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Were the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings justified?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by almoststew1990, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. Minusorange


    Joined: Nov 25, 2005

    Posts: 4,264

    Yes they were justified as the other option was a prolonged war with untold numbers dead due to Japanese mentality of "no surrender" it's worth noting it took 2 nuclear bombs to get them to surrender, not one, which pretty much says it all about their mindset at the time considering the destructive power witnessed from the first bomb
  2. [FnG]magnolia


    Joined: Aug 29, 2007

    Posts: 26,165

    Location: Bees.

    Scholars were today rocked by recent views shared on a computer forum which indicated strongly that matters involving tens of millions of lives and innumerable and unknowable options and outcomes could not be reduced to a simple and simplistic yes/no answer. After careful deliberation and perhaps an unintended and open view of the matter, popular forums poster ianh said, "yes and no". More as it happens ...
  3. Angilion

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Dec 5, 2003

    Posts: 16,591

    Location: Just to the left of my PC

    It was even worse than that - the core would go supercritical, not critical. The stepped increase in neutron reflection wasn't granular enough for just criticality, even if the experiments happened flawlessly. Which was impossible to guarantee because they were being done manually in, and I can't stress this enough, a fail-dangerous configuration. I'm genuinely surprised they did that. I know almost nothing about the subject, but I know enough to make damn sure any experiment was fail-safe to at least a reasonable extent. It wasn't even a particularly hard thing to do with the criticality experiments, at least not to a reasonable extent. You'd just need to construct the experiment in a way that ensured that in the event of failure the reflectors would drop away from the core rather than towards it. Which is what they did later, but why on earth didn't they do it from the start? They knew it was extremely dangerous, so it wasn't ignorance.

    In two seperate incidents several months apart and the scientist doing it the second time knew very well what would happen because he knew it had already happened. He watched the other scientist die. And then he did something even more pointlessly dangerous (the screwdriver thing I mentioned earlier). He knew. It's reported that his first words after the incident were "That's it, then". He knew how dangerous what he was doing was and he knew it had killed him. Why do it? Just why? It wasn't even useful, let alone necessary, to construct and conduct the experiments in such a dangerous way.

    The death toll might have been higher. Those two died directly from radiation sickness. Others who were nearby at the time died later from things that might have been caused by their lower but still dangerous exposure to radiation in the incidents. In both cases, the scientist who caused the accident knowingly increased their own exposure to reduce the risk to others, directly handling the equipment that they knew would be very hot and very radioactive. Quick-thinking and brave. Bloody foolish to put themself in that situation, but quick-thinking and brave in dealing with it. A photo of Slotin's hand afterwards is publically available. It's a very bad thing to see.

    A good brief summary.
  4. Evangelion


    Joined: Dec 29, 2007

    Posts: 23,606

    Location: Adelaide, South Australia

    Short answer: no. Long answer: also no, but in more detail (see below).

    Let's review the situation in August 1945, just before Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped:

    * Japan's navy and air force have both been destroyed
    * Japan has no capacity to project military power beyond her borders
    * Japan is blockaded
    * Japan's supply lines are completely cut off
    * Japan has run out of resources
    * Japan has run out of money
    * Japan's allies have been defeated
    * Japan has lost all the territory she captured during the war
    * Japan's air defences have been completely wiped out; she has no way to defend herself against air raids
    * Japan has suffered 20 months of bombing by the Americans, who dropped 157,000 tons of bombs during that time
    * Tokyo has been decimated by a massive firebomb run, which killed 100,000 and made 1 million homeless in a single night (the most destructive bombing raid in human history)

    In short: Japan is utterly defeated. Invasion is unnecessary; the Allies can simply wait for her surrender. They have all the time in the world. Japan is no longer a threat. The only thing required at this point is to negotiate terms.

    Now let's wind the clock back a little further.

    In mid July, Japan approached the Russians with an offer of surrender, and a request for the Russian government to act as mediator.

    The Soviets did not mention this to the Allies, and stalled the Japanese while continuing to build up troops in Manchuria. Their goal was to invade Hokkaido and take over Japan before the Allies could intervene. This plan was devised by Admiral Ivan Yumashev, and you can read it here. Soviet submarines were already in place, and the Russians expected to commence operations on the 24th of August.

    The Russians would have got away with the invasion a few months earlier, when the US War Department conceded that it could be wise to let the Soviets occupy Hokkaido and part of Honshu.

