Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Documentary Review: World War II in Colour: Victory in Japan: episode 13

This is the final episode brought to us by BBC television.  In this the end of the war in the Pacific is presented started with Iwo Jima.  Iwo Jima was an important battle because it would give the Allies airstrips close enough to Japan to support the fire bombing raids with fighter escorts.  The U.S. had given up on tactical bombing and went with fire bombing which was highly effective, but would also destroy entire communities, with spreading flames faster than someone could run.  One such raid was attributed with 100,000 deaths.
Iwo Jima was a battle in which the Japanese refused to surrender, fighting to the death.  Of the 21,000 Japanese defending the island, 18,000 were killed in the fighting.  Only about three hundred were captured in the fighting.  The Japanese had ingrained in them the terrible things the Americans would do to them if they were caught.  About 3000 Japanese continued living in the caves and tunnels after the fighting was over, coming out at night to scavenge for food.  They slowly surrendered, the last surrendering in 1949.
The next major jump after Iwo Jima was Okinawa.  Here the commander swore he would make the Americans pay in blood.  Even though the landing was not resisted heavily, the defensive lines the Japanese were able to create on the island proved large obstacles to over come.  Just as the Americans began to make progress, the Japanese would fall back to another defensible line, and thus there was a series of battles and defensive lines.  Finally the Americans had to land another wave of Marines behind these lines.
The Battle at Sea was also terrible at Okinawa.  The Japanese employed Kamikaze pilots, in planes and jets, submarines and even a Kamikaze battle ship on a suicide mission.  It never reached the Americans as it was spotted and sunk by planes from the aircraft carriers.
However after Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Americans were well aware of the cost in invading the Japanese mainland.  It also appeared the fire bombing would never bring the Japanese to surrender.  A much larger weapon was needed.  When President Truman succeeded to the presidency, he learned of the nuclear weapons.  There were two prototypes, a uranium bomb and a plutonium bomb.  It was decided to use both weapons if needed.  The bomb "Little Boy" was used on Hiroshima, and caused over 100,000 immediate deaths, with more deaths later due to radiation sickness, burns and starvation.  The second plutonium bomb "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki.  It was actually the more powerful bomb, but missed its target causing about 40,000-80,000 deaths.  Again half were immediate with the others coming later.
About this same time, the Russians declared war against Japan.  They were actually trying to fatten their own territories, invading Manchuria and Mongolia.  Even after the Japanese surrendered, the Russians fought on trying to gain more territory.
Japan announced its surrender August 15, 1945.  The formal document of surrender was signed September 2 aboard the USS Missouri.  General Douglas McCarthy took over temporary leadership of Japan.

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