What Does the Word Mokusatsu Mean? - Part 1

By Stacey
Jan 8, 2016 · 3 min

Was a mistranslation the reason for the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima?

What Does the Word Mokusatsu Mean? - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

This is a story that’s never been confirmed, but the story goes that a mistranslation was the reason for the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. Let’s go back in time and take a look at why this tragedy occurred.

It was the spring of 1945 and Japan was being seriously battered: roads, bridges and railways were being destroyed by Allied air raids faster than they could be rebuilt. What remained of the Japanese Navy had been destroyed by United States warplanes, but surrender was not an option for the military high command and they were determined to fight till the end. The War Minister, General Korechika Anami, assured his people that the Americans would be expelled from Okinawa. However, a group of diplomats who opposed the militarists were convinced that it was in Japan’s best interests to surrender, rather than stay in a state of war, and, hoping to achieve better terms than with an unconventional surrender, commenced private talks with the Soviet Union: The Soviet Union was still neutral, and they hoped that Russia’s mediation would help make peace.

The Potsdam Declaration

Soviet Ambassador, Jacob Malik, was visited by former Prime Minister Koki Hirota on June 3: the proposals were listened to by Malik, but with a degree of coldness. The intention was to fly to Moscow and, at all costs, finally bring the war to an end. But in Potsdam, Stalin mentioned to President Truman that the Japanese had expressed a desire to open negotiations. According to the Soviet dictator, Russia rejected this suggestion as insincere, and on the 26 July 1945 the Potsdam declaration was issued.

This declaration was signed by the United States, China, and the United Kingdom, calling for the surrender of Japan, or annihilation. There was a jubilant reaction among the Japanese leaders because the terms of the declaration were more benign than expected. It was promised that Japan, the nation, would not be destroyed and that the Japanese would have the freedom to select their own government.

The Complications

But, there were complications. What about the negotiations initiated through the Russians? It was only two days prior that the latest proposal had been sent to Moscow. The cabinet was also obliged to consider another detail, and that was that the Japanese had still only received news regarding this ultimatum over the radio. Should the government act on what was really unofficial information? It was anticipated that announcement of the acceptance of the Allied terms would not take long; however, the following day Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki was scheduled to receive journalists and knew they would be asking questions about the Potsdam Declaration. So it was agreed that Suzuki would say that, at the request of the Allies, no decision had been made by the cabinet. The Japanese people felt that something was in the air due to the fact that the cabinet hadn’t flatly rejected the ultimatum.

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