A New Week Begins
Hi there, Dear Reader. As I begin this post, it’s late morning here in Lithia, Florida on Monday, November 7, 2022. It’s been six hours since I woke up, and even though I brewed two cups of coffee and ate a croissant – the last one left, at that – I am still a bit foggy-brained and wishing that I had slept till six or seven instead of being up and about at five in the morning.
My Not-So-Lazy Sunday
Yesterday was a mostly okay day, all things considered. Everyone, from The Caregiver to S., her youngest adult kid, was gone, so except for our elderly miniature schnauzer Sandy, I was the only one home for much of the first Sunday in November. Of course, since I don’t have friends in the neighborhood or in the general area of Lithia, I dedicated most of my time to do a bit of housekeeping in my room, shaving, reading, and watching documentaries on Netflix.
Adventures in Good Reading
Re reading: I’ve been browsing – not really sitting down with the book for long periods and reading more than one chapter at a time – through D.M. Giangreco’s Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, a serious non-fiction examination of the U.S. plans to invade Japan in 1945 and 1946 that were conceived and approved by President Harry S. Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff prior to the decision to use atomic weapons to compel the Imperial Japanese Empire to surrender.
The chapter I did read is titled “Half a Million Purple Hearts,” and it covers in detail and with precise figures, the procurement of over 500,000 Purple Heart medals by both the Army and Navy in late 1944 and early 1945 in anticipation of the massive number of Americans who were going to be wounded or killed in the two separate components of Operation Downfall: Operation Olympic, the invasion of southern Kyushu, which was scheduled to begin on X-Day, November 1, 1945; and Operation Coronet, the final major offensive of the war with a single objective: the capture of Tokyo and the surrender of the militarists who governed the Japanese Empire in the name of Emperor Hirohito.
A Primer on the Purple Heart
For those readers who do not know what the Purple Heart is, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about this military decoration:
The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed. Specific examples of services which warrant the Purple Heart includes:
a) any action against an enemy of the United States;
b) any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged;
c) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party;
d) as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces; or
e) as a result of an act of any hostile foreign force.
Although the original decoration was created by then-General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th Century, it fell into disuse after 1782 (only three Continental Army soldiers are known to have received the first Order of the Purple Heart medal) and forgotten. It was only in 1932, during President Herbert Hoover’s final year in office, that then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur and the War Department revived the Purple Heart, making it retroactive to 1917, which meant that World War I vets who were wounded in action (including MacArthur himself and Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.) received Purple Hearts for injuries suffered because of enemy action in the war.
Originally, the Purple Heart was only awarded to Army soldiers and airmen, but in 1942 Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed eligibility rules to include Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel. Over 1,000,000 Purple Hearts were awarded, many of them posthumously, during the Second World War, and both the Army and Navy ordered so many Purple Hearts in anticipation of the heavy losses American forces would suffer during Operation Downfall – over 500,000 – that the unused medals (with occasional upgrades and retouches by the manufacturers) remain in the Defense Department’s inventory.
Downfall: The Invasion That Didn’t Happen…Thankfully
Hell to Pay, as well as the other two non-fiction books in my library about Operation Downfall, examined the battle plans by both the Americans and the Japanese for the “decisive battle” for the Japanese home islands, as well as the disparity between the U.S. intelligence estimates and the actual troop dispositions of the Japanese army on Kyushu and Honshu, and the authors all come to the same conclusion: As ghastly as the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in the end, it saved millions of American and, most importantly, Japanese lives. The death toll of Operations Olympic and Coronet would have been the highest of any campaign in World War II had the invasion gone forward. Many veterans who were slated to participate in Downfall never doubted that Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons saved their lives, as well as the lives of countless Japanese, both military and civilian, who would have died fighting in an apocalyptic last battle on Japanese soil.
Although I’ve caught a few typos in Hell to Pay (including one on a map), I like how the author, D.M. Giangreco covers every major aspect of Downfall, including the American-Soviet cooperation at the end of the Pacific War and the Soviets’ role in an Allied (mostly American, but with British and other Commonwealth forces involved as well) invasion of the Home Islands. The fact that U.S. planners wanted Russian troops to assist in on-the-ground operations on Japanese soil, particularly on the northern Home Island of Hokkaido, should put to rest the myth that Truman dropped the Bomb on Japan to “scare” Stalin into staying in his lane, so to speak.
If Downfall had gone forward as envisioned before August of 1945 and the Allies had landed as invaders rather than as occupiers, Japan would have had a Soviet Occupation Zone, just as Germany and Austria did in the European theater of operations, and Tokyo might have ended up like Berlin, a divided city and a potential source of Cold War tensions between Moscow and its erstwhile allies.
Food for thought, especially for those who think the A-bombs were unnecessary or somehow crueler than the conventional bombing by American B-29 Superfortress bombers. As awful as the use of nukes was to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially those who died of the long-term effects of radiation, it’s worth recalling that Japan’s militarists launched a war of conquest in China 14 years earlier, and that Japanese soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen had killed countless millions of men, women, and children without pity or remorse in the name of the Emperor.
The moral of the story, which unfortunately has been forgotten in recent decades, is: If you don’t want to suffer the consequences of fighting a war of choice – especially one of territorial conquest – don’t start a war in the first place.