The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb:
The Gar Alperovitz Discussion
 


The Discussion Resulting from the Publication of Gar
Alperovitz's book, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,
and a Review of the Book by John Bonnett



Contents


THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB
,
GAR ALPEROVITZ, AND THE H-NET DEBATE
 


 

 

THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART I

by

Gar Alperovitz

 

Note: Discussion this past fall of my book THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB, and of a review by John Bonnett, generated extended and often emotional comment. I was traveling during much of this period. I have waited until now for an opportunity to join the discussion in part for this reason, but mainly for another: In my judgment some of the most important issues concerning the Hiroshima decision cannot be properly addressed without confronting the complexity of the evidence problems involved--and, too, the porous nature of the available record. I had been informed that detailed discussions of certain aspects of these issues were about to be posted and could thus be referred to in my response. The unexpected cut-off of H-DIPLO debate (and the Christmas/semester break) forced a bit of delay. However, the postings have appeared on H-JAPAN (and are taken up below). Through the good offices of Doug Long they (and the earlier H- DIPLO responses) are also available at the following Home Page:

http://www.doug-long.com/index.htm

In addition, those who do not have easy access to the above may receive copies of materials referred to in the following response (and the response itself) by request at this e-mail address: leee@igc.apc.org

Finally, many of the materials are available on the new H-DIPLO web-site:

http://h-net2.msu.edu/~diplo/balp.htm

*

The following is addressed above all to scholars who wish to grapple with the difficult problems of evidence and interpretation at the heart of the Hiroshima question. Too often electronic debate becomes bogged down in quotation slinging or-- as some participants in the recent debate openly acknowledge-- moral crusading. Accordingly:

(1) I will not take up some of the more inflammatory, ad hominem or petty criticism which has appeared on H-DIPLO;

(2) A separate memorandum, by Sanho Tree (who directed the archival research for THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB) has been prepared which uses the main postings to provide a guide to many of the issues, pro and con, raised in the debate to date. This includes far more detail on certain points than is possible in this response. In addition, the memorandum takes up gross misrepresentations which some participants seem bent on repeating even after their attention has been called to errors of fact. (The memorandum is also available at the above-cited Home Page and e-mail address.)

The overall goal is to attempt to move beyond increasingly sterile and time-consuming aspects of the current discussion--and to provide sufficient information to researchers, history teachers, and graduate students and undergraduates so that they can make informed judgments on the evidentiary questions for themselves. Our hope is that the materials will be of particular use to those teaching undergraduate and graduate courses which deal with the issue.

Given the amount of space devoted to postings by various critics, and the amount of material which must be dealt with, the following response has been organized into sections which will appear during a four-day period beginning today. Parts I, II and III deal with major themes of THE DECISION and the larger historic controversy. Part IV takes up certain additional issues involved in the debate.

*

I: CONTEXT. The central issues raised in several postings during last fall's debate--and, indeed, in connection with the Hiroshima bombing in general--are: (1) whether there were other ways to end the war without accepting the enormous costs of an invasion; (2) whether this was understood at the time.

The tone and argument of some of last fall's postings seemed to indicate that those writing believed it outrageous to suggest the bombings were unnecessary. Some went so far as to impugn motives and professional integrity, and a level of anger and venom quite unusual in serious scholarly discussion appeared regularly in the postings of one or two participants. Some postings also betrayed a lack of information on the general state of the professional debate. This was not true of all of the contributions, of course. Indeed, many raised important and insightful points. To put the central issues in perspective at the outset, however, let me simply note the following:

(A) One of the earliest and most respected students of the issue was Herbert Feis. Not only was Feis an important scholar, but as a former Special Assistant to Secretary of War Stimson (and other Cabinet members as well), he had privileged access to inside information and opinions. Here is one critical judgment of this leading scholar's 1961 book JAPAN SUBDUED: THE ATOMIC BOMB AND THE END OF THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC:

[B]y far the easiest [question] to answer, is whether it was ESSENTIAL to use the bomb in order to compel the Japanese to surrender on our terms within a few months. It was not ... There can hardly be a well-grounded dissent from the conclusion reached by the members of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey ... "that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

Feis subsequently eliminated any shred of ambiguity from this assessment on the basis of further research and reflection. When he revised his 1961 language in his 1966 book [THE ATOMIC BOMB AND THE END OF WORLD WAR II], he made the question tougher-- and the answer more explicit. Instead of asking whether the bomb was essential to compel "surrender on our terms within a few months," he now clarified that he meant "before [Japan] was invaded." And instead of the formulation "There can hardly be," he now wrote: "There CANNOT be a well-grounded dissent from the conclusion reached as early as 1945 by members of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey ...." [Emphasis added; THE DECISION, p. 645.]

One may disagree with such judgments, of course, or with the conclusions of the Strategic Bombing Survey itself; and, in the end, Feis came to feel that the decision made by the men he was so close to should nonetheless not be criticized. However, Feis's judgment on the central issue has for decades helped serious scholars establish some of the lines of legitimate debate (and, implicitly, of informed and uninformed criticism as well). Moreover, as we shall see in PART II, Feis's ultimate position on the most important issue of interpretation came extremely close to that of THE DECISION.

(B) A full-scale review of the modern literature concerning the central issues was published in DIPLOMATIC HISTORY in early 1990. Here is its conclusion:

Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why the Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. IT IS CLEAR THAT ALTERNATIVES TO THE BOMB EXISTED AND THAT TRUMAN AND HIS ADVISERS KNEW IT. [Emphasis added; DIPLOMATIC HISTORY, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 110.]

The writer is not a revisionist; he is J. Samuel Walker, Chief Historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Again, one may challenge Walker's reading of the literature as of that date, but the notion that to argue the bomb was not needed and that this was understood at the time is somehow outrageous--as some of the postings angrily suggest--is simply not in keeping with the conclusions of many, many studies.

(C) Related to the problem of tone is the fact that historically this issue was not always so polarized, nor was it always seen as a liberal-versus-conservative matter--and in my view it should not be seen as such now. Indeed, an important point underscored in THE DECISION is that early on many leading American conservatives were more concerned about the ethical issues involved than liberals. Again, simply to put the matter in perspective at the outset, we may note President Herbert Hoover's comment on hearing news of the bombings: "the use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul." [THE DECISION, p. 459.]

Similarly, ten days after the bombing David Lawrence, the conservative owner and editor of the UNITED STATES NEWS (soon to change its name to U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT) published a strongly worded two-page editorial:

Military necessity will be our constant cry in answer to criticism, but it will never erase from our minds the simple truth that we, of all civilized nations, though hesitating to use poison gas, did not hesitate to employ the most destructive weapon of all times indiscriminately against men, women and children. [THE DECISION, p. 438.]

Again, William Buckley's NATIONAL REVIEW--commenting on a statement by President Truman in 1958--observed:

... the question that must be at the back of the minds of the people of Hiroshima, and that ought to haunt Harry Truman: "Was it REALLY necessary? Might a mere demonstration of the bomb, followed by an ultimatum, have turned the trick?"

If there is a satisfactory answer to that question, the people of Hiroshima AND the people of the United States have a right to hear it. [THE DECISION, p. 566.]

One could easily go on. (See, for instance, Uday Mohan, H- DIPLO, Oct. 3, 1996.)

II: MILITARY NECESSITY. Centrally related to all of this is information we now have concerning the views of top World War II American military leaders. In this connection it is also important to note at the outset that the recent debate, like much traditional literature, has been characterized by a continued unwillingness to confront some of the most significant modern evidence.

The issue of what U.S. military leaders felt and advised occupies four chapters of THE DECISION. A fundamental claim of those who reject views like those cited above is that the use of the atomic bomb was a matter of military necessity. President Truman himself repeatedly stated that he made the atomic bomb decision because his military advisers told him it was absolutely essential to do so. [THE DECISION, pp. 516-8, 521.]

If so, one would expect to find evidence of this--both at the time and after-the-fact.

(A) The rather stark truth, however, is that with one very "iffy" exception [THE DECISION, pp. 358-65] virtually all the important high-level World War II military leaders who had access to the relevant top secret information are on record as stating that the use of the atomic bomb was not a matter of military necessity. Indeed, many repeatedly, forcefully and consistently stated positions which in today's parlance would be termed strongly "revisionist."

An important contention of THE DECISION is that this fact can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug on the basis of one or another speculative theory as to why all these men would say what they did--and say it so regularly and so often, both privately and publicly, even while President Truman held office and was in position to decide issues of great importance to the various services:

Earlier in the postwar era most of the military statements were derived from various memoir accounts. However, we now have information from many, many sources, both private and public, which corroborates the fact that such military leaders simply did not agree with the official rationale for the bombings. Among the sources are internal military history interviews, letters, public interviews, diaries, speeches, statements by family members, statements by staff members, etc. Some of the evidence is familiar to many; some is less well known. Since the issue is so important and so poorly understood, let me reproduce a sampling of the (old and new) material presented in THE DECISION:

* In his memoirs Admiral William D. Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff--and the top official who presided over meetings of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined U.S.-U.K. Chiefs of Staff--minced few words:

[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. . . .

[I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children. [THE DECISION, p. 3.]

* The commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement only eleven days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a NEW YORK TIMES reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said:

The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air. [THE DECISION, p. 334.]

In his 1949 memoirs Arnold observed that "it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse." [THE DECISION, p. 334.]

* Arnold's deputy, Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, summed up his understanding this way in an internal military history interview:

Arnold's view was that it [the dropping of the atomic bomb] was unnecessary. He said that he knew the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military's job to question it. [THE DECISION, p. 335.]

Eaker reported that Arnold told him:

When the question comes up of whether we use the atomic bomb or not, my view is that the Air Force will not oppose the use of the bomb, and they will deliver it effectively if the Commander in Chief decides to use it. But it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion. [THE DECISION, p. 335.]

* On September 20, 1945 the famous "hawk" who commanded the Twenty-First Bomber Command, Major General Curtis E. LeMay (as reported in THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE):

said flatly at one press conference that the atomic bomb "had nothing to do with the end of the war." He said the war would have been over in two weeks without the use of the atomic bomb or the Russian entry into the war. [THE DECISION, p. 336.]

The text of the press conference provides these details:

LEMAY: The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.

THE PRESS: You mean that, sir? Without the Russians and the atomic bomb?
. . .
LEMAY: The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all. [THE DECISION, p. 336.]

* Personally dictated notes found in the papers of former Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman describe a private 1965 dinner with General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, who in July 1945 commanded the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force (USASTAF) and was subsequently chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. Also with them at dinner was Spaatz's one-time deputy commanding general at USASTAF, Frederick L. Anderson. Harriman PRIVATELY noted:

Both men . . . felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and neither knew why the second bomb was used. [THE DECISION, p. 337.]

Harriman's private notes also recall his own understanding:

I know this attitude is correctly described, because I had it from the Air Force when I was in Washington in April '45. [THE DECISION, p. 337.]

* On the 40th Anniversary of the bombing former President Richard M. Nixon reported that:

[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off. . . . [THE DECISION, p. 352.]

* The day after Hiroshima was bombed MacArthur's pilot, Weldon E. Rhoades, noted in his diary:

General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb]. I had a long talk with him today, necessitated by the impending trip to Okinawa. . . . [THE DECISION, p. 350.]

* Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings stated:

The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war. . . .The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan. . . . [THE DECISION, p. 329; see additionally THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 6, 1945.]

* Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946:

The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before. [THE DECISION, p. 331.]

* In his "third person" autobiography (co-authored with Walter Muir Whitehill) the commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated:

The President in giving his approval for these [atomic] attacks appeared to believe that many thousands of American troops would be killed in invading Japan, and in this he was entirely correct; but King felt, as he had pointed out many times, that the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials. [THE DECISION, p. 327.]

* Private interview notes taken by Walter Whitehill summarize King's feelings quite simply as: "I didn't like the atom bomb or any part of it." [THE DECISION, p. 329; see also pp. 327-329. See below for more on King's view.]

* In a 1985 letter recalling the views of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, former Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy elaborated on an incident that was

very vivid in my mind. . . . I can recall as if it were yesterday, [Marshall's] insistence to me that whether we should drop an atomic bomb on Japan was a matter for the President to decide, not the Chief of Staff since it was not a military question . . . the question of whether we should drop this new bomb on Japan, in his judgment, involved such imponderable considerations as to remove it from the field of a military decision. [THE DECISION, p. 364.]

* In a separate memorandum written the same year McCloy recalled: "General Marshall was right when he said you must not ask me to declare that a surprise nuclear attack on Japan is a military necessity. It is not a military problem." [THE DECISION, p. 364.]

There is a long-standing debate about whether or not General Eisenhower--as he repeatedly claimed--urged Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson (and possibly President Truman) not to use the atomic bomb. In interviews with his biographer, Stephen Ambrose, he was insistent that he urged his views to one or another of these men at the time. [THE DECISION, p. 358 n.] Quite apart from what he said at the time, there is no doubt, however, about his own repeatedly stated opinion on the central question:

* In his memoirs Eisenhower reported the following reaction when Secretary of War Stimson informed him the atomic bomb would be used:

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. . . . [THE DECISION, p. 4.]

* Eisenhower made similar public and private statements on numerous occasions. He put it bluntly in a 1963 interview, stating quite simply: ". . . it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." [THE DECISION, p. 356.] (Several of the occasions during which Eisenhower offered similar judgments are discussed at length in THE DECISION [pp. 352-358].)

(B) It is sometimes urged that there is no record of any of the military men directly advising President Truman not to use the atomic bomb--and that this must mean that they felt its use was justified at the time. However, this is speculation. The fact is there is also no record of military leaders advising President Truman TO USE THE BOMB:

We simply have little solid information one way or the other on what was said by top military leaders on the key question at the time: There are very few direct contemporaneous records on this subject. And there is certainly no formal recommendation that the atomic bomb be used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

On the other hand, what little contemporaneous evidence we do have strongly suggests that BEFORE the atomic bomb was used at least two of the four members of the Joint Chiefs did not believe that military considerations required the destruction of Japanese cities without advance warning. Here, for instance, is how General George C. Marshall put it in a discussion more than two months before Hiroshima was destroyed (McCloy memo, May 29, 1945):

... he thought these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave--telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers.... Every effort should be made to keep our record of warning clear. We must offset by such warning methods the opprobrium which might follow from an ill-considered employment of such force. [THE DECISION, p. 53.]

The President's Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy--the man who presided over meetings of the Joint Chiefs--noted in his diary of June 18, 1945 (seven weeks PRIOR TO the bombing of Hiroshima):

It is my opinion at the present time that a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression. [THE DECISION, p. 324.]

(Leahy also stated subsequently something which should be obvious--namely that the Chief of Staff regularly made his views known to the President. His well-documented comments in a meeting with the President urging assurances for the Emperor this same day--June 18--are only one indication of this. Although we have no records of their private conversations, we know that the two men met to discuss matters of state every morning at 9:45 a.m. [THE DECISION, pp. 324-6.])

There is also substantial, but less direct evidence (including some which seems to have come from President Truman himself) that General Arnold argued explicitly that the atomic bomb was not needed [THE DECISION, pp. 322-4; 335-7]--and as noted above, that Arnold instructed his deputy Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker that although he did not wish to press the point, he did not believe the bomb was needed. As also noted above, in his memoirs Arnold stated that "it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse." [THE DECISION, p. 334.] (In this connection, as we shall discuss in Part III, it is commonly forgotten that by the time Hiroshima was bombed orders had already been given to alter targeting priorities so as to down-play city bombing. Although there were some difficulties in the field, the new priorities were on the verge of being moved into implementation as the war ended. [THE DECISION, p. 342-3.])

We have very little direct evidence concerning the contemporaneous views of the fourth member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral King. As noted, in his postwar memoirs King said the bomb was unnecessary because he believed a blockade strategy would have ended the war without an invasion. Although at the June 18 meeting King did not argue against the invasion, evidence from King's deputy chief of staff, Rear Admiral Bernhard H. Bieri, suggests that prior to the bombing King and his staff seemed to believe the war could be ended before Russia entered in August; and the well-informed and well-connected naval historian E.B. Potter explains the brevity of a 1945 planning meeting in San Francisco between King and Nimitz in this way: It may well have "reflected the near-conviction in the minds of both Nimitz and King [even before the atomic test] that neither Olympic nor Coronet would ever take place." [THE DECISION, pp. 328-9.]

Such indirect information suggests it is not unreasonable to think that King's judgment prior to the bombings may well also have been that the war could be ended early on without an invasion and without the atomic bomb. As noted, interview notes taken by Walter Whitehill summarize King's feelings quite simply as: "I didn't like the atom bomb or any part of it." Such a judgment is reinforced when other aspects of the problem are considered: So far as I am aware King never publicly addressed the central question of whether the war could be ended by changing the terms and/or awaiting the Russian attack. It was well understood, of course, that both a modification of terms and the shock of the Russian attack would greatly add to the factors which would help produce a Japanese surrender. (See Part II; on the views of the military in general, see also Thad Williamson, H-DIPLO, Oct. 3 and Oct. 23, 1996; and Kathryn C. Morris, H- JAPAN, Nov. 9, 1996.)

(C) All of the above--and detailed information presented in THE DECISION [pp. 319-70] on the views of staff assistants, deputies and others working closely with the Joint Chiefs--makes it extremely difficult to believe that the advice given to the President by his top military leaders at the time was that he had no alternative but to use the atomic bomb.

Moreover--and this is crucial--as noted in connection with our limited information regarding King's views, the question does not turn on the traditional debate between blockade versus strategic bombing versus invasion. Although debate over such issues was important earlier in the war, BY JULY 1945 the terms of the debate at the very highest level were quite different; they involved whether the war could be ended through a combination of assurances for the Emperor and the impact of the Russian attack--a matter we shall shortly take up at some length.

(D) It is possible that all of these men were simply taking positions which reflected their own service's interests, as so many critics would apparently like to believe. Contrary to some of the postings, THE DECISION takes up this possibility [pp. 366- 69]. However, consider the implications: What is being claimed is that for narrow service interests these leading World War II military figures all were willing to state publicly (and privately) that their nation and their President unnecessarily killed very, very large numbers of civilians. Moreover, some of the severest challenges to the Hiroshima decision were made while Truman was still in office--hardly a politic way of gaining additional funds or credit for a particular branch of service.

Consider also that one of these leading military figures was also President of the United States--and that Eisenhower made his public statements at the height of the Cold War.

Consider further that those who urge various theories of why the military leaders said what they said are for the most part simply speculating as to motives: There is no direct evidence that the top military leaders were not telling the truth.

I noted above that judgments must be made about complex matters of evidence in situations where there are significant gaps in the record. This is one such case. The most reasonable interpretation of these various statements, I submit, is that the military leaders simply meant what they said.

Moreover, given that there is again no solid evidence--only speculation--to the contrary, it is also not unreasonable to assume that such repeatedly stated views were close to what they felt at the time (or, minimally, not bald-faced lies in direct contradiction to what they had privately advised the President of the United States on so important a matter).

At the outset, however, a simple contention: It is time to get beyond easy dismissals of military views on the basis of speculation which favors critics but disregards the frequency, depth, and consistency of the statements--and, one might add, the honor and integrity of the men involved as well.

(E) Two final points in this regard:

To more fully evaluate the position of the military-- especially given the challenges presented by the incomplete record--we must consider other alternatives being considered at the level of the President, a subject we turn to in the next Part.

 

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Part II of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART II

by

Gar Alperovitz

 

In Part I of this response, I noted that many scholars now judge the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to have been unnecessary--and that debate over this issue was once not nearly so polarized as it now is. Indeed, leading conservatives and military officials were commonly among those most adamant in their criticism of the decision. I also pointed out that the evidence now available makes it extremely difficult to believe that President Truman was advised by his top military leaders that his only choice was to use the atomic bomb or invade--and that it was time to confront, rather than evade, this evidence.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Hiroshima debate has been the failure on all sides in recent years to acknowledge --and honor--the older tradition of military professionalism which found it unworthy to attack civilians unnecessarily. Certainly not all top World War II figures were troubled by the bombings, but as we have seen, many traditionalists shared something of the depression and disgust expressed by Leahy, Eisenhower, and others.

In this Part let us turn to the options available to the President--and again, let me especially stress the difficulties which the complexities of the record present: Many of the most important conversations regarding alternatives clearly occurred privately between the President and his chief adviser, Secretary of State Byrnes. Some of these were aboard the Augusta on the Atlantic crossing to and from Potsdam: The two men shared adjoining state-rooms, and we know from several documents that numerous formal and informal discussions occurred at this time. Many other conversations undoubtedly occurred during the Potsdam Conference itself; the two old friends shared a villa, regularly ate meals together, and drove to and from the meetings together. There is also evidence of the suppression of evidence in certain possibly related instances. [For examples, see THE DECISION, pp. 97, 196, 204-205, 237, 304-306, 602.]

Given the spotty nature of the evidence concerning many important issues, the only way to proceed is to assemble whatever can be found from various diverse sources--and then to make informed judgments on the issues involved, qualifying these when appropriate, defining gaps in our knowledge when this is necessary. In this area especially, those interested are urged to consult the longer discussion in THE DECISION, and for additional detailed analyses of the evidence, the following submissions: Kai Bird, H-DIPLO, Oct. 1, 1996; Uday Mohan, H-DIPLO, Oct. 3, 1996, and H-JAPAN, Nov. 30, 1996; Thad Williamson, H-DIPLO, Oct. 3 and 23, 1996; Sanho Tree, H-DIPLO, Oct. 10, 1996; and Kathryn C. Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9 and 10, 1996.

*

III. Alternatives. Considerable confusion is reflected in some of the postings about a second major contention of THE DECISION. It is, in fact, straightforward--namely that President Truman was advised that there were other alternatives available which seemed likely to end the war without an invasion and without having to use the atomic bomb on a largely civilian target without warning. Moreover, there were roughly three months to test this advice between early August (when the bombings actually occurred) and November 1, the first date a Kyushu invasion could begin.

(A) One strand of confusion concerns the Emperor issue: The argument of THE DECISION begins with--but does not end with--the well-known judgments of men like Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew that a change of terms assuring Japan that their Emperor would not be displaced or harmed seemed likely to end the war. The evidence on this issue is discussed at very great length. (See for example, THE DECISION, pp. 31-80; 223-238; 243-49, 297- 318.) I will not reproduce all the well-known and less well-known material here. However, let me stress a distinction between two quite separate elements of the argument which is often overlooked:

Throughout the Truman Administration there was a very clear understanding (and the President was so advised) of one major NEGATIVE point--namely that the war would go on if he did NOT alter the terms. (See below; also see Morris reference above.) The Joint Staff Planners put it this way as early as April 25, 1945:

Unless a definition of unconditional surrender can be given which is acceptable to the Japanese, there is no alternative to annihilation and no prospect that the threat of absolute defeat will bring about capitulation. [THE DECISION, p. 42.]

We also know--contrary to this judgment--that President Truman (on the advice of Secretary of State Byrnes) eliminated the recommended language of paragraph 12 of the Potsdam Proclamation which would have provided Japan assurances concerning the Emperor.

Two other important points are related to this:

  1. When he issued the Potsdam Proclamation in its final form the President's diary makes clear that he understood it was highly unlikely that it could be accepted by the Japanese. [THE DECISION, p. 303]
  2. The President is on record at several points during the summer of 1945 indicating that he did not see insuperable political obstacles to modifying the surrender terms along the proposed lines. [THE DECISION, pp. 46, 67-72, 74-5, 78, 311, 417, 649-650; see below for further discussion.]

Thus, President Truman made changes in the Proclamation which made it all but impossible for Japan to accept the surrender demand it contained--and, at the same time, the evidence is that he personally did not believe offering the requisite assurances was politically impossible.

(B) The President was also advised--POSITIVELY--by men like Grew and Stimson of the positive significance of a change of terms. This is a slightly different but equally important point. Here is how Secretary of War Stimson put it to President Truman in a memorandum urging that a warning containing assurances for the Emperor be issued. The date is July 2, 1945, more than a month before Hiroshima was destroyed:

I believe Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater extent than is indicated by our current press and other current comment. [THE DECISION, p. 77.]

I think the Japanese nation has the mental intelligence and versatile capacity in such a crisis to recognize the folly of a fight to the finish and to accept the proffer of what will amount to an unconditional surrender; . . . [THE DECISION, p. 77.]

(C) In fact, President Truman was urged to modify the surrender terms on numerous occasions during the summer of 1945-- and by numerous people. What follows is a list of some of the (known) efforts. (For a discussion of the nuances of the various positions see references provided for the summary on pp. 298-301 of THE DECISION; see also Kathryn C. Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9 and 10, 1996.) Direct approaches were made:

  1. by Acting Secretary of State Grew on May 28, 1945;
  2. by former President Herbert Hoover in a May 30, 1945 memorandum;
  3. by Grew again on June 13, 1945;
  4. by Counsel to the President Samuel I. Rosenman on June 17, 1945;
  5. by Grew once more on June 18, 1945;
  6. by Assistant Secretary of War McCloy on June 18, 1945;
  7. by Admiral Leahy on June 18, 1945;
  8. by the State Department in a formal recommendation of June 30, 1945;
  9. by Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bard on July 1, 1945 (it appears from certain evidence);
  10. by Secretary of War Stimson (with the support of Secretary of the Navy Forrestal and Grew) on July 2, 1945;
  11. by Stimson again on July 16, 1945;
  12. by Churchill on July 18, 1945;
  13. by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 18, 1945;
  14. by Stimson on July 24, 1945.

In addition to these direct approaches to the President, the then Secretary of State Edward Stettinius had recommended a clarification of the formula on June 15, and the Joint Chiefs had done so using a slightly different formula on June 9 (and, as we have previously noted in Part I, did so again, both directly and indirectly through the British Chiefs of Staff and Churchill in the July 16-18 time frame). [See THE DECISION, pp. 56-7, 245-48, 299-301.]

*

As is well known, lower level officials like Assistant Secretaries of State Acheson and MacLeish, and former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, had reservations about such assurances. However: (1) the positions taken by these men are commonly exaggerated and were far more qualified than is often understood; and--most important--(2) there is little evidence their views were communicated to the President. [THE DECISION, pp. 306-11; see also Mohan, H-JAPAN, Nov. 30, 1996 and Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9, 1996.] In general, although some political considerations were undoubtedly involved, as THE DECISION shows, the evidence now available makes it clear that they were hardly decisive. [For further discussion of these issues, see THE DECISION, pp. 44-5, 46, 65-6, 67-72, 74-5, 78, 228-29, 311-14, 417, 635, 649-50; for a discussion of press opinion, see Mohan, H-DIPLO, Oct. 3, 1996.]

A related point: Some modern students of Japanese history, like 1945 American liberals, hold that the preservation of the Emperor's position had disastrous (highly conservative) postwar political implications. Some argue (or imply) that, therefore, the position of the Emperor should not have been clarified. Let me simply underscore the importance of distinguishing carefully between the question of (a) whether assurances were required to bring about an end to the fighting, and/or (b) whether this had positive or negative implications for postwar Japan. Confusing these two questions has sometimes led those who dislike the Emperor system to cross the line and imply that clarification of the Emperor's position should not have been attempted even if this meant the war would go on and bombings would go forward. (My personal sympathies are with those who oppose the Emperor system; at the same time I do not see how one can argue against a clarification of terms without simultaneously accepting that this meant the bombings would then inevitably have had to go forward.)

*

IV. Having noted the above, it is important to understand-- as some of last fall's postings clearly did not--that the argument of THE DECISION does not rest upon information we now have concerning advice to the President on the importance of assurances to the Emperor. Indeed, this is not its central contention. The main argument of the book is that U.S. policy- makers judged that assurances for the Emperor, when combined with the dramatic impact of the forthcoming Russian Declaration of War against Japan, would--taken together--likely bring about an end to the fighting without an invasion.

Utilizing a variety of sources and evidence developed over the last decades, THE DECISION closely analyzes the information we now have on how various officials judged the expected impact of a Russian Declaration of War (understood throughout the spring and summer as likely to occur in early August, roughly 90 days after the collapse of Germany).

(A) THE DECISION describes and delineates what I have called the "two-step" advice given at the time--namely the judgment that (1) when the massive but still neutral Red Army attacked in early August (step one), this would force Japan to realize the inevitability of defeat; and once this happened then (2) a clarification of the terms in favor of the Emperor (step two) would bring an end to the fighting.

(The reverse possibility was obviously also implicit in the positions taken by Grew, Stimson and others: Early clarification of the terms, followed by the shock of the Russian declaration of war. However, since (1) some of these men thought a clarification alone might end the war--AND POSSIBLY THEREBY KEEP THE RUSSIANS OUT OF THE FIGHTING; and, since (2) their recommendation concerning an early clarification was rejected, discussion of what might be called the "reverse two-step" possibility was not extensive.)

(B) With the exception of one or two authors (see Part III), the evolution of U.S. judgments concerning the likely impact of the Russian attack has been dealt with rather superficially in much modern work. THE DECISION traces the evidence now available in order to show that the initial advice that the Red Army would be important mainly to pin down Japanese armies in Manchuria largely gave way--as the spring and summer progressed--to the strategic judgment that the shock of the Red Army attack also might very well force a surrender on its own or when combined with assurances for the Emperor.

Here is only a brief selection of some of the evidence concerning this key argument of the book which has escaped notice in the recent postings:

* As early as April 29, 1945 the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that increasing "numbers of informed Japanese, both military and civilian, already realize the inevitability of absolute defeat."

The Committee further advised that:

The increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment) should make this realization widespread within the year.

HOWEVER, the JIC pointed out, a Russian decision to join with U.S. and Britain in the war against Japan would have enormous force--and would dramatically alter the equation:

The entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with the foregoing factors, convince most Japanese AT ONCE of the inevitability of complete defeat. [Emphasis added. THE DECISION, p. 113.]

It went on (step two):

If . . . the Japanese people, as well as their leaders, were persuaded both that absolute defeat was inevitable and that unconditional surrender did not imply national annihilation, surrender might follow fairly quickly. [THE DECISION, p. 114.]

The above advice, to repeat, was given in April. Intercepted messages added to this understanding in the period from May to August. Simply by way of illustration, a June 1945 intercept--"Substance of Ambassador Sato's 8 June message to Foreign Minister Togo"--contained the following passage:

[I]f Russia by some chance should suddenly decide to take advantage of our weakness and intervene against us with force of arms, we would be in a completely hopeless situation. It is clear as day that the Imperial Army in Manchukuo would be completely unable to oppose the Red Army which has just won a great victory and is superior to us on all points. [THE DECISION, pp. 121-122.]

* On June 18 General Marshall advised President Truman directly that "the impact of Russian entry [into the war] on the already hopeless Japanese may well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan." (Note the word "if" in this assessment--and the date: Marshall's advice was given to Truman seven weeks before the bombing--and almost a month before important news arrived of the Emperor's personal intervention to attempt to end the war, AND at a time when there were still almost four and a half months to go before the Kyushu invasion could begin. [THE DECISION, p. 123.])

Also note the words "at that time." From many documents it can be shown that this phrase refers to early August--the expected time of the Russian attack. Some writers have suggested that this passage might mean that the "levering" would only occur if a landing actually took place, an understanding which is difficult to square with a close reading of the text: Since "at that time" is early August it is logically impossible to make the "levering" dependent upon a subsequent landing which can take place only three months later in November. [For further discussion of this issue--including the known judgment and role of the Army planner, General A. Lincoln, who prepared Marshall's briefing for the President, see THE DECISION, pp. 359-60; see also Kathryn C. Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9, 1996.]

* On July 8 the U.S.-British Combined Intelligence Committee completed a formal "Estimate of the Enemy Situation." This document included the following assessment:

We believe that a considerable portion of the Japanese population now consider absolute military defeat probable. The increasing effects of sea blockade and the cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, which has already rendered millions homeless and has destroyed from 25% to 50% of the builtup areas of Japan's most important cities, should make this realization increasingly general.

The Committee also stressed the judgment that:

An entry of the Soviet Union into the war would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of complete defeat. [THE DECISION, p. 227.]

* At Potsdam in mid-July Britain's General Hastings Ismay, chief of staff to the minister of defence, summarized the conclusions of the above U.S.-U.K. intelligence study for Prime Minister Churchill in this way:

. . . [W]hen Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor. [THE DECISION, p. 246.]

(For distortions in some postings concerning the meaning of this particular document--and neglect of the difference between bottom-line considerations concerning the Emperor and "if possible" objectives the Japanese also would have liked, also see Morris posting noted above. We shall return to this issue in Part IV.)

(Related to this: it may be worth noting in passing that, contrary to some postings, the idea of "shock" did not depend on surprise. As the above evidence suggests, it was simply that it was obvious that when the massive but still neutral Red Army joined the fray, this fact could not help but have enormous political-military implications.)

* It is now also clear that on several occasions President Truman made it abundantly clear that the main reason he went to Potsdam to meet Stalin was to make sure the Russians would, in fact, enter the war. As he later stated:

If the test [of the atomic bomb] should fail, then it would be even more important to us to bring about a surrender before we had to make a physical conquest of Japan. [THE DECISION, p. 124.]

* After Stalin confirmed that the Red Army would in fact enter the war (with roughly a one week delay), the President's diary shows him writing:

Most of the big points are settled. He'll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.

The next day--in an exuberant letter to his wife --Truman wrote that with the Russian declaration of war:

. . . I've gotten what I came for--Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it. . . . I'll say that we'll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won't be killed! [THE DECISION, p. 241-2.]

(C) Other important evidence cited in THE DECISION adds to the picture of a President fully aware that Japan was trying to get out of the war. For instance, on July 18 the President referred to the latest intercepted message in his diary, characterizing it as the "telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace. . ." [THE DECISION, p. 244.] Even more revealing is a diary entry by Walter Brown (assistant to Secretary of State James F. Byrnes). The entry reports on a meeting aboard the Augusta concerning new intelligence information received just after the close of the Potsdam Conference. It offers the following insight into how President Truman, Secretary James F. Byrnes, and Admiral Leahy viewed the situation three days before Hiroshima was bombed:

Aboard Augusta/ President, Leahy, JFB agrred [SIC] Japas [SIC] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden. [THE DECISION, p. 415.]

(Virtually all of the postings have so far continued to ignore this important document.)

(D) Let me note a related point which has also been overlooked: Since it was fully understood that Japan was attempting to approach Moscow to negotiate an end to the war-- that, indeed, keeping Russia neutral represented Japan's last frail hope--it was obvious that once Russia simply made its position known this ALONE would have enormous impact. A mere signal of Russia's intent--even before Moscow actually entered the war--would shatter the basis of the theory that Japan could continue fighting without having to face the Red Army. It would confront the already tottering Japanese with the prospect of now having to deal with the reality that the third major ally--fresh from its victory over Hitler's Germany--was about to add its power to that of the U.S. and Britain.

Indeed, AS EARLY AS SEPTEMBER 1944, Prime Minister Churchill, argued that once the Russians merely declared their intentions, this ALONE might well be decisive. [THE DECISION, p. 89.]

It also is often overlooked that one of the reasons the Potsdam Proclamation was issued from the meeting of the Big Three, was precisely because it was understood that this would present Japan with a powerful indication of Russia's intention-- no matter what was formally said.

Moreover, before the atomic bomb was tested, the draft Potsdam Proclamation included Russia as one of the signatories-- which, of course, would have made the situation facing Japan crystal clear.

However, at Potsdam--after news arrived of the successful atomic test--it was decided (on the advice of Byrnes it appears clear) to eliminate Russia as one of the signatories of the Potsdam Proclamation, thus eliminating the force of this important "signal" (and, incidentally, greatly confusing Japan as to Russia's intentions). [On the above points, see THE DECISION, pp. 267-77, 377-81, 405, 413-15.]

V. Given all of the above--the previously cited evidence concerning military views, the evidence concerning options, and the evidence concerning the President's own understanding--and with still some three months to go--and despite the many gaps in the evidence--it is now extremely difficult to believe it was judged that using the atomic bomb against a largely civilian target without warning was seen as the only alternative to an invasion which could only begin in November.

Moreover, we also now know that AFTER the bomb was successfully tested, the United States actively attempted to stall--rather than encourage--the Russian attack. (Although this point is widely acknowledged by specialists in the field, some participants in the recent debate seem not to have kept up with the literature in this connection):

JFB still hoping for time, believing after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press for claims against China. [THE DECISION, p. 268.]

Byrnes said he was most anxious to get the Japanese affair over before the Russians got in, with particular reference to Dairen and Port Arthur. Once in there, he felt, it would not be easy to get them out. [THE DECISION, p. 274.]

The method for attempting to delay the Red Army involved a manipulation of the so-called Soong negotiations. [THE DECISION, pp. 267-73.] The following representative statements by important modern scholars bespeak a now well-understood consensus:

In other words, even though it was understood that the Russian attack would have a devastating impact on the Japanese, at the last minute U.S. policy-makers attempted to hold this action back. As noted, they also had previously stricken the other main element of the two-step strategy from the Potsdam Proclamation (assurances for the Emperor). As Martin Sherwin has written, the use of the atomic bomb was "preferred." [THE DECISION, p. 662.]

#

All materials cited in the above are available at the following Home Page: http://www.doug-long.com/index.htm. They may also be obtained by request via e-mail by clicking: leee@igc.apc.org.

Many are also now available on the new H-DIPLO web-site:

http://h-net2.msu.edu/~diplo/balp.htm

 

Please click to go to the following:

Part III of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART III

by

Gar Alperovitz

 

In Parts I and II of this response I have reviewed the argument of THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB and some of the evidence upon which it is based which has been ignored or mis- represented in the recent debate. The central thrust of this is that President Truman was advised that he had alternatives to using the new weapon, that a "two-step" combination of (1) the expected early August Red Army attack together with (2) assurances for the Japanese Emperor seemed likely to end the war. Furthermore, there were still three months available to test whether this was so before a Kyushu invasion could begin in November.

The evidence now available also indicates that once the atomic test proved successful, there was a strong desire to discard the Russian option--and indeed, now, to stall or possibly even prevent a Red Army attack. At the same time, assurances for the Emperor were eliminated from the Potsdam Proclamation. Thus both elements of the "two-step" strategy urged during the summer were explicitly rejected and the atomic bombings allowed to go forward.

In this Part I will take up certain questions concerning Japanese decision-making--and what currently available information from Japanese sources suggests as to the implications with regard to the main Hiroshima issues. Before doing so, however, let me deal with one or two related issues:

First, contrary to one or two hostile postings, the argument is not--and could not be--that President Truman was "certain" the war would end on the above basis. Self-evidently, there can never be absolute certainty on such issues; nor does THE DECISION make such a claim. [See for example, pp. 415, 644-45; also see Thad Williamson, H-DIPLO, Oct. 23, 1996.] What the evidence suggests is that--contrary to the oft-repeated and widely believed official rationale for the bomb's use--those who made the decision did not do so (in the last half of July and in early August) because they saw it as the only way to avoid an invasion which in any event could not begin until November.

The basic question is whether--given the probabilities and the advice as to available options--two largely civilian cities should have been destroyed without warning. Nor is this simply a matter of hindsight--or at least that is what some of the evidence we have strongly suggests. To recall, on May 29, 1945 General Marshall focussed on precisely this issue. He believed

. . . these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave--telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers. . . . Every effort should be made to keep our record of warning clear. We must offset by such warning methods the opprobrium which might follow from an ill- considered employment of such force. [McCloy memo; THE DECISION, p. 53.]

We also noted that by June 18, 1945 the President's Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy--the man who presided over meetings of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined U.S.-U.K.Chiefs-- recorded his own judgment in his diary (seven weeks prior to the bombing of Hiroshima):

It is my opinion at the present time that a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression. [THE DECISION, p. 324.]

*

VI. One of the most strident charges made by hostile critics in the recent debate is that (in their opinion) THE DECISION does not deal adequately with information concerning Japanese decision-making. I will discuss below the extreme form this argument has taken in the hands of one or two critics (including attempts to impugn personal motives, claim conscious evasion of evidence, and assert professional malfeasance). Before doing so, however, let me note the following basic points:

(A) THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB is a book devoted to understanding the process by which top American officials came to the decision to employ atomic weapons against Japanese cities in the summer of 1945. The central question in such a study is how judgments were formed on the basis of information available to the men making the decisions at the time. THE DECISION concentrates on a day by day--indeed, in some cases hour by hour --exploration of the evolving stages of American understanding and choices. The book runs to more than 800 pages; another 400 were cut in negotiations with the publisher.

Some critics seem to think that because THE DECISION focusses primary attention on what we now know about the American decision-making process this implies that what was going on within Japan was unimportant. It is not; nor are such matters neglected in the book. The evolution and complications of Japanese decision-making, however, clearly involve somewhat different questions--and must be treated in a different manner.

THE DECISION does not pretend to be a full-length investigation of internal Japanese developments. It deals with what is known about Japanese decision-making (and with what we know from after-the-fact Japanese information) through an analysis of modern Japanese and English language specialist literature. The review is focussed on a well-known list of the critical questions which have been debated in connection with the Hiroshima bombing. (For instance, whether a surrender could only have been arranged on the basis of satisfying four conditions rather than one, whether the war would have ended before a November invasion in any event, etc.) [THE DECISION, pp. 627-43.]

(B) Of course, a book of equal length could be written on the day by day evolution of Japanese decision-making. (In fact, at least two, to my knowledge, are currently in the works by American and Japanese specialists.) Quite apart from those who would have preferred that I write a different book or use the space available in different ways, some critics seem also to have been confused by the rather obvious and seemingly straightforward organizational design of THE DECISION: Given that the book's primary aim is to understand how American policy-makers came to order the use of the atomic bomb, this subject forms the central text. Everything which occurred in time AFTER the decision was actually made--including Japanese reactions to it, public discussion of it, and historical studies related to it--also appears AFTER the first major section of the book. (Since certain critics have ignored another obvious point, let me also point out that a number of quite specific footnotes and reference notes are presented at key points in the argument to make sure the reader is aware that further information is available in subsequent sections of the book. See for example, footnotes on p. 417 and 419 of THE DECISION.)

(C) Some of the postings seem to imply that an analysis of how American policy-makers came to make the decision must (in that analysis) utilize information which was not available to the participants at the time. But it is a fundamental methodological error--a methodological mixing of apples and oranges, as it were- -to attempt to inject information from after-the-fact Japanese sources into the analysis of what American decision-makers believed and understood on the basis of the only information they had available to them in 1945. Occasionally such material may highlight certain facets of what was going on; however, after- the-fact information cannot help us understand how decision- makers evaluated the options before them in 1945 on the basis of the information available to them in 1945. (In this connection see also Uday Mohan, H-JAPAN, Nov. 30, 1996, and Kathryn C. Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9, 1996.)

VII. The truly important question concerning what the after- the-fact Japanese sources tell us, of course, is whether or not Japan would likely have surrendered had the atomic bomb not been used--and had the Truman Administration followed through on the other options available to it. Put another way, the question is whether what we now know from Japanese sources confirms--or challenges--1945 advice within the Truman Administration that the war would in all likelihood have ended before a November invasion once the Emperor's position was clarified and once the Red Army attacked.

One useful way to think about this is to ask what might have happened had there been no atomic bomb (the precise question asked, incidentally, by a 1946 internal War Department study; see below). The answer seems rather obvious: President Truman would almost certainly have clarified the position of the Emperor (as his private 1945 statements on several occasions suggest; see THE DECISION, pp. 46, 67-72, 74-5, 78, 311, 417, 649-650)--and he would almost certainly have rushed to bring the Russians into the war (as he planned to do until the atomic test proved to be so successful). He probably also would have begun to clarify the Emperor's position at an early point in time (as several internal documents suggest; see THE DECISION, pp. 39-46 and above references); and, too, he probably would have arranged for the Soviet Union to join in issuing the Potsdam Proclamation as had also been contemplated before the successful test.

The specific question is whether the alternatives available to the President--as I have just outlined them--would likely have brought about an end to the war before November. Note carefully: this is a different question from those often discussed in the Hiroshima debate. For instance:

The above question is NOT the same as what Japanese military leaders "said" they wanted to do either privately or publicly. ALL OF THE OFT-CITED PRE-BOMBING DIE-HARD STATEMENTS WERE EXPRESSED IN A CONTEXT DEFINED BY THE FACT THAT THE EMPEROR'S POSITION WAS STILL THREATENED BY THE UNCOMPROMISING U.S. POSITION. Everyone knew Japan would fight on so long as the Emperor was threatened. (Indeed, this is one of the main arguments of THE DECISION.) Accordingly, it is not very surprising that we find many statements of determination from this period. That, too, is what one would expect, given the continued hard-line U.S. position.

