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If they didn’t surrender after Tokyo, they weren’t going to after Hiroshima.
August 8, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Q: What ended WWII? A: Not the atomic bomb.

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa - a highly respected historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara - has marshaled compelling evidence that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan’s surrender.
posted by swift (171 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Actually we were reading their most secret ciphers and we knew they were exploring options to sue for surrender before Hiroshima, but after Trinity we deliberately worded the Potsdam Declaration in a way we knew they would never accept.
posted by localroger at 3:39 PM on August 8, 2011


I always thought the bombs were warnings to the Soviets.
posted by Max Power at 3:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here is Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's UCSB teaching page. As for Richard Rhodes, while he is a Yale grad, and apparently a popular writer, I don't know if he has the background in Japanese history in order to assess the merits of Hasegawa's scholarship.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:43 PM on August 8, 2011


IN MY VIEW, the Russians declaring war was but an addtional element to an already clearly defeated Japan, a nation hit with the A bomb and reeling. Had the Russians entered but no A bomb used, then would the war have ended. I think not so fast as it did.

A general assessment however of the European and Asian conflict yields this interesting perspective:
The A bomb stopped the fighting but it was Radar that won the war. Radar ended our inability to fly at night over Germany and during the daylightt we lost many planes; Radar, used at sea--SONAR--ended the serious sub threat .

Again, looking back I see a number of things coming together rather than a single item.
posted by Postroad at 3:46 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]



Actually we were reading their most secret ciphers and we knew they were exploring options to sue for surrender before Hiroshima, but after Trinity we deliberately worded the Potsdam Declaration in a way we knew they would never accept.


"We"?
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:46 PM on August 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I love this part:

Both the American and Japanese public have clung to the idea that the mushroom clouds ended the war. For the Japanese, Hiroshima is a potent symbol of their nation as victim, helping obscure their role as the aggressors and in atrocities that include mass rapes and beheading prisoners of war. For the Americans, Hiroshima has always been a means justified by the end.

It's as though American and Allied forces did not engage in the same behaviour in the Pacific (or in the Philippines several decades earlier). Collecting ears, noses, that sort of thing. Taking no prisoners (including Japanese civilians). Firebombing residential areas of Tokyo.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:47 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Although I do agree that the atom bombings do prevent Japanese folks from better understanding their country's war responsibility. Often, the war is just some sort of natural cataclysm that "happened", much like the atom bombings.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:49 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think the US had anything that matched, for instance, Unit 731. (The US government just ignored the war crimes in order to get the results for their bio/chemical weapons programs.)
posted by rmd1023 at 3:50 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, Unit 731 is pretty chilling. Luckily, there is a lot of knowledge (and disgust) about its activities in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan’s strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan’s traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow.

I just wonder about the assumption here that Americans would preserve the imperial system. I've read that the only reason why Japan still has a monarchy is because of MacArthur: he wanted to have an emperor beneath him.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is pretty interesting:

But therein lies the weakness of the Hasegawa interpretation as well, Bernstein says. After a long war and in the space of a few days, the Japanese leadership was hit with two extraordinary events - Hiroshima and the Soviet invasion - and sorting out cause and effect, based on incomplete documentation, may prove impossible.

“When you look through all the evidence, I think it is hard to weigh one or the other more heavily,” Bernstein said. “The analysis is well intentioned, but more fine-grained than the evidence comfortably allows.”

posted by KokuRyu at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, what about the plucky brigade of african american lesbians that infiltrated the emperor's palace and replaced him with a robot?

Hey, as long as we want to explore revisionist fantasies, feed mine! ;)
posted by pla at 3:57 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hiroshima was nuked on August 6. The Russians entered the war on August 9. True, they had agreed to do so back in February, but the 9th was the last day they could possibly do so while fulfilling their treaty obligations. So it's not like they were in any particular hurry. Might they have decided to sit things out if things had gone differently on August 6?

Who can say?
posted by valkyryn at 3:59 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


localroger: “Actually we were reading their most secret ciphers and we knew they were exploring options to sue for surrender before Hiroshima, but after Trinity we deliberately worded the Potsdam Declaration in a way we knew they would never accept.”

"Exploring options to sue for surrender" here apparently means "one advisor might have mentioned the possibility privately, but the Emperor and all of the military advisors he actually trusted were dead set against any kind of surrender."
posted by koeselitz at 4:01 PM on August 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


Hey, as long as we want to explore revisionist fantasies, feed mine

Not unless you're able to come up with some evidence that this was in any way likely. Like Hasegawa has done.
posted by Hoopo at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


When I think about WWII(or any war or atrocity the US is involved in) I always feel like I'm in an abusive relationship. I love America. He lets me worship the way I want and read what I want. He has some awesome attributes. He gives me freedom and safety....I feel like I have to make excuses for him. "oh he was under a lot of stress when he dropped the bomb/massacred natives/invaded a country when he lied to me about where the terrorists were/when he screwed us and plunged us into an economic spiral. My friends say I should divorce him but I don't. It's a complicated relationship.
Finally, WWII with Japan always makes me think of Grave of the Fireflys. And it makes me sad.
posted by hot_monster at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


According to Day One, the US did not expect Japan to surrender quickly. The Manhattan Project was geared to keep delivering bombs until they did surrender.

Also, the effects of fallout were not understood properly until after Nagasaki. Among other things, the few people who were exposed to serious radiation at Trinity led to vastly underestimating the radiation effects and vastly overstating the expected lethal dose.
posted by warbaby at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's hard to put oneself into that mindset 65 years hence, Hirohito or the General Staff. They'd been losing that war for a long time - a year at least - and maybe it was one thing, or all the things at once.

It's funny how Manchuria was such a strategic location in WWII:
- Japan's crossing in 1931 (?) to invade China started the war;
- if Japan had crossed it to invade Russia in December 1941 instead of attacking the US it would have changed the course of the war;
- finally the Soviets crossing it in August 1945 helped bring about an end to the war.

I know you can pretty much pick a place at random and plug in facts to make it seem like the most important place in the world (I'm sure MeFi can help find a term for that) but I think it's an interesting thought.
posted by lon_star at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Day One
posted by warbaby at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


pick a place at random and plug in facts to make it seem like the most important place in the world (I'm sure MeFi can help find a term for that)

Either "selection bias" or "confirmation bias," depending on what exactly is being done.
posted by valkyryn at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2011


Yeah, Unit 731 is pretty chilling. Luckily, there is a lot of knowledge (and disgust) about its activities in Japan.

I didn't know much about it. From wikipedia:

[Human vivisection without anaesthetic] Scientists performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results. The infected and vivisected prisoners included men, women, children, and infants.

Prisoners had limbs amputated in order to study blood loss. Those limbs that were removed were sometimes re-attached to the opposite sides of the body. Some prisoners' limbs were frozen and amputated, while others had limbs frozen then thawed to study the effects of the resultant untreated gangrene and rotting.

Some prisoners had their stomachs surgically removed and the esophagus reattached to the intestines.[11] Parts of the brain, lungs, liver, etc. were removed from some prisoners


Makes "Human Centipede" humane in comparison, and done with real victims. And then this:

After Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Douglas MacArthur became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, rebuilding Japan during the Allied occupation. MacArthur secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America, but not the other wartime allies, with their research on biological warfare.

People really suck.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


Fascinating article. Thanks for posting that.
posted by zzazazz at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with that appraisal of the difficulty of sorting out cause and effect. After all, if the Soviet Union declared war, after having studiously avoided direct conflict with Japan during the whole of WWII, it was because Stalin knew that, after Hiroshima, but also after the fall of Okinawa, Japan was close to its breaking point. If Japan had surrendered to the Western Allies before the Soviet Union's declaration of war, not only would it have lost the opportunity to take North Korea, Sakhalin, and the Kuriles, but, above all, Chiang Kai Shek would have taken control of Manchuria and its heavy industry, which would have been decisive in the struggle for China. The second half of the XX century (and possibly also the XXI century) would have been very different indeed.
posted by Skeptic at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, personally, am troubled by the distinction between the civilian and soldier, especially when so many of the fighting men have been drafted into service. Kill some poor bastard whose been handed a gun and been told he's to be locked up or shot if he doesn't go out there and fight? A-ok. Kill someone who's voluntarily working in a factory to make devices that kill people? You're a monster!

A lost life is a lost life. War is terrible regardless of who is being killed and what the motivation is. Sometimes not fighting is more terrible, but that is a hard case to make.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:14 PM on August 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Having just googled Unit 731 as a result of this page, holy fuck.
posted by Shutter at 4:16 PM on August 8, 2011 [24 favorites]


Hasegawa was able to analyze source material in Russian, Japanese, and English and come to the conclusion that America dropping two bombs was not the sole reason for Japanese surrender. This recalls the much beloved myth that America ended thr European war, not the Soviets. Which makes me wonder, what did the Soviets and what do the Russians say ended the Asian conflict?
posted by munchingzombie at 4:16 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this was always known by student of history. The US would be far kinder occupiers than the soviets
posted by the noob at 4:17 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yoko Ono seems to recall it was the bomb that changed minds.

Boing Boing: A few days ago, you were in Hiroshima accepting an award for your your legacy of art in the service of peace. You were a young girl here in Japan when the event happened. What was that day like?

