Was Japan trying to surrender before the atomic bomb was dropped? This question and variations of it are asked by everyone that has opposed the dropping of the atomic bomb. Following that is the question “Was the second bomb necessary?” The question is also asked if the US was asking for too difficult of a surrender by asking for an unconditional surrender. These are all wonderful and important questions. They all need good, solid answers, something I will try to give.
I want to start with the question about unconditional surrender. There are many that say if the US had not asked for an unconditional surrender, Japan would have capitulated much earlier. They also say that the US, in the end, did not get the unconditional surrender that they were asking for since Japan kept their emperor, so we gained nothing dragging the war out so long.
I will state here, asking for an unconditional surrender was an absolute necessity. The people of the United States would accept nothing less. But what is an unconditional surrender? It means that the side surrendering can not set any conditions for their surrender. This is basically what the US got from Japan. Yes, the emperor was allowed to remain. Allowing him to remain made for a far smoother transfer of power and allowed for a far easier disarming of the massive Japanese military. He remained as a figurehead only, completely and totally under the direction of the UN Supreme Commander. Yet, his being there was a comfort to the people of Japan during a time of complete turmoil and change.
Let’s take a look at “unconditional” surrenders. Before WWII, the foreign wars that the US was involved in always ended in negotiated armistices. There had been unconditional surrenders in US involved wars, but it involved the Civil War. Roosevelt was determined to push for an unconditional surrender from Japan, Germany and Italy because of his experiences during and after World War I.
At the end of World War I, Roosevelt was the assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held from 1913-1920. In this position he was witness to General John Pershing who demanded the complete destruction of the German armies. He pushed Wilson to proclaim this and, under his pressure, Wilson tried to demand a full surrender. In this though, the Allies prevailed and an armistice was granted. Pershing wrote:
Instead of requiring the German forces to retire at once, leaving material, arms and equipment behind, the Armistice terms permitted them to march back to their homeland with colors flying and bands playing, posing as the victims of political conditions…The surrender of the German armies would have been an advantage to the Allies in the enforcement of peace terms and would have been a greater deterrent against possible future German aggression.
Pershing felt this was a huge mistake and his later words to a friend proved to be quite prescient. He later told a friend, “They never knew they were beaten in Berlin.It will all have to be done all over again.” On his eighty-third birthday in 1943, he said, “Today brings forcibly to mind that you wanted to go through to Berlin in 1918.”
Franklin Roosevelt was in complete agreement with Pershing. In 1918, as acting secretary of the Navy, it was his position to recommend the disposition of the remaining German fleet. He recommended that the entire fleet be surrendered instead of just being interned. He won that battle, small one that it was. In the end, the German army was allowed to retreat back to Berlin able to blame its defeat on “politics,” leaving them to feel unbeaten on the battlefield.
From the end of World War I, much thought and study was put into how the war and armistice was handled. It was the center of much debate, debate that had its answer only a short time later. On April 8, 1942, Grayson Kirk, professor of government at ColumbiaUniversity and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, presented a paper, “The Armistice Negotiations, 1918.” It read in part:
It is clear that if, instead of an armistice, there had been an unconditional surrender including, as implied, a speedy conclusion of a military settlement of the war, recovery might have been expedited, the peace conference would not have had hanging over it the fear of a renewal of hostilities by Germany, and German resentment over military aspects of the settlement might not have been so intense or prolonged.
This paper was quite influential. It went through various government committees including the State Department Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy, headed by one Norman H. Davis. On May 20, 1942, Davis told the rest of the committee that he had spoken with Roosevelt, the topic of their discussion being surrender. He told them that Roosevelt agreed with their position, that being unconditional surrender was a necessity.
Roosevelt discussed this with the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the Casablanca Conference where he was to meet with Churchill. The minutes from that meeting on January 7, 1943 state:
The President said he was going to speak to Mr. Churchill about the advisability of informing Mr. Stalin that the United Nations were to continueon until they reach Berlin, and that their only terms would be unconditional surrender.
At Casablanca, Roosevelt and Churchill discussed the surrender terms and agreed upon them. Mr. Churchill suggested that Italy be included in the public statement on surrender with which Roosevelt readily agreed. The statement given read:
The President and the Prime Minister, after a complete survey of the world war situation, are more than ever determined that peace can come to the world only by a total elimination of Germany and Japanese war power. This involves the simple formula of placing the objective of this war in terms of an unconditional surrender by Germany, Italy and Japan. Unconditional surrender by them means a reasonable assurance of world peace, for generations. Unconditional surrender means not the destruction of the German populace, nor of the Italian or Japanese populace, but does mean the destruction of a philosophy in Germany, Italy and Japan which is based on the conquest and subjugation of other peoples.