A related point was made on June 30 by the War Department's Military Intelligence Division (G-2):

it is apparent that the Japanese leaders feel that they may get better terms from the Allies if they give the impression that the people are determined to fight to the last man rather than accept unconditional surrender. [THE DECISION, p. 652]

Note that the central question also is NOT whether the Japanese would have surrendered if only the position of the Emperor had been clarified--though many (now and at the time) believe this would have occurred, especially if the assurances had been offered at an early point as Grew and, subsequently, Stimson urged.

The central question also is NOT whether the Japanese military and others argued over the surrender terms in the brief and tumultuous few days after the atomic bomb was used-- especially given that the context established prior to these few days was radically different from what had been proposed within the U.S. government. (The context which prepared the ground for the unyielding internal military positions was defined, again, by repeated U.S. statements that there could be no change in the unconditional surrender formula, etc.) Given the preceding context and the attitudes which had been adopted and which had become entrenched during this period, one would hardly expect the hard-liners to simply fold their tents and go away. What is perhaps surprising is not that they argued for a few days; it is that they struggled against the inevitable for so brief a time.

No the central question is different: To repeat, it is whether what we now know from after-the-fact Japanese sources suggests that the essential advice within the Truman Administration was correct. This advice--again, to be quite clear--involved at least three (and in some versions, four) elements:

The most important of these by far were numbers 1 and 3--the elements which were delayed and/or awaited during the summer, and which were especially and expressly rejected at Potsdam.

So, the question is: Had the Administration followed through on the above elements--on THIS alternative--what would have happened?

Since the alternative which was actually on the table within the U.S. Administration has rarely been explicitly addressed by most studies, it is not surprising that debate on what might have happened has been so confused. (What we have are studies and assessments based for the most part on partial alternatives, or multiple alternatives which were more complex but different from the above.)

On the other hand, we do have a number of resources which help us focus the question more clearly--and which strongly suggest that when the proper question is asked, the answer seems rather obvious:

* The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, of course, concluded that "in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." [THE DECISION, p. 645.] Although recent studies have criticized the way the Survey reached this conclusion, note carefully that the two central points of concern were not even involved in its assessment. The Survey's judgment clearly would have been reinforced (or, rather, far stronger) if one allowed for (1) a clarification of the surrender terms; and (2) the Red Army attack--and stronger still if the option of an EARLY clarification were included and an EARLY indication that the Soviet Union was about to enter the war had been specified.

* As noted above, an internal 1946 War Department study discovered a few years ago asked what would have happened had there been no atomic bomb. It concluded that:

The Japanese leaders had decided to surrender and were merely looking for sufficient pretext to convince the die-hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must capitulate to the Allies.

This official document judged that Russia's early August entry into the war

. . . would almost certainly have furnished this pretext, and would have been sufficient to convince all responsible leaders that surrender was unavoidable.

The study concluded that well before the bombings even an initial November 1945 landing on the island of Kyushu was only a "remote" possibility--and that the full invasion of Japan in the spring of 1946 would not have occurred. (This study, by the way, reached these conclusions without assessing the additional effect a clarification of the Emperor's position would have had.) [THE DECISION, p. 85.]

* Air Force General Claire Chennault, founder of the American Volunteer Group (the famed "Flying Tigers")--and Army Air Forces commander in China--was even more blunt. A few days after Hiroshima was bombed THE NEW YORK TIMES reported Chennault's view that:

Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped. . . . [THE DECISION, pp. 335-336.]

* A 1955 analysis by Professor Ernest May (who had previously been a Defense Department historian) observed that "Japanese die-hards . . . had acknowledged since 1941 that Japan could not fight Russia as well as the United States and Britain. . . ." Studying the actual surrender, May also concluded that since Moscow had been the outlet for numerous Japanese peace feelers, the Russian declaration of war, when it finally occurred, "discouraged Japanese hopes of secretly negotiating terms of peace," and that in the end,

"The Emperor's appeal [to end the war] probably resulted, therefore, from the Russian action, but it could not in any event, have been long in coming.." [THE DECISION, pp. 83- 84.]

* We have previously referred to the work of Herbert Feis (who was not only an important historian, but as former Special Assistant to Secretary of War Stimson, was an individual with privileged access to top officials and inside information). Feis was one of the very few to focus directly on something close to the key question. His little-noticed judgment was that BY JULY--OR POSSIBLY BEFORE JULY--there was a good chance the war could have ended had the U.S. implemented the following variation of the two-step logic: "I think it may be concluded that . . . the fighting would have continued well into July at the least, UNLESS. . .

the American and Soviet governments together had let it be known that unless Japan laid down its arms at once, the Soviet Union was going to enter the war. That, along with a promise to spare the Emperor, might well have made an earlier bid for surrender effective. " [THE DECISION, p.622.]

(Oddly, Feis thought it "improbable that the Soviet government could have been prevailed on to reveal its intentions and so enable the Japanese better to prepare for the assault." However, there is ample evidence that by this point in the summer of 1945--with the Japanese fully aware of the Red Army build-up on the Manchurian border--Soviet fears that such a signal might increase Japan's capacity to prepare for the assault were no longer a significant factor; nor is there any evidence that this was a consideration. As noted, the draft Potsdam Proclamation included just such a strategy in preparation for the Potsdam meetings.) [For a discussion see THE DECISION, p. 774, fn 70.]

* Several scholars specializing in military matters have examined Japanese decision-making and added to the modern understanding. A recent study by Robert A. Pape, for instance, offers details concerning Japan's extreme military vulnerability (including shortages of everything from ammunition and fuel to trained personnel). He concludes: "Japan's military position was so poor that its leaders would likely have surrendered before invasion, and at roughly the same time in August 1945, even if the United States had not employed strategic bombing or the atomic bomb." In this situation:

The Soviet invasion of Manchuria on August 9 raised Japan's military vulnerability to a very high level. The Soviet offensive ruptured Japanese lines immediately, and rapidly penetrated deep into the rear. Since the Kwantung Army was thought to be Japan's premier fighting force, this had a devastating effect on Japanese calculations of the prospects for home island defense.

If their best forces were so easily sliced to pieces, the unavoidable implication was that the less well- equipped and trained forces assembled for [the last decisive home island battle] had no chance of success against American forces that were even more capable than the Soviets. [See THE DECISION, pp. 645-46.]

(After the Red Army attack began cutting through the Japanese armies in Manchuria, Prime Minister Suzuki is reported to have said: "Is the Kwantung Army that weak? Then the game is up.") [THE DECISION, p. 418.]

Pape adds: "In comparison to the Soviet entry the atomic bomb had little or no impact on the Army's position. First, the Army initially denied that the Hiroshima blast had been an atomic bomb. Second, they went to great lengths to downplay its importance. When Togo raised it as an argument for surrender on August 7, General Anami explicitly rejected it. Finally, the Army vigorously argued that minor civilian defense measures could offset the bomb's effects." [THE DECISION, p. 646 n.]

* Again, the official British history of the war against Japan concluded: "The Russian declaration of war was the decisive factor in bringing Japan to accept the Potsdam declaration, for it brought home to all members of the Supreme Council the realization that the last hope of a negotiated peace had gone and that there was no alternative but to accept the Allied terms sooner or later." [THE DECISION, p. 646 n.] * We may also note that on August 13--even as Tokyo struggled to devise a final response to Washington--intercepted MAGIC cables reported a "Japanese Army General Staff statement on surrender." The text (dated August 12) from the vice chief of the Army General Staff to Japan's military attaches in Sweden, Switzerland, and Portugal, included two main points. The first concerned the cause of surrender negotiations:

As a result of Russia's entrance into the war, the Empire, in the fourth year of its [war] endeavor, is faced with a struggle for the existence of the nation.

The second used a traditional formula to make clear the one critical point which would not be given up:

You are well aware of the fact that as a final move toward the preservation of the national structure [i.e., the Emperor and the Imperial system], diplomatic negotiations have been opened. . . . Unless the aforementioned condition is fulfilled, we will continue the war to the bitter end.

The atomic bomb was neither mentioned in this internal message nor cited as reason for the surrender negotiations. [THE DECISION, pp. 418-9.]

*

VIII. Our interest in all this is not to attempt to prove whether the atomic bomb or the Red Army attack was the final straw; it is whether the two-step option could likely have achieved surrender on its own had it been implemented. Light is also thrown on the Japanese army's attitude (and the weight army leaders attached to the three second-order items on their list of hoped-for conditions--no occupation, and self-management of disarmament and war trials) [THE DECISION, p. 651.]--by an examination of what happened after the Red Army began its assault and after the Emperor called for a halt in the fighting:

(A) Since all the top leadership--including the army--had already agreed in principle to end the war, the only question was whether to fight on ("one last battle") to attempt to secure improved conditions. Many analysts have pointed out that the Japanese Emperor rarely was in the position of simply dictating policy. Pape puts it this way:

[War Minister] Anami could simply have refused to endorse the Emperor's decision [to surrender] since, under the Meiji constitution, cabinet decisions required unanimous consent. Alternatively, Anami could have resigned, which would have dissolved the government, effectively vetoing the decision for surrender, because a new government could not be formed without the Army's approval of a new war minister.

Instead of standing firm on their demands when the Emperor intervened to call for a halt in the fighting on August 9, however, Army leaders, as Pape notes, "no longer blocked the civilians' efforts to make peace, which they had the power to do." [THE DECISION, p. 652.]

(B) A related question is what Japanese leaders subsequently told interrogators they were planning to do had the war continued. It is easy to find statements by Japanese generals and others which indicate they would have fought to the death. However, it is one thing to note such statements and such plans-- and it is quite another to accept them as prima facie evidence that this was also what would in fact have happened HAD THE ALTERNATIVE ACTUALLY AT THE CORE OF U.S. INTERNAL DISCUSSIONS BEEN IMPLEMENTED.

Unfortunately U.S. military interrogators rarely asked carefully focused questions about the Russians or about the contingent nature of Japanese feelings and plans. When they did, however, the answers were often quite direct. During the Strategic Bombing Survey interrogations, for instance, Imperial Envoy Prince Konoye recalled that the "army had dug themselves in the mountains and their idea . . . was fighting from every little hole or rock in the mountains."

However, when asked specifically (in the very next question): "Would the Emperor have permitted them to do that?"-- Konoye responded immediately: "I don't think the Emperor would have let them go that far. He would have done something to stop them." [THE DECISION, p. 647.]

Similarly, Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Toyoda stated: "I believe the Russian participation in the war against Japan rather than the atom bombs did more to hasten the surrender." Army Vice-Chief of Staff Kawabe, too, observed that "Since Tokyo was not directly affected by the bombing, the full force of the shock was not felt. . . . In comparison, the Soviet entry into the war was a great shock when it actually came. . . . It gave us all the more severe shock and alarm because we had been in constant fear [that] the vast Red Army forces in Europe were now being turned against us." [THE DECISION, p. 647.]

*

IX. That the war would likely have ended before November, all things considered, had the U.S. clarified the position of the Emperor and awaited the Russian attack is further suggested by other considerations--especially new research on the role of the Emperor, and, too, on internal Japanese fears of an anti- Government uprising and of Communist influence.

Particularly useful work on these questions has been done recently by Herbert Bix. (See his JAPAN'S DELAYED SURRENDER, DIPLOMATIC HISTORY, Spring 1995--which appeared after THE DECISION went to press.) Bix corrects the picture given to us in many past studies by documenting the many reasons why Emperor Hirohito himself must bear substantial responsibility for prolonging the war.

Bix also emphasizes that the central concern of the throne and those surrounding it was the preservation of the KOKUTAI (the national polity). He notes that as early as February 1945 (for instance) Prince Konoye "pleaded with the Emperor to sue quickly for peace before a Communist revolution occurred that would make preservation of the KOKUTAI impossible." (JAPAN'S DELAYED SURRENDER, p. 202.)

Bix observes that the "court group's very strong sense of internal crisis must be taken into account when assessing whether alternatives to the bomb would have ended the war prior to the invasion scheduled for November 1." (He adds: "My own estimate is that massive conventional bombing alone, or in combination with a Soviet declaration of war, would have forced Japan's leaders to surrender before the start of Operation Olympic." [JAPAN'S DELAYED SURRENDER, p. 218 f.])

Bix also concludes that a clarification of the position of the Emperor ON ITS OWN would "probably not" have brought Japan's leaders to end the war, "though they were likely to have surrendered in order to prevent the KOKUTAI from being destroyed from within." [JAPAN'S DELAYED SURRENDER, p. 224.]

Although Bix emphasizes the great fear the key players in Japan had of domestic turmoil--and, too, concludes that the war would likely have ended before November--he does not in this work directly address the specific "two-step" alternative formulated within the U.S. government.

The precise additional question of interest here may be stated as follows: Given their concerns about domestic unrest-- and Communism--how long might the Emperor and others have held out as they saw the Red Army rapidly chewing up what was left of Japanese forces in Manchuria--and, too, as they saw the possibility and prospect of a Communist, Red Army-backed occupation looming ever closer?

But once more, note carefully, even this question is not the same as the question of what would likely have happened--as internal U.S. and British studies suggested--if the position of the Emperor had been clarified early on, had the participation of the Soviet Union been signaled early on, and had the Red Army attack been allowed to proceed. . .

*

X. Related to all this is an issue concerning casualties. Those who defend the use of the atomic bomb often hold that (a) the only consideration involved was saving American lives--or (b) that the alternatives available might have worked but would have taken longer and thus cost more Japanese lives as well. (The latter, of course, is not the same as the official rationale-- namely that the bomb saved an invasion.)

A preliminary point: As previously noted, it is rarely realized that at the time Hiroshima was bombed orders had already been given to downplay the conventional bombing of Japanese cities--primarily because it was decided on the basis of European experience that other targeting priorities were more effective. Although the slow implementation of this order was just beginning in early August, some who argue that the atomic bomb saved Japan months of additional city bombing do not seem to be aware of this change. [THE DECISION, p. 630.]

Much more important is the fact that the decision NOT to utilize the other available alternatives almost certainly cost lives--and quite possibly cost more American casualties than are held to have been saved by the atomic bomb:

The fact is the atomic bomb had one extremely significant draw-back: It could not be ready until August; the Administration had to wait for it. . .

What men like Grew and in the end Stimson (and Hoover, Ralph Bard and others) were arguing was that they believed the war could--and should--be ended earlier (or at least a serious effort should have been made--most likely around Memorial Day, after a new series of bombings, as Grew urged; or in late June after the fall of Okinawa; or at the very least before the bomb was actually used). A number of those who urged an early clarification of terms were also clearly thinking of the forthcoming Russian attack--and wished if possible to end the war before the Red Army got into Manchuria (which, of course, would also almost certainly mean before August when it was expected that the atomic bomb would be ready).

During the earlier period, certain complications arose because some feared that a premature move might weaken public support for continuing the war. However, as the summer progressed such considerations were no longer critical at the highest levels of decision-making. The simple fact is--as Martin Sherwin has emphasized, and as Secretary of War Stimson later acknowledged-- the decision to delay offering assurances for the Emperor until after the bomb had been tested carried with it the potential of prolonging the war, and, too, therefore, of increasing American casualties. As noted above, the subsequent related but new decision to remove assurances for the Emperor from the Potsdam Proclamation also made it all but impossible for Japan to surrender--and had similar implications. [THE DECISION, p. 634]

Furthermore, the decision not to include the Soviet Union as a signatory to the Potsdam Proclamation reduced the threat facing Japan, thereby also adding to the risks. Minimally, this removed another element from the arsenal of strategic options which could help speed a Japanese decision to surrender.

We shall never know, of course, whether Stimson (and Sherwin) were right--or what might have happened had the two-step strategy been followed. We do know, however, that the question of American casualties was not an overriding consideration in the choices made in connection with these decisions--and, too, that several thousand men in arms lost their lives during the months U.S. decision-makers held back a clarification of terms while they waited for the atomic bomb.

#

All materials cited in the above are available at the following Home Page: http://www.doug-long.com. They may also be obtained by request via e-mail by clicking: leee@igc.apc.org.

Many are also now available on the new H-DIPLO web-site:

http://h-net2.msu.edu/~diplo/balp.htm

 

Please click to go to the following:

Part IV of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART IV

by

Gar Alperovitz

 

In previous Parts of this response--and in a Memorandum prepared by Sanho Tree on related issues (see below)--a variety of questions concerning the Hiroshima decision have been addressed. The central issue is what can be learned about the actual process, day by day, by which the decision to use the atomic bomb was made--and, too, how American leaders came to clarify their priorities. "None of the officials who made the decision to use the atomic bomb did so out of evil intent. Their motives, broadly speaking, were good; their intentions well- meaning." [THE DECISION, p. 637.]

In this brief and final Part--and especially given the extreme nature of some of the charges put forward in the debate-- perhaps I may be permitted a word about method and style of argument, and about the new medium with which we are working.

*

XI. Let me begin with the medium: Self-evidently, we are dealing with a rather new process, a situation in which trial and error (and mistakes) are inevitable. I disagree with the way the H-DIPLO debate has proceeded in certain particulars. However, I also recognize that we all are on a learning curve. Allowing for the fact that the general decline of civil discourse in America is now infecting virtually all modes of communication, certain things seem clear:

In the first place, greater attention to moderating the tone of exchanges can only help build an environment in which serious professional concerns are seriously discussed. Allowing the tone to slip and slide into mud-slinging and name-calling does very little to enhance the quality of discourse needed for true learning: The sheer rudeness of some of the postings would be unacceptable in most conferences, seminars and academic discussions around the world. Surely we can do better.

At a more general level--as many have noted--one of the most frustrating aspects of the medium and process is that individuals willing to devote very large amounts of time to the effort can continuously generate broad charges and ad hominem criticism at will. In the case of certain participants in the recent dialogue, not only have false charges been made, but they have been repeated after having been shown to contain significant errors of fact. [See below; also see Thad Williamson, H-DIPLO, Oct. 23, 1996, and H-JAPAN, Nov. 5, 1996. For further detail on factual errors, see Sanho Tree, H-DIPLO, Oct. 10, 1996; Kathryn C. Morris, H-JAPAN, Nov. 9 and 10, 1996; and Uday Mohan, H-JAPAN, Nov. 30, 1996.]

The question is how to deal with this situation.

The choice is to respond endlessly to each and every charge (however distorted, erroneous, or ad hominem)--or to offer serious researchers and students an alternative. As noted at the very outset, what I have chosen to do is (1) deal with the central issues involved in the Hiroshima question in the first three Parts of this response; and (2) arrange for the ready availability of materials not posted on H-DIPLO when debate was cut off (but which have appeared on H-JAPAN); and (3) arrange to have prepared a detailed memorandum which draws on the various posts and briefly summarizes the major points of the debate for those who wish to go beyond what can fruitfully be done using the H-DIPLO format. (To recall: The various materials are available at http://www.doug-long.com/index.htm or can be requested at: leee@igc.apc.org Many are also available on the new H-DIPLO web- site.)

My purpose in proceeding this way is quite straightforward: As I have indicated throughout, since many of the most important evidentiary issues are complex and difficult, I believe there is little to gain by continuing the process of back and forth charge and counter-charge. This does not mean that there may not possibly be a time and place for further comment. However, in the main I am now more than content to have the debate continue where time and thought and reflection are both possible and necessary: class-rooms, seminar rooms, scholarly studies and journal articles.

I am especially interested in those who teach diplomatic history, and the history of World War II--both to undergraduates and at the graduate level. Many will offer the option of writing a research paper on the decision to use the atomic bomb and/or on research methods (using the decision as a focal point). The various materials have been designed to help clarify the issues-- and to help students explore directly the merits of the various positions for themselves.

I might add that I also believe it would be useful for students to examine the recent H-DIPLO debate in its entirety not only in terms of the content, but as a case study in how emotionally charged issues can cloud thoughtful discussion. Here comparison with other scholarly dialogues might yield insights which are of general value in developing better methods for the management of future discussions.

*

XII. I would be remiss if I did not comment briefly on the argument of John Bonnett in his initiating review:

(A) Bonnett urges certain specific points which (he says) indicate that I have created a myth and (in other writing) that I have broken what he claims to be rules of historical scholarship. His argument has been dissected at length in various postings, as has his lack of familiarity with many of the key documents. [See above cited Morris and Tree references and Uday Mohan, H-DIPLO, Oct. 3, 1996.] Simply by way of illustration, Bonnett attempts to make a great deal of one of the intelligence documents we reviewed in Part II--CCS 643/3, the Combined (US/UK) Intelligence Committee's (CIC) "Estimate of the Enemy Situation" of July 8, 1945. Bonnett claims this document demonstrates that Japan would not have surrendered if it required accepting an Allied occupation. When the document in question is examined closely, however, it is obvious that Bonnett has left out the crucial phrase "if possible"--indicating the judgment that, of course, the Japanese would have liked to avoid occupation (and other things as well) "if possible." The central point of the document is that the absolutely irreducible Japanese demand concerned the fate of the Emperor. This understanding is also made clear by examining the Combined Chiefs of Staff discussion of CCS 643/3 at Potsdam on July 16. The discussion focussed particular attention on the issue of the Emperor, and as noted, at this meeting the U.S. Chiefs of Staff asked the British Chiefs to try to get Prime Minister Churchill to approach President Truman about clarifying the position of the Emperor--which Churchill did (but to no avail). Furthermore, the document in question was written in the first week of July--i.e., BEFORE new intercepts showed that the Emperor himself had personally intervened to attempt to bring an end to the war. All agreed this move represented a significant turning point--and a new factor which reinforced the intelligence document's main conclusion. [See THE DECISION, p. 233-8 on how the Emperor's intervention was regarded.] Finally--and amazingly--Bonnett neglects to mention a key judgment of CCS 643/3, namely: "An entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of complete defeat." [THE DECISION, p. 227.] As I have previously noted, the best contemporary summary of the document is exactly the same as the core argument of THE DECISION. Here is how General Sir Hastings Ismay, chief of staff to the minister of defence, described CCS 643/3 to Churchill at the time he passed on the U.S. Chiefs' request that the Prime Minister speak to Truman about the Emperor issue:

"The Combined Chiefs of Staff at their first meeting had under consideration a paper prepared by the Combined Intelligence Staffs on the enemy situation, in which it was suggested that if and when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor." [THE DECISION, p. 246.]

(B) Bonnett, however, is clearly after bigger game--and this takes us beyond point-by-point examinations of the evidence: Bonnett holds that he has developed a method which allows us to better understand what was going on than nitty-gritty documentary work. He would like us to accept what he believes to be the determining role of "cognitive structures" and frameworks of analysis which embody "lessons of history" that have been internalized by specific historical actors. These, he holds, determine how decision-makers understand specific facts and choices.

One can hardly disagree with the idea that understanding the mind-set of the individuals involved is important. The question of interest, however, is not whether general understanding is helpful, but whether--as Bonnett wishes to argue--he has provided a new and superior method. Unfortunately for his argument, the case he has selected to illustrate his method--that of Secretary of War Stimson--turns out to demonstrate not its strength, but its weakness. Here is Bonnett:

The Secretary of War's diaries, and the testimony of his colleagues, suggest that Stimson's conduct throughout the war was guided by a schema he labelled the "Psychology of Combat" in 1930. Stimson's doctrine embodied two fundamental principles: one, a nation's success in conflict is predicated on its readiness to apply unremitting pressure at the heart of enemy territory until the enemy is persuaded to concede; two, war must be conducted on the psyche of the enemy. Winning a conflict was not only contingent on removing the opponent's material capacity to resist, but also its psychological capacity to resist. [John Bonnett, H- DIPLO, Sept. 26, 1996.]

Bonnett argues that the "schema" is consistent with Stimson's postwar claim that he was "not amenable to proposals that mitigated -- even slightly -- the potential shock value of the bomb, since therein lay his traditional prescription for ending a conflict." He urges that for this reason Stimson would have been opposed to a mere "demonstration" of the bomb.

But if we are to accept Bonnett's argument that an understanding of Stimson's (proposed) "cognitive structure" explains his decision-making in connection with the bombing of Hiroshima, we must obviously go beyond the "demonstration" issue to the bombing decision itself. This is especially so since, as students of the problem know only too well, there is virtually no direct contemporaneous evidence of Stimson's views on the "demonstration" issue (and precious little contemporaneous direct information on the views of anyone else, for that matter).

Perhaps it is not surprising that Bonnett does not attempt to apply his "cognitive structures" theory to the central issue, for to do so is to confront the fact that where we do have direct contemporaneous evidence, his theory collapses entirely. Indeed, what the documentary record shows concerning Stimson's role in the decision is just the opposite of Bonnett's basic conclusion-- and opposite, too, from the direction one would expect from his proposed new framework of analysis. Thus, to recall:

On July 2 Stimson personally urged President Truman to attempt to end the war by issuing a warning statement which included as a major element a modification of the surrender terms (especially giving Japan assurances regarding the Emperor). This, he argued, should be attempted at an early point "in ample time to permit a national reaction to set in. . . ."

"I think the Japanese nation has the mental intelligence and versatile capacity in such a crisis to recognize the folly of a fight to the finish and to accept the proffer of what will amount to an unconditional surrender. . . " [THE DECISION, p. 77.]

On July 16 Stimson urged that "we are at the psychological moment" to issue the warning. The key factors which made the timing propitious were the favorable military situation, "the impending threat of Russia's participation," and "news of attempted approaches on the part of Japan to Russia. . ." Now Stimson recommended that "if the Japanese persist" after the warning was issued--and, it appears, only in that event--"the full force of our newer weapons should be brought to bear." But in this case, he now also suggested an intervening step--"a renewed and even heavier warning. . ." The proposal amounted to a double warning, the first of which he thought might well bring surrender; the second would follow if it did not. [THE DECISION, pp. 235-36.]

On July 24 Stimson met again with Truman (and Byrnes) and, as his diary indicates, he once more urged the importance of assurances to Japan concerning "the continuance of their dynasty" and that the "insertion of that in the formal warning was important and might be just the thing which would make or mar their acceptance. . ." [THE DECISION, p. 311 n.]

Stimson lost these battles, of course, and with McGeorge Bundy's help, later wrote a famous (and by now much dissected) defense of the decision to use the atomic bomb. However, as many historians have long understood, Stimson was one of the most important of the top U.S. officials who actively urged views diametrically opposed to Bonnett's fundamental conclusion. In these and other instances Stimson's "psychological schema" can hardly be characterized as "not amenable to proposals that mitigated -- even slightly -- the potential shock value of the bomb. . ." Indeed, in several instances he led the fight for modifications which could only suggest a very new and different degree of U.S. flexibility.

*

XIII. I believe enough has been said here in and Parts I, II and III of this response to indicate the rather extraordinary nature of some of the arguments presented by some participants in the recent debate. Let me close by simply pointing out that scholars with far greater knowledge of the subject than several who have submitted comments have dealt with the issues involved (and with my work) at a more elevated and informed level. [Teachers of diplomatic history and others who wish to put some of the more extreme charges in perspective may wish to consult Gaddis Smith, THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 18, 1985; Barton Bernstein, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, Spring 1991, Winter 1991/92; J. Samuel Walker, DIPLOMATIC HISTORY, Winter 1990; Michael R. Beschloss, THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 30, 1995; and Marilyn Young, AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, December 1995.)]

Finally, let me once more note that various materials cited in this response are available either on H-JAPAN at:

http://www.h-net.msu.edu/logs/logs.cgi?list=H-Japan

or by request at leee@igc.apc.org

or at: http://www.doug-long.com/debate.htm.

Many are also now available on the new H-DIPLO web-site at:

http://h-net2.msu.edu/~diplo/balp.htm

 

Gar Alperovitz

 

 

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Proceed to Guides to Gar Alperovitz's
The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb
   

Guide to Part I

Guide to Part II

Guide to Part III

Guide to Part IV

 

 

 

A Guide To Gar Alperovitz's

THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART I

(from materials released at the time of publication)

 

CONCERNING THE DECISION--

 

GENERAL

The broadcast was allowed to stand with Presidential sanction, but U.S. officials chose thereafter to ignore this indication of Japan's willingness to surrender.

The Atlantic Charter was the declaration of peace aims set forth by Roosevelt and Churchill on August 14, 1941 and later affirmed by representatives of twenty-six nations (in January 1942). Its key passage and promise lay in the third point--a declaration that the signatory nations

respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them. (See p. 395, Chapter 31)

A July 23 Associated Press report from Potsdam authorized and allowed to stand by the Little White House in Germany stated that the Atlantic Charter broadcast to Japan "was known to have been made with the President's full knowledge." (See pp. 397-399, Chapter 31)

The fact that the Americans alluded to the Atlantic Charter is particularly worthy of attention at this time. It is impossible for us to accept unconditional surrender, no matter in what guise, but it is our idea to inform them by some appropriate means that there is no objection to the restoration of peace on the basis of the Atlantic Charter. (See p. 399, Chapter 31)

The diary of Walter Brown--an assistant to Secretary of State James F. Byrnes-- records that aboard ship returning from Potsdam on August 3, 1945 the President, Byrnes and Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the President, "agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden." (See p. 415, Chapter 33)

 

MILITARY VIEWS

 

Navy Leaders

(Partial listing:

See Chapter 26 for an extended discussion)

[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. . . .

[I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children. (See p. 3, Introduction)

Privately, on June 18, 1945--almost a month before the Emperor's July intervention to seek an end to the war and seven weeks before the atomic bomb was used--Leahy recorded in his diary:

It is my opinion at the present time that a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression. (See p. 324, Chapter 26)

The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war. (See p. 329, Chapter 26) . . . [Nimitz also stated: "The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan. . . ."]

In a private 1946 letter to Walter Michels of the Association of Philadelphia Scientists, Nimitz observed that "the decision to employ the atomic bomb on Japanese cities was made on a level higher than that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." (See pp. 330-331, Chapter 26)

The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before. (See p. 331, Chapter 26)

. . . I spent a morning at Cavite in the Philippines with Admiral Frank Wagner in front of huge maps. Admiral Wagner was in charge of air search-and-patrol of all the East Asian seas and coasts. He showed me that in all those millions of square miles there was literally not a single target worth the powder to blow it up; there were only junks and mostly small ones at that.

Similarly, I dined one night with Admiral [Arthur] Radford [later Joint Chiefs Chairman, 1953-57] on the carrier Yorktown leading a task force from Ulithi to bomb Kyushu, the main southern island of Japan. Radford had invited me to be alone with him in a tiny room far up the superstructure of the Yorktown, where not a sound could be heard. Even so, it was in a whisper that he turned to me and said: "Luce, don't you think the war is over?" My reply, of course, was that he should know better than I. For his part, all he could say was that the few little revetments and rural bridges that he might find to bomb in Kyushu wouldn't begin to pay for the fuel he was burning on his task force. (See pp. 331-332, Chapter 26)

Ever since I have been in touch with this program I have had a feeling that before the bomb is actually used against Japan that Japan should have some preliminary warning for say two or three days in advance of use. The position of the United States as a great humanitarian nation and the fair play attitude of our people generally is responsible in the main for this feeling.

During recent weeks I have also had the feeling very definitely that the Japanese government may be searching for some opportunity which they could use as a medium of surrender. Following the three-power conference emissaries from this country could contact representatives from Japan somewhere on the China Coast and make representations with regard to Russia's position and at the same time give them some information regarding the proposed use of atomic power, together with whatever assurances the President might care to make with regard to the Emperor of Japan and the treatment of the Japanese nation following unconditional surrender. It seems quite possible to me that this presents the opportunity which the Japanese are looking for.

I don't see that we have anything in particular to lose in following such a program. The stakes are so tremendous that it is my opinion very real consideration should be given to some plan of this kind. I do not believe under present circumstances existing that there is anyone in the country whose evaluation of the chances of the success of such a program is worth a great deal. The only way to find out is to try it out. (See pp. 225-226, Chapter 18)

I proposed to Secretary Forrestal at that time that the weapon should be demonstrated. . . . Primarily, it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate. . . . My proposal to the Secretary was that the weapon should be demonstrated over some area accessible to the Japanese observers, and where its effects would be dramatic. I remember suggesting that a good place--satisfactory place for such a demonstration would be a large forest of cryptomaria [sic] trees not far from Tokyo. The cryptomaria tree is the Japanese version of our redwood. . . . I anticipated that a bomb detonated at a suitable height above such a forest . . . would [have] laid the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they had been matchsticks, and of course set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities, their fortifications at will. . . . (See p. 333, Chapter 26)

This was omitted from the Potsdam declaration and as you are undoubtedly aware was the only reason why it was not immediately accepted by the Japanese who were beaten and knew it before the first atomic bomb was dropped. (See p. 393, Chapter 31)

The President in giving his approval for these [atomic] attacks appeared to believe that many thousands of American troops would be killed in invading Japan, and in this he was entirely correct; but King felt, as he had pointed out many times, that the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials. (See p. 327, Chapter 26)

 

Air Force Leaders

(Partial listing:

See Chapter 27 for an extended discussion)

The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air. (See p. 334, Chapter 27)

In his 1949 memoirs Arnold observed that "it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse." (See p. 334, Chapter 27)

Arnold's view was that it [the dropping of the atomic bomb] was unnecessary. He said that he knew the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military's job to question it. (See p. 335, Chapter 27)

Eaker reported that Arnold told him:

When the question comes up of whether we use the atomic bomb or not, my view is that the Air Force will not oppose the use of the bomb, and they will deliver it effectively if the Commander in Chief decides to use it. But it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion. (See p. 335, Chapter 27)

[Eaker also recalled: "That was the representation I made when I accompanied General Marshall up to the White House" for a discussion with Truman on June 18, 1945.]

said flatly at one press conference that the atomic bomb "had nothing to do with the end of the war." He said the war would have been over in two weeks without the use of the atomic bomb or the Russian entry into the war. (See p. 336, Chapter 27)

The text of the press conference provides these details:

LeMay: The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.

The Press: You mean that, sir? Without the Russians and the atomic bomb?

. . .

LeMay: The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.

(See p. 336, Chapter 27)

On other occasions in internal histories and elsewhere LeMay gave even shorter estimates of how long the war might have lasted (e.g., "a few days"). (See pp. 336-341, Chapter 27)

Both men . . . felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and neither knew why the second bomb was used. (See p. 337, Chapter 27)

Harriman's notes also recall his own understanding:

I know this attitude is correctly described, because I had it from the Air Force when I was in Washington in April '45. (See p. 337, Chapter 27)

I thought that if we were going to drop the atomic bomb, drop it on the outskirts--say in Tokyo Bay--so that the effects would not be as devastating to the city and the people. I made this suggestion over the phone between the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and I was told to go ahead with our targets. (See p. 345, Chapter 27)

Well, Tooey Spaatz came in . . . he said, "They tell me I am supposed to go out there and blow off the whole south end of the Japanese Islands. I've heard a lot about this thing, but my God, I haven't had a piece of paper yet and I think I need a piece of paper." "Well," I said, "I agree with you, Tooey. I think you do," and I said, "I guess I'm the fall guy to give it to you." (pp. 344-345, Chapter 27)

In 1962 Spaatz himself recalled that he gave "notification that I would not drop an atomic bomb on verbal orders--they had to be written--and this was accomplished." (p. 345, Chapter 27)

Spaatz also stated that

The dropping of the atomic bomb was done by a military man under military orders. We're supposed to carry out orders and not question them. (See p. 345, Chapter 27)

In a 1965 Air Force oral history interview Spaatz stressed: "That was purely a political decision, wasn't a military decision. The military man carries out the order of his political bosses." (See p. 345, Chapter 27)

Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped. . . . (See pp. 335-336, Chapter 27)

 

Army Leaders

(Partial listing:

See Chapter 28 for an extended discussion)

[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off. . . . (See p. 352, Chapter 28)

General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb]. I had a long talk with him today, necessitated by the impending trip to Okinawa. . . . (See p. 350, Chapter 28)

I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria. (See pp. 350-351, Chapter 28)

Obviously . . . the atomic bomb neither induced the Emperor's decision to surrender nor had any effect on the ultimate outcome of the war." (See p. 352, Chapter 28)

we brought them [the Japanese] down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs. (See p. 359, Chapter 28)

very vivid in my mind. . . . I can recall as if it were yesterday, [Marshall's] insistence to me that whether we should drop an atomic bomb on Japan was a matter for the President to decide, not the Chief of Staff since it was not a military question . . . the question of whether we should drop this new bomb on Japan, in his judgment, involved such imponderable considerations as to remove it from the field of a military decision. (See p. 364, Chapter 28)

- On May 29, 1945 Marshall joined with Secretaries Stimson and Forrestal in approving Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew's proposal that the unconditional surrender language be clarified (but, with Stimson, proposed a brief delay). (See pp. 53-54, Chapter 4)

- On June 9, 1945, along with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marshall recommended that a statement clarifying the surrender terms be issued on the fall of Okinawa (June 21). (See pp. 55-57, Chapter 4)

- On July 16, 1945 at Potsdam--again along with the other members of the Joint Chiefs --Marshall urged the British Chiefs of Staff to ask Churchill to approach Truman about clarifying the terms. (See pp. 245-246, Chapter 19)

- On July 18, 1945, Marshall led the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in directly urging the president to include language in the Potsdam Proclamation allowing Japan to choose its own form of government. (See pp. 299-300, Chapter 23)

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. . . . (See p. 4, Introduction)

 

 

Proceed to Guide: Part II

Back to Contents

 

 

Guide To Gar Alperovitz's

THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART II

(from materials released at the time of publication)

 

"THE RUSSIAN OPTION" FOR ENDING THE WAR

(Partial listing:

See Chapters 7, 8, 9, 18 and 23 for an extended discussion)

The Committee further advised that:

The increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment) should make this realization widespread within the year.

The JIC pointed out, however, that a Russian decision to join with the U.S. and Britain would have enormous force--and would dramatically alter the equation:

The entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with the foregoing factors, convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete defeat. [Emphasis added.] (See p. 113, Chapter 9)

While Japan is fighting with the U.S. and U.K., once the Soviets enter the war Japan will face inevitable defeat; therefore, whatever happens in the war with the U.S. and U.K., Japan has to try as much as possible to prevent the Soviet Union from entering the war. (See p. 118, Chapter 9)

We believe that a considerable portion of the Japanese population now consider absolute military defeat probable. The increasing effects of sea blockade and the cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, which has already rendered millions homeless and has destroyed from 25% to 50% of the builtup areas of Japan's most important cities, should make this realization increasingly general.

The committee also stressed the judgment that:

An entry of the Soviet Union into the war would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of complete defeat. (See p. 227, Chapter 18)

. . . [W]hen Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor. (See p. 246, Chapter 18)

If the test [of the atomic bomb] should fail, then it would be even more important to us to bring about a surrender before we had to make a physical conquest of Japan. (See p. 124, Chapter 9)

Most of the big points are settled. He'll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.

The next day--in an exuberant letter to his wife (made public in 1983)--Truman wrote that with the Russian declaration of war

. . . I've gotten what I came for--Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it. He wanted a Chinese settlement--and it is practically made--in a better form than I expected. . . . I'll say that we'll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won't be killed! (See p. 242, Chapter 19)

The Japanese leaders had decided to surrender and were merely looking for sufficient pretext to convince the die-hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must capitulate to the Allies.

This official document judged that Russia's early August entry into the war

. . . would almost certainly have furnished this pretext, and would have been sufficient to convince all responsible leaders that surrender was unavoidable.

The study concluded that well before the bombings even an initial November 1945 landing on the island of Kyushu was only a "remote" possibility--and that the full invasion of Japan in the spring of 1946 would not have occurred. (See p. 85, Chapter 7)

 

TARGETING

When the Committee convened to select cities for atomic attack in May, it included only those cities which not only were still largely intact but which were also "likely to be unattacked by next August"--and, further, "which the Air Forces would be willing to reserve for our use unless unforeseen circumstances arise." (See p. 523, Chapter 42)

Although there was a military base in Hiroshima, this had little to do with targeting instructions. There was no significant military base at Nagasaki.

Mr. Byrnes recommended, and the Committee agreed, that the Secretary of War should be advised that, while recognizing that the final selection of the target was essentially a military decision, the present view of the Committee was that the bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible; that it be used on a war plant surrounded by workers' homes; and that it be used without prior warning. (See p. 171, Chapter 12)

Few analysts have noticed that the Interim Committee recommendation was not actually followed. In fact, the way in which the bombing was planned--and carried out--specifically avoided significant war plants. The subject came up at the Target Committee meeting of May 28--and, as the minutes show:

Dr. Stearns presented data on Kyoto, Hiroshima and Niigata and the following conclusions were reached:

1.                  not to specify aiming points, this to be left to later determination at base when weather conditions are known.

2.      to neglect location of industrial areas as pin point target, since on these three targets such areas are small, spread on fringes of cities and quite dispersed.

3.      to endeavor to place first gadget in center of selected city; that is, not to allow for later 1 or 2 gadgets for complete destruction.
(See pp. 524-525, Chapter 42)

 

THE EMPEROR ISSUE

(Partial listing:

See Chapters 3, 4, 5, 23, 25, 31, 33 and 34 for an extended discussion)

- Grew's repeated efforts--beginning in late May--have long been documented. (See Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6)

- Secretary of War Stimson--in a memorandum of July 2--offered Truman his considered recommendation that if assurances were given:

I think the Japanese nation has the mental intelligence and versatile capacity in such a crisis to recognize the folly of a fight to the finish and to accept the proffer of what will amount to an unconditional surrender; . . . (See p. 77, Chapter 6)

- The Joint Staff Planners advised the Joint Chiefs:

Unless a definition of unconditional surrender can be given which is acceptable to the Japanese, there is no alternative to annihilation and no prospect that the threat of absolute defeat will bring about capitulation. (See p. 42, Chapter 3)

- Truman was personally approached and urged to clarify the surrender formula in one way or another prior to the issuance of the Potsdam Proclamation:

                        1.      by Acting Secretary of State Grew on May 28, 1945;

2.      by former President Herbert Hoover in a May 30, 1945, memorandum;

3.      by Grew again on June 13, 1945;

4.      by Counsel to the President Samuel I. Rosenman on June 17, 1945;

5.      by Grew once more on June 18, 1945;

6.      by Assistant Secretary of War McCloy on June 18, 1945;

7.      by Leahy again on June 18, 1945;

8.      by the State Department in a formal recommendation of June 30, 1945;

9.      by Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bard on July 1, 1945;

10.  by Secretary of War Stimson (with the support of Secretary of the Navy Forrestal and Grew) on July 2, 1945;

11.  by Stimson again on July 16, 1945;

12.  by Churchill on July 18, 1945;

13.  by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 18, 1945;

14.  by Stimson on July 24, 1945.

(See pp. 300-301 [and reference notes], Chapter 23)

- As noted, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff also asked the British Chiefs of Staff to persuade Prime Minister Churchill to approach President Truman about the surrender formula.

President Truman, of course, has already stated that there is no thought of destroying the Japanese people, but such assurances, even from so high a source, are negated by that fatal phrase.

The Post stressed that the two words "remain a great stumbling block to any propaganda effort and the perpetual trump card of the Japanese die-hards for their game of national suicide."

Let us amend them; let us give Japan conditions, harsh conditions certainly, and conditions that will render her diplomatically and militarily impotent for generations. But also let us somehow assure those Japanese who are ready to plead for peace that, even on our terms, life and peace will be better than war and annihilation. (See pp. 229-230, Chapter 18; see also p. 41, Chapter 3)

. . . if adequate steps are taken to disarm Japan and to prevent its rearmament, the type of government which the Japanese have after the war will become a matter of secondary importance. (See p. 230, Chapter 18)

Senator White of Maine, the minority leader, declared that the Pacific war might end quickly if President Truman would state, specifically, in the upper chamber just what unconditional surrender means for the Japanese. (See p. 228, Chapter 18)

White's move was supported immediately by Senator Capehart of Indiana--who called a press conference the same day to state:

It isn't a matter of whether you hate the Japs or not. I certainly hate them. But what's to be gained by continuing a war when it can be settled now on the same terms as two years from now? (See p. 228, Chapter 18)

- President Truman's journal shows he knew the Proclamation could not be accepted by the Japanese. (See p. 303, Chapter 24)

- The position of the Emperor was accepted five days after Hiroshima was bombed. (See pp. 416-420, Chapter 34)

 

 

Guide: Part III

Back to Contents

 

 

 

A Guide To Gar Alperovitz's

THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART III

(from materials released at the time of publication)

 

ON HOW VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE "MYTH" WERE CREATED--

 

PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN

(Partial listing:

See Chapters 41-45 for an extended discussion)

It had previously been thought the journal was simply misfiled. However, new evidence shows that the President personally directed that it be kept under wraps:

The journal was held by the widow of the President's former press secretary, Charlie Ross, and at Truman's request was kept locked in her safe deposit box. It was kept even from White House aide Eben Ayers, who had been expressly directed by the President to prepare an account for him of the atomic bomb decision during the Potsdam Conference. (See pp. 554-555, Chapter 44)

A letter to the president from Mrs. Ross dated October 16, 1951, explains:

Over the phone yesterday . . . Mr. Ayers asked [about] any notes he [Charlie Ross] may have had on the atomic bomb explosion. There is one envelope of notes marked "Private and Confidential," a typed copy of some personal notes of your own of the Potsdam trip you had loaned him. He had these typed from your own notes by his secretary . . . and--so the accompanying note says--returned the original to you. Part of it is in diary form.

