What was the Japanese or Axis motivation to drag US into the War?

What was the Japanese or Axis motivation to drag US into the War?


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Making an enemy out of a neutral country when you are at war with many others means there is one more enemy to fight. So what was the plan of Japan or the Axis to drag US into the war? Did they think they could make the US a Japanese colony? If so how did they plan to win such invasion?


Neither Japan nor Germany intended to actually invade the United States. Instead, they saw the US as a threat to their plans for conquest of SE Asia and Europe.

Japan and the US saw each other as rivals for control of the Pacific. They had the largest fleets, and overlapping interests. The US had its island territories won in the Spanish-American War, primarily the Philippines, it would protect. Japan, increasingly isolated by the international community for its violations of treaties and war in China, was looking to secure natural resources. Tensions were high.

With its vital imports cut off by embargo, Japan planned an invasion of the Dutch East Indies and other European colonies. They knew such a move would touch off war with the United States and decided on a pre-emptive strike to destroy the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor while invading all US and Allied possessions to deprive them of bases. The hope was not to defeat the US completely, but to demoralize her and destroy her ability to project power. By the time the US fleet had been rebuilt, Japan would have a fortified ring of defenses and could negotiate a peace. That was the idea anyway.


Germany's motives remain unclear. Germany had long been annoyed by the US's increasingly open support for Britain including arms, food, and ships. US destroyers sparred with German submarines even while neutral. But even while the US government was mobilizing and becoming ever more allied with Britain, US sentiment was against war with Germany.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the US. This was done by Adolf Hitler without consulting his advisors. Numerous theories abound as to why, the strongest is he hoped Japan would in turn declare war against the Soviet Union. Japan, having abandoned its northern strategy of expanding into Siberia, still fighting a war in China and now against the United States, and still smarting from a humiliating defeat against the Soviets at Khalkhin Gol declined.

Declaring war against the US was probably Hitler's biggest blunder. Faced with the threat of Japan, the US likely would have thrown it's might into that fight and ignored the European problems. Instead, Germany was now at war with an enemy it had little ability to strike at, though there was about nine months of slaughter as German U-Boats ran rampant over the ill-prepared US coastline. US industry, manpower, and warships could now freely support the Allies.


Germany and Japan had some ideas about how to strike at the US. Few were practical, even fewer were actually built, even fewer would have affected the war.

The Japanese had the I-400 class submarine. Each carried three small aircraft. The Japanese planned to build 18 and use them to strike the Panama Canal and prevent the US from moving ships to the Pacific. This might have had a strategic effect on the war had they been used early enough. Instead, they built 3 so late in the war they were never used for their intended purpose.

Germany had the Amerika Bomber, a long range bomber intended to attack New York City. It was overambitious and as the war progressed Germany lacked the resources to develop such an aircraft. The program was scrapped.


No Japan never planned to make USA a colony, or to invade the continental territory of the US. The main immediate reason of the war was the economic embargo imposed on Japan by the US (and the reason for the embargo was Japanese invasion of China).


Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler has some interesting insights (pp656-660 of the single-volume edition).

Hitler felt that the Japanese would tie down the US in the Pacific, and weaken the British by attacking their Far East possessions. He was also delighted to have "an ally which has never been conquered in 3000 years." He had given the Japanese a verbal commitment on 4th December 1941 that if war broke out between Japan and the USA, Germany would consider itself at war with the US too, and Italy had willingly joined this new tripartite pact. That was completed on 11th December as a commitment by all parties not to make a separate peace with the USA.

Hitler felt that FDR was looking for an excuse to intervene in Europe, and the general German opinion was that if the US was at war, there would be no more Lend-lease for the British: the US would want all its war production for its own use.

He formally declared war on the US in a speech to the Reichstag later on 11th December. He felt that this formalised what was already the effective situation, and demonstrated that he was still in control of events. Waiting for a declaration of war from the USA would have been a sign of weakness, in this thinking. His primary target for this speech was the morale of the German population; this was a way to get them to view a new opponent as a positive development.

He underestimated all his opponents, the US most of all.


The Axis countries attacked the United States as a "deterrent." Take Japan at Pearl Harbor. The intent was to "knock out" the U.S. fleet for two years, during which Japan planned to conquer Southeast Asia (which she did) plus China and India (she came fairly close). The expectation was that by January 1, 1944, Japan would be confronting the U.S. with a behemoth consisting of Japan, China, India, and today's "ASEAN" nations, and the U.S. Would have no choice but to make peace.

What Japan didn't count on was American resilience. Six months after Pearl Harbor, a "weaker" American fleet knocked out four Japanese carriers (about half of Japan's striking power at Midway, while suffering only one quarter of the losses (a single carrier). Combine this with Japanese losses at Coral Sea and Guadalcanal, and the Japanese fleet was basically "done for" (it had one last hurrah in waters around the Philippines in mid to late 1944). By mid-1944, the Americans had "island hopped" the central Pacific from "Tarawa to Tinian," the latter on Japan's doorstep, effectively separating the Japanese islands from her Asian possessions.

Then Germany's Admiral Doenitz felt that he could knock out America's merchant marine by sinking ships faster than they could be built. He was correct for 1942 that he could sink faster than we built, but the Americans still managed to land a large enough force in North Africa in November, 1942 to draw away enough German supplies and reinforcements from the battle of Stalingrad so that the Russians could win, followed by an invasion of Italy in 1943. (The Axis had not expected America to make its weight felt until 1944, by which time Germany expected to have conquered Russia, and possibly Britain as well.)

The Axis tried to "buy time" with pre-emptive strikes on America, but given the speed and severity of the American reactions, and the holding out of America's other allies, they didn't buy enough time.


Social Studies

Why was the Battle of Midway a turning point in World War II?

A. It forced Japan to surrender.

B. It represented the last major Axis victory.

C. It was the first major defeat for Japan in the Pacific.

D. It brought the United States into the war. **

The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into that war.

Please study your text or use Google, and re-think.

It is C, the first major defeat of Japan in the pacific.


On the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbour, the attack that propelled America into the Second World War, a declassified memo shows that Japanese surprise attack was expected.

By Jacqui Goddard in Miami
The Telegraph

It was described by President Franklin D.Roosevelt as “a date that will live in infamy”, a day on which the slaughter of 2,400 US troops drew America into Second World War and changed the course of history.

Now, on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s devastating bombardment of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, evidence has emerged showing that President Franklin D.Roosevelt was warned three days before the attack that the Japanese empire was eyeing up Hawaii with a view to “open conflict.”

The information, contained in a declassified memorandum from the Office of Naval Intelligence, adds to proof that Washington dismissed red flags signalling that mass bloodshed was looming and war was imminent.

“In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii,” stated the 26-page memo.

Dated December 4, 1941, marked as confidential, and entitled “Japanese intelligence and propaganda in the United States,” it flagged up Japan’s surveillance of Hawaii under a section headlined “Methods of Operation and Points of Attack.”

It noted details of possible subversives in Hawaii, where nearly 40 per cent of inhabitants were of Japanese origin, and of how Japanese consulates on America’s west coast had been gathering information on American naval and air forces. Japan’s Naval Inspector’s Office, it stated, was “primarily interested in obtaining detailed technical information which could be used to advantage by the Japanese Navy.”

“Much information of a military and naval nature has been obtained,” it stated, describing it as being “of a general nature” but including records relating to the movement of US warships.

The memo, now held at the Franklin D.Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in upstate New York, has sat unpublicised since its declassification 26 years ago. Its contents are revealed by historian Craig Shirley in his new book “December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World.”

Three days after the warning was delivered to the White House, hundreds of Japanese aircraft operating from six aircraft carriers unleashed a surprise strike on the US Navy’s base at Pearl Harbour, wiping out American battleships, destroyers and air installations. A total of 2,459 US personnel were killed and 1,282 injured.

Conspiracy theorists have long claimed that Roosevelt deliberately ignored intelligence of an imminent attack in Hawaii, suggesting that he allowed it to happen so that he would then have a legitimate reason for declaring war on Japan. Up to that point, public and political opinion had been against America’s entry into what was seen largely as a European war, despite Roosevelt’s private support for the Allies’ fight against the so-called Axis – Germany, Italy and Japan.

But Mr Shirley said: “Based on all my research, I believe that neither Roosevelt nor anybody in his government, the Navy or the War Department knew that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbour. There was no conspiracy.

“This memo is further evidence that they believed the Japanese were contemplating a military action of some sort, but they were kind of in denial because they didn’t think anybody would be as audacious to move an army thousands of miles across the Pacific, stop to refuel, then move on to Hawaii to make a strike like this.”

As with the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, US leadership was guilty of a “failure of imagination” in its inability to translate warning signs into a specific prediction of the horror that lay ahead, he said.

Roosevelt declared war on Japan the day after the blitz on Pearl Harbour. Japan, Germany and Italy reciprocated with their own declarations, but America’s involvement in the war turned the tide against the Axis powers and ultimately led the Allies to victory.

Americans, who a year previously had been assured by Roosevelt that they would not be sent to fight foreign wars, suddenly found their fates transformed. The US military swelled, with 16 million heading off to war, and women took on new and more widespread roles in the workforce, and in the military.

Washington became a global power base and the War Powers Act gave the president supreme executive authority. The “America First” movement, which had lobbied against the country’s entry into the war and at its peak had 800,000 members, disbanded within days.

“December 7, 1941, was the powder-keg that changed the world. It changed America instantly from an isolationist country on the morning of December 7 to an internationalist country on the morning of December 8,” said Mr Shirley.

The 70th anniversary of the tragedy at Pearl Harbour is being marked with a week of commemorative events in Hawaii. They culminate on Wednesday in a minute’s silence and a ceremony of remembrance overlooking the wreck site of the USS Arizona, which sank with the loss of 1,177 lives.

Of the 29,000 survivors who joined the Pearl Harbour Survivors Association following its foundation in 1958, only ten per cent are still alive, most aged in their late 80s and beyond. With so few left, and most unable to travel to reunions or help with the group’s administration, the PHSA will close down after the anniversary.

