*** war and social upheaval: World War II Japan surrender

World War II: Japan--Surrender (August 14, 1945)

Japanese surrender
Figure 1.--Japan surrendered August 14, 1945. This allowed the Allies to begin rescuing the more than 0.5 million Western civilin interess and POWS and were being brutalized and starved in fetid camps throughout Japanese occupied Asia and the Pacific. The official ceremony was conducted by General MacArthur aboard the 'USS Misouri' (September 2, 1945). MacArthur had the Japanese sign under the Missour's' big guns, notably pointed up toward Tokyo. The 'Misslouri' had played only a minor role in the war, but President Truman decided on it because he was from Missouri. Asia .

Most Americans believe that the Japanese surrendered because of the American development and use of the atomic bomb. The bomb was certainly a factor, but not the only factor. The decision to surrender is far more complex and impossible to know with any surety. The American Pacific Island invasions, naval power, and in particular the Soviet declaration of war and startling success of the their invasion of Manchuria all played major roles. The Allies at in the Potsdam Declaration demanded that Japan surrender (July 27, 1945). The Japanese military despite the fact that the Allied bombing had destroyed major cities, were determined to resist, hoping that the cost of invading Japan would deter the Allies. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9). The Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria (August 8). There is reason to believe that the Soviet declaration of war and rapid seizure of Manchuria was more important in forcing Japan to surrender than the atomic bombs. Emperor Hirohito finally decided to surrender unconditionally (August 14). The success of the Soviet Army convinced even Imperial Army officers and the Ministry of war that defeat was inevitable. Emperor Hirohito on August 14 decided to surrender unconditionally. Even after the atomic bombs and the debacle in Manchuria, there were hardliners that were opposed to surrender. A group calling themselves the Young Tigers seized the Imperial Palace grounds and tried to prevent the Emperor's surrender broadcast. The attempted coup almost succeed. On what has become called "Japan's Longest Day" the attempted coup, bombing raid blackout, intrigues, killings, and seppukus (harakiri -- 腹切り, determined the fate of millions of Japanese people. It was a complicated series of events involving both great heroism and treason by officers convinced that they were behaving honorably. The Commander of the Eastern Army, however, remained loyal to the Emperor, dooming the coup. [PWRS] The formal surrender was held underneath the big guns of the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Not knowing just what the Japanese were planning, the American carriers were standing on station at sea just off Japan.

Manhattan Project

The American Manhattan Program was the largest weapons development program in history. It was initiated by President Roosevelt when work done by German physicists led to concern that the NAZIs might build an atomic bomb. Important scientists in 1939 concluded that German scientists had begun to develop an atomic bomb for the NAZIs. These scientists induced President Roosevelt to launch an American atomic bomb project. The project was, however, given serious attention only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor bringing America into the war. General Leslie R. Groves (1896-1970), Deputy Chief of Construction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was assigned to oversee the project. The Manhattan Project us named after the New York borough where the first office headquarters was located and began June 1942. Groves had just completed another rush project, the construction of the Pentagon. He considered himself an astute judge of men and chose Robert J. Oppenheimer (1904-1967)to lead the scientific team. Oppenhimer was a respected, but relatively unknown theoretical physicist. Enrico Fermi and Leo Salard working in a converted squash court beneath the University of Chicago's carried out the first controlled nuclear reaction occurred confirming that nuclear fission could unleash huge amounts of energy. The major difficulty in building an atomic bomb was in obtaining the required quantity of fissionable material. A huge facility was built an Oak Ridge, Tennessee to separated the U-235 isotope needed for the bomb from the more common U-238 isotope. The Hanford Engineer Works was built in Washington to produce plutonium. Groves chose Los Alamos, New Mexico as a location to actually develop and assemble the bomb or "gadget" a it was called. This isolated town had by March 1943 been turned into a high-technology boomtown. The Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge provided the bomb-grade U-235 used for the Little Boy bomb. The Hanford plant provided the Plutonium used in the Fat Man bomb.

Japanese Nuclear Project

The American and Germans were not the only countries with nuclear programs. The British of course supported the American Manhattan Project. The Japanese also had a small program. It was conducted at Osaka University. It made only minor progress. The Japanese Army, however, developed a dirty bomb project. Here I do not know to what extent the Japanese developed this project or it was suggested to them by the Germans. We do know that the Japanese selected of all German war material and technology to have the Germans ship Uranium oxide to them by U-boat just before the NAZIs surrendered. The U-234 was dispatched (April 1945) with 50 lead cannisters with uranium oxide. Presumably this was accompanied with technical documentation. If so it was discarded at sea by the U-boat captain along with two Japanese officers. Apparently the Japaneses were planning to use the uranium oxide for a dirty bomb that was to be delivered by Japan's huge submarines that could actually launch aircraft. The suns had early stealth technology--rubber coated hulls. The attack was to hit San Francisco and was scheduled for August 17, 1945. Although the U-234 surrendered to the Americans, it was not known how many U-boats the NAZIs dispatched and how many got through with what cargoes.

The Marianas

The Marianas was the key target of the U.S. Navy's Central Pacific campaign. The seizure of the Marianas and the deployment of of the new long range B-29 bombers which would bring the Japanese homeland within range of strategic bombardment. The Japanese knew this. They had hoped that the heavily defended bastions in Central Pacific (The Gilberts, and Marshals and especially Truk, which they considered the Gibraltar of the Pacific would stop the Americans. The Imperial Navy did not contest the American onslaught and the islands fell one after another. Even Truk was devastated, although it was not invaded. With the Marianas the Imperial Navy would finally deploy its carriers to stop the Americans. The Air Force had planned to conduct the strategic bombing of Japan from China. A Japanese offensive in China and the seizure of the Marianas changed that calculation.

Strategic Bombing Campaign

The air war in the Pacific began as in the European theater with mastery of the skies by the Japanese. The Chinese air force was virtually non-existent. The Japanese conducted terror bombing raid, first on Shanghai and then on other Chinese cities. Japanese aircraft, especially the Mitsubishi Zero, were so effective that they were able to achieve air superiority during land and sea battles against Britain and the United States beginning with the attack on Pear Harbor. This continued throughout much of 1942 and only with the arrival of improved American aircraft in large numbers did the Allies begin to gain the upper hand in the sky. The seizure of the Marianas and the deployment of of the new long range B-29 bombers brought the Japanese homeland within range of strategic bombardment. The initial raids were inconclusive. General Curtis Le May devised a strategy of fire bombing which caused massive destruction in Japanese cities crammed with highly flammable wooden structures. When Japan refused to surrender after the Yalta Conference, President Truman ordered the use of the Atomic Bomb in August 1945. The Japanese surrendered in September.

