* On 15 August 1945, about a week after the bombing of Nagasaki, Truman tasked the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the aerial attacks on Japan, both conventional and atomic.
* Did they have an effect on the Japanese surrender?
* The Survey team included hundreds of American officers, civilians and enlisted men, based in Japan.
* They interviewed 700 Jap military, government and industrial officials.
* And had access to hundreds of Japanese wartime documents.
* Less than a year later they published their conclusion – that Japan would likely have surrendered in 1945 without it, without a Soviet declaration of war, and without an American invasion.
* “It cannot be said that the atomic bomb convinced the leaders who effected the peace of the necessity of surrender. The decision to surrender, influenced in part by knowledge of the low state of popular morale, had been taken at least as early as 26 June at a meeting of the Supreme War Guidance Council in the presence of the Emperor.”
* It goes on to say that there wasn’t a unanimous agreement amongst the military, especially the War Minister, and the Army and Naval Chiefs of Staff.
* They wanted to fight on.
* But that’s why the Emperor was brought into the discussions to accept the Potsdam terms.
* According to the report:
* “So long as the Emperor openly supported such a policy and could be presented to the country as doing so, the military, which had fostered and lived on the idea of complete obedience to the Emperor, could not effectively rebel.”
* The report says the only thing the atomic bombings achieved was that they sped up the process.
* The War Minister and the two Chiefs of Staff were looking for a way to surrender without losing face.
* And the nuclear attacks gave them that.
* Because the military were able to conclude that there was no way of defending the home islands against further atomic attacks.
* So they could surrender without losing face.
* But the report strongly suggests the Japanese would have surrendered anyway and probably pretty quickly after the Emperor got involved.
* They had been trying to get the Soviets to intercede with the United States.
* The Soviets, as we know, kept stalling until the Potsdam Declaration on 25 July.
* Then they declared war on 9 August.
* The made the decision to surrender on August 10 and they publicly accepted the Potsdam terms on August 15.
* But in the 73 years that have 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.
* 56% of Americans according to a poll in 2015.
* Which is down from 85% in 1945.
* But it’s a lot considering that the Strategic Bombing Survey concluded as early as 1946 that it wasn’t necessary to get Japan to surrender.
* And considering senior American military leaders from Admiral Leahy to MacArthur, Eisenhower and Woodrow Wilson all said they didn’t think the bombing was necessary.
* So if it wasn’t necessary, why did it happen?
* WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
* In 1990, J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote:
* 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.
* But does this mean dropping the bombs was wrong?
* Not necessarily.
* We obviously can’t put ourselves in the shoes of American leaders in 1945.
* But I think there are two questions we CAN ask.
* 1. Did American military and government leaders in 1945 think they had to use, or should use, the bomb to bring about Japan’s surrender?
* 2. why do the majority of Americans still think all these years later that it was necessary, if the historians say it wasn’t?
* I think the answer to the last question is partly to do with the media.
* Over the past fifty years most journalists have reported what government officials said about the decision as if it were fact—evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
* And partly I think it has to do with Americans wanting to believe in the Great American Myth – that America can do no wrong.
* And when it *does* do wrong, well it was either an accident, the result of bad intel – or it was necessary.
* So how was the decision made?
* And why?
* As we have discussed in the past, the Potsdam Declaration was demanding “unconditional surrender”.
* Truman inherited this from Roosevelt.
* But what this meant was unclear.
* Did it mean, for example, that Japan, like Hawaii before it, would become an American colony?
* Did it mean the execution of the Emperor?
* We know, of course, that in the end, Truman did not hesitate to modify the “unconditional surrender” policy after the atomic bomb was used.
* The Emperor stayed.
* BTW, did you know – Currently, the Emperor of Japan is the only head of state in the world with the English title of “Emperor”.
* Although that’ll change as soon as Trump stages his false flag attacks.
* And speaking of the Emperor.
* Did you know that Hirohito’s name changed when he died?
* His posthumous name is Emperor Shōwa.
