We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
3 August 1945
The blockade of Japan is now complete
Soviet Invasion of Manchuria: Finishing the Japanese Army
In 1945, it became widely apparent that World War II would soon come to an end. With the surrender of Germany, the only opposition left was the empire of Japan.
The Soviet Union, which had hitherto watched from a distance as several naval battles were fought in the Pacific between other Allied nations and the Imperial Japanese Navy, decided it was finally time to intervene and crush the Japanese opposition.
Following the Tehran conference in November 1943, Premier Joseph Stalin had agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once the Germans were defeated. At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Stalin consented to join the Pacific conflict against Japan within three months of the war’s end in Europe.
The United Kingdom, United States, and China gave the Japanese Empire an ultimatum with the Potsdam Declaration: surrender, or face utter destruction.
The “Big Three” at the Tehran Conference Left to right- Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
On August 3, Marshal Vasilevsky reported to Stalin that he would be ready to attack Japan in two days if necessary. However, the Soviets were afraid because of the recent and shocking display of the United States’ position as an atomic power during the Hiroshima bombing on August 6.
Therefore the Soviet Union held off its intended invasion of Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island. The world would soon watch the Nagasaki bombing only three days afterward.
On August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on the Japanese Empire. This declaration was made by Soviet Foreign Prime Minister Vyacheslav Molotov to Japanese ambassador Naotake Satō at 11pm Trans-Baikal time. An hour later, the Soviets began their advance simultaneously on three fronts: to the east, west, and north of Manchuria.
Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation Part of the Soviet–Japanese War of World War II.Photo GFDL CC BY-SA 3.0
The Japanese military had recently dedicated the majority of its strength and resources to the Pacific battles with the Americans, and kept only a small number of its soldiers to defend against a land invasion closer to home.
Underestimating the size of the Soviet army, they failed to foresee a three-point attack into Manchuria, working instead with the incorrect assumption that even if there was an invasion, it would come through the old railway line into Hailar. They considered the Greater Khingan route leading directly to the center of Manchuria to be impassable.
Soviet T-34’s in winter.
From the west, the Red Army attacked through the deserts and mountains of Mongolia, and formed a coalition with Mongolian soldiers who helped defend the rear of the advancing army. The western invasion took the Japanese by surprise, so most of them were away from their designated positions.
Soviet Troops during the Sungari Offensive – Mil.ru CC BY 4.0
The Kwatung army, which was known for its ferocity in battle, was also confused and uncoordinated. Their army commanders away on tactical operations and there was no way to reach them in time because of poor lines of communication. In spite of all this, the Kwatung army still put up a decent formidable defense at Hailar, slowing the Soviet offense.
Basic map showing the Soviet invasion plan for Manchuria.Photo Dove CC BY 3.0
Simultaneously in the east, the Soviet army attacked through Suifenhe after they had crossed Ussuri, and advanced around Khanka Lake where they met Japanese soldiers. Despite putting up commendable resistance, the Japanese were outnumbered and unprepared for the Soviet invasion.
Meanwhile, Soviet aircraft seized airfields and claimed major landmarks in advance of their land forces. They were also used to carry fuel and other supplies to ground units.
Kwantung Army Special Maneuvers
The Red Army continued to advance deep into Manchuria amid resistance from the Japanese soldiers. On 15 August 1945, the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, recorded a radio broadcast called the Gyokuon-hōsō or Jewel Voice Broadcast, stating that the Japanese government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration.
Potsdam Conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Joseph Stalin (white uniform), William D. Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S. Truman (right).Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R67561 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Despite this announcement, small Japanese resistance groups continued to battle the Soviet soldiers, perhaps because surrendering was repugnant to the Japanese military, or because the Emperor had not used the exact word “surrender,” or perhaps simply because communication lines were poor and transmissions were sometimes incoherent.
Regardless, every so often small fierce battles occurred between the Kwatung soldiers and the Red army, which continued to advance until by August 20 it had reached Mukden, Changchun, and Qiqihar.
Rear-side angle view of IJA Type 95 Ha-Go of the Manchuria Tank School with inverted suspension components.
The Soviet-Mongolian coalition entered Inner Mongolia, now known as Mengjiang, and took control of Dolon Nur and Kalgan. The Soviet army also successfully captured the Emperor of Manchuria, who was also the former emperor of China, albeit unexpectedly in an airport while awaiting transport to Japan with some of his cabinet members. He was immediately sent to Chita, a city in Siberia near Lake Baikal.
Kwantung Army’s defense plan prior to Soviet Invasion (1945), based on Glantz’s maps in Levenworth Paper No 7 – Feb 1983. Map in Vietnamese.Photo Tazadeperla CC BY-SA 3.0
And still the Red Army continued its march, destroying any resistance it encountered along its path. It advanced toward the Korean peninsula, stopping a respectable distance from the Yalu River, and took control of the northern area of the peninsula, leaving the southern portion to the Japanese. This was done to honor the agreement made with the American government to divide the Korean peninsula.
Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches, September 2, 1945
The hugely successful attack on Manchuria by the Soviet army was an important victory for the Allied nations, and was a significant factor in the Japanese government’s decision to surrender unconditionally. This decisive battle led to the partitioning of the Korean peninsula, and also liberated Mongolia and Manchuria and returned them to China, which effectively ended Japanese domination in the region.
The story of Sunao Tsoboi illustrates both Hiroshima’s horrific legacy and the possibility of building a life in the aftermath of such a devastating event.
When the blast struck, Tsuboi, then a 20-year-old student, was walking to school. He’d declined a second breakfast at a student dining hall in case ‘the young woman behind the counter would think him a glutton’. Everyone in the dining room was killed.
He recalls a loud bang and being flung 10 feet through the air. When he regained consciousness Tsuboi was badly burned across most of his body and the sheer force of the blast had ripped his shirtsleeves and trouser legs off.
The city was physically destroyed and was rebuilt after the war.
The account he gave to The Guardian in 2015, the 70 th anniversary of the attack, paints a chilling picture of the nightmarish scenes that confronted stunned survivors in the immediate aftermath of the blast.
“My arms were badly burned and there seemed to be something dripping from my fingertips… My back was incredibly painful, but I had no idea what had just happened. I assumed I had been close to a very large conventional bomb. I had no idea it was a nuclear bomb and that I’d been exposed to radiation. There was so much smoke in the air that you could barely see 100 metres ahead, but what I did see convinced me that I had entered a living hell on earth.
“There were people crying out for help, calling after members of their family. I saw a schoolgirl with her eye hanging out of its socket. People looked like ghosts, bleeding and trying to walk before collapsing. Some had lost limbs.
“There were charred bodies everywhere, including in the river. I looked down and saw a man clutching a hole in his stomach, trying to stop his organs from spilling out. The smell of burning flesh was overpowering.”
The atomic bomb devastated the city of Hiroshima and is estimated to have killed 135,00 people.
Remarkably, at the age of 93, Tsuboi is still alive and able to recount his story. The physical toll that fateful day took on his body was significant – facial scars remain 70 years later and the protracted impact of radioactive exposure has led to him being hospitalised 11 times. He’s survived two cancer diagnoses and been told three times that he was on the cusp of death.
And yet, Tsuboi has persevered through the persistent physical trauma of radioactive exposure, working as a teacher and campaigning against nuclear arms. In 2011 he was awarded the Kiyoshi Tanimoto peace prize.
Timeline: The Road to Hiroshima
140,000 - Number of people in Hiroshima killed instantly or within months.
237,062 - Estimated total number of dead due to aftereffects, including radiation poisoning and cancer.
80,000 - Number of people estimated to have died in Nagasaki.
Staff and students of the Japanese navy medical school attend to victims of the Hiroshima bombing. Mitsugi Kishida/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum hide caption
On August 6, 1945, the United States changed the face of warfare when it dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, U.S. forces detonated a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan, forcing an end to World War II. Here are the events leading up to that controversial attack.
President Truman Speaks
President Truman announces the dropping of an atomic bomb over Japan by the United States during his national radio address on August 9, 1945.
'The world will note. '
December 1941: Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and the United States enters World War II.
1942: Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer becomes director of the Manhattan Project, a U.S. government program formed to secretly build and test an atomic bomb. The project originally began to counter Nazi Germany.
A Survivor's Story
California optometrist Dr. Mytsuo Tomosawa, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, describes the attack during a special Senate forum on nuclear war on March 22, 1982.
'The city was burning.'
May 7, 1945: Germany agrees to unconditional surrender, ending the war in Europe.
July 16, 1945: The United States successfully detonates the worlds first atomic bomb at the Trinity test site in the desert of New Mexico.
August 6,1945: The first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at approximately 8:15 a.m. Nicknamed Little Boy, the bomb is released from the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber piloted by Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets. It explodes 2,000 feet above ground, killing 80,000 people instantly. One of the main arguments for use of the bomb by U.S. officials is that it would force Japan to surrender unconditionally.
August 9, 1945: An atomic bomb is dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, by a B-29 bomber piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney. It explodes 1,540 feet above the ground. The original target for the bomb, nicknamed Fat Man, is Kokura, Japan. Due to cloud cover, the bomb is instead detonated over Nagasaki, the alternate location. It is estimated that 75,000 people are killed immediately.
August 9, 1945: Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, President Truman speaks to the nation in a radio address: The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. By this time, the United States had already dropped its second bomb on Nagasaki.
August 1945: A Time for Peace
Elmer responded to these momentous events in a letter to his parents on August 12th. “The world has been shaking with news since I wrote home last Wednesday,” he reflected. “And in a matter of hours this war may come to an end – please God.” Elmer discussed how he and his shipmates responded to the news. “Since last Wednesday when news of our new atomic bomb came out, our whole ship has been tensed for all the news . . . I hope within the next twenty four hours that Japan will agree to our terms. They can’t hope for a better deal.”
Elmer quickly pivoted to the $64,000 question: if the war was about to end, then when would he be able to get home?
It will mean so much if the war ends. Of course, it may be months before I get my discharge. But with my time over-seas and length of service I should be eligible for discharge under any system of demobilization the Navy may use. I sure hope so! We will hope for the best. The main thing is to end the war, after the war is over we know it is only a matter of time before I will be coming home to stay. I’ve been thinking about you at home and somehow knowing how you must feel at this time. And I bet Rosie is plenty excited too.”
