Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 –

With An Introduction Read By Max Hastings A Companion Volume To His Best Selling Armageddon, Max Hastings Account Of The Battle For Japan Is A Masterful Military HistoryFeaturing The Most Remarkable Cast Of Commanders The World Has Ever Seen, The Dramatic Battle For Japan Of Was Acted Out Across The Vast Stage Of Asia Imphal And Kohima, Leyte Gulf And Iwo Jima, Okinawa, And The Soviet Assault On ManchuriaIn This Gripping Narrative, Max Hastings Weaves Together The Complex Strands Of An Epic War, Exploring The Military Tactics Behind Some Of The Most Triumphant And Most Horrific Scenes Of The Th Century The Result Is A Masterpiece That Balances The Story Of Command Decisions, Rivalries, And Follies With The Experiences Of Soldiers, Sailors, And Airmen Of All Sides As Only Max Hastings Can

10 thoughts on “Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

  1. says:

    When I was a kid but a kid who loved history my mom got me a ticket for a dinner and lecture featuring World War II pilots speaking about their experiences The thing that struck me then, as it does now, was how hard it was to imagine these old, frail, wrinkled, stooped men as heroes, hale and true One of these men was Chuck Albury, co pilot of a B 29 Superfortress called Bock s Car On August 9, 1945, shortly after 11 00, Bock s Car dropped a single bomb Fat Man from its belly Fat Man exploded 1500 feet above the City In a double clap of light, at least 40,000 people were immolated The discussion about the Bomb was brief, ancillary, and was explained simply as something that had to be done to end the war The dissonance between the nice old man on the dais, and the bomb he dropped, and the destruction it wrought, was never touched upon We have been in a long period of World War II commemoration The ugliness and brutalities of the conflict are often lost amid the platitudes, parades and foreign legion hats Max Hasting s Retribution is focused on the ugliness and brutality It is a companion piece to Armageddon, which detailed the last year of World War II in Europe This sequel in kind tells the horrible, bloody history of the last year of World War II in the Pacific It culminates, of course, in one of the most destructive events ever perpetrated by man the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki I really like Max Hastings I don t always agree with his conclusions, but he is always evocative He takes familiar history and makes you look at it from entirely new angles once you read his books, you feel you have a new understanding, or at the very least, that your mind has been taught to think a little critically Retribution skips the over the beginnings of the Pacific War There is little discussion about the reasons for the war, no analysis of Dutch oil, co prosperity spheres, or missed warnings There is no Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, or Midway Instead, the reader is plunged right into the final, bloody months Burma China Iwo Jima Okinawa the Philippines submarine warfare the bombings of Japan kamikazes the atomic bombs and finally, the surrender on the USS Missouri Hastings is not a great writer, but he does a superb job of deftly limning characters, creating short, compelling sketches of General William Slim, Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita, Admirals Nimitz and Halsey, and General Curtis LeMay Hastings also has time to pound a few nails into the coffin of General Douglas MacArthur s reputation But Hastings doesn t get caught up top Instead, he has done a great deal of primary research on the ordinary soldiers and civilians who lived through this time of course, only the ordinary soldiers and civilians were young enough at the time to be alive for Hastings to do primary research, but I digress The result is a seamless transition from top to bottom to top, where you get the command decisions from the generals and admirals, and then feel the consequences felt by the privates and corporals I wouldn t call Retribution a military history of the Pacific As Hastings states in his forward, he hasn t set out relate the ins and outs of each battle You can a strategic overview, but nothing about the tactics I don t know what you d call this type of book Perhaps historical mood piece You get an unvarnished feel for the war This book is best read by people who already have a working familiarity with the Pacific War It moves quickly and assumes a lot It s good to know the tropes, the currents, the way it all plays out, because there s not a lot of handholding Indeed, there are some interesting chapters on the war in Burma, the fight in China, and especially the post atomic invasion of Manchuria by the Russians However, these are necessarily dealt with swiftly, so you are only getting a nibble of a vaster story Also, by starting at the last year, you lose all the context So, beware you must bring your context with you The thrust of this book is a critical analysis of the battles, decisions, and sacred cows of the Pacific For instance, even while giving credit to John Dower s War Without Mercy, Hastings disagrees with Dower s belief that the savagery of the war came from its racial nature Hastings gives even time to the firebombings of Tokyo and the decision to drop the atomic bombs This takes up the last third of the book, and here I had some quibbles When I first started reading, I knew that Hastings was in the pro bombing camp Now, I ve read Richard Frank s Downfall, which pretty much tears apart the argument that any invasion of Japan was necessary To my surprise, Hastings was in complete agreement with Frank Hastings shows persuasively that Japan was in no condition to repel an invasion Sure, they would have put together their kamikaze corps, their suicide ships, their dogs with bombs strapped to their bellies The reality, though, was that there were only a few and battered planes left no oil to fly them to pilots to pilot them that the suicide ships had failed completely at Okinawa and that the citizenry probably wasn t as gung ho about mass suicide as the military clique thought Besides, American submarines had effectively blockaded the island nation, making it impossible for them to get oil Japan would not have been able to hold out for long Yet, Hastings believes there were still good reasons for the atomic bombs though he is oddly of the belief that the Tokyo firebombings were unnecessary in light of the airtight sub blockade Hastings thinks that the bomb served the twin aims of retributive justice and keeping the Russian bear at bay I m not going to get into a lengthy discussion on this, but suffice it to say, I did not find his moral arguments compelling Hastings is a historian, not a philosopher, and when he starts getting into philosophical arguments, the book just gets muddled It would ve been better if he had delineated a philosophical school and then applied it to these facts Instead, he speaks in moral vagaries, saying that the Japanese had to be punished for starting the war Essentially, the argument is that the brought it on themselves That begs the question how is burning 12 year old school girls, old men and women, infants and invalids, punishment for those who started the war What did they do Is this an argument for collective guilt, such as the Germans were convicted of If so, Hastings should have made that contention, rather than the specious and brutal notion that innocent and ordinary civilians should be crisped by the splitting of atoms for the sins of its political leaders Ironically, I recall that when Doolittle s bombers took off from the Hornet and bombed Tokyo back in 1942, they were told not to bomb the Imperial Palace, which would ve been one way of actually punishing the wrongdoers Apparently, it is passe for one government to try and kill the leaders of the opposing government This is why the British refused to get on board with attempts to assassinate Hitler Isn t that funny in a disgusting way One government has a problem with another government, so they bring fire down upon the civilians who have no say or control over what takes place, as a way to punish that government Maybe John Lennon was on to something Imagine, indeed Anyway, I heartily endorse this book, and all of Max Hastings work It is, at the least, provocative.

