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"The Myths Surrounding Hiroshima" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 9:54 p.m. PST

"The US bombing of Hiroshima ranks as one of history's greatest controversies. Dennis Giangreco, former editor of Military Review, is also the award winning author of Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947. His path breaking research into Japanese defense preparations leads him to defend the atomic strike. He offers this exclusive interview to Asia Sentinel.

Actually, they have changed somewhat over time. Originally, his critics maintained that Japan would have soon surrendered even without the atomic bombs or the Soviet entry into the war on August 8 1945. And, more importantly, that Truman knew this but bombed Japan to intimidate the Soviets, not save lives during a bloody invasion --- that Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked America's opening shots in the Cold War…"
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link


Amicalement
Armand

mjkerner24 Mar 2020 6:38 a.m. PST

Nobody should need to "defend" the bombings. Revisionists need to get their heads out of their butts.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 7:04 a.m. PST

I have always wished that we had made at least 3 of the things.

And used them.

john snelling24 Mar 2020 7:06 a.m. PST

well said, mjkerner

Lee49424 Mar 2020 7:50 a.m. PST

There is no free lunch. The US ended the war quickly with less casualties than if we had not used the bomb. The cost is that the world has lived under the threat of global nuclear annihilation for three quarters of a century since then. If there is never another nuclear weapon used then it was a good deal. If we wipe out the world with nukes not so much. And the argument that we'd all have nukes anyway falls flat. If the US hadn't built them, used them and stockpiled them that program would have ended with the war. Check back in another 100 years to see who was right about this one lol. Cheers!

Legion 424 Mar 2020 8:31 a.m. PST

mjkerner & skipper John +1 …

The US ended the war quickly with less casualties than if we had not used the bomb
Yes that is the bottom line …

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 8:46 a.m. PST

I once worked with a gent who had been in the USMC in WW2 as a combat correspondent and had survived Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He told me he remembered being on Okinawa and as everything was gearing up towards the invasion of Japan, at one inspection their sergeant told them that it was going to be tougher than Iwo and Okinawa, and that if they looked to their left and then their right, that one of those men wasn't coming back. Hey, he thought, I'm those other guys' left and right! And then they got the news that some superbombs had wiped out a couple of Japanese cities and they'd surrendered. He said he'd never had such a strong moment of relief, that he would live -- and he said thank God for Harry S. Truman and the Atom Bomb.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 8:54 a.m. PST

Also consider the POWs who got home after all, but surely only because of the sudden collapse. Without that, starvation and massacre would have finished them all.

Japan would have surrendered anyway? Recall for a moment the resistance to surrender even after two nuke strikes…an armed insurrection attempting a military coup. Well documented and a very close thing.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 3:19 p.m. PST

My step-father was in Marseilles, awaiting transport to the Pacific to take part of the invasion of Japan when the bombs were dropped. Having survived the last year of the war in Europe as an combat engineer in the 3rd Army, he told me that he and the others with him, just sat and cried in relief that they'd not have to go.

No one "deserved" being bombed, but those two bombs saved hundreds of thousands of Allied lives, perhaps a million wounded and several million Japanese lives, the majority of whom would have been civilians.

Dan

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 5:29 p.m. PST

Is it really a question of bombing or invasion? At this point in the War Japan's navy had been destroyed. The homeland was a wasteland. The US Navy could have put a cordon around the Japanese Islands and starved them out. At some point in 1946 the Japanese surrender. The real purpose of dropping the bomb was as a warning to the USSR and a reminder of who the true world super power was. Did that justify the use of the atomic bomb? I am not totally convinced it was.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 9:31 p.m. PST

Valid argument….


Amicalement
Armand

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 10:23 p.m. PST

MJK is correct.

Given the heavy losses, fighting, and suicides by both Japanese civilians and soldiers, dropping the bombs were the correct thing to do.

Far more lives would have been lost on both sides if we had gone ahead and invaded the Japanese home islands.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 4:36 a.m. PST

A blockade would not have 'starved them out'. It would have starved a lot of people, yes, millions probably, but not the military, not the factory workers, and surely not the men in charge. If the old and the very young starved they were just making honorable sacrifices for the Emperor. After enough died, there would be a sustainable population which was still ready to fight. Only an invasion or the bombs were going to bring about surrender.

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 5:30 a.m. PST

I think we agree Scott that an invasion of the main islands is not viable especially when there are other tools available. Your assertion that Japan would not have surrendered under the pressure of blockade is not shared by senior US military officials at the time. Both Admiral King and Leahy were of the judgement that Japan's surrender was inevitable even without the atomic bombs. The US Strategic Bombing Survey report was clear on this point. Japan was devastated. Japan could not produce enough food to feed itself. Continued US strategic bombing plus a cordon would have forced surrender. The big problem was that Japan's political structures were not capable of a timely resolution of the inevitable. It would probably have taken 6 to 8 months. We will never know for sure but to drop an atomic bomb on civilian targets before at least attempting to force surrender on other terms is deeply troubling.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 8:11 a.m. PST

Ummmmmm, surround the Islands and starve them out? Years?
Dude, my dad needed to get home so he could make ME by 1950!!!! A very important moment in time I might add!

