Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - The Supernova Coda

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It’s Hardcore History.


There’s an interesting sort of phenomenon,

I guess you could call it, that happens after we get

a Hardcore History series finished.

You begin to hear from people that are connected

with the subject matter, and you get opportunities,

for example, to talk to them or to interview them.

And the upside is, um…

they’re usually people that you would really like to talk to.

The downside is, you’ve just finished up, usually,

a lot of work and a lot of conversation,

and a lot of the audience’s time on the subject matter.

So, everybody’s usually ready for something new,

but then you get all these opportunities

that are too good to turn down,

that are on the bit of subject matter

you’ve just covered extensively.

And that’s the case today.

Now, actually, we’ve held on to this show

for several months.

The author has a, um… that we’re gonna talk to

has a new… three-set book compilation coming out,

and it’s been delayed.

I imagine November 2021 is probably a safe bet

for it at some point, though.

And so, we were holding on to this

so that we could release this

and have it coincide with the, um, the new offering.

But what that means is, I’ve actually got another show

ready to come out real soon, right after this.

It’s gonna be another interview with another author,

and this one won’t be about the subject

we’ve recently talked about.

So, um, one way or another, we should have a couple of things

for you in quick succession, which is good because…

because we held on to this,

we didn’t have anything coming out, uh,

a couple of months ago, as we planned.

So, you’re due a couple of shows in quick succession.

This one’s with an author whose work I enjoyed so much.

And some of my favorite little things that we included,

these little hits by a… a little quote by an author.

Some of my favorite ones were by Ian W. Toll.

And, uh, he has multiple books besides these three,

but these three, from start to finish,

cover the Pacific War and the Second World War,

from about Pearl Harbor to the end.

Pacific Crucible, followed by The Conquering Tide,

followed by Twilight of the Gods.

Any one of these, of course, can be bought separately,

but with a three-book compilation coming out,

uh, we assume in November, uh, Ian W. Toll’s, um…

you know, his combined work on… on this specific theater

in the Second World War will be complete and available,

and he’s wonderful.

And so, when his people called, uh, right after we finished

the six-part series on the war in the Asia-Pacific Theater

and said, would you like to talk to Ian W. Toll,

I said, what you would expect me to say,

even though we’ve talked about this subject a lot recently.

I said, yes, please.

So, without further ado, our conversation

with author Ian W. Toll.

Obviously, you know that I’ve done 27 hours recently

on this subject, and I’m sure the audience is gonna groan

when they see I have more of it.

Uh, but what I’d like to do maybe, as, you know,

and I consider the conversation maybe to be going now,

we’re recording anyway, but, um…

with a guy who has lived this like you’ve lived it,

uh, you know, not just the writing of the books

and the research, but the speeches that you have to give

and everything else, um, I imagine that you have

all kinds of ideas in your head of things that have happened

that make this conflict wild and crazy.

Is there something that you wish the general public,

and I feel like my audience now has 27 hours of this,

so what can we tell them about this war

that is unusual or interesting?

Or if you could say that you wish the general public

knew something about this war that you know,

what would it be?

Well, I mean, there’s a couple, I mean, there’s…

there’s just so many things I could say

in answer to that question, but, uh…


Why don’t we say this?

Um, that as a continental nation, we Americans,

we tend to think of war as war on land

before anything else.

And naval operations are a supporting feature of war,

a sort of supporting operation.

And, um, in the Second World War,

I mean, that certainly was true of the war in Europe.

Uh, I think you could say naval operations were,

uh, a supporting aspect of the campaign.

And then you need to invert your understanding

when you come to the Pacific.

You really need to just look at the map of the Pacific

and you see this as a sea war and an air war first.

And, uh, land operations, these island, um, island fights,

were playing a sort of supporting role

in the larger scheme.

And so, you know, just from the very beginning,

I think you need to invert your understanding in that way.

And once you do that, uh, this vast conflict

with the Pacific war becomes much easier to understand.

You know, as an American, uh, one of the things

that we really didn’t get much of,

I mean, I have a, uh, life goes to war,

life goes to war book that probably came out in 1950.

And if you leave through the pages,

the vast, vast majority of this work

is about the Pacific theater,

the battles that Americans, uh, who followed the exploits

of the Marines or MacArthur are very familiar with,

the Tarawa’s, the Peleliu’s, the Iwo Jima’s.

But the whole Asia side of this conflict is enormous

once you delve into it, once you start to realize

how many people are involved.

Um, why is, and you know, also, I didn’t even think about this,

but I mean, five years later, we’re in a war in Korea.

We have Chinese troops entering the war after a certain point.

I mean, that’s all directly connected to the fallout,

uh, from this Asia Pacific war.

Um, why don’t Americans know more,

and this includes yours truly,

why don’t we know more about the giant,

you know, you mentioned the naval war,

which it is to the United States,

but there was a giant land war in Asia also.

Right. Well, you know, I mean,

the simplest way to answer that is just that,

you know, we weren’t involved in that war in a big way.

And Americans, like most people,

we tend to be most interested in the aspects of a conflict

in which our boys were directly involved.

So I think that goes part of the way to explaining that.

Um, I think it’s also true that, uh, because, uh, Mao’s China,

uh, uh, communists won the Civil War

after, uh, the end of the Second World War,

um, China became for many years, and in many ways still is,

somewhat of a black box from the outside.

Uh, and so the, the telling of the, of the story,

the history of that war, uh, was something

that was controlled directly by Mao’s regime.

And, um, and there was just a limited, um, access,

uh, to that country in order to, to try to tell that story.

I, I think that there are good efforts now

to try to rectify this, to place the Sino-Japanese War

back in the center of the story of Asia and the Pacific.

Uh, and my, my colleague, uh, Richard Frank

is, is writing another trilogy about the Asia-Pacific War,

as he calls it, in which he’s, he’s trying to rectify that bias.

And, and so I commend, uh, that work.

The first of his three volumes is out.

You know, when you look at the amount of,

uh, the amount of resources, uh, we would say GDP today,

all the things that Japan, a small island nation,

had to, uh, set aside and devote for naval construction,

you know, over the 20s and the 30s and into the 40s,

um, modern aircraft development,

and, and millions of men on the ground

who need to be supported in Asia.

You look at this and you just think to yourself,

and I think we said in the podcast,

I mean, the Japanese were already trying to eat an elephant

in terms of, of the task that they had set for themselves

before they even attacked Pearl Harbor.

Then to attack the strongest Western nations on top of that.

I read an account of one historian who had said

that a Japanese, I’m trying to quote from memory here,

a Japanese poet had described the war as like a slow motion,

natural disaster, suggesting that the Japanese felt like

they were almost like pulled into it, like a riptide.

Um, when you look at something like this,

does it look like the Japanese had,

I mean, I feel like they had no chance from the get-go.

Um, how does this look to you when you,

I mean, you’ve examined, uh, all of the records,

you’ve looked at this, um, how do you…

I guess they were optimists, certainly,

but I mean, you guys have guys like the whole naval staff,

everybody was so pessimistic about that.

How do you think this, um, I guess what I’m saying is,

do you see it as a one-sided affair from the get-go,

or did the Japanese have a chance to do something

really unexpected here?

You know, when I consider the counterfactuals, Dan,

I find it very hard to imagine any scenario

where the Japanese could have escaped this conflict, uh,

with, um, in a better situation than they were on December 6,

1941, the day before they attacked Pearl Harbor.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario

where, uh, the war ends up working out for them.

And, uh, really what, what the Pacific War was

from the Japanese perspective was,

it was an enormous bet that, uh,

that Hitler was going to dominate Europe.

And, um, and that by dominating Europe,

he was essentially going to keep the United States

forever on the defensive, worried about the security

of our own hemisphere of South America.

