Case History: Planning the End of the War Against Japan

Military planning in OPD during the later war years, particularly in the last six months of hostilities, reflected the many adjustments the command post had made to the new problems of 1943, 1944, and 1945. Aside from pursuing the BOLERO/OVERLORD issue to the very end, Army planners during this period had to face the most momentous question still unanswered in World War II strategy, that is, how to defeat Japan. Fundamentally the situation was the same one that had engendered the original BOLERO plan in 1942. A powerful enemy had become firmly entrenched in a vast area. The war in Europe, at least until Germany had been defeated, required the husbanding of limited resources. The utmost efforts of many agencies in several nations had to be geared together in the interest of speed and economy. In these circumstances, OPD began to press for a decision that would permit the concentration of forces for an early, decisive attack on Japan. Just as in 1942, 0PD's strategists and operations officers collaborated in the later war years to make planning consistent and yet imaginative as well as both practical and timely. OPD had to work through the committee and conference network toward some kind of strategic plan acceptable to General Marshall and to the Army commanders in the field. OPD also had to direct the deployment of U. S. Army troops to the theaters months before operations could begin.

The techniques of military planning in the later war years, unlike its objectives, had changed since 1942, and OPD's staff work showed it. In the first place, in 1944 and 1945 the Joint War Plans Committee was initiating many of the new studies on military operations, while the overseas theater headquarters staffs, whose ideas on projected operations were based on steadily accumulating experience, had an increasing amount of influence. In the second place, the Army Air Forces more and more often were advancing independent views in joint discussions, even though these usually had been threshed out in advance with OPD, and it was coming to exercise more direct control over Air operations. In the third place, American planners on all the higher staffs and committees, above all in OPD, had learned to feel out the position of their British "opposite numbers" in an effort to anticipate and minimize the difficulties in the way of firm agreement. In the fourth place, these same planners could turn to qualified staffs and standing committees in the field of logistics for critical analysis of strategic studies, and recognized the need for doing so. In the fifth place, finally, the planners recognized that wartime military


strategy had to be tailored to fit the rest of national policy, especially foreign policy.

The military plans for the end of the war against Japan took shape very slowly. Most of them were drafted during the last twelve months of hostilities and were ground out by the complicated Washington planning machinery that had been set up by that time. OPD officers continued to have influence in military planning, but the Division usually expressed its point of view indirectly through the JLC, the JPS, or the JCS. This procedure was the logical development of planning in a joint coalition war. The new machinery produced results, but it tended to produce them slowly, not so much because of its own weaknesses as because of the magnitude and complexity of the problems. In addition to the normal uncertainties in planning, there were such basic factors limiting progress as the unknown date of the end of the European campaigns and the delicacy of trying to achieve a compromise or resolution of the Army-Navy (SWPA-POA) deadlock on operations north of the PhilIppines. Only a staff with interests as broad and authority as great as OPD's could attempt to tie all the elements of military planning together and call the result strategy or policy.

What OPD was able to do was to participate in nearly every phase of Washington staff preparations for redeployment to the Pacific after the defeat of Germany, draft the outline plans for the guidance of theater staffs in planning final operations in the Pacific, and hurriedly improvise the first plans for the surrender and occupation of Japan. Much of this planning was never tested by operations in the way that the strategy OPD recommended in 1942 had been tested. Much of it was altered materially, or entirely superseded by the events which followed in rapid sequence after the experimental use of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in mid-July 1945. The first of these was the Potsdam decision to use the atomic bomb, the second, the bombing of Hiroshimo and Nagasaki (6 and 9 August, Japanese time), and the third, the surrender of Japan (14 August, Eastern Standard time).

Initial American Strategy1

American strategy in the war against Japan necessarily remained shapeless and vague long after the crystallization of the main lines of thought about defeating Germany. Through 1942 and early in 1943 long-range strategic planning for Pacific and Far Eastern operations was compounded of approximately equal parts of tactical opportunism and abstract geopolitical theory. At the beginning of 1943 the tactical opportunism, operating for the most part within the limitations of a general defensive strategy in the Pacific, had brought about the campaigns in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. At that time Admiral King at Casablanca restated the geopolitical abstraction which constituted the main justification in military terms for keeping China in the war and for establishing an American command in the China-Burma-India area: "In the European theater Russia was most advantageously placed for dealing with Germany in view of her geographical position and manpower; in the Pacific, China bore a similar relation to the Japanese. It should be our basic policy


to provide the manpower resources of Russia and China with the necessary equipment to enable them to fight." 2 Beyond this point, there were as many theories about future strategy as there were separate staffs in Washington and separate commands in the Pacific and Far East. Official approved strategy as of early 1943 went no further.

During 1943, without any clear repudiation of the previous trend of planning, a new strategic concept gradually emerged in Washington planning. Planning officers in OPD and on the JWPC began urging a "firm decision" and an "early decision" about "an over-all plan of campaign against Japan." 3 The character of the over-all plan developed slowly in response to a number of interdependent factors. The most complicated political and administrative situation in which the U. S. Army operated in World War II was prolonging interminably the organization of Allied ground forces for campaigns in Burma or China. Early island operations in the Pacific, together with the beginning of the gradual reorganization of American fleets around the new, fast aircraft carriers, attracted attention to the naval route to Japan through the island chains of the central Pacific. The new VLR bomber, the B-29, proved to be capable of operating at a range that would let it strike at the Japanese home islands from bases in the Marianas as well as from China, where the bases were originally planned. The British Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister continued to be reluctant to schedule major operations in Burma, the overland road to China, but instead favored throwing the weight of their effort in the Far East toward the Netherlands East Indies and Singapore.

