Cover of the Strategic Plan for Operation Downfall

Cover of the Strategic Plan for Operation Downfall

Cover of the Strategic Plan for Operation Downfall

The cover of the Strategic Plan for Operation Downfall

Operation Barbarossa – The Major Errors and Blunders

Well, this is basically a follow-up video on my second video that I originally wanted to release quite early on, well more than 50 videos, 800 000 views and 20 000 subscribers later, here we go. The major error and blunders of the Hitler and his generals during the planning and execution of Operation Barbarossa.

Hitler & His Generals

First off, some words about Hitler and his generals, Barbarossa was basically their baby, thus both of them were responsible, yet similar to some parents, they constantly blamed the other side for all the shortcomings of their little brat in the Russian steppe. I think, both of them had their fair share of bad decision, hence none of them is above scrutiny.#


Since, we have dealt with the initial family issues, time to get started, I structured this video into two parts, the first part covers all the planning and preparation errors, the second part deals with errors during the ongoing military operations.

Preparation and Planning

Now, a large amount of errors occurred during the preparation and planning of Barbarossa.

Military Intelligence – or lack thereof

First off, Military Intelligence. The German intelligence service for the Eastern Front “Fremde Heere Ost”, which means “Foreign Armies East” had major problems providing substantial insights about the Red Army and this was a well-known problem at the time.

In general, military intelligence faces two key challenges, first the gathering of information and second the analysis of this information. Due to the closed nature of the Soviet Union the means to gather information were severely inflicted, yet according to a recent phd thesis the German efforts in analysis were sometimes also limited. For instance from 1923 to 1933 the German Armed Forces and Red Army cooperated quite closely, thus many German officers were trained in the Soviet Union. [REFER to HOI 4 – national focus] Yet, there is no evidence that suggests that those officers were ever questioned systematically. (Pahl: Fremde Heere Ost: S. 68)

Ultimately the state of the intelligence was quite shocking, it was assumed that the Soviet Army had around 150 divisions, but only about 100 could be accounted for. (S. 75) In terms of reserves it was assumed that the Soviets would have enough manpower to raise another 50 divisions, but would lack the equipment to arm them properly, thus the total of 150 divisions was the assumption for German planning. (S. 69) Now according to the American Military Historian David Glantz, the Soviets raised more than 800 division equivalent. that is more than 16 times what the Germans assumed.
(around 821 division equivalents of those were 73 tank and 32 mechanized (Glantz: Soviet-German War – Myths and Realities: p. 17 ))

The lack of information was widely known, here is an excerpt of the handbook on the Soviet Armed Forces from January 1941, which was printed around 2000 times:
“At the top of the entire Armed Forces probably is the Chairman of the Defence Committee (about comparable to our OKW) the council of People’s Commissars, currently Marshal Voroshilov, who in 1940 was people’s commissar for defense until the summer. He probably has a general staff at his disposal. Details are unknown ”
“An der Spitze der gesamten Kriegswehrmacht steht wahrscheinlich der Vorsitzende des Verteidigungs-Komitees (etwa unserem OKW vergleichbar) beim Rate der Volkskommissare, z. Zt. Marschall Woroschilow, der bis zum Sommer 1940 Volkskommissar für die Verteidigung war. Ihm steht wahrscheinlich ein Wehrmachts-Generalstab zur Seite. Einzelheiten sind unbekannt.” (zitiert nach Pahl S. 77)
So basically, the German military intelligence didn’t even know the upper echelons of the Soviet Military Forces and completely underestimated the Soviets ability in raising and outfit new divisions. This lack of information was still a problem in 1942 for Case Blue, which ended in the disaster at Stalingrad. Even at that time of the war the German military intelligence also assumed that the Red Army was mostly beaten and had limited abilities to regenerate itself. (Wegner, Bernd: Hitlers zweiter Feldzug gegen die Sowjetunion. Strategische Grundlagen und historische Bedeutung” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 659)


Now, the next one, probably everyone was expecting anyway, logistics. The main problem was that the German army had not a sufficient amount of trucks nor trains even before the beginning of Barbarossa. The main problem with a lack of transport capacity is that the existing vehicles are used more often and sometimes in ways they are not fully suited, this results in additional wear and tear, which ultimately puts further strain on the supply lines. Basically, any major shortcomings in a logistical system can develop into a death spiral.
There was already a lack of train engines and rail cars in Germany even before the attack on the Soviet Union was started, this was clearly noted by the chief for transportation in January 1941. Operation Barbarossa would thus make the situation even more problematic. (Kreidler: Eisenbahnen: S. 116)
Another major problem was that the rail gauge in the Soviet Union was different to that in continental Europe, thus the reconstruction of all railways was necessary, even if they could be captured in operational conditions. Originally it was assumed that enough Russian rail engines and cars would be captured and a reconstruction wouldn’t have been necessary, but this clearly was not the case. Although the German High Command ordered its troops to advance along the Soviet railway lines they didn’t comply this allowed the Soviet forces to evacuate or destroy a large amount of equipment. (Kreidler: Eisenbahnen: S. 126) As a result, there was both a lack of construction workers and trains. (Kreidler: Eisenbahnen: S. 121-126)
In order to cope with the lack of trains, trucks were used, yet due to the dire conditions of the roads this lead to severe breakdowns. In the beginning of August 1941 the Army Group Center – Heeresgruppe Mitte had lost 25 % and the Heeresgruppe North (Army Group North) had lost 39 % of its supply truck capacity. (Kreidler: Eisenbahnen: S. 127) Furthermore, you need to consider that the situation got even worse during the muddy season, when it was nearly impossible for even tracked vehicles to move properly. Additionally, the Soviets had established special local services to keep the railways in operational conditions during the Winter, such a service needed to be reestablished by the Germans.(Kreidler: Eisenbahnen: S. 124)
In short the transport capabilities of German in both trains and trucks was insufficient and it was known prior to the conflict. There was not enough personnel to handle the rail transportations and there was a lack of construction crews to improve the state of the destroyed rail way infrastructure. At least the lack in crews could have been planned more properly without too much strain on the German industry or manpower.

Missing Grand Strategy – No Two Front War

Now, next is the missing Grand Strategy. One major difference between the Axis and Allied forces was the lack in cooperation and Grand Strategy. The Western Allied Forces, which had a far higher amount of resources, industry and manpower available settled on the Grand Strategy “Germany First”. Now the Axis forces, which had limited economic capabilities couldn’t agree on a grand strategy and usually not even on smaller agreements.

