Posts Tagged ‘under’

Bombing of Tokyo: The mass graves under the cherry blossom

March 9th, 2015

Before the bombing, Ms Takagi’s father’s factory had been ordered to make medical equipment, such as syringes. Her two older brothers signed up at the ages of 16 and 17.

But her mother fretted.

“I was too young to have a real understanding of what was going on around us, but from the beginning my mother, whose name was Hide, said Japan would lose the war,” she said.

“I remember one day she got out a map of the world and told me to go into the kitchen to get a dried chili. She put the chili on top of Japan on the map and it was the same size. She then showed me how big America was, how many colonies Britain and France had.

“She told me there was no way a country the size of a chili could beat those powerful countries,” she said. “But she told us not to say anything about it outside the house because we could get into trouble”.

By 1944, the tide of the war in the Pacific had turned decisively against Japan and the authorities ordered that children be evacuated to the countryside. Ms Takagi and her two younger sisters – Nobuko, 9, and Mitsuko, 7 – were sent to stay with a family in Ninomiya, a coastal town south of the capital.

In late February 1945, Mrs Takagi’s sisters returned for a brief visit to their home and were meant to stay just a short time.

But when it was time to go, the two young girls refused to leave their parents. Ms Takagi went back to Ninomiya by herself to sit her school entrance exams and her mother said she would bring her sisters at the end of March.

Operation Meetinghouse took place on the nights of March 9 and 10, and US bombers dropped 1,665 tons of bombs, the majority 500lb cluster bombs, each of which split into 38 napalm bomblets at 2,000ft.


Tokyo after the 1945 firebombing (USAF)

Most of the homes in Tokyo in 1945 were still simple constructions of wood and paper. Fanned by a strong breeze, the individual blazes were quickly whipped up into a firestorm, overwhelming the city’s pitifully inadequate fire-fighting capabilities.

As well as the 100,000 dead, an estimated 125,000 were injured and 1.5 million lost their homes. The raid killed more people than the comparable attack on the German city of Dresden, as well as the immediate casualties of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later. The firestorm also destroyed countless small companies churning out equipment for the Japanese war effort.

Survivors’ accounts tell of women running through the streets with burning babies strapped to their backs, of people leaping into swimming pools to try to escape the flames only to be boiled alive.


Kameido district after the firebombing (AP)

“Canals boiled, metal melted and buildings and human beings burst spontaneously into flames”, wrote John Dower in “War Without Mercy”.

It was the morning of March 11 when Ms Takagi first learned of the tragedy in fragmentary and censored radio reports. As she prayed for the survival of her family, her father arrived at the home of her host family to break the news: he had been unable to find her mother or sisters.

“I was angry and scared at the same time”, she said. “I said we should go and find them straight away, that we had to leave immediately.”

Her father refused, saying the sight was too terrible for her to see. He returned to continue the search but they never did find out exactly what had happened.

Eventually, Mrs Takagi travelled back to Tokyo and was horrified at the sight that greeted her.

“Everything was completely gone”, she said. “We could see all the way across the city to Ueno; there was nothing.”

Determined to salvage something of their earlier lives, she began digging in the ashes of their home until she came across a glass rabbit that her father had made before the war, although it had been melted and warped by the heat of the fires.


The industrial section of Tokyo along the Sumida River, March 9, 1945 (AP)

Neighbours told them that the nearby Sumida River had run red for five days with the blood of the city’s residents. Because victims were charred beyond recognition, the army simply put the corpses in trucks and buried them in mass graves.

The war was not over, however, and Ms Takagi’s father was ordered to move to Niigata, on the northern coast of Japan, and open a new factory making medical supplies. As she stood beside him at the station waiting for the train to take them to Niigata, it was strafed by US fighters, killing her father immediately.

Japan surrendered 10 days later. Mercifully, her two older brothers both survived the war and they were reunited later in 1945.

Printed in 1977, Mrs Takagi’s book that recounts her experiences as a child, as well as a plea against any further wars, is called The Glass Rabbit.

Translated into eight languages, the book has sold nearly three million copies around the world and Mrs Takagi has given 1,657 lectures.

“It was madness that Japan kept fighting after Italy and then Germany surrendered”, she said. “I want the world to know what happened here in Tokyo. And I want people to know that when a nation has poor leaders, lots of people will die. And that’s as true today as it was 70 years ago”.


