The Closing Days
MARINE AIR ON CARRIERS1On 18 January 1939, the Secretary of the Navy approved the following mission and organization of Marine Corps aviation:
Marine Corps aviation is to be equipped, organized and trained primarily for the support of the Fleet Marine Force in landing operations and in support of troop activities in the field; and secondarily as replacement squadrons for carrier-based naval aircraft;
The organization, personnel complements, and other details of Marine Corps aviation are to conform as closely as practicable to similar naval aviation organizations;
The Bureau of Aeronautics is to exercise supervision over their respective activities connected with Marine Corps aviation in the manner provided for similar naval aviation units.2
Until carrier-based Marine squadrons supported Tenth Army landings on Okinawa in 1945, Leatherneck pilots had been in a position to support an amphibious assault from its beginning only twice in World War 11: at New Georgia and Bougainvillea. And not until the latter part of 1944, when a few squadrons were assigned to carriers did Marine aviation fulfill its secondary mission.
In all other operations, landings were made so far away from the nearest air base that Marine squadrons had to wait for an airstrip to be completed or a captured one to be put into operation again before they could fly in to begin supporting the ground troops. Assignment to carriers was the only solution by which Marine aviation could carry out the principal missions assigned to it. As soon as it was feasible, Marine squadrons landed on Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, but their basic role was in the air defense of the island, with a secondary emphasis placed on air support. When the American offensive began climbing up the Solomons ladder, Marine pilots flew missions under the control of the Strike Command, Commander Air Solomons.
With the beginning of the Central Pacific campaigns in late 1943, Marine ground commanders became increasingly dissatisfied with the type and amount of air support they received. At Tarawa, defense against air attack and the close support of ground troops were both entrusted to carrier planes flown by Navy pilots. In the opinion of both Navy and Marine officers, the air support at Tarawa left much to be desired in the way of accomplishment. Many apparent shortcomings in this operation indicated that, among other things, truly effective air support was impossible unless the pilots and ground troops had trained as a team.
After the operation General Holland M. Smith recommended that Marine aviators, thoroughly schooled in the principles of direct air support, should be assigned to escort carriers and included in any future amphibious operation undertaken by a Marine division. If this request could not be granted, he continued, the Navy airmen selected for the task should be carefully indoctrinated in the tactics they would employ.3
Granting the validity of General Smith's recommendations concerning the assignment of Marine squadrons to carriers, no one else in the Marine Corps seemed disposed to push for such a program at that time. Earlier in the war, many factors, such as the shortage of manpower and the need to send increasing numbers of air units to inland bases in the Solomons, militated against the employment of Marine air in support of ground operations. The pressure for the employment of Marine Corps planes and pilots in ground support operations increased as the war progressed and the need for such support became apparent.
The criticism of the conduct of air support at Tarawa was later echoed following the end of the Marianas campaign, where Marines believed that the Navy system of controlling close air support missions was too rigid and time consuming. This matter was made an agenda item to be discussed during one of the King-Nimitz Pacific conferences. The item noted that:
During the Saipan operation T.F. 58 was necessarily withdrawn from the immediate area, leaving 8 CVE's to perform a multiplicity of missions, including direct support of ground troops. What are CinCPac's views as to the following plan to avoid this situation in the future:
- Embark in CVE's Marine aircraft squadrons whose sole duty will be direct support of ground troops. (Training in carrier operations will obviously be a preliminary requisite.)
- As soon as airfields are available ashore, transfer those same squadrons ashore to continue direct support of ground troops.4
During the 13-22 July 1944 conference, Admiral Nimitz addressed the question of assigning Marines to carriers. In essence, he did not consider the proposal desirable because he believed that "it would require a great deal of extra training and equipping of Marine squadrons for carrier operations, antisubmarine warfare, navigation, etc."5 In addition, Nimitz believed that the personnel and equipment of the squadrons would have to be revised considerably to make the Marine units suited for both ship-based and advance base operations. He also believed that, if Marines were to be assigned to carriers, there would be a surplus of Navy CVE squadrons. As a final thought, CinCPac stated that the Navy CVE pilots were rapidly gaining experience in ground support operations, and therefore, there was no real need for Marine CVE squadrons.
Admiral King then stated that, in his opinion, the Marine ground forces could be supported adequately without employing Marine aviation squadrons--and "thus prevent two air forces in the Navy."6 For some time, CominCh had
been concerned that the expansion of Marine Corps aviation strength had exceeded the point where it could be gainfully employed, because there were not that many missions available for Leatherneck pilots. In view of the location of Marine squadrons and the nature and location of U.S. operations in the Pacific, he was right. As of 30 June 1944, Marine Corps aviation strength consisted of 5 wings, 28 groups, 128 squadrons, and 108,578 personnel, of which slightly more than 10,000 were pilots.7
Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, who became Commandant of the Marine Corps on 1 January 1944, also was concerned with the status of his air units and had consulted with Admiral King regarding the future employment of those squadrons and pilots sitting in the backwash of the war on South Pacific islands. He proposed that one of the five wings be eliminated, but also argued that to employ the fliers and planes based in the rear areas of the South and Central Pacific gainfully Marine pilots should be assigned to carriers. King agreed in principle to this compromise, but stated that Nimitz' approval had to be gained before any final action could be taken.8
A desire to visit his Marines in the Pacific as well as to determine at first hand the facts surrounding the Saipan command controversy9 impelled General Vandegrift in late July 1944 to make an inspection trip, in which he covered:
. . . 22,000 miles in eighteen days, saw all the force, corps, and division commanders and practically all the regimental and battalion commanders in the field, I went to Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, getting to Guam just before the show was over. Our people did a superb job on all three of those islands, the fighting on all three of them being entirely different. . . .
I went from Guam to Kwajalein to Guadalcanal then up to the Russells to see my old division and to Bougainvillea to see Ralph Mitchell and his crowd. Then back to Pearl for a three-day session with Nimitz.10
Accompanying the Commandant were Brigadier Generals Field Harris--the newly appointed Director of Aviation--and Gerald C. Thomas, the Director, Division of Plans and Policies. Upon their return to Pearl, they went into conference with Nimitz, Vice Admiral John H. Tower, Deputy CinCPac-CinCPOA, Rear Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Nimitz' deputy chief of staff and head of his War Plans Division, and Major General Ross E. Rowell, since 1941 head of MAWPac (the forerunner of AirFMFPac). The decisions they made in the course of these talks determined the course that Marine aviation was to take in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.
Vandegrift broached the subject of the future employment of Marine squadrons, and informed Nimitz of what had been said in the course of conversations
about the matter with CominCh, especially the recommendation that Marines be assigned to carriers. Although Towers argued that there had been no indication in the past that Marines wanted to operate from carriers, Vandegrift and Harris persuaded him that times and attitudes had changed.
It was agreed at this conference that the primary mission of Marine Corps aviation was to support the Marine ground forces and to participate in amphibious assaults. Therefore, in order to focus the activities of Marine aviation on its mission more effectively, the following package of proposals submitted to Admiral King were concurred in by Nimitz with an endorsement stating that it would "more firmly integrate Marine Corps aviation within the Marine Corps and is therefore in the interest of the naval service."11
Essentially, it was recommended that a complement of Marine squadrons to be employed in the close support of amphibious operations be assigned to one CVE division of six Commencement Bay-class carriers. This complement was to consist of six 18-plane fighter (F4U or F6F aircraft) and six 12-plane torpedo bomber squadrons whose pilots were to be specially trained in the use of rockets with which their planes were to be armed. It was further recommended that a Marine aviator of suitable rank be directed to organize and prepare these squadrons for carrier operations. He later would be assigned to duty on the carrier division staff.
Concerning another aspect of the Marine aviation problem, the conferees agreed that Marine aviation should gradually take over the responsibility for controlling aircraft in direct support of ground troops in amphibious operations. Gradually, and as practicably as possible without impairing the conduct of combat operations then in process, Marine Corps personnel would replace their Navy counterparts in the existing Air Support Control Unit organizations.
One other recommended change was to effect the reorganization of Marine aviation in the Pacific, wherein Marine Aircraft Wings, Pacific, would become Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, in order to identify the Marine air components more closely with the ground elements. This proposal also established the relationship of AirFMFPac with ComAirPac and FMFPac under the overall command of CinCPac.
In addition, the strength and composition of Marine aviation forces in the Pacific was to undergo change. Hereafter, MAGs would be comprised of three 24-plane squadrons instead of four 18-plane squadrons, and the number of Air Warning Squadrons would be cut from 32 to 24 or less in view of the number of Army units of the same type that were scheduled to arrive in the Pacific for future operations.
General Vandegrift signed the basic memorandum listing the proposed recommendations and stated in the last paragraph of this report that "Every effort will be made to increase the mobility and effectiveness of marine aviation by accomplishing such readjustments of personnel and equipment among Headquarters, Service and Tactical
Squadrons as may be indicated."12 Admiral King approved the proposals on 10 September 1944 with the proviso that when Army Air Forces units were available in the Pacific to replace certain Marine Corps aviation squadrons, Marine Corps aviation strength would be reduced by or up to the equivalent of one wing.13 In a bucktag comment on the conference proposals, Admiral King wrote: "Good, but does not go far enough towards reducing MarCorps aviation. K."14 In notifying General Holcomb of what had transpired regarding the future of Marine Corps aviation, General Vandegrift wrote:
Another thing we have done, which I pinch myself now and then to see if I am still awake, we have gotten both Nimitz and King to approve a division of the larger CVEs for use of Marines. That will give us four carriers with a carrier group of Marines aboard, and I can assure you that took some days of hard talking.15
Following up the approval of CominCh for placing Marine planes on carriers, on 28 October 1944, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the formation of the Marine Air Support Division.16 To comprise this organization, the Commandant of the Marine Corps selected MAG-51, MBDAG-48, and the following squadrons: VMO-351,17 VMF-112, -511, -512, -513, and -514, and VMTB-132, -143, -144, -233, -234, and 454. All of these units were attached to Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, (MarFAirWest) at San Diego and were redesignated as follows: MAG-51 became MASG48 (Marine Air Support Group), and MBDAG-48 similarly became MASG-51. All of the squadrons attached to these groups were further identified with the following letters "CVS," meaning Carrier Support, as VMF(CVS)-112.
The overall designation given to the all-Marine carrier force was Marine Carrier Groups, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. The next subordinate echelon to this was the MASG, which was comprised of the fighter and torpedo bomber squadrons for a CVE division of six ships. Each of the escort carriers, in turn, was to have as its air complement a Marine Carrier Group (MCVG) consisting of a Marine Carrier Aircraft
Service Detachment (MCASD), a VMF(CVS), and a VMTB(CVS).
MASG-51 was given four VMFs and four VMTBs to form four active groups, and MASG-48 was given the VMO, a VMF, and two VMTBs, which were to comprise the two replacement groups. Marine Carrier Groups, AirFMFPac, was officially activated on 21 October 1944 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Santa Barbara, California, with Colonel Albert D. Cooley as commanding officer.
For more than a month before the first MASG squadron went on board its CVE, however, other Marine squadrons had been flying combat missions from the decks of fast carriers on a temporary basis. The appearance of the Kamikaze menace during the Leyte operation in the fall of 1944 created the need for additional fighter-type aircraft aboard the carriers of the Third Fleet. Brigadier General Frank G. Dailey, then a colonel assigned to TF 58 as Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Marine Air Officer,18 commented that in addition to the requirement for more fighters on the CVs:
. . . another primary consideration in putting Marine squadrons aboard with F4Us was due to the fact that the Navy squadrons with their F6Fs did not have the speed or altitude to intercept a Japanese light bomber designated 'Betty,' which appeared about this time. Consequently the Marine squadrons were also used as fleet combat air patrols; in fact, for a time, this was their primary duty. I think it should be emphasized that, prior to this time, the Navy did not consider the F4U a suitable aircraft for carrier operations because of the known difficulty in take-offs and landings on CVs. When you consider that these [Marine] squadrons were literally picked off the beach with very little CV training to operate under war time conditions, our operational losses were expected and accepted. It is necessary to have experience in carrier operations to appreciate the magnitude of making this transition in such a short time and especially in this type aircraft. The plane crews should also be mentioned, as they were operating under conditions foreign to many of them and kept a high aircraft availability, even by Navy standards.
