I guess the simplest (and maybe most accurate) evaluation of James Francis Byrnes (above) was offered by dictator and mass murderer Joseph Stalin, who at the Yalta conference in 1944, called him “the most honest looking horse thief” he'd ever met. Or, to put it in a business school sense, when named Secretary of State by Harry Truman in July of 1945, the converted Episcopalian had finally risen to his “level of incompetence". And in the language of poker, “Jimmy” Byrnes' “tell” was the racism that led him to endorse lynching “in order to hold in check the Negro in the south”. That poison, and his newly discovered incompetence, lead Byrnes to unwittingly help drag the war out a few more weeks and kill one last young American.
Byrnes served in every branch of the federal government. In 1910 he was elected to the House of Representatives from South Carolina – in 1930 to the Senate, where he helped guide much of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation into law. As his reward, in July of 1941, the President nominated him to the Supreme Court. But after little more than a year in the judicial branch, Byrnes resigned and accepted a position in the executive branch, leading the “Office of Economic Stabilization”, proving so successful at balancing prices and salaries that in 1943 Roosevelt also handed him the “Office of Mobilization”, responsible for building war plants across the country. It was that position that brought James Byrnes into contact with the Manhattan District, and the atomic bomb.
It was Byrnes (above, left) who had written the final draft of the Potsdam Declaration, removing on his own any reference to retention of the Emperor, and any mention of the Soviets. He was convinced Truman (above, center) would be “crucified” if he compromised on Hirohito. The lack of oversight of Byrnes was understandable. . John McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War noted, "Everyone was so intent on winning the war by military means that the introduction of political considerations was almost accidental" And this failed oversight favored Byrnes. As a State Department official put, Byrnes approach to foreign policy was a checkers stategy in a chess game.
There is no indication that Truman ever noticed the Byrne's editing of the draft Declaration. Thrust into the presidency in March, Harry Truman instinctivly trusted Byrnes and depended on what he initially saw as a fellow southern politician with foreign policy experience. But with new estimates of casualties for a Japanese invasion from Hoover and the Navy, by August the President was cooling on his summer "bromance" with Brynes. So when the American radio intercepted the Japanese peace offer at 7:33 in the morning of 10 August, 1945 (Washington time) , Truman called in not just Byrnes, but the Secretary of War, Republican Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and Admiral William Leahy, head of joint Chiefs of Staff, to consider what the American response should be.
Brynes saw the atomic bomb as forcing an immediate Japanese surrender and giving the U.S. leverage with the Soviets. Admiral Leahy had been opposed to using the atomic bomb at all, calling it “barberous”. Secretary Forrestal (above) had been in favor of offering the Japanesse a “face saving” surrender before the bomb and before the Soviets could enter the war, and was still seeking outside advice on how to achieve this.
And while Secretary Stimson (above, right) had recommended using the bomb, he had always urged that the Japanese be allowed to keep the Emperor, in the name of internal stability. In effect, Truman had stacked the meeting against Byrnes.
Truman asked each of the men if they considered the reported Japanese note as meeting the Potsdam conditions. Byrnes (above, right) flatly said no. Stimson (above, center) said yes, warning that without the Emperor, the United States might face “a score of bloody Iwo Jima's and Okinawas” all across Asia. Admiral Leahy said he had no opinion about keeping the Emperor. Byrnes charged ahead, saying “the United States and not Japan” should be setting conditions for the surrender.
At this point Secretary Forrestal, who had wittnessed the invasion of Iwo Jima (above, center) , urged Truman to coach the Japanese into surrender but with language that reflected “our intent and view”. He suggested saying the Emperor and the Japanese would still rule their country, but subject to the orders of the Americans. The message was clear. Byrnes had lost the debate.
Stimpson now offered a shewed suggestion - a bombing halt It gave Truman room to manuver. He took a hard line, continuting the bombing. But he told Byrnes to prepare a response accepting the Japanese offer as meeting Potsdam. Under Truman's instructions, James Byrnes now showed his true genius. The response written by Byrnes, read, “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule... shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers...The ultimate form of government of Japan shall...be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.... The Allied Powers will remain in Japan until the purposes set forth in the Potsdam Declaration are achieved."
In black and white it said the Emperor could stay, if the Japanese people wanted him to. And the use of the term “allied powers” included by assumption, the Soviets. But it had finally become clear to the Americans that they wanted the Russia no deeper into the Pacific. Neither the United States, nor the Japanese, wanted Communist troops on the Japanese home islands. And that was now the primary aim of the two enemies.
If Byrnes had included the offer on the Emperor in the original Potsdam Declaration, it was possible the war would have ended before Hiroshima. But that seems unlikely. Too much was happening, too fast. As Truman noted in his diary that night, “This has been a hell of day.”
On Friday night 10 August (Tokyo time), 107 B-29s of 315th Bombardment Wing launched a peniltimate attack against “gasoline alley”, the Japanese oil refineries. This target, the Nippon Oil Refinery at Amagaski, was hit with 902 tons of high explosives dropped from 16,000 feet. However, since there was almost no oil left to be refined in Japan, the raid was almost meaningless.
The 68 largest cities in Japan had now been attacked from the air, leaving 400,000 dead, 750, 000 injured and 2 million homeless. “Sixty-six of these raids were carried out with conventional bombs, two with atomic bombs.” Over 600 major industrial targets were either destroyed or badly damaged, and somewhere between 1/3 and ¼ of Japans wealth had been wiped out by American bombing. The monetary cost to the United States was minimal. Where the U.S. spent $30 billion bombing Italy and Germany into submission, the air campaign against Japan cost the American taxpayer a paltry $4 billion.
At 7:45 on the morning of Saturday, 11 August, Soviet infantry crossed the border which had divided Sakhalin Island since 1925. But the attempt to carry the first village, Honda, failed against strong of Japanese resistance. Out numbering Japanese forces on the island 20, 000 to 5,000, the Soviets sent tanks south to encircled the town. The next day, Sunday 12 August, they would finally capture the strong points in the town, but would have to kill every Japanese soldier to do it.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, the Japanese military leaders were having second thoughts about their agreement to surrender.
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