The Days Before...
In 1931, the Imperial Japanese Army pulled the Manchurian Incident out of its cap and became, as a consequence, the dominant force in Japanese public life. By 1945, fourteen years later, the Emperor and most of his statesmen realized that Japan had lost the war-but their great, their seemingly insuperable problem was how to bring that war to a close. The still vigorous Imperial Army would admit neither defeat nor surrender-and it continued to insist that it, and it alone, knew what was best for the country. Thus Japan's final struggle was not against the enemy but against herself: and for a moment or two, during that long August day, the struggle looked as though it might prove fatal. If it was the Emperor around whom the struggle centered, it was the Emperor also who finally resolved it.
As far back as February, 1942, Marquis Koichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, had realized that American preponderance over Japan must in the end be the deciding factor, and he had secretly advised the Emperor "to grasp any opportunity to bring about the earliest possible termination of the war." Others, as the war wore on, came to the same dangerous conclusion--dangerous, because the Army did not share it.
Clandestine attempts to end the war through an American O.S.S. organization in Switzerland came to nothing; and many men, including the Emperor himself, preferred to pin their hopes on the "good offices" of the Soviet Union-until the day the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. The present Cabinet of Baron Suzuki was a far cry from that of General Tojo, one of the chief architects of the Army's plan to share the world with Germany. Suzuki's Foreign Minister, Shigenori Togo, headed the faction that believed acceptance of the Potsdam Prodamation, although too late by then to save the Japanese people much of their suffering, was the only means to avoid their total extinction.
Both groups--those who favored peace and those who favored war--were alike in their determination to preserve the essential structure of the nation and in their willingness to give their lives for their beliefs and for their Emperor. Japan without her sovereign was as unthinkable to one side as to the other: in this--and in very little else--they saw eye to eye.
Twenty days before the last day, the people of Japan had awakened to what seemed to them an ordinary wartime summer morning: heat and humidity were high, stomachs were empty and likely to remain so, and there was work to be done-the work of prosecuting the war, though it had grown ever more difficult with the passing days, with increasing malnutrition, accelerated air-raids that meant death for some and homelessness for more, and shortage of raw materials to hamper essential production. And all this in the muggy heat of a Japanese summer. Another day, thought the hungry, weary, but still undaunted people of Japan; a day like yesterday, and like tomorrow.
But they were wrong, and the government of Japan knew it, for at six that morning the overseas radio bureau in Tokyo had monitored a broadcast from San Francisco announcing a proclamation signed the day before by the President of the United States, the president of the Chinese Republic, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who had conferred at Potsdam and come to the conclusion "that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war." The Foreign Office began to study the terms of the Proclamation while a translation was being prepared:
The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.
Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives.We shall brook no delay.
There must be eliminated for all time the authority and inilnence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world....
We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.
The first man in the government to react positively to the San Francisco broadcast was the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shunichi Matsumoto. He advised Togo that Japan must accept the terms as stated, that to reject them would be the height of folly, and he had, in fact, already begun to compose a draft of the Japanese acceptance, to be sent to Japan's ministers in Switzerland and Sweden and from there to be conveyed to the enemy, when Togo came into the room where he was working.
"Wait," said the Foreign Minister, "it's not going to be as easy as that." His voice sounded immeasurably sad, as though he was speaking from some lonely height where he felt far from certain of being heard. "The Army will never accept the Proclamation as it stands."
But, Togo felt, the fact that the Allies had softened their first demand in the Cairo Declaration for "the unconditional surrender of Japan" to "the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces" suggested that more favorable terms, or at least a more favorable expression of the same terms, might be forthcoming, which the Army could accept and still save face. He conduded, therefore, that before replying, Japan ought to make one final effort to use Soviet "good offices."
Togo reached this conclusion despite the fact that all of Tokyo's negotiations with Moscow had so far been wholly inconclusive. Attempts to enlist the assistance of the Soviet ambassador to Japan had failed; the Kremlin had refused to give a definite reply to the Imperial desire to send Prince Konoye to Moscow as a special envoy; and Naotake Sato, the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union, had assured Togo that "there is no chance whatever of winning the Soviet Union to our side.. . ." What Togo did not, of course, know was that Roosevelt and Churchill had already, at Yalta, secretly agreed to major concessions in the Far East if Stalin, within two or three months after the end of the war in Europe, entered the war against Japan.
In spite of what he knew (and did not know), Togo was able to persuade not only himself but also the Prime Minister that the Soviet Union was not ill-disposed toward Japan and that the Kremlin's "good offices" might still be available.
At ten-thirty on the morning of July 27th the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War met to discuss the Potsdam Proclamation and the possibility of Soviet mediation. This Supreme War Council--or "inner Cabinet"--consisted of Japan's Big Six: the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of War, the Minister of the Navy, and the chiefs of the General Staffs of both the Army and the Navy. At the meeting Togo emphasized the importance of the shift from the unconditional surrender of Japan to the unconditional surrender of the armed forces and declared that he felt it would be "extremely impolitic" to reject the Proclamation. He was able, against considerable opposition, to persuade the Supreme Council to withhold the Japanese reply until after they had heard again from Moscow. This, then, despite those ominous words, "We shall brook no delay," was to be a period of "watchful waiting."
How best to inform the Japanese people of the existence of the Proclamation was another major problem, and in an attempt to solve it, a full Cabinet meeting was held in the afternoon.
Once again Togo took the lead. An arrogant man of sixty-two, inclined to be contemptuous of other people's opinions, he was far more outspoken than his Premier, Kantaro Suzuki, who was then over seventy-seven, deaf and drowsy, saying one thing today and its opposite tomorrow, willing to let other men hug the limelight while he dozed his way through meetings that never seemed to come either to an end or to a conclusion.
Togo asserted that since the Potsdam Proclamation was the sole basis for peace negotiations, he believed that no announcement of it should be made until the government was able to take a firm stand one way or the other.
The Welfare Minister, Tadahiko Okada, dissented. As the Proclamation, he said, had been broadcast throughout the world, the Japanese people could not fail to hear of it; before that happened, they ought to be officially informed by their government. The Director of the Information Bureau, Hiroshi Shimomura, agreed, adding that postponement might be regarded abroad as evidence that the Japanese Government was unduly apprehensive about the situation.
All eyes turned now to General Korechika Anami, the War Minister, who spoke for the Army and so was still the most powerful man in the country, though he lacked the color and fire of some of his predecessors. At fifty-seven, he kept himself in trim by means of archery and fencing, and to the younger officers he was a dependable, almost a paternal figure: they believed they could count on him to go on waging the war Japan had undertaken, and in Cabinet meetings he persistendy, and obstinately, nurtured this belief.
He now insisted that if news of the Proclamation was to be released, the government must simultaneously state both its objections to the terms and the attitude it wanted the Japanese people to adopt. Anaini was seconded by the Army and Navy Chiefi of Staff.
In the end, a compromise was reached; since the government could neither ignore the Proclamation entirely nor publish it along with strong protests until it knew where it stood, the Cabinet agreed to release the news vaguely-almost as though the Proclamation had been promulgated in dreamland, not Potsdam. The government's own position was not to be announced; the newspapers were to downgrade the story as far as possible. They were allowed to publish an expurgated text of the Proclamation, but without any editorial comment whatsoever.
