VJ Day

[from Z Magazine, July-August 1995, footnotes added]

 

 

VJ Day: Remembering the Pacific War

 

Stephen R. Shalom

Table of Contents

 

Following a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors this past April, President Clinton was asked about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: "Should we apologize" for dropping the bombs and "did Truman make the right decision" in ordering the bombing. Clinton replied, "No. And based on the facts he had before him, yes," earning him applause from the assembled journalists.{1} Two weeks later, Clinton stated at a press conference that "even after 50 years," he believed Truman "did the right thing." And "I do not believe that on the celebration of the end of the war and the service and the sacrifice of our people, that that is the appropriate time to be asking about or launching a major reexamination of that issue."{2}

In fact, however, a major reexamination not just of the atomic bombings, but of all aspects of the Pacific War, is long overdue. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the war's end, we need to give serious consideration to some very serious issues raised by the Pacific War -- in terms of its origins, its conduct, and its aftermath. Japanese aggression, Japanese militarism, Japanese atrocities: these are well known and rightly condemned. But they are not the whole story. We need to examine as well the policies and actions of the United States. And this is not just a matter of historical trivia. For only if we understand these events of the past -- and appreciate the responsibility of our own society -- can we avoid committing equally horrendous acts in the future.

 

The Origins of the Pacific War

 

It is often forgotten how much World War II in the Pacific was a war between colonial powers. The United States did not get involved until military bases on three of its colonial territories -- Hawaii, the Philippines, and Guam -- were attacked by the Japanese. The British and their dominions were drawn in by the attack on their colonies of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. And the Dutch declared war on Japan in anticipation of the assault on their colony, the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). Before Pearl Harbor, Washington tightened its economic sanctions on Japan when it moved into northern Indochina in September 1940, and southern Indochina in July 1941 -- that is, when Tokyo encroached on the colonial domains of Vichy France.

The only non-colonies attacked by Japan were Thailand and China. When Tokyo demanded that Thailand allow Japanese troops permission to use Thai soil for attacks on Burma and Malaya, Bangkok leaders allied their country with Japan and declared war on the United States and Britain, but they didn't mind the opportunity to regain Thai territory that France and Britain had taken at the beginning of the century and given to their Southeast Asian colonies.{3} China was truly the main victim of Japanese aggression, but that aggression had been going on for ten years before Pearl Harbor with great brutality, though evoking little reaction from Washington and London, a subject that will be discussed in more detail below.

Now it is not nice to seize the colonies of another country, but from the point of view of the colonial peoples the moral distinction between seizor and seizee are not so obvious. Indeed, in much of Asia there was considerable sympathy for Japan, which was ousting the western colonialists. In the East Indies a nationalist leader acknowledged that a majority of his compatriots "rejoiced over Japanese victories." Before Japan had complete control, many Dutch planters had to "flee for their lives from natives who had been their servants for 100 years or more" in the words of a British officer on the spot. Even Nehru told Edgar Snow privately of his emotional sympathy for Japan.{4}

To many Asians it was tremendously inspiring to see other Asians decisively defeating and humiliating their arrogant European and American masters.{5} When Japan had first moved to take over Manchuria in 1931-32, an internal U.S. State Department memorandum expressed concern:

"Should Japan succeed in getting her way over the protests of the League of Nations and the United States and despite the admitted interests of Soviet Russia, white prestige throughout Asia would be dangerously shaken; the 'Asia for the Asiatics' movement would be intensified; and the difficult position of the British in India would be rendered still more difficult of solution."

The memorandum continued:

"The United States, the Dominions and the British ruling classes are alike race-conscious, and the underlying instinct of the Anglo-Saxons is to preserve the Anglo-Saxon breed intact against the rising tide of color. Despite emotional appeals and jingo talk, the common British and American attitude towards the people of other colors is a fundamental factor in the present situation."{6}

Where westerners hoped to "effectively assert white-race authority in the Far East," to quote British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in 1938,{7} Asians yearned to end western pretensions of racial superiority. Japan had tried to get the principle of racial equality embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations, but the United States and Britain, along with South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, blocked it.{8} In the United States itself, many laws discriminated against Asians. And when Congress passed the Exclusion Act of 1924 barring Japanese immigration in violation of an earlier U.S.-Japanese "Gentleman's Agreement," anti-American opinion in Japan was given a great boost.{9} In 1935, the U.S. ambassador to Tokyo recommended against repealing the Exclusion Act. To do so, he warned, would be a sign of U.S. weakness (Americans presumably need to save face) and if Washington were to recognize Japan as an equal on immigration, some Japanese would ask why they shouldn't be viewed as equals in terms of their navy as well.{10} Back in 1922, the United States, Britain, and Japan had agreed that the Japanese navy should only be allowed 60% of the capital ship tonnage of the other two powers -- an arrangement that provoked much resentment in Japan and which was engineered thanks to Washington's reading of Japanese codes.{11} The rationale given for the larger western navies was that they had distant possessions to protect,{12} which is to say, since they had stolen territory before, they needed more military force to defend their ill-gotten gains.

U.S. racism applied to the Chinese too, who were also excluded from U.S. shores (though as a gesture of friendship to our wartime ally, the immigration laws were revised in December 1943 to allow 105 Chinese to enter per year, over the protests of the American Federation of Labor, the American Legion, and others).{13} And white racism was on display throughout Asia. So Japan's humbling of the white overlords struck a responsive chord among the colonial peoples of Asia. Of course, Asian hopes that Japan had come to liberate them were soon cruelly shattered. The Japanese were no more interested in Asian self-determination than were westerners, and Japanese racism toward other Asians was also quite vicious. But if there was no reason to welcome the Japanese, nor was there much reason to prefer their predecessors.

Distinctions are sometimes made between Japanese colonialism and that of the other western countries. To be sure, Japan came late to colonialism, and so its conquests had to be more recent than those of the other powers. As Britain's First Sea Lord privately acknowledged in 1934, the western powers had "got most of the world already, or the best parts of it" and they sought to "prevent others taking it away."{14} Japanese conquests, however, were no more ferocious than those of the earlier colonizers. The U.S. war of conquest in the Philippines at the turn of the century, for example, was particularly brutal, where General Jacob Smith ordered "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me" and where many Filipinos were killed for each one wounded because, as General Arthur MacArthur (the father of the World War II general) explained, "inferior races" succumb to wounds more readily than Anglo-Saxons.{15}

The Japanese held their World War II conquests for fewer than four years, and all of these were years of global war, so it is not really fair to compare their record of colonial rule in these countries with those of the West. However, if one looks at those colonies that Tokyo held for a considerable length of time (Formosa and Korea), Japan's record in terms of economic development is quite impressive, while its political record is poor. Americans are especially proud of their colonial record in the Philippines in terms of education. Few note that when the United States acquired the Philippines, the islands already had the most extensive system of education in Southeast Asia, and that by 1938 they had about the same fraction of the population in school as Japanese Formosa and independent Thailand; fifty percent more was spend per capita on education in Formosa than in the Philippines.{16}

The United States, of course, promised in 1934 to give the Philippines its independence ten years hence, and in 1946 it did so. But Tokyo announced in 1943 that it was giving independence to the Philippines, as well as to Burma and Indonesia. Of course, it didn't take a genius to note that the independence was phony: secret agreements gave Japan the right to exploit Philippine resources and the Japanese military based its forces in the islands.{17} But Washington obtained these same privileges from an "independent" Philippines too. As a U.S. political scientist remarked a few months after formal Philippine independence, both economically and militarily "the United States is actually in a stronger position in the Philippines although the islands are independent now."{18}

At the Tokyo War Crimes Trials following the war, the U.S. prosecutor Joseph Keenan asked former Japanese prime minister Tojo Hideki whether all people had a right to self-determination.{19} But if this were the basis for deciding who was a war criminal, the dock would have been rather more multinational in composition. In 1932, at the same time that Secretary of State Henry Stimson (later to be FDR's Secretary of War) was calling for the non-recognition of Japan's colonial aggrandizement in Manchuria, he opposed Philippine independence.{20} In 1933, Roosevelt's Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, signed a hemisphere pledge declaring that no state had the right to intervene in the affairs of another; privately, however, he considered the proposition "more or less wild and unreasonable."{21} And when the United States decided to give the Philippines independence, it was not because of a commitment to self-determination, but out of a desire to end Philippine immigration and eliminate Philippine exports which competed with U.S. agricultural interests.{22}

Radhabinod Pal, the Indian justice at the Tokyo trial, asked why, if colonial seizures were now improper according to the western powers, they were permitted to retain and profit from the acquisitions of their misguided past?{23} No good answer was provided.

