[8-5.1 AA Jul-Sep 56 v.3]







APO 343


(8-10 SEPT 1956)

Cover detail,  Typhoon Emma (8-10 Sep 1956)


[Note: This manuscript was prepared in 1956 by the historians assigned to the United States Army Forces, Far East, and submitted to the Office of the Chief of Military History (now US Army Center of Military History) for reference use. It is typical of the kinds of "after action" projects routinely carried out by Army historians and historical officers to supplement the routine official records which are eventually retired to the National Archives and Records Administration. The original is on file in the Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC) under file number 8-5.1 AA Jul-Sep 56 v.3, which should be cited in footnotes, along with the title. It is reproduced here with only those limited modifications required to adapt to the World Wide Web; spelling, punctuation, and slang usage have not been altered from the original. Where modern explanatory notes were required, they have been inserted as italicized text in square brackets. The report initially carried a classification of CONFIDENTIAL, but is now unclassified.]



APO 343



(8 - 10 September 1956)

Map: The Course of Typhoon Emma


Regrading data cannot be predetermined.

This title page in and of itself is UNCLASSIFIED.


Prepared by



Typhoon Emma, with winds of more than 150 miles an hour, battered Okinawa 8-9 September, leaving in its wake millions of dollars in damage to U.S. armed forces installations and thousands of homeless Okinawans. U.S. installations on the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu also suffered damage from the fierce winds and driving rains as the typhoon moved up through the Korea Strait into the Sea of Japan on 10 September.

Emma, the fourth typhoon to strike Okinawa within 37 days, was reported to have been the worst typhoon in the memory of living residents.1 On Kyushu, it caused more damage than any other storm within the previous two years.

Despite the typhoon’s violence, however, and the heavy property damage, CG RYCOM/IX Corps reported from Okinawa on 15 September that ". . . warning was adequate and all personnel displayed remarkable discipline and knowledge of prescribed procedure. As a result, there was minimum loss of life, personal injury and suffering."2

First warning of the storm came early in the morning of 3 September when the FEAF’s 1st Weather Wing reported in Tokyo that Emma had been spotted east-southeast of Iwo Jima with near-center winds of about 80 miles an hour. Following this initial report, FEAF weather reconnaissance planes tracked the storm, and Tokyo Weather Central of the 1st Weather Wing issued warning bulletins at 6-hour intervals, locating the typhoon, reporting wind velocity, and predicting the course and speed of its movement. The final bulletin, the 30th, was issued at 1200 10 September as the center of the storm moved toward the Manchurian coast near Vladivostok.3

Emergency precautions were taken before the typhoon struck. The whole

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command was issued "C" rations; bakeries baked sufficient bread to take care of normal needs within the next 24 hours; and the International Dairy, suppliers of the milk on the island, stocked sufficient milk to take care of the children. Because of power outage, messes did not operate. No major spoilage of food stocks occurred.

At 0300 on 7 September, Emma’s center winds were reported to be 415 miles southeast of Okinawa, and at noon U S. installations were placed under a Condition-2 alert. Four hours later, at 1600, a Condition-1 alert went into effect, and U.S. personnel were braced for 100-mile-an-hour winds. The Ryukyus Army Hospital was evacuated, and patients were transferred to the typhoon-proof Sukiran Army Dispensary and Sukiran Field House.4

By 0200 on 8 September, 92-mile-an-hour gusts of wind and torrential rains were lashing the island, and the storm center had moved to within 55 miles of Kadena Air Base. The intensity of the winds increased as the morning wore on. An early press report stated: "Winds of 150 m.p.h. snapped poles like matchsticks and sent debris hurtling over the island. For 12 savage hours Emma tore houses open and overflowed streams with 15 inches of rain."5

Cars were overturned, roofs torn off, and windows smashed in dependent housing areas. Thirty-six vicious security patrol dogs broke loose near Kadena but were recaptured by military police within a few hours. The 155-foot transmitting tower of the Armed Forces television station at Kadena was toppled, but a 75-foot wooden pole was quickly erected and the station returned to operation within 48 hours. One military policeman was electrocuted when he attempted to disconnect a fan while standing in water at the Sukiran Dispensary.

Maximum winds of 156 miles an hour were recorded shortly before wind indicators broke at 0900 on 8 September. From 0900 to 1700, winds were

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estimated to be 100 miles an hour, with gusts up to 140. Shortly before midnight, wind velocity dropped to less than 100 miles and hour. The winds had subsided to 45 miles an hour by noon on 9 September when, after 44 hours, the Condition-1 alert was lifted.6

Then began the monumental task of estimating damage, restoring necessary facilities, and providing emergency assistance to the hard-hit civil population.

