Several years ago I wrote these up on the end of the war for the Infidels forum.
The "Peace" Initiatives of 1945.
In July of 1944, Saipan fell, and the Tojo government with it. The military had begun to fear Tojo. Japan's major problem was its chronically divided society which prevented the government from gaining control over its various entities. In answer to this, Tojo attempted to become a dictator, slowing concentrating all the ministerial power into his own hands. At one point he was head of 18 different ministries and agencies....
Needless to say, by 1943 it was obvious to many younger officers that the war was lost, though not to the government, which had no idea how the war was going. The military was split between the Army and Navy, which were fought each other as hard as they fought the Americans. Cooperation between the two had sunk so low that the Navy did not tell the Army (or the government) that it lost four carriers at Midway, while the Army built its own Navy so it could carry on operations without the other arm. In aircraft factories where the two had contracts, screens were built down the middle to wall off one sides planes from the other....the Army, the more dominant of the two in Japanese society, was split in scores of factions, which prior to war murdered each other and leading politicians in a period known as "government by assassination."
Nevertheless, no official movements to end the war were made until after the fall of Tojo, which brought the Koiso government to power. The Koiso government was hamstrung from the start. Koiso had been picked as a compromise candidate because the various centers of power --the civilian government, the military, the jushin (an informal but powerful council of former prime ministers that sat in on high-level decisions) and the Emperor could not agree on a candidate. "Purposely installed as an interim premier" as Toland put it.
There are no known peace overtures by anyone in Japan or out during the Koiso cabinet, with one exception. In January of 1945 Koiso contacted the rogue Chinese Miao Pin, a notorious intriguer, and attempted to use him to reach an understanding with the Chinese. Other Japanese found Pin disgusting, and the whole project was killed after Pin met with Prince Higashikuni. Pin was later executed by Chiang Kai-shek (Toland, p844).
The Koiso government was to fall in April of 1945, but the opening moves of Japanese diplomacy actually sounded in February. In that month, Shigemitsu, the foreign minister, contacted Naotoke Sato, who had the crucial post of Ambassador to Russia, and who, more than anyone, was to come to understand Japan's predicament and what the country had to do. Shigemitsu asked Sato to sound out the USSR about its intentions toward the nuetrality pact the two countries had, which was due for renewal in April of 1945. Sato fired off a blistering reply on Feb 12, asking how the government could have him undertake such a task without telling him what its own position was. For the next two months Sato reported periodically on this task, while Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, famous for his stone-faced negotiating stance, put him off. This was to form the pattern of all subsequent dealings between Tokyo and Moscow, with Tokyo living in a dream that it had power and influence while the Soviets toyed with them, and Sato pleaded with Tokyo to embrace reality and surrender unconditionally. "My first responsibility," he wrote in July, "is to prevent the harboring of illusions which are at variance with the reality."
The 5th of April, 1945, was one of the most portentious days in Japanese history. The Koiso government collapsed and in swept Suzuki, still with bullets in his body from an assassination attempt in the 1930s. Toland regards Suzuki as a peacemonger from the start, but as Frank points out, all the evidence for this came to light after the war. At each crucial juncture during the war, Suzuki opted to continue the conflict rather than support the peace moves. Thus, Suzuki occupies one of the most ambiguous positions throughout these critical months. That same day the Soviets formally notified Japan that the Nuetrality Agreement would not be renewed. Any other country would have instantly recognized that it would be the natural next target (with Soviet tanks on the Elbe, and Germany due to be knocked out of the war), but Tokyo still floated in its dream world. The government, insulated by the military from the actual progress of the war, still considered itself master of Asia. After all, was not the map red with Japanese conquests? Didn't Japan still control all that territory, so useful as bargaining chips? Meanwhile, on hundreds of islands throughout the Pacific, Japanese troops starved....
A series of peace moves, all initiated outside Tokyo's control, began. Although they were initiated independently by widely separated individuals, they all had several things in common:
(1) they were all informal.
(2) they were all initiated by outsiders. The government in Tokyo was never involved.
(2) they were all vague, no conditions envisioned, no plans made
(3) they were all killed by Tokyo.
Throughout these discussions it is important to keep in mind that the US was reading all diplomatic traffic (MAGIC) and much military traffic (ULTRA). Thus, whenever a Japanese representative overseas contacted, or was contacted by, Tokyo, the US read the cable. Sometimes the decrypted cable reached Truman and the five others permitted to read the material before it reached its intended recipient in the Japanese government!
The Swedish Initiatives
On April 7, then-acting foreign minister Shigemitsu, without the knowledge of his superiors, asked W. Bagge, the Swedish representative in Japan, to have Sweden intercede on Japan's behalf with the US. Shigemitsu rejected unconditional surrender, and stated that any agreement must preserve the Emperor. This move was killed by the next Foreign Minister Togo, who felt that Sweden did not have the kind of influence Japan needed, and was already looking toward the Russian initiative (see below) (Toland, p915, Frank, p94).
A few days later, the Swedes moved independently of the Japanese offer. Prince Carl Bernadotte, and Eric Erickson, a business man with ties to Japan, approached the Japanese military attache in Stockholm, Maj. Gen. Makoto Onodera. The Prince said he would advise the King to send a letter to Japan suggesting that peace negotiations take place.
In one of the more nearsighted and childish acts of the war, the idiotic Swedish Foriegn minister, peeved that proper channels were being bypassed, protested to his Japanese counterpart in Stockholm, who in turn protested to Tokyo. On June 24 the wires were scorched with the following message to the hapless General Onodera from the Vice Chief of the Imperial General staff in Tokyo bent on stamping out any detestable peacemongering political intrigue:
- As we have said before, Japan is firmly determined to prosecute the Greater East Asia war to the very end. There is a report, however, to the effect that some Japanese official stationed in Sweden is making peace overtures to America. That is demogoguery pure and simple, and if you have any idea as to the source of these reports, please inform us.(quoted in Frank p114 and Toland, p916)
Thus died the Swedish initiatives, both killed by Tokyo. Interested readers may wonder what effect the comment "As we have said before, Japan is firmly determined to prosecute the Greater East Asia war to the very end" had on Americans who had access to this data.
The Vatican moves.
In early June the Japanese representative to the Vatican was contacted by Monsignor Vagnozzi, who considered himself to have good contacts with the US. This move was also brushed off by Tokyo, which considered the Vatican to be too weak to effect a peace initiative. In fact, this attempt died stillborn and is usually left out of the standard references. I put it here merely for completeness.
Things light up in Switzerland
The final two initiatives came from individuals in Switzerland. In May of 1945 the former Naval Attache in Berlin, now in Bern, Yoshiro Fujimura, initiated his own one-man peace effort. Fujimura is one of history's more admirable men. In addition to attempting to end the war, he saved a handful of Jews in Berlin by trading imported food to the SS and obtaining visas for them. Along with a German Japanophile by the name of Hack, he approached the OSS men in Bern, whom Fujimura knew to be reliable from their work with Germans, and chatted them up. The conversation was amiable, and few days later they contacted him again.
On May 3, Hack dropped off a fateful note to two men he knew only as Mr. White and Mr. Blum, saying that Fujimura was interested in direct negotiations with the US. One of the OSS men was Allen Dulles, brother to the famous John Dulles. The State Department gave Dulles the go-ahead to continue the discussions. Interested readers will note that the US did not brush this off.
On May 8 Fujimura contacted Tokyo (remember that the US is reading his messages). Since he did not have Tokyo's backing, he presented the contacts as being initiated by Dulles. Thus, the Americans knew from the start that he did not have the backing of his government.
Days passed. No answer from Tokyo. Meanwhile the meetings with Dulles continued. In all thirteen days flew by, with Fujimura bombarding his navy superiors in Tokyo with descriptions of Germany in ruins, and veteran US infantry boarding ships bound for the Pacific. Finally, on the 21st, Tokyo responded. The telgram admitted that "the principle point of your negotiations with the OSS was fully understood," but added that "there are certain points indicative of an enemy plot; therefore we advise you to be very cautious."
Fujimura was crushed, but soldiered on, finally telling Dulles that since Tokyo was uncooperative, he would have to go there himself. Dulles gave him a counteroffer. The US would provide a plane, and fly out any Japanese official with the power to negotiate, with a guarantee of safety. Interested readers will note that the US actively pursued this even though it knew Tokyo was not supporting this offer.
May turned to June, and still nothing happened. The Navy Minister, Adm. Yonai, sent only one additional telegram. As Craig, who interviewed Fujimura, notes (p36), Yonai knew that anyone who attempted to get on that plane would almost certainly die before it left Tokyo. Instead, he let the initiative die. After the war, Yonai apologized to Fujimura. "I assume all responsibility for our failure successfully to guide the preparations for peace and peace negotiations with the Dulles agency."
Of all the various independent peace moves, this one showed most promise.
At the same time, but independently of Fujimura, the Japanese military attache in Zurich and Basel, Lt. Gen. Seigo Okamoto, launched his own independent effort to end the war. This was based on his close personal friendship with Imp. Army Chief of Staff Umezu. Nevertheless, he also failed to garner any support in Tokyo. Sadly, all of the independent efforts were killed by Tokyo...
To Russia, with Hope
On May 21, 1945, the new foreign minister, Togo, sent two fateful messages. First, cabled all his diplomatic posts in a circular, flatly denying that "Japan has ever made peace proposals to America and England." In his second message to Sato in Moscow, he directed the latter to sound out the glacial Molotov on Russia's intentions toward Japan. Sato met with Molotov, and then responded to Tokyo, Cassandra to Troy. "We are facing future trouble with Russia," he bluntly said, saying that it was imperative that the government clearly determine how far it would go with the Russians. It would never do that.
