Today In U.S. Military History August 10th 1945

Today In U.S. Military History August 10th 1945

Just a day after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan submits its acquiescence to the Potsdam Conference terms of unconditional surrender, as President Harry S. Truman orders a halt to atomic bombing.

Emperor Hirohito, having remained aloof from the daily decisions of prosecuting the war, rubber-stamping the decisions of his War Council, including the decision to bomb Pearl Harbor, finally felt compelled to do more. At the behest of two Cabinet members, the emperor summoned and presided over a special meeting of the Council and implored them to consider accepting the terms of the Potsdam Conference, which meant unconditional surrender.

“It seems obvious that the nation is no longer able to wage war, and its ability to defend its own shores is doubtful.” The Council had been split over the surrender terms; half the members wanted assurances that the emperor would maintain his hereditary and traditional role in a postwar Japan before surrender could be considered. But in light of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, Nagasaki on August 9, and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, as well as the emperor’s own request that the Council “bear the unbearable,” it was agreed: Japan would surrender.

Tokyo released a message to its ambassadors in Switzerland and Sweden, which was then passed on to the Allies. The message formally accepted the Potsdam Declaration but included the proviso that “said Declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as sovereign ruler.” When the message reached Washington, President Truman, unwilling to inflict any more suffering on the Japanese people, especially on “all those kids,” ordered a halt to atomic bombing, He also wanted to know whether the stipulation regarding “His Majesty” was a deal breaker.

Negotiations between Washington and Tokyo ensued. Meanwhile, savage fighting continued between Japan and the Soviet Union in Manchuria.

 Today In U.S. Military History August 10th 1945

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This Day In U.S. Military History 9 August 1945

This Day In U.S. Military History 9 August 1945

A second atom bomb is dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender. The devastation wrought at Hiroshima was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender.

The United States had already planned to drop their second atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” on August 11 in the event of such recalcitrance, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9th.
So at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its usual commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction.

The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).

General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18-but it was not necessary.

Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people….” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

Major Sweeney, the pilot, would in 1956, at age 37, become the youngest brigadier general in the entire peacetime Air Force when he was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to command the 102nd Tactical Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard.

This Day In U.S. Military History 9 August 1945

Private Snafu – A Lecture on Camouflage

Private Snafu – A Lecture on Camouflage

Distributed to all branches of the military, this is one of 26 Private SNAFU (Situation Normal, All F***ed Up) cartoons made by the US Army Signal Corps during World War II to educate and boost the morale of the troops.
These films were never intended for public distribution and were screened for military audiences only.
These stories were unhampered by Hollywood censors of the day and are surprisingly uncivil, racist, sexist and politically incorrect by contemporary standards.

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This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

Following the American break out from Normandy in July, 1944, the Germans decided that the only way to stop the Allied advance and push them back to the sea was to launch a massive attack in the Avranches region, about 150 miles west of Paris. To do this they moved tanks and men of the XLVII Panzer Corps into place and opened their operation on August 7th.

Their main thrust, lead by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, was to cut the American line between Normandy and Brittany, forcing the two groups to fall back on different beach areas, possibly compelling at least one group to withdraw. But almost immediately the Germans were blocked by determined resistance.
On Hill 317, near the village of Mortain, their advance was stopped by 700 men of North Carolina’s 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division (which also included Guard units from SC and TN).

Firing at almost point-blank range their one anti-tank gun and numerous anti-tank rockets (fired from ‘bazooka’s’) the Guardsmen destroyed 40 vehicles including several heavy battle tanks. The Germans bypassed the hill leaving it surrounded.

They launched repeated assaults to capture it but these were beaten back with artillery support from the Guard’s 35th Infantry Division (KS, MO, NE) and RAF air strikes on the German positions. After five days of being cut off and with the loss of nearly 300 men the 2nd Battalion was rescued by elements of the 35th Division.