And that, uh, in that situation,

we just would not, uh, be able to fight

a prolonged bloody war, uh, in the Pacific.

Of course, that was a very bad bet.

And it was a bet that was made, you know,

right at the moment when the German army

was being stopped outside the gates of Moscow.

You know a lot about this.

I know you did, like, a six-parter

on the, uh, on the war in the Eastern Front.

And, um, and one of the leaders of the Japanese regime,

I forget who, in a, in a, uh, being interrogated

after the war said, you know, if, um,

if we had made this decision just two weeks later,

we might have looked at what was happening in, uh, in Russia

and, and, uh, perceived that this was not going to be

a walkover for the Germans the way it appeared

that it was going to be in the, in the early months.

And that might have caused us to think twice

about attacking the Americans, uh, in Pearl Harbor.

And so, uh, with that in mind,

when I, when I go through the counterfactuals,

I think the one thing that could have really tipped

the balance, uh, throughout the world, really,

but also in the Pacific, would be, uh, a Russian collapse.

Um, and, and some form of a truce on the Russian front.

Uh, Stalin had essentially repeated

what the Bolsheviks had done in 1917

and cut a deal, uh, to end that war,

allowing Hitler to redeploy, uh, his forces, uh,

against, uh, England.

You know, that, I think, um, could have,

have really changed the entire complexion

of the global conflict in a way that, uh, led us to,

to think, let’s try to cut our losses in the Pacific

and, and not, uh, devote the kind of enormous effort

that it will require to conquer Japan at a time

when we really do have to worry about our Atlantic flank.

You know, I’m going to piggyback off what you said,

because I think it’s fascinating.

Uh, I spoke to a, a German once who had said that,

essentially, I’m, I’m paraphrasing here,

but that we blew it in the East,

that we were welcomed by some of the population there,

uh, as liberators, and our actions turned

those very people against us

and made our job that much tougher.

I think about the Pacific and the East Asia,

the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,

and, and this, this idea that it’s Asia for the Asians

and the tying in of the Pan-Asianism

and the Japanese, uh, portraying themselves

as the tip of the Asian spear to sort of free,

uh, the Asian people from the colonial Western powers.

Um, you know, and when I was growing up,

we were taught that that was just a, a fig leaf covering,

uh, you know, rampant imperialism,

and certainly some of the Japanese leadership

thought that way, but the more you read,

especially the more modern works,

the more this seems like something a lot of people

really bought into and believed.

Um, could you say that the Japanese

are in a similar position to what that German guy was,

uh, in when, I mean, did they blow it here

by the way they treated the populations

that they liberated?

Could this have gone a different way?

Had they lived up to the hype a little bit

on the marketing message?

Well, I mean, you know, certainly the Japanese

would have done, done themselves a huge favor

if they had just treated the Asian peoples,

uh, that they had conquered, um, more in line

with, uh, with their ideology of this sort of

Pan-Asian liberation movement.

Um, and, and I think that there’s, you know,

there’s a lot to be said for that traditional view

that you were taught growing up, which is that the,

the Japanese were, were fundamentally out,

uh, as an imperialist power to try to aggrandize

themselves, their empire, uh, to raise their standard

of living to plunder Asia.

Um, that said, there was this, this kind of messianic

and idealistic strain of, of Japanese imperialism

and certainly among many of those in the regime

who were shaping this, this message.

Uh, there was this idea that, um, uh,

the Europeans have had their way in Asia for long enough

and we’re going to, we’re the only Asian country

that’s strong enough, uh, to put an end to this.

And we’re going to do that and we’re going to,

we’re going to, uh, uh, take great sacrifices

in order to do that.

Uh, and I think that there were many Japanese

who genuinely believed that whether or not, uh,

their military forces were able to live up to.

And in fact, that view really persists among,

particularly on the right in Japan today.

Uh, you often hear it said, uh, by right-wing politicians

and, and, uh, writers and historians, uh,

that, uh, Japan’s, um, uh, defeat, uh,

in the Pacific war was in a sense,

a kind of long-term sacrifice for the rest of Asia

because it did lead, uh, indirectly and directly

in some cases to the decolonization

of so many of those nations.

Uh, and, um, and, uh, you know, the, the situation

in Asia today where you, you really don’t have

any European colonies left, uh, in, in Asia.

And that amplification, it probably sped up the process,

certainly throwing out places like France from Indochina

for several years and then having them try

to reestablish themselves definitely changes

the equation.

Um, and, and, you know, and Great Britain was,

was simply exhausted by the war, more of the war in Europe

than the war in the Pacific, but, but because of the war

sort of brought, um, England and, and the UK down

in the world, it became clear within a matter

of about two decades that they no longer had

the economic wherewithal to maintain this empire.

So that indirectly, you could say, uh, led to the,

the independence of places like Malaya.

And those places, of course, were some of the places

that had oil.

And one of the things I think about with this war now

more than I did as a kid, and I think, you know,

having, uh, my life straddles the, the early oil crises era

in the United States in the early 1970s.

And I think Americans, uh, had, had a much better

understanding of things like resources and whatnot

around the world after the oil crisis.

And so when I look back now and I read the stuff

about how the war happened, especially with the embargoes

and everything else, the idea of oil comes into it

so much more than it used to.

Like, I look at the war now and I go,

could this have been classified as the first major global war

for something like oil?

Um, how do you see sort of our, our, our modern,

um, what would we say?

We protect our interests overseas.

We have global supply chains.

We, I mean, in a sense, could we say that you see

the early stages of this in the second world war?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, it was, it was clearly

from Japan’s point of view, the immediate crisis

that they, that they had to address

that led them to their decision to attack

the United States and Great Britain in December 1941

was this oil problem.

Uh, they had and have, uh, today,

negligible domestic oil production.

So they really had to import, uh, oil both

for their domestic economy and just to run their military,

run their Navy. And so, um, uh, this was sort of

the scenic one on of the entire Japanese imperialist project

is how do you, uh, assure that you have a steady oil supply?

So when we, um, embargoed, uh, oil exports to Japan,

uh, essentially we, we, we started a clock ticking.

They had stockpiled a certain amount of oil,

um, and, uh, and perhaps enough for about a year, uh,

to run both their domestic economy

and their military operations.

And they had to solve that problem either by coming

to some sort of a diplomatic settlement with us,

uh, or if not, by going and getting their own oil,

uh, which is what they did by, uh, taking

the East Indies, Borneo and Sumatra.

And so, um, the, the immediate cause

of the decision to attack Pearl Harbor, uh,

was this, this need to solve this oil problem.

And so, yeah, oil was, was definitely at the very heart

of this conflict from the beginning.

You know, it’s funny, because if I look at the two circumstances,

Europe versus the Asia Pacific area,

in Europe, the criticism of the Western powers

was that there was an appeasement of Hitler,

and he wasn’t confronted strongly enough,

and hence, you get a war. What did Churchill say?

He called it the unnecessary war, right?

It didn’t have to happen. The funny thing is, though,

is maybe you could make a case that in the Asia Pacific theater,

Roosevelt did exactly what the people

who want to confront these dictators did.

I mean, he didn’t appease them, he basically told them,

you’re gonna change your foreign policy,

or we’re gonna take your oil away,

and yet, you got war anyway.

What do you think about the United States’, um,

you know, because there’s always been a lot of controversy

about the way the Secretary of State played these things,

and every… Was this something that the United States

was kind of hoping would happen?

Or, I mean, because certainly, I think the U.S.

must have had enough politicians who realized

that the Japanese can’t easily back down

from their entire foreign policy goals of the last 15 years.

Um, did we stumble into this, or was this sort of manipulated

in a way that turned out the way the U.S. wanted?

You know, I mean, you know, it’s a controversial question.

It’s one that’s gotten a lot of attention.

I tend to think that we stumbled into it

more than we intended for this to happen.

