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Tue Aug 6, 2013, 10:17 PM

An overlooked A-bomb issue: the wait-a-couple-weeks argument [View all]

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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Reply An overlooked A-bomb issue: the wait-a-couple-weeks argument [View all]
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