Elmer to his Parents, 12 August 1945
He also reflected on the new deus ex machina that brought the war to a climax so quickly, circumventing what many believed would be an inevitable – and bloody – invasion of the Japanese home islands. “It has all been so sudden that I can’t seem to believe it,” he wrote. “That bomb must be horrible.” Perhaps realizing right then what the existence of such a weapon might mean for the world, he reflected further on what the invention would mean for humanity. “Let’s hope and pray that new atomic bomb will be a symbol of everlasting peace in the future. God knows what the hell this world will see if another war comes with weapons like that . . . [The atomic bomb] can be a continuous reminder to people that another war will bring world destruction. Maybe in that way we can keep peace.”
A few days later, Elmer continued to ponder the history being made right at that moment. “The news has kept us up and down concerning the Jap surrender business,” he wrote. “Most of us did not know how we stood in this war. And more rumors can be circulated! But it seems the Japs are finally surrendering and only certain formalities [remain] to be carried out in signing the surrender.” He wondered about what his friends and family in St. Louis were thinking. If anything could cut through the gooey heat of a Missouri summer, he suspected, it would be news of victory. “I try to imagine how all this news is effecting [sic] at home. No doubt many are getting drunk and raising hell,” he wrote, before adding a beat later that “we would if we could out here.” However, for the time being they still had work to do. “We are still at our jobs as usual. Waiting to see how the war’s end will effect [sic] us. It may be months before they start demobilizing. But you can only hope for the best.”
Elmer then wrote about his journey over the past four years. While the war had come to a horrible end for Japan, the engineer recalled that its beginning was just as jarring for the United States.
“My biggest hope when this war started at Pearl Harbor was to live and see it end. May sound funny, but it looked so bad at first for us that I didn’t want to die for fear that I wouldn’t know who won the war in the end. Now when I look back over the three years and eight months of this war, it is amazing to realize how much has been accomplished. I know you will feel more relieved and have more peace of mind about me since the war is ending (I’ll feel a little better too. Ha! Ha!) But I feel that my chances for an early discharge are very good. And before you know it I’ll be back home as a ‘Joe Civilian.'”
Elmer to his Parents, 15 August 1945
Elmer’s emotions continued to pour out as he segued to talking about his love life. Although Elmer had already told his parents that he had settled on Rose, he did not mention wanting to marry her until August 15 – the formal Japanese surrender date. “Mom,” he wrote reassuringly, “I know you will like Rosie very much. Sometime in the future I hope to marry her.” This must have come as a surprise to his parents, considering the speed with which this long-distance romance seemed to crystallize. But Elmer assured his parents that he no longer had any qualms about his future with her. “I suppose there comes a time to every man,” he noted, “when he feels that the right girl has been found. It is hard to explain, yet it is an understanding and inner feeling that you have the girl to make you a real wife.” After years of trying to convince his parents that he was too young to get married, Elmer now worried that they did not think him old enough. “To you, I am still your baby. Always will be I guess. But I am actually twenty-five you know. And I’m glad I’ve waited this long before getting serious . . . I have changed my ideas about women so much since I left home . . . in fact, I feel matured beyond my years.” This was no doubt true, as Elmer by that point had spent nearly his entire post-adolescent life in the service. He had seen war first-hand, traveled across two oceans and three continents, and had achieved one of the highest ratings he could get as an enlisted reservist. He was entitled to make this decision for himself.
It is hard to know what his parents had to say about this turn of events, given the fact that Elmer never saved any of their letters. Based on what we can surmise from his correspondence, it seems that they were likely thrown for a loop by his whirlwind romance with Rose, and they might have pushed back on that some in their letters. They might have reminded him at one point that he was still young and still at war – precisely the same point Elmer made himself repeatedly over the past four years, ever since his ill-fated courtship with Pat O’Donnell in 1941. His mother sensed a change in Elmer’s descriptions of Rose, however, which is already discernible just by reading his increasingly long discussions of her and their relationship. She expressed anxiety over whether or not Rose would like her, which is something that Elmer had not commented on in earlier letters with respect to her meeting other girlfriends. His father, meanwhile, seemed to play the Devil’s Advocate (as fathers are wont to do – mine still does!). Knowing his son’s intention over the past four years was to wait to marry until after being mustered out likely made him write a letter to Elmer asking him to clarify his reasons for committing to Rose. This was a reasonable response, to be sure, but since Elmer was 10,000 miles away it may have seemed less reasonable when reading his father’s questions without the benefit of answering them in person.
Elmer sensed something was off when he wrote his parents about the matter in July. He decided to clear the air:
“Guess I sound like I’m going to dash right home and get married,” he wrote, maybe a bit defensively. “But that is not my intention at all. Mom, you said something about Rose expecting a ring. She didn’t say a word about being engaged. I asked her to wait for me and she said she would. But I told her later that we would be engaged when I got home. So the ring will come then. But until I go home and reestablish myself I won’t get married. That may take a year or more. Whether to go to school or to get a job is something I must decide when I get back home. Then I can see how the situation stands. If I was home I could explain myself better, but I think you understand how I feel. And we will have a lot of time to talk things over.”Elmer to his Parents, 15 August 1945
By the end of the month, Elmer had heard Rose’s account of her meeting with his parents. She had since quit her job in the Navy Department to move back to Saint Louis, so she was free to call on her prospective in-laws. “I told Rose what a fine Mom and Dad I had and she agrees with me a hundred percent. I know she was very happy and pleased to meet you both, I know by the way she writes.” He was a little nervous about how they responded, however. “You didn’t have much to say about Rosie, Dad. But I know you have faith in me and my judgment. As you said, it is how I feel toward Rosie.” In the final analysis, though, regardless of what his parents thought, he knew it was his decision.
“Naturally, I don’t expect you to know and understand her as I do on your first meeting. And I am the one in love with her. I’ve never felt this way about any other girl, and perhaps you don’t understand the way I feel. But in some way, maybe instinct or insight, I am sure that Rose is the girl I want for a wife someday. I won’t try to explain ‘love,’ too many think they can or have failed trying. As I have faith in you, as my mother and father, I have this faith and trust in a girl I want to have for a life partner. I believe this is very necessary. And I know I am right.”Elmer to his Parents, 29 August 1945
If his parents had any remaining doubts up until that point, that paragraph must have extinguished them. After all, the most frequently described characteristic of love is its very indescribability. Elmer’s trajectory over the past four years may seem personally and intimately familiar to many readers: from being resolutely and vocally opposed to marriage for one reason or another, to announcing one’s engagement. It is not so much that Elmer or anyone else renounces the argument that they should wait, but that the eventually find the person for whom they were waiting in the first place.
When not discussing his love life, Elmer continued to write about the ship’s morale as the surrender rumors turned into news reports. The crew was preoccupied with when they would be discharged and sent home. “All you hear out here is ‘points,’ ‘points,’ and more ‘points,'” he wrote on August 22nd. “Everyone wants to get out and get home.” The United States Armed Forces introduced a Points system that summer in order to prioritize who would go home first, and who would have to stay behind for a while. Disassembling a victorious military in peacetime was like surfacing after a deep sea dive – doing so without slowly depressurizing would be catastrophic. “You just can’t jump off all the ships and leave them set,” he wrote. “It will take time to demobilize.” There was also some suspicion that Japan’s surrender entreaties were not made in good faith, with Elmer at point calling Japan “a sneaky damn outfit” as negotiations between the Empire and the Americans continued at a slower-than-desired pace.
For the Mink’s part, all of the American ships on the far side of the Pacific still had to get home. If all of the oilers and tankers disappeared, they would be stranded without fuel. Yet Elmer was high on the priority list: he had 40 1/2 points. Discharge required 44. “Considering my age (only 25) and the fact that I’m not married or having a dependent, I stand pretty high,” he noted. “Of course, it is because of my long service. But many married men aboard in their middle thirties have no more points than I do. And young fellows in their teens don’t have half as many points. So I won’t complain about the deal.”
Apparently his family back home was more than aware of the Points system – they were also crunching the numbers. It became something of a game for loved ones to correctly reckon the government’s math, and Elmer’s family sent their guesses to their man on the Mink. Most of them were a bit optimistic. “Looks like brother Bud is the only one at home that figured my points out right,” Elmer announced, as if he were emceeing a pub trivia night. “At least, he figured I didn’t have enough, and that’s right.” but Elmer did have some good news to report on August 29th. “We heard that in the near future the Navy was going to allow more points to men who that have done over-seas duty,” he wrote. “Just how many points hasn’t been announced yet, but it would only take three or four to bring my score up to 44 points. If the Navy is going to demobilize a million or more men within the next year, I feel sure within six months I should be getting out.”
Nonetheless, he looked forward to going home. He declined to send a money order home that month, informing his parents that he might need it for a leave home if the opportunity arose. On the 29th he asked his parents to stop sending him packages, telling them, “I can get all the things I need out here, or else it can wait till I get to the states (I’m hoping it won’t be too long).” As August turned into September, he believed that sooner would be better than later for a break from the tropical heat:
It’s been pretty damn hot lately – but its always hot or hotter. Back home it will be September soon and autumn [is] just around the corner. Leaves falling and weather comfortable for a sweater or a jacket. I’ve said it before and I say it again, give me four seasons a year.”Elmer to his Parents 25 August 1945
The seasons were indeed changing, even in the sultry Pacific. As summer turned to fall elsewhere, the vaporizing heat of atomic fire would soon lead to the slow, frozen chill of a new Cold War, once again wrapping the world in a fresh set of anxieties. But for Elmer, his service would soon be over. He would celebrate Halloween in St. Louis that year, enjoying the crisp fall breeze and the hot apple cider, dressed as a civilian.
Modern Chinese History V: The Chinese Civil War 1945-49
On August 6 and August 9 the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By August 14 the Japanese surrendered, bringing to an abrupt end the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese War and WWII into which the Sino-Japanese War had been subsumed. The Kuomintang (KMT) – also called the Nationalist Party – led by Chiang Kai-Shek was exhausted by the war effort. Inflation, poor management, harsh conscription policies and battle fatigue had also seriously undermined civilian support for his regime.
In contrast, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came out of the war stronger than before. After having been almost wiped out by the Long March in 1935, the communists in Yan’an led by Mao Zedong now controlled 1 million square kilometers of land populated by nearly 100 million people. The CCP also had almost a million party members and a million Red Army soldiers. As importantly, the communists had developed a reputation for honesty, for showing real concern for the Chinese people and for efficient governance.
General Wedemeyer, commander-in-chief of the American forces in the China-Burma-India theatre, warned Washington in 1945 that if peace came swiftly to China, there would be extensive disorder as the KMT had no national reconstruction plan. Moreover, Wedemeyer also told Washington that KMT authority would continue to be seriously challenged by growing communist strength, by a disillusioned populace, by chronic economic mismanagement and by continued alliances with self-interested warlords.
