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The Atomic Bombing of Japan


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Initial post: Oct 31, 2007 5:09:05 PM PDT
I am interested in the views of people in regards to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Pacific War.

Do you feel:
They were abominations that should never have been dropped?
They were necessary evils to finish the war and save lives on both sides?
They proved the devestation wrought by nuclear weapons and saved the world from further destruction in the future?

Regards

Stephen

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2007 5:46:17 PM PDT
I do believe they were as you say "necessary evils to finish the war and save lives" the Japanese would have never surrendered to the US, as witnessed on Saipan when civilians would rather jump off cliffs and die than be taken prisoner. Or as on Iwo Jima men fighting to the last man, with the thought of killing as many Americans as possible before they lost the island to them. It was a sad decision that Truman made, but it had to be made. I will always say that if the Japanese had not attacked us we would not have dropped the bombs.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2007 6:20:07 PM PDT
R. Morris says:
Absolutely, a necessary evil, that saved thousands of lives on both sides.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2007 8:28:47 PM PDT
Jolls says:
They should never have been dropped. Japan had already offered a conditional surrender, but Truman wanted an unconditional surrender which would collapse the Japanese monarchy (one of the oldest ones left). The problem with that war was our "only unconditional surrender", much like our thoughtless "attack them before they attack us" pre-emptive interventionist foreign policy of today. I used to think that they were necessary evils (as recent as a year ago), but I've read more and more about it, and I've changed opinions and haven't looked back. Here's a decent article on the subject with dates, names and history, as well as giving a book to read.
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/denson7.html

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2007 8:28:57 PM PDT
John M. Lane says:
I agree with other contributors to this topic. President Truman had the option of dropping the atomic bomb in an attempt to end the war or going ahead with the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. Given the nature of the resistance on Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other Japanese held islands and territories, the casualties would have been catastrophic.

Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped. The first one hit Hiroshima (headquarters of the last, intact Imperial Army in the Empire) and Nagasaki (a center of heavy manufacturing). Both were legitimate, military targets, in other words.

The Emperor got the message and ordered the surrender to save his people. The surrender also saved countless US and other Allied casualties and ended the war.

One of my uncles worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the bomb. My father, who was in the Navy, and the other men of his generation, (the "greatest generation") all credited my uncle and the atomic bomb project with saving a lot of lives.

Everybody knew that the invasion of Japan would be a blood bath. We'd have won, eventually, but the cost would have been beyond calculation. Casualty predictions against the Japanese always tended to be low.

Had the invasion proceeded, I'd love to be the historian who found that Truman had a weapon which might have forced the Japanese to surrender, but chose NOT to use it.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2007 10:49:49 PM PDT
Brian Keefe says:
If you take the time to read Bradley's Flyboys, you will know the answer to your questions. I had been on both sides of this issue over the course of my lifetime. I'm in my sixties now. I can tell you that if you want to know, read that book. It is the most honest even handed account of some of the action in the Pacific I have ever read.

The book starts a little strangely. I was wondering if it was some kind of diatribe. By the third chapter you will be saying,"Oh! I get it." Read it and learn the answer to your question.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 2:02:07 AM PDT
Elizabeth says:
It is a very difficult thing to discuss, and I know that Germany had lost the war by the time of the bomb, but I still think that the US would not have dropped it on them. The bombing of Dreden was certainly questionable, but it was not on the scale of an atomic bomb. Attacking Japan like that probably did save American lives but at the cost of huge suffering for Japanese civilians, mostly women and children. I do sometimes wonder why if it had to be done, it could not have been done off shore or at least in some other way that would have minimized casualties.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 2:15:56 AM PDT
Elizabeth says:
The horror of the whole thing, once it become evident, almost certainly did contribute to nuclear weapons not being used again so far. I do not know how much actual comfort this is to the victims, although I do admire the peace movement that still exists in Japan partly as a response.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 7:50:01 AM PDT
M. Musson says:
If you check your history - you find that even after the second bomb was dropped - The Japanese ruling council voted to continue the war.

Only after being attacked by Russia in Manchuria - did the Emperor step forward and order the war be ended. Even then, he faced a military coup attempt that very nearly succeeded.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 8:25:23 AM PDT
Slimjimjerry says:
I think it was necessary. Most don't know but the fire bombing of Tokyo did far more damage than the nuclear bombs did. It killed more people as well as destroying more property. The major problem with the nuclear weapons was the long lasting radiation danger.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 9:42:50 AM PDT
Toby says:
True and as late as June 1945 the Emperor asked his military leaders if victory was still possible. And, besides, when does the loser (in war) offer the terms of surrender?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 10:01:59 AM PDT
Jolls says:
"And, besides, when does the loser (in war) offer the terms of surrender?"
Answer: all the time. Countries on the losing end often will offer some form of peace arrangement to stop the war. War's continue if the winning side thinks they can do better by attacking more and offering a new peace arrangement more to their favor.
This is a very simplified version of national negotiations, but it still rings true.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 10:19:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2007 10:20:14 AM PDT
Not only was it necessary for Japan's defeat, it was essential because of the millions of lives it has saved since WW2. If not for those bombs the Soviet Union would have, sooner or later, launched a full scale war on the west. Thank God for the bomb, thank God for Colonel Tibbetts.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 11:19:25 AM PDT
Yes, the bombs themselves were horrific and instantly cost tens of thousands of people their lives with thousands more suffering the after-effects. But, as has been said by others, they ended up saving hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. Japan was not going to surrender; not even the first bomb forced them to do so. Had the military coup succeeded after the second one, they would have still kept fighting. It was part of their military culture. The bombs were a necessary evil in my opinion.

