Hiroshima in Historical Context

Well, its that time of year again and folks on the Left are out there with their annual rants against the bombing of Hiroshima as a great crime against humanity.

All war is a crime against humanity by those who start them.  And I am certainly uncomfortable that we let the atomic genie out of the steel casing in August of 1945.  But I think much of what is written about Hiroshima strips the decision to drop the bomb from its historical context.  A few thoughts:

  1. We loath the Hiroshima bombing because we in 2015 know of the nuclear proliferation that was to follow and the  resulting cloud of fear that hung over the globe for decades as most everyone was forced to think about our new ability to destroy humanity.  But all that was in the realm of science fiction in 1945.  And even if they knew something of the Cold War and fear of the Bomb, would many have had sympathy, living as they were through a real war that represented possibly the worst self-inflicted catastrophe man has ever faced?
  2. Several other bombing raids, notably the fire-bombing of Tokyo, took more lives than Hiroshima.  Again, we differentiate the two because we experienced the Cold War that came after and thus developed a special fear and loathing for atomic weapons, but people in 1945 did not have that experience.
  3. The ex post facto mistake many folks make on Hiroshima is similar to the mistake many of us make on Yalta.  Lots of folks, particularly on the Right, criticize FDR for being soft on Stalin and letting him get away with Eastern Europe.  But really,what were they going to do?  Realistically, Russia's armies were already in Eastern Europe and were not going to leave unless we sent armies to throw them out.  Which we were not, because folks were absolutely exhausted by the war.  This war exhaustion also plays a big part in the decision at Hiroshima.  Flip the decision around.  What would have happened if a war-weary public later found out that the government had a secret weapon that might have ended the war but refused to use it?  They would have been run out of office.
  4. I once heard a government official of the time say that it was odd to hear people talking about the "decision" to bomb Hiroshima because there was not a decision to make.  We were in a long, horrible, bloody war.  We had a new weapon.  It was going to be used.
  5. The Japanese were not showing a willingness to negotiate.  Yes, some members of the Japanese state department were making peaceful overtures before Hiroshima, but they had no power.  None of the military ruling clique was anywhere in the ballpark of surrendering.  Even after Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and the Russian declaration of war, the government STILL would not have voted for surrender except for the absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented  intervention of the Emperor.  And even then, the military rulers were still trying to figure out how to suppress the Emperor or even take him hostage to stop any peace process.
  6. It is argued sometimes that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were irrelevant and that the Japanese surrendered when the Russians declared war.  The Russian declaration was certainly an important part of the mix, but I find it hard to believe the Emperor would have taken his unprecedented actions without the atomic bomb attacks.  Besides, even if the Russian declaration was critical, it could be argued the bombs played a huge role in that declaration.  After all, we had tried to get the Russians to make such a declaration for years, and it suddenly came coincidentally a couple of days after the atomic bombs start dropping?  I doubt it.  A better theory is that the Russians were waiting for signs that the war was nearly won so they could jump in and grab some costless booty from defeated Japan, and the bombs were that sign.
  7. It is argued that the invasion of Japan would have cost fewer lives than the bomb.  This is a crock.  Sorry.  There is absolutely no way to look at military and civilian casualty figures from Iwo Jima and Okinawa and come to any conclusion other than the fact that the invasion of Japan would have been a bloodbath.
  8. It is argued that we could have blockaded Japan to death.  This is possible, but it would have 1. Taken a lot of time, for which no one had any patience; 2. exposed US ships to relentless Kamikaze attacks and 3.  likely have cost more Japanese civilian lives to continued conventional bombing and starvation than the atomic bombs did.
  9. It is argued that we dropped the bombs on Japan out of some sort of racial hatred.  We can't really test this since by the time the bombs were ready, Japan was our only enemy left in the field.  Certainly, as a minimum, we had developed a deep hatred of Japanese culture that seemed so alien to us and led to atrocities that naturally generated a lot of hatred.  For the soldier, the best simple description of this culture clash I ever heard (I can't remember the source) was a guy who said something like "for us, the war was about winning and going home.  For the Japanese, the war just seemed to be about dying."   In a time where racism was much more normal and accepted, I would say that yes, this cultural hatred became real racism.  But I would add that it was not like we entered the war with some sort of deep, long hatred of Asians.  If anything, we stumbled into the Pacific War in large part because Americans felt a special friendship and sympathy with China and would not accept Japan's military interventions there.