The communists had significantly increased CCP membership and support by the end of the war
After WWII ended, the US tried to shore up KMT strength by air-lifting KMT troops into position to accept Japanese surrender to prevent the CCP from taking command in as many areas as possible. The US also continued to provide Chiang Kai-Shek’s government with military and financial aid. US envoys such as General George Marshall also worked to negotiate a power-sharing truce between the KMT and Communists in the form of a democratic-oriented government with an elective assembly. Yet, as Marshall mediated to create real power sharing between the various Chinese political parties, China moved closer to all-out Civil War. By January 1947, the US disbanded its mediation liaisons and withdrew from involvement in China, much to the shock of Chiang Kai-shek who believed that the US would never abandon its country to communism. Chiang Kai-shek failed to believe that the US would be willing to replace China with Japan as the keystone of its East Asian policy.
In the early stages of the Civil War, the KMT seemed to have all the advantages. Not only did it out number the communists 2 ½-1 in terms of men and equipment, but it was also receiving military and financial support from the US. An early string of KMT victories between July and December 1946 seemed to bear this belief out. Indeed, in March 1947 the KMT captured the Communist wartime base in Yan’an. However, abuse of power, crushing inflation, and poor military strategy soon turned the KMT advantage.
By mid-1947, the KMT military machine began to founder, while the Communist army continued to expand in numbers. Chiang Kai-shek’s initial string of victories soon turned to losses. Between September 1948 and January 1949 the KMT lost 1.5 million men to death, injury, desertion and surrender. Faced with such overwhelming troop losses, the KMT defence collapsed in mid-1949. On October 1, 1949 Mao declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Meanwhile what remained of the KMT government retreated to Taiwan, taking with them huge quantities of dynastic art and most of the nation’s supply of gold and silver.
The End of the Sino-Japanese War
Americans airlifting troops in China
After the Japanese defeat, the US supported Chiang Kai-shek by airlifting close to a half million of Chiang Kai-shek’s troops to key cities in order to accept Japanese surrender in advance of the Communists. It also placed 50,000 American marines in the key ports and communication centers to await the arrival KMT troops. The scale of the surrender was immense and took months. Over 1.25 million Japanese soldiers, 900,000 and 1.75 million Japanese civilians had to be disarmed and transported from the country.
For its part, the CCP ordered its troops to seize as many Japanese-occupied towns, cities and communication centers as possible, receiving their surrender and their military supplies. Communists efforts were not supported by the Americans and were strongly opposed by the KMT. Indeed, often the Japanese were instructed to continue to fight the CCP until the KMT could move into position. In Manchuria, Chiang Kai-shek asked Stalin to hold the province until the KMT could assume control. Yet, the CCP were well positioned geographically in the north, especially for Manchuria. Not only was Manchuria relatively close to their northern Shaanxi base, but it also had an active underground communist movement that rapidly resurfaced. Despite being ravaged by years of fighting, Manchuria remained a good prize. It was rich in resources, and had a developed industrial base, large cities, good food stores and a hilly and forested topography that would allow protection for communist guerrilla forces.
Chinese communist troops head north to Manchuria
On August 11, 1945, CCP leader Lin Biao led a 100,000 man army along the Beijing-Mukden Railway into Manchuria. They joined up with 150,000 People’s Self-Defense fighters organized by the re-surfacing Manchurian communists. Many of the People’s Self-Defense fighters were either native Manchurian or Koreans who had fled during the Japanese invasion of their country. In the weeks after the Japanese surrender, the CCP extended their territory from 116 to 175 counties. The communists fighters also successfully secured the industrial city of Harbin with a population of almost 800,000 people, giving it its first urban base since the Northern Expedition.
Their efforts were helped by the Soviets who – when not busy stripping Manchuria of food, gold and equipment – allowed the communists to take hold of large arms and ammunition stores. Yet the Soviets did not set up the CCP to takeover Manchuria. Instead, Stalin insisted that the communists negotiate with the KMT to form a coalition government. Despite Stalin’s ideological proclamations of international communist revolutions, Stalin’s real-politic objective was to keep China weak so it could be used as a platform to expand Russian influence in East Asia.
KMT troops significantly outnumbered the Red Army at the start of the war
Despite CCP success in Manchuria, overall the KMT was better positioned by the time the dust settled after the Japanese surrender. The government had retaken control of almost all important cities in communication centers in central, east and southern China. The KMT had a men and materials superiority of 2 ½ – 1, the support of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, as well as the backing of the US – the most powerful country in the world. Because of what he believed to be his overwhelming advantages and because Chiang was confident he could now destroy the communists once and for all, Chiang made the ill-fated decision to send almost a half million troops of his best troops to Manchuria despite American advice that he should first consolidate his control south of the Great Wall.
Communists in Manchuria
The communists put high taxes on luxury goods such as those sold in the Minakai Department store located in Hsingking, the Japanese capital of Manchukuo
The CCP’s control of industrial city of Harbin marked the first time since the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 that the Communists had a large base in an urban environment. Their experiences there were to prove important once the Civil War began to expand communist power southward. To facilitate the task of urban government, the CCP divided the city into six districts which were further divided into 58 street governments each overseeing a population of approximately 14,000 citizens. Once in control, the CCP launched registration campaigns, arrested thieves and other “destructive elements”, organized citizens into self-policing organizations, and employed urban workers to assist the PLA in transporting goods and wounded soldiers from the various fronts.
The CCP also worked conscientiously to restore order to the economy. They kept prices low for fuel, grain and cooking oil, but instituted more punitive taxes for tobacco, cosmetics and luxury goods. They also taxed businesses. Additionally, they launched a so-called Voluntary Contribution Campaign using mass media, public meetings and coercion, the CCP succeeded in raising an additional 200 million yuan to fund its fighting. Once again, CCP economic and government policies contrasted sharply with KMT practices in Manchuria.
The KMT formed alliances with hated Japanese collaborators or had their cronies displace local officials. The new KMT leaders would then often use their new posts for self-enrichment. Rocketing military expenses and economic mismanagement again forced the KMT to print money, fueling inflation, despite the KMT’s efforts to isolate Manchuria from China’s national surging inflation by introducing its own Manchurian currency.
KMT’s failure to meet Governing Challenges After the War
KMT in-fighting over the return of property confiscated by the Japanese such as the Manchurian Coal Company hurt economic recovery
Despite American assistance at the beginning of the war, the KMT quickly started to fritter away their authority. To begin with, the KMT were militarily, financially and spiritually exhausted. This exhaustion gave them little bandwidth to tackle the corruption and economic mismanagement that had plagued the party throughout its time in power. They also undermined their popular support by forming alliances with dodgy warlords, including many known Japanese collaborators. Even when anti-Japanese collaborator regulations were implemented in September 1946, loopholes allowed many to escape punishment and receive appointments, much to the outrage of the Chinese public. Abuse of power and scandal became widespread, often relating to the return of property confiscated by the Japanese during their Chinese occupation. Disputes forced factories and business premises to remain closed longer than had been promised, throwing people out of work and further weakening local economies already ravaged by war and inflation. Unemployment rose. A reduction in defense spending and some demobilization increased unemployment figures further.
Equally corrosive was Chiang Kai-shek’s poor management of the national currency and the money supply. During the war, exchange rates and even currency varied by region. Many of the Japanese-puppet regimes had issued their own money. After the war, currency speculation became rife.
Excessive KMT printing of money led to economic chaos and high inflation
Making matters worse was the persistent budget deficit. This meant that the KMT were constantly short of money. The knee-jerk response to this shortage was to print banknotes which resulted in catastrophic inflation. Wholesale prices, for instance, increased 30% per month from 1945-1948. Anyone on the fixed salary was hit hard. Soaring inflation destroyed the livelihood of hundreds of millions of Chinese. Industrial workers, for instance, had their purchasing power sharply eroded. They began to strike in protest, encouraged by underground Communists who again began to infiltrate workers’ unions. The KMT tried hard to negotiate with workers in order to avoid more conflict, offering, for instance, wage rates based on 1936 pay scales which were then multiplied by a current cost of living index this, in turn, displeased employers who felt that the higher wages eroded Chinese competitiveness.
When the new wage scheme proved ineffective, the KMT instituted price and wage ceilings, setting prices for rice, flour, cotton, cloth, fuel, salt, sugar and edible oil and locking wages into the January 1947 cost of living index. These controls had some effect through March 1947, but hoarding, inadequate enforcement and distribution problems eventually caused inflation to return. By May 1947, the price and wage ceilings were abandoned. Even a July 1947 American plan to distribute food and fuel at low prices through the Central Bank of China did little to halt inflation’s rise. In a last-ditch and ultimately unsuccessful attempt, the KMT issued ration cards for staple foods to urban citizens.
Facing an increasingly serious crisis which was quickly wearing away their power base, in July 1948 Chiang Kai-shek and his financial advisor T.V. Soong decided to introduce a gold yuan, abandoning its current currency. Soong and his other financial advisors warned Chiang Kai-shek that the currency would not hold unless the deficit was dramatically reduced, which in turn would mean that military spending would have to be cut. They had also hoped to support the new currency with loans from the US which they were unable to secure after Truman was re-elected in 1948.
Demoralized KMT troops had little desire to fight their own countrymen
In order to increase confidence in the gold yuan, the KMT committed to printing a maximum of 2 billion yuan worth of notes. To support the currency further, wage and price increases were banned as were strikes and demonstrations. Sales taxes were increased to raise more revenue. All gold and silver bullion held by Chinese citizens were to be turned over to the banks (although many were reluctant to comply.) Yet, despite the KMT’s efforts, the gold yuan also failed. By October 1948 inflation returned, along with shortages of food, goods and medical supplies. Barter began to flourish in the absence of functioning monetary system.
KMT soldiers too were battle-weary. Patriotism and the ever-growing prospect of victory gave the KMT troops the energy they needed to fight to the end of the Sino-Japanese war. Relieved, proud, the often-gang pressed troops now wanted to return home for a much looked-for rest. They had no desire to launch into a Civil War to fight against their own people. They especially had no desire to be sent to Manchuria where the local population and the terrain was unfriendly and unfamiliar.
