Finest Hour 113, Winter 2001-02
By Craig Horn
Riddles, Mysteries, Enigmas” in FH 111 carried a question concerning Churchill’s attitude toward the use of the two atomic bombs against Japan in World War II. We reported that he favored the use of both. It was recently related to us that then-General Dwight Eisenhower was against the use of at least the second (Nagasaki) bomb, which he regarded as unnecessary. Concerning which, some observations.
No End Save Victory: Perspectives on World War II, edited by Robert Cowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 2001), is a collection of essays by distinguished historians. The very last essay, entitled “The Voice of the Crane,” by Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, reveals that in spite of the bombs, and Hirohito’s recorded proclamation accepting President Truman’s Potsdam Proclamation demanding unconditional surrender, elements of the Japanese Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, including Korechika Anami, Admiral Soemu Toyoda and General Yoshijiro Umezu, supported a coup that would remove the Emperor. They would destroy the surrender recording, engage the Allies in a fight to the death on the home islands, and turn American opinion against the war, forcing a negotiated peace.
Hirohito’s “surrender” message (which, by the way, never acknowledged surrender nor any remorse for any Japanese actions in the war) was not broadcast live because he was not an accomplished public speaker and did not want the Japanese people, most of whom had never before heard his voice, to hear him stumble or stutter. Two readings were completed and two sets of two-record 78 rpm recordings were made.
The Imperial Japanese Army headquarters sent statements to the newspapers after the bombing that the army would fight on. But the coup, supported by some members of the cabinet, ultimately failed as we now know. Still, several members of the cabinet and many more military officers committed seppuku. Before the recordings could be played, members of the coup attempted to take over the NHK radio studio and prevent the broadcast. At noon on August 15, the “voice of the crane” was heard for the first time by that generation when Hirohito announced the surrender. This was at 6 P.M. the previous day in Washington, in time for President Truman to add to his address the American people that the war was over.
The credentials of the authors are impressive insofar as they have collaborated on seven books. Mr. Polmar, a defense analyst, is the author or co-author of more than thirty books. Of course, as in all things, “believe but verify.” I believe, but have not yet verified.
Mr. Horn, whose special interest is Churchill and secret intelligence, is treasurer of The Churchill Center and co-chairman of the 2002 International Churchill Conference.