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Japanese heroes of ww2

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by robycop3, May 10, 2019.

  1. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    While many Japanese WW2 combatants & leaders are hated & scorned to this day, long after the deaths of most, some were actual heroes who committed no atrocities & simply fought for their country, same as our troops did.

    Here are a few:

    SUB-LIEUT. SABURO SAKAI
    Sakai began his military career as a sailor, but began flying carrier aircraft soon as an opening occurred on his ship. He applied for & was accepted into a pilot training school in 1937, graduated first in his class & was presented with a silver watch by the Emperor himself. While listed as a carrier pilot, he was never assigned to a ship, flying only land missions. He was one of the first pilots selected to fly the then-new A6M2 Zero. That model remained his choice of aircraft throughout the war.

    Over Borneo, he was under orders to attack any enemy aircraft, military or civilian, on one mission. He spotted aq Dutch civilian craft & started lining up for an attack, til he saw a woman & child through a window. So, he flew in front of the Dutch & signalled for it to land at a nearby strip. He didn't mention the incident in his official report, & neither did his wingman.

    Early in the Guadalcanal battle, he attacked a flight of 3 TBF Avenger dive bombers, mistaking them for SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Sakai used an angle of attack that made it difficult for a Dauntless' rear gunner to shoot at him, but the Avernge's rear guns were mounted differently, & the gunner of the one he attacked, Harold "Lew" Jones, riddled Sakai's Zero with 7.62 MM bullets, shattering his canopy, which "fragged" him, blinding his right eye;one bullet striking him in the head, sending pieces of skull into his brain. But somehow, he fought off excruciating pain, flew back to Rabaul in a little over 4 hours, from where he was airlifted back to Japan to undergo surgery & recovery. The vision in his right eye was only partially restored.

    After he had recovered 4 months later, he spent a year training new pilots, but late in 1943, he begged his superiors to allow him to return to combat flying, which he did in early 1944. He was transferred to Iwo Jima.

    He mistakenly approached a flight of 15 US Hellcats, which he'd never seen before, but quickly realized his error. The hellcat was built to be superior to the Zero in every way except range, but Sakay showed incredible skill as the Hellcats got in each other's way in their eagerness to attack him. He escaped without a scar, as the faster Hellcats let him go, rather than diverting from their mission.

    He was promoted to Ensign in Aug. 1944, & assigned to lead kamikaze missions, as Japan was desperate. (Experienced pilots with guns navigational equipment were assigned to lead the kamikazes, which carried no guns or navigational aids.) He managed to score a few more air victories while performing this dangerous work. He escaped the faster Hellcats, P-38 Lightnings, & the much-faster F4U Corsairs by often flying into clouds. And, though the Zero was clearly outclassed by those American fighters, he stayed in the Zero rather than using the "Oscar" or similar plane which was more of a match for the Yanks.

    He participated in the very last action on Aug. 18, attacking two B-32 "Dominator" bombers, which were flying photorecon. He shot down neither of them, & returned to Okinawa & surrendered.

    He was promoted to Sub-Lieutanant after the surrender, & was feted by the Allies as a very-honorable opponent. He'd never shot mat parachutists, strafed civilians, or attacked civilian aircraft.

    At a ceremony on the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, he and many other Japanese warriors & pilots met many American vets om memorial Day, 1982, where Sakai & Lew Jones met, embraced, shook hands, & ate together. Sakai had brought the helm he was wearing when Jones shot him.

    Sakai was honored again at the Atsugi Naval Air Station at a formal USN dinner. After the dinner, he fell dead of a heart attack at age 84. he'd been Japan's greatest combat pilot ever, with some 64 victories credited to him.
     
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  2. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    LIEUT. GEN. TADAMICHI KURIBAYASHI

    (For this article, I'll refer to him as "K".)

    Born in 1891, K joined the army in 1911, progressing rapidly through the ranks, unusual for a peacetime soldier who wasn't royalty. He found himself a deputy military attache to the USA in 1928 for the next 3 years, during which he was taught to drive by some American officers, & bought a car, in which he traveled around the USA extensively, visiting many farms & factories, including many in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, & Detroit. He garnered a great awe & respect for the USA's industrial capacity & farm capacity.

