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From: (John Ongtooguk)
Subject: Re: Thank God we dropped the bomb!
Date: 11 May 1998

Robert J Yamada ( wrote:

: It's strange to hear that Stephen Ambrose now says he was wrong to have
: previously taught that the US use of the A-bomb was a mistake. Is Ambrose
: now employing the "invasion casualties" moral argument in defense of
: President Truman's decision?  I can understand why President Truman made his
: decision, but a historian does not need to use the invasion thesis as a
: justification. To answer your question: Yes, Ambrose should have stuck with
: his previous position. I strongly urge anyone interested to read Rufus
: Miles's analysis: "Hiroshima: The Strange Myth of Half a Million American
: Lives saved", in INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 85 ]

  Defanged or not even after both bombs were dropped the Supreme
  War Council could not agree on surrender, per Japan's own research
  on the conduct of the war. Such conduct suggests that dropping the
  Bombs were justified as it's not clear what else would have
  prompted the chain of events that led to the surender. Attached
  is a previous post from this newsgroup, which is part of what
  should be considered an essential reference in any credible account
  on the use of the Bomb:


From: (Thomas Hamilton)
Subject: How and Why Japan Surrendered (long)
Date: 10 Aug 1995 10:10:52 GMT

This is a brief account of how and why Japan surrendered.
The best account of these events is found in _Nihon no Ichiban
Nagai Hi_ by the Pacific War Research Society.  The Society was
a group of 14 Japanese historians who spent years interviewing
every Japanese survivor involved in any way with the decision,
except Hirohito.  Their book was published in 1965.  It was
translated into English and published by Kondansha with the
title _Japan's Longest Day_ [JLD].  This is still the
authoritative book on the subject.  This post is condensed from
JLD.  If you have read JLD, don't bother with this post.
Otherwise, here are the Cliff notes.

Japan in the summer of 1945 was governed, in the name of the
emperor, by the Supreme War Council or Big Six.  The SWC
consisted of representives of the Army, the Navy and the
civilian government.  This body ruled by consensus.  That is
the six would debate amoung themselves until they all agreed
on a course of action which could be presented to Hirohito.
The most powerful person on the SWC was the Army Minister.
It had become a rule of Japanese politics that the Army Minister
was chosen by the Army and no cabinet could exist without an
Army Minister.  This meant that the Army could veto any decision
by having its Minister resign.

The issue on the table in late summer of 1945 was the surrender
of Japan.  The SWC could not, did not achieve consensus.

It is a remarkable fact about the crisis which overtook the SWC
in August 1945 that no one changed their opinion.  The SWC
members who advocated immediate acceptance of the Potsdam
declaration stayed pro-peace throughout.  More amazingly, the
SWC members who opposed surrender before Hiroshima, continued
to oppose it right up till August 14.


Foreign Minister Togo (the leader of the doves)
Prime Minister Admiral Suzuki (77 and very flaky)
Navy Minister Admiral Yonai


Army Minister General Anami (the leader of the hawks)
Army Chief of Staff General Umezu
Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Toyoda

It is a curious fact that the Navy was so important, even though
it only had a few destroyers left.

Since these six people were unable to agree to end the war,
there were two other sources of authority which could possibly
break the deadlock, although, since Japan was already at war,
the hawks had no desire to break the deadlock.


The Army was in physical control of the country and Tokyo.  The
Army had a tradition of murdering political opponents.  Many
middle level officers in the Army believed that the Army should
murder all the doves and take control of the country.  This
would mean, in effect, kidnapping Hirohito.  Many officers
viewed this as preferable to surrender.  Everyone believed
that a surrender order would be followed by an immediate coup
attempt and assasination spree.


Hirohito strongly wanted peace.  In principle, he could have
ordered the Army to surrender at any time.  Under the Meiji
Constitution he was explicitly Commander and Chief.  However,
it was not clear that the Army would obey him.  If he ordered
the Army to surrender, a successful coup would leave him a
prisoner.  He knew he only had one shot.  He would have to
stake his position and the lives of his fellow doves on one
attempt to bulldoze the Army.  The question was, when to try it.
Hirohito was not isolated, he had the help of many senior
politicians.  He had friends in the Army.  It just wasn't clear
that he had enough to ride out a coup.

DOVE arguments:

Everyone agreed on the importance of protecting the 'national
polity'.  Doves emphasized the importance of the Monarchy.
They argued that immediate surrender to the US was the best way
to preserve the Monarchy.  Peace feelers to the US from doves
had been broken off at hawks insistence, but not before the US
had communicated to the doves that Japan could surrender and
keep an emperor.  The doves also didn't like the Russians and
would have preferred ending the war before they occupied any of
Japan.  (Even though Japan was still at peace with Russia,
indeed trying desperately to negotiate with Stalin, Japan could
see the Russians deploying massive forces on the border.  The
Russian attack was not a big surprise.)

HAWK arguments:

The hawks accepted that the war, and empire, were gone.  They
believed that the US would allow Japan to retain its government
structure and independence if it were clear that the price of
insisting on occupation was too high.  They advocated a guerilla
war.  They believed that even if the emperor were hiding in
the mountains with a few soldiers, that was preferable to
having the public humiliation of the emperor subordinated
to foreigners.

However, the hawks didn't think it would come to that.  After
all, all they wanted was a little area around Tokyo where the
emperor and his soldiers could wave the flag unmolested.  Was
this too much to ask in exchange for thousands of US lives?
The hawks thought US diplomatic concessions would be coming.

