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From WFC are five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts. We present Japan 1868 through 1968. This year has been officially designated as the centennial of the beginning of the modernization of Japan and this is the ninth of a series of broadcasts with John M. Markey professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of today's broadcast is Japan and the atomic bomb. Professor Markey the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 was a tactical achievement of great brilliance. On the other hand it was a strategic blunder of the first magnitude. There was no doubt as to the tactical success tactical in the broadest possible sense of the term of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It temporarily crippled the United States Pacific Fleet. It inflicted
grave casualties on the American Navy and it in a very real sense opened the door for Japan's real objective which was not of course to occupy the Hawaiian islands although some strategists have even raised the question as to whether or not Japan should not have attacked that key American outpost in the Pacific. What the Japanese wanted to do was to drive into Southeastern Asia and simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor there was let loose against the Philippines against Indochina Indonesia and Malaya. A very broad attack which in the space of actually a few weeks brought all of that area under Japanese control. Now the reason why the Japanese were eager in indeed driven to take this step was twofold. The Japanese wanted to drive from Asia any remnant
of allied military power to get the weak American forces out of the Philippines the British out of Hong Kong and South China out of Malaya and to bring the French forces into Indochina completely under there the Japanese domination and of course the Dutch had weak forces in Indonesia. But also and even more importantly from the Japanese point of view control over all of this vast area meant control over vitally important sources of strategic war materials. Tin for one thing. Iron ore for another supplies of coal for still another natural rubber in Malaya and above all petroleum to provide the fuel both for the Army and Navy and also for the Air Force. The Japanese felt that once they occupied this vast area they would one have control over the strategic materials and to be able to
funnel them back into Japan into Japan's industrial structure. It didn't turn out the weapons that would be necessary to defend this vast area. Now as I mentioned earlier the Japanese in a sense were driven to this act one to the attack on Pearl Harbor and to the involvement of the country in a war with the United States. No the reason was very simple. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor Japan had been involved in a major war against China for almost four and a half years. And this it had obviously caused a very considerable drain on the Japanese economy. In addition as I pointed out in an earlier broadcast they lined up the military lined up the diplomatic lined up in world affairs. That is roughly the two and a half years of the Second World War was such that there was this direct confrontation between the axis
Alliance which Japan was a principal power and the United States and the European nations that the United States had allied itself with the negotiations in Washington from April into late November of 1941 had demonstrated as I emphasized earlier the fact that it was impossible for the United States to accept the Japanese position in a ship and it was equally impossible for Japan to accept the American position. Not only in Asia but again on the whole broad stage of world affairs. Now on the other hand as I mentioned at the beginning this was a strategic blunder of the first order and for a very simple and obvious reason namely it created the United States as an enemy a fighting enemy against Japan an enemy that had a military potential that Japan simply could not hope to match.
Now also the very success of the attack on Pearl Harbor achieved something else that the Japanese obviously had not intended. And that is that almost instantaneously it created a broad national unity inside the United States. Now in spite of the fact that the United States government had adopted a policy that was directed very much against the Axis alliance and despite the fact that this policy had broad popular support in the United States there was still a very great deal of feeling within the country that the United States should not get involved in any way in the second world war. The familiar current of isolationism which would characterize American policy since the early 1920s. But this attack on Pearl Harbor its treachery on the day that will live in infamy. To use FDR a
phrase was of such a nature that immediately almost all Americans felt that they had to stand together not only against the Japanese anime but against the Axis alliance itself. So consequently this. Well both psychological and political unification of the United States gave added weight to the military potential of the United States. Now as I emphasized earlier one reason why Japan had been so well in mentally successful in its resort to military force as an instrument of national policy was the simple fact that from 1895 onward Japan had not been confronted with a strong military enemy. But this attack on Pearl Harbor transformed the broad strategic position of Japan immediately and as things turned out disastrously for Japan.
Now initially that is to say in the period of roughly six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor it seemed as if Japan had long last reached the ultimate payoff in its career of military aggression. By early June of 1942 Japan controlled an almost unbelievable extent of land and sea. Some of you may recall that the Japan Japanese forces in the spring of 1042 actually occupied what was by any definition American territory. That is to say two of the islands in the Aleutian chain stretching westward from Alaska. Now from the far northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean namely the Aleutian Islands Japanese control extended Southwest word through the western half of the Pacific Ocean
through the Philippines Indonesia Southeastern Asia large areas in China as I emphasized earlier. Clear to the borders of India itself. Now even if the Japanese had had to fight no battles at all in occupying this territory this would still have been a very impressive achievement. Now the Japanese had to liquidate allied strength in Southeastern Asia particularly but again with the fall of the Philippines in the spring of 1940 to this objective was achieved. As a matter of fact to hear again was a manifestation of the extremely favorable position that Japan had enjoyed strategically namely again the overall weakness of the western of the allied military presence in Asia in the beginning stages of the war. Now on the other hand the tide of war begin to
shift gradually and almost imperceptibly against Japan almost from the very moment of the Japanese achievement of what seemed to be the ultimate in its career of military aggression. Now also a nother military development of very great significance although it was largely unheard of at that time because of the blanket of secrecy that surrounded it was the beginning of a very effective if American campaign of submarine warfare against the Japanese shipping. Now this was meant to achieve a very obvious goal namely to deny Japan access to the raw materials that Japan thought it had brought under its control in the initial stages of the war. By the summer of. In 1944 it was perfectly clear that Japan had
lost whatever military initiative it had gained and that was very considerable in early 1042 and was already a force back on the defensive. And it was perfectly clear that Japan had no hope of winning the war and no hope of emerging from the war in a favorable position. On the other hand it was impossible to determine when that war would come to an end. Now as far as Japan was concerned the decisive stage of the war began early in 1945 when Japan was for the first time brought under massive allied meaning American really air attack by say June of 1945. Both Japan and the United States were confronted with fundamental questions. The American problem was simply how to end the war without an invasion of Japan.
