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Thread: Did the nuclear bombing of Japan help end the war, or were other reasons involved?

  1. #1 Did the nuclear bombing of Japan help end the war, or were other reasons involved? 
    Forum Junior Double Helix's Avatar
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    It seems with each passing year, more people believe that the two fission bombs dropped on Japan were not needed to end the war. The enemy was defeated they insist, and would soon submit to unconditional surrender as outlined by the Allies. They retain this opinion despite the massive carpet bombing of Japanese cities by huge air raids from B-29s. These raids had destroyed most of their major cities throughout 1944-45, yet not a word was heard from Japan about bringing an end to the war.

    Others insist that the Japanese were intent on continuing the war, hoping to inflict enough casualties that the Allies would sue for peace on terms more acceptable to Japan. Were they intent on seeing untold millions perish in a hellish war of attrition? Reports indicate they had built and retained thousands of Kamikaze planes to severely damage the invasion fleet which would be required to invade the Japanese home islands. They had also taught nearly all able-bodied civilians, including very young boys and girls, to fight to the death, with sharpened bamboo poles as weapons.

    Was the use of these new weapons only meant to end the war? Or could the reason be manifold, such as finding out the level of damage such weapons could cause to a city, and perhaps send a message to the Soviets that nuclear weapons gave the West a new technology against the threat of communist domination?

    What is the real story behind that most remarkable end to the Empire of Japan, and the use of these terrible new weapons?


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    Samurai of Logic Falconer360's Avatar
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    There's a lot to unpack here, but even as soon as 1946 it had been determined that the use of the atomic bombs were not necessary for the surrender of Japan.

    The 1946 Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that "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."

    Robert McNamara, who later became Secretary of Defense under Kennedy, has even stated that he believes that the atomic bombs were not necessary. He was one of the people who created the firebombing strategy, which killed about 100,000 people in Tokyo alone on the night of March 9, 1945, and destroyed 31 square miles of the city. He felt that even if we had just continued that strategy, Japan would have surrendered shortly. The low level nighttime firebombing raids were overall far more successful than most people realize.

    Realistically Japan was doomed to lose by mid 1945 no matter what. An invasion was not necessary. I mean basically every city of theirs was wiped out, they were blockaded, and starving. I think it likely that they would have surrendered within a few months.

    I think that a major aspect of using the two atomic bombs was a combination of wanting to try out our new toy to see how much carnage it can actually inflict on people and wanting to show off to the Soviets (and really the world at large) that we have weapons of this level and we will use them against anyone who tries to go to war with us. Going along with this, I'm sure they also wanted to hasten the defeat of Japan before the Soviets could get further involved and gain more spoils of war for themselves.


    "For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." Hunter S Thompson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Falconer360 View Post
    There's a lot to unpack here, but even as soon as 1946 it had been determined that the use of the atomic bombs were not necessary for the surrender of Japan.
    You really have a lot more of the picture than I expected to find from anyone here. However, I hold the contrarian view.

    There is little doubt, based on transcripts of the time, that the top military leaders of Japan had no intention to surrender, which is why they moved massive numbers of troops into Kyushu, the first Island the allies were to invade. Several hundred thousand were sent there in the summer of 1945 to prepare for the invasion. Of course we knew about this from recon flights. Not exactly the actions of a nation on the brink of collapse, or surrender.

    Moreover, the Japanese, even after Little Boy had detonated and their own physicists told them it was a nuclear weapon, they continued with fruitless requests for Moscow to intervene to help with a peace less than unconditional. The first bomb did not seem to impress them, a sad decision for those living in Nagasaki.

    And it it most revealing that the Emperor of Japan, who forced the military to accept surrender, broadcast to the nation that they must accept the terms of surrender. He specifically noted in this speech that "The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives." Such comments highly suggest that the nuclear bombings did indeed have the desired result. Adding to this conclusion was an attempt by a number of military forces trying to steal the record of surrender before it could be broadcast. Surrender was simply not in their code of honor.

    So it seems possible that we got a three-fer out of this one. "Testing" such combat bombs on a cities in wartime. Forcing them to capitulate or face total annihilation of the Japanese home lands. And letting the Soviets and all other potential aggressors know that America was not to be trifled with.

