Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Airship President - Part 9

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CALCUTTA, JUNE 6- British officials in India have confirmed that the Imperial Japanese Navy shot down the R106 Botany Bay, which was in route to London after leaving Sydney on June 3. The Royal Navy received a radio distress call from the R106 on the 4th, just hours after the attack on Hong Kong and dispatched a search and rescue team to it’s last reported coordinates.  The Navy stated in a press release today that all the team discovered was a small amount of floating wreckage and a handful of bodies. There are no reported survivors of the 95 passengers or 47-member crew.
-“Japs Shoot Down British Zep,” The LA Times. June 7, 1944

SYDNEY, JUNE 11- Japan has fully overrun the island of Hong Kong, with the last of British forces pulling out of the area yesterday. The island’s garrison suffered horrific damage during the surprise attack on June 4. Since the initial attack, British forces have been under constant siege with high military and civilian casualties.
With Japan now having full control of Hong Kong, the great powers that have control of other islands in the region. The Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and even Hawaii are now at a heightened state of alert. The US Navy has ordered ‘round the clock patrols by the airships USS Oklahoma City and USS Hilo to monitor for any enemy activity. Great Britain is planning on sending more thousands of more troops to Australia. The UK is also planning on sending troops to assist France in its ongoing conflict with the Japanese in French Indo-China. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is quoted to have stated “All the nations of the West must stand together to fight this terror attempting to place a stranglehold on islands of Asia.”
  -“Japs Take Hong Kong,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 22, 1944.

July 1, 1944- President Hull today rejected a plan proposed by the Joint Chiefs that would have transferred over 1/3 of the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet, to boost the Navy’s ability to wage war against the Japanese. I think it foolish, but then again I think a lot of Hull’s ideas aren’t so great. Like his idea not to use the USS Eagle anymore. May even have it scrapped! Now, I of course love airplanes, but I don’t think they are dignified enough to carry the President of the United States around. Especially to an Allied War meeting in London. But what do I know; I’m just the Vice President.
-Personal Diary of President Will Rogers, “Personal Documents of President Rogers, from the Hull Presidency,” The Will Rogers Presidential Library, Claremont, OK.

PERTH, JULY 27- The Empire of Japan launched simultaneous bombing raids on Singapore and Darwin today. The Japs were able to inflict a lot of damage on civilian craft at harbor in Singapore, and severely damaged an outpost of the Royal Army in the city of Darwin, Australia.
            Troops are continuing to pour into Australia from around the British Empire, in an attempt to convince the Japanese not to attempt an invasion of the continent. 
-“Japan Bomb Singapore, Darwin,” The Times (London), July 28, 1944.

WASHINGTON, APRIL 28- Tomorrow, President Hull will depart for London for a conference with British officials on how to coordinate the war with Japan. Instead of taking the USS Eagle, Hull has decided to fly on a passenger plane on loan from American Airlines. The President stated that, “While the airship is an amazing craft, it is also slow, cumbersome, and inefficient when compared to modern airplanes, and far cheaper to build and maintain. We are in a war, and we cannot afford to waste any time.”
            President Hull will be accompanied by his wife and the Secretary of State Harry Truman. The London Conference will begin on May 2 and will last an entire week. –“President to Go to London,” The Washington Post, April 29, 1945.

LONDON, MAY 1- U.S. President Cordell Hull was due in at the Queen Victoria Aerodrome early yesterday evening, but his plane has not yet landed. The Presidential aircraft, a plane borrowed from American Airlines (the President deciding to not use the USS Eagle airship that was used during the Roosevelt administration), was supposed to make radio contact with the Royal Air force sometime between 1 and 3 yesterday afternoon, but has yet to do so. The American and British authorities are now officially launching a search, and fear that the President’s plane may have gone down in the Atlantic.
-“US President Goes Missing,” The Times (London), May 2, 1945

May 1, 1945- My God…Hull’s plane went down. I’m trying to be optimistic, but I can’t. The plane crashed in the middle of the Atlantic…there’s no way he survived. None. Deep down I know he’s dead. And that makes me…makes me the 34th President of the United States, during the middle of a war. If only he’d stuck with using the Zeppelin instead of that blasted plane….
-Personal Diary of President Will Rogers, “Personal Documents of President Rogers, from the Hull Presidency,” The Will Rogers Presidential Library, Claremont, OK.

WASHINGTON, May 4- The United State’s Coast Guard today announced that they had discovered a small amount of wreckage that they believed belonged to President Hull’s airplane. No bodies were found. With this discovery, the Coast Guard announced that they believe that the President and the First Lady, along with the Secretary of State, where dead. After the announcement, Vice President Will Rogers was sworn in by the Chief Justice on the floor of the House of Representatives. After this, he gave a short address to the Congress and the Nation, before calling a meeting of Hull’s Cabinet to discuss the nation’s future.
-“President Hull Dead,” The New York Times, May 5, 1945.

