761.94/7–2145: Telegram

No. 1228
The Japanese Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Sato) to the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs (Togo)
very secret

1427. Re your telegram No. 913.1

After considering this matter most carefully, I wish to express my unreserved opinion in the following manner:

1. Since July 14 an American task force has been operating in the waters off the northern section of Honshu Island; they have come close to the shore in the areas of Kamaishi, Muroran, and Mito and have shelled them in a naval bombardment; we have heard that their carrier-based planes have been menacing traffic between the mainland and Hokkaido and have sunk a great number of ships. Our defensive measures, according to enemy broadcasts, have been next to nothing, even with our Navy and Air Force. This is most regrettable, but it may also be taken as the truth in the matter of how weak our war potential has become. If this trend continues, with every passing day the enemy fleet should be more able to move at will, as though it were unopposed. Actually, the names of the ships comprising the task force and even the name of the task force commander have already been ostentatiously broadcast, hurling an open challenge to the Japanese Navy.

2. On the other hand, the enemy air forces based in areas such as the Marianas, Okinawa and Iwo, attack various parts of Japan almost continuously. Large metropolitan areas have already been destroyed and the bombings have even reached out to the small and intermediate-sized cities, quite aside from arms-production facilities and oil-storage dumps. The successive destruction and conflagration of our cities continue. Moreover, just as our anti-aircraft defenses have manifestly decreased in their effectiveness in comparison with the days when the B–29’s first started their attacks, so have we also had the command of the skies wrested from our grasp. We cannot assess this any other way.

3. Once the command of the skies has been taken from us by the enemy, our fighting strength will decline at an accelerated rate. This is quite clear if you look at Germany’s example. Furthermore, once you have relinquished the mastery of the skies to the enemy it is well nigh impossible to regain it without outside assistance. For the [Page 1253] Empire there is no hope other than that of mass production of aircraft in Manchuria. This development is quite recent and it is not only difficult to be sure just how much to expect from Manchurian production but also Manchuria itself is about to become a victim of mass bombing from nearby Okinawa.

4. Although I cannot know with certainty whether there is going to be an enemy landing on the mainland, I do not have sufficient faith to declare such a thing impossible, and I believe that we should be prepared for a landing, considering the thorough manner of the landing tactics in the enemy’s Leyte operations, although there may be some differences because of geographic conditions. Furthermore, assuming that a date for the landings has been set, it is equally clear that this would be after our fighting strength has been completely destroyed.

In order to knock out our fighting strength, the enemy will pay special attention to depriving the people of their means of livelihood, besides directly destroying military installations and industrial plants and bombing the cities. The enemy must know about our food shortage. They must also have a thorough knowledge of how great an influence the present autumn harvest will have on our fighting strength; and so plans on their part to destroy our crops should not be considered impossible with the coming of harvest time. For instance, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the enemy will ascertain the period when the paddies are dry and the rice-plants are ripe throughout the nation and devise methods of burning these up at one stroke. As far as they are concerned, it is a weakness of ours which they should only naturally exploit.

If we lose our autumn harvest, our situation will be absolutely critical and we will be in no position to continue the war. Our Empire, which has already lost command of the skies, can do nothing to combat the above circumstances; we are at the mercy of the enemy and committed to whatever the enemy should will.

5. As I have already urged in my telegram No. 1143,2 continuing the war after our fighting strength has been destroyed should be considered impossible. It goes without saying that the Imperial Army and the populace as a whole will not surrender to the enemy as long as there is no Imperial command to do so; they will literally not throw away their spears until the last man. But even if the officers and men and the entire citizenry, who already have been deprived of their fighting ability by the absolute superiority of the enemy’s bombing and gunfire, were to fight to the death, the state would not be saved. Do you think that the Emperor’s safety can be secured by the sacrifice of seventy million citizens?

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With the above thought in mind, I have come to the conclusion that the individual’s position, the honor of the military, and the pride of the people cannot take the place of the state, and that there is no other way for us than to hurry and make up our minds to advocate peace.

6. I had been thinking that the peace proposal through the special envoy mentioned in your telegram No. 893,3 which was to be put forward in Moscow, was most right and proper. The dispatch of the special envoy, however, unfortunately met with disapproval from the Soviet side (my telegram No. 14174), making it necessary to contrive some other way.

Once peace has been decided upon, although it may be difficult to avoid some harsh conditions which the Japanese citizens must endure as a result, we should be prepared for such an eventuality and have our military representatives and theirs conclude an agreement to terminate hostilities within the shortest possible time; we should put a stop to further sacrifices.

One of the conditions for peace that will require reservation and emphasis on our part is the matter of protecting our national polity. This will have to be for us an absolute requirement, and the fact that it will require us to make a strong impression on our opponents to this effect has already been stated in my telegram No. 1416.5 Regarding this matter of protecting the national polity, one way is to consider the matter one of a domestic nature and therefore excluded from the terms of a peace treaty. In this case, however, even though it may be but a formality, it will be necessary to hold something like a constitutional convention to hear the people’s voice for the sake of appearances. And it cannot be expected that there will be no open opposition to the maintenance of the national polity from some extreme leftists at such a convention. Again, convening a constitutional convention may itself run counter to our Constitution; and if we are to cope with emergency circumstances, it will be necessary to find appropriate solutions regarding such criticisms of unconstitutionality.

