Dropping the atomic bomb.

It was unnecessary.

I’m done on this issue.

Well, geez, Karma, since you were the only person I was arguing with on this issue, who am I left to debate this with?

Anyone agree with Karma that it was unnecessary- and immoral- to drop atomic bombs on Japan in order to end World War II?


“Y’know, I would invite y’all to go feltch a dead goat, but that would be abuse of a perfectly good dead goat and an insult to all those who engage in that practice for fun.” -weirddave, set to maximum flame

John Corrado:

I don’t disagree with the Hiroshima bombing. But I have heard people claim that the Nagasaki bombing was more of a gesture against Russia, rather than Nippon.

What do you think?

Was what happened in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 moral and necessary? How about the actions of Japanese Army Unit 971 (I’m not sure about the number) moral and necessary? Ask the thousands of Chinese they tortured and experimented on! Ask the detainese and POWs if the fucking japs were moral in their actions. Ask the US soldiers and marines that were preparing to embark for the invasion of Japan if the bombs were necessary!

Ask the Kamaki (sp?) if what they were prepared to do was necessary. I’m not talking about pilots that fought against navy vessles, but the suciced boats that were prepared on mainland Japan. The god damned japanese asked for a war, they started a war, and they got their asses kicked up over their sholder blades.

The is a saying, “all is fair in love and war!” In both respects, the objective is to win no matter what. Even today, with all the knowledge of what the bombs actually are, I would support the decision to nuke an enemy in an all out struggle.

Of course, if you like the idea of speaking German or Japanese, I supposed you could support the Nazi/Emperial Japan doctrines.

(Side Note: I watch a lot of the history channel and in several of the shows, they stated that the A-bomb was initially destined for Berlin for fears that Germany would get the bomb too. Can anyone help confirm or deny this?)

it was unecessary but it was also the smartest thing to do. I mean your not going to stab someone when you can shoot them? :slight_smile:

Unnecessary? Japan was in a fight-to-the-last-man mentality, as proved on Okinawa. They were not ready to surrender, and the War Department’s models for the invasion of Japan called for an invasion force of two million troops.

Immoral? I believe the prevailing wisdom was that the A-bomb was simply a greater magnitude of boom. The long-term effects weren’t known. It’s difficult to make a moral judgment based on ignorance.

Nagasaki? Again, as I understand it, the Imperial staff was not ready to surrender even after Hiroshima, and the U.S. felt it necessary to use the second bomb to show that the first wasn’t some one-of-a-kind fluke. In fact, I recall that Japan did not surrender until the U.S. threatened to drop a third bomb (which didn’t exist) on Tokyo, and then it was the Emperor’s decision, not the Imperial staff’s recommendation.

And, has been noted, after Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Nanking, etc., the U.S. was not inclined to give the Japanese a break.

I understand all the words, they just don’t make sense together like that.

Well the Russians declared war on the Japanese 3 days later, so something definitely scared the hell out of them.

Ok, its been mentioned twice, but without an explanation. Just because the Japan was in a “to the last man” mentality, why exactly does that necessitate the US into invading Japan? And why exactly does it necessitate the US into using a “really large bomb” (regardless of known effects) on a civilian area? Pearl Harbor wasn’t a large city - it was a naval base. Any war crimes committed -as wrong as they were - were still only committed against armed forces. I have yet to see any refutation or discussion regarding containing the Japanese, or even meeting them mano a mano, instead of attacking their civilian populations.

Fine, mention that London was bombed. Mention that we were bombing Berlin. But these were established warzones. Mainland Japan was not a warzone. If someone would have dropped a A-bomb on San Francisco at that time, I imagine we wouldn’t find that to be so moral or “necessary”.

Now there may be instances that I don’t know of where the Japanese tortured, or held against their will, innocent civilians. But no matter how horrible the crime, does that mean that the US must ignore the basic rights that our country stands for in order to protect those rights? The moment we lose sight of that is the moment we lose credibility.

