A-Bomb Timeline

Time Line of Events:

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August 24, 1939 –
The Nazi-Soviet Pact is signed in Moscow agreeing to, among other things, the partitioning of Poland.

September 1, 1939 –
Germany invades Poland and begins the European Theater of conflict in World War Two.

September 17, 1939 –
Soviet forces invade Poland.

July, 1940 – March 1941:
The German Luftwaffe engages the British Royal Air Force in the greatest air battle in history up to that time. During this period London, Birmingham, and numerous other British cities are bombed in direct violation of International Law. An unprecedented 29,000 civilians die and another 40,000 are injured in the resulting carnage during this period alone. (Gilbert, page 167) Periodic bombings of Britain occurred throughout the War along with hundreds of V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks beginning in 1944.

March 5, 1940 –
Stalin orders the Katyn Forest Massacre. “The systematic shooting of almost all Polish officers, reserve officers, and other specialists captured by the Red Army in 1939 has generally been referred to as the Katyn forest massacre from the location near Smolensk where a substantial proportion of their bodies was found, and is discussed in literature in connection with that grisly discovery in the spring of 1943. The decision to dissolve these camps and murder the inmates simultaneously at different geographical locations was made by Stalin and confirmed by the Politburo on March 5, 1940.” (Weinberg, pp.106-7)

April 5, 1940 –
The massacre is executed. “Beginning on April 5, and continuing for nearly six weeks, small groups of Polish officers who had surrendered to the Red Army in September 1939, and had been held since then in prisoner-of-war camps in Russia, were taken under Soviet Secret Police escort from their camp in the village of Kozelsk in the direction of the nearby city of Smolensk. In all, 5,000 Poles set off on the journey, leaving Kozelsk in groups of between sixty and three hundred. Not one of them was to reach Smolensk. Instead, still dressed in military uniform, their hands in most instances tied behind their backs, they were taken to a small wooded area near the village of Katyn, and shot in the back of the neck. It was to be three years before their bodies were discovered. The bodies of a further 10,000 Polish Officers, likewise captured in September 1939 by Soviet forces, and held in captivity in Russia, have never been discovered.” (Gilbert, p.53)

August 24, 1940 –
The U.S. Government authorizes $3.6 million for the development of prototypes for the B-29 Superfortress bomber.

May 1941 –
The Germans bomb London heavily. The British retaliate with small air raids against Hamburg.

August 12, 1941 –
The Atlantic Charter is established. “On board a ship, at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Churchill and Roosevelt…agreed to issue a public document, the Atlantic Charter, setting out a joint Anglo-American commitment to a post-war world in which there would be ‘no aggrandizement, territorial or other’, as a result of the war, and no territorial changes ‘that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned’. In a section directed at those who were under German, Italian, and Japanese occupation, the Atlantic Charter pledged that Britain and the United States ‘wish sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.’” (Gilbert, p. 222)

November 6, 1941 –
The Soviets announce support for the Atlantic Charter. (Weinberg, p. 291)

December 7, 1941 –
Japan attacks and heavily damages the American Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, thus widening the scope of the Pacific Theater conflict and bringing America into the War.

December 16, 1941 –
Soviet Premier Stalin meets with British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in Moscow an absolutely insisted on a treaty with the British agreeing to the establishment of the pre-June 1941 Soviet border. Eden agrees to consult his government even though it completely contradicts the Atlantic Charter. (Weinberg, p. 291)

May 26, 1942 –
British acceptance of the basis of the Soviet demands leads to further territorial demands by Stalin. But a 20-year alliance treaty signed on this date contained no territorial provisions thanks to some stiff resolve by President Roosevelt. “Partly because of United States insistence no wartime agreement on post-war borders, partly because of excessive Soviet demands once the British agreed to Stalin’s original ones, the territorial issues were left open for more difficult discussions later.”

May 30, 1942 –
1,000 British bombers raid Cologne. This is the largest single air raid in history up to that time. 500 German civilians die in 90 minutes and more than 45,000 are made homeless.

June 1942 –
In 1939, President Roosevelt authorizes a top secret project to develop an atomic bomb, primarily out of fear that the Nazi’s were developing such a weapon and would use it. In June, 1942 he transfers the project to the War Department’s Army Corps of Engineers, which creates the Manhattan Engineer District headquartered in New York City as a guise to conceal the endeavor’s true nature. It is later dubbed “The Manhattan Project” and becomes one of the largest scientific-industrial enterprises in history up to that point. By mid-1944 it had moved near Alamogordo, New Mexico and employed almost 129,000 people at a cost that ultimately reached $2 billion. Unknown to the Allies, German authorities decide not to develop an atomic bomb, believing such an undertaking to be too great a strain on the nation’s resources in a war economy already stretched to its limit.

September 24, 1942 –
The first XB-29 Superfortress bomber prototype is successfully tested at Seattle, Washington.

December 2, 1942 –
“The President had stated to the head of the Polish government-in-exile, General Sikorski, that: ‘We have no intention of concluding this war with any kind of armistice or treaty. Germany must surrender unconditionally.’”(Weinberg, page 439).

January 14, 1943 –
“Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca, in newly liberated French North Africa, to co-ordinate the next stage of their joint war policy. During the meeting, they publically announced that the ‘unconditional surrender’ of Germany and Japan was their unalterable policy.” (Gilbert, p. 392) “…the oral statement by Franklin D. Roosevelt in opening a press conference rather than inclusive of the press conference rather than inclusion in the official press release…may have thought that this was the best way to get the greatest amount of publicity for the term; it certainly had that effect.” (Weiberg, p. 439) Conspicuously, the Soviet Union does not attend the conference.

