MARCH 2020

MARCH   2020
The Lawyers Carve Up the Golden Goose


Friday, July 25, 2008


I am continually amazed that it wasn't until June 22nd, 1945, that the Emperor finally called a meeting of his ‘Big Six’ advisors. He told them openly for the first time , "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts made to implement them." There was no talk of terms, and no effort to "push" the process.
The Japanese were now waiting for the invasion of their most southern island, Kyushu, the next logical target of the U.S. forces. There they would win the "Big Victory" that Okinawa was supposed to have been, in which even a loss would bleed the Americans enough to force them to offer better terms. The leaders of Japan, meeting amongst the wreakage of Tokyo, were certain that a great enough slaughter, mostly of their own people, would drive the Americans to negotiate. And they were certain they could out-negotiate the Americans. Why such clever people were losing the war was a question never asked in public.
The Japanese plan was to use the Russians as a conduit to negotiate with the Americans, rather than talking to their chief foe directly. July was spent trying to open that conduit, but the Russians seemed exceedingly dim and obstructionist, and the niceties of diplomacy slowed everything down even more. But there was no worry. In Japan's view, Russia and America were destined to be enemies, and it seems never to have occured to the Japanese leadership that Russia would see a weakened Japan, the nation which had humiliated them in 1905, as an oportunity too good to pass up. But, by the beginning of August, it seemed to Japan that some progress was being made with the Russians.
The plans of Japan's rulers did not begin to unravel until the morning of August 6th. Reports began coming in that something unusual had happened in Hiroshima. First reports were of a “blinding flash and violent blast”. Since no communications were coming out of the city, a staff officer was ordered to fly over and report. One hundred miles from Hiroshima he could see a huge cloud still rising from the blazing port (hours after the attack).
Surrounding villages were being swamped with huge armies of wounded, burned and simply stunned victims stumbling their way out of Hiroshima.
Relief workers began to press through to the city. Power to some parts of the town was restored the next day, and rail service the day after that. But to all intents and purposes, the core of the city of Hiroshima had been wiped off the map, the port facilities destroyed, and one of Japan's few remaining intact military bases was simply gone. There were at least 80,000 dead. Over the next five years radiation would raise that toll to nearly 200,000.
The Big Six argued about what had happened, with many denying the U.S. could have such a weapon. The debate was settled sixteen hours later when Japanese monitoring posts picked up the broadcast of President Harry Truman announcing to the American people that, "The power of the sun" had been unleased on Japan, and adding “We are now prepared to obliterate rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have…” It was not a threat. It seemed rather, to be a promise.
It was a powerful threat to the empire of the sun. But Admiral Soemu Toyoda now argued that if the Americans really had such a bomb they could not have many more. What he based that opinion on was unclear. But some of the leaders of Japan took solace from the Admiral and continued to perfect their plans for their Oriental Gotterdamurung. It was pure delusion.
The Americans had crippled their nation. Hundreds of thousands had been killed. No train was safe in daylight, no city or factory safe at night. The Japanese army in Korea and Manchuria were starving. Troops in Japan were spending as much time tending to rice fields as training. And the harvest that year had been very bad. Come winter, invasion or no, there would be starvation in Japan.
Japan could do nothing to oppose the massive flights of B-29’s, now joined by B-17’s and B-24’s of the mighty 8th Air Force as well, freed from the conquest of Germany, which were together pounding Japanese cities and military formations, day and night.
And nothing hindered the mass waves of P-51's, based on Iwo and Okinawa, which were now doing to Japan what they had done to Germany; sweeping across the country at will, striking at "targets of oportunity", destroying and sinking everything that moved, be it a supply or passanger train, a single horse and cart or a poor fishing boat. There was almost nothing left to oppose them. What remained of Japan's air force was being held back to oppose the landings. Japan's navy was scattered across the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Their cities were being reduced, one by one, to wastelands occupied by scarecrows.