Let’s take a closer look, although in 1936 Germany and Empire of Japan signed, the anti-comintern pact, this pact was lacking and furthermore the German Historian Martin Bernd states:
“Lack of substance and great propaganda should be characteristic for all subsequent German-Japanese agreements.” .(Martin, Bernd: Das deutsch-japanische Bündnis im Zweiten Weltkrieg S.124)
“Mangelende Substanz und großartige Propaganda sollten für alle weiteren deutsch-japanischen Abmachungen charakteristisch werden.” (Martin, Bernd: Das deutsch-japanische Bündnis im Zweiten Weltkrieg S.124)

When looking at the Axis and the Soviet Union relations the situation was quite ironic. In 1939 the Germans were basically partially cooperating with the Soviet Union due to their cooperation against Poland, the large trade agreements and establishment of sphere of influences. Whereas the Japanese were engaged in serious border conflicts with the Soviet Union, most notably the Battles of Khalkhin Gol.

Those border conflicts went badly for the Japanese Army and after the defeats in 1939, the Japanese choose the so-called “South Strategy”, which was favored by the Japanese Navy. The Japanese discussed a German proposal for a military alliance against the Soviet Union several times and it was rejected again and again between January and August 1939. The Japanese Navy was against a military alliance against the Soviet Union and also against Western Forces. The Japanese didn’t want to commit to any alliance. As a result Germany and the Soviet Union established the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was seen as treachery by the Japanese and they recalled their ambassador. (Martin, Bernd: Das deutsch-japanische Bündnis im Zweiten Weltkrieg S.124-125)
After the successes of the German Army in Poland and the Battle of France, the Japanese tried to reestablish contacts with Germany. Yet, Hitler would have preferred a compromise with the British, only after the British declined all German proposals and the Battle of Britain was lost, the Germans reacted positively towards the Japanese.

Yet, the following negotiations didn’t establish a proper unified strategy, thus the military alliance was basically a weak defensive pact, which became even more apparent when in April 1941 signed the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. After the start of Barbarossa, only the German and Japanese ambassador wanted a Japanese attack immediately. Yet, both the German and Japanese leadership were against an involvement of the Japanese in the attack against the Soviet Union. (Martin, Bernd: Das deutsch-japanische Bündnis im Zweiten Weltkrieg S.125-129)

Missing on improving the anti-tank capabilities

Now, since we covered diplomatic aspect, let’s take a look at a more tactical matter. During Operation Barbarossa the German forces several times came in contact with tanks what were almost invincible to most of their weaponry, most notably these tanks were the T-34, the KV-1 and the KV-2. The German Army should have been better prepared for these encounters and they shouldn’t have come as surprises.

Although the Soviets didn’t use the T-34 during the Winter War against the Finns, they used prototypes of KV-1 and the similar heavy tank the SMK in the conflict. (Source: Zaloga, Steven J. : KV-1 & 2 Heavy Tanks 1939-1945,.p. 7) Thus, the German High Command should have been aware that the Russian might have quite strong tanks. Furthermore, German Panzer tropps themselves had severe problems destroying the French Char B-1 bis in the Battle of France several times, most notably at the Battle of Stonne, where one French Tank managed to destroy 13 German ones. Yet, despite the Finnish and German experience, there were no proper actions taken to prepare the German divisions to deal with heavy or well-armored tanks.

Only Planning for a Short Campaign – The Core Problem

Now, let’s take a look at the biggest blunders of all and also the one that was foundation for most of the others. Namely, the wrong assumption that Operation Barbarossa would be a short campaign like the Invasion of Poland and the Battle of France. It should be noted that Operation Barbarossa was planned as a short campaign, unlike the Battle of France.
The military planning was mostly done by the German general staff and Hitler gave them free reign. He reviewed the plans in December 1940 and agreed mostly, but he had a different view of the situation. He wanted to focus on the North and South to capture resources and deny the enemy its ability to regenerate forces. Whereas the head of the General Staff “Generaloberst Halder” wanted to achieve a decisive blow by attacking Moscow. There was a consent about the first part of the plan, which was the aimed destruction of the Red Army in the Western parts of the Soviet Union. Yet, both parties didn’t settle for how the second part should be executed. As a result up to this day people are still arguing about the decision of Hitler in Summer 1941 to push towards Kiew instead towards Moscow. A problem that was already apparent in December 1940. (Förster, Jürgen: Der historische Ort des Unternehmens “Barbarossa” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 631)

Now, the assumption of a short campaign was rooted in the over-confidence of the German Army in its capabilities after the tremendous victory against its Arch-Enemy France in 1940, furthermore the underestimation of the Red Army and the stability of the Soviet Union. After all, many assumed that the Red Army would be beaten early on and the Soviet Union collapse. Most people in 1940 were thinking in World War 1 terms, when the Russian Empire collapsed and the French Army was one of the most formidable in the world. This view was not limited to Germans, many non-Axis politicians and military professionals also assumed that Barbarossa would be a quick victory for the German Army. Although the Germans assumed that the Red Army would break, they acknowledged the fierceness of the Russian soldiers even before the attack, yet the clearly underestimated the Soviet leadership, cohesion and capabilities to learn from their experience in the Winter War and early defeats during Barbarossa.

Not an error – War of Annihilation/Extermination – “Vernichtungskrieg”

Now, the next point is not an error in my opinion, but some people often note it as one. Operation Barbarossa was not just a military operation, it was also a “Vernichtungskrieg” or “War of Annihilation”. I don’t consider it a blunder, because it was an inherent part of pre-requisites of the operation itself, yet I think it is paramount that it is mentioned. In this case, I go with a short quote from the Historian Jürgen Förster:

“Operation ‘Barbarossa’ shows clearly – unlike any other campaign – the indissoluble connection of ideological and power-political goals of the social-darwinistic values of the Third Reich.” (Förster, Jürgen: Der historische Ort des Unternehmens “Barbarossa” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 639)

“Im Unternehmen ‘Barbarossa’ wird wie in keinem anderen Feldzug die unauflösbare Verbindung von ideologischen und machtpolitischen Zielen mit den sozialdwarinistischen Wertvorstellungen des Dritten Reiches deutlich.” (Förster, Jürgen: Der historische Ort des Unternehmens “Barbarossa” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 639)

To put it as simple and clear as possible for the Nazis the Jews were the real enemy and their annihilation as also the direct or indirect annihilation of many civilians in the occupied territories was part of the plan. Thus it is hard to argue that the various deadly operations and harsh treatment against non-combatants in the occupied area were blunders, because on the Eastern Front the distinction between pure military operations and ideological warfare is extremely difficult or even impossible. Thus calling this issue a blunder would mean to not fully acknowledge the inherent genocidal aspects of Operation Barbarossa.

