Japan: Rising Sun Notes

for The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Page 17 of 20

Notes from The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945 by John Toland

Book Club Edition, Random House, New York, copyright 1970

Japanese production was largely dispersed into small factories of less than 30 workers. In March 1945 General Curtis LeMay decided to increase effectiveness by scattering incendiary bombs over wide areas. March 9, 1945 was the first such attack, with 333 bombers. LeMay knew “the slaughter of civilians would be unprecedented.” The target was the 3 by 4 mile area of downtown Tokyo, which housed about 750,000 low-income workers and small factories. There were no Japanese fighter planes to oppose the bombers. “Huge balls of fire leaped from building to building with hurricane force, creating an incandescent tidal wave exceeding 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.” [833-835]

“The crews in the last waves [of American bombers] could smell the stench of burned flesh; some men vomited.” [837]

Estimates of the dead were in the 70,000 to 130,000 range [838].

Napalm raids on Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe quickly followed. “Americans’ attitude toward bombing had undergone a complete reversal since their sincere revulsion against the indiscriminate murder of civilians in Spanish cities and in China. At the outbreak of the war in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt, reflecting the humanitarian ethics of his countrymen, dispatched messages to all belligerents urging them to refrain from the “inhuman barbarism of bombing civilians.” But later Americans showed no sympathy for the enemy, not even for civilians. Time magazine wrote: “properly kindled, Japanese cities will burn like autumn leaves.” While a few Americans showed some scruples, “What was criminal in Coventry, Rotterdam, Warsaw and London had become heroic [when America bombed] in Hamburg, Dresden, Osaka and Tokyo. [839]

When the U.S. military, led by Douglas MacArthur, retook the Philippines, General Yamashita ordered his troops out of Manila, so it would be preserved. However, the Japanese naval command had other ideas, sending Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi to defend it with 16,000 sailors. American forces took it on March 4, leaving it in rubbles. Yamashita, after the war, was tried as a war criminal on MacArthur’s orders. He was blamed for the destruction of Manila, and MacArthur pushed for his conviction in a hasty trial. Two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Frank Murphy and Wiley Rutledge, condemned the findings, but President Harry Truman refused to commute the death sentence, so Yamashita was hanged February 23, 1946. [840-841]

Fighting Yamashita’s 170,000 troops in the northern Philippines, the U.S. had an unusually high rate of Japanese POWs being murdered after surrendering or being captured wounded. Posters urged GI’s to “have no mercy on yellow bastards.” Charles Lindbergh wrote in Wartime Diaries: “Our men think nothing of shooting a Japanese prisoner or a soldier attempting to surrender.” [841]

On April 7, 1945, Koiso resigned as Prime Minister, while fighting raged on Okinawa. Kido and the jushin (imperial counselors), with the exception of Tojo, wanted to pick a new prime minister who would “work for peace, yet be acceptable to the Army.” Kido realized that the high command knew as individuals that the war could not be won, but would not say that officially. That new minister was 78-year old Admiral Kantaro Suzuki. [850-854]

“Suzuki’s greatest strength was a conviction that he was best qualified to end the war, but he had not yet made up his mind how to go about it. If he announced such a defeatist policy, even to his cabinet, he would be forced out of office or assassinated. For a while he would have to play haragei (the stomach game) this is, to dissemble, to support the war while seeking peace.” [864]

Kido, the Privy Seal, on June 9 decided to appeal to the Emperor to intervene with the cabinet for peace. (Suzuki had been unable to resist pressure from the war faction). He presented a Tentative Plan to Cope with the Situation, which had 11 points, beginning with the nation’s economic disintegration. Kido wanted the Emperor to “start negotiations with an intermediary power.” Minimal peace terms would be: an honorable peace, with guarantees of peace in the Pacific. Japan and renounce her occupation of areas outside Japan, “provided that the nations and peoples therein attain their independence.” Japan would keep a military “with minimum armament for national defense.” [926-928]

continued page 18

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