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 (9 page)

BOOK: 1945
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To the
Moray's
captain, Comdr. Frank Hobart, the last patrol had been a frustrating disgrace. Nothing sighted and nothing shot at. They had returned to base with all torpedoes snug in their racks and were silently ridiculed by their more successful and experienced peers. Thus, he was delighted to be sent to Okinawa for what was described as a special mission to Japan. How special he didn't care. One more chance, Hobart thought, for a few kills, and a better chance at staying on in a postwar navy that was sure to shrink and want to keep only the best and the brightest. And the most aggressive, he kept adding. He had to make a name for himself before it was too late.

Neither he nor his crew were unduly surprised when the five men and their equipment came on board at Okinawa. The men were all dressed in black and all had their faces covered like bandits. Even more curiously, one of the men, the smallest of the five, had only one arm.

The
Moray
was a
Gato
-class submarine stationed off northern Kyushu, one of more than sixty in that efficient and effective category. She was 307 feet long and displaced 1,525 tons. Along with ten torpedo tubes, she had a three-inch deck gun and a 20mm Oerlikon antiaircraft gun. The
Moray
was a formidable weapon and had been built at Mare Island, California, in late 1944.

The sixty-five men in her crew normally lived in cramped and abominable conditions, which were exacerbated by the presence of the five additional men and their equipment. To make matters worse, the five secreted themselves in the captain's cabin and wardroom and stayed there for the duration of the short voyage, thus pushing out the officers who would normally have lived there.

From Okinawa to Kyushu was less than five hundred miles, and Captain Hobart was confident he and his crew could gut out the overcrowding for another chance at the Japs. His crew was not as confident. While skilled and professional, many had this nagging feeling that Hobart was aggressive to the point of recklessness, and most did not share his confidence in wanting to tweak the enemy one last time. They also wanted the five interlopers gone from their boat and their little breathing room back in their cramped world of tubes, pipes, and bad air.

When the
Moray
surfaced at night just a mile off the northern coast of Kyushu, everyone was relieved that at least part of their journey was over. With precision and dispatch, the five men, still black-clad and masked, emerged on deck with their gear and a rubber raft. Silently, they pushed off, and four men paddled while the fifth, the one-armed man, sat unmoving in the center of the small craft. Within minutes they had disappeared into the darkness. The sky was only partly cloudy, and starlight and moonlight made the
Moray
fairly visible if anyone knew where to look. Prudently, her skipper submerged her farther, until only her conning tower was above the surface of the gently rolling sea.

"Skipper?"

"Yes, Randy?" Hobart tried not to show his impatience. His second-in-command, in his opinion, did not show proper aggressive spirit. Randy Bullard was a reservist who'd made it known that he wanted to go home more than anything else. Well, he would go home when his captain decided, and not before.

"Captain, I strongly suggest we submerge to periscope depth. There's just too much of us showing and we are very close to enemy territory."

Hobart sniffed the air and looked about. It was humid and he thought it might soon rain. There was no sign of anything on the sea or in the air, and the brooding hills of Japan , so tantalizingly close, were dark and still as well. It was the middle of the night and the Japanese were asleep, even those who had survived the nuclear assaults on Nagasaki and Kokura. He wondered if he should risk a look at Nagasaki 's harbor after finishing this assignment.

"Negative, Randy. Let's air the place out. It stinks like a stable down there. Besides, those banditos in the raft have to be able to see us in order to find their way back to us." Besides, Hobart thought silently, he didn't want to give in to his weakling of an exec.

Only just before the raft had shoved offhad Hobart been given the final portion of his orders, which informed him that only one of the five men— he presumed they were Marine Raiders— would actually be leaving the sub. He was dismayed and knew his crew would be unhappy as well, because it meant that the intolerable living conditions would be improved only slightly. Screw it, he thought. Get them back here so I can look for some Jap shipping.