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Top secret D-Day plans found hidden under hotel’s floorboards

February 10th, 2015

“They are quite detailed and specific orders to be followed by troops on the ground.”

The hotel caught fire in the 1970s, but miraculously the documents survived the huge blaze. One refers to ‘D-Day 1′ 7 July 1944 and mentioned difficulties in setting up a 10-mile telephone cable as troops advanced into France.


The Balmer Lawn Hotel as it looked during the Second World War (M&Y News)

A hotel spokesman said: “We are still in the process of evaluating the papers but some seem to include code on while others are more to do with the day-to-day organisation of the soldiers. One includes an invite to all personnel to attend a musical variety show.

“Perhaps of most interest are the documents that refer to the D-Day landings.

“One document refers to D-Day1 – June 7 1944 – and mentions difficulties in setting up a ten-mile telephone cable as troops continued advancing into northern France.”

The documents were dusty, dirty and in bad shape but still readable.


Some of the newly discovered secret documents relating to the D-Day landings (M&Y News)

Chris added: “They’re in a delicate condition and unscrunching them will have to be done very carefully. After that I imagine we’ll put them on display.”

The hotel’s military history pre-dates WWII. It was built as a private house and hunting lodge in 1800 and extended in 1850.

During the WWI it was used as a field hospital, with injured soldiers being wheeled there on luggage trolleys from Brockenhurst station.

During the 1940s conflict it transformed into an army staff college. Some of the orders for the D-Day invasion were issued from the hotel ahead of the landings on June 6 1944.

Famous people who visited the hotel during the two wars included King George V, Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower.


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Battle of Britain hero’s medals to go under the hammer

April 14th, 2014

Air Cdre Berry was so highly esteemed that he was one of few airmen chosen to lead Winston Churchill’s coffin at his funeral 20 years after World War Two.

He was awarded the CBE for his services along with the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar.

The medal group, along with his log books covering the war and several aviation maps, are now being sold for the first time at auction.

They are tipped to sell for a six figure sum, not least because they belonged to one of the so-called “Few” who Churchill famously credited with saving Britain for a Nazi invasion.

In a speech to the Commons on August 20, 1940, the wartime Prime Minister said: “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Oliver Pepys, a medals expert at London auctioneers Spink, said: “Ronald Berry was one of the Few who distinguished themselves in World War II.

“He did have such an amazing tally of kills and probable kills.

“His medals are very significant, in the fact you have a DSO and a DFC with Bar – three superb gallantry awards for World War II.

“The DFC is for the Battle of Britain. He was very much one of the Few who stopped Operation Sea Lion – Hitler’s plan to invade Britain from happening.

“The medals have never appeared on the market before.

“Prices for gallantry medals are very strong at the moment and now is as good a time as any to sell.

“It is a very good fighter pilot’s group but with these it is more about the man behind the medals.”

Air Cdre Berry, who died in 2000 aged 84, was born in Hull and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937.

Two months after the outbreak of the war he was sent to Montrose in Scotland to help protect the airfield there and served in 603 Squadron.

Days later he was involved in one of the earliest interceptions of the war when he damaged a Heinkel III bomber.

He went on to shoot down a Junkers 88 bomber into the North Sea and have three shared kills during his time in Scotland.

Due to increasing RAF casualties, 603 Squadron was sent to south east England on August 1940 during the height of the Battle of Britain.

In September 1940 Air Cdre Berry was involved in up to four dog-fights a day and accounted for 14 different enemy aircraft in that time, earning him his first DFC.

After the Battle of Britain he was one of only eight out of the 24 original pilots from 603 Squadron left.

He was promoted from Sergeant Pilot to Squadron Leader and took part in a convoy patrols as well as providing air cover for the disastrous Dieppe Raid in 1942.

His 81 Squadron was the first to land in French North Africa in November 1942 where he had a farcical exchange with a French commander, with each claiming the other as his prisoner.

He continued to wreak havoc with the Luftwaffe, claiming more kills.

By the end of the Tunisian campaign in May 1943, he had accumulated a total of 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, 10 shared destroyed, nine probable kills, 17 damaged and seven destroyed on the ground.

After the war he was in charge of the Air Fighting Development Unit at West Raynham in Norfolk, made OBE in 1946 and CBE in 1965.

He retired with wife Nancy to Hornsea, East Yorkshire.

His medals are being sold in London on April 24.


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