Commentary by Joseph T Major on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Operation DOWNFALL and why it isn't being commemorated

In that time the fleets of the Númenóreans darkened the sea upon the west of the land, and they were like an archipelago of a thousand isles; their masts were as a forest upon the mountains, and their sails like a brooding cloud; and their banners were golden and black. And all things waited upon the word of Ar-Pharazôn . . .

But the fleets of Ar-Pharazôn came up out of the deeps of the sea and encompassed Avallónë and all the isle of Eressëa, and the Eldar mourned, for the light of the setting sun was cut off by the cloud of the Númenóreans. And at last Ar-Pharazôn came even to Aman, the Blessed Realm, and the coasts of Valinor; and still all was silent, and doom hung by a thread. For Ar-Pharazôn wavered at the end, and almost he turned back. His heart misgave him when- he looked upon the soundless shores and saw Tanquetil shining, whiter than snow, colder than death, silent, immutable, terrible as the shadow of the light of Ilúvatar. But pride was now his master, and at last he left the ship and strode upon the shore, claiming the land for his own, if none should do battle for it. And a host of the Númenóreans encamped in might about Túna, whence all the Eldar had fled.

Then Manwë upon the mountain called upon Ilúvatar, and for that time the Valar laid down their government of Arda. But Ilúvatar showed forth his power, and he changed the fashion of the world; and a great chasm opened in the sea between Númenór and the Deathless Lands, and the waters flowed down into it, and the noise and smoke of the cataracts went up to heaven, and the world was shaken. And all the fleets of the Númenóreans were drawn down into the abyss, and they were drowned and swallowed up for ever. But Ar-Pharazôn the King and the mortal warriors that had set foot upon the land of Aman were buried under falling hills; there it is said that they lie imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten, until the Last Battle and the Day of Doom.

"Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenór"

(J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, pp. 277-9)

This article is dedicated to Gilmer H. Thomas, USN (ret.) and Bruce H. McCormick, Sr., USAF (ret.) [1919-1997] and to the memory of Ernest E. Lane, Jr., 2nd Lt. (later Lt. Col.) RA [1924-1966] and Thomas E. Major, Sr., 1st Lt. USAAF (AUS) [1918-1971].

November 1, 1945 was a quiet day on the beaches of Kyushu. In going over these recent books, we will find an explanation of why that was the case, and how it might not have been.


But why dream? After all, weren't all diplomatic representatives just funny little characters on a stage, whispering, whispering, then yelling their secrets to the heavens as they put them on the cables!

Herbert O. Yardley, The American Black Chamber, p. 245

Henry L. Stimson must be counted as one of the few people in power able to learn from his mistakes. Gentlemen do not read each others' mail, but there are few gentlemen in international politics. Especially bushi; the code of Bushido is definitely not gentlemanly. Surveying the smoking devastation of Pearl Harbor, Stimson was painfully aware that this was a gross failure of intelligence, and had efficient, experienced, reliable signals intelligence ("sigint") been available the chances of such failure would have been significantly reduced. In his previous Cabinet position, Stimson had had available such intelligence, but in a shortsighted spasm of moralizing had dismissed Herbert Yardley's American Black Chamber. Fortunately, Yardley had not controlled all of the American sigint capability. However, before the fateful events of the preceeding year, the efforts of the Army's chief codebreaker William F. Friedman and the Navy's chief codebreaker Laurence C. Safford and their respective organizations had been badly mismanaged.

When all else fails, bring in a consultant. Stimson brought in Alfred McCormack, the partner in the legal firm of Cravath, Swain, and Moore who had been reading military history instead of briefs, and had him reorganize Army Intelligence. As was only to be expected, for this outstanding achievement Colonel McCormack was ignored and disdained by the insiders of G-2.

In Marching Orders: The Untold Story of World War II, the unfortunately-named Bruce Lee, sometime researcher for Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle and editor behind "And I Was There", Pearl Harbor; Final Judgment, and other such fine works of history steps onto the stricken field of battle and lifts the fog of war here and there, revealing some astonishing matters that had heretofore been half-hidden. Knowing the information that was available to the commanders, it is now possible to understand why they made the decisions they did.

