Department of the Army Files

No. 592
The Secretary of War ( Stimson ) to the President 1
top secret

Dear Mr. President: I am enclosing herewith a memorandum to you on the matter of the proposed warning to Japan, a subject which I have heretofore discussed with you. I have tried to state as succinctly as possible how the matter lies in my mind, and in the course of preparing the memorandum, I have consulted with the Secretary of the Navy and the Acting Secretary of State, each of whom has approved the tenor of the memorandum and has subscribed to the recommendations contained in it.

I have also had prepared a proposed form of proclamation which has been discussed with representatives of the State Department and the Navy Department, as well as with officers of the General Staff but which has not been placed in final form or in any sense approved as a [Page 889] final document by the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Navy or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It has been drafted merely to put on paper something which would give us some idea of how a warning of the character we have in mind might appear. You will note that it is written without specific relation to the employment of any new weapon. Of course it would have to be revamped to conform to the efficacy of such a weapon if the warning were to be delivered, as would almost certainly be the case, in conjunction with its use.2

As these papers were primarily prepared as a possible background for some of your discussions at the forthcoming conference, this added element was not included, but a suitable provision could be readily added at the appropriate time.

I shall continue to discuss this matter with the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Navy, as well as with the representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and will of course keep you currently informed of any further suggestions we may have.

Faithfully yours,

Henry L Stimson
[Enclosure 1]
The Secretary of War ( Stimson ) to the President
top secret

Memorandum for the President

Proposed Program for Japan

The plans of operation up to and including the first landing have been authorized and the preparations for the operation are now actually [Page 890] going on. This situation was accepted by all members of your conference on Monday, June 18th.3
There is reason to believe that the operation for the occupation of Japan following the landing may be a very long, costly and arduous struggle on our part. The terrain, much of which I have visited several times, has left the impression on my memory of being one which would be susceptible to a last ditch defense such as has been made on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and which of course is very much larger than either of those two areas. According to my recollection it will be much more unfavorable with regard to tank maneuvering than either the Philippines or Germany.
If we once land on one of the main islands and begin a forceful occupation of Japan, we shall probably have cast the die of last ditch resistance. The Japanese are highly patriotic and certainly susceptible to calls for fanatical resistance to repel an invasion. Once started in actual invasion, we shall in my opinion have to go through with an even more bitter finish fight than in Germany. We shall incur the losses incident to such a war and we shall have to leave the Japanese islands even more thoroughly destroyed than was the case with Germany. This would be due both to the difference in the Japanese and German personal character and the differences in the size and character of the terrain through which the operations will take place.
A question then comes: Is there any alternative to such a forceful occupation of Japan which will secure for us the equivalent of an unconditional surrender of her forces and a permanent destruction of her power again to strike an aggressive blow at the “peace of the Pacific”? I am inclined to think that there is enough such chance to make it well worthwhile our giving them a warning of what is to come and a definite opportunity to capitulate. As above suggested, it should be tried before the actual forceful occupation of the homeland islands is begun and furthermore the warning should be given in ample time to permit a national reaction to set in.

We have the following enormously favorable factors on our side—factors much weightier than those we had against Germany:

  • Japan has no allies.
  • Her navy is nearly destroyed and she is vulnerable to a surface and underwater blockade which can deprive her of sufficient food and supplies for her population.
  • She is terribly vulnerable to our concentrated air attack upon her crowded cities, industrial and food resources.
  • She has against her not only the Anglo-American forces but the rising forces of China and the ominous threat of Russia.
  • We have inexhaustible and untouched industrial resources to bring to bear against her diminishing potential.

[Page 891]

We have great moral superiority through being the victim of her first sneak attack.

The problem is to translate these advantages into prompt and economical achievement of our objectives. I believe Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater extent than is indicated by our current press and other current comment. Japan is not a nation composed wholly of mad fanatics of an entirely different mentality from ours. On the contrary, she has within the past century shown herself to possess extremely intelligent people, capable in an unprecedentedly short time of adopting not only the complicated technique of Occidental civilization but to a substantial extent their culture and their political and social ideas. Her advance in all these respects during the short period of sixty or seventy years has been one of the most astounding feats of national progress in history—a leap from the isolated feudalism of centuries into the position of one of the six or seven great powers of the world. She has not only built up powerful armies and navies. She has maintained an honest and effective national finance and respected position in many of the sciences in which we pride ourselves. Prior to the forcible seizure of power over her government by the fanatical military group in 1931, she had for ten years lived a reasonably responsible and respectable international life.

My own opinion is in her favor on the two points involved in this question.

I think the Japanese nation has the mental intelligence and versatile capacity in such a crisis to recognize the folly of a fight to the finish and to accept the proffer of what will amount to an unconditional surrender; and
I think she has within her population enough liberal leaders (although now submerged by the terrorists) to be depended upon for her reconstruction as a responsible member of the family of nations. I think she is better in this last respect than Germany was. Her liberals yielded only at the point of the pistol and, so far as I am aware, their liberal attitude has not been personally subverted in the way which was so general in Germany.

On the other hand, I think that the attempt to exterminate her armies and her population by gunfire or other means will tend to produce a fusion of race solidity and antipathy which had no analogy in the case of Germany. We have a national interest in creating, if possible, a condition wherein the Japanese nation may live as a peaceful and useful member of the future Pacific community.