That said, it was clear, uh, in the weeks before,

leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor,

it was clear to our leaders that the Japanese were preparing

to make some sort of a move, uh, in the Pacific.

Um, we did not anticipate the… raid on Pearl Harbor,

despite all of the many conspiracy theories

that have been spun in that respect.

And yet, we did expect war to begin,

perhaps on that same day, December 7th.

War warnings had gone out.

Um, and I think what’s clear is that we had, by that time,

uh, we’d been reading the diplomatic mail.

This is a really important achievement

of our, um, cryptanalyst program,

is that we were able to essentially break the codes

that the Japanese, uh, foreign ministry used

to communicate with its embassies overseas.

We continued to read that mail right through the end

of the Second World War.

And so, we, uh, we knew that, um,

that they were essentially preparing, uh,

some sort of a military, uh, move

to try to solve their oil problem.

And, um, uh, you know, I-I think it’s clear

that-that, uh, Roosevelt was okay with that.

Roosevelt and-and his, um, his-his cabinet,

uh, understood that the Japanese were likely

to, uh, break off negotiations and-and attack

probably the British and the Dutch,

but not us directly, and that, uh, that might,

uh, lead us to, you know, to-to-to solve

the political problem which-which FDR had at home,

which was that he simply didn’t have

the American people united behind this prospect

of joining the Second World War.

Something that he saw by that time

was going to be necessary.

And so, uh, I-I think it’s-it’s, you know,

it was a-it was a story of-of-of stumbling a bit

in terms of the way that the embargo,

the-the various measures were taken throughout 1941.

There are several instances in-in which it-it was not clear

that, uh, that the specific steps that were taken,

uh, to ratchet up these-these economic measures,

uh, were completely in line with the way FDR wanted them

to occur, and yet, um, overall, it, you know,

we had, um, we had-had, uh, regarded Japanese aggression

in Asia as a fundamental, uh, threat to the global peace,

and, uh, and it’s essentially wrong in itself,

and FDR’s rhetoric had been crystal clear about that,

uh, that this kind of aggression against other nations

was-was dangerous, uh, and it was a contagion,

uh, which had to be-had to be stopped.

And so, um, certainly, we were not going to continue

to export oil from West Texas, uh, to Japan

to allow them to carry on this-this war of aggression

against their neighbors, and if, uh, if that was going

to lead to an outbreak of war in the Pacific,

then so be it. I think our leaders were ready for that.

So then that makes me wonder about the other side’s ability,

then, to respond or be flexible.

Um, I-I think this is maybe why everyone spends so much time

diagramming the way the Japanese government is set up,

to show you the dysfunction in it, or the, you know,

the-the-the period right before the Second World War

in the 20s and 30s was sometimes referred to

as a government by assassination,

where you have these-these lower-level officer types

having an outsized influence on overall policy.

And it seems like, in a sense, I mean, I-I was always moved

by the fact that a bunch of the Japanese leaders

at the end of the Second World War who are running the country

have bullets still in their body, you know,

from assassination attempts.

So-so you get this sense of how much leeway

did any of these particular leaders or-or-or influential

people in the Japanese, uh, um, uh, governmental system,

because, you know, they have those higher-up,

sort of the elder statesmen types, too.

Um, how much did that government have the ability?

I-I just feel like they were almost paralyzed sometimes,

uh, in terms of their ability to break this logjam

that whether it was the army or radical politicians

or whatever, I mean, it’s almost like they got pulled

to the extremes and no one had the ability

to do anything about that.

Yeah, no, absolutely. I-I wouldn’t say it was almost,

they were almost paralyzed.

I would say that it was a paralytic form of government.

The Meiji Constitution, which was the-the form of government

that, uh, Hirohito’s grandfather had essentially given

to the Japanese people as a gift,

that’s the way it was presented, um, was a-a document

which reserved quite a bit of power for the emperor,

particularly to command the armed forces directly.

And yet it was, uh, it was ambiguous in many ways.

And, uh, what had happened really was that after Meiji died,

his successors, including Hirohito,

were not strong enough personalities to continue

to assert, uh, the considerable power that-that-that they had,

uh, over the state and over the military in particular

under that-that document.

And through a series of legal precedents,

um, it had, uh, the system that had evolved by the 1930s

essentially put the-the, um, emperor in a very constrained role

where in particular, if his advisors,

his military advisors and his cabinet

presented him with, uh, um, a consensus recommendation,

he essentially was required, uh, to approve of that.

And so, uh, the military, which had really taken control

of the government, every aspect of the government,

not just foreign policy, but domestic policy as well,

um, the army and the navy who were constantly

at each other’s throats in a struggle for power,

for control of resources, for control of-of directing

the foreign policy of the country,

um, they realized that as long as they could come

to some kind of rough and ready consensus,

that Hirohito would simply have to rubber stamp

whatever they wanted to do.

And, um, and-and this became a-a more and more costly feature

of the Japanese regime as the crisis approached in 1941

until finally, uh, it became…

It became necessary for, uh, the military leadership

to-to go ahead with this war that many of them

really didn’t believe in, particularly in the navy,

because the alternative was going to be

a complete breakdown of this sort of fragile,

uh, consensus balance that had kept Japan

from descending into a civil war.

And so, yes, violence, political violence, assassinations,

uh, that was always, uh, right beneath the surface.

It-it, you know, it was at its height in the 1930s,

a period where you just had, you know,

one assassination after another,

one act of violence and intimidation

coming up from the middle ranks of the army in particular,

uh, aimed at the leadership.

Uh, and then that settled down in…

during the war itself, and-and General Tojo

was given much of the credit for having essentially,

sort of, imposed this-this fragile peace

in-in this nascent civil war in Japan.

And then, as the-as the end of the war approached

and the decision, the Japanese confronted the necessity

to essentially face up to their own defeat,

the threat of assassinations, of-of, uh,

civil disorder, of violence,

once again, that became a primary concern.

And so, uh, really, in the-the complex series of events

that finally led to the Japanese decision to surrender

after we had dropped two atomic bombs,

um, was… occurred against this backdrop of, as you say,

this kind of constant, uh, threat of violence

from… and-and… of military insurgency,

which could lead to a coup d’etat,

which in turn would lead to the destruction of Japan,

because it would make it impossible

for Japan to surrender.

And so, yes, it was a real mess.

Uh, this-this entire regime, uh, was essentially

entirely dysfunctional.

Uh, the dysfunction of the regime

explains both the decision, uh, to go to war,

to-to launch themselves into a war

that many of their leaders, even before the attack

on Pearl Harbor, recognized that they could not win,

and it also explained the long delay

in acknowledging, uh, Ja-Japan’s defeat,

which their military leaders understood perfectly well.

Even a year before the surrender,

they understood that they were defeated

and that, essentially, surrender

or some sort of negotiated settlement,

if they could get it, which would have been

to surrender, that that was inevitable

and the only… the only possible future for Japan.

You know, when you get to 1945, and you see,

you’d mentioned how crazy it is by then,

it always strikes me that as we…

because we still have these debates today

about, uh, dropping of atomic bombs

or-or fire bombings or-or… or strategic bombing at all.

Um, and-and how difficult it is from our position,

I mean, it’s-it’s a stereotype, almost a trope,

but how difficult it is from our position now

in cold blood to try to assess the madness that’s going on

and-and the destructive, um, uh, you know,

there’s a building of it, right?

When you look at the bombing in 1939

versus the 1945 version of it, I mean,

you almost have to build up to something like that.

And then when you try to assess it 70 or 80 years later,

it looks relatively insane, right?

It looks like the-the analog version of the nuclear war

where there’s so… that we’re so scared about now.

How do you explain to people, and, you know,

you’re an expert at this, you do this,

how do you explain to people in cold blood today,

um, the hot blood decisions to do things

like firebombing Tokyo in a way that makes sense to them?

