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Basic Information on the
Source: The Enola
Gay Exhibit (no longer online) 8/11/98.
The firebombing campaign, which began in earnest
with the great raid against Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, proved far
more devastating than expected. During the next five months, [US Air Force
Secretary] LeMay's bombers razed one half of the total area of 66 cities—burning
178 square miles. By the summer of 1945, Japan's productive capacity
had been lowered as follows: power generation by 50 percent, oil
by 85 percent, and overall industrial production by 60 percent. The destruction
was so complete LeMay warned his superiors he would run out of targets
JAPAN SEEKS A NEGOTIATED PEACE
On April 5, l945, one week before Roosevelt's
death, Japanese Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso and his cabinet resigned because
of the increasingly disastrous course of the war—the second such resignation
in less than a year. A peace faction in the military-dominated Japanese
government had begun to realize that a way had to be found to negotiate
an end to the war. The Allied demand for "unconditional surrender " was,
however, regarded as intolerable.
THE EMPEROR AND "UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER"
A key obstacle to any Japanese surrender was
the Emperor's position. To the Japanese warlords, the Allied demand for
unconditional surrender meant the total destruction of their political
system, including a "divine" monarchy that had survived for more than a
thousand years. To most Americans, [Emperor] Hirohito was a hated
symbol of Japanese military aggression. Many wanted him executed, or at
least imprisoned or exiled. Undersecretary of State Joseph Grew nonetheless
argued that the Japanese might surrender if allowed to retain their Emperor.
He also asserted that the Emperor would be "the sole stabilizing force"
capable of making the Japanese armed forces accept a surrender order.
WE COULD NOT GIVE
This passage [from the official minutes of
the Interim Committee meeting of May 31, 1945] gives the committee's recommendation
regarding the use of the bomb:
Secretary [Stimson] expressed the conclusion, on which there
was general agreement, that we could not give the Japanese any
warning, that we could not concentrate on a civilian area;
but that we should seek to make a profound psychological
impression on as many inhabitants as possible. … [T]he Secretary
agreed that the most desirable target would be a vital war plant
employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by
INVASION OF JAPAN—AT WHAT COST ?
Estimates of the number of American casualties—dead,
wounded, and missing—that the planned invasion of Japan would have cost
varied greatly. In a June 18, 1945, meeting, General Marshall told President
Truman that the first 30 days of the invasion of Kyushu could result in
31,000 casualties. But Admiral Leahy pointed out that the huge invasion
force could sustain losses proportional to those on Okinawa, making the
operation much more costly. Had the Kyushu invasion failed to force Japan
to surrender, the United States planned to invade the main island of Honshu,
with the goal of capturing Tokyo. Losses would have escalated.
After the war, Truman often said that the invasion
of Japan could have cost half a million or a million American casualties.
The origin of these figures is uncertain, but Truman knew that Japan had
some two million troops defending the home islands. He believed,
along with the many Americans who would have had to invade Japan, that
such a campaign might have become, in his words from June 18, 1945, "an
Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other." Added to the American
losses would have been several times as many Japanese casualties—military
and civilian. The Allies and Asian countries occupied by Japan would
also have lost many additional lives. For Truman, even the lowest
of the casualty estimates was unacceptable. To prevent an invasion
and to save as many lives as possible, he chose to use the atomic bomb.
WAS AN INVASION
INEVITABLE WITHOUT THE BOMB?
President Truman believed that an invasion
of Japan would be necessary if the atomic bomb did not work. In hindsight,
however, some have questioned whether an invasion was inevitable.
Based on information available after the war, the U.S. Strategic Bombing
Survey concluded in 1946 that, "Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and
in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered
even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered
the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
The U.S. naval blockade was strangling Japan, which depended totally on
imported fuel, while conventional bombing was destroying its infrastructure.
However, other postwar observers, including
Secretary Stimson, doubted that Japan's rulers would have accepted unconditional
surrender if the home islands had not been invaded or if the atomic bomb
had not been dropped. In any case, many American lives would have
been lost by November 1, 1945, and after that date, the invasion of Kyushu
would have been in full swing.
THE ORIGIN OF JAPANESE KAMIKAZES
After a devastating defeat in the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf
in October 1944, Japanese leaders introduced a new weapon: kamikaze
or suicide pilots. The word kamikaze literally means "divine
wind" after a typhoon in the 13th century that kept Kublai Khan's invading
forces at bay. Author Daniel Yergin says that Kamikaze pilots
"were meant to be the ultimate embodiment of the Japanese spirit, inspiring
all their compatriots to total sacrifice. But," he further points
out, "they also served a very practical purpose for a country extremely
short of oil, planes, and skilled pilots. ... Not only was the pilot sure
to cause more damage if he crashed his plane, not only would his commitment
and willingness to die unnerve an enemy who could not comprehend the mentality
of such an act, but--since he was not going to return--his fuel requirement
was cut in half." Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The EpicQuest
for Oil, Money & Power, p. 362.