Japanese Prisoners on a US Carrier

Japanese Prisoners on a US Carrier

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Japanese Prisoners on a US Carrier

These Japanese engineers were somewhat unlucky. Here they are seen on the deck of a US aircraft carrier.

American POWs on Japanese Ships Take a Voyage into Hell

The Oryoku Maru under attack at Olongapo, Luzon, December 14–15, 1944. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, RG 38)

John M. Jacobs had been in Manila when the Japanese captured the Philippines in the early stages of World War II, and now, in 1944, he was a prisoner of war, or POW, in the Bilibid Prison in Manila. There, he and other American and Allied POWs were often forced to do heavy labor.

With U.S. forces about to retake the islands in late 1944, the Japanese began moving Jacobs and thousands of other POWs to locations closer to Japan. To do so, Japanese troops herded them by the hundreds into the holds of merchant ships that also carried supplies and weapons.

Jacobs ended up on the Oryoku Maru:

"We threw our packs into the deep hold and quickly followed down the long ladder into the darkness, herded by the guards and their bayonets," Jacobs recalled several years later in a narrative, noting that where he was being held was not as crowded as some others:

If that was not bad enough, the merchant ship was a target for U.S. planes and submarines, whose crews did not know they were also loaded with American and Allied POWs. In mid-December 1944, they attacked and sank the Oryoku Maru. Jacobs survived the ordeal when he escaped and swam to shore while American planes were sinking the ships he and the other POWs had been on.

Jacobs's story and those of other American POWs held by the Japanese during World War II came to light when NARA archivists were trying to decipher punch card codes as they assembled material for the National Archives' new online search tool Access to Archival Databases (AAD), which debuted on NARA's web site, www.archives.gov, last year.

AAD allows researchers to search approximately 350 files, including one that contains records of American prisoners of war during World War II. And that particular database includes information on American and Allied POWs on five Japanese ships.

In Death on the Hellships: Prisoners at Sea in the Pacific War, Gregory Michno estimates that more than 126,000 Allied prisoners of war were transported in 156 voyages on 134 Japanese merchant ships. More than 21,000 Americans were killed or injured from "friendly fire" from American submarines or planes as a result of being POWs on what the survivors called "hell ships."

This is the story of five of those "hell ships" and the fate of the POWs who were on them.

World War II Punch Cards Lead to Story of POWs

While American and Allied prisoners of war suffered at the hands of their Japanese captors, their families and friends—and their government—usually knew little of their whereabouts or conditions. Information about them was difficult to get, and often it traveled a circuitous route.

The International Red Cross, based in Bern, Switzerland, was the main conduit for this information. Throughout World War II, the Red Cross routinely received and sent lists of POWs to the U.S. Army Office of the Provost Marshal General. Once there, the Prisoner of War Information Bureau sent letters to the next of kin and copies of casualty and POW reports to the Office of the Adjutant General, Machine Records Branch.

The Machine Records Branch produced a series of IBM punch card records on U.S. military and civilian prisoners of war and internees, as well as for some Allied internees. The branch used these cards, together with many others, to generate monthly logistical reports of the current and actual strengths of army and army air force units worldwide.

The U.S. Army transferred these punch card records of World War II POWs to the National Archives as a unique series in its 1959 transfer of all of the U.S. Army's departmental archives. The punch cards came with tabs that separated them into presorted groups. In 1978 the Veterans Administration migrated the cards for the American Military POWs Returned Alive from the European Theater (92,493 records) and American Military POWs Returned Alive from the Pacific Theater (19,202 records) to an electronic format for a study of repatriated U.S. military prisoners of war.

In 1995 NARA migrated the remaining punch card records to an electronic format and in June 2002 preserved all of the migrated records in a single data file. A small number of the punch cards were too badly bent or damaged to be migrated and are available only as paper copies. The World War II POW Data File contains 143,374 records and is 11,469,920 bytes in size.

Potentially, every record documents the type of prisoner, whether detained in an enemy or in a neutral country, and whether repatriated, deceased, or an escapee. Each prisoner's record may provide serial number, name, grade and grade code, service code, arm of service and its code, date reported, race, state of residence, type of organization, parent unit number and type, where captured, latest report date, source of report, status, detaining power, detention camp code, and whether the POW was on a Japanese ship that sank or if he died during transport from the Philippine Islands to Japan.

Understanding the origins of the "Ship Sinkings" codes became crucial when it was decided to include the World War II Data File among those available in AAD. Only after researching textual records related to the ship sinkings was it possible to clarify the meaning of these codes for the researcher.

Of the 134 Japanese transports noted by Michino, only five were singled out for special coding and inclusion at the end of a list of Japanese POW camps: Shinyo, Arisan, Oryoku, Enoura, and Brazil, all called "marus." Why only these transports were selected for coding was a mystery. It was assumed that POW records with these ship codes indicated individuals who died when the ships were sunk.

Further, it was believed that one of the letters indicated month of sinking e.g., SS for September Sinking, OS for October Sinking, and EDS and BDS for December Sinkings. The meaning or significance of the XDS code was unknown.

Japanese lists of POWs provided through the Red Cross were often incomplete and late, if they arrived at all. These lists were the basic source of information but not the only one. Reports of air crews who saw pilots bail out over enemy territory, escaped prisoners, captured documents, and interrogations of enemy POWs also provided information in addition to or in the absence of the lists. Sometimes ULTRA sources provided information on POWs. "ULTRA" was the British term for intelligence gained from the interception, decryption, and decoding of enemy radio signals. While extremely useful in the absence of any other source of information, ULTRA proved a double-edged sword: the information could not be used without revealing its source to the enemy.

Obtaining intelligence from intercepted radio messages was difficult, for the Japanese used an elaborate system of codebooks and rules to encipher their messages. But there were a number of U.S. and Allied intelligence gathering units involved in intercepting, decrypting, translating, and reporting Japanese radio traffic. Units were established in Australia and elsewhere in the Pacific theater, and they had the support of installations in the Washington, D.C., area Bletchly Park, England Delhi, India and Colombo, Ceylon.

These units tracked convoys and individual combat and merchant ships and meticulously recorded their numbers on index cards by name and date. Tonnage was noted for reporting purposes. During January and February of 1944, approximately 3,700 index cards were created in the ongoing effort to identify, describe, and locate the marus.

The Shinyo Maru: An Explosion, and Survival, for Some POWs

On August 14, 1944, a Japanese naval message was intercepted on its way from Manila to Tokyo:

I have held preliminary negotiations with the Naval authorities in Manila in regard to the cargo of the Shinyo Maru As a result, it was decided to unload the rice and cement at Zamboanga and the miscellaneous goods, ([iron ?] products, etc.) at Manila. (I understand that the Shinyo Maru is now at anchor at Zamboanga. It is to be put to urgent use by the Navy, and it will therefore be absolutely impossible for it to sail to the Davao or Palau areas.)

An intercept of August 18 ordered that "Shinyo Maru is to proceed from Zamboanga to Cebu and then transport something on to Manila." According to a September 1 message, the "something" was "evacuees from Palau." A subsequent message on September 6 stated that the C-076 convoy would depart for Cebu on September 7 at 2 a.m. In that convoy would be the Shinyo Maru transporting "750 troops for Manila via Cebu."

At 4:37 p.m. on September 7, Lt. Comdr. E. H. Nowell, skipper of the U.S. submarine Paddle, sighted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point and prepared to fire two torpedoes at Shinyo Maru.

Crowded into the foul and steamy holds of an unidentified ship were 750 U.S. POWs, most of them survivors of POW Camp #2-Davao, Mindanao, Philippines. Since February 29, 1944, 650 officers and enlistees labored on a Japanese airfield at Lasang. The other 100 had similarly worked on another airfield south of Davao. All 750 were marched shoeless to the Tabunco pier on August 19. On August 20, they were packed into the holds of the ship.

Late in the afternoon of August 24, the ship arrived in Zamboanga. The prisoners had no idea of where they were until the men who went topside to empty the latrine cans returned to tell them. "By this time the men were all very dirty [and] many suffering from heat rash and frequent blackouts," recalled 1st Lt. John J. Morrett. The "Japanese allowed the men up on deck twice to run through a hose sprinkling salt water." Morrett commented. "It was hardly a bath but helped considerably."

After ten days of waiting in the harbor, they were transferred to the Shinyo Maru on September 4. On September 7, hatch covers were placed more closely together and secured by ropes to prevent lifting from below. They sailed for fourteen hours without an air raid alert, and many "felt that the worst part of the journey was over."

"Suddenly," Morrett recalled, "there was a terrific explosion immediately followed by a second one," and "heavy obstacles came crashing down from above." Dust filled the air, and bleeding men lay "all over each other in mangled positions, arms, legs, and bodies broken." He struggled up to the deck and found it "strewn [with] the mangled bodies of Japanese soldiers."

Nearby, surviving Japanese soldiers fired at Americans swimming in the water or shot at those struggling up from the holds.

Morrett dove overboard and swam ashore. While swimming, he heard "a terrific cracking sound as if very heavy tissue paper was being crushed together, then the boat seemed to bend up in the middle and was finally swallowed up by the water." Friendly Filipinos and members of the "Volunteer Guards" assisted him and the other eighty-three survivors in returning to the United States.

