Skip to comments.Why did Japan surrender? (Historian argues Soviet Declaration, Not A-Bomb)
Posted on 08/19/2011 2:21:26 PM PDT by mojito
What ended World War II?
For nearly seven decades, the American public has accepted one version of the events that led to Japans surrender. By the middle of 1945, the war in Europe was over, and it was clear that the Japanese could hold no reasonable hope of victory. After years of grueling battle, fighting island to island across the Pacific, Japans Navy and Air Force were all but destroyed. The production of materiel was faltering, completely overmatched by American industry, and the Japanese people were starving. A full-scale invasion of Japan itself would mean hundreds of thousands of dead GIs, and, still, the Japanese leadership refused to surrender.
But in early August 66 years ago, America unveiled a terrifying new weapon, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a matter of days, the Japanese submitted, bringing the fighting, finally, to a close.
On Aug. 6, the United States marks the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombings mixed legacy. The leader of our democracy purposefully executed civilians on a mass scale. Yet the bombing also ended the deadliest conflict in human history.
In recent years, however, a new interpretation of events has emerged. 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 Japans surrender. His interpretation could force a new accounting of the moral meaning of the atomic attack. It also raises provocative questions about nuclear deterrence, a foundation stone of military strategy in the postwar period. And it suggests that we could be headed towards an utterly different understanding of how, and why, the Second World War came to its conclusion.
(Excerpt) Read more at boston.com ...
FReepers, have at it.
I have heard this theory before and by people who sounded competent.
My opinion is that it is the stupidest idea I have ever heard put forward by normal people.
The Russians waited until they knew it was over then declared war to gobble up as much territory as they could.
The Japanese themselves have said that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria was at least as big a factor in the surrender as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They knew they could hold off the Americans and Commonwealth forces on Honshu and Kyushu for a while, with thousands of kamikazes and millions of suicidal troops and civilian militia waiting. But they had stripped the north to do it. The prospect of hundreds of thousands of Red Army troops landing on Hokkaido with very little to stop them was one that truly scared them.
The use of the A-bombs was a necessary one, and it definitely helped convince Hirohito to end the war. But so did the thought of the Red Army raping and pillaging their way across northern Japan. They had no doubt heard what had happened on the road to Berlin.
What a coincidence that they decided Russia was a concern right after we obliterated two of their cities.
This has been the Soviet line since 1945. Of course, Stalin only entered the war because he saw that Japan’s defeat was imminent and wanted to grab as much territory as possible.
The likely fact is that the combination of disasters pushed Hirohito to decide for peace.
revisionist history again
Why must it be either or? I think its obvious they saw all was lost, considering all factors.
They sure did. Uncle Joe was shrewd. He knew exactly how to get maximum results with minimum effort. Look at what he did in 1940 after the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact was signed with Germany...Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, all gobbled up in record time.
He also told the Japanese one thing and the Allies another. The neutrality pact between Japan and the USSR said that either party could break it with twelve months’ notice. Stalin gave that notice in the late spring of 1945, after V-E Day. But Churchill and Roosevelt worked out with him that he would break the pact and invade Japan three months after Germany surrendered. They kept that timetable exactly. Germany surrendered on May 8, the Soviets invaded Manchuria on August 8.
Had the hard-liners in the Japanese government succeeded in continuing the war, it’s likely that Tokyo would have been the target of the third atomic bomb later in August. Meanwhile, the Soviets would have been preparing to cross into northern Japan, which was nowhere near as defended as southern Japan...and of course, we would have been preparing to invade Japan, which would have made Normandy and Okinawa combined look like a Boy Scout hike. As much of a war criminal as Hirohito was, his realization that Japan was finished saved millions of lives in the end.
The non-military wanted to surrender before the bomb. They were just looking for a way to do it and save face (they had actually contacted Moscow to act as an intermediary).
The military did not want to surrender.
Who would have won the argument if we had not dropped the bomb? The military.
After we dropped the bomb, the Emporer finally stepped in and broke the stalemate and said they would surrender. What most people don’t know is that the night before Japan was to surrender, a group of military officers tried to break in and steal the Emporer’s already recorded surrender speech (scheduled to be aired the next day) and stage a coup. This was tantamount to blasphemy in Japan, yet some military officers still tried it.