For it’s determined and stubborn resistance in blocking the enemy advance the 2/120th Infantry was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

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Task Force Smith

Task Force Smith – America’s Entry into the Korean War

Task Force Smith was composed mostly of men under 21 years of age, and before war broke out in Korea on June 25, 1950, its experience involved little more than garrison duty in Japan. Few of its members had been in combat.
The troops of Task Force Smith weren’t unlike most other G.I.s of their day — laid-back, under-trained and perhaps too accustomed to peacetime. Author T.R. Fehrenbach described them as “probably as contented a group of American soldiery as had ever existed.”
“It was not their fault that no one had told them that the real function of an army is to fight, and that a soldier’s destiny — which few escape — is to suffer, and if need be, to die,” wrote Fehrenbach, who was a combat officer in Korea.

What America needed Task Force Smith to do in the summer of 1950 was blunt North Korea’s rapid southward advance as long as possible. It became the first American unit to meet the North Koreans in ground combat.
“In all American history, no group of soldiers has displayed greater bravery and dedication than the mostly untried members of Task Force Smith,” author Bevin Alexander wrote.
The Formation of Task Force Smith
Task Force Smith consisted of 406 men from the 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, and 134 men from Battery A of the 52nd Artillery Battalion.

When the North Korean onslaught began with smashing success, the 24th was the first U.S. division sent to Korea, and Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith’s battalion was in the vanguard. Smith headed to Korea with just two rifle companies, which were under-strength, and some headquarters, communications, and heavy weapons troops.
After a long journey that included travel by plane, truck, and train, Smith’s troops were joined on July 4 in Pyongtaek by the artillerymen of Lt. Col. Miller O. Perry, who brought six 105-millimeter pieces, with 1,200 rounds of ammunition.

The combined infantry/artillery unit was dubbed Task Force Smith. Its men were optimistic heading into battle. They had no idea of the long odds they faced.

Image for task force smith

Task Force Smith Fails to Stop North Korean Tanks
Task Force Smith was trucked 12 miles north from Pyongtaek, moving to a position three miles beyond the village of Osan on July 4. The group dug in on high ground that overlooked the highway and a railroad to the east.
At 7:30 a.m. on July 5, a line of North Korean tanks churned into view, and the Americans let loose with all of the heavy weapons they had, which in the grand scheme of things weren’t much.

While Perry’s artillerymen had a decent supply of high-explosive shells, they possessed only six rounds of armor-piercing ammunition. Smith’s “battalion” could add just two 75-millimeter recoilless rifles and six bazookas. That was not nearly enough firepower to stop the North Korean force of Russian-made T34 tanks, which smashed through Task Force Smith’s position.
Most of the hits scored by the Americans bounced off the T34 armor, and the North Koreans continued south after inflicting 23 casualties, destroying a handful of U.S. vehicles, and knocking out a forward 105 howitzer position. There was a temporary panic among the artillery crews, but it was brought under control well before any enemy infantry arrived.

Task Force Smith Battles North Korean Infantry
An hour after the tanks passed through, the Americans spotted a six-mile column of North Koreans with three more T34 tanks leading the way. Behind them were some 5,000 infantry — two regiments. The North Koreans were unaware of the American positions and were predictably surprised when Smith’s troops opened fire at 11:45 a.m. Trucks exploded, some men fell, and the rest scattered in different directions.
But unlike the tank column that broke through hours earlier, this North Korean force directly engaged the Americans. The Communists began spreading around the flanks. And with their huge numerical superiority — and ample mortar and artillery support — they proved to be an insurmountable force.
Smith ordered his force to withdraw before it was surrounded, and the task was accomplished with great difficulty. The Americans suffered most of their 150 casualties during the retreat. Task Force Smith had delayed the North Koreans for a total of seven hours — at the cost of 20 killed, and 130 wounded or missing.

The Legacy of Task Force Smith
Task Force Smith is not a name that is synonymous with triumph in U.S. military annals. To some, it is a symbol of failure and unpreparedness — a model for future generations not to emulate. Task Force Smith did not have enough men, training, supplies, or ammunition when it entered combat, yet somehow it was called upon to perform a monumental task.
Yet it’s difficult to fault the men of the task force, who, under the circumstances, performed better than perhaps anybody had a right to expect. Their fight lasted only hours, but as the U.S. struggled to assemble additional troops in Korea and every hour was critical.
In 2005, a monument to Task Force Smith was erected near the battle site, almost exactly 55 years after the engagement.

Courtesy of War History Online

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