Life Jacket of a different kind- The story of a Dutch Nagasaki survivor.

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A flash and a deafening rumble. On 9 August 1945, the American Air Force exploded an atomic bomb 500 metres above Nagasaki. The Japanese city was wiped away, 39,000 people died and approximately 65,000 were wounded.

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Three days earlier, the Americans had also dropped an A-bomb on Hiroshima, but Japan still refused to surrender.

A Dutch prisoner of war, J. van Houten, who had been deployed to work in a shipyard near Nagasaki owned by Mitsubishi, fled with his fellow prisoners to the hills surrounding the burning city. There was no time to grab anything. Van Houten was not wearing a shirt and it got very cold that evening. To his surprise, out of the blue, he heard a young Japanese soldier ask ‘Tsumetai ka?’, which means more or less: ‘Are you cold?’ When he responded yes, the soldier gave him this raincoat.

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After a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945 and the Second World War came to an end.

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Enola Gay’s ‘Little Boy’

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Little Boy” was the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 during World War II by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces.

Captain Paul Tibbets in the Enola Gay minutes before takeoff to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, changing the world forever. 1945

It was the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The Hiroshima bombing was the second artificial nuclear explosion in history, after the Trinity test, and the first uranium-based detonation. It exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT (63 TJ). The bomb caused significant destruction to the city of Hiroshima and its occupants.

Little Boy was developed by Lieutenant Commander Francis Birch’s group of Captain William S. Parsons’s Ordnance (O) Division at the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II.

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Parsons flew on the Hiroshima mission as weaponeer. The Little Boy was a development of the unsuccessful Thin Man nuclear bomb. Like Thin Man, it was a gun-type fission weapon, but derived its explosive power from the nuclear fission of uranium-235. This was accomplished by shooting a hollow cylinder of enriched uranium (the “bullet”) onto a solid cylinder of the same material (the “target”) by means of a charge of nitrocellulose propellant powder. It contained 64 kg (141 lb) of enriched uranium, of which less than a kilogram underwent nuclear fission. Its components were fabricated at three different plants so that no one would have a copy of the complete design.

After the war ended, it was not expected that the inefficient Little Boy design would ever again be required, and many plans and diagrams were destroyed, but by mid-1946 the Hanford Site reactors were suffering badly from the Wigner effect, so six Little Boy assemblies were produced at Sandia Base. The Navy Bureau of Ordnance built another 25 Little Boy assemblies in 1947 for use by the Lockheed P2V Neptune nuclear strike aircraft (which could be launched from, but not land on, the Midway-class aircraft carriers). All the Little Boy units were withdrawn from service by the end of January 1951.

Hiroshima before and after.

 

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At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of both industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata’s Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan, and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata’s command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated.

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Hiroshima was a minor supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, but it also had large stockpiles of military supplies. The city was also a communications center, a key port for shipping and an assembly area for troops. It was a beehive of war industry, manufacturing parts for planes and boats, for bombs, rifles, and handguns; children were shown how to construct and hurl gasoline bombs and the wheelchair-bound and bedridden were assembling booby traps to be planted in the beaches of Kyushu. A new slogan appeared on the walls of Hiroshima: “FORGET SELF! ALL OUT FOR YOUR COUNTRY!”. It was also the second largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was still undamaged by air raids.

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The center of the city contained several reinforced concrete buildings and lighter structures. Outside the center, the area was congested by a dense collection of small timber-made workshops set among Japanese houses. A few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of the city. The houses were constructed of timber with tile roofs, and many of the industrial buildings were also built around timber frames. The city as a whole was highly susceptible to fire damage.

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 381,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing, the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack, the population was approximately 340,000–350,000.

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On August 6, 1945, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was dropped by American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, detonating above Hiroshima, Japan. Nearly 80,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 60,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950.

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A Japanese woman and her child, casualties in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, lie on a blanket on the floor of a damaged bank building converted into a hospital and located near the center of the devastated town, on October 6, 1945.

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Trinity and Gadget the first atomic bomb

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It is often assumed that “Little Boy” the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was the first atomic device to be detonated, however truth is “the Gadget” was the 1st atomic bomb.

