Nukes and the end of the war in the Pacific

As I understand it the US created three nuclear bombs in early 1945. One was expended at Alamagordo to see if these infernal gadgets actually work, and the other two were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Now if this is true, the Japanese militarists could have said in effect, “Is that all you got? Surrrender? Hell, no! Drop some more of your bombs! See if we care!” And if the US did not have any more nukes would they have told the Japanese, “Hey, you guys just wait a few months and we will do it again! Just give us a little time and we will vaporize one or more of your other cities! Seriously, we are gonna do you in, okay? Just be patient!”

Then, would the Russians have thought, “Hmm. The Americans do not have any more nukeskis. We can seize much real estate in northern Japan and the Yankee Imperialists can’t do squatski about it.” And the Cold War begins in Asia, not Europe.


If the US did have more nukes, would Harry Truman have said, “Those @&%& people are not getting the message! @%& them! The next one goes to Tokyo, and if the militarists and the %#@& emperor don't like it, tough #@%!”

All well and good as far as vaporizing the militarists goes, but what about the emperor? Would reducing him to glow-in-the-dark particles have brought about a surrender? And how would his death affect post-war governance of Japan?

Any thoughts?

First off, you seem to forget that the Cold War *did *begin in Asia, insofar as it began anywhere. Remember the Korean War?

Secondly, it wasn’t any fear of America nukes that prevented Russia from invading Japan. It was purely the fact that Japan had already surrendered and was fully occupied before they were in a position to invade. So they had no pretext for invasion and no way of “claiming” territory from the Western troops already stationed there even if they could.

The only way the Russians could have seized Japanese territory, whether the US had nukes or not, was to initiate a shooting war, and while both sides saw that as inevitable, neither side wanted it to happen in 1945. So nukes were a total non-issue in that regard.

Nukes did play a major role in preventing a Russian invasion of Japan, just not the way you think.

There were two main reasons for using nukes. One was to demonstrate them to the Russians, with whom war was considered inevitable. The other was to force Japan to surrender before Russia could invade. Russia had declared war on Japan and already had an impressive invasion force in place, and the Russians had little fear of sending millions soldiers to their deaths, or of killing millions of resisting Japanese civilians. The western Allies feared that Russia would invade the Northern Japanese islands, which would at best leave the nation divided and partly under Communist control. At worst, it would mean that the Russians controlled all the islands.

By forcing Japan to surrender before Russia was ready to launch an invasion, the US removed any opportunities for the Russians to take any Japanese territory. So, the US would almost certainly have continued delivering nukes every month if Japan hadn’t surrendered. At that stage the decision had already been made to bomb Japan into submission rather than risking an invasion, and the decision had been made to force a surrender before Russia had a chance to take any territory.

If the surrender was delayed, nukes nukes would probably have been used in conjunction with conventional explosives, but they would have been used as fast as they could be made. There was

The effects of killing the Emperor as just as uncertain now now as they were then.

One school of thought was that killing the Emperor would result in a prolonged war with massive civilian casualties. Japanese tradition dictated that if the Emperor was killed, all the senior officers were obligated to die, either in battle seeking revenge or through suicide. That lead a lot of people to believe that with the Emperor dead, the officers would force soldiers and civilians to resist to the death, making a land invasion necessary. There was also the fact that the Emperor was fairly moderate, and would happily have surrendered years earlier if he was able to. So killing him wasn’t seen as a plus.

The opposing school of thought was that the Japanese would never bear to see the Emperor surrender, which he would have to do in order for the country to surrender. There was also the desire from all allied nations that the Japanese surrender should be unconditional, which would mean the Emperor would have to be stripped of his position and likely tried for war crimes. Since that would be utterly unacceptable to the Japanese people, a living Emperor seemed like an impediment t surrender.

In the real world Japan was allowed conditional surrender that preserved the Emperor. But whether the surrender would have been any less likely with the Emperor dead remains open to debate.

I think you should have posted this in the correct forum. :stuck_out_tongue:

Moved from General Questions to Great Debates.

samclem, moderator

It’s important to note that, though we had only made three nukes and used them all, Japan didn’t know that. That was a very closely-guarded secret, and part of the reason we used the first two in such rapid succession was to bluff Japan into thinking that we had a limitless supply of the things. Apparently, it worked.