 

Our "White Hope" in the East

 

China, as noted above, was an independent country, but it was subject to all sorts of imposed treaties that left it open to foreign domination. At the turn of the century, the United States had promoted the "Open Door" policy which called on the other powers to refrain from establishing exclusive spheres of influence in China, allowing all to exploit it on an equal basis. Thus, Washington shared with other countries extraterritorial rights, the administration of an "International Settlement" at Shanghai, control of Chinese maritime customs, and the right to deploy military forces within China's territory. The deployments fluctuated, but when Japan invaded China in 1937, Washington had more than 2,000 troops ashore and 1,800 on its 13 naval vessels that patrolled Chinese waters.{24} (The United States and Britain gave up their extraterritorial rights on January 10, 1943, in order to encourage their Chinese allies to fight on -- as did the Japanese, for the same reason, one day earlier.{25})

In 1932, the United States announced that it would not recognize Tokyo's conquest of Manchuria and the Manchukuo regime it established there. At the same time, however, Secretary of State Stimson told the Chinese ambassador in Washington that he "had no quarrel with any of Japan's rights in Manchuria" and hoped to see the two countries settle their differences in ways which did not "impair our rights in China." A few months later when Japan took military action at the Shanghai international settlement -- claiming to be maintaining order -- Stimson advised the Chinese that other nations would follow Japan's example unless the Nationalist government changed the "picture of various Chinese factions cutting each other's throats and tearing each other to pieces...."{26}

When the Japanese government in 1933 expressed its interest in improving relations with Washington, Secretary of State Hull instructed the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo to point out the "increasing evidence of discrimination, actual or likely to develop, by the authorities of Manchukuo against American and other foreign commercial interests in Manchuria, and of acts by these authorities prejudicial to the treaty rights of the United States." Making no reference to any Chinese rights, Hull stated that "if the Japanese authorities could discourage successfully the discriminatory and other objectionable practices in Manchukuo, it would contribute substantially to maintaining and promoting good will between the United States and Japan...."{27}

Before the Japanese attack on China proper in 1937, the U.S. Department of State berated China for restrictions on foreign capital.{28} After 1937, in U.S.-Japanese talks it was "the treatment of American business in China" that "engaged as much of the time of the negotiators as any other, and absorbed a great amount of drafting energy," in the words of mainstream diplomat/historian Herbert Feis.{29} Other U.S. protests to Tokyo related to the Japanese bombing of civilians, but the U.S. interest in these atrocities was well indicated by the subject heading used in the published collection of these protests: "Bombing of Civilians by the Japanese and Other Acts Endangering the Life and Welfare of American Citizens in China."{30}

Needless to say, the preservation of Chinese democracy was not an issue, for, as British historian Christopher Thorne notes, "if the term 'fascist' is to be employed in a non-European context for the 1930s, to no regime is it more appropriate to attach it than that of the Kuomintang (KMT) in China. 'Fascism' declared Chiang Kai-shek to a gathering of his Blue Shirts in 1935, 'is a stimulant for a declining society.... Can fascism save China? We answer: yes.'"{31} But domestic Chinese politics did figure in U.S. thinking in one respect. To quote Feis (for whom the word "China" refers to Chiang Kai- shek by definition):

"Decisive success in the use of compulsion might have some undesired results. If Japan were brought to sudden collapse it might no longer be an effective opponent of Communism in Asia. Unless the retreat from Manchukuo were well- managed, the Communists might win control of the land, not China. This gave cause for wishing a settlement by consent, rather than coercion."{32}

For many Chinese peasants, the KMT regime was so vile and corrupt that there was little to recommend it over the Japanese. One KMT general told U.S. General Stilwell that heavy losses were really a good thing since Chinese soldiers were bandits, robbers, thieves, and rascals, and that by sending them off to the front to get killed bad elements were being eliminated.{33} In 1944 in central Honan, peasants who had suffered from famine caused in part by their own government's brutal treatment, armed only with farm tools and crude weapons, attacked Chinese soldiers as they retreated before the Japanese.{34} China, declared the Chicago Daily News, is our "White hope" in the East,{35} but the KMT obviously left much to be desired.

There was undoubted Japanese aggression in China and the United States claimed to be especially concerned that Tokyo's behavior violated the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, an international agreement outlawing aggressive war. But all the major parties to the Pact had specified that their concurrence in no way curtailed their right of self-defense and their right -- in the words of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- to be "the sole judge of what constitutes the right of self-defense and the necessity and extent of the same." The United States, noted the Committee, "regards the Monroe Doctrine as a part of its national security and defense."{36} Thus, in Washington's view, the deployment of U.S. military forces to the Caribbean was no violation of the Kellogg-Briand agreement.

Colonialism is unjustifiable. Many Japanese believed, however, that they had as good a claim to it as the western powers. The Depression hit Japan with great severity. The major powers had responded to the economic crisis of the world capitalist system by imposing high protective tariffs around their colonial empires. The huge U.S. market was placed behind the Smoot-Hawley tariff in 1930. Between 1929 and 1931 Japanese foreign trade was cut in half.{37} As a State Department official noted, "all over the world various obstacles to the free and natural flow of Japanese exports" had been raised.{38} Among these obstacles were special preferences that the United States maintained for its own business interests in the Philippines and Cuba.

Given this situation, it is not surprising that Japan sought to emulate the other colonial powers and establish a self-sufficient economic empire of its own. In last minute negotiations between Tokyo and Washington in 1941, the Japanese indicated that they would support the Open Door in Asia if this principle were applied world-wide. Washington's reply ignored its own departures from the Open Door principle.{39}

Probably U.S. agreement on this point would not have been sufficient to prevent war, but what is clear is that Washington rejected the principle that it had to behave as it wanted others to do. The United States was entitled to its Monroe Doctrine for Latin America, but the Japanese could not have their Monroe Doctrine for Asia. Indeed, a key State Department official had noted many years before that Japan's Asian Monroe Doctrine posed a threat not just to the Open Door, but to the U.S. Monroe Doctrine as well because Europeans excluded from Asia would inevitably seek markets in South America.{40} The Far East, Henry Stimson declared, is "our part of the world"{41} and yet regarding Latin America he commented: "I think that it's not asking too much to have our little region over here that never has bothered anybody."{42}

Other issues divided Washington and Tokyo aside from commercial policy. The United States wanted Japan to break its Tripartite alliance with the Axis Powers. Japan gave assurances that the alliance would not compel it to declare war on the United States in the event that the latter got involved in the war in Europe (just as Japan had maintained its neutrality vis-a-vis the Soviet Union), and there were quite a few Japanese actions that indicated that the Tripartite pact was not really operative. But Washington insisted that the pact be abrogated, probably judging that the Axis alliance would help sell the coming war to the American public.{43} Japan offered to remove most but not all of its troops from China as soon as a peace agreement was reached, but this too Washington rejected. To U.S. policy makers, each soldier removed from China without making Japan suffer humiliating defeat would simply mean "one more soldier available to Japan to use elsewhere." Indeed, without fundamental changes in Japanese foreign policy it "may well be doubted whether any advantage to the United States (or to the world at large) would flow from a termination now" of the Sino-Japanese war.{44}

The United States, along with Britain and the Netherlands, placed a total embargo on oil to Japan, leaving it with no alternative sources. To Japanese leaders war to seize its own supplies of oil seemed essential. But Japanese officials calculated that an attack on the oil- rich East Indies would necessarily involve them in a war with the United States. In this estimation they were correct, for U.S. officials had determined to go to Congress for a declaration of war not just if U.S. colonies were attacked, but if those of Britain or the Netherlands were either.{45} In these circumstances Tokyo concluded that it made sense to try to strike the first blow.

