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This is the story of Suzuki Kisaburo, the Isai, the great man of the 20th century. I was his aide -- secretary, right-hand man, whatever you wish to call it -- and there for the decisions that led Japan to its present greatness. While it would be better to have this document come from his own hand, as all know he died before being able to do so. Now that I have lived into the next century, I have not much longer myself, so I felt it best to write down what I saw and know. No amount of ink has been spared by others in recounting these events, but of all who were there perhaps none was closer than I.
Suzuki Kisaburo was the deputy prime minister of Japan when he first conceived his great plans. The country had its stengths in those days, notably a technical bent of mind and some advanced military technology, but it also had its weaknesses. Worst of these was the restlessness of the military, who wished to take over Japan's government to further their own aggressive ends. This was exacerbated by racism towards the Japanese by the western powers, who did not accept Japan as an equal. The rest of Asia was backwards in comparison with Europe, and Japan suffered for it despite her successful efforts to catch up to the West.
The Saishou -- the Prime Minister -- at that time was Okada Seisuke, and his position was precarious. At the suggestion of Deputy Minister Suzuki, he resisted Army pressure to declare war on China for resources by expanding Japan's foreign trade, and began a program of industrial expansion to shake off the last effects of the economic depression that had struck Japan in years previous.
The Army reacted by attempting a coup in early February, but the plot was revealed on February 20th and the officers responsible arrested. Four days later, Italy annexed Ethiopia. Two weeks after that, the German Reich reoccupied the Rhineland.
The Cabinet had a golden opportunity -- the army was subdued for the moment, and the democratic powers of the West seemed stunned by the audacity of the European Fascists. A tumultuous meeting took place on March 10th, which lasted all day and ended with the resignation of two ministers. At the end, however, the government decided on a course of friendly neutrality towards the western democracies. There were those who argued that now was the time to expand to the south and east, but that argument did not prevail. I remember the clinching point made by Admiral Yamamoto, who had been called as the naval adviser to the cabinet: "I fear all that would do is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The United States, too, stood on the edge, and it was decided that we would wait for them to step first.
Meanwhile in China, the Nationalists finally swept aside their opposition, destroying the Communists on June 1st, Sinkiang a mere ten days later, then bullying Tibet into annexation in the first week of July. Once again the army was wrong-footed, with another of their primary aims suddenly becoming much more difficult, and the Prime Minister was able to gain better control over them. More confident than ever, he arranged for Japan's re-entry into the League of Nations. The Manchukuo incidents were now several years in the past, and the United Kingdom and France anxious for some power to help balance out the resurgent Germans. After much back-room dealing, the Japanese ambassador returned to the Palaise Wilson in Geneva on November 29th.
Part of their anxiety came from the increasing isolationism of the United States, whose electorate removed Franklin Roosevelt from power in the November 3rd elections, and replaced him with the Republican Alfred Landon. Meanwhile in Spain, the country dissolved into a civil war, with the Communist-leaning Republicans soon gaining the upper hand over the fascist insurgency. After the battlefield death of Francisco Franco on the 22nd of November, the Nationalist cause collapsed, and was finally snuffed out entirely in Burgos on the 27th of December.
The Deputy Prime Minister's gamble on industrial expansion began to pay off in spades, with growth in the year ending January 1st, 1937 running an astonishing 10.2% to 137 billion yen. Much of this was plowed back into the economy rather than the military expansion that Germany and Italy were using to fuel their similar booms. To keep the Army and Navy happy, however, plans were instituted to produce a cutting edge tank, submarine, and multi-role fighter. Both military arms were satisfied enough with this to continue with their grudging support of the democratic government. Neither noticed that the projects were sufficiently advanced to absorb much of the military's attention with upgrading and re-training well into the 1940s.
The deft handling of the situation left the Isai in a commanding position come the election of August 6th. With the previous Prime Minister stepping down, the Isai led a majority of the party away from the government, forming Shinseito ("The Renewal Party"). A conservative party, they nevertheless distanced themselves from the military more than the previous government, and campaigned on a platform of industrial expansion and Japanese economic hegemony in Asia. "Asia for Asians!" was the slogan that caught the mind of Japanese voters, and played towards American tastes for decolonization. Shinseito swept to power, the strongest Japanese government in more than a decade.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world was in the calm before the storm. The community of nations gained its fourth Communist country, Spain, after a coup dragged their government to the extreme left. The newly revolutionary Spaniards soon entered the Comintern.
