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Admiral Soemu Toyoda, 1885-1957

Admiral Soemu Toyoda, 1885-1957


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Admiral Soemu Toyoda, 1885-1957

Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1885-1957) was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet during the crushing defeats in the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf (both 1944), where his desire for a 'decisive battle' played a part in both defeats.

Toyoda graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy in 1905 and by the time the Japanese entered the Second World War had risen to the rank of full Admiral (September 1941). He was commander of the Kure Naval Station at the time of Pearl Harbor, became part of the Supreme War Council in November 1942 and in May 1943 became commander of the Yokosuka Naval Base. He was considered to be brilliant but sarcastic, and rather difficult to work with.

On 5 May 1944 he was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet, replacing Admiral Mineichi Koga, who had gone missing while flying from Palau to Davao on 31 March 1944. Koga had been planning for a 'decisive battle' in which the massive Japanese battleships could inflict a heavy defeat on the American fleets (for most of the war the Japanese overestimated the amount of damage they were doing to the American fleet and thus believed that the two fleets were much closer in size than they really were). Kurita took Koga's 'Plan Z' and modified it to produce 'A-Go'. This plan was followed by Admiral Ozawa at the battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June 1944) and resulting in a crushing Japanese defeat that saw the loss of most of their skilled naval aviators.

Despite this defeat Toyoda retained his belief in the 'decisive battle', this time to be fought either at the Philippines or Formosa, depending on the next American move. The 'Victory' or 'Sho' plans each involved bringing together the surface fleet based close to Singapore and the fuel supplies and the carrier fleet, based in the Inland Sea of Japan where new carrier air groups were forming.

Toyoda played a major part in the defeat of his own plan. When the Americans raided Okinawa and Formosa in prepration for the landing on Leyte Toyoda believed that the invasion had begun and issued the preliminary 'Sho' orders. By chance he was present on Formosa, and believed the exaggerated reports of success from his inexperienced pilots. Believing that the American fleet had been badly damaged Toyoda kept on feeding aircraft in the battle. A massive air battle developed off Formosa (12-16 October 1944) in which the Japanese lost 600 aircraft, including many that had been allocated to the carrier fleet. As a result the carrier force could only act as a decoy during the battle of Leyte Gulf (23-26 October 1944), and the Japanese surface forces were left exposed to American air attack. The battle ended as a second crushing Japanese defeat, this time with the loss of four carriers and three battleships.

Toyoda remained commander of the Combined Fleet after the defeat at Leyte Gulf. His last major operation was the suicidal mission of the battleship Yamato in April 1945. The battleship was ordered to sail to Okinawa where it could beach itself to become a massive gun battery. Instead it was sunk on the first day after leaving Japan.

On 20 May 1945 Toyoda became Navy Chief of Staff. In the last days of the war he was one of the main opponents of Emperor Hirohito's plan to surrender, and indeed to any other attempt to negotiate a peace. He also refused to take part in the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. After the war he cooperated with the American naval historian S.E. Morrison during the production of the epic fifteen volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.


Soemu Toyoda

Soemu Toyoda (22. toukokuuta 1885 Ōitan prefektuuri, Japani – 22. syyskuuta 1957 Tokio, Japani) [1] [2] oli japanilainen amiraali, joka toimi toisen maailmansodan aikana Japanin yhdistetyn laivaston ylipäällikkönä vuosina 1944–1945 ja keisarillisen laivaston pääesikunnan päällikkönä toukokuusta lokakuuhun 1945.

Toyoda valmistui Japanin keisarillisesta laivastoakatemiasta vuonna 1905. [3] Hän oli Japanin laivastoattaseana Lontoossa vuosina 1919–1922 ja myöhemmin muun muassa risteilijä Yuran ja taistelulaiva Hyūgan kapteenina. Toyoda toimi yhdistetyn laivaston esikuntapäällikkönä 1933–1935, 4. laivaston komentajana 1937–1938 ja 2. laivaston komentajana 1938–1939. Hän sai vuonna 1931 kontra-amiraalin, 1935 vara-amiraalin ja 1941 amiraalin arvon. [1] Toyoda vastusti sodan aloittamista Yhdysvaltoja vastaan, vaikka olikin kiihkonationalisti. [1] Tyynenmeren sodan puhjetessa vuonna 1941 hän oli Kuren laivastopiirin päällikkönä. Hänet nimitettiin marraskuussa 1942 ylimmän sotaneuvoston jäseneksi ja toukokuussa 1943 Yokosukan laivastopiirin päälliköksi. [1] [3] [4]

Toyoda tuli yhdistetyn laivaston ylipäälliköksi toukokuun alussa 1944 edeltäjänsä Mineichi Kogan kuoltua lento-onnettomuudessa. Toyodan johdolla laivastolle laadittiin uusi strategia ”A-Go”, jonka lopputuloksena oli ratkaiseva tappio Filippiinienmeren taistelussa kesäkuussa 1944. [4] [1] Amerikkalaisten käynnistäessä lokakuussa 1944 maihinnousun Leyten saarelle Toyoda oli ilmaiskujen vuoksi jumissa Formosalla, josta käsin hän määräsi suuren vastahyökkäyksen, ”Shō-Gōn”. [1] Seurauksena oli kuitenkin jälleen tappio Leytenlahden taistelussa. [2] Toukokuussa 1945 Toyoda siirtyi laivaston pääesikunnan päälliköksi, missä tehtävässä hän oli sodan loppuun asti. Meriministeri Mitsumasa Yonai oli tukenut Toyodan nimitystä siinä toivossa, että tämä kannattaisi sodan lopettamista. Toyoda asettui kuitenkin ylimmässä sotaneuvostossa armeijan esikuntapäällikkö Yoshijirō Umezun ja sotaministeri Korechika Anamin rinnalle vastustamaan antautumista, koska piti Potsdamin julistuksen antautumisehtoja liian huonoina Japanille. Hän pysyi tällä kannalla vielä elokuussa 1945 Hiroshiman ja Nagasakin atomipommien jälkeenkin. [3] [1] [4]

Toyoda erosi esikuntapäällikön tehtävistä lokakuussa 1945 ja vetäytyi kokonaan palveluksesta marraskuussa. [1] Hän joutui lokakuussa 1948 sotaoikeuteen syytettynä sotarikoksista vihollisvankeja ja siviileitä kohtaan. Hänet kuitenkin todettiin syyttömäksi ja vapautettiin. Hän oli ainoa sotarikoksista syytetty japanilainen sotilasjohtaja, joka todettiin syyttömäksi kaikkiin syytekohtiin. Toyoda kuoli sydänkohtaukseen vuonna 1957. [3]


Biography

Early career

Toyoda was born in what is now part Kitsuki city, Oita prefecture. He graduated from the 33rd class of the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy in 1905, ranked 26th out of 176 cadets. He served his midshipman duty aboard the cruisers Hashidate and Nisshin, and after commissioned as an ensign he was assigned to the destroyer Asatsuyu.

Toyoda returned to school, becoming a torpedo and naval artillery expert. As a lieutenant from 1911, he served on the battlecruiser Kurama. He graduated from the Naval War College (Japan) with honors in 1915, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1917. From 1917-1919, he was aide-de-camp to Admiral Yoshimasa Motomaro. From 1919-1922, he was sent as naval attaché to the United Kingdom, during which time he was promoted to commander.

After his return to Japan, Toyoda was assigned as executive officer on the cruiser Kuma. He subsequently served in a number of staff positions, was promoted to captain in 1925, and received his first command: the cruiser Yura in 1926. In December 1930, he became captain of the battleship Hyūga. During the London Naval Conference, he accompanied Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to London in 1931. On 1 December 1931, Toyoda was promoted to rear admiral.

From December 1931-February 1933, Toyoda was chief of the Second Section of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, and promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1935.

From 1935-1937, Toyoda was Director of the Bureau of Naval Affairs, and on 20 October 1937, became Commander-in-Chief of the IJN 4th Fleet. He subsequently became Commander in Chief of the IJN 2nd Fleet on 15 November 1938. Both fleets were active in the Second Sino-Japanese War in support of the invasion of China. From 1939-1941, he was Director of Naval Shipbuilding Command.

World War II

Promoted to full admiral on 18 September 1941, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Toyoda was Commander-in-Chief of the Kure Naval District. Toyoda was strongly opposed to the war with the United States, which he viewed from the start as "unwinnable". [ 3 ]

On 10 November 1942, Toyoda became a member of the Supreme War Council, where he made a strong (but mostly unsuccessful) effort to increase funding and the capacity of Japan's industry toward naval aviation, over the opposition to the Army-dominated Imperial General Headquarters. On 21 April 1943, Toyoda was re-assigned (i.e. demoted) from the Supreme War Council to command of Yokosuka Naval District.

After the death of Admiral Mineichi Koga, Toyoda was appointed Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet on 3 May 1944. In June of the same year, he drafted and implemented "Plan A-Go" which resulted in the decisive defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy under the command of Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. He followed with "Plan Sho-Go", which again resulted in another major defeat at the Battle of Surigao Strait. Toyoda was aware that both plans were major gambles, but as the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet was running out of fuel and other critical supplies, he felt that the potential gain offset the risk of losing a fleet that was about to become useless in any event. In the end, however, Toyoda's aggressive defensive strategy did not pay off. Nonetheless, Toyoda continued with the same strategy, approving "Plan Ten-Go" to send the battleship Yamato on its one-way final mission to Okinawa.

Toyoda replaced Koshirō Oikawa as Chief of the Navy General Staff, after the latter resigned, and was the final supreme commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 29 May 1945 onward.

Toyoda participated in numerous Imperial Conferences concerning the surrender of Japan. Initially, the Navy Minister, Mitsumasa Yonai, hoped that Toyoda would be able to exert a moderating influence over Army Chief of Staff Yoshijirō Umezu (since both came from the same district of Japan). However, Toyoda joined Umezu in his protestations against the Potsdam Proclamation of 26 July. Toyoda was for termination of the war but insisted that the government push for more favorable terms. After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Toyoda's position became even more hardline. He argued that the Japanese people should defend the Japanese home islands until the last man.