“My Fellow Americans,

I come to you today via the radio in the midst of a national tragedy. As you all know, President Hull’s airplane crashed into the Atlantic earlier this week, and that there are no survivors.
If ever I had wanted to become president of this great country of ours, this is not the method I’d have chosen. But we do not always get the luxury of choosing our course in life. Sometimes it is thrust on us, as has happened with the loss of President Hull.
I come to you today to assure you that your government will not falter in this time of tragedy. We will honor the memory of my good friend by fulfilling his wishes for this country to the best of our ability. We will fight this war in the Pacific to its end, which if I have anything to do about it will end in American triumph. We cannot allow this tragedy to derail our resolve to win, our resolve to improve, our resolve to move forward.
---pause for applause---
Two days from now we will honor the life of President Hull at his memorial service here in Washington, but right now we must focus on the future. We must find a way to truly shift the tide of war in our favor, or resign ourselves to Japanese control over the Pacific. I, for one, am not ready to give the Japanese that pleasure!
---pause for applause---
This war will be one, ladies and gentlemen, and I will do all that is within my power to bring this war to a close before the 1948 election. We will have peace, and we will restore the balance of power in the Pacific. To achieve this, I will be ordering a number of our ships within the Atlantic fleet to be shifted to the Pacific in order to boost our Navy’s ability to fight the Japanese, along with an increase in the number of Army Air Corp personnel. We will take the war to the Japanese by the end of 1945!
---pause for applause---
Ladies and gentlemen of this grand country of ours, I promise to you today that I will do all that I can to fully serve this nation and it’s people. May God bless you all, and may He bless the United States of America!”
---long applause as President Rogers leaves podium---
-Radio address given by newly sworn in President Will Rogers following the crash and subsequent death of President Cordell Hull, May 4, 1945; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

            President Cordell Hull’s death was a real turning point in the Great Pacific War of the 1940s. On May 30, President Rogers ordered that nearly 2/3 of the Atlantic Fleet be transferred to the Pacific. The ships set sail on June 12, arriving at their destinations of California on June 21, and Hawaii on June 30. We now know that this action prevented several Japanese plans for attacks farther west, including a canceled bomb run on Pearl Harbor and a planned attack on the Panama Canal.
            With the bulk of the US Navy now in the Pacific, the combined naval forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France were enough to turn the tide against the Japanese, ending the stalemate that had occurred after the Japanese attempted to take Singapore in early 1945 before Hull’s death.
            On January 3, 1946, Japan launched a massive invasion and attack against the Philippine Islands as an attempt to draw the American’s away from Hawaii. However, the Japanese were not able to keep the British from assisting, and a massive number of troops were brought in from Australia. By the end of the month, Japan had given up on their invasion of the Philippines. And furthermore, with British troops now mobilized out of Australia, Britain was able to help France liberate French Indo-China, starting in early March of 1946.
            In May, the Japanese attempted to strike the Americans at the heart with an all out assault on Pearl Harbor. The USS Hilo and the USS Oklahoma City spotted the strike force, complete with the so-called “Kamikaze Zeps”, before they were within range of the Hawaiian Islands. They radioed a warning to the fleet, which immediately weighed anchor and sailed out to meet the enemy. The two airships attempted to sail back to the safety of Oahu, but only the Oklahoma City made it. The Japanese intercepted both ships and were able to down the Hilo.
            The strike force, formidable as it was, could not match what amounted to almost the full strength of the entire US Navy. Over half of the Japanese force ended up at the bottom of the pacific. The most terrifying weapon the used against the Americans were their Zeppelins, which they used to attack the aircraft carriers, ramming their airships full of explosives into the American craft. There were 7 of this ships, and 4 of them were deployed as planned, the other three being shot down by the Americans. Those 4 ships were able to sink 1 carrier and severely damage another, along with sinking one of the battleships, the USS Arizona.
            After the failures of Hawaii and the Philippines, many in Japan were fed up with the way the government was handling the war. On September 21, 1946, a coup overthrew the ultranationalist government in Japan. On October 1st, with power consolidated and with the blessing of the Emperor, they called for a cease-fire with the Triple Alliance. Treaty negotiations were held in Honolulu between October 27 and November 12, 1946, resulting in the Treaty of Hawaii, which formally ended the Great Pacific War.
            The Treaty of Hawaii forced Japan to give up all territory taken from Great Britain and France, and to pull all forces out of China and Manchuria (which was to be given back to China). Korea and Formosa, however, remained under Japanese control. Japan was forced to reduce its armed forces to about ¼ of its size when the war started in 1944, including the disbandment of its airship program. All existing airships were turned over to the members of the Triple Alliance.
            By 1947, US and British troops had moved in to China to oversee the Japanese withdrawal, along with troops in Japan itself to oversee the disarmament. This would set the stage for America and Britain’s minor conflict of the 1950s while attempting to bring order to China.
- Springer, Dr. Joseph. I Never Met a Man I didn’t Like: The Will Rogers Presidency."Chapter 2: The Great Pacific War.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006

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