    Fortunately none of them knew we only had two bombs at that time. Dropping any more would have required two weeks or so. Groves should have ordered more sooner. We would not have wanted the world to know of any limitation which might have been suggested by a major delay in dropping a third or fourth bomb, if they still refused to capitulate.

    Finally, it seems that Hirohito was the only one who would make the call on surrendering. The military was not likely to do it on their own. However, it must be admitted that other pressures on the military may provide a different angle. There may have been politicians and industrialists making the call too.
    Last edited by Double Helix; February 5th, 2021 at 04:49 PM.
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    Samurai of Logic Falconer360's Avatar
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    Honestly, I can respect this opinion on this subject. Despite it being 76 years in the past, the surrender of Japan is still a difficult situation to assess.

    Obviously, I lean in the opposite direction with my opinion, and I don't claim to be right since all we can do is speculate.

    Anyways, I agree that the Japanese military wouldn't have surrendered on their own, but I believe that if we had kept up the blockade, and continued the fire bombing tactics, which killed more people than the atomic bombs, the Emperor of Japan would have forced the military to surrender. Although in that route, I'm sure that many more Japanese citizens would have been killed either through firebombing or starvation. Basically I think there would have been a tipping point where the Emperor said enough was enough, but I think it could have lead to much higher civilian casualties for Japan.

    In the end though I think it is as you said, the idea of being able to accomplish that trifecta of goals out of this is ultimately why we used both atomic bombs as we did. Even if it wasn't necessary for the Japanese to surrender it definitely hastened their defeat.

    Even if we had ended up dropping a third or fourth bomb a few weeks later, it would simply have been spun as the US attempting to give Japan a chance to surrender. "We hoped that they would surrender after two atomic bombs, and we really didn't want to use the third that we totally had the whole time. We were just hoping that they would see that continuing the war was futile." Something along those lines.


    "For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." Hunter S Thompson

    "It is easy to kill someone with a slash of a sword. It is hard to be impossible for others to cut down"
    - Yagyu Munenori

    "Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it."
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    Forum Junior Double Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falconer360 View Post
    I'm sure that many more Japanese citizens would have been killed either through firebombing or starvation. Basically I think there would have been a tipping point where the Emperor said enough was enough, but I think it could have lead to much higher civilian casualties for Japan.
    This aspect is without doubt. If the fission bombs had not worked, or were not deployed, it is almost certain that many millions of Japanese would have died from continuous conventional bombing raids, at least without intervention from the Emperor. Allied Bomber Command, with the full support of U.S. and British politicians, would have destroyed as much of their troop concentrations and infrastructure before one allied boot set foot on the main islands. Civilians casualties would have soared as well.

    It may sound cruel, but the Japanese Bushido "code of honor" was their worst enemy. It seems quite likely that the two nuclear bombs spared the lives of millions. This of course assumes that one agrees that unconditional surrender was the only acceptable approach to ending the war.

    In the end, that was the defining factor for using the bombs. To bring a rapid and final end to a long and bloody war, against an extremely hostile enemy who had repeatedly shown every intention to destroy all who stood in the their way, or die trying.
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    Samurai of Logic Falconer360's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Helix View Post
    It may sound cruel, but the Japanese Bushido "code of honor" was their worst enemy. It seems quite likely that the two nuclear bombs spared the lives of millions. This of course assumes that one agrees that unconditional surrender was the only acceptable approach to ending the war.
    Not cruel at all as the version of Bushido that was touted during WWII by the Japanese Military was a bastardized version of the historical Bushido. It was just propaganda (successful propaganda) to inspire their citizens to give their lives to the cause. The idea that a person was indebted to their nation due to their birth in it and therefore they must return the debt through their exertion a core part of this revised Bushido of the 1930s and 1940s. That idea wasn't part of the classic Bushido from the Tokugawa Era or the Eras previous. Which is ironic since the militarized Bushido that was enforced during the pre-WWII and WWII era, was presented as a return to traditional values. Not saying that if they had enforced their "true" or historic Bushido they would have won, just that this propaganda version didn't help them at all in the end. If they hadn't been so resistant to surrendering, they probably could have brokered conditional surrender.
    "For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." Hunter S Thompson

    "It is easy to kill someone with a slash of a sword. It is hard to be impossible for others to cut down"
    - Yagyu Munenori

    "Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it."
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  8. #7  
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    for me 2 major reason: (1) chance to test out a new toy; & (2) a warning to Soviet Union

    no one will complain
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