tv Truman and the Pacific War CSPAN September 5, 2015 9:23am-10:01am EDT
union would be excluded. the bomb was not intended to keep the russians out of war. that would have been impossible. this was moscow's historic opportunity to settle the century long struggle among japan, china, and russia for control over northeast asia. stalin was determined to seize it. make no mistake about it. but truman was equally determined to limit their events to the asian mainland -- their advance to the asian mainland. to limit the soviet position in korea, truman sought to circumscribe the soviet position in manchuria. he supported f.d.r.'s plan for a treaty between russia and china and the creation of a coalition government. truman and burns decided on this strategy without input from their advisors. final details worked out aboard
the uss augusta on the way to tsdam july 7-14. although truman took a large entourage, he and burns excluded every single one of their advisors except for admiral leahy and three state department officials. specialist, the director of european affairs, and their top draftsman. they were all excluded and would travel separately to the conference. sdam was going to be a high-stakes poker game. truman had two aces in the hole to play against stalin. not only did he have the power to bring the war to an earlier end at least one
atomic bomb, but he had the indoor -- emperor's willingness to end the war. indicated the japanese were playing a risky and dangerous game. they had adopted the basic strategy for conducting the war. their plan was to fight a one-front war against the united states, attempt to administer a decisive defeat in repulsing the invasion, and sue for peace on favorable terms for a soviet mediation. the emperor's, instincts remained but a military triumph must precede any diplomatic maneuver. the japanese were gambling they could keep the conflict on one russians,nlisting the
even though the russians had announced the neutrality treaty and were moving to the far east. the supreme war council recognized the russians planned to expand her influence in the far east by striking at the most opportune moment. but they did not expect that moment to arrive until late summer or early fall. looming before the japanese leadership was that they would suffer the fate of germany. the defeat, dismemberment, and occupation of germany had to have been uppermost in the emperor's mind. facedeatest danger japan was not merely destruction and defeat, which were now inevitable, but dismemberment and the end of the dynasty. it was a term with layers of meaning, as we have heard. it was centered on the concept of the national policy.
its irreducible meaning was the integrity of the state structure. there could be recovery from destruction and defeat, but not from dismemberment. japan's leaders were committed to the defense strategy. that everything depended upon keeping the russians out. hoping to ensure they adhered strictly to the terms of the neutrality pact which had a year to run after being announced, the japanese had progressively increased the amount they were willing to pay to obtain soviet agreement or mediation. first, they offered extensive fishing rights. then they offered to give up sakalin and all of their mainland conquests. finally, they offered all to get soviet mediation. it is easy to question the japanese leadership's grasp of reality here, but nevertheless,
that was their approach. stalin was noncommittal. now we know stalin had no intention of mediating. he had already committed to the invasion of japan. he had issued orders to prepare for entry into the war after his first conversation with harry hopman in may, may 26. he wanted everything prepared by august 1 for use by august 20. stalin, it seemed, was planning to steal a march from the united states. we had planned to invade in november. truman understood the japanese leadership's main concern was preservation of the state. thenew the emperor -- status of the emperor was negotiable, despite the japanese attempt to identify the emperor with the state. he knew he could obtain an end to the war anytime if you were
willing to compromise on the andror's status, as stimson others urged. but this was the worst case, and he would choose it if, and only if, the russian invasion of the main island became unpreventable or any other means. the president's carefully crafted strategy was to use the atomic bomb in a preemptive strike to bring the war to an early end and accept the russian seizure of manchuria and the kurils within the terms of the yalta agreement that would limit the advance into korea and exclude them from japan proper. he would fulfill f.d.r.'s yalta commitment to the letter and demand stalin do the same. but he was establish america's dominant position in the pacific by taking complete control of japan. truman's plan would be complicated to execute because