Post-war

After the war, Toyoda was interrogated by Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie in Tokyo on 14 November. He was viewed as "highly intelligent and widely informed", and was observed to be a strong critic of the amount of political power the Army held in the Japanese government. He also expressed his opinion that the war with China should have been ended "even at some sacrifice" so that the men and resources could be redeployed to the Pacific theater. [ 4 ]

Toyoda was subsequently arrested by SCAP authorities, held in Sugamo Prison, but was not charged with any war crimes and later released.

Toyoda published his memoirs in 1950, and died in 1957 of a heart attack at the age of 72.


Were the Japanese Going to Surrender Because of the Hiroshima Bombing?

Were the Japanese going to surrender because of Hiroshima? And before Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki?

In the days immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese military did not publicly respond, still holding on to their four conditions for ending the war: preservation of the imperial institution, leaving demobilization in the hands of Japanese headquarters, no foreign occupation of the Home Islands, Korea or Formosa, and delegating the punishment of war criminals to the Japanese government.

On August 7, Dr. Yoshio Nishina and other atomic scientists visited Hiroshima and confirmed that it had indeed been the target of an atomic device. Meanwhile, on August 5, Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov had informed the Japanese that his country was abrogating the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, a surefire sign that a declaration of war would soon follow. In spite of all that, Admiral Soemu Toyoda declared that there were only one or two atomic bombs likely to be available to the Americans and that Japan could endure the destruction that they would inflict, stating that “there would be more destruction but the war would go on.”

The Americans intercepted these communications and after a discussion on Guam on the 8th, Rear Adm. William R. Purnell, Captain William S. Parsons, General Carl A. Spaatz, Colonel Paul W. Tibbetts Jr. and Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay decided to drop the second bomb. Whether it, the Soviet offensive through Manchuria that also began on August 9, or both, finally persuaded the Japanese to accept the Allied surrender terms is debated to this day.

Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History
www.historynet.com

Don’t miss the next Ask Mr. History question! To receive notification whenever any new item is published on HistoryNet, just scroll down the column on the right and sign up for our RSS feed.


World War II Database


ww2dbase Soemu Toyoda was born in the district of Oita in Japan in 1885. Early in his life he found a love for the unpredictability and the challenging nature of the sea, which prompted him to enroll in the Naval Academy. He graduated from the academy in 1905, becoming an expert in naval gunnery. His early career saw him aboard destroyers and cruisers, as well as tours to Britain, which included his attendance of the London Naval Conference with Isoroku Yamamoto in 1931. He reached flag rank on 1 Dec 1931 when he was promoted to rear admiral and became a member of the naval staff. After several desk assignments, Toyoda returned to sea-going duty as the commanding officer of the 4th Fleet then the 2nd Fleet, both in support of the invasion of China. He was one of the naval officers who opposed war with the United States. He "felt at the time that [Japan] could have avoided the war if it had tried hard enough", he said during his interrogation after the war. However, he also deeply believed that it was not a military serviceman's place to become involved in politics, so like so many others he obeyed his orders obediently.

ww2dbase At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Toyoda was the admiral in charge of the Kure Naval Station. The appointment of that position returned him back on land for the remainder of his career. In Nov 1942, he became a member of the Supreme War Council his most notable action item at this appointment, although ending largely in failure when presented to the army-dominated Imperial General Headquarters, was his attempt to dedicate a greater percentage of Japan's industrial capacity to construct aircrafts for the navy. In May 1943 he left the Supreme War Council and took command of the Yokosuka Naval Base.

ww2dbase Toyoda's career reached its peak on 3 May 1944 when he was appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, succeeding the recently deceased Admiral Mineichi Koga. At the helm of the Combined Fleet, Toyoda's A-Go Operation resulted in a major depletion of Japanese naval airpower at the Philippine Sea, and the subsequent Sho-Go Operation saw a complete annihilation of ships at Surigao Strait dealt by Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf and a disheartening loss of the battleship Musashi by swarming aircraft. Toyoda knew Sho-Go was a big gamble, but he also felt that had he preserved the naval strength by allowing the Americans to take the Philippines and cut off Japanese shipping to the south, the ships would soon run out of fuel, therefore it did not make sense to him to not go on this risky endeavor. "[I]f things went well, we might obtain unexpectedly good results", said Toyoda, "but if the worst should happen, there was a chance that we would lose the entire fleet. But I felt that that chance had to be taken." During the Marianas and Leyte Gulf campaigns (A-Go and Sho-Go operations, respectively), Japanese airmen and naval crew reported inflated reports on damages inflicted on the enemy, a common practice by both sides during the Pacific War. Toyoda, unlike his American counterparts, bought into his own propaganda which was based on these inflated numbers. Thinking that the American naval power was hurt much beyond actuality, when encountered with a need for a defense plan for the Philippines, Toyoda called for reinforcement of Leyte from Luzon and China, naming Leyte the location of the decisive battle that would stop the American juggernaut. In hindsight, this aggressive defensive strategy did not pay off in comparison, General Tomoyuki Yamashita's plan to make Luzon the site of the final defensive stand was more advantageous, especially given the proof that Yamashita was able to continue his resistance on Luzon until the day of Japan's surrender.

ww2dbase Toyoda, despite meeting unfavorable outcomes with his previous operations, nevertheless continued with his aggressive plans. He sent battleship Yamato on a suicidal mission with the goals of sinking the fleet supporting the landing operations at Okinawa. That operation, Ten-Go, saw the end of the Yamato in a eerie deja vu of the Dec 1941 sinking of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales by overwhelming airpower. While the sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales marked the end of pre-war British naval presence in south Pacific, the sinking of the Yamato symbolized the end of the once unstoppable Japanese navy. In May 1945, he stepped down from his position as the commanding officer of the Combined Fleet and became the head of Overall Naval Command and then Chief of Naval General Staff.

ww2dbase In the last days of the war, while the dovish Prince Konoye lobbied for methods to negotiate for peace, Toyoda argued to defend the home islands until the last man. This argument persisted even after the dropping of atomic bombs by the United States and the declaration of war on Japan by Russia. After the war, he was interrogated by Rear Admiral R. A. Ofstie of the United States Navy, Major General O. A. Anderson of the United States Army, and Lieutenant Commander W. Wilds of the United States Naval Reserves in Tokyo on 13 and 14 Nov 1945. He was commented as "highly intelligent and widely informed", and was observed to be a strong critic of the amount of political power the Army held in the Japanese government. He also expressed his opinion that the war with China should have been ended "even at some sacrifice" so that the men and resources could be redeployed to the Pacific theater. At the war trials, he was released under the condition that he would never enter public service (same condition was required of for all released war criminals).

ww2dbase Toyoda passed away in Tokyo on 22 Sep 1957. His memoirs were published in 1950.

ww2dbase Sources: Interrogations of Japanese Officials, the Pacific Campaign, Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2007

Soemu Toyoda Timeline

22 May 1885 Soemu Toyoda was born.
18 Sep 1941 Admiral Soemu Toyoda was named the commanding officer of Kure Naval District, Japan.
10 Nov 1942 Admiral Soemu Toyoda stepped down as the commanding officer of Kure Naval District, Japan.
3 May 1944 Soemu Toyoda was named the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy Combined Fleet.
22 Sep 1957 Soemu Toyoda passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
4 May 2011 03:28:39 PM

Does anyone know, did the Admiral have any sons and if so, what were their names and dates of birth? I may be able to link him to a Toyoda I know.

2. Anonymous says:
22 Feb 2012 11:15:22 AM

It would be great to find out if he had children

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.


Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945

The Japanese surrender ceremony in progress, as seen from USS Missouri‘s foredeck, with the Marine guard and Navy band in the center foreground and the ship’s embarkation ladder at lower left. The backs of the Japanese delegation are visible on the O-1 level deck, to the left of 16-inch gun turret No. 2 (SC 210628).

Samuel J. Cox, Director NHHC

The Japanese Decision to Surrender

At the time of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, senior decision-making authority in Japan was vested in the six-member Supreme Council for the Direction of the War. Three of the members were active duty or retired Imperial Japanese Navy admirals. The ultimate decision maker in Imperial Japan was Emperor Hirohito, whom the Japanese believed to be divine. However, making mistakes is bad for a divinity’s reputation, so the emperor only directly intervened on rare and extremely important matters. Emperor Hirohito was routinely kept informed of the course of the war, and it became increasingly common for senior leaders of the army and navy to apologize to the emperor when something went badly. Nevertheless, the emperor rarely directly told any government, army, or navy leaders what to do.

Most (but not all, especially in the army) senior leaders of Japan understood that an outright victory against the United States was unlikely and that sooner or later the overwhelming industrial might of the United States would overpower Japan. Thus, the Japanese objective was to play for a negotiated end to the war on terms as favorable to Japan as possible. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto recognized this at the very start, and the whole point of the Pearl Harbor attack was to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet to force the United States to negotiate. As the war continued and went badly, the Japanese objective was to inflict so much cost in blood on U.S. forces that the American people would tire of the war and force the U.S. government to negotiate. Although this was the objective, it was not until the very end that the Japanese considered initiating such negotiations the idea was to force the United States to offer terms first. The problem for the Japanese was that the perfidy of the “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor led to an unwavering U.S. war objective of “unconditional surrender.” From the very beginning, the United States had no interest in negotiations.

In the early years of the war, General Hideki Tojo held three of the six positions on the Supreme Council prime minister, minister of war (army), and chief of the army general staff. Tojo was arguably the man most responsible for pushing Japan into the war, although he had plenty of support. He did not have complete dictatorial power, as the Navy strongly asserted its independence, but he effectively quashed any serious attempts to negotiate an end to the war while he had the power to do so. However, when the Marianas Islands fell to U.S. forces in July 1944, senior Japanese leadership understood that the war was effectively lost, and no amount of propaganda could hide the fact. Tojo received the blame and was forced out, having lost face. The next prime minister only lasted until the United States took the Philippines.

