The first one dropped on Hiroshoma definitely showed our resolve and the incredible power of the A-bomb. Why was it useful or necessary to drop the secondone?
It demonstrated that the first bomb was not an irreproducable event.
It provided a second horrible shock to a militaristic regime which, though rocked, might not have been driven to surrender by the first bomb.
It proved, beyond any doubt, that the balance of military power had shifted so powerfully in one direction that continued warfare on Japan’s part would have been suicidal.
Do any of these mean the second bomb was necessary? That is a judgment history has hidden from us. We cannot know whether the first would have been sufficient to drive the Japanese to a complete surrender. But there were reasons behind Truman’s decision.
The Japanese didn’t surrender after the first. Among the reasons was that their scientists (and the German scientists as well) were very far off in their estimate of how much uranium would be required for an atom bomb, and thought that it was impossible for the US to have enough for any more. As much as the first one was a devastating thing, once it had happened, there would be no reason to surrender, as the damamge was done either way.
The ability to produce a devastating effect means nothing as a threat or deterrent unless your opponent realizes at the same time that the effect could be reproduced at your leisure. So after the first one failed to fully drive the threat home, the second one certainly did.
A more substantial question might be, did the second one need to be dropped on a city? Would simple proof of its existence (say, detonation at sea, or in the countryside) have been enough, or was another civilian attack the only way to fully demonstrate the cost?
Just curious, waterj2, do you have a citation for that? The only reason I ask is that in my various readings on the subject, I have never even seen the Japanese physicists mentioned. All the discussions that I have seen on the events in Japan between August 6 (or early July) and August 14, 1945 have discussed the perspectives of the ruling party, the emperor, the diplomats, the Army, the Navy, and, in one case, the perpective from industrial leaders. However, I have never encountered any mention that anyone in authority actually went to a scientist and asked “Can they do that again?”
I am not claiming that it is unlikely; I’m just curious where a source for that could be found.
OK, now two of you have mentioned that the Japanese did not cave in after the first bomb. However, it was not as though we gave them a lot of time to respond. Hiroshima was the communication center through which news of any similar event would have had to pass. There were members of the government who had heard not much more than that “something” had happened at Hiroshima as late as 30 hours later.
Full reports that the damage had been done by a single aircraft and bomb were still not available to many decision makers as late as August 8–and were not believed in many cases, then.
I am not arguing against or for the bombing of Nagasaki. However, it appears to me (and I’m including statements made in the parallel thread yesterday and today as well as the earlier thread from a few months ago), that some of the arguments are really based on information that we now have that the Japanese government did not (and could not) have.
(E.g., one comment I read indicated that the Japanese civilians began to fear every plane flying a solitary mission. This may have been true in the days following Nagasaki as word got out of the bombings, but with the general censorship of Japanese news, it was simply not common knowledge that it was a one-plane attack–and it was certainly not widely known in the first three days following Hiroshima.)
That’s possible, Tom. I never really thought of that before. It’s hard to imagine, since we’ve all grown up wedded to the telephone, television, and now computer, that something of that magnitude could NOT be instantly known, even half a century ago, but it is possible. I would assume that American propaganda about it was being pumped out at a furious rate immediately before and after, though I would also understand being skeptical of that propaganda. It was, after all, something the world had never seen before (and I hope to every God invented that it never sees it again)
Can’t provide anything solid as a cite. It was what my professor for “War Since Napoleon” said. This site supports the idea that the Germans believed that 10 tons of U[sub]235[/sub] were required at the time the bomb dropped. Since the US publicized the theory behind the bomb fairly well the next day, and since the Japanese would have shared some information with the Germans, it seems a plausible scenario.
There is a thread running through this thread that seems to be implying that the USA may have been “wrong” to drop the second bomb, and possibly even the first too.
We cannot possibly judge the dropping of the atomic bombs in retrospect. Or, if one insists, then the following must be considered:
- America remained vengeful after Pearl Harbor.
- For years, cities were being bombed routinely with huge casualities (more people died in the Tokyo fire raids than did at Nagasaki). The bombing of citizens was an accepted part of the War.
- Most importantly, the USA had seen the suicidal commitment of the Japanese at Okinawa and Iwo Jima only months before. The thought of having to invade the main island of Japan to achieve victory brought with it thoughts of hundreds of thousands US casualities and possibly millions of Japanese.
I think if the japanese had the A bomb they would have used it on the USA, no question. I think that answers it all really.