I am not attacking the decision to use the Bomb. The history of this century is not my strongest area. But I would like to point out that the Bomb vs Invasion argument is a fallacy.

More precisely it is the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle (thanks again SingleDad).

Nippon is an island nation after all. A blockade could have been very effective.

You are making an assumtion about Russian motives. Perhaps they declared war for other reasons. Maybe the other Allies were pressuring them to do so. Perhaps the Russians were looking for territorial concessions in a future peace treaty.

Out in the archives you can find our last go-round on this issue.
U.S. bombing Hiroshima/Nagasaki

Two popular camps (they often square off as armed camps rather than meeting for discussion) hold either that no use of nuclear arms can ever be justified or that any effort can be used to end a war.

I concede points to both sides. The one issue (from the perspective of getting facts correct for The Straight Dope) that I generally try to keep before the discussion is that even with 20/20 hindsight we do not know what the result of not dropping the bomb would have been.


Oh, of course I’m not saying that the Russian decision was simply out of fear, but they had a neutral standing with Japan, which was a very sticky situation. Had Russia been neutral throughout the whole war, they obviously would not be as inclined to join up against Japan, as they had far less political motivation to do so.

2sense, how would a blockade have been efective? So we block off the island and keep them from receiving oil and steel. They still grow their own food. What if they couldn’t feed everyone? How many would have died from starvation? I would say a lot more than what the bomb killed.

Blockades such as you are suggesting do not work. Look at Iraq, the learders have full larders while the people starve. The leaders blame the starvation on the enemy and gain support from the people.

As for the invasion, no, it wouldn’t have cost 2 million american lives lost. But if you think Viet Nam vets were bad about the horrors of war, the vets from the invasion of Japan would have been 1000s of times worse.

The bushido code was ultimate in the japanese eyes and the emporer was god. If the emporer ordered his people to fight to the last, they would have tried their hardest. Think of it in terms of God telling judeo-christians to do something. If God said fight to the last, they would do it.

The second bomb was dropped because the Japanese didn’t realize the devistation from the first because the destruction wipped out communications with the city. (Laugh all you like, but in that time, telephones were still pretty much a luxury even in the U.S.)

Second thing to note is that Japan and the United States were at total war. There was really no such thing as a combat zone. Any and every square inch that the other claimed was a potential item to fight over. The Japanese didn’t flinch when the launched their ballon bombs into the jet stream to set fire to the American west. (I beleive that a preacher’s wife and several children were killed by one of these wonderful contraptions in California.) Did the Japanese care that the areas these bombs dropped in were not ‘combat zones?’ Hell no!

The cities that were bombed were not selected for the impact on the civilian population, but for the impact it would have on military support. (I think that the second bomb killed 90,000 Japanese soldiers.)

I’ll try to verify my memory later.


I don’t understand your point.
Are you saying that Russia had no political motivation for declaring war on Nippon?

I don’t know what their motivation was, but I would not discount territorial concessions as a possible motivation. The Soviets had no moral problem with adding territory by force. After all, their(and Germany’s) invasion of Poland in 1939 started the war.


There’s a very interesting book out there called The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel van Wolferen (which I understand the Japanese HATE, by the way) that mentions why dropping the bomb was appropriate at the time.

Prior to dropping the atomic bomb, Japan was training a civilian militia, composed of 28 million men and women age 15-60, who were to repel the American invaders on the beaches using bamboo spears. They would have been mowed down like grass. And they were prepared to take those losses, fighting tooth, nail, and bamboo spear.

A blockade would have done nothing. Japan existed virtually isolated from the rest of the world for centuries (hell, millennia); they were, and to some extent still are, used to isolation and relying on themselves. Japan didn’t really begin to rely on foreign trade until they latched on to the transistor.

