The best way I can think of to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is to review an article by historian Richard B. Frank that was published in the Weekly Standard in 2005. In it, Frank lays out the competing visions of history that have grown up after the event, and its most recent turns, that refresh our understanding of that day.
Why Truman Dropped the Bomb
Sixty years after Hiroshima, we now have the secret intercepts that influenced his decision.
by Richard B. Frank
08/08/2005, Volume 010, Issue 44
The sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima seems to be shaping up as a subdued affair–though not for any lack of significance. A survey of news editors in 1999 ranked the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, first among the top one hundred stories of the twentieth century. And any thoughtful list of controversies in American history would place it near the top again. It was not always so. In 1945, an overwhelming majority of Americans regarded as a matter of course that the United States had used atomic bombs to end the Pacific war. They further believed that those bombs had actually ended the war and saved countless lives. This set of beliefs is now sometimes labeled by academic historians the “traditionalist” view. One unkindly dubbed it the “patriotic orthodoxy.”
But in the 1960s, what were previously modest and scattered challenges of the decision to use the bombs began to crystallize into a rival canon. The challengers were branded “revisionists,” but this is inapt. Any historian who gains possession of significant new evidence has a duty to revise his appreciation of the relevant events. These challengers are better termed critics.
The critics share three fundamental premises. The first is that Japan’s situation in 1945 was catastrophically hopeless. The second is that Japan’s leaders recognized that fact and were seeking to surrender in the summer of 1945. The third is that thanks to decoded Japanese diplomatic messages, American leaders knew that Japan was about to surrender when they unleashed needless nuclear devastation. The critics divide over what prompted the decision to drop the bombs in spite of the impending surrender, with the most provocative arguments focusing on Washington’s desire to intimidate the Kremlin. Among an important stratum of American society–and still more perhaps abroad–the critics’ interpretation displaced the traditionalist view.
These rival narratives clashed in a major battle over the exhibition of the Enola Gay, the airplane from which the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, at the Smithsonian Institution in 1995. That confrontation froze many people’s understanding of the competing views. Since then, however, a sheaf of new archival discoveries and publications has expanded our understanding of the events of August 1945. This new evidence requires serious revision of the terms of the debate. What is perhaps the most interesting feature of the new findings is that they make a case President Harry S. Truman deliberately chose not to make publicly in defense of his decision to use the bomb.
I hope the last line whets your curiosity enough to go to the link and finish reading the article.
It is well worth your time.
45 thoughts on “Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 years”
Great article, thanks for sharing.
Truman nuked Japan to show Stalin what he had. At that point Stalin could have rolled over the Allies and taken all of Europe.
Do not forget that somewhere between 75% and 80% of all German troops killed in WW2 were killed by the Russians.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the greatest gift that one State has ever given to another.
My daughter, who is 43, a lawyer and voted from Obama, came home from 6th grade to tell us that they had had a “war crimes trial” in class and convicted Harry Truman for the use of the atomic bomb. Such was the state of US education, even in 1978.
The revisionists who think the bomb was a demonstration would do well to read Frank’s book, “Downfall.”
The recent book by Max Hastings, Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 , which I have almost finished, is very good on this. It is not at all clear that the Japanese would have surrendered without it. Probably not. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria had a big impact on their thinking, probably as big as the A-Bomb. Intimidating Stalin was part of it, too. Stalin was acting very brutally in his newly acquired empire and the Americans were getting increasingly alarmed by it. A third factor is simply institutional momentum. Truman never actually authorized the bomb. He would have had to intervene to stop it. The process was moving along like a freight train by the time Truman even found out about it.
A great article that demonstrates the need to reference as much original material as possible when making historical interpretations. A demonstration was a part of the decision but this article pulls enough evidence to clearly frame the situation the decision makers were in when the decision was made. As for the value of the “demonstration” read what Stalin new in each of Richard Rhodes books on the atomic bomb.
That is the usual Leftist agiprop.
It has nothing to do with reality.
Twenty-eight million Japanese civilians had become part of the “National Volunteer Combat Force” and had undergone training in the techniques of beach defense and guerilla warfare against the American landings. These civilians were armed with ancient rifles, lunge mines, satchel charges, Molotov cocktails and oneshot black powder mortars. Still others were armed with swords, long bows, axes andbamboo spears.
These special civilian unites were to be tactically employed in nighttime attacks , hit and run
maneuvers, delaying actions and massive suicide charges at the weaker American positions.
The American military answer to that was going to be poison gas.