Perhaps emboldened by the expansion of the world revolution, Stalin began a series of purges of the military's upper echelons, which lasted throughout the year and stripped the army and airforce of trained officers.
1937 had been another good year for the Japanese economy, with 13.2% growth taking GDP to 171 million yen. Two grand successes like this in a row took the wind out of military expansionists who argued that conquest was necessary for Japan to grow. The Suzuki government now had the militarists fully in hand.
However, simply because the Isai wanted to keep the Army and Navy in check didn't mean that he wasn't willing to use it as necessary. Beginning this year he ordered both branches of the military to begin preparations to move. Infantry weapons were upgraded to a considerable extent, and in October design and testing was completed on what was, at the time, one of the most advanced tanks in the world: the Type 97 Chi-Ha. The first of these rolled off the Mitsubishi assembly line on May 19th the next year.
It was in this year that world tensions began to grow at a tremendous rate. In March, Germany annexed Austria, then immediately demanded that Czechoslovakia give up the Sudetenland too. While at first refused, the rest of the world was put on notice. By the end of September, the Germans had finally put enough military pressure on the Czechs to gain the smaller country's border regions.
I recall that the cabinet was very tense during these days, for the Prime Minister had called for increased military preparedness, but did not share with the others his thoughts behind this action. As his assistant, I knew that he had already decided to let Europe tear itself apart. Japan had tried to benefit from befriending Britain during the Great War, only to be left with crumbs when that conflict was finally ended. Now Japan would hold itself aloof, and advance her interests only when the rest of the world was too involved elsewhere to react.
On New Year's Day the Prime Minister was in a cheerful mood, with the annual economic report showing another 10.1% increase in the country's GDP, to 187 million yen. Among the new factories springing up were high-tech chemical plants devoted to synthetic rubber, the first of which had been opened a few weeks before. I remember him chuckling to himself at another nail in the coffin of the expansionists, as the lack of rubber for our economy in time of war had been one of their major arguments. Now Japan was nearly self-sufficient, with only a trickle of rubber and oil needed from world markets.
Still, that trickle was needed, and the Prime Minister refused to tip his hand towards the Axis or Allies. He kept his resolve and continued watching from the sidelines while we "Japs" went from strength to strength under the noses of the supposedly superior West.
In balance to our growth and good fortune, Europe spiralled into destruction. On March 15th, the Germans finished off Czechoslovakia, absorbing more than half of the remaining country and setting up a puppet ally in Slovakia. Barely a week later, Der Führer had demanded territorial concessions from Poland and Lithuania, and had managed to reclaim Königsberg from the latter. Fearing to look bad in the face of such dynamism, Mussolini tried (and signally failed) to conquer Albania starting two days after that.
Britain and France were outraged, and brought Poland into the Allies on March 30th. Italy and Hungary replied by joining the Axis in May.
Everything came to a head on August 24th, when the Germans and the Soviet Union set aside their differences to partition Poland between them. After signing a formal treaty to that effect, Germany declared war a week later, and swept into Poland. The rest of the Allies determined to fight back, and the Second Great War had begun.
By October 20th, Poland had fallen and been divided by the two vulturous powers on its east and west flanks. Turning west, the Reich declared war on Belgium, which joined the Allies along with a frightened Netherlands and Luxemburg.
November saw the Russians pressing a claim to Finland's southeastern provinces, and the Finns giving in rather than suffer the same fate as the Poles. Germany quickly annexed Luxemburg, and the Italians punched through the marginal French forces in the southeast of that country, swooping towards the Atlantic Coast and the Seine. Emboldened, previously neutral Romania joined the Axis.
Another 10.7% increase in the economy, to 207 million yen, rang in the New Year, as did the final designs of our first medium range submarines. The Prime Minister put off the Navy's requests to build some of these by requesting longer ranges, with the implication that they would be used against the United States. As that was the general goal of the Navy, they went off happy, and did not realize what were the Prime Minister's plans.
