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Tue Aug 6, 2013, 10:17 PM

An overlooked A-bomb issue: the wait-a-couple-weeks argument

Most of the defenders of the bombings assume that the bombings shortened the war and that nothing else would have done so. This is the implicit assumption behind all the posts about thousands of American deaths in an invasion of Japan.

But is that assumption accurate?

In early August 1945, the Japanese had drawn some encouragement from the Soviet Unionís failure to act against them, even after the end of the war in Europe. They thought that there might be some kind of ďAsian solidarityĒ against the Western allies, so that the Soviet Union might remain neutral and help to broker a peace agreement. The Japanese government had begun communications with Moscow to explore that possibility.

What the Japanese didnít know, but Truman did, was that a secret provision of the Yalta agreement called for the Soviet Union to declare war on Japan 90 days after V-E Day. Germany surrendered in early May. Right on schedule, three months later, after shifting troops thousands of miles, the USSR declared war. The largest army in the world (the Red Army) invaded Manchuria, where Japan held important conquests that the United States had not attacked. Japan surrendered a few days later. See the detail provided by former9thwar in this post in another thread.

Now, would Japan have surrendered without the atomic bombings? We canít know for sure. What we do know for sure is that Trumanís decision made it impossible to find out. He had an easy and obvious alternative Ė to hold off on the bombing for a few weeks and wait to see what effect the Russian attack would have. He could have continued preparations for any invasion, which even if it proved necessary would not have occurred until November 1 at the earliest. A short delay would not have imperiled any American lives.

In fact, one reading of the situation is that a major purpose of the bombing was that American planners wanted the power of the weapon to be graphically demonstrated Ė not to a prostrate Japan, but to the Soviet Union. They were looking ahead to a postwar world in which the United States and the Soviet Union would be the two superpowers vying for influence. They thought that the atom bomb would give the United States an advantage in that struggle. They wanted to intimidate Moscow. That goal would not be achieved if the Soviet attack caused Japan to surrender with no need for (excuse for) the dropping of the bomb.

A cynical interpretation, therefore, rejects the contention that the bombing was prompted by a fear that, otherwise, many American lives would be lost because Japan would not surrender. The real motivation was a fear that Japan WOULD surrender. Planners in Washington didnít wait a few weeks because they wanted to get the bombing done while they still had the chance to kill scores of thousands of people, instead of just dropping it on some uninhabited island.

If, by late August, Japan had refused to surrender despite the Soviet Unionís involvement, then consideration could be given to dropping the bomb. The arguments so common in the other threads Ė we murdered civilians, Japan started the war and committed atrocities, etc. Ė could be weighed then. People who support the bombings may argue about Nanjing all they like, if the context is A-bomb versus amphibious invasion, but I donít see the relevance of any of that to the alternative of a short delay.

Anyone who wants to defend the bombings must explain not only why killing all those people was preferable to not using the bomb at all, but also why dropping the bombs in early August was preferable to dropping them a little later if there was still no surrender.

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Arrow 67 replies Author Time Post
Reply An overlooked A-bomb issue: the wait-a-couple-weeks argument (Original post)
Jim Lane Aug 2013 OP
Socal31 Aug 2013 #1
niyad Aug 2013 #3
Nanjing to Seoul Aug 2013 #14
Lancero Aug 2013 #28
Niceguy1 Aug 2013 #29
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #30
niyad Aug 2013 #31
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #40
Name removed Aug 2013 #41
cliffordu Aug 2013 #50
NutmegYankee Aug 2013 #55
telclaven Aug 2013 #56
Bonobo Aug 2013 #2
Fumesucker Aug 2013 #9
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #18
Fumesucker Aug 2013 #24
hack89 Aug 2013 #48
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #59
hack89 Aug 2013 #63
cliffordu Aug 2013 #51
Bonobo Aug 2013 #57
cliffordu Aug 2013 #58
joshcryer Aug 2013 #4
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #12
joshcryer Aug 2013 #15
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #19
joshcryer Aug 2013 #22
GreenStormCloud Aug 2013 #67
LearnedHand Aug 2013 #5
jimlup Aug 2013 #6
Bucky Aug 2013 #10
hunter Aug 2013 #7
Bucky Aug 2013 #11
hunter Aug 2013 #13
Bucky Aug 2013 #20
hunter Aug 2013 #32
Bucky Aug 2013 #39
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #42
Bucky Aug 2013 #43
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #45
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #62
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2013 #54
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #60
nadinbrzezinski Aug 2013 #61
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #44
GreenStormCloud Aug 2013 #46
hunter Aug 2013 #52
Bucky Aug 2013 #8
joshcryer Aug 2013 #17
Bucky Aug 2013 #21
joshcryer Aug 2013 #23
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #25
zipplewrath Aug 2013 #35
Bucky Aug 2013 #36
Hulk Aug 2013 #16
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #26
sofa king Aug 2013 #27
hunter Aug 2013 #33
sofa king Aug 2013 #49
Lee-Lee Aug 2013 #34
brooklynite Aug 2013 #37
Jim Lane Aug 2013 #38
Bake Aug 2013 #47
markiv Aug 2013 #53
DCBob Aug 2013 #64
melm00se Aug 2013 #65
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #66

Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 10:41 PM

1. The horse....

It has been beaten.

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Response to Socal31 (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 10:48 PM

3. heaven forfend that we should discuss possible alternatives in such a horrific event.

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Response to niyad (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:17 AM

14. Rape of Nanking. Heaven forbid that we should discuss possible alternatives in

 

such a horrific event.

No sympathy for Japan at that time. Sorry. None at all.

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Response to niyad (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 03:35 AM

28. Possiable alternatives?

The War is over. There is no need to discuss alternative ways to get Japan to surrender - They already have!

Save the 'alternatives to nuclear bombardment' for the next World War, where they would have a chance to do some actual good.

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Response to Lancero (Reply #28)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 04:55 AM

29. best post of the annual

DU rehashing WWII.

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Response to Lancero (Reply #28)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 10:04 AM

30. Some of us believe the examination of historical events is worthwhile.

If you think there's no need to discuss this subject, you're free to ignore it. Go post something about Snowden. Or you could start a thread bashing Harry Reid -- those are always popular.

I, for one, have read a fair amount about the bombings before this week, but I've nevertheless learned some things from this year's discussion on DU. People with whom I agree and people with whom I disagree have expanded my understanding of the subject.

I'm guessing that there are few or no people who read every post. DU is a vast buffet of information. If you don't want any of the chicken, just move on to the casserole.

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Response to Lancero (Reply #28)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 10:09 AM

31. is it so hard to understand that the possible alternatives discussion reference should have happened

before the decision to use this weapon of mass destruction?

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Response to niyad (Reply #31)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:30 AM

40. Apparently, to many, it is.

 

.
.
.

But to try to make it clear

USA WANTED to test this weapon on a large population.

and it worked so well,

THEY DID IT AGAIN!

neither were military targets.

the bloodlust of the USA appears to be endless.

But it will end - The World will take only so much,

then the World will strike back.

Ain't gonna be pretty.

(sigh)

CC

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Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #40)


Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #40)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:40 PM

50. Ah, Bullshit.

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Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #40)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 02:01 PM

55. I diagree that neither target was a military target

Both cities were filled with materiel production factories, which were prime targets for all nations in WWII. Destruction of the means to wage war was the goal throughout the war for each participant.