See the article:
Allen, Thomas B, and Norman Polmar. “Gassing Japan”, MHQ: the
Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol 10 no 1 (Autumn 1997),
You might want to go look up the alternatives to the A-Bomb on line:
Or even check out the original US Government documents on-line:
Or even go so far as looking up the original US Government documents on Operation Downfall in various US national archives:
Operation Olympic documents
AFPAC Staff Study, ‘Olympic Operation in Southern Kyushu’, 28 May 1945, RG 165, NARA
AFPAC Operations Instructions No. 1/9, 3 August 1945, RG 338, Box 193,
Engineer Annex to USAFPAC Operations Instructions No. 1, 20 June 1945, RG 338, Box 193
CINCPAC Staff Study ‘OLYMPIC’, 18 June 1945, RG 218, NARA
CINCPAC Operations Plan, OLYMPIC, USMC Geographic File, Japan, Box 50, Folder B1-1, WNRC
Sixth Army Field Order No. 74, Troop List, 28 July 1945, Records of the Strategic Plans Division, Box 187, NHC
Memo, Colonel Elliott to General Krueger, 28 June 1945, Sub: Command Request for Construction Groups and Construction Battalions for Olympic, RG 338, Box 196
Sixth Army Engineer Section Plans and Operations, 1943 – 1945, WNRC
Troop List of Service Troops to Stage through Luzon, 19 July 1945, RG 338, Box 59, Sixth Army G-4 Decimal File, 1943 – 46, File 4, WNRC
Memo, Sixth Army Engineer to Chief of Staff, 3 June 1945, RG 338, Box 59, Sixth Army G-4 Decimal File, 1943 – 1946
Letters, Allied Air Forces to CINCAFPAC, 3 August 1945 and CINCAFPAC to CGFEAF, RG 338, Box 191, File No. 5
Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet Operations Plan No. A11 – 45, 10 August 1945, NHC
Amphibious Corps Operation Plan, No. 1 – 45, 6 August 1945, USMC Geographic File, Japan, Box 52, WNRC
V Marine Amphibious Corps Operations Report, Occupation of Japan, Appendix 3 to Annex C, 30 November 1945, Marine Historical Centre, Washington DC;
I Corps Field Order, 4 August 1945, RG 94, Box 3089, File 201-3.9, WNRC
IX Corps Field Order No. 1, Operation OLYMPIC, 12 August 1945, RG 94, Box 4105, File 209-3.9, WNRC
IX Corps Report of Reconnaissance and Survey of Japanese Dispositions, Southern Kyushu (Operation OLYMPIC-MAJESTIC), 15 December 1945, RG 94, Box 4104, File 209-2.0, WNRC
XI Corps Staff Conferences on OLYMPIC, 6-9 July 1945, RG 94, Box 4159, File 2.11-0.5, WNRC
XI Corps Tentative Plan for AAA Employment for Operation OLYMPIC, 8 July 1945, RG 338, Box 17, Operations Reports and Related Records, 1944 – 46, WNRC
Basic Logistic Plan, OLYMPIC, in Fifth Air Force Logistical Plan for Operation OLYMPIC, US Air Force Historical Center, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington DC
Operation Coronet Documents
Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan, JWPC 46/5, 9 July 1943, RG 218, NARA
Outline Plan for the Invasion of the Kanto Plain, RG 218, CCS Honshu (7-19-44), NARA
AFPAC Staff Study CORONET, 15 August 1945, RG 165, NARA
Eighth Army, CORONET Operation, G-3 Plans (Invasion of Japan), May-June 1945, RG 407, Box 2836, WNRC
AFPAC, DOWNFALL, Strategic Plans for Operations in the Japanese Archipelago, 28 May 1945, RG 15, OPD 350.05, NARA
Staff Study of Cover and Deception Objectives for CORONET, JWPC 190/16, 26 July 1945, RG 218, NARA
Logistical Plan for the Invasion of the Kanto Plain, JLPC 47/10, 8 May 1945, RG 218, NARA
Memo, Marshall to Hull, 28 May 1945, Verifax 1193, Item 2288, Marshall Library;
Message, Hull to MacArthur, 29 May 1945, Verifax 1193, Item 2799, Marshall Library
Defensive Preparations in Japan, 2 August 1945, JIC 311, RG 218, NARA
Japanese Reaction to an Assault on the Kanto Plain (Tokyo) of Honshu, JIC 218/9, 10 July 1945, RG 218, NARA
Operations following Invasion of Kanto Plain (Broad Plans), JCS 1417, 10 July 1945, in CCS 381 POA (4-21-45), RG 218, NARA
‘Operations in Japan Following CORONET’, JWPC 333/1, 26 July 1945, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (microfilm edition)
” At that point Stalin could have rolled over the Allies and taken all of Europe.”
I don’t think so. A blood-bath, certainly, if the Russians would have surprised the Allies, but even then I don’t think so. The Russian army had been bled white and the U. S./allies had become hardened pros by that time.
The Soviet’s Caucus oil fields were in range of USAAF B-29’s or mid-air RAF refueled Lancaster’s based in Persia plus USAAF B-36’s based in India or Egypt could reach the Caucus oil fields as well.
No Caucus oil means no fuel for Soviet tanks, trucks or planes.
I recall reading the leftist line in school, but, as I worked on my BA in history, I remained an adherent of the unpopular “thank god for the atom bomb.”
I don’t believe that we would have invaded Japan. The submarine war was starving them and the bombing was doing the rest. They would have held out and, given the typhoon that hit about the time the invasion was planned, I think we would have had a stalemate. The Russians would have taken another island. It would have been very much like genocide but I suppose PenGun and its allies would prefer that. The Russians would have taken Korea and Vietnam would not have happened since there would have been no Japan forward base.
We probably would have stayed in the Philippines. If you read Downfall, you see the terrible logistics problems of getting the army shifted from Europe. The senior noncoms and company grade officers would have been sent home because of high point totals.
It would have been quite a different world.