Errors during the Execution

Now, let’s move to the next section the errors during the execution. The mistakes that occurred during the Operation itself are less, but also crucial and they seem to be in line with the chronic optimism that plagued the mistakes in the planning stage.

Not an error – Kiew instead of Moscow

Now, first I will address an error that was mainly a preparation error, namely the dissenting opinions if Moscow should be the primary target or not. This decision is highly debated, because Generaloberst Guderian wo is considered as the founder of the German Panzer Force, noted in his memoirs that he wanted to go for Moscow instead of Kiew, but Hitler insisted on conquering the Ukraine. Once I also assumed that Guderian was right, but most military historians for quite some time think otherwise and I changed my opinion.
Now, the military historian David Glantz notes the following about an early attack against Moscow:

“Had Hitler launched Operation Typhoon in September, Army Group Center would have had to penetrate deep Soviet defenses manned by a force that had not squandered its strength in fruitless offensives against German positions east of Smolensk.” (Glantz: Myth & Realities: p. 24)

“Furthermore, Army Group Center would have launched its offensive with a force of more than 600,000 men threatening its ever-extending right flank and, in the best reckoning, would have reached the gates of Moscow after mid-October just as the fall rainy season was beginning.” (Glantz: Myth & Realities: p. 24)

Additionally, there around 10 reserve armies ready that were used for the Soviet counter-attack in Winter 1941, these units would have been ready for the defense of Moscow while at the same time the troops spared at Kiew would have threatened the over-extended flank of the Germans.(Glantz: Myth & Realities: p. 24)

Not adapting nor acknowledging the resilience of the Soviet troops and repeatedly assuming they were beaten
As mentioned in preparation part the German High Command and Hitler completely underestimated the Soviet Army and Soviet Union to equip and raise new troops. As Halder noted:
“The Russian colossus…has been underestimated by us…whenever a dozen divisions are destroyed the Russians replace them with another dozen.” -Franz Halder

Nevertheless, there was no change in strategy nor did it prevent the Germans to repeatedly assume that the Soviet Army was beaten. (S. 91-92: Source Hitlers Krieg im Osten Ueberschär)

Not adapting after the reserves were used up early on and major exhaustion

That mistake goes hand in hand with the next one, namely the lack of adapting to the losses the German Army sustained in a short amount of time. Within a few weeks the German losses were so high that the reserves were all used up, nevertheless the German Army pushed on and overextended its lines and furthermore overstretched logistics. In overall the number of reserves were too low, the German Army only had about 400 000 trained reserves in June 1941. By the end of November 1941 these troops were all used up and furthermore, there was a lack of 340 000 men even after using local volunteers for non-combat roles and many other optimizations. Yet, the number alone is already staggering enough, another problem is that of those more than 740 000 casualties many were experienced and well trained combat troops that got replaced by inexperienced men. (End of November 1941: 340k Fehlstellen (Hillebrand: Das Heer: S. 19)) Additionally, these men had been fighting for months, they were exhausted and badly supplied. Which brings us to the next point.

Not listening to front commanders

Although, the dire situation was apparent to the front commanders. In Mid November(13th) 1941 at the conference at Orsha near Smolensk the Chief of Staff of German Army High Command met with the leadership of the Army Groups, Armies and Panzer Armies. All front commanders argued against continuing offensive operations, yet, Hitler and Halder insisted on continuing to push towards Moscow. In early December 1941 the Germans finally halted its advance, one day later the Soviets started their counter-offensive. (Castano, Vincent: The Failure of Operation Barbarossa: Truth versus Fiction p. 27-29) At this point, Operation Barbarossa, judged by its initial goals of achieving a quick victory against the Soviet Union, had cleared failed.

Summary – The Underlying and Continuous Problems

To conclude, the main underlying problems for the German mistakes were basically, a strong optimism that prevented any worst-case scenario planning, an underestimation of the enemy and an overestimation of the Germans Army capabilities. Ironically or unsurprisingly, depending on your view on the German leadership, this didn’t really change in 1942. Although in 1942 unlike to 1941, there was no real alternative, thus these underlying problems turned into severe habits that continued til the end of the Second World War and maybe even beyond, because quite many people still to this day claim that the mud and the Winter stopped the Wehrmacht and not the Red Army.


Books & Articles

Pahl, Magnus: Fremde Heere Ost

Ueberschär, Gerd (Hrsg.): Hitlers Krieg im Osten

Förster, Jürgen: Der historische Ort des Unternehmens “Barbarossa” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 626-640

Wegner, Bernd: Hitlers zweiter Feldzug gegen die Sowjetunion. Strategische Grundlagen und historische Bedeutung” in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 652-666

Martin, Bernd: Das deutsch-japanische Bündnis im Zweiten Weltkrieg in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg): Der Zweite Weltkrieg – Analyse, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz. S. 120-137

Kreidler, Eugen: Die Eisenbahnen im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges

Glantz: The Soviet-German War 1941-1945: Myths and Realities: A Survey Essay

Müller-Hillebrand, Burkhart: Das Heer – Band 3 – 1941-1945

Castano, Vincent: The Failure of Operation Barbarossa: Truth versus Fiction

Zaloga, Steven J. : KV-1 & 2 Heavy Tanks 1939-1945

David M. Glantz Jonathan M. House: When Titans Clashed – HOW THE RED ARMY STOPPED HITLER


Operations management involves planning, organizing, and supervising processes, and make necessary improvements for higher profitability. The adjustments in the everyday operations have to support the company’s strategic goals, so they are preceded by deep analysis and measurement of the current processes.

Historical background

Operations management was previously called production management, clearly showing its origins in manufacturing. Historically, it all began with the division of production, starting as early as the times of ancient craftsmen, but spreading more widely only by adding the concept of interchangeability of parts in the eighteenth century, ultimately sparking the industrial revolution.

Still, it was not until Henry Ford took a twist on manufacturing with his famous assembly line concept, otherwise known as “bring work to men,” that the management of production for improving productivity became a hot topic. From the 1950’s and 1960’s, it formed a separate discipline, besides bringing other concepts, such as Taylorism, production planning, or inventory control, to life.

As the economies in the developed world were gradually shifting to be service-based, all the corporate functions, including product management, started to integrate them. The service side also began its approach by applying product management principles to the planning and organizing of processes, to the point where it made more sense to call it operations management.

Multidisciplinary nature

Operations management is now a multidisciplinary functional area in a company, along with finance and marketing. It makes sure the materials and labor, or any other input, is used in the most effective and efficient way possible within an organization – thus maximizing the output.