After what seemed forever, a lookout spotted the raft on its way back. Despite his annoyance at having to keep them, Hobart felt relief and admiration for the boys who had paddled their human cargo to Japan and come back without incident. Hobart thought it would be wonderfully exhilarating to be able to say he'd actually set foot on Japanese soil. He ordered the sub to surface higher so that the men and their raft could be taken aboard via the deck hatch.

A little less than half a mile away, Comdr. Mochitsura Hashimoto looked transfixed through the periscope of his submarine, the I-58. The I-58 had just returned from its last patrol confident it had sunk an American battleship, only to find that Japanese naval intelligence now believed it was the heavy cruiser
Indianapolis
that he'd sent to the bottom of the Pacific. No matter, he had been successful. For quite some time, Japanese sub victories had been few and far between; thus, it was with a kind of delight that he saw the silhouette of the conning tower piercing the surface. The shape was American and he was insultingly close to Japan.

The I-58 was a fairly new addition to the Imperial Japanese Navy and, at 355 feet long, was believed to be larger than any American sub. She could simultaneously fire six thirty-foot-long, oxygen-driven torpedoes that had a range of several miles and a speed of over forty knots. She also had a 5.5-inch deck gun and several machine guns as antiaircraft protection.

Attached to the I-58's deck were four
kaiten
human torpedoes. Because of the need to make room for a rider and a rude steering mechanism, the
kaiten
were slower and had a smaller warhead.

But they would never miss. The
kaiten
would be launched at a suitable target and the pilot would steer into it. The human torpedoes were a German device so there was a release mechanism that, theoretically, would save the pilot. The release would not be needed. Not one of the
kaiten
pilots would think of not dying.

During the cruise, the
kaiten
pilots had been a problem for Commander Hashimoto. They had begged for the opportunity to hit the American battleship that had turned out to be a cruiser, but Hashimoto had denied them because he thought their efforts would be wasted. The shot was so easy that human guidance was unnecessary. Wait, he'd counseled.

Now they were at him again, begging and whining like children for the right to obliterate themselves against an American ship. In a way, he felt sorry for them. They had pledged to die, and to return safely to port was a disgrace, even though it wasn't their fault. They had set out to die, so die they must or suffer shame. A kamikaze pilot generally went out with only enough fuel in his plane for a one-way trip, so a return was unlikely. Even if a kamikaze didn't find an American warship, he would find a reasonably honorable death by crashing into the sea.

Not so the
kaiten
. Commander Hashimoto was adamant that in their use they would not jeopardize the I-58 or waste themselves in any attempt. The I-58, and a few like her, were all the Imperial Japanese Navy had to fight off the Americans, and while suicide might be a future option, Hashimoto did not think that now was the right time. Hashimoto was also acutely aware that many of the large Japanese subs were now being used solely to ferry troops and supplies to isolated garrisons, and he was gratified that he was still able to carry out combat operations and not have to operate as an undersea transport.

The American sub looked just about right for the
kaiten
to make their final efforts. The target was small and a miss would be too likely with a conventional torpedo.

"Two," he said to the eager faces, and two men ran forward to climb through the connecting hatches and take their places in the
kaiten
while the others moaned their dismay.

The American sub insolently rose farther out of the sea. It appeared that there was activity on her deck as well. Hashimoto's senior torpedo officer signaled that the
kaiten
were ready, and the commander gave the order to fire. The I-58 rose slightly by the bow when the human torpedoes were launched, and the helmsman kept tight control on the ship to ensure that she wouldn't breach and reveal her position.

On board the
Moray
, the deckhands had just about finished stowing the raft when a lookout screamed. "Torpedoes!"

Without looking, Hobart yelled for an emergency dive. Men tumbled down the hatches, breaking bones in their haste to be off the deck and into the perceived safety of the
Moray
. In seconds, her bow had started to move and dip beneath the gentle waves. Hobart, who had been overseeing the reloading operation, saw that the sub was going to dive with him still on the deck. He turned and watched in horror as twin lines of bubbles shifted and directed themselves toward the
Moray
. As the sub struggled to find the safety of the depths, Hobart knew it was useless. The devil-guided torpedoes would find her. He bowed his head and waited. In his last second of life, he thought he saw a face looking at him from the torpedo as it crashed into the sub.