When the decision was made to put Marine squadrons with F4Us on board the CVEs, it was thought that the operational losses, in view of our experience on fast carriers, would be prohibitive. Here again, we were using aircraft which were not initially considered suitable for the large CVs. And now, we were expected to operate from CVEs. Colonel Albert cooley was the officer responsible for the successful operations of this venture and proved it could be done.19
It was not until the end of 1944 that the first of the VMFs boarded a big carrier in the Pacific. Between January and June 1945, 10 Marine fighter squadrons flew from the decks of 5 CVs in major fast carrier task force operations. On 28 December 1944, VMF-124 (Lieutenant Colonel William A. Millington) and -213 (Major Donald P. Frame) boarded the Essex at Ulithi, "equipped with F4U-1D Corsair fighters, the initial introduction of this type aircraft in the Fleet."20 Two days later, in company with the rest of the Third Fleet, the Essex
steamed out of the anchorage bound for a series of strikes on Formosa and Luzon in the period 3-9 January 1945.21 The weather during that week of operations was foul and solidly overcast for the greater portion of the time. At the end of their first days aboard the Essex, 9 of which were spent at sea, the two Marine squadrons had lost 7 pilots and 13 F4Us solely as a result of operational accidents during instrument flight conditions. One Marine aviator stated: "We just can't learn navigation and carrier operations in a week as well as the Navy does it in six months."22
On 10 January, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet entered the South China Sea to log 3,800 miles in an 11-day series of strikes against targets on the coast of Indochina and on Hong Kong and Formosa.23 Both Marine squadrons on the Essex participated in the TF 38 raids on Saigon, Hainan, Hong Kong, Swatow, and Formosa. Lieutenant Colonel Millington, the VMF-124 commander, became the air group commander of the Essex on 15 January, when Commander Otto Kinsman, the naval officer holding that position, was killed in action.24
After a last series of strikes on Formosa, the Pescadores, and Sakishima Gunto on 21 January, and following a photographic mission over Okinawa on the 22d, the Third Fleet retired from the South China Sea and set a course for Ulithi, arriving there on the 25th. At 0001, 27 January, the Third Fleet became the Fifth Fleet when Admiral Spruance assumed tactical command from Halsey.
In their first month of carrier operations, the two Marine squadrons claimed a total of 10 Japanese planes destroyed in the air and 16 on the ground. Marine pilots flew 658 sorties. Operational losses of the squadrons, 7 pilots and 15 aircraft, were considerably greater than the 1 pilot and 2 planes lost in combat.
By 10 February, TF 38--now TF 58--was ready to sortie against the enemy once more. The target this time was Tokyo, some 1,500 miles due north of Ulithi. Joining the Fifth Fleet were three other large carriers, each with two Marine fighter squadrons in its complement. On the Bennington were VMF-112 (Major Herman Hansen, Jr. ) and -123 (Major Everett V. Alward); the Wasp had VMF-216 (Major George E. Dooley) and -217 (Major Jack R. Amend, Jr.); and VMF-221 (Major Edwin S. Roberts, Jr.) and -451 (Major Henry A. Ellis, Jr.) were on the Bunker Hill. Admiral Spruance's fleet now had a total of eight VMFs on four large carriers. Based on the lessons learned in the January operations, all of the Marine pilots "had received intensive navigational training at Ulithi" before boarding the carriers "and would get more en route to Japan 'in weather not previously considered suitable for CV operations.'"25
After the task force had departed Ulithi, all hands learned that their target was to be Tokyo, and that these first carrier-plane raids on the enemy capital were to precede by three days the 19 February invasion of Iwo Jima by VAC troops. It was also announced that the Marine squadrons in TF 58 would furnish air support for the Iwo landing forces beginning on D-Day.
On 16 February, Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's carriers launched their planes to hit the airfields and aircraft factories around Tokyo Bay. Lieutenant Colonel Millington led the first fighter strike from the deck of the Essex as Major David E. Marshall, skipper of VMF-213, took off with his squadron from the same carrier to lead the escort for torpedo and photo-reconnaissance planes headed for the Tokyo area. The other Marine squadrons were given equally important missions. Although the weather on the 16th was abominable, the fifth air sweep of the area launched that day by the Essex and the Bunker Hill found clear weather over their target and had the honor of being "the first Navy [and Marine] fighter planes to arrive over Tokyo."26 Additional strikes were launched before and shortly after dawn on the 17th, but with the weather worsening rapidly and restricting further flight operations, Admiral Mitscher cancelled the remaining planned strikes, recovered all of his airborne planes, and laid a course for Iwo Jima.
When, on the morning of 19 February, TF 58 was approximately 100 miles away from Iwo, its planes began a series of prelanding strikes on the target. For 20 minutes, between H minus 55 and H minus 35, 120 fighters and bombers from the fast carriers hit the landing beaches and adjacent areas.27 At 0642, Lieutenant Colonel Millington led a flight of two Marine and two Navy fighter squadrons--flying F4Us and F6Fs, respectively--on a mission to napalm, rocket, and strafe the flanks and high ground along the beaches.
The attacks were delivered from a double-column approach with the divisions of planes breaking to port and starboard, dropping napalm on the first run, pulling out to seaward and repeating attacks with rockets and .50-caliber bullets until the time limit expired. The 48-plane flight then rendezvoused for an H minus 5 strafing attack along the landing beach. These attacks were delivered from north to south in steep dives, all planes pulling out sharply to the right to rejoin the tail element for repeated runs. The attack was moved inland gradually as the landing craft approached the beach so that the bullet-impact area remained 200 yards ahead of the troops. As the troops hit the beach, the bullet-impact area was shifted 500 yards inland to smother the fire from that area against the shore line. Because of naval gunfire in the same area, pull-outs were ordered at 600 feet [altitude]. The flight was ready to stand by for close-support missions but none was immediately assigned.28
Millington and Marshall had worked out the plan for this low-level attack with the commander of the Landing Force Air Support Control Unit, Colonel Vernon E. Megee, who later said that this was "one of the outstanding examples of
effective precision beach strafing seen during the Pacific War."29
For several days following D-Day, Marine carrier pilots supported ground operations, and then TF 58 moved on to launch strikes at Chichi Jima. After one day at this target, the fast carriers set a northerly course for a high-speed run to Japan and another round of attacks on Tokyo. The first planes were launched on 25 February when the carriers were approximately 190 miles from the Japanese capital.30 Again the weather was bad, even worse, as a matter of fact, than that which had been experienced during the attacks of 16-17 February. Most of the strikes were diverted to hit secondary targets or targets of opportunity. When flying conditions became impossible before noon, Admiral Mitscher cancelled other sweeps that had been scheduled for later that day. Because weather forecasts for the following day boded no better conditions, Mitscher decided to strike Nagoya and headed the task force in that direction. Early on the 26th, he realized that high winds and heavy seas would prohibit him from launching aircraft. The task force commander then cancelled the strikes, headed for a refueling area, refueled, and then steamed towards Okinawa for a series of attacks on that island on the 1st and 2d of March.
The weather over the Ryukyus was a considerable improvement over that experienced in the Home Islands, and all TF 58 pilots "accomplished the usual pattern of devastation, which now was almost routine."31 Following the Okinawa strikes, the carriers returned to Ulithi, arriving there on 4 March, and refitted for an immediate return to sea. The destination of Mitscher's carriers was Kyushu, where TF 58 pilots were to hit the airfields in a series of strikes prior to the invasion of Okinawa. At the Ulithi fleet anchorage, VMF-124 and -213 were detached from the Essex on 10 March and were returned to the United States in the escort carrier Long Island. Three days later, the entire Wasp air group--including VMF-216 and -217--was replaced by an all-Navy group. Upon their detachment, the two Marine squadrons were transferred stateside by way of Ewa.
The ground crewmen of the four VMFs remained on the Wasp and Essex to service the Navy Corsairs, primarily because the Navy crewmen were largely unfamiliar with that type of plane. With the exception of those in the carrier-based VMFs, there were no other F4Us in TF 58 fighter squadrons up to that time. The Essex Marines remained with the carrier until early June; the Marines in the Wasp retired from the fighting much earlier when that ship was hit off Shikoku on 19 March and returned to Ulithi, and then steamed to Bremerton, Washington, via Pearl Harbor, for repairs.32
Although two of Admiral Mitscher's carriers lost their Marine squadrons before TF 68 steamed out of Ulithi on
14 March, the loss was made up when the Franklin, carrying VMF-214 (Major Stanley R. Bailey) and -452 (Major Charles P. Weiland), joined the Fifth Fleet. Following a refueling at sea on the 16th, Spruance's fleet began a high-speed run to its target, Kyushu. The force was within 90 miles of the island when, just prior to dawn on the 18th, the first planes were launched against Kyushu airfields. The TF 58 pilots found few enemy planes on the ground at the target area, and none in the air, and so they bombed hangars and installations instead. Shortly after 0700, the missing Japanese aircraft appeared over the launching areas and began to attack the carriers. The Yorktown, Enterprise, and Intrepid were hit but not damaged badly enough to put them out of commission. The bomb that struck the Enterprise did not explode, and the Intrepid suffered only minor damage from a near miss when a Japanese plane crashed and exploded alongside. Seven crewmen were killed and 69 wounded in the Kamikaze attacks this day.33
On the next day, Mitscher sent his planes against Japanese shipping in the Inland Sea and in the harbors of Kobe and Kure. A short time after the carriers had launched their sweeps, sneak raids began to punish the force. In the case of nearly every carrier that was hit, the damage was caused by a single suicide plane that approached undetected and dove out of the clouds in an attempt to destroy the flattop below. At 0709, a suicider suddenly appeared over the Wasp and landed a bomb which penetrated the flight deck to the hangar deck, exploded a plane, and caused great damage and many casualties. Within 15 minutes after the attack, damage control parties had repaired vital facilities and put out the fires; by 0800, the Wasp was recovering her planes. A total of 101 men were killed or died of wounds, and 269 were wounded.34 Despite her damage, the Wasp continued to operate with the fleet several more days before limping to Ulithi and on to the States for repair.
Just two minutes before the Wasp was attacked, the Franklin received two bombs from an enemy plane which had approached undetected. The "Big Ben," as she was called by her crewmen, was in the midst of launching her second strike of the morning, and her flight deck was studded with planes warming up and ready to take off. The aircraft were fully armed with bombs and rockets, and their fuel tanks loaded with highly flammable aviation gasoline. The first of the two bombs tore through the flight deck and exploded in the hangar deck, wrecking the forward elevator;
VMF(CVS)-511 CORSAIR ready to be launched by catapult from the deck of USS Block Island.
AN EXPLOSION rips the critically damaged Franklin as crewmen run for safety.
the second bomb hit the flight deck and immediately started fires that spread to the planes that were warming up. The bombs on the planes began exploding, and then the 11.75-inch rockets, "Tiny Tims," with which the aircraft were armed, began going off:
Some screamed by to starboard, some to port, and some straight up the flight deck. The weird aspect of this weapon whooshing by so close is one of the most awful spectacles a human has ever been privileged to see. Some went straight up and some tumbled end over end. Each time one went off the fire-fighting crews forward would instinctively hit the deck.35
Three hours after being hit, the Franklin had lost all way and lay dead in the water. By noon, most of the fires had been extinguished or brought under control and all of the wounded had been evacuated to other ships standing close by. The Pittsburg passed a towline to the carrier and gradually began towing the critically wounded vessel out of the danger area. By 0300 on 20 March, the Franklin had begun to work up her own power and nine hours later she slipped her tow and headed for Ulithi and eventually New York.