NAZI Axis Ally

The Japanese only took the enormous ganble of war with the United States when they were convinced that the Germans Barbarod=sa campaign was succeeding and that the Wehrmacht had lrgely defeated the Red Army. The Japanese calculation was that this would force the United States to focus its considerable energies on Europe. Tht calculation was basically cottect, IF the Germans did destroy the Red Army. In fact they did not and America, unlike Germany, proved more than capable of wageing a two-front war. Hitler for his part was elated when he learned of Pearl Harbor. He had concluded that American entry in the War was eminent. And without a powerful navy of his own he thought that the Imperail Navy would redress the naval weakness of the European Axis. In fact it did -- for 6 months. Hitler bragged to intimates that the Japanese entry into the war guranteed the Axis vicyory. Japan had never been defeated in two millenia of warfare. As the war progressed, he was dispponyd in the Japanese military performance. It was difficultg getting accutate details from theJpanese--the two Japanese services did not even give each other accurate information. Hitler could, however, read a map. And beginning at Guadalcanal, the Pacific battles moved in one direction -- toward Tokyo. Even more vexing to him was the fact that Japan did not interdict the Pacific Route of American Lend Lease deliveries to the Soviets--it proved the most importnt route. As the War reached a climax in the Pacific, the view from Berlin amd Tokyo is telling. Propaganda Minister Goebbels writes in the final entries to his diary that the Japanese defeats are finally seeing the need to turn to Total War, reading a speech by Prime Minister / General Koiso. [Goebbels, March 9, 1945, p. 108.] He seems oblivious to the fact that the Jpanese had already made that decesion by 1943. The only step they did not take was not going to war with the Soviets. Goebbels also did not believe the Soviets would attack Japan. [Goebbels, March 11, 1945, p. 122.] The Japanes on the other end of the world were watching the final agonies of the ally on which they had wagered everything. The Germans had finnaly began sending them secret high technology and even enriched uranium, but this would soon end. And they followed Goebbels press reports of Red Army atrocities in Eastern Rurope aswell as Soviet actions first in Eastern Europe and then the reich itself. Given the emperor's failure to end the Ear as the United states beggan inceinerating Japanese cities, Red Army atrocities on civilian were not the focus of his concern. But NKVD arrests of civilian officials and elites throughout Eastern Europe and moves against the monarchies (Bulgaria. Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia) must have left no doubt in his mind about his future in a Soviet occupied Japan.

Okinawa (April-June, 1945)

The Emperor wanted a final decisive battle. The invasion of Okinawa was the first American attack on Japanese territory. Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Island chain was strategically located between Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese island and Taiwan (called Formosa by the Japanese). American strategists saw Okinawa as a necessary base from which an American invasion of the Japanese home islands could be staged. Okinawa had several air bases and the only two important harbors between Formosa and Kyushu. The American invasion was code named Operation Iceberg. The greatest naval force in history was assembled for the invasion. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's 5th fleet included more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers and hundreds of support ships. Over 182,000 troops participated in the invasion. The American invasion forced was surprised when the beach landings were unopposed. Okinawa was defended by the 32nd Japanese Army and a garrison of about 110,000 men. The Japanese had drawn back from the invasion beaches. The Japanese strategy was to bring as many ships as possible in close to the island to support the invasion. it was then that a major Kamikaze (神風) attack was unleashed on the invasion fleet. The Japanese on April 6-7 employed the first massed formations of hundreds of kamikaze aircraft. The Japanese during the Okinawan campaign flew 1,465 kamikaze flights from Kyushu. They succeeded in sinking 30 American ships and damaged 164 others. Other ships were attacked nearer Kyushu and Formosa. The Army Air Corps had rejected a request to heavily bomb these air fields as it was seen as a diversion from the strategic bombing campaign. One third of the invasion force was killed or wounded. Over half of the 16,000 Americans killed were sailors on the ships attacked by the Kamikaze. Virtually the entire Japanese garrison died in the Okinawa campaign. Few Japanese soldiers surrendered even after defeat was certain. Large number of civilians were also killed. The Japanese military reserved available food and supplies for its use and in many cases forced civilians to commit suicide. The American military saw Okinawa as a dress rehearsal for an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands and anticipated even fiercer resistance. The extent of the casualties was a major factor in the American decision to use the atomic bombs.

Naval Blockade

Once the torpedo problem was solved, the American submarines began to systematically destroy the Japanese merchant marine. Unlike the Japanese submarine force, the American submarines targeted the Japanese merchant marine (maru) fleet. And during 1943 and 44 largely destroyed it. As a result, the lost of merchant marine vessels combined with the American seizure of the Philippines (October 1944-February 1945) meant that Japan was cut off from the Southern Resource Zone that they had gone to war to obtain. The Americans had not yet cut the Japanese off from Manchuria and China through the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. And this enable the Japanese to shift military forces from China/Manchuria to southern Japan to prepare for the American invasion. After the United States seized Okinawa, transport through the Yellow Sea and East China Sea became increasingly difficult for the Japanese. As a result, Japanese factories producing armaments which survived the strategic bombing campaign, found it increasingly difficult to obtain raw materials. And food became increasingly scarce.

Prime Minister Suzuki (April-August 1945)

Admiral Suzuki Kantarō was a long serving and respected figure in Japan before the War. After serving as Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff (1925-29), he retired from active military service and accepted a prestigious appointment as Privy Councilor and Grand Chamberlain (1929-36). He was know to be a moderate and was shot and almost killed in the February 26 Incident (1936). The assassin's bullet remained inside Suzuki for the remainder of his life. It was only revealed when he was cremated. After the assassination attempt, he retired from public life. Suzuki was opposed to attacking the United States, both before and throughout the Pacific War. Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso after the loss of Okinawa resigned (April 7, 1945). The Emperor chose Suzuki to replace him, a good signal as to where the Emperor's thinking was headed. Suzuki was at the time 77 years old, hardly a dynamic figure. The Prime minister was largely a powerless figure. Power was entirely in the hands of the military. He also held the portfolios for Minister for Foreign Affairs and for Greater East Asia. Suzuki thus nominally headed the Japanese government in the final months of the Pacific War. Suzuki could not, however, openly advocate peace. He would have been arrested or shot by the military. After the war, Suzuki and others from his government and the various apologists for Japan's war crimes claimed that Suzuki and his associates were secretly working towards peace, but could not could not publicly advocate it. They bring up the Japanese concept of 'haragei'. This means the art of hidden and invisible technique. Apologists thus justify the dissonance between public statements and what was alleged happening behind-the-scenes. The only problem here was that virtually nothing was happening behind the scenes. There were fruitless gestures to Stalin as well as fellers through neutral Sweden and Switzerland. None of these efforts included substantive surrender offers, unconditional or otherwise. Most Western historians dismiss this line of thinking. One historian writes, "Because of its very ambiguity, the plea of haragei invites the suspicion that in questions of politics and diplomacy a conscious reliance upon this 'art of bluff' may have constituted a purposeful deception predicated upon a desire to play both ends against the middle. While this judgment does not accord with the much-lauded character of Admiral Suzuki, the fact remains that from the moment he became Premier until the day he resigned no one could ever be quite sure of what Suzuki would do or say next." [Butow, pp. 70-71.] While historians may debate Suzuki's intentions, what is crystal clear is that despite the deteriorating military situation and the American destruction of Japanese cities in the strategic bombing campaign or the impending food crisis, there was no urgency in his Government's actions. Here the knowledge that dramatic moves would almost surely be met by assassination or arrest at the hands of the military.