Unfortunately, Roosevelt decided to wing it and what came out was a reasonably coherent statement about what the policy of unconditional surrender could mean and what it might not mean.
After that conference, much has been written about who first came up with the idea of unconditional surrender and how it was proposed. Luckily, we have the minutes from previous Roosevelt meetings as well as the text that Roosevelt should have read at the conference. Roosevelt and Churchill both seemed to like to embellish on this subject so accurate records have been salvation for those studying the surrender.
The Japanese in particular were uncertain as to the meaning and intention of Roosevelt’s unconditional surrender announcement. On December 1, 1943 at the Cairo Conference, clarity was brought to the issue with the following declaration:
The three great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought or territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed. The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.
The leaders at this time also went out of their way to clarify the difference between the leaders of the Axis nations and their populace. In 1943 Roosevelt said, “The people of the Axis-controlled areas may be assured that when they agree to unconditional surrender they will not be trading Axis despotism for ruin under the United Nations. The goal of the United Nations is to permit liberated peoples to create a free political life of their own choosing and to attain economic security.” Churchill made similar statements, including this one to the House of Commons in 1944:
The term “unconditional surrender” does not mean that the German people will be enslaved or destroyed. It means however that the Allies will not be bound to them at the moment of surrender by any pact or obligation. There will be, for instance, no question of the Atlantic Charter applying to Germany as a matter of right and barring territorial transferences or adjustments in enemy countries. No such arguments will be admitted by us as were used by Germany after the last war, saying that they surrendered in consequence of President Wilson’s fourteen Points. Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand…If we are bound, we are bound by our own consciences to civilization…
Unconditional surrender had nearly universal acceptance in the US and among the allies. There were those that opposed unconditional surrender feeling that it went too far and would cost too many lives to enforce such a condition. Namely, there were two groups that opposed this form of surrender, one Japanophiles motivated by their ideology and the military. While some might be surprised at the second group, they were very concerned with what they saw as the massive number of causalities it would take to invade Japan, something they figured was inevitable to force such a surrender. Japanophiles were looking to the future and felt a strong Japan was needed to counter the soon to come onslaught of communism. They assumed that if Japan was not strong, the USSR would end up controlling all of Asia.
As the war continued, the surrender discussion was never far away. The military began to push harder to modify the surrender terms. General George Strong, an army planner, submitted two separate surrender documents that would have modified the terms being demanded of Japan. They were not accepted as being too weak.
From the end of January to mid February of 1945, military leaders from the US and Britain discussed the problems of fighting the war in the Pacific. By this point, they were well versed in the difficulties of fighting in the Pacific and the high cost in human life it would take to invade the home islands. Even Churchill was in favor of modifying the surrender terms. He said this “would be worthwhile if it led to the saving of a year and a half of a war in which so much blood and treasure would be poured out.” With the collapse of Germany, Churchill wanted to reissue an ultimatum to Japan, retaining the “unconditional surrender” wording but changing the definition to allow the emperor to remain. Remember, unconditional surrender just means that the party that wins gets to set the terms of the surrender. Churchill wanted to set one of the terms early.
It was shortly after this, April 12th, that Truman became President. Truman understood why Roosevelt wanted an unconditional surrender and during his first address to Congress on April 16th, reaffirmed this position. He later wrote, “There were many indications of approval of what I said. I was applauded frequently, and when I reaffirmed the policy of unconditional surrender the chamber rose to its feet.” While others might have wanted a lesser surrender, the US Congress and the people of the US would not stand for it.
Yet, the military continued to push for modification. While Truman refused to change the wording, he did give a more broad definition to what he felt unconditional surrender meant. In his V-E Day press conference, he said the following:
Just what does the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Japan mean for the Japanese people? It means the end of the war. It means the termination of the influence of the military leaders who brought Japan to the present brink of disaster. It means provision for the return of soldiers and sailors to their families, their farms and their jobs. And it means not prolonging the present agony and suffering of the Japanese in the vain hope of victory. Unconditional surrender does not mean the extermination or enslavement of the Japanese people.