The Japanese problem was also how to end the war but on what the Japanese would regard as reasonable terms. A very great deal has been said about the use of the atomic bombs against Japan about the American decision to use those bombs. And I am not going to go into a discussion of this fascinating problem. It will be a problem bitterly debated for many many years. What I would like to do is simply to read what two very wise men have had to say about this decision. First I am going to read a passage from the memoirs of Henry L. Stimson entitled on active service in peace and war. It was Mr. Stimpson who was a secretary of war during the Second World War and was the man who perhaps had played
a key role who did play a key role in the decision to use the bomb against Japan. And ironically this was the same Henry L. Stimson who was responsible for the Stimson doctrine back in 1932 that as I emphasized in an earlier broadcast was the policy position that the United States adhered to in its relations for almost 10 years with Japan. Writing about a year after Earth the decision had been made and Mr. Stimson said this. Two great nations were approaching contact in a fight to a finish which would begin on November one thousand nine hundred forty five. Our enemy Japan commanded forces of somewhat over five million armed men. None of those armies had already inflicted upon us in our break through the outer perimeter of their defenses. Over three hundred thousand battle casualties. And the Army still unbeaten had the strength to cost us a million more. A
million casualties that is killed or wounded and captured. As long as the Japanese government refused to surrender we should be forced to take and hold the ground and smale the Japanese ground armies by close in fighting of the same desperate and costly kind that we had faced in the Pacific Islands for nearly four years and then later on Mr. Stimson wrote my chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise in the light of the alternatives which on a fair estimate were open to us. I believe that no man in our position and subject to our responsibilities ording in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives could have failed to use it and afterwards look his countrymen in the face. I would like to add here that Mr. Stimson was also aware of
what a costly invasion would mean to the Japanese. And so in spite of the passage that I just read his concern was not simply with the saving of American lives but with the saving of Japanese lives as well. Now finally Mr. Stimson in looking back at this decision had this to say. As I read over what I have written I am aware that much of it in this year of peace may have a harsh and unfeeling sound. It would perhaps be possible to say the same things and to say them more gently but I do not think it would be wise. As I look back over the five years of my service as secretary of war I see too many stern and heart rending decisions to be willing to pretend that war is anything else than what it is. The face of war is the face of death. Death isn't an inevitable part of every
order that a wartime leader gives the decision to use the atomic bomb was a decision that brought death to over a hundred thousand Japanese. No explanation can change that fact and I do not wish to gloss it over but this deliberate premeditated destruction was our least abhorrent choice. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to the Japanese war. It stopped the fire raids and the strangling blockade. It ended the ghastly specter of a clash of great land armies. In this last great action of the Second World War we were given a final proof that war is death. War in the 20th century has grown steadily more barbarous more destructive more debased in all its aspects. Now with the release of atomic energy man's ability to destroy himself is very nearly complete.
