Chapter XXXI
After V-J Day

See HyperWar for the post-Okinawa operations, the surrender and occupation of Japan

When organized enemy resistance ceased on Okinawa on June 232, 1945, the entire focus of attention was turned to the home islands of Japan. With the capture and development of the airfields on Okinawa, land-based planes were brought within easy range of the Japanese-occupied China coast and Korea, as well as the home islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, and even Honshu. Bombings from bases in the Marianas were intensified, and the fleet, with far-ranging air attacks and direct bombardment of the Japanese shores, completed the isolation of the islands.

These operations, together with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the almost simultaneous entry of Russia into the Pacific war, with the resulting attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea, left Japan with the choice of surrender or annihilation.

On August 14, Japan announced her acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation, the terms of which were complete disarmament and surrender of all military forces and equipment. The "cease-firing" order took effect the next day.

The instrument of surrender, which was presented to Japanese representatives on August 19, by General MacArthur, at Manila, provided that the Commander in Chief, Army Forces, Pacific, should receive the surrender of the Imperial General Headquarters, its senior commanders, and all ground, sea, air, and auxiliary forces in the main islands of Japan, minor island adjacent thereto, Korea south of 38 degrees North Latitude, and the Philippines. The Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, was designated to receive the surrender of the senior Japanese commanders and of all ground, sea, air, and auxiliary forces in the Japanese-mandated islands, the Ryukyus, the Bonins, and other Pacific islands.

On August 27, an advance unit of the Third Fleet, guided by a group of Japanese naval officers, harbor pilots, and interpreters, and provided with maps and charts, moved into Sagami Bay, just southwest of Tokyo Bay. The next day, a small detachment of Army Air Forces parachuted onto Atsugi airfield, 14 miles southwest of Tokyo, to prepare the way for the large-scale airborne landings on August 30, when General MacArthur arrived at the field and set up general headquarters at Yokohama.

Meantime, on August 29, Fleet Admiral Nimitz had arrived from Guam, to break his flag in the battleship South Dakota, and with Admiral Halsey, Commander, Third Fleet, aboard the Missouri, entered Tokyo Bay and anchored off Yokosuka naval base. The next day, about 10,000 Marines and naval personnel landed and took possession of the base and neighboring fortress islands. On September 1, the Marines moved across the bay to occupy the Japanese naval base at Tateyama.

The formal surrender of the Japanese Imperial Government, the Japanese Imperial Headquarters, and all Japanese and Japanese-controlled armed forces wherever located, was signed on board the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. General of the Army MacArthur signed as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Pacific; Fleet Admiral Nimitz signed as representative of the United States.

Five days after the formal surrender, MacArthur entered Tokyo, and his troops raised the Stars and Stripes over the United States Embassy. This was the same flag which had flown in Washington on December 7, 1941, had been hoisted over Rome and Berlin, and had been raised on the Missouri while the Japanese signed the surrender documents.

Seabees in Japan

On V-J Day, 13 construction battalions and 3 special battalions were awaiting assignment to Japan, where they were to aid naval forces at Hiroshima, Kabayana, Yokosuka, Omura, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Kure. That very day, 16 officers and 451 men of the 136th Construction Battalion embarked in 12 LSM's at Guam; reported at Iwo Jima on August


21; and arrived at Yokosuka naval base on August 30, on which day they established their camp at the site of the navigation school within the naval base. After constructing galley and mess halls, the 136th was assigned various projects furthering facilities for the naval forces. They repaired housing, electric and telephone systems and roads at the naval base; graded fields and remodeled buildings for the fleet recreation area; repaired housing and surfaced an airstrip at Kisarazu airfield.

Also, on August 30, the 602nd CBMU arrived at Yokosuka from Guam to maintain runways and roads at the Marine Corps air base. They also constructed a 2,000-man galley, restored barracks and facilities for personnel, constructed a chapel and recreation facilities, completed a sawmill, public works shops, a cold-storage plant, and a chlorination plant for water treatment, and installed hot water showers in all barracks.

During the month of September, the 41st Regiment, consisting of the 9th, 28th, and 62nd Construction Battalions, together with the 90th and the 28th Special Battalion, joined the 136th at Yokosuka. Among the major projects assigned to the 90th Seabees, in addition to work at the naval base, was the repair and maintenance of the Kisarazu naval air station, which included overhauling the gasoline system and providing housing facilities for air station personnel and repairing and maintaining the airstrip. They also repaired buildings and erected quonset huts for housing and messing facilities for port director activities at both Yokosuka and Tokyo, and loaded gravel from the Atsugi River for use in repairing roads and runways.

