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Sun Jan 13, 2013, 01:00 AM

The Real Reason America Used Nukes Against Japan

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/10/the-real-reason-america-used-nuclear-weapons-against-japan-to-contain-russian-ambitions.html

Atomic Weapons Were Not Needed to End the War or Save Lives

Like all Americans, I was taught that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end WWII and save both American and Japanese lives.

But most of the top American military officials at the time said otherwise.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that concluded (52-56):

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

General (and later president) Dwight Eisenhower – then Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces, and the officer who created most of America’s WWII military plans for Europe and Japan – said:

The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

Newsweek, 11/11/63, Ike on Ike

Eisenhower also noted (pg. 380):

In 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude….

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Real Reason America Used Nukes Against Japan (Original post)
Bonobo Jan 2013 OP
HeiressofBickworth Jan 2013 #1
caraher Jan 2013 #4
Kalidurga Jan 2013 #2
tavalon Jan 2013 #9
joshcryer Jan 2013 #3
caraher Jan 2013 #6
joshcryer Jan 2013 #7
Bonobo Jan 2013 #8
maindawg Jan 2013 #5
Jim Lane Jan 2013 #10
Bonobo Jan 2013 #11
Adsos Letter Jan 2013 #15
excringency Jan 2013 #12
PDittie Jan 2013 #13
locks Jan 2013 #14

Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 02:00 AM

1. I've always thought

that the basic underlying reason the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan was simply racism.

As Brigadier Gen Carter Clark is quoted in the OP, it was an experiment for the atomic bomb and as Gen George Marshall was quoted, it was aimed explicitly at non-military facilities surrounded by workers homes, and the other speculation was to impress Russia at the start of the Cold War, but ultimately, it was racism.

The Japanese were out of resources at the end of the war and were by all accounts on the brink of surrender. Germany, with its rocket experiments and heavy water experiments for bombs, was a greater threat but no atomic bombs were ever dropped on Germany. Given that we had two enemies, one on either side of Russia who would have seen the power of the bombs wherever they were detonated, the decision to drop atomic bombs on the non-white populations of Japan can be attributed to racism. I think there was a greater concern about preserving the land and culture of Europe over Japan, again, racism.

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Response to HeiressofBickworth (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 03:18 AM

4. I don't think we'd have hesitated to use it in Europe

There was plenty of racism on both sides in the Pacific war, but the fighting in Europe was certainly savage also, with little concern for civilians. The firestorms raised by bombing Hamburg and Dresden rivaled the atomic bombings in bringing indiscriminate death on a population (they just took a lot more planes and bombs to induce). The bombs were not ready until months after Germany surrendered, and I have no doubt we would have used them in Europe had they been available. So I don't think the chief motive was racism, though I'm sure that made it easier. I've read that a Gallup survey of Americans done in August 1945 showed a majority favoring the opinion that we should continue to drop atomic bombs until we ran out of them, such was US sentiment toward the Japanese.

If you're interested in the question of dropping the bomb and whether it was needed to force Japan's surrender Gar Alperovitz' work is the best place to go for criticism of the view that it saved American (and Japanese) lives.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 02:00 AM

2. They tried to teach that crap to me in high school that the bombing was necessary

I argued with my history teacher. I was rather upset and I wouldn't back down and I wouldn't give her the "correct" answer on the test either. This was years before I read Howard Zinn. It was just my gut reaction. A lot of other students agreed with me as well. But, they knew what answer to put on the test. I didn't know it had anything to do with the cold war though. That is a really messed up reason to drop the bomb. I don't understand this at all it's almost as if the PTB wanted a cold war. .

ETA If Bombs Away Lemay says a bomb isn't necessary, then there is a really good chance that bomb isn't necessary.

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Response to Kalidurga (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 04:58 AM

9. Yep, it was the most horrible chest thumping display ever

and the Japanese were used by us to scare the Russians and frankly, the whole damn world. It's very sick.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 03:13 AM

3. It was definitely a demonstration. No doubt.

The fire bombings had already practically leveled Tokyo, they were going to surrender. Though when, I don't think anyone has a magic 8 ball and can say, but it was probably a year or so. Maybe longer. In that time the fire bombing would've persisted. I think it's wrong to say that Japan was about to give up. I don't think there's any evidence to those ends.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 03:27 AM

6. Actually, there's plenty of evidence the bombs didn't shorten the war noticeably

At essentially the same time, the Soviets invaded Manchuria, which may have made an even bigger impression on Tokyo's generals. There's actually a lot of evidence that Japan wouldn't have lasted more than a few months more. That case is part of the work I mentioned above, notably in the Gar Alperovitz book "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb."

There are historians on both sides of the argument, but there are some very strong arguments for a quick collapse without the bomb - very different from the absence of "any evidence." Japanese diplomats had been trying to initiate a surrender dialog through intermediaries (unfortunately for them, one of them was the Soviet Union; they apparently didn't realize Stalin fully intended to follow through on his promise to the western Allies to attack Japan 3 months after Germany's surrender).

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Response to caraher (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 03:46 AM

7. The Japanese diplomats that wanted to surrender didn't have clout.

And had they openly stated that they wanted to surrender they would've been in deep shit. The diplomats that wanted to surrender made that known clandestinely. This analysis also ignores Japan's cultural concept of "kokutai."