Allied signals intelligence (Magic) intercepted orders from Japanese Imperial General Headquarters in July 1945 to Field Marshal Terauchi, commander of the Japanese theater for Southeast Asia, to murder all Allied prisoners of war, all interned (aka white) Allied civilians, and all other Allied civilians possible in his theater when the British invaded Malaya. That invasion was set for middle or late September 1945, as I recall. Terauchi’s theater command was Burma, Malaya, Indochina, British Borneo, and the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia).
Similar orders had been issued to all other Japanese forces (i.e., China), to be implemented when the invasion of Japan commmenced. At that point the Japanese Army would have locked the Emperor up so he could not order a surrender.
The Allies were aware of all of this. The American response was set based on this. We were going to gas the Japanese from the air like bugs and keep on gassing them until they were all dead or surrendered. The Army Chemical Corps estimated the Japanese would incur five million civilian fatalities from gassing of urban areas in the Japanese home islands. Pfobably about a third of the 80 million Japanese in the home islands would fave died.
My off-hand guess as to the number of Allied civilians the Japanese Army would have killed, until the latter were exterminated, is about fifty million dead, mostly Chinese with the bulk of the non-Chinese rest being Javanese, other Indonesian and some Vietnamese.
The World War Two Japanese were far, far more evil than the Nazis. The only thing which kept the Japanese end of World War Two from involving another eighty million dead, i.e., half again as much as had died in the entire war prior to the A-Bomb, was that we nuked Japan twice.
Lefties wouldn’t recognize real evil if it kissed them.
We were going to go in.
The Japanese would have left us no choice about that.
Had the Japanese military coup against Hirohito’s surrender succeeded, we were going to gas the Japanese like bugs as well as nuke and invade them. Whatever the US Navy at the time or later academics thought or didn’t think.
The reason was simple. The Japanese Military was planning on thoroughly dehumanizing itself in Western Eyes to get just the fight it wanted on the ground in Japan.
Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb by George Feifer, states at page 573:
“After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi issued an order directing his prison camp officers to kill all their captives the moment the enemy entered his southeast Asia theater. That would have been when those 200,000 British landed to retake Singapore, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender. There was a real chance that Terauchi’s order would have been carried out, in case up to 400,000 people would have been massacred.”
We knew about this due to MacArthur’s code breakers being able to read Japanese Army codes in real time by 1945.
Those mass mass murders would have started on Sept 9, 1945, when the British Amphibious Invasion of Malaya (Operation Zipper) kicked off.
MacArthur’s planned but little written on invasion of Java would have happened shortly after wards, if only due to the paralysis Adms King and Nimitz were going to kick off fighting the implementation of Operation Olympic followed by Typhoon Louise hitting Okinawa.
By Oct/Nov 1945, the British would have been in the dead city of Singapore and the American Eight Army would have over run the bodies of the white Dutch murdered by the Japanese in Batavia on Java.
The pictures of the bodies would have been daily fair for American newspapers. Along with stories of all the interned American civilians and POWs in Japanese hands being murdered by the Japanese in China and elsewhere.
The murderous, volcanic, out pouring of pure hate from the American public would have removed all political restraints on American actions save those that got in the way of killing the Japanese everywhere as soon as possible.
I am absolutely certain we would have invaded if they did not surrender. The planning and preparations were a juggernaut that had it’s own momentum. Nothing I have ever seen suggests that an invasion would not have ground forward. We would have gassed the Japanese like insects. Mlions ephod have died. Only surrender could stop it.
One possibility that has long crossed my mind is a Soviet invasion of Hokkaido. Vladivostok is 500 miles from Sapporo, the Russkie army was already in Manchuria (where the Japanese had their atomic program, BTW), and Japanese war materiel would have been tied up in the southern islands. Could the Russians have fielded a sufficient landing force? Did the Russians have enough landing craft in Vladivostok? Could additional naval vessels travel from Arkhangel and Murmansk to the Pacific in August/September? Or would the Russians say “screw that, comrades” and settle for all of Manchuria and the entire Korean peninsula instead? Hmmm…
Alan, the Soviet invasion of Hokkaido was in process at the time of the surrender and had originally been scheduled for August 24th, 1945. See “The Soviet Invasion of Japan” by Col. David Glantz in “No End Save Victory” (Robert Cowley, Ed.) It was to be launched from southern Sakhalin Island, only a few miles from the northern tip of Hokkaido, and which the Soviets conquered upon the start of hostilities.
The Soviets were planning to accomplish this with only a minimal force and did not expect effective resistance. Their intent was to occupy the northern half of Hokkaido before the Americans could get there. They had little amphibious equipment, little experience, and no well-developed doctrine of amphibious operations. They probably would have found it more difficult than they expected.
One thing that causes this “leftist” viewpoint to make less sense to me, is something about the notion of this alleged deterrent purpose embedded in the a-bomb demonstration. If the concern was making the Soviets think twice about taking on our positions in Europe, that could also just have easily be done in a counter-force method – i.e., using the a-bomb _on the attacking soviets._ In fact, counter-force seems like a much more valuable use than deterrence. That is, if Truman were really concerned about the Soviets pulling a reverse-Barbarossa on us, I’d think that preserving our limited stockpile of nuclear arms for just that purpose would be more important than a grandiose display of force. But that’s just my bias. The flipside is that preventing the conflict is more valuable than ending it; how many millions of Americans and Soviets would die before that conflict ended, even if our handful of nuclear bombs would have helped end it. But, there seems to be something rather unamerican about nuking a group that’s on the verge of surrender.