Here and now we can see why it was that Eisenhower decided not to take Berlin, for example (a significant theme in The Last Battle) never mind the matter of Japan. Sorry to say, though, the proofediting itself has been less than perfect (i.e., a few pages apart, "William F. Friedman" and "William H. Friedman"; the former is correct).

For while the Japanese diplomats were indeed "yelling their secrets to the heavens", there was a rather long delay in hearing the echo. Lee is, though, naïve in thinking that even such thorough refutations as he delivers to various theories can dispose of them, his acknowledgement of the innate strength of the paranoid tendency in politics notwithstanding [p. 6].

Just because Lee has unearthed a handful of those involved who from their own knowledge know that neither the U.S. nor Britain's GC&CS were at the time breaking the Japanese JN-25 code in which they sent the signals for their attack plans [pp. 6-7]; just because he has ferreted out the secret internal histories which were to be preserved forever, in which they would not lie to themselves, where they too said that the code had not been broken [p. 8n] there's no reason to believe it, or so say the true believers. The readers of such at works as Toland's Infamy (1981) and Rusbridger and Nave's Betrayal Pearl Harbor (1992) know that such people stick to the cover story and such works adhere to the cover story and they and they alone possess the gnostic truth.

The security required to preserve this triumph combined with the known habit of generals' augmenting their egos to present a history of the war in Europe that was subtly incomplete. Eisenhower never once acknowledged the degree to which code-breaking influenced his strategy in the Crusade in Europe (1948). And so on down the generations, as may be seen by the similar lapse in Eisenhower at War, 1943-1945 by grandson David Eisenhower (1986). Whereas, curiously enough, that archetype of ego Douglas MacArthur gave his intelligence people their due credit for providing the information with which he saved his soldiers' lives. (It can be noted that intelligence historian Christopher Andrew credits Eisenhower with recognizing the efforts of intelligence gathering in practice; see his For the President's Eyes Only (1995) for a discussion of this.)

Eisenhower could have mentioned, for example, the detailed information provided to Allied planners by Japanese ambassador to Germany Hiroshi Oshima (properly chudoku taishi [Ambassador to Germany] chu-jo [Lieutenant General] danshaku [Baron] Oshima Hiroshi). Oshima met regularly with German Foreign minister Ribbentrop; he spoke with other German leaders and was often invited to discuss matters with the Führer himself. It was his responsibility, which he performed professionally and with a commendable regularity, to report these meetings to the home office. After all, though the Germans reproached him about the unreliability of Japanese codes, Oshima-dono knew that "the Purple diplomatic machine code (Magic) is still entirely safe," [p. 49] so these high-level insights could be communicated in a reliable and trustworthy manner. How long did the boys in GC&CS and the two SIS's laugh after reading that?

Meanwhile in North Africa, General Montgomery piously retired early every night to his caravan to pray. Such a gesture of faith impressed reporters those days. The prayer, though, likely included a plea "Please, Lord, don't let the Germans know we're breaking their Engima cypher!" Montgomery's Ultra (the Enigma machine codes) briefer nightly lurked in the dusk near the general's caravan until the General knew the news, and then provided him with the rest of the story [p. 42n]. The patient Long Range Desert Group patrols that lurked off the coastal road and counted the German trucks served as a useful human intelligence (humint) check to the sigint. Meanwhile at sea, the massive slaughter of Rommel's supply convoys aided the efforts of the Eighth Army. (And up north, the Germans berated their Italian allies for treachery; see The Foxes of the Desert by Paul Carrell [Paul Schmidt] for examples of this.)

Popular commentators at the time speculated on the value of an Axis linkup in the Middle East. Evidently, so did the people involved. Oshima met with Ribbentrop on September 17 and 18 of 1942 to draw the map of the world to come. In the first meeting, Oshima pressed for just such a linkup, citing the crucial position of Egypt and India to the Allies. The ex-champagne salesman communicated that upwards and returned the next day with a high-level response: "Although the Führer also is considering ways of bringing the war to favorable conclusion, he is putting special emphasis on a German-Japanese junction across the Indian Ocean." [p. 72] While his superiors likely appreciated this high-quality information from their Man in Berlin, passed on from an authoritative source, the other listeners surely felt more mixed emotions about that.