The death of Shinyo Maru was duly noted by a Japanese cipher clerk at 1650 hours on September 7, the victim of a "torpedo attack." An intercept of September 10 reported 150 Japanese army casualties. Lt. Commander Nowell later reported that "this is probably the attack in which U.S. POWs were sunk, and swam ashore."

On December 31, 1944, a note was added to the message of September 6 that Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) interpreted as ""SHINYOO MARU (750 troops for Manila via Cebu." In pencil was written: "FRUEF (31 Dec '44) gets 750 Ps/W"! FRUPAC misinterpreted this crucial part of the message with fatal consequences.

A blank later filled in by British Radio Unit Eastern Fleet revealed Shinyo Maru's human cargo. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, RG 38) [larger image]

The Arisan Maru: A Navy Boatswain Survives

On the eve of and during the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23–27, 1944), intercepts and intelligence summaries focused upon the movements of "#1 Diversion Attack Force," "#1 and #2 Replenishment Force," and other sea, air, and land units. Occasional references to patrol boats, merchant ships, and convoys are found. On October 24, 1944, the following message was decrypted: "The Luzon Straits Force is assigned to 2 unidentified Convoys and the Naval Air Force is assigned to 2 other unidentified Convoys."

One of these convoys may have been the Harukaze Convoy, which departed Manila for Takao, Formosa, on October 21, 1944. In that convoy was the Arisan Maru. Its cargo: 1,783 American prisoners of war.

Boatswain Martin Binder was among the prisoners compressed into hold two of the Arisan Maru on October 11. There was standing room only. On the following day, the Japanese mercifully moved about 800 prisoners to hold one, which was partially filled with coal. Mercy did not, however, extend to providing water, and several died of heat exhaustion.

To the surprise of the POWs, the ship took a southerly route, away from their Formosa destination, narrowly missing a devastating Allied air attack on Manila airfields and harbor. The Arisan Maru returned to Manila a few days later when it was thought safe to do so, joined the convoy, and departed on October 20.

It was nearly dinnertime on October 24. About twenty prisoners were on deck preparing the meal. The ship was near Shoonan, off the eastern coast of China. Binder and the others suddenly "felt the jar caused by hits of two torpedoes." Arisan Maru stopped dead in the water. After severing the rope ladder leading down into the first hold, the Japanese abandoned ship. Binder was first to escape from hold two and assisted in lowering a ladder down to those in hold one. Ropes were thrown down to those in hold two, as well. Wearing life belts and clinging to rafts, hatch boards, and any other flotsam and jetsam, the prisoners struggled in the rough waters of the Pacific.

Japanese destroyers deliberately pulled away from the men struggling to reach them. Binder survived by clinging to a raft and was later rescued by a Japanese transport that took him to Japan. On October 25 a Japanese army shipping message was intercepted stating "that the Arisan Maru had been loaded with 1,783 men (presumably prisoners)."

The Oryoku Maru: After Sinking, Many Americans Still POWs

On October 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur kept his promise and "returned" to Leyte Gulf. The conquest of the Philippines had begun. His objective on December 14 was Mindoro Island, a base for launching air attacks on his next target, Luzon. The U.S. invasion fleet entered the Sulu Sea and pushed northward.

A note concerning prisoners of war appeared in the Summary of Radio Intelligence on December 14:

On 7 December, Assistant C. of S. [Chief of Staff] of the Army General Staff in Tokyo sent a long message to Manila concerning the questioning of POWs, apparently from [U.S.] Task Force 38 carrier groups. The message indicates that considerable importance is being attached to information believed in the possession of these POWs, particularly as regards U.S. carrier strength. The message states that thorough interrogation should be conducted, as the present strength of U.S. CVs [aircraft carriers] will exert a very important influence on future decisions and policy. It is also desired that POWs be sent to Tokyo by air as soon as field interrogation is complete so that further questioning may be carried out in cooperation with the Naval General Staff.

Allied attacks on Japanese naval forces greatly reduced the number of warships available for convoy escort. In apparent response to Manila about delays in the arrivals of the high-speed transports Arisan Maru and Oryoku Maru, the Shipping Headquarters Takao Branch fired back:

Escort for the Arimasan Maru (JTGL 8696T) sailing alone is just as necessary as for convoys. _____ we have reached a still more critical period of insufficient escort-strength after accelerating the loading and unloading of the Arimasan Maru (JTGL 8696T) _____ Ooryoku Maru (JSKL 7362T) in so far as possible ______.

Both were scheduled to leave Takao on December 5 and arrive at Manila on December 10.

Oryoku Maru's cargo included the "4th Medium Mortar Battalion, consisting of 23 officers and 535 non-commissioned officers and troops, 1350 cases of unit baggage, 12 artillery pieces, 2430 cases of ammunition . . . 14 cases of gasoline, four trucks," and many more reinforcements and supplies. An intercept of December 13 announced, "Oryoku Maru is part of convoy with 2054 troops aboard." The ship was to be loaded and ready to sail with the MATA-37 convoy on December 14. On that date, the Brazil Maru and Enoura Maru prepared to sail from Takao to Manila.

During a lull in Allied air attacks, the Japanese ordered American medical officers at Bilibid Prison to examine and prepare a list of all prisoners who could depart with the last of the POW transports. On the morning of December 12, the roll was read. That evening the departees bade farewell to friends and packed what little remained of their belongings. They were awakened at 4 a.m. the following morning, fed a bit of breakfast, and then all 1,619 POWs marched to Manila's Pier 7. Awaiting them was the Oryoku Maru, its name dimly visible through battleship-gray paint. No Red Cross or other markings were apparent to distinguish her from any other combat craft. The ship bristled with antiaircraft guns.

First to embark were women and children in bright kimonos and merchant seamen stranded when their ships were sunk in the harbor. Not until dusk were the prisoners loaded into three holds of the ship.

The convoy was soon under way, bound for Takao, Formosa, and Moji, Japan. Divided into groups of twenty, the prisoners were "fed small amounts of rice, fish and water." Crowded together on the floor, there was little sleep to be found as cramped muscles jerked spasmodically and neighbors were suddenly jostled. "A Catholic padre, who had recently been brought from Mindanao, stood the whole night through that others might rest," refusing to trade places with one of those on the floor, recalled John M. Jacobs, one of the survivors, in a narrative later.

On the morning of December 14, after collecting the bucket from the ship's kitchen, the mess representatives returned to their holds and began doling out rations. Suddenly, there was the roar of planes and the firing of the antiaircraft guns. Prisoners heard the acceleration of plane engines as they went into their dives and then pulled up, followed by the deafening detonations of bombs. Several messmates scrambled down the ladders, buckets in hand, as bullets ricocheted about them. One of them, Chaplain Ed Nagle, was struck through the leg. "He continued down the long ladder with the bucket, blood streaming from his wound," Jacobs recalled.

Huddled together, seeking emotional refuge from the "terrific explosions and concussions," according to Jacobs, the prisoners "were shaken about like a dog shakes a rat." They "were covered with rust chips and bomb dust." Between raids, they tended the wounded with what scanty supplies were left. Some tried to eat the now dirty rice but found they had lost their appetites. From the depths of this inferno came the voice of Father Duffy praying, "Forgive them. They know not what they do."

Above the holds, gun crews stood and died at their guns. Their blood trickled over the deck and into the holds. New crews replaced the fallen, just as the next flight dived and strafed the decks. The spray of bullets was quickly succeeded by the detonations of bombs that "bounced" the ship about "like a cork in a tub." In futile defiance, the Japanese gun crew officer shook his spear at the onrushing planes.

The POWs endured seventeen such attacks before sunset. Only Oryoku Maru remained afloat. All other craft were sunk or departed. That night a Japanese officer ordered some medical officers topside to tend the wounded. "Decks, cabins, dining room and parlor were littered with dead and dying," reported one officer. Working by candlelight without medicine or bandages, the doctors rendered what little assistance they could. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the Japanese sent the medical teams back to their holds.

The night was filled with the "groans of the wounded" and "the screams of the crazed." John Jacobs remembered, "[Latrine] Buckets were soon filled to overflowing, but the guards did not permit them to be brought topside for emptying. Above the holds, the prisoners could hear the sounds of passengers being loaded into lifeboats. A cable broke, spilling screaming women and children into the sea. By morning, passenger removal was completed." To those in the holds, it was apparent the "Japanese intended leaving us to go down with the ship."

On the morning of December 15, U.S. Navy aircraft returned to finish their task. Their bullets and bombs went unchallenged. Between attacks, a Japanese guard shouted down to the POWs that they were going ashore, wounded first. About fifty healthy prisoners rushed up the ladder, only to be surprised by returning planes. Minutes later, Jacobs clambered up the ladder, discarded shoes and clothes, and dove into the water as three planes soared overhead. With the aid of some floating bamboo, he swam the half-mile to shore.

Jacobs and two others collapsed on a seawall, but only briefly. A Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the neighboring woods, raised his rifle, and fired at one of Jacob's companions. The soldier slumped, Jacobs recalled, "blood pouring out of his heart." The Japanese soldier then took aim at Jacobs, who dove into the water with his surviving companion. Safe for the moment, they watched as the enemy soldier shot at other prisoners swimming for shore.

