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Friday, July 25, 2008

HOW TO END THE WAR: PART TWO

I am continually amazed that it wasn't until June 22nd, 1945, that the Emperor finally called a meeting of his ‘Big Six’ advisors. He told them openly for the first time , "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts made to implement them." There was no talk of terms, and no effort to "push" the process.
The Japanese were now waiting for the invasion of their most southern island, Kyushu, the next logical target of the U.S. forces. There they would win the "Big Victory" that Okinawa was supposed to have been, in which even a loss would bleed the Americans enough to force them to offer better terms. The leaders of Japan, meeting amongst the wreakage of Tokyo, were certain that a great enough slaughter, mostly of their own people, would drive the Americans to negotiate. And they were certain they could out-negotiate the Americans. Why such clever people were losing the war was a question never asked in public.
The Japanese plan was to use the Russians as a conduit to negotiate with the Americans, rather than talking to their chief foe directly. July was spent trying to open that conduit, but the Russians seemed exceedingly dim and obstructionist, and the niceties of diplomacy slowed everything down even more. But there was no worry. In Japan's view, Russia and America were destined to be enemies, and it seems never to have occured to the Japanese leadership that Russia would see a weakened Japan, the nation which had humiliated them in 1905, as an oportunity too good to pass up. But, by the beginning of August, it seemed to Japan that some progress was being made with the Russians.
The plans of Japan's rulers did not begin to unravel until the morning of August 6th. Reports began coming in that something unusual had happened in Hiroshima. First reports were of a “blinding flash and violent blast”. Since no communications were coming out of the city, a staff officer was ordered to fly over and report. One hundred miles from Hiroshima he could see a huge cloud still rising from the blazing port (hours after the attack).
Surrounding villages were being swamped with huge armies of wounded, burned and simply stunned victims stumbling their way out of Hiroshima.
Relief workers began to press through to the city. Power to some parts of the town was restored the next day, and rail service the day after that. But to all intents and purposes, the core of the city of Hiroshima had been wiped off the map, the port facilities destroyed, and one of Japan's few remaining intact military bases was simply gone. There were at least 80,000 dead. Over the next five years radiation would raise that toll to nearly 200,000.
The Big Six argued about what had happened, with many denying the U.S. could have such a weapon. The debate was settled sixteen hours later when Japanese monitoring posts picked up the broadcast of President Harry Truman announcing to the American people that, "The power of the sun" had been unleased on Japan, and adding “We are now prepared to obliterate rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have…” It was not a threat. It seemed rather, to be a promise.
It was a powerful threat to the empire of the sun. But Admiral Soemu Toyoda now argued that if the Americans really had such a bomb they could not have many more. What he based that opinion on was unclear. But some of the leaders of Japan took solace from the Admiral and continued to perfect their plans for their Oriental Gotterdamurung. It was pure delusion.
The Americans had crippled their nation. Hundreds of thousands had been killed. No train was safe in daylight, no city or factory safe at night. The Japanese army in Korea and Manchuria were starving. Troops in Japan were spending as much time tending to rice fields as training. And the harvest that year had been very bad. Come winter, invasion or no, there would be starvation in Japan.
Japan could do nothing to oppose the massive flights of B-29’s, now joined by B-17’s and B-24’s of the mighty 8th Air Force as well, freed from the conquest of Germany, which were together pounding Japanese cities and military formations, day and night.
And nothing hindered the mass waves of P-51's, based on Iwo and Okinawa, which were now doing to Japan what they had done to Germany; sweeping across the country at will, striking at "targets of oportunity", destroying and sinking everything that moved, be it a supply or passanger train, a single horse and cart or a poor fishing boat. There was almost nothing left to oppose them. What remained of Japan's air force was being held back to oppose the landings. Japan's navy was scattered across the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Their cities were being reduced, one by one, to wastelands occupied by scarecrows.
And now an atomic bomb had vaporized one of Japan's cities, and there was a threat of more to follow. And yet the supreme council's only plan remained to wait for the American invasion of Kyushu and kill as many Americans as possible in order to force them to negotiate. About 40% of Japan's remaining strenth had been transfered to Kyushu to fight that battle. But that mas was, in my opinion, to borrow the words of an historian describing the Confederate insistance on defending Fort Dondaldson against Grant, "Too little to defend the place, and too much to lose."
Again, Japan failed to inform the Americans what their intentions now were, e.g. to fight to the death to preserve the emperior. And without the final clause of that statement, it seemed to the Americans that the Japanese were insane and without logic, an entire nation of kamikazes, in love with death. And since the Japanese were not offering the Americans any alternatives, (nor the referse) there was no way for the Americans to be certain the preservation of the Emperior alone was what the Japanese were still killing and dieing for, a full year after the Americans had won effectivly won the war.
And then, at about four AM on August ninth the Soviet Union, which the Japanese leadership had counted on to help negotiate a peace, announced they were voiding their non-aggression pact with Japan and joining the Americans in carving up the Imperial Empire. At the same time Soviet air and ground forces had invaded Manchuria in great numbers and strength. And in that moment, all Japanese complacency began to finally collapse.
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