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Customer Discussions > History forum

Japan 1945: possibility of a negotiated peace

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Initial post: Aug 16, 2012, 7:47:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012, 1:58:28 PM PDT
Some other posters brought up the possibility of a negotiated peace with Japan.

I am interested in some point of views on this.

1st I do believe it was possible. But what would the ramifications be?

On one hand, it probably would have saved quite a few Japanese lives and possibly tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of US lives.

Would the US public have stood for it?
Was the spectre of WWI too strong, such that it was the only acceptable option?

Given their territorial ambitions in Asia, would the USSR have gone along with it?
Would the Chinese have gone along with it?
What about everyone else in the Pacific Rim?

What would the conditions have looked like?

Would the Japanese leadership been surrendered for trial? Would the Emperor?

Would there have been compensation? Could Japan have afforded to pay it?

Would the US have supplied any post-war reconstruction effort?

In view of 1918, Would we have 70 years of peace?

Would the Japanese have been better off for it or were they better off under the actual unconditional surrender?

Frankly, I know none of the answers to these question.

Please share your thoughts on these concerns also, feel free to offer more of the many considerations I have missed.

This was offered as just what I thought would be an interesting history related analysis/query. It is not meant to get anyone's dander up.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 8:41:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012, 8:42:21 AM PDT
John M. Lane says:
I don't think anybody was in the mood to negotiate after four years of bitter warfare, surfin'. Even after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, there was almost a mutiny by some Japanese troops when the surrender was announced. That's one of the reasons why the Emperor intervened personally including taking the unprecedented step of announcing the surrender on the radio in "the voice of the Crane" which squelched further mutinies.

I suspect there were secret negotiations about the Emperor's status. We didn't hang him as a war criminal, for example. He wasn't even tried for war crimes. The "fix" was in. At least that's my speculation.

The only alternative was to proceed with the land invasion of the Japanese home islands which would have been much bloodier in my opinion. Admiral Halsey, for example, that after such an invasion, "Japanese would be a language spoken only in Hell." Given the kind of desperate resistance American forces encountered in the Pacific campaign, Halsey might have been correct.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 9:16:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012, 9:22:01 AM PDT
Laker Fan says:
I do not believe a negotiated peace would have been in the best interests of the US. I believe we needed to get a surrender, an occupation, and trials of their political and military leadership for crimes against humanity.

We may differ on how to get there. But I think we are in agreement with the final outcome.

I suppose a negotiated peace would have been theoretically possible. But for me the absolute minimum terms would include complete demilitarization of Japan, strict import regulations and outside monitoring of their industrial and military manufacturing (Similar to nuclear weapons monitoring efforts of today), and some level of democratic reform. The goal would have been to prevent them from building up as a new threat. I suppose we could have also armed the other nations in the region to provide a counterweight. I wonder what we would have done with the increasing communist influence in China? Would we arm them against the possible resurgence of Japan militarism? Would we have gotten directly involved on the side of the nationalists? Perhaps we might have even courted Japanese assistance against the "greater evil" of communism?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 11:41:17 AM PDT

The Halsey quote is from much earlier in the war.

I don't know if the US people would have stood for it or not. I do know that the "peace" advocates (such as they were" in the "Big 6" were very closed door about their discussion. No staff officers present, none. And the very reason was fear of assassination should it become know that a surrender was advocated.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 11:43:16 AM PDT
John M. Lane says:
You might be right about the date of Halsey's quotation, surfin'. It's my recollection, however, that he was discussing the anticipated result of an American invasion of Japan itself.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 11:55:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012, 1:52:53 PM PDT
You know Dodge, in the end, I can't imagine Japan surviving the post-war period without an unconditional surrender. I cannot see where they would have ever got the funds and support to rebuild their country.

I think rearming them was out of the question. In fact, the Japanese themselves insisted upon provisions in their constitution (Chapter II, Article 9) renouncing war as the sovereign right of the nation. I don't think there is anything like it anywhere in the world. Even today their military is nothing. Ranking below countries like Germany and France. On a per capita basis the even have less than Germany, Canada, Australia, even the Bahamas.

