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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  August 27, 2014 5:30am-7:31am EDT

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coming up, american history tv on c-span 3 looks at the dropping of the atomic bomb during world war ii. next grant weller teaching a class on american and japanese strategies leading up to the dropping of the bomb. then a debate on president truman's decision to use the atomic bomb. later president truman's zbroond join survivors of hiroshima and nagasaki to consider the legacy of the atomic bombs. next u.s. air force academy history professor grant weller teaches a class on america's use of the atomic bombs against japan at the end of world war ii and examines japanese social and political attitudes. this is just under an hour.
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outside standing. take yo >> outstanding. we'll finish your survey of the "second world war" with ten of the asia-pacific war. before next week launching into a more detailed discussion about the war without mercy. we start off with the surrender ceremony on the 2nd of september, 1945, with the demonstration of air and naval strength that macarthur and others arranged to just drive home to the japanese exactly what had happened here. and also to emphasize to them that the very correct observance of the surrender terms would be in the japanese best interests. on the side is the missouri itself which was the sight of
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the signing ceremony. before we get into the lesson per se, which will include the battle of okinawa where we have some marines passing fallen japanese soldiers does anybody have any questions for the material you read today. >> yes, sir. my question is more the political -- how did roosevelt and all the upper leadership in the military justify okinawa when they knew they would drop the bomb in two months. >> when is the first successful test of an atomic bomb? july of 1945. when is okinawa? april. so, remember, history has lived forward even though it's written backward. in april of 1945 nobody knows for sure if this thing is going
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to work. and also as we'll discuss in a little more detail further on, it's not really certain what the japanese response to the atomic bomb or atomic bombs is going to be. is this going a war winner by itself? most american leadership doesn't think so. it's a useful tool in that direction but it's not necessarily going to win the war by itself. so the american planners, the american military, political leadership are proceeding under the assumption that japan has to be defeated through conventional means and that includes capturing okinawa as an advanced air and anchorage air base for the bombing of japan and for the support of the invasion fleet that most americans believe is inevitable. does that answer your question >> yes, sir. >> very good. anybody else. >> you mentioned there were 180,000 civilians perished between the two atomic bombs
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almost immediately. do you have numbers of, you know, post-war how many people actually perished from those bombs and what was the actual, total casualty count from those experiences? >> i'm shooting off the top of my head. my best guess or my best recollection is that it more or less doubles when you take into account the people who die of their wounds or that suffer long term disability or injury. part of the problem of figuring it out exactly is the risk of cancer. the risk of cancer definitely goes up in hiroshima and nagasaki, for that matter in new mexico in nevada where nuclear test sites took place in the united states. but it's not a one to one relationship i.e. you go this place, get cancer and die somewhere down the road. it's hard to nail those down
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exactly but roughly double. yes. >> i have a question. >> ah-ha. >> the fire in tokyo produced massive destruction, 100,000 deaths in tokyo. when truman issued the declaration or the warning on july 26th to the japanese that, you know, massive destruction is forthcoming why don't they take heed of this? >> well, great lead into the rest of the class. but the japanese are kind of in an endurance mode, i.e. we can keep taking this until we have the opportunity for the final decisive battle that will inflict enough casualties on the americans that the americans will give up and if not go home they will at least give up and negotiate on terms they find agreeable. they suffered enormous
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casualties from a western point of view they clearly passed the point of no return where they should have long ago surrendered and accepted whatever the americans had to deal out as a better alternative to continuing to suffer the war but the japanese leadership doesn't see it that way yet. >> what's the government's approach to arming civilians for the last home defense of japan? i know you say historical but how serious, how convincing was it done by the government? >> the government was very involved. they deeply believed in this. this program, this idea of civilians fighting to the last, sacrificing their lives. as a way of inflicting enough damage on the americans that the americans would somehow negotiate. how seriously did the japanese civilian population take it?
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that's a much more difficult question to answer because, indeed, the war does end before the invasion. so at the time nearly every japanese civilian took it seriously and publicly at least said absolutely we're all in for this, this is a great idea. because to say otherwise would have been disadvantageous if not suicidal. after the war ends many japanese say that was a bad idea i don't think i would have charged an american with a bamboo spear or thrown myself under a tank. at that point the war is over. it's very difficult for us to go back and try to understand what might have really happened if the united states is invaded. would civilians have fought or not. i think the best answer is some would, some wouldn't but as to
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whether the some would would have been bigger or smaller than the some wouldn't, it's hard to say. both the japanese high command and the united states did believe, though, that the civilian population would resist and resist violently. >> was that a key factor in deciding to drop the nuclear bomb? >> it's a key factor in all american and ally planning for the invasion and for the defeat of japan. >> i have a question about if anybodying talked about the surrender of the japanese and it was accepted with no terms or unconditional surrender. it mentioned the part about the civilians and how there were gun shots heard all across the country, kind of colorful language. was that actually really the case like there were mass suicides not mass suicides but several instance of suicides across the country in japan. >> many instance insurance of
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suicide mostly on far of the japanese military feeling the emperor coming forward saying we throats war and failed as a nation reflected on them personally and that the only way they could assuage their personal honor was to kill themselves. the reason why it ripples out there, one of the things the bombings have done, severely damaged the japanese communication network. plus, as we're talking about the high level japanese discussions, up until the point where the emperor intervenes the official line is japan is fighting this out to the end. so, the emperor's announcement comes as a shock to many people. to had kind of planned out their lives, literally. this is what i'm going do with the rest of my life. i'm going to fight the americans until i die and to have that taken away at that moment was a deep shock , and so a lot of
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military people respond through suicide. >> they were accepting unconditional surrender why did they leave hirohito in power. >> the idea of unconditional surrender is not that the japanese -- not that the americans are going to destroy japan or any more than they destroyed germany but japan will not get to negotiate terms. because the united states, the top leadership had already to some degree decided that keeping hirohito around might be a good idea the occupation planners are saying okay how do we control this country, how do we occupy this country, how do we pacify this country of complete fanatics. many said we need to keep
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hirohito around because if he tells the japanese to cooperate with the occupation they will. one condition japanese are putting forward the united states is more than willing to accept, and you will recall looking at the language they are using they are talk past each other in some ways. the japanese don't get an absolute guarantee that hirohito will remain on the throne. the united states isn't willing to say that in so many word but willing to hint at it if that's what it takes to get the japanese to agree to surrender and then hirohito's cooperation is an important part of the occupation. anybody else? >> i was reading about the planned invasion, they also mention that some people thought it would be better to use economic strangulation and fire bombing. was that still under consideration when they were discussing the use of the bomb?
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>> yes. that's one of the options on table. i'll put a pin in that one because we're going discuss that in some detail. but, yes, it's still on the table. good. anybody else? okay. let's go ahead then and press ahead. we've talked about this all semester what has the japanese strategy been all along for this war? break the will of the americans. how? inflicting casualties. the idea is japan is not -- japan would certainly accept but japan does not realistically expect to win a straight up military victory. instead by resisting american pressure, by causing american casualties, they will get the united states to the point where the u.s. will agree to negotiate on terms favorable to the japanese. specifically the japanese would love to keep some of the conquered territory to keep the resources that they went to war
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to get in the first place. that strategy is unchanged. but, again, as we saw before and we're still seeing, the execution of that strategy is changing. so how did the japanese attempt to execute that strategy at iwo jima? okay. they dig in how? >> massive tunnel system. >> yeah. this is a switch from previous island campaigns. the japanese essentially become subterranean on iwo jima. >> also they get away with the bomb attacks and gave instructions to resist like down the last man fight until they die type doctrine. >> exactly. the idea is to endure, to hold
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out as long as important, to cause casualties, the specific order is every soldier needs to kill ten americans before he dies. and note that before he dies that's a built in assumption. the defenders of the iwo jima assume they will die. their job is just to cause as many casualties as possible on the way. good. how about okinawa? what's different at okinawa in the execution of this strategy? >> okinawa they have a counter attack in a sense pick-off the americans. >> yeah. absolutely. they allow the landing to proceed pretty much unopposed which is completely different than the doctrine that the japanese have been following in the rest of the pacific war. they allow the americans to land, to get well ensconced on okinawa but then they have multiple lines of resistance and
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use the terrain to great advantage because there's an additional element to the strategy. not only are the japanese trying to hold out on okinawa and cause as many casualties as to the allied soldiers and marines -- >> they incorporated -- >> how so >> using te ing thing the kamik. >> they will attack the fleet. the longer they hold out the longer the american fleet has to remain in the waters around okinawa where it's an identifiable target. how effective -- go ahead. >> why didn't they have a naval component? >> distance. iwo jima is further away. the japanese don't have much of an effective surface force.
