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Sunday, November 15, 2015

MAKING PEACE - Nine - Green

I know history says the crowning achievement of the American effort in World War Two was the $2 billion development of the atomic bomb. But in fact the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber (above), able to carry a 2 ton payload 3,250 miles, cost $3 billion. The atomic bomb would have been useless without the B-29. No other American weapon could have carried “The Bomb” to Japan. But Army Air Force General Curtis LeMay, the man who made the B-29 legendary in the Tokyo firebombing, has acknowledge the big bomber “had as many bugs as the entomological department of the Smithsonian”, and came very close to being cancelled several times.
Each B-29 cost $500,000 (five times the cost of the British Lancaster bomber) consumed 13 tons of aluminum in its construction and required half a ton of valuable copper in its 9 ½ miles of electrical wiring. In addition to the 11 crew members, 74 people were required just to keep each 29 flying. 
But unsure the B-29 would ever work, the United States built a back-up bomber - the Consolidated B-32 Dominator (above). Built in Fort Worth, Texas, the B 32 was just as big, designed to fly just as high, was just as complicated and carried just as heavy a payload, and carried it 500 miles farther than the B-29 could But the B-32 had even more development problems, and ended up costing four times as much as the B-29.
In late 1943 the B-32 Dominator was re-purposed as the “modernized” replacement for the thousands of 
B-17's and B-24's  already bombing Germany into submission. Stripped of many of its innovations – i.e. , its pressurized crew compartment, its computerized remotely fired guns - the B 32 was converted into a heavy medium level (10 – 20,000 feet) bomber. 
It's first missions over Japan were in fact some of the last missions of the war. And the plane proved just as vulnerable to ground based anti-aircraft guns, and enemy fighters as the planes it was replacing. So it was fitting the B 32 was used to tempt the hot heads in the Japanese military to break the tentative peace agreement even before the shooting had stopped. After all the money and effort, the Dominator became a sacrificial lamb on the wing. Such are the economics of all wars, and all “defense” spending..
Once the Japanese acceptance had been received, MacArthur's Headquarters in Manila  issued prompt instructions to the Japanese Government via through the Swiss.  “Send emissaries at once…fully empowered to make any arrangements directed by the Supreme Commander….” And, as a sop for MacArthur’s deflated ego over the glorious Armageddon he would not get to oversee on the beaches of Kyushu, “…General of the Army Douglas MacArthur has been designated as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers…”  The universe had finally recognized Doug as a supreme being, and that was all that he really wanted – public genuflection. His mother must have been very pleased.
Contact was quickly made with the Japanese government via radio. First, General MacArthur's staff designated the radio frequencies to be used in all future communications by the Japanese (13705 and 15965 kilocycles).  Emissaries to negotiate the mechanics of the surrender should leave Sata Misaki, on the southern tip of Kyushu, “between the hours of 0800 and 1100 Tokyo time” on the morning of Friday, 17 August,  in two transport planes, painted white with large green crosses on the wings and fuselage. They would identify themselves by the code world "Bataan"”  The Japanese replied that the Emperor had ordered the ceasefire for all Japanese forces to begin at 1600 hours on Thursday, 16 August, so the Americans did the same.
There were, of course, sparks of flame that refused to die. Sixteen suicide bombers attacked U.S. warships off Japan hours after the ceasefire had been ordered. All were shot down. I wonder if their commander even told the pilots of the ceasefire order? In fact, Tokyo shamefacedly informed MacArthur that members of the royal family had been dispatched to deliver the cease fire order in person to military units in China. That admission told the Americans volumes about the volatility of the situation in Japan.
In fact, this post cease fire incident also highlights how important it was that the two sides were now talking, even by radio, and could thus explain events that previously could only have been interpreted in the most antagonistic way. If they had simply started talking earlier, even while the fighting continued, thousands of lives might have been saved.
Finally, on Sunday, 19 August, the Japanese radioed, “The planes carrying the party of representatives have left Kisarazu Airdrome (in Tokyo) on 0718”. Again, there was fear on the Japanese side that a die hard might attempt to disrupt this mission for peace, so the planes took off secretly, with sealed orders. Only after becoming airborne was the flight plan revealed to the crews. 