Japanese Military Situation

Japan after Midway (June 1942) and the NAZI reverses in Europe (October-December 1942), it was clear that the Axis could not win the War. Not winning the war, however, is a far cry from unconditional surrender and occupation. It was not until the fall of the Marianas (July 1944) that the military and the Emperor realized that Japan was in mortal danger. By the time of the American invasion of Okinawa (April 1945), Japan was a devastated nation. The United States through the Strategic Bombing Campaign had destroyed most of the major cities. Japanese cities were mostly wood and quickly burned. Millions of civilians were killed in the attacks. There were many more million refugees whose homes had been destroyed in the bombing raids. The American naval blockade prevented not only strategic materials (metals and oil) from reaching Japan, but also food. Japan was not self sufficient in food production and stopping imports creating shortages. Average daily food consumption was below 1200 calories a day and falling. The magnificent Imperial Fleet was destroyed. What was left of the merchant shipping could not leave home waters and now were in danger even in home waters. Oil was no longer available. Small stocks were being reserved for the military, Rubber and steel were in short supply and could no longer be imported. Despite the desperate situation, the military wanted to fight on. Most military officers seemed to have preferred death to capitulation. The fate of the Japanese people does not seem to have figured highly in the minds of many if these men. This was clearly seen on Saipan and Okinawa where the military urged civilians to commit suicide or in many cases actually killed them when the Americans approached.

Peace Feelers (June-July 1945)

The Japanese militarists that launched the War still wanted to fought on and rejected talk of surrender. There were, however, elements in the Japanese government that wanted to end the War. Japanese diplomats attempted to send peace feelers through the Soviet Union. Their major goal was to avoid occupation. Japan and the Soviet Union had avoided conflict during the War and thus still had diplomatic relations. The Japanese Foreign Ministry directed their ambassador in Moscow to ask the Soviet Union to mediate an end to the War. The Soviet Government did not pass on this communication to Washington or London, but did not tell the Japanese this. Thus the Foreign Ministry sent several messages to their ambassador asking what the status of the Soviet efforts were. While the Soviets did not pass on the Japanese inquiry, American officials knew about the peace feelers. The United states had cracked the Japanese diplomatic codes and was reed them throughout the War. It was clear from reading Japanese diplomatic traffic that while the Japanese wanted to end the War, they did not want to surrender unconditionally. Other fellers were sent through neutral Sweden and Switzerland. What the Japanese wanted was a negotiated peace involving numerous conditions. First and foremost they wanted to avoid any foreign occupation. They even wanted to retain some of its wartime conquests in East Asia. This of course was far short of the unconditional surrender the Allies demanded.

Potsdam Declaration (July 27)

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. The Conference was held from July 17 to August 2, 1945. It was a conference of the Big Three (the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The participants proved to be quite different than those at the other major World War II conferences, including Yalta held a few months earlier. Stalin still represented the Soviet Union. President Roosevelt had died after Yalta and was replaced by the new president--Harry Truman. Churchill was at the beginning session was replace as prime minister by Clement Attlee, who had replaced him after a general election. The conference was held after the NAZI surrender (May 1945). The primary order of business was how to administer occupied Germany as well as the post-War order, peace treaties, and the huge problems created by the War. The primary importance concerning the Pacific War was that Stalin secretly pledged to enter the War by August 15. President Truman informed Stalin of the atomic bomb. Because of Soviet espionage, he already knew. The Conference issued a declaration demanding that Japan immediately surrender or face "prompt and utter destruction" (July 26). The Japanese did not respond. Some Japanese officials actually thought the Potsdam Declaration showed the success of their policy of bleeding the Americans. Although the Potsdam Declaration called for unconditional surrender, there was language providing for Japan eventually rejoining the community of nations. Also and perhaps more importantly, the Soviet Union did not sign the Declaration.

Japanese Strategy

The Japanese military despite the fact that the Allied bombing had destroyed major cities, were determined to resist, hoping that the cost of invading Japan would deter the Allies and make possible a more favorable negotiated peace. The Government ordered diplomats to request that the Soviets mediate an end to the War. Japan's cities by the beginning of August had been reduced to smoldering ruins. The Imperial Navy for all practical purposes had ceased to exist. The air forces was incapable of opposing American bombers. The month of August was to bring even further shocks. to surrender was also influenced indirectly through Moscow.

Emperor's Role in the War

Historians debate Emperor Hirohito's role in the War. There seems little doubt than it was greater than the role portrayed by the Japanese after the War. But it is also true that the Emperor unlike Hitler was not the driving force that brought about the War. He rose to the throne as a young man who undoubtedly stood in awe of the militarists who steadily rose in influence. A historian provides a good summary, "Scholars have argued about whether the emperor was the pawn of the militarists or their goad. The best evidence suggests he was a bit of both, a deeply passive-aggressive figure overwhelmed by unbearable destiny." [Thomas, p. 140.] There is no evidence that the Emperor pushed for war in the lead up to Pearl Harbor. There is evidence that the Emperor made no attempt to seek peace, but demanded a decisive battle both in the Philippines and Okinawa. After Okinawa, however, his attitude appears to have changed. He no longer accepted claims from the military that Japan could successfully resist the Americans.

Japanese Resistance Plans

The Japanese resistance on Okinawa was just a dress rehearsal for what the Japanese planned on the Home Islands. TheAmerican invasion plan was Operation Downfall. American commanders planning the invasion began to assess the casualty figures. Admiral Nimitz in particular began to doubt the advisability of invading the Home Islands. Thus for the Americans the Japanese strategy of bleeding the Americans led directly to the decision to drop the bomb. And the Japanese were determined to make any American invasion as costly as possible. They knew the landings would be staged in southern Japan, the only part of the Hime Islands within tactical air range of Okinawa. Civilians including school children were being trained to fight the Americans--Ketsugo. Troops were moved from China and Manchuria to the Home Islands and concentrated in southern Japan--especially Kyushu. And a secret air force was bring assembled for devastating Kamikaze attacks.

