Well, it’s noontime here in my small corner of Florida, and it’s yet another hot-as-hell late summer day on this Saturday, September 19, 2020. Outside, it’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) under sunny skies, but with 73% humidity and a 5 MPH breeze blowing from the east-northeast, it feels like 94 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). That’s an improvement from “feels-like” temperatures in the low 100s, but still hellishly hot for my taste.
(It has been said many times that if Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, John Gorrie, and Willis H. Carrier had not – over a period that spanned 144 years, from 1758 to 1902 – studied the scientific and technical concepts behind modern air conditioning, most of the American South, including Florida, would still be uninhabitable to most Americans today.)
I didn’t sleep at all last night. I am going through a bad patch in my personal life, and while I will not talk about it here, my current situation is stressing me out and triggering bouts of insomnia and melancholia. I still have an appetite, so I had a modest breakfast earlier. Obviously, sleep deprivation makes me tired and irritable, so I think that I’ll spend most of my Saturday lying on a couch and reading from one of the many books on my To Be Read (TBR) Pile.
As you know, I’ve been reading Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 over the past week and a half; I am now in the chapter in which Toll writes about the “endgame” in the Pacific War: The U.S., now led by a new President, Harry Truman, has secured the island of Okinawa and is preparing a twin-track approach to finish the war against Japan. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is making plans to invade Japan using conventional Army, Navy, and Marine Corps forces, supported by the combined fleets of the U.S., British, Australian, and New Zealand navies and land- and sea-based air power.
Under orders from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, MacArthur and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’s staffs have devised a plan called Operation DOWNFALL, which consists of two separate amphibious landings: Operation OLYMPIC, the invasion of the southernmost of the Japanese Home Islands, Kyushu, with X-Day tentatively scheduled for November 1, 1945.
If Japan still continued to resist after OLYMPIC was completed, the Americans would then carry out Operation CORONET, an invasion that would be larger than the famous D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Scheduled for a Y-Day of March 1, 1946, CORONET, which was to land on the Boso Peninsula east of Tokyo and fight the “decisive battle” against the Japanese defenders on the Kanto Plain, was so large that it would have required the redeployment of the U.S. First Army and the Eighth Air Force from Europe to the Pacific Theater.
The vainglorious MacArthur preferred this option, as it would seal his place in military history as one of World War II’s great battle captains. However, planners in the Pentagon and President Truman were not as enthusiastic; basing their calculations on Japanese and American casualties in the 1944-1945 Pacific campaigns, including Okinawa, DOWNFALL might have caused over a million casualties (dead, wounded, captured, or missing) on the Americans. Japanese military and civilian losses were projected to reach the 30 million figure.
The American leadership clearly did not like that option, especially since most foreign policy and military experts realized that not only would DOWNFALL be a horrific bloodbath for both sides, but the nascent Cold War with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union was causing Washington, DC to re-evaluate Japan’s postwar role in the new and unwelcome struggle between Communism and democracy. It was far better to rebuild Japan and its economy so that a new, pro-Western and democratic nation would rise, phoenix-like, out of the ashes of the militaristic Japanese Empire.
This is where I am in Twilight of the Gods, and I am fascinated by Toll’s clear and incisive look at a topic that has been badly misrepresented by many people with political agendas: the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.
As you can see, my TBR list includes two books by former British Army officer and current military historian Peter Caddick-Adams: Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge (Oxford University Press, 2014).
I have been focusing on Toll’s Twilight of the Gods, so I have only skimmed through Snow & Steel and read 25% of Sand & Steel (I’m a D-Day buff!). Once I am done with the book set in the Pacific, I will turn my attention to the battlefields of Europe again.
I also need to finish Rick Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945. This is not a new book to me; I bought it in hardcover back in 2012 and read it during my mother’s final years. However, ever since I moved to my new digs here, I have been re-reading Atkinson’s monumental Liberation Trilogy, which includes An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 and The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. I do put this trilogy aside so I can tackle new books, of course, but I’m determined to finish The Guns at Last Light before my 58th birthday, which is next year.
On the fiction side of things, I am listening, in an on-and-off basis, to the audiobook version of Tom Clancy’s 1986 World War III novel, Red Storm Rising. I honestly have not made much progress there; I’m more used to reading books than to listening to them. I have two formats of the audio; an Australian-produced 2-CD (MP-3) edition, and a digital download version from Audible.
Because Red Storm Rising is, apparently, an old favorite, I’ve listened to four chapters so far. But I need to really push myself to set aside some time and listen to the whole thing, Not in one sitting, mind, but at least finish the darned thing!