That does not mean that the leftist account is not true. I do not know if it is or is not, and this thought-experiment is not terribly probative. But it does mean that, should the leftist account be true, Truman’s reasoning was even weaker than it seems. Add to that the other factors above that would have made a Soviet sneak-attack unlikely, and it becomes even less credible.
The other thing I’ve always disliked about the leftist account is the generally inadequate explanations I’ve received of the probing of the alleged Japanese signals intelligence suggesting surrender is imminent. Has that really been fully analyzed? If it has, I have yet to see it.
But before I end this post, I would like to register my cocnern with the fact that we are calling this account, “leftist.” I am doing so for the sake of convenience. Just what is so “leftist” about the leftist account? (I hope the answer is something better than “Its popularity among cold war history professors”).
The decode Diplomatic Code proves quite convincingly that Japen was not ever think of surender. What they were trying to do was to ask the Soviets to join with them. That could not allowed to happen. The American people were war weary and to have the Soviets in the fight was a no go. Add to the fact the the President had made up his mind about the bomb so it was a go. The Japanese put themselves in this spot and they have quit wining and admit their crimes and come clean.
Thanks for posting this article – I’ve updated my own post with a link over here.
A significant reason for understanding history in the context of original documents is to counter any move toward blaming any current government, country. or its people or the descendants of actors in events, for the actions taken – right or wrong – by their antecedents.
Attempts to create a culture of generational culpability with calls for apologies and reparations need to be denied under fundamental principles of human liberty. Only the actors may be assessed blame or praise, they may not obligate or elevate their heirs.
No one in any free society can be called to account for their father’s or mother’s or brother’s or sister’s actions, neither is anyone in a free society entitled to privilege over others because of their ancestry or lines of kinship.
That’s the whole point of being created equal. We all inherit freedom as an inalienable right.
There is a lot of historical information still being unearthed about that era. This is from October 3,1998 edition of the The Okinawa Times, and posted at this link:
An unexploded poisonous gas weapon of the Imperial Japanese Army was found in the remains of an underground Japanese Army hospital used during the land battle on Okinawa in WWII. Although there were no reports of victims of poisonous ordnance during the battle, the finding was testimony that the Japanese Army planned to use poison in defense of Okinawa against the U.S. invasion. The secret grim operation of poison gas use during WWII was excavated after a fifty-three year silence.
Isamu Kuniyoshi, 59, is a man who volunteers on his own to excavate the ruins of War shelters in order to show people the cruelty of war by exhibiting various uncovered articles. In middle of July, as he was looking for War remains in the ruins of Arakaki Army Hospital in Itoman City, he found a glass ball ten centimeters in diameter. The underground hospital was like a deep foxhole, two meters high and extending a hundred twenty meters in length. Kuniyoshi encountered the poisonous weapon, without any gas, about seventy meters from the entrance while digging in the dirt with a scoop.
The explosive was a grenade supposedly containing hydrogen cyanide, known as “chabin,” a teapot in Japanese named after its shape. The article was sent to Kanagawa University for chemical analysis and copper powder, a stabilizing material for cyanide, was found in the glass container. According to Professor Tadaomi Nishikubo, about eighty percent of the ingredients was copper powder which was intentionally put in the glass ball for some reason. Professor Keiichi Tsuneishi, who has studied poisonous gas weapons of the Imperial Japanese Army, commented “From the shape and the copper powder, we can say it is a chabin. It proves that poisonous gas weapons were assigned to Okinawa during the War.” The professor explained that it was the first discovery of chabin at a battle site in War history.
The Japanese Army secretariat worked on the research and development of poison gas weapons. A hydrogen cyanide grenade, the chabin, was used in anti-tank operations. A soldier would throw the grenade into the air vent of a tank. Because the soldier had to get as close as possible, the operation was considered a suicide attack. The British Army had recorded that chabin were used in the Burma Campaign and also in China. There had been no reports of poisonous gas being used in the Okinawa Campaign.
The Japanese Army had produced three hundred thirty thousand chabin in Hiroshima and Tokyo by the end of WWII. According to testimonies of those who worked in a chemical factory, chabin were secretly sent to China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore. There was no record of poison gas on Okinawa.
Information on poison gas weaponry was hidden or abandoned in order to escape international accusation at the end of the War, but tracing the relationship between the Okinawa Campaign and poison gas has just been initiated by the event of Kuniyoshi’s excavation.
