Page 506

Chapter 16: Pacific Plans and Enterprises, 1943–1945

(See Sketch 7)

If we disregard the work of a few individuals, the Canadian Army did no fighting in the Pacific in the later stages of the war. However, Army units and personnel did some useful work of other sorts, and had the war against Japan been prolonged a considerable force of Canadian soldiers would have taken part in it.

Eyes on the Kuriles

With the Aleutians cleared of the Japanese, American planners in the North Pacific began to think of the possibility of pursuing the enemy into his base in the Kurile Islands, to which he had retired from Kiska. General Pearkes, when at Adak for the Kiska enterprise in August 1943, found “Generals DeWitt, Buckner, Admiral Kinkaid and all the Senior Officers ... terribly anxious to get on to the Kuriles”. The question of Canadian participation naturally arose. Pearkes. wrote privately to his Brigadier General Staff, “My own view is, as you know, that it is of the utmost importance that we get in this battle if we are to be considered as a Pacific Power. ... If Canadian troops are to be employed I feel that we should have not less than 3 Bde. Groups; 2 possibly to take part in the initial operation and one to be in the Aleutians ready as reinforcements or to follow up the initial successes gained. The Regt. de Hull is doing so well here that I am inclined to think that it might be of great political value if one of the Bdes. were composed of mainly French Canadians.”1 On 13 August General Pearkes wrote to the Chief of the General Staff along these lines, recommending that the force then at Kiska should be “expanded to three Tactical Groups or Combat Teams (total 12 Battalions plus attached troops)”, with a view to the possibility of an attack on the Kuriles.2

Page 507

The 6th Division, as we have already seen (above, page 185), was reorganized accordingly, the War Committee of the Cabinet being told on 31 August that this would meet the possibility of participation in further operations in the North Pacific area. However, the idea of an enterprise against the Kuriles ultimately found favour neither in Washington nor in Ottawa. The Anglo-American strategists, meeting at Quebec immediately after the occupation of Kiska, cautiously included in their approved Pacific programme for 1943–44 “Consideration of operations against Paramushiro and the Kuriles”.3 The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff referred the matter to their Joint Planning Staff, which was doubtful of the project. It was considered that it was unlikely to be useful unless Russia entered the war against Japan; and with this rather remote possibility in view immediate measures authorized in the Aleutians were limited to a moderate programme of base expansion. No invasion of the Kuriles was ever attempted, but for the rest of the war they suffered sporadic bombing from the Aleutians, and the Japanese kept large forces tied up there to provide against the menace.4

In Ottawa the Prime Minister subsequently discouraged the idea. He suggested that it would be undesirable to incur large commitments in manpower merely to provide against the possibility of American requests for cooperation, or for the Canadian government to put itself in the position of inviting such requests, which might lead to commitments beyond Canadian capacity. The upshot was that the prescribed tasks of the 6th Division, one of which was to serve “as a trained force for any future commitments which may be undertaken in the Pacific Theatre of operations”, were maintained (Colonel Ralston specified that this was the case even in March 1944, when he approved withdrawing General Service personnel from the Division for service overseas);5 but no further operational commitments were made or suggested.

Observers in the Pacific

When the part to be played by the Canadian Army in the Pacific after the defeat of Germany came under discussion, the question immediately arose of sending officers to the Pacific theatres to gain some preliminary experience of conditions there. And when it began to be evident that there was a possibility of Canadian forces being closely associated with U.S. forces in the final stages of the war against Japan it was evident that officers should be sent as soon as possible to become acquainted with American organization and methods.

