tv Book Discussion on Last to Die CSPAN October 4, 2015 7:00pm-7:41pm EDT
next military historian stephen harding recalls the death of the last american killed in combat in world war ii. [inaudible conversations] >> hello everybody, welcome tonight. this is politics and prose at busboys and poets. i am here hosting the event with stephen harding and his book "last to die". i want to make a short note. tonight we have c-span live here filming the event so we will have them here. also just to make you aware we have politics and prose are sponsoring this event. we are in three new busboys locations. we host events here and we are
here at the tacoma location and also at the birkeland location so you can see us there as well. one of the great benefit to being here you can order food throughout the event and love to have you do that. you can purchase the book at the front of the store. as i mentioned tonight we have stephen harding here. world war ii in japan officially ended in cease-fire but there were a few final moments the americans -- stephen harding chronicles tony marsh and an american soldier and the side of the spinal flight to japan -- japan. the tale is impressing and inspiring and it's hard in his determination to tell it. while he expresses a commitment as a journalist and historian and not emotionally and task to the individual stories to be told he admits his commercial -- personal connection with tony.
harding is well-suited to show his liking of patriotism. stephen harding so they see out their bakeries books including the bestseller the last battle. he is a longtime journalist specializing in military affairs for two decades use on the staff of soldiers the official magazine of the u.s. army reporting from northern ireland israel egypt new zealand bosnia kuwait and iraq. he is the editor-in-chief of military history magazine and his contributions on the defense topics in aviation military and airtime history have appeared in the "san francisco chronicle" and the smithsonian world war ii defense weekly and air enthusiasts. he currently lives in northern virginia. and without further ado, stephen harding. [applause] >> while that was impressive.
i want to thank davis for that nice introduction and of course when i'm having me here tonight. i don't know how much you know about the story that makes up "last to die." i want to give you a brief overview of that and then i will tell you a few things about how i brought the story together. in a nutshell, this book is the story of the last american killed in combat in world war ii his name was tony marciano. he was from pottstown pennsylvania and a week passed his 20th birthday. he was in an obscure american bomber called the b-32 dominator flying over tokyo on august 18 of 1945 just over 70 years ago when the aircraft was attacked by japanese fighters and tony died and two other people on the plane were seriously wounded. tony's death was a tragedy obviously for his family and for the country as a whole but it would bend a little more than a footnote to history except the
fact that his death could very well have brought about the pro-lining -- prolonging world war ii a war that most people assumed authority over. a little background. i first heard tony marcion's story 30 years ago. i was working in san diego as a matter of fact and i co-wrote a book on this obscure airplane that i mentioned earlier to the 32 bomber. the b-32 was built about the same time as the 829. the difference was there were several thousand b-29s build and only 118 b-32 dominators. the reason for that the b-32 was a good airplane when it worked. it often did not work. it had issues such as engine fires, landing gear that wouldn't come down when it was supposed about when it worked it was certainly comparable to the b-29. only a handful of b-32's made it
to the pacific and literally in the last weeks of world war ii. when i was writing this book i heard the story about this young guy from pennsylvania who was unfortunate enough to be the last guy killed in world war ii. i thought that's a great story and i really want to tell it so of course i waited 30 years to do that because life gets in the way. you have families. i did a lot of reporting in various parts of the world and finally a couple of years ago i thought this is the time to tell it because we were coming up on an diverse -- anniversary of end of the war. most americans i think have a slightly incorrect view of how world war ii in the pacific ended. if i asked most of you when you thought djj was if you understood what dj day means you would probably say august 18, what every year you are in but
that's not entirely accurate. world war ii ended on september 2, 1945 when they surrendered documents were signed by the japanese aboard the uss missouri. august 18 comes up in most people's minds for august 15 and a lot of people's minds because those two days are significant and they are dealt with in the book. if you remember on august 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshima. three days later august 9 on nagasaki. you would think watching two of the major cities in japan disappear beneath mushroom clouds would have prompted the japanese to end the war at that time. it didn't. there was a strong movement within the senior leadership of the japanese military government to continue the war not because the japanese thought they could actually win but because they thought if they inflict enough casualties on the allied forces they could win a negotiated