Lee ascribes the ruthlessness of the Allied views in the subsequent Casablanca and Washington (TRIDENT in May 1943) conferences to their knowledge of these grandiose plans [pp. 76-8]. Other long-term plans also influenced the conferences of that year. The Last Battle contains a detailed description of Roosevelt's ideas on zones of occupation, plans which would have given the Americans Northern Germany from the Dutch border to Berlin, the British Baden, Bavaria, the Rhineland, and Württemburg, and the Russians Saxony, Silesia, Pomerania, and Prussia. The final result was rather different. Why?

Because the British were thinking beyond the end of the war or perhaps back to the beginning of the war. The Soviet Union was still a threat to its allies of the moment as well, and its plans should be taken into account. Accordingly, the British plan was to maintain a forward defense line just in case the Americans repeated their retreat of the previous conflict's aftermath [p. 85]. Not all of the U. S. government was quite as optimistic about the restraint of "Uncle Joe" Stalin, either; Lee quotes a passage from one of three letters sent by former Ambassador William C. Bullit to Roosevelt giving his opinion as formed on the basis of first-hand observations:

. . . The extraordinary valor with which the peoples of the Soviet Union have fought against the Nazis has rendered the Russians so popular in both the United States and Great Britain that all possible virtues are being attributed to the Soviet Government, and both basic Russian Nationalistic policy and the Soviet Communist policy are being overlooked. . . . The reality is that the Soviet Union, up to the present time, has been a totalitarian dictatorship in which there has been no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, and a travesty of freedom of religion; in which there has been universal fear of the O.G.P.U. and Freedom from Want has been subordinated always to the policy of guns instead of butter.

Marching Orders, p. 86

Note the clever subtext in which Bullit specifically cites the Four Freedoms that had been a crucial element of Roosevelt's public relations campaign. Bullit's evidently had formed these opinions early on, and against the grain of political pilgrims. But one might have guessed such from his having entrusted diplomatic messages from Moscow to passing-by entertainer Arthur H. Marx, instead of the diplomatic pouch. (See the courier's own story in Harpo Speaks! by Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber [op. cit., pp. 328-336].)

A further example of how different perspectives arise from different backgrounds is given by the conduct of U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. Marshall saw the same MAGIC intercepts that Roosevelt did, but drew different inferences from them.

The decision to invade Italy has been criticized in retrospect (see 1943, The Victory that Never Was by John Grigg [the ci-devant Lord Altrincham] and Second Front Now, 1943 by Walter Scott Dunn) and while such criticisms are not without merit, they were made in the absence of complete information. The MAGIC intercepts of the messages from Oshima and from Japanese ambassador to Italy Hidaka, for example, revealed the severe weakness of Italy. The exploitation of such opportunities was not to be discarded lightly.

But the principal invasion was to be in France. The contribution of Oshima's messages to the Allies' knowledge of the German defensive plans has been noted, but it cannot be stressed too highly. Rommel's famed abilities to outthink the British were not unrelated to the German ability to break the weak American codes in which U.S. Military Attache to Egypt Colonel Bonner Fellers sent his detailed descriptions of British plans and forces in Egypt. And so it was with Oshima unwittingly putting the boot on the other foot, describing in detail Rommel's own plans for the Atlantic Wall to his superiors in Tokyo and his foes in Bletchley Park and Arlington Hall.

The ambassador's tour of the Atlantic Wall in the last week of October 1943 produced such vital information on the German plans that Churchill ordered that the raw intelligence be delivered directly to Roosevelt. In light of the future events, learning that the Allies were aware that the Germans considered Normandy a secondary target and that their mobile reserves were under the direct command of Hitler were valuable revelations [pp. 161-2], and the strategy of the invasion was decisively affected by them.

Over the next few months, the Japanese continued to report in detail their ally's defensive plans. From describing the details of fortifications to confirming the successes of the various Double-Cross deception plans, the Magic intercepts provided a unique insight into the German plans. But the capper was Oshima's report on June 1, 1944 of a meeting he had had with Hitler on May 27, in which he revealed that Hitler was dead certain that the main Allied invasion would be at the Pas de Calais, perhaps preceeded by a diversionary landing at Normandy [pp. 207-210].