On a personal note, my father was fighting in the European Theater of Operations and was scheduled to take part in the Pacific war after Germany surrendered. Had that happened, it's quite possible I wouldn't be here today, so perhaps I am a bit biased.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 12:16:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2007 12:18:29 PM PDT
If you read Downfall you will realize that the dropping of the atomic bomb probably saved huge numbers of women and children in Japan. What most people don't' realize about Japan at the end of the War, was that the choice was not between the atomic bomb, vs. happily ever after for Japan's civilians; it was the atomic bomb ( quick causalities) vs. slow starvation of a million or more Japanese women and children and elderly as all of Japan's meager resources that were left were channeled into feeding and arming the remaining military for a year or more until the ground forces of the US prevailed.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 12:32:17 PM PDT
I also agree that they were necessary evils to finish the war and save not hundreds of thousands, but millions of lives - and nearly all of the lives it saved were Japanese. Taking an extreme view, had the invasion gone on and the Japanese resisted as they did on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Japanese language would be spoken now by about as many people as speak Latin. Stalin would have invaded Manchuria and probably advanced well into China, not so much to end the war as to add to the Soviet empire, since the Japanese would have had to recall whatever forces they could from overseas to defend the home islands. Imagine the effect that would have on history if China had joined the USSR against the USA in the cold war instead of creating the third center of power that kept that war cool.

The US had stockpiled chemical weapons and had them ready to be used in the invasion. Would that have had any less long-term effects than the nukes, beyond killing a lot more people?

As for the demonstration of the bomb that Elizabeth proposes, I don't think it would have been sufficient. It would not impress the hard-core hawks in Japan, and they would have been the ones who went to witness the demonstration, not the Emperor.

Plus, I think there was an added dimension to the effect of the bombs. A few days before Hiroshima was bombed, over 850 B-29s flew raids over Japan. Now, put those two things together - you see 850 planes bombing you one day, and then you see one plane destroy an entire large city all by itself. You have no way of knowing that the next time you see those 850 planes, they won't all be doing what the Enola Gay did. That the second bomb followed immediately after the first made that doubt even stronger.

However, there may be some question about the necessity of the second bomb. Hiroshima was so suddenly and completely cut-off from the world that the government didn't know what had happened to it. Had they been allowed time to figure it out, it might have been enough. But maybe not.

I see it as a similar event to when Katrina destroyed New Orleans. Even with modern communications and transportation, it took a good long time to grasp all the effects. Now imagine if no one had known the hurricane was coming, there are thousands of dead, and there were no helicopters or broadcast media to show what happened. To see how this would affect people, look at how people evacuated Houston a month later when it was threatened by a similar storm.

On the other, the IJA might have said "oh no, that can't happen again" and kept fighting.

After asking the questions, I think it was necessary, and both uses were necessary.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The 100,000 were sacrificed to save the 100,000,000.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 12:53:46 PM PDT
N. Perz says:
The suggestion that dropping the bombs saved 1.5 million American troops is a crock. It's my understanding that there were on-going surrender negoitations going on through the Swedish. The only condition the Japanese were pushing for was to retain the Emperor as the Head-of-State. The U.S. insisted on unconditional surrender. And when they did surrender, guess what: we allowed Japan to retain the Emperor as the Head-of-State.

I think at least part of the reason for using "the bomb" was to gain leverage over Stalin at Potsdam. I also think that there was so much propoganda about "unconditional surrender" that it was politically easier to use the bomb than to let Japan surrender. A full invasion of Japan would never have been necessary.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 12:59:19 PM PDT
I disagree that the bombing of Dresden was questionable. It was no different from the bombing of many cities, including Coventry and Tokyo. (See wikipedia.org/wiki/Firestorm for a list)

