George Marshall was also worried about increasing casualties, and about the nation's will to fight; he told a biographer after the war that "A democracy cannot fight a Seven Years War. Ernest King had even stronger doubts about American "stamina and commitment" for a long war.
He told reporters in that "the American people will weary of it quickly, and that pressure at home will force a negotiated peace, before the Japs are really licked. The invasion of Iwo Jima was preceded by an immense air and sea bombardment; capture of this tiny island was to take three or four days. Instead, it lasted a month, from mid-February to mid-March ; there were 2, casualties the first day.
Total casualties in taking these eight square miles were 6, marines killed and almost 20, wounded. This was the first battle in the Pacific in which the Japanese had inflicted more casualties than they had suffered, and this despite overwhelming American air and sea power.
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The outcome sent a shudder through many a casualty-conscious army planner. In an editorial on 27 February, the paper said American forces were paying too heavily for the island, and that they were "in danger of being worn out before they ever reach the really critical Japanese areas. The War Department itself was searching for ways to reduce casualties on all fronts. The most controversial had already been suggested to Admiral Nimitz by General Marshall's office, which had previously had similar recommendations for the European Theater of Operations: the use of poison gas. There were large quantities on hand.
Nimitz pondered its employment on Iwo Jima but concluded that "the United States should not be the first to violate the Geneva Convention. Also after Iwo Jima the U. Office of War Information warned that the public was uneasy about casualties in the Pacific War. Marshall took this to heart.
In a speech to the Academy of Political Sciences in April, he warned that "we are approaching one of the most difficult periods of the war" when the "great impatience" of Americans to return to normalcy would interfere with maximum efforts against the Japanese. Marshall, and army planners generally, had no hope that navy blockades and air force bombardment would bring surrender before disillusionment set in.
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Germany had been bombed and blockaded and had held out to the bitter end, showing that despite claims of air strategy theorists, only the seizure of the enemy's territory forced capitulation. And as the spring of developed, seizing Japanese territory became increasingly painful. There was trauma upon trauma. Iwo Jima was barely secure when American forces invaded Okinawa, and it became clear that Japanese forces were fighting more fiercely as the fighting got closer to the home islands.
Of the Okinawa battle, lasting from 1 April to 2 July, Hanson Baldwin's apocalyptic description is appropriate:. In size, scope and ferocity it dwarfed the Battle of Britain. Never before had there been, probably never again will there be, such a vicious, sprawling struggle of planes against planes, of ships against planes.
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Never before, in so short a space, had the Navy lost so many ships; never before in land fighting had so much American blood been shed in so short a time in so small an area There have been larger land battles, more protracted air campaigns, but Okinawa was the largest combined operation, a "no-quarter" struggle fought on, under and over the sea and the land. American forces recorded 12, killed or missing, 36, wounded, and 93 missing in taking an area half the size of Rhode Island that the Japanese could not resupply or reinforce.
The Japanese air force and navy were in tatters, but the Okinawa defenders had superbly dug-in defenses and hundreds of kamikaze volunteers ; the latter sunk 36 American ships and damaged more. Not just Okinawa, but all the battles of the Pacific War had shown the Japanese to be in the grips of a Masada complex. Like the Jewish Zealots defending that mountain fortress from Rome's tenth legion in A. Only one organized Japanese unit surrendered during the entire Pacific War. On Okinawa, approximately 70, Japanese lost their lives, and 80, Okinawans, most of them civilians, many by a kind of "poor man's harakiri"—holding a grenade against their stomachs and blowing themselves to pieces.
Only 7, surrendered to American forces when the battle was clearly over, and the Americans used some effective propaganda to get at least a few captives. It was that bad, or worse, in every other battle. On Attu, of some 3, Japanese defenders, 29 surrendered; the rest were killed in battle or killed themselves. On Tarawa, of 5, Japanese defenders, only were taken prisoner. On Saipan, of 30, Japanese soldiers, fewer than 1, allowed themselves to be captured; more than 1, civilian workers committed suicide.
On Iwo Jima, of 23, men, only surrendered. The Japanese code required victory or death. Ruth Benedict in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword explains this commitment in anthropological terms, but her account lacks the immediacy and color of the best participant-observer narrative. Westerners cannot understand the vitality of the Japanese spirit.
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After detailing the outcomes of various battles, Tsurumi Shunsuke tells us:. This action [suicide] was seen by the Japanese on the main islands as a proper model for their own behavior should the U. The Government declared that loyal subjects of the Emperor must prepare themselves for glorious self-destruction for the sake of preserving the national structure. The tenet was that even when all the Japanese, including the Emperor himself, had perished this structure would remain Very few people in Japan doubted this line of reasoning, and virtually no one, not even social scientists or members of the various religious sects, ventured to criticize it.
The significance of this, lost on many Allied authorities, was that only the emperor could cancel the obligation of every Japanese citizen to give his life for the eternal kingdom. For westerners who find this Masada complex baffling, there are two accounts of revolts of Japanese prisoners of war in Australian and New Zealand camps that convey the Japanese ethos better than any historian's explanation.
Both revolts were caused by the unwillingness of the prisoners to continue to live, since they had disgraced themselves, their families, and the emperor by allowing themselves to be taken into custody in the first place; they had failed to commit suicide in a POW camp, and believed in many cases correctly that with a mass outbreak, their Australian and New Zealand captors would necessarily turn the machine guns on them. Asada Teruhiko, who was a prisoner of war, tells the story of a Cowra prisoner, from capture while unconscious to return to a Japan that would not claim him, in a compelling book, The Night of a Thousand Suicides.
These accounts are definitive. The Japanese threat to fight to the last man, woman, and child, with bamboo spears if necessary, should the emperor demand it, was serious. Some Allied sources could not believe it. Such commitment was not human.
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A source relied on by Gar Alperovitz, a Combined Chiefs of Staff "Estimate of the Enemy Situation" as of 6 July , says, "Although individual Japanese willingly sacrifice themselves in the service of the nation, we doubt that the nation as a whole is predisposed toward national suicide. It is difficult to know what sources informed the military researchers. On Saipan, on Okinawa, on every Pacific island soldiers and civilians alike had committed suicide en masse when the battle was hopeless. The Chinese, who know something about Japanese motivation and culture, took the prospect of last-ditch fighting, even to massive civilian casualties, seriously.
Historian Tien-wei Wu, in a analysis of the proposed Enola Gay exhibit, discussed this matter : "By all accounts, the Japanese were determined to fight the Americans to the end, if they invaded the homeland. That 'one hundred million die together' was not merely a slogan but a true possibility in a country like Japan. Contact Us Search Help. View Cart.
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Robert P. Subjects: Rhetoric. Michigan State University Press. Newman is a distinguished historian and writer, and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. Also of Interest. Intellectual Populism.
The Manufacture of Consent.