This pattern of decision (Lee refers to it as indecision, but from the description he gives Hitler was very obviously firmly convinced that he was right) was a significant factor in the first few weeks of the invasion, and it certainly must have been reassuring to have such high-level confirmation to hand. Other invasion prospects were less promising, though:

"The ultimate strength of Japan lies in her national structure," declares [sori-daijin (Prime Minister)] Tojo [Hideki]. The Japanese people are firmly united by the spiritual concept of one people and one family grouped around the Imperial household, and they will literally fight to the very end, no matter whether they are on the front line or the home front. The honorable way in which our soldiers are dying on the various Pacific Islands is a manifestation of that spirit. Because of the imminent crisis facing them, the Japanese people will manifest their power to a greater degree from now on."

Marching Orders, p. 231

While that message of July 6, 1944 was certainly intended to raise Ambassador Oshima's spirits, one can imagine that it would not nearly be so comforting to Marshall, MacArthur, Nimitz, and so on. And the repercussions to the William Manchesters and Paul Fussells scheduled to be in the front line of the invasion (not to mention Lane, Major, McCormick, and Thomas) would be similarly disheartening.

Of course, something else was going on that day, and Oshima-dono would have to take it into account later on. His boss gaimu-daijin [Foreign Minister] Shigemitsu began proposing about then that Oshima and his colleague Sato, Japanese Ambassador to the Soviet Union, begin working on mediating a peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R. If you remember how this all began (because of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact), you can understand that the Western allies would be properly concerned about such a prospect. Fortunately, the Soviets and Germans both rejected this initiative. Japanese peace with honor initiatives would happen again, though.

As the Allies drove the Germans back to the Rhine in the west and the Oder in the east, the problem of war's end and after took on a greater importance. This was the period in which the "Alpine Redoubt" plan began to be of some importance. More immediately important, though, was the intelligence gathered from Oshima's messages regarding German tactics. This entailed, for example, advancing on a broad front in order to minimize the danger of localized counterattacks [pp. 266-7].

But this also influenced grand strategic plans. Having to take into account the manpower needs for the final campaigns against Japan entailed a certain attention to operations in Europe that would minimize casualties. This would become most noticable in, to take the most notorious example, the decision to take or not to take Berlin. Oshima and his subordinates discussed in great detail the defensive measures that were being taken to fortify Berlin. Which, as Lee summarizes them, look pretty formidable:

Thus the picture of "fortress Berlin" is clearly drawn for the Americans. Some 3.5 million citizens, protected by four hundred thousand Volkssturm, plus an unspecified number of regular Army troops, are in the city. They have adequate food and water supplies.

Marching Orders, p. 447

Bradley's speculation of one hundred thousand casualties to take Berlin becomes more than understandable in those circumstances. Lee quotes speculations by various unnamed commanders that allowing the Russians to suffer the losses needed to take the city would make them less likely to be able to attack the western Allies [p. 333]. The strategic decisions associated with this led to a disagreement with the British, who were more concerned with building a counterforce in Europe to the Soviets than with defeating the Japanese.

Another factor that would become of grave importance later on was that of internal repression in Japan. Basically, any potential organized peace faction in Japan was insignificant and likely to be suppressed ruthlessly [p. 331].

Lee uses a journalistic method to present his theory to the reader; providing a day-by-day report of events associated with the Magic decodings of this day. This serves to provide a context and an explanation for the more controversial of Eisenhower's decisions, such as his communications directly with Stalin. As Lee points out, frequently, the only elected official having access to the Magic decodings, which form the basis of the most important strategic decisions at this time in the war, was Roosevelt, who was also gravely ill.

Meanwhile, Magic revealed another source of potential conflict, this time with an ally. The original conflict with the Japanese right before Pearl Harbor was over their "friendly" occupation of French Indochina, with the acquiescence of the Vichy government. Once that body's authority became moot, the Japanese smashed the French there; remnants retreated into the jungle. In April, from both friendly and hostile sources, it became known to the U.S. government that the French intended to reassert their authority in Indochina [pp. 450-1]. These were only the first steps down a Street Without Joy.

