Nagasaki and Hiroshima

Cecil,
while your reply to the question how did Hiroshima and Nagasaki recovered so
quickly, after doomsday predictions were claiming that those cities would be
uninhabitable for thousands of years is already some 12 years old, I wish to explain following:
Like so many other Pacifists, you side-stepped the real question and only talked
about the horrific results of the bombs.
What people like you conveniently ignore, are the facts, that those bombs ended
the war in the Asia/Pacific region and thus saved tens of millions of lives.
I myself was born in the former Dutch East Indies and like billions of others in our region, our families suffered horribly under the Japanese occupation.
The less than 300,000 victims of those bombs are a very small percentage of the
victims from Japanese aggression, but because Left Wing “pacifists” like the “make love, no war” Hippies hated the U.S. and made them the focus of their spite,
the truth was forgotten in the frenetic pursuit of vilifying those “evil Americans”.
There were huge demonstrations each year at the anniversary of the bombs, but since 1972 (just 27 years and not 150 or thousands of years, after the bombs
were dropped), those cities were cleaned up/re-built and re-populated and now have more than 2-1/2 times the original population.
They did not care about our suffering and the relief when due to those bombs, we
were freed from oppression.
There have been no big demonstrations around the globe, when the zealots realised that there was nothing to demonstrate anymore, but none of the doomsayers has ever admitted that their prophecies were entirely false and wrong.
My best friend and neighbour, a retired botanist, has visited those cities and he could not believe his eyes how beautiful and vibrant those were and many millions of visitors from all over the globe come to visit and marvel at the sights.
It is very hard for doomsayers to use common sense and zealotry blinds their minds.
According to the Wikipedia web-site, there have been more than 100 doomsday predictions made in the last 2,000 years and none of those were correct and we are now in the year 2016.
When will people grow up?
Noslap.

He skipped over that because it wasn’t relevant to the question. You’re talking about whether the bombs were a good or bad thing overall, for the entire world, and you can certainly make a case that they were a good thing. But that doesn’t change the fact that for those two cities specifically, it was a very bad thing.

Two quetions come to mind.
The first one is multiple choice: Mass civilian killing is (always / usually / sometimes / in this unique instance) good for the world and humanity. (If you chose the fourth option, explain what was unique about this case.
The second one is, would the Japanese have capitulated if we had instead bombed an unpopulated part of Japan, twice, to demonstrate that we had the power to obliterate the entire island? With negligible loss of lives.

Link to column http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2466/if-nuclear-fallout-lasts-thousands-of-years-how-did-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-recover-so-quickly

If anything, I think The Master’s article supports the OP’s position, at least one small part of it. On the other hand, and using the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone as an example, the local wildlife would have been much better off if these Japanese cities were to remain unfit for human habitation.

The war that the hippies railed against was the full nuclear exchange between the USSR and USA, kinda hard to frame this as a Mennonite-style of pacifism.

Since I know you weren’t there, I just need to point out that the “make love, no[t] war” hippies loved the U.S. and what America ideals stood for a thousand percent more than the people who were running it at the time.

It’s also a fact that the debate over whether and how to use the atomic bombs went to the highest levels of both the U.S. civilian and military leaders and that some people on each side advocated either not using them or giving a demonstration first. None of those people were “hippies” or pacifists or antiwar.

My personal opinion is that the decision to use the bombs was the right one. As you say, they shortened the war and undoubtedly saved large numbers of lives. Yet the antinuke movement has had the wonderful effect of preventing any further use of atomic weapons by anybody on any side for any reason, in that they ensured that the cost of using the bombs be the determining factor over any temporary military advantage.

You’ve swallowed a huge dose of the wrong flavor of propaganda.

I think history pretty much answered that question. The Japanese government didn’t surrender after the bombing of an actual city. Why would bombing an unpopulated area have had a greater effect?

They didn’t surrender after the first one, because they thought that we probably only had one of our superweapon, and that it would take us months to make another one. When we used another only a couple of days later, that convinced them that we had plenty of them just lying around. Which, of course, was the intention, since the actual truth was that it would have taken us months to make one more after that. From a strictly rational standpoint, one could reach the same conclusion from bombings of empty land. But then, people aren’t strictly rational, and destroying an entire city with a single weapon probably has a lot more emotional impact than destroying an empty field.

Me? Never. I’m a “Toys R Us” kid.

OP, “tens of millions of lives” were not saved. Not even a million. Probably not even a hundred thousand (i.e., within the order of those killed by the bombs). More like ten to fifty thousand.

That as the original US military estimate of fatal casualties from the invasion of the Japanese home islands, planned for autumn 1945 (just in case).

This got inflated to “a million” gradually, in the months and years afterwards, as Truman and Sec. James Byrnes had to justify to themselves, and to the world, their decisions.