The hawks also thought the Soviets would help.  They could
pressure the US directly, although that was unlikely.  More
usefully, the Soviets could overrun Manchuria and Korea, scaring
the US into coming to terms.

However, the hawks main hope was for a US invasion.  Until the
US invaded, Japan had no good way to kill Americans.  However,
if the US fought Japan's 2 million man home army in Japan's
rugged terrain, Japan would kill plenty of Americans.

So, given this backdrop, lets look at some events:


The July 26 PP explicitly called for the "unconditional surrender
of the Japanese Armed Forces".  The cabinet correctly interpreted
this as saying that the monarchy would not be eliminated.  The
foreign office pressed for immediate acceptance.  The Army
was unmoved.  The SWC reached a consensus to do and say nothing.
(This was there most common approach to all problems).
Unfortunately, PM Suzuki said to reporters that the cabinet
would 'mokusatsu' the PP.  This harsh language, which was a slip
from a well-meaning but senile dove, infuriated Togo because
he knew it would get a bad reaction from the US.  How bad, he
couldn't imagine.


Hiroshima was bombed on Aug 6.  Nothing happened in Tokyo on
the 6th or 7th.  On Aug 8, Hirohito informed PM Suzuki that
the war must be ended immediately.  Suzuki was instructed to
call an immediate SWC meeting for that purpose, "but the
meeting had to be postponed because one of the members was
unavoidably detained by 'more pressing business' elsewhere."
[I, also, find this incredible, so I just quoted what JLD says]


Russia declared war the afternoon of the 8th.


The doves woke up early this Thursday.  Furious about the
meeting that had been blown off, leading to Russian entry, Togo
et al. managed to get an SWC meeting going by 10:30 AM.
Immediately, the SWC split into its two familiar factions
and started going over the familiar arguments.  Halfway through
the meeting a message arrived saying that Nagasaki had been
bombed at 11:00 that morning.  This changed no opinions.
The SWC meeting broke up at 1:00 PM with no decision having
been made.

That afternoon the arguments were repeated in a full cabinet
meeting lasting from 2:30 to 10:00 PM.  The Home Minister
explicitly predicted that a coup would likely happen if the
government ordered surrender.  The meeting had no result.

Suzuki then, after consultation with Hirohito, called a
SWC meeting for 11:50 PM, to be held _in the presence of the
emperor_, an unprecedented, although perfectly legal, procedure.


For two hours the SWC went over the same arguments it had been
arguing non-stop since mid-morning the day before.  At 2:00 AM
Suzuki turned to Hirohito, saying "your decision is requested".
Hirohito said he supported Togo.  He then left the room.

Suzuki then convened a cabinet meeting to prepare the formal
note of surrender.  By 4:00 AM the note had been approved
by the cabinet and sent to the Foreign Office for translation
and transmission.  The FO had one last trick.  The cabinet had
demanded that the US respect "the powers of His Majesty".
The FO translated that to English reading "the prerogatives of
His Majesty."  Since few hawks spoke English, they got away with

Anami returned to the Army Ministry where he addressed senior
personnel and explained the developments.  A young officer
demanded, "Is the Army Minister actually considering surrender?"
Anami silenced the officer by smashing the table with his
swagger stick.  However, the young officers could still hope
that the Allies would reject the note and a coup would be

The US delivered a massive bombing raid on Tokyo.


In Tokyo the leaders waited for the US reply.  Anami made a
belligerent public proclamation.  Young officers began drawing
up lists of doves to be killed.


The Byrnes reply came at 00:45.  The FO diplomatically
mistranslated it as well, substituting "controlled by" for
Byrnes' "subject to" in the crucial phrase describing the
Hirohito's relation with MacArthur.

This was the signal to start the same arguments all over again.
There was now the added edge that the coup planning was in
full process.  Anami hoped to use the threat of the coup to
prevent acceptance of the Byrnes note, but he also wanted to
make sure there was no actual coup.


The Allies dropped leaflets describing the exchange of notes.
This terrified the government.  They were sure this would lead
to a coup.  So by 10:00 AM the SWC and cabinet were assembled
for an Imperial Conference down in Hirohito's bunker.  Hirohito
announced his decision to accept the Byrnes note. He asked the
cabinet to prepare an appropriate rescript for him to read to
the nation.

That afternoon Hirohito recorded the rescript

Anami forced the top Army officers to sign a statement of
loyalty.  Anami was still consorting with the coup planners
but Umezu definitely decided he was against a coup.

That night Anami went to his house and committed sepukku.

The coup began with junior officers seizing the Imperial Guards
Division and the Imperial Palace.  General Mori, commander of
the Guards, was murdered.  Meanwhile, a series of assasinations
was attempted.  PM Suzuki barely got out of his house alive before
soldiers came, searched it, and burned it in frustration. He went
into hiding at a friend's house.


Although the rebels had held the palace all night, the coup ran
out of steam in the morning.  General Tanaka of the Eastern
District Army showed up at the palace.  Hirohito and his
hosehold were safe.  Most of the plotters killed themselves.

At 12 noon, Hirohitos voice read the rescript ending the war
on NHK.

Although sporadic mutinies contined for a few days, the
situation was stable when the US arrived.  General Umezu signed
on the Missouri.


John Ongtooguk (

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