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Sunday, September 02, 2012

The End of a World, September 2, 1945

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On September 2nd, 1945, the Second World War ended with the signing of surrender documents by a Japanese government and military delegation on board the American battleship USS Missouri. Military representatives of every Allied power fighting in the Pacific were present, along with members of the press, who reported the sights and sounds of the ceremony to a world eager for peace. From beginning to end, the event lasted 23 minutes. And though most people alive at the time did not realize it, the ceremony also marked the beginning of one world and the end of another.

 Although history rarely falls into the neat patterns of human expectation, there are dates which clearly mark the beginnings or ends of eras. September 2nd, 1945 marked the end of several eras---cultural, political, and military. It also marked the beginning of the world in which we now live, a world that would be fundamentally different had just a few small events turned out differently in 1945. While most people alive today had not yet been born when the Second World War ended, we live with the aftereffects of that conflagration every day.

 As the victorious allied representatives stared at the Japanese delegation on the other side of the table holding the surrender documents, some of them had to wonder what they had won. The Soviet officers present were citizens of a nation that had suffered over 23 million military and civilian deaths, although the exact figure will never be known. That number represented 14% of the USSR's population. Only Poland, with nearly six million dead, had a greater percentage of its population killed by the war. For Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the war was far from over. Eastern Europe and the area that would become East Germany were subject to communist reprisals for years after the war officially ended in Europe in May, 1945. Anyone living in an area under Soviet control that had fought with Germany or in any way opposed the Red Army was arrested and either sent to the infamous gulags of Siberia or summarily executed. German prisoners-of-war being held by the Soviets did not go home when the war ended; most of them died during the war years. Those who survived were put to work at various industrial sites inside the Soviet Union and were not repatriated until the mid-1950s. Most of these men were not guilty of war crimes and a majority weren't Nazis; they just had the misfortune of being on the losing side and surrendering to an enemy that did not recognize the Geneva Convention’s rules governing the treatment of prisoners-of-war.

Not that being on the winning side helped many Soviet soldiers held by the Germans when the war ended. Almost all of them were imprisoned upon returning to their home country under orders from Stalin, who probably saw them as an embarrassing reminder of how badly he had blundered during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. Some of the Soviet POWs and others, including many Polish soldiers, had no desire to return to areas controlled by the communists because they knew what awaited them. What they did not know, and what the world would not know for another 50 years, was that their fates had already been decided by Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and US President Franklin Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in February, 1945. One of Stalin’s demands was for the quick return of any Soviet or Eastern European citizen who had ended the war in territory not controlled by the Red Army. Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to this demand, even though they understood the implications. Apologists for both men claim they were ignorant of Stalin’s plans, but history recent to 1945 had shown the Soviet leader to be genocidal and paranoid. The two Western leaders were, by tacit approval, helping to send tens of thousands of men to certain imprisonment or death.

The Chinese delegation on board the Missouri that Sunday morning was comprised of representatives of the Republic of China, the legitimate Nationalist government of that nation as recognized by all the allies except the Soviet Union. China had been embroiled in a civil war since 1928, a struggle that was largely abandoned while the two sides, the Nationalists and the Communists, fought separately against the Japanese. At the same time the Japanese surrender ceremony commenced in Tokyo Harbor, the two Chinese belligerents were trying to hammer out some sort of agreement on their nation's future. But fighting continued, and by the middle of 1946 the two sides were again fully engaged in a death struggle. The Nationalists could claims superior numbers in terms of manpower, but the Communists controlled the countryside and were soon bolstered by farmers who were promised their own land in exchange for military service, a promise that quickly turned into a fantasy. By the end of the 1949, the war was over and the Communists were taking power in Beijing. The Nationalists escaped to Taiwan and set up a government-in-exile, but from the beginning it was obvious that they would never again control the mainland. They had not only been beaten by the Communists, but by years of struggle against the Japanese occupation.

China would undergo painful upheavals over the next 40 years, including the Great Leap Forward, a plan to make the nation into an industrial giant in the course of just a few years. As a result of mismanagement and the allocation of resources away from agriculture to manufacturing, the years 1958-1962 saw more than 16 million people (and possibly as many as 40 million) die of starvation. This failed movement led directly to the Cultural Revolution, the effects of which shaped Chinese society for a generation.

