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OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book)

 
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OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 10:52:14 AM   
Arnhem44


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The book

An article on the book
"Yet Bernstein, Hasegawa, and many historians agree on one startling point. The public view that the atomic bomb was the decisive event that ended World War II is not supported by the facts."

Anyone heard of the man or the book? Basically the premise of the book is that it wasn't the twin atom bombs that pushed the Japanese into surrendering it was the Soviet declaration of war on Japan that was the decisive factor. Denizens of this forum are anything but the general public so I thought it'd be interesting to know if anyone else had come across this book and your thoughts on it. Do you honestly think that the atom bombs were the decisive factor in the surrender of the Japanese? If nothing else it should make for interesting reading, this one goes into "to read" list methinks.
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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 12:59:22 PM   
LoBaron


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Not sure if this a healty topic to discuss in here, too many trapdoors.

But let me attempt to stall the discussion in the first place:
The reason why the debate is as old as VJ day, and why there are still contradicting optinions, is because it is a matter of perspective.

Was the atomic bomb THE decisive event that ended WWII? Most probably not.
Was the SU steamrolling Manchuria AN event that contributed decisively to the Japanese capitulation and thus the end of WWII? Yes, quite obviously.

If I throw several dozens of weights into a basket, what is the decisive weight responsible for superceding the baskets´ max capacity? The final 10kg weight, or the 100kg weight I threw in 20 seconds before?

Very much depends on what your definition of "decisive" is, no?



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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 1:57:41 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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Hasegawa is an expert on the Cold War and speaks Japanese, English and Russian.

There was an extremely complex geopolitical game being played from early 1945. The Yalta Conference took place from 4 to 11 February 1945, at which time the Soviets were less than 100 km from Berlin. Stalin, understandably, felt he was in a very strong position. Churchill despised Stalin as a devil-like tyrant, but he was forced to tolerate him. Roosevelt, naïvely, had a much more rosy view of Stalin. Roosevelt wanted an end to the war as soon as possible and desired Soviet military assistance against Japan (which Stalin agreed to do within three months of the war in Europe ending). He also wanted buy-in from Stalin for the United Nations to be formed after the war was over.

Stalin at a minimum wanted back what Russia had lost to Japan through defeat in 1905 - Port Arthur, Dairen, the South Manchurian Railway, and South Sakhalin. In addition to this, he desired the Kurile Islands. Roosevelt agreed to this at Yalta, but if Japan surrendered to the USA then Stalin would recover these territories as a gift courtesy of American military prowess, which does not make for great propaganda. Stalin would gladly have broken the Neutrality Pact with Japan earlier, but he needed to end the war in Europe first. He also needed to ensure that the war with Japan continued for long enough to ensure that the Soviets could get involved militarily eventually - it would be a great propaganda tool for Stalin if he was the one who recovered the lost territories from Japan.

This, perversely, resulted in the Soviets leaking intelligence on Allied war plans to the Japanese in an effort to keep them in the war. This was confirmed by the Americans decrypting in January 1945 a message which had been sent in November 1944 from Harbin to Tokyo containing details of Allied war plans and indicating the source as "Soviet Embassy Canberra". Harbin was apparently chosen because of its large Russian population, so that leaks could be blamed on anti-Soviet Russians in that city.

Roosevelt died in April 1945, and Truman definitely did not share his predecessor's favourable view of Stalin, whom he felt was an aggressive expansionist (and Stalin's actions in establishing a communist government in Poland appeared to indicate this). Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945; Stalin now secretly started preparing for a Far East campaign against Japan, which now included ambitions to acquire the whole of Manchuria, Korea and Hokkaido.

A situation like this was unacceptable to Truman, and there was now added pressure on a quick end to the war with Japan; Japan needed to surrender unconditionally to the Allies, and not to the Soviets.

The first successful test of the atomic bomb took place on 16 July 1945. The next day the Potsdam Conference started; on 26 July 1945 the Potsdam Declaration was issued by Churchill, Truman and Chiang Kai-Shek, which ended with the following: 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." Truman later made mention in a speech of "fire raining down on cities the likes of which have never been seen". Truman had the bomb and he was damn willing to use it if it meant a quick surrender of Japan.

