* Episode 69.
    * Ray’s favourite number.
    * Have you actually had one yet, Ray?
    * Sister in law?
    * Truman had given his final approval to the plan to invade Kyushu, the southern most island of Japan, just two weeks before leaving for Potsdam.
    * A Russian invasion of Manchuria and Korea figured prominently in the grand strategy that underlay that plan.
    * Second, even an invasion of the home islands did little to solve the problem of the estimated 1.8 million Japanese soldiers in mainland China.
    * But the Soviets could handle that problem as well.
    * In return, of course, for the new territories they wanted as a result.
    * Which were mostly old Russian territories lost during the Russo-Japanese war as we discussed in earlier episodes.
    * Getting Stalin into the Pacific War was Truman’s number one goal in Potsdam.
    * The Japanese knew of course that this was coming and had been trying to negotiate a way to keep their Neutrality pact in place with the Soviets.
    * They had offered the Soviets pretty much everything they wanted – southern Sakhalin Island, Port Arthur, and half of Manchuria in exchange for help in keeping the rest of Japan’s conquests in Asia.
    * The Russians had informed the Allies about these offers and their rebuttals of them.
    * But still the Americans didn’t trust the Soviets and thought they might cut a deal.
    * Of course, Truman need not have worried about Russian desires to join the war against Japan.
    * Stalin wanted Russia involved in the war as much as Truman did.
    * On June 28, 1945, even before he set out for Potsdam, Stalin told his commanders to begin preparations for a war with Japan “in the greatest secrecy.”
    * As later reported, “army commanders [were] to be given their orders in person and orally and without any written directives.”
    * Almost without debate, Stalin told Truman early on at Potsdam that Russian forces would invade Manchuria no later than mid-August.
    * Truman was as happy as a capitalist pig in shit.
    * How to end the war with Japan remained a question of intense debate.
    * The Allies had insisted on unconditional surrender for Germany, but several strategists argued that the same insistence for Japan might well prove counterproductive.
    * The geography of Japan complicated any attempts at invasion and military dominance.
    * Culturally, the Japanese people had an attachment to the emperor that argued against an insistence on his removal.
    * If the Americans, whose forces would have to bear the brunt of an invasion of the home islands, insisted on dethroning the quasi-divine emperor, it might force the Japanese to fight on for an abstract goal that had little real strategic or political importance.
    * The Americans should, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and others argued, allow Japan to keep its emperor in exchange for ending the war.
    * Most senior US military officials agreed, noting that only the emperor could sign or endorse a capitulation that the Japanese people would respect.
    * Removing him by force might create anarchy and an untenable situation for occupying forces.
    * British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin drew a direct lesson from World War I, arguing that “it might have been better for all of us not to have destroyed the institution of the Kaiser after the last war; we might not have had this one if we hadn’t done so.”
    * Thus, he argued, the Allies should remain flexible about the emperor’s future.
    * Other officials recalled with bitterness Pearl Harbor and insisted that Japan must surrender unconditionally.
    * The still-influential former secretary of state Cordell Hull publicly blasted any concessions to the Japanese as “appeasement.”
    * His word choice mattered deeply, as it carried the historical implication of both American weakness and the beginning of another round of conflict.
    * He, Byrnes, and most State Department officials opposed allowing the emperor to remain under any circumstances.
    * They were willing to risk further casualties in order to destroy the Japanese political system and open the way for a full American occupation of Japan after the war.
    * By the time of Potsdam, Truman’s senior advisers had begun to back off the idea of unconditional surrender.
    * A New York Times editorial on May 11 called unconditional surrender “a senseless policy” that would cause the Japanese people to fight harder and cost lives unnecessarily.
    * Truman’s own briefing book argued for stripping the emperor of his powers, but not for abolishing the institution, removing the emperor from Japan, or placing him on trial for war crimes.
    * The Japanese people, the briefers argued, would never accept abolition of the institution of the emperor by a foreign power.
    * Better, it argued, to try to use the emperor in helping Japan make the transition from war to peace.
    * Stalin, too, favored unconditional surrender with some room for flexibility, as he told Hopkins in Moscow in May.
    * An unconditional surrender offered the way to “destroy Japanese military might and [the] forces of Japan once and for all.”
    * Stalin recognized, however, that Japan would likely fight harder, as the Germans had, if the Allies remained inflexible on peace terms.