Operations management requires being familiar with a wide range of disciplines. It incorporates general management, factory- and equipment maintenance management by tradition. The operations manager has to know about the common strategic policies, basic material planning, manufacturing and production systems, and their analysis. Production and cost control principles are also of importance. And last, but not least, it has to be someone’s who is able to navigate industrial labor relations.

Interested in a deep dive into operations maangement? Read the following slides.

Required skills

The skills required to perform such work are as diverse as the function itself. The most important skills are:

  • Organizational abilities. Organizing processes in an organization requires a set of skills from planning and prioritizing through execution to monitoring. These abilities together help the manager achieve productivity and efficiency.
  • Analytic capabilities/understanding of process. The capability to understand processes in your area often includes a broad understanding of other functions, too. An attention to detail is often helpful to go deeper in the analysis.
  • Coordination of processes. Once processes are analyzed and understood, they can be optimized for maximum efficiency. Quick decision-making is a real advantage here, as well as a clear focus problem-solving.
  • People skills. Flaws in the interactions with employees or member of senior management can seriously harm productivity, so an operation manager has to have people skills to properly navigate the fine lines with their colleagues. Furthermore, clear communication of the tasks and goals serves as great motivation and to give a purpose for everyone.
  • Creativity. Again, problem-solving skills are essential for a creative approach if things don’t go in the right direction. When they do, creativity helps find new ways to improve corporate performance.
  • Tech-savviness. In order to understand and design processes in a time when operations are getting increasingly technology-dependent, affinity for technology is a skill that can’t be underestimated. Operations managers have to be familiar with the most common technologies used in their industries, and have an even deeper understanding of the specific operation technology at their organizations.

4 Huele a Quemado

In 1977, the United States was finally deciding what to do with the Panama Canal Zone, a part of Panama that had been under U.S. control since 1903. Panamanian General Omar Torrijos flew up to Washington to meet with President Jimmy Carter to insist that America return control of the canal zone to Panama and withdraw U.S. forces from the country.

The two sides eventually came to an agreement, and Carter put his name behind a treaty that would give the canal and canal zone back in 1999 under the "1999? Ha, that's so far in the future we might as well be agreeing to give it back to them in heaven" theory of international relations. The controversial treaty went to Congress for approval. Little did the U.S. know that, in the event of Congress voting to not let go of the canal, Torrijos and Panama had a backup plan, which reasoned that if Panama couldn't have it, then no one could.

A few months prior to the Torrijos-Carter hoedown, future Panamanian president/coke dealer Manuel Noriega, then only a Panamanian army officer/coke dealer, trained troops and put sleeper agents in villages neighboring the canal zone. If the treaty failed, the agents would have launched attacks on the canal.

According to the plan, cleverly code-named "huele a quemado" (Spanish for "It smells like something is burning"), if Panama didn't get the canal zone back, Torrijos would render the canal "inoperable."

Luckily, for all parties involved, Carter had one of his few victories as president, getting the transfer signed and passed in Congress. By a single vote.

If They'd Gone With Plan B:

If a single vote had gone the other way, a popular radio personality would have delivered what sounded like his ordinary address that night on Panamanian radio. In reality, the address would have contained a coded message to the commandos embedded around the country, who would have launched attacks on the gates and dams that regulate water levels in the canal, as well as the locomotives that pull ships. By the time the sun rose the next morning, millions of dollars in goods would have been stranded on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal, and the U.S. would have been at war with Panama.

As Torrijos mentioned to journalist Graham Greene, while the U.S. would be able to fix the damage in days, you'd need to wait for "three years of rain to fill the canal. During that time it would be guerrilla war waged from the jungle."

Keep in mind that this was two years after the last Americans were airlifted out of Saigon, and the American economy was failing in such strange and inexplicable ways that Carter eventually took to diagnosing the U.S. with the first case of national depression. This would have meant another costly war between the United States and a communist government in one of the densest jungles in the world two years after the U.S. had just gotten out of one that had crippled its will to fight. And as opposed to Vietnam, the U.S. probably would have needed to fight them for the Panama Canal out of economic necessity.


Activity 1. The Decision to Invade Normandy

Direct students to the following documents, either online or as handouts printed from the blackline masters (pages 1-9 of the PDF). For each document students will be asked a series of questions that will ask them to draw on the readings.

    , which is accessible via the EDSITEment-reviewed resource National Archives Educator Resources
  • Pages 21-22 of a report by the Joint War Plans Committee concerning a possible invasion of Europe via the Mediterranean (link is to page 21 click on "View Next Page" to see page 22)
  • Pages 28-30 of a report by the Joint War Plans Committee regarding a cross-channel invasion (link is to page 28 click on "View Next Page" to see pages 29-30) , accessible via the EDSITEment-reviewed site of the Naval Historical Center:

Have the students answer the following questions based on their reading:

  • Why did Anglo-American military planners reject the Mediterranean as the primary route for an invasion of Europe?
  • What role would air power play in the anticipated invasion?
  • Why was April 1, 1944, chosen as the target date for the invasion?
  • What did military planners believe was the best location for an invasion of France, and why?
  • How would the planned invasion affect the war in the Pacific?
  • What was to be the overall objective of Operation Overlord?
  • What was to be the task of the Supreme Allied Commander?
  • How was the Soviet Union expected to assist the anticipated invasion?

Operation Olympic

Operation Olympic was just one-part of Operation Downfall – the planned occupation of Japan. Operation Olympic was chronologically the first part of the plan – Operation Coronet would come second. Olympic was supported by the likes of Douglas MacArthur who favoured a massive amphibious landing on Japan as opposed to a blockade/bombing strategy favoured by the navy.

Operation Olympic was the code-name for a planned landing in Kyushu – the furthest main island in the south. This island was one of the few places in the whole of Japan that could sustain an amphibious landing. The actual invasion was planned to start on November 1st, 1945, with three landings at three different beaches. The three targeted beaches were at Miyazaki, Ariake and Kushikino. The Japanese had realised that Kyushu would be a prime landing point for any invasion and had set up strong defences at Ariake as it had a good harbour there. Once an amphibious landing had occurred, the Americans planned to move inland but only for about one-third of the island. Airbases would then be set-up to support Operation Coronet.

For Coronet to be successful, Olympic would have to be. Therefore, some military figures were quite prepared to contemplate the use of poisonous gas against the Japanese on the beaches of Kyushu – especially if the defenders moved into the caves near the beaches – a tactic America had experienced before. All the evidence suggests that the Japanese planned to repel the invading force and drive it back into the sea. The Homeland Defence Force had the potential to run into many thousands in the area and the kamikazes had shown the Allies that the Japanese were quite willing to die for the emperor and Japan. For this reason, the Americans predicted large losses at Kyushu before one-third of the island had been captured. The Chiefs-of-Staff estimated that a 90-day campaign in Kyushu could cost as many as 450,000 casualties, including over 100,000 dead.

