The John Batchelor Show

Sunday 16 September 2012

Air Date: 
September 16, 2012


(Photo: The listing and still smoldering U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin, after the devastating Kamikaze attacks in March, 1945.  Before dawn on 19 March 1945Franklin, which had maneuvered to within 80 km (50 miles) of the Japanese mainland, closer than had any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshū and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. Suddenly, a single aircraft — possibly a Yokosuka D4Y "Judy"dive bomber, though other accounts suggest an Aichi D3A "Val", also a dive bomber — pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the ship to drop two semi-armor-piercing bombs. The damage analysis came to the conclusion that the bombs were 550 lb (250 kg), though neither the "Val" nor "Judy" had the attachment points to carry two such weapons, nor did the Japanese single-engine torpedo bombers in horizontal bomber mode. (The accounts also differ as to whether the attacking aircraft escaped or was shot down.) However, the Aichi B7A "Grace" had this capability. One bomb struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to thehangar deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires through the second and third decks, and knocking out the Combat Information Center and air plot. The second hit aft, tearing through two decks.At the time she was struck, Franklin had 31 armed and fueled aircraft warming up on her flight deck. The hangar deck contained 22 additional planes, of which 16 were fueled and five were armed. The forward gasoline system had been secured, but the aft system was operating. The explosion on the hangar deck ignited the fuel tanks on the aircraft, and gasoline vapor explosion devastated the deck. Only two crewmen survived the fire on the hangar deck. The explosion also jumbled aircraft together on the flight deck above, causing further fires and explosions, including the detonation of 12 "Tiny Tim" air-to-surface rockets.)

Battle of Nomohan, 1939.

905P: Stuart Goldman Nomohan 1939 1 of 2. Stuart Goldman convincingly argues that a little-known, but intense Soviet-Japanese conflict along the Manchurian- Mongolian frontier at Nomonhan influenced the outbreak of World War II and shaped the course of the war. The author draws on Japanese, Soviet, and western sources to put the seemingly obscure conflict--actually a small undeclared war-- into its proper global geo-strategic perspective.  The book describes how the Soviets, in response to a border conflict provoked by Japan, launched an offensive in August 1939 that wiped out the Japanese forces at Nomonhan. At the same time, Stalin signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, allowing Hitler to invade Poland. The timing of these military and diplomatic strikes was not coincidental, according to the author. In forming an alliance with Hitler that left Tokyo diplomatically isolated, Stalin succeeded in avoiding a two-front war. He saw the pact with the Nazis as a way to pit Germany against Britain and France, leaving the Soviet Union on the sidelines to eventually pick up the spoils from the European conflict, while at the same time giving him a free hand to smash the Japanese at Nomonhan.  Goldman not only demonstrates the linkage between the Nomonhan conflict, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, and the outbreak of World War II , but also shows how Nomonhan influenced Japan s decision to go to war with the United States and thus change the course of history. The book details Gen. Georgy Zhukov s brilliant victory at Nomonhan that led to his command of the Red Army in 1941 and his success in stopping the Germans at Moscow with reinforcements from the Soviet Far East. Such a strategy was possible, the author contends, only because of Japan s decision not to attack the Soviet Far East but to seize the oil-rich Dutch East Indies and attack Pearl Harbor instead. Goldman credits Tsuji Masanobu, an influential Japanese officer who instigated the Nomonhan conflict and survived the debacle, with urging his superiors not to take on the Soviets again in 1941, but instead to go to war with the United States.

920P: Goldman 2 of 2

Battle of Iwo Jima, 1945.

935P: Gerald A. Meehl, One Marine’s War 1 of 2. An unusual account of a young American in combat in the Pacific during World War II, this book describes the experiences of a Marine language officer who was decorated for saving enemy lives, not taking them. Author Gerald Meehl recounts how Robert Sheeks overcame his initial bitter hatred of the Japanese, formed after seeing first hand the brutal actions perpetrated by the Japanese military against Chinese civilians in Shanghai years before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Meehl traces Sheeks extraordinary humanitarian quest to prevent the needless deaths of Japanese soldiers and civilians while serving as a combat interpreter during the intense fighting on the islands of Saipan and Tinian.  When his studies at Harvard were interrupted following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sheeks was recruited and trained as a Japanese-language interpreter. During intense training at the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School, first at the University of California Berkeley and then at the University of Colorado Boulder, he was deeply impressed by the kindness of his dedicated and cultured Japanese American instructors. He began to reconsider his negative attitudes toward those he had so long despised. Later, during combat on Tarawa in 1943 while serving in the 2nd Marine Division, he became frustrated by the virtual impossibility of communicating with the defending Japanese troops. Deep inside fortified bunkers, attempts to persuade them to surrender were hopeless, since they could not hear voices calling above the din of battle. Following the fighting on Tarawa, Sheeks combined multiple means of communication ranging from voice-amplifying equipment to air-dropped leaflets in an attempt to persuade enemy soldiers and civilians to surrender rather than fight to the death or take their own lives. Ultimately, Sheeks was awarded the Bronze Star, winning the respect of his peers and countless Japanese for his successful efforts that resulted in the surrender of large numbers of enemy civilians and troops during the savage battles on Saipan and Tinian in 1944.

935P: Meehl 2 of 2

Battle of the Malay Peninsula, 1941.

