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Why Truman Bombed Hiroshima

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By Bruce Lee
excerpts from the Wall Street Journal


The Magic summaries and the Ultra intercepts of German communications) were one of the key reasons that the Allies were able to foil the Axis plans of world domination. Only six Americans were authorized to read these intercepts. Of these six men, only one was elected. That was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he did not see, nor did he read, everything. The other policy-making recipients of Magic were: Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, the chief of naval operations (the last being Adm. E.J. King) and Gen. George Marshall, the Army chief of staff. The most important of these decision makers was Gen. Marshall.


Marshall also knew prior to the February 1945 Yalta Conference that Russia would break its non-aggression pact with Japan and attack Manchuria about 90 days after the surrender of Germany (V-E Day). The Magic Summaries documented the shift of Soviet troops by rail from Europe to the Far East for this purpose. Because of a major intelligence failure, Marshall also believed that the Japanese had maintained their troop strength In Manchuria and were capable to resisting a Soviet Attack. But Tokyo had secretly brought back many of its troops from Manchuria to defend the home islands of Japan from an American invasion, leaving Manchuria and Korea easy prey for the Russians.

Marshall also knew from the Magic decrypts that the Japanese home islands were to be defended from invasion and occupation by 2.3 million troops, another four million Army and Navy employees and a newly created armed militia numbering 25 million. These defenders were sworn to fight to the death, which so many Japanese troops had done in battles throughout the Pacific.

To effectively invade and occupy Japan, American strategists foresaw two invasions, scheduled for November 1945 and March 1946. The first invasion, on the island of Kyushu. would employ some 770,000 American troops. The follow-up invasion on the plains of Tokyo, leading to the forced occupation of Japan, called for two million American troops.

This brings us to the heart of the Enola Gay argument made by revisionist historians who claim

(1) that President Truman either invented after the fact high invasion casualty estimates to provide moral and political justification for the use of atomic weapons; or
(2) that Truman was never told about potentially high invasion casualties; or
(3) that archival documentation for pre-invasion casualty estimates does not exist; or
(4) that the pre-invasion estimates were minuscule.

But according to documents I have uncovered, a conference to discuss pre-invasion casualties was held at the White House on June 18, 1945, between President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From the Pacific, Gen. Douglas MacArthur submitted rather optimistic casualty estimates. This caused Adm. William D. Leahy, Truman's military advisor, to take charge of the session. Based on the experience at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Leahy predicted that in an invasion of Japan, 30% to 35% of U.S. soldiers would be killed or wounded during the first 30 days. Truman obviously understood what Leahy said. The president remarked that the invasion would create another Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed.

Suddenly, and only after being advised about the buildup of Japanese forces and fortifications by Magic intelligence, MacArthur medical staff revised its pre-invasion needs for hospital beds upwards by 300%. MacArthur's chief surgeon, Brig. Gen. Guy Denit, estimated that a 120-day campaign to invade and occupy only the island of Kyushu would result in 395,000 casualties.

Marshall then learned from the Magic Summaries, just before the Potsdam Conference convened on July 17, 1945, about behind-the-scenes negotiations between Japan and the Soviet Union. From June 3-14, 1945, Koki Hirota, a Japanese envoy with Emperor Hirohito's blessing, had met with the Russian ambassador to Tokyo to propose a new relationship between the two countries. Japan proposed to carve up Asia with the USSR .

According to the Magic Diplomatic Summaries of July 3, 1945, Hirota told the Russian ambassador:

Japan will increase her naval strength in the future, and that, together with the Russian Army, would make a force unequalled in the world....

The Magic Summaries further revealed that throughout June and July 1945, Japan's militarist leaders were adamantly determined that they would never surrender unconditionally to the British and the Americans.


On July 4, 1945, the British agree to the use of the atomic bomb against Japan. On July 16, during the Potsdam Conference, the first A-bomb was successfully tested. A way had been found to end the war quickly and decisively. This was the situation on July 26 when the U.S., Britain and China issued the Potsdam Declaration to Japan to surrender unconditionally, "The alternative," said the declaration, "is complete and utter destruction."

On July 25, Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki announced to the Japanese press that the Potsdam declaration was to be Ignored. Meanwhile, the Magic Summaries revealed that Tokyo was demanding that Moscow accept a special envoy from Emperor Hirohito, presumably to cement the deal offering to divide Asia between Japan and Russia while Moscow brokered a Japanese surrender with the U.S. and Britain that would be acceptable to Tokyo.

This is what the Americans President Truman, Secretary of War Stimson and Gen. Marshall knew the day before the first atom bomb fell on Japan. Confronted by an enemy leadership that was self-deluded, neither prepared to surrender nor to negotiate seriously, the Americans decided that the only way to end the war quickly would be to use overwhelming force: nuclear weapons.

Two bombs were dropped. The Russians invaded Manchuria. On August 10, Emperor Hirohito overruled his militarist advisors and accepted the Potsdam declaration. Japan surrendered


Propaganda Campaign

But the Americans continued to read the Japanese codes. Almost immediately; the Magic Summaries revealed that the new foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, had begun a world-wide propaganda campaign to brand the Americans as war criminals for using nuclear weapons. Tokyo's goals included keeping Emperor Hirohito from being tried for instigating a war of aggression, and diverting Western attention away from the many Japanese atrocities committed since the start of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. "Since the Americans have recently been raising an uproar about the question of our mistreatment of prisoners [of war],'' Shigemitsu instructed his diplomats in the Sept. 15, 1945, Magic Summary, "I think we should make every effort to exploit the atomic bomb question in our propaganda. That propaganda campaign has borne its final fruit in the revisionist account of the bombing of Japan.

Yet the evidence is crystal clear. The use of nuclear weapons to end World War II quickly and decisively averted the death or maiming of hundreds of thousands American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. It also saved the lives of some 400,000 Allied prisoners of war and civilian detainees in Japanese hands, all of whom were to be executed in the event of an American invasion of Japan. Above all, it saved untold hundreds of thousands more Japanese-perhaps millions-from becoming casualties of pre-invasion bombing and shelling, followed by two invasions and forcible occupation.




Always the Target?

On April 23, 1945, Gen. Leslie R. Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, wrote a memo to Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war. It contained a puzzling phrase:

Our previous hopes that an implosion type of bomb might be developed in the late spring of 1945 have now been dissipated by scientific difficulties. . . .

While our plan of operations is based on the more certain, more powerful, gun type bomb, it also provides for the use of the implosion type bombs as soon as they become available. The target is and was always expected to be Japan. A composite group of the 20th Air Force has been organized and specially trained and equipped. (1)


Hiroshima Bomb May Have Carried A HiddenAgenda


The US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was meant to kick-start the Cold War rather than end the Second World War, according to two nuclear historians who say they have new evidence backing the controversial theory.


