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
click here to read article
Short answer; they thought we were screwing with their ability to import oil, which was not available domestically.
It stopped an invasion that could have killed over a million people.
Name for me a place where the Japanese didn't offer fanatical resistance. Guadalcanal? Tarawa? Saipan? Peleliu? Iwo Jima? If American war planners were "surprised" by Okinawa after those previous battles then they should have been freakin' fired - the Japanese had been using that island for artillery training for years and had just about every inch zeroed. Why would they have imagined Japan itself would be anything but a bloodbath?
Again, it's not difficult to understand - they started work in 1942 - they didn't use the bomb on Germany for the simple reason that they didn't have it ready before Germany folded.
I’ve read about the heroic fight the men on Wake put up - the real shame is that relief forces were on the way and then got recalled. I’m very sorry that your experience with this is so personal.
Guadalcanal - 7k casulties.
Tarawa - 1.7k casulties
Saipan - 13.7k casulties
Peleliu - 9.7k casulties
Iwo Jima - 28k casulties
Okinawa - 84k casulties.
One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you tell me which thing is not like the others.
Before I get to the end of my song?
Something to keep in mind, If you look at the total world war II casulties including civilians:
only 4 percent of the total military deaths were Axis civilians. 58 percent of the total were allied civilians.
Soviets lost close to 24 million and China lost close to 20 million. Japan lost about 2.5 million.
Most of the Axis civilian casulties (about 3:1) were between Germany and the Soviet Union. Japan had barely more civilian casulties than Romania.
I think that pretty much says it all. For all the handwringing over the Americans and their conduct in the war - I think the numbers are sobering. They did not target civilians whereas their enemies were all too happy to do so.
No, from what I understand, after reviewing the casualty rates on Saipan, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, the main reason was the predicted horrendous casualties we would suffer if we had to invade. The Russian thingy was just another nail in the Japanese coffin. As it was, the Russians demanded co-equal footing at the conference table. They took over the Kurile Islands and still own them today, so you can imagine what the story would be if they have taken more terrirtory.
A sidebar was that we found a letter that was sent out to the Jap prison commanders. To wit: when they heard that Americans had invaded the homeland, words to the effect of "do what is necessary" with all prisoners. Some commanders didn't wait for the invasion. Read about Palawan for just one instance.
There was also another political angle in that the Democrats feared a major backlash (with good reason), if we suffered anywhere near those predicted casualties when the president had the means to end the war sooner by dropping the bombs.
“They took over the Kurile Islands and still own them today, so you can imagine what the story would be if they have taken more terrirtory.”
Keeping the Russians out of a defeated Japan is a different motive from ‘necessary for the defeat of Japan.’
“There was also another political angle in that the Democrats feared a major backlash (with good reason), if we suffered anywhere near those predicted casualties when the president had the means to end the war sooner by dropping the bombs.”
More American lives were lost at Okinawa than in all the other major battles in the pacific up to then - combined. The other bad thing is the casulty ratio. There were 80k American casulties to 120k Japanese troops. That is what shocked the American command at the time that despite outright superiority in troop counts, that the Japanese defenders were able to hang with the Americans.
After two months of arduous combat in a coastal zone of reservoirs and river deltas, Meiktila was taken on 4 March 1945. Two months later, an ambitious amphibious operation allowed Slims army to re-enter Rangoon on 6 May 1945. Although this was effectively the end of the campaign, the remaining Japanese forces in Burma did not surrender until 28 August 1945.
The Germans fought the Soviets tooth and nail right up to the end. The Red Army lost 100,000 men to take Berlin. In the West, they surrendered in droves, because they realized the Western Allies would treat them much better than if they fell into Soviet hands.
Even though I am sort of Generation X — I can see that Japan sowed to the wind by cruelly invading the countries around it as well as bombing Pearl Harbor. And they reaped the whirlwind at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In other words, live by the sword, die by the sword.
If anyone needed to apologize, it was the Japanese leadership to their own people.
Now we need to send the rest of our stockpile to the middle east and turn it into a glass parking lot, develop our own oil!
And? They were irrelevant to the course of the war - they were cut off from their supply, and were in insufficient numbers to threaten anyone.
The next planned offensive was what is now Malaysia to retake Singapore and re-establish control over the strait of Moluccas. This would have joined up the Southern front to the Western and secured the passage to India.
