Why Japan Surrendered

SAMUEL ELIOT MORISON was professor of American history at Harvard,the winner of a Pulitzer Prize,the author of THE MARITIME HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS and of the finest life yet written of Columbus when in 1941 he volunteered to write the history of the American Navy in World War II. He saw active duty on eleven different ships, wears seven battle stars on his service ribbon,and was retired with the rank of rear admiral. From the fourteenth and final volume in his great series,we are privileged to draw this magnificent chapter.



THE Japanese people were never told that their country was losing the war; even our capture of such key points as Saipan, Manila, and Okinawa was explained as a strategic retirement. Hence, anyone high in the government or armed forces who recognized the symptoms of defeat found himself in a cruel dilemma. Love of country impelled him to seek a way out of the war, but admission of defeat exposed him to disgrace or assassination. Even the Emperor, who had always wished to preserve the peace, found himself caught in the same trap. When General MacArthur after the war asked Hirohito why he did not earlier take a stand against it, he made a symbolic gesture of his throat’s being cut.

Early in 1945, following the Allied invasion of Luzon, the Emperor began to play an active part in the peace movement. His intervention had to be done cautiously and discreetly, so as not to disturb the established tradition and machinery of government. In late January and early February he conferred individually with seven of the jushin, the “important subjects” — former Premiers and presidents of the Privy Council. He found their feeling to be like his, that an early peace was necessary. Prince Konoye, the former Premier, stated bluntly that Japan faced certain defeat and urged his cousin the Emperor to take positive action to end the war.

Fear of the powerful military clique was so pervasive that nothing could be done until early April, when the invasion of Okinawa, and Russia’s denunciation of the Soviet-Japanese neutrality pact, precipitated a new crisis. When General Koiso resigned the premiership on 5 April 1945, the jushin provided his relief. These men now had the confidence of the Lord Keeper, Marquis Kido, closest adviser and personal friend of the Emperor, who gave his approval to a political deal. The new Premier, who took office on 7 April, was the octogenarian Baron Kantaro Suzuki, who as a junior naval officer, forty years earlier, had participated in the battle of Tsushima Straits. He was now a retired admiral and president of the Privy Council, and it was ironic that, on the very day he took office, the battleship Yamato was sunk. Shigenori Togo, also an advocate of peace, was appointed Foreign Minister.

The Army chiefs insisted, as their price for allowing Suzuki to form a cabinet, that he prosecute the war to a victorious finish. Consequently, the new Premier had to pretend to be doing just that. He knew that he was expected by the Emperor to bring the war to an end; but, as he held office at the Army’s sufferance, he had to continue making die-hard public pronouncements.

Although it takes but one antagonist to start a war, at least two are required to conclude peace; so it is natural to inquire what, if anything, the United States and the other Allies were doing about it. The answer is, almost nothing, except to press the war more and more vigorously. It is possible that if President Roosevelt had lived six weeks longer, he would have taken the advice of Joseph C. Grew to give public assurance that if Japan surrendered “unconditionally,” she could keep her Emperor. The Department of State had envisaged just that, even at the beginning of the war. Following this line, government agencies in propaganda for home consumption had consistently ignored Hirohito and directed popular rage and hatred against Tojo and his military clique. This attitude was due in part to knowledge by the insiders that Hirohito had never wanted war; partly to experience of World War I, in which the Kaiser was played up as principal culprit, and his removal led to a weak government which was overthrown by Hitler. The Imperial Palace had been conspicuously spared in the successive bombings of Tokyo; and owing to the Secretary of War’s insistence, the Army Air Force had not bombed the two principal religious and artistic centers in Japan, Nikko and Kyoto.

