Spearhead I

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28 August 1945, Japanese officers signed the surrender documents in Rangoon to finalize Japan’s defeat in Burma. On islands throughout the Pacific, enemy troops surrendered in droves to American and British authorities in the following days. Most of the men were malnourished and ill.

Mount Fuji from an American plane

Mount Fuji from an American plane

30 August, due to the latest typhoon, the first plane carrying the 11th A/B does not leave Okinawa until this date. Colonel John Lackey lifted off Kadena Airfield at 0100 hours with General Swing on board. The 187th regiment, upon arriving at Atsugi Airfield (just outside Tokyo), after their seven hour flight, immediately surrounded the area and the Emperor’s Summer Palace to form a perimeter. The 3d battalion of the 188th regiment, the honor guard and the band showed up to prepare for MacArthur’s arrival.

Swing brought with him a large American flag and a banner painted, “CP 11th Airborne Division” to be fastened onto the roof of airplane hangar. He was dressed in battle fatigues and “11th A/B” was stenciled on his helmet. He carried a .38 pistol and a bandolier of .38 caliber shells draped across his chest. (As ready for combat in Japan as he was on Leyte and Luzon.) A Japanese officer approached him as he departed the plane. The officer saluted and introduced himself as Lieut-General Arisuye, the officer in control of the Atsugi sector. He then asked the general what his current orders would be and Gen. Swing lost no time in telling him.

American POWs had been left unguarded at their prisons just days before. Two hours after Gen. Swing’s arrival, two POWs walked into the CP. (command post). They had taken a train from the prison to Tokyo. No Japanese soldiers or civilians approached them along the way.

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Later that day, Colonel Yamamoto presented himself as the chief liaison officer; both he and his aide were still wearing their swords. Gen. Swing ordered them to remove their weapons. Yamamoto arrogantly protested and insisted on explaining that the sword was his symbol of authority. Swing repeated his order, but with a more firm and commanding tone of voice and the two Japanese men complied immediately. The 11th A/B then proceeded on to Yokohama where the Allied Headquarters was to be established. The fifth largest city of Japan was now little more than a shantytown after the persistent Allied bombings. In fact, most of the towns and cities resembled the crumbled remains seen in Europe. Yokohama and Tokyo would become sites for the Allied Military Tribunal trials for the Japanese war criminals, similar to those held in Nuremberg for the Germans.

Yokohama

Yokohama

The trucks waiting for the men at Atsugi airfield to be used as transportation between Tokyo and Yokohama mostly ran on charcoal and wood. Only a few vehicles still operated on gasoline. They were consistently breaking down and the fire engine that led General MacArthur’s motorcade was said to look like a Toonerville Trolley.

Below, the photographs from the New York “Daily News” show the 11th A/B in front of the New Grand Hotel and on the right, one of the many vehicles that constantly broke down. (click to enlarge) The dates written on the pictures are the days in which my grandmother cut them from the paper, not the dates the pictures were taken.

11th A/B makes the news again

11th A/B makes the news again

General Swing wanted to view his newly arriving troops farther down the runway from where he was, when he spotted a Japanese general exiting his car. Seconds later, ‘Jumpin’ Joe’ hopped into the backseat. The interpreter translated from the driver to Swing that the limo was reserved for the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Army. Swing roared in returned, “Goddamn it, we won the war. Drive me down the strip.” Once in front of his troops, Swing exited the car and the Japanese captain said, “Well sir, Generals are alike in all armies.”

The 11th Airborne band set up for the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur at 1400 hours. When the general’s plane the ‘Bataan’ landed, the five-star general paused at the door wearing his pleated khakis, his shirt unbuttoned at the neck and the garrison hat with the gold encrusted visor crown. (In other words – his typical attire). There were no ribbons clipped to his shirt, but the customary corncob pipe hung from his lips at an angle. He then descended, shook hands with Gen. Eichelberger and quietly said, “Bob, from Melbourne to Tokyo is a long way, but this seems to be the end of the road. This is the payoff.”