Yoko Ono: Yes, I think I was 12. It was a shock of course, but at the time, initially we didn’t know what happened. I heard about it from somebody in the village. It’s a very, very different kind of bomb, they said, we have to immediately stop the war. It didn't make sense to me at all, in any way. We didn't understand.
posted by zeoslap at 4:21 PM on August 8, 2011


"The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all." - General Curtis LeMay

"The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Some prominent Americans who questioned the atomic bombing of Japan


Twenty hours of color footage of Hiroshima - 90,000 feet - was shot by the US military but suppressed (along with 26,000 feet shot by Nippon Eisasha) for decades. Why? Guilt. You can see some here.
posted by Twang at 4:21 PM on August 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think this was always known by student of history. The US would be far kinder occupiers than the soviets

It's not that the Americans would have been kinder than the Soviets; Americans would be most likely to preserve a capitalist system.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:27 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is entirely apposite: Australia’s Pacific War: Challenging a National Myth . From the review:
This war was as much a war for democracy as Iraq and Afghanistan are. Not at all.

Empires that before the war repressed the local populations did the same thing after the war. From Indonesia to Vietnam the imperialist powers sought to re-establish their dictatorial rule over the peoples there.

This was not war for democracy but for imperial domination.

By 1943 it was clear the Japanese could not win. The war was no longer defensive from Australian capitalism’s point of view. It became an expansionist war in which Australian and American forces set out ‘to capture the South Pacific’.
posted by wilful at 4:29 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hirohito was Emperor of Japan until 1989, so there clearly wasn't an unconditional surrender. Case closed, I think.
posted by Chuckles at 4:30 PM on August 8, 2011


I would tend to agree (somewhat) with Postroad, in that both the atomic bombs and the invasion of Russia were "but an additional element to an already clearly defeated Japan". We're discussing an island nation under blockade, left with very little industrial production, no significant sea power, and not enough food. They were done for long before the bombs dropped.

Whatever the "final straw" happened to be, I think studying the end of the war in any complexity is enough to explode the oft-heard refrain with regards to Hiroshima/Nagasaki, though ("we had to drop the bomb because the only other option was a massive American invasion which would have cost $INSERT LARGE NUMBER million lives!") Atomic bombs or not, if Operation Downfall had actually gone through it would have been a massive waste of lives and materiel, one almost as deliberate and as callous as the "defense plan" which would have put Japanese women and children on the beaches with bamboo sticks. It would have been right up there with Operation Citadel and Market Garden in the list of risky, unnecessary decisions made during that war. No amount of yelling about how Japan "made" us invade them would have made Downfall a good (much less the only) choice.
posted by vorfeed at 4:30 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Halloween Jack: "We"?

Being American myself, this is a fairly typical usage for "my country" even though I hadn't been born yet.

Koeselitz: "Exploring options to sue for surrender" here apparently means "one advisor might have mentioned the possibility privately, but the Emperor and all of the military advisors he actually trusted were dead set against any kind of surrender."
US intelligence had intercepted and decoded messages passing between Tokyo and Moscow instructing Japanese ambassador Naotake Sato to attempt to interest the Soviets in mediating a Japanese surrender. "The foreign and domestic situation for the Empire is very serious," Foreigng Minister Shigenori Togo had cabled Sato on July 11, "and even the termination of the war is now being considered privately ... We are also sounding out the extent to which we might employ the USSR in connection with the termination of the war ... [this is] a matter with which the Imperial Court is ... greatly concerned." And pointedly on July 12:
It is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war ... However, as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender our country has no alternative but to see it through in an all-out effort for the sake of our survival and the honor of the homeland.
-- Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 684-685

So unless by "one advisor" you mean the Foreign Minister, by "might have mentioned" you mean "multiple messages were intercepted," and by "Emperor...against" you mean "speaking for the Emperor," Richard Rhodes and his Pulitzer Prize seem to disagree with you.
posted by localroger at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Unit 731 is pretty chilling

Men behind the Sun remains the single most disturbing piece of film I've ever seen. Utterly realistic, and terrible.
posted by the noob at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2011


Whenever people talk about the end of WWII and Japan, the main analysis seems to be about Japanese civilians and American soldiers. Lost in the discussions are all the soldiers and civilians in the Japanese occupied territories that were still facing death and destruction every single day. And remember that the Japanese were an invading army. Japan was not Vietnam or Iraq.
posted by kmz at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know you can pretty much pick a place at random and plug in facts to make it seem like the most important place in the world (I'm sure MeFi can help find a term for that) but I think it's an interesting thought.

It's not the most random place in the world, though – Manchuria is particularly wealthy in good land for agriculture and mining, and after the imperialist efforts of the Japanese gov't, army, and companies (in the pre- and post-invasion periods) there was a lot of export-oriented infrastructure and heavy industry. Most of which the Soviets either wrecked or carried back across the border after the war.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 4:33 PM on August 8, 2011


Lost in the discussions are all the soldiers and civilians in the Japanese occupied territories

What, the Dutch in Batavia etc, the English in Hong Kong etc, the French in Saigon etc... it was natural and right for them to be there before the war?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


“This seems to touch a nerve,” observes Hasegawa.

That may help explain why Hasegawa’s thesis, which he first detailed in an award-winning 2005 book and has continued to bolster with new material, is still little known outside of academic circles,


I would have thought that would do nothing but bring more attention to it.

America has had a rather jackass affection for unconditional surrender ever since our Civil War. I sometimes wonder how many lives it's cost over time.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:38 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, being against Japanese imperialism means I obviously loved Western imperialism.
posted by kmz at 4:39 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's as though American and Allied forces did not engage in the same behaviour in the Pacific...
posted by KokuRyu


The US accused the Japanese of being inhuman hive-minded soldier ants in respect to kamikaze suicides, but we would still destroy Japanese warships that we knew had American prisoners-of-war on them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:40 PM on August 8, 2011


Well, it's not really all that cut-and-dried, unless you're talking about the Japanese occupation of Korea and China.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to Day One, the US did not expect Japan to surrender quickly. The Manhattan Project was geared to keep delivering bombs until they did surrender.

Ya, but who is "the US" in this case? Certainly everybody with a vested interest in making Bombs would think that. And, there were lots of people with vested interests in making those Bombs.
posted by Chuckles at 4:42 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, personally, am troubled by the distinction between the civilian and soldier, especially when so many of the fighting men have been drafted into service. Kill some poor bastard whose been handed a gun and been told he's to be locked up or shot if he doesn't go out there and fight? A-ok. Kill someone who's voluntarily working in a factory to make devices that kill people? You're a monster!

Combatant/civilian does not run parallel to guilt/innocence. Individual soldiers are not responsible for the evils done by their country, which is why we have the Geneva conventions. As soon as the conscript puts down his gun you're a monster if you kill him.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:43 PM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


post title: “If they didn’t surrender after Tokyo, they weren’t going to after Hiroshima.”

It seems worth pointing out that this is a gross misunderstanding of the strategy of dropping the bombs.
posted by koeselitz at 4:45 PM on August 8, 2011


Finally, WWII with Japan always makes me think of Grave of the Fireflys. And it makes me sad.

Please stop thinking of Grave of Fireflys. You are making everyone sad. Stop it.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:46 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe there was a joke circulating around 2chan a couple of years ago about the "Hadashi no Gen diet."
posted by KokuRyu at 4:48 PM on August 8, 2011


Here's an interesting blog post about Japanese colonialism:

What makes Louise Young’s Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism such a fascinating, troubling work is that she details the way in which the Manchurian experience, and the strategic vulnerability of the Manchurian adventure, rebound into the politics and culture of Japan itself. It reverses, in a way, the traditional narratives of colonialism which see influence flowing from the metropole to the periphery rather than the other way around. And as consciousness of Manchuria became increasingly central to Japanese political and cultural identity, Japanese politics became increasingly radical: nationalist, racialist, expansionist, militarist; in a word, imperialist.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


suggest John Ray Skates' The Invasion of Japan for further reading.

No plans for suicide resistance by the Japanese.

No 1,000,000 casualties number given to U.S. leadership by the U.S. Army if Japan had been invaded.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:05 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


all we are saying, is give bombs a chance
posted by kitchenrat at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2011


Unit 731

Fuck. There is no "unsee" for my brain.
posted by hippybear at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this really new? I've heard for years that Russia getting into the act spurned the US to use the bomb and for Japan to surrender. Nobody wanted the communists to have any major claims to anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:26 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like this war nerd article for getting a sense of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.
posted by fido~depravo at 5:33 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to ask the same thing, Brandon Blatcher - I can clearly remember being taught in history class in both high school and college in the late 80's and early 90's that the Soviet declaration of war was a major element of the Japanese decision to surrender. It wasn't presented as a binary choice ("It was the bomb" vs. "It was the Soviets"), but as an acknowledgment that the moment was complex and had more than one facet.
posted by Chanther at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2011


The article doesn't mention what an ungodly asswhooping the Soviets inflicted on the Japanese army.

My understanding is that the Soviet forces, in the space of a week, managed to inflict something like 25% of all the total casualties the Japanese suffered over the course of the entire war, including their 1930s imperial campaigns.

I have no doubt that these battle-hardened veterans of the western front would have made short work of any homeland resistance campaign.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:36 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previous posts on Unit 731:

June 2011
April 2005
June 2001
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this really new? I've heard for years that Russia getting into the act spurned the US to use the bomb and for Japan to surrender. Nobody wanted the communists to have any major claims to anything.

I want to say that this was what I was taught in high school. Then again, we were taught that Japan intended/attempted to cease diplomatic relations before actually attacking Pearl Harbor, so my US history class perhaps wasn't par for the course. (I'm not even sure that stuff was taught in my brother's class two years later with a different teacher. I don't recall the textbook expending too much energy scrutinising US history too thoroughly.)
posted by hoyland at 5:42 PM on August 8, 2011


When approached by the military, Truman was rumored to have said

"Ask me - I won't say no, how could I."
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:51 PM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


After Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Douglas MacArthur became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, rebuilding Japan during the Allied occupation. MacArthur secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America, but not the other wartime allies, with their research on biological warfare.

