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Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947 by D.M. Giangreco

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by LRusso216, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Jan 5, 2009
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    Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947 by D.M. Giangreco is not an easy book to read. It is written more in the style of a staff report, and is filled with data and seemingly repetitive material. Nonetheless, I found it to be a fascinating book. Before anyone cares to discuss the decision to drop the Atomic bomb in 1945, it is incumbent on him or her to read this book.

    Obviously, the decision to use the bomb continues to incite argument today, 65 years after the fact. In Hell to Pay, the author makes use of a wide variety of primary source material to examine both the background issues of casualty figures prior to 1945, and the various estimates of casualties expected to be incurred in the two-part invasion of Japan. Perhaps the most stunning revelation to me was that 1,250,000 American casualties of World War II, approximately 1,000,000 occurred between June , 1944 and June, 1945.

    Operation Downfall was a two part invasion plan; Olympic, which was the invasion of Kyushu, and Coronet, the invasion of Honshu. Giangreco examines the many assumptions that went into predicting casualties, the most significant of which, in my mind, was a memo from former President Hoover who had many inside contacts in the military. In the memo, he predicted a figure of 500,00 to a million. These figures were revised and watered down at various levels to be more acceptable to the American public and these lower figures then continued to be used.

    A significant development that was not discovered until after the war was that the Japanese had reasoned out exactly where the two invasions were to occur. As a result, they had developed defensive plans to counter them. In Ketsu-go 6, for example, the Japanese had Kyushu defended, both on the shoreline and in depth. By the time Olympic was to occur, the Japanese had more than 13 division equivalents available, and more troops were arriving regularly. US estimates had imagined only 10 divisions. Artillery positions were dug in and pre-registered long before the invasion date.

    After US troops took Saipan, it was discovered that it took one US death and several wounded to kill seven Japanese soldiers. Extrapolating the “Saipan ratio” to the Home Island yields something on the order of 2 million battle casualties. Considering how difficult it was to pacify Saipan and Okinawa, and the tremendous logistical difficulties of Japanese terrain, these figures appear to be justified. For example, intelligence estimated that Tokyo itself had over 5000 bridges, none of which were capable of holding armor of any type. Add in the natural ridges of Japan, and the extensive rice terracing and the prospect of fighting in the islands is truly frightening.

    Beyond the book, Giangreco has included two significant documents in an Appendix. The first is the G-2 Estimate of the Enemy Situation on Kyushu made by the 6th Army dated 1 August 1945. It represents the American perception of Japan’s military, economic, and social situation. The second is the G-2 Analysis of Japanese Plans of the Defense of Kyushu created 31 December 1945. It represents a summation of what the Japanese military had planned for the invasion. It is drawn from interviews with Japanese military leaders. A comparison of these two documents is enlightening.

    In short, before discussing the value of using atomic bombs on Japan, one must be careful not to engage in the use of hindsight. Using only what knowledge was available to those prosecuting the war, Giangreco makes a strong argument for the necessity of their use. His evaluation of the military situation, both on the American and Japanese sides, makes a compelling case. I recommend this book to any who would like a dispassionate examination of the reasoning
    brndirt1 likes this.

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