With the loss of the Marianas and the Philippines, some members of the new Japanese government under Prime Minister Admiral (retired) Kantaro Suzuki got serious about negotiations and approached the government of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin to intercede. The Soviets and Japanese had signed a neutrality pact in April 1941, two years after a particularly nasty, but short, border war in Manchuria, during which both sides suffered thousands of casualties, but the Japanese were decisively defeated. The Japanese believed that the Russians would help because the neutrality treaty enabled the Russians to send many troops from the Far East at the critical moment to blunt Hitler’s offensive into Russia in 1941.

What the Japanese didn’t know was that Stalin had no intention of keeping the neutrality pact past its usefulness and had promised the Allies at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 that he would eventually join the war against Japan. At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Stalin promised he would enter the war against Japan 90 days after the defeat of Germany (and he kept his word almost to the day). What the Japanese also didn’t know was that U.S. intelligence was reading the Japanese diplomatic code (Purple) as fast as they were, and was fully aware of the Japanese negotiation attempts and that the Russians were deliberately stringing the Japanese along. The United States also knew that the Japanese leadership was seriously split between a few who were in favor of a negotiated peace and those who were in favor of a die-hard fight to the end.

As of 6 August 1945, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War was made up of the Prime Minister Admiral (retired) Kantaro Suzuki, Minister of Foreign Affairs Shigenori Togo, Minister of the Army General Korechika Anami, Minister of the Navy Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, Chief of the Army General Staff General Yoshijiro Umezu, and Chief of the Navy General Staff Admiral Soemu Toyoda.

The prime minister, Admiral Suzuki, had been commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet in 1924 and had retired in 1929. As a captain, he had made a port call in the United States in 1918 in command of the armored cruiser Iwate (sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in the strikes on Kure in July 1945).

The minister of the navy, Admiral Yonai, was technically an active duty navy flag officer (a requirement of the position). Yonai had become a full (four-star) admiral and navy minister in 1937 and had been appointed prime minister in 1940, but had been forced out by the army due to his opposition to going to war and his pro-American leanings. Of the six members of the council, he was the only one openly in favor of an early negotiated peace. Being “open” carried serious risk of assassination.

Admiral Soemu Toyoda replaced Admiral Koshiro Oikawa on 29 May 1945, following the first serious formal discussion about ending the war. Oikawa believed the war was clearly lost and resigned when the Supreme Council refused to consider peace proposals formally. Toyoda, along with Generals Anami and Umezu, held a vociferous hardline “fight to extinction” view (which was actually the Supreme Council’s formal position in a vote taken 6 June). Suzuki and Togo kept their real opinions close to their vests. The challenge for the Japanese was that any major decision regarding the course of the war required the unanimous consent of the Supreme Council. It was not until 22 June (after the fall of Okinawa) that the emperor, in a typically enigmatic way, expressed support for ending the war (without a fight to the death for everyone).

Between 16 July and 2 August, President Truman, Josef Stalin, and Winston Churchill met at Potsdam in defeated Germany. (Actually, in a surprising display of ingratitude, Prime Minister Churchill was voted out of office during the conference and replaced by new Prime Minster Clement Atlee.) The Potsdam Declaration was issued on 26 July and specified terms for the surrender of Japan. After somewhat incongruously laying out a number of conditions, the declaration concluded that Japan proclaim “unconditional surrender” or face the alternative, “prompt and utter destruction.” The declaration made no mention of the Japanese emperor.

The Supreme Council haggled over the Potsdam Declaration, but repeatedly failed to achieve unanimous consensus as the hardliners refused to budge, voting 4 to 2 to reject the declaration. The Supreme Council also did not have a sense of urgency because Japanese intelligence had assessed, correctly, that the United States would not invade Kyushu (also a correct assessment) until November 1945. U.S. leaders, on the other hand, were aware of the status of the debate due to the broken Japanese diplomatic codes.

The first atomic bomb blast on 6 August had little impact on the Supreme Council when they were informed almost immediately. Both the Japanese army and navy had their own independent atomic weapons development efforts and the leaders knew full well how difficult it was to make a bomb. Admiral Toyoda was skeptical that the devastation of Hiroshima was caused by an atomic bomb, but if it was, Toyoda stated, correctly, the United States couldn’t have very many. Most Japanese cities had already been laid waste with hundreds of thousands dead as a result of incendiary raids by B-29s and Hiroshima was just one more (the radiological effects were little understood by anyone at that point). U.S. planners associated with Project Alberta (the employment of the atomic bomb) had correctly anticipated exactly such a reaction by the Japanese, which is why it was believed necessary to hit the Japanese with a second bomb as soon as possible (see H-Gram 052) to bluff them into thinking that the United States had plenty more. Of note, a third bomb would not have been ready until 19 August and fourth not until late September, followed by a long gap in development.

Historians and others have had a long-running food fight over whether the Soviet entry into the war or the second atomic bomb was what really caused the Japanese to sue for peace. In Cox’s opinion, the answer is “yes.” It was a one-two punch of profound shock.

Word of the Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria and southern Sakhalin Island reached Tokyo at about 0400 on 9 August. It would be a couple days before the Japanese truly understood the full scope of the debacle as the massive Soviet multi-directional combined arms attack cut through the vaunted (but skeletonized) Japanese Kwantung Army like butter, stopping only when Soviet fuel supply couldn’t keep up with the tanks. What the Japanese leadership did immediately grasp was that the clock was just about to run out for negotiations. While the U.S. invasion was not expected until November, the Soviets could, in theory, be in Hokkaido in a week. The Japanese who supported peace overtures experienced a demoralizing realization that the Soviets had been lying to them all along.

The Soviet invasion of Manchuria is often characterized as the Russians jumping in at the last moment. This is not the case. The Soviet intervention was very carefully planned and executed, with the full support of the United States. It was the United States that, at the last moment (after news that the atomic bomb worked), decided that Russian intervention that had been actively sought wasn’t such a good idea after all. The sense that Russian entry into the war with Japan was not really necessary had been building in the last year of the war in senior U.S. military and especially Navy leadership. Nevertheless, although the Russians supplied their own tanks, artillery, and men, the vast majority of the munitions that enabled the Soviet attack were supplied by the United States in a major stream of neutral-flag shipping across the North Pacific to Soviet Ports at Petropavlovsk and Vladivostok. (The amount of munitions transferred to the Soviets by sea dwarfed the far more famous aerial supply of China “over the Hump”—the Himalayas.) The Japanese knew of this shipping, but took no action against it for fear of bringing the Russians into the war. The Soviet offensive would not have been possible without this U.S. support, at least not as soon as it occurred.

In addition, the U.S. Navy was the major participant in a secret program to provide the Soviets with lend-lease ships and aircraft through Alaska, specifically with the intent of using them against the Japanese. Between March 1945 and the end of the war, at an isolated location in the Aleutian Islands, the U.S. Navy trained 12,000 Soviet Navy personnel and transferred 149 ships and vessels (mostly frigates, mine warfare, and amphibious vessels) in an operation known as “Project Hula,” the largest transfer program of the war.

The news of the Soviet offensive sent the Supreme Council into urgent session, with Prime Minster Suzuki and Minster of Foreign Affairs Togo coming out in favor of opening a negotiating channel to the United States via Switzerland and Sweden, along with Navy Minister Yonai. Togo’s proposal to accept the Potsdam Declaration with the condition that the emperor’s position be preserved (something the declaration did not specifically address). The hardliners countered with a proposal that added additional conditions (which the Allies would certainly reject). As the discussion was going on, General Amani and General Umezu were secretly taking steps to implement martial law to prevent any such negotiations from happening at all. At 1030, Suzuki reported to the council that the emperor was in favor of ending the war quickly. Nevertheless, the council was still deadlocked 3–3 at 1100 when word of the Nagasaki bomb was received, and remained so even afterward.

With the Supreme Council still deadlocked, the full cabinet met at 1430 on 9 August, again arriving at a 3–3 vote. Arguments raged in a series of meetings late into the night. Finally, Suzuki requested an impromptu imperial conference with the Supreme Council and the emperor, which commenced at midnight and continued until 0200. Finally, Suzuki informed the emperor that consensus was impossible and requested that Hirohito break the stalemate. The emperor sided with Togo’s proposal to make an offer to accept the Potsdam Declaration with the condition that the emperor’s position be preserved. Suzuki then implored the Supreme Council to accept the emperor’s will.

On 10 August, the Japanese government sent a telegram via the Swiss, which was immediately intercepted by U.S. intelligence. As U.S. leaders evaluated the Japanese proposal, President Truman ordered a halt to the bombing of Japan and that the next use of an atomic bomb would require explicit presidential authorization (the second one didn’t). As a result, Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King sent a “Peace Warning” message to Nimitz. Nimitz had already ordered Halsey to conduct another round of carrier strikes on the Japanese home islands, which he then countermanded.

White-painted Japanese Mitsubishi G4M-1 Betty at Ie Shima, 19 August 1945, after carrying the Japanese surrender delegation there to meet with General MacArthur. Note aircraft’s “surrender” markings: green crosses superimposed over the Japanese national insignia (NH 81963).

On 12 August, the United States responded to the Japanese offer, stating that “The ultimate form of government of Japan, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, to be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.” The Japanese found the response to be ambiguous, which it was, provoking more heated discussion in the Supreme Council whether to hold out for an “explicit guarantee” of the emperor’s position. The same day, the emperor informed his family members that he had made a decision to surrender.

On 13 August, U.S. B-29s dropped leaflets all over Japan, making public the Japanese proposal and the U.S. counterproposal. A strong case can be made that it was actually the psychological impact of this huge leaflet drop that tipped the balance (making it one of the most effective psyops campaigns in history), although by this time the full magnitude of the collapse of Japanese defenses in Manchuria and Sakhalin Islands was also known to the Supreme Council, which finally agreed that the language in the U.S. counterproposal was good enough.

The U.S. counterproposal of 12 August directed the Japanese response to be sent in the clear. However, the Japanese sent their response message to their embassies in Switzerland and Sweden in code, which the United States initially interpreted as a “non-acceptance.” In addition,, there was a major spike in Japanese military message traffic, raising concern that an all-out banzai attack was in the works. As a result, President Truman reluctantly ordered a resumption of bombing. Over the course of 14 August, over 1,000 B-29s bombed Japan in the largest single day of strikes in the war, which also wiped out the last operational oil refinery in Japan. Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet geared up for a resumption of carrier strikes on the Tokyo area, set for daybreak on 15 August (see H-Gram 051).