As for Germany, imagine that the bomb had been available while the Germans were still fighting effectively. Do you have any doubt that nuking a few cities would have been a very strong alternative to invading Europe? How many lives (Germans, Russians, Jews) would have been saved if the war had ended a year earlier? If Stalin had known about the bomb, he would have demanded that it be used - or, more likely, he would have demanded that he be given some so he could use them himself.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 3:46:52 PM PDT
Joe West says:
This is an important point. There were convential bombings during WWII which were roughly in casualties and destruction as devastating as the atomic attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 1943 bombing of Hamburg caused a firestorm that killed tens of thousands of Germans and flattened the city often called the "Hiroshima of Germany". The big difference though that this destruction was caused by a massive armada of planes bombing around the clock, not by one plane with one bomb. The physiological effect of one bomb causing similar immense deaths and destruction was devastating. The the Allies hoped that this horror and fear of a subsequent attack would be enough to bring a swift end to the war.
Furthermore, the Emperor gambled after Hiroshima. He did not believe that America, or their Allies, had another atomic bomb and the threat of another attack was a bluff. He of course was wrong, there were 2 bombs: Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki (Plutonium) and Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima (Enriched Uranium). However, it was not known to the Emperor that once these were dropped, it would have taken many months to produce another atomic bomb. Had Japan not surrendered, the war would have continued as usual. It was undetermined by the Allied leaders as to what was the next course of action to take had this occurred.
There is controversy still today that Japan was on the verge of developing their own atomic weapon or actually successfully detonated their own nuclear bomb during a test in China at the same time of the Hiroshima attack. Was the Emperor trying to hold out until his own weapon of mass destruction could be finished? Allegations are made that after the Japanese nuclear development program was discovered by the occupying armies it was concealed and kept secret by the Allies. Maybe all the facts will never be uncovered but it is clear that a Japanese nuclear weapons development program was far more advanced than the Allies ever realized. A nuclear strike against the Allied invading force or the fleet would have been devastating. Had this occured the wars outcome may have been very different.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 3:54:47 PM PDT
M. Salazar says:
There is no certainty in any of our replies, only best guesses, some of it informed. We only know what happened, however, but I think that you put forward an Either/Or question that only serves to obscure the real history here. For example, if the intention was to force an unconditional surrender, how necessary was the second bombing only 3 days later? Also, would a decidedly more military target been equally important, or was the bombing the military sanctioned equivalent of a terrorist act (by definition to inflict losses on a civilian population to force a political concession)?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 5:02:42 PM PDT
Joe West says:
It is innaccurate to equate the bombing of Nagasaki as a "terrorist act". Nagasaki was one of the biggest Navy ports in Japan and its industry poured out military weapons and armaments. Though in fact it was a secondary target. Korkura was the primary target but weather the day of the attack diverted the mission to Nagasaki. The bomb was dropped to destroy the Mitsubishi steel and ordnance factories producing weapons. The A-bomb is not exactly a pin-point laser guided missile.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 5:50:47 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 22, 2012 7:42:18 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 6:57:36 PM PDT
Joe West says:
Reply to N. Perz

Double check your timeline. The Potsdam Conference met in July and there was no mention of the A-Bomb to Stalin. In fact, it was not even shared at this point in time with the American Allies. It was kept so secret that Roosevelt hid its existence from even Truman who was offended when he finally found out about it when he became President. The Soviets were kept in the dark pretty much until it went off in Japan to the fury of Stalin. No doubt it demonstrated American military might at the end of the war.

I recommend the New York Times Bestseller "The Conquerors" by Michael Beschloss. An interesting history book based on new documents uncovered with some new proposals and theories about the pending fate of the Axis and reasons for the President Roosevelts unwavering stance on Unconditional Surrender which Truman sustained. Mostly about the War in Europe but has insights his mentality and the Pacific war too.

JW

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 7:44:20 PM PDT
Joe West says:
I strongly agree with M. Musson. This is the most important key fact that is often overshadowed by the overwhelming attention focused on the explosion of the A-Bomb. As he said, "check your history." It wasn't until the Soviets entered the war against Japan that they finally knew it was over and threw in the towel. The Emperor actually shrugged off the bombing of Hiroshima which was not enough to alter his resolve to fight, even to the bitter end. It is a sad fact.

Truman compelled Stalin to enter into the eastern war as soon as possible. Although hindsight into the post war era may have seemed later to be greatest of mistakes. During the Potsdam Conference the Soviet Union was still not at war with Japan. Although Truman mentioned to Stalin that America possessed a powerful new weapon, that's all that was said. Stalin already had intel about the bomb from his spies (Who says National Security is not vital!) in the United States (Perhaps even before Truman knew) but officially kept secret from him which caused his anger.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2007 7:52:11 PM PDT
John M. Lane says:
I agree that DOWNFALL is worthwhile insofar as this dicussion is concerned. Although Germany had surrendered months before the atomic bomb was tested, I think Truman would have used it on them had they still represented a threat to the Allies.

The atomic bomb was developed with the Third Reich in mind. The biggest challenge in using it on Germany would have been finding a city that was still standing. By 1945, Allied air raids "made the rubble bounce" in Churchill's words. "They were just a bunch of Krauts," seemed to be the consensus in those days. I'm quoting an old neighbor who was a member of a bomber crew. Things were pretty polarized by 1945 and nobody really worried much about innocent casualties, especially after the concentration camps were discovered. At least that's my recollection of it.
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