Early on 9 September, CG RYCOM/IX Corps notified Headquarters AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear): "Crippling effects of Typhoon Emma necessitates (sic) application of emergency measures in this command. Damage to facilities known to be extensive. Cost factors will be supplied upon completion of survey. To cope with emergency, request authority by priority radio to proceed with essential repairs without regard to fund and personnel limitations now imposed."7

The authority was quickly granted,8 but the RYCOM,/IX Corps commander was asked to devote "careful attention to accuracy in every detail of cost estimate and expenditures," including a breakdown of Army work as distinct from Marine work which was reimbursable. In addition, CG RYCOM/IX Corps was instructed to rebuild or repair only those facilities which were essential to his mission.9

A preliminary report, telephoned to Headquarters AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear) 9 September, estimated that approximately 8 million dollars would be needed for reconstruction and rehabilitation, stated that a disaster fund request would be made when needs were known, and asserted that "no assistance (is) needed now." The RYCOM/IX Corps headquarters building suffered extensive damage, as did the hospital, although all patients were moved back next day from the field house to which they had been evacuated.

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A typhoon-proof 250-bed hospital, under construction and scheduled for completion in June 1957, suffered minor damage. Dependent schools were closed during the storm, but two of them, with typhoon-proof buildings, opened two days after the storm’s end, and all were again in operation at the end of the week. Plans were subsequently approved and money was allocated for the 10 construction of a typhoon-proof high school plant.10

On the basis of this and other early communications, CG AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear) dispatched a preliminary report to the DA on 10 September. One death and 15 injuries had been reported for U.S. forces personnel. Water facilities on Okinawa were 60 percent operative; electrical facilities, 70 percent; communications facilities, 40 percent; and Army Command and Administrative Network (ACAN) facilities, 95 percent operative. The DA was informed that installations, buildings, and grounds had suffered "extensive damage" and that many temporary buildings and facilities had been demolished. The Army suffered no harbor craft losses at Naha, the only such loss being an LCM which had been beached and was destroyed and sunk at Kimeshima Island. Naha Port remained in operation, but a causeway washout rendered the pier at White Beach inoperative. Except for field artillery tactical gun communications, island-wide military capability was unimpaired, and the RYCOM was believed to be able to recover without outside assistance.11

Based on later additional information, CINCFE forwarded a more detailed report to the DA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) the following day, 11 September. The CINCFE message estimated total Army damage at $1,800,000, including contractors’ damages, $550,000; housing facilities, $600,000; roads, $100,000; PX merchandise and facilities, $200,000; island-wide power system, $120,000; and island-wide water system, $40,000.

One Marine was injured, and Marine property damage was estimated at $2,500,000 to $3,000,000, the CINCFE report continued. Sixty-one percent of all temporary Marine buildings had been destroyed or heavily damaged;

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the remainder were damaged but repairable. The 3d Marine Division headquarters building was partially destroyed, and the commanding general’s quarters were heavily damaged. Twenty-six jumbo quonsets and one multiple jumbo quonset were destroyed, 26 20 x 48 quonsets were heavily damaged, and 75 percent of the divisions supplies received extensive water damage from the collapse of warehouses and the overflow of the Tengan River.

The Air Force reported no personnel casualties, but had not yet estimated property damage. Known losses at Naha Air Base included 4 quonset huts, 1 quonset house, and 1 Butler hangar destroyed; and 3 Butler hangars, 9 quonset houses, and 2 aircraft damaged. At Kadena Air Base, which was harder hit, 65 buildings were destroyed or damaged; the entire housing area suffered major roof damage; and radar sites, 1 C-119, 2 C-47’s, and 3 jet aircraft were damaged. (A subsequent estimate on 14 September placed damage to Air Force installations at $4,l00,000.12)

Casualty statistics for the Okinawan population were 2 killed, 43 injured, and 1 missing. Total property damage to the civil economy had not been estimated, but losses were known to include 3,930 buildings destroyed, 4,595 buildings partially destroyed, and 26 ships sunk or damaged. The island’s vegetable crop had been completely destroyed, less than one-half of the sugar cane crop remained intact, and 25 percent of the sweet potato crop was destroyed. In addition, seawalls, roads, communications, and utilities throughout the island had suffered major damage.

The U.S. Civil Administration Ryukyus (USCAR) was conducting an emergency feeding program for destitute persons, CINCFE continued, and the USCAR was believed to have the capability to meet all emergency requirements. CINCFE concluded, however, that " . . . on the strength of present reports it is apparent that substantial funds will be required to relieve suffering of both military and civilian population caused by this typhoon."13

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On the morning of 11 September, CG AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear) advised 14 CG RYCOM/IX Corps:14

I have been much concerned with the disastrous typhoon "Emma" and the damage and destruction it has caused especially in the area of your command. While the damage to installations and equipment has been heavy, I am thankful that loss of life end personal injury has (sic) been remarkably small. This indicates that adequate warning was given and that personnel were well informed as to the proper measures to be taken for their safety.