On 14 August, Emperor Hirohito met with senior army and navy leaders. Admiral Toyoda, General Anami, General Umezu, and most military leaders wanted to fight on. An exception was the commander of the Second Army, who would be responsible for the defense of southern Japan and whose headquarters in Hiroshima had been obliterated. He argued that continued fighting was futile. Finally, the emperor announced that he had decided to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration with the “will of the people” caveat. The emperor having announced a decision, the Supreme Council and the full cabinet unanimously ratified it. The Foreign Ministry sent a coded message to the Japanese embassies around the world of their intent to accept the Allied terms, which was intercepted and reached Washington at 0249 on 14 August (late afternoon 14 August Tokyo time). However, the intercept of Japanese intent did not constitute the actual official Japanese response, so plans for Navy strikes on 15 August continued.

At 2300 on 14 August (Tokyo time) the emperor made a gramophone recording reading his statement to the Japanese people of his decision to surrender (without ever actually using that word), which was to be broadcast to the Japanese people over the radio at noon on 15 August. A couple of trusted members of the emperor’s personal staff then hid the copies of the recording.

Meanwhile, a coup attempt was underway, led by Major Kenji Hatanaka and other mid-grade army officers who were against surrendering. By midnight, the renegade army group surrounded the Imperial Palace and gained access under the false pretense of defending the palace against an outside revolt. Hatanaka shot and killed Lieutenant General Takeshi Mori, the commander of the Palace Guard, who had become suspicious. Other renegades fanned out across Tokyo and tried to assassinate Prime Minister Suzuki and other government officials. Despite threats of death, the palace officials who knew where the recordings were refused to acknowledge their whereabouts. The renegades then searched throughout the labyrinthine palace in an attempt to find and destroy the recordings. The search was severely hampered when Tokyo was blacked out in response to the very last B-29 bombing mission of the war, which targeted the oil refinery north of Tokyo. The rebels could not find the recordings and, by about 0800 in the morning, the coup fizzled as key army units failed to rally to the rebels’ side.

Just before dawn, aircraft from Halsey’s carriers had begun launching to attack targets in the Tokyo area. Two hours later, as the first wave of carrier aircraft were approaching their targets, the Pacific Fleet Intelligence Officer, Captain Edwin Layton, barged into Nimitz’ office with the intercept of Japan’s official acceptance of unconditional surrender. Nimitz ordered a flash message sent to cease all offensive air operations. The carrier planes were recalled before any bombs were dropped, but four U.S. Hellcats were shot down by Japanese fighters on the way back, and their pilots lost.

On board USS Nicholas (DD-449), two U.S. Navy officers examine a Japanese officer’s sword, 27 August 1945. The Japanese were on board to provide piloting services for Third Fleet ships entering Sagami Wan and Tokyo Bay. Note other Japanese swords and sword belts on the table in the foreground (80-G-332611).

Fleet Admiral King’s reaction to the news was, “I wonder what I am going to do tomorrow.”

At noon, 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito’s radio address went out to the Japanese people. It was the first time the vast majority of Japanese people had ever heard his voice. Because of the poor quality of the recording and the archaic style of Japanese used in the Imperial Court, most of the people didn’t understand what he was saying. But, for the first time in its history, Japan had surrendered to a foreign power.

General Anami committed suicide before the address. General Umezu and Minister of Foreign Affairs Togo were tried and convicted as war criminals and died in prison. Admiral Toyoda would be the only member of the Japanese military tried for war crimes and acquitted. Admiral Yonai would be the only member of the Supreme Council to remain in his position after the war. Admiral Suzuki resigned as prime minister upon the announcement of the surrender.

President Truman allowed Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy to address the American public on the radio. (Leahy was the senior U.S. military officer with a position roughly analogous to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) Leahy’s words are still relevant: “Today we have the biggest and most powerful navy in the world, more powerful than any other two navies in existence. But, we must not depend on this strength and this power alone. America’s true strength and secret weapon, that really won the war, came from our basic virtues as a freedom-loving nation.”

After the war, the United States would learn that the estimates of 5,000–7,000 Japanese kamikaze that would oppose the U.S. invasion were far too low. The real number was over 12,000, plus about 5,000 Shinyo suicide boats and several hundred midget submarines. In a future H-gram, I will discuss the U.S. plan for the invasion of Japan (Operation Downfall) and the Japanese counter (Operation Ketsugo).

The Japanese delegation comes on board USS Nicholas (DD-449) to be taken to USS Missouri (BB-63) for the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945 (SC 210641).

The Japanese Surrender

Fleet Admiral Nimitz issued a directive upon the termination of hostilities against Japan: “It is incumbent on all officers to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum in the treatment of the Japanese and their public utterances in connection with the Japanese …the use of insulting epithets in connection with the Japanese as a race or as individuals does not now become the officers of the United States Navy.”

On 19 August, two Japanese Navy G4M Betty bombers took off from an airfield near Tokyo, carrying a delegation of 16 Japanese officers led by Lieutenant General Torashiro Kawabe, the Vice Chief of the Army General Staff. In accordance with directions from General MacArthur’s headquarters, the two planes were disarmed, painted completely white, with green crosses replacing the red “meatballs.” The U.S. forces gave the planes the call signs “Bataan 1” and “Bataan 2.” The aircraft initially flew northeast as there was serious concern they might be shot down by rogue Japanese fighters, which had fired on U.S. reconnaissance aircraft after the cease-fire. They picked up an escort of U.S. Army Air Forces P-38 fighters and B-25 bombers, and flew to Ie Shima airfield, on a small island just off Okinawa. One terrified young Japanese airman offered a bouquet of flowers to the Americans, which was rebuffed. At Ie Shima, the delegation transferred to a U.S. C-54 transport plane (also call letters B-A-T-A-A-N) and flew to Nichols Field, near Manila. There were no negotiations. The Japanese were given directions for what they needed to do to prepare for the formal surrender and subsequent occupation of Japan.

The Japanese delegation was given instructions that originated from Fleet Admiral Nimitz regarding the Japanese navy. All Japanese ships were to remain in port pending further directions. Any ships at sea were to immediately report their position by radio in the clear, remove breechblocks from all guns, and train main battery weapons fore and aft. All torpedo tubes were to be emptied. Searchlights were to be on and vertical at night. Submarines at sea were to surface and fly a black flag or pennant and proceed to designated Allied ports. All aircraft were to be grounded, harbor defense booms opened, navigation lights lit, obstacles removed, explosives secured, and minefields removed (the minefields would prove to be a major challenge, especially those laid by the United States).

The first U.S. aircraft to land in Japan were two Army Air Forces P-38 fighters on an armed reconnaissance mission that ran low on fuel and landed at a field on Kyushu on 25 August. An hour later, a B-17 landed with fuel for the fighters and then all took off.

The lead elements of the U.S. 11th Airborne Division were scheduled to land at Atsugi Airfield, near Tokyo on 26 August to conduct initial reconnaissance and set up communications. However, typhoon conditions caused the operation to be delayed by two days (as was General MacArthur’s subsequent arrival).

On 27 August, a fighter pilot of Carrier Air Group 88 on Yorktown (CV-10) brazenly landed at Atsugi, in defiance of orders, and directed the startled Japanese to hang a banner that read, “Welcome to Atsugi from Third Fleet,” which would greet the U.S. Army advance team when they arrived on 28 August.

Also on 27 August, the lead elements of Third Fleet entered Sagami Wan (the bay on the Kamakura/Zushi side of Miura Peninsula—Yokosuka is on the other side of the peninsula). Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet flagship, Missouri (BB-63), entered in company with destroyers Nicholas (DD-449, 16 Battle Stars) O’Bannon (DD-450, 17 Battle Stars) Taylor (DD-468, 15 Battle Stars), Stockham (DD-683, 8 Battle Stars), and Waldron (DD-699, 4 Battle Stars). O’Bannon had the most Battle Stars of any U.S. destroyer, with the distinction of having suffered no combat deaths in some of the most horrific battles of the war. Nicholas, O’Bannon, and Taylor were specifically selected by Halsey, “because of their valorous fight up the long road from the South Pacific to the very end.”

Following Missouri into Sagami Wan was a Royal Navy squadron led by battleship Duke Of York, flagship of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, commander of the British Pacific Fleet.

The small Japanese destroyer-escort Hatsuzakura (“Early Blooming Cherry”), one of the very last ships commissioned in the Imperial Japanese Navy (May 1945), brought harbor pilots and translators to Missouri. Nicholas then distributed them to other ships. On the Yokosuka side, the Japanese towed the battleship Nagato (the only Japanese battleship still afloat) out to anchor in Tokyo Bay in an attempt to salvage some shred of dignity.

On the morning of 28 August, the minesweeper Revenge (AM-110) led a group of minesweepers to ensure the path into Tokyo Bay was clear. Then, the first of 258 Allied ships steamed into Tokyo Bay. The first to enter were destroyer-minesweepers Ellyson(DMS-19), Hambleton (DMS-20), and destroyer-minelayer Thomas E. Fraser (DM-24). Then came the new Gearing-class destroyer Southerland (DD-743) and then Twining (DD-540). Next was the anti-aircraft light cruiser San Diego (CL-53), flagship of Rear Admiral Oscar C. Badger, commander of the occupation task force. (With 18 Battle Stars, San Diego was second only to carrier Enterprise (CV-6), which had earned 20 Battle Stars.) Next came destroyer-transport Gosselin (APD-126), destroyer Wedderburn (DD-684), and then seaplane tenders Cumberland Sound (AV-17) and Suisun (AVP-53).