The Japanese government intended, for the moment, to "ignore" the
Proclamation. Despite Anami's insistence on some strong statenient of protest,
Suzuki agreed with Togo; the government, he said, will, in a word, in a now
famous and tragic word, mokusatsu the Proclamation--will kill it with
silence. Moku means "to be silent" and satsu means "to
kill"; taken together, the word is defined by the Kenkyusha Dictionary
as "take no notice of; treat (anything) w'ith silent contempt; ignore [by
keeping silence]." It also means: "remain in a wise and masterly inactivity,"
and that, no doubt, was the sense Suzuki had in mind--but unfortunately the
other meanings sounded both more spectacular and more persuasive, and when the
word appeared on the front page of Tokyo's newspapers the following morning,
it was taken to mean that the government held the Proclamation in contempt--that
the government, in fact, rejected it. So the word was understood in Washington,
as well as in Britain and the rest of Europe--although it was in American diplomatic
circles that mokusatsu exerted its maximum damage. The Asahi Shimbun,
one of Tokyo's largest newspapers, that same Saturday morning characterized
the Proclamation as "a thing of no great value." The Japanese people
were apprised of the existence of the Proclamation and assured at the same time
that their government found it unacceptable--which was hardly what the Cabinet
had decided the afternoon before. But the people were not to know that--any
more than they knew anything else that went on behind the closed doors of the
ministries and the official residences or the moats of the Palace--and so they
treated the Proclamation with the silentt contempt which their government had
told them was all it
The following day, Saturday, July 28th, Premier Suzuki agreed to hold a press conference at four o'clock, at which he would discuss the Allied declaration. To the all-important, expected queson, Suzuki replied that the Potsdam Proclamation was nothing but a "rehash" of the Cairo Declaration and that the government considered it to be a "thing of no great value." Then, suddenly, he added, "We will simply mokusatsu it," after which he announced the government's determination to continue prosecuting the war until victory was won.
Togo was furious when he heard about Suzuki's answer. He protested that the statement was glaringly inconsistent with the decision that had been jointly arrived at by the Cabinet. At the same time he realized that there was nothing he could do: it was impossible to retract the Premier's words.
And the damage had already been done. Suzuki's statement was published in Japan on Monday, July 3oth, and picked up by newspapers throughout the world, which reported that Japan had not even bothered to "reject" the Proclamation. In describing this moment later, the American Secretary of War, Henry L. Stinison, said that the United States
... could only proceed to demonstrate that the ultimatum had meant exactly what it said when it stated that if the Japanese continued the war, "the full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland."
For such a purpose the atomic bomb was an eminently suitable weapon.
Japan, meanwhile, continued to await a reply from the Soviet Union.
When the Japanese ambassador to the Kremlin cabled Togo that there was "no chance whatever" of persuading Russia to aid the Japanese, the Foreign Minister replied: "In spite of your views, you are to carry out your instructions. . . . Endeavor to obtain the good offices of the Soviet Union in ending the war short of unconditional surrender."
Togo had served for a time as Japan's ambassador to Moscow and was not, then, unfamiliar with the Soviet mind and the way it worked. His reasons for persistently pursuing this will-o'-the wisp across the marshes of the war's end may be summed up in his own words at the time: "No matter how hard I may try to persuade the Japanese military to hold direct negotiations with the Americans or the British, I have no doubt whatsoever that they will refuse to listen. Therefore we must attempt to negotiate through the Soviet Union because there seems to be no other way to terrninate the war."
The Army did not believe it was possible to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union either. As early as mid-June, Anami had predicted that the Russians "would attack Japan just as the Americans were preparing to land their forces on our islands." He continued of this opinion to the very end; a few days before surrender, he told Home Minister Abe that if Japan held out a little longer and engaged the American forces at Kyushu, in the south of Japan, the United States would become so apprehensive about Russian occupation of the Asian mainland and northern Japan, that she would be eager to conclude a peace treaty and would therefore offer more advantageous terms. The Navy was of the opinion that the Soviets would enter the war after the battle of Okinawa: that is one reason the Navy wanted the Japanese forces to take the dogged stand that they did there, infficting such heavy losses on the enemy.
Thus, although Russia had already announced its intention not to renew the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, and although Moscow's replies to Tokyo consisted mainly of equivocal silence, both the Supreme Council and the Emperor himself continued to pin their hopes on the "good offices" of the Soviet Union. The days passed as Japan waited for Stalin's reply.
It seemed almost as though the whole country was, at that moment, too bewildered to act. The Japanese had been taught that they had never lost a war, that surrender was dishonorable, that the only decent alternative to victory was death. It was difficult, it was impossible, to believe that what seemed to be happening was actually happening: it was the complete upset of all known and changeless values.
Contributing perhaps even more heavily to their state of shock was the position of the Emperor, whom the Japanese believed to be not only of divine descent but divine himself and upon whose continued existence the continued existence of Japan as it had always been since time immemorial depended. It is impossible to guess what would have happened if the Allied powers had, at that moment, offered assurances that the Japanese polity, in the person of the Emperor, would be maintained: the war might have ended, the Army might have been forced to concede--and the Russians might not have been given the opportunity to enter Manchuria. But these speculations are idle; Japan, in her stunned state, followed the only path that seemed open to her; and the first few days of August passed in idle, not quite hopeless, watchful waiting.
On August 6th a reply came.
At eight o'dock Hiroshima radar operators detected two B-29's. A warning was sounded. The planes mounted to an extremely high altitude; the radio announced that they were on a reconnaissance flight. Most of the city's quarter of a million people didn't bother to seek shelter, anticipating no bombing. Many gazed up into the sky to watch the maneuver.
In the lead plane, the bomb bay doors opened. At eight-fitfteen and seventeen seconds, many persons on the ground saw a cluster of parachutes drop from one of the planes.
In the next seconds there was a blinding white flash--and sixty-four thousand people were dead or about to die.
This then was the answer to Japan's waiting. Not, as expected, from the Soviet Union--but from the United States, who now delivered the first installment of her threat to visit "prompt and utter destruction" upon Japan.
A Domei News Agency dispatch reached Tokyo around noon, but details of the extent and character of the catastrophe arrived only in late afternoon, in the form of a report from Second Army headquarters transmitted through the Kure Naval Yard, and even then the details were scanty. All that Tokyo learned that afternoon was that a very few enemy planes had inflicted tremendous damage with a bomb of an unknown type. The next morning, at dawn, Lientenant General Torashiro Kawabe, vice-chief of the Army General Staff, was the recipient of a succinct dispatch which informed him that all of Hiroshima had been wiped out in the momentary explosion of a single bomb. Later, General Kawabe said he suspected the bomb to be atomic.
His fellow-officers were, in any case, not long in doubt. Broadcasts from Washington, picked up by the government in Tokyo, confirmed Kawabe's suspicions. "We have spent two billion dollars," said President Truman, "on the greatest scientific gamble in history-and won." If the Japanese, he added, "do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.. . ."
There was no longer any question in Tokyo about what had occurred at Hiroshima. "The source from which the sun draws its power," as Truman called it, could now totally eclipse the land of the rising sun, on whose throne sat a direct descendant of Amaterasu O-Mikami, the Goddess of the Sun. But Tokyo was indifferent to the irony. The situation demanded drastic action-and yet the curious lethargy that had held the Japanese capital in its grip continued to immobilize the men whose duty it was to make decisions.
On the following day, August 7th, the Army issued a communique in which it said that an attack on Hiroshima by "a small number of B-29's" caused "considerable damage" and that a "new type of bomb" had been used. "Details," said the Army, "are now under investigation. . . ." Later that same day Togo informed the Cabinet of Truman's announcement; no apparent action, however, was taken.
On August 8th, Togo advised the Emperor that Japan must accept the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation as soon as possible, whereupon the Emperor commanded his Foreign Minister to indicate to the Premier that, in view of the "new type" of weapon that had been used, Japan was now powerless to continue the war and must make every effort to terminate the war with the least possible delay. Japan must accept the inevitable. According to Marquis Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, His Majesty said that he considered his own personal safety secondary to the immediate termination of the war. The tragedy of Hiroshima, he insisted, must not be repeated.
Suzuki, thereupon, called for an emergency meeting of the Supreme War Council, but the meeting had to be postponed because one of the members was unavoidably detained by "more pressing business" elsewhere.
The Army, meanwhile, attempted to blanket enemy broadcasts from Manila and Okinawa and to nullify the effect of enemy leaflets dropped over Tokyo expressing the Allied desire to end the war without destroying Japan. In any case, the Army claimed, it was not really possible, even for the Americans, to manufacture and use an atomic weapon: it would be both too variable and too dangerous. At the same time, the government of Japan filed a formal protest through Switzerland against the government of the United States.
