Skip to comments.‘It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing’ --- Why dropping the A-Bombs was wrong
Posted on 08/10/2013 6:09:00 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Surveys 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.
That was a conclusion of the 1946 U.S. Bombing Survey ordered by President Harry Truman in the wake of World War II.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said in 1963, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasnt necessary to hit them with that awful thing.
That wasnt merely hindsight. Eisenhower made the same argument in 1945. In his memoirs, Ike recalled a visit from War Secretary Henry Stimson:
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.
Admiral William Leahy, Trumans chief military advisor, wrote:
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.
I put a lot of weight on the assessments of the military leaders at the time and the contemporaneous commission that studied it. My colleague Michael Barone, who defends the bombing, has other sources a historian and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan that lead him to conclude Japan would not have surrendered.
This confusion is not surprising. For one thing, theres what we call the fog of war its really hard to know whats happening currently in war, and its even harder to predict which way the war will break.
Second, more generally, theres the imperfection of human knowledge. Humans are very limited in their ability to predict the future and to determine the consequences of their actions in complex situations like war.
So, if Barone wants to stick with Moynihans and the New Republics assessments of the war while I stick with the assessments of Gen. Eisenhower, Adm. Leahy, and Trumans own commission, thats fine. The question would Japan have surrendered without our bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? cant be answered with certainty today, nor could it have been answered in August 1945.
But this fog, this imperfect knowledge, ought to diminish the weight given to the consequentialist type of reasoning Barone employs Many, many more deaths, of Japanese as well as Americans, would have occurred if the atomic bombs had not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We dont know that. Thats a guess. We didnt know that at the time. If Pres. Truman believed that, it was a prediction of the future and a prediction that clashed with the predictions of the military leaders.
Given all this uncertainty, I would lend more weight to principle. One principle nearly everyone shares is this: its wrong to deliberately kill babies and innocent children. The same goes for Japanese women, elderly, disabled, and any other non-combatants. Even if you dont hold this as an absolute principle, most people hold it as a pretty firm rule.
To justify the bombing, you need to scuttle this principle in exchange for consequentialist thinking. With a principle as strong as dont murder kids I think youd need a lot more certainty than Truman could have had.
I dont think Trumans decision was motivated by evil. Ill even add that it was an understandable decision. But I think it was the wrong one.
Tim Carney also wrote a first part to this article on the 68th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb:
It was wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Ending a war is a good thing. Killing civilians a bad thing.
Deliberately targeting civilians is murder, and is never morally licit, even in pursuit of a good thing such as ending a war.
The tens of thousands of Japanese non-combatants we killed 68 years ago this week with two nuclear bombs were not collateral damage of military strikes. They were the intended targets.
We hoped that mass murder would bring the Japanese emperor to surrender. It worked, and American and Japanese soldiers lives were probably saved by it which is why most people disagree with me on the ethics of the A-Bomb.
But what if we could have ended the war without the A-Bomb? John Denson at Mises.org argues that we could have:
Japanese leaders, both military and civilian, including the Emperor, were willing to surrender in May of 1945 if the Emperor could remain in place and not be subjected to a war crimes trial after the war. This fact became known to President Truman as early as May of 1945.
Im no historian, and if anyone can refute the facts in this piece, please do because the article seems to make the clear argument that the atomic bomb was inexcusable.
I give you Operation: Downfall...
I mean, after all, it was only other people who were going to die, very few of them were even Ivy Leaguers.
As later conflicts have shown, ending a war is impossible without killing civilians; the enemy will simply use their own people as human shields.
Some of my earliest memories are hearing talk about the war, I was born in 1940. No one has ever been able to answer this question for me, why did the Japanese attack us?
Every time a 21 year old gang banger gets shot, it is counted by the mass media as an instance of a "youthful victim of 'gun violence.'"
So by the mass media's standards, we saved a million "kids" by dropping the bomb.
End of discussion.
you play, you pay... Japan cowardly bombed Pearl Harbor... why should the US be concerned at all with Japan’s saving face in eventual defeat?
I think you are rewriting history in the tradition of hate America first. The times were different and the methods were different. Was it right for the Japanese to kill so may civilians in Pearl Harbor? Was it right for Hitler to send rockets into England? The Japanese were known for fighting to the last man and not surrendering. Don’t rewrite history and expect me to believe you. Don’t rewrite the American Revolution and expect me to believe that either.
Totalitarian socialists have nightmares over this fact.
As they should.
After the second bomb was dropped there was a failed coup d'état by factions in the Military who STILL DID NOT WANT TO SURRENDER.
This is not speculation this is fact backed up by direct testimony of those involved in the coup as well as documentation from that era.
7 days later Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan in a radio address to the nation of Japan.
Anyone who sez that Japan was about to surrender is full of sh!t!
There were Japanese military hard liners that didn’t want to give up after the 2nd A bomb.
These were people willing to fight to the last body. A full scale assault on the home islands would have killed more people than all the battles combined.
What if Longstreet had managed to launch a morning attack on the second day instead of late in the afternoon on the Federal left wing at Gettysburg?
What if Hitler had not delayed Barbarossa to assist in the Balkans?
What if the Japanese had launched a second attack at Pearl Harbor and destroyed the fuel supplies?
What if, what if, what if. Despite the misgivings of Eisenhower and others Truman obviously had advice from many that it was necessary to use the bomb to force Japan into a quick surrender. As for killing innocents, the fire bombings in Japan and Germany had been doing that already for some time.
Armchair Generals armed with 20/20 hindsight are a dime a dozen.
I’ll go with the opinions of the Americans who were lined up to take part in the invasion of Japan. I never knew of one who didn’t believe that the dropping of the bombs probably saved their lives.
It was wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki
It was wrong to attack Pearl Harbor without provocation
What did you do in the Great War, Daddy? The recruiting poster deserves ridicule and contempt, of course, but here its question is embarrassingly relevant, and the problem is one that touches on the dirty little secret of social class in America. Arthur T. Hadley said recently that those for whom the use of the A-bomb was wrong seem to be implying that it would have been better to allow thousands on thousands of American and Japanese infantrymen to die in honest hand-to-hand combat on the beaches than to drop those two bombs. People holding such views, he notes, do not come from the ranks of society that produce infantrymen or pilots. And theres an eloquence problem: most of those with firsthand experience of the war at its worst were not elaborately educated people. Relatively inarticulate, most have remained silent about what they know. That is, few of those destined to be blown to pieces if the main Japanese islands had been invaded went on to become our most effective men of letters or impressive ethical theorists or professors of contemporary history or of international law. The testimony of experience has tended to come from rough diamonds—James Jones is an example—who went through the war as enlisted men in the infantry or the Marine Corps.
"Towards the end of World War 2 the Japanese military created and employed the `kaiten`, a manned suicide torpedo designed to blow up American ships with great accuracy. At that point in the War Japan had suffered severe losses, was experiencing rapid decline in its industrial capacity compared to the US, and American troops were closing in on the home islands. Surrender was out of the question, so Kaiten (along with kamikaze planes) were brought in to help tilt the balance."
I knew the typical WW2 Monday morning QBs would come out with this anniversary. Let’s put it this way, the nation that attacked the United States was defeated and those bombs ended the war.
Millions of Americans (and Japs) alive today would not have either survived or been born if their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers had died in an invasion of Japan.
The bombs were dropped to prevent the deaths of thousands of US citizens. Japan should have thought of it before they bombed Pearl Harbor.
But no whining over the bombing of cities in Europe?
Deliberately targeting civilians is murder, and is never morally licit, even in pursuit of a good thing such as ending a war.
You can't target militarily important industry and supply chains without targeting civilians, and in some instances slave laborers and even POWs will be caught in the mix on the ground. Sometimes the collateral damage is light, other times unavoidable if the target is to be eliminated. We, more than any other nation, have taken incredible steps to minimize those casualties--to the point of filling smart bombs with concrete and using them as a kinetic energy weapon rather than an explosive weapon to destroy a single building instead of take out a whole block.
The incendiary bombing of Tokyo killed more people than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Consider that the reason Hiroshima and Nagasaki were on the A-bomb target list is that they had not been extensively bombed already, and the scope of the bombing campaign against Japan becomes a little more clear.
