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Interrogation Nav 75, Admiral Soemu Toyoda

Editor's Note: The following content is a transcription of a period document or a collection of period statistics. It may be incomplete, inaccurate, or biased. The reader may not wish to take the content as factual.

13 Nov 1945


TOYODA, Soemu, Admiral, I.J.N.

Highly intelligent and widely informed, TOYODA was one more of the group of senior naval officers who apparently made strong efforts to prevent war with the UNITED STATES. He was an excellent contact for discussion of high level planning and operations. On the subject of Army policies and cooperation he became a very severe critic, and with a first rate presentation of his case.

He understood, but did not speak English.

Commanding Officer, KURE Naval DistrictSeptember 1941-November 1942
Member, Supreme War CouncilNovember 1942
Commanding Officer, YOKOSUKA Naval DistrictMay 1943-May 1944
CinC Combined FleetMay 1944-May 1945
CinC Overall Naval CommandMay 1945
Chief of Naval General StaffMay 1945-End of War



13-14 November 1945

Personnel interrogated and background of each:

Interrogation of: Admiral TOYODA, Soemu; September 1941, CinC KURE NavSta; November 1942 appointed Supreme Military Counsellor, residing in TOKYO. May 1943 became CinC YOKOSUKA NavSta. May 1944 became CinC Combined Fleet succeeding Admiral KOGA when latter was killed. May 1945 appointed Chief of Naval General Staff; later post superseded by position of Chief, Naval Combined Forces, September 1945 which he held until dissolution of that organization 15 October 1945.

Interrogated by: Rear Admiral R.A. OFSTIE, USN; Maj. Gen. O.A. ANDERSON, USA; Lt. Comdr. W. WILDS, USNR.

Allied Personnel Present: Mr. P.H. NITZE, Vice Chairman, USSBS; Captain T.J. HEDDING, USN; Lt. Comdr. J.A. FIELD, Jr., USNR.


Admiral TOYODA discusses the influence of the Japanese Army in politics and the implications of this influence in the history of Japanese expansion, the strategy and economics of the basic Japanese plan for war against the UNITED STATES, the question of implication of the armed forces, and the consideration of the surrender question at Imperial Conferences in the summer of 1945.


Q. (Admiral Ofstie) Throughout the war were your positions such that you were fully informed on the progress of the war, on the plans and policies under discussion in the Supreme Council, Imperial Headquarters, by the General Staffs, etc.?

A. In the Japanese Navy, the commandants of the various fleets and the various Naval Stations, while they received instructions from Central Headquarters regarding operations, are not consulted on matters of fundamental policy; and, therefore, from the beginning of the war I was not consulted on those matters by the TOKYO headquarters.

Q. I assume, however, that you were thoroughly familiar with the Japanese War Plan, their National War policy for the Greater East ASIA War; is that correct?

A. I may be wrong as to the exact date, but I believe it was on 5 November 1941 that the Commander-in-Chiefs of the various Naval Stations and minor Naval Stations were brought together in TOKYO and were given an explanation regarding our plans for operations in the event of war against the UNITED STATES. No opportunity was given us, however, to make any comments on those plans or to suggest modifications.

Q. Admiral, would you say that in the preparation of the basic war plans there appeared to be full understanding and agreement on the part of the Army as well as the Navy?

A. No. I regret to say that such was not the situation. Because the Army had great political power, if the Navy were to endeavor to get all that it desired, it would encounter certain difficulties. Such was the situation not only during the war but prior to the beginning of the war.

Q. To go slightly further--as an example, when the basic war plan was changed and it was decided to somewhat expand the immediate objective by going into the ALEUTIANS, SOLOMONS, MIDWAY, was that change agreed to or given consideration by the Army and a satisfactory accord reached?

A. Having been in KURE at the time, I was not in a position to have knowledge as to the Navy's basic policy or the question of cooperation with the Army upon such points.

Q. But still, when a major change, such as the decision to go into the ALEUTIANS, to go into the SOLOMONS and to PORT MORESBY, to land on MIDWAY, was made, surely such a matter would have been rather widely discussed between the services, wouldn't it?

A. Of course, I think that discussion between the services on points of such importance took place as a matter of course, but as I was not in TOKYO at the time, but in KURE, I do not know how those discussions took place or were carried out. of course I had definite personal opinions of my own regarding these questions when they were made known to me, but no chance was given to me to forward such opinions to Central Headquarters.

Q. Admiral, what do you consider, just briefly, were the Japanese war aims?

A. I, of course had an opinion of my own as to what the war aims probably were. There was undoubtedly other opinion on the part of the general public, and war aims as held by the Government have been clarified; but I did not at any time give expression to what I considered to be the war aim of our country. From my official position I made no statement regarding war aims.

Q. What was your understanding of the Government's position as to war aims?

A. It is very difficult for me to give a definite opinion of my own as to what the Government's war aim probably was for the reason that I feel now and felt at the time that the country could have avoided the war if it had tried hard enough.

Q. What steps do you think might have been taken that were not taken that might have avoided the war?

A. Our country needed at the time to avoid war, the presence of a strong and wise statesman who could have led the country at the time.

There is great doubt in my mind as to whether the Government that was in power at the beginning of the war should alone be held responsible for the war that the war started. I wonder whether we should not go back farther, even to the Manchurian Incident when the situation in the country became such that it was virtually impossible for the situation in the country as envisaged by our EMPEROR to be made known to the rest of the World. I believe I understand the object of your interrogation, but there is one point upon which I must secure understanding and that is the fact that, from early days, it has been my conviction that soldiers and sailors should not mix in politics; and that is, in fact, one of the important points brought out in the EMPEROR's rescript to the military and Navy. That has always been my conviction, that nothing can come from combination of political and military power in one and the same hands.

It was about the time that I became a Rear Admiral that the Manchurian incident broke out, and ever since that time I have been telling my young officers my conviction on that point. For that reason, although of course I have personal opinions regarding this war, I question whether it would coincide with views of others. It probably would not, and for that reason I doubt whether an expression of my personal opinion on the various phases of the war would be of much value to you.

Q. From an earlier statement, however, I gathered that you felt the Army was very much in politics, much more so than the Navy, if the Navy was at all. Is that correct?

