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Archive for Sunday, August 15, 2010

Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

August 15, 2010

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Japanese officials, center, stand in a group facing representatives of the Allied armed forces prior to signing the surrender agreement Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, during a ceremony marking the end of World War II.

Japanese officials, center, stand in a group facing representatives of the Allied armed forces prior to signing the surrender agreement Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, during a ceremony marking the end of World War II.

As the United States dropped its atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, 1.6 million Soviet troops launched a surprise attack on the Japanese army occupying eastern Asia. Within days, Emperor Hirohito’s million-man army in the region had collapsed.

It was a momentous turn on the Pacific battleground of World War II, yet one that would be largely eclipsed in the history books by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the same week 65 years ago. But in recent years some historians have argued that the Soviet action served as effectively as — or possibly more than — the A-bombs in ending the war.

Now a new history by a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara seeks to reinforce that view, arguing that fear of Soviet invasion persuaded the Japanese to opt for surrender to the Americans, who they believed would treat them more generously than the Soviets.

Japan’s forces in northeast Asia first tangled with the Russians in 1939 when the Japanese army tried to invade Mongolia. Their crushing defeat at the battle of Khalkin Gol induced Tokyo to sign a neutrality pact that kept the USSR out of the Pacific war.

Tokyo turned its focus to confronting U.S., British and Dutch forces instead, which led to the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

But following the German surrender on May 8, 1945, and having suffered a string of defeats in the Philippines, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, Japan turned to Moscow to mediate an end to the Pacific war.

However, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had already secretly promised Washington and London that he would attack Japan within three months of Germany’s defeat. He thus ignored Tokyo’s plea, and mobilized more than a million troops along Manchuria’s border.

Operation August Storm was launched Aug. 9, 1945, as the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, and would claim the lives of 84,000 Japanese and 12,000 Soviet soldiers in two weeks of fighting. The Soviets ended up just 30 miles from Japan’s main northern island, Hokkaido.

“The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation,” said Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, whose recently published “Racing the Enemy” examines the conclusion of the Pacific war and is based on recently declassified Soviet archives as well as U.S. and Japanese documents.

“The emperor and the peace party (within the government) hastened to end the war expecting that the Americans would deal with Japan more generously than the Soviets,” Hasegawa, a Russian-speaking American scholar, said in an interview.

Despite the death toll from the atomic bombings — 140,000 in Hiroshima, 80,000 in Nagasaki the Imperial Military Command believed it could hold out against an Allied invasion if it retained control of Manchuria and Korea, which provided Japan with the resources for war, according to Hasegawa and Terry Charman, a historian of World War II at London’s Imperial War Museum.

“The Soviet attack changed all that,” Charman said. “The leadership in Tokyo realized they had no hope now, and in that sense August Storm did have a greater effect on the Japanese decision to surrender than the dropping of the A-bombs.”

In the U.S., the bombings are still widely seen as a decision of last resort against an enemy that appeared determined to fight to the death. President Harry S. Truman and U.S. military leaders believed an invasion of Japan would cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.

American historian Richard B. Frank has argued that as terrible as the atomic bombs were, they saved hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Japanese troops and civilians who would have perished if the conflict had gone on until 1946.

“In the famous words of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, (the bombs) were the ’least abhorrent choice’ of a dreadful array of option facing American leaders,” he said in an interview. “Alternatives to the atomic bombs carried no guarantee as to when they would end the war and carried a far higher price in human death and suffering.”

Frank, who is writing a three-volume history of the Pacific war, said he continued to disagree with Hasegawa on the relative importance of the Soviet intervention and the A-bombs in forcing the surrender decision.

But he said they agreed that ultimate responsibility for what happened lay with Japan’s government and Hirohito, who had decided in June to draft almost the entire population, men and most women, to fight to the death.

“Since no provision had been made to place these people in uniform, invading Allied troops would have not been able to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, effectively turning each village in Japan into a military target,” Frank said.

Comments

Merican_American_of_the_USA 3 years, 8 months ago

I will not have some liberal historian disrupting the pride I feel about USA! USA! USA! dropping those nucular bombs. We won because We are the World. God put 2 of every animal on a big wooden boat so America could survive and America could someday nuke Japan. That is not just history, that is fact.

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Practicality 3 years, 8 months ago

"However, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had already secretly promised Washington and London that he would attack Japan within three months of Germany’s defeat."

So, as you can plainly see bozo, this plan was already in the works. That makes your contention to us dropping the bomb as a message to the Soviets kind of bizarre, considering we asked them to attack Japan in the first place, don't you think?

"Despite the death toll from the atomic bombings — 140,000 in Hiroshima, 80,000 in Nagasaki the Imperial Military Command believed it could hold out against an Allied invasion if it retained control of Manchuria and Korea, which provided Japan with the resources for war, according to Hasegawa and Terry Charman, a historian of World War II at London’s Imperial War Museum."

So, this statement refutes your theory that the Japanese might have surrendered without the atomic bombings and/or the Soviet invasion considering that even after the bombings they thought they could still resist an invasion, hardly the language of a nation that was supposedly days away of surrending before the bombings and the invasion.

“In the famous words of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, (the bombs) were the ’least abhorrent choice’ of a dreadful array of option facing American leaders,” he said in an interview. “Alternatives to the atomic bombs carried no guarantee as to when they would end the war and carried a far higher price in human death and suffering.”

