Hiroshima & Nagasaki

First I would like to make it perfectly clear that I neither condone nor condemn the USA for the dropping of the Atomic bombs on these cities. I am ambivelent on the matter. I am also well aware that had the Japanese had the bomb they would not have hesitated to use it.

Given that the dropping of the bombs doubtlessly saved the lives of thousands of American service personnel which would have been lost had an invasion of the Japanese home islands taken place.

Also many Allied POWs lives were saved because the bombs were dropped

Obviously thousands of Japanese would have lost their lives as well, miltary and civilian.

As I understand it the bombs detonated at roughly 2000 feet above ground level.

Now then, if the US had detonated these bombs at a much greater altitude thereby demonstrating to the Japanese that they, the US, were now in possession of a weapon capable of mass destruction on a scale hitherto unknown, would not the Japanese have capitulated before this destruction was visited upon them?

I don’t think so.

I mean, they didn’t even surrender after destruction was visited upon them with the first bomb. It took a second bomb a few days later.

But is it not true that the Japanese had already put out peace feelers?

A high altitude nuclear explosion would have Really convinced them that they were on a loser

Did the technology exist for an acceptable mode of high-altitude delivery/detonation? I thought the idea was that the bombs were dropped from an enormous height, partly to permit the bomber enough time to escape to a safe distance while the bomb fell.

Are you sure?

An explosion that boiled a city didn’t seem to convince them. It took two.

Parts of the Japanese government were putting out peace feelers. The military did not back them, however, so they were meaningless.

I’m not certain at what height the Enola Gay flew at,30,000 feet maybe.

I think, not sure, that technology did exist for a high altitude explosion.

Again I don’t know what speed the bomb fell at or what speed the aircraft was able to attain in order to distance itself from the explosion.

Another thing to take into account is that the Hirohito had the last say in everything, he was the head honcho

There is no way that we will ever know whether lives were saved or lost. It doesn’t matter whether Japan would have used it if they had had it. What matters is what we did with it. We know that the lives of some American and allied forces were saved by the bombings. We know that the lives of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians were destroyed and that many more than that suffered horribly. Their kinsmen are now our friends. Their country is our ally. Embittered old men are justly puzzled and still talk about the “Japs.” They are not going to change their minds and I’m not going to change mine.

I don’t think we can ever make enough excuses.

You contradict yourself saying first that we’ll never know whether lives were saved or lost and then saying that you know lives of American and allied forces were saved.
But this is not my point.
As I said, I’m not condoning or condemning the use of the bombs, my question was, and is, if it was exploded at high altitude, would the Japanese have surrendered then…before it was used on their cities.

I’d like to mention that many allied POWS also sufferred…horribly

Embittered old men do not enter into it nor do excuses

After reading the autobiography of Hiroo Onoda, one of the last Japanese holdouts and learning about the unbelievable nationalistic dogma the Japanese adhered to I have my doubts that anything short of actually showing them firsthand the destructive capabilities on their actual cities would have made them surrender. We dropped two bombs and actually had plans to drop more atomic bombs so I’m thinking our commanders weren’t sure if they would even surrender after two bombs.

OK Pool I’ll go along with what you say.

However, are there any small uninhabited Japanese homeland islands on which the destructive capabilities of the bombs could have been demonstrated.

If there are this would have show the Japanese exactly what they faced if they did not surrender.

It not, I’ll shut my mouth

I agree. There were some in the Japanese government who knew the war was hopeless. But the military wouldn’t have any talk of surrender. See Dan Kurzman’s “Day of the Bomb” for a good description of the Japanese attitudes and political machinations at the time.

Also, I seem to recall the idea of A-bomb demonstration had been floated among Truman’s advisors. They would have selected a remote island somewhere and invited a Japanese delagation to observe us blowing it up.

Two problems with this:

  1. Probably wouldn’t have convinced them (since Hiroshima itself didn’t).

  2. Our bombs were hand-made at the time, and the materials were too precious. We couldn’t afford to detonate one uselessly. *

  • It’s true that we’d already tested one Nagasaki-type bomb. The Hiroshima type was dropped un-tested because they were pretty certain it would work. But IIRC there weren’t enough in the pipeline to justify a demonstration.

Wasn’t it the threat to take out Tokyo after the 2nd atomic weapon was used that made Japan surrender?

Also when you are in a total war situation where your enemy is willing to kill themselves to kill you it seems like you are not in the demonstrating stage, you are in the survival stage.

As I understand it, the B-29s that delivered the bad news were strained to the limits of their capabilities. I doubt that a high altitude airburst was technically feasible.

And Hirohito’s power was far from absolute. It wouldn’t be exactly correct to say he was a mere figurehead, but the military was very much a power in its own right with little accountability to the civilian government. The recording of Hirohito’s surrender announcement that was broadcast on radio had to be smuggled from the royal palace to prevent a military coup by the war faction in his government.

I don’t know if this is relevant to the OP but I read somewhere that the bomb was used to demonstrate its effectiveness to he Soviet Union as much as it was to cow the Japanese. This of course required it to be used effectively.

Not really. Japan was never out to kill us all, nor did it have the power. By the time of the atomic bombings it was in no position to aggress against anyone on a large scale. It wasn’t a matter of national survival for us, and never was.

As for whether or not the bombings on balance saved lives there’s no real way to tell. Normally I’d say no, but an invasion against suicidal resistance would have been incredibly bloody, for both sides. Worse for the Japanese, I’d think, so it may have even saved Japanese lives.

I’ve heard the same claim; no idea if it’s true or not.

I’ve long felt the moral quandary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan to be a bit of a red herring when put in the context of the rest of the war. If you want to study the horror of total war from the air, look no further than Japan.

The U.S. had complete air superiority. Operation Starvation and the firebombing were far worse than the a-bombings. The fire bombings by themselves were destroying hundreds of square miles of urban real estate and causing a mass internal refugee crisis.

General Haywood S. Hansell on the effects of the fire bombing(bolding mine):

I don’t really buy the idea that any invasion of U.S. armed forces would’ve been that bad – for us, anyway. If the Japanese hadn’t surrendered, we were prepared to completely destroy the internal logistics for supplying food to the civilian population. Millions would have starved or died of disease. We could create the conditions whereby Japan wouldn’t be a viable nation. If nothing else, if you think the atomic bombs made Japan surrender then it saved far more Japanese lives than American.

The Japanese would’ve had to surrender eventually. Perhaps the a-bombs provided a good internal excuse, a severe psychological blow (“just one bomb for one city!”). But it really wasn’t anything new compared to what had been happening for six months prior: Japan was helpless and completely at the mercy of the USAF.

I think you have to consider other factors also. The Japanese had been sending suicide missions to destroy the navel forces of the U.S. These missions were successful, a lot of ships were damaged and destroyed. One of the landings were put in such danger by the Japanese planes that it was almost called off. So the U.S. feared a landing on the Japanese mainland would have resulted in staggering deaths. I think their were right, after the war it was determined that Japan had over 5000 of these suicide planes in reserve for the landings. The atomic bomb was a sad but necessary choice.

It’s possible that, had we not dropped the bombs, we would have had to split Japan with the Soviet Union if not China. If you don’t think that would have been horrible try talking to someone who lived in East Germany or Hungary. (Or, in the case of China, Tibet.)

I had heard it ages ago, and the source was the Soviet newspapers. I take it with a grain of salt.