And in other areas, too. The French Middle Eastern colonies (later Syria and Lebanon) had declared for Vichy, to be reconquered by the British and Free French, and given nominal independence. It soon became obvious that that independence was to be very nominal, if de Gaulle were to have his way. And les Russes must needs be cultivated to balance off les Anglo-Saxons, non?

All which makes reading the messages of Sato Naotake, Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union, all the more vital. Sato-dono is involved in one of the more notorious incidents of the postwar debate, the Japanese peace offer through the Russians.

On June 1, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori ordered Sato to begin discussions with the Soviet leaders aimed at creating a favorable opinion among them towards Japan. Sato had already met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov on May 29 and reported his prior consultation. In his opinion, if the Soviets entered the war against Japan, the Empire would be doomed, and would have no choice but to "fly into her [Russia's] arms in order to save our national structure." [p. 478] Hardly reassuring news, and Stalin's career of denouncing even the slightest hint of unilateral negotiations by the Western Allies while conniving at them himself was no additional relief in this regard. (This might lend more credence to the official Soviet view that the deciding factor in the Japanese surrender was not the A-bomb but the Soviet attack.)

Later that month, Japanese resistance ended on Okinawa, but not before costing 40,000 American casualties (including several crew members of U.S.S. Bush, Gil Thomas's ship, sunk by kamikazes on April 6) and 81,000 Japanese plus perhaps twice as many civilians. This would in turn lead to one of the enduring controversies of the war. Professor Barton Bernstein of Stanford has said that after a close examination of the DOWNFALL plans for the invasion of Japan, he could not find any estimate of more than 46,000 deaths. Therefore, the "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" of Kornbluth, Fussell, Manchester, et al. is a delusion.

But the records did indicate high casualties. At the June 18th White House conference the Chiefs of Staff (Admiral Leahy, General Marshall, Admiral King, and General Arnold) pointed out that casualties on Iwo Jima and Okinawa had been thirty to thirty-five percent of the troops landed. Taking the troop commitments of 766,700 for the invasion of Kyushu in November (OLYMPIC) and two million for the next spring's invasion of Honshu (CORONET), they were looking at between eight hundred thousand and one million casualties. (Not to mention Japanese casualties, which would by the same argument be even higher, much less the civilian casualties.) You really have to be an intellectual to dismiss that as unimportant.

And what was the response of the Japanese to this looming crisis? In Sweden, the Japanese military attaché sho-sho [Major General] Onodera sent out peace feelers to various Swedes. He was reported to Ambassador Okamoto, who in turn informed the Japanese Army General Staff, which elicited this response:

On June 24, the Vice Chief of the Army General Staff in Tokyo sends Attaché Onodera a stiff, cover-your-flanks message: "As we have said before, Japan is firmly determined to prosecute the Greater East Asia war to the very end. There is a report, however, to the effect that some Japanese official stationed in Sweden is making peace overtures to America. That is demagoguery pure and simple, and if you have any idea as to the source of those reports, please inform us." There is no record of a reply from Onodera. But no more rumors about peace proposals come from Sweden.

Marching Orders, p. 493

Meanwhile back in Moscow, Sato was meeting repeatedly with Molotov and with his deptuy Losovsky. On June 8, the Emperor had ordered his government to begin such peace initiatives as had been quashed on General Onodera's behalf. This did not get passed on to Ambassador Sato, and hence to the U.S. (via Magic) until July 14, right before the Potsdam Conference. In light of the other, more dominant, trend in Japanese deliberatins, for an alliance with the Soviet Union, a certain skepticism might perhaps be in order.

The TRINITY A-bomb test took place on July 16. By a curious coincidence, the next day Japanese Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori informed Ambassador Sato of the government's decisions to press for an alliance with the Soviet Union and also:

Although the directing powers, and the Government as well, are convinced that our war strength can still deliver considerable blows to the enemy, we are unable to feel an absolutely secure peace of mind in the face of an enemy who will attack repeatedly. If, today, when we are still maintaining our strength, the Anglo-Americans were to have regard for Japan's honor and existence, they could save humanity by bringing the war to an end. If, however, they insist unrelentingly upon unconditional surrender, the Japanese are unaminous in their resolve to wage a thoroughgoing war.

