So, today, 28 August. Lots of momentous stuff, like the beginning of the American invasion of Quebec in 1775, the birth of Charles Rolls in 1877, the German naval disaster against the British at the Heligoland Bight in 1914, Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech in Washington in 1963, the “Battle of Chicago” between police and Vietnam war protesters broke out in 1968, and Charles and Diana officially called it quits in 1996. But on this date in 1945, the world held its breath as the first Americans–Navy and Marines from Task Force 31, and Army paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division–landed on the Japanese home islands.
Japan had announced its intention to surrender, and a delegation of senior Japanese officials had flown to Manila and returned with details on the occupation, the surrender itself, and had hammered out a timetable for the events, but no one was quite sure what was to come once the Americans actually started to land. Even though the Japanese the negotiators who pinpointed every ship, every Army unit, and every major armory in Japan, they were still concerned that the initial date of 25 August was too soon. There were still Shishi–young men of purpose–in the Army who were plotting to continue the war at whatever the cost. In the event, a typhoon prevented the Americans from arriving on that day, and the date was reset to 28 August, though Japanese officials pleaded for another week to cool or neutralize the hotheads. Nothing doing: the American would land on the 28th.
The leading elements of the American occupation arrived in the early morning hours of 28 August at the Atsugi airfield outside Tokyo. First, a train of forty-five C-47 cargo planes landed two hours early. Led by Charles Tench of Douglas MacArthur’s staff, the Skytrains were packed with nervous paratroopers, communications gear, and a small hospital unit. Seizo Arisue commanding the men who guarded the airfield against the Shishi that lurked within miles, if not yards, scrambled to receive their “guests.” But the opening SNAFU of the day was spectacular in a much different way that restarting the war: the lead C-47 pilot misread the wind marker and landed in the wrong direction, putting the reception committee on the wrong end of the field. “Just how in the hell does one begin an occupation,” Tench later remembered as he watched the Japanese hastily approaching his airplane.
“Just how in the hell does one begin an occupation?” — Charles Tench
Near the same time, the Atlanta class light cruiser USS San Diego (CL53), the flagship of Oscar C Badger who was commanding Task Force 31, entered Tokyo Bay leading the minesweepers and other combat elements of TF 31. The task force included USS Missouri (BB-63), at least nine destroyers, and an amphibious task force carrying the 4th Marines, who would land on the Tokyo waterfront on 30 August, liberating the POW camp at Omari in the process. The Marines would save a young American with a hot appendix that the Japanese could not treat. When the Japanese prison camp commandant opined that he had no authority to release his prisoners, Harold Stassen, William Halsey’s assistant chief of staff who was in charge of repatriating the American POWs and would later run for president, kicked the general in the posterior and growled “You have no authority, period.”
“You have no authority, period” — Harold Stassen
Despite a great deal of tension, fear and suspicion in Japan and amogh the allies as they arrived, the occupation and the surrender ceremonies would come off without a significant hitch.
Today, 28 August, ironically given the circumstances, is also Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, a day that Deborah Barnes founded in 2015 in memory of one of her many feline friends. Since then, 28 August has become something of a minor sensation in social media, spawning tributes to our furry, finny, feathery, scaley and other -y friends that have gone to their rewards. Having lost five gerbils, four dogs, three cats and a spider myself, I get it. So today, spend some extra time with your family pets, and unless they’re tarantulas or fish, they’ll appreciate it. If they are all gone, give an hour or two to your local animal shelter. Are there no Fish Whisperers out there?
Are there no Fish Whisperers out there?
For those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis, welcome back. For the rest, thanks for stopping by; hope you come back next week. For everyone, there’s going to be some design changes over the next few months. Hopefully it will help me to streamline my business communications, consolidating everything on one WordPress site. Stay tuned…