  2. says:

    It is perhaps inevitable that an oral historian s honest look at both sides of the fence would penetrate most into a Japanese experience, namely that of a child subjected to non nuclear bombardment Yet it s only one of a thousand bright pieces in Hasting s customary mosaic.

  3. says:

    This is an engrossing book focusing on the last year of the war with Japan At times, there is even some sardonic humour.Mr Hastings makes a strong case for Japan being at fault for needlessly prolonging the war Every battle was to be the last and determining one Saipan, then the Philippines, followed by Iwo Jima then Okinawa The last one would have been Japan proper, where the Japanese people were to drive the invaders from the homeland He also cites the kamikaze volunteers, of which there were thousands in support of this death struggle There was a cult of self immolation that extended from the individual to the entire nation When islands were attacked like Iwo Jima and Okinawa many defenders fought to the bitter end, even though there was no chance to win or escape The Bushido code was anti humanitarian and was responsible for inflicting cruel punishment, rape and death on all the countries occupied by Japan The enmity for Japan exists to this day in countries like China and the Philippines.All the events of the last year of war are well depicted from the American island invasions, the British in Burma, the Chinese mainland where fighting started in 1933 , and even the Russian invasion of Manchuria after the atomic bombs were dropped.Mr Hastings acknowledges the cruelty of the atomic bombs, but argues convincingly that it finally prompted some Japanese to realize the futility of their position The emphasis is on some because, as he points out there was still a significant war faction who wanted the Japanese to continue the final struggle Mr Hastings also states that the onus was on the Japanese with many of their cities in utter devastation to end the war Prior to the dropping of the bombs the Japanese were bargaining futilely with the Russian government to obtain favourable terms from the Allies Mr Hastings discusses at length the ludicrousness of this approach when the Americans had made public the Potsdam Declaration at the end of July 1945 to end the war Japan completely ignored and dismissed the Potsdam Declaration.He looks at these events in the context of 1944 45 not as a retrospective of later years, when we are far removed from six consecutive years of the most brutal war in the history of mankind against relentless enemies Germany and Japan By the summer of 1945 the Allies were not looking forward to an invasion of Japan They were searching for an end game.