Japanese policy during the war was set by the Supreme War Council, consisting of six members. The Big Six from April 5 on were PM Suzuki, Foreign Minister Togo, Navy Minister Yonai, Army Minister Anami, Chief of the Naval General Staff Oikawa (quickly replaced by Toyoda in May) and Chief of the Army General Staff Umezu. At the time the only known advocate of peace was the redoubtable Togo, though after the war claims were made on behalf of Toyoda and Suzuki. Nothing in the record at the time supports this contention.
There are several things that must be noted at this juncture, for they formed the background to all "peace" discussions held by the Big Six and other officials. First, the law stipulated that the Army Minister must be a serving officer. Since the government could not function without all the ministerial posts filled, this meant that if the military did not like a governmental decision, it could bring down the government simply by having the Army Minister resign (which is exactly what happened when Japan surrendered). Thus, no peace agreement could take place without the military's say-so. Since Anami did not support peace -- even after two A-Bombs and Soviet entry, he still argued that the war was not necessarily lost -- there was no question of any peace agreement being made. It could not have been made without his approval, and there was no hint that any such thing would ever occur.
The second vital problem faced by peace advocates (and war advocates as well) was "government by assassination." Japanese politics was restrained by fear of assassination by rightist junior military officers. Anyone who openly advocated peace was in danger. In fact, there was little discussion of it until May, when Togo prevailed upon the Big Six to meet without their staff, so that no military underlings would be present to make implicit threats. Assassination attempts were common throughout the war; Tojo was the object of several plots, including one by more than 50 officers.
The third problem was that Japan was a totalitarian state in which thought and information were strictly controlled. This meant that discussions that sought ways to end the war could only take place in secret, and much communication consisted of circumlocutions, euphemisms, and unspoken agreements, to avoid discovery by the secret police. Most high officials did not have a clear idea of the progress of the war, nor did they understand how completely the Japanese military had been overwhelmed by superior US numbers, equipment, tactics, firepower, and technology. Many Japanese leaders argued that the Japanese possessed sufficient resources in territory and troops (about 4 million men under arms) that the US could be brought to the negotiating table. They did not conceive of Japan as a nation totally outclassed by its opponents. Thus, the thinking among Japanese leaders was founded on fantasies of Japanese strength. Those men who had realistic appraisals of the situation, such as staff officers in Imperial General HQ in Tokyo, or Kase and Sato in their embassies abroad, either had no clout or were ignored.
The ultimate fantasy of Imperial Japan was the Russian "peace" initiative of the summer of 1945. This was an attempt to get the Russians to mediate an end to the war that would leave Japan and most of its holdings intact, forestall a forced disarmament, and enable Japan to continue its adventure in China, while using Russia to compel the US to the negotiating table. Sato, Japan's man in Moscow, put this entire initiative into perspective with a series of telegrams fired off in July and read by the US. Responding to Togo's suggestion that as a bargaining counter, Japan would give up territories it had taken since the beginning of the war, Sato scathingly replied:
How much of an effect do you expect our statements regarding the non-annexation and non-possession of territories which we have already lost or are about to lose will have on Soviet authorities?
As you are well aware, the Soviet authorities are extremely realistic and it is extremely difficult to persuade them with abstract arguments. We certainly will not convince them with pretty little phrases devoid of all connection with reality.
If the Japanese Empire is really faced with the necessity of terminating the war, we must first of all make up our own minds to terminate the war. Unless we make up our own minds, there is absolutely no point in sounding out the views of the Soviet Government.
Sato urged the government to end the war, saying that Japan would have to accept "virtually the equivalent of unconditional surrender."
The Russian "peace" initiative began in May. Togo gradually realized that the Army would never negotiate directly with the US. The Army had long envisioned war against Russia, however, a sound whipping at Nomohan prior to WWII in what was probably history's first true combined arms battle resulted in hasty revisions to this plan, as it was obvious Japan's army would never be able to face a real opponent (as WWII revealed). The focus on Russia remained (few top Army leaders knew anything about the US), and Togo, who was the only one among the Big Six who advocated an end to the war, finally realized that the Army would only negotiate through Russia.
On May 14, 1945, Togo drafted a memorandum outlining the proposed plan in the vaguest terms imaginable, after Suzuki gave his blessing in meetings held from May 11 to the 14th. He wrote, fantastically:
It should be clearly made known to Russia that she owes her victory over Germany to Japan, since we remained nuetral, and that it would be to the advantage of the Soviets to help Japan maintain her international position, since they have the United States as an enemy in the future.
The memorandum warned that Russia might demand a high price for this, and said that Japan might have to give up Port Arthur, Dairen, railways in Manchuria, and the northern portions of the Kuriles. Stalin had been promised much of this at Yalta anyway.
The draft was approved by all six of the Big Six, and Togo sent an experienced Russian specialist, Koki Hirota, to sound out Yakov Malik, the Russian ambassador. The devastating May 25 firebombing of Tokyo delayed his mission, and it was not until June 3 that he finally reached Malik in his home two hours from Tokyo. Preliminary talks yielded nothing but vague friendly comments.
Meanwhile, the military had not been idle. On June 6 there was another meeting of the Big Six. Far from seeking peace, in a new document from Supreme Command entitled The Fundamental Policy to be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War, the military demanded an official confirmation of:
With a faith born of eternal loyalty as our inspiration, we shall -- thanks to the advatnages of our terrain and the unity of our nation, prosecute the war to the bitter end in order to uphold our national essence, protect the Imperial land and achieve our goals of conquest.
A list of steps followed, including preparations for homeland defense and the formation of a national volunteer army. It called for the "honorable death of the hundred million" -- national suicide. The resolution passed over Togo's horrified objections. The resolution was then forwarded to the emperor for approval. In meeting with a number of top leaders, the motion was approved without objections.
Kido, as shocked by this as Togo was, memorialized His Majesty on the Ninth, arguing that Japan must begin negotiations with an intermediary power to get the US to end the war before Japan was destroyed. Kido, like all Japanese statesman, knew that "the enemy's main object is the overthrow of the so-called military clique" and that if Japan threw down its weapons and withdrew from occupied areas in the Pacific (no one was willing to contemplate withdrawal from China) then perhaps it could end the war. Disarmament would also have to be accepted. On the 13th Suzuki made a speech to the Diet calling for peace, and was shouted down.
Finally, on June 22 the Emperor abruptly summoned the Big Six to his side. "This is not an imperial command," he said, "but merely a discussion." There he broached the idea of sending a special envoy to Russia to negotiate for peace. Togo had been keeping the Emperor informed of progress with Malik, and the Emperor asked when an envoy could be sent. "Probably mid-July," Togo estimated. Togo warned that Japan would have to give up much.
Hirota went back to Malik and bluntly asked Russia to renew the Nuetrality Pact (it was set to expire in April of 1946; the Russians had given one year notice as the Treaty stipulated; when they invaded in August they did so by breaking this Treaty). Malik was evasive. Hirota offered Japan's resources from the South Pacific, rubber, tin, lead, tungsten. "if the Soviet Army and the Japanese Navy joined forces," he argued, "Japan and the USSR would become the strong force in the world!" Inasmuch as the Japanese Navy rested on the ocean bottom, Malik was not impressed by this offer. He replied that a concrete plan would be necessary, echoing language Sato would later use.
In less than a week, Hirota came back. In return for a new non-aggression treaty and oil, Japan would give Manchuria her independence (which it already nominally had!) and fishing concessions in Japanese waters. This was wired to Molotov through Sato in Moscow.
A week passed with no reply from Moscow to this generous offers (during this time the Okamoto affair in Switzerland began). On July 7 the Emperor lost patience and sent for Suzuki. Why not dispatch a special envoy with a personal message from the Throne?
The obvious choice for this was Konoye, and he was summoned on July 12. Recall that, as background, US planes are bombing Japan everyday, the Imperial Japanese Navy is almost gone, civilians are suffering from starvation, Japan is cut off from its garrisons and possessions, and interested readers may wonder at the absurd lack of urgency in these affairs. Yet there is was. Weeks went by with no progress. The Soviets also informed the US of these manuevers, keeping us abreast of developments, and of course, the diplomatic traffic between Moscow and Tokyo is being read by the US. Finally, ULTRA was revealing the extent of the Japanese build-up in Kyushu.
Sato was informed by telegram to expect an envoy and to ask the Russians to smooth his place. With his usual bluntness, he replied with wonder how the USSR would profit from an early end to the war. Familiar with the real situation (unlike Tokyo) Sato watched troop trains transferring troops to the Far East and knew that Russia would move against Manchuria and the Japanese Far East. He also noted that Russia had shown no interest in the Hirota-Malik talks, so why would they now accept an envoy? Common sense, however, was out of fashion in Tokyo.
On July 11 Togo notified Sato that he was to find out the intent of the Russia government toward Japan and whether it could be used to end the war. On the 12th he cabled Sato again, notifying him of Konoye's expected arrival and asking for the conference to place after Potsdam (the Japanese were aware that the Big Three were meeting there). Togo again cabled Sato on the 17th, a famous cable often deliberately misquoted by revisionist propagandists. After describing the Russia initiative, Togo noted:
The Emperor himself has deigned to express his determination and we have therefore made this request of the Russians. Please bear particularly in mind, however that we are not seeking the Russians' mediation for anything like unconditional surrender.Although it looks to the ignorant western reader that the Emperor has given an order and all are leaping to obey, in fact it was the opposite. Sato had already sent a telegram to Togo the previous day, asking for clarification on a vital issue:
I would like to point out that even on the basis of your various messages I have obtained no clear idea of the recent situation. Nor am I clear about the views of the Government and Military with regard to the termination of the war.
Sato had, in polite diplomatic language, asked the 64 thousand dollar question: did the military and other government leaders support ending the war? Togo had cabled him back an evasive no, saying with elaborate circumlocution, that only the Emperor suported this initiative. Togo could not say that there was broad support because no such support existed. As both Toyoda and Suzuki said after the war (Anami killed himself), there was no agreement on terms or even on the initiative itself from the Big Six. Indeed on the 14th they had a heated confrontation in which Anami, speaking for the military, said bluntly that he would never accept any document which concluded peace on terms of Japan's defeat. Togo's message, far from establishing that the government wanted peace, in fact establishes that there was no agreement among top leaders.
