|The Enola Gay, mission completed, was returning to base. [co-pilot] Lewis sought words to express his feelings, the feeling of all the crew. “I might say”, he wrote, “I might say ‘My God!’ What have we done?”1
On August 6th, 1945, a weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, was carried by the Enola Gay and dropped on Hiroshima killing hundreds of thousands and wounding even more, all in the name of war. The scenery of death, a thick cloud of smoke and an “awesome roar which warned of dooms day”2 was all that was left of Hiroshima. A marked event in history which led United States President Harry Truman to rule that a second atomic bomb was needed three days later, on Nagasaki. An unjustified move indeed. Harry Truman, who was President at that time, bears full responsibility for the decision. Many claims by Harry Truman and other government officials were that the atomic bombs were used to “save half a million American lives” and provoke surrender from Japan in the most time and cost effective ways. However, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not a necessity to end the Pacific war because of Japan’s willingness to negotiate a conditional surrender, other viable steps in negotiation could have taken place, and because other military routes instead of bombing were possible.
The use of the atomic bomb appears to be a useful tool to a small extent, instilling fear in the Japanese in order to compel their surrender. It is hard to say if any other weapons or methods could have taken the place of the atomic bombs in compelling Japan’s surrender. Japan was stubborn and bent on fighting to the bitter end, thinking their brutal attacks would drive the Allies home. Author of MacArthur’s ULTRA: Code breaking and the War against Japan, Edward J. Drea exclaims that “Tokyo’s aim was to inflict such damage and casualties on the attackers that the Allies would be convinced of the futility of further fighting and of the wisdom of negotiated peace.”3 However, Japan was willing to surrender.
There were many advocates for this surrender from Japanese government officials to civilian peace feelers, but the USA did not respond so willingly. This initiative could have ended the war in a more diplomatic way than by using the atomic bomb. There has been ample speculation of the term “unconditional surrender” and its involvement in the Potsdam Proclamation. The Japanese Government from the Emperor Hirohito to the Moscow Ambassador Sato tried to negotiate surrender. In a message sent from Foreign Minister Togo to Japan’s Ambassador of Moscow, Sato, explains on July 11th 1945 that “it is His Majesty’s heart’s desire to see the swift termination of the war”4. As the Emperor was willing to negotiate some form of surrender, the Pacific war could have expired in a different way. As shown by the efforts of Sato and Togo, government officials tried to negotiate some form of surrender through the Soviet Union. The Japanese were entrenched on preserving their government, Emperor, and way of life. Supposedly the Japanese people, as a consummate of over 100 million, were going to commit national suicide in the name of their Emperor.5 While this statement was only speculation it was very clear in history that the war in the Pacific was being dragged along by Japanese military extremists. The government was having trouble controlling their military leaders, but nevertheless Japan wanted to see an end to the war before more bloodshed continued.6 The only way for the Japanese to commit severe damage against the Allied forces was to commit personal sacrifice in a desperate last defence of the mainland.7 Some of these extreme measures that were supposedly being undertaken were that Japanese civilian children also called “Sherman carpets”8 were going to strap themselves with explosives and throw themselves under tanks and other enemy machinery or artillery, all to try to convince the Allies to reach peace.9
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) the United States government are members of the Truman administration and basically military advisors to the president. The JCS did not believe Japan would surrender by any ordinary means, and so moved to take the extraordinary measures of dropping two atomic bombs.10 “The Joint Chiefs ‘saw no prospect of surrender until the army leaders acknowledged defeat’ either actual or through the realization that the military’s survival was at stake.”11 Ordinarily the Japanese would have surrendered through an invasion that would result in absolute military defeat, or by a significant shock that would terrorize Japan into surrendering. Only one of these methods was needed to take place but President Truman believed at the time that if surrender could not be accomplished by ordinary means, something unordinary needed to replace it. Certainly an atomic bomb was unordinary enough to suffice for this problem.