Failed Marshall Mission
Ambassador Hurley encouraged a reluctant Mao to negotiate with the KMT 1945
Despite the KMT’s economic and military challenges, Chiang Kai-shek proceeded with plans to destroy the communists once and for all while the Americans worked actively to create a KMT-CCP power-sharing truce that would avoid civil war and that would install some form of a democratic-oriented government which shared power through an elective assembly. In August 1945, Ambassador Hurley accompanied a reluctant Mao Zedong from Yan’an to Chongqing to negotiate with Chiang Kai-shek. Despite the KMT’s apparent strength, Mao Zedong was confident that the CCP would eventually control a large area north of lower Yangtze and Huai Rivers, yet he also believed that securing the territory would take time.
Given that he was outnumbered both in men and arms, Mao adopted a flexible and constructive negotiating position during the talks in order to buy the communists time. These initial talks lasted until October 10 and resulted in the publication of what seemed to be a collaborative set of tenets including the need for: political democracy, freedom of religion, speech, assembly, publication and person, an integrated military, and equal legal status for all political parties. A People’s Congress or National Assembly was to be called.
Yet undermining these public agreements was the fact that Chiang Kai-shek intended to a reassert KMT control over the entire country where, at the very least, Mao and the communists intended to hold on to the territory currently under its control. Given this, much of their promises were to prove empty including the agreement to integrate their military forces. While the CCP did pull their troops out of southern China, they consolidated their hold over their territories in the north. In November 1945, the KMT attacked the CCP in the north. Zhou Enlai, who had remained in Chongqing to continue negotiations, returned to Yan’an and Ambassador Hurley unexpectedly resigned.
Truman sent General George Marshall to negotiate a power sharing arrangement between the CCP and the KMT
Still earnest in his desire to lead China onto a peaceful and democratic course, Truman sent General George Marshall as his envoy in December 1945. Marshall achieved a cease fire in January 1946, and got Chiang Kai-shek to agree to convene the People’s Congress as had been agreed during the August-October 1945 talks. Thirty-eight delegates, representing all of Chinese various political parties, assembled in Nanjing between January 11 and January 21 where they appeared to reach accord on the framework of a constitutional government, of a unified military command and of a national assembly. Yet despite these accords, military clashes between the KMT and the CCP recommenced.
Buoyed by a string of military victories, in July 1946 Chiang Kai-shek convened his own National Assembly in open disregard to the original agreement that no such Assembly should be called until all political parties first formed a coalition government. The CCP and the Democratic League boycotted the illegal assembly in protest. In a move reminiscent of Yuan Shikai’s efforts to take control of the National Assembly in 1914, Chiang Kai-shek proceeded without multi-party support, drafting a constitution that would cement his control of power.
Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek toast each other 1946
In June 1946, General Marshall again got the KMT and the CCP to call a halt to their fighting – particularly heavy in Manchuria – and to return to the negotiating table. He pressed both sides to reopen the railways which were a key to the country’s distribution system. Yet, even as these discussions were occurring, the KMT was organizing a second assault on CCP positions in Manchuria to be launched in July. The CCP, in turn, were hardening their position. They refused joint military leadership, declined to give up any territory that they controlled and refused to have dictated to them which policies they could implement within the territory that they governed. The CCP were also increasingly suspicious of American intentions. In their base areas, they began to voice anti-American propaganda about how the Imperial Americans were once again interfering in Chinese politics. In July 1946, the communists attacked an American supply convoy, killing four American Marines and wounding a dozen others.
In the face of renewed fighting, President Truman told General Marshall that the Americans would not support China if it dissolved into Civil War. He also re-articulated this in an August 10, 1946 letter to Chiang Kai-shek. Truman warned Chiang that if his positions did not become more flexible, American support would end. He encouraged Chiang to “outflank” the CCP through economic and social reforms instead of trying to crush them militarily. Yet, the KMT had always drawn its power from urban centers and from their business elite. It still paid little attentions to agrarian problems and remained largely unsympathetic to the peasants’ plight even though the peasants represented the overwhelming majority of the Chinese citizens. Chiang thus failed to recognize the revolutionary potential of the peasant masses. He never made any efforts to organize them for himself or to neutralize them with land and social reforms. Instead, for the most part, he continued policies that forced them into submission when the need arose, without ever considering what was making peasants revolt in the first place.
Chinese Peasants became radicalized due to KMT neglect of their conditions
Chiang Kai-shek also believed that the United States would never let China fall to the communists. It was true that the United States wanted to establish a new balance of power in the Pacific and East Asia in which it could play a dominant role. Such a policy required a strong alliance with either China or Japan. That said, the US’s first priority was to rebuild Europe. Because of this, it wished to achieve its East Asian goals as inexpensively as possible. As China began to spiral into Civil War, the US began to look to Japan as a better and cheaper option on which to build its East Asian strategy.
By January 1947 Truman reached the conclusion that the KMT and the CCP were determined to fight it out. Truman had no intention of embroiling US troops in a Chinese civil conflict. US mediators were recalled. When Truman stole the election from Dewey in 1948, it was the nail that sealed the end of significant US engagement in China. The KMT had carefully cultivated relations with the Republican Dewey who had said that, if elected, he would extend massive aid to the Chinese. Truman showed no such inclination. After his election, he twice turned down KMT requests for aid in November and December 1948.
Land and other Reforms in Communist-held Areas
The CCP began implementing land redistribution in the territory under its control
While American-led negotiations were occurring through 1947, the communist leaders moved from a land reform policy based on rent reductions and graduated taxes to a more aggressive policy of land redistribution and the eradication of tenancy in the areas that they controlled. The CCP were particularly active in launching this land reform policy in its original war-time base of Shaanxi, northern Jiangsu, and parts of Hebei and Shandong. The Communists efforts were most successful in areas ravaged by Japan’s Three All Policy as well as those provinces destroyed when Chiang Kai-shek broke the dikes of the Yellow River. In these areas, the Communist message of a new, fairer social order resonated with peasants mired in poverty. Also, years of fighting had weakened the peasants’ traditional social loyalties such as those to their lineage and religious associations. Often now, their villages and provinces were commanded by appointed officials whom the villagers considered nothing more than bullies and bandits.
Mass peasant engagement and violence became elemental to the land reform process. Mass meetings were used to unleash the anger of peasants against their wealthy landlords. These landlords were then subjected to public humiliation, beatings and even death while the peasants confiscated their land and often their food and wealth. Some of the land redistribution was temporarily reversed when KMT troops recaptured territory. Where landlord power was restored, the KMT and landlords retaliated harshly.
The Battle for the Nation Intensifies
Communist troops in the Battle of Siping
With land and other reforms in communist controlled areas now set in motion, Lin Biao began to transform the PLA into a conventional fighting force, moving away from the guerrilla tactics that had been the communist modus operandi up until now. On May 1, 1946 the CCP renamed the Eight Route Army and the New Fourth Army the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (“PLA”). Lin Biao employed his new methods successfully by repulsing a KMT attack on Harbin. Then, in November 1946 he crossed the frozen Sungari River and attacked KMT troops in their winter base. Lin Biao continued to strike across the river throughout their early months of 1947, and then in May 1947, he launched a massive attack on the railway junction of Siping with 400,000 troops.
Defeated by the KMT who were backed by air power, Lin reorganized his forces and then surrounded and isolated several key Nationalist-held Manchurian cities by cutting off rail access which was a major line of supply. The KMT’s fighting spirit eroded. In particular, KMT troops were demotivated by the disparity between their poor pay and that of the officers’ who often used their positions for self-enrichment. KMT troops in Manchuria were quickly adopting a siege mentality, digging in behind defensive lines instead of trying to proactively attack the CCP whose troops were buoyed by many native Manchurians who felt they were fighting for their homeland. This effectively allowed the CCP complete control of the Manchurian countryside. By May 1948, the position of Chiang Kai-shek’s troops in Manchuria was turning increasingly desperate. This was all the more important because Chiang had concentrated many of his best troops there, without having first consolidating military and civil control of the South. The KMT strongholds of Changchun and Mukden could now only be supplied by air.
KMT soldiers with straw shoes – poor equipment and corrupt KMT military leaders led to high desertion rates toward the end of the Civil War
Yet Chiang Kai-shek had too much invested in Manchuria to listen to his military advisors who proposed that he pull back behind the Great Wall in order to regroup his forces. Louyang was captured by the Communist in April 1948, cutting Xi’an off from the East. Subsequent CCP victories in Shandong isolated 100,000 KMT troops in Jinan. Under a separate assault in March 1948, the Communist led by Peng Dehuai recaptured their wartime base of Yan’an which had been taken by Chiang Kai-shek in March 1947.
At the city of Kaifeng on the Yellow River – which protected the key railway junction of Kaifeng – the communists pitted 200,000 season troops against about 300,000 KMT fighters. The CCP succeeded in holding Kaifeng for a week before being forced to retreat. Yet the victory cost the KMT lost 90,000 men. By October 1948, the city of Jinan fell to the CCP due in part to KMT troop desertion and to communist underground activity. This meant that Chiang Kai-shek now lost its last base in Shandong. Also in October 1948, Lin Biao succeeded in capturing both Mukden and Changchun, thus causing the desertion, surrender or elimination 400,000 of Chiang Kai-shek’s best troops.
Chiang Kai-shek’s Leadership Challenged
Chiang Kai-shek had been re-elected president in the spring 1948 by the National Assembly which had been boycotted by the CCP and the Democratic League. Yet continued economic, civil and military mismanagement was eroding his popularity. His support suffered further when in July 1948 government forces killed 14 and wounded over 100 students who had fled fighting in Manchuria and who were now living as refugees in Beijing. The students were shot when marching to protest their inadequate subsistence allowance which often forced them to beg in order to eat. On January 21, 1949, Chiang Kai-shek resigned as president, although he remained head of the Kuomintang Political Party. Chiang Kai-shek was replaced with Li Zongren.
The Final Communist Push
Peasants carting supply for communists
Having lost Shangdong, the KMT tried to regroup to defend northern China, or if that failed, the center of the country. In late 1948, Zhu De, Commander-in-Chief of all CCP forces, launched a successful 600,000 troop assault on the railway junction of Xuzhou against an equal number of KMT soldiers. In the 65 day battle that followed, the communists showed new skill with conventional warfare by outwitting the KMT generals who suffered from conflicting commands from Chiang Kai-shek and from heavy troop desertions. Deng Xiaoping orchestrated the communists’ logistical support by mobilizing 2 million peasants over four different provinces. Over the same period, Lin Biao captured Tianjin in January 1949. He then moved on to Beijing, convincing the KMT general to surrender. The KMT had lost the north of China.