Causing a fission reaction in several kilograms of uranium and plutonium and killing over 200,000 people 60 years ago was done more to impress the Soviet Union than to cow Japan, they say. And the US President who took the decision, Harry Truman, was culpable, they add.


"He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species," says Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington DC, US. "It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."


According to the official US version of history, an A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and another on Nagasaki three days later, to force Japan to surrender. The destruction was necessary to bring a rapid end to the war without the need for a costly US invasion.


But this is disputed by Kuznick and Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. They are presenting their evidence at a meeting in London organised by Greenpeace and others to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the bombings.


New studies of the
US, Japanese and Soviet diplomatic archives suggest that Truman's main motive was to limit Soviet expansion in Asia, Kuznick claims. Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union began an invasion a few days after the Hiroshima
bombing, not because of the atomic bombs themselves, he says.


According to an account by Walter Brown, assistant to then-US secretary of state James Byrnes, Truman agreed at a meeting three days before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that Japan was "looking for peace". Truman was told by his army generals, Douglas Macarthur and Dwight Eisenhower, and his naval chief of staff, William Leahy, that there was no military need to use the bomb.


"Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan," says Selden. Truman was also worried that he would be accused of wasting money on the Manhattan Project to build the first nuclear bombs, if the bomb was not used, he adds.


Kuznick and Selden's arguments, however, were dismissed as "discredited" by Lawrence Freedman, a war expert from King's College London, UK. He says that Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima was "understandable in the circumstances".


Truman's main aim had been to end the war with Japan, Freedman says, but adds that, with the wisdom of hindsight, the bombing may not have been militarily justified. Some people assumed that the US always had "a malicious and nasty motive", he says, "but it ain't necessarily so."


Source: New Scientist



‘Little Boy’ Components


1. Box tail fins
2. Steel gun breech assembly
3. Detonator
4. Cordite (conventional) explosives
5. Uranium-235 "projectile", six rings (26 kg) in a thin can of steel
6. Baro sensing ports and manifold
7. Bomb casing wall
8. Arming and fusing equipment
9. Gun barrel, steel, around 10 cm diameter, 200 cm length
10. Arming wires
11. Tamper assembly, steel
12. Uranium-235 "target", two rings (38 kg)
13. Tamper/reflector assembly, tungsten carbide
14. Neutron initiator
15. Archie fuzing radar antennas
16. Recess for the boron safety plug (not shown) to be ejected into

The Third Bomb

The question often arises: did the United States have a third bomb ready to drop on Japan, following the Little Boy uranium device that destroyed Hiroshima on August 6 and the Fat Man plutonimium bomb that destroyed Nagasaki three days later?


In the Spaatz Papers at the Library of Congress manuscript section, there is much radio traffic generated on Tinian in the second week of August. The U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces wanted the third bomb to be dropped on Tokyo as a wakeup call for the Japanese government, which was stalling on agreeing to the United Nations surrender terms. (That this could have been seriously proposed is an indication of how woefully uninformed USASTAF was about the destructive power of the weapons it had delivered to the Empire.) Back came a message, presumably from Hap Arnold, saying that the decision had already been made that the target would be Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido.


In Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May-June 1998, Stanley Goldberg notes that on the morning of August 10, 1945, Robert Bacher of the Environmental Physics Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory was supervising the loading of a plutonium core onto a truck.


The core (presumably the casing and other "works" were already on Tinian or en route) was to be flown to San Francisco, thence to Tinian, to finish its journey over the city of Kokura about August 20. Robert Oppenheimer then appeared and told Balcher to stop loading the core. No further shipments were to be made, Oppenheimer said, without an explicit order from President Truman.


In what seems to be a logical leap, Goldberg concludes:

Since Truman could have given such an order at any time between July 24 and August 9, it strongly suggests that the bombing of Nagasaki came as a surprise to him.

Goldberg suggests that Major General Leslie Groves alone had directed the bomb's use on Nagasaki, as a bureaucrat anxious to justify the money that gone gone into its development, and also as a military man who wanted to hasten the end of the war.


Al Christman's book, Target Hiroshima: Deak Parsons and the Creation of the Atomic Bomb (Naval Institute 1998), notes that the operational plan in February 1945 "called for the military use in the summer [of 1945] of Little Boy and one or two Fat Man bombs, followed by more if necessary." In July, following the Trinity test of the plutonium bomb, General Groves remarked: "The war is over as soon as we drop two of these on Japan." The cruiser Indianapolis brought Little Boy to Tinian on July 26; Christman makes no mention of Fat Man. On July 28 and 29, four "Green Hornet" transports flew in from the U.S. with the plutonium pieces for Fat Man and the uranium inserts for Little Boy.


Elsewhere, Christman notes that "Parsons had planned and organized the Tinian assembly facilities to handle a steady stream of bombs [after Little Boy devastated Hiroshima]. The plutonium production facilities at Hanford continued to work at capacity ... everything needed for the second bomb was present at Tinian, and essential materials for a third bomb would soon be on their way." When the B-29 stand-down went into place, Parsons was about to go home, but Groves stopped him "in order to assure complete readiness to assemble and deliver additional atomic bombs in the event that negotiations with the Japanese broke down."


Charles Sweeney published his memoirs as War's End: An Eyewitness Account of America's Last Atomic Mission (Avon, 1997). During the party following the successful Hiroshima drop, he recalled that Paul Tibbets took him aside and told him that he was to command the second atomic mission, with Kokura as the primary and Nagasaki as the secondary target. Timing was important, Tibbets said:

It was vital that [the Japanese] believed we had an unlimited supply of atomic bombs and that we would continue to use them. Of course, the truth was that we only had one more bomb on Tinian. Delivery of the third bomb was several weeks away.

Major Sweeney flew one of eight 509th Composite Group B-29s that took part in the war's final mission, the "thousand-plane raid" of August 14-15. Enola Gay and Bock's Car were excused "for obvious reasons," as was The Great Artiste, which because it contained the scientific instruments that would be needed if there were a third atomic mission. The group's two remaining B-29s, he noted, were Spook and Jabett III--and they "were on route to the United States to take delivery of components for more Fat Man bombs."


In an August 2002 interview with Studs Terkel published in the British Guardian newspaper, Paul Tibbetts recalled something similar:

Unknown to anybody else--I knew it, but nobody else knew--there was a third one. See, the first bomb went off and they didn't hear anything out of the Japanese for two or three days. The second bomb was dropped and again they were silent for another couple of days. Then I got a phone call from General Curtis LeMay. He said, 'You got another one of those damn things?' I said, 'Yessir.' He said, 'Where is it?' I said, 'Over in Utah.' He said, 'Get it out here. You and your crew are going to fly it.' I said, 'Yessir.' I sent word back and the crew loaded it on an airplane and we headed back to bring it right on out to Trinian and when they got it to California debarkation point, the war was over.


In Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, Richard Frank says it was General Marshall and General Grove who delayed the transport of the third bomb, sufficient that it couldn't have been deployed until August 21 or thereabouts.


Chuck Hansen's great book U.S. Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History doesn't explicitly go into this question, but it does note that at the end of 1945 the U.S. owned a total of two atomic bombs, both Fat Man plutonium bombs. (This design became the standard U.S. nuclear weapon until into the 1950s.) He also notes that the weapons were short-lived, so it is possible that a) there were more than two bombs in the inventory when the war ended and even that b) the bombs on hand on December 31 had been assembled after August 15.


Here are some of the highlights touching on the "third bomb":




May 10: 2nd Target Committee meeting priotizes targets as 1) Kyoto, 2) Hiroshima, 3) Yokohama, and 4) Kokura


May 30: Kyoto removed from target list by order of Henry Stimson, secretary of war


June 10: 509th Composite Group arrives on Tinian, the Marshall Islands, with 11 B-29s


July 16 (four hours after the Trinity explosion): Little Boy shipped aboard USS Indianapolis


July 23: second plutonium core completed (unclear whether this means the core for the Nagasaki bomb or for the third bomb)


July 26: Indianapolis arrives at Tinian; Little Boy unloaded

Uranium warhead for Little Boy (the Hiroshima bomb) sent to Tinian by C-54 transport plane


Same day: plutonium core and initiator for Fat Man (the Nagasaki bomb) sent to Tinian by C-54


August 2: Parts of Fat Man arrive at Tinian


August 11: Interruption of transport to Tinian of the 2nd Plutonium core and initiator by the order of G.C. Marshall


There are gaps here, but it seems pretty obvious that on August 11 the heavy stuff for the third bomb (Fat Man #2) was either already on Tinian or soon to arrive by sea, and that it could have been married up with the fissile core within a week.


By the time the memo was written, it was clear to everyone connected with the atomic bomb project that Germany would not be the target. The Third Reich would collapse long before the first bombs were ready for use. If the new weapon was to be used at all in World War II, it would be against Japan.

But had Japan "always" been the target, as Groves implied? If so, that fact suggests a terrible irony that has been little noted in the decades-long debate over the use of the bomb. From August 1939, when Albert Einstein alerted President Roosevelt to the possibility that atomic bombs could be built, to late 1944, when it became entirely apparent that Germany was not an atomic threat, the focus of U.S. bomb makers was Germany.

Émigré scientists from Europe especially-Leo Szilard (who first conceived the idea of an atomic bomb), Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Victor Weisskopf, Eugene Wigner, James Franck, Niels Bohr and the like, played pivotal roles in the Manhattan Project. To a man, they-along with their American and British colleagues-got involved for one overarching reason: Germany had first-rate scientists who presumably understood the destructive possibilities of nuclear fission. The United States had to develop an atomic bomb before the Germans did. Such weapons in the hands of Hitler would be the ultimate catastrophe for the world.

Joseph Rotblat, a Polish scientist before the war and a founder of the Pugwash movement after the war, told me last February that "there was never any idea [among scientists] that [the bomb] would be used against Japan. We never worried that the Japanese would have the bomb. We always worried what [Werner] Heisenberg and other German scientists were doing. All of our concentration was on Germany."

Surviving Manhattan Project scientists continue to believe that the atomic bombs were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather than on German targets, merely because they were not ready in time. But that may not be the whole story. There is evidence-albeit fragmentary-that as early as May 1943, high-level planners assumed that Japanese rather than German military forces would be the likely target for first-use of the new weapon. That was long before anyone could reasonably predict when the war in Europe might end or when atomic bombs might be ready for use.

The first targeting discussion-insofar as can be determined from declassified documents and Manhattan Project histories- seems to have occurred during a meeting of the high-level Military Policy Committee on May 5, 1943.(2) The discussion that day ranged over a variety of topics-personnel issues, technical problems, commissioning a study on radioactive poisons, and even a "story to be allowed to leak out on the Los Alamos project to reduce the curiosity of the local population."

According to Groves's summary of the meeting:

The point of use of the first bomb was discussed and the general view appeared to be that its best point of use would be on a Japanese fleet concentration in the Harbor of Truk [in the Pacific, north of New Guinea]. General Styer suggested Tokio but it was pointed out that the bomb should be used where, if it failed to go off, it would land in water of sufficient depth to prevent easy salvage. The Japanese were selected as they would not be so apt to secure knowledge from it as would the Germans. (3)

The discussion was surely a blue-sky exercise. The Manhattan Project was still at an early stage, D-Day was more than a year away, the war in the Pacific was not yet going well for the United States, and no one could have predicted how important the Japanese fleet or Truk might be by the time the bomb was ready.

Nevertheless, the discussion suggests a line of thought that would have astonished Manhattan Project scientists, if they had been privy to it. In fact, it surprises them today, although the existence of the memo has been revealed before. (See, for example, page 253 of The New World, an official history of the Atomic Energy Commission by Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson Jr., published in 1962, which mentions it.)

Hans Bethe, who headed the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos, was astonished when I discussed the memo with him in February: "I am amazed both by the conclusion not to use [the bomb] on Germany and secondly by their reasons [for targeting the Japanese fleet]. We [the scientists] had no idea of such a decision. We were under the impression that Germany was the first target until the German surrender. That was my belief. Obviously, it was wrong."

Glenn Seaborg, who headed the team that first isolated plutonium, concurs. In an interview with me in February, he said:

So far as I recall, right up until the time the Germans surrendered in the spring of 1945, we thought that the Germans would be the target for the atomic bomb. As their demise became more and more predictable, perhaps we somewhat drew away from that feeling. But certainly we thought in 1944 that Germany would be the target.

David Hawkins, who was a special assistant to J. Robert Oppenheimer (the scientific director of the Los Alamos Laboratory) and the historian for the Los Alamos effort, agreed. When I asked him in February about the memo, he said that the scientists had no idea that Germany had been discussed and apparently rejected as a potential first-use target as early as May 1943. Indeed, Hawkins and others I interviewed - including John A. Simpson, a group leader in the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory and a founder of the Bulletin- do not recall targeting discussions among the scientists taking place until well into 1945.

Rotblat seems to have been the exception to that. He left the Manhattan Project in December 1944, after it became clear to him that Germany was no longer a nuclear threat. But once he announced his decision to leave, he was not permitted to talk about it with his colleagues.