“It’s going to be a poignant moment. Sooner or later we’re all going to be gone,” said Duane Reyelts of St Augustine, Florida, who was a 19-year-old signalman aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was bombed at Pearl Harbour.

He will turn 90 later this month, but still has vivid memories of waking in his bunk after working the midnight watch, when the ship’s warning system sprang to life with the order: “All hands man your battle stations.”

Seconds later, a torpedo hit with a thunderous explosion. He could hear vast amounts of water pouring in below, and eight more torpedoes. The ship turned over, forcing him to scramble up a wall to escape.

“I happened to be small enough to get out of a porthole. When I got out, I was sitting on the bottom of the ship and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: planes were attacking and the whole harbour seemed to be on fire. Bodies in the water, smoke, screams.” he said.

He hesitated to jump in the water, but had no choice as a stream of machine-gun fire rained around him from the aircraft overhead. He swam to the USS Maryland, where he joined a line of sailors hauling ammunition.

“The Navy and armed forces must have had notification that something could happen being a signalman on the bridge and being on lookout, that was something we were told – if you see a periscope out there, it may not be ours. But we never really imagined an assault of this nature,” he said.

He will re-tell his story once more during a remembrance service aboard a US Navy vessel on Wednesday, when the ashes of Pearl Harbour veterans who have died during the last year will be scattered at sea.

“Those of us who are left try to tell our stories as much as possible, not just for history’s sake but because America needs to be kept alert today,” he said. “America needs to remember the lessons of Pearl Harbour.”


The United States in World War II: "The Proper Application of Overwhelming Force"

After learning that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, thus ensuring that the United States would enter World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill breathed a sigh of relief. "Hitler's fate was sealed," he would later recall. "Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force."

Churchill's sentiment was easy to understand. In terms of raw materials and industrial capacity the United States alone was far superior to Germany, Italy, and Japan combined. Now that America had joined Great Britain and the Soviet Union in the fight against the Axis, victory seemed assured.

Yet it was neither raw materials nor industrial capacity alone that was able to overcome the Axis Powers. No doubt the Allies had tremendous advantages in terms of technology and productive capacity, but ultimately World War II was won by members of the armed forces—real, flesh-and-blood men (and sometimes women) who risked death and dismemberment in the name of freedom. They fought everywhere from the steppes of Russia to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the icy waters of the North Atlantic to the sun-drenched deserts of North Africa. And after nearly four long years they achieved victory.

In this unit, students will examine the role that the United States played in bringing about this victory. They will learn about the strategies that were developed, and how they played out in reality. They will become familiar with the two major theaters of the war—Pacific and European—and how developments in one affected the course of the fighting in the other. Finally, they will learn how the various military campaigns—on land and sea, and in the air—all contributed to the war's successful conclusion.

Guiding Questions

How did the Allies manage to turn back the Japanese offensive of 1941-42?

How did the United States contribute to the turning of the tide against the Axis Powers in Europe in World War II?

How did the Allies manage to defeat and occupy Germany in 1944 and 1945?

How did the Allies manage to defeat Japan?

Learning Objectives

Articulate the various strategies developed by Anglo-American military planners, as well as the reasons behind them.

Evaluate the strategies used, in terms of how successful they were in meeting their objectives.

Discuss anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States, and how it affected the way the Pacific War was fought.

Explain the magnitude of the U-Boat threat in the Atlantic in 1942 and early 1943, and how it was overcome.

Assess the effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign against German cities.

Explain the reasons behind the dropping of the atomic bombs, and why the use of these weapons was controversial.

Articulate the reasons behind the Japanese surrender, and the role the atomic bomb played in that decision.

Identify on a map locations of importance to the war, both in Europe and the Pacific.

Identify the most important military engagements and explain their significance.


Pearl Harbor: Motives Behind the Betrayal

A second interpretation: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General George C. Marshall, and Admiral Harold Stark received the warnings and intercepts, but somehow “blundered” and forgot to warn Pearl Harbor. However, there is too much evidence of deliberate calculation. One does not become president of the United States or Army Chief of Staff through gross stupidity. It was FDR himself who said: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

A third interpretation, now widely held, concedes that FDR, Marshall, and Stark knew of the attack but let it happen so the United States could enter World War II in order to oppose the spread of totalitarianism. This view was even expressed in the documentary Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor, produced by cable’s History Channel, which normally takes more orthodox positions on history.

According to this latter interpretation, FDR sacrificed the fleet because Hitler had to be stopped. Otherwise, once the Germans and Japanese finished subduing Europe and Asia, they would turn on America, and conquer the whole world, with Hitler’s troops eventually goose-stepping through New York City. Also, it is said, FDR cared deeply about those suffering in Hitler’s concentration camps. Only by inciting the Japanese to attack would America have the unity and resolve to support Roosevelt in these noble objectives.

This explanation, however, does not withstand scrutiny. The overextended Germans gave up any hope of invading Britain as feasible, and if the Germans were incapable of an amphibious assault across the English Channel, they certainly could not have launched one across the Atlantic. As Charles Lindbergh reasoned before Pearl Harbor: “Let us not be confused by this talk of invasion…. Great armies must still cross oceans by ship…. No foreign navy will dare approach within bombing range of our coasts. Let us stop this hysterical chatter of calamity and invasion.”

The claim that Roosevelt was motivated by opposition to totalitarianism and concern for concentration camp victims is sharply contradicted by his support for Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Like Hitler, Stalin was an international aggressor. Few remember that the 1939 invasion of Poland — World War II’s immediate spark — was actually a joint invasion by Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1939-40, Stalin also invaded Finland, occupied Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and annexed part of Romania. Furthermore, Stalin, like Hitler, slaughtered millions of his own people, including some six million during the Ukrainian genocide (1932-33) alone. Nevertheless, FDR, without bothering with congressional approval, began bestowing lend-lease aid on Stalin in 1941, assistance that would ultimately amount to $11 billion (more than $100 billion in today’s currency).

As former President Herbert Hoover recalled: “In June 1941, when Britain was safe from German invasion due to Hitler’s diversion to attack Stalin, I urged that the gargantuan jest of all history would be our giving aid to the Soviet government. I urged that we should allow those two dictators to exhaust each other. I stated that the result of our assistance would be to spread Communism over the whole world…. The consequences have proved that I was right.”

A Plausible Explanation

There is a fourth explanation for Pearl Harbor, one more consistent with the facts: The role of pro-Communist and globalist influences within the FDR administration. As former Navy Secretary Frank Knox wrote: “Collectivists of every sort support Mr. Roosevelt. That is natural. For at the root of his philosophy lies the view, shared alike by Communists and Fascists, that individual liberty under democracy as hitherto practiced in this country is no longer desirable or feasible.”

The president’s closest advisor was Harry Hopkins, who, uniquely, lived inside the White House. The recently released Venona materials (Soviet messages decrypted by the U.S. during the 1940s) reveal that Hopkins was working for Soviet Intelligence. In his book KGB: The Inside Story, former KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky identified Hopkins as “an agent of major influence.” This would not shock those familiar with From Major Jordan’s Diaries, a 1952 book published by George Racey Jordan. Jordan, a lend-lease expediter, along with numerous other witnesses, testified that Hopkins, who oversaw Russia’s lend-lease shipments, had given the Soviets nuclear materials as well as purloined blueprints for the atomic bomb.

The State Department’s Alger Hiss, long-since exposed as a Soviet spy, was FDR’s right-hand man at the Yalta Conference, where the president made a stream of concessions to Soviet dictator Stalin.

Harry Dexter White, the president’s assistant Treasury secretary, has been well-documented in FBI and congressional investigations as a Soviet spy. Besides giving classified information to the Soviets, White supplied them with paper, ink, and printing plates for the production of occupation currency in postwar Germany.

George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, was thoroughly documented as a Communist sympathizer in America’s Retreat from Victory (1951) by Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. senator whose accusations, though maligned for decades, have been historically vindicated. Marshall’s intervention on behalf of Mao Tse-tung, at the height of the Chinese civil war, is just one of many examples of his leftwing leanings. As for his infamous “horseback ride” of December 7, 1941, which allegedly prevented him from warning Pearl Harbor in time, that cover story was inadvertently blown by Arthur Upham Pope, in his 1943 biography of Maxim Litvinoff, the Soviet ambassador to the United States. Litvinoff first arrived in Washington on the morning of December 7th, 1941 — a highly convenient day to seek additional aid for the Soviets — and, according to Pope, was met at the airport that morning by General Marshall.

Hopkins, Hiss, White, and Marshall represent just a handful of known Soviet agents and abettors within the Roosevelt administration. FDR’s most severe sanctions against Japan — such as his all-out embargo and closing of the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping — came in July 1941. On June 22, 1941, the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union and were decimating the Soviet armies before them. Stalin’s worst fear was that Japan would join its Axis partner and invade from the East. Had this occurred, especially without FDR’s $11 billion in aid, it is virtually certain that the Soviet Union would have been destroyed and world Communism with it.

It is logical that the Soviet agents in the Roosevelt administration, like Stalin himself, panicked in July 1941 and urged the President to take extreme measures against Japan. Roosevelt’s embargo was joined by the British and (with U.S. pressure) the Dutch. The embargo forced Japan to divert attention from Russia, and to instead invade Southeast Asia in an attempt to obtain the raw materials — especially oil and rubber — which the embargo denied them.

