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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. ULITHI

    ULITHI Ace

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    Make a video or give us a transcript of your presentation if you could for those of us who can't attend. I for one would be interested in seeing it!
     
  2. dash rip rock

    dash rip rock Member

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    Tristan

    I have to slightly disagree with what you have stated. I feel that it is relevant to take into account the 1945 American point of view as to whether the use of the bomb was necessary or not. I may be misguided here, but I really don't think the American government was looking to unnecessarily destroy Japanese cities. I think if we exclude that fact then it does have the possibility to make our side seem needlessly bloodthirsty. I have read nothing (in this thread or otherwise) to make me believe that our gov't was in any way looking to extract revenge, so to speak, by destroying cities if they could avoid it.

    I can absolutely see where you are coming from, but the thread has evolved from what was supposed to be a very specific point of whether lives were saved to pretty much a wider discussion of the morality/necessity of the use of the bombs at that time. If the discussion had stayed on point to my original question I would agree with you 100%.



    I also believe that the report quoted on pg 174 of your attached link disproves a prior poster who claimed that we did not give them enough time to surrender after the Hiroshima bomb before destroying Nagasaki. While the results may have been somewhat exaggerated in said report, the Japanese government was correctly informed that Hiroshima had effectively been destroyed with multiple tens of thousands of casualties by at most three American bombers. This point was then driven home by Truman's famous "rain of ruin" statement. The Japanese military and government were informed from internal sources that one of their cities had been destroyed by an atomic bomb and were informed by an external source that more of the same was to come. The Japanese were at one point working on an atomic bomb program themselves. I would have to think that at least some of their military and political leaders had some inkling of the potential of such a weapon, and after it was known to their gov't that we did now posess such a weapon, they had to know that they were beyond any hope of anything other than complete capitulation at that point.

    That they knew of the almost total destruction of Hiroshima without immediately surrendering, thus dooming Nagasaki to it's fate, simply strengthens all arguments for the use of both bombs to shorten the war and also that in using these admittedly terrible weapons in the long run lives on both sides were indeed saved by the bombs.
     
  3. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    And thank you for the heads up on the linked source.

    Don't think I was misunderstanding the thrust of your argument, just that I don't think your remark that 'The idea that the Japanese were going to surrender simply because the Russians entered the war is ludicrous' on post 131 is as clear cut as that.

    Which is why I posted the views on post 150, although personally I still have an open mind about it all.

    Another take on the bomb/Russian scenario.

    http://www.kernenergieinnederland.nl/files/19450806-hiroshima.pdf
     
  4. Mark 0341

    Mark 0341 Member

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    I'd like to thank all of the forum members who have contributed to this discussion about the A-bombing of Japan. One of my discussion questions in a couple of weeks deals with necessity of using the "bomb" for my online history degree at Ashford University. A couple of years back I attended the Enola Gay exhibit's opening at the Smithsonians Air and Space muesum's Chantilly Annex where buddist protesters hurled a bucket of "blood" at the plane (and were promptly arrested with complements from onlookers such as myself). So needless to say this is an ongoing controversy. I strongly believe that dropping the a bombs on Japan was the right thing to do to end the war. Now if we could only get the Japanese to acknowledge what they did in WW2 to get the bombs dropped on them!
     
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  5. Tristan Scott

    Tristan Scott Member

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    Sorry, I don't see the connection. All I am saying is that in searching for an answer as to whether the Japanese were willing to surrender because of the bomb, that we should study what was going on in Tokyo at the time. What was their mindset?
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I remember reading some time ago (and not where so not sure how accurate it is) that one of the reasons they didn't surrender after the first bomb is that some (or maybe one) Japanese sceintist advised the governement that the US didn't have the capacity to extract enough Uranium to drop another bomb in the near future. Which was pretty much on the mark except he just didn't know about plutonium bombs.
     
  7. Tristan Scott

    Tristan Scott Member

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    The main thrust of the argument put forward by your link, and by most revisionist historians (I don't use that term pejoratively) on this matter is that they are ignoring two crucial points.

    1. The members of the Big Six who were most shocked by the Soviet invasion were the members who had already been pushing for accepting the Potsdam conditions.