Planning for American operations against Japan gradually came to center east of Singapore, to include the Marianas in one main line of approach, and to converge on what was usually called the Formosa-Luzon area. An air campaign in China was approved by President Roosevelt and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. A ground campaign in China was not definitely ruled out. Some kind of operation in Burma remained on the planning schedule. The American advance from the Southwest Pacific was to continue until it brought General MacArthur's forces to within striking distance of the Formosa-Luzon objective. A great many questions about the ultimate defeat of Japan were left unanswered, but by the end of 1943 American planners favored and the CCS had approved in principle as a basis for future planning that the main avenue of approach to Japan would be across the Pacific Ocean rather than from the Asiatic mainland.4 General Handy advised General Marshall in December 1943, a few days before the CCS approved the over-all plan for the defeat of Japan:

This paper in effect agrees to put the main effort of the war against Japan in the Pacific. It does not attempt to establish at this time any long range main effort within the Pacific area. A great advantage of the plan is its flexibility in allowing the Joint Chiefs at any time to create a main effort by the commitment of forces to one or the other axis. It also, of course, allows the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take advantage of the situation as it develops. By accepting this paper, we leave all discussions of the merits of the Central and Southwest Pacific to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.5


Underlying the decision in favor of the Pacific approach to Japan was an assumption that forced American planners to push their strategic thinking one step further in 1944. It had been implicit in CCS decisions on the Pacific war since the Casablanca Conference, and it was stated explicitly in QUADRANT, when the President, the Prime Minister, and the CCS agreed: "From every point of view operations should be framed to force the defeat of Japan as soon as possible after the defeat of Germany. Planning should be on the basis of accomplishing this within twelve months of that event."6 Both determination and hope to defeat Japan quickly received a powerful reinforcement shortly afterwards by the Soviet commitment at SEXTANT to join in the war in the Far East.

The necessity of planning for a speedy conquest of Japan, with speed defined in terms of months rather than years, made it imperative for staff officers to come to grips with the question of how to end the war against Japan. Earlier in the war, with limited forces a great distance from Tokyo, a hedging statement would suffice. Thus the JCS presented and the CCS "noted" at Casablanca the following convictions:

The ultimate defeat of Japan proper will be accomplished by measures which greatly. resemble those which would be effective against the British Isles—blockade (attack on ships and shipping), bombing (attack on forces, defenses, industries, and morale), and assault (attack via the sea). Of these measures, attacks on ships and shipping along enemy lines of communications are inherent in all offensive operations; it is our purpose during 1943 to work toward positions from which Japan can be attacked by land based air; assault on Japan is remote and may well not be found necessary.7

Once the CCS had approved plans for an advance to the Formosa-Luzon area and had clipped the Pacific timetable to fit a target end date of twelve months after the collapse of Germany, concrete planning for the decisive operation was in order.8 OPD officers in particular, since they would have to redeploy and organize assault forces long in advance of any full-scale attack, had to get a ruling on whether or not invasion of the Japanese home islands would be necessary.

During 1944 the Washington planners threshed out this last major issue in Pacific strategy. By March the JCS had issued definite instructions to the Pacific commands for the dual advance, with General MacArthur's forces moving to the southern Philippines and Admiral Nimitz' forces moving to the Marianas and Palaus, to culminate in a major operation somewhere in the Formosa-Luzon area by February 1945.9 Every American military agency had good reason to want to know what that major operation would be and where it would lead. The Army Air Forces in particular had an urgent practical need to proceed at once to a decision on the projected employment of air and ground forces in the ultimate defeat of Japan.10 As a


result of General Arnold's urging, the wheels of the joint planning machinery began to turn. The JWPC and the JSSC began studying the issue of where to go in the Formosa-Luzon area, and where to go from there.11

As early as April 1944 OPD's Strategy Section had formulated the basic stand which, after a number of adjustments and refinements in subsidiary recommendations, the Army adopted in joint discussions. In the simplest terms, as originally phrased in the Strategy Section, it was: "a. The collapse of Japan as a result of blockade and air bombardment alone is very doubtful. b. The collapse of Japan can be assured only by invasion of Japan proper." 12 Some of the Army Air Forces staff officers reacted to this statement of Strategy Section views promptly, vigorously, and adversely. Among many pointed criticisms of the paper, these critics stated most emphatically, first, that it made insufficient allowance for the possible effects of strategic blockade, and bombardment, and second, that JCS and CCS strategy so far had been directed at bringing about the collapse of Japan "by other means than invasion, while preparing for invasion as an ultimate alternative requirement." 13 The comment on previous strategy was correct, but OPD officers presented two reasons why that strategy was no longer practicable under the twelve-month victory assumption:

The fact that future operations beyond Formosa must be planned and resources for them gathered. This probably will require six months.

