. arrival in Japan, but two typhoons put a snafu on the trooper’s strategies. My father recalled, during their prolonged stay on the island, meeting some of the 509th Bomber Group. They were feeling guilt or remorse or still in shock over the extent of damage and death that had been created by the two atomic bombs. What they had witnessed through their goggles seemed to be a nightmare straight out of “Buck Rogers. The airmen begged, borrowed, but usually purchased an 11th A/B patch to sew over their own before entering Japan. Smitty said he gave away so many of them because he could not imagine the panorama of destruction they had seen or the gut feelings they would carry for the remainder of their lives. They were men who carried out their orders, but they were hurting.

Loading an L-5 into a C-54 on Okinawa, 1945

Loading an L-5 into a C-54 on Okinawa, 1945

The Emperor was wary of any fanatical emotions that might still be lingering within the kamikaze pilots. Therefore, he sent his brother, Prince Takamatsu, with a team to dismantle the propellers from their planes to prevent any “heroics” from occurring before MacArthur’s plane, the Bataan, was scheduled to land. The previously all-powerful Japanese Army had had such control over the country for so long that these precautions had to be fulfilled to ensure a peaceful occupation. This was all carried out while the Emperor still believed he would be executed as a war criminal.

Pacific Situation map (note date: August 22)

Pacific Situation map (note date: August 22)

CLICK ONTO PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

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Resources: Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division and Rakassans by E.M. Flanagan, Presidio Press; Pacific: Day by Day by John Davison, Chartwell Books; Everett’s scrapbook; The Pacific War by John Costello,pub. RawsonWade

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About GP Cox

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

Posted on March 28, 2013, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Here’s a short entry from my grandpa, David Franklin Milam’s diary He was on the USS Yorktown CV-10 as an electrician. The entry was written on August 27 1945:

    MacArthur with part of the fleet pulled into Tokyo bay. Yorktown was proclaimed Fighting Lady by Cedric Foster. Pilots dropped bundles to P.W. One camp had large sign, “Thanks Yorktown.” One prisoner carried a flag saying, “VFT5-YORKTOWN.” He is believed to be a pilot lost on ship’s first raid at Marcus island.

    Like

    • Fabulous story – now THAT’S what I mean. I love it when everyone chimes in to add to the actually atmosphere of what was going on back then. Thank you, Georgia. (Let’s hope the guys get the idea.)

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  2. Very interesting! Thanks for this historical piece, your style of writing is very eloquent.

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  3. Too many people in this country have no concept, understanding or interest in what our military has done and continues to try doing (in political handcuffs) for our freedoms — and that seems to include most of today’s politicians (pardon my soapbox rant).

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    • Rant all you want, not only is your opinion always welcome, but I agree. In my post about setting the stage for war, I drastically tuned the article down because schoolbooks tend to try and make heroes out of the politicians and people get their backs up when heroes are attacked with the truth.

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  4. “They were feeling guilt or remorse or still in shock over the extent of damage and death that had been created by the two atomic bombs.”

    Thank you for including that. War is often avoidable and sometimes not, but it’s always a horror. My wife and I will be in Hiroshima this fall and, coincidentally, the city of Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku. We hope to visit Okinawa someday — I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place.

    History should be told in ways that make it relevant and interesting, and that make us think. You are obviously skilled at doing just that.

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  5. You are a link to the past that most certainly helps us to understand the hard-fought battles that made a difference in WWII. The dignity of your father and the work he and he fellow soldiers used to approach each task is evident in every post you share.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments. (You’re going to give me a swelled head -LOL) I know my father would say tho, that he had a unique commander in General Swing, unusual schemes for an unusual outfit.

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  6. Good site – I’m going to pass this blog off to my dad who flew the Pacific (and the Hump) in WWII in both C46 and PBY. Thanks.

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  7. This is fascinating. There seems to be almost as much strategy in executing surrenders/ peace deals as in carrying out fighting.

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  8. Covering their unit patches says it all. How interesting. Thank you.

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  9. It is so important to keep these stories alive – good job.

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  10. I seem to recall reading about the men who flew the planes, but can’t remember the details of how they handled the aftermath. I suppose I should look it up.

    I imagine such a thing would weigh heavy in their minds, more so then the accumulated destruction over multiple individual raids causing as much or more destruction.

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    • The pilots usually disassociated themselves from the ground war, but the 509th couldn’t help but see what happened.

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      • I think it goes beyond that just a bit. You see the same thing now . . . you read about a crazy person slaughtering 26 kids, and the whole country gets up in arms . . . while not giving a second thought to the 40+ who die each day from drunk driving.

        I don’t mean to debate the point, but the pilots who dropped “regular” bombs, and “regular” incendiary bombs on civilian populations could not have been all that ignorant about the fate of people they were bombing. That was, after all, the point of the bombing . . . to tear at the will of the population to continue with the war.

        They may “disassociate” themselves from the end result, but that’s just a different word for lying to themselves, or rationalizing what they were doing.

        So, yeah, in a sense the immediacy of the A-Bombs is different, but I’m just pointing out how we choose what to react to, and how things impact us. In general, we are not very rational or logical beings.

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  11. I can’t imagine the inner conflict the 509th Bomber Group must have felt. When you have witnessed so much destruction, it’s very hard to keep reminding yourself that you probably saved quite a few more lives around the world if the war had continued.I love the insight you give to each of your posts.

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  12. The Emporer should have been put on trial as a war criminal but it would have meant the Japanese would have fought to the last man, woman and child. The fighting and suffering has to stop sometime.

    When he visited the UK in later life, former POWs lined the route and turned their back on him. The Queen shook his hand as head of State. The Duke of Edinburgh ex Royal Navy, and Far East veteran stood in the background,

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  13. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    My father recalled, during their prolonged stay on the island, meeting some of the 509th Bomber Group. They were feeling guilt or remorse or still in shock over the extent of damage and death that had been created by the two atomic bombs. What they had witnessed through their goggles seemed to be a nightmare straight out of “Buck Rogers. The airmen begged, borrowed, but usually purchased an 11th A/B patch to sew over their own before entering Japan. Smitty said he gave away so many of them because he could not imagine the panorama of destruction they had seen or the gut feelings they would carry for the remainder of their lives. They were men who carried out their orders, but they were hurting.

    Like

  14. Pierre Lagacé

    I like this part…

    My father recalled, during their prolonged stay on the island, meeting some of the 509th Bomber Group. They were feeling guilt or remorse or still in shock over the extent of damage and death that had been created by the two atomic bombs. What they had witnessed through their goggles seemed to be a nightmare straight out of “Buck Rogers. The airmen begged, borrowed, but usually purchased an 11th A/B patch to sew over their own before entering Japan. Smitty said he gave away so many of them because he could not imagine the panorama of destruction they had seen or the gut feelings they would carry for the remainder of their lives. They were men who carried out their orders, but they were hurting.

    Like

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