Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - Show 66 - Supernova in the East V

Episode Date: November 14, 2020

Can suicidal bravery and fanatical determination make up for material, industrial and numerical insufficiency? As the Asia-Pacific conflict turns against the Japanese these questions are put to the te...st. The results are nightmarish.

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 What you're about to hear is part five of what we can now confidently say is going to be a six-part series on Japan and the war in Asia and the Pacific theater in the Second World War. If you didn't catch the earlier editions of this, you might want to. If you don't mind or if you already did, well, then without further ado, part five of Supernova in the East. December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the events of one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The figures would have fighting power. Not quite to the more man of a humanity. I take pride in the words, the drums.
Starting point is 00:01:00 Ich bin ein Bieliner. Mr. Wormachoff, tear down the rail. Eight six to Manhattan purged. Marine six. Now a two has had a major explosion. The deep questions. I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their presence is correct. But I'm not a crook.
Starting point is 00:01:24 If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended. It's hard to call history. We left off this story talking about a Japanese advance on the second largest island in the world, New Guinea, which is part of the main theater of conflict in mid-1942 in the Pacific, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, specifically at this time, Guadalcanal, where the Marines have just landed in strength. And for quite a while in 1942, really the rest of 1942, this will be the focus in this part of the world. Now we should not forget certain other things. The Japanese are fighting in China have been since before this war started will be fighting there till the end.
Starting point is 00:02:14 That's never going away and the Chinese get little credit in most countries for tying down the great bulk of Japanese forces and resources. The Japanese are also fighting in Burma, what's now Myanmar against Indian forces, British forces, some Burmese forces, and other friends, Chinese forces too, by the way, in Burma. And they're fighting Australians and Americans in the New Guinea Solomon Islands area. When last we spoke, the Japanese had just started their advance over the mountains overland from their bases in northern New Guinea to try to take this important city on the south side of New Guinea, known as Port Moresby. I said it was Port Moresby, which is silly because it's spelled exactly as it sounds. And as this advance begins, the Japanese begin doing what they've done all along, which is sort of baffling to most observers.
Starting point is 00:03:11 They're committing atrocities, horrible atrocities. They love beheading for some reason. And they've done the killing prisoners in Rebal before this, the beheading, the civilian killings. And it's one of those things that sort of boggles the modern mind because you can't help but ask the salient question, why? Why is this happening? How does this benefit anybody, right? Isn't this counterproductive? Well, if you look at the entire war, this was a fascination on the parts of the world when the war was over.
Starting point is 00:03:44 Not just the war crimes trials, but studies, experiments, surveys, all sorts of psychological evaluations and post-war examinations of human conduct and behavior and orders and obedience to other people's orders were something that was highly focused upon because it is somewhat stunning. It seems a little bit easy to just say, well, you know, human beings can be terrible to each other and it doesn't apply in some situations. I mean, for example, in Europe, the situation is much easier to boil down to leadership. I mean, the Nazi regime in Germany ordered these things. You don't have to get too complicated. You go look at things like the Ober-Salsberg speeches and what Hitler was saying. We're going to have to do to the polls, the orders before the attack of the Soviet Union about having to sort of throw civilized norms aside.
Starting point is 00:04:34 Comments like, you know, Genghis Khan is remembered as a statesman today, so it really doesn't matter. I mean, the end result is how you'll be judged, not how you got there. And in the documents, and when you read this stuff, and this doesn't apply, by the way, to how they treated the Jews in the Holocaust because that had nothing to do with practicality. Unless you want to say that, you know, as revenge, Hitler said, well, if the Jews unleash another war on Europe, they'll be sorry and boom, maybe that's what he's doing there. But a lot of this atrocious stuff was done or at least justified on practical grounds, right? I mean, take the way the Germans treated civilians in villages where partisan activity was nearby. If somebody took a shot at German soldiers, they'd line up civilians in the village and kill them. And of course, the goal wasn't to just be cruel, it was to try to deter them through terror.
Starting point is 00:05:20 Something that is generally frowned upon today, it's called collective punishment. And it's funny because everybody believes in collective punishment to one degree or another. I mean, you ever been in a classroom where the teacher's got a couple kids talking, you know, amongst the 30 students and says, if there's talking, doesn't stop all 30 students have to stay after school? Or how about the football coach? He says, if anybody starts fooling around, everybody's going to have to run laps. I mean, that's a way to sort of get the group to enforce behavior, right? The idea is if the Germans line up a bunch of civilians in a village and kill them for every partisan activity, the other villagers will go stop this. We're the ones paying the price for this.
Starting point is 00:05:56 So the idea may be completely flawed. In fact, evidence seems to show that in the Second World War, German atrocious attitudes toward the civilian population to stop partisan activity actually leads to more partisan activity. It's long been understood that the Germans were welcomed in some places as virtual liberators when they took over areas that had been occupied by the Red Army, and they turned those people against them by their cruelty. This is not a Second World War thing, of course, though. I mean, in the First World War, go look at the rape of Belgium. It's based on a similar sort of thing, killing civilians in villages in an effort to deter partisans. What's going on in Asia is a different story and much harder to pin down. I mean, as far as I can tell, and I could be wrong about this, I can see like three levels of responsibility here.
Starting point is 00:06:48 What's going on with Japanese soldiers and this cruelty could be happening at the soldier level, which is an excuse that the Japanese sometimes use. I mean, in the Nanking situation in China, it was sort of a, well, you know, boys will be boys kind of excuse. Yes, the soldiers did things that were out of control, but you know, can you blame them? It was a very hard fight to take the city. They lost a lot of buddies. You know, sometimes people lose their minds a little bit. You know, maybe a lack of institutional control, but this was not a deliberate effort to wipe people out. That would be the excuse, and listen, soldiers have been misbehaving since caveman time, so there's some validity to that, maybe. Of course, there's no excuse for the loss of institutional control, but we'll play with that as one of the possible levels that atrocities happen at. The actual ground level where the soldiers are, right?
Starting point is 00:07:38 Then there's a high level responsibility possibility, which is what's going on in Europe, right? You could say, listen, the emperor and the major leaders decided they wanted to have a, you know, iron fist. And this would be very in keeping with sort of fascist intellectual doctrine, right? An iron fist sort of strength, and we will crush dissent and we will teach these people, you know, that sort of thing. And that can be true, too. But where we left the story was in discussing an affidavit from an Australian officer that was introduced in the post-war war crimes trials in the Asia-Pacific theater. It was recounted in Lord Russell of Liverpool's book, The Knights of Bushido, where in New Guinea, Australian troops were being atrociously killed. I think we used, as an example, a Samuel Eliot Morris, and I think it was, incident where he said some Australians had been tied to a tree, tortured and killed, and some Japanese soldier who spoke English had put a placard above the head of one of them that said he took a long time to die.
Starting point is 00:08:39 Well, how do you think that's going to make the Australian soldiers react when they capture a Japanese soldier? Well, according to this affidavit, that's exactly what the Australian officer had done. A Japanese soldier had fallen into their hands, which is unusual, and the guy spoke English, which is a double rarity. And the Australian soldier who gave the affidavit says they took the Japanese soldier to the Australian Corps. This is not the ones tied to a tree, but some other ones, and basically said, why did you do this? And his excuse was the officers ordered us to, and his rationale was that he says, and these are my words, but this is what he essentially points out, that they were trying to create an intentional tit-for-tat retribution cycle of atrocities as a way to discourage their own troops from surrendering. I mean, that didn't happen very often anyway, right?
Starting point is 00:09:38 But the thinking might be it never hurts to have an insurance policy. I mean, if some Japanese soldier was thinking about dishonoring himself, dishonoring his family, dishonoring his unit, dishonoring his branch of the service, dishonoring his country, well, we'll just add this little caveat. You're not going to spend a couple of years in some POW camp and be repatriated to your country. You're not even going to be put up against a wall and shot. You're going to be treated the same way we treated their captives. So you might as well take the honorable way out and kill yourself. We should also point out that the Japanese cultural viewpoints on suicide are complex and nuanced.
Starting point is 00:10:21 They'd always had more of a embracing of that than many other cultures, but an attempt to sort of meld fascism with traditional Japanese cultural beliefs made it even more of an imperative. And the emperor's orders to his troops basically said, you're not to fall into the enemy's hands and maybe making sure that the conditions were such. And I think we called it diabolical on the part of the officers, if this were true, making sure that the conditions were such that the Japanese soldiers would face torture and atrocities and then be killed at the hands of the enemy, made it a lot easier to just say it'd be better to slit my stomach, shoot myself or hold a grenade up to the side of my head and take the honorable way out. So in trying to figure out why the Japanese would be committing all these atrocities, it's still an open question. Seems counterproductive, doesn't it? There's one other aspect that might be worth introducing into here, though, and part of the fascination. In the fighting in New Guinea, there will be a Japanese soldier named Ogawa Matsuzugu, and he will write a book after the war called Human Beings in Extremis, the Island of Death, New Guinea.
Starting point is 00:11:35 I tried to get that book in English, it doesn't exist. Excerpts from that book we've already talked about in the show. It's called Japan at War, an oral history by Haruku Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook. And in it, Matsuzugu talks about Japanese training methods, and I wonder how much these training methods contributed to how Japanese troops behaved. We'd said earlier, and using a line that was originally used for Jewish folks, I think, but it works wonderfully for all sorts of very distinct peoples on the planet. So using a line and converting it to the Japanese, we said that the Japanese are like everyone else, only more so. Well, every major military in the world has a process for turning their civilians into soldiers, basic training, right? And the Japanese versions of basic training, in many respects, paralleled those of other nations, except what Matsuzugu says is when you actually got on the ground, in the field, in country, as they would have said in Vietnam,
Starting point is 00:12:40 some of these officers and units took it upon themselves to go farther than most other armies went. He talks about what would be referred to in other places and times as blooding the troops. Matsuzugu says that when he got to China, you know, in country in that war, well, here's what he writes about what the officers made them do, as part of sort of finishing their training. And again, try to imagine any other allied army doing this, and there are photographs, by the way, in case you have doubts, and try to imagine how that might have some impact on how things actually turned out in the field, he writes quote. I never really killed anyone directly. I shot my rifle, so I might have hit somebody, but I never ran anyone through with my bayonet.
Starting point is 00:13:31 In China, soldiers were forced to practice on prisoners, slashing and stabbing as soon as they arrived for training. Stab him, they'd order, indicating an unresisting prisoner. I didn't move, I just stood there. The platoon leader became enraged, but I just looked away, ignoring the order. I was beaten. I was the only one who didn't do it. The platoon leader showed them how, with vigor, this is how you stab a person, he said. He hit the man's skull and knocked him into a pit.
Starting point is 00:14:05 Now, stab him, they all rushed over and did it. I'm not saying I determined it good or bad through reason, I just couldn't take the thought of how it would feel running a man through with my bayonet, end quote. Considering the rarity of cameras in these scenes, it's interesting that there are a decent number of photographs of this actually occurring. Time Life actually published some during the war, and they are astounding to look at. No other military did this, no other major military did this. Does that create a different kind of soldier when this is how you train them? Even Japanese recruits showing up in veteran units would talk about, and I'm using the exact word here, how mean the veterans looked when they showed up. I mean, these are people who've been through a lot.
Starting point is 00:14:56 I should also point out that James Jones, arriving on Guadalcanal, talked about seeing the Marines who've been fighting there for months, and he used the exact same word, mean. So in mid-1942, when these Japanese are starting their trek over the mountains, heading toward Port Moresby and killing missionaries and their children and everything along the way, decapitating them, killing natives. This is all something that plays into the entire way that the Axis is viewed. They're just seen as somehow vicious and atrocity-oriented and cruel in a way that even other armies, and listen, armies aren't generally known for good behavior in combat. But this was on a whole different level, and it created a level of hatred, as we said, in the Pacific, where if you interview or talk to Pacific veterans getting to be a very hard thing to do now, there are fewer and fewer of them left. And actual combat troops, which is much, much, much different than other troops, they're different and you can tell. They don't sound like Western front troops. They don't sound like soldiers from North Africa.
Starting point is 00:16:10 They hate the enemy, and they hate them often even to this day. And it's because of what they saw and what they thought. The Japanese were cruel, and where that cruelty came from is hard to pin down. In New Guinea, when they start coming over the mountains in 1942, there is very little to stop them. And that's part of the heroic tale of the Kokoda Track or the Kokoda Trail, which is one of the great moments in Australian military history. We should remember, there's only about 7 million Australians in the world at this time. So when we use numbers to talk about the size of forces and everything, remember how small this population is that they're drawing troops from. And we need to remember something more, as the Australians will point out left, right, and center.
Starting point is 00:17:03 Their army isn't there. Can you imagine having the Japanese that close to something like California and having the army that would normally defend California on the other side of the world? Feel a little undefended, don't you? The Australian troops who are part of their regular military are fantastic. They are making up the tip of the Allied spear in North Africa against Rommel. Some of these units were at places like Tobruk. They were spending time in Syria, becoming excellent in that theater, learning all the little tricks of the trade of fighting in the desert, which is a unique sort of an environment. So what happens when the Japanese start coming over the Kokoda Track, threatening the northern outposts of Australia, threatening Australia itself?
Starting point is 00:17:50 Well, they have a bunch of what in the U.S. we would call like national guard troops or reservists. And this is where the lore of the defense of the Kokoda Trail sort of begins. We should also point out something else. It has all the literary makings of a great tale. The stage is set for drama, isn't it? I mean, anyone who's interested in military history knows that if you combine one part small area to defend, like, for example, a pass, with one part threat of national extinction, throw in a little pinch of outnumbered, outgunned, and overmatched, with a little dash of what the Aussies call mateship, which, you know, military comradeship,
Starting point is 00:18:37 and you have a recipe for national military immortality. And in the Australian military annals, the Kokoda Track is right up there with Gallipoli for those moments that just move the Australian soul. Our minds want a little bit of like Thermopylae in ancient Greece, right? The only difference is that Thermopylae, you have the Spartan king and 300 of his best guys and some extra people, too. But, you know, you have the cream of the crop keeping the enormous hordes of the enemy at bay in New Guinea. It's people the regular military refer to contemptuously, usually, with the term Chakos, which is short for chocolate soldiers. That's what the Belgians were called in the First World War, often by the Germans. They figured they would just melt when exposed to heat.
Starting point is 00:19:42 The Australian regulars generally looked down upon these people who are going to be the first line of defense in New Guinea, because after all, if they were any good, wouldn't they be with the tip of the spear in North Africa or Syria, or even places like Singapore that just fell or Burma? These guys are what's left, and they have to hold down the fort against Japanese veterans who have steamrolled everything in their path up to this point. Good luck with that. Great beating the British at Singapore, beating the Americans and the Philippines. Who's going to stop them in late July 1942, these reservists, these national guardsmen, these Chaco soldiers? I mean, at least in another incident that's similar to this, you get a Thermopylae in ancient Greece.
Starting point is 00:20:32 At least the Spartans had a king there with 300 of their best guys. Part of the lore in this case that makes it so immortal is that it's not Australia's best guys, and they're the ones sort of, by fate, tasked with this endeavor. Now, what makes it so terrible, though, is where this endeavor has to take place, because to those of us not in combat, it just seems like it would be awful to be facing bullets and shells and aircraft and all that stuff. But everyone in the war on the front lines anyway is facing that. What makes one experience of a combat soldier different than another are the other variables, like how terrible a place you happen to be in while you're facing the bullets and shells and aircraft.
Starting point is 00:21:22 New Guinea is on par with fighting in the Arctic, or the Sahara Desert, or the Amazon rainforest. And that makes all the difference in the world. I mean, there was a phrase that I ran across in the materials that purports to be a saying that Japanese soldiers had. And it's basically a comparison of the various places a Japanese soldier might find themselves fighting in or stationed in, you know, based on their good or bad fortune. And the saying is that heaven is Java, hell is Burma, but no one returns alive from New Guinea. That's why the title of Ogawa Matsutsugu's book was Human Beings in Extremis, The Island of Death, New Guinea. And Matsutsugu says that people would come simply to look at him after the war because they couldn't believe somebody got out.
Starting point is 00:22:23 That's how few people did. Remember, the Japanese are going to have a name for all these people that get lost in the war and then come back years later, right? To view their own gravestones, to go back to their families only to find out that their wives have remarried and their children have grown up with other fathers. They called them the living war dead, which is a fabulously interesting phrase. How many people do you have to have falling into that category? You have to come up with a special phrase for it. And they had this all over the war, we should say. I mean, there were Germans returning from Soviet POW camps years later. The difference is that people didn't get lost in any other theater anywhere near as often as they got lost in the Asia Pacific Theater.
Starting point is 00:23:08 And a lot of people got lost in New Guinea because when you look at the terrain and the circumstances of the people who had to fight there, it is wild. Mountains that are on par with the Alps. Jungle that is as heavy as you will find anywhere. Rainfall that sometimes tops the more than 300 inch mark. It is never dry in New Guinea except on a few particularly dry spots. I think it's Matsutsugu who wondered if you could drown marching in rain that was that heavy. A famed military writer James Dunnigan said about the New Guinea fighting that it combined the worst aspects of jungle and mountain combat. And that's what makes the situation so memorable for the people who fought there.
Starting point is 00:23:59 Yes, they remember the fighting as combat troops on every front remembered, but they added to that the equivalent as one author said of fighting in an obstacle course. I mean, the number of veterans that talk about these things like the phenomenon of the false crest, for example, is a little bit shocking and pretty universal. The false crest phenomenon relates to the fact that the soldiers who fought in New Guinea and Osmar White, who was a war correspondent there said something to the effect that, you know, geography is impartial, so it affects both sides equally. The climbing that these people had to do straight up and straight down mountain after mountain after mountain broke the spirits of so many of them. And there are stories of soldiers on both sides breaking down in tears and embracing each other when they finally get to the top of some of these mountains. And then to look over the horizon, which had been invisible to them before they got to the top and seeing more mountains just the same as far as the eye could see. In his book, Cacoda, which is a pretty, pretty classic book, author Peter Fitzsimmons tries to give a sense of what the terrain is like. And by the way, when he refers to what he calls the diggers of the 39th, he's talking about the 39th Infantry Battalion and the diggers.