Since the outbreak of the Second Great War, the Saishou had been working up the populace towards war, claiming that the powers had abdicated their primary place in the world by plunging themselves into conflict again. A "Greater Asian Prosperity Sphere" was his proposed replacement; Japanese troops began to filter into the buffer region between Manchukuo and China.
On January 5th, Italian troops took Brest and, desperate for any help, the Allies enlisted Yugoslavia with promises of Italian territory. That didn't quite work out as they planned, as the other Axis members were more than capable of handling the new problem. Romania in particular took most of the country, with Italy and Germany taking the north and Hungary a slice of the east. On the same day combat ended, March 24th, plans were completed for an even more advanced Japanese tank, the Type 4 Chi-To, which was easily the most powerful tank in the world, two or more years ahead of any other country's efforts. The Isai's plans were slowly coming to fruition.
But even the Prime Minister was surprised by how quickly his schedule was moved up on April 3rd, 1940. With France almost entirely in the hands of Italy (and Germany on the line northeast of the Seine, including Paris and the continental provinces of the Netherlands and Belgium), the Axis turned on the Comintern. Italian troops battered their way into Communist Spain, while Germany and Romania pounced on the Soviet Union.
Disgust flared in Japan at the now three-cornered war, and the Isai decided the time was ripe to act. The West was far too distracted to cause us any problems, so long as we avoided trouble with the United States. The Japanese ambassador to the League (in its temporary quarters in Dublin) proposed that Japan clear away the corrupt dictatorships and ineffective home-rule "democracies" that had left all of Asia outside of Japan laid so low. The French and British were horrified, but slightly reassured by promises that their rule in their Asian colonies would not be touched. The Americans were more pleased, after Chiang Kai-Shek -- perhaps full of himself after clearing away his Chinese enemies -- refused to join the Allies. An Asian federation, free of corruption, dedicated to democracy, and friendlier to the under-pressure Allies seemed like a situation they could live with. Their arm-twisting convinced the League to stay quiet. On April 9th, war was declared against China.
As large as China was, the war was not particularly difficult. The Chinese bet everything on a decisive battle, and pushed a mass levée into Datong where they defeated a smallish mechanized infantry force. However, 20 divisions of Japanese infantry and three wings of aircraft were in the vicinity, and after concentrating in Zhangjiakou, they crushed the Chinese army. Meanwhile, two infantry divisions swept down the nearly undefended coast, while two armored divisions moved inland.
An unfortunate incident at Nanking, where overzealous army commanders allowed the looting of the city in June, was defused by quick purging of the officers in charge. After a tense week, the United States was convinced to stand down after making noises of war. By July, China was mostly in Japanese hands, though the annexation of the whole country didn't occur until the last resistance (in Urumqi, on the far northwestern border with China) was ended on September 30th. A week before this, Italy had finished off Spain; the day before this, Shinseito and the Prime Minister had been returned to power with even more of a majority than in 1937.
The success of the Axis in Europe finally removed the last doubts about the Prime Minister's long-term plans. On June 5th, the United States joined the Allies, and focused all their attention on Germany and Italy. I remember well the emergency cabinet meeting that the Isai called for that evening, as in many ways it was one of the turning points of Japanese history -- perhaps the turning point. He was in high spirits as he outlined his goals for the astonished cabinet. With all the world's other powers at each other's throats, Japan had a free hand in Asia so long as we avoided antagonizing the United States by attacking it, or the possessions of its allies. A huge topographical map of Asia was laid out on the desk of the meeting room, and the Prime Minister pointed to Siam, Persia, Iraq, and even the vast expanse of Siberia, should the German advance on Moscow continue.
On October 4th, the plans for the Navy's new long-range subs were finalized, but by then no-one was looking towards the Pacific for Japan's future any more.
The incorporation of China into the Japanese Empire goosed the economy to 286 billion yen by January 1941 -- a 38.2% increase -- as Chinese coal, steel, and even a little oil fueled our factories. Even this underestimated the boon to us, as the Prime Minister had ordered considerable upgrades to Chinese industry and infrastructure, after decades of war and neglect under the Republican government. A little late for the Chinese conflict, seven divisions of mechanized infantry and the first two armored divisions of Type 4's rolled off the assembly line.