The Emperor

Emperor Hirohito was of course the key figure in the Japanese surrender. Historians have begun to address Emperor Hirohito's war-time role. One historian contends that Hirohito was involved in all the major decisions in the war. That was certainly true, but Hirohito was presented with decisions taken by his ministers. He rose to the throne at a very young age and deferred to his ministers on policy matters. He approved to the decision to go to war, but is unclear if he had any real choice. He had confidence in his ministers and they did not present him to him just to what extent they were gambling. It is also unclear what would have happened if he had said no. Assassination and replacement were real possibilities. There is no indication that he had any misgivings as long as the military produced the promised victories. Beginning with Midway (June 1942) the victories stopped. And despite repeated assurances, the Americans steadily moved closer and closer, seizing one Pacific island after another. And gradually the Emperor came to realize that his military commanders had badly miscalculated. Some authors suggest that the Emperor's role was covered up, and that General MacArthur knew, but went along with the whitewash for pragmatic reasons to assist in the post-War occupation. Loyal Japanese officials and military commanders, unwilling to see the Emperor soiled by association with crimes committed in his name, saw their honorable duty as taking the punishment. [Bergamini] A HBC reader tells us that a recent biography by Herbert Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan" (New York, 2000). He writes, "The Bix book seems to me to come pretty close to being the definitive biography. It certainly goes way beyond anything written earlier and addresses his World War II role in detail." HBC has not yet had an opportunity to read the Bix book. Toward the end of the war Hirohito sought peace, and in August 1945 he broadcast the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allies. While there is considerable controversy concerning the Emperor's war-time role, there is general agreement that he acted with considerable courage to end the War. At the time not only was he endanger from units of the Japanese military determined to resist, but he had ever expectation that he would be arrested and tried for war crimes by the Americans or at least removed from the throne. The prospect of a Soviet occupation was a major factor in the Emperor's decision and the Army's acquiescence to the Emperor's decision. The Emperor's willingness to accept the judgment of his military commanders apparently ended when he was assured that the Americans could not possibly have produced more than one atomic bomb.

Hiroshima (August 6)

The United States did not include Hiroshima as a target in the Strategic Bombing Campaign, in part because the Air Force wanted to be able to determine the impact of an atomic bomb. Japan publicly rejected the Potsdam Declaration. President Truman ordered the Air Force to begin atomic attacks on Japan as soon as possible (July 25). The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The Enola Gay dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima (August 6). The results were catastrophic. Japanese scientists were at the time working on an atomic bomb, but with out the resources and facilities available to the Americans. This was of course secret and only a small number of officials and scientists were aware of the work. Thus the Japanese were totally unprepared and had no idea at first what had occurred. The human tragedies are heart rending. There are many factual accounts. Many fiction writers have also addressed the cataclysm. One particularly moving account was about Emikio Amai age 6. "One morning toward the end of the summer they burned away by face. My little brother and I were playing on the bank of the river." [Bock] Most Americans believe that it was the atomic bombs that forced Japan to surrender. This comes from a basic inclination of most Americans to assume that all national leaderships are concerned about the welfare of their people. Of course this is not the case and the Axis leaders that took their countries to war are a prime example of this. The U.S. Air Force had already destroyed 66 Japanese cities before the attack on Hiroshima. One city more should not have been expected to dramatically change Japanese policy. The force of the weapon and the ease of destroying an entire city is another matter. One historian points out that the Japanese Supreme Council did not meet immediately after the Hiroshima attack. They did meet after the Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria. [Wilson]

Japanese Response: Aftermath of Hiroshima

Despite the immense destructiom at Hiroshima. The Emperor and the Japanese Goverment took no steps toward surrender. The Emperor did not convene either the Japanese Cabinet or the Supreme War Council. The initial shock was soon dispelled when it became clear that the Americans hd developed and used an artomic bomb. Japanese scientists were working on a atomic bomb and thus understood what had happened. Military officials assured the Emperor that producing fussile material was so difficult that the americns couls not possibly have more bombs andit would be sime time before they could assemble and drop another bomb. Decissions of the Supr War Council required an unanamimous vote and the Council was badly split. The military still refused to coutenace surrender and occupation. The Emperor despite repeated assurance from the military that the American could be stopped which had proven wrong was still unwilling to challenge the militry. -

Soviet Declaration of War (August 8)

The American Hiroshima attack caused Stalin to order the immediate declaration of war on Japan and invasion of Manchuria least Japan surrender before the Soviets attacked. The Soviet Union, 2 days after the first atomic bomb was dropped, entered the war against Japan (August 8). Stalin as promised at Yalta and Potsdam declared war on Japan. At the time the Japanese were attempting to use the Soviets to mediate an end to the War. He moved the date up after the Hiroshima bombing because he wanted to be in the War before Japan surrendered. Soviet plans included the invasion of Manchukuo (Manchuria), Mengjiang, Korea, the southern portion of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and Hokkaido. All these operations except the invasion of Hokkaido were carried out. The Soviets struck in Manchuria and routed the Japanese forces there. The offensive was in sharp contrast to the campaigns the Americans conducted in the Pacific. The Soviets after declaring war immediately launched a massive invasion--the largest ground operation of the Pacific War. The Red Army rapidly swept over Manchuria. Japanese resistance crumpled. The Soviet invasion is not well covered in Western histories of the War. One question that arises is why the Soviets so quickly succeeded in Manchuria while the United States struggled in Okinawa. I think this is primarily because Okinawa was a small island where the Japanese could concentrate their forces in mountainous terrain. Manchuria was a huge area, much of it a flat plane, idea fortank warfare. The Japanese could not defend it like they were able to do on Okinawa. Perhaps readers more familiar with the Soviet invasion will be able to tell us more. Soviet plans included the invasion of Manchukuo (Manchuria), Mengjiang, Korea, the southern portion of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and Hokkaido. All these operations except the invasion of Hokkaido were carried out. The Soviet invasion was code named Operation August Storm. The massive Soviet invasion swept aside Japanese resistance. The Japanese were surprised and destroyed any illusions among the military that Japan's still substantial army had the ability to resist Allied armies. Some authors believe that the success of the Soviets in Manchuria and the inability of the Japanese army to resist them, had more of an impact on the Japanese military than the two American atomic bombs. One factor that we are not yet sure about is why Japanese resistance in Manchuria collapsed so quickly and why the Japanese military commanders were willing to surrender to the Soviets, but unwilling to surrender to the Americans in Okinawa or the Philippines. The Japanese that surrendered to the Soviets spent years in the Gulag. They were used for years in construction projects in Siberia and Central Asia. [Solzhenitsyn, p. 84.] Only about half survived and ever returned to Japan.

