Summary of Charges and Responses

In the Hiroshima Debate on H-Net:
Section A

This document is a summary of some of the major points--both pro and con-- that have arisen in the debate resulting from a review by John Bonnett of Gar Alperovitz's book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (Knopf, 1995). This summary is not intended to be a comprehensive accounting of all the points that have been made in the debate; rather, it is a digest of the major issues debated. Additionally, many of the points are repeated by several participants and they are condensed in this summary. Readers are strongly encouraged to examine the original postings for a full account--including footnotes--of the H-Diplo and H-Japan exchanges, which began in the third week of September 1996 with John Bonnett's initial book review. In some cases, I have also provided additional references in italics to sections of The Decision where these issues are discussed, and, in a few cases, to additional relevant literature. Part II of this document responds to some issues that have not yet been answered in H-Diplo or H-Japan.

If you do not have copies of the original messages, please visit the H-Japan homepage at "". If you do not have access to the World Wide Web, you can also request documents through regular E-mail by sending a message to the H-Net computer at LISTSERV@MSU.EDU. For example you can get an index of H-Diplo by simply sending the message "INDEX H-DIPLO" and you will be sent a list of files and logs. You can request a complete compilation of a specific week's postings by simply typing "GET H-DIPLO LOG9609C" where 96 represents the year 1996; 09 represents the month of September; and, C represents the third week (you can also substitute H-Japan for H-Diplo in this command). Alternatively, you can obtain the text of the exchanges by sending a request to "".

The following summaries are grouped by subject. The dates given are the dates when the postings appeared on H-Diplo or H-Japan. Unless otherwise noted the postings appeared on H-Diplo. Some of the postings cited in the following appeared on H-Japan after the H-Diplo debate was concluded.

Prepared by Sanho Tree (

February 2, 1997

Part I



9/25: John Bonnett argued in his initial review:

"To the extent that American military planners did see potential shock value inherent in Russian entry, it was only within a specific context, in tandem with an American invasion, or the expectation of an imminent invasion. To be sure, analysts differed as to which factor would make the greatest impact on Japan. But they never viewed Soviet entry as an option capable of administering an instrumental "shock" in isolation."

Katie Morris responded to this in a 11/9 posting on H-Japan (after having been rejected by the editors of H-Diplo after they cut off debate). She quoted from an April 29, 1945 study by the Joint Intelligence Committee prepared for the JCS:

"The Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable when they perceive that their armed forces are incapable of arresting the progressive destruction of their basic economy. The increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment) would make this realization widespread within the year. THE ENTRY OF THE U.S.S.R. INTO THE WAR WOULD, TOGETHER WITH THE FOREGOING FACTORS, CONVINCE MOST JAPANESE AT ONCE OF THE INEVITABILITY OF COMPLETE DEFEAT." [EMPHASIS ADDED]

She went on to state: Consider Marshall's comments at the June 18 White House strategy session. At Truman's request, Marshall addressed the role that the Soviet Union might play. Reading from a paper prepared by his planning staff, he explained that if a surrender were to occur prior to complete military defeat, it would be because Japan was faced by the "completely hopeless prospect occasioned by (1) destruction already wrought by air bombardment and sea blockade, coupled with (2) a landing on Japan indicating the firmness of our resolution, and also perhaps coupled with (3) the entry or threat of entry of Russia into the war." This awkwardly-worded statement has lead several historians and analysts to conclude that Marshall considered the effect of Soviet entry to be entirely contingent on a landing-a judgment which, though understandable, is probably not correct. First, note Marshall's comments, a little later in the meeting, when he re-emphasized the potential significance of Soviet entry: "An important point about Russian participation in the war is the impact of Russian entry on the already hopeless Japanese may well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan." Here, not only was Marshall not saying that the effect of Soviet entry was contingent on a landing, but, in fact, he left open the possibility that Soviet entry might make a landing unnecessary: "or shortly thereafter _if_ we land in Japan." Second, not more than a few weeks before, Harry Hopkins had confidently reported from Moscow Stalin's commitment to enter the Pacific war around August 8--almost three months before the November 1 landing would occur-therefore "at that time" could, simply, not coincide with the landing. Third, as noted, war department thinking at this point was that the effect of Soviet entry combined with the "increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, and the collapse of Germany (with its implications regarding redeployment)"-no mention of the invasion-would "convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of defeat." . . . .Even still, in closing the meeting, Truman stated "that one of his objectives in connection with the coming conference [at Potsdam] would be to get from Russia all the assistance in the war that was possible." And, when he finally received Stalin's commitment to enter the war, he wrote "I've gotten what I came for-Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it." Also, in his 1955 memoirs, at a time when he might have been tempted to downplay any interest he had had in securing Soviet entry into the war, he explained that his "immediate purpose [in going to Potsdam] was to get the Russians into the war against Japan as soon as possible" and that securing Soviet entry had been a priority for him because "If the test [of the atomic bomb] should fail, then it would be even more important to us to bring about a surrender before we had to make a physical conquest of Japan."

