Happy Victory over Japan Day!
On August 14th in 1945 Imperial Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and averted Operation Downfall, the two stage invasion of Japan. On Sept 2, 1945 the surrender was signed on the USS Missouri in Tokyo bay, This invasion would have resulted in at least a million American casualties (see below) and likely millions of Japanese dead from direct effects of the invasion plus the mass starvation that would have been sure to occur in its aftermath.
Since August 2010, it has become an eight years and counting tradition (See link list at the end of this post) for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific and address the leftist agitprop surrounding those events. Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war via the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri.
This years year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration will focus on the academic “revisionist history” controversies regards American casualties in an invasion of Japan versus the use of two Atomic Bombs.
- The controversy traces from the rise of the leftist “Atomic Diplomacy” revisionism in 1946-1965.
- Atomic Diplomacy’s subsequent credibility collapse of “Atomic Diplomacy” historical underpinning in the 1995 Smithsonian Enola Gay Exhibit controversy.
- Its enshrinement as a leftist academic virtue signaling cult in the aftermath.
Color Photo of the Sept 2, 1945 surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.
Historical Background – The Rise of “Atomic Diplomacy”
“Atomic Revisionism” started shortly after World War 2 ended with the publication of 1 July 1946 the Pacific War Summary of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS). Authored primarily by Paul Henry Nitze, this summary report claimed that without the two Atomic Bombs Japan would have surrendered by 31 December 1945.
“Atomic Revisionism” was furthered by the Royal Navy’s wartime Operational Analyst P.M.S. Blackett with his 1948 book “Fear, War and the Bomb: Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy” that debuted the point if what the USSBS said about the Japanese surrendering 31 Dec 1945, regardless of the A-bomb, then dropping the A-bomb had to be all about intimidating Stalin. This was followed in 1956 by Blackett’s Atomic Weapons and East/West Relations
These two threads of revisionism gestated for almost a decade in leftist academia and resulted in the 1965 publication of Gar Alperovitz’s “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam“. Namely that the dropping of the Atomic bomb was all about post war diplomacy with the Soviet Union and the coming Cold War, and not defeating Japan as swiftly as possible.
The suite of leftist virtue signaling myths that are argued to support the “Atomic Diplomacy” hypothesis include:
- No warning was given to the Japanese
- Hiroshima/Nagasaki had no military value
- Japanese resistance was crumbling
- Japan was trying to surrender, and finally
- The A-bomb’s use didn’t save either Japanese lives and specifically that the one million American casualties/deaths was a made up, post-war, by the Truman Administration.
The political usefulness of “Atomic Diplomacy” as listed above for leftists in the Vietnam War and Nixon-Watergate era was huge. It was a rhetorical club used over and over again without real opposition by the increasingly leftist dominated “Diplomatic History” community in academia to pound successive Democratic and Republican Administrations on the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Primarily because the cornerstone of it was Paul Nitze’s words in the USSBS Pacific War summary, which gave “Atomic Diplomacy” an unimpeachable “appeal to authority” for ever thing they attached to Nitze’s words.
Military Historians who supported the standard history AKA “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb“– without access to the classified ULTRA documents available starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s — were isolated and ostracized and not replaced as they retired. In part of this was budget related as military issues as a whole were unpopular then and few students willingly took military history courses. And part of it was the politics of tenure committees becoming increasingly leftist and only letting in the like minded to the few military history positions still open.
This let “Atomic Diplomacy” become a institutional consensus history position not unlike today’s “anthropogenic global warming” is with climate science. This consensus left the majority of academic history profession unaware of developments in the military history community outside academia with the declassification of World War II code breaking files, collectively referred to as “ULTRA”, in the late 1970s to mid-1980’s.
ULTRA and the 1994-95 ENOLA GAY Smithsonian Exhibit Controversy
Starting in the early 1980s military historians in Great Britain and the United States were making concerted assaults on “Atomic Diplomacy” via systematic research on and publication of what they found in the Ultra Files. Books like Ronald Lewin’s 1982 “The American Magic: Codes, Ciphers, and the Defeat of Japan” and later Edward Drea’s 1991 “MacArthur’s ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War against Japan, 1942-1945” destroyed the underpinnings of Atomic Diplomacy’s “founding myths” in the historical record.
This was ignored by Western and particularly American leftist dominated academia until the coming of the 50th anniversary of World War II (WW2) and the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian Exhibit of the B-29 “Enola Gay”, the plane that dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.
In 1984 the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) began an extensive restoration of the Enola Gay with an eye to having the fuselage displayed as a part of the 50th anniversary of WW2 in 1995. in 1987 NASM hired Martin Harwit as their new director and he had the vision of a new larger annex to exhibit the accumulated Smithsonian collection with the Enola Gay as its center piece.