Also, as you may recall, I still have where he placed it in our safety deposit box, the story Charlie wrote--while it was fresh in his mind -- of the decision to use the bomb. (See p. 554, Chapter 44)

The next day, October 17, 1951, Truman replied:

I think you had better keep those private papers of Charlie's in the safety deposit vault because I am sure we have all the information that was contained in them. (See pp. 554-555, Chapter 44)

Truman told Ayers "to drop the matter as far as Mrs. Ross is concerned." (See p. 555, Chapter 44)

(As noted, the journal--made public in 1979--shows that after Stalin confirmed Russia would join the war Truman wrote: "Most of the big points are settled. He'll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.") (See above; see pp. 241-242, Chapter 19)

- For instance, Ayers later also recalled:

He [Truman] had in his own office, or more properly, the office of his secretary, Miss Rose Conway, personal files which I do not believe were accessible to or seen by anyone other than Miss Conway and the President. I know that in my work on the President's papers, during 1951 and 1952, I found it practically impossible to get from Miss Conway anything from these files for my use, despite the President's having assured me that everything was to be available to me. (See pp. 548-549, Chapter 44)

- Samuel I. Rosenman, Truman's close friend and counsel, expressed real concern (in an oral history interview conducted for the Library) that Truman would not get the historical recognition he deserved because--as late as 1969--

so many of his papers have not been made available. I don't agree with that. He has kept them under his own supervision. . . . (See p. 552, Chapter 44)

- On August 9, 1945 he stated to "the men and women of the Manhattan Project":

Atomic bombs have now been successfully employed against the enemy.

A grateful nation, hopeful that this new weapon will result in the saving of thousands of American lives, feels a deep sense of appreciation for your accomplishment. (See p. 515, Chapter 42)

- To the annual Gridiron Dinner on December 15, 1945 he explained that at the time he made the decision to use the atomic bomb:

It occurred to me that a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities, and I still think they were and are. (See p. 516, Chapter 42)

- On April 6, 1949 the president told a group of new Democratic senators and representatives that he

made that decision because I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved by making that decision, and some 3[00,000] or 400,000 of the enemy would be saved by making that decision. (See p. 516, Chapter 42)

- On April 28, 1959 Truman told students at Columbia University simply that "the dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives." (See p. 517, Chapter 42; emphasis added above and below for clarity.)

In 1952 Thomas L. Cate, a scholar helping to prepare the official history of the Air Force in World War II, wrote Truman to ask about the decision to use the atomic bomb. Truman's initial thought--and his idea of what to tell Cate--was set down in a handwritten draft response dated December 31, 1952:

I asked Gen. Marshall what it would cost in lives to land on the Tokio plane [sic] and other places in Japan. It was his opinion that 1/4 million casualties would be the minimum cost as well as an equal number of the enemy. The other military and naval men present agreed. (See p. 517, Chapter 42)

As he reworked the draft, a White House aide, Kenneth W. Hechler, noticed a problem with the response: Truman's estimate of "1/4 million casualties" was considerably different from an (unsubstantiated) "over a million casualties" estimate previously published by Secretary of War Stimson in a 1947 Harper's article and repeated in his memoirs. (See p. 518, Chapter 42; p. 466, Chapter 38) Hechler brought the problem to the attention of another White House aide, David D. Lloyd, in a January 2, 1953, memorandum:

On page 2, it is stated: "I asked Gen. Marshall what it would cost in lives to land on the Tokio plane [sic] and other places in Japan. It was his opinion that 1/4 million casualties would be the minimum cost as well as an equal number of the enemy." Stimson says in his book On Active Service, p. 619: "We estimated that if we should be forced to carry this plan to its conclusion, the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest. I was informed that such operations might be expected to cost over a million casualties, to American forces alone." I think it is important that the President's casualty figure be changed to conform with that of Secretary Stimson, because presumably Stimson got his from Gen. Marshall; the size of the figure is very important. (See pp. 517-518, Chapter 42)

Lloyd promptly prepared a memorandum to Truman on the basis of Hechler's observations which pointed out:

In your draft, you state that General Marshall told you that a landing in Japan would cost a quarter of a million casualties to the United States, and an equal number of the enemy. Mr. Stimson, in his book written by McGeorge Bundy, says that Marshall's estimate was over a million casualties. Your recollection sounds more reasonable than Stimson's, but in order to avoid a conflict, I have changed the wording to read that General Marshall expected a minimum of a quarter of a million casualties and probably a much greater number -- as much as a million. (See p. 518, Chapter 42)

Although neither Hechler nor Lloyd seem to have bothered to check any actual records of casualty estimates ("your recollection sounds more reasonable")--and although Stimson's estimate had no documentary basis whatsoever (see below, pp. 23-24)--Truman approved Lloyd's revision as if it were historical fact.

A photostatic copy of the final version of the president's letter was reproduced and published as an authoritative source in the official U.S. Army Air Forces history. (See pp. 517-518, Chapter 42)

- In a December 31, 1946 letter to Secretary Stimson the president wrote:

If you will remember our conversation in Potsdam, we came to the conclusion that the bomb should be dropped on a town which was engaged almost exclusively in war work. Hiroshima was the town picked out and then Nagasaki was the second one. (See p. 522, Chapter 42)

(Neither city was deemed important--or targetted--because it was a war production center.) (See above pp. 14-15)

- In Mr. President, a 1952 book prepared by his journalist friend William Hillman, he stated:

I . . . asked Stimson to indicate on the map what cities the military would favor as targets, if Japan did not surrender, and we had to use the bomb. Among the targets was Hiroshima, an army center and military supply port; and, Nagasaki, a major seaport containing large industrial establishments.

I then agreed to the use of the atomic bomb if Japan did not yield. (See p. 521, Chapter 42)

It is true that the headquarters of the Fifth Division, the Second Army, and the Chugoku regional army were located in Hiroshima. However, as previously noted the idea that the city was selected primarily because of its military importance at this point in the war is incorrect. (See p. 521-525, Chapter 42)

The idea that Hiroshima had been bombed because it was "a military supply port"--as proposed in Mr. President--is also wrong; nor is there any evidence suggesting this. Moreover, Japanese shipping was already extremely crippled, and Hiroshima harbor had been successfully mined during Operation Starvation. On June 18 Marshall had informed Truman not only that U.S. air and sea power had already "greatly reduced movement of Jap shipping south of Korea," but that it "should in the next few months cut it to a trickle if not choke it off entirely." (See p. 522, Chapter 42)

- There also is no basis for the argument that Nagasaki was selected because it was a seaport. Although there is still some confusion about some details of the Nagasaki bombing, the Mission Planning Summary for Nagasaki defines the target as the commercial part of the city where there were large numbers of civilian homes. (See pp. 533-534, Chapter 43)

 

SECRETARY OF WAR HENRY L. STIMSON

(Partial listing:

See Chapters 35-40 for an extended discussion)

With the help of a young McGeorge Bundy--later to become John F. Kennedy's National Security advisor--an article Stimson penned for Harper's Magazine in 1947 became the primary source of established wisdom for two decades. In it the specific "million" estimate is offered not once but twice. Stimson suggests that had the bomb not been used, "the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest. I was informed that such operations might be expected to cost over a million casualties, to American forces alone."

A 1985 study by Rufus E. Miles, Jr., concluded that "the number of American deaths prevented by the two bombs would almost certainly not have exceeded 20,000 and would probably have been much lower, perhaps even zero."

At virtually the same time Barton Bernstein demonstrated in greater detail that even if a November Kyushu landing had actually occurred--and, moreover, continued without interruption to the end--it might have cost a maximum of 20,000 deaths.

The highest estimate discovered in the various planning reports prepared prior to the decision--assuming both the 1945 landing and the full-scale 1946 invasion to have taken place--was in the range of 40,000 to 46,000 deaths. (See pp. 466-467, Chapter 38)

There would have been no casualties had the war ended before the November landing, which as we now know appeared likely by July.

 

SECRETARY OF STATE JAMES F. BYRNES

(Partial listing:

See Chapter 46 for an extended discussion)

Byrnes' efforts at manipulating history include his deliberate editing, altering and at times even fabricating evidence of his past as it is recorded in the documents and other manuscript sources. . . .
Byrnes' manipulation of his personal papers goes beyond the normal limits of genteel dishonesty. Extensive research of these archival records leads unavoidably to the conclusion that they have been systematically doctored. . . .

For instance:

Correspondence that for years was meticulously collated and preserved with an attached carbon copy of Byrnes' response suddenly begins to include incoming letters and memoranda on sensitive subjects from which Byrnes' reply has been detached.

And:

In 1954 the persistent scholars at the Department of State approached Byrnes' former associates . . . for any records they might have relating to the Potsdam Conference of July, 1945. One such associate was Walter Brown, Byrnes' long time friend. . . . Byrnes did not know that during the conference Brown had kept a detailed daily journal recording Byrnes' activities and his private utterances concerning the negotiations. . . .

Byrnes was at first furious when he learned of the existence of such a diary. However, Byrnes' initial anger soon subsided and he eventually turned this record, too, toward his own uses.

The edited "excerpts" of Brown's diary entries for July 1945 that Byrnes eventually sent the State Department alter the meaning and substantially destroy the significance of Brown's diary. . . . The alterations and deletions indicated in Byrnes' own hand throughout the copy of the diary sent him by Brown, distort and at times totally reverse the meaning of the actual contemporary record.

"Having made certain that the State Department would no longer trouble with the Brown diary," Messer observes:

Byrnes sent what he titled "Excerpts From Notes of Walter Brown" to the State Department with his "best wishes."
In manipulating evidence in this way Byrnes was able to extend his control over the historical record beyond his personal manuscript collection to influence the official documentary histories compiled by the Department of State. These official sources in turn have been relied on by scholars throughout the world. When asked directly by individual private scholars for information on some of the same subjects for which he had sent the State Department his own manipulated evidence, Byrnes with the straightest of faces politely referred the inquiring historian to the official State Department record. (See pp. 204-205, Chapter 15)

 

OTHER OFFICIALS

(Partial listing:

See Chapters 47-49 for an extended discussion)

The petition was withheld from the public for almost 20 years. Groves arranged to keep key documents under his personal control even after his retirement. (See pp. 190-196, Chapter 14; and pp. 603-607, Chapter 47)

In 1946, the Joint Chiefs of Staff began preparing a statement for Congress on the impact of atomic weapons on warfare. A majority of the Joint Chiefs explicitly agreed with and "signed off" on the following opening formulation:

The atomic bombs dropped in Japan had two primary effects: first, although the Japanese had already initiated diplomatic action leading to surrender, the actual ending of the war was accelerated with the probable saving of thousands of lives; and second, a profound revolution in military thought has resulted. (Emphasis added.)

The chiefs reversed themselves--and eliminated the critical language--when "attention was called to the possible implication to be drawn by the public that the atomic bombs were dropped on a people who had already sued for peace. . . . " (Emphasis added.) (See pp. 625-626, Chapter 49)

- In early April 1945, a memorandum from Vice Admiral C. M. Cooke to Admiral Ernest King states:

In making an outline of the factors bearing on our strategy against JAPAN, I have not included very much about RUSSIA. In this there are so many political aspects that it seems better for them not be be [sic] included in a Joint Chiefs of Staff paper, but, nevertheless, they should be borne in mind in any oral conversations with the President. (See p. 97, Chapter 8)

- A May 18, 1945 memorandum found in the papers of Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy states:

10:30 Joseph Grew (Under Secretary of State) telephoned re Committee of Three Minutes - asked that one page be briefed for the record and that part of the original report [be] destroyed. [The meeting in question dealt extensively with Russian issues.] (See p. 97, Chapter 8)

- As a matter of policy General Groves avoided committing anything to writing whenever possible. When General Marshall asked him to take over foreign intelligence on atomic energy matters in the fall of 1943, for instance, "as was customary, nothing was put in writing." (See p. 602, Chapter 47)

- In a 1959 letter to Groves one Army Air Forces liaison officer (Lieutenant General Roscoe C. Wilson) recalled that when he first began working with the project,

. . . I was explicitly directed not to keep records. . . . I was told to report to you for instructions; to share no confidences with anyone; to keep no records; to report to no one in the AAF [Army Air Forces] except [General Oliver P. Echols] and [Air Forces Commander] General Arnold: my reports were to be verbal or in my own handwriting. (See p. 602, Chapter 47)

 

 

Guide: Part IV

Back to Contents

 

 

 

 

A Guide To Gar Alperovitz's

THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB:

PART IV

(from materials released at the time of publication)

 

ON INTERPRETATIONS OF THE DECISION--

 

MAJOR THEMES

- To delay any statement of intentions to Japan--also against the advice as to timing of Secretaries Grew, Stimson and Joint Chiefs of Staff. (See pp. 60-63, Chapter 4; pp. 247-248, Chapter 19);

- To eliminate recommended language clarifying the position of the Emperor--against the advice of all the other policy makers involved plus Prime Minister Churchill (See Chapters 23, 24, 25);

- To delay a Russian attack once the atomic test was successful--against the entire thrust of pre-atomic policy (See Chapter 21).

In addition, as noted, a decision was made not to follow up on the cables showing Japan's willingness to surrender on the basis of the Atlantic Charter (See Chapters 31, 32)

- Walter Brown's diary records on July 24:

JFB still hoping for time, believing after that atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press for claims against China. (See p. 268, Chapter 21)

- On July 28, 1945, Secretary Forrestal reports in his published diary that:

Byrnes said he was most anxious to get the Japanese affair over before the Russians got in, with particular reference to Dairen and Port Arthur. Once in there, he felt, it would not be easy to get them out.

The next sentence, documenting not only Byrnes' general attitude but the specific tactic he used to achieve his goal, is to be found only in the original unpublished diary:

With all this in mind, he was in favor of Soong's return to Moscow, which he proposes to do, in order to keep the conversation on this subject going. (See p. 275, Chapter 21)

- On August 5 Truman and Byrnes sent further instructions to Harriman requesting that "no agreement be made involving further concessions by China. . . ." (See p. 414, Chapter 33)

- In a private 1952 letter from Groves to Byrnes (marked "Confidential" "because I do not feel that any benefit would result if it should become public at this time"):

You may recall various discussions that I had with you directly and indirectly about my very strong recommendations that we should not tell Mr. Stalin about our anticipated use of the atomic bomb. The reason for this was a desire [sic], which I had every reason to believe you shared, that any such knowledge would make Russia's entry into the war more certain and that we all wanted to avoid. I recall you telling me with considerable relish, after your return, just how the possibility had been broken to Stalin. . . . (See p. 388, Chapter 30)

 

"ATOMIC DIPLOMACY"

- According to Truman, in one of their very first meetings Byrnes told him that "in his belief the bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war." (See p. 134, Chapter 10)

- The new weapon was first explained to the President because of its role in diplomacy, not because of its role in the war. In late April--in the midst of an explosive confrontation with Stalin over the Polish issue--Secretary of War Stimson urged discussion of the bomb because (as he told Truman) it had "such a bearing on our present foreign relations and . . . such an important effect upon all my thinking in this field. . . ." (See p. 130, Chapter 10)

- Stimson, for his part, regarded the atomic bomb as what he called the "master card" of diplomacy towards Russia. For this reason, he believed that sparring with the Soviet Union in the early spring, before the weapon was demonstrated, would be counter-productive. After a mid-May meeting on Far Eastern issues Stimson observed that "The questions cut very deep and . . . [were] powerfully connected with our success with S-1 [i.e., the atomic bomb]." Two days later Stimson noted that he

. . . tried to point out the difficulties which existed and I thought it premature to ask those questions; at least we were not yet in a position to answer them.

. . . it may be necessary to have it out with Russia on her relations to Manchuria and Port Arthur and various other parts of North China, and also the relations of China to us. Over any such tangled wave of problems the [atomic bomb] secret would be dominant and yet we will not know until after that time probably . . . whether this is a weapon in our hands or not. We think it will be shortly afterwards, but it seems a terrible thing to gamble with such big stakes in diplomacy without having your master card in your hand. (See pp. 177-178, Chapter 13)

- Stimson's argument for delaying diplomatic fights with Russia was also noted in another mid-May diary entry describing a conversation with Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy:

[T]he time now and the method now to deal with Russia was to keep our mouths shut and let our actions speak for words. The Russians will understand them better than anything else. It is a case where we have got to regain the lead and perhaps do it in a pretty rough and realistic way. . . . [T]his was a place where we really held all the cards. I called it a royal straight flush and we mustn't be a fool about the way we play it. They can't get along without our help and industries and we have coming into action a weapon which will be unique. Now the thing is not to get into unnecessary quarrels by talking too much and not to indicate any weakness by talking too much; let our actions speak for themselves. (See pp. 143-144, Chapter 11)

- After a May 1945 meeting with Truman, Ambassador Joseph E. Davies' diary also records that

To my surprise, he said he did not want [the heads-of-government meeting] until July. The reason which I could assign was that he had his budget on his hands . . . "But," he said, "I have another reason which I have not told anybody."

He told me of the atomic bomb. The final test had been set for June, but now had been postponed until July. I was startled, shocked and amazed. (See pp. 147-148, Chapter 11)

- There is evidence that the broad strategy was probably secretly explained to Ambassador Averell Harriman and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden at this time as well. (See pp. 143-145, Chapter 11)

- At the end of May Byrnes met at White House request with atomic scientist Leo Szilard. Szilard found that

Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war. . . . [Mr. Byrnes's view was] that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe. . . . (See pp. 146-147, Chapter 11)

- "If it explodes as I think it will", Truman told an associate (indicating the Russians as well as the Japanese), "I'll certainly have a hammer on those boys." (See p. 239, Chapter 19)

- Scientists in the field, too, got an inkling that there was a strong linkage between the Potsdam meeting with Stalin and the atomic test. Oppenheimer, for instance, later testified: "I don't think there was a time where we worked harder at the speedup than in the period after the German surrender. . . ." (See pp. 148-150, Chapter 11)

- The timing was perfect: The first successful atomic test occurred on July 16, 1945. Truman sat down for discussions with Joseph Stalin the very next day, July 17, 1945. (See pp. 239-243, Chapter 19)

- An excerpt from Ambassador Joseph Davies' diary records that at Potsdam:

[Byrnes] was still having a hard time over Reparations. The details as to the success of the Atomic Bomb, which he had just received, gave him confidence that the Soviets would agree as to these difficulties.

Byrnes' attitude that the atomic bomb assured ultimate success in negotiations disturbed me . . . I told him the threat wouldn't work, and might do irreparable harm. (See pp. 281-282, Chapter 22)

[Churchill] told me that he had noticed at the meeting of the Three yesterday that Truman was evidently much fortified by something that had happened and that he stood up to the Russians in a most emphatic and decisive manner, telling them as to certain demands that they absolutely could not have and that the United States was entirely against them. He said, "Now I know what happened to Truman yesterday. I couldn't understand it. When he got to the meeting after having read this report he was a changed man. He told the Russians just where they got on and off and generally bossed the whole meeting." (See p. 260, Chapter 20)

[The Prime Minister] had absorbed all the minor American exaggerations and, as a result, was completely carried away. . . . [W]e now had something in our hands which would redress the balance with the Russians. The secret of this explosive and the power to use it would completely alter the diplomatic equilibrium which was adrift since the defeat of Germany. Now we had a new value which redressed our position (pushing out his chin and scowling); now we could say, "If you insist on doing this or that, well . . . And then where are the Russians!" (See p. 260, Chapter 20)

quite radically opposed to any approach to Stalin whatever. He was on the point of departing for the foreign ministers' meeting and wished to have the implied threat of the bomb in his pocket during the conference. (See p. 429, Chapter 35)

. . . I took up the question which I had been working at with McCloy up in St. Hubert's, namely how to handle Russia with the big bomb. I found that Byrnes was very much against any attempt to cooperate with Russia. His mind is full of his problems with the coming meeting of the foreign ministers and he looks to having the presence of the bomb in his pocket, so to speak, as a great weapon to get through the thing he has. (See p. 429, Chapter 35)

This particular conversation made a lasting impression on Stimson. Byrnes went off to the September meeting of foreign ministers in London, and a few weeks later Stimson's diary again records:

. . . I was much worried over what Secretary Byrnes had said to me about his coming conference with the Foreign Ministers at which he proposed to keep the bomb, so to speak, in his hip pocket without any suggestion of sharing it with Russia. (See p. 429, Chapter 35)

[Note: See above, p. 21. Virtually all of the above Stimson diary quotes (and others) on the subject were omitted from his published account.]

 

CONSERVATIVE CRITICS

- One of the first to express concern was John Foster Dulles, at the time a leading Presbyterian layman and subsequently a 1950s Cold War secretary of state noted for his nuclear "brinkmanship." On August 9, Dulles--together with the president of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ, the prominent Methodist bishop G. Bromley Oxnam--appealed directly to Truman to show "restraint" by temporarily suspending "our program of air attack on the Japanese homeland to give the Japanese people an adequate opportunity to react to the new situation. . . ." Such an act, they pleaded, "would be taken everywhere as evidence not of weakness but of moral and physical greatness." (See pp. 437-438, Chapter 36)

- Henry R. Luce, the publisher of Time and Life, also subsequently recalled his trip to the Pacific a few months before Hiroshima--and observed:

Two things seemed clear to me--as they did to many of the top fighting men I talked to: first, that Japan was beaten; second, that the Japanese knew it and were every day showing signs of increasing willingness to quit. If, instead of our doctrine of "unconditional surrender," we had all along made our conditions clear, I have little doubt that the war with Japan would have ended soon without the bomb explosion which so jarred the Christian conscience. (See pp. 635-636, Conclusion)

- Herbert Hoover, who had months earlier tried to persuade Truman to end the war and knew that Japan was essentially defeated, wrote to a friend upon learning of the use of the bomb: "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul." (See p. 635, Conclusion)

- On August 17, David Lawrence, the conservative owner and editor of the United States News (soon to change its name to U.S. News & World Report) published a strongly worded two-page editorial:

Military necessity will be our constant cry in answer to criticism, but it will never erase from our minds the simple truth that we, of all civilized nations, though hesitating to use poison gas, did not hesitate to employ the most destructive weapon of all times indiscriminately against men, women and children. (See p. 438, Chapter 36)

- Similarly, Felix Morley, editor of the conservative Human Events, asked: "If December 7, 1941, is `a day that will live in infamy', what will impartial history say of August 6, 1945?" Morley was particularly disturbed by the "floodgates of official publicity" that followed the Hiroshima bombing:

Rivers of racy material prepared in our various agencies of Public Enlightenment poured out to the press and radio commentators whose well-understood duty it is to "condition" public opinion. . . .

Never has any totalitarian propaganda effort fallen more flat. (See p. 439, Chapter 36)

- A statement defending the bombings by President Truman in March 1958 brought this editorial comment from William F. Buckley's National Review:

. . . the occasion calls for thoughtfulness, magnaminity [sic], and gallantry. . . .

. . . [Yet there was] not one word of sympathy (we think of it as Lincoln might have written it) for the survivors of Hiroshima's dead; not one grave word of regret that Hiroshima's dead should have had to die; not one gentle turn of phrase that might suggest to the people of Hiroshima that the man who ordered the bombing suffered, perhaps even prayed, before making the decision, and carries within him a deep sense of its awfulness; and not one ray of recognition of the question that must be at the back of the minds of the people of Hiroshima, and that ought to haunt Harry Truman: "Was it really necessary? Might a mere demonstration of the bomb, followed by an ultimatum, have turned the trick?"

If there is a satisfactory answer to that question, the people of Hiroshima and the people of the United States have a right to hear it. (See p. 566, Chapter 45)

 

TWO PERSPECTIVES

certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. (p. 520, Chapter 43)

Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why the Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it. (Emphasis added.) (pp. 6-7, Introduction)

#

 

 

Back to Contents 

Proceed to Summary of Charges and Responses in the Debate

 

 

 

 

Gar Alperovitz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Gar Alperovitz
(born May 5, 1936) is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Government and Politics. He is a former Fellow of King's College, Cambridge; a founding Fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics; a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Alperovitz also served as a Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and as a Special Assistant in the Department of State.

Alperovitz is political economist and historian whose numerous articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Atlantic among other publications. Alperovitz has been profiled by The New York Times, the Associated Press, People, UPI, and Mother Jones and has been a guest on numerous network TV and cable news programs, including Meet the Press, Larry King Live, The Charlie Rose Show, Crossfire, and The O'Reilly Factor.

Dr. Alperovitz is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and was named "Distinguished Finalist" for the Lionel Gelber Prize for The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, (Knopf, 1995). Dr. Alperovitz's most recent book is America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy. (November 2004). Today his research interests include[1]:

Several recent articles include 'Another World is Possible' published recently in Mother Jones, 'A Top Ten List of Bold New Ideas' published recently in The Nation and 'You Say You Want a Revolution?' in WorldWatch.

Contents

 

Excerpts from America Beyond Capitalism

'[T]he seemingly radical idea of the workers and community owning and running a giant steel mill was hardly radical at all at the grass-roots level. Indeed, the vast majority of the community, the local congressional delegation, both senators, and the conservative governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, supported it.' (p. v)

'Way back when–in my early days in Wisconsin–Senator Joseph McCarthy of our state dominated politics, both nationally and locally. “They shot anything that moved politically,” people used to say. Fear dominated every suggestion that progressive ideas might be put forward. Anyone who thought otherwise was obviously foolish. But of course, what came next was the 1960s.'(p. vii)

Books

References

  1. ^ See his university webpage at http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/alperovitz/

External links


The above material on Gar Alperovitz was retrieved from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gar_Alperovitz

 

 

Back to Contents

 

 

 

Summary of Charges and Responses

In the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net:

Section A

 

This document is a summary of some of the major points--both pro and con-- that have arisen in the debate resulting from a review by John Bonnett of Gar Alperovitz's book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (Knopf, 1995). This summary is not intended to be a comprehensive accounting of all the points that have been made in the debate; rather, it is a digest of the major issues debated. Additionally, many of the points are repeated by several participants and they are condensed in this summary. Readers are strongly encouraged to examine the original postings for a full account--including footnotes--of the H-Diplo and H-Japan exchanges, which began in the third week of September 1996 with John Bonnett's initial book review. In some cases, I have also provided additional references in italics to sections of The Decision where these issues are discussed, and, in a few cases, to additional relevant literature. Part II of this document responds to some issues that have not yet been answered in H-Diplo or H-Japan.

If you do not have copies of the original messages, please visit the H-Japan homepage at "http://h-net2.msu.edu/~asia/resources.html". If you do not have access to the World Wide Web, you can also request documents through regular E-mail by sending a message to the H-Net computer at LISTSERV@MSU.EDU. For example you can get an index of H-Diplo by simply sending the message "INDEX H-DIPLO" and you will be sent a list of files and logs. You can request a complete compilation of a specific week's postings by simply typing "GET H-DIPLO LOG9609C" where 96 represents the year 1996; 09 represents the month of September; and, C represents the third week (you can also substitute H-Japan for H-Diplo in this command). Alternatively, you can obtain the text of the exchanges by sending a request to "leee@igc.apc.org".

The following summaries are grouped by subject. The dates given are the dates when the postings appeared on H-Diplo or H-Japan. Unless otherwise noted the postings appeared on H-Diplo. Some of the postings cited in the following appeared on H-Japan after the H-Diplo debate was concluded.

Prepared by Sanho Tree (stree@igc.apc.org)

 

February 2, 1997

 

Part I

QUESTIONS RAISED AND ADDRESSED ON H-DIPLO OR H-JAPAN


THE SHOCK VALUE OF SOVIET ENTRY INTO THE WAR

9/25: John Bonnett argued in his initial review:

"To the extent that American military planners did see potential shock value inherent in Russian entry, it was only within a specific context, in tandem with an American invasion, or the expectation of an imminent invasion. To be sure, analysts differed as to which factor would make the greatest impact on Japan. But they never viewed Soviet entry as an option capable of administering an instrumental "shock" in isolation."

Katie Morris responded to this in a 11/9 posting on H-Japan (after having been rejected by the editors of H-Diplo after they cut off debate). She quoted from an April 29, 1945 study by the Joint Intelligence Committee prepared for the JCS:

"The Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable when they perceive that their armed forces are incapable of arresting the progressive destruction of their basic economy. The increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment) would make this realization widespread within the year. THE ENTRY OF THE U.S.S.R. INTO THE WAR WOULD, TOGETHER WITH THE FOREGOING FACTORS, CONVINCE MOST JAPANESE AT ONCE OF THE INEVITABILITY OF COMPLETE DEFEAT." [EMPHASIS ADDED]

She went on to state: Consider Marshall's comments at the June 18 White House strategy session. At Truman's request, Marshall addressed the role that the Soviet Union might play. Reading from a paper prepared by his planning staff, he explained that if a surrender were to occur prior to complete military defeat, it would be because Japan was faced by the "completely hopeless prospect occasioned by (1) destruction already wrought by air bombardment and sea blockade, coupled with (2) a landing on Japan indicating the firmness of our resolution, and also perhaps coupled with (3) the entry or threat of entry of Russia into the war." This awkwardly-worded statement has lead several historians and analysts to conclude that Marshall considered the effect of Soviet entry to be entirely contingent on a landing-a judgment which, though understandable, is probably not correct. First, note Marshall's comments, a little later in the meeting, when he re-emphasized the potential significance of Soviet entry: "An important point about Russian participation in the war is the impact of Russian entry on the already hopeless Japanese may well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan." Here, not only was Marshall not saying that the effect of Soviet entry was contingent on a landing, but, in fact, he left open the possibility that Soviet entry might make a landing unnecessary: "or shortly thereafter _if_ we land in Japan." Second, not more than a few weeks before, Harry Hopkins had confidently reported from Moscow Stalin's commitment to enter the Pacific war around August 8--almost three months before the November 1 landing would occur-therefore "at that time" could, simply, not coincide with the landing. Third, as noted, war department thinking at this point was that the effect of Soviet entry combined with the "increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment)"-no mention of the invasion-would "convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of defeat." . . . .Even still, in closing the meeting, Truman stated "that one of his objectives in connection with the coming conference [at Potsdam] would be to get from Russia all the assistance in the war that was possible." And, when he finally received Stalin's commitment to enter the war, he wrote "I've gotten what I came for-Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it." Also, in his 1955 memoirs, at a time when he might have been tempted to downplay any interest he had had in securing Soviet entry into the war, he explained that his "immediate purpose [in going to Potsdam] was to get the Russians into the war against Japan as soon as possible" and that securing Soviet entry had been a priority for him because "If the test [of the atomic bomb] should fail, then it would be even more important to us to bring about a surrender before we had to make a physical conquest of Japan."

Sanho Tree also responded to the question of Soviet entry on 10/10:

Bonnett overlooks the mass of evidence stressing the shock value of a Soviet declaration of war. I will cite but one example here. On July 10, even before the Emperor's initiative, the chief Army planner, Brigadier General George A. Lincoln wrote to his friend Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, the commander of US forces in China:

"The B-29s are doing such a swell job that some people think the Japs will quit without an invasion. That may be so providing we can get an adequate formula defining unconditional surrender. That we have attempted to do, and it has gone from this group through channels to the President. My personal opinion, which isn't much, is that there are two psychological days in this war; that is, the day after we persuade Russia to enter, if we can, and the day after we get what the Japs recognize as a secure beachhead in Japan. Around EITHER of those times we might get a capitulation, PROVIDING we have an adequate definition of what capitulation means." [p.359-360, emphasis added]

Bonnett cites an earlier statement, also by Gen. Lincoln, written on June 4 stating that "the point in our military progress at which the Japanese will accept defeat and agree to our terms is unpredictable." Clearly, this letter to Gen. Wedemeyer, written over a month later (and reprinted on p.359 of _The Decision_ ), shows that Lincoln's views had evolved but Bonnett chooses to omit this reference.

On 10/3 Uday Mohan commented on what was considered "conventional wisdom" in the public understanding of an anticipated Soviet declaration of war:

Russian entry as a possible final blow to Japan also got significant play in the media. An April 16, 1945, Newsweek headline is telling: "Lost Battles, Slap From Moscow Shake Props of Jap Ruling Clique: Shift in Tokyo Government Smoothes Way for Peace Feelers, Cuts Power of Army Group." Even at this early date Newsweek noted that the Russian denunciation of the Russian-Japanese neutrality pact spelled "pure disaster" for Japan. A month later, Newsweek mentioned reports of "at least one peace feeler" from Japan, adding confirmation to its earlier picture of Japan's hopelessness.

The possibility of Russian entry and Japanese desire to seek an end to the war were linked propositions on other occasions as well. A July 30 Newsweek headline read, "Heavy Allied Blows, Fear of Reds Make Jap Leaders Seek Way Out." The article noted that Japan, fearing Russian entry and hoping to negotiate an end to the war before the Russians came in, had sent the Soviets a peace feeler. Top-secret documents do shed light on the importance of Russian entry, but it was also regarded as common sense in the public discourse.

These media assessments and commentaries provide context for the perceptions of U.S. leaders seeking an end to the war. The media coverage in the spring and summer of 1945 recalls Martin Sherwin's formulation, made almost a decade ago: "The choice in the summer of 1945 was not between a conventional invasion or a nuclear war. It was a choice between various forms of diplomacy and warfare." (_A World Destroyed_, Vintage ed., 1987, p. xxiv).

Readers may also wish to consult chapters 7-9 of _The Decision_ for additional information about American plans for Soviet entry into the war.


HOW COHERENT WERE TRUMAN'S VIEWS ABOUT THE VALUE OF SOVIET ENTRY DURING AND AFTER POTSDAM?

9/25: John Bonnett wrote in his initial review:

"On the same day that Truman expressed the belief that the bomb would end the war before the planned Russian invasion of Manchuria, he wrote a letter extolling the benefits of Soviet entry. The next day he approved a C.C.S. recommendation that the Soviets be given a formal request to enter the war. He was genuinely surprised when Japan offered to surrender after `only' two bombs had been used. If the President remained oblivious to the potential psychological impact Soviet entry would have, so too did his advisors. [Prof. Barton] Bernstein notes that `after re-reading key diaries and related papers for the 24 July - 10 August 1945 period, I have been surprised how little focussed attention the issue received for its psychological effect.'"

Katie Morris responded on 11/9 in H-Japan:

[Bonnett] looks not to contemporaneous evidence, but only to a footnote in an article by Barton Bernstein to substantiate this claim. This is unfortunate on several levels, but mostly because as much as I respect the contribution that Barton Bernstein has made to A-bomb scholarship, the observation put forward in this footnote-that "After rereading key diaries and related papers for the 24 July-10 August 1945 period, I have been surprised by how little focused attention the issue of Soviet entry received for its psychological effect, as distinguished from its military value, in contributing to Japan's future defeat"-is not his finest. Indeed, although it was Bernstein who was one of the first to argue, rightly, that bomb historians needed to look back to even before Truman became president in order to properly contextualize the bomb decision, here, he makes the mistake of looking to the period _after_ the news of the success of the atomic test was received for focus on Soviet entry for its psychological value. If only Bonnett had looked carefully at Bernstein's article, _The Decision_ or, probably best, the relevant evidence, he would have seen that it is a bit of a mystery why it should come as a surprise that there is little evidence of focused attention on the psychological value of Soviet entry during this particular July 24-August 10 period. As even Bernstein himself has noted, once the bomb had been successfully tested on July 16, U.S. decision-makers not only were not focusing on the shock value of a Russian attack, they had lost interest in Soviet entry completely and, in fact, were actively attempting to keep the Russians from entering the war. Added to this was the ever-present sensitivity to the political/diplomatic risks posed by Soviet entry, and resulting reluctance to be seen as the one who pushed Soviet entry. No, as the above evidence should make clear, for evidence of U.S. leaders' understanding of the psychological value of Soviet entry one must look back (and look carefully) to April, May, June and early July 1945, when the atomic bomb was, in Stimson's post-war words, "a week reed" on which to rely, and all possible strategic options had to be explored.

For further discussion about the sensitivity and classification of documents regarding Soviet entry see p.96 and p.683n of _The Decision_. For additional information about American plans for Soviet entry into the war see chapters 7-9 of _The Decision_.


THE IMPACT OF SOVIET ENTRY ON THE KWANTUNG ARMY

10/10 Eric Bergerud wrote: "...Alperovitz stresses the crucial importance of the Soviet entry into the war in August 1945. Its military significance was dubious. (Alperovitz's description of the Kwantung Army as an elite force is absurd. High quality Japanese forces in Manchuria had long since been redeployed to the Pacific or the homeland. Only a pitiful shell remained.)"

Katie Morris responded on 11/10 in H-Japan:

Nowhere in _The Decision_ is the Kwantung Army inappropriately characterized as "an elite force" (Bergerud, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996). On page 85, in reference to the role that Soviet entry was initially to play-as determined early in the war-it says "U.S. officials initially wanted the Red Army to attack as soon as possible in order to pin down the vaunted Japanese Kwantung Army on the China mainland." On page 418, it states the "once formidable Japanese Kwantung Army, (now 'bled white of trained units and of first-line equipment.')" (quoting from Raymond Garthoff's 1969 study, "The Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945 in _Military Affairs_.)


JAMES FORRESTAL'S DIARIES AND THE JAPANESE PEACE FEELERS VIA THE SOVIET UNION

9/25: John Bonnett implied that Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal's reading of the Japanese intercepts made him feel pessimistic about an early end to the war. "On July 15 he noted Japan's hope of inducing the Soviets to take independent action in the war, in order to gain better terms:

[Sato] stated very bluntly. . .how fantastic is the hope that Russia would be impressed by Japanese willingness to give up territory which she had already lost. . . .He said that the situation was rapidly passing beyond the point of Japan's and Russia's cooperating in the security of Asia but [that the question was] rather whether there would be any Manchukuo or even Japan itself left as entities.

Observing that Sato pressed the issue again on the 24th, Forrestal noted Japan's "final judgment and decision was the war must be fought with all the vigor and bitterness of which the nation was capable so long as the only alternative was the unconditional surrender." Considering American policy makers previously understood conditional surrender to comprise more than an Imperial guarantee, that Togo proved incapable of providing any new terms for Sato, and that Japan continued to harbour hopes of independent Soviet action, its stance on the 24th was not an encouraging sign."

Sanho Tree responded to this on 10/10:

This is a curious interpretation of Forrestal's assessment of the situation, to say the least. Forrestal noted the irony of the Japanese asking for Soviet mediation to end the war, in all probability, because he knew of the impending Soviet declaration of war against Japan and the effect it would have on the hard-liners there. In fact, he was quite encouraged by these intercepts and he ends his July 15 diary entry with: "It is significant that these [Sato-Togo] conversations began before there could have been much effect from the thousand-plane raids of the Third Fleet and several days before the Naval [artillery] bombardment of Kamaishi."

Bonnett ignores the evidence from many different sources presented in _The Decision_ [pp.390-399] showing that Forrestal believed the Japanese were on the verge of surrender. Indeed, Forrestal left for Potsdam on July 26th carrying the intercepts with him on the plane. Furthermore, Forrestal, a strong proponent of granting assurances for the Emperor, worked with Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew and Secretary of War Henry Stimson to urge a clarification of surrender terms for the Japanese in the hope of inducing a surrender prior to any invasion of the home islands. And, as Robert Albion, Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley have noted, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Forrestal made a last ditch personal effort to head off the bombing. Thus, there is nothing unusual in Forrestal noting the Japanese decision to continue fighting if faced with "unconditional surrender" for he himself understood these terms to be unworkable so long as the Japanese believed the Emperor was threatened.

On 11/10 Katie Morris responded on H-Japan:

Even Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, to whom Bonnett makes specific reference to support his argument that U.S. leaders believed the Japanese were as much concerned about occupation as they were about the emperor, supported Stimson's efforts and, as _The Decision_ documents and others here have noted, may have supported (even encouraged?) the efforts of Ralph Bard and Admiral Ellis Zacharias. (Alperovitz, 390-99) Indeed, in terms of perceptions, the July 30 entry of McCloy's diary is quite clear: On that day, Ambassador to Moscow Averell Harriman told McCloy about the "long talk . . . about the Japanese business, particularly the Emperor's position," that he had had with Forrestal. From McCloy we learn that: "Jim [Forrestal] feels we may need the Emperor to stabilize things in Japan and bring about peace on the continent. If the Emperor does not go along with what we feel is a complete demobilization of Japan, we can unseat him. If he does, he may be an asset to a liberal element." (McCloy Diary, July 30, 1945)


JOSEPH GREW'S POSITION ON UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

9/25: On the question of Japanese peace feelers and attempts to modify surrender terms John Bonnett wrote: "Joseph Grew suggested the initiatives were designed to weaken American commitment to the war."

Uday Mohan responded on 10/3:

Bonnett, for example, notes Grew's July 10 statement that some Japanese peace initiatives during the summer "were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This was a public statement Grew made to quell growing rumors about peace in the press. Bonnett does not mention that privately Grew again counseled qualifying unconditional surrender so that "the door may well be opened to an early surrender." (Alperovitz 232) Nor does Bonnett mention that Grew clearly understood that there were peace-minded elements in Japan. (p474)

Sanho Tree responded on 10/10:

In attempting to dismiss the various Japanese peace feelers, Bonnett writes as though Joseph Grew was a hard-liner on the issue of unconditional surrender: "Joseph Grew suggested the [peace] initiatives were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This characterization--because it is Bonnett's only reference to Grew--paints a grotesquely distorted picture of Grew's positions in 1945. Bonnett has taken a public statement Grew gave at a press conference in July putting down rampant peace rumors in the press and made it appear representative of Grew's larger, private views. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One would never know from reading Bonnett that Grew and Stimson were the driving forces behind the effort to grant assurances for the Emperor-each approaching Truman several times.

For a discussion of the evolution of the unconditional surrender policy, readers may wish to read chapters 3 to 6 of _The Decision_.


WERE THE JAPANESE HOLDING OUT FOR A "NO OCCUPATION" SURRENDER FORMULA?

On 9/25 and 10/10 Bonnett claimed "More was at stake, then, than a proviso for Hirohito, or fight. American civilian and military policy makers understood that Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centred on foreign occupation as well, and that Japan was prepared to go to substantial lengths to prevent both eventualities." He quoted a July 8 intelligence estimate presented to the Combined Chiefs of Staff [CCS 643/3]: "The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of "unconditional surrender" are most revolting to the Japanese."

On 10/10 Sanho Tree responded:

Unfortunately, Bonnett has chosen to omit a key sentence in a way that alters the meaning of the intelligence estimate. The full quotation shows that the officers of the Combined Intelligence Committee who prepared this study highlighted the centrality of the Emperor above all other conditions of surrender:

"The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of `unconditional surrender' are most revolting to the Japanese. To avoid these conditions, IF POSSIBLE, and, IN ANY EVENT, to insure the survival of the institution of the Emperor, the Japanese might well be willing to withdraw from all the territory they have seized on the Asiatic continent and in the southern Pacific, and even to agree to the independence of Korea and to the practical disarmament of their military forces. A conditional surrender by the Japanese government along the lines stated above might be offered by them at any time from now until the time of the complete destruction of all Japanese power of resistance." [Emphasis added. 8 July 1945, "Estimate of the Enemy Situation (as of 6 July 1945). Reported by the Combined Intelligence Committee." C.C.S. 643/3]

Clearly, the Combined Intelligence Committee saw the Japanese objection to occupation as secondary (desirable "if possible") to the preeminent condition-the retention of the Emperor.

In addition, Thad Williamson pointed out on 10/23 that:

on p.651 of the Afterword, the continued intransigence of the Japanese military after Nagasaki and Soviet entry is directly addressed in a section reviewing some of the expert literature on this point. . ."