    He became the 1st Japanese military attache to Canada in 1933, being promoted to Major, & soon after to Lieut. Colonel.

    He was recalled to Tokyo in 1937, as war clouds were gathering between Japan & the USA & Britain. In 1940, he made Major General, bypassing the rank of Brig. General. But he repeatedly told his family & a few others, "America is the last nation on earth we should fight."

    He became Chief of Staff to the 23rd Army, which attacked Hong Kong shortly after Pearl Harbor. And, in 1943, he made Lieut. General.

    In May, 1944, he was made Commander of the 109th Division, but just 2 weeks later, Tojo assigned him to take over the defense of Iwo Jima, considered an essential bastion of the Japanese Empire. As he prepared to depart, he was called in for a visit to Hirohito himself, for a personal audience.

    It was possible that K was selected for what was essentially a suicide mission, as Tojo knew IJ couldn't be defended against the overwhelming Allied might that'd eventually attack it, but K was still expressing the opinion that Japan simply couldn't defeat the USA & that a peace should be negotiated before Japan was destroyed.

    Upon arriving on IJ, K saw the troops were digging ditches for shoreline defense. He ordered that work stopped, & made a careful chart of the whole island. He then put the troops to work making a warren of interconnecting tunnels, pillboxes, & underground storage areas. While not liking to be fighting the USA, he was determined to make us pay for every square inch of Iwo with blood. He eventually had 11 miles of underground tunnels on an 8-square mile island, with over 5000 caves & pillboxes, all armed with at least a machine gun, with ample supplies of ammo, food & water. And, he'd listened to the brilliant strategist Gen. Sadae Inoue, who'd decreed banzai charges as useless sacrifice against superior firepower & said bypassed troops shouldn't just kill themselves, but hide for awhile & then hit the enemy from behind. K ordered his men accordingly, telling them not to willingly sacrifice their lives unless they took several enemies with them.

    K's 21,000 men were attacked by 70,000 US Marines. while many American commanders expected Iwo to fall in 5 days, it took 36 days til the battle was "officially" over. Even then, for weeks, Marines had to still hunt for bypassed Japanese, & many Marines were killed in that process. The last 2 Japanese holdouts finally surrendered in 1949!

    Only 200 of IJ's defenders were taken alive; K was not among them. Some survivors said he led a last small Banzai charge, which was easily stopped with artillery & explosives, & that he was among many who were blown to bits, beyond any ID. No DNA of any of those men remains for checking.

    But K & his men fought honorably & heroically, as did our Marines. Uncommon valor was common on both sides. I had the great honor to meet now-Chief Warrant Officer4 Hershel (Woody) Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from the 27 winners on Iwo, & the last surviving Marine to win it in the PTO of WW2. He's still spry & sharp as a tack at age 95!
     
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  3. Pastor_Bob

    Pastor_Bob Well-Known Member

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    Captain Mochitasura Hashimoto is the man who sunk the USS Indianapolis just after midnight on July 30, 1945. Captain Charles McVey survived the sinking of his ship and was actually court marshaled (as a scapegoat, IMO) because hundreds of men lost their lives - many of which who were in the ocean for days. The US Navy actually brought Hashimoto over after the war to testify against McVey in the court marshal. He testified that he would have sunk the ship regardless of McVey's evasive maneuvers. He was found guilty nonetheless.

    By all accounts, this Japanese submarine captain felt genuine remorse for simply doing his duty.

    It is a fascinating piece of history. I actually developed a message based on this account.
     
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  4. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    Glad to see this post, Sir! And I believe Mc Vey's conviction was grossly unfair. Mc Vey felt guilty & committed suicide in 1968.

    However, Congress cleared his name in 2001. Why did it take so long to right an obvious wrong???????

    Hashimoto repeatedly stated that, had Mc Vey undertaken every possible evasive move a heavy cruiser of that time coulda taken, that he woulda made a successful attack anyway, given the speed & efficiency of the Japanese Long Lance torpedo, the best torpedo any belligerent had in WW2, and the high degree of skill of his crew. Unfortunately, Hashimoto died at age 91 just 5 days before Congress passed the resolution exonerating Mc Vey.