The Brass at Atsugi

The Brass at Atsugi

In the photo above, General Swing is dressed for combat on the far left, General Eichelberger is on the far right, next to General MacArthur; shot taken – 30 August 1945.

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Resources: “The Pacific War” by Costello; “Rakkasans” & “Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division,” both by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; AOL Images, Everett’s Scrapbook

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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 April 2, 2013, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. prayingforoneday

    HUGE WWII researcher here.
    A time when Men would take their own life if not able to fight for their country.
    What a different world today!!

    Thank you for the follow.
    I followed and subscribed to your blog.

    From Scotland
    Shaun

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    • Good to see you’re with us. Enjoy your visits and add any stories here you wish.

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      • prayingforoneday

        Thank you I will. I don’t know where my interest peaked. I think it was what I said. An old gentleman I lived near when I was a younger adult and my kids were Toddlers told me this story of men taking their own lives because they could not fight against the Germans.

        Now people are doing likewise to NOT fight in, well, can we call it war?

        I will certainly be adding something to your blog. I have subscribed to will get an email when you blog

        Thanks again.
        Shaun

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  2. That bit about Generals being all alike in any army was priceless..lol

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  3. I just love the “bits and pieces” of information your posts are always filled with. Great job again.

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  4. Awesome post, so many details that I have never heard about before and so many new (to me) pictures. Great compilation!

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  5. How I enjoyed reading this. I was a child growing up in Australia during this period and heard almost daily about Japanese atrocities. A few years later, when, as a young woman, I went alone to Japan – I was terrified. How surprised I was when the people treated me with kindness.

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  6. Great, I can see a little of what was going on as my father was being liberated from Nakhon Nayok (north east of Bangkok). In my father’s memoirs he wrote: Our actual rescuer was a single American paratrooper who walked into the camp one morning. He was a most impressive sight in well-pressed jungle green uniform, polished boots and a complete armoury of weapons. He carried a sub-machine gun, had two pistols stuck into his belt, and several knives, a most astonishing spectacle to a bunch of very thin men in Jap happies or tattered shorts.

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  7. I wonder if there are any corresponding blogs (in English) from the Japanese–veterans’ recollection of the arrival of the Americans. The historian John Toland interviewed many in his historical account of the Pacific war but that was long before blogs and while the survivors’ memories still clicked. In 1961 whein I joined the Navy there still old salts who had served in the war aboard the ships I served on. For 20 years I visited scores of ports in the Pacific and watched the hatred of the Japanese throughout the occupied countries wane and eventurally all but fade, an increidble, benevolent change that bodes hope. Once again, thank you for this blog.

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    • I’ve read most of Toland’s books; he understands the differences in the cultures. A unique insight rather than our one-sided views in our textbooks.

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  8. WordpressReport.wordpress

    Reblogged this on Heil World Wars.

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  9. also, this reminiscense Spearhead I is very interesting !

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  10. so is this blog maintained by the child of an 11th Airborne trooper or the soldier himself? – an old client of mine Bill Whaley served w/the 11th and told me many stories – he’s been deceased since about ’96 but i had thought about writing something about him – sort of a memorial – anyway, its nice to make contatct w/another blogger interested in the war in the pacific

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    • I am the child of the trooper, Smitty. I think it would be terrific if you did a memorial for your friend. Do you remember which regiment he was in? If you have any extra stories, feel free to put them here. I find it difficult to find them; so many concentrate on the ETO.

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      • sorry its taken me so long to get back to you – Bill was in the 511th and someday i will write about him – he died on 2/23/96 – oddly enough, 2/23 is the anniversary of the liberation of los banos and i believe his company took part in that – if you want to post something i wrote about a WWII vet who’s a neighbor of mine go to diospsytrek (my blog) and find Angelo: Part Two

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        • Yes, you are correct – 2/23 is the anniversary of Los Banos and yes, part of the 511th did participate. I’ll be sure to check out your story.

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  11. A vivid account of the events. Thank you.

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  12. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    Always interesting to read.

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  13. What more can I say than what I always say about this blog…

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