Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Michael Dana Kennedy Visits the Museum with his book 'The Flowers of Edo'

Thursday September 2nd at 2:00 in the afternoon we will welcome Mr. Michael Dana Kennedy, author of The Flowers of Edo, for a book signing. Having been born in the wake of World War II, Mr. Kennedy had a great enthusiasm for world history. His interests would earn him degrees in history and political science from Harvard University. After spending two years at Tufts University School of Medicine, a career in clinical research, a stint at M.I.T. with a focus on computer science and the founding and selling of two medical technology companies, he turned his attention to research for his book.

The Flowers of Edo follows the life of a young Japanese-American man during the Pacific War. Kenji Kobayashi, the main character, volunteers to serve as a translator in the U.S. military while his family lives in a Japanese-American internment camp. He is then sent to the heart of the Japanese Imperial Defense Force as an intelligence officer for the Allied Forces before the proposed invasion of the Japanese homeland. His hope through his mission is to greatly reduce projected casualty numbers in what would most likely have been a long grueling battle for both the Japanese and the Allied Forces. This is the first book of a proposed trilogy that will introduce the reader to a man determined to save his family, country and his heritage.

What sets this book apart from other Pacific War historical novels is his dedication to accuracy in the depiction of the Japanese people and culture. He lived in Japan for six months conducting research. Not only did he win the respect of many who had been in Japan at the time of the Pacific War but he presented his findings to members of Japan’s Ministry of Defense at their headquarters and was presented with a set of daishō swords for his research.

“The author’s detailed research gives authenticity to the narrative, making the story very believable indeed. Should be enjoyed by younger generations as well as those of us who lived through the Pacific War.”

-Linda Goetz Holmes, Pacific War Historian and author of Under the Rising Sun

“An excellent book! The Flowers of Edo is a gripping historical novel focused on the final months of WWII, with an authentic Japanese setting and an intriguing plot. Both entertaining and educational-a delightful adventure and experience!”

-Admiral James R. Hogg, U.S. Navy (Retired) Commander Seventh Fleet (1983-85)

“The struggle of a soldier’s courage and loyalty to country is at the core of Michael Dana Kennedy’s debut novel. The Flowers of Edo embraces not only the significant historical context but the rich cultural intricacies like few historical novels.”

-James Bradley, New York Times best selling author of Flags of our Fathers

The book signing will be in the West Exhibit Hall of the George H.W. Bush Gallery. The event is free of charge but regular admission fees are still required to go through the museum.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rescuing General Wainwright

After General Wainwright surrendered the troops on Corregidor, the men were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. A gaunt General Wainwright was then present at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri. Here is the abbreviated story of his rescue by a man named Hal Leith, a member of the OSS sent on a special mission to rescue POWs after the war’s end. They did encounter a hiccup early on in the mission; some of the Japanese troops they encountered were unaware that the war had ended.

Hal Leith was assigned to the OSS early in his Army career, mainly because of his proficiency in several languages and the ease with which he learned them. After the six man rescue team parachuted into Manchuria, four of them were met by a Japanese patrol that had no knowledge of the war ending. After being blindfolded and taken to the Kempeitai headquarters, they were released and received help from the Japanese in carrying out their mission to rescue POWs. After finding out that General Wainwright was not at Mukden POW camp, which was also freed by the rescue team, arrangements were made to get Leith and another member of the rescue team, Major Lamar, to Hsian, 150 miles away where he and others were being held.

Shortly after their arrival at the camp in Hsian, they met with and freed Generals Wainwright, King and Moore along with other notables from Great Britain and other allied countries. Major Lamar returned to Mukden for official orders while Leith stayed with the freed prisoners in Hsian. After a few days, Leith began the journey back to Mukden with the freed POWs. It was during this journey that General Wainwright made Leith his “aide de camp.” At the time of the jump, Leith had been promoted to Staff Sergeant but was unaware of that and thought he was still a corporal. General Wainwright complimented Leith by saying he had “done the job as well as any Major could have done.”

There is much more to this story and Hal Leith will be at the symposium to tell his account of this little known but remarkable piece of history. He will be speaking the morning of Saturday September 18, and there is still time to get tickets. Go to www.PacificWarMuseum.org and follow the link for the 2010 Symposium. Also, stay tuned for more blogs about presenters at this year’s program.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Turning Point: Guadalcanal

If you saw the first part of HBO's 'The Pacific,' that was Guadalcanal. One of the toughest battles of the Pacific War. The United States and the Allies were to stop the Japanese advance in the Solomon Islands in order to maintain communications between the U.S. and Australia. U.S. troops were intially met with no enemy fire and the airfield that was being constructed near Lunga Point was quickly captured and re-named Henderson Field after a Marine pilot killed at Midway.

One of the keys to the Battle of Guadalcanal was reinforcement. Both sides were forced to find ways to find ways to build up troops on the island and keep them resupplied. The Japanese began what Allied forces called the "Tokyo Express," a system of night deliveries of troops and supplies from Rabaul to Guadalcanal and other Solomon Islands. After six months of heavy battle, seven naval battles, the loss of 25 U.S. ships, 615 U.S. aircraft and over 6,000 U.S. troops, the Japanese advance had been stopped and the tide of war had turned in the favor of the Allies.