January 27, 1943 –
Americans bomb Wilhelmshaven, Germany. It is their first raid on a German city.

February 18, 1943 –
A dozen American airmen die as their XB-29 prototype aircraft crashes.

April 25, 1943 –
“Early in 1943 Stalin explained to Polish Communists that a new army and a new government would be established for Poland and that he would break relations with the government-in-exile in London.…the formation of a new Polish army under Soviet auspices, led by General Berling was beginning. The reaction of the government-in-exile to the discovery at Katyn of the graves of those Polish officers from one of the Soviet prison camps provided Stalin with an excuse for breaking relations with the Sikorski government on April 25, 1943. The inability of the Western Powers to provide effective support to the Polish government gave the Soviet Union a clear road to a new system for whatever Poland survived the war…” (Weinberg, p. 468)

June 10, 1943 –
Allies issue “Pointblank” Bombing Directive. The result was a combined air offensive against Berlin, Hamburg, cities in the Ruhr industrial region, and elsewhere with the Americans striking by day and the British by night.

June 26, 1943 –
The first B-29 Superfortress takes to the air. About 2,000 of these sophisticated aircraft were built between 1943-1945 at a cost of more than $3 billion. They featured a number of aviation “firsts” including: the first pressurized cabin for ultra high altitude flights, remote-controlled turrets for defense, and two sets of bomb-bay doors.

July 19, 1943 –
American bombers attack Rome.

July 24, 1943 –
The British again bomb Hamburg. Over 40,000 die and over 500,000 become homeless.

October 19 – 30, 1943 –
For the first time the Soviet Union meets with high-ranking officials from America and Britain on coordinating major strategic issues. The Americans push for a “Four Power Declaration” of cooperation against Germany and for cooperation on the establishment of the United Nations. This proposal involved “Soviet adhesion to the unconditional surrender formula”. The Soviets agree to unconditional surrender and are even persuaded (with great hesitation) to allowing the Chinese ambassador sign the agreement as well. (Weinberg, p. 620) A tentative plan is also reached at this meeting for the actual division of Germany into occupation zones, though the specifics were not fleshed out. (Weinberg, pp. 793-798) “Putting them in front of the Germans, instead of simply calling for unconditional surrender was not likely to make the ending of the war on Allied terms particularly attractive. The Germans could give in or be pounded to bits;” (p. 798)

November 29, 1943 –
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet at Teheran. Stalin secretly promises to declare war on Japan upon the defeat of Germany. “Both Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to all intents and purposes to the Soviet demand for the 1941 border with Poland with some minor modifications in favor of the Poles where the Curzon Line ran further east. Roosevelt, however, made it clear that, with the possibility of his having to run for President again if the war were still going on in 1944, he could not afford to make this position public. On the other hand, Poland was to gain extensive territory from Germany between the Oder and its pre-war border in the west, thus acquiring some very valuable agricultural and industrial areas in exchange for the loss of larger but nowhere near as rich a territory. Whether the Polish government-in-exile would agree to this shift westwards, and whether the British and Americans could then persuade Stalin to resume diplomatic relations with that government, remained open but highly doubtful. As for the Soviet interest in acquiring the northern portion of East Prussia with the port city of Konigsberg (with the southern part going to Poland), this was agreeable to the British and Americans…” (Weinberg, p. 630-631) Roosevelt agrees that large numbers of American troops will not remain in Europe for more than two years after Germany’s defeat. On this same day, the first American B-29 bomber is equipped and tested for carrying and dropping the atomic bomb.

March 4, 1944 –
Berlin hit in first daylight bombing raid by the Allies. During March, the British drop 4,000-pound bombs for the first time.

March 18, 1944 –
British bombers drop 3,000 tons of explosives on the German city of Hamburg.

June 5, 1944 –
The first B-29 bombers are used in the Pacific, bombing Bangkok from bases in India.

June 13, 1944 –
The First V-1 rocket attack by the Germans on Britain. These were soon followed by the more advanced V-2’s. Overall the program proved more fantastic than deadly. Still, thousands of civilians were killed and injured and the British lived under constant terror of the rockets.

July 22, 1944 –
The Soviet Union announces a new Polish government formed at Lublin that is placed in nominal command of the Polish (Communist) underground and partisan movements. A new Polish army will exist under the command of the Red Army Fronts to which it is assigned.

November 24, 1944 –
The first B-29 bomber raids are launched against Japan from the Mariana Islands.