Nagasaki (August 9)

Military authorities assured the Emperor after the Hiroshima attack that the Americans could not possibly have produced enough uranium for a second bomb. Thus the Japanese did not respond to the Hiroshima attack. The Air Force thus prepared a second attack. The United States dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). Some American military figures (General Groves and Admiral Purnell) believed that two atomic bombs dropped in short succession would have such a tremendous impact on Japanese leaders that Japanese would finally surrender. government that it would surrender. The scientists at Los Alamos had varied opinions. Some had participated in the project primarily to prevent the NAZIs from winning the War with an atomic weapon. But some scientists as well as military planners wanted to know which type of bomb was more destructive. 'Little Boy' (the uranium bomb) was used on Hiroshima. 'Fat Boy (the plutonium bomb was used on Nagasaki. Nagasaki was not the Air Force's primary target. The primary target was Kokura. Kyoto was another potential target. Kyoto was chosen because of its association with the war-like Shinto religion. Finally the Air Force decided against Kyoto. And then also against Niigata, because of the distance. (It was in range of the B-29, but the greater the distance, the more chances for accidents and the Air Force did want go take any change of the bomb falling in Japanese hands. Nagasaki was chosen because it was a major ship building city and had an important military port. Some planners did no favor Nagasaki as it had already been bombed five times. The hilly terrain would also impair the effectiveness of the bomb. The 'Enola Gay' from Tinian carried Fat Boy. But when Box Car it arrived over Kokura, the city was covered by clouds. Major Sweeneymade three runs, but the clouds held. . Fuel became an issue. He decided to shift to the secondary target--Nagasaki. Sweeney by this time only had enough fuel for one run over Nagasaki and he would have to land in Okinawa and not return to Tinian. Nagasaki was also covered by clouds. Thus the bombing run was begun with radar but at the last minute a break appeared in the cloud cover. The bombardier targeted a race track. Nagasaki had also been bombed before. People had become used to air raid sirens sounded, often when American planes were flying near by or on raids attacking nearby cities. Thus many people did not run for the air raid shelters. Ironically, Nagasaki had more adequate shelters than many other Japanese cities. There were also tunnels into the surrounding cities that could have sheltered people. 'Fat Man' proved to be more powerful than 'Little Boy', but the blast was mitigated by the hilly topography of the city. The devastating fires occurring in Hiroshima did not occur in Nagasaki because the rivers flowing through the city acted as fire breaks. Casualty accounts vary. A report by the US Strategic Bombing Survey after the War estimated 35,000 deaths, 60,000 wounded, and 5,000 missing. A 1960 Japanese assessment estimated 20,000 deaths 50,000 wounded. The Nagasaki Prefectural Office estimated 87,000 deaths and 70 percent of the city's central industrial zone destroyed. Part if the discrepancies are the result of the time period considered. Large numbers of the wounded died later because of the severity of their injuries and slower acting radiation sickness.

Japanese Reaction Aftermath of Nagasaki: The Cabinet (August 9)

The War Cabinet even after the Nagasaki attack was was still undecided on surrender. War Minister Korechika Anami still wanted to continue the War. When told about the atomic bombs, he replied, "Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed by a beautiful flower?" [Pellegrino] Most Americans believe it was the atomic bomb that forced the Japanese to surrender. It surely was a factor, but even before the two attacks, conventional attacks had destroyed many Japanese cites. It is likely that the decision to surrender was also influenced indirectly through Moscow. The Japanese in the aftermath of Nagasaki convened meetings of the Cabinet (August 9). The full cabinet met (14:30 pm, August 9). A contentious debate went on most of the day. Just as the Supreme War Council had earlier split, the cabinet split between the one and four condition factions as a reply tp President Truman's Potsdam Declaration. . Neither Tōgō's position nor Anami ganered a majority, let alone a consensus. [Hasagawa, pp. 207–08.] The one condition response was inistence that the Emperor be retained. The four condition responce was that the emperor be retained, no occupation, no war crimes trials, and no disarmament. This left the situation deadlocked. But the military was beginning to crack. Anami broughtbup a terrifying relevation. An American P-51 fighter pilot had had been captured and under totrure revealed that the United States possessed 100 atom bombs and that Tokyo and Kyoto would be bombed 'in the next few days'. This of couse was perposterous. A P-51 could not possiblky know this. But after two bombs, the Jpanese did not know what to beliece. The pilot, Marcus McDilda, was in fact lying. He of course knew nothing of the Manhattan Project. He simply told his tortuers what he thought might end the torture. [Hagen, pp. 159-62.] And it worked. He was classified as a high-priority prisoner. Others captured pilots were beheaded. There was no stockpile at all, but other bombs were being prepared. The United States was preparing a third bomb which could have veen ready (about August 19). President Truman had ordered a pause in the use of a third bomb, but was thining about Tokyo if the Japanese coninued to resist. [Frank, 327, ] A fourth bomb would not have been ready until September. [Hasegawa, p. 298.] The Cabinet finally adjourned, still with no consensus (17:30 pm). A second meeting lasting from 18:00 to 22:00 again with no consensus. Following this second session. Suzuki and Tōgō after the cabinet had adjourned suggeted that the Emperor call an emergency meeting of the Supreme War Council.

Japanese Reaction Aftermath of Nagasaki: The Supreme War Council (August 10)

