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Feb 07 2014

Watch the methodical destruction of 70,000 human beings

It’s so mundane — a group of men assembling and shipping some heavy machinery, and then…death.

We put an awful lot of effort into making this look easy.

(via Boing Boing.)

117 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpyoldfart

    American gospel singers gave the glory to god:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sP01ylAkfo
    Atomic power, atomic power
    It was given by the mighty hand of god

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc2TzUWeEbw
    Nobody’s worries ’bout the day my Lord will come
    When he’ll hit – great god almighty – like an atom bomb

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9xB7usNSPo
    Are you ready for the great atomic power?
    Will you rise and meet your saviour in the air?
    Will you shout or will you cry when the fire comes from on high?
    Are you ready for the great atomic power?

    Well there is one thing you can do, give your heart unto the Lord
    He will be your guiding spirit, he’ll be your shield and sword
    He will always stand beside, you’ll never taste of death
    For your soul will fly to Heaven for eternal peach and rest

  2. 2
    wcorvi

    Kai Bird, in American Prometheus (biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer) makes a good case that using the bomb was to show the Soviets that we had it. It was clear the war was at an end; the Japanese were negotiating the fate of the emperor. Russia was trying to get into the war with Japan before it ended in order to take land in the spoils. But, most importantly, as soon as the test in White Sands was successful, the scientists who worked on it lost control of the bomb and all its attachments. The scientists had been building it as a precaution against Germany, and never thought it would be used in the far east. I think they also thought they would have some say in its future. All of this fits the facts pretty well, and I think is believable.

    I have always wondered just how it was finished, loaded, and delivered. Something like this must have happened, but it is interesting to see it as it did happen.

  3. 3
    markmckee

    I have mixed feelings about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. My father was in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and he sent home a few hundred letters that my mother kept.

    After the death of Hitler he was in western Germany for another 6 months and the letters he sent home asked my mother to meet him in NYC sometime in late August or early September of 1945, he didn’t yet know the exact date.

    But he wrote her that he would be on his way to Japan from Germany as his unit was one of the numerous units from the European theatre that had been earmarked to invade Japan. And that that trip was by way of NYC then a cross country train for a ship out of California.

    Needless to say he never went to Japan and instead was discharged in December of 1945. I got goosebumps the first time I read that letter.

  4. 4
    jamesheartney

    Had Japan refused to surrender, it would have taken quite some time to build up enough fissile material to create more bombs. After V-J day, it took years for the U.S. to ramp up nuclear production to create the thousands of devices that were eventually made.

    Of course at the same time that these nuclear devices were produced, the U.S. had perfected the firebombing of cities. The firebombing of Tokyo had killed over 100,000; even without nukes, Japan would have been laid waste had they failed to surrender.

  5. 5
    dianne

    The bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at the same time as representatives of the government of Japan were touring the ruins of Hiroshima and concluding that they had to surrender unconditionally. Argue that the Hiroshima bombing was good and necessary if you must, but the Nagasaki bombing was nothing but an act of terrorism. It was intended to intimidate our then-allies the Soviets, not to end a war that was over.

  6. 6
    davedell

    One of my favorite parts of the movie “Jaws” is the tale of the cruiser USS Indianapolis:

    “…So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

  7. 7
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I have to wonder, how did these men feel afterwards.
    Were they surprised, not having realized beforehand what was going to happen?
    Were they able to sleep? How?!

  8. 8
    dianne

    I have to wonder, how did these men feel afterwards.

    Satisfied. Happy. Proud of their part in “ending the war”. Unconcerned about the fate of the enemies who died.

  9. 9
    David Wilford

    dianne @ 5:

    The bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at the same time as representatives of the government of Japan were touring the ruins of Hiroshima and concluding that they had to surrender unconditionally.

    Actually, the report to the Emperor by those sent to Hiroshima was simply to confirm it was an atomic bomb. The Japanese military did not think it was possible for the U.S. to have more than one or two bombs, given the difficulty of separating U-235 from U-238 (they did not know about the use of plutonium as a bomb material however, and that Pu-based atomic bombs could be produced more quickly) and recommended enduring any further atomic strikes. This report was intercepted by U.S. intelligence, and this informed the decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

    FYI, the U.S. did have a third bomb ready for use before the end of August, and could have assembled five more by the end of 1945.

  10. 10
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    dianne,
    *sigh*
    Yes, probably.

  11. 11
    urbanwitch

    For me the ultimate song is “Cranes over Hiroshima.” I cry every time I hear it.

  12. 12
    dianne

    This report was intercepted by U.S. intelligence, and this informed the decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

    Three days later? That seems unlikely. What’s the source?

  13. 13
    wayner

    Doug Long has an excellent page titled Was it Necessary. (doug-long.com)
    Gar Alperovitz has perhaps the definitive book “The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb”.
    On the doug long site click on the Gar Aperovitz and the H-net debate link for excellent links to
    most of the arguments.

  14. 14
    ChasCPeterson

    Had Japan refused to surrender, it would have taken quite some time to build up enough fissile material to create more bombs.

    The bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at the same time as representatives of the government of Japan were touring the ruins of Hiroshima and concluding that they had to surrender unconditionally.

    Both of these unreferenced assertions are contradicted by the referenced information gathered here and below.
    e.g.:

    Groves expected to have another atomic bomb ready for use on August 19, with three more in September and a further three in October.[189] On August 10, he sent a memorandum to Marshall in which he wrote that “the next bomb … should be ready for delivery on the first suitable weather after 17 or 18 August.”

  15. 15
    David Wilford

    Paul Fussell had this to say back in 1981 about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, and the importance of sheer, vulgar, experience in judging it.

    When the atom bomb ended the war, I was in the Forty-fifth Infantry Division, which had been through the European war so thoroughly that it had needed to be reconstituted two or three times. We were in a staging area near Rheims, ready to be shipped back across the United States for refresher training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then sent on for final preparation in the Philippines. My division, like most of the ones transferred from Europe, was to take part in the invasion of Honshu. (The earlier landing on Kyushu was to be carried out by the 700,000 infantry already in the Pacific, those with whom James Jones has sympathized.) I was a twenty-one-year-old second lieutenant of infantry leading a rifle platoon. Although still officially fit for combat, in the German war I had already been wounded in the back and the leg badly enough to be adjudged, after the war, 40 percent disabled. But even if my leg buckled and I fell to the ground whenever I jumped out of the back of a truck, and even if the very idea of more combat made me breathe in gasps and shake all over, my condition was held to be adequate for the next act. When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all. The killing was all going to be over, and peace was actually going to be the state of things. When the Enola Gay dropped its package, “There were cheers,” says John Toland, “over the intercom; it meant the end of the war.”

    http://croker.harpethhall.org/Must%20Know/History/AtomBombFussell.pdf

  16. 16
    dianne

    @Beatrice: One thing that I noticed studying US history is that when the US is at war with another country, it almost always ends up making this sort of statement about its enemy: “They only respect us because we fight them. We have to keep fighting without mercy or they’ll think we’re weak and attack all the more. Normally, of course crime X (destroying random villages, bombing cities, massacring civilians, putting people of a specific ethnic background in concentration camps) would be abhorrent to us, but we can’t afford to appear weak in front of the enemy.”

    It’s always implied that it’s just bad luck that the US happens to be facing this particular enemy who is so bloodthirsty and only willing to respect a foe while they attack without mercy. Except it’s been said about the Japanese, the Germans, the Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the Russians. To my definite knowledge. Not sure if the colonists talked that way about the British or the US about the Confederates. Oh, and it’s definitely been said recently about the various people suspected of being terrorists. Al Qaeda will think us womanly if we don’t send drones after them and all that. They’ll respect us if we torture them…which we normally wouldn’t do, of course, but these are particularly Bad People who will only respect a strong enemy…

    There’s this phenomenon in psychiatry called projection. I see little alternative but to believe that the US suffers from it and simply projects its own inability to respect anyone who isn’t completely bloodthirsty onto its enemies.

  17. 17
    dianne

    @15: First, all that demonstrates is that a grunt thought that the bomb ended the war before he could be hurt further. I’m sure he was sincere, but he doesn’t sound like someone in on the decision to drop the bomb or who would know what went into the decision. Second, the Enola Gay did the Hiroshima bombing. The first bomb. Again, why the second, if the person quoted is correct in his assessment?

  18. 18
    davedell

    To a certain degree it is good that we wiped out so many innocents with the use of the two bombs that hastened the end of WWII. The visible evidence helped scare everyone concerned enough that we entered an era where we tried our limited best to make sure the chances that these weapons wouldn’t be used by accident were high. We’d only turn the world into a “Republic of Insects and Grass” on purpose.

    Beatrice – Here’s a happy thought: What makes me lose sleep is that I DIDN’T die in Vietnam. That I wasn’t wounded in body. That I wasn’t put in harms way enough, to sacrifice enough to avoid the survivor guilt that plagues so many of us. The guilt that people I knew died or were wounded and I didn’t die or get wounded…

    So… Like my grandfather (France in WWI) and my father (France/Germany in WWII) we come home, we get married, we get up and go to work and we live our lives and we lose a little sleep now and then and we get up and we hug our children and we go to work and eventually we sleep OK and don’t think about it more than a few times a day.

    My hope is that eventually we realize that the object isn’t to have a war, it’s to WIN the war. Which is why the nebulous wars against “terror” are so horrendous. There are far, far fewer casualties than any wars prior but they cannot be won. They settle nothing. Are we capturing, killing or converting more “terrorists” than we are making new ones? I seriously doubt it.

    Sorry for the rant. Sometimes I just gotta.

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts

    Even without the atomic bombs, without the “conventional” firebombings, without the Soviet declaration of war, and without an invasion, Japan could not possibly have continued the war for more than a few months, because it had lost access to the vital supplies of oil, tin and rubber from what is now Indonesia. Without these, it could not long remain an industrial economy, let alone fight the USA. Gar Alperowitz’s Atomic Diplomacy makes a very strong case, based on contemporary diaries and records of Truman and his senior advisors, that the use of the bombs was aimed primarily at making the USSR “more manageable”.

