Harry Truman and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

 

Harry Truman

Peter Robinson expressed his opinion on Twitter today that President Truman did not approve the use of the nuclear bomb. “Truman never approved the use of the bomb–or disapproved it,” He wrote. “The military considered it one more weapon, like a new submarine or aircraft. They kept Truman informed. But they did not ask his approval.”

That’s not my memory from reading David McCollough’s Truman, so I decided to look it up, as best I could.

Here’s what Truman himself said of the matter, as quoted by McCollough on page 442 of the paperback edition:

The final decision of where and when to use the atomic bomb was up to me. Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used.

McCollough continues on the same page:

Though nothing was recorded on paper, the critical moment appears to have occurred at Number 2 Kaiserstrasse later in the morning of Tuesday, July 24, when, at 11:30, the combined American and British Chiefs of Staff convened with Truman and Churcheill in the dinning room. This was the one time when Truman, Churchill, and their military advisers were all around a table, in Churchill’s phrase. From this point it was settled: barring some unforeseen development, the bomb would be used with a few weeks.

Peter followed up by saying that Truman authorized the release of a “document explaining the bomb, not the bomb itself.”

Page 435-437:

With the start of his second week at Potsdam, Truman knew that decisions on the bomb could wait no longer. At 10:00 Sunday morning, July 22, he attended Protestant services led by a chaplain from the 2nd Armored Division. …

[Secretary of War] Stimson had appeared at Number 2 Kaiserstrasse shortly after breakfast with messages from Washington saying all was about5 ready for the “final operation” and that a decision on the target cities was needed. Stimson wanted Kyoto removed from the list, and having heard the reasons, Truman agreed. Kyoto would be spared. “Although it was a target of considerable military importance,” Stimson would write, “it had been the capital of Japan and was a shrine of Japanese art and culture…” First on the list of approved targets was Hiroshima, southern headquarters and depot for Japan’s homeland army. …

Tuesday, July 24, was almost certainly the fateful day.

At 9:20A.M Stimson again climbed the stairs to Truman’s office, where he found the President seated behind the heavy carved desk, “alone with his work.” Stimson had brought another message:

Washington, July 23, 1945
Top Secret
Operational Priority
War 36792 Secretary of War Eyes Only top secret from Harrison.

Operation may be possible any time from August 1 depending on state of preparation of patient and condition of atmosphere. From point of view of patient only, some chance August 1 to 3, good chance August 4 to 5 and barring unexpected relapse almost certain before August 10.

Truman “said that was just what he wanted,” Stimson wrote in his diary,” that he was highly delighted….”

Page 448:

Late on Monday, July 30, another urgent top-secret cable to Truman was received and decoded…

The time schedule on Groves’ project is progressing so rapidly that it is now essential that statement for release by you be available not later than Wednesday, 1 August….

The time had come for Truman to give the final go-ahead for the bomb. This was the moment, the decision only he could make.

The message was delivered at 7:48 A.M., Berlin time, Tuesday, July 31. Writing large and clear with a lead pencil on the back of the pink message, Truman gave his answer, which he handed to Lieutenant Elsey for Transmission:

Suggestion approved. Release when ready but not sooner than August 2.

On July 25, Truman had written in his journal, McCollough quotes on pages 443-444:

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world… This weapon will be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo, where the Imperial Palace had been spared thus far].

He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them a chance.

McCollough notes that Truman knew that it was “only partly true” that the bomb would be used only against military targets. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the sites of military installations, so they were legitimate military targets, but of course we know that many civilians perished. The morality of the atomic bomb is not the subject of this post, but I’d like to mention that at this point more than 50,000 American soldiers had been killed in just four months of island hopping and that 100,000 Japanese had died in a single night of firebombing.

On page 457:

On August 9, the papers carried still more stupendous news. A million Russian troops had crossed into Manchuria–Russia was in the war against Japan–and a second atomic bomb had been dropped on the major Japanese seaport of Nagasaki.