    2. The significance of effect of the bomb on Hirohito.

    The Big Six (the group tasked with ending the war) meeting on the ninth opened with the news of the Soviet declaration of war and invasion. Suzuki opened the meeting with the statement that continuation of the war was "totally impossible, and whether willing or not, we have no choice but to accept the Potsdam terms." Yonai and Togo agreed, but these men then expressed their worry over how many more bombs the Americans had ready for use. Admiral Toyoda said that he didn't think the Americans would use any more of these weapons because he felt they would "heed public opinion that would be revolted by such an inhuman weapon." At precisely this time in their conversation the word of the Nagasaki bomb came in. General Anami, was still unmoved from his position to carry on the fight. The other two military members of the group, Admiral Toyoda and General Umezu agreed with Anami. There was wavering, however, in his calmer moments he would speak of agreeing to Potsdam with three additional conditions, besides keeping the Emperor, Anami demanded that there be no occupation, that the Army be allowed to disarm voluntarily, and that war crimes (if any) be conducted by the Japanese government. Togo and the others in the peace party told Anami that there were no there were no conditions offered at Potsdam, to which he insisted that they were ready to fight the final battle.

    The peace party anticipated the military's inflexibility before all of this-the Soviet invasion or the second bomb-and had set up a continuation of the meeting for that night with the Emperor. More than anyone else, the Emperor had been deeply affected by the Hiroshima bomb-almost to the point of obsession-he could think of nothing else.

    At the meeting on the night of the 9th in the bomb shelter of the Imperial Palace, the debate between the members of the Big Six picked up where it left off that afternoon. The Emperor listened to the debate for two hours, then the Prime Minister approached Hirohito and submitted the matter for Imperial Decision. Hirohito agreed with Togo and the peace faction that the Potsdam Terms must be accepted, "Especially with the appearance of the Atomic Bomb", which he said would spell continuous suffering on his subjects.
     
  8. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Tristan, this is an excellent post. Clearly explained. Thanks.
     
  9. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Would you be able to cite the source(s) that lead you to this information/conclusion ?
     
  10. Tristan Scott

    Tristan Scott Member

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    Sure.

    The source for the November 9 meetings is:

    Shusen Shiroku (Historical records for the ending of the war.) compiled by the Japanese Foriegn ministry in 1952, Volume 4, pg 107-112.

    Or, you could read the chapter of the book I cited in post #154.:)
     
  11. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Very cool and thanks.

    The thing to keep in mind when trying to establish the 'mind set' of the Japanese in 1945 is the context of the accounts you are citing. The accounts you reference come from Postwar interviews/ interrogations conducted in 1948 and '49 so they may or may not reflect an attitude shaped by the bombings. I don't know what would motivate someone to admit in an interview that they had supported a continuation of the War after Nagasaki. I would assume it to be easier for the living members of the quorum to blame everything on those not able to defend themselves.

    My point being that the desire to continue fighting and avoid 'unconditional surrender' was more wide spread than purported. Any reasonable Japanese soldier would have immiediately dropped his rifle and thrown his arms in the air with such vigor as to upset drinking glasses and corn stalks in Iowa. We all know that didn't happen, the surrender terms were debated for 6 days before the Emporer gave his 'Jewel Voice Broadcast'. I honestly think that the declaration of War by the Russians had as much to do with forcing Japan to surrender than anything else.
     
  12. Tristan Scott

    Tristan Scott Member

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    I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I honestly don't understand the logic in this argument. If it meant simply fighting the enemy on the field of battle, be it a Russian or an American, you are right: the Japanese would have done what they showed countless times during the war; they would have fought to the last man. This was Anami's (Army Chief of Staff)attitude, bolstered by his hot headed subordinates. (An important distinction, given the curious influence afforded subordinates in the Japanese military.) But the bomb gave these people a face saving out. They could now say that they were not surrendering in the face of battle, but in the face of their foe's overwhelming technology.

    The events that took place for the week or so after the decision to surrender had more to do with the hothead subordinates under Anami's command and their unwillingness to give up the fight, and one must also consider the fear of rebellion within Japan-many of the leaders were terrified of this as well, in fact this was what prompted Yonai's famous remark thanking heaven for the Atomic bombing and Soviet invasion. It would appear, from the records, that the threat of rebellion was very much on Anami's mind during this week as the language in the surrender dialog with the Americans pertaining to the retention of the sovereign was being debated. This finally caused the Emperor to readdress the position of surrender. It was in the readdress that he stressed the use of Atomic weapons as the chief reason for surrender.

