Saturday, August 06, 2005

Alternatives to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

In this thread about the decision to drop the atomic bomb, anonymous asks:

Why didn't they drop a nuke on an unpopulated area and say, 'See that goddamn horror? We'll drop another one on your heads in two days if you don't surrender.'

My post had ended with this quote from Fussell's article about the atomic bomb, which I think is especially relevant to anonymous' question:

The past, which as always did not know the future, acted in ways that ask to be imagined before they are condemned. Or even simplified.

Many of those who are critical of the dropping of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs seem to lack the capacity to understand that those who made the decision were given a certain set of circumstances with which to work. One of those circumstances was a fairly basic one: the US only had two atomic bombs at the time.

Somewhere along the line I had come across this fact, and I wanted to check to see whether my memory was correct. The second article that came up when I Googled "Hiroshima only 2 bombs available" was written by Jamie Glazov, and appeared on August 7, 2001 here, at frontpagemag.com. It contains the answer to anonymous' question, and more. The article sheds much light on the complex dilemmas facing those who were actually making the decision in real time, and what the obstacles were to alternatives such as the one suggested by anonymous.

I am taking the liberty of printing some longish excerpts from this important article by Glazov:

Many critics, however, have insisted that the U.S. could have devised a way to "demonstrate" the awesome power of the bomb to make the Japanese surrender. For instance, it has been argued that the Americans could have dropped the bomb on some built-up area, after giving notice to the inhabitants to evacuate.

No.

A failure under those crucial circumstances could have done enormous, if not fatal, damage to American credibility. There were only two bombs available at the time, and the actual bomb devices were new and scarcely tested. Americans could not ignore the psychological effect on Japanese leaders if the bomb did not work.

To broadcast a "warning" was to risk the operation in other ways. It would have been child's play for the Japanese to intercept an incoming airplane, especially if they knew where and when it was expected.

Truman and his officials agonized over the fact that the Japanese could end such an endeavor altogether by placing American POWs into the "announced" target area. The Japanese had, after all, given the order to kill all POWs once an invasion of the islands began.

In pursuit of their anti-American odyssey, critics have also alleged that a "tactical strike" could have been carried through. In other words, the bomb could have been dropped on a purely military target, an arsenal or a harbor, and without advance notice. They have also theorized that the bomb could have been dropped, without advance warning, over a relatively uninhabited stretch of Japanese territory where the Japanese high command could witness it first hand, and would, therefore, finally accept the futility of their struggle.

There were, even at that time, many suggestions that advocated an explosion at night over Tokyo Bay, which might have served as a satisfactory example. Still another alternative proposed that the bomb could be detonated not on Japan but in some remote corner of the world, and that this would have been enough to scare the Japanese.

First, all of these scenarios imply that the Americans were dealing with a sane Japanese leadership. That was not the case.

Second, no known military target had a wide enough compass to contain the total destructive capacity of the bomb – and to allow it to show what it was capable of doing.

No one could suggest, or even be sure, of a way in which the bomb could be used in so convincing a manner that it would frighten a leadership that worshiped "death before dishonor." The very idea of "demonstrating" the bomb ran counter to its very purpose: to shock the Japanese out of their faith that dying in war was a noble enterprise.

Not even the scientists who made the atomic bombs were fully certain about the destructive potential of the bomb and its radioactive fall-outs. A test in a remote area, therefore, even if successful, could prove useless. It would be done on neutral soil and the Japanese could think it was a fake, accomplished with a massive amount of ordinary TNT. In addition, the Truman administration feared that advance notice of this kind of demonstration would simply give the Japanese too much useful information.

In May 1945, four distinguished physicists who served as advisers to the interim committee met in Los Alamos to consider the proposed "demonstration" theories. They were Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer. After the meeting they concluded: "We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use."

65 Comments:

At 3:19 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous david said...

We had no need to use the atomic bomb We were killing more people at that time with firebombs.

 
At 3:31 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous strcpy said...

Yep, one must even realise that as far as the Japanese at the time knew we had an unlimited supply of these things - that literally within days they would be vaporised (and "vaporised" is NOT an exageration - for qutie a large radius that happens from the intense heat). Even then it was a close thing for thier surrender. Hardliners vary vary nearly got their way and would continue to fight.

That's a pretty damn sobering thought on this whole thing.

It's amazing that they took *two* of these. Think in 1940's time - there is nothing that destroys a space larger than a few hundred feet - you enemy just turned an area of *miles* into charred dust. Less than 200 feet to over 10,000 feet and it took *two* of them. Add in that they all knew that they had lost, it was just inevitable - and it *still* took two of the dang things. One bomb did more damage than fleets of super bombers and they still held out for an invasion, to die at the end.

If they had seen nothing more than conventional what do they think would have been needed to stop the war. A blockade where millions starved over months, died of dysentary, and other deaths associated with a blockade? An island invasion where millions are gunned down, torched, arms blown off, legs blown off? And this is somehow better than a few hundred thousand? Or do they believe that it wouldn't have come to that point (that they would somehow defend thier homeland less than they did outlying Islands - many having to kill the Japanese almost to the very last man)?

*sigh* why is the US always the evil one. I've heard that we could have accepted a heavily conditioned surrender - couldn't the Japanese have also accepted an unconditional surrender? Amusingly enough, it's sorta the opposite of what the Japanese thought then - surrender before bloodshed! Though I generally think that when the reality of being under Saddam, Hitler, or any of the people the "apologist" defend that the defense would quickly go away (for one thing, it turns out that being called "unpatriotic" - even assuming you actually are called that - isn't quite the same thing as having your head cut off with a knife or living every day of you life in fear that you will be taken away and tortured with "torture" being much worse than having your religious text accidentally kicked across the room).

 
At 3:58 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous WJA said...

Ms. N-NC, I cannot *believe* you're accepting a Front Page essay as anything like a credible source. The author, Jamie Glazov, is such an obsessive ideologue that his Q&A interviews often involve more haranguing of his subjects, than actually asking them questions. (Hitchens had to take him to ask for that, and his total unreconstructed conservativism.) Beyond that, the essay cites not a single source, and provides no compelling explanation for why a primarily military target would have been more strategically and politically and morally preferable, over hitting Hiroshima. (I love the snaky dishonesty of his saying that those who ask this question are in "pursuit of their anti-American odyssey".)

 
At 8:08 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

WJA: ... the essay cites not a single source, and provides no compelling explanation for why a primarily military target would have been more strategically and politically and morally preferable, over hitting Hiroshima.

So never mind the source (and, as far as that goes, ignore what some might call the "snaky dishonesty" of referring to the author as an "obsessive ideologue") and consider only the argument that:

"The very idea of "demonstrating" the bomb ran counter to its very purpose: to shock the Japanese out of their faith that dying in war was a noble enterprise."

Was that the purpose? If so, did it accomplish it? And if it accomplished it, did it not then in fact save more lives than it took, just on the Japanese side alone?

Those who really are on an "anti-American odyssey" of course have ready answers to such questions. But the rest of us will want to stop and think again -- and perhaps try to imagine, as Fussell puts it, the circumstances under the which the past acted, before accepting its easy condemnation in hindsight.

 
At 9:03 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

David said:

We had no need to use the atomic bomb We were killing more people at that time with firebombs.

But David, the firebombs didn’t make them surrender. It was only after 3 atomic bombs that they surrendered.

 
At 9:12 AM, August 07, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Im sure a similiar nuclear type debate rages amongst the jihadis - one camp saying using nukes will only cause the surviving West to unite and take harsh action, the other camp saying the only way to ultimate victory is the destruction of the American economy

 
At 9:18 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

Oops! Make that 2 atomic bombs.

 
At 10:02 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

WJA--I do consider Glazov a credible source, having read a few of his articles in the past and finding those reliable. However, I'm not saying I accept every word in his article as gospel--I haven't done enough research to know. My guess is that, neither have you.

My real point was a different one: those who criticize the decision and speculate on alternatives are looking at history only from the point of view of today. They are usually not bothering to learn much, if anything, about the actual situation at the actual time the decisions were made--what the alternatives were, how they were analyzed, and what was available. For example, on the thread mentioned, many on both sides are speculating about alternatives as though there had been an almost endless supply of bombs. There were not, and it's an important--in fact even a crucial--point to any discussion. But it's a point that's rarely mentioned and little-known. And that's my point.

Some of the ignorance about historical events is something all of us share, on both sides, and is an inevitable fact of studying history. But sometimes people don't try--they simply manipulate facts as they please, and hope their readers will be ignorant enough to not notice, or doctrinaire enough to not care. In that, they are rarely disappointed, I'm afraid.

I see no evidence that Glazov is playing fast and loose with facts in the article cited.. If you have such evidence, it would be helpful if you were to present it rather than to merely accuse him of it.

 
At 10:15 AM, August 07, 2005, Blogger gatorbait said...