Oryoku Maru sank near Olongapo Naval Station, Subic Bay, Luzon. Surviving prisoners were assembled nearby at some tennis courts. Of the 1,619 POWs aboard the "hell ship," as they termed it, only 1,290 answered roll call.

Not until December 18 did the Japanese transmit details of the sinking. In a lengthy seven-part message, the attack was described and the presence of American POWs was first announced:

1. The OORYOKU MARU (JSKL 7362T) was bombed and strafed by about 200 enemy planes in Subic Bay on 14 December from 0910 to 1700. In this attack it received a total of 6 direct hits[,] 1 in each of the following places: the left side of the passenger quarters, the front part of the right side of the #1 hold, a center part of port side, rear part of coal box, starboard side of passenger quarters, and port side of passenger quarters. And on the next day, the 15th, beginning at 0800, it was attacked again by almost the same number of enemy planes.

3. Things on board: 546 Japanese nationals begin evacuated (____children____) unhurt.

Of 1191 shipwrecked, ship personnel returning home, 10 were killed, the rest unhurt. Of the 1619 prisoners, about 250 dead. The others were all picked up.

On December 20, Manila informed Hiroshima of their intent to transport overland "about 1300 white prisoners who were shipwrecked on the Oryoku Maru." They expected to have this done by December 24.

From December 15 to 21, 1944, survivors of the Oryoku Maru sinking were held at the double tennis courts at Olongapo Naval Station. No food or medical aid was provided the first two days. Afterward, they were allowed five spoonfuls of raw rice daily and some water from a tap on the tennis court. On December 21 the POWs were transported from Olongapo Naval Station to San Fernando, Pampanga, where they were confined in a jail and movie theatre.

Japanese Lt. Junsaburo Toshino told Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart that those prisoners too badly wounded to continue the trip were to be selected for transport back to Bilibid Prison. Fifteen men were selected. On December 22, the fifteen were taken not to Bilibid but to a cemetery, where they were executed by decapitation or bayonet thrust and buried in a mass grave.

On December 24, the remaining prisoners were loaded onto trains and sent to San Fernando, La Union. Train windows were closed, and the prisoners suffered from the heat. From December 24 to 27, the POWs were held in a school house and, later, on a beach, at San Fernando, La Union. They were permitted "one handful of rice and a canteen of water." So terrible was their thirst in that broiling sun that many drank sea water, often dying as a result.

Lee A. Gladwin is an archivist with the Archival Services Branch of the Center for Electronic Records, National Archives and Records Administration. His particular areas of study are Alan Turing, Bletchley Park and World War II codebreaking. His introductions to two of Alan Turing's Enigma-related documents discovered at NARA were published in recent issues of Cryptologia. His paper "Alan M. Turing's Contributions to Co-operation Between the UK and US" will appear in Alan Turing: Life and Legacy of a Great Thinker (Holland: Springer-Verlag, 2003).

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

The code of the warrior

After the war a number of Japanese military personnel were put on trial for war crimes relating to their treatment of prisoners of war. Fuchida, called on to testify, felt the trials were a sham. He had harbored resentment of the United States for decades due to its restrictions on Asian immigration, and he believed the Americans had treated Japanese POWs just as badly. He sought out recently released POWs to gather evidence. It was then he met his former flight engineer Kazuo Kanegasaki, presumed to have died at the Battle of Midway, who had instead been taken prisoner.

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Rather than telling a story of abuse and torture by Americans, the man told him of a young American woman, Peggy Covell, who treated him and his fellow prisoners with great kindness even though Japanese soldiers had killed her missionary parents in the Philippines. Fuchida was astounded. The code of the warrior not only permitted revenge, it demanded it but this woman declined revenge and offered compassion to Japanese prisoners.

This sparked Fuchida’s interest in Christianity. He soon encountered the testimony of Jacob DeShazer, an American POW who shared his story of finding God in a Japanese camp in I Was a Prisoner of Japan (1950). In September 1949 Fuchida became a Christian. “Looking back,” he said later, “I can see now that the Lord had laid his hand upon me so that I might serve him.”

Fuchida established the Captain Fuchida Evangelistical Association and began to travel full time sharing a presentation of his conversion story. In his autobiography, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary (1959), he wrote, “I remember the thrill that was mine when, in one of my first [evangelistic] meetings, I led my first soul to Christ in America. And he was one of my own countrymen.” In 1952 he toured with the Worldwide Christian Missionary Army of Sky Pilots.

Over the years Fuchida authored a number of books including the autobiography and an account of the Battle of Midway. He died in Japan at age 73. —Matt Forster.

This article is from Christian History magazine #121 Faith in the Foxholes. Read it in context here!

By Matt Forster

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #121 in 2017]

More than 70 Years Later, Rabaul’s Aerial Battleground Is Still Haunting

I was well acquainted with Rabaul long before I went there. As a space shuttle astronaut in the 1990s, I had looked down from Earth orbit on the active volcanoes at this Papua New Guinea site on the island of New Britain. It wasn’t until last year, though, that I visited for myself to see traces of the World War II aerial battles for which Rabaul is best known—battles that culminated in a series of dramatic Allied raids 76 years ago this month.

Simpson Harbor, the drowned throat of a fuming volcanic caldera, is in fact best seen from the Rabaul volcanological observatory. The ridgetop site offers sweeping views of this superb anchorage, whose capture by Japan in January 1942 enabled the Imperial Japanese Navy to project sea and air power into the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and the surrounding waters. Rabaul became a Japanese Gibraltar.

After the Americans seized Guadalcanal, 660 miles to the southeast, in August 1942, the Japanese mounted their counterstroke through Rabaul. Bristling warships of the infamous Tokyo Express steamed down “The Slot,” intent on retaking Guadalcanal, and Japanese airfields ringing the harbor launched strike after strike at the shoestring U.S. Marine air group on Henderson Field.

Even before Guadalcanal, American and allied aircraft struck back at Rabaul. Beginning in the spring of 1942, medium and heavy bombers, from B-26 Marauders to B-24 Liberators, made the long run over New Guinea’s Owen Stanley Mountains to hit the enemy base. Later, from Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field and from bases along the Solomon chain, more bombers rose to attack shipping, destroy supply dumps, and cripple Japanese air strength.

Rabaul was the most heavily defended target in the southwest Pacific, ringed by 367 anti-aircraft guns. Allied attempts to damage the base gave rise to savage sea, air, and land engagements from 1942 to 1945, claiming hundreds of planes and pilots.

Today, the Kokopo War Museum near the Vunakanau Japanese airfield preserves an eclectic collection of heavily weathered weaponry and aircraft. The museum’s tropical lawn is littered with large-caliber Japanese flak guns, salvaged aero engines, and the fuselage and wings of a Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero fighter.

On the museum’s second floor are cockpit fragments of the B-17E Flying Fortress, Naughty But Nice. Early on the morning of June 26, 1943, darkness cloaked the bomber’s 10-man crew as they dodged searchlights and intense flak to unload their bombs on Vunakanau. First Lieutenant Jose Holguin, the navigator, had already set course for their home field on New Guinea when a Nakajima J1N1 Gekko night fighter raked the B-17 with a hail of 20mm cannon fire. Exploding shells killed the pilot and ignited the left wing. Only Holguin got out of the spiraling bomber, parachuting into the jungle below. Locals nursed his fractured spine and bullet wounds in his jaw and left leg, but eventually surrendered him to the Japanese in hopes of getting him medical help.

Nose section of the B-17E Bomber Naughty But Nice. (Tom Jones) The B-17E's instrument panel and controls. (Tom Jones)

What Holguin received instead was two years of brutal interrogation, slow starvation, and medical neglect. At war’s end, he was one of only nine Allied prisoners liberated from Rabaul. He returned in the 1980s, determined to help locate his crewmates’ remains the last were recovered from the impact site in 2001.

In the ash-draped, scattered buildings of old Rabaul town, the New Guinea Club, a pre-war gathering spot for Australian residents, now exhibits the salvaged drop tank from a Zero fighter, along with wing segments bearing Rising Sun insignia, canopy frames, and an arsenal of Japanese automatic weapons. The twisted, nearly abstract fuselage of a Nakajima Ki-43-I “Oscar” fighter, shot down in 1943, still bears its weathered green camouflage and red “meatball.”

George Bush Bailed After Being Hit by Anti-Aircraft Fire

Then, on September 2, 1944, he was again hit by anti-aircraft fire during a bombing run on the Japanese island of Chichi Jima. “Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, 𠇊s if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”

Bush dropped his four 500-pound bombs on the target, a radio facility, and subsequently bailed out over the ocean, though not before bonking his head on the plane’s tail and ripping part of his parachute. His travails continued once in the waves, as jellyfish stings and swallowing too much seawater rendered him nauseous. Nonetheless, he managed to swim to a life raft and remain afloat until a U.S. submarine eventually rescued him.

George Bush being rescued by the submarine, the U.S.S. Finback, after being shot down while on a bombing run of the Island of Chi Chi Jima on September 2, 1944.

During this time, U.S. fighter planes drove off some Japanese boats that pursued him, thus saving him from the gruesome torture suffered by other American captives on Chichi Jima. His two crewmates, however, weren’t so lucky. (One’s parachute apparently failed to open and the other never made it out of the plane.)

