WHO DISAGREED WITH THE ATOMIC BOMBING?
From what we read in the general media, it seems like almost everyone felt the atomic bombings of Japan were necessary. Aren't the people who disagree with those actions just trying to find fault with America?
Positions listed refer to WWII positions.
Actually that last line there is an outright lie. Most of these positions only came about long after the war.
Fortunately, I know the actual WWII positions of the various people who are quoted, and so can set the record straight.
"...in [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.
"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."
- Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380
In a Newsweek interview, Eisenhower again recalled the meeting with Stimson:
"...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
- Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63
Yes. Ike was the one person in the universe who thought Japan was about to surrender without the A-bombs.
But as his narrative indicates, when he tried to express that view to his direct superior (the Secretary of War), he was not even remotely convincing.
He never told a second person.
Even if he had been convincing, he was too late. By the time he discussed it with Stimson, the final orders to drop the bombs had been sent out to the field, and Truman had departed Potsdam.
Truman was still at sea when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
~~~ADMIRAL WILLIAM D. LEAHY
(Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman)
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."
- William Leahy, I Was There, pg. 441.
That was not his views on the A-bomb during WWII.
And if Japan was so willing to surrender, I guess they were pretty foolish for needlessly waiting until we had nuked them twice.
Leahy's actual views on the A-bombs during WWII were:
"I'm an expert in explosives, and I can assure you that these contraptions will never work!"
Leahy's later postwar views had an axe to grind. He was trying to make it sound like the Navy could have won the war all alone, and so secure greater funding for the Navy.
On May 28, 1945, Hoover visited President Truman and suggested a way to end the Pacific war quickly: "I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan - tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists - you'll get a peace in Japan - you'll have both wars over."
Not opposition to the use of the bombs.
And also incorrect. Japan in fact refused to consider surrendering on any such terms until after both A-bombs had been dropped.
On August 8, 1945, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Hoover wrote to Army and Navy Journal publisher Colonel John Callan O'Laughlin, "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."
Only expressed after the A-bombs were dropped.
Not necessarily opposition to the use of the bombs.
"...the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945...up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; ...if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs."
Factually incorrect. Japan did not try to negotiate with us until after the second A-bomb had been dropped on them.
Hoover biographer Richard Norton Smith has written: "Use of the bomb had besmirched America's reputation, he [Hoover] told friends. It ought to have been described in graphic terms before being flung out into the sky over Japan."
Not necessarily opposition to use of the bomb.
Japan had their own first-hand graphic description after Hiroshima. They still didn't consider surrender until after Nagasaki.
In early May of 1946 Hoover met with General Douglas MacArthur. Hoover recorded in his diary, "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria."
But in reality, Japan was not willing to surrender until after the second A-bomb had been dropped on them.
~~~GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR
MacArthur biographer William Manchester has described MacArthur's reaction to the issuance by the Allies of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan: "...the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face 'prompt and utter destruction.' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General's advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary."
William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 512.
Where to begin.....
Well first, the only thing MacArthur had to say about the A-bombs during the war was that they would help, but we'd still need to mount a full-scale invasion of Japan to make them surrender.
Second, they are missing some really big nuances in the surrender.
That "continuation of the imperial reign" was a demand that we agree to Hirohito's unlimited dictatorial power
as Japan's living deity.
And the quote implies that we agreed to such a thing.
In reality our response was to tell Japan that Hirohito would be subordinate to MacArthur, and then to prepare to drop the third bomb on Tokyo.
A few days later Japan gave up and agreed to our terms as-is.
~~~GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR
Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed." He continues, "When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."
Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.
True that MacArthur had not been consulted about the use of the A-bombs. But he was informed that they existed and were going to be used.
And contrary to the claim above, MacArthur's only response was to say that the bombs would help, but we'd still need a massive land invasion to make Japan surrender.
As I noted above, the US did not agree to Japan's outrageous condition regarding the Emperor. And had Japan insisted on it, we would have nuked them again.
(Under Sec. of State)
In a February 12, 1947 letter to Henry Stimson (Sec. of War during WWII), Grew responded to the defense of the atomic bombings Stimson had made in a February 1947 Harpers magazine article:
"...in the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the [retention of the] dynasty had been issued in May, 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the [Japanese] Government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clearcut decision.