The increasing pressure by the British to be allowed to participate in the planning for the Pacific war. It is mandatory that the United States determine the strategy and plan the operations as soon as possible so that its position is settled before the next United States-British conference.14

While this exchange of ideas did not reflect any basic disagreement between General Marshall and General Arnold or between the Army planner and the Air planner, it called attention to the fact that it was becoming more and more urgent either to decide that blockade and bombardment definitely would bring about the collapse of Japan or to begin preparing for an invasion of the home islands.

Early in June the JWPC finished its inquiry into Pacific strategy and issued a comprehensive study, JPS 476, entitled "Operations Against Japan, Subsequent to Formosa."15 It incorporated the essential point made by OPD's Strategy Section officers about the necessity to develop plans for an early invasion of Japan proper. In fact it proceeded well beyond the Strategy Section's original position and came out with a detailed strategic study outlining a series of campaigns leading to an assault on the Tokyo Plain by the end of 1945. The study as a whole was a compromise, incorporating recommendations and suggestions made by Ground, Air, and Navy.

The JWPC pointed out in JPS 476 that the present and projected rate of advance of the increasingly strong American forces


in the Pacific gave solid grounds for expecting to reach the "Inner Zone defense of Japan" by the spring of 1945. In the light of this fact, the JWPC concluded that the over-all strategy approved by the CCS at SEXTANT, extending only to the perimeter of the Formosa-Luzon area, was inadequate. The committee observed, in reference to this strategy:

It reflects the fact that we were a long distance from Japan at that time and that our future operational plans were somewhat vague. It implies that it is quite possible to defeat Japan without an invasion. We consider this to be an overly optimistic attitude. While the bombing and blockade of japan will have a considerable effect upon Japanese morale and their ability to continue the war, there is little reason to believe that such action alone is certain to result in the early unconditional surrender of Japan.

While taking pains to recognize that it might be possible to "defeat Japan by aerial bombing and blockade, accompanied by destruction of her sea and air forces," the JWPC concluded that this strategy "probably would involve an unacceptable delay in forcing unconditional surrender" and therefore recommended that "our concept of operations against Japan, subsequent to a lodgment in Formosa, should envisage an invasion of the industrial heart of Japan." Restated in JPS 476 accordingly, the concept would then be:

To force the unconditional surrender of Japan by:
(1) Lowering Japanese ability and will to resist by establishing sea and air blockades, conducting intensive air bombardment, and destroying Japanese air and naval strength.
(2) Invading and seizing objectives in the industrial heart of Japan.

The JWPC further recommended, irrespective of CCS approval of this restatement of the over-all objective, that the JCS approve it "as a basis for planning by agencies of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and War and Navy Departments."

The JWPC also proposed a schedule of operations in harmony with this new strategic concept. Operations striking directly at the Japanese home islands in 1945 were outlined in three phases. In the first (1 April-30 June 1945), American forces would seize the Bonins and the Ryukyus and launch an assault on the central China coast in the Ningpo (Hangchow Bay) area. The second phase (30 June-30 September 1945) would be occupied with consolidation and initial exploitation of these positions, and the third phase (30 September-31 December 1945) would bring American forces ashore on Kyushu, 1 October, and on the Tokyo Plain (Honshu), 31 December.

After committee discussion, during which Brig. Gen. William W. Bessell, Jr., the senior Army member of the JWPC, explained that the selection of Kyushu as the first target in the home islands was tentative, and emphasized the need to orient operations toward the final attack on the Tokyo Plain by giving "theater commanders an idea of the diminishing importance of the China coast," the Joint Staff Planners approved JPS 476 for submission to the JCS.16

As the Joint Staff Planners noted in forwarding the study, the joint staff was examining the possibility of accelerated operations bypassing Formosa entirely and moving directly to Japan proper.17 On the basis of the JWPC study and the Joint Staff Planners recommendation, the JCS proposed to the CCS, 11 July 1944, to revise


the over-all objective, on the following basis:

Our successes to date, our present superiority in air and sea forces, and the prospective availability of forces following the defeat of Germany, lead us to believe that our concept of operations against Japan following Formosa should envisage an invasion into the industrial heart of Japan. While it may be possible to defeat Japan by sustained aerial bombardment and the destruction of her sea and air forces, this would probably involve an unacceptable delay.18

As General Marshall explained, during initial CCS discussion of the proposal:

It was now clear to the U. S. Chiefs of Staff that, in order to finish the war with the Japanese quickly, it will be necessary to invade the industrial heart of Japan. The means for this action were not available when the over-all concept had been originally discussed. It is now, however, within our power to do this and and the U. S. Chiefs of Staff feel that our intention to undertake it should be appropriately indicated.19

The initial success of the OVERLORD assault was encouraging hopes of rapid progress of the war in Europe while the JCS was considering the new strategic plan. By the time the British Chiefs of Staff were ready to act at the end of July, the battle for Saint-Lô was over and American forces were beginning their great break-through in Normandy. The British chiefs, through their representatives in Washington, accepted the JCS view on 29 July 1944, subject to assurance that the change in Pacific strategy would not affect existing agreements giving priority to operations in Europe nor constitute implied authorization for specific operations in the Pacific not already approved by the CCS.20 Finally, at OCTAGON in September, the CCS formally incorporated in combined strategy the new definition of the over-all objective of the war against Japan and, at the same time, approved for planning purposes a new schedule of operations incorporating the 1945 campaigns ending with Kyushu in October and the Tokyo Plain in December.21