    There were other very unfair making of American scapegoats for events of WW2. I immediately think of the cases of Admiral Husband Kimmel & Gen. Walter Short, blamed for Pearl Harbor's lack of readiness for an air attack. They, too, were exonerated, as it was later found they had not received any warning whatsoever of a possible air raid on PH. The US military fully believed that Japan was preparing to attack the Phillipines or Malaya & simply ignored signs the Japanese carriers were headed for Hawaii. Thus, Kimmel & Short had no warning at all.
     
  5. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    FLEET ADMIRAL ISOROKU YAMAMOTO

    While many consider Yamamoto (herein referred to as "y") for planning the Pearl Harbor attack, in reality, he was no more a war criminal than our Gen. Schwarzkopf, who planned & led Desert Storm. He was simply fighting for his country, same as Stormin' Norman was.(The winner of a war chooses the war criminals!) In fact, Y was very much against starting a war against the USA, but he was Japanese to the core, & if Japan's leaders were determined to go to war, he was determined to do his best to win it.
    Y's career didn't get off to a promising start. As a lieutenant in the 1905 Battle of Tsushima, where the Japanese navy soundly trounced the Russian one, he lost 2 fingers from his L hand to shrapnel. But, being recognized as an exceptional student, he wasn't forced to resign. He rose rapidly in the ranks & became a naval attache to the USA & studied at Harvard 1919-21, learning fluent English. He travelled extensively in the USA, studying American customs & business practices. He gained a healthy respect for the USA's industrial capacity, as did future Iwo Jima commander Kuribayashi. As a captain, he visited the American War College & participated in the London Naval Conference of 1930.
    When the winds of war began to gather in the 1930s, he spoke out against the Japanese attack on China, angering many Army officers. And, when Japan began heading for war against the USA & Britain, he spoke out strongly against that, as well, further angering the Army. The Naval command appointed him to sea duty, making him an admiral, to keep him from assassination, knowing he was their best officer. When one of his opponents, Tojo, became PM, many thought his career would be over, but his immense popularity with the whole Navy & his close ties with the Imperial family forestalled that development. And even Tojo recognized his genius.
    He had insisted that, if the leadership was determined to go to war with the USA, the attack he'd planned on Pearl Harbor must be executed; otherwise he'd resign from the Navy. He insisted that Japan's only chance was to quickly knock out the US Pacific Fleet for at least 6 months & quickly conquer the territories they'd planned to take, to bring the USA to the bargaining table to negotiate a peace that'd leave Japan in control of her conquests. And that could be done only with a successful attack on Pearl Harbor. The Naval heirarchy gave in & approved the attack.
    Due to the planners forgetting the 5-hour time difference between Hawaii & Washington DC, the attack occurred a few hours before the Japanese ambassador could present Washington with the declaration of war. This gave FDR fuel to declare the PH attack a "sneak attack". Y was horrified when he learned of this, knowing the American hatred of such tactics. While no official record verifies it, Y told his staff, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant... and fill him with a terrible resolve." Subsequent events would prove him right, as the USA would not negotiate without Japan's unconditional surrender. When the naval command asked him about Japan's chances in the war, after Pearl Harbor, he replied, "In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."
    The Doolittle raid on Tokyo Apr. 18, 1942, shocked & angered the Japanese leadership, including Y. He wanted revenge for the attack on the Emperor's holy ground. This led to Y's making hasty plans for a climactic fleet encounter between the Japanese & American fleets, with Y's "Midway" plan bringing it about, as he expected the US to quickly respond to the taking of Midway, so close to Hawaii. However, his plan divided his fleet, making its various parts vulnerable. Y was further nettled by the Coral Sea battle in which his attack on New Guinea's Port Moresby was thwarted by the American carriers. he was more-determined than ever to go ahead with Midway.
    At this time, his eventual nemesis began to make his presence felt-then-Lieut. Commander JOSEPH ROCHEFORT, a master cryptanalist & code-breaker. Unknown ti Y, of course, Rochefort & his team had partially solved the Japanese "Flag Officers' Code", their most-secure incryption. He suspected that tje Japanese references to "AF meant Midway. One of his staffers, Jasper Holmes, had the idea of faking a water emergency on Midway, hoping to provoke a Japanese response, confirming Rochefort's suspicions. He told Rochefort, who told Adm. Nimitz, who approved & aided in the ruse, getting the message undetected, to Midway, which sent the fake message that their water-distiller had broken & they were almost outta water. It worked; the Japanese mentioned that AF was short of water in less than 24 hours! Thus, Nimitz knew of Y's main target. And the rest is history.
    Y's death came about from another US intelligence agency called "Magic" intercepting the details of a planned Apr. 18. 1943 flight by Y from Rabaul to Balalae in the Solomon Islands. After Nimitz received the intel, he got permission from Navy Sec. frank Knox to attempt to intercept him. Nimitz asked Adm. halsey if it could be done, & Halsey believed it could be, so Nimits told him to go ahead with the attempt. halsey dispatched sixteen P-38 Lightnings to make the intercept near Y's destination. The pilots knew Y was invariably punctual, & planned to be at the point of contact at 0935 hrs, the planned time of Y's arrival. He was right on time & subsequently shot down. His death was caused by a .50 cal. bullet hit through his lower jaw, exiting above his R eye. His body was not mangled nor charred within his aircraft as was told.
    Without Y's able leadership, the Japanese Navy soon "went down the tubes". Again, he was not an evil man who hated the USA; he was simply fighting for his country, same as Nimitz was fighting for his.
    [/B]
     