"If surrender could have been brought about in May, 1945, or even in June or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the [Pacific] war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer."
Grew quoted in Barton Bernstein, ed.,The Atomic Bomb, pg. 29-32.
What Grew had been arguing was that we should issue the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan before nuking them.
That was not opposition to using the bombs. And we did issue the Potsdam Proclamation.
We worded it a bit differently that Grew would have. Grew's language would have allowed Hirohito to be deposed in favor of his son.
It is unlikely that Japan would have found "deposing Hirohito" to be compatible with their demand that "Hirohito retain unlimited dictatorial power".
(Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy)
Strauss recalled a recommendation he gave to Sec. of the Navy James Forrestal before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima:
"I proposed to Secretary Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used. Primarily it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate... My proposal to the Secretary was that the weapon should be demonstrated over some area accessible to Japanese observers and where its effects would be dramatic. I remember suggesting that a satisfactory place for such a demonstration would be a large forest of cryptomeria trees not far from Tokyo. The cryptomeria tree is the Japanese version of our redwood... I anticipated that a bomb detonated at a suitable height above such a forest... would lay the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they were matchsticks, and, of course, set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities at will... Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation..."
Strauss added, "It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world...".
quoted in Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed, The Decision To Drop the Bomb, pg. 145, 325.
A desire to have the bomb demonstrated before using it on a military target, is not truly opposition to using the bomb.
At any rate, people felt that a demonstration would have been seen as weakness, and made Japan less likely to surrender.
(Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey)
In 1950 Nitze would recommend a massive military buildup, and in the 1980s he was an arms control negotiator in the Reagan administration. In July of 1945 he was assigned the task of writing a strategy for the air attack on Japan. Nitze later wrote:
"The plan I devised was essentially this: Japan was already isolated from the standpoint of ocean shipping. The only remaining means of transportation were the rail network and intercoastal shipping, though our submarines and mines were rapidly eliminating the latter as well. A concentrated air attack on the essential lines of transportation, including railroads and (through the use of the earliest accurately targetable glide bombs, then emerging from development) the Kammon tunnels which connected Honshu with Kyushu, would isolate the Japanese home islands from one another and fragment the enemy's base of operations. I believed that interdiction of the lines of transportation would be sufficiently effective so that additional bombing of urban industrial areas would not be necessary.
"While I was working on the new plan of air attack... concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945."
Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 36-37 (my emphasis)
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that was primarily written by Nitze and reflected his reasoning:
"Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that 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, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
quoted in Barton Bernstein, The Atomic Bomb, pg. 52-56.
In his memoir, written in 1989, Nitze repeated,
"Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary."
Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 44-45.
This is a study that was issued years after the end of the war. It is hardly a wartime viewpoint, as is being claimed.
It also had an axe to grind. It was trying to pretend that air power alone could have won the war, and so secure greater funding for the Air Force.
(The first scientist to conceive of how an atomic bomb might be made - 1933)
For many scientists, one motivation for developing the atomic bomb was to make sure Germany, well known for its scientific capabilities, did not get it first. This was true for Szilard, a Manhattan Project scientist.
"In the spring of '45 it was clear that the war against Germany would soon end, and so I began to ask myself, 'What is the purpose of continuing the development of the bomb, and how would the bomb be used if the war with Japan has not ended by the time we have the first bombs?".
Szilard quoted in Spencer Weart and Gertrud Weiss Szilard, ed., Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, pg. 181.
After Germany surrendered, Szilard attempted to meet with President Truman. Instead, he was given an appointment with Truman's Sec. of State to be, James Byrnes. In that meeting of May 28, 1945, Szilard told Byrnes that the atomic bomb should not be used on Japan. Szilard recommended, instead, coming to an international agreement on the control of atomic weapons before shocking other nations by their use:
"I thought that it would be a mistake to disclose the existence of the bomb to the world before the government had made up its mind about how to handle the situation after the war. Using the bomb certainly would disclose that the bomb existed." According to Szilard, Byrnes was not interested in international control: "Byrnes... was concerned about Russia's postwar behavior. Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania, and Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw her troops from these countries, that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia." Szilard could see that he wasn't getting though to Byrnes; "I was concerned at this point that by demonstrating the bomb and using it in the war against Japan, we might start an atomic arms race between America and Russia which might end with the destruction of both countries.".