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Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 am on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. The test was conducted in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what was then the USAAF Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range (now part of White Sands Missile Range). The only structures originally in the vicinity were the McDonald Ranch House and its ancillary buildings, which scientists used as a laboratory for testing bomb components. A base camp was constructed, and there were 425 people present on the weekend of the test.

The code name “Trinity” was assigned by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, inspired by the poetry of John Donne.

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The test was of an implosion-design plutonium device, informally nicknamed “The Gadget”, of the same design as the Fat Man bomb later detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The complexity of the design required a major effort from the Los Alamos Laboratory, and concerns about whether it would work led to a decision to conduct the first nuclear test. The test was planned and directed by Kenneth Bainbridge.

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The term “Gadget” was a laboratory euphemism for the bomb, from which the laboratory’s weapon physics division, “G Division”, took its name in August 1944. At that time it did not refer specifically to the Trinity Test device as it had yet to be developed, but once it was, it became the laboratory code name. The Trinity Gadget was officially a Y-1561 device, as was the Fat Man used a few weeks later in the bombing of Nagasaki. The two were very similar, with only minor differences, the most obvious being the absence of fuzing and the external ballistic casing. The bombs were still under development, and small changes continued to be made to the Fat Man design.

The Gadget was an implosion device, which means the plutonium core is surrounded by many small explosives, these compress the plutonium and bring it closer to the point of causing it to go super critical. All those wires are attached to different explosives which burn at different frequencies. The trick of the 20 explosions is that they push the pieces of uranium (or plutonium) together to a ball with an over-critical mass, which explodes. They have to time this extremely accurately, however. Microseconds differences will make the ball lopsided and less effective. Part of the solution is to make each and every cable the same length which is why the Gadget looks like a ball of wires.

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Assembly of the nuclear capsule began on 13 July 1945 at the McDonald Ranch House, where the master bedroom had been turned into a clean room. The polonium-beryllium “Urchin” initiator was assembled, and Louis Slotin placed it inside the two hemispheres of the plutonium core. Cyril Smith then placed the core in the uranium tamper plug, or “slug”. Air gaps were filled with 0.5-mil (0.013 mm) gold foil, and the two halves of the plug were held together with uranium washers and screws which fit smoothly into the domed ends of the plug. The completed capsule was then driven to the base of the tower.

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For the test, the gadget was lifted to the top of a 100-foot (30 m) bomb tower. It was feared by some that the Trinity test might “ignite” the earth’s atmosphere, eliminating all life on the planet, although calculations had determined this was unlikely even for devices “which greatly exceed the bombs now under consideration”. Less wild estimates thought that New Mexico would be incinerated. Calculations showed that the yield of the device would be between zero (if it did not work) or 20 kilotons of TNT. In the aftermath of the test, it appeared to have been a blast equivalent to 18 kilotons of TNT..

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Ground zero after the test

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Dr Aidan McCarthy-Rescued from Dunkirk -Survived the Nagasaki bomb.

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“Aidan MacCarthy was one of a handful of people who survived the two events that mark the beginning and end of the Second World War,” said Jackson, a lecturer in creative media at the Institute of Technology, Tralee.

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Air Commodore Joseph Aidan MacCarthy OBE, GM (1914–1995) was an Irish doctor of the Royal Air Force who showed great courage, resourcefulness and humanity during his capture by the Japanese during the Second World War.

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MacCarthy was born in 1914 in the town of Castletownbere, Beara Peninsula County Cork, Ireland. His parents owned land and businesses in the area.

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He attended Clongowes Wood School and University College Cork. He graduated with a medical degree in 1938. Lacking family connections, he was unable to obtain employment as a doctor in Ireland so he moved to the United Kingdom, working first in Wales, then in London. There, he met two former classmates from his medical school and, after a night of drinking with them, decided to join the British armed forces as a medical officer. Which service (the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force) was decided for him by a coin toss made by a nightclub hostess in the early hours of the morning.

