Helped End Last Battle of pacific War
by Garland E. "Buddy" Bell
For a scout observation pilot aboard the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, catapult launchings and flight missions over Okinawa provided a panorama of lasting memories. Okinawa Gunto was unprepared for the "tetsu no bofu", the typhoon of steel, as the American assault on the island in April 1945 has been characterized. The campaign began with an encircling storm of naval gunfire directed into Japanese-held positions from all sides of the island. Fire support came from 10 battleships, 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 177 gunboats. Battleship and cruiser pilots flow over known Japanese defense installations to bracket the ship's gunfire in destroying the targets. The cockpit of a battleship/cruiser spotting aircraft furnished the best seat in the fleet to observe a ground war.
One first impression in flight over the island was the huge horseshoe-shaped burial mounds on the ground. Thousands of immense strange-looking Okinawan tombs formed a most characteristic aerial feature of the landscape. The Japanese were able to convert them into formidable defensive positions. Another was watching the awesome firepower and smoke emerging from the big ships' main batteries, followed by the impact explosions as the shells hit enemy target areas. Lasting impressions included furious rocket launches from the gunboats close to the shoreline that created a curtain of terror for the enemy.
From the air above, seeing armored flamethrowers roll up to a coral cave entrance and "belch a sheet of flame" into an enemy cave was a most inhospitable and awesome sight. As the war concluded, thousands of civilians were pushed southward to the end of the island. On my last flight I was able to observe long columns of civilians on roads moving towards their conquered unknown destiny.
Psychological warfare in the form of leaflets was used before and during the campaign. Fifth Fleet carrier planes dropped some five million leaflets on the island. The psychological warfare teams' immediate objective was to depress Japanese morale so that the enemy soldiers would surrender rather than resist. The long-range goal was more ambitious: to promote the idea that Okinawans were ethnically and culturally different from the home island Japanese. The leaflets told the Japanese soldier why and how should surrender and the Okinawan citizens not to be afraid, for they were not regarded as the enemy.
My most vivid memory occurred during a spotting mission over Okinawa when I flew into thousands of falling propaganda leaflets dropped by one of our planes. The airplane appeared to be running into a snow storm. Hundreds of the leaflets caught on the wings and the cockpit canopy. Cracking the canopy, I was able to grab one before they all blew off. The leaflet was the "Ryukyu Shuho" [Ryukyu Weekly] or Okinawa Weekly. Information on the devastating B-29 raids over Japan and other information from the recovered leaflet is presented below [translation courtesy of the Library of Congress]. Clicking on the thumbnail pictures of the leaflet will link to a larger version.
"Ryukyu Shuho" [Ryukyu weekly] no. 5[0?]
500 B-29's Bombed Nagoya City and Fuel Tanks in Japan"
According to a news release by the U.S. 20th Air Force, 500 B-29's, the greatest formation ever since the beginning of WWII, air raided the Nagoya City, the third largest city in Japan. The bombers left the [Mariana] Island Base loaded with a great number of fire bombs and air-raided on March 18 and 19. They have already destroyed three square miles.
The air-raids were of the greatest scale since the beginning of WWII. Oil tanks and refineries at Tokuyana and Otake have been destroyed and the smokes are rising 15,000 feet high in the air.
The B-29's also attacked air fields in Shikoku and Kyushu, including the largest oil tanks at an island near Kyushu.
"U.S. Troops are Planning a Move from Europe to the Pacific Theater"
The U.S. Department of the Army announced this week that, in order to crush Japan as soon as possible, a massive army will be moved from the European front to the Pacific areas. It was a result of an agreement between Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. The U.S. Navy stressed that it will maintain the current level of Naval forces of 3.5 million. The Great Britain will possibly transfer its Army, Navy, and Air Force to the Pacific region as soon as possible according to Prime Minister Churchill. It is expected that other Allied Powers will do the same sort of transfer of their forces.
"Report on Okinawa Battles"
During the week of May 15, the U.S. Infantry has gained ------- * at the Okinawa front, captured --------- - and advanced to Yo ------ The U.S. Army ------- -- 5 thousand men of the Japanese Army.
[cl ick here for full image of page 2]
"The Late President Roosevelt was Praised in a Newspaper"
Mr. Kumataro Honda, former Ambassador to Italy and China, praised the late President Roosevelt, on the air from Tokyo, as an unusually great man in the modern times. This statement was overheard by the United Press in San Francisco. Mr. Honda mentioned that Roosevelt policies will be maintained and the war against Japan will be continued.
"Japanese Naval Commander was Changed"
The Radio Tokyo announced the change of Japanese Naval Commander during this week. Toyota Soemu, Commander of the Combined Fleet, was appointed to be the newly installed post of the Supreme Commander of the Navy according to a news overheard in San Francisco.
It was announced that Admiral Toyota will command all the Naval forces. The personnel change in the Japanese Navy is interpreted as a preparation to counter the expected Allied Powers landing on the Japanese mainland or on the coasts of China. [A list of new appointees in the Navy follows.]
"Shirley Temple will be a star in a New Movie"
Shirley Temple, a famous child star, will play the major role in a new musical comedy by the Metro Goldwin Meyer in Hollywood. The movie company also disclosed that the 18 year old Miss Temple is engaged to John Yager (?) and they will be married as soon as the war is over.
"The Nazi Submarines will be Used in the Pacific ocean"
The British Navy disclosed this week in London that close to 300 German submarines have surrendered.... [Illegible]
... [Illegible] Japanese military are gradually retreating but trying a systematic resistance movement.
In the meantime, the U.S. 43rd Division has wiped out remaining Japanese units from the east of Manila. Major Philippine cities and ports have all fell into the hands of the U.S. military forces.
Translator's note: --------- means this part is illegible.