The 1940 Summer Olympic games, the games that never happened! Or did they?

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I have mentioned this before in other blogs that the IOC(International Olympic Committee) has very little to do with sports but more with politics.

But I have to admit they made the right decision on the 1940 Summer Olympics, although they didn’t really have much choice in the matter.

The 1940 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XII Olympiad, were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. They were rescheduled for Helsinki, Finland.

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In 1936, Tokyo was chosen in a surprise move, making it the first non-Western city to win an Olympic bid.

Japan pulled out of hosting the Games in July 1938. The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out on July 7, 1937, Japan decided a year after the outbreak after the war to focus more on military matters then sporting events, therefore it withdrew from hosting the Games of the XII Olympiad.Second Sino-Japanese War

The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. To be held from July 20 to August 4, 1940, The Games were then canceled altogether after the breakout of WWII in 1939.

The 1944 Olympics which had been awarded to London was also cancelled, it wasn’t until 1948 before the Olympic games resumed. London who lost out in 1944 got to host the games in 1948.

However. while the official Olympic Games were canceled, a different kind of Olympics was held in 1940. Prisoners of war in a camp in Langwasser, Germany, held their own DIY Olympic Games in August 1940. The event was called the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games. The Olympic flag and banners for Belgium, France, Great Britain, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands were drawn on a prisoner’s shirt using crayons. The 1980 movie Olimpiada ’40 ​recounts this story.

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Although the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games of 1940 were kept in complete secrecy, in 1944 in another POW camp,Woldenberg another International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games was held under the name of the Woldenberg Olympics.

The guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place.

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Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

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Operation Meetinghouse- The Bombing of Tokyo

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“If war with the Japanese does come, we’ll fight mercilessly,” General George C. Marshall told news reporters in an off-the-record briefing on November 15, 1941, three weeks before Pearl Harbor. “Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won’t be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out.”  More than three years of brutal global warfare would pass before Marshall’s prediction came true, but come true it did on the night of March 9-10, 1945.

 An aerial armada of 334 B-29 bombers took off from newly established bases in the Mariana Islands, bound for Tokyo. In the space of a few hours, they dropped 1,667 tons of napalm-filled incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital, killing more than 100,000 people in a single strike, and injuring several times that number. It was the highest death toll of any air raid during the war, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By comparison, the bombing of Dresden a month earlier had resulted in around 25,000 deaths.
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The charred body of a woman who was carrying a child on her back

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The March 9 raid, code-named “Operation Meetinghouse,” marked a shift in American bombing strategy. It wasn’t B-17 Flying Fortresses that did the job, as Marshall had predicted, but the new long-distance B-29s based in Saipan and Tinian.

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General Curtis LeMay, newly appointed as the head of B-29 operations, called for a change in tactics.

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The high-flying bombers had shown themselves on their first missions to be horribly inaccurate in hitting their targets. At a time when the jet stream was still poorly understood, B-29 crews watched as the high winds at 30,000 feet scattered their bombs as soon as they dropped. That, and the frequent cloud cover over Japan, had led to B-29s hitting their targets, on average, less than 10 percent of the time.wczt1gd

 

For the March 9 raid on Tokyo, LeMay made some key changes. The B-29s would overfly the city’s most densely populated areas at 7,000 feet instead of 30,000 feet, in single file rather than in formation. To reduce the risk from Japanese fighters, they would raid at night (in fact the American bombers met with little resistance). And the B-29s would be stripped of nonessentials, including guns and gunners, to make room for more bombs. “By changing tactics and doubling the bombload per plane,” wrote historian Thomas Searle, LeMay created “a force capable of starting enormous firestorms.
U.S. planners knew the wooden Japanese buildings would burn hot. Army engineers had prepared maps of Tokyo’s most flammable sectors, and had observed Japanese-style houses put to the torch in a mock “Japanese village” constructed at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utahtokyo_inflammable_areas

On the night of the Tokyo raid, 15 square miles of one of the world’s most densely populated urban centers—equivalent to half the area of Manhattan—burned to the ground. More than a million people were left homeless. As historian John Dower described in his 1986 book War Without Mercy, “The heat from the conflagration was so intense that in some places canals boiled, metal melted, and buildings and human beings burst spontaneously into flames.”

Watching Tokyo on March 10 from our Evacuation Home in Ibaraki PrefectureArtist: Hashimoto KimisukeLocation: Yoshinuma (Tsukubane City), Ibaraki PrefectureAge at time of raid: 7

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The Umaya Bridge on the Night of March 10Artist: Fukushima YasusukeLocation: Umaya BridgeAge at time of raid: 6

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For Japan, it was a grisly beginning to the war’s end. According to a postwar U.S. estimate, total civilian casualties in Japan as a result of nine months of air attack were about 806,000, including 330,000 deaths—more than the 780,000 combat casualties suffered by Japanese soldiers

 

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