Starting point is 00:25:20 That's a term for Australian soldiers. And he writes, quote, the diggers of the 39th struggling up and over these Godforsaken mountains tried in vain to come to terms with their new surroundings. This was like no place they'd ever been before or even heard of. For many of them, particularly those from the often long, low, featureless plains of Western Victoria, it was beyond their imagination. The mountains and ranges continued to the far horizons, to all points of the compass, valleys, crevices and creases sprayed out seemingly at random. Many of them filled with thick mist, and most of them the men knew, entirely uncharted by Europeans. Through it all, somehow, the track, he means the Cacoda Trail, the bloody track poked and prodded its way roughly northward, sometimes gripping grimly to the side of a mountain above a raging torrent,
Starting point is 00:26:18 sometimes going from rock to rock in that torrent for as long as a mile, sometimes glugging along beneath four feet of marsh, and often going up a slope which was just a few degrees off vertical to an absolute height at the top of the ranges of over 7,000 feet. Then, he writes, it wasn't just the gut-wrenching agony of reaching the top, only to find that a dozen more hills exactly like it lay between them and sundown, it was the bone-jarring agony of the equally steep descent, torturing knees that had never been subjected to such punishment, and all the while risking falls that could maim a man for life. At the suggestion of some Australian listeners, I picked up Osmar White's book, Green Armor, and White was a war correspondent who essentially went with the troops and kept journals, and so it's a little like being with a travel correspondent, and as White finds something unusual, you discover it with him, and he talks about the primeval nature of the jungle in this area,
Starting point is 00:27:24 and how it is a little like Jurassic Park in the sense that he said at one point that 10,000 bombers could drop their load in one of these valleys he was talking about, and it wouldn't leave a scar. If you sit still for a few hours, you get the feeling that you would start turning into a human chiapet and start going all green and growing. In a country like this, the help of the native peoples is vital. And the native peoples of New Guinea are fascinating, and the more I researched them, the more I started to fall in love a bit with my subject. There are about, and there were no surveys done, so who knows, about 2 million estimated people on the island at this point, and the diversity is impossible to describe because there's between 700 and 1,000 tribes of them. They speak between 700 and 1,000 different languages. A giant chunk, by the way, of the entire globe's language diversity comes from New Guinea,
Starting point is 00:28:27 and the differences between one tribe of people and another tribe of people right next door could be stark. So trying to broad brush anything is a fool's errand. The people in Port Moresby, for example, who are in regular contact with Australia, very different than people's miles into the interior, which is a little like going into a time machine if you get off these trails because you start running into peoples that have little to no contact with the outside world. In fact, if you wanted to try to find some of the last remaining groups of human beings who have not been contacted by the outside world, you should have New Guinea on your shortlist. You should have some islands off the coast of India. That's always been a fruitful place to find some uncontacted tribes. The Amazon rainforest, always a good bet. Lots of things can hide in there, and New Guinea, even today, has tribes that, if not uncontacted, very little contact with the outside world.
Starting point is 00:29:28 That is both fascinating and somewhat scary, and it makes the Allied and Japanese armies look a little like one-part John Wayne in a war film combined with one-part pith helmet wearing great white explorer, kind of. One of the things to consider also is just like on Guadalcanal, there are few to no good maps. The armies fighting here are flying blind, which is just one more reason you need the natives. The indigenous peoples have always been important when outside powers are fighting in their territory. We always use the example of Apache scouts because that's one of my favorites. You want to go fight Apaches in the Dragoon Mountains, you better have Apache scouts or you're not going to find any. You want to go into Afghanistan, start going after tribesmen there, better have some friendly tribesmen to help you.
Starting point is 00:30:22 In New Guinea, the one aspect that really gave the Allies an advantage over time in this regard was they had more friendly indigenous peoples on their side than the Japanese did, and they made a real effort to cultivate them. They had to because, remember, the indigenous peoples of New Guinea are basically colonial subjects. There's a natural tendency to sometimes have a sense of resentment against the colonial occupiers, but pretty soon the Japanese, for similar reasons to how the Germans would turn people in Eastern Europe that they had liberated against them when they could have had them on their side, the Japanese do quite a bit of that to the indigenous peoples of New Guinea. They will pay for that by not having their help, and their help is such that the Australians will coin a term for the people there. Sounds a little bit politically incorrect today, but anyone who knows the story knows how much love and respect it is spoken with.
Starting point is 00:31:23 The Australians called the indigenous peoples that helped them the fuzzy, wuzzy angels. And many an Australian soldier and a bunch of Americans too owe their lives to the locals. I just spent all this time talking about the insane terrain, how wet it is, how crazy this footpath trod over millennia by the natives, how crazy it was for both Western troops and Japanese troops to try to negotiate these things. How on earth do you get the supplies, the massive amount of supplies that troops need to fight to them through this? There's no bulldozers making roads. The stuff for the most part has to come in on the backs of other human beings. And the Allies will contract in 1942 alone to use 32,000 natives as the equivalent of a human transport chain. You can airdrop some stuff, and there is an airbase, a small airbase in Kokoda, which is a prime strategic objective.
Starting point is 00:32:29 But you absolutely can't survive without the help of these natives, not just as we said bringing the food in, but if this track, this Kokoda track is so unbelievably hard on soldiers, what is it like to try to get wounded men from the front lines back to a place where you can treat, oh, I don't know, like a blown off limb. The natives bring them down, a native on each corner of a cot carrying the wounded man, sometimes jumping from rock to rock to rock in streams. This is a story of human endurance, and you can see why the Australians just sit there in awe of what was achieved here. The conditions were heartbreaking and trying beyond belief. Now, what it isn't is an affair that you can sit there and put a big map up on the board and show these giant outflanking maneuvers
Starting point is 00:33:28 and big arrows pointing everywhere, although that's not stopping MacArthur, of course, from doing press conferences down in Australia, showing that that's exactly what he's doing here. But part of the way I want to talk about the whole upcoming war, especially these island campaigns, is to try to acknowledge the sameness of the experience for the soldiers fighting on the ground. For them, there's not that much difference because the war itself has nothing to do with generals for them, and colonels, and majors, and captains. As one Australian veteran pointed out, Dakota was a straight up corporals war. That's because when you're out on some trail on patrol, there is no general there with you.
Starting point is 00:34:13 I love the way one of these squad leaders quoted in Eric Berger's book, and I think it's one of the best. I think I've said it's one of the best I've ever read for the nitty gritty ground level stuff of what fighting in the Pacific was like, touched with fire, the land war in the South Pacific. He quotes a U.S. squad leader explaining sort of the difference between what it's like, you know, at these higher levels, where the 17 to 25 human beings it takes to support every combat man at the front line, what it's like for them at a war level, and what it's like for the guy who's the squad leader and the people who are in his squad. Bergerid quotes this American squad leader, but this is exactly how it was for the Australians too, as saying, quote, The squad leader, a corporal or sergeant, is the man who sees that the assault orders are executed.
Starting point is 00:35:03 Reams and reams of paper are used to write orders from the highest authority down, telling everyone what to do and how to do it. They have predictable phrases, take and occupy, assault and capture, operations orders, annexes to the operations orders, etc. The squad leader never sees the reams of paper consisting of brilliant orders, written by officers who've attended every war college in the world. The annexes to the orders cover everything from battery voltage in handheld radios to the rolls of toilet paper that will be available. These orders and annexes are sent to the war colleges, the archives, and the big file in the sky, but the snuffy squad leader doesn't care a tinker's dam about them.
Starting point is 00:35:49 When push comes to pull, he says, the lieutenant or platoon leader tells his squad leaders, when I give you the word, first squad, move out in that direction. Second squad, keep contact with first squad's right flank and move out. Third squad will be in reserve for now. Got any questions? Everyone is thinking to themselves, he says, yeah, can I go home now? So the lieutenant says, move out. The squad leader tells his 12 or so men, so and so, meaning, you know, Joe, move out.
Starting point is 00:36:23 Number two is, you know, John, and so on. An enemy machine gunner is pounding like hell at you. One of your snuffies says, Jesus Christ, Sarge, you're going to kill every one of us. You yell back. That's right. Move out and get killed or I'll have to kill you. And so it goes. All of those A-holes, he says, or most of them who wrote all of those brilliant operations orders were never squad leaders.
Starting point is 00:36:50 End quote. The way the war appears depends on the zoom level you look at it. And you can look at it from any zoom level you want. That is the ground level, squad level, zoom level, the people actually fighting. But you can zoom in and out to any degree you want. I mean, I can pick up a book I hardly ever have out of my arms reach the Encyclopedia of Military History with Trevor Dupuy writing it. And he'll give you the satellite level zoom out and just explain the campaign sort of in a very quick in general fashion. But you don't get any sense of what it was like for the people on the ground.
Starting point is 00:37:27 But maybe an overview is worth it here in Australia to show what happens. As we said, the Australians are fighting with the Chakos, these people who are like reservists who have to kind of hold back the Japanese long enough for Australian troops who are being some of them anyway withdrawn from the Mediterranean, brought back to Australia for a quick refit and then going to be sent to help. And here's the way Dupuy puts this initial part of the Kokona campaign. It doesn't sound very dramatic the way he says it though, but it is an Encyclopedia after all. July 21st to September 13th, 1942, advance on Port Moresby, elements of the Japanese 18th Army under Major General Tomotaro Hori, pressed inland from Gona, drove in local Allied troops and moved up the rugged Kokona trail to seize the key pass over the Owen Stanley Mountains, which happens on August 12th. Pushing ahead, he writes, the Japanese reached to within 30 miles of Port Moresby before stiffening Australian and American resistance under Australian Major General Edmund F. Herring, supported by tactical air forces with local air superiority, halted the advance, end quote. That doesn't really give you a sense of the drama and the oppressive jungle fighting involved. I've always found that for that, you need to turn to either the soldiers on the ground who are doing the fighting and their accounts, or the stories of the war correspondents who were often the ones who wrote those accounts down.
Starting point is 00:39:08 For example, Australian war correspondent George H. Johnston was there on the ground. His dispatches were eventually catalogued in a book called The Toughest Fighting in the World. And he, at the time, you know, writing in contemporary terms as he's finding stuff out with the troops, starts seeing the survivors of some of these conflicts up on the Kokona track in the Owen Stanley Mountains come shuffling down from the jungle. He says, quote, Our wounded are beginning to come back from the Owen Stanley's. Finn bearded gaunt men with hollow cheeks and the marks of strain and pain around their eyes. Their uniforms are ripped and covered with dried mud. Their slouch hats are pulpy and shapeless. Stretcher cases are jolting back on crude log litters on the shoulders of brawny Papua natives. The others have walked all the way along the terrible track that links Moresby with Kokoda. They don't try to conceal what they've been through. It's only by realizing the difficulties our troops are facing that we shall be able to overcome them. He's quoting one of the troops, quote. Up there, we've been fighting on the worst battleground in the world, one man said. Before I was hit, I spent 46 hours without shutting an eye. There are mists creeping over the trees all day. And sometimes you can't see your hand in front of your face under the cover of the jungle. Most of our chaps haven't seen a chap. You don't even see the chap who gets you. It's like fighting the invisible man.
Starting point is 00:40:44 The troops are tough, hard fighters, and their camouflage is perfect. They can move through scrub or tall grass without making a sound, and without showing a sign except, if your eyes are good, an occasional stirring in the vegetation. My unit made two attacks on Japanese positions. We got to within 15 feet of them, but we still couldn't see them. When they were attacking, we could hear a voice shouting from some distance back. Don't learn that trick. The voice always comes from a long way back, but the real danger is the chap force right up close to you. The chaps have amazing patience. They will lie on the ground or stand in a creek up to their necks in water all day without moving, just waiting to catch you off guard. They use the old trick of calling out false orders, and sometimes they begin jabbering at you from only a few yards away. If you stood up to cover them with your rifle, a sniper would take a crack at you from a different direction. At the moment, they're all over us, but they've got five times the number of men we have." The false orders thing is wild. A lot of these Japanese troops have a person or two in the units who spoke English, and they would yell out orders to see if they could get some of the enemy, usually absolutely exhausted and tired and on the edge of their nerves, to see if they could get them to stand up or start moving and then open fire on them. It's vicious. It's that kind of fighting. The Australians run into the same trick with Japanese wounded that other Allied troops have run into. A story I recall has a Japanese wounded soldier calling out for help, and an Australian officer goes over to try to help him, and the Japanese soldier throws a grenade at him from close range.
Starting point is 00:42:28 Once again, that poisons the well for any other Japanese who might legitimately want to surrender and get medical treatment or anything like that, and the Australians start doing what the British and the Americans have already begun doing in their theaters, not taking any chances. I remember one soldier saying, we just never stopped watching Japanese dead, and they would run them through with bayonets and shoot at the corpses. It was a little like having vampires rise from the grave. They just never knew when it was safe to consider a corpse a corpse. For those who are scholars of the Kokoda campaign, they know how many revisionist books over the years have been written about so many of the aspects of the fighting. I mean, were they really outnumbered as bad as the old stories say and all that kind of stuff, and I just want to say that as an American, I find that somewhat distracting from the real situation here that makes it heroic. It's not being so outnumbered. It's literally what they went through. I mean, when you read these accounts what these soldiers are dealing with, it's upsetting and horrifying in a way that you just didn't run into as I've said many times now already in other theaters. And I should also, to be fair, as Osmar White said, right, geography is impartial. This is happening to the Japanese too. They're going to get a lot more of that when the situation turns the other way.
Starting point is 00:43:56 There's a lot going on in this theater, as we said, on August 7th is when the marine landing about 850 miles to the east of here happens right in this one theater on Guadalcanal. We've already talked a little bit about that. And then the Japanese will try to land at Milne Bay at another part of this same area of New Guinea to capture an airfield and the Australians will throw them back. This is famous, although I've heard it, other people say it's not true, but I think it is, becoming the first of the Allied troops to sort of deny the Japanese something that they're trying to take in this war. The scale of the fighting reminds one of a very large Vietnam War campaign. So the Dakota fighting will have like 6,000, 7,000 Japanese troops against two or 3,000 Australians for a certain point. It seems like small potatoes compared to other fronts, but you can't have large potatoes on this front because you can't feed anybody, right? You want to put four or five divisions on New Guinea? Well, you don't have the transport to do it and they die after you dropped them off there, right?
Starting point is 00:45:05 So this is how you're going to take this area with about that many troops and the Japanese are slowly but surely going to start to get pushed back over the mountains in the other direction back down toward their bases on the north of the island. And part of the reason for this is because the Marines on Guadalcanal have made this entire theater something that the Japanese have to address. And sometimes when they're trying to reinforce Guadalcanal against the Marines, they can't reinforce New Guinea to the same degree. So they're starting to ping off of each other and take pressure off of each other. Also, the Milne Bay battle that we just discussed, well, that's where you start to see Americans on the ground fighting next to Australians and with them. It's not widely understood in the United States. In Milne Bay, it's more engineers and some anti-aircraft gunners, but you're going to see more and more of that. Also, and this is a bit of a sore point in a lot of Australia's soldiers' minds, but there will be criticism from people like General MacArthur in Australia who will say things like, the Australians aren't fighting well, you know, that they're not good troops and all these kinds of things, completely neglecting that these are militia going into combat for the first time against Japanese veterans who've been there before.
Starting point is 00:46:21 Wait till he sees what the Australian tip of the spear guys can do when they get there. And they start arriving little by little. And as this campaign goes on, you start to see the really good Australian troops up against the really good Japanese troops. There's a line that I loved. I believe it was quoted in Eric Berger's book where they asked a veteran who was talking about, you know, how they ranked the jungle fighters. And after a while, it was always thought the Japanese were now these super jungle fighters. But after a while, they will say that the Australians are the best jungle fighters in the war, that the Japanese are the second best jungle fighters in the war, and that the Americans really, you can't judge because they sort of knock the jungle down first and then fight in what's left. But once the tables turn a little bit and aircraft play a big role in this, you'll start to see the Japanese suffer. And they're going to suffer in a way that will be catalogued, you know, Zawa Matsutsugu's book and he'll call the fighting on Kokoda. He'll say his great memories of the entire campaign is one of suicides and mercy killings.
Starting point is 00:47:28 So that gives you an idea of the Japanese memory of this place. And as the fighting continues, the Japanese are not just fighting, you know, the European Allied troops, they're fighting the natives in green armor. Osmar White has a little blurb that just reminds you that these natives, they remind me a lot of the Polynesians where a lot of the Polynesians are the most friendliest, most open, most welcoming, most hospitable kinds of people you will ever want to meet. But don't make them mad, right? If you make them mad, they can be just, well, here's what Osmar White talks about. He talks about one of the natives fighting with the Australian troops and his name is Lick Lick. And White says, quote, with him, meaning one of the people in the story, was a small, pot black native about four feet nine inches tall named Lick Lick, a cheerful looking creature with a grin that spread right around his head. Paddles, the other person, said that Lick Lick was being sent back in disgrace and told us about his offense.
Starting point is 00:48:38 In a raid on Salama'ua on July 1, Lick Lick begged to be allowed to carry ammunition for his boss. Eventually permission was given. During the raid, he behaved with great steadiness and courage as number two to a Tommy gun. He killed two Japanese with a bush knife, then he disappeared. Our troops had withdrawn by nine o'clock in the morning. Lick Lick was missing at the rendezvous. Just before the last men moved off, he arrived exhausted, dragging a bulging copra sack. It contained 13 Japanese heads. He then had the effrontery to ask for leave so that he could take them back to his village in the hills and hang them on the pole of the, he described it as a men's clubhouse. When in the course of his dressing down, it was pointed out to him that very little credit would devolve on him for cutting off the heads of men killed by other warriors.
Starting point is 00:49:31 He replied simply, but they were not dead, boss. They were only wounded. End quote. So Lick Lick had gone out there, killed the wounded and cut off their heads. There were stories of natives wanting Japanese heads so badly that they lacking knives sometimes would carry them to a tree with a fork in the trunk, wedge their neck into the fork and spin the body around until the head popped off. Whole Japanese patrols will go missing soon, only to be found later as rotting skeletons with the jungle vegetation growing all through them. Like I said, little like Polynesian, sometimes wonderful, hospitable people who seem so innocent and giving that it's almost like Eden before the fall, right? But don't make a mad.
Starting point is 00:50:26 What eventually begins to turn the tide in New Guinea is something that is beginning to turn the tide against the axis in the whole war everywhere you look. It's the non sexy stuff. We've been talking about it this whole series, haven't we? I mean, Marine Corps General Robert Barrow had a great line, but it just echoes what generals have said forever. He says, amateurs think about tactics, but professionals think about logistics. And in New Guinea, you can see the Australians slowly but surely building up their strength, bringing in new good units from the Mediterranean and places like that. The Americans bring in more troops in Guadalcanal. You're going to see the Marines eventually give way to army troops. And all of this is part of what will begin to simply stop the axis impetus and the things that the axis had going for it were things like the momentum, the initial surprise, the wonderful cutting edge and the head start that their military has often had in being prepared for this.
