August 9th, 2012


Why did Japan surrender?

Год назад Boston Globe опубликовал статью к годовщине атомной бомбардировки Японии, весьма нетипичную для американских СМИ. В ней аргументируется что главной причиной капитуляции Японии стали не атомные бомбы (так как разрушения от них не отличались качественно от массированных бомбардировок японских городов обычными бомбами), а вступление в войну Советского Союза: это разрушило японские надежды на раскол антигитлеровской коалиции и посредничество СССР в потенциальных переговорах с Америкой о сдаче в войне:
Sixty-six years ago, we dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Now, some historians say that’s not what ended the war.

For nearly seven decades, the American public has accepted one version of the events that led to Japan’s surrender...

But in early August 66 years ago, America unveiled a terrifying new weapon, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a matter of days, the Japanese submitted, bringing the fighting, finally, to a close.

In recent years, however, a new interpretation of events has emerged. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa - a highly respected historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara - has marshaled compelling evidence that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan’s surrender. His interpretation could force a new accounting of the moral meaning of the atomic attack. It also raises provocative questions about nuclear deterrence, a foundation stone of military strategy in the postwar period. And it suggests that we could be headed towards an utterly different understanding of how, and why, the Second World War came to its conclusion.

“Hasegawa has changed my mind,” says Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” “The Japanese decision to surrender was not driven by the two bombings.”...

Japan was not poised to surrender before Hiroshima, as the revisionists argued, nor was it ready to give in immediately after the atomic bomb, as traditionalists have always seen it. Instead, it took the Soviet declaration of war on Japan, several days after Hiroshima, to bring the capitulation.

Both the American and Japanese public have clung to the idea that the mushroom clouds ended the war. For the Japanese, Hiroshima is a potent symbol of their nation as victim, helping obscure their role as the aggressors and in atrocities that include mass rapes and beheading prisoners of war. For the Americans, Hiroshima has always been a means justified by the end.

“This seems to touch a nerve,” observes Hasegawa.

That may help explain why Hasegawa’s thesis, which he first detailed in an award-winning 2005 book and has continued to bolster with new material, is still little known outside of academic circles, says Ward Wilson, a nuclear weapons scholar who has drawn on Hasegawa’s insights in his own recent work. Measured against the decades of serious and settled thinking about World War II, Hasegawa’s scholarship feels radical. But another reason, Wilson argues, is that to look at history in this new light is to entertain what seem like shocking ideas. That the destruction of cities does not sway leaders. That what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not overly remarkable. And, strangest of all: That nuclear explosives may not be particularly effective weapons of war....

On Aug. 7, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo sent an urgent coded telegram to his ambassador in Moscow, asking him to press for a response to the Japanese request for mediation, which the Soviets had yet to provide. The bombing added a “sense of urgency,” Hasegawa says, but the plan remained the same.

Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan’s strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan’s traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow...