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"Victory Over Japan: Did the End Justify the Means?" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2020 12:54 p.m. PST

"One of my high school history classes was taught by a coach. I'll never forget it.

While a coach is certainly capable of teaching history, for him it seemed that his only desire was to get through the drudgery so he could get back to coaching his team. Like a lot of teenage boys, at the time I found World War II utterly fascinating and had high hopes for discussing the topic in class. Sadly, even with support materials, the coach knew little about the topic. The official date of the beginning of the war (September 1, 1939)? Nope. The date of the Pearl Harbor attack (December 7, 1941)? Nope. You can imagine the depth of knowledge imparted to us kids.

Yet despite the lack of teaching of history, there was the perfunctory discussion about the morality of America's dropping of the atomic bomb. Why bother? When students are not taught some of the finer details of the build-up to the war, the war itself, or the cultures of the different countries and how they shaped the fighting, how are they to have an informed discussion about the morality of America's choice to drop the bomb?…"
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Amicalement
Armand

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2020 1:25 p.m. PST

Yes. There would have been huge amounts of both Japanese (military & civilian) as well as US/Allied casualties that would dwarf the amount of casualities from the nuclear weapons. I personally would never have been since my Dad a US Marine was scheduled to land before the main landing as sniper to disrupt resistance, lefw span estimated at 17 minutes after first shot.

Legion 409 Mar 2020 2:41 p.m. PST

Yes, we have had this discussion many times before. Bottom line, IMO, the 2 A-bombs saved many, many Allied and Japanese lives. They planned to fight to the death. The Death of every man, woman and child. Based on everything we saw previously on the numerous island landings, etc., in the PTO.

Sadly in this type of war with an enemy like this[the closest thing I can think of today is ISIS, AQ, jihadis, etc.] e.g. the math is kill hundreds of thousands to save millions. Was the only real choice to end WWII in the PTO.

Hopefully we'll never have to make that choice ever again … But if it comes down to us or them … Well … You all know my opinion.

clibinarium09 Mar 2020 3:30 p.m. PST

Don't we usually wait til the aniversary in August before we fall out over this for the nth time?

LT Sparker09 Mar 2020 6:09 p.m. PST

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind…

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2020 8:59 p.m. PST

This presupposes the need to invade the Japanese home islands which, by that point, had already been reduced to smoldering rubble. Robert McNamara has some thoughts on the subject in "Fog of War" worth considering.

Legion 410 Mar 2020 6:53 a.m. PST

Hindsight is generally 20/20 … but in this case … the right decision was made. Again, IMO …

I think with the last few island invasions. With the IJFs more than willing to die in place, go down fighting, inflicted high losses on the US/Allied invaders, etc. That influenced the use of the 2 A-bombs as much as anything …

Blutarski10 Mar 2020 8:11 a.m. PST

Y E S
Quite apart from the Allied lives saved, millions of Japanese civilian lives and the lives of several hundred thousand Japanese soldiers, sailors and airmen were spared in net terms.

B

Bill N10 Mar 2020 10:03 a.m. PST

Why don't we ever get threads saying the Anglo-French-American armies should have stopped at the Rhine, that the Soviets should have stopped at the Oder and the allies should have discontinued the air war against Germany?

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2020 11:34 a.m. PST

Well… there were not atomic bombs in Europe…


Amicalement
Armand

thomalley10 Mar 2020 12:19 p.m. PST

Not to mention Chinese and British lives. Fighting was still going on in SE Asia and China.

RudyNelson10 Mar 2020 1:18 p.m. PST

Yes, I have talked to hundreds who lived during the war. I have not met one who ever considered no.

Murvihill10 Mar 2020 4:46 p.m. PST

"This presupposes the need to invade the Japanese home islands which, by that point, had already been reduced to smoldering rubble. Robert McNamara has some thoughts on the subject in "Fog of War" worth considering." Is this the same Robert McNamara that screwed up Vietnam and ran the US military like a corporation?

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2020 4:50 p.m. PST

Yes, very the same! And that's why you should pay attention. It's really unusual to have someone in his position honestly reflect on the decisions at the time and admit to mistakes. Unlike most politicians and military commanders whose autobiographies are amazing examples of how their mistakes weren't really theirs, etc. etc.