As for killing lots of people, the Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9Ė10 March 1945 on Tokyo is estimated to the most destructive bombing in history, and claimed 100,000 lives. All done conventionally.

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Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #40)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 02:15 PM

56. Yes we did

 

It's called WAR for a reason. One we didn't start, I might add.

Oh, and do some research. Both were indeed military targets of great significance if Operation Olympic had been necessary.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 10:46 PM

2. I have asked why the hypothetical "million casualties" invasion was necessary

I have not received an answer.

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Response to Bonobo (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:15 AM

9. The world had gone through WWI and now less than thirty years later was engulfed in another war

Enemies allowed to rebuild and rearm just attack again with yet more bloodshed, that was the lesson the Allies learned, rightly or wrongly, from WWI and the interlude between the wars.

You really have to put yourself in the shoes of someone of that era to be able to understand it, WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars and it didn't work out that way at all or that's certainly the way it felt in 1945.

This time the enemy was not going to be allowed to do it again.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #9)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:37 AM

18. OK, let's put ourselves in their shoes.

The basis for my argument was precisely the reading of what Washington planners thought then. Their contemporaneous writings showed they were worried about the Soviet Union. I don't remember seeing anything indicating that they feared Japan would rise from the grave and be a problem.

And if it were, how would the bombing help? Hiroshima was not a major military asset. Killing 80,000 more people wouldn't be a significant factor in reducing Japan's future military capability, given that our bombing had already wreaked a frightful carnage on the civilian population.

I don't see how the experience of World War I can be cited to justify the bombing, let alone in response to the point I made about waiting a few weeks.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #18)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 02:20 AM

24. WWII was a catclysmic national effort for the USA as well as other nations

Selling the American public on anything less than total victory after that was going to be a dicey proposition.

The US didn't fear the Phoenix like rise of Japan because they knew they were going to invade if the bomb didn't work, total surrender on the part of the Japanese was a done deal one way or the other.

At the time the Bomb was just another weapon, bigger than any so far but industrial scale slaughter was by no means a new thing by that point. The Bomb didn't carry the psychological weight that it gained during the Cold War when both sides had tens of thousands of them aimed at the other.

Not to mention a fair percentage of the American top brass were not wrapped entirely tight either, MacArthur and LeMay were both major league assholes at best and I suspect LeMay was a sociopath.

And they wanted to show the Soviets what they had in as dramatic a fashion as possible short of nuking Smolensk.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #18)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:25 PM

48. How about dropping the bomb to save innocent lives?

The Japanese killed nearly 10 million innocents from 1937 to 1945 in the countries they invaded and occupied. That was reason enough to end the war as quickly as possible.

Its like arguing to let the concentration camps run a little longer to ensure we don't kill too many German civilians.

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Response to hack89 (Reply #48)

Fri Aug 9, 2013, 12:32 AM

59. Which innocent lives would have been lost?

Imperial Japan was no longer in any position to kill people in countries it invaded and occupied.

Also note that I'm talking about only a short delay in using the bomb, in the hope that a surrender would make it unnecessary. I really don't see how a significant number of innocent lives could have been lost because of a short delay.

Finally, your post seems to imply that, because the government of Japan acted wrongfully, the civilians living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki don't count as innocent lives. I disagree with that assumption. The vast majority of those people had no role whatsoever in approving or implementing the atrocities you refer to.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #59)

Fri Aug 9, 2013, 06:13 AM

63. There were deaths ongoing up to the day Allied occupation troops arrived

in all those countries. The Manila massacre in Feb 1945 killed an estimated 100,000 civilians. Slave labor, comfort women, deliberate policies of starvation - they were all happening to the very end.

There was no indication given to the Americans that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender - quite the opposite. Ignoring the Potsdam declaration was not a wise choice. Trying to enlist their erstwhile ally the Soviets to mediate a better deal made it clear that the Japanese thought they had plenty of time to negotiate. The fact that even Hiroshima did not convince them to surrender is proof of that.

No matter what decision was made in 1945, many innocent people were going to die. The atomic bombs were the least objectionable choice. The war had to end as quickly as possible.

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Response to Bonobo (Reply #2)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:42 PM

51. Read a goddamned book.

There are several excellent tomes on the subject.

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Response to cliffordu (Reply #51)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 08:26 PM

57. I've read lots of books.

None of them cited a reasonable explanation for why an invasion was necessary.

You have no explanation either and are full of hot air and bluff.

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Response to Bonobo (Reply #57)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 08:45 PM

58. Coming from you, that's hot praise.

Derp Derp Derp.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 11:08 PM

4. It was obviously a message to the Soviets.

But to say that Japan would've surrendered ignores the Kyūjō Incident, which is direct evidence that honor and willingness to sacrifice were pivotal in Imperial Japanese culture at the time. I can propose a perfectly legitimate alternate history where instead of surrendering Japan goes on to be overrun by the Soviets because they have the bodies to throw at the problem and several million Japanese people go to their graves. Then the US nukes the Soviets a few years later as they advance through the Fulda Gap to take the rest of EU after having partitioned up as much of it as they could.

I agree though that we could've waited, but even the off chance that the Soviets had succeeded we would've looked bad and we couldn't risk it. Then there would've been no viable target with which to use the weapon, until the Soviets started chopping up the Eastern Bloc, which we'd decided was OK.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #4)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:55 AM

12. The timing doesn't work out for your argument.

You're suggesting that "wait a few weeks" means risking a successful Soviet invasion of the Japanese home islands, in which Japan would be overrun by the Soviets. That scenario isn't even an "off chance". The USSR had just invaded Manchuria. It was surely not on the brink of mounting a huge amphibious invasion of what (as the million-American-casualties scenarists constantly remind us) were well-defended islands.

Suppose that, upon the Soviet declaration of war, Truman had suspended all bombing of Japan, but had told the Japanese government that it would resume on, say, August 22, and with frightening new power because we had a new weapon, unless Japan surrendered to the United States before then. There is absolutely no way that the Soviet Union, even with many bodies to throw at the problem, could have launched an invasion in that time. The USSR was short about 30 million bodies as war casualties, and the ones who were still alive were mainly west of the Urals. Even more of an obstacle would be the naval preparation. The United States, with a powerful navy, envisioned months of preparation for any invasion. The USSR was not traditionally a naval power. I don't know what kind of amphibious capability the Soviet Navy had in 1945, but I can't see them accomplishing anything before August 22.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #12)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:21 AM

15. OK, under that scenario, I wholly agree.

It sounded like you wanted to wait to see how well a Soviet invasion would've fared, but if you're saying that you just wait and see if the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, a puppet state which was mostly populated by Chinese, was going to crush the will of the Japanese, along with a phantom threat of a new powerful weapon, OK. Good enough scenario. It wouldn't have.

The Japanese wouldn't have surrendered.

Then the discussion becomes about the whole conditions of surrender all over again.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #15)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:43 AM

19. Yes, I was talking about only a few weeks.

You're right that conditions of surrender is another important discussion. As others have pointed out, we probably prolonged the war by demanding unconditional surrender. If, in June, we had proposed surrender on the terms ultimately agreed to, it might well have been accepted.