Internationalism

Finally, we cannot underestimate the role of capitalist-veneer globalists who have often worked hand-in-hand with Communists. America’s main voice for globalism has always been the private Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), for decades the chief supplier of top State Department executives. The well-financed, influential Council was born in 1921 in New York, as a direct response to U.S. refusal to join the League of Nations after World War I. When World War II loomed, Council publications began clamoring for entry into the war — not so much as a means to peace, but to world government. During World War II, the CFR succeeded in making itself an adjunct of the U.S. government through the secret War and Peace Studies Project. Unknown to the public, the Council, which coined the term “United Nations,” formulated the original plans for the UN (which is a framework for world government), the IMF (the foundation for a world issuer of currency), and the Marshall Plan (a would-be cornerstone for a U.S.-European Union). Although these institutions were officially formalized or introduced at the UN Founding Conference in San Francisco, the Bretton Woods Conference, and George Marshall’s famous Harvard speech, all were secret brainchilds of Council study groups. To the liberal Establishment running the CFR, like the Communist agents in the Roosevelt administration, Pearl Harbor may have been viewed as a small price to pay in order to obtain such objectives.

* This Communist-globalist interpretation will seem radical to many, but is most consistent with the facts. Leaders do not allow their own fleet to be sunk, and thousands of their countrymen to be murdered, out of “nobility.” If Roosevelt and Marshall were motivated by nobility, why did they not send a last-minute warning to Hawaii, so our men could have at least been at their guns when the Japanese arrived? If noble, why did Washington continue using Kimmel and Short as scapegoats even after the war was long won? And if it was necessary to provoke the Axis powers to war to stop aggression and brutality, why was it never necessary to provoke Stalin — an equally brutal and aggressive dictator?

This article originally appeared in the June 4, 2001 issue of The New American.


AMC Series ‘The Terror’ Returns Inside a WWII Japanese-American Internment Camp

The Terror: Infamy on AMC will spookily take place inside a Japanese-American internment camp. The American government’s forced internment of some 113,000 Japanese-Americans—two-thirds of whom were born in the U.S.–in isolated camps during World War II is considered a stain on the nation’s history, one that is all the more distressing because it was done under the cloak of government procedure and following a hastily enacted law.

The new season of the AMC Network series The Terror: Infamy, premiering on August 12 at 9/8c, takes place in one such camp, when a series of bizarre deaths haunt the community. There were 10 camps, their locations ranging from California to Arkansas. Families were forced to live in facilities surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

The context of this shocking chapter in U.S. history can be found in how war between the two countries was declared. On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, bombing the U.S. Pacific fleet. More than 2,400 Americans were killed.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.

Of course a world war had already been raging in Europe since 1939. While the majority of Americans supported the cause of England, which was fighting Germany virtually alone after the collapse of France, an astounding 95 percent of Americans in one poll said they did not want their country fighting in a European conflict. This changed virtually overnight after Pearl Harbor.

Many Japanese American families lived on the West Coast, and soon government attention turned to their supposed disloyalty. No person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States was ever convicted of any serious act of espionage or sabotage during the war. Nonetheless, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 empowering the U.S. Army to designate areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” From 1942 to 1945, it was the policy of the U.S. government that people of Japanese descent would be forced to live in camps.

Still from AMC’s The Terror: Infamy showing people entering an internment camp. Show premieres Aug. 12

When the U.S. entered World War II, the enemy powers were the “Axis”—Japan, German, and Italy. Yet no families of German or Italian descent were ever forcibly relocated. There is little question that existing prejudice against Asians was a motivation in the internments.

Most of the Japanese immigrants in the U.S. had come from the countryside of Japan, beginning in the late 19 th century. Most owned farms or opened small businesses. But from the start they faced hostility from some Americans. Discrimination included the creation of anti-Japanese organizations, attempts at school segregation, and violent attacks upon individuals and their businesses.

Japanese people preparing to enter an internment camp. From the new season of The Terror on AMC premiering Aug. 12

Some of the blame for Pearl Harbor lay in the U.S. military’s lack of precautions during a time when tension simmered between America and Japan. But instead some military authorities, feeling defensive, scapegoated Japanese living in Hawaii or on the mainland. Frank Knox, Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Navy, outrageously blamed Pearl Harbor on “the most effective fifth column work that’s come out of this war, except in Norway.” This scapegoating led to hysterical newspaper headlines about sabotage and imminent invasion.

Members of the Japanese American community were trying to establish their loyalty by becoming air raid wardens or joining the army. But it did not deter President Roosevelt. Military zones were created in California, Washington, and Oregon—states with the largest population of Japanese Americans—and Roosevelt’s executive order commanded the relocation of Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Inside an internment camp. From The Terror: Infamy on AMC premiering Aug. 12

The method by which Japanese Americans were forced into these camps were harsh and brutally unfair. Families had no more than six days in which to dispose of nearly all their possessions, packing only “that which can be carried by the family or the individual.” This was defined as bedding, toilet articles, clothing, and eating utensils. Businesses had to be sold, forcing huge losses, and houses abandoned.

Actor and activist George Takei, a series regular and consultant on The Terror, has given interviews about his family’s experience and helped to educate about the reality of the internment camps. Takei, best known for his role as Sulu on Star Trek, was born in Los Angeles to parents also born in California. “We were Americans—we were citizens of this country,” Takei said to Democracy Now. “We had nothing to do with the war. We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But without charges, without trial, without due process—the fundamental pillar of our justice system—we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast, where we were primarily resident, and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps—prison camps, really, with sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us.”

George Takei in AMC’s The Terror: Infamy. Show premieres Aug. 12

Takei went with his family to a camp established for Japanese Americans in the swamps of Arkansas at the age of five, and he did not leave until he was eight. At first his father told him the family was going on a vacation. “We adjusted to lining up three times a day to eat lousy food in a noisy mess hall,” he said.

Initially the Japanese American families reported to centers, which had until very recently served as fairgrounds and racetracks, with buildings not meant for human habitation. Families, including young children, the disabled, and the elderly, slept in horse stall or cow sheds reeking of manure.

Map of World War II Japanese American internment camps

The actual camp a family was assigned to was called a “relocation center.” In modern times, some critics have urged that all euphemisms be halted and the places be called by their correct name: “concentration camps.” Each was its own town, with schools and post offices as well as farmland for growing food and keeping livestock, but always surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.

In some of the camps, located primarily in desolate parts of the West with severe climates, families lived in buildings without plumbing or cooking facilities. Overcrowding was a crisis, with more than 20 people often forced to occupy a space meant for 4. Medical care was insufficient.

Japanese-Americans from the U.S. West Coast were forcibly relocated to Amache and nine other internment camps. Photo by Joseph McClelland

The Terror is set in one such camp on the West Coast, where an “uncanny specter” menaces the Japanese American community forced to live there. “I’m deeply honored to be telling a story set in this extraordinary period,” co-creator Alexander Woo said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Check out the trailer for the new season of The Terror here:

By the end of 1945, nine of the ten camps were shut down, the last year of World War II. But returning to society was very difficult.

“We lost everything,” Takei said. “We had been given a one-way ticket and twenty dollars.” His family tried to return to Los Angeles, but they were denied housing everywhere and his father could not get any other job but dishwasher in a Chinatown restaurant. They lived in a Skid Row apartment. “It was a horrific, traumatic experience,” said Takei. His younger sister even said, “Mama, let’s go home,” meaning the Arkansas camp.

In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim.

The new season of The Terror: Infamy returns August 12 9/8c on AMC. For more details please visit the show’s website


Watch ‘The Man in the High Castle.’

Amazon’s series changes a few things from the book. So far, they strengthen the show.

After one episode, audiences know far more about Blake and his motivations than Dick ever revealed in the book. The nature of Fink and Crane’s relationship is also on display in a way the novel never explored.

But there’s one huge change that will upset some fans. I think it’s brilliant. Spoilers below.

Central to the book is an alternative history novel titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. It’s a work of fiction describing a world like our own, a world in which Roosevelt survived and the Allies won the war.

Hawthorne Abendsen wrote the novel. People call him the man in the high castle, because he lives in secrecy in the Rockies—hiding in the neutral zone.

Amazon’s television show keeps The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, but changes it from a book to a film reel. It’s a smart move. TV is a visual medium, and it’s hard to convey the emotional impact of a book on screen.

Turning High Castle’s MacGuffin into a film allows the audience to experience the transformative nature that art has on the characters. We watch what they watch, and understand how such a simple bit of film can instill hope in the hearts of the oppressed.

If Grasshopper remained a book, this would be harder to do. Crane and Blake would read the novel and discuss it on screen, and we’d simply have to take their word for it.

In Dick’s novel, we read along with the characters. In Amazon’s show, we watch along. Both tropes are effective, and each relies on the strengths of their respective mediums.

Amazon produced The Man in the High Castle as part of its pilot season. The company creates new shows by shooting pilots, and putting them up for anyone to watch.

Before Amazon will produce more episodes, viewers must say they want more. I want more. I think, after you watch, you will too. It’s a Philip K. Dick TV show and the finest adaptation of his work I’ve ever seen.

You can see it for free. Watch it, rate it and write a review. With any luck, we’ll see how the series handles Crane and Blake, the Empire of Japan and the strange metaphysical bend the novel takes in its back half.


What was the Japanese or Axis motivation to drag US into the War? - History

By Nathan N. Prefer

To the Soviet military, it is known as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. Although it had no official name to the Japanese, it has become known in the West as Operation August Storm. It was the greatest defeat in Japanese military history, yet few outside the circles of Japanese and Soviet history are even aware that it occurred. 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.

More than one million Japanese soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed or captured in a month’s bitter fighting in a far-off land that even today remains somewhat mysterious.

The seeds of the annihilation of four Japanese armies, each equal to an American field army, were planted in 1931. 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.

The Imperial Japanese Army was particularly interested in showcasing its skills. They began by courting the Chinese warlord then in control of Manchuria. As the situation in China deteriorated, the Japanese Army used a series of staged provocations to eventually invade and seize Manchuria. This move, in the spring of 1931, set the stage for the Sino-Japanese War, which would last until Japan’s defeat and surrender in August 1945.

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. Increasingly the Japanese militarists—primarily the Army but to a lesser extent along the coast, the Imperial Japanese Navy as well—increased their appetite for additional Chinese territory.