settlement because if you remember of the pots dan conference the allies declared unconditional surrender to japan, no conditions that also these japanese diehards figure that if they cause enough trouble for the allied forces we would negotiate. hera quito on the other hand saw somewhat differently. he had seen several hundred thousand people just vaporized not to mention the firebomb raids that we have been conducting for months before that create he like most knowledgeable japanese assumed that a ground invasion of japan was in the planning stations and it was. it was called operation downfall. it had two parts. it would have been the largest amphibious invasion in history and it would have been had it been successful disastrous for attacking the allies and defending the japanese. the casualty estimates among the
allied invading troops americans australians breds were in a 100,000 and in terms of the japanese casualties the casualty rate it could have been in the millions because of the resistance that was offered. so hirikito decided he'd go against traditions and the militarist in the 1930s were cynically manipulated to become a political concept rather than a cultural concept. they interpreted it as surrender was always shameful and never except the bull and japan would have to fight on until victory. hirikito surprised -- surprised many the of the survivors by agreeing to the terms of the pots dan declaration. on august 14 he recorded an audio message that was to be broadcast the following day to the japanese people in which he
announced his intention to surrender. that's recording in the knowledge within the die-hard militarist sections of the government and military triggered a palace coup on august 15. it was ultimately unsuccessful but for some number of hours the imperial palace complex in tokyo was in play. there were mutineers and troops. people were dying. a very senior general was shot and decapitated because he failed to go on with the coup plotters. ultimately the japanese announced to the allies there except and of the pots dan declaration for surrender although in his broadcast hirikito never said the word surrender. he said we had to endure the endurable but he never said we are going to surrender.
two military organizations now come into play. they were to imperial japanese navy fighter squadrons. one was the 302nd fighter squadron outside of tokyo and the other was called via cusco which was south of tokyo in based in -- obama. these groups of aviators for very different reasons decided not to go along with the emperor's order to lay down their arms and accept a cease-fire. the people at the 302nd were driven by the commander a captain named casano who was just a die hard rashida driven militarist. he was also undergoing a relapse of malaria said he wasn't thinking clearly but he infuses concept that we cannot surrender and weak will shame our emperor so his core group of fighter pilots who included some the best surviving fighter pilot japan had them they had huge
surviving fighter planes decided they would not go along with the surrender and would attack any allied aircraft that showed up over japan. down the road the mood was somewhat different. there were fighter pilots there and one of the best-known japanese pilots of world war ii decided they would resist for different reasons. they side as a question of national sovereignty. japan had not surrendered yet. no surrender had been signed so they saw it as a question of defending the sovereign airspace until the country surrendered so they also decided that they would attack any allied aircraft that they deemed hostile. the important point to members of oath of the atomic comics at that point in japan have been conducted by two aircraft. one of them but b-29 on each occasion. to the japanese have b-29 and
b-32 were identical. four engine bombers, big tall tale so on august 16 general douglas macarthur who was the commander of allied forces in the southwest pacific and ultimately would become the supreme commander and occupied japan wanted to test the fidelity of the japanese to see if they really would follow on their agreement to surrender so on august 16 he sent for, b-32's and other aircraft over different parts of the area around metropolitan tokyo to photograph airfields as part of the cease-fire fighter aircraft were supposed to have their propellers move so they couldn't fly. he wanted to see if that was happening. on august 16 for b-32's cruise leisurely over tokyo and flew back to okinawa. on august 17 he decided to
dispatch another four for a specific set of missions. these four aircraft encountered intense antiaircraft fire which sort of implies collusion between the gunners in the radar operators and more importantly they were attacked by japanese fighter planes. there were no casualties but some of the aircraft were damaged so they again fly back to okinawa and at this point douglas macarthur had a decision to make. would this attack find that the japanese would renege on their agreement to surrender or was it the work of some diehards? he did something that military commanders have had to do throughout history. he had to make a hard decision to send people back into harm's way to find out what would happen and really it's that simple. so on august 18, 1945, for b-32 dominators took off from an airfield on okinawa. they headed towards japan and
these being b-32's come about two hours into the flight to them had to abort because of mechanical difficulty so at that point the other two aircraft continued to fly towards japan which enriches back may not seem like the wisest command decision. when they arrived over tokyo they were taken under antiaircraft fire and they were at intensely attacked by japanese fighter planes. at this point, things went from bad to worse especially for tony marchione. tony wanted to be a pilot like a lot of people and when he enlisted in the army air force in november of 1943 his intent was to be a pilot. unfortunately like many of us who wanted to be pilots it didn't work out so he was trained as an aerial gunner. when his crew -- he trained with the crew and they were supposed to go to italy to bomb the germans but at the last moment their crew was converted from a bombardment unit to an aerial