Page 508

Sketch 7: Pacific Ocean 

Sketch 7: Pacific Ocean 1941–1945

Page 509

In February 1944 arrangements were made for ten Canadian officers to be attached to the U.S. Army in the Pacific, eight to Australian forces . and two to New Zealand forces. (These two subsequently joined the group with the Australians, which was also enlarged by the addition of three intelligence officers.)6 During the following summer these officers saw a good deal of the Pacific War; most of those attached to the Americans were present during the bitter fighting on Saipan, while the group sent to the Australians saw training in Australia, operations in New Guinea and (with a U.S. division) the capture of Morotai in the Moluccas.7 Two officers not included in the twenty just mentioned had special attachments. One (Major R. F. Routh) went to GHQ South West Pacific Area and subsequently to HQ South East Asia Command, and was wounded while attached to a British battalion in Burma; the other (Lt. Col. W. A. Bean) spent several months in Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific Ocean Areas command and was with the 1st U.S. Marine Division in the assault on Peleliu.8

Arrangements had been made about the same time with the War Office in London for attachment of 20 officers of the Canadian Army Overseas to the South East Asia Command. The number was later increased to 22. The party left England in the early summer of 1944, a twenty-third officer following in the autumn. After a period of attachment to training units and establishments, the members of the group were sent to the Fourteenth Army and 15th Indian Corps in Burma, and were very actively employed in command or staff appointments in the same manner as the Canadians sent earlier to the First Army in Tunisia (above, page 248). After seeing a great deal of mixed service, they were returned to the United Kingdom early in 1945. One of them had been wounded in action.9

In November 1944 the U.S. authorities were asked and agreed to accept three successive groups of ten Canadian officers each for attachment to American units in the Pacific. In March 1945 they agreed to take fifteen more officers.10 As a result of these arrangements, Canadian observers were present during the later stages of the liberation of the Philippines*

* In addition, at least one of the original group had been present during the initial larding on Leyte on 1 October 1944.11

and through the bloody campaign on Okinawa (1 April–30 June 1945) which gave the U.S. forces a base only some 300 miles from the southernmost of the Japanese home islands.12 Three Canadians were wounded during this latter campaign.13 From these various observation missions a considerable number of Canadian officers gleaned important information concerning the practice both of our allies and our enemies in the Pacific; and the observers’ written reports were the means of disseminating this information widely in the army.

Page 510

In June 1945 it was calculated that a total of 95 Canadian Army officers had had actual experience in the various Pacific theatres of operations – 33 on the staff and 62 as regimental officers.14 In addition, four officers had attended the Staff School (Australia) as students or instructors, and 16 had attended or were attending various staff courses in the United States. There was thus a respectable nucleus available for training and guiding the Canadian Army Pacific Force.

Canadians in Australia

Apart from these attachments of officers made for Canadian purposes, some 400 officers and men of the Army were sent to Australia by way of technical assistance to the Australian forces.

In 1944 radar equipment of Canadian design and manufacture (see above, page 159) was being sent to Australia for use in northern Australia, New Guinea and various island outposts. In March 1944 Australia asked for technicians to maintain these sets, and a small cadre for instructional duty at the radar wing of the Australian School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. The Cabinet War Committee concurred on 26 April, and the party, totalling nine officers and 64 other ranks, arrived in Australia in the following September. These experts worked in the Australian zone until the end of the war with Japan. In the summer of 1945 a number of them were posted to anti-aircraft units in Borneo and Morotai.15 Other Canadians employed in Australia were the personnel of No. 1 Special Wireless Group, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, which was sent out early in 1945.16

A few Canadians went to India, in charge of mules. Early in 1944 the British Army Staff, Washington, then initiating shipment of mules on behalf of the Government of India, asked if Canada could provide men to “conduct” mules from New York to Karachi. The Canadian authorities agreed, and four shiploads of mules were taken to India by Canadian Army parties, the first sailing in March 1944, the last in April 1945. Three of the parties were furnished by the Veterans Guard of Canada, the fourth by No. 2 General Employment Company. In all, 179 Canadians* made the trip to India, escorting about 1600 mules.17

Policy on Participation in the Pacific

Serious consideration began to be given to Canadian participation in the final phase of the war against Japan about the beginning of 1944. When

* Not counting one man in the last party who became ill on the outward voyage and was dropped off at Gibraltar. One officer and three other ranks who made two trips are counted only once.