I don't know that the US (the US public) could have even got to a point where it was willing to accept a negotiated surrender. I think they had suffered a quarter of a million casualties in the war against the Japanese.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2012, 2:54:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2012, 3:06:01 PM PDT
Laker Fan says:
Surfin wrote:
"You know Dodge, in the end, I can't imagine Japan surviving the post-war period without an unconditional surrender. I cannot see where they would have ever got the funds and support to rebuild their country."

I agree, any negotiated settlement that would satisfy US requirements would be pretty close to full surrender and occupation anyway. The long-term import restrictions (especially steel and oil) and arms control verification would have been a burden on the US to enforce. Of course, that is what we were/are doing with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, so maybe it is workable, at least for a limited time. But it would also have impeded any type of economic development crucial to supporting a transition to democracy. Again, that is what was/is happening in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. It's a Catch-22. We want them to evolve towards democracy, but we starve their economic and political development. I don't know what the best solution is.

From the Japanese pov, this would possibly have to be accompanied with some form of security assurances from the US. Since they would be completely demilitarized, they would be wide open to full retaliation from China and others. If the Soviets didn't conquer them first. Most people would agree the Japanese had it coming, but the Japanese would feel extremely vulnerable. But I don't think the US public would be able to stomach the idea of US forces protecting the Japanese from Chinese retaliation. It would be absurd.

No, a negotiated settlement leaves too many loose ends. Full surrender, occupation, war crimes trials, followed by democratic reform and economic assistance, were the only realistic solutions.

Posted on Aug 16, 2012, 10:59:12 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
Post-war, the Japanese people had a huge amount of pent up rage and resentment against the military warlords who had ruined their lives, and they fully vented their fury on the poor soldiers who returned from the war. Often, the soldiers were so poor and the country so destitute, that the only clothes they had to wear were their uniforms, which became a mark of shame and a target for the anger and resentment of the Japanese civilians. There is a fascinating book that talks about post-war Japan that is well worth reading:

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

The problem, however, was that the Japanese military did not want to give up power and control. One of their key demands was that any war crimes trials be handled by Japanese courts. The full list of their demands is all spelled out in this book:

The Day Man Lost: Hiroshima, 6 August 1945

So in order for the Japanese people to be freed from their warlord masters, this military elite had to be completely crushed. This was the only way a peaceful Japan would ever grow out of the ashes of war.

A negotiated settlement was thus out of the question.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2012, 5:42:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 17, 2012, 7:29:04 AM PDT

"The Day Man Lost Hiroshima" is the book that changed my philosophy on the bombs. My only previous reading was Alperowitz. I drew the obvious conclusion from that. I believed as Dodger once did, that the bomb was insanely evil and they never were needed. But after that book I started reading more and came to understanding that it was a deep story and came to understand that the Big 6 were the only decision makers that mattered, the "peace" decision makers were terrified of being assassinated for surrendering and their were extreme hardliners that had no intention of surrendering regardless. Unanimity was required. Throughout the discussions, there was intense vacillation between the war position and the undecided position (no majority ever voted for surrender). Then to complicate this there was a vast array of contradictory messages sent to Japanese diplomats and higher ranking commanders. It is one of those cases where intelligence served to muddle the picture rather then add clarity. A goodly portion of these messages were being decoded, translated, and then provided as ULTRA and MAGIC summaries which were read by the US decision makers. These summaries painted a picture that was ... clear as mud as to what the Japanese wanted to do, were willing to do, or what they were doing. This is the environment that that the decision was made in. Then I read Kort's book which presented another view. Although none of these books are "pro-bomb" books they laid out a very different scenario than I was aware of. Then I read Franks "Downfall" which elucidated still more. Truman's fixation on casualties, always casualties. And then the difficulty in predicting them. One thing was very clear Okinawa had cast a deadly spectre over all of these estimates. Casualties in the range of 400,000 were pretty reasonable. I had not considered the public clamor for demobilization after victory in Europe. They were discharging soldiers from the ETO and, more pertinently, the PTO at an alarming rate. This would have been fine, except the way they were discharging them was designed to discharge the most experienced soldiers first gutting the combat hardened cadres and seriously degrading the effectiveness of the troops. This was also going to be a factor in raising casualties. And then there was the geography of Kyushu itself. I can understand well the CINCPAC reluctance to carry this operation at all. Then there was the blockade question and how it tied into the steadily starving POW's. Then there are the discussions of the Russians and the very real realpolitik consideration which also worked against the blockade and the very real casualties among the occupied Allies who were putting pressure on the US as well. The bomb did seem like the best of a very bad set of options.