The bomber of choice

In contrast to the specific suggestion of targeting the Japanese fleet at Truk, possible use of the bomb against Germany seems to have been only vaguely addressed at high levels. A Military Policy Committee status report of August 21, 1943, suggests that if the war became "unduly" long, the Germans might be able to produce "a usable bomb" before the United States. In that event, the committee concluded that it might "be necessary for us to stand the first punishing blows [of German atom bombs] before we are in a position to destroy the enemy."(4) Meanwhile, practical preparations continued for use of the bomb in the Pacific theater.

In the latter half of 1943, Navy Capt. William S. Parsons, who headed the project's ordnance group, chose the B-29 as the bomber the United States would use, if it could be appropriately modified.(5) According to Hewlett and Anderson, the choice of the B-29 indicated that Japan was already the target.

Had Germany been the primary target, the choice would hardly have fallen on an aircraft never intended for the European theater.(6)

That conclusion is supported, at least indirectly, by the technical facts. British Lancasters could have been modified for the atom bomb. The four-engine Lancaster had a normal payload of 14,000 pounds, but some had been modified to carry the "Grand Slam"-at 22,000 pounds, the heaviest bomb produced in the war. The chief technical advantage the B-29 had over the Lancaster was its great range- 3­4,000 miles. That made it the only bomber suitable for use in the Pacific. (7)

Another advantage of the B-29 was its made-in-USA label. In a March 1944 meeting between Groves and Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, commander of the Army Air Force, Groves said the first choice was the B-29, but the Lancaster had to be considered as a back-up. That "displeased Arnold, who stated emphatically that an American-made airplane should carry the bombs."(8)

In any event, that Japan would be the target of the atom bomb, if it were used at all, was affirmed in September 1944, when President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill met at Roosevelt's Hyde Park home. A summary of the meeting makes no mention of the possible use of atomic bombs against Germany, but it says that when the bomb was ready "it might perhaps, after mature consideration, be used against the Japanese, who should be warned that this bombardment will be repeated until they surrender."(9)


Momentum builds

The Military Policy Committee targeting discussion of May 5, 1943, had nothing to do with an estimate of when the war against Germany might end. In the spring of 1943, no one knew when that might be. Moreover, the technical problems that eventually delayed bomb production into the summer of 1945 had not yet emerged. In fact, a report of the committee, dated August 21, 1943, suggested that a fission weapon might be available by the fall of 1944 or by January 1, 1945.(10)

That schedule would have been compatible with the targeting of Germany. But the available documentation suggests that there were no discussions, much less plans, for use of the bomb against Germany. Given the fact that losses of Allied troops were expected to be heavy during and after D-Day, one might expect to find evidence that contingency plans to use the bomb in the fall of 1944 had been made. But there is no evidence of that, either. Rather, what evidence there is-albeit sketchy-suggests that there was simply an automatic assumption at an early stage that Japanese forces would be the target.

That assumption contrasts sharply with rationales for the bomb project. For example, in March 1942, Vannevar Bush, President Roosevelt's chief science adviser, said in a memo to the president that the "successful use [of atomic bombs] would be very important and might be determining in the war effort. It is also true that if the enemy arrived at the results first it would be an exceedingly serious matter."(11)

The "enemy" was Germany. The presumed German bomb effort drove the Manhattan Project, giving it an urgency unmatched by any other wartime project. In 1942, a host of war-related projects were in fierce competition for industrial and intellectual resources. Nevertheless, in June of that year, Roosevelt endorsed a high priority for the still-speculative bomb effort. In September, when Groves took over the Manhattan Project, he obtained the highest priority-AAA-for use whenever a slightly lower priority, AA-3, was deemed insufficient. Eventually, Groves's project grew so large that during some periods it "was using more AAA ratings than the combined total for all other Army and non-Army programs."(12)

As early as 1939, fear of a German bomb prompted the United States to begin its own research program. By late 1942, Roosevelt and his top scientific advisers had decided to proceed at top speed; that might insure that atom bombs would be produced in time to be a "determining" factor in the outcome of the war. But in late 1944, when a U.S. intelligence-gathering mission code-named "Alsos" revealed that the German bomb program had made virtually no progress, that fact made no difference. By then, the all-out U.S. effort had created its own momentum independent of anything Germany was or was not doing.

Fear of a German bomb got the U.S. project going; but once it was under way-at a resource-straining AAA priority level-officials connected with it were compelled to demonstrate that it would have a decisive effect on the outcome of the war. During 1944, for instance, congressional demands for an investigation of the mysterious project that commanded so much in the way of resources grew. Jack Madigan, an official in the War Department, said in a status report:

If the project succeeds, there won't be any [congressional] investigation. If it doesn't, they won't investigate anything else. (13)

James F. Byrnes, Roosevelt's director of the Office of War Mobilization, was acutely aware of the potential for intense political problems if atom bombs were not produced and used in the war. On March 3, 1945, he wrote to Roosevelt, saying that "if the project proves a failure, it will then be subjected to relentless investigation and criticism." (14)

Shortly thereafter, Roosevelt died and Byrnes became President Truman's secretary of state. The new president was surely attuned to Byrnes's concerns. As a senator in 1944, he had wanted to investigate the project, which seemed to produce nothing-but at great expense. Upon being denied permission to do so, he wrote Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that the "responsibility . . . for any waste or improper action which might otherwise be avoided [by a senatorial inquiry] rests squarely on the War Department." (15)

Truman appointed Byrnes as his representative to the Interim Committee, which first met after Germany surrendered. The committee was established to provide recommendations on a wide range of nuclear energy issues; inevitably, that included a consideration of how the bomb would be used against Japan. Truman appointed Byrnes as his representative to the Interim Committee, which first met after Germany surrendered. The committee was established to provide recommendations on a wide range of nuclear energy issues; inevitably, that included a consideration of how the bomb would be used against Japan.

David Robertson, in a recent biography of Byrnes, says that Byrnes "had a three-part agenda for atomic power" as a member of the Interim Committee. First, he was "against sharing of any atomic research with the Soviet Union." Second, he wanted the atomic bomb used "as quickly as possible in order to 'show results.'" (It was Byrnes who urged that the Interim Committee recommend that the bombs be used "on a war plant surrounded by workers' homes.") Finally, Byrnes wanted "the bomb used without warning." (16)



Time has not stilled the controversies surrounding the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even while Japanese diplomats were quietly exploring a face-saving way to surrender. In the past five decades, millions of words have been written to explain the bombings.

To most Americans-especially veterans- the use of the bombs was a cut-and-dried matter. They were dropped to end the war quickly and thus save American lives.

