by Steve Payne
says: what if the US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had not
honeymooned in Kyoto1? Please note that the opinions expressed in
this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s). The
photograph shows the Emperor during an Army Inspection in 1938.
On August 6th 1945,
the US Army Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on the Imperial Capital City
of Kyoto killing the Emperor Hirohito as he prepared to break with a
centuries-old protocol of official silence by instructing the Japanese
Government to accept the Allies terms for unconditional surrender.
USAAF a-bombs Kyoto, killing Emperor
Hirohito before he can end the policy of MokusatsuAt a similiarly
fateful meeting held in Los Alamos on May 10th, a committee
chaired by J. Robert Oppenheimer had identified Kyoto, Hiroshima,
Yokohama, and the arsenal at Kokuraas as suitable targets for the bomb.
When an expert on Japan, Professor Edwin O. Reischauer strongly disagreed
with the inclusion of Kyoto his argument forced the "City of Temples" to
the top of the list. Because hardliners in the US Government judged that
Kyoto was precisely the symbolic target they sought for destruction. In
addition, the city was an important centre for military industry, as well
an intellectual center. And so the decision was made.
"The last ditch battle out side of Tokyo is extreme
[unlikely]" - reader's commentIn a sense the hardliners chose well
because the US Government surely did succeed in making an unanswerable
expression of authority. But the effects on the Empire of Japan were
tragically misjudged. Not only was a key voice of moderation removed at a
critical juncture, but also a transitional post-war figurehead was
eliminated. With the publication of the Sugiyama memo, President Truman
later argued (somewhat disengeniously) that the Emperor had the supreme
command of the Japanese Army and the Navy and would almost certainly have
been executed on the orders of the Tokyo Trials.
Ironically, whilst Hirohito had adopted the traditional protocol
of remaining officially silent during the military councils, his
commanders had insisted upon a policy of "mokusatsu", treating the Allies
demands for surrender with a silent contempt. But now that silence had
been broken. Believing that the Allies meant to destroy Japan as a
distinct cultural entity, Military High Command abandoned the remaining
Home Islands in order to concentrate their still considerable land forces
in the defence of the Tokyo Plains.
says 1) the source article
Who Saved Kyoto? in the New York Times reports: the credit belongs to
Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War in the Roosevelt and Truman
administrations, who twice visited Kyoto in the 1920's, was conscious of its
irreplaceable cultural assets and concerned for the postwar reputation of
the United States. He committed himself to keeping the city off the target
list and stuck to that decision in the face of many who urged its atomic
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Steve Payne, Editor of
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