In the flaming and exploding inferno following the bombing, Franklin lost 724 killed or missing and 265 wounded.36 In these casualty figures, 65 of the dead were pilots and ground crewmen from the two Marine squadrons. Airborne at the time of the attack on the Franklin, VMF-214 and -452 pilots landed later either on the Hancock or the Bennington, from whose decks they continued attacks on Kyushu until 19 March, when the task force retired from the area. The two Marine squadrons were sent to Marine Corps Air Station, El Centro, California, where they remained until the war ended.
From 23 to 25 March, TF 58 began the last of the softening-up operations on Okinawa before the scheduled invasion. Together with the other squadrons of the Bennington air group, VMF-112 and -123 flew many sorties over the target area. On L-Day, only four Marine squadrons--VMF-112 and -123 in the Bennington and VMF-221 and -451 in the Bunker Hill remained in the task force. All four squadrons together with the Navy pilots napalm bombed and strafed Hagushi beaches on 1 April, and then later in the day hit targets beyond the beachhead. Following the Okinawa ground support missions of the first few days of the operation, TF 58 planes, pilots, and ships were kept busy fending off the destructive Kamikazes. The battle against the Japanese suiciders was to keep the Fifth Fleet occupied for the rest of its stay in Okinawa waters. On 11 May, the Bunker Hill became the hapless target of a successful suicide attack, in which the carrier sustained such widespread damage that it was forced to limp to Bremerton for extensive repairs. After three months of almost continuous action, VMF-221 and -451 were out of the war. VMF-112 and -123, the last remaining Marine squadrons in TF 38 (the tactical designation changed again on 27 May, when Halsey replaced Spruance and the Fifth
once more became the Third Fleet),37 operated from the carriers until 8 June, when, following strikes on Kyushu, the Bennington was detached from the force and headed for Leyte.
Even before the VMFs had begun operating from the decks of the large carriers with the fleet and the CVE program had gotten underway, other decisions affecting the future role of Marine Corps aviation were being made. Growing out of the deliberations of the Pearl Harbor conferees and the directives of Admiral King, the composition and strength of Marine aviation was to be adjusted.
On 2 November 1944, CominCh issued an order directing the decommissioning of four Marine medium bomber squadrons (VMBs). In reply, the Commandant pointed out that the Marine Corps had, at that time, 12 tactical VMBs and 4 in the replacement training program, and that CinCPac had indicated he needed 8 of these squadrons in the forward area. General Vandegrift further noted that, instead of the 11 agreed upon, 15 Marine squadrons had been recently decommissioned (11 in the 9th MAW and 4 in MarFAirWest)38 in compliance with Admiral King's directive on 10 September. In view of these facts, the CMC recommended that no further Marine squadrons should be commissioned at that time.39
Admiral King's senior staff officers agreed with the Commandant's recommendations for several reasons. One was that it had become obvious that the decommissioning of the 15 squadrons had adversely affected the morale of Marine aviation personnel. King's Deputy CNO (Air) stated further that he did not believe it was the proper time to decommission four squadrons arbitrarily in view of the critical shortage of air support in the forward area and especially in the Philippines. He then recommended that no action be taken regarding the VMBs until future requirements for Marine and Army aircraft in the Pacific had been more firmly fixed, because the results of the Leyte campaign could be a determining factor.40 The Deputy CominCh-CNO, Vice Admiral Richard S. Edwards, concurred in these recommendations and further recommended that the matter be studied before a final decision was made.41 Admiral King agreed, directed that the Deputy CNO (Air) and the CMC appoint action officers to conduct the study, and ordered the decommissioning of the VMBs held in abeyance pending a report from these officers.42
A satisfactory solution to this problem, answering both the needs of Marine
aviation and improving the morale of Marine pilots, was found in the requirements of the CVE program. On 31 January 1945, VMB-621 and -622 of MAG-62, 9th MAW, were redesignated VMTBs and assigned to escort carriers. The next month, on 15 February, VMB-623 and -624 of the same organization were similarly redesignated and reassigned. At the same time, all four squadrons were transferred from the east to the west coast.43
As of 21 December 1944, Marine aviation was organized into 5 wings with 93 tactical squadrons, 29 replacement training squadrons, 3 operational training squadrons and was assigned 2,342 aircraft as follows:
108 960 384 1452 VMTB 72 168 96 336 VMB 144 48 192 VMF(N) 72 24 96 VMR 120 45 165 VMD 36 12 48 MOTG-81 53 53 TOTAL 180 1500 662 442342
TOTAL Change VMF
540 504 252 34 1330 -122 VMTB 360 72 36 20 488 +152 VMB 96 96 -96 VMF(N) 72 30 102 +6 VMR 120 45 165 VMD 12 24 12 48 MOVG-81 65 65 +12 TOTAL 912 888 440 54 2294 45-48
Reflecting the increased emphasis on the Marine CVE program, the Marine Corps proposed an aviation structure which reduced the number of land-based tactical squadrons from 93 to 52 and the replacement and operational training squadrons from 32 to 20. It was also proposed that the squadrons in the CVE program should be increased from 12 to 61, and also that they should be augmented by 2 fleet training squadrons. In effect, while the total Marine aircraft requirement would be reduced by 48 planes, the table above indicates that the fighters and torpedo bombers assigned to the CVE program would be increased from 180 to 912 planes. Although
though it was also proposed that the 9th Wing, a training unit, be decommissioned, and a Marine Air Training Command, East Coast, formed in its place, this change did not take place until after the war, in early 1946.
In approving the proposed changes, CominCh directed that, hereafter, the training program of Marine Corps squadrons was to emphasize close support of ground troops in amphibious operations. In addition, he stated that a sufficient number of squadrons were to be trained in carrier operations to permit an ultimate total of 16 CVE groups to be embarked simultaneously, and to furnish adequate spare groups."46 February 1946 was the target date set for the completion of the carrier training program.
Concerning other aspects of the Marine aviation program, Admiral King stated that the remaining tactical squadrons were to be organized in two combat wings which would operate from shore bases; their primary mission was to be support of Marine ground troops and defense of bases to which they were assigned. He made it clear that the transition to the new program was not to interfere with the tactical employment of Marine squadrons in current and future operations. Finally, King stated that, when CinCPac so recommended, the 4th MAW was to be decommissioned and its squadrons gradually absorbed into the CVE program.47
Immediately after the formation of Marine Carrier Groups, AirFMFPac, its squadrons began training at the Marine Corps air stations at Mojave and Santa Barbara, California. In accordance with CominCh instructions, a Commencement Bay-class CVE was made available on the west coast to permit the pilots to train for carrier qualification. Four CVEs were to be in operation by 15 February 1945. Each ship was to have an air complement consisting of a VMF (CVS) with 18 Corsairs and Hellcats, and a VMTB (CVS) with 12 Avengers.
This aircraft strength figure was not adhered to, however, for MCVG-1 on the Block Island had "12 TBM, 10 F4U, 8 F6F night fighters and 2 F6F planes, planes, "because the Block Island was equipped with an SP (height finder) radar suitable for night intercepts, hence the day-night character of her assigned air group."48 The MCVG-4 air complement on the Cape Gloucester consisted of 12 TBMs, 16 F4Us, and 2 F6F photo planes. By careful spotting of the aircraft on the carrier deck, it was found that two additional F4Us could be added to the strength of the group, and when it passed through Hawaii en route to the West Pacific, the Cape Gloucester took on board these two extra planes to give it a total of 32 operating aircraft.49
Before going on board the carriers, the Marine fliers underwent the same
type of carrier training that Navy pilots experienced. The training of the Marines additionally emphasized the tactics and techniques to be employed during close support missions. Besides taking part in the regular squadron training program, the new carrier pilots had to learn or refresh their knowledge of the following subjects: communications and flight deck procedures; recognition, survival and first aid; map reading and navigation; ordnance and gunnery; and escape from submerged aircraft procedures effected from a training device called a "Dilbert Dunker." Subjects included in the flight training syllabus were air tactics, night flying, carrier landings, rocket firing, navigation, fixed and free gunnery, and bombing. The flight syllabus for VMTB pilots and crews also included radar search and torpedo drops.50 Once the squadrons were assigned to the CVEs, as part of their shakedown preparations, the pilots had to make eight satisfactory carrier landings to become fully qualified. It was during this period, when the squadrons were training on the CVEs, that a considerable number of operational accidents occurred.
These were caused by a combination of pilot error and aircraft failure arising almost directly out of the design of the F4U-1s and F4U-1Ds, the Corsairs,51 flown by Marine fighter squadrons and the flight deck characteristics of the carriers. In comparison with the much larger and faster CVs, the Commencement Bay-class escort carriers made a top speed of only 19 knots, and had flight decks that were only 75 feet wide and 553 feet long.
The length of both Corsair models was slightly more than 33 feet and their wing span was nearly 41 feet. Both F4U types were powered by 2,000-horsepower Pratt and Whitney radial engines. Driving a three-bladed propeller slightly more than 13 feet in diameter, these powerful Corsairs were the first naval aircraft operating in the war with a speed capability in excess of 400 miles per hour. In the opinion of one Marine ace who flew the plane in the Pacific: "The Corsair was a fine carrier plane, and most of us preferred it to the F6F. It was always called 'The Bent Wing Widowmaker.'"52
The cockpit of the Corsair lay well back in the fuselage, behind a long nose, which severely limited the vision of the pilot while the plane was in a landing attitude. The inverted, low gull wing located forward of and below the pilot restricted his vision during the critical carrier landing approach. The high torque characteristics of the engine, that is, the tendency of the plane to roll to the left and sometimes out of control if power was applied when the plane was traveling at slow speeds, gave the pilot a very small margin of error.53 In land-based operations, hard right rudder and judicious application of full throttle when the plane was taking off, landing, or being waved off were required; aboard the small carriers, these aircraft-handling
techniques became even more critical.
Despite the aversion of the Navy to use of Corsairs on carriers, many changes had been made in the plane which made it suitable for such employment. These included:
. . . raising the pilot's cabin to improve visibility (November 1942 ), improved aileron action (January 1943), larger bearings in the tail wheels (March 1943), installation of a spoiler on right wing to reduce violence of stalls when under acceleration and to provide new stall warning (November 1943) , new oleo strut-filling procedure (May 1944).54
The relative inexperience of the new MCVG pilots in CVE landing operations and the inherent difficulty in flying the Corsair resulted in numerous other training and operational accidents. Although the average number of carrier landings required for pilot qualification was 8, a Corsair pilot had to make a minimum of 20-25 before he could attain a realistic proficiency level.55
Takeoffs from the carrier while at sea were the source of another major problem to the Corsair pilots. At best, the top speed of the CVE would provide only 19-1911/2 knots of headwind on a calm day. Under optimum takeoff conditions, the Corsairs required a minimum headwind of from 20 to 26 knots; a 30-knot headwind was ideal.56 Unless optimum wind and speed conditions existed, a Corsair, heavily laden with bombs, rockets, armament, and fuel could not attain flying speed and would drop off the end of the flight deck into the sea ahead of the carrier. For this reason, the F4Us were launched by catapult in almost every case.