The Japanese knew, because we told them so, tha twe had a weapon of unbelieveable magnitude. They chose to disbelievew it, jus tas they remained in Denial that the B-29s could visit Japan at their leisure. Now, as far as firebombing goes, that the the Sons of Heaven understood, just as much as being eradicated like vermin from ever island campaign the US undertook. They could NOT understand a single Superfort, a sigle device an single irradiated city. The Imperial staff still had fools wishing to fight on,yet Hirohito, finally decided tha tif his enemy could erase a city with a single weapon, the Tamato state, and he , by extension, too could be as easily erased. . It took the second device to seal the deal though. Not the Red Army's romp in Manchuria.

That help clear it up for the hand wringers out there?

 
At 10:48 AM, August 07, 2005, Blogger David said...

There seem to be a lot of people who argue that we need not be too concerned about the prospect of Iranian or (insert name of other rogue state here) nuclear weapons, because of "deterrence."

I suspect that many of these are precisely the same people who are most critical of Truman's Hiroshima and Nagasaki decisions.

What "deterrence" really means, of course, in real life, is the ability and willingness to do what was done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many times over.

 
At 11:25 AM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

If Iran or some other jihadist regime develops a nuclear weapon I think it is more likely that they would use surrogates like bin Laden to inflict the damage than to come at the U.S. head-on. I’m trying to imagine what I would do if I had their viewpoint. I think I would give the weapon to one of the terror groups. That way no one could prove who did it & the likelihood of retaliation on me would be much less. I would probably wait until 2 or 3 more “rogue” nations had it, so it wouldn’t be obvious who had given the terrorists the weapon. If Pervez Musharraf were overthrown & a jihad regime took over, that would be one. If Syria developed or was given the technology, that would make two. If the Saudi ruling family were dispatched & a jihadist regime stepped in as rulers & obtained the technology, that makes three. It goes without saying that I would be exporting the technology to any likely enemy of the West. And I wouldn’t forget North Korea. With this scenario, if Washington DC or New York were wiped out, who could the wicked Americans aim their stealth bombers at?
After all, isn’t this what has been happening for the last 15 or 20 years, minus only the nuclear component?

 
At 2:00 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous tgibbs said...

Yes, terrorism (which I define as any attack intentionally directed against a primarily civilian target) is a very effective strategy. That is why the Allies used fire and nuclear bombing of civilian population centers in WWII, and the success of that strategy has been a lesson that our enemies of today have taken very much to heart.

I don't doubt that it was the safest strategy, where "safest" is defined as minimizing the risk to Allied troops. In the worst case, if we had used the bombs on a clearly military target, and that had failed to convince, or the Japanese had somehow guessed that we had no more, the war could have dragged on for several months as we built more A-bombs.

Perhaps nothing short of an attack on two cities could have convinced the Japanese to surrender. It is a very comforting thought for those who like to pose it as a choice between nuclear attack and conventional invasion, with nothing in between. But it strikes me as mere rationalization. Why was there such a hurry to bomb Nagasaki, for example, allowing so little time for Japan to absorb the impact of the first attack, or for news or the attack to circulate around military censorship in Japan? Could it be that there was a fear that one bomb might prove to be enough, and there wouldn't be the chance to use the second?

I think that ultimately, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was guided by the same "there are no innocents" mentality that inspires the terrorists of today. Ind the end, the decision was made that moral objections to attacking civilians were less important than achieving our military goals and minimizing the risk to our own soldiers.

I don't feel, however, that it we have the right to condemn those who made the decision. It had been a hard-fought war that began with an enemy sneak attack, and was characterized by numerous Japanese violations of the rules of war. It is a decision that can only be properly understood in the context of the times.

Far more troubling, and ultimately damaging to our efforts to fight terrorism, is the modern apologetics. Our unwillingness to admit that our own government, however understandably, took an action that was fundamentally immoral. We have reached a distance in time such that we are able to admit that the use of biological warfare against our own native American population was wrong, but we are still unable to confront the fundamental wrongness of the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden, or the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Until we are able to do so, we will never have the moral foundation to take a principled stand against terrorism.

 
At 2:59 PM, August 07, 2005, Blogger SemiMBA said...

I tend to agree. We had to stop the war and Truman did what he had to do. A bad thing, yes, a necessary evil: absolutely.

I have been to Dresden and knew a few who endured the firebombing. Sorry - you brought the war upon yourselves. You choose to follow Hitler and you lost. War is war - war is about killing and winning - nothing else. If you don't want to lose, don't get involved.

 
At 3:02 PM, August 07, 2005, Blogger SemiMBA said...

Funny - I actually can't stand NeoCons because they are typically pansy ass people who tout war as a way of imposing our imperialistic attidudes on others.

GW, Karl Rove, and the entire Republican leadership wimped out when called to defend our country -and yet these are the same weinies who dodged the draft.

I will take 1000000 liberal's who defended our country like Kennedy, Carter, and Kerry over 1 Neo con who wimped out.

 
At 5:53 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often stop by to read some of the comments here at the neo-neocon site because conflicting opinions from both the left and the right are allowed even those submitted out of sheer ignorance of the subject being commented on. I think that neo-neocon is right when she says that most who complain about the US use of the atomic bomb to end WWII is viewed through the context of today rather than the moment in history when the decision was made.

While I agreed with much of what he/she said, I took exception when tgibbs said that if the US chose to use the bomb against a clearly military target that somehow failed to convince the Japanese leadership, or they somehow learned that we had no more bombs that the worse case scenario would have been for the war to drag on for a few more months, while we built more atomic bombs.

The US (as well as all the other Allied countries) had been on "maximum war footing" for 4 long years and we had taken huge numbers of casualties. The haste to end the war was the single biggest pressure on the Allied leadership by this time, made even more acute by the surrender of Germany. Our experiences with the Japanese military has shown a mindset totally foreign to the Allies where surrender was not an option considered by even the lowliest private, regardless of the hopelessness of continued resistance.

The "code of Bushido" was not only instilled in the military, but much of the general populace as well through years of propaganda. We had seen this in the large number of Okinawan civilians who chose to commit suicide and to kill their own children in the face of the US invasion of what they considered to be one of the Japanese home islands. Dragging on the war for "several months" was NOT an option especially if it meant massive US casualties in an invasion of Japan itself.

The war was only ended by the Emperor himself appealing directly to the Japanese populace, something which was totally without precedent in the Japanese experience. This decision by the Emperor was brought about as a direct result of seeing two large cities utterly destroyed by a single bomber dropping a single bomb. Even then, a coup was unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the surrender by members of the military.

As to giving a "demonstration", our resources were too limited to permit such a thing. First there was the fact that although a device had been successfully detonated in a test of the technology, it was a static test and did not involve an actual munition being dropped from a bomber. Second, there were two different types of bombs used against Japan (gun type and implosion type)just in case one type did not prove to be satisfactory in initiating a nuclear reaction, and our available supply of bomb grade fissionable material was pretty much exhausted by the test device and the two bombs. this is one reason why one used Plutonium and the other enriched Uranium, it was what we had available.

As an aside, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed as "military / industrial" targets. Both had been pretty much spared massive raids by multiple hundreds of bomber as had been visited upon many other Japanese cities, but the official target in each of the cities was a military one. It's just that with an atomic bomb there is an awful lot of collateral damage, just as there had been in all the other large cities in Japan and Germany during the course of the war, in the multiple hundred plane raids used to insure target destructuion.

When it is said that the US deliberately targeted civilians in our strategic bombing campaigns, this is a blatant falsehood. We always went after "military / industrial" targets. It was just that with the technology of the time, hundreds and hundreds of bombs had to be carpeted over an area to try to insure destruction of the target. A decision was made that although civilians would be killed in massive number as "collateral damage", it was an acceptable loss considering the direct targeting of civilians by the Axis powers. It was also thought that massive civilian collateral deaths would serve to hamper production of war materials and might even cause an overthrow of one of the governments (a scant hope at best, but one supported by the near anarchy that caused the surrender of Germany in WWI).

 
At 6:11 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

From a recent comment by tgibbs:

Yes, terrorism (which I define as any attack intentionally directed against a primarily civilian target) is a very effective strategy. That is why the Allies used fire and nuclear bombing of civilian population centers in WWII, and the success of that strategy has been a lesson that our enemies of today have taken very much to heart.

The above boils down to: America causes today’s terrorism because America used terrorism in WW2. There is a flaw in this viewpoint. After all, the firebombing & the atomic bombs were directed at enemy states during wartime. Which warring nations sent the London terrorists or the 9/11 terrorists? Has any country claimed responsibility for those atrocities? I would also argue with the author’s definition of terrorism. In my opinion a valid definition would take into account the non-military nature of terrorism.

Why was there such a hurry to bomb Nagasaki, for example, allowing so little time for Japan to absorb the impact of the first attack, or for news or the attack to circulate around military censorship in Japan? Could it be that there was a fear that one bomb might prove to be enough, and there wouldn't be the chance to use the second?

