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Chapter 14

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Admiral Halsey's Story

Fleet Admiral
William F. Halsey, USN

published by
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
New York : London

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 16
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

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Less than two weeks after Ray Spruance took over the Third Fleet — which thereupon became the Fifth Fleet again — Mick Carney and I were spending a lazy afternoon at the flag officers' rest home on Oahu. Suddenly the radio announced that Army troops had entered Manila. I called Tulao, my Filipino chief steward, and hugged him and gave him the great news. He was on the verge of tears when Mick told him firmly, "Tulao, bring me an old fashioned, please."

Tulao brought it. "Now," Mick said, "I want you to join us in a toast to your wonderful people."

Tulao appealed to me. "The Admiral knows I don't drink, sir."

"This is one time you do," Mick said. "It's an order." And the three of us drank the health of the Philippine nation.

Most of my staff had some leave coming, and most of us spent it on the mainland. My medical officer, "Piggy" Weeks, arranged for Mick and me to be invited to a Georgia plantation, where — as Harold Stassen wrote in my war diary — "AA proficiency was maintained with quail and wild turkey as targets." Mick proved to be an excellent wing shot, among his other accomplishments, and on the rare occasions when he missed, he always had an unimpeachable ballistic explanation of why the shot had been impossible in the first place.

I spent March in Washington on temporary duty. On the seventh, President Roosevelt summoned me to the White House and awarded me a Gold Star in lieu of a third Distinguished Service Medal.

 p249  Editor's Note:

The citation follows:

"For exceptionally meritorious service to the government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Commander, Third Fleet, operating against enemy Japanese forces from June 15, 1944, to January 25, 1945. Carrying out a sustained and relentless drive against the enemy, Admiral Halsey skillfully directed the operations which resulted in the capture of the Western Carolines and a crushing defeat on the Japanese carrier force in the battle off Cape Engaño on October 25, and associated attacks on the Japanese fleet in the waters of the Philippines. Conducting a series of brilliant and boldly executed attacks on hostile air forces, shipping installations in the Ryukyus, Formosa, the Philippines, South China, and Indo-China, Admiral Halsey was directly responsible for the great damage inflicted on enemy aerial forces and the destruction of shipping vital to the Japanese in fighting an increasingly defensive war. Under his forceful and inspiring leader­ship, the recovery of the Philippines was painstakingly prepared for, covered and effectively supported during operations which evidenced his daring tactics and the devotion to duty of his gallant command."

My wife came to the ceremony. Gold Stars, combat stars, and such have to be struck through the front of the ribbon and clipped from behind. My D. S. M. ribbon was sewn to my blouse, but somehow Fan managed to pin the star onto it — I have never figured how. I wasn't watching her, because just then the President remarked that he had given me a Gold Star before, "for being a very good destroyer skipper," when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He hadn't, but I didn't correct him.

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After lunch, he took me to his upstairs office and told me a number of things so secret that I would have preferred not to know them. One was Russia's pledge to declare war on Japan; the others are still secret. Our conversation lasted about an hour. I never saw Mr. Roosevelt again.

My temporary duty was almost finished when COMINCH informed me that certain high officials were apprehensive about the possibility of a Jap carrier raid against San Francisco, where the United Nations conference was in session.

I began to laugh. "Good Lord, Ernie, that's ridiculous! You know as well as I do that the Japs have almost no carrier air groups left and no carriers to put them on!"

 p250  Ernie said, "I agree with you. It's highly improbable, but it will be an excellent drill for us."

He appointed me Commander of the Mid‑Pacific Striking Force, composed of all surface units available in the Hawaiian area and in our West Coast ports, and we drew plans to meet the attack. The Army concentrated some AA around San Francisco, but otherwise our defenses went no further than paper.

I met my staff in Pearl on April 7. Our first assignment was to prepare four possible operations:

1. Employment of the fast carriers as strategic cover for the seizure of an area on the China Coast in the vicinity of Nimrod Sound [about 100 miles south of Shanghai].

2. Seizure of an area on the Shantung Peninsula [about 350 miles north of Shanghai].

3. Establishment of a line of communications with Russia across the North Pacific, including an entry into the Sea of Japan through La Pérouse Strait [north of Hokkaido, the northernmost home island].

4. Entry into the Sea of Japan through Korea Strait [between Korea and Kyushu, the southernmost home island].

We submitted plans for all four operations. The first was already tentatively scheduled, so it was too late for us to raise objections, but we recommended that the other three be combined into a direct assault on Kyushu itself, between Kagoshima Bay and Ariake Bay. The strategy of gradual encirclement and strangulation, as represented by landings at Nimrod Sound and Shantung, and as endorsed by Ray Spruance, I considered a waste of time — two bites at a cherry. None of these operations was ever mounted, of course; Japan collapsed too soon for either school of strategy to be given a test; but although it is futile to debate the empty questions at this late date, I still maintain that an assault on Kyushu in sufficient force would have been an economical short cut.

Toward the end of April, I made a brief trip to CINCPAC's advanced headquarters at Guam, where Chester Nimitz told me that I would relieve Ray Spruance in about a month and that my new flagship would be the Missouri. I was sorry not to have the New Jersey again, but she was being overhauled. From Guam I went to Okinawa to confer with Ray, then returned to Pearl. We  p251 were there when Germany surrendered. Perhaps I should have been tremendously jubilant, but my principal feeling was eagerness — to get the men and gear that were now released from Europe. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Eisenhower's job was finished; ours was not.

I joisted my flag in the Missouri on May 18. Capt. Stuart S. Murray, her captain, met me on the quarterdeck as I came aboard, and I told him, 'This is a significant day. I served in the Missouri forty years ago, and here I am back again!"