Lieutenant Colonel Royce W. Coln's MCVG-3 pilots on USS Vela Gulf soon found:
. . . that in practically any external load condition the risk was too unfavorable to try a fly away launch with the F4U. We therefore immediately adopted a SOP that all F4Us and F6Fs [launched] would be catapult shots rather than fly aways. TBMs which were usually spotted all the way aft and under 28-30 knots relative wind with a 2000 pound internal load could fly off with reasonable safety. We also found that with this system we could do a total launch of all aircraft in much less time.57
MCVG-1 Corsairs on the Block Island were "almost always catapulted," for the carrier "had two Cats. An H4 on the Port and an H2 on the Starboard bow. The H4 gave you a 4G slam and was the greatest feeling a pilot ever had, especially on a black night. You knew you were going all the way the minute you felt it."58
Sometimes the hydraulic-powered catapults failed to accelerate the aircraft to flying speed by the time the Corsair left the flight deck--a "cold-cat shot" in carrier pilot's parlance. In those cases, the pilot often was unable to keep the tail of his plane from dragging. If he could not gain the required flying speed, the plane would "mush" right into the water directly in the path of the sharp-prowed carrier before the
pilot could extricate himself from his Corsair. It was in these cases that Dilbert Dunker training proved its worth. More often than not, however, pilot and plane were lost. Despite the occurrence of these shake-down problems, the CVE program was soundly launched.59
The first of the Marine escort carriers commissioned was the USS Block Island, which embarked Lieutenant Colonel John F. Dobbin's MCVG-1 (VMF(CVS)-511, VMTB(CVS)-233, and CASD-1) at San Diego on 19 March and then headed for Pearl Harbor and duty with the fleet.60
On 29 April, the Block Island arrived at Ulithi and was ordered to support the Okinawa operation. From 10 May to 19 June, as a component of Task Unit 32.1.3 the carrier alternated between targets in the Sakishima Islands and on Okinawa itself. MCVG-1 planes helped reduce Shuri Castle with 2,000-pound bombs, "and did some close air support work with the Marine Divisions on Okinawa." ("Not as much as we would have liked," Dobbin noted.)61
In the six-week period of operations in the vicinity of Okinawa, the task unit sortied northward, where its planes conducted strikes against Kagoshima, and as an alternate target when it was weathered in, Amami O Shims. At no time did Block Island aircraft encounter opposition over their targets, nor was the carrier itself subject to Kamikaze attacks.
Following these operations, the CVE went to Leyte for replenishment. On 25 June, it went to sea again to participate in a three-day series of strikes in support of the landings at Balikpapan, Borneo. Immediately after Japan's surrender, in company with another Marine CVE, the Gilbert Islands, and five destroyer escorts, Block Island participated in a POW rescue operation. These ships steamed to Formosa before the island commander had formally capitulated, and took on board approximately 1,000 Allied POWs who had been imprisoned there.
The USS Gilbert Islands, the second Marine CVE commissioned, embarked Lieutenant Colonel William R. Campbell's MCVG-2 (VMF(CVS)-512, VMTB(CVS)-143, and CASD-2) on 6 March at San Diego, and left for the Pacific the following month.62 On 25 May, the carrier arrived off Okinawa and flew its first CAP and close air support strikes. On 1 June, the Gilbert Islands joined the Block Island in TU 32.1.3, then neutralizing enemy installations in the Sakishima Gunto, and later participated in the Balikpapan preinvasion strikes.
Two more Marine CVEs arrived in the Pacific before the end of the war. The Cape Gloucester, with Lieutenant Colonel Donald K. Yost's MCVG-4
(VMF(CVS)-351, VMTB(CVS)-132, and CASD-4) embarked, arrived at Okinawa on 4 July and was attached to Task Group 31.2 for duty.63 After spending a few days covering minesweeping operations, the Marine CVE joined three other carriers, and steamed from Okinawa on 1 August to conduct antishipping operations in the East China Sea and to launch strikes against shipping in the Saddle and Parker Island groups near Shanghai at the mouth of Hangchow Bay.
The fighter complements on the Navy CVEs in the task group consisted primarily of FM-2s (the General Motors "Wildcat," a single engine fighter), which did not have the high-altitude performance characteristics of the Marine Corsair. The performance of the Corsair was improved by removal of its rocket rails and one pylon, permitting "VMF-351 pilots to bag four fast high-flying Japanese reconnaissance planes in addition to the one transport they caught on a course between Shanghai and the Japanese homeland."64
Following the surrender of Japan, the Cape Gloucester debarked its Marine aircraft group at Okinawa and proceeded to Nagasaki where it took on board and transported to Okinawa 260 liberated Australian POWs. MCVG-4 then reboarded the carrier which returned to Japanese waters, over which the Marine pilots provided an air cover for Fifth Fleet minesweeping and occupation forces en route to Sasebo. While flying a reconnaissance mission over Kyushu, the MCVG commander, Lieutenant Colonel Yost, flew his aircraft into high tension power lines strung across a valley which, because of rain and a low ceiling, he was following back to the coast and the carrier. The engine of his Corsair failed and he was forced to make a wheels-up landing at Omura airfield, "and he became a one-man premature 'invasion' force"65 which preceded the occupation of Kyushu by approximately a week.
The fourth Marine CVE commissioned was the Vela Gulf, which had Lieutenant Colonel Royce W. Coin's MCVG-3 (VMF(CVS)-513, VMTB(CVS)-234, and CASD-3) on board. It sailed from San Diego on 17 June for Pearl Harbor, where it conducted further training. On 9 July, the carrier left for Saipan by way of Eniwetok and Guam. On 24 and 26 July, the Marine pilots flew strikes north of Guam against Pagan and Rota, two islands which Allied fliers had attacked many times before. The Vella Gulf then proceeded to Okinawa, where it arrived on 9 August, the day that the second atomic bomb was dropped. Following
the surrender of Japan, the CVE was assigned to participate in the occupation.
The Salerno Bay, carrying MCVG-5 (VMF(CVS)-514, VMTB(CVS)-144, and CASD-5), and the Puget Sound, carrying MCVG-6 (VMF(CVS)-321, VMTB(CVS)-454, and CASD-6), had not yet arrived in the war zone when the conflict with Japan ended.66 Thus, only four Marine CVEs saw any action in the Pacific. Although the Marine CVE project had been established to provide Marine fliers for close support of amphibious landings and ground operations, except for a few instances at Okinawa and Balikpapan, the carriers did not fulfill their intended functions.
The Marine CVE program was conceived and activated too late in the war to do more than just begin to prove itself. On the other hand, the Block lsland and Gilbert Islands Marine pilots could probably have been employed to a greater extent in support of ground operations at Okinawa, for both CVEs were in the combat area for a long enough period.
As one of the carrier group commanders observed, the significant aspect of the carrier program was:
The fact that, for the first time, Marine aviation would operate within its ideal 'conceptual' role. This being that Marine Air would perform pre-D-Day operations from carriers, then participate in the amphibious phase. . . .67
Like many other projects that were born during the last stages of World War II, the concept underlying the program was soundly enough organized and firmly enough established, however, to become an important and integral facet of postwar Marine Corps amphibious warfare doctrine.
FINAL OPERATIONS68Allied air and naval pressure on Japan continued unremitting following the fall of Okinawa and in the period that the ground and amphibious forces of both the Central Pacific and Southwest Pacific commands prepared for OLYMPIC. At the 29 June meeting of the JCS, when 1 November was confirmed as the date for the invasion of Kyushu,69 the service chiefs also determined that the blockade from air bases not only on Okinawa and Iwo Jima but also in the Marianas and Philippines was to be intensified. They also agreed upon the following courses of action in the Pacific: defeat of enemy units in all of the Philippines; allocation
of all of the forces necessary to guarantee the security of Western Pacific sea lanes prior to OLYMPIC; and acquisition of a sea route to Russian Pacific ports,70 very likely a preparatory measure for the impending entry of Russia into the war with Japan.
During July, further steps were taken to revise and strengthen the preparations and forces for the final operation against Japan. On the 10th, the JCS ordered the China-based XX and XXI Bomber Commands deactivated. The personnel and planes of the former were transferred to Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle's Eighth Air Force, which had deployed from Europe to Okinawa. XXI Bomber Command squadrons were transferred to Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining's71 Twentieth Air Force, which was based in the Marianas. The Eighth and Twentieth together would comprise the United States Army Strategic Air Force in the Pacific (USASTAF), commanded by General Carl A. Spaatz. Strategic control of USASTAF would remain with the JCS in the same manner as it had controlled Twentieth Air Force, and similarly General Arnold would be its executive agent.
On 10 July, Nimitz turned over the Seventh Air Force, which had squadrons on Iwo, in the Marianas, and in the Ryukyus, to the commander of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF), General George C. Kenney, who had been air chief of the SWPA throughout the Pacific war. CinCPac also ordered Major General Louis E. Woods' Tactical Air Force on Okinawa to conduct operations in conjunction with the Eighth Air Force. Kenney's FEAF was expanded on 13 July, and was composed at this time of the Fifth Air Force, which was, for the most part, based in the Ryukyus, and the Thirteenth Air Force, which was based in the Philippines. For OLYMPIC, FEAF was to conduct tactical operations in support of the invasion, and USASTAF was to conduct the strategic bombing of the Home Islands.
Based on the JCS directive of 3 April to Nimitz and MacArthur, on 19 July CinCPOA transferred to CinCAFPac the control of U.S.-held areas in the Ryukyus, In turn, Nimitz retained responsibility for the operations of naval units and installations in this area. On 26 July, General Stilwell was ordered to report to MacArthur with the Army forces under his command at 1200 on 31 July, at which time control of the Ryukyus passed from CinCPac-CinCPOA to CinCAFPac.72
While these administrative and command changes were taking place, aircraft from carrier task forces and land-based commands embarked upon an accelerated program of attacks designed to weaken Japan before the invasions of Kyushu and Honshu. From bases in the Marianas, B-29s averaged 1,200 sorties a week in July. These large bombers dropped 42,711 tons of explosives on 39 Japanese industrial centers during the month; a large percentage of the missions were mass incendiary raids.73
Okinawa airfields captured during the campaign, and others constructed later
on almost all of the suitable space on the island, were filled to overflowing with aircraft of all types by July. Bombers taking off from Okinawa to hit Japanese targets were often covered by Iwo Jima-based AAF fighters, which also flew fighter-bomber sweeps over the Empire. Kenney's fighters and medium bombers, and Marine F4Us and TBMs (operating with, but not under, the AAF) struck Japan day and night in July, hitting a wide assortment of vital targets on Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu in accordance with OLYMPIC preinvasion plans. In completion of the transfer of Okinawa forces from CinCPac to CinCAFPac, on 31 July the Seventh Air Force assumed operational control of the 2d MAW and ADC.
For the Navy, the final phase of the war against Japan opened at dawn on 1 July, when the Third Fleet, stated Halsey:
. . . sortied from Leyte under a broad directive: we would attack the enemy's home islands, destroy the remnants of his navy, merchant marine, and air power, and cripple his factories and communications. Our planes would strike inland; our big guns would bombard coastal targets; together they would literally bring the war home to the average Japanese citizen.74
Halsey's Third Fleet accomplished what it set out to do. Strike day was 10 July, when the fast carrier task force arrived at launching positions and fighter sweeps were sent over Tokyo. Not a single enemy interceptor was in the air; two snooper planes, which investigated the American ships from beyond the ships' AA range, were quickly shot down by carrier aircraft circling overhead. For the rest of the month in company with TF 37, the fast carrier task force of the British Pacific Fleet which joined on 16 July, TF 38 ranged up and down the Pacific coast of the Japanese islands, maintaining a series of heavy air strikes and surface bombardments against selected targets. "The enemy's failure to hit us implied that he was hoarding his air power against an expected invasion, but most of us believed that he had little air power to hoard."75
As soon as possible after he had assumed office following the death of President Roosevelt, Truman concentrated his efforts on finding a way to end the war in the Pacific. As the American Commander in Chief, he was kept abreast by his military and civilian advisers of all developments in the war and briefed on plans proposed for future operations. He also faced the problem of getting to know the two other major Allied heads of state and establishing a rapport with them. Truman's heavy workload and the necessity of finding immediate solutions to pressing problems prevented him from leaving Washington for a Big Three meeting. Instead, as an interim measure, he sent Harry L. Hopkins and W. Averell Harriman, the Ambassador to the Soviet Union, to meet with Stalin and his advisers in May.76 Basically, their assignment was to inform Stalin that "we wanted to carry
out the Roosevelt policies."77 Additionally, Harriman and Hopkins were to try to get Stalin to commit himself to Russia's early entry into the war against Japan and to obtain from him a firm date for that event. On 28 May, the two diplomats advised Truman that Stalin had set 8 August as the date he would declare war on Japan.