At the end of 1944, then, although many critical and controversial problems remained to be solved within the general pattern, the main lines of strategy in the Pacific were fixed. The military staff could turn attention to the many related issues, ranging from logistic preparations for the assault to politico-military terms on which the war might be brought to end within the limits of the unconditional surrender policy. Army officers were very much aware that the task of inflicting a decisive defeat on Japan, whose army was believed to be stronger than at the outset of the War, was not easy. OPD emphasized this point, even while urging the necessity of invading Japan, and also emphasized the importance of economizing life and resources. A long study written at the end of September 1944 for the Under Secretary of War, at his request, on the implications of the new broad strategy of the war against Japan, concluded:

Summing up, we find that the problem of attacking Japan with forces based in China presents logistic problems far greater than


anything yet attempted in this war. To attack japan from the sea with an amphibious force means transporting hundreds of thousands of men and vast quantities of supplies some thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean with only small islands at which staging or mounting can be effected. To those who vividly remember the difficulty of landing on the Normandy beaches, only some fifty miles across the Channel from the base in Britain, the magnitude of this problem is apparent.22

Planning for a Prolonged Pacific War

The late 1944 period of optimism about the early collapse of German resistance, in which planning for the early invasion of Japan took place, diminished at the end of September when the Allied airborne army failed to hold a bridgehead across the lower Rhine, and definitely ended with the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes in December. The S&P compilation of papers for use by planners and the Chief of Staff at ARGONAUT advanced the same plans for the defeat of Japan that had been drawn up in September 1944, but pointed out that the critical operations, Kyushu and Tokyo Plain, had not been approved except for planning purposes and that because of the "estimated lengthening of the war in Europe, it is anticipated that the tempo of operations in the Pacific will have to be decreased." 23 At ARGONAUT General Marshall and Admiral King reported that plans were ready for an attack on Kyushu and Honshu in 1945, but that these plans depended on redeployment from Europe, which would require from four to six months.24

The CCS and the heads of government approved a policy designed, "upon the defeat of Germany," to "bring about at the earliest possible date the unconditional surrender of Japan." They also approved as one of the basic undertakings related to this strategy the continuation of operations leading to the "earliest practicable invasion of Japan." Their common emphasis on a speedy defeat of Japan was tempered by a conservative official estimate of the time at which it would come. They recommended that for planning purposes the date for the end of the war against Japan be eighteen months after the defeat of Germany which they set at sometime after 1 July 1945. These dates of course were conservatively selected to provide a safe yardstick for logistic planning and were in no sense predictions. Finally, they took note of the strategic ideas about the Pacific war, evolved during the previous six months and amalgamated in a single ARGONAUT paper.25

This ARGONAUT planning paper stated that the agreed objective in the war against Japan was to force unconditional surrender, first, by lowering Japanese ability and will to resist by establishing sea and air blockades, conducting intensive air bombardment, and destroying Japanese air and naval strength; and second, by invading and seizing objectives in the industrial heart of Japan. The paper then reported that the JCS, which had primary strategic responsibility for Pacific operations, had adopted a plan of operations against Japan. First, intensification of the blockade and air


bombardment of Japan would create a situation favorable to an assault on Kyushu; second, the Kyushu operation would further reduce Japanese capabilities and further intensify blockade and air bombardment, thus establishing a tactical condition favorable to the decisive invasion of the industrial heart of Japan through the Tokyo Plain.

At the last ARGONAUT meeting Prime Minister Churchill suggested that after the defeat of Germany an ultimatum should be issued to Japan directing them to surrender unconditionally. He suggested that some mitigation in the Allied attitude toward Japan "would be worth while if it led to the saving of a year and a half of a war in which so much blood and treasure would be poured out." However, he hastened to add, "Great Britain would not press for any mitigation but would be content to abide by the judgment of the United States." President Roosevelt agreed that an ultimatum should be considered, but declared that he "doubted whether the ultimatum would have much effect on the Japanese, who did not seem to realize what was going on in the world outside, and still seemed to think that they might get a satisfactory compromise." 26 Despite the President's skepticism about the results of an ultimatum and the clear implication of the statements of both the Prime Minister and the President that mitigation did not mean a compromise peace satisfactory to the Japanese, the whole problem of the possibility of Japanese surrender received a great deal of attention in the following months.

The Army planning staff continued to emphasize the need for being prepared at any time to reorient American plans without delay toward the Pacific, even though 1 July 1945 had been adopted by the CCS as a date to be used in making logistic preparations. The Army planner, General Lincoln, left special instructions on this point, before departing on the round-the-world planning survey in February 1945, for Col. Thomas D. Roberts, who was to represent him on the Joint Staff Planners during his absence:

At the JCS meeting today Admiral King made a comment on the CCS decision to accept 1 July as a planning date which is the earliest the war is likely to end. His remark indicated that in his mind we would now consider that the Pacific War would be planned on the basis of the European War lasting until 1 July or thereafter.

The fallacy is, of course, evident to you. These planning dates for the end of the war were selected at the request of the British for use of their civilian and logistical people and administrative purposes.