In Moscow, that same afternoon, the Japanese ambassador was conducted into Molotov's study. Molotov cut short Sato's attempts to make the meeting a friendly one and began reading a short note that ended with the following words: ". . . the Soviet Government declares that from tomorrow, that is from August 9, the Soviet Union will consider herself in a state of war against Japan." Within two hours the Red Army had entered Manchuria and begun its systematic annihilation of Japan's once invincible Kwantung Army.
The Japanese considered the Soviet action to be both unpardonable and unlawful, since the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact did not expire until April, 1946 but Stalin, with Truman's help, made a legal case for his act; and Suzuki's government knew by now that the alternative to unconditional surrender was indeed, without any doubt, total annihilation.
And yet it almost seemed that the chance to be totally annihilated was exactly what the Army wanted. Peace that hot, sultry Thursday morning of August 9th must have seemed to Foreign Minister Togo like the cool, quenching water that men are said to see in the distance as they lie dying in the desert. By eight o'clock he was at Premier Suzuki's house in Koishikawa, in north-central Tokyo, angrily demanding that the meeting of the Supreme Council, which had been postponed the day before, be held at once. Valuable time had been lost: the war must now be ended as soon as possible.
Suzuki agreed, and to Hisatsune Sakomizu, Chief Cabinet Secretary, he said: "Let our present Cabinet take the responsibility of seeing the country through the termination of the war." Under normal circumstances, after the ignominious failure of his government's attempts to use the Soviet Union's "good offices," he and his Cabinet would have resigned en masse; Japan's circumstances, however, that Thursday morning were far from normal, and Suzuki was apparently determined to pull as many of Japan's chestnuts out of the fire as he could.
Togo then went to see Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister, who agreed, as he had before, that Japan had no choice but, to sue for peace. While still at the Ministry, Togo was questioned about the situation by Imperial Prince Takamatsu, a Navy captain; his reply was not hopeful. He said he believed it was now too late to negotiate substantially better terms than those of the Potsdam Proclamation, and while he would do all he could, he felt Japan could insist on nothing save preservation of the national polity.
Meanwhile, the symbol of that polity, the man who gave it both meaning and existence, the Emperor, had already conferred with Lord Privy Seal Marquis Kido, and had asked him to impress once again on Premier Suzuki His Majesty's desire that the war be brought to the speediest possible conclusion. Suzuki, who had just entered the Palace, agreed to call immediate emergency meetings of both the Supreme War Council and the Cabinet and to communicate with the former Prime Ministers who composed the body called the Jushin, or Senior Statesmen, and whose duty it was from time to time to advise the Throne.
At eleven o'clock that Thursday morning the world's second atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki, one of the westernmost of Japanese cities, on the island of Kyushu. Just half an hour before, the Supreme War Council reconvened to continue its unhurried deliberations at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, some six hundred miles away as the plane flies.
Premier Suzuki opened the proceedings. In view of Hiroshima, he said, and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, it is virtually impossible for Japan to continue the war. "I believe," Suzuki concluded, "that we have no alternative but to accept the Potsdam Proclamation, and I would now like to hear your opinions."
The Supreme War Council was silent.
Finally Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai broke the spell that seemed to have bewitched the Councilors. Yonai was a quiet, pleasant man, with a cheerful smile, who had been Premier in 1940 and forced to resign because he opposed the alliance with Germany and Italy. He was conscious, like Suzuki and Togo, of the ever-present danger of assassination at the hands of the fire-eating young officers in the War Ministry. "We're not going to accomplish anything," he said now, "unless we speak out. Do we accept the enemy ultimatum unconditionally? Do we propose conditions? If so, we had better discuss them here and now."
With that, the other members of the Council began to state their positions, and it was soon apparent that there was unanimous agreement on only one point: the Imperial structure of the country must be preserved. Beyond that there was a sharp division that was to become sharper and more familiar as the days wore on.
Suzuki, Togo, and Yonai favored acceptance of the Allied ultimatum with the single proviso relating to the Imperial polity. The other three--War Minister Anami and the two Chiefs of Staff, Umezu for the Army and Toyoda for the Navy--wanted to propose conditions: a minimal occupation force, trying of war criminals by Japan rather than by the enemy, and demobilization of Japanese troops by Japanese officers. Anami and the two Chiefs of Staff were unable, apparently, to accept the idea of either defeat or surrender, both of which went against all their training; these proposals, thus, were aimed at minimizing, perhaps even denying, the fact of both defeat and surrender.
Togo replied vigorously that Japan's position was so precarious that if she even attempted to propose a number of conditions, the Allies would in all probability refuse to negotiate at all. General Umezu, the Army Chief of Staff, contended that Japan had still not lost the war and that if the enemy invaded the homeland, Japanese troops were still capable of holding him back and perhaps even repulsing him; the cost, in enemy losses, would be tremendous. To this Togo replied that even if a first assault failed, Japan's power to defend herself would be even further diminished, and that a second enemy attack would almost certainly not fail. Japan, said Togo, must accept the Potsdam ultimatum now, demanding no more than the preservation of the Imperial House.
By then it was one o'clock. The Council had been in session for two hours, and although word had arrived of the bombing of Nagasaki and of the fact that Manchuria, for all practical purposes, was in Soviet hands, the Council was still not able to reach an agreement. The line of demarcation was as sharply drawn as ever, with three on one side and three on the other. Suzuki proposed that the Council adjourn, to reconvene later in the day, after the afternoon's Cabinet meeting. That is how the Thursday morning session of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War ended in Tokyo.
In Washington, President Truman, speaking of the bomb in the course of a radio address, declared: "We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us."
Around the time that the Supreme Council adjourned, Hiroshi Shimomura, Director of the Information Bureau, was received in audience by the Emperor. The audience, which had been granted on an application by Shimomura's secretary to the Imperial Household Ministry, lasted a full two hours, although Imperial audiences usually took only thirty minutes at the most, and when it was over Shimomura said with a relieved smile to his secretary:
"It all went well. The Emperor has agreed to make a broadcast telling the nation whether we're to have peace or war."
If His Majesty were indeed to make the broadcast, it would mark the first time the people of Japan heard the voice of their monarch.
The Cabinet meeting to decide Japan's fate began at two-thirty that Thursday afternoon, August 9th, at the Premier's official sidence. It was opened by Foreign Minister Togo, who related the events leading up to the Soviet declaration of war, including the government's attempts to persuade the Kremlin to mediate. Togo then described the nature of the catastrophe that had overtaken Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Minister of the Navy and the War Minister, asked for their opinions by the Premier, repeated very much what they had said earlier at the Supreme War Council.
"We might," said Admiral Yonai, "win the first battle for Japan, but we won't win the second. The war is lost to us. Therefore we must forget about 'face,' we must surrender as quickly as we can, and we must begin to consider at once how best to preserve our country."
"We cannot pretend," said General Anami, summing up the arguments on the other side, "to claim that victory is certain, but it is far too early to say that the war is lost. That we will inflict severe losses on the enemy when he invadesJapan is certain, and it is by no means impossible that we may be able to reverse the situation in our favor, pulling victory out of defeat.
"Furthermore," Anami went on, "our Army will not submit to demobilization. Our men simply will not lay down their arms. And since they know they are not permitted to surrender, since they know that a fighting man who surrenders is liable to extremely heavy punishment, there is really no alternative for us but to continue the war."
The Ministers of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and Munitions disagreed. They pointed out that Okinawa was already being used by the Americans as a bridgehead for their forthcoming invasion of Kyushu (called "Operation Olympic"); that the people ofJapan were on the verge of exhaustion; that the present rice crop was the poorest since 1931; that air-raids and bombings had been increasingly devastating in recent weeks, and likely to grow more so; that enemy ships were already bombarding the coastal cities of Japan--that Japan, in short, had neither the strength nor the means to wage war any longer.
