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A different take on the lives saved by the bomb

Discussion in 'Atomic Bombs In the Pacific' started by dash rip rock, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    The biggest difference is that the majority of the material used to compile Shattered Sword was taken from information that was documented as things unfolded not years after the event.

    However you look at it giving up was the Emporer's call; wether he reached that decision unilatterally or through a quorum of his cabinet and advisors. The point is that whom ever came to the conclusion the finally give up they could have done so much sooner that 12, Aug. 1945.

    After the capture of Okinawa the Japanese public was faced with the realisation that there were going to be foreign boots on Japanese soil and they would have to make the choice of surrendering or dying to preserve the Emporer. The attitudes in 1939 were very different than those of 1945.

    As far as Russia's post war intentions in Europe the writing was on the wall after the Yalta Conference, any doubt was removed after Potsdam.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Exactly but it's consistent both with the information about political and cultural events prior to that time frame as well as post Midway and for that matter post Hiroshima. I.e. you don't have to go looking for arbitary reason for throwing out information. While there may have been changes post Hiroshima and post surrender it's far from clear what they were and using that as a reason for discarding information that conflicts with your stance while keeping info that doesn't is simply not logical.
    Not really. In many cases the Emporer was presented with a solution and had no real say in the matter. In this case several including the Emporer seem to have come to that conclusion prior to 12 August however they didnot act on it because they were not sure that acting on it would produce the desired result.
    There are a number of questions in that regard. For one how well informed were the Japanese people? Why pick Okinawa as Iwo Jima was "Japanese soil" and fell first? Indeed if one knew what had happened up to January 1945 it was pretty clear that "foreign boots on Japanese soil" was a pretty likely result. I guess I don't see the importance and perhaps not even the relevance of this point.
    Was it? If so why wasn't Austria part of the Warsaw pact? Then there's the question of how much the Japanese knew about these events.
     
  3. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    That's not what I consider "hearsay". If it's part of an official interview of someone directly involved there may be problems with memory or deliberate shading but especially if multiple people involved are interviewed the general tone is likely going to be correct. To me "hear say" is when someone records a story that someone else reported hearing.
    Indeed but how and what effect would this have? Fof that matter much changed between May of 42 and July of 42 or November of 41 and January of 42. There are always events which will have considerable impact on perception and perhaps recollection. That seems insufficent to me to discard the best supported theory.
    That wasn't my point. My point was if they had attempted to act on thier conclusions before they were certain that they had enough support there is a likely chance that the opposition would have prevented them from being successful.
    The Emporer could have considerable power but he lacked the control of say Hitler. Again there was the same reverence for the Emporer during the Tokagawa Shogunate but the Emporer was held in seclusion and the Shogun acted in his name not necessarily in ways he aproved. If the Emporer took action that was open and decisive against the ruling powers then he would likely find himself secluded and those who supported him in more serious trouble.
    That's funny did wiki get it wrong at :
    Soviet occupations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    when they state
    Or in more detail at: Allied-occupied Austria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    or if you don't like wiki: Occupation of Austria 1945 - 1955 - World War II - Allied troops - Vienna
    They may have known what was in the agreements (or not) however the agreements were hardly a clear plan for what happened afterwards. It's far from clear for instance that a Soviet occupation would have been worse than a US one. Indeed occupation by multiple powers might have left room for playing one off vs the other.
     
  5. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Well considering that very few of the people involved in the meetings were alive in 1948, either due to suicide or punishment for war crimes, and those are the people who could refute or confirm the goings on. In anycase their testimoney is still suspect until it can be confirmed through an independant third party source.

    The dropping of the Atomic bombs in August of 1945 is easily one of the most horrific events of the time. By 1948 the full effect of the bombs and the totality of Japan's unwillingness to accept unconditional surrender had been realized. I don't think any of the surviving members of Japanese Parliment wanted to be on the side of not wanting to end the war, regardless of their desires prior to August 1945.

    Whatever the reason, they failed to act and that failure cost people their lives. I personally would rather die in an unsuccessful attempt to do the right thing than be a reluctant witness.

    Well then the Emporer should have walked away in 1941. The Emporer made decrees and it is hard for me to imagine that the Parliment held a gun to his head or a knife to his throat.