The tanks and some of the infantry were put to the test with a simpler task, the annexation of Siam. Using the bases gained in southern China, Admiral Nagumo led a task force protecting troop transports to the beachheads of Bangkok, where they landed almost unopposed after a formal declaration of war on the 27th of January. Siam was brought into the Empire on the 30th.
Meanwhile, by February, the Germans had reached Moscow and pushed on past. Almost all Soviet forces were committed on the front with the Reich, and the Prime Minister asked for the army to prepare an assault on Siberia while the Russians were on the ropes. The plan developed was to clear Mongolia and Tannu Tuva first, as they represented almost fifty percent of what military might remained in the whole region, with the rest concentrated near Vladivostok in the east, Tahe in the centre, and Semipalatinsk in the west. After placing blocking forces in the east and west, and greatly reinforcing the centre, war was declared against the Soviet Union on June 13th.
Mongolia collapsed on July 9th after Ulan Bator was occupied, and the way was open to the whole of Siberia. The Russians had a half a dozen cavalry and militia units that used their mobility to slip in where they were unopposed, but in the face of Japanese tanks and mechanized infantry they would invariably lose. The Army quickly gained most of Russia's industrial capacity west of the Urals, pushing the Soviet forces out into the wildernesses of the north, while the navy quickly eliminated the few Soviet capital ships based out of Vladivostok.
Pressed from both sides, Stalin's nerve gave way. Determining that he could never defeat Germany now, he sued for a Pyrrhic peace on August 3rd, giving the Reich all of the Soviet Union's possessions in Europe. With the Russian capital moved to Sverdlovsk, he worked to swing Russian forces east to try and stem our advances.
It didn't work. Tannu Tuva was annexed on August 13th after a long but unopposed slog through the mountains and -- after the occupation of Irkutsk the same day -- a majority of the remaining Soviet industry was in our hands.
Leaving a few garrison forces in place to hold off the ragged remains of the Soviet Siberian armies, a race was on to take the new Russian capital before they could redeploy to oppose us effectively. Taking the Trans-Siberian railway a station at a time and blasting through thin line of Soviet defenses in (ironically) Stalinsk and Ulyanovsk, the 2nd Armored Division rolled into Sverdlovsk on November 6th. Siberia was annexed to Japan.
Stalin himself was captured in the temporary government quarters on the campus of the Univerity of the Urals, and brought back to Japan. He was eventually turned over to the International Court of Justice of the League of Nations, which began an unprecedented trial in Dublin in late 1942, accusing the former dictator of "crimes against humanity" for his actions causing the deaths of so many million Soviet citizens in the '20s and '30s. He was eventually sentenced to death and hung on April 2nd, 1943. The Comintern was finished.
Among the papers recovered from the capture of the last Soviet capital were a few related to spying activities by the Russians in the United States. A movement had just begun to develop a weapon of unprecedented strength in the event the Allies could not unseat the German Reich by conventional means. Fortunately, a minor army bureaucrat by the name of Matsutaka Hirokumi realized the import of the documents, and after fighting red tape for over a month managed to draw them to the Prime Minister's attention directly. The Isai pondered the implications, then inaugurated a similar program in Japan. He said to me at the time "Whoever has this can dictate to whoever does not. The Great Powers of the next decade will be those who can unlock this great power." A quick investigation discovered that the army had already been funding the development of these new weapons since late in the previous year. The Prime Minister moved to bring the project forward, offering up many times the resources and funding the army had provided. Headed by physicist Yoshio Nishina, work began in earnest at Kyoto University in December 1941.
It took until April for the tally of our new possessions to become complete, but the Minister of Industry finally reported that the economy was now churning along at an annual rate of 477 billion yen, a 66.8% increase since the declaration of war against the Soviet Union. In the meantime, Italy had been having considerable success in Africa, driving the British out of Egypt, taking control of the Suez Canal, and conquering as far as the northern border of Rhodesia before the parlous state of the local infrastructure and a handful of South African units stopped their advance.
