Tuesday, July 21, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 29 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Looking Back - John KinnearIn my last column I talked about the alternative plan to invade Japan if surrender had not come after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the column I mentioned that operation Olympic, the planned invasion of Kyushu, came a lot closer than people realize.
So here is a story about an almost turn of events.
On July 27th, 1945, Japan received by radio the “Potsdam Proclamation”which was an ultimatum delivered by US President Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin and Clement Atlee (who had replaced Winston Churchill). It warned that anything other than an unconditional surrender would probably result in the initiation of that horrific final blow (Olympic).
This ultimatum was hotly debated for 13 days by what was referred to as the “Big Six”, Japanese members of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War. It included Prime Minister Suzuki, Foreign Minister Togo and four top admirals and generals. Early on August 9th these men met yet again and continued to argue on one hand for acceptance and on the other for a continuation of the war, despite the devastating blow dealt on August 6th to Hiroshima! Early in the afternoon of that day they received word of the second attack on Nagasaki but incredibly it seemed to have little influence on the debate.
This war cabinet was bound by tradition to reach a unanimous decision; if not the cabinet would fall. It could not break the impasse so Emperor Hirohito was asked to sanction a “gozen kaigin”, a meeting with the imperial presence. Just before midnight the Emperor joined them in an underground shelter and listened to the arguments. At 2A.M. he stood up and stated that continuation of the war was:”unbearable to me… I give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied proclamation”.
At 7 A.M. Japanese acceptance was transmitted to the Allies through Sweden and Switzerland:”with the understanding that the said declaration does not compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler”.
The Allies agreed and their August 11th reply carried the stipulation that he be:”subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers”.
So it appeared to the Western World that peace had come and that the war was nearly over. In fact a new war had started between civil and military powers in Tokyo.
One of the Big Six, General Anami of the Navy, had pronounced on August 10th despite the Emperor’s decision, that:”We must fight on until we win the sacred war to preserve our national policy”.
 
Newspapers and national radio carried that message. There was a distinct possibility at this time that a military coup would bring about a continuation of the war.
Meanwhile Truman waited for an official acceptance but none came. On August 14th US B-29’s appeared over Tokyo but only to drop leaflets making sure the Japanese people knew the government had offered to surrender and the terms. Later that day the Emperor was shown one of the leaflets and urged to hold yet another gozen kaigin with the war cabinet. In an air raid shelter the same arguments were presented and the Emperor indicated that the Allied offer was acceptable and that he wanted the cabinet to prepare a speech that he would read over the national radio. For the first time in history the Emperor’s subjects were to hear the Voice of the Crane.
Since he was not an accomplished speaker it was decided to record his words on 2-78 rpm records for playback at noon the next day. The radio technicians that recorded Hirohito had heard rumors of a possible military coup and sealed the records in metal canisters and hid them in a small safe on the palace grounds rather that take them back to the station.
That night there were several fanatical attempts by organized military groups to find the recordings and destroy them. Imperial guards wearing white loyalist bands on their chests stormed the palace grounds trying to find the records. Elsewhere in Tokyo soldiers swarmed into the NHK building (national radio) and a Major Hatanaka tried to get on the air to denounce the surrender but a technician had prudently disconnected the radio tower. Yet another plot, formed in Yokohama by a group that called themselves the National Kamikaze Corps, attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Suzuki.
Mercifully none of the fanatical attempts to stop the surrender succeeded and at dawn on the 15th loyal troops liberated the palace and all attempts to stop the speech were abandoned. In the following days over 500 military men, including at least 8 generals, chose to commit suicide rather that see their country surrender. The Voice of the Crane was heard at noon in a speech that never used the word “defeat” or “surrender” once.
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