The generally accepted view of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific was that the Americans dropped their atomic bombs and the Japanese promptly surrendered, but as this account shows the real story was much more complex. In the last few weeks of the war rumours began to spread that the Japanese were willing to surrender, messages began to travel between the warring powers, but even after the Japanese had officially announced that they were willing to accept the Allied peace terms it took some time to turn that willingness into an actual surrender.
This book makes full use of the de-classified US intelligence intercepts of Japanese diplomatic traffic to gain a full understanding of what went on between the dropping of the two atomic bombs. For many years the general view was the second bomb was unnecessary as the Japanese were about to surrender, but these intercepts make it clear that the first bomb had in fact not convinced the Japanese to surrender, and without the second one they may well have fought on. American estimates of the death toll during the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands suggested that it would have been very costly for both sides, and in some places were actually based on an underestimation of Japanese strength (in particular in aircraft). One can still argue about the morality of dropping the atomic bombs, but this does help explain the thinking behind the decision to drop the second bomb.
On the Japanese side we get a detailed view of the decision making that led to the surrender, the attempts by some diehards in the Japanese military to overthrow the government and overturn that decision, and the Emperor Hirohito’s famous broadcast, in which he spoke in such archaic language and phrased things so vaguely that not everyone understood that it was actually a surrender announcement (including the famous phrase ‘the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage’, one of history’s greatest understatements!). Both sides were afraid that Japanese diehards might fight on, and there were indeed some kamikaze attacks after the fighting was officially over, but the most famous holdouts were individual soldiers who retreated to the jungle, largely in the Philippines. On the American side the uncertainly about what was going on also resulted in some very late air raids, in particular from the aircraft carriers, partly because it took longer to get clear orders to the individual elements of the fleet.
Once the surrender had been agreed, we move on to the initial occupation of Japan, including a race by several US units to be the first to land an aircraft in Japan or the first troops, the first real contacts between the occupation forces and their defeated opponents, and the final surrender in Tokyo Bay.
This is an excellent study of the last few weeks of the Second World War, showing that the surrender of Japan was a rather more complex and confused affair than the earlier collapse of Nazi Germany.
1 – War or Peace?
2 – August Storm
3 – The Day the Shooting Stopped
4 – Around the World
5 – Uneasy Peace
6 – Tokyo Bay
7 – Downstream from VJ Day
Author: Barrett Tillman