the the plan would be difficult. the atomic bomb would be the key to success enabling the emperor to save face and prompting him to save his country from catastrophic defeat by bringing to a quick end a war that was expected to last at least another half year and ensure japan's dismemberment. truman initiated the pacific aspect of his strategy on a broad front. most of what happened was a discussion about the settlement of europe. truman objected to a lot of things committed to at alta but ultimately caved. burns negotiated with molotov an acceptable settlement, division of europe and germany. the russians were happy with it. presented time, he stalin with a fait accompli in
the far east. behind the scenes and in discussions with stalin truman carefully positioned the united states with the end game. during his first meeting with the soviet leader on july 17, truman asked for assurance that the open door would aplay to all of manchuria and that it be internationalized as stipulated in the alta agreement. this was a clear test of stalin's intentions because in treaty negotiations stalin was demanding that china give the soviets full control in violation of the alta. raising the issue of the open door took stalin aback because it was a new demand for an merican president in manchuria. a clear deviation from f.d.r.'s strategy. truman also wanted to know when the russian army would be ready to move. stalin and chief of staff
antuna were vague offering differing dates from mid to late august. this of course, two of the three weeks later what stalin had told hopkins but as we know he was preparing to move two to three weeks earlier. on july 21 leslie groves, the manhattan project manager, sent a detailed report to truman on the astonishing power of the atomic bomb. by all accounts, this news bolstered the president's spirits immeasurabley and changed his whole attitude. it was a strength in his belief that now his plan would work. now he would have two bombs instead of one. that same day he authorized int chiefs of staff to alert mcarthur events were happening far more rapidly than expected. the message stated it might prove necessary to take action in the near future on the basis of japanese exit lags possibly
efore russian entry. truman sent a message on the 23rd. hoping to drag out the negotiations. he said i ask that you carry out the alta agreement but i have not said any concession in excess of that agreement. truman was clearly playing both sides of the negotiation indicating not to cave in to soviet demands for control of dalian and to stalin that the united states might have to get involved in manchuria if the russians tried to steam role the chinese but his purpose was to delay the signing of the treaty in hopes of delaying soviet entry. on july 24, u.s. and soviet military staffs met
to discuss the areas of operation. the joint chiefs sought to limit operations to the mainland while fencing off japan and dividing korea. this was when korea was divided. 17 days before kernel rusk and charles bonfield would restate this division at the 38th parallel. the air force was to have virtually unlimited access over manchuria while the navy would have equally wide ranging free of navigation in the sea of japan which they were already exercising. kneadless to say the russians were not happy with these limitations and sought to revise them. the same day, july 24, after eir meeting, truman saunterd casually around to stalin without his interpreter and mentioned the united states now has a new weapon of unusual destructive force. stalin of course displayed no sprays, saying simply that he was glad to -- displayed no
surprise, saying simply that he was glad to hear it and hoped we'd make good use of it against the japanese. truman went immediately to his quarters and made the decision to drop the bombs on japan. he ordered the first bomb to be dropped as soon as possible "after 3 august" when the conference would be over. truman's fait accompli came three days later. without informing the russians he released the declaration on the evening of july 26. the most striking aspect of the declaration was the absence of stalin's name from it. coming out of a conference where the president, stalin, had been conferring for over a week it strongly suggests there had been disagreement among the big three. worse, churchill had left. it was said he left to await the election results. that was probably true. other explanations were
possible and rumors were rife. the declaration was signed by truman, churchill who left, and john kychenko who had not attended but not stalin. the implication was stalin declined to sign the declaration in order to uphold his treaty commitment to japan. of course we now know stalin fully intended to sign it. it would have given him a way around the neutrality treaty and the demand to participate in the occupation. these were precisely the reasons why truman did not want his signature on the declaration. more importantly, the omission of stalin's signature fed the japanese military hope that the russians were going to adhere to the neutrality treaty, stay out of the war, and mediate an end to it. parcing the declaration indicates a number of subtle but different offers to a variety of constituencies.