In October, the regiment was reformed to include the 38th, the 127th, and the third section of the 31st Special. The 31st had been divided into four sections on Saipan. Section 1 embarked September 29; arrived at Kure, Japan, on October 8; lay at anchorage five days; and then was ordered to return to Guam. The second section embarked from Saipan on September 28; reached Sasebo, Japan, on October 22; was inactivated on November 5, its personnel being transferred to the First Special Battalion. The third section had sailed from Saipan September 20; reached Yokosuka on October 4; and remained to work at the naval base. The fourth section was given orders to embark for Ominato, Japan, but these were cancelled.

The Seabees were withdrawn from Yokosuka in the spring of 1946.

Sasebo on the island of Kyushu, not far from Nagasaki, was the other big center of Seabees activity in Japan. For some time, the 7th Regiment, consisting of the 43rd, the 98th, and the 116th Construction Battalions, and the 72nd, and the 31st Special Battalions, were working simultaneously at Sasebo, but by the end of the year the regiment had been withdrawn. It was followed by the 72nd and the special battalion, leaving the 31st, which remained until the end of June 1946.

The 98th did considerable work in clearing the dock area in the Sasebo navy yard, providing space for roadways and facilitating the unloading of ships. Clearing the dock area necessitated removal of large quantities of scrap metal, heavy marine equipment, and other debris. A Japanese floating crane and Japanese barges, together with some Japanese laborers, were used on the task.

The 116th Battalion had left Hilo on August 23. The movement had been planned as a combat operation and loaded as such. As a result, only equipment for shore-party work was brought forward, plus an outfit for a bridge-building unit. As soon as the shore-party phase of the operation was concluded, the battalion was assigned the duty of renovating a barracks to accommodate the main elements of the 5th Marine Division. Lack of all classes of tools and difficulty in adapting Japanese installations to American living habits made progress slow. Operations were also hampered by bad weather, which included a typhoon.

In addition to repairing and maintaining the Marine camp at Ainoura, the 116th Seabees rehabilitated and constructed 5 miles of road from Ainoura to Sasebo, together with an alternate 5-mile stretch, operated a quarry as an adjunct to the road work, using Japanese labor, and eventually opened a second quarry. They also constructed a quonset hut camp to house 400 Seabees at the aircraft factory at Sasebo.

The 72nd Seabees, which left Guam on October 16, reached Sasebo a week later. Their mission was to construct a 2,000-man camp, two 200-bed hospitals, and recreational facilities. The Sasebo area was found to be almost completely lacking in acceptable material as source of concrete aggregate for road surfacing, but a sand-gravel deposit was finally found in a tidal basin about 20 miles away and was developed.

Upon its arrival in Japan, the 31st Battalion had been sent to Omura, about 28 miles from Sasebo. As there were no adequate railroads or suitable


roads for transportation of large numbers of troops between the two activities, it was necessary to unload all personnel into LCT's for transport to Omura. Sasebo Harbor and Omura Wan are connected by a narrow channel, with strong currents which necessitated ship operations being confined to daylight hours, with passage through the channel only at slack water, a condition which delayed unloading operations.

At Omura, the battalion was given a former Japanese hangar for temporary barracks, messing, and work space, and assigned a former Japanese garrison force compound for permament barracks and work space. The latter was satisfactory except for general cleanliness and sanitation. The area presented every evidence of deliberate attempt to inconvenience occupation troops; all the latrines had been torn out, and the general litter and debris throughout the approximately 1,440,000 square feet of area was so extensive that a 40-man cleaning crew worked for more than a fortnight removing debris and trash.

Temporary Quarters of the 72nd Seabees at Sasebo, Japan
Temporary Quarters of the 72nd Seabees at Sasebo, Japan

Seabees in China

After the surrender of Japan, the Third Marine Amphibious Corps was detailed to assist the Chinese government in the repatriation of Japanese troops. To assist the Marines, four construction battalions and two special battalions were sent to China.

The Marine unit set up headquarters at Tientsin, and in November 1945, part of the 33rd Seabee Regiment, consisting of the 83rd, the 96th, and the 122nd battalions and the 32nd Special Battalion, landed at Tsingtao and Tangku. Part of the 42nd Battalion and a detachment from the 33rd Special Battalion landed at Shanghai with Naval Advance Base Unit No. 13.

