Read 1945 Online

Authors: Robert Conroy

Tags: #World War; 1939-1945 - United States, #Alternative histories (Fiction), #World War; 1939-1945, #General, #United States, #Historical, #War & Military, #World War; 1939-1945 - Japan, #Japan, #Fiction

1945 (10 page)

BOOK: 1945
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Monck did, of course. MacArthur had graduated in 1903 and gone on to be decorated for valor in the Vera Cruz incursion in 1914 and then again in France in 1917. Whatever his faults, MacArthur did not lack personal bravery. MacArthur had then gone on to be army chief of staff, had worked organizing the Philippine army, had retired, and had then been brought back to both command the Philippines and help defend them against the pending Japanese threat. His work had been far from complete when the Japanese attacked in December 1941.

MacArthur now commanded the American armies in the Pacific, had controlled the Southwest Pacific and the Philippines, and, if the rumors were true, would be in overall command of all the ground forces that would take part in the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

"General Eichelberger, I went to the Point with the class of ' 14. MacArthur the student was a legend, even then. I was one year ahead of Eisenhower."

"Why'd you leave the military, General?"

Monck shrugged. "A perceived lack of a future and cruel economic conditions. I didn't get to France in World War I, so I thought my career was shot. That and I was married to a wonderful woman who insisted that the children I kept impregnating her with be able to eat."

Eichelberger sympathized. Military pay in the days before the current war had been horrendous at best. "How many kids?"

"Four. Two boys and two girls. One of the boys is in England, while the other is, thank God, still in school."

"You know, if you'd stayed in, you'd likely have three stars like Ido."

"Or I might be an over-the-hill and overweight major at a desk in the Pentagon. Can't change the past, General, I'm just glad I've gotten this far. Thank God I stayed active in the reserves."

"Are you planning on staying on after the war?"

"If the army'll have me, yes. It took me a while to realize it, but this is my calling." Monck grinned. "Of course, my kids are almost all old enough to find food on their own now."

Eichelberger rose. The interview was drawing to a close. "Good, then you will not want to screw up your meeting with MacArthur. He is a very proud and complex man, and some people find it comical. He also doesn't trust everyone, and some people think him paranoid for that. He strongly feels that Washington betrayed him and left his Pacific command to wither on the vine in the early days of the war when they declined to rescue his men from Bataan and Corregidor. History will decide whether he is right or wrong when everything about those tragic events comes out.

"But make no doubts about it, MacArthur is a very strong and forceful commander who has conquered about a quarter of the globe and done so with very little resources. He will not suffer incompetents or anyone else who stands in his way."

Monck had also stood. "General, there are those who say he wants to be president."

"They may well be right. He may just run for president on the Republican ticket when this war is over, and, yes, that would be very interesting. It also may well be the reason he makes certain that all battle announcements come from his office. You came from Europe, where people like Patton and Bradley got a lot of publicity, but that's not MacArthur's style. For right or wrong, damn few people back home have ever heard of anybody named Eichelberger or Krueger, and you would be well advised to make sure that no one hears of John Monck either."

"Understood."

"Good, and stay on the good side of Generals Willoughby and Sutherland as well. They work directly for MacArthur and think the sun rises and sets on him. They will cheerfully ruin anyone who they think is either working against their leader or who has a private agenda. If you run afoul of them, you will be through in the military, and there won't be anything either Krueger or I could do to change things."

"Understood."

General Sutherland was MacArthur's chief of staff, while Willoughby was in charge of intelligence. Willoughby was rumored to be haughty and arrogant, while Sutherland had recently returned from a brief banishment because of what may have been an affair with another officer's wife. The banishment was supposed to have been permanent, but MacArthur would hear nothing of it and Willoughby had returned.

"Good," Eichelberger said. "Let's go."

They walked down a short corridor and entered a large waiting room. They were immediately admitted to MacArthur's large and well-appointed office. It looked more like something in the Pentagon than a place where a major battle had been fought only a few months earlier. Monck wondered if this was what a papal audience was like. Like a young plebe, Monck snapped to attention and reported. This pleased MacArthur, who rose from behind his ornate wooden desk and smiled. MacArthur was surprisingly tall, slim, and had a stern and hawklike face. His eyes seemed to flash with excitement.