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they are also suffering from the submarine blockade which has reduced their access to fuel oil. in fact, what is the rest of the japanese navy, the remnants of the japanese navy do at okinawa? the japanese have one asset left. anybody remember it? the battleship imato. one of two largest battleships completed. they send it off with only enough fuel to make to it okinawa. it doesn't make it that far. american air cover is far too strong for it but it's their last-gasp. they have to have the american fleet in a place where they) knw they can fine it. they don't have enough fuel to sail around the ocean. >> also right here that sunk 7
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damaged 17, which is obviously pretty significant. i'm not sure we can make up for that. although we did some back and sink the "yamato" and escort ships as well. >> absolutely. the american navy suffers more deaths at okinawa than they did in their whole previous rest of the pacific war. now how does that play into the japanese strategy? got to cause the pain, right? that's the whole idea. wear down the american will by causing casualties. okinawa is almost ideal from the japanese point of view. they cause horrific casualties to the american land forces, the length of the battle forces, american navy to stay off okinawan waters, especially the
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kamikazes. but okinawa does fall. and the japanese high command very quickly realizes what's most likely next on the agenda. the invasion of the home islands. so how do they prepare? for this possibility? >> the japanese are going to provide 1.7 million people estimated to defend the islands. along with whatever area enforcements they have left and pretty much bring everything back to the main land, and pretty much have an all-out fight. hopefully to repel the americans, which really is kind of hopeless at this point. >> yeah. militarily, it's a challenge at best. what they're going to do is, try to bring home as many troops as they can. remember, throughout the majority of the asian pacific war, most japanese soldiers are in china, not on the islands defending against the americans. so they're doing their best,
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despite the american submarine and air blockade, to bring troops home from china. to defend the home islands. and as we talked about earlier during the q & a, they're going to arm the civilian population. or the official policy becomes known, the glorious death of 100 million. the idea that rather than surrender, the japanese are going to fight to the death, as a nation. and this is an illustration of japanese school girls look to be in the 10 to 12 range, maybe early teens at the latest. training to resist the american invasion, using bamboo spears. and you'll note in the background, you'll see a lot of army leadership. this was an official program. this is sponsored by the government. this is required by the government. all right. is there a way out for japan at
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this point? as you've already pointed out, their chances of resisting the invasion to actually stop the invasion aren't good. so what are the possibilities for getting out of this thing? >> talk to the soviets? >> talk to the soviets. see if they can't get soviet mediation. now, the japanese do not understand at this point the agreements that have already been made between the american, british and soviet leaders. at a series of conferences that the soviet union is going to enter the pacific war. the japanese also severely underestimate stalin's interest in regaining territory that the japanese took from russia during the rousso japanese war in 1904, 1905. their thinking is, well, maybe we can come to some kind of balance of power arrangement. if the soviets will prop us up now, they'll help us negotiate our way out of this war with the americans. then we can maybe help the
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soviets later on. at least that's what we're going to tell them. so the japanese do launch a maybe diplomatic effort to get the soviets to mediate the war. mediate an end to the war. so why doesn't this work out? [ inaudible ] >> the soviets see they have more to gain in terms of territory and geopolitical position through entering the war than they do from helping the japanese get out of it. >> obviously, we've already had pearl harbor occur. and the death toll through the war thus far was i believe four times that of what it was in europe. from what the book said. so at this point, even if the soviets got involved, i believe that the american people wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than unofficial surrender from the japanese people. even if you were able to enter those points, these options here, i don't think it was
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something that could be stopped or mediated peacefully. >> yeah. what kind of terms are the americans willing to accept at this point? >> nothing -- >> unconditional surrender. the americans have been saying this all along. the americans have issued clarifications. essentially saying, when we say unconditional surrender, we don't mean we're going to enslave the japanese people. we're not going to -- there's not going to be mass executions or anything like that. what they're saying when they say unconditional surrender is, the japanese are not going to have a voice. the americans will decide what's to be done. the americans plan to be merciful, but this is not going to be a negotiation between equals. this is going to be a relationship between victor and vanquished. what kind of terms were the japanese looking for when they tried to get soviet mediation and push for a negotiated surrender or some sort of negotiation? what are the japanese asking for in their communications to moscow?
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>> was it for -- [ inaudible ] >> yes. the personal survival of the emperor and his continuation in power is definitely one of the things on the japanese list. >> is it keep -- keep french in power? >> yeah. they're looking to keep some of the territory. probably not all of it. they understand that. they're looking to keep at least some of the territory they conquered, because, i mean, that was what the war was all about, right? the ability to control those resources they needed. so looking for some territorial concessions. what else? how about war crimes trials? there will be war crimes trials, but the japanese will conduct them. so it will be the japanese sitting in judgment of other japanese, without the united states having a role.
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how about repatriation of japanese troops? the troops trapped on the islands, or still fighting in the philippines, still occupying china. how are they going to get home and what are they going to do when they get there? who is going to take them home? >> japanese. >> the japanese will. why would that be potentially important for the japanese? >> because they could be prepared? >> i'm sorry? >> they could just leave them there. >> they could leave them there. >> still control the empire. >> that's one possibility. let's say they go ahead and bring them home, as promised. they negotiate a deal, they can bring their troops home. how are they going to come home? are they going to come home in defeat, hanging their heads? no. if the japanese bring their own troops home, they can essentially declare victory. their troops can come home with their arms intact, waving their flags. is this starting to sound like germany in 1918? >> yes. >> absolutely. and why is the united states not
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going to accept a japanese surrender that involves the japanese repatriating their own troops? >> they don't want a world war 3. >> exactly. >> they want the germans to know it's over. >> that's the only point of unconditional surrender. to make sure the defeated nation knows it. so there will be no stab in the back myth like hitler exploited in germany in his rise to power. with this idea that, well, we really would have won the war if it weren't for -- name your scapegoat. the americans definitely don't want the japanese pulling that number on them. okay? so the soviets going to mediate? nah. soviets aren't going to mediate this one. and even if they did, were the japanese willing to offer anything the americans would accept? no. all right. so here we are coming also to the end of american strategy.
