On March 23, 1945 the Japanese government ordered the formation of the Volunteer Fighting Corps. Contrary to the name of the organization, there was nothing voluntary about it. All Japanese males from 15-60 and all Japanese women from 17-40 were considered to have “enlisted” in this organization. This produced a force of approximately 28,000,000, overwhelmingly made up of old men, girls and women, since the Japanese had already conscripted virtually every male of military age. The Japanese military was made responsible for training and arming this huge force. In practice this often resulted in masses of Japanese civilians drilling with spears, Japan lacking sufficient small arms to intially arm the civilian-soldiers.
Although it had its comical “Dad’s Army” aspect, the mobilization scheme was deadly serious. Volunteer Fighting Corps units in the event of invasion were to be “married” to regular units and provide combat support and combat services. They would in effect serve as cannon fodder to spare the trained and armed Japanese regular Army units. They were planned to serve as garrisons for the host of defensive bastions being constructed throughout Japan. Special units were trained to conduct a guerilla war behind American lines as the invasion progressed. The Japanese were proceeding forward with these plans with their usual efficiency, and by the planned invasion time of November 1945 the Volunteer Fighting Corps would have been a formidable force multiplier for the Japanese Army, albeit at the cost of hideous casualties among the impressed civilians.
Richard Frank, in his magisterial Downfall, estimates that the fatalities among these civilian soldiers opposing Operation Olympic would have been in the range of 380,000.