"Welcome to the Pacific, General Monck," MacArthur's stentorian voice boomed.

"Thank you, sir, it's a pleasure to be here and working for you." Monck noticed that both Willoughby and Sutherland had taken up positions flanking MacArthur. The set of their stance said that they were ready to protect their liege lord. MacArthur, erect and dark-haired, looked to need little protection from anyone. It was hard to realize that MacArthur was sixty-five and had already retired once.

"I see you served under Eisenhower. Fine man Ike. He was my chief of staff in Washington for a while, and I thought he was an excellent clerk. I'm a little surprised he's gotten as far as he has, though. Did you know him well?"

"Very little, sir. While I recalled him from the Point, our paths never crossed in Europe. He sent me a letter of congratulations on my promotion, but that's about it."

The answer seemed to satisfy MacArthur that Monck was not a part of the Eisenhower club. "General Monck, I am supremely confident that your tenure as a combat commander here will be a brief but successful one. The Japanese are finished and it's only a question of time before they realize it. We have done our studies"— MacArthur turned to Willoughby, who almost smirked— "and we firmly believe that the Japanese military will break when we invade Kyushu and that there will be minimal casualties."

MacArthur then laughed sharply. "There are those in Washington and elsewhere who think the Japanese will resist strongly, but they are wrong. The Japanese will be defeated in open battle by our overwhelming strength, and they will break and retreat, just as it happened here in the Philippines. When that occurs, the war will be over. Do you know what happens then, General?"

Monck felt that he was sweating and almost prayed it didn't show. "No, sir, I don't."

MacArthur had an almost dreamy look on his face. When he answered, it was almost as if he were giving a speech or were a missionary preaching to the heathen. "When the Japanese surrender, I will become the military governor of Japan. When that occurs, every man, woman, and child in Japan will be under my thrall, and that includes the emperor. Yes, General Monck, the emperor of Japan, the God-Emperor Hirohito, will acknowledge me as his superior. Think of it. After all these years of fighting, they will kowtow to an American."

Sutherland whispered something to MacArthur, who nodded impatiently. There was doubtless another appointment, and Monck's brief time before the throne was up. He departed with Eichelberger, who patted him on the back and said he'd done just fine, and don't forget to avoid correspondents and publicity like the plague.

Brig. Gen. John L. Monck assured him he wouldn't. He found his driver and rode back to the airstrip wrapped in thought. He needed a drink and a conversation with Major Parker, whom he'd sent on a snooping expedition of his own.

He found Parker in the shade of a tent, sipping a can of cold beer. Parker took one from a cooler and offered it. Monck swallowed half the can in one gulp.

"Did you meet God?" Parker asked irreverently.

Monck finished the beer and grabbed another one. "No, I met his boss, MacArthur. Jesus, you wouldn't believe it. I wonder just what the hell we've gotten into."

"General, did you get the crap about taking only light casualties if we invade?"

"Yeah, and I believe it about as much as I do the tooth fairy. What did you find out?"

Parker took another can for himself. "MacArthur has this disturbing habit of proclaiming victories before the fighting's over. Yes, the Japanese were defeated here in the Philippines and have retreated, but they haven't surrendered. After causing more than fifty thousand American casualties, they've just gone to ground in the hills and are awaiting word from Tokyo of what to do next."

"How many are still left?"

"Maybe fifty thousand under General Yamashita here in Luzon, plus smaller groups elsewhere. They don't have any tanks, damned little artillery, and less ammunition, and they may be starving to death, but unless they are ordered to surrender, someday someone's gonna have to go in and root them out, and that's gonna be bloody painful."

Parker rubbed his forehead with the cold can and continued, "Mac thinks the campaign is over and he can move on, but it's far from complete, and I don't like his casualty estimates any more than you do. I don't know what the exact numbers are, but he based his estimate on what happened here in the Philippines and not the fanatical resistance we met on Okinawa. A little bird told me he's now saying we can have all of Kyushu for only fifteen thousand casualties because the Japs are in such bad shape and we are so unbeatable."