We sailed for Okinawa and anchored off Hagushi, on its west coast, on the twenty-sixth. The day passed in further conferences — aboard ship in the morning with Ray and his staff, and ashore in the afternoon with Lt. Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Simon Bolivar Buckner, commanding the Tenth Army. Many of our old SOPAC friends stopped by his tent: Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge, commanding the XXIV Corps; Roy Geiger, commanding the III Marine Amphibious Corps; and Maj. Gen. Francis Patrick Mulcahy, commanding the Tactical Air Force. Ray had told me that several features of the shore establishment were unsatisfactory, especially its radars, so I mentioned them to General Buckner. This was the first he had heard of them, and he set about correcting them at once. I will always maintain that if you want something done quickly, a five-minute conversation is infinitely better than a 5,000‑word report in triplicate.

It had been agreed that the change of command would become official at midnight on the twenty-seventh. As the Missouri stood out, a few hours before than, I gave orders for her to drop some 16‑inch calling cards on the enemy's doorstep; I wanted him to know I was back. Next morning we rendezvoused with the fast carrier forces, and a second change of command was arranged: Slew McCain relieved Pete Mitscher as CTF 38.

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This was the last time that Pete served under my command. I hated to see him go. The farewell dispatch that I sent him represented the opinion of the whole Third Fleet: It is with the very deepest regret that we watch a great fighting man shove off × I and my staff and the Fleet send all luck to you and your magnificent staff.

My talks with the Navy and Army at Okinawa had shown me that once again the fleet was being held in static defense instead of being sent to hit the enemy where it would hurt. This strategy was  p253 worse than unprofitable; it was expensive. The popular conception of an amphibious operation assigns heavy casualties to the foot soldiers and few to the sailors, yet my war diary for May 29 has this entry: "Ground forces KIA and MIA [killed and missing in action] to date, 5,492. KIA & MIA from 218 ships, 2,475."

Kamikazes had been attacking the Fleet ferociously. Our picket ships — destroyer and destroyer escorts — were being smashed almost daily. We had given the enemy the initiative, instead of blanketing his home fields and burning every plane we could find. A few days before, I had asked Ray Spruance how well the SOWESPAC air force, based in the Philippines, was neutralizing Formosa.

He said bitterly, "They've destroyed a great many sugar mills, railroad trains, and other equipment."

I blew up. "Sugar mills can't damage our fleet! Why the hell don't they destroy their planes?"

The immobilization of the fleet could be blamed on two facts: first, the Japs' stubborn defense, which had prevented our ground forces from obtaining airfields where they could base enough planes for their own protection; second, the ground forces' failure to install enough radars to permit the withdrawal of our patrols and pickets. As a result, Ray had had to continue his support, despite the dangerous exposure of the fleet and the fact that his ships were long overdue for repair and his men for rest.

I would have liked to haul out at once, but the ground forces still were far from self-sufficient, particularly as the British Pacific Fleet's fast carrier task force, which had been striking the Sakashima Gunto, south of Okinawa, had just retired to Sydney for a month. However, there was a Marine air group based in the Philippines, MAG 14, which I knew was quite capable of taking over our job. I recommended that it be brought forward, and CINCPAC approved. Pending its arrival, I sent Ted Sherman's task group ahead to Leyte, to begin its rest period, and turned over all the support missions to the remaining two groups, Radford's and Rear Adm. Joseph J. Clark's. ("Jocko" Clark had relieved Dave Davison in command of TG 38.1.)

Our fighters struck southern Kyushu on June 2 and 3, but all air operations on the fourth were canceled by the sudden approach of a typhoon. It soon became evident that our tragic experience in  p254 December had taught us nothing. Again the early warnings were critically delayed; again the estimated positions of the storm center were at wide variance; again the predictions of its course were faulty; and again the fleet suffered heavy damage. The bow of the heavy cruiser Pittsburgh was wrenched off, thirty‑two other ships were battered, and 142 planes were destroyed. Our only consolation in the whole affair was that no ships were sunk and only six men were lost.

As far back as January, I had vigorously urged the establishment of weather reconnaissance squadrons to track typhoons and report their movements. In May, I had made supplementary recommendations that these reports be transmitted with the highest priority. I now repeated my recommendations in the strongest terms at my command. This time they brought results. Typhoons continued to rage around our area — another threatened us on June 11, and still another on the nineteenth — but thanks to alert reconnaissance and ample warnings, we dodged them easily.

Meanwhile, Ted Sherman and his task group were safe, they thought, in Leyte Gulf, but on the seventh a disaster struck them, too. An Army P‑38 began flat-hatting Ted's anchorage, making dives and dummy runs on his ships. One dive ended abruptly, when the pilot misjudged his altitude and crashed into the flight deck of the Randolph, killing eleven men and injuring fourteen, destroying a number of parked planes, and ripping up a length of the deck.

Ted had been in combat almost since the beginning of the war; the old Lexington had been sunk under him in the Battle of the Coral Sea. He is a real fighter and, like most such, he has small patience with show-offs. He notified CINCPAC and all authorities in the Philippines that he had given orders to open fire on the next plane that buzzed his ships. Quite rightly, CINCPAC cooled him down and canceled his orders, but I am in complete sympathy with the indignation that dictated them.