  1. Vegas:

    And why Stalin was in the Eastern Europe at the time of Yalta meeting in 1945? Because U.S. Stalinists supported Stalin's invasion into Central Europe from the very beginning.

  2. ee:

    5. is factually inaccurate. The US authorities were aware of Japanese attempts to surrender.

    Most of the other points argue about intent in the deployment decision - I don't think that's a good perspective to retrofit, as intent is an individual property. We're talking about organizations here, and it's not possible to determine what the actual motivations of the people involved were.

  3. Mike Powers:

    The thing to remember about the Japanese is that the ones who wanted war did not actually surrender. When they realized that they couldn't stop the Emperor from surrendering, they all killed themselves.

  4. MS61:

    It's more accurate to say that the U.S. knew that the Japanese had concluded they'd lost the war. However, the communications we were intercepting showing conflicting viewpoints within the Japan cabinet. To the extent there was any consistency the intercepts showed that the Japanese wanted to negotiate a resolution that prevented any U.S. military occupation of Japan and would also allow them to retain some part of their overseas empire. They were hoping that the casualties they would inflict on the Americans during the anticipated invasion of the Home Islands would make them more amendable to Japan's terms.

  5. Herb:

    Another issue I never hear brought up that should be in discussing the value of the bombing:

    Did using an atomic bomb twice on Japan save 1 billion lives or more?

    Imagine the Soviets enter the war as they did historically without us dropping the bomb and history continues as it did until 1950 and the Korean invasion.

    You now have the US with probably 10+ bombs in inventory at a minimum based on what Manhattan was producing even without post war production. You have the Soviets with a similar number of bombs. You cannot reasonably imagine a world where the two superpowers didn't have atomic weapon inventories by 1950. The bomb was out there. Everyone knows Germany had a nuclear weapon program during the war but less known is Japan and the USSR did as well.

    Now a hot war starts in Korean with both superpowers have atomic weapons in inventory without anyone having experienced what they were like when used in the real world.

    Honestly ask yourself if the Korean war would have remained limited? Without the concrete example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would fear of nuclear war constrained the US and the USSR? Would Truman have used the untested war winning bomb in Korea? If so how many would have been used?

    I think the bad assumption is not projecting Cold War fears back to 1945 but assuming Cold War fears would have restrained the use of atomic weapons or even existed period without the two atomic bombings of Japan.

  6. Dan Wendlick:

    To be more specific, what the Japanese were interested in was a settlement that would return to the status quo of November, 1941. They would leave the Philippines and Indochina, but would maintain large levels of control over, if not outright possession of, the Korean peninsula and Manchuria (the Northern Resource Area in their parlance). In return the US would leave what the Japanese considered to be the "Home Islands" of Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Tinian, as well as agree to a non-aggression pact recognizing this sphere of influence. The current military/war government of Japan would be allowed to stay in power, under the ostensible control of the Emperor.

  7. STW:

    The information that sealed the use of atomic weapons for me was the fact that (at least) as recently as 1990 the United States was still awarding Purple Hearts that had been manufactured in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. I don't see any merit in having them all used in 1946.

  8. slocum:

    But oddly enough, Americans apparently loved Japanese culture in the latter half of the 19th century and strongly preferred them to the Chinese:

    "Sushi in North Dakota in 1905! I bet you weren’t expecting that."

  9. Joe:

    Herb - "Another issue I never hear brought up that should be in discussing the value of the bombing:
    Did using an atomic bomb twice on Japan save 1 billion lives or more?"

    Herb, the number was probably closer to 2,5m lives saved. counting approx 1-1.5m japanese, 500k US, 500k-1.m chinese. but your main point is correct

    300k deaths at nagasaki and Hiroshima is a lot fewer than the 2.5m

  10. joe:

    #5 is factually accurate

    there were two thrusts of japanese diplomats trying to surrender with terms effectively a truce / negotiated peace with Japan continuing to occupy all the land currently held - large swaths of china/korea, etc The two trust being with Russia in which Russia was ignoring and through the Swiss embassy/ allan dulles.
    As noted, these forays into potential surrender had zro authority with anyone that mattered. The military continued to control the war.

