I was supposed to die 75 years ago. In June 1945, President Truman approved Operation Downfall, a plan to invade the Japanese Home Islands of Kyushu and Honshu. Operation Olympic was to commence on Kyushu Nov. 1, 1945, followed in March 1946 by Operation Coronet on Honshu. I was the officer on a Navy landing ship who acquired classified documents for the ship, so I came back to the ship with operation plans involving our flotilla.
I first checked to see where we were landing. It was at Kyushu’s east coast city of Miyazaki. Next I turned to the intelligence section, which described what we were facing. By the time I finished this section, I was deeply depressed. It was clear that I was on death row, due to die Nov. 1. I was shocked to read the Japanese had 5,000 kamikaze aircraft. Already our ship had come very close to being taken out by a kamikaze attack, and two others in our group had been sunk. It turned out that 5,000 had been an underestimate—there were actually 12,700 kamikaze aircraft.
We were also very concerned about our landing beach’s facing a cliff that was honeycombed with gun emplacements. It is common doctrine to avoid being trapped close to a cliff in amphibious landings because it impairs rapidly dispersing troops. When checking a map of the area, Army Maj. Gen. Hugh Casey said that “anyone sending troops ashore there was a murderer.” In any case we might not have made it to the beach without being taken out by one of the several thousand suicide boats.