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6 April 1945
3rd Belorussian Front begins assault on Konigsberg.
Soviet troops take Grudziadz
Yugoslav partisans take Sarajevo
US 9th Army attacks across the Weser near Mindon
US 1st Army reaches the Weser below Cassel
US 7th Army takes Gemuenden
The Japanese make heavy air attacsk on the US Fleet off Okinawa, sinking a number of ships
War at Sea
German submarine U-1195 sunk off Spithead
It is announced that Polish delegates to the Soviet Union had "disappeared" after early meetings
Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion immediately killed an estimated 80,000 people tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of 𠇊 new and most cruel bomb.”
10th Mountain Division memorial service program, TMD40
In 1949, those interred at Castelfiorentino and other temporary cemeteries were relocated to the Florence American Cemetery, a 70-acre cemetery situated alongside the Greve River. New York architects McKim, Mead and White, along with landscape architects Clarke and Rapuano, designed the cemetery and memorial, which was completed in 1959.
Of the 4,402 servicemen and women interred at the Florence American Cemetery, 355 were part of the 10th Mountain Division. At last year’s Memorial Day service held at the cemetery, Boy Scouts placed carnations on the graves of the 10th Mountain Division’s fallen.
To learn more about the 10th Mountain Division and its ties to Colorado, check out DPL’s 10th Mountain Division Resource Center—the official repository for all records and artifacts related to the World War II 10th Mountain Division.
1945 – John Barbata (Jefferson Starship) is born…
1945 – John Barbata (Jefferson Starship) is born this day in rock history!
Help Stu in his battle with Cancer!
Battle of Okinawa
The US 77th Infantry Division lands at the Kerama Islands located South-West of mainland Okinawa. With further landings, the US secure a staging post for the eventual invasion of Okinawa.
In preparation for the amphibious assault landings on the island of Okinawa, US Naval elements begin bombardment of shoreline positions. 13,000 rounds of artillery fire by U.S. Navy guns and 3,095 sorties by carrier planes are fired at the landing sites of the Hagushi and Chatan beaches. (Trueman 2016)
The official start of the Battle of Okinawa. On the morning of April 1st, US navy ships rained a pre-landing bombardment of 44,825 shells, 33,000 rockets and 22,500 mortar shells plus napalm attacks by carrier planes on the invasion beaches (Tsukiyama 1999). Two US Army divisions land along the southwest coast of Okinawa, with zero opposition and almost no casualties.
1 April 1945 - 4 April 1945
The US Marines sweep through Northern Okinawa with ease, taking two airfields and encountering very little resistance. They encounter only third-rate troops, mostly technicians and other non-combatants drafted into Japanese defensive units, lightly armed and untrained. Many thousands of civilians turn themselves in to Marines. As the US advance North with surprising ease, a picture slowly emerges from prisoner interrogations: The main Japanese effort had gone into deeply fortifying the southern portion of the island.
The Battle Intensifies
The American troops finally locate the Japanese defenders along the southern portion of Okinawa. Heavy defences are noted. As American forces move further inland, the battle for Okinawa intensifies. Pockets of dug-in Japanese defenders become increasingly concentrated the more inland the Allied forces go. The American forces split to cover two separate assault fronts. Up North are the Marine divisions, and down in the South are the Infantry divisions.
6 April 1945 - 22 June 1945
Throughout the many battles, there was a regular bombardment of Kamikaze planes
On April 6, over 400 Kamikaze planes were unleashed on American Naval vessels in the Pacific. These aircraft appear as coordinated airstrikes and prove deadly to both sides. Twenty American ships were sunk and 157 damaged by this violent air attack. For their part, the Japanese had lost more than 1,100 planes to Allied naval forces.
Between April 6 and June 22, the Japanese flew 1,465 kamikaze aircraft in large-scale attacks, as well as around 400 sorties. American intelligence underestimated the number of Japanese planes by around 700 (HistoryNet n.d.).
6 April 1945 - 7 April 1945
Operation Ten-Go was the Japanese attempt at a naval counter-attack. The strike force consisted of 10 surface vessels, led by the super battle ship Yamato - the largest war battleship in the world. An American submarine spot these ships very early, helping them to prepare for the attack.
At this point in the war, Operation Ten-Go was considered a complete suicide mission, and it's sole objective was to desperately slow down the American navy.
