In this ambitious and highly praised study of the “triangular relations” between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan, the author traces President Truman’s alleged “race” to force Japan to surrender with the atomic bomb before Stalin could enter the Pacific War. The book is rich in interesting details, especially on the Soviet side, but it is marred by one-sided interpretations and contradictions.
In the first place, the author’s attempt to build the whole book on the theme of the “race” between the two leaders does not quite come through. He admits that the “race” did not get under way until after 21 July 1945, when Truman, attending the Potsdam Conference, received Major General Leslie R. Groves’ report of the successful detonation of a plutonium device. Hasegawa quotes from the President’s diary: “[Stalin] will be in the Jap War on August 15th. Fini Japs when that comes about.” (p.138) But this entry does not betray any sense of urgency about “the race to see who could force Japan to surrender”. On the contrary, the President seemed rather pleased with Stalin’s promise to join the war in mid-August. This notwithstanding, Hasegawa asserts that “the race between Soviet entry into the war and the atomic bomb now reached its climax”. He immediately contradicts himself. On 23 July Truman asked Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to find out “whether [General George C.] Marshall felt that we [needed] the Russians in the war”, and on the following day Stimson replied that Soviet assistance was no longer needed. So, it turns out, Hasegawa’s “race” began only on 24 July and lasted for a bare two weeks until the Soviets won the “race” and entered the war on 8 August. These two weeks are not long enough to sustain Hasegawa’s thesis.
Truman’s all consuming purpose was to defeat Japan as soon as possible with the minimum cost in American lives. For Hasegawa his primary aim was to win the “race” and forestall Soviet entry into the war and its expansion in the Far East. For this purpose, the author says, it was imperative to use the atomic bomb before Japan surrendered, so the United States rigidly adhered to the unconditional surrender demand. Wistfully Hasegawa deplores that a promise of a constitutional monarchy would have “tipped the delicate balance” in favor of Japan’s peace party, but he ignores the absolute opposition of the military to surrender of any sort.
Chapter 5 (“The Atomic Bombs and the Soviet Entry into War”), the heart of the book, presents an extremely one-sided view. Hasegawa claims that “there is no convincing evidence to show that the Hiroshima bomb had a direct and immediate impact on Japan’s decision to surrender”. (p.186) Yes, there is ample evidence, but he ignores it. According to Shusen shiroku (4: 57–58), a documentary collection that is as reliable a source as any and that Hasegawa uses when convenient, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori proposed at the Cabinet meeting of 7 August that surrender be considered at once on the basis of the Potsdam Declaration (on one condition that the Emperor system remain), but the meeting came to no decision. Hasegawa repeats ad nauseam that the Hiroshima bomb did not change the situation, but he quotes the Emperor as telling Togo: “Now that such a new weapon has appeared .... my wish is to make such arrangements as to end the war as soon as possible.” (p.185) In reality, the effect of the bomb was shattering and it galvanized the peace party.
The author’s central thesis is: “Indeed, [the] Soviet attack, not the Hiroshima bomb, convinced political leaders to end the war by accepting the Potsdam Proclamation.” (p.199) He gives no evidence for the primacy of Soviet entry in the decision for surrender, except for the well-known fact that it dashed Japan’s last hope of Soviet mediation. (He makes no use of new Japanese sources.) Hasegawa magnifies the shock effect of Soviet entry by claiming that it was not expected “right up to the moment of attack” and that it “caught the army by complete surprise”. But again he contradicts himself by quoting Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro as telling Chief Cabinet Secretary Sakomizu Hisatsune: “What we feared has finally come.” (p.197) If there had been a complete surprise attack, it was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima which came as a great shock.
The author assumes that just because the Big Six (the top Japanese leaders) heatedly contested surrender on the basis of the Potsdam Declaration on the day after Soviet entry, the latter event must have had the greatest impact. Without belittling the importance of Soviet entry, the analyst must measure the cumulative effect of the Soviet entry into the war on the heels of the Hiroshima bomb. It never occurs to Hasegawa that Soviet entry, coming as it did when the bomb had already shaken Japan’s ruling elite badly, reinforced their determination to surrender. It is revealing that Kido later testified: “I believe that with the atomic bomb alone we could have brought the war to an end, but the Soviet entry into the war made it that much easier.” Hasegawa tells us twice how “important” it was that while the Imperial Rescript of 15 August announcing the surrender mentioned the atomic bomb, the rescript of August 17, specifically addressed to soldiers and officers, mentioned only Soviet entry. The reason is simple: for soldiers, scattered all over China and Southeast Asia, the atomic bomb would have been an abstraction beyond their understanding, whereas Soviet entry was a reality they could readily understand. While Soviet entry was important for implementing the surrender order, the atomic bomb was the crucial factor in the decision to surrender.
Hasegawa’s counterfactuals are far-fetched and contradictory. On the one hand, he says “even without the atomic bombs, the war most likely would have ended shortly after Soviet entry into war – before November 1”, which was the date scheduled for the Allied invasion of Japan. (Are the intervening 85 days to be regarded as a “short” timespan?) On the other hand, “Without the Soviet entry into the war [but with the two atomic bombs], the Japanese would have continued to fight until numerous atomic bombs, a successful allied invasion of the home islands, or continued aerial bombardments, combined with a naval blockade, rendered them incapable of doing so.” (p.298) Thus Hasegawa both minimizes and maximizes Japan’s reserve fighting strength. In effect, he seems to be saying that Soviet entry saved Japan from total national ruin.
In his conclusion Hasegawa claims to have buried the “myth” that the atomic bomb gave Tokyo “the knock-out punch”, a myth that serves “to justify Truman’s decision and ease the collective American conscience”. Or does it? Robert Jay Lifton’s and Greg Mitchell’s Hiroshima in America suggests that the problem of “American conscience” goes deeper than that. Hasegawa challenges Americans squarely to face “moral responsibility”. “Do we have the courage to overcome the legacies of the war.” Which legacies? Such moral tenderness at the end of the story is strangely incongruous with the body of the book in which the author apparently delights in exposing “cat and mouse” games, “Machiavellian” and “duplicitous maneuvers,” and mutual “deception” between Stalin and Truman, between Stalin and Japanese, and between the peace party and war party in Japan. Suddenly taking on an Olympian posture, Hasegawa declares: “This is a story with no heroes but no real villains, either – just men.” (p.302) Pious words, but this comes close to placing President Harry S. Truman, a plain-speaking “man from Missouri,” on the same “moral” plane as Generalissimo Joseph Stalin (and Japanese warlords), and I for one find it difficult to identify with such a moral equation.
PROFESSOR SADAO ASADA
Professor [Emeritus] of International History,
Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan)
Journal of Strategic Studies, т. 29, №3 (June 2006), стр. 565-9
текст в сети есть здесь: http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/28318.html
Третья рецензия -- в Sadao Asada, "Culture shock and Japanese-American relations: historical essays", University of Missouri Press, 2007, стр. 203-206.
Еще одна рецензия -- Michael Kort, "Racing the Enemy: A Critical Look" // ed. R.J. Maddox, "Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism", University of Missouri Press, 2007, стр. 190-197.