"Yes, yes!" cried Anami impatiently. "Everyone understands the situation . . . but we must fight the war through to the end no matter how great the odds against us!"
Here Genki Abe, the Home Minister, served notice that he could promise civil obedience if the Cabinet decided to attempt to end the war through capitulation. He recalled the incident of February 26th, 1936, when a group of enflamed young officers had led some two thousand troops in an insurrection that resulted in several deaths, including an attempt on the life of the prime minister, and the wounding of the minister of finance, the Grand Chamberlain, and the Lord Privy Seal, all of them liberal statesmen whose influence the young officers desired to remove from about the Throne. The rebels had occupied the War Office, Tokyo police headquarters, and the residence of the prime minister before the Emperor himself was forced to intervene, commanding the minister of war to take action. Recalling the details of that incident, which had occurred less than a decade before, Abe advised against acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation.
Here Foreign Minister Togo reported what had occurred at the Supreme War Council in the morning and gave it as his firm and considered opinion that the Cabinet must accept the Allied ultimatum with the soie condition that the Imperial structure be maintained.
When Suzuki asked for other opinions, two of the ministers announced that they agreed with Anami that Japan should insist on acceptance of the three other conditions as well.
At five-thirty, an hour's recess was called. At six-thirty, the ministers reconvened and continued their discussions. At ten o'clock, Premier Suzuki asked if there was a consensus. There was not, and since unanimity was the Cabinet rule, the meeting ended without any decision having been taken. The ministers bowed and made their uncertain way into the blacked-out streets of the ruined and smoking capital.
Suzuki and Togo held a brief and private conversation. Both men knew what needed to be done, and had in fact already paved the way for the soie move that appeared capable of breaking the disastrous stalemate in which both the country and its rulers were immobilized.
Yet it was a move that had never been played before: the rules made no provision for it. It was as though, to break the fatal deadlock, the chessboard king was to be not only allowed to place himself in check but also granted the freedom of movement of the queen.
As long ago as June, 1944, Mamoru Shigemitsu, then Foreign Minister and Marquis Kido, Lord Privy Seal, had envisaged a situation sort, where Japan, required to act and unable to act, might find salvation only by taking recourse in the mystic powers of the Emperor. Togo had discussed the subject with Suzuki earlier that Thursday and they had agreed that in the event of an impossible deadlock,the final decision would have to be left to the Emperor. With this in mind, they had asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Sakomizu to get General Umezu and Admiral Toyoda to sign a petition enabling the Premier to convoke a meeting of the Big Six, the Supreme War Council, in the Imperial presence.
Sakomizu's explanation had been that this would save time should a meeting with the Emperor have to be called suddenly. And the two chiefs of staff had signed, for the tradition was immemorial that the Japanese government never approached the Throne with a problem until the government's own solution to the problem was unanimous. The Emperor himself neither took sides nor stated his own opinion: he merely approved what the government had already decided. His August Mind was not to be disturbed by party strife and political ambition; the responsibility for decisions made and actions taken was never his. To present him with a divided cabinet was unthinkable; normally, if a cabinet could not reach unanimity, it resigned. But Suzuki had already determined not to resign; he had decided that he and his Cabinet would assume the responsibility for the war. But they could not do it alone-they required the magic that only the Emperor possessed. This was one drama that could not be resolved without the descent of a deus ex machina. The time was out of joint beyond all doubt and there was now only one man in the country who could set it right.
The situation, however, was a perilous one. Both Suzuki and Togo, as they held their late-night dialogue, were desperately aware of the danger. If a stalemate was likely to prove fatal, the wrong move might be even more catastrophic--for the most powerful, and predictable, piece on the board was the Army. It was a piece that for many years had obeyed no rules but its own. If the Army could not have what it wanted, it was willing to resort to assassination, or even outright rebellion, always on the pretext (which it almost certainly passionately believed) that it was protecting the Emperor from his "traitorous" advisers. Both Suzuki and Togo had a deep-seated and perhaps well-founded fear that violent death would prevent their signing the document they were convinced was now Japan's only salvation.
Upon their arrival at the Palace that night, the Emperor received them in audience at once. Suzuki first asked Togo to report to His Majesty on the two meetings, neither of which had resulted in unanimity. Then Suzuki proposed that the Supreme War Council be reconvened that same night in the Emperor's presence. His Majesty had been prepared for the appeal and gave immediate consent.
Suzuki at once ordered a convocation of the Council and a full Cabinet meeting to follow. The Emperor, meanwhile, after the two ministers left, received Marquis Kido briefly: it was the Lord Privy Seal's sixth Imperial audience that Thursday, August 9th. If his ministers had at last shaken off their lethargy and decided to act, the Emperor had not been idle either.
The man who was summoned by fate to authorize his country's salvation was mild-mannered, retiring, shy in the extreme. Short, bespectacled, forty-four years old, he had, since his enthronement in 1928, lived the cloistered life his subjects expected of their Emperor. The white glare of public life beat less fiercely on him than on any other monarch in the world: it was enough for his subjects that he existed, that he was there, for he embodied in his sacred person that sacred entity called Japan. Without him, or his successor, there could be no Japan.
His life had always been a simple one, and had, since the war, taken on an austerity that not even the poorest of his subjects was likely to envy. He customarily rose at seven, shaved, and read the newspapers. After praying at the Kashikodokoro, the Koreiden, and the Shinden, he took a simple breakfast of black bread and oatmeal. He usually worked from nine-thirty to noon, then lunched on cooked vegetables and a dumpling soup. He then returned to his work and ended his day with a short walk in the Inner Garden. He neither smoked nor drank and he slept lightly.
Now the door opened quietly and, accompanied by an aide, he entered the little bomb-shelter where, before the night was out, his country's destiny was to be entrusted into his hands. The time was ten minutes to midnight. The Supreme Councilors, with their aides and two invited guests, had been waiting since eleven-thirty. They bowed and sat back in their chairs, keeping their eyes respectfully turned away from His Majesty. The Emperor's appearance had a hurried look. Indeed, if his last audience with Marquis Kido did not end until 11:37 p.m., as Kido's diary indicates, then the Emperor would not have had much time to prepare for one of the most critical hours in his own and his country's life.
In addition to the Big Six and their aides, two other men, Chief Cabinet Secretary
Sakomizu and Baron Hiranuma, President of the Privy Council, were present at
the invitation of the Premier. The room where the meeting took place, in the
Emperor's underground bomb-shelter, was only eighteen feet by thirty and, being
poorly ventilated, was a small inferno that hot, damp August night. The Councilors
and their guests were all wearing either formal morning clothes or uniforms:
the white handkerchiefs, frequently used, formed strange patterns against their
sombre clothes and faces.
The ceiling of the shelter was supported by steel beams, and its walls were paneled in dark wood. The eleven men sat behind long, cloth-covered tables, facing one another, six on one side and five on the other. The twelfth man took his seat in a plain, straight-backed chair at the head of the room. Behind him was a simple screen. The Emperor's aide positioned himself near the door.
Premier Suzuki, standing at the Emperor's left, asked the Chief Cabinet Secretary to read the Potsdam Proclamation aloud. As no minutes were kept of this meeting, or of subsequent meetings held during those few days Japan underwent her agony of surrender, the actual words spoken are lost to history; accounts of what occurred can only be partial reconstructions, based on personal recollections of the men who were present and of those in whom they confided. Suzuki, then, after the reading of the Proclamation, repeated the account he had given the Emperor of the earlier, deadlocked meetings. He offered His Majesty an apology for requesting his presence at a time when his ministers were still not in agreement. (It has been suggested that Suzuki was also obliquely apologizing to the two Chiefs of Staff for having used their signatures to petition the Throne while opinion was still divided. The unprecedented nature of this midnight meeting had caught the two Chiefs of Staff unawares--but once they had signed the petition, and once the Emperor had commanded the meeting to be held, they had no choice but to obey the Imperial summons.) Suzuki reviewed the situation as of that moment: the Supreme War Council was divided three to three, while the Cabinet, which alone had the constitutional authority to approve Japan's surrender, was split three ways-six members favored acceptance of the Proclamation provided only that the Imperial House be guaranteed, three insisted on the four conditions Anami had outlined, while five advocated more conditions than one but fewer than the war-party's four.