Also represented on the Missouri were the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. All three had been colonial powers in the Pacific before the outbreak of hostilities, but most of their possessions had been occupied by Japanese forces and, with a few exceptions, would never be fully under their control again. France tried to quell the rising tide of anti-colonialism in French Indochina (Vietnam), but after a stunning military defeat at the hands of Viet Minh communists in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, the government in Paris was done in mainland Asia. Vietnam was divided in two, but the partition solved nothing. In a little over 10 years, American, Australian and South Korean troops would be fighting communist insurgents and North Vietnamese Army regulars in the jungles of South Vietnam.

Of all the colonial powers, the British Empire paid the highest price for victory. The British people and the colonial citizens of the Empire, along with the Dominion nations, had stood alone against the Nazi war machine from the fall of France in May, 1940 until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941. British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and dozens of other nations' soldiers, sailors, and airmen from across the Empire fought on almost every front during the war. Resources were always strained, even after the United States entered the war in December, 1941. In 1922, four years after the end of the First World War, one in four human beings lived in lands controlled by the British Empire. It was truly worldwide in scope; when people said the sun never set on the British Empire, they meant it. But even then, cracks were starting to appear. Defending far-flung outposts required the world’s largest navy and a large standing army. The Royal Navy met the challenge, at least until the outbreak of the Second World War. But Britain could not maintain a large standing army as France did during most of the inter-war years. Nor could it fight a two-front war. The Empire had reached beyond its grasp; bravery and a stiff upper lip were no longer enough to win the day on their own. Such was the availability of the Royal Navy, for example, that when the British Pacific Fleet was formally organized in 1944 from smaller area commands, the entire formation was given a single task force number when operating with units of the US Pacific Fleet, itself part of a navy which had strength of more than 6,000 ships in 1945. The British Pacific Fleet contained fewer than 180 vessels during the same period. The Empire’s largest colony, India, gained its independence in 1947. Within 20 years, almost all the colonial territories would be independent nations. By the time the generation who fought the war reached middle age, the term ‘British Empire’ was no longer in use. Economically devastated, it would not be until the beginning of the 1950’s that the UK’s economy would again show sustained growth.

Of all the allied powers, only the United States emerged stronger overall than when the war began. While the death of nearly 420,000 Americans was a grievous loss, it was actually a smaller death toll than had occurred during the US Civil War 80 years before. And it was a much smaller total than expected, since all but a handful of Americans assumed that victory in the Pacific would require an invasion of the Japanese home islands. While the morality of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki is debated today, the average American of 1945 welcomed the news with relief. While the economic might of the United States had been evident for decades, it emerged from the Second World War as a superpower in every quantifiable way. But that status came with great responsibilities. By 1947, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was underway. Historians will probably debate the true origins of this standoff for the next few centuries and we will not delve into the causes or merits of it here. The Soviet Union’s military might did not fade immediately after the war; conversely, the United States’ military draw-down was quick and, as later events would prove, excessive. The lessons learned from the Berlin Airlift in 1947-48 and the Korean War (1950-53) led to a situation unique in American history. Until the mid-20th century, the United States had an established tradition of allowing the American military to shrink to alarming levels during times of peace. When war loomed, citizen soldiers volunteered (or were drafted) to fill in the ranks, led by the small corps of professional officers and senior enlisted men. Arms manufacturers cranked up production and makers of other products began making the tools of combat.

So it had been from the War of Independence to the Second World War. But those days had passed. The Cold War required constant readiness, which required a relatively large military. The United States kept troops on permanent station in West Germany, South Korea, Japan, and dozens of other places around the world, armed and trained for the Third World War. This costly endeavor was maintained for 40 years, until the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. Such military strength required the creation of a permanent arms industry in the United States, Europe and Asia. The so-called military-industrial complex is still with us and probably always will be. America’s willingness to out-spend and out-research the Soviet Union in terms of military spending and procurement was one of the leading causes of the collapse of communism in Europe. The Cold War was won not with the force of arms, but by the constant threat of new and better ones.

