Did the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really end the war




 
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August 12th, 2017  
MontyB
 
 

Topic: Did the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really end the war


Did the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really end the war?

The bombings have long been justified as an ethical choice in decisively ending the Second World War — but it’s not entirely clear that they did

August 4, 2017
12:20 PM EDT

This Sunday marks the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, followed three days later by the bombing of Nagasaki.

Residents of former Allied countries all generally agree on what happened next: An awed Japan surrendered and the world was spared the devastating human cost of a land invasion of the Japanese home islands. A particularly chilling fact is that United States has yet to use up the vast supply of Purple Hearts minted in anticipation of a bloody landing.
Arguments against the bombings usually take a moral tack. That whatever the ends, it’s never right to intentionally vaporize women and children. But in recent years an entire new argument has emerged: Bomb or no bomb, the war would have ended anyway.

Below, some things you may not have known about the momentous events of August 1945.

The bombings coincided with one of the largest invasions in history
On Aug. 9, just three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, as many as 1.6 million Soviet troops launched a surprise attack on Japanese positions in Manchuria. For comparison, D-Day involved 150,000 troops. Across a 4,400-km front, the war-hardened Red Army utterly steamrolled through Japanese defences — and within two weeks Soviet landing craft had begun hitting islands off the Japanese coast. When Imperial Japan came to the United States to talk surrender, they weren’t just facing nuclear bombs, they were staring down an unstoppable communist juggernaut that was just as ambivalent about death as they were.

The minutes to Japanese war meetings barely mention the bombings
For his 2011 book Hiroshima Nagasaki, Australian historian Paul Ham pored over the minutes of high-level Japanese meetings and discovered that the country’s ruling military elite had a shocking indifference toward the atomic bombings. On Aug. 9, Japan’s six-member supreme war council was meeting in a bunker under Tokyo when word was first received that Nagasaki had been destroyed. Engrossed in discussions about the Soviet invasion, the assembled men did not seem to care. “A runner comes in and says ‘Sir, we’ve lost Nagasaki, it’s been destroyed by a new ‘special’ bomb’ … and the sort of six Samurai sort of said, ‘thank you, and run along,’ ” Ham told an interviewer in 2011.

The United States had been destroying Japanese cities for months
Had the United States possessed an atomic bomb in 1941, it’s inconceivable that they would have responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor by vaporizing a city. But by 1945, the U.S. military had gradually become numb to the task of wiping Japanese cities off the map. More than 60 Japanese cities were hit by firebombing attacks, including a massive March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo that easily outstripped Hiroshima or Nagasaki for death toll, destruction and general horror. “In that single night, we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo: men, women, and children,” said Robert McNamara in the 2003 film The Fog of War. Later U.S. Secretary of Defense during the escalation of the Vietnam War, McNamara worked closely on U.S. bomber strategy during the Second World War. In later fire raids, Yokohama — a city then the size of Cleveland — would be 58-per-cent destroyed. Nagoya, which McNamara noted was equal in size to Los Angeles, was 40-per-cent destroyed. To the Japanese military leadership in the later summer of 1945, the introduction of a city-destroying weapon wasn’t particularly shocking or new.

Meanwhile, Japanese officials were utterly staggered by war with Russia

Japan and the Soviet Union had spent most of the Second World War under a non-aggression pact. Furthermore, right up until the moment of invasion, Japanese leaders still believed that the Soviets would help them negotiate a favourable peace with the Americans. Instead, just as Japan was thinking about calling Moscow for a parley, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin handed them a declaration of war. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a U.S. historian fluent in Japanese and Russian, has become one of the most prominent advocates for the view that Soviet tanks weighed heavier on the Japanese mind that atomic bombs ever did. “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation,” he said in 2010.

Before the bombings, the United States knew that the Japanese were contemplating surrender
Right to the end, there were members of Japan’s ruling elite who wanted to do for their country what Adolf Hitler had just done for Germany: A Götterdämmerung that would end in the suicidal destruction of the homeland. Ultimately, this sick vision for the war’s end would only be stopped by the personal intervention of Emperor Hirohito. However, talk of peace had been buzzing around Tokyo for weeks until the bombings. American cryptographers reading Japanese military communications reported that as early as July 13 Hirohito seemed to have “personally intervened and brought his will to bear in favour of peace.” However, the success of such an endeavour was deemed “remote.”

It’s not a given that the U.S. would have invaded Japan
When compared against a land invasion of Japan, the atomic bombings absolutely make ethical sense. On one side, two destroyed cities and about 200,000 killed. On the other, a fight to the finish against a suicidal opponent that could leave millions dead. The recent invasion of the Japanese island of Okinawa, for instance, had seen local civilians engage in waves of mass suicides But it’s not a guarantee that U.S. landing craft would have taken to the beaches on November 1, the planned start of the invasion of Japan. The United States was facing a blockaded enemy with virtually no functioning air force, navy or industry. Truman knew that he would need to explain the necessity of a brutal invasion to the U.S. public, and this may have stayed his hand. Paul Ham, for one, wrote that invasion plans had been “shelved” by the time of the first atomic bomb test in the New Mexican desert.


To their dying day, there were senior White House officials who believed the bombings were unnecessary

Surprisingly, there was no shortage of men in the president’s inner circle who objected to atomic bombs being used against Japan. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff even called them “barbarous.” But one of the most poignant critics was John McCloy, the assistant Secretary of War. Early plans for the end of the war had demanded unconditional surrender for Japan, save for one concession: The country would be able to retain its emperor as a powerless figurehead. However, this was later struck from surrender terms presented to Japan before the bombing. As men like McCloy would learn after the U.S. had occupied Japan, the issue of emperor retention was indeed a key reason driving Japanese holdout. “I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs,” McCloy was quoted as saying in Deadline, a book published two years after his death.

http://nationalpost.com/news/did-the...9-a39b9800494b
 


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