16 June, 2012

Profile 67 - UPDATE "5?" as flown by Joe Foss, VMF-121

So.  It looks like all I have to do is add the rudder, tweak some shadows and add final markings.  I'm still on the fence of what aircraft number to use - 50?  53?  84?

I remember in 2001 (or 2000?) trying to impress Joe that I knew the number of the plane he flew at Guadalcanal and his sardonic reply, "That's my airplane, huh?"   I had no idea at the time that in reality, Joe scrambled to whatever airplane was in operating condition.  And the paperwork of who flew-what was of little consequence when Japanese bombers were readying to unleash their fury.

Joe never "had an airplane" and he didn't care, either.  I could have put down any number and he'd have been fine with it.  But facts are facts, right?

Anyway,  the question brings up the whole idea of "numbers" in war - especially war against the Japanese in WW2.  The numbers are appalling.   In fact, they're unbelievable (irony intended).

When one thinks of war's "numbers" - the most natural counting is of deaths.  People are weird this way - battles, wars, conflicts gain a perverse appeal with the increase in body counts.   Anyway, here's what I learned about the body count between the Japanese and The United States:

Japan:  2.2 million soldiers dead or approximately 4% of the country's population in 1940

United States:  420,000 soldiers dead or approximately .33% of the country's population in 1940.

Carve up those stats however you'd like.  Personally, I'm fascinated with the indication that a Japanese solider was 12x more likely to die.  But the fact remains:  The Japanese slaughtered their young men in the pursuit of gain.

A few years ago, Morrie Magnuson explained, "War is always about the leaders.  It's not about the soldiers.  Soldiers do what they're told."    To the American way of thinking, a 12:1 death ratio is clear proof of the Japanese leader's insanity.

Today, in 21st Century, there's a reluctance to make disparaging remarks about another nation's culture or belief system.  But the truth is, the leaders that drove Japan into WW2 were nuts.  Of course, there may be those that attempt to explain their behavior by describing "The Bushido Code of the Samurai," but it doesn't change the reality

So.  What does this mean to the drawing above?  I'll get to that.  But have a look at the photograph below.  It's a Japanese flag taken from a dead Japanese soldier discovered by an American Marine pilot circa Spring, 1944.

In case you're not brushed-up on your Japanese, here's what it states.  Kinda.

“Brave man from Manshuu (Manchuria)

Honorable Hourjiro Saito (name) From all the people at the shop!
In recognition of being a part of the battle at the Haruha River with the Manchurian Independent Defense Unit”

In other words, this was just a guy who carried some stuff from his buddies into combat.  In fact, I know so - I have the soldier's wallet, too.  And based on what's in there, I can pretty-much state, the "Jap" was just a poor guy like the rest of us, doing what he was ordered to do and paying the ultimate price.

Ok.  Back to Joe Foss. I'm trying to figure out which number to choose for his airplane and got lost in the rabbit-trail of "numbers" of war.  

Which to choose.  50?  53?  84?  2.2 million?

In the next and final post, we're going to look at a day in the life of Joe Foss and what he went through to defeat the enemy.  He'll narrowly escape death, but take the life of at least 3, maybe 5, with him.  a 1:5 ratio over one day's work.