The 2nd bomb was necessary because the Japanese military types were still not yet ready to surrender. Even after the Emperor ordered them to do so (I think he didnt’ say surrender, but rather “cooperate” with the Allies) there was resistance, an aborted coup attempt for example, and no one was really sure if the military would obey the emperor.The Japanese officials sent to negotiate the actual surrender ceremony details were convinced they would be attacked and shot down by the die hards who wanted to fight. Also, the Atom Bombs by themselves did not convince them, it was a combination of the bombs (and that we had multiples of them), the destruction of the food transportation network, the various military setbacks, the conventional bombing (which continued both during and after the atom bombs), the failure of the “peace initiative” with Russia (actually an attempt to get Russia to join their side), the failure of the Allies to respond to their silence to the Potsdam declarations (the Japanese felt that the west would treat the silence as an encouraging signal for more negotiations), and finally the declaration of war by Russia. It was the combination that convinced the Emperor that the war was lost (and a quiet assurance by the Allies that he would be spared). Read the book “Downfall” by Franks. It has one of the best about the end of the war with Japan and what really was going on. The Japanese rulers werer perfectly willing to sacrifice millions of Japanese, and millions of people in the countries they occupied, to maintain their power.
the second bomb was really expensive and we had spent a lot of time developing it. an unused atomic bomb is pretty useless. plus, it was a completely different type of bomb from the first one and we were really curious to see if it would work as well. weren’t we curious to see what the effects of a bomb on a city would be? if not, the idea somebody mentioned to bomb an unpopulated area would have worked pretty well to convince the Japanese to surrender. plus, we were on a deadline because we didn’t want Russia to invade Japan and have a say in that country’s post-war reconstruction; i believe the bombing of Nagasaki took place on the very day that Russia invaded Japan (Manchuria?). not to mention the fact that we wanted to prove to Russia that America had the strength to be the number-one imperialistic power in the post-war world. (WWII becomes a lot more fascinating to study when you realize that it had nothing to do with defeating “evil fascism” and much more to do with jockeying for power positions. i understand that invading Italy was pretty costly and useless as strategy for defeating the Axis, but it was a really good way for the USA to get into Italian politics.)
oh, and, the Japanese were dirty nips. a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, who’s counting? (For a look at racism in the Pacific War, check out * War Without Mercy* by John Dower.
**tomndebb ** had a good point. even after Japanese leadership had heard about the bombing of Hiroshima, could they have begun to understand the magnitude? how wide-spread was the knowledge that there was a single bomb that had to capacity to destroy a city? couldn’t we have waited a couple of days, enough time for the generals or emperor to tour Hiroshima?
No one should be allowed to create or post to a thread like this until they have read Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.”
Everyone knew that it would be very difficult to extract the fissionable material from natural ore, and that it might be impossible to gather enough for practical nuclear applications. (The Japanese and Germans felt that Nuclear Submarines were more important than nuclear bombs.)
I do not know if they knew about plutonium. Two bombs showed that we could gather enough fissionable material and keep it coming indefinately.
It did take a while for the news from Hiroshima to get to Tokyo since it cut off all communication instantly. So you could argue that we should have waited longer between bombs, but both would probably have been needed.
I was recently talking about whether or not we should have dropped the bomb with a teacher of mine who was in Japan several days after the surrender. During that time he visited both Hiroshima and several other Japanese cities that had been victims of conventinal bombings. He claimed that by the time the A-Bombs were dropped, the US had total air-suppirority in Japan and hence, the cities he’d witnessed that had been victims of conventianal bombings had suffered an equal amount of damage as he’d seen in Hiroshima.
Hard to belive, but I looked up the casulty counts of conventional bombings during WWII and they are in fact on par with those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
According to historian Howard Zinn, Tokyo suffered 80,000 casulties in * one night * of bombings. This number is far greater then the 50,000 casulties of Nagasaki.
Similarily 100,000 people died in the bombing of Dresden (not in Japan, I know, but same type of bombing by the Allies), a number equal to the dead in Hiroshima.
The Japanese must’ve known then that we could devistate their cities, even without the impressive fireworks of two A-Bombs. In fact (once again according to Howard Zinn) a message was intercepted from the Japanese Minister of Foreign affairs to his ambassodor in Moscow directing him to offer surrender to the Allies with the only condition being the presevation of the Emperor.
Most likley scenario I’ve heard is that we wanted to let the Russians know we had them, and that we weren’t scared to use them, hence giving us an advantage in the Cold War to come. This also explains the dropping of the two bombs, as it showed we had both Plutomnium and Uranium bombs and were capable of producing at least 2 in a short amount of time
You also have to remember that the people who dropped these bombs didn’t consider them the terror, end of the world, doomsday weapons we do. To them, they were just bigger bombs. We’d been dropping bombs on the Japanese all the time, a couple more didn’t seem like such a big thing.
And remember, the Japanese really did have some suicidal ideas about defending the home islands. Villagers were issued bamboo pikes and trained to charge invading marines. They would have all been massacred, probably not even much of a distraction, but the idea of death before surrender was a big one for the Japanese. Which is one of the reason POWs had such a hard time…the Japanese considered them traitors to their country and so didn’t feel they had any obligation to treat our POWs humanely.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, is it not?