The use of this cable by revisionists highlights the extent to which the revisionist argument hinges on the ignorance of westerners of the realities of Japanese politics, and why revisionist writers spend so little time on what was going on in Tokyo. The only reason that anyone could think Japan was willing to surrender is if they didn't know anything about Japanese politics or the situation in 1945. In order to support their claim, revisionists must keep the audience in ignorance.
On July 19 Sato again cabled Tokyo. He said that the Soviets had challenged the purpose of the envoy, and warned that it was hard for him to "deny that Japanese authorities are out of touch with the prevailing atmosphere here."
On July 21 Togo summarized the situation in a cable back, saying that Sato believed that unconditional surrender with the sole proviso of the preservation of the Emperor would be acceptable to the Allies (as it later proved to be). Togo explained:
- With regard to unconditional surrender we are unable to consent to it under any circumstances whatever. Even if the war drags on and it becomes that it will take much more than bloodshed, the whole country as one man will pit itself against the enemy in accordance with the Imperial Will so long as the enemy demands unconditional surrender. It is in order to avoid such a state of affairs that we are seeking a peace, which is not so-called unconditional surrender, through the good offices of Russia.
On July 25 Sato met again with USSR rep Alexander Lozovsky, but having no concrete plans to show the Russians, danced diplomatically and promised that Konoye would have such plans when he replied. Interested readers may note that the month of July passed without any results, yet Japan showed no urgency on the peace score. The Soviets, who had informed the US that they had no interest in such negotiations, were simply spinning things out while they got their forces ready to invade Manchuria.
In sum, the Japanese move for "peace" through Russia was simply a fantasy born of desperation. It was never a real peace initiative, never contained concrete offers, and never went anywhere. It certainly was not a move to end the war on terms acceptable to the US and its allies.
In Part IV we will continue to examine specific issues relating to the use of the A-Bomb, now from the American side. First we will look at the case of the Zacharias broadcasts. This one in two parts.... here's the first
The Zacharias Broadcasts
Ellis Zacharias was a maverick US Navy Captain who was convinced that if the right psychological approach was taken, Japan could be made to surrender. Despite subsequent disproval by the tide of history, and disavowal by two governments, Zacharias persisted in this erroneous beliefs after the war. We will discuss this article further down.
Zacharias was one of the few men in the US who had actual and extensive experience of Japan. He had visited Japan prior to the war, and had been a language officer in Japan under the Harding Administration. Perspicacious, independent, fluent in Japanese, and highly intelligent, he had been studying the island nation for two decades. He had befriended future admirals of the Japanese Navy, and they knew and respected him.
Under the auspices of the Office of War Information, Zacharias and his team drew up a plan code-named I-45, envisioning a series of propaganda broadcasts aimed at Tokyo. He outlined his plan thus:
"Careful observation of the Japanese under varying conditions and activities...has led to the invevitable conclusion that no Japanese, regardless of rank or position, is so constituted as an individual he is willing or able to assume responsibility for important decisions without the benefit of lengthy and repeated discussions sufficient to convince him that he does not carry the responsibility alone. This continued demonstration of individual inferiority, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, is the Japanese weakness which must be exploited to the fullest." (Craig p37-40)
Zacharias' own analysis reveals the great weakness of his ideas: they depended on getting the acceptance of everyone involved in the decision process. As we have seen, that was an impossibility. Fundamentally, no one in Japan wanted to surrender unconditionally, and none of the military officials wanted to end the war at all. Additionally, Zacharias was not entirely in the intelligence loop and was unaware of what the men above him knew; he had no access to MAGIC and ULTRA data, and so no clue as to actual conditions in Japan. Finally, his plans also had a unique problem: this plan was simply cover for a more ambitious plan of his own. Zacharias, without orders and in defiance of official policy, intended to carry out his own initiative to end the war.
On May 8 Zacharias put his plan into action. He broadcast to Japan, in fluent Japanese, that Germany had surrendered and that it was only a matter of time until Japan was destroyed. To establish his bona fides, he mentioned his relationships with Admiral Yonai, Premier Suzuki, and Prince Takamatsu. The following day an innocent message was inserted into the Domei News Agency broadcast, often used for leaks by high officials, that signaled to Zacharias his message had been received.
Two more broadcasts followed. Finally, on May 27, Dr. Isamou Inouye spoke back, with a famous parable:
"The wind and sun decided to make a man remove his coat. The wind blew harder but the man held his coat tighter and tighter. The wind failed. The sun gently simled and warmed the passerby with his sunbeams. The passerby shed his coat."
Dr. Inouye ended by saying that he would like to know what Zacharias-kun (good friend) thought of these words.
May slipped into June. Recall that in Tokyo the Japanese leadership is squelching Fujimura's peace initiative, and putting together the Russian process, Hirota's first meeting with Malik being June 3. This was unknown to Zacharias. Still Zacharias went on broadcasting.
June slipped into July. Another 100,000 Chinese died, Asian slave laborers perished by the thousand all over the Japanese empire, American bombers are leveling Japanese cities and the submarine and mining campaigns have destroyed the economy. Colonel Sydney Mashbir, another Japan expert, joined the broadcast effort from his base in Manila. In July Zacharias began to slip his leash, informing the Japanese that "unconditional surrender" was a 'technical term' whose exact meaning was subject to negotiation. "The Japanese face two alternatives," he said, "One is the virtual destruction of Japan followed by a dictated peace. The other is unconditional surrender with its attendant benefits as laid down by the Atlantic Charter." At the same time his assistant, Ladislas Farago, with Zacharias' approval, placed a famous letter to the editor in the Washington Post on July 17 which said that if Japan wanted to know the peace terms, all they had to do was ask. This letter caused a furor when it was published, for it was thought (wrongly) to be a trial balloon from the US gov't and not from Zacharias' own imagination.
The radio statement was responded to swiftly. A different Dr. Inouye, a former prof at USC, said on July 24 that if American put into practice the Atlanic Charter, with the exception of its punitive clause, than the military would lay down its arms. That was the last response Zacharias ever received. For Inouye had in fact misspoken.
Despite the fact that only low-level spokesman had responded to Zacharias, his broadcasts had reached the highest level of the Foreign Ministry. On July 25 Togo ruminated on the broadcasts in an official communication to Sato in Moscow, a couple of paragraphs often found in revisionist texts that attempt to show that Zacharias' broadcasts demonstrate that more might have been done, or that Japan might have been confused. But unfortunately for the revisionists, Japan's Self-Defense Agency, in its own Official History, flatly rejects this interpretation. While Zacharias had the attention of the Foreign Ministry, which had no legal authority or real clout to secure a peace, his broadcasts had no impact at all on the dominant political force in Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army. Nor did any other key policymaker ever leave any evidence that they knew of these broadcasts.
This brings up a further point on Grew. After the war, Grew edited his memory to say that if we had offered them unconditional surrender coupled with preservation of the Emperor, the Japanese would have bought it. Interesting, because on July 22, Grew sent a long message to Byrnes explaining how the Zacharias broadcasts cogently supported the position that unconditional surrender was only option, should be done ASAP, and indicated our policy vis-a-vis the Throne was to allow the people to chose. He clearly implied that the Potsdam declaration need go no further, and that the Japanese now had the freedom to retain the Emperor if they wish. "Particular importance is attached by the US press to statement in release that Captain Zacharias broadcast as "an official spokesman of US government" and to the fact that the Atlantic Charter commits the signatory governments to permit peoples to select their own form of Government. This was interpreted as indicating the formulation of American policy with reference to the Emperor."
In other words, on July 22 Grew clearly stated that we had offered the Japanese unconditional surrender + retention of the Emperor. I don't want to say that Grew lied, but his bit of memory editing here is rather egregious.
We will now turn to the sad task of rebutting Zacharias' postwar ramblings.
Zacharias' Postwar Claims
After the war Zacharias published his position that Japan was ready to surrender and could have been made to surrender with psych warfare. It is not often cited by serious writers, even revisionists (just google the title and you'll see that you get just six, count'em -- six, independent hits), because it is so flagrantly crazy.
Just to see why it is so bad, we can go over it claim by claim.
- One of the first such moves, proving we were on the right track, came when the Emperor of Japan asked the Holy See to intervene with us on his behalf and seek out our terms in preparation for formal peace negotiations with Pope Pius XII himself acting as intermediary. ... Involved in this move, besides the Pope, were Pietro Cardinal Fumasoni-Biondi, head of the Congregazione de Propaganda Fide, the Vatican's own "intelligence service"; His Excellency, Petro Tatsuo Doi, Archbishop of Tokyo; two of the Cardinal's representatives in Tokyo and members of a special mission of the Office of Strategic Services working in Italy on contacts developed through the Vatican...In fact the State Department discouraged it altogether and told the O.S.S. to discontinue its efforts, since American public opinion "might never approve of a peace negotiated with the help of the Roman Catholic Church."
This is a confused account. The reality is that this opening was initiated by the Vatican, not Hirohito. It was through Vagnozzi, and rejected by the Japanese, who wanted some Power with more clout. Besides, as Togo and Kido cutely put in in their summary during the May meetings, the Pope was unacceptable because of "[his] negative attitude toward the war." (Frank, 94). Naturally Zacharias could not know what went on in the Tokyo meetings in May.
- To strengthen our knowledge of Japanese sentiments for peace still further, Tokyo---at about this time---also called on the Russians to negotiate peace on its behalf. Here, however, the obstacle was that the Soviet never acted on the request, in fact it never advised us of the Japanese move. We had to learn about it in a roundabout way.