While MAG 14 was moving into Okinawa, we staged another strike on Kyushu and a surface bombardment of two Bonin islands. These were our last chores; we headed south and anchored at Leyte on June 14. Every man in the fleet was eager to get ashore, to be the excitement among our Filipino bluejackets was intense; we were giving them leave, and they would be able to visit their homes  p255 and families for the first time in several years. I myself visited Manila for the first time in many more years — since the Round-the‑World Cruise in 1908. My pilot took me an air tour of the harbor, which I was delighted to see littered with sunken enemy ships, and next morning I made a surface tour with Commo. William A. Sullivan, who was restoring the port facilities. We had reckoned that our many attacks between September and January had sunk about 120 craft of all sizes, but Sullivan told me that the correct figure was close to 600. The Third Fleet could not take credit for them all, of course, but enough were ours to make me as happy as a dog with two tails.

I lunched with General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.MacArthur (it was our first meeting since the June before) and found him in spirits as high as my own. Not only was his Philippines campaign — a model of general­ship throughout — now nearly at its end, but he and Mrs. MacArthur had discovered that their house in Manila was only slightly harmed, instead of wrecked, as they had expected. I believe it owes its escape to the fact that the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines lived in it during the occupation.

The Okinawa campaign was also winding up. The drama of its last few days is condensed in my war diary as follows:

17 June. Adm. Minoru Ota, Commander Naval Base Force, was found with his throat cut, sitting in a ceremonial pose in a cave in the 4th Marines' zone on the Oroku Peninsula.

18 June. Lt. Gen. S. B. Buckner was killed by enemy shellfire while observing an attack.

19 June. The collapse of Japanese defenses was evident across the entire line. At 0440/I [Okinawa time] Maj.‑Gen. Roy S. Geiger, USMC, assumed command vice the late General Buckner.

20 June. Civilians surrendered in masses.

21 June. Major General Geiger announced that organized resistance had ceased.

27 June. The bodies of Lieutenant General Ushimajima and Lieutenant General Cho, Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the Japanese forces on Okinawa, were found with indisputable evidence of hara-kiri.

A major naval and land phase of the Pacific War had been successfully concluded. The final phase opened at dawn on July 1, when the fleet sortied from Leyte. There had been two changes in  p257 task group command: Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague had relieved Jocko Clark as CTG 38.1, and Jerry Bogan had relieved Ted Sherman as CTG 38.3. A third change, in task force command, I will quote from my war diary:

Rear Admiral John F. Shafroth relieved Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee in command of Battleship Squadron 2 and of TF 34. Vice Admiral Lee's orders provide for resumption of command of BATRON 2 on completion of temporary duty.

Ching Lee was an expert on every form of gun from a .45 to a 16‑inch. He was a champion pistol shot and had been a member of the American Rifle Team in the 1920 Olympics. The temporary duty that called him away was the organization of a force specially armed against kamikazes. He hated to leave the combat zone. I remember his telling Jack Shafroth as he shoved off, "Don't get yourself settled in that job, because I'm coming back!"

But he didn't come back. Two months later he was dead of heart failure — the first of four task force commanders that I have lost since the war. He was a sterling officer and a true friend, and I miss him.

We sortied from Leyte under a broad directive: we would attack the enemy's home islands, destroy the remnants of his navy, merchant marine, and air power, and cripple his factories and communications. Our planes would strike inland; our big guns would bombard coastal targets; together they would literally bring the war home to the average Japanese citizen.

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With our campaign thus focused on Japan proper, we did not expect to see Leyte again, and we didn't — but for a reason far different from what we thought. For the sake of a short supply line, we were planning to base in the future at Eniwetok, which is about the same distance as Leyte from Tokyo, but some 2,200 miles nearer our main base at Pearl Harbor. We did not see Eniwetok either. Our next port of call was Tokyo itself.

On our way north, we received a dispatch from CINCPAC, warning us that a Jap hospital ship, the Takasago Maru, en route from Wake Island to the Empire, might pass through the waters where we were operating and therefore might have to be diverted for security. CINCPAC added that a boarding party from one of his destroyers had already inspected her and released her;  p258 she was transporting only wounded troops and troops suffering from malnutrition.

That made me mad. Although Japan had never signed the Geneva Convention, she professed to observe it; yet I had suspected throughout the war that she was using her hospital ships for unauthorized purposes. This was an instance. Battle casualties are legitimate evacuees; malnutrition cases are not. For three years we had been blockading the by‑passed Jap islands in an attempt to force their surrender. The starving men on the Takasago Maru had constituted a large part of the Wake garrison; their evacuation meant that Wake's scanty provisions would last that much longer. I sent a destroyer to intercept the ship and escort her to Saipan, and I intended recommending either that all but her battle casualties be returned to Wake, or that an equal number of Japs be sent there from our Saipan prison camps as replacements. However, CINCPAC directed me to let her proceed, and I had to comply. Ironically, she arrived at Yokosuka, near Tokyo, just as we struck it, and I am told that a stray bomb narrowly missed her.

Our preparations for the attack on the Empire were extremely careful. B‑29's had made a thorough reconnaissance of Hokkaido and northern Honshu. Navy B‑24's, covered by Army P‑51's, had photographed Tokyo, our first objective. Submarines had probed for mine fields offshore from our bombardment areas. As we closed in, land-based planes flew barrier patrols ahead of us, to screen our approach from enemy scouts; and seven submarines advanced on a 100‑mile front to destroy enemy pickets and to act as lifeguards for our pilots.