Battleships South Dakota (13 BB-57) and Missouri (BB-63) entered Tokyo Bay, followed by six more U.S. and two British battleships. With 15 Battle Stars, South Dakota was tied with North Carolina (BB-55) for the most Battle Stars of any battleship, although South Dakotahad suffered the most casualties of any battleship after Pearl Harbor. North Carolinaremained on duty at sea off Japan with all the U.S. carriers, except for light carriers Cowpens (CVL-25) and Bataan (CVL-29), which entered Tokyo Bay.

Missouri was selected for the site of the surrender ceremony by President Truman upon the recommendation of Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal. Not only was Missouri President Truman’s home state, but the ship had been christened by his daughter Margaret. Forrestal also engineered a graceful compromise between the Army and the Navy after Truman named General MacArthur the Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP), somewhat to the Navy’s chagrin, which held that the service had done far more to bring about the defeat of Japan than McArthur and the Army. Forrestal suggested that the formal surrender be held aboard a ship, and that McArthur would sign for the Allied Powers and Nimitz would sign for the United States. The proposal was accepted.

Missouri anchored 4.5 nautical miles northeast of the spot where Commodore Mathew C. Perry’s four-ship squadron had anchored in July 1853, an event that resulted in the “opening” of Japan to U.S. trade, literally at the point of a gun (actually, 73 of them). Halsey requested that the U.S. Naval Academy Museum (now part of NHHC) dispatch the flag that had flown on Perry’s flagship USS Susquehanna during the Japan expedition. Lieutenant John K. Bremyer, of the Navy’s top secret courier service, carried the 31-star flag 9,000 miles, leaving Washington, DC, on 23 August with only stops for fuel at Columbus, Ohio Olathe, Kansas Winslow, Arizona San Francisco Pearl Harbor Johnston Island Kwajalein Guam and Iwo Jima. The last leg was via an Army-Navy rescue seaplane that arrived in Tokyo Bay on 29 August, and the whaleboat from Missouri smashed the plane’s tail in the choppy seas. Halsey intended to fly the flag, but it was too fragile and had been backed by linen on the front side (so the stars are on the right). The flag was framed and mounted over the entrance to Captain Stuart S. “Sunshine” Murray’s in-port cabin on the O-1 level, where it is visible in photos of General McArthur reading his opening statement. The flag is now back at the Naval Academy Museum.

On 29 August, Nimitz and his staff arrived in Tokyo Bay aboard two PB2Y Coronado seaplanes and embarked on battleship South Dakota. The same day, anti-aircraft light cruiser San Juan (CL-54) entered Tokyo Bay with destroyer Lansdowne (DD-486) and hospital ship Benevolence (AH-13), and linked up with destroyer-transport Gosselin to commence Operation Swift Mercy, the location, care, and repatriation of Allied prisoners of war. The first camp liberated was the Omori Camp, the largest in the Tokyo area. The senior allied POW in the camp was Commander Arthur L. Maher, who was also the senior survivor of the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30), sunk in the Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. Camp conditions were so appalling that Operation Swift Mercy was accelerated by 24 hours (ahead of General MacArthur’s arrival) and, by the next day, 1,500 POWs had been rescued from Omori, with many more to follow from elsewhere in Japan.

Also on 30 August, the destroyer-transport Horace A. Bass (APD-124) pulled alongside battleship Nagato and put a prize crew of 91 sailors from battleship Iowa (BB-61) aboard, led by her executive officer, Captain Thomas J. Flynn. The group included 49 explosive ordnance disposal personnel of UDT-18. When Flynn ordered the captain of Nagato to lower the rising sun flag, the Japanese captain tried to delegate it to a lower-ranking officer, but Flynn insisted the Japanese captain haul it down himself. Flynn then assumed command of the Japanese battleship. At 1030, San Diego docked at Yokosuka, following the landing of the 4th Marine Regiment. Nimitz and Halsey went ashore and toured the Yokosuka Naval Base.

That same day, General MacArthur landed at an airfield near Yokosuka, two days later than originally planned due to a typhoon, and then proceeded to his new headquarters in Yokohama in an old U.S.-made car that broke down multiple times. Nimitz and Halsey paid a call on MacArthur at his headquarters on 1 September, proceeding to Yokohama by the more reliable destroyer Buchanan (DD-486).

Japanese Foreign Ministry representatives Katsuo Okazaki and Toshikazu Kase, and Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, correcting an error on the Japanese copy of the Instrument of Surrender at the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945. Photographed looking forward from USS Missouri‘s superstructure. Note the relaxed stance of most of those around the surrender table. The larger ship in the right distance is USS Ancon (AGC-4) (USA C-4626).

At morning colors at 0800 Sunday on 2 September, Missouri hoisted the flag that the press claimed was flying over the U.S. Capitol on 7 December 1941, and which had subsequently flown over Casablanca, Rome, and Berlin when those cities fell to the Allies. According to Missouri’s skipper, Captain Murray, it was “just a plain GI-issue flag.” The national flags of all the Allied signatory nations were flown from the halyards.

At 0803, Allied representative arrived onboard Missouri from South Dakota via Buchanan. Nimitz arrived on a motor launch shortly afterward and broke his flag on Missouri. Halsey had already shifted his flag to Iowa. MacArthur arrived just after Nimitz. Both Nimitz’s blue five-star flag and MacArthur’s red five-star flag were flown at the exact same height, although Nimitz initiated a salute when MacArthur came on board and MacArthur returned the salute. The uniform of the day had been a matter of significant discussion, but MacArthur and Nimitz actually had little difficulty reaching agreement with words to the effect, “We fought the war without ties, we’ll have the ceremony without ties.” So for the Navy, the uniform for officers was long-sleeve open-neck khakis, no ties, no ribbons—and for enlisted, white jumpers.

The table for the surrender proceedings was set up on the O-1 level, starboard side, just aft of the No. 2 16-inch gun turret. Two copies of the surrender document were on the table, one for Allies to keep and one for the Japanese to take. The senior signing officials for the Allied nations were in the front rank behind the table and other Allied officers behind them. Senior U.S. Navy and Army officers were in ranks inboard of the table. Staff officers and crew of Missouri crammed into every square foot of the ship that had a line of sight to the table. Commodore Perry’s flag was prominently displayed above the arrayed officers.

In the line of U.S. officers was Vice Admiral John “Slew” McCain, who had just been relieved of command of Task Force 38, partly as a result of the findings of the board of inquiry following the damage suffered in Typhoon Viper. McCain just wanted to leave, but Halsey strong-armed him into staying for the ceremony, for which McCain subsequently expressed great gratitude. McCain returned to the United States four days later and died of a heart attack the next day.

Missing from the line-up was Admiral Raymond Spruance. Spruance was invited by MacArthur but declined. Nimitz and Spruance had agreed that Spruance should stay at sea, just in case of some Japanese perfidy. Spruance was aboard his flagship, battleship New Jersey (BB-62), off Okinawa during the ceremony.

The destroyer Lansdowne picked up the 11-man Japanese delegation from Yokohama, arrived alongside Missouri, and transferred the delegation to a launch that arrived at Missouri at 0856. The delegation was led by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, signing for the Japanese government, and Chief of the Army General Staff Yoshijiro Umezu, signing for the Japanese military. When Umezu was informed it would be his duty to sign, it took the personal intervention of Emperor Hirohito to keep him from committing suicide. The other nine members of the delegation were three each from the Foreign Ministry, army, and navy. The delegation was piped aboard Missouri, but no salutes were rendered. There was dead silence aboard the ship throughout the entire proceeding. Shigemitsu had difficulty climbing the ladder from the launch to the main deck and then to the O-1 level because of his artificial leg (he had lost his right leg in 1932 in an assassination attempt by a Korean independence activist). Missouri sailors with broomsticks in their pants had rehearsed this to get the timing right so that the ceremony could start at precisely 0900.

General MacArthur convened the proceedings and, following the national anthem, gave a short, powerful speech that included the words, “It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past—a world founded on faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

MacArthur then directed the Japanese to sign. Shigemitsu got confused about where to sign, so MacArthur directed his Chief of Staff, General Richard Sutherland, to show Shigemitsu the appropriate line. After the Japanese signed, MacArthur signed first for the Allied Powers, using six pens. Nimitz signed next for the United States using two pens. He signed the Allied copy with a pen given to him three months earlier by Y. C. Woo, a Chinese refugee neighbor of Nimitz in Berkeley where the two families had become very close. (Nimitz returned the pen to Woo after the ceremony, who re-gifted it to Chiang Kai-shek, and it ultimately wound up in a museum in the People’s Republic of China, where it is today.) Nimitz then signed the Japanese copy using the same 50-cent green Parker Duofold pen he had carried throughout the war, which is now in the Naval Academy Museum. Nimitz confessed in a letter to his wife that he was thankful that he managed to sign in the right place.

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, in his home at Berkeley, California, circa 1948, holds a copy of the Instrument of Surrender of the Japanese Empire (NH 62463).

Eight other representatives of the Allied powers then signed the documents in the following order (which also matched the order in which they were arrayed behind MacArthur): China: General Hsu Yung-chang for China Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser for Britain Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko for the Soviet Union General Sir Thomas Blamey for Australia Colonel Moore-Gosgrove for Canada (he did manage to sign in the wrong place, which caused a kerfuffle with the Japanese foreign ministry representatives until the signature was lined out and corrected) General Jacques Leclerc for France Lieutenant Admiral Conrad Helfrich for The Netherlands and Air Vice Marshal Sir Leonard Isitt for New Zealand.

Following a benediction, the ceremony ended at 0925. There were no salutes or handshakes. As the Japanese were departing, 450 carrier planes and 600 B-29 bombers commenced the greatest airpower demonstration flyover in history.

After the ceremony, the Soviet representative and Russian photographers staged a photo shoot at the surrender table that made it look like Lieutenant General Derevyanko was dictating terms to the Japanese. The Soviet delegation had generally made a nuisance of themselves before and during the ceremony, particularly when those on top of turret No. 2 stood up deliberately and blocked the view of many of the photographers.

Fleet Admiral Nimitz flew back to his forward headquarters on Guam the next day, taking along a Marine who had just been liberated from a Japanese prison camp. Nimitz described the Marine as “about the happiest young man I ever saw.” In all, 62,614 U.S. Navy personnel did not come home from the war 36,950 due to enemy action.