In 1940 he was posted to France and was evacuated from Dunkirk where he attended wounded Allied soldiers while under fire from German aircraft.

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In September 1940, he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

The following year he was awarded the George Medal for his part in the rescue of the crew of a crashed and burning Wellington bomber at RAF Honington.The aircraft had crash landed after its undercarriage had failed to lower and it came to rest on the airfields bomb dump, where it caught fire. Together with Group Captain (later, Air-Vice Marshal) John Astley Gray, MacCarthy entered the burning wreck and rescued two crewmen, but were unable to save the pilot.Gray was badly burned during the rescue; MacCarthy was also burned, but less seriously.

Posted to the Far East in 1941, MacCarthy was captured by the Japanese in Sumatra. The prison ship transporting Allied prisoners to Japan was sunk by US bombers. MacCarthy had to do the best he could for his patients whilst splashing around in the South China Sea. A Japanese fishing boat pulled him out of the ocean and transported him to Japan. There, he cared for Allied prisoners of war who were forced to work in horrific conditions. To the Japanese ear ‘MacCarthy’ and ‘MacArthur’ were indistinguishable. The Japanese assumed that MacCarthy must be a close blood relative of the American commander. Therefore, whenever MacCarthy answered his name, he was struck on the forehead. This may have contributed to his developing a brain clot in later life.

He spent the final year of the Second World War working as a slave for the Mitsubishi Corporation. After the war, he was never bitter towards the Japanese but refused to allow a Mitsubishi car in his driveway.

(A photo of the POW officers at Keisen, August 1945, with Aidan MacCarthy seated, second from right, )

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The Mitsubishi Steel & Arms Works, the Nagasaki factory, where he was imprisoned and where he sought refuge from the atomic bomb, was in fact the target of the bomb on August 9, 1945.

The atomic cloud over Nagasaki, 1945

He put his medical training to good use in the camp while treating his fellow prisoners, including making a protein-rich maggot soup for those who were ill, smuggling yeast in balls of rice to other camps, and treating eye infections with shaving cream.

Dr MacCarthy was the first non-Japanese doctor to assist civilians in the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki.

On August 15, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered, he was gifted an ancestral Japanese sword by his camp commandant, whose life he saved from POWs intent on revenge.

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He was one of the few people who survived the two events which bookend the Second World War — Dunkirk and Nagasaki.

The Japanese ship on which he was being transported to Nagasaki was sunk by an American submarine. Out of the 1,000 POWs on the ship, just 35 survived.

Before the war, he had weighed 14 stone. When he returned home at the end of the war, following years of starvation and malnutrition, his body weight had halved to just seven stone.

On Thursday 20th July 2017 Prince Harry  named the medical facility in RAF Honington after this Irish WWII hero Dr Aidan MacCarthy.

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St. Stephen’s College massacre-Japanese Hong Kong atrocity

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The St. Stephen’s College massacre  involved a series of acts of extreme cruelty committed by the Imperial Japanese Army on 25 December 1941 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong at St. Stephen’s College.

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Several hours before the British surrendered on Christmas day at the end of the Battle of Hong Kong,

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Japanese soldiers entered St. Stephen’s College, which was being used as a hospital on the front line at the time.The Japanese were met by two doctors, Black and Witney, who were marched away, and were later found dead and mutilated.They then burst into the wards and bayoneted a number of British, Canadian and Indian wounded soldiers who were incapable of hiding.The survivors and their nurses were imprisoned in two rooms upstairs. Later, a second wave of Japanese troops arrived after the fighting had moved further south, away from the school. They removed two Canadians from one of the rooms, and mutilated and killed them outside. Many of the nurses next door were then dragged off to be gang raped, and later found mutilated. The following morning, after the surrender, the Japanese ordered that all these bodies should be cremated just outside the hall. Other soldiers who had died in the defence of Stanley were burned with those killed in the massacre, making well over 100 altogether

When the college and the grounds of Stanley Prison became a civilian internment camp, the internees gathered up the burnt remains, shards of bones, buttons and charred effects from the cremation, and then buried them. A gravestone marks the spot where these items were interred at Stanley Cemetery.