In contrast, some historians argue that the Manhattan Project created its own logic leading to the use of the bombs. It was simply not reasonable to believe that after spending so much money and swallowing up so much of the nation's scarce wartime resources that such a decisive new weapon would be put on the shelf.

In recent years, many historians have argued that the use of the bombs had little to do with World War II. Rather, it was part of a Realpolitik campaign to intimidate the Soviets and make them more tractable in the post-war world.

Meanwhile, many have noted the obvious:

High-level decision makers had already crossed the moral threshold regarding the deliberate bombing of civilians in February 1945, when the United States joined the British in the
"terror bombing" of Dresden (Churchill's phrase). (17) About 40,000 people were killed in Dresden. And in March the United States began its terror raids against Japan, with the fire bombing of Tokyo.

According to various post-war surveys, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed in Germany and Japan by air raids - before the atomic bombs were dropped. The use of atom bombs merely increased the terror, in that a single bomber, rather than hundreds or thousands, could now destroy a whole city.

Finally, it seems clear that the May 5, 1943, memo suggests that a form of nuclear deterrence was at work. The Germans were thought to have an active nuclear bomb program; therefore, the Military Policy Committee was reluctant to use the first U.S. bomb against German forces. If it had been used against a German target-and if it had been a dud-the Germans might have been more likely to recover it and "to secure knowledge from it."

All such explanations-and more-find historical support in documents relating to the Manhattan Project and World War II. But nothing in the historical record can answer these questions: How many scientists-if any-would have left the project if they had known in 1943 that Japan might have been the target of first use? How many scientists simply would have quit in 1943 and 1944, Rotblat-style, if they had known-if Groves’ words of April 1945 can be taken at face value-that the target "was always expected to be Japan"?

In the early days of the Manhattan Project, U.S. and British scientists believed they were in a desperate winner-take-all race with German scientists. That was especially true of the émigré scientists who came to the Manhattan Project. They had experienced Nazism firsthand, and their fear and loathing of Hitler was intense. They were convinced that German science was fully capable of producing a terrible new weapon that Hitler would use to enslave the world.

Over the years, Groves used that fear of a German bomb to drive his team onward. By late 1944 and 1945, however, the Manhattan Project had gained such momentum that it was unstoppable, despite the collapse of Germany. There is also evidence that by then most of the scientists working on the project wanted to see it through-to learn if the "gadget" would actually work. (Rotblat, in his August 1985 Bulletin article, called it "simple curiosity-the strong urge to find out whether the theoretical calculations and predictions would come true.")

By the fall of 1944, a U.S. effort that began because of the fear of a German nuclear weapons program had been transformed in a way that virtually guaranteed that nuclear weapons would be used as a tool of immense military superiority against a non-nuclear power, to accomplish a variety of goals.

To be sure, a number of scientists-but still a minority of the Manhattan Project team- were concerned about the moral implications of the bomb and how it might be used. Nevertheless, by the end of 1944, when Rotblat quit the project, the majority of scientists "were quite content to leave it to others to decide how their work would be used." (18)

But in 1943, the dynamics of the Manhattan Project were far different. The outcome of the war was far from certain and fear of a German victory was great. In the summer of 1943, Harold Urey, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the key members of the project, even recommended that Groves warn the American people of the possibility of an atomic attack, a suggestion the general ignored.(19)

Through his policy of strict compartmentalization of information, Gen. Groves kept bomb scientists isolated from any discussion of "how their work would be used." However, if the scientists had known early in their work that Japanese forces rather than German forces might be the first target, would there have been defections? If so, could an atomic bomb have been designed and produced in time to be used in the war?

Fifty years later, such if-only-they-had-known speculation is merely an intellectual exercise dealing with a host of unknowable factors. But it does raise an essential philosophical and practical point regarding secrecy and the responsibility of scientists-an old question that is nonetheless as relevant today as it was 50 years ago:

If scientists do not have the minimum information needed to participate openly and democratically in deciding how the weapons of mass destruction they make will be used, should they be involved in making them?

1) Leslie R. Groves, "Memorandum to the Secretary of War," April 23, 1945, Records of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942-1948, Record Group 77, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(2) At the meeting: Vannevar Bush and James B. Conant, President Roosevelt's two top civilian advisers on the bomb project, and Rear Adm. William R. Purnell, Maj. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer, and Groves.

(3) Leslie R. Groves, Memorandum, "Military Policy Committee," Records of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942­1948, Record Group 77, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(4) Military Policy Committee, "Report of August 21, 1943, On Present Status and Future Program on Atomic Fission Bombs," Records of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942­1948, Record Group 77, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(5) Lee Bowen, Project Silverplate, 1943­1946, vol. 1 of A History of the Air Force Atomic Energy Program 1943­1953, (Air Force Historical Division, 1959); and Richard Hewlett and Oscar Anderson, The New World, (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1990), p. 253.

(6) Hewlett and Anderson, The New World

(7) Technical data on the Lancaster and B-29 bombers provided by Robert S. Norris, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C.

(8) Vincent Jones, Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb (Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1985), p. 520.

(9) Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1987)

(10) Military Policy Committee, "Report of August 21."

(11) Vannevar Bush, "Report to the President: Status of Tubealloy Development," March 9, 1942, Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Record Group 227, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(12) Jones, Manhattan, p. 82.

(13) As quoted in Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, 1962)

(14) James F. Byrnes, "Memorandum for the President," March 3, 1945, Modern Military Branch, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(15) Harry S. Truman to Henry L. Stimson, March 10, 1944, Modern Military Branch, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(16) David Robertson, Sly and Able (New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 1994)

(17) Noble Frankland and Charles Webster, The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany I V, (London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1961)

(18) Joseph Rotblat, "Leaving the Bomb Project," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 1985

(19) Peter Wyden, Day One (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984)


Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Maryland. He is the principal editor of Nuclear Wastelands, which will be published by MIT Press in the fall.