Perhaps the last word should go to a Japanese naval officer who survived the war, Vice Admiral Masao Kanazawa: “Japan made many strategical mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all was starting the war.”


USS England Destroyed an Entire Squadron of Japanese Submarines

In May 1944, the USS England achieved a remarkable victory when it single-handedly destroyed an entire squadron of Japanese submarines.

This victory was made possible by the skill of the England ’s executive officer and by the adoption of a strange weapon: a mortar called the hedgehog.

The Hedgehog

The hedgehog was the brainchild of Major Millis Jefferis, a British officer working in a secretive department in Britain’s Ministry of Supply. His job was to produce specialist armaments for use in the war against the Axis powers.

Millis Jefferis

Jefferis’s department created a wide range of weapons, from limpet mines to unusual hand grenades. These often went through unexpected changes during the design process, and that was particularly true for the hedgehog.

The hedgehog was originally created as a land-based sabotage weapon to be used behind enemy lines if the Germans invaded Britain. But it ended up becoming a naval weapon employed to destroy submarines.

Cecil Vandepeer Clarke wearing an early version of the limpet mine on a keeper plate. It is in the position used by a swimmer although Clarke is not appropriately dressed.

The hedgehog fired a whole cluster of explosives at once. These hurtled up into the air, then plummeted down into the water. Using carefully calculated mathematics, their arcs would cause the weapons to cluster together to ensure maximum impact as they hit a submarine.

Unlike a depth charge, a hedgehog round only exploded if it hit an enemy vessel. This ensured that the full explosive force was delivered to the enemy. It also meant that the crew would know if the weapon had hit because otherwise there would be no blast.

Anti-Submarine Weapons- Hedgehog, a 24 barrelled anti-submarine mortar mounted on the forecastle of HMS Westcott.

Adopted by America

The hedgehog was first installed on British ships in 1943. The British were heavily engaged in battling German u-boats, both to maintain the naval blockade on Germany and to protect supply convoys. But British naval commanders were wary of this new device, preferring to stick with depth charges.

Hedgehog, a 24 spigot anti-submarine mortar. Sailors loading the Hedgehog on board HHMS TOMPAZIS whilst others watch.

The Americans proved more enthusiastic. Late in 1943, they fitted hedgehogs to a number of their ships, including the USS England , a destroyer escort. Given its name, the England was a particularly fitting transport for this English-made weapon which would soon be put to good use.

USS England off San Francisco, 9 February 1944

Squadron Seven

In the spring of 1944, Admiral Soemu Toyoda created the plan for Operation A-Go. This was a concerted effort by the Japanese military to destroy the US Navy in the Pacific. Supply and transport lines in the Pacific were almost entirely seaborne, so if the Japanese could take control of the waves, then they could halt Allied advances.

Battle of the Philippine Sea. Zuikaku and two destroyers under attack. The carrier Zuikaku (center) and two destroyers under attack by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft, June 20, 1944

Toyoda knew that submarines would be crucial to the success of A-Go. Rear-Admiral Naburo Owada was given command of Squadron Seven, a submarine force with a key role in the battle.

Owada’s orders in the buildup to the operation, given to him by Toyoda on the 3rd of May, were to launch a surprise attack against Allied task forces and invasion forces, an attack which would stop Allied attempts to strike against the Japanese.

Soemu Toyoda, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Unknown to Owada, the Americans were intercepting many of the signals about his operations. US officers learned that the I-16, one of the largest Japanese submarines, was heading toward the Solomon Islands, commanded by the brilliant Yoshitaka Takeuchi.

It was time to take the hedgehog hunting.

Anti-Submarine Weapons- A salvo of 24 Hedgehog bombs in flight.

John Williamson Goes Hunting

Details of the I-16’s movements were sent to the England . The ship was commanded by W. D. Pendleton, who set out to hunt down the Japanese boat.

Pendleton’s executive officer was John Williamson, a smart young officer who was also a tech geek. While the England was still in San Francisco, he had carried out test firings of the hedgehog into the harbor. He was convinced of the weapon’s power.

Hedgehog bomb projectors used in anti-submarine warfare.

Filled with excitement, Williamson and the rest of the England ’s crew set out to hunt down the I-16. It was a dangerous mission. With the powerful Japanese ship lurking just beneath the waves, one mistake on their part could see them sunk by enemy torpedoes.

At 1:25 pm on the 18th of May, the England ’s soundman, Roger Bernhardt, detected the I-16 1,400 yards (1,280 meters) away. The battle was on.

Hedgehog bomb projectors used in anti-submarine warfare.

First Blood

The England ’s engines turned to full power as she raced to intercept the I-16.

Takeuchi was an expert in his craft. At a range of 400 yards (365 meters), he turned hard left and kicked the screws on his sub into high gear. He was using a technique called kicking the rudder, in which a submarine captain caused as much disturbance in the water as he could. This distorted sonar echoes, making it hard for the enemy to find him.

A large white upwelling of water from an underwater explosion just ahead of Moberly’s bow following hedgehog launch

But Williamson was also an expert. Using the data gathered by the England‘s sensors, he sat down to calculate the location and exact depth of the I-16. At 2:33 pm, Williamson got a fix on the I-16. Using the results, he targeted the hedgehog.

A moment later, the hedgehog roared. A perfect ellipse of mortar shells raced into the air, then descended into the ocean.

USS Sarsfield after firing dual Hedgehogs

Williamson waited in tense silence, desperate to see if he had hit. Then there was an explosion, and another, and another, and another.

Punctured by six hits, the I-16’s hull crumpled and then collapsed. Catastrophic decompression tore the sub apart, wrenching its crew out into the ocean.

The England had its kill.

Hedgehog, a 24 spigot anti-submarine mortar. On the target.

Twelve Days

For the next 12 days, the England hunted the rest of Squadron Seven through the Pacific. Thanks to Williamson’s math and the power of the hedgehog, they took out another five submarines.

On the 15th of June, Admiral Toyoda sent the order to launch Operation A-Go. To Admiral Owada, he sent orders for Squadron Seven to move immediately east of Saipan, where they would intercept American transports and carriers at any cost.

Hedgehog, a 24 spigot anti-submarine mortar. Greek naval ratings being instructed at the control panel of the Hedgehog on board the Greek corvette HHMS TOMPAZIS

But the cost had already been paid. Owada messaged back, saying that Squadron Seven had no submarines.


Contents

Early career Soemu Toyoda_section_1

Toyoda was born in what is now part Kitsuki city, Ōita Prefecture. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_2

He graduated from the 33rd class of the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy in 1905, ranked 26th out of 176 cadets. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_3

He served his midshipman duty aboard the cruisers Hashidate and Nisshin, and after being commissioned as an ensign on 20 December 1906, he was assigned to the destroyer Asatsuyu. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_4

He was promoted to sub-lieutenant on 25 September 1908. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_5

Toyoda returned to school, becoming a torpedo and naval artillery expert. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_6

As a lieutenant from 1 December 1911, he served on the battlecruiser Kurama. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_7

He graduated from the Naval War College (Japan) with honors in 1915, and was promoted to lieutenant commander on 1 April 1917. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_8

From 1917 to 1919, he was aide-de-camp to Admiral Motaro Yoshimatsu (). Soemu Toyoda_sentence_9

From 1919 to 1922, he was sent as naval attaché to the United Kingdom, during which time he was promoted to commander on 1 December 1921. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_10

After his return to Japan, Toyoda was assigned as executive officer on the cruiser Kuma. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_11

He subsequently served in a number of staff positions, was promoted to captain on 1 December 1925, and received his first command: the cruiser Yura in 1926. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_12

In December 1930, he became captain of the battleship Hyūga. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_13

During the London Naval Conference, he accompanied Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to London in 1931. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_14

On 1 December 1931, Toyoda was promoted to rear admiral. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_15

From December 1931 to February 1933, Toyoda was chief of the Second Section of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, and promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1935. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_16

From 1935 to 1937, Toyoda was Director of the Bureau of Naval Affairs, and on 20 October 1937, became Commander-in-Chief of the IJN 4th Fleet. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_17

He subsequently became Commander in Chief of the IJN 2nd Fleet on 15 November 1938. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_18

Both fleets were active in the Second Sino-Japanese War in support of the invasion of China. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_19

From 1939 to 1941, he was Director of Naval Shipbuilding Command. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_20

World War II Soemu Toyoda_section_2

Promoted to full admiral on 18 September 1941, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Toyoda was Commander-in-Chief of the Kure Naval District. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_21

Toyoda was strongly opposed to the war with the United States, which he viewed from the start as "unwinnable". Soemu Toyoda_sentence_22

On 10 November 1942, Toyoda became a member of the Supreme War Council, where he made a strong (but mostly unsuccessful) effort to increase funding and the capacity of Japan's industry toward naval aviation, over the opposition to the Army-dominated Imperial General Headquarters. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_23

On 21 April 1943, Toyoda was reassigned (i.e. demoted) from the Supreme War Council to command of Yokosuka Naval District. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_24

After the death of Admiral Mineichi Koga, Toyoda was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet on 3 May 1944. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_25

In June of the same year, he drafted and implemented "Plan A-Go" which resulted in the decisive defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy under the command of Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_26

He followed with "Plan Sho-Go", which again resulted in another major defeat at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_27

Toyoda was aware that both plans were major gambles, but as the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet was running out of fuel and other critical supplies, he felt that the potential gain offset the risk of losing a fleet that was about to become useless in any event. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_28

In the end, however, Toyoda's aggressive defensive strategy did not pay off. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_29

Nonetheless, Toyoda continued with the same strategy, approving "Plan Ten-Go" to send the battleship Yamato on its one-way final mission to Okinawa. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_30

Toyoda replaced Koshirō Oikawa as Chief of the Navy General Staff, after the latter resigned, and was the final supreme commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 29 May 1945 onward. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_31

Toyoda participated in numerous Imperial Conferences concerning the surrender of Japan. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_32

Initially, the Navy Minister, Mitsumasa Yonai, hoped that Toyoda would be able to exert a moderating influence over Army Chief of Staff Yoshijirō Umezu (since both came from the same district of Japan). Soemu Toyoda_sentence_33