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what's american strategy been all along? >> is it the main land? >> yeah, get to the mainland of japan. occupy japan, force an unconditional surrender, so that the japanese know they have been beaten and there won't be another war. we've talked about in the past the progressive brutality of american tactics. the hardening of the war, as time has gone on. in part a response just to the nature of war itself, and in part a response to the calculated atrocities carried out by the japanese. the japanese are trying to wear down american will by -- through these atrocities, and it's actually backfiring. it's making the americans more determined to carry on to final victory. as you brought up during the q & a, the fire bombings. so if the united states is being so successful in bombing
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japanese cities and burning out japanese industry, is that going to be a war winner? >> no. >> why not? >> because it doesn't have -- it doesn't have a strategic effect. there are still japanese soldiers on the islands with inflicted casualties. so it's not like in germany, where we can have an offensive and achieve somewhat of an effect. but in japan, i mean, we're just bombing cities and civilians. we're not actually achieving a strategic effect. >> well, what's happened to japanese industry as a result of these fire bombings? >> what's left is substantial. >> yeah, japanese production has plummeted. it's in some ways becoming almost deindustrialized nation. but do you think it's going to make the japanese quit? >> no. >> no. no. even know the japanese are not producing war material at this point in anything like effective quantities, they still can stash away what they had, what they had already produced, and await the american invasion.
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we talked about the blockade. mainly carried out by submarine. also by aerial mines and surface ships and attack aircraft. how is that affecting japan? >> was it in -- between -- '41 to '4 2, their shipping was around 2.5 million tons -- 2.5 million tons, i believe. in that time frame. and by 1945, it was cut in half through our operational endeavors in the pacific ocean. that's obviously pretty significant, especially in a country that doesn't have a lot of natural resources. >> yeah. i mean, that's what the war is all about, right? getting access to those resources. rubber, oil, food. and that's all pretty much cut off at this point. but is it making the japanese quit?
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no. and this gets us to the question you were asking, cadet ferry. about the continuation of the blockade, the continuation of bombardment being the way to go. some americans -- some american leaders did argue, yes, let's not invade japan. let's just keep up with the bombing raids, let's just keep up with the blockade, and eventually they've got to quit. what's the problem with that from the american point of view? >> don't know how long it's going to take. >> how long is this going to take? years. potentially. even with the invasion planned, when was the first invasion of japan supposed to be, according to the timetable? >> summer of '46? >> that would be the second. first was going to be november of '45. and not until spring of 1946 would the second invasion take place near tokyo. so even with the invasion, the americans are anticipating this war is going to go on at least
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until mid 1946. how long is it going to go on without an invasion? it's hard -- there's no telling. by american standards, japan is beaten. there's no point to this. but the japanese don't see it that way. as a result, the fire bombings will continue, even though the 20th air force is rapidly running out of japanese cities to burn. the blockade is going to it continue, but operation downfall, the invasion of japan, is on the books. it's going to happen. at least on paper. at least on the plan. so what's it going to be like? >> brutal. 500,000 casualties, what they're predicting, out of the 1. -- i think 1.2, 1.3 million soldiers they estimate it will take to
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actually be successful in this operation. >> yeah, it's going to be the biggest amphibious invasion in history. it's going to dwarf the normandy invasion. it is going to be huge, and the casualties are going to be terrible. now, after the war, historians have gotten into a lot of debates over the exact casualty numbers. it's a little confused, because you have a lot of different agencies trying to estimate the casualties, and they're using different numbers. for instance, you have one group that's trying to estimate casualties in terms of replacements. so this is the number of replacement infantrymen, replacement artillery men. replacement machine gunners we're going to need. so that's one set of casualty figures. another set of casualty figures is being set up by the medical personnel. okay? how many of this kind of hospital -- how many hospitals are we going to need, how many hospital ships are get to we go to need. those types of things. those numbers are not quite contradictory, but they're
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different, they're all big. i think probably the most telling statistic out there has to do with procurement of metals. specifically purple hearts. the united states made so many purple heart medals, anticipating casualties in the invasion of japan, that we are still giving out that same stock of purple hearts today. any american who is wounded today in afghanistan receives a purple heart that was forged for a soldier who was going to invade japan. it's going to be big, it's going to be bad. in addition, the united states fully expects that all of the allied pows being held in japanese custody will be massacred. rather than allow them to be leb rated. and the americans are right. the japanese high command had already issued orders that p.o.w.s were not allowed to be
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liberated. they were to be killed first. so is there a way out for the americans? well, one option is soviet intervention, right? and this is part of the reason the americans are negotiating so hard at yalta to get soviet intervention. because what happens if the soviets come into the war? >> you have one more person trying to negotiate terms. >> right. it's going to make things complex in terms of the negotiations. what's the price the soviets are going to demand? that's a tough question. but how about the positive? what's the positive to bring the soviets into the war? >> it's a second front. >> where? very good. >> northern shores, mainland china, man churia. >> yeah, man churia and mainland china. because what did we say the japanese were doing to resist the invasion? shipping their troops home from man churia, right? what happens if the soviets invade man churia? >> they're going to send troops back. >> yeah, even if they may send
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troops back, but at the very least, thief got to stop sending reinforcements to the home islands, right? so open up another front. prevent the home islands from the mainland. is that going to be enough to do in the japanese, though? >> no. >> people argue -- >> probably not. >> don't people argue, though, that maybe the japanese were more scared of the soviet invasion and maybe that's why they surrendered? >> yeah, that's -- and once again, we're cut -- as i told you, dr. enteen used to tell me, history is not a science. you can't go back and rerun it and change the variables. what we see is here oshima, soviet invasion and nagasaki right on top of each other. it's a 1, 2, 3 combination punch that causes at least some portion of the japanese leadership to say, okay, it's
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time. as to what is the decisive blow, it's very difficult to decide which it is. and i tend to think really in terms of it's the sheer combination happening so rapidly on top of each other that really provides the psychological shock that let's the japanese leadership, at least some of the japanese leadership, change their thinking. but you raise a very good point. and there are some americans who say, hey, maybe soviet intervention. it's certainly worth a shot, right? negotiate and surrender. are the japanese offering anything that the united states can consider vaguely acceptable? >> no. >> no. add to that the united states is reading japanese diplomatic traffic. we've broken the japanese diplomatic ciphers, so they know they're seeking mediation and know the terms. and they know the terms are completely unacceptable.
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so there is not going to be a negotiated surrender. as a result, truman from potston issues essentially the final ultimat ultimatum. he's met with the british, he's met with the soviets. he's met with his military advise advisers. he knows the atomic bomb works. and so what does he tell the japanese at potston? >> horrible destruction is coming unless you surrender now. >> yeah. this is your last warning. prompt and utter destruction. prompt and utter destruction will be your fate if you don't surrender. and he offers some explication of the terms. we're not going to enslave the japanese people. japan will be allowed to remain a country. will have access to resources. not control, but it will have access to resources to rebuild its economy. but we're going to try war
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criminals. we're going to occupy the country. these are nonnegotiable. so this leads us to what we can call the nondecision to drop the atomic bomb. a lot of historians have burned a lot of ink trying to figure out when, where, who exactly decided to drop the atomic bomb on japan, and it's really difficult to find, because in many ways, there was no decision. there was simply an assumption. what do i mean by that? manhattan project, right? code word, covering the development of the atomic bomb. americans in cooperation with the british. the americans and british don't realize it, but the soviets are also getting cooperation through espionage, so they know what's going on, as well. but they produced the world's first effective atomic weapon
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tested in july of 1945. the second-most expensive arms program of world war ii. you remember what the first one was? talked about last time. >> b-29? >> the b-29, right. so the united states has spent -- the two most expensive weapon system in the war are here going to be united. having spent that much money, do you think there's a certain amount of institutional and bureaucratic inertia to put this new combined weapons system into effect? of course. of course. why build the thing if you're not going to use it? is it going to win the war by itself? >> no one knows. >> no one knows. by american standards, the japanese have already taken this thing far too far. they have held out far too long.