Without the dropping of the bomb, the Emporer could have never of broken the stalemate and surrendered—the military establishment would never have stood for it.
Reference: The World at War (BBC documentary)
This theory has been around for a long time. The Japs felt the Russians breathing down the Salkalin Islands, knowing full well the brutalit that would ensue, after the Jap antics in Manchuria. The theory has alot of credibility.
Japan would have been divided, like Korea, had we not dropped the bomb.
Russia actually worked to prevent the end of the war so they could enter (and claim Japanese territory).
The Japanese govt had contacted the Russians to act as intermediaries between themselves and the allies about ending the war. The Russins told the Japanese they would do so, then did no such thing. Instead, they make preperations to enter the war against Japan on the date they had promised the other allies.
Which also points out that the Japanese didn’t fear Russia entering the war, because the Japanese thought the Russians were helping them negotiate an end to the war.
IIRC the ever opportunistic Soviets broke their 1938 nonaggression pact with Japan and invaded Manchuria just before the atomic bombings. And if I also recall correctly, the Soviets failed to annihilate the Japanese garrison in Manchuria & northeast China which survived to surrender to the Americans.
Revisionism’s fun, no doubt. Just ask anyone who thinks they can build a rep for new & independent thought just by turning historical “assumptions” on their ear. Nothing new here, Gabriel Kolko and William A. Williams preceded this modern Japanese revisionist by generations in blaming the U.S. for a supposed nuclear overreaction.
I’m somewhat of a fan of Hirohito, who looked at the Nagasaki destruction and said “Holy S**t!!” and risked his own life to force the Jap warlords to accept his concept of ceasing resistance to save the Japan home islands. BTW, it was so nice how they saved Tojo’s life after his botched suicide attempt, so the murdering little b@stard could swing for his crimes later.
They’re all as one in blaming America and floating candle lanterns on August 9th in a teary guiltfest, on the date most in Japan now believe that the “Pacific War” really began. It’s old and tiresome. Ask that History Hashimoto about the Rape of Nanking among other outreach efforts by the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
“The Atomic Bomb: Made in America, Tested in Japan”
"Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers."
- Emperor Hirohito
I think this remains an accurate assessment of Japanese thinking at the end of the war.
What the new revisionism must claim is that a Soviet invasion of Manchuria would have caused Japan to surrender, even if there had been no nuclear attacks.
Personally, I think the Soviets would have been in for a heck of a fight.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
The fact that despite overwhelming conventional forces the mere possession of nuclear capability by us kept Stalin from marching on Western Europe in 1945-46-47.
If it kept Stalin at bay, with all his armies and tanks,
why would it not do so against Japan, who rightly feared
that the next one might take out the Imperial Palace and
all it represented?
You could try your whole life, and not distill so much stupidity into so few words.
the war was long over before the A-bombs were dropped...if anything it was the napalming of most of the island months before the a-bombs were dropped that made the Japs finally awaken to the fact it was over as their war making capacity went down the crapper...people always talk about the A-bombs yet dismiss what napalming places like tokyo and other major cities really did to make the japs realize they could not end the war on their terms...
the a-bombs were just the whip cream on the horse sh!t- as the assertion the Russians entering the war forced the Japs hands is just ridiculous 1) the Russians got their revenge by taking japs in manchuria prisoner...2) the japs offered complete surrender right after the second bomb was dropped- not right after the russians entered the mix...
its sort of like these liberal dweebs who somehow want to give jimmah carter credit for negotiating a deal to free the hostages in iran who were sent home, oh yeh- one day after Reagan took office...
It is really a no-brainer.
The war was carried against Germany, only a holding action to protect Australia and New Zealand was waged against Japan.
That was certainly no secret.
Once Germany collapsed Japan was toast and knew it.
That the Russians were about to enter the war against her was a simple recognition of Germany’s final defeat.
Japan accepted surrender because it was finally offered to it on less than unconditional terms.
Because the US and england did not desire russia in the war.
The Mikado was allowed to remain, done deal, Japan surrendered.
What did the Japs strip the north of?
what even more people don’t know and in some cases are willfully ignorant towards is the fact many American POW’s were butchered by camp guards after the enraged jap guards found out the japs had surrendered...
its always been my contention had jap atrocities in WWII been broadcast to the same degree nazi atrocities had most of the population would have committed hari kari out of embarrassment or at the very least had Dugout Doug MacArthur not sold out, japan would’ve been a subservient country for a century...do some quick research on unit 731....