A. I do not hesitate to state definitely that such was the case; namely, that the Army did participate in politics and that is not a recent phenomenon. It goes back considerably into the past. tracing as far back as the MEIJI era. I can see from the way in which the Army played a part, even in the formation of the cabinets, that the political activity of the Army went back many years into the past.

Q. In other words, the Army had a profound influence on national policies. It that a correct statement?

A. I think so.

Q. Did that influence extend to a point where it had a direct effect upon naval operations; such, for example, as pushing expansion in certain directions, using submarines to supply troops in the field, use of naval strength primarily for objectives which the Army selected? In other words, did they interfere with strictly naval responsibilities?

A. In the field of military equipment, I think we felt the effect of the Army's influence to a considerable extent, but in matters of operations the cooperation between the two services was quite satisfactory, with a few exceptions perhaps.

Q. In the early stages of the war, what was the opinion of the highest echelons as to the probable major threat to the success of its plan? Was from forces in CHINA, was it the possibility of the Russians coming into MANCHURIA, was it down in the AUSTRALIA-NEW GUINEA Area--the American forces there--or was it the U.S. forces in the east, in the early part of the war?

A. Of course, as already stated, I had no part in the laying down of the war plans in central headquarters, but I personally felt that our biggest objective was of course the American Naval and Air Force.

Q. The threat from the east or from the southeast? This was at the beginning of the war when a perimeter has been established and which JAPAN faced all the war around. At some point there was possibly the greatest threat.

A. felt the biggest threat was the action of the American Navy coming across the PACIFIC.

Q. To what extent do you consider that operations of the Army in CHINA reduced or otherwise affected JAPAN's ability to defend herself from the attack from the east which you mention?

A. Of course I do not know much about the Army as such, but I have always felt that it was a great mistake to try to carry on, at the same time, war against the UNITED STATES and war against CHINA on the Asiatic Continent; and I felt that we should liquidate the war with CHINA even at some sacrifice.

Q. if the major threat, again, was from the American Navy from the east, then the major responsibility for meeting that threat rested with the Japanese Navy. Is that a fair statement?

A. Yes, such was my opinion, and I believe that feeling was shared by the naval authorities in TOKYO Headquarters; and I have heard that there were officers in our Navy who expressed the opinion that around the time that the operations were being carried on around NEW GUINEA that we could not carry out those operations with maximum success unless all the Japanese aircraft, including those of the Army, were placed at the disposal of the Japanese Navy.

Q. Did this general situation continue for a considerable period? Did it continue after the MARSHALLS Operation, after SAIPAN, after the PHILIPPINES: or was there a change in the relative importance of the threat--that is, of the U.S. Navy threat? Did that at some time become less important?

A. Yes, taking the whole period of the war, my feeling is that the American surface forces were our principal threat. That is not to overlook the effect of the U.S. Air Force, but even that was made effective only through the cooperation of the American Naval Task Force. So while there might have been exceptions locally in isolated spots, taking the whole area of the PACIFIC, I think that the U.S. surface forces constituted our main threat. Toward the end of the war, particularly after the loss of the PHILIPPINES, it became more or less clear that we could not successfully use our naval forces against the American naval forces; so that, especially just prior to the conclusion of the war, we decided that the only way to combat the American Fleet was by what we termed "bleeding" operations, should American forces endeavor to make a landing either on JAPAN proper--HONSHU--or on some nearby island.

Q. In following the progress of the war as you saw it, what would you say, in just a few words if it can so be done, were the chief causes for the inability of JAPAN to carry out her war aims?

A. On the material side, the fact that our country was woefully weak, lacking resources. On the spiritual side, I should say that the biggest hindrance was the fact that people were not told what this war was actually for, and for that reason they were not able to really put themselves into the war effort.

Q. From the standpoint of the UNITED STATES, what was the principal force you might say that resulted in Japan's inability to carry out her war aims?

A. On the American side I should say that it was the fact that you had adequate raw materials, bountiful resources, and tremendous production capacity, and the fact that production plans were carried out very much according to schedule. I recall that when I left TOKYO to take over command of the Combined Fleet I made one request of the Navy Minister, and that was the fact that he should promise that all the ships, all the planes, and other supplies which were promised to the Combined Fleet under the Naval Plan should be carried out to the letter; that if he felt that it was impossible to go through with the number designated in the plan, to change the plan. For instance, if he thought it was going to be difficult to let the Combined Fleet have ten planes, don't pout ten planes down but reduce that to five, but be sure to come through with the five planes. But as it turned out, the Navy Minister was not able to carry out that promise, not because of lack of will to do so but because production simply did not keep up with the plan.

Q. Then to go a little further along the same line, lack of production has many causes. What would you ascribe the principle reason for the lack of that production?

A. It is difficult to point to any one thing as the reason for failure in production because there are many and each, I think operates to affect the others in more or less of a vicious circle, but if I have to name one, I would point out lack of raw materials and natural resources. It was, of course, impossible to supply our production plants with raw materials from JAPAN proper, CHINA and MANCHURIA. That was evident from the first, and it was for that reason that our Army and Navy extended their insufficient force over such a broad area, along battle lines all out of proportion to our strength in men, in order to obtain raw materials from the south, but as it turned out, that was simply taking in too much territory with the strength that we had in that area.

Q. What was the principal reason why you couldn't get those raw materials to your country from the south?

A. The main reason, I think was that we did not have a sufficient number of ships to begin with, and such as we had, we suffered heavy damage owing to your submarines and air action.

Q. As major items in the position that you came to, what would you say were the primary causes? Was it the loss of shipping, was it the severe damage to the fleet strength, was it loss of air power, was it blockade by air and submarines, or was it bombing of the homeland?

A. Beginning this year, I think the biggest cause of fall in production, especially in aircraft and air material, was the effect of your bombing on the domestic plants--factories--in JAPAN proper; but as regards the effects on our war strength on the whole, I think the greatest effect was felt after all by the lack of ships and consequent inability to bring material from the south. Along that line also there were periods in the war when there was not a lack of material in JAPAN, but they could not be moved from one place to another owing to lack of transportation facilities. In other words, various causes affected one another to bring down the general fall in production level.

