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Thursday, July 24, 2008


I have begun to wonder just how we can end will the war in Iraqi. Senator McCain is insisting that out troops come home victorious, which sounds a little like the old U.S. Grant dictum, “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender." Grant did demand those terms but when they were rejected he immediately modified them. But “Greatest Generation” still expects wars to end victoriously, like World War Two. But even WWII did not end in total victory as protrayed in campaign speeches. And over the next few columns I mean to tell you the truth about the how we ended the war against Japan.
To begin with, the Second World War in the Pacific should have ended on Sunday, July 9th, 1944. On that day, at 16:15 hours (4:15pm local time), Admiral Richmond J. Turner declared the island of Saipan secured. The battle was decisive. In defending Saipan the Japanese Imperial Fleet had lost its offensive arm in the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, where three of their aircraft carriers were sunk and 600 aircraft and pilots were destroyed. The United States lost just 123 planes, and 80 of those experienced crews were rescued. On the ground 30,000 Japanese soldiers and 22,000 civilians had died for the emperor. The United States lost about 2,949 dead, and 10,364 wounded. And they took the island.
While some Japanese soldiers would hold out in the jungle on Siapan until December of 1945 they were no more than a minor annoyance. Even before Admiral Turner’s pronouncement, Construction Battalions (C.B.’s) had begun turning the island into the world’s largest aircraft carrier, from which, eventually, 2,000 B-29’s would turn Japanese factories and cities into torches. The loss of the their fleet air power and the Marianas, Saipan, Guam and Tinian, meant that the Japanese had lost the war.
The Japanese knew it. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the architect of the war with America, and his entire cabinet resigned, nine days after the fall of Saipan. But the war went on. It was clear to every American commander that the Japanese could not withstand the American onslaught, that at Siapan Japan had lost the war.And reading the diaries and personal letters of Japanese commanders it is clear they also knew the war was lost. But Japanese leaders now held onto the idea that if they could bleed America enough, and kill enough Americans, in just one more big battle, they would win a more favorable peace from the Americans. And it was not a total fantasy. In conquering the Philippines the U.S. suffered 14,000 dead and 48,00 wounded, at Iwo Jima 8,621 dead and 19,189 wounded, and at Okinawa, on the threshold of Japan itself, America lost 12,513 dead and 38,513 wounded.
And while it is true that Japanese losses were even higher, (336,000 dead in the Philippines, 20,700 on Iwo, and 131,303 on Okinawa), those bloodbaths still drove the Japanese to make no attempt to even hint that they might be willing to negotiate a peace. The Americans were still advancing across the Pacific despite their losses, and had not modified their peace terms, laid out in the Potsdam Decree. Why shoulld they? Japan had offered no alternatives. In my personal estimation, Japan's silence and unwillingness to negotiate, given the strategy they were following, amounts to mass murder of their own citizens and soldiers and of the U.S. forces closing in on them, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of civilians from occupied nations caught between the avenging Americans and the silent fatalistic fanatics of Japan.
Next: Japan decides to end the war.
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