In the last few months of the Second World War the US Navy was finally able to take the war directly to the Japanese Home Islands. The powerful 3rd/ 5th Fleet was able to move within carrier range of Japan, while their battleships were even able to carry out direct bombardments of key industrial targets. This part of the war is often skipped over, or covered in very limited detail, as it fell into the gap between the battle of Okinawa and the dropping of the Atomic Bombs, and its significance is often thus not appreciated. However these attacks were a key part of the US plan for the expected invasion of Japan, designed to complete the destruction of Japan’s war industries and soften up the defences before any landings. They also had a massive impact on Japanese morale, proving that the US fleet could operate close to the Japanese coast, and in the case of the battleships come within sight of key Japanese cities!
This account of the campaign begins with an overview of the US plans for invasion, then moves on to look at each phase of the campaign in turn. This included a series of devastating carrier air raids that were able to hit key Japanese industrial targets with far more accuracy than the B-29s, and battleship bombardments of coastal targets that acted as undeniable evidence of their disastrous situation for the Japanese public – there was no way the repeated presence of American (and some British) surface ships within sight of the Home Islands could be explained away.
One thing that emerges is that the success of the US naval air raids were partly due to a Japanese decision to preserve their remaining fighter aircraft for the expected US invasion of the Home Islands. As a result many of the naval air attacks were largely unopposed in the air, giving the Americans a significant advantage.
Another notable success was the campaign to drop mines in the naval approaches to Japan. Despite opposition from many within the Navy and USAAF, who believed this was a diversion from the ‘real’ strategic bombing campaign, it proved to be devastating for the Japanese, sinking irreplaceable merchant ships in vast numbers. Post-war many Japanese leaders claimed that if this tactic has been adopted earlier, it would have shortened the war!
As always the text is well supported with a mix of maps, illustrations and contemporary photographs. I found the campaign maps to be of particular use, as they demonstrated just how free the US Navy was to operate all along the Japanese coastline.
This is a fascinating book, covering a relatively unknown part of the war against Japan, and proving just how dominant the US Navy had become by 1945.
Origins of the Campaign
The Battlefields Today
Author: Brian Lane Herder