People really suck.


MacArthur was crazy. He went on to advocate a plan in Korea that would have dropped thirty A-bombs on North Korea.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worth reading: Behind Japan's Surrender by Richard Lester, a journalist who interviewed most of the principal characters involved in the decisions by the Japanese leadership in the final days. There was considerable intrigue involved, including a last-ditch coup d'etat attempt by army officers. I summarized the story in a blog post here. My focus was on how it came about that the emperor was retained. But based on my readings I'd have to say that while the Soviet declaration may have been the final push, the emperor and other key leaders had been looking for a way to engineer a peace deal for months before the surrender.
posted by beagle at 6:24 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've heard for years that Russia getting into the act spurned the US to use the bomb and for Japan to surrender. Nobody wanted the communists to have any major claims to anything.

Wellllll- some of the argument I've heard (though sans footnotes) is that it was a cunning plan to show the Russians not to mess with Uncle Sam.

Not sure I buy it. More of a Nice Side Benefit than a major reason to drop, and even then only for those few who saw a Soviet menace in 1945. I mean, we were okay that Russia got one hell of a lot of something in eastern Europe.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:33 PM on August 8, 2011


Japanese surrender, the waxworks version from Singapore [multiple link flickr version]
posted by infini at 6:35 PM on August 8, 2011


MacArthur was crazy. He went on to advocate a plan in Korea that would have dropped thirty A-bombs on North Korea.

And we gave him a *parade* for it.
posted by absalom at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2011


It's as though American and Allied forces did not engage in the same behaviour in the Pacific (or in the Philippines several decades earlier). Collecting ears, noses, that sort of thing.

British soldier 'collected fingers of Taliban dead'

An allegation that a British soldier collected the fingers of Taliban dead as war trophies is under investigation by the Ministry of Defence.

posted by infini at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2011


But based on my readings I'd have to say that while the Soviet declaration may have been the final push, the emperor and other key leaders had been looking for a way to engineer a peace deal for months before the surrender.

That's what Hasegawa is saying, according to the Boston Globe piece: that the Japanese plan was to arrange peace talks, brokered by the Soviet Union, with the anticipation that this would leave the Empire in a better position than dealing directly with the U.S. and that once the Soviet Union declared war such a plan was no longer an option.
posted by XMLicious at 6:49 PM on August 8, 2011


Worth reading: Behind Japan's Surrender by Richard Lester

Um... I think that's by Lester Brooks.

Richard Lester did great things, but they were entirely different from history books.
posted by hippybear at 6:51 PM on August 8, 2011


I read this with total attention when it first appeared on Boston.com on Saturday morning.

I don't have any illusions about undergrad work, but World War II was my undergraduate history concentration, though I was much more interested in the European Theater. What it does suggest is that I've had a serious interest in the Second World War for at least half my life. I've kept up with the subject. and I feel very strongly that postroad's onto something big in the first few comments.

Truman never thought "there is one reason to use these weapons and X is it."

The decision-makers of Imperial Japan never thought "There is one reason to surrender and X is it."

Everyone involved were human beings, not computers. Assessments weren't made coldly. Anyone making definitive assertions about anyone's motives is oversimplifying. Everyone involved was thinking "We want to look good, but there sure are a lot of dead people."

Not having read the book, I don't know who's oversimplifying, but I'm guessing that it's the reviewer because competent historians don't tend to be that cut-and-dry even when they want to move books.

The motives involved in resolving complex situations are generally complex themselves. "My opponent says there are no easy answers. I say 'he's not looking hard enough!'"

MORE ASBESTOS!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:55 PM on August 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


My understanding is that the Soviet forces, in the space of a week, managed to inflict something like 25% of all the total casualties the Japanese suffered over the course of the entire war, including their 1930s imperial campaigns.

Hm, well, according to wikipedia, Japanese total military dead was something like 2.1 million, with between 21k-84k coming from the Soviet-Japanese War of 1945. That's quite a lot for essentially a month of fighting, so hardly 25% of Japanese total war losses. On the other hand, 640k POWs is nothing to sneeze at - although on the other OTHER hand, Manchuria is hardly as suicidally defensible as a bunch of small islands all over the Pacific.

So, yeah, I'm not surprised and in a lot of ways this is well trod ground in current WWII studies - both the idea that the bomb was dropped for diplomatic and political rather than military reasons and the fact that Russia's entry into the war scared the shit out of them. Also, having the language trifecta is pretty much aces in the WWII studies, I'd wager, and he probably does provide a pretty fascinating and unique insight into the last days of the Empire.
posted by absalom at 6:58 PM on August 8, 2011


MacArthur was crazy. He went on to advocate a plan in Korea that would have dropped thirty A-bombs on North Korea.

And we gave him a *parade* for it.

posted by absalom

No, he was fired for that and other things.
posted by clavdivs at 6:59 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


In high school, the prevailing thought was that Japan was already militarily on the ropes although given the tenacity of the Japanese a land invasion would have been very costly in lives on both sides and prolonged the war by at least another year. Impressing Stalin was just the icing on the cake of liberty.
posted by Renoroc at 7:01 PM on August 8, 2011


beagle: “Worth reading: Behind Japan's Surrender by Richard Lester, a journalist who interviewed most of the principal characters involved in the decisions by the Japanese leadership in the final days.”

And interviewed them in years shortly after the war, when the specter of an unknown occupying force hung over the Japanese government, and it seemed to many politicians and diplomats as though the best way to stay alive, prosper, and avoid prosecution for war crimes might be to blow a lot of smoke about how they'd been eager to surrender, and nearly succeeded.

Many historians since have come to doubt broadly these claims of imminent surrender. Personally, I see no reason to believe them much, since there's very little documentary evidence than anyone in the Japanese leadership seriously advocated peace for any length of time before the actual surrender.
posted by koeselitz at 7:01 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's as though American and Allied forces did not engage in the same behaviour in the Pacific (or in the Philippines several decades earlier). Collecting ears, noses, that sort of thing. Taking no prisoners (including Japanese civilians). Firebombing residential areas of Tokyo.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:47 PM on August 8 [2 favorites +] [!]


KokuRyu, trophy-taking, civilian abuse is horrible shit that pretty much every army in the history of ever has participated in. My understanding is the Japanese took it a step further than what anyone could have expected, and their "death before surrender" mentality seriously fed into the sheer brutality of the Pacific war compared to its Europe-focused counterpart.* Accounts I've read from Allied soldiers, the few Japanese soldiers that have spoken of it, and civilians on the islands point towards this as well.

Also, I thought part of the reason the US bombed POW ships was because the Japanese purposely did not mark them as such, leading US bombers to think those ships were normal battleships and thus open targets?

*Using relative terms here, this is not to say the European theater was roses and sunshine.
posted by schroedinger at 7:02 PM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


And then he got his parade, with 7.5 million people in attendance.

Truman, on the other hand, was pilloried in the press, and Truman's personal popularity plummeted to the lowest rate of any president ever. EVER. In the history of keeping track of that. So, yeah, what I said before.
posted by absalom at 7:04 PM on August 8, 2011


The Op cannot even get the facts straight, figures.

'Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings were not the principal reason for Japan's capitulation. He argues it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Joseph Stalin's August 8 declaration of war that forced the Japanese message of surrender on August 15, 1945.[18] Others with similar views include The "Battlefield" series documentary,[2] Drea,[14] Hayashi,[15] and numerous others, though all, including Hasegawa, state that the surrender was not due to any single factor or single event.'

I loved how the soviets whored themselves into the situation. Sure, the invasion may have cut off reinforcements hindering a fight, but not the bomb and those mean soviets, naw
posted by clavdivs at 7:06 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it also paved the way for Eisenhower getting the Republican nomination instead of MacArthur, I think, so...... A tangled web :)
posted by Chuckles at 7:08 PM on August 8, 2011


General doug was a hero, A HERO, ask the japanese, I will not stand for this character defamation. so ya, what i said before.
posted by clavdivs at 7:09 PM on August 8, 2011


ole dwight, best clerk general doug ever had.
posted by clavdivs at 7:10 PM on August 8, 2011


I mean, sure, dozens of months later MacArthur was revealed to be a total lunatic, his own popularity went down the tubes, but he'd already gone on record in an interview saying "Give me a handful of bombs and I'll take care of the China industrial bases," so it's not like people didn't know the plan and strategic mindset the guy was throwing when they feted the fuck out of him.
posted by absalom at 7:11 PM on August 8, 2011


I loved how the soviets whored themselves into the situation. Sure, the invasion may have cut off reinforcements hindering a fight, but not the bomb and those mean soviets, naw

Um.. I can't understand this, could you rephrase?
posted by Chuckles at 7:11 PM on August 8, 2011


no, seems clear to me, as clear as the facts in this post, for the most. Any other questions...good, heres a cookie.
posted by clavdivs at 7:14 PM on August 8, 2011


Not sure I buy it. More of a Nice Side Benefit than a major reason to drop, and even then only for those few who saw a Soviet menace in 1945. I mean, we were okay that Russia got one hell of a lot of something in eastern Europe.

I don't think that is a fair reading. We weren't okay with it at all. We recklessly rushed headlong across Western Europe trying to limit the amount of territory the Russians could claim.
posted by Chuckles at 7:15 PM on August 8, 2011


remember he said " I will be back" and he came back.
(tears)
posted by clavdivs at 7:15 PM on August 8, 2011


I don't think that is a fair reading. We weren't okay with it at all. We recklessly rushed headlong across Western Europe trying to limit the amount of territory the Russians could claim.

