40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII
40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII

40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII

Khalid Elhassan - January 5, 2019

40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII
Veteran Japanese carrier pilots on a flight deck, receiving last minute instructions before taking off. Warfare History Network

4. The Loss of Carriers Was Not The Worst of It For the Japanese

Even worse than the loss of the carriers for the Japanese, which was bad in of itself, was the loss of trained aviators. Japanese carrier pilots were the best in the world at the time – a cream of the crop. However, it was a cream that took a very long time to rise, as the exacting Japanese training system produced only about 50 new carrier pilots per year – not enough to make up for the mounting losses. That put them at a severe and growing disadvantage against the Americans, whose training pipeline produced a surfeit of pilots adequately but not overly trained for the task at hand.

40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII
Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan, was broken into two stages, Operation Olympic, followed by Operation Coronet. Penn State

3. Operation Downfall, the Planned Invasion of Japan

Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan, was to take place in two stages. First was Operation Olympic, scheduled for November, 1945, which sought to secure territory in Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese main island. That would serve as the staging area for an even bigger invasion, Operation Coronet in the spring of 1946, directed at Honshu, the largest and most populous Japanese island. As was discovered after the war, the Japanese had accurately predicted the planned American landing sites – Japan’s geography was such that the only viable beaches for large amphibious landings were the ones selected by the American planners.

40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII
Charred remains of Japanese civilians after the firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945. Wikimedia

2. Downfall’s Expected Casualties Were Horrific

The resources committed to Operation Olympic dwarfed those of the D-Day landings in France. They included 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, 400 destroyers and destroyer escorts, tactical air support from the Fifth, Seventh, and Thirteenth Air Forces, and 14 divisions for the initial landing. Casualties, would likely have been horrific. Depending on the degree of Japanese civilian resistance (Japanese authorities were training even women and children to fight the invaders with spears and pointy sticks), worst case scenarios envisioned over a million Allied casualties, with Japanese casualties numbering in the tens of millions. Such casualties would have made the conquest of Japan history’s bloodiest campaign, ever.

40 Fascinating But Lesser Known Facts About WWII
Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima, left, and Nagasaki, right. Wikimedia

1. The Atom Bombs Spared Everybody From the Horrors of Operation Downfall

Downfall’s planners were unaware of the highly secretive Manhattan Project, and when an atomic bomb was successfully tested in July, 1945, they did not fully grasp its game changing potential. They saw fission devices as “really big bombs”, and had nebulous ideas of using them in the November invasion in support of the amphibious landings. Their use instead against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, shocked the Japanese government into seeing reason, ended the war, and eliminated the necessity for Operation Downfall and its expected butcher’s bill.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Anzac Portal – Invasion of Malaya

Beevor, Antony – The Second World War (2012)

Business Insider, August 8th, 2015 – 21 Rare and Weird Facts About World War II

Hastings, Max – Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 (2011)

Hornfischer, James D. – The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the US Navy’s Finest Hour (2005)

MacIntyre, Ben – Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (2012)

Majdalany, Fred – The Battle of El Alamein: Fortress in the Sand (2003)

National Interest, August 8th, 2018 – Operation Downfall: How America Would Have Invaded Japan

National Interest, September 28th, 2017 – Operation Unthinkable: Britain’s Secret Plan to Invade Russia in 1945

Parshall, Jonathan – Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway (2005)

Wikipedia – Battle of Fort Eben-Emael

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