As it was, the attack never took place as President Truman authorised the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th respectively. Japan formally surrendered on September 2nd 1945.

Yamamoto and the Planning for Pearl Harbor

Japan’s approach in 1941, which consisted of negotiations in parallel with preparations for war, never gave the negotiations any realistic chance of success unless the United States agreed to Japan’s conditions. Thus, increasingly, war became the only remaining option. An Imperial Conference on July 2, 1941, confirmed the decision to attack the Western powers. In early September, the Emperor declined to overrule the decision to go to war and the final authorization for war was given on December 1. By this time, Yamamoto’s Pearl Harbor attack force was already at sea.

Yamamoto on his flagship Nagato before the war. His oversight of the Combined Fleet’s planning process relied more on the traditional Japanese consensual approach, rather than firm leadership and deep involvement in planning details. Image credit: Naval History and Heritage Command. Caption credit: Osprey Publishing.

Yamamoto alone came up with the idea of including the Pearl Harbor attack into Japan’s war plans and, because the attack was so risky, it took great perseverance on his part to get it approved. It says much for his influence and powers of persuasion that the event even occurred. The attack was successful beyond all expectations, making it central to Yamamoto’s reputation as a great admiral, and as it had strategic and political ramifications far beyond what he imagined, it made Yamamoto one of World War II’s most important commanders.

Yamamoto was not the first person to think of attacking the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. As early as 1927, war games at the Japanese Navy War College included an examination of a carrier raid against Pearl Harbor. The following year, a certain Captain Yamamoto lectured on the same topic. By the time the United States moved the Pacific Fleet from the West Coast to Pearl Harbor in May 1940, Yamamoto was already exploring how to execute such a bold operation. According to the chief of staff of the Combined Fleet, Vice Admiral Fukudome Shigeru, Yamamoto first discussed an attack on Pearl Harbor in March or April 1940. This clearly indicates that Yamamoto did not copy the idea of attacking a fleet in its base after observing the British carrier raid on the Italian base at Taranto in November 1940. After the completion of the Combined Fleet’s annual maneuvers in the fall of 1940, Yamamoto told Fukudome to direct Rear Admiral Onishi Takijiro to study a Pearl Harbor attack under the utmost secrecy. After the Taranto attack, Yamamoto wrote to a fellow admiral and friend stating that he had decided to launch the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1940.

If it is to be believed that Yamamoto decided on his daring attack as early as December 1940, several issues are brought into focus. First and foremost, it can be established that Yamamoto had decided on this risky course of action even before the advantages and disadvantages of such an action could be fully weighed. Also, in late 1940, Yamamoto did not even possess the technical means to mount such an operation. Another question that needs to be asked is why Yamamoto thought it was his job to formulate grand naval strategy, which was the responsibility of the Naval General Staff.

The planning for the attack was a confused and often haphazard process. In the beginning, there was only Yamamoto’s vision. Gradually, and against almost universal opposition, Yamamoto made his vision become reality. In a letter dated January 7, 1941, Yamamoto ordered Onishi to study his proposal. This was followed by a meeting between Yamamoto and Onishi on January 26 or 27 during which Yamamoto explained his ideas. Onishi was selected by Yamamoto to develop the idea since he was the chief of staff of the land-based 11th Air Fleet and was a fellow air advocate and a noted tactical expert and planner.

Onishi pulled Commander Genda Minoru into the planning in February. After Genda was shown Yamamoto’s letter, his initial reaction was that the operation would be difficult, but not impossible. With Yamamoto providing the driving vision and political top-cover, Genda became the driving force in actually turning the vision into a viable plan. Genda believed that secrecy was an essential ingredient of planning and that to have any chance of success, all the IJN’s carriers would have to be allocated to the operation. Genda was charged with completing a study of the proposed operation in seven to ten days. The subsequent report was a landmark event in the planning process since most of his ideas were reflected in the final plan. Onishi presented an expanded draft of Genda’s plan to Yamamoto on about March 10.

On November 15, 1940, Yamamoto had been promoted to full admiral and, as the planning for war increased in intensity, he began to wonder about his future. It was customary for the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet to serve for two years. In early 1941, Yamamoto was thinking of his impending change of duty and was pondering retirement. He would have liked to have been appointed commander of the First Air Fleet (the IJN’s carrier force), to lead his bold attack, but realized that such an event was impossible. During this time, he told one of his friends:

If there’s a war, it won’t be the kind where battleships sally forth in a leisurely fashion as in the past, and the proper thing for the C. in C. of the Combined Fleet would be, I think, to sit tight in the Inland Sea, keeping an eye on the situation as a whole. But I can’t see myself doing anything so boring, and I’d like to get Yonai to take over, so that if the need arose I could play a more active role.

In spite of his desires, Yamamoto did not leave his post in mid-1941 after his two years were up.

Yamamoto Takes On the Naval General Staff

Perhaps harder than resolving any technical and operational difficulties to make the attack on Pearl Harbor possible was Yamamoto’s task of convincing the Naval General Staff that the Pearl Harbor operation was viable. Since the Naval General Staff had responsibility for the overall formulation of naval strategy, any questions about whether, and how, to attack the United States in the initial phase of the war clearly fell under its jurisdiction. However, in another indication of the muddled Japanese planning process, Yamamoto wanted to seize this prerogative for himself. In late April, Yamamoto entrusted one of his principal Combined Fleet staff officers to begin the process of convincing the skeptical Naval General Staff. The initial meeting did not go well for Yamamoto since the Naval General Staff did not believe his contention that the attack would be so devastating that it would undermine American morale. The focus of the Naval General Staff was on guaranteeing the success of the southern operation and this required the use of the Combined Fleet’s carriers. Their biggest concern was that the Pearl Harbor attack was simply too risky. In order to gain the Naval General Staff’s approval, Yamamoto began to stress the fact that his Pearl Harbor attack would also serve to guard the flank of the southern advance by crippling the Pacific Fleet at its principal base.

In August, the same staff officer returned to Tokyo to plead Yamamoto’s case. Though the Naval General Staff remained opposed to the idea, it did agree that the annual war games would include an examination of the Pearl Harbor plan. These began on September 11 with the first phase focusing on the conduct of the southern operation. On September 16, a group of officers selected by Yamamoto, including representatives of the Naval General Staff, began a review of the Hawaii operation. The results of this controlled tabletop maneuver seemed to confirm that the operation was feasible, but also served to confirm that it was risky and that success depended heavily on surprise. At the end of the two-day exercise, the Naval General Staff remained unconvinced. Basic concerns, such as whether refueling was possible to get the entire force to Hawaii and how many carriers were to be allocated to the operation, also remained unresolved.