The events that unfolded on August 6th provided a significant shock of military power and presence however other alternatives such as conventional bombings or a land invasion were not looked at. Whether or not any of these other alternatives would have been effective was questionable, however, the bomb itself was a guarantee. This was a logic Truman took in making his decision, and he also thought he would be saving lives in the end. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson states:
“To extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisers, they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the empire. Such an effective shock would save many times the number of lives, both American and Japanese, than it would cost.”12
These actions showed the Japanese that the USA would stop at nothing, unleashing their power in any form to end the war, even if it meant the end of Japan. Therefore the Emperor had no other choice than to surrender, a realization not only the Emperor. Yet the question is still raised as to why the Japanese did not surrender after the first atomic bomb was dropped. It seems more probable that the Japanese did not relent in order to perpetuate their way of life, and felt that even after the first bomb was dropped the Emperor was still substantially more important. What about the conventional bombings over Tokyo, in which over 100 000 men, woman, and children were killed in one day?13 This is more than comparable to the Hiroshima bomb, and is a sufficient enough shock that should have shown Americas military might and have created capitulation. Therefore, maybe another fire bombing raid three days after the last fire bombing raid, would have convinced Japan to surrender. Is it also plausible, according to the Strategic Bomb Survey that Japan would have surrendered before the end of the year 1945.14 Foreign Minister Togo states to Japan’s Ambassador to Moscow Sato, “as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender, our country has no alternative but to see it [the war] through in an all-out effort”. Japan will not surrender if there is any doubt that their Emperor will be in jeopardy, thus creating two options: to create an influential proposition for the safety of Japan’s Emperor, or to take the other extreme and demolish them completely. It is clear which decision the USA took as they believed it the only way to force surrender. Yet Japan did not go down without effort, they took initiative through Russia to aid in the negotiations:
His Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated.15
This message from Foreign Minister Togo to Ambassador Sato in Moscow is implicitly stating that Japan seeks conditional surrender. If, at the least, Japan was willing to negotiate some form of surrender then it is not possible for the atomic bombs to have been necessary because there were other approaches to ending the war. The United States did not consider all possible alternatives, or humane actions, and Japan’s effort, as shown by Foreign Minister Togo, is more than enough to prove that peace was attainable, and bloodshed was avoidable.
Through any other means Japan would not surrender. Whether it has been the conventional bombings, the Allied blockade, or defeat in the Pacific, these situations would not have persuaded the Japanese military and government to submit to the United States. Therefore the destructive power of the atomic bomb would have been a glimpse of death for the Japanese in which surrender would be inevitable.
It was thought that the effects of the bomb on such a target would make the maximum impression on the military and civilian rulers of Japan. Any more sparing course was deemed by Stimson and his associates on the Interim Committee to involve a ‘…serious danger to the major objective of obtaining a prompt surrender from the Japanese.’16
This recommendation by the Interim Committee on June 1st was given to President Truman and reviewed. With this recommendation the atomic bombs seemed to be the strongest solution to create surrender from the Japanese without causing menacing consequences. However, within 24 hours after the second bomb was dropped, surrender was not immediate as there was still some procrastination before Japan surrendered. Therefore, the bombs that were used to ‘shock’ Japan into surrendering merely gave course to the inescapable that Japan would eventually surrender, and the atomic bombs were not necessary because of this.
If Japan was not willing to abdicate under any-other circumstances than the term “unconditional surrender” needed to be changed. One cannot even confirm that Japan would have surrendered if the term “unconditional surrender” was altered. Therefore it is easy to assume that the atomic bombs had to be dropped in order to end the war. However America demanded unconditional surrender which meant the removal or death of the Emperor, the Japanese were not willing to let this happen.