Sanho Tree also responded to the question of Soviet entry on 10/10:

Bonnett overlooks the mass of evidence stressing the shock value of a Soviet declaration of war. I will cite but one example here. On July 10, even before the Emperor's initiative, the chief Army planner, Brigadier General George A. Lincoln wrote to his friend Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, the commander of US forces in China:

"The B-29s are doing such a swell job that some people think the Japs will quit without an invasion. That may be so providing we can get an adequate formula defining unconditional surrender. That we have attempted to do, and it has gone from this group through channels to the President. My personal opinion, which isn't much, is that there are two psychological days in this war; that is, the day after we persuade Russia to enter, if we can, and the day after we get what the Japs recognize as a secure beachhead in Japan. Around EITHER of those times we might get a capitulation, PROVIDING we have an adequate definition of what capitulation means." [p.359-360, emphasis added]

Bonnett cites an earlier statement, also by Gen. Lincoln, written on June 4 stating that "the point in our military progress at which the Japanese will accept defeat and agree to our terms is unpredictable." Clearly, this letter to Gen. Wedemeyer, written over a month later (and reprinted on p.359 of _The Decision_ ), shows that Lincoln's views had evolved but Bonnett chooses to omit this reference.

On 10/3 Uday Mohan commented on what was considered "conventional wisdom" in the public understanding of an anticipated Soviet declaration of war:

Russian entry as a possible final blow to Japan also got significant play in the media. An April 16, 1945, Newsweek headline is telling: "Lost Battles, Slap From Moscow Shake Props of Jap Ruling Clique: Shift in Tokyo Government Smoothes Way for Peace Feelers, Cuts Power of Army Group." Even at this early date Newsweek noted that the Russian denunciation of the Russian-Japanese neutrality pact spelled "pure disaster" for Japan. A month later, Newsweek mentioned reports of "at least one peace feeler" from Japan, adding confirmation to its earlier picture of Japan's hopelessness.

The possibility of Russian entry and Japanese desire to seek an end to the war were linked propositions on other occasions as well. A July 30 Newsweek headline read, "Heavy Allied Blows, Fear of Reds Make Jap Leaders Seek Way Out." The article noted that Japan, fearing Russian entry and hoping to negotiate an end to the war before the Russians came in, had sent the Soviets a peace feeler. Top-secret documents do shed light on the importance of Russian entry, but it was also regarded as common sense in the public discourse.

These media assessments and commentaries provide context for the perceptions of U.S. leaders seeking an end to the war. The media coverage in the spring and summer of 1945 recalls Martin Sherwin's formulation, made almost a decade ago: "The choice in the summer of 1945 was not between a conventional invasion or a nuclear war. It was a choice between various forms of diplomacy and warfare." (_A World Destroyed_, Vintage ed., 1987, p. xxiv).

Readers may also wish to consult chapters 7-9 of _The Decision_ for additional information about American plans for Soviet entry into the war.


9/25: John Bonnett wrote in his initial review:

"On the same day that Truman expressed the belief that the bomb would end the war before the planned Russian invasion of Manchuria, he wrote a letter extolling the benefits of Soviet entry. The next day he approved a C.C.S. recommendation that the Soviets be given a formal request to enter the war. He was genuinely surprised when Japan offered to surrender after `only' two bombs had been used. If the President remained oblivious to the potential psychological impact Soviet entry would have, so too did his advisors. [Prof. Barton] Bernstein notes that `after re-reading key diaries and related papers for the 24 July - 10 August 1945 period, I have been surprised how little focussed attention the issue received for its psychological effect.'"