And then there was the mindset. A very real threshold had crossed in March '45. The torching of cities. It is not the bomb that concerns me it is the firebombing of all those cities. Whatever you may want to say about them, they made a very real contribution to the war effort. In my mind, qualitatively the A-bombs were just more of the same. That is why it is March that matters to me, not August.

But I am not sure that anything less than total surrender was acceptable. But it was a very open question.

Posted on Aug 17, 2012, 1:52:25 PM PDT
briefcandle says:
Here are few of my thoughts on negotiated peace with japan-

During 1945 there were opportunities presented by events where japan may have been persuaded, on terms, to surrender:

the soviets anounce their intention not to renew the soviet-japan neutrality pact
hitler kills himself (apparently this was a real shock to japanese leadership)
germany is utterly occupied
leading nazis hunted as criminals
aerial devastation of major japanese cities and industry, with promise of more to come
tight, tight blockade

following these events it is clear that the allies meant unconditional surrender when it came to germany-there was no last minute negotiation-no exile for hitler and no need of any german government with which to negotiate, not even a guarantee of a german nation into the future.

Why did the japanese government not think this would happen to them?

Well I think that a fair proportion did conclude so, and so did the powerless public see the writing on the wall-but not the pro war faction in the big six.
What about the emperor?- he was not as all powerful as you might expect, even if he were personally convinced that the war was finished he could not risk discussion of peace lest he be loyally co-erced by pro war faction , as indeed happened in the days before the 15aug surrender.

Amidst all the bad news of may/apr45 what did the government have to hope for?
Why, a succesful conclusion to the battle of okinawa- that it's bloody defence be so costly to the US that the US may offer terms. Also as each day went by and the soviets took no action following the annoncement not to renew the pact the japanese felt relatively comfortable that no soviet action would/could occur til the expiration of the pact in '46.

What kind of terms could japan hope for?

In retrospect we know that abolition or trial of the emperor was something japan could not covertly negotiate. Only the emperor could abdicate, it was unthinkable anyway, and he may have been prevented from doing so.

Surrender of conquered lands outside the home islands?- central government saw these places as it's bargaining chips-japan thought it could exact a price for this pull back, typically they believed that the home islands,emperor,government and army and navy might be preserved if japan were to agree to pull back from conquered territories- even in this the japanese had built in beliefs about what they might hang on to (korea for example!)

No, I don't think the hoops ever lined up succesfully for a negotiated peace in this period-maybe they could've, but they didn't.

So further down the track?
In jun45 okinawa fell. The plan to force the US government to negotiate against the background of unacceptable battle losses, well it didn't work. Plan B, or is it C,D,E.. , is to attempt another bloody confrontation which will cause the US to offer terms except this time it's in kyushu that the battle line is drawn.

At this time all the US has on the table is a demand for unconditional surrender. After the JCS met in jun45 this remained unaltered. Leahy was in Truman's ear to alter the wording of the demand. As it turned out when japan actually surrendered in aug45 it was to the demand of 'unconditional surrender of the japanese army and navy'. In all honesty I think the only realistic prospect for peace before it actually occured when it did, would be a slender hope that the reworded demand for unconditional surrender, calling only on armed forces to surrender without condition, that this might have made a difference.

We'll never know.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2012, 4:46:16 PM PDT

Yes, my sense is that there would not have been the possibility of negotiation on either end. I am not so sure the Japanese populace was for giving up the ghost. The enthusiasm with which the populations of Kyushu embraced Ketsu Go was a little shocking to me. They should have quit in late 44, Okinawa at the latest. But they did not. I still don't understand why?