Obviously, I'm much less dismissive of the possibility of a non-A-bomb surrender than you are. There was the invasion of Manchuria plus the dashing of any hope of Soviet aid in brokering a surrender. Those would have been powerful psychological blows.

At a minimum, one can point out that Truman's choice left us where we are six decades later -- you're absolutely certain there would have been no surrender, I think there's a good chance there would have been, and neither of us can establish our point. If Truman had waited he would have been in a position to say that he had given Japan every chance.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #19)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:53 AM

22. Bucky claims Stalin was advancing his troops.

So maybe we're both wrong on that count. I just think that I can't see the Japanese surrendering, even if they know they have lost, without lots of dead lining the street in a protracted battle. Yes I think that, eventually, the Soviets would've caused them to surrender. I simply do not have enough information about the Soviet advance on Japan to be 100% sure when that would've happen. I just don't think in the few weeks time frame. I think your conditions would've still meant the bomb got dropped unless you move it out a month or two and unless you add a million+ casualties.

I think ultimately the US would've had to send in ground troops to meet up with the Soviets and allow the US to have a say in how post-war Japan was to grow (probably Korean-war like partitioning, or an Eastern-Bloc partitioning). The spoils of war to the victor, and all. Having the bomb at that time meant to me that the US wouldn't have sent in troops without first trying the bomb. So the "wait for the Soviet advance" scenario doesn't work.

Interestingly tidbit. One of the B52 bomber pilots got captured after the bomb and claimed that the US had 100 of them and would be dropping bombs regularly until all of Japan was destroyed. He didn't know how big the arsenal was, of course. It was a ballsy bluff though because the US literally blew its load on Japan, and wouldn't have had another bomb for a few weeks, iirc.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #4)

Fri Aug 9, 2013, 12:14 PM

67. How was Russia going to overrun Japan? Swim?

It is amazing how people speculate on military matters when they don't have the first clue about them. One of the most difficult military operations is to mount a large scale seaborne invasion against opposition. It takes a huge navy and absolute air dominance at the invasion site, and strong seaborne logistics.

WWII for Russia was a land war. They didn't need a navy to defeat the Nazis, they needed a huge army and air force. That's what they built. All Russia could do was take Manchuria, Korea, and China. In 1945 those places had already been cut off from the Japanese home islands. The U.S. Navy was not letting any shipping get through.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 11:19 PM

5. There's a fabulous book of essays about this

History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. http://www.amazon.com/dp/080504387X/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=3011708822&ref=pd_sl_2gl84qld68_e

It was written in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The genesis of the essays was the extreme controversary around the Smithsonian's commemorative exhibt. The essays address your question and more. I highly recommend it.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 11:26 PM

6. Personally I suspect Truman was actually afraid that Japan would surrender

without allowing him to drop the A-bomb. It requires a careful reading of the available facts but Truman knew that Japan was teetering and could not have known the effect of the Soviet declaration. Yes he should have waited.

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Response to jimlup (Reply #6)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:20 AM

10. Poppycock.

He wanted Japan to surrender. He said so. Claiming otherwise involves mindreading a dead man.

Truman was very much aware of the effect a Soviet attack would have. His imperative, as the American leader, was to try and limit Soviet influence in the peace in the Pacific. When you read about why he was so eager to keep Stalin away from the table--and I'm talking about what the Russians were doing in Poland and all across eastern Europe--you'll see that it was very much in the interests in Japan as a state to surrender to the US alone.

Now it's true that he wanted Japan punished for Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March. But that's a different matter than saying he preferred a later bombing to a hypothetical (and thoroughly impossible) pre-bombing surrender.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Tue Aug 6, 2013, 11:34 PM

7. I agree with this post.

We were sending a message to the Soviet Union and testing out our new atomic might on living cities while we still had some pretense of "reasonable cause."

The supposed imminent "invasion of the Japanese mainland" was a display of force too, meant for both the Japanese and the Soviet Union, but was a moot point by the time of the surrender. The unacknowledged plan was to keep hitting Japan from the air with conventional bombs and atomic bombs until they surrendered or starved.

U.S. motives were clear, primarily American racism and hatred of the Japanese, and big businesses' hatred of communism. Stalin's Soviet Union and the Japanese Empire were very clearly toxic and genocidal societies, but it was never an ethical question of "saving American and Japanese lives" by use of this horrible weapon.

The U.S.A. had the tool, and we used it. We were all over Nagasaki after the bomb to record it's impact, primarily because we'd created the infrastructure to build hundreds of plutonium bombs, and we did indeed build them.

We built 120 bombs of the type used on Nagasaki, and all were retired for "more efficient" easier to handle atomic bombs by 1950.

The myths surrounding our use of the atomic bomb are still ugly and abhorrent, but the raw reality is even worse, far removed from any reasonable discussion of ethics.

There are no winners in wars, only losers. Some lose their lives, some lose everything but their lives, and some lose their souls.

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Response to hunter (Reply #7)

Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:34 AM

11. A few more incorrect statements from this thread

  • We were sending a message to the Soviet Union and testing out our new atomic might on living cities while we still had some pretense of "reasonable cause."

    The cause was not a pretense. Japanese fascist policies were not morally equal to American economic preeminence in the Pacific



  • The supposed imminent "invasion of the Japanese mainland" was a display of force too, meant for both the Japanese and the Soviet Union, but was a moot point by the time of the surrender.

    There was nothing moot about completing the defeat of Japan. To have left Japan unconquered would have led to the triumph of the militarist party--which would mean a certain later war with a fascist Japan--and a thorough discrediting of the Peace Party factions in Japan. It would also lead to a probable Soviet domination of all, rather than half, of Korea.

    I don't think you appreciate the relative lack of options a leader has in war. Either you go for a complete win or you face further atrocities and compounded violence further down the road. If Iraq taught us anything, it showed that you don't fight half wars. Of course WW2 was a war we didn't have a choice about fighting, but that's a different tragedy.



  • U.S. motives were clear, primarily American racism and hatred of the Japanese, and big businesses' hatred of communism. Stalin's Soviet Union and the Japanese Empire were very clearly toxic and genocidal societies, but it was never an ethical question of "saving American and Japanese lives" by use of this horrible weapon.

    I don't defend the racism on the US or Japanese side of the war. But I think any view of Soviet human rights policies under Stalin thoroughly justifies the hatred of left wing totalitarianism. There are quotes in Racing the Enemy, the book cited below (available online), that very clearly stipulate a desire to save Japanese as well as Americans, and the liberty of Japanese as well as their lives.

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #11)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:03 AM

    13. Moral arguments are silly when discussing atrocities like this.

    All sides were rotten, some more rotten than others.

    We'll never know, but I don't think the USA would have invaded Japan. We'd have dropped many more conventional weapons on them, a couple of atomic bombs on them every month, and starved the nation into submission.

    Once we had the bomb, we were going to use it.

    This kind of war is amoral, it's just big dumb ideological dinosaurs fighting, squishing innocent and not-so-innocent people beneath their feet.

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    Response to hunter (Reply #13)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:51 AM

    20. The list grows

  • ll sides were rotten, some more rotten than others.

    I'm not a fan of US foreign policy today, but describing the US as "rotten" in the context of WW2 is pretty dang revisionist


  • We'll never know, but I don't think the USA would have invaded Japan.

