Army Corps of Engineers in Japan after WWII

Osaka, Japan, 1945, canvas tanks of water purification station run by the 323rd Engineers/98th Division

Under the terms of surrender that ended World War II, Japan fell under Allied occupation. U.S. Army engineers faced a daunting challenge in constructing facilities for the occupation forces and rebuilding the vanquished nation’s infrastructure. The immediate postwar standard of living in Japan had sunk to subsistence levels and U.S. Army Air Force bombing raids destroyed much of the nation’s industrial base. Roadways originally were designed for light vehicle traffic and frequently were unsurfaced, and railroads often were of differing gauges. Unskilled labor was plentiful but craftsmen were scarce. Sewage systems were nonexistent. To complicate matters, at the occupation’s outset, Japanese construction firms were not considered financially sound nor did they operate with bonding or insurance.

Under the Far East Command—the ruling authority in occupied Japan—the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers created an engineer district equivalent, the Army Construction Agency, Japan, to accomplish all project work, with project review performed by the Army Forces Pacific theater engineer. However, the engineering support for the occupation was the responsibility of engineers from the U.S. Eighth Army, the Sixth Army Engineers out of Kyushu, and elements of the 5th Air Force Engineers. Additionally, to overcome a shortage of engineer troops, indigenous labor gangs were organized.

872nd Airborne Engineers repair Atsugi Airdome runway.

The intact Japanese civil government bore the financial responsibility for infrastructure reconstruction, including military programs. American area commanders funded projects by levying requisitions known as procurement demands on local Japanese administrations. After some abuses arose, the commanders lost their ability to make such requisitions. Instead all requirements were processed through General Headquarters. Eventually, the Japanese government, using Termination of War funds, was able to procure its own construction contractors. All were Japanese companies either created or expanded in response to the building requirements.

The centerpiece of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Japan was the base-building program to construct facilities supporting the occupation forces that at the same time would have joint-use applications. While in the early part of the occupation the U.S. military engaged in or supervised the Japanese in humanitarian and related civilian activities, the bulk of the engineering projects it performed involved converting existing facilities for the Eighth Army and other military units. Housing, hospitals, airfields, and administrative and operational structures were provided for American garrison divisions by rehabilitating former Imperial Army military camps. Many Japanese housing units were converted to house Americans and their dependents.

Quonset hut originally barracks for the 736th Engineers reused as office space for the 598th Engineer base, 1947

Other than some prefabricated buildings and petroleum tanks, building materials came from the local economy. In all, 15,000 dependent housing units were built or converted. Furthermore, former Japanese military ports and industrial plants became not only U.S. Army depots and logistics staging areas but also dual-use facilities. Repair and utilities support to all installations was funneled through regional post engineers, under whom utilities detachments and technicians resided. Because of the lack of civilian-operated heavy earth-moving equipment, engineer units performed all earthworks. By 1950, Army engineers had carried out total construction valued at more than $400 million.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, a new and extensive construction support program had a direct effect on Japan’s rehabilitation. Procurement totaled nearly $1 billion annually by 1953 and involved contracts with 3,000 Japanese firms. By the end of 1951 the Japanese were able to negotiate an end to Allied occupation.

598th Engineers Supply Div. at Yokohama base, 1948

The peace treaty that went into effect in 1952 allowed for a mutual defense pact under which U.S. forces remained in Japan. This agreement began the permanent base construction that has continued with the establishment of the Far East District in 1957 and the Japan Engineer District in 1972. The work of Army engineers, although begun in the wake of a war with such terrible devastation, in large measure contributed to the rise of a former enemy as both an advanced, democratic nation and a stable bulwark for American interests in the wider region. This effort lives on in the continued cooperation among uniformed and civilian employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, its contractors, other U.S. agencies abroad, local nationals, and the host government.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Happy 73rd Birthday –  U.S. Air Force

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Military Humor –

Army Engineers

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Farewell Salutes – 

Thomas Berry – Kilgore, TX; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Master Electrician

Robert L. Davisson – Savanna, IL; US Air Force, Korea, Sgt., radio operator

Charles Hill – Madison, TN; US Army, Co. C/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Albert Jenkins – Billings, MT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, aircraft mechanic

Jason K. Phan – Anaheim, CA; US Air Force, Kuwait, Senior Airman, 386th Expeditionary Security Force

Richard Fox – Racine, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-47 pilot, 368/396/9th Air Force

Robert Libby – Hiram, ME; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Palmer Mart – Elkhart, IN; US Navy,WWII, radioman

Terry R. Santos – San Francisco, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Recon/11th Airborne Division

Arthur Smith (100) – Kendaia, NY; US Army, WWII, ATO, Corps of Engineers

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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 September 17, 2020, in Post WWII, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 82 Comments.