The Premier called on his Foreign Minister. Togo recapitulated he familiar arguments in favor of surrender ending with an urgent ecommendation that Japan accept the Potsdam Declaration without further delay, if assurances were given on the question of the preservation of the national polity.
Suzuki then turned to the unloquacious Minister of the Navy. Admiral Yonai rose. "I agree with the Foreign Minister," he said. He resumed his seat.
General Anami, the War Minister, leapt fighting to his feet. He expressed his absolute disagreement, saying he believed that the nation should fight on, that the outcome of the Battle for Japan could not be known until it was fought, but that, in any case, if Japan were to surrender, she must insist on acceptance of her four conditions, guaranteeing not only the integrity of the Imperial structure but also Japan's right to disarm her own soldiers, conduct her own war trials, and limit the forces of occupation. General Umezu agreed, adding that Japan was still more than a match for the enemy and unconditional surrender now would oniy dishonor the heroic Japanese dead. In the event of surrender, he, like Anami, would insist on the four conditions.
It was now the turn of Admiral Toyoda, the Navy Chief of Staff, to speak, but Suzuki called instead, on Baron Hiranuma, who had been invited to the meeting in an attempt to involve the Privy Council in the proceedings, since constitutionally the Council was expected to ratify all foreign treaties. Hiranuma subjected the ministers to a series of precise and exhaustive questions about Japan's unfortunate Soviet experience, about the identity of the men likely to be classified as "war criminals," about the nation's ability to protect herself against raids and invasion, and about the probability of civil disorder in the event of immediate surrender. Hiranuma's conclusion was that, aside from the continuance of the Imperial polity, which went without saying, negotiation on the other three conditions was not necessarily doomed to failure.
Admiral Toyoda, given his chance to speak at last, repeated the arguments in favor of continuing the war and concluded with the remark that he could not guarantee the Navy's behavior unless its disarming was conducted by the Japanese themselves.
Now the Premier rose once again. It is evident, he said, that we are unable to reach an agreement; in view of that fact, therefore, and of the urgency of the situation, there seems to be only one thing to do. Turning at last toward the head of the room, he said, "Your Imperial Majesty's decision is requested as to which proposal should be adopted, the Foreign Minister's or the one with the four conditions."
The silence in the stifling little room was absolute. It is impossible, now, to say how many of the eleven men sitting at the long tables knew, or suspected, that Suzuki was going to take the step, unheard-of in modern Japanese history, of asking the Emperor to make a decision; or to say how many were shocked to the marrow by so untraditional a procedure. In older days the pronouncement of an Imperial command was known as the Voice of the Crane, the crane being an Imperial symbol. It is said that the sound of a crane may still be heard in the sky after the sight of it is hidden from view. Now, at two o'clock in the morning of Friday, August 10th, 1945, the Voice of the Crane was about to be heard again in the land.
Continuing the war, said the Emperor quietly, can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people and a prolongation of the suffering of all humanity. It seems obvious, he went on, that the nation is no longer able to wage war, and its ability to defend its own shores is doubtful. "That it is unbearable for me," His Majesty said, "to see my loyal troops disarmed goes without saying.... But the time has come to bear the unbearable." There was no longer any need for the Emperor to put his decision into words; nevertheless, he went on, in that quiet, controlled voice: "I give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied Proclamation on the basis outlined by the Foreign Minister." He walked slowly from the room. In the silence, the white handkerchith reappeared--perhaps to wipe away the sweat induced by the August heat in that little room, perhaps to wipe away the tears that welled in the eyes of men who were now bound to deliver their country to the enemy. "His Majesty's decision," said Suzuki, "ought to be made the decision of this conference as well." Continued silence gave consent.
However, the only body in the country that possessed the constitutional authority to effect the surrender was the Cabinet. (Whether the Privy Council's approval was also required was a question that would arise later.) The Counciors left the Palace, therefore, for Suzuki's official residence, where the Cabinet meeting was to be held. Discussion here centered not on whether to accept the Imperial decision--for there was no longer any doubt about that, despite the Home Minister's reluctance--but on the wording of the note of surrender. At last that too was agreed upon, around four in the morning, and' within three hours cables had been dispatched to Switzerland and Sweden, for transmission to the Allied powers.
The Japanese Government [the note said in part] are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on July 26th, 1945, by the heads of the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and China, and later subscribed to by the Soviet Government, with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.
Japan's long night of August 9th was ended at last--but a longer day was still to come.
"Suppose," the War Minister, General Anami, had said, during the previous night's meeting, "the enemy refuses to give you any assurance that the Imperial House will be preserved--will you go on fighting?" Premier Suzuki, of whom he had asked the question, looked at him for a moment. Then, "Yes," he said, "we will continue the war." Anami asked the same question of Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister--and received the same reply.
The next morning, Friday, August ioth, Anami ordered all personnel in the War Ministry above the chief-of-section rank to gather at nine-thirty in the Ministry's underground bomb shelter. When he recounted what had occurred at the Imperial conference, their reaction was one of disbelief and shock. Though they had anticipated that some action of this sort might be taken, the reality of it caught them unprepared. The Army, which for so long had been the most powerful force in Japan, which had run the government and disobeyed the Emperor when his commands seemed "ill-advised," was now about to cease to exist, to disappear entirely from the life of Japan. That this would be one of the consequences of surrender, all the officers knew; and many feared that Japan also would cease to exist-in any recognizable form, at least.
So many emotions seemed to be raging in the hearts of the young officers, so many strange blends of emotion-love and hate, fear and dismay, the horror of defeat, the terror of dishonor, bewildermentat seeing the total imminent collapse of everything they had lived and sworn by: it is not surprising, perhaps, that their passions wçre sometimes uncontrollable, that their actions, as they tried to fight their way out of a trap that had no exit, shifted from moment to moment, unvarying only in loyalty to the Emperor. Whatever the officers did, they were convinced, they did in loyalty; some, unfortunately, decided they knew better than the object of their loyalty how to be loyal.
The Minister's voice was firm, his attitude unequivocal. "We have no alternative,"
he said, "but to abide by the Emperor's decision. Whether we fight on or
whether we surrender now depends on the enemy's reply to our note. No matter
which we do, you must all remember that you are soldiers, you must obey orders,
not deviate from strict military discipline. In the crisis that faces us, the uncontrolled actions of one man could bring about the ruin of the entire country."
A younger officer stood up. "The War Minister," he said, "has told us to obey his orders whether we fight on or whether we surrender. Is the War Minister actually considering surrender?"
A cold wind swept across the room, fanning the smoldering fires of rebellion.
There was a silence.
Then the crack of Anami's swagger stick on the table sounded as loud as a gunshot. "Anyone who isn't willing to obey my orders," said the Minister coldly, "will have to do so over my dead body."
Because of the thirteen-hour difference in time, it was around the same hour, that Friday morning, that President Truman held a conference in the White House to discuss the news of Japan's capitulation, which had been received over radio broadcasts beamed directly from Tokyo to the United States. Among those present at the early-morning meeting were the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the President's personal chief of staff.
The President questioned each of the four men as to whether he thought the Japanese note could be accepted as the "unconditional surrender" the Allies had demanded. The trouble, of course, lay in the phrase, "with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler," a phrase that Baron Hiranuma had successfully insisted on seeing written into the note. As originally envisaged, this "condition" had read: "with the understanding that the said declaration does not include any demand for a change in the status of His Majesty under the national laws." Hiranuma had insisted that the nation and its Emperor were contemporaneous, having existed simultaneously since the beginning, and that therefore Imperial sovereignty was in no way dependent on national law. The Japanese word that Hiranuma had successfully insisted on was taiken; and Toshikazu Kase, who translated the note into English, said that he "experienced a moment's hesitation in choosing the word 'prerogatives.' "Hiranuma's word "literally translated meant powers inherent in the crown."