We dropped the first two on August 6th and 9th.

We would have had an additional bomb ready in under two weeks. There was an additional bomb core ready to ship by the 12th of August. We also expected an additional 3 to be ready in September, and 3 more in October.

(warning: pdf)

Thus, it wasn’t a matter of not having more bombs at the ready. Also, Tokyo would not have been a likely target, as it had been pretty decimated by conventional firebombing raids.

Indeed, the firebombing of Operation Meetinghouse in May 1945 resulted in more immediate deaths than either Fat Man or Little Boy. Kokura, the primary target of the bomb which went to Nagasaki (due to cloud obscuring) seems an obvious location for a third bomb. An extensive resource on the discussions of targets at the time can be found here

After all, you need someone alive with the authority to surrender.

No point in dropping one on Tokyo – the destroyable parts of the city were already destroyed by then. The death toll for the March 9-10 raid (the big one) is set officially around 100,000, but may well be low, as all the authorities compiling it were motivated to minimize it. 15.8 square miles of the most densely populated urban area on the planet (estimated to contain 1.5 million people) were totally destroyed in one night.

By late summer, the B-29 firebombing offensive had destroyed the city centers of all of Japan’s sixty largest cities (excepting those deliberately held off the target list so that they’d be undamaged for the atomic bombs). Had we been out of nukes, we could (and would) have continued this campaign, progressively destroying everything in smaller and smaller venues, rendering nukes moot anyway. It’s simply not useful to to nuke individual buildings, and eventually that’s all Japan would have had left.

“To Win a Nuclear War” by Prof Kaku gives an inventory of US nuclear weapons at various points in time (inlcuding late 1945), and it pretty much confirms what ads95 says. We were using them as fast or faster than we could make them.

But from day one on, the list of potental targets always exceeded the number available.

I remember that the Korean War, (June 25, 1950), began after the Berlin Airlift, (June, 24 1948 – May 12, 1949).


The Berlin airlift began after the resumption of open hostilities between the KMT and Chinese Communists (1945-1949), after the Communist party had already seized control of mainland China and founded the PRC (1949), after the Jeju uprising (1948), after the Yeo-Sun rebellion (1948).

Trying to say definitively when and where the Cold War began is pointless. But to the extent that it can be said to have started anywhere, Asia is as good a place as any. In Europe, both sides at least pretended to have peaceful and non-antagonistic intentions for a few years. In Asia the Communist and Capitalist factions were openly shooting at each other literally the day after the Japanese surrendered, and were committing atrocities against civilians within 12 months that make the Berlin blockade look like a picnic.

It’s very easy for western educated people to see the Cold War as being a Euro-American thing that incidentally forced Euro-American troops into a few minor skirmished in Asia. But the fact is that events such as “The” Korean War and “The” Vietnam war, although defined in most Western sources by the date that American troops arrived, had been a conflict between capitalist and Communist forces since the end of WWII at the very latest.

Michael Dobbs, a prominent Cold War historian, makes the argument that the Cold War began with disputes over the make-up of the Romanian government - which occurred while Germany was still fighting.

Nuclear weapons weren’t the only card Truman had in his hand. He also had the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and AAF. It’s not like America would have been helpless without nuclear weapons.

I’ve seen several arguing that it started with Yalta, which was basically a wartime peace conference for dividing up the world between the capitalist and communist powers. It’s as good a starting point as any.

If you guys are just talking about the ‘cold war’ between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, it started in the 1920s with the establishment of the union and its clear goals of expansionism. WW2 was just a recess on the issue. The cold war ended with the break up of the USSR.

I think it started when Karl Marx said “Y’know, maybe it would be nice if…”

That expansion seems to have gotten off to a slow start. The Soviet Union was actually smaller than the Russian Empire.

And much more multiple cultural.

But the Russian empire didn’t fight proxy wars in Vietnam and Malaysia, and in Africa and South America.

And the Soviet Union was doing this in the 1920’s?

No, but that little fact doesn’t alter things.