  20. 20
    David Wilford

    dianne @ 17:

    I was mentioning Fussell’s reaction because it was typical of U.S. soldiers who were going to be tasked with invading Japan in late 1945. Ending the war ASAP was the primary goal, and waiting around for Japan to surrender wasn’t an option, especially as the Japanese Army in China was largely intact and fighting there, no tin, oil or rubber required. Dropping the second bomb was to demonstrate more would in fact be dropped unless Japan accepted the terms of surrender demanded by the United Nations. (Japan hoped for a negotiated surrender where it would keep Formosa (Taiwan) and Korea, which was clearly not acceptable.)

  21. 21
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I was mentioning Fussell’s reaction because it was typical of U.S. soldiers who were going to be tasked with invading Japan in late 1945.

    …and, one assumes, to avoid having to directly acknowledge the inability to source the claims you were asked to.

  22. 22
    unclefrogy

    with all the discussion and debate about the first use of atomic bombs there is one other contributing reason which I have seen to operate in governments and I would have to call it maybe bureaucratic inertia. That governments and bureaucracies will continue to act and to expand their actions unless given direct policies and limitations.
    I am glad I was not put into the position to make that decision

    uncle frogy

  23. 23
    Amphiox

    If the goal was merely to demonstrate that the US had more bombs and was willing to use more if Japan did not surrender after Hiroshima, dropping one on an uninhabited Pacific Atoll, or even a relatively uninhabited part of the Japanese countryside would have sufficed.

    A deliberate choice was made to target a major city for the second bomb.

  24. 24
    Nick Gotts

    waiting around for Japan to surrender wasn’t an option, especially as the Japanese Army in China was largely intact and fighting there, no tin, oil or rubber required – David Wilford@22

    What is the point of such an obvious piece of nonsense? An army needs constant supplies of all three. The Japanese army in China was by 1945 a complete strategic irrelevance, and its stockpiles of these materials could not and did not make the slightest difference to the outcome of the war, nor could they have done so even without any of the factors I listed. And of course waiting for the Japanese economy to grind to a halt was an option, in that it was entirely feasible, and the information necessary to reach this conclusion was readily available.

  25. 25
    David Wilford

    Nick Gotts @ 24:

    An army needs constant supplies of all three.

    Not if you’re going to fight with weapons that do not require those resources as inputs. For example, by 1945 the Japanese Navy was practically irrelevant to the conflict due to the supply of fuel oil being cut and overwhelming U.S. naval superiority. But Japan did have enough aviation fuel left (and could distill ethanol as well from bio-feedstocks) to supply it’s kamikaze strikes, which were effective against U.S. naval forces during the invasion of Okinawa. Japanese infantry forces were certainly capable of putting up resistance as well, and were in fact fighting to the very end in China, which was an ally fighting against Japan and had suffered tremendously during the war. I suppose the U.S. and the Soviet Army could have just kept on waiting while hundreds of thousands of Chinese people continued to die as a result or war, disease and famine, but thankfully that didn’t happen.

  26. 26
    Al Dente

    In the summer of 1945 it was apparent that Japan would either be bombed or invaded. There are some who believe an invasion would have killed fewer people than bombing (both conventional and nuclear) would have. John Ray Skates, in his book The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb advances this idea. I believe Skates is wrong.

    The War Department staff in Washington estimated there would be 250,000 to 500,000 American casualties in an invasion of Japan. After the war, some politicians casually made this a “half-million dead” and then “a million dead.” In any event, the estimate of casualties included killed, wounded and missing. The original estimates were a not-unreasonable figure based on American experience with fanatical Japanese defenders of the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and one which a postwar examination of Japanese plans for the defense of the Home Islands bore out. There was no indication the Japanese would fight any less strenuously if their Home Islands were invaded. Indeed, it was likely that the fighting would have been even more costly. And this doesn’t even consider the Japanese casualties.

    The Japanese consistently demonstrated a marked reluctance to surrender, either on the battlefield or at the negotiating table. The American people, in light of Germany’s surrender in May 1945, were eager to get the war in the Pacific over with as soon as possible. The voters were making this wish quite clear to their elected officials and the chief among these, President Truman, was listening intently. He had been told that a blockade of Japan might have to go on for a year or more before Japan finally gave in. A successful invasion would not be noticeably shorter. The American people would have none of this and wanted something done. Nuclear weapons were simply another incentive for the Japanese to surrender, and no one was sure they would be any more persuasive than the fire bomb raids (which killed more people than the atomic bombs).

  27. 27
    dianne

    I was mentioning Fussell’s reaction because it was typical of U.S. soldiers who were going to be tasked with invading Japan in late 1945.

    I’m sure it was. And I’m sure that he believed what he said. But was it true? The US government had an interest in making its people love the atomic bomb. Remember, the US was planning or at least considering nuking the Soviet Union next and really was only stopped by its lack of available bombs. If the US had gone ahead with its plan to dominate the world with, well, the threat of being destroyed at the slightest hint of opposition to US policy, it really had to make sure that its own people loved the bomb. Or there might be internal opposition. And what better way to avoid such opposition than to say, “Hey, that bombing saved our soldiers! Aren’t you glad that they didn’t have to invade and risk getting killed?” Anyone voicing the slightest doubt would have been and was labelled “anti-American” and would probably have had relatives saying, “But your father/grandfather/uncle/brother/husband/friend/etc would might have DIED without the bomb. How can you question its being dropped?” And that would shut most people up. Again, this is not good evidence of the bombing having been necessary, for any definition of “necessary”.

  28. 28
    johnwilkins

    I happened to be listening to Talking Head’s “The Overload” while watching this. Ot was a perfect soundtrack.

  29. 29
    Enopoletus Harding

    This article makes a remarkably persuasive case that nuclear weapons dropped on civilian areas were neither necessary nor sufficient for the Japanese leadership to begin seriously considering surrender.

  30. 30
    David Wilford

    dianne @ 27:

    It’s debatable whether or not it was dropping two atomic bombs alone that convinced Japan to surrender, since the Soviet Army’s attack in Manchuria was also a major factor. Hirohito made reference to both being the main reason for surrender later, so it’s unclear what might have been more important. The bombs were directly cited by Hirohito in his statement to the Japanese people telling them that Japan was surrendering to the Allies, and of course the Japanese people knew about them being used. So I think they helped end the war sooner rather than later.

    FWIW, my uncle was a Marine who fought on Iwo Jima and lived. Given that 418,000 U.S. soldiers died during WWII, a lot of families had loved ones die. Everyone wanted the war to end and the killing to stop, but while the war had turned hopelessly against the Japanese, they were holding out in hopes of surrendering to terms more to their liking, including as I said keeping possession of Taiwan and Korea, and that was not acceptable.

    As for the bomb being used against the U.S.S.R. right after the war? Um, no. Contemplated, sure, given the Soviet Army’s presence in Eastern Europe and the vastly smaller U.S and British forces facing them. But the Soviets didn’t want more war either as it turned out, except for Stalin’s giving his o.k. to Kim Il Sung to invade South Korea. I recall that General MacArthur thought about dropping the bomb in Korea, but President Truman nixed that. But the closest we ever came (and it was very close) to nuking the Soviets was during the Cuban crisis in the fall of 1962.

  31. 31
    timgueguen

    None of the options in 1945 were good. We know what the A bombs did. We have a pretty good guess at how horrible an invasion of Japan would have been, and that invasion would likely have included chemical weapons and A bombs if the latter weren’t used in August. As for a continued blockade, that would have seen who knows how many Japanese die as the bombing raids continued, Japanese and Allied soldiers, along with civilians, continuing to die as combat continued in China and Burma, and, if the Japanese held out long enough, the potential for a famine in Japan during the winter of 1945-46. I can imagine a world where we’d argue over whether the A bombs would have been any worse, than the starvation that devastated Japan, or any less moral than the policies that led to that starvation. Not to mention those who would argue that the only reason the bombs weren’t used was because of anti-Asian racism, that the Western powers were okay with Chinese, Burmese, and other Asians dying so they wouldn’t waste their precious A bombs.

  32. 32
    dianne

    @al dente: The Japanese consistently demonstrated a marked reluctance to surrender

    As I said, somehow the US always just happens to be fighting people who are “reluctant to surrender” and so practically force them to (firebomb/use torture/drop the atomic bomb on them/etc). Odd, that.

    Although I must admit, having read some WWII propaganda, if I were a Japanese soldier, I’d be pretty reluctant to surrender to the US. And, to be fair, vice versa. The governments of the time–pretty much all of the governments involved in the war– did a very good job of setting the young soldiers up to see their enemy as inhuman.

  33. 33
    kc9oq

    A few years back PBS’s series American Experience aired a 2-hour documentary entitled “Victory in the Pacific” that explores the mindsets of both sides in a fairly balanced way. What I found most chilling was the claim that, once the Americans discovered Kyushu being way more heavily mobilized than anticipated, US brass discussed using the nuclear arsenal (we did have more plutonium pits on hand) as tactical, nuclear artillery to soften up the Japanese prior to invading. I don’t know how available this show is but if you can score a copy it’s definitely excellent viewing.

  34. 34
    dianne

    It strikes me that, even 70 years later, it is very hard for the average US-American to even consider the idea that the bombings were wrong. Rightly or wrongly, most US-Americans will cling to the idea that the bombing was necessary, the more humane thing, the thing that fewer casualties, even in Japan. I think this is part of the desire US-Americans have to cling to an image of themselves as the “good guys”. As in, “Ok, so we supported a few dictators, destroyed the environment, currently actively torture people, fought several demonstrably unjust wars…but, hey, we saved the world in WWII. So we’re the good guys, right? Of course we are!” And any statement that questions the “we’re the good guys” assumption, from Ford’s support of the Nazis to questioning the need and efficacy of the atomic bombings, threatens the US’s self-image on a very deep level. Hence, the inability to even debate the issue on evidence.

  35. 35
    David Wilford

    dianne @ 32:

    As I recall, there’s a reason they call it the Bataan Death March. And the Rape of Nanking just that. So please, don’t engage in such false equivalences. The Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos all still remember the brutality of Japanese soldiers during WWII, and there was nothing comparable to that brutality on the Allied side.