It doesn’t take much examination to see how fundamentally our world changed because of the Second World War. That war brought an end to the vestiges of 19th century life, mainly colonialism and the idea that wars were only to be fought against a nation’s military, not its entire civilian population. It also created the specter of nuclear annihilation, a reality that probably kept the world out of another worldwide conflagration. But that’s another story.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Voyager Begins The Journey, August 20, 1977

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Thirty-five years ago today, NASA launched Voyager 2, a 1,600 pound space probe, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Despite its numerical designation, Voyager 2 was the first of the Voyager probes to be launched. The Voyager twins' mission is to explore our solar system's outer planets and study interstellar space beyond.

The idea for the Voyager probes dates back to the late 1960's. Aerospace engineer Gary Flandro of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory conceived a mission (called the Planetary Grand Tour) requiring four probes that would be launched in the mid- to late 1970's. That time frame would take advantage of an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, an event that would not happen again for 175 years. Two of the probes would fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto. The other two would pass by Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.

After the last Apollo mission in 1972, NASA faced budget cuts that spelled doom for many planned programs, including the Planetary Grand Tour. But money remained for two probes, originally meant to be a continuation of the Mariner Project, which explored the inner solar system. After the probes' design was finalized, it was decided they needed their own name because they were a generation ahead of the Mariner probes. Thus, the Voyagers were born.

The Voyager spacecraft, as they came to be called instead of probes, were not the first craft sent from earth to the outer reaches of our solar neighborhood. That honor goes to the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions, which passed by Jupiter and Saturn. Pioneer 11 arrived at Saturn almost a year before Voyager 1 and was used to test the larger spacecraft's route. While the two Pioneers gained valuable data, the Voyager spacecraft carried a wider array of scientific instrumentation and would pass by every planet in the outer solar system with the exception of Pluto, which was still considered a full-fledged planet at that time. The world had never seen Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune like they would see them in the coming years.

In December, 1977, Voyager 1 passed Voyager 2, so we will discuss Voyager 1's journey first. After exiting the asteroid belt in September, 1978, Voyager 1 arrived within observation range of Jupiter in January, 1979 and made its closest approach to the planet (217,000 miles) in March of that year. It was during this fly-by that Jupiter's planetary rings, a smaller version of the rings surrounding Saturn, were discovered. Using Jupiter as a gravitational slingshot, Voyager 1 took its last picture of Jupiter in April and began the long journey to Saturn.
Voyager 1 arrived at Saturn nineteen months later, in November, 1980. It soon discovered that the planet's massive rings were much more complex than anyone on Earth had imagined; instead of several broad rings, there are dozens of sub-groups of small rings in larger bands. To those of us old enough to remember such things, they looked like the grooves on a record.

As Voyager 1 made its way to Saturn, it was decided to alter its mission. Pioneer 11 had earlier detected a significant atmosphere on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. This was an important and surprising find, so Voyager 1's route was changed so it could make a close fly-by. However, this meant that the spacecraft would not be able to visit Uranus and Neptune. So, after a close encounter with Titan, which gravitationally pushed it out of the plane of the ecliptic, Voyager 1 headed for interstellar space.

Voyager 2 had a more extensive journey inside the solar system. Making its closest approach to Jupiter in July, 1979, the spacecraft made a surprising discovery: Io, one of Jupiter's many moons, is volcanically active. One of the images Voyager 2 captured was of a giant plume erupting from the moon's surface. This was the first time volcanic activity had been observed on any celestial body other than the Earth.

Voyager 2 made its close flyby of Saturn in August, 1981, after a 13-month trip from Jupiter. Almost all the iconic pictures of Saturn we see today were taken during this visit. The camera platform locked up from overuse during the Saturn flyby, threatening to cut the mission short. However, mission engineers were able to fix the problem and the spacecraft moved on to Uranus.

Uranus tilts towards the sun at a 90 degree angle, which makes it unique among the planets of our solar system. Voyager 2 discovered that, as a result of this radical tilt, the planets magnetic field trails behind the planet in a corkscrew pattern. It also studied the previously-known but still mysterious rings of Uranus and found them to be fundamentally different from those orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. Mainly, the Uranus ring system is thought to be a fairly recent addition to the planet's characteristics.

