The Manhattan Project


"...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn\'t necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
- Dwight Eisenhower, reflecting on his meeting with Secretary of War Stimson; Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63

"...the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face \'prompt and utter destruction.\' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General\'s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary."
- William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 512.
* * *
Japan\'s attack of Pearl Harbor was a pre-emptive strike towards a complacent United States, one that the American people wouldn\'t allow to go unavenged. It\'s military officers were responsible for the beating, starvation, and cruel treatment of American P.O.W\'s. And it\'s people had been whipped into a bloodthirst that had coerced them into “[abandoning] all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare.” These were the three elements behind President Truman\'s public justification of the atomic bomb, as they were broadcasted on the night of the Nagasaki attack, August 9th, 1945.
These were the feelings that encouraged the manner in which the bomb question was handled: a manner where the desire for a swift and conclusive fix not only clouded the ability of the American administration to look into its\' alternatives, but also lead them to put deadly little energy into how they managed their diplomatic front with Japan. Japan, it should be known, had been attempting to end the war (it had already lost, really) as early as July 22 of \'45. The reason it kept fighting so ardently, even to the point of training its citizenry how to fight with bamboo spears, was not neccessarily out of fear of surrender. It was out of a fear of *unconditional* surrender, the fear that Japan would lose it\'s emperor, a condition to which not even Japan\'s ample peace movement could not agree to. We know from hindsight that when MacArthur came to carry out the democratization of Japan he did it following the *condition* of preserving the throne. So, we may have found a much more favorable resolution to the Second World War if the Truman administration had only placed more consideration into exactly how *conditionless* our “unconditional surrender” really was, for it is clear that the root of the bomb question comes from the ambiguity of this powerful term.
The Potsdam Proclamation is the prime trigger for the Japanese fear of losing the sacrosanct Emperor, a figure whom the Japanese revered as a god. Several clauses, particuarly the one “There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest,” made very little attempt to assure the Japanese people that ”unconditional surrender” did not mean the dismantlement of the Imperial structure. Fearing this precise sort of reaction, Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote a memo to President Truman on July 2nd which read: “I personally think that if in saying [the aforementioned clause] we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance.” This line, the constituional monarchy line, never made it past the Presidents desk, however, and was absent from the Potsdam Proclamation due to the superior influence that State Department had in the arena of foreign policy. Men such as Secretary of State Byrnes and Dean Acheson were moreso focused on an assertive and militarily driven method of policy, and thus dismissed the constitutional moncarchy line in favor of satisfying American public opinion, to which they\'d been listening to most stringently since Pearl Harbor. As American statesmen, no one can blame them, but it ought to be known that Dean Acheson later admitted: “I very shortly came to see that I was quite wrong.” (Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation, pg. 112-113).
The result of this dangerous