This Was the Moment Japan's Imperial Navy Died

January 25, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Pacific TheaterWorld War IIImperial JapanAmericaMilitary History

This Was the Moment Japan's Imperial Navy Died

The naval combat that raged around the Philippines invasion was preceded by a game of reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and planning.

This is the author’s third work on the subject, and her expertise shows in the detailed narrative and clear prose. This subject has long been unexplored, and it formed one small step in the gradual sweep of social change in the 20th century, a phenomenon the war only accelerated. The dedication and perseverance of these women is shown to advantage, and the book is liberally illustrated with period photographs of the pilots performing their duties.

Fritz Ziegelmann, a lieutenant colonel in the German Army’s 352nd Infantry Division, was abruptly awakened at midnight on June 5, 1944. Enemy parachutists had been reported nearby at Caen. As a staff officer for his division, he went ahead and ordered all units to an increased air raid warning. An hour later reports of several companies of paratroopers near Carentan came in. More reports followed, and German infantry was dispatched to deal with them but they were delayed when their French truck drivers claimed “engine trouble.” Over the next few hours a handful of prisoners were brought in, Americans wearing the patch of the 101st Airborne Division. Not long afterward Ziegelmann learned the beach areas were being bombarded; soon a regimental commander reported inbound landing craft. The division staff began issuing orders, but communications became spotty. For a while it seemed the Germans were holding their own against the assault, but around 11 AM the weather cleared and hordes of Allied fighter bombers attacked. It was the start of a long day for the division staff, and the beginning of the end of a long war.

Numerous books on D-Day can be found on any bookstore shelf; what makes this volume stand out is its perspective. The entire story is told from the point of view of the defending German troops. It is a compilation of after-action reports from various German officers telling their piece of the story as they saw it on that fateful day. Each section of the book covers a different topic: the preparations, how the defense was organized, the invasion itself, and the counterattacks carried out that day.

At 9:22 AM on May 3, 1943, a lone Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber named Hot Stuff took off from Bovington Aerodrome in England bound for the United States. It had to stop in Iceland to refuel. The weather was bad, and the pilot took his plane down as he searched for the airfield at Keflavik. It appeared once through the heavy clouds, and the bomber circled, dropping flares to announce its intent to land. Still the weather prevented a landing. The B-24 continued to circle until the pilot decided to divert to another airfield. As the pilot turned his craft, a mountain suddenly loomed ahead. Contact with Hot Stuff was lost at 3:30 PM. All but one of the crew was killed, including Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews, commander of all U.S. Forces in Europe.

The authors present a convincing case that Hot Stuff was the first heavy bomber in the Eighth Air Force to complete 25 missions. In fact they maintain the bomber completed 31 missions and document each of them. Even if the reader disagrees about whether this bomber was the first to 25, the book is a fascinating look at the almost day-to-day life of a bomber crew and their aircraft, with descriptions not only of their missions, but base life, leave in London, and flights to other theaters of operation, such as the Middle East.

In November 1943, the Americans won the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, a second turning point in the Pacific War after the Battle of Midway. Afterward, they attacked up the Solomons Island chain. They would fight the Japanese at New Georgia on land, sea, and air from March through October 1943. It was really a series of battles, with names such as Kula Gulf, Bairoko Harbor, and Vella Lavella. Air power would prove crucial to victory, and the skies over New Georgia were often filled with fighters and bombers engaged in equally desperate if unnamed struggles. Meanwhile, soldiers and Marines fought their Japanese counterparts in the jungles below.

Many of the engagements, landings, and fights that took place during this campaign are worthy of a book of their own; this volume takes a look at each and how these events combined to influence the final outcome. The author weaves a narrative that effectively tells the reader a complex tale in a simple, readable style. Sadly, the author, a history professor at East Tennessee State University, passed away before the publication of this work. The book is a fitting tribute to his love of history and skill as a writer.

Originally Published January 20, 2019

This article by Christopher Miskimon originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.


Image: Wikimedia Commons