The author implies in the questions above that the second bomb was entirely gratuitous & used only because of a bloodthirsty need to cause more casualties. That there may have been strategic reasons to drop a second bomb after a 3-day wait would not occur to the author. The Blame America Club is always eager to ascribe immoral motivation to American actions. I’m not exactly sure what is meant by the “military censorship” part of the author’s questions but can only surmise that tgibbs apparently thinks that the Japanese military hierarchy was censoring itself. Perhaps the author could elaborate in a future post.

I think that ultimately, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was guided by the same "there are no innocents" mentality that inspires the terrorists of today.

Here we go again with the ‘America causes the terrorists’ rationale. There were military reasons to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki & there was a war between the U.S. & Japan. Sometimes our emotions lead us into ridiculous positions.

… we are still unable to confront the fundamental wrongness of the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden, or the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Until we are able to do so, we will never have the moral foundation to take a principled stand against terrorism.

I heartily disagree that bombing Tokyo & Dresden were “fundamentally immoral” acts that were equivalent to modern acts of terror. The U.S. was in a declared war against Japan & Germany. I wonder if the author knows that Dresden was a major industrial center with factories that manufactured German war materials or that it is estimated that “some 50,000 people worked in munitions and armaments production” in that city. Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also militarily important to the Japanese war effort. What war materials were being manufactured in the London subways or the World Trade Centers? Were there any on-going military activities at those sites?

 
At 6:43 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous Montie said...

I heartily agree with john moulders comments addressing some of the things said by tgibbs which when analyzed, basically blame America not only for terrorism, but most of the worlds current ills. I chose merely to lay out some historical perspective on the events of August 1945.

I avoided addressing the tgibbs comments parsed by john moulder for two reasons. One is that those who have a left leaning outlook on current affairs are rarely swayed by being introduced to facts that do not fit with their world view. The second is that I have grown weary of arguing with this type of thinking. For some strange reason most on the left seem to think that their strange self-blaming philosophy is the outlook of the majority of Americans, but all clear thinking people know this to be thankfully, false.

 
At 6:45 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous montie said...

Incidentally, by way of explanation, for some reason my initial comments were attributed to anonymous even though I entered the same information as my second set of comments.

 
At 7:53 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

I posted my analysis of tgibbs offering not to convince tgibbs of anything. I realize that probably nothing I could say would change tgibbs’s mind. But there may be a few looking in who are undecided on these issues & my remarks were mainly for them.

 
At 8:24 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

Ah, the ‘chickenhawk’ argument has raised its feathered fist. The underlying premise of this argument is that only a ‘Rambo’ style of leader has the right to wage war. If, as Commander In Chief, you haven’t been blooded in combat or if you have no close family members(the Bush daughters) exposed to danger in combat, why then you have no right to conduct a military campaign. Poor souls such as SemiMBA would never call 911 unless they had family members on the police force & SemiMBA would have us not call the Fire Department simply because the mayor never served in the Fire Department or had no close relatives who did. The policies of an administration are not important to SemiMBA because SemiMBA only respects leaders that have a Bruce Willis-Die Hard background. It’s a variation on the cult of personality & you see it a lot on the more hysterical lefty blogs.

 
At 8:32 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous E.M.H. said...

In all due respect to those who say the US should've conducted a "demonstration" before using the A-bomb on Japan: How could we have guaranteed that the reaction would be one that led to surrender? I need to study this more closely, but just based on what I've already studied, I have trouble believing that the Japanese would've just called it quits over a mere demonstration. I admit, there was a dovish faction to the Japanese government, but I ask others to admit that even though they were against the war from the beginning, they had in fact been stymied at every turn of their attempts to end hostilities. Are we sure that a demonstration would not have have been seen as a sign of weakness? Are we sure that the hawkish elements wouldn't have used this as a tool to turn the undecideds against the doves, and convince everyone that Japan must fight to the end or else face annihilation? Saying that a demonstration would've resulted in a Japanese surrender, to me, smacks of wishful thinking. It may have, but I believe it would've been far from guaranteed, and in fact could've easily backfired, even if the demo was sucessful.

Remember, the Japanese military's stated goal wasn't to defeat the US -- they were fully aware of the size of the US population, and the amount of resources the US could bring to bear -- it was to keep fighting until the US was sick and tired and was willing to accept a negotiated end to hostilities. It's true that Japan was facing severe shortages of food and fuel, let alone fighting soldiers, airmen, and sailors, and it was true that their logistical situation had turned impossible. But remember: They weren't trying to defeat the US, they were trying to fight until the US tired of it. Are we sure a demonstration wouldn't have been interpreted as "Look, they have the ability to win, but they're not willing to use it. Look, they're not willing to go all the way."? Are we sure that they wouldn't have, at that point not being shocked by the unapologetic use of such a powerful weapon, chosen to stiffen their backs and fight to the end? Or worse yet, launch a counteroffensive aimed at either securing what little they had left, or at least being a last ditch effort into shocking the US into negotiations ("Look, we're not scared, in spite of your bomb.")? How can anyone have guaranteed that a demonstration would've impressed upon the Japanese the necessity of surrender? This is strictly my own opinion, but I see the exact opposite happening: I see them as thinking, "well, we'll go down fighting, and maybe we'll convince them we're posessed of such a fierceness that they'll give up in spite of their powerful bomb". Even if that's not ultimately what they would've thought, I think it was far from guaranteed that a demonstration would've convinced the Japanese War Council to surrender, and that it's entirely possible it would've had the exact opposite effect.

My opinion only; I'm sure there are others who have other arguments.

 
At 11:17 PM, August 07, 2005, Anonymous tgibbs said...

The above boils down to: America causes today’s terrorism because America used terrorism in WW2.

The need to resort to the ridiculous "America causes terrorism" straw man is typical of the way that many Americans still refuse to confront the fact that the United States to this date still has the highest civilian body count for supposedly military actions. It is not blaming America for terrorism to point out that our unwillingness to acknowledge the wrongness of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has crippled our moral authority in the fight against terrorism. As long as we insist on defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we cannot take a clear moral stand that attacks intentionally directed at civilians, or with flagrant disregard for civilian casualties ("collateral damage" is a ridiculous term when the civilian casualties vastly outnumber military), are always wrong. It forces us to resort to weasely dodges like

In my opinion a valid definition would take into account the non-military nature of terrorism.

In other words, it is not inherently wrong to intentionally slaughter innocent civilians--it is merely wrong to do it without the appropriate military command structure and uniforms. By this argument, if the airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center had been commandered by uniformed commandos of the Republican Guard, then it would have been a perfectly legitimate military action.

 
At 1:56 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

regarding giving a nuke to a third-party.

I don't know how true it is, it was in a book/movie after all, but the Tom Clancy story "The Sum of All Fears" indicated that they could trace the source of the material used in the nuke. (Isotope ratios, etc. )

 
At 3:12 AM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Mike's America said...

anonymous:

I'm just so comforted to know that after we're nuked we can scrap up some radio-isotopes from one of our smouldering cities and trot off to the United Nations with proof of who did it.

Forgive me, but wouldn't it make more sense to prevent such a tragedy?

Somehow I doubt the left supports a detterent policy which would require responding to such an attack with a strike at the offending country (unless of course it was a non-lethal demonstration).

Preventing just such a nightmare is the course we are currently on. And if we were more unified with a mature, supportive political environment, we might just be more effective.

I imagine the left will get around to a "unity call" on or about January 20, 2008 when Madame Hillary is sworn in. If she could do a better job at managing the problem than the eight years of indifference and ineptitude we witnessed during her husband's administration I might join in the unity brigade.

But before I do, I would like to challenge some of those on the left to show that partisan loyalties are second to national unity and stop behaving like Nancy Reagan Democrats who "just say no!"

 
At 3:58 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

Tgibbs calls my synopsis of part of his comment “ridiculous” & a “straw man.” I believe it is an apt & fair description of that portion of his comment but in the final analysis the readers will judge for themselves. I notice that he still ignores the fact that Hiroshima & Nagasaki were important to the Japanese war effort & I can’t say I blame him. To acknowledge that simple & true point would serve to negate his implication that Truman was an uncaring slaughterer of the innocent, on a par with bin Laden & Saddam.

My definition of terrorism would take into account whether a state of declared war existed & whether the perpetrators were directed by a legitimate government. Those of tgibbs persuasion do not like to draw such distinctions because their flawed arguments collapse under the weight of them. If a state of declared war had existed between some hypothetical country & the U.S. & uniformed combatants in marked aircraft directed by that hypothetical government had bombed the World Trade Center because that site was of military significance – then it would have been a proper act of war & the civilian casualties would have been an unfortunate side effect of warfare. But no lawful entity has claimed responsibility for 9/11 – only the murderer bin Laden.