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Japanese attacks on North America

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A little known fact of WWII is that Japan attacked North America several time. Aside from the Pearl Harbor attack, the other attacks were relatively unsuccessful

Below a summary of some of those attacks.

On June 3–4, 1942, Japanese planes from two light carriers Ryūjō and Jun’yō struck the U.S. military base at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, Unalaska, Alaska.

Originally, the Japanese planned to attack Dutch Harbor simultaneously with its attack on Midway but it occurred a day earlier due to one-day delay. The attack only did moderate damage on Dutch Harbor, but 78 Americans were killed in the attack.

On June 6, two days after the bombing of Dutch Harbor, 500 Japanese marines landed on Kiska, one of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Upon landing, they killed two and captured eight U.S. Navy officers, then took the remaining inhabitants of the island, and seized control of American soil for the first time.

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The next day, a total of 1,140 Japanese infantrymen landed on Attu via Holtz Bay, eventually reaching Massacre Bay and Chichagof Harbor. Attu’s population at the time consisted of 45 Native American Aleuts, and two Americans – Charles Foster Jones, a 60-year-old ham radio operator and weather observer, and his 62-year-old wife Etta, a teacher and nurse. The Japanese killed Jones after interrogating him, while his wife and the Aleut population were sent to Japan. The invasion was only the second time that American soil had been occupied by a foreign enemy, the first being the British during the War of 1812.

A year after Japan’s invasion and occupation of the islands of Attu and Kiska, 34,000 U.S. troops landed on these islands and fought there throughout the summer, defeating the Japanese and regaining control of the islands.

Bombardment of Ellwood

The United States mainland was first shelled by the Axis on February 23, 1942 when the Japanese submarine I-17 attacked the Ellwood Oil Field west of Goleta, near Santa Barbara, California. Although only a pumphouse and catwalk at one oil well were damaged, I-17 captain Nishino Kozo radioed Tokyo that he had left Santa Barbara in flames. No casualties were reported and the total cost of the damage was officially estimated at approximately $500–1,000. News of the shelling triggered an invasion scare along the West Coast.

Bombardment of Estevan Point Lighthouse

More than five Japanese submarines operated in Western Canada during 1941 and 1942. On June 20, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-26,

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under the command of Yokota Minoru,fired 25–30 rounds of 5.5-inch shells at the Estevan Point lighthouse on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, but failed to hit its target.Though no casualties were reported, the subsequent decision to turn off the lights of outer stations was disastrous for shipping activity.

Bombardment of Fort Stevens

In what became the only attack on a mainland American military installation during World War II, the Japanese submarine I-25, under the command of Tagami Meiji, surfaced near the mouth of the Columbia River, Oregon on the night of June 21 and June 22, 1942, and fired shells toward Fort Stevens. The only damage officially recorded was to a baseball field’s backstop.

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Probably the most significant damage was a shell that damaged some large phone cables. The Fort Stevens gunners were refused permission to return fire for fear of revealing the guns’ location and/or range limitations to the sub. American aircraft on training flights spotted the submarine, which was subsequently attacked by a US bomber, but escaped.

Lookout Air Raids

The Lookout Air Raids occurred on September 9, 1942. The only aerial bombing of mainland United States by a foreign power occurred when an attempt to start a forest fire was made by a Japanese Yokosuka E14Y1 “Glen” seaplane

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dropping two 80 kg (180 lb) incendiary bombs over Mount Emily, near Brookings, Oregon. The seaplane, piloted by Nobuo Fujita, had been launched from the Japanese submarine aircraft carrier I-25. No significant damage was officially reported following the attack, nor after a repeat attempt on September 29.

Fire balloon attacks

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Between November 1944 and April 1945, the Japanese Navy launched over 9,000 fire balloons toward North America. Carried by the recently discovered Pacific jet stream, they were to sail over the Pacific Ocean and land in North America, where the Japanese hoped they would start forest fires and cause other damage. About three hundred were reported as reaching North America, but little damage was caused. Six people (five children and a woman) became the only deaths due to enemy action to occur on mainland United States during World War II when one of the children tampered with a bomb from a balloon near Bly, Oregon and it exploded. The site is marked by a stone monument at the Mitchell Recreation Area in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. Recently] released reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian military indicate that fire balloons reached as far inland as Manitoba. A fire balloon is also considered to be a possible cause of the third fire in the Tillamook Burn. One member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion died while responding to a fire in the Northwest on August 6, 1945; other casualties of the 555th were two fractures and 20 other injuries.

