What were the original casualty projections for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What were the original casualty projections for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

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I remember hearing several times that the bombs dropped on Japan were a lot deadlier than expected. What were the original projections for casualties for both and how much less than the actual numbers were they?

I found Vincent C. Jones' 1985 book Manhattan, the Army and the atomic bomb. While it doesn't mention the death toll estimates, it does offer some insight on pages 531 and 532. In particular, it quotes Oppenheimer with the words:

the neutron effect… would be dangerous to life for a radius of at least two-thirds of a mile.

So Oppenheimer estimated the contaminated area with roughly 3.5 km². Also, if you look at the further discussion of the psychological effects and choice of targets ("a vital war plant… surrounded by workers' houses") - I think that it makes clear that the atomic bomb was considered to be just like a conventional bomb, merely with more destructive power. It was expected to completely destroy the plant and damage everything close to it. The expected radius of destruction couldn't have been more than half a mile (meaning an area of 2 km²).

Now let's compare to what actually happened. This military study reconstructs the events and cites a radius of total destruction of 1 mile for both Hiroshima and Nagasaki (meaning an area of 8 km²). It also mentions the contaminated area measured by Americans when they arrived there: 8.9 km² in Hiroshima and 1.5 km² in Nagasaki (with a note that the nuclear fallout in Nagasaki was mostly outside the city).

This document from 1946 essentially estimates the immediate casualties in Hiroshima to 70,000-80,000 people. Given the difference between estimated and actual destruction radius, the expected death toll most likely wasn't more than 20,000 people.

The information on Nagasaki is less definitive. I better link to Wikipedia, you can go through the sources yourself. The numbers here are somewhat smaller than with Hiroshima, probably by factor 1.5.

As to radioactive contamination, it is very hard to say anything definitive here. It is clear that Oppenheimer underestimated the contaminated area. It is also clear that there was no knowledge on the long-term consequences of radiation exposure in 1945. The information that we have now comes to a large part from studies performed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I'm not sure whether reliable numbers exist but this article lists another 36,000 deaths in Hiroshima until the end of 1945, significantly declining after that.

Actually those that claim they had a bit of an idea seem to not have read the notes of the targeting meeting.

The primary selection of a target had to have certain requirements and the first one being psychological - they wanted to end this war quickly.

The fact is that the United States had three such weapons at their disposal at the time and wanted to use them in quick succession to give the idea that the United States would use them one after the other until Japan capitulated.

Kyoto was selected as the first target because it was a scientific and cultural community where the psychological effects and the power of the weapon could be understood and communicated to those who would bring an end to the war. That all sounds well intentioned to use it this one time and get the attention of the Japanese leaders. The only problem with the logic here is the idea that there would be intellectual survivors that could inform the Japanese government and tell them to surrender. Think about that logic for a moment they thought there would be plenty of survivors of this first use of the weapon. So the casualty figures had to be very low.

Further Kokura was another target selected and the main target was a complex approximately 4100' long and there concern was to make sure they dropped the weapon precisely on that target so as to destroy it. Again the logic here that they had to be 'on target' with the drop in order to destroy the facility. Again this shows they did not understand the destructive power of the weapon at all.

Given this criteria and other information from the targeting meeting notes one could suspect that these people thought hey just a bigger firecracker not a completely destructive weapon.

Gathering as well from various sources a number of 20,000 was a plausible number of casualties. However one of the criteria for the target was city size and population figures since as strange as this might sound they figured on studying the effects while they were at it. Certain detonation points were selected for this purpose as well, knowing how many miles out from ground zero they could take readings and measurements. I guess if you are going to do it anyway you may as well know what you have and they used some of this data from the Hiroshima blast to determine effects at Nagasaki; however Nagasaki was limited due to the graphical topology and the fact the bomb was dropped almost 2 miles NW of the intended target location - which spared half of the city.

Kokura was the back up target for Hiroshima and they had managed to get just enough of a visual view to drop the bomb on Hiroshima (one of the requirements that was placed on the missions) no use of the radar bomb sighting.

Kokura lucked out on the first mission that Hiroshima cloud cover diminished for it to be bombed.

The second bomb Fat-Man Kokuro was the primary target it had a large military complex and chemical weapons factories - which were known about by the United States by the early summer of 1945.

When Bock's Car arrived in Kokura it was almost one hour later than it should have been and by this time the report of 3/10 cloud cover had changed to 7/10 and the requirement for visual target id caused Kokuro to be aborted and that the secondary target of Nagasaki be attempted - Nagasaki they assumed would have fewer casualties just because of the topology.

So now there is a term people use… they might say you have Kokura's Luck when you dodge a big disaster.