Page 511

the Prime Minister of Canada went to England for the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers held in May of that year he took with him a General Staff appreciation which did little more than point out that Canadian Army forces might operate either with British forces from Burma and Malaya, or with U.S. forces “on the other flank”, through Hawaii and perhaps the Aleutians. In the former case the troops might come from the Canadian Army Overseas (one division was suggested “as a basis for discussion”); in the latter case the troops “would be best supplied from the Army in Canada” – as many brigade groups as could be “secured from the forces available”. No recommendation was made as between the two possibilities, nor is it entirely clear whether the two were considered mutually exclusive.18

There was little discussion of the question at the London conference, but after Mr. King’s return to Canada the Canadian civil and military authorities dealt with it further so far as they could do so in the absence of information of any settled overall strategy. On 27 June Mr. King cabled Mr. Churchill suggesting that Canada’s position in the matter was subject to certain “special considerations”. The message dealt . mainly with the RCAF, and the direction in which opinion in Ottawa was moving was indicated in the remark, “It would clearly be very difficult to have the major Canadian air effort based, say, on South East Asia if large United States forces were to operate from Northwest America”.19 General Murchie, the Chief of the General Staff, had written on 13 June, “it would appear desirable that the Canadian Army participation should take place at a stage and in a theatre where its operations would be directed against Japan proper or against the Japanese Army in China proper rather than in preliminary campaigns in Burma or the Malay Peninsula”; this would entail less retraining than operations in tropical areas.20 Churchill referred the matter to the British War Cabinet’s Joint Planning Staff, which on 24 July produced an aide-memoire on the employment of Canadian forces after the defeat of Germany.21 This, while again unable to offer a firm recommendation “until the main strategy is decided”, agreed that it might be appropriate for Canadian land forces to make their contribution in the North Pacific in the event of the main invasion threat against the Japanese homeland being directed from that area. It recommended that Canadian land forces allocated to the war against Japan should be moved to Canada as soon as practicable; and suggested that an appropriate contribution, allowing for some demobilization after the defeat of Germany, would be two divisions, in addition to one employed in the occupation of Germany.

The Canadian Chiefs of Staff reviewed this paper and on 6 September made formal and definite recommendations to their Ministers.22 They considered that “Canada’s contribution should be based on Canadian capabilities and proportionate to the continuing effort of the United Kingdom

Page 512

and the United States”. It emphasized the importance of the North Pacific area to Canada and recommended that, in the event of a major effort being inaugurated by way of this area, either through Hawaii or the Aleutians, Canada should “be represented in the final assault on the Japanese homeland”. It was specifically recommended that with this in view “the Canadian Army operate in the North or Central Pacific area”, using “one division with necessary ancillary troops”. It was recognized that this would entail acting under American command. The RCN should reinforce the Royal Navy in the Pacific; the RCAF’s main effort should be in conjunction with the RAF, but it should be represented by a token force in the event of a major operation taking place in the North Pacific.

The same day the whole Cabinet considered the matter and agreed that, after the end of the war in Europe, Canadian military forces should participate in the war against Japan in operational theatres of direct interest to Canada as a North American nation, for example in the North or Central Pacific, rather than in more remote areas such as South-East Asia; that government policy with respect to employment of Canadian forces should be based on this principle; and that the form and extent of participation by the three services should be determined following the second Quebec Conference, then in immediate prospect.23 On 8 September the Cabinet further authorized, “as a basis for planning, but without any commitment”, one division and ancillary troops as the Army quota for the Pacific war.24 With policy thus crystallized, Canadian ministers approached the contacts with British and American authorities that would accompany the conference.

The Canadian Army Pacific Force

When the “Octagon” conference opened at Quebec on 12 September, Allied prospects were bright. A brilliant victory had been won in North-West Europe and it appeared that there was a possibility of an early German collapse. In the Pacific, American forces were firmly established in the Gilbert, Marshall and Mariana Islands and about to land on Morotai and in the Palaus; the invasion of the Philippines could now be undertaken. A Japanese invasion of India designed to interfere with Allied air transport to China had been beaten back into Burma by British and Indian forces, while the Allies were also advancing in Northern Burma and the re-opening of land communication with China was in sight.

On 14 September the War Committee of the Canadian Cabinet held a special meeting at the Citadel of Quebec. Mr. King was in the chair. Mr. Churchill attended, as did also Lord Leathers (British Minister of War

* As in previous cases, Canada was not a party to the second Quebec Conference (except as host); but there were concurrent discussions, on this occasion, with both British and American civil and military authorities.

