* The Potsdam declaration on Japan was tricky.
* It was drafted while Churchill was still PM.
* In fact it was probably one of the last things he did as PM.
* But it was signed by Attlee.
* Stalin had to be involved, but he couldn’t sign it because the U.S.S.R. was still technically under a non-agression treaty with Japan.
* Truman also wanted Chiang KaiShek to sign it.
* Which meant it needed they needed to get it translated and sent to him at his remote headquarters nears ChongKing in central China.
* The final text gave Japan “an opportunity to end this war” before the “prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan . . . until she ceases to resist.”
* It also advised the Japanese of what befell the Germans when they fought to the end.
* It warned that “the might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people.”
* But of course it’s worth keeping in mind that many in the Japanese military prided themselves on their particular militaristic interpretation of the Bushido code.
* The classic book, Bushido, the Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe, written in 1899, portrays Bushido – which he says translates as Military-Knight-Ways – as being very similar to the code of chivalry supposedly adopted by the European knights in the Middle Ages.
* He portrays it as relatively pacifistic.
* It’s about courage and honour, sincerity, frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honour to the death, but stresses morality as well.
* It was the code of the samurai.
* Here’s some crazy numbers.
* By the end of the 19th century, somewhere between 5% and 10% of the Japanese population were samurai.
* The census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the “high samurai”, allowed to ride a horse, and 492,000 members of the “low samurai”, allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse, in a country of about 25 million.
* Under the bushidō ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could only regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide).
* In an excerpt from his book Samurai: The World of the Warrior, historian Stephen Turnbull describes the role of seppuku in feudal Japan:
* In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded.
* It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced.
* The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.
* Unfortunately bushido was hijacked and adapted by militarists and the government from the early 1900s onward as nationalism increased around the time of the Russo-Japanese War.
* And by WWII, it had reached epic proportions.
* I don’t know how much western strategists understood bushido in 1945, but they were certainly aware of kamikaze pilots.
* Kamikaze translates as “divine wind” or “spirit wind”
* The Kamikaze were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviators who initiated suicide attacks for the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy warships more effectively than was possible with conventional air attacks.
* About 3,862 kamikaze pilots died during the war, and somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 naval personnel were killed by kamikaze attacks.
* The idea for kamikaze came very late in the war.
* It’s not something you do when things are going well.
* Has a tendency to deplete your airforce pretty fucking quickly.
* But by late 1944, the Japanese airforce was already running out of experienced pilots and their planes were outclassed by the new American planes.
* Captain Motoharu Okamura, in charge of the Tateyama Base in Tokyo, as well as the 341st Air Group Home, was, according to some sources, the first officer to officially propose kamikaze attack tactics.
* The first successful attacks happened on 14 October or 15 Oct 1944.
* Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is sometimes credited with inventing the kamikaze tactic.
* Arima personally led an attack by about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (“Judy”) dive bombers against a large Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin, near Leyte Gulf, on (or about, accounts vary) 15 October 1944.
* Arima was killed and part of a plane hit Franklin.
* The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima’s example: He was promoted posthumously to Vice Admiral and was given official credit for making the first kamikaze attack.
* It is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack, and official Japanese accounts of Arima’s attack bore little resemblance to the actual events.
* Maybe they just jumped on an accidental collision and said “oh yeah he meant that”.
* Although other sources say it was an Aussie ship that was the first attack.
* Early on 21 October, a Japanese aircraft, deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia.
* The attack killed 30 personnel, including the cruiser’s captain, Emile Dechaineux, and wounded 64, including the Australian force commander, Commodore John Collins.
* The Australian official history of the war claimed that this was the first kamikaze attack on an Allied ship, although other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force, but was most likely to have been undertaken on the pilot’s own initiative.
* over the next few months over 2,000 planes made such attacks.
* It was claimed by the Japanese forces at the time that there were many volunteers for the suicidal forces.
* Captain Motoharu Okamura commented that “there were so many volunteers for suicide missions that he referred to them as a swarm of bees,” explaining: “Bees die after they have stung.”
* A kamikaze pilots’ manual said: When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills.
* Anyway – so that was one consideration when thinking about ending the war with Japan.
* Would the military be happy to die with honour rather than surrender?
* But for all its harshness, the Potsdam declaration followed the advice of the moderates.
* It did not mention the emperor, either by name or by reference to the institution he represented.
* The words “unconditional surrender” appeared only once, in the final paragraph, and then specified only the unconditional surrender of the armed forces, not the Japanese nation.
* The alternative was “prompt and utter destruction.”
* The fate of Emperor Hirohito was left ambiguous.
* He was not mentioned.
* This was, of course, a problem for the Japanese.
* They considered the Emperor to be divine. called the “Son of Heaven”
* In State Shinto, the Emperor was believed to be a Arahitogami (a living god).