To the President's question, Mr. Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War, replied that he felt the Imperial presence was essential not only to the Japanese but also to the Americans, to facilitate the process of surrender and avoid bloodshed between occupying and defeated troops. Mr. James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy, and Admiral William D. Leahy, the President's chief of staff, agreed. Mr. James F. Byrnes, the Secretary of State, was more doubtful; he pointed out that both Roosevelt and Churchill had insisted Japanese surrender must be "unconditional" and that since both Britain and China had signed the Potsdam Proclamation they ought to be consulted before the United States agreed to any "conditions" whatsoever .
The decision was made to await the arrival of the official version of the note.
That same morning Tokyo was heavily bombed; hundreds of B-29's showered incendiaries over the capital, while thousands of other planes bombed other Japanese cities. Although it was called "the most impressive and nerve-wracking demonstration of the whole war," it was by no means unique; air-raids had been steadily mounting in intensity, and by now millions of people had no houses to live in, no clothes to wear, and almost nothing to eat. The Japanese people were perhaps approaching the limit of their endurance: many other peoples might by now have gone beyond it.
The temperature rose as the muggy August day wore on. Government nerves were on edge now that the decision had at last been and the period of waiting had set in. The people of Japan were still unaware that their government had-with that one condition- accepted the Potsdam Proclamation, but it was obvious to them that some drastic change was imminent, for the Soviet declaration of war bad appeared in Friday morning's papers, with its statement that "the proposal of the Japanese Government to the Soviet Union on on in the war in the Far East loses all basis... ." This was the Japanese people knew that their government had sought "good offices"--and failed to win them.
So a secret or two had been spilled, but the biggest secret of all was still
being jealously guarded. The Army had kept the people of Japan in the dark for
so many years now about what was really going on that the government feared
what effect a sudden announcement of surrender might have. Two meetings were
held during the day of the 10th to discuss this problem--one of the Jushin or Senior Statesmen, a body composed of ex-premiers which had considerable influence; and one of the Cabinet itself.
Once again there was difference of opinion, uncertainty, a seemingly endless reiteration of on-the-other-hand's. Every statement appeared to have an equally valid counter-statement. If, for instance, announcement of Japanese acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation was made at once, it would be possible to give the people an imediate directive and so perhaps minimize the destructive effects of the announcement. But, on the other hand, if preservation of the Imperial structure was not guaranteed by the Allies, Japan's will to fight might by then have been dissipated, perhaps forever.
The Cabinet decided, finally, to say nothing for the moment about either the Emperor's decision or the Japanese note of acceptance; instead, the Director of the Information Bureau was instructed to issue an ambiguous statement that would do no more than convey the suggestion that a momentous change might perhaps be announced fairly soon by the government.
The statement was prepared by the Information Bureau staff, revised by its director, Hiroshi Shimomura, gone over by Foreign Minister Togo, by Admiral Yonai, and especially carefully by General Anami, and then sent to the Tokyo radio station for the afternoon news broadcast.
At the same time, another statement was being prepared without either the knowledge or the approval of the Cabinet. When General Anami had spoken, that morning, to the officers of the War Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Masao Inaba, of the Budget Branch of the Military Affairs Bureau, listened with particular care and particular dismay. He decided that until the surrender actually occurred, the Japanese Army must fight on with undiminished vigor, and so he began to prepare a statement to be broadcast to overseas troops, having first obtained the War Minister's approval of his idea.
After he had completed the first draft, he showed it to the Vice-Minister of War as well as to a couple of other officers, including Colonel Okitsugu Arao, of the Military Affairs Section. Following revisions, the officers wanted the Minister himself to read it, but he was busy elsewhere, working on the official Cabinet statement, so Colonel Arao agreed to take it to General Anami's official residence later in the day.
Shortly after Arao left, Lieutenant Colonel Masahiko Takeshita (Anami's brother-in-law) arrived at the Ministry with another staff officer to get Inaba's statement for the seven o'clock news broadcast. As Arao had the revised draft with him, Inaba changed his first draft, as nearly as he could remember, to conform with the revisions and gave it to Takeshita.
When the Director of the Information Bureau, Hiroshi Shimomura, reached his headquarters with the revised draft of the official Cabinet statement, which he and General Anami had been working on, he was told that the Army had ordered a "proclamation" over the name of General Anami to be read at the evening broadcast and printed in the morning newspapers. Shimomura telephoned Anami, and in the course of their conversation he got the impression that Anami knew little or nothing about the statement but that extremely strong pressure was being applied by the younger officers. Shimoniura conjectured that if he refused to release the "proclamation," Anami might be assassinated.
In Washington, both the State Department and the War Department were drafting replies to the Japanese note. When the two were compared, the Secretary of War agreed that the State Department draft was more suitable, and the President, with the Cabinet's agreement, approved it.
The second paragraph was in reply to Japanese insistence on preservation of the Imperial polity:
From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms.
The next paragraph began, "The Emperor and the Japanese High Command will be required to sign the surrender terms..."
Copies of the proposed reply to Japan were sent to London, Moscow, and Chungking.
At seven o'clock, on their regular evening news broadcast, the Japanese at home and overseas heard two statements.
The first, over the authority of War Minister Anami, said, in part, "We have but one choice: we must fight on until we win the sacred war to preserve our national polity. We must fight on, even if we have to chew grass and eat earth and live in fields--for in our death there is a chance of our country's survival. The hero Kusunoki pledged to live and die seven times in order to save Japan from disaster. We can do no less..."
The Cabinet's statement was not so forthright. After announcing that the enemy was making use of a "new type" of bomb unparalleled in ruthlessness and barbarity, the statement concluded:
Our fighting forces will no doubt be able to repulse the enemy's attack, but we must recognize that we are facing a situation that is as bad as it can be. The government will do all it can to defend the homeland and preserve the honor of the country but it expects that Japan's hundred million will also rise to the occasion, overcoming whatever obstacles may lie in the path of the preservation of our national polity.
Perhaps it was fortunate that the Japanese people had put their minds away for the duration; otherwise they might not have known what to think.
Another broadcast was being beamed away from Tokyo that afternoon. Fearful of the Army, of its strict censorship and its violent reaction to frustration, the Foreign Ministry had been unable to prevent the release of the "Anami Proclamation"; nevertheless, it authorized the Domei News Agency to broadcast, in Morse code, the text of Japan's acceptance of the Allied declaration. The Foreign Office hoped, in this way, to forestall the third atomic bomb which rumor said was to be dropped on Tokyo on August 12th. It believed also that once the people of the world heard that Japan wanted peace, they would be so relieved their governments would be forced to accept Japan's sole condition even if they found it unacceptable.
The Army, which had neglected to censor Morse code broadcasts, was extremely annoyed when it learned of the Foreign Ministry's action, but to the Ministry's reply that it had, after all, only communicated what had already been commanded by the Emperor and approved by the Cabinet, the Army could make no open objection. It could, however, and it did begin to consider suitable retaliation.
London approved Washington's proposed reply to Japan with one exception. Attlee, Bevin, and Churchill all agreed that to re quire the Emperor to sign the instrument of surrender was not diplomatic and suggested instead that the note read: "The Emperor shall authorize and ensure the signature by the government of Japan and the Japanese General Headquarters of the surrender terms.. . ." Washington concurred at once.
Moscow attempted to delay giving its answer, perhaps because it wanted the war to go on a little longer, and when the answer fmally came, it was unsatisfactory. Molotov wanted to see two Supreme Commanders, one American and one Russian; Averell H. Harriman, America's ambassador, replied that that was "absolutely inadmissible." After some further procrastination, Moscow backed down and Washington received the agreement it desired.
Chungking had sent immediate word of its approval.
By Saturday morning, August 11th, then, the United States had secured the concurrence of its fellow-signatories and was able to set about the business of replying to the Japanese government by way of Switzerland.