Dropping the bomb may have had effects that the U.S. didn’t foresee (the knowledge of radiation sickness and related illnesses being in its infancy), but even the hundreds of thousands killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki justifies bringing a swift end to a war that, had it continued using conventional weaponry, would have killed millions. There is no question in my mind that, at the time, Fat Man and Little Boy were the best options.

And if you wanna talk about “committing atrocities against civilians”, read The Rape Of Nanking. It’s an eye-opener. In short, the Japanese treated the Chinese residents of Nanking like animals, using it as a laboratory for the science of killing. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese were brutally murdered in around three months, almost twice as many as were killed in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. Don’t follow the link if you’re squeamish, by the way.

All of the arguments against dropping the bomb involve somehow gently ending the bloodiest war in human history. We look at the world through our perfect 20-20 hindsight and make assumptions, so obvious to us now, we don’t see how we could have thought otherwise. Like making peace with Japan after Roosevelt had begun the war promising, no, guaranteeing total victory. There is no way the American people of 1945 would have forgiven Truman for selling out and not doing everything possible to win. That’s us. That’s who we are.

Everyone gets so squeamish over the nuclear question. Was the bomb really worse than the other forms of carnage that went on, or just more efficient? We were going to invade the island. There was never any question about that. Okinawa proved what it would cost. The Japanese allowed 100,000 of their own people to die defending that rock. The United States lost almost 13,000 killed with another 36,000 wounded to settle the dress rehearsal for the mainland invasion. Sure, Eisenhower is on record as having dissaproved of the bomb. He definitely preferred invasion. Must be a soldier thing. He would have had no problem spending the lives of 50,000 or more soldiers to get the job done. That’s my assumption. But he was a general like Grant, and in their view, that’s what soldiers were for. Those who would dispute the accuracy of the estimates of dead and wounded in an invasion are simply looking through blinders. It was proved throughout the Pacific campaign.

Could we have proved our point with a demonstration explosion? The Japanese high command were convinced we only had one bomb, and they were looking for a miracle. A demonstration explosion would have served only their purposes. No one on the island would know what happened, and those who did would have assumed we were too weak-minded to use it for real. Only when they saw their cities being vaporized did they attempt to act. The attempt to negotiate through Russia combined with the American refusal to negotiate probably influenced Russia’s decision to declare war. Speculating on the motives of Russia at that point is irrelevant. The declaration of war speaks for itself. After that, any negotiated peace would have included Russia with the specter of a partitioned, and partially communized Japan.

As for the war zone argument, America did not invent but certainly perfected the concept of Total War. Until Vietnam, we never went looking for wars to fight (start a new thread to discuss that comment, we don’t want to hijack this one), but America has always proved to be ruthlessly powerful in wars we had to fight. Wars are not football games, They are disgusting and gruesome to the end. The use of the Atomic bomb quickly finished a horrible job and saved, probably hundreds of thousands of lives - lives on both sides.

All this talk of Japanese civilians as some kind of trained bushido death troops is a bit overdone. If you take a look at the human side and read actual Japanese accounts, you’ll find that the vast majority were shocked and horrified when they heard about Pearl Harbor (a very small group of military people had actually been involved in the decision).

The Japanese people were not ready for another war, and while they had plenty of national pride, many were afraid (rightly) that the attack on the US would seal their doom.

You can argue that the bombing was justified, but don’t do it by demonizing the civilian victims and suggesting that they deserved that fate.

I looked over the Archive thread that Tom linked. It lookes like this stuff was gone over pretty thouroughly. Except for my blockade idea. I didn’t see 1 single reference to a blockade.
So you should all thank me for this idea. Now none of the posters on the previous thread can say “been there, done that”.

Now that I have taken credit for this valuable idea, let me say that I find it implausable. I am now in doubt even about my brave fallacy assertion. If I am incorrect, then I take full responsibility. Not that a blockade wouldn’t have been feasible. Just that, as danielnsmith pointed out, death by starvation isn’t any more preferable.

