April 7, 1945, four months after Lambert got home, MUSASHI's identical twin, the Super Battleship YAMATO, was sent to attack U.S. Naval forces with only enough fuel for a one-way trip.  With no possibility she could return to port, this became the biggest suicide mission of the war.

YAMATO was caught and destroyed by Navy fliers before she ever reached the U.S. Fleet.  This photo shows a Japanese destroyer watching helplessly as her 3,000 crewmembers perish.

Although the homeland was no longer protected by a Navy, Japan refused surrender.  It was apparent that countless throngs on both sides would die in a land invasion.

Surrender was not an option for the Japanese. It was an insult to the Emperor who the Shinto religion taught was divine.

American commanders were transfixed by the terrible specter of gallant heroism turning into suicidal resistance.

Sinking of the Yamato

A suicide mission for 3,000 Japanese sailors

Most extraordinary were the mass civilian suicides on outlying Japanese islands.  As Allied invasion forces began landing, the Japanese army urged inhabitants to commit suicide.  At the June 19, 1944 invasion of Saipan, the overwhelming majority of the 18,000 Japanese civilians on the island jumped off cliffs into the sea.

The mass Japanese civilian suicides that occurred at each inhabited island convinced the Truman administration that Japan would never surrender and that the use of atomic weapons would actually save Japanese and American lives.

Here is what President Harry S. Truman told Congress on June 1, 1945.  In his own words:

"The Japanese still have more than four million troops under arms--a force larger than the Germans were ever able to put against us on the Western Front.  To back up this Army, they have several million additional men of military age who have not yet been called to the colors.  We have not yet come up against the main strength of this Japanese military force.  In the future we shall have to expect more damage rather than less."

The President spoke of sending an armada of more than 300 B-29 Superfortresses to bomb Tokyo and how the resulting fires killed 100,000 civilians in one night.  He pleaded: "What has already happened to Tokyo will happen to every Japanese city whose industries feed the Japanese war machine. I urge Japanese civilians to leave those cities if they wish to save their lives."

But Japan fought on, and the casualties worsened.  Japan had built her factories in heavily populated cities.  The factories had to be destroyed and within a few weeks, a million civilians were killed.  Still, Japan remained implacable.

President Truman, desperate to end the carnage, wrote in his Diary on July 25, 1945:  "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.  We have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom.   An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly.  Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused an explosion visible for more than 200 miles.  This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th.  We will issue a warning statement asking the Japanese to surrender and save lives.  I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance."


We have gotten ahead of Lambert's story, and it is only half told.  In the tumultuous times eight months before the Atom Bomb, he arrived home for Christmas 1944 to discover his brothers Donald and Philip and his brother-in-law Radcliffe all killed or missing in action.

We briefly depart from Lambert's story to tell theirs...

Two weeks later, as Lambert readied his squadron for another tour, the Atomic Bomb ended the war.

An estimated twenty million military and thirty million civilians were killed in WWII.

It is important to note that the combined casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki totaled less than one percent of the worldwide civilian death toll.





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