On 6 August 1945 the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later Nagasaki was nuked. On the same day, 9 August, the Soviets invaded Manchuria (exactly three months after the Germans surrendered to the Soviets). The rapid and catastrophic defeat of the Kwantung Army by the Soviets must have shocked the Japanese; it would have become clear to them that the Soviets had the manpower, material and appetite to invade not just Manchuria, but likely the Home Islands as well.

I therefore think that the Soviet invasion was a serious factor in finally getting the Japanese to surrender. What was 100,000 civilian deaths from an atomic bomb in the bigger context of things, considering the devastation that firebombing had already brought to Tokyo?

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 2:08:19 PM   
Nami Koshino


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I think for the military junta that was running Japan for the most part in 1945, absolutely nothing short of face saving terms was a compelling reason to end the war. It didn't matter if Soviet troops were entering Tokyo from the north and Allied troops from the south and the nation reduced to ashes. You fought on.

As for the one man left with the fast fading authority to call an end to it--the emperor, he cited three factors in his decision according to historian Richard Frank. One was his loss of faith in the Imperial Army and the policy of Ketsu-Go (Ketsu-Go involved making an invasion of Japan so bloody that US home front morale would crack). He apparently came to the conclusion that the military leadership were clinging to it more out of moral cowardice than faith. A second was his deep fear that that Japan's neat civil order would crack under blockade and bombardment, and possibly destroy the imperial institution from within. He also specifically cited the atomic bomb.

It's something of a miracle the war ended as quickly as it did. Happily, a half-hearted coup attempt failed.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 4:32:08 PM   
Mac Linehan

 

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Gents -

A different perspective on a fascinating period of history, which looks like an interesting and informative read.

Arnhem, Thank You for the recommendation.

Mac

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 5:52:39 PM   
Symon


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Apologies to Nami Kashino, who seems to know which end is up, and who gave a very nice appreciation of his thoughts.

No one knows why the war ended. One man compelled its ending, Michinomiya Hirohito, Showa Tenno. And no one knows when or why he came to the conclusion that “We must bear that which cannot be borne”. He was interviewed often and inferred certain things, but he never opened his heart. I believe he was a righteous man by his lights and believed he was the Emperor of Japan, not the military, not the Daibatsu, but Japan, and he was watching his people burn: burn from incendiary air raids, burn from the Russian duplicity, burn from this new bomb, burn and turn to ash and wither and swirl and disappear in a cloud against a prevailing wind. How can a sensitive man not do somewhat to “bear what cannot be borne”?

Tons of books and papers, out there, by policy and analysis wonks that are looking for their PhD thesis, or a publishing contract. Do they “know”? No. But that doesn’t stop them. And then journalists who should know better (but don’t these days) grab their sexy conclusions, without regard for context and nuance, and run baying and slobbering, like a pack of demented basset hounds, to further their own agenda.

Wargamers tend not to read the source material, but simply follow along with the reviewer/journalist mistaken take on things; and then go baying and slobbering, like a pack of demented basset hounds, to further their own agenda.

None of us know. None of us will ever know. Deal with it. Ciao. John

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 7:39:41 PM   
PaxMondo


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Symon

None of us know. None of us will ever know. Deal with it. Ciao. John

Truth for most of history ... we can individually put ourselves into the situational context and answer what we would do and why ... but unless the person involved has clearly and truthfully stated his reasons, we cannot know. And most of us know how really rare the previous has happened in history.

If you're not sure about that, I got 3 books for you:

Montgomery of Alamein
Memoirs - Doenitz
Lost Victories - von Manstein

Read them carefully, all 3 are auto-biographies, and then see if you beleive that "the person involved has clearly and truthfully stated his reasons". I'll leave the readers to decide that for themselves. Then put yourself into the context of the book being written (remember that 2 of them are written in the shadow of the Nurnburg trials) ... what would you say to history? Ahhh ... there is some self-truth that many would struggle with ... so blame not the author who is after all only human.

Just my thoughts ...


< Message edited by PaxMondo -- 1/1/2014 8:40:12 PM >


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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/1/2014 8:27:38 PM   
geofflambert


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I'm not actually taking a position here, just noting that it was decided (by whomever, whenever) that 'that which could not be borne' could be borne, and that they weren't actually fighting the devil.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 6:54:55 AM   
CT Grognard

 

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What about the US Strategic Bombing Survey's report?

"Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 10:48:13 AM   
Terminus


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The US Army Airforce post-war was fighting to become a seperate branch of service. They had to say that they could have forced Japanese surrender by themselves.

If the USN had been in charge of this survey, they'd have claimed that the naval blokade would have done it.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 12:43:01 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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The Survey was established by the Secretary of War in Nov 1944, for the purpose of conducting an impartial and expert study.

The Survey's officials in Japan were ALL civilians (including Ken Galbraith).

The Survey's complement provided for 300 civilians, 350 officers, and 500 enlisted men. 60 per cent of the military section were drawn from the Army and 40 per cent from the Navy. This made the overall composition split 44 per cent Army, 30 per cent Navy and 26 per cent civilian.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 12:45:12 PM   
Terminus


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And thus, you give ammunition to my point. I don't believe for a second that the survey's conclusions were neutral.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 12:50:11 PM   
Terminus


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Note my use of the word "conclusions". I'm fine with the objective data collected by going out and looking at the damage, but the conclusions drawn from that? In a military survey? Give me the proverbial break.

< Message edited by Terminus -- 1/2/2014 1:50:34 PM >


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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 1:04:57 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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Here is another quote from the Survey's report on Japan:

"There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion."

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 1:47:22 PM   
witpqs


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"could have". In other words, they admit that their formulated opinion is only a guesstimate.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 2:11:27 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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Fair enough. You'll notice in this thread I did not identify a sole reason for Japan's surrender - it was a combination of a number of factors.

The relative weight of those factors - well, that is where the debate lies, isn't it?

Why is it considered so controversial to discuss the relative weights of the factors contributing to the Japanese decision to accept an unconditional surrender?


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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 2:14:09 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Terminus

And thus, you give ammunition to my point. I don't believe for a second that the survey's conclusions were neutral.


Not quite. Neither the US Army nor the US Navy were "in charge" of the Survey as you called it in your initial post.

But you are of course fully entitled to your opinion that the conclusions were not neutral nor impartial.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 2:36:14 PM   
witpqs


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I don't think it's considered controversial to discuss it. It certainly is controversial to assert solid conclusions as to those reasons, and that is the whole point. The point that John made is that we can't know. We can try and gain insight, but we must keep in mind that at no point in discussions or afterward will we actually 'know', regardless of how strongly we feel about any particular or combination thereof.

Even when a participant is factually known to have stated a reason, even then that statement might be inaccurate for any number of reasons. Consider the postwar statements of Fuchida that we've discussed on these forums as an example.

As far as USAF-related conclusions, there were (and are) very strong political motivations involved. None of the Allies' adversaries in WWII were driven to surrender by strategic bombing (non A-bomb), despite massive damage. Such surrender was predicted again and again, but even with the A-bomb other factors are quite clearly significant, so why believe that 'this time' those predictions would have been correct, if only given a little more time? Could they have turned out to be correct? Sure, but quite possibly not.

< Message edited by witpqs -- 1/2/2014 3:37:35 PM >


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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 2:52:53 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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Thank you for your reasoned response.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 4:43:44 PM   
Symon


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quote:

ORIGINAL: witpqs
I don't think it's considered controversial to discuss it. It certainly is controversial to assert solid conclusions as to those reasons, and that is the whole point. The point that John made is that we can't know. We can try and gain insight, but we must keep in mind that at no point in discussions or afterward will we actually 'know', regardless of how strongly we feel about any particular or combination thereof.

Four simple sentences and you have touched the heart of critical analysis.

Thank you. God Bless. Keep on truckin. John

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 4:53:29 PM   
CT Grognard

 

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Agreed.

By the way, thanks for the recommendation on the Liberation Trilogy. The first volume has proven to be particularly informative since my knowledge of Operation Torch has always been rather limited.

Cheers.

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RE: OT: Hasegawa Tsuyoshi's Racing the Enemy (book) - 1/2/2014 7:45:24 PM   
timtom


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It's worth pointing out that the Japanese were looking to the Soviet to mediate with the Allies, hoping the Soviets would see it in their own interest to have Japan serve as a brake on US influence in the Pacific post-war - which obviously would require Japan to have a measure of strength and certainly not to be a US client state. Instead the USSR's entry into the Pac war shattered any such hopes and left Japan completely isolated politically speaking.

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