The war in Europe had settled into a stalemate, with the sole change on the year being the addition of mighty Liberia to the Allies. The Prime Minister set Japan's western border at the Urals, supplementing the policy of assuring the Allies with one of assuring the Axis. Staying out of the Second Great War was his primary goal. Offering the carrot to the Germans didn't prevent him from placing a few anti-aircraft and fortress sticks along the border, however.
Once Siberia was assimilated, and the Axis defused, the Japanese government moved to solve one of its greatest problems: access to oil and chemically produced rubber to run industry. While to this point the conversion of coal had been sufficient to sustain Japanese factories at full capacity, the addition of the former Soviet territories began to eat into our stockpiles, and it was projected that by 1944 we would not be able to support our growth any further. This was not acceptable, for Japan's newly enlarged economy was still but half the size of the United States', and a third that of the Germans. Even the Italians were somewhat larger. The Prime Minister believed that Japan had to gain half its industrial strength again by the end of the Second Great War, or risk losing it all to one or the other of the new superpowers. A little smaller would be alright, but there was a limit.
To that end, the forces that had pushed towards Sverdlovsk, supplemented by new infantry, fighter and armored divisions developed since the previous fall, swung south. War was declared on Persia on May 1st. Some desultory fighting ensued, but essentially the Japanese army occupied all the key points in the nation and deposed the Shah in favour of a parliamentary government owing allegiance to the Emperor. By the end of July, the annexation was complete.
After a short time to regroup, the same armies swept into Iraq on September 13th, annexing it on September 29th, eliminating the repressive government there. Another three weeks and it was Saudi Arabia's turn, and in the cooling of the early winter, two tank divisions arrived in Riyadh fifteen days after the declaration of war, causing the al-Saud family to flee, and another parliamentary government to be installed. The last loose ends were then tied over the next week, as Yemen and Oman were brought into the Japanese fold.
In December, Germany tried a naval sortie out of Rostock and, under air cover through the English Channel, passed through the Italian-dominated Mediterranean and the Suez, finally setting up bases in Italy's conquests in East Africa. Towards the end of the month they attempted to cut off the Allies from a major source of resources, the Dutch East Indies, but were beaten back by a combined Australo-American counterattack before they could land. It was the last major land or sea offensive of the war.
The addition of the Middle East's oil loosened the reins on Japan's economy, and it surged another 23.7% to 590 billion yen by the start of 1943. The Isai decided that we had come far enough for now, and devoted the next twelve months to greatly accelerating the growth of the armed forces. Type 4's, long-range subs, and improved multi-role fighters were now all in the Empire's grasp, and after the first few units had supported the conquest of Asia, they began to be turned out in earnest, as well as many infantry and mechanized infantry divisions. The fortresses and anti-aircraft guns on the border with Germany were also upgraded.
The sole excitement of the year was the cleaning up of one of the last independent countries in Asia, the generally worthless and lawless Afghanistan. On August 27th, Japan's newly minted mountaineer divisions crossed the border at Herat and Kabul, and it took a month of surprisingly stiff fighting to annex the tribal regions to the Empire.
As the focus for 1943 was on increasing Japan's military strength, the economy grew a natural 5.8% on the year to 624 billion yen.
The stalemate in the Second Great War set in with a vengeance this year, as no territories exchanged hands at all between the Axis and Allies, excepting some Italian activity in French West Africa that was soon repelled. Japan took the two "independent" Indian principalities, Bhutan and Nepal, yet that was all. Still, they were important gains, as the Isai took heed of rumblings out of India. The war was beginning to wear in the subcontinent, and anarchy threatened. With the two additional provinces under her belt, the Empire had bases to intervene if necessary
Of equal importance was the event that took place on December 25th, when the world's first permanent experimental nuclear reactor came on-line. An atomic piles had been built on the campus of Kyoto University as far back as Spring of 1943, but now a true reactor was running 24 hours a day in the Higashiyama-ku neighbourhood of Kyoto.
An economic recession set in during 1944, as the warring alliances pounded on each others' shipping and industrial capacity. While the industrialization of the Empire continued apace, orders dropped from most Japanese customers outside of South America, and GDP dropped 4.5% to 596 billion yen. The Prime Minister chose to concentrate even further on building up the Empire's internal markets, and pulled back on military buildup once four new Improved Aircraft Carriers were begun in the Tokyo Shipyards, setting Japan up to become the world leader in naval aviation power by mid-1946.