  1. Fantastic militairy humor..Zo goed dat ze in record tempo mee alles terug heropbouwde na de oorlog maar wel verschrikkelijk dat er zo enorm veel vernield wordt in oorlogen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never see a Quonset hut without thinking of the few that were at the edge of my college campus. I’m sure they must have been leftover from WWII, or somehow related. They were used as labs and such when I was there, but I suppose they might even have been military housing or something in earlier years.

    The Corps of Engineers is so important to us here on the Texas Coast. They’re wrapping up a five and a half year Coastal Texas study, a proposal for coastal protection in Texas from Galveston to Brownsville. The plan includes a multi-gate system across the mouth of Galveston Bay and levees with lift gates that could rise and lower depending on the level of surge. It’s part of an effort to protect the petrochemical complex housed along the Houston Ship Channel.

    If any engineers can pull it off, I’d bet on these guys!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much military history out there gp, and you always come up with the goods in sharing the facts and stories behind the scenes, the reconstructions in this post were monumental, and I am sure that they would be well beyond 1 billion dollars in today’s money.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    i knew that Japan’s rebuilding happened, but not any details of it. Thank you for revealing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi – I just met an engineer while visiting FL and so this post connected to that
    Also – this part – “This effort lives on in the continued cooperation among uniformed and civilian employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer”
    Enjoy seeing how history like this evolves and connects
    to today

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Most people don’t know much about post war occupation, myself included. This was really interesting. Thank you, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reminds me of how fast the Corps built hospital facilities for Covid-19. Still out there, still working. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It is amazing how we rebuilt Japan after the war

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I remember those little castles on my cousin’s lapels when he returned from Japan on his way back to Ohio about 1946 or ’47. A tall man, he had a welt across his forehead that took a long time to go away.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The logistics of rebuilding the infrastructure, economy and health of a post-war nation is avast undertaking. Thank you for posting the reports of this part of the war, GP. They help with understanding that period in history.

    I remember the Air Force song! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • With the end of such a major war, these actions were sadly ignored. Once again, Europe took priority in the headlines with reporting the air lifts.

      Thank you for remembering the song. It gives me chills to hear it – as do all the military songs!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh crumbs … I just realized that I’m older than the U.S. Air Force.

    Liked by 3 people

    • haha, isn’t it a kick in the teeth when you realize things like that? I almost told someone the other day that I was 67… looks like old age has me forgetting a few years!!

      Like

  12. This does my heart good. I think Japan is such a wonderful country.
    Happy 73rd Birthday, U. S. Air Force!!! 🙂 I love that song…and all of the military theme songs…they make me proud and teary-eyed. My Dad taught us all of the songs, word for word, when we were kids and we enjoyed singing all of them! 🙂
    I wonder if kids even know them these days. ???
    How are you and your beloved ones doing amidst all the Sally stuff ??? I hope well and safe. Been thinking about you all.
    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for this one on the Army Corps on Engineers

    Liked by 2 people

  14. That was a fantastic job done there. Six years to turn a bunch of banzai screaming lunatics into a democratic country which wants no part of the two communist giants a short distance from them and which upholds all of the same values that we do.
    And all of the Japanese people that I have met have been delightful.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, GP. More interesting information about the occupation

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I’m afraid I don’t completely understand destroying a country and then helping them rebuild it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I like that quonset hut on the crane. Why take it apart when you have a perfectly good crane?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great article GP. I wonder how the SeaBees and the Army Engineer Battalions view each other. I’ve often found it amazing how within the 5 years between the end of WWII and the Korean War, Japan had changed roles so thoroughly and was viewed so differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Amazing how much destruction the war could cause! I saw Terry Santos on the Farewell Salutes and I remember him right away from the Los Banos raid. I had an article written by him on my files so I posted it on subliblog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I was very sorry to see that name in the “Taps” column of “The Voice of the Angels” (11th A/B newspaper). I’ll be over to your site shortly to see it. Thank you, Rose.

      Like

  20. It appears that the Korean War was something very positive for Japan. The need for bases and infrastructure started that country on its road to full recovery by the 1960s.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Very much like the postwar development in West Germany, your post shows how Japan, the former enemy of the United States, became a strong and reliable ally.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks for your like of my post, “Israel In Isaiah, 4:2-6, 760 B.C., The Millennial Kingdom ;” you are very kind. Please keep up your own good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I am enjoying reading about these guys at work. It had to be a huge challenge, but somehow, I think they probably liked it that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The engineers were some of the best innovators. All during the war they had to use whatever was available to accomplish their mission. Now, it would probably seem easy [or easier] to get the job done.

      Like

  24. It was good to learn about the rebuilding efforts, which, I would think, would be a way to prevent more wars?

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Army Corps of Engineers in Japan after WWII — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups Downs Family History

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