The overseas study tour for APA Group employees, the APA Corporate Club, and Shoheijuku took place over five days from November 30. We hold this tour twice per year, in the spring and autumn, and the theme is always visiting old battle sites. This time, we spent five days in Germany. After arriving in Berlin, we first went to the remains of the Berlin Wall. At the famous East Side Gallery, artists from across the world have painted pictures on a roughly one-kilometer stretch of the wall that remains. The most famous image is likely the one showing the Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and East Germany President Erich Honecker kissing. There are many other paintings as well, including Japan’s Mount Fuji. After that, we passed through the Brandenburg Gate – a symbol of Berlin – and headed to Potsdam.
The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof Palace, which is preserved as it looked back then. We also learned about the Potsdam Declaration, which I will reflect on below while referring to the Japanese Wikipedia page about the declaration:
At the February 1945 Yalta Conference, Roosevelt was already sick and was unable to display a strong attitude. He asked the Soviet Union to take part in the fight against Japan, and suggested compensation (including interests in South Sakhalin, the Kurile Islands, and Manchuria). Roosevelt died in April, and Harry S. Truman suddenly became president, although he had served as vice president for just three months.
Truman was vice president, yet he knew absolutely nothing about the atomic bomb development underway in the Manhattan Project. In addition:
After Germany’s surrender, Truman declared that he would ask for Japan’s unconditional surrender.
However, Japan did not accept.
The American government considered three methods to force Japan to surrender: atomic bomb development, attacking the Japanese mainland (a comprehensive plan encompassing Operation Downfall, Operation Coronet, etc.), or having the Soviet Union fight against Japan. Members of the government thought the power of the atomic bombs would shock Japan, so they moved forward with the nuclear bomb program. Meanwhile, the armed forces, centered on Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army George Marshall, thought an invasion was needed to make Japan surrender.
Looking at examples such as the fierce fighting on Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa, the U.S. “expected that an invasion would result in many victims, and that the Soviet Union was necessary to reduce the damage. Soviet participation would make the Japanese Army have to stay on the continent.” The Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact was in effect at that time, so “it was thought this would be a major shock to Japan, which had made peace overtures via the Soviet Union.”
An invasion of Japan was considered at a White House conference on June 18, 1945. Stimson was in favor, but he hinted at the existence of a political resolution. McCloy said nothing during the meeting. Right before it concluded, Truman asked McCloy what he thought. McCloy stressed the importance of a political solution, replying, “Well, I do think you’ve got an alternative and I think it is an alternative that ought to be explored and that, really, we ought to have our heads examined if we don’t explore some other method by which we can terminate this war than just by another conventional attack and landing.” He suggested “Some communication to the Japanese government which would spell out the terms that we would settle for.”
When Truman asked about the specific conditions, McCloy answered, “permit Japan to continue to exist as a nation…, that we would permit them to choose their own form of government, including the retention of the Mikado, but only on the basis of a constitutional monarchy.”
Truman said that is exactly what he had been thinking of, and Stimson agreed, saying he was very glad to hear this proposal. McCloy stated that Japan should be warned about the atomic bomb attacks in advance, but others opposed this on the basis that it would harm American prestige if the bombs did not work. Truman ordered McCloy to consider the message to be sent to Japan, and added that no references should be made to the atomic bomb. It seems that Truman wanted to order Japan to surrender, but he preferred not to voice this in front of Marshall and the others, so he made McCloy start the conversation. After that, the army (in which Stimson and McCloy served leading roles) began full-fledged discussions on the surrender proposal to be sent to Japan.
An early Japanese surrender would also have been disadvantageous to the Soviet Union as well, which wanted to rush from World War II into World War III (a war over communizing the world) and gain global hegemony. The Soviet Union hoped to make sufficient preparations before Japan’s surrender. In the U.S., Truman (who succeeded Roosevelt) and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes thought the Soviet Union should be restrained using the atomic bomb, which had been developed with secret congressional funds and was near completion. The Soviet Union was transformed into a military monster with extensive aid from the U.S., and these men wanted to prevent it from starting World War III to become the leader of the globe. Japan had indicated its desire for reconciliation via all sorts of channels, including Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government, the Soviet Union, and Sweden. Some members of the American government doubted the significance of the atomic bombings. Despite this, the number-one reason they decided to use the bombs was to prevent a new war, although of course there was the possibility they were also afraid of being criticized for “wasting” the secret congressional funds used for development. There is also the theory that the U.S. wanted to avoid the predicted millions of American casualties in an invasion of the Japanese mainland, based on the numbers from Iwo Jima and other past battles. The U.S. began careful preparations to drop the atomic bombs for various reasons.
Like the Wikipedia article says, there was a movement in the American government to maintain Japan’s “national polity” (Imperial system). However, this was never clearly indicated to Japan as a way to draw out the war and complete the atomic bombs. The U.S. finally conducted a successful nuclear test on July 16, 1945. The following day, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin began talking in Potsdam. It has become clear there was conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union from the last stage of the war. They competed for first place in the Battle of Berlin in April 1945, which led to the division of East and West Germany afterwards. The meeting was spearheaded by Stalin, partially because the other members were Truman (who lacked experience in diplomacy with the Soviet Union) and Clement Attlee (who suddenly beat Churchill in the midterm elections to become prime minister in a regime change). Just like the Yalta Conference in February, the conclusion was favorable to the Soviet Union. In the middle of this conference, the Potsdam Declaration was jointly issued on July 26 by three countries: the U.S., Britain, and China. After discussing, they decided not to clearly stipulate the maintenance of Japan’s national polity. Intense arguments took place in the Japanese government as a result, and the atomic bombs were dropped during this time.