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this is pointless, and it's fueling american rage. they see americans as dying for almost no purpose in a war that japan has already lost. is an atomic bomb going to be enough to wake up the japanese and get them to quit? some americans hope so. a lot of american leaders are doubtf doubtful. some of the scientists who create the bomb argue that maybe a demonstration is more appropriate. pick some uninhabited island, take a japanese -- a delegation of japanese leaders, have them sit in a boat off shore for a ways and we'll demonstrate the atomic bomb to them. show them the destruction that it can cause. why doesn't the american leadership accept this proposal? >> because the japanese would never get on a boat and watch. >> first off, it's going to be a process, right? it's going to be a difficult process. you've got -- first off, you've got to start negotiating with the japanese to show them the
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demonstration. and there aren't any negotiations going on. so it's going to be a problem. >> they already announced the glorious death of 100 million. so i think at this point they're not too concerned about the -- you know, the civilian population. they're more concerned about living up to the emperor and dying a glorious death for the mainland, japan. >> yeah, absolutely. there's really been no indication from the japanese leadership that possible massive civilian deaths are going to cause japan to quit the war. they have already suffered massive civilian deaths, right? upwards of 80, perhaps 100,000 dead in tokyo in one night. japanese didn't quit. so -- yes. >> you also have -- it's not a chief factor, but true american leadership see the writing on the wall between the soviet union and the united states. the ideological difference is obviously going to play a huge role. if the atomic bomb can -- has the potential to bring the
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japanese to surrender, then why not do it before the soviets invade? >> yeah. that's a factor. that's floating around in there. i always think of this as kind of staff meeting stuff. if you've ever been in a staff meeting, once everybody knows what the decision is going to be, now everybody sits back and thinks, okay, how can my particular agency benefit from this? and that's why i'm calling this a nondecision. everybody knows -- everybody who is in the know about the atomic bomb knows it's going to be used. so state department, those in the state department who know it's going to be used are saying, okay, how is this going to affect our post war relations? they're starting to see how it affects their particular -- their particular bailiwick, diplomatic relations. and there are a lot of americans excited about having the atomic bomb in their pocket to use in tough negotiations with the soviets. so that's definitely a factor. but i am not convinced by the
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arguments of historians who say that it's the predominant factor. to my interpretation, the predominant factor is ending this war. any intimidation of the soviets that comes out of it, that's just gravy. certainly not to be turned down. but not the primary reason. so where are we going to target this thing? where are our american planners looking at? [ inaudible ] >> looking at military targets. in fact, hiroshima is actually the headquarters of the army that is slated to defend the southern island kutsche u. that's also a major port facility, a lot of military targets in it. >> also, the cities they chose were relatively untouched by the fire bombing, as well. >> absolutely. there weren't too many left in japan at this point. but the idea is, in some ways,
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it's a matter of informing the americans, how do you bomb damage assessment on to a target that's already half destroyed when you hit it? in this case, the americans want to know just how effective this new weapon is. and it also will hopefully enhance the shock value to the japanese. one city that was pretty much intact, one bomb, one destroyed city. most americans aren't confident this is a war winner by itself, but there is some hope, just maybe this will work. and if it doesn't, well, there's always the tactical use of atomic weapons. those who were in the know about the atomic bomb began writing atomic bombs into the operation downfall plan. to use atomic bombs to destroy major military hard points and to help the american troops get ashore, and help the american troops get inland in japan. not a lot of deep understanding
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at this point about the long-term impacts of radiation. the best advice they had was, you know what, don't send any troops through any place where you drop an atomic bomb for about 48 hours. >> i saw a documentary after the war, they actually had characters and what not they were going to fire warhead shells out of -- miles across the battlefield at the enemy. but obviously no one thinks about -- at that time, no one thought about the implications that come from, you know, radiation and what not. >> yeah, when we get into the 1950s, the american military is going to experiment when a whole variety of atomic weapons, atomic artillery shells, the atomic bazooka, the davy crockett, an atom bomb that can be launched from a jeep by two or three people. for a while, atomic weapons seemed like the wave of the future before the full realization sinks in. and part of what's going to
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cause the realization of the long term effects to sink in are indeed having used two of them at hiroshima and nagasaki, americans and people around the world can see the long-term effects. but in 1945, those are not well-understood at all. not in the least. so this leads us to what we call the triple punch. hiroshima, the soviet invasion of man churia and nagasaki. within three-and-a-half days, japan has to absorb these major blows. finally, there is enough of an impact on the japanese senior leadership to make a difference. it's not that there had been no one in japan who was contemplating getting out of the war by surrendering up until this point. certainly nobody did it publicly. but within high government
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circles, there are peace advocates, folks saying the war is lost, we need out of this. but they were outnumbered and outvoiced, outshouted in some cases, by the militaryists who wanted to hold on. the idea of being one more battle. one more battle. if we can just inflict american casualties in one more big battle, then we can negotiate and really get something out of this war. but after hiroshima, after the invasion of man churia and after nagasaki, the japanese high command finally allows the emperor essentially to step in and override, make the final decision to surrender. there's a little bit of la last-minute negotiating over the survival of the emperor personally, and his position within society. again, the americans and the japanese kind of talk past each other. they come up with language that's vague enough that both sides can interpret it to mean
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what they need it to mean. the japanese say the position of the emperor will not be prejudiced and the americans say, well, you know what, the japanese are going to get to choose their own form of government after the occupation, as long as it's respectful of all people and that sort of thing. and if they -- if they want to choose an emperor, that's okay. but in the meantime, the emperor will be subject to the supreme allied commander. and that's good enough for both sides to interpret it the way they need to, to reach the point of surrender. >> so i have a question. >> yes. >> between the first dropping of the bomb and the second one. how much opposition existed within the british government and the united states government after seeing the destruction of the first bomb and hiroshima and how much opposition was there to dropping a second one? >> very little. none serious. part of it's the information lag. we're used to living in the information age, satellite reception, that sort of thing.
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information from hiroshima, which, remember, is a foreign country at war, is very slow to come out to the allies. part of the problem is the japanese don't realize what happened. the japanese understood atomic physics. they had their own atomic program. but it had not advanced very far, and the one thing the japanese had figured out about ato himmics, it's really difficult. and to fact of the point, they said we don't even really think some of their top scientists said we don't think a bomb is practical. so when one goes off over here sheema, first off, you've got to round up your experts, right? you've got to get them there. they've got to figure out what happened. they've got to come back. they've got to issue a report, convince some skeptical people this is really what happened. and none of that information is getting back to the united states. so the united states, hearing no response to its ultimatum, continues with the plan.