February 4 – 11, 1945 -
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea. Prior to this conference the British and American leaders met on Malta and decided on the attacks on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the eventual invasion of the Japanese home islands. “With the expectation that the war in Europe would end between July and the end of the year, it was calculated that another year and a half would be needed to crush Japan. Victory, the Combined Chiefs of Staff informed Churchill and Roosevelt, would hopefully come in 1947.” (Weinberg, pp. 802-803) At Yalta, the Western Allies agree to assist Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by bombing the strategic German supply and transportation center at Dresden. In exchange, Stalin agrees to allow free elections in Poland. (Gilbert, p. 658)

“With Poland firmly under Soviet control, and both Poland itself and the Soviet occupation zone pushed far westwards, Russia could feel safe from any future German invasion. As for the country itself, the issue of dismemberment came up once more. There was again theoretical agreement that this would be a good idea, with the Soviets especially insistent, but the German Communists in Moscow were already working on the assumption of a single German state, while the Soviet government reversed itself and came out for keeping a unified Germany soon after Yalta.” (Weinberg, p. 806)

“…American and British willingness to agree to the Soviet Union regaining its losses from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 looked reasonable enough. There were, however, additional Soviet demands, such as the Kurile Islands, and a recognition of the Soviet satellite status of Mongolia, without the participation of Chinese representatives.” (Weinberg, p.807)

“Of more immediate concern to both Britain and the United States was the impact of the Yalta agreements on the Polish corps fighting in Italy and the division in Montgomery’s forces on the Western Front. Would these men, who were still very much needed by the Allies, continue to participate as valiantly as in the past in a cause that must have looked already irretrievably lost to most of them? In anxious talks and soundings between the two parties, it became clear that until victory over Germany the Polish soldiers would indeed continue to fight alongside the Western Allies." (Weinberg, p. 808)

February 13-15, 1945 –
The British and Americans firebomb Dresden completely destroying the city. More than 60,000 German civilians died.

February 19 - March 1945:
American Marines take control of the Japanese held 11-square-mile island of Iwo Jima. The operation costs the Marines over 6,800 dead and nearly 20,000 wounded. Only 200 of the original Japanese force of 20,700 troops are taken prisoner. The rest are either killed or commit suicide. Virtually no wounded Japanese soldiers are found. It is the only time in the war when American casualties outnumber those of the Japanese.

March 1945 –

An invasion of the Kerama Islands off the coast of Okinawa to set up a naval repair base in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa nets an omen of things to come…300 suicide boats designed to be used in combination with kamikaze (air suicide) operations.

“The Japanese had shown here as on Iwo Jima that the closer the Allies came to Japan the harder the fighting. The reaction to victory on Okinawa in Washington and to the defeat in Tokyo was astonishingly similar: grim determination.” (Weinberg, p. 882)

After Okinawa it is unanimously agreed by the Joints Chief of Staff to move forward with Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese homeland island of Kyushu.

March 9 – 10, 1945 –
A firebombing campaign begins in earnest with a raid of 334 American B-29’s against Tokyo. About 90,000 deaths and another 95,000 casualties result from this raid alone which creates a massive fire storm that engulfs some 16 square miles of the city. Similar raids on Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe follow. From now until the end of the War 66 cities are attacked, with some 166 square miles destroyed with an overwhelming loss of civilian life. By summer the overall industrial production of the Japanese economy stands at 40% of its previous capacity. Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki are among the few major cities spared destruction.

March 23, 1945 –
Witnessing the onslaught of the Soviet advance in Europe and the lack of indications of free elections for Poland, Roosevelt comments: “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.” (Gilbert, p. 658)

March 27, 1945 –
Germany fires the last V-2 rockets of the war killing about 150 people in London and Antwerp. V-2 rockets accounted for a total of about 7,500 deaths in Britain and Belgium during the War.

March 28, 1945 –
The second of two groups of non-Communist Polish political leaders is arrested and imprisoned in Moscow. (808): As for the Poles who fought the Germans inside Poland, if they did not speedily join forces with the new Polish Communists regime, they could expect to follow the representatives of the Polish anti-German underground who were arrested by the Soviets at the end of March 1945 when they agreed to appear for negotiations in response tp a Soviet invitation.

April 1945 –
The Japanese stockpile 9,000 – 10,000 aircraft (half of which are designated for kamikaze missions) and amass a mainland armed force of more than 2,000,000 in anticipation of an American invasion of their homeland. Included in this army are hundreds of “Sherman Carpets”, children trained to throw themselves at American tanks with dynamite strapped to their bodies.

April 1, 1945 –
50,000 American troops land on the Okinawa to begin the War’s last great offensive against over 100,000 entrenched Japanese soldiers. Eventually, some 180,000 American troops will fight in the island. “Almost every American solider who was captured by the Japanese were killed after being captured. At sea off Okinawa, thirty-four American warships were sunk, many as a result of attacks by individual Japanese suicide pilots. A total of 1,900 kamikaze attacks were launched, and a further 5,900 Japanese aircraft shot down in combat, for the loss of 763 American planes. At least 107,500 Japanese soldiers were known to have been killed on Okinawa, an average of just over thirteen hundred a day. A further 20,000 Japanese are thought to have perished in caves sealed by American assault teams, using flame throwers and explosives. It has also been calculated that 150,000 local Okinawan civilians were killed. American losses were 7,613 killed on land and 4,900 at sea.” (Gilbert, p. 657)

April 2, 1945 –
Churchill telegraphs General Dwight D. Eisenhower suggesting that the Western forces advance on Berlin. “I deem it highly important that we should shake hands with the Russians as far to the East as possible.” (Gilbert, p. 658)

April 3, 1945 –
Churchill writes to his Chiefs of Staff Committee: “The changes in the Russian attitude and atmosphere since Yalta are grave.” To the Dominion and Indian members of the War Cabinet he writes: “Relations with Russia, which had offered such fair promise at the Crimea Conference, had grown less cordial during the ensuing weeks. There had been grave difficulties over the Polish question…It was by no means clear that we could count on Russia as a beneficent influence in Europe, or as a willing partner in maintaining the peace of the world. Yet, at the end of the war, Russia would be left in a position of preponderant power and influence throughout the whole of Europe.” (Gilbert, p. 658)

April 5, 1945 –
Japanese Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso and his cabinet resign due to the disastrous course of events for Japan in the War. It is the second such resignation in less than a year. A peace faction emerges in the military-dominated Japanese government, but the terms of “unconditional surrender” are unacceptable to any Japanese official.

