This horrendous weapon, with all its capacity for death and destruction fully known by US officials, was dropped not once, but twice on innocent civilians.
Both A-bombs were dropped on military targets.
Hiroshima was a huge military center filled with tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers.
Nagasaki was an industrial center that contained huge weapons factories.
Published on Sunday, August 6, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Was the Atomic Bombing of Japan Necessary?
by Robert Freeman
Few issues in American history - perhaps only slavery itself - are as charged as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. Was it necessary? Merely posing the question provokes indignation, even rage. Witness the hysterical shouting down of the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit that simply dared discuss the question fifty years after the act.
It might be noted that the "exhibit" was opposed because it was chock full of outright lies.
The decision to drop the bomb has been laundered through the American myth-making machine into everything from self-preservation by the Americans to concern for the Japanese themselves-as if incinerating two hundred thousand human beings in a second was somehow an act of moral largesse.
Well, it is certainly true that there was great concern over the costs that would occur had Japan continued to refuse to surrender.
Asian civilians on the mainland were dying at a rate of more than 100,000 a month under Japanese occupation.
And there was a reasonable estimate that invading Japan would have resulted in half-a-million American dead, with more than a million more maimed and wounded.
Had we had to invade Japan, all the casualties we had suffered up to that point in WWII, would have merely been "the first half of the war".
It is also true that had the war continued even a couple more months, ten million Japanese civilians would have starved to death due to our ever-tightening blockade.
But yes, that was not really the reason the A-bombs were dropped.
We dropped the A-bombs because we didn't know what it would take to make Japan surrender, and we were trying everything we could.
The question of military necessity can be quickly put to rest. "Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary." Those are not the words of a latter-day revisionist historian or a leftist writer. They are certainly not the words of an America-hater. They are the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and future president of the United States.
Nothing Ike says can change the fact that Japan refused to surrender until after the second A-bomb was dropped.
Eisenhower knew, as did the entire senior U.S. officer corps, that by mid 1945 Japan was defenseless.
After the Japanese fleet was destroyed at Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the U.S. was able to carry out uncontested bombing of Japan's cities, including the hellish firebombings of Tokyo and Osaka. This is what Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, meant when he observed, "The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell because the Japanese had lost control of their own air." Also, without a navy, the resource-poor Japanese had lost the ability to import the food, oil, and industrial supplies needed to carry on a World War.
This proclamation of Japan's alleged defenselessness, focuses on their navy and air force.
It glosses over their army for a reason. If it addressed the Japanese army, it would have to acknowledge the millions of Japanese soldiers waiting to fight to the death when we invaded.
As a result of the naked futility of their position, the Japanese had approached the Russians, seeking their help in brokering a peace to end the War. The U.S. had long before broken the Japanese codes and knew that these negotiations were under way, knew that the Japanese had for months been trying to find a way to surrender.
First, there were no negotiations underway (and the US certainly did not "know" about nonexistent negotiations).
All there was, was Japan saying "please let us come and talk to you about something", and the Soviets replying with "we're a little busy now, but maybe we'll get back to you someday".
Second, Japan's hopes to "end the war" did not involve them surrendering. They wanted to end the war in a draw (something like how the Korean War later ended).
And they were not at it "for months". Their end-the-war-in-a-draw gambit only started in July of 1945, after we overran their defenses of Okinawa (which they had believed were impregnable).
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, reflected this reality when he wrote, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace.
The calendar is a greater authority than Nimitz, however.
The date of Japan's first surrender offer (August 10) comes after the date of the first A-bomb (August 6) and the date of the second A-bomb (August 9).
I'm serious. Go look at a 1945 calendar if you don't believe me. You will find that August 10 does indeed come after August 6 and 9.
Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman, said the same thing: "The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
If Japan was ready to surrender before the A-bombs, it was rather a blunder on their part to wait until after the A-bombs before surrendering.
Civilian authorities, especially Truman himself, would later try to revise history by claiming that the bombs were dropped to save the lives of one million American soldiers. But there is simply no factual basis for this in any record of the time.
Sure there is. The high estimate for the invasion of Japan was a million American dead, and several million more maimed and wounded.
Now, the high estimate may not have been the most realistic, but it was most definitely part of the record.
(The estimate of a half-million US dead, with more than a million more maimed and wounded, was a mainstream estimate.)
On the contrary, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reported, "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." The November 1 date is important because that was the date of the earliest possible planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese main islands.
