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John Ray Skates On Unconditional Surrender Of Japan: 1944


John Ray Skates, The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (University of S. Carolina Press; 1994), pp. 40, 41.

(American spellings retained.)


‘As the members of the [U.S.] Joint Chiefs began to think systematically about the final defeat of Japan, they ran head-on into the policy of unconditional surrender.

The policy put them into a strategic box.

Unconditional surrender had grown into an intimidating policy that military leaders could hardly question or challenge.
Yet now the military implications of unconditional surrender could no longer be ignored.

First, the members believed that the defeat of Japan had to come no later than twelve months after the defeat of Germany because of war weariness and resistance to the redeployment of troops from Europe to the Pacific. Such a timetable made defeat by blockade and air bombardment uncertain.


On Luzon and Okinawa, Japanese commanders adopted a strategy of attrition. They withdrew into prepared defenses in key places and forced the Americans to root them out.

High American casualty rates in both campaigns attested to the effectiveness of the enemy’s new strategy. Invading the home islands promised to be as costly.

That Japan could eventually be defeated was militarily certain; that the Japanese could be forced to accept unconditional surrender, a term they understood to mean national extinction, was problematic.

Perhaps even invasion would fail to produce unconditional surrender. Thus, the military leaders began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of a policy that might sacrifice thousands of lives on the altar of semantics. Out of this realization came a lively three-way confrontation between the military leaders, the State Department, and the presidency over the possibility of ameliorating and explaining the policy . . . .


‘. . . At Yalta, Churchill suggested some “mitigation” of the policy if it would bring the defeat of Japan sooner and at less cost. With Churchill’s opening and Secretary of War Stimson’s tacit agreement, General Marshall delayed approving the harsh surrender policy forged by the State Department. Yet unconditional surrender remained the chief Allied policy regarding the defeat of Japan, and the Joint Chiefs had to construct a military strategy that fulfilled the policy.’



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