6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Detailed analysis in a readable volume,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb: And the Architecture of an American Myth (Hardcover)I bought this book when I heard Gar Alperovitz deliver a lecture about it on the University of Michigan NPR station many years ago. This book particularly sparked my interest in its speculation about the role of the Soviet Union hosting Japanese officials toward the end of the war who were trying to work out an agreement. The overview of the book is largely a critique of the decision made early in the war by the allies to accept only "unconditional surrender" by the Japanese. He maintains that the main hindrance to such a surrender was the emperor and Japanese devotion to him. Alperovitz argues that while Truman may have been poorly prepared and even somewhat naive, others in the State and War departments new that such a surrender would likely never be given.
Alperovitz notes that we did in the end allow the Emperor to stay, calling into question how "unconditional" the surrender actually was.
The book also challenges the notion that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved the thousands of American and Japanese lives; Alperovitz highlights the plan for the Red Army to invade shortly after the bombs ended up being dropped.
The research appears well cited and the prose focused; this is not a World War II Pacific Theatre overview that speaks on its entirety. It covers the Manhattan Project, American and Russian strategy during the last months of World War II, and ultimately the discussions by all American players which led to the bombings.
While there are good texts rebutting this effort, particularly regarding Alperovitz' opinion that an invasion initiated by the Red Army could have ended the war as quickly and efficiently as the two atomic bombs, I found this book to be a good jumping off point in exploring the arguments on all sides regarding this momentous project.
Tracked by 1 customer
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 11, 2011 7:32:08 AM PDT
"Of course, in the end, we accepted conditional surrender, anyway. "
For all practical purposes, we did not. Only the tiniest of fig-leaves was allowed.
The emperor lost all formal political power, and the Meiji Constitution was replaced with one that completely stripped the military of the powers they had exploited to dominate the nation.
This was not at all what the Japanese had in mind, as was evidenced by the verbiage they used in their original provisional acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, namely, that they accepted it with the understanding that the terms of the declaration "comprise no demand that would prejudice the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler." Note that this was an even stronger statement of position than their original draft's wording to the effect that it was accepted with the understanding that it constituted no demand for a change in the status of the emperor under the national laws -- the wording was changed based on the objection of one of Japan's leading ultranationalists that the emperor's prerogatives were not subject to any national laws. But the final result was that the prerogatives of the emperor as a sovereign ruler were nullified.
Although the Potsdam Declaration included the statement that "these are our terms", they were nothing more than a unilateral statement of fundamental principles and policies, neither the result of nor subject to any negotiation.
In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2011 3:11:34 PM PDT
Thanks, James. You speak with some authority on the subject...are you a historian? Military person?
On reflection, I oughtn't have used the "of course"; I may make an additional change in view of this information. I do know that Alperovitz faced some fair critique after this was published but haven't yet red the other books.
In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2011 12:19:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 13, 2011 12:20:26 AM PDT
An excellent edit to the wording, Kelly.
I'm a software engineer who has 40 years of experience with Japan, and who reads the historical record in that language as well as English. Subsequent to the controversies that arose around the 50th anniversary of the bombings with the publication of the "The Decision" and the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit, I've been steadily researching the events and issues in depth. The availability of out-of-print Japanese historical references through Amazon Japan, especially Shusen Kosaku no Kiroku, a 2-volume compendium of 237 primary documents concerning the war-end maneuverings with commentary by Japanese scholars, has been a great aid in this regard.
An excellent source in English is Michael Kort's The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb (Columbia Guides to American History and Cultures). I also recommend Bix's Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, Frank's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, and Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (even though I don't agree with his overall conclusion).
In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2011 12:50:05 AM PDT
Thanks for the references....my Sovietophilia is pricking up its ears at the Hasegawa one; I might pick it up and get back to you to get your take on it. Glad to meet you through Ammie!
In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2011 2:41:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 14, 2011 2:58:31 PM PDT
I, too, am glad to have met you on Ammie.