Of course it is morally wrong to target civilians for the sole purpose of killing civilians. But the bombing of Japan occurred during a time of declared war between Japan & the U.S. & was directed by uniformed combatants in marked aircraft at targets that were of military importance to Japan. I see fundamental differences between those events & the modern day terrorism visited on London & New York City but apparently tgibbs does not. Like I said in an earlier post – I have little hope that I can change tgibbs’s mind – my comments are for those who may be in the process of forming their attitudes on these issues, or for those who read with an open mind.

 
At 4:14 AM, August 08, 2005, Blogger jj mollo said...

There was also a certain amount of gamesmanship involved. If we wanted to bluff the Japanese into surrendering, we had to convince them that we were ruthless beyond their wildest dreams. Setting up a demo would have seemed too soft. In addition to the fact that there were only two bombs, we didn't know whether they would work at all or how powerful they would be. The two bombs were different designs in order to improve the odds that at least one of them would work. If we had set up a demo and blown a dud, it would have looked very weak. We really wanted it to seem like we had prepared a whole series of these things and could afford to waste them on places like Hiroshima.

Truman calculated that it was unlikely Japan would ever surrender on its own. In fact, after dealing with mass suicides and kamikazes, we were more than afraid of what was to come. The Enola Gay saved hundreds of thousands of lives, as it was intended to, and kept the Soviets from occupying Korea and Japan.

 
At 9:56 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous E.M.H. said...

"United States to this date still has the highest civilian body count for supposedly military actions"

May I request your sources for this, please? I want to compare that to the numbers for other campaigns, namely the Japanese excursions in China and Indonesia, as well as the Eastern front in WWII.

 
At 10:31 AM, August 08, 2005, Blogger David said...

emh...and don't forget the German invasion of Russia.

Also, the civilians killed in the German attacks on London and other British cities would have been a *lot* higher if things had worked as they had planned...for example, if the V-1 cruise missile had not proven such easy meat for the Allied radar-and-computer directed AA guns.

 
At 11:03 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Neo-neocon,

Regarding your absurd claim that the U.S. had "only two bombs" - which you confirmed via the infallible google:

Perhaps accurate information would merely upset you and your theories, but Harper Collins has just published a book with actual research on this topic (not simply googling the internet for rumors!) by a real journalist. Stephen Walker's "Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima" claims that the U.S. had several dozen bombs in readiness at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harper Collins, I would remind you, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and so hardly can be suspected of "liberal propaganda."

 
At 11:06 AM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Nitpicker said...

Isn't terrorism defined as the killing of noncombatants in order to influence the policies of a government or society? How did your getting "mugged by reality" on 9/11 convince you that the killing of civilians was OK as long as we were the ones doing the killing?

Let's not forget that we had signed onto the League of Nations resolution of 1938 which said:

"1) The intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal;

"2) Objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable;

"3) Any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighbourhood are not bombed through negligence..."

So much for historical context. If your standard is simply "my country right or wrong," then I suppose you can justify whatever awful b.s. you want, but continually shifting the goalposts--9/11 changed everything; Pearl Harbor changed everything; the sinking of the Maine changed everything; etc., ad infinitum--negates the very possibility of a moral argument.

 
At 11:18 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One bomb did more damage than fleets of super bombers and they still held out for an invasion, to die at the end."

Not true - the major firebomb raids were more deadly and destructive than the atomic bombs. It was not the level of destruction that shocked the Japanese - they had been through worse in Tokyo. It was the fact that a single plane had caused the destruction, and the technological supremacy that fact represented.

"Beyond that, the essay cites not a single source, and provides no compelling explanation for why a primarily military target would have been more strategically and politically and morally preferable, over hitting Hiroshima."

What military targets were left? The USAAF had, quite naturally been focusing on the important ones already. Dropping the A-bomb on a second rate military base would hardly have had the same effect.

"When it is said that the US deliberately targeted civilians in our strategic bombing campaigns, this is a blatant falsehood. We always went after "military / industrial" targets. It was just that with the technology of the time, hundreds and hundreds of bombs had to be carpeted over an area to try to insure destruction of the target. A decision was made that although civilians would be killed in massive number as "collateral damage", it was an acceptable loss considering the direct targeting of civilians by the Axis powers."

This is a fine line. The allies used metrics like square miles of housing destroyed when attacking the enemies industrial base. Even if the goal wasn't to kill civilians (and I agree that it wasn't) targeting housing pretty much guaranteed that you were going to kill a lot of civilians.

"By this argument, if the airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center had been commandered by uniformed commandos of the Republican Guard, then it would have been a perfectly legitimate military action."

And in the context of WWII I think that it is pretty clear that such an attack would indeed have been considered legitimate.

 
At 11:45 AM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

Terry: If your standard is simply "my country right or wrong," then I suppose you can justify whatever awful b.s. you want, but continually shifting the goalposts ... negates the very possibility of a moral argument.

This is not a game, and there are no "goalposts". The standard is simply right or wrong, period. But how do you judge that, particularly in the context of total war? I mean, if we're going to be moral absolutists, then why not just say that killing itself is wrong, and so war itself is wrong, any nation that participates in war is immoral, and retire in pristine moral rectitude to a monastery? If that seems a bit extreme or a bit absurd, or both, then we have to look at the conditions that prevailed at the time decisions were made, conditions that really had changed significantly from the vaporous hopes behind the obsolete League of Nations. And we also have to look at the larger issues that stood behind the conflict in the first place. It's not "my country" that makes right or wrong, after all, but the issues and ideals "my country" stands for.

 
At 12:09 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Nitpicker said...

Larry: "...we have to look at the conditions that prevailed at the time decisions were made, conditions that really had changed significantly from the vaporous hopes behind the obsolete League of Nations. And we also have to look at the larger issues that stood behind the conflict in the first place. It's not "my country" that makes right or wrong, after all, but the issues and ideals "my country" stands for.

Well, if you followed the link and looked around at all, then you would have seen that, as early as 1899 the civilized nations of the world were opposed to the wholesale slaughter of civilians, so it the idea that these were simply the "vaporous hopes" of the ill-fated League of Nations is a rather obtuse argument.

You bring up a good point, though, in saying that principles should be the basis of any moral argument. (I just returned from a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan, so I'm obviously not a pacifist. I'm also a Catholic and I do believe in the "Just War" theory. Your reductionist argument doesn't carry water with me.) I'm not arguing that the war itself was immoral. I'm only saying that our principles should have risen above our military needs at the time. Principles are called principles because they come first, after all.

The simple truth is that the United States killed a vast number of noncombatants in order to influence a government's policies. Is that one of the "ideals" for which we fought? It hardly seems worth fighting for such a utilitarian and ad hoc idealism.

 
At 1:10 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

League of Nations resolution of 1938:

"1) The intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal;

"2) Objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable;

"3) Any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighbourhood are not bombed through negligence..."

Terry, I don’t believe the League of Nations meant by the wording of #1 that any bombing in which civilians could conceivably die was unjustifiable. Since warfare is impossible to wage without incurring civilian casualties, such a meaning would be absurd. If such a meaning as you imply were the case then all an enemy force would have to do would be to nestle itself amongst civilians & it would be safe – for instance as do the Palestinian terror groups(and sadly for the Palestinian civilians, sometimes to no avail). It would be impossible to comply with such a rule as your interpretation presents. Sometimes our emotions lead us into absurd places.

The atomic bombing of Japan met the conditions of #2 since both cities were of military importance, having factories, military installations & being centers of military transport.

As for #3, it was not through “negligence,” in the sense of the U.S. command being lax in its targeting, that the civilians in those cities died – it was simply one of the unfortunate results of the bombing.

 
At 1:47 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

The simple truth is that the United States killed a vast number of noncombatants in order to influence a government's policies. Is that one of the "ideals" for which we fought? It hardly seems worth fighting for such a utilitarian and ad hoc idealism.

Terry, as has been commented on before, both here & on other posts dealing with this subject, if the U.S. had not dropped the bombs, in all likelihood the number of casualties would have been much more. We now know, through the recent releasing of documents having to do with the interception of coded Japanese communications near the end of WW2, that the Japanese strategy was to cause so many casualties that the U.S. would be forced to treat for terms favorable to the Japanese imperial clique. Japanese High Command was willing to incur any amount of Japanese military & civilian casualties to achieve this objective, with talk of fighting an invasion to the last man, woman & child. This is almost unbelievable to Western sensibilities but is true. Not only was Truman’s decision humane in the sense of saving the lives of American soldiers, he also probably saved many Japanese soldiers & civilians from certain death. Therefore, let your conscience be assuaged.

 
At 2:23 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Nitpicker said...

1. Actually, I'm not making the argument that civilians can't be bombed, but that they should not be the focus of a bombing.

2. I'm not the only one to suggest that Hiroshima was a questionable target. Either way, though, the rule says "objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable." This was not the case as the historians in the link above remind us that "the Enola Gay bombardier's instructions were to target the bomb on the center of this civilian city."