Starting point is 00:51:31 Remember, the Japanese have been fighting in China for years, right? That creates a bunch of veterans. The Germans had a war machine that was just awesome. But they needed these things to compensate for what they didn't have because this is on paper, not a fair fight, the axis against the Allies. And we've been saying it all along, right? The Allies have an advantage, a huge advantage in population, economic power, industrial capability, natural resources, the geographic distribution of things like their bases and support areas. These are not anywhere near equal. It's part of the reason the axis went to war, right? To redress some of that imbalance as they saw it. But in a war of attrition, which Eric Bergerit says the Pacific is going to be, once the impetus of the Japanese is stopped, these are the things that are important. And the Japanese begin to start the process of seeing what being ground down means. The Germans are getting the same experience with their axis partners in Europe. As everyone who studies the European war knows that they'd already failed to take Moscow in the 1941-42 winter.
Starting point is 00:52:51 And a lot of people look at that as the loss of their impetus. They will try to regain that impetus as part of the big summer 1942 offensives. And of course, that ends up with Stalingrad, and we all know how that turns out. I mean, you look at the difference. Compare how things look from the axis side on the first day of the year, 1942, January 1st, 1942. To how things look from the axis side on December 31st, the last day of the year, 1942, it is night and day. What changed? The axis impetus had stalled. The sides had sort of crystallized. And now you have a grinding war of attrition. And in a grinding war of attrition, the side with the most stuff, the better ability to bring that stuff and transport it to where you need it, the ability to resupply, all these things begin to tell. And many of the battles in the last six months of the Pacific War here in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands is the grinding down stuff.
Starting point is 00:53:54 I mean, in Guadalcanal, there's going to be something like seven larger naval battles and three larger land battles, but almost all of them are connected to one way or another, trying to resupply the island. The side that can keep bringing in fresh troops and replacements and supplies is going to win. In Guadalcanal, you get this wild situation for a while. I like the way author Richard B. Frank in Guadalcanal describes it. It's a mutual siege. So 12 hours of the day, the Allied forces are under siege. The other 12 hours of the day, the Japanese forces are under siege, and it's a night and day question. At night, the Allied forces are under siege. At the daytime, the Axis forces are under siege. Frank writes this, and when he says cactus flyers, by the way, on Guadalcanal,
Starting point is 00:54:44 he's talking about the pilots who are flying off of Henderson Field, this air base that is sort of at the center of the marine perimeter on Guadalcanal that they're defending, and he writes, quote, because of the efforts of the cactus flyers and the lack of efforts by American admirals, a curious tactical situation arose in the waters around Guadalcanal, a change of sea command every 12 hours, creating a sort of mutual siege. By day, American ships plied the channel between Tulagi and Guadalcanal, and transports arrived to unload, keeping a wary eye cocked for Japanese aircraft. At sundown, all the ships flying the stars and stripes exited hastily to the east or sought the haven of Tulagi's harbor, quote,
Starting point is 00:55:33 like frightened children running home from a graveyard, end quote, in the words of Samuel Eliot Morrison, end quote. He's now going to talk about Iron Bottom Sound for a minute and a couple of ships. Iron Bottom Sound was the name given to an area where so many ships had sunk, they said it had an Iron Bottom and it's around these islands, he says, quote, shortly after darkness, Japanese men of war heaved into Iron Bottom Sound, which they'd ruled unchallenged since August 9th, with the unhappy exception of Blue and Henley. There they would favor their countrymen with rice, bullets, and soldiers, and the Americans with a bombardment. These operations achieved the regularity of a crack railroad run,
Starting point is 00:56:15 and disgusted Marines labeled them the Cactus Express, soon better known as the Tokyo Express, end quote. In other words, both sides are trying to keep their troops resupplied and reinforced, and the side that stops being able to do this is going to be the side that loses. That's what happens in a war of attrition, right? Eventually, one side's worn down to the nub and the other isn't. And this is where our description of this war is probably going to deviate from a lot of the TV specials you see, or things from documentaries. Because wars of attrition tend not to be all that interesting from the tactical and strategic standpoint.
Starting point is 00:57:03 There's a workman-like way about them. I like the way Eric Berger read, of course, how many times have I said that? Describes at first, he points out that there is no real front line in most of these battles, like you might have in Europe or North Africa, because the jungle's just too darn easy to infiltrate through. So what the sides involved do is create perimeters, like the Marines on Guadalcanal. A perimeter is something where you create a circular defense area where everyone's facing outward, and that way, even if somebody comes through the jungle and infiltrates and outflanks you, you're not surrounded. So you have perimeters, and the other thing you have are patrols.
Starting point is 00:57:43 Patrols are the only way intelligence is gathered by the officers on the ground. They send out squads, usually, of soldiers who will go out in different directions and try to see where the enemy is, make contact with them if they have an advantage. And that's what this war devolves into, which makes it not so interesting from the general MacArthur level, because, as I said, workman-like, right, patrols go out all the time, they run into the enemy, the firefights quick and deadly and over, and that just continues on and on. Eric Berger read, writes, quote, The small unit war of patrolling and watching the perimeter had a brutal pace.
Starting point is 00:58:23 During a campaign, there was no let-up in the activity or the violence. The Japanese landed at Boona and started over the Owen Stanley Mountains in July 1942. Ra'baul was bypassed in early 1944. In the time between, significant contact existed between Allied and Japanese ground forces every day. Although punctuated with a small number of massed Japanese assaults, the war in the South Pacific was a war of attrition. Day in and out, soldiers were killed, maimed, or stricken with fearful disease. Many characteristics of the war he continues, such as the immense casualty rates,
Starting point is 00:59:04 the poor replacement system, the hideous climate, and malignant terrain all worked to push the armies towards exhaustion. Yet the soldiers fought the land war in the Pacific with a savage and relentless intensity that had no parallel in World War II. Although it is possible to identify incidents of restraint and humanity on both sides, the essence of the conflict was something very close to a war of annihilation, end quote. So even though we've taken quite a long time to get to this point, we're going to be moving rather quickly for a while because there's a sameness to things.
Starting point is 00:59:43 And my apologies to everyone out there whose grandfather or great-grandfather fought in one of these campaigns. We're going to hop over like the island hopping the U.S. Navy's going to do. But these island fighting situations are very similar. Author James Jones, who fought on Guadalcanal, said that it was like a choreographed military ballet to a certain point. You land on the island, you isolate the island, you cut the island into pieces, and then you begin slowly but surely wiping out the defenders. This is part of why, as Eric Berger had said, it's a war of annihilation. Because unlike many other theaters in the war, the goal is not the same.
Starting point is 01:00:25 In those situations, the goal is to break the enemy. There's lots of ways to do it, right? You outflank them, you get in their rear, you hit them at decisive points, you take strategic objectives that screw up their defense lines, whatever it might be. But once you get the enemy to flee, run, retreat, route, whatever it might be, that's where the real killing starts. Think about the highway of death in Iraq or the filet's pocket in 1944. That's where a ton of damage happens. The reason this theater is different is because the Japanese don't run. Alone amongst the great armies of the world, the Japanese morale is for all intents and purposes unbreakable.
Starting point is 01:01:04 Which means you have to go around and kill them all. You have to wipe out each position one by one by one. It's a combination of workmen-like and extremely deadly. And it creates a sense of fatalism amongst the troops, which is normal in war, but of a level that you don't see. That's why, again, the Pacific War veterans are different. I remember in the wonderful series I saw from Britain called Hell in the Pacific where they interviewed so many American veterans. And one of them just says, we were crafted to be a machine, and each one of us were working parts and we killed. That's what we did. We were a killing machine.
Starting point is 01:01:43 In that same wonderful documentary, one of my favorite people to ever talk about the Pacific War, Eugene Sledge, who was a Marine, he described the front lines this way, and I've never forgotten it. He said, quote, the front line is really where the war is. And anybody a hundred yards behind the front lines doesn't really know what it's like. End quote. Now that statement isn't meant to denigrate all the people behind the front lines, because I think, as we said earlier, 17 to 25 individuals is what it takes to keep someone at the front lines. And those people could be killed or in danger at any time.
Starting point is 01:02:21 But those people in the hundred yards at the front line, it's a different situation. First of all, there's not a chance you might get killed. According to James Jones in his book, A Chronicle of Soldering and something he calls the evolution of a soldier. He says, part of the evolution of a frontline soldier is coming to the conclusion not that you might die, but that you will die. He says, you are a different person simply for considering the idea. The other thing you do in the hundred yards at the front line that the people maybe in a medical station behind or a support unit or whatever doesn't do is you kill and you don't kill here and there. You kill all the time and that will change you too. I find it much more interesting to focus on the soldiers than the leapfrogging and the maps and the arrows in this case.
Starting point is 01:03:09 Because all these campaigns share a similarity and they all really revolve around finding the best way to marshal your forces at decisive points in order to get the killing machine as that American veteran said into place so that they can begin killing. The other thing that is important to point out is that the war looks very different when you read the actual accounts of the Pacific war veterans, especially if they're not clouded with all sorts of nostalgia. If you find the stuff that happens at the time written at the time, you find very little patriotism and all the things that glorify especially the Second World War, which is often referred to as the good war. You find a sort of deadly earnestness that is both sobering and if you're a scholar or a student or just really interested in human behavior. It's a wonderful sort of test case for extreme kinds of things that you just don't encounter anywhere else. Jones writes in a chronicle of soldiering, quote, such are we humans, such is our nature, that we can look back on moments where we very nearly died and remember them with nostalgia and pleasure. The truth is 35 years, which is how long it had been since the war when he wrote this. 35 years has glossed it all over and given World War II a polish and glow that it did not have at the time. The process of history always makes me think of the way Navajos polish their turquoise. They put the raw chunks in the barrel, half filled with birdshot, and then turn the barrel and keep turning it until the rough edges are all taken off and the nuggets come out smooth and shining.
Starting point is 01:04:53 At the same time, I think, does the same thing with history and especially with wars, end quote. He then goes on to do something that you don't normally see done in the history of wars and especially the Second World War and he explains why. He goes on to make a distinction between the leaders and the soldiers and he talks about class differences and he doesn't mean it in a Marxist sense. He simply means it in a way Americans would say college boys and rural kids. I mean the difference between the people who both write the history and who the history is written for. You know, the generals, the press, the media, the people back home who read this stuff, the people in the colleges, and he makes a distinction between the people on the ground and says you could fight in a bunch of battles and read the history of those battles later and not recognize the campaign you fought in at all. And by the way, doesn't this remind you like of the Eric Bergerid quote of the veteran who said you know none of those people pushing papers were squad leaders. Well, James Jones says basically the same thing he writes quote. History is always written from the viewpoints of the leaders and increasingly in our age war leaders do not get shot at with any serious consistency.
Starting point is 01:06:05 Leaders make momentous world encompassing historical decisions. It is your average anonymous soldier or pilot or naval gunnery rating who has to carry them out on the ground where there is often a vast difference between the grandiose logic and plans and what takes place on the terrain. And quote. He then talks about the sort of things that almost never make it into the history books where he talks about how the war itself and combat specifically can turn a person into someone who lives simply for this moment. And he talks about how it's true that everything tastes better. Every moment is savored more. You are in a certain sense really living because the moment is all you have. He says quote. Little things become significant. The next meal, the next bottle of booze, the next kiss, the next sunrise, the next full moon, the next bath or as the Bible might have said but didn't quite sufficient unto the day is the existence thereof. This is a hard philosophy but then a soldier's profession is a hard profession in wartime. A lot of men like it though and even civilian soldiers have been known to stay on and make it their life's work. It has its excitements and compensations. One of them is that since you have none yourself, you are relieved of any responsibility for a future and everything tastes better. It is absolutely true for example that when you think, when you know you are going off to die somewhere soon, every day has a special, bright, delicious, poignant taste to it that normal days and normal times do not have. Another perversity of the human mechanism? Some men like to live like that all the time. Some are actually sorry to come home and see it end.
Starting point is 01:08:05 Even those of us who hated it found it exciting sometimes. That is what the civilian people never understand about their returned soldiers in any war, Vietnam as well. They cannot understand how we could hate it and still like it and they do not realize that they have a lot of dead men around them, dead men who are walking around and breathing. Some men find it hard to come back. Some never come back at all, not completely. That is the part of the experience that to me is so much. I always say I am fascinated with the extremes of the human experience. Going from this island to that island to this other island does not intrigue me as much as what James Jones talks about there. What this war put human beings into as far as situations and what those situations did to them. And it would be decades before these circumstances filtered down to the public and in fact a lot of the public still does not understand even though the information is out there exactly what the real war on the ground was like. I have read a lot about this over the years and the best possible explanation for this is that most people do not want to know what it is really like. It is too awful to serve as a good propaganda tool during the conflict, right?
Starting point is 01:09:37 Not going to exactly get people all excited about going off to war or having their children go off to war if you see what it's really like. It's also not very good as an entertainment option after the war is over. You're not going to want to go see multiple viewings of a film that shows what war is really like. American poet and journalist Walt Whitman had said about the U.S. Civil War that the real war will never make it into the books. And that phrase is used as the title of a chapter in author Paul Fusel's book, War Time. Fusel was an American officer in the Second World War and led troops badly wounded in Europe and then after the war spent some time trying to de-romanticize modern conflict. And in a chapter where he talks about the way that the soldiers talked, you know, vaguely subversive sort of tone in their voice, he then explains why this was and it has to do with the difference between what they were experiencing and what the public back home were being treated to in terms of portrayals of their experience.
Starting point is 01:10:51 And he writes, quote, What was it about the war that moved the troops to constant verbal subversion and contempt? It was not just the danger and fear, the boredom and uncertainty and loneliness and deprivation. It was rather the conviction that optimistic publicity and euphemism had rendered their experience so falsely that it would never be readily communicable. They knew that in its representation to the laity, meaning the public, what was happening to them was systematically sanitized and Norman Rockwellized, not to mention disnified, end quote. One of the ways in which this was done was in the decisions what you show the folks back home when you're showing the dead. How do you portray the dead? Fusel points out that most Americans got their history knowledge of the Second World War from books like The Time Life, Life Goes to War book published in 1977. And he points out that in that entire book of photographs, there are exactly three human heads and they are all Asian.
Starting point is 01:12:09 He then goes on to show that all of the bodies that you see of American troops are intact. And these are all things that are done for the sensibilities of the readers. But that's not what the soldiers on the ground saw. And he says that a better comparison for what your average combat soldier was seeing in the Second World War would be what a plane crash of hundreds of people in a jet aircraft looks like if you're the first one that wanders up on the scene. And he then points out that most people don't know what that looks like either. He talks about how most of these soldiers would see all of the things that are normally on the inside of a human body on the outside. Again, you'll see no portrayals of American troops looking like that in your history books. And believe it or not, while the excuse that is often used is that we're trying to be respectful of the troops, according to Fusel, they didn't like this because it made their experience all the more difficult to relate.
Starting point is 01:13:13 I mean, I had talked earlier about how hard it is to sometimes get these combat veterans to speak. It's because we who weren't there have no frame of reference. We can't possibly begin to understand. And he writes, quote, What annoyed the troops and augmented their sardonic contemptuous attitude toward those who viewed them from afar was in large part this public innocence about the bizarre damage suffered by the human body in modern war. The troops could not contemplate without anger the lack of public knowledge of the graves registration form. That's a burial form used by the U.S. Army quartermaster corps with its space for indicating quote, end quote, members missing. That's fingers, hands, toes, other things. He continues, you would expect frontline soldiers to be struck and hurt by bullets and shell fragments.
Starting point is 01:14:11 But such is the popular insulation from the facts that you would not expect them to be hurt sometimes killed by being struck by parts of their friends bodies violently detached. If you asked a wounded soldier or Marine what hit him, you'd hardly be ready for the answer my buddy's head or his sergeant's heel or his hand or a Japanese leg complete with shoe and putties or the West Point ring on his captain severed hand, end quote. The other things that don't make for very good exciting propaganda pieces or war movies is your own soldiers losing their mind from what they see. And Fusel quotes a few incidents talks about Wilfred Owen who was a famous poet from the First World War and which they of course called the Great War until there was a Second World War and Fusel writes quote. In the Great War, Wilfred Owen was driven very near to madness by having to remain for some time next to the scattered body pieces of one of his friends. He had numerous counterparts in the Second War. At the botched assault on Tarawa and BDO Atoll, one coxswain at the helm of a landing vessel went quite mad, perhaps at the shock of steering through all the severed heads and limbs near the shore. One marine battalion commander, badly wounded, climbed above the rising tide onto a pile of American bodies.
Starting point is 01:15:46 Next afternoon he was found there, mad, end quote. These may sound like isolated occurrences but in his book On Killing, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman who taught psychology at West Point said this quote. During World War II more than 800,000 men were classified 4F meaning unfit for military service due to psychiatric reasons. Despite this effort to weed out those mentally and emotionally unfit for combat, America's armed forces lost an additional 504,000 men from the fighting effort because of psychiatric collapse. Enough to man 50 divisions. At one point in World War II, he writes, psychiatric casualties were being discharged from the U.S. Army faster than new recruits were being drafted in, end quote. Then there's the sort of incidents I imagine you would least like to find out about if you were one of the parents who received those terrible telegrams from the U.S. government which usually started off with the phrase, we regret to inform you and then explaining that your son was never coming home. The last thing you want to find out is that perhaps they were killed by their own people. One of those nasty little realities of war forever but modern war specifically is how many people die from what is euphemistically called friendly fire.
Starting point is 01:17:24 This is an unavoidable thing especially in modern war but in Europe and North Africa and other theaters, it was usually very understandable things like artillery for example. You have famous phrases, the short round for example, short round meaning a round that lands way short and hits your own people instead of an enemy. It happens or aircraft coming in for close air support that hits friendly troops instead of enemy again, hard to avoid over the long haul. But in the Pacific, due to the terrain, jungle especially and all the night fighting, the friendly fire was often much more up close and personal and many more people were killed by their own people using small arms. Australian medics, I was reading one account, were continually horrified by the number of slugs they pulled out of their own people that were of a caliber that the Japanese didn't use but the Australians did meaning those people were friendly fire victims. And when you look at the rates of friendly fire, they are shocking. Eric Bergerade quote some of them. The worst was it on the island of New Georgia, 24%. That means one out of every four Americans shot on New Georgia were shot by their own people. But there were reasons for this. The jungle jitters was one of the famous ones. People got trigger happy and the number of people that were found when daylight first hit outside their foxholes killed by other Marines or US Army soldiers is legendary. You had to go out to go to the bathroom, but everybody's so afraid of the Japanese that anything that moves gets shot at and in the morning you find out that you killed a water buffalo or you killed a deer or you killed a civilian or one of your own.