Mr. Grew, an old schoolmate and personal friend of President Roosevelt’s, had been American ambassador to Japan for several years before Pearl Harbor. Knowing Japanese personalities and politics as did no other American, he detected through the double talk of the Suzuki government a genuine desire to end the war. He knew that the one essential gesture to help the peace party in Japan was to promise as a condition of peace that the Emperor would not be deposed. From 20 December 1944, Mr. Grew was undersecretary of state. He found that many top people in the department did not share his views. A popular demand, “Hirohito must go,” was being whipped up by a section of the American press and by certain columnists and radio commentators. Admiral Leahy observed that some of the civilians who had access to the President wanted Hirohito to be tried as a war criminal, and the nationalist press in China demanded that he be hanged. The Soviet government, of course, aimed to break up the imperial system, so that Communism could profit from the ensuing anarchy.

After hearing reports of the destructive bombing raids on Tokyo of 23 and 25 May 1945, Mr. Grew called on the President and begged him to make an explicit statement, in an address that he was planning to deliver on the thirty-first, that Hirohito could retain his throne if Japan surrendered. Harry Truman, who had been in the presidential office only six weeks, was sympathetic but felt unqualified to make so vital a policy pronouncement without military advice. At his request Mr. Grew consulted General Marshall and Secretaries Forrestal and Stimson. They, too, were sympathetic, but advised against making any such assurance at that time, because the Okinawa campaign had almost bogged down and the Japanese government would interpret any such statement as evidence of war weariness on our part. So this opportunity to proffer a friendly hand to Japanese advocates of peace was missed. It is very unlikely that it would have been accepted, since the Japanese military and naval chiefs were against concluding peace even after two atomic bombs had been dropped and explicit assurances about the Emperor had been given.

On 1 June the President’s interim committee, composed of high officials and top atomic scientists, recommended that the new bomb be used against Japan, as soon as possible, without warning, and against a target that would reveal its “devastating strength.” A well-considered alternative — to drop one bomb on a relatively uninhabited part of Japan, after due warning, in order to demonstrate the uselessness of further struggle — was rejected. It was feared that Japan would move in Allied prisoners of war as guinea pigs; and nobody could predict whether or not the bomb would work. If, after a warning, it proved a dud, the United States would be placed in a ridiculous position. And anyone who has followed our account of the senseless destruction and suffering indicted by the kamikazes around Okinawa will appreciate the fact that compassion for Japan formed no factor in this decision.

Again, on 18 June, when Okinawa was almost secured, Mr. Grew urged the President to issue a proclamation on the subject of the Emperor. Again, the service chiefs asked for more time, and the President decided to refer the whole matter to Potsdam, where his conference with Churchill, Stalin, and the combined chiefs of staff was scheduled to open on 16 July.

On that very day the experimental atomic bomb was exploded in New Mexico. Churchill was told about it at Potsdam. “This is the Second Coming, in wrath,” said he.

IN JAPAN, in the meantime, responsible statesmen were groping and fiddling and getting exactly nowhere. After the news of Germany’s surrender came through on 9 May, the more realistic Army chiefs realized that if Russia entered the war against them, a successful defense of the home islands would be impossible. The Suzuki cabinet agreed that every effort should be made to keep Stalin neutral and to seek his good offices to negotiate a favorable peace. Some halfhearted, unofficial feelers were put out to the Soviet ambassador in Tokyo, but nothing came of them. On 8 June the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (S.C.D.W.), consisting mainly of the Premier, the War, Navy, and Foreign Ministers, and the Army and Navy Chiefs of Staff, approved a basic war policy that committed Japan to fight to the bitter end. Then, ten days later, they voted to propose peace through neutral powers, especially the Soviet Union.

Marquis Kido, who got wind of their first decision, prepared a plan, which the Emperor approved, to circumvent the S.C.D.W. He opened a series of personal and private negotiations with responsible government members. These dragged along for several days without result. The Emperor then summoned the S.C.D.W. to the palace (22 June) and supported Foreign Minister Togo in his determination to send a special envoy to Moscow, hoping to work out some means of ending the war through diplomatic negotiation.

