Sunday, August 07, 2005

Question Of The Week, 8/7/05

Since yesterday was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima I went to work knowing what today's question would be. When I got home tonight I was really surprised to find that there wasn't much more than this at telling about all the protest and memorial events that took place. Like I said I was at work so you might have read, watched or heard something that I missed. So the Question Of The Week is, Do you feel it was wrong for the United States to use an atomic weapon to end the war with Japan knowing that it would cause civilians to lose their lives? I will post my answer in the comment section Monday morning.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic


Blogger Always On Watch said...

From :

"On Aug. 6, 1945, an estimated 80,000 Japanese were killed instantly in Hiroshima. Three days later, on Aug. 9, more than 100,000 Japanese in Nagasaki joined them. It was a tragic end to the bloodiest conflict in human history. The irony is that it would have been even worse had President Truman decided against using atomic weapons and instead authorized an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Estimates vary, but on the American side alone there would like have been between 200,000 and 1 million U.S. casualties. The Japanese toll would have been in the millions. And, as recent evidence reveals, the United States was not at all certain an invasion would have succeeded....

"It's hard to appreciate these days that even after the fall of Germany American casualties in the Pacific were running to more than 7,000 per week. While Europe celebrated liberation, the United States lost nearly 20,000 soldiers on Okinawa between April and June 1945. Units that had just defeated Germany were in the process of being redeployed for what many considered the eventual assault on the Japanese mainland. But, as new evidence suggests, the invasion was not as inevitable as was once thought. This wasn't, as the revisionists argue, because the Japanese were already defeated; rather, as Richard Frank in the Weekly Standard points out, it was because Japan was nowhere near the end."

I'll have to go along with my cousins, one of which was stationed in the Pacific and two of which were involved in the D-Day and say that Truman made the right decision.

BTW, I really enjoy your "Question of the Week" feature.

3:53 AM  
Blogger Jake Porter said...

always on watch,

I agree. I also think Truman made the correct decision.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Sar said...

War is ugly. But having the visiual history of that horrific desecration should serve as a future deterrant to all, including the U.S.

7:13 AM  
Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

Truman made the correct decision if and only if Japan was not willing to offer a complete and timely military surrender.

The scholarly material available on this topic suggests that Japan was already willing to surrender. Consider the following quotes from people deeply involved in our military operations at that time:

"Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, 'MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed.' He continues, 'When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.'"

--Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the 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."

--Admiral William D. Leahy (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman), I Was There, pg. 441

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."
--Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380 (Conversation with Secretary of War Stimson. July 1945)
* * *
I'm beginning to think that Truman did not make the right decision. I have treated this topic on my own web site:
---------Was it Necessary for us to Drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima?

7:53 AM  
Blogger Chris Woods said...

Honestly, I can say deep-down that I don't know.

Engaging in a fierce nuclear attack seemed like one way to end the war, at that time. Today, it would be pointless because we would indeed be targeted by a multitude of other nations using nuclear weapons and it would be a MAD world.

Truthfully, I'm beginning to agree more and more with realm of sovereigns. The literature (non-fiction, of course) that I have read--though very little--has more to say on the fact that Japan was ultimately considering surrender anyway...and that at least the second bombing at Nagasaki wasn't necessary.

In the end, I second Sar's beautifully written comments.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

In retrospect, with hindsight, one has to conclude that dropping such a murderous weapon was wrong.
In the late '80s I -- then a (spit, spit) reporter -- interviewed a veteran who had been among the first occupation troops.
He was of the opinion the Japanese were beyond any further fighting, that The Bomb was not necessary.
Japan had, according to historians, appealed to the Soviet Union to intercede with the United States, to begin peace talks.
Naturally the communists never passed on the message.
In fact, AFTER the bomb was dropped, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and reaped the benefits of relatively easy conquest.
And we got two more wars, Korea and Vietnam.
There are conspiracy theorists who believe Japan was A-bombed because it was the only possible threat to an eventual Soviet expansion.
It's a theory.
Still, dropping such a bomb on civilian populations must be considered a war crime.
Edward Teller, a particular bete noir of the American left, had approached Robert Oppenheimer, a particular idol of the same left, with the suggestion the bomb be dropped in Tokyo harbor instead of on civilians.
Oppenheimer wanted the death and destruction, apparently, because he vetoed the idea.
One more fact: Many, if not most, of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project said later they didn't really know what would be the result of such an explosion.
Some said they really didn't know if a chain reaction might not follow that would just destroy the entire earth.
But the Truman administration went ahead and killed many tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children.
Speaking of Norman Cousins, as did Realm of Sovereigns, I had never known of his involvement in World War II. But I did know he adopted a young female victim of the bombing.
I met her about 1980. She still bore the physical scars, but she was full of love and forgiveness.
I grant that perhaps Truman and perhaps some of his advisers honestly believed the bombing was necessary in order to save American lives.
Still, there is a big judgment day coming for all politicians, and I might never be able to forgive any of them who have perpetrated such horrible death and destruction.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Terry "Tex" Turner said...