As you know the resources of this command are available to assist you in any way in the task of rehabilitation. I expect that you will ask promptly for any assistance necessary or not presently available to you. Insofar as our resources permit and the extent that authority exists, it is my desire that we assist the local inhabitants who have suffered the loss and destruction of their homes.

CINCFE also expressed his concern for the welfare of the Okinawan population when, 3 days later, he notified the DA of an urgent requirement for $7,500,000 with which to reconstruct and rehabilitate public facilities and institute a civilian disaster relief program. CINCFE reported that detailed assessments would be forwarded soon on necessary reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, roads and bridges, power lines, communications, seawalls, and public buildings. As an interim action, CINCFE stated:15

. . . I urgently request allocation of $3.5 million for this purpose. Disaster Relief funds from GRI budget were exhausted by damage from Typhoon WANDA in August. Additional damage has resulted from 3 subsequent typhoons, with greatest damage on record attributable to most recent Typhoon EMMA.

In addition to the foregoing, there is an urgent need for a civilian disaster relief program. Thousands of Okinawans were left homeless and destitute by this severe typhoon. Over 2650 homes were completely destroyed and more than 4000 homes severely damaged. Factories, business establishments, farms and crops have been destroyed or heavily damaged. I recommend that $4 million be provided for a civilian disaster relief program in the Ryukyu Islands. Such a program would provide unmistakable evidence of the deep and abiding interest the US has for the welfare of the Ryukyuan people for whom we have assumed sole administrative responsibility. Such a program would also have a dramatic psychological effect on the civilian population of the Ryukyu Islands and should go a long way toward generating good will and counteracting much of the unfavorable publicity which developed over the proposed settlement of the land problem. This proposed civilian disaster relief program is over and above the public facilities reconstruction and rehabilitation program referred to . . . above, and makes no provision for repair of damage to US installations and facilities in the Ryukyus, estimates of which are being prepared by Component Commanders for submission directly to the Departments concerned.

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The DA quickly acknowledged CINCFE’s request and stated that action had been initiated to obtain the funds.16 A subsequent message advised CINCFE: "DA and DOD most actively engaged in supporting your request. Receiving support of State."17 The DA also informed CINCFE that the American Red Cross Director of Operations for Far Eastern Area was en route to Okinawa to examine emergency assistance requirements of the indigenous population. It was suggested that CINCFE contact the Red Cross director for whatever assistance he could offer and for information concerning Red Cross recommendations to Washington.18

In a 15 September message, CG RYCOM/IX Corps expressed appreciation for AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear) assistance, reported progress in rehabilitation activities, and offered several recommendations concerning military reconstruction on Okinawa. The RYCOM/IX Corps commander stated:

Your hqs has assisted in every way possible. 10 Signal Technicians, requested by the Signal Officer, arrived promptly and have contributed greatly to restoration of essential communication. A prompt reply to my request for emergency authority to temporarily exceed personnel spaces and fund limitations permitted rapid restoration of utilities and necessary salvage operation.

Essential military utilities and facilities were substantially operative, and the repair of facilities to prevent further damage from seasonal rainfall and winds was proceeding rapidly, CG RYCOM/IX Corps continued. Local inhabitants, with assistance from the USCAR, were repairing damage to their homes, and no additional relief from the AFFE/Eighth Army appeared necessary to prevent suffering or the spread of disease. The RYCOM/IX Corps commander further stated that a preliminary estimate of $1,800,000 represented the amount of damage, not the amount needed for restoration. Certain factors had reduced the amount of funds required--i.e. unessential facilities which had been destroyed or damaged would not be replaced, damaged PX merchandise was insured; and damaged supplies and equipment had salvage value. The final report, which outlined a requirement

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for $4,600,000, contemplated the replacement of damaged or destroyed essential facilities with construction of a permanent type, rather than restoration to their pre-typhoon temporary condition.

CG RYCOM/IX Corps continued:19

Typhoon Emma proved conclusively that properly designed typhoon resistant, permanent structures and facilities are good investments on Okinawa. We estimate only $211,000 damage by Typhoon Emma to existing Army structures and facilities of this type. Much of this was the result of minor deficiencies in architectural design’ particularly in roof structures.

I am convinced that it would be uneconomical for the government to restore destroyed and severely damaged temporary facilities to their pre-Typhoon Emma condition. Rather, I feel we should take this opportunity to rehabilitate and reconstruct our communications’ utility systems, structures and other facilities so that damage by future typhoons will be minimized.

In the meantime, commanders of U.S. installations on Kyushu were reporting damage caused by Typhoon Emma in that area. The damage, while much less severe than on Okinawa, was heavy.