    The Japanese also did fanatically resist surrender, even in the face of hopeless odds. Out of a garrison of over 20,000 on Iwo Jima, only 1,000 Japanese soldiers surrendered, and not all of them voluntarily. The rest fought to the death. The same fanatical resistance also happened on Okinawa. There was every reason to believe that would continue on the Japanese home islands, and would include civilian combatants.

  36. 36
    David Marjanović

    As I said, somehow the US always just happens to be fighting people who are “reluctant to surrender” and so practically force them to (firebomb/use torture/drop the atomic bomb on them/etc). Odd, that.

    I think it was true this first time, and “the generals are always fighting the previous war”… Japanese propaganda kept saying “the only way to vanquish Japan is to kill every last Japanese, but you can’t kill 120 million people, so Japan is invincible”; the emperor’s capitulation speech then stated quite clearly that it’s entirely feasible to kill 120 million people.

  37. 37
    gworroll

    As far as I can tell, it really was the Soviet invasion preparations that ended the war. The US was likely to be a nicer occupier than the USSR.

    The atomic bombs, at best, made it politically easier to surrender before the Soviets moved in.

    One of the weirdest places I’ve ever been was Peace Park in Hiroshima. Beyond creepy, but oddly peaceful. Seeing some of the preserved rubble, the tower that held up(more or less) only 800 meters away…

    You can debate whether invasion, blockade, or the atomic bomb was the lesser evil given the options Truman had. But a “lesser evil”, no matter how much less, no matter how necessary under the circumstances, is still an evil, and should never be celebrated. Regrettably accepted is the furthest anyone should go.

  38. 38
    Nick Gotts

    David Wilford@25

    Not if you’re going to fight with weapons that do not require those resources as inputs.

    There are no such weapons. Infantry require a continuous supply of food, clothing, ammunition, medical supplies…, transporting which requires vehicles.

    I suppose the U.S. and the Soviet Army could have just kept on waiting while hundreds of thousands of Chinese people continued to die as a result or war, disease and famine

    If you really believe either Stalin or Truman was concerned about Chinese casualties, I can only marvel at your naivete – well that, and ask for some evidence. I’ve told you what the evidence is for the thesis that the bombings were aimed at the USSR (dianne is wrong in thinking Truman intended to bomb them, but the evidence that he intended Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a demonstration of US power is clear). Have you read Alperovitz? Besides which, by July 1945 the Japanese offensive had already run out of steam, so I’d also request your evidence that a few more months of war would have increased the number of casualties by hundreds of thousands. The bombing of Hiroshima, incidentally, killed around 20,000 Koreans who were present as forced labourers – in effect, slaves. But I’m sure they died thanking Truman for his benevolent decision to kill them.

    FWIW, my uncle was a Marine who fought on Iwo Jima and lived.

    How is that supposed to be relevant? My uncle was captured at Singapore and died of dysentery in captivity. Does that mean I trump you?

  39. 39
    Nick Gotts

    There was every reason to believe that would continue on the Japanese home islands, and would include civilian combatants. – David Wilford@34

    Stop pretending an invasion would have been militarily necessary. It quite clearly wasn’t.

  40. 40
    David Wilford

    Nick Gotts @ 37:

    As if you can’t transport things on foot. Less efficient, yes. But certainly doable. The German army ended up relying more and more on horses towards the end, but they kept on fighting as well. Every additional day of war meant more deaths on all sides, so the option for doing nothing didn’t mean just sitting around until Japan said uncle.

    As for uncles, my reference to my own was to illustrate that millions of families were directly affected by the war, including yours. No wonder people wanted the war over, ASAP.

  41. 41
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I think a lot of it comes down to what was the “necessary” end to the war.

    On August 5, 1945, Japan’s territory had been pushed back to the Home Islands and a few isolated pockets elsewhere. Said Home Islands were on the brink of starvation. Most major cities had suffered severe damage and the Navy and Air Force were toddering on their last legs in terms of their ability to defend Japanese territory.

    Was Japan ready to surrender unconditionally at that point? No. This is for a large number of reasons that really aren’t necessary to go into. Would Japan have maybe, if overtures had been made, willing to come to a negotiating table? Perhaps. If there had been such a negotiated peace that did not feature an unconditional surrender, would Japan have built its strength back up and returned to its prior activities in short while? Perhaps.

    But the truth is we don’t know because we didn’t go down that road. A major reason why is because – rightly or wrongly – the Allies believed that the only long-term solution was for Japan to be brought to its knees and be forced to surrender unconditionally.

    Now. If we accept the premise that unconditional surrender was necessary, the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki may well have been the least-bad way of getting there, from a perspective of military cost (in lives and materiel) in cost to the civilian population (how many Japanese civilians would have died in a traditional invasion of the Home Islands?), and in terms of time expended.

    Of course, that’s a pretty big if.

  42. 42
    fabianocaccin

    Humble suggestion

    I read it in elementary school. It made me cry.

  43. 43
    ibyea

    The atomic bomb is only justifiable if the only way to surrender is unconditional surrender. At the same time, I will say that the atomic bomb was just as morally grotesque as all the firebombings that targeted civilians throughout the whole war. The use of the atomic bomb was not crossing a line, that line had already been crossed a million times over and smashed to pieces. Everything was already permissible.

  44. 44
    fabianocaccin

    On a lighter note

  45. 45
    Amphiox

    There is no doubt that any land invasion of Japan would have been an unmitigated horror. The Japanese government was already busy training civilians, high school boys and girls, in the use of bamboo spears, and expecting them to charge American gunnery positions with them.

    However, some of that (unsure how much) based on internal documents, was designed as posturing. The Japanese strategy for defending themselves in the last year of the war was to use every propaganda tool at their disposal to make it appear that invading Japan would be an unmitigated bloodbath, and hope the allies would decide that allowing a negotiated peace (and Japan was under no illusions that such a peace would not be heavily not in their favor) would be preferable. They calculated that the American people were getting war fatigue and would pressure their government to end the war quickly, even if by negotiation if that was what it took. They knew they had lost the war. They were hoping for a peace that gave them SOME modicum of dignity to allow the imperial regime to survive intact.

    They did not anticipate the Americans to pick the third option and drop A-bombs on them.

    But, let us be under no illusions that America or the allies “had” to drop the A-bombs because they had no other choice. They had three choices. 1) Launch a ground invasion, 2) Agree to a negotiated, conditional surrender, and 3) Drop the A-bombs.

    They CHOSE, deliberately, 3. They DECIDED, deliberately, that 3 was preferable to 2 and 1.

    And in the end, even with the A-bombs, Japan did not surrender unconditionally. They surrendered on TWO conditions. 1) The emperor would not be deposed and 2) The emperor would not be put on trial for war crimes, even though many in America wanted to, and he was probably guilty to boot.

    (Also, America’s ground invasion plan for Japan included the use of atomic bombs on the beachheads, followed by marching their own soldiers right into the teeth of the fall-out. They didn’t know or at least didn’t bother to take into account, about the radioactive fallout and its consequences at the time)

  46. 46
    robro

    80 million or so dead. Countless millions more scarred for life. None of them necessary. None of them justified. Let’s never do that again. And let’s stop making these sorts of cold calculations to justify our actions even on the relatively small scales we face today because it’s always wrong, and mega-war is always close at hand.

  47. 47
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    But, let us be under no illusions that America or the allies “had” to drop the A-bombs because they had no other choice. They had three choices. 1) Launch a ground invasion, 2) Agree to a negotiated, conditional surrender, and 3) Drop the A-bombs.

    They CHOSE, deliberately, 3. They DECIDED, deliberately, that 3 was preferable to 2 and 1.

    And what conditions were they trying to push for, exactly? I know David Wilford is allergic to providing sources like nobody’s business, but if his claims that Japan was trying to push for a surrender that would involve keeping control of some of the territories they’d conquered, their record of war crimes in those territories would seem like a legitimate factor to consider….

  48. 48
    Ingdigo Jump

    If America really cared about the war crimes they wouldn’t have granted clemency to the Japanese who commited them. We can’t say we were so concerned about those civilian deaths when we turned around and helped sheild people who conducted human experimentation from war crimes trials.

  49. 49
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Oh, I agree; that was in reference to the apparent suggestion that the allies should have accepted a conditional surrender.

  50. 50
    georgemartin

    I recommend that people read Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb. In the book he discusses the decision process on how the Japanese cities were selected as possible targets for the bomb. He also discusses the reasons for the fire bombing of Dresden and Japan. For the science types he gives a brief history of the development of nuclear physics relating to the bomb. Did you know that Leo Szilard tried to patent the concept of a nuclear chain reaction? He came up with the idea shortly after Chadwick announced the discovery of the neutron. Also included are brief biographies of the major players from Rutherford to Oppenheimer.

    George

  51. 51
    Amphiox

    but if his claims that Japan was trying to push for a surrender that would involve keeping control of some of the territories they’d conquered, their record of war crimes in those territories would seem like a legitimate factor to consider….

    Well, the allies could simply have played hardball on those negotiations on the question of territory, and the Japanese probably would have caved, since they militarily could not have hung on to those territories anyways in the face of the Chinese resistance and the possibility of the Soviets attacking them (assuming the Soviets were not part of that peace deal).

  52. 52
    NelC

    Amphiox@45: A basic rule for anything big is that nobody knows anything; this is doubly true in war, when nations are doing their best to hide as much information as possible and actively deceive their enemies. Nobody knew what Hirohito was thinking at any particular moment, or what plans were being made. Nobody knew what kind of negotiated surrender Japan would have made. Nobody knew how far Russia would have gotten in invading Hokkaido and northern Honshu.

    But after five years of war, it is a grim truth that the Allies got very good at the logistics and the statistics of death. For each of your three choices, and for others, there was a cost and a probability of success (however arbitrarily “success” was defined). And then some poor sod had the responsibility of deciding which was the expedient option, and they decided to start an atomic bombing campaign. And they got a victory.