Q. Now, considering all factors--the lack of production and the condition of the fleet and your position with respect to air strength--at what point in the war did you realize the probability that the war could not be successfully continued? Is there some one point, some action, some operation?

A. I felt it was difficult from the very beginning, but I think what might be termed the turning point was the Battle of MIDWAY. Our losses there had a very serious effect upon us, together with the fact that we used very much fuel at that time, more than we had expected would be necessary; and the effect of that was felt right through afterwards. When I came to Central Headquarters as Chief of the Naval Staff this year and was informed of the situation prevailing then with regard to aircraft, aviation fuel, heavy oil for surface units, I realized more than ever, then, that continuation of the war under such conditions was extremely difficult. I believe the turning point, in so far as the fuel situation was concerned--that is, the period after which our fuel situation became extremely acute--was our loss of the PHILIPPINES to your forces, because after that you had control of air and sea over South CHINA and completely cut off our shipping lanes to the south.

Q. What was the first time when the movements of the fleet were definitely restricted by lack of fuel?

A. The fleet fuel situation became very acute early in this year. Our surface units were restricted even as to their training activities, and any large-scale operation requiring heavy supplies of fuel became almost out of the question. On 7-8 April of this year when the battleship YAMATO was sent with a dozen or more destroyers into OKINAWA, we questioned whether there was a 50-50 chance. Even in getting that squadron together we had a very difficult time getting the necessary 2,500 tons of fuel oil together. But it was felt that, even if there was not a 50-50 chance, nothing was to be gained by letting those ships lie idle in home waters, and besides it would have been contrary to the tradition of the Japanese Navy not to have sent them, even though we could not clearly perceive they had a 50-50 chance of success. That is how acute the fuel situation was in the early part of this year.

Q. What was the situation, let's say, one year preceding that? Were you free to move your fleet about?

A. No, I would not say that we had adequate fuel supplies a year before. I took over the Combined Fleet in May of the preceding year. At that time, however, we had access to the oil in BORNEO and SUMATRA. We were able to obtain supplies directly from the south; so while the stock of oil was almost sufficient for purposes of a fleet, the difficulty was in tankers. I had asked for and obtained approximately 80,000 tons of tankers for fleet use, but we began to suffer damages through submarine operations; and by the time of the SAIPAN operation, the greatest hindrance to the drafting of the operation plans was the fact that we did not have sufficient tankers to support it.

Q. Again with regard to the SAIPAN or the MARIANAS Operations, did the original A-GO Plan contemplate the use of the fleet in defense of the MARIANAS?

A. Yes, use of the fleet was included in those plans from the beginning. But while the possibility of your offensive against the MARIANAS was not ignored or belittled, we thought the probability would be that your attack would be directed more against PALAU, and that was the reason for our adoption of the A-GO Operation Plan, which was more to our advantage because of the shorter distance involved and would eliminate the need of tankers to some extent, which was, as already stated, our greatest handicap.

Q. But if the attacks did come to the MARIANAS, it was intended to employ the fleet from the beginning?

A. Yes, it was intended from the first that if your attack should be directed toward MARIANAS we would have to use the fleet.

Q. Now, in coordination of the effort of the fleet and of the shore-based air, both of which stemmed up to you, what means did you have for quickly coordinating the operations of the two forces at SAIPAN?

A. Cooperation between the land-based air forces and the fleet was extremely difficult. Because of the difficulty of communication, for the two commanders to meet on land was practically out of the question. Staff officers were sometimes dispatched to joint meetings and in some cases staff officers were sent from naval General Staff Headquarters to the headquarters of the land-based air forces; but generally speaking, failure to maintain close communication throughout was one of the main difficulties in the way of adequate cooperation between the two forces. Our communication method had not been developed to the stage where, for instance, surface units could intercept or receive messages from land-based aircraft. One reason for the difficulty in communications was the low efficiency of communications equipment.

Q. Now, in connection with the SHO-GO Operations in the defense of the PHILIPPINES, when did you estimate that our attack there would arrive, and did we arrive in advance of your estimate and with what consequences?

A. I expected that your attack against the PHILIPPINES would commence around August or September, and my expectations in that respect were correct; that is just about when the operations did begin. In regard to the A-GO Operation, we expected the attack May; but the actual attack came about a month later, in June. I stated that I expected your offensive against the PHILIPPINES would commence around August or September; that is not to say that we were prepared at the time to meet that offensive, for the reason that our forces, both Army and Navy, had lost practically all their supporting aircraft at the various operations and it took anywhere from four to five months to replenish the lost aircraft. Since the SAIPAN Operation had taken place in June and July, we were not prepared to start the SHO-GO Operation before October or November; but I felt that you would not wait that long, instead that you would commence your operation against the Philippines around August or September.

Q. In the SHO-GO Operations again, what losses were you willing to take in the fleet against what gains> In other words, what were you prepared to trade there--losses and gains?

A. As already stated, our Task Force and our air squadron were not ready for operation at the time that your campaign began. We felt that to take the Task Force into LEYTE was to take a big gamble; and while it would not be accurate to say that we were influenced by public opinion, questions were beginning to be asked at home as to what the Navy was doing after loss of one point after another down south, such as MARIANAS and BIAK. So, after having consulted headquarters in TOKYO and having obtained their consent, it was decided to take this gamble and to send the whole fleet into the PHILIPPINE Operations. A part of the fleet at the time was in home waters. That was rushed south in a hurry to take part in this operation with the rest of the fleet, and it was our plant that part of the fleet should be used in an endeavor to draw your Task Force up north; but since without the participation of our Combined Fleet there was no possibility of the land-based forces in the PHILIPPINES having any chance against your forces at all, it was decided to send the whole fleet, taking the gamble. if things went well, we might obtain unexpectedly good results; but if the worst should happen, there was a chance that we would lose the entire fleet. But I felt that that chance had to be taken.

Q. Was the use of the northern force, which you mentioned as a decoy, planned from the beginning or was it a decision of the moment depending upon conditions present?

A. No, that was not a part of the basic plan originally laid down, but it was adopted when the news came that landings had begun in LEYTE. It was not a part of the original SHO-GO Operation Plan.

Q. About the middle of October, we were told that certain numbers of aircraft from Carrier Divisions 3 and 4 were sent to FORMOSA to be land-based. What information was that based on? What was the reason for that?