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 12:00 p.m. PST

(smile)

Amicalement
Armand

catavar25 Mar 2020 12:49 p.m. PST

I think one has to take into account the multitude of suicide contraptions that would have probably been hurled at any US blockade (or attack), the ill treatment of allied prisoners (I'm thinking Wake Island), and the continued devastation caused by the USAF.

Would starving civilians to the point of wide spread famine and fire bombing what population centers were left have been more humane?

When I consider what the Japanese Military had already sacrificed, and with it's hold on the government, I don't think anyone (now or then) could really predict what they were willing to endure. With that in mind I don't believe the USA was left with any good options for ending the war.

Mark 125 Mar 2020 12:51 p.m. PST

Your assertion that Japan would not have surrendered under the pressure of blockade is not shared by senior US military officials at the time.

Yes. A very modern western perspective. Quite surprising for the day. Also very ahistorical.

Can we find any case in post-rennaissance history where a despotic / authoritarian government willingly surrendered to an enemy nation based on concerns over the discomfort of it's general population? Anyone? Ferris?

We do, on the other hand, have numerous historical cases where despotic / authoritarian governments accepted the deaths of millions of their own population through hunger, pestilence, etc. as simply a cost of doing business.

Sure, US officials thought the Japanese were done. Sure they did. Or at least a couple of them did. Because if the Japanese were thinking like the Americans wanted them to think, it was the reasonable thing to do. But is there any evidence that the Japanese leadership was thinking like the Americans wanted them to? Any at all?

We do know they were thinking of arming millions of civilians with sharpened bamboo spears to conduct mass human-wave attacks on US troops. We do know they were training divers to swim along the surf line with mines on their backs to blow up landing craft. We do know that after more than 100,000 perished in the Tokyo fire bombings they worried about the safety of the emperor. But surely the Japanese leadership was going to conform to the expectations of a couple of US officials, right?

What non-sense. You don't gain insight into what the Japanese were likely to do by looking at the words of US officials, regardless of which side of the issue they were on. That's just a really poor approach to historical evaluation. If you want insight into what the Japanese were likely to do, you look into the records of THE JAPANESE officials.

Yes, there were voices on both sides of the issue. But there is no body of evidence of voices raised based on concerns over the plight of the commoners. Rather, the concerns were over the future and the place of the nation. What would happen to the nation, to it's place in history and among the other nations of the world? How many millions of lives a course of action might cost was not in the calculations.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey report was clear on this point. Japan was devastated. Japan could not produce enough food to feed itself.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey was written by the US Air Force. It is not the best source of what the state of Japan was in 1945.
"Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or strengthens one's prior personal beliefs or hypotheses."
link

A blockade would not have 'starved them out'. It would have starved a lot of people, yes, millions probably, but not the military, not the factory workers, and surely not the men in charge. If the old and the very young starved they were just making honorable sacrifices for the Emperor. After enough died, there would be a sustainable population which was still ready to fight.

This is the most likely scenario.

If you don't believe this sort of thing actually happens, examine the Siege of Leningrad. Ration levels were established and ruthlessly enforced to starve the non-essential people, so that the essential people could survive. Some 900,000 perished IN ONE CITY!

Should we really believe that the Japanese divine royal leadership and military cabal was so concerned over their poor suffering people that they would be softer than the glorious people's and workers' party in charge of the Soviet Union?

The real purpose of dropping the bomb was as a warning to the USSR …

US policy in July and August of 1945 was to GET THE USSR INTO THE WAR WITH JAPAN. It was NOT to keep the USSR away.

PDF link
US Lend Lease to Russia via the Pacific pipeline continued right up until they entered the war against Japan. In 1945 the US transferred 32 cargo ships and 4 tankers to the Soviets to expand the amount of war materials that could be sent to the Soviet Far East.

link
Project Hula was the largest transfer of naval vessels in history -- the US handed more than 100 vessels over to the Soviets at Cold Harbor, Alaska. Soviet naval crews began arriving at Cold Harbor for training in April of 1945. They learned their ships, and then sailed them home under Soviet flags. The largest portion of ships were amphibious warfare ships. The transfers continued until September of 1945.

WHY would the US do all of that if they wanted to keep the Soviets OUT of Japan?

To get to the conclusion that the US dropped the bombs to scare away the Soviets, one has to simply ignore history. Sure, it makes sense from a 1970s perspective on US-Soviet relations. But the decision to drop the bomb on Japan was not made in the 1970s, it was made in 1945.

At some point in 1946 the Japanese surrender.

So you are perfectly willing to sacrifice 2 million Chinese civilians (they were dying at rate of more than 10,000 per week under the tender ministrations of the Japanese Army), and see some millions of Japanese civilians starved to death, in order to avoid dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima?

What a curious moral position.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 12:55 p.m. PST

Would starving civilians to the point of wide spread famine and fire bombing what population centers were left have been more humane?

I am sympathetic to this point of view. What is the difference between dying from starvation or non nuclear bombing? On one level not much. On a moral level I think there this is a difference. WMDs hold a terror and destructive power far beyond regular weapons. Their inability even remotely to distinguish between military and civilian targets makes them very different from other weapons systems.