* The word Shōwa is the name of the era (Shōwa period) potentially “period of enlightened peace/harmony” or “period of radiant Japan” that corresponded with the Emperor’s reign, and was made the Emperor’s own name upon his death.
* The name Hirohito means “abundant benevolence”.
* So…. nice to know that’s how they Japanese think about his reign.
* Some Americans today seem to think that demanding an unconditional surrender was obvious back then.
* But it wasn’t so obvious to Americans at the time.
* If the goal was to end the war as quickly as possible, to prevent further American deaths, why not negotiate the quickest possible surrender on agreeable terms?
* On May 9, 1945, the Washington Post published an article that called for a CONDITIONAL surrender.
* It took the position that demanding an unconditional surrender would just drive some elements of the Japanese military to choose to die fighting rather than be enslaved or see their Emperor executed.
* The British Foreign Office had long since concluded the same thing.
* In his May 13 weekly report to London, British Ambassador Lord Halifax cited the Post editorial as an early indication of support.
* And it wasn’t only in England.
* On April 18, a Joint Intelligence Committee report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded:
* [W]e believe that the Japanese Government will endeavor to find some formula for ending the war, without having the stigma of absolute “unconditional” surrender attached to it. If such a formula can be found which would be acceptable to the Allies, we believe that Japan might surrender without the invasion of Japan proper.
* That was nearly four months before Hiroshima.
* In an April 25 review of Pacific strategy, the Joint Staff Planners had gone even further in their critique of the existing language:
* The concept of “unconditional surrender” is foreign to the Japanese nature. Therefore, “unconditional surrender” should be defined in terms understandable to the Japanese, who must be convinced that destruction or national suicide is not implied. This could be done by the announcement on a government level of a “declaration of intentions” which would tell the Japanese what the future holds.… Unless a definition of unconditional surrender can be given which is acceptable to the Japanese, there is no alternative to annihilation and no prospect that the threat of absolute defeat will bring about capitulation.
* So it seems pretty clear that the highest levels of advice to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, months before Hiroshima, were making it very clear that demanding an unconditional surrender was not going to work and the language needed to change.
* But the language didn’t change.
* Now – also keep in mind that FDR died on April 12 and Hitler died on April 30.
* So things are a little crazy around this time.
* But it’s 3 months before Potsdam and nearly four months before Hiroshima.
* I know Truman had a lot of catching up to do, but ending the war with Japan was PRETTY HIGH on that list.
* And yet the language still did not change.
* Although on May 9, Truman did give a speech where he declared the unconditional surrender of Japan did NOT mean their enslavement or extermination.
* But there was no mention of what it meant for Hirohito.
* However, the Joint Chiefs took the report seriously and started discussing there was general agreement that “unconditional surrender” should refer explicitly to the armed forces of Japan and that explicit reference should now also be made to the authority of the existing Imperial Institutions.
* On May 28, 1945, Acting Secretary of State, and former ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew visited President Truman with a proposal to conclude the war quickly.
* He argued that the Allies should modify their terms of unconditional surrender to permit Japan to retain the Imperial Institution if the people desired it.
* Grew supported America’s primary goals of destroying Japan’s military machine and blotting out the cult of militarism, but warned, “The Japanese are a fanatical people and are capable … of fighting to the last ditch and last man.”
* He went on to say, “the greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the Throne.”
* Grew insisted that if the United States compelled the Japanese people to defend their Emperor, untold number of Americans would die.
* He recommended that America permit Japan to determine its own political structure in order to allow the country a means of saving face—a position Chang Kai-Shek also held.
* Truman agreed asked Grew to pull together a meeting with Stimson, Marshall, Forrestal and a few other guys, to discuss the issue, which he did and they met on May 29.
* Meanwhile former president Herbert Hoover, a Republican, met with Truman on May 28 and recommend that the Allies make sure to state clearly that they had no desire to destroy either the Japanese people or their government, or to interfere in the Japanese way of life.