Historians agree that airmen like Bush—not to mention actors Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, future U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, and New York Yankees infielder Jerry Coleman, plus hundreds of thousands of non-famous participants—played a vital role in winning the war.

�spite the high loss rates, air power was critical,” Overy says, “particularly aircraft engaged in … operations [to destroy] the enemy&aposs airpower or in tactical support of operations on the ground or the sea.”

To this day, airplanes remain a key part of how wars are waged, though as Kinney points out, the scale and scope (and danger) of World War II’s air battles has not since been matched.

Watch a preview of the two-night event Presidents At War, premiering Sunday, February 17 at 8/7c.

The Niihau Incident

After clipping a fence, Nishikaichi and his Zero came to rest in a farmer’s field where the pilot made an attempt to burn out the remains of his fighter.

By midmorning, December 7, 1941, 22-year-old Airman 1st Class Shigenori Nishikaichi knew his Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter was in serious trouble. Flying escort for a flight of bombers from the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nishikaichi and seven other fighter pilots from the carrier Hiryu had attacked targets in southeastern Oahu. The fighters strafed the U.S. Naval Air Station on the Mokapu Peninsula and then hit Bellows Army Airfield, 10 miles to the south. In both attacks, bombing followed the strafing. The fighters then made another pass to hit additional targets of opportunity.

After the raids, the Zeros reassembled and began the return flight to the carriers. The plan was to rendezvous with returning bombers just north of Oahu’s northern tip. The bombers would then lead the fighters–which had few navigation aids–back to the carriers waiting nearly 200 miles away. Before the Zeros neared the rendezvous point, however, a flight of nine American Curtiss P-36A fighters dived out of nowhere and a one-sided battle ensued. The lightly armed P-36As looked fierce, but they were already obsolete. The Zeros outclimbed, outturned and outran the slower, less maneuverable Curtisses. The American pilots went down one after the other, victims of the Zeros’ superior maneuverability.

In the aerial melee Nishikaichi’s fighter was hit, but at first the damage seemed superficial. As the Zeros regrouped, however, the pilot noticed an excessive rate of fuel consumption. In fact, one of the half-dozen hits on the plane had punctured its gas tank. The engine began to run rough, and Nishikaichi soon fell behind the others. By the time he reached the rendezvous area, he was alone. Then he spotted another Zero approaching, this one ominously trailing smoke.

During the morning briefing aboard Hiryu, the pilots had been told that crippled aircraft should attempt to make emergency landings on tiny Niihau, the westernmost of Hawaii’s seven main islands. There, survivors were to wait along the coast for the arrival of an Imperial Navy I-class submarine assigned to rescue duty. There would be no problems with locals on the island they were assured, since Niihau was uninhabited.

Nishikaichi made a quick calculation based on his rate of fuel consumption and reduced airspeed caused by the now faltering engine. He decided that a try for Niihau, about 130 miles to the west, was more feasible than attempting to reach Hiryu, which probably would be steaming away from Hawaii and back toward Japan. With the other damaged Zero trailing behind, he turned due west.

Twenty minutes later the two limping Zeros passed to the south of Kauai’s green slopes. After a few more minutes, Nishikaichi spotted dead ahead the lava cliffs on the east coast of 18-mile-long, 6-mile-wide Niihau. In tandem, the two faltering Japanese fighters circled the island. At that point Nishikaichi discovered that Japanese Intelligence had blown it. Contrary to the information he had received, the island was clearly inhabited. About a third of the way up the west coast was a large central building, along with several smaller structures. A mile or so beyond that was a small settlement, where he could see a cluster of people standing in front of what appeared to be a church. From his low altitude, Nishikaichi observed that the people appeared to be Polynesian natives.

In some confusion, Nishikaichi flew southwest, away from the island. The other plane followed. Then Nishikaichi faced the inevitable, realizing that he would have to either land on Niihau or crash at sea. He slipped back toward the other plane and signaled its pilot to head back to the island.

The pilot of the other stricken Zero, Airman 2nd Class Saburo Ishii, waved away that suggestion. He had just radioed his carrier, Shokaku, that he intended to return to Oahu and crash-dive into some worthwhile target. A few minutes later, Nishikaichi watched Ishii climb steeply, then inexplicably dive straight into the sea. The shaken Japanese pilot turned toward Niihau and began looking for a place to land.

Nishikaichi soon discovered that whoever lived on Niihau had better prepared that small island for a possible war than the military authorities had on Oahu. With admirable foresight, Niihau’s manager had ordered potential landing sites to be heavily plowed or studded with rock piles.

With his fuel almost gone, Nishikaichi finally found a relatively level, uncluttered stretch of pasture near an isolated house. He eased the Zero into a shallow approach glide and braced himself for a hard landing.

The island Nishikaichi was about to land on was strictly kapu, or forbidden, to any outside member of the public. In 1864, King Kamehameha V had sold Niihau to the Robinson family, in whose hands it has since remained. The native Niihauans–and the Robinson family, for whom most of them work–were and still are a fiercely independent lot. In 1959, Niihau was the one out of Hawaii’s 240 precincts to vote against statehood.

The predominantly native Hawaiian inhabitants herd sheep and cattle and gather honey, and they have made the island famous through the export of highly prized jewelry made of tiny shells collected on the island’s beaches. Humpbacked little Niihau–known throughout Hawaii as the ‘forbidden island’–has a very dry climate since most rainfall is intercepted by the towering mountains of Kauai, 17 miles to the east across the Kaulakahi Channel.

As the Japanese pilot flared out for a landing in this benevolent private fiefdom, the Zero’s wheels struck a wire fence, and the plane nosed in hard. Nishikaichi’s safety harness tore loose, and he slammed against the instrument panel.

Watching the dramatic arrival of the sleek airplane with its red circle markings from his front yard was native Hawaiian Howard Kaleohano. Born and educated on the Big Island of Hawaii, he had been permitted by island manager Aylmer Robinson to visit his sister on Niihau in 1930. He had stayed on and married, becoming one of the few native Hawaiians on the island who was fluent in English.

Kaleohano rushed to the crashed Zero, hauled the groggy pilot out of the wreckage and took away his sidearm and what looked like official papers. Speaking in schoolboy English, Nishikaichi asked Kaleohano if he was Japanese. ‘I am Hawaiian,’ Kaleohano told him. He then took the pilot into his house, where his wife served the visitor breakfast.

When it became evident that Nishikaichi’s limited English was of little use, Japanese-born Ishimatsu Shintani, a 60-year-old beekeeper, was summoned to help. When he arrived, the beekeeper was not at all happy about being asked to translate for the Japanese pilot. Shintani had lived in Hawaii for 41 years, and his children had been born there, so they were by birth American citizens. But Shintani himself was barred from U.S. citizenship by the law then applicable in the Territory of Hawaii. With his own background in mind, Shintani was nervous about becoming involved in this unusual situation. After he and Nishikaichi spoke briefly, Shintani was seen to turn pale, as though he had received a shock. The beekeeper then left the house without relaying much useful information to Kaleohano. Clearly, Kaleohano needed to find someone else to help him.

Next summoned to the scene were the Haradas, who spoke both Japanese and English. Yoshio Harada, 38, had been born to Japanese parents on Kauai in 1903. His birth in Hawaii made him an American citizen, but he had three brothers in Japan, and his wife, Irene, had been born to Japanese parents. Speaking Japanese, Nishikaichi told the Haradas of the attack on Oahu. He also demanded that his pistol and documents be returned. Because the Haradas knew the Niihauans regarded them as more Japanese than Hawaiian, they kept what Nishikaichi had said to themselves. That was the beginning of a sell-out that would cost them–as well as the nation–dearly.

Unaware that the United States was now at war with Japan, the Niihauans treated the pilot to a luau at a nearby house. Nishikaichi even sang a Japanese song at the gathering, accompanying himself on a borrowed guitar. He was probably wondering when the rescue submarine would arrive and send a shore party to escort him aboard. He was not going to be rescued by sub, however. A submarine had indeed been in the vicinity, but at 1:30 p.m. Hawaiian time its commander had been ordered to sail on toward Oahu and intercept any incoming American relief ships.

By nightfall, word of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the other Oahu military installations had reached Niihau by radio. The pilot was questioned anew, and Yoshio Harada realized he had better accurately report what Nishikaichi had told him.

Now the problem was what to do with the enemy pilot. Aylmer Robinson, Niihau’s absentee landlord, lived on Kauai and made weekly visits to Niihau to look after family interests there. The island’s former resident superintendent, John Rennie, had died in September, and Robinson had appointed Harada paymaster in Rennie’s place. That had made Harada a man of stature on Niihau, and he was now torn between his American citizenship and his Japanese heritage. While the Niihauans debated what to do with the enemy interloper, Nishikaichi was lodged for the night at the home of John Kelly, the luau host. The Haradas stayed there with the pilot.

The next day Nishikaichi was taken by tractor to Kii Landing, near the northern tip of the island. Robinson’s boat from Kauai docked at Kii when he made his inspection visits, and he was expected to arrive on December 8. Robinson did not appear, however. Unbeknown to the Niihauans, newly imposed wartime restrictions had precluded boat traffic across the 17-mile channel between the island and Kauai.