On September 24, the Operations Staff of the Naval General Staff held a conference on the proposed Hawaii attack. Yamamoto became enraged when he learned that once again the Naval General Staff had rejected his plan. On October 13, the Combined Fleet’s staff held another round of table maneuvers on Yamamoto’s flagship, the battleship Nagato, to refine aspects of the Pearl Harbor operation and toreview the southern operation. Only three of the IJN’s fleet carriers were used, Kaga, Zuikaku, and Shokaku, because they had the range to sail to Pearl Harbor the other three fleet carriers, Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu were allocated to the southern operation. For the first time, fleet and midget submarines were included in the planning for the Pearl Harbor attack. The next day, there was a conference to review the plan, and where all admirals present were invited to speak. All but one was opposed to the Pearl Harbor attack. When they were done, Yamamoto addressed the assembled group and stated that as long as he was in charge, Pearl Harbor would be attacked. The time for dissension and doubt among the Combined Fleet’s admirals was finished.

With the support of his own commanders assured, Yamamoto was determined to bring the issue to a head with the still skeptical Naval General Staff. In a series of meetings on October 17–18, Yamamoto played his ace card. His staff representatives revealed that unless the plan was approved in its entirety Yamamoto and the entire staff of the Combined Fleet would resign. Since to Nagano the notion of going to war without Yamamoto at the helm of the Combined Fleet was simply unthinkable, this threat served to bring the Pearl Harbor debate to a close. In the end, it was not logic that carried the day for Yamamoto, but the threat of resignation and it was not to be the last time that he would use this tactic.

The staff of the First Air Fleet conducted the actual planning for the operation. On April 10, 1941, Yamamoto had given the go-ahead to form the First Air Fleet by combining Divisions 1 and 2 into a single formation. This was a revolutionary step which had been considered for some time, and in April Yamamoto judged that the time was right to take that step. As an air power advocate, he felt it was necessary to maximize the striking power of the carrier force. By concentrating the carriers into a single force, Yamamoto had created the most powerful naval force in the Pacific and gained the means by which to conduct his Pearl Harbor operation. By late April, the staff of the new First Air Fleet, led by Genda, who had been assigned as staff air officer, was engaged in fleshing out the details of the operation. Gradually, the problems associated with refueling, executing torpedo attacks in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor, and making level bombing against heavily armored battleships a viable tactic, were solved.

The Pearl Harbor Plan

For Yamamoto, the purpose of the Pearl Harbor attack was to sink battleships rather than carriers. Battleships were so deeply entrenched in the minds of the American public as a symbol of naval power that by shattering their battle fleet Yamamoto believed American morale would be crushed. He even considered giving up the entire operation when it appeared that the problem of using torpedoes in the shallow harbor could not be solved – torpedoes were required to sink the heavily armored battleships, whereas dive-bombing would have sufficed to sink the lightly armored carriers. This emphasis on the targeting of battleships rather than carriers calls into question Yamamoto’s credentials as a strategic planner as well as his status as a true air power advocate.

The final plan was completed by Genda and reflected the difference in opinion between Genda and Yamamoto. Genda, the air power zealot, devoted more weight to sinking carriers, and less to sinking battleships. The first wave of the attack included 40 torpedo planes which were broken down into 16 against the two carriers that might be present, and the other 24 against as many as six battleships, which were vulnerable to torpedo attack. Fifty level bombers carrying specially modified armor-piercing bombs were also allocated to attack the so-called “Battleship Row” where most of the battleships were berthed. Level attack was the only way to strike inboard areas of the battleships when two ships were moored together. Fifty-four dive-bombers and the escorting fighters were ordered to attack the many airfields on Oahu. In all, the six carriers in the attack force planned to use 189 aircraft in the first wave.

The second wave was planned to comprise 171 aircraft. The 81 dive-bombers were the centerpiece of this group and were given orders to concentrate on completing the destruction of any carriers present, followed by attacks on cruisers. The relatively small bombs carried by the dive-bombers were insufficient to penetrate battleship armor, so the first wave had the job of inflicting maximum damage on the heavy ships. The remainder of the second wave aircraft, which included 54 level bombers, was to complete the destruction of American air power on Oahu in order to prevent any return strikes on the Japanese carriers.

Despite the fact that the strikeforce (the Kido Butai) embarked at least 411 aircraft for the operation, making it the most powerful naval force in the Pacific, the attack remained a risky undertaking. If the Americans detected the raiders in time to prepare their air defenses, the attack could be catastrophic for the Japanese, a fact they had ascertained in their pre-attack gaming. If exposed to counterattack, the Japanese carriers were vulnerable. Nagumo Chuichi had under his control a large portion of the IJN’s striking power, and to lose the force on the first day of the war would be a disaster.

The Pearl Harbor Raid

The Kido Butai departed its anchorage in the Kurile Islands on November 26. The transit was undetected and by the morning of December 7, from a position some 200 miles north of Oahu, six Japanese carriers had begun to launch the first attack wave. At 0753hrs the strike leader sent the signal “Tora, Tora, Tora,” indicating that the element of surprise had been gained.

Allied re-evaluation of Olympic

Air threat

US military intelligence initially estimated the number of Japanese aircraft to be around 2,500. [56] The Okinawa experience was bad for the US—almost two fatalities and a similar number wounded per sortie—and Kyūshū was likely to be worse. To attack the ships off Okinawa, Japanese planes had to fly long distances over open water to attack the ships off Kyūshū, they could fly overland and then short distances out to the landing fleets. Gradually, intelligence learned that the Japanese were devoting all their aircraft to the kamikaze mission and taking effective measures to conserve them until the battle. An Army estimate in May was 3,391 planes in June, 4,862 in August, 5,911. A Navy estimate, abandoning any distinction between training and combat aircraft, in July was 8,750 in August, 10,290. [57] By the time the war ended, the Japanese actually possessed some 12,700 aircraft in the Home Islands, roughly half of them kamikazes. [58]

The Allies made counter-kamikaze preparations, known as the Big Blue Blanket. This involved adding more fighter squadrons to the carriers in place of torpedo and dive bombers, and converting B-17s into airborne radar pickets in a manner similar to the modern-day AWACS. Nimitz came up with a plan for a pre-invasion feint, sending a fleet to the invasion beaches a couple of weeks before the real invasion, to lure out the Japanese on their one-way flights, who would then find ships loaded with anti-aircraft guns from bow to stern instead of the valuable, vulnerable transports. [ citation needed ]

The main defense against Japanese air attacks would have come from the massive fighter forces that were being assembled in the Ryukyu Islands. The US Army Fifth and Seventh Air Forces and US Marine air units had moved into the islands immediately after the invasion, and air strength had been increasing in preparation for the all-out assault on Japan. In preparation for the invasion, an air campaign against Japanese airfields and transportation arteries had commenced before the Japanese surrender. [ citation needed ]

Ground threat

Through April, May, and June, Allied intelligence followed the buildup of Japanese ground forces, including five divisions added to Kyūshū, with great interest, but also some complacency, still projecting that in November the total for Kyūshū would be about 350,000 servicemen. That changed in July, with the discovery of four new divisions and indications of more to come. By August, the count was up to 600,000, and Magic cryptanalysis had identified nine divisions in southern Kyūshū—three times the expected number and still a serious underestimate of the actual Japanese strength.