promising to carry out the terms of the cairo declaration, the signers said that, quote, japanese sovereignty shall be imited to the four islands and such minor islands as we determine. the clear inference here is that if japan surrendered to the united states, the nation would not be crushed and dismembered the way germany had been but kept intact. yet in this very sentence lay a scrap for stalin, which was the omission of any mention of apan's northern territories. [the northern territories were not the minor islands referred to in the declaration. but historically distinct japanese territory. separate from the other islands. the treaty between japan and
ssia in 1855 defined the islands as a string of islands in a specific location. the islands to the southwest were japan's northern territories. that definition was never contested. ut it would be violated. finally, there was another element missing from the declaration and that was the emperor himself was not mentioned. the last sentence of the declaration called upon the government of japan to proclaim unconditional surrender to all japanese -- of all japanese armed forces referring only to the government of japan implied that the emperor was a distinct entity separate and apart from the government and would receive separate consideration. so there are in fact four messages here. the japanese military, that counted on soviet neutrality
and mediation in their last ditch stand strategy. the absence of stalin's signature reinforced their view. to the so-called peace faction. e promise of retaining the kokuti intact conveyed an equally powerful message to accept u.s. terms. the emperor, the omission of his name signaled he could continue to reign if he could deliver the surrender. and finally to stalin. there was a suggestion that the northern territories were not to be considered sovereign japanese territory. truman in my view was counting on the kind of response that he got from japan. he had already made the decision to drop the bomb. so he was going to interpret whatever the japanese said as a rejection of the surrender terms. but just in case they caved in completely, that same day of the 26th, the j.c.s. ordered mcarthur to be ready to move in
the event of japanese governmental surrender. in such an event, j.c.s. sought the immediate deployment of the u.s. marines to several ports bordering on manchuria and korea to limit any unwarranted soviet advance. stalin counted on his inclusion in the declaration as a way out of overriding his treaty obligation under the neutrality pact but he also faced a second impediment. one of his own making. and that was his demand that he sign that treaty before the russians would go into the war against japan. stalin added that condition in his meeting with harry hopkins. it is not stipulated in the alta agreement which said only that the soviet union expressed a readiness to conclude a pact of friendship with china not that soviet entry into the war was contingent upon it. stalin was undoubtedly shocked at how easily truman had out
maneuvered him. but he had a countermove. on the 29th he sent molotov to the plenary session in his place and molotov passed on stalin's proposal that the allies, "address a formal request to the soviet government for its entry into the war on the grounds that japan had rejected the declaration." truman, taken by surprise, deferred a reply for two days. on july 31, he sent stalin a message saying that as soon as word came from him that the treaty with china had been signed he would send him a form letter requesting soviet entry. the invitation would be based on articles 103 and 106 of the proposed u.n. charter, which didn't exist yet. and the moscow declaration of 43.
these returns stalin could hardly accept because they took the initiative of entry into the war away from him and placed it into the hands of truman and jonkishek. events moved quickly. to guard against the worst case of a soviet landing somewhere in japan, truman sought to redirect american power away, to land in northern honshu. on august 4 the joint war plans committee issued a report. signal intercepts of heavy reinforcement the planners wanted macarthur and nimitz to make alternate plans and submit timely recommendations. the report concluded, "operations against extreme northern honshu, against the sendai area and the plain, tokyo, are under intensive study here." hokkaido was omitted as an alternate which suggests the two may have thought the russians might be able to get there before we could prevent it. the august 6 bomb burst over hiroshima changed everything. fatally compromising the first
part. a decisive battle against the united states, though some highly placed japanese military and science officials denied the bomb's significance. the emperor, however, directed urgently that japan move to activate the second part of the agreement, the request for soviet mediation. the japanese of course had been attempting to ascertain moscow's attitude toward mediation for sometime but especially since potsham hoping the omission of stalin's name meant the russians would remain neutral. but they could not arrange a meeting until august 8. as soon as he entered that office, molotov cut him off before he could utter a word. and instead, shocking him, rejected the mediation, and read the formal declaration of war against his country.
he soviet declaration of war compromised this in its entirety and dropping of the second atomic bomb the next day provided the exclamation point. it was the collapse of japan's strategy that produced the decision to surrender. i emphasize the impact of the soviet declaration of war. it not only destroyed the japanese assumption of a one front conflict but it also portended japan's dismemberment. prime minister suzuki spoke to this very point. he said, if we miss today, the soviet union will take not only manchuria, korea, but also hokkaido. this would destroy the foundation of japan. we must end the war when we can still deal with the united states. let me translate that. suzuki was saying, the only way to preserve the dynasty was by surrendering to the united states before the russians got in.