By that time the Japanese government knew that Okinawa was lost; that the B-29s were capable of wiping out one Japanese city after another; that, in a word, the war was lost. But nothing was done to prepare the people for the inevitable. On the contrary, Premier Suzuki issued a statement that the loss of Okinawa “improved Japan’s strategic position” and dealt America a “severe spiritual blow.” “Peace agitators” were threatened in official broadcasts; efforts were made to increase war production; a program of building solid houses with underground shelters was announced to protect the people from air bombing, and one of stockpiling food to render them self-sufficient.

In the meantime, the Japanese ambassador in Moscow was being brushed off by Stalin, and the Soviet ambassador in Tokyo also refused to negotiate. The Emperor, concerned by the delay, summoned Suzuki and proposed that a special envoy be sent to Moscow with a personal message from himself to Stalin. Togo jumped at the idea, and Prince Konoye consented to be the envoy. Permission had to be asked of the Soviet foreign office, and not until 18 July did the Soviet government send an evasive and discouraging reply. For Stalin had already decided to declare war on Japan.

Then, out of a clear sky, on a summer day of sweltering heat, came the Potsdam Declaration of 26 July by President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek, stating the conditions under which Japan would be called upon to surrender “unconditionally.” The principal terms of the Potsdam Declaration were:

1. The authority and influence of the Japanese militarists “must be eliminated for all time.”

2. Until a “new order of peace, security and justice” is established in Japan, Allied forces will occupy Japanese key points “to secure the achievement” of this basic objective.

3. Terms of the Cairo Declaration1 will be carried out, and Japanese sovereignty will be limited to Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and adjacent smaller islands.

4. Japanese military forces, “after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.”

5. “We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals. . . . Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights, shall be established.”

6. Japan may retain such industries as will sustain her economy, but may not rearm; and she may look forward to “participation in world trade relations.”

7. Occupation forces “shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established a peacefully inclined and responsible government.”

8. The Japanese government is called upon “to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.” The alternative is “prompt and utter destruction.”

A broadcast of this declaration, received in Tokyo on 27 July, caused a flurry of discussion in high governmental circles as to how it should be handled. Foreign Minister Togo wished to play a waiting game and avoid any official statement. For (a typically Japanese condition), if any official declaration were made, it would have to be a flat rejection, to please the military men in the cabinet. Unfortunately, Premier Suzuki upset the applecart when, at a press conference on 28 July, he indicated that the cabinet considered the Potsdam Declaration to be a mere rehash of the earlier and unacceptable Cairo Declaration, and as such unworthy of official notice. And, he added, the increase of aircraft production gave renewed hope of a Japanese victory.

No explicit assurance about the Emperor had issued from Potsdam; but (so Shigemitsu, Foreign Minister in the Koiso government, assured me in 1950) the reference in paragraph seven to withdrawing occupation forces after a “peacefully inclined and responsible government” had been set up indicated to the Japanese that they would be permitted to determine their own future.

IF THE Suzuki government could have made up its mind promptly to accept the Potsdam Declaration as a basis for peace, there would have been no explosion of an atomic bomb over Japan. Suzuki’s bumbling statement to the press triggered it off.

Secretary of State Byrnes found the Premier’s statement “disheartening.” Both he and President Truman hoped that, before the Potsdam Conference broke up, the Japanese government would change its mind. The President had already decided to use the bomb if Japan did not accept the declaration and on 24 July had issued the necessary order to the Army Air Force to “deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August.” But this could have been revoked, just as the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor could have been recalled before 6 December 1941. Not until after the conference had broken up with no further word from Tokyo, when President Truman was at sea on board U.S.S. Augusta, did he give the final order to drop the bombs on two Japanese cities.

That was on 2 August, west longitude date. All parts and materials for assembling the bombs had arrived at Tinian before the first of the month. Weather on 3 and 4 August (east longitude dates) was unfavorable; but on the fourth, with a good forecast for the next two days, General LeMay decided to load the first bomb on 5 August and to drop it on the sixth.