Estimated troop strength in early July was 350,000, [59] rising to 545,000 in early August. [60]

The intelligence revelations about Japanese preparations on Kyushu emerging in mid-July transmitted powerful shock waves both in the Pacific and in Washington. On 29 July, [MacArthur's intelligence chief, Major General Charles A.] Willoughby. noted first that the April estimate allowed for the Japanese capability to deploy six divisions on Kyushu, with the potential to deploy ten. "These [six] divisions have since made their appearance, as predicted," he observed, "and the end is not in sight." If not checked, this threatened "to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not the recipe for victory." [61]

By the time of surrender, the Japanese had 916,828 military personnel either in position or in various stages of deployment on Kyushu alone. [62] The total strength of the Japanese military in the Home Islands amounted to 4,335,500, of whom 2,372,700 were in the Army and 1,962,800 in the Navy. [63] The buildup of Japanese troops on Kyūshū led American war planners, most importantly General George Marshall, to consider drastic changes to Olympic, or replacing it with a different invasion plan. [ citation needed ]

Chemical weapons

The pending operation included use of Allied chemical weapons pre-positioned in the Marianas. Widespread chemical warfare had been planned against Japan's population [64] and food crops. [65] Because of its predictable wind patterns and several other factors, Japan was particularly vulnerable to gas attacks. Such attacks would neutralize the Japanese tendency to fight from caves, which would increase the soldiers' exposure to gas. [ citation needed ]

Although chemical warfare had been outlawed by the Geneva Protocol, neither the US nor Japan were signatories at the time. While the US had promised never to initiate gas warfare, Japan had used gas against the Chinese earlier in the war. [66]

Fear of Japanese retaliation [to chemical weapon use] lessened because by the end of the war Japan's ability to deliver gas by air or long-range guns had all but disappeared. In 1944 Ultra revealed that the Japanese doubted their ability to retaliate against United States use of gas. 'Every precaution must be taken not to give the enemy cause for a pretext to use gas,' the commanders were warned. So fearful were the Japanese leaders that they planned to ignore isolated tactical use of gas in the home islands by the US forces because they feared escalation. [67]

In addition to use against people, the U.S. military considered chemical attacks to kill crops in an attempt to starve the Japanese into submission. The Army began experimenting with compounds to destroy crops in April 1944, and within one year had narrowed over 1,000 agents to nine promising ones containing phenoxyacetic acids. One compound designated LN-8 performed best in tests and went into mass production. Dropping or spraying the herbicide was deemed the most effective employment method a July 1945 test from an SPD Mark 2 bomb, originally crafted to hold biological weapons like anthrax or ricin, had the shell burst open at a predetermined height to send the chemical agent flying. By the time the war ended, the Army was still trying to determine the optimal dispersal height to cover a wide enough area. Active ingredients in LN-8 and another tested compound would later be used to create Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. [68] Proposed gas attacks as well as the use of atomic weapons were contemplated to avoid having “an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.” [69]

Nuclear weapons

On Marshall's orders, Major General John E. Hull looked into the tactical use of nuclear weapons for the invasion of the Japanese home islands, even after the dropping of two strategic atomic bombs on Japan (Marshall did not think that the Japanese would capitulate immediately). Colonel Lyle E. Seeman reported that at least seven Fat Man-type plutonium implosion bombs would be available by X-Day, which could be dropped on defending forces. Seeman advised that American troops not enter an area hit by a bomb for "at least 48 hours" the risk of nuclear fallout was not well understood, and such a short amount of time after detonation would have resulted in substantial radiation exposure for the American troops. [70]

Ken Nichols, the District Engineer of the Manhattan Engineer District, wrote that at the beginning of August 1945, "[p]lanning for the invasion of the main Japanese home islands had reached its final stages, and if the landings actually took place, we might supply about fifteen atomic bombs to support the troops." [71] An air burst 1,800–2,000 ft (550–610 m) above the ground had been chosen for the (Hiroshima) bomb to achieve maximum blast effects, and to minimize residual radiation on the ground as it was hoped that American troops would soon occupy the city. [72]

Alternative targets

The Joint Staff planners, taking note of the extent to which the Japanese had concentrated on Kyūshū at the expense of the rest of Japan, considered alternate places to invade such as the island of Shikoku, northern Honshu at Sendai, or Ominato. They also considered skipping the preliminary invasion and going directly at Tokyo. [73] Attacking northern Honshu would have the advantage of a much weaker defense but had the disadvantage of giving up land-based air support (except the B-29s) from Okinawa. [ citation needed ]

Prospects for Olympic

General Douglas MacArthur dismissed any need to change his plans:

I am certain that the Japanese air potential reported to you as accumulating to counter our OLYMPIC operation is greatly exaggerated. [. ] As to the movement of ground forces [. ] I do not credit [. ] the heavy strengths reported to you in southern Kyushu. [. ] In my opinion, there should not be the slightest thought of changing the Olympic operation. [74]

However, Admiral Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations, was prepared to oppose proceeding with the invasion, with Admiral Nimitz's concurrence, which would have set off a major dispute within the US government.

At this juncture, the key interaction would likely have been between Marshall and Truman. There is strong evidence that Marshall remained committed to an invasion as late as 15 August. [. ] But tempering Marshall's personal commitment to invasion would have been his comprehension that civilian sanction in general, and Truman's in particular, was unlikely for a costly invasion that no longer enjoyed consensus support from the armed services. [75]

Soviet intentions

Unknown to the Americans, the Soviets also considered invading a major Japanese island—Hokkaido—by the end of August 1945, which would have put pressure [ original research? ] on the Allies to act sooner than November.