The capture of so many large northern cities threw the communists into urban government as never before. Mao Zedong recognized this in March 1949 when he gave a report stating that the focus of communist efforts would begin to shift from the countryside into the cities while the PLA moved southward on its conquest of the country. In practical terms, their experience in Harbin was to prove invaluable. So was their initial decision to disrupt as little as possible the property and livelihoods of the people in the cities that they captured. To this effect, Chinese businesses were protected, urban property did not change hands, and factories were guarded from looting.
People’s Liberation Army enters Beijing
The PLA continued to maintain strict discipline in all the areas into which it moved. A people’s currency- the renminbi – soon replaced the KMT yuan. To try to prevent monetary chaos, only a short window was provided in which the yuan could be exchanged for the renminbi. Thereafter, any exchange in gold, silver or foreign currency was prohibited. Additionally, labor unions were not allowed to strike. Refugees were fed and repatriated when possible. Educational institutions continued to teach. Stockpiles of food were used by the government to stabilize food prices during times of shortage.
The KMT plan for a Final Retreat
Taipei Bureau of Monopoly occupied by angry crowd Taiwan 1947
By early 1949 the KMT was making contingency plans in the event of the once unthinkable- that communists could win control of the country. In 1945 China had reclaimed Taiwan from the Japanese who had ruled the island as a colony since 1895. When the KMT reinstalled a Chinese government in Japan after the war, the same patterns of KMT corruption and disregard continued. The KMT quickly alienated the local population. Taiwanese discontent came to a head in 1947 when Chinese troops fired into a group of Taiwanese gathered to protest the shooting of a woman selling cigarettes in contravention to a government monopoly. Over the following weeks, the KMT continued to treat the situation heavy-handedly by arresting and executing thousands of Taiwanese intellectuals and civilian leaders. It eventually imposed Martial Law in order to control the population.
By January 1949, the KMT began transporting to Taiwan thousands of crates of Qing Dynasty archives as well as a huge collection of China’s dynastic art taken from the Imperial Palace collection. Chiang Kai-shek also began to steadily build up on the island a force of over 300,000 soldiers personally loyal to him.
Li Zongren, the new KMT president, tried to prevent this final retreat by getting Mao Zedong to compromise on his conditions for KMT surrender. These conditions included provisions such as a complete reform of the land tenure system and the reorganization of KMT armies under communist command that were completely unacceptable to the KMT. By April 1949, the Communists gave President Li an ultimatum to accede to their conditions within five days or the communists would attack anew.
Nanjing fell on April 23 without resistance. Hangzhou and Wuhan were lost shortly thereafter. Shanghai was taken in May 1949. Xi’an, Lanzhou and Changsha were taken by August 1949. By September the KMT had lost Xinjiang, Suiyuan and Ningxia. By October the KMT surrendered Canton and Xiamen – the last port from which to retreat to Taiwan. By November 1949 Chiang Kai-shek’s wartime base of Chongqing was claimed as communist territory.
The People’s Republic of China
Mao Zedong founding People’s Republic of China October 1, 1949
Anticipating victory Mao Zedong convened a Political Consultative Conference in Beijing in late September 1949. The conference was dominated by the CCP while also including representatives from 14 other political parties. At a subsequent ceremony on October 1, 1949, standing atop the main entrance of the Ming and Qing Imperial Palace, Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The crews for Straight Flush, Full House, and Jabit III flew in their regularly assigned planes for the atomic bombing missions, but the crews regularly assigned to the Enola Gay, Bockscar, The Great Artiste, Necessary Evil, Laggin' Dragon, and Up an' Atom flew in different planes for the missions.
Crew A-3 (assigned to Next Objective), Crew A-4 (Strange Cargo), Crew B-7 (Some Punkins) flew on several combat missions over Japan from Tinian, but did not fly in the Hiroshima or Nagasaki atomic bombing missions. Crew C-12 (Luke the Spook) participated in training missions.
Counterfactual history — or alternate history — is not a genre that most professional historians indulge in. We’re quick to sneer at it, for good reason: it’s pure fantasy, and about as relevant to history as Star Trek is to serious physics. (Star Wars is, unfortunately, another story.)
But sometimes the genre of What If? can be somewhat useful at pointing out assumptions in the current historical narrative. Controversial topics can cause us to get stuck in narrative ruts, parroting back the same sequence of events, taking for granted what did happen and losing sense of the contingency — the way in which things might have turned out otherwise.
Hiroshima, October 1945. The domed structure in the far background, at right, was nearly directly under the bomb when it exploded. When showing such photos to students, I always point out that the reason there aren’t any corpses isn’t because they were vaporized — it’s because these photos were taken after they were already removed.
In the comment section of a post on here from last week, Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center (and Arms Control Wonk) posted an interesting hypothetical question:
What do you think would have happened differently had Japan not surrendered and if the US kept using atomic weapons when they were ready? We know what would have been the same: Japan would have lost the war. We can readily imagine what would have been different in Japan: more smoldering, radioactive rubble. But what would have been different outside of Japan?
I strangely wonder about the question. I suspect that there would have been an open revolt at Los Alamos. Would Truman have said, “enough”? Would attitudes about the Bomb in the US & Russia have been any different? Attitudes toward the US?
It’s worth noting explicitly that this is a very different question to the “what if we hadn’t dropped the bomb at all?” question, which is more common and has some pretty well-worn narrative ruts (deaths of bomb vs. invasion, whether demonstration would have worked, the importance of the Soviets invading Manchuria vs. the bomb, etc.). This query presumes that Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened as they did, but instead of surrendering shortly thereafter, the Japanese had kept on going, and Truman had OK’d the dropping of more bombs.
I gave some gesture at a response, synthesizing some interesting work that I thought was relevant to the issue. I also managed to get Michael Gordin, author of Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War, to chime in as well. You can read the responses at the post linked to above.
How realistic is the question? Pretty realistic, as it turns out. As Michael G. argued in his book, the notion that “two bombs were enough” wasn’t actually dominant at the time — some people thought it would be “enough,” but most people, naturally, had no idea how many would be “enough.” In early August 1945, nobody knew whether the atomic bombs would be the “war-ending weapons” that they were later (controversially) touted as being. Only after surrender do you really get into the idea that two are “enough,” if not too much.
This week’s document is one of the more vivid demonstrations of this fact. It is a transcript of a telephone conversation between General John E. Hull, who was involved in Allied planning in the Pacific theatre, and Colonel L.E. Seeman (here incorrectly noted as “Seaman”), an assistant of Groves, on August 13, 1945. The subject is the “third shot” — the next bomb ready for use after Nagasaki, which was anticipated to be ready by August 23 — and the shots beyond that.1
- S[eaman]: … Then there will be another one the first part of September. Then there are three definite. There is a possibility of a fourth one In September, either the middle or the latter part.
- H[ull]: Now, how many in October?
- S: Probably three in October.
- H: That’s three definite, possibly four by the end of September possibly three more by the end of October making a total possibility of seven. That is the information I want.
- S: So you can figure on three a month with a possibility of a fourth one. If you get the fourth one, you won’t get it next month. That is up to November.
- H: The last one, which is a possibility for the end of October, could you count on that for use before the end of October?
- S: You have a possibility of seven, with a good chance of using them prior to the 31st of October.
- H: They come out approximately at the rate of three a month.
That’s a lot of bombs. (Incidentally, this also lets you estimate the maximum stockpile size throughout much of the late 1940s. In practice, bomb production fell off in the confusion at the end of the war, and didn’t pick up again until 1948 or so.)
- H: That is the information I wanted. The problem now is whether or not, assuming the Japanese do not capitulate, continue on dropping them every time one is made and shipped out there or whether to hold them up as far as the dropping is concerned and then pour them all on in a reasonably short time. Not all in one day, but over a short period. And that also takes into consideration the target that we are after. In other words should we not concentrate on targets that will be of the greatest assistance to an invasion rather than industry, morale, psychology, etc.
- S: Nearer the tactical use ratherthan other use.
“The other use”: what a euphemism! Though perhaps no worse than “strategic bombing,” which is a nicer formulation than “terror bombing” (as it was, for awhile, originally called, in the context of firebombing). This idea of one-bomb-as-you-get-them or holding them up and then “pour[ing] them all on” is one of the ones that has stuck with me. A “rain of ruin” indeed. It’s tempting to imagine this as periods of peace punctuated by periods of terrible destruction, but it’s probably worth noting that there would have likely been firebombing during those “peaceful” periods as well, so there’d be a lot of terrible destruction to go around.
- H: That is what it amounts to. What Is your own personal reaction to that?
- S: I have studied that a good deal. Our own troops would have to be about six miles away I am not sure that the Air Forces could place it within 500 feet of the point we want. Of course, it is not that “pinpoint”. Then the stage of development has to be considered. The work it is liable to be used for the more or less has to be explosive effect. It would be just a gamble putting or sending those troops though.
- H: Not the same day or anything like that. We might do it a couple or three days before. You plan to land on a certain beach. Behind which you know there is a good road communication and maybe a division or two of Japanese troops. Neutralization of that at some time from H Hour of the landing back earlier, maybe a day or two or three. I don’t anticipate that you would be dropping it as we do other type bombs that are in support of the infantry. I am thinking about neutralizing a division or a communication center or something so that it would facilitate the movement ashore of troops.
- S: That is the preferable use at this time from that standpoint. The weapon we have is not a penetration weapon. The workmanship is not as good as possible. It is much better than average workmanship. We are still developing it though.
- H: From this on more or less of the timing factor, how much time before the troops actually go into that area do you think would be the safety factor? Suppose you did get a dud or an incomplete explosion, what safety factor should you consider, one, two, three days?
- S: I think we are sending some people over to actually measure that factor. I think certainly by within 48 hours that could be done. Everything is going so fast. We would like to train people and get them in a combat spirit to do that. I think the people we have are the best qualified in that line. Of course, as you say, if it is used back in a kind of reserve line or in a reserve position or a concentration area but that you wouldn’t be up against right away.
- H: I don’t think you would land at eight o’clock in the morning and you would drop it at six o’clock, out the day before, even from the tactical standpoint without regard to when it fails to go off or something like that.
- S: Another thing you may be likely to consider is that while you are landing you might not want to use it as it could be a dud. It is not something that you fool around with.
Atomic bombs: “not something that you fool around with.” Truer words never spoken, eh? I’m not sure how they were planning to measure acute, on-the-ground radioactivity in the places they’d just bombed, given that the war wasn’t over yet. (They did send over people in September 1945 to learn about things like that, after the war was over.) In any case, imagine if they had, haphazardly, sent American troops through recently atomic-bombed zones as part of the invasion. What would the legacy of American use of the bombs been, then?