Strike day was July 10. The afternoon of the ninth, just before our run‑in, we made a sound contact with an enemy submarine on the fringe of the force. While our destroyers attacked, I prayed that the sub had no chance to cry the alarm. The report came presently. It was not a sub but a whale; one destroyer had cut its tail off. I have already told how we often mistook fish for torpedos in World War I. Our confusion multiplied in this war. Porpoises and drifting logs are thick around Japan, and sometimes they will deceive even the sharpest eyes. Five‑inch shell cases, floating end up, gave us many a periscope scare. Worst of all were the big glass balls that Jap fishermen use as net buoys; their resemblance to  p259 mines kept our nerves raw and jumping. (There was hardly a day on this cruise when we did not encounter at least five drifting mines and explode them with gunfire.)

Our luck held. It even improved. We picked up a weather front and rode it almost to our launching point, and when our strike arrived over Tokyo at daybreak, not a single interceptor was in the air, and only two snoopers came near the force. Both were shot down. Tokyo was a poor target. The few planes our pilots managed to find were degassed, revetted, and widely dispersed. The Japs had been slow to learn the obvious economy of degassing their planes, and we were sorry they ever learned it; a plane with empty tanks does not always burn under strafing, so damage appraisal becomes difficult. Still, we could count 109 definitely destroyed and 231 damaged. We also damaged hangars and other installations.

Previous attacks on Tokyo by B‑29's and Army fighter planes had led us to believe that opposition would be light, but our pilots reported it almost nonexistent. Even the AA was meager — the AA protecting the heart of the Empire, the home of the Son of Heaven. We began to reestimate the probable duration. . . .

Every turn of our screws now took us further north than any ships of the fleet, except submarines, had ever ventured before. Our schedule called for strikes against Hokkaido and northern Honshu on the thirteenth, but the fog belt that hangs down from the Kuriles blanketed our targets, and we had to postpone for a day, much as I would have enjoyed staging the first surface bombardment of the Japanese homeland on a Friday the thirteenth.

The lack of mine sweepers hampered our bombardments by forcing us to stay outside the 100‑fathom curve, but Jack Shafroth maneuvered his force — three battle­ships, two heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers — close enough in to permit a leisurely, broad-daylight, two‑hour shelling of the large steel plant at Kamaishi. In this case, "close enough" means that the force was clearly visible from the beach. However much propaganda a Japanese civilian will swallow, it must have been hard for him to digest the news that certain American warships had been sunk when he had just watched them blast his job from under him.

At midnight we sent out a destroyer-light cruiser sweep to ambush coastwise shipping, and next morning Rear Adm. Oscar C.  p260 Badger took another heavy bombardment force, including the Missouri, right into the enemy's jaws. The chart justifies my metaphor; during the hour that we shelled our objective — the city of Muroran, a coal and steel center on southern Hokkaido — we were landlocked on three sides. We opened fire from 28,000 yards and poured in 1,000 tons of shells. It was a magnificent spectacle, but I kept one eye on the target and the other on the sky. Our three-hour approach had been in plain view, as would be our three-hour retirement, and I thought that every minute would bring an air attack. None came; the enemy's only resistance was desultory AA fire against our spotting planes; but those were the longest six hours in my life.

The fast carriers, meanwhile, had been working over Hokkaido's railways, shipping, and air facilities, also against light resistance. Here is their score for the two‑day attack:

Destroyed Damaged
Ships       44       61
Small craft       96     174
(Tonnage 71,000 88,000)
Planes       38       46
Locomotives       84       28

In addition, they burned out twenty city blocks at Kushiro. Our losses were sixteen men and twenty-three planes to AA, and nine men and eighteen planes operationally.

A large amount of Honshu's coal and iron came from Hokkaido via train ferries, and their destruction was Rollo Wilson's pet project. When the first action reports began to sift in, he snatched them up and pored over them; the ferries were not mentioned. Later reports also ignored them. Rollo was sulking and cursing when the final reports around. I heard him whistle and saw him beam. "Six ferries sunk!" he said, "Pretty soon we'll have 'em moving their stuff by oxcarts and skiffs!"

To a few members of my staff, the enemy's failure to hit us while we were in the cul-de‑sac at Muroran implied that he was hoarding his air power against an expected invasion, but most of us believed  p261 that he had little air power left to hoard, that he was short of planes, spare parts, pilots, and fuel. In my own opinion, his shortages were even reaching the point of no‑return, the point where collapse of his whole war machine would become inevitable. Since three years before, in our South Pacific days, I had argued that Japan's ultimate end would be collapse. The only member of my staff who agreed with me then was Brig.‑Gen. Dewitt Peck of the Marines, my War Plans officer before Bill Riley. The rest maintained that she would commit national suicide rather than surrender. Muroran fortified my conviction that Dewitt and I were right. However, lest I seem to be parading my prescience, I should add that I now picked October as the date of her surrender. Not for two weeks more did I realize that she would never last through August.

We fueled on July 16, and everyone was able to relax except me. The flag log for that morning tells why: "At 0645, CTF 37 reported for duty and took station astern of TG 38.4. At 0845, HMS Quadrant came alongside with CTF 37 and staff for conference. At 0907, HMS Terpsichore came alongside with CTG 37.1 and staff."

TF 37 was the fast carrier task force of the British Pacific Fleet — one battle­ship, four large carriers, six lasers, and eighteen destroyers, under Vice Adm. Sir Bernard Rawlings; CTG 37.1 was Vice Adm. Sir Philip Vian. I knew both these gentlemen by their splendid reputations, but we had never met, and I am afraid that my appearance did little to recommend me. They were wearing smart blues; I was wearing a Marine woolen jacket, a blue flannel shirt, green flying trousers, and a long-billed cap like a sword-fisherman's. I explained that I found these motleys more comfortable for fighting, and reluctantly I opened the conference. I say "reluctantly" because I dreaded it. When I was informed at Pearl Harbor that the British Pacific Fleet would report to me, I naturally assumed that I would have full operational control, but when I reread the plan at Leyte, I discovered that tactical control had been reserved. This would force me to present Admiral Rawlings with three alternatives, and I did so now:

1. TF 37 would operate close aboard us, as another task group in TF 38; it would not receive direct orders from me, but it would be privy to the orders that I gave TF 38; these it would consider as  p262 "suggestions" to be followed to our mutual advantage, thereby assuring us a concentrated force with concentrated weapons.

