On May 8, 1945, less than a month after Truman became president, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces and the war in Europe ended. This was cause for satisfaction and relief in the United States, but jubilation had to wait until Japan surrendered and the global conflict came to a close. Neither soldiers in the field nor policymakers in Washington anticipated that forcing Japan to quit the war would be an easy task. For the first time, the United States would be able to focus its energies and power on the Pacific campaign—as long as it lasted, the war in Europe had received top priority. Nevertheless, the prospects of facing an implacable enemy determined to defend its empire and its homeland were sobering and daunting, even if the Japanese were badly weakened and reeling toward defeat.
In the three and a half years after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, the Pacific war had proven to be a dreadfully savage affair. In the words of historian John W. Dower, it was a “war without mercy,” even more brutal and dehumanizing than the European conflict. “As World War Two recedes in time and scholars dig at the formal documents,” Dower wrote, “it is easy to forget the visceral emotions and sheer race hate that gripped virtually all participants in the war, at home and overseas.”1
Americans regarded Japanese with hatred of singular intensity, exceeding even their antipathy toward Germans. One reason was