Uday Mohan also responded on 10/28 but his posting was rejected by the editors of H-Diplo after they terminated the debate. A somewhat lengthier version was finally posted on H-Japan on 11/30:

I also pointed out that in offering the CCS study Bonnett omits to note that Alperovitz cites the study's point about occupation, but shows the singularity of the unconditional surrender issue for both sides. Bonnett replies that "contrary to Mohan, Alperovitz _did not_ state all the points made in CCS 643/3." But Alperovitz _does_, on p. 227 (the index easily leads us to this page). More important, though, is the issue that Sanho Tree raised about Bonnett's specific use of the CCS study. Bonnett misses the CCS study's emphasis on the status of the Emperor rather than occupation. To be sure, the Japanese wanted to concede the minimum to end the war; what losing nation doesn't? But the issue here is what American leaders understood as the main sticking point to Japanese surrender. And from May onward the answer is clear: assurances for the emperor. This is hardly a novel position. Many scholars have made this point, for example, Leon Sigal: "one point was clear to senior U.S. officials regardless of where they stood on war termination.... U.S. senior officials knew that the critical condition for Japan's surrender was the assurance that the throne would be preserved." (quoted in Alperovitz, p. 301) Katie Morris responded on 11/10 in H-Japan:

John Bonnett claimed early on in this discussion that "American civilian and military policy makers understood that Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centred on foreign occupation as well [as on the emperor's status]," and that U.S. leaders were not encouraged, in fact, were discouraged by what they read in the MAGIC intercepts. However, the available evidence suggests that this is not quite right. For example, when, on June 29, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy forwarded a draft of what became the Potsdam Proclamation to Stimson, he highlighted some of the "more important questions" which had "been resolved in the manner set forward in the draft" including:

"The maintenance of the dynasty. This point seems to be the most controversial one and one on which there is a split in opinion in the State Department. The draft suggests the language we have used in the memorandum to the President. This may cause repercussions at home but without it those who seem to know most about Japan feel there would be very little likelihood of acceptance."

In contrast with Bonnett's characterization however, with regard to "the necessity of occupation," McCloy noted only that "We have felt that without occupation there would not be the symbol of defeat that is necessary to impress both the Japanese and the Far Eastern peoples nor the means to demilitarize the islands. As you will see, we have left the time for the occupation somewhat indefinite."


THE SHOWA EMPEROR

10/10: Eric Bergerud made the following charge:

"Alperovitz greatly simplifies and twists the vital issue of the Showa Emperor's position in postwar Japan. Although Alperovitz would like his readers to believe that Tokyo wanted nothing more from Washington than assurances that Hirohito could continue on as a kind of Japanese King Albert, the truth was quite different. There is little reason to believe that the Japanese government feared the complete destruction of the Imperial throne. If they had done so, there would have been no "peace party" in Tokyo. The continuance of the Imperial line was the ONLY issue that every Japanese leader agreed was non-negotiable. (Any leader suggesting that the Japan end the monarchy would have been signing a death warrant in my opinion.) Indeed, anyone examining the debates that went on within the Japanese government after Tojo's fall in July 1944 is struck by the fact that Tokyo was not fighting for Hirohito as an individual, but for the nationalist-Shinto political structure that the Emperor symbolized...."

Katie Morris responded on 11/9 in H-Japan:

While this may be true, the fact is that U.S. leaders did not have access to information detailing the debates that went on within the Japanese government after Tojo's fall in July 1944. Indeed, the evidence reveals that U.S. leaders who looked into this issue believed the emperor's status was the condition on which Japanese surrender debates turned, and that assuring the Japanese they could keep the emperor was well within U.S. war aims, and that once they secured a surrender, they could re-define Hirohito's role as necessary. Also, however naive or misguided it may seem today given what we know from Japanese sources, as a result of what they read in July and August MAGIC intercepts, many members of Truman's administration came to believe that assurances might hold the key to changing the recognition of the inevitability of complete defeat into surrender, or, at the very least, given the stakes, that it was worth a try. To understand this however, it is necessary to actually look carefully at the evidence of U.S. perceptions, something which the critics who have written thus far have apparently not done.


OPPOSITION TO MODIFYING THE POLICY OF UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote: "In fact, Stimson, Forrestal and Leahy, Grew's most powerful supporters, were politically outgunned. (Leahy's position on most issues related to the bomb AT THE TIME is not absolutely clear.) Against them, for various reasons, stood George Marshall, Archibald MacLeish, Dean Acheson, Harry Hopkins (probably), Charles Bohlen, Averell Harriman, Byrnes and Cordell Hull. (Hull was concerned that any concession in advance would be read in Tokyo as a sign of weakness. On that point he was quite correct.) In ruling against Grew, Truman was going with the political flow inside his administration, not against it. Such an obvious conclusion, however, does not fit well with a conspiracy theory."

On 11/10 Katie Morris replied on H-Japan:

I present this evidence [on McCloy, Stimson and Forrestal's positions], aware of the fact that it has been categorically dismissed on the grounds that these advisors were "outgunned," for several reasons.
1. The fact that they were not in the position to make the final decision on what went into the Potsdam Proclamation does not diminish the fact that they, as top members of the Truman Administration, with access to the most current information coming from Japan, believed that the emperor's status was, above all, the critical condition for Japan, _and_ that assuring them on this matter was well within the of U.S. war aims;
2. They were not so outgunned that they did not advise Truman of this judgment; Here I would like to stress several points: As noted above, General Marshall was not against assuring the Japanese that they could keep the emperor and it is wrong for Bergerud and Villa to continue to argue that he did. Also, it is no less than misrepresentation to suggest that MacLeish, Acheson, Hopkins, Bohlen, Harriman and Hull held more weight than Marshall, Leahy, the Joint Chiefs as a body, Stimson, Forrestal, Grew, even McCloy who basically ran the war department for Stimson and Undersecretary of the navy who sat on the Interim Committee; and to claim that the views of the former constituted the "political flow inside [Truman's] administration."
3. The evidence documenting where they met opposition does not suggest that the opposition was either based on a belief that other conditions were necessary, or that allowing Japan to keep the emperor was incompatible with U.S. war aims. For example, although we know that Truman approved the removal of both the military leaders' version of assurances and the civilian leaders' version of assurances from the Potsdam Proclamation, there is no evidence as to why. Yet there is evidence that whenever the subject of the emperor's status was raised with him, he expressed support for clarification. Moreover, when confronted on August 10 with the Japanese surrender offer on the sole condition that the sovereignty of the emperor be preserved, he did not hesitate in supporting a positive response. In fact, the evidence relating to this last point is worth noting in detail, for not only is it a good indication of the "political flow" inside the Truman administration, it also suggests that somehow Truman had little sense of the details of this matter:

On August 10, when the initial Japanese surrender offer was received, a debate took place in the White House. On one side was Leahy, Stimson, and Truman; on the other, Byrnes, with Forrestal agreeing with the former but occupying the middle ground. Byrnes' assistant, Walter Brown's notes of the debate is enlightening. According to Brown, Truman was perfectly willing to accept the offer outright, and immediately approved a cable drafted by Admiral Leahy. However, Brown notes that Byrnes found the cable unacceptable. When he protested, arguing that because they had insisted on "unconditional surrender" before the atomic bombings and before Soviet entry, they should stick to it after, Brown reports that "Truman asked to see [the] statement." Brown details:

JFB [Byrnes] cited page, paragraph and line of Potsdam declaration. Forrestal spoke up for JFB's position. Truman swung over. . . .

What is strange about this is that it suggests that despite an administration-wide debate over the issue, and the efforts of the all of the top-echelon advisers save James Byrnes to draw his attention to this very point-Truman was the only member of his administration to not have gotten the picture or refused to deal with the unconditional surrender problem-even Byrnes knew the page, paragraph and line of the Potsdam declaration that was at issue. Yet one further detail from Brown's August 10 entry, offering a rare glimpse of the relationship between Byrnes and Truman at this time, suggests one possible explanation: In addition to the above, he also noted: "JFB had lunch with the president and said that the two of them had to decide the question and there could not be so many cooks. Truman agreed and JFB message as written."

This suggests the possibility that information stopped with Byrnes or, at least, that the efforts to get the matter before Truman were somehow blocked. Unfortunately, at this point, it is impossible to determine exactly what happened, but at the very least, it is clear that the evidence on the views of the one advisor who was not outgunned, James Byrnes, is critical. Yet, significantly, all of the evidence indicating his views-that he did not want to make any deals; that he did not want to invite negotiations or any trouble on the domestic front; that, in fact, he probably wanted to dictate terms and when reports of the success in New Mexico arrived at Potsdam he grew confident that the bomb would allow him to do so; and that even when things did not work out quite as he had hoped he insisted on calling the shots-confirms only that Byrnes wanted to and thought he could end the war without having to publicly assure the Japanese that Hirohito could stay. Whether Byrnes' desire to get around this point can be used to explain the necessity of the bombings (especially when so many thought it possible, and when the JCS had taken account of political backlash and had suggested neutral language) is questionable. However, what is at issue here is whether, from the American perspective, the status of the emperor was the critical condition, or that assurances would be effective, and with respect to this question it should be noted that none of the evidence on Byrnes' views proves that is was not. For a sense of this, consider Stimson's characterization of the Japanese surrender offer, and his subsequent comments:

Japan accepted the Potsdam list of terms put out by the President "with the understanding the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of his majesty as a sovereign ruler". It is curious that this was the very single point that I feared would make trouble. When the Potsdam conditions were drawn and left my office where they originated, they contained a provision which permitted the continuance of the dynasty with certain conditions. The President and Byrnes struck that out. They were not obdurate on it but thought they could arrange it in the necessary secret negotiations which would take place after any armistice.

Indeed, this and the other evidence on Byrnes' opposition to clarifying the U.S. position on the emperor in the Potsdam Proclamation lends considerable weight to the argument that to some the bomb was perceived as a panacea; and that the preference for this option resulted in less than careful attention to other, equally viable if less desirable, options by the men who, ultimately, were in the position to decide U.S. policy.

See also chapters 24-5 for a discussion of unconditional surrender in the final stage of the war.


THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF AND UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

10/14: Brian Villa, among others, claimed that Gen. Marshall came to oppose modification of unconditional surrender in late July:

"As I tried to show in that [1976] piece, General Marshall and one of his principal advisers on this question, the head of OPD's Strategy and Policy group, BG George A. Lincoln, were forced to beat at least a partial retreat, after being initially favorable to disguised modification of unconditional surrender. Marshall's beating retreat speaks volumes about the political environment."

Katie Morris replied on H-Japan on 11/9:

For example, consider the statements made by Army Chief of Staff George Marshall in an exchange of memoranda in late May-early June 1945. On June 9, Marshall wrote:

it would seem better that we take action to discourage public use of the term "unconditional surrender," which we all agree is difficult to define, and encourage instead more definitive public statements concerning our policy and war aims. We should cease talking about unconditional surrender of Japan and begin to define our true objective in terms of defeat and disarmament....

His conclusion, "The nature of the objective, whether phrased as 'complete defeat' or 'unconditional surrender,' is going to be determined by the detailed instructions, and the suppression of the statement 'unconditional surrender' will have little practical effect on the final result," only confirms that Marshall believed what was important were the terms, the war aims, and that these needed to be spelled out. Whether or not they did so while keeping the "unconditional surrender" rhetoric, really did not make a difference. In fact, the resulting directive issued from Marshall to the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicates Marshall's insistence that "we should be careful not so to crystalize the phraseology "unconditional surrender" as to preclude the possibility of changing this terminology to something which might be psychologically more conducive to the earliest defeat of Japan."

Yet, while these statements confirm that Marshall understood the problem of unconditional surrender, other evidence confirms that he also understood that so long as unconditional surrender remained unclarified, there was a strong chance that the war would go on and he and the Joint Chiefs were responsible for planning for this. For example, consider the evidence from June 18, 1945 which suggests that, even at that early date, the presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Leahy urged the president not to insist upon unconditional surrender because he feared that "our insistence on unconditional surrender would result only in making the Japanese desperate and thereby increase our casualty lists." "He did not think this was at all necessary," the minutes of the June 18 meeting note, and, in fact, his diary entry from that day reveals that this was because at that time he believed "a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression." Perhaps this has been quoted so many times it has lost its punch: here, in the privacy of his own diary, the presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff to the President is writing that as of June 18 he perceives the situation to be one in which a surrender could be achieved which would satisfy the war aims of the United States and still be accepted by Japan. Whether or not he was right is a separate issue, and should be handled as such. The point here is that this evidence reflects his perception of the situation. And further, that as the president did not at this time opt to clarify "unconditional surrender," the documentary record reflects continued planning for the invasion.

Also consider the Joint Chiefs' independent efforts to get Truman to clarify unconditional surrender with regard to the status of the emperor. After attempting to approach the subject through Churchill, they touched on the issue of the emperor's status again during their meetings on July 17 and 18, this time in the context of a discussion of a draft of what became the Potsdam Proclamation. On the 17th, they considered an opinion paper presented by the Joint Strategic Survey Committee (JSSC), in which the JSSC approved the draft, but cautioned that the sentence which was intended to clarify "unconditional surrender" with respect to the emperor, could possibly, as written, backfire. This group suggested alternative language which the JCS adopted because they feared that threatening the emperor, even inadvertently in poorly-worded assurances, could mean a longer war.

This has been interpreted to mean that the Joint Chiefs, and General George Marshall in particular, were against offering any assurances at all. I refer specifically to Bergerud's October 28 assertion that "at the time of Potsdam the JCS and Marshall did NOT favor Grew's mention of the Emperor's status in the Potsdam Declaration. Marshall, like Cordell Hull, favored the retention of the Emperor but feared the consequences of making it a PUBLIC issue prior to surrender or a realistic appeal by the Japanese government to the UNITED STATES..." [emphasis Bergerud's] Simply, this does not square with the evidence: During the meeting, the minutes note, Marshall approved the language suggested by the JSSC, because he recognized the need for using the emperor in achieving surrender. In fact, he stressed that President Truman be advised that nothing should be done "to indicate that the Emperor might be removed from office upon unconditional surrender." Thus, in a memorandum to Truman the Chiefs recommended _not_ removing a clarifying sentence all together, but that instead of telling the Japanese they could have a "constitutional monarchy," it would be better to echo the neutral language of the Atlantic Charter, and assure the Japanese that "Subject to suitable guarantees against further acts of aggression, the Japanese people will be free to choose their own form of government." (Both this and the civilians' formulation were rejected and the Proclamation was issued without any clarification at all on this issue. This, Mr. Bergerud, is the "unrealized 'flex'" in the diplomatic situation in mid-1945. And this also illuminates the Combined Intelligence Committee's lack of definitiveness: They had even less power than the JCS, and while on one level they could recommend clarification, on another they had to assume there would be no change.

See also pp. 299-301.

 

Section B of the Summary of Charges and Responses in the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net

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Summary of Charges and Responses

In the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net:

Section B

 

WHAT PEACE TERMS WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO THE U.S. PUBLIC?

10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote: "In addition, Alperovitz frequently accuses the US government of "rigidity" in its posture toward Japan. Implicit in this charge is the idea that some kind of negotiated settlement acceptable to Washington was there for the asking."

The issue of whether surrender was possible is dealt with in many of the responses--and in Parts I, II, III of Alperovitz's response. In addition, it may be useful to note that Uday Mohan responded on public opinion toward surrender terms as expressed in the popular media on 10/3:

Despite Grew's public denial of the seriousness of peace feelers, calls for clarification of surrender terms multiplied, in Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. On July 13, the Washington Post editorialized:

". . . the main question . . . is whether we should make known not merely to Japan but also to ourselves, and particularly to the men who are bearing the greatest pain and burden of the battles, precisely what are our purposes in continuing them.

. . . If these purposes are clear in the minds of our statesmen, they are nevertheless masked under the purely rhetorical and meaningless phrase, 'unconditional surrender.'"

The Post was being consistent with its earlier editorials arguing strongly for terms for Japan. Just a month earlier an editorial had said:

"...the same two words ['unconditional surrender'] remain a great stumbling block to any [U.S.] propaganda effort and the perpetual trump card of the Japanese die-hards for their game of national suicide. Let us amend them; let us give Japan conditions, harsh conditions certainly, and conditions that will render her diplomatically and militarily impotent for generations. But also let us somehow assure those Japanese who are ready to plead for peace that, even on our terms, life and peace will be better than war and annihilation."

Similar sentiments were expressed in other publications. Time, for instance, noted on July 16 that "unconditional surrender" had yet to be clarified. "Or, if it has," the newsweekly noted, "it is still a deep secret. U.S. military policy is clear: blow upon blow until all resistance is crushed. But the application of shrewd statesmanship might save the final enforcement of that policy--and countless U.S. lives."


SECRETARY OF WAR HENRY L. STIMSON'S POSITION ON ENDING THE WAR

9/27: John Bonnett developed a theory concerning Stimson's "Psychology of Combat" and implied his views as chairman of the Interim Committee were consistent with his decision to support the use of the atomic bomb:

"[W]ith regards to the Interim Committee deliberations, his thinking likely ran along the lines he claimed after the war: his primary objective was to find the best means to exploit the bomb's shock value. The schema is also consistent with his postwar claim that he was not amenable to proposals that mitigated -- even slightly -- the potential shock value of the bomb, since therein lay his traditional prescription for ending a conflict."

On 11/10 Katie Morris pointed out in H-Japan Stimson's views on ending the war quite apart from the atomic bomb:

Stimson himself attempted three times in three weeks, with the support of Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, to persuade Truman to clarify the meaning of unconditional surrender with regard to the status of the emperor.

Again, because I fear that this evidence has been quoted so much that it has lost it's punch, I ask you to consider that: On July 2, in a memorandum to Truman, Stimson first proposed that a warning with assurances be issued. Almost echoing Leahy, Stimson rhetorically asked, "Is there any alternative to such a forceful occupation of Japan which will secure for us the equivalent of an unconditional surrender of her forces and a permanent destruction of her power again to strike an aggressive blow at the 'peace of the Pacific'?" He answered: "I am inclined to think that there is enough such chance to make it well worthwhile our giving them a warning of what is to come and a definite opportunity to capitulate." He emphasized: "I believe Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater extent than is indicated by our current press and other current comment." And driving home the point McCloy had made, (probably in anticipation of any fears the president might have of domestic disapproval of assurances) he stressed his belief that if, in the warning, "we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance."

Also, various diary entries, correspondence and papers confirm that the content of the July 12 and 13 MAGIC intercepts triggered Stimson's July 16 attempt to convince Truman that "we are at the psychological moment" to issue an ultimatum to Japan clarifying U.S. intentions vis a vis the emperor-and to use the bombs only if this did not work. In an official memorandum, he explained:

"The great marshalling of our new air and land forces in the combat area in the midst of the ever greater blows she is receiving from the naval and already established Army forces, is bound to provoke thought even among their military leaders. Added to this is the effect induced by this Conference and the impending threat of Russia's participation, which it accentuates.

Moreover, the recent news of attempted approaches on the part of Japan to Russia, impels me to urge prompt delivery of our warning...."

Again, to be quite clear, despite what Japanese sources reveal about the intransigence of Japanese military leaders, it was Stimson's view, as expressed here to Truman, that the desperate situation in the Pacific was "bound to provoke thought _even among their military leaders_."


MISCHARACTERIZATIONS?

10/14 and again on 10/28 Brian Villa charged Alperovitz with gross distortions:

"Nevertheless, three editions later, in a new volume with multiple co-researchers and over 800 pages we can find the following Alperovitzian phrase," the Japanese leaders were united in their determination to surrender." (p.651) It bespeaks unconscionable stubborness before contrary evidence, it relies, if not traffics on the tendency of readers to confuse the meaning of "seeking peace" with "determined to surrender." To tolerate this sort of stubbornness and this seeming confusing of the terms seeking peace and seeking surrender is to abandon some of the most fundamental rules of this profession, without which it is not a profession."

Thad Williamson responded on 10/23:

Nonetheless, anyone concerned with basic norms of intellectual exchange ought to be deeply disturbed by this kind of charge, especially when it is coupled with a grossly inaccurate characterization of another scholar's work. At the end of his long ad hominem diatribe against Gar Alperovitz, Brian Villa wants to know, for instance, why misrepresents the Japanese governments view of surrender in the "Alperovitzian sentence" that "the Japanese leaders were united in their determination to surrender"; and why there is a "failure to report that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet entry into the war the Japanese military at the imperial war council cast their votes for continuance of the war."

As to the first point, let me be quite clear: The sentence attributed to Alperovitz by Villa does not exist in the book, not on p.651 (as Villa cites) or anywhere else. Alperovitz does, on p.651, write "Furthermore, the August intercepts which now showed `unanimous determination' to seek surrender through Moscow was an important new signal of the army's position..." The `unanimous determination' language is directly derived from Foreign Minister Togo's MAGIC cable of August 2 that "At present, in accordance with the Imperial will, there is a unanimous determination to seek the good offices of the Russian in ending the war..." Of course, this statement in no way implies unanimity as to the terms of surrender; nor is the quote used in to connote such a conclusion.

The quote is first cited in the text as follows on p.406, within the context of a detailed discussion of the evolving Japanese position in late July and early August:

"On August 2, Togo cabled Sato that although it was `difficult to decide on concrete peace conditions here at home all at once....

At present, in accordance with the Imperial will, there is a unanimous determination to seek the good offices of the Russians in ending the war, to make concrete terms a matter between Japan and Russia, and to send Prince Konoye, who has the deep trust of the Emperor, to carry on discussions...

The cable stressed, finally, that `we are exerting ourselves to collect the views of all quarters on the matter of concrete terms'; hence Whatever happens, if we should let one day slip by, that might have----[word uncertain probably "results"] (sic) lasting for thousands of years. Consequently, if the Soviet Government should reply in the negative....I urge you to do everything possible to arrange another interview with Molotov at once."

Alperovitz refers to this same cable again on p. 412: "We noted above that the August 2 MAGIC report suggested the `unanimous determination' of top leaders in Tokyo that Japan should seek peace." Alperovitz additionally quotes the following material from the August 2 cable: "`Under the circumstances there is a disposition to make the Potsdam Three Power Proclamation the basis of our study concerning terms.'"

Had Villa not provided a page reference to his misquote, I might have dismissed this error as simple sloppiness. Since he did provide a page citation, it is difficult not to suspect malicious intent in Villa's gross distortion of Alperovitz's position. There can be no quibbling in this matter. The "unanimous determination" phrase is explicitly attributed to the Japanese and is so cited. For Villa then to reattribute these words to Alperovitz, as if Alperovitz were claiming that there was unanimous agreement in Japan upon the terms of peace, is simply outrageous and unscholarly. I urge all interested readers to compare the actual text and Villa's characterization of it--there is no resemblance.

As to the second point, on p.651 of the Afterword, the continued intransigence of the Japanese military after Nagasaki and Soviet entry is directly addressed in a section reviewing some of the expert literature on this point, starting with the following sentences: "Some feel that what Japanese military leaders said they wanted in internal discussions after August 9 also makes it difficult to believe a surrender could have been achieved on terms acceptable to the United States. The Japanese military wish-list included preservation of the imperial system, no postwar occupation, self-disarmament, and self-management of war-crime trials. The question is what weight to assign the wish-list in after-the-fact assertions."

This is followed by further argumentation to the effect that when push came to shove and the Emperor directly intervened, the military representatives on the Big Six accepted the Emperor's decision to accept peace (contingent on protection of the Emperor), even though they had the constitutional power to block this decision.

Whatever one thinks of these complex issues, it is simply untrue to state, as Villa does, that the book fails to address the question of the continued hold-out of the Big Six's military representatives on August 9. The most charitable interpretation that one can give Mr. Villa's accusations (accompanied by a blatant misquotation) is that perhaps he has not read the book; unfortunately, given the fact that Villa cites the very page in which the August 9 Japanese military stance is discussed, this charitable interpretation is a very difficult one to sustain.

On 10/28 Brian Villa apologized for using the word "unanimous" and not "united", but did not acknowledge the larger misquotation:

Reference Tad Williamson's latest posting on H-Diplo. I do indeed owe some apology to H-Diplo readers for not getting out of my e-mail programme and double checking the exact wording of the Alperovitzian quote. Tad Williamson is correct insofar as he points out that the actual quote, drawn from a Togo to Sato cable used the word "unanimous" and not "united". Having made my apologies to H-Diplo's readers, I must point out that whether the original Alperovitzian presentation used the word "united" or "unanimous" is, as far as I can see immaterial. The connotative and denotative differences between united and unanimous are so negligible to anyone who has a moment to reflect that I am surprised Williamson's overblown reaction was posted in the form that it was. I guess that is the price one pays for instant electronic communications at thousands of bytes per second.

I may be wrong but one of the things I see in Williamson's reaction is the possible preparation of a "tu quoque" defense. Everyone makes slip-ups Villa makes slip ups Alperovitz makes slips ups and it is all relative. This -let us bury the controversy under relativism-was I thought also implicit in Chip Young's earlier pro-Alperovitz intervention. However what I taxed Dr. Alperovitz for was converting in a published work, written with 7 research agents and I presume several proof readers, a phrase referring to a Japanese " determination to seek peace" into the phrase "determination to seek surrender." This conversion is highly significant. Seeking peace is very different both in connotations and denotations from seeking surrender. If Alperovitz were correct that the Japanese were unanimous in their determination to surrender before the bomb was used then the blurb under which Alfred Knopf published this book: " Truman Knew War Was Over Before Using Atomic Bomb" might have some validity. Alperovitz would have a strong basis, indeed, for his general thrust that Hiroshima was criminal. But the Japanese cable spoke of a "unanimous determination to seek peace" not surrender. It is this conversion which amounts to distortion. Period. Full stop.

At this point debate was cut off without warning by the editors of H-Diplo. Villa edited his 10/14 H-Diplo post and this was crossposted to H-Japan on 10/29. In this edited crosspost, Villa continued to misquote Alperovitz. Thad Williamson responded thus to villa on H-Japan on 11/5:

I should also note that Villa continues to misquote the sentence even after the error was pointed out on H-DIPLO; he has corrected "unanimous" for "united", but still badly mangles the original sentence in his H-JAPAN posting. I do not understand why this misquotation is repeated, and since I have in hand a print review of by Bonnett and Villa in which they do manage to get the quote right I would rather not suspect anything other than error. But this error is serious, and must be pointed out; in any case, what is most important is not so much the misquotation but the misrepresentation of how Alperovitz uses the quote.)

As to the larger point Villa wants to raise--the claim that Alperovitz (consciously) misleads the reader by confusing "seek peace" with "surrender", a re-reading of how the cable is used by Alperovitz in its full context, as I have just given, disproves the charge (see above). Alperovitz does not use the cable to claim that the Japanese military was ready to surrender on American terms; but rather that even they too were beginning to recognize the need to get out of the war. As War Department intelligence analysts noted in the MAGIC report of August 3 (which also contained a delayed portion of the Togo to Sato cable):

"The second half of Foreign Minister Togo's 2 August message to Ambassador Sato--now available--contains the first statement to appear in the traffic that the Japanese Army is interested in the effort to end the war with Soviet assistance."

MAGIC also noted Togo's statement that "The Premier and the leaders of the Army are now concentrating all their attention on this one point." (As noted by Walter Brown in the diary passage cited above, these were the intelligence reports shown to Truman by Leahy on August 3 aboard the Augusta, leading Truman, Leahy, and Byrnes to agree "Japas [sic] looking for peace".)

The excerpts from the August 3 MAGIC report regarding the Japanese Army's position are quoted on p.412 of , but are not at all acknowledged by Villa, even though they are referenced in the second clause of the same sentence he takes such objection to. (Indeed in a subsequent H-DIPLO posting, Villa has also claimed that Alperovitz has no warrant to suggest the Togo to Sato cable says anything about the Army's view, apparently believing his own interpretation of the cable to be superior to that offered at the time by U.S. intelligence!) Alperovitz uses the August 2nd and 3rd reports simply to show that there was movement within the ranks of even the Japanese Army on the question of ending the war, as indicative of the overall weakening of the Japanese position and increased eagerness to find a way out of the war. It is not represented as definitive of any consensus as to terms of peace, but simply as a telling element within the larger picture. This is a legitimate use of evidence, with which one may agree or disagree in own's own interpretation; it is absolutely not a ploy to deceive readers.


GENERATIONAL EXPERIENCE AND INTERPRETATION OF THE A-BOMB DECISION

9/25: John Bonnett used the Enola Gay controversy to set up a dichotomy between Vietnam War-era historians and WWII veterans, and sees the different experiences of these two groups as playing a role in their understanding of the bomb decision.

Response by Kai Bird on 10/1 on Alperovitz's pre-Vietnam roots:

. . . Alperovitz received his Ph.D. in 1964, and wrote his ground-breaking "Atomic Diplomacy" well before the Vietnam era--as is noted in his latest volume. Indeed, when "Atomic Diplomacy" was published in 1965 Alperovitz was top-ranking special assistant in the U.S. State Department. In other words, his book was not at all the product of those "historians who came of age during the Vietnam war." It was a product of the fact that certain highly relevant archival sources happened to become available in 1959--as Barton Bernstein has so revealingly told the story in his startling essay, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Nuclear History" (Diplomatic History Winter 1993). But this too is irrelevant to Bonnett's purposes.

Also irrelevant to Bonnett is the elementary fact that views he attributes to Vietnam era historians--and which the Air Force Association's public relations flaks described as distorted, hateful, and anti-American during the Enola Gay controversy-were actually common fifty years ago among conservatives. Bonnett conveniently forgets that in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima, military figures like Dwight Eisenhower, William D. Leahy, William Halsey, Curtis LeMay and Henry 'Hap' Arnold criticized the decision to annihilate Hiroshima with the bomb. Virtually all of World War II's ranking military figures could today be labeled "revisionists."

The New York Times' leading military affairs correspondent Hanson Baldwin included the Hiroshima decision in his 1950 book, "Great Mistakes of the War." Herbert Hoover, Henry Luce, and the Washington Post's Eugene Meyer questioned the necessity for the bomb. In other words, fifty years ago, leading figures in American life were more willing to voice criticism of the bombings than is allowed today in our national museum.

Response by Uday Mohan on 10/3:

[Bonnet's] framing of the issue would have surprised all the mainstream and conservative individuals who publicly claimed that the bomb was unnecessary--for example, James Reston, Henry Luce, David Lawrence (the conservative editor of U.S. News & World Report), Herb Elliston (the editor of the Washington Post in the 1940s and early 1950s), key military leaders, including Admirals Leahy and Nimitz (in addition to what Nimitz has said, Nimitz's son recently recalled on CBS that his father always regretted the use of the bomb because Japan had already been beaten), conservative writers in William F. Buckley's National Review and elsewhere, and many others. Conservative criticism of Truman's decision was, in fact, widespread enough in the 1950s that one writer began his 1959 _defense_ of the bomb in National Review by stating that "The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming part of the national conservative creed . . ." A rich sampling of this material is laid out in Alperovitz's book, but it seems to have escaped Bonnett's attention.

 

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Section C of the Summary of Charges and Responses in the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net

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Summary of Charges and Responses

In the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net:

Section C

 

WARTIME PERCEPTIONS AND "PRESENTISM"

9/26: Bonnett asked, "As the various statements of Truman's intentions are surveyed, it is worth asking whose perceptions are at play here: Truman's, or our own?"

Responses have pointed to specific pieces of evidence, e.g., by Thad Williamson on 10/23:

Any purported understanding of Truman's view of Japan's situation in August 1945 has to be evaluated in light of the major new evidence reported in _The Decision_ from Byrnes special assistant Walter Brown's diary entry of August 3 (as the President and Byrnes were returning from Potsdam.) As reported on p. 415 of _The Decision_, Brown noted that "Aboard Augusta/President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden." Bonnett somehow fails to acknowledge this piece of evidence, even though it comes at the climax of Alperovitz's entire argument regarding Truman's view, and is deliberately highlighted as a critical piece of (new) evidence.

Other responses have also pointed to what the media were reporting before the bomb was dropped, what WW II military leaders have said, and how diaries and internal documents corroborate each other. Here, for example, is a summary of what military leaders have said, posted by Thad Williamson on 10/3:

For purposes of illustration, I will flesh out in detail one important source of evidence--fleshed out in some 50 pages of text in The Decision--which essentially refutes Bonnett's suggestion that Alperovitz has simply read back into Truman's decision his own mindset and prejudices, or "drawn a face in the mirror that bears a striking resemblance to [his] own." The source of evidence I refer to consists of the views of a wide variety of top-level military leaders who, both in 1945 and afterwards, stated explicitly and repeatedly that using atomic bombs against Japan was not a military necessity in 1945. Strangely, Bonnett neither discusses nor acknowledges any of this evidence (some of which is well-known, other parts brought to historical attention for the first time in _The Decision_.)

I quote at length here:

*Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1945 and a close personal friend of Truman, wrote in his 1950 memoir "It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." (p.3, _The Decision_) Leahy had urged Truman on June 18 to clarify the terms of unconditional surrender so as to provide an Emperor guarantee, and on July 16 had urged the British Chiefs of Staff to get the prime minister to push the issue with Truman.

*Writing in the third person, U.S. Fleet commander in chief Ernest J. King stated in his 1952 memoir the belief that regarding the choice of the bomb or invasion, "the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials." (p.327)

*Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz in September 1945, according to The New York Times, "took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombings and Russia's entry into the war." In October, Nimitz stated, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into war." Nimitz's widow later recalled that he "always felt badly over the dropping of that bomb because he said we had Japan beaten already." She recalled direct statement by Nimitz that "I felt that that was an unnecessary loss of civilian life...We had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn't do anything." (pp.329-330)

*In 1946, Third Fleet commander Admiral William Halsey also came forward, stating "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment... It was a mistake to ever drop it. Why reveal a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary?...It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before." (p.331)

*The commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Hap Arnold, stated in his 1949 memoir that "it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse." Arnold's deputy, Lt. General Ira Eaker, later stated that "Arnold's view was that it was unnecessary. He said that he knew the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military's job to question it." Eaker added that Arnold had told him that while the Air Force under his command would not oppose the bomb's use, "it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion." (p.335)

*General Carl Spaatz also recalled in interviews given in the 1960s his unease with the use of the bomb in 1945, stating "That was purely a political decision, wasn't a military decision. The military man carries out the orders of his political bosses." Spaatz recalled his view that a demonstration of the bomb over Tokyo Bay would have been appropriate as opposed to dropping the bombs directly on a city (as well as the view that even the continued threat of conventional bombing might well have been enough to induce surrender). Spaatz's 1945 recommendation of a demonstration drop is corroborated by an interview with associate Glen Martin. (pp.343-345)

*Brigadier General Carter W. Clarke, the army officer in charge of preparing the MAGIC summaries in 1945, stated in a 1959 interview, that "we brought [the Japanese] down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and then when we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs." (p.359)

*Although Air Force General Curtis LeMay later bobbed and weaved quite a bit on his stated opinion of Hiroshima in subsequent years, in September 1945 LeMay publicly declared that the bomb "had nothing to do with the end of the war" and that "The war would have been over without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb." In November 1945, LeMay added that it was "obvious that the atomic bomb did not end the war against Japan. Japan was finished long before either one of the two atomic bombs were dropped..." (p.336)

*On August 15, 1945, Major General Claire Chennault, founder of the Flying Tigers and former Army Air Forces commander in China, told _The New York Times_ "Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped..." (pp.335-336)

 

These judgments also were shared by the two supreme military heroes of World War Two-- Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. While there is continued debate as to whether Eisenhower, as he claimed, actually advised Truman and Stimson in July 1945 not to use the bomb, it is nonetheless notable that greatest American military leader of the twentieth century and a two-term President of the United States consistently condemned the Hiroshima decision, from 1963 until his death, stating that "[T]he Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." Even if the meetings with Truman and Stimson of 1945 remain historically uncertain, there is little doubt that Eisenhower's doubts about the bomb dated back to that period. Eisenhower's son John on two occasions has corroborated Eisenhower's "depression" upon learning of the bomb and its impending use. According to the younger Eisenhower, the General stated "Well, again, it's none of my business, but I'd sure hate to see it used, because Japan's licked anyway, and they know it." (pp.352-358)

While Eisenhower's outspoken displeasure with the Hiroshima decision is well-known among historians, perhaps more surprising is that Douglas MacArthur too refused to endorse the atomic bombings as militarily necessary. While MacArthur is another figure who changed his public statements over time regarding wartime issues, he remained relatively consistent regarding the bomb. The diary of MacArthur's pilot, Weldon Rhoades, from August 7, 1945 states that "General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb]." Herbert Hoover's diary regarding a May 1946 meeting with MacArthur states "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we could have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria." In a postwar interview with journalist Norman Cousins, MacArthur expressed the view that there was "no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier...if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor." (pp.350-352)

These quotations (including the views of additional leaders not noted here), their subtleties, and the variation and shifts which take place over time with different leaders (with particular attention to the view of George Marshall) occupy four chapters at the very heart of the book, yet Bonnett's review does not even acknowledge them. Surely the idea that the military leaders of 1945 did _not_ see the bomb as necessary--and what this might say about the on-the-ground reality of 1945--is worthy of some consideration, some analysis. Surely this is data that historians cannot responsibly ignore--and it might be added here that the material becomes even more striking when one notes that most of these military figures did not take into account the potential effects of a guarantee for the Emperor in making their judgments as to whether Japan could be brought to surrender without the bomb or an invasion.

Indeed, the cumulative impact of this evidence is to illustrate that, within the mindset of people actually on the scene in 1945, there was felt no military urgency to use the bomb to accomplish the end of the war. It is not revisionist historians who read back into the evidence notions of morality alien to 1945 or assumptions that the atomic bomb decision was contestable. On the contrary, it is the traditional view which has forgotten that voices of doubt and unease regarding the use of atomic bombs on Japan without warning and without exploring other options were prevalent in 1945, even (and especially) in the military.


COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY

9/26: Bonnett elaborated on his "schemas" approach to history. Bonnett suggested that one way to get around the bias of one's own personal experience is to closely attend to the role personal experience and generational "Lessons of History" played in shaping the Truman administration's thinking. He proposed a cognitive psychology framework, i.e., looking at the analogies and schemas Truman and others were laboring under.

Uday Mohan responded on 10/3:

In the second part of his review, Bonnett believes he can come closer to what Truman and his advisers really believed about peace feelers, Russian entry, Japan, and the bomb by studying the schemas and analogies these individuals found especially compelling. I look forward to that study because it will provide some useful interpretations, but how will that kind of study be any less given to authorial bias? This question arises from Bonnett's own examples. Bonnett says that Truman justified his decision to resist North Korea's invasion of the South by invoking the schema that "unchecked aggression ... leads to war." Well, why wasn't unchecked, ongoing colonial aggression such a problem for Truman?

Presumably this latter aggression fit better with Truman's conception of a proper global order. Potential bias and narrowness of the schemas/analogies approach is also apparent for the bomb question if one sees the bomb as just another weapon the U.S. could use for winning the war, rather than as a weapon that would also play a significant role in the postwar world, as Byrnes, Stimson, Truman, and others understood. This was, after all, a weapon that Truman described in his diary as the "fire of destruction" prophesied in the Bible.

Postwar concerns about the bomb are clear from Stimson's efforts to link the bomb to U.S.-Soviet relations and desperately think through the postwar implications of the bomb (Alperovitz 431-35), and from a variety of statements of other officials. James Byrnes, for example, asked by _U.S. News_ in 1960 if the U.S. dropped the bomb to end the war before Russian entry, said, "Of course, we were anxious to get the war over as soon as possible." The questioner asked further, "Was there a feeling of urgency to end the war in the Pacific before the Russians became too deeply involved?" Byrnes answered, "There certainly was on my part, and I'm sure what, whatever views President Truman may have had of it earlier in the year, that in the days immediately preceding the dropping of that bomb his views were the same as mine--we wanted to get through with the Japanese phase of the war before the Russians came in." (Alperovitz 583)

At Potsdam, Truman, Byrnes, and Stimson continually linked the bomb to the Soviets (see, e.g., Alperovitz, chaps. 20-21). The psychology of power--the bomb and the postwar world--appears to be much more central here than Bonnett's psychology of combat--the bomb simply as a means to end the war.

Moreover, the psychology of combat framework doesn't appear to make room for concern over the means by which a war can be ended. Stimson, we are told, wanted to apply unremitting military and psychological pressure to the enemy. How then to explain his objection to the unrestrained bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and even to A-bomb targeting that would kill women and children? (Alperovitz 527; Lifton and Mitchell, _Hiroshima in America_ 130-31) Perhaps there is more flexibility to supposedly ruling schemas--and therefore, in this case, to exploration of alternatives to the bomb--than Bonnett lets on.

Uday Mohan added in H-Japan on 11/30:

In John Bonnett's review and reply he cautions against the notion that documents speak for themselves. And yet in these posts he takes issue with Alperovitz largely through the authority of documents, without checking them against his proposed analogies-and-schemas frame of reference, the very thing he cautions Alperovitz and others against doing. Bonnett recommends a research agenda based on cognitive structures to help remedy the problem of bias. The cognitive structures approach sounds quite reasonable and interesting. In my original response, however, I noted that this approach did not guarantee less biased readings of documents or historical decisionmaking, because a historian looking at cognitive structures might define the set of problems a policymaker was dealing with too narrowly. As well, I noted specific objections to Bonnett's examples of cognitive-based readings of Stimson. It appears that a cognitive structures approach would have little use for a genealogy of ruptures or for subtle evidence of dividedness in the thinking of policymakers. Or for evaluating the willful absurdity of applying lessons from the past. . .

Katie Morris responded on 11/10 on H-Japan:

I would like to comment on John Bonnett's effort to explore a cognitive structures approach as a means for eliminating, or at least minimizing, the gridlock that characterizes bomb debates. While I fully sympathize with Bonnett's obvious frustration with the limitations of bomb debates in general, I was again only disappointed with his selection of Secretary of War Henry Stimson as the analytical subject of his attempt to illustrate the merits of a cognitive structures approach to bomb history. This choice revealed, more than anything else, his lack of awareness of much of the evidence now available--evidence which clarifies that Stimson did not play the central role in bomb decision-making that he was once thought to have played, and which reveals Stimson's position on U.S. policies in the last months of the war to be quite different from those predicted by Bonnett's "Psychology of Combat" schema. In trying to argue that Stimson's approach to the use of the bomb was dictated by this particular schema, he failed to consider the quite accessible evidence (including that which is presented in _The Decision_, the subject of his review) which documents Stimson's progression away from a rigid position on use of the bomb and toward an aggressive position in favor of assuring the Japanese as a potential way to remove the last stumbling block to surrender. He also ignored evidence from the diary of Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy who was, in fact, the "maverick" who appears to have been quite successful in his attempt to persuade Stimson to envision a sequence of events that did not only involve the use of atomic bombs on cities without any warning. In turn, this lack of awareness not only raised questions about his ability to present new approaches, but also, specifically, undercuts his argument for what might be a useful means for enriching bomb discussions.

I, like Bonnett, am frustrated with the state of the bomb debate. And I agree that there are ways discussions of A-bomb history in general and the U.S. decision in particular, could be enhanced. Indeed, just in terms of analogies and schemas, I suspect there are others that would actually emerge as influential on the events and decisions leading up to the atomic bombings (the influence of Truman's experience with political machines, for example; or even Byrnes' "can't be so many cooks" approach to personal politics and the possible translation of this into a "dictate our terms" approach to global politics during this period.) However, until we can agree on the shape of the body of evidentiary materials and everyone reaches more or less common ground in terms of knowledge of the details, new theoretical frameworks will, unfortunately, have little enlightening impact on bomb debates.

Finally, when critics demonstrate such a high level of unfamiliarity with the evidentiary details of the book, how can we hope to move from warlike, generalized debates to intelligent discussions about interpretative differences? While one may disagree with Alperovitz's interpretation, in a reviewing his book, one should, at the very least, be expected to demonstrate familiarity with the evidence it presents, especially that which bears on specific points of criticism.


USE OF POSTWAR MEMOIRS

10/10: Bonnett charged: "Why gentlemen does Alperovitz's latest contribution betray little or no evidence of taking into account a problem for which he has been justly criticized since 1987, namely uncritical use of post-war memoirs that support his case? (Barton Bernstein, "Ike and Hiroshima: Did He Oppose It?" _Journal of Strategic Studies_ [Spring 1987]) Why in turn does Alperovitz' book indicate a willingness to critically appraise and refute memoirs that do, such as those of Stimson, James Byrnes and Harry Truman? This forms part of the basis of my charge that Alperovitz is selective in his use of the evidence, and I stand by it."

A partial response was written by Uday Mohan on 11/30 in H-Japan:

Bonnett's wholesale and rather outrageous charge about Alperovitz's selective use of memoirs also misses the mark. Clear reasons are given in _The Decision_ about why the memoirs of Truman, Stimson, and Byrnes should be treated with skepticism. And the book also provides evidence, wartime and after, to help corroborate the postwar judgments of many military leaders that the bomb was not necessary. One may disagree with the arguments laid out, but to suggest that Alperovitz dismisses or accepts postwar memoirs without evidentiary reason is grossly inaccurate. Nor is it clear how Bonnett escapes the problem he imputes to Alperovitz. Bonnett doesn't say, for example, why he prefers Harvey Bundy's postwar recollections to, say, Joseph Grew's, or those of many others with memories that challenge the necessity of the bomb, and whose judgments occupy several chapters in the book.