The problem is that the only way for Japan to actually maintain control over these vast territories is through shipping. They had no overland path from Japan to Korea, to China to Vietnam. Instead, they supplied their troops by sea. Now that they no longer had the forces to supply their troops in Burma and in SE Asia, the forces had to make do on their own. Most hunkered in for attacks that did not come (as they were irrelevant).
Japan had bigger priorities than to maintain troops in Burma when they were under interdict. This the IJN understood back in 1944 with the battle of the Philippine sea. They knew that once their internal defensive corridor was breached that they couldn’t maintain the shipping from Japan south - exactly the problem they faced at the start of the war.
This is why Spruance chose to attack there and not elsewhere. Japan could not afford to lose and would direct the majority of their forces. This was expected.
Japan later on, in the Battle of Leyte attempted to protect their shipping corridor one last time by throwing the remainder of the IJN’s large surface fleet. Checkmate at this point was inevitable but the hope here at Leyte was to delay defeat.
The point wasn't American casualties - the point was Japanese casualties. For example, of the 25,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima, how many survived? A couple thousand, maybe? So, based on that shining example (and similar percentages at the other places I mentioned) one could have reasonable assumed, beforehand, that they were willing to fight to the bitter end at Okinawa. And, because there were many more Japanese soldiers on Okinawa than Iwo Jima, one could have also reasonably assumed there would therefore be many more American casualties. You see how this works?
The bitter fighting at Okinawa should NOT have been a surprise to American war planners and it certainly did not alter their plans with regard to the nuke. The nuke had taken YEARS to develop, it had been intended with Germany specifically in mind, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So, your statement that "It was never intended at [sic] Germany" is complete, unadulterated b.s.
Conventional incendiary bombing had already destroyed 45 Japanese cities.
Japan wasn’t ready to surrender, and didn’t surrender.
The first atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima.
Japan wasn’t ready to surrender, and didn’t surrender.
After the second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki, the wussy emperor finally put his foot down, said he’d have no kingdom to pass to his son if the war were not stopped.
He recorded the surrender message, and the records were to be shipped to all the military radio stations.
Some officers took it upon themselves to interdict the shipping out of the records, as well as to seize the emperor and continue the war.
When the lights had to be shut off during a US bombing run, the officers got lost in the dark palace, and failed to accomplish either mission.
The point isn't that they were relevant - it's that every direct interaction with actual Japanese who were not prevaricating diplomats playing for time indicated that they had no inclination to surrender. Even the Germans "surrendered" only when Berlin was overrun. The Japanese were known for fighting to the last man and, in the post-war era, for holding out for decades past the war's end. The idea that the Japanese would put up less of a fight than the Germans short of some massive shock, might or might not be ludicrous, but it certainly ran against the experience of every encounter Allied forces had with them. Eisenhower's comment about the Japanese inclination to surrender sounded like his way of passing the buck - since as President Truman had taken ownership, why let any of the dirt get splashed on him?
“The Japanese were known for fighting to the last man and, in the post-war era, for holding out for decades past the war’s end.”
Nonsense. They resisted capture through suicide rather than permit allied capture. That’s not exactly ‘fighting to the last man’, is it?
The Allies took advantage of this by directing their attacks at strategic centres and cutting off areas that were well defending but unimportant to the general progress of the war. Japanese armies in northern Burma could do what? Attack china and be annihilated? March down the river to Mandalay and be annhilated? Do a forced retreat to where? Vietnam? Stay where they were without adequate supply? There were simply no good options for them.
That the Burmese armies were rendered insignificant is significant in that they could no longer hinder the progress of the war. What does it matter to the allies if you’ve got 20k Japanese soldiers cut off from civilized society in the jungles of Burma? What exactly are they going to do? What they ended up doing is the only sane outcome - marching to Mandalay and surrendering to the allies (instead of to the Chinese) who would have executed them. So that is what they actually ended up doing once they realized that there was no other option.
Arguing “Japanese had forces elsewhere that would have had to be engaged” Isn’t really a significant argument. By 1945, the allied blockade had forced these armies to hunker down into irrelevance.
“The point wasn’t American casualties”
Yes, the point was the American casualties.
Okinawa was a shock as American losses were an order of magnitude higher than at Iwo Jima. And, as I’ve already demonstrated, allied losses at Iwo Jima were considered high for the war. Do I need to cite contemporary opinion stating exactly this?