* In Japanese mythology, according to Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the Emperor and his family are said to be direct descendants of the sun-goddess Amaterasu.
* The significance of the Emperor in Japanese society was no secret to American leaders: The Japanese regarded the Emperor as a deity, a god—more like Jesus or the incarnate Buddha than an ordinary human being.
* Until the surrender occurred, the Japanese people at large had never been allowed to hear the Emperor’s voice; many were moved to tears when, on the radio, they first listened to their deity speaking directly to them.
* In 1937, fearful that traditional values of loyalty and devotion might be displaced by Western immorality, the Thought Bureau of the Ministry of Education issued a document titled “Cardinal Principles of the National Polity” which defined and celebrated a “national character that is cloudless, pure, and honest.”
* The “Cardinal Principles” emphasized that “our country is a divine country governed by an Emperor who is a deity incarnate.”
* They needed confirmation that he wouldn’t he arrested or harmed in any way.
* The idea of their divine emperor being put up on war crimes charges was inconceivable.
* Fun fact: Currently, the Emperor of Japan is the only head of state in the world with the English title of “Emperor”.
* The standing U.S. demand for “unconditional surrender” directly threatened not only the person of the Emperor but such central tenets of Japanese culture as well.
* Because of the Emperor’s unique political and religious status, U.S. leaders were repeatedly advised that a surrender would likely be accepted only if the Japanese people were assured the Emperor-God would neither be removed from his throne nor harmed (or tried and possibly hanged as a war criminal, as German leaders were about to be tried).
* A report by the Joint Intelligence Committee observed in March 1944—sixteen months before Hiroshima—that the
* course of conduct of Japanese armed forces deployed in the areas under consideration, to a large extent, will depend upon the Japanese political situation as of the time that our peace terms are enforced. The crux of the political situation will lie in the all-important status of the Japanese Emperor.
* Another report put together for MacArthur in 1944 said:
* Hanging of the Emperor to them would be comparable to the crucifixion of Christ to us.
* So the fact that the declaration was vague on this point was always going to be a major sticking point for the Japanese.
* Nor was there any explanation of what form the “prompt and utter destruction” might take.
* It pledged that Japan would retain sovereignty over the home islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku.
* It further promised the Japanese people “the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives” and explicitly stated, “We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation,” although Japanese militarists and war criminals would surely face prosecution.
* Thus the Potsdam Declaration, while threatening the “prompt and utter destruction” of Japan if it did not surrender, offered something to the Japanese if they did surrender.
* It even indirectly left open the possibility of the emperor staying on the throne.
* The Japanese, not knowing about the atomic bombs and seeing the declaration as a political ultimatum, rejected it.
* The prime minister said, “There is no recourse but to ignore [the declaration] entirely.”
* He famously used the word Mokusatsu (黙殺) is a Japanese noun literally meaning “kill” with “silence”, and is used with a verb marker idiomatically to mean “ignore”, “take no notice of” or “treat with silent contempt”.
* But – Stewart Chase in his ”Power of Words” said the Japanese responded with the word ”mokusatsu,” which was intended to mean in context that they were reserving comment.
* The Allied Powers were mistakenly informed by inaccurate translators that ”mokusatsu” meant that the Japanese were ignoring it.
* Truman then authorized the bomb’s use, but not until he had departed Potsdam and his ship had sailed for the United States.
* Truman wanted to be literally at sea, and unavailable to the Russians, when the bomb did its work and a new era in human history opened.
* But as we’ve seen – there were other considerations involved in using the bomb, other than the war with Japan.
* There’s a diary entry for July 28, 1945, by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, describing Secretary of State James F. Byrnes as “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.”
* According to historian J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, writing in 1990:
* Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why the Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.
* This wasn’t his personal opinion.
* He was offering a summary of the most recent expert research on the Hiroshima decision in the respected scholarly journal Diplomatic History.
* And yet – Throughout the 70 years that has passed since Hiroshima, poll after poll has shown that most Americans think that the bombings were totally justified—and, moreover, that they had saved a very significant number of lives which might otherwise have been lost in an invasion.
* It’s just not historically accurate.
* It’s PR spin that Americans have been subjected to.
* And the fact is that the majority of U.S. military and political leaders in August 1945 also believed that bombing Japan wasn’t necesary to end the war.
* Let me read you some quotes from some of them.
* DWIGHT EISENHOWER
* “…in [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.
* “During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…”
* – Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380
* ADMIRAL WILLIAM D. LEAHY
* (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman)
* “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
* “The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
* – William Leahy, I Was There, pg. 441.
* HERBERT HOOVER
* On May 28, 1945, Hoover visited President Truman and suggested a way to end the Pacific war quickly: “I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan – tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists – you’ll get a peace in Japan – you’ll have both wars over.”
* Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, pg. 347.
* On August 8, 1945, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Hoover wrote to Army and Navy Journal publisher Colonel John Callan O’Laughlin, “The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul.”