The concern with the possibility of a “dud” is also counter to the usual historiography. What if one of them hadn’t gone off? The Los Alamos folks had calculated that the possibility of a bomb failing was pretty high neither of them did fail, so it’s easy to see them as resounding successes, but the sample size here (n = 3) is awful small.
- H: I would appreciate if you would discuss that angle with General Groves. I would like to have his slant on it. That is the question, how do we employ it and when do we employ it next? It has certainly served its purpose, those two we have used. I don’t think it could have been more useful than it has. If we had another one, today would be a good day to drop it. We don’t have it ready. Anyhow within the next ten days the Japanese will make up their minds one way or the other so the psychological effect is lost so far as the next one is concerned in my opinion, pertaining to capitulation. Should we not lay off a while, and then group them one, two, three? I should like to get his slant on the thing, General Groves’ slant.
Again, the possibility of “pour[ing]” them out in groups, linked towards guessed psychological reactions. I also find Hull’s comment about “today” (August 13) being a good day to “drop it” interesting. August 13 was about four days after the last bomb presumably Hull’s “feel” for this was that every three or four days would have been a good rhythm for atomic bombing.
- Telephone conversation transcript, J.E. Hull and L.E. Seeman [“Seaman,” sic], (13 August 1945), copy in the National Security Archive, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. The NSA’s page on “The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II” is a really quite excellent collection of documents on this subject — I strongly recommend it to anyone teaching about the Manhattan Project. [↩]
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at 8:03 am and is filed under Redactions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Citation: Alex Wellerstein, "The Third Shot and Beyond (1945)," Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog, April 25, 2012, accessed June 22, 2021, http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2012/04/25/weekly-document-the-third-shot-and-beyond-1945/.
29 Responses to “The Third Shot and Beyond (1945)”
Alex, this is really fascinating. Another angle on this is that it’s also a strange alternative to the D-Day preparations for a suddenly nuclear world. In Britain, diverting RAF Bomber Command from city bombing to do more “pinpoint” work against transportation networks to aid the Allied landings was controversial, and Harris fought it and lost. (There is a history of science element here as Solly Zuckerman — later the UK’s first science adviser, and a proponent of nuclear restraint — was involved in planning the D-Day bombing ops.) But, in this case, an ostensibly “strategic” weapon, at least as we think of it, is being considered to do the same anticipated tactical job.
Of course, as you know, some of the smallest “tactical” weapons of the Cold War were more or less the same yield as these bombs (and some were quite larger). The (in)famous “atomic cannon” warhead (the W9) was a 15 kt gun-type HEU weapon — basically a Little Boy but modernized and launched out of a gun. Just what you want your field commanders to have at their fingertips…
Three atomic bombs dropped per month, thru the Fall of 1945. Think of the repercussions.
Interesting … but was this even possible? I recall reading (in Rhodes et al) that US plutonium production wasn’t anywhere near being an assembly line process.
We had three bombs ready to go (Little Boy, Fat Man and the bomb material delivered by the Indianapolis I recall) and enough fissile material for five or six more, but after that, not much.
I suppose Hull and Seeman were assuming that we could have produced more had the Japanese not folded after Nagasaki, but still, that’s sort of getting ahead of themselves.
Then again, I could be remembering wrong, and my copy of Rhodes is back at home and I’m at work and shouldn’t be screwing around like this … interesting piece though Alex.
I’m unsure myself at what their actual fissile material production rate was during the late part of 1945. (It fell apart somewhat after the war ended, so their postwar production rate is not necessarily the best benchmark.) Carey Sublette says that the Hanford reactors were designed to produce 6 kg per month of plutonium, so that’s three-ish bombs a month, assuming that worked. Later on the page though he says that by February 1945, the theoretical production was 21 kg of Pu per month, which is even more conservative about the three per month. All of this assumes, of course, optimal operation. So maybe they were getting ahead of themselves.
A big question would be whether they were assuming that they would either try to use HEU in the implosion arrangement, or composite pits, both of which had been explored by Los Alamos and both of which would have expanded their stockpile options greatly. As it was, composite pits didn’t get tested until 1948, but I wonder what would have happened if the war had dragged on. It seems like they were producing at least 6ish kg of U-235 a month at that point, which would have been pretty slow going for gun-type designs (one bomb a year!) but for composite or HEU designs, would have been another bomb to count on, assuming they figured out whatever is necessary for the conversions. (I don’t know what the K-25 output was at that point, which might have been much greater than the 6ish kg per month, which is a Y-12 figure.) But I doubt they were taking that into consideration, above.
Little-known fact: after Trinity, Oppenheimer had suggested to Groves that they could take the material from Little Boy and turn it into 8 HEU Fat Men Groves had turned the idea down because it would cut into the speed of things, despite the fact that it would have greatly increased their atomic arsenal.
Kicking around a bit more: on July 23, 1945, it was reported to the Secretary of War (still at Potsdam) that they would have additional bombs “ready at accelerating rate from possibly three in September to we hope seven or more in December. The increased rate above three per month entails changes in design which Groves believes thoroughly sound.” This is, I believe, coming from Groves himself.
So that’s kind of an interesting data point. I wonder whether the design is for the bomb or the plants, and what it was? The natural guess would be for using HEU in an implosion assembly in some way, but I don’t really know.
Yes, it’s good to remember that things were winding down, war effort wise.
I remember reading in Dark Sun that a lot of our immediate post war nuclear posture towards the Soviets was largely a bluff that we let them think that we were cranking out A Bombs like tuna cans, when we actually only had a few ready to go.
Anyway, back to this conversation, they could have been assuming that they could have “turned the tap back on” if the Japanese did not capitulate, which probably wasn’t far off from the truth.
I don’t think Groves would have promised more than he really believed he could reliably deliver. At the time, the size of the stockpile, or at least rate of production, would have been the big question and it would be quickly obvious if Groves guessed wrong on it. If anything, I suspect the good general would have erred on the side of under promising and over delivering.
As for the source of the fissile material, I suspect it was increasing capacity at K25 which was just starting to come online at that time.
[…] much of a post, given the nature of my frenetic academic life these days, but Alex Wellerstein’s post at Nuclear Secrecy raises fascinating question about the WWII-ending atomic bombings: what if the Japanese […]
Is there any information in the historical record on the Japanese side of this equation? Do we have access to any of the deliberations of the Japanese executive government? It would be interesting to know if the decision to capitulate was a close one, and what arguments were made for toughing it out.
There is quite a record, and it’s part of the very long and drawn out argument of “how important was the atomic bomb, as opposed to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria” question. One of the main articles on this (it’s a crowded and still intensely controversial field) is Sadao Asada’s, “The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender—A Reconsideration” (1998). Asada basically puts it as an internal conflict within the Japanese cabinet, with some factions arguing for immediate surrender, some wanting to prolong it out (to perhaps get some kind of more negotiated peace). In Asada’s view, the “twin shocks” of the bombs and the Soviet entry “galvanized” those seeking surrender and allow them to break the deadlock, and that while the Soviet entry was strategically more important, the bombs came as more of a surprise and thus had greater “shock” value. The bombs also gave the Japanese army a way to “save face” — it’s one thing to lose against a “normal” enemy, it’s another to be attacked by city-destroying wonder weapons for which there is no defense.
The impossible (counterfactual) situation is to know what would have happened if they had just demonstrated the bombs, or not used them, or just used one. This is the debate I don’t really want to get into I don’t see it actually drawing our attentions to the right places, we just end up going round and round in guesses and interpretations. I think it’s a little hard to deny that the atomic bombs had a profound effect on the Japanese cabinet, but that’s not quite the same question as whether they were “necessary.”
I don’t regard the atomic bombs as being morally much different from the city-destroying firebombing campaign, personally, so it’s also not a key issue for me. Once you start massacring civilians by the hundreds of thousands, as a matter of national policy, what difference does it make if you are doing it with one big bomb or a thousand small ones? But I understand, of course, that this is an area of quite a lot of debate and dispute.
The problem with the existing debate about the “revisionist” view is that it is not really about nuclear weapons. It is a debate that focuses on whether the bombing was necessary or not. The end point of the argument is, “And so the bombing wasn’t necessary and therefore the United States was wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Like most debates from the Sixties about foreign policy (and the revisionist debate begins in 1965 with an article by Gar Alperovitz) It’s a debate about morality, about whether the US is a good country or not, not about nuclear weapons.
If you’d like to read an article about whether the bombing was effective, whether it coerced Japan into surrendering, you could try this from International Security: “The Winning Weapon? Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima.”
The problem here, as usual, is that people focus on the Bomb. It holds us transfixed like an evil snake charmer. Elementary issues go unaddressed because we’re busy staring at the Bomb.
The US conducted quite a thorough bombing campaign against Japan in the summer of 1945. Sixty-eight cities were bombed, with the highest casualties coming at Tokyo on the night of March 9/10 (a conventional raid.) [One of the questions this raises is why, if Japan surrendered because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, didn’t they surrender because of any of these other 66 city attacks? But I digress.]
After Nagasaki was bombed, Japan had nine large cities (populations over 100,000) that had not been bombed. They were Kyoto (1,089,726), Sapporo (206,103), Hakodate (203,862), Yokosuka (193,358), Kanazawa (186,297), Kokura (173,639), Otaru (164,282), Niigata (150,903), and Fuse (134,724) [Figures are for 1944 from Japan Statistical Yearbook]. Sapporo, Hakodate, and Otaru were on the northernmost island of Hokkaido and were, therefore, beyond the range of U.S. bombers operating from Tinian Island. So six targets were available. US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had removed Kyoto from the target list because of its religious and cultural importance. So five targets were available. Compared with the number of cities that already lay in ruins, five more would have been, well, small potatoes. Of course, it would have been possible to re-bomb some cities that had already been bombed, but on average these were already 50% destroyed.
So the fact is that whether or not more atomic bombs could have been made available, there was little left to bomb. And certainly what little there was to bomb was no longer strategically important. If you want to argue that the Japanese surrendered because of horror of atomic bombings, then perhaps five more cities being destroyed with nuclear weapons might have made an impression. (Although Japan had already withstood having 68 of its cities reduced to ashes, why would five more make much of a difference?)
If Japan’s leaders knew their business and were making decisions based on strategic significance (rather than emotion) they would almost certainly have ignored a wider campaign of city bombing with nuclear weapons. They had already called on their citizens to oppose the coming U.S. invasion with untrained attacks by civilians with bamboo spears, a plan that was estimated to cause hundreds of thousands of additional casualties. So they had already demonstrated at least a rhetorical willingness to tolerate high civilian casualties. Given that more than 80% of Japan’s large cities had already been destroyed (and a considerable proportion of cities larger than 30,000 as well–only six cites of this size remained unbombed) surrendering because of city bombing would have had little point. By August 1945 there was little point in closing the barn door, the city bombing horse was long gone.
