In the ensuing hard fought war we succeded in sinking most of their navy and merchant fleet in addition to killing hundreds of thousands of their soldiers. They started it and we finished by destroying their country.
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…”
And they did.
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Dec. 7, 1941: This captured Japanese photograph was taken aboard a Japanese aircraft carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (US National Archives)
In the articles and online discussions of about the atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US, no one seems to mention the following about Pearl Harbor:
The Japanese attacked the United States and declared war on the united states Not the other way around.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8, 1941. Behind him are Vice President Henry Wallace (left) and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. To the right, in uniform in front of Rayburn, is Roosevelt’s son James, who escorted his father to the Capitol.
An annotated version of Roosevelt’s Infamy speech, showing the original wording “a date which will live in world history.”
“Air raid pearl harbor. this is no drill.”
US Navy radio message to all US Navy ships near Pearl Harbor
“On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii…”
“The Japanese planned to give the U.S. a declaration of war before the attack began so they would not violate the first article of the Hague Convention of 1907, but the message was delayed and not relayed to U.S. officials in Washington until the attack was already in progress….”
“The Japanese strike force consisted of 353 aircraft launched from four heavy carriers. These included 40 torpedo planes, 103 level bombers, 131 dive-bombers, and 79 fighters. The Japanese naval task force also consisted of two heavy cruisers, 35 submarines, two light cruisers, nine oilers, two battleships, and 11 destroyers….”
Dec. 7, 1941: The USS West Virginia is aflame after the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (US National Archives)
The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, wounded 1,178 including 38 civilians and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships.
The battleship USS Arizona remains sunken in Pearl Harbor with its crew onboard. Half of the dead at Pearl Harbor died on Arizona. A United States flag flies above the sunken battleship, which serves as a memorial to all Americans who died in the attack…
On December 8, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress for and received a declaration of war against Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy, allied with Japan, declared war on the U.S. The United States had entered World War II.”
USS Arizona aflame and sinking Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941
“Eight US B-29 crewmen were killed by un-anaesthetized vivisection carried out in front of medical students at a hospital. Their stomachs, hearts, lungs and brain segments were removed. (1944)
Among the pagodas on Mandalay Hill, historic heart of Burma’s second city, Indian troops of 19th Division open fire on a Japanese strong-point. (Photo courtesy of IWM)
A patrol of the British 36th Division in the village of Bahe, during the drive down to Mandalay.
Some of the bloodiest and intense fighting in World War Two occurred in Burma from January 1945 onward during the British led offensive to re-conquer the colony from the Japanese. Beginning in late January 1942, Japanese troops had attacked Burma, then a British Crown Colony.
Soldiers of the 14th Army on Mandalay Hill, during the battle for Fort Dufferin. (photo courtesy British Information Services)
A Burmese family living in a dug-out share tea with a British soldier in Meiktila, 10 March 1945. (photo courtesy of IWM)
Long forgotten in the West, the long campaign to defeat the Japanese required armed forces drawn from military units throughout the vast British Empire including British, British Indian Army troops with British Commonwealth troops and locally raised units loyal to the British. American troops and aircraft along with units from the Nationalist Chinese Army fought in the campaign as well.
Tanks and truck-borne infantry of the British 14th Army, on the dash to Meiktila. (courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
Men of the 6/7th Rajputana Rifles of the British Indian Army advance behind Sherman tanks during the assault on Meiktila, 23 February 1945. The all volunteer British Indian Army recruited from throughout British India eventually numbered more than 2.5 million troops, one of the largest volunteer armies in history. (photo courtesy of IWM).
70% of the British Indian Army were Muslims. The British High Command paid the greatest attention to the religious and dietary laws of Islam when dealing with these troops as they did for all the different ethic groups which fought for them. When the time came to partition India, Jinnah, head of the Muslim League and founder of Pakistan, was well aware that without Muslim soldiers the British Indian Army would never have been very successful. The British were well aware of this which gave them a certain incentive to agree to the partition of British India.