Asano Dockyard
Electric Chemical Company
Fujinagata Shipbuilding, Kobe
Furukawa Mining, Omine Machi
Hitachi Shipbuilding
Hokkai Electric Chemical
Hokkaido Coal (Sorachi Mining Co.)
Imperial Special Copper Works, Noetsu
Ishihara Industries, Narumi
Kajima Coal, Ohnoura
Kawaminami Shipbuilding, Yahata
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kobe
Kinkaseki Copper Mine, Formosa
Kobe Stevedore, Kobe
Kumagai Enggr. Co.
Manshu Leather, Mukden, Manchuria
Manshu Machinery, Mukden
Manshu Tent
Meiji Mining
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Mitsubishi Mining Co,
Mitsubishi Chemical
Mitsui Industries
Mitsui Mining
Moji Transportation Association
Namura Shipyards

Nigata Iron & Steel
Nigata Transport, Kawasaki
Nippon Express
Nippon Ko-Kan (Japan Iron Co.)
Nippon Metallurgy
Nippon Mining
Nippon Soda
Nippon Steel Pipe
Nippon Vehicles
Nisshin Mill
Nisshin Oil
Nittetsu Mining
Ohsaka Shipbuilding
Radio Tokyo (government operated)
Shinetsu Chemicals
Showa Electrical Engineering
Showa Electrode (Showa Denko)
Sorachi Mining Co.
Sumitomo Mining
Taihoku Locomotive Works, Taiwan
Tobashima Construction Co.
Tokyo-Shibaura Electric
Tsuruga Stevedore, Osaka
Tsurumi Shipbuilding
Yawata Iron Works, Ohasi
Yodogawa Steel


Japan had 127 white slave labor camps. Of companies using slave labor Mitsui was the largest and Mitsubishi was second, but there were fifty more! This is according to the Japanese government Official Prisoner of War Bureau. General Hideki, minister of war was the most powerful man in Japan. He issued a field service guide concerning white POWs: To live as a POW is to live without honor and a life without honor is a worthless existence. Prisoners therefore are worthless, expendable, not deserving any consideration. So a white POW became a Japanese "Thing" with a Japanese number.

The POWs had to sign payroll sheets, showing they were paid for their work. Supposedly this was the pay scale: 25 sen for an officer, 14 sen for a sergeant and 10 sen for a private. The rate of exchange was 345 sen for 1 U.S. dollar. So the average POW doing forced labor was supposedly making around 3 cents a day. But almost all of them never received any money.


Whenever a POW died, he was cremated and his ashes scattered. No wonder there are around 60,000 U.S. servicemen from WW ll. that are still "Missing in Action"! When it seemed likely that we would invade Japan, even more chilling orders were given for our POWs. The final disposition: "Execute them all by mass bombing, poisonous gas, drowning, decapitation, just dispose of them as the situation dictates. In any case, it is our aim to not allow the escape of a single one, so annihilate them all, and do not leave any traces." These orders came directly from High Command, General Hideki Tojo, minister of war.


When General Douglas MacArthur, allied commander, dictated the Japanese surrender terms, he insisted that none of the POWs were to be harmed at all. So when Emperor Hirohito declared over the radio that Japan was surrendering, the announcement concerning the POWs had to be included (This was August 15, 1945). Great Britain, China and Russia wanted Emperor Hirohita to stand trial for the war crimes. But General "Mac" declined, and allowed him to stay in office until, he died many years later.


Most U.S. Servicemen have always believed this was a big mistake. Hirohito should have been hanged from a light pole in downtown Tokyo square. This would have shown the Japanese people that he was not Divine! For they worshipped Hirohito as a god, as "The Imperial So of Heaven of Great Japan."


What kind of treatment do you think Adolf Hitler would have received if he had been captured alive?  What is even more amazing than the case of the emperor... not even one of the families who headed the 52 Japanese companies has ever been arrested. They are just as guilty of war crimes as any of the Japanese Military who were hanged.


Today many of these companies, such as Mitsui, Nippon Steel, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi, make millions of dollars in the United States. It is sad to realize that they started making their fortunes in WWll... by using thousands of POWs as White Slave Laborers!


Surviving Armageddon

By: Shwetzer, Robin Pekelney, World War II, Jul/Aug2006, Vol. 21, Issue 4



In the final year of the Pacific War, the Japanese worked undetected on a massive underground fortification project that might have convinced Emperor Hirohito to fight on--even after the atomic bombs were dropped.


A mushroom cloud billowing up toward the heavens is fixed in our imaginations as a symbol of ultimate destruction. With two blasts, the United States brought its bitterest opponent to its knees after years of brutal combat and added a measure of human reality to the Atomic Age, which had begun in a lab in 1942. In the first, on August 6, 1945, 60 percent of Hiroshima and an estimated 130,000 of its inhabitants were incinerated in a flash. A second detonation at Nagasaki three days later leveled a third of the city and caused another 75,000 casualties. The devastation wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was significant, but it was not total.


Deep beneath the hills of Nagasaki, a tunnel complex shielded 2,500 Mitsubishi factory workers from the bomb's catastrophic effects. Buildings directly outside the tunnel entrances and a nearby aboveground plant were destroyed with high loss of life, but those toiling away deep inside the earth remained unscathed, the only damage being tunnel entrances partially pushed in and some exterior doors shattered by the blast. Other underground factories in Nagasaki also withstood the bombing.


While the Japanese government had not designed those facilities to withstand an atomic bomb, their survival was a testament to a hastily planned yet ambitiously pursued underground construction program that--given more time--could have profoundly affected Japanese confidence and influenced Emperor Hirohito's decision to agree to the unthinkable and sue for peace. Considering Allied ignorance of the extent of the Japanese underground effort, had the planned invasion of the Home Islands--Operation Olympic-actually occurred, estimates of expected casualties into the millions might have seemed paltry. In the end, the bunkers had little impact on the ultimate outcome of the war, but their story says a great deal about Japan's determination to resist and the potential costs of incomplete intelligence.


In the autumn of 1990, a headline appeared in a newspaper in the city of Samara that said: "Stalin's 192 steps."

For the first time people learned that Stalin had built a top-secret bunker in their city, 37 meters and 192 steps underground. It had been built by hand in nine months by a brigade of 600 subway builders during the second half of 1942.

At this time Samara, known as ‘Kuybyshev' in communist times, had become the Soviet Union's makeshift capital, for in October 1941 the German army had reached the outskirts of Moscow. The Soviet government, scientists and artists, and strategic industries, were hastily evacuated to the Samara region, one thousand kilometers to the east of
Moscow in the middle of the Volga


There is no documentary evidence that Stalin ever used the bunker, but it is still in perfect working order and is now a tourist attraction.

At the bottom of the main shaft, which is constructed like a vertical subway tube with a double sheath of iron and concrete, visitors arrive in Stalin's office, a copy of his office in Moscow, complete with a large heavy desk, telephone, panelled walls and six doors, only two of which are real. The four other fake doors were designed to confuse and impress the visitor. The walls are over five feet thick, and the room temperature is still a perfect 19 degrees Centigrade.


Down a corridor through heavy steel doors, one arrives in the war conference room, furnished with a long table and a map of the Soviet Union's World War II military fronts.

The chairs of the stenographers face the wall, with their backs to the table, so that they could not see the faces of those who were speaking.