2. TF 37 would operate semi-independently, some 60 or 70 miles away, thereby preserving its technical identity at the cost of a divided force. (I stipulated that I would consent to this choice only if the request were put in writing.)

3. TF 37 would operate completely independently, against soft spots in Japan which we would recommend if so desired.

Bert Rawlings did not hesitate. He said, "Of course I'll accept Number 1." My admiration for him began at that moment. I saw him constantly thereafter, and a finer officer and firmer friend I have never known.

Whereas TF 38 could strike on three successive days, we were counting on the British to strike on only two, because of their ships' lower fuel capacity and slower rate of fueling; however, by fueling them from our own tankers when the need arose, they were able to match us strike for strike. One of my most vivid war recollections is of a day when Bert's flagship, the battle­ship King George V, fueled from the tanker Sabine at the same time as the Missouri. I went across to "the Cagey Five," as we called her, on an aerial trolley, just to drink a toast to this unique episode in the histories of the American and Royal Navies. (I would have invited Bert back for a return toast if it had not been for Secretary Daniels' Order 99.)

Our strike against Tokyo on the tenth had been chiefly exploratory; our photographers had obtained good coverage of the area, so we returned on the seventeenth to develop the targets they had pin‑pointed. Top priority was assigned to the battle­ship Nagato, which photo intelligence had discovered badly damaged but still afloat at the Yokosuka Naval Base. Again foul weather required a day's postponement, but we improved our wait with a midnight bombardment of an engineering works and arms factory at Hitachi, about 50 miles north of Tokyo. The afternoon of the eighteenth was clear, and our fliers went in. The AA was the heaviest they had ever encountered; it cost us and the British together eighteen men and fourteen planes. We destroyed forty-three enemy planes and damaged seventy-seven, sank several ships, and wrecked a number of locomotives, dumps, and barracks, but although the Nagato's superstructure was battered further, she still floated.

 p263  Vice Admiral Carney:

I had a good look at her on August 30, when I accepted the surrender of the Yokosuka Base. Her topsides were chewed up, but she was floating at about normal draft, and her hull and turrets appeared intact. It takes torpedoes to sink a heavily armored ship; bombs are not enough. Of course, I am excluding atomic bombs. Almost exactly a year after this strike, an atomic sank the Nagato at Bikini.

Before our next strikes, we withdrew to a rendezvous with our supply force, brilliantly organized and led by Rear Adm. Donald B. Beary. This is what TF 38 took aboard: 6,369 tons of ammunition, 1,635 tons of stores and provisions, 379,157 barrels of fuel oil, 99 replacement planes, and 421 replacement personnel. I give the figures because I believe that this was the largest replenishment ever achieved by a fleet at sea.

On our way to the rendezvous, I sent a destroyer-light cruiser force on a shipping sweep up to Nojima Zaki, which is one of Tokyo's gateposts; and as we returned, on the twenty-second, I sent two destroyer forces to the same waters. One bombarded a town; the other found a convoy of four ships, sank two, and damaged the others. These sweeps and bombardments accomplished more than destruction; they showed the enemy that we made no bones about playing in his front yard. From now on, we patrolled his channels and shelled his coast almost every night that the weather permitted.

I notice that in the past few pages I have made several references to the weather. It had been troublesome enough thus far, and from here on it became worse. Summer is the season for typhoons around Japan. We once had three of them on our chart in a single day, moving trunk-to‑tail like circus elephants. Between typhoons we had long periods of rain and low overcasts. My operations report reminds me that though we were trying to redouble the intensity of our attacks, in an effort to precipitate Japan's now imminent capitulation, the weather balked us time and again.

25 July. Bad weather reduced the effectiveness of the heavy strikes on primary targets. Afternoon strikes were canceled.

30 July. Unfavorable weather conditions.

31 July. Threat of a typhoon caused radical departures from planned operations.

 p264  2 August. Still waiting for the typhoon to clear.

8 August. Bad weather, consisting of fog and low visibility, prevented scheduled strikes.

9 August. Fog prevented getting into Hokkaido.

We might have been able to mount fifteen attacks in the short time left us, but the weather allowed only seven. The first three were concentrated on the Inland Sea area. The series began on July 24 with a fighter sweep against airfields between northern Kyushu and Nagoya, and a strike on the Kure Naval Base with bombs, rockets, and torpedoes. Kure is the port where Jap warships went to die. We hit them hard that day but did not finish them off; next day's strike was partly weather-bound, and we could not resume the action until the twenty-eighth. By sunset that evening, the Japanese Navy had ceased to exist. Photographs showed the battle­ship Ise down by the bow and resting on the bottom; her sister ship, the Hyuga, was awash amid­ships; the Haruna was beached and burning, with a large hole in her stern. The Katsuragi's flight deck was torn and buckled; the Amagi's could have been used as a ski slide. The heavy cruisers Tone and Aoba were beached. The Commander in Chief of the Combined Japanese Fleet could reach his cabin in his flagship, the light cruiser Oyodo, only in a diving suit.