Stalin also told the Americans that, while he would remain a party to the policy of unconditional surrender, he believed that Japan would not surrender easily if the Allies insisted upon enforcing the provisions of this policy. Stalin concluded that if Japan sued for peace in hopes of obtaining terms that might possibly be less stringent than those implied in an unconditional surrender, the Allies should accept the offer and enforce their will upon the defeated enemy by occupying his homeland.
Truman stated later that he was:
. . . reassured to learn from Hopkins that Stalin had confirmed the understanding reached at Yalta about Russia's entry into the war against Japan. Our military experts had estimated that an invasion of Japan would cost at least five hundred thousand American casualties even if the Japanese forces then in Asia were held on the Chinese mainland. Russian entry into the war was highly important to us.78
As the Allies drew closer to the heart of the Empire, Truman believed that this Russian action ". . . would mean the saving of hundreds of thousands of American casualties."79 With further discussion of this matter as one of his more compelling reasons for attending a conference with Stalin and Churchill, Truman agreed to meet with them on 15 July at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin.
On the day after the meeting had convened, Truman was informed that the first atomic bomb had been successfully exploded in a test on 16 July at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The next day, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson flew to Potsdam to give the President the full details of the test. Truman recalled that:
We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.80
The atomic bomb project had been kept so secret that the JCS first learned of it as a group only after completion of the test. Marshall, however, had kept King abreast of the progress of the project.81 On 24 July, Truman casually mentioned to Stalin that the United States had "a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was that he was glad to hear of it and hoped that we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'"82
Despite the vast potential suspected of the new weapon--and all the possible implications inherent in its use--and the fact that OLYMPIC preparations and preinvasion operations were well
under way, Admirals Leahy and King and proponents of strategic bombing still held reservations about the need for invading Japan. They were even less in favor of dropping an atomic bomb on that country. They believed that Japan had already been defeated and was ready to surrender. King felt that the President gave his approval for the bomb to be dropped because the Chief Executive feared that too many American troops would be killed in an invasion. King agreed with this estimate, but he thought that:
. . . had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials. The Army, however, with its underestimation of sea power, had insisted upon a direct invasion and an occupational conquest of Japan.83
Faced with the prospect of either invading Japan or destroying that country with atomic bombs, Truman was presented with the suggestion that Japan might choose or even be induced to surrender and end the war sooner than expected. Late in May, Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew, a veteran diplomat who had been American Ambassador to Japan for a 10-year period before the war, suggested that Truman issue a proclamation which called upon the Japanese to submit and guaranteed the continuation of the Emperor as head of state. The President favored the idea and instructed Grew to send his recommendation through regular channels for consideration by the JCS and the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee. The latter was a group of senior State, War, and Navy Department officials who assisted their chiefs in handling politico-military matters. When Grew's recommendation was approved in principle, he further recommended that the President's message to the Japanese people be issued at once to coincide with the fall of Okinawa. The JCS demurred, for they wanted to wait until the United States was ready to follow up a Japanese refusal of the peace offer with an actual invasion. Truman then decided not to publish the proclamation until after the Potsdam Conference had begun in order to give his declaration greater weight by including Great Britain and China,84 two of our co-belligerents in the war against Japan, as the joint issuing powers, and by issuing it from the scene of a conference of victorious Allies.
After he had become President, and when he first learned of the development of the atomic bomb, Truman determined that the bomb was to be employed strictly as a weapon of war against purely military targets. The final decision to drop the bomb was to be his alone. Before the Potsdam Conference, he had been given a list of suggested targets and the choice was finally narrowed to four cities in which were located important industrial and military complexes, according to intelligence reports. Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki were chosen in that order, and on 24 July, General Spaatz was directed to send the B-29s of his USASTAF against one of the
targets on the first day after 3 August 1945 that weather conditions would permit visual bombing.
On 26 July, the United States, in company with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, issued what has come to be known as the Potsdam Declaration.85 This surrender ultimatum gave Japan the opportunity to end the war voluntarily or to face utter destruction. The terms offered the Japanese government included assurances that its people would not be enslaved by the victors. On the other hand, Japan's leaders were told that their country was to be disarmed, shorn of its conquests of 50-years' standing, and deprived of its war-making potential in all sectors. The authority and influence of the militarists were to be eliminated, and "until a new order is established and until there is conclusive proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed, Japan shall be occupied by the Allies."86 Further, the enemy was told that his countrymen would be permitted access to sources of raw materials and be given an opportunity to develop their own form of democratic self-government. Upon receipt of the Potsdam Declaration, Japan could choose to surrender unconditionally or face complete annihilation. Disregarding all reality by not accepting the terms of the declaration, Japan chose the suicidal course. On 28 July, Radio Tokyo broadcast Prime Minister Suzuki's statement that he believed:
. . . the Joint Proclamation by the three countries is nothing but a rehash of the Cairo Declaration. As for the Government, it does not find any important value in it, and there is no other recourse but to ignore it entirely and resolutely fight for the successful conclusion of this war.87
With this tacit rejection, Truman decided that the fastest way of ending the war with a minimum of U.S. casualties was to drop the bomb.
The Potsdam Conference was recessed briefly from 26 to 28 July, while Prime Minister Churchill left for London to learn that, following the counting of the absentee ballots holding the vote of British servicemen, he had been defeated in the general elections and had been replaced by Clement Atlee. At the first evening session following the end of this recess, Stalin stated that on 13 July, Japan had approached the Soviet Union with a request that it mediate an end to the Pacific War, but that Russia would refuse to do so. Truman thanked him in the name of the signatories to the Potsdam Declaration, and restated their determination to hew to the ultimatum delivered in that document.
This was not the first time that Japan made peace overtures. In September 1944, the Swedish Minister in Tokyo had been approached by an unnamed high-level Japanese official, who said that, in order to obtain peace, Japan was prepared to surrender territories that were taken from Great Britain and would recognize all former British investments in East Asia. The Tokyo-based Swedish foreign officer passed word of this encounter to his seniors in Stockholm, ending his report with the comment: "Behind the man who gave me this message there stands one of the
best known statesmen in Japan and there is no doubt that this attempt must be considered as a serious one."88 Stockholm passed the information on to London, which had Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador to the United States, notify Secretary of State Cordell Hull of the conversation.
Hull concurred both with a British proposal to make no reply to the indirect Japanese approach and with London's suggestion to the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs that he "reply, if he so wishes, that the Swedish Government considered it useless to deliver such a message to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom."89 Although nothing further came from this attempt of the Japanese another message was received in Stockholm from its Minister in Tokyo to the effect "that he had been advised that the Japanese Foreign Minister was himself preparing to approach the British Government."90 Despite the fact that no additional material on this matter has appeared, it is safe to assume that the reaction of the Allies to this second approach would have been the same as it was to the first.
On 6 August, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When the apparently heavy loss of life and widespread damage caused by this bombing did not impel the Japanese government to take any steps to end the war, General Spaatz was ordered to continue operations as planned. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August. During the interval between these atomic attacks, 550 B-29s and carrier aircraft struck at Japan in day and night raids, and on 8 August the Soviet Union delivered a declaration of war on Japan, effective the next day. On 10 August, Japan sued for peace on the basis of the terms enunciated in the Potsdam Declaration.
The next day, in reply to the Japanese suit, President Truman told the defeated power that a supreme commander would accept its surrender. In addition, Japan was told that the Emperor and the Japanese High Command would have to issue a cease fire to all Japanese armed forces before the Allies could accept its capitulation. Three days of frantic discussions ensued in Tokyo before the Mikado's government could agree on how best to accept Potsdam terms and what reply to give to Truman's note of the 11th.
Meanwhile, on 13-14 August, B-29s dropped 51/2 million leaflets, printed in Japanese, which contained a text of the Japanese surrender offer, the American reply, and the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. Other leaflet drops were scheduled for 15 and 16 August.
Up to 13 August, the Japanese people were only vaguely aware of the fact that their country was losing the war, and had no idea that the government was suing for peace. Now that this was common knowledge, the Emperor's hand was strengthened and he could take final
action without worrying about extremists, who might have otherwise attempted to keep Japan in the war. Further strengthening the Emperor's position was the fact that Japan was to be permitted a conditional surrender, the condition being that the institution of the Emperor would be retained.
On 14 August, Hirohito asked the Swiss government to relay to the Allies a message stating that he had issued an Imperial Rescript that denoted Japanese acceptance of the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration. The message also stated that he was ordering his commanders to cease fire and to surrender their forces to, and to issue such orders as might be required by, representatives of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General MacArthur.
President Truman then notified the Japanese government that he regarded this message as a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration and ordered the Emperor to command all Japanese forces everywhere to cease fire immediately. The Japanese were ordered also to send envoys to Manila to discuss arrangements for the formal surrender with MacArthur and his aides. On 14 August, CinCPOA issued the following message to all of his forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas: "OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST JAPANESE FORCES WILL CEASE AT ONCE X CONTINUE SEARCHES AND PATROLS X MAINTAIN DEFENSIVE AND INTERNAL SECURITY MEASURES AT HIGHEST LEVEL AND BEWARE OF TREACHERY."91 At 1900 that same day, President Truman announced that a cease fire was in effect, and that the war was over.
THE SILENT GUNS92Almost immediately after announcing the capitulation of Japan, President Truman issued a directive to General MacArthur, designating him Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) and giving him the power to accept the surrender of Japan for the governments of the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Each of the heads of state of these governments was to designate a representative to be with MacArthur at the surrender ceremony and to sign the instrument of surrender for his country; Truman chose Admiral Nimitz as the American signatory. From the moment that the Japanese signed the surrender document, the authority of the Emperor and Japanese government to rule was subject to MacArthur, who, as SCAP, had supreme command over all Allied land, sea, and air forces that were to be allocated for employment on occupation duty in Japan.
On 20 August, when the Japanese emissaries arrived in Manila to review the instructions relating to the surrender, they received MacArthur's General Order No. 1, which had been prepared earlier in expectation of the end
of the war. Under the terms of this document, Japanese commanders of forces in the Pacific islands south of Japan were to surrender to Nimitz or his representatives, and commanders of forces in Japan proper, the Philippines, and the southern section of Korea were to surrender to MacArthur or to his representatives. On 15 August, the JCS amplified General Order No. 1 by directing the occupation of the key areas of Japan, Korea, and the China coast. Under a system of priorities, the swift occupation of Japan was to be regarded as the supreme operation and would have first call on all available resources. Next in order was the early occupation of Seoul and acceptance of the surrender of Japanese forces in that area. Operations to be undertaken on the coast of China and on Formosa were to follow when forces and transport were available.
The immediate purpose of occupying the China coast by gaining control of key ports and communications centers was to extend such assistance to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces in China as was practicable without American involvement in a major land campaign. As the first of the Allies to go to war against Japan, the Chinese government was expected to accept the surrender of the Japanese on the mainland. The situation on Chinese soil, and especially in those great sections of the nation under Japanese control, was so confused, however, that it appeared impracticable, if not altogether impossible, for the Nationalist Government to fulfill its function as stated in MacArthur's General Order No. 1, viz., to take the Japanese surrender. Although the Chinese Communists had fought the Japanese, they had been fighting the Nationalists as well, and were in fact, still trying to gain the upper hand in China when the war against Japan ended. To prevent large stores of Japanese arms and equipment from falling into the hands of the Communists, the Japanese forces in China were instructed to surrender only to Chiang Kai-shek or his representatives.
The conflict between the Communists and the Nationalists had been going on for many years before and slackened only slightly during World War II, when in the interests of national unity, both parties turned their attention to ousting the Japanese from the country. With the end of the war and the impending surrender of large Japanese forces, the Chinese civil war threatened to break out anew and on a larger scale than before, but this time with international implications which threatened the newly won peace. This, then, was what faced the Allies in China.
When Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, commander of U.S. forces in China, apprised Washington of the explosive situation then existing in China and of the need to take vigorous action there to assist Chiang Kai-shek in re-establishing the authority of his government, he was directed to arrange for the movement of Chinese troops on American transport planes and ships into all areas in China and Formosa held by the Japanese in order to disarm and repatriate the defeated enemy. Previously prepared plans were then approved for sending in Marines and soldiers to help Nationalist forces secure key Chinese ports and communication
centers.93 At this time, while attention was focused on the situation in China briefly, MacArthur's headquarters in Manila prepared for the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay and prepared to implement plans approved earlier for the occupation of Japan.
At Manila, the Japanese delegation was informed that MacArthur would formally accept the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay on 31 August on board the USS Missouri. According to the preliminary plans, 150 AAF technicians were to land on 26 August at Atsugi Airdrome, 14 miles southwest of Tokyo, to prepare the way for a subsequent large-scale landing two days later by the 11th Airborne Division and advance headquarters of the Eighth Army, FEAF, and Army Forces, Pacific-a total of approximately 7,500 men in all.
Elements of the Third Fleet were to enter Sagami Bay on the 26th also, while Japanese harbor pilots were to maneuver other naval units directly into Tokyo Bay on the same day.
Two days later, the Fleet Landing Force (TG 31.3), comprised of the 4th Marines (Reinforced) and commanded by Brigadier General William T. Clement, ADC of the 6th Marine Division, was to go ashore on Miura Peninsula, 30 miles southwest of Tokyo, and take over the Yokosuka Naval Base.94 On the same day, MacArthur was to land at Atsugi to discuss the conduct of the full occupation with members of the IGHQ. Further airborne and naval landings were to continue on the 29th and 30th, and on the 31st, as additional occupation forces landed, the surrender ceremony was to take place on the Missouri. Because a typhoon struck the Home Islands during the latter part of August, the entire schedule for the occupation was postponed two days, and the surrender ceremony was rescheduled for 2 September.
On 27 August, however, the transports carrying the Fleet Landing Force and its components had already arrived in Sagami Bay to find it congested with the warships making up the Fleet Flagship Group, which was waiting to enter Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremonies. To relieve the congestion, Missouri and three destroyers steamed towards the channel leading to Tokyo Bay in order to pickup the Japanese pilots who would navigate the ships to their anchorages in the bay. After the Fleet Flagship Group had entered the bay, TG 30.2 (British Flagship Group), TF 35 (including TG 35.90 (Support Force), TF 37 (British Support Force), and TF 31 (Yokosuka Occupation Force) followed in that order. While an air umbrella of hundreds of planes from TF 38 carriers covered the task forces and groups slowly moving in Sagami Wan, many more land-based fighters and bombers from Okinawa and Iwo Jima patrolled the skies over Japan proper.
The 150 technicians from the Fifth Air Force landed at Atsugi on the 28th with their emergency communications and airfield engineering equipment and began operations preparatory to subsequent landings. On the 30th, the 11th Airborne Division and the various advance
headquarters staffs arrived at Atsugi from Okinawa. Meanwhile, in conjunction with the arrival of the airborne division, an amphibious landing force comprising U.S. Marines and sailors, British sailors, and Royal Marines went ashore at Yokosuka and occupied the harbor forts off Miura Peninsula.
During the last day of the month, Fleet Landing Force troops consolidated their hold on the occupied naval base and prepared to send patrols down the peninsula to demilitarize outlying installations. By the close of 1 September, as the hour for the Japanese surrender approached, Allied troops had gained control of most of the strategic area along the shores of Tokyo Bay, excepting Tokyo itself.
At 0908, the instrument of surrender was signed on board the Missouri. Signing first for Japan on behalf of the Emperor and the Japanese Government was Foreign Minister Mamouri Shigemitsu. Next was General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of Staff of the Army, who signed for the Imperial General Headquarters. General MacArthur then signed as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Flanking him were two officers who had been recently released from a prison camp near Mukden and invited by him to witness the surrender: Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, the defender of Bataan and Corregidor, and Lieutenant General Arthur E. Percival, the British commander of Singapore at the time of its capture. Following his signing, MacArthur called upon the representatives of the Allied Powers to sign in the following order: the United States, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of Canada, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Dominion of New Zealand. As these signatories fixed their names to the two documents--one for the Allies, and a duplicate for Japan--a mass flight of 450 aircraft from TF 38 "roared over the Missouri mast-high,"95 After all had signed, General MacArthur ended the ceremonies, saying "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are now closed."96
In addition to the principals and the signatories present at the signing many Allied flag and general officers who had participated in the war against Japan were witnesses. Ship's personnel from the Missouri and Marines from her detachment manned every possible vantage point. The Marine officers present were Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger and his aide, Major Roy Owsley from FMFPac; Brigadier General William T. Clement, commander of the Fleet Landing Force; Brigadier General Joseph H. Fellows, from the staff of CinCPac-CinCPOA; and the officers of the Marine detachment of the Missouri, Captain John W. Kelley, and First Lieutenants Francis I. Fenton, Jr., Alfred E.W. Kelley, and Josiah W. Bill.97
Although the signing of the surrender document formally ended the war in the
AMONG THE FEW MARINES present at the surrender ceremony on USS Missouri are (1) Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger and (2) Brigadier General Joseph H. Fellows. [USA SC 211066]
CORSAIRS AND HELLCATS fly in formation over Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremonies. In the left foreground is the Missouri. [USN 80-G-421130]
Pacific, it did not mean that the world would return to normalcy or that all Marines would once again take up peacetime types of duty. A drastic reduction in Marine Corps strength in the immediate postwar era did not necessarily mean a commensurate reduction in the number and types of responsible missions assigned the Corps, for the increased role of the United States in international affairs after the war had a direct bearing on what Marines were to do and where they were to do it. In addition to the assignment of part of the VAC to occupation duty in Japan and the deployment of IIIAC troops to China, some Marines participated in the surrender of Japanese-held islands and their later occupation, other Marines were assigned to reactivated peacetime garrisons in the Pacific Ocean Areas, and the majority was rotated back to the United States and released or discharged from active duty.
THE MARINE CORPS AT THE END OF THE WAR98By V-J Day, the day that the surrender was signed, the Marine Corps had reached a peak strength of 485,833. Of this figure, 242,043 Marines were serving overseas. The major portion of the overseas figure-190,945-consisted of ground forces in six Marine divisions, a Fleet Marine Force headquarters, three amphibious force headquarters, and supporting service and tactical units. Total Marine Corps aviation strength on 31 August 1945 was 101,182; 61,098 Marines in this figure were serving overseas in four Marine aircraft wings, an Air, Fleet Marine Force headquarters, and supporting service and headquarters squadrons.
The major Marine ground commands in the Pacific at this time consisted of FMFPac at Oahu, IIIAC on Guam, and VAC on Maui. The Marine divisions were located as follows: 1st on Okinawa, 2d on Saipan, 3d on Guam, 4th on Maui, the 5th at sea en route to Japan, and the 6th, less the 4th RCT at Yokosuka, on Guam. Of the Marine aviation organizations, AirFMFPac was based at Ewa, the 1st MAW was at Mindanao, the 2d on Okinawa, the 3d at Ewa, and the 4th on Majuro. The groups and squadrons of these four wings were based either with the wing headquarters or on various islands throughout the Pacific. Attached to the 3d Wing was a Marine carrier group in four escort carriers that were under the operational control of Carrier Division 27.
Fleet Marine Force ground and training-replacement activities on the east coast of the United States in August 1945 consisted of the Marine Training Command and the 7th Separate Infantry Battalion at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps Base Depot at Norfolk, and the Training Battalion and the Field Artillery Training Battalion at the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. On the west
coast, the Marine Training and Replacement Command, San Diego Area, was responsible for training and replacement functions at Camps Pendleton and Elliott.
Marine aviation operations in the United States were under the control of two commands. The 9th MAW, with headquarters at the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N. C., was responsible for aviation training and replacement activities on the east coast. Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, with headquarters at the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, Calif., held similar responsibilities on the west coast.
Besides these Marine air and ground training and replacement commands in the United States were Marine Corps recruit depots at Parris Island, S. C., and San Diego, California, and numerous posts, stations, and independent guard detachments attached to various naval facilities. All of these, as well as the FMF organizations, were to face drastic revision as the Marine Corps began to revert to a peacetime status.
Four major personnel problem areas facing the Marine Corps, like the other Services at the beginning of the postwar period, concerned demobilization, disbandment of activities and suspension program; personnel procurement; and postwar, fiscal, and mobilization planning. The most immediate problem facing the Commandant in the period 1 September 1945 to 1 October 1946--when wartime and immediate postwar exigencies had eased--was the rapid demobilization of his Corps, for, in effect, all of the personnel problems of the Marine Corps related in one way or another to demobilization.
On 11 August 1945, the Commandant submitted to the Secretary of the Navy a general plan, commonly known later as the Point System, which governed the discharge and separation of enlisted Marines.99 Approved on the 15th, this plan was intended to supplement, but not replace, existing Marine Corps policy and directives concerning discharges and releases. It also provided the most equitable means of establishing the priority in which Marines100 were to be released by computing their service credits. Each Marine received 1 point for each month of service from 16 September 1940; 1 point for each month overseas or on duty afloat from 16 September 1940; 5 points for each decoration and for each campaign or engagement for which a battle star was awarded; and 12 points for each child under 18 years of age, but not more than 36 points for children. With 12 May 1945 as the cutoff date for computations, the critical score to be used when the plan first went into effect on 1 September was 85 points for male Marines and 25 points for Women Reservists. The original plan provided that the critical scores would be reduced to reflect changes in the missions, and therefore the personnel requirements, of the Marine Corps. The plan also provided that enlisted personnel with sufficient discharge points could remain on active duty for as long as they wanted to, and for the time that their services were required, without their having to sign an enlistment contract. Conversely, the Marine Corps found it necessary to
retain on active duty, until their reliefs were procured and trained, certain key personnel who otherwise had amassed the required score for release and discharge.
Since the number of officers to be released was relatively smaller than the number of enlisted men involved, the Marine Corps gave individual consideration to the case of each officer. Because it had obtained its officers from various sources during the war, the Corps had to provide for either the demobilization, integration into the regular component, or return to enlisted ranks of each officer concerned.
On 10 October 1945, Marine Separation Centers were activated at the United States Naval Training Centers at Bainbridge, Maryland, and Great Lakes, Illinois. Initially, the Bainbridge center was set up to handle a maximum of 400 discharges a day, but by 19 November its quota had been exceeded, and two months later the center was processing 500 discharges a day.101
From time to time, as the current situation permitted, the Marine Corps demobilization plan was revised to increase the flow of discharges. In effect, the speed-up was accelerated by reducing the number of points required for separation. On 8 October, barely more than a month after the program had begun, the critical score was lowered to 60 points and all enlisted personnel with three or more dependent children under 18 years of age could request discharge. The point score was further reduced to 50 on 1 November and 45 on 1 February 1946. By 1 July 1946, the Marine Corps made it possible for inductees or reservists with 30 months of active duty to become eligible for discharge, regardless of the number of points each of them had acquired. The required discharge score for Women Reservists was comparably reduced each time that the score for male Marines was revised. Finally on 1 October, all reservists and selectees became eligible for discharge regardless of length of service time.102
By the end of June 1946, the Marine Corps demobilization program was entering its final stages and the strength of the Corps had been reduced to 155,592 Marines. This was a decrease of 68 percent from the September 1945 figure and 87 percent of the entire net decrease required to bring the Corps to the planned postwar limit of 108,200. The Fleet Marine Force, which had carried the offensive combat burden of the Corps during the war, was the hardest hit of all Marine activities during the demobilization. At the end of the fighting, FMFPac immediately took steps to begin reducing the strength of its forces commensurate with its commitments. On 10ctober 1946, FMFPac was approximately 8 percent of its 1 September 1945 size, or to put it another way, there was a total of 21,343 Marines in air and ground units in the Pacific in late 1946.103
During the 13-month period from 1 September 1945 to 1 October 1946, FMFPac received 30,071 replacements. In turn, 102,115 Marines were returned to the United States from the Pacific
and Far East. This unusually rapid rate of demobilization stripped FMFPac units of the majority of their experienced personnel--officer and enlisted--and caused a situation in which an insufficient number of trained regulars remained overseas to perform specialist duties properly. On-the-job training of remaining Marines and the arrival of replacement drafts containing some experienced personnel partially, but not sufficiently, alleviated the situation.
