THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
JAPAN’S SURRENDER, RECONSIDERED

Hirohito’s role, and the saving of face

August 14, 2011

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THE OMISSION of any mention of the role of the emperor or of the deeply ingrained importance of saving face in the Japanese culture makes Gareth Cook’s discussion of the effect of the atomic bomb in the surrender of Japan misleading and incomplete (“Why did Japan surrender?’’ Ideas, Aug. 7).

The mere entry of Russia in the war would not have forced the surrender. The world’s most skilled army in the defense of the mountainous terrain comprising the Japanese home islands (reinforced by troops and weapons being repatriated from Manchuria, Korea, and China), together with the highly developed kamikaze tactics, would have inflicted unacceptable casualties on any invading force, and Japan’s military high command knew it. To have surrendered unconditionally with such weapons available would have represented such a great loss of face as to be unthinkable.

The atomic bomb, a weapon against which the military high command knew it had no defense, allowed them to permit Emperor Hirohito to intervene (for the first and only time) , thereby removing from them the onus of loss of face and taking it upon himself.

I would have come home in a body bag otherwise.

John F. Waymouth
Marblehead