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Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., hidden for over four decades, lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty documents. These documents, which are now declassified, still bear the stamp, "Top Secret." Contained in these little examined documents are the detailed plans for "Operation Downfall," the code name for the scheduled American invasion of Japan. Only a few Americans in 1945, and fewer Americans today, are aware of the elaborate plans that had been prepared for the American invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer are aware of how close America actually came to launching that invasion and of what the Japanese had in store for us had the invasion of Japan actually been launched. "Operation Downfall" was prepared in its final form during the spring and summer of 1945. This plan called for two massive military undertakings to be carried out in succession, and aimed at the very heart of the Japanese Empire. In the first invasion, in what was code named "Operation Olympic", American combat troops would be landed by amphibious assault during the early morning hours of November 1, 1945, on Japan itself. After an unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment, 14 combat divisions of American soldiers and marines would land on heavily fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands. On March 1, 1946, the second invasion, code named "Operation Coronet", would send at least 22 more American combat divisions against one million Japanese defenders to assault the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain in a final effort to obtain the unconditional surrender of Japan. With the exception of a part of the British Pacific Fleet, "Operation Downfall" was to be a strictly American operation. It called for the utilization of the entire United States Marine Corps, the employment of the entire United States Navy in the Pacific, and for the efforts of the 7th Air Force, the 8th Air Force recently deployed from Europe, the 20th Air Force, and for the American Far Eastern Air Force. Over 1.5 million combat soldiers, with millions more in support, would be directly involved in these two amphibious assaults. A total of 4.5 million American servicemen, over 40% of all servicemen still in - 1 -
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