Much has been made in the United States of Japanese treachery in attacking Pearl Harbor without warning. Many anti-FDR pundits have even concluded that Roosevelt knew of the impending attack but did nothing so as to have a major casus belli. Little noted, though, is the fact that U.S. military officials in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur had 9 hours notice and still managed to have their entire air force destroyed on the ground.{46} So it is not clear that a formal Japanese declaration of war arriving before the attack on Pearl Harbor would have made any practical difference.

44 Months That Will Live in Infamy

Be that as it may, the Japanese sneak attack when combined with virulent anti-Japanese racism produced a race war in the eyes of many Americans. On the West Coast, urged on by Walter Lippmann and others, the government relocated people of Japanese ancestry -- citizens and non-citizens -- to concentration camps.{47} The relocations were endorsed by FDR, who also had an interest in a scheme to crossbreed Japanese with docile Pacific islanders in order to eradicate the "primitive" brains and "barbarism" of the enemy.{48}

In an internal memorandum in January 1942, Admiral William D. Leahy, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that "in fighting with Japanese savages all previously accepted rules of warfare must be abandoned."{49}

One rule, much insisted upon by the United States in the past, condemned the use of unrestricted submarine warfare. In 1930, Japan, Britain, and the United States had signed an agreement that submarines would not sink merchant vessels without having first placed passengers and crew in a place of safety. Nevertheless, a few hours after Pearl Harbor Washington instructed naval commanders in the Pacific: "Execute Unrestricted Air and Submarine Warfare Against Japan." This order broke the 1930 agreement and preceded any unrestricted submarine warfare on the part of Japan.{50}

A 1943 Japanese document was submitted at the Tokyo war crimes tribunal ordering the "complete destruction of the crews of the enemy's ships."{51} But when a U.S. submarine commander sank a transport and then machine-gunned hundreds or thousands of survivors, he was commended and publicly honored.{52}

Japanese cruelty was horrendous, but it cannot justify the behavior of U.S. forces. One American war correspondent later wrote: "We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."{53} On Okinawa, for example, "killing of prisoners was widespread in some [U.S.] units," and many civilians were raped and murdered.{54}

The most serious U.S. atrocities, however, were inflicted from the air. Again, it is worth recalling the "previously accepted rules of warfare." In 1938, the U.S. Department of State announced that aerial bombardment of civilians was "in violation of the most elementary principles of those standards of humane conduct which have been developed as an essential part of modern civilization."{55} And Secretary Hull had particularly condemned air attacks using incendiaries which "inevitably and ruthlessly jeopardize non-military persons and property."{56}

Nevertheless, a poll on December 10 1941 found 67% of the U.S. population favoring unqualified and indiscriminate bombing of Japanese cities.{57} And U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall had called on his staff to draw up plans for "general incendiary attacks to burn up the wood and paper structures of the densely populated Japanese cities" in November 1941{58} -- before Pearl Harbor, before the Bataan Death March, before any U.S. casualties were suffered.

In the European theater, the United States (in contradistinction to Britain) had a reputation for "precision" bombing. The evidence seems clear, however, that policy makers -- from the president on down -- favored terror bombing when it could be appropriately disguised. Back in 1941 Roosevelt had confided that the way to beat Hitler was to send a hundred planes over Germany for military objectives, but that ten of the planes should bomb smaller towns that hadn't been bombed before. "There must be some kind of factory in every town. That is the only way to break German morale." In other words, factories would be the ostensible target, but civilian morale the real target.{59} And in practice, U.S. planes participated in numerous raids that were basically terrorist in nature.{60}

By refraining from explicitly announcing a policy of terror bombing in Europe, the U.S. Air Force encountered none of the postwar criticism that the British Bomber Command experienced.{61} But in the Pacific, the United States made the British look like saints. Although Japan had only one eighth the tonnage of bombs dropped on it as Germany, its civilian death toll from bombing far surpassed Germany's 300,000.{62} Urban area bombing received three quarters of the tonnage, almost entirely in the form of incendiary attacks on densely populated areas. Only a quarter of the tonnage was devoted to aircraft factories, oil refineries, arsenals, or other industrial targets.{63}

On the evening of March 9-10, 1945, over three hundred B-29 Superfortresses loaded with 2,000 tons of napalm and jellied gasoline flew over Tokyo.{64} The resulting inferno totally overwhelmed the Tokyo fire department. (A few explosives had been mixed in with the incendiaries, recalled Gen. Curtis LeMay, the commander of the operation, in order to demoralize firefighters.{65}) A quarter of a million buildings were destroyed and a million people rendered homeless.{66} Probably 100,000 people died.{67} One doctor recorded:

"In the black Sumida river countless bodies were floating, clothed bodies, naked bodies, all as black as charcoal. It was unreal. These were dead people, but you couldn't tell whether they were men or women. You couldn't even tell if the objects floating by were arms and legs or pieces of burnt wood."{68}

The B-29 crews had to wear oxygen masks to avoid vomiting from the stench of burning flesh.{69}

The attack area was 87.4 percent residential{70} and contained only "a few individually designated strategic targets." The burned out area included 18 percent of the city's industrial area, 63 percent of its commercial area, and "the heart of the congested residential district," indicating the main objective of the U.S. bombs.{71} According to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, "probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6-hour period than at any [equivalent period of] time in the history of man."{72} The head of the Army Air Forces telexed LeMay after the raid: "Congratulations. This mission shows your crews have got the guts for anything."{73}

For the next five months, these fire raids were continued, hitting some 66 Japanese urban centers, including multiple return attacks on Tokyo.{74} One GI in Japan after the war reported that firebombs "seemed to have destroyed everything but the obvious military targets."{75}

That civilians were the primary target was no post-war discovery. U.S. plans for the fire raids had estimated that they would kill more than 500,000 people, but do little immediately to reduce Japanese front-line military strength since they would destroy only a few of the highest priority war plants, and other factories and stocks would replenish losses.{76} U.S. officials rationalized their policies of total war by pointing to the fact that the Japanese government had set up a Volunteer Corps, making all men aged 15-60 and women 17-40 liable for defense duties; thus, concluded an air force officer, "the entire population of Japan is a proper Military Target." "For us, THERE ARE NO CIVILIANS IN JAPAN."{77}

An air force operations analyst (presumably attuned to class analysis from his pre-war position as a professor of physiology at Harvard) recommended that in order to emphasize social cleavages, American planes should avoid hitting upper class areas while destroying the homes of workers.{78} "I suppose if I had lost the war," LeMay later commented, "I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately we were on the winning side."{79}

Brig. General Bonner Fellers, a key MacArthur aide, in a confidential memo of June 1945, called the incendiary raids "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history."{80} But civilian policy makers seemed to have no qualms about what they were doing, except for Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Stimson told Truman he was concerned about area bombing

"for two reasons: First, because I did not want to have the United States get the reputation for outdoing Hitler in atrocities; and second, I was a little fearful that before we could get ready, the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon [that is, the atom bomb] would not have a fair background to show its strength"{81}

-- suggesting a rather subtle moral sensitivity.

 

"The Greatest Thing In History"

 

Throughout the war, public opinion polls showed 10-13 percent of the American public consistently supporting the annihilation or extermination of the Japanese as a people.{82} Paul V. McNutt, the head of the War Manpower Commission, gave public voice to this sentiment when he declared in April 1945 that he favored "extermination of the Japanese in toto" (though he later added that he was expressing his personal view).{83} The atom bomb made such a preference possible.