Katie Morris responded on 11/9 in H-Japan:

[Bonnett] looks not to contemporaneous evidence, but only to a footnote in an article by Barton Bernstein to substantiate this claim. This is unfortunate on several levels, but mostly because as much as I respect the contribution that Barton Bernstein has made to A-bomb scholarship, the observation put forward in this footnote-that "After rereading key diaries and related papers for the 24 July-10 August 1945 period, I have been surprised by how little focused attention the issue of Soviet entry received for its psychological effect, as distinguished from its military value, in contributing to Japan's future defeat"-is not his finest. Indeed, although it was Bernstein who was one of the first to argue, rightly, that bomb historians needed to look back to even before Truman became president in order to properly contextualize the bomb decision, here, he makes the mistake of looking to the period _after_ the news of the success of the atomic test was received for focus on Soviet entry for its psychological value. If only Bonnett had looked carefully at Bernstein's article, _The Decision_ or, probably best, the relevant evidence, he would have seen that it is a bit of a mystery why it should come as a surprise that there is little evidence of focused attention on the psychological value of Soviet entry during this particular July 24-August 10 period. As even Bernstein himself has noted, once the bomb had been successfully tested on July 16, U.S. decision-makers not only were not focusing on the shock value of a Russian attack, they had lost interest in Soviet entry completely and, in fact, were actively attempting to keep the Russians from entering the war. Added to this was the ever-present sensitivity to the political/diplomatic risks posed by Soviet entry, and resulting reluctance to be seen as the one who pushed Soviet entry. No, as the above evidence should make clear, for evidence of U.S. leaders' understanding of the psychological value of Soviet entry one must look back (and look carefully) to April, May, June and early July 1945, when the atomic bomb was, in Stimson's post-war words, "a week reed" on which to rely, and all possible strategic options had to be explored.

For further discussion about the sensitivity and classification of documents regarding Soviet entry see p.96 and p.683n of _The Decision_. For additional information about American plans for Soviet entry into the war see chapters 7-9 of _The Decision_.


10/10 Eric Bergerud wrote: "...Alperovitz stresses the crucial importance of the Soviet entry into the war in August 1945. Its military significance was dubious. (Alperovitz's description of the Kwantung Army as an elite force is absurd. High quality Japanese forces in Manchuria had long since been redeployed to the Pacific or the homeland. Only a pitiful shell remained.)"

Katie Morris responded on 11/10 in H-Japan:

Nowhere in _The Decision_ is the Kwantung Army inappropriately characterized as "an elite force" (Bergerud, H-Diplo, 10 Oct. 1996). On page 85, in reference to the role that Soviet entry was initially to play-as determined early in the war-it says "U.S. officials initially wanted the Red Army to attack as soon as possible in order to pin down the vaunted Japanese Kwantung Army on the China mainland." On page 418, it states the "once formidable Japanese Kwantung Army, (now 'bled white of trained units and of first-line equipment.')" (quoting from Raymond Garthoff's 1969 study, "The Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945 in _Military Affairs_.)


9/25: John Bonnett implied that Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal's reading of the Japanese intercepts made him feel pessimistic about an early end to the war. "On July 15 he noted Japan's hope of inducing the Soviets to take independent action in the war, in order to gain better terms:

[Sato] stated very bluntly. . .how fantastic is the hope that Russia would be impressed by Japanese willingness to give up territory which she had already lost. . . .He said that the situation was rapidly passing beyond the point of Japan's and Russia's cooperating in the security of Asia but [that the question was] rather whether there would be any Manchukuo or even Japan itself left as entities.

Observing that Sato pressed the issue again on the 24th, Forrestal noted Japan's "final judgment and decision was the war must be fought with all the vigor and bitterness of which the nation was capable so long as the only alternative was the unconditional surrender." Considering American policy makers previously understood conditional surrender to comprise more than an Imperial guarantee, that Togo proved incapable of providing any new terms for Sato, and that Japan continued to harbour hopes of independent Soviet action, its stance on the 24th was not an encouraging sign."