Not necessarily. Better to surrender to the Americans than the Soviets, the territory and human eating colossus. Fear of the Soviets may well have driven the Japanese into the American sphere, A-bombs and all. It's still fair to say that the A-bomb attacks ended the war. The Boston Glob can split all the hairs it wants.
First, by almost every measure, Japan was defeated and almost impotent to carry the battle to its enemies. The Allies were setting plans in place for an acknowledged bloodbath of an invasion. My own Father was on leave from the European Theater but was headed for the Pacific afterwards. What was keeping the war going was the firm Military Government of Japan, and the amply demonstrated Japanese willingness for suicide attacks.
Second, Japan, by this point, probably could not care in the least as to how many enemies it had attacking it. If you know that you are committing suicide as a culture, do you care about how many different uniforms they are wearing? Dead is dead.
Third, the only possible breaking point in the power structure of Japan was the non-governmental Emperor Hirohito. However pro-war he may have been earlier, at this point the Military Government felt sufficiently uneasy about his desires to basically have him under palace arrest (for his own safety). Yet it was through his penumbra of prestige and derived power that the government continued to rule.
This is what adds it up in my opinion that the A-Bomb drops shatter the ongoing blinkered desire to do an all-Japan "Suicide by Invasion" and allowed Hirohito sufficient room in the stunning revelation of a one-bomb equals one-city to do the paradigm shift of acceptable surrender. Hirohito only had to use this sudden two hits to make and broadcast his recording that called for general populace capitulation. My personal opinion is that the entry of the Soviet Union was hardly this kind of incident.
I suspect Uncle Joe would not have bothered to enter the war until the US had paid a very high price for the invasion. The bomb forced his hand.
I’m wondering if we took all the liberal collage professors, put them on a deserted Pacific island and nuked it, would that act as a deterrent for future liberal collage professors??
Define murder. Not just in the context of war, but in any context, military, medical, private, public, whatever: what is murder?
Thank you in advance. It'll help me see the basis of your moral reasoning.
Now, to the rest of it. I think a good case can be made for "combination of factors," including that the Soviets saw their chance (because of the obliterated cities) to jump in and take as much as they could before the war was ended. A "fire sale."
But yes, it was a war crime. The A-bomb was designed to be indiscriminate. The idea was city=target. This is criminal because intentionally indiscriminate killing obliterates moral distinction.
The same judgment may (arguably) NOT apply to the bombing of Tokyo and dozens of other Japanese cities, even though those bombings actually caused many times more deaths, cumulatively, than the two A-bombings,. This could be argued if the case could be made that these firebombing, while hugely destructive, were not intentionally designed to be indiscriminate.
Or of course you can argue for reduced individual moral culpability because of the extreme extenuating circumstances and the insane pressures of war. Actual individual moral culpability is for God to decide, and I'm not one to put one or another man into hellfire.
Or you can try to argue that "OK, it was a war crime, but war crimes are necessary": "have at it", full-blown consequentialism.
But to say "it was not a crime" defies reason, and deprives us of any basis on which to distinguish between justifiable acts of war, and murder.
The historical account is plausible but the extended conclusions are not. The US did not know what the Japanese government was thinking beyond that they were determined to fight on through an invasion. Moreover, if the Russians alone had prompted the surrender, they would have been able to insist on a large role in the occupation of Japan. In that context, dropping A-bombs was both reasonable and necessary to secure a lasting peace.
“Uncle Joe was shrewd.”
No he was not.
“Look at what he did in 1940 after the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact was signed with Germany...Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, all gobbled up in record time.”
The pact was signed in 1939. In June 1940, Stalin, the guy you credit with enormous foresight, was taken completely by surprise and had left the Soviet Union completely unprepared for the Nazi attack - which ensured that all the benefits of the previous year’s agreement were lost.
“But Churchill and Roosevelt worked out with him that he would break the pact and invade Japan three months after Germany surrendered.”
That was due to the West’s concern over Japan’s fanatical armed forces causing enormous casualties from an invasion force. At the time of the decision, the atom bomb was still untested. Churchill and FDR needed Soviet assistance taking down Japan. How does this credit Stalin with anything?