How do you take them into a crazy world?

Yeah, I mean, I-I think that, you know,

I agree with you about that.

I-I think that the only way you really can do it

is by telling the entire story of the conflict

from beginning to end.

Uh, that’s the only way it makes sense.

The only way the firebombing of Tokyo

or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

makes sense to me is if I go back to, um, uh,

the Chinese, uh, the Japanese invasion of China in 1937,

the extraordinarily, uh, awful, uh, massacres that went on,

um, the-the barbarism of-of the Japanese army,

the way it, uh, behaved toward, uh, civilians

in the areas that it occupied, uh,

its behavior toward prisoners of war,

including our prisoners of war.

Uh, and you really have to tell the whole story.

Uh, you have to tell the story of how there was this

no-surrender ethic, uh, which had been inculcated

into the Japanese military.

And the way that they really observed that,

uh, on one island after another,

essentially, uh, dying to the last man,

uh, refusing to surrender.

Uh, the way, uh, places like Saipan, uh, the, um,

you had mass suicides of-of Japanese civilians,

uh, rather than falling into the hands of Americans

who were, I think, in good faith,

trying to save their lives.

Um, and-and when you saw this cult of death occurring,

uh, then it became much easier to think in terms of,

well, you know, the Japanese are essentially behaving,

their-both their rhetoric and their behavior indicates

that what they’re saying is we’re gonna have to kill

all of them in order to end this war.

Uh, literally, every last man, woman, and child of Japan.

We don’t want to do that, um, but inevitably,

we’re gonna have to kill a lot of Japanese

until, uh, they come to their senses.

And, um, uh, so, you know, you really, uh,

had this kind of inversion of-of what I would say

were, uh, traditional understanding

of-of military ethics, to the point where the-the most

important thing was to try to end the war quickly,

uh, by any means necessary, including, um,

the trespassing upon those traditional ideas

of, uh, separating the-the, um, uh, civilian

from the military target.

And, uh, and that occurred in-in, uh, in Germany as well,

uh, by the way.

And so, uh, again, I-I don’t think it’s-it’s hard

to sort of sit down with someone who doesn’t know

the history and to lay it out, uh, without going back

and really telling the entire story.

And so, um, that’s-that’s what I set out to do

in this, uh, three-volume history,

and I don’t think that the story can be told

in any less than, uh, you know, 1,800 pages

that I took to tell it.

Do you think a land invasion of the Home Islands

would have happened?

I do not think, uh, that we would have invaded Japan.

Um, I-I think that it was, uh, perhaps we-we knew

that we needed to have the option,

which is why we placed such enormous preparations,

uh, for Operation Downfall, the invasion first of Kyushu

and then of Honshu.

Um, but the target date for the first stage of that invasion,

the invasion of Kyushu, Operation Olympic,

uh, was November 1st, 1945.

We dropped the bomb on, uh, Hiroshima

in the first week of August.

That’s almost three months.

And so, the question really becomes a counterfactual,

what would have happened in those three months?

And, um, and I think for all we know

about, uh, what was happening in Tokyo,

uh, I think it’s very difficult to-to imagine

that the government would have, uh, continued to-to want to fight

that this-this struggle that they were-that they were undertaking

to try to surrender, um, that-that would not have succeeded

in those three months.

Uh, particularly when you consider that the-the conventional bombing campaign

was really growing by leaps and bounds,

uh, really week by week.

And so, even in the absence of the atomic bombs,

um, uh, I-I think it’s very unlikely

that we would have launched an invasion of Japan.

You know, we dance around these issues,

I think, when we talk about it,

about how really different the Japanese are,

and how unique in so many ways.

I mean, it makes me wonder about the challenges

of historians who aren’t Japanese trying to, you know,

like, I-I would read, uh, there are some wonderful books

we used for the show, uh, written about Japan,

but many of them by Western experts.

And I-I think to myself, um, not only that-that maybe

you might have to be Japanese to understand some of this stuff,

but that maybe even the modern-day Japanese

aren’t in a position to assess this,

because it was so different, even in that country,

70 or 80 years ago, from, I mean, it’s a transformed society.

Um, is it becoming, you know, I used to think when I was younger

that-that, because you would meet people who were veterans in the war,

and people who had been there, they seemed like flesh and blood.

As I get older, they-they almost seem like trying to assess

Alexander the Great, or the Mongols, or, I mean,

it’s getting to be a society that’s in the past.

Does that make sense when we write about this?

We’re trying to get into the minds of people

who aren’t around anymore, and a sort of a societal ethic.

I mean, there are no more Hiroo Onoda’s,

or-or-or Kamikaze pilots in Japan.

I mean, is this a…

This goes back maybe to why people deal with the opening

in the 19th century so much, or when I was growing up,

they used to talk about the Japanese being a-a medieval society

that had been brought into the modern world.

But they almost seem culturally like an extreme manifestation

of humanity by the Second World War.

Um, how does the fact that the Japanese are so different

play into all this? I mean, I know my stepfather

was overwhelmed by the Kamikaze phil-uh-uh-uh phenomenon

when he was in the war.

Um, how much does that play a role in this?

They just seem like the most unusual… people.

I mean, that’s an open-ended question,

but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

There’s a fascination about the Japanese in this war

because they’re singular, aren’t they?

Yeah, no, they… It’s-it’s really true,

and it’s, um, putting yourself into the mindset

of-of the Japanese in… during-during this war

has been a tremendous challenge for everyone

who’s written about it. Um, and I think there’s something

to what you say. I mean, the, you know, Japanese of 2021

trying to understand the Japanese of 1941,

it’s-it’s not easy.

There also have been very powerful taboos

which still exist in Japan that kind of govern

the way people think about, talk about,

write about the war.

Um, that said, there has been, uh, quite a-quite a burst

of-of scholarship both by Western scholars of Japan

and by Japanese scholars, which has appeared

in English translation in the past 25 years.

And I think there’s a lot more to be done, actually.

If you look across all of World War II,

across, uh, the whole-the whole global landscape,

um, I think a lot of the most interesting scholarship

of the next, uh, several decades is gonna be

in-in trying to get a better understanding

of what precisely happened in Japan, uh, in those years.

And, um, uh, just to get even more futuristic on you,

I think, you know, machine learning, AI, um,

which is eventually going to eliminate

language barriers in archives.

I think there’s gonna be a tremendous, um, improvement

in our understanding collectively

of what happened there, uh, as those new-new tools

start to-start to-start to bear on the issue

over the next few decades.

Um, but, uh, you know, again, it-it really comes down

to kind of understanding this conflict

in the way that our ancestors who fought it understood-

understood it.

And that’s-that’s where there’s a strong case

to be made for narrative history.

Something that I do, something that you do as well

as a podcaster, trying to go back and-and help, um,

people understand what were-what was in the minds

of those who were there at the time,

making the decisions, fighting these battles.

Um, the, you know, from the-the guys in the-in the trenches,

on the decks of the ships, in the cockpits,

to those who are-are in the, uh, headquarters,

uh, making decisions, uh, from a military standpoint,

to the halls of power in Washington and-and Tokyo.

Understanding this entire conflict,

the way it unfolded week by week, uh, I think is-is the-

really the best way to try to get closer

to the way, uh, that it was understood by-by those

who were there.

There are parts, too, that fade into the background

until you start reading about them, and you go,

oh, really? This is hard to relate to.

For example, uh, and you touched upon it

with the Japanese, but I’m fascinated

with the American version of it, too,

the inter-service rivalries.

And-and because I think these days,

at least the general consensus among civilians

is that, oh, the services work well together

in the United States and whatnot.