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Japanese had twelve battle­ships in the war; only one was now afloat — the crippled Nagato, at Yokosuka. Of her twenty-five aircraft carriers, five were still afloat but damaged. Of eighteen heavy cruisers, the only two afloat were at Singapore, both damaged. Of twenty‑two light cruisers, two were afloat. And of 177 destroyers, forty‑two were afloat, but only five were fully operational.

I will not itemize the buildings, tanks, dumps, merchant vessels, small craft, and locomotives that also were destroyed during these three days, but our American and British pilots shot down or burned up 306 enemy planes and damaged 392. Together, our losses from all causes, operations as well as combat, were 102 men and 133 planes. This ratio may seem unfavorable in comparison with our usual 10 or 15 to 1, but three factors must be considered: the enemy's AA was extremely heavy, particularly over his warships; his air‑borne opposition was more determined than any he had shown us in a long while; and he had dispersed his planes so  p265 widely — among crops, under trees, and even in graveyards, sometimes as much as 5 miles from their base — that our pilots had great trouble ferreting them out for destruction. A Jap air commander later complained to us that this new doctrine of dispersal meant not only that he was unable to scramble his pilots within reasonable time, but that he could not even communicate with them.

Slew McCain strongly opposed our strikes against Kure. He and his staff considered the Japanese Fleet only a minor threat; they wanted to use our air strength against other, more profitable targets. But there were three good reasons why this fleet had to be destroyed:

1. For the sake of our national morale. This was the only appropriate retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

2. For the sake of the Russians. Our high command knew of their impending declaration of war and knew that if we had to establish a supply line to them, it would run between Kamchatka and Hokkaido — a route so exposed that even a few enemy cruisers and destroyers could dominate it.

3. For the sake of the peace terms. We could not afford to have a surrendered Japan use the existence of part of her fleet as a bargaining point, as Germany had after World War I.

There was also a fourth reason: CINCPAC had ordered the Fleet destroyed. If the other reasons had been invalid, that one alone would have been enough for me.

A last bit of background needs to be filled in: the strikes against Kure were made only by American planes. At Mick Carney's insistence, I assigned the British an alternate target, Osaka, which also offered warships, but none of prime importance. Mick's argument was that although this division of forces violated the principle of concentration and superiority, it was imperative that we forestall a possible postwar claim by Britain that she had delivered even a part of the final blow that demolished the Japanese Fleet. I hated to admit a political factor into a military equation — my respect for Bert Rawlings and his fine men made me hate it doubly — but Mick forced me to recognize that statesmen's objectives sometimes differ widely from combat objectives, and that an exclusively American attack was therefore in American interests.

All through the war, senior admirals and generals in the combat  p266 zone were under steady pressure to broadcast in behalf of bond drives and such. My turn came during the Kure strikes. As well as I can recall, I said something to this effect: "What is left of the Japanese Navy is helpless, but just for luck we're going to hunt them out of their holes. The Third Fleet's job is to hit the Empire hard and often. We are doing just that, and my only regret is that our ships don't have wheels, so that when we drive the Japs from the coast, we can chase them inland."

Within a week I received a letter from a man who had heard my broadcast. He wrote that my worries were at an end. He had invented an apparatus enabling ships to travel overland.

After Kure, we worked our way east. On July 29, our heavy ships bombarded Hamamatsu; on the thirtieth, our planes struck Tokyo and Nagoya; and that night a destroyer squadron bombarded the railroad yards and an aluminum plant at Shimizu. We refueled on the thirty-first and first, in preparation for a swing back west and a three‑day smash at Kyushu and Korea, beginning on the third. However, a typhoon held us up, and we had to reschedule for the fifth. We were making our run‑in on the evening of the fourth when a dispatch from CINCPAC abruptly shifted our strikes to northern Honshu and Hokkaido. The Twentieth Air Force was ready to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Around the middle of July, CINCPAC had forbidden us to attack certain cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No explanation was given, and I was puzzled until Rear Adm. William R. Purnell came aboard on the twenty-second, under CINCPAC's instructions, and gave me my first word of the bomb. He said that the drop was planned for August 2, on a Kyushu target, and that I was to keep all my planes at least 50 miles from the area. (This is why we set our own Kyushu strike for the third.) The typhoon that delayed us also delayed the drop — it was eventually made, of course, on the sixth, and although we could have struck on the fifth and hauled clear, we were needed elsewhere in a hurry.

Our shift to Honshu-Hokkaido was at the request of General MacArthur, who suspected that the Japs had massed several hundred planes at these northern fields for an attack on Okinawa, which had recently been placed under his command. We were weathered out on the eighth, and fog screened Hokkaido on the  p267 ninth, but our heavy ships bombarded Kamaishi again for two hours that afternoon, while our pilots combed the Honshu fields, destroying or damaging 392 planes. By now our contempt for Japan's defenses was so thorough that our prime consideration in scheduling this bombardment, which was broadcast from the Iowa, was the convenience of the radio audience at home. My war diary remarks with satisfaction, "an excellent day."

It was also the day that Russia entered the Pacific War. Since the fields in the area while we were hitting were the only ones in the Japanese home islands from which Russian territory could be attacked, we hit them again on the tenth. We were hoping to fatten our score at the same time, but our pilots had slim pickings until late in the afternoon, when they discovered "lucrative concentrations" — as my war diary calls them — at Mamurogawa and Obanazawa, and happily chalked up another 175 destroyed and 153 damaged.

I was sitting in the flag wardroom that night when a communications watch officer brought Mick Carney a transcription of a radio intercept. Mick read it aloud: "Through the Swiss Government, Japan stated that she is willing to accept Allied surrender ultimatum issued at Potsdam, provided they can keep their Emperor. . . ."