With no air cover, the vessels are were blasted to bits by over 300 American aircrafts (Global Security 1996). Over a two-hour span, Yamato was sunk in a one-sided battle, long before she could reach Okinawa.
Capture of Ie Shima
16 April 1945 - 21 April 1945
The island of Ie Shima lying 7 kilometres west of Motobu peninsula (The main stronghold) held one of the largest airfields in the Asia-Pacific region and was vitally needed to provide air support to the assault on Okinawa.
On April 16, aerial and naval artillery, rocket and mortar bombardment saturated Ie Shima to soften up the beachhead landing of the U.S infantry division. The area was defended by an estimated 7000 soldiers, many of whom were in hidden underground guard posts, caves and tunnels. Although the Japanese were encircled, they managed to hold off the American troops for 6 days using their heavy fortifications.
On April 21 Ie Shima was declared secure after 4,706 Japanese were killed and 149 captured with 1,500 Okinawan civilians dead. The success came at a cost of 172 Americans killed, 902 wounded and 46 missing (AWM 2005).
US Surround the Shuri Castle
The US begin taking key defensive strongholds surrounding the all-important Shuri Castle, which was the largest and most heavily fortified Japanese base.
These captured strongholds include:
Sugar Loaf Hill - The Eastern entrance to the Shuri Castle
Conical Hill - The Southern-most line defending the castle
Chocolate Drop Hill - A circular ring of higher terrain that surrounded the entire castle.
Lastly, they captured the capital city of Naha, another stronghold to the West.
The US forces had essentially advanced from all sides, forcing all Japanese defenders into the centre of the island - the Shuri Castle.
The Fall of Shuri
On the 29th of May, the US finally took the crucial Shuri Castle. However, since they began artillery fire a week beforehand, the majority of Japanese defenders had retreated. Although they were able to escape, the Japanese were left with no organised form of defence.
Ultimately, Shuri was left in complete ruin after being pounded by 200,000 rounds of naval and artillery gunfire and aerial bombing (National Archives 2002).
U.S. Generals offer surrendering terms to Japan. With no response from the Japanese, the U.S. steps up their aggression.
Japanese Defence Weakened
The American forces slowly kept advancing, and divided the already depleted Japanese defence into three segments. This meant the Japanese could not organise any orchestrated defensive actions or counter-attacks. The division of the Japanese defence was a key turning point for the American and Allied Forces, as it was the final step in officially capturing the Okinawan islands.
Death of Commander Ushijima
Understanding that defeat is imminent, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushjima commits ritual suicide with his staff after reporting the loss of Okinawa to his superiors.
The End of the Battle
The Battle of Okinawa officially draws to a close as American forces overwhelm the island's determined Japanese defenders. It now represents the all-important staging area for the Allied invasion of the Japanese mainland.
6 August 1945 - 9 August 1945
The atomic bombs were dropped on the mainland cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and quickly lead to Japan's total surrender. This caused many to question the necessity of the entire Battle for Okinawa, since in the bigger picture, it was a meaningless and empty victory for the US.
Ultimately, the largest sea-land-air battle in history sparked three months of desperate combat, leaving Okinawa a "vast field of mud, lead, decay, and maggots." More than 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished, with over 72,000 American and 100,000 Japanese casualties (Frame 2012).
On April 28, 1945, at night, the USS Comfort Hospital Ship left Okinawa for Guam with a full load of wounded patients resulting from the US invasion of that island. A Japanese kamikaze plane smashed into the ship where Comfort's three operating rooms were located.
The crash killed 30 persons, including six Army nurses and seven patients, and wounded 48 others.
The invasion of Okinawa had begun on April 1, 1945. It was codenamed "Operation Iceberg." It was a long and very bloody battle. Major combat operations ended on June 21, 1945.
Two hospital ships, the USS Relief (AH-1) and the USS Comfort (AH-6), loitered off shore, taking aboard the wounded.
During the initial attacks, they stood off to the rear, in international waters, usually alone, waiting for the order to come to move in and take wounded. Combat medics, always men, went in with the landing forces. They would grab as many of the wounded as they could during the landings, get them to the beach, care for them as best they could, and wait to move them to other ships for transport out.
The hospital ships were painted white instead of battleship grey. Each had a broad green stripe painted around the hull parallel to the water line. Red crosses were painted on their sides, superstructure decks, and stack. All of this was done to identify the ship clearly as a hospital ship. These ships also were rigged with extensive lighting. These lights would be turned on at night to make the ship plainly and easily visible as a hospital ship.