To-to truly understand, I mean, I was reading, um,

I was reading one book, and they were talking about,

uh, it was a scene, uh, on Guadalcanal, I think it was,

and there was a-it was an army officer

who was berating a Marine,

and there was another Marine in the distance

who cocked his rifle or something.

It was-it was portrayed as a scene

where this Marine was gonna frag this army officer

for yelling at another Marine.

Um, the Japanese inter-service rivalry

literally decided, you know, the direction

the war would take often, but-but people don’t realize,

and-and this includes yours, truly.

You know, I remembered it, but I really didn’t remember it

until you started diving into Douglas MacArthur’s, uh,

paranoid fantasies about the Navy and all this stuff.

Can you talk a little about the inter-service rivalry

and how it determined kind of the way things went?

Yeah. Well, you know, our military, um, before,

and a-a lot of people don’t know this,

including a lot of people who’ve read a lot

about World War II, um, we did not have

a Joint Chiefs of Staff organization

prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Uh, there was a, uh, board,

which was sort of a liaison organization,

uh, of generals and admirals

who kind of loosely coordinated their planning.

Uh, but there was really no, um, sustained attempt

to blend the operations of the Army, the Navy,

uh, and what was emerging as these two other services

under the umbrella of the Army and Navy,

the Army Air Forces, uh,

and in the case of the Navy, the Marines,

um, both sort of emerging

as increasingly independent organizations

within the Army and, uh, the, uh, War and Navy departments.

And so really, we-we had, um, we had a very sort of

decentralized, um, poorly coordinated military

prior to the war.

And it was really only under the pressure

of the emergency of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And then the first, uh, British, uh, summit,

uh, which occurred literally just weeks after Pearl Harbor

when the, uh, Churchill and his, um, military, uh, uh,

Chiefs came to Washington to sort of begin

to plan how we were going to deal with this crisis.

And it was only under that pressure that our, uh, Chiefs,

our Chief of Naval Operations

and our Army Chief of Staff, George Marshall,

uh, got together and said,

listen, we-we’ve got to have some sort of way

of organizing ourselves,

so why don’t we just start meeting?

And they called themselves the Joint Chiefs.

All of that was ad hoc.

Uh, there was no legislative charter.

And, um, and essentially, they just, uh, ran the war

as this sort of informal committee.

And the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization

was not formally codified in our laws until, uh, 1947

with the National Security Act.

It created the-the structure that exists today

at the Pentagon.

And so all of that is just a long-winded way of saying,

uh, that our military really was not prepared to fight,

uh, a global war which would require

these different services to work together

in sustained and intricate cooperation.

They had to figure that out, uh,

on essentially week by week

as they were dealing with this military emergency.

In the Pacific, uh, the problem was even greater

than it was in-in Europe.

Certainly was an issue in Europe as well.

But in the Pacific, you had, uh, as I said earlier,

looking at a map of the Pacific, you-you quickly grasped

that the fundamental strategic problem

is how do you deal with a rampaging Japanese fleet?

You have to destroy Japanese naval power

before you can project your military forces

across the Pacific in a way that will force Japan to surrender.

And so that’s a job for your navy

and also your air forces.

Your air forces, of course, you have naval and army air forces.

They have to work together.

And then you have to take, uh, islands, uh, to…

as naval bases, as air bases, uh,

and to support the logistics drive across the Pacific.

And to take islands, you essentially have to develop

this-this, uh, particularly specialized, um,

branch of warfare called amphibious warfare,

uh, which the Marines had really focused on.

And-and they were the organization

that was best prepared, had done the most training,

had developed the equipment, uh, for-for, um,

storming even heavily defended beaches

that were in some cases thousands of miles away

from any, uh, allied base.

And so, uh, the very nature of the Pacific War

was that you had to, uh, force these services,

which were not prepared to work together,

to work together.

And in-in doing so, of course, uh, that would expose

all of the frictions, the prejudices, the biases,

the parochialism, uh, that, um, was natural

among military leaders who had grown up

in these very siloed kinds of organizations.

And then overlaid on top of that,

just to make the whole thing even more complex,

uh, you had in Douglas MacArthur,

a sort of a singular figure,

really no one else like him in the American military,

in any branch of the American military,

someone who became very, very famous very quickly,

uh, literally just in the week,

the two weeks after Pearl Harbor had skyrocketed

to this kind of position of, um, being regarded

almost as a kind of demigod by the American people

because of the-the lavish press coverage

that his campaign in the Pacific had received.

And he was a, I think fair to say,

a kind of narcissistic figure, uh,

who really wanted to place himself

at the center of this conflict

against Japan, uh, was jealous of others

who would receive attention and who, uh, you know,

very aggressively was willing to use his fame

as political influence, uh, in order to try

to force the war, uh, to be fought

according to the ideas that-that he had,

uh, on how it should be fought,

which really meant returning to the Philippines first.

Uh, and, uh, and-and es-essentially,

in order to accommodate, uh, MacArthur’s, uh,

immense personality, uh, the way the war was set up

was we divided the Pacific into two separate theaters.

And you had MacArthur in Australia,

the command in the South Pacific.

Then you had the Navy with Nimitz

as commander-in-chief in Hawaii, uh,

and his realm included essentially everything

north of the equator.

Uh, and these two guys, uh, both reported

to the Joint Chiefs in Washington.

And, um, and-and they could talk to each other informally,

uh, but any conflict between them

would have to be resolved in Washington.

And so you had that element laid atop, uh,

what was already a pretty messy situation

in the way that the services had to-to work together.

And so w-when you-when you look at all of those issues,

all of those problems, uh, all of-all of those-those frictions,

those inherent frictions, um, it’s remarkable, I think,

that our military was able to-to kind of get itself together,

uh, and win this war in less than four years.

Well, and you think about, I mean, you-you talked

about MacArthur almost being a demigod,

but I feel like it’s a pa- You know, when you look

at all of the-the august military figures

from that day, it’s like a giant cast of stars

with MacArthur maybe as the-as the superstar.

But I think about how overwhelming these people were

in terms of force of personality and-and the depth

of their experience, that when some guy like FDR,

who has been the ringmaster, sort of,

who-who for so many years is able to juggle

all these enormous personalities and work them against each other

and charm them all, when he leaves the scene

because he dies in office, and leaves it to a guy

who’s been vice president for about two seconds,

and who doesn’t necessarily, uh, remind one

of some august, super strong personality,

and you throw him into a room where he’s gotta make decisions

between these people who may be of different opinions

on things, right? Um, it makes me wonder

how different the war would’ve gone

had FDR managed to-to ride it out health-wise until the end.

Uh, how much does a green Harry Truman change things,

or does it just sort of run on autopilot, do you think?

Um, because of the, you know, you got-you’re not going

to over-overwhelm a MacArthur, who FDR once called,

as you know, uh, one of the two most dangerous men

in the world, along with Huey Long.

You’re not gonna o-you’re not gonna overwhelm him.

As a matter of fact, we-as we know,

that-that will come to a head in the next war in Korea,

where Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur will bump heads.

But, I mean, it d-does it run on autopilot,

or do you think Truman put his-his stamp

on the way the war finished up at all?

Well, I think the-the war in Europe was-was virtually done.

Um, FDR died, I think, almost exactly a year before,

um, victory in Europe Day, V-E Day.

Um, and so, uh, I would say that, um,

the situation in Europe, at least the war in Europe,

uh, was on autopilot.

The negotiations with Stalin in particular

were not, uh, and so, um, Truman definitely had to step

into some very large shoes there quickly.

The war in-in, um, the Pacific,

there is a lot of counterfactual speculation

that you can do in the scenario where FDR lived.

Um, y-you know, so much of-of our government’s,

um, uh, thinking about how to end the war in the Pacific

turned on this idea of, you know,

you know, what is, um, this unconditional surrender

formulation require of us?

FDR had set this thing out.