Starting point is 01:19:19 These are the sorts of incidents that are so troubling and upsetting that they don't sell a lot of tickets for movies after the war. And they prompt phrases like the real war will never make it into the books. When you look at the fighting on Guadalcanal, for example, you can write as Richard B. Frank did an entire book about it. And it makes it sound like a number of major World War two battles were happening there and the whole thing. But when you compare it, for example, to what's going on in Europe, the numbers look minuscule, as we've said, even when Guadalcanal will have 30,000 Japanese on there, which is a sizable force. We should remember that at the exact same time during the German summer offensive, it's millions of men fighting on the steps of the Russian area around Stalingrad and that whole area. But that doesn't make it any less important. In fact, the Emperor of Japan will push his people to continually reinforce Guadalcanal in an attempt to take the island. And the problem they have is they deliver them little by little on this Tokyo Express, like we mentioned earlier, and they're trying to build up a sizable force and when the commander takes a look at what he's got available, the new troops look great. The troops that have been there already are dying, starving, racked with disease. Disease will be much more of a problem for both sides than combat will be. So you're never able to get, say, 30,000 well rested, well fed, ready for combat troops. And this will be an issue, as will be American firepower. The Japanese had hoped to offset firepower disadvantages by attacking at night, as we said, by what they considered to be superior Yamato and Bushido spirits.
Starting point is 01:21:11 And they were going to go in there and they were going to overrun American positions. And it was carnage. When you read the Guadalcanal battles, it often reminds one of like the old cowboy and Indian movies where you've got the horse soldiers, you know, up on a hill, and they're defending the hill against waves of enemy attacks. Well, that is what the Pacific was kind of like. Most of the damage, as we said earlier, is done by patrols, right? Like a Vietnam war situation. And you have, you know, the patrol ambushed on the trail. Quick firefights and people are dead and that just happens day in and day out all over the place. But when the Japanese would launch these major attacks, these charges at night, those are always sort of recorded as official battles in the Guadalcanal campaign, right? On September 12th, for example, something called the Battle of Bloody Ridge. Well, if you look at the casualties, you know, it's a little more than 100 Americans. It's a little more than 700 Japanese, which is a lot in the Pacific for an encounter.
Starting point is 01:22:09 But again, in Europe, in Europe, this is a, this is small time stuff, but it doesn't matter that it's small time stuff. If it's a question of taking and holding the island or conquering the island, right? The only thing that matters from the war effort point of view is who has the island at the end of the day. Actually, it's not casualties, it's deaths. So remember, casualties involves wounded people too, missing people too, captured people too, just over 100 on the American side, just over 700 on the Japanese side. That refers to dead, KIA, killed in action, in any case. There'll be naval battles that are famous, but they really sort of just add to the attrition. I mean, on August 24th, 1942, there'll be something called the Battle of the Eastern Solomon's.
Starting point is 01:23:01 On September 15th, 1942, a Japanese submarine will sink the carrier wasp. So, you know, those precious aircraft carriers, which are now the most important ships in the world, the Americans lose another one. On October 11th and 12th, there'll be another battle, naval battle, Battle of Cape Esperance off of Guadalcanal. Again, more attrition. On October 26th, 1942, there'll be the Battle of Santa Cruz. The U.S. will lose the carrier hornet, but it's all part of the attrition process. By October 13th, 1942, speaking of attrition and the side that's able to supply their people with reinforcements and supplies wins the first U.S. Army troops land on Guadalcanal. And I believe James Jones, the person we quoted earlier with them, and he said the U.S. Marines, I believe I said this.
Starting point is 01:23:54 He said they looked mean when they saw them, and they also looked hammered, especially the troops from the division that landed initially. And they had that famous stare that the artists so immortalized, they'd been wracked by malaria, they'd been fighting and very little sleep. I mean, what this did to the veterans, as we said, you can tell a Pacific veteran, if you look at photographs of U.S. soldiers, for example, or Australian soldiers or Japanese soldiers in the war, you can tell where they were serving. You did not see, for example, Japanese soldiers wracked by disease and starving very often in China, but you did in Guadalcanal. They, in fact, nicknamed it Starvation Island. The starvation is much worse on New Guinea when the Australians and Americans eventually, you know, retake the Dakota track, begin to attack and put under siege the Japanese bases on the north part of the island, places like Boona. It's awful. The Japanese, by the way, had constructed these bunk houses, these areas where they could defend from and it just tore up the people that tried to take them.
Starting point is 01:25:08 They were very vicious, but the lack of food and supplies turned the Japanese situation into exactly what Ogawa Matsutsugu said when he called it the island of death. He tells a story about everyone trying to find food and that all of a sudden what a human being might consider edible changes. Matsutsugu talks about the starvation and writes, quote, the sense that the extremes of existence could be reduced to the human stomach. Lack of protein in particular fostered a kind of madness in us. We ate anything. Flying insects, worms in rotted palm trees. We fought over the distribution of those worms.
Starting point is 01:25:54 If you managed to knock down a lizard with a stick, you'd pop it into your mouth while its tail was still wriggling. Yet under these conditions, a soldier offered me his final rice. And a soldier I met for the first time gave me half a terror root he dug up. We had other fears on New Guinea. Near the end, we were told not to go out alone to get water, even in daytime. We could trust the men we knew, but there were rumors that you could never be sure what would happen if another of our own soldiers came upon you. We took precautions against attack. I once saw a soldier's body with the thigh flesh gouged out, lying by the path.
Starting point is 01:26:33 The stories I heard made me shiver and left me chilled to the bone. Not all the men in New Guinea were cannibals, but it wasn't just once or twice. I saw this kind of thing. One time, when we were rushing along a mountain trail, we were stopped by four or five soldiers from another unit. They told us they had meat from a big snake that they were willing to share with us. They're almost sneering faces unnerved me. Maybe we were thinking too much, but my companion and I didn't stop. Thank you, maybe next time, we said and left.
Starting point is 01:27:07 I knew that if it were really a snake, they'd never have shared it. They were trying to pull us in to share their guilt. End quote. Cannibalism. Something that you saw almost never on any of the other fronts. They apparently referred to Australian flesh as white pig and the Papuan, the indigenous people of New Guinea and Papuan flesh as black pig. Can you imagine? And when you read the accounts from Australian troops or American troops, they're all seen through the eyes of an individual, right?
Starting point is 01:27:52 A small mosaic, as I said earlier, the combat could be switched. You could switch the New Guinea combat with the Guadalcanal combat. And if I didn't tell you where it was, the difference is negligible in terms of your average soldier eye view. For example, after the last big attack by Japanese troops, and at one point the Japanese, as I said, will have like 30,000 men on Guadalcanal. The Americans are continually reinforcing the island. They'll be up to like 58,000 at a certain point. This battle for reinforcement and resupply is, as we said, the non-sexy side of war, but key to who's going to win these things. And after a big, it's sometimes referred to as the land battle of Guadalcanal in mid-October. The Americans start going more on the offensive and trying to drive the Japanese to the edge of the island and then eliminate them.
Starting point is 01:28:42 And when you read the accounts of the American veterans, for example, you once again get a real idea of the absolute hatred that had been engendered by the treatment meted out to both sides. There was an Australian soldier who said that he didn't, in North Africa, he didn't feel one way or the other about what he called the Tonys, which are the Italian troops. And he said they sometimes had a sort of grudging admiration for the fritzes, the Germans, but he hated the Japanese. In the book Into the Rising Sun by Patrick K. O'Donnell, which is Accounts of American Veterans, he talks to Raider Battalion members on Guadalcanal. And one of them is Dean Winters, who was part of the second Raider Battalion. He was on one of these patrols known as the Long Patrol to drive Japanese troops sort of backwards. And he says at one point that they came on a Japanese hospital in the clearing.
Starting point is 01:29:45 And the hospital is just a bunch of huts. And he writes, quote, We came upon a Japanese field hospital in Bivouac area. We killed a lot of japs. We bayoneted and shot anything that was still moving. It was a series of grass huts. They were on the ground wounded. Several had broken legs. It didn't look like they'd had proper medical attention because some of them were bent at a 45 degree angle.
Starting point is 01:30:13 They weren't sticking straight out. We were back in Japanese territory and didn't want to make noise. So we used bayonets. I was pretty angry. We had a patrol and they captured one of our men and tied him over a log and used him as a woman. They rammed a bayonet up his butt and he bled to death. That made me angry. So whenever I'd get into action, I'd get angry. I wasn't afraid when I was angry. We all felt that way after what we'd seen.
Starting point is 01:30:43 End quote. It is really tough, though, to get into close combat. One Australian soldier said that he just shriveled up. This is quoted in Francis Pike's book here. He just shriveled up when the Japanese were 10 yards away with edged weapons. What you saw as a soldier in terms of other people being wounded and the terrible wounds. Well, my stepfather had a friend who fought on one of these islands in American and had me go up and see him once and he wouldn't talk to me.
Starting point is 01:31:17 He'd become an alcoholic and stayed in his house all the time. This is 40 years after the war. But he was one of those guys like Eugene Sledge had said, who was within 100 yards of the front line all the time. And he was one of those guys that James Jones had pointed out, never came back from the war completely. But look at what they saw. In the same book, O'Donnell quotes Second Raider Battalion veteran Ray Baumol,
Starting point is 01:31:46 who says, quote, I was about to go back and tell them that I couldn't find anything. And behind us, our officer named Miller and his runner must have walked up along the trail, come around and crash through like a herd of elephants. I almost shot him. I said, holy Christ, he was pissed off. He said, where the hell is everyone? What is taking so long?
Starting point is 01:32:10 I said, they're laying over here about 15 yards, I'm guessing. Then I was going to step in front of them to lead them. But they trained the officers to go first. So I stepped right behind them. I was about a step behind them. We took two steps and a jet machine gun went off and almost blew his entire head off. All his teeth were knocked out and his tongue was like strips of liver.
Starting point is 01:32:32 His whole lower jaw was almost missing. I said, lay low. It's amazing how you react. And I said, lay low, Lieutenant. End quote. He then later says that the next day the officer who had been shot in the head died saying he suffocated in his own phlegm and then pointed out the obvious it wasn't a pretty sight.
Starting point is 01:32:57 Those are the kinds of experiences, right? Human experiences that will have some people understandably almost drinking the rest of their life away, trying to not recall the terrible images that are stored in their memory banks. As terrible as the hatred may be between the combatants, I can't get out of my head something I read in Francis Pike's Hirohito's War because it reminds me a little of the Christmas truce in 1914 in the First World War where the two sides jumped out of the trenches
Starting point is 01:33:34 and came together and started exchanging materials and gifts with each other to the horror of their commanding officers, by the way, because it sort of showed a human nest that defied the conflict itself. There's much less of that, as you might imagine, in the Pacific, which so many modern histories like to call a race war, a race war of annihilation. But in Hirohito's War, Francis Pike recounts an incident I'd never heard of before based on an entry in a Japanese diary and it involves the starving Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal at Christmas, 1942,
Starting point is 01:34:15 when the Americans get a special Christmas food treat because the Americans weren't eaten particularly well either and the Japanese nearby can smell it. And Pike writes, quote, While the Japanese were receiving their last supplies from Rebal on Christmas Day, gifts of boiled lollies, I don't know what that is, by the way, tobacco and matches were being distributed to the Allied troops. Field kitchens served a special dinner of meatloaf and preserved peaches.
Starting point is 01:34:45 The smell of American delicacies drove the Japanese to despair. Hamura recorded a bizarre incident in which one of his colleagues, an English speaker, declared, I've had enough. He stripped to his underpants and feigning drunkenness staggered towards the American lines. Silence followed, only occasionally interrupted by laughter. The Japanese soldier returned several hours later bearing food, a gift from the American soldiers a few yards away. The Japanese soldiers, he writes, were as fortunate, end quote.
Starting point is 01:35:25 By Christmas, 1942, though, the situation in Guadalcanal is almost over. By the end of the year, the emperor gives permission for the Japanese troops to withdraw and they launch a campaign to try to evacuate some troops from the island. And by February, 1943, the Americans declare the area secure. Casualties are, however, sobering when you combine the land casualties with the casualties from pilots in the air, the casualties of the naval soldiers on both sides. Richard B. Frank says the American forces lost 7,100 people. The Japanese forces at least 30,343 people.
Starting point is 01:36:18 The casualty rates were very lopsided. And 75% of the Japanese killed, died due to disease and starvation. This is an example of the cruelty, if you will, of the Japanese strategy here in this war. The idea that they're going to take these islands and then they're going to force the allies to take them back. And they're going to win over the allies because their people are willing to suffer more. They may be right about that, but the suffering that they put their own people through is cruel to the extreme. It did create a sense of admiration, though, from their enemies. And Richard B. Frank writes, quote.
Starting point is 01:37:07 We cannot leave the subject of the Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal without honoring them for their one supreme virtue, a determination, a courage far above that of any of the other combatants in World War II. John B. George, a junior infantry officer who faced the Japanese at the Gifu, I think it's Gifu, and later in Burma wrote, quote, Most of us who have fought in the Pacific are ready to admit here and now, away from all the convincing firsthand evidence we've seen, mass starvation, untold suffering, shell shock, cannibalism, mass suicide, that for sheer, bloody, hardened steel guts, the stocky and hard-muscled little Jap dough boy has it all over any of us. End quote, Frank continues, quote.
Starting point is 01:37:58 In facing defeat, George went on. The Japanese soldier, quote, took it like a man, like a hero, no surrender for him. End quote. In his book, The Rising Sun, author John Toland, quotes a report from Lieutenant General George C. Kenny to Hap Arnold, the head of the U.S. Army Air Forces, pointing out that the people back home, including the War Department, had no conception of the problems facing the troops in the Southwest Pacific, and says, quote. The Jap is still being underrated. There is no question of our being able to defeat him, but the time, effort, blood, and money required to do the job may run to proportions beyond all conception,
Starting point is 01:38:44 particularly if the devil is allowed to develop the resources he is now holding. Let us look at Buna, he writes. There are hundreds of Buna's ahead for us. The Jap there has been in a hopeless position for two months. He has been outnumbered heavily throughout the show. His garrison has been whittled down to a handful by bombing and strafing. He has had no air support, and his own navy has not been able to get past our air blockade to help him. He has seen lots of Japs sunk off the shore a few miles away.
Starting point is 01:39:13 He has been short on rations, and he has had to conserve his ammunition as his replenishment from submarines and small boats working down from lay at night, and once, by parachute from airplanes, has been precarious to say the least. The Emperor told them to hold and believe me, they have held. As to their morale, they still yell out to our troops, now quoting what they yell. What's the matter, Yanks? Are you yellow? Why don't you come in and fight? A few snipers, he continues, ask to surrender after they had been surrounded, called back. If you bastards think you're good enough, come and get us. I'm afraid that a lot of people who think this Jap is a pushover as soon as Germany falls are due for a rude awakening.
Starting point is 01:39:56 We will have to call on all of our patriotism, stamina, guts, and maybe some crusading spirit or religious fervor thrown in to beat them. No amateur team will take this boy out. We've got to turn professional. Another thing, there are no quiet sectors in which troops get started off gradually as in the last war. There are no breathers on this schedule. You take on Notre Dame every time you play. End quote. A football analogy there, of course. Guadalcanal is often seen as a campaign with major mistakes on both sides. Ernest and Trevor Dupuis in the Encyclopedia of Military History says the Americans made fewer mistakes than the Japanese and that's why they won. The American mistakes were almost inevitable if you recall that the entire campaign was given five weeks, a mere five weeks of preparation, and the Marines performed heroically.
Starting point is 01:40:57 But you can begin to see a mere year basically after Pearl Harbor that the writing is on the wall for what the Japanese have signed up for. And you run across numbers sometimes that just display it in a wonderfully obvious sense. In 1942, for example, this is remember the first year of the war for the United States, the Americans churned out 49,445 planes according to Richard B. Frank. Japan churned out 8,861. And 1942 is the least productive year of the war for the Americans. 43 and 44, you're going to see production numbers absolutely shoot through the moon. Now, all those planes aren't being used in the Pacific Theater by the Americans and all those planes are being used in the various theaters in the Asia Pacific area by Japan. The United States, it should be pointed out that by the end of 1942 has opened up a second front in North Africa, Operation Torch.
Starting point is 01:42:06 So they have troops that they have to support with aircraft and all these other production figures in multiple theaters. Nonetheless, the difference in production numbers are so incredibly profound that the Japanese would be foolish to think that they aren't going to just be buried. It is the bravery, courage and willingness to die for the Emperor that they hope will compensate for that. But when you look at the casualty ratios between Japanese and Allied troops, as we said earlier in this segment, you would be justified, I think, as a Japanese parent of a dead Japanese soldier in thinking that the government was guilty of some sort of gross negligence or military malpractice in the positions they put their own soldiers in. I mean, on New Guinea after the campaigns at Boona and Gona and those places, the war continues there until 1944 and the Australians have gotten extremely good and the kill ratios are astounding. Here's what Eric Bergerit in Touched with Fire writes about it. The Australian juggernaut was not only rolling, it was doing so with very little cost in Australian lives.
Starting point is 01:43:25 Disease preyed upon all soldiers in New Guinea until the end. The Japanese, however, were losing their ability to cause pain to their enemies in New Guinea. Fewer than a thousand Australian soldiers were killed from February 1, 1943, the end of the Boona-Gona-Saninanda campaign, until January 1944. During the large Japanese attack on Finch oven, 52 Australian soldiers lost their lives, a minuscule figure in the grim arithmetic of war. In the process, in addition to the 13,000 dead suffered in Kokoda Boona, the Japanese lost another 30,000 men. We will never know exactly how many died in battle, but the kill ratio on New Guinea was mounting to levels rarely seen in modern war. The Allies were adopting strategies too that would minimize their casualties even more. They were not going to attack the most strongly defended areas that the Japanese held. This is the so-called leapfrogging strategy that the Allies choose.