And now an atomic bomb had vaporized one of Japan's cities, and there was a threat of more to follow. And yet the supreme council's only plan remained to wait for the American invasion of Kyushu and kill as many Americans as possible in order to force them to negotiate. About 40% of Japan's remaining strenth had been transfered to Kyushu to fight that battle. But that mas was, in my opinion, to borrow the words of an historian describing the Confederate insistance on defending Fort Dondaldson against Grant, "Too little to defend the place, and too much to lose."
Again, Japan failed to inform the Americans what their intentions now were, e.g. to fight to the death to preserve the emperior. And without the final clause of that statement, it seemed to the Americans that the Japanese were insane and without logic, an entire nation of kamikazes, in love with death. And since the Japanese were not offering the Americans any alternatives, (nor the referse) there was no way for the Americans to be certain the preservation of the Emperior alone was what the Japanese were still killing and dieing for, a full year after the Americans had won effectivly won the war.
And then, at about four AM on August ninth the Soviet Union, which the Japanese leadership had counted on to help negotiate a peace, announced they were voiding their non-aggression pact with Japan and joining the Americans in carving up the Imperial Empire. At the same time Soviet air and ground forces had invaded Manchuria in great numbers and strength. And in that moment, all Japanese complacency began to finally collapse.
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I am certain the attack was a total surprise in every way possible. In the south the Russians came across the mountains and desserts of Mongolia, a path that seemed impossible because they could not be supplied through that line. It was a trick that the U.S. would repeat in 1989 in Iraq. And as in Iraq the supply problems were over come by airdrops. Soviet parachute troops captured Japanese airfields far behind the front lines and turned them into supply depots for their advancing troops. They were clearly driving toward the city of Changchun, where they would meet the equally successful advance of the Soviet armies from the Far Eastern Front, and together would isolate the entire Japanese Army. And there was nothing the Japanese troops could do to stop them.
For the first time Japanese Army faced a ground campaign against a mechanized army, with troops hardened by four years of vicious warfare with Nazi Germany. If in 1941 the German soldier was the best in the world, by 1945 it might have been the Soviet Soldier. In the invasion of Manchuria there were one and a half million of them pouring into Japanese territory: eighty divisions, five thousand tanks, including 3,700 T-34’s, acknowledged as the greatest tank of the war. The Japanese had never had any tank or gun to counter the T-34. And there were almost 4,000 first line Soviet aircraft filing the skies. The Japanese had just 50 first line fighters. The Soviet offensive was violent and smart and merciless, which perfectly matched the personality of its planner and commander, Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky:, the man who had saved Moscow in 1941, and who had actually directed the Stalingrad counter offensive, and who had been planning this invasion since late 1944. He called the operation “August Storm”, and perhaps as a homage to Vaslevsky, American General Schwarzkopf called his 1989 similar operation “Dessert Storm”.
The one million Japanese troops in Manchuria and Korea were not prepared for what hit them. The best troops in the Kwantung Army had already been transferred to the Pacific and Burma meat grinders. They were now either dead or isolated and starving on bypassed islands or jungle outposts. The army now contained a high percentage of new recruits. The units spent their time in drill and chasing guerrillas. The Imperial Staff was convinced that any Russian offensive could not be launched before October. So, they ignored warnings from the commanders in Manchuria. And when the Soviet tanks sliced through the stunned Japanese border entrenchments on the morning of August 9th, there was nothing behind them to slow their advance. In just 24 days the Red Army would capture all of Manchuria, make amphibious landings in northern Korea and capture Sakhalin Island and the Kuril islands, then part of Northern Japan.