    Were there other possibilities? Sure. Would they have been as successful in stopping the war and preventing future wars originating from Japan? That’s debatable, and we do debate it. Fortunately for the pastime of debate, there is no way of determining the truth of it, just as there was no way of knowing it in mid-1945. But not deciding was not a luxury that could be afforded then. At some point, somebody had to decide: to negotiate conditionally and risk Japanese imperial ambitions being only blunted, and the whole ghastly business starting all over again a decade or a generation later; to invade Japan from the south while the Russians invaded from the north, killing millions of civilians and maybe a million US troops, then administering a divided Japan with the Soviet Union; or making a big show of dropping the atomic bombs and showing willing to kill just as many civilians as the invasion option but without offering Japan the glory and satisfaction of killing invaders at the same time.

    The whole war was horrible, ghastly, a grand guignol of blood and death. To single out the one (well, two) actions that directly ended the business as particularly worthy of criticism while giving a pass to the previous years is inconsistent. By accepting the logic of war for the years 1941–45, you should apply it to August 1945.

    If you applied the same standards to, say, the siege of Stalingrad, you’d say that at some point the Germans made the decision to withdraw; every death after that decision was made was a waste. But if you were a Russian in Stalingrad, at what point do you stop shooting at Germans? You don’t know that the soldier in your sights has been told to pack up and go home; as far as you know, he’s just withdrawing for tactical advantage. That’s the logic of war. When do you know you’ve won? When the Japanese Emperor surrenders (and survives the attempted military coup).

    But outside the logic of war, the whole war was a waste. Every dollar or yen or mark spent on a weapon instead of medicine or construction or research or entertainment was a waste. Every death was a waste.

  53. 53
    NelC

    Me@52: Penultimate sentence of penultimate paragraph should probably read “When do you know you’ve won the War in the Pacific?” for minimal clashing of mental gears — I do know Stalingrad wasn’t in Hirohito’s purview.

  54. 54
    kyuss

    Dropping the a bombs on Japan was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. They were transformed from being one of the worst society’s on Earth to one of the best, Modern Japan has its share of social problems (like all countries, though some more than others) but it is objectively superior to their pre-WWII society.

  55. 55
    Marcus Ranum

    I highly recommend AC Grayling’s “Among the dead cities” if you want a serious philosophical treatment of the whole “WW2 bombing” question. tl;dr version: it was utterly wrong in every possible way and completely unredeemable or excusable.

  56. 56
    Marcus Ranum

    Dropping the a bombs on Japan was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. They were transformed from being one of the worst society’s on Earth to one of the best

    Yeah and genocide has done wonders for the native americans and jews, asshole.

  57. 57
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Let’s not forget about all those Africans who got free boat rides to the “new world”.

  58. 58
    Marcus Ranum

    Scientists _should_ feel ashamed over what they brought to earth. Giving something so potent into the hands of politicians is utter foolishness. Everyone involved in the manhattan project carries the stink of burning flesh on them until they die.

  59. 59
    Marcus Ranum

    This video does not include the aftermath; the affect on the ground. My friend Aaron’s father was part of the team that landed after the surrender, to help the “clean up” at Hiroshima. According to Aaron, they had to use landing ships, to crunch over the 10′ deep layer of bodies from the burning Japanese who had thrown themselves into the harbor. According to him, his father would throw up at the smell of barbecued pork, for the rest of his life. And, other than that, he absolutely refused to talk about any of it and if you asked him, he’d grab a bottle of the strongest alcohol he could get his hands on, and disappear for a couple of days.

  60. 60
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    kyuss #54

    Yeah, ya have to nuke a few thousand eggs to make an omelette, right?

  61. 61
    sundoga

    Many of you seem to be imagining that the US government had a choice here, regarding unconditional surrender. From what I can see of the situation, having read about and studied the question considerably, I do not believe that was the case.
    The Allies (not just the US, but also the Empire nations, Free France and the others) had painted them selves into an ideological corner. Their populations were absolutely convinced that the utter destruction of the Japanese Empire was the only acceptable end result of the war – so demonized and hated had the Japanese Government become that active movements existed that supported the summary execution of the entire Diet and the Emperor. Now, those were fringe positions, but the mainstream was not far different – they just wanted trials first.
    Had the US Government elected to open negotiations, they would have alienated their allies, their military and their own populace. With Truman’s increasing suspicion of Stalin and the USSR, the former was a clear international error; with ANY elected official, the latter was unthinkable.
    Simply put, a negotiated end was politically impossible.

  62. 62
    Al Dente

    Marcus Ranum @58

    Scientists _should_ feel ashamed over what they brought to earth. Giving something so potent into the hands of politicians is utter foolishness. Everyone involved in the manhattan project carries the stink of burning flesh on them until they die.

    Spoken like someone who doesn’t have a clue about what people were thinking in the 1940s. Hindsight is always easy, especially if it lets you sneer at people you want to feel superior to.

    Nuclear weapons were originally developed to be used against the Germans. There was a real concern that the Germans would develop nuclear weapons first. As it turned out, Germany surrendered before the bombs were completed.

    As I said in my post @26, the American people, both military and civilian, wanted the war over. Nuclear weapons were used in a successful attempt to get the Japanese to surrender. Firebombing Japanese cities actually killed more people than the nuclear bombs killed.

  63. 63
    Marcus Ranum

    A couple military facts about Japan at the close of the war:
    - The Japanese airforce was largely nonexistent
    - The Japanese navy was largely nonexistent
    - What remained of the Japanese army was being
    a) obliterated by the Russians, in China
    b) positioned to prevent a d-day style landing in the Kanto plain above Tokyo and in Kyushu. There were military units (of sorts) digging in for an Iwo Jima-style death fight
    - The Japanese dictatorship had made peace openings before the destruction of Hiroshima, but the allies chose “unconditional surrender” as their demand, in order to allow further Soviet incursion into Manchuria and the US to use its nuclear weapons
    - Japan was under a complete blockade; with the air power arrayed against them, the traditional weapon of mass destruction – starvation – would have been easier to deploy than nuclear weapons.

    The idea that using nuclear weapons on Japan saved allied lives is a lie. Accepting Japan’s surrender would have shortened the war significantly. If the objective was to obliterate Japanese resistance, hitting the military targets in the Kanto Plain would have acomplished (arguably) some military objective. Instead the targeting decision was: “any Japanese city that we haven’t already fire-bombed and which isn’t the capital” – which is exactly why they hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The argument that Japanese military production was distributed and hard to attack is complete bullshit. The Japanese airforce and all plants producing aircraft were already destroyed. The Japanese navy was becoming a reef at The Coral Sea. The civilians who were turning silk kimonos into bags for powder for artillery were victims of religion and government lies. And the US bathed them in 100,000 degree nuclear fire because it was important to show Stalin what a cool scary new toy we had.

  64. 64
    Marcus Ranum

    Al Dente:

    Well, I didn’t live through it, so I don’t carry that shame. One of my great personal heroes, Richard Feynman, did. And I have an extensive collection of audio recordings of him describing how he felt in the aftermath and – let’s just say, he wasn’t a jingoistic asshole about it. There is deep and serious pain in his voice as he describes thinking about being in a cafe in NYC and imagining the blast radius of the bombs and wondering “why does anyone bother? why does anyone build a bridge anymore? it’s all futile.”

    So, do I know how people felt at the time, like you seem to think you do? No, I do not. But I can tell you one thing – they had been propagandized and militarized to accept complete bullshit in the service of total war. They had swallowed lies that made them comfortable with monstrosities. They accepted lies that it was necessary to do this thing to the Japanese. But they were lies. Maybe that excuses them a bit. What’s your excuse?

    Nuclear weapons were originally developed to be used against the Germans. There was a real concern that the Germans would develop nuclear weapons first. As it turned out, Germany surrendered before the bombs were completed.

    Sorry, the German nuclear program was a joke and never had any potential of producing a working weapon. For one thing, Germany lost the brain-trust to make a bomb, but they also lacked the industrial capacity and technical wherewithal to separate anything more than a few molecules of Uranium-235. The Japanese nuclear program was equally still-born. They had less of a chance of producting a bomb than the Germans did, and that was basically zero.

    Sorry about your fig-leaf, pal.

    Nuclear weapons were used in a successful attempt to get the Japanese to surrender.

    The nuclear weapons were used after the Japanese junta had already tried to fucking surrender.

    Sorry about your fig-leaf, pal.

  65. 65
    Marcus Ranum

    The Allies (not just the US, but also the Empire nations, Free France and the others) had painted them selves into an ideological corner.

    That’s called “a choice”

  66. 66
    llamaherder

    Dropping the a bombs on Japan was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. They were transformed from being one of the worst society’s on Earth to one of the best, Modern Japan has its share of social problems (like all countries, though some more than others) but it is objectively superior to their pre-WWII society.

    no no no no no

    You’re a terrible person.

  67. 67
    Marcus Ranum

    Some interesting facts about the strategic problem the Japanese military faced, dealing with a hypothetical American invasion:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=hdoEpslpoi8C&pg=PA118&lpg=PA118&dq=invasion+of+japan+kanto&source=bl&ots=YJejbMXTC5&sig=MO1gymtl7ZNm68OFNHXz1QpaZiM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lK71UuejBcK2yAGr1IG4DA&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=invasion%20of%20japan%20kanto&f=false

    It’s interesting stuff. There were actually, ummm, military concentrations that the nukes could have been used on, if the idea was anything other than to terrorize the Japanese into suddender. What’s crazy is that the Japanese had tried to surrender and were told, basically, “it’s not good enough, you have to surrender and kiss my ass.” This does not constitute a real attempt to negotiate. The Yalta meeting was a toss-up where Stalin was making it clear he wanted to grab big chunks of Manchuria – basically, to carve up China – and the Americans decided to show Stalin they had some badass cards up their sleeve — by demonstrating them on the Japanese.

  68. 68
    Al Dente

    Marcus Ranum @64

    Sorry, the German nuclear program was a joke and never had any potential of producing a working weapon.

    Sure, we know that NOW. But that’s not what people were thinking during the war. They were thinking about how Germany was a leader in science and industry, how people like Werner Heisenberg were still in Germany (Heisenberg had a long discussion with Nels Bohr in 1940 about nuclear weapons, a discussion Bohr reported to the British and Americans after he came to Britain in 1943).