Both Stimson and Forrestal tried to persuade the President to stop all bombing of Japan immediately, but Truman decided that this might encourage the Japanese to attempt further negotiation. He ordered air and naval activity to continue.
Saturday morning, August 11th, in Tokyo, thirteen hours earlier, newspapers appeared on the streets with both Anami's proclamation and the official Cabinet statement. The people of Japan now had the opportunity, as the air-raid warnings howled in the background, to study these two contradictory declarations in greater detail. They were still wholly ignorant of the fact that their leaders were impatiently awaiting the Allied reply to Japan's "conditional" acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation.
"I lived through what was literally a life of torture," wrote Toshikazu Kase, of the Foreign Office, describing that Saturday; and the sentence describes also the state of mind of most of the people who were privy to the secret of Japan's momentous decision--but not of all: some, as it turned out, were not content with the passive act of waiting.
Ironically, the American Secretary of State, Mr. Byrnes, in describing that same day, wrote: "Never have I known time to pass so slowly !" But, because of the difference in time, the Saturday of which he wrote was half a day later than Mr. Kase's Saturday: it was after the United States had sent its reply to Japan.
Japan, meanwhile, continued in limbo: it still did not know whether it was at peace or war, whether it was to be hopefully reanimated out of its own ashes or whether it was to fight a last-ditch battle for survival against an immeasurably stronger enemy. Nor had its leaders been able to achieve a consensus on which alternative they preferred.
Two of the Emperor's younger brothers were officers in the Army, one in the Navy. The latter, Prince Takamatsu, invited members of the Imperial Family to a meeting at his house to hear Foreign Minister Togo's account of the situation. Prince Mikasa, the youngest of the brothers, an Army officer, had been visited by some fellow-officers who favored continuance of the war and who wanted the Imperial Prince's sanction. He refused, but he needed to know how things stood with Japan; Togo supplied the information.
Togo also conferred with Marquis Kido, the Emperor's Privy Seal and, in a sense, his spokesman. So did Premier Suzuki and Director Shimomura of the Bureau of Information. The Emperor received General Anami in audience, and the General-so his brother-in-law said later-reported that the Emperor had reprimanded him because of his "proclamation." Anami's explanation was that the Army would naturally have to go on fighting until the surrender became a fact. The War Minister was also questioned by the Cabinet on the same subject and gave much the same reply.
In a bomb-shelter at the War Office in Ichigaya, some fifteen met to decide what concrete steps needed to be taken to ensure the continued prosecution of the war. The "peace-faction," they decided, would have to go: Suzuki, Togo, and Kido were marked down for assassination. The Emperor might have to be "protected" even if that meant occupying the Imperial Palace.
Lieutenant Colonel Takeshita, who presided, assured his fellow-conspirators that they could count on the support of his brother-in-law, General Anami, the Minister of War. Once the biggest fish was in the net, the smaller fish would follow. If Lieutenant General Takeshi Mori, commander of the Imperial Guards, whose duty it was to protect the Emperor, refused to join the conspiracy, well, then he too would have to go.
Among the officers present at this meeting were Lieutenant Colonel Inaba, instigator of the "Anami Proclamation," and Major Kenji Hatanaka, who was later to figure far more prominently in the activities of this band of rebels. When at last they separated, it was on a note of optimism: there seemed no reason why their treasonous coup d'etat should not succeed and once it did, of course, it would cease to be treason. The sacred honor of Japan and her Imperial Army would then remain unstained by surrender. Only death could cancel defeat; only more death could appease the souls of the already dead. The officers were not affected by the sufferings of the people--they felt themselves equal to the sacrifice of asking the people to go on suffering a little longer.
Both officers and people were on Marquis Kido's mind. He was aware of the danger of conspiracy, and he was aware also of the danger of a sudden announcement of defeat. He agreed that the safest--in fact the only--person to make the announcement was the Emperor himself; and the Emperor repeated his assurance that he would do whatever was deemed necessary.
Apprehension in both government and Army mounted as both waited impatiently for the enemy's reply. Most hoped that the reply would be flexible enough to enable the government to secure peace--and the Army to accept it; a few fervently desired the opposite. No reply, however, came. Then, forty-five minutes after the day of waiting ended, the Foreign Office monitored a broadcast from San Francisco that answered its question.
The answer was disheartening.
The Foreign Office radio had picked up the broadcast at 00:45, and within the next couple of hours both the Navy and the Domei News Agency received the same broadcast. Soon everyone in Japan who had known of the government's offer to surrender--"with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler"--now knew also that the United States insisted that "the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers."
But the monitored broadcasts had been received in Morse code. Had they been correctly received? And if so, how was the phrase "subject to" to be interpreted? What, precisely, did it mean? The Foreign Office was well aware that the Army, though unfamiliar with both the English language and the language of diplomacy, would make its own interpretation and the interpretation would not encourage acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation as clarified by Mr. Byrnes. The Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shunichi Matsumoto, as soon as he had studied the note, conferred with Hisatsune Sakomizu, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, on how to present the text to their superiors. They decided that "subject to" ought to be translated in the sense of "controlled by" rather than "obedient to," and after some further unhappy deliberation they agreed that the second-to-last paragraph did not compromise the Emperor's sovereignty, although they knew that the Army would use it as a trumpet-call for further battle. The paragraph read:
The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.
If the word "government" included the Emperor, then Japan was obligated to reject the American reply. But Sakomizu and Matsumoto decided that it did not; and on this decision they separated, one to present the case to Suzuki, the other to Togo.
The events of that crowded day of cross-purpose and back-stage manipulation, of shifting alliance and preparation for rebellion, of passion and apprehension are not easy to disentangle. No one's mood was of the kind to encourage accurate note-taking or sharp memory.
Apparently the Emperor was apprised by Marquis Kido, very early in the morning, of the monitored broadcast and of its contents. Kido, who was one of the chief targets of the pro-war faction, had now taken up permanent residence within the Imperial Palace grounds, so as to be less available to the assassin's bullet and more available to His Majesty. During the rest of the day, he was in constant attendance on the Emperor.
It was at eight o'clock in the morning that the Foreign Minister, having studied the note and its tentative translation, decided that Japan must accept it. Although by no means fully satisfied with the American reply, for he too of course foresaw the use the military would try to make of it, Togo believed that within its terms the Imperial polity could be preserved and that Japan, if she rejected the note now, was lost.
Around the same time, the Army and the Navy, personified by younger, more fiery officers, decided that Japan must finally reject it. They stormed into the quarters of General Umezu and Admiral Toyoda and demanded a public announcement of rejection. So insistent were they that the two Chiefs of Staff went to the Palace and at eight-twenty were received in audience. After they had expressed their objections to the note, the Emperor, who apparently could not make out whether they were speaking on their own behalf or on that of others, thanked them and said that no decision could be reached until the official text had been received and studied.
The two Chiefs of Staff had, it seems, asked for an audience without prior consultation with their superiors, and Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister, was extremely annoyed when he learned of Toyoda's action. The War Minister, General Anami, was more favorably inclined, although he too was placed in an awkward position when, at ten o'clock, a dozen of the younger officers rushed into his room, all of them in a state of the highest excitement. Their spokesman, once again, was Lieutenant Colonel Takeshita, who announced, in a tone of cold ferocity, "The proposed surrender must not take place. If it does, the War Minister ought to commit suicide with his own sword." Anami stared at his brother-in-law, lips compressed, but remained silent.
At eleven o'dock the Emperor received Foreign Minister Togo, heard his interpretation of the Allied note, and agreed with his recommendation to accept it. He asked the Foreign Minister to relay his desire to Premier Suzuki.