The time spent waiting at Kii was an opportunity for Nishikaichi and Harada to converse on the beach by themselves. The pilot apparently had sensed Harada’s ambivalent loyalties, and he began to play on them. If the shaky defense of Oahu was a typical American response, he told the uncertain Harada, Japan was sure to win the war. Nishikaichi gradually won over Harada and, to some degree, Harada’s wife Irene.

On Thursday, December 11, with the pilot still being treated as a guest, albeit not a very welcome one, Harada brought the beekeeper Shintani back into the picture. The three of them conferred privately at Harada’s home, where Nishikaichi was then staying, and the following day Shintani appeared at Howard Kaleohano’s house and demanded the papers he had taken from the plane. Kaleohano refused to give them up. Shintani muttered a threat, and Kaleohano threw him out.

At that point, Harada and the pilot realized they could not count on the old beekeeper, but they were determined to proceed with Nishikaichi’s newly chosen plan for himself–death with honor. By now, the pilot was under casual guard by several Niihauans.

That same day Harada had stolen a shotgun and a pistol from the building near which the Zero had crashed–the Robinsons’ ranch house, now unused and locked. Harada had been entrusted with a key. He loaded the firearms and took them to a warehouse used to store honey from the island’s thriving beekeeping industry.

Returning home, Harada notified his wife and the pilot about the weapons he had secured. Only one of the four assigned guards was on duty at that point. When Nishikaichi asked to use the Haradas’ outhouse, Harada accompanied him outside, followed by the guard. When the pilot emerged, Harada said he had something to attend to at the nearby honey warehouse. The unsuspecting guard accompanied them there. Thereupon Harada and Nishikaichi grabbed the hidden weapons and locked the guard in the warehouse.

Just then, the guard’s wife appeared in a horse-drawn wagon. The two plotters commandeered the wagon and ordered the woman to drive them to Kaleohano’s house, where they allowed the woman to flee on the horse. When they discovered that Kaleohano was not home, the pilot and Harada made a quick trip to the nearby downed plane, which was now guarded by a 16-year-old boy. Nishikaichi tried to work the radio, but to what purpose is uncertain. The two men then forced the young guard to go back to Kaleohano’s house.

Now Kaleohano’s apparent absence was explained when he suddenly rushed from his outhouse, where he had hidden in an effort to escape the armed duo. Harada leveled the shotgun and fired at him–but missed. Being shot at settled Kaleohano’s politics, and he managed to get away from Harada and Nishikaichi. He rushed to the village and warned the residents, then borrowed a horse and headed for the northern tip of the island, intending to build a signal fire. First, however, Kaleohano stopped at his now deserted house and picked up the plane’s papers, which he took to his mother-in-law’s home.

The guard who had been locked in the warehouse was able to escape at that point and dashed to the village, where he corroborated Kaleohano’s earlier story. As a result, nearly all of the villagers fled to remote areas of the island.

A bonfire had already been set on Mount Paniau, Niihau’s highest point, by a group of alarmed men, but when Kaleohano arrived he decided that relying only on signals was too chancy. Shortly after midnight, he and five others set off in a lifeboat from Kii Landing to Waimea, on Kauai, a 10-hour pull against the wind.

Robinson, who had learned about the signal fire and was chaffing under the travel prohibition, was astounded when he received a phone call from Kaleohano in Waimea. For several days Robinson had been trying to get the commander of the Kauai Military District to send a boat to Niihau, but the Navy’s ban on all boat traffic had frustrated his efforts. Now briefed by Kaleohano on the situation, Robinson finally received approval to organize a rescue mission.

In the meantime, Nishikaichi and Harada recaptured the escaped guard and forced him to walk through the deserted village, calling on any remaining inhabitants to come out of their houses. Only one man, Kaahakila Kalima, appeared, giving the renegades their second prisoner. They then returned to the plane, stripped off the Zero’s machine guns and remaining ammunition and stowed them on a wagon. They also tried to burn the plane, but the fire they set in the cockpit did not spread. Harada sent Kalima to tell Irene that he would not be returning that night. Then he and the pilot–apparently drunk with power–walked through the now silent village firing their weapons and yelling for Kaleohano to surrender.

Once away from his captors, Kalima made for the beach, where he found his wife along with Ben Kanahele and Ben’s wife. Kanahele, 49, was a 6-foot native Hawaiian sheep rancher, noted for his prodigious strength. Kalima and Kanahele managed to avoid Nishikaichi and Harada and removed the machine-gun ammo from the wagon. But when they and their wives attempted to return to the village for food, they were captured.

After nightfall on December 12, Nishikaichi and Harada searched Kaleohano’s house for the plane’s papers, then burned it down in frustration. They then forced Ben Kanahele to search for Kaleohano. Kanahele, who knew that Kaleohano had left for Kauai, put on a show of calling for him.

Nishikaichi, now holding the shotgun and with the pistol stuck in his boot, told Kanahele that if he could not produce Kaleohano, he and all the others on the island would be shot. The placid Niihauans were normally slow to anger, but by this time the islanders had had enough. Speaking Hawaiian, Ben Kanahele demanded that Harada take away the pilot’s pistol. Harada refused, but he indicated to Nishikaichi that he needed the shotgun.

As the pilot handed over the gun, Kanahele and his wife lunged at him. Nishikaichi was too quick for them. He yanked the pistol from his boot and shot Kanahele in the chest, hip and groin. Enraged, the big Hawaiian grabbed the pilot, hoisted him in the air and threw him against a nearby stone wall. Grabbing a rock, Kanahele’s wife began to bash the fallen pilot’s head. Kanahele then drew a knife and slit Nishikaichi’s throat. Harada, no doubt realizing that he had abetted a disastrous chain of events, jammed the shotgun muzzle into his own gut and pulled the trigger.

When an Army rescue party from Kauai finally arrived the following morning, it seemed that the remarkable episode was over. But that was not the end of the story.

Ben Kanahele recovered from his wounds. In August 1945 he was awarded two presidential citations, the Medal of Merit and the Purple Heart.

For his peripheral part in the Niihau incident, Ishimatsu Shintani was taken into custody and interned on the U.S. mainland throughout the war. He blamed Japan more than the United States for his actions. With the postwar repeal of racial barriers to immigration, he became a naturalized American citizen in 1960.

Irene Harada lost not only her husband but also her freedom. Thought to be a Japanese spy, she was jailed on Kauai on December 15, 1941. She was transferred to a military prison on Oahu, where she was reportedly questioned but held her silence. Irene was released in late 1944 and returned to Niihau, embittered for life.

The actions of Shintani and the Haradas, all Niihauans of Japanese ancestry, were noted in a January 1942 Navy report as indications of the ‘likelihood that Japanese residents previously believed loyal to the United States may aid Japan.’ With the nation in an uproar over the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, there can be no doubt that the Niihau event influenced the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to summarily remove more than 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and intern them in the U.S. interior.

In Hashihama, Japan, the hometown of young pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi, there is a stone column that was erected in his honor. Chiseled in granite is a version of his exploits over Oahu that claims he died ‘in battle.’ Also engraved there are the words: ‘His meritorious deed will live forever.’

This article was written by William Hallstead and originally appeared in the November 2000 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!

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“I don’t know how I did it, but I did.”

The crippled Yorktown listed to one side “like a car turned over,” Fentress recalled seeing from the water. It would eventually succumb to its damage on June 7, turning onto its portside before rolling upside-down and sinking.

And while Fentress, with the help of the Yorktown’s commanding officer, Capt. Elliott Buckmaster, would board an adjacent destroyer and live to fight another day, the vet who has already endured so much was not spared Thursday from having to witness the battle’s retelling in one of worst war films since Michael “The Explosion” Bay’s “Pearl Harbor.”

Spoilers, in this case, simply do not matter. If you shell out your hard-earned money to see this film, you are spoiling your own life and ruining the joy of those in your company.

Use the 2 hours, 18 minutes to instead do something more enjoyable, like repeatedly smashing your face into a wall.

For starters, there was none.

It is an experience best compared to a sudden midlife development of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

First, we’re in a 1930s duck-hunting flashback, then we’re at the attack of Pearl Harbor, then a bar toasting the fallen, then onboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6), then in Washington, then Japan again, then in a jazz club, then a war game onboard a Japanese carrier, then the Doolittle Raid, then the Marshall Islands, and on and on.

Must see: Incredible new trailer & behind-the-scenes look at WWI blockbuster ‘1917’

The film is set for a limited Christmas Day release before hitting theaters nationwide on Jan. 10, 2020.

Most Americans would argue that Midway certainly needs no full chronological build-up and could live as a film on its own, but director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “Day After Tomorrow” — yeah, those) felt otherwise. Instead, viewers get a crash course on a series of monumental events in U.S. history that are confined to 10- or 15-minute on-screen segments.

Listening, painfully, to the dialogue of this film, I couldn’t help but imagine a movie production setting in which the crew is conferring with a chimpanzee who has just begun learning American Sign Language.

In this imaginative — or perhaps real life — scene, the crew asks for the chimpanzee’s input on the heroic Doolittle Raid, to which the chimp signs back, “Feed now. Me hurl poop.”

The elated crew high-fives, so proud of itself, and adds the chimp’s contribution to the script.

As such, the writing in “Midway” is astonishingly bad. Every character speaks only in a dialect of recruiting slogans, and for some reason, accents of sailors in the ranks of Emmerich’s Navy indicate an entire force that grew up as either rough and tough New Yorkers or yokels from the Bible Belt.