The Tokyo air raid took place before that, on March 10, 1945, and some theorize it was a preparatory step for the atomic bombs. Before the attack, the U.S. built a test facility in the desert with Japanese houses (including shoji screens and tatami mats) to see how the fires would spread, leading to the creation of cluster incendiary bombs containing 38 firebombs. During the actual attack, the U.S. first dropped firebombs around Tokyo so the people had nowhere to run, before bombing the central part of the city. In this way, 100,000 people were killed in a single night. It is said that 140,000 people died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki. Some people think the American government used the Tokyo air raid to show that war is cruel – and that both atomic and incendiary bombs can kill around the same number of people – as a way to rationalize and banish criticism that the atomic bombings were inhumane acts.
The U.S. was extremely cool-headed during the bombings and its responses afterwards. After selecting the two cities to attack, it prohibited any attacks using regular bombs so it could measure the effects of these nuclear weapons. It first dropped Little Boy, a uranium bomb, on Hiroshima on August 6. It then dropped Fat Man, an implosion-type plutonium bomb, three days later on August 9. This was because the U.S. determined that leaving too much time between the two attacks would lead to criticisms from various countries of this tremendous destructive power as a crime against humanity. Immediately after the Japanese surrender, American scientists and doctors visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and used Japanese doctors and former soldiers to begin extensive research on the atomic bomb’s power. They put off medical care for the victims and studied all sorts of cases, such as fatality rates and symptoms according to distance from ground zero, as well as the different impacts on concrete and wooden buildings. During this research they took visual records of the various calamities, including the victims and homes, but did not make them public.
The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945, and continued attacking afterwards. It occupied all of Sakhalin and the Northern Territories after August 15, and these unilateral, hostile acts continued until September 5. If things had continued in that way, I think the Soviet Union would have captured all of Hokkaido. The Soviet Union would also have continued fighting to communize all of continental Europe, including France, and also the ruined Britain. However, the atomic bomb attacks showed Stalin the power of this weapon, turning World War III from a “hot” war to the Cold War that lasted for 45 years afterwards. However, the Cold War was still disastrous. Economic disparities between the east and west were exposed in the divided Germany, and many people fled from East to West Germany. Wire fences were built around West Berlin, followed by the concrete Berlin Wall. The tragic incidents are too numerous to mention, including the endless number of people who still tried to flee and were shot to death.
Japan was the target of the first two atomic bomb attacks in human history, and I believe Japan is also the most likely victim of a future attack. Kim Jong Il continued North Korea’s nuclear program to protect himself against a Chinese invasion. He was summoned to Beijing in April 2004 and compelled to abandon nuclear development, but he refused, and was nearly assassinated at Ryongchon Station on his way home. Thousands of people were killed or wounded, including elementary school students who came out to welcome him, but Kim was safe because he knew of the attack in advance and took another train. North Korea continued its nuclear program and became a nuclear state by conducting a successful nuclear test in October 2006. However, it cannot use these weapons against the Soviet Union or the U.S., which are already major nuclear powers. China would also wage a nuclear counterattack, which might destroy North Korea. I doubt North Korea would turn its nuclear weapons against its brethren in South Korea, a country it might be integrated with in the future. Considering this, the only nearby country that could be threatened by nuclear weapons – and that could provide vast amounts of money as so-called “reparations” from the annexation of Korea – is Japan. If Japan was the target of a North Korean nuclear strike, the U.S. would not wage a counteroffensive at the risk of nuclear missiles attacking Guam, Hawaii, or even the American mainland in some cases. The nuclear umbrella does not actually exist, and Japan has absolutely no nuclear deterrence at present.
To protect itself, Japan must obtain an independent means to maintain a nuclear balance. I feel the most realistic course is to first revise the constitution, abolish the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (which are a National Diet resolution), and conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S. like its arrangement with the four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries of Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands (Canada, Greece, and Turkey also took part in the past). This agreement between the NATO countries and the U.S. during the Cold War enabled a nuclear balance with the Soviet Union in Europe. Now that a new Sino-American cold war has broken out, Japan must amend its constitution to become a decent country and join in nuclear sharing for a nuclear balance in East Asia. A motion could be submitted with approval from two thirds of Diet members, but this may no longer be possible after next year’s House of Councillors election. We must revise the constitution by any means necessary. We should hold discussions on constitutional change without delay, submit a motion early next year, and either hold a double election (with a national referendum and House of Councillors election) or dissolve the House of Representatives to hold a triple election. A massive campaign should be implemented with the spirit that we are standing at the crossroads that will determine Japan’s future, and a national movement should take place. If Japan does not become capable of independent self-defense today, it is highly possible we will end up as a Chinese autonomous region.
December 10 (Monday), 6:00 p.m.