He had, it was a very personal decision that he made

to make unconditional surrender, uh, the, um,

the, essentially, the asking price, uh, for peace.

And, uh, you know, he had gone back to-to an inaccurate anecdote

about how the American Civil War had ended.

Um, but clearly, what he had in mind

was avoiding a reprise of the end of the First World War in Europe,

in which the seeds of-of the Second World War had been planted

and the rise of Nazism after, uh, the Treaty of Versailles.

And so, he-he wanted to-to be sure that Germany and Japan

were defeated utterly and-and critically

that the people of those countries understand,

understood that they had been defeated utterly.

And so, he had insisted upon this unconditional surrender formulation.

And then he dies, and-and our-our leaders are kind of left

with this question of, well, we have to-we have to do justice

to-to what our-our dead chief, uh, wanted.

Uh, and for our own credibility,

we have to insist upon unconditional surrender.

But what does that mean, exactly? Unconditional surrender.

It seems simple, but when you start to spin out

all the possible permutations of how a surrender might occur,

uh, it raises, uh, more questions than it answers.

And so, uh, Truman steps into this situation in which we,

you know, we do not have a very clear idea of-of what we expect

from the Japanese in terms of how this surrender will occur.

We do not want to invade those islands.

Uh, we have this new weapon, the atomic bomb.

Uh, Truman, by the way, had not been briefed

on the existence of the atomic bomb,

which seems like an extraordinary oversight.

Um, considering that FDR was in failing health,

his doctors knew he was in failing health.

Uh, and-and yet, uh, Truman was simply not prepared.

He had not been properly briefed.

Uh, and it-it seems like really an extraordinary failure

of, um, just the principles of constitutional government.

And that’s something that I think FDR has to…

His-his legacy has to-has to be charged, uh, with that failure.

Um, but, uh, you know, so-so the counterfactual questions are,

you know, would we have used the atomic bombs

in the way that we use them?

Uh, you know, so-so often the-the question of the atomic bombs

is kind of reduced to a binary.

Should we or shouldn’t we have used them?

I think the harder question is,

should we have used them in the way that we use them?

In particular, should we have dropped them

without any sort of explicit prior warning?

And should we have dropped them on cities

rather than on a military base, at least the first one?

And, um, and-and it’s, you know, you-one can only speculate,

really, because there is so little that FDR said.

There’s so little in the-in the historical record

indicating what his thinking was,

particularly about the use of these weapons.

Um, and yet, uh, I think it’s clear that he would have seen them

as a weapon that should be used

if there was a way to avoid invading Japan.

Um, and yet, uh, would he have consented to drop them on cities

rather than on military targets?

I think that’s a hard question to ask.

I think certainly you could argue that FDR, uh, would have said,

we dropped the first one on a military target.

I’m the commander-in-chief.

I’ve-I’ve said, uh, what we’re doing,

and I’m not taking any backtalk from any of you guys

with-with, uh, Gold, Braid, and Stars.

Certainly, he-he would not have felt any compunction

about ruling directly on the question in that respect,

uh, in a way that Truman, I don’t think, was ready to do that.

That’s the real counterfactual, I think,

is would we have used the bombs in the way that we used them

if F-FDR had lived?

And, uh, you know, as I said, I-I think it’s speculative,

but I think there are some good reasons to believe

that we would not have used them in the way that we used them.

Uh, had, uh, FDR lived through the end of the war.

You know, when you look at the Second World War,

um, you know, you read book- books like Neil Ferguson’s works,

for example, and-and you realize what a-what a large role

race played in the whole thing.

So, in-in Europe, you have the whole master race question

involved in-in Nazi ideology.

In Asia, both sides can be called racist

because the Japanese have-have a sort of a master race philosophy.

The Americans and the, uh, and the British and the French

and the Western powers look upon the Japanese

the way they look upon a lot of different non-white peoples.

Um, how much, and-and there’ve been a lot of good works

lately about the racial aspect, but-but if we were fighting,

and I don’t wanna say fighting Scandinavians,

because basically, everything we did to the Japanese,

we did to the Germans too, in terms of bombing

and everything else, and the atomic bomb was developed

to be dropped on Germany, so, and that’s a…

But-but how much does, do you think now,

if we had more of the, I-I was gonna say racial,

uh, racial tolerance thinking of the sort we have today,

but some would argue about that, but I think it would be

a different war compared to the 1940s, um, views on race

that weren’t just something in the West,

but that most countries had a different view

on, uh, skin color, culture, background, uh, stereotypes,

and all that kinds of stuff. Talk to me a little bit

about the-the race idea in the Pacific Asia theater

in the Second World War.

Yeah, well, I mean, you know, clearly, race-race hatred

was-was at the center of the propaganda

of both the, uh, allies and the Japanese.

Um, and, uh, uh, you know, it was partly the way

that the Japanese had-had conducted themselves

during the war, I think, aroused this peculiar race hatred.

Uh, many of those who would engage

in the most awful sorts of rhetoric.

Uh, I mean, I’m thinking of a-a parade that occurred

in Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in June 1942,

is the same month as the Battle of Midway.

Uh, and it was essentially a parade to celebrate

the city’s, uh, participation, mobilizing for war.

And they had these huge parade floats, uh, which were rats,

uh, and wearing Japanese army uniforms.

Um, and, uh, and you almost have to sort of rub your eyes

when you see these things.

You realize it’s not that long ago,

it’s within living memory, in New York City,

uh, in-in which, really, the most virulent sorts

of, um, metaphors were used.

Um, you know, it was a-it was a different time,

it was a different war.

Uh, many of those who engaged in-in that-that sort of,

uh, you know, racist, uh, rhetoric, uh,

were also genuinely sympathetic to the Chinese,

and saw the Chinese as our allies, and, um,

and-and were moved by the suffering of the Chinese

at the hands of the Japanese.

Um, so, you know, I-I just think I-we’re-we’re all

I-I just think I-one of the under-told stories

just occurring to me now in-in the Pacific

was the role of the Nisei, the Japanese-Americans.

We-we know well that one of the most decorated regiments

in the army was a Japanese-American Hawaiian regiment

that fought in Italy.

Um, but, uh, you had Japanese-Americans

from Hawaii and-and, uh, California

and the West Coast, uh, who were, um, uh,

serving as translators, uh, during these-these battles

in, um, Okinawa and Saipan and the Philippines.

And, uh, there were cases of extraordinary heroism,

uh, on the part of these Americans,

many of whom had their families interned in camps,

uh, back home, who were-would, um, you know,

there’s a-there’s a story of a, uh, you know,

one of these guys who’s really just-his job

is just to be a translator, but, you know,

he grabs a grenade, he goes, he knocks on the, uh,

hatch of a Japanese tank, he addresses them in Japanese,

telling them that he has a message from the colonel,

they open the hatch, he drops a grenade,

and, um, you had, uh, Japanese-American translators

descending into caves in Okinawa,

negotiating for their surrender face-to-face

with people who could easily kill them,

um, volunteering to do this,

not because they were ordered to do it.

Uh, and-and when you-when you, um,

realized that they were making these kinds of sacrifices,

you realize, um, you know, just how perverse it was,

really, for us to have allowed, uh, our own propaganda,

in many cases, to use the kinds of, um, uh, you know,

really repulsive racial stereotypes

and hateful rhetoric that-that we engaged in.

And, you know, I don’t see myself as a prosecutor,

uh, you know, I-I think you have to recognize

that this was a very different time

and very extreme circumstances,

and yet, when you look at that, uh, certainly as an American,

you-you-you sort of wish that we could have done

some of those things differently.

You know, it’s funny, though, those sorts of backdrops

do allow for, uh, some of the more wonderful

human moments to come out.