No high-level meeting had been held concerning this second bomb. Truman had made no additional decision. There was no order issued beyond the military directive for the first bomb, which had been sent on July 25 by Marshall’s deputy, General Thomas T. Handy, to the responsible commander in the Pacific, General Carl A. Spaatz of the Twentieth Air Force. Paragraph 2 of that directive had stipulated: “Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff.” A second bomb–a plutonium bomb nicknamed “Fat Man”–being ready, it was “delivered” from Tinian, and two days ahead of schedule, in view of weather conditions.

 

There are no doubt additional relevant quotes, but I’ll limit it to these.  Does anyone else have insight into this momentous decision?

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  1. Max Ledoux Coolidge
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed.

    I don’t know… The Japanese military leadership didn’t want to surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

     

    • #31
  2. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    An ominous side note. Since the beginning of the atomic age, it’s been emphasized how hard it is to make the things go off accidentally. That’s basically been true of complicated implosion weapons–but it wasn’t true of the uranium gun, “Little Boy”. In the Fifties there was a plan to build and detonate one obsolete gun-style bomb for instrumentation and testing, but the AEC demurred for safety reasons. anonymous could explain this better than I can, but the detents that held back the “bullet” weren’t that robust, and if the B-29 crashed on takeoff, it would almost certainly have failed to stop an accidental detonation. 

    The Hiroshima bomb was left partly dissembled until after takeoff for precisely that reason.  Final assembly was completed in the air.

    The Nagasaki bomb was too complex, there were just some safeties that had to be removed.

    • #32
  3. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux: There are no doubt additional relevant quotes, but I’ll limit it to these. Does anyone else have insight into this momentous decision?

    Max,

    A book that was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal (if I remember well) provided some insights into the decision. If you can find the book or the review somehow, or if other readers have, I would be interested in your comments.

    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed. He rejected their surrender because he wanted to drop the bomb for other reasons–if I recall, they had to do with making a demonstration to the USSR that we had this new terrible device. But don’t quote me on that part.

    The book gives detailed of how the history that we’ve all been taught–“the bomb was necessary to prevent massive American (and Japanese civilian) casualties”–was a successful disinformation campaigned cooked up by a Truman operative, starting in about January of the next year.

     

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s utter [redacted].

    Yes, the Japanese were making peace feelers for several months prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But the military leadership was reserving several completely unacceptable conditions, including no occupation of Japan.

    Even after the second bomb, there was an attempted coup against Hirohito by elements of the army in an attempt to prevent the surrender.

    • #33
  4. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Barry Jones (View Comment):
    Just finished “Twilight of the Gods” and am now going back to the first of the series and rereading. Toll is a terrific writer and a very good researcher as well. Highly recommend all three of his books in that series.

    I’ve read all three books in the Trilogy since April.  They really are fantastic.

    Another great book about the period is James D Hornfischer’s  The Fleet at Flood Tide.  Ostensibly about the last year or so of the war in the Pacific, in reality it can be read as a brief as to why the Atomic bombings were absolutely necessary to bring the war to an end.

    The bombings cannot be understood without the context of the battles for Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Kamikaze campaign against the fleet.  The toll was terrific, and the resistance of the Japanese was increasing the closer we got to the home islands.

    Full disclosure – two of my father’s relatives were killed in the Pacific in WWII, one in a  kamikaze attack on his LST in December 1944 for which he earned a posthumous Silver Star, and one lost at sea in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the ship that was torpedoed  after delivering the parts for the Hiroshima bomb.

    • #34
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    There was a weird Baptists-and-bootleggers type of tacit agreement on the left and the right that the Soviets wouldn’t have had a bomb if it weren’t for espionage. This is because on the right, we were locked into the idea that the Russians were primitive dimwits; on the left, it was an article of faith that the USSR was horrified by the bomb and wouldn’t have built on themselves if we hadn’t forced them into it. Fact is, they already had an atomic research program, and they’d gotten roughly as far as we had at the beginning of 1942. So, of course, did the Germans and Japanese, who were roughly where we were in late 1941. They all knew it was possible. Only the UK and the US thought it could be done in time to affect the current war. 