The B-29 nicknamed “Enola Gay,” commanded by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, U.S.A., was chosen to carry the first atomic bomb. Captain William S. Parsons, a Navy ordnance specialist who had had charge of the ordnance aspects of the bomb and of its safety features, came along to assemble it and make the final adjustments en route.

At 0245 August 6 “Enola Gay” took off from North Field, Tinian, followed by two observation planes. Over Iwo Jima it began a slow climb to 30,000 feet. At 0730 Captain Parsons and his assistant made final adjustments on the bomb. Weather reconnaissance planes reported all clear over Hiroshima. The B-29 was over the city at 0911, when controls were passed to the bombardier, Major Thomas W. Ferebee, U.S.A., who at 0915 “toggled the bomb out” at an altitude of 31,600 feet and speed of 328 m.p.h. No enemy planes attacked “Enola Gay.” She landed on Tinian at 1458.

Results were catastrophic. The bomb exploded right over a parade ground where the Japanese Second Army was doing calisthenics. The soldiers were wiped out almost to a man. Everything in the city within an area of over four square miles was razed or fused. An estimated 71,379 people, including the military, were killed; 19,691 were seriously injured; and about 171,000 rendered homeless. This seems, however, to have been an overestimate. A Japanese official notice of 31 July 1959 stated that the total number of deaths attributed to the bombing of Hiroshima, including all that had occurred in the nearly 14 years since it happened, was 60,175.

President Truman got the word at noon on 6 August (west longitude date) on board cruiser Augusta while crossing the Atlantic. He told the officers and men about it, saying, “This is the greatest thing in history.”

Before sunrise 9 August the Russian declaration of war on Japan was known in Tokyo. At 1000 Marquis Kido conveyed to Premier Suzuki the Emperor’s belief that it was urgent to accept the Potsdam Declaration immediately. The S.C.D.W., promptly summoned to the Imperial Palace, was already in session when the second atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki, at 1101. All agreed to insist that the prerogatives of the imperial family be preserved, but beyond that there was no agreement. War Minister General Anami, Army Chief of Staff General Umezu, and Admiral Toyoda, the Navy Chief of Staff, insisted on three conditions: 1) the Japanese would disarm their own troops overseas, 2) war criminals would be prosecuted by Japanese courts, and 3) only a limited military occupation of Japan would be permitted. Togo pointed out that the Allies were certain to refuse such conditions, that all hope of Japanese victory had vanished, and that Japan must no longer delay seeking peace. But as Anami, Umezu, and Toyoda held out, nothing could be decided.

Nor could agreement be reached by the cabinet, at a meeting which opened at 1430, even after sitting for over seven hours and hearing more bad news from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When that meeting broke up at 2230 August 9, Suzuki and Togo called on the Emperor and told him that, as neither cabinet nor S.C.D.W. could reach a decision, he must summon the council to meet with him. Hirohito agreed. The S.C.D.W. met with the Emperor in an underground air-raid shelter at the palace, at 2350 August 9.

This was what Togo, Shigemitsu, and Kido had been working toward for months. At the Imperial Conference, Suzuki took the floor and presented his arguments for immediate acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. Togo and Navy Minister Yonai supported him. Generals Anami and Umezu and Admiral Toyoda argued for a resolute prosecution of the war, unless the Allies accepted the three above-mentioned conditions. There was a long discussion of possibilities, ably led by Baron Hiranuma. Suzuki requested an “imperial decision" to break the deadlock, an unprecedented step. The Emperor rose, said that ending the war was the only way to relieve Japan from unbearable distress, and left the room. Suzuki then declared: “His Majesty’s decision should be made the decision of this conference as well,” and the S.C.D.W. adjourned at 0230 August 10.

Since an Imperial Conference had no formal power to decide anything, a cabinet meeting was called at about 0300 August 10. There, the imperial decision was unanimously approved.

At 0700 August 10, a message was sent to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China, stating that Japan was ready to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration with the understanding that the prerogatives of the Emperor as a sovereign ruler were not prejudiced.

