Skip to comments.Dropping Atomic Bombs on Japan Was Imperative
Posted on 08/10/2012 11:02:37 AM PDT by Retain Mike
We now mark the 67th anniversary of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WW II. The generations which developed the information and made the decisions for World War II, including dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, have passed away. The generation which faced the tragic violence required for carrying out those decisions is rapidly leaving us. As this personal knowledge becomes ever rarer, we must listen increasingly to revisionist contra-factual analyses as they expound on what a needless, tragic and profoundly immoral decision the United States had made.
In support of dropping the atomic bombs historians often cite the inevitability of horrifying casualties, if troops had landed on the home islands. They extrapolate from 48,000 American and 230,000 Japanese losses on Okinawa to estimates of 500,000 American and millions of Japanese casualties for mainland invasions. However, even these optimistic figures arise from studies preceding the unfolding recognition of American experiences on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Such estimates could have vastly understated casualties, because Japan at 374,000 mountainous square miles mathematically enables over 500 defensive redoubts; fortifications comparable to that General Ushijima constructed to inflict most losses At Okinawa. This rapid increase in killing efficiency extended to planned stubborn defenses of their major cities just as the Germans had maintained in Berlin. The American island hopping strategy had ended, because the Japanese had determined the few regions within their mountainous country that could accommodate the huge armies and air forces needed. Harry Truman contemplated increasingly dire estimates causing him to reflect on the possibility of an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.
The Japanese War Faction maintained the lavish standard of 20 million Japanese deaths for planning final mainland battles; battles intended to inflict millions of casualties, and to convince America to abandon the Potsdam Declaration. The Japanese had concealed vastly underestimated quantities of kamikazes and aviation fuel, redeployed veteran Kwantung divisions, mobilized home defense armies, and distributed suicide bombs and bamboo spears to civilians become soldiers.
Americans also faced biological warfare. Occupation searchers uncovered large stockpiles of viruses, spirochetes, and fungus spores throughout rural Japan. These biological pathogens had already been tested on Chinese civilians. For Japan one delivery system directed citizen soldiers to infect themselves and stay behind the advancing troops.
The Greatest Generation and their parents would have been enraged to discover a cabal had ignored the nuclear option for ending the war just to indulge some personal moral orthodoxy. If there was any alternative, Harry Truman, Henry Stimson, and George Marshall were not about to procure the deaths of countless Americans in protracted ground campaigns following amphibious assaults exceeding D-Day.
The Japanese Privy Council debated the Final Battles arguments into utter 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 30 by 18 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.
Here was demonstrated the critical role Kokutai played in surrender. Any prominent Japanese lived within an intimate spiritual three dimensional fabric of Emperor, citizen, land, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion. Emperor Hirohito foresaw the probability of defeat and had 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 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.
Another point says the bombs accomplished little. Supposedly Roosevelts decree of unconditional surrender was compromised away by allowing Japan to keep their Emperor. However by accepting the Potsdam Declaration, Japan abandoned the militarism that had committed the country to Asian conquest. The Emperors and the governments authority became subject to the Supreme Allied Commander. Their authority was later subject to the Japanese peoples free expression for determining post war government that eradicated multi-millennial Imperial characteristics.
The moral failure to leave an Imperial Japan undefeated to prosecute a nuclear war generations hence was intolerable. The expectation of continuing 400,000 civilian and military deaths throughout Asia while diplomats dithered was intolerable. Allowing a blockade to operate interminably, while deferring to the War Faction any decision about whether Japanese and allied prisoner deaths met their 20 million standard was intolerable. Allowing the premeditated ignorance of revisionists center stage as the institutional knowledge of the Greatest Generation dies away is intolerable.
As a byproduct of studying WW II history in retirement, I annually rework the below narrative. Also below is a partial biography of the sources I used. The recently published book Hell to Pay by D. M. Giangreco is especially valuable. I was able to find confirmation of so many my other sources in his book. About 40% of the book is bibliography, appendices, and notes.
The sound bites that generate popular attention are baseless, and if you are interested there is much opportunity for refuting these comfortable fictions.
Hell to pay, D. M. Giangreco
The Atomic Bomb and the End of WW II, The National Security Archive
Japanese Biomedical Experimentation During the WW II Era, Sheldon H. Harris, PhD
Japans Imperial Conspiracy, David Bergamni
Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring, Gordon Prange
It’s scary to think that in a few generations when they teach history, the only things they’ll mention about WWII will be:
1. The Internment camps for Japanese American citizens
2. The firebombing of Dresden
3. The bombing on Hiroshima/Nagasaki
4. How the Soviet Union single-handedly won WWII
There was a planned invasion, Operation downfall, of Japan scheduled for Nov 1st 1945 would have cost around 1 million Japanese lives and about 350,000 US casualties.
And the Soviets were prepared to invade from the North, and take their share of Japan.
When I hear someone disagree with the atomic bombings of Japan - and the carpet bombing of German and Japanese cities - my brain says “idiot”, and I avoid them in the future.
Japan has an area of about 145,000 square miles
Dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was a very good idea.
Look how well behaved they are now.
They’re like, “civilized” now.
Here is an excerpt from an article Richard B. Frank wrote for the Weekly Standard. Well worth reading:
...right to the very end, the Japanese pursued twin goals: not only the preservation of the imperial system, but also preservation of the old order in Japan that had launched a war of aggression that killed 17 million.