Following the American instructions as closely as possible, the two aircraft (above), one a Mitsubishi G4M1-L2 (Betty) transport aircraft, and the other a Mitsubishi G4M1 (Betty) bomber (complete with a few bullet holes).
Both had been hastily modified for seating the 8 emissaries that flew in each plane. Each aircraft had been painted white with large green crosses on the wings and fuselage. They were known hereafter in Japanese history as the Green Cross Flights. 
They reached Sata Misaki on the southern tip of Kyushu at about 11 A.M, local time. They then flew, as instructed, south on a course of 180 degrees to a point 36 miles North of le Shima Island, off the western coast of Okinawa (above) , and began to circle at about 6,000 feet.
Almost immediately the two Green Cross aircraft were intercepted by twelve Lockheed P-38 twin tailed fighters, from the 49th fighter group, led by Majors Jack McClure and Wendal Decker. The two Bettys called out to the Americans in English on the prearranged frequency of 6970 kilohertz, repeating the password “Bataan”.   (It had been anticipated the Japanese would get the irony. They did not. But American voters back home certainly would.) Jack McClure responded, “We are Bataan’s watchdog. Follow us.” As the 14 aircraft continued on toward le Shima, the P-38’s began doing acrobatics to slow to the Berry's speed, and to thumb their noses at the defeated enemy.
 On the way they were joined by two 2 B-25’s (above) from the 345th bombardment group. The Americans were not going to let any die hard kamikazes or hot headed Americans interfere with this operation. 
Jack McClure landed first at Birch Airstrip on la Shima, followed by the two Betty’s.
The first Betty landed safely.
To the thousands of ground crews and pilots, based on le Shima, the day was exciting. To the Japanese it was tense. 
The second Betty made a rough landing on the crushed corral strip and ran off the end of the runway by several feet, damaging the plane's landing gear. 
Still the strange white machines with large green crosses were down safe, and immediately surrounded by armed guards.
On this tiny island, not much bigger than the airstrip that occupied it, men from both sides of the Pacific, who had spent three long years bathed in violence and fear, trained to despise each other, would for the first time since Pearl Harbor physically touch each other in peace.
One witness remembered how odd it was that the first Japanese out of the Bettys wore shorts.
Formalities were quickly performed.
And 20 minutes later the 8 commissioners were guided up a ladder into a big four engine C-54 transport plane. It was a luxurious accommodation compared to the war worn Japanese Betty’s.
The C-54 climbed off the coral and headed for Manila while the Betty’s crew members were guided to a holding area (above), where the American crewmen could observe how much pilots on both sides looked and acted alike..
On the flight to Manila the Japanese delegation was served box lunches with pineapple juice and coffee with sugar. It was a lunch America front line soldiers never saw, but it was common travel meal for senior American officers, and it had the intended effect upon the emissaries.
They were impressed with the American determination to transfer their lifestyles even into a war zone. And like the Japanese visitors to my fourth grade class some fifteen years later, the emissaries offered to tip the American crew. They were politely refused.
After arriving in Manila, the delegation was driven through the streets of a still devastated city, to the Rosario Manor hotel, where General MacArthur (above) waited. The Japanese were provided with a Turkey dinner; again an unexpected treat. Meat had been unavailable in Japan for over a year. And, wonder of wonders, the Japanese were each given a can of hard candies.What followed was a further surprise.
Taken next to the Manila City Hall on Dewey Boulevard,  the Japanese found that McArthur's chief of staff, Major General Richard Sutherland, was only interested in was solving problems (above). The Americans were often rude, occasionally even insulting in their cultural ignorance. But they were not cruel.  And when the Japanese asked that they be given 3 more days to disarm their own troops before the occupation began, Sutherland moved the process sea born landings from Saturday, 25 August to Tuesday, 28 August, with the advance communication troops to arrive at Atsugi Airfield outside of Tokyo on Sunday,  26 August 1945.  
There were problems, but most were quickly rectified by practical compromises. Nineteen hours later the exhausted emissaries left Manila, each with another can of hard candies but badly sleep deprived. It had all be easier than they had worried. The Americans were firm but not gloating. And the emissaries returned with the message that, by and large, a defeated Japan was going to be treated fairly by the Americans, if the Japanese simply stopped fighting. And the war was going to end as quickly as possible, because of it.
But it was after they returned to le Shima, that their mission of peace was almost derailed, right at the very edge of success.
- 30 -

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