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This is the standard take on the fall of Japan. Dozens of other Japanese cities had been flattened under the never-ending barrage. © Copyright 2020 Center for the National Interest All Rights Reserved. As the Declaration bluntly put it, “the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction”. These were conventional bombs, but no less effective at slaughtering civilians. Even if it did, it might not force Japan’s surrender without a full-scale invasion of the Home Islands. Although a giant in terms of land mass and population, China was viewed by most Japanese leaders in the 1930s and 1940s as a weak and largely defenseless area ripe for colonization and exploitation. And that man was Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. This, other voices said, might touch off a war with the United States, Great Britain, and Holland. The Russians countered, sending more troops as well. Plans had to be made. Repeated requests to begin the battle were denied, only to be followed by more urgent demands. Between 1940 and 1945, the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria, which also had responsibility for Korea, remained relatively static. Many people today don’t realise that, while the Soviets had been allied with Britain and the US in the fight against Hitler, they were not actually at war with Japan at the time of the Potsdam Declaration. In addition, seven more infantry divisions with 260,000 personnel were in Korea and subject to joint operations. The Soviet Union and Japan had in fact signed a neutrality pact back in 1941, which served both their interests nicely. But the Army itself was being bled by the needs of the Imperial Japanese Army rampaging across the Pacific. As historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa puts it, “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow's mediation.”. These seemingly easy successes in Europe whetted the Japanese leaders’ appetite for an aggressive strike against their perceived Western foes. (The British, after their early losses, had, relatively speaking, only token forces left in the Pacific.) More than one million Japanese soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed or captured in a month’s bitter fighting in a far-off land that even today remains somewhat mysterious. General Grigori Shtern brought up his 49th Corps of the Red Banner Far Eastern Army, and repeated Soviet counterattacks drove the Japanese back, with heavy casualties on both sides. Hitler was dead, his genocidal regime had been smashed, and there had been cheering in the streets of the Allied nations. The question was, how to finally crush their seemingly unbending resolve? https://t.co/Fv6Hjn8zjO pic.twitter.com/D5Ij24u77I. Hiroshima had happened days before, but it was only now that the Japanese leaders fell into a panic. It ensured the end of World War II as much as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did, yet it is often ignored in Western studies of the war. Repeated clashes between border-guard units finally erupted into open warfare on May 11, 1939. Indeed, during this crisis the leaders of the Kwantung Army seriously discussed prospects of bringing down the current Japanese government should it interfere with their operations. On August 9 1945 another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki bring the Japanese to surrender. Essentially, a strong Russian force of about 20 infantry divisions massed on the border of Japan’s puppet state, Manchukuo—formerly Manchuria—to prevent any Japanese incursions. The leaders of the major Allied powers met at the Potsdam Conference from July 16 to August 2, 1945. As historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa puts it, “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow's mediation.”, That’s the key point: the Japanese weren’t fighting to win. On 6 August, a mushroom cloud rose above Hiroshima, heralding the dawn of a new, apocalyptic age. The standard argument in favour of US President Truman’s decision to drop the bombs has always been that, by unleashing such devastating force, the president avoided an even more devastating ground war that might have gone for many more months, taking untold numbers of Allied lives. That enemy indeed appeared as a result of the several Allied political leaders’ meetings during the course of the war. As the war rolled on, both the Americans and British were fully engaged in battle in North Africa, Italy, northwestern Europe, and the Pacific. Once again diplomacy resolved the issue but left the pot simmering. Things only changed on 9 August, the very day of the second atomic attack on Nagasaki, when the Soviets suddenly broke the pact, mounting a massive invasion of Japan’s territories that decimated Japanese troops. This brought on the first armed clash between Russian and Japanese forces in late July 1938. He and other dissenting voices believe that the real reason Japan surrendered was down to something far less titanic and earth-shattering than the nuclear bombs. US bomber crews could smell charred flesh as they flew over the firestorms. The Japanese had a low opinion of Russian military prowess, anyway. Even as diplomatic messages were being exchanged, the ever aggressive Kwantung Army began preparations to eject the Russian “trespassers,” and a Japanese infantry division was rushed to the area. In April 1941, to cool the pot, a nonaggression pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Japan. What Would Happen if a Supervolcano Erupted. And yet, it can convincingly be argued that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not hugely important in the context of Japan in 1945. The joint U.S.