If the US had Atom Bombs During the beginning of WW2 Would We Use them and How to Win War?

I would appreciate your answers for a Blog I’m planning to write on this. Assume that the United States had secretly developed the Atom Bomb before WW2 Started and we had plenty available to drop.

  1. Would we immediately use Atom Bombs to win the War or would we fight as we did accumulating the same amount of American Casaulties for the Sake of our Economy?

  2. If we did use Atom Bombs when and how would we use them? Specifically would we warn Germany and Japan that if they don’t surrender to us immediately we will drop Atom Bombs on them or would we go ahead and use them without giving them a chance to surrender first? Where would we drop them? Would we wait till after regular warfare and US casualties began or would we do it immediately?

I’d appreciate your speculation on this. Thanks

I would ask this question also at the Axis Forums in the “what if” section

Your what if would totally depend on the fact the US developed the bombs in secret. Japan would have never attacked the USA knowing the US had it. Japan’s overall goal in WWII was to grab as much land as possible and hope the Allies would sue for peace and it could negotiate down and keep some of the land.

The problem with the What if is there was in incentive to develop the bomb before the war. It was only after the US got into it. So you’d have to have an additional senerio that causes the USA to make the bomb. This was a HUGE task. So that senerio would to develop it would have to be as large as WWII. It doesn’t have to be a violent one, but a suggestion or talk of what could happen would never have justified such a huge investment in making of the atomic bomb, unless there was a very real reason to start with.

Well, if Roosevelt had initiated the Manhatten Project as part of the New Deal…

No, I cannot imagine a way to counterfactualize the US having an arsenal of secret atomic bombs (and delivery systems) before the war was well underway.

However, we would have nuked Japan instead of sending the Doolittle Raid. That would have made a much bigger impression and ended the war in the Pacific years earlier. And I think that would have given Germany something to think about.

As for the other boards, sorry I just joined here and need to familiarize myself more. As for the question, assume for whatever reason the US developed the Atom Bomb in secret. Japan did not know and attacked Pearl Harbor. Given that we had plenty of Atom bombs at our disposal hypothetically how would the US have proceeded both against Japan and Germany: 1. Would we still fight conventionally to boast our Economy and let the same amount of Americans die, 2. Would we warn Japan and Germany first if we decided to drop them in the beginning, 3. What cities would we drop the bombs on?

We would definately have used it if possible. The horror that is currently attached to nuclear weapons is based on our greater knowledge of their effects and long term consequences. Back then it was just a really powerful explosive.

Our first target would have been Germany. It was our priority to defeat them first anyway and having the bomb would not have changed it. Western and northern German cities like Hamburg and Bremen would have been nuked. We were already trying to utterly destroy them with conventional bombs. Apart from the radiation, the firestorm that Dresden suffered wasn’t much different in effect.

We would not have warned them. We didn’t warn the Japanese in real life, so I doubt that the rationales or procedures would have been any different under this scenario. Also, one of the main reasons for using the bomb was that it prevented loss of allied lives that would have been spent in ground assault. If we could use nukes sooner, why would we deliberately let our own men die before using it?

  1. Wars are to be run to achieve the fastest results for the least money (and lives). Unless you are a old-style (I want to say ‘socialist’) who believes wars are difficult and are run by a secret conspiracy tryig to achieve their own goals.

  2. Why? The Japanese didn’t warn us about Pearl Harbor.

  3. I tend to lean towards Toyko, as a decapitating stroke. Besides, the conventional bombing of the city caused more damage and loss of life than the actual atomic detonations.

The Doolittle Raid would have been quite different if each plane had a single nuke on board.

A possibility to consider is that we might give Britain the bomb and not actually join the war. Britain nukes Germany in retaliation for the London Blitz, Germany surrenders.

To me the interesting what if in this scenario is whether this would leave Hitler and Mussolini in power, and what would happen on the Russian front.

As far as why note using Nukes to save American lives, they may consider the Economy more important.

I’m not sure if the U.S. could have deployed the weapons right away.

Fat Man weighed 10,000+ lbs, and Little Boy weighed 8500 pounds.

The U.S. did not have an aircraft that could carry that kind of payload at the beginning of the war. That means the bomb, to be used against Japan, would have to be delivered by ship.

I suppose a sub could have delivered a nuclear mine to Tokyo Bay, but I think most of the city would have not received as much serious damage (compared to an air burst) if it was used that way. (See Operation Crossroads - Wikipedia , test Baker.)

Surface ship delivery would have been more or less out of the question.

Leaving the bomb behind to “scuttle” Clark Airfield (in the P.I.), and, hopefully, catching some Imperial Army dudes would not have induced Japan to surrender, I think.