Nuclear weapons are frightful weapons. They inspire awe. But they do not change the world. They do not transform every strategic situation or inspire a fear that makes leaders change everything about the way they do their job. What sort of thing would have the ability to suddenly and completely change everything? That would be the province of magic.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments.
I agree with much of what you’ve written here. I don’t really see, from a phenomenological or moral standpoint, too much difference from city bombing with napalm and city bombing with nuclear weapons. (Nuclear weapons do have some additional effects, like radioactivity, but I suspect the number of long-term injured as a result of radiation is pretty similar as long-term injured as a result of conventional bombing, but this is just supposition.)
But where I might differ is in your final conclusion, where I take a more constructivist position. Things change the world if we think that they do. If the presence of the atomic bomb changed how the Japanese, or Americans, thought of their relative position, then they did change the world. If they don’t, then they don’t.
I am more or less persuaded that at the very least, the Japanese high command understood that the atomic bombs gave them a good excuse to surrender. That isn’t the same thing as compelling them to surrender. If the atomic bomb is an acceptable excuse to surrender without violating bushido, then it works. Even if very little had changed from a strategic standpoint.
(The Cold War version would be, If atomic bombs keep you from escalating conflict, then they work. It doesn’t even matter whether you had them ready to use, or if they would have done the damage people imagine them to and so on. For a post-Cold War version, If North Korea’s putative arsenal changes the world’s stance towards them, then it works. It doesn’t matter if their plutonium is just sitting around in a huge slag pool. Now, of course, we can argue about whether they actually changed behavior, as John Mueller has done, but that’s a different question than arguing whether they should change behavior.)
Many people argue what you do. Once the myth of nuclear weapons is established, then it is reality. But I have my doubts. It’s only necessary to think of the many (many) instances from history in which a general wins an unexpected victory (because of unusual circumstances) decides it’s proof he’s a genius (that everyone will be cowed by his magnificent reputation) and then comes to grief. I don’t want to be protected by a reputation from a single victory. I don’t want the empty suit of armor. I want the real warrior. I want actual capabilities, not imagined capabilities. Relying on reputation strikes me as a prescription for disaster.
You are mistaken though when it comes to the range of the bombers and the targets:
“After Nagasaki was bombed, Japan had nine large cities (populations over 100,000) that had not been bombed. They were Kyoto (1,089,726), Sapporo (206,103), Hakodate (203,862), Yokosuka (193,358), Kanazawa (186,297), Kokura (173,639), Otaru (164,282), Niigata (150,903), and Fuse (134,724) [Figures are for 1944 from Japan Statistical Yearbook]. Sapporo, Hakodate, and Otaru were on the northernmost island of Hokkaido and were, therefore, beyond the range of U.S. bombers operating from Tinian Island. So six targets were available. US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had removed Kyoto from the target list because of its religious and cultural importance. So five targets were available. Compared with the number of cities that already lay in ruins, five more would have been, well, small potatoes. Of course, it would have been possible to re-bomb some cities that had already been bombed, but on average these were already 50% destroyed.”
Sapporo, Hakodate and Otaru could all be reached by the B-29s operating out of Tinian: http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/MacArthur%20Reports/MacArthur%20V2%20P2/Images/p_144.jpg and http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2010/April%202010/0410mission.aspx . The distance from Tinian to Sapporo is just under 2,000 miles and a B-29’s range (i.e. being able to fly out, bomb a target and come back) is listed as being over 3,000 miles. Indeed some B-29s got in trouble over Japan and had to make emergency landings in the USSR (which would be further than flying to Hokkaido), where they were reverse engineered as the Tu-4 (much to Tupolev’s displeasure since he designed aircraft for a living and loathed the idea of being ordered to copy an existing aircraft) and then returned to the USA. The crewmen were interned since the USSR was neutral in the war against Japan at the time and Stalin wasn’t about to give the Japanese a reason to start hostilities before he finished with Germany (although the USSR did allow the US airmen to “escape” into Iran which was being occupied by the Soviets, British and Americans at the time, whereupon they returned to the USA).
And Sapporo was indeed considered as a target. The original targets under consideration in April 1945 were Tokyo Bay (for a non-lethal demonstration), Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Kokura, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Sasebo. A number of these were scratched since they had already been burnt to the ground. Then in May the list under consideration was (in order): Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, the Kokura Arsenal and Niigata with the Emperor’s Palace discussed as a possible target but rejected. This list was then narrowed down to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama and Kokura Arsenal with Niigata under consideration. At the end of May this list is then narrowed down to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Niigata. A couple days later Stimson rules out Kyoto as a target. By late July the target list is Hiroshima, Kokura, and Niigata. Nagasaki is then added as the final target in the list.
For the missions themselves Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura the secondary in case Hiroshima couldn’t be bombed. After Hiroshima was bombed the next target was Kokura as the primary target and Nagasaki as the secondary target. So were it not for clear skies over Hiroshima and cloudy ones over Kokura the Kokura would definitely have been bombed at some point by August 9.
Now according to Richard B. Frank in his book Downfall (p. 303) after the bombing of Nagasaki the commanders in the Pacific made their own recommendations on targets for future weapons. Specifically, Admiral Nimitz, General Carl Spaatz (commander of the United States Strategic Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific) and General Nathan Twining (commander of Twentieth Air Force, formerly XXI Bomber Command, based on the Marianas and containing the B-29s on the islands including those of the 509th Composite Group tasked with dropping the atomic bombs) met with General Farrell and Captain Parsons (both of who were on the Target Committee for the atomic bomb). By the afternoon of August 9 all of these folks were urging Washington to review the target lists in light of the bombs so far having “far exceeded optimistic expectations”. On August 14, General Twining submitted a new list of six targets (in order): Sapporo, Hakodate, Oyabu, Yokosuka, Osaka and Nagoya.
Interesting discussion, it is perfectly possible Japan would have held out a little longer and a third or fourth bomb is certainly possible, but in the same way as others would argue they would have surrendered soon anyway it becomes increasingly unlikely they would not have surrendered soon regardless as war continues.
As well as further nuclear bombings there were multiple other reasons to surrender.
1. Conventional Bombing raids, Japn had completely lost command of the air and was being faced with daily long range raids which were being reinforced by both new production and further aircraft being re-deployed from Europe including the newly arrived RAF heavy bomber units.
2. That Russian invasion which in OTL happens between Hiroshima and Nagasaki leads to the destruction of a. 600,000 Kwantung Army, and before the surrender in OTL, has Soviet troops taking Sakhelein and the Kurils, getting an amphibious force into Korea, taking most of Manchuria and Mongolia, with no surrender, all of Korea would have presumably been occupied by the end of September. The debatable point would be could the Soviets have got any forces onto Hokkaido during October before the proposed US invasion further South on November 1st.
3. The blockade, the Japanese Islands were dependant for supplies of oil and other raw materials from mainland Asia, and for supplies of food both from mainland Asia and from inter island shipping between the various Islands. The USN submarine fleet was methodically sinking every part of the Japanese merchant marine, and the effects of the blockade were becoming critical.
Bottom line dropping a 3rd bomb is clearly feasible, the Ida that the Japanese would hold out through Christmas 1945 seems very unlikly
The plans for the 16th Army (the Soviet force tasked with taking the southern half of Sakhalin Island) called for them to drive the Japanese forces out of Sakhalin in 10 to 14 days and then be prepared to immediately invade Hokkaido. This is why the Russian entry into the war changes the time scale for surrender. Japan’s leaders were suddenly not looking at three months until an invasion of the Home Islands, they were looking at the week after next.
The Soviets not only could have gotten forces onto Hokkaido, they were planning on it. And the Japanese 5th Area Army that was supposed to be defending that island were all dug in on the east side of the island (facing the direction the Americans would come from.) They had nothing on the west (where the 16th Army was scheduled to invade.)
I’m not persuaded that Japan would have surrendered absent the Soviet entry into the war. Japan’s leaders were romantics who were raised on a tradition of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. “Kamikaze” means “divine wind” and is the name given by the Japanese to the storms that destroyed not one, but two Mongol invasion fleets each of which would surely have led to Mongol domination of Japan. The Russo-Japanese war was also a conflict in which Japan did badly and then won at the last minute with a stunning naval victory in Tsushima Straits. So holding out while you try to engineer a last minute victory against all odds was not just a familiar strategy, it was built into their cultural DNA.
People talk about a popular uprising because food supplies were getting perilously low. And it’s true, absenteeism was escalating. And people had looked sullenly at the Emperor in March when Tokyo was bombed and he drove around viewing the ruins. And there were reports of unrest. But I can’t think of a determined wartime government that was coerced into surrendering by civilians.
With significant and valid ‘military targets’ fast running out, the policy of sparing the two ‘off limit’ targets of Kyoto and the Imperial Palace would probably be readdressed.
I believe the post-war balance of power ( in theory, the USA/France/UK/Russia as co-equals) would be significantly different if a delay in surrender allowed significant Soviet gains.
[…] cut to the chase. How many bombs did the USAAF request of the atomic general, when there were maybe one, maybe two bombs worth of fissile material on hand? At a minimum they wanted 123. Ideally, they’d like […]
Interesting comments about the bombing of Japan in 1945, some seem at odds with the reports of the Air Force and particularly with those of Gen. Curtis LeMay who the General Arnold put in charge of this task after the first General was replaced, and until Gen. Spaatz came in at the end and took over. LeMay had invented fire-bombing of all the major industrial cities, even running out of incendiaries until the Navy delivered those they though LeMay really didn’t need. The post-war reports of debriefed Japanese officers regarding the planned invasion of the southern island, closing schools, arming children and old citizens with sharpened sticks, transferring Army to the island, keeping Kamikazi aircraft and boats ready for the invasion fleet expected in November, leave little doubt that the Japanese would fight to the death as they did on Okinawa, to the chagrin of tour invasion planners, and they expected a million American casualties… three times what we had lost so-far. In researching my just-published book “Goodbye Beautiful Wing” (AMAZON OR B&N) I retell LeMay’s own account of his failed attempt to bomb the Japanese into submission by destroying all major cities. The surrender of their huge Japanese I-class submarine aircraft carriers at the end of the war make it clear the Japanese planned to bomb San Francisco with radiation-scattering bombs, using the 1100 pounds of weapons-grade uranium we captured in May 1945 in the surrender of German U-234, ordered to Japan — until the death of Hitler.