3. You're right. Negligence wasn't the cause. It was an intentional targeting of civlians. Deaths caused by the bombing itself (as opposed to residual effects) dropped off dramatically after about 3.5 miles. Sighting the factories at the edge of the city could have saved numerous lives.

Aside from all this, let's remember that, if we want to, as Larry put it, "look at the conditions that prevailed at the time decisions were made," we have to admit that there were many who argued against the weapons being used at the time.

Pinkos like Dwight D. Eisenhower: "I voiced my 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.'"

MacArthur questioned the bombs' use as well as many others.

Now, as you're obviously a "strict constructionist" of the rules of law, you probably won't get this, but the point of all three sections of this charter is the idea that soldiers should minimize the killing of noncombatants. When you take into account that we knew the Japanese were going to surrender soon--it would have been by November 1945, by an official government report finished less than a year later. "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."

While I admit that the report goes on to defend the use of the atomic weapons because their demoralizing effect on the populace, I would say again that that's basically terrorism.

 
At 2:38 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that a demonstration by prior announcement would have been problematic - ie, the Japanese could possibly intercept the delivery vehicle, or the damn thing might not have worked.

However, I don't think the possibility of some sort of demonstration was explored to its fullest extent. An unannounced explosion, for example, over Tokyo Bay would certainly have gotten their attention. Tens of thousands of Japanese, including those in the military high command, would have witnessed it. Even if they didn't see the initial flash, the mushroom fireball lasted a long time, ensuring that most residents would have witnessed the awesome firepower. By all accounts, the initial test of the bomb at Los Alamos left a staggering impression on military and scientific observers - so the military knew full well the power of such an demo. An unannounced drop, followed by leaflet propaganda, would have avoided the pitfalls of a bomb that didn't work, or a Japanese intercept, or that the Japanese would think it a fake.

Would that kind of unannounced demonstration off of Tokyo Bay have been enough to convince the Japanese to surrender? Maybe, or maybe not. The point is that it was never tried.

Had the Japanese not surrendered after the unannounced demo, the US still had another bomb on site at Tinian (and several more in production). Thus, we retained the option to then proceed with the destruction of a city.

And even if you think dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was absolutely unavoidable, I think that the time interval before the second bomb was dropped was not nearly sufficient. With its transportation and communication infrastructure in tatters, the Japanese really needed more than 3 days for the reports from far away Hiroshima to really sink in over in Tokyo. Obliterating Nagasaki 3 days later was premature overkill. Would it really have cost us that much to have waited a week after the first drop?

Does all of this mean the US is evil? No. Does it mean that the Japanese are not culpable in their own destruction? No. But lets face it - with the Japanese military utterly defeated, we had some options available to us to possibly avoid nuking two cities. Try as the apologists might, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not our finest hour - and will always remain moral blemishes on the US.

 
At 2:39 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Nitpicker said...

John,

I hope you'll excuse my slipping into snark. I'm actually finding the discussion quite fascinating. I hadn't heard about recent discover of intercepted transmissions, but, I must admit, I don't know how much that would change my views here. As someone who's served in both the Navy and the Army, I'm a stickler for the ideals found in the Rules of Warfare and find myself saddened and disappointed when I find failures on the part of my country to live up to those laws and its highest ideals, both past and present.

 
At 2:40 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Ben said...

Considering how many civilians were murdered or enslaved by both the Germans and the Japanese previous to their respective surrenders, dropping the two bombs on Japan was an act of mercy. We could have invaded and killed 10-20 times more. The facts stand for themselves, the war ended and the good guys won. Unless you are going to tell me that Germany and Japan were the good guys, and then there's not much point in talking to you anymore.

 
At 2:59 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Nitpicker said...

Ah, Ben. Can you even see rainbows when your eyes so clearly lack cones?

Did Eisenhower think the Germans were the good guys? Did MacArthur love the Japanese? How did Roosevelt feel?

And what about this commie: "By chaining up German prisoners in response to similar action by the Germans, we descend, at any rate in the eyes of the ordinary observer, to the level of our enemies. It is unquestionable when one thinks of the history of the past ten years that there is a deep moral difference between democracy and Fascism, but if we go on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth we simply cause that difference to be forgotten."

You're an idiot.

 
At 5:01 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

Terry: ...as early as 1899 the civilized nations of the world were opposed to the wholesale slaughter of civilians,...

So they were -- and yet, as late as 1939-1945 that's exactly what the "civilized nations of the world", on both sides, engaged in. Documents, rules, theories, and even principles went out the window in what became a global fight to the finish. There's room for dispute, certainly, over many of the decisions made at that time -- but the grounds for settling such disputes becomes one of effectiveness, not whether or not it adhered to some abstract and absolute "rule". Why? Because the first rule of all is survival, without which all other rules are moot.

In that sense, then, the question becomes whether or not the bombs accomplished a purpose which couldn't have been accomplished otherwise, and which ultimately saved more lives than they took. That's a hard question to answer, especially in the heat of the war -- Eisenhower and others, apparently, felt they did not; Truman and others felt they did. But what's obtuse, morally and otherwise, is for armchair moralists, 60 years after the fact, to bask in self-righteous condemnation once all the outcomes are clear.

 
At 5:21 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous tgibbs said...

Considering how many civilians were murdered or enslaved by both the Germans and the Japanese previous to their respective surrenders, dropping the two bombs on Japan was an act of mercy. We could have invaded and killed 10-20 times more.

So now "we could have done worse" is a justification. Certainly, we could have killed more noncombatants in an invasion, but probably only if we chose to intentionally target civilians. In any case, the primary point being made is that it is a false dichotomy to frame the issue as a choice between the rapid-succession bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or a conventional invasion. Other options that have been mentioned include:

1) A "demonstration" bombing (without notice of date and time if there was really a genuine fear that the bomb designs that worked in tests would fail in practice).

2) Bombing directed toward a more exclusively military target, or at least the outskirts, rather than the center of Hiroshima.

3) A longer interval between the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to give the emperor and military leadership more time to absorb the implications.

4) Some kind of negotiated settlement, perhaps in combination with one of the above.

Yes, one can rationalize that perhaps none of these would have worked. Perhaps not, but the point is that none of them were tried. Nobody seemed to worry too much that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would fail to compel unconditional surrender, and that we would have killed all of those noncombatants for nothing. Even if lesser measures failed, it would not necessarily have necessitated a conventional invasion, because the option of nuclear attack would have remained (even if we had to build another bomb or two).

Note that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the people responsible for "civilians [who] were murdered or enslaved by both the Germans and the Japanese." They couldn't even be said to be complicit in the minor sense of having elected their leaders. It is sad to see US apologists resorting to this kind of "there are no innocents" reasoning, which is one of the favorite rationalizations of terrorist murderers.

 
At 5:32 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous RyogaM said...

I know this is probably a complete an utter waste of my time, but here goes:

The following comes from "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" by Gar Alperovitz, a Random House work, published in 1995. His work is based on government documents, created at the time the decision to use the bombs was being made, only relatively recently declassified and therefore not available to previous historians. It is impossible to summarize the complete 800+ pages but three points are made:

Japan was approaching American representatives in the Spring of 1945 regarding surrender. The main obstacle was U.S. insistence on Unconditional Surrender, which the Japanese interpreted as meaning the overthrow and possible execution of the Emperor. Japan wanted assurances that US would not result in the Emperor's death. The U.S. refused to make this assurance, prolonging the war. (Alperovitz, 409).

There was wide belief among U.S. war planners at the time, as seen in documents now available, that the Japanese would surrender, without invasion and without use of Atomic weapons, as soon as Russia declared war against Japan. This declaration was expected in early August. On August 6, the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On August 8, 1945, Russia declared war on Japan. On August 9, Nagasaki was bombed. A meeting of the Japanese war planners was called after the bombing of Hiroshima but that meeting did not occur till August 9, at which time the notice of Russian intent and the Nagasaki bombing was taken. Some of the leaders in the Japanese military still wanted to fight due to the Unconditional Surrender terms. The Emperor made the final decision to surrender, but even then the terms Japan agreed to on August 10 differed from the terms offered by the U.S. in that they retained the sovereign nature of the Emperor. (Alperovitz, 417).

Finally, the idea that an invasion of Japan would be necessary to secure Japan's surrender, and that such an invasion would cost hundreds of thousands of American lives was also not seriously believed by most American war planners. No invasion was planned for prior to November of 1945. Invasion would not have been possible prior to this date. This was long after the Russian declaration of war on Japan was expected, a declaration most U.S. military planners assumed would force Japan to surrender. No such invasion was expected by U.S. planners to be necessary. (Alperovitz, 363)

Now, sixty years later, we are engaged in Monday Morning Quarterbacking, most of us only slightly better educated about the subject beyond what we learned in high school. But what about Monday Morning Quarterbacking of a little better quality? The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, in 1946, concluded that "certainly prior to 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." (Alperovitz, 645)

Finally, this little essay took way too long to write, so I saved it and will probably post it anywhere this stuff is discussed from now on.