This kind of ship was not to be attacked, a rule governed by the regulations of International Law as outlined in the Geneva and Hague conventions. The ship carried only wounded troops and crew. The ships were not armed.
As a general rule, the hospital ships would work hard to avoid normal shipping lanes, and would sail alone: unarmed, alone, unafraid.
If the ships were to turn off their illumination, they would discard their claim of immunity. This did happen on occasion, especially when trying to upload casualties behind or inside smoke screens.
The hospital ships often had to locate themselves amidst the vast armada offshore. As a result, they were vulnerable to lousy enemy marksmanship. Furthermore, in the tropical Pacific, typhoons, foul weather and fog were frequent, and seas were often very rough.
The Comfort was launched on March 18, 1943 for the Maritime Commission to serve as cargo ship. She was reconfigured as a hospital ship and commissioned in May 1944. Of the two, Comfort was the new ship, Relief the "old hand."
The USS Comfort, was designed with a bed capacity of 400 patients. That kind of number would never stand the test of combat in the Pacific, especially Okinawa. As has always been the case, GI ingenuity kicked in and ramped up that number significantly, to 700 beds. Cots, sofas, chairs etc. were assembled in such a way to get more beds. Crew was dismounted from their beds and told to sleep on the floor and the decks. Patients were oft left in hallways, made as comfortable as was possible. Space filled up quickly in the Battle for Okinawa.
The Navy built her and operated her as a hospital ship. The Army provided the medical crew. Here you see them on deck, prior to their trip to the Pacific Theater, via Australia, departure June 21, 1944.
When aboard the Comfort, the Army unit was known as the 205th Hospital Ship Complement, Lt. Colonel Joseph F. Linsman, Army Medical Corps, in command of the medical people. Linsman was a highly regarded surgeon.
Commander Harold Farnham Fultz, USN, shown here, was in command of the Comfort.
The Army had its own hospital ships, employing merchant marine crews using Army medical personnel. The USS Relief's medical crew was Navy. The Army controlled those ships, while the Navy controlled the Comfort.
Using an Army medical crew aboard a Navy ship was a new concept, first tried with the Comfort.
The entire medical crew was seen as very capable, with considerable experience. The Comfort was described by the Colfax, Washington Gazette Commoner in June 1944 as “an ambulance, a nine-deck floating hospital.” The paper also reported she had two operating rooms with beds for more than 700, along with medical and surgical equipment and facilities equivalent to the finest hospitals of the day, even dental operating units designed to handle plastic surgery. She even had a psychiatric ward, sorely needed to deal with the horrors of combat against the Japanese.
Regarding the number of operating rooms, Dale Harper, in his book Too close for comfort, said the ship had three operating rooms, so it's two or three.
Comfort departed California on June 21, 1944, headed for Brisbane, Australia. She initially operated out of Hollandia, New Guinea evacuating wounded from the invasion of Leyte, the Philippines, and then from the invasion of Luzon, the Philippines.
The naval battles in train throughout the waters of the Philippines were massive, before and during the land invasions. The US Navy, in these battles, rendered the Japanese navy irrelevant. During one of those battles, an enemy torpedo narrowly missed the Comfort. In another battle, Comfort found herself between an American fast carrier force and a Japanese task force, and was strafed by Japanese fighters, with no serious damage and no casualties.
Toward the end of March 1945, the Relief began preparing to support the invasion of Okinawa, at the time berthed in Guam, the Marianas.
By the time of the Okinawa invasion, the main threats to naval forces at sea were the kamikaze aircraft and the small suicide boats, the former presenting a huge threat, the latter a smaller threat.
On March 28, 1945, the Relief headed out of Guam to rendezvous with the Comfort on March 30. The two ships met on the 30th as planned, and proceeded toward Okinawa Gunto. The word "Gunto" is a Japanese term for a group of islands. The Japanese word "jima" means island. The main island of Okinawa was called Okinawa Jima, while the Okinawa Group of islands was called Okinawa Gunto.
This was the first time Relief had been in the company of another ship during the entire war. As a rule of thumb, hospital ships were supposed to travel alone, and of course, they were unarmed.
On March 31, both ships were just ahead of a typhoon, and were tossed about quite a bit. Everything had to be secured tightly.
On April 2, the two hospital ships approached Okinawa Gunto, Comfort trailing by about 1000 yards. For the time being, the skipper of the Relief took on the duties of Officer in Tactical Command for both ships.
