" A mistake in translation may have triggered the atom bombing of Hiroshima. There is evidence that the word 'mokusatsu' used by the Japanese government in response to the US surrender ultimatum was translated as 'ignore' instead of its correct meaning 'withhold comment until a decision has been made"
(Cutlip, Center and Broom, 1985).
(1) Postdam Declaration on July 26 1945 to define the terms of Japanese surrender.
(2) "On July 27, the Japanese government considered how to respond to the Declaration. The four military members of the Big Six wanted to reject it, but Togo persuaded the cabinet not to do so until he could get a reaction from the Soviets. In a telegram, Kase Shunichi, Japan's ambassador to Switzerland, observed that unconditional surrender applied only to the military and not to the government or the people, and he pleaded that it should be understood that the careful language of Potsdam appeared "to have occasioned a great deal of thought" on the part of the signatory governments—"they seem to have taken pains to save face for us on various points." The next day, Japanese paper reported that the Declaration, the text of which had been broadcast and dropped on leaflets into Japan, had been rejected. In an attempt to manage public perception, Prime Minister Suzuki met with the press, and stated,
"I consider the Joint Proclamation a rehash of the Declaration at the Cairo Conference. As for the Government, it does not attach any important value to it at all. The only thing to do is just kill it with silence (mokusatsu) it. We will do nothing but press on to the bitter end to bring about a successful completion of the war"[...]The meaning of the word mokusatsu, literally "kill with silence", is not precise; it can range from 'ignore' to 'treat with contempt'—which actually described fairly accurately the range of effective reactions within the government. However, Suzuki's statement, particularly its final sentence, leaves little room for misinterpretation and was taken as a rejection by the press, both in Japan and abroad, and no further statement was made in public or through diplomatic channels to alter this understanding. [...] On July 30, Ambassador Sato wrote that Stalin was probably talking to the Western Allies about his dealings with Japan.
"There is no alternative but immediate unconditional surrender if we are to prevent Russia's participation in the war. ... Your way of looking at things and the actual condition in the Soviet Union may be seen as being completely contradictory." [...]On August 2, Togo wrote to Sato, " ... However, it should not be difficult for you to realize that ... our time to proceed with arrangements of ending the war before the enemy lands on the Japanese mainland is limited, on the other hand it is difficult to decide on concrete peace conditions here at home all at once. "
At 04:00 on August 9, word reached Tokyo that the Soviet Union had broken the neutrality pact, declared war on Japan and launched an invasion of Manchuria. [wiki ref here - basically the Soviets had no intention to lobby for Japan].
But what did the Japanese statement really mean ? It seems many articles were written about this such as for example William J. Coughlin (1953) says " the statement announced that the Cabinet had taken a stance of mokusatsu, which can be translated as either “making no comment on” or “ignoring” something. According to the article, when the statement was issued, Japan’s media construed the message to mean that the Cabinet was ignoring the ultimatum, while the intended message was that comment was being withheld pending an announcement. The article investigates Japan’s rebuffed attempts to get the Soviet Union to mediate a peace, the internal debate within the Japanese government over surrender, and the intent of the Cabinet’s message. The author asserts that Suzuki’s ambiguous choice of wording led directly to the United States government’s subsequent use of the atomic bomb against Japan."
This week was the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, was this slaughter necessary to stop the war or was it an expression of a bigger ego and a chance to try the scientific feat and achieve world dominance ?
I know the Japanese were not the 'good' side here but I'm not sure about the H- bomb being so good either. (18-8-07 It is the A- bomb sorry and thanks for all those who pointed my mistake in the comment section).
If you want to read a brief chronology of the Japanese surrender please click here. If you are interested in more debate about translation of mokusatsu with which you may agree more than what is stated above click here.
I simply find this theory fascinating. If there was a time machine would events have gone differently?