While conventional military power was shaping up nicely, the truly decisive event took place on May 25th, when the Tenjitsu ("Sun") nuclear test took place on Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific. The world's first atomic bomb had been set off, and international observers were there for it. The future security of Japan was ensured; neither Axis or Allies would declare war now. Both the Americans and Germans dashed off to duplicate the technology, which had fallen behind in their respective weapons programs due to the strains of 1944's stalemate. Two other types of fission bomb were developed by October, and Japan's nuclear arsenal slowly began to build. The wastes were used to make depleted uranium ammunition for the Improved 80mm Heavy Tanks that were starting to be built by Mitsubishi in mid-summer.
As internal markets in China grew, so did the economy. A 10.4% increase was registered in 1945, to 658 billion yen. On January 25th, the first commercial nuclear power reactor was started on the outskirts of Tokyo, where it fed 6 megawatts into the city's electrical grid. It was an event that changed the world even more than the nuclear weapons test of the previous year, though of course far less-remembered. I read a quote once in a magazine from a young engineer who was astonished that we once burned petroleum as fuel, when it is such a useful precursor to so many industrial processes! It made me laugh at the time, but I suppose when one has grown up with cars powered by hydrogen cracked from water by nuclear energy, it does seem strange.
The final piece of Japan's future course was laid on March 22nd, 1946. After throwing money and manpower down a hole for years trying to keep the "Jewel in the Crown", the British finally realized that they had to cut out all frivolities before they bled to death trying to break the stalemate with Germany over the skies of Essen. India was no longer helping that cause, and after two months of stripping the country down of movable assets, the subcontinent was abandoned to its fate.
India was woefully unprepared for independence, and as "Independence Day" approached, sectarian violence flared out of hand. Muslims and Hindus fought in the streets of most major cities, and entire villages were burned to the ground. It is estimated that something like 70,000 people died in the eight weeks before March 22nd. It was a situation that Japan could not tolerate on its southern border, for both strategic and moral reasons. The moment Britain declared India free at 12:01 AM on the morning of the 22nd, Japanese forces deployed in eastern Persia, Nepal, Thailand, and Bhutan swept into the country.
A few British infantry and cavalry units had rebelled against the cowardly withdrawal and remained behind. These threw in with independent India, but did little to end the bloodshed in the country. Japanese forces in the east encountered little resistance, and ranged across the length and breadth of the Indian plane. In the west, the "Indian" army played hide and seek in the difficult terrain, using the mountains and jungles to their advantage for two and a half months before finally giving way. India was incorporated into the Japanese Empire as a member nation. The fourth and final major piece of Asia -- after China, Siberia, and Southwest Asia -- had been brought into the fold.
On June 25th, the already battered Eniwetok Atoll was reduced even further, with the world's first test of a fusion weapon. The first nuclear propulsion units were conceived, and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was laid down for launch in 1949.
From then on, the Isai turned his eyes to the rest of the world, content with Japanese control of what it had, but looking to end dictatorship elsewhere in the world. Money began to flow to dissident groups, and nations as far apart as Brazil, Portugal, Cuba, Bulgaria, and Greece underwent revolutions that brought them into the democratic camp.
By 1947, Japan was content with its place in the world. The economy had grown to 694 billion yen, now third largest in the world after the German Reich and the United States. Technological advances seemed to pour in every day, and the Empire pulled ahead in many fields of endeavour: the first electrically powered submarines with enough range to travel from Asia to Europe, the advanced aircraft designs that would lead to commercial jet liners in the 1950s, an advanced heavy tank with 90mm guns that was five years ahead of any other country's, advanced materials -- every day seemed to contribute to the dizzying advance.
By the end of the year, Japan had the world's third largest and most motorized army, with equipment that only the Americans could match; the air force was the smallest of the five powers', but the most advanced; and the navy was both the world's largest and the world's most advanced, protecting the Empire from advances through both the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific.