Mandalay and Meiktila were two key cities in central/upper Burma. Between January and March 1945, the British led attack destroyed the Japanese Army divisions around the two cities. Tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed and the military organization of the Japanese forces collapsed. (1)
After a series of small wars, Burma had been taken by the British in 1886. While separate, the colony had been attached for administration to British India which then included all of present day Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Burma was made a separate colony in 1937.
Burma remained an underdeveloped colony of the British Empire. Its primary economic value to the Empire was its large rice crop. Much of this was exported to other colonies in the Empire including Ceylon, Egypt and British India and its fall to the Japanese caused major food supply problems in the British Empire.
In a brutal assault the Japanese drove the lightly armed British and British Indian Army troops out of Burma and established a reign of terror over the various peoples of the area. While many of the native Burmans were happy to see British rule end, that sentiment did not continue with great fervor after people experienced the everyday terror of Japanese martial law.
As was often the case in British colonies, many of the smaller ethnic groups, such as the Karen people, had been brutally dealt with by the majority ethnic group, the Burmans (from whom the country takes its name). The persecution of the Karens by the Burmese continues in a brutal fashion to this day.
Indian troops coax mules into the water for the 500 yard swim across the Irrawaddy River, January 1945. (Photo courtesy of the IWM)
Hence, the Karens welcomed British rule and remained loyal to the British, supplying men to locally raised units supporting the British Imperial forces. So did other small ethnic groups. After the war, the British granted independence to Burma but would not divide the colony between the Burmans and the smaller ethnic groups despite the pleas of the Karens and other groups. These were the people who had been most loyal to the British and they were paid back in a shabby and inglorious way.
The campaign to re-take Mandalay and Meiktila by the British led 14th Army occurred between January and March 1945 because the best fighting weather lasted only from January through early June. In the other months, the monsoon rains descended. Just moving forward in the rainy season required immense efforts. (photo courtesy of the British Information Service)
According to a July 1945 publication on the campaign in Burma by the British Information Service:
During the monsoon season “In the Assam-Burma mountains… the rainfall runs between 150 and 250 inches a year (New York State has forty-one, inches: England thirty inches). Men were never dry, day or night, for months on end. Roads which yesterday carried tanks and guns will tomorrow be either thirty feet under water or simply washed off the side of the hill..
As you might imagine, the inhospitable climate caused significant health problems among the troops.
The damp and the heat bring malaria, sprue, (a disease which attacks the GI tract) dengue, dysentery and jaundice. During the first six months of 1944 there were 237,000 hospitalized disease and fever cases in the 14th Army alone (eighty-five per cent of its combat strength).
Soldiers were constantly felled by malaria.
“If you try to march in a mosquito net it is ripped to pieces by the undergrowth; if you cover yourself with anti-mosquito cream, you are ready to burst after 100 yards, for it clogs the sweat pores. So you eat anti-fever atabrin tablets, which turn you yellow, and salt tablets to put back what you lose from sweat, and you trust the medics to get you back to duty from the malaria in three to four weeks. (They do it, too, which is one of the war’s miracles.”
The 2nd Battalion of The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) was in India at the start of the war and spent 1939 to 1943 on internal security duties there. In January 1943 it was attached to 98th Indian Brigade. After undergoing jungle training it was sent to Asssam, arriving in the Autumn of 1944. It fought at Imphal-Kohima and then joined the advance into Burma, crossing the Chindwin in December and then winning battle honours for Kyaukmyaung Bridgehead, Mandalay, Fort Dufferin and Toungoo.
One of 11 photographs collected by CSM G R C Willis, 2nd Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment, Burma, 1945.
(photo and caption courtesy of the British National Army Museum)
The British commander and Indian crew of a Sherman tank of the 9th Royal Deccan Horse, 255th Indian Tank Brigade, encounter a newly liberated elephant on the road to Meiktila, 29 March 1945. (photo courtesy of the IWM)
An Indian infantry section of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment about to go on patrol on the Arakan front, Burma, 1944. (photo courtesy of the IWM)
Sources: author’s research, Imperial War Museum, British Information Service.