Monck crumpled the can and threw it against the side of the tent. How could Mac Arthur say it would cost only fifteen thousand to take one of the home islands of Japan when the battle for the Philippines had already consumed four times that? How could he ignore the horrific casualty percentages that had been suffered on Iwo Jima and Saipan, as well as most recently on Okinawa. It didn't make sense. "Then why is he doing it, Don? Why the low numbers?"

Parker checked his watch. "Two reasons, and then we'd better catch our plane. You may be a general now, but that plane has a schedule to keep and other brass to ferry around the Pacific.

"First, he actually believes the battle for the Philippines is over and that he's won, and in a lot of ways he's right. The fact that it's incomplete is irrelevant to him. That's just the way his mind operates. He's finished with the Philippines and he wants to move on to the next challenge. He's right that he's won the campaign, but the fighting is still subject to flare-up at any time.

"The second reason is a little more insidious. It is widely believed among some members of his staff who used to be my friends that he avoided giving a higher estimate of casualties because he feared Washington would have called off the invasion. No invasion, no glory, and no victory. No victory and he can't become Hirohito's boss. Thus, Willoughby and Sutherland baked up some wild-ass low numbers on his behalf, and MacArthur grabbed them like the Holy Grail. Now he can invade with a clear conscience because his staff said it's okay."

"Oh, Lord," Monck said with a groan. An enlisted man told them their plane was ready. They grabbed their carry-on bags and headed across the hot runway for the transport plane. "What do your friends say about the real estimated numbers?"

"General, there is the slight possibility that Willoughby and Sutherland are right. But as to my friends, they're all scared to death that it could be a bloodbath."

 

Chapter 12

 

Reluctant OSS agent Joe Nomura knew that the
Moray
would sail away and leave him, but its sinking left him wondering if anyone in the United States even knew he was alive.

He'd hidden his supplies quickly, so not to attract enemy attention. A patrol had indeed confronted him in the rugged terrain after the explosions that signaled the end of the
Moray
.

After a few questions from their sergeant, Joe realized that his disguise worked. A one-armed veteran in a tattered uniform was of no concern or threat to the patrol. The soldiers were solely interested in whether he had seen or heard anything unusual regarding the explosions. They didn't even ask to see his carefully forged army papers. He was just too innocuous. He told them he had heard the explosions, but had seen nothing, and they brusquely sent him on his way.

The next day, Joe joined the milling throngs of refugees that clustered around hospitals and stood in long lines at food distribution centers near Nagasaki. He'd seen refugees before, but never so many, and never with so many of them injured. The hospitals were obviously overwhelmed by the catastrophe and could only handle the more serious injuries. Simple burns and broken bones didn't qualify one for medical care. These victims either found help elsewhere or endured. There was no choice for them.

Joe had also never seen so many people who both looked like him and who were in such obvious physical and emotional agony. The sight of the children, mute with horror, moved him more deeply than he ever thought possible.

However, without an arm and dressed in tatters, he blended in perfectly. This made him confident and he wandered about, listening to conversations, and occasionally asking questions of medical personnel who were helping to treat the most horribly injured. To his surprise, many were more than willing to talk about their experiences, although he got depressed when people inquired of him about their loved ones. He was a soldier, wasn't he? They thought he should know these things. It almost made him weep when they asked him about missing children.

That gave him the idea of volunteering to work in a hospital, and in the ensuing days, his services were accepted at several places where he helped with some of the more odious tasks, such as carrying out bodies. When one doctor asked him why he was doing it, Joe had drawn himself to attention and announced proudly, "Even a one-armed man can serve his emperor." The doctor had sucked in his breath and bowed to Joe in deference and respect to his sense of honor.

From several nurses, he heard the complaint that they had no bandages, no medicine, and, even if they had, these wouldn't work against the new sickness caused by the bomb.

BOOK: 1945
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