April 7, 1945 –
The largest battleship in the world, the Yamato, makes a suicide attack against the American transport fleet at Okinawa. It is sunk, along with a Japanese cruiser and four destroyers. Meanwhile, on the island, American casualties reach 1,500 to almost 4,500 Japanese. Only 13 Japanese are taken prisoner.

April 12, 1945 –
Franklin D. Roosevelt dies at Warm Springs, Georgia. Harry Truman becomes President of the United States. Shortly after being sworn-in, Secretary of War Henry Stimson briefly mentions that the U.S. is actively developing an atomic bomb.

April 25, 1945 –
President Truman meets with Secretary Stimson to discuss the atom bomb in depth for the first time. Truman is informed that the massive project he inherited was always intended to manufacture a practical weapon that “could destroy an entire city.” He immediately sees the weapon as a way to end the War quickly and save American lives.

May 4, 1945 –
Seven American ships are hit in Japanese kamikaze attacks. 446 sailors are killed. At Okinawa, the U.S. Navy suffers its greatest losses of the War primarily through hundreds of kamikaze attacks. U.S. military commanders order a news blackout on the suicide attacks until after the operation is completed.

May 7, 1945 –
The Allied Armies accept the “unconditional surrender” of Nazi Germany.

May 9, 1945 –
In one of the bloodiest day so far on Okinawa, Japanese soldiers break through American lines and are wiped out in brutal hand-to-hand combat. Several Japanese strongholds fall as hundreds of Americans die.

May 11, 1945 –
396 American sailors are killed in a kamikaze attack against the carrier Bunker Hill off Okinawa.

May 12, 1945 –
Winston Churchill telegraphs Truman expressing alarm at the withdrawal of American troops from Europe. “Meanwhile, what is to happen about Russia?” he inquires. Tensions begin to rise among the Allies over “puppet governments” being set in place by the Soviets in Eastern Europe. Poland is a particular focal point of disagreement among the Allies and the Soviets. For their part, the Soviets see this as a golden opportunity to expand the influence of communism without additional bloodshed.

May 13, 1945 –
The Target Committee at Los Alamos “noted that the hills around Hiroshima, one of the most favoured targets, were ‘likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.’” (Gilbert, p. 694)

May 14, 1945 –
Extract from Stimson’s diary: “After that we had lunch with Marshall and McCloy coming in to share it with us. There we had a talk in general about matters in Europe and particularly Germany and the complications which are being made by Russia's difficulties.... I told him [McCloy] that my own opinion was that the time now and the method now to deal with Russia was to keep our mouths shut and let our actions speak for words. The Russians will understand them better than anything else. It is a case where we have got to regain the lead and perhaps do it in a pretty rough and realistic way. They have rather taken it away from us because we have talked too much and have been too lavish with our beneficences to them. I told him this was a place where we really held all the cards. I called it a royal straight flush and we musn't be a fool about the way we play it. They can't get along without our help and industries and we have coming into action a weapon which will be unique. Now the thing is not to get into unnecessary quarrels by talking too much and not to indicate any weakness by talking too much; let our actions speak for themselves.”

May 15, 1945 –
Ferocious fighting on Okinawa takes place at “Sugar Loaf” Hill. The battle rages on for ten days. Almost 3,000 American Marines are killed and wounded.

May 16, 1945 –
Stimson’s diary outlines the socio-political reality in post-war Europe at this time: “Early proposals for the treatment of Germany provided for keeping Germany near the margin of hunger as a means of punishment for past misdeeds. I have felt that this was a grave mistake. Punish her war criminals in full measure. Deprive her permanently of her weapons, her General staff, and perhaps her entire army. Guard her governmental action until the Nazi educated generation has passed from the stage - admittedly a long job. But do not deprive her of the means of building up ultimately a contented Germany interested in following non-militaristic methods of civilization. This must necessarily involve some industrialization, for Germany today has approximately thirty million excess population beyond what can be supported by agriculture alone. The eighty million Germans and Austrians in central Europe today necessarily swing the balance of that continent. A solution must be found for their future peaceful existence and it is to the interest of the whole world that they should not be driven by stress of hardship into a non-democratic and necessarily predatory habit of life. All of this is a tough problem requiring coordination between the Anglo-American allies and Russia. Russia will occupy most of the good food lands of central Europe while we have the industrial portions. We must find some way of persuading Russia to play ball.”

May 24, 1945 –
Off Okinawa, kamikazes sink an American fast troop carrier, damage six more ships and attack the American airbase, Yontan field, destroying and damaging 33 American aircraft as well as blowing up a large fuel dump.

May 25, 1945 –
The U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff set November 1 as the date for Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyusha. “It was assumed in Washington, surely correctly, that once the Olympic landing had begun, the Japanese would fight to defend at least the island of Kyushu with determination and to great effect. The estimates of American intelligence, that Japan had about ten thousand planes – about half of them kamikazes – and two million soldiers in the home islands, were for once essentially accurate.” (Weinberg, p. 885)

May 28, 1945 –
Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew informs President Truman that the greatest obstacle to Japan’s unconditional surrender is their belief that it involves removal of the Emperor.