The problem with this vision was that Martin Harwit and his NASM supporters were a mainstream believers in “Atomic Diplomacy” and the people and corporations he approached to fund it were not. Harwit’s circulation of the scripts for the proposed Enola Gay exhibit as a part of the fund raising effort reached both the American Legion and Air Force Association in the early 1990s and brought “Atomic Diplomacy” to the attention of the general public that had fought WW2.
The push by the WW2 generation veterans was immediate, wide spread, strong, politically well organized in Congress and ultimately successful.
The NASM “Atomic Diplomacy” script was removed from the Enola Gay display and much smaller exhibit was placed at the NASM. Martin Harwit resigned as NASM director shortly later when it became clear in the aftermath that he would no longer be an effective fund raiser for the Smithsonian with either the Congress or aerospace corporations.
The following articles, in order, from Wikipedia, the Atomic Heritage Foundation, and Air Force Association will fill in the details of this thumb nail sketch above.
- Enola Gay Exhibition controversy
- Controversy over the Enola Gay Exhibition
- The Enola Gay and the Smithsonian
After the Smithsonian Controversy
The Smithsonian Enola Gay controversy stimulated a series of military and political histories from diplomatic and military historian academic professions in the aftermath. However, the ULTRA histories in books like 1995’s Truman and the Hiroshima Cult by Robert P. Newman, 1999’s Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard Frank, and Robert P. Newman’s 2004 Enola Gay and the Court of History utterly destroyed the “Atomic Diplomacy” hypothesis with the declassified historical record.
What this ULTRA declassified record showed was that America and the allied powers wanted “unconditional surrender” of the Japanese nation-state. That has a very specific meaning under international law in that it allows the victor in war to completely dissolve and rearrange, the military, other government institutions, borders and polity of the defeated nation-state. Please see the reduced borders of post Imperial German after WWI and the split of Germany into eastern and western states after WWII.
ULTRA intercepts showed was what Emperor Hirohito and his political clique wanted in their “Best and Final Offer” after Potsdam and before the Nagasaki bombings was they wanted to “Retain the Imperial Prerogatives” of the Emperor under the 1868 Meiji constitution. And if they didn’t get it they would continue fighting towards the bitter end.
The 1868 Meiji constitution gave the Emperor the power to veto any changes to the constitution he did not like.
That is, Emperor Hirohito wanted to continue exercising real political and military power that would have reignited the Samurai militarist system the moment the Allied occupation was over, because MacArthur as “Supreme Commander Allied Powers” would not have had the political power to implement the removal of the Imperial House from its “constitutional deification” under the state religion of “Shinto fundamentalism” from Japanese society.
What Emperor Hirohito was not unconditional surrender. It was an Armistice.
It was an offer of “Let’s stop fighting now so a defeated Japan could rearm for a Pacific nuclear war in 1975.”
President Truman and his advisers rejected this Imperial Japanese offer with that understanding and subsequently nuked Japan.
Truman’s Atomic Legacy
The outcome of the use of the Atomic bombs was the best case “Goldilocks Scenario” of all the options available to the Truman Administration, which also included invasion and blockade. Pres. Truman got an orderly and complete surrender of all Japanese military formations world wide plus the cooperation of the Japanese government bureaucracy in disestablishing the Emperor worshiping Shinto state religion, which was the heart and soul of Japanese militarism.
Japan was incorporated as an ally in the Cold War western alliance and had both forsaken war and military adventurism as tools of its foreign policy for 70(+) years.
Credibility Collapse: Atomic Diplomacy’s Lying Military Handmaiden
The key finding during the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian was that military historian Robert P. Newman found, and publicized in his books, was that Paul Nitze lied in the USSBS report about the state of Japanese resistance in August 1945.
Nitze had intentionally and systematically left out any USSBS interrogation of any Japanese official in any way contradictory to his conclusions about the Japanese surrendering without the atomic bombings. And the classification of those interrogations for decades after the war let him get away with it.
An example of this lying by Nitze is from pages 34-37 of the hard copy of Newman’s Enola Gay and the Court of History —
“Prince Konoye, for instance, interviewed just before his suicide, had much to say. Frame 0503 of the transcript shows the interrogator drawing from Konoye the statement that the main obstacle to ending the war was opposition in the army. He claimed that, even in July 1945, had the emperor tried to end the war, there would have been an uprising. Only in August was there a “decrease in the risk of disorders in the event of an Imperial rescript.”15 And what factors contributed to the improved situation in August? Konoye did not hesitate: “The big thing was the deterioration of the war effort; then with the entry of Russia in the war, and the dropping of the atomic bomb, it did a lot to prepare the way for the next move.”