A. The reason for that order was that many of the pilots had not received sufficient training and therefore, while they could take off from carriers, were not able to successfully always get back to the carrier. THerefore, it was decided to order them to join the land-based force at FORMOSA.

Q. What was Admiral KURITA's mission? Was it to destroy the American Task Force, or the transports, or attack the beachhead? What specific mission; and, also, were there any restrictions placed on him by you, whether specific or implied, as to what losses he could take there? How far could he go in the operation?

A. Admiral KURITA's mission was complete destruction of the transports in LEYTE Bay. In the orders there was no restriction as to damage that he might take. The situation was that, on the afternoon of the 24th, the Second Fleet suffered considerable damage from your air force, so they started to turn back while in the Strait. Thereupon I sent an order from the Combined Fleet worded something like this: "Advance counting on Divine Assistance." The meaning of that order was, while to does not appear in the wording of the orders, that damage could not be limited or reduced by turning back, so advance even thought the fleet should be completely lost. That was my feeling when sending that order; consequently I am safe in saying that the Second Fleet was not restricted in any way as to the damage it might suffer.

The reason for my determination when sending that order was the fact that should we lose in the PHILIPPINES operations, even though the fleet should be left, the shipping lane to the south would be completely cut off so that the fleet, if it should come back to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel supply. If it should remain in southern waters, it could not receive supplies of ammunition and arms. There would be no sense in saving the fleet at the expense of the loss of the PHILIPPINES. That was my reason for that order.

Q. Then why did Admiral KURITA turn back? What reason did he give in his report to you for turning back and not having gone into the Gulf?

A. The Headquarters of the Combined Fleet at the time was located in JAPAN, and in this operation, as in other operations, while the Headquarters of Combined Fleet indicates the general aim in respect to certain operation plans, questions of detail are left to the local commanding officers. It must have been that Admiral KURITA decided that to advance into the Gulf from that point would not be productive of the results anticipated; consequently, he decided to withdraw.

Q. Under the circumstances as they are now known, in your opinion what that decision of KURITA to turn back a correct one?

A. Looking back on it now, I think that withdrawal was not a mistake. At the time I did not have and Combined Fleet Headquarters did not have information regarding the details of the engagement. Later, when we learned that Admiral HALSEY's Task Force was further south than we thought it was, I believe that Admiral KURITA then would have been within the range of air attack from your Task Force, so that it was not unwise for him to have turned back at that time.

Q. You would not criticize his action now in turning back?

A. I would not criticize.

Q. Considering the operation as a whole--the movement of Admiral NISHIMURA's force through SURIGAO and Admiral KURITA's through SAN BERNARDINO and the employment of Admiral OZAWA in the north--what would you say was the primary cause for the lack of success in that operation?

A. Our weakness in air, and to that I wish to add the failure of the operation was due also to, really a part of the same answer, the fact that the pilots under Admiral OZAWA were not sufficiently trained.

One unexpected result of the decision to send the Second Fleet into LEYTE Gulf was the appearance of the so-called Special Attack Air Corps. That is not to say that the Special Attack Corps were organized then on the spur of the moment. The matter had been talked over among members of air units, not only among staff officers but even among pilots themselves. It had been under consideration because of the feeling that the method of special attack was the only one likely to prove successful in view of the insufficient training which most of these pilots had received. When the news came to the land air forces that the Second Fleet was being sent into LEYTE Gulf, Admirals ONISHI and FUKUDOME, in command respectively of the First and Second Air Fleets, decided that if the surface units are taking such desperate measures we too must take similarly desperate measures, and started the first operation of the so-called Special Attack Force. This was in some ways a somewhat unexpected result from the entry of the Second Fleet into LEYTE. The First and Second Air Fleets were at the time stationed in the PHILIPPINES.

Q. What were the basic reasons for the failure or success of that operation, not the Special Attack, but the whole fleet operation?

A. The fact that we were drawn into the engagement before we were fully prepared, combined with insufficient training of the fleet itself and air weakness as already pointed out.

Q. You mentioned the status of the Special Attack Forces there; what was their objective, the destruction of what--ships or shore points? What was the purpose of the attack by the Special Attack Corps?

A. The principal objective of the Navy's Special Attack Units was your aircraft carriers, while the principal objectives of the Army Special Attack Units were your Task Forces when close by, but more your landing points and transports.

Q. (Lt. Comdr. Wilds) You referred early in the conversation to the threat which you considered our Navy represented from the east early in the war, after JAPAN had filled in her perimeter. How would you evaluate that threat as between carriers, or surface fleet, or amphibious operations?

A. Early in the war I think the submarines were the part of the UNITED STATES Navy which I considered the greatest threat.

Q. Will you, then, elaborate as to the relative threat in your opinion that the carrier force and the surface fleet and our potential amphibious capabilities represented?

A. In positive offensive operations, I agree that aircraft carriers are indispensable, and in landing operations, even land-based air force is not sufficient without the cooperation of the surface Task Force units; so in that sense, I evaluate surface Task Forces very highly, especially where the landing is to be made beyond the range of land-based air units. So we felt that if we could deal a serious blow to your surface Task Force, that would widen the gap between your landing attempts and also shorten the distance between the stepping stones by which you made the advance toward JAPAN.

Q. In considering JAPAN's inability to stabilize and hold the perimeter which had been almost achieved in the first six months of the war, what factors would you say were accountable? That is, was it a lack of bases of sufficient size to build up necessary strength or was it inability to supply the bases? Was it a logistics problem, in other words?

A. I think there was a mistake at the top from the very beginning as to the nature of modern warfare. It a little closer study had been made of the Second World War as it started in EUROPE, especially in the fighting going on between ENGLAND and GERMANY around the MEDITERRANEAN, the fighting that meant so much consumption of material, and if we had laid our plans from the beginning with some sounder ideas as to the nature of modern war in mind, it might have been different. We had at the beginning only 6,000,000 tons of ship bottom, and once the war started, the plan adopted wax to build a million tons annually. That was a puny figure as compared to the amount actually needed, and the same applied as to the other consumption materials, armaments, etc.; entirely too small a scale.

