Already in the spring of 1940, German forces had overrun much of Western Europe and had pushed the British Expeditionary Force out of Dunkirk and back to Britain. This, other voices said, might touch off a war with the United States, Great Britain, and Holland. Let’s recap the conventionally accepted account of how the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world finally came to an end. Garon attributes Japan’s delayed surrender to military intransigence and diplomatic incompetence, a dithering that subjected Japan to needless devastation. The fact is, the complicated period between the fall of Hitler and the fall of Japan haven’t received as much mass media attention as it deserves. Essentially, a strong Russian force of about 20 infantry divisions massed on the border of Japan’s puppet state, Manchukuo—formerly Manchuria—to prevent any Japanese incursions. The standard argument in favour of US President Truman’s decision to drop the bombs has always been that, by unleashing such devastating force, the president avoided an even more devastating ground war that might have gone for many more months, taking untold numbers of Allied lives. ©2020 AETN UK. These seemingly easy successes in Europe whetted the Japanese leaders’ appetite for an aggressive strike against their perceived Western foes. Not only that, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki have taken on an almost religious significance in the world’s consciousness – both because of the huge loss of civilian lives, and because of how these attacks signalled the beginning of a new and terrifying era in world history. But what if Stimson was wrong? The Japanese believed the issue settled. The Japanese had a low opinion of Russian military prowess, anyway. It ensured the end of World War II as much as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did, yet it is often ignored in Western studies of the war. Many requests—at Tehran, Yalta, and most recently at Potsdam—had been made for Russia to enter the war against Japan. Neville Chamberlain: heroic peacemaker or pathetic pushover? The Russians countered, sending more troops as well. This is the standard take on the fall of Japan. There had already been a rain of ruin, and it hadn’t changed the Japanese game-plan. As historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa puts it, “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow's mediation.”. US bomber crews could smell charred flesh as they flew over the firestorms. So when President Truman, hinting at the nuclear attacks to come, said that the Japanese could “expect a rain of ruin from the air” if they didn’t surrender, it wasn’t really much of a threat. Although a giant in terms of land mass and population, China was viewed by most Japanese leaders in the 1930s and 1940s as a weak and largely defenseless area ripe for colonization and exploitation. Stalin decided that he had had enough of Japanese provocations. Even if it did, it might not force Japan’s surrender without a full-scale invasion of the Home Islands. Finally, the local Japanese division commander launched an attack on his own, claiming that the Russians were digging defensive positions within Japanese territory. The Imperial Japanese Army was particularly interested in showcasing its skills. The Soviets could focus on taking on the Nazis without worrying about being attacked on the other side by Japan, while the Japanese were free to concentrate on their brutal battles with the US. Even major events like annihilation of Tokyo in March 1945 are still not common knowledge, while the decisive Soviet invasion of 9 August is completely overshadowed by the Nagasaki attack that same day. It inflicted a serious body blow, but it was hardly a knock-out punch.”. It was not the first, nor would it be the last time that the Kwantung Army started a war all on its own. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of the Terms and Conditions, The lives of Hitler and Stalin: Two sides of the same coin, Historic Photographer of the Year Award Winners - 2020. Indeed, during this crisis the leaders of the Kwantung Army seriously discussed prospects of bringing down the current Japanese government should it interfere with their operations. This left the Kwantung Army with inadequately trained and equipped forces should any enemy suddenly appear. The Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and the more recent Stalinist purges of his own military hierarchy, simply reinforced an already established prejudice. And that man was Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. But that approval did not come, infuriating the Kwantung Army leaders. Until 9 August, they held out hope that the Soviets, as a neutral party, could help them negotiate the best deal with the US. The battle in the Pacific had already distinguished itself by its horror and brutality, and the prospect of a full-scale ground invasion of Japan – a new D-Day – was nerve-jangling for millions of Allied soldiers. Could it really be possible that, all these decades later, after so many countless books, films, textbooks and TV documentaries, we’ve got the final days of World War Two all wrong? The resulting battles, which lasted into August 1939, cost the Japanese between 18,000 and 23,000 casualties and achieved nothing in terms of additional territory. As the war rolled on, both the Americans and British were fully engaged in battle in North Africa, Italy, northwestern Europe, and the Pacific. While events like Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the D-Day landings, not to mention the controversial Allied attacks on Dresden, have all received plenty of media attention, the only thing most of us know about the endgame in Japan is that it saw the beginning of the nuclear age. It inflicted a serious body blow, but it was hardly a knock-out punch.”. The results, of course, were the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake Island, and other American, British, French, and Dutch territories in the Pacific. As a result, he agreed to declare war on Japan within three months after Germany surrendered. The joint U.S.-British effort to develop an atomic bomb was a well-kept secret, and there was no proof that it would work. The Nomonhan Incident was much more like a full-scale war than Changkufeng. The Japanese, by now fully involved in the so-called “China Incident,” ignored the threat. Emperor Hirohito’s citation of the “new and most cruel bomb” in his spe… The “traditionalist school” accepts the explanation given by President Truman, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and others in the government in the aftermath of the war. So says eminent historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. In April 1941, to cool the pot, a nonaggression pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Japan. On August 9 1945 another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki bring the Japanese to surrender. Although it had no official name to the Japanese, it has become known in the West as Operation August Storm. Diplomacy eventually settled the dispute, but the Japanese were unpleasantly surprised by the force and volume of the Russian military response. And yet, it can convincingly be argued that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not hugely important in the context of Japan in 1945. There were no significant incidents and no struggles with the Russians. But the Army itself was being bled by the needs of the Imperial Japanese Army rampaging across the Pacific. As the situation in China deteriorated, the Japanese Army used a series of staged provocations to eventually invade and seize Manchuria. Japanese militarists saw the civil war in China between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao Tse-tung’s Communists as an opportunity for a place at the imperialist table and a slice of the Chinese pie, and thus decided to invade China, Manchuria, and Korea. Challenging the widely accepted orthodox view that the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the most decisive factor in Japan's decision to surrender, ending World War II in the Pacific Hasegawa puts forward the view that the Soviet entry into the war by breaking of the Neutrality Pact played a more important role than the atomic bombs in Japan's surrender decision.” Repeated clashes between border-guard units finally erupted into open warfare on May 11, 1939. To prevent further Russian action, the Japanese ordered a more aggressive border security policy for all their units.

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