May 29, 1945 –
General George C. Marshall advises President Truman to give the Japanese clear warning prior to the use of the atomic bombs that specific places would be hit and should be evacuated.

May 31, 1945 –
Secretary of State James Byrnes and Secretary of War Stimson both advise President Truman that to atomic bomb might be a effective bargaining chip to use against the Soviets in over the future of Eastern Europe. Secretary Byrnes is particularly forceful in his recommendation that the U.S. take a hard line against the extension of Soviet political influence into Poland and other countries. Secretary Stimson states that the atomic bomb should be used “to make a profound psychological impression on as many (Japanese) as possible.”

June 4, 1945 –
American forces attack the Japanese Naval Base Force on Okinawa. The battle continues for ten days. Over 4,000 Japanese are killed at a cost of more than 1,600 U.S. lives. At the end of the battle, Americans find a cave that served as a hospital for the Japanese where over 200 wounded soldiers, the headquarters staff and the Naval Base Force commander all committed suicide.

June 9, 1945 –
From Doug Long's web site: “Japan’s Prime Minister Suzuki spelled out the problem of ‘unconditional surrender’ well for doves and hawks alike when he publicly announced on June 9, 1945: ‘Should the emperor system be abolished, they (the Japanese people) would lose all reason for existence. ‘Unconditional surrender’, therefore, means death to hundred million: it leaves us no choice but to go on fighting to the last man.’”

June 11, 1945 –
The Frank Report is submitted recommending that the atomic bomb be demonstrated “before the eyes of representatives of all United Nations, on a desert or barren island.”

June 16, 1945 –
A.H. Compton, E.O. Lawrence, J.R. Oppenheimer, and E. Fermi submit a report stating that there is “no acceptable alternative to direct military use” of the atomic bomb.

June 18, 1945 –
Admiral William D. Leahy advises President Truman that the “unconditional surrender” clause in Japan’s surrender terms be modified to clearly allow for the possibility of “a constitutional monarchy under (Japan’s) present dynasty.” At the same time, General George C. Marshall estimates for the President that during the first 30 days of Operation Olympic America could expect to sustain around 31,000 casualties. Marshall also declares that “airpower alone was simply not enough to conquer Japan.” (Toland, p. 944) Admiral Leahy adds that those numbers could be conservative as they reflect losses proportionally lower than what was actually sustained during the invasion of Okinawa. President Truman makes the statement that the entire invasion effort could be “an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.” Meanwhile, the final phase of the Battle of Okinawa begins.

June 21, 1945 –
Marines reach the Japanese command cave at Mabuni on Okinawa. That night, while resistance continued, the primary Japanese commanders, Generals Ushijima and Sho commit harikari. General Sho writes just before his death: “I depart without regret, shame, or obligations.” (Gilbert, p. 700)

June 22, 1945 –
Japanese Emperor Hirohito instructs his “Big Six” leaders to seek some form of “conditional” peace using the Soviets as mediators. Japan’s top military leaders remain adamantly opposed to anything that could be considered a clear surrender. Instead, a hope emerges that cooperation could be obtained through the Soviet government to end the war on terms that did not require surrender or occupation of the home islands. Basically, the option considered was that Japan would call it quits, abandon its colonial holdings and everything else would stand, with the Emperor and Army intact. Even at this there was much reluctance within the Japanese military.

Ambassador Naotake Sato suggests his government accept the Allied call for unconditional surrender. However, “The repeated assertions from Tokyo that this unsolicited advice had been rejected, and that the Japanese government would not accept the concept of unconditional surrender even if the institution of the imperil house were preserved, told the Americans two very important things. In the first place, these exchanges showed that the subject of surrender was actually under discussion in Tokyo, an entirely new feature of the situation. Secondly, they demonstrated that so far the advocates of continuing the war were winning over those who were prepared to surrender, but they might not always be able to do so. Perhaps the blows of atomic bombs and of Soviet entrance into the war could swing the balance to the faction which urged surrender.” (Weinberg, p. 886)

June 27, 1945 –
Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph A. Bard writes a memorandum that dropping the atomic bomb without warning would be in contradiction to the “humanitarian” nature of the United States.

July 1945 –
Secretary of State James Byrnes, Assistant Secretaries of State Dean Acheson & Archibald MacLeish all advise President Truman that Japan should be offered the same terms (ie. unconditional surrender) that the Nazi’s accepted, otherwise an impression of leniency and appeasement would foster a politically unacceptable domestic and international reaction. “Secretary of War Stimson and Under-Secretary of State Joseph Grew, who has served as ambassador to Japan, urged a concession on the issue. The new Secretary of State, James Byrnes, and Assistant Secretary Dean Acheson as well as most of the more liberal members of the administration were opposed. Public opinion in the United States was in general also opposed, as were the articulate organizations of the American left who…wanted no concessions to the old order in Japan and urged the dropping of additional bombs instead. The imperial system had produced war before and it might again.” (Weinberg, p. 890)

Operation Zipper is planned by the British with the intent to retake Singpore and open the Molucca Straits to Allied shipping in support of Olympic. Fat Man and Little Boy are transported Tinian in the Marianas.

July 2, 1945 –
General Leslie Groves informs Robert Oppenheimer that the test date for the atomic bomb was set by President Truman for July 16.

Mopping up actions are completed on Okinawa and the campaign is officially declared over. American casualties total some 49,000, with over half the tank force destroyed, along with more than 700 aircraft, 36 naval vessels sunk and 368 ships damaged. Japanese losses stand at around 110,000, only 7,400 of which are taken prisoner. About 150,000 civilian Okinawans die during the gruesome campaign.