Szilard quoted in Spencer Weart and Gertrud Weiss Szilard, ed., Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, pg. 184.
Two days later, Szilard met with J. Robert Oppenheimer, the head scientist in the Manhattan Project. "I told Oppenheimer that I thought it would be a very serious mistake to use the bomb against the cities of Japan. Oppenheimer didn't share my view." "'Well, said Oppenheimer, 'don't you think that if we tell the Russians what we intend to do and then use the bomb in Japan, the Russians will understand it?'. 'They'll understand it only too well,' Szilard replied, no doubt with Byrnes's intentions in mind."
Szilard quoted in Spencer Weart and Gertrud Weiss Szilard, ed., Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, pg. 185; also William Lanouette, Genius In the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, pg. 266-267.
~~~THE FRANCK REPORT: POLITICAL AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS
The race for the atomic bomb ended with the May 1945 surrender of Germany, the only other power capable of creating an atomic bomb in the near future. This led some Manhattan Project scientists in Chicago to become among the first to consider the long-term consequences of using the atomic bomb against Japan in World War II. Their report came to be known as the Franck Report, and included major contributions from Leo Szilard (referred to above). Although an attempt was made to give the report to Sec. of War Henry Stimson, it is unclear as to whether he ever received it.
International control of nuclear weapons for the prevention of a larger nuclear war was the report's primary concern:
"If we consider international agreement on total prevention of nuclear warfare as the paramount objective, and believe that it can be achieved, this kind of introduction of atomic weapons [on Japan] to the world may easily destroy all our chances of success. Russia... will be deeply shocked. It will be very difficult to persuade the world that a nation which was capable of secretly preparing and suddenly releasing a weapon, as indiscriminate as the rocket bomb and a thousand times more destructive, is to be trusted in its proclaimed desire of having such weapons abolished by international agreement.".
The Franck Committee, which could not know that the Japanese government would approach Russia in July to try to end the war, compared the short-term possible saving of lives by using the bomb on Japan with the long-term possible massive loss of lives in a nuclear war:
"...looking forward to an international agreement on prevention of nuclear warfare - the military advantages and the saving of American lives, achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against Japan, may be outweighed by the ensuing loss of confidence and wave of horror and repulsion, sweeping over the rest of the world...".
The report questioned the ability of destroying Japanese cities with atomic bombs to bring surrender when destroying Japanese cities with conventional bombs had not done so. It recommended a demonstration of the atomic bomb for Japan in an unpopulated area. Facing the long-term consequences with Russia, the report stated prophetically:
"If no international agreement is concluded immediately after the first demonstration, this will mean a flying start of an unlimited armaments race.".
The report pointed out that the United States, with its highly concentrated urban areas, would become a prime target for nuclear weapons and concluded:
"We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan inadvisable. If the United States would be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race of armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons.".
Political and Social Problems, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 76, National Archives (also contained in: Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 1987 edition, pg. 323-333).
The scientific opposition to using the bombs in such a manner, was not based on any military assessment of Japan.
Rather, they feared kicking off a post-war arms race with the Soviets.
~~~GENERAL CARL "TOOEY" SPAATZ
(In charge of Air Force operations in the Pacific)
General Spaatz was the person who received the order for the Air Force to "deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945..."(Leslie Groves, Now It Can Be Told, pg. 308). In a 1964 interview, Spaatz explained:
"The dropping of the atomic bomb was done by a military man under military orders. We're supposed to carry out orders and not question them."
In the same interview, Spaatz referred to the Japanese military's plan to get better peace terms, and he gave an alternative to the atomic bombings:
"If we were to go ahead with the plans for a conventional invasion with ground and naval forces, I believe the Japanese thought that they could inflict very heavy casualties on us and possibly as a result get better surrender terms. On the other hand if they knew or were told that no invasion would take place [and] that bombing would continue until the surrender, why I think the surrender would have taken place just about the same time." (Herbert Feis Papers, Box 103, N.B.C. Interviews, Carl Spaatz interview by Len Giovannitti, Library of Congress).
Not his view during the war (as was advertised).
Spaatz was one of the military leaders who were so delighted with the A-bombs that, after Nagasaki, they lobbied Washington to drop the third A-bomb directly on Tokyo.
Admiral Nimitz, General LeMay, and General Twining joined with General Spaatz in this lobbying.