5. It is therefore my conclusion that a carefully timed warning be given to Japan by the chief representatives of the United States, Great Britain, China and, if then a belligerent, Russia, calling upon [Page 892] Japan to surrender and permit the occupation of her country in order to insure its complete demilitarization for the sake of the future peace.

This warning should contain the following elements:

  • The varied and overwhelming character of the force we are about to bring to bear on the islands.
  • The inevitability and completeness of the destruction which the full application of this force will entail.
  • The determination of the allies to destroy permanently all authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the country into embarking on world conquest.
  • The determination of the allies to limit Japanese sovereignty to her main islands and to render them powerless to mount and support another war.
  • The disavowal of any attempt to extirpate the Japanese as a race or to destroy them as a nation.

A statement of our readiness, once her economy is purged of its militaristic influences, to permit the Japanese to maintain such industries, particularly of a light consumer character, as offer no threat of aggression against their neighbors, but which can produce a sustaining economy, and provide a reasonable standard of living. The statement should indicate our willingness, for this purpose, to give Japan trade access to external raw materials, but no longer any control over, the sources of supply outside her main islands. It should also indicate our willingness, in accordance with our now established foreign trade policy, in due course to enter into mutually advantageous trade relations with her.

The withdrawal from their country as soon as the above objectives of the allies are accomplished, and as soon as there has been established a peacefully inclined government, of a character representative of the masses of the Japanese people. I personally think that if in saying this we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance.

6. Success of course will depend on the potency of the warning which we give her. She has an extremely sensitive national pride and, as we are now seeing every day, when actually locked with the enemy will fight to the very death. For that reason the warning must be tendered before the actual invasion has occurred and while the impending destruction, though clear beyond peradventure, has not yet reduced her to fanatical despair. If Russia is a part of the threat, the Russian attack, if actual, must not have progressed too far. Our own bombing should be confined to military objectives as far as possible.

[Page 893]
[Enclosure 2]4
top secret

Proclamation by the Heads of State U. S.—U. K—[U. S. S. R.]5China

[Delete matters inside brackets if U. S. S. R. not in war]

We,—the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, [the Generalissimo of the Soviet Union] and the President of the Republic of China, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to surrender on the terms we state herein.
The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west [have now been joined by the vast military might of the Soviet Union and] are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied nations to prosecute the war against Japan until her unconditional capitulation.
The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example before Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power backed by our resolve means the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.
Is Japan so lacking in reason that it will continue blindly to follow the leadership of those ridiculous militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation? The time has come to decide whether to continue on to destruction or to follow the path of reason.
Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. They may be accepted or not. There are no alternatives. We shall not tarry on our way.
There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the country into embarking [Page 894] on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.
Until such a new order is established Japanese lands must be occupied and the exercise of our authority shall continue until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed.
The terms of the Cairo Declaration6 shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such adjacent minor islands as we determine.
The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed and returned to their homes and peaceful and productive lives.
The Japanese shall not be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice will be meted out to all war criminals including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. Democratic tendencies found among the Japanese peoples [sic] shall be supported and strengthened. Freedom of speech, of religion and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
Japan shall be permitted to maintain only such industries as will not enable her to rearm herself for war but which can produce a sustaining economy. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.
The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as our objectives are accomplished and there has been established beyond doubt a peacefully inclined, responsible government of a character representative of the Japanese people. This may include a constitutional monarchy under the present dynasty if it be shown to the complete satisfaction of the world that such a government will never again aspire to aggression.
We call upon those in authority in Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces under the authority of the Japanese Government and High Command, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action.
  1. This paper bears the following manuscript notation: “Handed to the President by Sec. War July 2/45”.
  2. According to John J. McCloy, at a meeting with Truman at the White House in June 1945 (which McCloy attended as Assistant Secretary of War) the suggestion had been made that the Japanese should be warned, before an atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, that the United States had such a weapon. Summarizing the discussion some years later, McCloy stated that neither Secretary of War Stimson nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff had thought well of such a specific warning, one reason against it being the possibility that the work on the bomb might be unsuccessful. See John J. McCloy, The Challenge to American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 1953), pp. 42–43. Louis Morton, in “The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 35, pp. 341, 348. definitely identifies the meeting referred to as the one which took place on June 18. While the discussion of this subject was not recorded in the minutes of that meeting prepared by the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see document No. 598), it may have constituted the “certain other matters” referred to in those minutes (see ibid., footnote 8). Cf. Millis, ed., The Forrestal Diaries , pp. 70–71. Concerning earlier recommendations on the use of the atomic bomb against Japan without prior warning of the nature of the weapon, see Henry L. Stimson, “The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb”, Harper’s Magazine, vol. 194, pp. 100–101; Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 419; Byrnes, Speaking Frankly, pp. 261–262; Byrnes, All in One Lifetime, p. 285; “A Report to the Secretary of War, June 1945”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 1, 1946, p. 2.
  3. See document No. 598.
  4. The text of this enclosure was sent to the Department of State by the War Department on July 2. On July 3 the Department of State transmitted to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of War by telephone the following suggestion for revising the second sentence of paragraph 12 (file No. 740.00119 PW/7–245): “This may include a constitutional monarchy under the present dynasty if completely satisfactory evidence convinces the peace-loving nations of the genuine determination of such a government to follow policies which will render impossible for all future time the development of aggressive militarism in Japan.” Cf. post, p. 899.
  5. Brackets throughout this document appear in the original.
  6. Released December 1, 1943. Text in Department of State Bulletin, vol. ix, p. 393.