  4. says:

    Let me start by pointing out that this is not a book dedicated to a detailed study of offensives, battles and orders of battles This is not this kind of book Instead, Max Hastings dedicates this volume to a sweeping narrative of the last twelve months or so of Second World War in the Pacific in Asia By weaving together a mosaic of personal recollections, accounts of key events and descriptions of prominent personalities he somehow manages to present a surprisingly complete, but perhaps even importanly, remarkably nuanced picture of conflict s final phase Retribution is special in other respects than for its very special narrative style and the way Max Hastings chooses to present this vast tragedy to the reader This volume is to my best knowledge the only single volume about this topic that dedicates as much space to the seemingly never ending war in China, struggle between British and Japanese in Burma and Soviet attack of 1945, as it does to the American drive toward Japanese home islands and bombing offensive against Japan s urban centers That in itself makes this book unique.The most important and admirable quality of Retribution lies however in its relentless, sometimes even scathing critical analysis of events described in this book and people who took part in them, both as nations and individuals It is, for me at least, so very refreshing to read work of an author who isn t afraid to present his own conclusions, even if they will ruffle feathers and raise complaints about their political incorrectness.

  5. says:

    Hastings has much excellent research to present, though too much of it went into the writing and not enough of it into thinking about humanity in general He argues for the true historian s creed, to judge the past based only on what those of the past were presented with, not with what we think they should have done, then proceeds to disgrace this creed by making judgments on some of the most controversial aspects of the American defeat of Japan, the fire bombing of civilians on a mass scale, the use of atomic bombs, by drawing conclusions based solely on what we know now A British, he doesn t write like a brainwashed American on these controversies, but ends up writing in defense just the same which is inexcusable Hastings writes that after Pearl Harbor American command knew from the beginning that Japanese cities would be directly attacked The viciousness and cruelty of Imperial Japan directed against America, which began with Pearl Harbor, had been directed solely against the American military and not its civilians This small point was lost on Curtis LeMay, general for the air force responsible for strategic bombing against civilians, who described his policy as Bomb and burn em till they quit The rape and murder Imperial Japan inflicted on Asian countries was not especially Japanese , as the racial thinking goes, but an example of humanity at large when international order has not been established You couldn t say of the Japanese what one ill educated American boy said about Mount Fuji as seen from the cockpit of one of the Superfortresses, the B 29 It was a beautiful site, and one that very few people will ever witness during the war It was hard to believe that below us lay one of the rottenest countries that ever existed Americans lack of historical understanding has never been better expressed.The world economy had already begun to shift dramatically away from the disastrous European model the moment Hitler invaded Poland so that by late 1942 the American government knew it would be its responsibility to take the reins of free capitalism to try and control and guide it once the war in Europe and Asia concluded Why America felt it was her responsibility how was it that Americans throughout government had the faith and confidence that this would now become the American job is to me one of the most fascinating aspects of this war The administration of FDR in its first two terms, as it was preoccupied with saving its citizenry from free capitalism s destructive forces at home, was isolationist, into regulation and not the kind of unfettered nature the atomic bomb represents The 9 March 1945 American fire bomber attack on Tokyo killed around 100,000 people, and rendered a million homeless. Hastings says that the most astonishing aspect of the new strategic bombing campaign led by LeMay was that it was implemented without reference to the political leadership in Washington He also says there is no documentation to suggest that either Roosevelt or Truman was ever consulted about LeMay s campaign I am almost relieved to hear that, as I have been ready to assign Truman to the depths of hell where LeMay belongs His post war rationalization for this fire bomb attack on Tokyo and other cities We were going after military targets No point in slaughtering civilians for the mere sake of slaughter All you had to do was visit one of those targets after we d roasted it, and the ruins of a multitude of tiny houses, with a drill press sticking up through the wreckage The entire population got into the act and worked to make those airplanes or munitions of war men, women, and children We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and kids when we burned that town Had to be done The tone of the barbaric Had to be done with its inarticulate half thought represents uneducated America at its worst Describing it as the entire population shows how little he knew about the nation he was assigned to defeat, even when he had time to digest what he had done Hastings admits neither LeMay personally nor the air force as an institution welcomed the overwhelming evidence that Japanese industry was already being strangled to death by the naval blockade when the indiscriminate bombing began Hastings argues that once American industry went ahead with creating the B 29 and the atomic bomb, given the Japanese determination to fight to the end and general war weariness on the part of the combatants, the uses of these technologies was inevitable This is not you are there history It is an apologia for technology being the beast that we as human beings can at best only ride so let us ride it LeMay wasn t typical as there were many honorable American leaders in the military But he also wasn t the exception His savagery represents a strain in American life that should be feared by Americans if we are to value our country We can only hope we have individuals of influence involved in the military and civilian nexus such as Brig Bonner Fellers, one of Gen MacArthur s closest aides, who could see what anyone who isn t sycophantic to power could see the American air raids on Japan was one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non combatants in all history If history is to judge those Japanese responsible for the rape of Nanking as war criminals another instance where civilian and military control was severed , then the same should apply to those like Curtis LeMay.