    What did Wiki get wrong? Austria was divided I don't see your point.
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Brad, one must remember that a great many of the minutes of the meetings survived the war, as did the personal diaries of many members of the government. Those minutes of the cabinet meetings with the Emperor were considered "holy" texts (of a sort) and weren't destroyed or altered.

    At least that is what I've been able to compile over the years in the case of Japan's Imperial Government proceedings. And while Hirohito didn't have the "power" of say a Hitler or Stalin (in the same manner), he had an almost mystical power over the people and, in many instances the government as well.

    I'm not of the "Hirohito was an innocent victim of diabolical politicians and militarists" school. I'd more likely take a position somewhere between Blix (total complicity) and MacArthur (totally a bystander), the man had power, but was many times easily swayed toward other's ideas in the use of it. It was, after all, his single voice which brought the war to an end when his cabinet was split on which way to "jump".
     
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  7. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Behind you one hundred percent. If the person providing the interview is corroborating what is in the official minutes then I have no problem, especially if the interviewee is providing more depth to the text of the minutes. My only point is that the interview alone can only be taken at face value and is suspect to confirmation to the official record of the meetings. What was the interviewees capacity at the meetings? what part did they take in the decision making? and more importantly what is their culpability in the decisions made?

    I think the members of the cabinet had some tough issues to face up to at the end of the war. Was prolonging the war, in order to preserve the Emporer, worth the loss of life? Was there anything else gained between the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration and was it worth it?

    I hold Japan responsible for the dropping of the bombs and an interview given in 1948 of somone saying that they were not for continuing the war is not going to change that. In for a penny in for pound.
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of certainly but others such as the fire storms in Tokyo or Hamberg were arguably worse and militarily events like Midway or the Philipine Sea were arguably more traumatic.
    Possibly but by saying they were against the surrender but were willing to bow to the Emporer's will they may actually come out looking better at least as far as other Japanese are concerned and they make the Emporer look better as well. Especially if there is any evidence that this was indeed the case it's not a bad position for them to take.
    But would you rather make an unsuccessful attempt that means the war goes on for another year (perhaps more) or wait say 2 or 3 months and make a successful attempt.
    I am far from convinced that he was blameless as far as WWII goes. On the otherhand I'd put most of the blame of the cabinet.
    I mentioned that Austria didn't end up in the Warsaw pact even though the Soviets occupied a significant part of it. The implication being that Soviet occupation of Japan immediately after the war didn't imply especially at the time a permanent occupation.
     
  9. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Sure, but in totality the dropping of the Atomic bombs had more affect on diplomacy and the way wars are conducted. In all fairness no one firebombs anyone to make a point either, even Napalm has gotten out of vogue.

    Certainly up to a point. The Japanese desire to preserve their culture played a huge part in their willingness to delay unconditional surrender. I am sure that the willingness of the Japanese to sacrifice so much to preserve that culture play a big part in the post war reconstruction of Japan and the culmanation of the Treaty of San Francisco.

    Japan was given a chance after the Cairo Conference in 1943 and Again after Yalta in 1944 and yet again after Potsdam in 1945. At some point enough has to be enough.

    Of course, Hirohito was never perceived the meglomaniac Hitler was, and I am sure that if things had played out differently and the Allies had lost in the Pacific or failed to acheive victory in Europ Hitler would have wasted no time in rolling over Japan.

    The Austrian question is more complex in it's simplicity than being able to say: "Well what about Austria?"
    Although it seems that it is similar to the Korean peninsula you can't really compare the two. Maybe that is something that can be done in another thread.
     
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I am in agreement with this, as well. If I recall correctly, in Edward Drea's book Japan's Imperial Army, there were many times both prior to the war, and during it, that Hirohito sided with the militarists in the cabinet. Once his imprimatur was placed on a decision, further discussion of the issue was precluded. At times, by withholding his approval, he allowed both those who supported continuation of hostilities and those who favored cessation, to play off of one another. Again, if I recall correctly, just before the dropping of the bomb, he withheld approval to seek accommodations that would lead to an end to the war. Hirohito certainly holds a large share of blame for the calamities of WW2.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed but the question is when and how did this impact come about and how does it affect the question at hand.
    I've never debated this. What I have questioned is whether internal politics/culture/groups would have allowed the peace party to successfully surrender prior to the bomb. Certainly this hardly constitutes a reason for the US not to drop and indeed may make a stonger case for them doing so.
     
