Prelude: It's Always Darkest Before It Goes Completely Black Japan was finished as a warmaking nation, in spite of its four million men still under arms. But...Japan was not going to quit. Despite the fact that she was militarily finished, Japan's leaders were going to fight right on. To not lose "face" was more important than hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives. And the people concurred, in silence, without protest. To continue was no longer a question of Japanese military thinking, it was an aspect of Japanese culture and psychology. ~ James Jones We can no longer direct the war with any hope of success. The only course left is for Japan's one hundred million people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight ~ Imperial War Journal, July 1945 By the late Summer of 1945, the once mighty Japanese empire was facing oblivion. An unbroken string of defeats for two years had left Japan surrounded by more numerous and more advanced allies. The United States of America and the British Commonwealth blockaded Japan with impunity, depriving Japan of the strategic materials that they had went to war to secure, and the food that its population of over 70 million relied upon. As the Imperial Japanese Navy ceased to be an effective fighting force, American and British ships had little else to do but unload their guns onto the cities and towns of the Japanese coast. Swarms of American bombers torched Japanese cities with little resistance due to the scarcity of fuel and ammunition, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of civilians, and rendering millions of others homeless and wrecking the Japanese economy. Only one hope remained for the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, the small cabal of men now in charge of directing Japanese policy, that they could hold on until American casualties took their toll on American and British public opinion, forcing the leaders of the Allied nations to accept a negotiated peace contrary to their 1942 demand for unconditional surrender. The Allies had captured Okinawa in the first half of 1945 where they now prepared for an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, it was hoped that a final decisive victory could be won on Japanese soil to offset the last two years of humiliation, the dawn that would follow their darkest hour. It would only get darker. On August 6th the Americans destroyed the city of Hiroshima with an Atomic Bomb, a bomb the Japanese themselves had attempted to create but had concluded it to be too difficult. Two days later the Soviet Union, who the Japanese had hoped might mediate a peace with the west or even join them in their fight, broke their neutrality pact with the Japanese and declared war, launching invasions of Manchuria, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. As the terrible shock of both these events took hold, it became clear to a majority of the Supreme Council, in conjunction with the Emperor’s wishes, that the situation was now so hopeless that unconditional surrender had become the only acceptable way to proceed. In the early hours of August 14th the Foreign ministry transmitted orders to its embassies in Switzerland and Sweden to accept the Allied terms of surrender. Later that day, the embassies would receive a contradictory message. Despite a brief few hours of hope, the Second World War was not over. Japan had begun her final fight.