  11. mlhouse:

    Another aspect about using the atomic weapons that the revisionist ignore is the example of World War I. After the Germans surrendered in WWI the "Stab in the Back" myth was propagated throughout the defeated German population. After all, no enemy soldier stepped foot in German territory and the German army still stood in the field. Only the treachery of Socialist (and Jewish) political leaders of Germany caused their defeat to the Western Allies.

    Since the Civil War, unconditional surrender had been the military doctrine of the United States military. The absolute defeat of all the enemies warming capabilities was how they defined victory. The defeat of Nazi Germany followed this doctrine. The German military was essentially defeated in late 1944. Yet, the Allies did not make peace with the defeated German army although if they would have made serious overtures I am certain at least a separate peace could have been changed. Instead, the Allies pummeled the Germans until all of their cities were rubble, their armies absolutely defeated, and their leadership (mostly) cornered and punished.

    The same situation existed in the Pacific Theatre. The Allies were not going to leave Japan standing even if they starved them out via blockade. That would have left the possibility for the same scenario and a repeat of history. The Japanese were going to have to submit to unconditional surrender and complete occupation and control. The atomic bomb hastened this process and probably saved many millions of Japanese from miserable deaths from starvation and disease, or dying as fanatic suicide squads saving the last grenade for themselves. The battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa confirmed the Japanese willingness to die to the last man and civilian. And, it probably saved the lived of hundreds of thousands of US and other Allied servicemen, the lives of millions of Chinese and other Asians that still would have been held as captive citizenry by the Japanese and been beaten, raped, starved and murdered by the humiliated and desperate Japanese soldier.

    Dropping atomic bombs on Japan was an appropriate end to the war started by the savage Japanese military leadership. End of story.

  12. cltby:

    Paul Fussell, who was slated to be in the invasion force, had some germane thoughts on the matter: http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/iakh/HIS1300MET/v12/undervisningsmateriale/Fussel%20-%20thank%20god%20for%20the%20atom%20bomb.pdf

  13. steve:

    MlHouse - following up on your comment - True by late 1944 early 1945, both japan and Germany had effectively been defeated.

    Yet we continued the war to destroy the military mindset, that inflicted both countries. As a result of the complete destruction of the military, both countries have emerged as productive members of the world economy.

    That brings us to our second point - the same needs to be done with the islamic culture that permeates the permanent jihad

  14. mesocyclone:

    Stalin's fight saved hundreds of thousands to millions of allied soldiers. We aided Stalin because we needed him, regardless of how much of an evil psychopath he was. It was a temporary lesser of evils situation. After the war, we and Stalin both changed our focus dramatically.

  15. me:

    There are pretty detailed books written by professional historians of high repute on why that's not the case; I'll try not to argue that case here.

    Instead I'll point out a few things: the firebombing of Tokyo was indeed worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The Japanese leadership appears to have shared that opinion, they only reacted to the news of Russia entering the war.

    The use of nuclear weapons is almost irrelevant here. The idea that "the good guys" feel fully justified in targetting and causing mass casualties in the civilian population (as opposed to hitting military/industrial targets) is the morally questionable element.

    I am on the fence about political/technical reasons for dropping the bombs (demonstrate military might/have a chance at first hand scientific studies of the impact of nuclear weaponry). Those are immoral yet legitimate.

    But that the deployments were needed to end the war is not an easy argument to prove in the light of historical evidence.

  16. J K Brown:

    #4 is why even as a newly politically aware high school student I laughed when Carter's Pentagon was pushing "limited nuclear war". The fools actually thought that once the nukes started falling, the losing side wouldn't go full nuclear. Of course, they also, had the brilliant idea of the neutron bomb, kill the people, leave the infrastructure, although radioactive infrastructure.

  17. c_andrew:

    We should disestablish Islam just as thoroughly as we purged political Shinto from any participation in Japanese governance.

  18. xtmar:

    Re #6, I believe Russia's entry into the Pacific was stipulated as starting a certain time period after the end of the European war.

  19. CT_Yankee:

    For the revisionists, please remember that the Japanese had tried to make the bomb, and failing that, decided to make "dirty bombs" for the west coast. They would simply spread radioactive material with ordinary explosives to make US cities uninhabitable. They developed and built an aircraft carrier submarine for this mission. That took time and dedication to the intent to do to the US what many complain about because they just tried to do it, and we actually succeeded.