Marching Orders, p. 518

This hardly seems like an attitude of seeking for peace. Small wonder, then, that the notorious response of Japanese Prime Minister Baron kaigun tai-sho [Admiral] Suzuki Kantaro that the government would "mokusatsu" the Potsdam declaration was interpreted as the metaphorical "treat with contempt" and not the more literal "kill with silence" [moku "to be silent" + satsu "to kill"]. However, Baron Suzuki acted more in a line of being publicly silent and covertly active, hoping that the Soviets would come around to the Japanese proposals. In this light, Marshall concluded that Soviet intervention in the war against Japan was undesirable [p. 514].

In spite of the warning to Attaché Onodera, Japanese envoys were pursuing other peace approaches. Ambassador Sato continued his efforts in Russia. The Japanese Naval Counselor in Switzerland kaigun tai-sa [Captain] Nishihara met with Allen Dulles, he of The Secret Surrender of the German armies in Italy. But all such efforts came to naught. On July 21, Foreign Minster Togo informed Ambassador Sato: "With regard to uncoditional surrender (I have been informed of your 18 July message) we are unable to consent to it under any circumstances whatever." [p. 524; emphasis added by Lee] This was decoded by the U.S. the next day and sent to Marshall and Secretary of War Stimson. And two days after that, Stimson ordered that "The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force, will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. . . ." [p. 528] On August 6, weather permitted.

The Japanese response took a couple of days; on August 8, Togo ordered Sato to get a response from Molotov. The response came the next day, when the Far Eastern Front invaded Manchuko. Meanwhile on the Home Islands, Kokura was spared but Nagasaki wasn't so lucky. This provoked a cabinet meeting at which the rikugun-daijin [Minister of War] tai-sho [General] Anami Korechika still argued for resistance. He persisted for two hours until the Voice of the Crane spoke: "It is time, Hirohito declares, 'to bear the unbearable.'" [p. 543]

But there were steps to take to make the unbearable bearable. Togo's replacement Shigemitsu Mamoru, ten days after signing the surrender documents, issued orders that were fifty years ahead of their time: "Since the Americans have been recently been raising an uproar about the question of our mistreatment of prisoners, I think we should make every effort to exploit the atomic bomb question in our propaganda." [p. 549] And so the victims raised their plaint.


That the emperor [Justinian] was not a man but, as I have already pointed out, a demon in human shape, could be demonstrated by considering the magnitude of the calamaties which he brought on the human race. For it is by the immensity of what he accomplishes that the power of the doer is manifested. To make any accurate estimate of the number of lives destroyed by this man would never, it seems to me, be within the power of any living being other than God. For sooner could one number all the sands than the hosts of men destroyed by this potentate. But making a rough estimate of the area which has been denuded of its inhabitants I suggest that a trillion [lit. myriad myriad myriad ten thousand times ten thousand times ten thousand] lost their lives.

Procopius of Caesarea, The Secret History [Anekdota], b. 18

While the diplomats were yelling their secrets to the heavens, the commanders were making the heavens a little darker (and a little fuller). Military analysts Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen have combined their talents (again) to show how the plans of Marshall and Anami, Nimitz and Yamamoto, MacArthur and Yamashita, were made reality, and what lay in prospect had not a different sort of means been available. Code Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb is that story.

Polmar and Allen begin with a retrospective of what brought the allies to the invasion of Japan. For it would have been allies, indeed. The vast numbers of the American invasion forces would have been augmented by Australian, British, and Canadian troops, overseen by veterans of the R.A.F. Bomber Command, and backed up by the growing British Pacific Force.

This description includes an overview of pre-war amphibious theory and the secret War Plan Orange. These collided with reality after Pearl Harbor, with the former coming out well and the latter vaporizing. The next two chapters describe how the fleets and armies broke the Japanese defensive perimeter, giving the Air Force its chance to bring about Victory through Air Power.