Voyager 2 made its last planetary visit in August, 1989, with a flyby of Neptune. It was decided to make a course correction so the spacecraft would also visit Triton, Neptune's largest moon. This resulted in Voyager 2's final trajectory out of the solar system being different than originally planned, but it made little difference as neither trajectory points to any specific interstellar destination.
In 2008, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a “plutoid” and stripped it of full planet status. Thus, 1989 marked the year by which all eight planets of our solar system had been visited at least once by probes from earth.

In 1998, Voyager 1 became the farthest man-made object from Earth, exceeding the record set by the slower Pioneer 10. Since these two craft are headed in nearly opposite directions, they are also the furthest apart of anything ever created by humans. Both of the Voyager spacecraft carry golden records containing instructions on how to play the disc and samples of sounds and pictures of life on earth. The best chance for either spacecraft to reach an intelligent species will come in 40,000 years, when Voyager 1 passes within 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888. By then, the spacecraft will be dead and cold, having used up all her nuclear fuel by 2025 or so. But as of this writing, both Voyagers are still active and sending limited amounts of data back to Earth. There is disagreement about where interstellar space actually begins, but both spacecraft are now beyond reach of the sun's solar winds. They will never return, but will always remain our first ambassadors to the endless universe.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Purple Heart is Born, August 7, 1782

On August 7th, 1782, Continental Army General George Washington issued an order establishing the forerunner to the Purple Heart, the Badge of Military Merit, for “singular meritorious action”. With nearly two million recipients, the Purple Heart is America’s oldest military award. Today, it is conferred upon any person wounded in action while serving in the armed forces of the United States.

During the Revolutionary War, only three members of the Continental Army were awarded the Badge of Military Merit. They were all sergeants from Connecticut: Daniel Bissell, William Brown and Elijah Churchill. They received the award at Newburgh, New York on June 10, 1783.

Although never officially abandoned, for the next century and a half the Badge fell into disuse. The Medal of Honor, first created and awarded during the Civil War, was the first decoration created after the Badge lapsed into disuse. However, by the third decade of the twentieth century, US military leaders decided it was time to improve the recognition of meritorious service. Thus was the Purple Heart, a re-birth of the Badge of Military Merit, created.

The exact timing of the revival was carefully chosen to mark the bicentennial of Washington's birthday. An Army heraldic specialist, Miss Elizabeth Will designed the device in 1931; John R. Sinnock then created a model of the device. It is 1-11/16 inches in length and 1-3/8 inches in width, suspended by a rounded rectangular length, which displays a vertical purple band with quarter-inch white borders. General Washington is shown in profile with his coat of arms, and set in three lines, "For Military Merit," with a space below for the recipient's name.

The man who issued the revival order was then-Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur. The Army allowed the medal to be awarded retroactively for those wounded or recognized for meritorious service during the First World War. As a result, over 300,000 soldiers who were veterans of that conflict received Purple Hearts. The first recipient was Douglas MacArthur.

In 1943, the conditions under which the Purple Heart were awarded were changed. Congress created the Legion of Merit during the first year of the war, so by Executive Order President Franklin Roosevelt extended the use of the award to all branches of the armed forces but limited its use to the recognition of those who are wounded or die in combat. Since that time, changes have been made as to who is eligible to receive the award, but its purpose has remained unchanged.

As was mentioned in the last episode of this podcast, in anticipation of the invasion of Japan, over five hundred thousand Purple Hearts were manufactured, a stock that has yet to be exhausted. Over one million American servicemen and women received the award during World War Two. Three hundred thousand veterans of the First World War were awarded the Purple Heart retroactively. The remaining 500,000 or so have been awarded since 1945, well more than half of that number during the Vietnam War.