It is fair to say that in the 1940’s Americans did not have a purely indiscriminate view of the Japanese. America had prejudice and disfavour towards the Japanese because of the devastation created at Pearl Harbour. A hatred, which boiled in America’s heart and grew with a snowball effect, put pressure on the U.S. government to end the war. In July of 1945 a Gallup poll was taken and the people of America were asked if the Emperor should remain in power, have him jailed or exiled, or be executed under the war crimes act. The majority of American’s that participated in this poll, over one-third, chose the Emperor to be hanged where as only twenty percent wanted the Emperor to remain in power.17 Therefore, according to this pole, 80 percent of Americans wanted the Emperor dead or in jail, the Japanese had sense to not surrender. Therefore, with pressure mounting from the civilians of the USA, the atomic bomb had to be dropped. American’s, both government officials and civilians, could have made modifications to the term “unconditional surrender”, which would, in turn, have created cessation from the Japanese. In Japan at that time the Emperor was considered a deity, much like the Pope in Europe. Therefore, the attachment of the people to the Emperor was very strong and unbreakable.
“Should the Emperor system be abolished, they [the Japanese people] would lose all reason for existence. ‘Unconditional surrender’, therefore, means death to the hundred million; it leaves us no choice but to go on fighting to the last man.18
Prime Minister Suzuki stated the problem with unconditional surrender on June 9th, 1945 and made it apprehensible that Japan cannot and will not live without their Emperor. In other words, capitulation would have been highly probable if it was stated to the Japanese that the Emperor would have been left untouched. However, this was not the case and Japan felt that America was a threat to the Emperor; therefore Japan refused to surrender. Minister Togo states “as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender, our country has no alternative but to see if [the war] through in an all-out effort.”19 Togo tries to warn the Americans that if they do not change the meaning of “unconditional surrender” the war will end in an all out effort by the Japanese. This was what the Americans supposedly feared at that time. The question of why it was not a huge concern for America to let the Japanese know whether or not they could keep their Emperor is unknown. If American officials were more lenient in the way they wanted surrender from Japan, the Japanese would have succumbed. Consequently, America made their own decision not to change the meaning of the term “unconditional surrender”, and therefore did not use all possible alternatives to end the war. Furthermore, if the United States were only going to accept ‘unconditional surrender’, than the atomic bombs were necessary in creating that type of surrender. Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew states:
The greatest obstacle to unconditional surrender by the Japanese is their belief that this would entail the destruction or permanent removal of the Emperor and the institution of the Throne. If some indication can now be given the Japanese that they themselves, when once thoroughly defeated and rendered impotent to wage war in future, will be permitted to determine their own future political structure, they will be afforded a method of saving face without which surrender will be highly unlikely…20
If the Japanese were willing to commit national suicide out of honour and respect for the Emperor, than unconditional surrender was not an option. If the Japanese had trust in the United States that their Emperor would be unharmed, submission would be highly probable. However, appeasement would have been highly probable if it was stated to the Japanese that the Emperor would have been left untouched. Thus if the Japanese were willing to submit before the atomic bombs were used, it deems the bombs unnecessary. There were other ways in which to end the Pacific war than to drop the atomic bombs. However, any other alternative would have resulted in higher causality rates.
Hundreds of thousand of Japanese lives would have been lost whether the atomic bomb was dropped, or by any other alternative in the effort against the war. There were other alternatives to using the atomic bomb. However, just as many, or even more civilians would have died as a result. Such examples are the battle of Britain in which over 146,777 civilians were killed or seriously injured.21 Also the air-raids in Germany cost approximately 300,000 civilian lives, and injured almost 780,000 more.22 These examples all show the costly effects of conventional bombings. With a suppressing amount of causalities that would have come from conventional bombings the atomic bomb was necessary in order to prevent a longer war that costs more in money and possibly more in lives. However, it is not for certain that conventional bombings would have resulted in a higher death toll, and it was still another alternative to ending the war. Thus, if the conventional bombings could have ended the war, without changing the term total war, and… according to Historian Feis;
To secure the approval of senior Army officials to his accession to premier, Suzuki affirmed that Japan’s only course was to ‘fight to the very end’ even if it meant the death of 100 million Japanese.23
Prime Minister Suzuki was ready to sacrifice 100 million Japanese in order to save face. Japan’s military was extremely aggressive and was willing to fight to the death. In addition, this could have lead to even higher numbers than the casualties created using the atomic bombs, thus rendering the use of the bombs necessary. This is so because without a tremendous shock that would give a dying army death; Japan without hope. Any other alternative would end in thousands more killed on both sides of the enemy lines. However there were other viable alternatives than the use of the atomic bomb.