    The November invasion was already greenlit and well underway to planning. There was a great deal of expectation that it would be necessary even after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. This whole "US should've waited a while longer" concept is hopelessly misinformed. The US did wait for a reply after the first bomb. It only strengthened the position of the war party and accellerated the Peace Party's efforts to get the Soviets to mediate. The invasion was going to go forward, probably on November 1 as planned.



  • We'd have dropped many more conventional weapons on them, a couple of atomic bombs on them every month, and starved the nation into submission.

    Such a policy would've killed more than the two bombs.



  • This kind of war is amoral, it's just big dumb ideological dinosaurs fighting, squishing innocent and not-so-innocent people beneath their feet.

    Dinosaurs are extinct. Dangerous nation-states are very much a part of our ecosystem
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    Response to Bucky (Reply #20)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 11:24 AM

    32. The war machine for the Japanese invasion was rolling yes...

    ... but that machine didn't know about the bomb, and they hadn't seen the studies that there would be no significant targets left to bomb, conventional or atomic, by January 1946.

    I'm not a "revisionist" historian, I'm educated as an evolutionary biologist. My approach to history is the same as my approach to economics. I think our human need to create a "story" usually obscures the reality. A decisive end to World War II, two bombs, bang bang, and the good guys win is a dramatic story that does not reflect the reality of amoral and senseless human wars. If you want to know what was really happening, map out the flows of energy and resources first; some of the stories told will reflect the reality of those, many will not.

    That the "atomic bomb saved the lives of those who would have invaded, and the lives of a soon-to-be-cold starving fight-to-the-death people of Japan" is a myth.


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    Response to hunter (Reply #32)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 12:43 AM

    39. "two bombs, bang bang, and the good guys win"

    I'm pretty sure I didn't even come close to making that argument.

    I'm relieved to hear you're not a revisionist. Authors that have asserted the "diplomacy by bombing" and "the Japanese were ready to surrender" theses have pretty consistently lost the debate. Here's a nice history of what "revisionism" is in this question:

    http://www.theamericanpresident.us/images/truman_bomb.pdf

    It's a PDF of a 15 page academic paper, but a relatively quick read. There's flaws on both sides, I think. The one thing the orthodox interpretation consistantly ignores is the ethics per se of dropping bombs on civilians. Truman himself only came to grips with that question after reports flooded in of what Little Boy and Fat Man did, Truman started reprimanding advisors who spoke of further bombing attacks and discussing the atomic attacks in moral terms I think you'd find some comfort from. Before the bombing, he'd been advised that the invasion of Kyushu would cost 250,000 lives and that the population of Hiroshima was 60,000. He did the obvious math. When the death toll proved to be over twice that 60,000, he radically changed his rhetoric about the bomb in internal policy discussions.

    Sadly, it's the revisionist view that is more guilty of clinging to myth. Early revisionist books on the issue used out of context, even deliberately misleading quotes and distorting use of ellipses to twist meanings (as you'll see from the paper linked to above). Claims about Japan being about to surrender are simply wrong. Testimony by Japanese officials after the war as well as official war-time documents show they were digging in for a prolonged defense of the homeland. US intel showed Japan had more defenders ready on Kyushu than the Americans had potential attackers. The War Party was winning the debate in internal deliberations, if only by stalemating the debate, the default position for Japan was to keep on fighting. Japanese policy makers, as discussed elsewhere in this thread were bizarrely out of touch with reality. But any softening in the US position, such as demonstration bombs or giving diplomacy more time, would have made the war party stronger. In the end, the Peace Party had to use subterfuge and imperial manipulation to all but trick the ruling war council (the Big Six) into approving surrender.

    It's a heartbreaking reality of what war is--first that it's a bloody mess and second that it's been an inevitability rather than an option in world history--but the cumulative data of what the Americans knew then and what history shows now is that the Bombings were justified and saved lives. I hate writing that; it goes against my instincts. But the more I've read, the more that conclusion makes sense.

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #39)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 09:01 AM

    42. "US intel showed Japan had more defenders ready on Kyushu" - ummm

     

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    If so,

    why did they not bomb these "defenders"

    instead of innocent civilians?

    CC

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    Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #42)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 12:20 PM

    43. good question.

    Concentrations of 300,000 troops do not just bunch up into conveniently concentrated targets the way that military production factories do in a city. America had 2 bombs only, with a 3rd not likely to be ready until August 19th and a 4th by early September. Targeting troops would probably be more effective by conventional bombing (which did happen on Kyushu). And of course the hope of the Americans was that the a-bomb would shock the Japanese into surrender--essentially a weapon of terror. Obliterating a city is more shocking than bombing a camp and flattening the 2-mile radius of countryside around it. I'm being deliberately blunt here. Both sides share the blame for the loss of innocent lives--the Japanese for scatter-siting military production around their cities, turning neighborhoods into legitimate military targets, and the Americans for calling that bluff.


    One thing I don't get is why the moral onus is so uniformly placed on the US. My read of it is that equal culpability rests with the Soviets for being such atrocity-prone allies that the Americans felt compelled to rush the war's end with such horrific airwar policies. And if anything, a great culpability lays with Japan for prolonging a war they'd already lost, failing to develop a kokutai (political system) that could produce a more logical war policy, cultivating a fascistic military culture that constantly threatened violence against anyone who didn't favor suicidal militarism over an honorable peace, and for initiating the needless war in the Pacific to begin with. The political systems of Russia and Japan generally get treated as if they were forces of nature, free from human volition and moral culpability, that American policy makers had to somehow, omnisciently, manipulate into a less violent conclusion. As a history teacher I try to warn my students against falling into such subjective thinking or applying such double standards.

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #43)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:05 PM

    45. "essentially a weapon of terror" - yep - it sure was.

     

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    "the hope of the Americans was that the a-bomb would shock the Japanese into surrender--essentially a weapon of terror."

    And still is. The World knows the USA has more nukes than the rest of the World combined.

    But the USA is fearful that some nation will return in kind - a reasonable fear.

    And if the USA keeps messing around with other nations . . . .

    'nuff said.

    CC

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #43)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 01:09 AM

    62. Why the focus on Truman's decision.

    You write: "One thing I don't get is why the moral onus is so uniformly placed on the US."

    First, it's because we're Americans and we see value in considering past actions of our government. For us to try to work out the details of what was done by the governments of the USSR and Japan is of some scholarly interest, but we feel a special responsibility to know all about what "we" did (even if most us weren't even alive then and none of us were among the decisionmakers).

    Second, pointing to Japanese and Soviet misconduct is, in my opinion, among the weaker arguments made by defenders of the bombings. Yes, "the Japanese" committed atrocities at Nanjing, but that phrase is a bit loose. The government and its agents are the responsible parties. Many DUers seem to be willing to impute the actions of the government (a military dictatorship, as you mention) to a whole bunch of ordinary civilians, which I think is erroneous.

    Third, some questions are closer and therefore more interesting than others. For example, you won't see much debate on DU about the rights and wrongs of slavery as practiced in the United States under the Constitution until the Thirteenth Amendment. We don't discuss it because no one would defend it. By contrast, as these several threads demonstrate, there are colorable arguments to be made on several sides of the A-bomb questions.

