World War II - Document #1


The principal political, social and military objective of the United States in the summer of 1945 was the prompt and complete surrender of Japan.  Only the complete destruction of her military power could open the way to lasting peace….


In the middle of July, 1945, the intelligence section of the War Department General Staff estimated Japanese military strength as follows: in the home islands, slightly under 2,000,000; in Korea, Manchuria, China proper, and Formosa, slightly over 2,000,000; in French Indo-China, Thailand, and Burma, over 200,000; in the East Indies area, including the Philippines, over 300,000; in the bypassed Pacific Islands, over 100,000.  The total strength of the Japanese Army was estimated at about 5,000,000 men.  These estimates later proved to be in very close agreement with official Japanese figures….


As we understood it in July, there was a very strong possibility that the Japanese government might determine upon resistance to the end, in all the areas of the Far East under its control.  In such an event the Allies would be faced with the enormous task of destroying an armed force of five million men and five thousand suicide aircraft, belonging to a race which had already demonstrated its ability to fight literally to the death.


The strategic plans of our armed forces for the defeat of Japan, as they stood in July, had been prepared without reliance on the atomic bomb, which had not yet been tested in New Mexico.  We were planning an intensified sea and air blockade, and greatly intensified strategic air bombing, through the summer and early fall, to be followed on November 1 by an invasion of the southern island of Kyushu.  This would be followed in turn by an invasion of the main island of Honshu in the spring of 1946.  The total U.S. military and naval force involved in this grand design was on the order of 5,000,000 men; if all those indirectly concerned are included, it was larger still.


We estimated that if we should be forced to carry this plan to its conclusion, the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest.  I was informed that such an operation might be expected to cost over a million casualties to American forces alone.


Source: Memoirs of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson (1947)