The Supreme War Council met just before midnight. The Supreme War Council (often called an Imperial Conference) was the key group body. It’s decisions had to be unanimous. The two factions repeated their repective arguments. Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo and Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai argued for the one 1 condition response. War Minister Korechika Anami, Imperial Army Chief of Staff Yoshijiro Umezu, and Imperial Navy Chief of Staff Soemu Toyoda continue to argue for the four condition resonse. The military, however, had been shaken, both by the second bomb and by the Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria. It seems like the Emperor had finally decided to cobfront the military. We do not know what had brought about this change. The second bomb seems to have fundamentally ended The Emperor's faith in the military. They had told him that the Americans coukd not have a second bomb immeduately ready. For all he knew, the Americans might have a huge stockpile. The use of a second bomb only 3 days after Hiroshima suggested that there was a stockpile. Dome historians argue that the Soviet offensive in Manchuria and the virtual collapse of the Japanese Army may have been an even greater development than the bombs. Suzuki presented Anami's four-condition response proposal as the consensus position. The other members of the Supreme Council spoke. Kiichirō Hiranuma, the President of the Emperor's Privy Council, added to the discussion, presumabk=ly reflecting the Emperor's thinking. He stressed Japan's inability to defend itself and also described the country's worsening domestic problems, especially food shortages. The War Council debated, but again there was no consensus emerged. Suzuki finally aasked the Emperor chose between the two formulas (2:00 am, August 10). There is no written record, but participants sunsequently recollect the Emperor's response. " I have given serious thought to the situation prevailing at home and abroad and have concluded that continuing the war can only mean destruction for the nation and prolongation of bloodshed and cruelty in the world. I cannot bear to see my innocent people suffer any longer. ... I was told by those advocating a continuation of hostilities that by June new divisions would be in place in fortified positions [at Kujūkuri Beach, east of Tokyo] ready for the invader when he sought to land. It is now August and the fortifications still have not been completed. ... There are those who say the key to national survival lies in a decisive battle in the homeland. The experiences of the past, however, show that there has always been a discrepancy between plans and performance. I do not believe that the discrepancy in the case of Kujūkuri can be rectified. Since this is also the shape of things, how can we repel the invaders? " The Emperor then made some specific reference to the increased destructiveness resulting grom the atomic bombs." It goes without saying that it is unbearable for me to see the brave and loyal fighting men of Japan disarmed. It is equally unbearable that others who have rendered me devoted service should now be punished as instigators of the war. Nevertheless, the time has come to bear the unbearable. ... I swallow my tears and give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation on the basis outlined by the Foreign Minister. [Frank, pp. 295-96.] According to General Sumihisa Ikeda and Admiral Zenshirō Hoshina, Privy Council President Kiichirō Hiranuma then turned to the Emperor and asked him: "Your majesty, you also bear responsibility (sekinin) for this defeat. What apology are you going to make to the heroic spirits of the imperial founder of your house and your other imperial ancestors?" [Bix, p. 517.] As far as we know, the Emperor did not reply. The Emperor then left. Suzuki urged the Cabinet to accept the Emperor's will. It did. The militarists would probably have arrested, even assinated The Emperor if he taken this decision earlier. A combinatin of the atomic bombs and soviet invasion aopears to have shaken their resolve. The Foreign Ministry sent telegrams to the Allies through the Swiss Embassy (Max Grässli in particular) (early morning, August 10). The Japanese offered to accept the Potsdam Declaration, but would not accept any a peace that would 'prejudice the prerogatives' of the Emperor. That effectively meant no change in Japan's form of government. The Emperor would remain a position of real power. [Hoyt, p. 405.]

American Response (August 12)

The Allied response was drafted by James F. Byrnes, President Truman's close political adviser. It was passed to the British, Chinese, and Soviet governments for their approval which was quickly granded, although the Soviets were reluctant. The Allied resonse was sent via the Swiss Embassy (August 12). On the key issue of the status of the Emperor, the response read, "From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. ...The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people." [Frank, p. 302.] Confusion followed as to mikitary operstions. The President ordered military operations including bombing operations continued until the Japanese accepted the surrender terms. A comment by U.S. Air Force Commnder Carl Andrew Spaatz that the B-29s were not flying on August 11 was incorectly interpreted as a ceasefire. Spaatz was referring to bad weather. The President became concerned that the Japanese might get the impression that the Allies had abandoned peace efforts and were resuming bombing. He decided to halt the bombing. [Frank, pp. 303-07.]

Japanese Consideration (August 12-14)

Japanese officials studied the American response. Officials in several difficult meetings debated possible surrender. Prime Minister Suzuki's initial resonse was to reject the American demands. He wanted a clear guarantee for a continuation of the imperial system. Gen. Anami reinterated his position that there be no occupation. foreign Minister Tōgō advised Suzuki that there was no real hope of getting better terms. Kido conveyed the Emperor's will that Japan surrender. Yonai expressed his concerns to th Emperor about growing civil unrest. "I think the term is inappropriate, but the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war are, in a sense, divine gifts. This way we don't have to say that we have quit the war because of domestic circumstances." [Frank, p. 310.] The Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. An uncle, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai (imperial sovereignty) could not be preserved. The Emperor simply replied "Of course." [Terasaki, 129.] Of course the Emperor must have known the occupation becgn, the war could not ve continued. For most of his reign, Emperor Hirohito had been presented decisions by the Cabinet which he accepted. Emperor Hirohito finally decided to surrender unconditionally (August 13). The success of the Soviet Army convinced even Imperial Army officers and the Ministry of war that defeat was inevitable. War Minister Korechika Anami (also the Army Minister), arguably the most powerful figure in Japan besides the Emperor was in contact with the coup plotters, but apparently not aware of their actual plans. He and other high officers committed to supporting the Emperor (August 14). This was the key commitmnt the Emperor needed.

Young Tigers Coup Attempt (August 13-14)

Even after the atomic bombs and the debacle in Manchuria, there were hardliners that were opposed to surrender. A group calling themselves the Young Tigers seized the Imperial Palace grounds and tried to prevent the Emperor's surrender broadcast. Major Kenji Hatanaka led the coup. He appears to have believed that occupying the palace and merely launching a rebellion would inspire the rest of the Army to rise up against any attempt at surrender. While the rebels were ransacking the Imperial Palace, General Anami committed seppuku, leaving an ambiguous message, "I — with my death— humbly apologize to the Emperor for the great crime." Historians wonder if the crime was losing the war, involving the country in a losing war, or the coup. The rebels spent several hours searching for Imperial House Minister Sōtarō Ishiwatari, Lord of the Privy Seal Kōichi Kido, but not the Emperor himself. They were also after the recordings of the Emperor's surrender speech which they knew had been made. The objects of the search hid in the 'bank vault', a large chamber under the Imperial Palace. [Butow, p. 216.] The attempted coup almost succeeded. On what has become called 'Japan's Longest Day' the attempted coup, bombing raid blackout, intrigues, killings, and sepukus determined the fate of millions of Japanese people. It was a complicated series of events involving both great heroism and treason by officers convinced that they were behaving honorably. General Shizuichi Tanaka, Commander of the Eastern Army covering the Tokyo area, remained loyal to the Emperor, which dooming the coup. [PWRS] The Young Tigers coup collapsed after Tanaka convinced them to go home. Tanaka himself committed suicide 9 days later.

Emperor's Broadcast: Accepting Unconditional Surrender (August 14)

The Emperor's announcement was broadcast to a stunned nation (August 14). It is difficult for us today to understand the depth of veneration in which the Japanese pdople and military held the Emperor. Venerating him as a god seems so arcane to us today. But much of the Japanese people believed just--although the concept od divinity was different than that if the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). Even so the depth of this feeling was a major factor in the very real and continuing Japanese determination to resist to the end. Photographs of the public listening to the speech (many Japanese did not have home radios) give an idea of the reverence in which the emperor was held. The broadcast was a mixture of understatement and outright falsehood. He began, "To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration. To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart. Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone--the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. ...." The Emperor never used the term 'surrender', but it was a surrender and ended the Pacific War. It was the first time the Japanese people had heard the Emperor's voice.