Starting point is 01:44:37 MacArthur often claims credit for this by the way, but there's a lot of historical evidence to suggest he was sort of dragged kicking and screaming. It may have been Admiral King who came up with this initially, and he is sort of the counterpart in the Navy to MacArthur. But the strategy meant that these major strong points were simply to be bypassed, and that if you could cut them off from resupply and reinforcement, the soldiers on those places would simply starve to death, and those wonderful defenses that had been so carefully set up would never be used. Bergeron compares them to giant POW camps in effect, and the more soldiers the Japanese sent to these places to make them even harder to take, the more they were inadvertently consigning to captivity and starvation, and the less they had to send to areas that were actively going to be attacked. Author N. W. Toll in his book The Conquering Tide explains the Japanese feelings about the Allied leapfrogging strategy and writes, and by the way, Reball as we've said was on the island of New Britain, it is the major Japanese base in the region,
Starting point is 01:45:51 and the Japanese assume the Allies are going to try to take it, so they're going to make it a death trap, and Toll writes, As an air base, Reball had been very nearly neutered by unrelenting air attacks, but with units streaming into the lines from points west, Japanese troops' strength approached 100,000. Surrender was beneath consideration, of course, so the garrison began to prepare for a climactic fight to the last man. Defeat might be inevitable, but it would be honorable. Heaven beckoned, and they would sell their lives dearly and take plenty of American soldiers and Marines with them. For almost two years, the Japanese had been building and improving their defensive fortifications, their intricate networks of subterranean bunkers and tunnels, and they were well stocked with provisions and ammunition for a long siege. He writes, So they waited, and waited, and waited, and the Americans did not come. The defenders were denied even the consolation of dying for the Emperor.
Starting point is 01:46:53 A Japanese intelligence officer interviewed after the war, admitted that the Japanese, quote, end quote, hated the leapfrogging strategy, perhaps because it offended their sense of honor, but he added that they respected it and understood its wisdom. Now quoting the intelligence officer, quote, The Japanese army preferred direct assault after the German fashion, but the Americans flowed into our weaker points and submerged us, just as water seeks the weakest entry to sink a ship, end quote. This, of course, is not to say that there weren't terrible, terrible fights to come. Even the so-called weaker points in the Japanese defense perimeter were going to be extremely difficult to take. And this leapfrogging strategy that bypassed these major areas still had to take a ton of other islands in order to do so. If you looked at a map of the region in the southwest Pacific, you will see that MacArthur and the US Army and the Australians and New Zealanders
Starting point is 01:47:58 are coming up through New Guinea towards Rebal on one side, on the other side of New Britain and Rebal. The Navy and the US Marines are working their way up the Solomon's, the island chain there, and they will sort of cut off Rebal now. The fighting, though, working your way up the island chain is brutal. Take New Georgia, for example, after a nice rest period after Guadalcanal is over to restock your forces and get them ready. The Navy and the Marines and Army units also start working their way up the island chain on the 21st of June, 1943, or thereabouts. The Americans land on the island of New Georgia, and it is brutal. One of the main areas on New Georgia is called Munda, and here's what E&W Toll in the Conquering Tide writes about that, quote. The 4,500-man Japanese garrison had dug in deeply and well, and the terrain was abysmal.
Starting point is 01:49:03 The Munda campaign was a photo negative of the fight on Guadalcanal, with the Japanese and Allied positions reversed. Now it was the American soldiers and Marines who struggled through swamp and underbrush, losing contact with adjacent units and suffering heavily under harassing attacks by the enemy. Japanese units, he writes, launched nighttime bonsai attacks, accompanied by shouting profanities and taunts in broken English. Two green American Army regiments broke and ran, throwing down their weapons. Several were shot by other American soldiers who mistook them for enemy, and several dozen had to be evacuated because of quote, end quote, psychoneurosis. One officer recalled that fear was like a disease that spread through the ranks, eventually transmuting into mass panic. Discipline and morale crumpled, now quoting a soldier, quote. By morning, in an unmanageable mass, men were huddling in groups along the trails to the rear, and pursued savagely by the enemy that caught up with many of them,
Starting point is 01:50:13 and to use an archaic phrase, put them to the sword, end quote. Toll says that, quote, eventually all available reserves were committed to the capture of Munda. Three Army divisions required a full five weeks to secure the airfield. 1195 Allied servicemen were killed in the effort. Most of the defenders died or took their own lives, end quote. We've talked about how much hate there was amongst both sides, and yet there are memories, as we said, that stick in the memory banks of the soldiers and Marines who had to fight in these campaigns. In his wonderful book that we've quoted already from Into the Rising Sun, Patrick K. O'Donnell talks to Harry Clark of the 4th Raider Battalion fighting on New Georgia, and he remembers this, quote.
Starting point is 01:51:11 We took Viru Harbor, a lot of boom boom and bang bang. It was a blur. It was kind of bewildering to say the least. There's nothing orderly about modern combat. I'm sure you've been told that enough that you're about to vomit in your wastebasket. It's a blur of sound. The only thing you're whittled down to immediately is the base person you are. You know what you're supposed to be doing. Then he sighs, it says. I shot this guy. Thank God he was Japanese and not American, or I would have made the biggest mistake in my military career. He sighs again. Being a scout sniper, I'd been cautioned over and over to look for papers, look for documents. This, that, and the other thing. This soldier was about six feet, the guy he shot. Clean as a whistle. Most were starving to death and filthy and dirty. This guy was as clean as a whistle and around his neck he had the most gorgeous miniature painting of himself in Shinto robes.
Starting point is 01:52:12 I took his dog tags and papers he had in a side pocket and turned them over to military intelligence. They're the ones who told me his name, something that has haunted me for my entire life. They said, now quoting them, quote, this is a second lieutenant. They don't call them that, but he's like a lieutenant in their special landing forces, their Marines. And his name was Ryuki Yanigara. Now quoting the Marine again, quote, I'll tell you, I cannot remember the names of so many people to whom I owe so much. But I remember his name. It's terrible to find out the name of somebody you killed. Later, I was in Japan with the Dow Chemical Company, and I ran an article in the newspaper and the article said, quote, anybody interested in knowing about Ryuki Yanigara, special landing forces in World War Two, please contact Harry Clark at such and such a hotel. And then he says, at my age, I'm forgetting so many things, but the last thing I'll ever forget is Ryuki Yanigara. End quote. I once again remind us all to remember what is in the memory banks of these guys.
Starting point is 01:53:23 And long after we've forgotten about the war, they haven't forgotten about the people they killed, the people they lost, the friends and the visions that haunt their nightmares. By the time the New Georgia campaign kicks off, the most important and well-known figure in the Japanese military is not around to see it. The great Admiral Yamamoto, who is head and shoulders above most of the other, all of the other Japanese military officials, will be shot down by American pilots on April 18, 1943. The result, once again, of American intelligence advantages and crypto analysts who are able to decode the Japanese messages announcing that Yamamoto is going to be in the region. They ambush him. They shoot him. He's found later with 250 caliber bullet wounds apparently sitting in his chair after the plane that he is in is shot down and crashes in the jungle. And one American said that this was the equivalent of winning a large battle against the Japanese, that there is no other Japanese military officials anywhere near his caliber. And for the Americans, we had said during the Battle of Midway that it was essentially like paying back an Osama bin Laden when the Americans sunk those Japanese carriers. Well, from the American point of view, an Admiral Yamamoto is like an Osama bin Laden.
Starting point is 01:54:54 And so to be deprived of his leadership at this point in the war is almost symbolic of where things are going for the Japanese war effort. Because by mid 1943, things are starting to look extremely bleak. And in hindsight, you can see that it's getting impossible to imagine things turning out in any way, shape, or form the way the Japanese would hope. I mean, if you look at the number of aircraft carriers that the US puts into operation from late 1942 all through 1943, it's something like seven big carriers and a ton of escort and light carriers. The Japanese are commissioning very few ships. And the attrition is taking a toll on a bunch of ships that normally you don't pay attention to. You know, everyone focuses on the big ships and the important ones. But there's a lot of things like destroyers and transports and things that are vitally important to day-to-day operations that are being destroyed regularly. And they're not being replaced regularly. In fact, some of the really heartbreaking things that you read about in this campaign, if you're Japanese, are the numbers of Japanese soldiers that end up drowning when their transports are sunk. I mean, I think there was thousands and thousands in one incident alone that went to the bottom of the sea before they ever even got to land and fight. As we said, if you're a Japanese parent of a soldier that didn't come home, I think you'd have every right to be extremely disappointed and that might be putting it mildly at the way the war was conducted and the lack of any sort of real sense of value in the lives of the average Japanese soldier.
Starting point is 01:56:47 In November 1943, the US Navy launches another line of assault in the Pacific War. This one will be an island hopping campaign through the Central Pacific. So we've been in the Southwest Pacific up till now, right? Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, the Solomon's, all those places, New Georgia, Guadalcanal. But now, I mean, this area, the Gilbert Islands is like 1200 miles from Guadalcanal, a whole different line of assault that will eventually take the US Navy towards the Philippines and towards some of the most iconic island assaults in this war, places like Iwo Jima, but they start with another iconic assault on a coral atoll in the Gilbert Islands that's iconic for a completely different reason. It's called Tarawa and Ian W. Toll in the Conquering Tide says that it was the proudest and most terrible day in the history of the Marine Corps where Murphy's law, and I've said Murphy's law is never more applicable than in war where everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And the only saving grace for the Marine Corps in the whole affair is that many important lessons will be learned and that the price the Marines will pay at Tarawa will almost certainly save the lives of a lot of Marines later in the war, places like Iwo Jima, for example. But the lesson is so sobering that this is why, and I'd mentioned this earlier in the series, this is why my naval from the Pacific War stepfather said don't ever join the Marines because he'd seen the kind of situations they found themselves in and he wanted his stepson to return home alive. All you have to do is look at the photographs and they are shocking of Marines, chests deep in water on coral reefs wading with their rifles over their head towards the shore as Japanese machine guns, something like a hundred of them crisscross the water shooting down the Marines when they're absolutely helpless trying to just get to the shore.
Starting point is 01:58:57 Tarawa is nightmarish and the bombardment that starts on the 13th, 14th, 15th of November. They will shoot, drop and lob something like six million pounds of ordinance onto this little teeny place. I mean the fighting area is about half the size of New York Central Park. The island is heavily though fortified and protected. There's about 5,000 Japanese troops there. The admiral that is in charge of them says that a million troops could not take that island in a hundred years. And the Encyclopedia of Military History, Ernest and Trevor Dupuy describe the situation this way, quote. November 20th, 24th, 1943, Tarawa. Basho Island, Citadel of the Atal, an area of only 300 acres, flat and sandy, had been honeycombed with underground shelters and some 400 concrete pillboxes, bunkers and strong points. Defending artillery included eight-inch guns brought from Singapore. The island was ringed by a coral reef. Its openings studded with submarine mines and the beaches laced with barbed wire. Insufficient reconnaissance and faulty maps had not disclosed that the inner coral reef of Basho itself was too shallow for landing craft. Despite the heavy preliminary bombing and naval gunfire, 4,700 veteran combat troops under rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki emerged from their underground shelters to man their defenses as the initial assault waves of the 2nd Marine Division approached.
Starting point is 02:00:39 While some amphibious tractors reached the beach, they write, most of the assault craft grounded on the inner reef and the assailants were forced to wade several hundred yards through crisscross fire, suffering shocking losses. End quote. To say that doesn't do justice to what the Marines encountered, some of the eyewitness assaults do a better job. I should point out that these atolls are very different than Guadalcanal and New Guinea. They don't have giant mountains like Guadalcanal and New Guinea do. The high points on some of these atolls are like 10 feet above sea level and they don't have dense jungle to hide you either. They're pretty open. The good news is not a lot of places where you're going to get terrible malaria like you do on the Solomon's and whatnot. The bad news is when the Japanese start shooting at you, there's no place to duck cover and get out of the way. The Marines will initially pile up on the beach behind a giant retaining wall that the Japanese made out of cut coconut trees and the logs stacked up. You see these Marines who arrive in the first wave. They have the landing craft. There's a small number of landing craft that have tracks and the tracks go right over the coral reef and land them on the beach and they're stuck there waiting for the subsequent waves of troops to join them. Those are the waves in Higgins boats, a different kind of transport craft that get caught up on the reef while the Japanese are beginning to blow them up with accurate fire and sometimes the drivers of these boats begin to panic. There will be quite a bit of animosity and I think we mentioned this very early on between the Marines and Navy and Coast Guard drivers who will drive them from the ships to these beaches they storm
Starting point is 02:02:33 because sometimes those guys don't want to get anywhere near the beaches that these Marines have no choice but to assault. The eyewitness accounts are brutal. There's a time life book series, a whole series on the second world war and they have one book called Island Fighting with a lot of primary source accounts that bring the chaotic and heartbreaking, well I guess unless you're Japanese, scenes to life. One of the ones that caught my attention specifically had to do with some of these vehicles being blown up in the water as they went from the transport ships trying to get the Marines to the beach. Here's the way the book describes it. Only a handful of Amtrak's remained to shuttle them, meaning the Marines, in across the Lagoon Reef. In fact there were no Amtrak's at all in sight when Major Robert Rudds, 3rd Battalion 8th Marines, reached the reef opposite Red Beach 3 in Higgins boats. As the ramps of the boats came down, Marines on shore heard a sound, quote, like a steel girder hitting concrete, end quote, and one of the boats disappeared, quote, it had been there, said one eyewitness, and then suddenly it was not. In its place, for a split second, there was a blur in the air, and then there was nothing, end quote. Then came another grinding crash, and a second boat vanished. The Japanese had the exact range. Beyond the reef, the coxswain of a third boat panicked, quote, this is as far as I go, he yelled, and let down his ramp, and a boatload of heavily laden men drowned in 15 feet of water, end quote.
Starting point is 02:04:20 These were the ones that didn't drown, found themselves sometimes in neck deep water on a coral reef that could cut right through your shoes, holding their rifles over their heads as the machine guns raked the sea around them, quote. The remainder of Rudds' battalion began wading in. Few lived to tell of it, but there were many witnesses. The ship, radioed Major Crow, quote, Rudd is landing to your rear and catching hell, end quote. Crow and his men could see for themselves. So could a sailor on the dashield in the lagoon, that's a destroyer, watching through binoculars. He recalled, and this is the recollection, quote, it was like a war movie. Those poor guys plotting in chest high water and getting shot down. I tried not to look, but I couldn't turn away. The horror of it hypnotized me. If I get to be a hundred years old, I'll always remember, end quote. Overhead, the story continues, in the battleship Maryland's scout plane, Lieutenant Commander Robert McPherson watched too. He wrote in his log, quote, the water seemed never clear of tiny men, their rifles held over their heads, slowly wading beachward. They kept falling, falling, falling, singly in groups and in rows, end quote. The description ends with this, quote, some of the waiter is made it to relative safety under the pier. Others trudged on towards shore through water tinged pink and whipped by bullets. Many died quickly. Some died slowly, wounded and struggling to keep their heads above water as the blood drained out of them and their packs pressed them down.
Starting point is 02:06:05 They stepped into holes and drowned. Some died trying to help wounded buddies, heads and limbs of the newly slain Bob gently in the swell. The dead from the first assault waves floated stiffly like logs, end quote. The chaos at shore was very apparent when the Marines managed to get something like six medium tanks ashore. But in order for the tanks to move up and help, they would have had to have rolled over and crushed Marine dead and wounded, which they refused to do. Then when trying to get around them ended up falling into holes for the most part. And once again, like so much in this conflict, it's average infantrymen that have to go up and average Marines that have to go up and destroy all of these Japanese strong points by hand. And by the time it's over with, so are the Japanese of the 4,700 Japanese defenders on the island, 17 prisoners are taken. And most of them grievously wounded. A lot of Japanese will kill themselves by shooting themselves with their own rifles, pulling the triggers with their big toes and of the Marines. Well, Ernest and Trevor DuPuis say this quote. Terawa, in ratio between casualties and troops engaged, ranks among the costliest battles in American military history. Its lessons brought about many improvements in amphibious assault techniques, correcting the manifest mistakes committed there. End quote. Saying that the Marine casualties on Terawa would end up saving Marine lives later in the war by teaching invaluable lessons on how you conduct amphibious warfare is cold comfort to the families of the dead. We had said earlier that Japanese parents of dead Japanese soldiers would have every right to think about their young people, their loved ones as being sacrificed.
Starting point is 02:08:13 Admiral Nimitz received tons of letters and one of them is quoted in the Time Life book just saying you killed my son at Terawa. Imagine getting a bunch of those. According to the Encyclopedia of Military History, Marine losses taking these places in the Gilberts were 985 dead Marines and 2193 wounded ones fighting, as we said, in a territory about half the size of New York Central Park. The American public was shocked by the results and doubly so because Franklin Roosevelt made the executive decision to do something that was rare and allow footage of American corpses floating off the beach to be shown in theaters. He thought the American public needed a jolt in the fabulous documentary I mentioned earlier, Hell in the Pacific. It said that the shock did indeed result in an increased number of war bonds being sold, but it also resulted in Marine Corps recruitment dropping. For the same reason my stepdad probably didn't want me in the Marines. He called it a suicide squad and when you saw those elite Marines wading 700 yards in chest deep water under machine gun fire, well if you're a parent, you probably don't want your son doing that. The Marines didn't want their people doing that either and what their Marines paid a high price for learning at Tarawa will be employed later, as we said. Reminds me of Douglas Hague on the western front, the British commander there that took so much flak for being a butcher, but fans of Douglas Hague say that what he learned in those terrible battles that got him that nickname assured that there would be less loss of life later in the war.
Starting point is 02:10:24 Marines at places like Iwo Jima later will benefit from the sacrifice of Marines at Tarawa now. Douglas Hague, of course, is a First World War general and if you look at the difference between tactics, strategy and equipment in 1914, the first year of the First World War and 1918, the last year of the First World War, right, a mere four years, it is astounding and I believe we said when we talked about the First World War, it's like technology on steroids and in the modern world war has that effect. You see it in the Second World War also. By 1943, the Allies aren't just churning out tons more stuff than the Axis, right, it's not just a quantitative advantage, it is beginning to show a huge improvement in quality as well. The United States, for example, had poor, for the most part, poor aircraft when the war started. There were some exceptions. By 1943, much, much better aircraft are making appearances and being deployed. I mean, the P-38, the famous Lightning, that was a 1942 plane really, but in 1943, it's all over the place. In 1943, you start getting P-47s. You start getting Corsairs, the F-4U. The P-51s are still a little ways away, but you do start getting B-29 Superfortresses rolling off the assembly lines. New carrier aircraft, Helldivers, I mean, it's going to be the fact that the Japanese especially are not going to be able to take advantage of improvements in technology to anywhere near the same degree.
Starting point is 02:12:13 If you're an aircraft fan from the Second World War, you know that they're constantly, all the powers are trying to take advantage of what you learn in combat and come up with variants of your planes or new versions. Take the ME-109, the German aircraft. Well, there was an ME-109A, BCDE, finally you get to like the Gs and stuff, and they're all better, right, taking advantage of newer stuff. The Americans will do the same thing. The British will do the same thing. The Russians will do the same thing, but the Japanese fall behind on that too. They had the zero fighter that was such a great fighter when the war started, but as the war goes on, the Japanese aren't getting much better, and their enemies are. So you combine the fact that you're going to have a ton more aircraft being churned out by Allied factories, and this aircraft is going to start outstripping the Japanese aircraft in quality too. It's not just aircraft that are getting qualitatively better. I mean, for example, in 1943, you start seeing late-42, actually, but in 1943, you start seeing the Essex-class aircraft carriers rolling off the assembly lines. My dad served on the Essex in the Korean War. The Essex is one of these carriers that actually takes advantage of wartime experience to make a better design, as we should remember. In the Second World War, everyone expected battleships to be the big, important queen of the seas.
