Skip to comments.Was Using the A-Bomb Justified?
Posted on 08/08/2005 5:04:27 AM PDT by hildy123
August 6 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the devastating atomic bomb attack against the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.
For the most part, up until the 1960s the predominant view was that the U.S. was justified in its decision to use nuclear weapons against the Japanese. There was a general consensus to accept, at face value, that American leaders had determined that Japan would not surrender, and that their determination to fight to the death against an invasion would have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not a million U.S. soldiers.
But with the anti-establishment mentality of the 1960s came a new cadre of revisionist historians who began casting the decision to nuke Japan in the context of racism against the Japanese and political opportunism as a show of force to the Soviets. Consequently, for 40 years revisionists have used the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to flog America's conscience.
For years critics of the decision have asserted that the use of nuclear weapons was unnecessary because Japan was so weakened militarily that they realized their situation was hopeless. The revisionists argue that Japan was seeking to negotiate a surrender prior to the bombings. But information from top secret intelligence documents by the U.S. code breaking operation called "Magic" and the British operation called "Ultra" that was declassified in the mid-1990s disclosed a decidedly different situation.
American code breakers had been deciphering Japanese military and diplomatic messages since just before the Battle of Midway. By the summer of 1945, "Magic" was deciphering millions of messages. From these messages President Truman and U.S. military leaders concluded that Japan would not agree to an unconditional surrender.
The revisionists insist otherwise. They point out that in the summer of 1945 the Japanese were seeking a compromised peace to end the war through their envoy to Russia. But based on intercepted Japanese communications, what Japan was trying to do was make a deal to keep the Soviet Union out of the war. What the Japanese military rulers really wanted was a deal that would allow their brutal military regime that started the war to stay in power, something the U.S. and the Allies would never have accepted.
Yet the revisionists persist that the primary obstacle that kept Japan from agreeing to an unconditional surrender was the perception that Emperor Hirohito would not be allowed to continue as emperor. According to the revisionists, the Japanese were so loyal to the Emperor that they would have fought to the death to protect him. While that may have been true for the majority of the Japanese, some of the top military leaders did not hold the Emperor in such high esteem. In fact, when Emperor Hirohito announced his decision to surrender, a group of hard-line Japanese military leaders attempted a coup to overthrow him. The coup failed.
Finally, according to the revisionists, the use of the A-bombs were unnecessary because Japan's military was so devastated that the war would have ended in a matter of weeks anyway. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith even asserted that the use of the A-bombs only shortened the war by two or three weeks at most. But Galbraith and other revisionists couldn't have been more wrong.
The Japanese had been sheltering their resources in anticipation of an American landing. At the time of the bombings, Japan had over 12,000 aircraft for use against U.S. forces. In terms of land forces, some post war estimates indicate that the Japanese defense forces on Kyushu, the first island targeted for invasion, may have outnumbered U.S. forces by a ratio of 3:2. Typically, an invasion force must outnumber defenders by a ratio of 3:1 to be successful. In addition, the Japanese had been training civilians, including children, for attacks against U.S. troops.
The Japanese plan was to inflict such heavy losses that the war weary Americans would seek a negotiated peace. And had the U.S. gone forward with the plans to land on the Kyushu, they would have suffered horrendous casualties. Pre-invasion casualty estimates anticipated the loss of from 100,000 to as many as 1 million American soldiers and from 5-10 million Japanese military and civilian deaths. It has been estimated that for every month that the war continued, between 250,000 to 400,000 Asian civilians still under Japanese occupation would have died.
Revisionists dismiss these estimates as justification for using the A-bombs. But as Dr. James Tent, a professor of history at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, points out, such a dismissal is indicative of the sheer arrogance of the revisionists who, decades after the fact and far removed from the reality of the situation, would presume to judge those who had to make those decisions.
While the revisionists can second-guess the use of such catastrophic weapons on primarily civilian targets, the fact remains that the use of the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about the end of the war much sooner than any of the other alternatives would have and in so doing saved millions of lives. Given that the Japanese were already responsible for 17 million deaths, it is not hard to conclude that using atomic weapons to end the war was justified.