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  6. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    COL. KUNIO NAKAGAWA

    Col. Nakagawa was the Japanese commander on the island pf Peleliu during the battle for that island in Fall, 1944. He had several months to bolster the island's defenses, which he did by masterful use of its topography, making his force almost impervious to bombing and naval gunfire. AmericanMarine Gen. Rupertus believed the island could be taken in 4 days. Instead, it took 73 days! because of the new Japanese island tactics of not making useless banzai charges against heavily-armed American forces, & using an island's topography to full advantage, making caves, bunkers, & tunnels all interlinked & sited to cover each other, the Japanese inflicted more percentage of casualties on the Americans than in any other battle, with some 1800 dead & over 9800 wounded out of a force of 28,000. Of the over-11,000 Japanese, almost 11,000 were killed, with most of the over-2000 prisoners captured being conscripted Korean laborers.(One Japanese lieutanant & 27 men hid in the caves & held out til Apr. 22, 1947, when a Japanese admiral convinced them the war was over.)
    Col. Nakagawa committed ritual seppuku suicide when he knew the battle was lost & would soon be over. He was posthumously made a lieut. General for his heroic defense.
    The battle was very controversial, as Peleliu was not considered to be a real danger to MacArthur's Phillipines landings. Its airfield had no planes capable of interfering with those landings, & by that time the Japanese had no means of delivering more aircraft. While all great commanders, from Joshua to Schwarzkopf made mistakes, this was considered Adm. Nimitz' greatest goof.
     
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  7. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    Lieut. Gen. MITSURU USHIJIMA

    Ushijima was commander of Japanese forces on Okinawa during their last stand against the Allies. With his second-in-command, Gen. Isamu Cho, & his Chief-Of-Staff, Col. Hiramichi Yahara, he devised an elaborate system of caves & tunnels in the southern third of Okinawa, siting many artillery pieces, a huge collection of knee mortars & howitzers, and many monstrous 320 MM mortars that fired virtual aerial bombs. And almost every Japanese soldier had an automatic weapon & plenty of ammo. Also, he had vast supplies of food & water stashed for his forces.

    He organized some 20,000 Okinawan laborers into a "Boetai" corps that did most of the labor, thus keeping the over-80,000 fighting men rested. His guns were carefully pre-registered on the paths the invaders would have to take to get at him, & all his pillboxes & gun nests so sited as to cover each other. No one site could be attacked without at least 2 others also providing defensive fire.

