Lattimore Story - John T. Flynn

13. The Surrender of Japan

About the same time a dramatic piece of information reached the American State Department. In March or April, Colonel Dana Johnson, Chief of Psychological Warfare in Hawaii, after interviewing numerous Japanese prisoners, reported to the State Department that Japan was ready to surrender, but that talk about liquidating the Emperor hindered capitulation. Then, on April 17, the Japanese government fell and Admiral Suzuki, chamberlain to the Emperor, became premier. He was a moderate, and Johnson reported he took this as a clear sign the Japanese were ready to quit. Moreover, the Department had intercepted messages between Tokyo and the Japanese Embassy in Moscow indicating the Japanese were eager to surrender if the Emperor was not molested (pp. 727728).

At this time the State Department became an instrument of great importance. Edward Stettinius was Secretary of State, but was giving little attention to the office. Joseph Grew, Under Secretary, was functioning as Acting Secretary of State. Eugene Dooman was head of the Far Eastern Division, which had immediate concern with China and Japan. Both were top experts in Far Eastern affairs, and of unquestioned loyalty. But there was a wide cleavage in the Department. Dean Acheson was First Assistant Secretary under Grew. Alger Hiss, a Communist spy, was chief of the Department of Political Affairs, and an IPR member. John Carter Vincent, also of the IPR, was head of the China Division. He has recently been suspended by the Loyalty Review Board as a security risk.* Acheson headed this faction, which was restive under the leadership of Grew. John Carter Vincent had as his economic adviser in the China Division a pro-Communist named Julian Friedman, also connected with the IPR.

Vincent began circulating a petition in the Department to bring Owen Lattimore, also of the IPR, into the Department as an adviser. This bold movement, tinged with impudence, came to the notice of Eugene Dooman, who notified Grew. Grew ordered the circulation of the petition stopped. But this did not check the insurgents, who put great faith in the master-minding of Lattimore. Dr. Isaiah Bowman, then president of Johns Hopkins and Lattimore's superior at that university, called on President Truman to intervene in Lattimore's favor (p. 707).

Lattimore and his confederates were playing for high stakes. The Japanese surrender was imminent. The IPR crowd knew that. It was the strategic hour for dictating the surrender terms—namely, the liquidation of the Emperor and the imposition of a savage peace upon Japan such as had already rendered Germany impotent. All else failing, on June 10, 1945, Lattimore took the desperate course of appealing directly to the President. He wrote Truman asking for a personal interview, which was granted him on July 3, 1945. In that interview and in the letter he wrote he pressed the following points.

He complained to the President that the State Department under Grew and Dooman was abandoning the policy of "unity in China." It was abandoning its plan of supporting no party in China and giving its aid to Chiang Kai-shek. (It must be kept in mind that Chiang's government was the government of our ally China and the Communists were an armed revolutionary force.) Lattimore said this would precipitate rivalry between ourselves and Russia. He begged the President to have our policy in China reviewed by impartial advisers not connected with the formulation of policy there. He was asking the President to displace Grew and Dooman, top State Department officials, at this critical juncture and seek the advice of the Lattimore clique. Could we ask for more fantastic impudence?

As for Japan, he insisted that Japan planned a comeback as leader of an Asiatic coalition with the battle cry of "Down with the White Man." China, he said, is the key to this policy. Japan wishes to promote disunity in China. She wants revolutions in China while Japan recovers. America therefore must work for unity in China—that is, force Chiang to take in the Reds. He alleged Japan hopes America will wink at big business in Japan through fear of Russia. But big business is militarist. There are two alternatives: (1) Division of the country between Chiang and the Communists; (2) unification of China. This means a settlement with the Reds, who would accept a minority position "at the start." But Chiang would have to give them real power within a coalition government. Here was the whole Communist line put down in writing in Lattimores letter to Truman. And he insisted that Washington and Moscow unite to force Chiang's agreement (pp. 3387-3389).

At this very moment the National Board of the Communist Political Association here was pressing the same plan. In June 1945 it stated:

"It is the reactionary position of American big business which explains why Washington . . . is pursuing the dangerous policy of preventing a strong, united and democratic China; why they bolster up the reactionary incompetent Chiang Kai-shek regime and why they harbor the idea of coming to terms with the Mikado in the hope of maintaining Japan as a reactionary bulwark in the Far East" (p. 3414).

Thus we see that in the desperate haste now stimulated by the approaching collapse of Japan, Lattimore was frantically pressing for the objectives of the Communist leaders here.

Not many hours after the Lattimore meeting, President Truman left for the Potsdam Conference. On July 3, James F. Byrnes had been sworn in as Secretary of State to succeed Stettinius, and three days later he left for Potsdam. He had little time to gather up the many tangled strings of our foreign policy. Time was running swiftly, Germany had surrendered. The appointed time for Russia to enter the war in the Far East was approaching. The collapse of Japan was imminent. Stalin knew this because the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow had approached Stalin on the subject of acting as an intermediary. Stalin never divulged this to our government.

The President and Secretary Byrnes returned from Potsdam August 7. The day before they arrived home the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On August 9, Russia declared war on defeated Japan and marched 25 miles into Manchuria. Next day she penetrated 100 miles more. On the same day the Swiss legation received a notice from the Japanese government that Japan wished to surrender, "with the understanding that the declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler." Admiral Leahy urged acceptance. Byrnes insisted on unconditional surrender for its moral effect, but ended with the declaration that "the form of government of Japan will be established by the freely expressed will of the people"; this was what the Japanese wanted and they surrendered. Thus the first of the demands promoted by the IPR clique in Washington was frustrated. Their program called for liquidation of the Emperor and impoverishment of Japan. The fortunate intervention of Leahy and Byrnes at this critical moment defeated their plans. But there remained their objectives in China, and on this front the pro-Soviet clique in the IPR and the State Department had a signal and appalling success