Gaining a WW2 unconditional Japanese surrender from naval blockade?

Aug 2016
918
US&A
#1
When I was a little kid, I rented the movie "Barefoot Gen" because it looked like any other cartoon.

In reality, it was a video adaption of a manga that told a semi-autobiographical account of the bombing of Hiroshima and the author's survival during it's aftermath.

In one of the earlier scenes the Protagonist has to drag his pregnant mother away from their burning house which has collapsed on his father, older sister, and little brother.

Needless to say, I was a little traumatized after that.

I know the Japanese committed atrocities in that war. The Japanese government and any individuals still alive who are responsible for those acts should apologize. The history of that war should be taught in schools, both Japanese and otherwise.

However, the bomb that was dropped killed civilians who had little choice but to go along with the government because otherwise they and their families would be targeted. It killed American POWs.

In any case, do you think there would be a way to force Japan into an unconditional surrender without nuclear weapons or Operation Downfall?
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,502
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#2
A blockade would blockade, among many things, food and the things necessary for producing it. Japan was a net importer of food, indeed food was rationed for the civilian population before WW2.
As the food shortage worsens in your scenario, the armed forces are given priority, as they were in fact. Civilians starve, the old and young going first. Diseases caused by malnutrition kill children.
All this happened in Germany in 1918, and they still fought until defeated in the field. The Japanese leadership in 1945 lacked the moral wherewithal to surrender at the threat of starvation, and would have gone on further than the 1918 Germans, I think.
Further, the plan for the defense of Okinawa was to bleed the Americans as much as possible for as long as possible, to convince them an invasion of Japan would be too costly. A pause in the fighting would have fed that delusion, persuading them to fight on.
We also need to consider war-weariness. Everyone wanted an end to it, to the death and destruction. Continuing the war in order to appease the prickly honor of a clique of militarists would not have been popular. Remember, Japsn was a full participant. WW2 was not something inflicted on them. The American boys dying had no say, the Chinese, who suffered more than anyone and for longer, had no say. The Vietnamese, facing famine, had no say.
Blame Hirohito first, then Tojo, Anami and the rest next. They inflicted this holocaust on their own people, because they couldn’t bear the shame of losing.
 
Oct 2015
764
Virginia
#4
How many millions of Japanese civilians would have died of starvation, disease and conventional bombing before the vile, disgusting militarists who ran the country were induced to surrender? More important, how many millions of Asians in China, Indochina, Indonesia, Bengal et al would have died? How many allied POWs?
The Japanese people and ALL Asians were LUCKY the US used the A-bombs to shock the emperor into surrender! Millions survived because of it. I'm real tired of this nonsense; the poor, helpless, fascist, militarists who unilaterally started a brutal, merciless war of conqurest that needlessly annihilated millions of people need our sympathy...Baloney! All they had to do to end the war was to end it.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
17,884
SoCal
#5
How many millions of Japanese civilians would have died of starvation, disease and conventional bombing before the vile, disgusting militarists who ran the country were induced to surrender? More important, how many millions of Asians in China, Indochina, Indonesia, Bengal et al would have died? How many allied POWs?
The Japanese people and ALL Asians were LUCKY the US used the A-bombs to shock the emperor into surrender! Millions survived because of it. I'm real tired of this nonsense; the poor, helpless, fascist, militarists who unilaterally started a brutal, merciless war of conqurest that needlessly annihilated millions of people need our sympathy...Baloney! All they had to do to end the war was to end it.
Yeah, I've been thinking this as well. I mean, as long as the Japanese boys in green get enough to eat, the Japanese leadership might not actually care if the rest of the Japanese population will starve. After all, they could view it as being a necessary sacrifice in order to achieve ultimate victory.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,251
#6
Depends on which group wins a power-struggle within the Japanese political leadership, and when. Since the Japanese did not actually commit national suicide, the case for them making it from this kind of scenario if pretty weak. At some point there would be a power struggle between the never-say-die hardliners and the ones accepting the need to "face the unbearable" and surrender. It's not as if even the Japanese was some kind of hive-mind. That kind of confrontation within the military had already happened before.

