Monday, August 11, 2008

The Reasons for Japan's surrender

Anti-Americans continue to accuse Truman and America of unnecessarily bombing Japan. “They were ready to surrender,” they argue (without evidence). “There was no need to drop the first bomb, let alone the second. The second was clearly criminal even if the first one wasn’t.” But is there any evidence to support this popular anti-American view?

We know that the Japanese were NOT planning on surrendering after the first bomb. The actual devastation and loss of life after Hiroshima was less than what had occurred earlier during the conventional bombing of Tokyo. But the second bomb at Nagasaki may have convinced them that this was going to go on and on and so they surrendered, but maybe not. We don’t even know that for sure. The bombing was NOT taken as seriously by the Japanese leadership at the time as it has been later by the bleeding hearts of the world. Yes, behind the scenes there were people who wanted to surrender, but the military people were in charge, and of course, Hirohito was above them. It took Hirohito to finally decide, after the second bomb, to surrender. And even then, Hirohito’s reasons were ambiguous. The following is from Hirohito, and the Making of Modern Japan (by Herbert P. Bix, 2000), page 529 [bear in mind that Hiroshima was bombed on August 6th and Nagasaki on August 9th]:

“The imperial rescripts . . . abetted conflicting assessments of the atomic bombs’ effect in hastening the conclusion of the war. The emperor’s rescript of August 14 never used the word ‘surrender’ and registered indirectly (with a single vague phrase) Germany’s defeat and the Soviet Union’s entrance into the war, saying that ‘the general trends of the world have all turned against [Japan’s] interest.’ It was unequivocally clear, however, in using the atomic bombs to portray Japan as victim and savior: ‘Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, whose destructive power is quite incalculable; it has taken many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, [that bomb] would result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation – even the total extinction of human civilization.’

“Obviously Hirohito sought to justify his decision to surrender by citing the dropping of the atomic bombs. The broadcast of his August 14 rescript became Japan’s first official, public confirmation of the bombs’ effectiveness. Whether the emperor and his advisers ever really believed that, however, is unlikely. For three days later, on August 17, Hirohito issued a second ‘Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors’ in all war theaters of Asia and the Pacific, ordering them to cease fire and lay down their arms. This time, addressing only his military forces, he stressed the cause-and-effect relationship between Soviet entrance into the war and his decision to surrender while conspicuously omitting any mention of the atomic bombs.

‘Now that the Soviet Union has entered the war against us, to continue . . . under the present conditions at home and abroad would only recklessly incur even more damage to ourselves and result in endangering the very foundation of the empire’s existence. Therefore, even though enormous fighting spirit still exists in the Imperial Navy and Army, I am going to make peace with the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, as well as with Chungking, in order to maintain our glorious national polit.’

“The less-known August 17 rescript to the army and navy specified Soviet participation as the sole reason for surrender, and maintenance of the kokutai as the aim. . . .”

Since these facts are now well known, why would someone insist upon the earlier totally debunked anti-Truman allegations? To invoke Collingwood’s The Idea of History once again, they have brought to their consideration a set of prejudices which they are unable to surmount. And these prejudices force them to reject the evidence and embrace a strident anti-Americanism.

Lawrence Helm

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