Nagasaki was bombed but the target point was about 2 miles off. The crew had poor visibility, and was low on fuel and also was pressed into the mission even though the plane was not in ideal conditions. Originally the 'Great Artiste' was to drop the bombs on August 11th but the mission was moved up to the 9th and therefore the Bock's Car was used for the mission. Taken these things into consideration and looking at the crew logs for the flight it seems to me that they really did not have a clear visual of the target - if they had they would have been at least with in 1/2 to 1 mile of the target or they had to have some extreme winds blowing the weapon off course (unlikely).

The following is just my opinion relating to Nagasaki…

Given the pressures to get off the ground on the 9th instead of the 11th, to make the mission even with a bad fuel pump that it was determined the bomb will be dropped somewhere regardless; details about handling of the weapons in the event of a scrubbed mission left out for brevity. Given Bock's car loitered at the rendezvous point for 45 minutes (using fuel) and then they made 3 attempts at Kokura (using more fuel) that a determination was made if they did not drop the gadget while over Nagasaki they would not have enough fuel to return to any airbase. According to the logs one engine ran out of fuel upon landing in Okinawa and they had 7 gallons of fuel remaining. Had they been carrying the weapon Fat-Man they would not have made it to Okinawa. Again I believe they made the determination to say they had a visual id of the target and dropped the weapon using the radar sighting system. Given the options and the fact that they were witnesses of Hiroshima I am sure they figured what is a few miles when the entire city of Hiroshima was destroyed, so to preserve themselves they dropped it.

I am thinking if one were to check the variance of radar targeting at the time [SHORAN] - they might come up with at least a 2 mile variance… Just a hunch the meeting notes seem to suggest this as well. [It was agreed that Dr. Stearns and Dr. Dennison should keep themselves continuously informed as to radar developments. If at any time new developments are available which show in combat a marked improvement of accuracy the basic plan may be altered.]

I was unable to find actual numbers of estimated deaths. However, wholesale destruction of major parts of the target city was expected, with contributing factors consciously being maximized.

The Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee, Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945 read as follows (emphasis mine):

  1. Status of Targets

(2) Hiroshima - [… ] is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.


  1. Psychological Factors in Target Selection

B. [… ] Hiroshima has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focussing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed.

After the Trinity test allowed the scientists to verify their yield calculations for the more complicated implosion bomb type, the detonation height of the bombs was then set as to maximize the destructive mach stem effect.

Cruel Dilemma: Hiroshima & Nagasaki Forty Years Later

On August 6, 1945 the United States of America, at war with the Empire of Japan, dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Captain Robert A. Lewis, the copilot of the Enola Gay, viewed the explosion over Hiroshima from the window of his aircraft and exclaimed simply, “My God!” The devastation was indeed immense. Almost 100,000 persons, including many women and children, perished. At Nagasaki 35,000 more died. Both cities were virtually leveled.

Viewed from the standpoint of cold statistics, the loss of life was not disproportionate to that caused by conventional bombing. Five months earlier, on March 9/10, a single B-29 raid on Tokyo had claimed 100,000 lives and destroyed over 200,000 buildings. But with the advent of atomic weapons the moral calculus of warfare entered a new, more complicated phase. The concentration of sheer destructive power in a single weapon was without parallel, and prior to its perfection, was barely conceivable. Even in 1945, men understood that forces at the very heart of nature had been tapped.

Although President Truman in his memoirs maintained that he never doubted that the bomb should be used or that he felt any guilt over his decision, he admitted privately to his sister that “It was a terrible decision.” The moral dilemma was a cruel one: whether to forego use of the bomb and embark on an immensely costly invasion, or to administer “one or two violent shocks” (as Churchill put it) against targets which included many innocent civilians, in the hope of finally ending the bloodshed.

What circumstances contributed to the dilemma? What courses of reasoning flowed into the decision? Were there alternatives to the bomb? Was its use morally justified? As we approach the fortieth anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki next month, it is fitting that we confront these questions afresh. Before addressing the moral issue, we must reacquaint ourselves with the historical record. For unless we have an appreciation of the particular matrix of contingencies that led American statesmen to act as they did, our own moral judgments of them, though correct, will nevertheless be facile. Unless we come to an understanding of these men as they understood themselves, we will have purchased our moral judgments on the cheap.

The overriding aim of American strategy in the spring and summer of 1945 was to compel the surrender of Japan, and thus to end the war, as quickly as possible. With the capture of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Allies were poised to invade the Japanese home islands. Preparations for an invasion were well underway. It was expected to be a protracted, bloody campaign. Throughout the war in the Pacific, Japanese soldiers had typically refused to surrender when militarily defeated they chose instead to fight to the last man, taking as many of the enemy with them as they could, or to die by their own hand. (On Okinawa thousands of Japanese lined up together and blew themselves up with hand grenades rather than submit to capture.) In the Japanese code of military conduct surrender was dishonorable.