Okinawa in May after VE day was followed up by the push (by Truman) for the Trinity experiment, followed by the subsequent dropping of the bomb on Japan. The timeline fits together well. It matches up with contemporary opinion of the shock of the American battle losses at Okinawa being larger than the entire rest of the war in the pacific up to that time.
The historical account simply doesn’t support your position, sorry. Okinawa was a shock.
Some did; Yamamoto, for instance.
That is incorrect. 100K American lives were lost in the Pacific campaign, only 12K of which were lost on Okinawa, and a plurality of the losses in the Okinawa campaign were of Navy personnel, whose dead exceeded that of the Marines and the Army taken individually. American deaths from Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, added together, exceeded the Okinawa death toll. This excludes, of course, the 10K killed during the Battle of Bataan, when American forces were on the defensive.
They committed suicide when they were about to be burned to a crisp by flamethrowers, and had run out of ammo. In fact, many pretended to surrender and then attacked Allied troops who let their guard down. However, the point here is that the only way to get them to stop fighting, whether via committing suicide or last ditch banzai charges, was to overrun their positions. The Germans surrendered when they were surrounded. The Japanese figured that to die fighting was to become part of the Divine Wind that would sweep American troops from the home islands, that every GI killed sapped Uncle Sam's resolve. And I suspect they were right. Past a certain point, we would have declared victory and gone home.
Which is one of the reasons I’m doubtful the bomb would ever have been dropped on Germany even if it was developed prior to German capitulation. Europe is just too small. Berlin is what? 40 miles from pre-war Poland? Do you nuke Vienna, despite the fact that the Austrians did not bring Hitler to power?
Even Fulda is just 170 miles from France.
To put it in perspective, White Sands was 125 miles from Albuquerque. Given what we know today of fallout - does it seem wise to drop an atomic weapon in the heart of Europe?
“That is incorrect. 100K American lives were lost in the Pacific campaign, only 12K of which were lost on Okinawa, and a plurality of the losses in the Okinawa campaign were of Navy personnel, whose dead exceeded that of the Marines and the Army taken individually. American deaths from Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, added together, exceeded the Okinawa death toll. This excludes, of course, the 10K killed during the Battle of Bataan, when American forces were on the defensive.”
Total casulties on Okinawa *alone* were 80k, per the previous chart. Well above those of Iwo Jima.
“They committed suicide when they were about to be burned to a crisp by flamethrowers, and had run out of ammo.”
Ok, you’re a Japanese soldier in the heart of Burma. You’ve lost touch with your command structure. You are no longer being supplied. What do you do? You haven’t had contact with anyone, friend or foe?
“In fact, many pretended to surrender and then attacked Allied troops who let their guard down.”
Vanishingly small portion of the total. This is incorrect. Most who surrendered, surrendered.
“However, the point here is that the only way to get them to stop fighting”
Is this what was done at Truk? Or did the garrison surrender when faced with starvation after the loss of their supply chain? The garrison surrendered in 1945 after they ran out of food and the USN cut off their supply.
Starving pockets out via blockade was done, and was done successfully throughout the pacific war.
Yamamoto probably calculated that for Uncle Sam, losing the PI wasn't really that big a deal, since independence was in the works, anyway, so the US probably wouldn't engage in all-out war against Japan. And this view would have been backed up by historical fact - the Russo-Japanese War had not resulted in all-out war* between Russia and Japan, despite the fact that Japan had attacked the Russian Navy before declaring war. Japan went on to win that war because the Russians decided not to take it any further.
Near the end of WWII, Japan seemed to be hoping that it could negotiate an end to the Pacific War similar to the deal that the Russians got at the end of the Russo-Japanese War, where the Russians lost some territory, but business went on as usual, with the Romanovs 100% in charge and so on. We were looking to place GI's on Japanese soil and systematically demilitarize Japanese society. That wasn't going to happen without either the A-bomb or the invasion and occupation of the Japanese home islands.
* They probably figured the US couldn't possibly be more aggressive than the Russian bear, which had been expanding for centuries against its neighbors. They were wrong.
80K casualties is correct. But the dead accounted for around 12K. Bataan casualties were 30K. The dead came to 10K.
Bataan wasn’t an offensive operation...
We’re examining losses in the other end of the campaign, not losses from defending against the Japanese.
