Anami, Umezu press ahead with war: Final battle on the mainland

   Those mainly responsible

 The administration of Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso, who succeeded Hideki Tojo, started as a kind of “coalition Cabinet” led by Koiso and Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai. However, their lack of leadership and ability had been exposed a number of times, so it was almost impossible to expect them to show the strong leadership needed to terminate the war. Espousing the slogan “All 100 million armed to fight,” the Cabinet sent many soldiers to their deaths. It resigned en masse in April 1945, paving the way for Okinawa Prefecture to become a battlefield.

 During that time, Chief of Naval General Staff Koshiro Oikawa approved kamikaze suicide attacks and a suicide mission of the battleship Yamato to Okinawa while chief of the Operations Section of the Naval General Staff Sadatoshi Tomioka also insisted that the military should send as many soldiers as possible to the Okinawa front. Japan suffered appalling casualties in the Battle of Okinawa. With the Soviet Union joining the war and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nation was being devastated by the Allied Powers. Despite this, some military leaders insisted that they wanted to find a way out of a hopeless situation through a final battle on the mainland.

 At a meeting of the Imperial Supreme War Council, also known as gozenkaigi (a conference in the presence of the Emperor), that started late at night on August 9, Yonai agreed to Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo’s proposal to accept the Potsdam Declaration on one condition—that the national polity be maintained. However, War Minister Korechika Anami opposed this, “I believe it is appropriate to push toward a final battle on the mainland with determination to find a way out of an impossible ­situation.”

 Chief of Army General Staff Yoshijiro Umezu and his counterpart in the Navy, Soemu Toyoda, also voiced their resolve for a final battle on the mainland. They said they could not determine if defeat was inevitable, though they could not be absolutely assured of victory. Vice Chief of the Naval General Staff Takijiro Onishi, who was one of the most hard-line officers in the Navy, called Anami out from a meeting. Onishi told him Yonai was unreliable because he wanted to end the fighting. Onishi asked Anami to make efforts to keep the nation engaged in the war.

 The Imperial Headquarters was planning to deploy 3.15 million soldiers and 1.5 million sailors to handle a possible invasion of the mainland by U.S. forces. The headquarters thought it best to mobilize the entire populace to repel the Americans for as long as possible, inflict heavy casualties on the landing forces and thereby seek more favorable conditions in negotiations for peace. Masao Yoshizumi, who became chief of the War Ministry’s Military Affairs Bureau in a personnel reshuffle in preparation for the mainland battle, asked the Army General Staff’s Operations Bureau chief Shuichi Miyazaki, “Is there any chance we can win the war?” Miyazaki replied, “There’s none.” While the officer responsible for war operations clearly stated there was no prospect for victory in the war, the general public was being forced to train to fight U.S. troops with bamboo spears.

 On August 10, when Japan decided to accept the Potsdam Declaration, Vice Chief of the Army General Staff Torashiro Kawabe, who had been insisting on fighting the battle on the mainland, wrote in his diary: “I only feel, ‘I don’t want to surrender. I don’t want to admit I was defeated, even if I am killed.’” The following day, he wrote that such traits as “self-confidence, self-admiration, narcissism and self-satisfaction” among military officers had “invited today’s tragedy.” Anami and Kawabe devoted themselves to mollifying military officers after Japan’s decision to surrender. Anami killed himself by ritual seppuku on August 15.