Kyūjō incident and the 1941-1946? War

So I’ve been reading about the Kyūjō incident of 14-15 August 1945, where some fanatic Japanese officers attempted to stop the broadcast of the Emperor’s surrender announcement on the radio. It failed, and broadcast was made, and the war ended, as we well know.

The surrender was made in the wake of the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively a few days earlier, but the Americans were gearing up for DOWNFALL, and the Soviets had already invaded and torn great gouges out of Manchuria, while the British were nibbling away at Burma and planning to take Malaysia.

What if the coup has succeeded? What precisely did Major Kenji Hatanaka expect to happen? Was it really as simple as considering death in battle always better than peace? Or did he expect a defiant Japan to somehow cause doubt in a country which had just dropped the most terrible weapon in history (i.e. he was off his rocker)?

DOWNFALL would have been arguably the greatest campaign the US had ever been engaged in, and they famously ordered half a million purple hearts in expectation of the scale of casualties. Patriotic Brigades, the Japanese Home Guard, were told to take at least one American soldier with them before dying themselves.

Anyone care to speculate on how things would have panned out, if Hatanaka had had his way? Assuming DOWNFALL went ahead in November, 1945 as planned? Would most of the Japanese people have willingly thrown themselves at American guns for the Emperor? More nukes dropped on major cities? Huge American casualties, thrown back into the sea?

And what about the wider impact - the Soviets would have continued plowing through Manchuria, and if the Americans got desperate they may have been forced to ask them for help, running the risk of losing all of Korea, or perhaps partitioning Japan?

I know this isn’t GQ, but I’d be interested in seeing a cite for the “million Purple Hearts” order, famous or not. According to historian Gar Alperovitz, the US military casualty estimate for a conventional invasion of the Japanese home islands was around 30,000. (This number was exaggerated later, to help justify the atomic bomb attacks – not something I’m debating here, just pointing out why different people remember different things).

Also, not sure what you mean by “asking the Soviets for help.” The Soviet invasion of Manchuria WAS the “help” the US was receiving in the common goal of defeating Japan. The more resources Japan had to pour into the Manchurian front, the better our invasion would go.

I suppose you’re wondering if the Soviets would have made it to the home islands before we had pacified their entire territory, initiating a Cold War split just like in Germany. Good question – others more knowledgable than I might have opinions. Certainly it’s what Truman was trying to avoid, and this was one factor in Truman’s haste to drop not one but two atomic bombs in quick succession.

Gar Alperovitz is a lying sack of shit. Capturing Okinawa alone cost the US military 75,000-100,000 casualties, and he’s saying they could capture all of Japan for one third of the cost?

To answer the OP, I’d say nukes and lots of them. Imperial Japan could not be permitted to exist as a sovereign nation, and if it did not become non-hostile by choice, it would be made non-hostile.

And Japan couldn’t pour resources into or out of Manchuria to Japan because she didn’t have the ships to do so.

OTOH, the Soviets couldn’t have invaded Japan themselves for the pretty much same reasons.

A respectable force, but not nearly enough to get an army to Japan. The U.S. probably had more ships hidden between its couch cushions.

Well I know the Soviet Navy wasn’t noteworthy at the time but the Red AF could have helped.

Perhaps if Korea was entirely conquered by the Soviets, no Korean war, although that would probably simply mean more people in misery today under the Kims…

And Japan as a radioactive island would be strategically less attractive, would make millions sick and die, and what was left of the population would be weak, and extremely angry - at their former Government and against the Americans. I wonder if a pro-Soviet revolution could have taken place.

The basic idea from the IJA side was that they could inflict a huge number of casualties on the US in an invasion and we would agree to peace at their terms, allowing the government to remain unchanged, they could retain Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and parts of other areas, and other conditions which didn’t look much like an unconditional surrender.

They had fortified Kyushu, the expected area where the US invasion would occur, amassed 10,000 kamikaze planes and planned on using them against the troop transports. It would have been a bloody fight.

The idea that the Japanese surrendered just because of atomic bombs is not true. It also was because of the Soviet entrance into the war, which coincidentally occurred between the two bombs.

More nukes dropped on major cities?
Yup, as well as areas where the invasion would have occurred.



Absurd. That is one of the more ridiculous claims I’ve seen posted here. Anyone with a passing interest in WWII history knows has stupid that is. The cite for the Purple Hearts in on wiki Operation Downfall, as well as countless other sources. Google “Operation Downfall Purple Hearts” and knock yourself out.

Couldn’t happen. As others have noted, the Soviets lacked ships, specifically an amphibious fleet.

This is another bullshit claim. Truman authorized three atomic bomb attacks as soon as they could be made, in order to induce the Japanese to surrender. The first two were ready, the third would have followed in a few weeks.

More than three bombs were coming and soon.

Apparently the next atomic bomb was expected to be ready for use on August 19, with three more in September and a further three in October.

The discussion was already turning to whether it would be best to drop them as soon as they become available or to conserve the bombs for a more tactical mass use on targets related to the planned November invasion of the Japanese mainland.

Two more Fat Man assemblies were readied, and scheduled to leave for Tinian on August 11 and August 14 when they were ordered to be halted for the present, in view of the American code breakers picking up internal discussions about surrender following the USSR entry into the Japanese War.

TokyoBayer, there’s not need to to get huffy. The issue isn’t as clear-cut as either one of us have portrayed it here.