OP, I’m even giving you the benefit here of assuming these were the only two options, when they were indeed not. Waiting more than three days after Hiroshima for a definitive answer was just one of several other, very viable options. Also modifying “unconditional” to merely assure the Mikado’s personal safety – which we ended up doing anyway!

And, the stated Japanese reason for surrender was…the Russians invading Japanese-occupied Manchuria (the same week as the American A-bombs).

(Source: the excellent historian Gay Alperovitz)

The original estimates varied from person to person and from time to time, with the numbers growing ever higher as August approached. Operation Downfall estimated casualties gives a flavor of the range.

In personal conversation with a low-level staffer who was in the Pentagon at the time, I received an estimate of 500,000. I no longer remember whether that was deaths or casualties.

You also need to note that the OP was talking about all lives anywhere in Asia that would be impacted by the drawn-out battle that would have allowed Japan to continue sowing death for the estimated time (18 months?) A million is not an outlandish number, although tens of millions would imply deliberate civilian killing by the Japanese. Not impossible, but not likely.

Not to mention that if the war went longer the Russians would have been more involved in the Pacific and might have pushed for Japan to be broken up like Germany into quadrants.

No, this isn’t true. The Americans who were estimating the casualties of an invasion assumed the Japanese economy was collapsing because they could see Japanese units on the front were running low on supplies. It wasn’t an unreasonable guess but it was wrong. The reason front line units were running low was because Japan was stockpiling supplies in Japan in anticipation of an invasion.

The Japanese also had to figure out how they would defend against an invasion. They could spread out their forces or concentrate them in a smaller area and hope they were in the right place. They chose the latter option. And in considering the possible areas to defend, they guessed correctly; they placed the bulk of their defense in the places where the Americans were planning on attacking.

Postwar American occupiers got to see the defenses and equipment they would have faced in their planned invasion and they conceded they had underestimated the Japanese defenses and would have taken higher casualties then they had predicted.

Why do you think that Cecil is a pacifist, Noslap? Where does he say anything that implies pacifism? Is your argument that Cecil is not quite as enthusiastic about the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as you and therefore must be a pacifist because only pacifists might even slightly have problems with the bombings? What do you know about hippies, Noslap? My memory is that no more of them hated the U.S. than did any other random group of Americans.

Far more than a hundred “doomsday” predictions were made. The Wikipedia article just lists some of the most well known of them. Furthermore, over the past 2,000 years, an enormous number of predictions of all sorts have been made. Nearly all of them were inaccurate. Some of them were too pessimistic. Some of them were too optimistic. Some were inaccurate in ways that can’t be characterized either as optimistic or pessimistic. Predictions are extremely difficult. I just finished Future Babble by Dan Gardner, a book about the many inaccurate predictions that have been made. Gardner concentrates on things like economic, political, or environmental predictions rather than religious ones, which is what that Wikipedia article is about. You might want to read this book to learn about the difficulties of forecasting anything.

Thanks, Little Nemo; I wasn’t aware of that. Still, nothing remotely close to the OP’s “tens of millions.” And, are you (or your sources) acknowledging the then-new necessity for Japan to defend a second front, against the Russians?

The arguments for other options besides “2 quick A-bombs over cities” and “conventional invasion of the home islands” still stand, in any case.

Maybe we could have dropped the A-Bombs on that half of Tokyo we’d already destroyed.

I think that half million causalities was strictly American causalities, we would have expected to have to kill every single one of the Japanese judging by what we witnessed in Okinawa. I wonder if JKellyMap could share what Gay Alperovitz had to say about that?

My point is that, even if we put aside the issue of American casualties, the atomic bombings killed fewer Japanese than would have been killed in a conventional invasion. And killed far fewer Japanese than would have been killed by the blockade strategy - that strategy would have literally killed tens of millions.

I acknowledge that the Soviet declaration of war was a huge factor in Japan’s decision to surrender. It was as important as the atomic bombings. And this was due to a psychological blow as much as the actual military blow.

The Soviet Union had been at peace with Japan for most of the war because fighting Germany had been the Soviets’ top priority. But the Soviets did want to participate in the war against Japan at some point in order to establish its claim to a share of the postwar spoils. So in the last year of the war, the Soviets began to worry about the possibility that Japan might surrender before the Soviets had a chance to join in the war against them. They wanted to make sure Japan kept fighting.

The Soviets therefore began telling the Japanese that the Americans were growing exhausted from the fighting and would consider a negotiated peace. The American government couldn’t say this publicly for morale reasons but they would discuss possible terms with Japan through Soviet intermediaries, who were neutral third parties.

So for the last year of the war, the Japanese government thought it was negotiating a truce with the United States. They would offer concessions which the Soviets would supposedly pass on to the Americans. A month or so later, the Soviets would come back and say “Sorry, no, they wouldn’t agree to that. You’ll have to make a better offer.”

This deception kept some hope alive for the Japanese government. Sure, they would lose the war but they might be able to hang on to something, like being able to stay in power in Japan itself. They kept fighting while they thought they were participating in secret truce negotiations.

The Soviet declaration of war therefore didn’t just represent the entry of a new opponent against them. It also meant the realization that their previous hopes for a possible truce had been illusory.

As Little Nimo notes, this is completely false. If Alperovitz is estimating only a few tens of thousands were saved by having the war end early he isn’t that excellent of a historian in that it’s grossly overlooking a myriad of documented problems.

There simply isn’t a way of knowing if the Japanese would have surrendered without the atomic bombs and before the planned invasion. Alperovitz is not the only one to claim that, but it’s not an open and shut case. Certainly the entry of the Soviets into the war was an important factor, but there are many indications that it would have required the invasion. Alperovitz made his claim back in the 60s, and there has been a large amount of research since then.

From my readings, it does seem that it took both the Soviet entry into the war and the atomic bombs as a number of historians have argued.

As far as the number of deaths “saved” by the bombs:

First, there were about 100,000 Allied (US, British, Australian and Dutch) POWs which were targeted by the IJA for execution. The Japanese had or were already killed the Chinese POWs. After the war they released all 56 remaining.

Second, and much more significant in terms of numbers was the number of civilians in areas which were Japanese occupied. Scores of thousands were dying per month of disease and starvation.

Third, the number of Japanese civilians who were also dying of starvation and disease. Not with the same number as the in the occupied countries, but still not insignificant. With the loss of Okinawa (where the all important sugarcane was grown), the complete blockage of the islands not enough foodstuff was getting through. Japan couldn’t provide enough calories for her people.

Worse, the USAAF was starting to apply the lessons learned from fact finding teams in the post surrender Germany, and had started to concentrate more on Japan’s transportation system. As Japan was wholly dependent on rice and other vital foods from the islands of Kyushu and Hokkaido, losing these would have produced mass starvation during the winter of '45.

Through MAGIC intercepts, at the time of the bombing, the US knew that the size of the IJA forces in Kyushu awaiting Operation Olympic was more than double the estimates. Admiral King was pushing to change plans and proceed with Operation Clarinet to attack Kanto directly, which would have bypassed Kyushu and the 900,000 men and 10,000 kamikaze attack aircraft waiting there, five times more than that employed in the Battle of Okinawa.

It should be noted that while the US Navy had developed some remarkable tactics for defending against the tokkotai (kamikaze) in Okinawa, the invasion of Kyushu would have been much, much more difficult to defend against. In Okinawa, the Japanese planes needed to cross over 500 miles of open ocean from their bases in – Kyushu. Although the US would be conducting heavy attacks across the island, the Japanese had been able to successfully hide landing strips.

Kyushu is has a heavily mountainous terrain, and the pilots were training to utilize that to avoid detection from radar. They had also changed targets to specifically go after the troop transports. It would have been a bloody fight.

As a far as the other options, the one about waiting a few more days is really without merit. The Supreme War Council was arguing about surrendering or not and War Minister Gen. Anami (the most powerful member of the government in Japan, even more than the Prime Minister) stated that the US could only have one bomb. It took Nagasaki to demonstrate this wasn’t the case.

Until the crisis of both the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war, the military didn’t seriously considered the question of surrender.

There were two issues concerning the surrender and keeping the emperor. First was that, the status of Hirohito but there was also a question of kokutai

a word which defiles simple translation and which most places get wrong. Wiki gets it wrong by calling it imperial sovereignty and probably the best translation would be as given in the sample sentence.

The problem was that the military in general and the army in specific had hijacked the term to mean a military-led government in which the civilians were to blindly follow them.

The hardliners had tried to argue for preserving the kokutai and with it the ensuing of another war in however many years later. Clearly that would not be acceptable. The Meiji Constitution, which placed the military outside of the control of the cabinet and nominally reporting to the emperor, had to go.

Had the US insisted that the emperor be treated as the war criminal he was, then the Japanese would have kept on fighting. As it was, Hitohiro agreed to toss the military under the bus and allow his personal survival by agreeing to not insist on the kokutai.

Without the immediate threat of continued atomic bombing, it does not look like Hirohito would have been able to get the army to agree to surrender and also give up the kokutai.

We know that from the MAGIC intercepts of the ridiculous proposals they were sending to their ambassador in Moscow.

These other options were not valid and would not likely have made any difference. Certainly there was no way for Truman & Co. to have known.

It’s also worth remembering that even after Hirohito’s surrender, there were still military leaders who wanted to defy him and keep fighting. There was an attempted coup that planned on kidnapping Hirohito and repudiating his surrender message as a fraud.

(post shortened)

I believe you are referring to Gar Alperovitz. Unless you’re suggesting that Alperovitz is a very happy guy?