As they entered the combat area, they could see and hear the extensive naval bombardment of the island, and the airways were filled with aircraft from both sides.
Within short order, the two hospital ships, fully lit, drew the attention of a Japanese fighter. He first crossed the bow of the Relief, then swung around and came at both ships bow on, dropped a bomb, and fired his cannons. Water was splashing from the strafing on the sides of the ships, and the Relief passed over the bomb before it exploded. Luckily, damage was minimal, but Relief was jostled around the water a bit.
Hours later, another fighter played a few games over the hospital ships, but did not attack.
By the time Relief and Comfort got there, the invasion of Okinawa was in its second day. Both ships approached the beaches and anchored offshore, taking aboard casualties almost immediately. Enemy aircraft fooled around in their area on occasion, but none fired.
At night, it was thought best for the two hospital ships to get out of this area, out to sea about 80 miles or so, where they could be more alone and fully illuminated to assist in their identification, “Lit up like Christmas trees.” They would return to the anchorage area in the morning. The medical staff worked around the clock on the patients who were aboard.
The ships repeated this schedule until April 8. The ships took a beating from the seas going back and forth. Beginning on April 9, they remained in anchorage, lights out, taking advantage of the cover of smoke screens. Because of this, they surrendered their privilege of immunity.
Ann Bernatitus, Capt, USN (Ret.) has provided an oral history of her experiences as a USN nurse in the Pacific during WWII. She commented on this procedure of staying in the anchorage:
“When we stopped retiring out to sea at night all lit up, we would stay where we were anchored ready to pick up casualties. Every time the kamikazes would come we would get the alarm over the loud speaker. They would say, ‘Kamaretta red, smoke boat make smoke.’ And then a boat would fill the bay with white smoke so the kamikazes couldn't see.”
William Benton was on the USS Callaghan (DD-792). He addressed this smokescreen process. A Landing Craft Support (LCS) would lay down the smoke. Just as the Comfort and Relief were to turn off their lights, ships under the screen were not supposed to fire lest they give away their position. He complained that the wind would shift, and suddenly leave everyone sitting out there in the open. Sometimes the smoke cover would only last a few minutes. On one occasion, the smoke cleared, an enemy aircraft nearby spotted them, and attacked. The Callaghan was not allowed to fire back, because of the aforementioned rule. One seaman, a cook striker, was killed.
As an aside, Benton referred to the men in the 20s as the “old-timers.” That might, at first, draw a giggle. But the reality is that many, many combatants were 16-19 years old, and those who entered at 18 or 19 were, by age 20, seasoned and hardened war fighters.
While out to sea, the hospital ships received numerous attack alerts. The crews could watch the action of kamikazes at work, sometimes striking their targets, sometimes crashing into the sea after being shot down. On at least one occasion, while retiring to sea, a kamikaze passed right over the hospital ships on its way to crashing at sea.
The Comfort kept up this schedule until April 9 when she was departed the combat zone headed for Guam. By April 10, Relief’s patient capacity was filled, so she headed for Guam as well. She would return to Okinawa on April 22. Comfort did not get back until April 23. During their sailing to Guam, Relief intercepted a message indicating the Comfort was under aerial attack. Comfort was a short distance off Relief’s bow at the time. Neither ship was hit or damaged, but Comfort was delayed in port at Guam for one day.
Let's move to April 28, 1945. The Japanese conducted a massive air raid on that day, employing an estimated 200 aircraft, bombers and kamikazes. Their targets were mainly US forces on Okinawa, ships on picket stations, and ships in the transport areas. Reports I have seen indicate US forces shot down 96. The USS Zellers (DD-777) was hit by a bomb and a kamikaze the USS Wadsworth (DD-516) by a kamikaze, with no US casualties.
Michael Staton, in his book, The Fighting Bob: A Wartime History of the USS Robley A. Evans (DD-552), said the Japanese sent 168 aircraft out on April 28 to celebrate the emperor's birthday. He wrote that the attack operation was named Kikusui No. 4, and that among the 168 aircraft were 59 kamikazes and four Betty bombers.