This very confused. As we have seen, Tokyo had not contacted the Russians with a concrete plan, and none had ever been formed, so there was nothing for the Soviets to act on even if they had been so disposed. Zacharias claimed that the Sovs never told us of the move, but that is false. Stalin himself told Truman himself (Weintraub p232-3). I doubt Truman felt it important to stop by the Office of War Information and inform a relatively unimportant naval captain of his conversations with Comrade Stalin. Further, we knew about the negotiations through our MAGIC intercepts, which Zacharias seems to be vaguely aware of here.
Zacharias goes on to write
- This materialized on April 5, when Emperor Hirohito dismissed General Koiso as Premier, naming in his place Admiral Suzuki, whose job would be to explore the possibilities of ending the war. There was no time to lose.
Alas, this is also a bit of post-war memory editing, this time by the Japanese. Suzuki's loyal supporters would like to claim that he was a peace monger, but no evidence from the time supports that view. In fact, as Suzuki himself confessed in a moment of candor, he knew nothing of the war situation when he came to office (the Navy had withheld information on the extent of Japan's disasters from almost everyone). One reason Togo held the meetings in May was because he understood the extent to which Suzuki was ignorant of the war, and thus, one of Togo's first and most urgent priorities was to apprise him of the real situation. Even then, Suzuki never worked for peace, as his later behavior showed.
Zacharias then says that his unit developed four plans. The first:
- Plan One was a trip by submarine to "somewhere in Japan" for which Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the well-known motion picture actor, volunteered. The purpose of the mission was to establish direct contact with a group of influential Japanese political leaders close to the Dowager Empress, who had indicated their willingness to discuss peace with us through a member of the Swedish Legation in Tokyo.
Mr. Fairbanks at the time was serving with COMINCH, at Admiral King's headquarters in Washington. He developed the plan on his own initiative as if desirous of ending his wartime career with a particularly gallant exploit. The men around the Dowager Empress were his friends and acquaintances, and he felt certain that he could persuade them to act on our behalf, to recruit others for the plot and to carry the conspiracy to a successful conclusion.
First, it is highly unlikely that the Empress Dowager contacted anyone in Sweden or anywhere else about this (how?). This idea was wisely killed as "Buck Rogers" by wiser heads above Zacharias. We know from actual study of Japanese politics that the Empress Dowager Sadako, while influential, could not have made any decisions nor could she have overruled Anami and the militarists. This plan, even if real, had no chance of succeeding. (Here is an interesting article on the ins and outs of the Japanese Royal Family.) In any case, if you read the second paragraph closely, it is clear that Fairbanks conceived the idea on his own ("He developed this plan on his own initiative"). Additionally, Zacharias writes that "Mr. Fairbanks at the time was serving with COMINCH, at Admiral King's headquarters in Washington" but at that time Fairbanks was working with a special unit whose purpose was deception schemes for the invasion of Singapore by the Brits. I can find no information that he ever worked for COMINCH. It is unlikely that Fairbanks, a special operations man, would have wound up at COMINCH (Commander in Chief United States Fleet, the highest man in the Navy) when his job was getting along with the Brits, a position to which he had been appointed by Roosevelt himself. However, on the plus side, Fairbanks had a lifelong volunteer and caring streak, directing hospitals and serving as chairman of CARE after the war. He was also bold and imaginative. Despite the holes, this is something Fairbanks might have thought of.
Zacharias then writes about the General Oshima plan.
- We found him hiding in southern Germany and made preparations to "exploit" him. With great and difficult effort, we succeeded in persuading the Army that Oshima should be brought to the United States. When we contacted him, we found him most eager to join in our plot. Our idea was to arrange a meeting, through certain neutral agents, with Admiral Suzuki's personal representative on a small Pacific island held by us. Oshima would have been accompanied by Lt. Dennis McEvoy, one of my young aides in Op-16-W, and I would have followed myself had my presence have become necessary in the course of the negotiations.
Plan Two was developed in Op-16-W, and it also died right there. When its details were communicated to certain Army representatives, General Oshima was moved from our reach and could never be found again until the end of the war.
Oshima was sentenced to death at the Tokyo War Crimes trials. He was locked up as a war criminal, and there is no way that he would ever have been permitted to go to an island in the Pacific.
Zacharias drones on
- Plan Three foresaw the development of close contacts with enemy representatives through Cardinal Fumasoni-Biondi and the Vatican. Even while the plan was being developed by us, more urgent messages reached us from the Holy See, conveying to us a truly desperate plea the Emperor had just flashed to the Pope through Archbishop Doi. It was the last "S.O.S." we ever received from Tokyo via Vatican City. Shortly afterwards the Cardinal was told that "someone in Washington" was not looking favorably at his efforts. So this plan too had to be abandoned, despite the fact that it promised greater fruits without involving ourselves in the adventures of Plans One and Two.
As we know, the Vatican initiative was rejected by the Japanese, and Hirohito favored negotiation with Russia. Hirohito never mentioned these Vatican initiatives in any postwar, and Zacharias, as usual in all these claims, gives no details or references (what was the date, for example?)
- After a few broadcasts, though, we began to run short of ammunition. No matter how we prodded our government to prepare a special policy for us, to grant us permission to goad the Japanese into negotiations through carefully worded invitations, we could not obtain anything even remotely resembling a policy.
We were told in so many words that no one in high places really expected the Japanese to surrender especially "not in answer to a few broadcasts by a Captain of the United States Navy--my rank at the time. We were also told that the Pacific war would last until 1946 and even 1948, and that we could make ourselves more useful by turning to tactical propaganda problems.
Zacharias does not know what his higher-ups knew from reading Japanese mail: that Japan was never going to surrender. Far from being ignored or obtaining anything remotely resembling a policy, we already know that several people (such as Grew, who sent summaries to Byrnes) were following the broadcasts, but there was no feedback from Japan.
- Shortly afterwards, on June 26, an Imperial Conference was called. The Emperor ordered his advisers to prepare immediate plans to end the war on whatever terms Japan could obtain from us.
There was no Imperial Conference on June 26 listed in any of my sources. There was one on June 8th. The Big Six were convened on June 22. There does not seem to have been any major meeting of any kind on June 26. In any case, at no time did the Emperor ever ask for immediate plans to end the war; he supported Ketsu-go until Hiroshima, and sought a negotiated peace and terms through Russia. It is incredible to argue that Hirohito asked for any possible peace on June 26, and then in July suddenly thought of sending a man to Moscow to negotiate, and all this changing policy appears in no reference on the end of the war. Zacharias is simply fantasizing.
Zacharias then discusses how nobody would listen to his pleas to slow the war down so they could negotiate. Like all revisionists, Zacharias convenientily forgets that we were not alone in the war, that the Chinese were suffering on a biblical scale, that the Russians were hurrying to invade Japan and grab Manchuria, and that we had Allies to answer to. This is classic revisionist formulation, short on facts and ethics, long on accusations and complaints. Instead, he demanded that the killing be prolonged so he could play mind games with Japanese spokesmen.
- So we decided on a last rebellion. In retrospect I am surprised how we dared, in the midst of war, to devise a plan and carry it out almost single-handed. But Secretary Forrestal was behind us. And with his help, the last phase of our operation began.
Zach then describes the "outrage" in Washington -- actually, as we know from Grew's remarks to Byrnes, the outrage is exaggerated by Zacharias, and adds
- The controversy was still raging in Washington when Tokyo broadcast the first answer to my announcement. It was, in effect, an open invitation to begin surrender negotiations on the terms we had proposed.
It was not for me to provide the follow-up. From then on, it was for higher authorities of our government to continue my efforts and conclude, behind closed doors, negotiations leading to the cessation of hostilities.
Once again, let us recall that Zacharias is not getting answers from "Tokyo" but from low-level spokesman in the Foreign Ministry. He is puffing up his own importance by not facing that crucial fact. No one in power in Tokyo ever agreed to any negotiations on the basis of these broadcasts, and the military was dead set against surrender. Further, as we know, on July 21, the crucial "X-day" of the broadcasts (summarized by Grew above) Japan had already decided against direct negotiations with the US in favor of Russia. Japan and the US had a 24-7 line in Switzerland and had already been negotiating other matters during the war. If they had really wanted to talk, they knew where we were. Finally, the higher authorities knew from MAGIC intercepts, which Zacharias did not see, that Japan was never going to surrender as a result of psychological warfare, but was instead seeking Russia's help in negotiating for terms.
Zacharias then goes on to describe how Forrestal saved his life when everyone was screaming for his head:
- Then Forrestal came to our aid. He told Arthur Krock, Chief of the New York Times Washington bureau, that I did have the authority to make the statement I had made in the broadcast and that it did indeed reflect the President's opinion.
Forrestal then called Potsdam and requested Presidential approval (after the fact) for our "deliberate indiscretion." Finally he dropped everything in Washington and flew to Potsdam himself.
Our nerves were on edge as we waited word from Potsdam. Then came the Associated Press flash saying the President would stand by my reference to the Atlantic Charter.
Forrestal met Truman on the 28th and his diary apparently contains no mention of this topic, though he wrote a detailed synopsis of his talks with the President. Forrestal's diary entries on Japanese peace feelers in this period (here) contain no mention of Zacharias. Indeed, it is unlikely that he flew to Europe to Potsdam so he could talk to the President about Zacharias, when in fact he flew there to be at Potsdam so he could in a word edgewise (future Prez JFK was with him as attache/handsome man-about-town/unemployed son of person of influence). Once again, Zacharias is puffing up his own importance.
Zacharias then reveals his bizarre right-wing bias (he became a right-wing fruitcake after the war):
- Just when the Japanese were ready to capitulate, we went ahead and introduced to the world the most devastating weapon it had ever seen and, in effect, gave the go-ahead to Russia to swarm over Eastern Asia.