Regarding the Soviet angle, Google Yukiko Koshiro's paper "Eurasian Eclipse: Japan's End Game in World War II', get Foreign Minister Togo's The Cause of Japan, and read the full series of the "peace feelers through the Soviet Union" messages. You'll find the last by Googling "Foreign Relations of the United States" to get to the U of Wisc's site, then 'Boolean Search' on their search page with 'Sato AND Togo'. I recommend you also Google "Holyoke Hiroshima" and read the MAGIC Diplomatic Summary documents you'll find there, which reveal how those messages were communicated to US leaders. In DS 1204 of 12 July read also the Catroux-Menemencioglu conversations report on pp. 8-9.
Goggle '"Marching Orders" SRS1717' for a Google Books extract of pages 494-495 of Marching Orders: The Untold Story Of World War II (well worth buying), where you will see that before the "peace feelers" message exchange former Premier Hirota had proposed to Soviet Amabassdor Malik that, "Japan will increase her naval strength in the future, and that, together with the Russian Army, would make a force unequalled in the world. In this connection, Japan would like to have Russia provide her with oil, in return for which Japan would provide rubber, tin, lead, tungsten, and other commodities from the south (transport would be up to the Russians)," and that US leaders had read that just weeks before the "peace feelers" exchange began.
Another bit of context is the following statements made near war-end by Admiral Onishi, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Japanese Navy (second to Toyoda Soemu) and the chief proponent of "special attack" (from "Tokko to wa Nani ka", by Mori Shiro, my translation):
"The [real] fight starts from now. Even if we lose 99%, if we win
the final battle that's OK.
"In the US landings on the homeland expected this fall, we'll use
all 10,000 planes we've kept here in "special attack" and deal them
a devastating blow. [I?/We?] have confidence we can also deal the
US task forces and B29 bombing raids devasating blows because our
various new weapons (i.e., the 'Shusui' rocket fighter) will finally
have gotten into production." [parentheses in original]
"If we pull our forces in the [north Asian] regions, Manchuria,
and northern China down to the south and take a firm defensive
posture, letting the Soviets and Chinese Communists flood into the
areas we've left, we can probably place Chiang Kai Shek's army in
confrontation with the Soviet and Chinese Communist armies, and
perhaps also draw the US and Soviets into confrontation. So if we
can deal the US a heavy blow in its landings on our homeland, we can
buy ourselves some time. It will be fine to then make peace according
to developments in the international situation. But to accomplish this
we need a premier who's ready to fight."
"The people of Japan should be willing to fight on even if it means
20 million war deaths."
I suspect that because there were multiple factions in the Japanese military and government, who not only did not communicate well but often even lied to each other, there was no single strategy for interaction with the Soviet Union. So I would not present the above as necessarily being a strategy the entire government had decided upon, but it's likely Onishi wasn't the only one thinking along those lines.
The point on which I disagree with Hasegawa is his argument in "Racing ..." that it was the shock of Soviet war entry that brought surrender. My belief is that what brought surrender was the Japanese leadership's realization that with atomic weapons the US would neither feel it necessary to invade nor particularly fear the Soviets. So with no prospect of being able to devastate the Kyushu landing force and thereby put US leaders in the position of having to weaken Western Europe by transferring troops to the Pacific to replace its casualties (and also face domestic political pressure to end the carnage), Japan's leaders decided to cut their losses and surrender in a form that was, for all practical purposes, unconditional. (Though as you'll see if you read Togo's memoir that he did his best to spin the Potsdam Declaration wording, "These are our terms, ...", to claim he'd been able to gain a "conditional surrender.)
(An afterthought: Note that Japanese war deaths resulting from the Soviet invasion eventually totaled nearly half a million -- 130,000 deaths among colonial settlers in Manchuria, 100,000 regular military during the fighting, and 260,000 among the 650,000 Japanese prisoners of war transported to Siberia for years of forced labor.)
In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2011 6:23:23 PM PDT
Thanks for this. I read a lot of military history....usually just in periodicals, but I really just enjoy reading both about strategy and the knowing about the reasons why things turned out the way they did in any conflict. World War II European theater, mostly, but also US Civil War and Vietnam. I'm going to check out these references, thanks very much!
‹ Previous 1 Next ›