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«A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College In partial fulfillment of the ...»

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Moscow, Sato Naotake, to sound the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav M. Molotov. To aid in seeking a mediated peace, the Emperor offered to send Prince Konoye as a special Imperial Envoy to Moscow to convey the Emperor’s wish to end the war. “However, as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender our country has no alternative but to see through in an all-out effort for the sake of survival and the honor of the Homeland.”44 The Soviets refused to meet with the Imperial Envoy. The negotiations between Malik and Japan’s negotiator Hirota Hira and talks between Sato and Molotov were fruitless, since the Soviets had no intentions in brokering a peaceful end to Pacific War.45 Washington demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan, but policy makers and military planners were concerned that the Japanese would fight to the last man, rather than accept that humiliation. That, at least, was the logical conclusion to which Japan’s public conduct led.

Furthermore, at no time during Tokyo’s attempts to put out peace feelers did the Japanese Government contact the United States about a potential settlement. The United States and Britain were aware of the Japanese token peace movement, since American cryptographers had broken Japanese ciphers earlier in the war, but the common theme of these deciphered messages between Ambassador Sato, in Moscow and Foreign Minister Togo was that Japan would never accept unconditional surrender. American leaders had to rely on the proven fact that the Japanese army preferred death to surrender. American analysts, moreover, concluded that Tokyo might well put out such “peace overtures” simply to cause tension among the Allies. Those overtures went unanswered by the Soviets, who had pledged at the Yalta Conference in February to enter the war against Japan three months after the surrender of Germany.46 Feis, Japan Subdued, p. 56.

Schoenberber, Decision, pp. 166 - 169.

McCullough, Truman, p.413.

Within the American Government, there were two views on how to get the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender. The “retentionists” view wanted to redefine the terms to allow them to retain the Emperor as a figurehead. Joseph C. Grew, former ambassador to Tokyo and now the Acting Secretary of State, was the leading advocate of this view and presented it to President Truman on May 28, 1945. Grew’s argument centered on the need to keep the Emperor in place to make the demilitarization of over 2 million Japanese troops easier and to minimize friction between the Japanese people and American occupation forces. Truman was receptive and suggested that Grew consult the chiefs of staff and services. Both Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal agreed, but their main issue with Grew’s proposal was when to send such a revised surrender terms to the Japanese. The consensus was to issue the updated terms only after the fall of Okinawa, prior to that the Japanese military might use it as a sign of a “crumbling American Resolve.”47 The opposing view was from the “abolitionists,” who believed that the ruthless Japanese warrior system and the current political system were the same. The only way to ensure that Japan did not pose a threat in the future was to eliminate both systems, which included removal of the Emperor. Assistant Secretary of States Dean Acheson and former Secretary of State Cordell Hull were the main advocates of this view. Their opinion, along with other opponents of Grew’s proposal, was that “a failure to extirpate the Imperial system would assure an eventual regrowth of a political culture bent on conquest.”48 When Secretary of State Byrnes asked Hull for his opinion of a revised declaration that included keeping the emperor, Hull was not pleased about the possible change in US demands. He stated, “The statement sounded too much like appeasement of Japan, especially after the resolute stand we had maintained on unconditional Frank, Downfall, pp. 214-216.

Ibid., p. 216.

surrender.”49 The American people and members of congress felt strongly about removing Hirohito and trying him as a war criminal. “Hirohito must go, was a familiar theme in much of the war time press.”50 The options the American leadership had to force the Japanese into accepting unconditional surrender were complex and had no clear-cut solution. By the time Truman left for the Big Three Conference in Potsdam, American forces were staging for the final assault onto the Japanese mainland. The sustained air bombardment and naval blockade of Japan had not broken the fighting spirit of the Japanese. Even with all the military means available to the Allies, some senior American leader still pushed to end the war through a negotiated surrender short of unconditional surrender. When Truman finally issued the Japanese an ultimatum at the conclusion of the Potsdam Conference, the fate of the Emperor remained unclear and the Japanese had to decide to accept the ultimatum or fight their Decisive Battle to the last man.

–  –  –

The decision to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese Empire was not an easy task for President Truman. The day he was sworn into office, Secretary of War Stimson brought to light a secret weapon that could end the war. In his memoirs, Truman stated, “My knowledge of these developments had come about only after I became President, when Secretary Stimson had given me the full story.”1 Stimson was overall responsible for the atomic bomb project, known as S-1. As Vice-President, Truman was not well informed about on going military operations and was totally unaware that the United States was developing atomic weapons. That all changed on April 24, 1945, when Stimson along with General Groves, the project manager, briefed the new president on the development of atomic energy and what domestic and international issues the United States could face. Following the meeting, Truman authorized Stimson to form a committee of experts to serve as advisors to the President on all aspects of this new weapon. 2 Later that year prior to the Potsdam Conference in July, Truman met with his senior advisors several times to get their recommendations and opinions on current plans for defeating Japan, minimizing American casualties, and how to deal with the Russians.

