Japan's Surrender -- Notes
Question : What about negotiations with Russia?
Answer : As far as I can tell this is a myth.
This note was prompted by a reader question:
"Your account of events leading up to the surrender appears fairly complete.
But why did you leave out the attempt by the Japanese government to
negotiate a surrender via their open diplomatic channels to the Soviets
prior to the dropping of America's atomic bombs?
"Given that the civilian government knew that they had no way of continuing
the war except as an act of national suicide, isn't this central to the U.S.
military justification for dropping the bombs and opening the nuclear age?"
Best I can tell, the much-discussed Russian negotiations are a myth. There were always informal lower level conversations, but the Russian foreign minister refused to meet with the Japanese ambassador.
We can imagine why some would confuse and exaggerate the facts after the war.
Russia had secretly agreed at Yalta to enter the war and attack Japan within 90 days of VJ Day. They could make no promises of help Japan and they could not announce their war plans, so they just shut off high level discussions and never held negotiations.
Japan's European and Soviet Ambassadors had a more realistic
understanding, but the high command in Japan had dreams. See my daily chronology 45Jun-45Jul-45Aug for the progress in Japan's delusional thinking from trying to recruit Russia to help them with supplies, up to their to failure to understand the Soviet refusal to meet before the Potsdam Conference. Japan wanted Russia to take terms
to Potsdam, but the Russian scheduled a meeting for after they had left
for the conference. No negotiations. The terms were ridiculous, Japan
wanted to keep their captured territories. Over the following weeks,
the cabinet reduced their absolute demands until they got down to
four and the emperor canceled three of these -- and surrendered with the US getting around the emperor issue by requiring the Japanese government report to the Allied supreme commander, MacArthur.
This is taken from our daily chronology pages -- more of specific Russian interface may be added later.
May 8 . VE Day. Germany surrenders
May 18. Japanese ambassadors in Europe warn of transfer of troops and material to the Pacific is underway.
June 6 . Japanese government begins 3-day conference with Emperor to discuss the war.
June 8 . Imperial Conference with Emperor : "the nation will fight to the bitter end."
June 9 . Keeper of Privy Seal, Kido, begins search for "peace with honor" within civil government.
June 24. Japan asks Soviets to extend Neutrality Pact.
June 29. Japan offers Soviets fishing concessions for oil.
July 12. Japanese inquire of Russia about terms. Not forwarded.
July 17. Potsdam Conference begins.
July 21. Allies radio Japan : "Surrender or be destroyed."
July 22. First troops from Europe arrive Philippines. Spies, no doubt, report this.
July 26. Potsdam Ultimatum to Japan : surrender unconditionally or face 'utter destruction.'
July 27. Japanese cites "bombed" with leaflets telling to surrender or be destroyed.
July 28. Japan rejects Potsdam Declaration by silence.
Aug 2 . Potsdam conference ends.
Aug 6 . Hiroshima -- one plane destroys a target.1
Aug 8 . Japanese Supreme Council demands :
1. keep Imperial family , 2. disarm own troops , 3. no war crimes , 4. limited occupation of Japan. USSR invades Manchuria [per Yalta agreement]; declares war on Japan.
Aug 9 . Nagasaki A-bombed.2
Aug 10. Emperor concludes to Cabinet the time had come to "bear the unbearable".
August 11-12. Radio and diplomatic notes seeking terms.
Aug 13. Allied firm response. General Ohnishi plea made to commit twenty million lives (kamikaze) to victory.
Aug 14. Japan accepts the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration and starts diplomatic process to surrender. Coup attempt within Japanese government put down.
15Aug. (Aug 14 in U.S.3) Emperor speaks to the nation: "... the enemy has recently made use of an inhuman bomb4 ..." Second strike of morning is canceled while en route; pilots jettison their ordnance and return to carriers. Four former enemy were shot down as background while Halsey
read his "the war is ended" speech to the fleet. Three more attacking bombers were downed later in the day.5
1 . The point is one airplane destroyed the target -- the explosive equivalent of 2,000 B-29's.
This replaces about four 500-plane raids or two week's of activity.
2 . This completed the use the two prototype bombs, one of uranium and one of plutonium.
The design standardized on plutonium and the first production bomb would arrive in
6-weeks, target Tokyo, and one-a-week thereafter.
3 . Time is different around the world and authorities may cite it from their perspective. Therefore, any date concerning WW2 is plus or minus one day and a few hours.
4 . Let the reader judge if "the bomb" ended the war. Also, start of the myth of atomic weapons as different from any other new instrument of war.
5 . Continued resistance is cited to show opposition to surrender.
The Soviet Union had no incentive to negotiation with Japan. The Soviets had just defeated
German with a war machine at it height in power. Her industry was being augmented by
advanced repatriations from Germany. They had agreements with the Allies
from Yalta for positions of influence in Manchuria, Korea, and Kurils. Japan had withdrawn her best troops to the defense of the home islands and these areas could be taken easily.
Japan considered that she had large tracts of conquered land with which to bargain. Yet, this land could not
be defended, there is little incentive to grant any terms when the whole empire was about to fall. In fact, the US blockade of Japan was so tight, the home islands could be turned
into a starvation center, as was happening on the many of the islands bypassed by Allied forces and allowed to wither -- Rabaul, Wake, and other islands. But the US wanted the
war over with, preferably before August 5 when the Soviets were to enter the war.
The U.S. government knew the thinking of the Japanese Cabinet because almost every message sent to and from ambassadors was intercepted and decoded. The U.S. knew that Japan
was in her final throws and also that the miliary was adamant about continuing the fight
for national identity. There was nothing to negotiate diplomatically except unconditional surrender.
On the military front, the
Japanese strategy at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa was to make American losses so great
that the US would gladly allow Japan to keep her conquests, rather than suffer similar or even greater loses to invade the home islands. On the American side, the military power was increasing every day and the influx of redeployed power from European war had not yet begun. The build up of equipment with which to shatter Japanese defenses is
almost unimaginable. For example, 1,000 P-51 Mustangs were noted assembled in the Marianas waiting for pilots from the European theater to arrive and move them to Japan.
The B-29 destruction of Japan was increasing by over 100 effective bombers each month,
when all major cities had already been destroyed and the same targets were being repeated. Atomic bombs were scheduled to arrive one each week, but few knew this.
Conversely, a General was disappointed to be assigned to the second wave for the invasion of Kyushu; then he noted his objectives were identical to that of the first wave -- the
first wave was expected to be wiped out. Japan had half a million soldiers on Kyushu and the U.S, would receive an equal number of casualties if the example of Okinawa was continued, but only 1 in 5 to die, whereas virtually all the Japanese would die, plus civilians. Twelve million Americans were in uniform and wanted to see Japan totally defeated and U.S. industry was supplying materials with which to move the odds even more in their favor. Japan was defeated and had been for months, the only thing left was to hurry it along, to minimize the American death toll and go home. One hundred aircraft carriers would support the invasion of Japan, when once, the US had only three at the attack on Pearl Harbor. The end of the war was being addressed with military technology, not by talk.
"Japan's Decision to Surrender" by Robert J.C. Butow. Stanford University Press, 1954.
"Last Great Victory:July/August 1945" by Stanley Weintraub, 1995.
"The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II', by Robert J. Cressman,
Naval Historical Center, rev 1999.
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Last updated on Aug 29, 2005
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