This is a technical evaluation of the Japanese hydrocyanic acid “chabin” weapon:
T. I. B.Vol. 4 No. 3
May – Jun 1999
From our past:
A question was asked about a Japanese handgrenade. Gordon Rottman sent in this response:
The weapon in question is as follows (extracted from my WWII grenade book):
Model 1 Frangible Toxic Gas Hand Grenade (SEISAN SHURUDAN) Glass gas grenades were captured on Guadalcanal and in Burma early in the war. Its designation is unconfirmed and is believed to have actually been developed in the 1930s. They were also identified as “T.B. grenades” by Allied intelligence, but the meaning is unknown. These are the gas grenades once employed against British tanks in Burma near Imphal in 1942. They were filled with liquid hydrocyanic acid (AC), a blood gas derived from hydrogen cyanide. These grenades were initially reported as filled with 80 percent hydrogen cyanide (aka prussic acid). They were found stabilized with either powdered copper (Cu) or arsenic trichloride (AsCl3). Both types had metal crown caps. The copper-stabilized type had a rounded bottom with a cork plug and the other a flat bottom and a rubber plug under the caps. The copper-stabilized type was packed in a metal can and the second in a cylindrical cardboard container. Both types were further packed individually in larger cylindrical metal cans with a web carrying strap. The inner containers were double walled (sides, bottom, and lid) and filled with neutralizing agent-soaked sawdust. The arsenic trichloride-stabilized type were called the 172 B-K and 172 C-K by Allied intelligence after container markings, but these were almost certainly lot numbers rather than designations. (In early 1943, the US Military Intelligence Division reported a similar grenade being used by the Germans, but this turned out to be a mistake due to misidentification of Japanese grenades captured on Guadalcanal and returned to the States where they were mixed up.)
Weight: 1.2 lbs Diameter: 3.9 in
Construction: glass body, steel cap Filler: 12.2 oz liquid hydrocyanic acid with stabilizer
Causality Radius: INA
Identification: clear glass body, yellowish (copper-stabilized) or greenish (arsenic trichloride-stabilized) liquid, light olive drab shipping can with brown band
There was also a glass screening smoke grenade of similar design. Yes, it is in violation of the Hague Convention, but so was mistreatment of POWs. Gordon Rottman
I have tracked at least three instances of the Japanese using this weapon against the Anglo-Americans.
The British 7th Tank Regiment (Desert Rats) in Burma was close assaulted by Japanese infantry armed in with these weapons 1942.
American Army troops in Guadalcanal were hit with them on two separate occasions on 23 and 28 January 1943. Both incidences were described as “Desperate acts by individual soldiers” in the histories I researched.
Significant stocks of Japanese chemical weapons were captured in Leyte by American Army units and both the Japanese Army and Navy used chemical weapons against American forces despite official orders in the name of the Emperor not too.
The 1st Cavalry Division was hit several times by hand held and 75mm field gun fired chemical munitions in Manila in February 1945. It is not clear from the US 6th Army field reports I have read it it was Japanese Army or Navy ground troops who were the culprits.
Finally, Filipino Guerrilla’s reported to 6th Army in January – February 1945 that the Japanese garrison in Davao Mindanao had planted mustard gas land mines and tested the blood agent AC in hand grenade on dogs.
The American Army “Victor II” river campaign from Cebu to Davao Mindanao by General Eichelberger is much more easily explained by his need to avoid those mustard gas mine fields.
I think we would have tried to invade but the logistic problems were terrible. There was a battle between the Army, the Navy and the Air Corps on the best course. Stalemate was the result I would have expected but, of course, gas and the incentive of massacres of prisoners would have altered the course of things a great deal. We did see one such massacre at Palawan, which was later covered up by MacArthur and the Japanese government. The prosecutions were risible. Had this been the fate of more POWs, it might have been very different.
For whatever reason, the level of Imperial Japanese atrocities during WWII is not very well-known in the U.S., certainly nowhere near as well-known as Nazi German atrocities. Look in the children’s books section of any chain bookstore (which will generally reflect reading being assigned in school) and there will be several books on the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities, and maybe even a book or two on major WWII military events such as D-Day…but little if anything on the Pacific campaigns and nothing at all about such things as the Rape of Nanking. (There will, however, be books about Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
I was surprised to find the 2008 Mazda MX5 I bought two years ago was manufactured in Hiroshima. So far, no side effects from radiation.
MacArthur shut down the Tokyo war crimes trial proceedings on Japanese chemical weapon use in China after the indictment was delivered:
The issue of Japanese chemical warfare against China was swept under the rug at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials despite ample evidence presented by US prosecutor Thomas H. Morrow. Morrow submitted a detailed report entitled “A General Account of Japanese Poison Warfare in China, 1937-1945”– a report that incorporated the contents of File I.B. 152-A. His arraignments took place for two days in August 1946, but then he was suddenly returned to the United States without explanation; and the issue of Japanese chemical warfare was dropped from the proceedings. After the Tokyo War Crimes Trials ended, this issue received scant attention from historians; and, as a result, many general accounts of warfare in the twentieth century still mistakenly assert that poison gas was employed only in World War I.
That was from —
Documents on Japanese Poison Gas Warfare in China
by Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi
York University, Toronto
at this link:
It went on to say —
Finally, microfilmed Japanese Army documents currently scheduled for publication in Japan have been found to contain an order– “Imperial Headquarters Army Directive Number 452”–dated 13 May 1939. (For some reason, the original directive cannot be located at the Self-Defense Forces Research Institute in Tokyo where these documents are housed.) According to the Asahi, which reported this finding, Japanese historians generally agree that directives of this type, called tairikushi • were normally issued with Emperor Sh•wa’s knowledge and approval. Directive Number 452 explicitly commanded field units to: “employ special material yellow and study its operational value on campaigns in occupied territory.” The code name “special material yellow” designated either iperito or lewisite. 6
Thus, this Japanese Army directive provides conclusive evidence to substantiate wartime Chinese allegations that Imperial Forces used lethal varieties of gas in addition to non-lethal types such as sneeze- or tear-gas, whose use has already been established. Furthermore, the directive proves that the Imperial high command ordered not just the deployment, but also the actual use, of those poison gases in China.