As WE know, the Japanese were not ready to capitulate. No surrender measures or terms were ever agreed on. Anyone who wishes to refute that claim can bring the agreed-on terms.
But if you don't think ol' Zach was a nut, please read his own words of November 17, 1945, or five years earlier, on Potsdam:
- The Potsdam Declaration reiterated the tenets voiced in my talks, and fully endorsed them on the highest Allied level. By the time my last broadcast went on the air, "No. 14," on August 5, 1945, there was no longer any need for persuasion and psychological warfare. The B-29 of Colonel Tibbets, with its precious cargo in the bomb bay, was flying from the Central Pacific straight toward Hiroshima just as the Japanese monitors in Tokyo were taking down my words.
Compare this with the effect of five years of memory editing:
- The Potsdam Declaration, in short, wrecked everything we had been working for to prevent further bloodshed and insure our postwar strategic position.
That article is also interesting for what it reveals about his erroneous understanding of Japanese politics:
- [the peace] group included old Admiral Suzuki, a confidant of the Emperor; Navy Minister Yonai, representing the whole Navy clique; General Umezu, chief of the Imperial General Staff and leader of the dissidents within the Army; Shigenori Togo, Japan's Foreign Minister at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack; Baron Hiranuma, president of the Privy Council, and General Hasunurma, chief aide-de-camp of the Emperor.
Suzuki was not a peacemonger, Hiranuma was an extremely reactionary conservative who apparently hated the way the Army was ruining Japan and was totally loyal to the Throne, who enjoyed playing devil's advocate to any proposal (and had no formal power), Umezu rejected unconditional surrender and held out for terms even after Nagasaki -- he also opposed the Russian peace initiative along with Anami (and was known as the "Ivory Mask" for his unreadability, he was also a wily political animal), Yonai also supported continuing the war, and Hasunurma was a nobody (apparently a misspelling, as I cannot find him anywhere except in this article). In other words, the only genuine peacemonger on the list there is Togo!
- We know now that, without those extreme measures, Japan would have quit by September 15.
Actually, there is no way that Zacharias could know this. You will notice he gives no arguments or references or evidences for this astounding claim. Finally, like all revisionists, Zacharias is always willing to trade any lives, in any amount, for a surrender so long as they are not Japanese. He'd have the killing go on for an additional month -- bombing Japan's cities, sinking its ships, and of course, the deaths of Japanese slave laborers, the fighting in the Philippines, in China (100,000 or so a week) and elsewhere across the Pacific, the slow death by starvation of Japanese garrisons (many of which were rushed food from the US after the war ended), and of the Japanese people as caloric intake continued to plunge below 1600 per day on average (estimates are difficult, but that is a good average). Like all revisionists, Zacharias can come up with no argument why we should accept more Chinese deaths over fewer Japanese ones. The revolting ethical implications of A-bomb revisionism stem from its acceptance of Japanese racism toward other Asians as its underlying ethical framework. A-Bomb revisionism is ethically unsustainable and should not be accepted by anyone who considers themselves an ethical human being.
In summary, the Zacharias broadcasts are an interesting footnote to history, but are of absolutely no importance in the overall process of peace. Zacharias generated only passing interest in the Foreign Ministry, was answered by only low-level spokesmen (not "Tokyo"), did not affect the all-important army leaders, had no effect on the outcome of the war, and did not present a viable alternative to dropping the atomic bombs.
Were they going to Surrender?
One of the nastiest canards invented by postwar propagandists is that the Bomb was dropped as Japan was trying to surrender. There is no truth to this. In fact, as MAGIC and ULTRA showed, far from surrendering, Japan explicitly rejected surrender, and instead built up its forces in Kyushu for Operation Ketsu-go. Ketsu-go was a defense in depth of the Kyushu beaches whose purpose was to inflict so many casualties that the Americans would blanch and settle for a negotiated peace that would leave the military in a position of dominance over society.
By contrast, unconditional surrender, as envisioned by the Allies, was a policy designed to prevent that. It actually involved several concrete policies rejected by Japan -- occupation of the Home Islands, Allied control of the government, elimination of military domination over society and installation of democracy, disarmament, and the loss of territories Japan had won since the Sino-Japanese War in 1895. When Japan rejected "unconditional surrender," it rejected those policies.
With this understanding in mind, the meaning of the correspondence between Sato and Togo becomes clear. Sato, in Moscow, watching the troop trains embark for Manchuria, Germany being occupied, and the Allies working on plans for a post-war world, kept urging Tokyo to come up with concrete plans to end the war. Several times he returned to the theme: either Japan accepts some form of unconditional surrender, with the suggested sole proviso that the Emperor be preserved, or it would get nothing. Again and again, Sato demanded to know what the concrete terms were Tokyo had agreed on, and whether the peace program had the support of the military and the government. Togo evaded this in his famous and much-abused telegram of July 17, in which he stressed that the program was the Imperial Will. This was a circumlocution; the actual fact was the Russian initiative did not have the support of the military or the government. On August 2, Togo, in response to one of Sato's telegrams from the Real World, confessed again the lack of agreement on peace terms. Note that even Togo, was still thinking of terms plural. He, like everyone else, had explicitly rejected unconditional surrender, saying:
- With regard to unconditional surrender, we are unable to accept it under any circumstances whatsoever
As the MAGIC (diplomatic) summaries indicated, no messages indicating any desire for an end to the war were sent out from Tokyo prior to mid-July of 1945. At the same time, ULTRA (military) traffic was showing that Japan was building up its forces on Kyushu for Ketsu-go. The July traffic was especially ominous, for it showed that US planners had vastly underestimated the number and quality of forces on Kyushu. Revisionists avoid mention of the ULTRA data, because of its clear political import: it showed that the Japanese leaders wanted to continue the war. Based on this data, in fact, naval intelligence analysts in the US correctly identified Imperial policy, noting that the fundamental obstacle to peace was the Imperial Army's belief that it could achieve success against an invasion. This assessment was not only presented in the ULTRA summaries, it was also presented in the MAGIC diplomatic summary of July 27. It was this belief that the A-Bomb destroyed.
Finally, there is the evidence given by the Emperor himself in the Showa Tenno Dokuhakuroku, his formal statement prepared after the war. Nowhere in this document does the Emperor say he wanted Konoye, the envoy to Russia, to end the war or that terms for the ending of the war had been formulated. Nor did the Emperor criticize the Japanese dismissal of the Potsdam Declaration (despite all the good that such statements might have done for him at any war crimes trial!). As Frank notes (p239), "in the face of this evidence, it is fantasy, not history, to believe that the end of the war was at hand before the use of the atomic bomb."
What did the US know, and when did it know it?
Of all the historian's tasks, reconstructing what people knew at the time is the most difficult. There are several reasons. First, nothing was written down. For example, it is not known what Truman saw and when, nor how he understood the material or what he recalled. Readers should note that the MAGIC summaries between mid-April and mid-August totaled more than 2,000 pages of material. Since it was secret, Truman was not allowed to take notes. So, just because analysts understood something, and forwarded it to higher-ups, is no guarantee that anyone knew anything upstairs. That can only be deduced from examination of the record.
A second problem is that because the meetings were secret, nothing was formally recorded. Consequently, recollections come from diaries, letters, and similar materials, whose meaning is often completely unclear. For example, on July 25 Truman wrote that he met with Marshall and discussed the tactical and political situation. What does tactical and political situation mean in that context? It is reasonable to guess the Pacific is meant, but the precise meaning is lost.
A third problem is that after the war everyone attempted to rewrite history in light of various agendas. For example, the Japanese sought to exonerate the Emperor from blame for the war, and to fix the blame on the US and deprecate the effects of the A-Bomb. Thus, there is much rewriting of the record on their side, some of it comical, as when Kido testified at the war crimes trials that he had made a 'mistake' in his diary and the Emperor did not say something that reflected badly on him. On the US side many people backpedaled from the Bomb, once they realized how horrible it was. Eisenhower, for example, is often quoted as being against the Bomb, but he knew nothing of Pacific affairs, and there is no record that he ever spoke against it at the time. His complaints about it did not appear until 1948. An additional issue on the US side was interservice rivalry. Both Admirals King and Leahy disparaged the Bomb, in part because it made the Air Force more important than the Navy. Similarly the Air Force's Strategic Bombing Survey, as John Ray Skates in (The Invasion of Japan) pointed out, claimed it could have won the war without the A-Bomb by bombing alone, inflating its role to give itself a bigger claim to postwar budgetary largesse.
Still, it is clear that both high and low level policymakers understood the situation in Tokyo (as revealed through the diplomatic and military traffic) well enough. Sec of the Navy James Forrestal's diary tracked the Sato-Togo exchanges, correctly identifying all the nuances in the conversation, such as Sato blasting Togo for being unrealistic. Forrestal's entry for July 24 neatly summarized the Japanese position:
- The Cabinet in council had weighed all the considerations which he had raised and that their final judgment and deciaion was that the war must be gought with all the vigor and bitterness of which the nation was capable so long as the only alternative was the unconditional surrender
Moreover, as Frank notes, if one believes that Americans expected Japan's surrender at any moment, then one would reasonably expect that they would have started to make preparations for that. But the fact was that no such preparations were being made. This strongly indicates that US policymakers were not expecting an imminent end to the war.
The Casualty Discussions
The whole issue of casualties to be incurred in any invasion of Japan is basically pointless. The discussions over the last three months of the war indicate that policymakers were totally at a loss to determine what kind of casualties the US might face. Even short-term projections were hardly possible. ULTRA had pinpointed about 545,000 troops on Kyushu (in reality there were 900,000). However, it did so very late, in July, when an avalanche of new data showed that estimates of the troop concentration on that foredoomed island were hopelessly bad. An additional problem is that Marshall, recognizing that high numbers would be publicly unacceptable, was pressuring everyone to keep the figures down below 100,000.