 
At 6:20 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

To Terry:

1. Actually, I'm not making the argument that civilians can't be bombed, but that they should not be the focus of a bombing.

Good, because the civilians were not the focus of the bombing; the military components within & at the edges of the two cities were the focus of the bombing.

2. I'm not the only one to suggest that Hiroshima was a questionable target. Either way, though, the rule says "objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable." This was not the case as the historians in the link above remind us that "the Enola Gay bombardier's instructions were to target the bomb on the center of this civilian city."

See my answer below #3. Keep in mind that the targets, Hiroshima, Nagasaki & the military components contained within them, were legitimate military objectives & I assume identifiable in the sense that the U.S. had intelligence that they were there.

3. You're right. Negligence wasn't the cause. It was an intentional targeting of civlians. Deaths caused by the bombing itself (as opposed to residual effects) dropped off dramatically after about 3.5 miles. Sighting the factories at the edge of the city could have saved numerous lives.

You say the factories were located at the “edge of the city.” I assume you’ve researched that fact & so will not dispute its veracity. I ask you only to imagine that you are the U.S. commander at the time. You have a number of targets on the “edge of the city” – how best to damage them all? Terry, do you see where I’m headed? Yes, drop the bomb, of which you have a limited supply, right smack in the middle.

"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."

But Truman did not know that the Japanese were going to surrender soon – he knew otherwise. The trouble with the “official government report” put out just after the war ended that you quote in bold font is that the issuers of that report did not have access to the recently released information I steered you to in my last comment. But Truman did have access to it & made his decision accordingly. It seems pointless to keep clinging to the belief that the Japanese were desperate to surrender or about to surrender when we now know for certain that before the bombs were dropped they were nowhere near to surrendering. Even the “official government report” postulates perhaps several more months of fighting – from August until December. What about all the Japanese & Americans & others who would presumably die within that hypothetical time frame? But it’s really a moot question since we now know the report issuers did not know the full story.

I think it was admirable that Truman, Eisenhower, MacArthur & probably many other American leaders agonized about the bomb. It is truly a testament to their moral fiber & to yours, too. But Truman was the only one of the three who knew of the intercepted Japanese communications. It was withheld from mere generals, so they can be excused for their ignorance.

While I admit that the report goes on to defend the use of the atomic weapons because their demoralizing effect on the populace, I would say again that that's basically terrorism.

Any demoralizing effect was directed toward the Emperor & the Japanese High Command, not the general Japanese populace – who had absolutely no say in the conduct of the war. The Japanese populace of that time were not like Western populaces of this time – who have a voice in their government & can recall their leaders. You are entitled to your opinion but the facts are that it was a time of declared war & the operation was directed by a legitimate government using military combatants to destroy military targets. In my mind that’s very far from any definition of terrorism that I could accept. I cannot bring myself, no matter how I study the facts, to equate it with the London atrocities or 9/11.

Terry, as an aside let me add that I too am saddened on those occasions when my country deviates from the high moral values our history bestows on us. Our consolation should be that those instances are comparatively few & that we have democratic mechanisms with which to orchestrate corrections & attempt to make amends.

 
At 6:37 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

To ryogam:

I realize the toil involved in constructing a well-researched comment such as yours but documents in the public domain after 1995 make Gar Alperovitz’s book obsolete. Also, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey did not know of these documents when they issued their report just after the war. If I were you I would not delete your work from wherever it is saved but instead revise it to reflect the latest developments.

 
At 7:25 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Ryogam said...

Are there any books you can suggest?

 
At 7:43 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

tgibbs said...

Ben said: Considering how many civilians were murdered or enslaved by both the Germans and the Japanese previous to their respective surrenders, dropping the two bombs on Japan was an act of mercy. We could have invaded and killed 10-20 times more.

To which tgibbs replied: So now "we could have done worse" is a justification. Certainly, we could have killed more noncombatants in an invasion, but probably only if we chose to intentionally target civilians. In any case, the primary point being made is that it is a false dichotomy to frame the issue as a choice between the rapid-succession bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or a conventional invasion. Other options that have been mentioned include:

Yes, I think “we could have done worse” is very good rebuttal, especially since you have been saying all along that the U.S. could have done better. By the way, the quote in bold font is mere speculation. Thanks to Truman & his fateful & totally correct decision, the U.S. did not have to invade, so we’ll never know for sure(thank God). But when the Blame America Club(BAC) speculates I notice they always speculate in the direction of what the BAC thinks would be the worse behavior. It is reveals a hatred of America when you constantly slime the U.S. & use speculation as your weapon. You would be much better off if you would try to keep your canards attuned to the facts – but I realize that would make it so much more difficult – after all, it’s so easy to sneer.

1. A "demonstration" bombing (without notice of date and time if there was really a genuine fear that the bomb designs that worked in tests would fail in practice).

2. Bombing directed toward a more exclusively military target, or at least the outskirts, rather than the center of Hiroshima.

3. A longer interval between the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to give the emperor and military leadership more time to absorb the implications.

4. Some kind of negotiated settlement, perhaps in combination with one of the above.


Tgibbs, I can see you now on the deck of the Titanic: Deck chairs, champagne bottles, screaming passengers & crew members would be sliding down the steeply inclining deck past you toward the cold Atlantic but you would be hanging onto a stanchion, musing, “If only we had turned starboard.” All the above ‘numbered’ points are also speculation & impractical second-guessing.

And I see not even a hint of a ‘there are no innocents’ sentiment in Ben’s comment. It’s more like an ‘innocents were saved’ statement. Also, please don’t use double quotes unless you are quoting actual words from a comment. It gives your slurs too much of an air of legitimacy – another shady tactic of which you are fond.

Yes, one can rationalize that perhaps none of these would have worked. Perhaps not, but the point is that none of them were tried. Nobody seemed to worry too much that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would fail to compel unconditional surrender, and that we would have killed all of those noncombatants for nothing. Even if lesser measures failed, it would not necessarily have necessitated a conventional invasion, because the option of nuclear attack would have remained (even if we had to build another bomb or two).

In regards to the font above in bold: Actually at least 3 of our highest leaders agonized about using the bomb but the BAC never passes up a chance to smear American leaders. The fact is that the bombs did compel surrender & that is what really chaps you, isn’t it?

Note that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the people responsible for "civilians [who] were murdered or enslaved by both the Germans and the Japanese." They couldn't even be said to be complicit in the minor sense of having elected their leaders. It is sad to see US apologists resorting to this kind of "there are no innocents" reasoning, which is one of the favorite rationalizations of terrorist murderers.

Ben never said the civilians were culpable – you’re putting words into his mouth, but I’m not surprised – you constantly ‘see’ things that are not there.

 
At 8:18 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

To Ryogam:

The first thing I would suggest is the article by Richard B. Frank here:
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/894mnyyl.asp?pg=2.

It is a long & comprehensive piece & completely destroys tgibbs’s cockeyed theories on the subject.

Frank has also written a book on the subject: Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire that is available through Amazon.

 
At 9:43 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous Ryogam said...

Good article, I will need to get the book. I'm not totally convinced for the very fact that Alperovitz uses MAGIC intercepts as well. He notes on page 233 a July 12 cable intercepted by the U.S. from Togo to Sato(in Moscow) "We are presently giving consideration to the termination of the war due to pressing concerns which confront Japan both at home and abroad. His majesty the Emperor, mindful of the facts that the present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it be quickly terminated." The main obsticle was that "so long as England and United States insist upon unconditional surrenderthe Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on with all the strength for the honor and existence of the Motherland."

He also included on page 412 an August 3 MAGIC report of an intercepted FM Togo message to AM Sato made on August 2. "The second half [of the message] contains the first statement to appear in the traffic that the Japanese Army is interested in the effort to end the war with Soviet Assistance."

Now, to me, again, this suggests an alternative to dropping the atomic bombs which could and probably should have been persued. Remember, Japan did not "Unconditionally Surrender," as we demanded, and the Emporer was not tried and executed for war crimes, which is what I believe the Japanese feared most. This is why, I think, negotiated surrender was imperative to them, a negotiated surender that protected the Emporer. I don't know, but I will difinately try to get the book you mentioned to see it contains any additional information.

 
At 9:54 PM, August 08, 2005, Anonymous thedragonflies said...

John Moulder, Thanx for directing the thread to the Frank article and his book. The revisionist history that posits that the Japanese were trying to surrender, that they felt their cause was hopeless, and that the U.S. and Truman knew the Japanese were in collapse and wanted to surrender is totally incorrect according to the latest evidence presented by Frank. The 1995 book did not have access to the recently release radio intercepts.

The Japanese plan was to force the Americans to invade and be part of the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of U.S. and Japanese. The theory was that the U.S. didn't have the stomach for such a slaughter and the U.S. public would force the government to negotiate a peace that left the Emperor in charge (not just a titular head) and leave the "gang of six" militarists, headed up by Togo in place along with the militarist structure that invaded China started the war with the U.S. in the first place.