The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended a war. They also made it wholly clear that we must never have another war. This is the lesson men and leaders everywhere must learn. And I believe that when they learn it they will find a way to lasting peace. There is no other choice. And Lester old Mr Henry L. Stimson regarding what the historical decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan. In my opinion the best study of the decision to use the bomb is by Herbert Feis and the book in its second version is entitled The atomic bomb and the end of World War 2. A Mr. face was not involved in the decision to drop the bomb. But like many serious men thoughtful men he
became very much interested in this problem and he wrote which in my opinion is the most detailed study to date of the manner in which the decision was made. What I would like to do is simply to read Mr Feist says. The concluding remarks about the use of the atomic bombs because I think it is about the most thoughtful analysis of many aspects of the action that has so far been set down. Mr. Feist writes as follows. In summary it can be concluded that the decision to drop the bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki ought not to be censored. The reasons were. Under the circumstances of the time weighty and valid enough. But a cluster of worrisome queries remain which the passage of time has coated with greater political ethical and historical
interest. One of these whether or not the desired quick surrender could have been induced if the American government had been more explicit in its explanation of how the Japanese people and the Emperor would fare after surrender was considered in the preceding chapter. Another which has often been asked is why ten days were allowed to pass between the receipt of information regarding the results of the test of the bomb and the issuance of our final warning. I think the delay was due to an intent to be sure that if the warning was at first unheated it could be driven quickly and deeply honed by the bombs. Thus we waited until we knew all was in readiness to drop them. These tactics worked but. I wonder whether it might not have been wiser to issue the warning sooner and thus to have allowed the Japanese authorities more time to ponder its meaning and acceptability. I think it not out of the question
that if allowed say another fortnight the Emperor might have imposed his final decision before the bomb was set for use. However because of the blinding fury and pride of the fighting men meaning the Japanese fighting men it is unlikely he hardly would have dared to do so until the explosion of the atomic bomb destroyed the argument that Japan could secure a better peace if it continued to refuse to surrender unconditionally. And Mr. Feist continues but what if the American government had fully revealed the results of the New Mexico test to the Japanese and the whole world. Could that have induced the desired quick surrender. The most promising time for situ revelations would have been in connection with the issuance of the Potsdam declaration for by then the American air assaults and naval bombardments were spreading happens everywhere and most Japanese were aware they had no way of countering them. No good idea of how to survive them.
Supposed to be more precise. The American government had published the reports on the test which were sent by General Groves to Potsdam for Simpson and the president. Such photographs of the explosion and of the mushroom cloud and the testimony of scientists of the weapon that were available might not that broadcast knowledge prefaced by an explanation that one of our purposes was to spare the Japanese have had enough shock effect to cause the Emperor to overrule the resistant Japanese military leaders. But Mr Feis wonders he says but in order to make the disclosure as impressive as possible it might have been necessary to postpone the issuance of the final warning perhaps until the end of the Potsdam conference. The test was July 16th. It would have taken time to assemble convincing accounts and photographs and explanation. This postponement might have prolonged slightly the period of combat.
However in retrospect I believe that the risk should have been taken and the cost endured for by so doing this we might have been spared the need to introduce atomic weapons into war in the likely event that the Japanese would not have been swayed by this explicit warning of what would happen to them if they rejected our ultimatum. We as a people would be freer of any regret. I will not say remorse at the necessity of enrolling Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the annals of history. And then he concludes. But the mind circling upon itself returns to the point of wondering whether if the exterminating power of the bomb had not been actually displayed the nations would have been impelled to make even as faltering an effort as they have to agree on measures to save themselves from mutual extinction by this ultimate weapon. In a novel published in 1914
H.G. Wells prophesied that nations would not recognize the impossibility of war until the atomic bomb burst in their fumbling hands. No two great wars later it remains entirely uncertain whether they will bow before its imperative and thus for old Mr. Herbert Feis on the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Now the Japanese were confronted with a very difficult problem namely how to bring to an end a war that was obviously already lost. I would like to point out here only that it took the two atomic bombs Plus the Soviet declaration of war on Japan almost simultaneously with the second of the bombs to force the Japanese to make the decision to surrender. And even so almost a week had to elapse before that
decision was finally made. To conclude what I would like to do is to read the so-called imperial rescript on the end of the war they rescript that the Emperor Emperor Hirohito broadcast to his people at noon on August 14 1945 to our good and loyal subjects. After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our government to communicate to the governments of the United States Great Britain China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration. To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay
close to heart. Indeed we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self preservation and the stabilization of East Asia. It being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone the gallant fighting of military and naval forces the diligence and it of our servants of the state and the devoted service of our 100 million people the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage. While the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight. It
would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case how are we to save the millions of our subjects. Or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors. This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers. And then finally the Emperor's rescript on the acceptance of the surrender terms concludes having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the imperial state. We are always with you our good and loyal subjects relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Be aware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation ever firm in its face of the imperishable ness of its divine land and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude Foster nobility of spirit and work with resolution. So is she may and hence the innate glory of the imperial state and keep pace with the progress of the world. Thus spoke the Emperor to his nation by radio at noon on August 14th the Japanese time of 1945. And what he was doing in effect was announcing the end of one chapter and all too familiar and a ghastly chapter of modern Japanese history and introducing a new and unknown one.
You have just heard a broadcast on the topic. Japan and the atomic bomb on the ninth of a series titled Japan 1868 through 968 with Johnny Markey professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of the next broadcast in this series is the occupation of Japan Japan 1868 through 968 comes to you from WFC are five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Japan: 1868-1968
Japan and the A-Bomb
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WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Four College Radio
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Producing Organization: WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Producing Organization: Four College Radio
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-35-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “Japan: 1868-1968; Japan and the A-Bomb,” 1968-11-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “Japan: 1868-1968; Japan and the A-Bomb.” 1968-11-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: Japan: 1868-1968; Japan and the A-Bomb. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from