It seems to me that the real reason that Hirohito opposed the Japanese Generals who wanted to continue the war is probably because he realized the Americans would soon drop a big one on Tokyo, Imperial Palace not withstanding.
There is really zero evidence of any substance that the US captured enriched uranium from the U-234. Germany was simply not in any position to enrich that much material that is considerably more than was used in Little Boy. It is silly to imagine that it would be enriched uranium.
[…] ultimate “What If?“ of the atomic bomb is, “what if they didn’t drop the bomb?” The ultimate […]
[…] commentator, Princeton’s Michael Gordin (whose work I have previously praised), poked at our papers in variously interesting ways. One thing he did ask was where the […]
[…] that the war would be ending soon. This was still a few days before the Japanese capitulation — which was not entirely expected. One wonders how the view of the bomb would have changed if Japan hadn’t surrendered and the […]
[…] the worst anti-climax being told not to prepare another atomic bomb for use! What I like about Ramsey’s letter is it hammers home, again, how primitive the first atomic […]
[…] know. The US was still planning to invade in November 1945. They were planning to drop as many atomic bombs as necessary. There is no contemporary evidence that suggests Truman was ever told that the causalities would […]
[…] third, however, has been largely overlooked. The third core was the one that was destined to be the Third Shot dropped on Japan, had there been a Third Shot. Instead, it has a different story — but it was still not a peaceful […]
I recently completed a paper that I think might add a bit to the discussion as it discusses some events that occurred at the Japanese Imperial Headquarters in the final days of the war that have never been revealed before. Unfortunately the events I discuss that apply to the discussion are burred in the report, but on the good side, the paper is free. You can find the paper at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/200812991/Tsetusuo-Wakabayashi-Revealed
16 August 1945: The lost history of Thailand
Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri writes about 16 Aug 1945, a very important date which should be remembered and commemorated. However, it has been ‘made to be forgotten’, non-existent in official history textbooks of the Ministry of Education.
64 years ago, Charnvit writes, on 16 Aug 1945, Pridi Banomyong, as leader of the Free Thai Movement and Regent for King Ananda, issued a ‘peace declaration’ which said that the Thai government’s declaration of war on 25 Jan 1942 against Britain and the USA was against the will of the Thai people, and unconstitutional.
The Regent therefore annulled the declaration of war.
Charnvit reminds readers that during World War II Thailand was invaded by Japan on 8 Dec 1941. The government of Field Marshal Pibun Songkhram quickly surrendered and agreed to ally itself with Japan. Pibun and the Japanese Ambassador signed an agreement on 20 Dec at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
And on 25 Jan 1942, the Thai Government declared war on Britain and the USA, claiming that the British and the Americans had invaded Thailand by sending troops and airplanes across the Thai border to bomb and shoot at the unarmed Thai people. The Pibun Government described the alleged acts of both countries as ‘brutal, uncivilized, not in an open manner as should be practised between countries, and in violation of international law and humanity’.
The USA did not declare war against Thailand, but Britain did on 6 Feb, along with countries in the Commonwealth: South Africa on 11 Feb, Australia on 2 Mar, and New Zealand on 16 Mar.
On 6 May 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies. The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 Aug respectively. And the Japanese Emperor declared a surrender on 14 Aug.
With Japan’s surrender, the Free Thai Movement aborted its plan to rise up against the Japanese troops on VJ-Day (Victory over Japan).
The Peace Declaration on 16 Aug 1945 helped rescue Thailand, allowing the post-war Thai government to negotiate with the Allies to prevent Thailand from punishment as a defeated country in the war, Charnvit says.
And under post-war governments and Pridi’s leadership, Thailand quite quickly became a member of the newly established United Nations Organization on 15 Dec 1946.
So why has the important history of 16 Aug 1945 been ‘made to be forgotten’?
Charnvit says that it is the result of Thai politics in the post-war period during which an unexpected incident happened.
King Ananda died from a gunshot on 9 June 1946.
The mysterious death was used as a political tool in an attempt to overthrow the government, resulting in a coup on 8 Nov 1947, which ushered in a long period of dictatorship, and some of its anti-democratic legacy is present even until today.
As a consequence, the historic 16 Aug 1945 has been made to be forgotten.
Charnvit has sampled three historical textbooks for Grade 5 students printed by three publishing houses: the Institute of Academic Development (PW), Watthana Panich (WPP), and Aksorn Charoen Tat (ACT).
The textbooks of these three publishers are licensed by the Ministry of Education in accordance with the Fundamental Education Curriculum of 2001.
The PW book has 134 pages in its second edition in 2009 with 5,000 copies, written by Asst Prof Phlabpleung, read by Dr Krang Phraiwan, Sompong and Sayun Palasun, edited by Prof Chatthip Nathsupha, and licensed by the Secretary-General of the Fundamental Education Board Khunying Kasama Worawan Na Ayutthaya acting on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education.
The WPP book has 208 pages in its first edition in 2004, written by Assoc Prof Thaweesak Lomlim and Prathum Kumar, read by Thanalai Limparattanakhiri, Janyaporn Cherdphut, Suthep Jitchuen, edited by Sura Damapong, Somporn Onnom, Suchada Yahatta, Kornnarong Rianrawee, and licensed by the Secretary-General of the Fundamental Education Board Pornnipha Limpapayom.
The ACT book has 215 pages in its tenth edition in 2008, written by Assoc Prof Narong Puangpit, Assoc Prof Wuthichai Mulsilp, Asst Prof Dr Chakrit Chumwatthana, Prof Sanchai Suwangbut and Assoc Prof Ananchai Laohaphan, edited by Ekarin Seemahasan and Somkiat Phurahong, and licensed by Pornnipha Limpapayom.
According to Charnvit, the PW book has no contents on the second World War, the 16 Aug 1945 and the Free Thai Movement.
Chapter 7 of the WPP book deals with the first and second World Wars in 24 pages where the last topic ‘Thailand and World War II’ (p.201 – 203) mentions the need to declare war on 25 Jan 1942 but fails to cover the 16 Aug 1945 Peace Declaration, just saying briefly that ‘Thailand claimed that the declaration of war was ineffective.’
This book, however, casually mentions the Free Thai Movement in one line.
The ACT book’s last chapter (p.200 – 210) is devoted to the first and second World Wars, but surprisingly does not mention Thailand in the context of the second World War hence, nothing about 16 Aug 1945 or the Free Thai Movement.
Charnvit also finds that the PW book has a final chapter on ‘Biographies and Achievements of Important Persons’ including the Queen Mother, Phraya Rassadanupradit, Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri, Phraya Anuman Rajjathon, Dr Khun Banjob Phanthumetha and Phraya Kanlayanamaitri (Dr Francis B. Sayre).
He notes that the list does not include important persons who were commoners such as Pridi Banomyong, despite the fact that Pridi was acclaimed a historic world personality by UNESCO in 2000, a year ahead of the Ministry of Education’s 2001 curriculum.
Charnvit says that the teaching of history in schools needs to be revolutionized and democratized.
He says we should stop complaining and blaming students and young people for not being interested in history and being ignorant of their roots.
They are taught and forced to remember what they should not remember, and to forget what they should not forget.
August 6, 1945: Japan Nuked, What Country will be Next?
On August 6, 1945, US Army Air Force B-29 Superfortress bomber, Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb ever to be used against a real target.
The major Japanese city of Hiroshima had been left largely undamaged by bombing for the specific reason of preserving the city for just such an attack, to better demonstrate the terrible power of the atomic bomb (or nuclear bomb as it is called today), and also to better analyze what damage such a bomb does to a real life city.
The bomb was dropped with pinpoint accuracy and killed as many as 70,000 people instantly, with perhaps another 30,000 or more dying later from the effects. Upper estimates are over 20,000 military personnel dead and another 146,000 civilians. Hard to tell when many were vaporized and many others took days, weeks, months and years to die from wounds, burns, and radiation.
Only 3 days later the Japanese city of Nagasaki became the second hapless target of an atomic bomb, killing another 39,000 to 80,000 Japanese people. Since Nagasaki, no other city or other combat target has been subjected to nuclear attack, in spite of a world where something in excess of 20,000 nuclear warheads have existed for decades.
Shortly after the United States developed nuclear weapons, the UK, the USSR, China, and France also became nuclear powers, and in more recent years India and Pakistan, deadly rivals as hostile neighbors, have also armed themselves with nukes. Israel is long believed to be a nuclear power, though they refuse to confirm or deny the information, and North Korea is now believed to have at least rudimentary nuclear weapons. Iran, a rogue state theocracy with the stated intention of wiping Israel off the map is suspected of working on the development of nuclear weapons, and as a sponsor of terrorist groups, the idea of a nuclear armed Iran terrifies much of the world.
The Cold War may be over, but nuclear tension is not. With so many warheads in so many countries, and questionable accountability of the old Soviet stockpile the possibility of someone willing to use a nuclear weapon getting their hands on one is rising, despite our best efforts at nuclear non-proliferation. The science of creating a nuclear weapon is no longer a secret held by a few, and with nuclear power plants all over the globe the base materials and technicians are ever so more available.
So, the question is, who will be the next to use a nuclear weapon in anger and against whom? Will it be India or Pakistan against the other? An Islamic terrorist group against Israel or a Western country seen as an Israeli ally? China vs. Taiwan? North Korea vs. Anybody? Israel with a pre-emptive strike against an Muslim country or group they fear will attack them or develop their own nuclear weapon? Will China and Russia ever face off in a nuclear exchange? Will the US ever feel threatened enough to nuke another country?
Question for students (and subscribers): The next question would be, when? Is this possibility something that could take place in the next few months or years, or are we a long way from such a scenario? Will diplomats have the morals and skill to avoid a nuclear attack? Feel free to give us your thoughts on this subject, and if you are so inclined, on whether or not the US should or should not have nuked the Japanese cities in 1945 in the comments section below this article.
If you liked this article and would like to receive notification of new articles, please feel welcome to subscribe to History and Headlines by liking us on Facebook and becoming one of our patrons!
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Morgan-Witts, Max and Gordon Thomas. Enola Gay: Mission to Hiroshima. Open Road Media, 2014.
Morgan Witts, Max and Gordon Thomas. Enola Gay: The Bombing of Hiroshima. Konecky & Konecky, 2006.
Rich, David Lowell, dir. Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb. Interglobal Home Video. VHS Tape.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bombing, is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain in the United States.
Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.