S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “japan”

Book Review – Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 9.14.04 AM.png

Rating – Three Stars

As usual, my simple mind is confused. I do not know what to make of this book. It’s not a history of naval aviation in World War II, and it’s not a personal memorial to all the lost fliers “that did not return” to their aircraft carriers. It is a salmagundi of stories of naval aviators mostly dying. It’s a compendium of personal insights into naval aviators—officers and enlisted men that did not return—mostly.

Aside: Bradley’s use of “boys” throughout the text is an abomination and insult to the men of naval aviation who fought the good fight in the Pacific Campaign—many of whom did not return. I was in naval aviation for my entire career in the United States Navy. Prejudice against such disrespect is entrenched in me.

Also, to my amazement, Bradley fashioned the Japanese soldiers as “boys.” They were men.

Bradley rants pointedly about the USA’s eeevil colonialism in the Philippines and the diabolical war we waged on the populace—the slaughter of innocent civilians, internment camps, and the scorched-earth policy. I wonder what this screed contributed to Flyboys—perhaps only that war is Hell.

His detailed account of the Doolittle Raiders’ bombing of Japan on 18 April 1942 is compelling.

Bradley gets credit for his excellent research. His exposition of the Japanese army’s  training, discipline, and inexorable top-down chain of command is keenly informative and explains, in large measure, the inability of the on-scene commanders and their subordinates to make any decision of import without approval from the senior military clique in Tokyo—the “Spirit Warriors.” Of particular note is his explanation of their total disregard for the lives of their men. They sent soldiers to isolated islands. Their orders were to kill the American devils and to die for the Emperor. Surrender or failure to die was dishonorable and brought shame to their families. It was the Bushido code updated for the Pacific War.

Here’s one example. Japanese high command sent 130,000 troops to the island of New Guinea. After our navy’s victory in the battle of the Bismarck Sea, the Japanese soldiers were trapped. No supplies could reach them and there was no escape. The high command lacked concern—it was the vagaries of war and these men would die an honorable death. Nonetheless, the soldiers fought the Australian and American forces until almost all of the Japanese were dead—either killed or dead of disease and starvation. It’s in this story that Bradley tells us how the starving Japanese soldiers killed their own to keep from starving to death.

Bradley’s writing style is easy, fluid, and empathetic. And, that’s part of the problem with his book—it’s too empathetic, too vivid. We become immersed in his stories—we are at the location witnessing the details of the hideous torture, barbaric assassination, and gruesome cannibalism of our naval aviators. We attend the Japanese officers’ dining table to share the thigh of an enlisted gunner’s mate. Naturally, the reigning general has first pick.

Flyboys is a book suffused with death, torture, and cannibalism. I reckon that these horrors happened, but Bradley doesn’t have to be so dammed graphic about the details. This is not a book for the squeamish, the prudish, or the honorable warrior—in fact, I feel it’s a book solely for the Judge Advocate Generals.

My heart is greatly troubled by Bradley’s narrative. I regret having read his book. I’ve not slept well these past few nights. His images are too powerful. Flyboys is too personal, too engaging. I don’t want to witness the ignominious fate of my shipmates.  

Note: Many of these Japanese criminals were convicted of crimes and hung from the gallows.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Advertisements

The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.57.39 PM.png

2 July 1937

At 0843 hours, local time, Amelia Earhart transmitted this in-flight message, “We must be on you but cannot see you…but gas is running low.”

Radio operators aboard the USGS Itasca—her guard ship anchored off Howland Island—recorded in the Log Book, “Her voice was loud and clear.” Accordingly, her aircraft, the Lockheed Electra model 10E, must be within 100 nautical miles of the ship. All following efforts to establish either radiotelegraphic or voice communications with Earhart failed.

A few minutes later she transmitted, “We are running on line north and south on the line 157/337. Will repeat this message on 6210.” These were the last words heard from the famous aviatrix.

***

In the mid-1930s, Amelia Earhart was an American icon personified. Her aviation exploits dominated the media. We heard radio broadcasts of her setting new records and heard her speeches, we read the headlines and stories that flooded our newspapers of her exploits, and we saw her in newsreels and her new Lockheed Electra—Purdue University’s flying laboratory to garner aviation’s unknown secrets. In 1937, she started her second attempt to fly around the world as near to the equator as possible. She vanished before reaching Howland Island in the Central Pacific. Where she disappeared and why are the two key questions that are unanswerable with the intelligence we have today.

Pundits and charlatans have proposed numerous scenarios to explain her disappearance. Some are ridiculously bizarre. For example, she became Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s sex slave, or she was the woman broadcaster, “Tokyo Rose.”

Following are five scenarios that prevail in the extant literature—some with no, or minimal credence—none are conclusive.