I think this discussion would benefit from my clarifying that I am talking about unconditional surrender here. Not conditional surrender. I think it is well known that they would've surrendered if the Empire maintained power (and its territories), without question. I do not think that a reality exists where the USA would've accepted anything but an unconditional surrender and the end of the Japanese Empire, which is why I think that the fighting would've continued on and the fire bombings would've persisted for months.

There is absolutely plenty of evidence for a conditional surrender, particularly the scenario where the Japanese Empire is allowed to stand.

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Response to caraher (Reply #6)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 04:01 AM

8. Not just Machuria. On the day Nagasaki bomb was dropped...

the Russians invaded Sakhalin in preparation for a full blown invasion of Hokkaido.

Japan was petrified and it would have meant the end of Japan. Russia had no love for Japan and wanted payback for their humiliating loss in the Russo-Japanese war.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 03:18 AM

5. its

we murdered almost one million innocent civilians.It was about revenge.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 05:43 AM

10. The single most damning argument is: Wait a week.

Under a secret provision of the Yalta agreement, the USSR agreed to enter the war against Japan three months after V-E Day. Therefore, the American government knew of the impending Soviet action, but Japan did not.

There was no military downside to delaying the atomic bombing while waiting to see the effect of the Soviet declaration of war. The invasion of the Japanese home islands was not imminent -- the target date was November 1, 1945.

I haven't read Gar Alperovitz's more recent work. I read his earlier book, Atomic Diplomacy, which documents that American policymakers were already looking ahead to a postwar world in which the USA and the USSR would be the dominant powers and would be rivals. The bomb was seen as an important basis of American leverage in that struggle. They were aware of the Yalta timetable, however. Their view was that if the war ended before the bomb was dropped, then the bomb, never having been demonstrated on a real city, would be of less value diplomatically.

In other words, the motivation for the Hiroshima attack was not the fear that Japan would not surrender otherwise. It was the fear that Japan would surrender.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 06:26 AM

11. "It was the fear that Japan would surrender."

Exactly. And surrender to the Soviet Union.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 01:50 PM

15. "War and Peace in the 20th Century"

was a course I took my senior year in college. One of the elements my prof emphasized was the desire to show the Soviets "hey...look what we got in our arsenal!"

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 12:07 PM

12. Of course there was racism involved.

There were many reasons for the dropping of the bomb.

Racism: We fought the "Nazis" in Europe and the "Japanese" in the Pacific. One can find speeches by FDR in the 1920s filled with horribly racist comments on Asians and the Japanese in particular that give one an insight into his feelings about race and the enemy. Racial propaganda was used to motivate marines and soldiers in fighting an "inhuman" enemy. That went both ways, women on Okinawa killed their own children out of fear that the U.S. Marines take and eat them.

Revenge: Many wanted extra punishment for Pearl Harbor. During the fight across the Pacific there were many instances of false surrenders. A white flag would be raised only to have the supposed surrendering troops open fire when U.S. forces lowered their weapons. There were also a great number of bodies booby-trapped that killed and maimed U.S. troops.

Expected Casualties: There were those in Japan who wished to surrender, but they held little power or influence. The command at the time expected the nation to fight to the death. Every island battle approaching Japan grew in severity. The majority (not all) of the U.S. command expected massive casualties in taking the country.

Demonstration of Power: If you're the only one with such outrageous weapons, you want the rest of the world to know what effect the have on cities as well as flesh and blood. By the summer of 1945 no one thought the Soviets would remain allies.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST REASON!!!!!! THE NUMBER OF JAPANESE IN CHINA!!!!!!
There were nearly 1.4 million well supplied Japanese troops and half a million Japanese civilians in central China. These numbers exclude the number of Japanese in Manchuria where 4 million Koreans and Chinese were shipped in to provide the workforce for Japanese war factories, farms, mines, etc. This army was self sufficient. They controlled the entire region and is production. The commanders were well involved in the rape of Nan-king and were true believers who would never surrender unless order to do so by the emperor (one of the main reasons we left him on the throne after surrender). After an exhaustive effort at taking Japan, allied forces would have had to begin a new war against the Japanese firmly established and supplied in China.

All of these points taken together help explain the decision to drop the bomb. But what one must keep in mind was the very real fact that racism colored every decision made and action taken.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 12:36 PM

13. "Untold History of the US" mentioned this

I have to admit it (was one of the many things in that series that has) stunned me.

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Response to Bonobo (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 01:41 PM

14. Where men win glory

Americans had so little access to any kind of complete information in 1945; as children we were taught that Japan and Germany were the real bad guys and therefore their people were also. Any way we could "stop the war" and kill all our enemies whether leaders or followers, was good; we seldom heard other opinions. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden and so many cities was necessary and we saw few pictures of the suffering of people who we had been told were our enemies. Oppenheimer's life is a classic story of glory for what he built and holding him in contempt for wanting to use atoms for peaceful purposes.

As in Homer's time, as well as in Lincoln's and Eisenhower's, we still seem to believe that the ultimate and highest honor is to triumph or die in war. Prevention, peacemaking, and non-violence are generally seen as naive and unrealistic. Our battle cries are still that we save lives by killing, that we bring peace through war, that men win glory by inventing and using more and more terrible weapons.

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