How bads things would get is anybody's guess.
 
Last edited:
Jun 2017
2,806
Connecticut
#7
Perhaps but it would take a lot of time and the Japanese had given the impression they would fight to the very end and I could see why people would believe they'd starve rather than surrender due to the culture. Soviets had shown what a people could do when(for whatever reason) they do not see surrender as an option and while we were not the Germans we had no reason to think the Japanese people viewed us in a different context. That's part of why the A-Bomb occurred the Japanese resistance in such small scale settings was so fierce it seemed like there was no other way to get the Japanese to surrender without many lives being lost. Eastern front level casualties were not acceptable. In this case those lives being lost at least on our side are replaced by the passage of time but the passage of time was still not a good option.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,251
#8
Perhaps but it would take a lot of time and the Japanese had given the impression they would fight to the very end and I could see why people would believe they'd starve rather than surrender due to the culture.
As member of a country that put up a total-war defense system to try deter a potential MUCH more powerful adversary (the Soviet Union) I would say one of the problems of evaluating how hard the Japanese might actually have fought, is that in order to prepare a deterrent you really have to talk it up in advance, AND make the preparations in earnest. Unfortunately that's also not just for the consumption of your adversary, but must by necessity also involve preparing your population for some really stark potential stuff.

So yes, of course, the Japanese sent every signal they would fight to national annihilation in a gambit of hoping to deter the US from attempting an actual landing at all, at least not before they had first tried to negotiate a Japanese surrender on terms. There is no way to do any of that without telegraphing in no uncertain terms that you will fight like blazes, and make yourself very hard to swallow. But that is akin to the Swedish Cold War doctrine of "all messages that resistance is to cease are false". Or even the famous Churchill "fight them on the beaches... Never surrender!"-speech. (After which supposedly he turned to an aid and muttered "If they come we'll be fighting them with broken beer bottles. That's all we've bloody well got.")
There is no way of knowing if or how hard the Japanese might actually have fought had it come to that. It depends on what group ends up in charge. It really has to do with what the fighting is supposed to accomplish. The PREPARATIONS for a fight clearly were designed to try to avert having to fight at all, by making the US think twice, and accept offering Japan terms. If that would fail, the Japanese would come up against another set of decisions about what to do.

And "culture" is a sneaky concept in relation to Japan in WWII. ("We" are rational sensible people, "they" have "culture", i.e. it is a catch-all to normalize what is seen as irrationality, or present stuff that need not be explained because "culture".) The Japanese public voted majority socialist when able to vote again after WWII. The Japanese military had this weird constitutional feedback loop that allowed them to short-curcuit civilian government and take the nation hostage – but it was never not a matter of popular appointment. They Japanese military were also always horribly internally divided. And waiting in the wing was that other national elite, the industry and business community, which always understood war as a terribly dangerous gamble – but was managed by the military through a mix of intimidation to enforced passivity, and accepting to be bought-off by the promises of empire.

That said the Japanese late-war invasion defense efforts do look like part of a set of Japanese historical tropes lifted from the then contemporary understanding of Samurai culture (yeah, I said it regardless) – it's an aspect of the often used (and misused) Hagakure quote about Bushido as "the way of the warrior is to be found in death". However, when looking at the kind of exemplary tales the Japanese constructed around that ("The ronin and the master of the tea ceremony" etc.), what is obvious is that they are all about how someone by preparing himself for death actually survives. On the surface paradoxically by giving up all hope of survival one maximizes one's chances of survival – and it comes right in the end. The Japanese rationale behind those invasion defenses look just the part.
 
Aug 2014
1,249
pakistan
#9
The Japanese people and ALL Asians were LUCKY the US used the A-bombs to shock the emperor into surrender! Millions survived because of it. .
Would we have been also lucky if Germany had developed nukes and had dropped it on Britain and U.S, speedily ending the WW2 and avoiding deaths of millions?.
 

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