Joseph Grew became Under Sec. of State in Dec. 1944. He was the Acting Sec. of State for most of the period from late Jan. 1945 to early Aug. 1945, since Sec. of State Edward Stettinius and the next Sec. of State, James Byrnes, were away from Washington, D.C. at conferences during most of that time.
Among high level U.S. officials, Grew was the most knowledgeable about Japan. He had lived in Japan as the U.S. Ambassador to that country from 1932 thru 1941. Knowing of the Japanese emperor's importance to the Japanese (who regarded their emperor as a god), Grew told President Truman on May 28, 1945, "The greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the Throne." (Joseph Grew, Turbulent Era, Vol. II, pg. 1429).
As Acting Sec. of State, Grew was part of the "Committee of Three" with Sec. of War Henry Stimson and Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal. This committee called for a clarification of what "unconditional surrender" would mean for Japan so as to increase the chances of an earlier Japanese surrender. In July 1945 the Committee of Three wrote a document that included this clarification as part of a warning to Japan to surrender; it was known as the Potsdam Proclamation. It originally offered Japan the chance to retain the Throne, stating the Japanese government "may include a constitutional monarchy under the present dynasty". However, President Truman chose to remove that line before issuing the Potsdam Proclamation. With no assurances as to the emperor's fate, the Potsdam Proclamation was dismissed by the Japanese government as just another threat.
After reading a defense of the atomic bombings in Henry Stimson's article, "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" (Harper's, Feb. 1947), Grew wrote Stimson a letter. In it, Grew lamented that an opportunity to end the war sooner might have been missed:
- Doug Long
For further information:
Joseph Grew, Turbulent Era, Vol. II, (edited by Walter Johnson)
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