Page 513

Transport) and the British and Canadian Chiefs of Staff. Mr. King explained the Canadian policies that had been developed. These discussions were followed on the same day by a meeting between the British and Canadian Chiefs of Staff,25 on 15 September by a conference between Messrs. King, Roosevelt and Churchill,26 and on 16 September by a conversation between Generals Murchie and Pope* on one side and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, on the other. General Murchie explained the situation as to Canadian Army participation, emphasizing the Canadian desire “to share in the final assault on Japan”.27 General Marshall received the Canadians very cordially and told them he could see no obstacle in the way of meeting their government’s wishes; but no commitment was made on either side.28

The “Octagon” conference did not produce a final strategic plan for the defeat of Japan; the Americans, with whom the primary responsibility rested, were considering alternative lines of operation through Formosa and through Luzon (Philippines).29 But the final report of the conference30 expressed agreement upon a programme of lowering Japanese ability and will to resist by air and sea blockades, intensive air bombardment, and destruction of Japanese air and naval strength; followed ultimately by invasion and the seizure of “objectives in the industrial heart of Japan”. Mr. Churchill had mentioned at the plenary session on 16 September that the Canadian Government were “anxious for an assurance in principle that their forces would participate in the main operations against Japan”, adding that they would prefer that they should act in the more northern parts of the Pacific, “as their troops were unused to tropical conditions”.31 The final record accordingly noted briefly, “Canadian participation is accepted in principle”.32

During the weeks that followed, the matter was canvassed in the War Committee on 22 and 27 September, and 11 and 20 October. The three services’ Pacific proposals were examined, and those of the Navy and Air Force were considerably reduced. Finally, on 20 November, the full Cabinet approved the programme, including Canadian Army participation to the extent of one division, with necessary ancillary troops as required, up to a total of 30,000 men. It was accepted that the bulk of the force would have to be selected from men then serving overseas, since there were not enough trained men in Canada and battle-experienced troops were wanted; and that transportation, refitting and leave in Canada would require six months.33

Detailed planning for the Canadian Army Pacific Force now proceeded. The Canadian proposals were put before the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff by General Letson, who had succeeded General Pope in Washington, and were accepted, “with the understanding that this force will be available for

* General Pope was now Military Secretary of the Cabinet War Committee.

† The War Committee did not meet between 9 November and 11 December.

Page 514

use in any of the operations mounted in the Pacific”.34 On 7 March 1945 the War Committee agreed that the whole Canadian programme should be re-examined with a view to the possibility of a greater degree of integration between the Canadian services; but the Chiefs of Staff reported on 20 March that participation on a self-contained Canadian basis was impossible without a greatly increased commitment by all three services and the creation of a separate logistic organization.35 The War Committee accepted this on 22 March and the plan was not altered. On 4 April the Prime Minister made a statement on the Pacific programme in the House of Commons. This included the information that the men to be employed against Japan would “be chosen from those who elect to serve in the Pacific theatre”; in other words, there would be no compulsion.

Four days after this statement, and as a result of this policy concerning voluntary service, the CGS and the Adjutant General (Major General A. E. Walford) recommended that an armoured division should be substituted for an infantry division in the plan. (It is likely that they had been influenced by the fact that Generals Crerar and Montague had lately expressed the opinion that the men required from the overseas army could not be obtained by volunteering.)36 They pointed out that an armoured division would give an opportunity to men of the four overseas armoured brigades (as well as the reconnaissance units) who otherwise could continue to serve only by transferring to other arms. At the same time, however, by reducing the infantry requirement from three brigades to one, they wrote, “we limit the numbers needed from the arm from which it can be expected there will be the greatest difficulty in securing volunteers”; and the “overall war establishment commitment” would be reduced, as the armoured division would be only about 10,800 strong as compared with about 14,000 for an infantry division on U.S. tables of organization.37 This plan was accepted by a Special Committee of the Cabinet* on 19 April; but it did not meet with American concurrence. On 15 May the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a letter to General Letson covering a memorandum by their Joint Staff Planners which remarked,

It is believed that the force should consist of an infantry division, possibly reinforced with armor, and including a proportion of service and supporting troops, rather than an armored division. It appears that General MacArthur would prefer such a unit and that it would receive much more gainful employment, It is also preferable from a standpoint of supply and maintenance.38

The Americans agreed to all the other Canadian suggestions. The same letter detailed the plan:

... The Joint Chiefs of Staff suggest ... that the Canadian Army force... should:

consist of an infantry division, possibly reinforced with armor, with a proportion of service and supporting troops.