On the other hand, we may be able to solve the problem of our fundamental form of government with this formality and it may even be relatively easy to get the enemy’s agreement, but I find this difficult to judge. In fact, if we resolve to have the Imperial Household above us under the general will of the people, our national [Page 1255] polity might, indeed, carry a great deal of weight throughout the world.

7. What I mean to say as a peace proposal is to approve most of the enemy’s conditions with the exception of the protection of the fundamental character of our form of government. As long as the fundamental character of our government is preserved, it would mean that our country’s honor and existence will be guaranteed in the minimum degree, and I trust this will not run counter to the purport of your telegram No. 913–26 (please refer to my telegram No. 1416).

8. Our country is literally standing at the crossroads of destiny. If we were to continue the war under the present circumstances the citizens would die with the satisfaction of having truly served their country loyally and patriotically, but the country itself would be on the verge of ruin. Although it is possible to remain loyal to the great and just aims of the Greater East Asia War to the very end, it is meaningless to insist on them to the extent of destroying the state. We should protect the survival of our country even by enduring every kind of sacrifice.

Since the Manchurian incident Japan has pursued a policy of authoritarian rule. In the Greater East Asia War she finally plunged into a war beyond her means. As a result, we are confronted with the danger of having even our mainland trampled upon. Since there is no longer any real chance of success, I believe that it is the duty of the statesmen to save the nation by coming quickly to a decision to lay down our arms. If we seek peace, of course, we know roughly what the terms will be by observing the example of Germany. It is inevitable that the people will have to endure the heavy pressure of the enemy for a long period of time, but the nation will live on and we may be able to recover our former prosperity again after several decades. The government should certainly select this path. I ceaselessly implore that we put His Majesty’s mind at ease without any delay whatever.

In the postwar dawn we must strive to carry out thoroughgoing reforms throughout the country, to democratize politics in general, and to do away with the domineering and selfrighteous attitude of the bureaucrats in order to realize a truly harmonious relation between the Emperor and the people. The scorn for diplomacy and the indifference to international relations, even before the Manchurian incident, were the cause which brought about our present misfortune. In view of the fact that we shall encounter problems in finding a way [Page 1256] out of our difficulties while being buffeted about by the storm of international relations in the postwar period, we recognize the urgency of adopting the best political system which will attach importance to future foreign relations.

Since entering into the anti-Comintern pact7 our foreign policy has been completely bankrupt. The whole thing had its inception in our splitting the world into an Axis force and an anti-Axis force by joining forces with Nazism. For the future, we must clearly recognize our past mistakes and fundamentally reconstruct our foreign policy.

9. In obedience to the Imperial proclamation of war, it was the bounden duty of all the people to devote every effort to the achievement of the war objectives. Therefore I also endeavored to contribute my humble efforts to this cause. In view of the present situation, however, I consider it necessary to recognize frankly that the prospects in the present war have become desperate. The theory that we should counterattack with all our strength, if the United States and England should land on our mainland, and thus make them tire of the invasion should be carefully evaluated. I might have had some faith in the firm belief of the military and the government that our war potential can still inflict quite a blow on the enemy (your telegram No. 913–2) and I might have placed some hope in this if we had not yet lost control of the skies and of the sea. Today, however, we find ourselves in a situation in which we cannot repel the daily attacks of the enemy naval and air forces and in which our production facilities are continuously being destroyed. Moreover, we must consider that this situation will become rapidly even worse as time passes. The resulting imbalance of the opposing forces cannot be rectified no matter how heroically our soldiers and people fight. It also goes without saying that groups such as organized guerrillas cannot accomplish much in the face of modern weapons. Thus, after an enemy landing on our mainland, there would be a struggle for every inch of land and repeated valiant fighting until we became exhausted and finally laid down our arms. By that time, as can be seen in the case of Germany, the entire country would already have been trampled by the enemy and the national sovereignty would have been transferred to an occupying power.

I only pray that we may quickly terminate the present situation, in which we can no longer hope to achieve our future objectives and in which we continue to resist simply from past inertia, and that we [Page 1257] may save hundreds of thousands of lives which would be uselessly sacrificed and thereby stop short of the destruction of the nation, save our 70,000,000 people from misery, and endeavor to maintain the survival of our race.

I realize that it is a great crime to dare to make such statements, knowing that they are contrary to the views of the government. The reason for doing so, however, is that I believe that the only policy for national salvation must coincide with these ideas. Therefore, even though I am criticized as being a defeatist and am asked to take the responsibility of submitting to this criticism, I assert that I must willingly accept the responsibility.

Thus I was able to express my views freely, and I need not repeat them further. I beg that you understand that the motive which prompts me to say these things is my sincere concern for the country. I cannot cease praying that my words, because of too much concern, may not result in unfounded and distorted views.

  1. Document No. 1224.
  2. Not printed herein. See Shusen shiroku, p. 466.
  3. Document No. 582, printed in vol. i.
  4. Document No. 1226.
  5. Document No. 1225.
  6. i. e., paragraph 2 of document No. 1224.
  7. i. e., the German-Japanese agreement signed at Berlin, November 25, 1936, Text in Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. i, p. 400. Cf. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 153.