I’m-I’m reminded there was a,

I think it was in John Tolan’s book,

there was a-a scene during the-the Bataan Death March,

I think it was, where some Japanese officer,

I’m gonna get it wrong here, but-but sees, like,

a class ring on one of the Americans

from, like, Notre Dame or USC or something,

and walks up and embraces them,

because they were there and said, you know,

-“What class were you?” I mean, those moments

where, because you’re in such a hell,

those-those human…

those little human connections

seem to stand out so much more.

Um, and-and, you know, I think about,

and you’d mentioned the-the prisoners of war and all that.

One of the things that, when you talked,

and there are very few of them left, I guess,

but when you talked to-to veterans

from the Second World War,

did you ever notice the difference

in the-in the Pacific veterans, um,

remembrances or attitudes after the war,

and-and the ones in the European theater

or in North Africa or in Italy?

Uh, it just seemed like there was a lot more lingering,

uh, bitterness on the Pacific veterans’ parts,

uh, at least in my experience.

Did you notice that as well?

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

I mean, you know, there were many, many, um,

uh, American and-and I-I think also allied British,

Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, uh, troops,

um, who just never were able to-to, uh,

overcome this kind of deeply felt hatred

for all Japanese and for the entire nation,

uh, of the Japanese.

Interestingly, um, there is a-a real difference

in the way that those troops who served

in the occupation in Japan after the war felt.

And-and I don’t have any survey data.

I mean, you know, if-if there had been some survey data,

I think it would have borne this out

because it’s-it’s-it was a-a fascinating pattern

that I’ve seen in my interviews with hundreds and hundreds

of World War II veterans.

Those who were in Japan after the war

serving with the occupation,

they tended to have a much more nuanced view

of the Japanese and even very warm feelings,

uh, toward the Japanese.

They grasp very quickly, uh, that the way that, um,

the Japanese army had conducted itself on the battlefield,

uh, and the way that many of our prisoners have been treated

was not a reflection of the Japanese people overall,

but were-those were specific crimes

committed by specific people.

And that, uh, ordinary Japanese people had been,

in a sense, victims of the war as well.

That was a-a realization that came much more, uh,

naturally in my experience,

speaking, again, just to many hundreds of veterans,

uh, for those who-who had been served in Japan

after the war, uh, as opposed to those

who had never really set foot in Japan

and had just come straight home from the war.

Yes, well, so just close contact always has the opportunity

for people to get to know one another

on a human level.

Um, so-so, and I-I won’t keep you very much longer,

but I’m curious about, like, how you filter through,

um, the-the Cold War, um, um, um, opaqueness.

So-so, for example, when I was younger,

trying to figure out the role of the emperor in Japan

was always colored by, uh, the needs of the Cold War

and having Japanese cooperation early on.

Um, you know, you had talked also about records

becoming available, and it makes me think

of Chinese records now and-and former Soviet records

that the Russians are releasing.

Um, in-in-in the sense of trying to rewrite the history

of-of the Second World War based on, um, the-the…

What’s the word I’m looking for?

The-the fact that there were, I mean,

let’s-let’s start with Hirohito’s role.

Um, Herbert P. Bix wrote a whole book on Hirohito,

and I remember being amazed how much it conflicted

with, uh, the-the Hirohito as a puppet figure

that I had been taught.

Um, what-what is your view on that?

And how do you-how do you work your way as a-as a researcher

through the deliberate, um, uh, story of the Cold War

that maybe tries to hide some of Hirohito’s, uh, uh,

ability to influence some of these decisions?

Yeah, well, I… You know, I was a boy in Japan.

Um, Dan, I-I was in Japan from, uh, 1978 to 1981.

I was age 11.

Oh, I had no idea.

I was age 11 through 14.

Um, my father was, uh, working for an international bank

in Japan.

And, uh, Hirohito was the emperor then.

And, uh…

That’s right.

We would actually go to the, uh…

We’d go to the Imperial Palace on his birthday.

We’d see him out there, you know, waving to the crowds.

He was a beloved figure.

We had a-a live-in, uh, housekeeper who, you know,

had a photo of him and who spoke of him as, you know,

almost like a personal father figure.

And so, um, you know, all of that is-is very, sort of,

very, sort of, personal and-and, um, you know,

sort of a visceral understanding of…

They really had this-this, um…

He-he was more than a-a king, really.

He was no-no longer a god, uh, and I’m talking about

the period when I was there as a boy.

Um, and yet, there were still these deep feelings

of affection that ordinary Japanese had felt toward him.

And so, you know, clearly, um, the Japanese needed, uh…

I mean, it-it was understood that the-the continuation

of the Imperial House after the war was in our interests

in order to ease the occupation.

Um, when, uh, there were calls for Hirohito to be arrested

as a war criminal, potentially prosecuted along with the-the

other Japanese war criminals at the Tokyo war crimes trials,

uh, um, MacArthur, who opposed this, uh, said to Washington,

uh, listen, if you wanna do this, I need at least

800,000 more troops.


And that quickly put an end to this talk of arresting Hirohito.

And so, uh, there were immediate contingent reasons

why it was clearly the right thing to do

in order to ease this occupation,

or at the same time, to kind of get Japan back on its feet

as a bulwark against communism, because very quickly,

as you say, our concern in Asia and throughout the world

shifted toward-toward holding the Soviet Union back,

and then, of course, China after the Civil War there.

Um, and so, for all of those reasons,

it just made sense to keep Hirohito on his throne

and to make him into a partner.

Um, and again, for those same reasons,

it was not in our interest to expose precisely the degree

to which, uh, he really had played an active role,

uh, in, um, uh, commanding his military forces,

uh, at least after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

His-his role is-is sort of muddled, it’s ambiguous.

He-he resisted the drift toward war,

and then he supported it after it seemed

to go well.

Uh, and so, uh, it was really after his death in 1989

that some of the, uh, documents that exposed this-this greater

role that he had played that Herbert Bix, uh, outlined

in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, he mentioned,

uh, in particular, the document known as the Soliloquy,

which was, um, uh, essentially a series of notes

taken by Hirohito’s private secretary,

in which he had, uh, reminisced about different aspects

of the war, uh, which showed, really, that he had played

this much more active role, um, and, uh, and so, you know,

I-I think it’s-it’s been a process since 1989

for the Japanese to gradually, um, come to understand,

uh, that their emperor, you know, had not been

the person who was presented to them in the mythology,

um, and that’s continuing, and their role

with their imperial house is today very ambiguous.

You’ve had an emperor who’s actually advocated something

that had not happened before, and so, um,

uh, you know, I-I think that often in the West,

we, you know, we-we tend to say the Japanese

simply haven’t faced up to their history.

I think that that-that’s still true to a degree,

but-but, um, it-it often misses the fact

that there has been quite a bit of progress in Japan,

uh, in, um, beginning to-to face up to a greater extent,

uh, to the importance of this history, and-and, um,

you know, now that the eyes of the world are on Tokyo

as the Olympics start, um, you know,

I-I just don’t see any possibility

that in their opening ceremony, they would go back

and try to explain their history, uh,

at least that part of their history.

Uh, but there may-a day may come when-when the Japanese,

a future generation of Japanese, may be more willing,

uh, to sort of examine in a more public way,

uh, what happened in their period of their dark valley,

the 1930s to the-their defeat in 1945.

I think that’s a human thing.

I think-I think most countries in the world

have parts of their population that have a hard time

going back and analyzing painful periods

when maybe the best decisions or the best actions weren’t made.

Uh, before I let you go, is there anything

I didn’t ask you about that you’d like to convey?

The-the-the three-book series is a triumph.

If you haven’t read it, folks, um, we used it extensively.

You have a wonderful way of finding

the best historical anecdotes to-to pepper the story with

that just really, really gives a great sense of the context.

Is there anything, uh, that I didn’t ask you about

that’s worth talking about before I let you go?