The simple fact is that everyone, by mid-July, was aware that it was going to be a bloodbath. And so they decided that there was no reason not to use the Bomb.
Unconditional Surrender and Potsdam
This is the most important part, for it rebuts a series of revisionist canards that center around one of the central claims of A-Bomb revisionism, that had the unconditional surrender terms been modified, the Japanese would have surrendered. As we have already seen, this would not be the case, but the topic is worth exploring in more depth.
Japan after WW1 evolved into an authoritarian state under the increasing dominance of the military, especially after the Tokyo Earthquake of 1923, and the ascension of Hirohito to the Throne in 1926. During the 1920s the Japanese military gradually became divided into scores of faction, each loosely grouped around two key ideas. The first was a Japan dominated by the military under the Emperor, and expansion carefully controlled, the so-called "Control" Faction. The second faction was known as the "Imperial Way" faction and basically envisioned Japan itself as an appendage of a military state dedicated to unlimited expansion and an autarkic economic sphere composed of most of Asia. Both groups of factions were expansionist, militarist, and authoritarian, but each saw its relationship to the larger society and the Throne in different ways. It is important to note that maverick scholar Bergamini, who wrote the most penetrating analysis of Japanese politics, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, has argued that the faction fighting was largely political theater organized by the Emperor to eliminate political opponents to his long-term war plans.
An additional factional issue is another set of crucial splits, between those who sought for a southward thrust through the Philippines and into Indonesia and Malaysia, and the "continental clique" who argued for expansion into China and Russia. Generally they respectively represent the Navy and the Army views. The Continental view, as the Army view, had the most political clout. For example, in 1896, when Governor-General Katsura of the colony of Formosa urged Tokyo to attack the Philippines due to Spanish weakness there, he was overruled by the Continental clique which saw the soon-to-be-completed Trans-Siberian Railway as the biggest threat in the Far East. Note too that this strategic split is very old in Japanese politics. Those who would argue that Japan's war against China and the Western colonial powers was a result of the Depression simply know nothing about history.
Emperor or Army radicals, whatever the cause, during the 1930s radical junior officers committed numerous political assassinations of rivals, and of moderates within the larger society. By the end of the 1930s nearly every moderate was dead, along with many expansionists the radicals felt were insufficiently militaristic. It was assassination that brought Tojo to the head of the Control faction, which later led to the leadership of Japan.
It is important to note several things. First, Japan's expansion was, like Germany's, essentially an attempt to develop an autarkic state in which all raw materials could be found and foreign trade would not be necessary. It was, as EH Norman noted in his study of Japanese development, the logical outcome of its late industrialization, peculiar industrialization pattern (which saw extremely advanced weapons technology introduced first, and late state-formation.
Second, this expansion was not a colonial expansion caused by Western colonialism, but represented an abrogation of the previous system of treaties and formal and informal agreements that had prevented serious war in Asia between the Powers. When the Japanese military decided to invade China it was violating the fundamental tenets of the Great Power System that had been erected precisely to keep the peace in Asia. In short, it was something completely new, and not like the other colonial powers. Prior to WWI the Powers had all traded with each other's colonies (for example, Germany's greatest trade outside of the industrialized world was with British India). The Japanese colony of Formosa (Taiwan) by the first decade of the twentieth century was sending half its exports to the United States (Kerr, 53). When Japan locked the western powers out of China (and its other territories, gradually, after the Russo-Japanese War) it was pursuing policies the other Powers were not following (which is why they protested). Nor was it necessary for Japan to do this to gain the resources it needed; prior to the invasion of China it had no trouble getting what it needed for economic expansion. Most of its troubles were due to short-sighted mismanagement of existing territories and resources rather than a lack of access to resources per se -- such as spending 25% of GDP on the military, or subsidizing rice and sugar production throughout the Empire so heavily that the colonized Taiwanese enjoyed higher per capita incomes than the Japanese themselves!
Third, it pays to note the fundamental insanity of Japanese policy prior to WWII. By the late 1930s Japan was deliberately pursuing policies that would bring it into war with the US, Russia, China, and Britain, the four largest political entities on earth, all at the same time. This from a nation with 1/10 the GNP of the United States, dependent on the US for more than 80% of its oil, advanced machine tools, and other war materials, 97% of whose roads were unpaved, with an officer corps that was the worst among the industrial powers, a military that had the fewest heavy weapons, an aviation industry that was dependent for both technology and ideas on the West, and a university system that did not have a single department that specialized in southeast, south, and pacific nations, which Japan was planning to invade. When the Japanese sent a propaganda corps to the Philippines after the war began, it had to recruit from among the handful of Filipinos who had studied or worked in Japan. There were literally no Japanese who spoke Tagalog. And yet Japan had been planning to invade the Philippines for the better part of four decades!
Along with economic expansion and industrial development came the emergence of an autocratic state whose philosophy was brilliantly expressed by the reactionary Prince Iwakura about 1880: "Since officials hold in their hands the power of police as well as naval and military control, they should look down arrogantly on the people and make them tremble with fear." By the end of the 1880s liberal and democratic movements had largely been eliminated. In 1887 the government passed laws suppressing the press, and expelling everyone from within a 7.5 mile radius of the Imperial Palace who "plots or incites disturbance." The following year, using this regulation, all the newspaper editors and liberal leaders were ejected from Tokyo until after the new Constitution had been promulgated in 1889. This action permitted the State to close off two decades of unrest, revolts, and democratic agitation.
The new Constitution would lay the framework for the security State that would dominate Japan for the next several decades. The kempetai, founded in 1881 as military police, would evolve into a Thought Police. Although revisionists flinch from facing it, the reader should hold in mind that Japan in 1945 was a Nazi state, run by Nazi methods, with Nazi goals and plans. The only significant difference was the lack of an industrialized killing machine. As with elsewhere in Japanese society, where lack of industrial capital led to labor-intensive practices, so with the military. Actions like the infamous Three-All (Kill All, Burn All, Destroy All) campaign in northern China, a "pacification" campaign that reduced the population in Communist-affected areas from 44 million to 25 million through death and flight, replaced mass killing on an industrial scale. In almost all their wars, Japanese leaders treated all other humans, both their own and enemy, as slaves whose only purpose was to die, like the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 (I am currently attempting to track down articles on the suicide corps the Japanese organized in this war) and the Sino-Japanese War of 1884-5. Contrary to revisionist claims, the contempt of Japanese leaders for human life was not the result of Western racism, but was entirely homegrown and long predated WWII.
In sum, revisionists point out that Japan was finished in the summer of 1945, they are entirely correct; indeed, Japan was finished when the war began. There was no way on earth such an unbalanced, inefficient, factionalized, and autocratic state could defeat a major western industrial democracy in a long war, let alone the United States. But the war was never about a rational and carefully planned expansion; instead, it was an explosion of pent-up violence that related to Japan's fractious internal politics and yearning for expansion, and only secondarily to the external situation. To end that war, the internal political situation that had placed the military in control of Japanese society would have to be rectified. The basic irrationality of the military's position was exposed by the US oil embargo: in order to continue the war in China, the military would have fight another war against Britain and the United States. Or, it could lay low for a couple of years and negotiate, play for time, and appease US anger. Had they chosen the rational second option, they would still be running Japanese society today. Instead, they chose a kamikaze attack on a national scale, culminating in the "honorable death of the 100 million" formally adopted as policy in June of 1945, but implicit in every Japanese move.
Thus, unconditional surrender was the only acceptable war goal precisely because any other kind of victory would have left the military and the autocratic state in power, inviting a repeat of WWII in the future. Unconditional surrender called for the occupation of Japan, the remaking of its government and society, its disarmament, and the punishment of the war criminals who had launched the war in Asia, exactly as it did in Germany. All of these spelled the end of military dominance of Japanese society, which is why the Japanese military resisted unconditional surrender. The actual conditions of Japan, its failing economy, and its suffering society had little or nothing to do with the Japanese government's decisions, either for the decision to go to war, or the decision to end it. To Japan's leaders the Japanese people were simply so many cattle to be driven to the will of the military and Emperor, who, in traditional political theory, physically owned everything in Japan, including its human beings. As we shall see, Japanese leaders, including the Emperor, elected to end the war because the A-Bombs invalidated their strategy of causing tremendous losses during the invasion of Kyushu that would force the US to the negotiating table and leave the military in control of Japanese society, with at least part of the Empire intact.
Did the US bomb Japanese cities out of racism or revenge?
One of the posters has repeated an oft-heard canard, that the United States burned Japanese cities out of revenge or racism. This canard, part of the larger claim that the war against Japan was driven by racism, has appeared several major works, including the well-known scholarly work by John Dower, War Without Mercy. Like most people who subscribe to this slur, Dower knew little about the technical and military side of the war, and got most of his history wrong. Here we will examine this canard with respect to the bombing campaign.
The respective bombing campaigns against Japan and Germany were fundamentally identical in original conception. That is, in both cases the US airforce considered strategic role to be daylight attacks on industrial targets. The differences in conduct and outcomes stem not from racism, but from the differing technology levels of Japan and Germany, and improvements in US technology and operational thinking.
There were two major differences between the two theatres. In the German theatre, bombers built on mid-1930s technology (the B-17 and B-24) faced an advanced industrial power fully capable of defending its homeland. Against Allied bomber fleets the Germans could deploy advanced radar and early warning systems, conventional, jet, and rocket-propelled day and night fighters, and numerous deceptions (such as fake burning cities) and electronic counterwarfare systems. Further, the Germans had the experience of several years of daily bombardment of German cities, so that they were able to move quite far up the learning curve of responses, and additionally, had vast technological and material resources that were often effectively deployed.