But these increasing violations of Chinese sovereignty brought a new player into the scenario: the Soviet Union. Premier Joseph Stalin became increasingly concerned that the Japanese were getting much too close to his own far eastern borders, and the already suspicious Russian leader began to fear their ultimate goals. This brought on the first armed clash between Russian and Japanese forces in late July 1938.

In an attempt to halt the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Japanese infantrymen board a train bound for the front. Most would not return home alive.

Known as the Changkufeng Incident by the Japanese and the Battle of Lake Khasan by the Russians, it would set the stage for all future conflicts between the two nations.

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 Japanese, by now fully involved in the so-called “China Incident,” ignored the threat.

The Japanese had a low opinion of Russian military prowess, anyway. 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.

When in 1938 there arose a dispute over the exact border between Manchuria, Korea, and the Soviet Union, a high-ranking Soviet defector brought much intelligence to the Japanese Kwantung Army. This defection prompted a local Soviet commander to occupy part of the disputed border line.

Even as diplomatic messages were being exchanged, the ever aggressive Kwantung Army began preparations to eject the Russian “trespassers,” and a Japanese infantry division was rushed to the area. The Russians countered, sending more troops as well. The Japanese were ready to attack and needed only the usually pro forma approval of their Emperor. But that approval did not come, infuriating the Kwantung Army leaders.

Repeated requests to begin the battle were denied, only to be followed by more urgent demands. Finally, the local Japanese division commander launched an attack on his own, claiming that the Russians were digging defensive positions within Japanese territory.

It was not the first, nor would it be the last time that the Kwantung Army started a war all on its own. 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.

Riding in U.S. Lend-Lease amphibious DUWKs, Red Army troops advance to the U.S.S.R.- Manchuria border during Operation August Storm.

The Changkufeng battle was comparatively small. Fewer than 2,000 Japanese soldiers attacked in darkness and with surprise, overwhelming the Soviet defenders. The Japanese believed the issue settled. Not so the Russians.

General Grigori Shtern brought up his 49th Corps of the Red Banner Far Eastern Army, and repeated Soviet counterattacks drove the Japanese back, with heavy casualties on both sides. Diplomacy eventually settled the dispute, but the Japanese were unpleasantly surprised by the force and volume of the Russian military response. The result was a change of plans by the Kwantung Army regarding a possible invasion of eastern Russia. To prevent further Russian action, the Japanese ordered a more aggressive border security policy for all their units.

This policy resulted in the next incident, commonly known as the Nomonhan Incident. Repeated clashes between border-guard units finally erupted into open warfare on May 11, 1939. The Nomonhan Incident was much more like a full-scale war than Changkufeng.

Stalin decided that he had had enough of Japanese provocations. He ordered a heavy response and sent a new up-and-coming military leader, Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (who would later distinguish himself at the Battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Berlin), to take command.

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. Once again diplomacy resolved the issue but left the pot simmering. In April 1941, to cool the pot, a nonaggression pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Japan.

Within a year of the Nomonhan Incident, Japan’s leaders were trying to decide how to finally knock out China and end a war that seemed interminable. One choice was to attack the Soviet Union, thereby eliminating the northern threat and freeing up forces for the war in China.

Others argued for a strike to cut off all avenues of resources to China, starving her into submission. This, other voices said, might touch off a war with the United States, Great Britain, and Holland.

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. In September 1940, Japan allied herself with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany by signing the Tripartite Pact.

Japanese soldiers man a machine-gun outpost along the shores of the Amur River in Manchuria, August 9, 1945, the day the Soviet invasion began.

These seemingly easy successes in Europe whetted the Japanese leaders’ appetite for an aggressive strike against their perceived Western foes. 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.

Between 1940 and 1945, the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria, which also had responsibility for Korea, remained relatively static. 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. Several of the best combat divisions within the Army were called up to do battle in New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Central Pacific. This left the Kwantung Army with inadequately trained and equipped forces should any enemy suddenly appear.

That enemy indeed appeared as a result of the several Allied political leaders’ meetings during the course of the war. As the war rolled on, both the Americans and British were fully engaged in battle in North Africa, Italy, northwestern Europe, and the Pacific. (The British, after their early losses, had, relatively speaking, only token forces left in the Pacific.) The Western Allies, therefore, were anxious for some assistance in defeating Japan once Germany surrendered. Plans had to be made.

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. Even if it did, it might not force Japan’s surrender without a full-scale invasion of the Home Islands. Many requests—at Tehran, Yalta, and most recently at Potsdam—had been made for Russia to enter the war against Japan.

Stalin had agreed in principle but had put off releasing any details. But, as the war continued and his spies in the British and American intelligence communities reported progress on the atomic bombs, Stalin became more interested in acquiring territory in the Far East before the war ended.

As a result, he agreed to declare war on Japan within three months after Germany surrendered. Originally planned for August 15, 1945, the Russian declaration was moved up when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

In mid-1945, the Kwantung Army contained 24 infantry divisions, two tank divisions, five air squadrons, and totaled 780,000 officers and men. In addition, seven more infantry divisions with 260,000 personnel were in Korea and subject to joint operations.

The Kwantung Army commander was General Otozo (Ichikawa) Yamada, with headquarters located at Hsingking. Under his command were the First, Third, and Fifth Area Armies, with numerous independent units.

In addition, General Yamada had under his command armies of the puppet states of Manchukuo and Mengjiang, with 220,000 and 10,000 troops, respectively. Some sources have said that available Japanese defense forces totaled 1,100,000 officers and men.

There were also tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, men, women, and children, who had settled in Manchuria as colonists or worked for the Imperial Japanese Army.

Even as the Russians were about to battle for Berlin in April 1945, arrangements were made to release some major Red Army combat units for the coming war with Japan in the Far East. Beginning in March 1945, Stalin began transferring forces to the East, including the Karelian Front and the 2nd Ukrainian Front. (A Front was the Soviet equivalent of a U.S. Army Group and generally consisted of three to five armies—more than 100,000 men.)

These brought with them four army headquarters: the 5th, 39th, and 53rd Infantry and 6th Guards Tank Armies. These had not been chosen at random. Rather, each had some combat experience that would be needed in Manchuria. Some had fought in marshes and swampy terrain, while others had fought in the Carpathian Mountains—another feature they would face in Manchuria’s Grand Khingan Mountains.

A huge motorized Soviet convoy advances across the Grand Khingan Mountain Range in south central Manchuria.

In addition, a host of artillery, engineer, and tank regiments were also shipped east to reinforce the larger armies. Beginning in March and continuing through August 1945, some 20 to 30 trains per day were rolling east on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, carrying these and other reinforcements for the Far Eastern Army.

By August, Soviet strength in the Far East had doubled, from the former 40 divisions to 80 divisions with strong supporting forces. These troops were assembled in rear areas well out of view of the Japanese border guards, and as the time for the attack neared they were quietly moved forward under cover of darkness to their assault positions (much as Nazi Germany did prior to its 1941 sneak attack against the Soviet Union).

Manchuria itself covered 1.5 million square kilometers and encompassed mountain ranges, swamps, fertile valleys, and barren stretches. Its strategic importance stemmed from its geographic location, bordered on the south by Korea, on the east and north by the Soviet Far Eastern provinces, including Siberia, and on the west by Outer Mongolia.

Japan, China, and the Soviet Union had all viewed this area as a critical location for either defense or aggression against their neighbors, should that become necessary. But the area had a poor road network, and those roads were subject to deterioration under adverse weather conditions.

The key area to controlling Manchuria was its Central Valley region, where most of the population lived and where much of its agricultural production originated. Other key areas included the Barga Plateau and the Grand Khingan Mountains, which controlled, militarily speaking, the rest of the country.

The Japanese defenders consisted of two area armies, the rough equivalent of an American army group. The 1st Area Army, under the command of General Kita Seiichi, included the 3rd Army and the 5th Army, each with three infantry divisions.

Under Seiichi’s direct command at 1st Area Army were four more infantry divisions and one independent mixed brigade. Responsible for eastern Manchuria, the 1st Area Army counted 222,157 soldiers within its ranks by August 1945.

General Ushiroku Jun’s 3rd Area Army was the other major defending force in Manchuria. It included the 30th Army with four infantry divisions, one independent mixed brigade, and one tank brigade, as well as the 44th Army with three infantry divisions, one independent mixed brigade, and one tank brigade.

Under Jun’s control at 3rd Area Army were an additional infantry division and two independent mixed brigades. Responsible for central and western Manchuria, Jun had 180,971 men under his command.

A third force, Lt. Gen. Uemura Mikio’s 4th Separate Army, covered north-central and northwest Manchuria with three infantry divisions and four independent mixed brigades amounting to 95,464 soldiers. In reserve under direct Kwantung Army control was the 125th Infantry Division.

After hostilities with the Soviets began, Imperial Japanese Headquarters in Tokyo assigned to General Yamada the 34th Army, headquartered at Hamhung in northern Korea, with the 59th Infantry Division at Hamhung and the 137th Infantry Division at Chongpyong—a total of 50,104 additional troops.

The 17th Army in southern Korea, with another seven infantry divisions and two independent mixed brigades, was also assigned at this time. The Sungarian Naval Flotilla—a collection of small coastal supporting naval craft—was also a part of the defense.

In Manchuria alone, the Imperial Japanese Army mustered 713,724 soldiers, 1,155 tanks, 5,360 artillery pieces, and about 1,800 aircraft. The average Japanese infantry divisions had more men (about 12-16,000 troops) than the average Soviet division (with perhaps 10-12,000 troops).

Red Army troops follow in the wake of an armored vehicle towing an artillery piece up a steep incline.

Overall, the Kwantung Army seemed to be a formidable force with 31 infantry divisions, nine independent mixed brigades, two tank brigades, and one special-purpose brigade. But these figures were deceiving. Japanese armor was inferior to anything the Soviets possessed, even though the Russians were using, in some units, tanks that had been obsolete on the Western Front by 1941.