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    Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #42)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:59 PM

    54. Since Hiroshima was the MHQ for the second army

    And a logistics center...I wonder too why it was chosen.

    And Nagasaki, a couple fighter bases and the place producing the Zero...yup, Mitsubishi factory...

    Definitely wonder about those two target. Fun fact, Nagasaki was not the primary target that day.

    The targeting documents are dry reading, like most military documents, but are available.

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    Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #54)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 01:05 AM

    60. The targeting documents are dry reading, like most military documents, but are available

     

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    I seem to remember something to that effect,

    Target was changed mid-flight.

    Found a link:

    couldn't read it all - the whole atomic bombing thing makes me ill..

    here's the link

    http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-second-atomic-bomb-that-ended-the-war.htm

    I think the human race fucked itself by inventing the atom bomb, and using it.

    Sooner or later, more of them are going to be dropped,

    or nuclear missiles transversing the globe for more insane destruction.

    We now have the ability to destroy ourselves.

    Well done brainiacs!

    CC

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    Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #60)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 01:06 AM

    61. I actually think that using those two

    is the reason why the cold war never went hot. I fear the young 'uns who think it could never be that bad.

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #39)


    Response to hunter (Reply #13)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:09 PM

    46. Not invaded? You don't know your history. Read up on Operaton Olympic.

    The invasion force was already being gather in Okinawa, set to invade on Nov 1. It was to be a far bigger force than the E-Eay invasion of Normandy. The pitcher was already winding up and you claim he wasn't going to throw.

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    Response to GreenStormCloud (Reply #46)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:51 PM

    52. November 1st...

    ... Trinity test was July 16th. The rules of the game had changed, but only the people at the very top knew that.

    Two machines were being built, the invasion force, and the plutonium implosion bomb. The atomic bomb production line was finished first, began producing bombs, and Truman pulled the trigger. That's what happened from an entirely neutral perspective. After July 16th everything changed.

    The baseball analogy and the popular "saved lives" myth are stories that do not reflect events as they actually happened.

    The USA tried out it's new super-weapon-of-the-future on two Japanese cities. That's fact. Stories about "saving lives" were concocted later because it was a terrifying, amoral, wartime action with a weapon that had never been seen before. A single bomb that could destroy a city... how do we comprehend that?

    We still can't. That's why these threads are so long.




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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:15 AM

    8. A list of incorrect statements in this thread so far

    from comments:

  • I have asked why the hypothetical "million casualties" invasion was necessary. I have not received an answer.

    This is a well covered topic. The US never estimated they'd indure a million deaths from invading Japan. The high end estimates were horrible--about a quarter million. If the US had failed to invade Japan and fully defeated its armed forces, then the fascist militarist party would have triumphed interally and the so-called "peace party" factions would have been driven from the government. Japan would have spent a generation more or less acting like North Korea does now, biding its time until its militarist elements, considered heroes for having scared off the "cowardly Americans", launched new aggressions. A clear win put the peaceful elements in charge of Japan almost immediately.

    You now have your answer.


  • It {the atomic bombings} was obviously a message to the Soviets

    A common revisionist critique that is, unfortunately, not backed up by facts.

    The US was in the midst of a war with a determined enemy. Efforts by peace factions within Japan were blocked and frustrated by the dominant (and murder prone) war party. The bombing was clearly and frequently cited by internal councils in the US government as a means to either (1) force Japan to surrender or (2) wipe out concentrations of Japanese military & industrial power to quicken the end of the war. While there is no doubt that Truman and Byrnes were aware of the impression Hiroshima would give to the Soviets, there is exactly one quote from Byrnes about what it would make the Soviets think and literally hundreds of in-context quotes about what the bombs were supposed to drive Japan to do.


  • I agree though that we could've waited

    Waiting would have been disastrous for Japan. Upon hearing at Potsdam that the US had the Bomb, Stalin moved up the calendar for his attack on Japan's forces by two weeks. The Soviet war on Japan was spectacularly successful, despite losing half of their prep time to Stalin's insistance on having a seat at the surrender table. Every delay in forcing the surrender risked giving the Soviets yet bigger concessions than what they already won



    from OP:

  • Most of the defenders of the bombings assume that the bombings shortened the war

    People who've studied the history generally recognize that it was the Soviet invasion, not the bombing of Nagasaki, that was the nail in the coffin of the militarist faction.

  • In early August 1945, the Japanese had drawn some encouragement from the Soviet Unionís failure to act against them, even after the end of the war in Europe. They thought that there might be some kind of ďAsian solidarityĒ against the Western allies, so that the Soviet Union might remain neutral and help to broker a peace agreement. The Japanese government had begun communications with Moscow to explore that possibility.

    You're close here. First, your post implies (but doesn't state) that Japan began its negotiations with Moscow in August. They'd been persuing them with Russia since the Spring of 45 actually. The whole time the Soviets were just stringing the Japanese along--a deliberate waste of their diplomatic assets so that the Japanese didn't seek other mediators (like Sweden). The Japanese thought they could buy off the Russians with Manchura, Sakhalin, fishing rights off Hokkaido, the whole ball of wax. By July, before the Potsdam conference, Japan's ambassador to Moscow, Sato, was almost impudently telling his bosses they were wasting their time with Russia. But the Peace Party was as stubborn as the War Party--they truly believed Stalin could be bought off and could force the US to end the war short of unconditional surrender. It was self-delusive. Fascists are prone to that sin.

    The Japanese did not have any illusions about Asian solidarity. I don't know where you got that. They always saw Russia as a European power.


  • {Truman} had an easy and obvious alternative Ė to hold off on the bombing for a few weeks and wait to see what effect the Russian attack would have.

    Holding off the bombing was not an easy alternative. If you read Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy, you'll see the very point of rushing the bombs into deployment was to prevent the Soviets from taking part in the surrender of Japan. Truman, during his stay at Potsdam, found out how the Russians had raped and brutalized all the women in the household the American delegation was staying at. The Americans were horrified (and helpless) by Soviet violation of the Yalta agreement in his subjugation of Poland and other European countries. The principal hope of the bomb was to force Japan to surrender before the same "liberation" occurred to too much of Asia.

  • In fact, one reading of the situation is that a major purpose of the bombing was that American planners wanted the power of the weapon to be graphically demonstrated Ė not to a prostrate Japan, but to the Soviet Union.

    Discussed upthread. It's a "reading" that isn't supported by a wide review of primary sources.

  • They wanted to intimidate Moscow. That goal would not be achieved if the Soviet attack caused Japan to surrender with no need for (excuse for) the dropping of the bomb.

    One thread of advice running to Truman, particularly from his scientists, was that the US would not be holding a monopoly on atomic bombs for very long. They may have been thinking 10 years instead of 4, but they were under no delusion that the Soviets could be intimidated for long by atomic power

  • The real motivation was a fear that Japan WOULD surrender. Planners in Washington didnít wait a few weeks because they wanted to get the bombing done while they still had the chance to kill scores of thousands of people, instead of just dropping it on some uninhabited island.