You may find it necessary in the Planners before I get back to edit papers rigidly with a view to maintaining our stand that we must be prepared to switch at once to the Pacific any day from today forward since there is a possibility, increasing with every week, that this war in Europe may fold up ahead of 1 July.27

Nevertheless, the planners, while recognizing the need for flexibility, began to readjust their scheduling of operations to take account of the unexpected duration of the war against Germany. The Kyushu and Honshu operations clearly had to be postponed. Notes prepared in S&P pointed out that the "continuation of the war in Europe made the planning dates for Kyushu and Honshu unrealistic." These notes warned: "We may thus be forced from our 'invasion' strategy into a 'blockade' strategy, at least temporarily, by our inability to assemble


forces required." 28 In March OPD drafted a message for General MacArthur succinctly summarizing the new planning schedule then being worked out as a result of the necessity of decelerating in the Pacific: "CORONET [Tokyo Plain] will be the decisive operation against Japan and will be concurrently supported and assisted by continuation of OLYMPIC [Kyushu]. . . . Based on assumption the European war ends by 1 July 1945, planning is aimed at making possible target dates for OLYMPIC and CORONET of 1 December 1945 and 1 March 1946 respectively." 29

In mid-March 1945 OPD's senior representative on the JWPC noted: "It seems at last to be acknowledged that the ultimate defeat of Japan will require the invasion of Japan proper and the defeat of her ground forces there." 30 Nevertheless, some of the American planners were still inclined to prolong the period of time before the decisive invasion in order to give the Japanese a chance to feel the effect of the sea-air blockade.31 At this time the inference was less that the Japanese would surrender under the influence of the air-sea blockade than that the ground forces should not be sent ashore before the full weight of the naval and aerial campaign had been brought to bear. No one clearly went on record in formal discussions as believing that any method of attack would end the war very quickly, although the Army Air Forces and Navy air planners almost certainly retained more optimistic private views about the effects of bombardment than the ground force officers held. Thus the detailed operational planning that later brought about the concentrated and coordinated bombardment of the Japanese home islands by Army Air Forces B-29's and naval fast carrier task groups began in March, but the language used indicated merely that the bombardment should be conceived as undertaken "in order to create the most favorable situation in the shortest possible time for an amphibious assault against Japan proper." 32

Similarly, American planners who were busy evaluating the degree of possibility of Japanese surrender before a "decisive invasion" of the home islands showed no conviction that there was any probability requiring immediate preparations.33 In February 1945 Col. Robert J. Wood of OPD had raised the possibility that the Japanese might conceivably collapse or surrender about V-E Day and that no advance planning to take care of such an eventuality had been done.34 However, his own group in OPD, in considering some "proposals respecting surrender documents for Japan" drawn up by the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee about that time, declared that urgency was not apparent.35


The limits of such disagreement as existed about the possibility of Japanese surrender were defined in a Joint Intelligence Committee paper on the war in the Pacific. It developed at length the idea that a "clarification of Allied intentions with regard to the Japanese nation might bring nearer the possibility of unconditional surrender [and that] . . . there is a possibility that some constitutional Japanese central government, backed by the Emperor, may seek and accept a rationalized version of unconditional surrender before the end of 1945." This date, the end of 1945, was the extreme range of optimism officially expressed at this time. This fact gave momentum to the effort to find a formula which would be acceptable to the Allies and yet cause Japan to surrender before the invasion of Japan proper. The paper went on to say, in connection with this optimistic interpretation of the time factor: "For planning purposes, however, it is obviously impossible to count upon such a development, and it is more probable that unconditional surrender could not be forced upon the Japanese before the middle of the latter part of 1946, if then, as a result of air-sea blockade and air attacks alone." The contribution of this paper to the resolution of differences of opinion about the results of the air-sea blockade and air attacks was a clear-cut intelligence estimate of the time factor:

The Japanese "will" to continue the war may be expected to weaken progressively. Entirely apart from the physical results obtained by air-sea blockade combined with strategic bombing, the psychological effects upon the Japanese people as a whole will be most detrimental and will progressively undermine their confidence in victory or even confidence in the hope of avoiding complete and inevitable defeat. Thus we believe that under the full impact of air-sea blockade combined with strategic bombing, Japan's "will" to continue the war can be broken.

It does not follow that such air-sea blockades and air attacks upon Japan Proper, without actual invasion of the home islands will force unconditional surrender within a reasonable length of time. On this point there is a wide divergence of informed opinion. . . . Estimates with regard to the time element vary from a few months to a great many years.36

The general philosophy of the possibility of Japanese surrender changed very little in official pronouncements after April. By the end of April the Army planner, General Lincoln, had become convinced that some thinking should be done on "what we do if Japan decides to surrender on VE-Day," as he provocatively phrased it.37 Even though the prospect of an early surrender of Japan began to get a little consideration from Washington staffs in April and May, much more attention was being concentrated on issuing a directive for operation OLYMPIC, scheduled for 1 November 1945. There was no disagreement about the necessity of preparing to launch this initial invasion of the home islands. The directive to Pacific commanders finally was approved on 25 May 1945, although its precise meaning continued to be debated hotly until well into the latter part of June.38 Somewhat earlier, on 5 May, the JWPC produced an outline plan for the invasion of Tokyo Plain. The generally conservative planning approach then current prevented a categoric statement that even this


operation scheduled for March 1946 would be decisive. The outline plan cautiously stated:

The invasion of the Kanto [Tokyo] Plain may prove to be the decisive operation in the campaign to bring about the unconditional surrender of Japan through domination of her home islands. The over-all objectives of this operation are therefore considered to be to inflict a decisive defeat upon the Japanese Army in the heart of the Empire and, in the event this campaign does not in itself bring about unconditional surrender and achieve full military control of the main islands, to obtain positions from which to continue air, ground and amphibious operations in the main islands.39

After completing the outline for the operation against the Tokyo Plain, the JWPC produced its first two studies on military operations in the event of sudden Japanese surrender. They discussed "strategic positions selected for operation upon Japanese withdrawal, collapse or surrender" and the "forces required for the occupation." 40 OPD planners revealed their attitude toward the possibility of surrender in commenting on these JWPC papers for the benefit of the Army planner and the Division chief. The comment combined a general emphasis on preparedness to meet all military contingencies with explicit skepticism about the chances of an early Japanese surrender. OPD recommended merely that JWPC studies be furnished the commanders in the Pacific and that the JCS instruct those commanders to plan specifically for a contingency such as collapse or surrender. OPD's recommendations were approved all the way up the line to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 14 June a directive went out to General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and General Arnold. It followed the basically conservative language used in the original OPD draft: "Although there is at present no evidence that sudden collapse or surrender of Japan is likely, the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct that plans be made to take immediate advantage of favorable circumstances, such as a sudden collapse or surrender, to effect an entry into Japan proper for occupational purposes." 41

The clearest statements of OPD's attitude on the subject of surrender and the desirability of developing a precise formula for unconditional surrender, appeared in two studies prepared in early June at the request of the Secretary of War. The first study concluded:

The point in our military progress at which the Japanese will accept defeat and agree to our terms is unpredictable. . . . Like the Germans, their protracted resistance is based upon the hope of achieving a conditional surrender. Presumably, only the conviction that their position is completely hopeless will persuade them to give up their holdings in Asia. Probably it will take Russian entry into the war, coupled with a landing, or imminent threat of landing, on Japan proper by us, to convince them of the hopelessness of their position.42

The second study on the same subject dwelt more specifically with the surrender formula:


The proposal of a public declaration of war aims, in effect giving definition to "unconditional surrender" has definite merit.

We must make certain our military operations and preparations continue with undiminished pressure, even though we bring increasing political and psychological pressure on the Japanese to persuade them to capitulate.43

Evolution of the Terminal Surrender Formula

The latter half of June saw the formulation of the surrender ultimatum issued from Potsdam. It was an example of characteristic Washington staff work in the last months of the war. Secretary Stimson and Assistant Secretary McCloy took the lead in working out the formula all had agreed might hasten Japanese surrender or at least increase the psychological strain under which the Japanese continued to resist. Representatives of the State Department, the Navy Department, the Army Air Forces, G-2, the Civil Affairs Division, and the Operations Division worked on the proposed proclamation. General Lincoln, as S&P chief, took a hand in fashioning the ultimatum, as did Colonel Bonesteel and his politico-military specialists in the Policy Section. In addition, OPD prepared the supporting memorandum on timing. On 2 July 1945 Secretary Stimson sent the net result of all this work to the President as "background for . . . discussions at the forthcoming conference," the Potsdam (TERMINAL) international staff meeting of 16-26 July 1945.44 As OPD officers put it in one of the papers prepared in S&P for the Potsdam Conference, the proclamation was "intended to induce the surrender of Japan and thus avoid the heavy casualties which would result from a fight to the finish." 45

Just before the Army delegation departed for Potsdam in July 1945, OPD completed its "Compilation of Subjects for Discussion at TERMINAL," the War Department's summary book of operational fact, military doctrine, and planning opinion as of 12 July 1945. In addition to recommending that the planners adhere to the planned sequence of operations—invasion of Kyushu on 1 November 1945 and invasion of Honshu on 1 March 1946—OPD declared:

There is much to be gained by defining as completely as possible, the detailed U. S. war aims in Japan. . . .

Japanese surrender would be advantageous for the U. S., both because of the enormous reduction in the cost of the war and because it would give us a better chance to settle the affairs of the Western Pacific before too many of our allies are committed there and have made substantial contributions towards the defeat of Japan. . . .

The present stand of the War Department is that Japanese surrender is just possible and is attractive enough to the U. S. to justify us in making any concession which might be attractive to the Japanese, so long as our realistic


aims for peace in the Pacific are not adversely affected.46

The TERMINAL Conference reaffirmed every principle of previous military planning for the defeat of Japan. American plans for the Kyushu and Honshu operations were noted, and the preparations of Great Britain and the USSR to join in the defeat of Japan were carefully and favorably considered. The over-all objective announced in the agreed summary of conclusions of the conference brought out the emphasis on the time factor, the intention of attacking Japanese will to resist by every device, and concentration on the main effort of invading the Japanese home islands. Thus the "overall strategic concept for the prosecution of the war" was set forth:

In cooperation with other Allies to bring about at the earliest possible date the defeat of Japan by: lowering Japanese ability and will to resist by establishing sea and air blockades, conducting intensive air bombardment, and destroying Japanese air and naval strength; invading and seizing objectives in the Japanese home islands as the main effort. . . .

