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Speculative History Series Pt. 2
Invading Kyushu
by Patrick Graham

Background

Like operation "Sea Lion", the proposed German invasion of Britain by Germany, the United States had its own plans for an invasion of an enemy island nation on the books, though it too never came into being. It had been assumed that such an operation would be necessary to bring about the unconditional capitulation of Japan. That it never happened was one of those marvels of history. As such, a plan for the invasion of Japan was mapped out between Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur in Pacific, to follow the successful invasion of Okinawa. The invasion was tentatively planned for November of 1945, when hopefully the worst of the typhoon season would be over. It’s codename would be "Downfall".

The decision was made to land American troops on southern Kyushu and capture the island first in an operation codenamed "Olympic". Once the island was secured and forward bases made available for the Air Force, a second operation against the Island of Honshu itself would be launched. The best axis of advance lay through the broad Kanto Plain in the heartland of Japan. An invasion in this area would allow American forces to swiftly surround and neutralize major cities, including Tokyo itself and move swiftly along unbroken terrain. The meager Japanese forces in the valley could not hope to contain an American offensive, and it was hoped that with the heart of Japan in American hands, surrender would soon follow. This operation was planned for the summer of 1946 and was codenamed "Coronet".

Southern Kyushu was divided into three beaches that would be the target of the landings. They were the beaches of Ariake, Kushikino and Miyazaki. These three sites granted easy access to the lowlands and allowed for the rapid formation of a single contiguous front along the southern axis of the island. Past these plains, Kyushu was very rugged and mountainous. Access to the rest of the island was made through narrow defiles that could be easily defended and made travel difficult. Progress further into the island would be difficult, but with southern lowlands secure, material and more importantly aircraft could be brought forward to support further offensive operations inland.

Estimates of the casualties such an operation would incur vary widely. Truman himself is quoted as predicting such an operation would cost the USA upwards of a million men, although that seems rather improbable. However, the important problem for planners that arose out of this is the possibility that an operation of such extreme costs would make the American public balk at sustaining the effort. This possibility is what the Japanese hoped for in preparing their own defenses. No one in the Japanese high-command had hoped for a victory at this point in the war, but if the United States was convinced that further fighting outweighed the benefit of an unconditional surrender, a negotiated settlement could be achieved. The feasibility of such a notion is debatable, but those were auspices under which the Japanese planned for what seemed an inevitable American invasion.

To this end, Japanese plans for defense were particularly desperate. In one day when the American forces attempted to land the Japanese hoped to inflict as many casualties on the landing forces as possible in order to cause them to balk at continued attempts at invasion. To do this, Japanese high command hoped to enact ‘Ketsu-Go’, or decisive action that would array all of their available forces against the soldiers landing on the beach and even their landing craft. On the beaches, the defenders would not wait inland to attack beachheads as had been the plan in earlier island defenses, nor would they occupy static defenses on just off the beach as had the Germans on Normandy. Instead, the defenders planned to come out and meet the invaders on the beaches in close combat while supported by defenses in the rear. The closeness of the combat would hopefully neutralize American advantages of off-shore and aerial support as they could not risk destroying their own troops.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 planes were available for action as Kamikazes against the American fleet. During the Battle for the Philippines, they had exacted a heavy, although indecisive toll, against the navy. In defense of the homeland, they would not be deployed against capital ships, rather their targets would the transports themselves housing equipment and men destined for the beaches of Kyushu. "Kaiten" manned torpedoes and suicide boats would sneak out of caves and atolls to cripple or destroy support ships. This was a frightening prospect for American planners who grudgingly admitted that if successful, such suicide attacks could wipe out over a third of the invasion force, before it even landed.

Combined with fierce attacks on the beaches themselves there was a possibility that the invasion could be stalled. The Japanese high-command had also been very perceptive in guessing what the likely courses of action for the United States might be. They correctly predicted a landing on three separate areas on Kyushu, and that an invasion of the Tokyo area would come later not before such an operation. However, this discounts the preponderance of American hardware at the disposal of the armed forces and the man power that would also be exercised in such an operation, one that would dwarf even the Normandy landings in sheer size. By comparison the Imperial Japanese Army was starved of both equipment and more importantly food. The Japanese were also growing disinclined from the sort of suicidal last stand, both soldiers and civilians alike that had been witnessed on Okinawa. If the Americans landing forces got a foot hold on Japan, a protracted campaign would have seen the rapid collapse of the IJA on Kyushu. As it was, a horror of a new kind spared them this one, as the atomic age closed the war with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This scenario captures the first day of such an invasion. The 122nd Battalion of the 2nd Marines Division having braved attacks on their transports finally come ashore at Kushikino Beach on southwestern Kyushu. Once landed the Japanese defenders swarm out to meet them in a grim melee. In a feat of arms, the marines manage to carve out a small defensive perimeter but threaten to be wiped out completely. The second wave must make contact with them and secure the beach exits. The 206th Division charged with the defending the beach has a simple mission, destroy all invaders in their entirety

Speculative History Series Pt. 2: Invading Kyushu
In an alternate history, on November 8th 1945, elements of the 122nd Marine Battalion must hold a bridgehead on Kushikino Beach. The Japanese defenders must prevent the marines from digging in or wipe them from the beach if possible.

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