*** war and social upheaval: World War II Pacific Theater -- Asian nationalism

World War II: End Game--The Home Islands

Figure 1.--

Japan in 1945 was in a very different position than Germany. The Bulge offensive was Germany's last desperate gamble. The German armies in all sectors (except Norway) were defeted abd no longer capable of offereing effective resistance in either the wetern or eastern fronts. The generals saw no posdibility of staving off defeat and the situation became increasingly clear as the Western llies and Soviets drove into the Reich. The situarion for the Japnese was very different. Defeat had only been experienced at sea and on Pacific islands invokving relatively small garrisons. The bulk of the Imperial Army ws still in tact in China and facing Chimese armies of limited capabiities. And even after Okinawa, the Jpanese had a very creditable military force as well as a largely hidden force of Kamikazee aircraft ready to reign hell on any invasion fleet. In addition the Government were still controlled by military men concerned primarily with their honor and seeing no obligation to the civilian population. The War Cabinent even after the Nagasaki attack was was still undecided on surrender. War Minister Korechika Anami still wanted to continue the War, When told about the mushroom cloud, he replied, "Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed by a beautiful flower?" [Pellegrino] And this is how many Japanese military commabders thought. It seems almost incredible today, but it was all true in 1945. Many Army commanders simply saw it dishonrable with strong forces in the field to surrender. And to them honor transcended the future of their nation. There was no diubt about where the first Ameican blow would fall. Iy would be tge southern island of Kyhshu because of the limits of American air power from the newy won bases on Okuinawa. The Japanese began moving reinforcements and supplies into Kyshu. Kamikazze planes were staged there. Civilians were to be a part if the defense under the Ketsugo program. The People's Volunteer Army was formed. Millions of copies of 'People's handbook of resustance combat' was printed. Milions of copies were distributed.


Secret Air Force

People's Volunteer Army

The Japanese Army began forming the People's Volunteer Army. It was not that much of a volunteer force. Men and women from 13 to 60 years were expected to volunteer. Only the sick or pregnant were exempted from take up weapons to defend Japan. By this tome of the War guns were in short supply. So arming an entire country was out of question. Most were armed with sharpened bamboo spears. Straw dummies were erected so the civilian soldiers could practice stabbing the evil Americans. The students and older were given construction tasks. They built bunkers close to home. Thy also erected pillboxes along the coast and helped string barbed wire around positions where the Aericans were going to land. They also carved out caves in the mountains hich coul be usd to store ammunition. There was instructions in guerrillas warfare. An account fom a student, Susumu Nagara, provides some details. He was a squad of 20. The others were more than 40 years old. They were armed with bamboo spears, but has one rifle among them. They rotated the rifle every day so each had their turn carrying it. It was never fired and most did not know how to do it. [Halloran] Millions of copies of 'People's handbook of resustance combat' was printed. Milions of copies were distributed.

Japanese Situation (June 1945)

Japan after the American invasion of Okinawa still had powerful forces in the field. They had substantial forces in Manchuria, China, Formosa (Taiwan), Indo-China (Vietnam), Malaya/Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). With so many strong, undefeated forces, many in the militry did not believe Japan should surrender. These forces, however, could not assist in the all-important defense of the Home Islands--unless brought home. And this was only possible with the forces in China and Manchuria. Japan's merchant (maru) fleet by 1945 had been largely destroyed and moving troops and supplies was only possible in the inland seas where American naval patrols coild only operate with difficulty--even submarines. The maru fleet had ben lrgely destroyed by American submarines, isolating Japan from its remaining empire and resources it needed to continue the War. The strategic bombing campaign had destroyed most Japanese cities and industry. Using fire-bombing tactics, the wood and paper structures thst housed the population had been reduced to ashes. And in the resulting conflagrationss, war industry factories were also destroyed. The once proud Japanese Navy has been almost completely destoyed. But now American surface vessels and carriers patrolled the waters south of Japan. And to complete the blockade of Japan, aerial mines had been dropped in all important ports. This meant that raw material and petroleum could no longer supply the few factories that had survived the bombing. It also meant that badly needed food could not reach Japan. And the Japanese had already been forced to strictly ration food to virtual starvation levels. Personal accounts reveal the joy that civilians had in finding a noodle or bean at the bottom of a soup bowl. Japan was a heavily industrialized nation and the mountenous terraine limited arable land. As result, Japan had to import large quantities of food. And to make matters worse, the 1945 harvest was expected to be a poor one. Along with destoying Japanese cities, the Americn bombardment was also destroying the transportation system, especially the rail system. This meant there would be no way of getting the 1945 harvest into the cities. The Government put school children and other civilians to work collecting acorns in a desperate attempt to utilize every possible food resources. The Japanese had at first attempted to intercept the B-29s with fighters, but with limited and consumed irreplaceable fuel reserves. So by June they stopped interception attempts. This was to conserve availble planes and fuel for a massive Kmikazee assault on the expected American invasion fleet. The American flyers began referring to their raids as 'milk runs'.

Ketsugo (April 1945)

The Emperor and the Japanese military were determined to resist. The military conveived the strategy of Ketsugo (April 1945). This was part of the overall strategy of bleeding the Americans to force a negoytiated peace. Ketsugo meant self defense, As a national defense policy it meant preparing civilans to fight an American invasion. It was a refinement of Japan's Shosango victory plan which envisioned defending the home islands to the last man. The plan was to prepare the Japanese people psychologically to fight the Americans and die defending their homeland. THere was to be no surrender, even civilians were not to surrender. Some Japanese sources claim that Japan was defeated and ready to surrender. Such claims are starkly disproved by what happened to civilians on Okinawa. The military there actively prevented civilians from surrendering and incouraged civilians to kill themselves. Ketsugo went a step further. It involved training civilns to actively resist an American invasion. The plan included training children, boys as well as girls, to fight with improvised weapns. Soldiers were assigned to schools to train even primary-level children in the use of weapons like bamboo spears. I am not sure how widespread this effort was and how intensive the training. I have noted Japanese adults describing such traing they received in schools. Japanese officials warned that the Americans would kill men who surrendered instantly and rape women. Not only were Japanese soldiers not to surrender, but neither would civilians. Others Japanese sources have reported their was no serious training in their schools. A peace faction led by Foreign Minister Togo complained that Ketsugo would destroy the nation. General Anami retorted that those who can not fulfill their resonsibilities to the Emperor should commit hari-kiri. He was intent that the entire nation should resist the Americans to the death,


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Created: 3:02 AM 3/11/2021
Last updated: 3:03 AM 3/11/2021