None of us was wildly surprised. Ever since the first of the month, radio and press reports, decoded Jap dispatches, and the rapid decay of our opposition had been clear signposts to the event that now approached us. We were ready to meet it. Our long-range plans, drawn in the late spring, had called for a retirement early in August, but I had recently canceled them and had ordered the logistic pipe line kept full for just such an emergency as this, which would require the indefinite extension of our operations in Empire waters.

Vice Admiral Carney:

No single decision contributed more to the Third Fleet's prompt, smooth, and successful adjustment to the radical changes which the surrender imposed.

We were the only military unit at hand with sufficient power to take Japan in custody at short notice and enforce the Allies'  p268 will until occupation troops arrived. Accordingly, we had organized a landing force of a regiment of Marines, three naval battalions from TF 38, and a fourth from TF 37. These men, plus a reserve force of five battalions, were fully equipped and had been briefed on their jobs. We had assembled groups of specialists and artificers to operate captured Jap facilities and equipment, and to establish temporary shore facilities of our own. We were prepared even to occupy and develop the naval base and air station at Yokosuka, to man enemy vessels with nucleus crews, to demilitarize enemy installations, to drop supplies at POW camps, and to rescue and evacuate the prisoners.

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Such tasks as these are not normally expected of a striking force at sea, but they represented — as we learned next morning — only a fraction of the extraneous duties that we would have to assume. Our dispatch boards had doubled in thickness overnight. The queries and instructions pouring in on us concerned subjects as diverse as these: military government units, whole blood, amphibious landing craft, postoffice ships, staff cars, interpreters, ammunition for small arms, national anthems, sanitation ashore, refrigerator ships, proto­col of official visits, wire recorders, and so on. We still had the full-time job of operating the fleet, but my staff shouldered this new load as well.

Although the avalanche of dispatches indicated official confidence that surrender was probable, there was no suggestion that we belay or even slacken our attacks. We fueled on the eleventh as planned, intending to strike Tokyo early next morning. However, it takes time to set up a strike, and as the deadline approached, a typhoon to the southward was still heading toward us, so I notified Slew McCain to hold his planes until the thirteenth, in case we had to run for fair weather.

A few hours later, shortly after midnight, Mick Carney came to my room with an intercept from the Army News Service: "The American Secretary of State, speaking for the Allied Powers, has accepted the surrender of Japan, provided that the Supreme Allied Commander rule Japan through the authority of the Emperor."

I realized that this report was unofficial, but I was reluctant to attack an enemy whose surrender was actual though not yet ratified; and certainly I was more than reluctant to risk my airmen's  p269 lives under such circumstances. But had Japan surrendered? That "provided" puzzled me. I called a meeting of my staff to discuss it, and a majority of us finally agreed that the honorable course was to cease fire. My decision was hardly on its way to Slew when Mick, stubborn as always, came to my room with a fresh set of arguments. My armistice was not only premature, he said, but might easily prove to be one‑sided; we had never trusted the Japanese before, and this was a hell of a critical time to start.

I was persuaded. I signaled Slew, Attack Tokyo area tomorrow unless the Nips beat us to the punch by throwing in the sponge.

Slew was worried that they would throw in something deadlier than a sponge. He warned his task force, Keep alert for tricks and banzai attacks × The war is not over yet × The Nips may be playing their national game of judo, waiting until we are close and unwary.

The typhoon curved away harmlessly during the twelfth, and we started our run‑in to the launching point. By now I was convinced that it would be folly to spare an enemy who considered himself in a position to quibble over terms while he maintained his belligerent status. (Somebody on my staff remarked that we were becoming eligible for a Japanese de‑Liberation ribbon.) Moreover, the prolonged negotiations were raising another dilemma. We were now in our forty-third consecutive day at sea; our stores were running short; our galleys were reduced to serving dehydrated carrot salad. If the war was over, we could reprovision on the spot; if it was not, we would have to retire, reprovision, and return. Until the diplomats made up their minds, we were restricted to short-range plans. Even these took a manhandling. At 0100 on the thirteenth, I received a dispatch from CINCPAC ordering me to cancel the strike and proceed to the Tokyo area "with caution."

I passed the word to the task force at once, adding, Situation not clear but may develop rapidly × Meanwhile maintain strong defensive CAP; and later, I will order immediate attack if enemy searches or snoops.

Almost as this message went out, I received a second dispatch from CINCPAC, voiding the first. I signaled the task force, Follow original schedule of strikes. Within an hour, the strike was  p270 taking off for Tokyo. Within a few hours more, TF 38 had weakened Japan's air power by 422 planes — 254 destroyed on the ground, 149 damaged, and nineteen shot down near the force by our CAP. Ten of these nineteen were probably snoopers; the others were unquestionably kamikazes. Japan might have surrendered, but a good many Japanese had not been given the word.

(I have credited our magnificent score for the thirteenth to TF 38 alone, but this does not mean that the British had no part in it. They had a strong part, as usual. The explanation is that about half of TF 37 had withdrawn to Manus on the twelfth, for repair availability, and the rest had been incorporated into TF 38 as TG 38.5.)

The fourteenth was a fueling day. Our communicators' earphones stayed hot, but nothing more about the surrender came through. I told Slew, I intend striking same general target area on fifteenth, and Slew told his task force, Our orders to strike indicate that the enemy may have dropped an unacceptable joker into the surrender terms × This war could last many months longer × We cannot afford to relax × Now is the time to pour it on × Show this to all pilots.

Mick was as exasperated as Slew. That night he wrote in his order book, "Peace be damned! Back to Tokyo tomorrow!"