    The Soviets could have had the bomb without spying, but it would have taken another couple of years. Given the miserable state of the country at the end of 1945, it’s highly unlikely they would have made that commitment if they hadn’t known that there was a working device at the end of the path. 

    • #35
  6. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed.

    I don’t know… The Japanese military leadership didn’t want to surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    You will have to read it and judge for yourself; I have no expertise in the history.

    But to me your argument doesn’t stand up.  The fact is that when the Emperor surrendered, it didn’t matter what some Japanese “wanted” or didn’t want. The Japanese revered the Emperor and generally accepted his surrender as a divine decision binding on them.  Those few who disobeyed (a) presumably were presumably the same ones who would have done so if he’d surrendered before the bomb, to the same null effect.

    • #36
  7. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed.

    I don’t know… The Japanese military leadership didn’t want to surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    You will have to read it and judge for yourself; I have no expertise in the history.

    But to me your argument doesn’t stand up. The fact is that when the Emperor surrendered, it didn’t matter what some Japanese “wanted” or didn’t want. The Japanese revered the Emperor and generally accepted his surrender as a divine decision binding on them. Those few who disobeyed (a) presumably were presumably the same ones who would have done so if he’d surrendered before the bomb, to the same null effect.

    I was surprised to see that review in the WSJ peddling yet another version of the Gar Alperovitz stuff from the 60s, using misquoted documents and poor analysis.  With the release of the Magic decrypts in the 90s we now know what American policymakers were seeing and it is consistent with the recent work of Japanese historians which is the Japan cabinet was deadlocked with the military leaders insisting on peace terms in which Japan would retain some of its conquests and there would be no American occupation.  In fact, even after Hiroshima they did not change their position.  It took Nagasaki and the unprecedented intervention of the Emperor to do so.

    • #37
  8. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    If the bomb had not been used and Japan had not surrendered by mid-August, Truman likely w0uld have faced another difficult decision.  The Navy and Air Force chiefs were preparing to change their approval, given at a June 18, 1945 meeting with the President, of preparations for the invasion of Kyushu in November.  Based on recent intelligence they were going to recommend against proceeding with the invasion.

    • #38
  9. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux: There are no doubt additional relevant quotes, but I’ll limit it to these. Does anyone else have insight into this momentous decision?

    Max,

    A book that was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal (if I remember well) provided some insights into the decision. If you can find the book or the review somehow, or if other readers have, I would be interested in your comments.

    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed. He rejected their surrender because he wanted to drop the bomb for other reasons–if I recall, they had to do with making a demonstration to the USSR that we had this new terrible device. But don’t quote me on that part.

    The book gives detailed of how the history that we’ve all been taught–“the bomb was necessary to prevent massive American (and Japanese civilian) casualties”–was a successful disinformation campaigned cooked up by a Truman operative, starting in about January of the next year.

     

    Was it written by the FSB,  Antifa, or BLM?

    • #39
  10. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Paul Fussel’s article Thank God for the Atomic Bomb & Fr Wilson Miscamble’s book The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan both cover the morality of the bomb.  Additionally, there are several YouTube videos by Fr Miscamble- one at Prager U and the other https://providencemag.com/video/christian-conversation-on-hiroshima-nagasaki-anniversary/

    that cover the subject well.

    • #40
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons? 

    I find all of this very difficult to sort out. 

    • #41
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    But the military leadership was reserving several completely unacceptable conditions,

    If you have a chance to read the book or review, I would be interested to know if it changes your mind, or if not, just where is the disagreement.

    I do recall that the book directly refutes your argument. But I neither remember the details of its argument, nor have detailed knowledge of the history to discuss it.