There are some interesting discussions concerning the Japanese phraseology of 'unconditional surrender' as Japanese, at the time had no words for it. The were extremely worried about phrasing in in a manner that was clear to the population that defeat did not mean committing suicide in shame.

Posted on Aug 17, 2012, 6:17:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 17, 2012, 7:53:05 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
One of the points that I got out of "The Day Man Lost Hiroshima" and "Downfall" was that for the Japanese, the atomic bombings were absolutely NOT qualitatively the same thing as the firebombings. For the military leaders especially the atomic bomb made a huge difference.

The firebombings were effective because they were dropped on densely packed, unhardened civilian houses made of wood. The result was a firestorm that quickly engulfed entire cities.

Franks makes the point that after the first several firebombings with their massive civilian casualties, the Japanese quickly adapted, cutting firebreaks into their cities and sending much of the non-essential civilian population to the countryside. Casualties declined to relatively low levels.

The military saw this and understood that the firebombs and conventional bombing were not a great threat to their military assets - their hidden reserves of kamikazes and troops would not be that vulnerable to bombing or firebombing - this was also what the experience of Iwo Jima and Okinawa told them - that their soldiers and weapons could survive a conventional bombing and artillery bombardent and go on to exact a terrible price in casualties.

However, the atomic bomb was a totally different animal. There was simply no hiding or sheltering from the atomic bomb.

One of the higher level generals in charge of an army group set aside for Ketsu-Go (the Japanese defense plan against the American invasion) was in Hiroshima with his men and survived the atomic bombing. A key moment in "The Day Man Lost Hiroshima" is documented where Hirohito asked the general if he thought Ketsu-go would still work against the atomic bomb. The general said no.

And that was it. The entire military leadership's plan was for Ketsu-go to exact such a terrible price on the American invasion that the soft and touchy feely Americans would no longer be able to stomach the casualties and would give up on this unconditional surrender thing and agree to a conditional surrender on the Japanese military's terms.

If Ketsu-go or all of Japan could simply be wiped out by the atomic bomb without the U.S. ever setting foot on Japan, well, what was the point? The two atomic bombings had demonstrated that the U.S. could and would do just that.

And THAT was the breaking point for the military leaders of Japan. They allowed Hirohito to go over to the peace faction and agree to surrender.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 11:19:08 AM PDT

That may have been true as far as the hard target effect although that is not my recollection of the psychology. I think the one plane one bomb theory was much more present in their minds along with the second bomb placing in their minds the doubt as to whether we had lots of those things. But, I really like "The Day ...".

But in reality, we torched over 60 cities, most of them had vast fire breaks. The survival of people was due to a very organized society mastering evacuation technique. But the real effect was the wholesale destruction of machining devices and factory space. Only environments with that kind of firestorm heat could generate that. But my point is that the people had no homes, were afraid to return to the factory spaces, what was left of them, or even the cities themselves. If it was me and I was charged with love and care of my people ... I would have quit earlier. Much earlier. But if it was me, I am not sure I would have been in China at all.

But, in the end, I really don't know why the Japanese called it quits. Soviet invasion, stifling blockade, or the bombings. My sense of it was a combination of all of them. I am just happy they quit. It is so heart breaking that it cost so many lives to do it. All those kids on all sides. At least, on an abstract level, I know that those that perpetrated it may spend a long time in Hell or some purifying place. The saddest of all is that so many earned the right to follow them in the following generation.

Just philosophical musings.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 11:29:16 AM PDT
Bubba says:
From what I have read, the firebreaks were frequently improperly made or they were inadequate for stopping the firestorms. Many times the homes that were destroyed to make the firebreaks were flattened, but the flammable wreckage was not removed. The firebreaks themselves were very unpopular because building them destroyed the homes of a great many people.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 12:35:12 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
"The Day Man Lost Hiroshima" makes the point over and over again about how much the Japanese civilians were suffering and how totally defeated they were, and yet at the same time how completely uncaring the military elite were about the civilians. This was the Japanese bushido hierarchy at its worst. Under this strict feudal code, the civilian-peasants had only one choice - obey their samurai masters or be cut down like dogs.