    My late uncle Bill Burton's writings have survived him, preserved on the internet. He was on a small island not far enough from Japan, part of the forces gathering for the main assault. THE NEWS was brought while he was actually watching a training film with his unit, preparing them for their part in the invasion. His words:

    the screen, as I recall, there were steep cliffs, and we were studying
    them, for this was no ordinary movie, when someone broke into the
    ‘theater’ to shout the news of the drop of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
    The projector continued churning the reel of celluloid, but no one was
    watching. It was the beginning of a three-day celebration that later
    took us to the streets to celebrate the Japanese surrender.

    You see, the movie was more of a documentary: our first glimpse
    of where we were to land later in the year to clear the beaches for
    Marines invading Japan. The challenge was formidable, the odds of
    survival not as good as with Tom Mix and his straight shooters
    bushwhacked by a band of outlaws at the pass. Hence, to this day, no one
    better suggest to me that Harry Truman should have decided not to drop
    Little Boy on Hiroshima."

    Excerpted from "Another Little Boy in My History";

    Apparently, for some reason, the guys who thought they were about to be maimed or killed during an invasion favored the idea of getting home in one piece. Sure, they would have done it, and in the end, it would eventually have been accomplished. One way or the other, Japan was going down. Some of our guys seemed rather pleased that they were not going to be pulled down with Japan as it sank. A hell of a lot of Japanese also lived longer due to the A bombs. The end of a long, nasty, brutal war was not likely to be glorious, but not being at war any longer was sublime.

  20. CT_Yankee:

    The US paid a terrible price for that war, in men and material. The Russians paid ghastly amounts in material, and in destroyed cities, but mostly in blood. The US lost 0.32% of our population, however the USSR lost 14.24% of their own people, plus close to 3 million more of their satellites. We lost well under half a million, they lost perhaps 27 million. The Russians plain old wore out the Germans, often while using supplies we provided. The Nazis were severely weakened by the loss of men and material on the eastern front, making some of our victories on the western front less costly to us. We count our losses in hundreds of thousands, and they count theirs in millions. We got the better end of that deal. I would rather provide trucks than add to our own cost in blood. A hundred thousand more US casualties, or a hundred thousand more trucks. I would rather loose what was produced by a machine than what was produced by a mother. I vote trucks.

  21. Jim Rose:

    Note too that navy or army could have brought government down by their minister resigning. Japanese Constitution required government to resign whenever the navy or army minister resigned.

    That's how the Japanese oligarchy bought Tojo down in 1944 to replace him with a prime minister more disposed towards a negotiated peace on terms that Japanese elite preferred including no occupation, which was a pipedream.

  22. Jim Rose:

    Excellent points. Gen John Pershing made those points in 1918. He wanted to march into Berlin to make sure the Germans knew they were defeated in the field of battle and that is exactly what will happen to them if they start another war.

  23. JohnM:

    (6) is a an interesting question. At conference Stalin promised to enter the Pacific war three months after the defeat of Germany. So the intervention was roughly on schedule. It's unlikely that the Russians could have planned, prepared and started an offensive within 48 hours of the bomb drop. Against that, the Soviet Union was probably fully aware of the development of the bomb long before Truman announced it (the communists had a lot of spies).

    I suspect they would have invaded anyway. The opportunity to regain territory lost in 1905 was too great to miss. Regardless of the bomb, Japan was overstretched and exhausted

  24. JohnM:

    I think Herb was talking about the likelihood of the Cold War becoming Hot around 1950 if the example of the effects at Hiroshima were not there as a warning.

    If so the casualties would have included Koreans, Chinese, Soviets on one side and probably more Koreans, Europeans and Americans on the other. Japan may have suffered collateral damage as an American base. The weapons used would have been A bombs rather than H bombs, so I doubt the billion figure.

  25. DirtyJobsGuy:

    Look at Truman's experience in WWI and you will see he had no real qualms about using the bomb. My grandfather was in the same artillery unit as Truman (Truman was a captain, my grandfather an enlisted man) in the Meuse Argonne battle in France. The division they were in was in it's first real engagement and they faced a tough, determined German opposition up against the Hindenberg line. The field artillery were expected to be close behind the infantry with their French 75mm guns. There was lots of confusion and chaos and they were pulled back after two days. Truman has written he was very proud that all of his gun crews got out alive. This was in late September 1918 with Armistice day only a few weeks away (but unknown at the time). As President, Truman had live personal experience with the fight an experienced army could put up at any time. I can't see anyway he could justify to himself not taking dramatic steps to end the war. And it worked exactly as desired with an effective total halt in hostilities within a few days.