Plans were in the works for the invasion of Japan, anticipating more than a million casualties.
The power of the bombs as evidenced by the destruction of relatively undamaged cities was a factor in bringing the war to a swift end.
I will not do the disservice to the memory of those who made a tough decision (based on what they knew) of second-guessing them. Their decision ended the war.
The ONLY thing wrong about a nuke is that we haven't used them more often.
Longstreet only had one division on the field that morning (McLaws was not yet up and Pickett was miles away) and Sickles' Corps would not have moved into the salient yet thus Longstreet's defeat would probably have been much worse.
Want to end a war quickly?
Kill civilians and break stuff, not breaking stuff and not killing civilians extends any war
Nevertheless, if I didn't think the a-bomb was necessary to force Japan into submission, I wouldn't have been for it. Everything we've read about Japan at that time leads to the conclusion that without the bomb, a full-scale invasion would have been necessary to defeat them. That would have meant a minimum of 100k dead Allied soldiers.
How would you like to be the person who ordered the invasion because we didn't drop the bombs, and have to look into the eyes of 100k plus American parents who lost a son in the invasion and tell them we could have won the war earlier without their sons' deaths, but we didn't want to kill a lot of Japanese civilians? Who would have died by the hundreds of thousands or million anyway if we had invaded
Wonderful...such Monday-morning armchair quarterbacking from someone from these times.
It was absolutely the right thing to do. I wonder if he ever read “Unbroken” or interviewed anyone from Pearl Harbor or anywhere in the Pacific theatre before penning this tripe?
While growing up, I spent a good many summers in Narragansett, R.I. They were the last state in the union still celebrating VJ Day (Victory over Japan). I believe they finally caved a few years back.
Hiroshima wasn't instrumental in making military armaments. It was, sadly, the seat of Christianity for Japan, for what existed.
Nagasaki did help produce such things.
I would have targeted major military targets at Nagasaki and Tokyo, and tried to make sure the Emperor was not hit.
However, the range of our bombers was always a dire concern and I doubt we could have successfully reached many appropriate areas.
This is what I understand from my knowledge.
Finally, when an entity first offensively, physically, targets you, why should any response restrict the offenders’ most supportive nonmilitary citizens? This may not include kids, but it is difficult to exclude them.
To damage our naval capability so that we wouldn't hinder their take over of the far east.
Payback is a bitch. The Japanese aligned themselves with a mass murderer in Hitler.
By dropping two bombs, several things were accomplished. Not only did it end the war with Japan, but it also sent a strong message to the Soviets. Only problem with that was a Democrat being in office in 1947.
In my humble opinion, if a Republican was in office in 1945 there may not have been Soviet expansion into Europe and a split of the Koreas. It wouldn’t have prevented the revolution in China, but that is for another day.
The destruction at Nagasaki and Hiroshima was NOTHING compared to the destruction of Tokyo, Kanto, and Chiba regions.
Everyone seems to forget Gen Curtis LeMey’s FIREBOMB CAMPAIGN. The firestorms he created made moonscape of all areas that were so bombed.
Hundreds of thousands were burned to death.
These campaigns were indiscriminate and deliberately targeted the civilian population.
Bellyaching about two small cities that got pommeled when compared to the horrific destruction of other parts of the country, is just selective outrage.
I think the thing that upsets these crybabies is that it only took two planes and two bombs, not whole squads.
AND A BIG BTW: Even after LeMey laid most of central Honshu to waste, the militarists had no motivation to surrender.
Any argument, pro or con, about the use of nuclear weapons against Japan is fatally flawed the moment the use any published information that was not available prior to the middle of July 1945. Use of such information falls under the generic classification of revisionist history.
If you or any of the authors of articles/studies/books use information after the event to justify their position I propose the use of my personal yardstick. Since they are using facts after the event ask them to predict this year’s and next year’s Super Bowl victors. Why not? After all aren’t most of the players in both games currently playing? Aren’t the teams involved in both Super Bowls already established? So, these people have all the information necessary to make absolutely accurate predictions of the future, don’t they? And if they don’t pick both winners they should have to pay some kind of penalty for being wrong.