In sum, then, postwar Japanese and Chinese findings based on international archival research prove indisputably that Imperial Armed Forces received orders in the emperor’s name to engage in lethal chemical warfare against Chinese military and civilian personnel during the Fifteen-Year War. Thus these findings confirm the contentions raised in File I.B. 152-A.
The US had a lot of post war, Japanese stability related reasons, to shut down the Palawan and chemical warfare trials.
The issue that has been avoided by historians to date is why was the FDR administration sitting on the chemical warfare attacks on Chinese, British and American forces, to the point of FDR vetoing American chemical retaliation at Iwo Jima, and the logistical go-slow games the US Navy and Army Air Force played with General Marshall to prevent the shipment of chemical munitions to Luzon for Operation Downfall.
This information is important to counteract the war crimes mentality encountered by my 11 year old daughter and perpetrated by fatuous statements such as that I expected from Obama except that it would have interfered with his vacation.
Thank God for his vacations !
I consider Japan an ally in the Cold War. With that era gone, I consider them a friendly country of no particular strategic significance with the future dealings with China. I don’t even consider China much of a strategic threat. We fought wars with both, WWII and Korea, and in both cases atrocities occurred but we kicked their a**es, albeit with heavy casualties.
Right now, we need to get our economic house in order and avoid entanglements if possible. Unfortunately, our children are being taught lies about the past and the future.
Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn’t happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.
-Tom Lehrer 1960
Of course we were going to invade Japan. There was no way we were going to let the power structure remain in place and have to fight them all over again at a future date.
We did make that mistake with Iraq in 1990.
Had we not nuked Japan, the result would have been genocidal horror dwarfing the Holocaust. The Japanese Army would have embarked on an orgy of killing every Allied civilian it could catch in all the territory still controlled by it, i.e., half of China, all of Indochina and what is now Indonesia, etc. The orders to do so had already been sent, and Allied signals intelligence (Magic) had provided those intercepted orders to Allied leaders.
The Allied response would have been to kill all Japanese everywhere as fast as possible with any means possible, and tht included poison gas. This decision was made before we nuked Japan. It was our backup plan if Japan did not surrender after being nuked.
And it would have been our primary plan had President Truman decided not to nuke Japan. Truman knew very well what the stakes were – scores of millions dead in horror far exceeding the Holocaust, most of them Allied civilians but at least a third being Japanese.
This was discovered by military historians Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen while researching a book on the end of the war in the Pacific. Their discovery came too late for inclusion in the book, so they published it instead in the Autumn 1997 issue of Military History Quarterly.
Polmar & Allen ran across references to this meeting in their research and put in a Freedom of Information Act request for related documents. Eventually they received, too late for use in their book, a copy of a document labeled “A Study of the Possible Use of Toxic Gas in Operation Olympic.” The word “retaliatory” was PENCILED in between the words “possible” and “use”.
Apparently there were only five of these documents circulated during World War Two. The document was requested by the Chemical Corps for historical study in 1947. In an attempt to “redact” history, another document was issued to change all the copies to emphasize retaliatory use rather than the reality of the US planning to use it offensively in support of the invasion of Japan.
The plan called for US heavy bombers to drop 56,583 tons of poison gas on Japanese cities in the 15 days before the invasion of Kyushu, then another 23,935 tons every 30 days thereafter. Tactical air support would drop more on troop concentrations.
The targets of the strategic chemical bombing campaign were Japanese civilians in cities. US Army Chemical Corps casualty estimates for this attack plan were five million dead with another five million injured. This was our backup to nuking Japan into surrender. If the A-bombs didn’t work, we were going to gas the Japanese people from the air like bugs, and keep doing so until Japanese resistance ended or all the Japanese were dead.
Historical scholarship has become so politicized that true scholarly research and writing is no longer possible concerning subjects as emotionally charged as this.
The World Council of Churches has put out a statement on Hiroshima: Don Sensing responds.
“Still, I’d like to acknowledge the other Hiroshima bomb survivors. My Mom is one of those survivors.
My Mom wasn’t in Japan when the Americans dropped the bomb. She wasn’t anywhere near Japan. She was in Java, a civilian in a Japanese concentration camp, on the verge of starving to death. But for the fact that the atom bombs immediately terminated the war in the Pacific, she would have died. She didn’t have another month or even another week. She needed the war to end instantly. It was the bombing at Hiroshima that enabled her to survive the war.”
Read the whole thing.
I’ve been fascinated by the stories of Allied POWs, in camps around Nagasaki, who survived the bombing.