1005P: John Gordon Fighting for MacArthur 1 of 4. As the only single-volume work to offer a full account of Navy and Marine Corps actions in the Philippines during World War II, this book provides a unique source of information on the early part of the war. It is filled with never-before-published details about the fighting, based on a rich collection of American and newly discovered Japanese sources, and includes a revealing discussion of the buildup of tensions between Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Navy that continued for the remainder of the war. U.S. Army veteran and defense analyst John Gordon describes in considerable detail the unusual missions of the Navy and Marine Corps in the largely Army campaign, where sailors fought as infantrymen alongside their Marine comrades at Bataan and Corregidor, crews of Navy ships manned the Army's heavy coastal artillery weapons, and Navy submarines desperately tried to supply the men with food and ammunition. He also chronicles the last stand of the Navy s colorful China gunboats at Manila Bay.  The book gives the most detailed account ever published of the Japanese bombing of the Cavite Navy Yard outside Manila on the third day of the war, which was the worst damage inflicted on a U.S. Navy installation since the British burned the Washington Navy Yard in 1814. It also closely examines the surrender of the 4th Marines at Corregidor, the only time in history that the U.S. Marine Corps lost a regiment in combat. To provide readers with a Japanese perspective of the fighting, Gordon draws on the recently discovered diary of a leader of the Japanese amphibious assault force that fought against the Navy's provisional infantry battalion on southern Bataan, and he also makes full use of the U.S. ship logs and the 4th Marine unit diary that were evacuated from Manila Bay shortly before the U.S. forces surrendered.

Battle of the Malay Peninsula.

1020P: Gordon 2 of 4 .John Gordon, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army with a PhD in public policy, is a senior defense analyst at a defense think tank, and has written widely on military subjects. A resident of Gainesville, VA, he also serves as an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Georgetown University.

1035P: Gordon 3 of 4

1050P: Gordon 4 of 4

1105P: Harold Guard with John Tring Pacific War 1 of 2. Harold Guard became a war correspondent quite by chance, after he had been invalided out of the navy following a submarine accident. Thereafter, working for United Press, he gained a front row seat to many of the most dramatic battles and events of the century.  In March 1942 Guard arrived in Australia, having narrowly escaped from Japanese forces invading Singapore and Java. His dispatches from that disastrous front prompted one observer to comment on “the crisis days when everybody except Harold Guard was trying to hush up the real situation.” At the time he was acclaimed by the Australian press as being one of the top four newspapermen covering the war in the Pacific..

Secondary explosions onboard U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin, March 1945.

1120P: Harold Guard with John Tring 2 of 2

1135P: Dick Couch Sua Sponte 1 of 2.  Dick Couch is a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated from BUD/S Class 45 in 1969, and was the class Honorman. As Whiskey Platoon Commander with SEAL Team One in Vietnam, he led one of the only successful POW rescue operations of that conflict. Following his releas from active duty in the Navy, he served as a maritime and paramilitary case officer with the CIA. In 1997, he retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Captain. Dick is also the author ofThe Finishing School, Chosen Soldier, and Down Range, as well as four novels: Seal Team One, Pressure Point, Silent Descent, and Rising Wind. He lives with his wife, Julia, in Ketchum, Idaho. Pete Larkin, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has wide voice-over and on-camera experience and has worked in virtually all media. He was the public address announcer for the New York Mets from 1988 to 1993

1150P: Dick Couch 2 of 2

Battle against kamikaze attacks off Okinawa on the road to Japan, March, 1945. 

1205A: John R. Satterfield, Saving Big Ben 1 of 2. Father Joseph T. O Callahan was the first military chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor. An unlikely war hero, the bespectacled math professor who became the U.S. Navy s first Jesuit chaplain, served in combat in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He was on board the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier known as Big Ben, in the Okinawa campaign in early 1945 when a kamikaze attack nearly destroyed the ship and killed hundreds of sailors. As the Franklin lay dead in the water, consumed by flames and drifting toward Japan, the chaplain organized fire-fighting crews and ministered to the injured and dying. The carrier s captain called Father Joe the bravest man he ever knew. To document the Franklin s ordeal and the chaplain s actions, the author draws on interviews with survivors and O Callahan s family and many unpublished sources.

1220A: Satterfield 2 of 2

1235A: D.M. Giangreco Hell To Pay 1 of 2.   A former editor at Military Review provides us with one of the first books to detail the planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands in October 1945 and the Japanese preparations for that invasion. Drawing on solid research in both countries, Giangreco lays out the U.S. planning and the whole scenario of what would have happened: millions of casualties, prolongation of the Pacific war, possibly past 1947, and manpower shortages and war weariness in the United States, with Japanese militarists and their no-surrender policy in control in Japan. The two-pronged invasion would have begun on the island of Kyushu, preceded by no fewer than nine atom-bomb drops behind the landing beaches. Illustrative of just how much the war with Japan was a close-run thing, this is essential reading. --Library Journal.  Giangreco, a longtime former editor for Military Review, synthesizes years of research in a definitive analysis of America's motives for using atomic bombs against Japan in 1945. The nuclear bombing of Japan, he concludes, was undertaken in the context of Operation Downfall: a series of invasions of the Japanese islands American planners estimated would initially cause anywhere from a quarter-million to a million U.S. casualties, plus millions of Japanese. Giangreco presents the contexts of America's growing war weariness and declining manpower resources. Above all, he demonstrates the Japanese militarists' continuing belief that they could defeat the U.S. Japan had almost 13,000 planes available for suicide attacks, and plans for the defense of Kyushu, the U.S.'s initial invasion site, were elaborate and sophisticated, deploying over 900,000 men. Japanese and American documents presented here offer a chillingly clear-eyed picture of a battle of attrition so daunting that Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall considered using atomic and chemical weapons to support the operation. Faced with this conundrum, in Giangreco's excellent examination, President Truman took what seemed the least worst option. 44 b&w photos, 12 maps. Starred Review PW (Oct. 15) --Publisher's Weekly

1235A: Giangreco 2 of 2

Battle Plan for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan in two stages, November 1945-April 1946.