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 1:15 p.m. PST

Can we find any case in post-rennaissance history where a despotic / authoritarian government willingly surrendered to an enemy nation based on concerns over the discomfort of it's general population? Anyone? Ferris?

How about Germany in 1918? Or Austria-Hungry or the Ottoman Empire in 1918? Just to start.

Actually the US didn't want the USSR in the war against Japan by the summer of 1945. This was one of the changes that occurred when Roosevelt died and Truman took the presidency. The situation had changed between Yalta and Potsdam. By July 1945 the US had already detonated its first atomic bomb in testing. Both Truman and Churchill recognized that the USSR was no longer needed in the Pacific. One of Stalin's condition for entry into the war was the right to jointly occupy the Japanese islands with the Allies, something the US was not keen to permit.

Your comparison of Leningrad with Japan doesn't seem to me be germane to the question of Japanese surrender in 1945. Leningrad was part of a larger war that was undecided at the time and there were strong strategic reasons for the USSR to hold on the city, even at great cost to the local inhabitants. Japan was defeated by the summer 1945. The Japan military leadership understood this.

As far as broader moral questions, well war has its inconsistencies. If the United States had been willing to accept the continuation of the Emperor as head of state in Japan the war would have ended much sooner. The US refused this term and demanded unconditional surrender. That certainly continued the war and dug in the Japanese political and military leadership. Ironically, after the war the US decided to allow the Emperor to continue to reign as head to state. So there you go.

Blutarski25 Mar 2020 5:07 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus -
You may wish to read "The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II The War Against Japan". You seem to be misapprehending the progress and potential implications of events and alternate course of action under discussion here.

FWIW.

B

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 6:17 p.m. PST

What are the potential implications of events and alternate courses of action that are you thinking about Blutarski?

Blutarski26 Mar 2020 12:57 p.m. PST

Hi MB,
I do suggest that you read the book, but meanwhile, here are a few -

1 – The war plan in the Pacific and the intention of demanding unconditional surrender Japan, were not unilaterally dictated by the USA. They involved discussion and negotiation between the US, GB and ANZAC.

2 – Belief in the necessity to physically invade and subdue the Japanese homeland had been in place for well over a year and derived from the fact that in none of the Allied victories did the Japanese ever surrender. They always fought to the last man.

3 – None of the Allied nations was anxious to undertake an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, because all understood the time, effort and cost (to all sides) likely to be incurred in prosecuting it.

4 – The idea of a blockade was in fact examined. It involved not only a physical close sea blockade, but also a continuation of an intensive bombing campaign to prevent the Japanese from rebuilding their economy, war industries and infrastructure. Uncertainty as to how long Japanese leadership might elect to continue resistance was a great X factor. This uncertainty then led to the decision that, if the blockade option was selected, it would be necessary to plan for invasions Java, Singapore, Malaya, Borneo, Formosa and other outlying areas still under Japanese control.

5 – The USSR was specifically requested (at Yalta) to give a date when it could re-deploy forces to the East to eliminate the huge Japanese force occupying Manchuria and China. Participation of Soviet forces in a physical invasion of the Japanese home island was operationally impractical, as the Soviets (a) had no amphibious/naval/air capability to undertake such an operation and (b) had no means of logistically supporting it.

6 – Assuming no voluntary surrender by the Japanese, the initial landing operation to seize Kyushu could not be scheduled until November 1945 at earliest, with the second phase invasion of Honshu planned for no earlier than March 1946. The Honshu operation would involved fighting for the Kanto plain, the most densely populated part of Japan and its industrial heart (Tokyo-Yokohama). A physical invasion of Japan would have extended the war up to another year (assuming all went according to planning predictions).

7 – In the end, after the two A-bombs AND the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, the Japanese offered to surrender with one condition – that the sovereignty of the Emperor be recognized. The Allies did NOT insist upon an unconditional surrender and, in fact, accepted this condition, with the proviso that the authority of the Emperor would be subject to the supreme Allied commander (to which Japan immediately agreed).

I have no desire to be harsh or critical, but it is IMO far too easy to cast moral judgments 75 years after the fact on the basis of preferred hindsight and assumptions. The relevant actors (on both sides) had all their chips in the middle of the table and no crystal balls to consult.

To hopefully lend some balancing perspective, be it known that I consider the "western powers" responsible for having ignited the Pacific conflagration. But that is a flame-war for another time.

FWIW.

B

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 2:08 p.m. PST

Well said Blutarski.

Even critics of Truman's decision at the time to drop the Bombs agreed with the figure of 35% US casualties for any invasion, based on prior experience on Guadalcanal, Iwo, Okinawa, etc.

Since the invasion would have involved nearly 800,000 men, that's a staggering 280,00 US casualties. Prior combat experience showed that the US-Japan casualty ratio could be as high as 1:22, so for each US casualty there could be up to x22 Japanese casualties. That's over SIX MILLION Japanese casualties. As Blutarski said, prior experience showed that the Japanese basically *did not surrender.* At Iwo Jima, only 216 of almost 22,000 Japanese defenders surrendered, and many of those had been wounded and could neither fight nor commit suicide.

