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Nuking Japan A Historians View

August 20, 2010

 We here at God, Guns and Poltics recently marked the 65th anniversary for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WW II, and every year on the anniversary as a historian I often have to listen to the revisionists expound on what a tragic and profoundly immoral decision was made. However, advocates for these seminal events often cite avoiding (or outright dismiss) the catastrophic casualties unavoidable if troops landed on the home islands. People extrapolate from 48,000 American and 230,000 Japanese losses at Okinawa to 500,000 American and millions of Japanese casualties for mainland invasions.

Those estimates could have vastly understated causalities. Japan at 374,000 mountainous square miles mathematically enables over 500 defensive redoubts comparable to that General Ushijima’s constructed to inflict most losses for the Okinawa invasion. Also, the Japanese planned as stubborn defenses of their cities as the Russians had maintained in Stalingrad and Leningrad.

The War Faction adopted the motto of “100 million Japanese deaths” for planning the final mainland battles. Besides kamikazes, redeployed Kwantung divisions from China, and bamboo spears for civilians, allies faced biological warfare. Occupation searchers uncovered large stockpiles of viruses, spirochetes, and fungus spores throughout rural Japan. These biological pathogens had already been tested on Chinese civilians. For Japan one delivery plan directed Japanese to infect themselves then surrender. The “Greatest Generation” and their parents would have been enraged to discover a cabal indulged personal moral orthodoxy by condemning over 500,000 Americans who might otherwise have been saved.

I have not seen mentioned the critical role Kokutai played in surrender. Any prominent Japanese lived out this spiritual combination of Emperor, citizen, land, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion. Hirohito foresaw the inevitability of defeat and had appointed a “Peace Faction” in January 1944. However, he and advisors debated through twenty months of continuous defeats, fire bombings of over 60 cities, and 1.3 million additional Japanese deaths. The atomic bombs removed the “Final Battles” argument, allowing the “War Faction” to relent, Hirohito to assume his unprecedented roll, and no one to lose face. They remained within the fabric of Japanese from all eras who had sacrificed for Emperor and Empire.

People say Japan was in the process of surrendering, but Japanese negotiation initiatives proved too vacuous to make dropping the atomic bombs unnecessary. Supposed negotiations cite proposals Foreign Minister Togo directed Ambassador Sato to offer Molotov. Japan intended achieving Russia neutrality with incentives including conquered Chinese territory, and thereby have it mediate settlement for Imperial visions of “peace with honor”. The first June 29 contacts ignored surrender with proposals the Russians considered too vague to answer. The August 2 proposals accepted the Potsdam Declaration as one basis for further study regarding terms. When Ambassador Sato finally saw Molotov on August 8, two days after Hiroshima, he received a war declaration instead of answers to his latest proposals. U.S. cryptologists reading “Magic” confirmed even Sato considered Togo’s Russian contacts ineffectual. Other contacts like those by Admiral Fujimura and Kojimo Kitamura with Allen Dulles in Switzerland lacked Cabinet knowledge.

The Japanese Cabinet debated the “Final Battles” arguments into utter physical and mental exhaustion for eleven hours following the Nagasaki bomb on August 9. In the final meeting of Hirohito and his Cabinet, Barron Hiranuma reproved Foreign Minister Togo for never making concrete proposals to the Russians. Minister Togo had no answer.

At impasse Hirohito, the god-king, spoke the “Voice of the Crane” in the 30’ by 18’ sweltering, underground bunker. He would bear the unbearable, conclude the war, and transform the nation. Only then did Japan contact Swiss and Swedish foreign offices to commence negotiations with allied belligerents.

A final point says the bombs accomplished little. Supposedly Roosevelt’s decree of unconditional surrender was compromised away by allowing Japan to keep their Emperor. However, Imperial Japan abandoned its heritage by accepting the Potsdam Declaration provisions demanding the Emperor’s and government’s authority be subject to the Supreme Allied Commander. The Japanese people’s free expression would determine ultimate government, eradicating multi-millennial Imperial characteristics.

In the end we all benifited from the bomb.

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