But a large part of this appalling bad news was withheld from the Big Six by Generals lower down the command chain, in part because they feared if their superiors knew the truth they would become defeatist, and in part to save their own necks, but mostly because the Japanese communications network had been damaged so badly by the Soviet blitzkrieg that the Japanese commanders did not know a lot of the bad news themselves The Japanese commander, General Otozo Yamada, was missing for the first 18 hours, unable to get back to his headquarters. But the battle developed just as Yamada had warned the supreme command that it would, disastrously.
On August 9th at about 10:30 in the morning Prime Minister Suzuli told the Six that the Emperor agreed with him; the war must be ended as quickly as possible now that Russia had joined the conflict. The Foreign Minister said he could not accept the American position given in the Potsdam Proclamation, because it would require the removal of the Emperor. (Again, no one in Japan had yet told the Americans that this was the primary sticking point.) Terms to be offered for negotiation were that Japan would disarm herself, accept no occupation, and Japan would conduct any war crimes trials of Japanese soldiers.
It was all clearly fantasy, and intended for negotiation, and the Big Six spent their time arguing these points to be negotiated aftter the next blooodbath, until word arrived of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki: so much for the theory that the U. S. had only one bomb. There were now another 70,000 dead. Still, when the Big Six ended their meeting they were still tied, three for continuing the war until Japan could score a "blood victory" against the Americans and three for immediate surrender.
In fact the U.S. had enough plutonium for several bombs. The assembly of nuclear weapons was not yet industrialized but it soon would be. Manhatten Project Commander General Leslie Groves reported to the War Depart that another plutonium bomb would be ready for operations on the 17th or 18th of August and at least seven bombs would be available in time for the invasion of Kyushu, scheduled for September. The plan was to use the bombs against the island's defenders, to "clear the ground" for American combat troops. More than one and a half million American soldiers were poised for that invasion. And even at a casualty rate of one American soldier or marine for two Japanese soldiers, and not considering the likely equal civilian deaths (the casuality rate on Okinawa) an American conquest of the southern half of Kyushu now seemed assured.
That night, the Big Six met again, still tied at three-three. But this time the Emperor in person actually cast his vote. It would be peace. The next day Mr. Max Grassli, charge d’Affaires for Switzerland, sent to James Byrnes, the U.S Secretary of State, the following cable:.