Nonetheless, FMFPac faced a particularly acute situation in this period because it was heavily committed with units carrying out either occupation, garrison, or repatriation duties in China and Japan, and on many of the Pacific islands, such as Truk, Guam, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok. During the immediate postwar months, many Marine units had been disbanded, some new ones activated on either a temporary or a permanent basis, and some garrison detachments formed and transferred to island and area commanders for operational control.104 All units under FMFPac were reorganized to reflect currently effective tables of organization and prescribed personnel ceiling strengths. In the face of the various administrative and organizational changes occurring during this time, all units found it most difficult to perform their missions properly because of the excessive personnel turnover. Moreover, insufficient transportation to rotate home eligible Marines, who were scattered throughout the Pacific, created additional problems. Instances occurred when the return home of many of these Marines, whose early discharge was desired by the Marine Corps because of existing postwar plans, was delayed because troop transports were not immediately available.
The second major problem facing the Marine Corps in the postwar era was to convert a greatly expanded wartime organization into a competent peacetime instrument of national security. This changeover resulted ultimately in the consolidation or disbandment of many Marine activities, and a reduction in the mission of others to reflect their lessened size. From 1 September 1945 to 30 September 1946, 368 Marine organizations were disbanded and 104 activated. A majority of the latter, such as replacement or rotation drafts, had been activated on a temporary basis only, and some of the others actually were redesignated rather than activated. One of the most important aspects of the disbandment of activities and suspension program was its sensitivity to the progress of the demobilization
program. Because of this, close coordination in the conduct of both programs was essential, and Marine Corps personnel allowances had to be constantly revised in order to maintain a proper balance between Marine Corps missions and the number of Marines available to conduct those missions successfully.
An example of how one program affected the other may be seen in the close relationship of demobilization with the base roll-up program in FMFPac. That headquarters held the mission of closing down Marine supply installations and bases in the Pacific, and of disposing of millions of dollars of surplus property and goods therein. The early loss of large numbers of experienced supply, service, and clerical personnel from FMFPac logistics agencies imposed a particular hardship on those units which had the actual duty of closing out scattered bases and receiving from disbanding line organizations vast quantities of material which had to be stored, maintained, safeguarded, and finally disposed of.105 Attesting to the enormity of the task is the fact that on 1 July 1945, the Marine Corps had on hand in the Pacific property valued in excess of $400 million at cost. In the following year, Marine Corps supply activities had disposed of some $207 million worth of items. At the end of the fiscal year, on 1 July 1946, the Marine Corps still had $68 million of surplus property to dispose of, but fewer Marines were available to do the job.106
Personnel procurement was the third problem to confront the Marine Corps at the end of the war. Even with a massive separation and discharge program underway, the Corps had to return to a peacetime status almost immediately, and to reach its required manning level of 108,200 Marines. The officer procurement program in the postwar period featured the cessation of the mass officer candidate programs of the war years and the return to peacetime methods for the recruitment and training of regular personnel. The huge task of selecting 4,400 outstanding reserve and temporary officers for transfer to the regular establishment began after V-J Day, and was in its final stages by 30 September 1946.
One of the important sources for Marine Corps officers had been the Navy V-12 College Program, which provided a number of billets for Marines. At the end of the war, approximately 1,900 men remained on active duty in the Marine Corps portion of the V-12 program. The Corps, however, had no desire to bear the expense of educating officer candidates who would not be part of the peacetime establishment. Finally, after considerable study, the Marine Corps offered individuals who had completed seven or eight semesters of study an opportunity to accept reserve commissions and choose between immediate release to inactive duty or a brief tour of active service. Those who chose the latter might apply for a regular commission if they so desired. Undergraduates not eligible for a commission were permitted either to resign, transfer to general duty, or transfer to an NROTC unit. On 30 June 1946, the Marine Corps
phase of the V-12 program was deactivated.107
Another source for officers along with the V-12 program was the wartime officer candidate course at Quantico. This, too, was allowed to lapse and so the principal postwar sources of permanent Marine officers were both the vast number of men who had been temporarily commissioned during the war and reservists mobilized at its beginning.
One important goal in the postwar period was to build up enlisted strength by recruiting as many enlisted regular Marines as possible and by reenlisting all of the regulars whose enlistment contracts had been or were about to be completed. on V-J Day, 72,843 Marines were serving on regular enlistment contracts; by 30 June 1946, however, 60 percent of these contracts were scheduled to expire. Since a postwar level of 100,000 male regular Marines had already been established, the Marine Corps found it necessary to initiate an intensive procurement program to recruit replacements for men scheduled for discharge and to acquire an additional number so that the postwar manning level could be achieved. By 1 October 1946, this goal had nearly been reached with a total of 95,000 regulars on active duty, and very few of them due for discharge until 1948. As a result of all of this sound planning, the Marine Corps personnel picture was consonant with postwar plans that had been developed.
The establishment of postwar, fiscal, and mobilization plans was the fourth major problem with which the Marine Corps had to contend. There were two distinctive phases in this planning--the recession phase and the postwar developmental phase. The first of these concerned the period September 1945-March 1946, when most of the measures adopted for expediency during the war by the Marine Corps expired. The second phase was a period in which the entire Marine Corps began to function in accordance with its established postwar roles and missions. The most important event of 1946 insofar as those objectives were concerned was the publication of the Navy Basic Post-War Plan No. 2.108 This plan was to be used for planning purposes only, but Admiral Nimitz, who replaced Admiral King as CNO on 15 December 1945, indicated in his covering letter that, the Marine Corps would be fairly well established along the lines of the plan as it then stood. A note of the future was sounded in the final paragraph of CNO's covering letter, which read: "In all planning, it is essential that an effective, balanced, mobile fleet, including air components, have first priority. Economy in men, money, and materials is mandatory."109
General Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps since 1 January 1944, determined from this plan that the general task of the Marine Corps would be to perform the following functions:
(a) To provide a balanced Fleet Marine Force, including its supporting air component,
for service with the Fleet in the seizure or defense of advanced Naval Bases or for the conduct of such limited land operations as are essential to the prosecution of a Naval campaign.
(b) To continue the development of those aspects of amphibious operations which pertain to the tactics, technique, and equipment employed by landing forces.
(c) To provide detachments and organizations for service on armed vessels of the Navy.
(d) To provide security detachments for protection of Naval property at Naval stations and bases.110
To ensure that the Marine Corps would adequately perform these functions, it was determined that the strength of the Corps would be 108,200, or approximately 22 percent of the overall Navy postwar strength of 487,700. With this number, the Marine Corps was to maintain the Fleet Marine Force, ships' detachments, security forces for the naval establishment, Headquarters Marine Corps, and Marine supporting activities.
In his annual report for the fiscal year 1946 to the Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant expounded on the functioning of these four tasks as follows:
(a) Fleet Marine Force:
Experience in the war gives incontrovertible evidence that amphibious warfare is an essential adjunct of naval warfare. . . . In the war in the Pacific, the Fleet was able to play its historic role . . . only because of the existence of the Fleet Marine Force. . . .
The Fleet Marine Force, in conjunction with Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Schools, will continue its role in the development of those aspects of amphibious operations which pertain to the tactics, techniques, and equipment employed by landing forces.
(b) Detachments Afloat:
On carriers, battleships, and cruisers, Marine detachments will provide a trained nucleus for the ship's landing force, gun crews as required, and local security for the vessels. On amphibious command ships, Marine will perform duty on staffs under the direction of amphibious force commanders, and communications duties as directed by the commanding officer of the vessel. Marine detachments on transports will perform transport quartermaster functions and provide local security as directed.
(c) Security Forces:
Marine Corps personnel will be assigned the task of providing necessary internal security for Naval Shore Establishments within and beyond the continental limits of the United States, and of providing external security in accordance with specifically assigned missions in such establishments outside the United States.
(d) Supporting Activities:
In order to maintain the Corps, it will be necessary to procure, equip, train and administer Marine personnel in such a manner that assigned missions can be accomplished. Marines within supporting activities will therefore be serving at Logistic Establishments, Recruit Training Depots, Personnel Procurement offices, Headquarters establishments, training activities, and in non-available duty status.111
According to Basic Post-War Plan No. 2, the Fleet Marine Force was to consist of two Marine divisions and one Marine brigade, reinforced, and supporting naval units when and as required.
Normal locations would be: one division at Camp Lejeune and one at Guam., and the brigade on the west coast at Camp Pendleton. Marine aviation was to consist of two aircraft commands: one, AirFMFPac, with responsibility in the West Coast-Hawaii-Marianas area; and the other in overall command of six Marine carrier groups aboard as many escort carriers. The final components of the FMF were to be Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic ( FMFLant ), with Force Troops assigned to each command.
Ships' detachments were to consist of Marine detachments assigned to the larger combatant naval vessels, amphibious command ships, transports of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, and transports of the Naval Transportation Service. Small Marine aviation service detachments were to be assigned to the CVEs that had Marine carrier squadrons in their air complements. The security forces would consist of interior guards for naval establishments within and outside of the continental United States, and air warning and antiaircraft artillery units. Headquarters Marine Corps and supporting establishments were to be composed of the Marine headquarters at Washington, the recruit depots at Parris Island and San Diego, school activities, logistics activities, Marine barracks and camps located outside of naval establishments, Marine air stations in the continental United States, and Marine air stations in the Hawaiian area and the Marine Air Facility (in caretaker status) at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
These then, were the first postwar plans of the Marine Corps, and the forces with which they were to be accomplished. In the months immediately following V-J Day, Marine plans had frequently been revised to reflect new requirements, and the plans were changed even more drastically as each postwar year passed. Necessary steps were taken to reorganize the Marine Corps each time that the need arose. As the situation changed, the continuing reduction in the strength of the Corps overall had to be considered before new missions were assigned. As best it could, the Marine Corps built up its forces in the Pacific, the area where new peacetime responsibilities were waiting.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (III-1) * Next Chapter (III-3)
1. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: AirIntelBul, Aug-Sep45; Isely and Crowl, Marines and Amphibious War; Sherrod, Marine Air Hist.
2. DivAvn OpD, dtd 1Jun45.
3. VAC AR GALVANIC, dtd 11Jan44, p. 16.
4. Item 68, CominCh Agenda for conference with Adm Nimitz, dtd 10Ju144 (OAB, NHD).
5. Minutes, CominCh-CinCPac Conference, 13-22Jul44.
7. FMF Air Status Rpt, 30Jun44.
8. Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift comments to Robert Sherrod, dtd Sep49, cited in Sherrod, Marine Air Hist, p. 327.
9. For the story of the relief of the 27th Infantry Division commander by Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, see Shaw, Nalty, and Turnbladh, The Central Pacific Drive, pt IV, chap 5.
10. LtGen Alexander A. Vandegrift ltr to Gen Thomas Holcomb dtd 5Sep44 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC).
11. CinCPac endorsement, ser 002567, dtd 22Aug44, on CMC secret memo to CominCh, Subj: Marine Aviation in the Pacific, n.d. (OAB, NHD).