What utter nonsense, are you making this stuff up. have you heard for Opertation Market Garden or the stalled allied front because of supplies and a little thing called "the Battle of the Bulge"- the allies slowed because were pushing the lines with not enough troops, halted and got suprised.
posted by clavdivs at 7:19 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because, you know, it has to be one OR the other.

The Japanese couldn't *possibly* have considered multiple things when making such a decision.

And, no, prefixing the word "primary" in front of "reason" doesn't change the discussion from being framed as an either/or.
posted by legion at 7:28 PM on August 8, 2011


I don't think that is a fair reading. We weren't okay with it at all. We recklessly rushed headlong across Western Europe trying to limit the amount of territory the Russians could claim.

Yeah, actually the exact opposite is true. Patton was ready to drive on to Berlin, but Montgomery pissed around (he did manage to pin down most of the German armoured capability in Normandy, though) and De Gaulle insisted on liberating Paris. There was no mad dash to grab territory.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:45 PM on August 8, 2011


The Op cannot even get the facts straight, figures.

Don't blame me, I was just quoting TFA.
posted by swift at 7:52 PM on August 8, 2011


What happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has framed the world’s thinking about nuclear weapons....“Fifty years of telling ourselves that these things are different has sort of made them different,” says Linton. “That is the mystique of nuclear weapons.”

And really - thankfully. Obviously not by design, but the nuclear taboo alone has saved lives.

Instead, it took the Soviet declaration of war on Japan, several days after Hiroshima, to bring the capitulation.

In Soviet Russia, sons of bitches is you!
posted by Smedleyman at 7:57 PM on August 8, 2011


The Russian angle has always seemed more likely to me...

If you accept that it was the destruction of the bomb(s) that made them surrender, you must acknowledge that there was some sort of sea change in their thinking after the second bomb (else they were just slow thinkers which seems rather unlikely).

So if the prevailing opinion of American historians were true, wouldn't there be a large amount of of evidence suggesting that the second bomb changed their thinking?

Sadly, it seems far more likely that american history is largely comprised of distortions retroactively written to support the status quo....
posted by onesidys at 8:14 PM on August 8, 2011


swift,

Thanks for posting this. I don't feel qualified/knowledgable enough to really comment on any of it, but the article and discussion both stand as the reason I come to MeFi.

In the same vein, I think it's worth mentioning that I'm quite impressed by the quality of the article itself, especially coming from a newspaper in 2011. Bravo, Globe.
posted by graphnerd at 8:40 PM on August 8, 2011


I'm not sure why either side of debate (Russian entry vs. Atomic bombs) is being discussed via secondary sources when we have the words of Shigenori Togo, the foreign minister of the Imperial Japanese Government, telling us directly about the conduct of the cabinet following Hiroshima and the Russian declaration and attack:
At a meeting of the Cabinet on the afternoon of 7 August the War and Home Ministers made reports on the Hiroshima bombing. The Army, pleading the necessity of awaiting the results of the investigation which had been ordered, obviously intended not to admit the nature of the atomic atack, but to minimize the effect of the bombing. On the 8th I had an audience, in the underground shelter of the Imperial Palace, with the Emperor, whom I informed of the enemy's announcement of the use of an atomic bomb, and related matters, and I said that it was now all the more imperative that we end the war, which we could seize this opportunity to do. The Emperor approved of my view, and warned that since we could no longer continue the struggle, now that a weapon of this devastating power was used against us, we should not let slip the opportunity by engaging in attempts to gain more favorable conditions...

The members of the Supreme Council met at 11:00 A.M. I opened the discussion by saying that the war had become more and more hopeless, and now that it had no future, it was necessary to make peace without the slightest delay. Therefore, I said, the Potsdam Declaration must be complied with, and the conditions for its acceptance should be limited to those only which were absolutely essential for Japan. All members of the Supreme Council already recognized the difficulties in going on with the war; and now, after the employment of the atomic bomb and Russian entry into the war against us, none opposed in principle our acceptance of the declaration. None disagreed, either, that we must insist upon preservation of the national polity as the indispensable condition of acceptance.

The military representatives, however, held out for proposing additional terms--specifically, that occupation of Japan should if possible be avoided or, if inescapable, should be on a small scale and should not include such points as Tokyo; that disarmament should be carried out on our responsibility; and that war criminals should be dealt with by Japan.
Emphasis mine.

The major issue in the cabinet was that, up until the first bomb and the Russian declaration, the hawks were dominant in the cabinet. Even after this point, they were still holding out for no foreign occupation, no war crime trials, and Japan handles its own disarmament.
posted by fatbird at 8:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


I thought of that swift and in my best patton I replied. But I do see a problem with this assertion or thesis.

Q: What ended WWII? A: Not the atomic bomb.

First off, I read part of the book years ago and remember only the split in the japanese high command about surrender and that the soviets invasion was seen as the deciding factor, I agree, many were hoping to arrange terms through the soviets and that does seem logical. A typical Allied view of the invasion by the soviets; First: the greedy coward uncle joe. Second: huge pressure on the Japanese armies in China and no more talks about surrender in concert with the soviets, kind of like your last big card getting trumped. A study of industrial output even in July 45' showed the means of a solid defense even in the face of a full allied invasion, for example, aviation fuel made from pine needles. It would take time to get the invasion in-place and the A-bomb was still a shock, though I'm sure they knew what it was with-in hours of the blast. It is logical to conclude the americans would not use another one...or another one, yes?
The Invasion legitimized the retaking of lost territories. Put pressure on japan to surrender and placed additional Soviet/communist forces in the region to spread the word and help out so to say.

So, reverse the question and answer from a different point of view in history. With the might of the allied navies and invason forces already at the japanese homelands door....

Q: What ended WWII? A. Not the invasion of the Soviet Union of China.

why, they did not have the naval, air and A-bomb capabilites of the U.S. So really it is a matter of chronology in the way the question is framed, in this case not one but muiltple factors. History agrees the most significant is the A-bomb. i wish we had an on-line text to refer to concerning the professors book.
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


and don't get me wrong, ole doug did his part, perhaps better then most but he was off his rocker about A-bombs in Korea.
posted by clavdivs at 8:47 PM on August 8, 2011


Fatbird, I was under the impression that the words of Japan's leaders post-declaration were somewhat suspect as it behooved them to characterize themselves in as positive a light as possible ("We were gonna surrender guys, honest, we just couldn't yet!").
posted by schroedinger at 8:49 PM on August 8, 2011


Also, I thought part of the reason the US bombed POW ships was because the Japanese purposely did not mark them as such.

Well, they would have to bomb ships with POWs on them anyway. What would the alternative be? They can't just stop attacking the opposition any time they put a few Americans on board unfortunately.

The Russian element of the end of WWII is important. By most standards, the US occupation of Japan ended up going pretty well. It's hard to imagine some alternate history where we have "The Democratic People's Republic of North Japan" up in Hokkaido barley surviving economically on dairy exports or whatever.

Apparently they would have built some kind of cool space elevator up there though.

posted by Winnemac at 9:02 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even after this point, they were still holding out for no foreign occupation, no war crime trials, and Japan handles its own disarmament.

Which serves as a good remind to me that:
1. Hawks in Japan had huge gaps in their understanding of how things work when a war ends
2. Which is exactly like hawks in America in 2003
3. Hawks everywhere are deluded
4. Doves are also deluded but in very different ways
5. We are all insane and we should be thankful we did not destroy the entire country or the planet with these things.

Also, although Japan is the only country to suffer casualties of atomic bombing, this does not just include Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a Bikini atomic bomb test killed a Japanese fisherman who had the misfortune to be downwind, and sickened many of his colleagues, causing mass protest in Japan. I never learned about this accident in America.
posted by shii at 9:05 PM on August 8, 2011


Well, they would have to bomb ships with POWs on them anyway. What would the alternative be? They can't just stop attacking the opposition any time they put a few Americans on board unfortunately.

No, they wouldn't attack those ships. The same way it was customary for both sides to let the Red Cross visit and aid POWs, prisoner transports were marked as such (with giant red crosses, actually) to avoid attack on them. But the Japanese purposely did not mark their transports so Americans would think they were ships sent to resupply Japanese troops or had other military purposes.

Keep in mind that POWs weren't transported on fully-loaded battleships, so it's not like you had battleships with giant crosses on them firing on the enemy.
posted by schroedinger at 10:13 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whatever, just thank god that the Soviet barbarians didn't get their mitts on Japan. Can you even begin to imagine how that would have turned out. It almost makes me physically ill to think of Japan as a state divided between the West and the Soviets, like Germany was.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:25 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


MacArthur was crazy.
Well, suppose you were crazy. And suppose you were a five star general.
But I repeat myself.

They're all crazy. You can't have that level of specialization and wield that kind of power with lethal passion unscathed. Some of them realize it and some of them don't.
But there's only really two kinds of generals, exemplified by MacArthur (most of them) and Pershing (small minority) those who are brilliant because they love it and those who are brilliant because they hate it.

I have spoken to some planners, other people supposed to be involved in the invasion of Japan. One guy was in the Bataan Death March. He said he was scared of invading Japan. Not because of what they might do, but because of what he might do.

And indeed, the Allies (MacArthur's plan) were considering using gas in the invasion of Japan. Which would have been waaaay more horrific to folks at the time, who still remembered WWI.
And it wasn't used much in the second world war.
The Allies didn't admit (to the public) they were even thinking about using it against Hitler until 1959.
Although the Allies told the Axis powers that if chemical warfare was used against our troops we would retaliate in kind, "drench the cities of the Ruhr " Churchill said (all this and anthrax too).

And that, chemical warfare (the other WMD), or at least the utility strategy there in the time period, might be another reason why Japan surrendered.
Hitler didn't use gas (in war). But Italy did (in a limited way in what was then Abysinnia).
The Japanese only used it against the Chinese.
So the deterrent was the fear of retaliation.