(1) The British Empire and the Second World War by Ashley Jackson.
Additionally I recommend the following for further reading: The Road Past Mandalay by John Masters. This is the second volume of his memoirs of serving as an officer in the Gurkhas, elite feared combat troops of the British Army still recruited in Nepal to this day. The first volume is Bugles and a Tiger which I think is slightly better and gives a fascinating look into the work-a-day tasks of the British Indian Army between the wars.
USS Wahoo (SS 238) Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Dudley W. “Mush” Morton (R) speaks with his Executive Officer Lt. Richard H. O’Kane (L) on the open bridge at Pearl Harbor after the submarine’s third war patrol circa Feb. 7, 1943.
On Oct. 11, 1943, nearly a month into the seventh patrol, a multi-hour combined sea and air attack involving depth charges and aerial bombs sunk the submarine. Lt. Commander O’Kane had been detached prior to that patrol to assume command of the USS Tang.
Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, declared that the sunken submarine recently discovered by divers in the Western Pacific is the World War II submarine USS Wahoo (SS 238). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Taken from http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/g30000/g35725.jpg
Shooting Down the Throat: Mush Morton and the USS Wahoo
Without a doubt, the one submarine commander who instilled aggressiveness and tenacity into the US submarine force was Dudley W. “Mush” Morton. This assessment of America’s greatest submarine commander is from author and historian, Lt. Joel Ira Holwitt, USN, who also has the distinction of being on active duty with the US Navy Submarine Service. The quote is from Lt. Holwitt’s outstanding book, Execute Against Japan: The US Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare (five stars).
In the beginning of the war in the Pacific, many American U-Boat skippers lacked aggressiveness. They didn’t lack courage but they lacked the aggressiveness to close with the enemy and grapple with him — to take the calculated risk necessary to force an engagement. It took Mush Morton to show them how.
Aggressiveness in war usually means throwing the rule book away and writing your own rules for combat. And Dudley Morton was not a man to be bound by rules which didn’t make any sense on active operations. So when he took command of the USS Wahoo, he drilled his officers and crew relentlessly and they learned to do things they had never practiced in peacetime because they weren’t by the book. “Shooting down the throat” was most definitely not by the book yet this is what made Morton so legendary and it occurred in what became his most famous engagement.
A Japanese destroyer had come upon Morton and the Wahoo and he had fired a “fan” of four torpedoes. The destroyer turned into them, “combed the tracks,” and all the torpedoes missed. Continuing her turn, the destroyer came pounding down the straight line which would take her to the apex of the fan, which is where the US submarine had to be and obviously was, since the periscope was sticking up out of the water.
Morton didn’t flinch. “Keep your scope up and we’ll shoot that SOB down the throat,” he said. The USS Wahoo had only two torpedoes left. Given the relative position of the two vessels, Morton would only have a thirty second window to fire his torpedoes. With the destroyer charging him, he and his fire team waited until the right moment. “Fire one!”
With the Japanese destroyer bearing down on them, they had only moments and the first torpedo missed. The second one had to get a hit or they would be depth charged out of existence. Morton did not fire his second torpedo until the bow of the destroyer was only 750 yards away. Since the torpedo needed to run 700 yards before it armed, this was as close as you could cut it. Immediately on firing the second torpedo, Wahoo went deep but as she did so the destroyer fired a full pattern of depth charges which exploded very close to the Wahoo and gave her a beating.
The crew braced for the second pattern of depth charges from the Japanese destroyer which could easily sink their submarine. But there weren’t any depth charges. Instead there was a completely different kind of noise. The last torpedo had hit hard and exploded with such force it practically tore the Japanese ship in half. The noise the crew heard was the Japanese destroyer breaking up.
This story, which is absolutely true, became legendary in the American submarine force in the Pacific during World War Two and set the standard for the aggressiveness the US Navy wanted in its submarine commanders.
Sources: Execute Against Japan: The US Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare by Lt. Joel Ira Holwitt, USN and Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Most Famous World War II Submarine by Richard H. O’Kane (three stars)