The Soviets also were masters in the use of artillery and outnumbered the Japanese in Manchuria nearly five-to-one in both tanks and artillery. In the air, the Japanese were outnumbered two to one. In manpower, the approaching Soviet juggernaut would be closer to equal, but even here the Japanese were about to be outnumbered more than two to one in numbers of troops.

The Japanese had adjusted their planning as time went by and the world’s circumstances changed with the developing war situation. Before 1944, the Japanese continued to plan for an aggressive attack against the Chinese and Soviets to advance their territorial goals in the Far East. By September 1944, those plans had changed to a strong defense of Manchuria at the borders.

Those plans were again changed to a defense-in-depth, with the borders lightly defended and the main Japanese resistance to be set at selected fortified locales within Manchuria and a final stand to be made in the Tunghua stronghold just above the Korea/China border.

Imperial General Headquarters ordered that the many border garrisons be combined and formed into eight new infantry divisions, numbered 121 through 128, plus four mixed brigades. These were to replace four regular divisions transferred to the Home Islands, the Philippines, and Central Pacific.

Headquarters in Tokyo also decreed that some 250,000 Japanese Army reservists be called up for the Kwantung Army. These would be organized into eight more divisions, numbered 134 through 139 and 148 and 149. Seven more brigades and supporting units were also to come out of the reservist callup.

But these measures actually weakened the Kwantung Army, replacing veteran troops with new troops in units that were badly in need of combat training.

The latest plans called for platoons and battalions to be left at the borders to delay the enemy while the main forces withdrew 40 to 70 kilometers to the fortified localities, which were each to be defended by one or more divisions.

The withdrawal was to be as slow and deliberate as possible and directed finally on the prepared defenses at Tunghua and Antu in a decisive defensive battle along the northern Korean border. About one-third of the Japanese forces were to defend the border while the remaining two-thirds were to withdraw into the fortified redoubts.

Japanese intelligence and Japanese diplomatic couriers using the Trans-Siberian Railway had reported seeing massive troop and equipment movements from west to east and noted the unusual recall of Soviet diplomats and their dependents from Japan.

An attack by the Soviet Union had been long expected, but it had been hoped that the Russians would, as one historian put it, “adopt a policy of ‘waiting for the ripe persimmon to fall,’ rather than shaking the tree and were expecting nothing before the end of August.”

This was even though, in April 1945, the Soviets had told the Japanese that they would not be extending their nonaggression pact, which still had a year to run.

The Russians were indeed preparing a strong attacking force to overcome the Japanese plans and forces. The senior command was the Far East Theater Headquarters, headed by Marshal of the Soviet Union Alexsandr Mikailovich Vasilevsky.

After joining the Red Army and becoming a company commander in 1918, Vasilevsky became a battalion commander. By 1936, he was attending the General Staff Academy, after which he was posted to the Soviet General Staff. He was in the operations division of the Soviet General Staff in 1940 and, within two years, was the chief of staff.

As Stalin’s personal representative, he participated in the Stalingrad, Kursk, and Belorussian operations before taking command of the 3rd Belorussian Front in East Prussia in 1945. That same year he was designated to command the Soviet Forces, Far East.

The first of Marshal Valislevsky’s operational armies was known as the Trans-Baikal Front. This army had under its command the 6th Guards Tank Army, the 17th, 36th, 39th, and 53rd Armies, and a Mongolian Cavalry-Mechanized Group, along with the 12th Air Army.

A Japanese horse-mounted unit on maneuvers along the banks of the Amur River shortly before the Soviets declared war on Japan, August 8, 1945.

Its 640,040 men were divided into 30 rifle divisions, five cavalry divisions, two tank divisions, 10 tank brigades, and eight mechanized brigades some 41 percent of the Soviet forces were within this group. Commanding the Trans-Baikal Front was Marshal of the Soviet Union Radion Yakovlevich Malinovsky, who had previously commanded a front in the Battles of Odessa, Budapest, and Vienna.

Malinovsky’s compatriot was 48-year-old Marshal of the Soviet Union Kirill Meretskov and his 1st Far Eastern Army, with the 5th Guards Army, 1st Red Banner Army, 25th and 35th Armies, 10th Mechanized Corps, and Chuguevsk Operational Group, supported by the 9th Air Army.

In total, Marshal Meretskov had 586,589 troops in 31 rifle divisions, one cavalry division, 12 tank brigades, and two mechanized brigades. Meretskov’s forces represented 37 percent of the total Soviet force.

The smallest of these combined Soviet armies was the 2nd Far Eastern Front with the 15th, 16th, and 2nd Red Banner Armies, 5th Separate Rifle Corps, and the Kuriles Operational Group, supported by the 10th Air Army. With 337,096 men, it represented only 21 percent of the total Soviet force in the East of 1.5 million men.

These combined armies were the result of the constant Soviet effort at updating and modernizing their forces as they learned from experience. A combined arms Soviet army at this stage of the war consisted of between 80-100,000 soldiers divided into 7 to 12 rifle divisions, one or two artillery brigades, a tank destroyer brigade, an antiaircraft brigade, a mortar regiment, signal regiment, engineer regiment, two or three tank brigades, and a tank or mechanized corps. These troops were armed with 320 to 460 tanks, 1,900-2,500 guns and mortars, and 100 to 200 self-propelled guns.

Soviet tactics against enemy defenses had also been articulated into military regulations. Superiority over the enemy forces on one particular axis needed to be achieved, then close tank-infantry cooperation, strongly supported by artillery and air power, would attack.

Mobile groups of tanks and mechanized troops would break through, creating an initial penetration at which time the entire attacking force would follow through and exploit that penetration, breaking up the remaining enemy defenders into smaller groups that were then defeated in detail. Meanwhile, airborne, reconnaissance, and partisan groups would disrupt the enemy’s rear areas, cutting lines of communication and supply.

For the Manchurian campaign, 50-year-old Marshal Vasilevsky planned a double envelopment of the Kwantung Army, attacking along three separate axes of advance. His objective was to destroy the Kwantung Army and secure the entire Manchurian territory for the Soviet Union as quickly as possible, before the end of the war halted all military operations.

To do this he had planned to launch Marshal Malinovsky’s army first, followed in a day or two by Marshal Meretskov’s, but on August 7—the day after the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima—Vasilevsky changed his mind and decided on a two-pronged simultaneous attack using all three armies.

On August 9, a second A-bomb wiped out Nagasaki. Still, the Japanese did not surrender.

On that same day, Vasilevsky directed the Trans-Baikal Front to strike east into western Manchuria while the 1st Far Eastern Front attacked west into eastern Manchuria. These attacks were to clear the Japanese out of Manchuria and to join with each other in the Mukden, Harbin, and Kirin areas of south central Manchuria.

After the Soviets launched an amphibious invasion of Japanese-occupied Korea on August 14, the Red Army stopped at the 38th Parallel at the proposal of the United States, thus establishing the later border between North and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Far Eastern Front would launch a supporting attack into northern Manchuria and also join with the others in the Harbin and Tsitsihan areas of Manchuria. Attacks planned against southern Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands would be delayed, depending upon the speed of the other operations.

The primary thrust was to be made by the Trans-Baikal Front, striking 350 kilometers into the Japanese-held interior by the 10th to 15th day of the attack. Led by Col. Gen. A.G. Kravchenko’s 6th Guards Tank Army with Lt. Gen. A.I. Danilov’s 17th and Col. Gen. I.I. Lyudnikov’s 39th Armies alongside, the object was to bypass the fortified regions around Halung-arsheen and advance upon Changchun.

The attack was designed to destroy the Japanese border defenders, cross the Grand Khingan Mountains, and occupy the central Manchurian Plain between Lupei and Solun as soon as possible.

According to the Soviet timetable, the 6th Guards Army would have to cross the deserts of Inner Mongolia, secure the passes through the Grand Khingan Mountains, and occupy Lupei by day five of the offensive. Subsidiary attacks by the Soviet-Mongolian Cavalry-Mechanized Corps would also cross the desert and strike for Kalgan. Lt. Gen. A.A. Luchinsky’s 39th Army was to cross the Argun River, secure Hailar, and prevent Japanese troop withdrawals through the Grand Khingan Mountains.

The 1st Far Eastern Army was to penetrate the Japanese border defenses or bypass them, after which they were to operate in the rear of the enemy forces in the fortified zones. Col. Gen. A.P. Beloborodov’s 1st Red Banner Army and Col. Gen. N.I. Krylov’s 5th Army, with the 10th Mechanized Corps, were to attack from northwest of Vladivostok toward Harbin and link up there with the Trans-Baikal Front, surrounding many Japanese main force units. They were to also secure Port Arthur on the Liaotung Peninsula.

General M.A. Purkayev’s 2nd Far Eastern Front was to attack on a broad front across the Amur and Ussuri Rivers to keep maximum pressure on the Japanese and destroy those facing them. They were to also prevent a withdrawal of any enemy forces attempting to reinforce other Japanese forces.

General M.F. Terëkhin’s 2nd Red Banner Army was to attack toward Tsitsihar after crossing the Amur River. The 5th Separate Rifle Corps was to attack toward Bikin and secure Paoching, then move to Poli, where it was to link up with the 1st Far Eastern Front.

The Soviet plans called for speed, surprise, and mobility. Tanks would lead all attacks, closely supported by infantry, artillery, and air support. The objective was to prevent the enemy from bringing reinforcements from North China or Korea and then to destroy the Kwantung Army. The attack in all sectors was designed to tie down all the Japanese defenders so that no one area could reinforce another.

At two minutes after midnight on August 9, 1945, after a quick declaration of war against Japan, Soviet forces crossed the border. Advance units crossed both the Inner Mongolia and Manchuria borders, leading main force units behind them.

Initially, only Luchinsky’s 36th Army faced any resistance when that army’s routes passed through fortified Japanese border areas—most other advances were unopposed, a result of the most recent Japanese plans to withdraw into fortified localities.

On the right flank of the Trans-Baikal Front, Pliyev’s Soviet-Manchurian Cavalry-Mechanized Corps advanced with the 25th Mechanized Brigade and 43rd Separate Tank Brigade leading two columns forward. They swiftly advanced across the desert of Inner Mongolia, covering 55 miles on the first day.