Sanho Tree responded to this on 10/10:

This is a curious interpretation of Forrestal's assessment of the situation, to say the least. Forrestal noted the irony of the Japanese asking for Soviet mediation to end the war, in all probability, because he knew of the impending Soviet declaration of war against Japan and the effect it would have on the hard-liners there. In fact, he was quite encouraged by these intercepts and he ends his July 15 diary entry with: "It is significant that these [Sato-Togo] conversations began before there could have been much effect from the thousand-plane raids of the Third Fleet and several days before the Naval [artillery] bombardment of Kamaishi."

Bonnett ignores the evidence from many different sources presented in _The Decision_ [pp.390-399] showing that Forrestal believed the Japanese were on the verge of surrender. Indeed, Forrestal left for Potsdam on July 26th carrying the intercepts with him on the plane. Furthermore, Forrestal, a strong proponent of granting assurances for the Emperor, worked with Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew and Secretary of War Henry Stimson to urge a clarification of surrender terms for the Japanese in the hope of inducing a surrender prior to any invasion of the home islands. And, as Robert Albion, Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley have noted, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Forrestal made a last ditch personal effort to head off the bombing. Thus, there is nothing unusual in Forrestal noting the Japanese decision to continue fighting if faced with "unconditional surrender" for he himself understood these terms to be unworkable so long as the Japanese believed the Emperor was threatened.

On 11/10 Katie Morris responded on H-Japan:

Even Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, to whom Bonnett makes specific reference to support his argument that U.S. leaders believed the Japanese were as much concerned about occupation as they were about the emperor, supported Stimson's efforts and, as _The Decision_ documents and others here have noted, may have supported (even encouraged?) the efforts of Ralph Bard and Admiral Ellis Zacharias. (Alperovitz, 390-99) Indeed, in terms of perceptions, the July 30 entry of McCloy's diary is quite clear: On that day, Ambassador to Moscow Averell Harriman told McCloy about the "long talk . . . about the Japanese business, particularly the Emperor's position," that he had had with Forrestal. From McCloy we learn that: "Jim [Forrestal] feels we may need the Emperor to stabilize things in Japan and bring about peace on the continent. If the Emperor does not go along with what we feel is a complete demobilization of Japan, we can unseat him. If he does, he may be an asset to a liberal element." (McCloy Diary, July 30, 1945)


9/25: On the question of Japanese peace feelers and attempts to modify surrender terms John Bonnett wrote: "Joseph Grew suggested the initiatives were designed to weaken American commitment to the war."

Uday Mohan responded on 10/3:

Bonnett, for example, notes Grew's July 10 statement that some Japanese peace initiatives during the summer "were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This was a public statement Grew made to quell growing rumors about peace in the press. Bonnett does not mention that privately Grew again counseled qualifying unconditional surrender so that "the door may well be opened to an early surrender." (Alperovitz 232) Nor does Bonnett mention that Grew clearly understood that there were peace-minded elements in Japan. (p474)

Sanho Tree responded on 10/10:

In attempting to dismiss the various Japanese peace feelers, Bonnett writes as though Joseph Grew was a hard-liner on the issue of unconditional surrender: "Joseph Grew suggested the [peace] initiatives were designed to weaken American commitment to the war." This characterization--because it is Bonnett's only reference to Grew--paints a grotesquely distorted picture of Grew's positions in 1945. Bonnett has taken a public statement Grew gave at a press conference in July putting down rampant peace rumors in the press and made it appear representative of Grew's larger, private views. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One would never know from reading Bonnett that Grew and Stimson were the driving forces behind the effort to grant assurances for the Emperor-each approaching Truman several times.

For a discussion of the evolution of the unconditional surrender policy, readers may wish to read chapters 3 to 6 of _The Decision_.


On 9/25 and 10/10 Bonnett claimed "More was at stake, then, than a proviso for Hirohito, or fight. American civilian and military policy makers understood that Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centred on foreign occupation as well, and that Japan was prepared to go to substantial lengths to prevent both eventualities." He quoted a July 8 intelligence estimate presented to the Combined Chiefs of Staff [CCS 643/3]: "The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of "unconditional surrender" are most revolting to the Japanese."