The 96th Seabees, after building quarters for themselves and repairing the 10 miles of road from the city of Tsingtao to a captured Japanese-built airfield, were assigned in early January the task of rebuilding and expanding the airfield for use by the Marines, Navy, and Chinese air forces. The two 3,800-foot strips were repaired and extended to 5,000 and 6,000 feet, respectively, with 900-foot approach strips.

The project included the construction of a complete drainage system for the field. Extension of the runways required the removal of rock hills and the resulting excavation of 350,000 cubic yards of weathered granite.

Section B of the 122nd Battalion assisted the 96th in the trucking operations at Tsingtao, and Section B of the 32nd Special Battalion handled the stevedoring activities. Section A of the 122nd was assigned to Peiping, and Section A of the 32nd to Tangku, where the 83rd Seabees had been sent to construct harbor facilities.

By the end of January 1946, all personnel not eligible for release from the service had been transferred to the 96th and Section B of the 32nd Special Battalion, which remained in China. The other units were inactivated. The 32nd (Section B) was inactivated May 1, 1946, and the 96th was scheduled to be inactivated on July 1, 1946, when a Seabee detachment was to assume maintenance of the Tsingtao airfield.

Seabees in the Surrendered Islands

Mille toll in the Marshall Islands was the first of the many Japanese island possessions to capitulate. On August 22, just one week after the cease-firing order had been given, the Japanese island commander surrendered aboard the destroyer escort Levy. Nine days later, on the last day of August 1945, Rear Admiral Whiting, aboard the destroyer Bagley, received the surrender of Marcus Island.

In November, 93 men of the 117th Construction


Battalion and 36 men from the 616 CBMU were sent from Saipan to Marcus, to repair and construct facilities for the Navy.

The surrender which affected the largest number of islands was that which took place at Truk, when the commander of the 31st Imperial Japanese Army surrendered not only that closely guarded bastion, but also Wake, Rota, the Palaus, Maleolap, Enderby, Ponape, Wotje, Kusaie, Jaluit, Mortlock, Moreyon, and Pagan. At the same time, the commander of the Imperial Japanese 4th Fleet surrendered the Japanese Navy-controlled bases of Namorik, Nauru, and Ocean. It was estimated that a total of 130,000 Japanese military personnel, in addition to a large number of civilians, were involved in the Truk surrender -- on Truk itself, a total of 49,000 military and 9,000 civilians; on Babelthuap, 27,000 military and 12,000 civilians; on Ponape, 8,900. Additional large groups were surrendered on Rota and Yap.

At Truk Atoll, the 29th Construction Battalion took over construction details at the end of November, having left Guiuan in Samar on November 21 and arrived at Moen eight days later. At Moen, they built an airstrip, ramps for LST's, and all the buildings and roads necessary to maintain such activities. Part of the battalion moved to the island of Truk to carry on construction and repair work. Late in the spring of 1946, the 29th was relieved by CBD 1158.

One company of the 48th Construction Battalion was sent to Rota after the surrender of that island.

The 85th Seabees moved from Espiritu Santo to Wake in a convoy of four ships, the first arriving September 29; the last, October 12. After they had unloaded all their equipment and hauled it to stowage points, the 85th handled cargo for five other ships. They cleared and graded camp sites, erected camps and messing facilities, repaired a fuel-oil pier, built roads, maintained air strips, installed water distillation units, and constructed buildings for both Army and Navy. By June 1, 1946, the 85th had left Wake, and CBD 1154 was operating there.

Early in 1946, one other island began to appear on lists of Seabee stations. That was Bikini, where the 53rd Construction Battalion was sent to help in preparations for the atomic bomb tests.

Work at all these areas was particularly difficult during this period because of the rapid demobilization. Not only were the battalions losing men; they were also losing their experienced workers at a disproportionate rate. In the nine-month period from August 1, 1945, to May 1, 1946, the number of construction battalions overseas dropped from 122 to 15; special battalions, from 32 to zero; CBMU's, from 106 to 12; CBD's, from 64 to 14. In the same period, the total number of officers overseas dropped from 6,033 to 431; enlisted men, from 194,334 to 13,032.

By May 1946, the Seabees had entirely withdrawn from the South Pacific and the Southwest Pacific, except Manus and Milne bay. There were still regiments at Okinawa, Samar, the Marianas, and in the Hawaiian islands, and single groups, for the most part detachments or maintenance units, in various places in the Philippines, at Iwo, Eniwetok, Kwajalein, Peleliu, and Alaska in the Pacific. Maintenance units were still on duty in Iceland, Argentia, Trinidad, Bermuda, St. Thomas, and Panama in the Atlantic area, and a single detachment still remained at Exeter.


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