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and it's another nondecision. it's simply following through with the plan as stated, we're just going to keep dropping atomic bombs as part of our preinvasion strategy. the invasion will take place as planned. up until the point where the japanese accept unconditional surrender. yes. >> do we underestimate how brutal the atomic bombs were going to be? >> yes, it was not well understoodel can what they were going to do. in fact, i think our standard way of expressing the explosive power of nuclear weapons is indyk active of that. how do we describe atomic or nuclear weapons? how do we measure their blast? >> as related to, like, tnt? >> yeah. we call it -- kilo tons or megatons. and that is equivalent -- a kilo
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ton is equivalent to a thousand tnt, a conventional explosive. so to try and get our minds around this new force in the universe, or this new force that humans have figured out not how to control, but at least how to tap, that's a big intellectual leap. and it's going to take time. >> i thought the 20 kilo tons was one of them, right? was that a little -- was that the 20 tons -- kilo tons? sorry? >> i don't want to go on record on that. >> somewhere in the book it said that the -- that between the two bombs, it was equal to the -- all the conventional bombs dropped in europe, and obviously, that's pretty significant, you know, considering how much we actually did drop. even more significant is, you know, think about current day. we have 50, 60, 70, megaton, you know, warheads on our nuclear bombs. that's, you know, 1,500 times
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what nagasaki was. it's pretty significant when you think about it in that sense. what could come from one of those bombs. >> absolutely. we're literally talking in mathematical terms about orders of magnitude. more destructive. but the chief terror of nuclear weapons is not just their blast, but also their long-term effects in terms of radiation. those things were so ill understood in 1945 that most people just thought of them as really, really big bombs and expressed them as such. kilo tons. thousands of tons. it's the same as 70 b-29 loads. trying to come up with some way to express this, to understand that people are falling back on their understanding of conventional explosives. good. very good. so we're good so far. all right. then let's go ahead and wrap it
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up. what do we come to? the japanese strategy of spiritual exhaustion, of inflicting such horrific casualties and such horrors on the americans that the americans will come to some sort of negotiated settlement that will be acceptable to japan. that failed. and, in fact, the horrors that the japanese deliberately perpetrated actually reinforced the american desire to fight on to unconditional victory or unconditional surrender and absolute victory. the american strategy of seeking absolute military victory ultimately was successful. the americans got what they wanted or needed out of this war. they did achieve unconditional surrender. and i put a little asterisk on here, because there was that talking past each other negotiation about the status of the emperor. i think it's important to remember the reason the united states was willing to let that japanese sort of term slide was because the americans wanted to retain the emperor as a tool for
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the occupation. so in short, the japanese were forced to capitulate unkblly, the americans set the terms which is what they were fighting for. there was a decision to use the atomic bomb. instead, this new weapon, and people didn't realize quite how new it was, simply became part of the overall american strategy. the search to force -- the desire, the need to force the japanese into unconditional surrender. it just becomes part of the deal. the demonstration plan is rejected. strategic use against cities with military value. but remember, the tactical planning is in place to use them as part of the invasion that many americans still expect will be part of the ultimate downfall of japan. the implications of atomic weapons. how they have changed the world and how we recognize that now. that was a question that people in 1945 on all sides -- for them
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it was a question that would be answered in the future. okay. a lot of good books. i did manage to limit myself to three this time. a lot of good books to take a look at on this. i especially recommend cha pell's before the bomb. how america proechld the end of the pacific. prior to knowing with about the atomic bomb. the atomic bomb is a tightly held secret. so a lot of people know nothing about the atomic bomb. as you brought up, hayes gaua is probably the best argument the atomic bomb is really more about dialing with the soviet union than dealing with japan. i deeply respect his scholarship, even if i'm not convinced. and leon segal's fighting to the fini finish, a comparison between how the united states and japan are approaching this final outcome of the war.
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that concludes our discussion, our chronological discussion of world war ii. when we see each other again next week, we'll start delving into race and the war in the pacific. i bid you all a pleasant day. you are dismissed. wednesday on c-span3, american history tv features programs about the cold war. at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a discussion on the fall of the berlin wall 25 years later. at 9:55 p.m., our lectures in history series examines u.s. cold war human radiation experiments. and at 11:10:00 p.m., american history tv's the presidency, looks at george h.w. bush and the end of the cold war. the cold war, 8:00 p.m. eastern, on c-span3. wednesday on c-span, a look
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at social work in america. we hear from steve peri, founder and principle of a magnet prep school in hartford, connecticut, that only accepts first-generation, low-income minority students. here's a look. >> we're spending in some communities on education and incarceration more than we are spending on anything else. we're dropping a lot of money at the back end. and some communities, 30, 40, $50,000 a year. to incarcerate. just imagine if some of these preventive programs that you mostly work in or want to start -- just imagine if you had $50,000 a client. you could buy them a house per year. but that money is just poured down a hole, because what happens is, we allow the
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political forces that are going on in our country to come up and say, lock 'em up! three strikes, you're out! and then wonder why they're vague abonds when they come out and can't get a job. can't get a student loan. can barely even get access to their own children. and then we wonder why the kids don't have anybody in their life. you see it. you see how this thing happens. it's a couple of small decisions that become big. >> wednesday, a look at the impact of social workers in improving the lives in minority and impoverished communities. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. this weekend on the c-span networks, friday night on c-span, native american history. then on saturday, live all-day coverage from the national book
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festival science pavilion. saturday evening, from bbc scotland, a debate on scotland's upcoming decision on whether to end its political union. sunday, q & a with judge robert catsman, chief justice of the second circuit court of appeals. he shares his approach to interpreting laws passed by congress. on c-span 2, friday at 8:00 p.m., in depth with former congressman, ron paul. then on saturday, all day live coverage of the national book festival from the history and biograp biography pavelions. and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern, afterwards with william burrows, talking about his book "the asteroid threat." on american history tv on c-span3 friday, a nasa documentary about the 1969 apollo 11 moon landing. saturday, on the civil war, general william tecumseh sherman's atlanta campaign. sunday night, a look at election laws and supreme court case of
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bush versus gore. find our television schedule at, and let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. on twitter, use the hash ta tag c123. or e-mail us at join the c-span organization. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter. next, president sherman's grandson, clifton truman daniel joins survivors from hiroshimao to discuss the lasting legacy of the nuclear attacks that ended world war ii. this event hosted by the japan society, is an hour and ten minutes.
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the top new sorry of the entire 20th century, beating out the landing on the moon, the attack on pearl harbor, the wright brothers first flight and other very prominent stories and events that occurred in the last century. along with the morns of the story of the atomic bombs of japan has comp over the last five decades or so enormous and often highly acrimonious controversy, both among scholars and public. i think it's safe to say the issue of the atomic bombings is arguably, and i would say a strong argument, the issue of the atomic bombings of japan is the most contentious debate in all of american history. i don't think we're going to settle it today. but i hope we will advance our knowledge of the subject, shed some light on some important issues and perhaps lower the volume of ill will that all too often has been a prominent part of this controversy.