These discussions continued unabated. Each side of the issue wanted to be heard. The sticking point was whether or not the emperor was to be maintained. Truman refused to commit to the retention of the emperor. The US public, at the time, would not stand for it. A survey taken during this time still had 33% of Americans wanting the emperor of Japan to hang for war crimes. 32% wanted him imprisoned for life. Another hefty percentage wanted him exiled from Japan. Less than 10% of the American public felt that he should not be punished and that only the military leaders of Japan should be punished. Even if the position on the emperor was changed, there was no way it would be made public. It was during this time that the Potsdam Declaration was made.
Below is the Potsdam Declaration. When read carefully it let the Japanese people know the terms of the “unconditional surrender” before ever having to surrender. I will post it in full putting my comments in italics and bolded.
Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945
We-the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.
The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.
The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.
Not only is this saying what will happen to Japan if it does not surrender, but what will NOT happen if they do. Their industry and other means of life, farms, etc. will be left intact. Not only that, but they will be able to make a living. They will not be enslaved.
The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.
The blame is being put fully on the military. Not the civilian government, not the people.
Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.
There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.
Again, blame is only being put on military leaders, the people will not suffer.
Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.
There will be an occupation, but it will be limited in scope and duration. Of course, some feel that occupation continues today.
The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.
Japan will retain their sovereignty and will control what was their before their expansionism began. Maybe those that continue to claim Tokdo should read this part again.
The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.
The soldiers will not be punished. They too were duped by their leaders. They can go to their families and being their lives over.
We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
This is a very important part of the declaration. Japan is being promised freedoms! They will have their own government. They will have a democratic government. They will have freedom of speech, religion and thought and they shall have the guarantee of human rights. These are HUGE measures to be promised when demanding an unconditional surrender.
Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.
Japan will be able to grow and prosper. They will have the ability to become part of the international community.
The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.
Again, the occupying forces will leave, they will not be permanent.
We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.
Another VERY IMPORTANT paragraph. Please read it carefully. They are calling for the unconditional surrender of the JAPANESE ARMED FORCES, not Japan itself! This is HUGE and lets the people of Japan know, again, they are not to be blamed for the war. It is the military.
This was an amazing document. It gave Japan a way out, if only the military leaders would listen. It was published in Japan, after much discussion, and was widely accepted as the best way out. But, the people of Japan did not have control. The civilian government in Japan did not have control. Not even the emperor. The military controlled what would happen and they refused to surrender. The war would continue if only for a short time longer.
I want to explain the government and how it was controlled in Japan at the time. It is crucial to understand this if one is to understand why there was no surrender. It is also important to understand this to realize that even if the continuation of the emperor had been guaranteed, Japan would still not have surrendered until AFTER Nagasaki was bombed. Let me restate that, JAPAN WOULD NOT HAVE SURRENDERED UNTIL AFTER NAGASAKI WAS BOMBED. One of the leading arguments made by “Hiroshima victim wannabes” and “Truman the war criminal” advocates is that if we had made it known early on that the emperor system would be maintained, Japan would have surrendered months earlier. This is a fallacy. It is completely false. It is untrue. AGAIN, JAPAN WOULD NOT HAVE SURRENDERED UNTIL AFTER NAGASAKI WAS BOMBED. I will be justifying that statement in a bit.Heck, lets say that for a third time, this time bolded and italicized. JAPAN WOULD NOT HAVE SURRENDERED UNTIL AFTER NAGASAKI WAS BOMBED. It should also be noted that even after two atomic bombs and the USSR entering the war against Japan, it still almost didn’t end. If the Japanese military had its way, the war would have continued.
Because a full explanation of the government of Japan during the time of war is a topic that a large book could be written about, we will only discuss the basics. While discussing this, we will also discuss surrender and why it took two atomic weapons to make it happen. There has been much research done on this in recent time, research that gives good insight into that time period. This is important because the Japanese government has done its best to destroy any and all records dealing with that time period. That is what has made it so difficult to research atrocities and the actions of war criminals of that time. But I digress.
The government of Japan at that time consisted of civilian leaders, military leaders and the emperor. While three groups were involved, the real power lay with the military. This comes as a shock to many who, because of the emphasis placed on the importance of the emperor, feel that he was in complete control. While his input was important and his influence real, he had to be careful to use it at the right time and place to keep him from being put into ‘protective’ custody and being made into little more than a puppet by the military.
Understanding that the military was in control of the government when it came to decisions concerning the war makes it easier to understand why any efforts made by civilians to bring about a negotiated surrender was fruitless. Many talk of Japan trying to negotiate a surrender using Russia as the third party. This is true to a point, but because it did not have the blessing of the military, it was little more than hot air. All of this talk of early surrender trials is pointless when the final days before the surrender came are looked at in detail. Even with the massive destruction and all hope gone, it almost didn’t happen.