Noticeable recipients of the Purple Heart include mainstream politicians and anti-war political activists, entertainers, actors, journalists, publishers and TV producers. The list includes the 35th US President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Colonel Ruby Bradley, America's most decorated military woman, former Marine and actor Lee Marvin, Chuck Yeager, the pilot who first broke the sound barrier, film producer Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic, who is depicted in Stone's biopic movie "Born on the Fourth of July", Rod Serling, the creator of the TV Series “Twilight Zone”, actor Charles Bronson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and novelist Kurt Vonnegut. At least one military working dog has been awarded an honorary Purple Heart.

The award is a true meritocracy. And because it is always awarded on behalf of the President of the United States, it serves a direct link back to the very first holder of that office.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What Price Victory, August 6, 1945

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Every outcome in history has at least one alternative, that path that was not followed. If you've listened to this podcast for a couple of years or more, you have heard a similar version of tonight's episode. This is one of the few times that, instead of exploring just the event as it occurred, we also take a look at the other likely path. Why? Because that other branch of the tree of history was the one that most of the world thought would be the one to play out. The path that was not chosen was also well-planned for by the groups involved because almost all the decision-makers were kept in the dark about one huge fact. This is amazingly rare in modern history.

On August 6, 1945, a United States Army Air Corps B-29 bomber named 'Enola Gay' dropped a uranium fission bomb codenamed “Little Boy” over the city of Hiroshima, Japan. On August 9, a B-29 named 'Bock's Car' dropped a bomb with a plutonium core named “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. These two dates remain the only times nuclear weapons have been used for their original intended purpose: to destroy population centers along with an enemy’s ability and desire to wage war. For seven decades, the world has debated the wisdom and morality of the use of these weapons. To better understand the reasoning at work in the minds of Allied leaders and war planners, it is important to look at the events leading up to these August, 1945, dates and consider one of the greatest ‘what if’ scenarios of not just the Second World War, but of all modern military history.

By the summer of 1945, the Empire of Japan had ceased being a threat in most areas of the Pacific theater of war. Okinawa, only 340 miles from mainland Japan, was secured by U.S. Army and Marine Corps divisions by the end of June. While significant Japanese ground forces remained active in China and Korea, the Allies had destroyed the Imperial Navy over the course of the previous three-and-a-half years, leaving her coastal cities open to shelling from the battleships and heavy cruisers of the U.S. and British Pacific fleets. The Japanese air force, while numerically still a presence, was all but grounded due to a lack of fuel. Every major city in the Japanese home islands had been at least partially leveled by daily U.S. Army Air Corps bombing raids. The Japanese merchant fleet, once one of the world’s largest, had ceased to exist. The island nation was cut off.

Yet, the remains of the once-vast empire fought on. There was a strong belief among the military leaders of Japan that a successful invasion of the four main Japanese home islands would mean the end of the nation as a distinct cultural entity. The hardliners believed that surrender was not an option and that an Allied invasion required the entire population to fight to the point of extinction. There were voices of moderation in Tokyo, one of them being the Emperor of Japan. However, tradition demanded that he remain officially silent. He had made his desire for a negotiated peace clear, however, in private discussions with his ministers. The Emperor wanted the Soviet Union (who was not yet at war with Japan) to act as a mediator between the warring powers in the Pacific. However, he also wanted some sort of concrete victory in order to gain leverage during the negotiations. But by the end of June, 1945, it was clear there would be no great Japanese victory on Okinawa or anywhere else. Furthermore, the Soviets were not interested in brokering a deal of any sort: Josef Stalin had his own plans.

Meanwhile, the war in Europe ended in early May, 1945. While the occupation of Germany and Eastern Europe and post-war actions of the Allies had been discussed on multiple occasions since early in the conflict, there were still many details which needed to be sorted out. Beginning on July 17th, leaders of the United States, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union met in Potsdam, Germany to discuss both the issues of occupation and the war in the Pacific. President Harry Truman, who had come to the office after the death of President Roosevelt in April, arrived at the conference with monumental but secret knowledge: an atomic bomb had been successfully tested in the New Mexico desert just one day before the beginning of the conference. Three years of super-secret work and billions of dollars had resulted in the construction of the most deadly weapon in human history. Yet only a handful of people not working directly on the device knew that it even existed. Truman himself was not made aware of the bomb’s pending completion until after Roosevelt’s death in April, 1945, despite the fact he had been the Vice-President.