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controversy over truman's decision to use the atomic bomb arises from two fiercely interpretations of why the bomb was used. the fundamental question at the heart of the debate, was the use of the bomb necessary to force a japanese surrender, and end the war as quickly as possible on terms that were acceptable to the united states and its allies. this say basic question, and from this basic question, had arisen a whole host of other interesting and important questions. there are two basic interpretations. the first is the traditional interpretation, the one that most of us, at least most of us of a certain age, grew up with. and that is the theory that truman's decision to use the atomic bomb as absolutely necessary. and so the answer to the question is arousing yes. it was necessary. and it was necessary because
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truman faced a stark choice between on the one hand authorizing the use of the bomb, and on the other hand, authorizing an invasion of the japanese mainland that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of american lives. so in this interpretation, truman made the only reasonable choice. he chose the least abhorrent option, and that was to use the atomic bomb as a means of avoiding an invasion of japan, which was not only going to be enormously costly, but also without the use of the bomb, was inevitab inevitable. this interpretation is contested by the so-called revisionist interpretation. and revisionists give the opposite answer to the question of was the bomb necessary. and their answer is absolutely not. the bomb was absolutely not necessary. and it was not necessary, because japan was defeated. japan was trying to surrender. and the revisionist interpretation, japan had
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decided to surrender, was trying to surrender on the sole condition that the emperor be allowed to remain on his throne, and an unstated part of this interpretation is that the emperor would remain on his throne as a benign, kindly constitutional monarch. so in this interpretation, the bomb was not necessary to defeat japan. and because it was not necessary to defeat japan and force a japanese surrender and end the war, the revisionists have come up with other ideas about why the bomb was used and different scholars have proposed different solutions for this question. but the one that is most common is, it was used to impress and intimidate the soviet union in the emerging cold war. by the summer of 1945, tensions were growing between the united states and the soviet union. and therefore, truman and his advisers elected to use a bomb, not to defeat japan, because
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japan was already trying to surrender. but to impress, intimidate the soviet union in the emerging cold war. so it was used not for military reasons, but for diplomatic political reasons. well, you can see that these two positions are diametrically imposed. and these are the two polar views on this entire issue. and it's between the poles that this controversy has been fought out. there are still a few partisans at the polls who continue to fight the same battles and in fact often read the same quotations but most scholars now have moved beyond or perhaps i should say have moved in between the two poles and found the answer to the question of whether or not the use of the bomb was necessary somewhere in a broad, sprawling, ill-defined middle ground. and there's still lots of room for disagreement, and there's lots of room for debate within the middle ground. and you might hear some of that
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today. but in terms of where we are with recent scholarship, the two polar positions are pretty much discredited. and let me give you a couple of examples. the revisionist view has been discredited, largely because we know now from japanese sources that have opened within the last 15 or 20 years that japan had not decided to surrender. that the japanese government, the japanese emperor, had not decided to surrender until after hiroshima. so a lot of debate about what happened after the bomb was used. but the fact remains, and i think it's clear, and i think you'll hear more about this today, japan had not decided to surrender before hiroshima and this knocks out a major support for the revisionist's interpretation. the traditional interpretation, and i think it's safe to say
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that most scholars now agree truman used a bomb primarily to end the war as quickly as possible. but the traditional interpretation is weakened by the fact that we know and we have known for a long time, there were other ways to end the war besides the bomb and besides an invasion. and that -- an invasion, even in the minds of people in the summer of 1945, was certainly not inevitable. i think we have reached a point where we can now conduct our arguments in a civil manner, and with respect to the views of others. i say that cautiously, because it seems like every time i make that statement at a conference or in print, we have a new eruption. i don't think we're going to have any eruptions today. but i am certain that we will hear some of the latest and the best scholarship that we have today, and i hope that you all will find it as enlightening as
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i have. our second panel today will also discuss complex issues of great importance. the origins of nuclear arms race, the benefits and hazards of ionizing radiation, especially isotopes and the development of nuclear power. these issues have not received as much attention from scholars or the public as have the atomic bombs of japan, and i don't think that any of them were strong candidates to have been the top news story of the 20th century. but they are vital components of truman's atomic energy legacy, and this legacy, perhaps even more directly than the use of atomic bombs, extends down to the present day. they have also been topics of much controversy, and misunderstanding. and once again, in our second panel today, you will hear from leading scholars in the field who have by any standard done a
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ground-breaking, outstanding work on these topics. i'm going to introduce our first speaker today. our first speaker today is richard b. frank. who is the author of "downfall" published in 1999 and 15 years later is still perhaps the standard among books, the many, many books on the end of the war in the pacific. he is also the author of other books on world war ii. he has not trained as a historian. he has trained as a lawyer. he is a graduate of georgetown law school, and he worked for many years as an administrative judge in the federal government. although not trained as a historian, richard frank demonstrates his skills as a historian in everything that he has written. and it's a great pleasure to have him here today with us.
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thank you for those very kind remarks. and i want to thank this entire institution for the wonderful opportunity to be here in key west. and to speak on behalf of harry s. truman. it's my job to provide i think an overall summary of where we were in 1945. and to do that, we have to go back first of all to 1943 when president franklin roosevelt articulated the american allied aim for the war as the unconditional surrender of the axis powers. now, when that policy was first articulated, it was with a mind towards germany, and not japan. but in the policymaking process that extended from basically that moment to 1945 that resulted in the plans for the occupation of germany and japan,
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unconditional surrender became the fundamental foundation as the state department lawyers pointed out, because it gave the u.s. and its allies authority to do things in the occupation reforms in both germany and japan that would not have been able to do under the normal international law of military occupation. so unconditional surrender, my first message is, was not a dispensable aspect about the events in 1945. it is fundamental to what eventually transpired as a free, democratic and peaceful japan. now, the then new joint chiefs of staff are responsible for coming up with a military strategy that would implement and secure unconditional surrender. we know now that the joint chiefs achieve no more than an unstable compromise. interestingly, they divided not so much over what you might call a military issue, but a political issue. and that was what was the factor they believed would be most likely to undermine the will of
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the american people to see the war through to unconditional surrender. the navy, under fleet admiral earnest j. king had studied war with japan for decades. one of the results of that study absolutely convinced that invading the japanese islands was a folly. that american casualties would be totally unsustainable because japan could muster greater forces. the terrain would negate moebltd and fire power. and therefore, the navy had derived the notion the only correct strategy to bring a war with japan to a close was one of blockade and bombardment. here i must interject and point out that when the navy talked about blockade and the context of world war ii, it was to fall along on the policy first employed by the british in world war i. that was a blockade that would include a blockade of food supplies. at its basic level, a campaign of blockade was aimed to threaten or actually kill literally millions of japanese,
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mostly noncombatants, from starvation. that's what the blockade was about. the army under george c. marshal believed the critical issue was time. that you can't fight a seven-year war. the army advocated an invasion of the japanese home islands as the speediest way to bring the war to a conclusion. those two conflicting visions which were fought over intensely in 1945 resulted in an agreement in april/may of 1945 that resulted in orders that effectively continued the campaign of blockade and bombardment in november at which point a two-phase initial invasion of the japanese home islands would take place. the first phase would involve seizing the southern home island of key usually and second phase operation core net set for march of '46 which was intended to land in the tokyo yokohama area. what we know now, however, is admiral king made it very clear
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in a written memorandum to his colleagues and joint chiefs of staff, he was not agreeing to actually invade japan. he only agreed they had to issue an order to have that option available come november. and he said he will come back and visit the question of whether we need to invade japan in august or september of this year. now, early 1945 was greeted in tokyo, not with resignation, but with resolution. the japanese had firm grasp of howdy tier rated their military situation wasp. however, they ultimately believed that modern morale was brittle and could be broken. and their strategy called operation decisive was a military political strategy that looked to do this. they would con frint and either defleet inflict enormous casualties that the u.s. would negotiate a settlement they would find satisfactory to end the war. they moved vigorously to
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implement this plan. they correctly identified southern key usually as the american target. they moved a mass of forces down there. they moved to organize, reorganize, and conserve their air forces to cumulate over 10,000 aircraft, half of which were intended to be for a kamikaze mission to support this climatic armageddon battle. in addition to doing these varies military moves and mobilizing the economy, in the spring of 1945, the japanese government moved decisively to obliterate combatants and noncombatants in japan. they not only mobilized a large uniformed armed force but also declared that every japanese male age 15 to 60, every japanese female age 17 to 40 was a member of a national militia, a combatant. a prototype of that program with
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horrendous effects on civilians. now in june 1945, on both sides in tokyo and washington, there were important meetings. mr. truman was very concerned about the issue of casualties and the invasion of japan, called a white house meeting, reviewed the plans, and interestingly, only authorized olympic -- the november '45 operation. he did not authorize cornette. he held an advance approval of that. in japan, there was an equally important meeting. an imperial conference, which is to say one held before the emperor. at this conference, which was essentially sort of a kabuki affair, because the emperor does not actually participate in such matters, they affirmed their policy of fighting to the end without thought of surrender. now, in the course of preparing for that, staff officers prepared papers to review what the situation was. one of the aspects about those papers that i want to highlight to you was this. when i wrote down fall -- when i was reading those papers, i
