[KS] the atomic bomb & German-Japanese cooperation

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Sun Dec 7 15:37:38 EST 2014

Would be great if you add some juice to the blurb, Bill.
Let me at least try to put this into a larger historical context. 

4 Dec 2014  - Bill Streifer wrote:
> This may be of little interest to most of you, but I thought I'd 
share. I just learned that the Germans were experimenting with a new 
way of making the atomic bomb during WWII, and in 1944, they 
transferred that technology to Japan. I know for a fact that the 
Japanese were experimenting with the process in Tokyo, but they may 
also have been experimenting with it in Hungnam, North Korea, a 
colony of Japan at the time. For more details, contact me directly.

The Japanese started to get military training in Prussia as early as 
the 1880s. This was only interrupted by the First World War, when both 
countries were enemies and the Japanese took over some German colonies. 
And it is right after WW I that the Japanese received firsthand German 
technological information from the kaiser's, by then the Weimar 
Republic's aviation program as well as deep insights into the private 
airplane industry, simply because Japan was one of the victorious 
powers and the Versailles Treaty allowed them to monitor German 
aviation industries. Other than the usual textbook history, the 
military development of the aviation industries was not all too much 
concerned about the Versailles regulations though: the testing was 
outsourced, as we would say today, to Soviet territory (which was 
possible through a secret agreement of the new Weimar government with 
the new Soviet government). The French, Americans, British, and 
Japanese thus got to see the 'historical' and new official version of 
the new German developments, while the Soviets, also among the 
victorious powers, shared insights to new developments -- for several 
years at least. Still, the Germans and the Japanese always worked well 
together, and both sides seemed rather released when they could 
continue the relationship under different conditions. Large numbers of 
top technical personnel of both Japanese air forces, that of the Navy 
and that of the Army, received extended training in Berlin, all through 
the 1920s and 1930s. German engineers, on the other hand, worked in 
Japan to help developing the Japanese aviation industries.

When Japan started the Pacific War, when they bombed Pear Harbor, the 
Nazi leaders continued to support them in any technical means possible. 
Until 1941 communication and physical transport between Germany and 
Japan went through various channels: (a) via Trans-Siberian Railway 
through the Soviet Union, Manchukuo, Korea, (b) via U-boats and ships, 
(c) via Switzerland (which functioned as Germany's international bank, 
trading platform, and number #1 supplier of military technology) and 
then on by train through parts of non-occupied France (as a hidden 
route) to a sea port, (d) and as for communication purposes only also 
through Sweden and Norway. When the Germans started the war with the 
Soviets in 1941 that route was cancelled out, and in 1942 the secret 
Swiss-French railway link (to a French Harbor) also disappeared. Direct 
physical transports from/to Japan were thus rather problematic in the 
last three years of the war. You may have seen the movie _U-234_ that 
points to exactly these circumstances and whose storyline seems pretty 
close to the actual historic events. 

In any case, the tactics the Nazis followed here were already tested 
during World War I, and they had already failed at that time. I some 
cases even the same personnel was responsible. Karl Haushofer, for 
example, said to have been the theoretical mentor of Hitler, the 
creator and mastermind behind the Japanese-Nazi cooperation, was 
already involved in similar policies during the prior war, when the 
Germans sponsored rebellions in India to keep the British busy (which 
did not work out), or promise the Mexicans to assist them in marching 
into California after having won the war -- which backfired, as that 
communication was intercepted, the content published, and President 
Wilson then found himself forced to enter the war to fight against the 
Germans. But it also explains some really strange relations, e.g. Karl 
Haushofer sponsoring the communist reporter Agnes Smedley (who was on 
the kaiser's payroll, first in New York, then in Berlin -- later she 
was active among the Chinese communists, as we all know). Smedley was 
the lover of Chatto (Virendranath Chattopadhyaya), the Indian 
independence leader who also lived in Berlin and who was put in charge 
of the Indian anti-colonial rebellions. Some left-wing Koreans in 
Germany then again worked with Chatto and his organization. As 
mentioned, in the 1930s, under the Nazis, we still see some of the same 
personnel being active, and the basic idea of supporting one's enemy's 
enemies was pursued just the same way as before. Sharing the 
half-functional Wunderwaffe with the Japanese thus comes as no 
surprise, as it must have had the only purpose of hoping to keep the 
British and Americans busy elsewhere -- EVEN if the Japanese would just 
unsuccessfully test it. In this context, I should note that the 
Japanese did not trust the German leadership. Japanese intelligence in 
Europe during World War II was as much directed towards spying out the 
Germans as it was aimed at the enemy. Before anything, the Japanese 
were of the opinion (certainly right so) that the Nazi leadership had 
fallen into the trap of believing its own propaganda and that it 
misjudged military successes and defeats. The consequences of this 
evaluation is quite obscure then: for example, the official Japanese 
news agency in Europe, Domei News Agency, known by all involved war 
parties to do what we would today term open-source intelligence tasks, 
same as similar Third Reich agencies did, was in fact also involved 
into human intelligence collection (classical 007 hard core spying). 
That is obscure because they seriously thought that the Nazis would not 
know that -- while, in fact, by 1943, if not before, even the Americans 
knew all the details. The Nazis let them do their thing, but they in 
return hired their own personnel to spy them out. The few Koreans still 
living in Europe during the war seem almost all to have been involved 
-- either spying out the Germans for the Japanese or spying out the 
Japanese for the Germans (as well as propagating Nazi ideologies, of 
curse). At least one of them was a movie-ready top agent (details in my 
piece in Andreas Schirmer's forthcoming book), but Koreanists will also 
recognize some other names. 


Frank Hoffmann

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