On this day, April 28, the Comfort was about 50 miles away from Okinawa headed to Saipan with a full load of patients. It was described as a clear moonlit night. Barbara Tomblin, in her book, GI Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II, describes what happened next:
“The first crewman to spot the attacking Japanese plane was Seaman 1st Class Elmer C. Brandhorst, who was on watch on the bridge (of the Comfort). ‘I saw the plane first when it made its first dive, but it was too dark to identify it as enemy or ours. About ten minutes later I saw it again, coming in dead ahead in a steep dive,’ he told reporters for Base Hospital No. 18’s newspaper. Brandhorst was wounded in the arm and right leg by flying pieces of metal from the plane when it hit the ship's (Comfort's) superstructure.
"In the ship’s surgery below, operating teams were at work when the kamikaze hit. The force of the impact hurled the plane’s motor through the surgery, igniting oxygen tanks and causing a tragic explosion.
"On duty on the surgery deck was 1st. Lt. Gladys C. Trosstrail, ANC. The last thing she remembers before the blast was standing near the entrance of her ward feeling grateful for the peace and quiet following a long day of caring for the wounded. The next thing she knew she was in the galley, climbing onto a dishwasher to escape water pouring into the compartment from broken pipes. She surmises that she had been blown through the bulkhead into the galley by the force of the explosion. An Army sergeant crawled through twisted sheets of metal to lead her to safety.
“In the next ward, 2nd Lt. Valerie A. Goodman was helping another nurse prepare penicillin injections when the enemy plane hit. Trapped beneath a bulkhead by the blast, which toppled a metal cabinet down on her legs, Goodman could recall little of what happened when the oxygen tanks exploded. The nurse next to her was killed instantly by the explosion.
"In all, one Navy and four Army medical officers, six Army nurses, one Navy and eight Army enlisted men, and seven patients were killed by the Japanese plane or by explosions that followed its impact. Another ten patients, seven sailors and thirty-one soldiers, four of them nurses, were wounded.”
Bill Fadden was on the Comfort this day. He said the kamikaze smashed right into the ship’s operating room, water was rushing in, and for a time the captain was worried she might capsize. This attack was no mistake. The Comfort was lit, was out of the battle area, and to my knowledge, alone. The kamikaze aimed right at the red cross amidships. Fadden said this to Dan Olson of the Minneapolis Public Radio:
“We got to be at a 45 degree list on the starboard side and all the doctors and nurses that night were killed in the operating room, and the only one who survived that night was the patient on the operating table, but he was badly burned. The balance of the night I had this steel harness on and a steel cable off my back, and I went into the deepest hole with a submersible pump between my feet, and I came up at sunrise, but we got the ship level finally.”
Dale Harper's book, Too close for comfort, reported that the operating rooms, x-ray and laboratory facilities were completely destroyed. Two surgeons were blown out of an operating room on to the weather deck, but survived. Lt. Col. Linsman was injured, so Major Silverglade took command of medical activities.
Once again referring to Harper's book, he quoted Corporal George Vondracek, a medic trained as a dental surgery technician, saying this:
"When the plane struck, the other medic I was working with (Pfc. Clivis Smith) and I were about to check temperature, pulse and respiration of some of the patients. I realized I had left my watch on the desk in the ward office at the end of the room. After retrieving it I had just entered the ward when the suicide plane struck. It came through the overhead and continued through the deck in my ward about 20 feet in front of me, killing Smith and six patients in their beds . I should have been where Smith was."
As you read Doris Gardner’s account, written by her daughter, the kamikaze pilot struck the Comfort “right through to the core of the hospital’s duties, the surgery. Surgeons, nurses, and wounded were killed instantly. The heart of the ship stopped beating and went dark. Thus crippled, it ground to a halt in the embattled bay.”
Gardner also is certain 100 people died in the attack. She includes those who were severely wounded already and the “already dying” killed in the attack.
Returning to William Benton, aboard the USS Callaghan, he said this about the attack on the Comfort:
“The Hospital Ship U.S.S. Comfort stood off Okinawa every night with lights on the Red crosses painted on both sides of the ship and on both sides of the stack. The ship was always well lit, so it could be easily seen. The ship was painted white and could be seen during the day, with no problem.
“One night we were having a large raid of enemy planes, when some sick Jap strayed towards the Hospital Ship. I don’t know what he was thinking, but he attacked the Hospital Ship. He dove his plane into the ship and killed a number of the crew and the wounded. This act infuriated everyone
"At some point after the Comfort had long left the area, a LST (Landing Ship Tank) ran aground on a reef near Naha airfield, having taken fire from a Japanese shore battery. The crew abandoned the LST, was picked up, and the LST just sat there for several weeks. In the meantime, US forces destroyed the shore battery and the crew returned to its LST, still stuck on the reef. They brought as many 40mm shell cans as they could, and loaded them aboard the LST. Apparently these cans are very buoyant, so air tight they have to be punctured before they will sink. In any event, the crew towed their LST out to the position where the Comfort had been struck. They anchored her, and strung her with lights. Legend has it that the Japanese spotted her and attacked again, thinking the LST was a hospital ship. The enemy had to hit her five times before she sank."