Truman met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill on July 21st, at which time the two agreed on the use of the weapon. Soviet Premier Stalin was not told until July 25th, a delay which made him privately angry but only because his advice on the weapon’s use was not sought as Churchill’s had been. In truth, Stalin knew about the new weapon from information provided by Soviet spies working inside the Manhattan Project.

On July 26th, Truman, Churchill and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-Shek issued the Potsdam Declaration, a statement which called for the surrender of Japan. It was an ultimatum; as the Declaration stated, the alternative for Japan was “prompt and utter destruction.” The Declaration was transmitted via radio, leaflets were dropped over the home islands, and it was conveyed diplomatically by Swiss intermediaries. Newspapers in Japan were the first to announce that the government rejected the Declaration, although it is doubtful they had any official word on which to rely. On July 28th, Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki announced that since the Declaration was just a rehash of earlier Allied demands, it would be met with mokusatsu, a Japanese word that roughly translates as “to treat with silent contempt.” Thus, the Declaration was not so much rejected as it was ignored.

Much has been made of the Premier's words by historians, with some suggesting that his failure to issue an outright rejection indicated a willingness to negotiate. However, there is no strong evidence to support this. The faction in Tokyo that was willing to negotiate an end to the war wanted to deal from a position of strength. Even the Emperor, portrayed for more than seven decades as a man who wanted nothing more than peace, believed that strong resistance to an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands would open the door for more balanced negotiations.

Even the Emperor, subject to deification by the Japanese population, could not see the events unfolding across the Pacific. When news reached Washington that Tokyo was unwilling to surrender, President Truman took the decision to use one or more nuclear weapons against Japanese cities. On August 6th, 1945, the weapon known as Little Boy was detonated over the city of Hiroshima. On August 9th, the weapon called Fat Man was used against Nagasaki. The immediate effects of the blast and short-term intense radiation exposure killed more than a quarter-million people over the next four months. The plan called for the continued use of nuclear weapons against one city after another until the Japanese surrendered. However, on August 15th, the Japanese government announced its surrender. Three weeks later, on board the battleship USS Missouri, the instrument of surrender was signed by representatives of the Japanese government and the Allied powers. The most destructive war in the history of mankind was over.

But what if the two atomic bombs had not been used? What if technical difficulties had delayed the production of a working nuclear weapon for several more years? Or, what if President Truman had come to consider nuclear weapons morally reprehensible and forbade their use against any target? While the latter scenario is unlikely (Truman said repeatedly that he did not hesitate in his decision to use the bombs against Japanese targets nor did he regret it later), the former could very well have taken place. 

For the millions of Americans and their allies in uniform in 1945, an invasion of Japan seemed the next logical step in a bid to bring the Second World War to an end. What few of them knew, and what many people still do not know today, is that planning for the invasion of Japan was well underway. In fact, the primary plan for the invasion had been circulated in early May, 1945. It took into account the fanatical resistance the Japanese military had put up in the face of invasion of even the smallest bit of land in the Pacific. It was this plan which President Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill had in their minds as they discussed the use of nuclear weapons. As you will see, there were no easy alternatives.

The planned invasion of Japan was known as Operation Downfall. It was broken down into two major operations: Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost of the main Japanese islands. The operation would begin on X-Day, Thursday, November 1st, 1945. Operation Coronet was the planned invasion of the Kanto Plain south of Tokyo. Y-Day was set at March 1st, 1946. The southern third of Kyushu would be used as the staging area for this invasion.

The resources being set aside for these two operations were unlike anything seen up to that point in the war. The landing force for Olympic would consist of 331,000 American soldiers and 99,000 Marines. Coronet could consist of roughly the same number of Americans, many of them belonging to divisions that had fought in Europe. Three divisions of U.S. Marines would participate in each landing; that was the entire Marine Corps as it existed in 1945. These numbers do not include the tens of thousands of British, Australian and New Zealand troops which would have taken part in Operation Coronet.