See also the discussion about Eisenhower in Part II.


INTERSERVICE RIVALRY

10/10: Bonnett charged inter-service rivalry inspired military memoir claims.

Uday Mohan responded on 11/30 in H-Japan:

[H]ow else can these writers explain the significant postwar dissent of several top military leaders--both in private and in public, in memoirs and in internal military-historical interviews--except in this context of reasonable options? These leaders doubted the unique, necessary efficacy of the bomb. As Alperovitz says, "if America's top military leaders either recommended or supported the use of the atomic bomb as militarily necessary [and we have no evidence of this], they gave very little evidence of such convictions in almost everything most were to say thereafter, both publicly and privately." (p. 324)

And though there is no direct contemporaneous evidence that military leaders advised Truman not to use the bomb, there is also no direct contemporaneous evidence that they advised him to use it--a point often lost by critics of "revisionist" scholarship. Significant evidence points in the direction that what military leaders probably felt--as they so often said--was that it was not necessary.

Although Alperovitz in fact allows that interservice rivalry might be involved in some statements (p. 367), interservice rivalry as an explanation for the depth and frequency of the challenge to the notion of military necessity isn't satisfactory. Many of the key military dissents cited in _The Decision_ were made publicly while Truman was still in office. It's hardly politic to try to obtain funding for your service by suggesting that your commander-in-chief unnecessarily wiped out two cities. Take, e.g., Halsey: "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment.... It was a mistake to ever drop it. Why reveal a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary? ... [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it.... It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before." [p. 331] This strong anti-bomb comment hardly seems motivated by interservice rivalry; moreover it was partly responsible for the effort to quell postwar anti-bomb dissent with the publication of Stimson's apologia in _Harper's_ in 1947.


RECONVERSION TO PEACETIME ECONOMY

10/10: Bonnett cited Prof. Barton Bernstein to make the following point: "Truman took no steps in early August to accelerate economic reconversion to a peacetime economy, despite his realization that it would be one of the most daunting tasks of his postwar presidency."

Katie Morris responded on 11/10 in H-Japan:

Indeed, as of August 3, after reviewing the latest intercepts, Truman seems to have been fairly confident that peace might not be far off. On that day Brown recorded in his diary:

Aboard Augusta/ president, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden. _The Decision_, p. 415.)

Significantly, this evidence reveals that still three days before Hiroshima was bombed Truman was not expressing concern about an unending war, but rather about the problems that might arise if the Japanese were to surrender through Moscow. However, aware, again, that this evidence will probably be questioned on the basis that Truman did nothing to indicate that he truly believed surrender was near, I add two points: one, that there is a significant difference between being hopeful and being certain. I am arguing that the MAGIC intercepts encouraged U.S. hopes that Japan was getting closer to surrender on their own at just the time when the a-bomb order was going out. This is distinguished from the argument that on the basis of what they read in MAGIC U.S. leaders were certain that the Japanese were about to surrender and therefore took action to begin closing up the war. Yet, on this last point, there is other evidence which may explain why one does not find a flurry of activity in connection with re-conversion efforts, etc. A July 25 memorandum from General Marshall to Truman, drawn up by War Department staff, assured the president that "Plans have been prepared for the occupation of Japan on short notice and necessary forces and resources are available in the Pacific." Among other details, the memorandum notes:

75-80% of industries will not require reconversion, many wartime workers will leave industry, there is a tremendous deferred demand for maintenance and for consumer goods, those industries undergoing reconversion will still employ part of their labor force, and manpower resulting from demobilization is regulated by shipping capabilities.

These factors together with the vigorous leadership of the President and other leaders tend to indicate that fears of widespread unemployment may be exaggerated. This evidence is not hard to come by. The ability to appreciate it and to place it within the context of the decision to use atomic bombs, however, requires nuanced understanding of U.S. policy debates and U.S. records.


MILITARY NECESSITY

11/3: Donald Connelly wrote in H-Japan: The phrase "military necessity" implies serious constraints. But the only constraints American leaders faced "was to end the war as quickly as possible at the least cost." Their military options included: "conventional bombing, naval blockade, invasion, and the atomic bomb.... Conventional bombing and blockade were seen as the equivalent of a siege, low casualties (for the Allies) but time consuming. Invasion was surer but risked high casualties. The A-bomb offered the potential for low American casualties and rapid results."

In his 10/3 posting, Uday Mohan quoted Martin Sherwin as follows: "The choice in the summer of 1945 was not between a conventional invasion or a nuclear war. It was a choice between various forms of diplomacy and warfare." (_A World Destroyed_, Vintage ed., 1987, p. xxiv). [If this formulation is accepted, the question of military necessity cannot be narrowed to only military options.]

See also chapters 26-29 (pp.319-371) for the views of various military leaders on the decision to use the bomb.


"UNCERTAINTY" AND ALTERNATIVES

10/10: Bonnett criticized Thad Williamson: "His is an assertion of what the U.S. _should_ have done, even given the uncertainty, namely avoiding use of the bomb at all costs. For Williamson to persuade me, he is going to have to provide a basis to explain why I should privilege his value charged agenda over the equally charged agenda offered by the Truman Administration."

Response by Thad Williamson on 10/23:

The relevant point is, even if one questions the absolute "certainty" of the war's imminent conclusion, there is no reasonable denial of the notion that making an explicit guarantee for the Emperor and/or waiting for Soviet entry had the potential--if not the "certainty"--to bring about surrender without the November invasion and without the bomb. Furthermore, withholding terms for the emperor was certain to prolong the way, which is why the U.S. military was so strongly for a clarification.

To deny the existence of plausible alternatives, further, is to depart not only from Alperovitz's view but what historian J. Samuel Walker, in a literature review for _Diplomatic History_, calls the scholarly "consensus" regarding the Hiroshima decision. As _The Decision_ illustrates, these alternatives were discussed months ahead of Hiroshima; beginning as early as April 29, the Joint Intelligence Committee repeatedly stressed to the JCS that "The entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with [continued effects of blockade, bombing, and the German collapse] convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete defeat"; likewise, _The Decision_ documents some 14 distinct occasions between May and July 1945 when Truman Administration officials attempted to sway the President into modifying the policy of "unconditional surrender" in order to facilitate a Japanese surrender.

The debated question is not whether there were alternatives, but the likelihood of their success and why they were not tried.

Suppose then, that one evaluates the evidence and concludes that the U.S. was merely "anything but certain" (could anyone have been totally certain?) about the likely efficacy of trying the available alternatives. The question still remains, why rush to use the bomb? Especially why rush to use the bomb just days before Soviet entry? Especially with invasion nearly 3 full months away? Why not test the alternatives? Was it unreasonable to exhibit some patience before unleashing "the second coming" (as Churchill called it)? This is the morally relevant historical point. There was, in even the most minimal assessment, _some_ chance of the alternatives working, and plenty of time in which to try them; and yet they were not tried.

And as noted below and argued in great detail in _The Decision_, the thrust of the historical evidence suggests that, beyond this minimal statement, the likelihood of the alternatives' success was high. A 1955 assessment by Ernest May in relation to the impact of Soviet entry, as well as the overall Japanese position, may be instructive to briefly recall: "The Emperor's appeal [to end the war] probably resulted, therefore, from the Russian action, but it could not in any event, have been long in coming."

Bonnett also writes:
"I would also take issue with Williamson's assertion that moral judgments can be reached independent of a knowledge of the actor's intent or perceptions. Some would contend that at agent's stance -- at times -- can be central to such an analysis. Killing another human being can be considered a necessary evil in one context, a deplorable act in another."

As to the last sentence, I entirely agree. And had the choice been starkly between invasion and the bomb, I would have no moral problem with the use of the bomb. As to the first two sentences, my position is not that intent and perceptions are irrelevant, but that even the actions of persons acting with sincere intent within a given frame of perception are subject to objective moral judgment.

Whether the bomb was dropped because Truman was an evil man or because he was acting within a framework of perception which gave postwar geopolitical considerations (or, by some theories, domestic political considerations) far more import than the lives of Japanese civilians does not alter my moral judgment. Indeed, this is also the position taken by Alperovitz in the book--they were not evil men. They were good Americans. (See p.637) And when they had a choice between making a reasonable (even if not absolutely certain) effort to end the war without using the bomb and pressing their cards for maximal political advantage, they chose the latter. They did so even while knowing that there were still 3 months before the invasion of Japan would begin, and that the bomb would still be there should the alternatives fail; even while knowing that no Potsdam Declaration would be accepted by Japan so long as the Emperor's position was threatened; even while fully aware that in a matter of days the Soviets would enter the war and leave Japan at a total diplomatic and military dead end.

That Truman and Byrnes may have acted consistently within a given framework of perception that prioritized political considerations above Japanese lives does not let them off the hook. That is the profound point about the Hiroshima question-- not to demonize Truman, but to understand the real human consequences of the use of unchecked disproportionate power--even when or if that use seems perfectly reasonable and legitimate to the persons carrying it out.

Of course, I disagree with Bonnett's historical assessment of the likelihood of the alternatives working, and of what Truman himself understood. It should be understood that my brief response, focused on the repeated refusal of top military leaders to declare Hiroshima and Nagasaki "military necessities", made no attempt to convey the mass of evidence regarding the larger question of Truman's understanding of the available alternatives presented in _The Decision_.


ALPEROVITZ AND THE 1965 NBC DOCUMENTARY ON THE BOMB

10/14: Brian Villa wrote on Giovanitti and Freed's 1965 NBC documentary:

"But when the NBC team began to interview the surviving Japanese participants in that decision it became evident that prior to Hiroshima there was no consensus on surrendering on American terms and that in fact the military was almost solidly opposed and continued to dissent, even after Hiroshima and after the Soviet entry into the war. It is still odd to see Alperovitz's credit flash up on the screen after a program that effectively demolished his thesis."

Uday Mohan responded on 11/30 in H-Japan:

Even [Professor Villa's] description of the NBC documentary as demolishing Alperovitz's thesis is misleading. The conclusions and tone of the documentary are much more complex than Professor Villa lets on, for the show mentions Leo Szilard's opposition, the Franck report, Asst. Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bard's counsel about a demonstration or warning, McCloy's prescription of terms, Byrnes's anti-Soviet strategizing, and the Potsdam proclamation's lack of clarity about surrender terms. These issues inform the overall picture that emerges of the decision, and they are _not_ simply dismissed, as Professor Villa's characterization would imply. On the contrary, the 1965 show begins to move public knowledge in the direction of the Alperovitz argument.


CRITICISM ABOUT JAPANESE EVIDENCE

10/14: Brian Villa wrote: "I remember being present in the late sixties and early seventies when, in debates between Staunton Lynd and Herbert Feis, and at panels presided over by historians like Gaddis Smith it was repeatedly pointed out to Alperovitz and his supporters that his thesis was persuasive if the Japanese were already determined to surrender before Hiroshima, but unsustainable if the Japanese were determined not to surrender on American terms.... Since Alperovitz first wrote, the evidence continued to mount, particularly from the intercepted Japanese diplomatic traffic-the last batch was devastating to the Alperovitz thesis-that Japanese leaders were not on the verge of surrendering on American terms AND the Americans knew it."

10/16: Paul Dunscomb also raised the question about Japanese evidence on H-Japan: "Japanese psychology, ideology and decision making methods may have been improperly understood by the contemporary decision makers in the U.S. but our continued ignorance of these things makes a full discussion of the dynamic of the decision making process impossible. Japan's actions and attitudes, past present and future, were the mirror which reflected, however poorly, America's actions and attitudes."

10/25: Similarly Edward Friedman in a brief post on H-Japan said the focus should be on what Japanese rulers were thinking and that the work of Herbert Bix is key here.

Uday Mohan commented on 11/30 in H-Japan:

To be sure, the Japanese wanted to concede the minimum to end the war; what losing nation doesn't? But the issue here is what American leaders understood as the main sticking point to Japanese surrender. And from May onward the answer is clear: assurances for the emperor. This is hardly a novel position. Many scholars have made this point, for example, Leon Sigal: "one point was clear to senior U.S. officials regardless of where they stood on war termination.... U.S. senior officials knew that the critical condition for Japan's surrender was the assurance that the throne would be preserved." (quoted in Alperovitz, p. 301) And most of the top leaders were willing to offer assurances as Alperovitz shows in his book. (Katie Morris also convincingly points this out in her posts on H-Japan...).

From various sources--such as Truman's diary ("telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace," p. 238) and Walter Brown's diary ("Aboard Augusta/ President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace.... President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden," p. 415)--it seems clear that Truman thought that Japanese leaders were asking for, or looking for, or perhaps getting ready to sue for peace. And there were three months still available before an invasion in November could begin. Taken with all the other evidence presented in _The Decision_, including the perceived importance of offering assurances for the Emperor and the devastating impact on Japan of impending Russian entry, it seems most logical to suggest that to Truman it appeared that the bomb was not the only reasonable option for bringing about Japanese surrender, but that he chose this option nonetheless. This is obvious logic, but apparently not to the bomb-was-necessary school. . .

That Truman avoided available diplomatic options partly for strategic reasons is suggested even by scholars who focus mainly on the question of Japanese intent. Herbert Bix says: "neither a) American unwillingness to make a firm, timely statement assuring continuation of the throne, as Grew had argued for, nor b) the last-minute anti-Soviet strategic stance of Truman and Byrnes, who probably wanted use of the atomic bomb rather than diplomatic negotiation, are sufficient, in and of themselves, to account for use of the bomb, or for Japan's delay in ending the suicidal conflict. Rather, Emperor Hirohito's reluctance to face the fait accompli of defeat, and then to act, positively and energetically, to end hostilities, plus certain official acts and policies of his government, are what mainly prolonged the war, though they were not sufficient cause for use of the bomb. In the last analysis, what counted, on the one hand, was not only the transcendent influence of the throne, but the power, authority, and unique personality of its occupant, and on the other, the power, determination, and unique character of Harry Truman." (DH, 1995, 223)

Bix's portrait in his article of a callous Japanese leadership certainly elicits my anger at that leadership's decision to waste human life because it wanted to preserve the kokutai. But that portrait doesn't explain what would have happened if the shock (Bix's word) of Russian entry had been accompanied by a change in terms (Bix does not address Alperovitz's two-step argument); neither does it get at Truman's perception of the endgame; nor does it get at the options that were available short of taking out an entire city--e.g., a demonstration on a military installation as Marshall had suggested.

Professor Villa also harks back to conversations he heard twenty and thirty years ago--perhaps a problematic venture given his misremembering of the NBC documentary, his attributing one statement to two different persons in two versions of the same post (on H-Japan and H-Diplo), his mishandling of Shalom, and his serious misquoting of Alperovitz while making one of his central points (see Williamson's post)--to suggest that Alperovitz has known since the early 1960s that the Japanese evidence disproved his interpretation of why Truman used the bomb. Let me say once again--and I don't know how to say this any more plainly--that, logically, however one reads the Japanese evidence, it _cannot_ prove or disprove an interpretation of Truman's motives in dropping the bomb. Professor Villa refers to Gaddis Smith as presiding over these academic conversations two and three decades ago. I presume Professor Villa mentions Gaddis Smith by name because he wants to imply that Professor Smith, perhaps simply by presiding, endorsed the view that Alperovitz's thesis was unpersuasive because of the Japanese evidence. In any case, when Gaddis Smith reviewed the updated version of Alperovitz's _Atomic Diplomacy_ in 1985 in the _New York Times_ he, to quote Marilyn Young, "pointed to a number of flaws in the book but concluded that, in the years since its original publication, 'the preponderance of new evidence ... tends to sustain the original argument' that the decision to use nuclear weapons was 'centrally connected to Truman's confrontational approach to the Soviet Union.'" (Gaddis Smith, cited in Marilyn Young's [featured review of _The Decision_, (_American Historical Review_, Dec. 1995, p. 1515-16)].

Katie Morris responded on 11/9 on H-Japan:

Equally problematic have been the charges that the argument of _The Decision_ is necessarily distorted, indeed, necessarily wrong, because it is not grounded in information from Japanese sources; and by extension, the implication that U.S. leaders making decisions in 1945 had access to this information. The decision to use the atomic bombs was a U.S. policy decision. It seems fairly straightforward, then, that in analyzing this decision one must attempt to understand the perceptions of the U.S. decision-makers through the analysis of evidence which illuminates what _U.S. leaders perceived was going on in Japan_.

In effect, this means that the evidence will come, necessarily, mostly from American records. Equally straightforward is the fact that as most of the informaion in Japanese sources was made available only after the war, it does not pertian to analysis of the U.S. decision specifically but rather, to an entirely different (if equally important/interesting) line of inquiry, namely, whether, given what we know now, the bombings were necessary for ending the war when it ended. If the latter were the focus of _The Decision_, those who criticize the absence of attention to Japanese sources would be justified. (Similarly, if it were a military history study of the objective necessity of the use of atomic bombs, based on lessons we have learned since the war, the charge that the evidence in _The Decision_ is flawed because it does not take such lessons into consideration would also be justified.(1)) However, _The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb_ is, quite explicitly, a study of a 1945 U.S. policy decision and the context in which this decision was made or, what U.S. decision-makers knew and when. In researching and writing this study, therefore, we were interested in uncovering not what Tokyo wanted, but what Washington thought Tokyo wanted, as revealed by 1945 briefing papers, intelligence studies, strategy papers, cable transcripts, meeting minutes, office records, diaries and personal correspondence.

I should stress that I in no way mean to diminish the contributions of historians who have studied Japanese sources-I believe this work is essential, and have personally learned much from it. Nor do I mean to argue that Japan should be left out of bomb discussions in general. My point is simply that anyone who compares the information in American and Japanese sources will see that American leaders had only limited insight into the internal dynamics of the Japanese cabinet debates in general, and Hirohito's role in particular... Indeed, the evidence reveals that U.S. leaders who looked into this issue believed the emperor's status was the condition on which Japanese surrender debates turned, and that assuring the Japanese they could keep the emperor was well within U.S. war aims, and that once they secured a surrender, they could re-define Hirohito's role as necessary.


HOW TO VIEW TRUMAN

10/20: Bergerud implies that Alperovitz is out to demonize Truman: "If Alperovitz is correct the US commited an astounding war crime in August 1945. Not only did we butcher god knows how many Japanese civilians, we also INTENTIONALLY prolonged the war and thus indirectly killed thousands of third-country civilians, allied soldiers and our OWN MEN. If a scholar wishes to put Truman in the same league as Himmler, he better have the guns to back up the claim."

Thad Williamson responded indirectly on 10/23:

Bonnett also writes:
"I would also take issue with Williamson's assertion that moral judgments can be reached independent of a knowledge of the actor's intent or perceptions. Some would contend that at agent's stance -- at times -- can be central to such an analysis. Killing another human being can be considered a necessary evil in one context, a deplorable act in another. "

As to the last sentence, I entirely agree. And had the choice been starkly between invasion and the bomb, I would have no moral problem with the use of the bomb. As to the first two sentences, my position is not that intent and perceptions are irrelevant, but that even the actions of persons acting with sincere intent within a given frame of perception are subject to objective moral judgment.

Whether the bomb was dropped because Truman was an evil man or because he was acting within a framework of perception which gave postwar geopolitical considerations (or, by some theories, domestic political considerations) far more import than the lives of Japanese civilians does not alter my moral judgment. Indeed, this is also the position taken by Alperovitz in the book--they were not evil men. They were good Americans. (See p.637) And when they had a choice between making a reasonable (even if not absolutely certain) effort to end the war without using the bomb and pressing their cards for maximal political advantage, they chose the latter. They did so even while knowing that there were still 3 months before the invasion of Japan would begin, and that the bomb would still be there should the alternatives fail; even while knowing that no Potsdam Declaration would be accepted by Japan so long as the Emperor's position was threatened; even while fully aware that in a matter of days the Soviets would enter the war and leave Japan at a total diplomatic and military dead end.

That Truman and Byrnes may have acted consistently within a given framework of perception that prioritized political considerations above Japanese lives does not let them off the hook. That is the profound point about the Hiroshima question--not to demonize Truman, but to understand the real human consequences of the use of unchecked disproportionate power--even when or if that use seems perfectly reasonable and legitimate to the persons carrying it out.

Of course, I disagree with Bonnett's historical assessment of the likelihood of the alternatives working, and of what Truman himself understood. It should be understood that my brief response, focussed on the repeated refusal of top military leaders to declare Hiroshima and Nagasaki "military necessities", made no attempt to convey the mass of evidence regarding the larger question of Truman's understanding of the available alternatives presented in _The Decision_.


ROLE OF SCIENTISTS

11/11: Villa sees scientists as also playing an important role in the use of the bomb: "scientists formed a second faction of some weight pushing for the use of the bomb, closing the door to a more diplomatic use of the bomb [explicit warning and non combat demonstration] because they did not conceive of the birth of the new world [and its peril and hope] without a convincing demonstration of the bomb's full force." These scientists included Oppenheimer, but not Franck and Szillard [sic].

Please see Chapter 14 of The Decision for a discussion of the role of the scientists.

 

 

Proceed to Questions Not Addressed on H-Diplo and H-Japan

Back to Contents 

 

 

 

 

 

Part II

QUESTIONS NOT ADDRESSED

ON H-DIPLO AND H-JAPAN

 

THIS SECTION SEEKS TO PRESENT TWO SIDES ON A NUMBER OF CRITICAL POINTS RELATED TO THE BOMB DECISION THAT HAVE NOT YET BEEN DEALT WITH ELSEWHERE. THE FORMAT IS INTENDED TO STIMULATE STUDENTS TO FURTHER INVESTIGATE THE ISSUES AND COME TO AN INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT ABOUT THEM. PAGE NUMBERS IN THE PARENTHESES REFER TO THE DECISION. ALL QUESTIONS WERE POSTED ON H-DIPLO EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED. I AM INDEBTED TO DOUG LONG FOR HIS MANY SUGGESTIONS AND COMMENTS REGARDING THE DRAFTING OF THIS DOCUMENT.

Prepared by Sanho Tree (stree@igc.apc.org)

February 2, 1997

 

HOLDING OUT FOR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER ON AUGUST 11

10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote: "On August 11, after a long and tortuous dispute, Hirohito forced his military to accept the Potsdam Declaration with the lone proviso that acceptance did not prejudice the "prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler." If the Alperovitz thesis is correct, Byrnes and Truman should have been popping champagne corks at that very instant. . .Yet Byrnes held out for unconditional surrender. WHY??? The only reasonable conclusion is that Byrnes genuinely feared domestic uproar in the United States and probably despised Hirohito. Neither of these reasons fit the Alperovitz argument. Consequently, the author ignored the incident." Bergerud made a similar charge again on 10/28.

RESPONSE: First: Bergerud is simply dead wrong to say Alperovitz "ignored the incident" of August 10 [NOT August 11]. See pages 417-8 and 556-557. Second: All along American policy makers wanted to hold on to the RHETORIC of unconditional surrender for political purposes at home. On the other hand, all along it was also obvious that this issue could be finessed--by keeping the language but yielding on the key issue. Indeed, just such a posture began to emerge in early May--and then was held up for much of the summer. Furthermore, Alperovitz states quite clearly in a number of places (p.312; p649-50) that some political considerations cannot be ruled out. The central issue is whether they were strong enough to tie the President's hands. The evidence is quite clear: they were not.

In his memoir All in One Lifetime, Byrnes himself made no reference to possible "domestic uproar" in explaining his objection to the Japanese response. Rather, Byrnes argued that any deviation from unconditional surrender would cause further delay in obtaining Allied concurrence while the Soviets penetrated deeper into Manchuria. He wrote:

"[S]timson urged that we agree to [the Japanese] proposal. While equally anxious to bring the war to an end, I had to disagree, pointing out that we had to get the assent of the British and Soviets; that we had their concurrence to the Potsdam Declaration with the words "unconditional surrender," and any retreat from those words now would cause much delay in securing their acquiescence. Since the Japanese were patently anxious to surrender, it was not the time for them to present conditions. The President requested me to draft a reply. I went to my office and wrote a message which met with his approval."

His assistant, Walter Brown, noted earlier in his diary entry of July 24 that "JFB [Byrnes] still hoping for time, believing after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press for claims against China. . . ."

While Byrnes thought unconditional surrender was preferable it was certainly not determinative. Indeed, The Decision (p.309) cites a 1952 letter from Byrnes to Gen. Leslie Groves in which he acknowledged the necessity of utilizing the Emperor to obtain a surrender:

"When I became Secretary, I found in the Department a heated controversy, the left-wingers arguing that under no circumstances could we accept a surrender of the Japanese unless they agreed that Japan would no longer have an emperor. Without the emperor we would have found it a more difficult task to secure the surrender . . ."

Time and again Truman indicated that he had little problem with assurances for the emperor. Perhaps Mr. Bergerud had overlooked pages 417-418 of The Decision where Truman's lack of concern over this is spelled out. For the record, let me restate the key passage here:

Truman, on the advice of Leahy (supported by Stimson), favored immediate acceptance of the [Japanese August 10th] offer. However, Byrnes--who joined the White House gathering late--was irked with Leahy. (He [Leahy] still "thought he was Secretary of State, just as he was under Roosevelt, and [Byrnes] had to show him differently . . . ," he told [Walter] Brown.) Byrnes pointed out that "the big-3 [sic] said `unconditional surrender'"--and at Potsdam this was before the bomb and the Russian attack. Truman asked to see the statement. Brown's report continues:

JFB cited page, paragraph and line of Potsdam declaration. Forrestal spoke up for JFB's position. Truman swung over. . . . JFB had lunch with the president and said that the two of them had to decide the question and there could not be so many cooks. Truman agreed and JFB message as written was sent.

That Truman himself did not think this much of a problem is clear from his own response to the Japanese: He was ready to accept their position and had to be talked around and out of it. Indeed, on this matter the evidence is he did not even remember what had been said at Potsdam; he had to be reminded of it. It may also be that for a brief moment Byrnes thought he might get a bit more from the Japanese; but that this did not last very long at all is evidence that it was, if anything at all, a VERY brief moment. Finally, Truman is on record many times during the summer of 1945 indicating that he did not see political problems as critical. [See The Decision, pp. 45-46, 67-72, 74-5, 78, 311, 417, 649-650.]


CORDELL HULL AND UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

12/4: Brian Villa wrote in H-Japan: "Needless to say no one on Alperovitz's long list of office holding surrender modification advocates took up the gauntlet for the reason Hull articulated so precisely, saying that any concession before the surrender would be perceived as "appeasement." Not even General Marshall who probably had the clout with Congress to carry it through took it up. Can anyone doubt that Cordell Hull, in tendering his advice was reflecting this broad background of public, Congressional and editorial opinion which he knew so well, on which-- as regards Congressional opinion on foreign affairs-- he was the Roosevelt administration's top, unchallengable, expert? With Hull opposed the concession was not going to happen anytime before a Japanese acceptance of unconditional surrender or something darn close to it. . . . How Dr. Alperovitz gets to where he wants to go is perfectly obvious. Since Hull advised against a concession on the Emperor and since the advice was given at about the time the Truman administration began to harden its position against a public concession, (the connection is explicit in the sources) Hull is a problem for the plausibility of the counter factual that concessions could easily have been made and thus Hiroshima avoided. To reestablish the counterfactual Hull must be rendered into a political nullity after which his removal from the historical stage, like so much rubble, comes easily. Alperovitz's demolition job on Hull's political weight occurs on pages 307-8, and they are, I submit, among the most unhistorical pages in that book. Here is how he begins this section: "The fact is, Hull was something of an anachronism who had rarely been taken seriously even during the Roosevelt era." Fact is ? The "fact is" that the last half of that sentence is one of Alperovitz's "howlers", to use a term familiar to any Cambridge University fellow. It is about as far off the mark as you can get. True, there was some personal animosity between FDR and Hull which grew over years. True, Hull was kept out of many issues by Roosevelt for the simple fact that once you asked Hull's advice there was nothing left to do but surrender, as FDR knew only too well. "Cwist!" Few in Washington ever dared cross Hull, and the few who did, did so at their mortal peril. If anyone survived unscathed a clash with Hull I do not know who that might be. Roosevelt himself never directly challenged Hull's savvy on Congressional opinion in Hull's area. The dying Roosevelt, nursing no small amount of resentment against Hull, nevertheless had himself dragged out to Bethesda Naval Hospital to pay court on the considerably less ill Hull.(President Truman also made a point of consulting Hull in the hospital on the first major foreign policy initiative of his presidency.) Take any recognized author on Roosevelt, from Sherwood to Dallek to whomever and they all pay tribute to Hull's unchallengable mastery of Congressional opinion and speak of Rooseveltian deference to that power. Hull was out of office of course when Truman took over, but there is no evidence that Truman ever slighted him. (Truman knew congressional realities as well or better than Roosevelt.) The evidence Alperovitz uses to dismiss the weight of Hull's intervention is all ex-post facto, off the point, and not worth a waterlogged tea leaf at the bottom of a cup."

RESPONSE: Brian Villa would have us believe that Hull's influence presented a brick wall for those who wanted to modify unconditional surrender. Note the various page references given in previous discussion on Truman and unconditional surrender; the contemporaneous evidence is very strong that President Truman himself did not believe political problems were critical. Villa fails to point out that Truman himself did not appear worried about such matters. Stimson's diary entries of July 24 and August 10 make it clear that neither Byrnes nor Truman were "obdurate" on the question (see p. 311). Beyond this Villa has single-handedly elevated Cordell Hull--who even Robert Maddox calls "much ignored"--to monumental stature. No major Truman biographer, not even Truman himself in his memoir Year of Decisions, uses Hull to defend the policy of unconditional surrender. Can Prof. Villa demonstrate how the retired and ailing Cordell Hull influenced Truman on this policy or is he merely speculating? Hull certainly communicated with Byrnes, but he had precious little contact with Truman. Yet, Villa has built Hull into a keystone in the unconditional surrender debate.

Moreover, he neglects to point out that Hull on July 16 asked Byrnes the following about offering assurances for the emperor, "Would it be well first to await the climax of allied bombing and Russia's entry into the war?" Clearly Hull's concern here is about timing rather than principle. (See pp. 305-308) That Hull wanted to couple assurances for the Emperor with the military shock of Russian entry or Allied bombardment is further reinforced by Grew's cable to Byrnes on the following day (see pp. 307-308).

Even the little influence on the administration that Hull did possess--through his contact with Byrnes--did not seem to amount to much. Byrnes quipped to John Foster Dulles in August 1945, "Cordell Hull was `My dear friend' but was never Secretary of State..."(p. 307) This was hardly an indication that Hull had any decisive influence over Byrnes. Indeed, Hull apparently made little impression on Byrnes regarding his opposition to modifying unconditional surrender since Byrnes told NBC producer Fred Freed in a 1964 interview that he did not even "remember that Cordell Hull took any active position [on unconditional surrender] after I became secretary. I know, however, that he shared the views of--in great part of Undersecretary Grew who believed firmly . . . that it would be unwise for us to insist upon the ousting of the emperor. . . ." Obviously Byrnes' memory does not square completely with the documentary evidence, but his characterization of Hull's position only makes it clearer that Hull did not make any strong impression upon Byrnes in this area.

Finally, it is useful to recall a passage from The Decision (p.312) that sharpens the consequences of withholding a statement on the Emperor for domestic political reasons:

"Few authors who have urged that "politics" explains why Byrnes and Truman eliminated the critical portion of paragraph twelve have openly confronted the implications of their theory--namely, that for (possibly modest) domestic political gains (not for military reasons or to save lives) 200,000 or more people, mostly civilians, may ultimately have been sacrificed. (And, of course, if saving U.S. lives was the primary objective, the decision, as the Joint Chiefs made clear, only added to the obstacles standing in the way of an end to the fighting.)"

If one makes the case that Truman couldn't offer assurances for the Emperor because of possible domestic political consequences, which the documents show the president did not see as overwhelming, then one is making the unsavory inference that Truman was willing to sacrifice American lives for his own political gain--since withholding assurances meant the Japanese would fight on. Saving lives should have been the weightier factor for the president and was surely his responsibility, even if it came at a political cost.


SUZUKI'S SPEECH

10/10: John Bonnett pointed to the Suzuki statement as a sign of Japanese intransigence: "Consider for example Prime Minister Suzuki's statement made on July 30, 1945, in the wake of the Potsdam declaration:

For the enemy to say something like that [the Potsdam Declaration] means circumstances have risen that force them also to end the war. That is why they are talking about unconditional surrender. Precisely at a time like this, if we hold firm, then they will yield before we do. Just because they broadcast their Declaration, it is not necessary to stop the fighting. You advisors may ask me to reconsider, but I don't think there is any need to stop [the war].

Note the crucial point. Suzuki is not emphasizing the status of the Emperor. His concern is the U.S. will to fight. His inference is that it is about to collapse. His implication is Japan can gain better peace terms."

RESPONSE: Bonnett is overlooking the context in which this statement was made. During the period in which the Japanese were still awaiting the Soviet response to their peace overture, the official position was to "withhold" final comment on the Potsdam Declaration. The hard-liners believed that they could get better terms if: 1) the Soviet Union could be persuaded to remain neutral; and, 2) if the neutral Soviets could act as intermediary with the Allies. Washington, of course, knew the Soviets were about to turn against the Japanese and thus pull the rug out from under the hardliners. Because the overtures to the Soviet Union were top secret (and political dynamite) Suzuki could only tell the press on July 28 that he would "ignore" (mokusatsu) the Declaration. The premier was also warned by the military that morale of the soldiers at the front would be hurt if the government seemed to be debating the terms. Thus Suzuki's public statements seem clearly to have been made, at least in significant part, with a view toward Japanese morale, while privately we know that the hardliners, as well as the peace faction, were eagerly awaiting news from Moscow. To interpret such politically charged statements as definitive evidence of a determined view is simply to ignore the evolving situation, the context, and the political environment of the time (see chapter 32).


HIROHITO'S ROLE IN ENDING THE WAR

11/1: Lou Coatney wrote in H-Japan: "Even though [the atomic bombs] were (so far) no worse than the "conventional" firebombings, they gave Hirohito the *qualitative* difference in weapons he needed to explain/excuse his demand for surrender to General Anami and his cohorts and to the Japanese people. Nothing epitomizes the arrogance of Gar Alperovitz and other Hiroshima revisionists more clearly than their attempt to second-guess even Emperor Hirohito ... who was, after all, the one person most responsible for obtaining Japan's surrender ... and really the *only* person able to obtain it."

RESPONSE: Mr. Coatney is quite right in citing the importance of Hirohito's decision to terminate the war. Unfortunately, he omits the fact that the Emperor told the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War in late June that the war should be ended. At the insistence of the hardliners, however, the war council decided to try to obtain more favorable terms through Soviet assistance. It is this overture (made possible by the Emperor's support) that was reported and tracked in the mid-July MAGIC intercepts. The news that the Emperor--the paramount source of legitimacy in Japan--had decided it was time to end the war gave US leaders great encouragement. Well before the first bomb was dropped the Japanese were still waiting for the Soviet reply to their request for mediation to end the war. It is in this pre-bomb context that Walter Brown noted in his August 3 diary entry: "Aboard Augusta/President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden."

Moreover, it was the Soviet declaration of war that was cited in the "Japanese Army General Staff statement on surrender" intercepted through MAGIC: "As a result of Russia's entrance into the war, the Empire, in the fourth year of its [war] endeavor, is faced with a struggle for the existence of the nation." The atomic bomb was neither mentioned in the Army message nor cited as reason for the surrender negotiations (see pp. 418-419). To recall, the 1946 War Department Military Intelligence Division's study concluded that had the atomic bomb not been available or not been used, it is "almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war" (pp. 84-85).

But the key question is: were the atomic bombings necessary to bring a quick Japanese surrender, thus saving lives on both sides? The Decision does not attempt to argue one way or the other whether the bombings or the Russians were what finally tipped the balance (see the Afterword in The Decision). What is important is whether it was understood that a change of terms plus the Russian attack would do it without the bombs. This is the critical issue; and on this the evidence now seems clear: the president was advised that the "two-step" strategy of awaiting the Russian attack and clarifying the Emperor's position seemed likely to end the war. And, to repeat, there were three months to go to see if this was so before even stage one of the invasion could begin.


THE IMPACT OF A SOVIET DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST JAPAN

10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote: " The author greatly overstates the "shock effect" of the Soviet declaration of war. Like so many left wing journalists and historians since 1945, Alperovitz stresses the crucial importance of the Soviet entry into the war in August 1945. . . .If Russia attacked, so what? The war party knew that China & Manchuria was lost. As previously noted, they were trying to protect the Showa dictatorship, not a dead empire. When the attack came, it surprised no one in the military. The bomb, however, was utterly different. It was a serious shock and immediately recognized as a new and devastating weapon. The military might have been willing to fight on regardless, but there can be no doubt that the bomb was precious ammunition for Suzuki, Kido and Hirohito. Not only could they get the decision to accept the Potsdam Declaration, but they also were able to force the Army to accept the decision. That was no mean feat."

RESPONSE: Bergerud seems to prefer his speculation to the documents of the time--and, too, to ascribe left-wing motives to ideas which in fact had their origins within the top ranks of the U.S. military. As The Decision shows, the idea that the Russian attack would shock Japan into surrender derives from U.S. intelligence and military advice within the government. Foreign Minister Togo summed up the Japanese situation in an early June MAGIC intercept (pp. 121-122):

"[I]f Russia by some chance should suddenly decide to take advantage of our weakness and intervene against us with force of arms, we would be in a completely hopeless situation. It is clear as day that the Imperial Army in Manchukuo would be completely unable to oppose the Red Army which has just won a great victory and is superior to us on all points."

See also: Herbert Bix, in an important article in Diplomatic History (Spring 1995), discussed the effect of the massive Soviet entry into the war against Japan (see DH, pp. 218 and 224). And, here is how a top secret 1946 study by the War Department's Military Intelligence Division characterized it:

"While the Japanese were awaiting an answer from Russia, there occurred the disastrous event which the Japanese leaders regarded as utter catastrophe and which they had energetically sought to prevent at any cost--Russia declared war upon Japan and began moving her forces into Manchuria."

The study went on to state:

"The Emperor and the advisors immediately surrounding the throne had come to a decision to end the war as early as 20 June 1945 and by 9 August, the date of Russia's entry into the war, were actively attempting to carry out this decision...The Japanese leaders had decided to surrender and were merely looking for sufficient pretext to convince the die-hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must capitulate to the Allies. The entry of Russia into the war would almost certainly have furnished this pretext, and would have been sufficient to convince all responsible leaders that surrender was unavoidable....The war would almost certainly have terminated when Russia entered the war against Japan."

Indeed, even a casual reading of pre-August 6 newspapers and periodicals from 1945 (across the political spectrum) shows that if the Soviet Union attacked it would be a devastating blow against Japan. It is important to remember that prior to August 6 the world had no knowledge of the atomic bomb and thus the "conventional wisdom" was that a modification of unconditional surrender and the possible Soviet declaration of war were the best means to end the war prior to an invasion. I would argue that this is precisely the course of action that would have been followed if the bomb had failed to work. See chapters 7-9 for a discussion of Soviet entry as well chapters 32-34 for a discussion of the final weeks of the war. See also "Hiroshima, the American Media, and the Construction of Conventional Wisdom," in The Journal of American-East Asian Relations (Summer 1995) by Uday Mohan and Sanho Tree.

Lest there be any doubt about the "left-wingers" over emphasizing the role of Soviet entry, it is useful to recall Prof. Ernest May's February 1955 article "The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Far Eastern War, 1941-1945," published in the Pacific Historical Review. May, who was one of the first academics to write about Soviet entry into the war, noted that, "Japanese die-hards . . . had acknowledged since 1941 that Japan could not fight Russia as well as the United States and Britain . . ." Prof. May is quoted in The Decision (pp.83-84):

Studying the actual surrender, May also concluded that since Moscow had been the outlet for previous Japanese peace feelers, when it finally occurred the Russian declaration of war "discouraged Japanese hopes of secretly negotiating terms of peace," and that in the end:

"The Emperor's appeal [to end the war] probably resulted, therefore, from the Russian action, but it could not in any event, have been long in coming."


EISENHOWER AND THE BOMB

10/10: John Bonnett cited an article by Barton Bernstein that questioned whether Eisenhower actually appealed to Stimson not to use the bomb because the Japanese were nearly defeated. Bonnett then criticized Alperovitz's use of post-war memoirs.

RESPONSE: See pages 352-358 and 725-726 of The Decision for a discussion of Eisenhower's account which relies on numerous primary sources other than the memoirs. While this question may never be resolved definitively, it is important to note that Eisenhower, in a 1960 interview with historian Herbert Feis, revealed the source of his belief that Japan was close to surrender: Eisenhower had been reading the MAGIC intercepts. Moreover, Eisenhower, who once headed the Operations Division (OPD) of the War Department General Staff, was back in Washington in early July when the peace feelers were dominating the MAGIC intercepts. Also, it is important to remember that Eisenhower's first public criticism of the bomb was in his 1948 Crusade in Europe. Would Eisenhower fabricate a conversation in his highly publicized book--especially when Stimson was still alive and could have denied the account? Of all people, McGeorge Bundy, Stimson's assistant for On Active Service in Peace and War, would have known whether Eisenhower's claims were valid. In his own book, Danger and Survival, Bundy uses Eisenhower's claim repeatedly without questioning their reliability.

Much more important, The Decision cites numerous private and public statements which all point in the same direction. In his 1963 book Mandate for Change Eisenhower wrote:

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face." The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions."

An April 1960 White House interview with historian Herbert Feis notes that:

"Professor Feis next asked the President what he knew about the atomic weapon and what his views were on that in the late days of the war. The president said he had Secretary Stimson to dinner the same day, during the Potsdam meetings, of the report that the "baby was born [July 16]." Mr. Stimson told him about the weapon. The President said he told Mr. Stimson that he hoped his country would not be the first to use this weapon. He recalled that Mr. Stimson really hit the ceiling over this. The President said he knew from intelligence reports that the Japanese were at that moment trying to surrender. The Japanese in Tokyo were in communication with the Ambassador in Moscow about this. . . "

The Decision also cites new information from Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose that Eisenhower was "insistent" that he urged that the bomb not be used (see footnote on p.358).


CASUALITIES FROM AUGUST TO NOVEMBER

10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote about casualties in a protracted war: "Implicit in this view is the idea that Washington had time to spare and could approach the war situation with caution and could afford to try a number of approaches toward a just peace. Here again the truth was more complex. On August 1, 1945, British forces were fighting in Malaya and preparing for a major amphibious thrust toward Singapore in September. Australian and New Zealand forces were fighting in Indonesia, New Guinea, New Britain and Bougainville. Chinese infantry and guerrillas were in contact with the Japanese on a front several hundred miles long. American fighter-bombers were engaging in a massive and risky interdiction campaign across the Japanese homeland. B-29 raids invariably lost planes. US infantry were fighting on Leyte, Luzon and Mindanao. Allied prisoners were dropping like flies and in danger of wholesale execution. In addition there was massive famine (caused by the Japanese) in Indonesia and Vietnam."

RESPONSE: Here Bergerud assumes that the Soviet declaration of war would have little impact upon the Japanese. And, in the unlikely event that the war continued into the autumn, would the British have ordered any costly amphibious campaigns given what they knew through MAGIC? While the British were obsessed with reclaiming their colonies after the war (in spite of the Atlantic Charter), it is far from clear that they would have sacrificed so many British lives when the war was nearly over. Simply because planning had taken place is by no means a guarantee that an operation would have been executed. Many top US Navy leaders, for instance, doubted that OLYMPIC would have to be mounted (even before the bomb) but they had to plan for that contingency or else the shipping and logistics would not have been in place if the war had continued (pp. 66-67 and 321-333). Military leaders routinely plan for worst-case scenarios just in case. All throughout the Cold War the U.S. made nuclear war plans that were never used. Also, by the end of July B-29 raids were flying over Japan against little or no fighter opposition. In fact by late July the Army Air Force was so confident of its aerial supremacy over Japan that they began to warn Japanese cities of impending attacks.

Equally important--as The Decision points out--the US chose not to use all available options to end the war quickly. Keeping a hard line on the Emperor was understood as likely to prolong the war; trying to delay the Russian attack had the same implications. Moreover, as Secretary Stimson later acknowledged, delaying any statement on the Emperor for so long (Grew proposed it at the end of May) also made it impossible for internal Japanese decision making to evolve. That the US was not trying to use all available options to end the war quickly is well established (see pp. 627-641). While these available options were side-lined while U.S. leaders waited for the bomb, many Americans and others lost their lives.