On the Allied side, Allied bombers, flying without escorts for the first couple of years, accomplished little. Only after 1944, when improved delivery systems, escorts to and from the target, and larger bomber fleets became available, was the German economy seriously affected. Allied bombers over Germany bombed at 5000-7,000 meters, over Japan initially, in excess of 9,000. Losses in attacks over Germany might run as high as 1/4 of the attacking force, as at Schweinfurt. Losses over Japan were rarely so serious, running at 10% over the bomber force for the whole period of eight months of conventional high altitude bombing (whereas that might be the score for a single raid over Germany). Indeed, for a period in 1943, Allied air forces temporarily lost air superiority over Germany.
Against Japan US bombers faced none of those obstacles. US bombers began appearing over Japan in June of 1944. At that time the Japanese economy was already faltering thanks to unrelenting submarine warfare. While the Japanese built the world's finest airframes, production quality was erratic, and pilots of the exceptional Ki-84 Frank, for example (which in postwar flyoffs by skilled pilots in top-condition aircraft outperformed late model P-51s and P-47s) had no way of knowing whether systems such as brakes and weapons would actually work in combat, even in the unlikely event that they could reach the altitude of B-29s. Because Japan's industrial output was small compared to the other powers, there were insufficient AA weapons to defend Japanese cities. Japanese night fighters were improvised and radar primitive. The Homeland lacked fighters -- when B-29s first started appearing over Tokyo late in 1944, there were only 375 fighters in all of Japan, chump change for the Luftwaffe. Local fire and rescue organization was almost non-existent. As a result, losses in attacks over Germany might run as high as 1/4 of the planes over the target, as at Schweinfurt II. Losses over Japan were rarely very serious. Most importantly, unlike Germany, where industrial operations were decentralized and scattered about in many cities, only a few cities in Japan housed the major aircraft and other industrial concerns. Japan was an ideal target for large bombers, with just six cities containing over half of all industry. Finally, of course, the US could draw on the extensive experience of the Allies in bombing Germany.
A major advantage the US had, of course, was the B-29. Not simply an evolutionary improvement over the B-17, it was a revolutionary new aircraft. Originally it had been conceived by General Hap Arnold back in 1939 as a Very Long Distance bomber to attack Europe in the event the Germans won out there (not to attack Japan, as legend has it). Stemming from a 1938 study, the aircraft featured many innovative concepts, such as remote-control gun stations, pressurized crew stations, and new engines. The B-29 had a maximum speed of 575 kph at 10,000m, nearly as fast as the latest models of Japanese Army's mainstay fighter, the Oscar (585 kph maximum speed) or the late-model Zero (580 kph), and carried a bombload three times the normal payload of a B-17. Despite its bugs (the new engine frequently caught fire), it was a generation ahead of the bombers used over Germany. The disparity between the B-29s and Japanese fighters was so great that a frequent tactic used against it was air-to-air ramming!
B-29 attacks on Japan began in June of 1944. On June 15, a force of 68 B-29s took off from Chengtu in China and bombed the steel factory in Yawata. 47 actually made it to the target. A few fighters rose to greet them, along with some desultory anti-aircraft fire. No damage due to enemy activity was reported. Mission results were poor. This mission followed what would become the canonical pattern, in which B-29s bombed from high altitude with impunity, while creating little damage on the ground.
In late 1944 Allied bombing shifted from China to the Marianas. All missions were executed according to the standard evolved in Europe -- daylight precision bombing, from high altitudes, at priority industrial targets. In other words, Japan was treated exactly as German was treated, and would be for the next eight months. If racism motivated the US over Japan, then it also motivated the US over Germany and Italy.
Despite the technological advantages of the US, this phase of the bombing campaign was an unmitigated failure. Results were uniformly poor. Mechanical defects plagued the aircraft, and 200 kph winds -- the jet stream was discovered on these missions -- frequently blew the aircraft off course. Further, the weather over Japan, often cloudy, offered just seven days a month for accurate visual bombing (assuming the forecast was correct). Engines overloaded and burned out easily from the long flights and high altitudes.
What occurred next is somewhat controversial, but it is evident that several people at the same time began to realize that mission ineffectiveness would mean that the system would have to be changed. Years before, Billy Mitchell had pointed out the vulnerability of Japanese cities to fire attacks. In the US, Gen. Hap Arnold, overseeing the campaign, began to become interested in incendiary bombs, which had been used so effectively in Germany, causing firestorms at Cologne, Hamburg, and Dresden. In 1943 the US began testing methods to burn down Japanese cities, based on its experience of burning German cities. Indeed, in 1944 Gen. Hansell, charge of the B-29s in the Marianas, had been ordered to make an all-incendiary raid on urban areas in Nagoya as a test. No doubt motivated by the pervasive racism of the US military establishment, he refused to accept the mission, arguing that the purpose of bombers was to hit industrial, not urban targets. Although he finally went ahead with the mission, he pointedly changed the target from the urban concentration to the industrial concentration. Similarly Curtis LeMay, also no doubt motivated by the pervasive racism of the US military establishment, refused to attack urban areas during his tenure as air commander in China, and had to be directly ordered to carry out such missions.
Meanwhile, his superiors being frustrated with the poor results, the commander of the B-29 force, Gen. Hansell, a lifelong advocate of conventional bomber doctrine, was removed and replaced with the redoubtable Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay, who had seen Japanese bombers burn Chinese cities, also began to contemplate the use of incendiaries on a massive scale. Slowly LeMay, a brilliant, iconclastic thinker, began to ponder the capabilities of his aircraft and the defenselessness of the Home Islands.
On February 2, LeMay obtained concrete proof of his ideas. A conventional high-altitude mission to Tokyo, containing some incendiaries, burned out a square mile of the city, annihilating 27,000 buildings. Further February attacks also showed similar results. LeMay, acting on advice from others and from his own ideas, announced his new plan.
The B-29s, designed for 10,000 meters, would go down to 2,500 meters over the target. All weapons and ammo were to be removed (a common cause of damage was B-29s shooting each other). Flying would be at night rather than by day, and singly rather than in formation, to avoid collisions at night over the target. No conventional bombs would be used, just incendiaries. This would take the pressure off the engines, permit increase bomb loads, and confuse the defenses. Such a move was only possible against Japan because the air defenses were so primitive and the Japanese so inexperienced. The Germans would have made mincemeat of US bombers in a similar move.
What motivated LeMay? Certainly not racism. The air arm was ineffective, and the air force was feeling the pressure. It wanted to establish itself as an independent arm after the war, and desperately needed a success to maintain its independence. But most importantly, LeMay himself was moved by the obvious failure of his aircraft to produce tangible results, and by the concrete successes of incendiaries elsewhere. No record of any desire for revenge or racism on the part of Arnold or LeMay or Hansell exists. Japanese cities were burned because that was an effective alternative to high altitude bombing, which was a failure. Bombing at low altitude with incendiaries was a natural alternative that suggested itself to several people at the time, both in LeMay's staff and in Washington.
As readers will be aware, the missions were a resounding operational success. The initial attack on Tokyo on March 9 obliterated one-fourth of the city and took 100,000 lives. The resultant inferno exceeded anything that happened in Germany, thanks to improvements in technology and LeMay's tactical changes. Air defenses were totally inept and damage from enemy action was light, with no bombers lost to the fighters. The effectiveness of the raid was increased by the primitive Japanese warning and response systems, and "firebreaks" that were made to confine the fire to the crowded working-class areas and away from upper class areas. Worse, the firebreaks, made by plowing down homes, were not cleared of debris -- in effect, becoming lanes of kindling through the most densely populated areas of Tokyo. The Japanese, never having been seriously bombed, had no idea how to handle the situation. They would learn fast.
In sum, the enhanced effectiveness of US bombing of Japan stemmed from vastly improved US bombing technology, vastly more primitive Japanese defenses, the much easier target Japan presented, and from the unusual tactics envisioned by LeMay. At first, US mission planners treated strategic bombing exactly as they did in Germany. Later, when those tactics proved ineffective, the US switched to urban area bombing. The US burned Japanese cities because they could and because the had to in order to get results, not because US commanders were flaming racists. When possible, Allied bombers did the same thing to German cities. Such bombings were an effective tactic that materially shortened the war, saving Allied lives in China, the US and elsewhere.
Gunston Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of WWII
Why was Hiroshima not bombed prior to its restriction as a target on July 3? From Frank Downfall: prior to June 15, US AF bomb directives specified 33 urban concentrations that did not include the city of Hiroshima (too small) and important aircraft manufacturing plants (none in Hiroshima). So the only window for bombing of Hiroshima was June 15 - July 3. Because of godawful summer weather, only 6 days in that period were available for raids, 2 day and 4 night (this was common problem, weather interfered with bombing most of the time). 6/22 and 6/26 were good weather in daylight, and thus used on aircraft manufacturing concerns, which was number 1 priority. Night urban attacks mounted on fourteen other cities, mostly satellites of Tokyo and Nagoya industrial regions on other four days, where aircraft and other military manufacturing was concentrated. While Hiroshima had large numbers of military-related factories, all were components or materials rather than assembly factories (ex: large Japan Steel Plant). Nagasaki was major shipbuilding center, but mining campaign shut down its port, so no need to bomb it. Additionally, even in "good" weather much bombing done by radar, and Nagasaki's terrain rendered standard radars useless. Hence, it hadn't been bombed.
And finally, the detestable Historian's Letter on the famous Enola Gay Exhibit one often finds on websites of the malicious and the duped:
Here is the Historian's Letter. This will be a more thorough going over than the previous two shreddings. It's a badly thought-out, poorly-researched bit of political propaganda that saddens me to read.
- Mr. I. Michael Heyman
The Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560
July 31, 1995
Dear Secretary Heyman:
Testifying before a House subcommittee on March 10, 1995, you promised that when you finally unveiled the Enola Gay exhibit, "I am just going to report the facts."