reconnaissance unit. the same kind of pints and they were flying at the 24 liberator and they switch to the recognizance which was called in at seven great first they went to the philippines but by the time they got to okinawa there were very few japanese aircraft active anywhere except over japan so the need for aerial gunners had fallen off significantly. so tony and his fellow gunners were sort of dragon and into being photographers assistance. they would have -- load and unload the various cameras being used. on august 15, actually the 14th tony had volunteered for any recognizance flight over tokyo. the worst decision ever he ever made. the reason he volunteered is because as in the european theater house and you went home depended on the number of points you had. you've got more points for flying over hostile territory which japan still technically
was but everybody thought the war was going to and august 15 and 1st acceptance of this surrender conditions made it look like the war was going to be over so tony who really wanted to get home had volunteered for what he thought was going to be a fairly long but uninvolved mission. that didn't turn out to be the way it was and on august 17 when the b-32's came back from that first contested raid, i can imagine he was really regretting the choice but by that point it was a done deal. on august 18 when these four b-32's took off tony was working as an assistant to a photographer named joe look arrived from holyoke massachusetts. tony was interested in cameras. they have sort of worked together couple of times. they were but they knew each other. there was another man from their
unit because they were not in the same unit that operated these b-32's. they were from a reconnaissance squadron in the b-32's were flown by the 386 bombardment squadron said they didn't know anybody on the airplane to tony had never seen the b-32 until the first day he got on one. he was amazed at the size of it. it was like the b-24 product of the consolidated aircraft so they were similarities in the general look but it was gigantic , it was really a large airplane. so he and joe get on the airplane and fly eight hours to tokyo and then of course the attack happens. the irony is they discovered it before they got to tokyo that the cameras did not work. they couldn't see it in the amount and when they'd jerry rig away to put it in the mount the camera wouldn't work so they are flying back and forth over tokyo when they are attacked. joe locharite the photographer
had been cross-trained as a gunner said he and tony decided that they couldn't take pictures they would help the gunners on the airplane to spot incoming fighters said they were standing on opposite sides of the airplane and a fighter came in. the fire burst of machine gun that hit joe locharite in the leg. he took 78 bullets. tony went to his aid lifted him up and put them on a fold down said t. built into the side of the fuselage and was starting to give them first aid when a 20-millimeter canon round came through the side of the airplane and not them all the way across the airplane and he bled out in a few minutes. despite the help he was getting from other people on the crew. his death began was a tragedy but the radio message that went out from that airplane back to oh no a makes a large part of
what i deal with in the book because the passage was flashed immediately to headquarters in manila and that was really, got to make a decision. the day before there had been an attack but no injuries. today there was an attack fatality and other injuries because several of the other crew were mildly injured. so macarthur at that point could literally have restarted the air war against japan. the option is open to him ranged from everything from fairly low-level street and attacks by navy fighters on the airfields to seeking authorization to drop a third atomic bomb. as i mentioned earlier there was an invasion plan and depending on what sources you read had a third atomic bomb the necessary it would probably not have been ready for some weeks or possibly
months to what would have happened in the meantime. the japanese maybe not surrendering, the united states and its allies continuing the air war against japan which would result of not only the allied casualties but probably fairly significant japanese casualties. so macarthur tech ed beating. he said okay the japanese are supposed to be sending surrender delegations by air from japan to manila to stop an american occupied island called u. shema which is off okinawa. he said those two airplanes which were specially marked and painted white with green crosses he said if they take off then we know at least the japanese government is serious. if they don't take off and we know that the japanese have decided to continue the war and at that point he would have decided with authorization of course in washington how far to go in resuming the air campaign against japan and if that air
campaign had gone on ultimately so with publicly the land invasion of japan. my father and my wife's father were scheduled to be in the first race of that invasion i can't honestly say that i'm sorry it didn't happen. it would have changed my life considerably probably so macarthur waited a minute, actually waited about 12 hours and lo and behold the aircraft took off from japan. it ultimately made it to manila. the interesting part though is that the 302nd air group pilots were still being renegade and they heard about this surrender flight and were going to attempt to shoot them down. imagine what would have happened then. the two surrender planes carrying senior military commanders, diplomatic personnel, political personnel