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The Great Yokohama Air Raid

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An estimated seven or eight thousand people were killed in a single morning on May 29, 1945 in what is now known as the Great Yokohama Air Raid, when B-29s firebombed the city and in just one hour and nine minutes reduced 42% of it to rubble.

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High-altitude, daylight attack on Yokohama urban area. 517 B-29s were escorted by 101 P-51Ds. 2,570 tons of bombs were dispensed, 6.9 square miles burned out

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79,017 houses were destroyed, and 42 percent of the city area was burnt to ashes. The cities of Japan were vital to the ongoing war effort. Japan dispersed manufacturing to prevent precision attacks from interfering with productions. Small factories were extremely vulnerable to incendiary attack.

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Yokohama did escape a fate worse afterwards. It was actually one of the intended targets for the atom bomb.Ironically Nagasaki wasn’t even on the list

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The Japanese attack on Bly, Oregon. USA

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A fire balloon , or Fu-Go was a weapon launched by Japan during World War II. A hydrogen balloon with a load varying from a 15 kg (33 lb) antipersonnel bomb to one 12-kilogram (26 lb) incendiary bomb and four 5 kg (11 lb) incendiary devices attached, it was designed as a cheap weapon intended to make use of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and drop bombs on American and Canadian cities, forests, and farmland.

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The Japanese fire balloon was the first ever weapon possessing intercontinental range (. The Japanese balloon strikes on North America were at that time the longest ranged attacks ever conducted in the history of warfare, a record which was not broken until the 1982 Operation Black Buck raids during the Falkland Islands War.

The balloons were ineffective as weapons but were used in one of the few attacks on North America during World War II.

On May 5, 1945, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded as it was being pulled from the woods by curious picnickers.

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Killed in the explosion were: Elsie Mitchell, 26, wife of minister Archie E. Mitchell; Edward Engen, 13; Richard Patzke, 14; Jay Gifford, 13; Sherman Shoemaker, 11; and Joan Patzke, 13.Rev. Mitchell heard the explosion and discovered the bodies. Victims were compensated by the government. A memorial was erected at what today is called the Mitchell Recreation Area.

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Operation Vengeance-Revenge for Pearl Harbor.

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Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, was the Harvard-educated, poker-playing mastermind of the December 7, 1941, attack.

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On April 14, 1943, naval intelligence scored another code-breaking coup. The message began: “On April 18 CINC Combined Fleet will visit RXZ, R–, and RXP in accordance with the following schedule . . .” Adm. Isokoru Yamamoto was planning an inspection visit of Japanese bases in the upper Solomon Islands. The information immediately went from Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitznimitz

to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox who delivered the news to President Franklin Roosevelt. Reportedly, the president’s response was, “Get Yamamoto.” Regardless of whether or not the president actually said those words, the order was given: kill the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor raid.

 

 

 

 

As Yamamoto was viewed as the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instructed Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to give the mission the highest priority.

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Consulting with Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, Commander South Pacific Forces and South Pacific Area, Nimitz ordered planning to move forward. Based on the intercepted information, it was known that on April 18 Yamamoto would be flying from Rabaul, New Britain to Ballale Airfield on an island near Bougainville.

Though only 400 miles from Allied bases on Guadalcanal, the distance presented a problem as American aircraft would need to fly a 600-mile roundabout course to the intercept to avoid detection, making the total flight 1,000 miles. This precluded the use of the Navy and Marine Corps’ F4F Wildcats or F4U Corsairs. As a result, the mission was assigned to the US Army’s 339th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group, Thirteenth Air Force which flew P-38G Lightnings. Equipped with two drop tanks, the P-38G was capable of reaching Bougainville, executing the mission, and returning to base.