Unfortunately, the Enola Gay exhibit contains a text which goes far beyond the facts. The critical label at the heart of the exhibit makes the following assertions:
Here goes with the first claim:
- * The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "destroyed much of the two cities and caused many tens of thousands of deaths." This substantially understates the widely accepted figure that at least 200,000 men, women and children were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Official Japanese records calculate a figure of more than 200,000 deaths--the vast majority of victims being women, children and elderly men.)
Two hundred thousand is a very widely accepted figure. Unfortunately, no one knows how many died from the A-bombs. "Official Japanese records" is a bit of disingenuous writing. What counts as an "official record?" The Imperial General HQ gave 70-120K for Hiroshima. The Hiroshima prefecture police department recorded 129K. The Manhattan Engineering district gave 66K, the Strategic Bombing Survey 88K, the Japan Economic Stabilization Board 78K, the Japan OSW and USNR, 70K. Similar figures for Nagasaki run from 23K to 45K. Frank, Dower, and a number of other authors have pointed out how Japan has manipulated the death figures to inflate them. All that can be concluded is that a good estimate of the deaths is between 100K and 200K. Therefore, "many tens of thousands" is an acceptable way of saying it.
- * "However," claims the Smithsonian, "the use of the bombs led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." Presented as fact, this sentence is actually a highly contentious interpretation. For example, an April 30, 1946 study by the War Department's Military Intelligence Division concluded, "The war would almost certainly have terminated when Russia entered the war against Japan."
This is another disingenuous piece of writing. The study in question was from the hand of a single officer, Col. R.F. Ennis, was a six page memorandum, of which three pages was devoted to analyzing the effects of the October typhoon on US landings on Kyushu. The rest Frank describes as an error-filled discussion of Japanese preparations and vast misunderstanding of Japanese internal politics. In other words, the "study" was not the result of a team of expert analysts based on review of data and interviews. It is complete nonsense, and completely disingenuous of the "Historians" to make use of it.
The "Historians" also missed the fact that the war did not terminate when the Soviets entered, but went on for another week.
- (The Soviet entry into the war on August 8th is not even mentioned in the exhibit as a major factor in the Japanese surrender.)
That's because it was not a major factor in the surrender. Hirohito mentioned Soviet entry once, on the 13th, during this whole period. Suzuki explained Japanese thinking in December, saying that the major issue was the landings. Once the Japanese realized that air power alone could annhilate the forces at the beachhead and reduce US losses to insignificant levels, the game was up. This was corroborated by Kido. The Emperor also wrote a letter to his son a week after surrender, which did not mention Soviet entry either. Additionally, after the Soviets had entered, the Council and the Cabinet both refused in separate votes to end the war. In other words, Soviet entry was not a major factor in the decision to end the war.
- And it is also a fact that even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, the Japanese still insisted that Emperor Hirohito be allowed to remain emperor as a condition of surrender. Only when that assurance was given did the Japanese agree to surrender.
More disingenuous writing. It is quite true that the Japanese insisted the Emperor stay on. This is because they thought that they would be able to preserve the military's dominance over society through the Imperial system. The "historians" do not mention that fact, because it would be fatal to their presentation of Japan-as-victim. They then err. The American reply was ambiguous and did not give assurance that the Emperor would be retained. It said that the Emperor would be subject to the will of the Supreme Commander, and that the ultimate form of Japan's government would be the result of the freely expressed will of the people. In other words, the Emperor's position was in no way guaranteed. Contrary to the claims of A-Bomb revisionists, Japan surrendered without a guarantee of the Emperor's throne.
- This was precisely the clarification of surrender terms that many of Truman's own top advisors had urged on him in the months prior to Hiroshima. This, too, is a widely known fact.
The alert reader will note that no example of this is given. The primary source is Grew's memoirs, which, as the alert reader will remember, contain many instances in which Grew edited his memory. Grew did not urge this clarification during the war; only afterwards, in his memoirs. Stimson also stated this in his memoirs. The other two cites are from Sherwin and Alperovitz, both of whom rely on Grew and Stimson's memoirs. In short, the reason that there is no example given is because there is no example.
- * The Smithsonian's label also takes the highly partisan view that, "It was thought highly unlikely that Japan, while in a very weakened military condition, would have surrendered unconditionally without such an invasion." Nowhere in the exhibit is this interpretation balanced by other views. Visitors to the exhibit will not learn that many U.S. leaders--including Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Admiral William D. Leahy, War Secretary Henry L. Stimson, Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew and Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy--thought it highly probable that the Japanese would surrender well before the earliest possible invasion, scheduled for November 1945.
Leahy, Eisenhower, Stimson and Grew all indulged in postwar memory editing (what is vulgarly referred to as "lying") on this very issue and cannot be used to make this case. In any case, there is NO evidence that Japan would have surrendered prior to the use of the atom bombs (in fact, they did not do so).
The alert reader will also note the ethical issue elided here: the deaths of non-Japanese are less important than the deaths of Japanese. Each week 100,000 Chinese died, not to mention tens of thousands of others. The Historians seem willing to accept a million other deaths, so long as they are not Japanese civilians. The racism in this position is obvious; it is because the Historians have inherited their position from Japanese propagandists.
- It is spurious to assert as fact that obliterating Hiroshima in August was needed to obviate an invasion in November. This is interpretation--the very thing you said would be banned from the exhibit.
I cannot comment on this; I have no idea what was said.
- * In yet another label, the Smithsonian asserts as fact that "Special leaflets were then dropped on Japanese cities three days before a bombing raid to warn civilians to evacuate." The very next sentence refers to the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, implying that the civilian inhabitants of Hiroshima were given a warning. In fact, no evidence has ever been uncovered that leaflets warning of atomic attack were dropped on Hiroshima. Indeed, the decision of the Interim Committee was "that we could not give the Japanese any warning."
The Historians have once again accepted a racist construction of the A-Bomb history. In this construction, the Japanese are passive recipients of American aggression, and helpless to do things on their own. Apparently it never occurred to the Historians that maybe, living in a country where the Americans have dropped warnings on 36 cities and bombed 14 of them into oblivion in the last three weeks, it might be a good idea to either (a) end the war or (b) evacuate the cities. Instead, they chose (c) do nothing. Hiroshima was warned, just like numerous other cities.
In other words, the Historians believe that had we said "We're going to destroy your cities by Atomic Bomb" and not just "We're going to destroy your cities" it would have made all the difference. This is in the face of the simple fact that the Japanese did not evacuate those cities as a matter of policy, even though we demonstrated that we could destroy them at will. How would adding "by atomic bomb" to the message have changed anything?
- * In a 16 minute video film in which the crew of the Enola Gay are allowed to speak at length about why they believe the atomic bombings were justified, pilot Col. Paul Tibbits asserts that Hiroshima was "definitely a military objective." Nowhere in the exhibit is this false assertion balanced by contrary information.
That is because this is not a false assertion. Hiroshima was a major military target, especially in the context of the coming invasion of Kyushu. The city boasted about 43,000 soldiers, and was the HQ of the Second Army responsible for the defense of Kyushu, whose 4,000 staff officers, quartered at Hiroshima castle, formed the biggest HQ complex outside of Tokyo itself. The city also housed numerous less important war industries, like the massive Japan Steel plant. Finally, it was a major port and transhipment point for supplies and troops for Kyushu. In short, the coming campaign on Kysush presaged the complete and utter destruction of Hiroshima, either by conventional bombing or by nuclear weapons, at some point in the campaign.
- Hiroshima was chosen as a target precisely because it had been very low on the previous spring's campaign of conventional bombing, and therefore was a pristine target on which to measure the destructive powers of the atomic bomb.
Not quite true. It was a low priority target in comparison to the industrial complexes further north, but if the weather had been better it would have been hit. It was defined as a military target and specifically chosen as such.
-  Defining Hiroshima as a "military" target is analogous to calling San Francisco a "military" target because it has a port and contains the Presidio.
Only if you ignore Hiroshima's position as the second-largest HQ city in Japan, and its key position in the supply chain!
- James Conant, a member of the Interim Committee that advised President Truman, defined the target for the bomb as a "vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers' houses." There were indeed military factories in Hiroshima, but they lay on the outskirts of the city. Nevertheless, the Enola Gay bombardier's instructions were to target the bomb on the center of this civilian city.
Wrong in two ways. (1)The military barracks were on the outskirts. The industries were located across the city.
(2) as we have seen, it was not a "civilian" city, and the Historians were apparently unable to find out that Hiroshima Castle, the Second Army HQ, was next to the aiming point. As the Hiroshima Peace Museum puts it:
Hiroshima was a flourishing castle town in the Edo period (1603-1868). After the Meiji Restoration, the Hiroshima Higher Normal School opened, and the city began developing a large concentration of army facilities. Thus, it developed a dual reputation for "education" and "the military." On another page this selfsame Museum notes: 2. There was a concentration of military troops, installations, and factories in Hiroshima that had been spared previous bombing.
Apparently the Historians didn't bother to do basic research on Hiroshima before writing the fatuous nonsense that Hiroshima was a "civilian city."
The Historians go on:
- The few words in the exhibit that attempt to provide some historical context for viewing the Enola Gay amount to a highly unbalanced and one-sided presentation of a largely discredited post-war justification of the atomic bombings.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, when historical context is provided, the Historians claim that it is bad, because that is an interpretation. How one can provide context without "interpretation" is a mystery to me. In any case, the claim that the justification has been discredited, is, as we have seen, without merit.
- Such errors of fact and such tendentious interpretation in the exhibit are no doubt partly the result of your decision earlier this year to take this exhibit out of the hands of professional curators and your own board of historical advisors. Accepting your stated concerns for accuracy, we trust that you will therefore adjust the exhibit, either to eliminate the highly contentious interpretations, or at the very least, balance them with other interpretations that can be easily drawn from the attached footnotes.
As we have seen from the NUMEROUS errors and nonsense claims, the Historians are the ones suffering the problem of errors of fact and interpretation.
[Hiroshima] [Atomic Bomb] [Japan]