    The underlined statement is an utter fabrication. Based on US "Magic" interceptions of Japanese messages, the Truman Administration knew perfectly well that Japan was not on the cusp of surrender. They knew Japan's main diplomatic efforts, talking to the duplicitous Soviets, were drilling a dry well. It would have made Truman's day if the Japanese surrendered because that would achieve his number one and number two strategic goals--ending the war before the Soviets got in on it.


    Read Racing the Enemy. It's an eye opener and a balloon buster on both sides of the debate. Much of it is online right now.

    Right here ==> http://books.google.com/books?id=iPju1MrqgU4C&pg=PA7&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false
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    Response to Bucky (Reply #8)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:32 AM

    17. Nice contradiction. What gives?

    It {the atomic bombings} was obviously a message to the Soviets

    A common revisionist critique that is, unfortunately, not backed up by facts.

    The US was in the midst of a war with a determined enemy. Efforts by peace factions within Japan were blocked and frustrated by the dominant (and murder prone) war party. The bombing was clearly and frequently cited by internal councils in the US government as a means to either (1) force Japan to surrender or (2) wipe out concentrations of Japanese military & industrial power to quicken the end of the war. While there is no doubt that Truman and Byrnes were aware of the impression Hiroshima would give to the Soviets, there is exactly one quote from Byrnes about what it would make the Soviets think and literally hundreds of in-context quotes about what the bombs were supposed to drive Japan to do.


    {Truman} had an easy and obvious alternative Ė to hold off on the bombing for a few weeks and wait to see what effect the Russian attack would have.


    Holding off the bombing was not an easy alternative. If you read Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy, you'll see the very point of rushing the bombs into deployment was to prevent the Soviets from taking part in the surrender of Japan.




    So it wasn't about sending a message to the Soviets but it was about keeping the Soviets from from taking part in the surrender of Japan. Sounds like the message was received loud and clear.

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    Response to joshcryer (Reply #17)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:52 AM

    21. Those are two very different things in the real world

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #21)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:55 AM

    23. How long do you think the Soviets had until they got a surrender?

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    Response to Bucky (Reply #8)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 02:32 AM

    25. I appreciate that you're not echoing the tired "save American lives" meme, but....

    You haven't made a good case for the bombing. I agree with joshcryer (in #17) that your post is in some respects contradictory, and you appear to have conceded my main point.

    You write, ďIf you read Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy, you'll see the very point of rushing the bombs into deployment was to prevent the Soviets from taking part in the surrender of Japan.Ē

    I agree completely. One important motivation to bomb was the scenario in which the Soviet Union attacks and then Japan surrenders, with no A-bomb having been dropped. Washington didnít want that. In my OP, I emphasized that the U.S. government wanted the chance to demonstrate the power of the bomb on a city, but itís also correct that there was a big push to get the bomb dropped before the (known date of the) Soviet attack. The supposed concern about the military necessity was largely pretextual. (Notably, none of the military commanders in that theater were even consulted. The only military leader who was asked for an opinion was Eisenhower, who advised against the bombing.)

    You write, ďIt would have made Truman's day if the Japanese surrendered because that would achieve his number one and number two strategic goals--ending the war before the Soviets got in on it.Ē Again, I agree completely. Thatís an important reason that he didnít wait a few weeks. Thus the issue is not whether destruction of two cities and massacre of scores of thousands of civilians was justified to save the American lives that would be lost in an invasion, but rather whether those horrendous consequences were justified by these geopolitical considerations. One can argue that they were but itís a different argument from the ones that apologists for the bombing choose to present. I personally believe that because the slaughter was so extensive, and because it involved a weapon with a new order of destructive power, it would require very heavy justification, and gaming the Soviets didnít cut it.

    Itís getting late and I donít have time to go through the rest of your posts in this thread in detail, but one statement just jumps out at me. You write, ďUpon hearing at Potsdam that the US had the Bomb, Stalin moved up the calendar for his attack on Japan's forces by two weeks.Ē Iíve never heard that allegation before, and it seems quite implausible, for three main reasons:

    (1) First, Truman has been criticized because his disclosure to his nominal ally Ė we have a ďpowerful new weaponĒ Ė was very vague and uninformative. Itís generally thought that Stalin had no idea of the enormous power of the bomb.

    (2) Second, the timetable for the Soviet attack was based on having to move a huge army across half of Europe and all of Asia. The Soviet Union couldnít just pile them all into a fleet of C-130's. The timetable set at Yalta, in February 1945, was that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan three months after V-E Day, and the actual attack came precisely on that date. With or without a bomb, why would the Soviets have planned to defer their attack until late August? They were perfectly well aware of the geopolitical considerations you mention, indicating that getting involved before Japanese surrender would be to their advantage.

    (3) Third, if the Soviets had wanted to change their plans, information gained at Potsdam would have given them insufficient time to do it. The Potsdam conference didnít even begin until July 17. Youíre arguing that Stalin, for unknown reasons, had planned to defer his attack until around August 22, but that, upon supposedly learning of a reason for haste, he was able to give an order that magically sliced off 40 percent of the remaining time required for preparation. Even dictators can't pull off that kind of control.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Reply #25)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 12:26 PM

    35. Let's be clear, i.e. an Asian "iron curtain"

    I agree completely. One important motivation to bomb was the scenario in which the Soviet Union attacks and then Japan surrenders, with no A-bomb having been dropped. Washington didnít want that. In my OP, I emphasized that the U.S. government wanted the chance to demonstrate the power of the bomb on a city, but itís also correct that there was a big push to get the bomb dropped before the (known date of the) Soviet attack. The supposed concern about the military necessity was largely pretextual. (Notably, none of the military commanders in that theater were even consulted. The only military leader who was asked for an opinion was Eisenhower, who advised against the bombing.)

    You write, ďIt would have made Truman's day if the Japanese surrendered because that would achieve his number one and number two strategic goals--ending the war before the Soviets got in on it.Ē Again, I agree completely. Thatís an important reason that he didnít wait a few weeks. Thus the issue is not whether destruction of two cities and massacre of scores of thousands of civilians was justified to save the American lives that would be lost in an invasion, but rather whether those horrendous consequences were justified by these geopolitical considerations. One can argue that they were but itís a different argument from the ones that apologists for the bombing choose to present. I personally believe that because the slaughter was so extensive, and because it involved a weapon with a new order of destructive power, it would require very heavy justification, and gaming the Soviets didnít cut it.


    Okay, let's be sure we all understand what is being said here. The US, and the western world, was seeing what was happening in Europe already in areas the Russians (I don't believe they were called the Soviets yet) were controlling. What would become known as the "Iron Curtain" was already forming. The US (and Britain) did NOT want that to happen in the Asian-Pacific. The more land they grabbed, and if they got in on the surrender negotiations with a decent negotiating position, there were real fears that the eastern european situation would repeat.