In examining whether dropping the atomic bombs was militarily necessary, a number of points need to be kept in mind. First, the real issue is not whether the atom bombs were preferable to an invasion or other forms of warfare, but whether the war could have been ended before August 1945 without resorting to either atomic weapons, invasion, or anything else. The United States had broken the Japanese code and therefore knew what Japanese leaders were holding out for: they wanted to be assured that they could retain the emperor. Washington, however, was insisting on unconditional surrender, which, as Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori cabled to his ambassador in Moscow in July 1945, "is the only obstacle to peace."{84} Undersecretary of State Joseph Grew, the former U.S. envoy to Tokyo, recommended that the Japanese be told that they could maintain the emperor, but Truman rejected the advice. The Potsdam declaration which called on Japanese forces to surrender unconditionally said nothing about the emperor.{85} And the U.S. made no effort to contact Japanese diplomats privately to convey that the emperor could be retained.

A plausible argument can be made for demanding unconditional surrender: only by eliminating Japanese militarism root and branch could there be peace in Asia for the long term. This view, however, naively assumes that the victors in the war were not themselves going to be an impediment to peace in Asia, but in any case whoever else might be able to advance this argument, the U.S. government could not do so. For in fact, after dropping two atom bombs, and exterminating a few hundred thousand people, the Japanese offered to surrender on the condition that they could retain their emperor. And the United States agreed, not because it was feeling sorry for the victims of its nuclear attacks, but because U.S. officials believed that it would assist the post-war occupation of Japan if the emperor were allowed to remain. So, with macabre irony, the United States wiped out two cities in order to get the Japanese to accept terms they had probably been willing to accept before. "It is possible," Henry Stimson later wrote, "in the light of the final surrender, that a clearer and earlier exposition of American willingness to retain the Emperor would have produced an earlier ending to the war...."{86}

If this approach had been tried and found wanting, what other methods would there have been for ending the war? The social scientists at the Office of War Information knew that Japanese resolve was not as strong as commonly thought, but their studies were ignored.{87} The British Foreign Office believed that "a propaganda of violent social revolution would undoubtedly have a great effect in Japan," but "this kind of political warfare is presumably not open to Britain" -- nor, presumably, to the United States.{88}

U.S. officials knew that the Russians were going to be entering the war against Japan in early to mid-August and they anticipated that this would have a devastating effect on Japanese leaders, less for its military impact than because Soviet belligerence would close off Tokyo's one hope for a mediated settlement. U.S. intelligence reported that "the entry of the USSR into the war would ... convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of defeat."{89} Stalin will "be in the Jap War on August 15th," Truman recorded in his diary on July 17. "Fini Japs when that comes about."{90} But the next day Truman learned that the test of the atom bomb was successful. "Believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in," Truman wrote, certain that the atom bomb would force a surrender.{91} Instead of relying on the Soviet declaration of war (or even asking Stalin to join in issuing the Potsdam declaration) to make the atom bombs unnecessary, Truman hoped that the bombs could end the war before Moscow gained too much influence in Asia. In another cruel irony, a top-secret U.S. study concluded in 1946 that it was the Soviet entry into the war, not either of the atom bombs, that was the decisive factor in obtaining the Japanese surrender.{92}

Admiral Leahy considered the atom bombs "an inhuman weapon to use on a people that was already defeated and ready to surrender... [We] had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."{93} Curtis LeMay defended their use, commenting:

"We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."{94}

The numbers are debatable -- if one figures in the lingering deaths from the nuclear radiation, the two attacks had a combined toll of 210,000 by the end of 1945 and 340,000 five years hence{95} -- but the point is still well taken, not as a justification for the atomic bombings, but as a reminder that if the bombs were withheld and instead fire-raids were continued, the humanitarian benefits would have been slight. But these were not the only choices. A strong case can be made that precision attacks would have won the war with far fewer civilian casualties than either the atom bombs or the urban conflagrations.{96} Such a course might have taken more time. It is sometimes argued that time was of the essence because the invasion of the first of the Japanese home islands was scheduled for November 1. But there is no reason why the invasion time-table had to be followed: the Japanese potential for offensive military operations was nil.

Some of the scientists who worked on the bomb recommended that the United States carry out a demonstration explosion for the Japanese, rather than dropping it unannounced on a civilian target.{97} There are two often-heard arguments against such a proposal: that the demonstration might turn out to be a dud and that there weren't enough bombs to "waste" one on a demonstration. But the bomb of the type dropped on Hiroshima was considered by all those who worked on it to be a sure thing.{98} And it is hard to see how ecstatic the Japanese could get if the bomb failed, for they hadn't been doing so well in the war even without the bomb. As for the scarcity of bombs, a third one was ready for later in August, with several expected to be available in September.{99} Surely, whether there were six bombs or five bombs dropped in a two month period would not have made very much difference.

In any event, Truman rejected the demonstration idea and ordered that the first bomb be dropped on Hiroshima. It has been suggested that to policy makers the bomb was just another weapon. But Truman didn't think so: "This is the greatest thing in history," he commented after Hiroshima was incinerated.{100} And Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King expressed his relief that the bomb had been dropped on Asiatic people, not on "white races" in Europe.{101}

Truman recorded in his diary that he and Stimson agreed that the bomb should be dropped on a "purely military" target.{102} This is either a lie inscribed for posterity or self-delusion of a high order. Hiroshima had some military facilities, but there were more than six times as many civilians as soldiers in the city.{103} The government's Target Committee advised that no effort be made to pin point the attack on industrial areas in any of the three potential target cities "since on these three targets such areas are small, spread on fringes of cities and quite dispersed."{104} And, sure enough, in Hiroshima "the large factories -- with most workers already in place -- suffered less than the heart of the city."{105}

The bombing of Nagasaki had even less military justification than that of Hiroshima. Two days after the first bomb, Moscow declared war on Japan. Surely these were two severe jolts to the leaders in Tokyo, but the United States didn't wait to see what their impact might be and dropped the next bomb twenty-four hours later, on August 9. Marshall was at first surprised that the Japanese did not sue for peace after Hiroshima; he concluded that because the destruction had been so complete in that city, it took longer for word to get out and for an assessment to be made. Marshall ordered a crash propaganda campaign to inform the Japanese public about the bomb in order to get them to press for surrender. Propaganda leaflets were dropped on many cities, but Nagasaki did not get its full quota of leaflets until August 10, the day after it was obliterated.{106}

Japan now announced that it was willing to surrender if it could keep its emperor. Washington replied that the emperor would have to be under the authority of the U.S. occupation authorities, and on August 14, Japan accepted these terms. But before the Japanese acceptance was officially received Washington ordered a final raid. The official history reports that the air force chief "wanted as big a finale as possible," hoping that the Tokyo area could be hit in a 1,000-plane mission. The head of the strategic air forces disagreed; he "still wanted to drop the third atom bomb on Tokyo but thought the battered city a poor target for conventional bombing." Ultimately, 1,014 planes bombed the Tokyo area on the 14th. "...before the last B-29 returned President Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan."{107}

 

Uncle Sam Does the Talking

 

The day after Pearl Harbor, the Secretary of the American Asiatic Association wrote privately to a State Department official, "It will be a long, hard war, but after it is over Uncle Sam will do the talking in this world."{108} And Uncle Sam didn't confine himself to talk.

In the Atlantic Charter of August 1941, FDR and Churchill proclaimed a set of basic principles for a better world. First was "no aggrandizement, territorial or other." Second was "no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned."{109} But U.S. officials were determined to take over all the Pacific island territories of Japan for the exclusive military use of the United States. The principle of self-determination, the New York Herald Tribune declared, was irrelevant where "the security of the United States and the stability of the Pacific world" were at stake."{110} Britain's Colonial Secretary protested that the United States was trying to "get away with" the acquisition of Pacific island territories while employing "a rather diaphanous cover of the usual idealism."{111} And the British Foreign Secretary complained to Secretary of State James Byrnes that the Soviet Union wanted a huge land mass, the United States had its "Monroe sphere on the American continent and were extending it into the Pacific." What would that leave the Europeans? Byrnes insisted that Washington did not seek empire in the Pacific, only scattered bases and islands with few inhabitants.{112} And thus some 60,000 Pacific islanders became part of an extensive network of U.S. military bases, where their rights and well-being became hostage to the Pentagon's military priorities and nuclear weapons testing.