“the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey published its conclusion that Japan would have likely surrendered in 1945 without atomic bombing… and without American invasion.”24 If Japan was going to surrender within the next four months, according to the Strategic Bombing Survey, than the U.S. could have continued to blockade. This would have cut off Japan from all imports and exports, including food, raw materials and other basic needs thus starving Japan from the inside and giving the Japanese no hope but to surrender.
The atomic bomb was not the only way in which the Pacific war could have ended. If you look at Germany, there were no atomic bombs used, and the war was still won. However, the question of whether the atomic bomb was the best option in saving lives must be considered. Conventional bombings were one of other viable alternatives in creating surrender from Japan. Also the entry of the Soviet Union, and continuous blockade could have propelled Japan to surrender. General “Arnold opposed the bomb, pointing out to Truman and his advisers that Japan could be bombed into submission by B-29 attacks with incendiary bombs”25 Japan could be bombed to a point that the country would have no choice but to surrender. Thus proves the point that the atomic bomb was not the only option in ending the war. However, the bombing of Tokyo did not stop the war.
The fire bombings over Tokyo, in which about a hundred thousand Japanse were killed and an entire city was in ruin, did not stop the war.26 This meat that something substatial had to be done in order for the war to end. The atomic bomb seemed like a good option because it would show the Japanese the USA’s strength in the war, and thier options for the furture. Thus the atomic bomb was necessary.
As the war was proceeding, there were many other accounts that portrayed the future as it to have been even more deadly than the use of the atomic bombs. One case in particular was the conventional bombings over Tokyo. In one night over 100 000 Japanese men, woman, and children were killed.27 If these conventional bombings were killing more and over the amount killed as a result to the atomic bombs, than it renders the use of the bombs necessary in order to save lives.
However, the use of this particular bomb created new meaning to the term total war. William D. Leahy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated:
My own feeling is that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.28
The ethics of war have been in consistent change since the beginning of the human race. The droppings of the atomic bombs mark a new change in the ethical standard of war. What this leaves for future war is unprecedented, a new way to fight battles from underground bunkers to outer space civilization. Thus if one makes the broad assumption that the atomic bomb was the capital approach to ending the war, one must consider the impact and consequences the atomic bomb used in the 1940’s created for the next 40 years. On Aug. 8, 1945 Admiral William D. Leahy wrote in his diary: "there is a certainty that it [the a-bomb] will in the future be developed by potential enemies and that it will probably be used against us."29 As we are living in this time, we look back at history and realize that the cold war was a direct result from the use of the atomic bombs. Moreover, these alternatives did not necessarily include war, just patience.
The Soviet Union’s August 9th entry into the war would prompt the Japanese to surrender. With Germany surrendering, and the Soviet Union being Japan’s only neutrality, the entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war against Japan may have been the final push needed for Japan to succumb to the realization that a war against the world is like a war against one’s self, death is the result. The Joint Intelligence Committee provides an examination of how the extra intimidation of the U.S.S.R into the war would have been the turning point leading to Japan’s surrender.
The increasing effects of air-sea blockade, the progressive cumulative deevastation wroght by strategic bombing, and the collapase of Germany (with is implications regarding redeployment)… The entry of the U.S.S.R. into the war would together with the foregoing factors, convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete defeat 30
Thus, the predicted amount of casualties is debatable but with the conventional bombings and the air-sea blockade, Japan would have surrendered without making changes to the term total war and even possibly saving lives.