Heres another account of what your father and father-in-law would likely have seen, without the efforts of Gen. Groves et. al.:
Would have made Verdun, the Somme and The Russian Front, combined, look like a mild dispute in a convent.
Ultimately, the Japanese thought Americans only cared about the bottom line, just like the Russians. The reason the Romanovs did not pursue the Russo-Japanese War to victory was for pure cost-benefit reasons - the costs exceeded the benefits. I don’t think it occurred to Yamamoto in his wildest dreams that American war aims in response to Pearl Harbor would involve the military occupation of the Japanese home islands. After all, WWI had resulted in an armistice, and no Allied troops on German soil.
Your earlier point was that casualties from Okinawa exceeded that of all the major battles combined. That is wrong. In addition, the American dead from the Okinawa campaign were exceeded by Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima combined.
The Manhattan Project started years before that, in response to Albert Einstein's letter to FDR about the German atomic efforts.
The B-36 design was started when we were not sure the Germans would not invade/capture England.
We were not going to be flying bombers 5000 miles to drop a few tons of TNT and fly 5000 miles back.
That is wrong. They surrendered in September, 1945, half a month after Hirohito's surrender broadcast on August 15.
A. The Manhattan Project was started in 1942, specifically with Germany in mind. It doesn't matter how much you wish it were otherwise, Germany was the intended first recipient in mind.
B. The Manhattan Project - started in 1942, with Germany as the primary target - culminated with the successful Trinity test in July 1945, but sadly, Germany had surrendered in May 1945.
C. It took years to develop the weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Okinawa had absolutely nothing to do with it other than to galvanize the American determination to crush Japan and end the freakin' war.
D. Truman inherited a nearly-completed nuclear program in April 1945 - he didn't push anything. He didn't even know about the Manhattan Project until April '45.
5. If they had developed the nukes in one or two years, instead of three, Germany would have gotten it right in the neck.
“A. The Manhattan Project was started in 1942, specifically with Germany in mind. It doesn’t matter how much you wish it were otherwise, Germany was the intended first recipient in mind.”
It was commissioned by FDR 1939 in response to intel from ex-German Jews that the Germans had successfully achieved nuclear fission. He did not want the Germans to get the bomb before the Americans due to strategic considerations. The need for atomic research was to not only catch up with where the Germans already were by ‘39, but also to surpass them and develop the bomb first. As a deterrent.
This is significant. You can write all you want about how they ‘intended’ to nuke Germany first, it is not true. Nor does it follow what actually happened in history. By the time nuclear weapons were available, the war had already been won in Europe.
“D. Truman inherited a nearly-completed nuclear program in April 1945 - he didn’t push anything. He didn’t even know about the Manhattan Project until April ‘45.”
There are documents showing evidence that Truman he wanted a successful test prior to Potsdam. This is evidence contrary to your statement.
“If they had developed the nukes in one or two years, instead of three, Germany would have gotten it right in the neck.”
This is speculation. There are good reasons both from a strategic standpoint not to drop an atomic bomb on Germany. How are you going to hit something like Cologne where you’ll contaminate French, Dutch and Belgian water supplies, industry and people? You will kill allied civilians.
Two - conventional weaponry was, by far, the better way to defeat Germany.
Three, you say he inherited an ‘almost finished program’. This is not so. They hadn’t even tested the design of Little Boy before they dropped it. They had a ton of theory, but no actual testing to show that the bomb would actually work. Then they used both of the prototypes that they did have in the hopes to force a political solution to the war.
That’s not a very systematic way to go about and do it, is it?
Have you seen the pictures of the garrison that did surrender? I suggest you examine them. Truk was doomed whether Japan surrendered in September or not.
The program was started when the prospect of German independent development of atomic weapons was a serious possibility. We could have been treated to the spectre of an atomic weapon successfully dropped on America by Germany. The US having atomic weapons would forestall this from ever happening as a deterrent.
That was the fear in ‘39.
Exceeded all offensive operations conducted by the US at the time. No one would have been thinking about the losses at Bataan, and it would never have entered the considerations for Coronet or Olympic. Strain a gnat, swallow a camel.
Again, the point isn't that Truk was doomed. It's that the soldiers did not surrender until instructed to, by the emperor, despite their doom being obvious to anyone with a pulse. Truk could be bypassed, so it mattered little whether or not the garrison surrendered. The home islands couldn't.
Why did Zimmerman get out of his Truck?