This brings us to another aspect of history that now very belatedly has entered the controversy. Several American historians led by Robert Newman have insisted vigorously that any assessment of the end of the Pacific war must include the horrifying consequences of each continued day of the war for the Asian populations trapped within Japan's conquests. Newman calculates that between a quarter million and 400,000 Asians, overwhelmingly noncombatants, were dying each month the war continued. Newman et al. challenge whether an assessment of Truman's decision can highlight only the deaths of noncombatant civilians in the aggressor nation while ignoring much larger death tolls among noncombatant civilians in the victim nations.
There are a good many more points that now extend our understanding beyond the debates of 1995. But it is clear that all three of the critics' central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood--as one analytical piece in the "Magic" Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts--that "until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies." This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.
The displacement of the so-called traditionalist view within important segments of American opinion took several decades to accomplish. It will take a similar span of time to displace the critical orthodoxy that arose in the 1960s and prevailed roughly through the 1980s, and replace it with a richer appreciation for the realities of 1945. But the clock is ticking.
I once interviewed Gen Henry ‘Butch’ Muller who was one of
the chief planners of the Los Banos Raid as intel off. of the
11th AB in the Philippines. By the end of the War he was Asst
Intel Off for the whole 8th Army and his job was to analyse
casualty projections resulting from an invasion of Japan. I
asked what he had estimated for the 8th Army alone. Without
batting an eye he stated 90,000 casualties.
I was sitting with my Father and mentioned about this being the anniversary of the Nagasaki A-Bomb. He was a Captain in the 45th ID [ETO since Sicily Invasion with 4 Amphibious Landings] who had advanced warning for assignment to PTO for the Japanese Invasion. With his experience with amphibious landings, his feeling was that he would have been 1st or 2nd wave in the invasion. His opinion was and is that these A-Bombs saved his life and nothing said or written since has changed that viewpoint.
He spent 1941 thru 1944 in the Atlantic and went West for the invasion. He thought Truman was a great guy for dropping the bomb, but voted Republican hated the New Deal.
Great work - thank you for posting.
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?
My parents and 2 brothers were in Japanese internment camps for several years along with thousands of other Europeans and only a few years ago they unearthed plans by the Japanese military to kill everyone in these camps. I am here thanks to the A-bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thank you president Truman
My father was in the 6th Army and would have been in the first wave in Late 1945(Operation Olympic). He said that they would have NEVER made it even to the shore. I OWE President Truman and my father a debt that I will NEVER be able to re-pay!
In his book “Meeting at Potsdam”, author Charles L. Mee suggested that Truman agreed to dropping the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not just to prevent a huge death toll to both American invaders and Japanese civilians but, more importantly, so he wouldn’t have to share the spoils of Japan with Stalin.
According to Mee, at the Potsdam Conference following the end of the War in Europe, Truman was routinely frustrated by Stalin because he would suggest ways to divide Europe between the US and the USSR, only to have Stalin shoot it down. Unfortunately for Truman, during WWII, when Roosevelt met with Stalin and Churchill at the Yalta and Malta conferences, he not only never recorded any of the details of those conferences, he never informed Truman of their discussions. Thus, Truman went in blind.
So, after some very trying negotiations with Stalin over Europe, Truman didn’t want a repetition over Japan. As a result, while the Russians were still in the process of transporting troops and materiel from the Eastern front to the coast, Truman trumped him by dropping the bombs and forcing Japan to capitulate.
In the late 60s and early 70s, as a young sailor, I was stationed in Japan and visited both Hiroshima as well as Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. It is important for Americans to know that it wasn’t until the late 90s that Japan finally acknowledged their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Prior to that time, the Japanese people were never told by their government that Japan had attacked first. It wasn’t taught in their schools, it wasn’t in their libraries and it wasn’t in their archives. As young American servicemen, we found ourselves engaged in any number of disagreements with our Japanese hosts over Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the mid- to late 80s, a survey was done in Japan to see how contemporary Japanese felt about the dropping of the bombs, their surrender to America and life in Japan since the end of the war. Surprisingly, ~80% agreed that the way the war ended for them and the things that happened afterward were far better than if Japan had been able to continue either under their former feudal system or under the thumb of the Russians.
It was also in the late 80s or early 90s that the Japanese government admitted what it did to the Korean women that were captured when Japan invaded Korea. The women were taken hostage and brought to Japan where they were forced to become “comfort women” (sex slaves) for the Japanese soldiers.
It is likely that, as more time passes, Japan may, ultimately, develop an attitude about the war that many young Germans have developed about Hitler and the Nazis. In their revisionist world, Hitler and the Nazis never happended and were just an excuse manufactured by Americans to take over Germany as part of our “imperial” empire.
So, if we fail to teach all of these things not only to OUR children but to German and Japanese children (to name a few), the past will be prologue.
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.
Odds are not only would we have had to fight in Japan to overthrow Tojo, we would also have wound up fighting in Japan afterwards to stop the Reds from taking the entire country.
Can you imagine that? "Evil, racists" people celebrating such a thing -- never mind that it ended years and years of a war of daily unspeakable acts in general and acts committed by the Imperial Japan military in particular.
How awful that we didn't let the daily horrors continue, I guess that was the better alternative some today are saying. They can kiss the asses of the Greatest Generation if they can leap that high.
Yes I know that some are saying that the Imperial Japan leaders just couldn't wait to welcome American and other troops to Japan; but we "racists" would have none of that -- besides we wanted to show Stalin a thing or two. Let 'em prove it beyond all doubt.
Japan was a suicidal culture. Fight to the death. Death with honor and all that.
So, we have to think; if America became suicidal in a similar way and our foe had a culture of freedom. Would they or should they shock us into submission?
I think yes.
Were the foe a culture of death and dominance? Maybe not, but perhaps. If we submit, we can fight another day.
We have to be thankful we’re facing these choices, or forcing our enemies to.
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