 

 

Joe Nomura, alone on a hill overlooking the sea and with his gear safely hidden, sat in silence. The first explosion was immediately followed by another, and the
Moray's
dark shape lifted out of the water before plunging, broken, to her death.

From the suddenness and totality of the explosions it seemed highly unlikely that anyone on the
Moray
had survived. Even if they had, he could not jeopardize his mission by going after them. God help them, he prayed silently, and God help me. He felt the despair of being completely alone.

The explosions would bring attention from the Japanese military. A chill breeze blew by him and he clutched the tattered remains of his Japanese army uniform tighter to his chest. It was time to begin his mission.

 

Chapter 11

 

Brigadier General Monck saluted. General Eichelberger returned it and held out his hand. "Welcome to Manila , General, and congratulations on your promotion."

Monck flushed with pleasure. "Thanks, General, but it was really quite unexpected."

"Nonsense. I understand you did a fine job with that armored unit in the Ruhr. I just wonder how you'll adapt to being an infantry commander fighting Japs after riding around with a hundred tanks at your disposal and taking on the Nazis?"

Monck chuckled. "I'll make do. General, I was an infantryman well before I knew anything about armor, and I didn't expect to find much armor here in the Pacific theater. Island-hopping and amphibious warfare don't call for massed tank formations. It'll be like a homecoming for me to be working with infantry again."

An orderly brought coffee, which Monck took gratefully. He'd spent a lot of time on an airplane and felt the caffeine stirring in him. Eichelberger took a sip and put his cup aside.

"General Monck, as soon as I've briefed you and you've finished your coffee, you'll meet Mac Arthur. Then you'll be heading off to Okinawa to take command of your new regiment. Current planning has that regiment in reserve for one of the divisions that will take part in the initial phase of the invasion of Japan, the assault on Kyushu. It'll likely be the 41st, which is still being reorganized. The 41st has a long and proud history of action in the Pacific, but, like so many others, has taken a lot of casualties and has lost a lot of men because of the damned policy of rotating long-service soldiers back to the States."

Monck said nothing. While he privately agreed that men who had endured years of hell should be sent home, it meant that the best and most experienced soldiers were being replaced by men with little or no combat experience.

"So," Eichelberger added, "your regiment will be overstrength at just under four thousand men and filled with recruits who don't even know each other. You'll have about a month, maybe two at the most, to whip them into shape, so work them wisely and hard. Their lives will depend on it. General Krueger, who is unavailable to meet you right now, will command the attack on Kyushu. I am functioning as MacArthur's planning and operations chief for the second phase of the fighting, which will be the final attack on the island of Honshu and the city of Tokyo."

Monck hoped they would not pay dearly for that rush. And he knew the reason for his new command to be overstrength. It was expected to go in early and would be taking heavy casualties. The regiment would need the extra men to function after getting mauled. It further answered the question why he, a brigadier general, was getting a command that would ordinarily fall to a bird colonel. Thanks for nothing, he thought.

"General Eichelberger, just how firm are the plans for the invasion?"

"As firm as anything that is being thrown together in haste. I've got to admit we didn't think it would really come to this, and we didn't start planning in earnest until recently. Only two things are certain: first, that the invasion will be in the very early part of November, and second, that it will be on the island of Kyushu rather than anyplace else. Don't worry, Monck, we'll get this all sorted out and muddle through. Now, have you ever met MacArthur?"

"No, I have not."

"Well, it should be an experience. MacArthur is a very complex person, though I presume you've heard horror stories about his monumental ego?"

Monck grinned slightly. "I don't think I should answer that, General."

"That's right, you shouldn't. First rule is never speak ill of a living legend. Seriously, General Douglas MacArthur is both a genius and his own worst enemy. You know that he graduated at the top of his class at West Point and achieved academic standards that no one's ever come close to?"

BOOK: 1945
13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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