There is so much more to this battle, come see the Guadalcanal exhibit in the new George H.W. Bush Gallery. There is an oral history kiosk where you can listen to six men tell their stories. There is also a map table that will take you through the entire battle with photos and full color animated maps, an FM-2 "Wildcat," pictured above, and more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

War Termination Symposium

This September 18 and 19, the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation will host a selection of renowned historians and veterans for the 2010 Symposium. This year we will be discussing the ending of wars, beginning with an overview of how U.S. wars ended up to WWI. We will continue the first day with the ending of WWII in Europe and in the Pacific, followed by a keynote address from General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret). Saturday's program will conclude with a session on the Korean War Armistice. We will end between 2:30 and 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturday so that our attendees will have a chance to tour the museum.

Sunday, we will reconvene for discussions on the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the Dayton Paris Agreement and the Bosnian War as well as the cease fire of the first Gulf War. To bring the program to an end, H.W. Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas, will give a lessons learned synopsis of the two days.

Some of our other presenters include WWII historian Richard Frank, Michael Pearlman, Allan Millett and others. As we get closer to the event, our historians will be spotlighted in our blog. It truly is an all-star cast this year.

If you are interested in purchasing tickets for this event, visit www.PacificWarMuseum.org and follow the link on the homepage. You can also read about past symposia there and see clips from last year's event. Students always get free admission, it is necessary to register but we see this as a great learning experience for any and all students. Saint Edward's University in Austin offers continuing education credits for those who are interested for only ten dollars.

I can't tell you enough good things about this program. Actually, it is how I came to work here at the museum. When I was in high school, I came to the 'Pacific D-Days' symposium and was so captivated by what I saw that I remained a fan of the museum through college and now am proud to say that the annual symposium is one of my favorite parts of my job!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Fat Man" and "Little Boy"

Tomorrow, August 6, will mark the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. To this day, this is one of the most controversial topics in American history. Richard B. Frank says in his book Downfall, “The actual total of deaths due to the atomic bombs will never be known. The best approximation is that the number is huge and falls between 100,000 and 200,000.” Beginning in the summer of 1944, American B-29’s began firebombing raids over the Japanese homeland. The most up-to-date numbers place the number of people lost in fire-bombing missions over Japan at over 300,000.

The next step after Okinawa was to invade the Japanese homeland. Expected casualty figures were very high for both the United States and Japan., especially because of a massive Japanese mobilization of civilians, including women and children, in anticipation of the invasion. During an interview, Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, said, “I knew we did the right thing because when I knew we’d be doing that I thought, yes, we’re going to kill a lot of people, but by God we’re going to save a lot of lives. We won’t have to invade [Japan].” Japan announced its surrender on August 15, six days after the dropping of the second atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” and no Japanese homeland invasion was necessary.

Below is a photo of an original bomb casing of a plutonium bomb, in a “Fat Man” type format, like the one that was dropped on Nagasaki. This casing was to be used if the war did not end when it did. Now, it is on display in the atomic bomb gallery of the new George H. W. Bush Gallery.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

USS Indianapolis Survivor's Story

The USS Indianapolis transported the critical components of “Little Boy,” the Hiroshima atomic bomb to Tinian in July of 1945. Because of the top secret nature of the material on board, she was traveling on radio silence and without radar. After unloading her cargo and re-supplying at Guam, she steamed towards Leyte for gunnery exercises. At 12:14 AM on 30 July she was hit by torpedoes launched from Japanese submarine, I-58. She sank in 12 minutes. Over 300 men went down with the ship and the others, close to 900 men, were stuck in shark infested waters with no life boats and very little food and water. Four days later, survivors were spotted by a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. There were only 317 survivors. L.D. Cox is one of those survivors, below are excerpts from his oral history beginning with the third day of floating in the water after his ship was sunk.

"…Then everything got quiet and some would swim out and away from the group and never come back. You’d see sharks. Then it was so hot in the day you’d pray for night and whenever it came your teeth would actually chatter it was so cold, oh, it was cold. And then you’d pray for daylight and then here comes daylight. After about two days or so you’re not hungry anymore, I wasn’t, but you were thirsty. Oh, you never lost your thirst. On the second day I had a potato, an Irish potato floated by, and I picked it up and started to eat and I happened to think reckon it is soaked in salt water and I threw it away. I should have eaten it but I was very, very nervous about it.

…Every hour we thought there would be some airplanes or some ship to pick us up. We figured if we didn’t show up after a couple of days, they would come out and look. Nothing ever came and we just went night and day, night and day, and finally about the fourth day, you know, you were weak, your life preserver that’s supposed to last 72 hours had lasted 106, your nose is just barely out of water ‘cause that life preserver was water logged. You just barely could stay, at the start you could put your head back and if the sea was calm, you could get a little nap. Then whenever your preserver got water logged, every time you dropped your head, you strangled.

…Before we were picked up, I might add, less than three feet from me a shark came up and grabbed the sailor [next to me] and covered me with water, the tail of the shark did, engulfed me with water and he took the sailor down and I never saw him anymore. That’s how near, why he took him and not me, you wonder."