  1. Amelia Earhart crashed landed in the Japanese controlled Mandate Marshall Islands. She survived; the Japanese captured and interned her. She was repatriated after the war and returned sub-rosa to the USA using the nom de guerre Irene Craigmile Bolam.
  2. Earhart was a Trojan horse. She crashed on purpose in the Marshall Islands so the U.S. Navy could find her and collect intelligence on Japanese fortifications during their search.
  3. Earhart was lost, crash landed inside the Japanese-mandated islands. They captured her and Noonan and imprisoned them on Saipan where they died.
  4. Earhart landed her Electra on the reef at Gardner Atoll in the Phoenix Group. She and Noonan and survived for a while, and the pair died as castaways.
  5. Amelia Earhart missed Howland Island. Out of fuel, the Electra crashed into the ocean and the flyers drowned.

***

The Commander of Naval Intelligence tasked one of his officers, Commander Gregory Thompson, to ferret the facts of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. His startling discovery is revealed in “Amelia,” printed in S. Martin Shelton’s book Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins.


Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PM.png

Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins will be available as a free eBook download July 2–5.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-10-27-46-am

Rating – Five Stars

Toland presents in this superb tome a view of the Pacific War (1941-1945) that most of us have never thought about or seen. He writes in a smooth, engaging style. We are engrossed in the narrative of this page-turner. We view the details of this horrendous campaign from the Japanese perspective—it’s an eye opener incarnate. I was a young teenager on 7 December 1941, and followed the war closely in the papers, radio, and in newsreels. Finally, after all those years, I have a new perspective of the wherewithal—and it’s engaging.

In essence, the Japanese government and military convinced themselves and their public that the United States of America caused this war. Their rationale is complicated, self-deluding, and ignores their long-term ambitions of conquest.

As early as the late nineteenth century, the Japanese military had devised a scheme, dubbed the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, designed to forcefully take the rich natural resources of Southeast Asia that the home islands were deficient in—needed to make Japan a great nation. Such resources include: oil, rubber, tin, manganese, iron, silver, and a host of other items.

Following, Japan waged aggressive wars with its neighbors to implement this conquest plan: Sino-Japanese War, 1894 to 1895; Russo-Japanese War, 1904 to 1905; World War I, 1914 to 1945, Changkufeng incident with the USSR in 1938, Khalkhin Gol conflict with the USSR in 1939.

Tensions grew between Japan and the USA during the 1930s after the Kwantung Army invaded and conquered the Chinese Province Manchuria. In 1936, Japan invaded China proper. Within a few days, the Kwantung Army captured Peking, Shanghai, and other coastal cities.

In 1941 Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo told the Japanese Diet, “The Greater East Asia war is founded on the exalted ideals of the founding of our empire and it will enable all the nations and peoples of Greater East Asia to enjoy life and to establish a new order of coexistence and co-prosperity on the basis of justice with Japan as the nucleus.”

In July 1941, the Japanese Army invaded French Indochina for its many resources including rubber—the essential commodity for war. A few days later, President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese assets frozen and a complete embargo of oil and other resources. Great Britain and the Netherlands followed. These actions denied Japan her rightful place as the leader of Asia and challenged her very existence. Every day the Japanese navy consumed twelve thousand tons of irreplaceable bunker oil. With only a small reserve, Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye said, “…the armed forces would be a helpless as a whale thrown up on the beach.”

At the military’s urging, Tojo convinced the Diet and Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito, to authorize the military to implement Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan to attack secretly the American fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and for the Army to launch the invasion of Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Siam, the Philippines, Netherland East Indies, Guam, Wake Island, New Guinea, and Portuguese Timor.

From time to time, Toland personalizes the war, and we see the conflict from the perspective of the ordinary Japanese soldier. For example, we follow privates engaged in the Guadalcanal campaign, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Leyte, Saipan, and Okinawa. Surprisingly, we begin to empathize with them—our pernicious enemy. Occasionally, he fails to follow through and we know not what happened to the soldier—killed, suicide, wounded, captured, survived?

I do have a few “picks to nit.” The most serious is Tolan’s diminution of the Japanese barbarous atrocities: the Bataan death march, Rape of Nanking, Death Railway in Siam, Rape of Manila, and many thousand other mistreatments of military prisoners of war and civilian captives. His Spartan coverage of these Japanese transgressions is curious—it’s almost a passing reference.

For the aficionados of the Pacific War this book is an essential reference.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Killing the Rising Sun

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.27.22 AM.png

Rating – Five Stars

Bill O’Reilly hits a home run with his compendium of the 1940s Pacific War. He writes in an easy, sparse, and empathetic style. He paints the big pictures of the major land and sea battles and tells the stories of the “grunts” that did the fighting and dying. We know these grunts. We identify with them, we are appalled at the horrendous casualties, we share the agony with the wounded, and we attend their burials at sea, in unmarked graves, and at Arlington.

O’Reilly sets the stage for the war in the Pacific with the Empire of Japan. We learn of the building animosity in the 1930s between America and the Empire of Japan. The animus began when Japan invaded the Chinese province Manchuria in September 1931. Japan was eager to implement its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to conqueror East Asia for its natural resources. The animus increased when Japan invaded China in July 1937. The Kwantung Army captured Peking, Shanghai, and other coastal cities in a few days. French Indo-China fell to Japan in July 1941.