Q. Would you say then that the plan executed by JAPAN was in excess of her capability?

A. As already stated, even the plans that were laid could not be carried out; but the plans to begin with, I think were not accordance with the need of the war.

Q. How did the Japanese Navy expect to end the war? What were its specific expectations concerning the end of the war?

A. I can hardly make a clear statement as to what the Navy expected at the beginning of the war, as I was not in a position where I could acquire such information.

Q. Did you participate in any Imperial Conferences concerning the termination of the war?

A. Yes, after May of this year when I took over as head of the Naval General Staff, I attended Imperial meetings to the end of the war.

Q. Will you please enumerate those meetings and summarize the discussions and decisions reached?

A. I arrived in TOKYO in my new position May 19. Prior to that, I believe beginning in May, members of the Supreme War Guidance Council had been discussing ways and means whereby the war might be terminated. This so-called Supreme War Guidance Council is composed of six members: The Prime Minister, War Minister, Navy Minister, Foreign Minister, Chief of the Naval General Staff, and Chief of the Army General Staff. The meetings of this group were held on:

6 JUNE, the six members--in addition to the six members, there were numerous others present, including Chief Secretary of the Cabinet, Chief of the Naval Bureau of Military Affairs, also of the Army Bureau of Military Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and Chief of the Cabinet Research Bureau--discussed what steps should be taken relative to the prosecution of this war. The conclusion of that meeting was that unless some radical measure could be adopted to arouse the people, the nation's war power was bound to decline very rapidly. That is not to say that anyone there expressed the opinion that we should ask for peace; for when a large number of people are present like that, it is difficult for any one member to say that we should so entreat. So the decision was that something must be done to continue this war.

Two days later on 8 JUNE, practically the same members held another meeting, this time in the presence of the Emperor. There was no discussion but merely a report of what had taken place at the prior meeting on the 6th. Independent of these official meetings of the Supreme War Guidance Council, the same six members which constituted the Council were holding meetings with the view to obtaining the services of Soviet RUSSIA at an opportune time. The Foreign Minister was taking a leading part in this and the matter had already been presented to Ambassador MELIK in TOKYO; and at the same time our Ambassador SATO in MOSCOW had been instructed by the Foreign Minister to prepare the ground there for the dispatch of the special ambassador for the purpose from TOKYO to MOSCOW. However, these negotiations, both in TOKYO and in MOSCOW, made no satisfactory headway, and some 20 days passed after the commencement of the negotiations, but nothing was accomplished.

On 26 JUNE, The Emperor called these six members of the Supreme War Guidance Council into his presence and stated that, while it was of course necessary to keep on pushing this war, it was necessary at the same time, in view of the domestic situation, to consider the possibility of bringing the war to a conclusion. What did the members of the Council think of that idea? In reply to the Emperor, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Navy Minister stated that they concurred fully with the Imperial view and that such steps were now being taken to that end. Then the Emperor in turn asked when the Ministers expected to be able to send a special Ambassador to MOSCOW. The reply given was that the date was not certain but hoped that he would be sent before the POTSDAM Conference should be held.

On JULY 10, the Emperor suddenly called our Foreign Minister and stated, "As it is now early July, should not our special ambassador be dispatched to MOSCOW without delay?" The situation was that the Russian Ambassador to TOKYO was reported ill and the Foreign Office was having difficulty in maintaining contact with the Russian embassy here, so it was decided to send instructions to our Ambassador in MOSCOW to propose to submit to the Russian Government our proposal to send a special ambassador there. Our Ambassador SATO in MOSCOW approached the Vice Commissar of Foreign Affairs with this proposal, and when asked, "For what purpose are you sending the Ambassador--to ask us to intervene with a view to bringing about peace?", our Ambassador replied that such was the case. That was about the 13th of July that this conversation took place in MOSCOW, and the answer given was that since STALIN and MOLOTOV were both about to depart for POTSDAM, they promised to give an answer upon their return to MOSCOW.

The actual answer that our Government did get from MOSCOW on 8 August was breaking of diplomatic relations with JAPAN, that was the answer. Thus, our efforts to bring the war to an end with the intervention of RUSSIA ended in a flat failure. There were only two people in all of the Navy who had any knowledge of the discussions relating to intervention of RUSSIA; namely, the Navy Minister and the Chief of the Naval General Staff. It may be that, since frequent conferences were being held, some of the others high up in the Navy Department might have had some suspicions; and because I, myself, felt that such might be the case, I stated to my Deputy Chief of Naval General Staff that, although conversations were being carried out relative to the conclusion of the war, that was not an affair with which officers should be concerned. Only with the prosecution of the war should they be concerned at all, for, for them to consider questions of peace would serve only to reduce their morale; and I believe that a similar situation prevailed in the Army Department; namely, that only two officials had definite knowledge of these discussions.

Q. Will you outline the principal points which it was intended would be the basis for seeking peace through RUSSIA? What the terms should be?

A. What the terms should be, while it might have been in the minds of officials in the Foreign Office, did not come up for discussion among us, principally because we thought that it was a matter in which opinions of RUSSIA should be respected. By way of concrete terms, we of course were prepared that, whatever the result, it would be worse than pre-war conditions.

Q. In effect, then, the Navy was in favor of peace whatever the basis?

A. At the time that peace discussion were taking place, of course we had not heard of the POTSDAM Declaration; it had not come out yet. We did not think, however, that the actual situation, if and when the war should end, should be quite so stern as under the term of the declaration, and the same is true as regards the CAIRO Declaration. We looked upon that as a declaration but not as one whose terms would be actually applied to us. By way of possibility of reducing these terms, if you should continue pushing the war, we would demand of you the heavy sacrifice when your landing operations should commence in HONSHU.

Q. At what time during the course of the war would the Navy have accepted an Imperial Rescript terminating the war?

A. That is very difficult to answer because even on the 15th when the Imperial Rescript to terminate the war was actually issued, even then we found it difficult to hold down the front-line forces who were all "raring to go", and it was very difficult to hold them back.

I do not think it would be accurate to look upon use of the Atomic Bomb and the entry and participation of Soviet RUSSIA into the war as direct cause of termination of the war, but I think that those two factors did enable us to bring the war to a termination without creating too great chaos in JAPAN.

