America Attacks Japan: The Invasion That Never Was

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9780813122489: America Attacks Japan: The Invasion That Never Was

In 1945, the United States and its allies planned the greatest invasion in world history. This work examines what might have happened had that invasion taken place, as well as the lingering controversies over the decision that made all those plans obsolete. It is a story of millions of human lives - those that would fight and that the US military divisions declared expendable, the survivors who wanted to build a new, peaceful Japan and those that were in favour of national suicide. Using extensive original research and interviews, the author shows that history can be influenced by what almost happened as much as by what actually happened. For the Americans, the invasion planning was always linked to concerns about occupation. For the Japanese, the last great defense of the homeland was linked to disagreements over Japan's future.

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About the Author:

Tim Maga, Oglesby Professor of American Heritage at Bradley University and a former coordinator in the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, is the author of several books, including Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

On June 18, 1945, President Harry S. Truman told his Joint Chiefs of Staff that their plan to invade Japan sounded “all right” to him. With this casual expression, Truman committed his country to a military operation which might kill millions. Folksy, funny, and outrageous at times, America’s new president believed that there were no real alternatives to invasion and Japan’s unconditional surrender. This was not an easy decision to make, and The Invasion That Never Was explains how it was made, the controversies associated with it, and what it truly meant for both the U.S. and Japan. Of course, this invasion was never launched. The atomic bomb took its place, and the war ended without the specter of horrible casualties for U.S. troops and even more Japanese. Caught-up in the great drama of the late spring and summer of 1945, the planned invasion of Japan has always been seen as part of the larger story of the atomic bomb, the Japanese surrender, and early Cold War tension. Only recently have military historians taken a closer look at the invasion issue, and largely because of the public interest in the growing field of World War II studies. The Invasion That Never Was differs from these accounts, and for three reasons. First of all, there is now a great number of recently declassified documents which help tell the tale more completely. Secondly, there is a strong desire on the part of the aging former participants, both American invasion planners and Japanese defenders, to tell their story and bring life to that newly available documentation. And thirdly! , these sources provide amazing revelations that were never known or considered before in the few previous writings on this topic. The invasion story is a human story. Real people were involved, not just memos and charts. Sadly, in the rush to describe a strategy or two, too many historians forget that fact. This is not just a tale of Plan A versus Plan B, or the proposed location for Division A on Landing Beach B. It is not a tale which cured the insomnia problems of the “greatest generation.” This was a life and death struggle involving millions. It was the struggle of one people versus another, and many who lived through it deserve to be heard before it’s too late. Hence, their memories are welcome in The Invasion That Never Was, and without apology. The reader will find quite a few author interviews and rare private papers put to good use here. This book is not the final word on the invasion story, and it never pretends to be a definitive study. It sheds light on an important event, and urges both writers and readers to consider the importance of “what might have been.” Writing what could be labeled a “what if” story is considered an awkward thing in the historical profession. Yet history is filled with “what if” propositions. From “what if John Kennedy had lived” to “what if Hitler had taken England” are intriguing questions to general readers, but considered “pseudo-history” to dyed-in-the-wool historians. On the other hand, some novelists and even film-makers have asked and even profited from trying to answer these kinds of questions. But considering the Japan invasion “pseudo history” has been a mistake, and the reasons are obvious. An American invasion was truly set for fall 1945, and Japan’s defensive plan was in place as well. There was nothing “pseudo” about it. As an American-born academic historian who lived many years in Japan, I heard both sides of the invasion story. Tall tales abound on both sides of the Pacific about what was planned or not planned. For instance, the image of the unswerving, fanatical Japan, ready to commit mass suicide at the very sight of the American invaders, is nonsense. And the image of Harry Truman’s White House, 100% committed to nothing but unconditional surrender, is in the same tall tale category. But propaganda dies hard. Consequently, this book also separates the facts from the fiction, and takes into account Japanese plans and views as much as American ones. Given the on-going debate in Japan over that country’s role and responsibilities in World War II, a balanced account of the invasion period is essential to that debate. In July 1945, the A-Bomb decision changed everything, and The Invasion That Never Was explains why. Examining the morality, or lack of it, behind the A-Bomb decision has become an entire field of its own. Again, this book never suggests to be the last word in such a debate, but it does make it clear where the invasion fits into it and how the invasion and A-Bomb decisions are closely linked.

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