* Truman passed Hoover’s memorandum to Grew and Stimson for comment.
* Stimson in turn referred it to staff for review.
* A week later, on June 14, a staff assessment of Hoover’s paper came back. It observed:
* The proposal of a public declaration of war aims, in effect giving definition to “unconditional surrender,” has definite merit if it is carefully handled.
* So the Washington Post, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former President, and the acting Secretary of State all agreed that the terms of surrender should be clarified.
* On May 29, Grew met with Marshall, Forrestal and a few other guys, who all apparently agreed that the surrender terms needed to be clarified – but claimed it was not yet time for the President to make any statements for “certain military reasons.”
* What those reasons were, they didn’t say.
* Stimson’s diaries, which were published decades later, explained the reasons – the bomb.
* Some of the people in the room weren’t aware of its existence.
* One guy who was in the room and who did know about it was Assistant Secretary of War McCloy.
* He said the guys who knew about the bomb had a meeting afterwards.
* In that meeting he said General Marshall said he thought these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave—telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers.… Every effort should be made to keep our record of warning clear. We must offset by such warning methods the opprobrium which might follow from an ill-considered employment of such force.
* Which seems to suggest that one of Marshall’s reasons for wishing to delay a statement was related to the idea that the bomb would first be used against a military target.
* Thereafter a clear “warning” would be issued—including, specifically, a warning to Japanese citizens to leave any targeted cities or population centers.
* Only then would the bomb be used against an urban center.
* It is often suggested that a so-called “demonstration” of the atomic bomb was not seriously discussed at the highest levels (except once, informally over lunch, by the Interim Committee on May 31)—and, further, that a “demonstration” was impractical. In subsequent discussions the idea of a desert island explosion has often emerged (and been discounted).
* It may therefore be important to note that Marshall—one of the most respected military figures in modern history—apparently did not see insuperable obstacles to a carefully designed “demonstration”—against a military target.
* Also on May 29, the U.S. intercepted a discussion between Molotov and Japanese Ambassador Sato.
* Molotov asked Sato’s view of how long the Pacific War would last, and Sato replied:
* Japan follows Russia’s example in her desire to end hostilities as quickly as possible. The Pacific War, however, is a matter of life and death for Japan and, as a result of America’s attitude, we have no choice but to continue the fight.
* Note it was “America’s attitude” that was driving their choice to fight to the end.
* Roosevelt’s former aide Harry Hopkins, on a presidential mission to Moscow at this time, reported Stalin as saying, along similar lines, that “according to his information the Japanese would not accept unconditional surrender,” and that “if we stick to unconditional surrender the Japs will not give up and we will have to destroy them as we did Germany.”
* on June 2, 1945 An OSS report – the OSS was the predecessor to the CIA – to Truman of a late May meeting with a Japanese representative in Portugal.
* It stated that peace terms were unimportant as long as the term “unconditional surrender” was avoided.
* On June 22 the Joint Chiefs of Staff received an message that Fujimura, one of the principal Japanese Naval representatives in Europe, insisted that the Japanese would require assurances that the Emperor would be retained before surrendering.
* Look – I could go on citing evidence that the upper echelons of the American government and military all understood that clarifying the terms of the surrender involving the Emperor could have brought about an early peace.
* If ending the war as quickly as possible was the ultimate goal, why didn’t they do just that?
* I can only think of a few possible reasons.
* 1. They wanted to grind Japan in the ground as revenge for Pearl Harbour. And yet all of the indications are that the top military and political leaders of the U.S. stated they did NOT want to do that.
* 2. They didn’t want to leave Japan with any military or political capabilities. Like Stalin wanted to destroy Germany’s. But surely there was a way of doing that AND also assuring the Japanese about the future of the Emperor?
* 3. They wanted to use the bomb. If it worked. But they were pretty sure Little Boy worked. And they would know about Fat Man by mid-July.
* 4. Optics. They didn’t want it to appear as though America gave up.
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.
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.