12. CMC memo to CinCUS [CominCh], Subj: Marine Aviation in the Pacific, n,d. (OAB, NHD).
13. CominCh ltr FF1/A4-3 serial 002624 to CinCPac and CMC, Subj: Marine Aviation in the Pacific, dtd 10Sep44 (OAB, NHD).
14. CominCh bucktag comment dtd 10Sep44 on CinCPac End to Ibid. (OAB, NHD).
15. LtGen Alexander A. Vandegrift ltr to Gen Thomas Holcomb dtd 5Sep44 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File; HistBr, HQMC). General Vandegrift was perhaps, being unduly modest, for as General Gerald C. Thomas, former Director of the Division of Plans and policies and later Assistant CMC, recalled: "General Vandegrift's relations [with King] were pleasant, not familiar, but always on a really good sound basis, and never in my three and a half years with him there [Headquarters Marine Corps], did I see him lose a battle. He won every one of them." Gen Gerald C. Thomas interview with HistBr, HQMC, dtd 26Sep66. (Oral History Collection, HistBr, HQMC).
16. CNO ltr Op-37-C-fgd serial 0SS37 to ComAirPac, Chief BuAer, ComFairWest, CGAirFMFPac, and MarFAirWest, Subj: Marine Air Support Division, formation of, dtd 2SOct44 (OAB, NHD).
17. Although VMO-351 was an observation squadron earlier in the war, its mission was changed later and it became a fighter squadron without a redesignation in its unit identification.
18. Col Frank G. Dailey ltr to Robert Sherrod, dtd 2Jun50, cited in Sherrod, Marine Air Hist, p. 343.
19. BGen Frank G. Dailey ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 10Nov65, hereafter Dailey ltr.
20. BGen William A. Millington ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 18Nov65.
21. For Third Fleet operations in this period, see Samuel E. Morison, The Liberation of the Philippines-History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, v. XIII (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959) , pp. 87-92, hereafter Morison, Liberation of the Philippines.
22. Sherrod, Marine Air Hist, p. 333.
23. Morison, Liberation of the Philippines, pp. 164-174.
24. VMF-124 WarD, Jan45.
25. Col Frank G. Dailey ltr to Robert Sherrod, dtd 2Jun50, op. cit.
26. Morison, Victory in the Pacific, p. 22.
27. Bartley, Iwo Jima, p. 49.
28. Sherrod, Marine Air Hist p. 347.
29. BGen Vernon E. Megee ltr to Dr. Jeter A. Isely, dtd 10Feb50, cited in Isely and Crowl, Marines and Amphibious War, p. 507.
30. Morison, Victory in the Pacific, p. 57.
31. Frederick C. Sherman, Combat Command: The American Aircraft Carriers in the Pacific War (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1960), p. 342.
32. USS Wasp (CV-18) WarDs, Mar, Apr45 (OAB, NHD).
33. Morison, Victory in the Pacific, p. 94.
34. Ibid., p. 95. General Dailey commented on the carriers' Marine guard, "whose duties included manning the 40mm AA batteries, and at least on the Bunker Hill were given credit for several enemy aircraft shot down. They in turn had their casualties by bombings." He also noted that "it was SOP in the fleet that if an interception of an enemy aircraft was made but not completed before coming over the fleet, contact was to be broken and the ships AA fire would take over. At times, both Marine and Navy pilots would be so intent they would follow an enemy aircraft over the fleet regardless of the AA fire and if they didn't get a kill, follow right down until they (the enemy) splashed in the water." Dailey ltr.
35. Report of the Executive Officer of the Franklin quoted in Morison, Victory in the Pacific, p. 96.
36. Ibid. p. 98.
37. Regarding these changes in designations, Halsey commented, "Instead of the stagecoach system of keeping the drivers and changing the horses, we changed drivers and kept the horses. It was hard on the horses, but it was effective." Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story, p. 197.
38. FMF Air Status Rpts, Oct-Nov44.
39. CMC memo serial 008A30844 to CominCh, dtd 2Nov44 (OAB, NHD) .
40. Capt Wallace M. Beakley, USN, memo for Adm Cooke, dtd 4Nov44 (OAB, NHD).
41. Deputy CominCh-CNO memo to Adm King, dtd 7Nov44 (OAB, NHD).
42. CominCh memo FF1/A16-3, serial 003246, to Vice CNO and CMC, Subj: Decommissioning of 4 Marine Bombing Squadrons, dtd 8Nov44 (OAB, NHD).
43. DivAvn OpDs, Jan-Feb45; FMF Air Status Rpts, Dec44-Feb45.
44. Dir, DivAvn, HQMC, memo Op-37-C-fgd for F-15 [AvnSec, Planes Div, CominCh], Subj: Proposed Program of Marine Corps Aviation, dtd 21Dec44 (OAB, NHD).
46. CominCh-CNO memo FF1/Al, serial 00130, to CMC, Subj: Marine Corps Aviation Program, Revision of, dtd 15Jan45 (OAB, NHD).
47. Ibid. The 4th Wing was not disbanded until after the end of the war.
48. BGen John F. Dobbin ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 3Nov65, hereafter Dobbin ltr.
49. BGen Donald K. Yost ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 30Nov65, hereafter Yost ltr.
51. The F4U-1 was assigned to Marine aviation in 1942 and the F4U-1D in 1944. HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, Marine Corps Aircraft, 1913-1960--Marine Corps Historical Reference Series, No. 20, reprinted 1964 (Washington, 1962).
52. Dobbin ltr.
53. Capt Harvey D. Bradshaw comments to HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 26Apr65.
54. Sherrod, Marine Air Hist, p. 330.
55. Col Louis H. Steman comments to HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 26Apr65.
57. Col Royce W. Coln ltr to CMC dtd 16Nov65, hereafter Coln ltr.
58. Dobbin ltr.
59. Not all Marine aviators were enthused about being stationed aboard carriers, for as General Rogers recalled, he "despised them more than anything in the world. I was scared of them, actually. Well . . . I'd been flying so much longer than almost anyone else, and I would not trust myself to a [landing] signal officer. I couldn't believe that the signal officer was correct. I knew that I was correct." Rogers interview.
60. USS Block Island (CVE-105) WarDs, Mar-Apr45 (OAB, NHD).
61. Dobbin ltr.
62. USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) WarDs, Mar-Apr45 (OAB, NHD).
63. USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) WarD, Jul45 (OAB, NHD).
64. Yost ltr.
65. Ibid. Soon after he landed, a Japanese staff car drove up and an officer notified the Marine that the commanding general of the district wished to see him. The Japanese were very amicable and set up a guard around the plane upon request. At the Japanese headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Yost was able to send a message to the American forces in Tokyo and to the Fleet notifying them of his whereabouts. Although the airfield was in poor shape a TBM from the Cape Gloucester was able to land and pick him up the next day. BGen Donald K. Yost comments to HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 14Mar67.
66. In addition to those operating squadrons already assigned to carriers, a number of other squadrons, destined for carrier assignment were undergoing training in California at El Toro, Santa Barbara, and Mojave.
67. Coln ltr.
68. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: CinCPac Ops, Jun-Aug45; CinCPac WarDs, Jun-Aug 45 (OAB, NHD); USA FMidPac G-5 Hist; USSBS, Japan's Struggle; Butow, Japan's Decision; Herbert Feis, Japan Subdued (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), hereafter Feis, Japan Subdued; Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story; King and Whitehill, King's Naval Record; Leahy, I Was There; Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions--Memoirs, v. I (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1955), hereafter Truman, Memoirs; War Reports.
69. On 30 June, CinCPac sent out a warning order for OLYMPIC to his entire command. CinCPac WarD, Jun45 (OAB, NHD).
70. Leahy, I Was There, p. 385.
71. General Twining is the brother of retired Marine General Merrill B. Twining.
72. CinCPac WarD, Jul45 (OAB, NHD).
73. CinCPac Ops, Jul45, p. 16.
74. Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story, p. 257.
75. Ibid., p. 260.
76. Hopkins was sent because, as Roosevelt's trusted advisor, he had met Stalin earlier in the war, when he had made several trips to Moscow to carry out missions for the President.
77. Truman, Memoirs, p. 258.
78. Ibid., p. 265.
80. Ibid., p. 415.
81. King and Whitehill, King's Naval Record, p. 621.
82. Truman, Memoirs, p. 416.
83. King and Whitehill, King's Naval Record, p. 621.
84. China was neither a party to nor present at the Potsdam Conference.
85. See Butow, Japan's Decision to Surrender, pp. 243-244, for full text.
86. Ibid., Article 3 (b) of the Potsdam Declaration.
87. Quoted in Feis, Japan Subdued, p. 97.
88. Paraphrase of a telegram from the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs to the British Foreign Office, dtd 24Sep44, quoted in Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa. The Far East, v. V (Washington: GPO, 1965), p. 1184.
90. Chief, Div of British Commonwealth Affairs, U.S. Department of State, memo to Adm William D. Leahy, CofS, U.S. Army and Navy, dtd 10Oct44, cited in Ibid., p. 1186.
91. Quoted in Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story, p. 272.
92. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: CinCPac Ops, Aug-Sep45; CinCPac WarDs, Aug-Sep45; USA FMidPac G-5 Hist; Butow, Japan's Decision; Feis, Japan Subdued; Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story; Truman, Memoirs; War Reports.
93. See pt V below, "North China Marines," for a continuation and fuller exposition of this story.
94. The occupation of Yokosuka by the 4th Marines will be treated in fuller detail in pt IV, "Occupation of Japan," below.
95. Halsey and Bryan, Halsey's Story, p. 283.
96. Morison, Victory in the Pacific, p. 366.
97. Records Group 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Log of USS Missouri, entry of 2Sep45 (National Archives).
98. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: CMC Rpt, 1946; FMFPac Hist; FMF Grd and Air Status Rpts, Aug45; USMC HistDiv, Administrative History of the United States Marine Corps in the Post-war Period (1Sep45-1Oct46), dtd 19Aug47, hereafter USMC Admin Hist; CG, FMFPac, Administrative Activities of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, 1Sep45-1Oct46, encl A to CG, FMFPac ltr to CMC, ser 2863, dtd 24May47, hereafter FMFPac Admin Hist, 1945-1946.
99. G-1 OpD, Aug45; USMC Admin Hist, p. 2.
100. The provisions of this plan did not apply to regular enlisted Marines serving under a four-year contract or the extension thereof.
101. USMC Admin Hist, p. 4.
102. ALMAR 117, dtd 16Aug46.
103. FMF Air and Grd Status Rpts, Aug45, Sep46.
104. As an example, appearing in FMF ground status reports for the first time in April 1946 are the following units: Marine Detachment (Provisional), Headquarters, Commander, Philippine Sea Frontier, which was attached to the FMFPac Representative, Marianas Area for operations; Marine Detachment (Provisional), Eniwetok, attached to Atoll Commander, Eniwetok, for operations; and Marine Detachment (Provisional), Samar, attached to FMFPac for operations, The last two detachments named were to revert to the Post-War Shore Establishment upon order. FMF Grd Status Rpt, Apr46. Appearing in the May status report was a provisional detachment on Bikini. By October, only the Kwajalein, Truk, and Eniwetok detachments remained, and the time left to them was limited. A more complete review of the organization and deployment of Marine security forces in the Pacific will be found in the next chapter, "Back to the Islands."
105. FMFPac Admin Hist, p. 5.
106. CMC Rpt, 1946.
107. For a fuller story on the Marine Corps V-12 program, See Condit, Diamond, and Turnbladh, Marine Corps Training, chap 15, pp. 288-316.
108. CNO ltr to distr list, dtd 21Mar46, Op001/mat, (SC) A16-3/EN, Ser: 051PO01, Subj: Basic Post-War Plan No. 2 (OAB, NHD).
110. CMC Rpt, 1946. Also see Col Thomas G. Roe, et. al. A History of Marine Corps Roles and Missions: 1775-1962--Marine Corps Historical Reference Series, No. 30 (Washington: HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, 1962) for a survey of these functions during the period indicated in the title.
111. CMC Rpt, 1946.