  26. Thomas Reid:

    There were many at the time, including our best military leaders such as Eisenhower and MacArthur, who strongly disagreed with the use of the atomic bomb. In other words, even at the time, many saw it as an unnecessary and barbaric act unworthy of us.


  27. Joe:

    I concur that Eisenhower expressed opposition to using the bomb, I also recall a couple of high ranking pacific naval command expressed opposition (Nimitz possibly - though I am not positive on which one of the top 3 or 4 of the pacific naval command).

    I have to discount any comments by MacArthur - he was a glory seeking SOB and a crappy general - both tactical and strategic. He should have been sacked on Dec 8th based on his actions in manilla immediately after the PH attack. Gross imcompentence. Same problem in Korea - gross imcompentence. The only reason he wasnt sacked was due to politics and Roosevelts fear of macArthur becoming the republican candidate for pres.

  28. joe:

    One of the most important point that is almost always omitted from these discussions was the purpose of the unconditional surrender of both Japan and Germany was to destroy the war culture that permeated the German and Japanese mentality. Without a complete capitulation and occupation of the countries, the ability to destroy that culture would be severely hampered.

    Just 30 years after the war and still 70 years later, that decision has proven to be a resounding success. Both countries are now prominent members of world economy and very peaceful countries.

    Yes - Japan would likely have surrendered in the Winter of 46 due to starvation, etc, but would have made that achievement much harder to accomplish.

  29. Herb:

    You are correct in my point John.

    In defense of my 1 billion figure:

    1. I believe a hot war in Korea that included nuclear weapons would not have remained isolated to Korea.
    2. Teller designs the Teller-Ulam device in 1951 and it is tested in 1952. While Ivy Mike was a very conservative test of a non-weaponized device in the event of a hot war I suspect we would have gone straight to the cryogenic bomb that was built for Castle Yankee in case the Castle Bravo dry weapon failed.
    3. Causalities include not only those directly killed by the bomb and fighting but follow on effects. Central Europe and Japan will still recovering from WWII and atomic destruction of port facilities along with destruction of rebuilt facilities would have lead to mass famine and disease.
    4. Such a hot war's nuclear aspect would not have been the mass exchange we conceive of today but a slow half a dozen at a time bombing campaign. With the level of destruction in WW2 a recent memory as the acceptable costs of a sustained war as well the tendancy to keep going with what works in war I don't see it as a 1-5 day exchange. I see 2-4 years of war that ends when the routine use of atomic (and thermonuclear in the late period) weapons exhausts both sides.

    Currently casualty numbers for WW2 peak at 80 million. I believe it is easy to see a sustained hot war with nuclear weapons lasting 2-4 years could be an order of magnitude higher. Rounding up from 800 million is how I got my 1 billion figure or roughly 40% of the world's population in 1950.

  30. Herb:

    It should be noted that WWI ended because Wilson embraced German peace overtures and threatened a separate peace from Britain and France. I am sure that fact and its outcome heavily influenced the allies, especially Churchill who was probably somewhat privy to the sequence of events.

  31. Arrian:

    A new movie on Hirohito just came out yesterday, based on historians Kazutoshi Hando and Masato Harada's work. Called "The Emperor in August," the Japanese name is "Nihon no ichiban hi," which directly translates to "Japan's longest day." But that was the name of a 1967 film covering the same subject. But Harada is making this film because the original strayed from the source material, especially in its depiction of the emperor.

    I'll be interested to see how the film represents the events of the time. There are some worries that it will stir right wing and nationalistic flames since it tries to show the people as they were, not caricaturing the bad guys like Major Henji Katanaka (who led the failed coup against the emperor) as mustache twirling "Bad Guys."

  32. Herb:

    By the same token, Marshall opposed the bombing as he wanted to use the weapons as battlefield items during the invasion.

    Naval opposition had less to do with humanitarian reasons than the Navy's belief that fighting in China and Taiwan was a better course.