Japanese seeking surrender? Based on decoded diplomatic messages. Is it assumed that the these diplomatic messages spoke for the Japanese military? Could the U.S. President assume that because the diplomatic corps was of one opinion, the Japanese military was of the same opinion? Should the U.S. endure the attrition to it’s navy while the Japanese struggled to come to a consensus over surrender? As the Kamikazees were sinking U.S. shipping, with sailors dying, concurrently with the decoded diplomatic messages, the Japanese civilians (including women and children) were being trained to fight to the death, how long was President Truman supposed to wait? Weeks? Months? And after weeks or months the Japanese did not surrender, then what? Invasion, with an estimate of millions of casualties. And while Truman was weighing these factors, he had to worry about the Soviets moving in to claim Japanese territory. Keep in mind that in 1945, the destruction caused by atomic bombs did not hold the horror and condemnation it rightly gained after their use. They are horrible, but so is death in a fire storm that took more lives, but there is not the outcry against fire bombing that the atomic bombs have. There is something about one bomb causing such devastation. If the U.S. had fire bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, perhaps more people would have died, and also, perhaps the Japanese would not have been convinced to surrender.
You say you hope this “wets” our curiosity. The word you seek is “whets.” Best regards.
It’s crucial to understand that had America not dropped the atom bombs, the war would have ended with Japan suffering far greater violence and more deaths than it did with the bombings. ISTM that the revisionist critics of Truman’s decision think that the war would have just stopped in August 1945 even without the bombings.
On the contrary, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been fire bombed into oblivion and the blockade of Japan’s ports would have killed tens of thousands more by starvation. What critics overlook is that American strategy against Japan’s homeland was incredibly, intentionally lethal: the destruction of shipping, ports and their blockade, lines of communication within Japan. By the end of July 1945, Japanese adults’ diets were less than 80 percent of minimum required and falling. They were literally eating acorns.
Eventually, as the Kempei Tai had already concluded before August, Japan would have been embroiled in civil war because of popular uprising of starving masses, probably including even army formations. This was in fact the ruling council’s greatest fear, greater than even of American invasion.
I invite you to see my posts, “The atom bombings and Japan’s surrender” and “Atom bombings and contemporary context.”
Bob Hawkins posted related thoughts.
The Soviets did not have the necessary amphibious shipping, nor the level of air superiority, for the Hokkaido plans that Glantz researched.
Project HULA: Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan,
by Richard A. Russell.
No. 4 in The U.S. Navy in the Modern World series. 1997.
GPO/SN 008-046-00181-2, $8.00 (paperback), $11.20 (non-U.S.).
Order from the Government Printing Office’s secure website.
This work describes the little known subject of Soviet and American naval cooperation in the North Pacific during the final months of World War II. Until 1945, Soviet reluctance to fight a two-front war and Japanese acquiescence to the movement of vital lend-lease supplies to the Soviet Far East ensured Soviet neutrality in the Pacific War. A frustrated U.S. government, which had sought basing rights for heavy bombers in Siberia, finally secured Soviet agreement at the Yalta Conference, in February 1945, to enter the war by pledging U.S. military support and territorial concessions to the Soviet Union. In Project HULA, from April to September, a special U.S. Navy detachment trained Russian officers and men in handling the naval vessels scheduled for transfer to the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet. This top-secret operation brought Russian and American sailors together in the largest and most ambitious lend-lease program of World War II. Its unique purpose was to equip and train Soviet amphibious forces for the climactic fight against Japan.
I also think that the Soviet expectations, per Glantz, that northern Hokkaido would only be lightly defended, and that they could get away with such a small force, were probably grossly over-optimistic. I don’t know whether the Japanese had kamikaze units already in place in Hokkaido, but such an attack would probably have been hard for the Soviet navy to deal with. Never the less, apparently the Soviets had fully intended to attempt an invasion.
The Japanese has reserves of canvas and wood trainers hiding in Hokkaido awaiting Operation Coronet — the Assault on Tokyo and the Konto Plain North east of it.
I’m sure they could have deployed them against the Soviets pretty quickly. Glantz noted that the Soviets had already fallen behind schedule because of stiffer-than-expected Japanese resistance on southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles. They were finding that their rapid advances in Manchuria were not indicative of the sort of resistance they would find nearer the Home Islands.
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Petitions. I might be pessimistic but the Russians are a little too hard nosed to be influenced by petitions. And the standoff between Pakistan and India would not be influenced by a petition. They don’t trust each other. Trust is key to reducing or eliminating weapons. And I’d bet anything that the Ayatollah and his lackey, Ahmadinejad, aren’t interested the slightest in a petition, because as I see it, they want to use them. It’s the ultimate tool for a death cult. Does anyone think the Chinese would give up their nukes? We’re working on N. Korea and getting nowhere. They’ve been exporting nuclear technology to Syria. I won’t hold my breath with Israel, either, because I don’t think they
trust anybody, and I don’t blame them.
If a Hokkaido invasion was iffy, the Manchurian Soviet Socialist Republic seems a more likely result of a protracted WWII. The war ended before the Russkies could consolidate control over Manchukuo (Japanese name for the region). Would a longer war have increased the Soviets’ staying power? Or was Chinese hostility just too big a hassle for the Soviets?
The MSSR would have made the Korean War a lot more interesting…Would the Russkies have been more involved militarily? Would they have crossed the Yalu River? Would MacArthur have faded away?
The Soviets had the sea lift to get in the combat elements of a single rifle division, less vehicles, most of it’s artillery and especially artillery ammunition.
It was a 200 mile round trip from the nearest port in the southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles to lift the second division of the rifle corps the Soviets wanted to put into Northern Hokkaido.
Think of a battle that is a cross between Guadalcanal and Monte Cassino with no heavy ships on either side, with Japanese wood and canvas trainer and explosive motor boat Kamikazis going after Ex-American LCI Lend lease transports, frigates and minesweepers plus Soviet fishing trawlers.
