August 7, 1945: No Japanese Surrender



One of the arguments of critics of Truman’s use of the atomic bomb, is that a demonstration could have been made of it without blood being shed, over the ocean for example, the Japanese would have seen the power of the bomb and surrendered.  Well, we know that is incorrect.  We know that because the Japanese did not surrender after Hiroshima.  We also know that the Japanese had no intention of surrendering after Hiroshima.  Discussions within the Japanese cabinet were deadlocked until the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with the dominant war faction claiming that the US probably had no more atomic bombs and that their strategy of holding out, inflicting a defeat on an American land invasion, and then negotiating from strength, was the best strategy for Japan.  The deadlock continued on August 9, 1945 when the atomic bombing of Nagasaki caused the war and peace factions to agree to bring their differences to the Emperor.


Lord Privy Seal Kido Koichi, the man in the Japanese government most close to the Emperor Hirohito who finally commanded surrender on August 10, 1945 when advised that the war and peace factions were still deadlocked, later estimated that the August surrender spared Japan twenty million casualties.  Mitsumasa Yonai, the Japanese naval minister, but a member of the peace faction, told the Emperor that the atomic bombings and the Soviet Declaration of War, which occurred on August 9, were divine gifts that allowed Japan to surrender without seeming to capitulate to popular discontent.  Absent the atomic bombings, there is zero evidence that Japan would have surrendered in August 1945.  Even after the Emperor made his decision there was an attempt by factions within the Army to stage a military coup and prevent the surrender, but that is the subject of a future post.

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  1. The Japanese culture was such that to be taken captive in battle was thought to be an incredible disgrace–they would often kill themselves in
    order to keep from giving up or being captured.

    The attempts to apply modern American cultural reasoning re: these issues to the thinking of the Japanese military in the 1940s is ridiculous. If the Japanese had been using American reasoning, the Japanese would have never bombed Pearl Harbor.

    These folks, who rant & rave against the EXTREMLY limited use of nuclear weapons, usually never mention the unprovoked attack on our naval forced at Pearl Harbor that came w/o any warning.

  2. These ranters and ravers are the same self-righteous bunch that rant and rave against any dissent from their tidy little cocoon of Progressive ideology. As that package is complete and without error, to oppose it is to demonstrate some sort of emotional and/or intellectual inferiority.
    The kindest Progressives will simply condescend, with or without the charity of correction, in order that you may know and be content with your status an untermensch; the harshest will consign you to “the wrong side of history” and dismiss you with some sarcastic analysis of your lack of erudition, worldliness or genetic integrity.
    In any event, they’re really fun to piss off. Progressive apoplexy is high comedy indeed.

  3. I have thought a lot on this subject, but those first three sentences, put together like that, are compelling in a way I had not fully considered. A counterargument is that details from Hiroshima after the attack were sketchy, while a well staged demonstration (perhaps involving Japanese scientists and other leaders invited to the first test in New Mexico) could have stated the surrender rolling.

    But that counterargument requires all of the invited personalities to have been, well, of the same frame of mind as today’s anti-nuclear critics. It is entirely possible that some invitees would have immediately thought of countermeasures to take so as to continue the fight even with the promised use of nuclear weapons.

    Another, more minor point, is that a demonstration would have required the expenditure of another bomb. Remember, the success of the first test was not guaranteed, so the Japanese could not have been invited to that one.

  4. In 1946 the U.S. Navy thought their ships at anchor around Bikini Atoll survived two atomic bombings rather well.
    Until the geiger counters starting going off. And even then it took an expirement involving unexposed film and a freshly caught fish to convince the admirals that there was no way they could sail those ships home.
    So I think it unlikely a demonstration in July ’45 would have convinced the Japanese of anything, simply because nobody as yet could fully comprehend the terrible power of the A-bomb.
    That’s a long way of saying if losing a real city didn’t compel the Japanese to surrender, how was the obliteration of a mocked up American town in the middle of the New Mexico desert supposed to convince them?

  5. Horrible weapon, that bomb. I suspect that the failure to surrender even then was precipitated not by fear of dying, regardless of the method, but by the fear of agreeing to losing–dishonor being far worse than death.
    If I recall, the Emperor’s “surrender” speech sounded much like a modern liberal’s apology–you’d have thought they had won.

  6. These ranters and ravers are the same self-righteous bunch that rant and rave against any dissent from their tidy little cocoon of Progressive ideology.

    Again, Mr. McKenna is an alt-right denizen whose usual shticks would be neo-confederate historiography and making a case for capital punishment (without ever specifying the boundaries of that). The Shea votaries are a mess of crabs-in-the-bucket whose distinguishing feature is a loathing of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.

  7. Great point about the Bikini test Ernst. Although, we didn’t build mock towns at nuclear tests until 1949 or so.

    Don L, you are also correct. It would seem that much of the Japanese resistance to surrender was also projection on their part. Their expectations of military occupation appear to have been based entirely on how they had treated others when they were the occupiers. This probably also explains why they fell all over themselves opening up official brothels before the Allies arrived at the end of August.

  8. The Japanese culture demanded that death before disgrace was the policy. Death was the only choice the Japanese people and military had. Perhaps if the atomic bomb in the ocean would have caused an earthquake and tsunami and death would have come to Japan this way, it might have worked.

  9. The Japanese culture demanded that death before disgrace was the policy.

    And their idea of disgrace was nuts.
    You know how in bad kung-fu movies, one of the things that’s mocked is that a whole group of guys is dancing around, and they kindly attack Our Hero one at a time?

    Their military actually did that. In sea and on land. One group of Marines was sure they’d die, because they were outnumbered hugely, and then the Japanese only attacked in groups that slightly outnumbered them.
    Good tactics meant that you respected the enemy, and we’re not Japanese, so saying you thought those (insert insult here) over there were AS GOOD AS US was dishonorable.

  10. This thread is long on ad hominem and ends-justifies-the-means un Catholic reasoning, short on demonstrating how the bombings in any way comport with the clear teaching of the Church, which, like the messenger or not, is abundantly clear about the immorality of direct killing of civilians in wartime in such an indiscriminate manner.

    Ad hominems are the last resort of one without a rational argument.

  11. And of course, if the Japs *really were* going to fight to the last man, woman and child, and believed in death before surrender and dishonor… then why did they surrender at the loss of two cities? If it’s true that they were, to a man, woman, and child, committed to death before surrender, why did they surrender? Because they saw the futility of continuing? They would have seen the same futility if we had conventionally attacked them after a long and crippling blockade.

    But we didn’t even try a less destructive method, likely because Truman was worried about the Soviets grabbing territory if the war was prolonged any further. So Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s civilians had to die in order to terrorize the Japanese government into quick surrender.

  12. “And of course, if the Japs *really were* going to fight to the last man, woman and child, and believed in death before surrender and dishonor… then why did they surrender at the loss of two cities?”

    Because the Emperor told them to. If he had told them not to surrender, they would have fought on to the last, which is what they did in almost every Pacific battle they fought. The Emperor surrendered because he realized, finally, with the atomic bomb the jig was up. Even then the Imperial Army attempted a coup to carry on the fight.

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