    But I’m not going to argue the point any more. Nothing I say will penetrate your self-righteous sanctimony.

  69. 69
    Marcus Ranum

    The whole war was horrible, ghastly, a grand guignol of blood and death. To single out the one (well, two) actions that directly ended the business as particularly worthy of criticism while giving a pass to the previous years is inconsistent. By accepting the logic of war for the years 1941–45, you should apply it to August 1945.

    How about accepting a more humanistic logic, namely that war is seldom what a people ask for, and is usually brought upon them by the false pretenses of a power elite? Surely, a defensive action to and a war is reasonable, but that’s a far cry from winning a war; it’s sufficient to (as Ho Chi Mihn in Vietnam, Moqtada Al Sadr in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are doing) explain to an agressor that their agenda will never succeeed and that it is time for them to rethink their aggression and maybe get the fuck out.

    Otherwise what you’re saying is that the Nazis’ horribleness justifies the American and Russian horribleness. No, it doesn’t justify it at all, my friend – it just makes everyone horrible.

  70. 70
    Mobius

    A few years back, India and Pakistan were having one of their hot border disputes, mostly artillery exchanges. One thing very worrisome about those is that both nations have nuclear weapons. On one news show, they interviewed a number of Pakistanis and Indians about their nukes. The general opinion was, “Hey, they’re just bigger bombs. What’s the big deal?” Scary that people would be that ho-hum about WMDs.

  71. 71
    Marcus Ranum

    Sure, we know that NOW. But that’s not what people were thinking during the war.

    Sorry, pal, but the German heavy water facilities were raided by commandos who took pretty exhaustive information about what they found back to Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_heavy_water_sabotage ) It was immediately apparent to the allies that the Germans had no effective nuclear program. Especially since Neils Bohr fled Europe and went to Los Alamos in 1943, carrying with him a very accurate assessment of German nuclear efforts to date. So…. We have facts about the state of German nuclear engineering from 1943-3 and Bohr’s information from 1943. Uh, yeah, like I said – experts who knew anything about nuclear engineering at that time knew the German nuclear programme was dead in the water. All they’d managed to do was some heavy water and a few molecules of uranium enriched.

    How’s your fig-leaf now, my little genocidaire?

    Nothing I say will penetrate your self-righteous sanctimony.

    Well if you were doing a better job of coming with facts, it might. But all I am hearing is smoke blowing and militaristic banner-waving. Can you do better than that?

  72. 72
    Marcus Ranum

    PS – Heisenberg made it pretty clear to Bohr before he went to Los Alamos (though Hans Bethe did as well) that the German nuclear effort was theoretical, at best, and had barely progressed past some initial exploration. Heisenberg and Bohr both knew that enriching that much uranium was a humongous engineering project that the Germans were not capable of given the military situation at the time. The only country in the world that could divert enough real estate and energy to Uranium enrichment was the US.

  73. 73
    Marcus Ranum

    On one news show, they interviewed a number of Pakistanis and Indians about their nukes. The general opinion was, “Hey, they’re just bigger bombs. What’s the big deal?” Scary that people would be that ho-hum about WMDs.

    If you’re interested in the India/Pakistan nuclear situation, I highly recommend Feroz Khan’s “Eating Grass” which describes a great deal about the Pakistani/Indian nuclear stand-off. It also has some delicious nuggets about uranium enrichment and AQ Khan… Anyhow, the short form is that Pakistan (probably rightly) felt that once India had the bomb (most likely proliferated to them by Germany, Canada, and the US) they would engage in relentless nuclear blackmail. Since India basically went un-sanctioned by the western goverments for their nuclear developments (after all, they had just fought China over pieces of the Himalayas and were a possible counter-balance) they escaped the crushing punishment the Pakistanis were subjected to.

  74. 74
    knut7777

    I highly recommend Richard Rhode’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb. It is a very concise history of early 20th century physics and all the threads of discovery and expatriation converging upon Los Alamos. One can feel the enthusiasm and dread of the scientists at the growing bureaucratic momentum carrying the project to its inevitable conclusion. Abruptly Rhodes shifts to Japan and the human consequences of the bombings in a chapter that will leave any honest person ill to the depths of their being.

    Rather than Oppenheimer’s I prefer the quote of Kenneth Bainbridge upon the successful Trinity test, “Now we are all sons of bitches.” Indeed.

  75. 75
    lorn

    There is a reason everything in the film seems to routine, by then every evolution has been practiced hundreds of times. They talked through every motion by any of the crew dozens of times, they acted it out without props scores of times, they practiced it with props, and eventually dummy bombs, hundreds of times. Everyone knew exactly how many turns every bolt required, what order tools would be used. It was claimed they practiced blindfolded. Nothing, not even the smallest detail, was left to chance.

    I doubt anyone on any of the crews felt morally concerned, much less guilty. The war had been going on for years. The news of German and Japanese death camps was well known. Kamikazes, atrocities in China, and torture and execution of allied prisoners had largely eliminated any deep moral concerns beyond winning as soon as possible.

    A little known fact is that the US had just about run out of people to throw into the war. Replacements in the ETO (European Theater of Operation) during the last months of the war in the west were few and far between. The only reason were even considered invading Japan was that the fall of Germany had freed up troops. The American public was tired of the war.

    For all the talk of how Japan was willing to surrender is contradicted by a a whole lot of Japanese activity and language. The official military policy remained, to the last, that Japan would memorialize itself by fighting to the last citizen, women and children included. The Japanese army was still launching air attacks on allied targets three days after Hiroshima.

    For me the most telling item of evidence is the radio address offered up by the Emperor:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Imperial_Rescript_on_Surrender

    Read it through and listen to the tone of the delivery in the recording:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyokuon-h%C5%8Ds%C5%8D

    Then consider that the Emperor explains the reason for the war as:
    “To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors, and which We lay close to heart. Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to secure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement.”

    Keep in mind what Japan had done for years before the start of this four years in China and SE Asia. The treatment of other Asians by the Japanese was usually systematically abominable. Rape, murder, torture, comfort women, enforced starvation, experimentation on and vivisection of captives, and the use of bio-weapons on populations was all sanctioned policy. Allied prisoners had it bad but other Asians had it much worse.

    The emperor goes on to characterize the course of the war:
    “Despite the best that has been done by every one — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb,[2] the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.”

    Notice that here is no mention of any particular failure, defeat, or surrender, and the Japanese, while evidently perfectly willing to die as a race, would in so doing, (because the Japanese are the only “civilized” humans) it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. In essence the Japanese are deigning to save civilization, even though doing so is “by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable”.

    The entire war is framed as a noble attempt at “the emancipation of East Asia” that has left no course left but to save civilization by yet another noble sacrifice. The entire address was an exercise in avoidance of responsibility and slap in the face of the allies. But it had been a very long war and all the allies wanted it over. It also has to be noted that with the bombing of Nagasaki the US was no longer a nuclear power. There were no more bombs to drop. The next would be weeks, if not months, away.

    Keep in mind that the Japanese society had not always been a cult of death. The veterans of the Russian/Japanese war (1904-5) were not blamed for their defeat. Those captured were welcomed back with parades. It was not expected that anyone should have to die fighting. By 1945 the military philosophy was characterized as ‘shattered jewels’ where perfection leads to the destruction of that most valuable, the Japanese as a people.

    Before militarization Japan was humane and, in many ways, quite enlightened. They were as advanced as any western nation in all except military power. At the end of the war they were a comprehensively dysfunctional and broken as a nation. In the years immediately after the war there were contests for the longest intestinal worm. (look it up for pictures of people holding worms draped across sticks) This among the possibly most habitually clean and sanitation obsessed people on the planet. (Opinion based upon several years spent in Japan.) They, as a people and a nation, had fallen vary far.

  76. 76
    anuran

    So about as many casualties as Antietam and Gettysburg
    Less than a tenth of Verdun
    Less than a twentieth of the Somme

    And less than a quarter of the deaths at the Rape of Nanking
    Not to mention Korea, Shanghai and the rest.
    Fuck Japanese denialism. They act like the atomic bombs wiped out every one of their atrocities. They still act the victim and teach that they were “forced” to invade Manchuria, bayonet little children in Nanking and all the rest.

    War is terrible. We already knew that.

  77. 77
    felidae

    Just a bit of perspective–six months prior, an incendiary raid on Tokyo killed 88,000 people outright and burned ten square miles of the city using 435 B-29′s, so the atomic bomb just upped the efficiency of mass murder, using one plane to do the job. I don’t suppose it matters if you are burned to death by white phosphorous or atomic energy, the point is that the mass murder of civilians in wartime is abhorrent. It has always distressed me that the best of man’s mind and craft are used to come up with better ways to kill our fellow humans

  78. 78
    Weed(less) Monkey

    kyuss
    Don’t you fucking dare to use that ‘nym with your disgusting ideology.

  79. 79
    Amphiox

    Dropping the a bombs on Japan was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. They were transformed from being one of the worst society’s on Earth to one of the best, Modern Japan has its share of social problems (like all countries, though some more than others) but it is objectively superior to their pre-WWII society.

    Notwithstanding the utter moral depravity of this statement, it rests on the assumption that 1) that the use of the atomic weapons was actually an important factor in Japan’s transformation, as opposed to, say, the occupation afterwards, which would have been largely similar regardless of whether the bombs were dropped or not, because Japan was going to lose that war one way or another, and 2) what Japan might have evolved into in the event of a negotiated peace would have not also been equally better than their pre-WWII regime.

    Both are assumptions that require the presentation of hard evidence to support a claim that this one.

  80. 80
    NelC

    Marcus Ranum @69:

    How about accepting a more humanistic logic, namely that war is seldom what a people ask for, and is usually brought upon them by the false pretenses of a power elite?

    Sure. That’s a part of what I meant by calling the whole thing “ghastly”. War is terrible and is usually started for terrible reasons. See, like, any war ever.

    Perhaps I should have gone further, and said that if you don’t accept the logic of war, then the bombing of Nagasaki still isn’t worthy of special criticism. It’s just the culmination of a series of awful events.