Starting point is 02:13:43 When it turned out to be aircraft carriers, the aircraft carriers that Japan and the United States had, for example, were ones that were designed before the war, before they knew that these were going to be the dominant ships, and before they had any chance to incorporate real wartime lessons into the design. The Essex-class carriers are different, and people who talk about them, I was reading a whole thing on them just the other day. We're saying that they're significantly better than the pre-war aircraft carriers. The Japanese are not going to get a chance to incorporate those wartime lessons in ship design anywhere near as effectively because they produce so many fewer ships. The Japanese are going to rely on converting battleships that are under construction into aircraft carriers. I mean, they're going to try stop-gap measures to help themselves. Meanwhile, the United States is creating, like, seven, eight, nine new fleet carriers a year.
Starting point is 02:14:40 I mean, it's a dynamic that the Japanese can't win. It's a steamroller by 43, and 1943 shows you that the Axis are beginning to lose everywhere. We said the beginning of 1942 to the end of 1942, it's like night and day. But once 1943 rolls around, this is a one-way street when it comes to how things are going. 43 is a terrible year for the Axis. 44 is worse, and of course, 45 is nightmarish. 1943 is the year that the Allies kick the Axis powers out of North Africa. They then quickly cross the Mediterranean and invade the island of Sicily.
Starting point is 02:15:23 Then they quickly cross from the island of Sicily to Italy and knock the Italians out of the war. Mussolini is deposed in 1943, so he's one of the big three, right? Tojo Hitler and Mussolini, the Germans flip out, as you might imagine, when Italy decides it's going to declare war on them now, they quickly occupy the country, and they start fighting the British and American forces in the tough mountainous terrain of Italy, with Mussolini controlling sort of a rump, symbolic state that's propped up by Hitler. But the writing's on the wall.
Starting point is 02:16:00 Also in 1943, the bombing of German cities really ramps up. 42 saw, you know, the 1,000 bomber raids and all that. By 43, it's almost round the clock bombing, the British at night, the Americans by day. And eventually, this will begin to take its toll on German quality, because German designs will be almost Captain America-ish, you know, crazy technological stuff, you know, jets and all these other things. But slowly but surely, you see the whittling down of German parts and the tool-and-die industry and the ball bearings and all these things that suffer from the bombing,
Starting point is 02:16:37 so that by 1945, you may have these really sophisticated German designs, but the internal parts and whatnot are substandard by German standards. And so that will begin to erode some of the value in these high-tech designs and will also make it harder for the Germans to churn out some of this cutting-edge stuff in any sort of numbers that could make a difference. On the Eastern Front, the Soviets are now, by the end of 1943, pushing the Axis forces irrevocably and irreversibly back toward the frontiers of Germany. All the conquered territory that the Germans had taken in 1941 and 1942
Starting point is 02:17:25 is being won back at huge costs by the Soviets. And even though some areas will remain in German hands longer than others, the long fighting retreat back towards Germany has begun. And of course, in Britain, the stockpiling of troops and aircraft, supplies, equipment, and transport ships is well underway for the long-awaited, much-anticipated reinvasion of Western Europe that will culminate with the June 6, 1944 landings at D-Day in Normandy. So the Axis is in real trouble by the end of 1943.
Starting point is 02:18:07 You can see how things are speeding up in the Pacific by the fact that the Allies, the Americans especially, start increasing the speed of their timetable beyond what they thought they would. They'd had estimates for how long it would take to move from this island to that island, and they throw those timetables out and they start going more quickly. What's more, the fact that they have control over a lot of the code-breaking, as we said, and the intelligence allows them to see where the Japanese are deciding to put their reinforcements, right, they'll reinforce this island and then that island, so the Americans will go to other islands.
Starting point is 02:18:42 It is absolutely a confounding strategy for the Japanese. This is really the point in the war where you can find yourself, as I do now, somewhat morally conflicted by how you feel about the Japanese situation, because on one hand, in the so-called good war that the Second World War is portrayed as, these are the bad guys, and to feel sorry for them is like feeling sorry for Nazi Germany. But I always try to remind myself that there are a lot of people in a place like Japan who didn't support where things are or wouldn't have, and they're trapped along with the people that maybe deserve some level of retribution,
Starting point is 02:19:26 and all of them, I would think, have some bone to pick or a good argument to be made against a government that puts them in the situation that they find themselves now, because they're about to reap the whirlwind. We've said all along that Japan this whole time has been punching above its weight class. How astounding their conquests have been to this point, because Japan has no right to expect that they could do what they've done. We compared it to the Japanese rising sun going supernova, and the explosion has taken the blast radius to the borders of India in one direction,
Starting point is 02:20:03 to the borders of the Soviet Union in the north, all the way to Midway Island, you know, nearing Hawaii in the west, and down south all the way to New Guinea and the Solomons. It's an amazing achievement for a small island nation, a nation that is resource poor, a nation whose industry is only formidable when compared to its regional competitors, but punching above your weight class often doesn't last, and they're about to find out exactly why they're forced to use their human capital
Starting point is 02:20:38 in such a reckless and heartbreaking fashion, because they have to make up for the material capital that they lack. E&W told in The Conquering Tide has a story that just perfectly exemplifies how ridiculously outclassed the Japanese are at this point in the war, once the great arsenal of democracy in the United States, for example, has ramped up, and you see big companies like Boeing and Grumman and Douglas, these aircraft companies that are churning out assembly line production of planes, and the Japanese still have skilled small craftsmen churning out theirs,
Starting point is 02:21:16 and he tells a story about how the Mitsubishi plant that is making the zero fighters has no airfield next door to it, and so they have to transport the newly made zero fighters, can't do it on a truck, apparently they're too fragile, can't do it on railroads, there's no railheads near the factory, so they use beasts of burden to do it, oxen towing these fighter planes the 25 miles that they need to go, and by this time in the war, they can't get feed for the oxen except on the black market,
Starting point is 02:21:52 and when that starts to fail, Tol says, the oxen start to die, and so they can't get the planes the 25 miles they need to get them so that they can be used. Think about how much of a disadvantage that puts the Japanese in, and think about how symbolic it is that this country who has to use oxen to move 20th century aircraft, the situation they find themselves in when they're facing the United States at this point in the war, in mid-1944 the United States begins to turn the very strategy that had been part of the defense plans of Japan against them. We have said for a long time now, haven't we that the Japanese plan here was to have a chain of island outposts, a defense perimeter made up of islands that had airfields,
Starting point is 02:22:49 that could throw up an interconnected web of air cover over the entire region, shutting down sea lanes to their adversaries, sinking Allied fleets, destroying Allied bases on other islands. This is just what the Americans start to do. It's turnabout is fair play time, and if you look at a day-to-day rundown of events in the Pacific War, you will notice a growing number of air attacks over a wide range of territory almost all the time. Some of them are moderate in size, but some of them are very large. I mean, for example, on February 18, 1944, American carrier planes, hundreds of them, strike the Japanese naval base at truck in the Carolines. Now, truck is the main naval base for the Japanese in the Pacific.
Starting point is 02:23:40 It's been called the Gibraltar of the Pacific. It's been called the Japanese Pearl Harbor. But MacArthur's southwest Pacific advances and the Solomon Island advances have already been cutting those areas off, making them less valuable. The Japanese have had to rely on it less and less. They moved a bunch of the big ships out. But when the Americans strike on February 18, they destroy almost 300 Japanese planes, most of them on the ground. They sink something like 200,000 tons of shipping, much of it crucial and vital and in short supply merchant ships.
Starting point is 02:24:13 They have some submarines they're helping the aircraft to and the American submarines are beginning to assert their dominance in a way that has only recently been acknowledged. I mean, they're cutting off the ability of the Japanese to resupply any of these islands and the American aircraft wreck whole parts of the truck naval base. The Japanese are in no position to repair facilities like this. They've got to pick and choose where they can operate and where to put precious fuel and where to risk things like merchant ships. And there's going to be several major events where a whole merchant ship fleets will go down taking hundreds or thousands of Japanese fresh troops on the way to somewhere or being evacuated from somewhere else to the bottom of the sea. It's becoming hard for the Japanese to move. Unfortunately for them, the Americans are doing a darn good job of it against all odds.
Starting point is 02:25:05 The logistical challenges, I mean, if you actually, it's kind of the non-sexy side of war, as we've been saying. If you go look at the actual things the Americans have to do to supply their people over thousands and thousands and thousands of miles of ocean, it is a triumph of modern industrial skill and logistics. As we've said, the Americans have been starting the Central Pacific campaign and that's what Tarawa and the Gilbert Islands was part of. But in February 1944, you get the next jump. Look at your map, right, from the Gilberts all the way to the Marshalls. So on the first week of February, the Americans take Kwajalein. In the third week of February, they take Inuitok.
Starting point is 02:25:44 Now these islands are fought over and they're deadly, but they're nothing like Tarawa. And that's partly because of what was learned at Tarawa. Now the problem for the Japanese, though, is the next jump from the Marshall Islands is to the Marianas. And the Marianas are part of what Japan has now called the Absolute National Defense Zone. So this isn't an area that's on a perimeter that you're hoping to conquer out to and then defend. This is part of an area that the Japanese consider to be like home island stuff. Places like Saipan and Tinian and the former American possession till the Japanese took it of Guam. If the Marianas fall into Allied hands, the Japanese have done the math and realized that the brand new American heavy bombers, the B-29 Superfortresses,
Starting point is 02:26:32 now rolling off the assembly lines. Yeah, if they're taken off from air bases in the Marianas, which are closer to Japan than Hawaii is to California, they'll be able to make the round trip to Tokyo and back bomb the Emperor's Palace if they want to at will. The B-29s have been able to reach Japan from bases in China, but that is small time stuff compared to the round the clock nastiness that the Japanese can expect if the Americans capture the Marianas, which is why they're part of the Absolute National Defense Zone. Everyone realizes how big of a deal this is. No one's quite sure when and where the Americans are going to attack though because their timetables keep catching the Japanese off guard and the Japanese are not reading American codes, but the British and Americans are reading Japanese codes
Starting point is 02:27:23 at around the same time that the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings at Normandy are about to happen, the great preparations for landings in the Marianas are taking place. And the challenges are, you know, everyone knows about D-Day and Normandy and that gets a lot of press, but as a military historian, naval historian, Craig L. Simons writes in his book, World War II in the Pacific, the challenges are not even comparable between the Marianas landings and Normandy and he writes, quote, The American buildup for the invasion of Saipan, codenamed Operation Forager, occurred simultaneously with preparations for Overlord, Overlord, of course, the codename for D-Day. Measured by firepower, he writes, the Saipan invasion fleet was even larger than the one devoted to Normandy.
Starting point is 02:28:16 Raymond Spruance, the admiral, commanded the overall invasion force that included Pete Michener's powerful Task Force 58, which by now consisted of 15 aircraft carriers, 7 battleships, 11 cruisers, and 86 destroyers. It would provide cover for an invasion force that included 56 attack transports and 84 LSTs, those are landing craft, carrying 127, 571 soldiers and Marines, end quote. For comparison purposes, 15 aircraft carriers, and some of these are light carriers, but they'll still make a huge contribution, 15 aircraft carriers is more than double the total number of aircraft carriers the U.S. had in its entire navy at the time of Pearl Harbor. So you can see how this one Task Force is bringing to the table firepower that the U.S. has never had, no one's ever had. It's more than 500 ships that will finally, you know, take part in these Saipan landings, these Marianas attacks.
Starting point is 02:29:19 Simon's continues, quote. The invasion of Saipan also required a much longer sea lift than at Normandy. While the invasion forces for Neptune Overlord, that's Normandy, had to leap 50 or 100 miles across the English Channel, many of the transports and amphibious ships loaded up at Pearl Harbor, more than 3,500 miles from the target beach. For Neptune Overlord, the landing craft could and did shuttle reinforcements and supplies to the beaches in a near constant rotation for weeks after the initial landing. For Saipan, by contrast, the men, equipment, the supplies, and the ammunition all had to cross the broad Pacific in a single giant stride.
Starting point is 02:30:05 Eisenhower, he continues, had warned Marshall that a shortage of LST's landing craft at Normandy could mean that his invasion force might be stranded on the beach for as long as three days without resupply. By design, the men who invaded Saipan would be stranded there for three months before significant reinforcements or supplies could reach them. Though, of course, he writes, the Japanese, too, would have to fight the battle with what they had on hand since Saipan would be virtually cut off from support. End quote. In his book Eagle Against the Sun, Ronald H. Spector describes how the Marianas are going to be a different animal
Starting point is 02:30:47 than Terrawan the Coral Atolls was. It's going to be more like those battles in the Solomon's and maybe even New Guinea. And he writes quote. The Marianas were much different from the tiny low-lying atolls which the Marines had captured in the Gilberts and Marshalls. Saipan, Tinian, and Guam were large and varied land masses, with everything from swamps and sugarcane fields to high, jungle-covered peaks and steep ravines. They combined all the hazards which American soldiers and Marines had learned to dread in their earlier island campaigns. A fringing coral reef protecting a shallow lagoon, rugged jungle terrain,
Starting point is 02:31:30 and lots of limestone and coral caves for bunkers and artillery positions. End quote. American intelligence has been very good, as we said, and they have a huge jump on the Japanese because they and the British are reading Japanese codes. But they don't know that the Japanese have about twice as many defenders on the island as the Americans think they have. That's going to be a nasty surprise. The good news is that because the Marianas are in the inside of the Japanese defense perimeter,
Starting point is 02:32:05 the Japanese don't have the defenses up to par yet because they didn't expect the Americans to be there that soon. So both sides are going to be caught a little off guard when the American attacks on the island start. Air attacks followed by big fleets. I mean, the American fleet's over 500 ships. This may be the largest fleet so far in the war, and it rolls into the area and starts pounding these islands. In his book, The Rising Sun, author John Toland describes a Japanese soldier's account of sitting through the bombardment, waiting for the Marines to eventually land, and he writes, quote, Battleship's cruisers and destroyers began the final bombardment at 530. That would be 530 June 15, 1944, by the way.
Starting point is 02:32:58 The dug-in defenders, he writes, along the beaches and on the slopes, crouched through the ordeal, prepared to fight to the death. One made a final notation in his diary, now from the Japanese diary, quote, They are waiting with Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, ready for the word to rush forward recklessly into the enemy ranks with our swords in our hands. All that worries me is what will happen to Japan after we die, end quote. The Marines and army troops, too, because there's going to be an army division in reserve here, are themselves wondering about what it's going to be like and what sort of hell they're going to encounter when they get to the beach?
Starting point is 02:33:39 They are being given a little bit of information from exactly the wrong people. The Americans, of course, like everyone, like to listen to whatever the cutting-edge music coming out, the new tunes from the states, and unfortunately for them, one of the DJs playing the hits works for the other side. John Toland writes, quote. A more ominous admonition came from a graduate of UCLA, an American girl of Japanese descent who had been visiting a sick aunt in Japan when the war broke out. Nicknamed Tokyo Rose by the Americans, she first went on the air as Anne, short for announcer, and currently called herself Orphan Annie, your favorite enemy.
Starting point is 02:34:30 Now quoting Tokyo Rose's radio broadcast right before the landings at Saipan that the American soldiers and Marines would have heard, setting up the next record playing their favorite brand new song, quote. I've got some swell recordings for you, she was broadcasting, just in from the states. You'd better enjoy them while you can because tomorrow at 0600, you're hitting Saipan and we're ready for you. So while you're still alive, let's listen to, end quote, and then of course she'd say whatever the song was, right? But while you're still alive, here's a little Tommy Dorsey for you, something like that. The Japanese were great at the psychological warfare side of it and the soldiers and Marines getting ready to hit the beach would have had just a little bit more to think about after Orphan Annie gave her broadcast.
Starting point is 02:35:26 When the actual landings start, again, you can see the advantages of the lessons learned at places like Tarawa, because they have enough of the landing craft so that the Marines don't have to go wading through the water with their rifles over their head being shot with machine guns. The landing craft in an almost, I mean, they've really synced up how the landing craft hit the beach almost simultaneously. Now, I should point out that despite a massive naval bombardment and aircraft everywhere, the Japanese were there and ready. So the American Amtrak's and everything coming into the beach was working better. Unfortunately, the Japanese were also ready for the attack and Ronald H. Specter writes quote. The result was that the Amtrak's and armored amphibians churning toward the beach on the morning of June 15th encountered fierce resistance. As the first waves left the line of departure, tractor drivers could see large splashes thrown up by Japanese artillery shells falling directly behind them.
Starting point is 02:36:29 When the landing craft crossed the reef and entered the lagoon, the enemy unleashed a barrage of artillery, mortar, and machine gunfire. Marines crouched low in the bobbing Amtrak's, listening to the whistle of heavy shells and feeling the sickening thud and jerk produced by near misses. The Amtrak's and armored amphibians answered with their 75 millimeter guns and automatic weapons while planes from nearby escort carriers swooped down on the beaches like angry hawks, firing rockets and machine guns and bombing targets just beyond the beach. End quote. He says in the first 20 minutes, 700 of these vehicles and 8,000 troops came ashore. Think about that, to have 8,000 Marines landed in 20 minutes? That is coordination.
Starting point is 02:37:22 Some of these Marines though are going to hold onto a foothold that's as small as 12 yards off of the water. By nightfall, the Marines have landed 20,000 men. This is showing exactly how much of a science they've gotten this down to. The problem is, is that it's not going to be easy even now. At night, the Japanese will counterattack the beach heads. They will use tanks. They will fail, but it's the beginning of the kind of battle that the Japanese are going to fight for the rest of the war when they're fighting essentially for the homeland. They're also willing to risk much more now that the stakes are so high, including their painstakingly rebuilt battle fleet.
Starting point is 02:38:19 There hasn't been a big naval battle in a while now. The Japanese haven't wanted to risk something like this without a good chance of winning or achieving something worth the potential downsides. Saving the absolute national defense zone from conquest is deemed to be something that important. And Ronald H. Specter and Eagle Against the Sun picks up the story. While the Marines were digging in for the night, Lieutenant Commander Robert Risser, captain of the submarine Flying Fish, was peering through his periscope at a parade of Japanese battleships and carriers, silhouetted against the coastline of San Bernardino Strait in the central Philippines, about 900 miles from Saipan. It was the biggest group of targets Risser had ever seen, but he knew that the first priority had to be getting word of this fleet to Spruance and the Pacific Command.