Responding, President Roosevelt (with Great Britain and the Netherlands) imposed an embargo on petroleum products, steel, and other natural resources for Japan. At the time, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three months of bunker oil. General Hideki Tojo ordered the implementation of Command Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan for a surprise attack on our fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—Tora! Tora! Tora!

In the early morning on Sunday December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese aircraft, from three aircraft carriers, bombed and torpedoed our fleet in Pearl Harbor with devastating results: sunk were the battleships, USS Arizona, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, and USS California. Five other battleships were heavily damaged. President Roosevelt declared war on the Empire of Japan with the phrase, “a date which will live in infamy.”

O’Reilly guides us our journey through the bloody campaigns throughout the South and Central Pacific, and to the Japan’s home island Okinawa—where Kamikaze pilots drove their aircraft directly into our ships—causing devastating casualties in sailors and ships.

He details the great sea battles with cogency, Java Sea, Bismarck Sea, Coral Sea, Midway, Espírito Santo (“The Slot”), Battle of the Philippine Sea, Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Okinawa Campaign. We crawl through the islands with the grunts: Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Buna, New Georgia, Mankin, Tarawa, Leyte, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa.

Almost seventy percent of this book discusses the atomic bomb. We follow President Roosevelt’s approval, General Groves management of this titanic project, Doctor Oppenheimer assembling his team at Los Alamos, work, innovation, breakthrough, and testing. The bomb on board the B-29 dubbed Enola Gay, Hiroshima in flames; another bomb on the B-29 dubbed Box Car, Nagasaki in flames. We see General MacArthur on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay signing the instrument of surrender. The greatest, most deadly, and costly war has concluded.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last: Second Edition

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-10-50-05-am

Rating – Three Stars

For the aficionado of the Amelia Earhart disappearance, Campbell’s book is a must-read. He has assiduously reviewed the relevant literature regarding her last flight and, with keen ingenuity, he has compiled a compelling account that purports to unmask the enduring enigma of that flight. From the pertinent publications, he has excerpted eyewitness accounts (and second- and third-hand narratives), relevant documents, and technical details, and has assembled this substantial information into a coherent chronology.

Background: On 21 May 1937, in Oakland, California, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, started an around-the-world flight in her customized Lockheed Electra model 10E. At 1030 hours on 2 June 1939, they departed Lae, New Guinea, bound on a nonstop flight to Howland Island—2,333 nautical miles distant. They vanished. And the mystery has endured.

With deductive reasoning, Campbell concludes that Amelia Earhart landed her Lockheed Electra model 10E on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There is no credible data to explain Earhart’s decision to fly into the Marshall—a dangerous action. Under a 1920 League of Nations mandate, the Japanese controlled the Marshall Islands—the Carolines and the Marianas. Japan sealed off this vast area of the Central Pacific within the Bamboo Curtain. In secret, during the 1930s, the Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

Members of the Japanese Navy captured Earhart and Noonan, and took them to Saipan, the Japanese Navy Headquarters in the Pacific. The pair were interrogated, and imprisoned as spies. Eventually, a Japanese officer beheaded Noonan, and Amelia Earhart was either killed or died of disease. Their bodies were buried in unmarked graves.

The rebuttal to this scenario is that there are no artifacts, no photographs, and no written documents—we have nothing tangible. This lack of hard evidence is especially curious. The Japanese were obsessively driven to keep meticulous documentation and to keep Military Headquarters in Tokyo well informed of any out-of-ordinary activities. The capture of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart would certainly have engendered a flurry of message traffic and entries into the diaries of senior officers. To date, no credible records exist. The Japanese were avid photographers, and many Saipan witnesses averred that they saw photographs of Earhart displayed by Japanese soldiers—yet no such photograph survives.

Notwithstanding the excellence with which Campbell has penned this exposé, I’m chagrined at his arrogant dismissal of all other scenarios that explain Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. In one instance, Campbell gives short shrift to Commander Warner K. Thompson’s 106-page report that was highly critical of Earhart’s piloting skills and decried her radio-technique ineptness. Forthrightly, Commander Thompson, captain of the USS Itasca, blames Amelia Earhart’s serial incompetence for her demise. Also, Campbell tends to reject evidence that counters his rock-solid dogma. Simply put, his singlemindedness in castigating the apostates with scandalous rhetoric and schoolboy name-calling denigrates in large measure his professional standing.

Campbell conducted only marginal original research. Rather, he has relied on secondary sources. He acknowledges missives and oral commentary from Bill Prymak, Thomas Devine, and Jim Golden. His three key publication sources were:

  • Fred Goerner, The Search for Amelia Earhart
  • Thomas E. Devine, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident
  • Vincent V. Loomis, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story

 As the thorough author Campbell is, he includes numerous photographs; Fred Goerner’s “Island Witness List”; a declassified COMNAVMARIANAS radio message to CNO, Subject: Amelia Earhart; a Selected Bibliography including reports and other documents, magazine, newspaper, and blog articles; and an Index.

Campbell writes with deft skills and unbridled passion in this seminal work. His narrative is infectious—a page-turner par excellence. His coherent assembly of the relevant material reflects incredible organizational skills and true dedication to his conviction.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

 

Post Navigation