Stalin's bunker is more than twice as deep as Hitler or Churchill's bunkers, yet it is only a small-scale project among the many colossal engineering projects that Stalin forced out of Russian workers.

The secrecy, the megalomania, and the murderous pace of construction are typical of the Stalinist era.  Even today there is little public information about the circumstances of the bunker's construction.

Anatoli Vasilivich Sovilyanov, a former military man who is now director of the historic site, stresses that the bunker is not a political museum but a technical object, an admirable feat of engineering. He says that some of the people who worked on the project are still alive but were sworn to secrecy and will not speak about it even now.


The scope and strength of German fortifications--the West Wall, Siegfried Line and Adolf Hitler's Berlin Bunker--are well ensconced in popular imagination, as are the less substantial cave, coral and coconut log fortifications used by the emperor's soldiers on Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other remote but fiercely contested Pacific islands. But that is only half the story. By mid-1944 the Japanese government was implementing a strategic underground facility program nearly rivaling Nazi Germany's and likely surpassing a similar program in the Soviet Union.


The paper trail on the Japanese effort is long and thorough. U.S. intelligence reports declassified later and high-level Japanese documents that survived the war reveal that the Japanese government, with Hirohito's approval, designed an extensive underground program that was intended to protect the emperor, his family and staff, top-level civilian and military leaders, military industry, fleet and army command posts, and communications centers. Other sources also point to the program's use to protect underground biological weapons laboratories in Manchuria. In fact, by August 1945 more than 200 strategic underground facilities of substantial size and scope were either planned, under construction or operational. As thorough as their intelligence was, the Allies had no idea of the extent of these facilities until after Imperial Japan's final defeat.


Strategic deep-underground facilities were built within the Home Islands between the late 1930s and 1943, but it was not until mid-1944 as the war situation worsened that the government decided to build underground facilities for virtually every government agency and military entity. On July 10, 1944, the Japanese cabinet approved a proposal to create an emergency construction corps within the underground construction unit of the Railways Secretariat. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, just a week before his resignation, agreed and signed the order for the minister of transportation and communications to recruit workers from railroad companies to build these underground structures. Railroad workers were likely chosen because they had experience tunneling through mountains. Even with the Japanese war machine working at maximum effort, special provisions ensured that labor and materials were available for the organization and operation of this new corps.


Construction of the bunkers was prioritized to maintain the "functionality of domestically important facilities." At the top were the army, navy, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Munitions. The order may have also supported underground tactical military sites, like those built to repel an expected ground attack on Kyushu.


Six months after the creation of the corps, the minister of transportation and communications requested an imperial order to support the corps and increase its funding and staff. On January 12, 1945, the cabinet agreed to add more than 200 staff members, including an imperial appointee. By July 31, 1945, 1,744 workers were assigned to the corps.


Japan's military leadership was astute in constructing such facilities deep underground; it made them impervious to conventional aerial bombing and, although they could not know this, nuclear weapons--unless attacked directly. The nuclear survivability of the tunnels was highlighted in a postwar study by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) on the "Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki," whose inspectors discovered the existence of many of the bunkers while preparing their study.


When the cabinet order on underground construction was first signed in July 1944, a plan was also approved to relocate key government and military facilities from vulnerable spots, such as Tokyo, to the town of Matsushiro, about 110 miles northwest of Tokyo and five miles south of Nagano. "Temporary" command facilities would be built there. This enormous project entailed three large tunnel systems about 100 feet beneath Mount Minakamiyama, Mount Zozan, and Mount Maizuruyama. The emperor, his family, government agencies and the Imperial General Headquarters would all move to this huge subterranean complex. Military communications units, the central telephone office and the NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Office) would also have space. To ensure secrecy, laborers recruited for the project were told they were building an underground warehouse for the army.


In November 1944, excavation commenced on the imperial headquarters at Mount Maizuruyama. The emperor's temporary space was opulent and lined with beautiful cypress wood. An order was also issued to build an underground chamber at Matsushiro to protect the imperial regalia--the curved jewel, the sacred mirror and the sacred sword--which symbolized the imperial house's legitimacy. Construction was almost complete by August 1945, but it was never occupied by the intended tenant.


The tunnel complexes in Matsushiro were designed by engineers at the Department of the Army. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Underground Construction Unit managed the enormous project. When sufficient domestic labor could not be found, several thousand Korean laborers were conscripted to dig more than seven miles of tunnels at Matsushiro. Other laborers eventually joined the project, including soldiers of the Eastern Division and Construction battalions, the Industrial Reserve Army, the Labor Service Corps, and finally students from the railroad school and local public schools. Conditions during construction were horrendous, particularly for the Korean workers: Estimates of the total number of deaths range from a few hundred to 1,000.


After the war, Hirohito's adviser, Lord Privy Seal Koichi Kido, stated that the emperor never dreamed of fleeing "to commit suicide in a cave" while the people fought and died to repel the invaders. The construction of the facilities around Matsushiro and the resources put at the builders' disposal, however, strongly suggest otherwise. Evidence also suggests that Hirohito decided on July 31, 1945, to move to Matsushiro--and to bring along his three essential items of regalia.


As workers labored in the hills around Matsushiro, the future occupants of the bunkers waited in existing facilities in and around Tokyo. Bunkers had been built under the prime minister's office and below the War Ministry in the Ochigaya area of the capital. A secret underground broadcasting station was set up in case the NHK building was destroyed. At least one of those sites, the War Ministry's underground headquarters, was tunneled at a depth of more than 50 feet beneath the basement of the War Department's main building. There was also a bunker on the grounds of the Imperial Palace.


Elsewhere, dozens of additional facilities were built or expanded. These complexes often integrated underground command and communications centers, ammunition storage and even weapons factories. The navy constructed several sophisticated underground complexes at Yokosuka, Sasebo and in tunnels under Keio University, south of Tokyo. Yokosuka, located in Honshu, is now a U.S. Navy base, but during the war it served as a Japanese naval air base. Between 1938 and 1945, more than 20 separate tunnel networks were bruit there. Underground facilities at Yokosuka included a hospital, electrical power-generating facilities and miles of tunnels for the assembly and manufacture of parts for Japanese naval aircraft. Facilities at the largest air base in Japan, at Atsugi, were to include an underground repair plant, generator and extensive quarters for personnel.