My main source is Alperovitz’s 1995 book, page 467. He describes how, on June 18, 1945, the Joint Staff planners estimated 40,000-46,000 US deaths, and this was reaffirmed by Marshall on July 9. Another contemporary estimate was that the first 30 days after a Kyushu landing would result in 7,000-8,000 US deaths (31,000 including wounded and missing), and that the eventual total US deaths would be around 20,000.

I acknowledge that these were probably optimistic, based on information discovered later on, but they weren’t WILDLY optimistic. This review of the evidence leans toward higher numbers, but acknowledges that it’s complicated:

28: “Diplomatic historians have long sought to undermine Henry Stimson’s famous 1947 estimate of 1 million casualties. Bernstein in particular has shown that this number has little basis in documentary evidence and is likely a worst-case scenario or postwar justification. Maddox, however, suggests that an oft-cited figure of five hundred thousand may have come from an August 1944 study based on the losses at Saipan. Weapons for Victory, 61”

29: “Estimates from a meeting of 18 June 1945 speculate 132,000 to 220,000 casualties for the planned invasions. These estimates were based on an estimate of 280,000 Japanese soldiers on Kyushu rather than the 560,000 deployed there by 6 August 1945. The Medical Service was preparing its requirements based on 394,859 casualties. See Drea, 74–81”

Got a cite for the bolded part? That was indeed the Japanese figure for that battle.

Casualties, not deaths. Here’s a cite from the British National Archives website:

Bullshit. this site is to combat ignorance, not spread it.

Look at the figures which Grumman just posted. There were as many casualties in the Battle of Iwo Jima as you claimed would happen in the home islands.

Your claim:

is just ridiculous and suggests that you have no awareness of the history of the conflict.

The Battle of Iwo Ijima involved 110,000 US marines and a little over 20,000 Japanese, resulting in 24,000 casualties. In Okinawa, 250,000 US servicemen fought 77,000 Japanese and 20,000 Okinawa conscripts, who would not be as trained, and resulted in 75,000 to 100,000 casualties.

There were 6,000,000 Allied personnel scheduled for the invasion against 4.3 million Japanese and there’s only going to be 20,000 dead. Sure.

It’s telling that your man relies on June estimates because the build up in Kyushu occurred after that. That’s fundamentally dishonest journalism, even for a professor of economics. I suppose he doesn’t mention that just before the atomic bombs were dropped and the Soviets entered the war that Admiral King was concerned enough about the planned invasion of Kyushu that he wanted to pursue different options.

From wiki, there are a wide estimate of the number of casualties. Note that I haven’t opined an any except to laugh at the ones you are citing.

There were going to be over 1.5 million (IIRC) IJA personnel in Kyushu by the time of the invasion in addition to the conscripts. The Japanese had stockpiled 10,000 kamikaze planes, as I mentioned previously. In Okinawa

It has to be noted that defending against Kamikaze attacks near Kyushu would have been infinitely more difficult. In Okinawa, the US had the luxury of hundreds of miles of open sea between the Japanese bases in Kyushu and the area of attack. The mountains in Kyushu should have shielded the Japanese planes from radar until they were right on top of the US forces, and they were targeting troop transports. None of the estimates at the time really took that into consideration.

However, this was well know by the time your man wrote the book and neglecting that strongly indicates some sort of agenda. He simply has the absolute lowest case for numbers, none of which reflect reality even in June of '44 let alone what is knows to have been occurring by August, which we knew by Magic intercepts, and what was found out later.

It may be “complicated” as you say and no one really knew exactly what the estimates would be, but it’s absurd to claim only 30,000 and even more so to rely on that for an argument in GD.

I’ll also remind everyone that Operation Olympic was not the plan to capture Japan, it was the plan to capture one third of one island of Japan to use as a staging point. So any estimates of casualties during Operation Olympic - or during the first four months of the invasion - do not include the subsequent attack on Tokyo.

Okay, I admit that my understanding of this issue was colored by the fact that I happened to read Alperovitz first. I appreciate the efforts by TokyoBayer and Grumman (expletives notwithstanding) to broaden my knowledge. I’m sorry this thread got hijacked – I tried to prevent it, but I should have known better. (To be fair to Alperovitz, he was more interested in the calculations that Stimson, Byrnes, and Truman were making in June and July – so for THAT, those figures really do matter).

So, getting back to the OP – now that we’ve answered the question of the likelihood of the Soviets getting as far as the home islands (unlikely, it seems) – we can focus on the OP’s other speculations, such as whether a third (or fourth, etc.) nuke would have been used in conjunction with a conventional invasion. I’ll let others take it from here!

A third nuke would have been used as soon as it was ready,perhaps as early as August 19.

But to the bigger point, Hatanaka - and he wasn’t alone - thought the Americans were big pussies who wouldn’t be able to withstand the onslaught of the Japanese fighting on their native soil: the Bushido spirit and all that. Along with the Japanese trust in miraculous interventions (the literal “divine wind” that ruined the original Mongol invasions) led to a dangerous self-delusion.

Of course, that viewpoint isn’t limited to the japanese, as we’ve discussed about Hitler.

Aside from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other cities spared from conventional bombing, being on a special list, were: Niigata, Kyokusuka, Kokura. The exception was Tokyo.

Why was there a rush to invade Japan if they didn’t surrender? Political expediency? Seems like it’d be easier to just starve them out until all resistance withered away, depopulating the whole nation if needed. Was there a fear the Russians would invade Japan and split it up like Europe? Did they even have the sealift capability at the time?

You can’t bomb them forever (conventionally.) Leaving them bottled up will not end the war conclusively. That might give them time to rearm or even develop their own atom bomb.