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Sunday, November 08, 2015

MAKING PEACE - Eight - Last

I suppose it was predictable. Having already destroyed the 22 largest cities in Japan, in June of 1945 the 20th Air Force Bomber Command, headed by General Curtis LeMay, ordered implementation of the “Empire Plan” - the saturation and fire bombing of the next largest 25 cities, with populations between 330,000 and 62,000 people. 
As part of this plan, on the night of Thursday, 19 July, 1945, 127 B-29 bombers flying from the Mariana Islands, dropped 954 tons of incendiaries on the city of Fukuoka (above), - population 300,000 -  burning out 85% of the town (1 ½ square miles) and killing 10,000 civilians.
Moments after the noon broadcast of Emperor Hirohito's speech accepting the American conditions for surrender, Japanese officers at the Western Army Headquarters at Fukuoka, Japan, 60 miles northwest of Nakasaki, ordered that 16 American prisoners of war be brought to the Aburayama “execution grounds”, a hill southwest of the port city. The blindfolded and handcuffed prisoners arrived at 3:30 on the afternoon of Wednesday, 15 August - three hours after the military officers had been told by their Emperor they must “endure the unendurable”.
The victims were divided into four groups and taken to four different locations in field shielded from civilian witnesses by bamboo groves  Lieutenant Hiroji Nakayama demonstrated the correct “"etiquette, according to old customs” to be used in executing the prisoners. The first prisoner, still blindfolded and handcuffed, was made to sit. Then his throat was cut from ear to ear, causing near immediate death. And only then was the head removed with a single blade slice. Unfortunately Nakayama was able to demonstrate this “humane” form of execution to only one of the four groups. Most of the prisoners were butchered. The bodies were then transported by truck to the nearby crematorium. The officers were then ordered to be certain “...no evidence of the execution remained...”  These were men demonstrating the honorable method of murdering their enemies.
In September of 1925, Anthony “Tony” Marchione was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania (above), about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. . He was the first born child of Italian immigrants, and at the age of 14 he got an after school job at a bakery to help support his three sisters. He was so good with his trumpet, he also made extra cash in a “swing band” playing at local dances. But after graduating high school in June of 1943 Tony took a full time job making shell casings at a local war plant. But the 5 foot 6 inch, 125 pound brown eyed Marchione knew he would soon be drafted. He was interested in aviation, so before his draft notice arrived in the mail, on 20 November, he joined the United States Army, requesting service in the Army Air Corps.
Private Anthony Marchione – serial number 33834700 – received basic training in Miami, Florida. The army never considered Tony for flight training. So after basic, he volunteered as an aerial gunner. He was transferred to the Florida panhandle for the 6 week, 290 hour gunner's training. Then Corporal Marchoine was transferred to a B-24 squadron being assembled in Arizona. 
Three months later, while waiting orders to ship out for Italy, Tony's crew was one of five chosen for further training in Oklahoma in photo reconnaissance. After another 3 months becoming proficient at loading both 50 caliber machine guns and film cartridges, in December of 1944, Marchione (above, front row, 2nd from right) and his crew were transferred to Clark Field, on Luzon, in the Philippines.
Sargent Anthony Marchione arrived at Clark Field in May of 1945. After several missions over Luzon and even photographing the coast of China, on Saturday 11 August, he moved 900 miles north to Yontan airbase (above), on Okinawa,  just 250 miles south of Kyushu island. Here, members of his unit were used to support missions by the newly arrived B-32's  
And it was at Yonton, on Wednesday, 15 August, when the “happy day...arrived”, meaning the Emperor's speech accepting surrender terms. But in the same letter Tony spent more time discussing the “fresh pork and potatoes” – served at dinner. “Boy, that was really a treat after those darn rations.” .
On Thursday, 17 August, three B -32's (above)  from Yonton flew 956 miles to Tokyo, taking photos of the bomb damage, and testing Japanese compliance with the Emperor's promise on 16 August, that all hostilities had ceased. The big planes were attacked by Japanese aircraft, but no crew members were injured That afternoon Tony added his name to the list of volunteers to fly the next mission, just about the same time that officers in McArthur's Manila headquarters decided to tests Japanese compliance again the next day.
Four more B -32's lifted off from Yonton airfield before 7 in the morning, Friday, 18 August, 1945. It was mission number 320 A-8. Two of the 60 ton bombers ran into mechanical trouble and were forced to turn back. The remaining two, including the B-32 named Hobo Queen II , commanded by Lieutenant J.R. Anderson, and co-pilot Lieutenant Richard E. Thomas, and carrying, in addition to their regular crew, Photographer Staff Sergeant Joseph Lacharite and photographer's assistant Sergeant Anthony Marchione, cocontinued to the “target” at 20,000 feet. From his letters to friends and family, it was clear Tony was not seeking “action”, but an opportunity to move up the list for earlier discharge, which a combat mission would give him.
But a little before 11:00:that Friday morning the two American aircraft were attacked by 14 Zeros and 3 Shiden-Kai fighters over Tokyo. Thirty years later one of the Japanese pilots, Sadamu Komachi, justified defying orders and launching the attack because he cold not bear to see the American bombers flying serenely over a devastated capital, where 120,000 had died on one March night..
As the bombers flew their photo mission, tail gunner, Sergeant John Houston, spotted fighters approaching. “They were coming in from my 11 o’clock, three or four moving from my left to right. I just put the sight on them and started shooting. One fighter came so close I couldn’t miss. I gave him about 50 rounds and saw hits on the wings and fuselage. He kept coming until he was within about 100 feet, and then he just blew up.” Twenty millimeter cannon fire peppered Hobo Queen II, hitting one of the bombers four engines. “Feathering” that prop, Thomas radioed for the second B-32 to slow down so he could keep up,. Suddenly a Japanese voice crackled over the radio, in perfect English. “Yes, please, slow down so I can shoot you down too.”
Sergeant Burton Keller was in the nose, firing at the fighters that seemed to be trying to ram his plane. Lt Thomas saw the same thing and put the Hobo Queen II into a turning dive, to pick up speed and outrun the fighters.
.As he did so the Zero's made another attack. Later Sargent Lacherite explained, “Rounds came right through the skin of the plane and hit me in both legs. I got spun around and landed on the floor. I grabbed the cord from one of the barracks bags that carried camera gear and wrapped it around one leg as a tourniquet. Then I wrapped an intercom cord around the other leg as Tony pulled me to a cot raised a few inches off the floor.” Tony then called Lt.Anderson over the intercom, telling him Lacherite had been badly wounded.
As Tony turned back to assist Joe, a last Zero(above) spewed the Dominator with 20 mm cannon shells. One blasted through the bomber's paper thin aluminum skin, and hit Tony in the chest, knocking him across the fuselage. A crew member was then able to reach the two wounded men. “When I got there, Tony was bleeding from a big hole in his chest. He was still conscious...He said ‘Stay with me,’ and I said ‘Yes, I’ll stay with you.’ I did the best I could to stop the bleeding and I held him in my arms.” Other crewmen tended to Lacharite. They used compresses to try and stop the bleeding from Tony's chest, and he was given oxygen and plasma. But thirty minutes later, the 19 year old Italian American kid who liked playing the trumpet, died in a soldier's arms, one month short of his 20th birthday, 10,000 feet over the Sea of Japan..
Anthony Marchinoe was the last American killed in combat during World War Two. The next day Emperor Hirohito personally ordered the propellers on all Japanese combat aircraft be removed..
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