The Japanese obviously bombed Pearl Harbor because they thought we were following them and felt dissed. Then when their 19 Year Old Morbidly Obese High School Junior Girlfriend told them that we were a bunch of Gay Rapists, they couldn’t help themselves.
Which raises the question - if blockading and cutting Truk worked for Truk - would it not work for the Home Islands?
Japan does not have the natural resources to sustain herself. Japan relied, then as now, on importation. The folks in the garrison were Japanese soldiers. Do you think that the people of Japan would have been able to hold it together in a blockade? I don’t see it.
The options were not ‘invasion’ or ‘atomic weapons’. There was a third option, blockade.
The Japanese only surrendered because they though we had many more Atomic Weapons, which we didn’t. The two we dropped were the only two we had at the time.
The did not Surrender because of what we had done, they Surrendered because of what they thought we would continue to do.
We killed tens thousands in the European Theater using Conventional Weapons including Incendiary Bombs. The same happened in Japan. The idea that ONE Bomb could do the same damage that thousands of Bombs could do changed everything.
“Do you think that the people of Japan would have been able to hold it together in a blockade? I don’t see it.”
Conversely, I can absolutely see it. Japanese patriotism was (and is) very high. I could see them starving and using their last breath to attack an “invading” army.
(Sorry late to the thread. It is long with many excellent posts.)
FDR croaked on April 14, 1945, Truman was finally briefed about the Manhattan Project on April 24, 1945 and Postdam was in July 1945; so your "evidence" is crap. They did not magically develop nukes between April 1945 and July 1945.
You say I'm speculating about our willingness to nuke Germany, but it is a fact the the U.S. had over 100,000 people involved in various ways with the Manhattan project, we spent several years developing the bombs and spent 100's of millions of dollars - we were deadly serious. We didn't do all that as a theoretical exercise. You think we risked the lives of 100's of thousands of American troops to an invasion of Europe, but we wouldn't have ended the war with a single bomb if it had been available in time?
"Three, you say he inherited an almost finished program. This is not so. They hadnt even tested the design of Little Boy before they dropped it. "
The biggest effort with the Manhattan Project went towards getting fissionable materials for the bombs - uranium 235 and plutonium. Without those materials you don't have a bomb, so until that infrastructure was in place to supply those materials, they couldn't test anything.
That third option would not have gotten Japan to the surrender table on August 15, 1945, if ever. A blockade also meant keeping millions of conscripts in uniform for years waiting for Japanese capitulation. Note that Truk was a postage stamp sized installation with no fresh water other than from rain fall. The Japanese home islands have been continuously cultivated for thousands of years. Meanwhile, on the Asian mainland, Allied troops, POW and civilian slave laborers were dying every day that a Japanese surrender was not forthcoming.
Potsdam July 17th, 1945.
Trinity, July 16th, 1945.
Just a coincidence, I’m sure. Truman wanted a test before Potsdam, that is why Trinity took place the day before.
“We didn’t do all that as a theoretical exercise.”
Not my argument, now is it? Again, there are good reasons why not to drop an atomic bomb on Germany that didn’t apply to Japan. Nuking your allies would be frowned upon. Most of the German industry is in areas close to the border.
“You think we risked the lives of 100’s of thousands of American troops to an invasion of Europe, but we wouldn’t have ended the war with a single bomb if it had been available in time?”
I’m saying that even if the bomb had been perfected by say 1943, that it’s unlikely that the situation in the Western war would have warranted it. By 1944, they had already committed to Overlord. So even if you shaved 2 years off the development (an already very tight and unlikely scenario) I still don’t see them dropping a bomb on Germany.
“Conversely, I can absolutely see it. Japanese patriotism was (and is) very high. I could see them starving and using their last breath to attack an invading army.”
Sure, it was very strong. That’s why they lasted as long as they did. Things tend to fall apart very quickly though - like Germany in 1918, and they actually won the war against Russia! Nobody lasts forever, and the Japanese are included in this.
The Japanese people were shocked by the surrender.
Heck some officials tried to STOP the surrender, pretty much attempting a coup to keep it from being broadcast
“That third option would not have gotten Japan to the surrender table on August 15, 1945, if ever”
True, it would have taken longer. No question there. How long, I think is the interesting question? Can you run a modern society with no oil? LeMay took out the refineries in May, and Japan had no way to get more, let alone use what they possessed. I do not believe they would have made it through the winter.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.