    * Hopkins told Truman that in Stalin’s view, “if we stick to unconditional surrender, the Japs will not give up and we will have to destroy them as we destroyed Germany.”
    * THE DEBATE ON SURRENDER changed in an instant as a result of an explosion thousands of miles away from both Japan and Germany.
    * Roosevelt’s $2 billion gamble had paid off.
    * On July 18 at 7:30 a.m., Truman received a message at Potsdam marked “TOP SECRET URGENT.”
    * It read: “Operated this morning. Diagnosis not yet complete but results seem satisfactory and already exceed expectations. Dr. Groves pleased.”
    * The next day another message arrived that read, “Doctor Groves has just returned most enthusiastic and confident that the little boy is as husky as his big brother. The light in his eyes discernable from here to Highhold and I could hear his screams from here to my farm.”
    * The “doctor,” Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, headed the Manhattan Project.
    * The rather transparently worded memos that Secretary of War Henry Stimson handed to the president confirmed that the expensive gamble Truman had uncovered as a senator had now paid off.
    * The prearranged code indicated that the blast could be seen 250 miles away from Alamogordo.
    * This was when Churchill was still PM.
    * Churchill reacted to the atomic bomb almost as if it were a wonder weapon descended from the gods to solve all of Britain’s strategic problems.
    * He walked around Potsdam that day, according to one diplomat, like a little boy who had hidden something precious under his coat.
    * Churchill hoped that the bomb might compensate Britain for its debts and its massive global obligations.
    * It might also rescue Britain from its decline from great-power status.
    * Truman and Churchill met on July 24 at Potsdam with their military advisers, and Truman probably decided at that meeting to use the bomb as soon as practicable.
    * It offered a way to get an unconditional surrender from the Japanese without an invasion of the home islands that might cost hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese lives.
    * It also offered a way to end the air raids over Japanese cities that had already killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, most of them in firestorms caused by the incendiary bombs of the US Air Force.
    * A sense of vengeance clearly played a role as well.
    * American Journalist Walter Brown overheard Churchill tell Truman that the United States should use the weapon without prior warning because the Japanese “did not give any warning when they bombed Pearl Harbor and killed and mangled your boys.”
    * A week after getting the first of the Groves messages, the magnitude of it all seemed to have hit Truman.
    * On July 25, he confided to his diary, “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark. . . . It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.”
    * But defeating Japan wasn’t the only thing the Allies thought the bomb would do for them.
    * Some of them also thought it would give them new leverage against the Soviet Union – their allies.
    * After a meeting with Churchill on July 23, Field Marshal Alan Brooke wrote that he felt “completely shattered by the P.M.’s outlook” that the atomic bomb gave the West new leverage over Russia.
    * Churchill had announced at the meeting that “we now had something in our hands that could redress the balance with the Russians” and “completely alter the diplomatic equilibrium to Britain’s favor.”
    * Churchill raved: ‘Now we can say if you insist on doing this or that we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev, then Kuibyshev, Kharkov, Sebastopol, etc. etc. And now where are the Russians!!!’ I tried to curb his over optimism. . . . I was trying to dispel his dreams and, as usual, he did not like it. But I shudder to feel that he is allowing the half-baked results of one experiment to warp the whole of his diplomatic perspective.”
    * Others weren’t so sure that the bomb was going to be a good thing.
    * Brooke knew from the moment he heard of the Manhattan Project that it would change the nature of military strategy forever.
    * A state simply could not use atomic weapons in the manner it used conventional weapons.
    * Once the Russians inevitably built their own nuclear weapons, moreover, they could respond in kind.
    * He saw more quickly than most that after the war with Japan, atomic weapons could only serve as weapons of deterrence.
    * They would not solve any of Britain’s long-term strategic problems.
    * Henry Stimson saw the same problem that Brooke saw.
    * If the Allies used the bomb as Churchill briefly envisioned, they would be committing mass murder on an unprecedented scale.
    * Stimson told Truman that he did not want to see the United States “outdoing Hitler in atrocities,” although he did support using the weapon to end the war with Japan.
    * Clement Attlee largely agreed.
    * Although not enthusiastic about the bomb, Attlee understood that with Japanese forces deployed all across Asia, the Allies had to find a military approach that would compel the government in Tokyo to order them all to surrender.
    * Only the atomic bomb held out that possibility.