If the self-determination of these island inhabitants could be subordinated to the interests of the war's winners, so it was in Southeast Asia. At the San Francisco Conference setting up the United Nations, the United States had joined the European colonial powers in deciding that former colonies would become trusteeships of the international body only with the agreement of the metropolitan power.{113}

As early as February 1944, the Department of State had endorsed the idea that the East Indies should be given back to the Netherlands.{114} The Indonesian people, however, were not inclined to accept continued colonial rule, so when British troops arrived -- designated by Washington as responsible for disarming the Japanese forces there -- they found an armed independence movement. Journalist Harold Isaacs described how the British dealt with this problem:

"Japanese troops, kept under arms, were ordered into action against the insurgents. At Semarang and Bandung, where bitter battles were fought to take those cities away from the Indonesians, Japanese infantry and tanks carried the main brunt. In his official report on the fighting at Semarang at the end of November, the local British commander ... gave the late enemy his enthusiastic accolade: 'The Japanese were magnificent!' he wired."{115}

The British also used their own forces against the Indonesians. The latter appealed to the United States that the British were using U.S. weapons and equipment against them. "Washington promptly asked the British if they would not please remove the American insignia and the initials 'USA' from their fighting gear," Isaacs reported.{116}

When the Dutch returned, they were armed with weapons purchased with U.S. financial aid. The United Nations worked out a compromise between the Indonesian nationalists and the Dutch, but the Dutch refused to abide by it and Washington failed to enforce its implementation. In defiance of the UN, the Dutch imposed a strict economic blockade on Indonesia, cutting off supplies of food and medicine and causing great suffering. Then, in 1948, Indonesian leftists (with no backing from Moscow) tried to take power and when Sukarno and the other moderate nationalists crushed them, Washington did some rethinking. Because Sukarno seemed firmly anti-communist, and to forestall any further radicalization of Indonesian nationalism, the United States now pressed the Netherlands to settle. But Washington did support the Dutch in their demand that Indonesia shoulder the entire burden of its internal debt, 42% of which had been incurred by Dutch military operations to prevent Indonesian independence.{117} Over the next decade independent Indonesia would be subject to a massive U.S. campaign of subversion.{118}

In Indochina, too, Japanese troops and U.S. arms were used to try to restore colonial rule over a nationalist movement that was prepared to declare independence. When the British landed in Vietnam, the first thing they did was free the French forces who had been imprisoned by the Japanese. Then, the British and French, with Japanese troops assisting, went out to crush the Vietnamese.{119} A British spokesperson had the "highest praise" for the cooperation shown by the Japanese commander. Eight weeks after the British arrived, fewer than 5% of Japanese troops had been disarmed.{120}

Because the nationalists in Vietnam were communist led, the United States did not push the French to agree to independence. Over the next eight years, the French war to reassert its colonial rule over Indochina would be four- fifths funded by Washington. Thus, even though it had been the Japanese advance into Indochina that precipitated U.S. sanctions in 1940-41, ultimately leading to the Pacific War, the self-determination of the people of Indochina was of no consequence to the United States. Indeed, as the next two decades would show, the very lives of the people of Indochina mattered little to U.S. policy makers.

In the Philippines, the bulk of the pre-war elite had collaborated with the Japanese, while many Filipinos fought in guerrilla units against the Japanese occupation. Some of these guerrillas were American led, but the largest grouping was the left-wing Hukbalahap (Huks) which drew its strength from the radicalized peasantry of Central Luzon. When U.S. troops reconquered the islands, they re-installed the old elite and secured from them vast military bases and economic privileges. In return, the elite obtained preferential access to the U.S. market and military aid to help them reassert their control in the countryside against the Huks.{121}

Matters were no better in East Asia. Korea had been a Japanese colony since the early years of the century and the popular desire there for independence was intense. Herbert Hoover, the former president welcomed as an adviser by Truman, privately proposed in 1945 that Japan be allowed to retain Korea and Formosa, making Japan a bulwark against communism,{122} but no U.S. official could endorse the idea of maintaining Japanese colonialism. (When the Korean war began in 1950, however, Truman suggested declaring Taiwan part of Japan,{123} and in 1966 historian Herbert Feis wrote that it would have been better to allow Japan to keep Formosa.{124}) Nevertheless, when U.S. troops moved into the southern half of Korea -- as per their agreement with the Soviet Union, whose troops occupied the north -- they preserved the old regime.

At first Koreans were told that the colonial government would continue to function with all of its Japanese and Korean personnel, including the Japanese Governor-General.{125} Japanese soldiers wearing armbands that said "USMG" -- United States Military Government -- patrolled the streets.{126} Amidst Korean outrage, Washington and MacArthur soon ordered the U.S. commander on the spot to remove the Japanese officials, which he did,{127} but U.S. personnel then called on the Japanese officials as informal advisors.{128} Many Koreans who had served in the colonial bureaucracy were retained. Every Korean who worked for the Japanese Bureau of Justice was kept on,{129} and the national police -- a particularly oppressive institution under the Japanese -- continued to be led by officers who had served in the colonial force.{130} U.S. officials admitted that there was enough evidence to hang the two top leaders of the national police several times over, but they were not removed. A measure of the popularity of the U.S. occupation was that more police were needed to keep order in southern Korea than in the whole of Korea under Japanese rule.{131}

Utilizing the Japanese colonial structures was not an oversight on the part of the United States. It was the only way to block the emergence of a left-wing government in the south, which had the backing of a majority of the population.{132} The result, of course, was the establishment of a reactionary dictatorship in the south, leading to civil war in the south and then war/civil war with the north with casualties in the millions.

In China, the defeat of Japan left a raging civil war between Chiang Kai- shek's "Nationalist" government and the Communists. The United States promptly determined to intervene in this civil war. Truman instructed Japanese troops outside of Manchuria to surrender only to Nationalist forces and not to the Communists. U.S. aircraft and ships then ferried KMT troops to the north of China as rapidly as possible.{133} Some Japanese units joined the KMT in its battle with the Communists; most were repatriated during 1946, but a few fought with Chiang until the end of China's civil war in 1949.{134} Washington deployed more than 50,000 of its own marines to China, ostensibly to deport Japanese troops and civilians back home, but in fact to hold key communication and transportation routes while Chiang consolidated his hold.{135} The last U.S. marines didn't leave China until mid-1949, and a 1000-strong U.S. army unit provided training to Chiang's forces until the end of 1948.{136} In addition, vast amounts of U.S. economic and military aid flowed to the KMT until they were driven from the mainland by Mao's armies.

George Marshall told Truman that if the U.S. withdrew support from Chiang, there would be a divided China and the Soviet Union would obtain power in Manchuria "resulting in the defeat or loss of the major purpose of our war in the Pacific."{137} The Soviet bogey was nonsense -- Russian troops were now remaining in Manchuria at Chiang's request until he could take over from them. But the rest of Marshall's comment is quite revealing, for it acknowledges that what the Pacific War was about was not self-determination for the Chinese people -- for they certainly didn't support Chiang Kai-shek -- but maintaining U.S. interests in China.

The most valuable prize in Asia, however, was none of these countries, but Japan itself. U.S. officials decided early on that they would administer Japan on their own: other countries might be given a position on a meaningless committee, but ultimate authority would rest with the United States. Neither China, nor Britain, nor the Soviet Union, nor any of the countries that suffered from Japanese conquest would play any role in the occupation of Japan. U.S. officials acknowledged that this U.S. domination placed the United States "in an embarrassing position" because this was precisely the way the Soviet Union behaved with regard to the enemy states it occupied in the Balkans.{138}

U.S. policy makers decided to use the authority of the emperor to enhance their own control over Japan and to make sure that they determined the pace and extent of change. This meant that any criticisms of the emperor had to be suppressed. Thus, a left wing film critical of the emperor was banned by American officials in 1946.{139} And anything negative about the emperor had to be kept out of the Tokyo war crimes trial. Witnesses and defense lawyers were privately told to make sure that nothing blemished the emperor's reputation.{140} Whether or not the emperor should have been punished is not the issue. It is obviously hard to construct a vibrant democracy on the foundation of censorship and serious historical distortion.