On 10/10 Sanho Tree responded:

Unfortunately, Bonnett has chosen to omit a key sentence in a way that alters the meaning of the intelligence estimate. The full quotation shows that the officers of the Combined Intelligence Committee who prepared this study highlighted the centrality of the Emperor above all other conditions of surrender:

"The ideas of foreign occupation of the Japanese homeland, foreign custody of the person of the Emperor, and the loss of prestige entailed by the acceptance of `unconditional surrender' are most revolting to the Japanese. To avoid these conditions, IF POSSIBLE, and, IN ANY EVENT, to insure the survival of the institution of the Emperor, the Japanese might well be willing to withdraw from all the territory they have seized on the Asiatic continent and in the southern Pacific, and even to agree to the independence of Korea and to the practical disarmament of their military forces. A conditional surrender by the Japanese government along the lines stated above might be offered by them at any time from now until the time of the complete destruction of all Japanese power of resistance." [Emphasis added. 8 July 1945, "Estimate of the Enemy Situation (as of 6 July 1945). Reported by the Combined Intelligence Committee." C.C.S. 643/3]

Clearly, the Combined Intelligence Committee saw the Japanese objection to occupation as secondary (desirable "if possible") to the preeminent condition-the retention of the Emperor.

In addition, Thad Williamson pointed out on 10/23 that:

on p.651 of the Afterword, the continued intransigence of the Japanese military after Nagasaki and Soviet entry is directly addressed in a section reviewing some of the expert literature on this point. . ."

Uday Mohan also responded on 10/28 but his posting was rejected by the editors of H-Diplo after they terminated the debate. A somewhat lengthier version was finally posted on H-Japan on 11/30:

I also pointed out that in offering the CCS study Bonnett omits to note that Alperovitz cites the study's point about occupation, but shows the singularity of the unconditional surrender issue for both sides. Bonnett replies that "contrary to Mohan, Alperovitz _did not_ state all the points made in CCS 643/3." But Alperovitz _does_, on p. 227 (the index easily leads us to this page). More important, though, is the issue that Sanho Tree raised about Bonnett's specific use of the CCS study. Bonnett misses the CCS study's emphasis on the status of the Emperor rather than occupation. To be sure, the Japanese wanted to concede the minimum to end the war; what losing nation doesn't? But the issue here is what American leaders understood as the main sticking point to Japanese surrender. And from May onward the answer is clear: assurances for the emperor. This is hardly a novel position. Many scholars have made this point, for example, Leon Sigal: "one point was clear to senior U.S. officials regardless of where they stood on war termination.... U.S. senior officials knew that the critical condition for Japan's surrender was the assurance that the throne would be preserved." (quoted in Alperovitz, p. 301) Katie Morris responded on 11/10 in H-Japan:

John Bonnett claimed early on in this discussion that "American civilian and military policy makers understood that Japan's objections to unconditional surrender centred on foreign occupation as well [as on the emperor's status]," and that U.S. leaders were not encouraged, in fact, were discouraged by what they read in the MAGIC intercepts. However, the available evidence suggests that this is not quite right. For example, when, on June 29, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy forwarded a draft of what became the Potsdam Proclamation to Stimson, he highlighted some of the "more important questions" which had "been resolved in the manner set forward in the draft" including:

"The maintenance of the dynasty. This point seems to be the most controversial one and one on which there is a split in opinion in the State Department. The draft suggests the language we have used in the memorandum to the President. This may cause repercussions at home but without it those who seem to know most about Japan feel there would be very little likelihood of acceptance."

In contrast with Bonnett's characterization however, with regard to "the necessity of occupation," McCloy noted only that "We have felt that without occupation there would not be the symbol of defeat that is necessary to impress both the Japanese and the Far Eastern peoples nor the means to demilitarize the islands. As you will see, we have left the time for the occupation somewhat indefinite."