The author makes many good points
It's just sad that we need to go through these gyrations every year to answer the revisionists. The decision was made based on the cirumatsances and intelligence available at the time.
Only a liberal can second guess things for 60 years and try to "wish" the upleasantness away
I don't think it's about 'wishing unpleasantness away'. It's about making sure that the US never again has the certainty and fortitude to defeat an enemy.
Also, if they were really ready to surrender there wouldn't have had to be a second bomb. Isn't that obvious?
I teach a course called "Technology and the Culture of War" at the U. of Dayton, and when we get to the a-bomb, there are several things I have the students read. However, one of the comments I make is that while the Nagasaki bomb is often viewed as the "more immoral" of the two ("they were going to surrender anyway"), I point out that had Japan not surrendered after the Hiroshima bomb---and we still had to invade---that would have been the most immoral thing at all. We should have dropped them as fast and furious as we could until they unconditionally surrendered.
Yes this is right on target. The goal of the left is to undermine the psychological strength of the nation. Their real battle cry is make the government strong and the nation weak.
Decisions like this require a clarity of purpose and principled stand that no liberal could muster or even understand the concept of
Yes, of course it was.
As long as we're doing body-count mathematics, this alone justifies the use of the A-Bomb. If the US had invaded, every civilian would have been expected to meet the Marines with a sharpened piece of bamboo, or a shovel, or some other improvised implement. And the Marines would have gunned them down. By the millions.
Look at what happened in Saipan, where the Japanese civilians threw themselves into the sea rather than be captured by the Americans. How much more irrational would the response be to an invasion of the Home Islands?
Exactly! Sadly not one revisionist debates the decision of the Emperor NOT to surrender right before or after the first bomb. How many civilians lives would have been saved with responsible coherent leadership on the Emperor's part?
Yes, it was necessary. As the author pointed out, the best explanantion for the Japenese military to surrender was to save their own hides. They sure had lots of troops go to their death defending their bid to take over the world.
I seen on TV the other day where they asked some 18 year old Japenese student why the US nuked Japan. He said it was for revenge and because we were being racists. What a short sighted idiot. We nuked them because they wouldn't surrender.
Drop the mealy-mouthed "at the time" BS. What subsequent information, available now and not then, indicates otherwise? Some things are just right, and don't need to be second guessed. This is one of those things.
The Japanese would have reached a negotiated settlement on December 8, 1941. We just would not have liked the terms.
If for only one reason ... The Battle of Okinawa
" Battle of Okinawa [1st April to 22nd June 1945]
Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific campaign and the last major campaign of the Pacific War. More ships were used, more troops put ashore, more supplies transported, more bombs dropped, more naval guns fired against shore targets than any other operation in the Pacific. More people died during the Battle of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Casualties totaled more than 38,000 Americans wounded and 12,000 killed or missing, more than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan conscripts killed, and perhaps 100,000 Okinawan civilians who perished in the battle.
The battle of Okinawa proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. Thirty-four allied ships and craft of all types had been sunk, mostly by kamikazes, and 368 ships and craft damaged.
The fleet had lost 763 aircraft. Total American casualties in the operation numbered over 12,000 killed [including nearly 5,000 Navy dead and almost 8,000 Marine and Army dead] and 36,000 wounded.
Navy casualties were tremendous, with a ratio of one killed for one wounded as compared to a one to five ratio for the Marine Corps. Combat stress also caused large numbers of psychiatric casualties, a terrible hemorrhage of front-line strength. There were more than 26,000 non-battle casualties.
In the battle of Okinawa, the rate of combat losses due to battle stress, expressed as a percentage of those caused by combat wounds, was 48% [in the Korean War the overall rate was about 20-25%, and in the Yom Kippur War it was about 30%].
American losses at Okinawa were so heavy as to illicite Congressional calls for an investigation into the conduct of the military commanders. Not surprisingly, the cost of this battle, in terms of lives, time, and material, weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later.
do these idiots ever stop and consider how many lives were saved in the end as a result of these bombs?
Yes and maybe we need to fire one up now.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.