    I think regardless of whether the Soviet Union's attack was really the straw that broke the camel's back as far as the hoplessness of the Japanese position or not, that the bottom line was that there was going to be no acceptance of the Potsdam terms without the military's consent. The only cause I can see for that consent was the bomb.
     
  13. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    No disrespect taken.

    I am just saying that the Japanese didn't get the point after Hiroshima (6, Aug.) they didn't get the point after the Russian declared war (8, Aug.) and it still took them 6 days after Nagasaki (9, Aug.) for them to accept the terms of Potsdam; and even then there was still a counter offer made by Japan (Emporer remains). So, it took the threat of further Atomic bombs, possible Russian occupation and the Emporer remaining as a figure head for them to call it quits.

    I just don't see the bombs having as large an impact on the Japanese decision making paradigm, as they are given, in as much that Japan was more concerned with maintaining their culture than they were preventing the loss of life of it's people.
     
  14. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Haven't been able to read all of 'Culture shock and Japanese-American ... - Google Books' yet, but it seems to cover most of the differing views of the time.

    I notice the author does mention the influence of the Russians on the Japanese where it states........

    'In late June '45 the members of the Japanese supreme war council agreed that Soviet entry into the war would 'determine the fate of our Empire.'

    In similar vein, Kawabe Torasshiro, the deputy chief of the army general staff, had categorically stated at the imperial conference 'the absolute maintenance of peace in our relations with the Soviet Union is one of the fundamental conditions for continuing the war with the US.'

    But the author seems to contradict himself at times, for instance he says 'in the end it was the atomic bombs, closely followed by the Soviet Unions entry into the war, that compelled Japan to surrender.'

    But later goes on to say......'it must be stressed again that the bomb did not produce the decision to end the war, nor did did it set in motion the political process that led to Japans surrender.'

    The process started from early May when Hirohito urged a prompt peace, ''The sooner the better.''

    When I finish the book it might be clearer.

    It was in May that Hirohito first called on his ministers to seek a negotiated end to the conflict, & supported an effort to have the Soviet Union mediate a peace & the peace faction must have been getting desperate by August.

    I suspect that the Japanese were probably holding back for the last very slim chance of meditation brokered by the Russians, but as formerjughead says, that went out the window with the Russian intervention & then the second bomb, the jig was up.

    The other scenario is that the bombs might not have been needed at all & the ramifications leading from that........

    A review of Herbert Bix's highly regarded [Pulitzer prize] and massively researched biography of Hirohito says given that Hirohito had choices open to him--and given that his main concern was with his own position--Bix sees Hirohito as "mainly" responsible for the lives lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Quite simply, he could have and should have chosen to end the war earlier. Bix also argues, simultaneously, that a "truculent" President Harry Truman could also have ended the war without the atomic bomb--particularly if he had been willing to wait for the Russians to enter the fight.

    In fact, Bix's research points to an even stronger judgment, precisely because Japanese leaders so feared the Soviet Union, American leaders understood that the shock of a Russian declaration of war would be enormous. U.S. intelligence argued as early as April 1945 that a "two-step" combination of a Russian attack and some assurances for the emperor would likely end the war. As early as September 1944, Prime Minister Winston Churchill judged that if Russia joined Britain and the United States in a joint warning to Japan, this alone might lead to surrender.

    Truman was personally approached and urged to clarify the surrender formula in one way or another prior to the issuance of the Potsdam Proclamation at least fourteen times from Secretary of State Grew, former President Herbert Hoover, Assistant Secretary of War McCloy, Leahy, Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bard, Secretary of War Stimson [with the support of Secretary of the Navy Forrestal and Grew again] Churchill, the Joint Chiefs of Staff & Stimson again on July 24th.


    For such reasons, the July 26, 1945 Potsdam Proclamation warning Japan to surrender as originally drafted both included the Soviet Union as one of the signatories and also offered guarantees for the emperor. The President and Byrnes eliminated both points, however, once the atomic bomb was tested. Not only did Truman not wish to wait for the Russians, he preferred the atomic bomb [as historian Martin Sherwin has put it]

    If Stimson's original draft went ahead, who knows?