the japanese accepted the terms the next day. august 10. they continued, however, to haggle over the role of the emperor, hoping beyond hope that they could talk the united states into it. we know the response from the , that of the surrender the emperor would be subject to the supreme allied commander. nevertheless, the ball is now back in japan's court. and a continued refusal of japan's military high command to acknowledge defeat prompted truman to increase the pressure in part because the russians were moving fast. they were heading for ports and the northeast coast of korea, engaging the japanese, fighting their way back toward the southern tip. on the next day, the 11th, truman made two decisions. first he ordered macarthur and
nimitz to make advance dalean ents to occupy and seoul. immediately following the surrender of japan if soviet forces hadn't gotten there before them. second he ordered preparation for the resumption of air but es against japan reoriented these strikes away from the incendiary bombing to precision strikes on petroleum and transportation systems. then occurred what i think is one of the most extraordinary and complicated sequences of the war which led to japan's surrender. on august 14 after a four-day stand down 20th air force carried o you the a 1,000-plane attack on six targets. wo were in western honchu. it was to interdict the rail length against cue shoe. three were against similar targets. it was the sixth attack carried
out by the 315th bomb wing which has received scant mention in history of the war that triggered what was probably the most bizarre sequence in history. the 315th mission was the last and longest bombing mission of the war. its declared target was japan's remaining functioning oil refinery. and the adjacent port located on the northwest coast of honshu some 280 miles from tokyo. akita was the obvious location for soviet forces to attempt a landing on honshu. in short, it was the gateway to tokyo and truman was determined to slam it shut. the 315th, 143-29 b's took off from guam almost an hour after the japanese news agency had already announced japan's
imminent exit lags -- cap it lags strongly suggesting though the target was japanese the objective was russian. as smith and o'connell have written, the commander of the strategic bombing command was apparently "acting on unwritten instructions from chief of staff general george marshall to end the war as quickly as possible so the soviet union would not gain a foothold in japan." as the b-29's flew over tokyo on their way to akita around midnight however tokyo defense command imposed a blackout on tokyo. the blackout occurred as a few fanatical right wing officers were attending the coup de tate to find the emperor's surrender video and destroy it so japan wouldn't surrender. but in the dark they couldn't find it so the plot was quashed by the next morning and the emperor and the surrender
solution played on the radio. the 315th successful air strike had demonstrated truman's willingness to use american power to block any soviet attempt to enter japan whether they intended to do it or not. but the mission also facilitated the surrender of japan and perhaps even saved the emperor's life. although japan now surrendered, the russians were still on the move. problem man, the remained, how to prevent them from getting a foothold in japan proper and limiting their advance in korea. the next day he issued order number one to macarthur. he declared, all japanese forces in the main island of japan and minor islands adjacent there to, korea south of the 38th parallel, and the philippines shall surrendered to the commander in chief u.s. armed forces.
left out of this order were both the northern territories and the kural islands. stalin didn't miss it. in a message to truman the next day he offered what he called correction. he accepted the division of korea, insisted that all of the islands have to come into ossession of the soviet union, and also wanted japanese troops in the northern part of hokkaido to surrender to the troops. he said in closing he hoped his modest suggestions would not meet with any rejection. the reply the next day, he agreed to modify general order number one so that the islands would come under soviet control but he rejected stalin's hokkaido. it was his intention he said that japanese forces on all of the islands proper surrender to general macarthur. japan was to remain undivided and under american control.