In the air would have been the Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces of the U.S. Army Air Corps, along with the Eighth Air Force just transferred from Europe. With them would have been the Tiger Force of the RAF Bomber Command and the Australian First Tactical Air Force. The waters surrounding the invasion beaches would have contained the largest naval armada ever assembled. The U.S. Third, Fifth and Seventh fleets, comprised of 56 aircraft carriers, 20 battleships, over 50 cruisers and hundreds of smaller warships would have been joined by the entire British Pacific Fleet made up of 6 fleet carriers and their escorts. This represented 90% of the world's naval ships as of 1945, all concentrated in one area. And this tally only includes the warships. Thousands of cargo ships and troop transports would have been on the scene as well, making the Allied of invasion of Normandy in June, 1944 look small in comparison. The invasion beaches had already been given names such as Cadillac, Zephyr, Mercury, and Packard, all automobile manufacturers.

The Japanese Army had large numbers of troops in Korea and China in 1945, all of them essentially trapped in position with no hope of resupply or rescue. There were, however, hundreds of thousands of soldiers stationed in the Japanese home islands. Tokyo's defense planners, like the Allied war planners, understood the importance of using Kyushu as a base of operations. Thus, they had stationed 600,000 regular army troops there. There were also 5,000 aircraft assigned for use as kamikaze aircraft, the suicide planes that had caused so much trouble for the U.S. Navy during the last year of the war. And although post-war estimates vary, there were as many as 12,000 aircraft set aside in reserve status, although the airworthiness of these planes is questionable.

The Tokyo Plain, the landing area for Operation Coronet, was defended by 560,000 troops. This did not include the vast number of civilians that were being armed with everything from modern rifles to wooden spears. The Japanese Navy, such as it was, still had 350 midget submarines ready for use, 1000 manned torpedoes and over 800 suicide boats. Like the aircraft designated for kamikaze work, the seaworthiness of some of these naval vessels is in doubt. However, the intent was to use them while the Allied invasion fleet was still far out at sea. While the powers in Tokyo knew that they could not ultimately repel an invasion, it was hoped that the operation could be made so costly that Allied leaders would be willing to negotiate a ceasefire, giving the Japanese the ability to negotiate from a position of strength.

For two generations, historians have debated the number of casualties (both dead and wounded) that would have resulted from an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even military leaders of the day could not agree on a casualty projection. The last study done during the war, created by Secretary of War Henry Stimson's staff, estimated that conquering Japan would cost 1.7 to 4 million American casualties, including 400,000 to 800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The total number of American deaths, on the low end, would have been more than the total number of American war dead experienced to that point in the war, both in the Pacific and Europe. Keep in mind that while American and Allied forces fought on Kyushu and the Tokyo Plain, the Army Air Corps would have continued to fire bomb Japanese cities, thus increasing the total civilian death toll.

Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the nearly 70 years following the end of the Second World War—including the Korean and Vietnam war—have not exceeded that number. There are still so many medals in surplus that combat units in Afghanistan are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers.
There would also have been political consequences to consider. In early August, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded parts of Manchuria and the Kuril Islands, the northern part of the Japanese island chain. It is very likely that Josef Stalin would have ordered his forces to continue moving down the island chain as the rest of the Allied forces moved up the chain from the south. It is possible that Japan would today be two nations, much like North and South Korea. The effect that would have had on the world, both economically and culturally, can not be measured.

The debate over the use of nuclear weapons against Japan in August, 1945, will continue as long as those events are remembered by human beings. One can only hope that future events will never be so horrendous as to cause Hiroshima and Nagasaki to fade from our collective memory.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Forty-Five Begins, July 23, 1745

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Today in 1745, a tiny invasion force landed in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland and began an ill-fated military campaign that ended just nine months later in a catastrophic defeat at Culloden, the last pitched battle ever fought on mainland British soil. And yet this second Jacobite Rebellion unleashed a ripple effect that is still driving events today as we head towards the Scottish Independence Referendum planned for 2014.

The instigator of the "Forty-five" uprising was the twenty-five year old pretender Charles Edward Stuart (commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie"). But in one sense the real trouble had been caused back in 1603 by his great-great-grandfather James VI, King of the Scots. His ascension to the English throne as King James I had created a personal union of the English and Scottish crowns. This political union persisted and was formalized with the Act of Union of 1707.