    But by August, the atom bombs were ready, and Truman knew the Russians could not stop him. Deeply concerned by the implications of Soviet dominance in the region, he decided the bombs would serve as an appropriate warning about what could happen if the USA's geopolitical goals were thwarted. Some historians now believe this was a miscalculation:


    Truman sent a message to Stalin, insisting that the US must retain air base rights on some of the central islands, and that a partial Soviet occupation would be permitted at the discretion of MacArthur (you can read it here).

    Stalin deliberated until the 22nd of August (just two days before the planned invasion) when he cancelled the Yumashev operation via a message relayed by Marshall Aleksandr Vasilevsky (you can read it here).

    I have provided this backstory to prove a critical point: the Russians had already assessed Japan's capacity for resistance, and deemed it inadequate. Stalin was satisfied that the Russians could invade successfully, without unacceptable losses on either side. Stalin's view was also held by most US military officials at the time, a fact that did not emerge publicly until after the war was over.

    In short, the Soviets and the American high command both knew:

    * Japan was beaten
    * Japan was prepared to surrender
    * Invasion was unnecessary
    * Invasion was nevertheless a viable option

    This flatly refutes the claims initially presented by America as justification for dropping the atom bombs.

    To this day, you will hear nonsense about the 'need' to invade; that invasion would have resulted in cataclysmic losses; that the bombs were a humane alternative which prevented huge loss of life, and ended a war that could not otherwise have been stopped.

    None of this is true.

    Finally, we have the testimony of US government officials and military personnel.

    Norman Cousins was consultant to MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan:

    John McCloy was Assistant Secretary of War:

    Ralph Baird was Under Secretary of the Navy:

    Lewis Strauss was Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy:

    Paul Nitze was Vice Chairman of the US Strategic Bombing Survey:

    Leo Szilard was the nuclear scientist responsible for the technology behind the atom bomb:

    Elias Zecharias was Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence:

    Examples could be multiplied. The bottom line is that all of the top US military leaders involved in the dropping of the atom bombs subsequently stated that the bombs were unnecessary from a military perspective.

    Even the lunatics at the Mises Institute are smart enough to know this.
  5. wolfie138


    Joined: Jun 8, 2013

    Posts: 3,086

    and start posting a lot of clickbait ****e reposts to try and provoke outrage instead, right?
  6. [FnG]magnolia


    Joined: Aug 29, 2007

    Posts: 26,165

    Location: Bees.

    Now that, GD, is what we call an effort post. GG Evangelion :thumbs up:
  7. Evangelion


    Joined: Dec 29, 2007

    Posts: 23,606

    Location: Adelaide, South Australia

    Just keepin' it real for the peeps!

  8. iamtheoneneo


    Joined: Mar 15, 2010

    Posts: 8,912

    Location: Bucks

    yes, although revisionist historians want you to believe otherwise.

    The war would of dragged on for at least another few years, millions more would of died, and we may have ultimately lost.

    You shouldn't also underestimate the long lasting impact the bombings had, at the time it was about stopping the war, but it can be realistically argued that the bombings changed the world in a positive way. The mere prospect of a nuke attack is so horrific that it did ultimately lead to a preference of diplomacy over all out war.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
  9. SixTwoSix


    Joined: Sep 14, 2007

    Posts: 10,060

    Location: Rugby

    @Evangelion you clearly have a lot of knowledge about this, can you recommend any decent books to pick up and expand on it.

    And to echo Mags comment, great post.
  10. Nitefly

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Sep 24, 2005

    Posts: 31,741

    Arguably yes, arguably no.

    But it happened and we should reflect on it. That’s all we can do.

    Edit - wow what a post by @Evangelion !! Great work, Sir.
  11. Nasher


    Joined: Nov 22, 2006

    Posts: 14,653

    The nazis had already been defeated by the time the bombs were dropped though. Japan just refused to surrender. Losing wasnt going to happen by that point.
  12. jsmoke


    Joined: Jun 17, 2012

    Posts: 8,100

    Yeah, GG, hf, boom headshot!
  13. mmj_uk


    Joined: Dec 26, 2003

    Posts: 23,332

    It's a lot easier to say that it wasn't when you haven't lived through 4-6 years of total war, people today sitting in their safe spaces afraid of loud clapping criticising those who experienced real terror/trauma and death of family/friends, day in day out, for years on end.