    As has been pointed out it is now generally accepted that LeMay's first big firebombing raid on Tokyo in March of 45 was deadlier than Nagasaki (I still see arguments both ways on Hiroshima vs. Tokyo). By August of 1945 LeMay had succeeding in burning Japan down. Specific action had been taken to select cities for the atomic bombings and excluding them from LeMay's campaign.

    Given LeMay was creating a Dresden nearly every night burning down cities of decreasing size because that was all that left I put little credence in arguments that members of the US military aware of the facts opposed before hand the atomic bombing. To make such statements of pre-bombing opposition have credence I want to see their statements of opposition to LeMay's firebombing campaign which had already delivered that level of human suffering almost daily for months.

  33. mlhouse:

    WWI ended because the German army was defeated in the field and no longer could defend themselves.

  34. Thomas Reid:

    I have only found quotes by MacArthur's subordinates against the firebombing of Tokyo and not by their higher ups. And, to back your point, Nimitz, who was against using the A-Bomb, praised LeMay for firebombing. That said, I haven't read that Nimitz was against the A-Bomb because he favored fighting in China and Taiwan.

    And, by the way, this link may have been better for my purposes before: http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/atomicdec.htm

  35. Herb:

    I'm making a bit of a leap on Nimitiz. By August of 1945 the Navy had concluded an invasion would be a bloodbath on a scale even larger than the Army believed. I suspect some believed it would fail which would force the allies into a negotiated peace although I lack proof. The preferred strategy of the Navy was to capture coast China and Korea to extend the air base and naval blockage around Japan and had been in place since 1943. The Wikipedia article Operation Downfall has a brief note and pointers to references.

    I did make a mistake in that Marshall's didn't oppose the bombing to use the weapons but wanted their use afterwards as battlefield weapons as he did not think the Japanese would surrender. It is based on the knowledge that he would have 7 bombs on X-Day and up to 15 on the course of the campaign that I conclude the US would have maintained some atomic arsenal after the war even if we had not bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  36. Herb:

    Yes, but Germany had no been invaded. As is noted the unified allied command was planned for a spring offensive to break the German army which, was defeated, was still mostly in good order and in France.

    Knowing this Germany requested an armistice expected, I suspect, at worst a return to the status quo ante. Wilson agreed to this and drug France and Britain along because both feared that without the US the spring offensive might not break the Germans. Based on French experience in early 1917 especially this was not without reason.

    Thus the Treaty that would have been forced on Germany after a spring offensive in 1919 was imposed anyway despite Germany occupying vast allied territory in the East and still have an active army in the field in France and Belgium with no equivalent allied army in Germany.

    If you are going to treat a defeated enemy as though they have been utterly defeated. If you see the inevitability of utter defeat but fail to follow through you must treat them as though they merely lost.

    In speaking of the sequencing I was referring to Wilson's choice in 1918 being a lesson to the allies visa via the treatment of Japan whose discussions of peace via Russia and the Swiss was similar to those of a beaten Germany in 1918.

  37. SamWah:

    See also http://www.bookwormroom.com/2012/08/05/yes-it-was-reasonable-to-drop-the-atomic-bomb/




    Re: Point 8. Adm. Dan Gallery wrote books after retirement, and proposed this in one of them. Would the American public be on board with starving women and children, on the reasonable assumption that food would be prioritized for the soldiers and airplane pilots and military staff? (As the North Koreans do, or seem to do.)

  38. MS61:

    There is no record of Eisenhower expressing opposition to the bomb at the time. Nimitz opposed the invasion based on the huge casualties the U.S. suffered on Iwo Jima and Okinawa preferring a strategy to blockade and starve the Japanese. In addition, in September the Air Force was planning a new bombing campaign to destroy the fragile network of tunnels, bridges and ferries that Japan relied upon to maintain its rail network (its road network was primitive) essential to supplying food to an already underfed population. The end of the war would have been brutal under any scenario.

  39. joe:

    MS61 below are two references to eisenhower's opposition to the use of the bomb
    Eisenhower met with Stimson on July 30, 45 which is when eisenhower was informed of the bomb and at time he expressed his opposition.



  40. MS61:

    Thanks for bringing the cites to my attention. The discussion about Eisenhower's remarks, which he first wrote of in 1953, is whether he actually made them at the time to Stimson. In fact your second reference goes on to say that the authenticity of Eisenhower's recollection is still debated. Stimson's diary of their discussion merely references that among several topics they discussed General Grove's project but doesn't delve into the substance of the discussion. So, he may have raised an objection at the time.