And these loss figures may have been low, since the US greatly underestimated how many troops and aircraft were available to Japanese defenders. The Japanese plan was fight for every inch of ground, to the death, making the US casualties so high, so brutal, that they'd be able to achieve a conditional surrender.

*For example, US planners estimated there were about 400,000 soldiers on the island of Kyushu -- after the war they found out there were over 700,000 troops dug in across Kyushu.

*The US estimated the Japanese airforce had been wiped out, but there were over 10,000 planes available for kamikaze attacks. The carnage at Okinawa was caused by only 2,000 kamikaze planes.

*The US was unaware that Japan had built thousands of suicide boats, mini-subs, manned torpedos and trained over 1000 suicide divers to be used on US landing craft and support ships.

*US planners did not take into account the civilian defense forces who were being trained to ordered to resist the Americans. I recall a conversation with an elderly Japanese man I had, he remembers being trained as a suicide bomber at age 10 -- he was to run with arms wide open at a US soldier yelling "Bubble gum, bubble gum," then hug the soldier and detonate a suicide grenade.

*Main Japanese defense forces on Honshu were closer to 1.5 Million troops.

Japanese leaders called this the "Decisive Battle" doctrine of total attrition warfare, anticipating that no matter the cost in Japanese lives, enough would remain to rebuild after the Americans lost their will to sustain heavy losses and accepted a conventional surrender that left the Japanese leadership and system intact. Btw, the use of the Atomic Bombs nullified this strategy -- which they realized and was a factor in their decision to surrender.

Even so, after 2 atom bombs had been used, fanatical officers attempted a coup to seize the Emperor and prevent surrender. In there minds it would have been better for all of Japan to be destroyed than to be dishonored by surrender.

Divine Wind to the rescue? The US would have been seriously effected by a massive typhoon that hit the region during the same time US troops would be fighting on Kyushu in October. As it was, Typhoon Louise sank 12 ships, destroyed hundreds of planes and small landing craft. Had that happened during the invasion of Kyushu, US forces could have been cut off from support and wiped out. This "Divine Wind" would have only made the Japanese fight even more fanatically.

The Soviets played zero role in the decision. Truman was surrounded by insders who were fans of Uncle Joe, and who had rejected Churchill's calls to actions. So intimidating the Soviets had zero to do with anything. And neither did the Soviet declaration of War, that didn't force Japan to surrender. The Soviets played almost zero role in the war against Japan, and had maintained its armistice with Japan until the US had them in a corner. The bulk of Japanese forces had been withdrawn to the home islands, so what happened in China didn't effect Japanese planning. The Soviets also had almost no capacity to conduct amphibious landings. What assets they did have were given to them by the US, and when they did stage a landing on the Kuriles they took a beating. The Soviets attacked the island of Shumshu three days *after* Japan's declaration of surrender against a surprised Japanese defense force. The Soviets lost 5 landing ships and took 4000 casualties against 600 Japanese casualties. They could barely take a small island, there was no way they could have invade a main island like Hokkaido.

So it's all well and good to look back 75 years after the fact at horrific event and pretend you know better than those faced with brutal decisions with limited information and high stakes.

catavar26 Mar 2020 4:12 p.m. PST

@MB, I believe I understand your position that a line was crossed in 1945 and respect it. I hope all those in power share your outlook.

Still, I've read about the USAF's bombing of Japan during WWII and the descriptions the effect of fire-bombing had on population centers (which were mostly made of wood) and think it was terrible. I can't help think being cooked to death in an inferno is no less horrific than another means of violence.

I personally cannot even grasp the terror and suffering, that I believe, captured US airmen and other prisoners endured while being medically experimented on. I suppose one could argue the scale of terror inflicted, but I have trouble with that. Horror is horror and one form doesn't negate the ghastliness of the other in my opinion.

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 5:19 p.m. PST

Hi Blutarski

Thanks for your detailed response. Thanks for the book recommendation.

A couple of historical claims in your response need to be addressed.

1. The requirement of unconditional surrender of Japan was decided with the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945. It was based on negotiations between the US, USSR and GB. The role of the Emperor was deliberately not included in that declaration. The Japanese, through the USSR, attempted to get a commitment from the Allies about the future role of the Emperor. This commitment was refused. There was no commitment at the time of surrender to the future role of the Emperor.

2. Admiral King, U.S. Naval Commander-in-Chief stated that the naval blockade of Japan alone would have "starved the Japanese into submission if we had been willing to wait."

3. I agree with you if the only choices are binary, invasion or atomic bombing. I still believe that there was a third choice available to Allied cause which was a blockade if the only issue was the surrender of Japan.

4. Admiral Leahy, the highest ranking military officer the US armed forces during WWII stated in his memoirs the following.

"Once it had been tested, President Truman faced the decision as to whether to use it. He did not like the idea, but he was persuaded that it would shorten the war against Japan and save American lives. It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and that wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

My critique of the use of the atomic bomb was a view held by many at the time.