    It's interesting to see anti-revisionist historians such as Robert Maddox, Robert Newman, Sadao Asada and D. M. Giangreco and others & their opponents like Hasagawa & Alperovitz etc view each others works and gather adherents that support one camp or the other.

    J. Samuel Walker tries to take the middle ground, having a go at traditionalists & revisionists alike....
    http://userpages.umbc.edu/~simpson/Hist 725 Summer 2006/Walker on A Bomb recent lit.pdf



    Yes, as historian David Elstein puts it...

    It ended Japanese hopes of perhaps securing a negotiated peace through Soviet auspices, it was essential for the Japanese to capitulate,as it was imperative to avoid a final campaign on the home islands that could lead to social upheaval, revolution and Bolshevism.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In that regard one only needs to look at the reaction to Doolittle's raid to see how important they considered attacks on the homeland. It's not clear to me that they would differentiate much between Soviet and US occupation. The Japanese system was also not really a dictatorship so it was limited in how quickly they could react. Some clearly understood the situation well before the first atomic bomb and more afterwards. However building a strong consensus was necessary in a culture where juniour officers felt perfectly justified in "vetoing" things by assassinating the proponents even at the cost of their own lives.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    But it's apparent that this was not a universal opinion or even one supported by the overwhelming majority of those in power in Japan at the time.
     
  17. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    We'll never know because those interviews were conducted after 12 Aug. '45. There are a lot of things which occurred in the years since the bombs and '48-'49 when the interviews took place. I think the opinions related in the interviews are more reflective of the times they were given. Don't forget the Nuremberg Trials had just finished and Japan was still under occupation I am not 100% sure that thee interviews were not part of the Tokyo Trials and were provided in such a manor as to place as much blame on people who were already dead.

    If we had official 'minutes' of the meeting, where these opinions were allegedly expressed, that would be very different.

    Imperial Japan is a far cry from the Stalin era Soviet Union and had Russia occupied any portion of the 'Home Island' there is nothing to say that there wouldn't be a North and South Japan with a total bifurcation or subjugation of their culture.
    .
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed we may never know but those are consistent with events and opinions in the 30s and 40s. So there is a very good chance they contain some considerable truth. I suspect if anything the main focus on any shading of the truth would be to show the Emporer in the most favorable light.
    Indeed that may well have happened but I'm not sure at all that such a development would have been apparent to the Japanese in 1945. The USA waslso a far cry from Imperial Japan and in some ways even further culturally. As for the division, I'm not at all convinced that such a development was obvious to anyone in the 40s or even later.
     
  19. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    Any opinions expressed after 6 August, 1945 regarding decision making prior to that date are suspect and have to be taken in the context as being post atomic. It's no different than blaming farts on a dog. While I do appreciate the effort to maintain the sanctity of the Emporer, and I can understand it, He alone could have prevented the bombs being dropped. Who's to say that popular opinion of the average Japanese civillian wasn't that of preferring death to defeat and occupation? I think when the average person got a view of what death was going to look like they chose the lesser of two evils in surrendering to the US/Britsh before Russia had a chance to get too involved. This is the same civillian culture that comitted suicide on Saipan and Okinanwa.

    Remember the War in Europe had been over for 3 months and Berlin was already divided; it wouldn't take a rocket surgeon to recognize the benefit of limiting Russian influence.
     
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  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    And opinions expressed after 7 June 1942 are post Midway and suspect for that reason. What's your point? If you read for instance the initial chapters of Shattered Sword you will find that the politcs at that time are consistent with those reported posts Midway and post Hiroshima.
    Could he have? That's far from certain. Look at the whole Tokagawa Shoganate. The Emporer was reveared but had almost no power. One of the keys to power was holding the emporer and was not that one of the aims of the post declaration aborted coup? Again the Emporer was not a dictator and indeed even stepped outside his traditional boundries to end the war when he did.
    The opinion of the average Japanese civilian was irrelevant until it reached the point that they were willing to take action. There is little to indicate that this point had been reached.
    But the division was theoretically temporary and Germany was divided as well and not into just 2 parts but 4 as was Berlin. Did the Japanese really see the Soviets as all that much worse than the US, France, or Britain. Now if the Chinese had been offered a slice of Japan as an occupation zone that might have provoked some reaction ...
     

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