The Second Great War finally ended in 1950, with the horrible coincidence of both the Americans and the Germans developing the atom bomb within a week of one another. Hamburg disappeared in a ball of nuclear fire on February 5th, then London was consumed by a Nazi nuclear missile on February 17th.
Japan finally stepped in, for its economic well-being depended on the continued existence of markets in Europe, not a radioactive wasteland: the burgeoning industrial region around Sverdlovsk traded with the Germans, and too many resources were sold to the British. On February 19th the government of the Empire issued a statement that it would declare war on the next alliance to use a nuclear weapon, be it Axis or Allies. Two days later, the Italians backed the play -- followed by Greater Romania 24 hours after that -- realizing that without the nuclear bomb they were helpless in the face of the Americans without German help, and that Germany would turn on them if the Reich finally won.
Peace negotiations began in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 25th, and lasted only a month. With pressure from the Japanese, the armistice was signed on the basis of the status quo on April 1st, 1950 -- lines which had barely changed since 1943. It was a marginal win for the Axis, for Italy had expanded greatly, but Germany had failed to achieve the world hegemony it desired despite annexing lands far to the east. It was a marginal loss for the Allies, but the Americas were still free, Britain still in control of a sizable (if reduced) Empire, and France continuing on from the new capital in Algiers.
So mid-1950 saw the world settle into a state rather like that of the 19th century: a balance of power between five powers that guaranteed the peace. Only now the powers were spread across the world instead of a single continent. The United States, Germany, and Japan were the main players, while Britain tightened its ties with its dominions in the new British Confederation; Empress Elizabeth acceded to the throne in 1956. Italy blundered back into democracy after the death of Mussolini in 1959, and generally maintained an armed watch against their former allies across the Seine.
The Prime Minister refused to stand for a fifth term in 1953. I retired with him, and helped to write his memoirs before he died in 1972. Much was not told in them, though, and as has recently been revealed, his last task as leader was to work behind the scenes to hive off two new political parties from Shinseito, the centre-left Minshu-to and the socialist Jiyuto. As I explained to the biographer Takarabe Ayako in the mid-1980s, he felt that Japan would not progress as it should if Shinseito held too firm a grip on power for too long. He always thought that the chaotic conditions on the 1930s had let him come to prominence, and similar chaos (in a parliamentary, constitutional way!) would let other great men come to the fore. While Shinseito was the government for the majority of the last half of the 20th century, the two leftist parties formed the government in coalition or with a simple majority four times. I honestly believe we wouldn't have seen men like Yamakazi or Erizawa if it weren't for the Isai scheming behind the scenes against his own party in the early 1950s.
And we did need those leaders. At the end of the war Nazi Germany was the world's greatest economic power, by a moderate margin over the United States, but the peculiarity of their economic thought and the stresses of the Frozen War with the Americans and the British Confederation gradually lost them their paramount position. For awhile they stayed ahead, and in 1959 even launched the first orbital satellite, the nuclear weapons platform Lawine. But by then, the United States had passed them.
Japan, however, had even greater advantages in the long term. The eleven-year war had wreaked great havoc on all the other world's powers, while the Empire had stayed at relative peace. While the West poured out blood and treasure only to have have it shot out of the sky or the water, Japan's money had been turned towards research and the development of Asia's vast hinterlands. By 1970, The Empire's nearly two billion citizens had outstripped the 200 million of the United States.
Since then the Empire has been the world's pre-eminent power. After the surprise of 1959, it was Japan that spearheaded the founding of the League of Nations Space Regulatory Agency, which checked German militarization of space. Japanese mediation brought the peaceful autonomy of Continental France and Spain from Italy in 1968, and helped those three found the League of Rome alliance so that Germany would still be hemmed in. And it was Japanese nuclear-powered rockets that were the core of the LNSRA's moonbase project, and the mission to Mars last year.
With the Peaceful Revolution in Germany in 1989, the world has entered a new era of peace. The revelations of the German Truth Committees in 1990-91 shocked the world, but the men they condemned are all long-dead, their ideology discredited and the democratic world of 2002 an affront to their hated memories. In the end, that is the best and longest-lasting kind of justice. And I believe it was Suzuki Kisaburo who did the most to bring it about.