Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Purple Hearts In Excess

This post by Instapundit blew me away:

SOME PERSPECTIVE: I was reading some stuff on the plans for invading Japan at the end of World War II when I ran across this:

Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the sixty years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock. There are so many in surplus that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers on the field.

And at current rates we'll still be using them for decades. My grandfather fought all across Europe, then got shipped to the Pacific in preparation for invading Japan. He was extremely happy that the war ended without that being necessary.

As devastating the losses we suffered during World War II, how much worse it could have been.

Update: The plot thickens - Wikipedia:

See also: Orders of battle for Downfall

Olympic was to be mounted with resources already present in the Pacific, including the British Pacific Fleet, a Commonwealth formation that included at least a dozen aircraft carriers and several battleships. The Australian First Tactical Air Force took part in the Philippines campaign (1944-45)

These would likely have augmented U.S. close air support units over Japan. The only major re-deployment for Olympic was Tiger Force, a Commonwealth long range heavy bomber unit, made up of more than 20 squadrons, scheduled to betransferred from RAF Bomber Command in Europe to airbases on Okinawa.

If reinforcements had been needed for Olympic, they could have been provided from forces being assembled for Coronet, which would have needed the redeployment of substantial Allied forces from Europe, South Asia, Australasia, and elsewhere. These would have included the U.S. First Army (15 divisions) and the Eighth Air Force, which were in Europe. The redeployment was complicated by the simultaneous partial demobilization of the U.S. Army, which drastically reduced the divisions' combat effectiveness, by stripping them of their most experienced officers and men.

My grandfather belonged to the 9th Division of the U.S. First Army. After fighting across North Africa, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, it is very likely his feet would have landed on the shores of mainland Japan in what undoubtedly would have been one of the bloodiest battles in American history.


longjonblu said...

I got one of those 500,000 Purple Hearts. That and $3.50 I can get a cup of coffee at local Starbucks. So what's your point.

Nick Brunetti-Lihach said...

Thank you for your service.

My point is a reflection at the surprise to hear the pessimistic expectations, but also something much more personal.

My Grandfather was in the 9th Army, which would have shipped to Japan had the U.S. invaded rather than drop the bomb.

Had we pursued the invasion route, my Grandfather may have been a recipient of one of those Purple Hearts, or worse, lost his life (In which case I wouldn't be here writing you).