Paul Fussel has a great essay in his collection of essays: "Thank God for the Atom Bomb."

He points out that it would have been the children of blue collar Americans who would have paid the price of invading Japan if the bomb wasn't used.

And there were few blue collar kids of the 40s who opposed the atomic bombings.

A lot of the guilt of Americans over the atom bombings is tainted by the power of post-war America.

That is not the America of WWII. On Dec 7, 1941, we had an air force one third the size of the Luftwaffe (after it'd been tri-decimated by the Battle of Britain). Romainia had a larger Army than the US (we ranked 20th in the world) and our naval power was crippled -- and faced the largest fleet in the world.\

On the day we bombed Nagasaki, there were no efforts by the Japanesse to seek surrender -- short of a cease fire -- existed. The best offer was to allow the Japanese to hold onto their Empire -- China, Manchuria, Korea, the Phillipines -- an area larger than any Empire that ever existed in human history.

Thank God -- and Harry Truman!

12:43 PM  
Blogger 13 Fox said...

Absolutely NOT.

1:16 PM  
Blogger maccusgermanis said...

No, The misinformation fed to Japanese citizens would have no doubt led to greater civilian losses than even the bomb. But don't take my word for it.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Whymrhymer said...


No, it was not wrong!

"always on watch" says it exactly as I understand it. It had to end and President Truman ended it. He saved over a million lives.

9:48 PM  
Blogger AubreyJ said...

I too did a post on this topic from a personal point of view. You’re most welcome to stop by my Blog and read it if you like. Yet if not… I ended the post with these words… and these words would also be a good answer for your question of the week. It goes as follows..........
Was it right to use them??? In the eyes of 100,000’s of young men in 1945 the answer was Yes… I think maybe so too. But like most every other sane person in this world today… I too pray that we never, ever have to see… another flash… and so much death… in a 100th of a second… in a time called HELL..........
August 06, 2005
(Great blog by the way… I’ll come by and visit more often.)

11:10 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

President Truman made the only responsible decision he could have. The only other option was to invade the Japanese mainland. That would have been extremely bloody for the United States, and Japan. It would have resulted in 10 times or more deaths than dropping the bombs. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan saved many more lives than it took. It was the right decision. It was the only decision.

I have an animated presentation about the Hiroshima bombing. Feel free to come and see it. Also thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate it.

2:26 AM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

I'm going to have to say no we were not wrong. The blockades seemed to be working and there was talk of peace/a surrender. Can we be sure that they were serious about giving up? I can't help but think some of their military strategist had read one of my favorite books. The Art Of War By Sun TZU, in it he teaches that deception is one of the greatest weapons there is, let your enemy see weakness where there is strength(?). I feel an invasion of Japans mainland could have turned into the worst bloodbath of the war, some people fight harder on their own soil.

I do want to thank all of you for your answers, I hope you will stop by to answer next weeks question. I'll be posting other stuff during the week.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic

9:18 AM  
Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Considering that the rules of war were not QUITE as humanitarian as they are today, and also that nobody knew much about nuclear fallout at the time the decision was made: yes, it was a decent decision.

Now, that said; I would NEVER want to see this happen again.

11:27 AM  
Blogger BLOGBANK said...

Dropping the bomb(s) was the correct action taken. The use of swift devastating force is the least costly approach over the long run.