When the atomic bomb came along, here's a weapon the Japanese didn't have and couldn't respond to in kind. It was a new thing. There might have been some controversy as TFA says, but the public had no "OMFG" experience of it the way they did with gas.

In ethical consideration perhaps one WMD is like another. But strategically, the thinking is different. Using poison gas was insane, nukes were new and giant ants from radiation were still 9 years away.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:37 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not that the Americans would have been kinder than the Soviets; Americans would be most likely to preserve a capitalist system

Wow, did you really say that with a straight face?
posted by falameufilho at 10:48 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You want to know why the Japanese surrendered? Because they decided to, that's why. They knew it was over. Germany had fallen. The Soviets had turned their attention to them, the U.S. was rapidly closing in on the mainland, they had little to no incoming resources, and the U.S. just demonstrated the ability and willingness to use incredibly devastating atomic weapons.

Some Japanese may have figured the U.S. was the biggest factor, while others may have figured the Soviets were the last straw. You could safely bet that the Japanese weren't of a single mind on this issue - hell, some of them wanted to keep on fighting.
posted by Xoebe at 11:46 PM on August 8, 2011


Whatever, just thank god that the Soviet
barbarians didn' t get their mitts on Japan .


Soviet barbarians? Seriously?
posted by 6550 at 11:57 PM on August 8, 2011


It was the Emperor of Japan who ended the war, at 3 in the morning, August 10, 1945. The previous morning, around 11:00, Suzuki proposed to except the Potsdam Declaration and said to the cabnet "I would like to hear some opinions on this". One minute later an A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
The japanese people learned of the soviets declaring war only 5 hours before this. The cabnet and militarists debated for roughly 16 hours and then it was over.

The soviets were not barbarins any more then most whatever that means, they just got cornered by harry, winnie and Chaing Kai into declaring war on japan to erase any doubts about some negociated peace, that is why we did not tell the soviets about the Ptsdam Declaration, because they were not at war and we 'would not want to have embarrassed them". Molotov said he was not authorized to discuss the matter further.

The key is Potsdam.
posted by clavdivs at 12:28 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re. McArthur's parade, it must be pointed out that this was the general who, in the Philippines and Korea, had reversed not just one, but the two most disastrous setbacks of US military history (of course, at least in Korea, by having recklessly pushed towards the Yalu, he was greatly responsible for the disaster as well, but that escaped most people's consciousnesses at the time). It isn't surprising that he was so popular, even though mad as a cuckoo. But this only shows the humongous balls that Truman had when he fired his most popular general at the zenith of his popularity. By the look of more recent events, an *ahem* more current Democratic president would probably have negotiated McArthur's "30-nuke" proposal down to "20 nukes plus nerve gas", then blamed Standard & Poor's for the fallout...
posted by Skeptic at 1:07 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, this is one of those things that is obvious to everyone but Americans.
posted by mobunited at 1:47 AM on August 9, 2011


Whatever, just thank god that the Soviet
barbarians didn't get their mitts on Japan .

Soviet barbarians? Seriously?


Yup, as in the Soviet Russian rape of entire Eastern European cultures, in addition to many millions more Russians and ethnic minorities dying in labor camps. Do you think it would have been any different with Japan, if Russia had been given territorial control there? Stalin was a raving lunatic. I can't imagine a postwar hell worse (for Japan) than letting the Soviets have anything to do with Postwar Japan. Imagine a setting where the Russians actually got to the Japanese mainland and demanded territorial compensation, a la the Yalta and Potsdam conferences.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:51 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Re. McArthur's parade, it must be pointed out that this was the general who, in the Philippines and Korea, had reversed not just one, but the two most disastrous setbacks of US military history (of course, at least in Korea, by having recklessly pushed towards the Yalu, he was greatly responsible for the disaster as well, but that escaped most people's consciousnesses at the time). It isn't surprising that he was so popular, even though mad as a cuckoo. But this only shows the humongous balls that Truman had when he fired his most popular general at the zenith of his popularity. By the look of more recent events, an *ahem* more current Democratic president would probably have negotiated McArthur's "30-nuke" proposal down to "20 nukes plus nerve gas", then blamed Standard & Poor's for the fallout...

For the time, MacArthur was not mad. In fact, Truman had designed a 10 (nuclear) bomb attack on the Soviet Union before the latter developed their own nukes in '49. MacArthur wanted to wipe out Mao. For the China's sake, it's too bad he couldn't have found a way to do that (minus his plan to use 30 nukes to accomplish the task).
posted by Vibrissae at 2:04 AM on August 9, 2011


He gives me freedom and safety....

LOL
posted by Meatbomb at 2:26 AM on August 9, 2011


Imagine a setting where the Russians actually got to the Japanese mainland and demanded territorial compensation, a la the Yalta and Potsdam conferences.

Instead, Stalin got his hands on the much bigger prize of China, ultimately resulting in the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and all sorts of nasty events in East Asia up to the present date (just ask the long-suffering population of North Korea).

Oh, the devil got its due, rest assured of that.
posted by Skeptic at 2:59 AM on August 9, 2011


In fact, Truman had designed a 10 (nuclear) bomb attack on the Soviet Union before the latter developed their own nukes in '49.

That "before" is what separates simple callousness from utter suicidal madness. Also, preparing a plan is not the same as executing it. All nuclear-armed powers have always had plans (however unrealistic) for using their nukes, otherwise why would they bother? (OK, trick question)

McArthur, however, hadn't just prepared his plan. He was also ready and willing to follow it through. That was his madness.
posted by Skeptic at 3:04 AM on August 9, 2011


I don't know where this whole idea that the US deliberately put out terms they knew Japan would never agree to comes from: Japan eventually surrendered according to the Potsdam terms:

We, acting by command of and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.

The short summary is that there was a peace faction and a war faction (largely comprised of high ranking military officers) in the cabinet, and the war faction was in charge. Also note that the rice crop had just failed and Japan was facing massive starvation, which is probably another factor in the timing.

Sadao Asada, Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Nov., 1998), pp. 477-512

What the deciphered Japanese dispatches reveal, however, were indecision and contradiction in Tokyo; the Japanese government could never agree on surrender terms. The cable messages went round and round: Togo, under pressure from the military, repeated that Japan could never accept an unconditional surrender, while the more realistic Sato entreated for "specific" ediation terms and "a concrete plan for terminating the war." As was to be expected, the Soviet response was chilly: Solomon A. Lozovsky, Deputy Foreign Commissar, replied that the emperor's message "contained mere generalities and no concrete proposal." In the end the Soviet government flatly rejected the Japanese proposal to send the emperor's special emissary, Konoe Fumimaro, to Moscow on the ground that the Japanese proposal was too "opaque" regarding surrender conditions. Through these efforts Japan merely wasted valuable time. There is thus very little likelihood of any missed opportunity here. If any opportunity were missed, it may have been Japan's failure to accept the Potsdam Declaration of July 26. Togo at once noted from its wording ("The following are our terms...") that it actually amounted to a "conditional surrender." Although it said nothing about the emperor system, he interpreted the declaration as offering the basis of a negotiated peace. The upper echelons of the Foreign Ministry were agreed that the Potsdam terms be accepted at once. However, the Japanese military found the Potsdam terms unacceptable because they contained the "three conditions": Allied trial of Japanese war criminals, demobilization and disarmament of Japanese forces by the Allies, and an Allied military occupation of Japan. Japan's military chiefs had been watching with increasing fear the Allies' stern treatment of Nazi leaders and German war criminals. Likewise, the Potsdam terms demanded the eradication of Japanese "militarism" and the elimination of military leaders. Apprehensive about the military's opposition, Togo took pains to persuade the Supreme War Council and the cabinet on July 27 that nothing be done pending Moscow's reply to Tokyo's mediation proposal. Togo's wait-and-see policy notwithstanding, Prime Minister Suzuki, under pressure from the army and navy command, floundered and announced, to Togo's great dismay, that the Japanese government would "ignore" (mokusatsu) the Potsdam terms. (The unfortunate word has been variously translated as "withhold comment," "treat with silent contempt," "ignore with contempt," "unworthy of public notice," and even "reject").The consequences were swift and devastating: Japan's seeming rejection gave the United States the pretext for dropping the atom bomb.


posted by Comrade_robot at 4:16 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yup, as in the Soviet Russian rape of entire Eastern European cultures, in addition to many millions more Russians and ethnic minorities dying in labor camps. Do you think it would have been any different with Japan, if Russia had been given territorial control there? Stalin was a raving lunatic. I can't imagine a postwar hell worse (for Japan) than letting the Soviets have anything to do with Postwar Japan. Imagine a setting where the Russians actually got to the Japanese mainland and demanded territorial compensation, a la the Yalta and Potsdam conferences.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:51 AM on August 9 [+] [!]


Do you use that term for the Japanese as well, given their treatment of territories they occupied? Or the Germans? Or the British in their colonial territories? Or Americans in any number of situations? The Soviets were fucking terrible but you make it sound like they were unique in their inhumanity. If the Japanese were in their position their track record indicates they'd have done the same thing (ask the Chinese why they're still pissed at Japan 70-80 years later).
posted by schroedinger at 4:37 AM on August 9, 2011


Wow, that was a very thoughtful and completely fascinating article. Thanks for this.
posted by mediareport at 5:30 AM on August 9, 2011


I'm not going to justify Russia's behavior, but many people don't realize (or forget) the human toll they paid in WWII. About a third of all casualties in WWII were Russian - over twenty million soldiers and civilians.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:36 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Soviets were fucking terrible but you make it sound like they were unique in their inhumanity.