The idea of the Interim Committee was already in the making when Stimson got authority to officially form it. The members selected to serve on the committee were all civilians and represented various areas within the United States government. The eight members included;

Secretary of War Stimson, George L. Harrison, Stimson’s special consultant, James F. Byrnes, the President’s special representative, Ralph Bard, Under Secretary of the Navy, William L.

Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State, and finally three prominent scientists Vannevar Bush, Harry S. Truman, Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, Volume One: Year of Decisions, p.419.

Elting E. Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson, pp. 623 – 624.

President of the Carnegie Institute in Washington, Karl T. Compton, President of M.I.T., and James B. Conant, President of Harvard. Additionally, Stimson appointed an advisory panel of scientists to assist the Interim Committee member’s on the technical aspects of the new weapon.

The selected physicists included Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, Ernest Lawrence, from the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, Arthur Compton and Enrico Fermi, both from the University of Chicago. The main purpose of the committee and its members was to advise the President on any questions that relate to the new weapon and to provide an independent recommendation on how to employ the weapon against Japan, if at all.3 The Interim Committee met informally several times, the first time was on May 9, 1945 in the Pentagon at Stimson’s office. Stimson opened the meeting by stating, “Gentlemen, it is our responsibility to recommend action that may turn the course of civilization.”4 The Secretary of War laid out the committee’s agenda that involved the studying and reporting on the many problems that were involved in the project. These problems included the current wartime controls, recommendations on postwar research, development, controls and needed legislation.

At no time during the meeting did Stimson tell the committee members that their task was to decide to use the bomb or not. The main purpose of this informal meeting was to educate all the members on S-1 and have them prepared for the formal meeting on May 31.5 The entire Interim Committee, scientific panel and select military representatives met for the first time as a group on May 31 and again on Jun 1. Stimson reiterated the committee’s purpose and the significance of the new weapon. He emphasized that the committee would provide its findings and recommendations to him as advisors and it was he and General David McCullough, Truman, p. 390.


Walter S. Schoenberber, Decision of Destiny, pp 124 – 125.

Marshall’s responsibility to provide the best and most accurate recommendations for military use to the President. As in the informal meetings, Stimson identified several topics to discuss that included the future use of the atomic bomb as weaponry, international competition, research and development, weapons and material control, and possible use in nonmilitary ways. The committee then received a detailed description of the possible effects of the destructive power.

However, the committee had to understand that the development of the weapon was still under way and most of their analysis was a prediction of the weapons destructive capabilities.6 The scientists of the Committee: Lawrence, Oppenheimer and both the Comptons believed the United States should continue its dominance in the field of nuclear development and weapons production. The United States needed to produce enough weapons and material to establish stockpiles for future military and industrial use. They also believed that unrestricted research in the postwar would insure that the U.S. maintained its edge in the development and stockpiling of nuclear material. The major security concern was with the involvement of the Soviet Union and how much of the research information they should receive. Oppenheimer, Lawrence, and Karl Compton favored giving Russia the basic information on the project.

However, Bush believed the United States could not remain ahead of the Russians in an arms race if we gave them this information. General Marshall and Arthur Compton took the military view and pointed out that the “uncooperative attitude of Russia” stems from their own security issues. Marshall and Compton favored cooperation between “like-minded nations” so the United States could improve its political relationship with Russia.7 The discussion then turned to how to use the bomb against Japan and then considered alternatives to its direct military use that included giving “detailed advanced warning” to the Ibid., pp. 132 – 133.

Ibid., pp 133 – 134.

Japanese or a demonstration of the weapon in an isolated area of Japan. After debating each alternative, the Advisory Panel of scientists “reported that, we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” The Committee adopted this statement as their recommendation to the Secretary of War.8 After two days of discussing the various topics, the Interim Committee and scientific panel, “Recommended that the bomb should be used as soon as possible in the war with Japan, without warning, and against a target that would reveal its devastating strength.”9 Following the Committee’s decision, Byrnes reported to the President with the recommended decision.

Stimson waited another five days to deliver the official recommendation to Truman at a conference, where the two discussed the impact of the bomb on Soviet-American relations, sending senators to tour the Clinton Works in Tennessee, and restrict the Air Force to only precision bombing of Japan. According to Stimson, the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan was made by Truman after Byrnes briefed him several days before and the question was never an issue after that.10 While the Interim Committee was busy formulating its recommendations on how to use the bomb and future policy, several scientists from the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago drafted a memo against the employment of the bomb against Japan. These scientists included Leo Szilard, who helped convince Roosevelt that the United States needed to research nuclear weapons and James Franck, who was the Chairman of the Chicago Scientists’ Committee or the Franck Committee. Their primary concern was that, by introducing the world to nuclear energy with a sudden attack on Japan, they would start an arms race with the Soviet Union. Instead, Morison, Turmoil, pp. 625 – 626.

Ibid., p.625.

Schoenberger, Decision, pp. 144 – 145.

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