    If the same kind of war broke out today and dropping nukes to end it was an option most of the holier than thou people against it then would be begging for it now, just so that they could quickly return to their cushy lives.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
  14. adolf hamster


    Joined: Oct 18, 2012

    Posts: 7,036

    ultimately i think it was the right decision, there had to be a first and horrible as it was for japan it's a better alternative than say the first nuclear weapon waiting until cuba before it launched, better bombs, higher yeilds, bigger arsenals. better for the world at large that we saw the absolute devastation these things do before the world was tooled up and ready to annihilate itself.
  15. Evangelion


    Joined: Dec 29, 2007

    Posts: 23,606

    Location: Adelaide, South Australia

    Thanks. :)

    There are three books I recommend on this subject:

    * Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (Gar Alperovitz, 1994)
    * The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (Gar Alperovitz, 1996)
    * Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath (Paul Ham, 2014)

    Alperovitz is an exceptional scholar, and arguably the most authoritative voice among scholars who believe that the bombs were unjustified.
  16. JonnyT

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 2,095

    Location: Cambridge

    It's an interesting debate. I did an essay on it for my History and Politics degree. Some key points:

    • Due to an agreement between the "Big Three" allied powers at Yalta, Russia was due to invade Japan in August 1945. Rising Soviet influence in Eastern Europe meant that the US wanted to prevent them getting any more countries under their sphere of influence if at all possible.
    • The Japanese were pretty keen to not involve the Russians either
    • The US was also becoming aware of the embryonic Cold War developing with the Soviet Union; negotiations over post-war occupation of European states were already proving difficult. Several US top brass and politicians were keen to use the bombs to demonstrate US military superiority over the USSR, to somehow quell this growing difficulty and gain concessions.
    • There had been dire consequences of over a million Allied casualties if an invasion of the Japanese home islands went ahead. US top brass and politicians agonised over the wrath of public opinion if they found out they'd sacrificed these men when they potentially had a 'war winning' weapon and not used it
    • The war could have ended earlier, without the use of the a-bombs if the Allies had made it clear to the Japanese that they could keep their Emperor; Unconditional surrender was a reasonable stipulation, but losing their Emperor was a major sticking point for most Japanese politicians. If the Allies had emphasised that Japan could keep their Emperor as a purely ceremonial, non-political head-of-state, the bombs would have likely not been necessary.
    • Don't separate the moral question of dropping the a-bombs from the general Allied bombing campaign against Japan, and don't claim that the USAAF campaign - until the dropping of the a-bombs - was in any way morally superior to Bomber Command's bombing campaign against Germany. The Dresden raid was terrible and probably unnecessary, but the USAAF was conducting area bombing raids against Japanese cities using B-29s well before the a-bomb. They were also using incendiary bombs to start large fires, as the Japanese homes were predominantly built of wood, and raids such as several on Tokyo killed many more civilians than the a-bomb raids on Hiroshima or Nagasaki
    I could go on. As with most things, it was a combination of a lot of difficult factors. Use of the a-bombs was probably the "least worst" option to expediate the end of a terrible, bloody, total war.
  17. Terminal_Boy


    Joined: Apr 13, 2013

    Posts: 7,294

    Location: La France

    Yes. Brought the war in the Pacific to a far swifter and less bloody end than starvation followed by an opposed invasion would have.

    People tend to forget that the 7th Air Force had already reduced many Japanese cities to cinders with Le May’s low-level incendiary bombing campaign which killed many more Japanese than the two atomic bombs did.
  18. CaptainRAVE

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Nov 21, 2004

    Posts: 31,865

    @Evangelion that post is far too sensible for GD, get out :p

    I enjoyed reading it, thanks.

    Of course the next interesting question that links to the growing Russian problem and potential invasion - should the West have invaded Russia, after all, Churchill wanted to?
  19. adam cool dude


    Joined: Oct 22, 2002

    Posts: 7,367

    Location: Boston, Lincolnshire

    If they weren't used then they would have been used at a different time anyway. The point is people became aware of their destructive power hense being a nuclear power gives you a defence against other countries that they cannot match. Even when not using it.
  20. ttaskmaster


    Joined: Sep 11, 2013

    Posts: 9,116

    "You don't win a war by dying for your country... you win it by making the other poor ******* die for his".
    I suppose that makes the bombs somewhat justified, even if not entirely necessary...


    It's not just the big boom and the destruction, though, Nuclear firepower has very nasty and lasting aftereffects. Most places that got bombed were rebuilt, but when you have fallout and the like, it's a considerable game changer. These first two may have been in their infancy in terms of yield, but the world had not seen anything like it before. It was a massive escalation, I'd say.