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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)

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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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