"Our men in combat did not take the attack on the Comfort lightly, not at all. "
William Thomas Generous, Jr. mentions that in his book, Sweet Pea at War: A History of the USS Portland. The USS Portland was a heavy cruiser, CA-33, and held the nickname "Sweet Pea." During the Leyte Gulf battle, in the Surigao Strait, the Portland and the other US ships fighting with her destroyed all Japanese ships engaged except one destroyer, which managed to escape. Portland joined other ships in the chase and they nailed her. During the early morning hours, the Japanese destroyer was dead in the water and burning. Generous then wrote this:
"The cruiser (Portland) offered to pick up Japanese survivors, who characteristically declined the rescue. Some of the men were happy to let the enemy sailors drown because they knew that only twenty-four hours earlier other Japanese units had attacked the hospital ship USS Comfort, an atrocity in their minds."
Arthur Altvater was aboard the Relief and kept a log for the period February 13 - September 10, 1945. This was his entry for the attack against the Comfort on April 28, 1945:
“Passed convoy going toward Philippines. The USS Comfort [AH 6] was hit today by a suicide plane. Crashed into bridge and O.R. (Operating Room). Quite a few killed and wounded. Rather a spine chilling feeling considering fact that Japs will from here on down (do) anything they can. Hope they never hit us."
The day of the attack, Task Unit 51.15.26 was formed with Commander Destroyer Division 112 as Officer in Tactical Command. The commander was aboard the USS Purdy (DD-734). There was a host of small ships in the formation shielded by four destroyers. I found part of the Purdy’s history. It reported that the Task Unit spotted an enemy aircraft on its radar, in the general vicinity of the Comfort. The report went on to say this:
“At 2046 an explosion was seen from the Purdy which appeared to have occurred on the Comfort. This supposition was verified by radio the Comfort had been hit by a suicide plane and had a large fire amidships. LST 1000, Stringham, ATR 51 and ATR 38 were ordered by Commander Task Unit 51.15.26 to assist her, which they did until relieved by the Wickes and Frazier, who had been dispatched from Okinawa on report of the attack.”
Lt. Mary Lewis was one of the Army nurses on Comfort this day. When everyone started to clean up the ship, they found pieces of the plane and took them as keepsakes. We understand from Andy Lewis, one of Lt. Lewis' relatives that she was friends with the captain and he allowed her to keep a piece of the plane. Interestingly, there was a rifle found in the cockpit of the aircraft. The captain took the rifle and gave it to Lt. Lewis, why, no one knows. The Lewis family has maintained these pieces of history.
As I mentioned earlier, the rule of thumb for hospital ships was that they traveled alone. Not this time. On this occasion, the damaged Comfort was escorted back to Guam by the USS Thomas E. Fraser (DM-24) and the USS Wickes (DD-578). The USS Patterson (DD-392) received the SOS call, and was just a few miles away. She started out to respond, but was told the Comfort was okay and returned to duty.
A web site named oldmagazinearticles.com presents six "WWII Victory Newsreels," assorted American newsreels made during 1945. One of these is about the USS Comfort. I commend this newsreel to you. I have taken a few video clips from it to show you the damage endured by the Comfort.
The kamikaze struck directly above the Red Cross, amidships. By the time this was taken, some repair work had been done.
This is an even closer look, standing on the deck outside where the kamikaze struck.
This shows the aircraft wreckage, inside the Comfort.
This is a wounded nurse being carried off the Comfort.
The enormity of what happened comes home in this shot. The chaplain is standing to the right, and it looks like the detachment rendering the firing salute is standing at parade rest at the end of the line of coffins.
This next three shot show the nurses, crew and others attending the burials.
Dorene Lynch, daughter of David C. Burns, sent me a set of photos Mr. Burns acquired while aboard the USS Comfort as part of the Army medical crew. He served as a medic and was aboard during the attack. These are, in my view, some historic photos in the Burns Collection.