The foretaste of the invasion of Japan was at Okinawa. After the deceptively easy Easter parade of a landing on April 1, 1945, the battle all too soon turned into an April Fool's. The Divine Wind blew in from the Homeland and on April 6: "Two destroyers, Bush and Calhoun, both struck by two or more kamikazes, sunk. The Bush lost 94 officers and enlisted men killed and many wounded . . ." [p. 102] (not, fortunately, including Gilmer Hayden "Gil" Thomas). Before organized resistance ended on July 2, 12,520 Americans were killed, 36,621 wounded (including Sergeant William Manchester, U.S.M.C.R.), with more than 26,000 "nonbattle" casualties, which category included combat fatigue from the severe stresses of the battle [p. 110]. This did not inspire prospects for the future. And during the battle there was one other casualty, so to speak, when on April 12 President Roosevelt died.

The end of the war in Europe led to a reshuffling of troops. Aside from the substantial British commitment in Southeast Asia, Churchill had proposed sending British troops to participate in the invasion of Japan proper. The drawdown of the British Army after VE-Day and the support needed to maintain troops there would severly limit this commitment. Why more than one Australian division would not be included, however, seems harder to justify, though perhaps better off in the long run. And the Commonwealth Corps would be rounded out by a Canadian division. Moreover, the Royal Navy had been providing a carrier task force to the fleet, which would increase, and be joined by veterans of R.A.F. Bomber Command. And then of course there was the Red Army . . .

The Japanese fought to defend their unique indigenous culture, says the distinguished Smithsonian Institution, and we must give credit where credit is due. But the learned multiculturalists seem to have been pickily selective about what they chose to see of that culture. For example, there was a place called Nanking . . . "By one authoritative estimate, 20,000 women were raped in and around the city, and more than 200,000 men were murdered." [p. 157] And in general there was a population decrease in Japanese-occupied China, not all of whom had packed up and moved. Long-nosed, meat-eating, stinking Yankees, Canucks, Aussies, and Brits fared no better. The heroic tai-sa Tsuji Masanobu sums it up for his side: "The numerous and disgusting later breaches of military discipline must be considered in comparison with the far more numerous fine and noble actions on the battlefield. Besides them any discreditable actions will in time be swept aside into oblivion." [quored on p. 158]

Unit 731, the Japanese germ-warfare laboratory, with its interesting choice of lab animals (intended not to anguish People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the slightest) did not become known of until after the war. Both sides, though, were prepared to employ horror weapons. Both sides had substantial stockpiles of poison gas. In parallel to Unit 731, though with rats instead of human beings as test animals, the U.S. was developing means to spread plague, anthrax, and other such microscopic pests among its enemies. The Japanese, however, had already used poison gas and germ warfare in China. However, there were inhibitions. Japanese troops going into Malaya had been told that "There is a possibility that the present enemy [the British], unlike the Chinese Army, may use gas" [pp. 190-1] and therefore they were not to use anything that even looked like it might be poison gas. Deterrence worked, that time.

The U.S. planned to back up its massive manned bomber effort with cruise missiles. A rush program to produce copies of the FZH-76 cruise missile, designated in the U.S. as the JB-2 (and in the Propagandaministerium as the V-1), was underway with an aim of producing enough to be able to fire 500 a day by 1946 [p. 93].

Japanese views of the Decisive Battle rested on the belief that after the American invasion was destroyed, the Allies would negotiate with them on terms extremely favorable to Japan. To ensure at least the first part of this, reinforcements had been moved into Kyushu, where by August 560,000 troops, backed up by 125,000 home-defense citizen-soldiers, and 10,500 kamikaze planes, were waiting. Since original casualty estimates had been based on lower figures, relying on them, as revisionists do, does not adequately address the issue.

However, there was one item that changed all that. Or so the Americans thought. After the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War was to be convened, and the military leaders stalled that until August 9. While Soviet troops crashed through Manchuria, the Council met and concluded that the war might possibly be ended with no occupation of Japan, no war-crimes trials, and Japanese control of their demobilization. Even the bombing of Nagasaki did not quell this fervent optimism, which induced Prime Minister Suzuki to call for an Imperial Conference that night, at which the Voice of the Crane bade them "bear the unbearable".