However, Toyoda joined Umezu in his protestations against the Potsdam Proclamation of 26 July. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_34

Toyoda was for termination of the war but insisted that the government push for more favorable terms. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_35

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Toyoda's position became even more hardline. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_36

He argued that the Japanese people should defend the Japanese home islands until the last man. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_37

Post-war Soemu Toyoda_section_3

After the war, Toyoda was interrogated by Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie in Tokyo on 14 November 1945. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_38

He was viewed as "highly intelligent and widely informed", and was observed to be a strong critic of the amount of political power the Army held in the Japanese government. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_39

He also expressed his opinion that the war with China should have been ended "even at some sacrifice" so that the men and resources could be redeployed to the Pacific theater. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_40

Toyoda was subsequently arrested by SCAP authorities and held in Sugamo Prison. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_41

In 1948, Toyoda was charged with war crimes "for violating the laws and customs of war". Soemu Toyoda_sentence_42

He pleaded 'not guilty' to all of the charges. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_43

He was acquitted and later released in 1949. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_44

He was the only member of the Japanese armed forces charged with war crimes to be acquitted. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_45

Toyoda published his memoirs in 1950, and died in 1957 of a heart attack at the age of 72. Soemu Toyoda_sentence_46


Shō-Go Plan

The Shō-Go Plan (Short for Shō-Itchi-Go, Operation Victory One) marked the last attempt of the combined Imperial Japanese Navy to defend its empire during the war in the Pacific. Japan’s strategy at the dawn of war in the Pacific had called for the occupation of all areas west of a perimeter extending to Marcus Island, Wake Island, and the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. Strong garrisons would defend these islands, and the imperial fleet would defend any threatened areas from its forward base at Truk. The Japanese hoped this defensive arrangement would make any invasion by the United States costly and force a compromise peace through war weariness. A critical requirement to the success of the Japanese strategy was an early decisive fleet action to destroy the U. S. fleet and negate the industrial superiority of the United States.

Events in the Pacific war soon dictated a change in this strategy. Japan’s failure to win the decisive battle at Midway (June 4-6, 1942) compromised its war plans and badly damaged its navy, particularly the carrier air arm. The campaign for the Solomons from August 1942 to the end of 1943 further weakened Japanese naval strength. Added to these setbacks were the late but devastating effects of the Allied submarine offensive against Japanese merchant shipping, particularly the loss of tanker tonnage that exacerbated Japan’s oil Shortages. Japan would lose 8 million tons of merchant shipping during the war, 60 percent of which was destroyed by submarines. Consequently, the Japanese navy in early 1944 had a striking distance of only 2,500 miles due to oil Shortages. The combination of these factors forced the Japanese to abandon their prewar strategy. The U. S. invasion of the Marshall Islands in late 1943 heralded this change with the withdrawal of the fleet from Truk to the Caroline Islands.

By mid-1944, the U. S. Pacific offensive had confined Japanese commerce to the areas behind an island screen consisting of the Philippines, Formosa, and the Ryukyu Islands. The Japanese war effort depended on the defense of this perimeter. The loss of any one of these islands would cut off the home islands from the oil resources of the southwest Pacific and starve the Japanese war machine.

Following the invasion of the Marianas (June 1944), the Japanese implemented a strategy to concentrate all military resources to counter a U. S. invasion of one of these vital strategic points. On July 26, 1944, the Naval General Staff informed the commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, that the code name for these schemes was Shō, the character Shō meaning “to conquer.” From July 24 to August 1, the Naval General Staff created four Shō plans to deal with assaults on the vital island perimeter that guarded Japanese commerce: Shō-1 (Shō-Itchi- Go), for an invasion of the Philippines Shō-2 (Shō-Ni-Go), for an attack on Formosa and the Ryukyu island chain Shō-3 (Shō-San-Go), for defense of the home islands and Shō-4 (Shō-Yan-Go), in case of an invasion of Hokkaido.

On March 1, 1944, the Japanese established the First Mobile Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, as the means to execute these plans. It incorporated the Second Fleet under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita containing the majority of battleships and cruisers of the Imperial navy. Its core consisted of the two most powerful battleships ever built, Yamato and Musashi (18.1-inch guns), and Nagato (16-inch guns). The First Mobile Fleet also incorporated the Third Fleet under Admiral Ozawa, which contained the carrier air strength of the task force. All light cruisers and destroyers not participating in antisubmarine duty supplemented these powerful sections of the fleet. In effect, Toyoda combined all remaining forces of the Japanese navy into one large strike fleet capable of concentrating on any area designated by the Shō plans. Each plan envisioned the use of land-based aircraft combined with carrier air forces to attack and decoy U. S. carrier groups as the surface forces destroyed U. S. warships and troop transports and supporting vessels for the amphibious assault. The Japanese hoped to employ their superiority in night fighting to crush the enemy, as they had done in the Battle of Savo Island (August 9, 1942), where they sank four Allied heavy cruisers and one destroyer at no cost to their own force.

The Shō operations were reactionary plans. The Japanese could implement none of them until they learned where the United States would next attack. U. S. strikes in the western Carolines at Yap and Palau, the occupation of Morotai on September 15, 1944, and especially subsequent bombings of the Philippines convinced the Japanese that the Philippines were the next target for amphibious assault. On September 21, Toyoda received a communiqué from Imperial Headquarters that it “anticipates carrying out the Shō operation sometime during or after the last part of October in the Philippines area.” It ordered Toyoda to prepare accordingly. On the same day that Toyoda received this communiqué, Japanese intelligence warned of an impending U. S. attack on Formosa to destroy Japanese bases north of the Philippines and isolate the islands. Toyoda reacted immediately and ordered an alert for the implementation of Shō-2, the defense of Formosa, and eventually amassed 600 carrier-based airplanes there at the expense of Ozawa’s carrier air force. The subsequent loss of no fewer than 650 planes during U. S. air attacks on Formosa (October 13-16) devastated the Japanese fleet air arm so recently and painfully rebuilt after the Battle of the Philippines Sea (June 19-21, 1944), a battle that had crippled Ozawa’s carrier-based air force. A further, and major, problem was the lack of time to train new pilots for service.

On October 17, Japanese coastal watchers east of Leyte Gulf spotted U. S. warships off Suluan Island. The following day Toyoda activated Shō-1 and ordered Kurita to sail the Combined Fleet from its base at Lingga Roads near Singapore to Brunei in Borneo. Toyoda gave Kurita operational command on Ozawa’s suggestion despite Kurita’s being a subordinate. Ozawa’s carrier force was in port in Japan taking on new carrier air groups and could not effectively command from such a distance. Ozawa was isolated from the rest of the First Mobile Fleet because the Japanese did not believe U. S. forces would attack the Philippines until November. Because the Japanese failed to concentrate their forces in time, the fleet had no chance of conducting operations as a unified force. On October 21, Toyoda ordered Kurita to sortie to the Tacloban area in the northwestern corner of Leyte Gulf. Once there, he was to destroy the U. S. surface fleet and then inflict as many losses as possible on the U. S. landing forces.

Kurita issued his battle plan for Shō-1 that night, ordering the main force to sortie from Brunei on the morning of October 22, to travel eastward through the San Bernardino Strait, and to arrive in the vicinity of Suluan Island in the early morning of October 25, X-Day, the scheduled day of attack. The main portion of Kurita s force, known as the First Diversion Attack Force (Center Force), consisted of super battleships Yamato and Musashi older battleships Nagato, Kongo, and Haruna twelve cruisers and fifteen destroyers. The remaining portion of Kurita s command, under Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura, consisted of old battleships Yamashiro and Fuso, supported by one heavy cruiser and four destroyers. Kurita ordered Nishimura to depart Brunei during the afternoon of October 22, sail through Surigao Strait, and meet him at the mouth of Leyte Gulf for a combined attack on U. S. forces on the morning of X-Day. Speed dictated the composition of Nishimura’s force (Southern Force). The top speed of aging Yamashiro and Fuso was only 21 knots. Kurita feared their inclusion in the First Diversion Attack Force would compromise the effectiveness of his force, the maximum speed of which without the two older battleships was 26 knots. His decision to detach Nishimura undermined the Shō-Go Plan by creating a weak task force ripe for destruction at the hands of superior U. S. forces. An additional force of two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and seven destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral Kiyohide Shima would sail from the Calamian Islands west of Mindoro and follow Nishimura’s force through Surigao Strait.

Japanese success depended on Admiral Ozawa’s carriers, the main force of the First Mobile Fleet. Ozawa possessed a formidable force on paper, his fleet consisting of carrier Zuikaku, three light carriers, two battleships, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers. However, his fleet was a paper shark. Because of heavy aircraft losses incurred in the defense of Formosa, most of the hangars on his carriers were empty. The combined air strength of all four carriers was only 116 planes, the pilots of which were woefully inexperienced. These weaknesses, combined with Ozawa’s force’s separation from Kurita’s force, led the Japanese to commit his carriers solely to a decoy mission. The main force of the First Mobile Fleet would sail south from Japan, maneuver east of Luzon, and bait the U. S. carrier forces away from Leyte to remove the threat of carrier-based air attacks on Kurita’s forces. All depended on the success of this decoy. The Shō-Go Plan also called for heavy reliance on land-based planes to protect Kurita’s warships as they approached and to attack U. S. naval forces, especially since Ozawa could no longer provide meaningful air support. The dependence on land-based air forces was a serious weakness in all the Shō plans but especially in Shō-1. The Japanese had in all only some three hundred fifty planes with ill-trained pilots based in Luzon. The Battle of Leyte Gulf clearly showed the uselessness of these planes: U. S. air strikes mauled the First Diversion Force (Center Force) with little opposition from Japanese warplanes. The condition of this land-based air force also undermined the Shō-Go Plan. The original plan, in which land-based air power played a critical role, was impossible given the strength of these forces.

