Marquis Koichi Kido was the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal for Japanese emperor Hirohito during World War II. While not a member of the government, Kido was Hirohito's closest advisor. He was also the liaison between Hirohito and the government.
By 1945 Kido knew that Japan could not win the war. But to overtly work for peace meant risking reprisals by the Japanese military. Three events moved Kido to action for peace:
The militaristic "Fundamental Policy" was the final straw that led Kido to conclude that "some sort of drastic measure would have to be taken" to end the war. (U.S. Army, Far East Command, Statements of Japanese Officials on World War II, Kido, no. 61476, National Archives - hereafter referred to as Statements).
Later on the day of the "Fundamental Policy" decision, Kido wrote a peace plan to describe his "drastic measure". The most drastic part was his call to "petition for Imperial intervention" for peace (from Kido's diary in International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Record of Proceedings, 1946-1948, pg. 31149, Library of Congress - hereafter referred to as IMTFE). Altho Japanese policy was enacted in the emperor's name, the emperor did not dictate government policy. But Kido desperately needed a counter-weight to the Japanese Army.
Kido's plan was "to ask the Soviet Union, which maintains neutrality with Japan, to mediate between Japan and the Allies". Japan's minimum peace terms were "security of the Imperial family and vindication of the national polity", referring to the continuance of the emperor system, which Japan believed to be of divine origin. (from Kido's diary in IMTFE, pg. 31148-31150).
After getting Emperor Hirohito's go-ahead for the peace plan, Kido gathered support for it from Prime Minister Suzuki, Navy Minister Yonai (the head of the Navy), and Foreign Minister Togo. Disorganized until now, the Japanese peace movement was coming out of the closet.
While Togo pressed government leaders and the emperor to seek peace, Kido met with the emperor and requested that he "directly express his desire for accelerating the peace" to the Japanese government (Statements, Kido, no. 61476). The emperor took Kido's advice, and on June 22, 1945 Hirohito asked the government to "end the war as quickly as possible". (Statements, Togo, no. 50304; Statements, Toyoda, no. 61340; see also Butow, pg. 118-120; Leon Sigal, Fighting To a Finish, pg. 235).
But Russia was already preparing to join the war against Japan in return for territory, as part of a deal with the Allies. Russia had no interest in helping Japan end the war before she could enter it and gain her reward.
Japan was waiting for Russia to respond to their request for negotiations before making any moves. They hoped for a reply around August 6 or 7. Instead, on August 6th an atomic bomb was dropped on the population of Hiroshima. And on the night of August 8th, Russia declared war on Japan (IMTFE, pg. 31,172).
During this time Kido continued to discuss the need for peace with the emperor and members of the government. On August 12th he steered Prime Minister Suzuki back to favoring surrender when Suzuki wavered (IMTFE, pg. 31,184 - 31,186).
Kido's final effort for peace was probably also his most harrowing. On the morning of August 14th he received word that U.S. planes were dropping leaflets on Japan containing the U.S. and Japanese peace proposals. Fearing a backlash by the Japanese military, Kido rushed to advise the emperor, in Kido's words, "to command the government without further loss of time to go through the formalities for terminating the war". The emperor agreed and sent Kido to make arrangements with Suzuki for the government to meet. The government surrendered that day at the emperor's request (IMTFE, pg. 31,189 - 31,190; Statements, Kido, no. 61541; see also Butow, pg. 205-209, Sigal, pg. 267-271).
- Doug Long
For further information:
Robert Butow, Japan's Decision To Surrender
International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Record of Proceedings, 1946-1948, Library of Congress
Leon Sigal, Fighting To a Finish
John Toland, The Rising Sun
University Publications of America, The Diary of Marquis Kido, 1931-45: Selected Translations into English
U.S. Army, Far East Command, Statements of Japanese Officials on World War II, National Archives
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