down in japan shut down by their own naval air forces. it would have been seen as a complete reputation of japan's surrender agreement and triggered all these things. that is the crux of the story. a lot of the meat in this book is about the personalities involved. one of the people who played a big role in it is the japanese naval captain named fu tschida. you might recognize the name because he led the first wave of the japanese attack on pearl harbor in december 1941. he originally was going to support the coup and then realized to do so would be to invalidate everything he believed as a naval officer so he decided not to and he helped defuse the situation. there are people like -- one of the highest scoring japanese bases of world war ii. of course hirohito is known
after his death as emperor show off. i want to talk about people that i was fortunate enough to meet in researching this book. tony marchione was the oldest of three children 10 and a tie and immigrant family. he was the only son. he had two younger sisters, theresa and geraldine and about two years ago my wife and i went to pottstown and met them and spent an incredibly emotional day with them. tony's death to them happened yesterday and to get them, they were very sharing and they talked about it and gave me his letters and photographs of everything else but it was literally painful for them to do that. one reason it was painful is because like everybody else in america on august 15 the announcement came that the japanese were going to surrender and just days later comes the announcement that their brother had been killed in combat.
the completely devastated tony's parents as you can imagine and then with the final pain he was initially interred in okinawa in an individual grave. his remains were not repatriated to the united states until 1949 and they conducted a full military funeral proceeded by a catholic funeral massachusetts in pottstown which is still there. it was a tremendously moving thing to talk to the sisters about those events and being able to find people like that make these sorts of stories real when you write military history you get too wrapped up in maneuvers and commanders and great sweeping strategy when the reality is war is about
individual people, millions of them but individuals and by being able to talk to jerry and jerry about tony it really brought it home to me. so that's the general thing and though i haven't told you everything about the book so you'll have to read it. well you don't have to read it but i would appreciate it if you did, i would be happy at this point to entertain questions if anybody has any. yes. >> having spent some time on guam and the philippines and there were holdout japanese soldiers there, did you choose to cut off the last american casualty as the time that japan surrendered or how did you pick that? do you probably could do other things if you think about it. >> the way i came to the conclusion that tony was the last american killed in combat
in world war ii is he is listed at the u.s. center of military history where i was along time ago a staff of story and. it's one of those judgment calls. there were a lot of american service personnel that died after the cease-fire went into effect. they died of wounds suffered previously. they died of injuries. a lot of people died of disease that tony was the last american servicemember killed by direct enemy action in combat action meaning that he and his comrades were shooting back at the time it happened. now the holdouts in the philippines to think the last out in 1976 or something but in terms of the last people killed in combat it's tony and there were navy aviators that were killed to think on august 14 before they got the cease-fire order so that's how that
determination was made. >> my name is jim byrne and i'm a journalist 50 years in washington. tremendously informed on wars and all that but where do you sort out the peaceniks. two of my dearest friends, our sister megan rice who went to jail for three years for getting into our armory and tennessee and tom pembleton the great, great, tom loves it that i gave him the title of the retired fired auxiliary bishop of detroit. these are two of the most highly
>> >> in terms of world war ii in writing about the last days of war with japan which is something i didn't know a lot about before, you find out the japanese were equally separated by ideology about the war but after dropping the two atomic bombs the japanese leadership was equally divided whether to continue the war or not because they didn't know how many atomic weapons we had an almost certainly had a third weapon
than used it would have been on tokyo so what was modern japan be like now if tokyo was vaporized in 1945? so in that sense it is ãis a good thing it would take longer for additional bombs but the age-old question is was it necessary to use the nuclear weapon or not? i thank you can find arguments on both sides but had the japanese not been shoved rather brutally to think about surrender the consequences were made worse in terms of casualties and someone. one story about that iran a museum in san francisco bay on treasure island we were
offered a mockup of the of the doughboy barm 2.one dash to put on display. i thought to really want to put an atomic bomb on display is in san francisco in the late '70s? i chickened out because it is that provocative of the message and in this book, atomic bombs or part of the background story but you could write volumes about what might have happened in fact, a book came across my desk someone said there were seven atomic bombs in the locker writer and even want to consider what would have happened or what the world would have been like today.