I am not making any new rules, I am simply taking their logic chain and asking them to apply to a different event. If their reasoning system is valid it should work on a much smaller scale, shouldn’t it?
BTW - I, it turns out, have a very vested interest in the end of World War II prior to the fall of 1945. My father was scheduled to be a landing craft’s crew for the first invasion.
It took a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki to get them to capitulate...
Beat me to it, had the jpeg fired up and ready to roll. Good thing I checked first!!!
There were several reasons we dropped the bombs:
1) The invasion of Japan was estimated to have inflicted upwards of 500k - 1,000k cascualties. If you were the president in ‘45, or a general or admiral for that matter, and it came out after the war that we had a super incredible bomb that could have shortened the war and saved the lives of a lot of 18-22 year olds and didn’t use it.....there would be you know what to pay. After the invasion of Tarawa in ‘43 and the casualties that happened there was a public outcry. Nimitz records he received letters asking how could you have killed my son? Imagine the outcry over the invasion of Japan and the casualties we would have incurred.
2) Experience with Japanese kamikazie attacks and their no surrender policy experienced during the island hopping campaign indicated the invasion would be brutal.
3) Political considerations: We knew after the war we would demobilize...the Russians wouldn’t. We wanted to send a message to the Russians...we have the bomb and you don’t. Well, at least we though they didn’t have it.
4) Money: we spent 2,000,000,000 on the Manhattan Project. It was felt at the time there would be a public outcry of 2b spent on something we didn’t use.
The comment by Admiral Leahy about not being taught to kill women and children in war is in my opinion political posturing to cover his backside. I’m sure the good admiral was aware we were fire-bombing Japanese cities and a good number of civilians were being killed.
The decision to drop the bombs was correct then and still remains correct today.
Ask yourself this question:
If the Japanese had an Atomic bomb or two and the means to deliver, would they have done so?
I believe after knowing the way they treated Nanking, and our prisoners, there is no doubt they would have.
Should we feel bad about using the bomb? hell no.
Actually more people were killed in conventional bombing than when the Atomic bomb was used.
Our men had been exposed enough to war in the previous battles, like our men have served enough terms in Afghanistan. It’s time that was over too.
In 1944, my father in law was a 19 year old Marine radioman on Iwo Jima. In 1945, my father was on a small Navy ship just off Okinawa. Both would have been sent on an invasion of the Japanese home islands. And it’s doubtful that either of them would have made it home. Not to mention the millions of Japanese who would have died fighting from cave to cave, extrapolating from Okinawa.
Thank you, Harry Truman.
The invasion plans would have moved forward, the Japanese civilians would have been subjected to more propaganda, and the besides the military casualties - US, Japs, Soviets, etc., civilians would have been used asymmetrically, as well as killing themselves as they did on Saipan, and millions more would have died in the trouble stirred up by Stalin over greater geographic areas.
That's not to mention the Japanese bio and nuclear contamination programs aimed at the US West coast.
War is hell, they started it, and killed civilians all over the Pacific with abject cruelty.
Enough of the faery dust and unicorns.
The war ended sooner with less suffering and fewer casualties all around.
I lived in Hiroshima for a few years and visited ground zero “Peace Park” numerous times. Most interesting to me was the comments visitors wrote in the guest book in the museum. Those comments ranged from “Such an atrocity, we must never let something like this happen again” to “the little yellow bastards had it coming”.
All this examination in hindsight is ridiculous. President Truman made the right decision for many reasons, but first and foremost why should one more American die if we, the US, had the means to end the war, no matter how Many Japanese military or civilian lives that cost.
Patton is said to have commented to the effect that we might as well fight the Soviets while we had the stuf over there...
It wouldnt have prevented the revolution in China, but that is for another day.
While Chiang was no angel, we did ourselves a disservice by not aiding him in the fight against Mao. That bit us later when the Reds crossed the Yalu and the Korean War ended up being a negotiated cease-fire instead of a clear victory. With the twit in power over there (North Korea) working to have a nuclear ICBM capability, that may eventually bite us, too.
I need to correct my prior post. It was Nagasaki that was the seat, followed by Hiroshima. So I would rather have limited Christian deaths in whatever way possible.