They certainly kept it up one hell of a lot longer than anyone else. Like for decades. And after peace had been signed. The Iron Curtain was not put up to keep the west out, it was to keep the easterners out. There was a reason post war civilians wanted to be in the western zones and risked their lives to get there. So - yeah.

I'm not going to justify Russia's behavior, but many people don't realize (or forget) the human toll they paid in WWII. About a third of all casualties in WWII were Russian - over twenty million soldiers and civilians.


How much of that was just bad strategy and tactics and bad administration, a willingness to take casualties that other countries would not? Not to demean their suffering, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of it could have been avoided had Stalin et al not been as nuts as they were. Consider Order No 227 as it affected the options for tactical retreat. Or Order 270. Then too, he executed much of their professional senior officer corps in 1939. Bad timing, to say the least.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


IndigoJones: "There was a reason post war civilians wanted to be in the western zones and risked their lives to get there."

Thanks for this. I am appalled at the double standards on this thread, where the US and the Soviet Union are presented as basically morally equivalent entities. It's sickening.
posted by falameufilho at 7:05 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


What double standards are those? I don't have to think that US and Soviet Union were "morally equivalent entities" to feel that referring to the Soviet Union as a whole as barbarians is unconcealed xenophobia.
posted by 6550 at 7:16 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


schroedinger: “Fatbird, I was under the impression that the words of Japan's leaders post-declaration were somewhat suspect as it behooved them to characterize themselves in as positive a light as possible ("We were gonna surrender guys, honest, we just couldn't yet!").”

Right – but fatbird's point was exactly the opposite: that Japan's leaders were delaying surrender as long as they can, and didn't actually want to surrender at all if possible.
posted by koeselitz at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2011


I love how people like to rewrite history. The atomic bomb didn't persuade Japan to surrender, so therefore the dropping the bomb was wrong or unnecessary. The Japanese were much more concerned about a Soviet invasion...

If all of that is true, it does not mean the use of the atomic bombs was wrong or unnecessary, it means that the leadership in Japan was totally irrational. How completely divorced from reality do you have to be to conclude that the complete annihilation of nearly all people living in cities and all structures over 20 feet is not as bad as the possibility of Russians invading?

The bomb was absolutely necessary. The only way to communicate with irrational enemies is with irrational weapons.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:29 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel, your argument overlooks the fact that the USAAF was already quite capable of achieving the complete annihilation of nearly all people living in cities and all structures over 20 feet without nuclear weapons, and had indeed already demonstrated this all over Japan, not least in its very capital.

Not that the nuclear bombs were inconsequential in the decision to surrender, either, but I'm sure they weren't the only factor.
posted by Skeptic at 7:55 AM on August 9, 2011


>It's not that the Americans would have been kinder than the Soviets; Americans would be most likely to preserve a capitalist system

Wow, did you really say that with a straight face?


I honestly don't understand what you're trying to articulate.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2011


He is incredulous that anyone would believe that the US was not, whatever its faults as an occupying power, kinder than the USSR under Stalin would have been.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:36 AM on August 9, 2011


KokuRyu: "I honestly don't understand what you're trying to articulate."

That the maintenance of the "capitalist system" was the only thing that mattered to the Japanese leadership in a hypothetical choice of "who shall we surrender to"?

You also make it seem like being a prisoner of war under the Soviets or the Americans were similar propositions, which is preposterous.
posted by falameufilho at 9:02 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't have to think that US and Soviet Union were "morally equivalent entities" to feel that referring to the Soviet Union as a whole as barbarians is unconcealed xenophobia.

Jesus, this. In terms of fostering and encouraging sadism towards civilians and enemy soldiers the Japanese Army takes the prize hands down. That doesn't mean it's cool to call the entire population "morally bankrupt mongoloids" or whatever other horrible slurs.

How much of that was just bad strategy and tactics and bad administration, a willingness to take casualties that other countries would not? Not to demean their suffering, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of it could have been avoided had Stalin et al not been as nuts as they were.

I think when people mention the number of people who died they're not defending the administration but pointing out what the Soviet population itself went through.
posted by schroedinger at 9:04 AM on August 9, 2011


Twenty hours of color footage of Hiroshima - 90,000 feet - was shot by the US military but suppressed (along with 26,000 feet shot by Nippon Eisasha) for decades.

Greg Mitchell on Democracy Now: Atomic Cover-Up
posted by homunculus at 9:06 AM on August 9, 2011


schroedinger: "That doesn't mean it's cool to call the entire population "morally bankrupt mongoloids" or whatever other horrible slurs."

When I read "thank God the Soviet barbarians didn't get their mitts on Japan" upthread, I thought the barbarian reference was not to the Soviet people as a whole, but to the Red Army and perhaps the Politburo. I don't think calling the Stalin-era Red Army and Politburo "barbarians", "blood sucking chimps" or even "morally bankrupt mongoloids" is undeserved or xenophobic, but I agree the original statement should have been more qualified.
posted by falameufilho at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2011


I don't think calling the Stalin-era Red Army and Politburo "barbarians", "blood sucking chimps" or even "morally bankrupt mongoloids" is undeserved or xenophobic

Which is why it's always such a joy when you show up in a thread. The Red Army in WWII had 30,000,000 conscripts.
posted by Hoopo at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2011


The theory proposed by the article actually got me curious about something; the Russo-Japanese War would have been within memory of many Japanese during World War II. It had ended only 40 years prior, or as far as we are from Watergate. I wondered if maybe Japanese memories of that war may have lead a lot of them to think "wait, the Russians are coming after us again? Shit. We're outta here."

Except the Japanese were the victors in that war, for the most part. But now I'm wondering if maybe Russian memories of the Russo-Japanese War may have in part fueled their full-tilt assault on Japan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2011


Skeptic : the USAAF was already quite capable of achieving the complete annihilation of nearly all people living in cities and all structures over 20 feet without nuclear weapons

"Merely" pulling another Dresden on Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn't have had nearly the motivational factor that vaporizing them did.
posted by pla at 10:19 AM on August 9, 2011


While the Japanese navy's doctrine was heavily informed by the Russo-Japanese war's Battle of Tsushima, it is more likely that the more recent Japanese defeats at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol:

The defeat, together with other factors, lost the support of the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo for the policy of the North Strike Group, favoured by the Army, which wanted to seize Siberia as far as Lake Baikal for its resources. Among others, these factors include the signing of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, that deprived the Army of the basis of its war policy against the USSR, and gained the fury of the Emperor with the Army, not so much due to its defeat, but because it initiated such an undeclared war without authorization. Now the South Strike Group, favored by the navy, which wanted to seize the resources of Southeast Asia, especially the petroleum and mineral-rich Dutch East Indies, started to gain ascendancy. Because the European colonial powers were weak and being defeated in the war with Germany, coupled with their embargoes on Japan (especially of vital oil) in the second half of 1941, the result was the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7th of that year. Despite plans being carried out for war against the USSR, the Japanese would never make an offensive movement again. In 1941, the two countries signed agreements respecting the borders of Mongolia and Manchukuo and pledging neutrality towards each other.They remained at peace until the Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945, and attacked IJA forces stationed in Manchuria, during the final weeks of the war.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:23 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hoopo: "Which is why it's always such a joy when you show up in a thread."

Why, thank you!

"The Red Army in WWII had 30,000,000 conscripts."

Your point being?
posted by falameufilho at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2011


MetaFilter: The plucky brigade of african american lesbians that infiltrated the emperor's palace and replaced him with a robot
posted by ostranenie at 10:32 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


My point being you just made apparently made a distinction between the Red Army and the Russian people where one is apparently comprised only of "blood-sucking mongoloid barbarian chimps" and the other isn't, when the vast bulk of the WWII Red Army were no more than the Russian people forced into service in defense of their homeland.

So what you're saying remains undeserved. And xenophobic. And obtuse. And needlessly confrontational.
posted by Hoopo at 10:37 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Merely" pulling another Dresden on Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn't have had nearly the motivational factor that vaporizing them did.

The a-bombs were a (misguided, IMO) attempt to hasten the end of the war in the Pacific.

Dresden was an absolute serve-no-legitimate-purpose atrocity. Europe was already essentially won and the firebombing was just to rub the Axis' noses in it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2011


If you asked most people (in the US) who got to Berlin first they wouldn't know that it was the Soviet Union. We've been working with that misconception for decades. If this theory pans out I wonder how long it will take for it to become accepted.
posted by dgran at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2011


Was going to try and explain the "Mokusatsu". NO NEED NOW...great take C_R.
It is known that we intercepted a cable dated July 25 from Japans FM to Am. Sato in Moscow. The cable said to seek out peace talk with molotov. The cable stated that unconditional surrender was off the table mainly in conjunction with retaining the emperor..."Should United States and Great Britain remain insistent on formilty, there is no solution to this situation other than for us to hold out until complete collaspe because of this one point alone" (retention of emperor)
So, there it is, the Japanese FM asking Am. Sato to seek peace through the sovs but on a terms which will keep Japans honor. IOW conditional surrender.

The bomb was absolutely necessary. The only way to communicate with irrational enemies is with irrational weapons

I am a long lasting hold-out for not using the bomb, I am a big proponent of the demonstration. But I have to conclude dropping it was the "best choice" even with hindsight though a demonstartion which I believe would have worked and as the sovs already knew we had a bomb, they just did not know the particulars, the only problem would be some fool dismissing it's power) But skeptic is also right, bombing with naval support would do alot of damage but that alone, a seige of sorts, could have have been more damaging then a nuke. (starvation, isolation, image of a beseiged people, etc.) Japan was not short on AA guns or even planes.