10/10: Eric Bergerud made the following charge:

"Alperovitz greatly simplifies and twists the vital issue of the Showa Emperor's position in postwar Japan. Although Alperovitz would like his readers to believe that Tokyo wanted nothing more from Washington than assurances that Hirohito could continue on as a kind of Japanese King Albert, the truth was quite different. There is little reason to believe that the Japanese government feared the complete destruction of the Imperial throne. If they had done so, there would have been no "peace party" in Tokyo. The continuance of the Imperial line was the ONLY issue that every Japanese leader agreed was non-negotiable. (Any leader suggesting that the Japan end the monarchy would have been signing a death warrant in my opinion.) Indeed, anyone examining the debates that went on within the Japanese government after Tojo's fall in July 1944 is struck by the fact that Tokyo was not fighting for Hirohito as an individual, but for the nationalist-Shinto political structure that the Emperor symbolized...."

Katie Morris responded on 11/9 in H-Japan:

While this may be true, the fact is that U.S. leaders did not have access to information detailing the debates that went on within the Japanese government after Tojo's fall in July 1944. Indeed, the evidence reveals that U.S. leaders who looked into this issue believed the emperor's status was the condition on which Japanese surrender debates turned, and that assuring the Japanese they could keep the emperor was well within U.S. war aims, and that once they secured a surrender, they could re-define Hirohito's role as necessary. Also, however naive or misguided it may seem today given what we know from Japanese sources, as a result of what they read in July and August MAGIC intercepts, many members of Truman's administration came to believe that assurances might hold the key to changing the recognition of the inevitability of complete defeat into surrender, or, at the very least, given the stakes, that it was worth a try. To understand this however, it is necessary to actually look carefully at the evidence of U.S. perceptions, something which the critics who have written thus far have apparently not done.


10/10: Eric Bergerud wrote: "In fact, Stimson, Forrestal and Leahy, Grew's most powerful supporters, were politically outgunned. (Leahy's position on most issues related to the bomb AT THE TIME is not absolutely clear.) Against them, for various reasons, stood George Marshall, Archibald MacLeish, Dean Acheson, Harry Hopkins (probably), Charles Bohlen, Averell Harriman, Byrnes and Cordell Hull. (Hull was concerned that any concession in advance would be read in Tokyo as a sign of weakness. On that point he was quite correct.) In ruling against Grew, Truman was going with the political flow inside his administration, not against it. Such an obvious conclusion, however, does not fit well with a conspiracy theory."

On 11/10 Katie Morris replied on H-Japan:

I present this evidence [on McCloy, Stimson and Forrestal's positions], aware of the fact that it has been categorically dismissed on the grounds that these advisors were "outgunned," for several reasons.
1. The fact that they were not in the position to make the final decision on what went into the Potsdam Proclamation does not diminish the fact that they, as top members of the Truman Administration, with access to the most current information coming from Japan, believed that the emperor's status was, above all, the critical condition for Japan, _and_ that assuring them on this matter was well within the of U.S. war aims;
2. They were not so outgunned that they did not advise Truman of this judgment; Here I would like to stress several points: As noted above, General Marshall was not against assuring the Japanese that they could keep the emperor and it is wrong for Bergerud and Villa to continue to argue that he did. Also, it is no less than misrepresentation to suggest that MacLeish, Acheson, Hopkins, Bohlen, Harriman and Hull held more weight than Marshall, Leahy, the Joint Chiefs as a body, Stimson, Forrestal, Grew, even McCloy who basically ran the war department for Stimson and Undersecretary of the navy who sat on the Interim Committee; and to claim that the views of the former constituted the "political flow inside [Truman's] administration."
3. The evidence documenting where they met opposition does not suggest that the opposition was either based on a belief that other conditions were necessary, or that allowing Japan to keep the emperor was incompatible with U.S. war aims. For example, although we know that Truman approved the removal of both the military leaders' version of assurances and the civilian leaders' version of assurances from the Potsdam Proclamation, there is no evidence as to why. Yet there is evidence that whenever the subject of the emperor's status was raised with him, he expressed support for clarification. Moreover, when confronted on August 10 with the Japanese surrender offer on the sole condition that the sovereignty of the emperor be preserved, he did not hesitate in supporting a positive response. In fact, the evidence relating to this last point is worth noting in detail, for not only is it a good indication of the "political flow" inside the Truman administration, it also suggests that somehow Truman had little sense of the details of this matter:

On August 10, when the initial Japanese surrender offer was received, a debate took place in the White House. On one side was Leahy, Stimson, and Truman; on the other, Byrnes, with Forrestal agreeing with the former but occupying the middle ground. Byrnes' assistant, Walter Brown's notes of the debate is enlightening. According to Brown, Truman was perfectly willing to accept the offer outright, and immediately approved a cable drafted by Admiral Leahy. However, Brown notes that Byrnes found the cable unacceptable. When he protested, arguing that because they had insisted on "unconditional surrender" before the atomic bombings and before Soviet entry, they should stick to it after, Brown reports that "Truman asked to see [the] statement." Brown details:

JFB [Byrnes] cited page, paragraph and line of Potsdam declaration. Forrestal spoke up for JFB's position. Truman swung over. . . .

What is strange about this is that it suggests that despite an administration-wide debate over the issue, and the efforts of the all of the top-echelon advisers save James Byrnes to draw his attention to this very point-Truman was the only member of his administration to not have gotten the picture or refused to deal with the unconditional surrender problem-even Byrnes knew the page, paragraph and line of the Potsdam declaration that was at issue. Yet one further detail from Brown's August 10 entry, offering a rare glimpse of the relationship between Byrnes and Truman at this time, suggests one possible explanation: In addition to the above, he also noted: "JFB had lunch with the president and said that the two of them had to decide the question and there could not be so many cooks. Truman agreed and JFB message as written."

This suggests the possibility that information stopped with Byrnes or, at least, that the efforts to get the matter before Truman were somehow blocked. Unfortunately, at this point, it is impossible to determine exactly what happened, but at the very least, it is clear that the evidence on the views of the one advisor who was not outgunned, James Byrnes, is critical. Yet, significantly, all of the evidence indicating his views-that he did not want to make any deals; that he did not want to invite negotiations or any trouble on the domestic front; that, in fact, he probably wanted to dictate terms and when reports of the success in New Mexico arrived at Potsdam he grew confident that the bomb would allow him to do so; and that even when things did not work out quite as he had hoped he insisted on calling the shots-confirms only that Byrnes wanted to and thought he could end the war without having to publicly assure the Japanese that Hirohito could stay. Whether Byrnes' desire to get around this point can be used to explain the necessity of the bombings (especially when so many thought it possible, and when the JCS had taken account of political backlash and had suggested neutral language) is questionable. However, what is at issue here is whether, from the American perspective, the status of the emperor was the critical condition, or that assurances would be effective, and with respect to this question it should be noted that none of the evidence on Byrnes' views proves that is was not. For a sense of this, consider Stimson's characterization of the Japanese surrender offer, and his subsequent comments:

Japan accepted the Potsdam list of terms put out by the President "with the understanding the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of his majesty as a sovereign ruler". It is curious that this was the very single point that I feared would make trouble. When the Potsdam conditions were drawn and left my office where they originated, they contained a provision which permitted the continuance of the dynasty with certain conditions. The President and Byrnes struck that out. They were not obdurate on it but thought they could arrange it in the necessary secret negotiations which would take place after any armistice.

Indeed, this and the other evidence on Byrnes' opposition to clarifying the U.S. position on the emperor in the Potsdam Proclamation lends considerable weight to the argument that to some the bomb was perceived as a panacea; and that the preference for this option resulted in less than careful attention to other, equally viable if less desirable, options by the men who, ultimately, were in the position to decide U.S. policy.

See also chapters 24-5 for a discussion of unconditional surrender in the final stage of the war.


10/14: Brian Villa, among others, claimed that Gen. Marshall came to oppose modification of unconditional surrender in late July:

"As I tried to show in that [1976] piece, General Marshall and one of his principal advisers on this question, the head of OPD's Strategy and Policy group, BG George A. Lincoln, were forced to beat at least a partial retreat, after being initially favorable to disguised modification of unconditional surrender. Marshall's beating retreat speaks volumes about the political environment."

Katie Morris replied on H-Japan on 11/9:

For example, consider the statements made by Army Chief of Staff George Marshall in an exchange of memoranda in late May-early June 1945. On June 9, Marshall wrote:

it would seem better that we take action to discourage public use of the term "unconditional surrender," which we all agree is difficult to define, and encourage instead more definitive public statements concerning our policy and war aims. We should cease talking about unconditional surrender of Japan and begin to define our true objective in terms of defeat and disarmament....