>> i am curious about your research process. of the japanese perspective you probably have more access but how did you get into the mind of the japanese strategist? >> get was difficult because the japanese destroyed a lot of records after the announcement of surrender and a lot of them were official and actually the pilots that were involved in the attack were told to go home and hide. they destroyed personal military records the allied bombing had destroyed a lot as well. the short answer there is a lot of scholarship over the last 10 years making use of allied records called the
strategic bombing center that gave a list of all the targets that we hit so a lot of that is available is the basis with the japanese is writing about in english because it is created by allied organizations. also hire a really good japanese translator. it just turned out when i went to google to look for a translator for i found a translator by coincidence with in a town where i was born and raised in california. born in the united states coming growth in japan, bilingual and when i first contacted him by sheer coincidence he was about to leave to japan to do
research on that completely different topic. in very good researching american records but japanese not so much so to do that to live near the national archives in the air force history center in alabama, a consolidated aircraft archives. it is about pulling together the facts to make the best to logical conclusions based on those facts. you can get carried away that is called research rapture you get so into finding stuff out you've literally have to force yourself to stop researching and start writing. i did that a couple of times. book i have coming out next summer it was a real problem because it was a fascinating story as are my other
books, but you have to be in love with what you are writing about or of these to be fascinated because it takes longer hours of research and unfortunately have not figured out to write with a partner. i cannot do it with my wife support and seriously without her support it would not have happened. >> was there discussion when they broke down maybe we should turn around to go home? if they can protect each other? >> it did come up. by first started although i didn't start writing the book that was fortunate enough to start interviewing the participants 25 years
ago when they were my age now. almost all of them are gone now which is sad that i did long hours of personal interviews with pilots with the pilot who bled to death by could find out there was a lively discussion between the mission commander in one airplane and the aircraft commander in the other he was firmly of the opinion they should turn around to go back to okinawa but the mission commander had information the others didn't about how important this mission would be so he had to make of a decision that you make in the military in times of conflict especially to say we're going in and. there were supposed to fly different vicomte patterns
>> i maddow think tank starting the goodman is to do we work very closely together and i and an economist my focuses on policy. >>host: where are you based? >> it is a virtual thinktank diane in dallas so i can be anywhere. >>host: john goodman you have written about health care for quite a while. here sure most recent book, a better choice. the affordable care acted as though lot of the land. >> is. it focuses on the six big problems that are not going away that will require congress to get together to solve them and if they don't things will get very bad. >>host: what is number one in your book and first of all, deal except that obamacare is the lot of the land?
>> of course, it is but the big six problems are big problems is bad reform we could do much better and that is what i am trying to urdu. >>host: the biggest problem in your view? limit we will be required to bite the insurance package that will grow faster than our intercom. if history is a guided'' - - grow twice as fast but the federal government will be happy -- flat spending on medicare, the economy, and medicaid the subsidies will grow only with the economy but health care goes like this the help is flat that we -- means more of the burden is shifted to the private sector. >>host: why? >> it has been doing that for