The Shō-Go Plan had a number of flaws that made its success improbable. It was a complicated strategy that produced a lack of coordination of the many fleets. (Japan’s planners had a weakness for complicated operations that after 1941 never came off.) Nishimura’s Southern Force had a maximum speed of 21 knots, while Kurita’s force could steam at 26 knots. This difference made it difficult for the two forces to coordinate an attack. Nishimura’s force was also too weak to defend itself against the massive U. S. attack in Surigao Strait. Kurita’s dispersal of the forces at his disposal compromised the Shō-Go Plan from the start.

The Shō-Go Plan also had a more fundamental flaw. Ozawa’s First Mobile Fleet acted successfully as a decoy to give Kurita time to attack Leyte Gulf. However, even had the double envelopment of Kurita and Nishimura worked, the overall plan still would have failed. Once the U. S. carrier forces had destroyed Ozawa, they would have turned on Kurita, who had virtually no air cover. Undoubtedly the Americans would have then annihilated his fleet. Even if the Japanese had destroyed the U. S. force, the imperial navy would have paid a heavy price. The Japanese were prepared to accept such loss, however. The near success of this plan is important to remember. Kurita had the chance to destroy a portion of the U. S. fleet and landing force in the battle off Samar, but he lost heart and withdrew before he achieved a victory. Kurita abandoned the endeavor after sustaining heavy losses on his approach to the gulf and because he believed, incorrectly, that he faced a much stronger force than his own.

The failure of the Shō-Go Plan in the Battle of Leyte Gulf sounded the death knell for the Japanese war effort on two counts. First, it ensured U. S. success in cutting off the home islands from the rich oil resources of the South Pacific, consequently starving the Japanese war machine. Second, the Japanese after Leyte had no means with which to reverse their defeat in the Philippines. They lost all four carriers of Ozawa’s force, three battleships, six heavy and three light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. They also lost 500 aircraft and an estimated 10,500 sailors and airmen. The Shō-Go Plan was the last operation for the Imperial Japanese Navy as a coherent fighting force. It also marked the end of any Japanese chance of defending their empire.

FURTHER READINGS Andrieu d’Albas, Emmanuel Marie Auguste. Death of a Navy (1957). Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945 (1978). Evans, David C., ed. The Japanese Navy in World War II (1986). Field, James A., Jr. The Japanese at Leyte Gulf The Shō Operation (1947). Jentschura, Hansgeorg, et al. Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945 (1977). Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, vol. 12, Leyte (1975).


The Hedgehog: The Royal Navy's Secret Weapon to Kill Japanese Submarines

In the Spring of 1944, Japanese Admiral Soemu Toyoda assembled a large fleet of warships at Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippine Islands. There was no doubt in his mind that Allied military forces would continue their westward drive across the Pacific, but he was uncertain as to the direction of the next attack.

General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific, had firmly established beachheads in New Guinea, and Japanese scout planes had reported that an American task force was gathering in the neighborhood of the Marshall Islands. Toyoda realized that the U.S. naval force assembling in the Marshalls could strike at Guam or Saipan in the Marianas—or MacArthur, using New Guinea as a base of operations, could attack the Palau Islands.

American Assault on the Palau Islands

By this stage of the war, the Japanese Navy would have had a difficult task defending both sectors at the same time. Therefore, Toyoda decided to choose Tawi-Tawi—because of its central location—for his fleet buildup. From there, the Japanese admiral would be able to send his forces in either direction.

In May 1944, the Japanese High Command received Intelligence that Manus Island, in the Admiralty group, was being geared up as a springboard for an American assault on the Palau Islands. MacArthur’s troops were also reported gathering at points along the New Guinea coast. Even so, Toyoda felt that an attack on the Marianas remained a distinct possibility. He needed to learn, with exact certainty, in which direction to send his fleet, and an operational plan was quickly implemented.

Toyoda established a submarine scouting line extending from Truk Island in the Carolies to a point just west of Manus. His submarines were stationed at designated intervals along the line and positioned so that any invasion fleet could, hopefully, be detected. The vessels assigned to that operation were I-16, RO-104, RO-105, RO-106, RO-108, RO-116, and the RO-117.

The Hedgehog: Forward-Throwing Anti-Submarine Mortars

Toyoda reasoned that he had all bases covered. The odds appeared even except for two factors—the arrival of a squadron of new U.S. Navy destroyer escorts (DEs) and the infamous Hedgehog weapons with which they were armed.

During the spring of 1940, Commander Charles Goodeve of the British Royal Navy and its Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development, came up with the innovative idea of a forward-throwing mortar for antisubmarine warfare. Satisfactory trials of the device were carried out in May 1941, and the weapon was then put to good use by the Royal Navy against the German U-boat menace.

The new but simple device consisted of a steel box holding four rows of six grenade-type missiles. The weapon was fired like a rocket launcher. And, when loaded with 24 projectiles, it gave the appearance of the bristling back of a porcupine—hence the name Hedgehog.

Instead of dropping antisubmarine charges off the stern of a ship, the Hedgehog fired its grenades forward—about 250 yards ahead of the vessel. The Hedgehogs did not explode like conventional underwater weapons, which had to be set at a specific depth. In order to detonate, the projectile had to make actual contact with a solid object. After being catapulted toward a target, however, a 24-shell salvo provided an excellent chance for a successful attack. Regular depth charges still had a function. They were often used in conjunction with Hedgehogs, especially if the enemy submarine had gone deep.

The Hedgehog proved to be so successful in the Atlantic that U.S. Navy Captain Paul Hammond, working with British engineers, developed the weapon for use aboard American warships. In early May 1944, while Toyoda was busy setting up his defensive strategy, a new destroyer escort (DE), the England, arrived at an American base in the Solomon Islands.

On May 18, the England, captained by Lt. Cmdr. Walton B. Pendleton, was assigned to Escort Division 39. The division also included the DEs George and Raby. All three ships had been fitted with Hedgehogs.

On the previous day, the Japanese submarine I-16 was reported to be heading south from Truk with supplies for the isolated garrison at Buin on the southern tip of Bougainville. Escort Division 39 received orders to patrol an area northwest of Buin to try to intercept the enemy vessel. Upon reaching their designated position, the DEs steamed in a parallel line about 4,000 yards apart. Calculating the submarine’s speed and course, Division 39 expected to make sonar contact with I-16on or about May 20.

At 1 pm on May 19, England suddenly made a sound contact at a depth of 100 feet. The submarine quickly became aware of its enemy and headed deep. The Japanese captain began to fishtail his sub to avoid a depth-charge attack. The England made a wide swing and raced toward her target. I-16 continued evasive maneuvers and managed to escape four Hedgehog runs. Whenever England approached to within 600 yards of I-16, the submarine’s captain would turn sharply into the DEs wake, obscuring his sub’s movements.

On her fifth run at the enemy, however, England’s sonar locked on the submarine. At 2:33, the order was given to “fire Hedgehogs!” Twelve seconds after splashing the water, four of the deadly missiles exploded. Two minutes later, a violent underwater explosion erupted astern of England, lifting her clear off the water. Her crew was tumbled about, and some thought that their ship had been torpedoed.

Momentarily, large quantities of oil and debris began to bubble up to the surface. England lowered a whaleboat near the center of the expanding oil slick. Rubber bags containing rice were recovered, along with broken pieces of furniture and cork insulation.

Two theories were advanced to explain the heavy underwater explosion. The Japanese submarine might have been severely damaged, and the captain could have set off a detonation device that destroyed his ship. Or the crippled sub may have sunk so rapidly after being hit that water pressure crushed its hull, setting off its torpedo warheads.

In the meantime, while England was busy stalking I-16, a U.S. Navy patrol bomber spotted RO-117and sent it to a watery grave. Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, was notified of the two submarine kills and assumed that there were probably other “prying eyes” in the neighborhood. He immediately dispatched Escort Division 39 to the location where RO-117 was destroyed.

Early on the morning of May 22, the three DEs were patrolling Admiral Toyoda’s scouting line west of Manus Island. At 3:50 am George reported a surface contact at seven miles England also picked up the target and dashed ahead at full speed. Pendleton hoped to get in position to flank the stranger and box it in.

Minutes later, George turned on her searchlight and swept the area. A submerging submarine was suddenly illuminated. George fired a Hedgehog salvo at the rapidly diving boat, but no hits were registered. England’s sonar soon located the escaping enemy sub, and she launched her Hedgehogs without success. Pendleton circled around for another attack, and at 4:45 another full load of grenades was fired from the destroyer escort. Bull’s-eye! Three explosions were heard at a depth of 240 feet. As England came about for another pass over its target, a heavy underwater eruption rocked the ship. Pendleton headed for the center of the explosion site. An oil slick was forming on the water, and a small quantity of debris was recovered. Pendleton, in a letter to COMSUBPAC (Commander Submarines Pacific) theorized that the enemy submarine was badly damaged by the Hedgehogs, and its captain, rather than risk capture, exploded his warhead magazine. The confirmation of that theory was lost with the captain and crew of RO-106.

Escort Division 39 continued its search-and-destroy mission along Toyoda’s scouting line. The early morning of May 23 was dark and overcast, and the DEs had to depend on their surface-search radar to spot the enemy. A depth of 3,300 feet registered on the fathometer.

At 6:10 am, Raby reported that she had picked up a surface contact at a distance of four miles. England immediately changed course to close on the target and raced ahead at full speed. Moments later, Raby radioed that the contact was submerging. England and George quickly reached the target area and plotted information received from Raby.

Wrecking the RO-108 and Entering Seeadler Harbor

At 7 o’clock, the George picked up the submarine (RO-104) on sonar and dashed to the attack. Five Hedgehog salvos were fired, but no hits were registered. England was ordered to try her luck. At 8:19, the sub-slayer sped in for her third kill. Pendleton’s first Hedgehog salvo missed, but the second hit the jackpot. Approximately 10 projectiles struck the enemy sub and exploded. A few minutes later, a heavy explosion was heard and large quantities of oil and debris began floating to the surface. As in the other cases, it was believed that the submarine had been crippled, and the crew committed hara-kiri by deliberately detonating its warheads.


Watch the video: Midway 2019 - Dick Best Attacks the Akagi - 4K UHD (May 2022).


Comments:

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