Though the new Japanese constitution outlawed censorship, the Occupation authorities engaged in other censorship as well. Among other examples, they banned films which showed "the destruction and human misery which resulted from the atom bomb,"{141} and a book critical of a dubious war crimes trial held by MacArthur in the Philippines.{142} At the Tokyo war crimes trial the U.S. suppressed all evidence of the Japanese biological warfare program in China and of the horrific atrocities committed as part of that program since the Pentagon wanted to keep the Japanese findings for its own use. The chief perpetrators of the crimes were protected by the U.S. government in return for their cooperation.{143}

Nevertheless, in the first few years of the occupation, some genuine democratic reforms were introduced in Japan: there was a land reform, unions were promoted, the new constitution included a "no war" pledge, some right-wing militarists were purged, and some of the zaibatsu, the corporate behemoths of the Japanese economy, were broken up. But by 1948, as Washington came to realize that China was not going to become an anti-Communist bastion and that a powerful alternative needed to be constructed, U.S. policy underwent a "reverse course." Japanese economic power would now be rebuilt as part of an anti-Soviet alliance, and many of the early reforms would be weakened or repealed.{144}

At the end of December 1948, seven Japanese war criminals were executed; the next day MacArthur announced the release of all other class A war criminal suspects.{145} Thus Kishi Nobusuke, a class A war criminal who served as Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce in 1930s and Vice-Minister of Munitions during the war (a sort of Japanese Albert Speer) was released and later became an enthusiastically pro-American prime minister.{146} A German diplomat reported in 1951 that "Because of their superior discipline, a large number of our old friends will once again be taking up leading positions."{147} (Forgiveness of useful war criminals worked the other way too: in 1964 the Japanese government awarded Curtis LeMay the First Class Order of the Rising Sun for his contribution to the postwar development of the Japanese air force.{148})

Americans express great frustration with Japanese politicians who can't seem to fully apologize for their country's wartime atrocities. But the Japanese left has always been eager to expose the record of Japan's aggression in Asia.{149} Opposition to acknowledging the truth has come from the country's dominant conservative politicians who were allowed to maintain their grip on power by the U.S. Occupation authorities and who have been secretly bankrolled by the CIA.{150} While the Occupation was tolerant toward war criminals and the conservatives more generally, MacArthur banned a threatened general strike in 1947, and over the next three years imposed laws severely weakening the labor movement.{151} In 1949, there was a mass purge of Communists, using regulations originally designed for ultra-right militarists.{152}

Before ending the occupation in 1952, U.S. officials took two further major steps to consolidate Japan as Washington's key ally against communism in Asia. First, the U.S. obtained military bases in Japan. Second, they got Tokyo to agree that it would not trade with the Chinese mainland.{153} For the latter to be feasible, U.S. policy makers determined that Japan would need to seek what State Department planner George Kennan called "an empire to the south."{154} Officials in the State Department, the Defense Department, and the National Security Council frankly spoke of sponsoring a new "Co-Prosperity Sphere."{155} This meant U.S. subversion, counter- insurgency, and massive attack to keep Southeast Asia in Washington's global economic system. Thus, the war purportedly fought to defeat aggression and militarism in Asia led directly to U.S. policies of aggression and militarism in Asia.

 

In a recent column, William Safire expressed the hope that V-J Day would not be wasted on commemorations of this or that atoll being seized. Instead, he urged, we should attend to the "great moral purpose" of the war: the victory of democracy over tyranny.{156} Safire's suggestion to dispense with the military pageantry makes good sense. But any serious reflection on the war must raise profound questions about whether it really was democracy that achieved victory.

 

Notes

  1.  

    Remarks by the President to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Dallas, April 7, 1995. There was only one official apology offered relating to Hiroshima: from the director and curator of the Smithsonian, who prostrated themselves before Congress, confessing that their exhibit lacked balance. Reuters, "Smithsonian 'sorry' on Enola Gay," Newark Star Ledger, 19 May 1995, p. 4. [back]

  2.  

    Press Conference by the President, April 18, 1995. [back]

  3.  

    David K. Wyatt, Thailand: A Short History, New Haven: Yale, 1984, pp. 206, 256-57. [back]

  4. Christopher Thorne, The Issue of War, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 6, 154, 156. [back]

  5. In most of their early conquests, Japanese forces were outnumbered, yet in record time and with minimal casualties of their own, they were able to take vast territories, including the supposedly invulnerable Singapore ("the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history," in Churchill's words). Jon Halliday, A Political: History of Japanese Capitalism, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975, 1978, p. 143. Halliday notes that many of the colonial Indian troops at Singapore rallied to the Japanese (pp. 150-51). [back]

  6. Quoted in Thomas A. Breslin, "Mystifying the Past: Establishment Historians and the Origins of the Pacific War," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 8, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1976, p. 33. [back]

  7. Thorne, p. 30. [back]

  8. Robert Francis Weston, Racism in U.S. Imperialism: The Influence of Racial Assumptions on U.S. Foreign Policy, 1893-1946, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1972, pp. 33-34, 74. [back]

  9. Akira Iriye, Across the Pacific, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967, pp. 151-53. For general discussion of U.S. domestic policies during the war and why they lead to the conclusion that this was not a war against racism or for democracy, see Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence, New York: Harper Perennial, 1991, pp. 87-92. [back]

  10. Joseph C. Grew, Ten Years in Japan, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944, p. 153. [back]

  11. William H. Honan, "War Decoding Helped U.S. To Shape UN," NYT, 23 April 1995, p. I:4. [back]

  12. Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, New York: Macmillan, 1948, vol. I, p. 289. [back]

  13. John W. Dower, War Without Mercy, New York: Pantheon, 1986, p. 170. [back]

  14. Thorne, p. 33. [back]

  15. Stuart Creighton Miller, "Benevolent Assimilation": The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982, pp. 220, 189. [back]

  16. J. S. Furnivall, Educational Progress in Southeast Asia, New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1943, pp. 44, 106-07, per capita spending calculated from p. 112. [back]

  17. Theodore Friend, Between Two Empires, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965, p. 241. [back]

  18. Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and the Philippines: A Study of Neocolonialism, Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1981, p. 67. [back]

  19. Arnold C. Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, New York: William Morrow, 1987, p. 352. [back]

  20. Friend, p. 80. [back]

  21. William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, New York: Delta, 1962, pp. 173-74. [back]

  22. See Grayson V. Kirk, Philippine Independence, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1936. [back]

  23. Thorne, pp. 45-46. [back]

  24. U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Japan: 1931-1941, Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943, vol. 1, p. 430 (hereafter cited as Dept. of State, Japan). [back]

  25. Akira Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941- 1945, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981, pp. 98-100, 107. [back]

  26. Lloyd C. Gardner, Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy, Boston: Beacon, 1964, p. 70. [back]

  27. Dept. of State, Japan, p. I:125. [back]

  28. Gardner, p. 73. [back]

  29. Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950, p. 272n5. [back]

  30. Dept. of State, Japan, p. I:485. [back]

  31. Thorne, p. 60. [back]

  32. Feis, Pearl Harbor, pp. 6-7. [back]

  33. Cited in Barbara W. Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1941-45, New York: Macmillan, 1971, p. 183. [back]

  34. Thorne, pp. 20, 259. [back]

  35. Thorne, p. 205. [back]

  36. Quoted in Richard H. Minear, Victors' Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971, pp. 51-53. [back]

  37. Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War, New York: Harper & Bros., 1948, p. 225. [back]

  38. U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1936, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, vol. IV, p. 265 [series hereafter cited as FR with year indicated]. The Japanese were willing to play the "free trade" game: as U.S. diplomats reported from Tokyo in 1934, "it has not been possible to discover any instances where American products in Japan are meeting with the opposition that is being made in the United States to such Japanese products as tuna fish, toys, porcelain and pottery, matches et cetera" (FR 1934, p. III:816). Hull noted in his memoirs that "Japan's exuberant trade expansion with cheap goods created difficulties between our two countries then [1934] and in the years to follow. We ...were forced to put increased duties on some Japanese products" (Hull, p. I:286).