His conclusion, "The nature of the objective, whether phrased as 'complete defeat' or 'unconditional surrender,' is going to be determined by the detailed instructions, and the suppression of the statement 'unconditional surrender' will have little practical effect on the final result," only confirms that Marshall believed what was important were the terms, the war aims, and that these needed to be spelled out. Whether or not they did so while keeping the "unconditional surrender" rhetoric, really did not make a difference. In fact, the resulting directive issued from Marshall to the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicates Marshall's insistence that "we should be careful not so to crystalize the phraseology "unconditional surrender" as to preclude the possibility of changing this terminology to something which might be psychologically more conducive to the earliest defeat of Japan."

Yet, while these statements confirm that Marshall understood the problem of unconditional surrender, other evidence confirms that he also understood that so long as unconditional surrender remained unclarified, there was a strong chance that the war would go on and he and the Joint Chiefs were responsible for planning for this. For example, consider the evidence from June 18, 1945 which suggests that, even at that early date, the presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Leahy urged the president not to insist upon unconditional surrender because he feared that "our insistence on unconditional surrender would result only in making the Japanese desperate and thereby increase our casualty lists." "He did not think this was at all necessary," the minutes of the June 18 meeting note, and, in fact, his diary entry from that day reveals that this was because at that time he believed "a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression." Perhaps this has been quoted so many times it has lost its punch: here, in the privacy of his own diary, the presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff to the President is writing that as of June 18 he perceives the situation to be one in which a surrender could be achieved which would satisfy the war aims of the United States and still be accepted by Japan. Whether or not he was right is a separate issue, and should be handled as such. The point here is that this evidence reflects his perception of the situation. And further, that as the president did not at this time opt to clarify "unconditional surrender," the documentary record reflects continued planning for the invasion.

Also consider the Joint Chiefs' independent efforts to get Truman to clarify unconditional surrender with regard to the status of the emperor. After attempting to approach the subject through Churchill, they touched on the issue of the emperor's status again during their meetings on July 17 and 18, this time in the context of a discussion of a draft of what became the Potsdam Proclamation. On the 17th, they considered an opinion paper presented by the Joint Strategic Survey Committee (JSSC), in which the JSSC approved the draft, but cautioned that the sentence which was intended to clarify "unconditional surrender" with respect to the emperor, could possibly, as written, backfire. This group suggested alternative language which the JCS adopted because they feared that threatening the emperor, even inadvertently in poorly-worded assurances, could mean a longer war.

This has been interpreted to mean that the Joint Chiefs, and General George Marshall in particular, were against offering any assurances at all. I refer specifically to Bergerud's October 28 assertion that "at the time of Potsdam the JCS and Marshall did NOT favor Grew's mention of the Emperor's status in the Potsdam Declaration. Marshall, like Cordell Hull, favored the retention of the Emperor but feared the consequences of making it a PUBLIC issue prior to surrender or a realistic appeal by the Japanese government to the UNITED STATES..." [emphasis Bergerud's] Simply, this does not square with the evidence: During the meeting, the minutes note, Marshall approved the language suggested by the JSSC, because he recognized the need for using the emperor in achieving surrender. In fact, he stressed that President Truman be advised that nothing should be done "to indicate that the Emperor might be removed from office upon unconditional surrender." Thus, in a memorandum to Truman the Chiefs recommended _not_ removing a clarifying sentence all together, but that instead of telling the Japanese they could have a "constitutional monarchy," it would be better to echo the neutral language of the Atlantic Charter, and assure the Japanese that "Subject to suitable guarantees against further acts of aggression, the Japanese people will be free to choose their own form of government." (Both this and the civilians' formulation were rejected and the Proclamation was issued without any clarification at all on this issue. This, Mr. Bergerud, is the "unrealized 'flex'" in the diplomatic situation in mid-1945. And this also illuminates the Combined Intelligence Committee's lack of definitiveness: They had even less power than the JCS, and while on one level they could recommend clarification, on another they had to assume there would be no change.

See also pp. 299-301.

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