A continuous blockade of supplies would have destroyed Japan’s weapons making abilities and economic structure. If Japan could not eat or make weapons, this would have eventually indicated the surrender of Japan, whether voluntary or forced. What is meant by blockade is that America would surround the island of Japan and create a firewall or ‘blockade’ so no imports or exports could get through. This would have starved the Japanese from their livelihood, such as businesses, and eventually from food in which to eat. The Japanese would have been left with the option to surrender or face complete annihilation. U.S. Admiral William Leahy states:
My conclusion, with which the naval representatives agreed, was that America’s least expensive course of actions was to continue to intensify the air and sea blockade and at the same time continue to occupy the Philippines. I believed that a completly blockaded Japan would then fall by its own weight.31
U.S. Admiral William Leahy was Chief of Staff to President Franklin Roosevelt and President Harry Truman, and was the unofficial coordinator to the Joint Chief of Staff. He states that the air and sea blockade was sufficient enough in bringing about Japanese surrender. According to the Joint Intelligence Committee, Japan would have surrendered by the end of 1945, only four months after the atomic bombs were dropped.32 Moreover, even if Japan would have surrendered in the same year the bombs were dropped; there were other alternatives in ending the war. Thus there were other options to provoking surrender from Japan including conventional bombings, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, and an air-sea blockade. Furthermore, these options are just as viable as dropping the atomic bomb in creating surrender. However, although there were other alternatives, the atomic bomb was the least costly in lives.
The atomic bomb was a military necessity to end the war because it saved “half a million American lives”. The atomic bomb would have sanctified more lives than it killed, thus making it the most viable option in ending the war. It was estimated that about 132 000 American casualties (killed, wounded, and missing) would result from an invasion of Kyushu, the lower home island of Japan, and another 90 000 or so for Honshu where Tokyo is located.33 During the Okinawa battle there was about one American casualty for every four Japanese casualties which would be translated to over 528 000 Japanese casualties for an invasion of Kyushu. There was an estimate by the U.S. Sixth Army medical staff of over 98 500 Americans killed and 295 000 wounded for an invasion of Kyushu.34 If over two thirds of a million casualties would have been the result of an invasion of Japan, the atomic bombs were a better option. However, the evidence that over half a million Americans would have lost their lives is unreasonable, and can be directly contradicted.
Based on the Joint War Plans Committee that investigated the matter of casualties if a land invasion were to occur, the committee reported only 40 000 would be killed, 150 000 wounded, 3500 missing which is a total of 193 000 casualties.35 This is for an invasion of southern Kyushu. Only 40 000 killed was the estimate compared to 500 000. This estimate comes from a committee that was designed to give intelligence information on investigative studies, but this estimate was overlooked. Also the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) also estimated that an invasion of Japan would not be another Okinawa which resulted in nearly 50 000 American casualties by the end of June 1944. The JCS gave the estimate that an invasion of Kyushu would not exceed that of Luzon in which 31 000 casualties were killed.36 This estimate is also far from the 500 000 predicted. These two estimates came from the intelligence that the terrain in Kyushu would benefit the Americans, being flat and easily accessible. However, although this is speculated evidence, there were also concerns that an invasion would become another Okinawa.
