On this day in (alternate) history

February 11, 1945

The war in Europe was nearly concluded, the dying German Reich a pale shadow of the dark menace which had once overshadowed the entire world. The three men who were most responsible for its defeat now met in Yalta, a Soviet resort town on the Black Sea, to discuss the shape of things to come.

While the Japanese Empire was not yet entirely crippled, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were more focussed on the process of carving up Western Europe. Zones of occupation and influence were argued over and (eventually) agreed upon.

Talks then moved onto the proposal of the creation of the "United Nations" a successor organization to the League of Nations which would - it was hoped - be far more effective.

It was just after having concluded this phase of the negotiations that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America, died. The talks were delayed until his successor, a relatively unknown former senator from Missouri named Harry S. Truman, could make the journey.

Truman, a former military officer, placed great faith in his advisors. So it was that when the talks reconvened, he broke with FDR's stated intention to request a Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, timed to begin just after the use of the Atomic Bomb. Truman has been personally briefed by the Manhattan Project's leader, Robert Oppenheimer, on the trip to Yalta, and was convinced that it would work. He knew that FDR had not placed a great deal of faith in the new weapon, and so had insisted upon the Soviet invasion.

Truman didn't like the concessions already made to the Soviets in Western Europe, and didn't intend to allow a single Asian to unnecessarily fall under Communist influence. No matter what Stalin tried in the way of persuasion, bluster and even threats, the stubborn Missourian wouldn't budge. Eventually, Stalin accepted the inevitable, and went away from the conference with a new found respect for the American President.

The first atomic bomb was used against the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was dropped from a B-29 named Enola Gay. While the bomb successfully obliterated the city - proving Truman's faith well founded - no surrender was offered by the Japanese. A second bomb was used three days later against the port city of Nagasaki. Like Hiroshima, it was annihilated. Yet still no surrender came from the Japanese government.

Two days later, Truman authorised Operation "Wrath"; a bold plan which had been advanced by Air Force General Curtis LeMay. Over the following two weeks, cities throughout the Japanese home islands were massively firebombed. Marine Divisions also landed on the Korean Peninsular.

Civilian casualties in Japan were astronomical. Careful not to alienate native sentiment, Truman forbade the bombing of cities in occupied China and Manchuria.

On the final day of the sorties, Tokyo was targeted with a third atomic weapon. The blast killed the entire Japanese Government and the Emperor. Unconditional surrender was offered to the Allied Forces several hours later.

Resentment at the civilian casualties incurred in securing Japanese capitulation would smoulder for decades and never really be resolved. But it was ultimately unimportant. Japan was broken, its national infrastructure smashed and economy debilitated. There would be a brief dalliance with Communism - avidly supported by an aging Stalin - but it was bloodily repressed after a military coup.

This was in stark contrast to Korea. The new nation, under the close guidance of the United States, proved to be the new Asian powerhouse. Relations with the west remained extremely close over the following decades, and was only strengthened by the staunchly pro-US Korean involvement in the successful Vietnam War. Korean peacekeepers supplied the bulk of occupying forces stationed in northern Vietnam after the war and remained there until Vietnamese President Diem and US President Richard Nixon jointly announced the official reunification of the two nations in 1963.

This close rapport with the west continued right up to the present day. Pyongyang hosted the Olympic Games in 2001. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura are regular visitors to President Kim Jong-il's ranch in the picturesque (and extremely affluent) northern areas of the Korean Democratic Republic (KDR).

What really happened: FDR died two months after Yalta, and Soviet invasion of Manchuria would lead to the establishment of Communist North Korea. This would lead to the Korean War and the expansion of Communism throughout SE Asia. Japan surrendered after suffering the combined assualts of two atom bombs and Soviet invasion of its continental possessions.

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