Overseen by the squadron’s commander, Major John W. Mitchell,

 

53742e57bbc2cb8e4cb1078991ee8d12planning moved forward with the assistance of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Luther S. Moore. At Mitchell’s request, Moore had the 339th’s aircraft fitted with ship’s compasses to aid in navigation. Utilizing the departure and arrival times contained in the intercepted message, Mitchell devised a precise flight plan that called for his fighters to intercept Yamamoto’s flight at 9:35 AM as it began its descent to Ballale.

Knowing that Yamamoto’s aircraft was to be escorted by six A6M Zero fighters, Mitchell intended to use eighteen aircraft for the mission.mitsubishi-a6m-type-0-zero-fighter-01While four aircraft were tasked as the “killer” group, the remainder was to climb to 18,000 feet to serve as top cover to deal with enemy fighters arriving on scene after the attack. Though the mission was to be conducted by the 339th, ten of the pilots were drawn from other squadrons in the 347th Fighter Group. Briefing his men, Mitchell provided a cover story that the intelligence had been provided by a coastwatcher who saw a high ranking officer boarding an aircraft in Rabaul.

Departing Guadalcanal at 7:25 AM on April 18, Mitchell quickly lost two aircraft from his killer group due to mechanical issues. Replacing them from his cover group, he led the squadron west out over the water before turning north towards Bougainville.

Flying at no higher than 50 feet and in radio silence to avoid detection, the 339th arrived at the intercept point a minute early. Earlier that morning, despite the warnings of local commanders who feared an ambush, Yamamoto’s flight departed Rabaul. Proceeding over Bougainville, his G4M “Betty” and that of his chief of staff, were covered by two groups of three Zeros

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Mitchell’s flight of four led the squadron at low altitude, with the killer flight, now consisting of Lanphier, Barber, and spares 1st Lt. Besby F. Holmes and 1st Lt. Raymond K. Hine, immediately behind. Mitchell, fighting off drowsiness, navigated by flight plan and dead reckoning. This proved to be the longest fighter-intercept mission of the war and was so skillfully executed by Mitchell that his force arrived at the intercept point one minute early, at 09:34, just as Yamamoto’s aircraft descended into view in a light haze. The P-38s jettisoned the auxiliary tanks, turned to the right to parallel the bombers, and began a full power climb to intercept them.

The tanks on Holmes’s P-38 did not detach and his element turned back toward the sea. Mitchell radioed Lanphier and Barber to engage, and they climbed toward the eight aircraft. The nearest escort fighters dropped their own tanks and dived toward the pair of P-38s. Lanphier, in a sound tactical move, immediately turned head-on and climbed towards the escorts while Barber chased the diving bomber transports. Barber banked steeply to turn in behind the bombers and momentarily lost sight of them, but when he regained contact, he was immediately behind one and began firing into its right engine, rear fuselage, and empennage. When Barber hit its left engine, the bomber began to trail heavy black smoke. The Betty rolled violently to the left and Barber narrowly avoided a mid-air collision. Looking back, he saw a column of black smoke and assumed the Betty had crashed into the jungle. Barber headed towards the coast at treetop level, searching for the second bomber, not knowing which one carried the targeted high-ranking officer.

 Barber spotted the second bomber, carrying Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki and part of Yamamoto’s staff, low over the water off Moila Point, trying to evade an attack by Holmes, whose wing tanks had finally come off. Holmes damaged the right engine of the Betty, which emitted a white vapor trail, but his closure speed carried him and his wingman Hine past the damaged bomber. Barber attacked the crippled bomber and his bullet strikes caused it to shed metal debris that damaged his own aircraft. The bomber descended and crash-landed in the water. Ugaki and two others survived the crash and were later rescued. Barber, Holmes and Hine were attacked by Zeros, Barber’s P-38 receiving 104 hits. Holmes and Barber each claimed a Zero shot down during this melee, although Japanese records show that no Zeros were lost. The top cover briefly engaged reacting Zeros without making any kills. Mitchell observed the column of smoke from Yamamoto’s crashed bomber. Hine’s P-38 had disappeared by this point, presumably crashed into the water.
1024px-Yamamoto's_airplane_crash
Running close to minimum fuel levels for return to base, the P-38s broke off contact, with Holmes so short of fuel that he was forced to land in the Russell Islands. Hine was the only pilot who did not return. Lanphier’s actions during the battle are unclear as his account was later disputed by other participants, including the Japanese fighter pilots. As he approached Henderson Field, Lanphier radioed the fighter director on Guadalcanal that “That son of a bitch will not be dictating any peace terms in the White House”, breaching security. Immediately on landing (his plane was so short on fuel that one engine quit during the landing rollout) he put in a claim for shooting down Yamamoto.