5. By Potsdam the US did not want the USSR involved in war against Japan. SB's assertion that the Truman administration was friendly towards the Soviet Union is incorrect. There was a major course correction in US foreign policy after the death of Roosevelt. While many of Roosevelt's main advisors stayed on in the 1st term Truman administration the primary protagonist for good relations with the USSR was Roosevelt himself. The USSR was never going to be a major player in any direct of invasion of Japan but they were insisting, on the basis of their invasion of Manchuria, that they be a party to its occupation, something the US would not countenance.

7. Again, I believe you are mistaken about this claim. The Suzuki government notified the Allied governments on August 14, 1945 that they accepted the terms of Potsdam Declaration. The Declaration specifically stated the unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces. There was no commitment to the Suzuki government of the status of the Emperor in a post war Japan.

My critique of the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan is rooted in historical critique and is not a later redacted scapegoating of a difficult historical decision.

Again, thanks for your comments. It helped me refine my own.

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 8:30 p.m. PST

Respectftully:

2. Admiral King, U.S. Naval Commander-in-Chief stated that the naval blockade of Japan alone would have "starved the Japanese into submission if we had been willing to wait."

Of course he did! The USN and the USAAF were politicking al the time over who was most important, but his opinion was not shared by the Japanese nor those whose planning was based on ground combat against them.

3. I agree with you if the only choices are binary, invasion or atomic bombing. I still believe that there was a third choice available to Allied cause which was a blockade if the only issue was the surrender of Japan.

You can feel that way, but the Japanese leadership wouldn't have surrendered because of a blockade, they had regime/system survival on their mind and were prepared for millions and millions of dead countrymen to achieve that. I think it's hard to grasp that you really cannot base your impressions of Imperial Japan on interactions with current day Japanese and Japanese culture. Imperial Japan under military leadership was totally different -- think an entire empire steeped in racial supremacy and an honor code that saw 99% of Japanese island garrisons prefer to die than surrender, a leadership who saw all non-Japanese as subhuman…and a surrendered Allied soldier often treated more like a distasteful beast. The closest modern day adversaries in terms of attitude and barbarity is probably ISIS -- think of an industrial empire run by ISIS-minded people. And not the occasional suicide bomber but thousands and thousands of young men convinced they were going to Heaven in the cause of the Emperor by flying planes into ships, hurling themselves under US tanks with explosive charges, etc. That's what the Allies faced.


4. Admiral Leahy, the highest ranking military officer the US armed forces during WWII stated in his memoirs the following….My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and that wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

He wrote this 10 years after the end of the war, writing his memoirs and trying to look good given growing public sentiment against the Bomb. When he was Truman's chief of staff, there's no public record that he advised against using it -- just that it was "the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The atomic bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives." Leahy is also on record in minutes of meetings leading up to the bomb as confirming heavy US casualties. He agreed with the figure of 35% US casualties I cited earlier. Oh…and on "destroying women and children," Leahy never expressed qualms like this about the mass firebombing of Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands, nor is there anything on record during the war that he opposed that. So his post-war qualms seem suspect to me.

SB's assertion that the Truman administration was friendly towards the Soviet Union is incorrect. There was a major course correction in US foreign policy after the death of Roosevelt.

That's incorrect. Truman had inherited all of FDR's largely pro-Stalin advisors. On Truman's first meeting with Stalin in July 1945, he closed his journal entry for that day on a note of confidence. "I can deal with Stalin," he wrote. "He is honest, but smart as hell." Truman's opposition to the USSR largely evolved after the end of WW2 as Stalin reneged on the Potsdam Agreement (signed after the surrender of Japan) and started fomenting revolution and turmoil in Greece, etc. Stalin's actions prompted Truman in his second term to break with FDR's crew and form the Truman Doctrine.

The US and Allies were faced with awful and horrific choices during the fight -- as the death notices flurry home via Western Union. As broken and battered ships limp into port with bits of Japanese aircraft jutting from the scorched wreckage. As the horror of Japanese POW camps are revealed. The choice of suck vs even more suck while the world is on fire. What do you do then??

Blutarski26 Mar 2020 9:08 p.m. PST

MB,
It is really irrelevant what an individual admiral or general wrote as his opinion; the important thing was what the Joint Chiefs agreed to as a group recommendation and forwarded to White House.

Read the Joint Chiefs of Staff history for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

B

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 9:17 p.m. PST

That does it! Skipper John's argument wins! ROFL

Welcome to Planet Earth, John! <handshake> Now in the spirit of the 1950s don't forget to start digging that "Anti-virus Bunker" right quick! ;)

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 9:20 p.m. PST

Mark – wonderful points made. Yes, why do all of that for the USSR if we wanted them out of Japan? Bravo.

Bill N26 Mar 2020 9:26 p.m. PST

How is this debate on Hiroshima any different that all of the previous debates we've had on it? What new information is being disclosed here? What new argument is being raised that will change anyone's minds from their previously stated positions?

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 10:27 p.m. PST

But my dear friend Bill N… If we follow that premise … 99% of the topics of interest here have already been covered over and over … the good thing is to read … as if it were a good old book … the fine opinions of fellow members who imho … every day are more interesting and deeper…


Amicalement
Armand

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2020 10:43 p.m. PST

What new argument is being raised that will change anyone's minds from their previously stated positions?