The invasion of Japan and operations directly connected therewith are the supreme operations in the war against Japan.47

The conservative logistic planning date of 15 November 1946 for the end of organized Japanese resistance was accepted.48 The Potsdam Ultimatum was issued on 26 July 1945 as a calculated effort to lower Japanese will to resist while military pressures were building up.49

At Potsdam, General Arnold, in describing the long-range plans for the use of B-29's (full strength to be reached in March 1946), read into the record a statement representing the most optimistic point of view, that of the Army Air Forces, on a date when the Japanese might be forced to surrender. General Arnold foresaw a possibility of cracking Japan's resistance by a month before the invasion of Japan, that is during October 1945:

In the employment of these forces in the Ryukyus supplementing the present forces in the Marianas, we expect to achieve the disruption of the Japanese military, industrial and economic systems. . . . We estimate that this can be done with our forces available in the month prior to the invasion of Japan. Japan, in fact, will become a nation without cities, with her transportation disrupted and will have tremendous difficulty in holding her people together for continued resistance to our terms of unconditional surrender.50

The Atomic Bomb

At the same time that these well-established planning tenets for the war against Japan were being reaffirmed, the decision concerning the use of the atomic bomb was in the making. The Los Alamos experiment, proving the destructive power of the bomb, had taken place on 16 July 1945, the first day of the conference. Also there were many indications that the Japanese were interested in getting out of the war, though under what conditions no one could


positively say. At the end of June the War Department G-2 had prepared an "Estimate of the Enemy Situation" at the request of OPD, emphasizing that the possibility of surrender hinged on the terms which the United Nations would grant:

The Japanese believe. . . . that unconditional surrender would be the equivalent of national extinction, and there are as yet no indications that they are ready to accept such terms. . . . The surrender of the Japanese government might occur at any time from now until the end of the complete destruction of all Japanese power of resistance, depending upon the conditions of surrender which the Allies might accept.51

On 30 July the Potsdam Ultimatum of 26 July 1945 was publicly rejected by Premier Kantaro Suzuki. At this juncture, after approval of planning on the necessity of invading Japan, President Truman decided, with the concurrence of the British and Soviet heads of government, that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb.

In the War Department the decision to use the bomb played no part in orthodox military staff work. Only the faintest suggestion of the existence of the bomb appeared in OPD records before 6 August 1945. On 5 April an officer from MANHATTAN DISTRICT consulted Col. William A. Walker, Current Group deputy chief, and secured a "code word for a TOP SECRET operation overseas, which was discussed . . . with the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War this morning." Contrary to usual procedure, the meaning of this code word was not filed in OPD, and Colonel Walker who assigned it had no inkling of the nature of the project.52

Sometime in July 1945 while General Marshall was at Potsdam, General Craig drafted a letter, for signature by General Handy as Acting Chief of Staff, giving Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves of MANHATTAN DISTRICT and General Spaatz of the new U. S. Army Strategic Air Forces authority to waive security regulations about permitting the flight of personnel with specialized military knowledge over enemy territory. The letter made special reference to the 509th Composite Group, which carried the bomb, but only the rough draft was kept in OPD, and it was put in the special executive office file.53

Previously a few OPD officers had seen a JCS message addressed to General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and General Arnold ordering that Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kokura, and Niigata should not be attacked in ordinary bombing raids under any circumstances. Knowledge of this list of cities was extremely limited, and only a rough draft of the message was put in the executive office file.54 OPD's planning went on virtually as if the atomic bomb did not exist. 55


Toward the end of July a new note sounded by officers at Potsdam, including General Hull and General Lincoln, turned the attention of military planners in Washington to the possibility of early Japanese surrender. On 20 July the JWPC began, "as a matter of priority," a report on the steps that would be necessary to "facilitate prompt allied action in the event of a Japanese collapse or surrender in the immediate future." 56 During the next three weeks preparations to deal with a Japanese surrender steadily gathered momentum. A whole series of OPD papers was drafted, and most of them reflected a new seriousness in the approach to the problem of a sudden end of Japanese resistance. Even at Potsdam OPD officers were working on a study called "Japanese Capitulation," which General Marshall could use to call to President Truman's attention the many national problems that the sudden end of the war would bring. In it OPD planners spoke of the possibility that the Japanese might "capitulate unexpectedly in the next few weeks." The insertion of the word "unexpectedly" revealed a great deal about the background of conservative military planning against which the War Department staffs were attacking this particular problem.57

Information available to some of the military men at Potsdam made the situation seem different. The JCS sent a message from TERMINAL informing General MacArthur that there were increasing indications that it might "prove necessary to take action within the near future on the basis of Japanese capitulation, possibly before Russian entry." 58 On 25 July 1945, General Hull sent a message to General Craig who was acting for him in OPD: "Forward immediately gist of available information on MacArthur's plans for occupation of Japan and Japanese held areas in event of Japanese collapse or surrender in immediate future." 59 General Craig replied the same day that an OPD officer had studied MacArthur's plan for occupation in draft form at Manila on 11 July, that General MacArthur would be prepared to impose surrender terms at any time after 15 July, that occupation forces would be prepared for landings against moderate opposition, and that the initial landings were scheduled to follow twelve days after collapse or surrender.60 On the following day, 26 July, the