To their east, Danilov’s 17th Army, led by the 70th and 82nd Tank Battalions, also entered Inner Mongolia unopposed these columns moved 70 kilometers the first day. The spearhead of the Trans-Baikal Front—Kravchenko’s 6th Guards Tank Army—advanced into Inner Mongolia in two columns, each broken down further into multiple columns, stretching over an advancing front line some 20 kilometers wide.

The forward detachments usually consisted of a rifle regiment, a tank regiment, and an artillery battalion. Opposition was limited and progress remained rapid. By dark the forward elements were in the foothills of the critical Grand Khingan Mountains.

On Kravchenko’s right flank, Lyudnikov’s 39th Army attacked on a southern axis against the Japanese 107th Division. The Wuchakou fortified region was bypassed and, led forward by the 61st Tank Division, the 39th Army continued south, passing the 1939 battlefield of Nomohan (Khalkhin-Gol) to join the 94th Rifle Corps, whose two divisions were attacking the Hailar Fortified Region in support of the 36th Army. Small Japanese counterattacks, supported by Manchurian cavalry, were easily beaten off.

But in some cases, the terrain—more than the Japanese—slowed the Soviet advance. To keep the forward momentum going, many commanders organized new forward detachments built around self-propelled artillery battalions. With infantry and tanks along, these could move faster and farther than previous organizations.

The attackers continued to either overrun or obliterate Japanese defenses and their occupants. The 5th Army, with 12 divisions and 692 armored vehicles, overran the Japanese 124th Division by advancing quickly and penetrating the border at areas the Japanese had deemed impassible, moving swiftly and attacking unexpectedly.

On the left flank of the Trans-Baikal Front, General Luchinsky’s 36th Army sent two rifle regiments of the 2nd Rifle Corps across the swollen Argun River using amphibious vehicles. Lt. Gen. Mikio’s Fourth Separate (Japanese) Army defended Hailar with the 80th Independent Mixed Brigade and 119th Division, also supported by Manchurian Cavalry. These Japanese units were installed in the Hailar Fortified Region.

The spoils of war: Soviet troops remove industrial equipment from a Manchurian factory.

Undeterred, the Soviet 205th Tank Brigade managed to secure the bridges north of Hailar under cover of rain and fog before being ordered to conduct a night attack on the city. Supported by the 94th Rifle Division, the attack managed to surround the city by the next day, August 10.

Although the Soviets secured the outskirts of the town, the 80th Independent Mixed Brigade managed to hold the city center while the 119th Division withdrew to secure the passes through the Grand Khingan Mountains. Heavy fighting would continue in several areas such as these until after the official surrender.

The Japanese had expected a Soviet offensive into Manchuria but believed that it could not begin before autumn. The August 9 assault not only surprised them, but also caught them in the process of reorganizing their defenses and units. The result was a massive victory by the Soviets, despite fierce and dedicated resistance by many Japanese units.

Confusion quickly grew within Japanese ranks. General Ushiroku, commanding the 3rd Area Army, decided to withdraw his forces to defend Mukden, where most of his soldiers’ families resided. This was contrary to General Yamada’s plans and, of course, further disrupted the Japanese defensive scheme.

The Soviet advance continued to suffer from terrain and logistical problems, which caused more concern than Japanese resistance. In the 6th Guards Tank Army, for example, General Kravehenko had to replace one of his leading elements, the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps, because many of its tracked vehicles, including Lend-Lease American Sherman tanks, had broken down or were out of fuel.

Kravehenko moved up the 5th Guards Tank Corps on August 10 to lead his advance the tracked vehicles handled the rough terrain better than his wheeled vehicles. This enabled him to cross the Grand Khingan Mountains with the 7th Guards Mechanized Corps using two roads and crossing at Mokotan on August 10-11. The 5th Guards Tank Corps, followed by the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps, crossed at Yukoto over one road at the same time.

The 5th Guards Tank Corps reached the high point in the mountains at 11 pm, August 10, and then moved rapidly downhill in the dark and rain, crossing the entire mountain range in just seven hours after covering 40 kilometers. The other corps, encumbered with wheeled vehicles, took longer but nevertheless made the crossing in good time.

By daylight on August 10, the 6th Guards Army had reached the central Manchurian plain the followup units arrived the next day, August 11. Immediately they moved east to continue the advance.

The 5th Guards Tank Corps reached Lupei on August 11, and the 7th Guards Mechanized Corps seized Tuchuan on the 12th. The operation, planned for five days, had lasted barely four days. There had been no opposition to speak of Japanese units had already begun to withdraw.

August 12 saw the first serious resistance by the Japanese 107th Division near Wuchakou. The Soviet attack dispersed the defenders, who lost considerably in arms and equipment.

That same day, the 221st Rifle Division accepted the surrender of General Houlin, commanding the Manchurian 10th Military District, along with more than 1,000 of his men. But the fight for Hailar continued unabated.

The Soviet command redeployed its forces, releasing the tanks and replacing them with more infantry. Eventually the Japanese of the 80th Independent Mixed Brigade were driven out of Hailar itself but took up positions overlooking the city and continued to deny it to the Red Army.

Similarly, the 94th and 393rd Rifle Divisions had their hands full with the Japanese 119th Division, still blocking certain access routes to the nearby Grand Khingan Mountains.

General Pliyev’s Soviet-Manchurian Cavalry-Mechanized Corps also had problems, crossing the Mongolian deserts opposed by Manchurian and Mongolian cavalry units—a civil war in miniature. Nevertheless, they pushed their way forward and seized Taopanshin in four days of fighting.

Another problem that gave the Soviets as much trouble as the Japanese was a fuel shortage. The 6th Guards Tank Army, leading the advance of the Trans-Baikal Front, had to stand down for two days, August 12-13, due to lack of fuel, which stemmed from logistical difficulties. The leading forces had advanced so far and so fast that the logistical tail could not keep up over the miserable roads in the area.

To address this issue, vehicles—including Sherman tanks, which used more fuel than the standard Russian tanks—were dropped out of the advance the 453rd Aviation Battalion of the Red Air Force was used to fly gasoline and other fuels to the forward areas. Japanese kamikaze attacks on Russian supply lines contributed to the shortages.

Yet savage fighting continued. At the Wunoerh railroad station, the 275th Rifle Division spent August 13 and 14 eliminating a strong Japanese defensive position, while the 2nd Rifle Corps still fought for Hailar against the 119th Division. While all this continued, the Japanese government was trying to find a way out of the war.

On August 14, the Japanese government contacted the Allied powers for a clarification of surrender terms published earlier. In the interim, the Japanese Emperor ordered his forces to cease fire on August 14 pending further instructions.

Not unexpectedly, General Yamada countermanded the Emperor’s order, causing great consternation in his own ranks. The Japanese soldier had sworn an oath to his Emperor, which required unquestioning obedience, but it also required a no-surrender conviction.

Many Japanese were torn between obedience to the Emperor and obedience to the oath requiring no surrender. This confusion not only created factions within the Kwantung Army but further weakened its defensive efforts. Finally, on August 19, General Yamada agreed to a cease-fire.

Now it was Marshal Vasilevsky’s turn to ignore the cease-fire. Anxious to overcome Japanese resistance and uncertain if the cease-fire would result in a surrender—plus a desire to seize as much ground as he could before any such surrender—Vasilevsky continued with his offensive. Orders were issued for the capture of Mukden, Tsitsihar, and several other significant Manchurian cities.

On that same day, August 15, the Soviet-Manchurian Cavalry-Mechanized Corps ran into stiff opposition from the Inner Mongolian 3rd, 5th, and 7th Cavalry Divisions at Karibao. But two days of fierce fighting culminated in the surrender of the Mongolians and the capture of 1,635 prisoners of war.

When the Russians seized Harbin in central Manchuria they uncovered one of the most infamous war crimes of the century. There a Japanese doctor, Shiro Ishii, had created the top secret Unit 731. Here Japanese doctors and others tried to create new biological warfare weapons using human guinea pigs—mostly Chinese civilians and POWs, but also British and American POWs.

Hidden under the guise of a lumber mill, thousands of human beings were experimented upon, including live vivisections and injections of various diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, typhoid, botulism, and a host of other deadly viruses. Like the Germans, the Japanese disposed of the bodies in a crematorium.

The Russians would later try as war criminals the Japanese staff they captured at Harbin, but those who escaped to Japan and were seized by the Americans, including Doctor Ishii, were never placed on trial.

Meanwhile, Tokyo continued in turmoil. The Emperor’s decision to surrender had been contested by many of his advisors, including the Imperial General Headquarters hierarchy and many junior officers who threatened violence against leading government officials if the war was not continued.

Even the second atomic bomb had not dissuaded them from continuing the war. But when reports from the Kwantung Army began to arrive, reporting significant Soviet penetration in Manchuria and the situation as “obscure,” objections to surrender were far less convincing.

Finally, on August 18, Japan officially announced the surrender of the Kwantung Army. On that same day, the Soviet-Manchurian Cavalry-Mechanized Corps symbolically crossed the Great Wall of China and marched toward Peking (today Beijing), joining en route the Chinese Communist 8th Route Army.

Japanese troops lay down their arms after surrendering to the Red Army in Harbin, Manchuria, August 20, 1945.

On this day as well, Hailar finally fell, producing 3,227 prisoners of war. Mukden was occupied on August 24, and on the 30th the last major Japanese force, the 107th Division, surrendered to the 94th Rifle Corps, which was mopping up rear areas. Another 7,858 POWs were sent to the prison camps.

Although such figures are suspect and have been repeatedly altered by the respective governments since their first publication, the Russians claimed the Japanese suffered 84,000 killed and 594,000 captured. Their own losses, since updated, are given as 12,103 killed and 24,550 wounded.

But these figures ignore the casualties of the Manchurian and Mongolian auxiliaries, as well as the undoubted thousands of Japanese reservists and civilians killed during the campaign.

