LONDON (Kyodo) Britain’s prime minister at the end of World War II, Clement Atlee, was keen to give up on the insistence that Emperor Showa be treated as a war criminal if it meant hostilities in the Far East would come to an end more quickly, according to papers released Sunday.

Newly published National Archives records of notes taken by Deputy Cabinet Secretary Norman Brook in his own shorthand reveal the first detailed personal insights into what was said and, sometimes more importantly, who said what during debates on crucial issues in the Cabinet.

“Mistake to hold out for punishment of Emperor as war criminal if it means delaying substantially end of hostilities,” the notes record Atlee as saying Aug. 10 following an announcement of the Japanese government’s surrender, broadcast by Japan’s Domei news agency, but before Britain received official confirmation of the surrender.

The Cabinet discussion refers to the Potsdam Declaration issued July 26 by the United States, Britain and China outlining Japan’s terms of surrender.

“Religious position is such that if you don’t imply the Emperor will remain, the (Japanese) may push it to suicide,” the notes record Earnest Bevin, Atlee’s foreign secretary, as saying during debate on whether the United States would accept a conditional surrender based on Emperor Showa, better known as Hirohito in the West, retaining his title.

But Atlee implied that the Potsdam Declaration was unclear with regard to the Emperor, saying, “Doubt if U.S. will go on sacrificing lives for a technicality,” adding that having prisoners of war and civilians in Japanese hands may mean that “(a) pastoral life with (the) Emperor” may be easier than instituting a capitalist republic.

Despite the extensive discussion and early communication of Japan’s surrender, it is only in the final entry of the Cabinet secretary’s notebooks, on what appears to be the second of two meetings on Aug. 14, that the statement “end of war with Japan,” is written in capital letters and underlined.

It was on this day the Japanese government made its final decision to surrender, followed by the Emperor’s radio announcement.

Referring to British broadcasting arrangements, Atlee is documented as making suggestions for a draft statement referring to the impending release of POWs and states, “Announce tonight that tomorrow is V.J. (Victory over Japan) Day.”

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