“Had the hard-liners in the Japanese government succeeded in continuing the war, its likely that Tokyo would have been the target of the third atomic bomb later in August.”
Factually false. Tokyo had been incinerated due to a mass aerial US led bombing campaign that culminated on March 10th 1945. It was not on the atom bomb targeting list. Kokura, which was originally the main target versus Nagasaki, would have been next.
There has been speculation for many years that Japan was working on the A-Bomb. An article appeared in World War II Magazine (July 1995) by Al Hemingway that indicates indeed, that Japan may have exploded an atomic bomb on a tiny islet in the Sea of Japan on August 12, 1945.
What Stalin did not foresee is France falling in six weeks, he wanted war in the West...he got it. But what he wanted was Britain, France and Germany to get into a protracted war of attrition.
Major Point: The Soviets only declared war after and because of the atomic bombings, they wanted to grab some real estate before Japan surrendered to us only.
Due to production limitations the U.S. wouldn't have nuclear material for another bomb until sometime in 1946. So the invasion of Japan would have started in the Fall of 1945 if Japan hadn't surrendered.
Bottom line, we felt guilty after dropping the bomb(s) and because of that did not seek legitimate war justice with the intensity that we did against Germany.
Crazy but true.
As I understood it at the time, Truman had for some time been trying without success to get Stalin to declare war on the Japanese.
With the dropping of the atomic bombs, Stalin did as you say; he decided to get in while he still could.
It was cause and effect. Without the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, Stalin would have continued to play cat and mouse with Truman. But he saw the end and acted.
“Uncle Joe was shrewd”
He sure was and very soon he would play that mafia bumpkin Truman for a total moron in his masterpiece, the Korean conflict.
Even IF the Japanese actually surrendered “more” because of the Soviet attack, or because Hirohito had a dream that night, or whatever, the REASON the USA dropped the bombs and the circumstances, would be the same. INCLUDING that there was no Soviet attack until we started the bombings.
Further, this article does not discuss the Japanese war council meetings in detail. It is my understanding they certainly discussed the atomic bombings and that the decision to surrender indeed revolved around the new weapon.
This doesn’t change a thing. US armed forces were not privvy to the Japanese war room discussion. They based their decisions on losses sustained at Okinawa, Pelilu, and Iwo Jima. When the Japanese surrendered, there were no more bombs that were dropped. Whether the reason for their surrender were the bombs or the Russians might be interesting historically, but did not bear on Truman’s decisionmaking at the time.
Look at the US Army in Europe during WW II..We accomplished amazing military victories. Yet the overwhelming number of American WW II histories, either ignore, or give lip service to the fact that the Russians chewed up over 50% of German military strength BEFORE we entered the war, and even after we entered..Africa, Italy, then France, the vast majority of German forces were committed to the east. The average America knows well the great battles of Western Europe, yet has NO idea of the monumental scale of the conflict in eastern Europe..FRance pales by comparison.
The US victory over the Germans was primarily one of logistics. We had more troops, more weapons, and a far better supply system.
Basil Liddell-Hart, viewed by many as perhaps the finest military analyst/historian of he 20th century, has written, in his History of WW II, that every time US and German forces facing each other were somewhat equally matched in troop strength and weapons, beginning with Kasserine Pass, the Germans won.
This is not to suggest that one wants a "fair fight" in war. Just the opposite.
So while the author of the article spouts the usual liberal tripe about the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, I suspect that there is a solid element of truth in the underlying thesis. The Japanese always had the majority of their forces in Manchuria..
Also, the Germans, realizing the Western Allies would be more lenient, surrendered in droves, whereas the Germans knew the fate against the Russians would be much more harsh and fought them tooth and nail, as the Red Army marched all the way to Berlin.
BS- America wanted a presence in the pacific to offset the growing communist threat from stalin and the potential of mao so dugout doug, who had been a complete disaster throughout WWII, thought the best way to do it was treat the japs with kid gloves...
in fact there is footage of german soldiers racing on foot at the end of the war to get out of soon to be soviet occupied areas into western occupied areas...
The atom bombs showed we could defend Japan if they surrendered to us. They’d have been crazy to surrender without that evidence.
“The Russians waited until they knew it was over then declared war to gobble up as much territory as they could.”