Q. Perhaps my question was not entirely understood by you. I did not mean to direct it to the loyalty of the Navy to the Imperial will, but to get an estimate based on a cold appraisal of the course of the war. At what point in the progress of the war would the Navy have agreed to and would have backed the issuance of an Imperial Rescript to stop the war?

A. It is difficult for me to say whether, apart from the intervention of Soviet RUSSIA, if at any time prior to the actual termination of the war the Emperor had issued a rescript terminating the wary, the Navy would have been willing to say that is not a mistake; because so long as one feels that there is any chance left, it is very difficult to say that the time to quit had already come.

Q. The Admiral referred to the Imperial Conference with the Supreme War Guidance Council of 8 June. What was the Emperor's comment or reaction to the information you gave him at that time?

A. So far as I can recollect, there were neither comment nor questions from the Emperor.

Q. Early in our conversation of yesterday afternoon, in discussing the causes of the loss of the war, you mentioned the spiritual side of the people, that they were not told what they should have been told. Will you develop more specifically what you had in mind?

A. Going back to the early days of the war, I believe that one of the reasons for the failure of the people to be fully prepared for the later stages of the war was the fact that our operations went extremely smoothly in the early period, especially HAWAII and the various southern regions; and while our official announcements came one after another, victory after victory, tended to get the people "victory-drunk" one might say, and it was difficult for the people to get out of that stage, even after the war began to go adversely against us.

As I stated yesterday, I personally believe that the turning point of the war was the Battle of MIDWAY; and at that time I believe that not only the Government and the two services but the people also should have realized that the turning point had come and made up their minds for the future accordingly. Notwithstanding, the general public got the impression that the Battle of MIDWAY was an outstanding victory for us. Moreover, out withdrawal from GUADALCANAL, although that marked a definite disadvantage for the Japanese forces, was publicized as though it had been a grand and sublime operation and tactics on our part. On the material side, although it was known from the start that there would be basically a shortage in resources as the war progressed, the rapid depletion of what we had to start with was not made known to the people as a whole. To be sure, individuals realized that there was a shortage in activities with which they were directly concerned, that is true; but they were not given a chance to find out the overall shortage that was increasing from day to day, because that shortage was kept under cover as a national secret, and the people had no chance to find out how bad the situation was becoming. Because of the failure of the people to acquire such information, it was not possible for them to make up their minds to live out the slogan that was adopted by the Government; namely, "100,000,000 people united and ready to die for the Nation." They could not place themselves in a state of mind to carry out that in their actions.

Q. It is your belief, then, that the people should have been told the facts concerning the course of military operations throughout the war?

A. Of course there were some things that the people could not be told from a standpoint of concealing such certain facts from the enemy, so that it would not have been possible otherwise to tell them everything; but certainly they should have been given a chance through acquisition of more information, at least, to understand how the war was progressing. One of the things that impressed me on your side was the fact that Ambassador Grew, after his return to WASHINGTON, kept warning your people that JAPAN must not be held too lightly and that JAPAN's war strength was very deeply rooted. On the contrary, the situation in JAPAN was that certain information coming from your country would be used by our propaganda organs in just contrary fashion. For instance, the fact that more women were joining industry would be pointed out as an indication that your resources were running low, both in material and manpower. In other words, the propaganda policy of the two countries seems to have been just opposite.

Q. Yesterday you referred to your belief that military people should stay removed from politics. By what means did the Japanese Navy create and influence national policy? How could the views of the Navy concerning national policy have effect?

A. The official setup is that the Navy's opinion as to what the Government policy should be or how it should be modified is all expressed through the channel of the Navy Minister. That is the proper and set channel, and that is the way it should always be done. It has been the tradition of the Navy that that channel should be followed and none other; but during the war I think, to my regret, that that was not always followed, that there were exceptions where individual officers endeavored to influence the Government in its establishment of policy.

As I have already stated, the way in which the Navy could bring its opinion to be reflected in Government policy was through the person of the Navy Minister. Throughout the war, not only did the Emperor, but the Japanese people in general, feel the deep concern regarding cooperation between the Army and the Navy. It goes without saying that smooth cooperation between the two services was absolutely essential to success. However, as I stated yesterday, the Army had great political influence and power so that in order to obtain that smoothness, which I considered necessary, the only thing possible was for the Navy to follow the Army's leadership. In that respect the position of the Navy Minister throughout the war was an extremely difficult one; and while I find certain points in the steps taken by Admiral SHIMADA as Minister of Navy, which I consider regrettable, at the same time I feel deep sympathy for the difficult position in which he was placed.

I believe that the period during which Japanese Navy's influence was most effectively exerted in Government politics was just before, during, and after the Russia-Japanese War. The Navy Minister at that time was Admiral YAMAMOTO, (Gumbai), who in addition to being a good sailor, was an excellent statesman and was able through his statesmanship to equip the Navy in preparation for the war, to lead the Navy through the war by laying the foundation for the successful operational plans.

Q. Using hindsight on the war, looking in retrospect on the war which was just ended, how would you invest the Navy's resources in each of the following categories: (1) Carriers, (2) land-based aviation, (3) surface combat ships? In what proportions would you invest the resources available to the Navy?

A. In light of the actual material situation that we faced, I think that we should have devoted more to land-based aviation. The fact is that we did have plans for strengthening aviation, but the plan simply did not carry out. I think that we overstressed the importance of battleships and need not have devoted as much attention to battleships as we did.

Q. Was a single, unified military service, combining the Army and Navy and Air, ever discussed before or during the war?

A. I heard that there were some suggestions of that kind coming from the Army but I know nothing of the details.

Q. Did such a suggestion ever come from the Navy?

A. It is my understanding that the Navy was always opposed to such a change. As an ideal, it may be a good thing to combine the two services under one command which we might call "Defense Force"; but as a practical question, especially under the conditions that prevailed in JAPAN, such a step would have been quite impossible and would only have led to confusion.

Q. Will you discuss more specifically why it was impractical and, as General Anderson says, whether it was considered inadvisable purely because the war was going on?

A. Of course the fact that the war was already going on was one of the factors, I should say; but more fundamentally, if the two were to be combined into one service in JAPAN, the head would probably have had to be an Army man. Under him there would have been created two sections, the Army section and the Navy section; and with an Army man as Minister, it would have been inevitable that the Navy section would have become a relatively weak service.