* The Cabinet War Committee held its 339th and last meeting on 11 April. Thereafter there were three meetings of a Special Committee which served Much the same purposes,

Page 515

employed as a follow-up unit in the main operation.

use United States Army equipment and maintenance, except for uniforms.

be reorganized along United States Army lines (unless further examination indicates such action will delay employment).

be trained in the United States under the over-all supervision of the United States Army Ground Forces.

be supplied as a normal United States Army division and based in accordance with operational plans.

be returned to North America after cessation of hostilities in a priority consistent with that applied to other forces engaged in the Pacific war.

These proposals were approved in principle by the Canadian Cabinet on 17 May.39

It may be noted that General Crerar was doubtful of the need for organizing the division on American lines and suggested that the switch to non-Canadian organization would be “generally unpopular” in the Army.*

* This was in a signal of 6 June 1945,40 repeating a “personal view” given earlier, possibly in a conference with General Murchie on 22 May. By this time, however, firm arrangements had been made with the Americans,

It appears that this element in the plan was not originated by the United States. The first suggestion that American organization might be necessary was made by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff (A) in Ottawa on 16 September 1944.41 The detailed Canadian plan presented to the U.S. Joint Chiefs in the following April42 contained the remark, “We feel it will be necessary to organize the Canadian Force along U.S. army lines in order to facilitate their staff arrangements for movement, maintenance and operations”. The American reply, as we have seen, agreed; the U.S. Joint Staff Planners remarked, “Reorganization along United States Army lines would facilitate issuance of supplies and equipment, maintenance and possibly movement. The only question is whether or not such reorganization can be effected without delaying employment.”43 The adoption of U.S. organization, though in many ways convenient, would not seem to have been a vital part of the plan, and normal Canadian divisional organization, with some modifications to suit American equipment, would probably have met the situation.

As it was, U.S. staff organization was adopted, the system of three staff branches (General Staff, Adjutant General’s Branch, Quartermaster General’s Branch) inherited from the British Army being replaced by the unified General Staff with four branches (G-1, Personnel; G-2, Intelligence; G-3, Operations and Training; and G-4, Supply). Similarly the units of the proposed division and ancillary troops were planned and designated in accordance with U.S. tables of organization, modified in slight degree to meet the circumstances.

Originally it had been hoped to reconstitute the 1st Canadian Infantry Division for the Pacific Force, since it was the senior formation of the First Canadian Army and its units gave excellent territorial representation to all parts of Canada. For operational reasons it had not proved possible,

Page 516

however, to withdraw this formation from active operations prior to VE Day, and subsequently General Crerar insisted that it would be more practicable to give all volunteers first priority passage to Canada and leave the work of organizing a new division to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.44 This reasoning was accepted by the Minister of National Defence (now General A. G. L. McNaughton), who decided that the new formation should be known as the 6th Canadian Division.* The term “brigade” was dropped in favour of the American “regiment”, but the new 1st, 2nd and 3rd “Canadian Infantry Regiments” contained battalions of the same units, from Ontario, Western Canada and Eastern Canada respectively, that had composed the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the old 1st Division. Field artillery “regiments” similarly became “battalions”. The Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.), which had been the 1st Division’s machine-gun battalion, provided “cannon companies” for each infantry regiment, while the divisional reconnaissance “troop” was found by The Royal Montreal Regiment. The Canadian quota of corps and army troops called for 151 officers and 1070 other ranks; this included the tank battalion to support the division† (provided by The Canadian Grenadier Guards), an Evacuation Hospital and three liaison increments to serve with the headquarters of American formations. Base units totalling 239 officers and 1691 other ranks included a 2nd Echelon for personnel administration and a Replacement Group corresponding to the Base Reinforcement Groups which had functioned in Italy and North-West Europe.45

