Letters from MHM December 2020/January 2021

I commend Alexander Izza on his excellent article on Okinawa (MHM 119, October/November 2020) but would take issue with a couple of points.

Firstly, he asserts that ‘… in reality Japan was not planning to fight into
oblivion.’ Whilst this is probably correct, there were still substantial elements in the military hierarchy that were fully willing and prepared to fight on indefinitely in spite of the two atomic bombs. The Supreme War Council was split equally and it was only the personal intervention of Emperor Hirohito that decided the issue.

Even then the outcome was thrown into doubt by the Kyujo incident, the attempted palace coup of 14-15 August 1945. Had the coup succeeded, the Emperor’s declaration of surrender would not have been broadcast, and the
two million trained soldiers and airmen in the home islands and the three million still in the Pacific and Asia would have fought on under the orders of the War Minister, General Anami.

In this event, Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands, would have been inevitable, in spite of the correct assumption that the next atomic bomb was destined for Tokyo.

Secondly, Izza states that the victims of the two atomic bombs ‘were all civilians’. That was the case for Nagasaki, but Hiroshima also housed a military garrison. This was the headquarters of the Second General Army. Most of its 43,000 personnel were killed.

Lt Col Roger Laing (retired)
Iver, Buckinghamshire

I agree with Neil Faulkner (‘The myth of chivalry’, MHM 119, October/ November 2020) that resolute, disciplined, and well-armed infantry could always withstand and defeat a charge by enemy heavy cavalry, even during the Dark Ages and Early Middle Ages, when cavalry have traditionally been regarded as dominant on European battlefields.

However, even good infantry could be depleted and disrupted by a prolonged barrage of missiles, enabling the final charge by enemy cavalry to be destructively successful, such as at Hastings and Falkirk.

However, I disagree with Faulkner’s statement that ‘infantry were always supreme’. The problem for any commander between AD 300 and 1300 was that good infantry were in very short supply (commanders sometimes had to dismount some of their elite cavalry to form a robust line of battle).

There appears to be only a few battles, such as Taginae and Legnano, in which heavy cavalry attacks failed, whereas there are many others from Adrianople to Arsuf in which a charge by heavy cavalry (against inferior cavalry, or against fragile or disordered infantry) achieved a decisive victory.

David Kirkpatrick
Odiham, Hampshire

Your latest issue (MHM 119, October/November 2020) was most interesting as always. I have one suggestion however for a subject that I do not recollect you covering before.

This is the so-called ‘End of Empire’ wars following World War Two, particularly in Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus (as well as Indonesia and Indo-China). Individually they were significant and difficult conflicts, and together marked a major historical event.

Needless to say, I have a personal interest in this topic, having served in Malaya between 1956 and 1958.

Peter Fieldhouse
Hurley, Berkshire