The one thing such a late August – early September 1945 Soviet operation in Hokkaido would do is politically destroy any US Navy/US Army Air Force argument for extended blockade.
President Truman would not be able to follow the Navy/Air Force advice, even if it was militarily sound, with the Russians on Japanese main islands before us.
Before you sign the “no nukes’ petition, think about what would a world without nuclear weapons look like. Sadly, we already know.
Your petition is about as useful as the Kellogg-Briand Pact (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_pact_was_designed_to_outlaw_war)
The decision by Bush 43 to forgo hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities has made catalytic nuclear proliferation inevitable.
Given the example of the coming Iranian nuclear break out, we are now going to see a Cuban missile crisis a month from the North Koreans selling turn key nuclear missile complexes to irrational regimes — primarily Muslim — until the resulting nuclear chaos so infuriates the American people that we establish an American imperium in self-defense.
In the interum, people like me will be gainfully employed policing defense contractors making missile defense systems and ISO container spy technology.
As for what the world will look like with catalytic nuclear proliferation, think of how the Indonesian Tsunami was handled.
Wall to wall coverage because of the visuals, US Military aide, Lots of relief agency appeals,
Joint Ex-President relief funds, then a slow headline fade as other events wash over it.
The recent Haitian earth quake certainly followed that script.
Horror, then the slow ‘life goes on’ fade from sight.
There are something like 2.5 million cities, towns, villages, and hamlets in the world. Over 3,000 have populations of over 100,000, and at least several hundred with populations over one million.
If we figure the million person centers are the most likely targets, then, at five nukes per decade, it’ll take at least 400 years to destroy them all.
We’ll react to them as we do to really big natural disasters. We’ll pray for the victims and the survivors, give a sigh of relief that neither we nor any of our families were there at the time, and maybe send a check to the Red Cross.
We will, in a sense, become numb to them.
Governments won’t, of course. We can expect a lot more surveillance, a lot more wire-tapping, and a lot more “clandestine activity” intelligence agencies and special forces.
And here is the really scary part, pointed out by Daniel Ellsberg, of all people, just after the Falklands War.
The QE2 was being used as a troop ship, and the Ark Royal was carrying more than 2000 Royal Marines in addition to its large crew, so if either of those had been hit by the Argentine sub Santa Fe, it could have meant Britain’s biggest by far military loss of life since WW2.
The Brits, via the US, told the Argentines that if the Santa Fe was picked up anywhere within too close to either of the big targets, they would hit it with an airdropped nuclear torpedo.
The Argentines decided to send the crew of the Santa Fe on cruise around the Horn for their health, and the sub spent the war off the Chilean coast.
But, as Ellsberg said, suppose the Brits had had to carry out the threat?
His basic observations were:
1. They sure as hell would have to. A bit over 100 Argie lives against many thousands of UK? And it’s a war, you know, old boy ….
2. Argentina couldn’t retaliate; it was a right wing generals regime so the support from the 3rd World caucus would have been miminal; the Soviets and Chinese would have said it was very naughty, and so might the US, but the Brits would have suffered no penalty and the result (Argies got no modern attack sub) would surely stand.
3. And at that point you’ve got a precedent of a fully justified nuclear strike (no civilian casualties, imminent danger, absolutely for a militarily justifiable end), and, as Ellsberg put it, “A lower wall for next time.”
So first the Iranians nuke someone, somewhere, and are nuked back at a purely military facility; then a terrorist group uses a nuke, and a training camp with some civilians around it is hit; then a Somali pirate base or a ship carrying nuclear materials at sea …. and then, really, the things are so damned handy, why reserve them just for infidels?
What about a city rising in rebellion against the true Islamic regime? (See Hama, Syria)
What about preemptive shots at terrorist facilities … or ….?
So the problem, is apt to begin Islamic — but it won’t stay Islamic. Not if it goes any length of time.
Consider, you’re the American president after we’ve had a couple of nuclear strikes on American bases and a few on European cities, and after we’ve hit ten targets in the Islamic world (and the Israelis have hit five and, say, the French have hit a couple). You’ve got a drug-and-illegals fortress over the border in Mexico and the Mexican government has declared that they can’t take it with their remnant army, and has asked for help.
Storm it with a few thousand marines or paras?
Or drop one air burst five kiloton tac nuke?
Now you’re the Chinese premier, and all this has been going on, and that miserable goddam Southeast Asian border is acting up, and you’ve got a warlord over the line in Laos or Burma …
“Hey, you tell the Americans and the Russians, if we stop bugging you about Mexico and Chechen, can we get an quiet okay here?”
The Islamic terror problem is only the crack in the bottle that the genie is most likely to come out through. Once the genie is all the way out, you won’t be able to get it back in just by patching the big crack.
_Until America gets hit a home by a terrorist nuke._
Then the American public’s response will be with full-bore threat elimination, starting with the elimination of American politicians who get in the way of full-bore, immediate, aka nuclear, threat elimination via reducing terrorist supporting states to subsistance agriculture.
Then followed up by 2-5 nukes a year in what had been Arab countries plus Pakistan and Turkey, which would be subsequent pest control.
Not a cheery future…but an almost certain one, IMO.
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