But Suzuki was then being subjected to pressure by two visitors who had quite an opposite end in view. The visitors were the War Minister, General Anami, and Baron Hiranuma, the President of the Privy Council, who had come to a last-minute agreement on their desire to see the American note rejected and their belief that the weakest link in the chain around the Throne was the Prime Minister himself. Old, confused by the events of the past few days, and vacillatory by nature, he was soon persuaded that the American reply meant, in reality, the end of the Imperial structure. Hiranuma declared that since the Emperor was divine, there could be no question of the people deciding his status: this would constitute an inadmissable change in the national polity. Anami reminded Suzuki that they had agreed to reject the Proclamation unless the national polity was guaranteed. The old man agreed to stand firm with Anami and Hiranuma in defending the Throne.
After he left Suzuki, Anami went to call on Prince Mikasa, the Emperor's third brother. Because the Prince was considered to be unconventional, the War Minister perhaps thought he could enlist him on the side of the warriors, but His Imperial Highness told Anami brusquely that ever since the Manchurian Incident the Army had acted contrary to the Emperor's desire and were continuing to do so.
A little later in the day, Prince Mikasa and the other Imperial princes,with their families, convened at the Palace, where they pledged the Emperor their whole-hearted support in his decision to effect a peaceful settlement of the war.
At the same time, the Cabinet met in extraordinary session. After Suzuki had read a translation of the American note, Anami and Hiranuma reiterated their arguments of the morning, and Anami also demanded the reinstatement of two conditions that had been discarded. Togo leapt angrily to his feet. He declared that any further request would lead to a breaking off of negotiations, which was contrary to the Imperial decision, and that to ensure the continuance of the war in this manner was "senseless behavior." With that he left the room and telephoned Vice-Minister Matsumoto, who pressed him to have the meeting adjourned so as to avoid the taking of a vote. Togo returned in time to hear Suzuki say that since the Allied reply did not guarantee the preservation of the Imperial polity, Japan must ask further clarification--and be prepared to continue the war unless satisfaction was forthcoming. The Premier's statement, said Togo quickly, merited careful consideration; on the other hand, unless Japan had some chance of victory, she ought to sue for peace. "I therefore propose," he went on, giving no one a chance to speak, "that the meeting be adjourned and that the question be reopened after the official communication from the Allies has been received." The Cabinet rose.
Togo, furious, had a private conversation with Suzuki in which he told him bluntly that his attitude was incomprehensible in view of the fact that the Emperor himself had decided on surrender, and then he added a veiled threat that unless Suzuki voluntarily returned to his earlier point of view, Togo would ask the Emperor to command him to do so.
With that he left the Premier and reported the day's disasters to Marquis Kido, who assured Togo that he would do everything possible to bring Suzuki back into line.
The Metropolitan Police Department, as a result of the wild rumors that were flying between the War Ministry and the Navy Ministry, posted special guards at strategic points in the city and began keeping strict watch over the officers who were thought to be involved in the rumored conspiracy.
Togo's aide, Vice-Minister Matsumoto, got in touch with the Telegraph Section of the Ministry and ordered the officer on duty to date any official communication that arrived during the night as of the following morning. His idea apparently was to provide Togo and the rest of the "peace party" with a little time in which to reorganize their defenses. Thus, Byrnes' official communication, which reached Tokyo at 6:40 p.m., August 12th, was stamped 7:30 a.m., August 13th.
At nine-thirty that Sunday night, Premier Suzuki was called to Kido's office
in the Palace. He listened in silence as the Privy Seal repeated, once again,
the arguments they all knew so well in favor of immediate surrender. Kido painted
a graphic--but not inaccurate--picture of the hundreds of thousands, and perhaps
people who would be sacrificed if war continued. He concluded with the still more telling argument for Suzuki--that surrender was, in any case, His Majesty's desire. The old man agreed to stand firm with Kido and Togo in defending the Throne.
It was a clear night. General Anami looked across the plain toward the far distance, where the sharp, lovely silhouette of Mount Fuji was outlined against the still glowing summer sky. He would not see that view very often again. Silently he went through the gate. He had come to his house in Mitaka, just outside Tokyo, to say farewell to his family; he had a pretty clear idea of what the future was likely to bring.
During the night he was visited by Lieutenant Colonel Ida and Major Hatanaka, that delicate, pale young man who was one of the most fanatic of the younger officers in his determination to pursue the war to the end. Their purpose in this late-night call was to request the War Minister to do everything in his power to prevent acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation. The General, torn between the desire of his superiors to end the war and the bellicose fanaticism of his younger officers, remained non-committal. His conferences with other aides continued.
Finally, around four in the morning of Monday, August 13th, he ordered Major Hayashi to take a verbal message to the Chief of Staff, General Umezu, saying that the War Minister was considering asking Field Marshal Hata to make an appeal to the Emperor, on behalf of the senior officers of the Army, to refuse the Allied surrender terms. The War Minister, said the Major, would like an opinion from the Chief of Staff
Umezu was silent. He paced up and down the room for a time. Then, at last,
he said, "You must forgive me--I favor acceptance of thr Potsdam Proclamation."
This reply, which Hayashi brought back to the War Minister, was too surprising to be taken in immediately, for Anami had thought of Umezu as one of his firmest affies. He retired at last, to try to sleep over his problem for an hour or two at least.
During that same night a cable arrived at the Foreign Office from the Japanese Minister in Stockholm, saying that both Russia and China were opposed to the Emperor and that opinion in Britain was hardening in the same direction. The United States, said the Minister, was being pressed to change its mind, while the Soviet Union was driving forward as fast as it could in China: any delay in the acceptance of America's terms could only make the situation worse, if not downright impossible, for Japan. The Minister's message only gave further confirmation of what the Foreign Office already knew; it did not help to solve their problem.
At seven-ten that morning General Anami was being ushered into Marquis Kido's office. Pessimism, said the General, never won a war; and since he believed that a passionate defense of the homeland would lead to more acceptable Allied terms, he strongly favored a continuance of a state of belligerence. Kido pointed out that the Emperor himself did not object to the provisions the Army found so offensive and that in any case he had made his decision and the decision had been communicated to the Allies: if His Majesty now changed his mind, he would look like a fool or a madman. How could Anami desire to see the Emperor rendered so absurd? Anami smiled. "You don't know what it's like in the Ministry," he said, as he took his leave. But the General underestimated Marquis Kido, who had been the object of attacks by fanatics for some time and who realized how difficult Anami's position was. The War Minister was not a fanatic--but he was an Army man, he wanted to do his best for the sovereign and the nation he had sworn to defend but also for the Army whose leader he was.
He decided not to go back to his Ministry. At nine o'clock he joined the rest of the Supreme War Councilors at a meeting in the undergorund bomb shelter of the Prime Minister's official residence. To the surprise of no one present, the Big Six were still split three to three: Suzuki, Togo, and Yonai on one side; Anami and the Chiefs of Staff, Umezu and Toyoda, on the other; immediate acceptance versus more favorable terms or continued war. Umezu wavered, but he would not desert his chief. Toyoda refused to accept Togo's interpretation of "subject to," nor could he stomach the provision calling for the "freely expressed will of the people."
Toyod and Umezu were now summoned out of the meeting for an audience with the Emperor, who pointed out that as long as Japan was negotiating diplomatically for a ceasefire, action against the enemy should be kept to a minimum. The two Chiefs of Staff, on behalf of Imperial Headquarters, gave the Emperor their undertaking to initiate no aggressive action whatsoever and to take only such defensive action as was necessary. They then returned to the Supreme War Council, where the deliberations continued.
The deliberations at Ichigaya were of a different order. The War Ministry was
like a huge, disturbed ant-hill, with hundreds of warrior ants scurrying back
and forth through the long corridors, their antennae raised to receive whatever
emanations might serve to solve their dilemma. To act without the approval of
the War Minister
would be difficult, if not impossible, and yet Anami would say neither yes nor no. A forthright yes was what they most ardently desired. But a forthright no would free them, at least, to attempt to act without him. The warrior ants were driven almost by instinct to defend their ant-hill--though the result might well be the destruction not only of the hill but of the nest that sustained it and of most of its hundred million inhabitants as well.
The Supreme War Council, having still reached no conclusion, adjourned at noon for lunch.
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