Starting point is 02:39:14 When darkness fell, the Flying Fish, the submarine, surfaced and sent out her message, quote, the Japanese fleet is heading for the Marianas, end quote. Admiral Spruance will tell his commanders that the Japs are coming after us with the largest fleet they've ever used also. And it should be pointed out that on a historic standard, these fleets aren't just the largest fleets in this war up till this time. These are the most powerful fleets that have ever come in contact with each other in world history, even up until this day. In Hirohito's War, Francis Pike puts it in perspective. He points out that the largest aircraft carrier battle before this time period, where you have aircraft carriers on both sides, is the Battle of Midway, where both sides put together muster seven aircraft carriers.
Starting point is 02:40:12 He says it's almost 350% more than the second most battle. He says if you take just the aircraft involved, this is the largest air battle in American history. He says if you just count the aircraft, it's at the fourth largest air battle in all history anywhere. And he says if you add what's going on at the Battle of Saipan with land forces and everything over there, he says it's arguably the largest military naval engagement in history. In other words, an engagement that has both naval elements and land elements. People don't think about it that way. This is a perfect example of the kinds of encounters in the Second World War in the Pacific Theater that don't get noticed by people that focus inordinately on the European Theater.
Starting point is 02:40:59 There are no naval encounters in the Mediterranean or the North Sea or the Atlantic to rival anything like what's going on in the Pacific. And if you're a Japanese sailor, you would have every right to feel optimistic about the outcome here. The Japanese are desperate for a decisive battle and it looks like they've scraped together the proper forces to get one. And over and over you read these remembrances by Japanese sailors who are looking out over the balcony and can see this fleet that is so much more powerful than even the fleet they struck Pearl Harbor with. I mean, just take the two largest battleships that human beings have ever put afloat. And they're with this Japanese fleet, the famous Yamato and her sister ship, the Musashi, whose 18.1 inch guns have never been fired in anger. They're going to be fired in anger now, the Japanese figure. And then they've got their first new purpose-built aircraft carrier to come off the slips in a while.
Starting point is 02:41:55 The Tyho, armored flight deck, and you love this little poke in the eye of fate, don't you? Considered to be unsinkable. You may recall that that's the same moniker that the poor Titanic had and the Tyho has only been commissioned for a month, right? So you talk brand new, it's brand new and it becomes the flagship. The Japanese have a plan and it's a good one. They're going to launch their planes, which have significantly greater range than the American aircraft out of the Americans range. So that they can hit the American ships, but they can't be struck in return. The Devil, though, is in the details when you get to the nitty-gritty.
Starting point is 02:42:35 Part of the reason the Japanese planes have this extra range is because they lack some of the things that the American planes are going to have, like armor. Makes you light to not have armor, increases your range, increases your maneuverability, but you better not get hit. And they don't have things like self-sealing fuel tanks, like the Americans, which will, again, lower your weight, just don't get hit in the fuel tanks or the fuel lines. Some of these Japanese aircraft are of a new, improved type, which, as we pointed out, all the major countries of the world are trying to keep pace with aircraft development. And the Japanese have fallen behind, so it's great to have all these new aircraft. The problem was, is to go with all these new aircraft, the Japanese have all these new pilots who can hardly fly these new aircraft. And they're having accidents all the time. In the post-war interviews with Japanese admirals, they focus on this inordinately.
Starting point is 02:43:28 And it was not something that was really apparent at the time, but these aircraft are being flown by Japanese pilots who have dozens of hours in the cockpit often, compared to hundreds and hundreds of hours that the American counterparts that they're going to fly against have in theirs. And you would rather have a much worse plane with a much more experienced pilot than to have a pilot who only has dozens of hours in the cockpit, even if their plane's better, and in the case of the Japanese, their planes aren't better. Want to get an idea of the little things that show exactly how desperate the Japanese are? The Japanese have fueled a lot of these warships with the equivalent of straight crude oil right out of the ground. They can't even get the oil that they need for the ships, boilers, and engines refined. And if they do get them refined, they can't get the refined oil to where the warships are.
Starting point is 02:44:23 They have huge fuel problems. And you know it because this straight crude is going to foul the boilers, destroy the engines. I mean, you don't use this if you think you're going to have a fleet to fight next year and the year after and the year after that. This is a sign of desperation. As the Japanese fleet approaches the Americans, on June 19, 1944, they begin launching their waves of attack planes. Now, they are outnumbered by the Americans in carrier aircraft, and they know this. They have a compensatory part of their strategy to deal with this, though. They know they've got airfields on all these islands around Saipan, and they all have land-based aircraft.
Starting point is 02:45:07 So they're going to add the land-based aircraft to the carrier-based aircraft that they have, and they may even outnumber the Americans. And what they don't know is that for the previous days leading up to this, the Americans have been pounding all these airfields, pounding them, whittling down all this strength the Japanese admirals are counting on, cratering these airfields and making them next to useless. If you read the primary source accounts of what's going on when the Japanese begin to launch these attack waves at the Americans, it's funny because it's not what you would expect. There are often a bunch of Japanese naval officers sitting in the command center of, say, one of these aircraft carriers. And after they launch the planes, they start looking at their watches because they know how long it should take those planes to get to the Americans. And they're expecting to hear all this chatter over the radio and start to hear reports about what's happening and what's being sunk and all those kinds of things.
Starting point is 02:46:06 And they look at their watches, and they're not getting anything back. They figure, okay, this must have happened or that must have happened. And then they look at their watches again a little while later, and there's still nothing. And you can sense the unease growing. Something seems wrong. And what turns out to be wrong is that the Americans are not caught by surprise, but instead are waiting for the Japanese. The Japanese have added radar since midway. So they've got some radar now, but it's not as good as the Americans.
Starting point is 02:46:36 And there's very little of it compared to what the Americans had. The Americans are not just loaded with radar. They're putting it in airplanes now. They're putting it in anti-aircraft shells, the famous VT shells, which instead of the aircraft having to be hit with an anti-aircraft round to explode, the American rounds will sense when the aircraft are near and just explode. This will take a huge toll as well. We had talked earlier about how the Americans are learning how to conduct aerial defense. And by 1944, they've got this down to a science.
Starting point is 02:47:08 They've got their aircraft carriers protected with ring after ring of other warships, including at the very outer edges, destroyers that are on picket duty, so that when the Japanese aircraft show up looking for aircraft carriers, first they have to get through the defensive screen of American planes. If they get through them, then they run into the destroyers, then they run into the cruisers after that, then they run into the battleships after that, all of them shooting and filling. Go look at pictures, filling the sky with black puffs, every one of those involving shrapnel going out in every direction. And the Japanese do not make it through these defenses to get to the precious American aircraft carriers. They get massacred by the American fighters.
Starting point is 02:47:52 One American pilot who's enjoying this unbelievable killing field says, this is just like a turkey shoot. And forever afterwards, the Americans will refer to this battle as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. What you're really seeing, if you boil it down to brass tacks, is you are seeing veteran experienced combat pilots feasting on a bunch of kids basically, on a bunch of people who've got no hours in the cockpit, who can hardly land their planes on carriers and who are being torn to pieces and who gain almost nothing for their trouble.
Starting point is 02:48:32 While the aircraft are being launched by the Japanese aircraft carriers, things start to go wrong already. And an American submarine spots the wonderful, brand new, one month after commission, unsinkable Tyho and launches a bunch of torpedoes at her in an incident that deserves to be remembered with the name of the pilot, the Japanese pilot name, and I hope I pronounce his name properly, Asakiyo Komatsu is above the Tyho, sees the torpedo wakes heading for his carrier and dives his plane at one of them, and then suicidally, smashes into the ocean, destroys the torpedo that's heading for his aircraft carrier,
Starting point is 02:49:13 killing himself, destroying his plane, but not keeping all those torpedoes from hitting the Tyho. One of them hits it. And like so many of the Japanese carriers at the earlier battles, doesn't seem to do a lot of damage initially, but stuff starts to add up. Another American submarine spots the Shokaku, which is one of the veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack, launches a bunch of torpedoes at it. What's kind of ironic about this is the American submarine doctrine is not meant to go after warships, like the German doctrine, it's meant to go after merchant ships.
Starting point is 02:49:48 It's the Japanese who build these massive submarines intending to utilize them against warships and kind of, you know, looking their noses down at the idea of attacking merchant ships, and yet here you are with two Japanese aircraft carriers struck by American submarines, and the air complement of these carriers being torn to shreds by American aircraft. This is a sacrifice on the Japanese part that is heartbreaking and before the battle, the heads of the fleet had raised the flag of Admiral Togo, the Japanese naval hero who won the most famous Japanese naval battle ever, the 1905 crushing victory over the Russians at Tsushima.
Starting point is 02:50:33 So they raised that same battle flag and they basically repeat Admiral Togo's message, you know, that the fate of the Empire rests on this battle and every man is expected to do his utmost, which is sort of a Japanese version of the Lord Horatio Nelson, the British Admiral's line, and they do their utmost and they die while doing it. Author Nathan Miller in his book, War at Sea, a Naval History of World War II, writes about the American planes finding the Japanese and beginning to lay into them and writes, quote, The two forces collided about 90 miles from the American carriers, pushing the charging handles of their 650 caliber guns and checking their sights.
Starting point is 02:51:18 The Hellcat, the American, the Hellcat pilots, nose down from 25,000 feet, on the 69 Japanese planes spread out below them. Let me stop here, that's just one wave of the Japanese attack and Miller continues, quote. Commander Charles W. Brewer reported that his initial burst of gunfire literally ripped a zero to pieces. Before the debris had hit the sea, Brewer was already on the tail of another fighter. He accounted for two more zeroes during the brief battle. Japanese planes were, quote, end quote, falling like leaves, said one pilot, and those that escaped got only as far as the line of battleships protecting the carriers
Starting point is 02:52:01 before they were shot down by anti-aircraft guns firing shells with VT fuses, those are the radar fuses. Some cartwheeled along the surface of the sea in flaming arcs and exploded in black geysers of smoke and seawater. The only hit was on the South Dakota, which lost 27 men without a reduction in her fighting capacity. In all, 42 Japanese planes were shot down by the Hellcats and the surface ship screen. No enemy aircraft reached the carriers and only one American plane was lost, end quote. That was an example of what happened to one wave of the Japanese attacks, but all the subsequent waves went the same way. One American pilot said, for 35 miles he could see burning wreckage leaking oil and on fire in the sea, where all these Japanese planes kept falling into the water.
Starting point is 02:52:55 When the final numbers are tallied, it is one of the most one-sided naval battles in all history. The Taiho, which had been struck by that one torpedo, eventually blew up when the fumes from fuel lines spread to the whole ship and ignited several hours after the torpedo hit. The Shokaku that was hit by other torpedoes turned over and sank. The next day, the Americans managed to find a light carrier, the He-Yu, and they sink that. The only real drama on the American side happens when American planes try to get back to their aircraft carriers. They had been launched desperately and with an understanding that the Japanese were too far away for them to hit and get back to their carriers. So they limp back almost out of gas and the American Admiral does something that they did in an earlier battle as well.
Starting point is 02:53:53 It's one of those moments that's an inspiring one because with all the submarines and all the apparent Japanese aircraft that may still be out there and dangerous, you want to run dark when the sun goes down. You don't want to be visible, but with American planes trying to find you and desperately land, the American Admiral decides to light them up like a Hollywood premiere, as one of the American pilots said. They turn on all the lights, then they turn on the landing lights, then they turn the search lights on and point them straight up in the air. And even though a lot of American pilots ditch into the sea, they're quickly rescued and the final casualty totals according to Ernest and Trevor Dupuy in the Encyclopedia of Military History are, quote, The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, as it's called, cost Admiral Ozawa 346 planes and two big fleet carriers.
Starting point is 02:54:45 And of course, one light carrier. U.S. losses, they write, were but 30 planes and some slight damage to a battleship from a single Japanese bomb which found its target, end quote. That is a crushing defeat for a Japan that needed a decisive battle, but not a decisive battle that they lost. What's more, when it's over, the fighting on Saipan is still just getting started. And if Saipan falls, remember, all of a sudden Japan and its homeland are within range of America's brand new super heavy B-29 super fortress bombers. The B-29 super fortress, by the way, is a fearsome weapon. It is a preview of what Cold War bombers will look like. And it is a quantum leap from where bomber technology was a mere five years before this time when the Second World War began.
Starting point is 02:55:49 And the Japanese don't have to try to imagine what it might be like to have their cities come under attack by this weapon because they need only look at their Axis partner, Germany, and see German cities being converted from full-fledged, functioning cities into rubble, nightly and daily by Allied bombing attacks by bomber planes which are nowhere near as sophisticated as the B-29. And when U.S. Army Air Corps personnel begin launching B-29 bomber attacks from southern China which are just able to hit the Japanese mainland. They can't hit most of the islands, they can't hit Tokyo, but it's a warning that as they inch closer and as the airfields get closer to Japan and as the range of these bombers increases, it's only a matter of time. And in April 1944, I think it's April, the Japanese will launch their largest offensive of the entire war. And it is little known in the West, which I've always found interesting, but I didn't know about it till about 35 years ago.
Starting point is 02:56:56 It's called Operation Ichigo, half a million Japanese soldiers, more than 100,000 horses, something like 15,000 vehicles. And we've already explained the Japanese lack of resources and they can hardly get their fleet enough fuel to even move. So something like this is a major endeavor. So one would think, well, this must be for high stakes, right? If the Japanese win here at this operation Ichigo against the Chinese, it should be decisive. Unfortunately and tragically, if you're looking at this from the Japanese point of view, it's not. I mean, they're really trying to create a land bridge between two areas they control and they're trying to overrun these American air bases so that the B-29s can't hit them from China.
Starting point is 02:57:45 By the time it's over, the Japanese lose another 100,000 of their soldiers. They inflict something like north of 300,000 more casualties on the Chinese for little decisive gain. This is becoming a pattern in 1944 where the apocalyptic side of this war from the Japanese perspective just picks up steam. I mean, in the same time period, the Japanese launch another attack in the Burma India Theater, which ends up going nowhere and cost them another 72,000 dead. The fighting in New Guinea has never stopped. In fact, the Japanese are still inflicting casualties on Americans and Australians there. And the disease, which we really have not done justice to, is killing and incapacitating more Japanese,
Starting point is 02:58:34 more Australians, and more Americans than the combat. Many times more casualties than the combat, the malaria, the dysentery, the many other infections and stuff that are taking a toll of Allied and Axis soldiery is brutal. As we said, this is the theater where people starve to death and disease kills or incapacitates far more people than combat. This is not how it is on most of the other fronts. It makes the Asia-Pacific theater different. And at this time period, the New Guinea campaign, the island of death is really living up to the hype as far as the Japanese post-war reputation of that place is concerned. And after MacArthur promises no more bunas, because the Buna campaign was vicious,
Starting point is 02:59:21 he and the Australians managed to sort of bypass most of the Japanese, cut them off from supply, and leave more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers on New Guinea starving to death. A dying of disease. And then as we said, you have the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which just ended the Great Marianas Turkey shoot with the Japanese lose three carriers, hundreds of planes and barely scratch the Americans. It's a sign that the war is beginning to enter a new phase, a phase where just like in Europe, actually, the Axis have lost the war, but they're going to continue fighting. The last year of the war is the most horrible, but it's also a time when there is no doubt as to who's going to win it,
Starting point is 03:00:08 which creates a circumstance that just adds to a sort of a tragic overlay to the whole thing, right? It's one thing if you die for a cause, but if it's a lost cause already, it reminds one of something like the last stands all throughout history. I mean, think of Thermopylae or think of the Alamo if you're an American, right? The famous last stand in Texas where an overwhelmed amount of volunteers at a little church or a mission in Texas get overwhelmed by the Mexican military that outnumbers them many times over. But something like Thermopylae or the Alamo is redeemed somewhat because eventually the people that were able to overwhelm the last stand are paid back, you know, many times over, right? The Americans come in and defeat the Mexicans in a war, the Greeks defeat the Persians eventually. In this part of the conflict, the Japanese are going to fight the equivalent of Alamo after Alamo after Alamo and Thermopylae after Thermopylae after Thermopylae, but there's never going to be an avenging angel moment when the battle of the Philippine Sea is over.
Starting point is 03:01:17 The Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian and Guam are on their own. There will be no reinforcement, there will be no resupply, their job is to die and take as many of the allies with them while they're doing it. Now, we should remember that this was always part of the plan, right? As strange as it sounds that this should be the plan, but the Japanese were going to have these island outposts and then they were going to make the allies take them back. And the assumption was the Japanese would be willing to take more pounding than the allies would take, you know, inflicting the pounding. That's already been put to the test on a number of these places, New Guinea, the Solomon's, Terawa, the Gilberts, the Marshals. But Saipan begins a different segment of this war because on Saipan are a bunch of Japanese civilians. As you get closer to Japan, you start running into women and children and this complicates matters greatly
Starting point is 03:02:15 and adds a whole different sort of problem for the Americans and the Australians as they try to deal with these places. Because what do you do with civilians that get caught in the crossfire? What's more, what do you do with civilians that get caught in the crossfire who are thoroughly indoctrinated by Japanese propaganda to believe, for example, that people like the Marines are going to rape and murder them? One of the pieces of propaganda said that a Marine could not become a Marine until they killed a close family member. I mean, if this is what you really believe, you have a bunch of civilians that are almost as fanatical sometimes as the soldiers. And you see this play out tragically on Saipan and on Guam, Saipan most of all, though. And what happens on that island so shocks the American High Command that they begin to make calculations that if this is what it's like on an outer Japanese island, what will it be like if we actually have to invade the Japanese home islands? Are all the civilians going to be like this?
Starting point is 03:03:20 After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, we'd said that the Marines had landed in force on Saipan. They have misjudged the number of Japanese defenders on the island. There's 32,000 of them, which is about twice as many as the Americans thought. This forces the Americans to bring in an army unit that they brought in reserve. They land the 27th Division and then the Marines in the 27th Division begin advancing up the island of Saipan, which is about 12 or 15 miles long. Guam is the big one in the Marionnes. It's like 30 miles long. And when these units advance up the island of Saipan, you see the American interservice rivalry reach the boiling point and boil over. The Japanese, of course, have the most famous interservice rivalry of any of the major powers. Their army and navy almost hate each other sometimes. I mean, it gets into open warfare practically.