Here are some actual lines of dialogue from the movie:

  • “Let me put a 500-lb bomb right down their god-damned smoke stack.” This would have been difficult given the placement of smoke stacks on some of Japan’s larger ships. The Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga’s smoke stack, for example, was located on the ship’s side.
  • “He is ordering us to charge, like the Samurai, to save our honor.” Ah, yes, the necessary Samurai reference.
  • “This is for Pearl!” yells Ed Skrein (as Dick Best), as he unsurprisingly flies through his own bomb’s explosion for dramatic effect.
  • “We won.” The emotionless declaration of Woody Harrelson (as Adm. Chester Nimitz) was the final line of dialogue before the credits mercifully roll.

At one point, a pilot asks New Yorker Nick Jonas why he never appears scared. The Jonas brother tells him that we’re all going to die when we don’t expect it, so what’s the use in worrying? The pilot then unexpectedly drives his plane off of the flight deck and straight into the ocean, at which point I began hoping a plane would unexpectedly fly through the screen and drop its payload on my theater seat.

During the bar scene, officers reminisce about a friend who fell victim during the attack at Pearl Harbor. Skrein, the English-born actor and rapper who also goes by the stage name, The Dinnerlady P.I.M.P., tells a terrible drinking story in a terrible New York accent that is intended to be terribly heartfelt. Instead, he stumbles through an anecdote that generates as much emotion as Derek Zoolander’s “eugoogly.”

Basking in the glow of his perceived public speaking success, Skrein tells the room that he and his friend often discussed growing old and telling lies about their heroic deeds during “the big war.”

The U.S. had not declared war until after his friend was killed. What war were they planning to tell stories about?

These minor details, however, matter not to Roland Emmerich, who, in “Day After Tomorrow,” had Dennis Quaid walk . walk . from Pennsylvania to New York City in a single day amidst an apocalyptic ice age.

All praise to the power-walking quad and calf muscle god, Dennis Quaid.

In the end, the best dialogue, by far, was generated by the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, which, being inanimate objects, had no lines.


This got off to a shaky start with the Pearl Harbor sequence.

Visuals and sound were so unconvincing that the sudden emergence of Optimus Prime from a Hawaiian volcano shouting, “USS Arizona, roll out!” would not have come as a surprise.

And after some people asked how it stacked up, I went back and — against any better judgement — watched the Pearl Harbor attack scene from the terrible 2001 film. Admittedly, 18 years of computer graphic improvements did not translate at all.

Select air-to-air combat or dive bombing sequences were mildly entertaining, but took unncecessarily long to build. The dive time from 2,000 meters until bomb release should not take what felt like an eternity.

After two-plus hours, a Japanese soldier catching a duck with a net in the 1930s flashback was the most convincing action sequence.

The most ordinary of details that could be researched via Wikipedia with a .23 second Google search proved to be too much of an ask for the production crew of a movie based on the battle that turned the tide of the entire war in the Pacific.

Just look at some of these post-movie “facts” that were shared on screen:

  • Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson, Jr. received three Navy Crosses, “the Navy’s highest award for combat." It takes nothing to discover this is incorrect.
  • For bombing two carriers in one day, Dick Best “won” a Navy Cross. Won?

Finally, the last on-screen wording says, "This film is dedicated to the Americans and Japanese who fought at Midway.”

The same fanatical Japanese military who killed over 40 percent of American prisoners of war or used prisoners for rifle and bayonet target practice? The same who massacred at least 20 million Chinese men, women and children? The same who committed systemic rape of Chinese girls and women using bats, bottles, or bayonets as tools of mutilation before carrying out executions? The same who, according to Ian Toll’s “Conquering Tide,” would have children form into a circle, toss in a live hand grenade and have them play with until it exploded? The same who, when hungry, actually stripped muscle from living humans to eat? The same who used Chinese civilians for testing diseases and pathogens for biological warfare?

Even in the movie, Japanese officers take an American POW, tie rope around his hands that has an anchor attached to the other end, and toss the heavy weight into the Pacific Ocean.

This film was physically upsetting and is capable of ruining anyone’s weekend.

Stay away from it and abstain from the mental strife.

Save your money for Sam Mendes’ World War I film, “1917,” which is set for a limited Christmas Day release before hitting theaters nationwide on Jan. 10, 2020.

Observation Post articles reflect author observations. Any resemblance to news may be purely coincidental.

Japanese Prisoners on a US Carrier - History

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II. Not long after the attack, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that allowed the military to force people of Japanese ancestry into internment camps. Around 120,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to the camps.

Dust storm at Manzanar War Relocation Center
Source: National Archives

What were internment camps?

Internment camps were sort of like prisons. People were forced to move into an area that was surrounded by barbed wire. They were not allowed to leave.

Why did they make the camps?

The camps were made because people became paranoid that Japanese-Americans would help Japan against the United States after the Pearl Harbor attack. They were scared that they would sabotage American interests. However, this fear was not founded on any hard evidence. The people were put in the camps based only on their race. They had not done anything wrong.

Who were sent to the internment camps?

It is estimated that around 120,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to ten camps spread out around the Western United States. Most of them were from west coast states like California. They were divided into three groups including the Issei (people who had immigrated from Japan), the Nisei (people whose parents were from Japan, but they were born in the U.S.), and the Sansei (third generation Japanese-Americans).

An evacuee with family belongings
en route to an "assembly center"

Source: National Archives

Were there children in the camps?

Yes. Entire families were rounded up and sent to the camps. Around a third of the people in the camps were school aged children. Schools were set up in the camps for the children, but they were very crowded and lacked materials like books and desks.

What was it like in the camps?

Life in the camps wasn't very fun. Each family typically had a single room in tarpaper barracks. They ate bland food in large mess halls and had to share bathrooms with other families. They had little freedom.

Were Germans and Italians (the other members of the Axis Powers) sent to camps?

Yes, but not at the same scale. Around 12,000 Germans and Italians were sent to internment camps in the United States. Most of these people were German or Italian citizens who were in the U.S. at the start of World War II.

The interment finally ended in January of 1945. Many of these families had been in the camps for over two years. Many of them lost their homes, farms, and other property while they were in the camps. They had to rebuild their lives.

4. Changjiao Massаcre

Victorious Japanese soldiers after the battle of Battle of Beiping

During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army imposed a scorched earth strategy on China. It was called “The Three Alls Policy” – “kill all, burn all, loot all”. In just four days (9-12 March 1943), the Changjiao Massacre claimed the lives of 30,000 people and was infamous for it’s Army approved mass rape campaign which affected thousands of women.

It was conducted under the command of Field Marshall Shunroku Hata, who was at the time the head of the China Expeditionary Force.

The testimony of a Japanese Kempeitai officer, Uno Shintaro, who participated in the massacre, gives us a truly chilling feel:

“I personally severed more than forty heads. Today, I no longer remember each of them well. It might sound extreme, but I can almost say that if more than two weeks went by without my taking a head, I didn’t feel right. Physically, I needed to be refreshed.”

Manila Walled City Destruction May 1945

Japanese Prisoners on a US Carrier - History



Part 2 of 2 - 1943-1945

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

Burma - The First Arakan campaign continued as Indian troops tried to move on Akyab.

Monthly Loss Summary: Pacific Ocean only - 2 merchant ships of 9,000 tons

PROSPECTS FOR ALLIED VICTORY - The Russians gained a famous victory with the German surrender at Stalingrad in January 1943. Taken with the October 1942 British Battle of El Alamein and June 1942 American Battle of Midway, the three Allied successes are usually considered as marking the turning point in the 40 month old war against the Axis powers. The Battle for Guadalcanal, ending as it did Japanese hopes of controlling the South West Pacific should also be added to this roll-call of victory.

Burma - Col Orde Wingate mounted the first Chindit Operation behind Japanese lines, northwest of Lashio. Success was limited, losses heavy and the survivors started to withdraw in late March 1943. In the south-west, the Arakan Offensive failed to make any progress.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 3 merchant ships of 16,000 tons

Burma - In the Arakan the Japanese went over to the attack and pushed back the British and Indian forces which by mid-May 1943 were back in India. The first of three Allied Arakan campaigns was a failure.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 10 merchant ships of 62,000 tons

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 43,000 tons

Merchant Shipping War - Adm Somerville's Eastern Fleet had lost its remaining carrier, two battleships and many smaller vessels to other theatres. An inadequate anti-submarine and escort force was left to deal with the submarines active in the Indian Ocean. Japanese boats were again joined by German U-boats, and right through until December 1943 not many more than a dozen German and Japanese boats inflicted quite heavy losses throughout the length and breadth of the Indian Ocean. Between June and year's end they sank over 50 merchantmen. (May 1943 was the month that saw the Victory of the Escorts in the Battle of the Atlantic)

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 28,000 tons

Indian Ocean Merchant Shipping Losses, January 1942 to May 1943
Total 230 British and Allied ships of 873,000 tons

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 12 merchant ships of 68,000 tons

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 17 merchant ships of 97,000 tons

Australia - John Curtin was re-elected Prime Minister and the Labour Party returned to power.

