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General Hap Arnold and the Defeat of Japan

Herman S. Wolk

Publication Year: 2010

In Cataclysm, Herman S. Wolk examines the thinking and leadership of General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces (AAF), during World War II. Specifically, Wolk concentrates on Arnold’s role in crafting the weapons, organization, and command of the strategic bombing offensive against Japan. The B-29 long-range bombing campaign against the Japanese home islands dictated unprecedented organization and command; hence, Arnold established the Twentieth Air Force, commanded by himself from Washington and reporting directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Arnold excelled in his command of the AAF, relieving a long-time colleague (Hansell) in favor of a hard-nosed operator (LeMay). This crucial move was a turning point in the Pacific War. In the spring and summer of 1945, Arnold was a driven leader, almost willing the B-29 campaign and the air and sea blockade to collapse Japan before the scheduled massive invasion of Kyushu on November 1st. Arnold agreed that politically the atomic bomb shocked the Japanese to capitulation, but as the architect of the bombing offensive, he emphasized that Japan was already defeated in the summer of 1945 by the bombing and blockade, and that it was not militarily necessary to drop the atomic bomb. Wolk brings out important rationales and connections in doctrine, organization, and command not previously published. He also mines sources not previously exploited, including the author’s interviews with General LeMay, Hansell, and Eaker; Arnold’s wartime correspondence; documentation from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; and postwar interrogations of Japanese officials and civilians. Cataclysm will prove an important addition to the history of the Pacific War, airpower, and the debate over the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.

Published by: University of North Texas Press


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pp. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

First and foremost, I am indebted to all the historians who have researched and written on the Pacific war. Their scholarship has thrown critical light on the end of the war in the Pacific and eased the path of this author....

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pp. 16-23

There have been books on the B-29 and works on Gen. Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, but not an analytical work that binds these two together and gets into the mind of Hap Arnold. This is what this book is all about. In the massive literature on the end of World War II in the Pacific, much attention has been given to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki....


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pp. 11-14

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1. Roosevelt and Arnold

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pp. 15-56

The roots of the strategic bombing offensive of the Twentieth Air Force against Japan can be traced to the prewar doctrinal struggles at the Air Corps Tactical School and debate within the War Department itself. Despite the twists and turns in the evolution of doctrine, a clear strain can be illuminated between prewar evolution and wartime....

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2. Planning for the Defeat of Japan

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pp. 57-76

American war planning designed to oppose Japanese aggression was nothing new. Early in the twentieth century, the Joint Army and Navy Board had promulgated a series of color designations for various coun-tries. Japan was assigned the code color Orange. Over the years, these Orange plans were revised, outlining strategies by which Japan could be ...

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3. Arnold Forms the Twentieth Air Force

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pp. 77-102

During the war, no other project exemplified Arnold’s determination and drive like the B-29 and his concerted attempt to make the revolutionary big bomber operational in the Pacific. He was determined to employ the Superfortress against the Japanese homeland, thus writing “a new chapter in the history of the Army Air Forces.” The B-29 program ...

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4. Arnold Places LeMay in Command

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pp. 103-134

In July 1944, Brigadier General Hansell, then the Chief of Staff, Twentieth Air Force, wrote to the Joint Staff Planners: “Sustained B-29 operations against the aircraft industry of Japan from bases in the Marianas will commence on or about 1 November 1944. Within three months thereafter, the effects of these attacks will begin to be felt.” As it turned out, in ...

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5. June 1945: A Meeting at the White House

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pp. 135-162

The spring of 1945 witnessed an intensive review of strategy and command by the Joint Chiefs. MacArthur continued to put himself forward as the potential supreme commander in the Pacific, the one to lead the ultimate invasion of Japan. Realizing that King and the Navy leadership would never accept it, MacArthur at the close of 1944 looked ...

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6. Arnold, Potsdam, and the Atomic Bomb

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pp. 163-207

Arnold had only two weeks in Washington between his return from the Pacific and the TERMINAL conference in July at Potsdam with Truman, Churchill, Stalin, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. This turned out to be the last major wartime conference, coming three months after Germany’s surrender, and featuring Harry Truman, the new American president. ...

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7. Who Was Hap Arnold?

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pp. 207-238

In the Pacific, a time compression evolved in the strategic bombing campaign.1 Only two months of the incendiary campaign had passed between LeMay’s Tokyo raid in March and the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945. With the intensive B-29 campaign, Arnold and the American airmen overcame Japan’s will to continue in less time than was the case with Germany. ...


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pp. 239-262


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pp. 263-264

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Bibliographic Note

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pp. 265-268

The enormous documentation on the end of the war in the Pacific presents a challenge to the historian. It becomes necessary to concentrate primary research on the topic at hand and at times to rely on the work of others to provide background and context...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 269-274


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pp. 275-300

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413441
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412819

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 27 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 671654977
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cataclysm

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Subject Headings

  • Arnold, Henry Harley, 1886-1950.
  • Arnold, Henry Harley, 1886-1950 -- Military leadership.
  • Bombing, Aerial -- Japan -- History -- 20th century.
  • B-29 bomber.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, American.
  • United States. Army Air Forces. Air Force, 20th -- History -- 20th century.
  • Air power -- United States.
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