    As to rating who was more horrible than whom, well, I’m not sure what that has to do with anything I wrote, my friend.

  81. 81
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    The motivation to use the atomic bombs on Japan, rather than sit on them and use them as a (probably unbelievable) threat, or demonstrate them on an uninhabited target (Transporting Japanese observers to see it…how, exactly? Assuming they agreed.) could have been multi-faceted.

    Sure, giving notice to the Soviet Union was one. Forestalling Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet was another. (Okinawa times 1000? Times 2?) In my opinion a big one, and maybe the decisive one, was that the Manhattan project had just spent $2 billion developing these things.* Was it Conant who said just before the Trinity test: “If this doesn’t work, we’re all going to spend the rest of our lives sitting in front of Congressional committees.”?

    Now imagine instead of trying their best and failing they developed usable atomic bombs, and then didn’t use them, allowed the invasions to proceed…what would the Congressional and popular reaction have been when this came out? Expecting anyone to develop these weapons at such expense in wartime and then not use them, is unfortunately completely unrealistic.

    As for area bombing of civilian populations, this had already been going on for a long time. The rationale was provided by Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris: “They have sown the wind; Now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” This wasn’t something new in August 1945.

    *Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ various calculators for inflation, population, and GNP, I figure you’d have to spend $417 billion to equal that outlay today. Now, admittedly, half that was spent on the gaseous-diffusion plant that wouldn’t produce any useful amount of U-235 until long after the war was over, and almost half of the other half was spent on the electromagnetic-separation plant that sorted the U-235 for the Hiroshima bomb literally atom-by-atom, so 3/4 of that $2 billion, nearly, was wasted.

  82. 82
    A. R

    I’d like to go ahead an remind everyone here that the Japanese used mass casualty weapons in WWII as well, and they used them first. Go read about Unit 731, and the biological attacks on Chinese civilians that killed 400,000.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731#Germ_warfare_attacks (The original source is the CDC)

  83. 83
    A. R

    ^ Each and every one of those attacks was personally authorized by Hirohito, by the way.

  84. 84
    rq

    They didn’t just drop those bombs on Japan. They dropped them on people. Yes, war is ghastly. Horrible things happen, people die horrible deaths in large numbers – that does not make yet another mass slaughter morally defensible. Sure, they had to do it. Doesn’t make it right, not by a long shot.
    No matter who authorized it or why.

  85. 85
    zenlike

    American exceptionalism. Most of the reasons given for a-bombing two cities would be found utterly horrendous if they were given by other countries or regimes. And I’m shocked even on this blog some people use these arguments.

    35 David Wilford

    brutality of Japanese soldiers during WWII, and there was nothing comparable to that brutality on the Allied side.

    Firebombing and a-bombing civilians does sound very horrendous to me, but because they are done ‘at a distance’, they are seemed as less barbaric. That doesn’t make it so. Also, the use of immoral methods by one side doesn’t magically make the use of similar methods ‘moral’ if used by the opposing side.

    The Japanese also did fanatically resist surrender

    Why is it that when American soldiers make the choice do defend a strategic point at all costs, they are ‘brave’ and ‘heroic’, but if the same is done by enemies they are ‘fanatics’? It seems the rotten effects of those WW2-era propaganda movies about the Japanese still infect the mindset of a lot of Americans.

    54 kyuss: I’m not even going to repeat those mass-murdering words. Maybe there are other countries you see as a good target to bomb into betterment?

    61 sundoga: American propaganda painted the Japanese as subhuman vermin. That was a choice. If that made a political solution impossible, it was due to the choice of the Allies. That in no way is a justification for a-bombing cities. By the same logic, you can also defend the holocaust, because that was the only solution because the German population saw the Jews at that point as subhuman.

    62 Al Dente

    the American people, both military and civilian, wanted the war over. Nuclear weapons were used in a successful attempt to get the Japanese to surrender.

    So what? It’s not that if the majority of the American people feels a certain way, that it is automatically the morally justifiably thing to do. If the American people were reluctant to start a ground war in Afghanistan after 9/11, does that make it ‘right’ to have turned the entire country into glass?

    Firebombing Japanese cities actually killed more people than the nuclear bombs killed.

    Guess what, the fire-bombing of cities was also wrong.

    But I’m not going to argue the point any more. Nothing I say will penetrate your self-righteous sanctimony.

    If arguing against the deliberate killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians is being self-righteous, then you either don’t understand those words, or you are a very scary person.

    80 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    In my opinion a big one, and maybe the decisive one, was that the Manhattan project had just spent $2 billion developing these things.

    I don’t entirely understand what you are saying, are you just saying why they did it, or also trying to give this as a moral justification (well, we spend so much money on it, now we have to use it)?

    As for area bombing of civilian populations, this had already been going on for a long time. The rationale was provided by Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris: “They have sown the wind; Now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” This wasn’t something new in August 1945.

    And guess what, it’s even used today. Bin Laden used it as a justification for targeting US citizens in terrorist attacks.

  86. 86
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Marcus Ranum,
    I’m sorry, but your assertion that the Japanese Army was on the ropes in 1945 is not true. The Japanese mainland was heavily defended, and troops were being brought home to strengthen that defense. The estimates of casualties on both sides of an allied invasion were in the millions.

    To contend that the Russians were making quick work of the Japanese is laughable. The Russians did not even declare war on the Japanese until August 8, 1945! Moreover, they were mainly interested in reclaiming territory lost to the Japanese in 1905. They were more than happy to let the Allies bleed themselves white on the Japanese mainland.

    The dropping of the Nagasaki bomb was without a doubt an atrocity, but it was one of a long string of atrocities in a war that itself was an atrocity on both sides. I do not draw much distinction between people being killed by a nuke or people being bayonetted or starved. One could argue that the Hiroshima bomb might have been a catalyst for the Japanese surrender. One could argue that it played no role at all (the Japanese generals and emperor ware already trying to determine what terms of surrender to ask for–although Tojo was holding out to the last). The Nagasaki bomb has less justification. The most cynical interpretation of the decision to drop it is that it was purely technical–the plutonium bomb was much more difficult to make work, but much easier to obtain fissionable material for. Others claimed that it was needed to demonstrate that the Hiroshima bomb wasn’t a fluke or a trick.

    Ultimately the lesson to be drawn was summarized most succinctly by William T. Sherman: “War is hell. You cannot refine it.”

  87. 87
    george gonzalez

    Yes, getting blown up is awful.

    But chances are if we had gone ahead with the planned D-day-like invasion, there would have been many times the number of US casualties, and many times the number of Japanese military and civilian casualties. So in the odd logic of warfare, it’s possible, even likely that dropping the bombs saved several hundred thousand lives.

    Also if you ask the people with skin in the game, like my friend whose father was scheduled for the ground invasion, folks who probably would not be around, the answer is pretty clear.

  88. 88
    Marcus Ranum

    I’m sorry, but your assertion that the Japanese Army was on the ropes in 1945 is not true. The Japanese mainland was heavily defended, and troops were being brought home to strengthen that defense. The estimates of casualties on both sides of an allied invasion were in the millions.

    I didn’t say the Japanese army was on the ropes. I said the Japanese airforce was practically nonexistent and the Japanese navy was wrecked. Civilian Japanese shipping was also severely damaged (a lot of people like to forget that the US had just as vicious a U-boat campaign against Japanese civilian shipping as the Germans did on their front) … but …

    Perhaps you haven’t noticed that Japan is an island??

    There’s a common interpretation of the closing stages of the war that goes something like “a million allied lives would have been lost if they had to invade Japan” – well, that’s a convenient excuse but the fact is that the US already had emplaced a very effective blockade against Japan. Since Japan had to import all its oil, most other industrial materials, and was barely able to feed its people with its domestic production, there was no necessity to invade Japan at all! Add to that, the fact that the junta and the emperor were at odds as to when and how to surrender – a vastly more humane strategy for dealing with the remains of the Japanese army would have been to wait it out for a while. It wouldn’t have taken years; it would have taken maybe 6 months, tops – coincidentally about the amount of time it would have taken to prepare an assault on the Japanese mainland itself. I do not think it would have been any more moral to use the oldest WMD of them all – starvation – than nuclear weapons, but a siege has the advantage of being more progressive, easier to stop and unwind, and allows continued negotiation all the while.

    There was no strategic necessity to attack Japan, so the presumption that millions of lives were being “saved” by using nuclear weapons on a few cities is shown to be a lie. Furthermore, as I said elsewhere up-thread, the Japanese army (aka: “a legitimate military target”) was in Kyushu and the Kanto plain – if the US had wanted to demonstrate its horrifying new toy, they could have vaporised an army base or two instead of cities that were mostly filled with civilians.

    I know it’s hard for many Americans to think clearly about what happened, because thinking the strategic situation of Japan through leads inevitably to the conclusion that nuclear weapons were used on civilians out of sheer bloody-mindedness, in the face of viable military alternatives that would have still endangered no more American lives and would not have left a stain on history.

    (With respect to dismissing The Red Army and Soviet maneuvers against the Japanese forces remaining in the field: are you fucking kidding me? They were still repositioning after the German surrender, but The Red Army was probably the most relentless killing machine that ever took the field, other than Khan’s Mongols. They were incredibly hardened, after crushing the German army, and would have flattened the remains of the Japanese army with the same workmanlike attitude as they demonstrated across Europe. The Americans were already seeing what had happened one the Soviet bear grabbed chunks of Europe and they didn’t want to give Stalin time to enlarge the USSR with chunks of China – that, more than any other considerations was what made the Americans want to “hurry up”)

  89. 89
    David Wilford

    One aspect of the Japanese surrender that hasn’t yet been mentioned was that they were hoping the Soviets would help mediate a peace more favorable to them than the terms proposed by the Allies. This was a false hope as Stalin had already agreed to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria at Potsdam, but they didn’t tell the Japanese that. But when Foreign Minister Molotov told the Japanese that they were unilaterally abrogating the neutrality pact between the U.S.S.R. and Japan, the Japanese leadership knew their only option was to surrender to the Allies on whatever terms they could still salvage. Certainly, keeping Formosa and Korea was out of the question.