In order to discuss these final days, it is important to understand the players. Those trying to surrender are known as the “Peace Party.” They consisted of Emperor Hirohito, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kido Koichi, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori, Navy Minister Yonai Mitsumasa and a bit waveringly, Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro. They were opposed by the military leaders, Army Minister Anami Korechika, Chief of he Army General Staff Umezu Yoshijiro and Chief of the Naval General Staff Toyoda Soemu, Anami being the most vocal and the leader opposing any surrender. It was this group, both military and politicians, the formed the cabinet. A unanimous agreement among the members of the cabinet was necessary for any major decision, like that of surrender, to be made. Even a single opposing vote would keep surrender from happening. This will be important.
On August 7, 1945, President Truman announced over the radio that the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. Togo heard this via shortwave and immediately tried to get confirmation from the military. The military denied that an atomic bomb had been dropped and said that only a very powerful conventional bomb had been used. Still, Togo was not convinced remembering the Potsdam Declaration and its statement that Japan would be destroyed if they did not capitulate. Togo called an immediate emergency meeting of the cabinet that afternoon.
During the cabinet meeting, Togo quoted the radio broadcasts that continued to come from America. America was stating that it had a new weapon and would continue to use this weapon unless Japan surrendered. Togo tried to reason with the military leaders by saying that while the military was strong and had done nothing wrong, they couldn’t compete against this new and devastatingly powerful weapon. Unfortunately, the military continued to deny its existence. Because of this, the military was unable to come to any kind of decision.
While the cabinet was meeting, Kido met with the Emperor. By this time, reports were coming in saying approximately 130,000 people were dead and the city was completely destroyed. The emperor was very concerned, having a science education; he understood better than many the potential of this new weapon. He was also upset that the military was not providing him with more specific, detailed information. During this meeting, the emperor supposedly told Kito, “Now that things have come to this impasse, we most bow to the inevitable. No matter what happens to my safety, we should lose no time in ending the war so as not to have another tragedy like this.”
Having had no luck during the cabinet meeting, Togo arranged to meet with the emperor on the morning of August 8th, 1945. During this meeting, Togo repeated what he had discussed with the cabinet as well as new information that was being learned via the American and British broadcasts. Hirohito agreed with Togo and said:
Now that such a new weapon has appeared, it has become less and less possible to continue the war. We must not miss a chance to terminate the war by bargaining for more favorable conditions now. Besides, however much we consult about terms we desire, we shall not be able to come to an agreement. So my wish is to make such arrangements as will end the war as soon as possible.
Togo left his meeting with the emperor and met with Suzuki to discuss what it would take to surrender. He requested a meeting of the Supreme War Council. This council was Japan’s inner war cabinet consisting of the six most important counselors, the prime minister, foreign minister, army and navy ministers and chiefs of the army and naval general staffs. While they wanted an immediate meeting, some of the military people were ‘unavailable’ and the meeting was postponed for 24 hours.
Until this time, Suzuki had been wavering back and forth in his support of surrendering and ending the war. Now, his support was firm. He said, “Now that we know it was an atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, I will give my views on the termination of the war at tomorrow’s Supreme War Council…” Even after war, Suzuki recalled that the dropping of the atomic bomb was what made him determine that all was lost and that surrender needed to be accomplished as soon as possible.
The next morning, Japan learned that the USSR had declared war against them and had attacked the Japanese army in Manchuria along a broad front. This was nearly the final straw. Japan had been trying to use the USSR to get favorable surrender terms from the Allies. They now realized this avenue was completely shut off to them. Suzuki felt they could hold out for 2 months or so against the USSR in Manchuria. Others disagreed and said the USSR would have Manchuria within 2 weeks.
Now, with both the atomic bomb being dropped and the USSR entering the war, the civilian leaders were firm in their decision to end the war. Emperor Hirohito confirmed this with Kido and Suzuki. They were in complete agreement that it was over.
At on August 9th, 1945, the Supreme War Council convened. All of the members knew they couldn’t continue to fight much longer. The problem was reaching a unanimous decision to surrender. If the military refused, then either there would be no decision or the cabinet would be dissolved. Either way, a swift surrender would be out of the question.
