Americans like short, successful wars; they don't like long or unsuccessful conflicts. I've long viewed U.S. national security policy between the Nazi surrender on V-E Day and Japan's surrender on V-J Day as a struggle over the costs of an American invasion of the Japanese home islands and over the role of the emperor and the meaning of "unconditional surrender." I now see that there were powerful domestic factors also shaping U.S. policy in those crucial months.
As part of my summertime reading, I found Waldo Heinrichs and Marc Gallicchio's Implacable Foes. While the main focus of the book is on military planning for the defeat of Japan, it also provides surprising chapters on the domestic politics of the period. Truman's decisions on the atom bomb and Japanese surrender were made in a context where--
-- Congress was pushing for rapid demobilization and "reconversion" to a civilian economy and was skeptical of the need for large numbers of troops and military production once America had tro fight only a one-front war.
-- Soldiers and their families were pushing for rapid implementation of the Army's promised demobilization schedule, starting with individuals with the most points under a scheme that emphasized length of service and especially time in actual combat -- despite the disruptive impact on military units.
-- Many in government and in certain economic sectors demanded special treatment for soldiers with particular skills, such as coal minors and railway workers. Officials had to spend a lot of time responding to individual requests, often backed by congressional sponsors.
-- Congressmen regularly leaked details of classified hearings with Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and others to bolster their own calls for different military or economic policies.
-- The Army was faced with the nearly impossible task of organizing the movement of forces and equipment from Europe, where they were no longer needed, to the Pacific theater, often with 30-day furloughs en route.
One of the lessons for me is that American war weariness was a powerful factor in the spring and summer of 1945. Victory in Europe led many to switch prematurely to a civilian focus as if the war were already won. This wasn't the last time we saw such sentiments.