Further, what is left out of these figures are the missing. Of the 2,726,000 Japanese nationals, two-thirds of whom were civilians, captured during the Manchurian Campaign, 254,000 died in Soviet captivity and a further 93,000 were listed as missing, fate unknown.

One Japanese estimate indicates that as many as 376,000 died or went missing in the first winter in captivity. Another source states that of 220,000 Japanese civilian settlers, 80,000 died, either having starved to death, committed suicide, or been killed by Chinese partisans. Only 140,000 survivors returned to Japan.

As had happened when the Red Army overran Germany, tens of thousands of Japanese—and Chinese—women were raped, many repeatedly, as the Soviets completed their conquest of Manchuria.

At one airfield where Japanese women had collected for safety, one later recorded, “Every day Russian soldiers would come in and take about 10 girls. The women came back in the morning. Some women committed suicide. The Russian soldiers told us that if no women came out, the whole hangar would be burnt to the ground, with all of us inside.”

The Soviets’ Manchurian Campaign, August Storm, destroyed the last vestige of Japanese military power outside Japan, and put the final nail in the coffin of those Japanese militarists who, even after suffering two atomic attacks, intended to continue the war to the death.

Only the most fanatical Japanese still wanted to continue what had become a war of annihilation. These few were either killed by the rational Japanese leaders or conveniently committed suicide. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria—which led to Japan’s greatest defeat—had helped to end the Pacific War.


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At the time I was intrigued by the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt and had a hunch that it wasn’t as warm as it was generally perceived to be. Then, while reading around the subject, I had a stroke of luck. I came across a throwaway remark about ‘Churchill’s dirty tricks in the USA’.

What was all that about, I wondered? I soon realised I had struck narrative gold – at least as far as my novel was concerned. What I stumbled across was a book with the bland title of British Security Coordination.

It was the reprint of a lengthy anonymous document detailing the activities of the said group from 1940-45, some 500 pages long, crammed with precise detail. BSC was set up by Churchill in 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister. It was an umbrella organisation that drew on the expertise of MI5, MI6 and the Special Operations Executive and was charged specifically with doing everything in its power to change American public opinion from its overwhelmingly isolationist, non-interventionist stance, and to somehow bring the USA into the war in Europe.

On taking office, Churchill declared this was his vital and overriding objective – without the USA on our side the war against Hitler could not be won.

Dealbreaker: To Roosevelt, Hitler's plan to invade South America was invaluable evidence of Nazi aggression across the Atlantic, touching his closest neighbours

We forget today – in this era of the so-called ‘special relationship’ – how predominantly Anglophobe the American population was in 1940. Powerful groups violently opposed any participation in the war in Europe. German and Italian immigrants and Irish Republican factions all had their grudges and own reasons for not wanting the USA to become Britain’s ally.

The virulently isolationist America First movement, fronted by the celebrated aviator Charles Lindberg, had close to a million members and hundreds of ‘chapters’ throughout the country. Polls indicated that some 80 per cent of the American population was against joining the war in Europe. In this fervid climate of negative opinion the challenge to BSC was enormous. The key weapon they employed was what was termed political warfare – the spreading of black propaganda against the Nazi/Axis countries’ threat and the urgent promotion of the interventionist, British case.

BSC was controlled and overseen by a wealthy Canadian called William Stephenson. He relocated its offices to the Rockefeller Centre in Manhattan where, at its moment of greatest power and influence, BSC filled three floors. It wore the thin disguise of a Passport Control Office (a section of the British Embassy), but in fact it soon became the nerve centre of a massive effort of media manipulation and covert operations that stretched from Chile to Bermuda and Vancouver.

BSC secretly operated its own powerful shortwave radio station, WRUL. It seemed a bona fide US station, but it disseminated a constant barrage of pro-British, anti-isolationist news items. A press agency was set up, the Overseas News Agency (ONA), that fed stories to American newspapers.

‘Cut-outs’, as American sympathisers and sub-agents were known, were used to hide the sources of this information. Nobody has ever fully quantified the number of people working for BSC during the war, but it ran into the hundreds, if not thousands.

All sorts of schemes were evolved by BSC to foment anti-Nazi feeling. Walter Winchell, whose newspaper column was read by 25 million Americans, was sent a forged letter, with documentary evidence – purportedly written by an American merchant seaman – about German propaganda efforts in the US. It duly appeared in his column.

A bogus Hungarian astrologer, Louis de Wohl, was despatched from Britain to the US on a lecture tour, telling audiences the stars predicted Hitler was to die. He claimed Hitler’s horoscope showed Neptune was in the house of death and, that very summer of 1941, Uranus and Neptune would coincide to bring about his demise.

BSC also had a statement released in Egypt by another astrologer, Sheikh Youssef Afifi, who independently corroborated de Wohl’s predictions, saying ‘a red planet will appear on the eastern horizon and will indicate that a dangerous evil-doer, who has drenched the world in blood, will pass away’.

Simultaneously, correspondents in Nigeria reported that a celebrated fetish priest, called Ulokoigbe, had a vision in which a Hitler figure – ‘Long Hair’ – slipped ‘from a high rock and fell shrieking like a madman’.

These stories were duly carried by the American press, making de Wohl’s prophecy seem uncanny. BSC’s grander plan was that it might reach the ears of Hitler, who was known to be a believer in astrology.

BSC evolved a prankish game called ‘Vik’ – a ‘fascinating new pastime for lovers of democracy’. Teams of Vik players across the USA scored points depending on the level of embarrassment and irritation they caused Nazi sympathisers. Players were urged to indulge in a series of petty persecutions – persistent ‘wrong number’ calls in the night dead rats dropped in water tanks ordering cumbersome gifts to be delivered, cash on delivery, to target addresses deflating the tyres of cars hiring street musicians to play ‘God Save the King’ outside Nazi sympathisers’ houses, and so on.

A special department was set up as a ‘rumour factory’. For example, a rumour was originated stating the British had developed a devastating depth charge with a new, incredibly powerful explosive. This was to demoralise German U-boat crews. ONA put out the story with a dateline of Ankara, Turkey, which was cabled to the Soviet Union’s Tass correspondent in Washington. This was broadcast from Moscow – in 1940 Russia was not yet at war with Germany – citing the neutral source.

This was picked up by the US press, where it then appeared as a bona fide story in American newspapers – thus items of war-related interest, fabricated in the Rockefeller Centre, travelled round the world to re-emerge in American media as genuine news.

However, when it came to undermining America First – which was highly suspicious of covert British activities – BSC had to be more shrewd.

At America First rallies, Churchill’s name would be greeted by boos while Hitler’s would receive a respectful silence. For one rally in Madison Square Garden, New York, BSC forged thousands of duplicate tickets, causing huge confusion as people found their seats were double-booked.

Accusations of fakery: Franklin D. Roosevelt, pictured with Winston Churchill At The Casablanca Conference In Morocco in January 1943, had made a throwaway remark about 'Churchill¿s dirty tricks in the USA'

At another in Milwaukee, a violently anti-British American congressman, Hamilton Fish, was handed a note on which was written in large letters, ‘Der Fuhrer thanks you for your loyalty’. This was snapped by a planted photographer and made excellent copy. At least something was being done to put the British case to the American people and the effect of BSC’s effort was impressive – but would it have really swayed American public opinion to the extent that intervention in the war would be welcomed?

BSC needed to come up with a more tangible threat and one of the most elaborate operations in its history was set in motion towards the end of 1941, originating in the neutral but significantly pro-Axis Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In October 1941 a German courier from the embassy was involved in a car accident in downtown Buenos Aires. He was being followed by BSC agents and in the confusion, his despatch case was purloined and rifled.

Inside it, supposedly, was a German map dividing South America into German fiefdoms. This was sent to New York and found its way to the FBI and then to Roosevelt himself – with satisfying results. Was this BSC’s greatest coup? Quite possibly, but there were, reputedly, only two copies of this map – one kept by Hitler and the other by the German Ambassador to Argentina.

Once Roosevelt’s speech had been made, the Germans investigated and it was discovered both maps were still with their owners – so the third map, the one Roosevelt cited, must have been a copy.

But who had copied it and why was such a secret, inflammatory document being carried in a despatch case by a humble embassy courier? The South American map was, I’m convinced, an elaborate fake, concocted by BSC’s expert department of forgery (known as Station M and based in Canada). It hoodwinked CIA chief J. Edgar Hoover and Roosevelt and, having seen a reproduction of it, I can testify to its authenticity – the scribbled marginalia of some anonymous German official, asking precise questions about fuel supplies and Mexican participation, being the masterstroke.

In the annals of covert operations this was one of the most significant and most successful ever. And yet we, the British, have kept extremely quiet about it. BSC’s conspicuous success has no place in our espionage history compared to, for example, Bletchley Park and the Enigma decryptions.

There has been no triumphalism, no plaudits delivered, no heroes honoured. It’s as if we’re somewhat ashamed at the guileful ingenuity we displayed in the way we managed to dupe our most powerful and necessary ally.

Might the South American map have been the catalyst for the USA finally abandoning its isolationism? We will never know because on Sunday, December 7, 1941, just 41 days after Roosevelt’s powerful denunciation of Nazi regional ambitions, the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Japanese. The US duly declared war on Japan and a day later Italy and Germany, Japan’s allies, declared war in turn on America. BSC’s main objective, Churchill’s crucial order, had been effectively achieved – thanks to the Japanese.

BSC remained in place in the Americas until 1945 when it was disbanded and its history was written up, one of the three authors being Roald Dahl, who was seconded to BSC in 1942.

And then everybody ‘forgot’ about it. The details of wartime British covert operations in the US were brushed as far under the historical carpet as possible – not surprisingly, when one considers the massive extent of BSC’s penetration of the American media and its brilliantly clever manipulation of the country’s news organisations.