Suzuki opened the meeting saying, “Just when we were smarting from the extremely great shock of the Hiroshima bomb, the Soviet Union entered the war. Continuation of the war is totally impossible, and whether willing or not we have no choice but to accept the Potsdam terms.” Togo agreed saying only that the Allies must accept the retention of the emperor. He informed the others that the emperor agreed that all was lost and that they must surrender. Amazingly, the military members of the council seemed not to agree. They questioned whether or not the US had any more atomic bombs to use. While they agreed that the damage had been extensive, they were not too worried as long as the US did not have the means to continue bombing them.
At precisely this moment, the time during which the military was questioning whether or not the US had any more bombs, word came of Nagasaki being bombed. It was just a little before 1:00 PM. Suzuki was devastated and feared that the US would cancel its invasion and just bomb Japan until there was nothing left. He felt confident that they could handle an invasion, but not the bombings.
It is here we can see the true value of the Nagasaki bombing. Until this point, the military had been able to suggest that the US had used its one and only atomic bomb. Everyone knew that an atomic bomb would be extremely difficult to produce and that the materials necessary to build it were rare and difficult to obtain. They felt it to be highly unlikely that the US would have enough material to produce more than one atomic bomb. Nagasaki proved that they did. It also planted the question into their minds of just how many bombs the US might have.
Unbelievably, the council could not come to a unanimous decision. In part, the military leaders were uncertain if officers below them would accept surrender. It might be the impetus for a coup attempt. They were also concerned for their own lives. They determined, even in the face of two atomic bombs and the USSR entering the war, that other conditions be met before surrender. These conditions were:
That there be no military occupation of the homeland by the Allies.
That the armed forces be allowed to disarm and demobilize themselves voluntarily.
That war criminals be prosecuted by the Japanese government.
These were non-negotiable, absolute conditions. Without them being met, the military members of the cabinet were adamantly against surrender. They were determined to fight on, even if it meant the destruction of Japan and millions being slaughtered.
The meeting ended in a 3-3 deadlock. At on August 9th, they met again. Suzuki began the meeting by saying there was no way the Allies would accept these added terms for surrender. The meeting continued, but again, no decision could be reached. The meeting was adjourned for a short time.
At , they members met again to continue the discussions and try to break the deadlock. Anami was determined to continue fighting unless those three conditions were met. He even said, “The appearance of the atomic bomb does not spell the end of the war…We are confident about a decisive homeland battle against American forces.” He also said, “given the atomic bomb and the Soviet entry, there is no chance of winning on the basis of mathematical calculation.” And went on to say, “there will be some chance as long as we keep on fighting for the honor of the Yamato race… If we go on like this and surrender, the Yamato race would be as good as dead spiritually.” Anami seemed to reflect the mood and attitude of the army officers under him. They were determined to fight to the bitter end.
Other military members of the council were beginning to soften their stance and to agree with the civilian members. Navy Minister Yonai came out saying that Japan did not have a chance. He pointed out that they had lost the battles for Saipan, Luzon, Leyte, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Even with this, Anami shot back saying the war was not over yet. He continued on saying that he could promise one massive blow against the invading American forces. He then felt that having done this, having caused massive casualties against the US, the US would then be willing to grant their added surrender demands. The other military leaders apparently listened to him and the vote was again 3-3.
Finally, knowing there was nothing else they could do; Suzuki requested an imperial conference to be held shortly before . At that time, the Supreme War Council as well as the President of the Privy Council, met with the emperor. Dressed in his full, formal military attire, the emperor presided silently over the meeting. For 2 hours, Togo and Anami battled each other with words. Again, a 3-3 deadlock was the vote.
The Suzuki did something completely unprecedented. He stepped up to the emperor, bowed deeply and submitted the matter to him for an imperial decision. It shocked all assembled. Hirohito realized that he had to intervene if the situation was to be saved. Breaking the silence, he made what is now called the, “sacred decision.” Speaking quietly, he said he agreed with Togo, he then called for them to accept the Potsdam terms. He knew, with the addition of the atomic bomb, there was no hope left. At on August 10, 1945, the “sacred decision” was made to accept the Potsdam terms with one condition, that being the retention of the emperor. The cabinet ratified the decision and it was immediately sent to American government via the Swiss and Swedish governments.
The Americans sent back their acceptance with a condition of their own. That condition being the emperor would be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. Again, the emperor had to intervene as Anami opposed accepting and demanded they prepare for a final battle with Allied forces. Anami accept the ruling of his emperor and at on August 15th, the emperor broadcast to the nation and to the world their surrender.