Dunno, but the last one prompted me to look more deeply into the claims that Truman dropped the Bomb to scare the Russkies and stop them from invading Japan…and found them wanting…

YouTube link

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2020 1:52 p.m. PST

It is really irrelevant what an individual admiral or general wrote as his opinion; the important thing was what the Joint Chiefs agreed to as a group recommendation and forwarded to White House.

Blutarski, I included the Leahy quote because I object to your assertion that criticizing the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan is an attempt at scapegoating the past. The critique was present and real in 1945 and in the immediate years following.

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2020 4:02 p.m. PST

Say MB -- still not really accurate. As I stated before, the record shows Leahy never opposed dropping the Bomb and was adamant that it wouldn't even work, and never expressed qualms about firebombing Japanese women and children into ashes *during the war*

When he was Truman's chief of staff, there's no public record that he advised against using it -- just that it was "the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The atomic bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives." Leahy is also on record in minutes of meetings leading up to the bomb as confirming heavy US casualties. He agreed with the figure of 35% US casualties I cited earlier. Oh…and on "destroying women and children," Leahy never expressed qualms like this about the mass firebombing of Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands, nor is there anything on record during the war that he opposed that. So his post-war qualms seem suspect to me.

Pax out!

Blutarski27 Mar 2020 8:43 p.m. PST

MB wrote -
"Blutarski, I included the Leahy quote because I object to your assertion that criticizing the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan is an attempt at scapegoating the past. The critique was present and real in 1945 and in the immediate years following."

With respect, MB, I have made no reference whatsoever to "scapegoating" anything whatsoever. I suggest you re-read my post(s). The process that led to the final decision to go forward with the dropping of the bomb was (from MY reading of the history) long, complex and morally stressful. The process involved inputs and comment from a wide range of involved parties and command elements. I find no evidence of anyone taking any aspect of the process OR the ultimate decision lightly. All that input was distilled by the Joint Chiefs into a recommendation that was submitted to the White House for consideration. At that point, individual opinions were nothing more than that – individual opinions irrelevant to the progress of events thereafter.

It is enticingly easy 75 years after the fact to cast retrospective critiques and judgments about awesomely daunting, perhaps world-altering historical decisions, without bearing or probably even being aware of all the gigantic pressures, moral and otherwise, under which the historical decision-makers labored. Don't assume that everything back then was as wonderfully simple, clear and obvious as one might wishfully think it to have been at this distant remove.

We really have absolutely NO idea.

Have a nice day, MB.

B

4th Cuirassier29 Mar 2020 5:17 a.m. PST

The navy and the bombing bit of the air force had no option but to claim they were about to defeat Japan anyway. The alternative would be to admit that the largest navy and largest air force in history could not defeat a middling industrial power whose economy had been no more than 10% the size of America's in 1941. It would have been like admitting you couldn't defeat Italy.

Obviously they were not going to admit anything of the sort, because the next sentence would have had to be "…and therefore we recommend that our commands be disbanded immediately as constructively worthless." Likewise Bomber Harris claiming he could defeat Germany with heavy bombers. When he failed the answer was always more bombers.

("It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair)

It was a turf argument, pure and simple. It was because these points had not been internalised that some in the US went on to imagine that they could defeat Vietnam, which they couldn't. Of what actual use is a military if it can't defeat Japan in 1945 or Vietnam in 1975?

Some wars aren't winnable with armies and navies. Some require different thinking, such as nukes. These guys thought they could see the writing on the wall and that if a bomb could do the job of the army and navy and do it better, there wouldn't long be an army or a navy. I think this is a much better explanation of the ex post claims of such as King and Leahy than taking their comments at face value as though sincere and objective.

Blutarski30 Mar 2020 5:34 p.m. PST

Post-war US interrogations of senior Japanese army, navy, government and diplomatic officials concluded that Japan's war plan, at least as early as mid-1942 (IMO probably from the very start of the war), was that Japan had no chance of militarily defeating the United States in the conventional sense and that the intention was to protract the war until the US leadership and/or people wearied of the fighting and agreed to a negotiated peace that left Japan with some net strategic gains in East Asia.

It is worthy of note that, even as late as 1945, Japan still physically held vast swathes of valuable territory in East Asia. It was not until the A-bomb drops and the unexpected Russian declaration of war (which altered the Japanese view of Russia from potential mediator of a negotiated peace to a dire threat to Japan's strategic position in Manchuria and on the Asian mainland) that finally convinced Hirohito that the jig was up and that the best option was to throw in his lot with the peace faction and bring the conflict to an end.

The unconditional surrender of Japan was first formally announced in the joint US/GB Cairo Declaration of 1 Dec 1942. Potsdam was simply a re-statement thereof, formally bringing the USSR into the fold.

Just to bring the scholarship up to date …..

B

Mark 130 Mar 2020 5:57 p.m. PST

Blutarski is right on so many issues.

I would expand the statement of Japan's war plan. From the outset, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese recognized that they could not defeat the US. Their plan was to gain a temporary advantage, to quickly expand their perimeter and build several layers of defensible islands, which would be difficult and time-consuming for the Americans to fight their way through, thus wearing down the American will to fight in order to achieve a negotiated settlement to their favor.

