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rest off the remaining areas and just starve the defenders into submission.” The lessons learned from the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima was still fresh MacArthur’s mind, and he did not want to repeat the slaughter of thousands of American soldiers.23 The fight in the Pacific war was intense and brutal compared to the war in Europe. The high numbers of casualties the shocked military leadership. At Guadalcanal, American forces suffered over 1500 killed with many more wounded and at the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943, which lasted only seventy-two hours, there were casualties of over 1000 U.S. marines and sailors. American commanders began questioning the strategy of the amphibious assaults and even considered the use of chemical weapons in future operations. Shortly after the battle, Major General William N. Porter, Chief of the Army’s chemical warfare service, attributed the “greatest importance” to them. “We have an overwhelming advantage in the use of gas,” he wrote. “Properly used gas could shorten the war in the Pacific and prevent loss of many American lives.”24 This view was not isolated; General Marshall himself considered using chemical weapons against the Japanese defenses on Okinawa following the enormous casualties sustained during the Iwo Jima invasion.
As the fighting moved closer to the Japanese homeland, military leaders began looking at ways to use these weapons offensively and possibly save American lives. Project Sphinx was the Walker, Dilemma, pp. 151 – 157.
Allen, Codename Downfall, p. 173.
Ibid., p. 177.
code-name for the United States chemical response option to a Japanese gas attack against U.S.
forces. In view of the suicidal Japanese resistance and the increasing casualty rates the U.S.
forces were sustaining, however, the American military authorities began stockpiling tons of newly developed gas munitions on the Philippines and Okinawa for possible use during the invasion of Japan. General Joseph Stilwell, Commander of the Tenth Army on Okinawa, favored it. “We are not bound in any way not to use it,” he pointed out to Marshall, “and stigma of using it on the civilian population can be avoided by restricting it to military targets.” Shifting opinion about the use of poison gas was visible on the American home front. On March 11, 1945, the Chicago Tribune posted an article entitled “You Can Cook them with Gas.” The article furthered argued that, “the use of gas might save the lives of many hundreds of Americans and of some of the Japanese as well.”26 While the use of tactical atomic weapons never appeared in any written strategic invasion plans, senior military leaders longingly considered their potential value. “We would have to exterminate them, almost man by man,” Marshall recalled. “So we thought the bomb would be a wonderful weapon as a protection and preparation for landings.”27 To support the invasion of Kyushu, military planners wanted to use several tactical atomic bombs to supplement the conventional forces. In an interview many years after the war, Marshall described how the bombs would have supported the invasion. “In the original plans for the invasion of Japan, we wanted nine atomic bombs for three attacks. Two were to be used for each attacking army, or six in all, in the initial attack. And then we were planning on using the other three against the Japanese reserves which we were sure would pour into the areas.”28 Had the United States used these weapons in support of the planned invasion, “several million Japanese and Americans Ibid., pp. 177 – 179.
David McCullough, Truman, p.441.
Feis, Japan Subdued, p. 10.
would be directly affected by the nuclear fallout or residual blast radiation on Kyushu.”29 Military planners thus anticipated utilizing all available resources - material, personnel, and weapons - in the invasion of Japan. The use of tactical atomic weapons was untested and their effects on military operations were uncertain.
The fourth option to force the Japanese into accepting the terms of the unconditional surrender was to drop atomic bombs on selected Japanese military targets. In May 1945, Marshall authorized General “Hap” Arnold and General Leslie R. Groves to form a targeting committee comprised of Air Force and Manhattan Engineer District personnel. The committee established four evaluation criteria that would narrow down the list of available targets. These criteria were, first, that “the targets should be places that the bombing would most adversely affect the will of the Japanese people to continue the war”, secondly, places that contained “important headquarters, or troop concentrations, or centers of production of military equipment and supplies.” The third criteria required that the target “should not have been previously bombed” so that the full effect would be clear. Lastly, “the first target should be sufficiently large enough to contain the complete blast of the weapon so that its power can be measured.”30 The Targeting Committee recommended three targets based on the established evaluation criteria. The first was the ancient capital of Kyoto, a large industrial city that could effectively demonstrate the bombs’ capabilities. The committee selected Hiroshima because it was the home of the Southern Headquarters and depot for Japan’s homeland Army, a large naval port, and an industrial center. Finally, the port city of Niigata was an industrial center and a primary seaport on the Sea of Japan. Secretary of War Stimson rejected targeting Kyoto and wanted it D. M. Giangreco, “Casualty Projections for the U.S. Invasion of Japan, 1945 – 1946: Planning and Policy Implications.” Journal of Military History, p. 850.
Walter S. Schoenberber, Decision of Destiny, pp. 182-193.
removed because of its religious and artistic significance.31 President Truman agreed with Stimson and the committee replaced it with the Kokura Arsenal, which contained the largest ammunition plants in Japan. Truman later stated that, “I wanted to make sure that it would be used as a weapon of war in the manner prescribed by the laws of war. That meant that I wanted it dropped on a military target.”32 The decision to use the bomb was never the issue; the primary concern was how to use the new weapon against Japan. Secretary Stimson and General Marshall wanted the best option that would end the war quickly in order to stop the needless slaughter of Americans. Members of the Targeting Committee, the Interim Committee, a scientific panel, and military leaders considered several options, among them a technical demonstration of the weapon’s destructive power in an isolated area or even in Tokyo Bay and a warning to the Japanese. The various committees disregarded this option for a number of reasons. For instance, Dr. Isidor Rabi from Columbia University, a troubleshooter for Dr. Oppenheimer at Los Alamos, pointed out that the Japanese did not have any technical experts who could measure and report on what they had witnessed. “It would take someone who understood the theory to realize what he was seeing.