while there is more to be said -- but i want i you to know truman was -- how realistic his concerns were we'll never know but he clearly wanted to make sure the rugs would not gain a foothold in japan. but stalin had the last laugh. on september 3, the day following the surrender ceremony aboard the missouri stalin ordered soviet forces to take control of japan's northern territories, claiming that they were simply the outhern kure isles and as they were to be handed over then they should get the northern territories, too. definition of the northern territories was a fiction in which both the united states and the soviet union thence forth indulged but of course not the japanese. perhaps american ambiguity about the definition of the
islands is more calculated than uninformed. soviet possession of japan's northern territories would become an obstacle to the full normalization of russian-japanese ties from that time to the present. let me conclude. there is no end of irony here. f.d.r. offered stalin disguised control over manchuria, korea, and half of japan to come into the war. the japanese offered stalin outright control of all of their mainland conquests and an alliance to stay out of the war and negotiate an end to it but stalin was greedy. he calculated that he could get half of japan, too. unfortunately for stalin, he failed to reckon with harry truman who not only prevented soviet entry into japan but also clawed back half of korea. truman used the atomic bomb to settle the long-term struggle for control of northeast asia
and put in place a geo political structure that ensured america's dominance of the pacific. significantly altered f.d.r.'s strategy to preserve japan's territorial integrity and divide korea. at the same time he adhered to f.d.r.'s solution for china. and the handover to the soviet union according to the yalta agreement. the results from a strategic point of view are with us still. japan remains a staunch ally of the united states. korea remains divided but the republic of korea remains a staunch ally. the northern territories remain in russian hands and continue to be an impediment to full japan-russian relations. but finally the united states remains the dominant power in the pacific although there are signs that might be changing. thank you.
[applause] [speaking in other language] >> yes, sir? >> if you don't mind, are you arguing that truman felt or was briefed that conventional bombing was as horrendous as it was, the naval blockade, would swiftly save lives and therefore the decision to use the nukes was only about the soviets? >> it was about ending the war quickly before the russians to be fully prepared exercise their interests. >> so the use of the nukes in truman's mind was to end the
war quickly and save lives? >> i agree with that. >> oh, okay. >> but it was also -- >> oh, sure. what the soviets did was therefore important but secondary. the primary was to stop this war now. so what was the objection from marshall and the others? didn't they want to stop the war now or did they not believe that conventional weapons and the blockade wouldn't do it? >> marshall was f.d.r.'s man. marshall supported the pincer strategy. the same they pursued in germany he wanted to pursue. if the war continued another six months to a year who doubts the soviet union would not have ntered japan proper? who doubts? if the war continued six months to a year the russians would have been there. japan would have been divided. there would have been a two power or three power control commission for tokyo. > that was okay with marshall?
>> i think it was okay for arshall. >> manchuria would be a russian province. as late as 1949 stalin was proposing the division of china. joe objected to it on the grounds this would be a two chinas policy. so the arguments between mao and stalin were already eginning at that time. >> asking a little broader question because you looked at truman's decision making in other contexts as well. what was it about his experience or his character that enabled him to think so strategically in a way that in my judgment, i think yours, is extraordinarily rare among
world leaders? > not that rare. i don't study presidents but i don't believe presidents sit in front of the map and make decisions. i mean, there are huge staffing operations that go on. all the options are calculated. and they make the decisions about the options. how do they mix together? in this case, in this case, soviet domination of northeast asia, say including northern japan, they'd be there today. if they had succeeded according to f.d.r. after all they saw the northern territories. would they have given back honshu and hokkaido? i doubt it. too valuable. this is a long-term struggle, and i meant to bring one of truman's messages to the emperor and one of macarthur's
statements to the emperor that spoke to that very point about how the united states saw japan, fitting into the larger picture of northeast asia. so they were thinking in those terms. and in my mind, truman had the uts to act in those terms. >> getting back to who was on the augusto with truman, who was not, i don't remember the chronology here but was clark clifford with truman at that point or did he come on to his radar later? >> i tell you the truth, i don't know. know truman took with him his entourage, his cronies. but none of his top advisers. which i find absolutely extraordinary. going into a major conference, end the war conference to leave all your advisers home, tells
me that you've got something else in mind. >> he was not a player with truman at that point. >> no. > thank you. >> okay. last one? according to your revision, at the beginning of your talk, it says here after the fact you 70 years we'll have gotten more of a consensus or we'll still be fighting over this issue? >> the sub text here is, what kind of a world do we want to have? do we want to have a world where we're friends with everybody or do we want to pursue american interests to he -- to whatever degree necessary? and there has always been a very strong element within the american political leadership
at seeks to pursue detente with the larger party. in this case detente with the soviet -- we can see detente advocates in the american government in every single decade from world war -- from 1940 to today. in ev single decade there would be elements and attempts to reach a deal with the russians. press that reset button. somebody has to learn from history. that's why we're trying to promote these conferences so that we can get a better understanding of what it's all been about. thank you very much. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-spa