  12. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    The Atomic Bombings of Japan were a terrible consequence for Japan's reluctance to accept unconditional surrender and the totality of that consequence was not fully realized when Japan finally did surrender on 15 August 1945. While the initial casualties of the two bombs were devastating enough, the long term casualties were far worse:
    If the intial casualties had been 200,000 (as estimated above), with no tertiary casualties, I think that would have had a larger impact than the 70,000 initial casualties with another 130,000 estimated in the following weeks/months/years as a result of the initial blast. Ideally people are supposed to stop dying once you surrender I don't think anyone-on either side of the equation- realized what the long term effects of the Bombs was going to be or that people exposed to the initial blast would still be dying 5 years later.
    It obviously made a big enough impression on the rest of the world to never use them again.

    Absolutely, maintaining the culture of Japan was apparently more important than maintaining the population.

    I am just comparing the ideologies of the two and what motivated each to go to war. Hirihito wanted enough to ensure that his Nation and Culture would continue; whereas Hitler, wanteded it all. Had the Allies been unsucessfull and Japan and Germany were left standing they would have gone to war.

    There was contention between Russia and Japan prior to 8, August 1945
    Soviet

    The Soviet subjugation of people and culture in their race to Berlin also was not a secret, Finland is a pretty good example:
    Military history of Finland during World War II - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    of not wanting to be subjugated by the Russians and what Japan may have wanted to avoid.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    No debate from me up to this point.
    It's not clear that a really good understanding of even most of the post detonation consequences were well understood until well into the 60s and there is still research being conducted on this topic.
    That's open to debate. From what I've read the post war mortality among bomb survivors was actually higher than among the Japanese population as a whole.
    The 200,000 figure seems to come from hear
    Total Casualties | The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki | Historical Documents | atomicarchive.com
    It includes dead and wounded. Additional casualties would have been pretty low.
    People are still dieing from ACW weapons, lingering effects from wounds of all sorts of weapons continued to kill long after wars were over. One of my friends for instance had a grandfather or great grandfather that was gassed in WWI. He eventually died of a lung disorder of some sort a good many years after the war. Agent Orange wasn't suppose to even be a casualty causing agent yet look at the problems it's caused. That said there was/is a perception that atomics were different animal. It's just not clear to me when this perception came into being and what it was at various points in time.
     
  14. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Right; but, this was one plane with one bomb on two missions. The totality of casualties was not fully realized on 15, August 1945- it may never be realized. If Japan had been told: "If you don't surrender we a going to drop a single bomb on you that will kill 10's of Thousands in the initial blast with another couple of hundred thousand dying over the next few years and those that manage to survive are going to be monitored for the rest of their lives. AND If you still don't surrender we have another bomb waiting that we're are going to drop just to prove that we have more."

    Hirohito is the one who finally said enough is enough and agreed to terms which had originally setforth in 1943. It was a waste, for Japan, to continue the war past 1943 as they gained nothing but suffering from their unwillingness to accept surrender. Anyone, who was in the 'loop' of decision making is responsible for that suffering and the ultimate consequences of the Atomic Bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I find it very hard to imagine that anyone involved in the peace process when looking back on the events from 1948 would not take an oppurtunity to distance themselves from the decision to prolong the war, or to at least deminish their desire for continuation. This is why any interview given after the dropping of the bombs, by anyone who was part of the Cabinet, is subject to third party verification.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    You didn't finish your thought here. What's your conclusion?
    At the time he did so the councel was split 3 to 3. Was this the case in 43? Indeed after Midway it was pretty clear what the end result would be to anyone willing to look at it rationally. After Gaudalcanal almost all question was removed. The implication being they'd have been better off surrendering in 42. Might even have gotten the terms they asked for then. The problem of course is that wasn't acceptable from their point of view.
    Agreed but I'm not sure it's relevant
    I don't and culturally I suspect we're a lot closer than you are to the Japanese WWII leadership.
    That's true of any interview. One need only look at Fuchida's interviews. However if one takes the culture into account one can get a good idea which way things are likely to shift. I simply don't see the forces as all that strong in the directions you suggest.
     
  16. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    If that is what Truman told the Japanese after the Potsdam declaration.
    My point about 1943 is that the civillian side of the cabinet was already waffeling in their support of the war and by the summer of 1945 the cabinet was divided. If the Emperor had been requested to help break the stalemate sooner, maybe, the bombs could have been avoided.