Our first strike next morning, designated "Able 1" and consisting of 103 planes, was launched at 0415. Exactly at 0614 — when Able 1 had struck and was returning, when Able 2 had been launched and was within five minutes of the target, and when our flight decks were being respotted for Able 3 — I was handed a top‑secret, highest priority dispatch from CINCPAC: Air attack will be suspended × Acknowledge.

I sent a message at once to hold Able 3 and recall Able 2. Some of Able 2's pilots suspected that the order was a Japanese trick. We had to authenticate it twice before they would obey.

A curious coincidence now happened. I have described how, on the morning of December 7, 1941, I was having breakfast on the Enterprise when my flag secretary, Doug Moulton, gave me the news that Japan had opened the war. On the morning of August 15, 1945, I was having breakfast on the Missouri when Doug, now my Air Operations officer, gave me the news that Japan had ended the war.  p271 He burst in, waving a message blank, and shouted, "Admiral, here she is!"

It was a transcript of President Truman's official announcement.

Japan capitulated so soon after the atomic bomb and Russia's declaration of war that the public may overvalue these two factors. My own estimate of their importance — that they merely gave the Nips an excuse, and helped them save face — received authoritative support from Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Chief of the Japanese Naval General Staff, in a statement recently published by the Naval Analysis Division of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey.

"I do not think it would be accurate to look upon use of the atomic bomb and entry and participation of Soviet Russia into the war as direct cause of the termination of the war, but I think that [they] did enable us to bring the war to a termination without creating too great chaos in Japan."

I hope that history will remember this. I hope it will remember also that when hostilities ended, the capital of the Japanese Empire had just been bombed, strafed, and rocketed by planes of the Third Fleet, and was about to be bombed, strafed, and rocketed again. Last, I hope it will remember that seven of the men on strike Able 1 did not return.

My first thought at the great news was, "Victory!" My second was, "God be thanked, I'll never have to order another man out to die!" And my next was, "I am grateful for the honor of being in command of the Third Fleet on this day."

Then plain joy took over. I yelled, "Yippee!" and pounded the shoulders of everybody within reach. Suddenly Armistice Day, 1918, came back to me. When the news was announced, Admiral Beatty, the Commander in Chief of the British Grand Fleet, sent out this general signal: All hands splice main brace × Negat Squadron 5. To "splice the main brace" is to take a drink, and "negat" — short for "negative" — here means "except"; Squadron 5, being the American squadron, was dry. I now sent a signal to TF 38: All hands splice the main brace × Negat Task Groups 38.1, 38.3, 38.4 — which left only 38.5, the British group.

I can best reconstruct the rest of this morning by quoting from my flag log, with notes:

1020. All strikes have returned.

 p272  I ordered the carriers to stow their bombers and torpedo planes on their hangar decks, to spot their flight decks only with fighters, and to maintain an augmented and extravigilant CAP. My trust in the Japs was still less than whole-hearted, and I was taking no chance that a kamikaze would seize a last-minute opportunity to win honor for his ancestors. In fact, I had our fighter directors call our CAP pilots by run out and instruct them, "Investigate and shoot down all snoopers — not vindictively, but in a friendly sort of way."

I was told later that one pilot had been overheard to ask, "What do you mean, 'not vindictively?' And another answered, "I guess they mean for us to use only three guns instead of six."

1055. Received ALPOA 579 [a message to All Pacific Ocean Areas]: Offensive operations against Japanese forces will cease at once [our first orders had been merely to suspend them] × Continue searches and patrols × Maintain defensive and internal security measures at highest level and beware of treachery.

We were already doing so.

1110. Battle flags and Admiral's four-star flag broken on Missouri. Whistle and siren sounded for one minute. The fleet followed the motion.

1113. Admiral ordered the flag hoist "Well Done" run up.

I was putting on a little show. Mick and I watched it from the bridge.

1125. One Judy [a Jap dive-bomber] —

The high CAP called in, "Tallyho! One bandit diving!" But almost immediately afterwards, the same voice reported, "Splash one Judy!"

1300. Admiral made a broadcast to the Third Fleet.

In this broadcast, I said, among other things, "Now that the fighting has ended, there must be no letdown. There must be watchful waiting. Victory is not the end, but the beginning. We must establish peace — a firm, a just, and an enduring peace."

Thank God, the fleet took my warning to heart and did not let down! Even as I was speaking, a battle royal raged overhead —

 p273  1303. CAP splashed one Zeke and one Judy.

1316. CAP splashed one Judy.

1325. One Judy splashed by picket destroyer's gunfire.

Before the day was done, our CAP and AA had shot down eight planes trying to bomb us or dive into us. I was certain at the time that these Japs were irreconcilables, fighting a private war; but when I went ashore and saw the utter ruin of Japan's communications system, I became convinced that they simply had never received the word.

The last of these planes was splashed at 1445. After that minute, the Third Fleet never fired another shot in wrath. We added up its score for its two campaigns. Here it is:

Planes destroyed or damaged 10,355
Warships sunk 130
Warships probably sunk 90
Warships damaged 150
Merchant vessels sunk 1,000

I hope that no nation ever dares challenge this record. But if it does, I hope that the Third Fleet is there to defend it.

Editor's Note:

Captain Stassen had the forenoon watch that morning and kept the first part of the flag log which Admiral Halsey has quoted. Captain Stassen's last entry, before he was relieved at 1145, is as follows:

"So closes the watch we have been looking forward to. Unconditional surrender of Japan — with Admiral Halsey at sea in command of the greatest combined fighting fleet of all history. There is a gleam in his eye that is unmistakable!

— H. E. Stassen."

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Page updated: 4 Jul 17