Major General B. M. Hoffmeister, who had commanded the 5th Armoured Division with distinction in Italy and North-West Europe, was selected to command the Canadian Army Pacific Force. Brigadier W. P. Gilbride, who had served latterly as DA&QMG of the 1st Canadian Corps, was appointed Deputy Divisional Commander, a post for which there was no Canadian equivalent. Other command and staff appointments were filled by officers who had served with the Canadian Army Overseas. The infantry regiments were commanded by brigadiers, not by colonels as in U.S. formations.

Recruiting and Training the CAPF

Following the lead of the United Kingdom and the United States, Canada authorized special “Japanese Campaign Pay” (amounting in the case of private soldiers to 30 cents extra per day)46 for the Canadian Army Pacific

* The Home Defence division bearing this designation had been disbanded in December 1944 (above, page 186).

† General McNaughton had gladly embraced the U.S. suggestion that such a component might be provided.

Page 517

Force.* Volunteering began with the distribution overseas of the pamphlet After Victory in Europe on 11 May 1945 (above, page 432). The result was moderately satisfactory. By 17 July (the latest date for which figures are available) the grand total of “electors” was 9943 officers and 68,256 other ranks. But 1412 of these were nursing sisters, and 446 officers and 6075 other ranks belonged to the Canadian Women’s Army Corps; while a great many of the male volunteers were unfit for active duty by reason of age or medical category. The “most select group”, those suitable for service in the CAPF, was defined as men of high medical category, between the ages of 19 and 33 and (in the case of overseas volunteers) single. Of the volunteers, only 2796 officers and 36,386 other ranks were males in this group.47

Although the actual strength of the proposed division would be only 790 officers and 15,058 other ranks, and of the whole CAPF only 1180 officers and 17,819 other ranks,48 the immediate and prospective manpower requirement was much larger than this. It was calculated that, including three months’ reinforcements and a small “contingency reserve”,49 1513 officers and 27,435 men were required in the first instance, while replacements for eight further months of operations (to 30 September 1946) would amount to 1665 officers and 28,735 men more. As compared with the total of electors of all arms in the “most select group”, then, there was an overall deficiency of 382 officers and 19,784 men. This deficiency centred in the infantry; the actual shortage in this arm was 835 officers and 20,775 men. The total of infantry volunteers in the most select group was 996 officers and 18,339 men, as against an infantry strength for the division of 375 officers and 9,276 men.50 The immediate requirement, including three months’ reinforcements, was well covered, with something to spare; but on the basis of past experience there was some reason to fear that in the event of the division’s being heavily engaged for a long period a shortage of infantry replacements would develop.

By the end of August 1945, a total of 1963 officers and 22,058 other ranks had actually been posted to the Canadian Army Pacific Force. Of these, 1536 officers and 20,238 other ranks had been returned from Europe.51 Since the men of the force were almost all well-trained soldiers, the main training problems were accustoming them to American equipment and to the conditions of the Pacific theatre. The plan was to concentrate the units of the CAPF at nine stations across Canada where they would be introduced to these new problems; the whole force, including the three months’ reinforcements, would then move to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky,

* By order in council PC 1286 of 17 March 1949, this additional pay was granted to survivors of the Canadian Hong Kong force as from 1 June 1945, the date from which such pay was originally authorized, until two months after their return to Canada.

Page 518

for individual and unit training and divisional exercises. Nine teams of experts from the U.S. Army were to come to Canada to demonstrate weapons during the preliminary phase; and an instructional cadre was formed, whose members would go to the United States in advance of the Force for training as instructors. Special orientation courses for commanders and staff officers were to be conducted at the Royal Military College.52 The Japanese surrender interposed before this programme was more than nicely under way. The American weapon training teams duly arrived early in August;53 and large numbers of the instructional cadre and other members of the CAPF went to the United States on courses. By 17 August 1945, 347 officers and 1391 other ranks were attending such courses.54 But the Force as a whole never moved.