    I watched a Documentary by the BBC called 'Hiroshima' last night on Netflix instant qeue, that was pretty interesting. It pretty much dealt with the same discussion we are having here.
    The synopsis was that Japan could have avoided the bombs if Truman had given a harsher answer to the Japanese counter offer after the Potsdam declaration. According to the documentary the Japanese took the phrase:"Unconditional surrender of the Japanese Armed Forces" as a sign that the Allies (US) was no longer able, or was lacking fortitude, to continue the fight instead of the accepting it as a concession for leaving their government in place(ish).

    The moral of the story is that the Japanese were solely responsible and the bombs could have been avoided.

    Of course the other side of the coin is that had the Japanese surrendered in the fall of 1944 would we be having this discussion about the Germans?

    watch the video.
     
  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The problem here is that we (allies) didn't have a clue as to what the long term radiation effects were going to be. Remember these were man-made, non-natural isotopes and their reaction to an explosive detonation was an unknown. It was felt by many of the physicists of the moment that the "blast" itself would negate the radioactivity, and they opined that the only reason there was measurable radioactive residue at Alamagordo was because of the proximity of the blast to the surface of the desert.

    It was only about 100 feet up, and they supposed that the force of the blast had "pressed" the remaining radioactive residue into the sand before it could be "consumed" by the giant heat of the blast. From this they imagined that the projected detonation height of about 2000 feet for the actual bombs would allow this radioactivity to be negated, and not reach the surface of the earth. They were wrong, but they had no idea they were wrong until long after the bombs were used. They knew so little about the device that they originally planned to set it off in a giant container, just in case it didn't detonate they wouldn't loose the precious plutonium! Can you imagine what the fragmentation effect of that would have been?

    What I am saying here, is that the warning given that "a rain of ruin from the sky" was accurate at the time since the device was looked at by most military and a great number of the physicists as just a different type, and really big explosion. Not a radioactive terror weapon. Until the facts of it were known, it would be a stretch to think they would warn of "long-term effects", since they didn't think they would be a factor.
     
  18. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    After watching the documentary the phrase: "rain if ruin from the sky" was actually prophetic in that soon after the detonation and fireball a black rain fell and which people collected and drank. The caveat is that the rain was condensation from heat and ash accumulating in the cooler air at the top of the smoke cloud, this turned out to be filled with radioactive particles.

    Exactly and had the Japanese known what the full effects (totality) of the Bomb were going to be two weeks after it was dropped you bet they would have quit July 26; but, they didn't know anything more than anyone else. I don't see how anyone in the Special War Cabinet could have been filled with anything but regret after seeing the reults of the Bombs. I also don't think it too far of a stretch to assume that those in favor of surrender did not question their resolve in trying harder to seek peace sooner or bloviate their insistance in light of the consequences.

    In the documentary I mentioned earlier there is a portion with Paul Tibbetts where he says that he was glad to drop the bomb because of the countless lives it would save.

    The dropping of the Bombs was a horrible, horrible thing and I am sure there is measured regret on both sides of the decision; but, at the end of the day it was a totally avoidable occurence. All the Japanese had to do is quit wether it be 26 July 1945 or February 1944 and they would have avoided the buckets of sunshine.
     
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  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    No dissent from me on that.
     
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  20. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Bix probably hit the nail on the head when he said both Hirohito and Truman had opportunities to end the war sooner.

    Hirohito wanted to end the war from May, but held out for the slim chance of having the Soviets mediate with the Allies for better terms then unconditional surrender, namely the preservation of the throne, the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world that stretched back to the early 4th century.

    If Truman & Byrnes had gone with Stimson's original draft for the Potsdam declaration, [which Truman at first gave the nod] including the Soviet Union as one of the signatories and also offered guarantees for the emperor [with perhaps letting the Japanese know what was coming if they then didn't surrender quickly, as suggested] there was a chance that the war may have been over before the bombs or Soviet intervention, with all the ramifications that could have followed.

    In the words of Under-Secretary of the Navy, Ralph Bard, 'The only way to find out is to try it out.'


    Two original drafts, that of Stimson's, plus Cordell Hull's original Ultimatum to Japan in '41, may have had untold impact.
     

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