During that day the cabinet debated whether to announce this to the public. It was decided to make no announcement until after the publication of an imperial rescript accepting the Potsdam terms, because of the fear of a militarist coup d’état. That possibility was real indeed. On the morning of 10 August, War Minister Anami summoned all officers in Tokyo of the rank of lieutenant colonel and above, told them what had happened, and appealed to them to keep the Army quiet. Increasing restiveness at the war ministry during the day caused him to issue a warning against any overt effort to obstruct the government’s decision. And Admiral Yonai issued a comparable warning to the Japanese Navy.

But the wireless waves and cables between Tokyo and Washington were working, via Switzerland. The message of 0700 August 10 accepting the Potsdam Declaration was received at about the same hour next day, 10 August, west longitude date. At Washington this created a flurry only less agitated than the one at Tokyo. Was it or was it not an acceptance of the Potsdam terms? At a conference in the White House between President Truman, Secretaries Byrnes, Stimson, and Forrestal, Admiral Leahy, and a few others, the question was threshed out. “Terrible political repercussions” were anticipated if a promise to keep the Emperor on his throne should backfire by encouraging the Japanese government to continue the war. The President decided, nevertheless, to take the risk, and Secretary Byrnes drafted a note in reply to the Japanese offer, which, after obtaining telegraphed approval from London, Moscow, and Chungking, he sent to Tokyo via Switzerland on 11 August (west longitude date) and immediately broadcast. The foreign office at Tokyo intercepted it at about noon the same day.

The Byrnes note of 11 August comprised five pertinent provisions:

1. “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and Japanese government . . . shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms.”

2. The Emperor will authorize his government and Imperial General Headquarters to sign the surrender and shall command all his armed forces to lay down their arms.

3. Immediately upon the surrender the Japanese government shall transport prisoners of war and interned civilians to places of safety where they can be embarked in Allied transports.

4. The ultimate form of the government of Japan shall be established by the free will of the Japanese people.

5. Allied occupation forces will remain in Japan “until the purposes set forth in the Potsdam Declaration are achieved.”

The Byrnes note created new tensions and a fresh crisis in high circles at Tokyo. It left no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Japanese would be permitted to retain the Emperor, and most of the cabinet were for accepting; but Anami, Umezu, and Toyoda were adamant, holding out for self-disarmament and a limited occupation or none. A fanatical coup d’état, with the purpose of continuing the war, was narrowly averted. Soon after receipt of the Allied reply, a group of young Army officers in the War Ministry approached Anami with a direct suggestion that the Army intervene to stop all peace moves. He succeeded in putting them off, but this powder-keg atmosphere persisted while the cabinet for two days longer remained deadlocked. Togo received support on 13 August in the form of a cablegram from the Japanese minister in Stockholm, reporting that the United States had resisted strong pressure from the Soviet Union and China to remove the Emperor.

ON THE eleventh, when the Byrnes note was dispatched, President Truman ordered all “strategic” air operations (the B-29s) by the Army Air Force to be suspended; but on the fourteenth, apparently with a view to helping the Japanese make up their minds, the bombers were ordered to resume. That order in turn was canceled after more than a thousand B-29s were in the air, but most of them were recalled before doing any further damage.

During the night of 13 to 14 August, seven B-29s dropped on Tokyo more than five million leaflets, containing the text of the Japanese note accepting the Potsdam Declaration and a Japanese translation of Secretary Byrnes’s reply. This was the first intimation the people had of what was going on. At 0830 August 14, Marquis Kido brought one of these leaflets to the Emperor and urgently advised him to take prompt action, predicting that the leaflets would have a profound effect. Unless the Emperor declared immediately for peace, he might lose control of armed forces in the field. Shortly after, Premier Suzuki arrived at the palace. He and Marquis Kido, who had vainly endeavored to convert General Anami to reason, urged the Emperor to convoke an Imperial Conference (the S.C.D.W. in the “presence”) on his own initiative. This was unprecedented. By Japanese constitutional procedure, an Imperial Conference could be convoked only after the Premier and chiefs of staff had agreed on the agenda. The Emperor, before taking so drastic a step, requested several senior Army and Navy officers to take measures to secure the obedience of all armed forces to his orders to cease fire. He then summoned the S.C.D.W. to the palace.