This is a heavy issue, talking about vaporizing 100,000 people VS. millions killed in invasion is always difficult to discuss let alone equivocate.
posted by clavdivs at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2011


run on I need to repair, sorry.

But I have to conclude dropping it was the "best choice" even with hindsight. A demonstartion, which I believe would have worked. The sovs already knew we had a bomb, they just did not know the particulars, the only problem with demonstration would be some fool dismissing it's power. Skeptic is also right, bombing with naval support would do alot of damage but that alone, a seige of sorts, could have have been more damaging then a nuke. (starvation, isolation, image of a beseiged people, etc.) Japan was not short on AA guns or even planes.
posted by clavdivs at 11:10 AM on August 9, 2011


*shakes cheeks like a cartoon character
posted by clavdivs at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2011


Hoopo: "the vast bulk of the WWII Red Army were no more than the Russian people forced into service in defense of their homeland. "

A valiant institution the Red Army was, then. Let's not let the small stuff like Katyn get in the way.

Or maybe the systematic rape of German women - "following the Red Army's capture of Berlin in 1945, one of the largest incidents of mass rape took place. Soviet troops raped German women and girls as young as 8 years old. Estimates of the total number of victims range from tens of thousands to two million."

They were only following orders, I suppose?
posted by falameufilho at 11:12 AM on August 9, 2011


clavdivs: "The cable said to seek out peace talk with molotov."

Is that verbatim?
posted by falameufilho at 11:13 AM on August 9, 2011


It's interesting to hear Hitler's own perspective on the problem of the Soviets, in a conversation with Finnish military commander Carl Mannerheim.

Mostly interesting, though, because it's the only known recording of Hitler's informal speaking voice.
posted by swift at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2011


A valiant institution the Red Army was, then. Let's not let the small stuff like Katyn get in the way.

I should have known better than to feed the troll. Are you really so thick as to believe that there's no middle ground between "every single member of the Red Army was a bloodsucking mongoloid barbarian chimp" and "the Red Army was categorically a valiant institution and all it's members were stand-up guys"? Your choice of language is racist, offensive, and stupid. Your arguments are based on imaginary positions arrived at in bad faith. Your characterization of the people in this thread is insulting. Do everyone a favor and go back to whatever bridge you live under until you can calm down. No conversation has ever needed contributions like yours here.
posted by Hoopo at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hoopo, for the record, it was someone else who initiated this derail, and who instigated the harsh language. I chose the FIAMO option, actually.

Here, I'll introduce a tangent -- is there anything to the theory that the Russian military went all-out gonzo on Japan (as jason's_planet stated) because of a lingering grudge from the Russo-Japanese War?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2011


Hi guys, I'm a walkin' talkin' MetaFilter stereotype and I'm going to unironically defend the Soviet Union!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:51 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to point out that your late-in-the-game snark is, in fact, a pretty old Metafilter stereotype. Ironically.
posted by swift at 12:15 PM on August 9, 2011


You also make it seem like being a prisoner of war under the Soviets or the Americans were similar propositions, which is preposterous.

The Japanese would not have had any experience with Russian occupation, unlike many people in eastern Europe towards the end of the war. The Japanese had also not fought the Russians, as had the Germans.

On the other hand, the Japanese had been fighting the Americans for 4 years in what was basically a race war. Take no prisoners. Mutilate the enemy. Annihilate the enemy. So the Russian menace was cerebral, the perceived American menace was visceral.

One thing they could be certain of had the Russians invaded would be the end of the capitalist order.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2011


I might add that (like probably others in this thread) my own family has experienced life under Russian/Soviety occupation. My great-grandfather owned a factory in Parnau in Estonia in 1939 (as an ethnic Estonian, he had traveled to Estonia from Tomsk in 1919 - thank you President Wilson!). The family managed to survive the Russian invasion in 1939, and welcomed the Germans as "liberators" in 1941 (my grandmother remembers taking refuge in the basement of a blown-up house as the Russians withdrew. The family then had to flee the Russian advance in 1944 and 1945. My grandmother ended up in southern Germany, and other relatives escaped to Sweden. Today, the family home is occupied by ethnic Russians.

The Japanese were much more terrified by the Americans.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi guys, I'm a walkin' talkin' MetaFilter stereotype and I'm going to unironically defend the Soviet Union!

Oh FFS, I'm not defending the goddamned Soviet Union from anything other than the assholes here stating they're subhuman. I'm surprised that some people here think that's a perfectly OK thing to say.

EmpressCallipygos, that comment I can understand as a bit of clumsy hyperbole. What I am talking about is this, which is reproachable.
posted by Hoopo at 1:21 PM on August 9, 2011


I got the sense that falameufilho was quoting someone else's name-calling, rather than engaging in it him/herself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2011


What I said is that the name calling, when referring to Soviet institutions like the Red Army or the Politburo, is not completely uncalled for, innocent members of such institutions be damned. Of course in Katyn there were guys who just drove the trucks or mopped the floors but didn't hurt a fly. What an unfortunate position they were in, victims of the same machine they drove. I don't think I care much, though.
posted by falameufilho at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2011


What I said is that the name calling, when referring to Soviet institutions like the Red Army or the Politburo, is not completely uncalled for, innocent members of such institutions be damned.

....wow. I missed that you'd said that.

Sorry, hoopo, fire away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


MacArthur was crazy. He went on to advocate a plan in Korea that would have dropped thirty A-bombs on North Korea.

So after Truman fired him and shelved his plan, we went on to win in Korea right?
posted by sideshow at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2011


So after Truman fired him and shelved his plan, we went on to win in Korea right?

Seriously? This thread isn't about Korea. MacArthur was brought up because of his involvement with Japan and I pointed to his crazy idea at the start of the Korean conflict as an indication that he was a ruthless, callous, crazy man.

Would dropping 30 a-bombs on Korea have "won" us the war? Maybe. But America (supposedly) doesn't truck with monumental-scale slaughter of innocents unless backed into it.was a proxy war with China

Plus, it would have started one giant shitstorm. Korea was a proxy war with China. The smart money knew that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:48 PM on August 9, 2011


MacArthur was brought up because of his involvement with Japan and I pointed to his crazy idea at the start of the Korean conflict as an indication that he was a ruthless, callous, crazy man.

Plus? He left a cake out in the rain. And that's terrible.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2011


Interesting that Paul Fussell's essay "Thank God For The Atom Bomb" [pdf] doesn't mention the Russian entry into the war at all.
posted by benzenedream at 4:36 PM on August 9, 2011


Plus? He left a cake out in the rain. And that's terrible.

well, it was his park...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:53 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But now I'm wondering if maybe Russian memories of the Russo-Japanese War may have in part fueled their full-tilt assault on Japan.

History tidbit! Japan actually invaded Russia again in 1937 and later 1940-41. They were beaten back by Marshall Zhukov and signed an non-aggression pact with Russia. Tangled web, you see. Russia declared the pact null the day before Nagasaki. Just under the wire to get a place at the table for the spoils.

I doubt there was a lot of emotion aiming east from Moscow. After all, they had Japanese diplomats in Moscow through out the war, and there was no good casus belli. I'm thinking it was just easy pickings in the east at virtually no cost.

the Japanese had been fighting the Americans for 4 years in what was basically a race war. Take no prisoners. Mutilate the enemy. Annihilate the enemy. So the Russian menace was cerebral, the perceived American menace was visceral.

One thing they could be certain of had the Russians invaded would be the end of the capitalist order.


Let's be clear that the racial element and the take no prisoners thing started with the Japanese against other Asians (and the old Dutch and French colonialist) and pre-dated America's entry into the Asian theatre. Of course American soldiers followed suit - easy to do when the atrocities were as gruesome as they were - but even at our worst, we weren't, say, performing official vivisection or pretending to surrender only to blow ourselves up in order to take out a few more enemy. NB also that racist America had no problem at all seeing, say, the Chinese as brothers in arms, even if all Asians did all look alike.

I'm wondering if Russia would have had the stomach to invade Japan, never mind the means. Considering what they had already lost, and considering what the estimates of casualties would have been. Maybe they would have. Maybe Stalin was even that crazy.

But realistically, it wasn't going to happen.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:10 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Japanese had already lost the war after Battle of Midway in June 1942. The Japanese economy during world war II was only 10% size of US economy. They can't replace their loss fast enough to fight the US. This disparity can be seen in the military production.

For next three years, Japanese tried without success to repeat the decisive battle similar to Battle of Tsushima of Russo-Japanese War to negotiate an "honorable" end to the war. Battle of Saipan and related naval Battle of the Philippine Sea in July 1944 destroyed any minuscule hope of Japanese could ever win the war. This pursue of "honorable" end to the war lead the Japanese military leadership to continue the futile conflict for another year. After summer of 1944 Japanese surrender was only matter of time.

So yeah, the atomic bombs were totally unnecessary. It was meant as a warning to the Russian. With or without Russian's invasion, the Japanese would have surrender sooner or later.
posted by Carius at 6:34 PM on August 9, 2011


Let's be clear that the racial element and the take no prisoners thing started with the Japanese

Thank you for correcting my interpretation of history with yours. If you're suggesting that racism was foreign to Americans before they encountered atrocities (and the vivisections you're talking about occured in Manchuria and not in the Pacific theatre) then you are sadly mistaken.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:15 PM on August 9, 2011


clavdivs: "The cable said to seek out peace talk with molotov."

Is that verbatim?


no, but i will put out what i have.

"On July 25, at seven in the evening, Tokyo time, the japanese forieghn minister cabled Ambassador Sato in Moscow. Since the big three conference was in recess until the british returned to Potsdam, Sato was instructed to take advantage of the moment to go anywhere, to meet any time with Molotov, and to impress the russians "with sincerity of our desire to end the war"
-Meeting at Potsdam. C.L. Mee jr., pg 189.
posted by clavdivs at 8:05 PM on August 9, 2011


For next three years, Japanese tried without success to repeat the decisive battle similar to Battle of Tsushima of Russo-Japanese War to negotiate an "honorable" end to the war.