    The only card the Japanese had left to play at this point was to simply continue fighting in hopes of exhausting the U.S. will to fight, but they knew that wasn’t likely.

    More here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan

  90. 90
    David Wilford

    zenlike @ 84:

    My pointing out a few examples of Japanese brutality towards both enemy soldiers that had surrendered (Bataan) and civilians (Nanking) was to refute the claim that the U.S. side was just as bad as the Japanese when it came to hating the enemy. Even the U.S. Marines who had every reason to hate Japanese soldiers didn’t engage in massacres such as happened on Wake Island in 1943.

    http://www.stripes.com/news/search-for-closure-accurate-account-of-wake-island-massacre-continues-1.166538

  91. 91
    A. R

    Marcus Ranum:

    You have some interesting ideas about the nature of the Red Army. A great deal of their success on the Eastern Front can be attributed to “General Mud” and “General Snow”, in addition to the sheer numbers of lives the Soviets were willing to throw into the meatgrinder battles of that front. There is a reason Soviet casualties were so obscenely high.

  92. 92
    Milton Anglin

    This shows the bomb being loaded on “Bockscar” the plane that bombed Nagasaki. The victor number for the “Enola Gay” was 82. The victor number for this plane is 77.

  93. 93
    sundoga

    The Allies (not just the US, but also the Empire nations, Free France and the others) had painted them selves into an ideological corner.

    That’s called “a choice”

    No, Marcus. That is called no longer HAVING a choice. Yes, your choices up to this point have led you here, but that does not mean you can now choose again – you have to live with the consequeces of previous actions and move forward with what is possible.
    In 1945, the US had exactly three choices. Invade, Blockade, or Bomb. An Invasion was estimated to require a million allied lives and as many as ten times that in Japanese civilians (I am aware that those numbers have been challenged since, but that is irrelevant – those were the numbers allied high command were working with). A Blockade would have cost the US and it’s allies far less in terms of manpower, but would have taken months and cost the Japanese even more lives than an invasion – Japan could not feed it’s people from home island production, and had virtually no food stores, as well as a seriously damaged distribution system for what little they could make. (Post-surrender, the allies put together a rather massive drive to feed the Japanese people – starvation still cost hundreds of lives.)
    Dropping the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was entirely justified. It saved both allied and Japanese lives. Nuking those cities was, indeed, a horrible thing – it was merely less horrible than the only two possible alternatives.

  94. 94
    Weed(less) Monkey

    I’m afraid to ask, but Milton Anglin, what is a victor number?

  95. 95
    sundiver

    War sucks. There just aint no way around the fact that war means killing people. Period. I don’t think it makes a rat’s ass of difference whether you’re using spears or H-Bombs. We can debate the morality and necessity of the atomic bombings until we’re blue in the face and it won’t change one fucking thing. It happened. To me, the big question is how to prevent the use of nuclear weapons (and war in general for that matter) in the future. One thing that the militarists in the US never wrapped their heads around was the possibility that a unilateral nuclear strike by either the US or USSR would have destroyed the attacker whether

  96. 96
    sundiver

    Goddammit, hit submit instead of preview. Anyway. Had either side launched an all-out strike the ensuing climate disaster would have fucked most everyone in the northern hemisphere whether the attacked nation retaliated or not. Otto Hahn let a scary genie out of the bottle in 1938 and getting it stuffed back in that bottle should be a fairly high priority, along with dealing with climate change, pollution, over-population….

  97. 97
    Weed(less) Monkey

    sundiver, they did. It was called MAD.

  98. 98
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Marcus Ranum,
    OK, so your solution would have been to blockade Japan until they surrendered. And your rationale is that it’s so much more humane to starve millions to death over 6 months rather than incinerate them in a microsecond?

    And 6 months to take the Japanese mainland? Dude, it took 6 months to take Guadalcanal–a 20 square mile hunk of rock and jungle at the extreme end of the Japanese supply line!

    As to the Russians, oh, yes, they were efficient killers–of their own soldiers as well as the enemies. They also weren’t interested in a frontal assault on the Japanese mainland or even particularly in moving in concert with the allies. They didn’t declare war on the Japanese until August 8–2 days after the Hiroshima bombing. Why? Because it gave them a better claim to Sakhalin Island and other territories. The record from Yalta makes it clear that Uncle Joe had no appetite for attacking Japan.

    I do not deny the US dropped the bombs in part due to animus against the Japanese people. Americans hated the Japanese after 4 years of war. One can also question whether strategic bombing (of which nuclear weapons are a subset) is effective in destroying civilian morale or furthering strategic objectives (a lesson by the way which was not learned until the results of strategic bombing in Europe were analyzed in the late 40s and early 50s). By the prevailing military wisdom of the time, though, the bombings made strategic sense–particularly given how mysterious the technology of nukes was. To single out this particular example of barbarity from the entire history of barbarity that was WW II is just silly. War’s never pretty, and the Americans were a whole lot less bloody minded than either their enemies or their allies.

  99. 99
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Zewnlike @ 84:

    I don’t entirely understand what you are saying, are you just saying why they did it, or also trying to give this as a moral justification (well, we spend so much money on it, now we have to use it)?

    I’m certainly not giving it as a moral justification. Perhaps it’s realistic to think that the people charged with the decision should have held off, at the risk of censure or even imprisonment afterwards (if an invasion that they could have prevented resulted in enormous casualties)? It would have been the ethical thing to do, with the hindsight that we have after seeing the results of the bombs, but I just think it’s expecting a little more powerful moral sense than humans have a record of showing.

    I would have been tempted, if I were in charge, to drop a Fat Man (since we had more than one of those) in the middle of Tokyo Bay to see if the spectacle had any effect on the High Command. I suspect it wouldn’t, but it would have been worth a try.

  100. 100
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Weed Monkey #93

    I’m afraid to ask, but Milton Anglin, what is a victor number?

    From Pfft

    The 73rd Bomb Wing began combat in October 1944 from Isley Field, Saipan, and marked its aircraft similarly to that of the Fifteenth Air Force 55th CBW. A letter denoting the group was painted on the upper third of the tail fin, with a square symbol in the center, and an aircraft identifier, known as the “victor number,” in the lower third. Aircraft commonly used their tail identifiers as radio voice calls (call signs), i.e. Lucky Irish (serial 42-24622) of the 870th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group (lost November 24, 1944, over Tokyo) had the voice call “A Square 26″.

  101. 101
    Marcus Ranum

    OK, so your solution would have been to blockade Japan until they surrendered.

    Not at all, please read for comprehension.

    My solution would have been to negotiate with the Japanese that were already trying to surrender.
    One of the negotiating points would have been “you’re blockaded. We could simply let the situation continue until your society collapses, and negotiate with what’s left, please surrender.”

    There were other options I never mentioned, including the obvious one of blockading them (already done) then explaining to the commanders about nuclear weapons and suggesting they talk to their physicists. “You don’t insist on a demonstration, do you?” I don’t think nuclear blackmail is moral, but ultimately all war-ending threats boil down to “stop fighting or we’ll kill you all.” And another option would be to point out the other strategic truth that it’d take a fairly short time to ramp Iwo Jima up into a massive base that would allow fighter/bomber coverage that would make it impossible for military units to exist above ground during the day. That would have taken a year.

    The truth, though, is that accepting the Japanese surrender without insisting on culturecide, on terms similar to what we did with Germany, would have ended the war weeks or months before the bombs were dropped. Was it bloody-mindedness or racism that made the US insist on the right to reprogram Japanese culture after the surrender? And before someone points out what a horrible culture the Japanese had going on, please remember that we are in no position to pat ourselves on the back, after Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The allies insistance on unconditional surrender was an idea they have, that they could quite easily have backed away from! Here’s another crazy option: “hey, guys, you know we demanded unconditional surrender? We’ve got these horrific new weapons of mass destruction we don’t want to use, so we’re willing to accept the conditional surrender you were offering us earlier, on the understanding that our negotiating position is very very strong. Let’s do an immediate cease-fire while we talk about it, with the proviso that we can resume slaughtering you if we can’t come to terms. OK?”

    What I don’t understand is the many otherwise rational people who stampede into this bizzare position that there were only two alternatives for ending the war: a horrific invasion, or use of nuclear weapons. That “choice” is a great big lie perpetrated to justify the US’ actions, but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Strategy is the art of the possible and Sun Tzu was right that the best way to win is without having to fight at all. But the US was led by horrible morally compromised bastards like Curtis LeMay who didn’t give a shit how many they killed and hardly needed a reason why. They made up a bunch of fig-leaf arguments to justify their decisions and to conceal the fact that they never even considered the alternatives.

    I think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear weapons. However, the public opinion in this country and throughout the world throw up their hands in horror when you mention nuclear weapons, just because of the propaganda that’s been fed to them.
    Curtis LeMay

    So, since the bastards like LeMay won, it’s their propaganda that gets repeated here, their lies, like the “we’d lose a million men…” Uh, the Japanese wanted to surrender. It was the US that put up an intransigent block to negotiation.

  102. 102
    Marcus Ranum

    Blockquote fail, sorry.

  103. 103
    Marcus Ranum

    War’s never pretty, and the Americans were a whole lot less bloody minded than either their enemies or their allies.

    “They suck worse” doesn’t mean you suck less.

    I don’t know how to compare such things, but since you take that view, it would seem you think you do. Was Nanking worse than Nagasaki? Was the London Blitz worse than Dresden? I don’t think it’s an argument worth making because wiping out two cities of civilians was not necessary. It’s even worse because now we do have to ask whether what the US did was monstrous (obviously, I unequivocally say yes) – if we hadn’t done it, if we hadn’t terror-bombed civilians, we’d actually be the “good guys” we want to argue that maybe we are.

    Then, we could have done it again in Korea and Vietnam. Face it: we’re the baddies. In every war we get into, some asswipe starts area-bombing civilians. And every time they’ve got this great excuse, which boils down to: “now look what you made me go and do

  104. 104
    Marcus Ranum

    You have some interesting ideas about the nature of the Red Army. A great deal of their success on the Eastern Front can be attributed to “General Mud” and “General Snow”, in addition to the sheer numbers of lives the Soviets were willing to throw into the meatgrinder battles of that front. There is a reason Soviet casualties were so obscenely high.