    What I remember from the review is

    • the feelers were for a conditional surrender with specific terms, as you said. I remember only these:
      • The Emperor would retain his throne
      • He would not be prosecuted for war crimes
        I recall no mention of the question of occupation, sorry.
        As you know, both of these were met by the US after the war. [EDIT: Obviously, “no occupation” was not.]
    • Truman’s response was not a rejection of any specific terms (like “no occupation”), or a counter.  It was an ultimatum: unconditional surrender or nothing.
    • The author’s point was that all of the conditions demanded were met by Truman after the actual surrender.

    If there were a condition of “no occupation”, how could the authors have said all conditions were met, in the event?  But why do you and the book disagree on a fact?   This is why I am at a loss to discuss it.  You would need to read the review or book.

    • #42
  13. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    MarciN (View Comment):
    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons? 

    Post WW2 it was the Geneva conventions that outlawed certain types of warfare. Food as a weapon is out along with conventions that seem to outlaw tactics like your water supply. Bio and Chem weapons too. The conventions are, in general, backed by the Western possession of nuclear weapons -the existence of which are credited with 70 years of “peace” at least with regard to great power conflict.

    Prior to WW2 European nations went to eat about every 7 years or so. Hasn’t happened since 1945.

    • #43
  14. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux: There are no doubt additional relevant quotes, but I’ll limit it to these. Does anyone else have insight into this momentous decision?

    Max,

    A book that was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal (if I remember well) provided some insights into the decision. If you can find the book or the review somehow, or if other readers have, I would be interested in your comments.

    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed. He rejected their surrender because he wanted to drop the bomb for other reasons–if I recall, they had to do with making a demonstration to the USSR that we had this new terrible device. But don’t quote me on that part.

    The book gives detailed of how the history that we’ve all been taught–“the bomb was necessary to prevent massive American (and Japanese civilian) casualties”–was a successful disinformation campaigned cooked up by a Truman operative, starting in about January of the next year.

     

    Was it written by the FSB, Antifa, or BLM?

    If you read my Comment, you will see that I don’t recall who wrote the book.

    Gumby Mark, you read the review. Could you answer MiMac’s question?

    • #44
  15. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Intimidating the USSR was certainly part of the equation, but not anywhere near the deciding factor.

    Don’t forget, we’d been trying to get them to commit to declaring war on Japan since well before Germany fell. We did an abrupt about face once we were sure the bomb worked. The Japanese ranked Soviet entry into the war just below the bomb in importance in postwar accounts of the surrender. 

    But the idea that we dropped it just to scare Stalin is fantasy.  

    • #45
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    MarciN (View Comment):

    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons?

    I find all of this very difficult to sort out.

    Once it was clear that the Germans had no bomb (when was that? British intelligence, late 1943; our own more cautious OSS, spring 1944) Manhattan Project scientists, well aware of how hated the purveyors of poison gas were after WWI, began thinking of themselves as potential scapegoats. This was not a crazy fear. We (well, at least American Catholics) tend to see the Vatican as always being on our side, because they were anti-Communist, but they condemned the use of the bomb within 24 hours of Truman’s announcement. A lot of churches were dubious, especially after The New Yorker published John Hersey’s Hiroshima in 1946. 

    • #46
  17. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Here is a panel discussion I participated in July of this year and at 2:34 mark we talk about the Bombing.

    The salient point my co panelist made is that the bomb was going to be dropped because it cost 1 percent of the GDP of the United States of America to build.  If they had spent all that money and never use it, there would have been hell to pay.

    He also gets into how Truman really creates the presidential control of the bomb that now happens.  I was a little annoyed in the stream at a certain point dealing with outlandish statements he made on Olympic and Coronet, but the rest of his presentation is good to watch.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    https://youtu.be/L7n4HHcxnV0

    • #47
  18. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    flownover (View Comment):
    Why not just firebomb another city ? Is the X factor ( number of bombs dropped on Dresden) equal to the Y factor (number of dead in Nagasaki) ?