The meeting opened at 1100 August 14 in the air-raid shelter. Suzuki reported that most of those present favored an immediate acceptance of the Byrnes note but suggested that the Emperor hear the objectors before making his decision. In a highly emotional atmosphere, Anami, Umezu, and Toyoda repeated their earlier arguments for continuing to fight. The Emperor then spoke the thoughts that he had long firmly held. Continuing the war, he said, will merely result in additional destruction. The whole nation will be reduced to ashes. The Allied reply is a virtually complete acknowledgment of the position of his note of 0700 August 10 and evidence “of the peaceful and friendly intentions of the enemy.” It is the imperial desire that his ministers of state accept it. They will at once prepare an imperial rescript broadcasting this decision directly to the people.

The deed was done. At 1449 August 14 Radio Tokyo flashed the Emperor’s decision around the world. The cabinet was already making a final draft of the rescript, which had been in preparation since 10 August. At 2100 it was completed and taken to the Emperor, who signed it at 2250 August 14. Ten minutes later it was officially proclaimed that Japan would accept the Allied terms, and a note to that effect was sent to the Allied governments through a neutral country. This important news reached President Truman at 1550 August 14, west longitude date. He announced it from the White House at 1900 the same day and declared a two-day holiday of jubilation.

Despite every care to prevent incidents, the situation in Tokyo almost got out of hand. Hotheads in the war ministry and on the general staff were still planning a military coup. During the night of 14 to 15 August (east longitude date) they called on Lieutenant General Takeshi Mori, commanding the Imperial Guards Division, to demand that he order his men to disobey the surrender order. Mori refused and was then assassinated. With the connivance of two officers of his staff, orders were prepared, over his forged seal, to isolate the palace and the Emperor and impound the tape recording of the surrender message that was to be broadcast at noon next day. When General Tanaka of the Eastern District Area Army heard of this plot, he proceeded to the palace, took personal command of the Imperial Guards, countermanded the forged orders, and by 0800 August 15 had suppressed the nascent insurrection.

In the course of the day attempts were made to assassinate Premier Suzuki, Marquis Kido, and Baron Hiranuma. General Anami, who knew what was going on but either dared not or cared not to do anything about it, felt that the only honorable way out was to commit hara-kiri and did so. His example was followed by four of the principal conspirators and by General Tanaka, whose prompt action had defeated their plans, and (most appropriately) by Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi, father of the Kamikaze Corps.

Throughout the morning of 15 August, Japanese radios announced that a most important broadcast would be made at noon. When listeners were told that the next voice would be that of the Emperor, which they had never before been permitted to hear, they anticipated something tremendous and generally assumed that it would be a plea for resistance to the bitter end. On the contrary, Hirohito reviewed the course of the war, announced that he had accepted the terms of the Allies, appealed to the people to rebuild the country, and ended: “We charge you, Our loyal subjects, to carry out faithfully Our will.” The word “surrender” was carefully omitted from the text, but almost every listener realized that his ruler was announcing the end of the war on Allied terms. The people were stupefied by this revelation, and still appeared stunned when the first occupation troops arrived two weeks later.

The Japanese note of 2300 August 14 (east longitude date) was promptly acknowledged by Secretary Byrnes, together with an order that the Japanese cease hostilities at once, as our forces had already been ordered to do. This was received in Tokyo early 16 August (east longitude date), and the Emperor’s definite order to cease fire went out at 1600 that day. The United States Navy had stopped all offensive operations 34 hours earlier, at 0615 August 15. The Emperor’s order to his armed forces to surrender was not issued until after the signing of the surrender document on the Missouri on 2 September.