    Again, one has to understand the context under which these decisions were made. It isn't the same perception we have today. They had very "immediate" concerns based upon what they had experienced over the last 4 years. And there was some confusion about what was true and what was not. And they had become familiar with "total war" even while tiring of it such that the mass bombing of two cities (and many didn't understand how powerful these bombs were) wasn't going to be the consideration then that it is to many of us today.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Reply #25)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:08 PM

    36. Thanks for responding. I've based my arguments on primary sources, hence contradictions.

    (1) Truman's disclosure may have been vague, but Stalin knew it was the A-bomb and more about what an atomic bomb could do than Truman. Stalin's intel on Manhattan had the date for testing the bomb wrong and he chewed out Beria for not informing him of a successful test. Stalin was expecting this news. Truman no going into details without a full tech spec on a highly classified project is understandable. When Stalin met with US Ambassador Harriman to inform the US about the Soviet declaration on Japan in August, he revealed that he had a nuke program himself and knew about the German, US, and British atomic projects. Stalin was not out of the loop on atomics

    (2) I agree, the time table for the Soviet invasion was impressive. However he'd started moving units into place, attempting to do so undetected, from June of '45. Ambassador Sato wasn't fooled; his intel in Russia revealed the eastward troop movements, but his superiors in Tokyo chose to ignore this and continue to rely on Stalin's good offices. The fact that Stalin moved up the dates of his invasion is quite well documented in declassified Soviet records, although including this in a Hiroshima analysis may not be more current than 2005, when Prof. Hasegawa published his research in Racing the Enemy.

    Stalin at Potsdam told Truman and Churchill that he'd be ready to launch his attack on Japan in the second half of August. Upon getting word from Truman about the Bomb, he moved the date up to August 11th. When the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, he moved the date up another 48 hours, to August 9th. It was this sudden mass invasion that got the Japanese to surrender. It was during the discussion of how to accept the Potsdam Declaration that the Big Six heard about Nagasaki, which didn't seem to shock them as much as Russia.

    (3) I'm not making these arguments. I'm basing them on a well respected professor's research. I love a good verbal scrap, but I don't argue against facts and I don't argue against success. But to use logic, please remember that Stalin had agreed at Yalta in 1944 to join the war by 90 days after Germany's fall. That happened in April. Stalin very much wanted to get a toe in the Pacific so that he'd control the ports at Darien and Port Arthur. What was really holding him up was his pledge to talk out term with Chaing Kai Shek before entering the war (Stalin had little desire to support Mao at this point). The Chinese also wanted Darien and Port Arthur, so the negotiations stalled.

    Stalin eventually broke that one promise from Yalta in order to get into the war ASAP. But he wasn't going to wait to start preparing for the war against Japan until after the 90-day timeline or until after Potsdam. Preparations began at the latest by June, but planning certainly began in May. Moving up the invasion date by about two weeks (in two steps) wasn't shaving 40% off the prep time for invasion. It was shaving off two weeks out of more than two months of relocation activity. Again, read the book. \ Elsewhere in this thread I've provided a link to it online.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:22 AM

    16. Little to NO sympathy for the use of the A-bomb.

    I get quite upset when this question arises. Second guessing, in a rear-view mirror what "might have been" when in fact we were fighting the most vicious and cruel military animals, determined to torture and annihilate our soldiers AND civilians is absurd.

    Why even go down this road? I've watched nearly every documentary available on WWII, and the war in the Pacific was so brutal, I would have dropped the A bomb myself to put an end to it all. They had an opportunity to stop it when they were getting their asses handed to them, with tremendous loss of life on both sides. It was all too clear that the Japanese were NOT going to stop or surrender on the battle field. The ONLY way to get them to stop that slaughter of our young troops as well as their own was to pull the plug back home.

    Would you all rather we had burned their cities to the ground. like we pretty much did in Germany? Millions more would have died as a result.

    Just get over it already. It was a decision made nearly 70 years ago, in a time where we were going to eventually win; but we were going to pay dearly with hundreds of thousands more young American lives. WE DID NOT ASK FOR THAT WAR! and they would not give it up.

    I'd pull the trigger today if it meant putting a stop to the insanity that we were facing in the Pacific. Enough already. Holy shit. Because our "greatest generation" are dying off, nobody is here to remind you all what pain and suffering we faced during that terrible time.

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    Response to Hulk (Reply #16)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 02:39 AM

    26. You're begging the question.

    Your post is an example of the widespread assumption that the bombings were the only way to end the war without an invasion. The whole point of my OP was to challenge that assumption.

    You write, "Would you all rather we had burned their cities to the ground. like we pretty much did in Germany?" This is a straw man. I can't speak for "you all" but, for me, what I would rather have seen was set out clearly in my post: a delay in making the decision, to see the effect of the Soviet entry into the war.

    As to why go into it now, it remains the only use of atomic weapons in war. It was an important event. Heck, when I was in junior high I remember a group project in Social Studies in which we did a presentation to the class on the theme "The War of 1812 -- a War We Shouldn't Have Fought?" There is value in examining past decisions instead of just saying that what's done is done.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 03:28 AM

    27. All right, I'll try.

    First, by waiting a couple of weeks, the Western Powers would have wound up giving Hokkaido to Stalin and the Soviet Union. They had advanced--if highly shoe-string--plans to invade the northernmost of the main Japanese islands on or about August 21, 1945.

    The preparatory step was the Soviet invasion of the Kurile Islands, which began on August 18 and was largely complete within four days. All Japanese residents were expelled by 1946, and the islands, now without the silent "e," remain Russian.

    http://istoria.pl/history388.html

    That almost certainly would have led to larger Soviet involvement in, for example, the Korean War.

    Second, by waiting a couple of weeks and allowing the Soviets a toe-hold on mainland Japan when the Americans did not have one, American plans to invade the southernmost of the main islands, Kyushu, might have been moved up from its planned November 1 date.

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=389&topic_id=6231948&mesg_id=6232074

    Unfortunately for the Americans, the Japanese had correctly anticipated exactly where the Marines were going to land, had fortified those places, and had at least as many troops on hand to defend as there were Marines to invade. Top brass were inclined to doubt the usually ridiculous claims of enemy strength provided by MacArthur's staff--but this time they had got their call right.

    Recall that the bloodbath of Iwo Jima was successfully conducted with a greater than three to one troop advantage in favor of the Americans, taking weeks and thousands of lives to clear out an island eight square miles in area. Then consider that the Japanese were planning to conscript all men and women on Kyushu and use them in the defense--the women were going to be charging machine guns with bamboo spears.

    Moving up the date of Operation Olympic would have made it even less likely that the details of the plan could be changed. But the Americans had a super-awesome contingency plan, which would be to use the six or seven atomic bombs we expected to have by then as tactical nuclear weapons, nuke the beaches and inland defenses, and then land the Marines and march them through the radiation zones. The Americans were also seriously considering the use of poison gas to deal with Japanese cave defense tactics, because what could possibly go wrong with that? It's not like the Japanese were planning to hide their kids in the caves--oh, wait, yeah they were.

    Yes, all one million of the invading soldiers and Marines, most of them fresh out of high school, would have died within a decade or two from complications of radiation exposure, if they weren't killed by suicidal and irradiated Japanese civilians, and untold millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians would have died as well, and the Soviets would have systematically murdered and worked to death another million Hokkaidans, and then Honshu would also have to be invaded, probably also preceded by atomic bombs and another million American troops because the previous million would be too sick to participate in that invasion....

    But the innocent people Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have lived up to another year, and one or two surely would have avoided being consumed in the far larger and bloodier conflicts that loomed. Those people might have been saved--at the cost of twenty times as many other people.

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    Response to sofa king (Reply #27)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 11:38 AM

    33. We marched the marines across atomic bomb wastelands later... in Nevada.

    So apparently that wasn't a huge consideration.