Legion 411 Mar 2020 2:50 p.m. PST

Is this the same Robert McNamara that screwed up Vietnam and ran the US military like a corporation?
I had the same though when his name was brought up.

Lost Wolf11 Mar 2020 3:45 p.m. PST

yes it did.

Skarper11 Mar 2020 3:49 p.m. PST

With hindsight – probably not. But it's unfair to judge those who made the decisions with the benefit of hindsight.

Truman made numerous gross errors of judgement during his presidency [even by the standards of others who've held that office]. It would however have needed great insight and morale courage not to go ahead in 1945. I think FDR would have done the same. Eisenhower might have been able to overrule the Generals [I think a factor may have been the desire of some to justify a separate Air Force].

Anyway – for me the key question is momentum. Once the Manhattan project was successful, use of the weapon on a real target was inevitable.

If it had been too late for WW2, it would have been used in Korea or Vietnam [probably to 'save' the French at Dien Bien Phu].

Either way – there were going to be innocent victims. Does it really matter who?

Patrick R11 Mar 2020 5:06 p.m. PST

Japan's military and political decisions were not entirely rational.

It's clear that the Soviet invasion and the two atom bombs had a huge impact, but so had pretty much the whole war from 1943 onward, when Japan was suffering defeat after defeat.

By 1945 Japan was stretched to the limit, they were trying to crank out weapons by any means to defend the home islands and to repair the infrastructure and deal with the millions displaced by constant bombardment.

Many around the war faction in the government still believed divine providence would intervene on the side of Japan or that at least should the Allies decide to invade they would give them a bloody nose.

The peace faction was just as delusional, convinced that the Allies must be just as exhausted as they were and in no condition to maintain their holdings in Asia (they were not wrong on that part) but their assumption that Japan could simply walk away with everything they had taken in Asia was ridiculous by any standard.

To call them peace and war faction is a misnomer since relevant members in the peace faction were really pushing with peace with the allies and then focus all their forces against the Soviets, convinced that with Germany gone, a war with the USSR was now inevitable.

And if it sounds like it makes sense then I probably underplayed the huge dissonance between what they cooked up Tokyo and reality. Logic and facts were present, but you have to ignore a lot of them to get to the Japanese situation in the closing days of WWII.

I have described it as a comedy of errors if it hadn't been so horribly tragic.

The war faction tried a coup and in the confusion the peace party grabbed the microphone and at the last minute the Emperor made his "Accept" speech defusing the whole thing, though there would be ripples to this day.

Right now the consensus is that the atom bomb didn't really make that big a difference, they were firebombing cities with a staggering death toll for months now, the bombs felt like more of the same than a true stunning moment. From the Japanese point of view it was a bit of a moot point they were destroying entire cities and who cares if it's a thousand bombs or one …

Similarly people try to pin it on the Soviet invasion, except that the USSR had less than a hundred ships total in the Pacific and it would take months go get any fleet ready to travel from the Baltic and Black Sea. The Allies were about to provide ships, but the numbers mean that the Soviets would have been unable to move more than one or two divisions at a time. The Japanese must have known that while they could crush their armies in open battle they would not be able to take their tanks into the mountainous southern Manchuria or invade Japan and had planned accordingly, which probably helped to harden their resolve knowing that if there was an invasion, they might be able to defeat the Soviets and make a separate peace or at least hold them off long enough to hold against the Allies.

In the end the surrender happened during a very brief window of confusion where one side gained the upper hand long enough to tilt the whole thing towards a final surrender.

Skarper12 Mar 2020 1:38 a.m. PST

We don't know how effective any defence of the home islands would have been. They had thrown a lot into Okinawa and that had been a failure.

There were plans to arm schoolgirls with bamboo spears and all manner of desperate measures but I think projected casualties for operation Olympic/Downfall were exaggerated. Lower estimates of casualties being 100,000 allied and 300,000 Japanese.

It's quite probable that once allied forces were established in Japan there would have been a similar window of chaos with the same train of events leading to surrender.

Leaving aside any possibility of a negotiated surrender on the same terms as were eventually obtained without A-bombs or invasions. The whole unconditional surrender thing was a double edged sword.