    In 1941, the State Department's chief of commercial policy and agreements summarized the situation:

    The British have set up an Empire preferential system which makes it difficult for Japanese goods to obtain access to markets comprising a large part of the world's area and population. The British have used their import position to negotiate clearing and payment agreements which affect Japanese trade adversely in other markets. The French obtained preferences for themselves at Japanese expense whenever possible, including French colonies which are neighbors of Japan in the Far Eastern area. Other countries have pursued similar policies at Japanese expense. The United States itself has obtained preferences to the disadvantage of Japan in the Philippines, a Far Eastern neighbor of Japan's. We have obtained preferences for our trade in Cuba, to the detriment of Japanese exporters of textiles and other products. Most countries which negotiate commercial agreements involving reductions and tariff and other trade barriers have either discriminated overtly against Japan by not extending the reductions to Japanese products or covertly through thinly-disguised discriminations in the form of highly specialized tariff classifications. (FR 1941, pp. IV:577-78)

    Another obstacle to Japanese trade not mentioned in this accounting was the imposition of "voluntary" quotas on Tokyo's textile exports. Japan was essentially told that unless it limited its shipments to the Philippines -- thereby giving U.S. exporters an edge beyond the tariff preference -- Philippine tariffs would be raised higher still (FR 1935, pp. III:1007-10; FR 1937, p. IV:803; FR 1938, pp. IV:624-25; FR 1939, pp. IV:466-67; FR 1940, pp. IV: 994-95). [back]

  39. Dept. of State, Japan, pp. II:730, 734-37. One historian has dismissed the Japanese offer on the grounds that "It was impossible to extend liberal commercialism to the entire world in the best of times, and certainly not while a war raged through Europe" (Jonathan G. Utley, Going to War With Japan, 1937-1941, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985, p. 167). But in fact, Tokyo was quite explicit that the deal they were offering only required the United States to endorse the Open Door everywhere, not that other nations had to do so as well (Dept. of State, Japan, p. II:730). [back]

  40. James C. Thomson, Jr., "The Role of the Department of State," in Pearl Harbor As History, ed. Dorothy Borg & Shumpei Okamoto, New York: Columbia University Press, 1973, p. 89. For further comparison of the U.S. and Japanese Monroe Doctrines, see Noam Chomsky, "The Revolutionary Pacifism of A. J. Muste: On the Backgrounds of the Pacific War," in American Power and the New Mandarins, New York: Pantheon, 1969, pp. 205-07. [back]

  41. Thorne, p. 36. [back]

  42. Thomas G. Paterson, On Every Front: The Making of the Cold War, New York: Norton, 1979, p. 47. In August 1941, Alben Barkley, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate explained that the Monroe Doctrine "now applies to Asia with equal force" (Paul W. Schroeder, The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations, 1941, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1958, p. 185). [back]

  43. Schroeder makes a convincing case in this regard: pp. 73-107. [back]

  44. FR 1941, pp. IV: 191-93, 124-25; see also Utley, p. 178. [back]

  45. Stimson & Bundy, p. 390; Raymond A. Esthus, "President Roosevelt's Commitment to Britain to Intervene in a Pacific War," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 50, no. 1, 1963, pp. 32-34. [back]

  46. D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975, vol. 2, pp. 3-15. [back]

  47. Thorne, p. 273. [back]

  48. Michael Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 4. [back]

  49. Dower, War Without Mercy, pp. 141-42. [back]

  50. Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun, New York: Vintage, 1985, pp. 478-80. Ironically, the commander of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet at the outbreak of World War II, Thomas C. Hart, had told students at the Naval War College in 1920: "I shall pass over the inhumane features of German submarine warfare because their ways were characteristic of the race. Any nation that attempts commerce destruction by submarines will tend toward certain of the same practices that the Germans arrived at; how far it will go depends on its racial characteristics and, very likely, by how hard it is pressed." [back]

  51. Brackman, p. 262. [back]

  52. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 66. [back]

  53. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 64. [back]

  54. George Feifer, Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1992, pp. 485, 497, 499. Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook (Japan At War: An Oral History, New York: New Press, 1992, p. 357*) note that "There are Okinawan references to the use of poison gas by the American forces during the battle of Okinawa. ...the way the victims died points to the use of an agent which caused asphyxiation." [back]

  55. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 38. And President Roosevelt declared in September 1939: "The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity" (p. 39). When Japanese officials tried to justify their bombing in China in 1938 by pointing out that aim from the air was necessarily poor and that common sense would dictate to non-combatants living near military objectives that they should withdraw to less dangerous zones, the United States found their rationalizations "in no way convincing" (Dept. of State, Japan, p. I:601). [back]

  56. Spector, p. 487. [back]

  57. Conrad C. Crane, Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II, Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1993, p. 29. [back]

  58. John Costello, The Pacific War, 1941-1945, New York: Rawson Wade, 1981, pp. 105-06. [back]

  59. Crane, p. 32. [back]

  60. See Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. See also Max Hastings, Bomber Command, New York: Dial Press, 1979. [back]

  61. Crane, p. 147. [back]

  62. Thomas R. H. Havens, Valley of Darkness: The Japanese People and World War II, New York: Norton, 1978, p. 176. [back]

  63. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II, vol. 5, The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki, June 1944-August 1945, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953, pp. 750-51. [back]

  64. Craven & Cate, pp. 614-15. [back]

  65. Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, New York: Touchstone, 1986, p. 597. LeMay's memory may be incorrect. Another source indicates that "the addition of delayed-action bombs meant to hinder fire-fighting efforts and to leave behind a fear of further explosions even after the bombers had departed" was a tactical refinement added later. See Cook and Cook, p. 341. [back]

  66. Craven & Cate, p. 617. [back]

  67. Rhodes, p. 599. [back]

  68. Havens, p. 179. A Home Affairs Ministry official later reported: "People were unable to escape. They were found later piled upon the bridges, roads, and in the canals, 80,000 dead and twice that many injured. We were instructed to report on actual conditions. Most of us were unable to do this because of horrifying conditions beyond imagination" (Craven & Cate, p. 617). [back]

  69. Crane, p. 132. [back]

  70. Rhodes, p. 596. [back]

  71. Craven & Cate, pp. 615-16. [back]

  72. Rhodes, p. 599. General Thomas Power called the raid "the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history.... There were more casualties than in any other military action in the history of the world" (Schaffer, p. 132) -- conveniently using the terms "enemy" and "military action" to hide the fact that this unprecedented human catastrophe was inflicted upon civilians. [back]

  73. Rhodes, p. 599. [back]

  74. Future casualties never approached the level of the March 9-10 raid because civilians learned that they should flee as soon as they heard the air-raid warnings rather than trying to stay to extinguish the fires. Cook and Cook, p. 341. [back]

  75. Schaller, p. 26. [back]

  76. Schaffer, p. 116. [back]

  77. Craven & Cate, pp. 696-97*; Schaffer, p. 142. [back]

  78. Schaffer, p. 122. [back]

  79. Peter Hayes, Lyuba Zarsky, and Walden Bello, American Lake: Nuclear Peril in the Pacific, New York: Penguin, 1987, p. 18. [back]

  80. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 41. [back]

  81. Rhodes, p. 650. [back]

  82. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 53. [back]

  83. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 55. [back]

  84. Rufus E. Miles, Jr., "Hiroshima: The Strange Myth of Half a Million American Lives Saved," International Security, vol. 10, no. 2, Fall 1985, p. 127. [back]

  85. Iriye, Power & Culture, pp. 252, 256, 263. [back]

  86. Miles, p. 129. The Japanese response to the Potsdam declaration, incidentally, was to issue a statement saying they were "ignoring" it and the exact English translation of the Japanese word has been the subject of some debate. The British Foreign Office, however, regarded the Japanese statement as something intended for domestic consumption, not a rejection. Akira Iriye, "Continuities in US-Japanese Relations, 1941-49," in The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, ed. Yonosuke Nagai and Akira Iriye, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, pp. 395-96. [back]