A-BOMB COMPARED TO BLOCKADE/STARVATION OF JAPAN 10/17: Stanley Sandler on an H-War cross-post wrote: "Numerous naval and civil leaders of the time have been quoted as arguing or at least feeling that the U.S. blockade of Japan would have starved that nation into surrender. Now, if so many Americans feel so badly about the nuclear bombings of two cities and their attendant death toll of something like 150,000, what would have been anyone's feelings if our occupation troops, upon entering Japan, had reported heaps of dead women and children, who had perished from malnutrition? I fail to see how slowly and deliberately starving to death millions of civilians throughout Japan would have been any improvement on the quick killing of several hundreds of thousands in two cities."

RESPONSE: The choice in 1945, of course, was not between mass starvation and atomic bombing. While the food situation in Japan was severe, other effects of blockade and bombardment would probably have had a more immediate impact on the Japanese war effort than eventual malnutrition and starvation. For instance the interdiction of shipping, the severing of bridges, tunnels and rail lines, the destruction of the fragile Japanese electrical grid, the destruction of nitrogen plants, and the ever increasing fuel shortage would have undermined the Japanese ability to continue the war before the full effects of starvation set in. Furthermore, while many military leaders (especially in the Navy) believed that blockade would have brought Japan to surrender without the bomb or invasion, most of them were not aware of the secret agreement by the Soviets to declare war against Japan in August. Nor were many of the leaders privy to the MAGIC intercepts showing the Japanese maneuverings for peace. As The Decision shows, the real choice was not between the bomb and blockade, but between clarifying the position of the Emperor and awaiting the Russian attack--and going forward with the bombing.


U.S. STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY

11/18: Henry Winkler, a former Navy officer who served with USSBS-Japan wrote: "The major impression I brought away from that exercise was that the "findings" were a compromise of the claims of our respective services--the Air Force that the bombings, both "strategic" and nuclear encouraged Japan to surrender; the Navy that the "black cats," etc. did the job by interdicting food and supplies from the continent to the main islands; the Army that the threat of invasion really did the trick. And it was often evident that the Japanese service people who were interrogated told their questioners pretty much what they thought the latter wanted to hear. Judgments based on the two surveys should--and of course have been--questioned."

ALSO: 11/20 Eric Bergerud agreed with Winkler on USSBS-Pacific: "It did not strike me that the US Army got in its fair share in the inquisition, but the Navy and 20th AF (LeMay's crowd) sure did their best do prove they won the war single handed. And yet...if you look at the evidence, the conclusion that the war would have been over by November and the invasion unnecessary is NOT necessarily supported by the data supplied. Some supports that contention but the stuff that doesn't went under the rug. Methinks Mr. Nitze, then Captain Moorer and company were thinking of the Defense Reorganization looming in Congress instead of history."

RESPONSE: It is difficult to reconcile this interpretation of USSBS-Japan with the USSBS-Europe conclusions, which were HIGHLY critical of Army Air Force's strategic bombing efforts. If USSBS was a indeed a tool of the Army Air Force, as some have argued, then why were they so disparaging of the European bombing campaign? To recall, it was USSBS that first verified and publicized the inefficiency and inaccuracy of WWII era strategic bombing. Even a cursory reading of the press accounts relating to the release of the USSBS-Europe reports shows that the Army Air Force came out looking very bad indeed. Surely if USSBS was concerned with post-war reorganization, they would have toned down their criticism strategic bombing.

More interesting is the fact that USSBS-Japan did not take up the key questions: 1) what would have happened if there had been assurances for the Emperor; and 2) what would have happened if Truman had awaited the Soviet declaration of war. If they had examined these options they could have only strengthened their conclusion that the bomb was not necessary to obviate an invasion.


ATOMIC VS. CONVENTIONAL BOMBARDMENT

11/13: Stephen R. Maynard wrote: "I am still waiting to see if anyone can explain why the atomic bombing of Japan is different from "conventional" air bombardment. Both, after all, have as their primary targets supposedly "military" support structures. I remain unconvinced that there is a difference."

RESPONSE: One fundamental difference is that many of the massive conventional attacks, such as the fire bombing of Tokyo on March 9-10, were made at a time when there was no indication that the Japanese were prepared to end the war. By contrast, the Hiroshima bombing occurred after the US intercepted Japanese peace overtures. To recall, Truman referred to one intercept in his July 18 journal as the "telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace." This is precisely what top military leaders like Eisenhower, Nimitz, Halsey, et al. pointed to (see chapters 26-29). In fact from May onward, diplomacy--offering assurances for the emperor--began to play a significant role in American plans for bringing about Japanese surrender. Furthermore, there are critical differences between conventional and atomic weapons, and these were recognized at the time, by Stimson, Truman, and others--one reason why evidence of the human suffering from the atomic attacks were suppressed for some time in the United States. Also, the development of atomic weapons introduced a technology which, for the first time, could place US cities at risk. With this new technology, a single plane could cross the oceans which had once insulated this country from heavy assault and destroy an entire city.

Another difference is the discussions about the bomb prior to its use. Truman knew he was ushering in a new, much more powerful level of warfare by using the atomic bomb. Stimson had described the atomic bomb to Truman on 4/25/45: "Within four months we shall in all probability have completed the most terrible weapon ever known in human history, one bomb of which could destroy a whole city." Stimson further told him that ". . . the future may see a time when such a weapon may be constructed in secret and used suddenly and effectively with devastating power by a wilful [sic] nation or group against an unsuspecting nation or group of much greater size and material power. With its aid even a very powerful unsuspecting nation might be conquered within a very few days by a very much smaller one, although probably the only nation which could enter into production within the next few years is Russia." He added: "On the other hand, if the problem of the proper use of this weapon can be solved, we would have the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved. . ." ("Memorandum discussed with the President April 25, 1945" in the Stimson diary).

Truman was so impressed by the Trinity A-bomb test that he wrote in his diary on 7/25/45: "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark." And Vannevar Bush and James Conant had been pushing Stimson to prepare for international control to prevent a war more horrible than WWII. Harvey Bundy recalled in his oral history that Churchill [after reading the Alamogordo report by Groves] said, "Stimson, what was gunpowder? Trivial. What was electricity? Meaningless. This is the Second Coming."


THE AUGUST 9 JAPANESE CABINET MEETING

10/14: Brian Villa criticized Alperovitz's treatment of the August 9 meeting of the Japanese Inner Cabinet:

"I would like to hear from Kai Bird or any of Gar Alperovitz's defenders a defence or even just a mere explanation of why after so much literature on the Japanese decision making process, Gar Alperovitz still reports the Imperial Council's vastly revealing traumatic debate after Hiroshima, after Nagasaki and after Soviet entry into the war-- debate in which the military solidly cast its votes against accepting the Potsdam Proclamation- why he reports it all- in a single sentence in this huge 847 page tome: " No decision was reached." What is the point of that ? What could possibly excuse this radical truncation of the critical evidence ?"

Villa repeated essentially the same charge on 10/28 in H-Diplo.

RESPONSE: In these and related charges Villa seems bent on ignoring the complex discussion of the significance of the various Japanese discussions and decisions made after the bombs were actually used which are reported in The Decision. The book is a study--day by day, hour by hour--of how U.S. decision-makers made their decision. It deals with the Japanese response by assessing the modern literature in a section devoted to this. Since this is referenced by footnotes at precisely the pages cited by Villa, his neglect of this discussion is hard to understand. As the discussion in The Decision shows (and many scholars have documented) the key question after the bomb was used was not whether there was some delay within the Japanese cabinet. How could there not have been confusion and delay? The key question is whether all things considered the bombs were necessary. See also Part III of Alperovitz's response in H-Diplo. In this regard, it may also be useful to note the following from a study entitled "Outline of Events within the Japanese Government Leading Up to the Surrender" found in the papers of the Office of Chief of Military History (declassified in 1995). It was prepared by the War Department's Historical Division in anticipation of the critical findings of the USSBS report on Japan's decision to surrender. The study was forwarded by Chief Historian Rudolph Winnacker to Henry Stimson in 1946. Winnacker wrote in his cover letter to Stimson, "[the study] covers the same story related by the [Strategic Bombing] Survey on pages 25-26, in greater detail and points out the resistance of the professional army and navy leaders to surrender." Designed to bolster Truman's decision to use the bomb, the study reported:

"Suzuki saw the Emperor in the early morning of the 9th and received authority to take the necessary measures for ending the war at once on the basis of the Potsdam Declaration. This involved obtaining the agreements of both the Inner Cabinet and the full cabinet. The Inner Cabinet met at 10:00 that same morning, and the meeting lasted for three hours. The Premier, the Navy Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs proposed to accept the Potsdam Declaration with the sole proviso that the Emperor's legal position should not be effected. The Minister of War and the two Chiefs of staff proposed conditional acceptance: (1) none of the main Japanese islands to be occupied; (2) forces abroad to be withdrawn and demobilized in Japan; (3) all war crimes to be prosecuted by the Japanese government. NO DECISION WAS REACHED BY 1:00, when the full cabinet was called in. Sixteen members were present. Foreign Minister Togo reported on the Inner Cabinet. Nine members were for unconditional acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, four favored the conditional acceptance proposed by the War Minister, and three suggested variant conditions. The meeting lasted until 8:00 p.m. WITHOUT REACHING A DECISION. During the recess the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Chief Cabinet Secretary in private conference decided to have the Inner Cabinet meet in the Emperor's presence, to express their differing views and, if possible, to obtain a decision from the Emperor." [Emphasis added. National Archives, RG319, OCMH, Box 68, "Background: Surrender of Japan Draft"]

As the War Department study shows, "NO DECISION WAS REACHED." The reason the Minister of War and the two Chiefs of staff did not go along with the peace faction was not because of the "depth of the military's commitment to a suicidal end to the war" as Villa puts it--such a gross oversimplification does a great disservice to the record. Rather, the hard-liners wished to hold out for more favorable surrender terms. The relevant questions here are: 1) how long could the hard-liners hold on to this position after the Emperor's intervention?; 2) when the full extent of the Manchurian debacle became known to the public, how long could the war faction maintain their position in the face of a two front war?; and 3) how might assurances for the Emperor have changed the dynamics of the Japanese Cabinet debate?

In attempting to defend his argument regarding "the depth of the [Japanese] military's commitment to a suicidal end to the war" (H-Diplo 10/28) by using the Aug. 9 meetings, Villa has grabbed on to the wrong end of the sword. For it was the climax of those Aug. 9-10 meetings that not only proved the military was willing to surrender without a fight to the death, but also proved the point that had already been made by Stimson, McCloy, Grew, etc. that the retention of the Emperor was the key issue in obtaining that surrender. That some in the Japanese Cabinet still wanted to continue the war, as Villa admits, "after Hiroshima, after Nagasaki, after the Zacharias broadcasts, after Soviet entry" only points to the ineffectiveness and inappropriateness of the atomic bombs on the die-hards.


ARCHIBALD MACLEISH AND UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

10/14: Brian Villa pointed to the influence of liberals in the State Department as a reason why assurances for the Emperor were dropped. He wrote:

[A]s I pointed out in my 1976 article, " The US Army, Unconditional Surrender and the Potsdam Proclamation, when "clarification" was put to the Secretary of State's Staff committee Archibald MacLeish confronted the issue head on and said that, "That if what we propose is to replace the policy of unconditional surrender...[with a policy of surrender on irreducible Japanese terms,] we should say so and say so in words which no one in the United States will misunderstand."

RESPONSE: It is important to keep in mind that MacLeish's July 6 memo to Byrnes was made before the dramatic MAGIC intercepts indicating the Emperor's desire to end the war. Furthermore, the MAGIC summaries were distributed on a "need to know basis" and it is uncertain whether MacLeish as Assistant Secretary of State for Public and Cultural Relations would have been informed about the substance of the intercepts. In his posting Villa neglects to mention that MacLeish, in his own memo, described himself as a "non expert whose knowledge of Japan is limited to a study of a few months duration." Professor Villa should be reminded that he himself admitted in his 1976 article [p.89] that "These objections [to allowing the retention of the Emperor] should not have had much impact on the surrender terms since Acheson had never been to the Far East and MacLeish hardly qualified as an authority on that area." Contrast this with Villa's denunciation of Alperovitz on Nov. 11, 1996 on H-Diplo: "Alperovitz, has generally been reluctant to concede that left ideologues in the Washington bureaucracy blocked a formal concession on the retention of the Emperor. According to Alperovitz the two that led the opposition, Acheson (in his more liberal days) and MacLeish were not very influential."

We now also know that a little over a week after MacLeish made his protest, a study by the State Department Office of Public Opinion Studies on "Current Public Attitudes Toward the Unconditional Surrender of Japan" reached his desk. The study, dated July 16, concluded that:

"Influential press and radio commentators are increasingly calling for a statement to supplement--or to succeed--the "unconditional surrender" formula; and public opinion polls indicate considerable willingness to accept less than unconditional surrender, since nearly a third of the nation would "try to work out a peace" with Japan on the basis of Japanese renunciation of all conquests." [RG 59, Department Office of Public Opinion Studies, 1943-45, Box 39. Public Opinion on Foreign Countries and Regions; Japan and Korea 1945-54.]

While the study acknowledged that the majority of the public still supported the "unconditional surrender" program, it noted that, "These polls also suggest that a considerable portion of the public would not insist upon the conquest of the Japanese homeland before any effort is made to reach a peace settlement--provided Japanese power is ended in the Pacific islands and in Asia." In any event The Decision shows in detail that Macleish's views were highly qualified--and, too, that it is difficult to show they reached or influenced the president at all (see pp. 308-309).

 

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Re: Bonnett on Alperovitz

Date: 1 Oct. 1996

From: Kai Bird <kai@igc.apc.org>

As Bruce Cumings wrote in his delightfully mischievous essay on "Revising Postrevisionism" (Diplomatic History, Fall 1993), "The most elementary act of 'theory' is to name things..." And then, quoting Nietzsche, "What things are called is incomparably more important than what they are."

John Bonnett betrays his agenda right at the top of his review when he labels Gar Alperovitz. He doesn't call him a 'revisionist,' a 'leftist scholar,' a 'fellow-traveler' or 'anti-American,' but the label is nevertheless pejorative and designed to discredit and turn the debate away from the archival evidence revealed in a 847-page book. Listen to the language: mis-characterizing the Enola Gay "fiasco"--which most of us understood as a battle all historians lost when the Smithsonian Institution capitulated to censorship--Bonnett writes, "One constituency, mostly historians who came of age during the Vietnam War, demanded the American public change its paradigm, citing research indicating the bombings were neither necessary, nor policy makers' motives as laudable, as the American public had heretofore believed."

Bonnett then says this "dispute" was "in many ways his [Alperovitz's] creation." Obviously, this fellow Alperovitz is a subversive creature, a product of the 1960s anti-Vietnam war movement, a "radical" impudently "demanding" that Americans think ill of their leaders' "laudable" motives. All of this is pretty reprehensible. But there you have it. Bonnett has chosen his label and it is 'incomparably more important than' the content of Alperovitz's book.

It does not matter that Alperovitz received his Phd. in 1964, and wrote his ground-breaking "Atomic Diplomacy" well before the Vietnam era--as is noted in his latest volume. Indeed, when "Atomic Diplomacy" was published in 1965 Alperovitz was top-ranking special assistant in the U.S. State Department. In other words, his book was not at all the product of those "historians who came of age during the Vietnam war." It was a product of the fact that certain highly relevant archival sources happened to become available in 1959--as Barton Bernstein has so revealingly told the story in his startling essay, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Nuclear History" (Diplomatic History Winter 1993). But this too is irrelevant to Bonnett's purposes.

Also irrelevant to Bonnett is the elementary fact that views he attributes to Vietnam era historians--and which the Air Force Association's public relations flaks described as distorted, hateful, and anti-American during the Enola Gay controversy--were actually common fifty years ago among conservatives. Bonnett conveniently forgets that in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima, military figures like Dwight Eisenhower, William D. Leahy, William Halsey, Curtis LeMay and Henry 'Hap' Arnold criticized the decision to annihilate Hiroshima with the bomb. Virtually all of World War II's ranking military figures could today be labeled "revisionists."

The New York Times' leading military affairs correspondent Hanson Baldwin included the Hiroshima decision in his 1950 book, "Great Mistakes of the War." Herbert Hoover, Henry Luce, and the Washington Post's Eugene Meyer questioned the necessity for the bomb. In other words, fifty years ago, leading figures in American life were more willing to voice criticism of the bombings than is allowed today in our national museum.

Worse, to my mind, is Bonnett's complaint that Alperovitz's "primary concern" is to "document what Truman knew and when." Is that not the historian's task? No, not for Bonnett. He wants us to borrow from the insights of "cognitive psychology," and get inside Mr. Stimson's head and analyze what Stimson thought, presumably as opposed to what he said or what was told to him. Of course, historians should attempt to convey the policy maker's "perceptions"--but this is exactly what Alperovitz does so painstakingly and at such great length. But he does so with close attention to the facts, facts which Bonnett simply ignores.

Must I be trained in "cognitive psychology" to interpret this item from John J. McCloy's July 1945 diary, written after he learned of the successful test of the bomb in New Mexico? "I hope it does not augur the commencement of the destruction of modern civilization. In this atmosphere of destruction and the callousness of men and their leaders, the whole thing seems ominous." Are these the thoughts of a man comfortable with the use of such a weapon on a whole city? And what about McCloy's July 23, 1945 diary reference to "the nearness of Japanese collapse..." And what are we to make of Truman's diary statement referring to the "cable from Jap Emperor asking for peace"? Such quotes are numerous and no amount of psycho-babble can explain them all away.

For those who have not plowed through the new Alperovitz book, readers of the Bonnett review will mistakenly think it offers nothing new over the 1965 volume. This is ridiculous. The quotes from the archives are exhaustive; the interpretations are carefully qualified and buttressed by numerous cross-references. Alperovitz methodically examines the literature and engages the reader on every possible angle of the argument. You would not know it from Bonnett's review, but Alperovitz deals at great length with the same "imponderables" of perception in reporting, for instance, what Stimson knew and when. In short, Bonnett's attack is as mean-spirited as was Robert Maddox's 1973 book, "The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War." This is tiresome. The decision to use the bomb on Hiroshima was controversial fifty years ago and will remain so. We would all do better to get beyond the name-calling and focus on the history.

****************************************

Kai Bird is the author of "The Chairman: John J. McCloy, The Making of the American Establishment," and co-editor with Lawrence Lifschultz of the forthcoming anthology, "Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy," preface by Dr. Joseph Rotblat, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, (Pamphleteer's Press, February 1997).


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Re: Bonnett on Alperovitz

Date: 3 Oct. 1996

From: Uday Mohan <UM6271A@american.edu>

John Bonnett, having transcended the logic of narcissism, the weight of his own personal experience, the Lessons of History he has learned as a student of Brian Villa's and others, and the conservative tenor of the historical period in which he has grown up and come to understand Truman's decision, criticizes the received wisdom of folks who challenge Truman's use of the A-bomb. He can do this, apparently, because those who see Truman as having clearer alternatives to the bomb than Bonnett have failed to check their personal experiences of the 1960s at the door of historical interpretation or extricate themselves from a radical poetic going back to the English Civil War.

This framing of the issue would have surprised all the mainstream and conservative individuals who publicly claimed that the bomb was unnecessary--for example, James Reston, Henry Luce, David Lawrence (the conservative editor of _U.S. News & World Report_), Herb Elliston (the editor of the _Washington Post_ in the 1940s and early 1950s), key military leaders, including Admirals Leahy and Nimitz (in addition to what Nimitz has said, Nimitz's son recently recalled on CBS that his father always regretted the use of the bomb because Japan had already been beaten), conservative writers in William F. Buckley's _National Review_ and elsewhere, and many others. Conservative criticism of Truman's decision was, in fact, widespread enough in the 1950s that one writer began his 1959 _defense_ of the bomb in _National Review_ by stating that "The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming part of the national conservative creed . . ." A rich sampling of this material is laid out in Alperovitz's book, but it seems to have escaped Bonnett's attention.

My own work focuses on the media and Hiroshima and I will draw from it below. It should be made clear, though, that Bonnett has not really engaged Alperovitz. Throughout his review, Bonnett states the overall argument Alperovitz makes, but ignores the massive amount of evidence Alperovitz produces. One would never know from Bonnett, for example, that Alperovitz shows in abundance, e.g., in chaps. 3,4, 19, 23, and elsewhere that Truman, top British officials, and every key Truman adviser--except Byrnes--were on board to clarify surrender terms to the Japanese, because they knew that the Japanese would fight on otherwise.

Rather than dealing with this evidence, Bonnett offers up supposed objections, for example, in the form of a CCS study, omitting to note that Alperovitz has already cited its points and also shown the singularity of the unconditional surrender issue for both sides. It should be up to Bonnett to demonstrate why he prefers his scraps of evidence to the vast documentation Alperovitz provides, but he never does so (even given the space limitations of a review).

Bonnett, for example, notes Grew's July 10 statement that some Japanese peace initiatives during the summer "were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This was a public statement Grew made to quell growing rumors about peace in the press. Bonnett does not mention that privately Grew again counseled qualifying unconditional surrender so that "the door may well be opened to an early surrender." (Alperovitz 232) Nor does Bonnett mention that Grew clearly understood that there were peace-minded elements in Japan. (474)

It is important to note too, especially when trying to determine the understanding of policymakers, that the media at the time had a clear grasp of the importance for ending the war of Russian entry, peace feelers, and qualification of surrender terms. The media, moreover, were in close contact with, and commonly reflected, official views.

Despite Grew's public denial of the seriousness of peace feelers, calls for clarification of surrender terms multiplied, in _Time_, _Newsweek_, the _Washington Post_, and elsewhere. On July 13, the _Washington Post_ editorialized: ". . . the main question . . . is whether we should make known not merely to Japan but also to ourselves, and particularly to the men who are bearing the greatest pain and burden of the battles, precisely what are our purposes in continuing them.

. . . If these purposes are clear in the minds of our statesmen, they are nevertheless masked under the purely rhetorical and meaningless phrase, 'unconditional surrender.'"

The _Post_ was being consistent with its earlier editorials arguing strongly for terms for Japan. Just a month earlier an editorial had said: ". . . the same two words ['unconditional surrender'] remain a great stumbling block to any [U.S.] propaganda effort and the perpetual trump card of the Japanese die-hards for their game of national suicide. Let us amend them; let us give Japan conditions, harsh conditions certainly, and conditions that will render her diplomatically and militarily impotent for generations. But also let us somehow assure those Japanese who are ready to plead for peace that, even on our terms, life and peace will be better than war and annihilation."

Similar sentiments were expressed in other publications. _Time_, for instance, noted on July 16 that "unconditional surrender" had yet to be clarified. "Or, if it has," the newsweekly noted, "it is still a deep secret. U.S. military policy is clear: blow upon blow until all resistance is crushed. But the application of shrewd statesmanship might save the final enforcement of that policy--and countless U.S. lives."

Russian entry as a possible final blow to Japan also got significant play in the media. An April 16, 1945, _Newsweek_ headline is telling: "Lost Battles, Slap From Moscow Shake Props of Jap Ruling Clique: Shift in Tokyo Government Smoothes Way for Peace Feelers, Cuts Power of Army Group." Even at this early date Newsweek noted that the Russian denunciation of the Russian-Japanese neutrality pact spelled "pure disaster" for Japan. A month later, _Newsweek_ mentioned reports of "at least one peace feeler" from Japan, adding confirmation to its earlier picture of Japan's hopelessness.

The possibility of Russian entry and Japanese desire to seek an end to the war were linked propositions on other occasions as well. A July 30 _Newsweek_ headline read, "Heavy Allied Blows, Fear of Reds Make Jap Leaders Seek Way Out." The article noted that Japan, fearing Russian entry and hoping to negotiate an end to the war before the Russians came in, had sent the Soviets a peace feeler. Top-secret documents do shed light on the importance of Russian entry, but it was also regarded as common sense in the public discourse.

These media assessments and commentaries provide context for the perceptions of U.S. leaders seeking an end to the war. The media coverage in the spring and summer of 1945 recalls Martin Sherwin's formulation, made almost a decade ago: "The choice in the summer of 1945 was not between a conventional invasion or a nuclear war. It was a choice between various forms of diplomacy and warfare." (_A World Destroyed_, Vintage ed., 1987, p. xxiv).

In the second part of his review, Bonnett believes he can come closer to what Truman and his advisers really believed about peace feelers, Russian entry, Japan, and the bomb by studying the schemas and analogies these individuals found especially compelling. I look forward to that study because it will provide some useful interpretations, but how will that kind of study be any less given to authorial bias? This question arises from Bonnett's own examples. Bonnett says that Truman justified his decision to resist North Korea's invasion of the South by invoking the schema that "unchecked aggression ... leads to war." Well, why wasn't unchecked, ongoing colonial aggression such a problem for Truman? Presumably this latter aggression fit better with Truman's conception of a proper global order. Potential bias and narrowness of the schemas/analogies approach is also apparent for the bomb question if one sees the bomb as just another weapon the U.S. could use for winning the war, rather than as a weapon that would also play a significant role in the postwar world, as Byrnes, Stimson, Truman, and others understood. This was, after all, a weapon that Truman described in his diary as the "fire of destruction" prophesied in the Bible.

Postwar concerns about the bomb are clear from Stimson's efforts to link the bomb to U.S.-Soviet relations and desperately think through the postwar implications of the bomb (Alperovitz 431-35), and from a variety of statements of other officials. James Byrnes, for example, asked by _U.S. News_ in 1960 if the U.S. dropped the bomb to end the war before Russian entry, said, "Of course, we were anxious to get the war over as soon as possible." The questioner asked further, "Was there a feeling of urgency to end the war in the Pacific before the Russians became too deeply involved?" Byrnes answered, "There certainly was on my part, and I'm sure what, whatever views President Truman may have had of it earlier in the year, that in the days immediately preceding the dropping of that bomb his views were the same as mine--we wanted to get through with the Japanese phase of the war before the Russians came in." (Alperovitz 583)

At Potsdam, Truman, Byrnes, and Stimson continually linked the bomb to the Soviets (see, e.g., Alperovitz, chaps. 20-21). The psychology of power--the bomb and the postwar world--appears to be much more central here than Bonnett's psychology of combat--the bomb simply as a means to end the war.

Moreover, the psychology of combat framework doesn't appear to make room for concern over the means by which a war can be ended. Stimson, we are told, wanted to apply unremitting military and psychological pressure to the enemy. How then to explain his objection to the unrestrained bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and even to A-bomb targeting that would kill women and children? (Alperovitz 527; Lifton and Mitchell, _Hiroshima in America_ 130-31) Perhaps there is more flexibility to supposedly ruling schemas--and therefore, in this case, to exploration of alternatives to the bomb--than Bonnett lets on.

Uday Mohan American University

<um6271a@american.edu>


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Re: Bonnett on Alperovitz

Date: 3 Oct. 1996

From: Thad Williamson <thwilliamson@igc.apc.org>

As a contributing researcher to Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, I am compelled to draw attention to the thorough inadequacy of John Bonnett's review as a fair representation of the evidence and argumentation presented in that book. While critical engagement with the text by informed scholars is heartily welcomed, the book deserves the respect of having the evidence it presents taken seriously by reviewers.

Unfortunately, Bonnett's review simply does not engage the evidence forwarded in The Decision, and in fact stands as simply another addition to a long line of ad hominem attacks on revisionist scholars which has marred rational historical debate of the Hiroshima question over the past 30 years.

For purposes of illustration, I will flesh out in detail one important source of evidence--fleshed out in some 50 pages of text in The Decision--which essentially refutes Bonnett's suggestion that Alperovitz has simply read back into Truman's decision his own mindset and prejudices, or "drawn a face in the mirror that bears a striking resemblance to [his] own." The source of evidence I refer to consists of the views of a wide variety of top-level military leaders who, both in 1945 and afterwards, stated explicitly and repeatedly that using atomic bombs against Japan was not a military necessity in 1945. Strangely, Bonnett neither discusses nor acknowledges any of this evidence (some of which is well-known, other parts brought to historical attention for the first time in The Decision)

I quote at length here:

*Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1945 and a close personal friend of Truman, wrote in his 1950 memoir "It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." (p.3, The Decision) Leahy had urged Truman on June 18 to clarify the terms of unconditional surrender so as to provide an Emperor guarantee, and on July 16 had urged the British Chiefs of Staff to get the prime minister to push the issue with Truman.

*Writing in the third person, U.S. Fleet commander in chief Ernest J. King stated in his 1952 memoir the belief that regarding the choice of the bomb or invasion, "the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials." (p.327)

*Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz in September 1945, according to The New York Times, "took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombings and Russia's entry into the war." In October, Nimitz stated, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into war." Nimitz's widow later recalled that he "always felt badly over the dropping of that bomb because he said we had Japan beaten already." She recalled direct statement by Nimitz that "I felt that that was an unnecessary loss of civilian life...We had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn't do anything." (pp.329-330)

*In 1946, Third Fleet commander Admiral William Halsey also came forward, stating "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment...It was a mistake to ever drop it. Why reveal a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary?...It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before." (p.331)

*The commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Hap Arnold, stated in his 1949 memoir that "it always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse." Arnold's deputy, Lt. General Ira Eaker, later stated that "Arnold's view was that it was unnecessary. He said that he knew the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military's job to question it." Eaker added that Arnold had told him that while the Air Force under his command would not oppose the bomb's use, "it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion." (p.335)

*General Carl Spaatz also recalled in interviews given in the 1960s his unease with the use of the bomb in 1945, stating "That was purely a political decision, wasn't a military decision. The military man carries out the orders of his political bosses." Spaatz recalled his view that a demonstration of the bomb over Tokyo Bay would have been appropriate as opposed to dropping the bombs directly on a city (as well as the view that even the continued threat of conventional bombing might well have been enough to induce surrender). Spaatz's 1945 recommendation of a demonstration drop is corroborated by an interview with associate Glen Martin. (pp.343-345)

*Brigadier General Carter W. Clarke, the army officer in charge of preparing the MAGIC summaries in 1945, stated in a 1959 interview, that "we brought [the Japanese] down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and then when we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs." (p.359)

*Although Air Force General Curtis LeMay later bobbed and weaved quite a bit on his stated opinion of Hiroshima in subsequent years, in September 1945 LeMay publicly declared that the bomb "had nothing to do with the end of the war" and that "The war would have been over without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb." In November 1945, LeMay added that it was "obvious that the atomic bomb did not end the war against Japan. Japan was finished long before either one of the two atomic bombs were dropped..." (p.336)

*On August 15, 1945, Major General Claire Chennault, founder of the Flying Tigers and former Army Air Forces commander in China, told The New York Times "Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped..." (pp.335-336)

These judgements also were shared by the two supreme military heroes of World War Two-- Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. While there is continued debate as to whether Eisenhower, as he claimed, actually advised Truman and Stimson in July 1945 not to use the bomb, it is nonetheless notable that greatest American military leader of the twentieth century and a two-term President of the United States consistently condemned the Hiroshima decision, from 1963 until his death, stating that "[T]he Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." Even if the meetings with Truman and Stimson of 1945 remain historically uncertain, there is little doubt that Eisenhower's doubts about the bomb dated back to that period. Eisenhower's son John on two occasions has corroborated Eisenhower's "depression" upon learning of the bomb and its impending use. According to the younger Eisenhower, the General stated "Well, again, it's none of my business, but I'd sure hate to see it used, because Japan's licked anyway, and they know it." (pp.352-358)

While Eisenhower's outspoken displeasure with the Hiroshima decision is well-known among historians, perhaps more surprising is that Douglas MacArthur too refused to endorse the atomic bombings as militarily necessary. While MacArthur is another figure who changed his public statements over time regarding wartime issues, he remained relatively consistent regarding the bomb. The diary of MacArthur's pilot, Weldon Rhoades, from August 7, 1945 states that "General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb]." Herbert Hoover's diary regarding a May 1946 meeting with MacArthur states "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished.

MacArthur said that was correct and that we have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria." In a postwar interview with journalist Norman Cousins, MacArthur expressed the view that there was "no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier...if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor." (pp.350-352)

These quotations (including the views of additional leaders not noted here), their subtleties, and the variation and shifts which take place over time with different leaders (with particular attention to the view of George Marshall) occupy four chapters at the very heart of the book, yet Bonnett's review does not even acknowledge them. Surely the idea that the military leaders of 1945 did not see the bomb as necessary--and what this might say about the on-the-ground reality of 1945--is worthy of some consideration, some analysis. Surely this is data that historians cannot responsibly ignore--and it might be added here that the material becomes even more striking when one notes that most of these military figures did not take into account the potential effects of a guarantee for the Emperor in making their judgements as to whether Japan could be brought to surrender without the bomb or an invasion.

Indeed, the cumulative impact of this evidence is to illustrate that, within the mindset of people actually on the scene in 1945, there was felt no military urgency to use the bomb to accomplish the end of the war. It is not revisionist historians who read back into the evidence notions of morality alien to 1945 or assumptions that the atomic bomb decision was contestable. On the contrary, it is the traditional view which has forgotten that voices of doubt and unease regarding the use of atomic bombs on Japan without warning and without exploring other options were prevalent in 1945, even (and especially) in the military.

There are many other critical points which might be made regarding Bonnett's review and his refusal to engage many of the key evidentiary points concerning the decision forwarded by Alperovitz (such as the Zacharias radio broadcast of July 21 and Walter Brown's diary entry of August 3 regarding Truman and Byrnes' assessment of the Japanese position.) I will here simply make the observation that Bonnett's review, while critical, still does not deny the book's fundamental point: There were credible alternatives to the bomb and Truman knew it.

At most, Bonnett has tried to show that Truman could have been less certain about the likely success of these alternatives than Alperovitz suggests. Yet Bonnett comes nowhere near (even in intent) of upholding the traditional view that the bomb or the November invasion were the only choices in bringing about a satisfactory end to the war. Again, from an ethical standpoint, even if one believes the combination of a guarantee to the Emperor and Russian entry would have been less certain to induce surrender than in Alperovitz's account, the fact remains that credible alternatives with a reasonable likelihood of ending the war quickly without use of the bomb or an invasion were available to Truman; and they were not tried. From a moral standpoint, this is the fundamental factually relevant point regarding the Hiroshima decision.

In a similar vein, while I find Bonnett's thoughts on trying to understand how experience and prior history helped shape the perceptions of decisionmakers in the second part of his review interesting, I think there is a danger of eliding ethical judgements--which we all must make--with historical reconstruction. While moral judgements are informed by historical understanding, it is a mistake to think that moral judgements can be evaded by better understanding of an actor's perceptions--or to put it another way, that sin can be explained away by showing how the presumptions, culture, or personal history of the sinner may have inclined him to the action in question. Thus, while we may strive to understand Hitler, Stalin or nineteenth century slave owners and their mindset and cultural norms as accurately as possible for historical reasons, this does not mean we let them off the hook morally. This also applies to Truman, Byrnes, and the Hiroshima decision.

Finally, the charge of "demonstrable selectivity" in the use of evidence in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb made by Bonnett should not go unremarked. All historians use evidence selectively, of necessity. The question is not whether one selects and weighs evidence, but whether one is honest in doing so. I can personally attest that The Decision went to great lengths to engage every objection to the book's thesis that had appeared in public discussion as of spring 1995 and to take account of facts and arguments regarded by other writers as tantamount to a different view.

While one may disagree with the weight given various pieces of evidence, to simply tar Alperovitz with the brush of "selectivity" is to blame for Alperovitz for having any view at all. Indeed, the charge seems particularly curious in light of the "demonstrable selectivity" of Bonnett's own review, and his unwillingness to engage much of the most important evidence forwarded in The Decision -- including, as I have emphasized here, the remarkable degree to which the key American military leaders of 1945 refused to ratify the notion that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military necessities.

Thad Williamson

National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives (Washington)/ Union Theological Seminary (New York)

 

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Re: Bonnett on Alperovitz

Date: 10 Oct. 1996

From: Sanho Tree <stree@igc.apc.org>

As the Archival Research Director for Gar Alperovitz's book _ The Decision to Use theAtomic Bomb, and the Architecture of an American Myth_ I find it rather disingenuous that John Bonnett chose to attack Gar Alperovitz's "selective use of the evidence" by citing from a study prepared for the Combined Chiefs of Staff. This is one of the few instances where Mr. Bonnett actually engages the evidence presented in the book and Bonnett's own selective use of documentation deserves close scrutiny. In attempting to argue that American leaders believed that Japan was holding out for more than an assurance that the Emperor would not be eliminated, Bonnett wrote:

The Combined Chiefs of Staff, however, saw the matter quite differently on the eve of Potsdam:

"The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of "unconditional surrender" are most revolting to the Japanese." The C.C.S. suggested Japan would be willing to bargain, to the point of divesting itself of all foreign territory. But if the Allies failed to meet the above minimum demands, Japan would continue to fight, playing "for time in the hope that Allied war weariness, jealousies, and conflicts of aims, or some "miracle", will present a method of extricating them from their admitted critical situation."

Thus, Bonnett concludes, "More was at stake, then, than `a proviso for Hirohito, or fight.' American civilian and military policy makers understood that Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centered on foreign occupation as well, and that Japan was prepared to go to substantial lengths to prevent both eventualities."

Unfortunately, Bonnett has chosen to omit a key sentence in a way that alters the meaning of the intelligence estimate. The full quotation shows that the officers of the Combined Intelligence Committee who prepared this study highlighted the centrality of the Emperor above all other conditions of surrender:

"The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of `unconditional surrender' are most revolting to the Japanese. To avoid these conditions, IF POSSIBLE, and, IN ANY EVENT, to insure the survival of the institution of the Emperor, the Japanese might well be willing to withdraw from all the territory they have seized on the Asiatic continent and in the southern Pacific, and even to agree to the independence of Korea and to the practical disarmament of their military forces. A conditional surrender by the Japanese government along the lines stated above might be offered by them at any time from now until the time of the complete destruction of all Japanese power of resistance." [Emphasis added. 8 July 1945, "Estimate of the Enemy Situation (as of 6 July 1945). Reported by the Combined Intelligence Committee." C.C.S. 643/3]

Clearly, the Combined Intelligence Committee saw the Japanese objection to occupation as secondary (desirable "if possible") to the preeminent conditionùthe retention of the Emperor.

In trying to argue that the use of the atomic bomb was absolutely essential, Bonnett disregards the massive evidence showing that virtually all of Truman's top advisors felt that assurances for the Emperor were absolutely critical and it is incumbent upon him to explain why this _sine qua non_ was not granted.

Bonnett also ignores the preceding paragraph in this estimate which contains the judgment: "An entry of the Soviet Union into the war would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of complete defeat. Although individual Japanese willingly sacrifice themselves in the service of the nation, we doubt that the nation as a whole is predisposed toward national suicide. Rather, the Japanese as a nation have a strong concept of national survival, regardless of the fate of individuals. They would probably prefer national survival, even through surrender, to virtual extinction."

It is also important to note that this estimate was prepared the week before the Americans learned through the top secret MAGIC intercepts of the Emperor's unprecedented personal initiative to end the war.

Mr. Bonnett also cites the diary of Navy Secretary James Forrestal as evidence of American pessimism toward the likelihood of a Japanese surrender prior to the bomb. Bonnett quotes from Forrestal's summary of the MAGIC intercepts of the exchanges between Foreign Minister Togo and Ambassador Sato in Moscow and then comes to this conclusion:

"Considering American policy makers previously understood conditional surrender to comprise more than an Imperial guarantee, that Togo proved incapable of providing any new terms for Sato, and that Japan continued to harbour hopes of independent Soviet action, its stance on the 24th [of July] was not an encouraging sign."

This is a curious interpretation of Forrestal's assessment of the situation, to say the least. Forrestal noted the irony of the Japanese asking for Soviet mediation to end the war, in all probability, because he knew of the impending Soviet declaration of war against Japan and the effect it would have on the hard-liners there. In fact, he was quite encouraged by these intercepts and he ends his July 15 diary entry with: "It is significant that these [Sato-Togo] conversations began before there could have been much effect from the thousand-plane raids of the Third Fleet and several days before the Naval [artillery] bombardment of Kamaishi."

Bonnett ignores the evidence from many different sources presented in _The Decision_ [pp.390-399] showing that Forrestal believed the Japanese were on the verge of surrender. Indeed, Forrestal left for Potsdam on July 26th carrying the intercepts with him on the plane. Furthermore, Forrestal, a strong proponent of granting assurances for the Emperor, worked withActing Secretary of State Joseph Grew and Secretary of War Henry Stimson to urge a clarification of surrender terms for the Japanese in the hope of inducing a surrender prior to any invasion of the home islands. And, as Robert Albion, Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley have noted, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Forrestal made a last ditch personal effort to head off the bombing. Thus, there is nothing unusual in Forrestal noting the Japanese decision to continue fighting if faced with "unconditional surrender" for he himself understood these terms to be unworkable so long as the Japanese believed the Emperor was threatened.

In attempting to dismiss the various Japanese peace feelers, Bonnett writes as though Joseph Grew was a hard-liner on the issue of unconditional surrender: "Joseph Grew suggested the [peace] initiatives were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This characterization because it is Bonnett's only reference to Grew paints a grotesquely distorted picture of Grew's positions in 1945. Bonnett has taken a public statement Grew gave at a press conference in July putting down rampant peace rumors in the press and made it appear representative of Grew's larger, private views. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One would never know from reading Bonnett that Grew and Stimson were the driving forces behind the effort to grant assurances for the Emperorùeach approaching Truman several times.

In an effort to downplay the significance of the Soviet declaration of war Bonnett writes:

To the extent that American military planners did see potential shock value inherent in Russian entry, it was only within a specific context, in tandem with an American invasion, or the expectation of an imminent invasion. To be sure, analysts differed as to which factor would make the greatest impact on Japan. But they never viewed Soviet entry as an option capable of administering an instrumental "shock" in isolation.

Bonnett overlooks the mass of evidence stressing the shock value of a Soviet declaration of war. I will cite but one example here. On July 10, even before the Emperor's initiative, the chief Army planner, Brigadier General George A. Lincoln wrote to his friend Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, the commander of US forces in China:

"The B-29s are doing such a swell job that some people think the Japs will quit without an invasion. That may be so providing we can get an adequate formula defining unconditional surrender. That we have attempted to do, and it has gone from this group through channels to the President. My personal opinion, which isn't much, is that there are two psychological days in this war; that is, the day after we persuade Russia to enter, if we can, and the day after we get what the Japs recognize as a secure beachhead in Japan. Around EITHER of those times we might get a capitulation, PROVIDING we have an adequate definition of what capitulation means." [p.359-360, emphasis added]

Bonnett cites an earlier statement, also by Gen. Lincoln, written on June 4 stating that "the point in our military progress at which the Japanese will accept defeat and agree to our terms is unpredictable." Clearly, this letter to Gen. Wedemeyer, written over a month later (and reprinted on p.359 of _The Decision_ ), shows that Lincoln's views had evolved but Bonnett chooses to omit this reference.

Perhaps these examples (many more could be given) are enough to illustrate the obvious: Mr. Bonnett is far too loose with the facts to be so free and easy with his ad hominum attacks and abstract psychological theories.

Sanho Tree

Institute for Policy Studies

 

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Re: Bonnett on Alperovitz

Date: 23 Oct. 1996

From: Thad Williamson <thwilliamson@igc.apc.org>

 

In connection with the ongoing H-DIPLO discussion regarding Hiroshima,. John Bonnett writes:

I would also like to address Williamson's point that I did not address "the book's fundamental point: there were credible alternatives to the Bomb and Truman knew it." The moral power of Alperovitz's counterfactual has always rested on an essential prerequisite, namely U.S. certainty in Williamson's words "that credible alternatives with a reasonable likelihood of ending the war quickly without the use of the bomb or an invasion were available to Truman; and they were not tried." I wish he had read my piece more closely, since I raised a number of points suggesting the U.S. was anything but certain about the war's imminent conclusion.

Bonnett here misses the most important issues. Of course there was not any absolute certainty about the war's imminent conclusion; that is neither the argument of Alperovitz's book nor the argument that is relevant.

The relevant point is, even if one questions the absolute "certainty" of the war's imminent conclusion, there is no reasonable denial of the notion that making an explicit guarantee for the Emperor and/or waiting for Soviet entry had the potential--if not the "certainty"--to bring about surrender without the November invasion and without the bomb. Furthermore, withholding terms for the emperor was certain to prolong the way, which is why the U.S. military was so strongly for a clarification.