But even then surrender did not come. As the Emperor and his ministers steeled themselves to put into execution "bearing the unbearable", lower officers remembered the heady days of the thirties when their sort had made policy, and staged a coup. As tai-i Sasaki Takeo of the Yokohama Guards put it, his unit "has no such word as 'surrender' in its vocabulary. Japan must fight! It has the men and the will to fight why should it surrender? There is still a huge Japanese army on the Chinese mainland, and Japan still holds 350,000 Allied prisoners of war. Why should Japan surrender?" [quoted p. 283] Sasaki's men attempted to kill Prime Minister Suzuki; meanwhile, sho-sa Hatanaka Kenji led troops against the Imperial Palace and the NHK radio station in Tokyo, over which the surrender broadcast would be made. But in the end it all came to nothing.

Sasaki's point about the PoW's is not without meaning of its own. Directives had been issued ordering the disposal of all such prisoners; "In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces." [quoted p. 285: Emphasis in original]

It is hard to believe, once in possession of more complete information, that any feasible alternative strategy for ending the war would have been any worse.


There are those in the former KGB and the scientific community who want to direct the public not to believe me because their story interfers with their book contracts or detracts from their scientific honors. . . These facts of international life still exist. Neither they nor the Special Tasks I have described can be denied simply because they have never before been revealed. That something has not been told before does not mean it is not true.

Pavel Anatolievich Sudoplatov, Special Tasks, p. 495

Alternative scenarios for ending the war with Japan have been attractive even before August 1945. Most of them have been made in the absence of certain informations.

Lawrence Watt-Evans said in response to the earlier debate of this issue in FOSFAX ten years ago that the bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary. A more detailed fictional examination of this can be found in Kim Stanley Robinson's 'The Lucky Strike", wherein a bombardier arranges a demonstration drop instead of a city-busting drop of the Hiroshima bomb. As you have seen, the Japanese government was unconvinced by the Hiroshima bombing. Kaigun tai-sho Toyoda Soemu, chief of the Naval General Staff, had believed that the Hiroshima bomb was the only one the Americans had. Tai-sho Anami was willing to fight on even after Hiroshima, even after the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. These details indicate that such wishes are not quite to be borne out. (Robinson has the details of a B-29 bombing wrong, too.)

Pre-echoing Fred Rogers's plea for some sort of compromise with Saddam Hussein instead of the Gulf War, some spoke of a similar compromise with the Japanese (and some of those assert that one was deliberately turned down). The prospects of a political compromise were dim, given the Japanese terms that have been stated above, as unlikely as the similar lack of credible terms given by Tariq Aziz for an end to the Kuwait crisis (which didn't even mention Kuwait) at the last negotiating session before the bombing.

And the horrors of an invasion would far outweigh any bombing. It is noteworthy that the supporters of such as an alternative make no mention of Japanese civilian casualties, which going by the experience of Okinawa would far exceed the deaths in the atomic bombings. Which were, therefore, the best of a bad choice.


MARCHING ORDERS: The Untold Story of World War II by Bruce Lee (Crown Publishers; $30.00; ISBN 0-517-57576-0; 1995)

CODE NAME DOWNFALL: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb by Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar (Simon & Schuster; $25.00; ISBN 0-684-80406-9; 1995)

The Burning Mountain by Alfred Coppel (1983)

Lighter than a Feather by Donald Westheimer (1971)

The American Black Chamber by Herbert O. Yardley (1931)

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor by John Rusbridger and Eric Nave (1992)

The Fires of Fu Manchu by Cay van Ash (1987)

For the President's Eyes Only by Christopher Andrew (1994)

The Foxes of the Desert by Paul Carell [Paul Schmidt] (1956)

Goodbye, Darkness by William Manchester (1980)

Harpo Speaks! by Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber (1961)

Hitler's Japanese Confidant: General Oshima Hiroshi and Magic Intelligence, 1941-1945 by Carl Boyd (1993)

Infamy by John Toland (1981)

The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan (1966)

1943, The Victory that Never Was by John Grigg (1980)

Second Front Now, 1943 by Walter Scott Dunn (1980)

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien (1977)

Special Tasks by Pavel Sudoplatov et al. (1995)

Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays by Paul Fussell (1988)