We have to open up a couple of other What If scenarios. In addition to the Bomb, did the U.S. also have the B-29 as a delivery system? If so, what series of events would trigger the development of a high-payload, long-distance delivery system. If the B-29 didn’t exist, then the bomb would have had to be deployed by ship, which would have considerably reduced the number of possible targets.

Assuming the U.S. had both a secret bomb and a secret delivery system, and assuming it hadn’t already joined the war or given the bomb to Britain, the first use would have been the counterattack after Pearl Harbor. The idea that the U.S. would continue to drag out a war “For the Sake of Our Economy” when we had a weapon that could have ended it was as preposterous in 1941 as it was in 1945.

I don’t know a single politician who would have thought this way. Sending our men off to die needlessly, just for economic concerns? Seriously?

If you mean for war profiteering, ie, greed, then it’s conceivable. Some politicians and other powerful men might send our boys off so they can get fat wartime contracts. But doing so for the vague notion that “It’s good for the economy” is ridiculous.

I think if the United States had developed the bomb, they would have developed an aircraft capable of using it. I also think it would have been used against Japan and Germany. German cities, Tokyo and any army the Japanese had deployed.

Would early nukes have been effective against a Japanese carrier group?

If so, I would imagine nukes would be used at midway

As far as the OP’s point 1, while it is the case that in retrospect WW2 left the US as an Economic power house, it is inconceivable to me that any of the parties in government at the time would view the war that way, or would consider sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American lives for such a reward.

I’m going to revise my opinion to “would have developed a carrier based aircraft capable of carrying it.” :slight_smile:

I rater suspect (but certainly don’t know for a fact) that any country that had unilaterally developed a nuclear bomb capability would have used it in wartime pretty much as soon as they were capable of it. With no threat of similar retaliation, it’s simply an ultimate weapon.

According to the book “Doomsday Men” by P.D. Smith, Leo Szilard was pretty sure you could get nuclear energy out of uranium as far back as 1933, and actually went to Westinghouse to try to get research funding. In a counterfactual world, it’s just possible that the first self-sustaining experimental reactors could have been built as early as 1938, and that the basic information about them would be public knowledge. So imagine a world in which physicists in several nations have built their first test reactors and then a year later World War Two breaks out. Note that a working reactor isn’t the same thing as a bomb: it takes a huge investement in research and material to get the latter, and only the United States had the capacity to devote a maximum effort to the program and still fight a huge conventional war. But I don’t doubt there would have been a scramble to develop bombs and to prevent one’s enemies from doing the same. Attacking the other nations’ nuclear facilities, espionage and even commando raids to assassinate top researchers would have been a priority. The joint US-British effort would almost certainly have succeeded first, I would say possibly as early as 1943. The Soviet Union would have the technical knowledge but possibly simply not the industrial capacity to build a bomb before the end of the war. Germany was materially strained and possibly held up by ideological decisions from the top. Japan might simply be too small or not have the necessary materials.

The biggest question is whether Germany or Japan go ahead with their plans without taking the possbility of atomic bombs into consideration. Whether anyone in the German high command would have pushed to wait until they had the bombs, and whether Hitler would have listened. Whether Japan would have risked a preemptive attack against the US fleet.

A non-technical issue would be the willingness to use atomic bombs. It wasn’t until later in the war that the Allies considered it permissible to burn down entire cities full of civilians. Both sides refrained from the first use of gas because of fear of retaliation.

At the start of the war in 1939 the U.S. was still officially neutral, so they might have done nothing at all until at least December 1941, assuming no other changes. Of course, they could demonstrate the bomb to the world. This would be a very bad thing indeed, as it would mean no Pearl Harbour. A sleeping giant with a massive bomb? No thanks. So unless FDR could find another way to enter the war the U.K. and U.S.S.R. go it alone. Of course, that’s worst case scenario.

Early in the war the western Allies decided on a Europe first strategy; prioritise the European theatre and achieve total victory there before focussing on the Pacific, for obvious reasons. Moscow and London are a long way from Tokyo, but not too far from Berlin. An earlier bomb would have been likely used on German cities first (not Berlin though, for the same reason Tokyo wasn’t nuked - you need someone with the authority to surrender left alive) in order to force surrender.

A third possibility is a big stretch of lend-lease. The U.K. and U.S. co-operated in the Manhattan Project (and in pretty much all nuclear weapons policies since), and the U.K. had started its project in 1940 (although didn’t have a working bomb until the 50’s - they’re expensive, after all). If instead of battleships and jeeps the U.S. lend-leases a few nukes, some German cities once again go up in nuclear fire. Fat Man in the hands of Bomber Harris? A dream come true in the climate of total war and over strategic bombing offensive.

And because gas isn’t worth a damn militarily. Even under optimal conditions it doesn’t work very well.

Splashier certainly :D.