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Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-1947 (updated and expanded)

27 October 2022

Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-1947 (updated and expanded), D.M. Giangreco, 2009 and 2017, ISBN 978-1-68247-643-7, 552 pp.

Giangreco’s 2009 edition of Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan—is an excellent work (read the review here) and puts to rest how the United States would have ended World War II by invasion of Japan’s home islands from south to north (Kyushu to Hokkaido). If Hell to Pay had not been revised it would have remained standing as the chief reference work on the subject—but now it is that much better. This book is a must read for those who have the opinion that forcing Japan to surrender by the use of nuclear weapons was completely wrong. Giangreco writes in extreme detail how U.S. casualties alone would have approached one million—not to mention Japan’s leadership choosing to sacrifice its population as well as its culture rather than unconditionally surrender. Facts are facts and the surprise ending of World War II prevented millions upon millions of additional deaths. The one million U.S. casualty estimate was likely low, likely purposely, as the author documents, since U.S. leadership was balancing the even greater call-up (drafting) of men which was sure to be unpopular and risked losing popular support for the war against treaties signed with the other Allies to end the fighting only with the unconditional surrender of the all the Axis powers. Casualties were underestimated due to Japan’s military forces planned use of a variety of suicide forces and invasion beach defenses undetected by Allied reconnaissance. The Japanese knew where, knew when, and were fully prepared for the expected amphibious assaults. Iwo Jima and Okinawa underscored the greater determination Japanese defensive tactics. Even though Japan could not stop losing it was making Allied victories ever more costly.

In 2017 Hell to Pay was “updated and expanded” with 190 pages added pages of well investigated, analyzed and insightful information. What about those millions of Japanese who would be killed in the invasion of the home islands? Of course, some would be men but a substantial portion would have been women and children—most armed with pikes or similarly primitive weapons. U.S. psychologists were more than concerned about the mental health of Army and Navy combatants upon their return to the States because of this horrific inevitability. A normal person just cannot reconcile wholesale killing of woman and children—but that is what Japan’s leadership was prepared to do—sacrifice, and repeatedly sacrifice their forces and citizens.

The updated Hell to Pay also dispels the myth many use who have the opinion that the atomic bombs which exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were extravagant measures to beat Russia into Japan, to keep Russia out of Japan altogether for future political reasons. As the author carefully documents, the U.S. leadership almost desperately wanted Russia to invade Japan and to do so beginning with the northernmost island, Hokkaido. Why? Numbers. The grist of war. Russian invasion would be expected to end the war sooner, ultimetly leaving the U.S. with fewer casualties. Di Giangreco has quite a bit of detail about Russia’s invasion plans and the ability of its forces to execute an amphibious assault—or Russia’s inability to so so.

The updated Hell to Pay also details Great Britain’s sizable and growing contribution with Royal Navy Forces (centered around five fleet carriers, five flight fleet carriers and six battleships) as well as the Royal Air Force (with twenty squadrons of Lancaster heavy bombers, named Tiger Force).

Operation Blacklist is also well explained and illustrates how Allied Forces would occupy Japan once the war ended. There is more than readers might think to consider and makes for incredible reading. The indexing, maps, photos and maps of this book are superb. Of particular interest—considering how vastly underestimated were the U.S. land force casualties, the severely delayed timelines and the kamikaze effects—are:

  • Appendix A: G-2 Estimate of Enemy Situation in Kyushu, U.S. Sixth Army, August 1, 1945
  • Appendix B: G-2 Analysis of Japanese Plans for Defense of Kyushu, U.S. Sixth Army, December 31, 1945

The remaining two appendices are also of interest.

Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-1947 (updated and expanded) can be obtained from the Naval Institute Press, no need to join—but joining is inexpensive, no requirement for military service and there are significant savings when purchasing from the Naval Institute Press.

Hell to Pay by D.M. Giangreco

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bruce permalink
    28 October 2022 11:03

    I ordered Hell to Pay from the library. I hope you are well! My mentor Mike and I love retirement from the DEP, since 7/2021 for both of us.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      29 October 2022 23:46

      Hello Bruce…you’ll enjoy the book…it’s an incredible eye opener. Congrats to you and to Mike for retiring. Achieving escape velocity is wonderful.

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