I think this is putting the cart before the horse. The Battle of Tsushima was an incredible Japanese victory -- the Japanese lost three torpedo boats in return for nearly the entire Russian fleet. This ended the Russo-Japanese war and led many Japanese naval thinkers to believe that a war could be won with a single decisive battle. To this end, the entire Japanese Navy was built around the idea of the Decisive Battle: the American fleet would be drawn west, to open sea, where it would be attacked by the finest naval aviators in the world, trained to make coordinated strikes on single targets from multiple carriers. Weakened by running a gauntlet of repeated carrier strikes, the American battle line would draw close to the Japanese battle line, only to run into light forces which could deliver enormous numbers of long ranged heavy torpedoes.

Once whittled down by naval aviation, torpedo strikes from the destroyers and cruisers, and submarines, the American battle line would be attacked by the Japanese battle line, which included two of the largest and most heavily armed battleships afloat. This would, it was expected, deliver such a crushing blow that the war would end, much as in the Russo-Japanese war.

Obviously, the 'war situation developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage' and things didn't work out the way some of the Japanese military leaders were planning. I'm not sure what 'honorable end to the war' means; if you mean that the military faction was going for 'no trials of war criminals, no Allied occupation, Japanese control over disarmament' ...?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:07 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The japanese had planes inside of submarines?
(looks around, gathers composure and slides class notes into folder, leaves empty room)
posted by clavdivs at 8:11 PM on August 9, 2011


It is very weird that most of the slurs in quotes on this page are not actually quoting anyone.
posted by Winnemac at 9:30 PM on August 9, 2011


I'm not sure what 'honorable end to the war' means; if you mean that the military faction was going for 'no trials of war criminals, no Allied occupation, Japanese control over disarmament' ...?

Not meant as a response to the other poster. Giving that some thought, I think the rationale was this. A series of conditions the japanese want. Demobilize themselves. No war crimes trial. Keep japanese economy intact. Keep the emperor. One could bargin away all but the emperor because to tie war crimes etc. would be tracing it to the emperor as he is the leader, it was his final decison that decided the course to take, surrender, he was to accept responsibility for his people by his act to surrender without conditions. IOW. If a condition to retain the emperor was given, he could claim in peace time an absolution for his people ending any allied claim to war crimes prosecution.
posted by clavdivs at 9:34 PM on August 9, 2011


It is very weird that most of the slurs in quotes on this page are not actually quoting anyone.

Hmmm, no, I think that Bob Greise wearing glasses in the feild only helped his postion for example, he threw 6 touch downs in the 3 quarters and on Thanksgiving day, St. Louis was never the same.
posted by clavdivs at 9:40 PM on August 9, 2011


Thank you for correcting my interpretation of history with yours. If you're suggesting that racism was foreign to Americans before they encountered atrocities (and the vivisections you're talking about occured in Manchuria and not in the Pacific theatre) then you are sadly mistaken.

Oh, quite welcome! Indeed, Americans did know from racism before the war, but viz the Japanese (to say nothing of the Chinese), to what extent, with what kind of flavor? Asians were in general merely amusingly different until hostilities broke out.

I'm suggesting that, come WW2, American soldiers' atrocities against Japanese soldiers were worse than American soldiers' atrocities against German soldiers not simply because of the color of Japanese skin or the cast of Japanese eyes, but because the experience of American soldiers in the Pacific was of an enemy which acted far more savagely in matters of fighting and surrendering and in treatment of prisoners than their European axis counterparts. (NB, I am not talking the Russian/German divide, which is another story.) Treatment including phony surrender, refusal to surrender, and grotesque mistreatment of POWs and civilians. On racial grounds.

Had the Japanese practiced a different warrior ethic, one that encompassed honorable surrender and decent treatment of prisoners and civilians, I can imagine that the fighting Americans might well have acted rather better towards the valiant foe.

(BTW, in discussing WW2, Manchuria is indeed considered to be in the Pacific theater.)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:14 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you agree that the Japanese were more afraid of the Americans than the Russians.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:40 AM on August 10, 2011


Bataan pretty much wrote that unwritten order.
posted by clavdivs at 8:57 AM on August 10, 2011


Indeed, Americans did know from racism before the war, but viz the Japanese (to say nothing of the Chinese), to what extent, with what kind of flavor? Asians were in general merely amusingly different until hostilities broke out.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
Immigration Act of 1924 (placed similar immigration limits on the Japanese and other countries)
And of course there's the concept of the Yellow Peril

Here's a letter to the editor of the New York Times from 1913 discussing the Alien Land Laws of California which prevented any Japanese person from owning land (which I believe were passed successfully? not sure on that) based on the fact that Asians couldn't be naturalized in the U.S., from Valentine Stuart McClatchy, publisher of the Sacramento Bee and a leader of the Japanese Exclusion League of California:
Frankly, the legislation was provoked by the Japanese problem and is aimed particularly at that race. In the first place, the Japanese are a people that can never be assimilated. Their physical features and characteristics are so different from the European as to prevent merger by intermarriage, in addition the the clash between Occidental and Oriental temperaments and traditions.

Of their character, the Japanese morality, or lack of it, is one of the objectionable features to their presence in large numbers in California. That this is not an unfounded accusation, any observant traveler in Japan will testify that life in a house of prostitution is no bar to marriage for girls of any class. In money matters they are tricky and absolutely unreliable.

...In districts where loyalty prompted the farmers to stick together and refuse Japanese offers one orchard would be bought at an extravagant price and those surrounding it could then be gathered in for a song, for no white people will live next to Japanese, in city or country.
Check out The 1920 Anti-Japanese Crusade and Congressional Hearings at the University of Washington web site.

Japanese Immigration and Colonization (1921) by McClatchy:
A NONASSIMILABLE ALIEN RACE.

The Japanese, with a few individual exceptions, and even when born in this country, are for various reasons unassimilable and a dangerous element, either as residents or citizens.

Perfect assimiliation or amalgamation can be had only through intermarriage. This is impracticable for several reasons:
(a) A principle enunciated by biologists is to the effect that intermarriage between races widely different in characteristics does not perpetuate the good qualities of either race. The differences between Japanese and American whites are claimed to be so radical as to bring them within this category.

lyenaga, in his Japan and the California Problem, and Prof. K. S. Inui, in statement before the House Immigration Committee, in July, 1920 (see p. 997, vol. 3, of hearings), claim that through long residence in tne United States, and after some generations, the result of environment and climate and occupation will be such as to induce biological changes in the Japanese and 'approximate them to the composite American, and that thereafter they would be, perhaps, naturally fitted for intermarriage.

The answer to this is that the possibility is too remote. Even should it eventually happen, the American whites would have been swallowed up by the Japanese race before this biological change could have taken place.

(b) A natural pride of race on each side, and in a number of our States the law as well, acts as a bar against intermarriage. Even in Hawaii, where there is every encouragement for interracial admixture, the Japanese have maintained racial purity far beyond that of any other nation and to an extraordinary degree. (See report of survey commission to the Department of Education, Washington, Bulletin No. 20, 1920, Exhibit 17.)

(c) Another bar to assimilation by marriage is the fact that the Eurasian progeny of such intermarriages are accorded no social standing, either on this side or on the other side of the Pacific.
posted by XMLicious at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2011


I'm glad you agree that the Japanese were more afraid of the Americans than the Russians.

Don't think I said that. I only suggested that the Russians were not realistically going to be that great a threat to Japan invasion-wise. Others may differ. How they were perceived in Japan, I could not say. Getting back to the subject of the FPP, this link suggests badly.

Alien Land Laws of California which prevented any Japanese person from owning land (which I believe were passed successfully? not sure...)

The law prevented "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from buying land, and was invalidated by the Supreme Court in the 1950s. (Similar laws exist in other countries to this day, BTW)

But I overstate and am duly chastised for neglecting attitudes during the 1860 to 1930 period, a subject fraught with peril (sorry) and too large for mefi commentary. For the purposes of this discussion, however, I was thinking of popular renditions of Asia and Asians such as The Good Earth (1931) and Charlie Chan (1927). Condescending pap, but in general good-natured towards an area we had long sent missionaries to. War changes things. I stand by the suggestions on how attitudes and behaviors, were shaped during the war (basely) and afterwards (remarkably well, and surely better than the Soviets).
posted by IndigoJones at 11:01 AM on August 10, 2011


Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907.
"The infernal fools in California insult the japanese recklessly and in the event of war it will be as a whole nation which will pay the consequences."
Though Roosevelt confined to Lodge:
"The Japanese seem to have about the same proportion of prize jingo fools that we have."

Bahía Magdalena

seems the Germans were trying to stir up trouble between the U.S., Japan and Mexico.
as with alot of these things, turns out to be mostly bogus...but wait here comes the color-coded war plans
posted by clavdivs at 1:49 PM on August 10, 2011


But I overstate and am duly chastised for neglecting attitudes during the 1860 to 1930 period,

I didn't mean to chastise you, I meant to answer your question about pre-war racism "viz the Japanese (to say nothing of the Chinese), to what extent, with what kind of flavor?" If you are aware of the various things I link to above, like the description of white families in California refusing to live with Japanese neighbors or newspaper headlines accusing people of being "Pro-Jap", summing up the flavor of the pre-war attitude towards the Japanese and other Asians as one that merely saw them as "amusingly different" does not seem accurate to me. But, as you say, this would be an involved topic to dig into here.
posted by XMLicious at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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