Maybe during the war, we should have told our soldiers to ‘kill the enemy, but don’t kill them too badly.’ We tried that it Vietnam and Korea and look what a mess came out of that.
It was a different time. People were much different from today. Arguments were often settled with fists and no one went to jail. Joe Kennedy lost his Diplomatic Post because he agreed with Hitler’s pure race policy and Joe had almost unrivaled political power then. When Pearl Harbor got hit, Americans went furious. Almost overnight, the comparatively small military swelled to capacity and the nation switched to war footing. Very few went running to neutral nations as conscientious objectors.
By the dropping of the bomb, we were tired of war. We knew we had won and knew Japan would fight on against overwhelming odds, costing us and the Allies millions of lives and millions of dollars. Not to mention the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland, along with even more millions of their own lives, which by then would have included a large civilian contingent.
The Emperor had lost control of his military. Fanatical generals who believed in death before dishonor were quite willing to go down fighting, no matter the cost in the lives of soldiers or civilians. They knew they had lost, but were determined to save face.
The first bomb was dropped to convince Japan we meant business and were pissed. The second bomb was dropped for all of the previously listed reasons and to convince the entire Japanese nation that they had lost and if they did not surrender, then Japan would become a barren, radioactive nation with no honor, no dignity and no Emperor.
Our military leaders were tired of fighting (except for Patton. He loved war.) Our resources were being drained along with our population.
Our soldiers on all fronts noticed that we were starting to fight younger and younger enemy soldiers.
Stalin was flexing his megalomaniac muscles even then, having had his cookies saved by the Allies, and rumbling dissent once the Germans were no longer able to kick his butt. The English and Americans took note of this little fact and Patton suggested we go in and over run Russia before Russia could recover and become a power to contend with.
He was ignored, much to our eventual cost and to the expense of millions around the world.
The American government wanted to end the war fast, with the least amount of Allied lives and, Japanese civilian lives lost.
So, they dropped the two bombs.
The war ended.
Japan is a viable nation today without large portions of its lands turned into radioactive waste.
The rest is history. (We did not realize at the time that if we had built and dropped a bunch of nuclear bombs there that the radioactive fall out would have affected far more than just Japan.)
If you want to find out the truth about the decision to drop the bombs, read CODENAME DOWNFALL: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan by Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar.
This book describes in detail both the Japanese plans to resist an invasion and the US plans to invade.
The authors of this book mention that there was a ‘peace’ faction in the government, as Zinn mentions. But they also point out, where Zinn doesn’t, that the faction had no hope of gaining control of the government absent the intervention of the Emperor. And it took the 2 Atomic bombs to goad the Emperor into action.
Let’s also not forget that in the end, Truman was the leader of the USA, not Japan. His only concern should have been reducing the projected 1,000,000 US casualties, and little or no concern at all over enemy casualties.
I don’t mean to sound cold-hearted, but why not? We have the technology to end the war, wht not do it with a bang (sorry about the pun) One bomb would not have done enought damage to stop the war. The Japanese attacked us first, so we were just getting them back for the horrible island to island fighting they made us do. We wanted to show our military muscle, to prove we could fight on both sides of the world, and take on 2 very powerful enemys at the same time, and defeat them. No other nation in the world at that time could deal with one, let alone 2 of the axis powers. That decision brought us to where we are today, top on military and economically, over the rest of the world.
the “one million US casulties” was pure propoganda. i think it was based on the idea that every single Japanese villager was a trained ninja.
suicidal soldiers = suicidal civilians? what were the consequences of surrendering if you were a soldier? would that relate to the situation of a rural villager?
Japanese were ready to surrender but were terrified of losing the emperor. America wanted an unconditional surrender and killed hundreds of thousands to ensure it. in the end, we let them keep the emperor anyways–the only “condition” the Japanese really cared about.
question for anybody out there: how many people died significantly (1 year or so) after the bombing from cancer/effects of radiation, etc.? i know you can’t pinpoint the cause of a cancer, but couldn’t you establish a baseline and assume anything over it was caused by the bomb (it should end up to be a pretty decent approximation)?
the use of the atomic bombs had almost nothing to do with the Japanese. it was just the easiest way to sell it to the American people. apparently, that story is still being eaten up with gusto.
is there any event as closely studied and documented as WWII which is so little understood in world history? that it’s still drenched in good versus evil mythology and hero-worship 50 years later is frightening to me.
Just finished the first chapter/prologue of Dark Sun, Rhodes account of the creation of the Hydrogen Bomb.
LeMay, the architect of the firebombing of Japan, admitted after the war that even without the A-Bombs, if we would have lost the war he would have been tried for War Crimes.
One interesting question for debate: If we would have had 1000 Fat Men available, how many would we have dropped?