Friday, August 05, 2005

Sixty Years and a Sea Change Later

New informational grist for the mill, from The Jewish World Review:
    Enola GayNewly opened archives of radio intercepts of messages between Tokyo and its diplomats abroad, which President Truman was sworn never to talk about, ever, reveal that the Japanese generals and their emperor did not consider themselves defeated. Some of these intercepts were conversations between Tokyo and diplomatic officials of U.S. allies. They reveal that even if Washington agreed to preserve the emperor that Japan regarded as “divine” there was no likelihood that Japan was ready to cry uncle.
The conversations between President Truman and his service chiefs further reveal, as historian Richard B. Frank writes in the current Weekly Standard magazine, that the Army and Navy were at bitter odds over whether the Japanese home islands should or could be invaded. The Army said yes. The Navy, having taken casualties at Okinawa in April and May that exceeded those in the Normandy landings, said no, a naval blockade and ship-to-shore bombardment was the way to go.
“Finally,” he writes, “thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood ... that ‘until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion [of the home islands] can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies.’ “
Mr. Franks sums it up:
    We were a different America then. No one apologized for a survival strategy of “whatever it takes.”
He also mentions how hard it would be to imagine Harry Truman fretting over what to call the war. Harry S. wasn’t one to mince words.

Which reminds me of a story most people know, but one that shouldn’t be lost from our American mythology: once a reporter asked Mrs. Truman why the President couldn’t be more presidential. Why did he use words like “manure,” for instance. To which Mrs. Truman replied that it had already taken her a long time to train him to use “manure” instead.

Earth to President Bush: If Truman’s picture is not in your office, please put it there. Then quit listening to your aides and start calling this global slaughter by jihadist murderers what it is: World War IV.

Via The Jewish World Review from the original essay in The Weekly Standard by Richard B. Frank, "Why Truman Dropped the Bomb"


El Jefe Maximo said...

Richard B. Frank is one of the finest military historians presently writing. His "Downfall" on the end of the war in the Pacific, is likely to be definitive on that subjecct, except for additions to detail.

His first book, "Guadalcanal" is the standard history of that campaign, and one of the most splendid military histories I've ever read, (and that would be quite a few). I can't recommend him enough.

El Jefe Maximo said...

One additional thought re the decision to use the bomb and Japan. I think the bomb was instrumental in procuring Japanese surrender, but the stubborn Japanese resistance in the last months of the war, after the collapse of the Marianas line made it clear that the war was lost -- was not wholly without point.

Even with the use of the atomic bomb, and the approaching mass starvation of Japan via the naval blockade and mining (all covered in Frank's "Downfall") -- the Japanese resistance got them somewhat better "unconditional surrender" terms than the Germans got. The Japanese government was never completely dissolved, and the occupation in Japan worked through the instrumentalities of the Imperial government.

This is completely unlike what happened in Europe. Although it was nowhere written down, the "unconditional surrender" indeed had some conditions.

Jack said...

I also enjoyed Downfall. A very good post, I myself gave my own opinion on the topic in Second Guessing Truman" a few days ago.

The Japanese decided to try to bleed us dry and die honorably, as a result tens of thousands of Americans and Japanese died long after Japan had any hope of winning the war. Those deaths lie on their head, not ours.

The left likes it because it is a stick with which they can beat us. There is no comparable outcry to Tokyo, because other countries burned down cities conventionally, we're the only ones that had the gall to do it with one bomb, twice. It is the perfect anti-America propaganda point and plays well with our attempts to enforce the NPT.

At the current rate I fear that it will become cliche to condemn Truman. There are few advocates who are too enthusiastic enough to defend such an objectively evil, yet necessary act. "War is a series of disasters that leads to a winner," the choices are not pretty. It is a pity we may have to relearn that lesson in the future.

Jack said...

One more point, the bomb was worth dropping merely to save the thousands of Allied POWs who would have starved to death had the war continued as is. Men who the Japanese High Command had already ordered to be executed if in danger of being rescued. This had already happened on a number of Japanese held islands.

hank_F_M said...

A thought to consider.

In WWI Captain Truman was in a division that was "rendered incapable of serious combat" in four days during the Muse Argonne offensive. A polite way to say it was shot to pieces in frontal assaults.

When President Truman was making a decision on the dropping the-bomb: he was considering an unproven abstraction against the personal horror of seeing thousands of men killed and wounded what would be a frontal assault.

I think that added a lot of emotional weight to the arguments in favor of dropping the bomb that we would not see at first sight.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I've always thought Capt. Truman's experiences as a WW I artillery officer profoundly affected his dealings with the generals as President, sometimes to the good, (the decisions on the bomb, the decision to give MacArthur a free hand as to the initial build-up in Korea, and on the relief of MacArthur later), but sometimes to the bad too -- his disastrous military budget and planning decisions prior to the Korean War.

American generalship at the brigade/division/corps level in the Great War left a great deal to be desired, mostly due to inexperience and the rapid expansion of the AEF. Pershing, however, I would rate pretty highly. His strategic sense was better than Haig's or Petain's, and probably Foch's also.

hank_F_M said...

El Jeffe

I agree.

One of the things that effected military policy in the 60's was that for over twenty years when the military requested someting, and did not get it, there was a feeling that they had received a fair hearing.

During WWII Roosevelt pretty much stayed out of things purely military. Before WWII every one knew there was depression and the military was lucky to get pay and rations.

After WWII, Truman, and of course Eisenhower, were atuned enough to military thinking that they could shoot down a proposal form the military and leave the impression that the issue was heard, given a fair hearing and that the President understood but genuinely believed something else was more important.

Having it easy the military did not develop an understanding of how to explain there positions to a basically civilian mindset.

McNamara, Kennedy, and Johnson always left the impression, true or not, that the military was not being heard, or was considered irrelevant.

Right or wrong, and at times both sides were right and wrong, there was not the communication that needed to happen in a time of war.

Truman's experience in WW1 and as a reserve officer did much to improve his performace as President.

Jason Pappas said...

I read Frank’s article in today’s New York Post (8/7/05). I thought I should blog about this but just didn’t have the time. I read Frank’s book – excellent. It’s great to see people talking about this and getting the word out. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen revisionists take advantage of younger peoples’ ignorance. Thanks, Dymphna, keep up the good work.