Starting point is 03:04:17 The Americans, though, not immune, but at this point when the Marines are relying on the army and then decide that the army is unreliable, all hell breaks loose, something that becomes a big enough problem to go all the way up to the American High Command back in Washington, D.C. It breaks out into open discussion in the American media with some newspaper outlets siding with the Marines, other newspaper outlets siding with the Army. And what happened is this. The Marine forces on Saipan were on both sides of the army unit. The army was the center and the army was connecting the two Marine divisions. When everybody advanced, the army units were slower in the advance. And what that meant was the Marines were able to move farther ahead of the army, which imperiled their flanks, and the Japanese infiltrators could attack them.
Starting point is 03:05:09 Both the Marine commander on Saipan and the U.S. Army commander on Saipan were both named Smith. The Marine commander was a guy named Howlin' Mad Smith was his nickname. And he proved that he would live up to it when he started berating the commander of the U.S. Army forces for being insufficiently aggressive. And then he went to his own admiral and demanded that he be fired, this other army commander, and then the admiral fired him. And all hell breaks loose when that happens. The army, not happy with that, as you might imagine, getting in each other's faces. I mean, it's really quite astounding. Many of the commentators I was reading would either take the Marine side or the Army side, but plenty of them said that a lot of this disagreement stemmed from a very different idea of tactics and doctrine.
Starting point is 03:05:57 The Marines traveled lightly, advanced quickly, were willing to suck up more casualties in the hopes that by ending a campaign sooner, the overall casualties would be lessened. The army was much more deliberate. They preferred to wait for things like artillery support. They would hunker down at night and sometimes retreat to a better perimeter. They were trying to save lives, right? Use maneuver, use technology, use air and artillery to lessen the amount of casualties. But what this meant was the 27th Division connecting the two Marine divisions was not moving as quickly, and this was upsetting the Marines. The fighting on Saipan was also, you know, it's becoming a cliche to call it deadly, but all these islands have different threats, as we've been saying all along.
Starting point is 03:06:43 On Saipan, it's caves. The island is riddled with them, and Japanese soldiers will hide in these caves, and if the caves are not dealt with, they will come out after the Americans move past them and attack them in the flank and rear snipers and all those kinds of things. The problem that the Allies and the Americans find out, though, is that these caves sometimes have civilians in them, and the civilians tend to be in the places where you least expect them, and this makes matters more complicated and tragic. Army Sergeant John Sider is quoted in Matthew A. Rezel's book, The Things Our Fathers Saw, and describes one of these caves that they come across, and the Americans had Japanese Americans with them, who they would often use as translators to communicate with the Japanese soldiers and would say,
Starting point is 03:07:35 hey, you know, come out of the caves, and that's the story Sergeant John Sider relates. He says, quote, we had this cave, and we had two Japanese Americans, guys from the Hawaiian Islands. They didn't carry guns or anything, but they were smart. They walked right into the cave and talked to the Japanese soldiers. They weren't going to give up. Our two came out and told us, and then they went back in and told them they had five minutes before we were going to shell them. Then they went back in and told them they had three minutes. All of a sudden, we heard the screaming of women and children. We told them to let the civilians out. The Japanese wouldn't let them out. That was their protection. So it came down to, dot, dot, dot. They blew the cave up. How many people were killed? We don't know, but that cave was closed. They exploded it with dynamite.
Starting point is 03:08:26 End quote. In a Japan at war in oral history, Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook interview a Japanese veteran on Saipan who has a truly reader's digest type adventure. Maybe that's not the right way to describe it. Trying to survive the American assault on Saipan, and eventually he finds himself in a cave like the one the American just described that they had to blow up. The veteran, his name was Yamauchi Takeo, and he describes finding this cave and running in it with a buddy for protection. But there were already people in the cave, including civilians. You begin to see the tragedy and perhaps a preview of what a war against the Japanese home islands might turn out to be like. The veteran says quote.
Starting point is 03:09:17 That sailor and I fled to the very northern tip of the island where we found a cave to crawl into. Inside were a Japanese non-com, a non-commissioned officer. I thought he must be a master's sergeant. That's the way he spoke. Several soldiers and some Japanese women with babies. Maybe 20 of them all together. It was pitch dark at night. I could hear their voices. Babies crying. The sailor and I sat in the corner in the darkness without talking to anyone else there. Immediately above that cave ran a road. American forces were all over the place. The sergeant insisted that the baby's cries would alert the Americans.
Starting point is 03:09:54 Kill them yourself or I'll order my men to do it. That's the sergeant speaking. Several mothers killed their own children, the veteran says. Now he talks about the Americans attempt to get them to come out. Quote. Now the Americans began to broadcast surrender advice over loudspeakers. From the sea. Japanese forces, throw down your arms. We will protect the honor of those who fought hard and who give themselves up.
Starting point is 03:10:25 We have water. We have food. Their Japanese, he says, was a little shaky. They said that they would resume firing after a fixed interval. That was the first time I heard an American call to surrender. But I feared that if I surrendered within sight of our own men during daylight, I might be shot in the back. End quote. He then tells a heart wrenching story of a civilian teenager.
Starting point is 03:10:50 Many of the civilians had cyanide and they were killing themselves. And he says that this teenager's whole family took the cyanide and killed themselves. But seemingly gave her something that was fake so that she would survive and live. And he said that he had to tell her you can't kill yourself. Your parents tried to spare your life. You know, they say that things like war and any big historical story is thousands of little individual stories added together like a mosaic. This is truly tragic.
Starting point is 03:11:23 And yet at the same time, you know, especially in the years after the war, one would hear a story like this and say, well, they asked for it. They started the war and all those kinds of things, which is understandable. And yet at the same time, one's tempted to suggest that there are a lot of innocent, blameless, or just pawns on all sides trapped in this kind of matrix, if you will. If you can't spare some sympathy for Japanese civilians, at least spare some for the Chamorros, the people of Saipan who were there
Starting point is 03:12:01 before the Japanese even arrived after the First World War. Thousands upon thousands, maybe tens of thousands of those people will die and suffer terribly caught in the caves while the Americans and the Japanese fought it out in a book called Saipan, Oral Histories of the Pacific War by Bruce M. Petty. He recounts story after story told by Chamorro people who survived this affair and the loved ones that they lost along the way and the family tragedies that unfolded in front of them.
Starting point is 03:12:35 It's grim stuff. As the Americans fight their way up the island, the Japanese can see the writing on the wall in his book, Combined Fleet Decoded. Author John Prattus quotes another Japanese diary, this one by a soldier named Nagata Kazumi, and he's writing this its thought on July 4th, and his diary entry is a testament to what most Japanese by this time
Starting point is 03:13:10 are clearly aware of, that the end game is in sight, and he writes, quote, The decision to make a final stand has at last been announced. Only Japanese officers and men will fight under such hopeless conditions. The spirit of Yamato, however, is rendered powerless by the overwhelming strength and the heavy weapons of the enemy. The island of Saipan is too small. It is even difficult for me to hide myself, and I'm only five feet tall. Our last day will be here in a day or two.
Starting point is 03:13:41 Nothing to regret, nothing more to do. This is fate. It had to end this way, end quote. On July 6th, the general in charge, Sato is his name, will climb onto a rock, have a last meal, according to some anyway, of canned crab meat and sake, and then slit his belly with a knife or a sword, while an adjutant behind him waits for the proper moment to shoot him in the head. This is followed by Admiral Nagumo's suicide.
Starting point is 03:14:25 The victor at Pearl Harbor and the loser at Midway will dispense with any of the ceremonial protocol and simply shoot himself with a pistol, at least according to survivors. The day after these two commanders end their lives, it's the turn of the rank and file to do so. And we've been calling these charges, these basically suicidal charges by the Japanese Bonsai charges, which is what the Americans called them, because the Japanese soldiers would often yell Bonsai, as one of the things that they would scream on the way in to attack. But the Japanese, especially here on Saipan, are taking part in what the Japanese term is, Yokosai, and that means the breaking of the jewels.
Starting point is 03:15:19 And they will drink a lot of liquor, get to a point where they're actually singing, before thousands of them will explode onto the American lines. This was not totally unexpected. In Matthew A. Resel's book, The Things Our Fathers Saw, U.S. Soldier Nick Granaldo says quote, I remember it rained like hell that night, and the water was running down the slope into our foxholes. I had to use my helmet to keep bailing out, you know? The night before the Bonsai, I woke up that morning, and oh Jesus Christ, they, the Japanese, got above us, and they were giving us plunging fire, shooting right down into the foxholes,
Starting point is 03:16:06 because they were high enough to look down. Lieutenant Gower, he was my platoon leader. He was regular army. He was a good man. He called us together, the squad leaders. He said, I think we're getting hit with a Bonsai. We're going to have to pull back. End quote, let me point out that this happens like so many of these major Japanese attacks at night. Granaldo continues quote, Holy Jesus, there was howling and screaming. They had naked women with spears, stark naked.
Starting point is 03:16:38 They took bayonets and strapped them on the end of a pole, and they came screaming at us, figuring, hey, the good-hearted Americans aren't going to shoot a woman, you know? Horseshit, there were so many of them, like cockroaches coming out of the woodwork, we had to pull back. End quote. I have a book on Saipan, and it spends something like 30 or 40 pages covering this event with three to 4,000 Japanese fighters swarming over the American frontlines, forcing the Americans to pull back. There are plenty of accounts of Japanese sword-wielding soldiers who are hacking to death, wounded Americans who can't get away, chopping off heads, it's medieval at times.
Starting point is 03:17:27 But it's also doomed. In his book, The Nobility of Failure, Tragic Heroes and the History of Japan, author Ivan Morris describes this specific incident and puts it in the larger context of the Japanese suicidal attacks, the Bonsai charges, the Gyo-kazize, and he says quote, It was not only pilots or even military men who responded with suicidal desperation to the agonizing course of events. In battle after battle, from the Aleutians to Guadalcanal, Japanese soldiers avoided surrender by participating in fierce suicide attacks, which the Americans described as Bonsai charges.
Starting point is 03:18:09 Probably the most fearsome scenes of all took place on the island of Saipan in July 1944, when organized military resistance became impossible, some 3,000 Japanese soldiers, most of them armed with nothing but bayonets or sticks, charged into the concentrated machine gun fire of the American Marines, and were moaned down to the last man. At times, the Japanese corpses were piled so high that the Marines had to move their machine gun emplacements into an open line of fire as new waves surged forward. A particularly macabre note was provided by a contingent of wounded soldiers, many of them swathed in bandages and leaning on the shoulders of their comrades
Starting point is 03:18:54 who staggered out of the hospitals and infirmaries to take part in the last suicide attack. Subsequently, he writes, entire units of Japanese soldiers knelt down in rows to be decapitated by their commanding officers, who then in turn committed harakiri, hundreds of other soldiers shot themselves through the head or more frequently exploded themselves with hand grenades. As the Marines advanced through the blood-drenched island, they witnessed one mass suicide after another. It was army units that were initially struck by this charge, but after they were overrun and forced to pull back,
Starting point is 03:19:40 the Japanese reached artillery units behind them that were composed of Marines, and when they were finally stopped, there were people like typists and cooks and people that had been armed hastily and picked up weapons to try to beat off this terrible attack. And when it was over, the field was littered with Japanese dead. More than 4,300 bodies were counted. Of the American casualties, it was in excess of 900 killed and wounded, and a ton of medals given out, including multiple medals of honor, most of them posthumously. It was the worst Japanese Bonsai attack or Gyo-Kusai, if you prefer, of the war.
Starting point is 03:20:36 The desperation is clear for all to see. After the Bonsai charge, the Americans continued to move up the island, compressing the Japanese into the northern tip of the island where there is a more than 800-foot-tall cliff with jagged rocks and the sea below, and that's where the final tragedy of Saipan occurs. Right in front of America's watching eyes, as the soldiers saw it all unfold, and it was filmed. You can go see the tragic footage of this where Americans slackjawed, watched the civilians, the Japanese civilians, but also natives from the island begin to commit mass suicide. Again from island fighting, quote.
Starting point is 03:21:28 Saipan was declared secure on July 9th, but the final horror came after the fighting was over. At the northern tip of the island lay Marpe Point, hope I pronounced that correctly, a plateau some 833 feet above a shore of jagged coral rocks. And there are hundreds of Japanese civilians join the few remaining troops in an orgy of self-destruction. Despite loudspeaker assurances that the victors would treat captives well, parents threw their children off the cliffs and jumped after them. Whole families waited and swam out to sea to drown themselves. One group of 100 Japanese bowed to marines watching from a cliff,
Starting point is 03:22:09 then they stripped, bathed, donned fresh clothing, and spread a Japanese flag on a rock. One man distributed hand grenades, and one by one they pulled the pins and held the grenades against their bellies. End quote. There's also photographs of Japanese families who were wavering and didn't know exactly how to begin, and hidden Japanese snipers from a distance would make up their minds for them and shoot them down. There are so many bodies offshore that the Americans can't even bring ships in because they're having to plow their way through the human wreckage. In his book The Rising Sun, author John Toland actually has descriptions that are too upsetting
Starting point is 03:22:59 to even talk about of the ordeal that the survivors who didn't die in these suicide attempts lived through. I mean, what's it like when you're in a cave with your father, your mother, your siblings, including some as young as toddlers, and they have to have a discussion about what's about to happen. I mean, in one of his stories related by a survivor who did not die, the father and the mother have the conversation about how they're going to go to a happy place and all these things. I mean, it is a human tragedy writ large. And it's clear from all the accounts that it melts the hearts of even the adversaries here. We've been calling this a race war, a war of annihilation, a war of hatred.
Starting point is 03:23:42 But the Marines and the Army personnel who witnessed this, they know they're looking at a tragedy. And Toland tells the story of one American officer watching this with tears streaming down his face saying, why do the Japanese kill themselves like this? No one knows exactly how many civilians on Saipan ended up dying either through suicide or getting caught in the war. Casualty figures for the entire Pacific campaign can be wildly different from one source to another. Part of the reason why is so many people disappeared, caves get blown up with people inside, Japanese soldiers turn up years later, suicides happen in remote places and the jungle tends to conceal a lot. But I've seen civilian death totals between 20 and 25,000 people, Japanese and Chamorro.
Starting point is 03:24:42 Those are devastating casualties for an island this size. 12, 15 miles long, 20 to 25,000 dead civilians, it's a nightmare scenario as the war goes on and you're going to run into more and more populated islands every step of the way towards the Japanese homeland. As far as Japanese casualties, those vary too. On Saipan, between 27 and 29,000 Japanese dead are usually the numbers you see. American dead and missing? Well, Saipan's about 3,500, a little bit more than 3,500 maybe American dead, a couple hundred missing between 13 and 16,000 wounded. Remember that the invasion of Tinian happens right at the same time and the invasion of Guam happens right afterwards.
Starting point is 03:25:42 Guam is another tough fight, but on Tinian, it's about 320 Americans who die, but it's like 5,500 Japanese. And you start to see how much the kill ratio is turning against the Japanese in a way that you rarely see in modern war. 10 to 1 ratio is becoming pretty common. And on Guam, the Japanese lose, and I've seen anywhere from, again, wildly different figures in the Encyclopedia of Military History. It says 10,000 men, but many sources will say the Japanese lost more than 18,000 men on Guam. The Americans lose about 3,000 dead and about 7,000 wounded. The entire operation, operation forager, if you total it up, the Japanese lose about 67,000 men out of 71,000 originally. These numbers represent almost total destruction of Japanese forces.
Starting point is 03:26:43 You don't see this anywhere else. It's a sign of how committed they are to the cause and how unlikely it is that you can break their morale and get them to surrender. It's going to be a fight to the death. And after Saipan and Guam and Tinian are through, the Japanese know that at least the more insightful amongst their leadership that the war has decided, but it's not over yet. One of the naval chiefs of staff says after Saipan falls that hell is about to descend upon us. They know that the B-29s are coming, and before the islands are even free of Japanese defenders, Navy engineers, the CBs come in and start building the airfields that the B-29s will use to attack the Japanese homeland. On July 18th, the military leader Tojo resigns. He's forced to by the emperor and the other elements in the government.
Starting point is 03:27:56 Two days later, a bomb goes off in the German Empire. Is that a good way to call it? The Nazi state and officers under Adolf Hitler had tried to blow him up in the July 20th plot. So by July 20th, Hitler's wounded in the bombing attack. Mussolini, as we said, is already a shadow of his former self and falling. Tojo's gone now, so of the big three, only Hitler's left. The successors to Tojo in Japan begin to try to figure out a way to cobble some sort of peace together so the worst can be avoided. But they have a lot of headwinds working against them, including the emperor himself, who in Herbert P. Bix's Hirohito suggests that he's going to die fighting. And Japan begins to prepare for the sort of last ditch stand on the home islands that will make use of every man, woman, and child.
Starting point is 03:28:56 And Bix writes, quote, On August 4th, the new cabinet decided to arm virtually the entire nation and have all subjects begin military training with bamboo spears in workplaces and schools throughout the country. Hirohito, the emperor, formerly confirmed the new preparations for defense against the forthcoming enemy offensives at his imperial conference two weeks later. Emphasis was to be placed on air defense, fighting the enemy in the interior rather than at the water's edge, and the rapid development of, quote, sure victory weapons, end quote, which meant the large scale production of so-called body smashing or special attack weapons designed to, quote, end quote, exchange the life of the crew or the pilot for a specific military achievement, end quote. Suicide weapons. That's where we are by this time in the war. We have been saying all through this series that the Japanese are like everyone else only more so.
Starting point is 03:30:06 Well, in June 1940, when Winston Churchill was afraid that the Germans were about to invade another island nation, just like Japan, but in this case Britain, he gave a famous speech. A speech that, well, might have been written by the Japanese emperor himself. He said, quote, We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender, end quote. He also had quipped, remember, you can always take one with you, meaning every Britain civilian could take a German soldier with them and that would eat up the whole German army because there were so many civilians. Well, it sounds like the Japanese were taking an inspiration from Churchill's playbook here because in this final year of the war, that's their plan. And civilians are training with bamboo spears to make it a reality.
Starting point is 03:31:27 If you think the show you just heard is worth a dollar, Dan and Ben would love to have it. A buck a show. It's all we ask. Go to dancarlin.com for information on how to donate to the show. Wrath of the cons, Punic nightmares, Apache tears, and of course, Ghosts of the Ostfront. Just a few of the classic hardcore history titles available from dancarlin.com. Every true fan has heard these favorites. Hey, they make great gifts too. Coming up in part six, the final installment of this series, Pellilu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, MacArthur's return to the Philippines, Kamikaze's, an atomic war, an Armageddon of the sort that has rarely been seen in modern warfare, all this and more in part six of supernova in the east. Thank you for watching.

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