    Your example of Dresden is correct. However, it was not as destructive as Tokyo or Hamburg, and probably less than Berlin. As previously discussed:

    But even later in life, in a 2005 interview Kurt Vonnegut insisted that the Dresden death toll was 135,000, consistent with the 1969 novel. By 2000, other contemporaneous evidence such as a “Final Report” issued on March 15, 1945 by the Dresden Police showed 18,375 deaths. In 2004, a historical commission was established by the city of Dresden and the report showed that “on 13/14 February 1945 has provisionally estimated the likely death-toll at around 18,000 and definitely no more than 25,000.”

    • #48
  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    MarciN (View Comment):

    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons?

    I find all of this very difficult to sort out.

    I’m with Patton.  Maximum violence in a short period of time saves lives over lower level violence over a long period of time.

     

    An excerpt from Paul Fussel, Thank God For The Atom Bomb

    On the other hand, John Kenneth Galbraith is persuaded that the Japanese
    would have surrendered surely by November without an invasion. He thinks
    the A-bombs were unnecessary and unjustified because the war was ending
    anyway. The A-bombs meant, he says, “a difference, at most, of two or three
    weeks.” But at the time, with no indication that surrender was on the way,
    the kamikazes were sinking American vessels, the Indianapolis was sunk
    (880 men killed), and Allied casualties were running to over 7,000 per week.
    “Two or three weeks,” says Galbraith.
    Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks
    more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you’re one of those thousands
    or related to one of them. During the time between the dropping of the
    Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the
    war pursued its accustomed course: on the twelfth of August eight captured
    American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United
    States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer
    Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the Destroyer Escort
    Underhill was lost. That’s a bit of what happened in six days of the two or
    three weeks posited by Galbraith. What did he do in the war? He worked
    in the Office of Price Administration in Washington. I don’t demand that he
    experience having his ass shot off. I merely note that he didn’t.

    As noted earlier, I had family on the Indianapolis.  And my dad was active duty Army Air Corp in 1945.

     

    • #49
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    MarciN (View Comment):

    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons?

    I find all of this very difficult to sort out.

    Oh yeah, one more thing.  The bombs probably saved a few million Japanese from starving.  The food supply was in really rough shape by August of 1945, and with the economy collapsing from lack of oil, wasn’t going to get any better.

    • #50
  21. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Peter Robinson (View Comment):
    Those who now sit in judgement on Truman could do worse than ponder that. And the moralists among my fellow Catholics?

    On this finer point of Catholicism, you’re missing the point.  In Catholicism you cannot do an evil act to justify a good outcome.  So any justification that would say it would have saved American lives is a non-starter.  Now at what point did the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki become combatants?  I don’t have the expertise to know, but I find it hard to believe that the majority of the civilians were directly supporting the war.  After all there were women and children there.  What I don’t understand is why was a populated area targeted as a starting pointy?  Why not some remote area first used to demonstrate its immense destructiveness?  Over my lifetime, I’ve moved 180 on this.  I no longer think it was the right thing to do.  Of course in the fog of war, I can see how it was the path chosen, and I might have done the same thing at the time, but in retrospect it was a grave sin.

    • #51
  22. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    CurtWilson (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    And how could a President, or the others charged with responsibility for the decision, answer to the American people if when the war was over, after the bloodbath of an invasion of Japan, it became known that a weapon sufficient to end the war had been available by midsummer and was not used?

    Even a Marxist history professor I had in the 1970s acknowledged this — that in a democratic republic there was really no other choice than to use it.

    My daughter, now age 55 and a lawyer and FBI agent, was in 6th grade when the teacher conducted a “war crimes trial of Harry Truman” with her class.  He was convicted by the children. Marxist teachers go well back in the school system.  My daughter is also a Democrat with a heavy case of TDS.

    • #52
  23. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed.

    I don’t know… The Japanese military leadership didn’t want to surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    You will have to read it and judge for yourself; I have no expertise in the history.