July 3, 1945 –
Manhatten Project scientist Leo Szilard begins a personal crusade to stop the use of the atomic bomb. He writes and circulates a number of memorandums that are endorsed by numerous fellow scientists of the Project. But, none of these documents are seen by President Truman until after the bombs are dropped. Secretary Byrnes, General Groves, Robert Oppenheimer and others block them as unnecessary security risks to a top-secret military operation.

July 11 – July 26, 1945:
A series of messages between Foreign Minister Togo and Japan’s Moscow Ambassador Sato are intercepted by the U.S. They make it clear that Japan is seeking a mediated peace settlement with the Allies through the Soviets. From Doug Long's Web Site: However, the message of July 12 reads: “as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender, our country has no alternative but to see it through in an all-out effort.”

July 15, 1945 –
In anticipation of upcoming casualties in Operations Olympic and Coronet, the Pentagon orders so many Purple Hearts that the supply has yet to be exhausted by American military endeavors, including the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars. (Weintraub, p. 62) The decision is finalized to drop more than one atomic bomb on Japan. "To drop only one bomb, whatever its dramatic effects (if it worked), might suggest that it was only an experimental weapon. To impress the Japanese hierarchy that the United States was capable of a superbomb offensive, another bomb, strategists thought, had to be delivered soon after. Since 'Little Boy' was the only one of its kind in existence, the second would have to be a plutonium device like the prototype on a tower in the New Mexico desert." (Weintraub, p. 75)

July 16, 1945 –
The Trinity Test of the first atomic bomb goes successfully at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Meanwhile, regarding the issue of making official promises to retain the Japanese Emperor, "Telephoning retired Secretary of State Cordell Hull at his apartment before boarding the Augusta, James Byrnes explained the proposed Postdam declaration, and Hull, remembering receiving the Emperor's envoys as Pearl Harbor was under attack, would have none of it. Keeping the Emperor, he bridled, was appeasement. The feudal caste dominating Japan had to go." (Weintraub, p. 79) "To Byrnes, Hull repeated his earlier objections to any mention of the Emperor in a Potsdam declaration. There would be, he warned, recognizing the view of most Americans that Hirohito was a war criminal, 'terrible repercussions' at home. Weakening the Allied position on unconditional surrender, Cordell Hull had warned in his cable, might suggest to the militarists in Tokyo a weakening resolve--that their kamikaze posture was paying off." (Weintraub, p. 90)

July 17, 1945 –
The Potsdam Conference begins. “I had in my mind the spectacle of Okinawa island, where many thousands of Japanese, rather than surrender, had drawn up in a line and destroyed themselves by hand-grenades after their leaders had solemnly performed the rite of harakiri. Now all this nightmare picture had vanished. In its place was the vision --fair and bright indeed it seemed --of the end of the whole war in one or two violent shocks.... there never was a moment's discussion as to whether the atomic bomb should be used or not.... The final decision now lay in the main with President Truman, who had the weapon; but I never doubted what it would be, nor have I ever doubted since that he was right. The historic fact remains, and must be judged in the after-time, that the decision whether or not to use the atomic bomb to compel the surrender of Japan was never even an issue. There was unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around our table; nor did I ever hear the slightest suggestion that we should do otherwise.” Source: Winston S. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953), pp. 638-639.

Meanwhile, Japan vows to fight on unless offered terms of surrender that were specifically conditioned. "From the Foreign Office he rejected Ambassador Sato's conclusion that the Soviet reluctance to mediate left no choice but unconditional surrender. Unless Japan's 'honor and existence' were guaranteed, Togo cabled Moscow, 'then our country and His Majesty would unanimously resolve to fight a war of resistance to the bitter end.'" (Weintraub, p.98)

July 18, 1945 –
The situation regarding Poland heats up. "The Polish question was more than one of boarders, and they turned to the question of its legitimate government. Stalin wanted it settled by asking all member states in the United Nations to withdraw recognition from the exile ministry in London in favor of the Soviet-installed regime in Warsaw. He also wanted all diplomatic property abroad, military equipment, and gold reserves held in England and Canada for Poland transferred to the puppet state. As for the elections in Poland promised in the Yalta agreement, which Truman raised, Stalin offered what was obviously to be an empty expectation. 'The Provisional Government,' he said, 'have never refused to hold free elections.' The question might be left to the three foreign secretaries, he proposed." (Weintraub, p. 121)

July 19, 1945 –
The Japanese "peace party" gathers no momentum. "The 'peace party' did not imply a groundswell of public opinion. No such opportunity existed where the media were controlled and a police state apparatus existed. Not a single ranking general or admiral in the military hierarchy that ruled Japan would have submitted to anything resembling capitulation, not even Admiral Yonai." (Weintraub, p.141)

July 20, 1945 –
Preparations for Japanese Operation Ketsu-Go, the defense of the home island of Kyushu, move into high gear. "The models were the suicidal defense of Tinian and Saipan in the summer of 1944, where local governments organized civilians, including women, children, and old men, into living bombs by arming them with explosives. It was a tragic business, {Admiral Matome} Ugaki had confided to his diary, yet 'No people but the Yamato nation could do a thing like this. I think that if one hundred million Japanese people could have the same resolution as these...it wouldn't be difficult to find a way to victory.'" (Weintraub, p. 145)

July 21, 1945 –
The U.S. broadcasts an offer of unconditional surrender to Japan based loosely upon the Atlantic Charter. Japan does not respond to this offer directly. Rather, on July 25, Americans intercept a Japanese message sent to Moscow that reads in part: “The fact that the Americans alluded to the Atlantic Charter is particularly worthy of attention at this time. It is impossible to accept an unconditional surrender under any circumstances, but we would like to communicate to the other party through appropriate channels that we have no objection to a peace based on the Atlantic Charter.” Meanwhile, a kaiten from a Japanese submarine sinks the transport ship Marathon.