To deny the existence of plausible alternatives, further, is to depart not only from Alperovitz's view but what historian J. Samuel Walker, in a literature review for Diplomatic History, calls the scholarly "consensus" regarding the Hiroshima decision. As The Decision illustrates, these alternatives were discussed months ahead of Hiroshima; beginning as early as April 29, the Joint Intelligence Committee repeatedly stressed to the JCS that "The entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with [continued effects of blockade, bombing, and the German collapse] convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete defeat"; likewise, The Decision documents some 14 distinct occasions between May and July 1945 when Truman Administration officials attempted to sway the President into modifying the policy of "unconditional surrender" in order to facilitate a Japanese surrender.

The debated question is not whether there were alternatives, but the likelihood of their success and why they were not tried. Suppose then, that one evaluates the evidence and concludes that the U.S. was merely "anything but certain" (could anyone have been totally certain?) about the likely efficacy of trying the available alternatives. The question still remains, why rush to use the bomb? Especially why rush to use the bomb just days before Soviet entry? Especially with invasion nearly 3 full months away? Why not test the alternatives? Was it unreasonable to exhibit some patience before unleashing "the second coming" (as Churchill called it)? This is the morally relevant historical point. There was, in even the most minimal assessment, some chance of the alternatives working, and plenty of time in which to try them; and yet they were not tried.

And as noted below and argued in great detail in The Decision, the thrust of the historical evidence suggests that, beyond this minimal statement, the likelihood of the alternatives' success was high. A 1955 assessment by Ernest May in relation to the impact of Soviet entry, as well as the overall Japanese position, may be instructive to briefly recall: "The Emperor's appeal [to end the war] probably resulted, therefore, from the Russian action, but it could not in any event, have been long in coming."

Bonnett also writes:

I would also take issue with Williamson's assertion that moral judgments can be reached independent of a knowledge of the actor's intent or perceptions. Some would contend that at agent's stance -- at times -- can be central to such an analysis. Killing another human being can be considered a necessary evil in one context, a deplorable act in another.

As to the last sentence, I entirely agree. And had the choice been starkly between invasion and the bomb, I would have no moral problem with the use of the bomb. As to the first two sentences, my position is not that intent and perceptions are irrelevant, but that even the actions of persons acting with sincere intent within a given frame of perception are subject to objective moral judgement.

Whether the bomb was dropped because Truman was an evil man or because he was acting within a framework of perception which gave postwar geopolitical considerations (or, by some theories, domestic political considerations) far more import than the lives of Japanese civilians does not alter my moral judgement. Indeed, this is also the position taken by Alperovitz in the book--they were not evil men. They were good Americans. (See p.637) And when they had a choice between making a reasonable (even if not absolutely certain) effort to end the war without using the bomb and pressing their cards for maximal political advantage, they chose the latter. They did so even while knowing that there were still 3 months before the invasion of Japan would begin, and that the bomb would still be there should the alternatives fail; even while knowing that no Potsdam Declaration would be accepted by Japan so long as the Emperor's position was threatened; even while fully aware that in a matter of days the Soviets would enter the war and leave Japan at a total diplomatic and military dead end.

That Truman and Byrnes may have acted consistently within a given framework of perception that prioritized political considerations above Japanese lives does not let them off the hook. That is the profound point about the Hiroshima question-- not to demonize Truman, but to understand the real human consequences of the use of unchecked disproportionate power--even when or if that use seems perfectly reasonable and legitimate to the persons carrying it out.

Of course, I disagree with Bonnett's historical assessment of the likelihood of the alternatives working, and of what Truman himself understood. It should be understood that my brief response, focussed on the repeated refusal of top military leaders to declare Hiroshima and Nagasaki "military necessities", made no attempt to convey the mass of evidence regarding the larger question of Truman's understanding of the available alternatives presented in The Decision. If the readers of H-DIPLO take anything away from this discussion I hope it is that it takes reading the book, not these online characterizations of it, to make an informed judgement of Alperovitz's case.

I did briefly reference a few key pieces of evidence regarding what Truman knew presented in The Decision; I will succinctly expand on them here, both to convey what I believe is the evidentiary strength of the book and because I find it frankly shocking that a reviewer of the book could assess the argumentation without reference to these key points.

1.Any notion that Hiroshima absolutely had to be bombed on August 6, and not a day or week later, is called into question by the obvious eagerness of Truman and especially Byrnes to end the war before the Soviets made headway in Asia. As Forrestal's diary of July 28 reports, "Byrnes said he was most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in, with particular reference to Dairen and Port Arthur." (p.413) Byrnes special assistant Walter Brown on July 24 noted in his diary that "JFB still hoping for time, believing that after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press for claims against China." (p.274) Six additional references, including from Churchill, postwar interviews with Byrnes, and the memoirs of both Truman and Byrnes, are presented to illustrate this point in The Decision. (See pp.274-275)

2. Bonnett stresses MAGIC intercepts stating that Japan still held out the goal of avoiding foreign occupation (albeit in the context of the hope of eliciting an agreement with Russia) as evidence that Japan needed more than an Emperor guarantee to surrender. Sanho Tree has pointed out that Bonnett omits to note that this was judged to be one of their goals "if possible"-- the bottom line, Intelligence noted, was the Emperor. Bonnett also totally ignores the significant evidence The Decision presents regarding Navy Capt. Ellis M. Zacharias's July 21 broadcast to Japan of an offer to surrender on the basis of the Atlantic Charter. This offer was met with, according to MAGIC intercepts, quite favorably by Japanese officials--Foreign Minister Togo cabled Ambassador Soto in Moscow that "there is no objection to the restoration of peace on the basis of the Atlantic Charter". Privately, however, the Japanese were confused as to whether this was an official offer--Zacharias was an "official spokesman" for the U.S. government-- and further confused still after the issuance of the rather different Potsdam Declaration. The Atlantic Charter, of course, specifically guaranteed the right of choosing their own form of government to all peoples--that is to say, it would have allowed Japan to choose to keep its imperial system after the war. Significant space (pp. 390-402) is devoted to this episode in The Decision, yet it entirely escapes Bonnett's notice.

3. Any purported understanding of Truman's view of Japan's situation in August 1945 has to be evaluated in light of the major new evidence reported in The Decision from Byrnes special assistant Walter Brown's diary entry of August 3 (as the President and Byrnes were returning from Potsdam.) As reported on p. 415 of The Decision, Brown noted that "Aboard Augusta/President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden."

Bonnett somehow fails to acknowledge this piece of evidence, even though it comes at the climax of Alperovitz's entire argument regarding Truman's view, and is deliberately highlighted as a critical piece of (new) evidence.

None of these points, while powerful, are on their own definitive (nor are they represented as such.) But taken together, along with much additional evidence presented in The Decision detailing the complex, emerging situation regarding Japan's stance, these points forcefully contradict the notion that there was no plausible alternative to the bomb. As Alperovitz concludes--not in a bombastic claim to absolute certainty, but in measured tones--"It is commonly held that Truman simply had no choice except to use the atomic bomb--or that he did not understand the emerging reality [regarding the Japanese position]. This contemporaneous diary report [from Walter Brown]--together with the wide range of other evidence this and numerous other studies have reviewed--strongly suggests otherwise."

In closing, let me sincerely say that I appreciate Bonnett's second statement for being free of patronizing language and a tone of condescension in reference to the replies of Uday Mohan, Sanho Tree, and myself--in marked contrast to some of Bonnett's online defenders. At this point I do find it more amusing than depressing that some historians continue to believe that the best way to respond to "revisionist" scholarship is to rhetorically call for its banishment from the field of diplomatic history.

Nonetheless, anyone concerned with basic norms of intellectual exchange ought to be deeply disturbed by this kind of charge, especially when it is coupled with a grossly inaccurate characterization of another scholar's work. At the end of his long ad hominem diatribe against Gar Alperovitz, Brian Villa wants to know, for instance, why The Decision misrepresents the Japanese governments view of surrender in the "Alperovitzian sentence" that "the Japanese leaders were united in their determination to surrender"; and why there is a "failure to report that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet entry into the war the Japanese military at the imperial war council cast their votes for continuance of the war."

As to the first point, let me be quite clear: The sentence attributed to Alperovitz by Villa does not exist in the book, not on p.651 (as Villa cites) or anywhere else. Alperovitz does, on p.651, write "Furthermore, the August intercepts which now showed 'unanimous determination' to seek surrender through Moscow was an important new signal of the army's position..." The 'unanimous determination' language is directly derived from Foreign Minister Togo's MAGIC cable of August 2 that "At present, in accordance with the Imperial will, there is a unanimous determination to seek the good offices of the Russian in ending the war..." Of course, this statement in no way implies unanimity as to the terms of surrender; nor is the quote used in The Decision to connote such a conclusion.

The quote is first cited in the text as follows on p.406, within the context of a detailed discussion of the evolving Japanese position in late July and early August: "On August 2, Togo cabled Sato that although it was `difficult to decide on concrete peace conditions here at home all at once....At present, in accordance with the Imperial will, there is a unanimous determination to seek the good offices of the Russians in ending the war, to make concrete terms a matter between Japan and Russia, and to send Prince Konoye, who has the deep trust of the Emperor, to carry on discussions...

The cable stressed, finally, that `we are exerting ourselves to collect the views of all quarters on the matter of concrete terms; hence Whatever happens, if we should let one day slip by, that might have ----[word uncertain probably "results"] (sic) lasting for thousands of years. Consequently, if the Soviet Government should reply in the negative....I urge you to do everything possible to arrange another interview with Molotov at once. [End quote]

Alperovitz refers to this same cable again on p. 412: "We noted above that the August 2 MAGIC report suggested the `unanimous determination' of top leaders in Tokyo that Japan should seek peace." Alperovitz additionally quotes the following material from the August 2 cable: "`Under the circumstances there is a disposition to make the Potsdam Three Power Proclamation the basis of our study concerning terms.'"

Had Villa not provided a page reference to his misquote, I might have dismissed this error as simple sloppiness. Since he did provide a page citation, it is difficult not to suspect malicious intent in Villa's gross distortion of Alperovitz's position. There can be no quibbling in this matter. The "unanimous determination" phrase is explicitly attributed to the Japanese and is so cited. For Villa then to reattribute these words to Alperovitz, as if Alperovitz were claiming that there was unanimous agreement in Japan upon the terms of peace, is simply outrageous and unscholarly. I urge all interested readers to compare the actual text and Villa's characterization of it--there is no resemblance.

As to the second point, on p.651 of the Afterword, the continued intransigence of the Japanese military after Nagasaki and Soviet entry is directly addressed in a section reviewing some of the expert literature on this point, starting with the following sentences: "Some feel that what Japanese military leaders said they wanted in internal discussions after August 9 also makes it difficult to believe a surrender could have been achieved on terms acceptable to the United States. The Japanese military wish-list included preservation of the imperial system, no postwar occupation, self-disarmament, and self-management of war-crime trials. The question is what weight to assign the wish-list in after-the-fact assertions."

This is followed by further argumentation to the effect that when push came to shove and the Emperor directly intervened, the military representatives on the Big Six accepted the Emperor's decision to accept peace (contingent on protection of the Emperor), even though they had the constitutional power to block this decision.

Whatever one thinks of these complex issues, it is simply untrue to state, as Villa does, that the book fails to address the question of the continued hold-out of the Big Six's military representatives on August 9. The most charitable interpretation that one can give Mr. Villa's accusations (accompanied by a blatant misquotation) is that perhaps he has not read the book; unfortunately, given the fact that Villa cites the very page in which the August 9 Japanese military stance is discussed, this charitable interpretation is a very difficult one to sustain.

Thad Williamson

National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives (Washington)/ Union Theological Seminary (New York)

 

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H-JAPAN (E): Responses to review, Decision to Use A-bomb

Sun, 10 Nov 1996 03:07:24 -0500

 
       (Written by Katie Morris)
 
 
                                  H-JAPAN
                             November 9, 1996
 
 (Editor's note:  H-JAPAN continues to post comments on John Bonnett's
 review of Gar Alperovitz's _The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb_.   The
 initial review appeared on this list on September 28.  Since this
 contribution is quite long, it will be posted in two parts.)
 
 
 Part I.
      I am writing to add my two cents to the ongoing discussion
 about the decision to use the atomic bombs, and to comment on the
 criticism of Gar Alperovitz and his _The Decision to Use
 the Atomic Bomb_ specifically.  In the interest of full disclosure,
 I should explain that I worked as a researcher/writer/editor on
 this study.  This fact, will no doubt cause me to be quickly
 dismissed as yet another disciple of Gar Alperovitz.
 However, I will simply have to accept this and move on, confident
 that the points I will make I have come to independently after
 thoroughly studying the evidence that bears on the issues at hand.
 And for what it is worth, in all the time I have worked with Gar
 Alperovitz, never have I felt unable to respectfully disagree
 with one point or another.
      First, I would like to say that, in general, I have been
 disappointed with much of what has been written--disappointed both
 by the tone, which has been overwhelmingly angry,
 and by the acceptance of attacks on Gar Alperovitz's character and
 assumptions about his motives as fine substitutes for thoughtful,
 well-argued disagreement with his interpretation.
 Perhaps most profoundly, however, I have been disappointed by the
 focus of the criticism of the book, which has been almost
 exclusively on what it does not do and on the evidence it does not
 consider, rather than what it does do and on the evidence it does
 consider or, to put this another
 way, by the demonstrated unwillingness (inability?) to seriously
 engage the evidence and arguments of _The Decision_.
      For example, when I first read John Bonnett's initial review
 (H-Diplo, Sept. 25), I thought he made an important and worthwhile
 point about the significance of perception, and
 specifically of the responsibility of the historian to demonstrate
 how selected evidence seems to accurately reflect the perceptions
 of historical subjects, and therefore is worthy of analysis.  It
 was because I thought his point important that I was so confused
 and disappointed when, in arguing that the evidence in _The
 Decision_ more accurately reflects the perceptions of
 Alperovitz than those of U.S. leaders in 1945, he did such an
 injustice to _The Decision_ by failing to accurately represent the
 evidence put forward in the book.  Instead, he simply cited
 a handful quotations from selected documents, offering no
 explanation as to why his selection represented a more accurate
 picture than what is cited in _The Decision_.  Furthermore, while
 criticizing Alperovitz for turning a blind eye toward difficult
 evidence, Bonnett and subsequent critics have skillfully avoided
 the challenges to their own vision of the way things happened
 presented by evidence in _The Decision_.
      Equally problematic have been the charges that the argument of
 _The Decision_ is necessarily distorted, indeed, necessarily wrong,
 because it is not grounded in information from
 Japanese sources; and by extension, the implication that U.S.
 leaders making decisions in 1945 had access to this information.
 The decision to use the atomic bombs was a U.S. policy
 decision.  It seems fairly straightforward, then, that in analyzing
 this decision one must attempt to understand the perceptions of the
 U.S. decision-makers through the analysis of evidence which
 illuminates what _U.S. leaders perceived was going on in Japan_.
 In effect, this means that the evidence will come, necessarily,
 mostly from American records.  Equally straightforward is the
 fact that as most of the informaion in Japanese sources was made
 available only after the war, it does not pertian to analysis of
 the U.S. decision specifically but rather, to an entirely different
 (if equally important/interesting) line of inquiry, namely,
 whether, given what we know now, the bombings were necessary for
 ending the war when it ended.  If the latter were the focus of
 _The Decision_, those who criticize the absence of attention to
 Japanese sources would be justified.  (Similarly, if it were a
 military history study of the objective necessity of the use of
 atomic bombs, based on lessons we have learned since the war, the
 charge that the evidence in _The Decision_ is flawed because it
 does not take such lessons into consideration would also be
 justified.(1))  However, _The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb_ is,
 quite explicitly, a study of a 1945 U.S. policy decision and the
 context in which this decision was made or, what U.S.
 decision-makers knew and when.  In researching and writing this
 study, therefore, we were interested in uncovering not what Tokyo
 wanted, but what Washington thought Tokyo wanted,
 as revealed by 1945 briefing papers, intelligence studies, strategy
 papers, cable transcripts, meeting minutes, office records, diaries
 and personal correspondence.
      I should stress that I in no way mean to diminish the
 contributions of historians who have studied Japanese sources--I
 believe this work is essential, and have personally learned much
 from it.  Nor do I mean to argue that Japan should be left out of
 bomb discussions in general.  My point is simply that anyone who
 compares the information in American and Japanese sources will
 see that American leaders had only limited insight into the
 internal dynamics of the Japanese cabinet debates in general, and
 Hirohito's role in particular; and it pertains to arguments like
 that put forward on October 10, by Eric Bergerud:
      Alperovitz greatly simplifies and twists the vital issue of
 the Showa Emperor's position in postwar Japan.  Although Alperovitz
 would like his readers to believe that Tokyo wanted nothing more
 from Washington than assurances that Hirohito could continue on as
 a kind of Japanese King Albert, the truth was quite different.
 There is little reason to believe that the Japanese government
 feared the complete destruction of the Imperial throne....Indeed,
 anyone examining the debates that went on within the Japanese
 government after Tojo's fall in July 1944 is struck by the fact
 that Tokyo was not fighting for Hirohito as an individual, but for
 the nationalist-Shinto political structure that the Emperor
 symbolized....
 While this may be true, the fact is that U.S. leaders did not have
 access to information detailing
 the debates that went on within the Japanese government after
 Tojo's fall in July 1944.  Indeed, the evidence reveals that U.S.
 leaders who looked into this issue believed the emperor's status
 was the condition on which Japanese surrender debates turned, and
 that assuring the Japanese they could keep the emperor was well
 within U.S. war aims, and that once they secured a
 surrender, they could re-define Hirohito's role as necessary. Also,
 however naive or misguided it may seem today given what we know
 from Japanese sources, as a result of what they read in
 July and August MAGIC intercepts, many members of Truman's
 administration came to believe that assurances might hold the key
 to changing the recognition of the inevitability of complete
 defeat into surrender, or, at the very least, given the stakes,
 that it was worth a try.  To understand this however, it is
 necessary to actually look carefully at the evidence of U.S.
 perceptions, something which the critics who have written thus far
 have apparently not done.
 
      In fact, the discussion and criticism have only confirmed my
 suspicion that the majority of people writing about the decision to
 use the atomic bombs remain in the dark about the
 content of so much of the available record, and that Chip Young's
 assumption that we are looking at the same body of materials, while
 logical, is mistaken.  And while the tone especially
 makes me think it a bit futile to talk about evidence, it seems
 important to at least try to clarify
 a few points.  Thus, in an attempt to advance the discussion, I
 will present some of the important evidence which has been
 overlooked but without which I think it impossible to
 understand the evidence and the judgments put forward in _The
 Decision_.  In an effort to make this manageable, I have divided my
 response in two parts.
      Let me begin by following Bergerud's suggestion to "look very
 closely" at the Combined Intelligence Committee's (CIC) "Estimate
 of the Enemy Situation" of July 8, 1945 (CCS 643/3).
 This document has been cited to illustrate two separate
 points--one, that U.S. military leaders
 judged that Japan was held up not just on the status of the emperor
 but also on the question of occupation; and the other, that U.S.
 military leaders did not believe that Soviet entry into the
 war would have a decisive effect on the Japanese war effort.
 Unfortunately, in citing this estimate, both Bonnett and Bergerud
 not only took quotations out of the context of this one
 document, but also, in doing so, failed to deal with any of the
 evidence that documents how the conclusions put forward in this
 document, prepared for the Combined Chiefs of Staff, were
 evaluated by the U.S. and British Chiefs.  This is unfortunate,
 because a review of this evidence, as well as the evidence
 illuminating the context in which it was written, reveals much
 more about the perceptions of U.S. military leaders than the
 document itself, not to mention isolated quotations.
      To begin with, the minutes of the July 16 Combined Chiefs
 meeting reveal that their discussion of CCS 643/3 focussed on "the
 last sentence on page 10 of the paper _where the
 survival of the institution of the emperor was mentioned_."
 (Unfortunately, both Bonnett and Bergerud elected to leave this
 particular sentence out of their reviews.  For those of you who
 have read only their reviews, the whole sentence reads: "To avoid
 these conditions, if possible, and, in any event, to insure
 survival of the institution of the Emperor, the Japanese might well
 be willing to withdraw from all the territory they have seized on
 the Asiatic continent and in the southern Pacific, and even to
 agree to the independence of Korea and to the practical
 disarmament of the military forces."(2))  Judging from the record
 of this discussion, it seems that the military chiefs interpreted
 this sentence to mean that the status of the emperor was the
 critical issue.  Speaking for the British Chiefs, Sir Alan Brooke
 initiated discussion, suggesting that
      there might be some advantage in trying to explain this term
 ["unconditional surrender"] to the Japanese in a manner which would
 ensure that the war was not unduly prolonged in outlying areas.
 If, for instance, an interpretation could be found and communicated
      to the Japanese which did not involve the dissolution of the
 Imperial institution, the Emperor would be in a position to order
 the cease-fire in outlying areas whereas, if the dynasty were
 destroyed, the outlying garrisons might continue to fight for many
 months.
      If an interpretation on these lines could be found an
 opportune moment to make it clear to the Japanese might be shortly
 after a Russian entry into the war.
 Then, after some discussion, the American Chiefs suggested that "it
 would be very useful if the Prime Minister [Churchill] put forward
 to the President [Truman] his views and suggestions as
 to how the term 'unconditional surrender' might be explained to the
 Japanese."(3)  And when General Sir Hastings Ismay, chief of staff
 to the minister of defence, passed the American
 request on to Churchill, he did so in a report on this meeting, in
 which he described their discussion, and CCS 643/3, in the
 following terms:
      The Combined Chiefs of Staff at their first meeting had under
 consideration a paper prepared by the Combined Intelligence Staffs
 on the enemy situation, in which it was suggested that if and when
 Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would
      probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the
 dethronement of the Emperor.(4)
 To be perfectly clear, the Combined Intelligence Staffs estimate,
 however "conditional" it may seem today, was interpreted by the
 U.S. and British chiefs to indicate that from the military
 perspective, removing threats to the emperor was critical because
 surrender could not be hoped for so long as the Japanese perceived
 the emperor to be threatened, and surrender could not be
 achieved without the emperor.  Also, Ismay's point that "if and
 when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would
 probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the
 dethronement of the Emperor," suggests that the Combined Chiefs
 interpreted the CIC to be saying that, in fact, Soviet entry would
 be decisive.
      That said, those who have looked at the CIC estimate are right
 at least in noting that it conveys a lack of certainty.  It is with
 their explanation of this uncertainty that I take exception.
 I would argue that the lack of definitiveness is due not to
 uncertainty about the importance of clarifying unconditional
 surrender, especially with regard to the emperor's status, or about
 the psychological impact that Soviet entry would have, but is due
 to uncertainty about (and lack of control over) the direction that
 policy would take.  To understand this, however, one needs a
 little background:
      In April 1945 the U.S. approached success in its efforts to
 totally cut off Japanese troop reinforcements from the Chinese
 mainland, troops which originally would have been held back
 by Soviet troops when they entered the war.  Almost simultaneously,
 intelligence intercepts revealed a Japan increasingly desperate to
 keep the Soviet Union neutral.  This led U.S. military
 planners and intelligence officers to reassess the role that the
 Soviet Union was expected to play.
 As it is explained in _The Decision_, intelligence studies from as
 early as April 1945 reveal that they began to value Soviet entry as
 much for its potential psychological impact as for its
 potential military impact.  These studies also document that as the
 psychological dimension of the war was investigated, the
 unconditional surrender problem came into sharp relief.
      For instance, on April 6, 1945, the Joint Intelligence
 Committee (the same body that helped prepare CCS 643) was asked to
 give their opinion on two questions:
      a. At what stage of the war will the Japanese realize the
 inevitability of absolute defeat?
      b. Will such realization result in their unconditional
 surrender, passive submission without surrender, or continuing
 resistance until subdued by force?(5)
 The JIC answers, which were reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
 on April 29, helped set the terms of strategy and planning of the
 last months of the war.  Note just a few things:
      Under the heading "Japanese ealization of the inevitability of
 absolute defeat," they wrote:
      The Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable
 when they perceive that their armed forces are incapable of
 arresting the progressive destruction of their basic economy.  The
 increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and
 cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the
 collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment)
 would make this realization widespread within the year.  The entry
 of the U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with the foregoing
 factors, convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of
 complete defeat.
      Under "Possibility of surrender following japanese realization
 of inevitability of defeat," they wrote:
      Although individual Japanese willingly sacrifice themselves in
 the service of the nation, we believe that the nation as a whole is
 not pre-disposed toward national suicide....The actual implications
 of unconditional surrender, however, are unknown to the Japanese.
      In this uncertainty, they are and will remain unprepared for
 either surrender or passive submission without formal unconditional
 surrender.  If, however, the Japanese people, as well as their
 leaders, were persuaded both that absolute defeat was inevitable
 and that unconditional surrender did not imply national
 annihilation, surrender might follow fairly quickly.  Otherwise, it
 is probable that resistance will continue until subdued by
 force....(6)
      There are two ways of understanding this evidence.  One, the
 JIC was saying that Soviet
 entry into the war, coming when Japan had been feeling the effects
 of blockade and bombardment, will convince Japan of the
 inevitability of defeat but, because securing unconditional
 surrender is necessary, force (i.e., invasion) will be required.
 Or two, the JIC was saying that unconditional surrender is
 unnecessarily vague, and that defining unconditional
 surrender is entirely within the realm of possibility (if not
 within their power), and if it could be defined, i.e., terms could
 be outlined, doing so in combination with Soviet entry (i.e., the
 combination of these two steps) might produce a surrender "fairly
 quickly"; but, so long as unconditional surrender in all its
 vagueness is insisted upon, even if the shock of Soviet entry
 were to convince "most Japanese of the inevitability of complete
 defeat," force (invasion) will probably be necessary.  I believe
 they were arguing the latter, and that strategic planning from
 here on in reflects the tension between recognizing the problem and
 lacking the authority to determine policy, therefore having to
 assume the "what ifs" about clarifying "unconditional
 surrender" an Soviet entry would remain "what ifs" and continue to
 plan for the worst.
      For example, consider the statements made by Army Chief of
 Staff George Marshall in an exchange of memoranda in late May-early
 June 1945.  On June 9, Marshall wrote:
      it would seem better that we take action to discourage public
 use of the term "unconditional surrender," which we all agree is
 difficult to define, and encourage instead more definitive public
 statements concerning our policy and war aims.  We should cease
 talking about unconditional surrender of Japan and begin to define
 our true objective in terms of defeat and disarmament....
 His conclusion, "The nature of the objective, whether phrased as
 'complete defeat' or 'unconditional surrender,' is going to be
 determined by the detailed instructions, and the suppression of the
 statement 'unconditional surrender' will have little practical
 effect on the final result," only confirms that Marshall believed
 what was important were the terms, the war aims,
 and that these needed to be spelled out.(7)  Whether or not they
 did so while keeping the "unconditional surrender" rhetoric, really
 did not make a difference.  In fact, the resulting
 directive issued from Marshall to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
 indicates Marshall's insistence that "we should be careful not so
 to crystalize the phraseology "unconditional surrender" as to
 preclude the possibility of changing this terminology to something
 which might be psychologically more conducive to the earliest
 defeat of Japan."(8)
      Yet, while these statements confirm that Marshall understood
 the problem of unconditional surrender, other evidence confirms
 that he also understood that so long as unconditional surrender
 remained unclarified, there was a strong chance that the war would
 go on and he and the Joint Chiefs were responsible for planning for
 this.  For example, consider the evidence from June 18, 1945 which
 suggests that, even at that early date, the presiding
 officer of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Leahy urged the president not
 to insist upon unconditional surrender because he feared that "our
 insistence on unconditional surrender would result only
 in making the Japanese desperate and thereby increase our casualty
 lists." "He did not think this was at all necessary," the minutes
 of the June 18 meeting note, and, in fact, his diary entry from
 that day reveals that this was because at that time he believed "a
 surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted
 by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory
 provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific
 aggression."(9)  Perhaps this has been quoted so many times it has
 lost its punch: here, in the privacy of his own diary, the
 presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of
 Staff to the President is writing that as of June 18 he perceives
 the situation to be one in which a surrender could be achieved
 which would satisfy the war aims of the United States and still be
 accepted by Japan. Whether or not he was right is a separate issue,
 and should be handled as such.  The point here is that this
 evidence reflects his perception of the situation.  And further,
 that as the president did not at this time opt to clarify
 "unconditional surrender," the documentary record reflects
 continued planning for the invasion.
      Also consider the Joint Chiefs' independent efforts to get
 Truman to clarify unconditional surrender with regard to the status
 of the emperor.  After attempting to approach the subject
 through Churchill, they touched on the issue of the emperor's
 status again during their meetings on July 17 and 18, this time in
 the context of a discussion of a draft of what became the
 Potsdam Proclamation.  On the 17th, they considered an opinion
 paper presented by the Joint Strategic Survey Committee (JSSC), in which
 the JSSC approved the draft, but cautioned that the sentence which was
 intended to clarify "unconditional surrender" with respect to the
 emperor, could possibly, as written, backfire.  This group
 suggested alternative language which the JCS adopted because they
 feared that threatening the emperor, even inadvertently in poorly-
 worded assurances, could mean a longer war.
      This has been interpreted to mean that the Joint Chiefs, and
 General George Marshall in particular, were against offering any
 assurances at all.  I refer specifically to Bergerud's October
 28 assertion that "at the time of Potsdam the JCS and Marshall did
 NOT favor Grew's mention of the Emperor's status in the Potsdam
 Declaration.  Marshall, like Cordell Hull, favored the
 retention of the Emperor but feared the consequences of making it
 a PUBLIC issue prior to surrender or a realistic appeal by the
 Japanese government to the UNITED STATES..."
 [emphasis Bergerud's]  Simply, this does not square with the
 evidence: During the meeting, the minutes note, Marshall approved
 the language suggested by the JSSC, because he recognized
 the need for using the emperor in achieving surrender.  In fact, he
 stressed that President Truman be advised that nothing should be
 done "to indicate that the Emperor might be removed
 from office upon unconditional surrender."  Thus, in a memorandum
 to Truman the Chiefs recommended _not_ removing a clarifying
 sentence all together, but that instead of telling the
 Japanese they could have a "constitutional monarchy," it would be
 better to echo the neutral language of the Atlantic Charter, and
 assure the Japanese that "Subject to suitable guarantees
 against further acts of aggression, the Japanese people will be
 free to choose their own form of government."(10)  (Both this and
 the civilians' formulation were rejected and the Proclamation
 was issued without any clarification at all on this issue.  This,
 Mr. Bergerud, is the "unrealized 'flex'" in the diplomatic
 situation in mid-1945.(11)  And this also illuminates the Combined
 Intelligence Committee's lack of definitiveness: They had even less
 power than the JCS, and while on one level they could recommend
 clarification, on another they had to assume there
 would be no change.
      Likewise, with Soviet entry, while the evidence indicates
 military leaders understood its potential decisiveness, they also
 had to assume that it might not happen, and more, because of
 the widely recognized risks involved in inviting the Soviets into
 the war, they were reluctant to push this option unless it were
 deemed absolutely necessary.  Consider Marshall's comments at
 the June 18 White House strategy session.  At Truman's request,
 Marshall addressed the role that the Soviet Union might play.
 Reading from a paper prepared by his planning staff, he
 explained that if a surrender were to occur prior to complete
 military defeat, it would be because Japan was faced by the
 "completely hopeless prospect occasioned by (1) destruction already
 wrought by air bombardment and sea blockade, coupled with (2) a
 landing on Japan indicating the firmness of our resolution, and
 also perhaps coupled with (3) the entry or threat of entry of
 Russia into the war."(12)  This awkwardly-worded statement has lead
 several historians and analysts to conclude that Marshall
 considered the effect of Soviet entry to be entirely contingent
 on a landing--a judgment which, though understandable, is probably
 not correct.  First, note Marshall's comments, a little later in
 the meeting, when he re-emphasized the potential
 significance of Soviet entry:
      An important point about Russian participation in the war is
 the impact of Russian entry on the already hopeless Japanese may
 well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that
 time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan.(14)
 Here, not only was Marshall not saying that the effect of Soviet
 entry was contingent on a landing, but, in fact, he left open the
 possibility that Soviet entry might make a landing
 unnecessary: "or shortly thereafter _if_ we land in Japan."
 Second, not more than a few weeks before, Harry Hopkins had
 confidently reported from Moscow Stalin's commitment to enter the
 Pacific war around August 8--almost three months before the
 November 1 landing would occur-- therefore "at that time" could,
 simply, not coincide with the landing.(13)  Third, as noted, war
 department thinking at this point was that the effect of Soviet
 entry combined with the "increasing effects of air-sea blockade,
 the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by
 strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its
 implications regarding redeployment)"-- no mention of the
 invasion--would "convince most Japanese at once of the
 inevitability of defeat."
      If anything, the strange wording of Marshall's comments
 reflects the fact that they were prepared for and presented at a
 meeting during which the Joint Chiefs were trying to convince
 Truman that he had to prepare for the worst, and that planning for
 the invasion--something everyone dreaded--had go forward.  Given
 this objective, it is highly unlikely that they would
 have then gotten his hopes up that Soviet entry alone might
 convince the Japanese of the inevitability of their defeat.  Added
 to this is, again, the fact that regardless of how much U.S.
 military leaders valued Soviet entry, because of the political and
 diplomatic risks involved, none were willing to go on record as
 pushing Truman in this direction.(15)
      (Even still, in closing the meeting, Truman stated "that one
 of his objectives in connection with the coming conference [at
 Potsdam] would be to get from Russia all the
 assistance in the war that was possible."(16)  And, when he finally
 received Stalin's commitment to enter the war, he wrote "I've
 gotten what I came for--Stalin goes to war August 15 with no
 strings on it."(17)  Also, in his 1955 memoirs, at a time when he
 might have been tempted to downplay any interest he had had in
 securing Soviet entry into the war, he explained that his
 "immediate purpose [in going to Potsdam] was to get the Russians
 into the war against Japan as soon as possible" and that securing
 Soviet entry had been a priority for him because "If the
 test [of the atomic bomb] should fail, then it would be even more
 important to us to bring about a surrender before we had to make a
 physical conquest of Japan."(18))
      Furthermore, because of concerns which effectively limited
 what was said and what was recorded, Marshall's comments illustrate
 one of many instances when looking beyond the
 obvious, easily accessed record is useful.  For example, on July
 10, 1945, in a private letter--not a public statement and certainly
 not an official position taken at White House meeting with the
 President to explain strategy--Marshall's top planner General
 George Lincoln (who had a hand in preparing Marshall's June 18
 comments) candidly expressed his judgment on the status of the
 war:
      The B-29's are doing such a swell job that some people think
 the Japs will quit without an invasion.  This may be so providing
 we can get an adequate formula defining unconditional surrender.
 That we have attempted to do, and it has gone from this group
      through channels to the President.  My personal opinion, which
 isn't much, is that there are two psychological days in this war;
 that is, the day after we persuade Russia to enter,
      if we can, and the day after we get what the Japs recognize as
 a secure beachhead in Japan.  Around either of those times we might
 get a capitulation, providing we have an adequate definition of
 what capitulation means.(19)
 This judgment is so consistent with the rest of the evidence from
 the war department that it cannot be overlooked.  Moreover, it
 illumintates the other more "official" evidence, including
 the CIC estimate.  This bears on Bonnett's charge that Alperovitz
 mischaracterized the CIC study when he wrote that "The Combined
 Intelligence Committee had concluded--again, even
 before news of the Emperor's move was received--that the
 combination of a Russian attack and
 a change of terms appeared likely to end the fighting."  To
 substantiate this claim, Bonnett chose to emphasize one
 quotation--"A conditional surrender by the Japanese government
 along the lines stated above might be offered by them at any time
 from now until the time of the complete destruction of all Japanese
 power of resistance"--ignoring the quotation on which deals
 specifically with Soviet entry--"An entry of the Soviet Union into
 the war would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of
 complete defeat."  Without this quotation it does, perhaps,
 seem to be overstatement.  However, Alperovitz's claim was not only
 based on this particular quotation, but also on the evidence
 above--including Ismay's summary and the evidence
 documenting the evolution of the understanding which is reflected
 in Lincoln's "personal opinion."  Unfortunately Bonnett noted none
 of this.
      In closing this first segment of my comments, I would like to
 make one further point about the criticism of _The Decision_,
 drawing on the evidence laid out above.  In his initial
 review, John Bonnett faulted _The Decision_ for misrepresenting the
 views of U.S. leaders on the effect that Soviet entry would have on
 the progress of the war.  He claimed that, in fact,
 U.S. leaders "remained oblivious to the potential psychological
 impact Soviet entry would have," and looks not to contemporaneous
 evidence, but only to a footnote in an article by Barton
 Bernstein to substantiate this claim.  This is unfortunate on
 several levels, but mostly because as much as I respect the
 contribution that Barton Bernstein has made to A-bomb scholarship,
 the observation put forward in this footnote--that "After rereading
 key diaries and related papers for the 24 July-10 August 1945
 period, I have been surprised by how little focused attention the
 issue of Soviet entry received for its psychological effect, as
 distinguished from its military value, in contributing to Japan's
 future defeat"--is not his finest.(20)  Indeed, although it was
 Bernstein who was one of the first to argue, rightly, that bomb
 historians needed to look back to even before Truman became
 president in order to properly contextualize the bomb decision,
 here, he makes the mistake of looking to the period _after_ the
 news of the success of the atomic test was received for focus on
 Soviet entry for its psychological value.  If only Bonnett had
 looked carefully at Bernstein's article, _The Decision_ or,
 probably best, the relevant evidence, he would have seen that it is
 a bit of a mystery why it should come as a surprise that there is
 little evidence of focused attention on the psychological value of
 Soviet entry during this particular July 24-August 10 period.  As
 even Bernstein himself has noted, once the bomb had
 been successfully tested on July 16, U.S. decision-makers not only
 were not focusing on the shock value of a Russian attack, they had
 lost interest in Soviet entry completely and, in fact,
 were actively attempting to keep the Russians from entering the
 war.(21)  Added to this was the ever-present sensitivity to the
 political/diplomatic risks posed by Soviet entry, and resulting
 reluctance to be seen as the one who pushed Soviet entry.  No, as
 the above evidence should make clear, for evidence of U.S. leaders'
 understanding of the psychological value of Soviet
 entry one must look back (and look carefully) to April, May, June
 and early July 1945, when the atomic bomb was, in Stimson's
 post-war words, "a weak reed" on which to rely, and all
 possible strategic options had to be explored.
 
 
 
                             Endnotes for Part I
 
 (1) Bonnett, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996.
 
 (2) CCS 643/3 "Estimate of the Enemy Situation (as of 6 July),"
 July 8, 1945, p. 10. National Archives, Washington, DC, R.G. 218,
 "CCS 381 (6-4-43), Sec. 2, Part 5." (Alperovitz, _The
 Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb_" [New York, 1995], p. 227.)
 
 (3) FRUS, Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), Vol. II, pp. 36-7. (_The
 Decision_, pp. 245-46.)
 
 (4) John Ehrman, _Grand Strategy_, (London, 1956), p. 291. (_The
 Decision_, p. 246.)
 
 (5). Memorandum for Secretary, Joint Intelligence Committee,
 Subject: Unconditional Surrender of Japan, April 6, 1945.  National
 Archives, Washington, D.C., Record Group 218, JCS
 Geographic Files, 1942-45, "CCS 387 Japan (4-6-45)," Box 655,
 "Unconditional Surrender of Japan." (_The Decision_, p. 113)
 
 (6) JCS Info Memo 390, 29 April 1945, "Unconditional Surrender of
 Japan," Enclosure:
 "Report by the Joint Intelligence Committee."  National Archives,
 Washington, D.C., Record Group 218, JCS Geographic Files, 1942-45,
 "CCS 387 Japan (4-6-45)," Box 655, "Unconditional Surrender of
 Japan." (_The Decision_, pp. 113-14.)
 
 (7) Memorandum for the Secretary of War, from Marshall, June 9,
 1945.  National Archives, Washington, D.C., Record Group 165, Entry
 421, Box 504, "ABC 337 Japan (11 Jan 45), Sec 1-A." (_The
 Decision_, p. 55.)
 
 (8) Joint Chiefs of Staff, Decision Amending J.C.S. 1366, 14 June
 1945. National Archives, Washington, D.C., Record Group 165, Entry
 421, Box 504, "ABC 337 Japan (11 Jan 45), Sec 1-A." (_The
 Decision_, p. 56.)
 
 (9) Meeting minutes: U.S. Department of Defense, _The Entry of the
 Soviet Union into the War Against Japan: Military Plans, 1941-1945_
 (Washington, D.C., 1955), p. 84. Diary: Leahy
 Diary, June 18, 1945, Library of Congress Manuscripts and Archives
 Division, Washington,
 D.C.  (_The Decision_, pp. 324, 65.)
 
 (10) For the minutes of the July 17 meeting see, FRUS, Potsdam
 Conference, Vol. II, pp. 39-40.  For the memorandum to the
 president, see ibid, pp. 1268-69.  (_The Decision_, pp. 299-
 300.) Here, it may worthwhile noting that they recommended this
 language be added to paragraph 12 of the draft, which clarified the
 U.S. position on occupation: "The occupying forces of the Allies
 shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as our objectives are
 accomplished and there has been established beyond doubt a
 peacefully inclined, responsible government of
 a character representative of the Japanese people," and yet never
 seem to have seen a particular problem with this point.  Perhaps it
 is because the Joint Chiefs believed this was a place where
 the U.S. had to be firm.  However, perhaps it also means that they
 did not see occupation as anywhere near the problem that the
 emperor's status was.
 
 (11) Bergerud, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996.
 
 (12) U.S. Department of Defense, _The Entry of the Soviet Union
 into the War Against Japan_, p. 78. (_The Decision_,  pp. 122-23.)
 
 (13) U.S. Department of Defense, _The Entry of the Soviet Union
 into the War Against Japan_, pp. 72-3. (_The Decision_, pp.
 120-21.)
 
 (14) ibid, p. 79.  (_The Decision, p. 123.)
 
 (15) Clues like the following from an April 4, 1945 memorandum by
 Vice Admiral Cooke afford a glimpse of what cannot be known:
      In making an outline of the factors bearing on our strategy
 against JAPAN, I have not included very much about RUSSIA.  In this
 there are so many political aspects that it seems better for them
 not be be [sic] included in a Joint Chiefs of Staff paper, but,
      nevertheless, they should be borne in mind in any oral
 conversations with the President.
 Memorandum for Adm. King, April 4, 1945, Hoover Institute Archives,
 Stanford, CA, Cooke Papers, Box 24, "Lockup."  (_The Decision_, p.
 97.)
 
 (16) U.S. Department of Defense, _The Entry of the Soviet Union
 into the War Against Japan_, p. 84.
 
 (17) Harry S Truman, _Dear Bess: The Letters From Harry to Bess
 Truman, 1910-1959_, ed. Robert Ferrell, (New York, 1983), p. 519.
 (_The Decision_, p. 242.)
 
 (18) Harry S Truman, _Year of Decisions_, Volume I, pp. 322-23 and
 p. 417.  (_The Decision_, p. 124.)
 
 (19) Lincoln to Wedemeyer, July 10, 1945, U.S. Military Academy
 Library, West Point, NY, Lincoln Papers, Box 5, Wedemeyer Folder.
 (_The Decision_, pp. 359-60.)
 
 20. Bonnett, H-Diplo, September 25, 1996.  Barton Bernstein,
 "Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese Surrender: Missed
 Opportunities, Little-Known Near Disasters, and Modern
 Memory," _Diplomatic History_, 19:2 (Spring 1995), p. 247, n. 67.
 
 21. See _The Decision_, pp. 266-75.  See Bernstein's "Understanding
 the Bomb," pp. 246-47, where he characterizes it as an "impeding"
 strategy.
 

 

 Proceed to Part 2 of Katie Morris' Response

 

 Back to Contents

 

 

 

 

H-JAPAN (E): Responses, review of Decision to Use A-bomb

Sun, 10 Nov 1996 03:22:04 -0500

      (Written by Katie Morris.)
 
                                  H-JAPAN
                             November 10, 1996
 
 (Editor's note:  This is the second part of Katie Morris's comments on
 John Bonnett's review.  Part I appeared on Nov. 9.)
 
 Part II.
 