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    Response to hunter (Reply #33)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:37 PM

    49. Definitely not a consideration.

    Anyone who hasn't seen it yet will likely enjoy and be horrified by the selection of attitudes and actions depicted in the documentary film The Atomic Cafe, now available on Youtube:



    In that film you'll see the Americans happily marching into bomb blasts and "protecting" sailors on irradiated ships with a few coats of lead paint. We simply had no idea whatsoever about the long-term, uh, fallout that results from the use of nuclear weapons.

    At roughly the 53:30 mark is an outstanding example of how full of shit we all were about this. I believe the test you mention, hunter, was Operation Plumbbob:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plumbbob

    That ignorance persisted long after World War II. When it began to be dimly understood, top brass immediately began to consider how radiation could be used as an area denial weapon. MacArthur proposed creating a "hot zone" along the North Korean border to keep the Chinese out, never guessing that all that radioactive dust would descend right on top of the American logistic facilities in Japan, and of course all of the Japanese.

    Edit: It is also worth mentioning that the entire object of Soviet expansion in Asia, from Iran to Japan, from 1941 to 1989, was purely focused upon the acquisition of warm-water port facilities. Hokkaido doesn't quite fit the bill, but right across the straight is Honshu, and halfway down its length is the prize the Soviets dearly coveted: Tokyo. Considering that the Soviets were stupid enough to hit Afghanistan simply because it was one step closer to the Indian Ocean, it's no reach to guess that instead of a Korean war, there would have been a massive, probably nuclear, conflict on the Yamato plains, with the Americans operating at the end of a 3000-mile long logistic chain (recall also that we did not win the Korean War).

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 11:44 AM

    34. I have often wondered what the ramifications of waiting for a Soviet invasion were

    Just what the toll would have been had Japan spent the next 50 years as a Soviet client state?

    How much different would Japan have been? I have visited former Soviet countries, and none are nearly well off today as Japan is.

    How much different would the world have been?

    There would have been no Korean War, the Soviets would have owned it all, and even if it was still split without US bases in Japan fighting the war then would have been almost impossible.

    No Vietnam war?

    How much different would China's path have been with the Soviets holding Japan and Korea?

    If the Soviets had a much stronger hold on the Pacific than they did during the Cold War, how much more likely would the possibility of things going "hot" have been? How much more likely would they have been to invade other counties in the region?



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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 01:22 PM

    37. Well, why not wait a few weeks more than a few?

    Or a few weeks more than that?

    The longer you wait, the longer your troops are at risk, and your supplies are depleted (armies don't just stop to see if the enemy will surrender). If you don't have reasonable intelligence that a surrender might be possible, how many of your own troops will you sacrifice?

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    Response to brooklynite (Reply #37)

    Wed Aug 7, 2013, 10:11 PM

    38. Sure, wait the additional time if you know that yet another powerful nation will declare war.

    This isn't a matter of "let's keep waiting and hope some miracle happens." There was on the horizon a specific important event, that would happen in the near future, and that had some chance of giving Japan a strong push toward surrender. If that came and went, without the desired effect, there would still be time to drop the bomb.

    As for the costs, the supplies consumed would be negligible. The United States was not engaged in clearing any more islands, so the only risk to the troops would be the comparatively small number who might die in successful kamikaze attacks during the interim. I don't know what the kamikaze death toll was by that stage but I'm guessing it was small.

    Nevertheless, that last concession will seal the deal for some DUers. Their response will be that the government of Japan began an aggressive war, and its officers committed atrocities in Nanjing and elsewhere, and therefore it's better to kill 80,000 or so Japanese civilians than to lose even a handful of American lives. I don't accept that moral calculus. It's one thing to defend the bombings if you believe that they were the only way to avert 250,000 American deaths in an invasion, but it's quite another to try to justify immolating two cities just to end the kamikaze attacks two weeks earlier.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:12 PM

    47. Not even hindsight is 20/20 in this case.

    Truman made the only decision he could make under the circumstances and information he had at hand AT THE TIME.

    Bake

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:54 PM

    53. Fact: you cant un-explode an A-bomb 68 year later

     

    no matter how much you debate it

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 06:55 AM

    64. They had a chance to surrender and they rejected it -- The Potsdam Declaration

    From Wikipedia..

    On July 26, the United States, Britain and China released the Potsdam Declaration announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning, "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay." For Japan, the terms of the declaration specified:

    -- the elimination "for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest"

    -- the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies"

    -- "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." As had been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.

    -- "The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed"

    -- "stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners"

    -- "We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, ... The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established."

    -- "Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to rearm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted."

    -- "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people, a peacefully inclined and responsible government."

    -- "We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction."

    As a result, Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to whom he reiterated his government's commitment to ignore the Allies' demands and fight on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potsdam_Declaration

    ==============

    Sounds pretty clear and fair to me. They rejected it so they got the alternative -- prompt and utter destruction.

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    Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 08:45 AM

    65. The decision to drop the bomb

    was driven by multiple issues (in no particular order):

    - An attempt to drive Japan into unconditional surrender (a stated goal of FDR and adopted by the Allied powers at the Casablanca Conference and reinforced at Potsdam). The Japanese, up to the ultimate surrender, held out some hope that a negotiated armistice could be made with the Allies (specifically on the point of the Emperor) and had made overtures to the Allies to the point but were rejected.

    - Remove the need to invade the Japanese Home Islands which would have had horrific casualties on both sides. Look at the casualty figures, both civilian and military, from the Battle of Okinawa: approximately 80% Japanese military forces on the island were dead. Depending upon account, Okinawa civilian casualties were between 14% and 50% (the reality is probably in the mid 30% range). The Japanese appeared to have 900,000 men in uniform and another 28 million men and women in volunteer irregular forces. Apply the Japanese casualty percentages (or even a fraction of them) from the Battle of Okinawa to a potential Home Island invasion and you will come up with horrific level of death and destruction.

    - A message to the Soviets. This cannot be discounted as there were quite a few people in government and the military that saw a conflict between the Soviets and the Western Allies as almost inevitable. Warning the Soviets with the use of "the bomb" made good tactical sense at the time.

    - War weariness. Other than the American War for Independence and the Civil War, WWII was the longest war fought by the USA to that point. An invasion of Japan could have easily put the length of war to #2. Americans at home were rapidly tiring of 4 years of war enforced shortages (and don't forget the weariness of more than a decade of the Great Depression). Military personnel (who averaged 33 months from induction to discharge and whose service commitment was for "the duration of the war") were feeling the same way. Washington felt great pressure to wrap up the war quickly and with as few American casualties as possible.

    it was a combination of these (and other factors) that pressed Truman to make the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As individual issues, they probably would not have been sufficient to justify dropping the bomb (with possibly the exception of the Home Island casualty figures) but taken as a whole, it easier to see why the decision was made.

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    Response to melm00se (Reply #65)

    Fri Aug 9, 2013, 11:24 AM

    66. Regardless - the indiscriminate slaughter and maiming of tens of thousands with one bomb is amoral

     

    .
    .
    .

    Hitting a KNOWN military installation is one thing,

    hitting a city with women and children is another.

    I know, I know, it's just "collateral damage".

    Tell that to the families . . .

    (sigh)

    CC

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