A success, Operation Vengeance saw the American fighters down both Japanese bombers, killing 19, including Yamamoto. In exchange, the 339th lost Hines and one aircraft. Searching the jungle, the Japanese found Yamamoto’s body near the crash site. Thrown clear of the wreckage, he had been hit twice in the fighting.

Lieutenant Hamasuna noted Yamamoto had been thrown clear of the plane’s wreckage, his white-gloved hand grasping the hilt of his katana sword, his body still upright in his seat under a tree. Hamasuna said Yamamoto was instantly recognizable, his head tilted down as if deep in thought. A post-mortem of Yamamoto’s body indicated two bullet wounds, one to the back of his left shoulder, and a separate bullet wound to his left lower jaw, that appeared to exit above his right eye. The Japanese navy doctor examining Yamamoto’s body determined the head wound killed Yamamoto. (These more violent details of Yamamoto’s death were hidden from the Japanese public, and the medical report whitewashed, this secrecy “on orders from above.

Cremated at nearby Buin, his ashes were returned to Japan aboard the battleship Musashi.

Japanese_battleship_Musashi_cropped

He was replaced by Admiral Mineichi Koga.

220px-Koga_Mineichi_3

Several controversies quickly brewed following the mission. Despite the security attached to the mission and the Magic program, operational details soon leaked out. This began with Lanphier announcing upon landing that “I got Yamamoto!” This breach of security led to a second controversy over who actually shot down Yamamoto. Lanphier claimed that after engaging the fighters he banked around and shot a wing off the lead Betty. This led to an initial belief that three bombers had been downed. Though given credit, other members of the 339th were skeptical.

Though Mitchell and the members of the killer group were initially recommended for the Medal of Honor, this was downgraded to the Navy Cross in the wake of the security issues. Debate continued over credit for the kill. When it was ascertained that only two bombers were downed, Lanphier and Barber were each given half kills for Yamamoto’s plane. Though Lanphier later claimed full credit in an unpublished manuscript, the testimony of the lone Japanese survivor of the battle and the work of other scholars supports Barber’s claim.

 

Japanese Human Target practice

Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 2

The Japanese treatment of prisoners of war in World War II was barbaric. The men shown in the above picture are part of the Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army. All of them are sitting in the traditional cross-legged prayer position. They’re probably reciting their final prayers as this picture was being taken. It’s very morbid if you think about it. The vast majority of Indian soldiers captured when Singapore fell belonged to Sikh community. These photographs were found among Japanese records when British troops retook Singapore.

Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 1

If you examine carefully the second picture you’ll note a marker hanging over the heart of each prisoner and the stakes in front bear of the rifle. Each target position is marked with a number, indicating that the solider in position one is going to shoot the prisoner on position one, and so on.

The positions where the targets are located is generally called “the butts”. This is a target practice, not a straightforward military execution by firing squad. A firing squad usually has a half-dozen or more shooters per condemned, to guarantee a pretty instant death. In this case, shooters are assigned one per victim. Moreover in a military execution, victims don’t get bayoneted at the end. If any are still alive, the officer in charge should administer a coup de grace with a pistol.Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 3

The most severe treatment was directed at the Chinese who were killed in large numbers by a variety of brutal means. The killings were conducted in many ways including shooting, burying alive, bayoneting, beheading, medical experimentation, and other methods.a2e13e6832e9f98f827d8bd31755940b

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