Training for Intelligence work required particular attention, and in this field Canadians of Japanese origin had a special contribution to make. By August 1945 the Japanese Language School, an Army unit established at Vancouver, BC, in 1943, had 114 students in training; of these, 52 were “Nisei”.55

The End in the Pacific

On 6 April 1945 General Douglas MacArthur assumed command of all United States Army Forces in the Pacific and with Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of Naval Forces, began to plan the final operations against Japan. By this time the liberation of the Philippines was approaching completion. Since 24 November 1944 U.S. B-29 bombers based in the Marianas had been attacking the Japanese home islands with devastating effect. The conquest of Iwo Jima (February–March 1945) provided airfields which made it possible to give these bombers fighter escorts and enabled damaged B-29s to make emergency landings. The capture of Okinawa (above, page 509) placed the Allies even closer to Japan proper. In Burma the Japanese were on the run; British forces entered Rangoon on 3 May. In July the U.S. Pacific Fleet, reinforced by a strong British unit in which the Royal Canadian Navy was represented for a time by HMCS Uganda, began to attack Japan both with carrier-based aircraft and with shellfire.

The plan for the final invasion of the Japanese islands ran thus. The first phase, Operation OLYMPIC, later re-christened “Majestic”, called for a three-pronged attack by the Sixth U.S. Army on the southernmost island, Kyushu, in the autumn of 1945. The second phase, Operation “Coronet”, in which the 6th Canadian Division was to have a role that was never

Page 519

precisely defined, was to begin in the early spring of 1946 with an assault by the veteran Eighth and Tenth U.S. Armies against the main island of Honshu. They were to be followed ashore by ten infantry divisions under the First U.S. Army, redeployed from North-West Europe. These armies were to beat down Japanese resistance and occupy the Tokyo–Yokohama area; subsequently the Allied forces would fan out to the north and occupy the remaining islands.56

This last campaign was not required. Since the fall of the Tojo government in July 1944 Japanese leaders had been becoming more and more convinced that the war must be ended. After hostilities ceased in Europe in May 1945 an approach was made to Russia, asking that country for intercession; but Russia would give no definite answer. On 26 July came the Potsdam Declaration by Great Britain, the United States and China threatening Japan with “complete and utter destruction” and demanding unconditional surrender. The Japanese government let it be known that this would be ignored,57 but in fact they were still discussing it when on 6 August the most terrible weapon of destruction humanity had seen,* an atomic bomb, was detonated over Hiroshima.

* Nevertheless, it should be noted that a single “conventional” incendiary attack on Tokyo on 9–10 March 1945 had killed more than 83,000 people.58

It may have killed as many as 90,000 people. Adolf Hitler, with the best will in the world, had succeeded in killing only 60,000 civilians by his five-year bombardment of Great Britain.59 On 8 August, in accordance with a promise made to the United States and Britain at the Yalta Conference in February,60 the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan. On 9 August a second atomic bomb was dropped, on Nagasaki. Early the next morning an Imperial Conference in Tokyo decided to sue for peace.61

Active hostilities ended on 14 August. The same day a Special Cabinet Committee in Ottawa recommended that Canada, having already undertaken a commitment for the first stage of the occupation of Germany, should take no part in the occupation of Japan. On 1 September orders were issued for the disbandment of the Canadian Army Pacific Force.62

Japan’s war against the West, launched in treachery at Pearl Harbor and Hong Kong in 1941, brought her within four years to total and humiliating defeat. Her abasement was expressed in the instrument of unconditional surrender which her representatives subscribed on 2 September 1945 under the upthrust guns of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. General MacArthur signed in acceptance as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers; and representatives of nine of those Powers, including Canada, set their names to the paper. So ended the Second World War. It had begun in Europe,

Page 520

six years and one day before, when Adolf Hitler’s armoured divisions marched into Poland. Having caused untold misery and desolation in scores of lands, it now drew to a close on the further side of the globe; and, even though the significance of the dreadful thing that had happened at Hiroshima was not yet fully clear, men and women in every continent prayed that the collective intelligence of mankind might be equal to the task of ensuring that no such conflict would ever come again.