  6. says:

    The Sunday Times review quoted on the cover of my copy compassionate but unsparing in its judgements is about right Hastings is compassionate towards civilians on both sides whose lives were destroyed by the war, as well as common soldiers on both sides exposed to the demented culture of bushido p 465 and unsparing in his criticisms of leaders, also on both sides, who showed such contempt for human suffering.Hastings account of the last year of the Asia Pacific War is comprehensive There are chapters about the British in Burma as so often in wars, brave men were to do fine and hard things in pursuit of a national illusion p 77 chapters about the slaughter meted out by both sides in the Philippines one post war estimate suggests that for every six Manileros murdered by the Japanese defenders, another four died beneath the gunfire of their American liberators Some historians would even reverse that ratio p 256 and chapters about the war in China the principal consequence of the huge Allied commitment was to intensify the miseries of China s people p 240 as well as chapters on prisoners of war, the battles for Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Manchuria, and the fire and atomic bombing of Japanese cities The cumulative effect is rightly, of course grim and horrifying.Hastings is especially concerned to expose the culture of massacre in which the entire Japanese military was complicit pp 256, 595 Even though I thought I was well informed about atrocities committed by the Imperial Army, reading Hastings book made me realize I didn t know the half of it I hadn t known, for example, that at least a million Vietnamese died in their country s great famine of 1944 45, which was directly attributable to Japanese insistence that rice paddies should be replanted with fibre crops for the occupiers use p 13 or that when a cholera epidemic struck Tamil railway workers at Nieke in June 1943, a barracks containing 250 infected men, women and children was simply torched p 375 That culture of massacre was also directed at other Japanese Japan s human catastrophes were crowded into the last months of warduring the futile struggle to avert the inevitable Japan s commanders and political leaders were privy to the desperate nature of their nation s predicament, but most remained implacably unwilling to acknowledge its logic In the last phase, around two million Japanese people paid the price for their rulers blindness, a sacrifice which availed their country nothing p 18 In his chapter on submarine warfare, Hastings notes that the Japanese empire was uniquely vulnerable to blockade Its economy was dependent upon fuel and raw materials shipped from China, Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies p 289 Thus by 1945, there was overwhelming evidence that Japanese industry was already being strangled to death by the American naval blockade when B 29 bombs began to fall upon it that aerial bombardment in the last five months of the war contributed little towards the destruction of Japan s warmaking powers p 334 In Hastings conclusion, he argues that wartime Japan was responsible for almost as many deaths in Asia as was Nazi Germany in Europe p 598 and thus Japan should pay reparations to its victims, as Germany and Austria have This reader was convinced.

  7. says:

    I believe this is the first World War II history I ve read that was written by a non American author It was a revelation to me Max Hastings confines himself to the last year of WWII in the Pacific, the campaign against Japan But when I say confines, I don t wish to be misleading this history is enormous in scope, because Hastings doesn t limit himself to the history most Americans know He explores the entirety of the final year of the war in the Pacific, from mid 1944 to the war s end in 1945 from the actions of the Japanese in the countries they had invaded and occupied to the American re invasion of the Philippines and the Navy s island by island advance including details of diplomatic, espionage and intelligence, ground, sea, and air operations to the British campaigns in Burma and Malaya the actions of the nationalist and communist armies in China the Australians reluctant participation the Russian invasion of Manchuria, North Korea, and Sakalin Island and as always, the relentless jockeying for supremacy between military services and rival allied military leaders.Hasting s history is peppered with quotes and statements from people who were there interviews, memoirs, diary entries, letters home from participants of all nations, enemy and allied, from refugees to enslaved Chinese peasants to women abducted to serve as comfort girls, from battlefield grunts and sailors to generals and admirals, from diplomats to heads of state.Hastings work is scholarly and thorough, yet anything but dry This was one of the most engaging war histories I have ever read, and probably due to my own American myopia, full of things I didn t know I swear, I learned something new on almost every page Here s a taste to whet your appetite when US Army soldiers went ashore on Okinawa, during the brief lull before the Japanese began firing back, enterprising troops sewed up fake Japanese flags from parachute silk, shot them to create bullet holes, and sold them as war souvenirs to the sailors of the invasion fleet You have to love learning things like that, right I sure did.Beyond these fascinating details, Hastings puts you into the mindset of the decision makers of the time, helping you to understand why they took the actions they did by explaining what they knew at the time, minus the benefit of hindsight One understands, after reading this history, why allied military forces showed little mercy to the Japanese, why the people of Japanese occupied countries hate and fear the Japanese to this day, and why American military and political leaders undertook the firebombing of Japanese cities, and later, the employment of atomic bombs Max Hastings has written a companion WWII history covering the last year of the allied campaign against the Nazis It is titled Armageddon I will certainly read it, and soon.

  8. says:

    highly idiosyncratic for sure hastings hates douglas macarthur, chiang kai shek and bull halsey and most japanese people , loves william slim, and like the rest of us feels a reverent but dirty awe for hap arnold, the same awe one feels regarding jose canseco or kim kardashian great vocabulary, though it s marred by repeated, clustered use of guesstimate and gratuitous puns involving haversack deeply scarring are at least a dozen grotesque grammatical errors they seem damning of the history copyediting complex in its entirety i mean, this is not a technical book, or a serial romance, or the ravings of some southern newspaper columnist regarding the nighttime vociferousness of Varsity chilidawgs it s an acclaimed historian and his invisible dog team of grad students, and surely well bearded copyeditors versed in military history and the Queen s English both froth we ll see how Armageddon goes.points for nice coverage of the Soviets Manchurian excursions following Hiroshima, detailed coverage of Burma and the Hump, the unimportance of Leyte Gulf, graphic and intense coverage of island battles, and repeated emphasis on the central oversight of Pacific Command island hoppers ought have leaped faster the majority of japanese garrisons were utterly immaterial also, no nauseating anti Bomb platitudes hottest woman on earth i brook no disagreement the 1988 A s remain the greatest team of all time, nevermind shitty stupid herschieser and his LA slimfast dodgers

  9. says:

    This is a remarkable book, worth reading even for those who consider themselves knowledgeable about World War II in the Pacific It is part strategic overview, part biography of key leaders, part oral history by the soldiers and civilians who lived through it, and part discussion of the decision making processes that led, ultimately, to the use of the atomic bombs The different parts fit together well, each reinforcing the other in complicated cause and effect sequences.The suffering was appalling Those who have read other histories of the war might have become inured to the huge numbers of deaths, but Max Hastings retells them in a way that gives shocking immediacy What makes them even worse is that now, in hindsight, we can tell that so many of them were unnecessary As Hastings points out, all the suffering and bloodshed in India and Burma were a sideshow to the main campaigns, and did not bring the war one day closer to ending The fighting there was as much a fight against historical forces as against the Japanese, a last ditch effort to try to ensure the continuation of colonialism after the war For those who want to know about this murderous theater, I highly recommend George MacDonald Fraser s Quartered Safe Out Here, which manages to transcend its time and become something of an evocation of the eternal soldier slogging his way from one fight to the next, knowing nothing about strategy and caring for nothing but his comrades, his equipment, and his next meal The situation in China would have been comical if it had not been so tragic The Nationalist warlords seemed to vie with one another to see who could be the most corrupt and incompetent, even to the point of selling food and equipment to the Japanese As the Allied forces hammered away at Japan island by island, only in China did their empire continue to expand, because the Nationalists could not, and would not fight It was a disgraceful performance, but it happened for a reason Chiang Kai Shek know that his real battle would come after the Japanese where defeated, when he would face the Communists, so he was happy to take the Americans money and equipment, promise results and not deliver, and wait for the fighting to end Mao s communists, on the other hand, were barely in the war at all Aside from a few inconsequential harassing attacks they left the Japanese alone, who in turn ignored them Mao too knew that his real fight would come after the Japanese had left.The passage of decades has lent a feeling of moral equivalence to the war, as in Yes, the Japanese did some bad things, but the Americans dropped the bomb It is, of course, far complicated than that, and Hastings does an excellent job examining the situation from all angles First, he points out, The British, French and Dutch had much to be ashamed of in their behaviour towards their own Asian subject peoples Nothing they had done, however, remotely matched the extremes, or the murderous cruelty, of Japan s imperialists The Japanese acted with astounding barbarity everywhere they went, absolutely convinced that they were so superior that no other peoples were of any concern to them In trying to understand the decisions that led to massive Japanese civilian casualties, Hastings says, considering the later U.S firebombing of Japan and decision to bomb Hiroshima, it is useful to recall that by the spring of 1945 the American nation knew what the Japanese had done in Manila The killing of innocents clearly represented not the chance of war, nor unauthorised actions by wanton enemy soldiers, but an ethic of massacre at one with events in Nanjing in 1937, and with similar deeds across Asia In the face of evidence from so many different times, places, units and circumstances, it became impossible for Japan s leaders credibly to deny systematic inhumanity as gross as that of the Nazis And the fighting went on, island by murderous island The fighting on Iwo Jima was nightmarish in its brutality The Japanese position was hopeless, but they were dug in and well prepared, and the U.S Marines had to advance step by step across open ground covered by pre registered mortar and artillery positions, with overlapping fields of machine gun fire John Shively s The Last Lieutenant recounts the story of a young Marine who landed on Iwo with his 41 man platoon After 28 days, and having received 19 replacements, only 10 men were left his platoon had taken 50 casualties, 20 of them dead The standard histories of World War II take it for granted that the conquest of Iwo Jima was essential, but Hastings takes another look at it Some historians highlight a simple statistic American aircrew landed safely on its airstrips in damaged or fuelless B 29s than Marines died in seizing it This calculation of profit and loss, first offered after the battle to assuage public anger about the cost of taking Iwo Jima, ignores the obvious fact that, if the strips had not been there, fuel margins would have been increased, some aircraft would have reached the Marianas, some crews could have been rescued from the sea Even if Iwo Jima had remained in Japanese hands, it could have contributed little further service to the homeland s air defence The Americans made no important use of its bases for offensive operations.The campaign to retake the Philippines comes across as one long disaster for everyone, the Americans, the Japanese, and especially the civilians caught in the fighting No general of the Second World War has seen his reputation fall as far as MacArthur, and Hastings considers him unfit for his position, saying he displayed a taste for fantasy quite unsuited to a field commander, together with ambition close to megalomania and consistently poor judgement as a picker of subordinates He shamelessly manipulated communiqu s about his forces achievements, personally selected photographs of himself for press release, deprived subordinates of credit for successes, shrugged off his own responsibility for failures.His management of the fighting on Leyte was preposterous, and might seem farcical except for the enormous suffering that ensued He was incapable of admitting a mistake, and over time his mental state started to be called into question MacArthur s belief that his critics were not merely wrong, but evil, verged on derangement He claimed to perceive a crooked streak in both Marshall and Eisenhower, two of the most honourable men in American public service The entire grotesque battle can be summed up with, Leyte proved a worse defeat than the Japanese need have suffered, a substantial victory than MacArthur deserved By this point it was obvious how the war was going to end, so why did it go on Japanese leadership believed they had one last trump card to play They believed that their ability to extract a huge blood price from their enemy before succumbing represented a formidable bargaining chip Instead, of course, this helped to undo them It seems irrelevant to debate the merits of rival guesstimates for Olympic s U.S casualties 63,000, 193,000, a million What was not in doubt was that invading Japan would