On 9 September, the day before the full force of Emma’s winds struck Kyushu, all military installations on the island were placed in a Condition 1 alert. The Air Force evacuated 51 C-119 Flying Boxcars from Ashlya Air Base to K-14 in Seoul and 23 others to Tachikawa and Tokyo International Airport. Remaining planes were fueled, sandbagged) and each loaded with a 21 -ton truck to help anchor them to the ground. At Sasebo Navy Base, dependents were advised to evacuate all off-base housing and gather at Navy installation facilities.20

As a result of the speedy initiation of such precautionary measures, CINCFE was able to report to the DA and the JCS that Emmys 100-mile-an-hour winds and torrential rains had not caused any casualties among USFJ personnel on Kyushu. Army property damage, however, at the Sasebo Quartermaster Petroleum Sub-Depot and Sub-Camp Kashii was estimated at $135,000,

and damage to Navy facilities at Sasebo totaled about $300,000. No loss figures were available for Itezake Air Base, where interior water and roof

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damage was known to have occurred, and power and communications lines had been destroyed.

Japanese casualties on Kyushu totaled 30 killed and 150 injured, CINCFE reported. Civilian property damage included 791 homes destroyed, 4,017 partially destroyed, and nearly 5,000 others flooded. Thirty-two ships 21 had been washed away or damaged.21

CG 1st Cavalry Division subsequently reported that damage sustained by installations of his command included Regional Camp Kokura, $86,000; Regional Camp Kure, $4,500; and Subcamp Fuji, $6,160. He requested $76,000 in emergency funds for essential repairs needed to "restore severely damaged facilities to minimum operable conditions." In addition, the 1st Cavalry Division commander stated that delay in the Sasebo pier repair would interfere with the Sasebo QM Petroleum Sub-Depot operations and would necessitate greater future cost.22

Emma also sideswiped South Korea on 10 September, and, although U.S. military installations suffered only "minor" damage, the ROK civil population was hit hard. ROK National Police tabulations set the death toll at 42, with 79 persons injured and 35 missing. Approximately 5,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, 535 small boats lost or damaged, and 45 bridges destroyed. ROK police estimated damage at $2,800,000.23 In a 33-hour period, beginning late in the night of 8 September, the Weather Forecast Center at K-55 in Seoul recorded 11.4 inches of rain. Airfield K-9 at Pusan was closed to all traffic, with its runways partially flooded, while Army units in the Pusan Area Command were alerted to Condition-l, and personnel were restricted to their unit areas.24

Despite the damage on Okinawa, it was reported on 13 September that all normal Air Force operations in the Ryukyus had been restored and that

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special construction crews were arriving from Japan and the Philippines to assist in the rehabilitation work.25 On 14 September, COMFEAF notified CG AFFE/Eighth Army (Rear) of an "urgent requirement" for two engineer companies to assist in "clean-up operations" for 30 to 45 days.26 The FEAF commander subsequently informed chief of staff USAF of the requirement, stated that "Army troop effort not available from AFFE," and requested that DA approval be obtained for the temporary deployment to Okinawa of two companies of the 809th Engineer (Heavy Construction) Battalion, then stationed at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam.27 This request, however, was disapproved by the DA.

Although the death of the military policeman on Okinawa was the only U.S. forces’ casualty directly attributed to Typhoon Emma, the storm was indirectly responsible for the death of 16 Air Force personnel, who were aboard an RB-50 aircraft which failed to return from a weather reconnaissance mission on l0 September.28 The plane was last heard from 200 miles northwest of Niigata, Japan. An intensive, but unsuccessful air and sea search was begun the morning of 11 September and continued for more than a week.

On 4 October, CINCFE submitted to the DA and the JCS a final report of damage to military property on Okinawa and in Japan during the 7-10 September period. Damage figures in this final report were substantially the same as in the CINCFE message of 11 September.29

Army personnel casualties on Okinawa totaled l death and 10 minor injuries. The property damage estimate for Army facilities on Okinawa remained at $1,800,000, minus an undetermined amount of insurance on post exchange merchandise and facilities and the value of salvaged equipment and supplies. No Navy or Marine personnel casualties were reported on

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Okinawa. Navy property damage was estimated at $15,000. Total Marine property damage was estimated at 2.5 to 3 million dollars, as reported earlier, minus an undetermined amount of salvaged equipment and supplies. No Air Force personnel casualties were reported on Okinawa. Damage to Air Force buildings, structures, roads, and utilities was estimated at 6 million dollars, but no figures were yet available for aircraft damage.

No personnel casualties were reported by any of the services in Japan, and Marine property damage was termed "negligible." Property damage figures for the other services in Japan were: Army, $96,660; Navy, $370,000; and Air Force, $300,000.

Total military property damage in Japan and Okinawa as a result of Typhoon Emma was estimated at $11,581,660.



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