On May 3, 2012, UP reported that officers from the USS Comfort said the lone Japanese kamikaze circled the Comfort for five minutes before crashing into it directly above its large Red Cross emblem. Commander A. Tooker, USN, the ship’s captain, said the kamikaze made one pass at the ship 50 miles south of Okinawa at night while the crew was evacuating several hundred casualties. The UP reported:
“Then the pilot circled the brightly lighted ship for five minutes before diving into the starboard side and smashing into the surgery room, where the majority of 68 casualties occurred. Major Dorsey Brannon … an Army doctor who was blown through a surgery window said five operations were being performed at the time of the attack. Six doctors, six nurses, several patients and several of the ship’s enlisted men were killed in the operating room, which was turned into a charnel house of dismembered bodies and wreckage. Second Lt. Evelyn C. Bacheler, an army nurse … was blown on top of a patient on an operating table, but escaped injury.”
Everyone remembered where they were when they heard the news: the president is dead. On this day in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt died at the Little White House in warm springs.
Roosevelt had come to Warm Springs 41 times since 1924. FDR was sitting for a portrait when he complained of a headache. He fainted and never regained consciousness. He died at 3:35 p.m. from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. The news stunned the nation.
Like Lincoln, FDR died just on the verge of victory in a great war. For many Americans, the four-term president was the only one they had ever known, leading them out of the Great Depression and through World War II.
As Roosevelt’s body left Warm Springs for the last time, Graham Jackson, a musician who often played for FDR, played Dvorak’s “Going Home” on the accordion with tears streaming down his face.
The Little White House now serves as a memorial to the president who died there on April 12, 1945, Today in Georgia History.
Today in World War II History—April 7, 1940 & 1945
80 Years Ago—April 7, 1940: Booker T. Washington becomes first African-American man to appear on a US postage stamp.
Battleship Yamato under aerial attack in the East China Sea, 7 Apr 1945 (US National Archives)
75 Years Ago—Apr. 7, 1945: The world’s largest battleship, Japan’s Yamato, on a suicide mission, is sunk by US Navy Task Force 58 planes off Okinawa (3055 killed).
US Third Army finds Nazi art and gold stash in salt mine in Merkers worth $500 million.
P-51 Mustang fighter planes based on Iwo Jima escort B-29 Superfortress bombers over Japan for the first time.
Harry Truman and The Bomb
When Harry S. Truman was told on April 12, 1945, by Eleanor Roosevelt that her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was dead, Truman reacted true to form.
He asked if there was anything he could do. Her famous reply: “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”
Trouble indeed. Truman would soon learn just how much FDR did not tell him about the status of the war effort.
Moments after Truman’s hastily-called swearing in ceremony, Secretary of War Henry Stimson lingered to speak with him about an “immense project.” Stimson briefly told Truman about the Manhattan Project, but Truman deferred an in-depth discussion to a later date.
The nation was in shock over the death of FDR, the only President many Americans had ever known, and World War II raged on. Germany was close to collapse, but it appeared that the war against Japan might go to the Japanese mainland and drag out into 1946. Amidst these troubles, Truman had to learn all the things FDR did not tell his newly-elected Vice President, in office only 82 days.
The issue of the “immense project”—the atomic bomb—re-surfaced April 24 when Stimson pressed for an appointment. Truman met with him the next day. The President listened intently. He already knew some sketchy details from his days in the Senate when he discovered secret War Department spending. Stimson advised Truman to appoint a committee to study the use of atomic weapons, which Truman took under consideration.
For the moment, any decisions regarding the use of the atomic bomb were put off. Elsewhere, plans for the invasion of Kyushu, Japan’s southern-most province, proceeded in earnest. Truman remained hopeful Japan might surrender, given the great damage inflicted by strategic bombing.
In May 1945, Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew spoke to Truman about a plan to get Japan to surrender. Truman gave his support and presented it to the Joint Chiefs. The use of atomic weapons remained under consideration and no final decision was made. Truman sought the advice and opinions of others. He prepared himself and read voraciously.
As the Allied Powers prepared to meet in Potsdam, Germany, Truman wanted to release another surrender ultimatum at the meeting. He hoped the ultimatum would coincide with a successful test of the atomic bomb to demonstrate the resolve of the Allies to Japan.
Still, early in July 1945, no final decision was made about the bomb, but Truman knew it was a viable option and he continued to gather information. The committee formed to study this new weapon met and advised Truman to use it immediately—and without warning. No demonstration as a warning was recommended. Truman consulted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who concurred.