Again, this was the conclusion at the time of almost all of Truman's advisors. It was a terrible choice to be made, but given all the possible alternatives at the time, the one most of the military leadership and Truman believed to be the best course of action given the known information in 1945.

"But he said they agreed that ultimate responsibility for what happened lay with Japan’s government and Hirohito, who had decided in June to draft almost the entire population, men and most women, to fight to the death."

“Since no provision had been made to place these people in uniform, invading Allied troops would have not been able to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, effectively turning each village in Japan into a military target,” Frank said.

Whether it was the Atomic Bombs or the Soviet invasion that had the bigger detterent is a debateable question, but don't you find it odd that most historians assign the responsibility of dropping the bombs on the Japanese government? I would also like to point out that you are the only one who claims the scientific experiment theory as an argument.

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tunahelper 3 years, 8 months ago

another leftist attempting to rewrite history. Two atomic bombs ended the war with Japan, not the soviets. that's like saying omaba is going to save America!

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pizzapete 3 years, 8 months ago

The role of the Soviets defeating Germany is often understated in the U.S., too.

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Jimo 3 years, 8 months ago

To give some flavor to Hasegawa's approach to the subject, I should note that the war in which the estimate of civilians killed by the Japanese ranges from 10 to 30 million, a war filled with documentation of every conceivable atrocity from chemical attacks, slave labor, butchery, beheading, medical experimentation, mass reciprocity, and on and on, is described by Hasegawa as "a story with no heroes, but no real villains, either."

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Jimo 3 years, 8 months ago

"Now a new history by a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara...."

If by "new" one means 2005!

I have no idea why the AP put our this story other than the 65th anniversary. There's no "new" in this "news."

Hasegawa's thesis has been acclaimed by revisionist leftists and laughed at by the remainder of historians. The core support of Hasegawa's conclusion is that the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan was (a) a surprise to Japan, (b) contrary to Japan's war strategy, or (c) an imminent threat to Japan. Further, Hasegawa's claim is that Truman's aim in authorizing the atomic bomb was to hurry up and force Japanese surrender before the Soviets could get involved rather than as an alternative to mass death in an invasion of Japan. This is a claim belied by the lack of evidence that Truman ever imagined such a thing let alone secret, contemporaneous evidence hand-written by Truman.

It's difficult to make a name for yourself in academia, or gain the accolades of the professional pacifist community, by publishing history that says "ditto."

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Yea, and up is down, right?

This pretty much confirms what I've been saying. There were many factors that went into the decision to drop the bombs, and there were many factors that went into the decision by the Japanese to surrender when they did.

The Myth of the Bombs to which you so stubbornly cling may make you feel good, but it always has been and always will be nothing more than speculation based on unproven hypotheticals.

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tange 3 years, 8 months ago

(Hmm... good thing we got all that post-nuclear aftermath data when we did.)

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Practicality 3 years, 8 months ago

Bozo says :

“Of course one of the articles of faith in the "the-bombs-had-to-be-dropped" mythology is that any sort of invasion of Japan was necessary. The Japanese were completely and utterly defeated militarily, their manufacturing base was all but completely destroyed, and their access to raw materials had been completely shut off.

The Allies could have quite easily maintained a full blockade and forced the final surrender through attrition alone.”

July 31, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.

“There was a whole list of reasons for dropping the bombs. #1 on the list was deterring the Soviets. The Japanese were already negotiating a full surrender, but were dragging their feet over a few details, such as whether the Emperor would be allowed to remain, and not tried as a war criminal. The fear was that the Soviets would invade before the Japanese surrendered. The bombs certainly sped up that surrender.

2 reason was just to see what they would do. A lot of the scientists who worked on these bombs feared that the nuclear chain reaction might just go global. But bottomline, the nerds and their military keepers just wanted to see what their toys could do.”

July 30, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

“Was the intimidating effect on the Soviets a prime consideration in whether or not to drop the bombs? The answer is very clearly, "yes."

Did the desire to see what these suckers could do play a significant part in the decision to use them on what were largely civilian targets (rather than over the ocean at high altitude a few miles from the capital, Tokyo?) The answer is clearly "yes." “

August 2, 2010 at 9:02 a.m.

“Did these bombings have any effect on the Japanese leadership in making the decision to surrender?

Of course it did. But was surrender imminent, anyway? Almost certainly, although it may have taken a few weeks longer. At least 100,000 Japanese civilians paid the ultimate price for that surrender happening just a little bit faster, and at least another 100,000 suffered (and still suffer) from their burns and radiation-induced illnesses for the rest of their lives. “

July 31, 2010 at 9:13 p.m

“So clearly, a major motivation for dropping a bomb there was as real-world test of the weaponry. That hardly supports the contention that the bombs were dropped strictly as a matter of necessity.”

“I'm not advocating for any position or military strategy. I'm merely pointing out that Japanese were on the verge of surrendering regardless of whether those bombs had been dropped-- it was merely a matter of days or weeks and the precise terms under which that would happen. Their cause was hopeless, and they knew it.”

July 31, 2010 at 3:33 p.m.

“Most of his military advisers recommended against it.”

July 30, 2010 at 10:15 a.m

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Practicality 3 years, 8 months ago

This article pretty much refutes everything that you have been writing for the last two weeks about this incident, but I am sure that you will find these people to be wrong as well.

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Practicality 3 years, 8 months ago

HMMMMM. What say you now General Bozo?

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