Japan was under a strict military dictatorship before and during WWII, although power was shared between the top military leaders. Military rule was completely arbitrary and enforced by the Kempetai, the military police. A number of movies like "Letters from Iwo Jima" have depicted just how brutal the Kempetai could be to civilians.

So it didn't matter how much the firebombings wiped out the cities and how many were homeless. The military wanted Ketsu-go, they were fixated on this endgame plan. And it took the atomic bomb for them to realize that Ketsu-go would not work either.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 8:08:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2012, 7:00:17 AM PDT

The flip side was that the people at the top were also afraid of their underlings. Many feared outright assassination for expressing a more ... conciliatory POV. The whole psychosis of Japan during that era is totally unexplainable to someone who has not read a great deal about the era. It is one of the reasons I have limited sympathy for the anti-bomb crowd. They simply are comparing the Japanese with ordinary reality. That was not how they were functioning. You have to read these books for awhile to really understand what was going on there. I have read and I still don't really understand it. It is baffling to me. Those bombs got their attention in a way nothing else did. And most importantly, no amount of bravery could stop it. That, I believed is what tipped the balance. I think that we share this understanding. But who really knows? Because I sure don't.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 9:20:38 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 18, 2012, 10:05:05 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 9:40:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2012, 6:57:57 AM PDT

Look closely katsu, very closely, look at the OP. Opinions for and consideration of "negotiated peace" not A-bomb questions which have been discussed on another thread and about 80% of your posts and quotes have been seriously dissected, agreed with (or not) and debunked in some cases. You should know this.

I am going to refer you to the OP again. Was a negotiated peace possible? What would the terms look like? Who would accept it? What are the potential roadblocks? If you wish to discuss the advisability of using the atomic bombs. Go to that thread and have at it. If you wish to stay on this topic, go ahead, there is plenty on interesting stuff to chat about here. But all of your points topics have been discussed ad nauseum, within the last week on the A-bomb thread. All of the stuff you are belated bringing up now has been discussed. Just go look.

Just think of how ridiculous the arguments are? We had put over 60 major cities to the torch. The die was cast in March not August. To them, it was just another weapon. Now have at it. Plenty of people will join you. Now go ...

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 9:59:17 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 18, 2012, 10:04:37 PM PDT]

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 10:03:17 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 18, 2012, 10:04:15 PM PDT]

Posted on Aug 19, 2012, 9:43:33 AM PDT
freedom4all says:
Very good discussion. I have been leaning over the pass few year to the nuclear bombing of Japan as unnecessary, just as the entire war was. Now I see it is a complicated question that needs to be studied through the lens of history.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2012, 11:15:36 AM PDT
O says:

I'd be careful about mentioning the necessity of the atomic bomb. This is a really sore spot for I'm goin' surfin'. Nobody wants to see him get his panties in a bunch again.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2012, 7:09:38 AM PDT
Laker Fan says:
freedom4all wrote:
"I have been leaning over the pass few year to the nuclear bombing of Japan as unnecessary, just as the entire war was. Now I see it is a complicated question that needs to be studied through the lens of history."

Perhaps the final verdict will not be decided for decades, if not centuries. From the looks of it, the bombings will continue to be discussed, debated, and examined for the forseeable future. I believe it is entirely possible that future generations, looking through a different lens of history, may reach a different conclusion than the WW2 baby boomer generation.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012, 7:22:22 AM PDT

"final verdict will not be decided for decades, if not centuries. From the looks of it, the bombings will continue to be discussed, debated, and examined for the forseeable future"

It will pass into obscurity and irrelevance when the next incredibly destructive contraption comes along.

But, based on your post above "I do not believe a negotiated peace would have been in the best interests of the US. I believe we needed to get a surrender, an occupation, and trials of their political and military leadership for crimes against humanity", I think we agree that unconditional surrender was the only realistic option then.

Do you you think the USSR would have stopped their attacks if a conditional surrender was reached by say July 1?

Boy, people did not really like the OP much did they?

Posted on Aug 20, 2012, 8:40:03 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 20, 2012, 10:13:16 AM PDT]
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