  87. Dower, War Without Mercy, p. 138. [back]

  88. Thorne, p. 140n60. [back]

  89. Gar Alperovitz, "Did We Have to Drop the Bomb?" NYT, 3 Aug. 1989, p. A23. [back]

  90. Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, New York: Penguin, 1980, p. 53. [back]

  91. Ferrell, pp. 53-54. [back]

  92. Alperovitz, p. A23. [back]

  93. Feifer, p. 581. [back]

  94. Mark Selden, "The United States, Japan, and the Atomic Bomb," in Kyoko and Mark Selden, eds., The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Armonk, NY: East Gate, 1989, pp. xxvii-xxviii. [back]

  95. Rhodes, pp. 734, 740-42. [back]

  96. Crane, p. 141. [back]

  97. The scientists who worked on the bomb had been duped by the government into thinking they were making a weapon to forestall Hitler's getting it first. Evidence is now available showing that high officials always intended Japan to be the primary target. William J. Broad, "Japan Was Always Atom Bomb Target," NYT, 18 Apr. 1995, p. A12. [back]

  98. Rhodes, p. 651. [back]

  99. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed, New York: Vintage, 1977, p. 231. [back]

  100. Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, vol. 1, Years of Decision, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955, p. 421. [back]

  101. Stephen Salaff, "The Diary and the Cenotaph: Racial and Atomic Fever in the Canadian Record," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 10, no. 2, 1978, p. 38. Salaff discusses the Canadian role in the atomic bomb project and Canada's anti-Japanese racism more generally. [back]

  102. Ferrell, p. 56. [back]

  103. Rhodes, p. 713. [back]

  104. Rhodes, p. 639. [back]

  105. Craven & Cate, p. 723. Air force General Lauris Norstad noted enthusiastically on August 8 that the release of a map of Hiroshima at a press conference the next day would show how the aiming point corresponded with "the general area of greatest damage," thus countering the thought that nuclear weapons involved "wanton, indiscriminate bombing" (Crane, pp. 141-42). This was precision bombing with a vengeance. [back]

  106. Rhodes, pp. 736-37. [back]

  107. Craven & Cate, pp. 732-3. [back]

  108. Thorne, p.25. [back]

  109. U.S. Dept. of State, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931- 1941, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943, p. 112. [back]

  110. Thorne, pp. 195-96. [back]

  111. Paterson, p. 48. [back]

  112. Herbert Feis, Contest Over Japan, New York: Norton, 1967, p. 90. [back]

  113. Thorne, p. 190. [back]

  114. Iriye, Power & Culture, p. 192. [back]

  115. Harold R. Isaacs, No Peace for Asia, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967, p. 131. See also George McT. Kahin, "The United States and the Anticolonial Revolutions in Southeast Asia, 1945-50," in The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, ed. Yonosuke Nagai and Akira Iriye, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, p. 341. [back]

  116. Isaacs, p. 132. In December 1945 at Tjibadak, according to the Royal Air Force announcement, 6 Mosquitos and 6 U.S.-provided P-47s "dived low, sending their missiles ripping through dozens of buildings lining the main streets....Roofs were tossed into the air, walls collapsed, and only skeletons of many houses remained when the fighter-bombers struck with their guns, making five attacks" (p. 132). [back]

  117. Kahin, pp. 344, 359n13, 352, 356. [back]

  118. See Audrey R. Kahin and George McT. Kahin, Subversion as Foreign Policy, New York: New Press, 1995. [back]

  119. Isaacs, p. 154. When reporters found out that Japanese patrols were operating far beyond their assigned positions, a British military officer explained:

    But of course. They are holding defensive positions. But that does not mean you sit and wait until you are attacked. You go out and patrol your perimeter, and you go beyond it to flush out any hostile elements that might be preparing to attack you. Best defense is offense, you know. (Isaacs, p. 158.)

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  120. Isaacs, pp. 158-59. See also Kahin, pp. 340, 356. [back]

  121. See Shalom. [back]

  122. Schaller, p. 12. [back]

  123. Schaller, p. 284. [back]

  124. Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966, p. 107. [back]

  125. Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 138. [back]

  126. Isaacs, pp. 94-95. [back]

  127. Cumings, p. 139. [back]

  128. Cumings, pp. 140, 152. [back]

  129. Cumings, p. 159. [back]

  130. Cumings, pp. 139-140, 152, 159, 166. [back]

  131. Cumings, p. 166; Mark J. Scher, "U.S. Policy in Korea 1945-1948: A Neo- Colonial Policy Takes Shape," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 5, no. 4, Dec. 1973, p. 23. [back]

  132. Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, p. 89. [back]

  133. Leffler, p. 85. [back]

  134. Schaller, p. 27. [back]

  135. Leffler, pp. 85-86. [back]

  136. Joyce Kolko & Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, New York: Harper & Row, 1972, p. 252. [back]

  137. Leffler, p. 87. [back]

  138. Paterson, p. 49. As Joseph Harsch wrote in the Christian Science Monitor in January 1946:

    settlement in the Balkans ... is progressing according to the same pattern which has marked the settlement over Japan. That is to say, Russia is making superficial concessions to Western opinion in the Balkans, but without much doubt retaining the full substance of power. This was inevitable from the moment Secretary of State Byrnes explained the American concessions over Japan as in no way weakening the real substance of American authority in Japan. (Feis, Contest Over Japan, p. 117.)

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  139. Ian Buruma, The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994, p. 176. [back]

  140. Buruma, p. 175-76; Brackman, p. 354. On three separate occasions, MacArthur had to dissuade the emperor's advisers and even the emperor himself from pursuing the option of abdication. See John W. Dower, Japan in War and Peace: Selected Essays, New York: New Press, 1993, p. 3. [back]

  141. Buruma, p. 100. [back]

  142. Halliday, p. 363n13. [back]

  143. Brackman, pp. 196-200; John W. Powell, "Japan's Germ Warfare: The U.S. Cover-up of a War Crime," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 12, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1980; John W. Powell, "Japan's Biological Weapons: 1930-1945," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 37, Oct. 1981; Nicholas D. Kristof, "Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity," NYT, 17 March 1995, pp. A1, A12. [back]

  144. Howard B. Schonberger, Aftermath of War: Americans and the Remaking of Japan, 1945-1952, Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1989, pp. 161-197; Schaller. [back]

  145. Brackman, p. 405. [back]

  146. Buruma, p. 61. [back]

  147. Buruma, p. 62. See also Dower, Japan in War and Peace, pp. 10-11, and the sources cited on p. 29n2. [back]

  148. Selden, p. xvi*. [back]

  149. See, e.g., Buruma, pp. 106-07. [back]

  150. Tim Weiner, "CIA Spent Millions to Support Japanese Right in 50's and 60's," NYT, 9 Oct. 1994, pp. I:1, 14. Leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party "regularly defended" comments denying Japanese responsibility for wartime atrocities "during the party's 38-year rule over Japan." David Sanger, "Japanese Aide Apologizes for Calling Nanjing Massacre a Fabrication," NYT, May 7, 1994, p. I:8. See also Nicholas D. Kristof, "Many in Japan Oppose Apology to Asians for War," NYT, 6 Mar. 1995, p. A9; AP, "Japanese leaders can't decide on war apology," Newark Star Ledger, 3 June 1995, p. 2. [back]

  151. Schaller, pp. 44-45, 51. [back]

  152. Schaller, pp. 267-68. [back]

  153. See Dower, Japan in War and Peace, pp. 156. Part of Japan remained occupied for two more decades, however: Okinawa, which had been part of Japan proper, was turned into the key U.S. nuclear base in the western Pacific and did not revert to Japanese sovereignty until the early 1970s (pp. 156, 171 174, 235). Washington also hoped to push rapid Japanese rearmament, but Japanese conservatives blocked the attempt. By the mid-1950s, ruling Japanese politicians favored a revision of the constitution's "no-war" article, but strong public sentiment has prevented any amendment from being enacted (pp. 27, 161, 230-31). [back]

  154. Schonberger, p. 282. [back]

  155. Schaller, p. 205. [back]

  156. William Safire, "Not Just Memories," NYT, 29 May 1995, p. 21. [back]