There is, of course, much more to this. Even with the emperor expressing his will, the army came close to ignoring it. The senior officers met and after a tense discussion, all signed a document stating their acceptance of their emperor’s will in the matter of surrender.
A group of lower level officers tried to stage a coup on the night of the 14th and took over the ImperialPalace. It was only because of the loyalty of General Tanaka who, when hearing of the coup, went to the palace and ended it. They had hoped to stop the public announcement by the emperor of the surrender from being broadcast on the 15th. The officers that staged the coup committed suicide on the steps of the palace. A little over a week later, on August 24th, Tanaka too committed suicide; he could not stand the shame of having enforced the surrender.
During this time, a loyal officer, Takeshita went to try and again urge Anami to join the coup. He found Anami writing what appeared to be his will. They talked and drank sake together. Then, Anami slashed his belly and throat committing suicide. On one of the papers he had written, “Believing firmly that our sacred land shall never perish, I—with my death – humbly apologize to the Emperor for the great crime.”
On August 15th, 1945, in a publicly broadcast announcement, Emperor Hirohito surrendered Japan to the Allies. It came as a huge shock. Those that knew the situation Japan was in and they were relatively few, thought the announcement would be to fight to the bitter end. Instead, a voice that few had heard, speaking an archaic form of Japanese that ordinary citizens could barely understand, announced the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. In part he said:
Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our Servants of the Stat and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives.
He continued on saying they were surrendering to prevent the complete obliteration of Japan and to prevent the extinction of human civilization. He thanked those that fought but said the only path for the future was peace. He also asked for the cooperation of all so that Japan could quickly recover. He ended, his words shocking a nation, a people that had no idea this was coming.
Even after this, it was difficult to enforce the surrender. The General in charge of the air force had to order all planes to be defueled and all bombs and ammunition removed to prevent fanatics from trying to use them against the allies. At one airfield, they defied orders and for days, dropped leaflets from the air calling on the people to revolt. The airfield was finally taken and the propellers were removed from all of the aircraft. These revolts were widespread and took weeks to finally end. Units on faraway islands and other areas took longer to learn of the surrender and even longer to finally accept it and stop the fighting.
Many Japanese government officials and others were interviewed not long after the war. They were asked about the dropping of the atomic bomb and how it affected their decisions. Kido said the following:
I surmise that the atomic bomb was dropped with the intention of posing a grave threat to the Japanese leaders and the people at large, forcefully compelling them to end the war. And certainly the bomb had that effect. However we of the peace party had already been scheming for a termination of the war, and it is not correct to say that we were driven by the atomic bomb to end the war.Rather, it might be said that we of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war.
He also said:
If military leaders could convince themselves that they were defeated by the power of science but not because of lack of spiritual power or strategic errors, this could save their face to some extent.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Sakomizu recalled:
The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by Heaven for Japan to end the war. There were those who said that the Japanese armed forces were not defeated. It was in science that Japan was defeated, so the military will not bring shame on themselves by surrendering.
Hayashi Saburo, military secretary to the minister of war Anami. He said this of the Nagasaki bombing:
...after a second bomb had been dropped upon Nagasaki. City dwellers were gripped with great fear that their own communities might become the next target. In Tokyo, when air raid warnings were sounded, not a soul was to be seen out of doors. In particular, the psychological effect upon the authorities conducting the war was tremendous. It could not be denied that sentiment for accepting the Potsdam Declaration was growing stronger.
There are many more quotes that I could include.
The war was basically over. Japan surrendered. Would Japan have surrendered without the bombs being dropped? Certainly. How long would that have taken? Who knows, 6 months, 9 months, a year or longer. Looking at just how belligerent the military leaders were, it would not have ended quickly.
Japan was responsible for untold millions of deaths. From that viewpoint, Pearl Harbor was a tiny drop in the bucket, insignificant really. Yet, that action literally brought the fires of hell down upon Japan. If you look at the time period between December 7, 1941 and August 30, 1945, there were about 10,000,000 deaths attributable to the Japanese. Over this period of 45 months, 200,000 – 300,000 people died each and every month. The worst being the final months as battle casualties climbed and starvation and disease began to take an even heavier toll. The treatment of POWs during these months grew worse and worse. It is entirely plausible that 250,000 or more would have died each month that this confrontation continued. Given what we know now about the difficulties we would have had invading, the war could have gone on for a year or more beyond August of 1945.
There can be little doubt the dropping of the atomic bombs saved millions of lives. Thank God for men of character like Harry Truman.