Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Today marks V-J Day, the 57th anniversary go Japan's agreement to surrender unconditionally. The surrender came as a relief to Allied commanders who faced the daunting task of invading the Japanese home islands. Operation Olympic was the planned October 1945 (X-Day would have been November 1st) invasion of the Japanese island of Kyushu. Bases established by the capture of Kyushu would have supported the spring 1946 invasion of the Kanto Plain near Tokyo on the island of Honshu.
American soldiers did not doubt the will of the Japanese to fight tenaciously even when defeat was obvious. Having witnessed mass suicides by Japanese civilians during the battle of Okinawa, Allied planners expected to encounter resistance from not only the Japanese soldiers but civilians. Estimated American casualty rates varied wildly. General Douglas MacArthur's staff estimated 105,000 casualties in the first 120 days. A report put together for Secretary of State Henry Stimson suggested that casualties could reach four million!
V-J Day eliminated the need for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. The surrender was formalized on September 2, 1945 onboard the battleship Missouri. MacArthur was named Supreme Allied Commander (SCAP). In this position, arguably the most powerful position ever held by an American, MacArthur rewrote the Japanese constitution and initiated post-war reconstruction.