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I wrote three blogs a while ago called Nuclear Weapons are Dark Magic. (The links are below) I talk about how evil and destructive nuclear weapons are. However, this doesn’t mean that I think the bombs being dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were 100% unjustified. I get annoyed by the polarizing views that people often have on this subject.
In parts 2 and 3, I write about Operation Downfall, which was the Allied invasion plan in place for Japan that would have happened if the Japanese had kept fighting after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This would have been the largest scale invasion in history, dwarfing D-Day by far!
In the end of part 3, I explain Operation Ketsugo, which was the Japanese defense plan in place to counter an attack from the Allies that they were expecting. This would have turned out to be Operation Downfall. I also discuss the number of bombs that would have been dropped on Japan. As if those used on Nagasaki and Hiroshima weren’t horrifying enough, the Allies were going to drop somewhere between 7 and 15 more of those motherfuckers!
Part 4: Operation Downfall and the Terrors of War
Due to the thorough Japanese defence of Kyushu, alternate attack targets were considered by the Allies. These included Shikoku and Honshu, the latter of which would have allowed the Americans to more easily get to Tokyo. Honshu was less heavily defended, but the Allies would not have had any land support there. As part of the deception, fake landings in Shikoku were going to be the second part of Operation Pastel, and the first phase of Coronet. (sections of Operation Downfall) The deception plan for Hokkaido probably wouldn’t have worked as well as it would have with Shikoku. That’s because by June in 1945, the Japanese decided that Hokkaido would only be used for defence. By July, they predicted that the Allies would pretend to threaten to attack Hokkaido. So they likely wouldn’t have been tricked by this misdirection, and a fake assault on Shikoku would probably have worked better.
The part of Operation Pastel that involved the Americans pretending to launch attacks on Okinawa from the air would likely have panned out for them. This is because the Japanese expected airborne assaults on airfields. But Pastel was a worse deception plan that Coronet because the latter involved fake targets that were difficult to anticipate. Since Pastel didn’t include these, the Japanese predicted the exact three beaches where the Allies would supposedly land.
Due to the Japanese expecting assaults on Kashima, the fake landings in Sendai and Kashima as part of Operation Coronet would probably have worked. They also would have been tricked into thinking that Sagami was a secondary attack location because this is exactly what they anticipated. The coast of China was a good deception target as well because the Japanese expected being attacked there.
The essential structure of the American deception plans were obvious to the Japanese, so they got really good at predicting them before they were implemented. This made Allied misdirection efforts pretty ineffective in some ways. But overall, the Americans were good at anticipating what the Japanese would label as secondary targets. However, the Japanese were excellent at predicting the basic way that Allied deception plans would be implemented.
General Macarthur didn’t want to change the original Operation Olympic plan because he said that the Japanese defence was exaggerated. Marshall wanted to invade. He thought that Operation Olympic was the best plan for reducing casualties and financial costs. But he understood President Truman’s concerns about less public support for this.
The Americans didn’t know that the Russians tentatively planned to invade the Japanese island called Hokkaido in August of 1945. The naval bases there made it a target. However, a few months before that, the U. S. had agreed to let Russia take over Honshu and Hokkaido. If this had happened, it would have likely encouraged the U. S. to start Downfall before November, which was when the original attack was intended to happen. Operations Olympic and Coronet would have been defended by Japanese Kamikaze attacks in Honshu and Kyushu.
Some histor-ans claim that the Russ-ians had metic-ulous plans for Far East invasions. At least a few of them even point to attack strategies for Nazi Germany. But the one for Hokkaido was probably only poorly formed in Stalin’s imagination. He cancelled that plan when he realized that the Japanese would surrender. It was unlikely that he actually wanted to invade the Far East. He was dedicated to constructing coastal European defences so he could commit enough forces to Asia. Also, how committed he was to providing military forces or giving diplomatic attention to foreign continents is open to debate. Some historians claim that he was more focused on Europe, but others argue that he wanted to spread Communism as widely as possible. However, it seems like the chances that Stalin wanted to risk full-scale war with Germany were low. This was apparently true even after Hitler’s admittedly failed winter invasion.
High casualties were estimated for Operation Downfall, but the numbers fluctuated wildly. General Macarthur predicted 23 000 casualties in the first 30 days, and 125 000 after 120 days. Including the Japanese, 11 000-70 000 deaths were estimated by General Marshall. The numbers given by the Secretary of War’s staff were 1.7 million-4 million; 400 000-800 000 for the Americans, 5 million-10 million for the Japanese.
In anticipation of the Japanese invasion, 500 000 purple hearts were made. By some accounts, this is a higher number than all the U. S. casualties since World War Two! 120 000 of these awards were still left in 2003, and soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq received some of them.
After the Japanese surrendered, they gave a lot of war supplies from their islands and South Korea to the Americans. These included land and navy weapons and vehicles, planes, and swords, the last of which were difficult to transport. I guess that it isn’t easy to safely store and ship swords without worrying about someone accidentally getting stabbed.
Operation Downfall was an elaborate invasion planned for after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It changed often, and the projected casualties fluctuated a lot. The detailed deception and complete overkill with the insane amount of nuclear weapons intended to be used shows how good human beings are at war. We have become very sophisticated and organized in the way we kill each other. Imagine how much worse off Japan would have been if Operation Downfall had been successfully used. 2 Atomic bombs is horrifying enough. Can you even image the soul-crushing carnage and bloodshed of 7-15 more of them?! I can scarcely contemplate that level of slaughter and destruction.
But this isn’t to say something like, “Ra-ra! America sucks!” To me, Operation Downfall paints a terrifying picture of the level of brutality that we as an entire species are capable of inflicting on each other. In my opinion, war is sometimes necessary because their are people who need to be stopped, like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. But it’s also horrifying, and should be avoided at all costs. Human beings are so tribal that we demonize those in different groups. It causes people on all sides of every war to kill innocents out of xenophobia and nationalism. Bearing all this in mind though, Downfall also shows that the Japanese could have suffered a hell of a lot more than they did. They experienced undeserved incredible death and destruction. But it could have been at least three times worse.
One main aspect of Operation Downfall that I enjoy learning about is the level of misdirection involved in war. In the historian Dr. Thomas M. Huber’s book, Pastel: Deception in the Invasion of Japan, he mentions another book called Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War. The author, Barton Whaley, argues that good deception planners are like playwrights. They need to have all the characters, actions and setting in place. He also says that these performances should always have a kernel of truth in them. That way, they can represent reality better and be more convincing.
…To be Continued…