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Extract from U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Summary Report

Japan's Struggle to End the War

Japan's governmental structure was such that in practice the Emperor merely approved the decisions of his advisers. A consensus among the oligarchy of ruling factions at the top was required before any major question of national policy could be decided. These factions, each of

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which had a different point of view, included the group around the Emperor of whom Marquis Kido, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, was the most important, the ex-premiers constituting the Jushin or body of senior statesmen, and the cabinet. The Army and navy named their own cabinet ministers, who, together with the two chiefs of staff, had direct access to the Emperor. The cabinet could perpetuate itself only so long as it was able to absorb or modify the views of the Army and navy ministers, who, until the end, were strongly influenced by the fanaticism of the Army officers and many of the younger navy officers. The ruling oligarchy considered the opinions of the Japanese people as only one among the many factors to be taken into consideration in determining national policy and in no sense as controlling.

The first definitive break in the political coalition which began the war occurred following our success at Saipan. Ten day thereafter, on 16 July 1944, the cabinet headed by General Tojo fell. This significant turn in the course of Japan's wartime politics was not merely the result of an immediate crisis. Even at that date, elements opposing continuation of the war had found means of applying pressure against the fantastic exponents of Japan's militaristic clique. The original factions who had either opposed war before Pearl harbor, or gone along, or "retired" in the first phase of the conflict recognized as early as the spring of 1944 that Japan was facing ultimate defeat. By that time, United States determination to fight and her ability to mount over-powering offensive in the Pacific, even before the opening of the European Second Front, had already been demonstrated to many of those who had access to all the facts. The political problems of those who saw the situation was to circulate among other leaders in retirement or outside the government a true picture of the war and then unseat the Tojo government in favor of one which would bring the war to an end. 

Rear Admiral Takagi of the Navy General Staff made a study between 20 September 1943 and February 1944, of the war's battle lessons up to that time. Based on analysis of air, fleet and merchant ship losses, Japan's inability to import essential materials for production, and the potentiality of air attacks on the home islands, Takagi concluded that Japan could not win and should seek a compromise peace. His study and a similar one made by Sakomizu of the Cabinet Planning board documented the fears of the Jushin, and through them of Marquis Kido, that all was not well with Tojo's prosecution of the war. With the loss of Saipan, it was possible to build up sufficient pressure to force Tojo's retirement. 

The government of General Koiso, who was chosen by the ever-cautious Kido to head the succeeding cabinet, did not have the strength to stand up to the military and was a disappointment to the more enthusiastic peace makers. In spite of the original instructions to give "fundamental reconsideration" to the problems for continuing the war, his only accomplishment in that direction was the creation of a Supreme War Direction Council, an inner cabinet which supplied the mechanism through which the problem of surrender was eventually resolved. 

The conviction and strength of the peace party was increased by the continuing Japanese military defeats, and by Japan's helplessness in defending itself against the ever-growing weight of air attack on the home islands. On 7 April 1945, less than a week after United States landings on Okinawa, Koiso was removed and Marquis Kido installed Admiral Suzuki as premier. Kido testified to the survey that, in his opinion, Suzuki alone had the deep conviction and personal courage to stand up to the military and bring the war to an end. 

Early in May 1945, the Supreme War Direction Council bean active discussion of ways and means to end the war, and talks were initiated with Soviet Russia seeking her intercession as mediator. 

The talks by the Japanese ambassador in Moscow and with the Soviet ambassador in Tokyo did not make progress. On 20 June the Emperor, on his own initiative, called the six members of the Supreme War Direction Council to a conference and said it was necessary to have a plan to close the war at once, as well as a plan to defend the home islands. The timing of the Potsdam Conference interfered with a plan to send Prince Konoye to Moscow as a special emissary with instructions from the cabinet to negotiate for peace on terms less than unconditional surrender, but with private instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price. Although the Supreme War Direction Council, in its deliberations on the Potsdam Declaration, was agreed on the advisability of ending the war, three of its members, three of its members, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Navy Minister, were prepared to accept unconditional surrender, while the other three, the Army Minister, and the Chiefs of Staff of both services, favored continued resistance unless certain mitigating conditions were obtained. On 8 August the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and on 9 August Russia entered the war. In the succeeding meeting of the Supreme War Direction Council, the differences of opinion previously existing as to the Potsdam terms persisted exactly as before. By using the urgency brought about through fear of further atomic bombing attacks, the Prime Minister found it possible to bring the Emperor directly into the discussions of the Potsdam terms. Hirohito, acting as arbiter, resolved the conflict in favor of unconditional surrender. 

The public admission of defeat by the responsible Japanese leaders, which constituted the political objective of the United States offensive begun in 1943, was thus secured prior to invasion and while Japan was still possessed of some 2,000,000 troops and over 9,000 planes in the home islands. Military defeats in the air, at sea and on the land, destruction of shipping by submarines and by air, and direct air attack with conventional as well as atomic bombs, all contributed to this accomplishment. 

There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. 

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.