No doubt the weight of the world was on Truman’s shoulders, and the final decision was not easy.Finally, he concluded it was his decision, alone, if, when, and where to use the bomb. On July 24, 1945, the order was issued to U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces with operational control delegated to its commander, General Carl Spaatz.
If the recent invasion of Okinawa was any predictor, an amphibious invasion of the Japanese mainland was unthinkable. Neither were the estimated millions of American lives that would be lost if mainland Japan was invaded.
This, in part, prompted Truman to give Japan one more chance to surrender. Another warning was issued to the Japanese on July 26 from the Potsdam conference. On July 28, Japan announced its intention to continue the war. There was no alternative—Truman had to take action to end the war.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed on August 6 and August 9, respectively, and the war came to a dramatic end a few days later.
For his part, Truman never regretted his decision—nor did he ever gloat, even in the face of decades of second-guessing by those who disagreed with him.
Truman made the decision, and, as he was fond of saying, “that’s all there was to it.”
Professor Lacy drew this account from Truman’s memoirs and from the archives of the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO. Dr. Lacy can be contacted at lee.o.[email protected].
To view original documents relating to the use of the A-bomb, visit the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum’s website.
Dramatic Images of Berlin in May 1945, Set Against the City’s Prosperous Present
Walking in Berlin today, it can be hard to envision a crumbling, war-torn city. Museums, art galleries, cafes and performance houses dot every corner. Citizens and tourists alike walk the streets, enjoying a city that's now one of Europe’s cultural capitals. So, it's understandable that passing a㺼-foot-tall image of a destroyed Berlin in the heart of today’s Potsdamer Platz would be startling. “[People] are at first shocked, then for a few moments, they are quiet. Then, they usually turn to discuss with their neighbors,” says Moritz van Dülmen, project leader of "Spring in Berlin—May '45" and chief executive officer of KulturprojekteBerlin, a non-profit organization that promotes culture in the city.
For the citizens of Berlin, the spring of 1945 marked a time between war and peace, oppression and freedom. The Red Army crossed into Berlin on April 21,, and the Battle of Berlin brought the surrender of Germany’s capital city. On May 8, the Nazis surrendered to the Allied Forces, bringing World War II in Europe to an end. The city was destroyed and lay in ruins. Basic necessities, such as food, water and medication, were scarce. For Berliners, hope for the future may have been the most scarce resource of all.
Seventy years later, Berlin is a modern, beautiful European city and hope for the future is bright, but memories of its difficult past remain. In commemoration of the anniversary of the war’s end and the tough times that followed, the city of Berlin, in conjunction with Kulturprojekte Berlin, has created “May —Spring in Berlin,” an open-air exhibit meant to connect Berliners to the war that once engulfed their city. The project began on April 22, with an introduction by Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller, and runs through May 26. The city is hosting lectures, readings, film screenings and guided tours, but the real highlights are the 60-foot images placed in six iconic areas of the city, showing what Berlin looked like at those same spots during the spring of 1945.
These pictures are affecting, van Dülmen notes, because they allow immediate connection to the past. “It is pretty easy to imagine that exactly where I stand today in this place 70 years ago this was happening,” he says. He mentions having seen people gape, with their mouths open, at the image of the open-air hospital that once stood in front of the legendary Brandenburg Gate, looking as if they couldn't believe that their home was once a war zone.
The exhibit is also a chance for the city to experiment with a new approach for presenting history. Instead of attempting to get people to come to museums or indoor exhibits, the project brings the information to the people—Dülmen describes it as “history to-go.” He says, “We try to go to the people . to provide context directly. It is history on the streets.”
As Berlin looks back at its war-torn past, it’s easy to draw comparisons to cities and countries that are ravaged by conflict today, such as Syria and South Sudan. “With these images, we tried to confront what was happening here 70 years ago and get people to imagine what a situation it was for the people of Berlin. Then, people think . it is a similar situation to what is happening with the people of Syria,” says Dülmen. While one war ended in Berlin in May 1945, other conflicts persist across the globe—and these images serve as reminder of both war's destructive power as well as the human capacity to rebuild.
About Matt Blitz
Matt Blitz is a history and travel writer. His work has been featured on CNN, Atlas Obscura, Curbed, Nickelodeon, and Today I Found Out. He also runs the Obscura Society DC and is a big fan of diners.