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realized what they were really saying, even if kets go worked exactly as planned, as this horrendous battle in key usually. meanwhile, there is an air and sea blockade going on. and there's enormous casualties from all of these factors. even if they secure a negotiated end to the war, they realized their food situation as they got to the latter half of 1946, was going to be catastrophic. and that the leadership knew that in addition to all the horrendous casualties that would result from hostilities, a large number of japanese would be dying from starvation in 1946. now, edward drai recently published a wonderful book called "japan's imperial army" and pointed out that the soldiers clearly understood what the papers said. and if they understood it, the japanese leadership could not have missed the implications of that. and maybe in the q & a, we can get into what happens during the occupation with respect to the food situation in japan. in the summer of 1945, particularly in july
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they detected this buildup. the result of this was a start of a controversy at the joint chiefs of staff level. general marshall sent a message to go ahead and do it. admiral king, however, took those communications and sent a letter to the senior naval officer and asked for his views. now at the moment king did this, which is following on with his memoir in april. this is august of '45. king also knew this. he informed him privately that he could no longer support his
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invasion after the experience of the okinawa campaign. what we know for sure is there was going to be a major, major conflict over an invasion of japan. not because the operation was unnecessary but it had become unthinkable in terms of how it had been planned and ordered up to that point. general marshal was looking into using atomic bombs to support the invasion in order to keep that option open. in japan in june of 1945 and continuing on, there was some strings on the diplomatic front. there were a number of diplomats that became peace entrepreneurs. they advanced to various american and allied officials and notions about the war. the problem was not a single one of them had any authority from japan. the only legitimate effort made to secure any type of diplomatic effort by the japanese government was conducted through
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the japanese ambassador through moscow. you have to understand the big six was the legal government of japan. there was literally not a millisecond prior to august 6th, 1945, in which that legal government of japan ever sat down and worked out what they would accept to end the war. the only occasion on which they had a meeting to even discuss that matter ended abruptly when it said the only basis to discuss the end of the war was japan had not lost. when they attempted this negotiation through moscow back and forth and the foreign
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minist minister. it comes in an exchange that follows from the fact that he keeps saying if this is a serious effort to end the war, japan must define some terms. he comes back to that several times. terms, terms, terms. he can't get an answer because the big six have not discussed and not agreed upon terms to end the war. finally in exasperation he sends a message to tokyo, about the 17th of july, in which he says, look, the best you can possibly hope for at this point now is unconditional surrender modified to the extent that the imperial institution would be made. there in black and white is essentially a center piece of the revisionist argument. if only we had had agreed to that set of terms, what's the
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response? it's not no, it's hell no. so basically reading those cables the american leaders said they knew basically in july 1945 even an offer to preserve the institution was not going to secure the surrender of japan. when the bomb is dropped on here shee ma, bear in mind a couple points. no japanese government had surrendered. which by calculation. the second thing is that an atomic bomb was an event totally unprecedented in human history. and third, you have to understand the japanese government and decision making process was highly dysfunctional based upon consensus it was difficult to reach an agreement. when the first news that something horrendous is happening, the japanese army immediately responds that the americans have set an atomic bomb. they u say even if it is an
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atomic bomb, they can't have that many of them. they are not that powerful and maybe they will be desueded from using them. the reason the army and navy take the stance is because of japan's own atomic bomb program, which did give them insight into how difficult it was to make a bomb. the soviet union intervenes. the early report indicates the soviets have attacked and nebulous as to what it going on. the big six has its first formal meeting to discuss how to end the war and they split when advancing a condition of returning the imperial institution but three others want to have three other conditions including japan will try its own war criminals. above all, it means the occupation reforms are not going to take place. the em porer intervenes that
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evening and orders that they accept the one term. except when japan sends its message to the u.s. saying it's accepting a declaration. the language used says provided it does not compromise the prerogatives of the em perrer. this is called magic language. what the japanese term is asking for is not preservation of a constitutional monarch. it is asking for the allies to agree as a condition pree see dent to a japanese surrender that they agree the em porer over the occupation authorities. again, no occupation reforms. this is rejected by the u.s. if you read like a lawyer would read those exchanges, there never is a kbaguarantee that th u.s. will -- there is reaffirmation repeatedly of the declaration, which follows from the atlantic charter, which if it is the well of the japanese
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people to continue with imperial institution it will continue. now there are a lot of other things we can talk about concerning the end of the war. soviets, the food situation, japan, the dysfunction of japanese decisions and the japanese leadership either saw things clearly or did not. one thing i want to impress upon you is this. i have been doing work on the pacific war. this was a totally horrendous event from 1937 to 1945. by my best estimate, something on the order of 25 million human beings died. about 6 million of them were combatants. . 3 million chinese. 2 million, japanese. that means the other 19 million were noncombatants. casualties among japanese, you can find various figures between in excess of 600,000. my highest is about 1.2 million. that means basically for every
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japanese noncombatant who died, 18 others died. about 12 of them were chinese. and we heard very appropriately last night from two survivors that it's important we always keep in mind the horrendous nature of those weapons that hangs over us today. but to me you have to understand just how utterly god awful the war was. over 5,000 chinese were dying every single day the war continued. it's been estimated a quarter million people were dying every month, mostly asian noncombatan noncombatants. this was the context in which all this takes place. it's a context in which we can sit back and make judgments. thank you. [ applause ]
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>> our second speaker this morning is wilson -- the atomic bombs and the defeat of japan. also the author of two other prize-winning books on the -- bill was a native of australia. received from the history of notre dame. he returned to australia for a couple years and worked in the officer of the prime minister and then he came back and joined the faculty, the history department at notre dame. even while he was doing this, he earned a masters of divinity degree at notre dame and he is an ordained priest. we're very pleased to have bill with us this morning. [ applause ]
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>> i'm very glad to participate in the conference and i think dr. walker, our conference convener and bob walsh, who has done such a splendid job organizing this event. i'm very glad to join my fellow panelists such important scholars whom i have learned so much over the years. of course, we also thank all of you for come iing and making an effort to understand some of these crucial areas of harry trum truman's presidency. let me clarify for you that i come to the issue of the use of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a diplomatic and political historian, as sam mentioned. i wrote a book on george cannon and his contribution to the
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making of u.s. foreign policy. my first sort of exploration of the truman administration looking at the marshal plan and nato. then in 2007 i published a book that explored the impacts on american foreign policy more broadly understood of the transition from frankly roosevelt to harry truman. and that book explored true man's policymaking in his initial years in office and it led me to consider his u diplomacy as world war ii ended into what we now know was its final phase. so i want to first speak from a diplomatic historian's perspective to clarify truman's initial approaches on foreign policy in a broad sense during 1945. then i will try to examine something of truman's motives for authorizing the use of the
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atomic bombs and finally some conclusions on the morality of the use of these terrible weapons, an issue which i have tried to give some considered thought. friends, please appreciate that when trueman came to office in april of 1945 he had neither the interest nor the desire to author franklin roosevelt's policies. he sincerely wanted to implement the plans of his revered predecessor and to assure continuity in foreign policy. crucially truman hoped to continue cooperative relations with the wartime allies, especially the other members of the big three, the soviet union and great britain. secure their cooperation in
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securing final victory over hitler and the nazis and then over the japanese militaryists. and secure their cooperation further more in building a peaceful post war world. please keep that in mind. my study from roosevelt to truman, which dr. walker mentioned briefly, clarifies that the broad sweep of american foreign policy from april '45 to july of 1945 consisted of an effort to maintain cooperationive relations with the soviet union. there were bumps along the road, but i'm suggesting the broad sweep is one of maintaining cooperation. truman aimed to be even handed in his dealings with winston churchill's britain and joseph stalin's soviet union. he worked to avoid any hint of
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angelo american conclusion against the soviets. even truman's appointment of burns as secretary of state in july of 1945 did not alter this fundamentally cause. burns, an important player in the events we're discussing, favored the diplomatic practice of bargaining and negotiation. but he still wanted to maintain decent relations with the soviets by reaching practical settlements of the issues they faced. at potsdam he accepted a spear of influenced peace, which largely accepted the soviet's domination of eastern europe and harry truman endorsed this approach. they hoped that this would secure a workable and stable
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post war settlement. now burns assuredly hoped that america's possession of the atomic bomb might add some weight to his side in future diplomatic bargaining in the post pottsdam period. but truman authorized the actual use of the bomb to defeat the japanese. it was not a part of some anti-soviet strategy. truman had gone to potsdam and wanted that participation. it's very important to appreciate this point because fanciful notions of atomic diplomacy pushed by those who
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have followed him and the revisionist side that dr. walker mentioned in his introduction, that notion has to be put aside. what i think is striking about america's sole possession of the atomic bomb is how little u.s. officials sought to use it for diplomatic ends and purposes in those initial stages. let e me move then and make some fairly brief statements about truman's motives. these are the arguments that i concluded from my book, the most controversial decision. this book i should add, the title has certain irony to it. the decision was not controversial for truman at the time. it's subsequently that the controversy emerged.