One American commentator who read the BSC history remarked: ‘Like many intelligence operations, this one involved exquisite moral ambiguity. The British used ruthless methods to achieve their goals by today’s peacetime standards some of the activities may seem outrageous.’

At the height and spread of its power, BSC was able to plant pro-British propaganda, and anti-Nazi black propaganda, in all of the significant outlets of American media from the largest circulation newspapers and press agencies to the most influential columnists and radio broadcasters. It was even able to reach the desk of the President himself.

Whatever the explanation of that map, the secret history of the BSC and the extraordinary achievement of its covert activities in the United States proved – 60 years on – vital and timely grist to my fictional mill. One British novelist was extremely grateful.


How the U.S. and Japan Became Allies Even After Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Relations between the U.S. and Japan 73 years ago were epoch-definingly bad: Monday marks the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima the anniversary of the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing of Nagasaki falls on Thursday. A week later, it was announced that Japan would surrender, four years after its attack on Pearl Harbor had catapulted the U.S. into World War II.

Today, however, things are very different. Eighty-four percent of Japanese people feel “close” to the U.S., according to the Japanese government’s annual Cabinet Office poll, and 87% of Americans say they have a favorable view of Japan, according to a Gallup poll. So how did the U.S. and Japan get from the situation in 1945 to the strong alliance they have today?

The process of reconciliation began as soon as the war ended, but it didn’t always go smoothly.

The first phase was the United States’ roughly seven-year occupation of Japan, which began following the surrender. When Japan got a new constitution, which took effect on May 3, 1947, its terms came largely courtesy of American influence, specifically that of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur and his staff. For example, while the new constitution democratized the political structure of Japan, it also kept Emperor Hirohito as the nation’s symbolic leader, per MacArthur’s wishes. “Japan experts said if you dismantle the emperor system, there will be chaos,” explains Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and director of Asian Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. The constitution also made a key determination about Japan’s military future: Article 9 included a two-part clause stating that “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes” and, to accomplish that goal, that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Though it was meant to keep the peace, the clause created an unequal power dynamic — the military force of the occupying power was growing while that of the occupied nation was stuck — and thus led to problems of its own.

“The U.S. could use its Japanese bases to support military action elsewhere in Asia, could bring into Japan any weapons it chose, including H-bombs, could even use its forces to aid the Japanese government in putting down internal disturbances,” TIME later reported. “These were bonds that left Japan precious little room for international maneuver and that chafed increasingly against dark memories of Hiroshima and the deep national pride of the Japanese people.”

And within a few years, as the Korean War broke out, the U.S. was looking for ways around the terms it had been so instrumental in establishing, as it pressed Japan to build up its own military (called “self-defense forces” to get around the constitutional prohibition) as a backstop against the North Korean side. Many Japanese people were uncomfortable, or worse, with this obvious violation of the constitution and what was seen as a movement away from peacefulness, which had quickly become part of the post-war national identity. But the shift was just one part of a larger motivation for the U.S. and Japan to get back on the same side: the Cold War and the global threat of communism.

The American occupation of Japan ended in 1952, after the U.S. and Japan signed a security treaty for a “peace of reconciliation” in San Francisco in 1951. The agreement let the U.S. maintain military bases there, and a revision in 1960 said the U.S. would come to Japan’s defense in an attack. “After the Korean War, the U.S. had to rethink how it would deal with Asia, so in order to contain communism, the U.S. and Japan signed a peace treaty that says Japan is a sovereign country but agrees that the U.S. can stay and provide security,” explains Green.

TIME’s Jan. 25, 1960, cover story, which came out around the week that the U.S. and Japan signed the revised treaty (and which makes use of some national stereotypes from that era), focused on how Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi had played an important role in reconciling “Japan’s militarist, aggressive past and its democratic present.” (He was born to do it, TIME argued, reporting that the name Kishi, meaning “riverbank,” is used in a Japanese phrase that refers to “one who tries to keep a foot on both banks of the river.”) As the cover story detailed, not everyone was happy about the two nations’ growing closeness. But the forces behind the scenes — especially the economic forces — were stronger than any individual’s protests:

Prime Minister Kishi, 63, flew into Washington this week convinced that the logic of the world situation and the profit of Japan require his signature on the revision of the 1951 U.S.-Japanese Treaty. Not all his countrymen agree. In Tokyo 27,000 demonstrators battled police, and thousands of fanatical left-wing students made plain their feelings about the treaty by using the great doorway of the Japanese Diet for their own kind of public protest—a mass urination…

Kishi’s diehard opponents protest that the treaty revision commits Japan to support all U.S. moves in the Pacific and may therefore “attract the lightning” of a Communist H-bomb attack. There are U.S. reservations about the treaty as well many Pentagon staff officers complain that it gives Japan what amounts to a veto over the movement of U.S. troops on the perimeter of the Asian mainland.

The treaty is to run for ten years, and its ten articles pledge that 1) both nations will take “action to counter the common danger” if the forces of either are attacked in Japan, though not elsewhere, 2) “prior consultation” will be held between the two before U.S. forces in Japan receive nuclear arms, 3) Japan is released from further contributions (now $30 million a year) for the support of U.S. troops in the islands. In Kishi’s words, the treaty will create an atmosphere of “mutual trust.” It inaugurates a “new era” of friendship with the U.S. and, most important, of independence for Japan.

Only 14 years ago such a treaty would have been unthinkable, and that it would be signed for Japan by Kishi, inconceivable. Then, Japan was a nation in ruins: a third of its factories had been leveled by U.S. bombers eight of every ten ships in its merchant fleet lay at the bottom of the ocean its exhausted population faced starvation…

Yet Japan, going into the 1960s, has risen phoenix-like from the ashes. The Japanese people are 25% better off than they were before the war, even though 20 million more of them are crowded into an area 52% smaller than their old territory. Japan’s industrial growth has soared to its highest rate ever, enough to double the national income every ten years. Its tiny farms (average size: 2½ acres) are so intensely cultivated that they have one of the world’s highest yields. Nearly every Japanese family owns a radio, one in every four, a TV set more newspapers are sold per capita than in the U.S. The people of Japan are incomparably the best fed, clothed and housed in all Asia…

Japan did not lift itself by its own sandal straps. Since the war U.S. aid has averaged $178 million a year a serious business recession was eased by the 1950 Korean war, which poured vast sums into the Japanese economy war reparations in kind to Southeast Asia have kept factories humming and the very high rate of capital investment is possible since Japan spends little on armaments. But major credit belongs to the Japanese themselves. In a typically Japanese swing from one extreme to another, they shook off the apathy of defeat, and with skill, hard work and enthusiasm began rebuilding at home and recapturing markets abroad.

In contrast, Kishi could see, the U.S. was supplying economic aid and buying more Japanese goods than any other single country — particularly the fine-quality consumer items that are too expensive for the rest of Asia. The U.S., moreover, is the guarantor of Japan’s security in the shadow of the two Red giants of China and the Soviet Union. Moved by pragmatism, not pro-Americanism, Kishi realizes that his nation’s best and most vital interests are served by close cooperation with the U.S. both in trade and defense.

That said, U.S.-Japan relations would be tested again, during the protectionist movement of the ’70s and ’80s.

Case in point: the car industry. “After two oil crises in the ’70s [and] Vietnam, which cost the U.S. a great deal, the [American] economy wasn’t as strong as it once was. Smaller, cheaper, fuel-efficient Japanese cars were a better option,” says Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Japan’s New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance. With this shift in consumer preferences, Japan grew wealthier. By the 1980s, it had become the second largest economy. But, as the Japanese grew wealthier, Americans blamed them for the loss of American jobs, especially in the auto and textile industries in extreme cases, they reacted by destroying Japanese cars and attacking Asian-Americans. Some Americans thought the Japanese were “cheating” somehow and questioned whether this richer Japan was “not pulling its weight in defense spending,” says Smith.

“During the trade friction in the ’80s, there was a lot of mistrust between the U.S. and Japan, and a lot of people thought the reconciliation process would fall apart because we were becoming economic adversaries,” says Green. “The reason the reconciliation process didn’t break down was in part because, in 1985, the U.S. and the world pressured Japan to bring up the value of the yen. Exports were too cheap, not fair. [After the shift] it cost almost twice as much to buy Japanese goods that were exported, and it actually incentivized Japan to invest in factories in the U.S. and employ Americans”

The economic balance thus resettled. With the Cold War still top-of-mind for many people around the world — and Japan positioning itself as a bulwark against the Soviets — the reconciliation process proceeded once more.

In the years since, anniversaries have several times provided occasions to observe the extent of that reconciliation, and where gaps remain. For example, on the 50th anniversary, American veterans’ groups protested plans for a Smithsonian exhibition that explained the destruction of the atomic bombings and its effect on Japanese victims, arguing it made Americans look like aggressors. Others felt that the perspective of U.S. veterans groups was consistently heard more than the perspective of that of the survivors of the atomic bombings. “Aware of lingering bitterness over their nation’s role in World War II, Japanese are disappointed but not surprised that U.S. veterans’ groups have forced the downscaling of a controversial exhibition commemorating the end of the conflict,” TIME reported back then, quoting Hiroshima survivor Koshiro Kondo as saying, “We had hoped that the feelings of the people of Hiroshima might have gotten through to the American people.”

Meanwhile, a historic display of reconciliation came in 2016, when President Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor seven months later. “The two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies,” the White House said in a statement.

Today, there are signs that the story is not yet complete. Surveys show that some people’s confidence in maintaining the strong relationship under President Donald Trump’s administration is waning. A poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 43% of Americans believe the U.S. should strengthen its alliance with Japan “as China becomes increasingly powerful in the region.” And yet, a 2017 Pew poll found that 41% of Japanese think U.S.-Japan relations will “get worse, not better” under Trump. Fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China and the war of words between the nations’ leaders exacerbate those feelings.

And the ethical debate over whether it was the right decision to use atomic bombs in 1945 — or if it ever would be — continues, too. Diplomatic relations may have been settled, says Smith, but “that moral question, I think, we’ll never resolve.”


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