You would have to build a model town to make a realistic demonstration.”33 The recommendation of the scientific panel varied from a technical demonstration to direct military action to force a quick end to the war. After debating the use of a demonstration with a warning to Tokyo, the panel rejected the idea and reported that is had “no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” The Scientific Panel failed to agree on conducting a tactical demonstration, since there was only one bomb available at the time. If the bomb failed to work, the demonstration would have the opposite effect on the Japanese and fortify their spirit of McCullough, Truman, p. 436.
Harry S. Truman, Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, Volume One: Year of Decisions, p.420.
Robert Donovan, Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948, p. 66.
resistance even further. Providing the Japanese with advance warning of selected target sites could subject American prisoners of war to further hardships or their captures might move them into the attack area.34 The final option the United States considered was the use of diplomatic channels to pressure the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender. The proponents of this option wanted to give the Japanese a guarantee of the safety of the Emperor. Truman did not consider this option seriously, since the Japanese had attacked America while peace negotiations were going on in
1941. He had no respect for the apparent Japanese peace initiatives. He told Winston Churchill “that he did not think that the Japanese had any military honor left after Pearl Harbor.”35 Ever since President Roosevelt had announced to reporters, in 1943, that the Allied objective was the “unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers,” the United States had insisted that Japan accept those terms. The exact terms imposed following unconditional surrender became a major point of contention during the final months of the war with Japan and still exists today.36 The peace faction within the Japanese government began to gather momentum in 1944 after General Hideki Tojo’s Government resigned following the U.S invasion of the Marianas.
Members of the new government headed by General Koiso Kuniaki operated under the constant fear of assassination if they took a view different from that of the military leaders, who still controlled the government. The military believed that a “decisive military success” would give the Japanese a better chance for a negotiated peace, instead of an unconditional surrender.
However, the loss of the Philippines ended the military’s attempts for a victory and aided in the resignation of Koiso’s government following the invasion of Okinawa.37 McCullough, Truman, p. 394.
Donovan, Conflict, p. 93.
Spector, Eagle, pp. 222 - 223.
Ibid., p. 547.
Admiral Suzuki Kantaro replaced Koiso as Premier and quickly selected as his foreign minister Togo Shigenori, who had served in that position during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Togo’s sole purpose in serving as Foreign Minister “was to end the war as soon as possible” and he believed that the best way to achieve that was through improving Japan’s relations with the Soviet Union, even though Moscow announced in April 1945 that it would not renew RussoJapanese Neutrality Pact of 1941. Togo wanted to know if the Soviets would honor the one-year notification agreement that would keep the pact in place for another year and give him time to pressure them to mediate on Japans’ behalf with the United States. While probing Soviet intentions towards Japan, Togo held secret meetings with select members of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (SCDW), known as the Big Six. “The guarding of secrecy was vital,” Togo later wrote, “because it was certain that should the discussions at the meetings become known at the lower levels, fanatical opposition would be raised by some of the military officers, and the effort to make peace would be seriously hampered or even frustrated.” 38 To make Togo’s job even more difficult, there was a division among the members. The peace group, led by Togo, who had the support of two generals, believed that any thought of a victory on the home island “was illusory” and Japan’s position would continue to worsen. The war group, which included the supported of several powerful military leaders, maintained that continuing the struggle would allow the Japanese better terms of surrender. The government considered using China, Switzerland, Sweden, and even the Vatican as mediators, but these countries could not influence the decision-makers of the United States the way the Soviet Union might. Once Germany surrendered in May 1945, the SCDW’s interest of the Soviet option intensified. Army leaders hoped for a renewal of the Neutrality Pact, because it would permit a Schoenberber, Decision, pp. 164-165.
redeployment of troops from Manchuria to the home islands.39 While the Navy thought that, it might be able to acquire fuel from the USSR. Togo, however, saw the futility of attempting any rapprochement with the Soviet Union. “It was too late,” he realized, Japan was no longer in a position to confront the Soviet Union and the Stalin regime knew it. At best, the Japanese could only hope that the Soviet s would mediate on their behalf, but only after providing significant concessions in return.40 While the Japanese made cautious overtures to the Soviets, the reached agreement on new national policy. The “Fundamental Policy to be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War” endorsed the “army’s final, comprehensive demand that the nation engage the enemy on Japan’s own shores, for only thus … could the imperial land be preserved and the national policy maintained.”41 Emperor Hirohito accepted this policy without saying a word, which further pushed the Japanese towards the Decisive Battle that the military leaders wanted. The Fundamental Policy discouraged, but did not stop the advocates of peace. Neither Foreign Minister Togo nor the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kido took the new fight-to-the-death policy seriously, “for they expected the deteriorating military situation to cut away the basis for such a last-ditch defense.”42 When the United States announced on June 22, 1945 that Okinawa was secure on June 22, 1945, Emperor Hirohito told the SCDW that he desired that “concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts be made to implement them.”43 The Japanese had already tried to open talks with the Soviet ambassador to Japan, Jacob A. Malik, to gain Russian mediation, and Togo now used the Japanese Ambassador in Frank, Downfall, p. 94.
Schoenberber, Decision, pp. 165 - 166.
Ibid., p. 167.
Frank, Downfall, p. 102.