You know, something I was just thinking of, Mike,

as I was out walking this morning,

um, you often, in-in your podcast,

you often come up with these-these kinds of metaphors

that no historian would have thought of to make up a point.

Well, for their career’s sake, probably.

Yeah, right.

Well, but often they kind of get to the heart of something.

And-and, um, you know, I-I was just thinking

in the Pacific War, we had, um, what I lay out in the book

as being the cumulative versus the sequential strategies.

Cumulative strategy is essentially the campaign

across the Pacific, island by island, battle by battle.

You can diagram it on the map with arrows.

It’s the march across the Pacific toward Japan.

Then you had the, um, what they called the cumulative strategies,

which were like the submarine war against Japanese shipping

or strategic bombing of Japanese industries and cities.

And these are, rather than discrete battles, uh,

these are-are military actions which have this kind

of cumulative effect of undermining the Japanese, uh,

economy, their ability to wage war.

And one of the fascinating questions, sort of higher order

strategic questions in the Pacific was, uh,

how do you allocate your resources to these two different

ways of fighting this war?

Often your field commanders, uh, really are thinking

only of the next battle.

Um, and-and, uh, one of the things that I think

our-our military eventually did right,

although it took us a while to kind of get-get the hang of it,

uh, was to devote much more effort to this cumulative

sort of attack on the-on the, um, the-the cornerstones

of the Japanese economy and war effort.

And-and so that-that question, you know, how do you allocate

resources between those two very different wars

that are happening at the same time?

Uh, a metaphor, uh, I’m a baseball fan,

and a metaphor occurred to me, which is, you know,

how do you evaluate a baseball player, uh, who may be

a great hitter and a lousy fielder?

Or another, uh, another, um, player who is a great fielder

and only an average hitter?

So what is the-the value of fielding versus, uh, hitting

in-in baseball?

Now, this is something that for many, many years

in the game of baseball, uh, the managers were not getting right

because they didn’t have the data analytics, uh,

to go in and analyze that-that, um, problem in a systematic way

using the data that baseball provides.

And all of that has changed.

Michael Lewis’s Moneyball is probably the best account

of-of this revolution in baseball.

We had a bunch of data analysts who really knew nothing

about baseball, but were very, very good at analyzing data.

Uh, there’s a metaphor there in the way that our military forces

at a high level had to confront this question of how should we

use our forces, should we dedicate them to the cumulative

versus the operational, uh, the, um, sequential strategies?

And, um, and-and eventually, the answer was, uh,

we should be doing a lot more on the cumulative side.

Uh, and that became one of the important factors

that led to a much earlier defeat of-of Japan

than, uh, we had anticipated at the beginning of the war.

That’s fascinating. I would…

The-the connection with Moneyball and the Second World War,

long-term overall strategy.

Ian W. Toll, your work is fantastic.

Thank you so much for coming on the program.

And, uh, I look forward to what’s next.

Any-any hints?

Well, I’m trying-I’m trying my hand at fiction,

I’m sorry to say. Um, I wanted a new challenge.

It’s inevitable.

But I did promise my editor that I eventually would write

a sequel to Six Frigates, so that’s on deck.

All right, fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time.

We really appreciate it.

Thank you, Dan.

That was a ton of fun.

My thanks to Ian Toll for coming on the program.

I don’t know when you’re gonna get this,

but, uh, his three-book boxed set will either be out

by the time you hear me, or, um, soon afterwards.

It includes Pacific Crucible, The Conquering Tide,

and Twilight of the Gods.

And he has a lot of other books as well, so check him out.

If you like what we do, I bet you’ll enjoy

what he does as well.

Just a reminder, keep your eyes peeled.

We should have a-an interview with him

at the end of the week.

Keep your eyes peeled.

We should have a-an interview with an author

on a very different subject

in the not-too-distant future come out.

Two hits in quick succession to make up

for the long delay between offerings.

Thanks for your patience, and as always,

um, thank you for everything, folks.

Support us with Patreon by going to patreon.com

forward slash Dan Carlin,

or go to our donate page at dancarlin.com

forward slash dc-donate.

Have you ever been on a battlefield tour?

You know what I’m talking about, right?

You-you go to a famous battlefield

and you take the tour.

And there’s a very knowledgeable tour guide,

and they-they walk you around

with the rest of the tour group,

and they show you the battlefield from,

you know, a-a soldier’s eye perspective.

Show you the salient, uh, historical points of interest,

gives you a sense of what was going on

on the ground back during the battle.

I mean, they’re really wonderful,

and if you get a chance to do that, you should.

Those of you who’ve been lucky enough to go on

one of those things, or maybe if you’re really lucky,

two of those things, we’ll vouch for how helpful they are

into really giving you a sense of what was going on

that no book can really match, for example.

Well, during the COVID pandemic,

I was contacted by a group of people who do this.

They’re battlefield tour guides and military historians,

and they take people, uh, around places like

the First World War battlefields in France, right?

Well, when the pandemic hit, though,

like so many other businesses,

they were up a creek without a paddle, weren’t they?

What are you gonna do if you’re a battlefield tour guide,

and there’s no tourists, because of the pandemic?

So, like many other businesses around the world,

they took a look at their business and retooled it,

and restructured it, and reimagined it.

And the way they reimagined it,

I’m tempted to say it’s better than the original,

although, you know, few things beat a good battlefield tour.

And they still do that on the ground live,

but now they do it virtually as well.

And it’s so exciting, because you may know,

I get involved in things like immersive experiences

and virtual reality, and all these ways,

uh, that I think are key sparks for people

to get interested in history, beyond the names,

beyond the dates, appetizers, right?

That’s what I always say in the podcast,

is to an appetizer to history.

Well, the folks over at Battle Guide Virtual Tours

are doing this, too. They’ve turned their tours,

which they, as I said, still do live, into virtual events.

Combine on-the-ground footage with the expert,

you know, the historian, or the battlefield tour guide,

add drone footage, period footage,

the voices of veterans mixed in there.

Archival film footage. I mean, a truly interactive

and, um, fascinating sort of an affair.

And if you catch it live, by the way,

you get to ask questions as though you were actually there.

Now, if you’re doing this in real life,

these are prohibitively expensive things,

unless you live near the battlefield.

But because it’s been turned into a virtual tour,

this becomes affordable for almost everybody.

And these guys are offering the tours in one-off choices.

I mean, you can go look at their catalog

and pick any one you want, just buy that.

Or you could subscribe, and for a lower price per episode,

get access to everything they have

and everything they’re continually adding.

I think it’s really cool.

I love this as a way to sort of democratize

for people all over the world,

this battlefield tour experience.

And think about it this way, there are places

that a lot of people get to. I mean, you know,

getting a trip to France is not all that unusual,

but there are battlefields in these guys’ archives,

or soon to be, that are in places

that are very difficult for most people to get to.

So, a virtual tour may be the best choice for everyone.

Check it out, though. They’re offering a free one,

if you want to see what we’re talking about here.

They’re confident that you’ll see it and want more, right?

So, just go to battleguide.co.uk forward slash carlin,

battleguide.co.uk forward slash carlin,

and, you know, add one of those battlefield tours

to your shopping cart, and then you’ll get the discount,

you’ll get to see it for free, and then you can decide

if you like it enough to buy more.

But I’ll tell you something, this is one of those things

where I’m comfortable telling you about it,

because I’m… This is the kind of thing I’m all over, right?

Virtual tours of battlefields by experts,

utilizing all this technology,

and any cool thing that comes down the pike

probably going to be added to these offerings, too.

Check it out, Battle Guide Virtual Tours.

Everything from the Napoleonic Wars

to the modern-day stuff, specialized in First

and Second World War history.

It’s, um…

Well, I think it’s the future, to be honest,

of battlefield tours, and I hope you like what you see.