The Strategic Bombing Survey came out long after the war was over. Truman did not have the luxury of consulting it during the war, when Japan was actually refusing to surrender and no one knew what it would take to make them surrender.
That is not to say it is of no value. But it certainly is of no value regarding the specific question of what the US was thinking in August of 1945.
In other words, the virtually unanimous and combined judgment of the most informed, senior, officers of the U.S. military is unequivocal: there was no pressing military necessity for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan.
Wrong. All those quotes from military officials came from after the bombs were dropped (most of them many years after). There was no such military consensus before the bombs were dropped.
The *only* military official who expressed any opposition to the bombs "before their use", was Ike.
And Ike voiced his point of view to *only* one person (Stimson). When Stimson called him an idiot, Ike let the matter drop, and did not voice his misgivings to a second person. Stimson as well did not feel that Ike's views merited repeating.
(Even if Ike had managed to start a big wave of opposition to the bombs, he was way too late. The final orders to drop the bombs had been sent out to the field, and Truman had left Potsdam and set sail back to the US -- incommunicado until after Hiroshima.)
Perhaps Ike should be praised for his foresight. But it can hardly be said that there was much in the way of military opposition to use of the bombs.
In fact, a number of military leaders (General LeMay, Admiral Nimitz, General Spaatz, General Twining) were so delighted with Nagasaki that they started lobbying Washington to drop the third A-bomb directly on Tokyo for a greater psychological hit against Japan.
But if dropping the bombs was not driven by military needs, why, then, were they used? The answer can be discerned in the U.S. attitude toward the Russians, the way the War ended in Europe, and the situation in Asia.
Nope. The answer was quite simple:
The A-bombs were dropped because Japan had not yet offered to surrender.
Once the bomb was proven to work on July 15, 1945, events took on a furious urgency. There was simply no time to work through negotiations with the Japanese.
There were no negotiations with the Japanese to work through to begin with.
And events had been taking a furious urgency for some years, at that point.
Every day of delay meant more land given up to Russia and, therefore, a greater likelihood of communist victory in the Chinese civil war. All of Asia might go communist. It would be a strategic catastrophe for the U.S. to have won the War against the fascists only to hand it to its other arch enemy, the communists. The U.S. needed to end the War not in months, or even weeks, but in days.
It should be noted that we were so eager for Soviet help, should invasion of Japan prove necessary, that we were offering them that very land in exchange for going to war with Japan.
So, on August 6, 1945, two days before the Russians were to declare war against Japan, the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.
It might be noted that the Soviets were dawdling and planning to wait a few more weeks before entering the war. They only started scurrying to enter it on time once the A-bomb became viable.
There was no risk to U.S. forces then waiting for a Japanese response to the demand for surrender.
What nonsense! We had already waited. They were given plenty of time to respond.
And in fact they had responded. They rejected the Potsdam Proclamation with the utmost contempt.
The notion that we should have to keep waiting endlessly without continuing to attack them, is retarded.
The earliest planned invasion of the island was still three months away and the U.S. controlled the timing of all military engagements in the Pacific. But the Russian matter loomed and drove the decision on timing.
No. What drove the timing was the fact that there were no retards in charge. Therefore the stupid idea that we might hold off on the A-bomb "for no particular reason" was never even considered.
So, only three days later, the U.S. dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945, eight days after the first bomb was dropped.
Major General Curtis LeMay commented on the bomb's use: "The War would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the War at all."
His claim is questionable. Before the A-bombs and the Soviet attack, Japan was refusing to surrender.
As soon as the A-bombs were dropped and the Soviets attacked, Japan surrendered.
If there were neither the A-bombs nor the Soviet attack, what exactly was supposed to make Japan suddenly change their mind in two more weeks?
Except that it drastically speeded the War's end to deprive the Russians of territory in east Asia.
Nonsense. We GAVE the Soviets that very territory, in exchange for their help with Japan.
The story of military necessity, quickly and clumsily pasted together after the War's end, simply does not hold up against the overwhelming military realities of the time.
Japan refused to surrender until after the A-bombs were dropped.
On the other hand, the use of the bomb to contain Russian expansion and to make the Russians, in Truman's revealing phrase, "more manageable," comports completely with all known facts and especially with U.S. motivations and interests.
Our hope that our possession of nuclear weapons would inspire the Soviets to behave, was a reasonable aspiration.
But that has nothing to do with our use of the A-bombs against Japan. That was what we hoped to achieve with our post-war A-bombs.
Our goal with the A-bombs used on Japan was: We wanted to make them surrender.