740.00119 PW/7–1945 Telegram

No. 1240
The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State
top secret

69. Rumors are increasingly current in the press and on the air that we propose to issue a statement elucidating unconditional surrender for Japan. Most prevalent rumor is that formulation of our position was taken by President to Berlin for discussion with Stalin and Churchill and that statement will issue as result of meeting. Another rumor has it that our “terms” to Japan will include agreement not to invade. Question submitted to the Department today by the Associated Press and the International News Services reads as follows: “Is it true that plans for the handling of Japan’s unconditional surrender have been fully formulated and that President Truman has taken them to the Potsdam Conference?” A second question asks whether the United States has “any unilateral definition of unconditional surrender for Japan”.

Seems to us desirable, for reasons affecting domestic situation as well as situation in Japan, to quiet these rumors in so far as possible. Would you approve a reply to the questions in following terms:

“The policy of this Government on unconditional surrender by Japan has been repeatedly stated. Elucidations of this policy were issued by the President on May 8 and on June l.1 Papers on this subject as well as on a number of other matters of present importance have been supplied to the President, but no plan altering the policy already announced has been formulated by this Government. The implementation of the announced policy will depend, of course, on the situation as it develops. The treatment to be accorded the Japanese under the unconditional surrender terms as defined by the President will depend upon the circumstances under which the surrender occurs. If the Japanese surrender now, before we invade their main islands on our inevitable march to Tokyo, it is logical that the situation thus created should call for treatment which would be different in character and degree from the treatment that would be required if the Japanese delay surrender or if they fail to surrender. The longer the period of the fighting, and the greater the loss of American lives and of the lives of the fighting men of other United Nations, the more severe must be the treatment accorded the Japanese under the announced terms. The reason for this is clear: the longer Japan resists the more certainly shall we know that the military war lords are still in firm control and the more drastic will be the measures required to rout them out and to insure their complete permanent downfall and elimination. We have declared our firm purpose to eliminate the forces in Japan which have made it a threat to the peace of the world, and that purpose we mean to carry out. In order to carry it out, [Page 1271] we shall unquestionably be obliged to occupy Japan and to occupy it by an effective, not by mere token force. In the light of the sacrifices already made by the United Nations, it is unthinkable that we should pause or be deflected from the full attainment of our objectives”.

In reply to the second question whether the United States has any unilateral definitions of unconditional surrender for Japan, I would say this.

“The United States has never considered the possibility of unilateral action against Japan in fighting the war. Neither has it considered, nor will it consider, unilateral action in deciding upon the future of Japan following the war. It will continue in the future, as in the past, to act jointly with other nations concerned.”

It will be necessary to reply in the near future to these questions posed by the Associated Press and the International News Services. Failing satisfactory answers I fear that the steadily mounting public clamor for a statement of our proposed terms for Japan will be harmful to the Administration and will create in Japan the impression that we are weakening in our determination to see the war through to unconditional surrender and final victory. This can only retard any movement in Japan to force the leaders to accept unconditional surrender before our invasion. Hope for your instructions as soon as possible.

[ Grew ]
  1. For the texts of the statements referred to, see Department of State Bulletin, vol. xii, pp. 886, 999.