Legion 412 Mar 2020 7:00 a.m. PST


Either way there were going to be innocent victims. Does it really matter who?
Again, sadly that is a part of war. Today we have limited it … but it still happens. Especially in insurgencies, e.g. the GWoT …

I think projected casualties for operation Olympic/Downfall were exaggerated. Lower estimates of casualties being 100,000 allied and 300,000 Japanese.

After all the losses the Allies had taken in the PTO as well as the ETO. The thought of losing more blood & treasure invading an enemy's home islands who were known for brutal and even suicidal behavior. Who of the Allies would want to take more risks then they already had ? If they didn't have to ?

No one would know for sure how they'd react to this invasion. But the safe bet would be based on everything else from the past campaigns against them. They'd fight to the last man, women, and child. E.g. :

There were plans to arm schoolgirls with bamboo spears and all manner of desperate measures

Again the math was sadly simple – kill hundreds of thousands to save millions … As I said let's hope we never have to make this type of decision again …

4th Cuirassier12 Mar 2020 7:10 a.m. PST

The Allies suffered 200,000 casualties invading Normandy and the local civilians perhaps another 40,000, so 100,000 and 300,000 invading Japan on a comparable scale sound quite conservative estimates.

Skarper12 Mar 2020 7:21 a.m. PST

They are the lower end of the official estimates – from what I could tell.

Key difference is Normandy was chock full of very strong forces that needed to be defeated.

Japan rather less so. They had large numbers of troops available, but lack of equipment, ammunition, supplies of all kinds make me suspect resistance would have been much less effective than that of the Germans in Normandy.

We'll never know, just I don't swallow whole the story of 'fanatical resistance to the last man'.

Legion 412 Mar 2020 8:39 a.m. PST

We'll never know, just I don't swallow whole the story of 'fanatical resistance to the last man'.
It would be different if any of us had to make that choice. Again are we willing risk the chance they would not fight to the last man?

As a former Rifle PL and Mech Co Cdr. I would not want to take that risk if there was another option. In this case even the "Atomic" option.

I want to bring my troops and the allied soldiers, etc. that are fighting along side us back home. So for better or worse I wouldn't be very concerned about how many of the enemy we kill. Just so it's enough to insure we don't take any loses or very low loses.

And if that means we have to kill thousands if not millions so be it. And yes sadly those losses may include non-combatants.

That is the reality …

And again just be glad no one here will probably never have to make that type of decision. Which most likely would not include WMDs. Just standard HE, AT & SAs.

Bill N12 Mar 2020 3:45 p.m. PST

Well… there were not atomic bombs in Europe…

Do you think that made a difference to the German civilians killed during the last few months of the war? Or to the foreign populations and Jews under Nazi control who were killed one way or another during the last few months of the war?

The decision to drop the atomic bombs is usually depicted as a trade of the lives of American servicemen that would have been killed in an invasion v. the lives of Japanese civilians that were killed by the bomb. The German experience suggests that if Soviet intervention did not bring about the Japanese surrender, the alternative would have been very large numbers of Japanese civilians dying in the preparation for or during the invasion. The arial campaign would have continued. The attack on the fishing fleet would have continued. Attacks would have continued on the remnants of the Japanese merchant fleet. Japanese would have continued to kill foreign nationals that were in their custody.

Blutarski12 Mar 2020 5:05 p.m. PST

Go here for a thumbnail sketch of Downfall (Olympic/Coronet) -

link

Initial casualty estimates done in early 1945 (of which there were many) were relatively low: possibly because MacArthur purposely wanted them low-balled, probably because may estimates failed to allow for collective casualties among all arms (Army, Navy, Air Corps, USMC, Allies), but absolutely certainly because early Allied planning badly underestimated the Japanese manpower, support assets and fortifications to be encountered.

According to the a/m Wiki site, later casualty estimates drawn up for President Truman by William Shockley of Secretary of War Stimson's staff were 1.7 to 4 million American casualties, including 400,000 to 800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese fatalities assuming large-scale participation by civilians in the defense of Japan.

Allied planning anticipating fighting on the Japanese Home Islands to continue through 1946.

From these perspectives, the dropping of the A-bombs was actually a charitable act for all involved.

FWIW.

B

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2020 5:14 p.m. PST

How about dropping a nuke a few miles out to sea outside of Tokyo so all could see the explosion and then say, the next one we'll drop on your emperor.
Sounds better than killing 200-300 000 civilians.