July 22, 1945 –
The Soviets intensify their diplomatic demands. "'They are throwing aside all their previous restraint as to being only a Continental power,' Stimson wrote in his diary the next day. Earlier the Russians had claimed no interest in further acquisitions--before San Francisco, he meant. Now they were seeking 'to branch [out] in all directions. Thus they have not only been vigorously seeking to extend their influence in Poland, Austria, Rumania and Bulgaria, but they are seeking bases in Turkey and now are putting in demands for the Italian colonies...' Harriman reported that Stalin was urging 'an immediate trusteeship' for Russians in Korea, since Japan would be forced to relinquish its colony.'" (Weintraub, p. 182)

July 23, 1945 –

Churchill proclaims that the atomic bomb will "save the world." "Yet the atomic strike now had wider implications, for it had to happen before the Russians could seize more Japanese spoils that they were entitled to in the Yalta accords. Since his most recent discussions with Stimson, Byrnes, and Churchill, the President seemed far less pleased about Soviet intervention, which had been intended to reduce the cost of the 'Olympic' landings. 'It has just come in time to save the world.' To save the world from Stalinism, Churchill meant. And while Truman and Byrnes apparently saw no way to rescue what had already become Soviet satellite states, they were looking for opportunities to apply the lessons of Europe to Asia." (Weintraub, pp. 190-191)

July 24, 1945 –
Truman casually informs Stalin at Potsdam that the U.S. has developed “a new weapon of unusual destructive force.” Stalin seems delighted at the news and cleverly leads Truman, Churchill and others to believe he did not comprehend what he was being told. Meanwhile, two Japanese submarines sink the destroyer Underhill killing over 100 Americans.

The decision is made not to use the atomic bomb in a "public demonstration" of its devestating power prior to deploying it against Japan. "...pragmatic military considerations at the top eclipsed over-wrought consciences. There was only one uranium bomb, never tested. Whether it worked or not under combat conditions, there was no other. Only one plutonium bomb could be made ready immediately, and its tactical efficacy was unknown. The first and only other device had been fixed in a stationary tower and ignited electrically. Would Japanese intransigence escalate if a much-touted weapon was a public dud?" (Weintraub, p. 219)

July 25, 1945 –
President Truman orders the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In light of recent military operations and intercepts of Japanese communications, he writes in his Potsdam diary that the Japanese people are “savages, ruthless, merciless, and fanatic…”

July 26, 1945 –
The Potsdam Proclamation is broadcast from San Francisco in Japanese and relayed to Japan’s government the following morning. It demands essentially the same terms demanded of Germany and made no special mention as to the status of the Emperor. In an attempt to bridle recent Soviet diplomatic aggressiveness, Britain and America do not allow the Soviets to sign the declaration. It reads in part, "We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is complete and utter destruction."

July 27, 1945 –
The Japanese government releases an edited version of the Potsdam declaration to their press and citizens. "The Foreign Office compromise prevailed: publication without the Allied assurances that might make peace palatable to the people. Censored out was the guarantee that disarmed troops 'shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives,' and the assurance, 'We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation.'" (Weintraub p. 266)

July 28, 1945 –
Ketsu-Go preparations continue. "Plans for Ketsu-Go assumed the arming in some way of the entire nation, and local inhabitants were to remain to fight it out and then become a guerrilla force. For the Amry's 3,800 hoarded (inactive) aircraft, mostly kamikazes, 13 million gallons of fuel were stockpiled. By August 1 the Navy expected to have hoarded and largely hidden 5,145 planes for kamikaze use...the new Naval General Command would have a fleet of 3,294 secondary vessels, consisting of suicide boats (Shinyo), midget subs (Kairyu and Koryu), and 38 Home Fleet submarines that would employ kaitens. Nineteen additional army divisions would be raised, exhausting all reserves of manpower outside the primitive civilian home defense force. The aim of Ketsu-Go was less to drive the Americans from the beaches than to inflict such opening losses as to create a new mood for renegotiating the surrender." (Weintraub, pp. 287-288)

“In preparation for an American amphibious landing on Kyushu, the Japanese had trained considerable numbers of kamikaze suicide pilots, kaiten suicide human torpedoes and fukurya suicide divers. By August 1945, as many as 1,200 suicide divers had been trained, with a further 2,800 under training. Their task would be to position themselves off shore, in underwater concrete shelters with iron hatches, ready to emerge as the landing craft arrived, and to fix their mines on the hulls. The landing craft, their men and tanks, and the diver, would then be blown up together.” (Gilbert, p. 712)

July 29, 1945–
The destroyer Callaghan is sunk outside Buckner Bay by kamikazes. 120 Americans die. Of greater impact, the Indianapolis is sunk by a Japanese submarine. Of the 1,196 men on board only about 300 will survive several days at sea before they are rescued.