In the early years of World War II, the Soviets had planned on building a huge navy in order to catch up with the Western World. However, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 forced the suspension of this plan: the Soviets had to divert most of their resources to fighting the Germans - primarily on land - throughout most of the war, leaving their navy relatively poorly equipped. [76] [77] [78] As a result, in Project Hula (1945), the United States transferred about 100 naval vessels (out of 180 planned) to the Soviet Union in preparation for the planned Soviet entry into the war against Japan. The transferred vessels included amphibious assault ships.

At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), the Allies had agreed that the USSR would take the southern part of the island of Sakhalin, which the Russian Empire had ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Portsmouth after the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War (the Soviets already controlled the northern part) and the Kuril Islands, which had been assigned to Japan in the 1875 Treaty of St. Petersburg. On the other hand, no agreement envisaged Soviet participation in the invasion of Japan itself. [ citation needed ]

The Japanese had kamikaze aircraft in southern Honshu and Kyushu which would have opposed Operations Olympic and Coronet. It is unknown to what extent they could have opposed Soviet landings in the far north of Japan. For comparative purposes, approximately 1,300 Western Allied ships deployed during the Battle of Okinawa (April–June 1945). In total, 368 ships — including 120 amphibious craft — were badly damaged while another 28 — including 15 landing ships and 12 destroyers — were sunk, mostly by kamikazes. The Soviets, however, had fewer than 400 ships (most of them not equipped for amphibious assault) by the time they declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945. [79]

For Operation Downfall, the US military envisaged requiring more than 30 divisions for a successful invasion of the Japanese home islands. In comparison, the Soviet Union had about 11 divisions available, comparable to the 14 divisions the US estimated it would require to invade southern Kyushu. The Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands (18 August - 1 September 1945) took place after Japan's capitulation on 15 August despite this, the Japanese forces in these islands resisted quite fiercely (although some of them proved unwilling to fight due to Japan's surrender on 15 August). In the Battle of Shumshu (18–23 August 1945), the Soviet Red Army had 8,821 troops that were not supported by tanks and without back-up from larger warships. The well-established Japanese garrison had 8,500 troops and fielded about 77 tanks. The battle lasted one day (with minor combat actions going on for four more after the official surrender of Japan and the garrison), during which the attacking Soviet forces lost over 516 troops and five of the 16 landing ships (many of these formerly belonged to the US Navy and were later given to the Soviet Union) to Japanese coastal artillery while the Japanese lost over 256 troops. Soviet casualties during the Battle of Shumshu totalled up to 1,567, while the Japanese suffered 1,018 casualties, making Shumshu the only battle in the 1945 Soviet-Japanese War where Soviet losses exceeded those of the Japanese, in stark contrast to overall Soviet-Japanese casualty rates in land-based fighting in Manchuria.

During World War II, the Japanese had a naval base at Paramushiro in the Kuril Islands and several bases in Hokkaido. Since Japan and the Soviet Union maintained a state of wary neutrality until the Soviet declaration of war on Japan in August 1945, Japanese observers based in Japanese-held territories in Manchuria, Korea, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands constantly watched the port of Vladivostok and other seaports in the Soviet Union. [80]

According to Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, the Soviets had carefully drawn up detailed plans for the Far East invasions, except that the landing for Hokkaido "existed in detail" only in Stalin's mind and that it was "unlikely that Stalin had interests in taking Manchuria and even taking on Hokkaido. Even if he wanted to grab as much territory in Asia as possible, he was too much focused on establishing a beachhead [ clarification needed ] in Europe more so than Asia." [81]

Hibakusha: “Bomb-Affected-People”

The bomb is not a matter of survival, it is a matter of living .

— Yamamoto Mitsuko, atomic bomb victim

In 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Three days later, they dropped a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki. In both bombings, thousands of civilians were killed. Yet, thousands of others survived, becoming hibakusha, “Bomb-Affected-People.”

Later, the Japanese government announced these two bombs were a “new type of atomic bombs.” Yet, they didn’t give any explanation on the danger of radiation. The government established a censorship code, the Press Code, censoring all information on radiation effects. Because of this, many atomic bomb survivors were left to inexperienced local doctors and hospitals.

“One month after the bombing, my friend and I went to get our blood examined by that time doctors knew that survivors had problems with their blood. We were told that our white blood corpuscles had abnormally increased, but we had no idea what this meant, but neither did the doctor! At the time we didn’t have any health problems, so we just said, “thank you,” and went home.”

Medical experts also blamed hibakushas’ anxieties on a neurosis, specifically “A-bomb neurosis” (genbaku-noirooze).

Physicians believed that the hibakusha suffered from anxiety because they blamed all their problems on the atomic bombs. Unsurprisingly, a hostile relationship grew between the hibakusha and the medical community.

The public’s popular imagination also linked the dangers of radiation with the “contaminated blood” of hibakusha women. Nobody wanted them, and they were called “outcasts” and the rumor spread that they would “never stop bleeding.” This prompted many hibakusha to bleed, vomit, and sweat themselves to rid their bodies of the bomb’s radiation. Regardless, the hibakusha still faced severe discrimination in marriage prospects.

With the lack of healthcare and public support, many hibakusha also began developing mental illnesses. But due to Japan’s cultural stigma on mental problems, many hibakusha avoided going for medical treatment.

As a result, for many years, the hibakusha fell into cycles of poverty and disease.


The raid on Tobruk was almost finished by mid-day of the 14th. The Italians and Germans conducted final sweeps throughout the day over land, air, and water to complete the rounding up of any stragglers, and no further threats loomed. The tally of losses suffered illustrate the truly one-sided nature of the confrontation. The British led forces suffered nearly 800 casualties, lost a cruiser, two destroyers, and several other smaller vessels. The Axis accomplished this for the loss of fewer than 70 men and 30 aircraft.

As in previous joint military undertakings between the Italians and Germans, the “official” version of the event from each side surrounding Operation Agreement differed slightly. Both parties were perhaps guilty of diminishing the contributions put forth by the other. Likewise, they also played up their own accomplishments.

What cannot be denied is that the airmen, sailors, marines, and soldiers of both Axis militaries acted swiftly and decisively to smash the British attack. They protected two of their most critical supply points in the North African theater. The victory obtained during Agreement would be one of only a handful remaining for the Axis in North Africa but served to prove there was still plenty of fight left in their ranks.

For the Allies to claim victory in this theater, they would have to give a much better showing of themselves in the months to come. They would have to defeat some of the best soldiers that Germany and Italy produced throughout the war.

Note: Special thanks to Dennis Hussey for editing the article. I appreciate the time and work you put into reviewing, and could not have completed the article without you.

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