Merchant Shipping War - As Axis submarines continued to take a toll of Indian Ocean shipping, German "U-197" was sunk by RAF aircraft off Madagascar on the 20th, the first of two lost in the Indian Ocean in 1943.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 7 merchant ships of 46,000 tons

SOE Raid on Singapore - Working for Special Operations Executive, a small group of Australian and British servicemen were carried from Australia in an old fishing vessel, and on the night of the 24th/25th penetrated Singapore harbour in canoes. Several ships were sunk. In a similar raid in September 1944 the attackers were captured and executed.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 39,000 tons

Merchant Shipping War - RAF aircraft sank their second U-boat of 1943 in the Indian Ocean with "U-533" on the 16th in the Gulf of Oman.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 26,000 tons

12th - On patrol off Penang, Malaya in the Malacca Strait, submarine "Taurus" sank the Japanese "I-34" sailing on a supply trip to Europe.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 4 merchant ships of 29,000 tons

Burma - Under Adm Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, Gen Slim's 14th Army prepared for a major offensive into northern Burma from the area of Kohima and lmphal in India. Preceding this would be a Second Arakan campaign to the south, and in the far north a parallel Chindit and American/Chinese operation in part to open a new route to the Burma Road from Ledo in India. The Arakan push started late in December. Throughout the rest of the war, Adm Mountbatten's plans to prosecute the campaign even more vigorously in South East Asia were continually frustrated by his lack of amphibious capability.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 5 merchant ships of 31,000 tons

Indian Ocean Operations - Late in the month the British Eastern Fleet was considerably strengthened by the arrival of capital ships "Queen Elizabeth", "Valiant", "Renown" and carriers "Illustrious" and "Unicorn", cruisers and destroyers. To date only the Ceylon-based submarines had been available to carry out offensive operations in the Indian Ocean, and in January they had two successes against Japanese light cruisers of the 'Kuma' class, both off Penang in the Malacca Strait. On the 11th "Tally Ho" (Lt-Cdr L. W. A. Bennington) sank the "KUMA". Two weeks later "Templar" damaged "Kitakami".

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 8 merchant ships of 56,000 tons

11th - As German and Japanese submarines continued to attack Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean, two Japanese boats were sunk, but in the second case only after the loss of many lives. First "RO-110" attacked a Calcutta/Colombo convoy in the Bay of Bengal and was sunk by the escorts - Indian sloop "Jumna" and Australian minesweepers "Ipswich" and "Launceston".

12th - Off Addu Atoll "I-27" attacked a five-ship troop convoy bound for Colombo from Kilindini in East Africa, and escorted by old cruiser "Hawkins" and destroyers "Paladin" and "Petard". Transport "Khedive lsmail" went down with over 1,000 men, but "I-27" was hunted and sunk by the two destroyers.

14th - On patrol in the Malacca Strait, submarine "Tally Ho" had another success (the other was cruiser "Kuma" the month before) by sinking German ex-Italian submarine "UIt-23" bound for Europe with cargo from the Far East.

Burma - The Arakan offensive to the south was slowly progressing when early in the month the Japanese started their own attack, outflanking and surrounding the British and Indian troops. Supplied by air they held out and by June 1944 were established on a line north of Akyab, where they stayed through the monsoon until December.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 10 merchant ships of 64,000 tons

March - Submarine "STONEHENGE" sailed fro m Ceylon for patrol in the area between Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands. She was overdue on the 20th, cause of loss unknown.

Burma - In the north, as one Chindit group marched from Ledo into Burma, a second one was airlifted to a position northeast of lndaw on the 5th. US Gen 'Vinegar Joe' Stillwell and his Chinese forces also left from near Ledo and started their own march into Burma heading for Myitkyina. Behind them the new Burma Road was constructed through the mountainous country, but would not link up with the old road until January 1945. Major Gen Orde Wingate was killed in an air crash on the 24th, and shortly afterwards the Chindits were used to support Gen Stillwell's campaign. Further to the south and west the Japanese chose this time to start their own major offensive into India to pre-empt 14th Army's planned attack. By the end of the month they were over the Assam border and approaching the British and Indian defences at Kohima and lmphal.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 12 merchant ships of 75,000 tons

India - On the 14th freighter "FORT STIKINE" loaded with ammunition and cotton caught fire and blew up in Bombay harbour. Damage was widespread to both shipping and installations.

Burma - By the 6th, the Battles of Kohima & lmphal started when the two towns were surrounded. Although the ring around Kohima was partly broken on the 18th, the defenders had to hold out in the two areas in often desperate conditions, supplied by air, throughout April and May 1944.

19th - Carrier Attack on Sabang, Sumatra - Adm Som erville's Eastern Fleet had almost enough strength to start offensive operations although the loan of US carrier "Saratoga" was necessary for the first attack on oil installations at Sabang, together with shipping and airfields. Sailing from Ceylon with "Saratoga" and fleet carrier "Illustrious", were battleships "Queen Elizabeth", "Valiant" and the French "Richelieu", cruisers and destroyers. From a position to the southwest, bombers and fighters flew off from the two carriers for a successful strike on the 19th before returning to Ceylon.

Monthly Loss Summary: There were no merchant shipping losses in the Indian Ocean in April and May 1944

17th - Carrier Attack on Surabaya, Java - Eas tern Fleet carried out another raid, this time on the oil facilities at Surabaya and with the same ships as the Sabang strike. Afterwards "Saratoga" returned to the US.

Merchant Shipping War - No Allied merchant ships were lost in April and May 1944 throughout the Indian Ocean, but 29 were sunk in the preceding three months, and by never more than six German and four Japanese submarines. In return only four boats including one transport submarine had been sunk. The last was "U-852" off the Gulf of Aden to RAF aircraft on 3rd May.

Indian Ocean Merchant Shipping Losses, June 1943 to May 1944
Total 87 British and Allied ships of 532,000 tons

Burma - By early June, units of 14th Army were advancing from Kohima to Imphal, which was completely relieved on the 22nd after some of the bitterest fighting of the campaign. By July the Japanese were retreating back across the Burmese border. British Fourteenth Army now prepared for a main offensive into Burma later in the year.

17th - As the Ceylon-based submarines continued to cut Japanese supply lines to their armies in Burma, "Telemachus" on patrol in the Malacca Strait sank Japanese submarine "I-166" outward bound for Indian Ocean operations.

25th - FAA Attack on Sabang, Sumatra - Aircraft from "Illustrious" and "Victorious" attacked Sabang, after which three battleships, cruisers and destroyers bombarded the area. This was the last Eastern Fleet operation under the command of Adm Somerville. He moved on to Washington DC as Adm Fraser took over as C-in-C in August. More carrier raids were carried out on Sumatra in August and September.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 5 merchant ships of 30,000 tons

8th - Battleship "Valiant" (below - CyberHeritage) was se riously damaged at Trincomalee, Ceylon when the floating dock she was in collapsed.

12th - An escort carrier task group was formed to hunt for German and Japanese submarines operating in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. "U-198" was lo cated on the 10th and two days later, sunk off the Seychelles by frigate "Findhorn" and Indian sloop "Godavari".

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 9 merchant ships of 58,000 tons

23rd - Submarine "Trenchant" on patrol off Penang in the Malacca Strait sank "U-859" arriving from operations in the Indian Ocean. One flotilla of Ceylon-based submarines moved to Western Australia to work in East lndies waters under American Seventh Fleet command.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 1 merchant ships of 5,600 tons

Burma - Following the repulse of the Japanese around Kohima and lmphal in the Spring of 1944, 14th Army, now including East African troops prepared for the main offensive towards Mandalay. There were all the attendant problems of movement and supply in mountainous and monsoon country, and over the major rivers of Burma. Gen Slim started the advance in mid-October and by the middle of November was over the Chindwin River and heading for central Burma and Mandalay, which was taken in March 1945.

Nicobar Islands - Between the 17th and 19th, ships and carrier aircraft of the Eastern Fleet attacked the Japanese-held islands to divert their attention from the US landings on Leyte in the Philippines.

22nd - Three days after sinking a ship in the shallow Malacca Strait off the west coast of Malaya, submarine "STRATAGEM" was located and sunk by a Japanese destroyer on the 22nd.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 2 merchant ships of 14,000 tons

Burma - The central Burma campaign towards Mandalay continued. As it did, the Third and last Arakan offensive got underway on the 11th with British, Indian and West African troops aiming for Akyab.

British Pacific Fleet - The Royal Navy prepared to return in force to the Pacific, but even then as a junior partner to the vast US fleets. At the end of November the Eastern Fleet was dissolved and Vice-Adm Sir Arthur Power appointed C-in-C of the newly formed East lndies Fleet. He took over some of the ships of the old Eastern Fleet from Adm Fraser including capital ships "Queen Elizabeth" and "Renown", four escort carriers and nine cruisers. Now as the last U-boats headed back for Europe, Adm Power had sufficient convoy escort strength for Indian Ocean operations. Adm Fraser became C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet (BPF) and early in the month flew to Sydney, his planned main base, and then on to Pearl Harbor to discuss with Adm Nimitz how the Fleet would be employed. By the end of the year, fleet carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", battleships "Howe" and "King George V", and seven cruisers including the New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" had been allocated to BPF. Adm Fraser's greatest challenges were to equip and train his aircrews to US Navy standards of operation and to assemble a balanced fleet train. This would enable him to supply and support the fleet so it could operate alongside, but independent o,f the Americans in the vast stretches of the Pacific. Even at the end he lacked many of the ships needed, especially fast tankers. Rear-Adm Sir Philip Vian took command of the BPF carriers and led "Indomitable" and "Illustrious" on an attack against Belawan Deli, northern Sumatra in mid-month. More raids took place on Sumatra in January 1945.