Were this not plain enough, frame 0504 of the transcript has this exchange:
Q: How much longer do you think the war might have continued had the atom bomb not been dropped?
A: It is a little hard for me to figure that out.
Q: What would your best estimate be?
A: Probably it would have lasted all this year.
Q: It would not have been terminated prior to November 1 —is that correct?
A: Probably would have lasted beyond that.
The questioner—probably Nitze—was not happy with this answer, and worried the matter for two more pages. The final discussion, from frame 0506:
Q: Could Japan have continued to fight with these increasing attacks of the B-29’s?
A: There was bound to be a limit as to what she could do.
Q: Yet you said if it weren’t for the emperor’s statement [surrender rescript] they would be fighting today, did you not?
A: Of course, that was a conditional statement. There was a limit to what they could do. They would do what they could.
Q: Hadn’t they almost reached the limit?
A: Of course, they were nearing the limit, but the army would not admit it. They wouldn’t admit they were near the end.
Q: Would they not have been forced to surrender, therefore, even if Russia had not come in or even though we had not dropped the atomic bomb?
A: The army had dug themselves caves in the mountains and their idea of fighting on was fighting from every little hole or rock in the mountains.
Konoye had more to say. He thought the emperor would attempt to prevent a last-ditch stand, but did not say when. He was candid about the class interest motivating the peace party: “These were all of the upper rank of men—of higher classes of men who carried on such activities. As far as I know, there was none of the lower ranks. … They were afraid of a revolution—a sort of communistic revolution” (frame 0501).
The answer to the question “Why were not the pertinent remarks of Prince Konoye included in the USSBS report?” becomes clear: they contradicted Nitze’s views. Likewise with the rest of the testimony, with the single exception of the Privy Seal Marquis Kido.”
Atomic Diplomacy’s Identity Issue Survival
Despite the military history profession’s finally winning the historical documentation war over revisionism, and its identifying “Atomic Diplomacy’s” founding appeal to authority document to be a lie, “Atomic Diplomacy” remains firmly embedded in both university higher learning and leftist popular culture. The Left has made it an identity issue on what they feel about America.
And like climate science, where any scientific evidence to the contrary is rejected out of hand as “denialist” (for example, that sun spots may be a bigger contributor to climate variation that CO2), any historical documentary evidence that does not allow the academic Left to paint President Truman as a war criminal for using the A-bombs just does not matter to their belief system.
To quote Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, “To be a leftist is to oppose the West. It’s all part of the Gramscian Damage.“
Bill Whittle’s now discontinued PJ Media video series included an episode that deals with how deeply “Atomic Diplomacy” leftist agitprop has embedded itself in popular culture via leftist self-image.
Jon Stewart, War Criminals & The True Story of the Atomic Bombs, by Bill Whittle
Pity the Atomic Diplomats
In researching and writing all of the above, I’ve been moved from scorn of the leftist diplomatic historians to a mix of indifference and pity. Indifference to their identity issues and real pity for their position as fools and tools.
The bottom line for people like P.M.S. Blackett and Gar Alperovitz is that they were lied to, used and manipulated into supporting the reputation of a senior military bureaucrat on the make who helped found the nuclear armed military-industrial complex Blankett and Alperovitz professed to hate.
They and all who followed them afterwards have been beasts of burden laboring under the yoke of Paul Nitze’s lies and their own identity issues for five to six decades.
See the enabled link list of past commemorative blog posts below —
2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
2011 – Happy V-J Day!
Sources and Notes:
P.M.S. Blackett, Fear, War and the Bomb: Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy, Turnstile ASIN: B0006D92YG 1948
Atomic Weapons and East/West Relations (C.U.P 2003 ed.). ISBN 978-0-521-04268-0. (1956).
Edward J. Drea, MacArthur’s ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War against Japan, 1942-1945 (Modern War Studies) Univ of Kansas; ISBN-10: 0700605762, ISBN-13: 978-07006057,67 1991
Richard Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, Random House; 1St Edition edition ISBN-10: 067941424X, ISBN-13: 978-0679414247, September 28, 1999
Ronald Lewin, The American Magic: Codes, Ciphers, and the Defeat of Japan, Farrar Straus Giroux; ISBN-10: 1135307555, ISBN-13: 978-1135307554. ASIN: B000NQBZNW, 1982
Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, Michigan State University Press; ISBN-10: 0870134035 ISBN-13: 978-0870134036 July 31, 1995
Enola Gay and the Court of History, New York: Peter Lang, 2004. ISBN 0-8204-7071-6. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xv, 201.
J. Samuel Walker, Enola Gay and the Court of History (review) The Journal of Military History Volume 69, Number 1, January 2005 pp. 277-278 | 10.1353/jmh.2005.0067 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/177170
United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (Pacific war) Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1 July 1946