Q. In any discussions concerning a joint-forces set-up, was a separate air section, combining Navy Air and Army Air, envisaged? What would the status of the air forces have been under the proposal discussed?

A. Even should a single service be formed through the merger of the two services, I believe that so far as the Navy is concerned, the Naval Air Force would have to be attached directly to the Navy in order to effectively cooperate with the surface units. The situation, I thin,, is very much as that which prevailed in ENGLAND: Although an independent air service exists there, actually its cooperation with the Navy is so close that this independent air service is independent only in name and I think actually could be termed a part of the naval force. That I think is the ideal.

Q. (General Anderson) Do you mean by that, what the British call their Coastal Command or Fleet Air Arm? The British used a Fleet Air Arm and also had a Coastal Command which also worked very closely with the Navy; the Coastal Command was a part of the RAF.

A. I refer to the Fleet Air Arm. I believe that in ENGLAND there must be a corresponding air force working with the Army; and then in addition, to have an independent land-based air force such as your bombing forces would not be objectionable.

Q. (Lt. Comdr. Wilds) Do you have any further information or comment you wish to make on the discussion we had yesterday afternoon regarding the termination of the war?

A. Continuing with the story of the meetings of the Supreme War Guidance Council, there was no member of that Council who had any fundamental objection to terminating the war, but there was some question raised as to whether or not all the terms of the POTSDAM Declaration would be acceptable to JAPAN. THe points upon which considerable discussion took place were three: (1) the question of the Emperor's future position; (2) the question of disposition of war criminals; and (3) the question of JAPAN's future form of organization. (Note by the Interpreter: I think we have often translated the phrase as National Equality.)

On the first point, namely, the question of the Emperor's position, all the members were united in their view that it should be maintained. On the question of war criminals, the desire was expressed by some of the members that the Japanese Government should be permitted to ferret out and try the war criminals; and as regards JAPAN's "future form of National Organization", the desire was expressed that since the present organization of the country was one based upon the deep convictions of the people we should be permitted to maintain the present form. In other words, determination of the form that it should have in the future should be left to the Japanese people and not, for instance, to a plebiscite organized by Allied authorities.

These discussions took place on 9 August and as there was no agreement, a meeting was called in the presence of the Emperor on the 10th at about 0230 in the morning; and the decision was reached there that, subject to the condition that the Emperor's position should in no way be affected, the term of the POTSDAM Declaration would be accepted.

After the meeting held in the morning of the 10th, our readiness to accept the POTSDAM Declaration was transmitted to the UNITED STATES Government through the neutral Governments of SWITZERLAND and SWEDEN. The official reply of the UNITED STATES Government was received on the 13th, but we learned the purport of that reply from a SAN FRANCISCO broadcast on the 12th. The Supreme War Guidance Council reconvened on the 13th and continued the meeting until late at night, discussing the American reply.

On the question of the Emperor's position, the American reply made no direct statement but did state that the powers of the Emperor and the Japanese Government would be subject to the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. The main point of discussion at that meeting had to do with the Emperor's position, since it was the conviction of the Japanese people that the Emperor was a living god above whom there could be no earthly being. It was feared that the Japanese people would not readily accept the wording of the reply which placed the Emperor in a position subordinate to that of the Supreme Commander of the Occupation Forces. In practice, of course, it was readily understandable that such would have to be the situation because, being the defeated power, it was understandable that our head should have to be placed in a position subordinate to that of the representative of the victorious powers; but the language as it was worded, it was felt, would be found difficult to accept. So to overcome that difficulty, the suggestion was made that, would it not be possible to have the orders and instructions of the Supreme Commander of the Occupation Forces go directly to the Japanese Government and that those orders would be passed on by the cabinet to the Emperor who, in pursuance of his constitutional right, would carry out the work connected with the termination of the war. However, no conclusion was reached after those discussions and the fear was expressed that, in view of the international relation obtained at that time, the Allied Powers would not accept such a set-up. Therefore, another meeting was held on the 14th in the presence of the Emperor which led to the decision to accept the POTSDAM Declaration in its full form.

The Imperial decision to bring the war to a close was made by the Emperor himself without suggestions from any other quarters. The words that he used on that occasion might be summed up somewhat as follows:

"Continuation of the war does not promise successful conclusion no matter from what angle the situation is considered. Therefore I have decided, without suggestions from anyone, to order the conclusion of the war, as I cannot endure the thought of having to kill tens, evens hundreds of thousands of my subjects, and moreover to have to be called the disturber of world peace. moreover, it is extremely difficult for me to have to turn over to the Allied authorities officers and men upon whom I have depended all this time as though they were part of my own body. But I have decided to endure what is unendurable and to accept the terms of the POTSDAM Declaration."

He closed his statement by saying that if necessary he would go to the radio and broadcast to the people in addition to issuing the Imperial Rescript and he asked for the continued assistance of the members of the council. It was a very moving scene. Of course, that is just a bare summary of what the Emperor stated on that occasion.

Q. (General Anderson) For the purposes of the record, I would like to get the fundamental or major reasons that dominated the thinking and the conclusion of this Supreme Council that the war should be terminated? What were the factors, what were the reasons, the causes, that were considered and weighted at the time the Supreme Council was debating and considering the matter of terminating hostilities throughout that period? I think the first session began in June, did it not? I want to know what the factors were at that time that caused the Supreme Council to take up initially the matter of finding a solution to the termination of the war. I also want to determine what the factors were that led to final decision to accept the POTSDAM Declaration.

A. May I point out that the discussion of that question commenced some weeks before I assumed command of the Naval General Staff; namely, that those discussions commenced somewhere around the first of May. I was not a member of the Council at the time, so I cannot say with authority; but since it was evident from the early part of the Spring that JAPAN's war strength was begin very rapidly depleted, it is possible that the situation came to the Emperor's attention and that he might have suggested to the Prime Minister or to some other member of the cabinet that such discussion should begin. That is merely a possibility; definitely, I do not know.

Q. We were conducting at that time operations on the surface, we were making invasions, moving ahead on the surface; but also by that time we had begun the air attack on JAPAN proper. How would you list the relative importance of these various military operations in their contribution to the decision on the part o the Supreme Council to surrender: (1) the air attacks against the homeland proper; (2) the surface invasions; and (3) the threat of course of further advances of our surface forces?