So what do we have? The only argument that I see that has merit is the possition that the early surrender talks were bungled. I don’t have the knowledge to discuss that possibility.
I find myself leaning toward the “Bomb as the Best Option” opinion. Anyone see anything I am missing?

As to the morality of bombing population centers, I don’t have a problem with it. I think that the people of a nation are responsible for the actions of their government. Since the Nipponese allowed a military regime to rule them, they shouldn’t have been surprised to find themselves targets. A lot of them probably weren’t.

Oh, and for LBJay,

No fair! :frowning: Your comment is just begging to be refuted. I will refrain, except to mention the Wilson Administration. I promise not to comment further here. You are cruel. :wink:

One cannot call this a neccesary or unneccesary action. It wasn’t neccesarry to do anything at all, actually. The reasoning behind it was rather complex, in this case, but correct, as I will demonstrate. First, the target. The two cities chosen were, like Dresden, relatively unharmed, and so obvious choices. They were relatively unharmed because of their small population (Less than one million each.)
Morality of the action: How is that relevant? The moral standard of this republic has been questioned here, and deservedly so, but in this case it is about as moral as putting a dog to sleep. In both cases, you’re preventing greater suffering. Sure, it’s a terrible example, sure, it’s an inhumane solution, and ignores the agony of those who dies as much as that of those who lived. But can <i> you </i> feel the pain of Nanking?
Someone tried to say that there is a moral difference between beating soldiers and beating civilians. There is not one. A soldier is, above all, a human. The same is true for a human. It makes about as much sense to say that it is fairer for a soldier to die from cancer than a civilian; as in, it doesn’t at all.
But, as I have a tendency to do, I’m getting off track, so back to the point: The greater good (bah, you might say, cold statistics, what good is there in that…read Chaos, my friend, statistics can do interesting things) lies in dropping the bomb. This is not for American soldiers. The Bamboo polled militiamen would have filled the streets of Hiroshima with their bodies.
Lastly, intimidation. You just don’t mess with someone who can melt you. It’s that simple. Moreover, you just don’t mess with someone who <i> will </i> melt you. It raises a nice point: which is scarier, Russia with 10,000 warheads, or North Korea, with 200?