“I have the honor to inform you that the Japanese Minister to Switzerland, upon instructions received from his Government, has requested the Swiss Political Department to advise the Government of the United States of America of the following:

"In obedience to the gracious command of His Majesty the Emperor who, ever anxious to enhance the cause of world peace, desires earnestly to bring about a speedy termination of hostilities with a view to saving mankind from the calamities to be imposed upon them by further continuation of the war…The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam…with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler. The Japanese Government sincerely hope that this understanding is warranted and desire keenly that an explicit indication to that effect will be speedily forthcoming….In transmitting the above message the Japanese Minister added that his Government begs the Government of the United States to forward its answer through the intermediary of Switzerland….”
Please pardon me, but honestly, it was about friggen time.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


I have begun to wonder just how we can end will the war in Iraqi. Senator McCain is insisting that out troops come home victorious, which sounds a little like the old U.S. Grant dictum, “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender." Grant did demand those terms but when they were rejected he immediately modified them. But “Greatest Generation” still expects wars to end victoriously, like World War Two. But even WWII did not end in total victory as protrayed in campaign speeches. And over the next few columns I mean to tell you the truth about the how we ended the war against Japan.
To begin with, the Second World War in the Pacific should have ended on Sunday, July 9th, 1944. On that day, at 16:15 hours (4:15pm local time), Admiral Richmond J. Turner declared the island of Saipan secured. The battle was decisive. In defending Saipan the Japanese Imperial Fleet had lost its offensive arm in the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, where three of their aircraft carriers were sunk and 600 aircraft and pilots were destroyed. The United States lost just 123 planes, and 80 of those experienced crews were rescued. On the ground 30,000 Japanese soldiers and 22,000 civilians had died for the emperor. The United States lost about 2,949 dead, and 10,364 wounded. And they took the island.
While some Japanese soldiers would hold out in the jungle on Siapan until December of 1945 they were no more than a minor annoyance. Even before Admiral Turner’s pronouncement, Construction Battalions (C.B.’s) had begun turning the island into the world’s largest aircraft carrier, from which, eventually, 2,000 B-29’s would turn Japanese factories and cities into torches. The loss of the their fleet air power and the Marianas, Saipan, Guam and Tinian, meant that the Japanese had lost the war.
The Japanese knew it. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the architect of the war with America, and his entire cabinet resigned, nine days after the fall of Saipan. But the war went on. It was clear to every American commander that the Japanese could not withstand the American onslaught, that at Siapan Japan had lost the war.And reading the diaries and personal letters of Japanese commanders it is clear they also knew the war was lost. But Japanese leaders now held onto the idea that if they could bleed America enough, and kill enough Americans, in just one more big battle, they would win a more favorable peace from the Americans. And it was not a total fantasy. In conquering the Philippines the U.S. suffered 14,000 dead and 48,00 wounded, at Iwo Jima 8,621 dead and 19,189 wounded, and at Okinawa, on the threshold of Japan itself, America lost 12,513 dead and 38,513 wounded.
And while it is true that Japanese losses were even higher, (336,000 dead in the Philippines, 20,700 on Iwo, and 131,303 on Okinawa), those bloodbaths still drove the Japanese to make no attempt to even hint that they might be willing to negotiate a peace. The Americans were still advancing across the Pacific despite their losses, and had not modified their peace terms, laid out in the Potsdam Decree. Why shoulld they? Japan had offered no alternatives. In my personal estimation, Japan's silence and unwillingness to negotiate, given the strategy they were following, amounts to mass murder of their own citizens and soldiers and of the U.S. forces closing in on them, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of civilians from occupied nations caught between the avenging Americans and the silent fatalistic fanatics of Japan.
Next: Japan decides to end the war.
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Monday, July 21, 2008