  41. MS61:

    There is an interesting twist to this. Nimitz and his superior King both opposed the invasion though as senior naval officer King had concurred in the decision to prepare plans for the invasion. Given what both the Army and Navy had learned about the astounding buildup of Japanese forces on Kyushu it is likely that if the bombs had not been dropped and the war continued, King would have withdrawn his support for the invasion planning and by the end of August Truman would have had to confront another big decision on how to conclude the war.

  42. Brian Dunbar:

    If I recall correctly, STW, we're _still_ using Purple Heart medals struck for the invasion of Japan.

  43. Vangel:

    The Japanese offered to surrender in April under the same conditions that MacArthur imposed. If you read the memos, letters, and memoirs of the generals you will find that they opposed dropping the bomb.

  44. obloodyhell:

    }}} It is argued that we could have blockaded Japan to death. This is possible, but it would have 1. Taken a lot of time, for which no one had any patience; 2. exposed US ships to relentless Kamikaze attacks and 3. likely have cost more Japanese civilian lives to continued conventional bombing and starvation than the atomic bombs did.

    More importantly, as someone once pointed out about this, it would have harmed an entire GENERATION of Japanese schoolchildren more than any others. Children in an age range from 5-15 are particularly harmed by starvation, and particularly sensitive to long-term affects, as well as outright mortality. To starve millions of Japanese children would have been an act of cruelty far beyond the localized awfulness of what Hiroshima did.

  45. obloodyhell:

    Herb, you and I are on the same wavelength. I've been making this case for a good two decades or so.

    Something I wrote and posted elsewhere, yesterday:


    BTW, it is often said that The Bomb is an immoral weapon.

    On the 45th anniversary of Hiroshima, SF author Harlan Ellison made a very effective case that it is, instead, one of the most moral weapons ever created.

    His argument? That, for the first time since Kings stopped riding into battle at the head of their armies, those whose choice it was to GO to war were as completely threatened by the full complications of the war as it was carried out. That is, the "Rich Bastards" would potentially suffer as much or even more than the poor schlub whose children manned the infantry. THAT, he argued, was a truly "moral" weapon.

    To additionally support this point, he noted that it had been 45 years -- now SEVENTY -- since the sole uses of the weapon in a war. This is utterly UNPRECEDENTED in human history, for humans to invent a weapon and then to not use it again in a war.

    Short of some lunatics like Muslims getting ahold of a weapon, we may not see it used again, too.

    I'd also argue for the benefits -- yes, benefits -- of using it on Japan. It may well be that those very graphic images of what a weapon did to a city -- and a very low-powered one at that -- may have been adequate to dissuade the Powers That Be from using it again later, in a manner that all sorts of "sample tests" on dead targets might never have succeeded.

    It would be much easier to write off the real significance of the film of live desert-based tests on structures in comparison to what visibly happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those images were graphic and much less "distant" examples of what one of these bombs could do.

    Who knows, the sacrifice and suffering of the victims of those two bombs may have saved us from a much larger and more horrific conflagration during the Korean War crisis (when China counter-invaded and many wanted to use nukes against them) or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both times, we had much larger arsenals of much more powerful weapons on both sides.

    The Rich Bastards on both sides may have actually gotten scared of the idea of actually going to a serious war.

    It's worth thinking about.

  46. obloodyhell:

    This isn't even true. Not vaguely. The point was that the Japanese had to surrender UNCONDITIONALLY. Whether we were magnanimous AFTER the fact is beside the point.

  47. obloodyhell:

    1945 by the late Robert Conroy

    America has dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    But Japan has only begun to fight. . . .

    In 1945, history has reached a turning point. A terrible new weapon has been unleashed. Japan has no choice but to surrender. But instead, the unthinkable occurs. With their nation burned and shattered, Japanese fanatics set in motion a horrifying endgame–their aim: to take America down with them.

    Not a bad bit of fiction.

  48. obloodyhell:

    And yet all the evidence is is that the remaining military at that time was determined to fight to the very end, to force America to lose all too many men, to weaken her resolve, even if it cost the Japanese 20 MILLION civilians.