This had been their analysis of European and American wars to that point. The protagonists quickly tired of the effort, and found a settlement. If they could exhaust the US, they could achieve a settlement keeping most of what they had already seized.

This is part of the reason that the military members of the war counsel were not convinced that they were strategically losing the war, even as they lost so many island garrisons. To their way of thinking it was not a lost battle to take 100% casualties and lose a position, if they were tiring out the Americans. They still held to that strategy, in some oddly twisted form, in 1945. They were basically inviting the invasion of Japan, holding back all that they could muster to give the Americans such a bloody nose that they would lose heart and Japan would be able to achieve a desirable settlement.

The stark realization that the Americans didn't need to exhaust themselves any more to exterminate Japan as a nation kind of made it hard to stick to even the most twisted version of their strategy. Even the military fatalists (a genuine movement by this time), who no longer focused on gaining a good settlement and were looking instead towards a spectacular and honorable warrior's death for the whole nation, were suddenly confronted with the prospect of no such thing -- of no great final battle, but instead just dying under a rain of fire.

This all became clearer in the post-war interrogations (and examinations of the documents). But even at that time, remember that we were "reading their mail." The Japanese diplomatic codes had long since been broken, and we were aware (at the highest levels) of their efforts to engage the Soviets as brokers for a negotiated settlement.

From the correspondence with their ambassador in Moscow, we were aware that they did not foresee high likelyhood of reaching a settlement before American troops landed in Japan. That's not the kind of thing you say in your instructions to guy negotiating on your behalf if you are not expecting to stay in the fight until the enemy lands.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Jubilation T Cornpone31 Mar 2020 11:32 p.m. PST

It's always interesting to discuss historical decisions after that fact, despite the passage of years. Hindsight is a marvellous and sobering thing. To put my cards on the table, I agree that dropping the bomb(s)was the most viable option out of a bunch of really bad options.
1) Drop the bomb – Everyone dies.
2) Starve them out – Everyone dies.
3) Invade – Everyone dies.
Sometimes it's the cold assessment of the numbers involved in 'Everyone dies' that is all you can base your decision on. Particularly where your enemy holds POW's on the mainland and they are likely to be the first to suffer in options 2 and 3. We can judge them now from our comfortable homes but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be involved in that decision.
One thing I am interested in though is option No 4. Drop the bomb on a purely military target offshore (I am assuming there were some)to show the Japanese leadership what the US were capable of, then send them a message stating 'We got a load of these suckers. You've seen what they can do. Come to the table now and we wont start removing your cities one by one, starting with Tokyo.'
Was that one of the options discussed? Better minds than mine will probably know. If so I have no doubt the US had a good reason for not applying it although I imagine only having three devices means it was a pretty big bluff to call.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 9:44 p.m. PST

I believe that there was an actual fear that if we per-announced a drop and target, that some how the bomb might not actually go off and then what.

Some suggested dropping it on Mt. Fuji, but in the end the decision was based on dropping it on a populated area (with a fig leaf of including whatever military target was within the bomb zone) to get the maximum publicity and effect. Keep in mind that there was a fear that only if the population demanded peace would it happen. Dropping a bomb somewhere far off in the Pacific or on a non-occupied spot would have been ignored by the military running Japan. The bomb was meant to be a punch in the nose that could not be ignored or hidden to the masses.

Finally, any surviving allied Marine, Army, air or naval from the battles in the Pacific did not doubt for a moment that the Japanese would fight to the last man, woman or child if the bomb had not been dropped. It was war and they wanted to end it as quickly as possible without any more casualties.

Dan

Legion 403 Apr 2020 8:59 a.m. PST

Dan … +1

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2020 9:19 a.m. PST

I don't agree with the majority consensus on this. The notion that the Japanese would fight to the death is simply not borne out in the facts. The Japanese were prepared to surrender in the summer of 1945. They were attempting to negotiate through Russian intermediaries. Little did they understand that the Russians were playing a double game at the time. They wanted terms and the Allies refused to consider anything but unconditional surrender. When the Soviets invaded in August of 1945 not only was the "jig up" so to speak but there was no longer any effective intermediary to continue negotiations through.

Was using the atomic bomb absolutely necessary? I think that is the threshold that needs to be crossed before a weapon of this type is used. My argument is that all options other than the "bomb" were not exhausted. The strawman argument is that the only alternative was invasion. That is not the case. A strategic "strangulation" of the Japanese Islands might work but that would require time. What was the time pressure on Truman? Probably several. The US public. The actions of the USSR in the East in 45. Maybe a general war weariness.

There is an interesting article in NY Times from 25 years ago about this subject.

link

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Apr 2020 9:41 a.m. PST

The Japanese were most definitely NOT "prepared to surrender in the summer of 1945". There were some who were looking to find a diplomatic end to the war. That is a far, far cry from being prepared to surrender.

And short of a surrender, there were only three options:

1. Invade, killing a whole lot of people on both sides and still quite possibly not bringing about a surrender until the last Japanese soldier was routed out of the last cave on the last island.

2. Blockade, which would kill millions of civilians but not necessarily bring about a surrender as long as the military wasn't actually starving.