-British effort to develop an atomic bomb was a well-kept secret, and there was no proof that it would work. Immediate surrender was the only option. Fewer than 2,000 Japanese soldiers attacked in darkness and with surprise, overwhelming the Soviet defenders. It inflicted a serious body blow, but it was hardly a knock-out punch.”. The Changkufeng battle was comparatively small. ©2020 AETN UK. When in 1938 there arose a dispute over the exact border between Manchuria, Korea, and the Soviet Union, a high-ranking Soviet defector brought much intelligence to the Japanese Kwantung Army. One choice was to attack the Soviet Union, thereby eliminating the northern threat and freeing up forces for the war in China. Originally planned for August 15, 1945, the Russian declaration was moved up when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. But the celebrations were premature, because the war itself was very definitely not over. Fair warning was issued to the Japanese in the form of the “Potsdam Declaration” of July 1945, which demanded the “unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces”. On top of that, when people think of the Soviet Union in World War Two, it’s not the Pacific theatre that comes to mind, but the savage skirmishes against Hitler’s forces, the massacres meted out by the SS in Russian towns and villages, the hellish confrontation in Stalingrad and the pivotal Nazi defeats that eventually turned the war against Hitler. It’s only from our vantage point today that the mushroom clouds eclipse everything else. One man, it seems, played a far more important part. In May 1945, the battle against the Nazis was done. It inflicted a serious body blow, but it was hardly a knock-out punch.”. When Hiroshima happened, Japan realised a new kind of weapon had been unleashed, but the devastation was not significantly different to what they had seen in countless cities already. The resulting battles, which lasted into August 1939, cost the Japanese between 18,000 and 23,000 casualties and achieved nothing in terms of additional territory. Increasingly the Japanese militarists—primarily the Army but to a lesser extent along the coast, the Imperial Japanese Navy as well—increased their appetite for additional Chinese territory. Already in the spring of 1940, German forces had overrun much of Western Europe and had pushed the British Expeditionary Force out of Dunkirk and back to Britain. All Rights Reserved. Premier Joseph Stalin became increasingly concerned that the Japanese were getting much too close to his own far eastern borders, and the already suspicious Russian leader began to fear their ultimate goals. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of the Terms and Conditions, The lives of Hitler and Stalin: Two sides of the same coin, Historic Photographer of the Year Award Winners - 2020. The result was a change of plans by the Kwantung Army regarding a possible invasion of eastern Russia. Many requests—at Tehran, Yalta, and most recently at Potsdam—had been made for Russia to enter the war against Japan. Neville Chamberlain: heroic peacemaker or pathetic pushover? It was the greatest defeat in Japanese military history, yet few outside the circles of Japanese and Soviet history are even aware that it occurred. As a result, he agreed to declare war on Japan within three months after Germany surrendered. What if everything you’ve just read misses the point completely? While events like Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the D-Day landings, not to mention the controversial Allied attacks on Dresden, have all received plenty of media attention, the only thing most of us know about the endgame in Japan is that it saw the beginning of the nuclear age. That’s the … During one meeting in June of that year, top Japanese military commander Torashirō Kawabe couldn’t have been clearer: “The absolute maintenance of peace in our relations with the Soviet Union is imperative for the continuation of the war.”. The leadership in Tokyo realized they had no hope now.” In fact, the situation was now completely reversed, with the Japanese fearing a Communist invasion which would overturn their rigid, imperial hierarchy and transform their nation forever. Not so the Russians. The seeds of the annihilation of four Japanese armies, each equal to an American field army, were planted in 1931. In September 1940, Japan allied herself with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany by signing the Tripartite Pact. The fact is, the complicated period between the fall of Hitler and the fall of Japan haven’t received as much mass media attention as it deserves. Historian Ward Wilson, who vigorously disputes the significance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, says “It’s very hard to make people give up their myths.” Indeed, in the case of the nuclear attacks, it borders on blasphemy. But these increasing violations of Chinese sovereignty brought a new player into the scenario: the Soviet Union. 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