Blutarski12 Mar 2020 6:39 p.m. PST

The die-hard faction within the Japanese Army didn't care about A-bomb effects. They still attempted a coup d-etat to seize Hirohito and prevent broadcast of his cease fighting message even after the two bombs had already been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Different sort of culture at work.

IIRC, the idea of making an attack upon the person of Emperor Hirohito (who was considered an imperial semi-divinity by the Japanese) was a no-no, as decided upon by the US leadership, who were concerned about enraging the Japanese population. If I'm wrong on this, someone please correct me.

Plus, dropping an atomic bomb a few miles out to sea from Tokyo posed a dire risk of awakening Godzilla.

B

Legion 413 Mar 2020 8:01 a.m. PST

The die-hard faction within the Japanese Army didn't care about A-bomb effects. They still attempted a coup d-etat to seize Hirohito and prevent broadcast of his cease fighting message even after the two bombs had already been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Different sort of culture at work.
Yes very much so … and I agree …

How about dropping a nuke a few miles out to sea outside of Tokyo so all could see the explosion and then say, the next one we'll drop on your emperor.
Sounds better than killing 200-300 000 civilians.
That was talked about IIRC. But we only had 2 ready to go … And again it appeared that no matter what the IJ military was going to fight to the last man, women and child. The risk was too much to hope a demonstration of our A-bombs would make a difference.

From these perspectives, the dropping of the A-bombs was actually a charitable act for all involved.

Yes, IMO the right choice was made. Us or them and it was them and they lost.

thomalley13 Mar 2020 8:43 a.m. PST

How about dropping a nuke a few miles out to sea outside of Tokyo so all could see the explosion and then say, the next one we'll drop on your emperor.
Sounds better than killing 200-300 000 civilians.

Tokyo is not on the ocean. If you dropped it in the bay, the tidal wave alone may have killed more people.

Trajanus13 Mar 2020 10:50 a.m. PST

Either way there were going to be innocent victims. Does it really matter who?

Certainly matters if you are one of those victims!

Legion 413 Mar 2020 2:28 p.m. PST

Certainly matters if you are one of those victims!

Or their family and friends. But sadly this is another very upsetting aspect of war and always has been. We just got "better" at killing massive amounts of humans in the 20th Century. E.g. WWI, WWII, etc., …

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2020 10:19 p.m. PST

I just helped put out two computer wargames for John Tiller Software on this topic. One was the Olympic operation entitled Japan '45: Operation Olympic and the other was Japan '46: Operation Coronet. Believe me .. the civilians were not going to be ordered to fight to the death. Lots written on that. In the end the high command were at that point changing their tune about "banzai charges." They did not want to see the women, old men and kids killed needlessly.

Yes, defense battalions were formed but they did not enlist the entire population – only a small minority of them.

As to the effect of a ground campaign. The terrain alone, in our playtest games, slowed down the Allies a lot. Add to it Japanese defenders in bunkers or trenches and the fighting was brutal.

Add to this that the top fighters in the Allied forces were being sent home. What was left was the 2nd and 3rd tier troops in terms of experience. Some men committed suicide (flew a plane into mountains in Arizona in one case) rather than go fight in the Pacific. Morale for the Allied forces would not have been high.

I learned a lot working on those games. Scale: battalion level. The maps were an education for me in themselves.

Olympic: the Allies are looking to establish naval and air bases (take over existing airbases …) on Kyushu. Coronet: invasion of the Tokyo area and seizing the Kanto Plain, a main source of food for Japan.

The Japanese would have used up most of their suicide craft in the Olympic operation.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2020 10:39 p.m. PST

Interesting… thanks!.

Amicalement
Armand

Legion 422 Mar 2020 9:30 a.m. PST

Yes, that is interesting …

As to the effect of a ground campaign. The terrain alone, in our playtest games, slowed down the Allies a lot. Add to it Japanese defenders in bunkers or trenches and the fighting was brutal.
But that says it all for me. As we saw similar on Okinawa, Iwo, etc.

And let there be no doubt the collateral damage to non-combatants and infrastructure would have been massive …

wmyers In the TMP Dawghouse22 Mar 2020 10:44 a.m. PST

I just helped put out two computer wargames for John Tiller Software on this topic.

May I ask the titles of the games?

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