It is worth remembering that a month before Hiroshima the U.S. had finished a two month long campaign in Okinawa and lost 50 thousand men, almost as many as all of Viet Nam. If the Japanese defended Okinawa that way, what on earth was in store for us in Japan itself?

The bombs shocked the emperor and convinced him of the folly of his underlings. He stepped in and directed them to surrender.

Truman dropped the bomb and it was a horrible, horrible thing, but it was the most humae thing to do in the long run. He ended the war and many hundreds of thousands of Japanese, Asian, and U.S. lives were saved.

The research that the alternative story (the Japanese wanted to surrender and the bombs were unnecessary) is incomplete and obsolete. The radical left pushed that story way back in the sixties as part of the disinformation and anti-American propaganda offensive of the Cold War on behalf of the Soviet Empire. It was false. It still is.

 
At 11:48 PM, August 08, 2005, Blogger Mike's America said...

At 12:03PM, one of the “anonymous” commenters said:

Regarding your absurd claim that the U.S. had "only two bombs" - which you confirmed via the infallible google:

Perhaps accurate information would merely upset you and your theories, but Harper Collins has just published a book with actual research on this topic (not simply googling the internet for rumors!) by a real journalist. Stephen Walker's "Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima" claims that the U.S. had several dozen bombs in readiness at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harper Collins, I would remind you, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and so hardly can be suspected of "liberal propaganda."


This book is getting plenty of exposure, but the only serious review I found was in the London Times (another Murdoch publication, so you know it can be trusted).
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-1709951_2,00.html

The following is from that review:

Stephen Walker’s Shockwave comes as something of a letdown. Walker is primarily a television producer and it shows. The book is a mass of cinematic cuts and hackish tension-building devices. It is also written — or, rather, overwritten — in the style of a lowbrow thriller with too many adjectives, adverbs and much vulgar character analysis. Also, I think the reader can grasp that this is a big story, so we can’t really be that interested in being told that the author was “shocked, disturbed, thrilled, appalled, entranced, amazed and deeply moved”. Yeah, yeah, get on with it. And, last, this is the first non- fiction book I have encountered without a contents page or an index. What is going on here?

The reviewer’s conclusion: Read Before the Fall-Out by Diana Preston “quietly at home, read Walker on a plane.”

Since the book does not have a table of contents or index, perhaps Anonymous could save us slackers some time and cite the page number which shows “the U.S. had several dozen bombs in readiness?” Should we define “readiness” here? Is this another example of defining the word “is?”

So until you provide that information to document that multiple bombs were available in August, perhaps you would like to retract use of the phrase “absurd claim.” You might also wish to retract the slur about “real journalists.” But I suppose you think that television producers are journalists and anyone presenting opinions contradicting yours are not.

 
At 12:00 AM, August 09, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

Ryogam, some of the MAGIC intercepts were released in a redacted form earlier than the latest revelations. Your author evidently used those in his book. But they did not tell the full story. Togo & Sato were not angling to negotiate a surrender merely to save the life & honor of their Emperor, their ploys were for much more than that. They also wanted the Emperor to have veto power on the policies of the occupational forces. Unconditional surrender? Hardly.

Excerpts from the Frank article:

The intercepts of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy messages disclosed without exception that Japan's armed forces were determined to fight a final Armageddon battle in the homeland against an Allied invasion. The Japanese called this strategy Ketsu Go (Operation Decisive). It was founded on the premise that American morale was brittle and could be shattered by heavy losses in the initial invasion.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry dispatched a message to the United States that day stating that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration, "with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler." This was not, as critics later asserted, merely a humble request that the emperor retain a modest figurehead role. As Japanese historians writing decades after the war emphasized, the demand that there be no compromise of the "prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler" as a precondition for the surrender was a demand that the United States grant the emperor veto power over occupation reforms and continue the rule of the old order in Japan. Fortunately, Japan specialists in the State Department immediately realized the actual purpose of this language and briefed Secretary of State James Byrnes, who insisted properly that this maneuver must be defeated.

Below is an excerpt on the cost, in regards to civilian casualties, of unnecessarily prolonging the war. If civilian casualties is what someone is really upset over then Truman’s decision was more humane than any of the ‘alternatives.’

This brings us to another aspect of history that now very belatedly has entered the controversy. Several American historians led by Robert Newman have insisted vigorously that any assessment of the end of the Pacific war must include the horrifying consequences of each continued day of the war for the Asian populations trapped within Japan's conquests. Newman calculates that between a quarter million and 400,000 Asians, overwhelmingly noncombatants, were dying each month the war continued. Newman et al. challenge whether an assessment of Truman's decision can highlight only the deaths of noncombatant civilians in the aggressor nation while ignoring much larger death tolls among noncombatant civilians in the victim nations.

Here Frank treats the notion of a Japan desperately seeking to surrender even more succinctly:

The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor.

Ryogam, get Frank’s book. His style is a little dry & technical for my taste but since you are very interested in the subject you would probably be able to slog through it with no problem. The article, which neo-neocon linked to in her first post on the subject, is enough for me.

 
At 1:10 AM, August 09, 2005, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> If Iran or some other jihadist regime develops a nuclear weapon I think it is more likely that they would use surrogates like bin Laden to inflict the damage than to come at the U.S. head-on. I’m trying to imagine what I would do if I had their viewpoint. I think I would give the weapon to one of the terror groups. That way no one could prove who did it & the likelihood of retaliation on me would be much less.

This is why I believe we need to make it clear that "We will presume that NoKo and Iran are to be held jointly responsible if there is any nuke used on US/Coalition soil (let the appeasers of Europe worry about themselves), and that if such happens they can expect to be brought out of power, and summarily bereft of life, in very short order, with no further questions asked or defenses allowed. In case you doubt our intent, consider Iraq and Afghanistan."

 
At 1:19 AM, August 09, 2005, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> That is why the Allies used fire and nuclear bombing of civilian population centers in WWII, and the success of that strategy has been a lesson that our enemies of today have taken very much to heart.

Well, now, nothing like a bit of revisionsism to make things all spiffy in the anti-american front, eh, what?

Here's the history of indiscriminate bombing:

1) Germany bombs the UK in the "Battle of Britain" primary target: military airfields

2) UK nearly collapses attempting to maintain its air capability under the constant German bombardment.

3) a single UK bomber run inadvertently drops its load(s) on a German city.

4) Hitler, outraged, orders all subsequent bombing to be directed at civilian targets in London.

5) Britain is saved, as, although the death toll in London is severe, it allows the UK's air arm to repair the runways and redevelop as needed

In other words, the indiscriminate bombing was started by Hitler in retaliation for an accidental bombing in Germany... not the Allies.

Japan likely would have followed suit, except that they didn't really have any place within range that was worth the trouble.

 
At 1:30 AM, August 09, 2005, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> We have reached a distance in time such that we are able to admit that the use of biological warfare against our own native American population was wrong,

I'm not going to really go into this tinfoil BS too much, but I'll address this one point:

In case you didn't know it (I'm sure you didn't) the germ theory of disease was just being seriously proposed at the time this so-called "biowarfare" was occurring, and no one took it really seriously for another 20-odd years. Kinda hard to promote the dissemination of germs you don't believe in the existence of.

 
At 1:38 AM, August 09, 2005, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> ... who defended our country like Kennedy, Carter, and Kerry

BWAAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahahaaa....

Kennedy f'ed up and got his boat blown out from under him, then painted himself as a couragious man instead of the semi-comptetent he was.

Carter was... ooooh... a bonehead on a submarine. Yeah, there's a man on the front lines of freedom...

And Kerry, well, 250-odd real soldiers who served with him don't seem to think too much of his service activities.

Needless to say, I'm not overly impressed with your citations about the illustrious military service of "recent" liberals...

If you want to cite a well-known liberal for his military service, you pretty much have to go for John McCain.

 
At 10:51 AM, August 09, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

We need to remember--walking in their shoes--that the decision makers of that era were either veterans of WW I, or had lived through it as adults.
The horrors of that war were beyond belief. And worse than that.
Kipling, for one simple example, had a poem warning, in metaphor, against the seances women in Britain were using to contact their men. You never knew what might come through, I guess.
Germany had started the war. The end of the war was an armistice, with German forces still on others' soil.
Germany wasn't BEATEN. They were stopped.
Those making decisions in WW II, which turned out to be worse than WW I, had in front of them in blood and despair and terror and wreckage the lesson of letting a ruthless agressor off with less than total, unequivocal defeat.
It was not going to happen again.
Remember the Morgenthau Plan? Germany was to be deindustrialized, returned to some pastoral version favored by the intellectuals who never worked on a farm. But, to get there, probably half the population would have starved to death. Maybe more.
It was a nutsy plan, but that people entertained it ought to tell us something about what they thought of the lesson they'd learned and how they HATED. And who of us can reproach them for the hate?

 
At 6:28 PM, August 09, 2005, Anonymous tgibbs said...