3rd - On patrol to the north of Sumatra, "SHAKESPEARE" surfaced to engage a merchant ship. Hit by return gunfire and later aircraft attack, she reached Ceylon, but was not fully repaired.

16th - The last submarine sinking was on or around the 16th. Minelayer "PORPOISE" on patrol in the Malacca Strait and minelaying off Penang, was probably sunk by Japanese aircraft. (Some sources suggest the 19th.)

Burma - Only now did the Chinese forces in the far north, pushing on from Myitkyina, reach the old Burma Road allowing the Ledo Road link-up to be made. In the centre, 14th Army fought on towards Mandalay throughout January and February. In the south the Arakan offensive moved on by a series of amphibious hops aimed at occupying suitable sites for air bases to support the central Burma campaign. 3rd/21st - Landings at Akyab & Ramree Island - Ea rly on the 3rd, British and Indian forces landed at Akyab from destroyers and smaller vessels of the Royal, Australian and Indian Navies to find the Japanese had gone. On the 21st more British and Indians were landed on Ramree Island with support and cover partly provided by battleship "Queen Elizabeth" and escort carrier "Ameer". The few Japanese resisted in their usual manner into February.

24th/29th - Fleet Air Arm Attack on Palembang - As the British Pacific Fleet transferred from Ceylon to Fremantle en route to Sydney, Australia, successful strikes were made by aircraft from carriers "Indomitable", "Illustrious", "Indefatigable" and "Victorious" on oil installations around Palembang, southern Sumatra on the 24th and 29th. Adm Vian was in command.

Monthly Loss Summary: Very few Allied merchant ships were lost in the Indian Ocean for the rest of the war

11th - Supporting operations on Ramree Island, south of Akyab in Burma, destroyer "PATHFINDER" was hit by Japanese bombers and went to reserve, the 153rd and last destroyer or escort destroyer casualty of the Royal Navies.

British Pacific Fleet - Early in the month, the BPF arrived in Sydney for replenishment. Adm Fraser stayed ashore as C-in-C. BPF had been allocated Manus in the Admiralty Islands as its intermediate base.

Burma - On the central front the attacking British and Indian divisions took Mandalay on the 20th after a fierce struggle. As the Japanese started to retreat, 14th Army pushed on south towards Rangoon until early May.

Burma - As the Japanese started to retreat, 14th Army pushed on south towards Rangoon until early May.

Burma - Conclusion - Concerned that 14th Army coming from the north would not reach Rangoon - the capital and major port of Burma, before the monsoon broke, the go-ahead was given for airborne and amphibious landings. On the 1st, Gurkha paratroops landed near the coast. Early next morning the main landings took place. 2nd - Landings Near Rangoon, Operation 'Dracula' - Under the na val command of Rear-Adm B. C. S. Martin, an Indian division was carried from Ramree island in landing ships and craft and put ashore at Rangoon, covered by escort carriers, cruisers and destroyers (Cdre G. N. Oliver). At the same time, diversionary attacks were made on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Vice-Adm H. T. C. Walker with battleships "Queen Elizabeth" and the French "Richelieu" and aircraft from two escort carriers. Rangoon was entered on the 3rd by the Indian landing force to find the Japanese gone. On the 6th they met up with 14th Army units just a few miles to the north. The rest of the war was spent mopping up the Japanese unable to escape to Thailand.

16th - Sinking of the "Haguro", Last Major Surface Warship Action of the War - Jap anese heavy cruiser "Haguro" sailed for the Andaman Islands to evacuate the garrison. She was reported by East lndies Fleet submarines in the Malacca Strait and Adm Walker set out with his escort carriers to catch her. They were are sighted on the 11th and "Haguro" turned back. She tried again a few days later. This time 26th Destroyer Flotilla (Capt M. L. Power) with "Saumarez", "Venus", "Verulam", "Vigilant" and "Virago" was waiting off Penang. In a classic night torpedo action they attacked from all sides and send "HAGURO" to the bottom early on the 16th.

19th - On patrol in the Java Sea, submarine "TERRAPIN" attacked an escorted Japanese tanker and was badly damaged by depth charges in the counter-attack. She was not repaired, the last Royal Navy submarine casualty of the war.

Borneo - Australian forces under Gen MacArthur started landing operations on Borneo, partly to recover the oil fields. On the 1st they went ashore at Tarakan on the east coast of Dutch Borneo, covered by ships of Seventh Fleet including the Australian cruiser "Hobart". Similar assaults took place at Brunei Bay on the north coast of British Borneo on 10th June, after which the Australians advanced south down the coast of Sarawak. In the last major amphibious operation of the war on the 1st July, the Australians landed at Balikpapan, south of Tarakan on the east coast. Tough fighting was needed to secure the port

Indian Ocean Merchant Shipping Losses, June 1944 to May 1945
Total 21 British and Allied ships of 134,000 tons

8th - As Japanese heavy cruiser "ASHIGARA" (sister-ship to "Haguro") carried troops from Batavia to Singapore, she was torpedoed five times by submarine "Trenchant" and sank in the Banka Strait off southeast Sumatra.

Australia - Prime Minister John Curtin failed to see the end of the war, dying on the 5th after an illness. Acting PM, Joseph Chiffley, succeeded him.

24th/26th Last Major Warship Casualties of the RN in the War - In East lndies Fleet operations against the Phuket Island area off the west coast of southern Thailand, including mine clearance, fleet minesweeper "SQUIRREL" was mined and sunk on the 24th. Two days later on the 26th, kamikaze aircraft attacked for the first and last time in the Indian Ocean theatre. Fleet minesweeper "VESTAL" (below - Navy Photos) was hit and scuttled. Heavy cruiser "Sussex" was very slightly damaged by a near miss.

31st - Sinking of the "Takao" - Ja panese heavy cruiser "Takao", previously damaged by US submarines on passage to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, was now laying off Singapore in the Johore Straits. On the night of the 30th/31st, midget submarines "XE-1" (Lt Smart) and "XE-3" (Lt Fraser) were released by towing submarines "Spark" and "Stygian" and managed to reach the cruiser to drop their charges. "XE-3" was almost trapped beneath the hull of "Takao" on a falling tide. "TAKAO" was ba dly damaged in the resulting explosions and sank to the bottom. Other XE craft cut or damaged the undersea telephone cables off Saigon and Hong Kong at this time. Lt Ian Fraser RNR and his diver, Leading Seaman James Magennis were awarded the Victoria Cross.

6th - B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay", flying from Tinian dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT killed 80,000 people.

8th - Russia declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria early next day overwhelming the Japanese defenders.

9th - The second A-bomb was de tonated over Nagasaki and over 40,000 people died.

15th - VJ-Day: After days of internal argument, Emperor Hirohito over-rode the politicians and military, and broadcast Japan's unconditional surrender over the radio.

Total 385 British and Allied ships of 1,790,000 tons lost

2nd - Gen MacArthur accepted Japan's surrender on behalf of the Allied powers on the quarterdeck of US battleship "Missouri". Amongst the signatories of the surrender document were Adm Sir Bruce Fraser for Great Britain, Gen Blamey for Australia, Col Moore-Cosgrove for Canada, Air Vice Marshal lsitt for New Zealand and, for the United States, Adm Nimitz.

Royal Navy - As ships of the Royal and Dominion Navies repatriated Allied prisoners of war and transported food and supplies throughout South East Asia, other surrenders followed during the next few days. 6th - On board light carrier "Glory" off the by-passed Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, Australian Gen Sturdee took the surrender of the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Local surrenders in the area took place on Australian warships. 12th - South East Asia was surrendered to Adm Mountbatten at a ceremony in Singapore. 16th - Arriving at Hong Kong in cruiser "Swiftsure", Rear-Adm C. H. J. Harcourt accepted the Japanese surrender.

Bruno Gaido's terrifying death after Midway

Audiences know going into a war movie that characters we get to know and love are going to die in terrible ways, that's just a fact of war. In Midway, we see gunner Bruno Gaido and pilot Frank O'Flaherty ditching their plane in the open water, making it into a lifeboat and eventually spotting a ship. It turns out to be Japanese, and they're pulled aboard. Refusing to give any information, Gaido is tied to an anchor and shoved overboard. Their captors turn to O'Flaherty, and his fate is clear.

Gaido and O'Flaherty did ditch their plane, and were pulled aboard the IJN Makigumo, says Naval History and Heritage Command. It's not clear what happened when they were on board, and while Japan long claimed to have gotten information from them, it's believed they were tortured and revealed phony — but completely believable — intel. When they were deemed no longer useful, they were tied to weights and thrown overboard — a fate not discovered until well after the war, and since no officers were ever directly linked to their deaths, there was never any prosecution for war crimes.

Gaido was still considered MIA in 1943, when his Distinguished Flying Cross was given to his father. The elder Gaido told The Milwaukee Journal (via Find a Grave), "I don't give up hope. Bruno is still alive, maybe on a little island. He always had a lot of courage and could fight."

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