* quoted from Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 635.
* “…the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945…up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; …if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs.”
* – quoted by Barton Bernstein in Philip Nobile, ed., Judgment at the Smithsonian, pg. 142
* Hoover biographer Richard Norton Smith has written: “Use of the bomb had besmirched America’s reputation, he [Hoover] told friends. It ought to have been described in graphic terms before being flung out into the sky over Japan.”
* Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, pg. 349-350.
* In early May of 1946 Hoover met with General Douglas MacArthur. Hoover recorded in his diary, “I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria.”
* Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 350-351.
* GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR
* MacArthur biographer William Manchester has described MacArthur’s reaction to the issuance by the Allies of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan: “…the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face ‘prompt and utter destruction.’ MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General’s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.”
* William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 512.
* Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, “MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed.” He continues, “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”
* Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.
* JOSEPH GREW
* (Under Sec. of State)
* In a February 12, 1947 letter to Henry Stimson (Sec. of War during WWII), Grew responded to the defense of the atomic bombings Stimson had made in a February 1947 Harpers magazine article:
* “…in the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the [retention of the] dynasty had been issued in May, 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the [Japanese] Government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clearcut decision.
* “If surrender could have been brought about in May, 1945, or even in June or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the [Pacific] war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer.”
* Grew quoted in Barton Bernstein, ed.,The Atomic Bomb, pg. 29-32.
* JOHN McCLOY
* (Assistant Sec. of War)
* “I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.”
* McCloy quoted in James Reston, Deadline, pg. 500.
* RALPH BARD
* (Under Sec. of the Navy)
* On June 28, 1945, a memorandum written by Bard the previous day was given to Sec. of War Henry Stimson. It stated, in part:
* “Following the three-power [July 1945 Potsdam] conference emissaries from this country could contact representatives from Japan somewhere on the China Coast and make representations with regard to Russia’s position [they were about to declare war on Japan] and at the same time give them some information regarding the proposed use of atomic power, together with whatever assurances the President might care to make with regard to the [retention of the] Emperor of Japan and the treatment of the Japanese nation following unconditional surrender. It seems quite possible to me that this presents the opportunity which the Japanese are looking for.
* “I don’t see that we have anything in particular to lose in following such a program.” He concluded the memorandum by noting, “The only way to find out is to try it out.”
* Memorandum on the Use of S-1 Bomb, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 77, National Archives (also contained in: Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 1987 edition, pg. 307-308).
* Later Bard related, “…it definitely seemed to me that the Japanese were becoming weaker and weaker. They were surrounded by the Navy. They couldn’t get any imports and they couldn’t export anything. Naturally, as time went on and the war developed in our favor it was quite logical to hope and expect that with the proper kind of a warning the Japanese would then be in a position to make peace, which would have made it unnecessary for us to drop the bomb and have had to bring Russia in…”.
* quoted in Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed, The Decision To Drop the Bomb, pg. 144-145, 324.
* Bard also asserted, “I think that the Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and, I think, the Swiss. And that suggestion of [giving] a warning [of the atomic bomb] was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted.” He continued, “In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb. Thus, it wouldn’t have been necessary for us to disclose our nuclear position and stimulate the Russians to develop the same thing much more rapidly than they would have if we had not dropped the bomb.”
* War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb, U.S. News and World Report, 8/15/60, pg. 73-75.
* LEWIS STRAUSS
* (Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy)
* Strauss recalled a recommendation he gave to Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima:
* “I proposed to Secretary Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used. Primarily it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate… My proposal to the Secretary was that the weapon should be demonstrated over some area accessible to Japanese observers and where its effects would be dramatic. I remember suggesting that a satisfactory place for such a demonstration would be a large forest of cryptomeria trees not far from Tokyo. The cryptomeria tree is the Japanese version of our redwood… I anticipated that a bomb detonated at a suitable height above such a forest… would lay the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they were matchsticks, and, of course, set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities at will… Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation…”
* Strauss added, “It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world…”.
* quoted in Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed, The Decision To Drop the Bomb, pg. 145, 325.
* PAUL NITZE
* (Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey)
* In 1950 Nitze would recommend a massive military buildup, and in the 1980s he was an arms control negotiator in the Reagan administration.
* In July of 1945 he was assigned the task of writing a strategy for the air attack on Japan.
* Nitze later wrote:
* “While I was working on the new plan of air attack… [I] concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945.”
* Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 36-37 (my emphasis)
* The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that was primarily written by Nitze and reflected his reasoning:
* “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
* quoted in Barton Bernstein, The Atomic Bomb, pg. 52-56.
* In his memoir, written in 1989, Nitze repeated,
* “Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary.”
* Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 44-45.
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I can tell you relied on Western accounts of Japan for this episode. It’s not totally wrong but it’s a bit unfortunate. Also, 1860 was not “the end of the 19th c”