Apologies for length but:
The final issue from World War II is the debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was descision by the U.S. leadership under Harry Truman to drop the Bomb necessary and just in that it immediately ended the War and obviated a clear need to conduct a bloody invasion of Japan? Or should it be singled out as a uniqely desctructive and nefarious act, uncessary, perhaps with ulterior motive, a great crime? Neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki were the most destructive bombing raids of the War, that distinction goes to a raid on Tokyo months earlier, in March, 1945. But taken together as a whole and counting those who died in the coming months and years of radiation sickness, the atomic bombings have been etimated at having killed as many as 300,000 people, which is a pretty heavy statistic.
Indeed the hundreds of thousands who would continue to fall ill to the effects of radiation poisoning has got to be the most insidious aspect of the bombings. The least you can say about war is that when it ends, the suffering and dying should end too. But this is not usually the main point cited by critics of the bombings beyond simply the so many had to die. It is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki symbolize the end of the world–or represent the threat that the world could end this way. From a newer context, the bombing vicims are seen less as the last vicitms of WWII, but rather the first victims of the new age of nuclear warfare.
But an operation undertaken in 1945 must be judged in the context of 1945. The military planners knew that atomic attacks on cities would produce a massive loss of life, but placed it alongside the loss of life that had already occured and that which seemed likely to occur if the Bomb were not used (the actual statistic is about 6% of the 50 million people killed in the war). Some high-ranking military officials, such as General Dwight Eisenhower and Admiral Willian Leahy, were indeed opposed to the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, arguing that they were likely to surrender soon, so a full-scale invasion of Japan would be unnecessary.
Much of the debate centers around whether this is true. The most frequently cited statistic predicted an estimated 500,000 Allied casualties in taking the Japanese Islands, and many cite these as lives saved which justifiy the bombings. Others point to the fact that Japan had already been largely defeated and to secret peace feelers the Japanese government had been sending via the Soviets. The Japanese wanted assurances that Emperor Hirohito could stay on the throne, and the U.S. was willing to make those assurances, but this hadn’t yet been made clear amid the very public calls for unconditional surrender. It’s just possible that before much longer an agreement could have been reached with the Japanese government for them to surrender. But it’s also quite possible that Japanese military and the Japanese people–with their culture’s legendary disdain for the idea of surrender, would not have accepted going out with a wimper rather than a bang. Suicidally fighting to the last man had been a staple of Japanese tactics throughout the War, and civilians had been killing themselves en masse as well. A premature surrender move by the Peace Faction of the government would surely have produced a massive rebellion by those who were vowing to fight to the bitter end. The Allied leaders were certainly aware of this and deeply affected by it, all the more so given the fact that Germany too had just gotten done fighting to the bitter end. Even after the shock of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a number of die-hard factions within the officer corps tried to stage a coup to prevent the surrender or the broadcast of the Emperor’s announcement of it. Many individual soldiers and airman made last, defiant suicide attacks rather than accept defeat, but these are just a whiff of what might have occured. It was that sudden shock which broke the back of that mentality, that Japanese death-obsessed culture, and persuaded most Japanese to “endure the unendurable” as the Emperor finally broke his silence on the matter.
So it was by no means certain that Japan would have surrendered before the need for an invasion, but even if we were to assume they would have, there’s still the question of how long it would have taken and whether the price paid during that time would have been worth it. There was still plenty of fighting going on during the second week of August, 1945, in the Phillipines, in China, in Southeast Asia. On Aug. 9th, the same day as Nagasaki, the Soviet Union declared war and invaded Japanese occupied manchuria. Hiroshima had undoubtedly sped up the Soviets’ timetable for this opportunistc grab, but if not for the Japanese surrender on the 15th, massive infantry battle with great slaughter would have taken place. Another bloodbath averted regards the British landings to retake Malaya and Singapore, Operation “Zipper”. Planned well in advance, the invasion arrived on the coast of Malaya 3 weeks after the surrender. But the whole force got stuck in the mud on the beach and was totally immobilized, so if there had been even moderate resistance from the Japanese, the Brits would have been cut to pieces. The Strategic bombing campaign against Japan would continued as well. Heck, Hiroshina and Nagasaki probably would have both been hit with devastating fire-bomb raids soon enough anyway. Then there’s the question of starvation, which was just beginning to be felt in Japan, but if there had been a lengthy Allied blockade, a massive death toll surely would have resulted.

So it appears probable that Truman’s descision saved more lives than they ended even if there had been no invasion, and it is certain that they saved a great many more lives--as well as Japan itself--if there would have been. In addition to sheer lives, Truman no doubt considered the millions who were away from their families and had been for years, plus the millions who were still being called up. Some have maintained that Hiroshima was meant to be a warning to the Russians; the same claim has been made about Dresden, with a bit more credibity. I would guess that the idea did cross the mind of Truman and his advisors but was regarded as an added bonus rather than the raison d’etre for the bombing. It was that uncertainty of how long the War would go on versus the near-certainty that it would immediately end which ultimately drove the descision.

I’ve heard that, too, but I don’t think it’s true. The bomb was actually in the event that Opeation Overlord (better known as DDay and the Normandy campaign) failed. The largest source of heavy water (essential in nuclear weapons-it’s water with a 3rd hydrogen molecule) in Europe was at a plant in Norway. It was the target of a succesful British commando raid in 1941. Two other factors decided that the Germans would not get any nuke. Hitler strictly forbade any science project that would take over a year, which a manhattan project obviously would. Also, the main reseach base of the german long range weapon department was destroyed in one of the RAF’s most sucessful raids, 1942.
Hope that cleared things up