    * Admiral Leahy, who had doubted the bomb’s utility all along, agreed, and worried that once the United States used atomic weapons, it would adopt “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”
    * General Ismay, too, expressed his apprehension, writing that he “had always had a sneaking hope that the scientists would be unable to find a key to this particular chamber of horrors.”
    * Still, Truman did not see the bomb as an anti-Soviet measure at this point.
    * As Averill Harriman later recalled, “that wasn’t the president’s mood at all. The mood was to treat Stalin as an ally—a difficult ally admittedly—in the hope that he would behave like one.”
    * Of course, there was now also the question about how to tell Stalin about the existence of the bomb.
    * Both Truman and Churchill worried that if Stalin grasped the meaning of the bomb, he might order his forces to push faster and further into Manchuria in order to control as much Chinese territory as he could before Japan surrendered.
    * They also worried about how they would respond if the Japanese chose to surrender to the Soviet Union rather than to the United States and Great Britain.
    * Once again, Truman need not have bothered worrying.
    * Stalin had known about the Manhattan Project since March 1942, thanks to the reports of his secret police chief, Lavrenti Beria.
    * Russian spies working on the project had kept Beria well informed; Beria may well have known more about the bomb than Truman and Byrnes did.
    * By the time of Potsdam, Beria and Stalin had already discussed how best to respond if Truman mentioned the bomb.
    * They decided to feign ignorance on the matter in order to guard the secret of Soviet espionage.
    * Both Beria and Stalin knew enough to wonder why Truman had not mentioned the atomic bomb in their first meeting together over lunch at Truman’s house in Babelsberg on July 17.
    * Truman finally decided to tell Stalin about this momentous and historic news in as casual a manner as possible.
    * At the end of the evening session on July 24, he approached Stalin as the latter prepared to leave the conference room.
    * Churchill watched from a distance while Stalin’s interpreter rushed to his boss’s side to translate.
    * “The USA,” Truman said, “has tested a new bomb of extraordinary destructive power.”
    * By a prior agreement with Churchill, Truman had avoided using the word “atomic.”
    * Stalin’s interpreter looked carefully at the Russian leader: the moment had come at last.
    * “No muscle moved in his face,” the interpreter recalled.
    * Stalin then calmly responded, “A new bomb! Of extraordinary power! Probably decisive on the Japanese! What a bit of luck.”
    * The interpreter watched Stalin glance at Churchill long enough to see that Churchill was smiling, then turn and walk away.
    * Stalin’s ruse worked.
    * Truman later said, “I am sure that he did not understand its significance.”
    * Churchill had the same response, remarking with almost identical language, “I was sure that he had no idea of the significance of what he was being told.”
    * Leahy, who also watched carefully for Stalin’s reaction, thought the Russian dictator “did not seem to have any conception of what Truman was talking about. It was simply another weapon.”
    * They could not have been more wrong.
    * That night Stalin ordered the Soviet atomic energy department to increase the speed of its work.
    * The Red Army also increased its efforts to move forces to the Manchurian border.
    * They would continue to conduct operations there for two weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6.
    * Part of Stalin’s reaction may have had to do with the timing of Truman’s announcement.
    * Although there is no evidence that he intended to do so or had directly connected the two events in his own mind, Truman told Stalin about the bomb shortly after a particularly intense session about Poland.
    * Two Soviet advisers thought that Stalin saw no coincidence in the timing.
    * Instead, Stalin told one of them, the timing showed “a rather unfriendly attitude towards us and towards our security interests.”
    * One of the advisers went as far as to call the announcement, which Truman intended to be as low-key as possible, “atomic blackmail” to get the Russians to change their position on Poland.
    * “They’re raising their price,” Molotov remarked.
    * Joseph Davies had predicted such a reaction from the Russians, warning that they would “naturally see it as deliberately throwing them out on the junk heap after they had been ‘used’ to defeat Hitler.”

    HOW TO LISTEN

    If you’re already a subscriber, you can listen to the full show in the player below or subscribe through iTunes or any podcast player.

    If you haven’t heard any of the series and want to know if you’ll like it before you sign up, you can listen to the first six episodes totally free. You might want to start with Episode 1, unless of course you’re an old school George Lucas fan, in which case feel free to start at Episode IV. We don’t recommend it though.

    Sign Up or Login to listen to our premium episodes

    If you haven’t already, join our Facebook page and you’ll be in the running to win prizes in our regular “Share The Love” and other competitions.

    If you’d like a chance to win a prize, write a funny or insightful review on iTunes.