I am certain the attack was a total surprise in every way possible. In the south the Russians came across the mountains and desserts of Mongolia, a path that seemed impossible because they could not be supplied through that line. It was a trick that the U.S. would repeat in 1989 in Iraq. And as in Iraq the supply problems were over come by airdrops. Soviet parachute troops captured Japanese airfields far behind the front lines and turned them into supply depots for their advancing troops. They were clearly driving toward the city of Changchun, where they would meet the equally successful advance of the Soviet armies from the Far Eastern Front, and together would isolate the entire Japanese Army. And there was nothing the Japanese troops could do to stop them.
For the first time Japanese Army faced a ground campaign against a mechanized army, with troops hardened by four years of vicious warfare with Nazi Germany. If in 1941 the German soldier was the best in the world, by 1945 it might have been the Soviet Soldier. In the invasion of Manchuria there were one and a half million of them pouring into Japanese territory: eighty divisions, five thousand tanks, including 3,700 T-34’s, acknowledged as the greatest tank of the war. The Japanese had never had any tank or gun to counter the T-34. And there were almost 4,000 first line Soviet aircraft filing the skies. The Japanese had just 50 first line fighters. The Soviet offensive was violent and smart and merciless, which perfectly matched the personality of its planner and commander, Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky:, the man who had saved Moscow in 1941, and who had actually directed the Stalingrad counter offensive, and who had been planning this invasion since late 1944. He called the operation “August Storm”, and perhaps as a homage to Vaslevsky, American General Schwarzkopf called his 1989 similar operation “Dessert Storm”.
The one million Japanese troops in Manchuria and Korea were not prepared for what hit them. The best troops in the Kwantung Army had already been transferred to the Pacific and Burma meat grinders. They were now either dead or isolated and starving on bypassed islands or jungle outposts. The army now contained a high percentage of new recruits. The units spent their time in drill and chasing guerrillas. The Imperial Staff was convinced that any Russian offensive could not be launched before October. So, they ignored warnings from the commanders in Manchuria. And when the Soviet tanks sliced through the stunned Japanese border entrenchments on the morning of August 9th, there was nothing behind them to slow their advance. In just 24 days the Red Army would capture all of Manchuria, make amphibious landings in northern Korea and capture Sakhalin Island and the Kuril islands, then part of Northern Japan.
On August 9th at about 10:30 in the morning Prime Minister Suzuli told the Six that the Emperor agreed with him; the war must be ended as quickly as possible now that Russia had joined the conflict. The Foreign Minister said he could not accept the American position given in the Potsdam Proclamation, because it would require the removal of the Emperor. (Again, no one in Japan had yet told the Americans that this was the primary sticking point.) Terms to be offered for negotiation were that Japan would disarm herself, accept no occupation, and Japan would conduct any war crimes trials of Japanese soldiers.
In fact the U.S. had enough plutonium for several bombs. The assembly of nuclear weapons was not yet industrialized but it soon would be. Manhatten Project Commander General Leslie Groves reported to the War Depart that another plutonium bomb would be ready for operations on the 17th or 18th of August and at least seven bombs would be available in time for the invasion of Kyushu, scheduled for September. The plan was to use the bombs against the island's defenders, to "clear the ground" for American combat troops. More than one and a half million American soldiers were poised for that invasion. And even at a casualty rate of one American soldier or marine for two Japanese soldiers, and not considering the likely equal civilian deaths (the casuality rate on Okinawa) an American conquest of the southern half of Kyushu now seemed assured.
That night, the Big Six met again, still tied at three-three. But this time the Emperor in person actually cast his vote. It would be peace. The next day Mr. Max Grassli, charge d’Affaires for Switzerland, sent to James Byrnes, the U.S Secretary of State, the following cable:.
“I have the honor to inform you that the Japanese Minister to Switzerland, upon instructions received from his Government, has requested the Swiss Political Department to advise the Government of the United States of America of the following:
"In obedience to the gracious command of His Majesty the Emperor who, ever anxious to enhance the cause of world peace, desires earnestly to bring about a speedy termination of hostilities with a view to saving mankind from the calamities to be imposed upon them by further continuation of the war…The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam…with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler. The Japanese Government sincerely hope that this understanding is warranted and desire keenly that an explicit indication to that effect will be speedily forthcoming….In transmitting the above message the Japanese Minister added that his Government begs the Government of the United States to forward its answer through the intermediary of Switzerland….”
Please pardon me, but honestly, it was about friggen time.
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