    Cho & Yahara were aghast that Ushijima chose to not oppose the landing of the invasion force, but as they watched the landings & saw the vast fleet of large American ships with big guns blasting the areas just beyond the landing beaches, they realized Ushijima was right; any force sent close enough to attack the landings would've been annihilated.

    On May 5, Ushijima allowed Cho to talk him into authorizing a banzai charge, which resulted in many Japanese deaths, & loss of ground. Cho apologized to Ushijima & Yahara for his error.

    Ushijima knew they couldn't defeat the Americans, but they hoped to make them realize how hard an invasion of Japan itself would be. In this, he succeeded, but an irony of that realization was that it led to the nukes being used. The battle lasted from Apr. 1 to June 22, 1945.

    The USA had at least 12, 520 killed; the Japanese, over 110, 000. Also, over 100,000 Okinawan citizens were killed, mostly by US artillery, as the Japanese, unknown to Ushijima, had told them the Americans would eat them alive, so the Okinawans sought to stay close to the Japanese as they retreated.

    On June 22, Ushijima and Cho committed seppuku. Col. Yahara had wanted to also do it, but Ushijima forbade him, telling him, ""If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army commander." Yahara was captured, repatriated when the war ended, & lived til 1981. He wrote a first-hand account from the Japanese point of view of the battle in 1973. Col. Yahara can be listed as a minor Japanese war hero also.

    (Note: I do NOT include Cho among the Japanese heroes, as he had led the forces in the infamous "Rape of Nanking" in 1937. Had Cho been captured alive, he would have certainly been tried & hanged by the Nanking War Tribunal in 1947. Seems Cho knew this, & knew japan was going to be defeated, & had thus determined to die on Okinawa no matter what Ushijima did. NO, I DO NOT INCLUDE KNOWN WAR CRIMINALS AMONG MY LIST OF JAPANESE HEROES!)
     
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  8. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    Some more notes about the Battle of Okinawa...
    As I said, one of the ironies of that battle was that it succeeded in convincing the Allies how tough an invasion of the Japanese home islands would've been, which led to the use of atomic weapons. But it also helped convince Japan that, no matter what, whey would eventually be overrun if they kept fighting. So, it was a two-edged sword.

    Another overlooked Japanese hero on Okinawa was Major General Kosuke Wada, the artillery commander. Earlier, the Allies had discounted Japanese artillery as mostly-ineffective, but Gen. Wada was as able an artillery commander as either side had, and likely Japan's best in the whole war. On Okinawa, Japanese artillery was almost-uncannily accurate & was responsible for many of the Allied casualties & for prolonging the battle. Once, when a shell landed precisely on a batallion command post, the Americans believed some Germans were shooting at them, but subsequent events showed them it was all Japanese. As the battle went against them, Wada skillfully moved much of his artillery to new defensive lines & still wreaked havoc among the invaders. Of particular effectiveness was his use of the many mortars he had.
    But the American artillery was nothing to sneeze at. It had more weapons which were also well-aimed. But the Japanese were fighting from pre-prepared positions, made to withstand artillery or bombs for awhile. But eventually, the American combo of infantry, artillery, and especially tanks, ground them down.
    With the fall of Okinawa, Japan began bracing for an invasion of the home islands. Thankfully for both sides, subsequent events made this unnecessary.
     
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  9. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    The jury is still out, opinion-wise, on LIEUT. GEN. SADAE INOUE.

    While he was convicted of permitting the execution of 3 American airmen who bailed out & were captured on Palau, he swore he was innocent to his dying day in 1961 & that some subordinates had carried out the murders without his knowing it til after the fact. Even those who believed him said he could've punished those subordinates. However, he wasn't present in the islands when the murders were done, & had other problems, by then such as the fall of Peleliu in Palau to the invaders.