Allied Reaction: VJ-Day (August 14)

President Truman announced Japan’s surrender at a press conference at the White House (August 14). He informed the American people, “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Jubilant Americans immediately declared August 14 'Victory over Japan Day', or 'V-J Day'. This of course followed the precedent set in Europe. (May 8/9, 1945 when the Allies accepted NAZ Germany’s surrender had been christened 'Victory in Europe Day', or 'V-E Day'.) Pandemonium broke out in America and Britain with President Truman's anouncement. Memorable celebrations took place in major cities. Images from V-J Day celebrations around the United States and the world reflected the overwhelming sense of relief that the killing had ended as well as the exhilaration of victory after nearly 4 years of bloody fighting. There was dancing and showers of confetti and streamers, especially in America. One iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine, a ailor passionately kisses a nurse in the midst of a crowd of people celebrating in New York City’s Times Square. It was anti-climatic in Europe to VE-Day. But the celebrations in America, Australia, and Britain were heart felt. A major difference was the areas liberated were not independent contries, except for China. The United States had been in the process of granting indepndence to the Philippines, but the other territories were colonies of either Japan or the European colonial powers. Only Korea immediately became indpendent. In the Pacific, the Allies began preparations for landing occupation forces. The American focus was on the Home Islands abd disarming the Japanese forces there. A major priority was given to prisoner of war recovery. This was a fairly simple matter on the Home Islands as soon as the occupation forces landed. But Allied POWs and civilian internees were beig held in countless camps throughout the Japanese Empire still controled by Japanese forces. Getting to them was a huge undertaking. No one was more relieved than the Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen. There was widespread belief among the American miltary already in the Pacific. American casualties in the Pacific were a small fraction of Japanese casualties. The death toll of Japnese Pacific garrisons often reached 100 percent because the Japanese refused to surrender. But still casualy rates in the most important actions were quite high. And as the Americans got closer and closer to the Home Islands, the fighting got more and more intnse. Iwo and Okinawa in 1945 were the two worst battles for the Americans. And Operation Downfall, the invasion of Kyūshū, would have been the bloodies battle of all. Unlike most of the other Ameican Pacific assaults, it could not have been settled with a few divisions. The Japanese had cramed much of what they had left into the island defenses. And units standing down in occupied Germany were being moved to the Pacific. Many of the soldiers involved were convinced that they would not survive the War.

American Preparations

The American fleet immadely after the Emperpr's announcement begins to assemble off Japan (August 15). Japanese envoys flew to Manila to receive instructions for the formal surrender from MacArthur's staff (August 19-20). Japanese forces outside of Japan begin to surrender (August 22). This was a process that was not completed until mid-September. The two weeks between the Emperor's announcement and the arrival of the Americans gave Japanese officials the opportunity to destroy vast volumes of records and paperwork which could have been used to document the extent and nature of Japanese war crimes and the involvement of virtually every ministry in those crimes. The destruction also obscured the involvement of many individuals in those crimes.

Rescuing POWs and Civilian Detainees

One of the greatest American concerns in the final months of the War were the Western civilians and POWs in Japanese hands. Over 0.5 million people were involved. The United states liberated most of its civilians with the liberation of the Philippines (October 1944-February 1945). The Japanese still held American POWs and Western civilians and POWs in fetid camp where they were being routinely abused, starved, and denied medical care. Mortality rates were high and increasing because of the terrible conditions and lack of food. The Americans also were aware of Japanese plans to murder the surviving internees and POWs. The murder of American POWs on Palawan was known because a few of the victims escaped. If the atomic bombs had not been used, very few of these unfortunate people would have survived. Once the Japanese decided to surrender. Operations to resue the internees and POWs went into high gear. They were being held in multiple places throughout the Japanese Empire (Singapore, Dutch East Indies--DEI, China, Manchuria, and the Home Islands). It was impossible to get to them at once. The first step was air drops of food and medcine to known interment camps. Weihsien Internment Camp in China (Shandong Province) was the largest Japanese camp in Chin. Some 2,250 Americans, British, and Australians civilians living in northern China were interned there (early-1943). They were interned there for nearly 3 years. They were some of the first to be reached. American forces arraned a rescue plan (August 17). The largest number of Western civilians interned by the Japanese were the Dutch in the DEI. After the Japanese surrender, Indonesian nationlist militias (the pemuda), began attacking the detainees. The Japanese protected most, but several thousand detainees were reprtedly killed. British Gurka soldiers were the first to reach the Duch detainees, but they were held in so many widely dispersed camps that it was a logistical mihjtmare. Some were nor evcuted until 1946.

Occupation Forces (August 28)

The preparations for the occupation force began immediately after the Emperor's announcement (August 14) and the Japanese military envoys which flew to Manila (August 19). Japanese garrisons outside of the Home Islands began surrebdeing )August 22). The closest american military units were on Okinawa. They were scheduled to make amphibious landings on Khysuh. With the surrender many could be moved by air. The Army Air Corps Pacific Air Transport Command began massing its transport fleet, the iconic Skymasters (C-47) and larger Skymasters (C-54), on Okinawa. It would become the greatest air movement of the Pacific War. On 26 August, General Eichelberger transferred the Eighth Army Command Post from Leyte to Okinawa (August 26). He was in charge of the vanguard force (11th Airborne and 27th Infantry Divisions) landing in Japan. An enormous typhoon striking the Home Islands delayed the initial movement--causing a 2-day postponement of the preliminary landings. The first American landings in Japan were thus made made at 0900 (August 28). The initial group was a small airborne advance party consisting of 150 communications experts and engineers. They landed without incidnt at the large naval airfield at Atsugi 20 miles southwest of Tokyo. They began setting up the communications and other basic facilities for huge numbers of air transport planes scheduled to begin landing the occupation personnel in force. The 11th Airborne Division thus established what might be called the first American airhead on the Home Islands. The initial commuications unit was followed three hours later by 38 transport planes carrying fully armed combat troops and the necessary supplies of fuel and other critical equipment.

Formal Surrender: Tokyo Bay (September 2)

After nearly 4 years of implacable combat, The Japanese Imperial Government formally surrendered to the Allies on the morning of September 2, 1945. This was more that 2 weeks after accepting the Allies terms. This interval gave the Japanese two weeks to destroy mountains of incriminating documents. And every ministry wnt after this task with a vengence. As a result, the Tokyo IMT War Ceimws trial lacked the massive documntary record of the Nuremberg trials. The ceremonies overseen by General MacArthur who insisted on this rather than Admiral Nimitz. The ceremonies were finally conducted aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. The Missouri was anchored along other American and British ships. The ceremony took less than half an hour. Japanese officials signed the instruments of surrender under the Missouri's big guns. Allied supreme commander General Douglas MacArthur sined for the Allies. Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed fot the Japanese. This effectively ended the Pacific War. The ceremony was carefully staged by General MacArthur. Not knowing just what the Japanese were planning, the American carriers were standing on station out to sea off Japan and massed squadorns of aircraft overflew the ceremony. American troops landed in Japan immediately after the Imperial Government surrendered. Manyhaving experienced fanatical Japanese resistance on Pacific island battlefields, were unsure what to expect. As it tyrned out, the Japanese peopleand military docily accepted occupation. This was the price the allies paid for not procecuting the emperor as a war criminal.