3. Drop the bombs, killing a lot of people, but nowhere near as many as in options #1 or #2, and threatening to drop a whole lot more.

We have no way of knowing how well #1 or #2 would have worked, or if they would have worked at all. But #3 did work and at a cost far lower than any other possible option.

4th Cuirassier03 Apr 2020 10:20 a.m. PST

A strategic strangulation would have resulted in the deaths of every allied PoW in Japan and probably every one in Japanese hands anywhere.

Why should PoWs in Malaya be fed when the guards' families at home in Japan were starving?

If it's kill 1,000,000 Japanese and end the war they started, or allow one unnecessary allied casualty, me, I'd expend the million Japanese every time.

thomalley03 Apr 2020 12:29 p.m. PST

I fail to see the moral superiority in watching 100 million people starve to death over dropping the atomic bomb. (Not to mention that thousands of Chinese dying monthly). In fact I would say starving would be worse. As it was, massive starvation is Japan in 1945/46 was only prevent by huge importation of food by the allied powers.

Blutarski03 Apr 2020 6:26 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus rote "The notion that the Japanese would fight to the death is simply not borne out in the facts. The Japanese were prepared to surrender in the summer of 1945. They were attempting to negotiate through Russian intermediaries. Little did they understand that the Russians were playing a double game at the time. They wanted terms and the Allies refused to consider anything but unconditional surrender. When the Soviets invaded in August of 1945 not only was the "jig up" so to speak but there was no longer any effective intermediary to continue negotiations through."

The circumstances were FAR more complicated than is made out in the above passage. Japan was indeed looking for a way out of the war, but powerful forces (primarily the military) insisted upon a negotiated cessation of hostilities and adamantly opposed a surrender on unconditional terms. Of course, the official position of the Allies was exactly the reverse as had been formally announced in the Cairo Declaration of Dec 1942, later reinforced at Potsdam in July 1945.

Go here for a more nuanced assessment of events
PDF link

- -

I believe it is still possible to access via the web the lengthy post-war US debriefs of the major Japanese military, governmental and diplomatic personalities who played key roles in the affair. Look for -

General Headquarters, Far East Command
Military Intelligence Section, Historical Division
Statements of Japanese Officials on World War II
(English Translations)

I found and saved it a LONG time ago, but unfortunately did not bother to save the web address (it MIGHT be hiding in the Combined Arms Research Library digital archive). It is 600+ pages of political and geo-strategic intrigue as only the Japanese could craft.

B

Legion 404 Apr 2020 8:35 a.m. PST

Blutarski +1
Based on everything we saw in our war against Japan there was nothing make one believe that they would surrender without the dropping of the 2 A-bombs.

Would anyone in the US gov't risk losing millions of US/Allied troops if we didn't drop the bombs ? No one can read minds … But everything points to based on past experience with Japan is they were going to fight to at least the last man. If not last woman and child.

Marcus Brutus Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2020 8:08 p.m. PST

The circumstances were FAR more complicated than is made out in the above passage. Japan was indeed looking for a way out of the war, but powerful forces (primarily the military) insisted upon a negotiated cessation of hostilities and adamantly opposed a surrender on unconditional terms.

Your last phrase Blutarski is the critical point, "Unconditional surrender." I agree that the Japanese weren't ready to unconditionally surrender in the summer of 1945. I have never made the claim in this discussion. The question, is why did the US demand unconditional surrender instead of negotiating a cessation of hostilities that would have been a defacto surrender with conditions. The Japanese were prepared to essentially endure a peace roughly equivalent to what the Germans suffered at the end of WWI. No occupation and the retention of the monarchy but in every other way demoted as a major power. Instead we get the bomb twice and unconditional surrender.

Blutarski05 Apr 2020 6:44 a.m. PST

Marcus Brutus wrote "The Japanese were prepared to essentially endure a peace roughly equivalent to what the Germans suffered at the end of WWI. No occupation and the retention of the monarchy but in every other way demoted as a major power."

- -

I'm calling B/S on the above. Upon what actual facts do you base this assertion?

When you mention "The Japanese", to whom exactly are you referring? Members of individual factions independently dropping hints and making veiled overtures via neutral interlocutors that Japan might be interested to open negotiations to bring the fighting to an end is NOT a surrender offer. Senior Japanese officials (even including Tojo) clearly and unambiguously stated that up to the very end, there was NO unanimity among the various factions as to how or even whether the war should be brought to an end. Even if the Allies had been able to come to an agreement with one faction, there was NO guarantee that other factions (i.e., the military) would have agreed to abide by any such deal.

Just as an aside … the surrender of Japan was in fact technically a conditional surrender. There was one condition appended by the Japanese to their surrender offer that one condition being that the Emperor and the dignity of his status remain in place. Truman agreed to it. Hirohito remained in place as Emperor of Japan with all conventional privileges and accommodations; he was not prosecuted for any war crimes; there was no interference in the right of succession; the imperial family survives to this very day.

I get that you harbor a distaste over the fact that atomic weapons were employed against Japan. I get that many people died as a result. But IMO your emotionalism has utterly blotted out your objectivity. You ignore the far more dire potential consequences of other courses of action … "the blockade" for one, which might well have added another zero to the number of dead alone.

B

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