I’m (seriously) curious about something. I know hindsight is always 20-20, but there is a school of thought that says the US should have demonstrated the bomb first, perhaps to a group of Japanese observers at a desert somewhere.
I know what a US Marine would think about that, but what would an historian say? Your comments, Mike?
Showing it off for observers would have had no effect.
Anybody the Japanese government would have sent would have refused to report the truth, and would have felt safe in doing so because they would have the political connections required to stay out of potential blast zones.
The citizens of Japan needed to see it up close and personal in order to have the psychological impact required to shut the war machine down quickly enough to keep the Soviets out.
The thought at the time...as I recall from the book “Day One”, was that if we gave a demo the Japanese military would have likely thought it was a trick of some sort. And there was a risk the bomb wouldn’t go off which would have been counter productive.
Also, we couldn’t afford to give demos: we didn’t have enough material on hand to make more than 3 bombs: and we set all 3 off.
Actually, it may have been enough for 4, but the premise is the same...we couldn’t waste the material - remember, at the time no one was really positive what the Russians were going to do. There were people worried the Red Army wasn’t going to stop in Berlin and that we’d be having to use a nuke on them.
The Japs would learn all they needed to know when we took out a city, and we wouldn’t waste an A-bomb (we only had three...).
My first reaction is it wouldnt have worked, because it didnt, but I asked my son who dealt with this issue in a debate for his input also. Japan had already experienced two actual nuclear detonations and the War Faction remained intransigent. Remember they had already experienced firebombing of 60 cities. The first raid on Tokyo destroyed 20 square miles and killed more people than either bomb. From their behavior the Japanese leadership seemed comfortable with incomprehensible death figures.
After Hirohito recorded his broadcast to the Japanese people there was still an attempt to capture him and destroy the records that were to be used in the radio broadcast.
I think a demonstration would have been meaningful to Westerners but not the Japanese. Here is a letter to the editor I wrote that speaks to the issue,
Japans Intransigent Leaders Actuated the Atomic Bombs
Arriving at VJ day demonstrated the critical role Kokutai played in surrender. Any prominent Japanese lived within an intimate spiritual fabric of Emperor, citizen, land, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion. Emperor Hirohito foreseeing the probability of defeat, appointed a Peace Faction in January 1944. However, he and his advisors conducted political kabuki through twenty months of continuous defeats, fire bombings of over 60 cities, and 1.3 million additional Japanese deaths.
The Japanese Privy Council debated the Final Battles arguments into physical and mental exhaustion for eleven hours following the Nagasaki bomb on August 9. For the final meeting Hirohito reluctantly invited Barron Hiranuma, who had fiercely disapproved the war strategy. Hiranuma maintained the Emperors spiritual essence was independent of any imposed government. He reproved Foreign Minister Togo for never making concrete proposals to the Russians, and Minister Anami for accepting limitless nuclear warfare deaths without any opportunity to retaliate. The ministers had no answer, but remained unyielding.
At impasse Hirohito, the god-king, spoke the Voice of the Crane in the sweltering, underground bunker. He would bear the unbearable, conclude the war, and transform the nation. Only then did Japan contact Swiss and Swedish foreign offices to commence negotiations with allied belligerents.
The atomic bombs removed the Final Battles argument, allowing the War Faction to relent, Hirohito to assume his unprecedented roll, and no one to lose face. Their cabal remained within the fabric of Japanese from all eras who had sacrificed for Emperor and Empire.
Apparently the demonstration in Hiroshima wasn’t enough to end the war. Would a demonstration in an unpopulated location have done the trick?