Food Shortages

Japan food production was severely affected by the War. Several factors affected food production and distribution to the urban population: weather, labor, fertilizer, transport, and fuel. The production of explosives reduced the supply of fertilizer. The drafting of men by the military reduced the labor supply available for farming. Women and students were mobilized for the war effort, but did not fully meet needs. Some farm workers were also transferred to the cities for factory work. Many farm workers moved to the cities for the better paying farm jobs. The labor shortages caused delays in planting and harvests, all causing lower harvests. Japan's principal food item was rice. A substantial part of rice consumption was imported. As the U.S. Navy began cutting off imports, the Japanese turned to other food items like sweet and white potatoes. Seafood was a major item in the Japanese diet. The fisheries catch declined sharply during the War. This was not only because fishing boats were sunk, but because almost all fishermen were men and many were conscripted. Japan imported virtually all of its oil. And as the U.S. Navy sank more and more tankers, all available petroleum had to be reserved for the military. The fisheries catch declined more than 50 percent. Despite all the problems, Japanese farmers managed to maintain food production, although crops shifted. Rice production did decline. The primary problem Japan faced was that the country was not self sufficient in food and the U.S. Navy blockade managed to reduce food imports by about 90 percent. While World war Ii histories often focus on German U-boats, it was the U.S. Navy's submarine force that carried out the only successful campaign during the War. This and the declining fish catch by the end of the War substantially reduced food supplies. The Japanese responded by cutting nonessential uses of rice. The use of rice for sake production was was cut by about 70 percent. The availability of rice for restaurants was also cut. Many restaurants closed. Sugar also became almost impossible to obtain. It was used to make alcohol as additive for aviation fuel. Vegetable and fruit supplies declined sharply during the last 2 years of the war. One source suggests that vegetable supplies fell by about 30%, fruits by over 40 percent. It should be noted that Japan was not a well fed people before the War and thus even small declines were devastating and by the end of the War the declines were no longer small. One author writes, "The diet of the average Japanese, which contained little margin of safety even before the war, deteriorated appreciably with respect to both quantity and quality.” [Chappell] The black market appeared during the War and was wide spread by the end of the War. Another major problem created by both the fuel shortage and the strategic bombing campaign was transport problems. The Japanese were having increasing problems getting food from the country side to the cities. Japanese propaganda during the War attempted to suppress the extent of the problem. One graphic indication of the extent of the problem is statistics kept in Japanese schools. The Ministry of Education required schools to record the weight and height of schoolchildren. After the War when this data was made public, urban schoolchildren were found to be shorter and weigh less than comparable rural children who had better access to food. And the disparity increased as the War continued. [Chappell] If all this was not bad enough, weather adversely affected the fall 1945 harvest. If Japan had not surrendered when it did, millions of Japanese people in the cities would have starved.

American Use of Nuclear Weapons

At the time there was no real controversy in America about President Truman's decision to use the bomb. Over time the American use of the bomb has become controversial even in America. The Japanese largely because of the bomb see themselves as a victim of the War. Japanese authors write a great deal about the atomic bomb and very little about the much larger number of mostly innocent civilians that died at their hands throughout China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. While many of the issues concerning the bomb can be debated, one observation is that the atomic bomb was not just one more weapon. It was certainly of great power. But it is imprtant to understand that bnot everyone in Japan at the time shared the modern view. War Minister Korechika Anami still wanted to continue the War. When told about the atomic bombs, he replied, "Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed by a beautiful flower?" [Pellegrino] We tend to nagree that dropping the bomb represented one of the fundamental inflection point in history. [Pellegrino] There is no doubt that the atomic bomb was a terrible weapon. And thousands of people of the two cities suffered horfically. The critics who address the issue focus on the suffering because they want to avoid the the larger facts of the War. The Japanese killed some 20 million peoole in china and other countries BEDORE the bombs dropped and 0 people AFTER the bombs dropped. And even more importantly, they are unable to offer any realistic alternative to ending the war more humanely and swith less loss of life--both American and Japanese lives.

Aftermath and Occupation

The United States after World War II oversaw an occupation which fundamentally changed the nature of both German and Japanese society. The American occupation in Japan rooted out Japanese militarism and fomenting the development of a democratic political regime and social structures. Women were enfranchised and labor unions allowed to organize. The results by all practical measures have been an overwhelming success. Japan today is one of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. There were, however, major differences in the occupation policies pursued in Germany. The Imperial Government was not dismantled. Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Details on his involvement in the War suggest a participation that was far more extensive than admitted at the time, although he certainly acted with considerable courage to end the War. Japan did not and does not today admit the full extent of its responsibility for launching World War II. Many Japanese attempt to hide the extent of their country's war crimes. Here the list is long, led by the launching of aggressive war first against China (1937) and then the United States and Britain (1941). Specific examples include the terror bombing of undefended Chinese cities (Shanghai); massacres of Chinese civilians (the Rape of Nanking), use of biological and chemical weapons, mistreatment and massacres of Allied POWs (the Batan Death March), abuse of civilian internees, use of slave labor, conscription of civilian women for prostitution (Korean comfort women). Many Japanese today attempt to portray Japan in the role of a victim of the War as a result of the atomic bomb. Right-wing groups in Japan today are promoting a new curriculum about the War.


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Hagen, Jerome T. War in the Pacific: America at War Volume I ( Hawaii Pacific University).

Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Harvard University Press: 2005).

Hoyt, Edwin P. Japan's War: The Great Pacific Conflict, 1853–1952 (New York: Cooper Square Press, 1986).

Pellegrino, Charles. The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (Henry Holt, 2010). 367p.

Pacific War Research Society (PWRS). Compiler Kazutoshi Hando. Japan's Longest Day.

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. The Gulag Archipleago (Harper & Row: New York, 1973), 660p.

Terasaki, Hidenari (寺崎英成). Shōwa Tennō dokuhakuroku: Terasaki Hidenari, goyō-gakari nikki (昭和天皇独白録 寺崎英成・御用掛日記). Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1991).

Thomas, Evan. Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945 (Simon & Schuster: New York, 2006), 414p.

Wilson, Ward. International Security (2007).


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