The prerequisite for recreating an absolute monarchy in Scotland separate from the United Kingdom was the defeat of the reigning monarch, King George II. Although the French had only provided limited support, Stuart's Jacobite army had a reasonable prospect of success because of their choice of timing. The waging of the War of the Austrian Succession at that time meant that most of the English army was deployed in Flanders and the French wanted to arrange the recall of English divisions in order to conquer the Austrian Netherlands. The bitter irony was that had the "Forty-Five" succeeded, then such a victory might well have led to an Hanoverian overthrow that would have also restored the Stuarts to the English crown for a second time.

The daring Stuart restoration plan was to gather both momentum and support as they marched south to link up with an invading French army that had not even been dispatched. Initially, progress was promising. As the French privateers carrying the invaders sailed around the southernmost tip of England, the crew aboard HMS Lion fired on and damaged one of the ships before they sailed out of range and then wrongly assumed that the ships were bound for North America. Critically, this incident was not reported to the British Admiralty until much later. Landing at Moidart in Scotland after sailing from the Outer Hebrides, the invaders marched south and the Jacobite standard was raised by a gathering of Highland clansmen at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands. Victories then followed at Prestonpans near Edinburgh and then across the border at Carlisle. By December, the Jacobite Army had reached the east midlands town of Derby, just one hundred miles from the capital city of London.

They never got any further than the crossing the Swarkestone Bridge because events now took the oddest of turns. As the Hanoverians began to pack their bags and prepare for their flight to the Continent, English divisions were being recalled from Flanders. And at this precise juncture Charles' commanders warned him that a larger force was defending London.  To his utter dismay, his Jacobite army decided to march straight back to Scotland.

With the English army now in hot pursuit and resources running critically short, a shipment of French gold meant for the Jacobites was intercepted by the Royal Navy. It was a final nail in the coffin for the Forty-Five's would-be rebellion. Determined to fight sooner rather than later, Charles retreated to Inverness where the final battle was fought at Culloden. His opponent was the Duke of Cumberland, better known to history as "The Butcher". Such was the divisive nature of the struggle that the Jacobite Army included an English unit, and the English army included Scottish troops. After a crushing defeat, Charles fled the field with a nose bleed. Secretly smuggled to safety, he eventually made his way back to France, where he lived the rest of his life with no hope that a Stuart would recapture the throne of England or Scotland.

And so the vectors of the Stuart family and the Scottish nation set off in very different directions.  The true aftermath was significant because the English undertook a series of heavy-handed (some would say brutal) actions in order to prevent a third uprising. And it was the bitterness caused by these actions, such as the Highland Clearances of the latter 18th and 19th centuries, that have persisted in Scottish memories long after the romantic dreams of Charles Stuart have passed into the long shadows of history. And one might well conclude that the three hundred year dream of an independent Scottish nation was to survive despite, rather than because of, the clumsy endeavors of the Stuart Family.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

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July 4th is a holiday in the United States, a day on which we remember an act of treason against the British Royal Crown in the person of King George III. Between August 2nd, 1776 and January 22nd, 1777, 56 men representing the 13 American colonies signed a document that meant prison or even execution if the War for Independence, then underway for more than a year, went badly for the Americans.

Most Americans are familiar with the beginning and the end of the Declaration of Independence. Those paragraphs contain the most soaring statements and the one phrase we know by heart: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But most of us are unfamiliar with the center of the document, the part that spells out why these representatives of the colonies felt it necessary to break ties with Great Britain.

With this in mind, I present the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. The wording is stilted in places and some 21st century English teachers would cringe at the comma placement, but keep in mind that this document was written, revised, parsed, and debated over because the men who wrote it and signed it knew that it would either serve as a bold statement by a new nation with greatness in its future or as a last cry of indictment against a tyranny that crushed a weak group of colonies before the world could hear their cries for government of, by, and for the people.

And so we begin:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:Josiah BartlettWilliam WhippleMatthew Thornton