    Inoue was area commander for the district that included the Palau island group. He knew an Allied invasion was coming, but he drastically revised the standard Japanese defense of the islands under their control. He forbade any useless banzai charges, ordered construction of defenses that utilized the terrains of the islands being defended, & ordered bypassed soldiers, or those about to be overrun, to not kill themselves, but to go down fighting. Bypassed men were to hide, not kill themselves, & later emerge to hit their enemy from behind. The bulk of an island's defenses were not to be placed on or near a beach, as Inoue knew the Americans usually hit beaches with overwhelming firepower and no known defense could prevent their landing. He wanted all those islands to become deathtraps for any invader.

    He was not near Peleliu when the Americans came, but Col. Nakagawa, in command of its garrison, carried out Inoue's orders precisely, and made the battle there one of the toughest the US Marines faced. Same for Iwo Jima. And Ushijima adopted his tactics for Okinawa.

    Thus, Gen. Inoue, by his introduction of modern tactics, likely prolonged the Pacific war by at least a year. But again, he may, or may not be, a true Japanese WW2 hero.[/B]
     
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  10. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    I have tried to be just in citing whom I believe were genuine Japanese WW2 heroes, while not praising any known war criminals. I realize that war criminal trials are always held by the WINNERS of a given war, & that the trials are often driven as much by vengeance as actual justice according to international law and customs of conduct.

    And some of the losers were unfairly tried. A notable example was Dr. Schacht, the German financial whiz, who greatly helped the nazi financial situation, but subsequently turned against them as he discovered their true nature. Thankfully, Schacht was acquitted. But other Axis figures weren't so lucky. One was Gen. Yamashita, the "Tiger of Malaya", who subsequently was defeated in the Philippines. He was hanged for supposedly allowing the murders of several Australian POWs, although it was never proven he had knowledge of them before they happened, and certainly hadn't ORDERED them. He went to the gallows, swearing his innocence by all he held holy.
    Another was Adm. Shegiru Fukudome, who became Naval Chief of Staff. After the war, he fully cooperated with the Allies in helping repatriate Japanese left stranded on remote Pacific islands, & disclosed full intel about the inner workings of the Imperial Navy. However, after the repatriation was over, he was arrested by the British at American insistence over the murders of two downed American airmen in Singapore while he was naval commander there. He was found guilty of "negligence of duty" I imprisoned til 1950. Following his release, he became part of a 12-man team that organized the Japanese Self-Defense Force under Allied guidance & was held in honor til his 1971 death.
    Altogether, 920 Japanese were executed as war criminals, many for the Nanking massacre & other murders of Chinese.
    One definite Japanese war criminal who "got away with it" was Col. Masanobu Tsuji, who was involved in atrocities throughout the war, including the Bataan Death March He fled to Thailand as the war was winding down & enlisted to Chinese service, as the Chinese were unaware of his crimes. He returned to Japan in 1949, & fully cooperated with the occupying Americans, who overlooked his crimes, not being fully aware of what all he'd done. He was elected to the japanese Diet (parliament) in 1952, & re-elected twice more. He traveled to Laos in 1961 & was never heard from again.
     
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  11. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    Gen. Mac Arthur criticized the Battle of Okinawa being fought to complete victory, saying it was an unnecessary expenditure of Allied lives, saying our forces could've simply cordoned off the Japanese, as we had he airfields & the areas where more could've been built. However, that's simply not true. The enemy had many artillery pieces that could've easil;y shelled the existing airfields, let alone any blockading force,and also, the moment we'd let up attacking them, they would've attacked our forces. The enemy wasn't about to just be content to wait out the war in their fortifications. They had a vast amount of ammo, built up over 2 years, & no need to conserve it.

    And, while Mac Arthur made many brilliant moves, he made mistakes, same as any other busy military leader. he had no room to talk about useless battles after his own battles of Buna & Gona in New Guinea.

    Bitter irony - the M18 "recoiless rifle" rocket launcher proved to be an ideal weapon against the enemy caves & dugouts on Okinawa. It was accurate, & could reach inside those caves from a distance. Our men rapidly reduced some of the Japanese strongholds with few losses among themselves near the end of the battle, but ran out of ammo & thus had to finish the fight the "old-fashioned" way. Unfortunately, while that weapon was developed & delivered fast as possible, not enough ammo had been made for it. it was good enough to have been heavily used in the Korean War.
     
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