    But to me your argument doesn’t stand up. The fact is that when the Emperor surrendered, it didn’t matter what some Japanese “wanted” or didn’t want. The Japanese revered the Emperor and generally accepted his surrender as a divine decision binding on them. Those few who disobeyed (a) presumably were presumably the same ones who would have done so if he’d surrendered before the bomb, to the same null effect.

    I was surprised to see that review in the WSJ peddling yet another version of the Gar Alperovitz stuff from the 60s, using misquoted documents and poor analysis. With the release of the Magic decrypts in the 90s we now know what American policymakers were seeing and it is consistent with the recent work of Japanese historians which is the Japan cabinet was deadlocked with the military leaders insisting on peace terms in which Japan would retain some of its conquests and there would be no American occupation. In fact, even after Hiroshima they did not change their position. It took Nagasaki and the unprecedented intervention of the Emperor to do so.

    Also, the Japanese had been working on a Uranium bomb and thought the  Hiroshima bomb was a one off. They never anticipated the Plutonium bomb and that added to the effect psychologically.  I have forgotten where I read that.

    • #53
  24. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    The thesis of the book is that Truman did make the decision to drop the bomb, and that the reason had nothing to do with preventing American casualties from an invasion. In fact, the Japanese had already offered to surrender, so he knew no invasion would be needed.

    I don’t know… The Japanese military leadership didn’t want to surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    You will have to read it and judge for yourself; I have no expertise in the history.

    But to me your argument doesn’t stand up. The fact is that when the Emperor surrendered, it didn’t matter what some Japanese “wanted” or didn’t want. The Japanese revered the Emperor and generally accepted his surrender as a divine decision binding on them. Those few who disobeyed (a) presumably were presumably the same ones who would have done so if he’d surrendered before the bomb, to the same null effect.

    I was surprised to see that review in the WSJ peddling yet another version of the Gar Alperovitz stuff from the 60s, using misquoted documents and poor analysis. With the release of the Magic decrypts in the 90s we now know what American policymakers were seeing and it is consistent with the recent work of Japanese historians which is the Japan cabinet was deadlocked with the military leaders insisting on peace terms in which Japan would retain some of its conquests and there would be no American occupation. In fact, even after Hiroshima they did not change their position. It took Nagasaki and the unprecedented intervention of the Emperor to do so.

    Also, the Japanese had been working on a Uranium bomb and thought the Hiroshima bomb was a one off. They never anticipated the Plutonium bomb and that added to the effect psychologically. I have forgotten where I read that.

    I’m doubtful. We didn’t say it was plutonium, and Japanese scientists didn’t have enough time (and likely lacked the expertise) to detect the difference based on ground samples. 

    I’ve always been interested in how Tokyo found out about Hiroshima. The electric grid suddenly indicated an enormous drop in that sector. Phones were out. Military radio tried raising the local station. It made no sense, because Japanese radar hadn’t picked up a wave of bombers. Within an hour, railway stations up and down the Hiroshima line reported lines of survivors walking along the tracks away from the city, badly burned. 

    • #54
  25. Max Ledoux Coolidge
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    MarciN (View Comment):

    My problem with the atomic bomb is that the justification that we used it to save American and Japanese lives and end the war as quickly as possible could be used by any country at any time for any types of weapons. What’s okay and what isn’t? Poisoning a water supply? Starving people to death? Chemical weapons? Biological weapons?

    I find all of this very difficult to sort out.

    It’s true though. The fastest way to win a war is to inflict the maximum amount of damage against your enemy as quickly as possible. Killing x enemies today will ensure that y-x enemies do not die later, to say nothing of z of your own countrymen. 

    • #55
  26. Max Ledoux Coolidge
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I’m with Patton. Maximum violence in a short period of time saves lives over lower level violence over a long period of time.

    Didn’t see you comment when making my earlier one along the same lines. 

    • #56
  27. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    Truman can legitimately claim to be, not the man who dropped the bomb, but the man who stopped the bomb. There is no doubt that he was the one who ordered a stop after Nagasaki. There is a postwar myth that we “knew” that the one-two punch would end the war, but Tinian was prepared to keep the assembly line going well into 1946.