In other words, the indiscriminate bombing was started by Hitler in retaliation for an accidental bombing in Germany... not the Allies.

This is true, but I don't see the relevance. We weren't talking about "indiscriminate bombing," we were talking about fire and nuclear bombing of cities that produces massive civilian casualties. In any case, being morally superior to Nazi Germany isn't much of an accomplishment, so "the Nazi's started it" is a pretty lame excuse. Moreover, the Nazis never achieved the massive civilian casualties of the Allied firebombings of Germany (about 40,000 vs. 400,000).

 
At 8:27 PM, August 09, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

Tgibbs keyed this: This is true, but I don't see the relevance. We weren't talking about "indiscriminate bombing," we were talking about fire and nuclear bombing of cities that produces massive civilian casualties. In any case, being morally superior to Nazi Germany isn't much of an accomplishment, so "the Nazi's started it" is a pretty lame excuse. Moreover, the Nazis never achieved the massive civilian casualties of the Allied firebombings of Germany (about 40,000 vs. 400,000).

In tgibbs world it’s never important or relevant who starts things or who is morally superior because he belongs to the Blame America Club & the primary objective is to paint as bad a portrait of America as possible. For the BAC any defense of America is “lame.” Tgibbs will prate with an empty head about the ethical ascendancy of the Nazis, the Nazis mind you, over the Allies in WW2 & not be able to comprehend the absurdity of such prattle. There was never a war more clear-cut in its moral imperatives but such realities do not encroach upon tgibbs’s fantasy-history. Tgibbs, who seeks(but ludicrously fails) to project an aura of intellectualism, doesn’t even know how to use double quotes. When I’m not laughing I want to retch.

 
At 12:31 PM, August 10, 2005, Anonymous Jim said...

At 12:06 PM, Terry said...
Isn't terrorism defined as the killing of noncombatants in order to influence the policies of a government or society? How did your getting "mugged by reality" on 9/11 convince you that the killing of civilians was OK as long as we were the ones doing the killing? "

Civilians are not necessarily noncombatant, especially in a case of total war where the entire capacity of a nation is mobilized, and especially where Bushido is the national ideology. Of course there are innocents in war, but it is simply rhetorical sleight of hand to equate civilians to noncombatants. Sometimes civilians are noncombatants, and sometimes they are citizens.

Traditionally civilians were exempted for slaughter not because they were somehow innocent of their rulers' decisions to pursue their own little squabbles, but because they were too valuable as the means of production to be killing wantonly. Civilians and their cities were often the spoils of war and killing them off was stupid in the way that killing rustled cattle is stupid. You get hints of this thinking as far back as Sun Zi, when he advises commanders to attempt to turn rather than annihilate enemy soldiers - soldiers! - because of their obvious value.

 
At 5:03 AM, August 11, 2005, Blogger M. Simon said...

If a demo bomb would have done the trick why did it take two bombs to get the Japs to surrender?

Or as one wag put it: One bomb - not enough. Two bombs - too many.

 
At 7:03 AM, August 11, 2005, Blogger M. Simon said...

jim,

If the civilians didn't want to be bombed all they needed to do was surrender.

That goes for Germany as well as Japan.

BTW precision bombing in WW2: the CEP on average was 3 miles.

What kinds of targets are amenable to destruction by bombs given a CEP of 3 miles?

Cities.

 
At 1:37 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

It's amazing what some of the comments are in this post. How in God's name do you think Japan would have surrendered if we dropped a nuke on cows? We torched their industrial grid and the population who were engaged in supporting total war and what was the effect? They did not surrender. Now it seems obvious that the estiamted force to take Japan if we landed, 1 million plus, is inconsequential to many of the commenters here. Equivocating a Japanese life with that of an American is naive and dangerous. Has Japan formally apologized for the attrocities it committed against allies and civilians in HAWAII, China, the Pacif Rim? Nope. Kudos to Truman for his unaplogetic approach decision to level Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While as much of a moral and gut wrenching decision it was for him to make, those actions saved the lives of Americans. Americnas, floks! But most apologists in this post can't see that. Staggering! Great post. Great Blog!

 
At 4:24 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

Perhaps accurate information would merely upset you and your theories, but Harper Collins has just published a book with actual research on this topic (not simply googling the internet for rumors!) by a real journalist. Stephen Walker's "Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima" claims that the U.S. had several dozen bombs in readiness at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harper Collins, I would remind you, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and so hardly can be suspected of "liberal propaganda."

a) "Claims" is still the operative word. Considering that I have been interested in this topic for about 35 years, and this is the very FIRST I've ever heard of such a claim, you'll understand I withhold any particular faith in the notion.

First off, every previous account I have been exposed to claims otherwise... and puts the amount of available material at 3 to 4 bombs, one of which was used at Trinity.
Second, I do grasp enough of the techniques to comprehend that a mass amount itself with mid-40s tech is unlikely. The techniques used were radically new, developed solely for the purpose of producing this weapon, and had no purpose at that point outside the production of the weapon -- never before had anyone tried to isolate chemical isotopes from one another, esp. not in any quantity.
Thirdly, there is the canister, the existence of which only makes sense if the stuff is in short supply -- there was a large concrete reinforced cannister built in the midwest, and shipped out there to Trinity. Purpose? In case the explosion was a "mostly" dud -- i.e., if the chemical explosives went off, but the nuclear reaction did not take hold -- the bomb was dropped into this cannister, the purpose of which was to help retain the material together as much as possible and make the reconstruction easier. This thing was huge (it may have been the largest single object ever transported by rail -- certainly it was at the time), preposterously heavy, and makes no sense at all if there was enough material available to make a dozen or more.

b) Murdoch is not above publishing/distributing something which is clearly crap but which he knows people will buy. Look at Fox and "American Idol". One need not presume liberal bias to still presume this thing has no merit in the eyes of anyone with a clue.

 
At 1:18 PM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous Montie said...

OK, I've not been back to check this thread since my first three comments, but having checked back today I am thoroughly amazed at some of the things I've seen written here.

To cut through all the crap, I'll just say that looking through the intervening 60 years of hindsight may make alternatives to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem viable to those on the left, but analysis in the light of the moment in time when the decision was made and the bombs were dropped, without including ANY information and analysis which was not available at the time, leads one to conclude that there were in fact NO viable alternatives other than the one of choosing among the 3 or 4 other cities which had also been spared heavy bombing, as sites for deployment.

One commentor mentioned that a recent work published by Harper-Collins makes the claim that at the time the bombs were used that we had dozens of bombs available. This is a patently false and unsupportable claim that is totally at odds with every other source of information that has ever been published regarding the development and deployment of the two bombs used, including numerous first person accounts of the scientists who built the bombs, the Naval personnel who transported the components, and the Air Corps personnel charged with deployiing them. Just because ONE new source makes a claim like this does not make it so. The amount of bomb grade Uranium 235 and Plutonium used for the test device and the two deployed bombs practically exhausted the readily available supply of enriched bomb grade materials, and it would have taken months of painstaking work to process enough to make more bombs.

In the mindset of the country at the time there was no room for "demonstrations", and as I stated before, the test device at Trinity was a static "proof of concept" test. Two different types of initiators were used in case one proved unsatisfactory, and if one did, then only one bomb would have been available for immediate use.

Some think we were too quick on the trigger in dropping the second bomb on Nagasaki.This too is false when viewed through the lense of August, 1945 and considering nothing learned since. While some of the Japanese hierarchy, led by the Emperor, considered surrender after the first bomb, the military leaders who actually controlled the country would have none of it. The timing of the second bomb was very deliberately considered. The US gave the Japanese leadership long enough to work on a surrender reply, but not so long as to appear that we were not committed to their collective annihilation if they refused for long.

In recent times many on the left have tried to make the US out as evil for choosing to drop the bombs, intimating that US casualties MIGHT not have been as bad as postulated in the lead up to invasion. WIth only what they knew at the time on the table, this is not supportable by any stretch of logic. Casualty estimates were based on the hard cold facts of immediate experience. In a day and age when the loss of 14 of our finest Marines, all from the same unit, and in a single engagement, brings a collective gasp of horror from the entire Nation, it is hard to grasp the impact of the huge numbers of casualties we were taking daily in WWII. Combat actions in WWII often might result in only 14 marines SURVIVING out of a single unit following a single engagement.

The Japanese were right about one thing. If they could cause enough casualties and drag things out long enough we might give up and offer terms in spite of how badly we were beating them. The problem was that they were 60 years ahead in their thinking, of a couple of generations of American "moonbats" being born and entering into the political discourse. It most likely wouldn't have worked in 1945.

Oddly enough I saw some interviews of some Japanese civilians on television last night, who were actually thankful for the dropping of the bombs, including one man who lost a brother and mother to one of the bombs. The consensus among them was that the bombs hastened the end of the war and avoided a protracted invasion and pacification, that probably would have resulted in their own deaths.

 

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