2:39 PM  
Blogger John said...

I think we did the right thing for the time.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Apparently all the yeasayers did not read one single word of the more knowledgeable and historically literate responses.
Which is one reason it will happen again.

5:48 PM  
Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

The basic premise held by those who believe that dropping the bomb was the correct thing to do is that there were two choices: 1.) drop the bomb, 2.) invade. If those are the only two choices, then dropping the bomb was the correct course of action.

My argument is that the above premise may not be correct. Consider the following information:

"The plan I devised was essentially this: Japan was already isolated from the standpoint of ocean shipping. The only remaining means of transportation were the rail network and intercoastal shipping, though our submarines and mines were rapidly eliminating the latter as well. A concentrated air attack on the essential lines of transportation, including railroads and (through the use of the earliest accurately targetable glide bombs, then emerging from development) the Kammon tunnels which connected Honshu with Kyushu, would isolate the Japanese home islands from one another and fragment the enemy's base of operations. I believed that interdiction of the lines of transportation would be sufficiently effective so that additional bombing of urban industrial areas would not be necessary.

"While I was working on the new plan of air attack... [I] concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945."
--Paul Nitze (Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey), From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 36-37

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that was primarily written by Nitze and reflected his reasoning:

"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."
--quoted in Barton Bernstein, The Atomic Bomb, pg. 52-56.

"Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary."
--Paul Nitze (Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey), From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 44-45.

In an interview, General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz (in charge of Air Force operations in the Pacific) referred to the Japanese military's plan to get better peace terms, and he gave an alternative to the atomic bombings:

"If we were to go ahead with the plans for a conventional invasion with ground and naval forces, I believe the Japanese thought that they could inflict very heavy casualties on us and possibly as a result get better surrender terms. On the other hand if they knew or were told that no invasion would take place [and] that bombing would continue until the surrender, why I think the surrender would have taken place just about the same time."
--Carl Spaatz (Herbert Feis Papers, Box 103, N.B.C. Interviews, Carl Spaatz interview by Len Giovannitti, Library of Congress)

6:15 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Very thought provoking. And very interesting comments.

Had there not been a Pearl Harbor there would not have been a Hiroshima. It is that simple.

Realm of Sovereign is very correct. Scholarly literature as well as official US government findings do indicate that the atomic bombings really had no bearing on the surrender of Japan.

It is impossible, and probably unethical, to use 21st century morals to judge an event of the most devastating of human kind. To look back through history with what we know now is not a very precise way to do history. It's good for conversation and argument, but improperly supposes too much for history's sake.

But in the same token, it's also impossible to look back and accurately say that the atomic bombings saved millions of lives. We just don't know that. And we will never know it. So to say that it was the right thing to do because it saved millions of lives is just as wrong as to say that it was the wrong thing to do because nowadays we know better.

The facts are that Japan suffered greatly during the war and from the two atomics bombings, which Japan entirely brought on itself. If you don't want to be polverized, don't start a war.

Questioning the morality and validity of Truman's decision serves no purpose. What we have to do, for the sake of the future is to ensure that a situation will never arise again to where the atomic bomb becomes an option.

Very good question David.

7:31 PM  
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10:27 PM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I feel that using nuclear weapons is always wrong however, in the case of WWII, it was the lesser of two evils for both the US AND Japan. Had the US simply invaded the Japanese mainland, most of that nation's infrastructure would have been totally ruined and hundreds of thousands more Americans AND Japanese would have died. Thus, though the bombs killed over 100,000 Japanese they saved many times that many Japanese lives and prevented American troops from having to lose their lives on Japanese soil as well. All in all, the bomb was the best of costly choices that could be made.

2:21 PM  
Blogger maccusgermanis said...

Checking back on this post I saw that I was to some degree refuted, ecxept that I messed my links anyway. In truth I must admit that my decision is based on the two presupositions listed by ROSovereigns. However, MJ's post was so balanced and reasonable that the claim "that the atomic bombings really had no bearing on the surrender of Japan." is probably an unintentioned overstatement on his part. I remain unconvinced that surrender as often mentioned in the quotations ROS shared with us is the same unconditional surrender that was recieved. Thanks guys, great discussion on a good question.

6:00 PM  

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