Okinawa was the deadliest Pacific war battle. Truman, at that time, “hoped there was a possibility of preventing an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.”37 If another Okinawa happened that resulted in about one American death for every 4 Japanese, then the estimate of 500 000 casualties is accurate. Also there was a stronger probability that the atomic bomb casualty estimates were much more accurate compared to the debatable estimates of an invasion of Japan because the atomic bomb had been tested to find the area of destruction. However, what the military did not know was that the atomic bombs created heavy radiation that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths after the bomb was dropped.38
The Japanese were on the verge of military and social destruction before the atomic bombs were dropped, thereby rendering the use of the atomic bomb not a military necessity to end the war. The Japanese military morale was increasingly low and equipment was in short supply to continue fighting. If the atomic bombs were not dropped Japan would have surrendered because of the circumstances the Japanese were in, thus the will and ability to fight would have eventually been eliminated. Admiral William Leahy states:
…a Naval blockade was strangling Japan’s ability to import oil and other vital materials and its ability to produce war materials…by the beginning of September , Japan was almost completely defeated through a practically complete sea and air blockade.39
Admiral William Leahy states the “horrible” state the Japanese were enduring. If Japan was almost already defeated before the atomic bombs were dropped, then the question of whether the bombs were a military necessity is indeed appropriate. The Admiral William Leahy believed that Japan was strangled from supplies; if this was the case then Japan would not be able to continue fighting and would thus eventually surrender. Moreover, the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Joint Chief of Staff put it:
Due to the shortage of ocean shipping, Japan’s main rail lines are already overburdened while motor transportation is totally inadequate… Under these circumstances the Japanese “will” to continue war may be expected to weaken progressively… psychological effects upon the Japanese people as a whole will be most detrimental and will progressively undermine their confidence in victory or even confidence in the hope of avoiding complete and inevitable defeat.40
The Joint Intelligence Committee believed that Japan was in disarray, that the people were progressively becoming heart-pressed with how the war was ending.41 Again if the Japanese people that infamously were praised for their strong will to fight were becoming less confident... this would result in submission. The mental condition of the Japanese was brought upon by the colossal amount of casualties the people had to endure for a war most did not support.42 This psychological condition would have eventually lead to Japans inability to continue fighting with such a strong will that would have ultimately resulted in Japans surrender. Furthermore the intimidation brought upon by the United States also resulted in a weak morale of Japanese.
The Japanese lacked in military intelligence, and their abilities as a military power could not compare with that of the United States. The Japanese could not compete with the United States on a military or intellectual level; this would eventually lead to Japans defeat. Considering this, other means of military intervention could have taken place to force their surrender, thus the atomic bomb was not necessary. Japans weak intelligence is proved when the United States made a deal with the Soviet Union to enter the war after the defeat of Germany.43 Japan’s only neutrality at that time, and their intelligence did not pick this up; Japan’s leader did not suspect it.44 Furthermore, Japan was still in a weak condition before the atomic bombs were dropped, and if the atomic bombs were used in order to end the war, then this contradicts itself with a dying Japan that could have been defeated with out the atomic bombs. General George C. Marshall puts Japan’s state into words:
“His sea power is so badly depleted that it is no match for any one of the several task forces we could put into action. His air power is in a bad way. He has a lot of airplanes-probably more than he had a year ago- but he has lost his element of flight, squadron and group leaders and his hastily trained replacements haven’t the skill or ability or combat knowledge to compete with us… “45
The General of the United States Army, George C. Marshall states that Japan was on a thin thread before their collapse, with atrocious replacements that were no match for the United States military. If Japan was not sufficient in the areas of intelligence, and military morale, then the United States would have conquered Japan, thus leading to their surrender. Therefore, the use of the atomic bombs would not have been necessary given that situation.
Therefore one can claim that because of the Japan’s willingness to negotiate surrender prior to the use of the atomic bomb, other viable alternatives, and the bomb was not a military necessity, that the atomic bombs were unnecessary in ending the war. If the USA only realized how important the Emperor was to the Japanese, many lives may have been saved. The atomic bombs were not necessary, this does not mean they ended the war in a more time and cost effective way than any other alternative, but that the atomic bomb was unnecessary and the results of using the bomb are far more uncanny than to use the bomb.
Japans willingness to negotiate surrender prior to the use of the atomic bomb, there were other viable alternatives to the use of the bomb, and the bomb was not a military necessity in ending the war made the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki unnecessary to end the war. The realization of how important the Emperor was to the Japanese is hard to grasp. For Japan was willing to fight to the death in order to save their Emperor and America killing a hundred thousand people so they could have the dignity of “unconditional surrender”. Till the end of civilization, August 6th 1945 will be the epiphany of peace.
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