It was the Emperor who cut governmental red tape and made the great decision. This required courage. The Army chiefs and Admiral Toyoda were not greatly moved by the atomic explosions. They argued that the two bombs were probably all that the United States had, and if more were made, we would not dare use them when invading Japan; that there was a fair chance of defeating the invasion by massed kamikaze attacks; and that, in any event, national honor demanded a last battle on Japanese soil. All the fighting hitherto had been little more than peripheral skirmishes; the way to victory was to “lure” the Americans ashore and “annihilate” them, as had been done by the original kamikaze “divine wind” to the hordes of Kublai Khan in 1281 A.D. Such had been the propaganda line given to the Japanese people to explain the series of defeats; they had no idea that Japan was really beaten. Nothing less than an assertion of the imperial will could have overcome these arguments and objections.

An intelligent and patriotic French banker, M. Jacques Bardac, who was interned at Peiping through the entire war and cut off from all news and propaganda except Japanese, told me that it was so well done as to convince him up to the very last that Japan was winning. The older Japanese on Oahu, who could not understand English, believed even after the end of the war that Japan had won, and scores of them assembled one day on Aiea Heights to see the victorious Imperial Fleet enter Pearl Harbor.

ON THE Allied side, it has been argued that the maritime blockade, virtually complete by midAugust, would have strangled Japanese economy and that the B-29s and naval gunfire ships would have destroyed its principal cities and forced a surrender before long, without the aid of the atomic bombs or of invasion. Fleet Admirals King and Leahy lent their distinguished advocacy to this view. Whether or not they were correct, not even time can tell. But of some things, one can be sure. The stepped-up B-29 bombings and naval bombardments, had they been continued after 15 August, would have cost the Japanese loss and suffering far, far greater than those inflicted by the two atomic bombs. And the probable effects of the projected invasions of Kyushu and Honshu in the fall and winter of 1945 to 1946 and of a desperate place-to-place defense of Japan stagger the imagination. It is simply not true that Japan had no military capability left in mid-August. Although 2550 kamikaze planes had been expended, there were 5350 of them still left, together with as many more ready for orthodox use and some 7000 under repair or in storage; and 5000 young men were training for the Kamikaze Corps. The plan was to disperse all aircraft on small grass strips in Kyushu, Shikoku, and western Honshu and in underground hangars and caves and to conserve them for kamikaze crashes on the Allied amphibious forces invading the home islands. Considering the number of planes, pilots, and potential targets, all within a short distance of principal airfields, it requires little imagination to depict the horrible losses that would have been inflicted on the invading forces, even before they got ashore. After the landing, there would have been protracted battles on Japanese soil which would have cost each side very many more lives and created a bitterness which even time could hardly have healed. Japan had plenty of ammunition left; the U. S. Army alter the war found thousands of tons holed up in Hokkaido alone. And, as Russia would have been a full partner in this final campaign, there is a fair chance that Japan would have been divided like Germany and Korea, if not delivered completely to the mercy of the Communists.

We must also point out that, even after two atomic bombs had been dropped, the Potsdam Declaration clarified, the guards’ insurrection defeated, and the Emperor’s will made known, it was touch and go whether the Japanese actually would surrender. Hirohito had to send members of the imperial family to the principal Army commands to ensure compliance. His younger brother, Prince Takamatsu, was just in time to make the Atsugi airfield available for the first occupation forces on 26 August and to keep the kamikaze boys grounded. They were boasting that they would crash the Missouri when she entered Tokyo Bay. If these elements had had their way. the war would have been resumed, with the Allies feeling that the Japanese were hopelessly treacherous and with a savagery on both sides that is painful to contemplate.

When these facts and events of the Japanese surrender are known and weighed, it will become evident that the atomic bomb was the keystone of a very fragile arch.

  1. The Cairo Declaration stated that Japan would be deprived of all conquests gained by aggression since the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry in 1853. Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores would accordingly be restored to China; Korea would recover her independence; and the southern half of Sakhalin would be returned to Russia.