Some components of the underground naval facilities were remarkably well designed and constructed. After the war, inspectors gathering information for the USSBS found the deep-underground ammunition magazines at the Sasebo base in southern Kyushu to be exceptionally sturdy. The most outstanding feature was an inner tunnel structure, which helped to control moisture and maintain temperature. Sasebo also housed a deep-underground command, control and communications center. Allied engineers who inspected the Japanese headquarters beneath Keio found a sophisticated complex with offset adits (tunnel openings) to prevent shell or bomb fragments from entering, 10 very well-protected ventilator shafts, an elaborate water supply and sanitation system, redundant electrical power, reserves of water and fuel, and chemical warfare decontamination equipment. These facilities encountered few of the problems that plagued underground industrial plants hastily constructed and run by corporations. The navy's success suggests that had there been time to do it, Japan may have overcome deficiencies at those plants as well.


Though most of Japan's strategic underground facilities were built to protect its leaders, command and control, and conventional military industry, it turns out that some were used to conduct horrific biological weapons-related experiments on humans. These tunnel complexes were located in Manchuria but nonetheless were of strategic importance. Japan's "Epidemic Prevention and Water-Supply Unit," better known as Unit 731, was established in 1936 to research, develop and manufacture biological weapons. From 1936 until 1945, Unit 731 conducted experiments on live human subjects that resulted in at least 3,000 gruesome deaths.


Underground facilities were built at the main complex near Harbin, known as Ping Fang, and at other sites in Manchuria. At Ping Fang, extensive underground facilities were used for human experimentation, according to Wang Peng, the curator of Unit 73 l's Criminal Evidence Museum, which is located at the Ping Fang complex's former main office. The museum staff is now excavating in search of deep-underground laboratories and associated tunnels. Local villagers contend that when excavating building foundations, they often come across hidden openings to underground shafts. Additional sources confirm that experiments took place in tunnels at Ping Fang. At the Unit I00 biological weapons facility at Changchun, tunnels housed laboratories and allegedly contained bunkers that stored such weapons.


Biological weapons experimentation was the most atrocious component of Japan's underground program, but the most extensive and impressive was the empire's effort to bury a significant portion of its military industry. Erroneously believing that the U.S. Army Air Forces would have little impact on production, Japan's industrial establishment did not begin dispersing its factories on a large scale until the fall of 1944, as the U.S. strategic bombing effort intensified. At that time most aircraft production was concentrated in and around Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. But some companies, in anticipation of a government order to move their production to safer locations, had already begun to dismantle their plants. Following the bombing attacks of November and December, an urgent dispersal of the aircraft industry began, without government direction or control. In February 1945, shortly after the imperial ordinance was issued to increase resources for underground construction, the government assumed control of the underground and surface dispersal effort..


By April 1945, the dispersal of industry was taking place on a fairly large scale. The government planned to move 993 manufacturing plants, 172 of them to underground sites. The majority of the plants going below ground were to produce aircraft and aircraft equipment. At least 73 sites were newly excavated tunnel complexes, while the others were either expanded and reconfigured from former mines and caves, or based in abandoned railway, highway and streetcar tunnels.


Declassified U.S. documents, including a study by the former Military Intelligence Service (MIS) published in 1946, show that the Japanese encountered insurmountable obstacles to underground production. The Germans overcame some of the problems that plagued the Japanese, such as drainage, ventilation and lighting. Insufficient time was considered a major factor confronting the Japanese as they began to build underground industrial plants too late in the war.


According to the MIS report, by the time the Japanese realized the necessity of dispersing and moving industry underground, they were engrossed in production commitments and took action only after numerous cities had been bombed. Other problems included inadequate transportation, shortages of materials, poor site selection, insufficient storage space and high humidity--which rusted valuable tools and products. Mitsubishi's Matsumoto airframe-works plant in Nagano prefecture exemplifies the problems. The decision was made in February 1945 to build an underground plant, and work began on the tunnels in April under the supervision of the army. The original geological site survey concluded that shoring was unnecessary, but in actuality the unstable rock required extensive timber support. Timber was very scarce at that point in the war. Transportation became the most significant problem, first in the movement of machine tools and equipment from Nagoya to Matsumoto and later to transport materials underground. The facility was scheduled to be 50 percent complete by June and fully operational within two months, but by August only 40 percent of the facility was completed. Nakajima's underground aircraft factory at Shiroyama was similarly unfinished by the end of the war. Manufacturing began there in late April 1945, but only half the planned facility was completed by war's end. Actual airframe production amounted to only four fuselages and four wing assemblies.


Many underground sites had inadequate rail facilities, and the ones in the hills would have been inaccessible during winter snows. The Mitsubishi Nukatani underground aircraft engine plant was accessible only by foot up a narrow road, which was often washed out in many places by heavy rains. The company initiated road, residence and bridge building projects. Beginning in July 1945, machine tools were laboriously pulled up the mountain road by hand.


A USSBS special report on the underground aircraft industry concluded: "Japanese underground installations were begun too late for them to be able to save the production of aircraft. In any event, their existence could not have overcome other problems such as shortages of vital raw materials and fuel." The survey did, however, also report that the "profusion of tunnels, caves, and mines is impressive." One of the most advanced plants visited by inspectors was Nakajima's Yoshimatsu aircraft engine plant near Matsuyama, southwest of Tokyo. Its tunnels were fairly dry due to the particular quality of the volcanic rock in which they were excavated. In many places concrete floors had been laid. Corrosion became a problem right away and each worker was responsible for keeping his machine from rusting; finished parts were removed from the tunnels immediately. This well-camouflaged facility had two entrances located in sheer cliffs more than 75 feet high.


Despite the haste of building them, many underground sites were cleverly hidden. For example, an entrance to the Mitsubishi underground aircraft parts factory southwest of Nagoya at Hisai was covered by a building and built on fairly flat ground, which proved an unusual and effective means of concealment. This plant, like virtually all underground factories in Japan, went undiscovered by Allied intelligence during the war. The USSBS highlighted this point: "The principal advantages of an underground installation are that it is hard to find, makes a very poor target, and would probably be safe from any weapon used in the Second World War."


Some information was known by the Allies about the Japanese underground industrial dispersal program, but specific data were scant on the location of such sites. Even less human intelligence was available on the very secret underground leadership facilities and other strategic underground bunkers. Intercepted communications were also silent on the issue of underground facilities.


Aerial photography was scarcely more helpful in bridging the intelligence gap. Most imagery covered cities and did not extend out into the country far enough to cover even one-third of the existing underground industrial plants or other remote facilities. Moreover, photo interpreters were not alerted to look for underground installations. When a Japanese strategic tunneling project was identified on air photos, the significance of the activity was not understood. For instance, a few deep-underground factories under construction were identified on reports as "areas of tunnel activity" or misidentified as storage depots. Only three or four Japanese underground aircraft plants--of a total of 73 newly excavated tunnel sites--were located by photo interpreters during the war, and of those described in published reports, none were correctly identified as aircraft plants.


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