    You know, there was a lot more fighting than just Operation Barbarossa? The turning-point at Stalingrad had more to do with stupid German strategy than weather (though mud and cold are always factors when fighting in Russia) Kursk, however was fought in high summer. The Russians conclusively kicked the Germans’ asses and continued to do so all the way back across Europe to Berlin. Casualty rates were high during the early part of the war because the USSR wasn’t ready at all but they fixed that pretty quickly and by the end of the war their armor and infantry were qualitatively and definitely quantitatively superior. Casualty rates remained high but by the end of the war the soviets were fielding incredible amounts of artillery and tanks like the ISU that could go toe-to-toe with the few tigers the Germans had left.

    It is important to the American narrative of WW2 that the Soviets needed help, but the fact is that the US had to race dangerously to avoid the Soviets occupying all of Berlin and most of the rest of Germany.

    It sounds like you’ve mistaken Napoleon’s invasion of Russia for Hitler’s.

  105. 105
    A. R

    Marcus: Wrong again.

    The Russians conclusively kicked the Germans’ asses and continued to do so all the way back across Europe to Berlin.

    The Russians drove a severely weakened, desperate army back toward Japan, still incurring obscene casualties because their commanders were either A). Stupid, or B). Careless with their men. I suspect both.

    Is sounds like you’ve mistaken the Eastern Front with Soviet propaganda.

  106. 106
    A. R

    ^ Oops, That was supposed to be “back toward Berlin”.

  107. 107
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    #104:

    It is important to the American narrative of WW2 that the Soviets needed help, but the fact is that the US had to race dangerously to avoid the Soviets occupying all of Berlin and most of the rest of Germany.

    OK, this is comprehensively wrong. The U.S. armies were peremptorily ordered to halt at the Elbe, to give the Red Army the honor of taking Berlin. If they hadn’t stopped to liquidate Warsaw, that might not have been necessary, but they were nowhere near occupying “the rest of Germany” when the Americans and British stopped in the middle.

  108. 108
    mwitthoft

    @101

    Was it bloody-mindedness or racism that made the US insist on the right to reprogram Japanese culture after the surrender?

    More likely it was the German remilitarisation after 1919. Anybody in 1945 could easily imagine the scenario: a defeated nation comes back for a rematch after its extremists fob off a ‘stabbed in the back’ lie on an uninformed populace.
    An enemy that does not realize it is completely and utterly defeated might regroup, stronger and more vicious on the second round. Conditional surrender? Go to hell. Better we dictate all terms. Better we should put an American soldier on every god damned street corner of Japan if we have to, for 50 years if we have to, to prevent what we saw last time. So – - no, it’s not reprogramming. It’s controlling the situation to prevent a repeat.

    And before someone points out what a horrible culture the Japanese had going on, please remember that we are in no position to pat ourselves on the back, after Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Out! out! you demons of false equivalence!
    Yes, raining death on half a million humans is horrible. Absolutely ghastly. No, it does not compare to the horrible culture of pre-1945 Japan. Smartly or stupidly, we thought it was a way to end a war we didn’t start. That doesn’t compare to murdering a quarter million in Nanking (and uncountable more across Asia) more or less for sport. Firebombing Dresden doesn’t compare to coolly, methodically rounding up and exterminating six million Jews, Romany, and Poles on the belief that killing them is a really good idea, good politics, and fun besides.

  109. 109
    sundoga

    “It was the US that put up an intransigent block to negotiation.”
    No, it was the choice of the allied nations TOGETHER to demand the unconditional surrender of their adversaries, Marcus. The US was the leading force in the Pacific, but don’t forget the Canadian, Australian, British, Indian and Dutch forces that were also involved, not only in troop deployment but also at high levels in the decision making processes.
    “Uh, the Japanese wanted to surrender.” Uh, no they didn’t. They wanted to end the war on their terms, or at least the best terms they could get, most assuredly including no occupation and the retention of the god-Emperor. And if they had been serious at ANY point about negotiations, they would have told the Americans. To whom they never made ANY overtures. In fact, the only people they talked to about negotiations was the USSR.
    “So, since the bastards like LeMay won, it’s their propaganda that gets repeated here, their lies, like the “we’d lose a million men…””
    Except, of course, that this was no lie at all. It was the honest numbers they expected to lose in Operation Downfall. Some have challenged those numbers since, but frankly I think they’re dead wrong – had Japan gotten Operation Ketsugo to work properly, that million casualties may well have been overly optimistic.

  110. 110
  111. 111
    louismorelli

    This kind of things are not guilty or fault of soldiers, neither are guilty the 99% of people at each nation. It happens due human beings still have strong genetic inheritance from animals, which is shared between 1% biggest only predators and 99% of smaller predators and only preys. Then, all social systems built till now obeys the salvage rules of the jungle. Salvage communism, salvage capitalism, salvage feudalism, etc.

    That’s was a war between the 1% predators of Germany, Japan, America, Russia, etc.The guilt of those 99% is – when it is time of peace – feeding the monsters that are growing, like the japanese people left grow the criminal king, Americans are just now feeding their 1%, etc. The peaceful people, those that are really aware about the thru, are not peaceful at peaceful times, they are fighting the monsters and any kind of violence, they are trying to bring evolution exorcising human beings from the animal encrypted at their genetics. This is the mission of The Matrix/DNA world view. -

  112. 112
    louismorelli

    About the video: Peace Song. Cranes over Hiroshima by Jim Couza (11 – urbanwitch )

    This is the stupidity that continues making wars: the peaceful people saying: ” This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world”… This is the behavior of weak preys, which are non-sociable, selfish, during times of peace. Who makes wars are those 1% of biggest predators of each nation, disputing territories and preys among themselves. If one wont avoid war, don’t feed the predators of yours nation, be vigilant, don’t give gratefully to them what belongs to you, because you are feeding monsters. Praying?!

    Why prayers were not enough for saving those Christians from being ate by lions at Roman arenas? Where was their God? I think if there is any God watching this massacres he is absent because he does not approve that humans still mimics animals and the rules of the jungle, shared into predators and preys.Both are selfishes, those predators creating their mafias and those preys absent from social participation and decisions. Do you want that yours sons not be the next Sadako? Don’t feed the monsters growing just now at yours country. Invite yours neighbours, controls yous city’s politicians and business men, controls the government, ask total transparency of every penny, every natural resource, don’t give what belongs to you, create with yours comunity yours own job.I am wrong? Then, poor Sadako, yours history will repeat forever…

  113. 113
    yubal

    Kokura

    Was supposed to be bombed that day, But there were clouds and so Nagasaki (the backup target) was chosen. Kokura was also the backup target for Hiroshima, in case there would be clouds.

    Just to make one thing clear, the nuclear bombs on Japan had nothing to do with ending the war. All three cities were carefully chosen test grounds for the new weapon. They were not to be bombed so the impact of the new weapon on the target could be accurately assessed, they were all flat terrain with a river in or next to it and none of them were of military value. The bombing had to take place on a clear day without too much winds. (sources are in “Achtung Welt, Hier Ist Kreuzweg Die Flieger Von Hiroshima” -Hans Herlin-)

    The bomb was originally build to hit Germany and it can be assumed there were also three cities selected for the same criteria. One of them was probably Dresden, which was left almost intact and pointlessly firebombed only few weeks before the Nazis surrendered. A few weeks before the first nuclear bomb prototype was build.

    This entire exercise of butchering hundred of thousand innocent people had nothing to do with ending the war. It was a deliberately planed mass murder to test the generals new toy in the field. How much would they have hated wining the war before they got a chance to drop the bomb? Hypothetical, question, I know, but there is always a Japan, Korea or a Vietnam for the psychopaths in uniform to get the answer to that.

  114. 114
    A. R

    yubal: Go look it up, there were military targets in both cities. Not as great as say, Tokyo, but they were there.

  115. 115
    sundoga

    Yubal, your last post was, frankly, a load of horseshit.
    There was one aspect of truth to it – that the US wanted to know what effects the bomb would have “in the field”. And given it was a brand new weapon withnew and strange properties, that wasn’t unreasonable. (Oh and you were right about the firebombing of Dresden being pointless, also.)
    But if you actually took the time to look up the real historical documents (as opposed to a piece by a fiction writer) you’d find that there were very many aspects to choosing the target cities. They had to be reasonable military targets (Hiroshima, remember, was the Headquarters for the Imperial Japanese Navy), above a certain size (for maximum poilitical/social impact) likely clear and observable for post-drop analysis of effects, coastal cities were preferred…the list of criteria was very long. Tokyo was eliminated from consideration, as A) it had already been extensively firebombed, B) it was considered unwise to kill the Emperor, and C) if the weapon worked too well, they might eliminate the Imperial Government, leaving no one to officially surrender.
    Truman had two major choices – to use the Nukes and try to end the war that way, or to authorise the beginning of Operation Downfall. Either one would have an excellent chance to end the war. He chose the more merciful option – and note that it was his, the civilian leader’s, choice, not the military’s.

  116. 116
    randay

    @2 wcorvi, and others who criticize the Soviet intervention in the war against Japan. At Yalta Stalin promised to enter the war against Japan within 3 months after the defeat of Germany. He did so on August 8th, exactly 3 months.

    You also don’t know that Russia and then the Soviets fought several battles against Japan before WWII. The last was in 1939 which resulted in a decisive Soviet victory, the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. Most of those battle-hardened troops were later sent to defend Moscow. Stalin did not want a two-front war so with the upcoming battle against the Japanese, he signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler.

    The Soviet victory at Khalkin Gol most likely had a very important affect on outcome of the war against the Nazis. It was famed General Zhukov who commanded that and later defended Moscow.

    http://thediplomat.com/2012/08/the-forgotten-soviet-japanese-war-of-1939/2/

    You can hardly criticize Stalin for once keeping his word.

  117. 117
    David Wilford

    This book review from Robert Farley is worth reading to assess the worth of the area bombing campaign of WWII in the European theater:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/02/sunday-book-review-the-bombing-war

    Shorter review: no, not worth it.

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