 So far, I have just barely touched on the evidence documenting the
 thinking of civilian leaders on these issues.  In presenting this
 evidence, I would like to pick up where I left off yesterday,
 that is, with the point that to understand the options as U.S.
 leaders understood them, one must look carefully at evidence from
 the period before the bomb was a sure thing when U.S. leaders
 explored the other strategic options available to them.  Yesterday
 I presented evidence which confirms that during this period, while
 invasion planning and continued blockade and
 bombardment went forward, military leaders determined that Soviet
 entry into the war, which they expected to occur approximately
 three months before the scheduled start of the invasion,
 would quite possibly be decisive; and, that if it were paired with
 a clarification of unconditional surrender with regard to the
 emperor, "surrender might follow fairly quickly."  As for civilian
 leaders, although they did not view things strictly from the
 military point of view, many of those who had their hands in
 Pacific War strategy and planning seem to have been thinking in
 similar terms.  Today I would like to review some of the evidence
 on their views as well as to offer a few general comments on this
 discussion and the state of the bomb debate.
      John Bonnett claimed early on in this discussion that
 "American civilian and military policy makers understood that
 Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centred on foreign
 occupation as well [as on the emperor's status]," and that U.S.
 leaders were not encouraged, in fact, were discouraged by what they
 read in the MAGIC intercepts.  However, the available
 evidence suggests that this is not quite right. For example, when,
 on June 29, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy forwarded a
 draft of what became the Potsdam Proclamation to
 Stimson, he highlighted some of the "more important questions"
 which had "been resolved in the manner set forward in the draft"
 including:
      The maintenance of the dynasty.  This point seems to be the
 most controversial one and one on which there is a split in opinion
 in the State Department.  The draft suggests the language we have
 used in the memorandum to the President.  This may cause
 repercussions at home but without it those who seem to know most
 about Japan feel there would be very little likelihood of
 acceptance.
 In contrast with Bonnett's characterization however, with regard to
 "the necessity of occupation," McCloy noted only that "We have felt
 that without occupation there would not be the symbol of defeat
 that is necessary to impress both the Japanese and the Far Eastern
 peoples
 nor the means to demilitarize the islands.  As you will see, we
 have left the time for the occupation somewhat indefinite."(1)
      Also worth noting is the second memorandum McCloy sent to
 Stimson with the proclamation draft, which addressed the matter of
 the timing of the issuance of this
 proclamation, and which is significant here for two reasons: one,
 because it is an example of the planning that was done without
 reference to the bomb, and two, because it suggests that
 totally apart from the bomb, Soviet entry was thought of as the key
 decisive factor, set to take place months before the invasion,
 which might provide the means for ending the war without
 an invasion.  Not considering the bomb, the joint sub-committee
 that had prepared the draft believed "the best time would be
 immediately after Russia's entry into the war particularly if this
 event coincided with our buildup in the Pacific both air and ground
 and the approaching peak of the bombardment operations."(2) (Again,
 reflecting the two-step logic that "The entry of the
 U.S.S.R. into the war would, together with the foregoing factors,
 convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete
 defeat," and "If ... the Japanese people, as well as their
 leaders, were persuaded both that absolute defeat was inevitable
 and that unconditional surrender did not imply national
 annihilation, surrender might follow fairly quickly.")
      Stimson himself attempted three times in three weeks, with the
 support of Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew and Secretary of
 the Navy James Forrestal, to persuade Truman
 to clarify the meaning of unconditional surrender with regard to
 the status of the emperor.
 Again, because I fear that this evidence has been quoted so much
 that it has lost it's punch, I ask you to consider that: On July 2,
 in a memorandum to Truman, Stimson first proposed that
 a warning with assurances be issued.  Almost echoing Leahy, Stimson
 rhetorically asked, "Is there any alternative to such a forceful
 occupation of Japan which will secure for us the
 equivalent of an unconditional surrender of her forces and a
 permanent destruction of her power again to strike an aggressive
 blow at the 'peace of the Pacific'?"  He answered: "I am inclined
 to think that there is enough such chance to make it well
 worthwhile our giving them a warning of what is to come and a
 definite opportunity to capitulate."  He emphasized: "I believe
 Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater
 extent than is indicated by our current press and other current
 comment."  And driving home the point McCloy had made, (probably
 in anticipation of any fears the president might have of domestic
 disapproval of assurances) he stressed his belief that if, in the
 warning, "we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional
 monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to
 the chances of acceptance."(3)
 
      Also, various diary entries, correspondence and papers confirm
 that the content of the July 12 and 13 MAGIC intercepts triggered
 Stimson's July 16 attempt to convince Truman that
 "we are at the psychological moment" to issue an ultimatum to Japan
 clarifying U.S. intentions vis a vis the emperor--and to use the
 bombs only if this did not work.  In an official
 memorandum, he explained:
      The great marshalling of our new air and land forces in the
 combat area in the midst of the ever greater blows she is receiving
 from the naval and already established Army forces, is bound to
 provoke thought even among their military leaders.  Added to this
 is the effect induced by this Conference and the impending threat
 of Russia's participation, which it accentuates.
           Moreover, the recent news of attempted approaches on the
 part of Japan to Russia, impels me to urge prompt delivery of our
 warning....(4)
 Again, to be quite clear, despite what Japanese sources reveal
 about the intransigence of Japanese military leaders, it was
 Stimson's view, as expressed here to Truman, that the
 desperate situation in the Pacific was "bound to provoke thought
 _even among their military leaders_."
      Even Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, to whom Bonnett
 makes specific reference to support his argument that U.S. leaders
 believed the Japanese were as much concerned about
 occupation as they were about the emperor, supported Stimson's
 efforts and, as _The Decision_ documents and others here have
 noted, may have supported (even encouraged?) the efforts of
 Ralph Bard and Admiral Ellis Zacharias.(5)  Indeed, in terms of
 perceptions, the July 30 entry of McCloy's diary is quite clear: On
 that day, Ambassador to Moscow Averell Harriman told
 McCloy about the "long talk . . . about the Japanese business,
 particularly the Emperor's position," that he had had with
 Forrestal. From McCloy we learn that:
      Jim [Forrestal] feels we may need the Emperor to stabilize
 things in Japan and bring about peace on the continent.  If the
 Emperor does not go along with what we feel is a
      complete demobilization of Japan, we can unseat him.  If he
 does, he may be an asset to a liberal element.(6)
 And, Forrestal made a special effort to take the latest intercepts
 with him when he dropped in on the conference at Potsdam.
      I present this evidence, aware of the fact that it has been
 categorically dismissed on the grounds that these advisors were
 "outgunned," for several reasons.
      1. The fact that they were not in the position to make the
 final decision on what went into the Potsdam Proclamation does not
 diminish the fact that they, as top members of the Truman
 Administration, with access to the most current information coming
 from Japan, believed that the emperor's status was, above all, the
 critical condition for Japan, _and_ that assuring them
 on this matter was well within the of U.S. war aims;
      2. They were not so outgunned that they did not advise Truman
 of this judgment;(7)
 Here I would like to stress several points: As noted above, General
 Marshall was not against assuring the Japanese that they could keep
 the emperor and it is wrong for Bergerud and Villa
 to continue to argue that he did.  Also, it is no less than
 misrepresentation to suggest that MacLeish, Acheson, Hopkins,
 Bohlen, Harriman and Hull held more weight than Marshall,
 Leahy, the Joint Chiefs as a body, Stimson, Forrestal, Grew, even
 McCloy who basically ran the war department for Stimson and
 Undersecretary of the navy who sat on the Interim
 Committee; and to claim that the views of the former constituted
 the "political flow inside [Truman's] administration."(8)
      3. The evidence documenting where they met opposition does not
 suggest that the opposition was either based on a belief that other
 conditions were necessary, or that allowing
 Japan to keep the emperor was incompatible with U.S. war aims.  For
 example, although we know that Truman approved the removal of both
 the military leaders' version of assurances and
 the civilian leaders' version of assurances from the Potsdam
 Proclamation, there is no evidence as to why.  Yet there is
 evidence that whenever the subject of the emperor's status was
 raised with him, he expressed support for clarification.(9)
 Moreover, when confronted on August 10 with the Japanese surrender
 offer on the sole condition that the sovereignty of the emperor be
 preserved, he did not hesitate in supporting a positive response.
 In fact, the evidence relating to this last point is worth noting
 in detail, for not only is it a good indication of the "political
 flow" inside the Truman administration, it also suggests that
 somehow Truman had little sense of the details of this matter:
      On August 10, when the initial Japanese surrender offer was
 received, a debate took place in the White House.  On one side was
 Leahy, Stimson, and Truman; on the other, Byrnes,
 with Forrestal agreeing with the former but occupying the middle
 ground.  Byrnes' assistant, Walter Brown's notes of the debate is
 enlightening.  According to Brown, Truman was perfectly
 willing to accept the offer outright, and immediately approved a
 cable drafted by Admiral Leahy.(10)  However, Brown notes that
 Byrnes found the cable unacceptable.  When he
 protested, arguing that because they had insisted on "unconditional
 surrender" before the atomic bombings and before Soviet entry, they
 should stick to it after, Brown reports that "Truman
 asked to see [the] statement." Brown details:
      JFB [Byrnes] cited page, paragraph and line of Potsdam
 declaration.  Forrestal spoke up for JFB's position.  Truman swung
 over. . . .(11)
      What is strange about this is that it suggests that despite an
 administration-wide debate over the issue, and the efforts of the
 all of the top-echelon advisers save James Byrnes to draw
 his attention to this very point--Truman was the only member of his
 administration to not have gotten the picture or refused to deal
 with the unconditional surrender problem--even Byrnes
 knew the page, paragraph and line of the Potsdam declaration that
 was at issue.  Yet one further detail from Brown's August 10 entry,
 offering a rare glimpse of the relationship between Byrnes
 and Truman at this time, suggests one possible explanation: In
 addition to the above, he also noted: "JFB had lunch with the
 president and said that the two of them had to decide the
 question and there could not be so many cooks.  Truman agreed and
 JFB message as written."(12)
      This suggests the possibility that information stopped with
 Byrnes or, at least, that the efforts to get the matter before
 Truman were somehow blocked.  Unfortunately, at this point,
 it is impossible to determine exactly what happened, but at the
 very least, it is clear that the evidence on the views of the one
 advisor who was not outgunned, James Byrnes, is critical.
 Yet, significantly, all of the evidence indicating his views--that
 he did not want to make any deals; that he did not want to invite
 negotiations or any trouble on the domestic front; that, in
 fact, he probably wanted to dictate terms and when reports of the
 success in New Mexico arrived at Potsdam he grew confident that the
 bomb would allow him to do so; and that even
 when things did not work out quite as he had hoped he insisted on
 calling the shots--confirms only that Byrnes wanted to and thought
 he could end the war without having to publicly assure
 the Japanese that Hirohito could stay.  Whether Byrnes' desire to
 get around this point can be used to explain the necessity of the
 bombings (especially when so many thought it possible, and
 when the JCS had taken account of political backlash and had
 suggested neutral language) is questionable.  However, what is at
 issue here is whether, from the American perspective, the
 status of the emperor was the critical condition, or that
 assurances would be effective, and with respect to this question it
 should be noted that none of the evidence on Byrnes' views proves
 that is was not.  For a sense of this, consider Stimson's
 characterization of the Japanese surrender
 offer, and his subsequent comments:
      Japan accepted the Potsdam list of terms put out by the
 President "with the understanding the said declaration does not
 comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of
 his majesty as a sovereign ruler".  It is curious that this
 was the very single point that I feared would make trouble.  When
 the Potsdam conditions were drawn and left my office where they
 originated, they contained a provision which permitted the
 continuance of the dynasty with certain conditions.  The President
 and Byrnes struck that out.  They  were not obdurate on it but
 thought they could arrange it in the necessary secret
 negotiations which would take place after any armistice.(13)
 
   Indeed, this and the other evidence on Byrnes' opposition to
 clarifying the U.S. position on the emperor in the Potsdam
 Proclamation lends considerable weight to the argument that to some
 the bomb was perceived as a panacea; and that the preference for
 this option resulted in less than careful attention to other,
 equally viable if less desirable, options by the men who,
 ultimately, were in the position to decide U.S. policy.
      This aside, what is absolutely clear, is that contrary to what
 has been implied by the critics of _The Decision_ who have written
 here, none of the available evidence even suggests
 that American leaders were basing their decisions on an accurate
 understanding of the specific positions held by the two sides in
 the Japanese cabinet, or that they read MAGIC to be saying
 that there were other conditions at stake or, even, peace was not
 far off.  In fact, though it may seem naive now, even a cursory
 look at the diaries and record of efforts of U.S. leaders reveals
 that as a result of what they read in July and August MAGIC
 intercepts reporting the emperor's intervention in the surrender
 process, U.S. leaders were increasingly confident that surrender
 was "imminent."  Consider just a few pieces of evidence that bear
 on this matter:  In response to news of the intercepts, and
 Hirohito's intervention in particular, McCloy wrote "Things are
 moving - what a long way we have come since that Sunday morning we
 heard the news of Pearl Harbor!"  Also, a day later, when Stimson
 could not find a chance to meet with Truman,
 McCloy was anxious because "the Japanese matter is _so_ pressing.
 There are so many things to do if the Japanese collapse should come
 suddenly...." (emphasis McCloy's.)  And offering
 insight into his position, the day after the Potsdam Proclamation
 was issued McCloy wrote "Maybe the Secretary's big bomb may not be
 dropped - the Japs had better hurry if they are to
 avoid it."(14)
      Walter Brown's diary states that Byrnes was "encouraged over
 early ending of Japanese war" after he received a copy of the
 intercepted cable from Churchill.(15)  And Truman, after
 meeting with Churchill on July 18 and discussing the "telegram from
 Jap emperor," was encouraged to "believe Japs will fold up before
 Russia comes in."(16)  Writing about this same
 meeting, Churchill recorded that he expressed his own view "that
 the Japanese war might end much quicker than had been expected,"
 and that he went so far as to comment that "Stage III,"
 or reconversion, "might be upon us in a few months, or perhaps even
 earlier."  Furthermore, he noted that "The President also thought
 the war might come to a speedy end."(17)  Indeed,
 as of August 3, after reviewing the latest intercepts, Truman seems
 to have been fairly confident that peace might not be far off.  On
 that day Brown recorded in his diary:
      Aboard Augusta/ president, Leahy, JFB agrred [sic] Japas [sic]
 looking for peace.
      (Leahy had another report from Pacific)  President afraid they
 will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like
 Sweden.(18)
 Significantly, this evidence reveals that still three days before
 Hiroshima was bombed Truman was not expressing concern about an
 unending war, but rather about the problems that might
 arise if the Japanese were to surrender through Moscow.  However,
 aware, again, that this evidence will probably be questioned on the
 basis that Truman did nothing to indicate that he
 truly believed surrender was near, I add two points: one, that
 there is a significant difference between being hopeful and being
 certain.  I am arguing that the MAGIC intercepts encouraged
 U.S. hopes that Japan was getting closer to surrender on their own
 at just the time when the a-bomb order was going out.  This is
 distinguished from the argument that on the basis of what
 they read in MAGIC U.S. leaders were certain that the Japanese were
 about to surrender and therefore took action to begin closing up
 the war.  Yet, on this last point, there is other evidence
 which may explain why one does not find a flurry of activity in
 connection with re-conversion efforts, etc.  A July 25 memorandum
 from General Marshall to Truman, drawn up by War
 Department staff, assured the president that "Plans have been
 prepared for the occupation of Japan on short notice and necessary
 forces and resources are available in the Pacific." Among
 other details, the memorandum notes:
      75-80% of industries will not require reconversion, many
 wartime workers will leave industry, there is a tremendous deferred
 demand for maintenance and for consumer goods, those industries
 undergoing reconversion will still employ part of their labor
      force, and manpower resulting from demobilization is regulated
 by shipping capabilities.
      These factors together with the vigorous leadership of the
 President and other leaders tend to indicate that fears of
 widespread unemployment may be exaggerated.(19)
 This evidence is not hard to come by.  The ability to appreciate it
 and to place it within the context of the decision to use atomic
 bombs, however, requires nuanced understanding of U.S.
 policy debates and U.S. records.
 
 In closing, I would like to comment on John Bonnett's effort to
 explore a cognitive structures approach as a means for eliminating,
 or at least minimizing, the gridlock that characterizes bomb
 debates.  While I fully sympathize with Bonnett's obvious
 frustration with the limitations of bomb debates in general, I was
 again only disappointed with his selection of Secretary of War
 Henry Stimson as the analytical subject of his attempt to
 illustrate the merits of a cognitive structures approach to bomb
 history.  This choice revealed, more than anything else, his lack
 of awareness of much of the evidence now available--evidence which
 clarifies that Stimson did not play the central role in bomb
 decision-making that he was once thought to have played, and
 which reveals Stimson's position on U.S. policies in the last
 months of the war to be quite different from those predicted by
 Bonnett's "Psychology of Combat" schema.  In trying to argue
 that Stimson's approach to the use of the bomb was dictated by this
 particular schema, he failed to consider the quite accessible
 evidence (including that which is presented in _The Decision_,
 the subject of his review) which documents Stimson's progression
 away from a rigid position on use of the bomb and toward an
 aggressive position in favor of assuring the Japanese as a
 potential way to remove the last stumbling block to surrender.  He
 also ignored evidence from the diary of Assistant Secretary of War
 John McCloy who was, in fact, the "maverick" who
 appears to have been quite successful in his attempt to persuade
 Stimson to envision a sequence of events that did not only involve
 the use of atomic bombs on cities without any warning.  In
 turn, this lack of awareness not only raised questions about his
 ability to present new approaches, but also, specfically, undercuts
 his argument for what might be a useful means for
 enriching bomb discussions.
      I, like Bonnett, am frustrated with the state of the bomb
 debate.  And I agree that there are ways discussions of A-bomb
 history in general and the U.S. decision in particular, could be
 enhanced.  Indeed, just in terms of analogies and schemas, I
 suspect there are others that would actually emerge as influential
 on the events and decisions leading up to the atomic bombings (the
 influence of Truman's experience with political machines, for
 example; or even Byrnes' "can't be so many cooks" approach to
 personal politics and the possible translation of this into a
 "dictate our terms" approach to global politics during this
 period.)  However, until we can agree on the shape of the body of
 evidentiary materials and everyone reaches more or less common
 ground in terms of knowledge of the details, new theoretical
 frameworks will, unfortunately, have little enlightening impact on
 bomb debates.
      Finally, when critics demonstrate such a high level of
 unfamiliarity with the evidentiary details of the book, how can we
 hope to move from warlike, generalized debates to intelligent
 discussions about interpretative differences?  While one may
 disagree with Alperovitz's interpretation, in a reviewing his book,
 one should, at the very least, be expected to demonstrate
 familiarity with the evidence it presents, especially that which
 bears on specific points of criticism.  Let me cite just a few
 specific examples:
      1.Nowhere in _The Decision_ is the Kwantung Army
 inappropriately characterized as "an elite force" (Bergerud,
 H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996)
      On page 85, in reference to the role that Soviet entry was
 initially to play--as determined early in the war--it says "U.S.
 officials initially wanted the Red Army to attack as soon
      as possible in order to pin down the vaunted Japanese Kwantung
 Army on the China mainland."
 
      On page 418, it states the "once formidable Japanese Kwantung
 Army, (now 'bled white of trained units and of first-line
 equipment.')" (quoting from Raymond Garthoff's 1969 study, "The
 Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945 in _Military Affairs_.)
 
 2. The text in _The Decision_ on page 651 reads: "the August
 intercepts which now showed 'unanimous determination' to seek
 surrender through Moscow."  This is a straightforward
 reference to both the content, and the interpretation of an August
 2 cable from Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo to Ambassador
 to Moscow Naotake Sato, intercepted and reported in
 MAGIC on August 2 and 3, discussed on pp. 406 and 412 of _The
 Decision_.  Just to avoid misunderstanding, I will quote the cable.
 In the first half of the cable, reported in MAGIC on
 August 2, Togo wrote:
      At present, in accordance with the Imperial will, there is a
 _unanimous determination_      to seek the good offices of the
 Russians in _ending the war_, to make concrete terms a
      matter between Japan and Russia, and to send Prince Konoye,
 who has the deep trust of the Emperor, to carry on discussions....
 In the second half, reported on August 3, he wrote:
      The Premier and the leaders of the Army are now concentrating
 all their attention on this one point.
 MAGIC cryptoanalysts, in reporting this, noted "Japanese Army's
 interest in peace negotiations," and explained:
      The second half of Foreign Minister Togo's 2 August message to
 Ambassador Sato--now available--contains the first statement to
 appear in the traffic that _the Japanese Army is interested in the
 effort to end the war_ with Soviet assistance.
 Furthermore, the above evidence from Brown's diary entry of August
 3 suggests that the semantic differences between "seeking peace"
 and "seeking surrender," are more important to
 Brian villa than they were to U.S. leaders at the time. (H-Diplo,
 October 14, 1996 and H-Diplo, October 28, 1996)
 
 3. I can think of no evidence documenting Averell Harriman's and
 Harry Hopkins' opposition to assuring the Japanese that the emperor
 would not be removed upon unconditional surrender.
 Indeed, I find it strange that if Harriman had strong feelings, why
 would he not have expressed them to McCloy when he discussed
 Forrestal's opinion, or, if he did, why did McCloy not make
 a note of it, considering he had his own strong opinions about
 offering assurances?  As for Hopkins, he had a fairly thorough
 discussion with Stalin when he met with him in Moscow in
 May and, neither at this time, nor when he reported Stalin's views
 on the matter back to Washington did he stake out a position
 against offering assurances.(20)  I would like to know
 if there is specific evidence on the views of these two officials,
 as well as evidence documenting that they made these views known to
 anyone. (ref, Bergerud, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996)
 
                            Endnotes for Part II
 
 (1) Bonnett, H-Diplo, September 25, 1996.  Memorandum for Colonel
 Stimson, from McCloy, 29 June 1945. National Archives, Washington,
 D.C., Record Group 107, Entry 74A, Stimson
 Safe File, Box 8, "Japan (After Dec. 7/41)."  (_The Decision_, p.
 77.)
 
 (2) Memorandum, SUBJECT: Timing of Proposed Demand for Japanese
 Surrender, 29 June 1945, National Archives, Washington, D.C.,
 Record Group 107, Entry 74A, Stimson Safe File,
 Box 8, "Japan (After Dec. 7/41)."
 
 (3) Stimson Diary, July 2, 1945, Sterling Library, Yale University,
 New Haven, CT; also on microfilm at the Library of Congress
 Manuscripts and Archives Division, Washington, D.C.
 (_The Decision_, pp. 76-78.)
 
 (4) FRUS, Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), Vol. II, pp. 1265-67.
 (_The Decision_, pp. 235-36.)
 
 (5) See _The Decision_, pp. 390-99, and citations therein.
 
 (6) McCloy Diary, July 30, 1945.
 
 (7) See _The Decision_, especially pp. 714-15.
 
 (8) Bergerud, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996, 14 Oct. 1996; Villa, H-Diplo,
 14 Oct. 1996.
 
 (9) See _The Decision_, especially pp. 46, 60, 65, 67-70, 78,
 305-06 and references to Grew's memoirs, Stimson's Diary, McCloy's
 various recollections, the June 18 meeting minutes.
 
 (10) Brown characterized this cable as "a message which agreed and
 accepted proposal to deal with present japanese government to
 maintain order on Japan."  He comments, "This message
 would have led to the crucifixion of the President."  This comment
 has been interpreted by many analysts as reflecting Truman's
 position on unconditional surrender--that clarification would lead
 to a domestic political crucifixion of sorts.  While Truman may
 have had some concern along these lines, evidence has not yet been
 found.  In fact, Brown's comment seems to be in
 reference to the specific wording of Leahy's message as drafted,
 and, moreover, in no way indicates that this was Truman's judgment.
 Furthermore, there is no indication that his comment
 went beyond Leahy's message to the greater issue at hand. Brown
 Diary ("WB's Book"), August 10, 1945.  Robert Muldrow Cooper
 Library, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, Byrnes Papers,
 Folder 602.  (_The Decision_, pp. 417-18.)
 
 (11) Brown Diary (from Messer interview), August 10, 1945, for full
 reference see _The Decision_, p. 734, n. 9. (_The Decision_, pp.
 417-18.)
 
 (12) ibid.
 
 (13) Stimson Diary, August 10, 1945.
 
 (14) McCloy Diary, July 16, 17 & 27, 1945, Amherst College
 Archives, Amherst, MA. (_The
 Decision_, p. 234.)
 
 (15) Brown Diary, July 17, 1945. Robert Muldrow Cooper Library,
 Clemson University, Clemson, SC, Byrnes Papers, Folder 54(1). (_The
 Decision_, p. 237.)
 
 (16) Truman, _Off the Record_, pp. 53-4. (_The Decision_, p.
 244-45.)
 
 (17) Ehrman, _Grand Strategy_, p. 302-03. (_The Decision_, p. 243.)
 
 (18) Walter Brown, August 3, 1945. Robert Muldrow Cooper Library,
 Clemson University, Clemson, SC, Byrnes Papers, Folder 602. (_The
 Decision_, p. 415.)
 
 (19)Memorandum for the President from Chief of Staff [Marshall],
 July 25, 1945.  National Archives, Washington, D.C., Record Group
 165, Entry 421, "ABC 387 Japan (15 Feb. 45)."
 (20) See  U.S. Department of Defense, _The Entry of the Soviet
 Union into the War Against Japan_, p. 74 (_The Decision_, p. 55.)
 
 
Back to Contents
 
 
 

H-JAPAN (E): Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

Author: Uday Mohan
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 1996 15:28:17 -0500

 
                                  H-JAPAN
                             November 30, 1996
 
 
 I'd like to thank the H-Japan moderators for keeping open the thread on
 responses to the review of _The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb_.  The
 H-Diplo coeditors decided without warning some time ago to end the
 discussion that was taking place.  Rather disturbingly, H-Diplo refused
 the post I had prepared (a slightly shorter version of the one below)
 because it reached them an hour after the decision to terminate the
 exchanges went out to the list (along with two more attacks on
 Alperovitz).  (H-Diplo says it will open that thread only when Gar
 Alperovitz responds.)  Here then is a response I had prepared some time
 ago, with additional material on some issues Professor Villa has since
 raised.  I'm also grateful to find the H-Japan moderators much more
 concerned than the H-Diplo coeditors and moderators about toning down ad
 hominem attacks.
 
 I wish, quite frankly, that Professor Villa was as careful as he is
 energetic in replying to a-bomb posts.  In his continuing effort to
 construct his version of Gar Alperovitz, he has recently resorted to
 using an article by Stephen Shalom, who we are told by Professor Villa
 is both a lefty and ruthlessly honest, unlike ... Alperovitz.  I invite
 H-Japan readers to read Shalom's fine article and compare it to all of
 Professor Villa's descriptions of it.  (The article is available at
 Professor Shalom's home page:
 http://www.wilpaterson.edu/wpcpages/sch-hmss/polisci/shalom.htm.)
 I think they will find the following:
 
 --Professor Villa says that Shalom, in "The Obliteration of Hiroshima,"
 _New Politics_, No. 21, 1996, "notes, obliquely, Alperovitz's reluctance
 to fully concede that left ideologues in the Washington bureaucracy
 blocked a formal concession on the retention of the Emperor."  Professor
 Shalom says nothing of the sort.  Nor does he take issue with
 Alperovitz's claim that Acheson and MacLeish (Professor Villa's left-
 wing ideologues) were not influential in the State Department.
 Professor Shalom appears to be making a different point: That Acheson
 and MacLeish held a view that was a majority view at State.  Moreover,
 one would not know from Professor Villa's writing that in agreeing with
 Professor Shalom, Professor Villa is really only agreeing with himself.
 To make his point, Professor Shalom gives Professor Villa's 1976 article
 as a source, and Professor Villa takes the opportunity to complete a
 circle.
 
 --Professor Villa then makes this incorrect statement: "In an extended
 note on page 175 Shalom notes that Alperovitz mentions some of this left
 ideological opposition but gives it less than fulsome treatment."
 Professor Shalom says _nothing_ of the kind.  In his footnote Professor
 Shalom quotes substantially from material cited in Alperovitz, as well
 as, more briefly, Takaki, Lifton/Mitchell, and Yavenditti (a cite, not
 a quote).  He says or implies _absolutely nothing_ about adequacy of
 treatment.
 
 --Professor Villa:  Shalom, with obvious left sympathies "does not
 hesitate to speak of the 'flawed political reasoning on the left [that]
 led directly to horrendous moral positions.'"  What Professor Shalom is
 speaking about when he says this is that the "liberal press favored
 unconditional surrender and was willing to sanction conventional
 obliteration and atomic bombings to achieve this objective."  As
 Professor Villa notes, Professor Shalom adds that there were "noble
 exceptions: among them Dwight MacDonald, Norman Thomas, the anti-
 Stalinist socialist left, and the pacifist and religious press."
 Frankly I don't know what Professor Villa is getting at here when he
 quotes Professor Shalom approvingly.  If he's finally coming around to
 a position that Alperovitz endorses--that inflexibility on unconditional
 surrender could lead to sanctioning of the atomic bomb--I'm glad to hear
 it.
 
 --Professor Villa appears to like Shalom the writer and the article.  I
 wonder how this squares with an exceptionally clear position that
 Professor Shalom takes in his article:  "Aside from the question of why
 U.S. leaders used the bomb, there are other historical controversies:
 for example, why did Japanese leaders surrender when they did and would
 they have done so in the absence of the bomb?  These are interesting and
 significant questions, but it is important to see that these are not
 directly relevant to answering either the moral/political question of
 the bomb's justifications or the historical questions of why the bomb
 was dropped. ...  [W]hat went on in Tokyo is strictly irrelevant to what
 Truman and his advisers knew (or, more accurately, what they believed).
 Suppose Truman believed that the Japanese were prepared to surrender but
 decided to drop the bombs anyway.  If ... Japanese leaders were not in
 fact prepared to surrender ... this has no bearing on our moral judgment
 of Truman's action nor on our understanding of why he did it."  (155-6)
 And again: "the real question is not whether the Japanese would have
 accepted particular terms but whether U.S. officials thought they
 would." (168)  Professor Villa has been continuously berating Gar
 Alperovitz (quite wrongly--I believe--as the quotes above from Professor
 Shalom would indicate) for emphasizing American perceptions over after-
 the-fact information about Japanese intentions.  But he offers not so
 much as a peep of criticism about this with Professor Shalom.  Why the
 double standard?
 
 I don't know what to chalk all these problems up to, but these sorts of
 problems seem to recur in Professor Villa's posts, as I note below.  But
 first let me address some left over issues with John Bonnett's review.
 
 In John Bonnett's review and reply he cautions against the notion that
 documents speak for themselves.(1)  And yet in these posts he takes
 issue with Alperovitz largely through the authority of documents,
 without checking them against his proposed analogies-and-schemas frame
 of reference, the very thing he cautions Alperovitz and others against
 doing.  More important, Bonnett's use of evidence in these documents--in
 the form of a few brief quotes from Harvey Bundy, Byrnes, Grew,
 Forrestal, and the CCS--is highly problematic, because he misrepresents
 Alperovitz's book and contradicts his own injunction against the
 selective use of evidence.
 
 I pointed out in my original response, for example, that despite Grew's
 public denial of serious peace feelers Grew privately urged that there
 was a substantial likelihood for early surrender if assurances were
 given for the Emperor.  Bonnett notes only Grew's public denial, but
 this hardly helps one understand Grew's belief that diplomacy was
 reasonably likely to bring about Japanese surrender.  Alperovitz notes
 both Grew's public denial but also his consistent desire--e.g., in late
 May, mid June, late June, and mid July--to provide assurances for the
 Emperor to help clear the way for Japanese surrender.
 
 I also pointed out that in offering the CCS study Bonnett omits to note
 that Alperovitz cites the study's point about occupation, but shows the
 singularity of the unconditional surrender issue for both sides.
 Bonnett replied that "contrary to Mohan, Alperovitz _did not_ state all
 the points made in CCS 643/3."  But Alperovitz _does_, on p. 227 (the
 index easily leads us to this page).  More important, though, are the
 issues that Sanho Tree and Katie Morris have raised in their posts about
 Bonnett's specific use of the CCS study.  Bonnett misses the CCS study's
 emphasis on the status of the Emperor rather than occupation, and the
 way the CCS study was used by planners.  And thus Bonnett's use of the
 CCS study as a critical piece of evidence for his argument is
 unsustainable.
 
 To be sure, the Japanese wanted to concede the minimum to end the war;
 what losing nation doesn't?  But the issue here is what American leaders
 understood as the main sticking point to Japanese surrender.  And from
 May onward the answer is clear: assurances for the emperor.  This is
 hardly a novel position.  Many scholars have made this point, for
 example, Leon Sigal: "one point was clear to senior U.S. officials
 regardless of where they stood on war termination.... U.S. senior
 officials knew that the critical condition for Japan's surrender was the
 assurance that the throne would be preserved." (quoted in Alperovitz, p.
 301)  And most of the top leaders were willing to offer assurances as
 Alperovitz shows in his book.  (Katie Morris also convincingly pointed
 this out in her posts.  She shows the flaws in, e.g., the arguments put
 forward by Professor Villa and others about Marshall moving toward
 Byrnes's inflexibility regarding unconditional surrender.  And as she
 says, "it is no less than misrepresentation to suggest that MacLeish,
 Acheson, Hopkins, Bohlen, Harriman, and Hull held more weight than
 Marshall, Leahy, the Joint Chiefs as a body, Stimson, Forrestal, Grew,
 [and] even McCloy who basically ran the war department for Stimson ...")
 
 It bears repeating, though, that the language Professor Villa finds so
 troubling--that key Truman advisers except Byrnes were willing to
 clarify terms by offering assurances for the emperor--is accurate.  To
 try to rebut this by misinterpreting Marshall or providing a list of
 second echelon voices, some of whom _may_ have wanted to go another way
 does not do justice to the debate.  Hull, for example, did not object to
 issuing assurances; he was more concerned about the _timing_ of
 assurances, wanting to link them to a blow such as Russian entry.  And
 to Byrnes, Hull was not a central figure.  (Alperovitz, 307-8)
 
 Bonnett's wholesale and rather outrageous charge about Alperovitz's
 selective use of memoirs also misses the mark.  Clear reasons are given
 in _The Decision_ about why the memoirs of Truman, Stimson, and Byrnes
 should be treated with skepticism.  And the book also provides evidence,
 wartime and after, to help corroborate the postwar judgments of many
 military leaders that the bomb was not necessary.  One may disagree with
 the arguments laid out, but to suggest that Alperovitz dismisses or
 accepts postwar memoirs without evidentiary reason is grossly
 inaccurate.  Nor is it clear how Bonnett escapes the problem he imputes
 to Alperovitz.  Bonnett doesn't say, for example, why he prefers Harvey
 Bundy's postwar recollections to, say, Joseph Grew's, or those of many
 others with memories that challenge the necessity of the bomb, and whose
 judgments occupy several chapters in the book. Given these problems, how
 exactly is Bonnett's review a useful reconsideration of _The Decision_?
 
 The significant question for Bonnett in his review was What were the
 perceptions of American policymakers?  In his reply and that of
 Professor Villa's, the question suddenly shifts to What were _Japanese_
 leaders perceiving?  This is another important question, but the two
 issues should not be confused as Stephen Shalom, for example, has
 written in the article Professor Villa has found so useful.
 
 >From various sources--such as Truman's diary ("telegram from Jap Emperor
 asking for peace," p. 238) and Walter Brown's diary ("Aboard Augusta/
 President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for
 peace.... President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia
 instead of some country like Sweden," p. 415)--it seems clear that
 Truman thought that Japanese leaders were asking for, or looking for, or
 perhaps getting ready to sue for peace.  And there were three months
 still available before an invasion in November could begin.  Taken with
 all the other evidence presented in _The Decision_, including the
 perceived importance of offering assurances for the Emperor and the
 devastating impact on Japan of impending Russian entry, it seems most
 logical to suggest that to Truman it appeared that the bomb was not the
 only reasonable option for bringing about Japanese surrender, but that
 he chose this option nonetheless.  This is obvious logic, but apparently
 not to the bomb-was-necessary school.  But how else can these writers
 explain the significant postwar dissent of several top military leaders-
 -both in private and in public, in memoirs and in internal military-
 historical interviews--except in this context of reasonable options?
 These leaders doubted the unique, necessary efficacy of the bomb.  As
 Alperovitz says, "if America's top military leaders either recommended
 or supported the use of the atomic bomb as militarily necessary [and we
 have no evidence of this], they gave very little evidence of such
 convictions in almost everything most were to say thereafter, both
 publicly and privately." (p. 324)
 
 And though there is no direct contemporaneous evidence that military
 leaders advised Truman not to use the bomb, there is also no direct
 contemporaneous evidence that they advised him to use it--a point often
 lost by critics of "revisionist" scholarship.  Significant evidence
 points in the direction that what military leaders probably felt--as
 they so often said--was that it was not necessary.
 
 Although Alperovitz in fact allows that interservice rivalry might be
 involved in some statements (p. 367), interservice rivalry as an
 explanation for the depth and frequency of the challenge to the notion
 of military necessity isn't satisfactory.  Many of the key military
 dissents cited in _The Decision_ were made publicly while Truman was
 still in office.  It's hardly politic to try to obtain funding for your
 service by suggesting that your commander-in-chief unnecessarily wiped
 out two cities.  Take, e.g., Halsey: "The first atomic bomb was an
 unnecessary experiment.... It was a mistake to ever drop it.  Why reveal
 a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary? ... [the
 scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped
 it.... It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace
 feelers through Russia long before." [p. 331]  This strong anti-bomb
 comment hardly seems motivated by interservice rivalry; moreover it was
 partly responsible for the effort to quell postwar anti-bomb dissent
 with the publication of Stimson's apologia in _Harper's_ in 1947.
 
 That Truman avoided available diplomatic options partly for strategic
 reasons is suggested even by scholars who focus mainly on the question
 of Japanese intent.  Herbert Bix says:  "neither a) American
 unwillingness to make a firm, timely statement assuring continuation of
 the throne, as Grew had argued for, nor b) the last-minute anti-Soviet
 strategic stance of Truman and Byrnes, who probably wanted use of the
 atomic bomb rather than diplomatic negotiation, are sufficient, in and
 of themselves, to account for use of the bomb, or for Japan's delay in
 ending the suicidal conflict.  Rather, Emperor Hirohito's reluctance to
 face the fait accompli of defeat, and then to act, positively and
 energetically, to end hostilities, plus certain official acts and
 policies of his government, are what mainly prolonged the war, though
 they were not sufficient cause for use of the bomb.  In the last
 analysis, what counted, on the one hand, was not only the transcendent
 influence of the throne, but the power, authority, and unique
 personality of its occupant, and on the other, the power, determination,
 and unique character of Harry Truman." (Diplomatic History, 1995, 223)
 
 Bix's portrait in his article of a callous Japanese leadership certainly
 elicits my anger at that leadership's decision to waste human life
 because it wanted to preserve the kokutai.  But that portrait doesn't
 explain what would have happened if the shock (Bix's word) of Russian
 entry had been accompanied by a change in terms (Bix does not address
 Alperovitz's two-step argument); neither does it get at Truman's
 perception of the endgame; nor does it get at the options that were
 available short of taking out an entire city--e.g., a demonstration on
 a military installation as General Marshall had suggested.
 
 Furthermore, there is the issue of counterfactuals.  To use Bix or
 various Japanese sources to say that the Japanese would not have
 surrendered before an invasion if Truman had chosen the available
 alternatives to bombing Hiroshima, is to make a counterfactual claim.
 This, too, is rather obvious, though Professor Villa in his response to
 Katie Morris and Thad Williamson somehow seems to believe he is the one
 not making counterfactual claims.
 
 If the general recommendation is that all sides of this debate have to
 talk more concretely to each other, I couldn't agree more.  But then
 let's have fair characterizations and full consideration of the work
 with which you disagree.  It is frustrating to have to repeat
 continually the evidence in Alperovitz's book and refer list readers
 back to it (and no doubt it gets wearisome to read it).
 
 Professor Villa's mischaracterizations, unfortunately, are quite
 substantial, as Thad Williamson and Katie Morris have pointed out.  Even
 his description of the NBC documentary as demolishing Alperovitz's
 thesis is misleading.  The conclusions and tone of the documentary are
 much more complex than Professor Villa lets on, for the show mentions
 Leo Szilard's opposition, the Franck report, Asst. Secretary of the Navy
 Ralph Bard's counsel about a demonstration or warning, McCloy's
 prescription of terms, Byrnes's anti-Soviet strategizing, and the
 Potsdam proclamation's lack of clarity about surrender terms.  These
 issues inform the overall picture that emerges of the decision, and they
 are _not_ simply dismissed, as Professor Villa's characterization would
 imply.  On the contrary, the 1965 show begins to move public knowledge
 in the direction of the Alperovitz argument.
 
 Professor Villa also harks back to conversations he heard twenty and
 thirty years ago--perhaps a problematic venture given his misremembering
 of the NBC documentary, his attributing one statement to two different
 persons in two versions of the same post (on H-Japan and H-Diplo), his
 mishandling of Shalom, and his serious misquoting of Alperovitz while
 making one of his central points (see Williamson's post)--to suggest
 that Alperovitz has known since the early 1960s that the Japanese
 evidence disproved his interpretation of why Truman used the bomb.  Let
 me say once again--and I don't know how to say this any more plainly--
 that, logically, however one reads the Japanese evidence, it _cannot_
 prove or disprove an interpretation of Truman's motives in dropping the
 bomb.
 
 Professor Villa refers to Gaddis Smith as presiding over these academic
 conversations two and three decades ago.  I presume Professor Villa
 mentions Gaddis Smith by name because he wants to imply that Professor
 Smith, perhaps simply by presiding, endorsed the view that Alperovitz's
 thesis was unpersuasive because of the Japanese evidence.  In any case,
 when Gaddis Smith reviewed the updated version of Alperovitz's _Atomic
 Diplomacy_ in 1985 in the _New York Times_ he, to quote Marilyn Young,
 "pointed to a number of flaws in the book but concluded that, in the
 years since its original publication, 'the preponderance of new evidence
 ... tends to sustain the original argument' that the decision to use
 nuclear weapons was 'centrally connected to Truman's confrontational
 approach to the Soviet Union.'" (Gaddis Smith, cited in Marilyn Young's
 review; see below)
 
 Professor Villa's policing tone is equally troubling.  How is it
 possible to square his denunciations with the respectful exchanges
 others have had with Alperovitz?  Barton Bernstein, for example, has
 said:  "My criticisms of _Atomic Diplomacy_ emerge from respect for both
 Alperovitz and his work ..." (_International Security_, Spring 1991, fn
 70)   In her featured review of Alperovitz's new book Marilyn Young
 states, "Few historians I know have taken the central ethical and
 historical issues surrounding the first, and thus far only, use of
 nuclear bombs as seriously as Alperovitz." (_American Historical
 Review_, Dec. 1995, p. 1516)  It's easy to pump up language into verbal
 overdrive as Professor Villa has done; and given Professor Villa's large
 and small misrepresentations and misquoting of Alperovitz that Thad
 Williamson, Katie Morris, and I have pointed out, one could characterize
 his posts by also going over the top:  "Professor Villa's communications
 amount to a sea of error that has neither bottom nor shore, and his
 evasion when confronted with evidence of serious misquotation merely
 adds to already unpleasant brine."  But to me this would simply be a way
 to use hyperbolic language as a substitute for engagement.  Sure the
 Japanese side is important, even though Alperovitz's book, as Bonnett
 admits, is not primarily about that.  Sure one can disagree about where
 exactly U.S. leaders stood on offering assurances for the emperor.  But
 these issues hardly warrant the dismissive tone offered so far.  Clearly
 Alperovitz has gotten under Professor Villa's skin.  Unfortunately,
 personal animosity appears, at times, to have adversely affected
 Professor Villa's professional judgment.
 
 Uday Mohan  American University
 
 FOOTNOTE
 
 1
   Bonnett recommends a research agenda based on cognitive structures to
 help remedy the problem of bias.  The cognitive structures approach
 sounds quite reasonable and interesting.  In my original response,
 however, I noted that this approach did not guarantee less biased
 readings of documents or historical decisionmaking, because a historian
 looking at cognitive structures might define the set of problems a
 policymaker was dealing with too narrowly.  As well, I noted specific
 objections to Bonnett's examples of cognitive-based readings of Stimson.
 It appears that a cognitive structures approach would have little use
 for a genealogy of ruptures or for subtle evidence of dividedness in the
 thinking of policymakers.  Or for evaluating the willful absurdity of
 applying lessons from the past--viz., the Bush administration's
 resurrection of WW II in reaction to Saddam Hussein's actions.
 



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