JCS dispatched a message to General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz that began: "Coordination of plans for the procedure to be followed in the event of Japanese governmental surrender is now a pressing necessity." 61

After the first clear indication from Potsdam that surrender was a distinct possibility, S&P undertook a planning review and prepared a "paper outlining the steps necessary to be taken in planning for an early surrender." 62 An intensive program thereupon began. On 30 July General Craig gave General Handy, then Acting Chief of Staff, a memorandum outlining the steps necessary to produce a "final, integrated War Department plan to be implemented upon a sudden surrender of Japan." Provision was made for a "War Department Interim Outline Plan," to be produced at once. Military (JCS) and other national policy decisions necessary to a final plan were listed. A draft directive was presented, ordering an operation to occupy Japan "in the event of Japanese capitulation prior to OLYMPIC." Finally, in order to produce the War Department Interim Outline Plan, General Craig recommended a meeting of the chiefs of staff divisions concerned.63 On 3 August General Craig forwarded to General Handy a final draft of a paper OPD had been working on for several days, supplying, particularly in regard to redeployment and production, "interim instructions to all concerned in preparing and planning for a sudden collapse or surrender by the Japanese Government prior to completion of the present readjustment and redeployment of the Army." 64

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August, the long-awaited entry of the USSR in the war against Japan on 8 August Eastern Standard time, and the public offer to surrender broadcast by the Japanese Government on 10 August Eastern Standard time, speeded staff work and the decision-making process. OPD's draft plan was submitted to the chiefs of the major War Department agencies on 8 August for comments prior to 9 August, so that a coordinated study could be presented to the Chief of Staff on 10 August. With Japan's public declaration of intent to surrender, the Chief of Staff hastily approved OPD's interim plan for instant dispatch. At, 1015, 10 August, General Hull sent out a message in the name of General Marshall to the three zone of interior Army commands, all War Department General and Special Staff Divisions, the Defense Commands, the Alaskan Department, and U. S. Army forces in Central Canada, the South Atlantic, the European theater, the Pacific, the Mid-Pacific, and China, and the U. is. Strategic Air Forces on Guam. Conveying all the instructions in the OPD interim plan, the message began: "The following interim instructions will become effective when you are formally notified by War Department


of formal capitulation of Japan." 65 Formal notification of the capitulation came only four days later, on 14 August 1945.66

Surrender Documents and Occupation Plans

Much had to be done in the feverish last few days of the war, particularly in the politico-military field. As Colonel Bonesteel, Policy Section chief, pointed out to General Lincoln on 9 August: "For your convenience a check list indicating unfinished business re early surrender of Japan is attached. First and foremost is the fact that there is no approved surrender document, surrender proclamation, or General Orders No.1 in existence." 67 These basic documents for the surrender were finished and approved by President Truman just in time for their use. Only the existence of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee and the experience of staffs like Colonel Bonesteel's politico-military group in the Policy Section made such speed possible. The Instrument of Surrender, the Directive to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and the Proclamation by the Emperor of Japan ending hostilities under the provisions of the Potsdam declaration, were finished on 13 August 1945 and forwarded to General MacArthur, who thenceforth was the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.68 General Order 1, designed as one of the four basic surrender documents, was not com completed until a few days later.69 In fact, less than a week before the date of the actual signature of the surrender in Tokyo Bay, OPD had to inform General MacArthur: "Time does not permit provision of a properly engrossed document." 70

Meanwhile, the JWPC and the Joint Staff Planners were hastening to complete the "early surrender" work begun some months before. The JWPC had produced a study, 10 July 1945, which presented a plan for occupying Japan either prior to OLYMPIC or prior to CORONET, which dates were taken to mean about 15 August 1945 or 15 January 1946.71 On 30 July, in response to the suggestions received from Potsdam, the JWPC brought out a study on the steps necessary to "facilitate prompt allied action in the event of a Japanese collapse or surrender in the immediate future." It stated flatly: "Until recently an early surrender by the Japanese was considered improbable. As a consequence the procedures and plans to be followed in the event of an immediate Japanese surrender are indistinct." 72 In reference to this study, OPD commented on 3 August: "This paper is a good planning paper. It was originated at the same time as all the other sudden actions on Japanese surrender and occupation." 73


Despite the tardiness of the planning, enough had been done both in Washington and in the theater headquarters to take care of the situation at hand. On 3 August the Joint Staff Planners sent General MacArthur's plan (BLACKLIST) for the early occupation of Japan to the JWPC for briefing, comment, and recommendation in the light of their own studies, particularly that of 10 July (JWPC 264/6) and the basic surrender directive, Victory 357.74 The JWPC produced a study on 10 August 1945, the critical date, proposing a reconcilement of General MacArthur's BLACKLIST plan with the parallel plan, CAMPUS, drafted by Admiral Nimitz. With ad hoc modifications, BLACKLIST was ready and went into operation just in time.75 Hostilities ended formally on 2 September 1945 with the signing of the surrender document aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The last great series of staff actions in World War II had achieved its purpose. The Washington planning machinery, in which OPD officers were carrying a full load, had not worked with any remarkable efficiency in the hectic, complicated preparations for the end of the war against Japan, but it had worked.



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