    IIRC, there was no “stop” to be ordered. At the time, we only had enough material for three bombs: Trinity (the test), Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. The two bombs we dropped were accompanied by a threat for more, but it was a bluff. Ultimately, Savannah River Plant was built and large scale production of bomb-grade material could begin . . .

    See comment # 15. Production of three bombs per month, increasing to 5 and then 7 per month before the end of the year.

     

    So it wasn’t a complete bluff.  Thanks!

    • #57
  28. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I’m with Patton. Maximum violence in a short period of time saves lives over lower level violence over a long period of time.

    Didn’t see you comment when making my earlier one along the same lines.

    It was more a general philosophy of his, but here are the two closest quotes I could find:

     

    From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder we push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.

    There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time

    • #58
  29. CurtWilson Lincoln
    CurtWilson
    @CurtWilson

    Manny (View Comment):

    Peter Robinson (View Comment):
    Those who now sit in judgement on Truman could do worse than ponder that. And the moralists among my fellow Catholics?

    On this finer point of Catholicism, you’re missing the point. In Catholicism you cannot do an evil act to justify a good outcome. So any justification that would say it would have saved American lives is a non-starter. Now at what point did the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki become combatants? I don’t have the expertise to know, but I find it hard to believe that the majority of the civilians were directly supporting the war. After all there were women and children there. What I don’t understand is why was a populated area targeted as a starting pointy? Why not some remote area first used to demonstrate its immense destructiveness? Over my lifetime, I’ve moved 180 on this. I no longer think it was the right thing to do. Of course in the fog of war, I can see how it was the path chosen, and I might have done the same thing at the time, but in retrospect it was a grave sin.

    These are very difficult questions, of course, but there are many additional factors involved that you don’t mention. Estimates of civilian deaths under Japanese occupation are up to a half million per month, a quarter million per month in China alone. Dropping the bombs ended that quickly, probably saving several million civilian lives.

    As to a demonstration in an unpopulated area, if the destruction of Hiroshima did not persuade the military leadership of the need to surrrender, and the destruction of Nagasaki still did not — the emperor’s intervention was required — I don’t see how blasting an unpopulated island would have done the trick.

    I strongly recommend Richard Franks’ book “Downfall” on these subjects. It thoroughly documents US intercepts of Japanese communications to illustrate the mindsets of the crucial period.

    • #59
  30. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Manny (View Comment):

    On this finer point of Catholicism, you’re missing the point. In Catholicism you cannot do an evil act to justify a good outcome. So any justification that would say it would have saved American lives is a non-starter. Now at what point did the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki become combatants? I don’t have the expertise to know, but I find it hard to believe that the majority of the civilians were directly supporting the war. After all there were women and children there. What I don’t understand is why was a populated area targeted as a starting pointy? Why not some remote area first used to demonstrate its immense destructiveness? Over my lifetime, I’ve moved 180 on this. I no longer think it was the right thing to do. Of course in the fog of war, I can see how it was the path chosen, and I might have done the same thing at the time, but in retrospect it was a grave sin.

    1) Hiroshima was the HQ of the army group tasked with defending against the up coming invasion & was a major transportation hub & arms depot.

    2)Nagasaki was a major harbor and naval weapons manufacturing site.

    3) Japanese industry was typically spread thru out cities and much work was outsourced to civilian homes-so it was near impossible to target industry w/o catching civilians in the destruction.

    the advocacy for a demonstration overlooks the fact that we had 2 bombs & needed to use both to convince Japan to surrender (and even then there was an attempted coup to prevent surrendering AFTER both bombings). I definitely recommend listening to Fr Miscamble on the issue- he is both a Catholic priest and a history professor. The issue is definitely difficult to resolve and it is too easy to moralize from safety & comfort decades later( a point strongly made by P Fussel)- I am glad I didn’t face Truman’s decision.

    • #60
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