Logically, America and Japan's 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 had been 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 had been 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 the Americans took the island.
While some Japanese soldiers would hold out in the jungles on Siapan until December of 1945, they were no more than a minor annoyance. Even before Admiral Turner’s pronouncement, U.S. Navy Construction Battalions (C.B.’s) had begun turning the island into the world’s largest airport, 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 loss of the Marianas islands, 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 Admiral Turner's pronouncement. It was clear to every Japanese commander that the Japan could not withstand the American onslaught, that at Siapan Japan had lost the war. But Japanese leaders now held onto the idea that if they could bleed America enough, if the Japanese could kill enough Americans in just one more big battle, they would win a more favorable peace from the Americans. But as the war continued this would prove to be a 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 suffered 12,513 dead and 38,513 wounded And still the American military continued to advance.
And while it is true that Japanese losses were even higher, (336,000 dead in the Philippines, 21,000 on Iwo, and 130,000 on Okinawa), even after those bloodbaths, the Japanese made no attempt to even hint that they might be willing to negotiate a peace. And there was no evidence that America was having any second thoughts about "total victory" either. In my personal estimation, Japan's silence and unwillingness to negotiate, given the strategy they were following, amounted 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 WEDNESDAY: HOW TO END A WAR - PART TWO OF SIX
JAPAN AVOIDS THE IMPOSSIBLE DECISION