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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

Practicality 4 years, 4 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.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 4 months ago

No, Practicality....Bozo just has changed his arguments.

And then Bozo insults our intelligence by saying "This pretty much confirms what I've been saying..."

No it doesn't, Bozo.

Practicality 4 years, 4 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

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 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.

Jimo 4 years, 4 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."

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

You need to read Professor Hasegawa's book, instead of basing your assessment of it off news articles and right-wing pundits' quips. To date, he is the only person to publish on the subject who knows English, Japanese, and Russian, and who examined documents in all three languages. His interpretation may be upheld by future research, or it may not, but it deserves a respectful reading, which he got in the academic community and among open-minded members of the public. If you check the KU Library, you'll see that Professor Hasegawa had established his name and his career long before publishing this book. When you have done original research on the subject, Jimo, then post your opinion again, if it's still the same.

Jimo 4 years, 4 months ago

" To date, he is the only person to publish on the subject who knows English, Japanese, and Russian, and who examined documents in all three languages."

Not so although many have so claimed.

I do not have "to do original research" to point out the obvious flaws of his claims. Seeing as you choose not to provide any evidence to the contrary, I will proceed with the assumption that the cause is the non-existence of such evidence.

Sorry to ruffle your ideological feathers with pesky facts.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Jimo, I could present contradictory assertions here, but for evidence, see the sources available in the KU Library; that's what I have done.
If there is another scholar who has consulted English, Japanese, and Russian sources in the original languages, please give me that person's name and a citation to his/her publications.
I actually do not have a personal stance on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I do have a personal stance against defamatory remarks.

Jimo 4 years, 4 months ago

I would start with Sadao Asada. Pacific Historical Review. Asada is nothing less than the single most knowledgeable human being on the Japanese governments surrender. I'm travelling and don't have the citation with me. Robert Ferrell, the great Truman historian, famously called Hasegawa's work an "unfortunate contribution," may also be of some insight. As to languages, you miss the point: Hasegawa cherry picks minor comments by non-decisionmakers and ignores the mass on well-documented evidence from those who (a) in Japan decided to surrender and (b) in the U.S. Truman's own papers. Seriously, just how many Japanese figures have to confess that their surrender was the direct result of the atomic bomb before professional pacifists will accept this?

Might I suggest you forget the KU library and wander down the road to the Truman library where you can still see former President Hoover's infamous memorandum predicting that an invasion of Japan would cost a million American casualties with Truman's own handwritten notes? Likewise, you'll note the lack of a shred of evidence for an anti-Soviet motivation for the bombings (but when did a lack of evidence ever stop an ideological dream?).

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Jimo, Asada does not read Russian. Ferrell does not read either Russian or Japanese. I've read their publications, including the footnotes. I've been to the Truman Library and I've read Truman's own writings. And I'm not even advancing an opinion of my own; I'm just correcting your erroneous presentation of Hasegawa's book.
Hasegawa is less concerned with Truman's motivation for using nuclear weapons than he is about the Japanese government's reasons for surrendering. When you present him as an ideologue who deliberately misrepresented the evidence to get himself a job, you are slandering him. He is a reputable scholar, long established in the profession before he published this book. Disagree with his conclusions if you like, even if it is only because he challenged your pre-determined opinion. But don't slander him, and don't slander me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

" 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 was precisely the thinking of his Sec of State, Jimmy Byrnes. Are you saying that Byrnes, who is the one who informed Truman of the Manhattan Project, and who was often referred to as the "assistant president" never shared these opinions with Truman?

Jimo 4 years, 4 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."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

Here's Hasegawa's reply--

"I do not have any ideological axe to grind. The concluding sentence in the book, “Thus this is a story with no heroes but no real villains either—just men,” seems to anger my critics, because I did not assign moral condemnations of the Japanese militarists and/or Stalin. What I meant is that those men -- with their own ideas of national interests, perceptions, and misperceptions about the others -- were engaged in the decision of how to end the war within the historical framework in which they lived. If I am critical of Truman, I am equally critical of Stalin. Despite Giangreco’s claim that I am lending support for Japan’s neo-nationalists, my greatest criticism is reserved for Japan’s policymakers, including the emperor, for delaying surrender. I have strong opinions about Japan’s responsibility for committing atrocities and war crimes, and I stated my view on this clearly in Racing the Enemy, but this book is not about that issue, but the issue of political decisions on ending the war."

http://hnn.us/articles/24566.html

He addresses a number of other issues here, as well. It's a short but worthwhile read.

Jimo 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow. Equally critical of Truman and Stalin. Almost as fair minded as Khrushchev. Perhaps he is also equally critical of poor manners and puppy torture - one can hope but not safely assume such.

No axe to grind? Is that Hasegawa's claim or Rush Limbaugh's?

Thanks for the link but as I noted at the beginning: this is a five year old theory. I've read Hasegawa's explanation as well as the broad critique of his false prerequisites and selective citation of evidence documented by the academy (not, as another agenda pusher stated, "right-wing pundits' quips"). But as I stated originally, you just don't get much attention in academia by endorsing established doctrine - an extraordinarily obvious and self-proving fact of academic life.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

So you like the simplistic version of history. Is that in spite of all the information it ignores, or because of it?

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Jimo, Your comments are uncivil. You can disagree with Hasegawa's interpretation without casting nasty aspersions on him or on people who agree with him.
You should understand that readers of this forum are more likely to doubt what you say when you resort to such modes of argument.

Jimo 4 years, 4 months ago

I would have thought that questioning the judgment of someone who believes that the history of Imperial Japan was one lacking in "real villains" was a process incapable of avoiding incivility. Sorry, but if Hasegawa had just stuck to the more defensible line that 'not all Japanese' were villains there would be room for civil discussion.

I suspect there are few readers in this forum beside yourself who are so morally bankrupt as to provide succor to such an objectively false claim.

As to civility, I suggest you visit somewhere with more direct experience with the Japanese, perhaps Nanking or Korea. You'll be lucky not to be torn limb from limb if you would dare suggest some moral equivalence between the leadership of the U.S., China, Korea, etc. and the criminal regime in Japan. Not that's incivility!

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

You called me "morally bankrupt" because you don't agree with my opinion about the integrity of a scholar. That kind of name-calling does not belong in a public forum.

pizzapete 4 years, 4 months ago

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

tunahelper 4 years, 4 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!

Practicality 4 years, 4 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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