August 1, 1945–
Americans salvage what they can from successful Soviet diplomatic initatives on post-war Europe at Potsdam. "On Poland, on Germany, on the other Soviet satellites, on booty and reparations, Stalin got just about all he wanted, and more. If Byrnes's reparations plan helped lead to a forty-year division of Germany, it may have saved the Western zones from more severe plundering, and the Ruhr from an internationalization that would have given the Soviets a foot in the West. Potsdam was the best bargain possible at a time when the facts on the ground heavily favored the Russians." (Weintraub, p. 363)

August 6, 1945 –
The Enola Gay drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. About 70,000 civilians die instantly. The death toll from the after-effects of the blasts reaches as high as 130,000 by November. “The scale and nature of the destruction of human life at Hiroshima was eventually to alter the whole nature of how mankind looked at wars, power, diplomacy and the relationships between states.” (Gilbert, p. 712)

August 7, 1945 –
The American Air Force drops six million leaflets over 47 Japanese cities that read in part: "Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you petition the Emperor to end the war. Our President has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender: We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of a new, better, and peace-loving Japan. You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war. EVACUATE YOUR CITIES." When no surrender offer comes, late in the day 170 B-29s are sent on various bombing missions over Kyushu and Honshu.

During the afternoon, the Japanese War Cabinet meets with the Emperor in Tokyo. "'I said,' Togo recalled, 'that it was no all the more imperative that we end the war.' The Bomb permitted them to 'seize the opportunity.' Hirohito agreed, and 'warned that we could no longer continue the struggle, now that a weapon of this devastating power was used against us.'" (Weintraub, p. 454)

August 9, 1945 –
“Fat Man” is dropped on Nagasaki. The final death toll from this explosion is about 74,000, bringing the grand total of all deaths as a result of the decision to drop the atomic bomb to roughly 200,000 people. On this same day, the Soviet Union attack Japanese forces in Manchuria (one week ahead of schedule), thus extinguishing Japan’s last glimmer of hope of some negotiated peace by political “feelers” through the Soviet Union.

Minister of War, General Anami –
“It is far too early to say the war is lost. That we will inflict severe losses on the enemy when he invades Japan is certain, and it is by no means impossible that we may be able to reverse the situation in our favour, pulling victory out of defeat. Furthermore, our Army will not submit to demobilization. And since they know that a fighting man is liable to extremely heavy punishment, there is really no alternative for us but to continue the war.” (Gilbert, p. 716)

Japanese Imperial Council remains divided 3 to 3 on surrender. But, after news of Nagasaki arrives, the Emperor breaks the tie in favor of surrender.

August 10, 1945 –
Japan opens communications with the Allies for the first time through their Ambassadors in Sweden and Switzerland. They request that the Emperor be allowed to remain in power if they surrender.

August 12, 1945 –
A Japanese submarine sinks two American vessels (one of which was a destroyer) east of Okinawa.

August 13, 1945 –
Newspapers around the world attack the American decision to drop the atomic bombs upon Japan without prior warning. "Approvingly, he noted a column in the Asahi of Tokyo quoting a Swedish paper that had argued that the Americans should have warned the people of Horshima and Nagasaki to leave their cities before dropping atomic bombs. Yet leaflets by the millions had been dropped to warn townspeople to flee B-29 raids, and almost no one had evacuated their cities until...they had been ordered to do so." (Weintraub, pp. 564-565)

August 14, 1945 –
Japanese War Minister Anami, Army Chief of Staff Umezu, and Navy Chief of Staff Toyoda all continue to argue against surrender. But, the Emperor personally intervenes and opts for acceptance of the Potsdam terms. There is soon a coup by the military. They attempt to destroy a recording by the Emperor announcing his intentions to surrender. “…the coup failed primarily because the Minister of War, General Anami Korechika, refused to support the plotters. Himself an advocate of continued fighting, Anami was, on the other hand, not prepared to defy the orders of the Emperor repeatedly and personally expressed in his presence. He committed suicide in this dilemma, and the plotters failed in their attempt to overthrow the government.” (Weinberg, p. 891) Japan “unconditionally surrenders” to the Allied Armies. The Emperor is allowed to stay in power.

August 15, 1945 –
Masatake Okumiya and Jiro Horikoshi, Zero, Bantam Books, New York, 1991, Page 299 –
“ On August 15, 1945, the day of our surrender, Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki, who commanded the suicide bombings from Kyushu, flew the last Kamikaze mission of the war and followed his men by diving against an enemy warship off Okinawa. Also, in the war’s closing hour, Vice-Admiral Takijiro Onishi, Vice-Chief of the Naval General Staff and the originator of the Kamikaze operations, chose death by hara-kiri rather than surrender.”

September 9, 1945 –
The date set for Operation Zipper, the planned British liberation of Singapore that was to ultimately support the execution of Operation Olympic.

November 1, 1945 –
The date set for Operation Olympic, the American invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyushu. This would have been the largest amphibious operation in history, three times greater than the Normandy landings in France. It was meant to be the first phase of the much more ambitious Operation Downfall that would encompass a second invasion in 1946.

March 1946 –
Tentative date for Operation Coronet, the second phase of Downfall, this time targeting the mainland island of Honshu. It is believed that this invasion would be “proportionately more violent” than Operation Olympic. General MacArthur, among others, felt that the subsequent fighting to control the Japanese islands could last well into the 1950's.

Copyright © W. Keith Beason, 2011
Version 1.2

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