A blue-eyed, red-furred view of the world!

Monday, August 6, 2007

The death of Dai Nippon Teikoku


mr_ed:  Prior to August 6, 1945, massive attacks against Japanese cities with traditional bombs had failed to bring about surrender. On August 6, the United States incinerated Hiroshima with an atomic bomb. President Truman announced the attack August 7.

On August 8, the Soviet Union invaded Japanese-held Manchuria with 1.5 million troops, 5,000 tanks, and 4,300 aircraft. On August 9, the U.S. struck Nagasaki with a second atomic bomb. Knowing all this (although probably not the size of the Soviet forces), the Japanese government was still split evenly between accepting most, but not all, of the Allies' surrender demands ... and fighting until all hundred million Japanese were dead.

The emperor broke the deadlock after midnight, saying it was best to surrender. The leadership was persuaded, and the Allies were given a counter-offer which was refused on August 12. Late that night, a few mid-level army officers decided to go forward with a coup to prevent acceptance of the surrender demands.

While the rebel officers rounded up support on August 13, government leadership was divided over which surrender terms they would reject.

During the day of August 14, American planes dropped leaflets on the Japanese explaining Allied demands and the government's offers. Coup leaders continued to look for backers. That night 800 U.S. bombers delivered devastating attacks against Japanese cities with conventional bombs. The emperor decided on complete surrender. Leaders were again persuaded to follow his wishes. And the coup began.

There was simply not enough support, though, and the takeover fizzled out the next morning. At noon, August 15, a speech pre-recorded by the emperor announcing acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to his subjects. A state of war continued with China and the Soviet Union, but all parties signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2.

The annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not bring an immediate and horrified end to Dai Nippon Teikoku, the Greater Japanese Empire. On the contrary, senior military leaders were still trying to convince the emperor to continue fighting a week after Hiroshima.

It's hard for a Western mind to understand the willingness of a government to sacrifice not only every man in a country's military, but all of its people.

On the other hand, what could justify the horror of two atomic bombs? Were they really required to end a war that started with "only" 2,300 killed at Pearl Harbor? Probably more Japanese died instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than all the Americans killed in the Pacific War.

I've thought about this for several years and talked about it with my son. Our feelings have tended to revolve around my father's presence in that war. He was a Seabee and had a crew of construction heavy-equipment operators. But that didn't make him a non-combatant.

Stationed in the Philippines, he knew that invasion of the Japanese home islands was next - and it was going to be horrible.

He came home, a bullet hole in one of his caps but none in him. What if he hadn't? Well, we wouldn't be sitting around talking about it, that's for sure. So we're pretty happy that the invasion didn't have to happen.

But I've been thinking about the atomic bombs in a broader context. More about that next time.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I like to give off fart bombs. Mom and dad laugh at me when I do that cuz they are always loud!

Holly