involve a large loss of American lives, which nobody wished to accept Blockade and firebombing had already created conditions in which invasion would probably be unnecessary Given the ferocity with which they had defended Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the American casualties they had extracted, it was not surprising that the thought of having to take the Japanese homeland street by street in similar fashion was something the Americans were keen to avoid However, It is now widely acknowledged that Olympic would almost certainly have been unnecessary Japan was tottering and would soon have starved Richard Frank, author of an outstanding modern study of the fall of the Japanese empire, goes further He finds it unthinkable that the United States would have accepted the blood cost of invading Kyushu, in light of radio intelligence about Japanese strength Before getting into the final act of the war, the Australian contribution should be mentioned After performing magnificently in North Africa their troops were recalled home, where they spent the rest of the war contributing little other than occasionally being sent off on pointless expeditions, such as rooting out bypassed Japanese garrisons which were incapable of doing any significant damage, and were starving to death anyway It was a sorry case of poor generals, pusillanimous politicians, and labor troubles that were positively harmful to the war effort dock workers would not, for instance, work when it rained The question of whether the atomic bombs should have been dropped has been debated endlessly It is easy for us, decades later, so sit around and moralize about whether it was right or wrong, but given the constraints that Truman and his advisers were under, it is had to believe that they could have come to any other decision Japan had been behaving barbarously since the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and its atrocities had become widely know Its treatment of Allied prisoners, its brutality in Manila, and its insistence on fighting to the death at all times meant there was little support for treating them as worthy of dignified surrender terms Some historians, not all of them Japanese, argue that Japan s leaders represented a significantly lesser baseness and certainly not one which deserved the atomic bomb Few of those Asians who experienced Japanese conquest, however, and knew of the millions of deaths which it encompassed, believed that Japan possessed any superior claim on Allied forbearance to that of Germany.The Japanese government still believed that they could get generous peace terms that would allow them to keep Manchuria and Korea, and that could protect their leaders from war crimes trials conducted by the Allies As for the military, in those days the conduct of its leaders was extraordinary They seemed to care nothing for the welfare of Japan s people, everything for their perverted concept of personal honour and that of the institution to which they belonged They insisted that the country must fight to the death, not only the soldiers, but the civilians as well, whether they wanted to or not Even senior leaders who were willing to discuss peace had to publicly declare for continued war, to avoid being murdered by their own fanatical subordinates.Dropping the atomic bombs was brutal, but was it justified Even without an invasion of Japan, it is likely that many lives would have been lost in the end by bringing the war to a conventional end.Considering the plight of civilians and captives, dying in thousands daily under Japanese occupation, together with the casualties that would have been incurred had the Soviets been provoked into maintaining their advance across mainland China, almost any scenario suggests that far people of many nationalities would have died in the course of even a few further weeks of war than were killed by the atomic bombs Stalin would almost certainly have seized Hokkaido, with his usual indifference to losses Robert Newman suggests that 250,000 deaths would have occurred in every further month the war continued Even if this is excessive, it addresses a plausible range of numbers Starvation and LeMay s fire raisers would have killed hundreds of thousands Japanese by the late autumn of 1945 Such an assertion does not immediately render the detonations of the atomic bombs acceptable acts It merely emphasises the fact that the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by no means represented the worst outcome of the war for the Japanese people, far less for the world.And finally, there is the question of the Soviets and their invasion in August 1945 Interestingly, they were there because the Americans had repeatedly asked for them Through the winter of 1944 45, with increasing urgency Washington solicited Russian participation in the war against Japan Stalin was willing to participate, after Germany had been defeated but he demanded territory in return By the time the Russians were ready to attack the Americans were close to winning the war, and wanted to draw things to a close before the Soviets could intervene, but that was not to be In fact, had the war not ended when it did, post war Asia would probably have seen Japan divided just as Korea and Vietnam were, and we know how well that turned out I t is a matter of fact that when Stalin s armies attacked in August, the Soviet leader held open the option of seizing Hokkaido, and almost certainly would have done so had Japanese resistance persisted Some argue that the atomic bombs were unnecessary even without an invasion of the Japanese homeland Some say that it was the Soviet intervention that brought about the surrender, and the bombs were unnecessary As Hastings points out, even with both the bombs and the Soviets, the Japanese would still have fought to the death without the intervention of their emperor, a feckless weakling who performed the one noble feat of his life Historians have expended much ink upon measuring the comparative influence of the atomic bombs against that of Soviet intervention in persuading Japan to surrender This seems a sterile exercise, since it is plain that both played their parts For Japan s civilian politicians, asserts Japanese historian Kazutoshi Hando, the dropping of the atomic bombs was the last straw For the Japanese army, it was the Russian invasion of Manchuria This book should be considered essential reading for anyone with an interest in World War II.

  10. says:

    This is a very good analysis of the last year of WWII in the Pacific Hastings goes into detail about the Burma Campaign, the war in China, the Battle of Leyte, and the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Russian invasion of Manchuria He balances the narrative by explaining the higher level view and then quoting from soldiers on what they were experiencing during the battles My favorite part of the book was his analysis towards the end in which he laid out how Japan finally capitulated Highly recommended for those interested in a thorough analysis of the end of the War in the Pacific.