I suppose you know that the month of August was named after Augustus Caesar, nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the namesake for July. But did you know that poor old February had to suffer because of it?
The toadying politicians in the Roman Senate had climbed all over each other to prove they had nothing to with Julius Caeser's murder on the Ides of March, and had voted to name the seventh month after him. And to show how much they revered his memory they also voted to make Julies’ month extra long, assigning it thirty-one days. But, since Augustus, the current ruler, could not be insulted by having an inferior month, August was also bestowed with thirty-one days. And that extra day had to come from somewhere.Thus February 29th,comes along only once every four years,instead of every other year as it had under the Julian calander, as designed by the nobile Julius . Hail, Caeser!.
It’s a busy, crowded month even without a single national holiday, being at the same time National Catfish Month and National Water Quality Month, and Peach Month. It is also the month of Woodstock (1969), and in 1965 the Watts race riots. August is the month in which the United States of America dropped three nuclear bombs, two in 1945 on Japan and one in 1986 on New Mexico. (The last one failed to explode). August is home to “National Air Conditioning Appreciation Week”, “National Apple Week”, “National Mustard Day”, and “Nut Monday”. In August 1775 Thomas Paine’s “Pennsylvania Magazine” proposed a woman’s bill of rights, and in August a mere 150 years later women were finally allowed to vote. And male comedians still joke that women can never make up their minds.
It is also month when very odd things happen. On August first (“National Raspberry Cream Pie Day”) in 1889 it rained ants in Strasbourg, Germany. On the second of August, in 1900, a baseball game between Chicago and New York ended when the Manager of the New York team led a mob assault on the umpire: and in 1980 the oldest known goldfish in Great Britain, Frederica, finally succumbed to ‘fish flake poisoning’ at the age of forty. August the third on the Roman Catholic calendar is celebrated as St. Lydia’s day, the patron saint of dry cleaners. And on August fifth in 1693 Dom Perignon invented champagne, and in 1983, in a baseball game in Toronto, Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield picked up a base hit ball and threw a peg to the second baseman, that was intercepted by a seagull, striking and killing it. Winfield was charged with cruelty to animals and had to post a $500 bond.
August fifth is at the same time “National Mustard Day”, and “National Waffle Day”, and, in 1914, it is the anniversary of the first electric traffic lights being installed in Cleveland, Ohio. On August sixth in 1890 Mr. William Kimmler had the honor of being the first person ever executed by electric chair on purpose. August seventh is “National Raspberries and Cream Day”, and also the anniversary, in 1888, of a patent being granted for the invention of the revolving door. And besides being the anniversary of the murder of King Wenceslas of Christmas carol fame and Edison’s invention of the mimeograph machine, August eighth is also “Sneak some Zucchini on Your Neighbors Porch Night”
August tenth is “National S’mores Day”, and the eleventh is “National Raspberry Bombe Day”. Every August 13th the world celebrates “International Left Handers Day”. August fourteenth is “National Creamsicle Day”, and St. Werenfrid’s Day. She is the patron saint of vegetable gardens. Also on the fourteenth in 1457 the German Astrologer Faust was arrested for selling the first printed books in Paris. Because all of the books were identical the authorities assumed the printer's apprentice had been Lucifer.
In 1920 on August seventeenth the Yankees were hosting a twilight doubleheader with the Cleveland “Naps” when Yankee left-hander Carl Mays threw a “submarine” pitch high and inside that bounced off shortstop Ray Chapman’s skull. It hit his temple so hard the ball rolled halfway back to the mound. May’s fielded the ball and threw it to first, thinking Chapman had hit it, so loud had been the impact. But Chappie had not. Chapman dropped like a sack of potatoes, got up, took two steps toward first and collapsed again; this time forever. Ray Chapman remains to this day, the only professional ball player to have ever been killed while playing professional baseball. One year later, on the anniversary of Chappie’s fatal injury, in Cleveland, a “Napper” batter hit a line drive that struck Athletics’ second baseman Curt “Johnny” Walker in the head and sent him to the hospital. Oddly enough, the injury did not impede what proved to be Curt’s Walker’s dream season, the best of his career. That year Curt batted .337, with 12 Home Runs, 196 hits and 66 RBI’s. He was also a participant on August 25th , 1922 in the Phillies/ Chicago game, which Chicago won, 23 to 26: it remains the largest combined score ever recorded in major league baseball.
In 1692, in Salem Massachusetts, on August 19th, five women were hanged for witchcraft, and continuing in that same somber spirit, August 21st is now officially recognized as National Spumoni Day. August 23 is the anniversary of the death, in 1926, of Rudolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi, aka Rudolf Valentino, the romantic silent film mega-star. He died at the age of thirty-one probably from an infection caught while undergoing ulcer surgery. His ulcer was brought on because some writer had accused him of being gay, which was an absurd charge, as silly as someone today accusing Tom Cruise of being gay.
On August 24, 1905, during the 18th inning of tied ballgame, a bored Philadelphia outfielder named Jimmy Slagle reached into his back pocket to pull out a plug of chewing tobacco. At that very moment a Chicago batter hit a high drive and instinctively Slagle started running to the ball. But he couldn't get his hand out of his hip pocket. With his left hand stoll firmly jammed behind him Slagle leapt, and made a one handed off balance catch for the out. He then paused to free the tobacco from his pocket and bit off a chew. He threw the ball back to the infield and then he took a bow. Chicago went on to win the game, 2-1 in 20 innings, the longest major league game ever played.
August 25 is National Banana Split Day and August 28 is National Cherry Turnover Day. But far more importantly August 28th is also the date, in 476 A.D., when an army of revolting German mercenaries captured their erstwhile commander, Orestes, and cut his throat. Within days of Orestes’ death his son, the “little emperor", Romulus Augustus, had eagerly abdicated and been pensioned off. And that was the fall of the great empire created by Augustus Caesar some 500 years before. And it all happened in the month of August.

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