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truman authorized the use of the atomic bombs to force japan to surrender and with the deep hope of saving american lives. he was primarily concerned, of course, with american lives. this is what moved him and the american military effort. it must be said as richard frank and his wonderful work has clarified that the atomic bombs contributed to forcing japan's e eventual surrender and in bringing the brutal war in the pacific to an end prior to what would have been an enormously costly invasion of the japanese home islands.
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further more while the atomic bomb was never entirely separated from considerations of post war international politics, especially in the mind of secretary of war henry stimson, the decision to use the weapons was not driven by those concerns. the atomic bombs were used primarily for a military purpose. now truman and his associates did not seek alternatives to using the atomic bombs. they accepted it as a weapon of war and proceeded to use it. they saw it as a legitimate weapon. but we can say this and we can have more discussion, i'm sure, of this matter in our question period. . viable options that might have proved successful alternate
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courses can't be identified with any certainty, even in retrospect and when far removed from the pressures truman was under in 1945 of course, the united states could have e eventually defeated japan a choke blockade, perhaps starving millions into submission. a very damaging invasion. but even that has some questions about it. there was not an easily available and appropriate option that would have met the serious political and moral objections of the many later critics of troou mampb's decision. those who from our safe distance now almost 70 years who all
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kinds of alternate scenarios to end the war, i think, engage sometimes in wishful thinking that cannot be supported by the historical facts. as you know, there has been enormous criticism, as dr. walker made clear in his introduction of the american use of the atomic bomb. but i want to ask you to consider a few points in the remaining time i have that might complicate the rush to judge the action that truman took. those who condemn truman's decision to use the atomic bombs surely should hesitate a little so as to appreciate that had he not authorized the attacks on
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nagasaki, thousands of american and allied soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, would have been added to the lists of those killed in world war ii. this would have included not only those involved in the pl s planned invasions of the home islands, but also american, british, let me add australian ground forces in southeast asia who expected to engage the japanese in bloody fighting in the months proceeding such. some folks of limited knowledge of world war ii ignore the reality that there was ugly fighting proceeding throughout much of asia. during those months leading up to the use of the bombs. added to their number would have been the thousands of allied prisoners of war whom the japanese plan to execute.
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to complicate further the rush to judgment, one must acknowledge that truman was most viekly very correct in march of 1958 when he told the chairman of the city council that the bombs had prevented the loss of japanese deaths in an invasion. hard as it may be to accept when one sees the visual record of the awful destruction of hooe roche ma and nagasaki, losses would have been substantially greater without the atomic bombs. furthermore, the attacks changed the whole dynamic of the occupation of japan. ironically, they facilitated a quick and easy surrender and a
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broadly cooperative populous in a way that no other method of military victory would have guaranteed. moreover, the awful weapons abruptly ended the death and suffering of innocent third parties throughout asia. a point that professor frank addressed at the end of his remarks. rather surprisingly, the enormous wartime losses of the chinese, the koreans, the vietnamese, the japanese, at the hands of the japanese received little attention in weighing the american effort to shock the japanese into surrender. the losses in nagasaki were horrific, but they pale in significance when compared to the estimates of 17 to 24
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million deaths attributed to the japanese during their rampage fromman chur ya to new begin any. it's a channel house of atrocities. during the months of war following the attack on pearl harbor, reliable estimates established that between 200,000 to 300,000 persons died each month either directly or indirectly at japanese hands. furthermore, robert newman reveals that, quote, the last months were in many ways the worst. starvation and disease aggravated the deaths. it is plausible to hold that upwards 250,000 people, mostly asians but some werners, would have died each month if the japanese empire struggle d in is
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death throws beyond july of 1945. so i put to you that the atomic bombs shorten the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the ghastly concept and brought an end to the japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of asia. does that make the use moral? truman himself had doubts in retrospect. truman's first conviction that he had done the necessary thing, dropping the bombs, ending the war, saving numerous lives in the process did not stave off his own serious moral qualms about the action.
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just on the day after the bombing of nag ka si, he said that no more atomic bombs be dropped. in words that reveal his personal anguish and his growing recognition that the two cities were much more than the military targets he had authorized the bombs be used against, he explained that the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people is horrible. his then secretary of commerce henry wallace recorded in his diary, he, truman, didn't like the idea of killing, as he said, all those kids. in 1945 deeply colored his whole attitude to nuclear weapons. he never again spoke of them as military weapons to which the united states could make easy
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resort and he indicated some retreat from his pre hiroshima. in looking at moral responsibility, i want to put to you that we must look beyond harry truman. those who accuse truman might refrain from putting him in some singular dock of history until they u carefully considered the responsibility of the japanese leadership for the fate of their own people. post war these leaders effectively played up their victim role so as to induce a certain guilt among americans about the wars ending. this helped disguise the
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important reality explained by the historian herbert biks that it was not so much the allied policy of unconditional surrender that prolonged the pacific war as it was the unrealistic and incompetent actions of japan's highest leaders. blinded by their preoccupation with the fate of the imperial house, those leaders let pass every opportunity to end the war until it was too late. in moral terms, surely the japanese leadership had a responsibility to surrender at least by june of 1945 when there existed no reasonable prospect of system and when their civilian population suffered so greatly. instead the neosam rye who led the military geared up with true
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bonsai spirit in a national campaign. they were in prolonging the war should not be ignored. friends, i want to put to you that harry truman was a good and decent man who try ied to live a moral code, a moral code grounded in his christian views. a moral code grounded in the 20th chapter of the book of kpi ex-douse and the sermon on the mount. truman later stated honestly, i am opposed to any kind of killing. whether by atomic bomb or bow and arrow. truman was, however, also a person who knew that decisions in the sometimes confusing fog
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of war placed policymakers in circumstances where they sometimes have neither a clear or easy moral option open to them. perhaps truman had himself and the atomic bomb decision retrospectively in mind when he wrote 15 years after their use in a discourse on decision making that, quote, sometimes you have a choice of evils in which case you take the course that is likely to bring the least harm. from the perspective of today truman's use of the bomb viewed within the context of this long and horrific war should be seen, i believe, as his choosing the lesser of the evils available to
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hum. admittedly, he did not weigh carefully the options in some moral calculous at the time and proceed forward with that understanding. no, he proceeded ahead because he believed that this was a weapon that could end the war. but fair minded observers will see that he did, in fact, choose the least damaging of the awful options open to him. henry had it exactly right when he wrote in 1947 that the decision to use the atomic bomb was a decision that brought death to over 100,000 japanese. no explanation can change that fact and i do not want to gloss over it. but this deliberate destruction was our least abhorrent choice.
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but it must be understood, the least to bring the bloodshed to an end. so too must be appreciated that truman did not turn his back on some feasible moral course of action that would have secured a japanese surrender. even a decision not to act would have undoubtedly incured terrible consequences. such inaction would carry some burden of responsibility for the prolongation of the killing of innocence throughout asia in the house of the japanese empire. would it really have been more moral


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