What If the Japanese Had Refused to Surrender?

By the summer season of 1945, Japan had, by each cheap customary, misplaced the conflict. The American juggernaut had destroyed its navy, breached its island defenses, choked its financial system, and firebombed its cities. But the Japanese authorities approached the query of give up with nice trepidation, partially as a result of any transfer to capitulate would doubtless set off a navy coup d’état.

Actually, an tried coup is precisely what occurred. Though little recognized to Individuals, most Japanese are accustomed to the incident because of the 1967 movie Japan’s Longest Day, which is usually broadcast on the anniversary of Japan’s give up. The movie has at its coronary heart the efforts of a cabal of younger military employees officers to steer a number of key commanders to overthrow the federal government and proceed the conflict. Its central character is Japan’s military minister, Gen. Korechika Anami (performed by actor Toshiro Mifune, typically known as Japan’s John Wayne), who sympathized with the employees officers however finally blocked the coup. However what if Anami had determined to affix the coup as a substitute?


Actually, Anami strongly opposed the concept of succumbing to the Allied demand for unconditional give up, even after the shattering occasions of early August 1945 — the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict on Aug. 8, and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9. He and two different members of Japan’s Supreme Warfare Council most well-liked to proceed combating — not within the hope of profitable the conflict, however fairly to break the enemy sufficient to realize a negotiated give up that might protect the kokutai, or the establishment of the emperor. The opposite half of the council—the international minister, navy minister, and prime minister Kantaro Suzuki — favored give up.

Finally, in what turned generally known as his “sacred choice,” Emperor Hirohito threw his ethical weight behind these in favor of capitulating. On Aug. 10, the Japanese authorities indicated its acceptance of the Allied demand for unconditional give up, with the “understanding” that this didn’t “comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.” The Allied response got here again a day later. In response to the Japanese authorities’s proviso, it replied that from the second of give up “the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Authorities to rule the state shall be topic” to the Allied Supreme Commander — a phrasing that was at greatest ambiguous in regards to the preservation of the kokutai.


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Though the Japanese authorities tried to maintain the negotiation with the Allies secret, it was quickly found by six officers occupying key positions throughout the navy bureau of the military ministry. They hatched a plan to isolate the present authorities and place the true energy instantly within the palms of the military, notably Anami. The officers didn’t regard themselves as disloyal to the emperor; fairly, they thought of him misled by “defeatists” in excessive locations, and thought their increased responsibility lay in assuring the kokutai.

Their plan trusted the cooperation of the Imperial Guards Division, which protected the palace, and the Jap District Military, which managed Tokyo and its environs. Gen. Takeshi Mori led the previous, whereas Gen. Shizuichi Tanaka commanded the latter. Their help was essential. The plotters’ probabilities can be significantly improved if they may additionally achieve the help of Anami and the military chief of employees, Yoshijiro Umezu.

The plotters approached Anami on Aug. 12; he managed to delay the plan’s execution by 24 essential hours. Throughout that point, he quietly alerted Mori and Tanaka to the potential of an rebellion, and the Suzuki cupboard, joined by the emperor, determined to give up with out additional negotiation.

However Anami’s stance towards the plotters was so sympathetic that almost all of them believed he may but come to their facet, they usually put their plan in movement. On Aug. 15 the plotters approached Gen. Mori. Discovering him intransigent, they shot him and dispatched false orders over his signature. Parts of the Imperial Guards Division surrounded the palace, isolating Hirohito. Troopers entered the workplaces of the Imperial Family Company and fruitlessly ransacked it seeking the recording of the imperial decree of give up. In the meantime, Gen. Tanaka discovered of their efforts, rushed to the palace, and stopped the plot in its tracks by exposing Mori’s alleged orders as fraudulent. The conspirators then killed themselves.


The result might need been totally different had Anami given his full help to the plotters. In that situation, Anami joins the plot on Aug. 12. He goes to Umezu, the military chief of employees, directly. Umezu initially resists the concept, however, sure that the plan will succeed with Anami’s help, agrees to go together with it. The coup begins as initially scheduled at midnight on Aug. 13–14. Each Mori and Tanaka oppose the plot, as they did traditionally, and each are assassinated. The Imperial Guards Division accepts the solid orders as real, particularly since each Anami and Umezu endorse them, and isolates the palace. The Jap District Military declares martial legislation.

Key members of the peace faction are positioned in “protecting custody,” preempting the cupboard’s means to debate the Allied response to the preliminary give up provide. Hirohito, remoted throughout the palace, has no alternative to affect occasions. He has no constitutional energy to behave anyway, save to ratify a cabinet-level choice, and an imperial decree can be pointless anyway. Certainly, as a navy authorities coalesces round Anami, Hirohito might need gone alongside reluctantly with this new growth. The navy authorities makes clear to the Allies that Japan will proceed to withstand.


Anami and others assume that continued resistance will make future negotiations extra favorable towards the Japanese. However what the Japanese cupboard had feared now turns into actuality: the Allies are not open to negotiation. And it’s onerous to see how the brand new navy authorities, as soon as put in, may ever reverse its choice to proceed the conflict, irrespective of how antagonistic the chain of subsequent occasions.

By shunting apart Hirohito in favor of an summary loyalty to the kokutai, the plotters would have set a precedent that any group of diehards may have exploited thereafter. In accordance with the logic that undergirded the unique coup, anybody throughout the authorities who breathed a phrase about give up could possibly be arrested or assassinated by those that wished to struggle on. With no political means to finish the conflict, the battle would have continued till Japan’s navy means to withstand was fully destroyed, with tens of millions extra lifeless in consequence.


None of this occurred, nonetheless, as a result of Anami positioned loyalty to the emperor first. But his conduct between Aug. 12 and Aug. 15 — his temporizing with the fanatical younger officers, his refusal to denounce them outright or safe their arrest — suggests an intense inside battle. On Aug. 15, 1945, the identical day that Hirohito broadcasted the information of the Japanese give up, Anami rebuffed a ultimate try by his brother-in-law to affix the plot. He then knelt, ritually disemboweled himself within the act of seppuku, and plunged a knife into his neck in an unsuccessful try to sever the carotid artery. His brother-in-law helped him full the act, then positioned on his physique two valedictory poems that Anami had composed. Considered one of them learn, “Believing firmly that our sacred land shall by no means perish, I — with my demise — humbly apologize to the Emperor for the good crime.”

To today, nobody is aware of to what crime he referred; maybe it was the temptation he had felt to affix the plotters and defy his emperor.

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