A. The fact that the Japanese Navy's surface units had been badly defeated was not generally known in JAPAN outside of the services, so I think that your bombing against JAPAN proper, together with our failure in the OKINAWA Operations, had a great deal to do with the decision to cease hostilities. So far as the Navy's surface units were concerned, it was realized that we couldn't expect much of our Navy once the PHILIPPINES were lost, because of the fuel situation.

Q. You referred to the rapid depletion of military resources. Do you have an estimate as to what form of force that we were employing against JAPAN contributed most toward the depletion of JAPAN's military resources for the continuation of hostilities?

A. Cutting off of our supplies from the south, principally through the loss of shipping bottoms and disruption of transportation facilities in general.

Q. Did you feel that these air attacks, these fire attacks, were contributing in any degree toward the disruption of the remaining military resources?

A. Until this year our main loss in shipping was due to submarine activities; but, especially beginning around April and May of this year, your air raids were the principal cause of our shipping losses.

Q. We know that shipping had become interdicted rather effectively, leaving JAPAN with only the military resources on the homeland with which to conduct her further military operations. What effect was the air attacks, the fire attacks, on the homeland having on the remaining military resources that you had on the homeland proper with which, if you had continued war, you had intended to continue war? How much effect did those operations have on further depleting your resources for continuing war?

A. I cannot give even approximate figures as to the extent of damage done to material in JAPAN proper, but I believe that greater than the effect on the destruction of materials themselves was the destruction of our production equipment by air raids.

Q. Production capacity?

A. Yes, production capacity.

Q. How did you feel that it affected the will of the people to continue to fight? In other words, what effect did these air attacks, these fire attacks, have on the will of the nation to continue war? Did it tend to deteriorate? If so, to what degree?

A. The effect on the people's morale was not as great as we had feared. In other words, while people who lost their homes faced extremely difficult times, it did not develop to the point of wanting to give up the war. To be sure, it had an effect on production because it cut off transportation, and in some cases, no doubt, some factory hands stayed away from factories because of the danger of bombing. That affected production to some extent, but affecting the people's will to fight was not as great as we had feared.

Q. In these conferences leading to the consideration of surrender, what value was put on the air assaults on JAPAN proper? How did they evaluate that when they were considering the matter of terminating war?

A. I do not believe that the question of air raids came up in the minds of the members as an independent question at all; that is there was no idea that we must give up the war to avoid even a single additional day of bombing.

The main consideration that led to the decision to cease hostilities was, after all, the overall weakening of the Nation's production capacity, loss of material, etc.

I refer to the statement already made regarding the effect on morale and point out that outside of bombed areas, especially in the country, people appeared to be almost wholly unconcerned about bombing as was evidenced by their failure to dig air raid shelters, etc.; so that, taking the country as a whole, the effect on morale was very light.

Q. Was there any attempt at this time to put a value on the cumulative effect of sustained bombing of this nature had it been permitted to continue on for many months, the cumulative effect that such sustained operations would have on JAPAN proper, her capacity to wage war, or to survive?

A. The point that worried me most was the effect of continued bombing on aircraft production. Whereas the year before we were producing over 1,000 naval aircraft alone monthly, in July of this year that production had fallen to around 600, less than half of the previous year; and so far as I could see we were just about nearing the end of our aviation fuel supply, and I could not see how we could possibly procure sufficient aviation fuel after September; and since those two facts, namely, fall in aircraft production and shortage in aviation fuel, were largely due to your air raids, we would naturally reach the conclusion that, if the air raids were to continue for months after that, it would become impossible for us to continue the war.

Q. I want to get from you the naval estimate of their capabilities prior to the opening of the war; that is, the Japanese Navy's capabilities in terms of American capabilities.

A. As a result of the WASHINGTON-LONDON Naval DIsarmament Treaties, Japanese Naval strength had been restricted to around 60% of UNITED STATES strength. After those treaties were abdicted it was, of course, no longer incumbent upon us to maintain that ratio, so we devoted our efforts to the building up of the Navy, quantitatively and qualitatively so that in no case would our relative strength fall below 60% of yours. I do not remember by figures what the relative strength of our Navy was categorically. When we faced the necessity of taking on both the UNITED STATES and ENGLAND in this war, the question of our relative strength with the UNITED STATES became relatively a small question. Never in the history of our Navy were plans ever drafted which envisaged a war with GREAT BRITAIN and the UNITED STATES as allied enemies. Consequently it may safely be said that this was not a war in which the Japanese Navy laid down plans which had even a fair chance of success.

Q. After this war became inevitable, after the decision was reached to conduct this war, what generally was the naval war plan for opposing the enemy Navies, American and British? How did you intend to cope with this opposing naval power?

A. As I stated yesterday, I was not in Central Headquarters at the time so that I am not in a position to say what were the plans with regard to equipment and operations against the American and British Navies, but my guess in that since the decision had been made they had to get up and fight with what we had on our hands.

Q. I was wondering if you were informed on the broad general war plans under which they proposed to conduct operations against the opposing Allied naval forces?

A. I wonder whether the emphasis on the Navy was not placed upon surprise attack.

Q. That carries to another question I'd like to ask and that is: In the planned attack on PEARL HARBOR, which apparently was to attack a concentrated target, did the Japanese Navy have any alternate plan for such a surprise attack in the event that there was not such a concentration of force? If the force had been out in the open, was there another plan to be implemented in case this concentrated target was not found?

A. I have not heard of any such plan. If such a force had not been found in PEARL HARBOR, the surprise attack would have been a big gamble.

Q. (Captain Hedding) I assume that in preparing for war in the Japanese Navy, as well as we did in the American Navy, you laid certain basic plans for eventualities. Did you know of those basic plans or are you now fairly familiar with what those plans were prior to the war?

A. Yes. Every naval plan made is submitted to the Emperor for his approval, but I do not believe that those plans are made known very widely even in the Navy, and I doubt whether they are made known even to the N ww2dbase

United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Interrogation of Japanese Officials [OPNAV-P-03-100], courtesy of ibilio Hyperwar Project

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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