Now, virtually the entire Japanese population was being prepared to defend its sacred soil. Ronald Specter, in his recent history of the war with Japan, notes:

Japanese staff officers maintained that “all able-bodied Japanese, regardless of sex, should be called upon to engage in battle…. Each citizen was to be prepared to sacrifice his life in suicide attacks on enemy armored forces.” Imperial General Headquarters hoped that children, the aged and the infirm would not be drawn into the battle—but there were “insurmountable obstacles” to their evacuation from probable combat areas. [The Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan, The Free Press, 1985, p. 544.]

Two million Japanese soldiers were stationed in the home islands, and thousands of kamikaze suicide planes were held in readiness to repel the invaders.

Thus, an invasion of Japan promised consequences chilling to contemplate. President Truman was advised that an invasion might ultimately cost half a million American lives. Some projections put the number of casualties (dead, wounded and missing) as high as a million. The number of Japanese dead and wounded was expected to be even higher. The President expressed fear that an invasion would turn into “[another] Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.” American casualties on that island—the bloodiest battle of the Pacific theatre—totaled almost 80,000. Moreover, Truman’s staff could not foresee a Japanese surrender before the late fall of 1946, at the earliest.

To be sure, other military options were considered. Some strategists recommended a naval blockade combined with a continuation of massive aerial bombardment. By the summer of 1945, the U. S. Navy controlled the sea lanes on which Japan depended for oil and other war-making materiel. The Japanese navy was virtually destroyed. Yet the short-term effectiveness of a blockade was questionable the Japanese military might not be able to project power, but it was still a formidable force on its home ground. Also, a blockade would be indiscriminate: women, children and the elderly would feel its effects just as surely, and probably before, those in the armed forces. Food for the civilian population was becoming increasingly scarce, and famine already loomed on the horizon. Further, massive bombing of German cities had failed to bring capitulation. Lowering enemy morale by terror bombing proved far less effective than anticipated in the end, the military occupation of Germany was required to end the war in Europe. Nor would continuation of conventional bombing have likely resulted in fewer casualties than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

An additional factor in the calculus was the growing American weariness with the war, both at home and abroad. Specter writes:

American servicemen in the Pacific experienced a sense of hopelessness and despair at the prospect of apparently endless combat duty…. General Marshall warned that “war weariness in the United States may demand the return home of those who have fought long and well in the European war regardless of the effect of such a return on the prosecution of the Japanese war.”

Secretary of War Henry Stimson in particular was disturbed by the severity of the battle fatigue and emotional strain he witnessed in troops. This strengthened his determination to avoid an invasion.

All of these considerations combined to foster a sense of urgency among American leaders to find some means to force Japan quickly to surrender. The successful detonation of an atomic explosive in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945 suddenly brought this goal within reach.

Ending the war with Japan was not the initial reason for producing the bomb. Research into the feasibility of harnessing a chain reaction to a usable weapon had been motivated by the fear that Hitler’s scientists were themselves steadily advancing toward the manufacture of atomic weapons. Indeed, emigre scientists who had fled Germany in the 1930s, and who had first-hand knowledge of the Nazi regime, persuaded Franklin Roosevelt to undertake the Manhattan Project. By 1945 large weekly shipments of heavy water and uranium were pouring into Germany. Not until the capture of secret documents late in 1944 did American intelligence discover that German scientists were in fact several years behind their U. S. counterparts. Until then, the prospect of the Third Reich armed with atomic weapons seemed quite realistic. When Germany surrendered in May of 1945 that danger no longer existed. Attention then turned to Japan.

Having decided to use the bomb, Truman asked for a list of targets, chosen, “in the manner prescribed by the laws of war,” for their military importance. What emerged from this directive were targets with a dual character: not merely military installations, but installations in urban areas of key importance to Japan’s capacity to make war. U. S. officials believed it necessary to target a military center surrounded by lightly constructed buildings which would be destroyed by the blast, in order to demonstrate clearly the weapon’s devastating strength. The aim was to administer a shock sufficient to convince Japanese leaders—particularly the still intransigent warlords—to admit to themselves that they were defeated. Stimson believed that the bomb would be a decisive psychological instrument to this end:

…I felt that we must use the Emperor as our instrument to command and compel his people to cease fighting and subject themselves to our authority through him, and that to accomplish this we must give him and his controlling advisers a compelling reason to accede to our demands. This reason furthermore must be of such a nature that his people could understand his decision.

Certain cities were ruled out as possible targets. In his private journal, Truman wrote that “even if the Japs are savages, ruthless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto, a historic cultural and religious center] or the new [Tokyo].” Four Japanese cities were eventually selected, in order of military importance: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Japanese Second Army, which defended southern Japan (and would be quickly engaged in an invasion) and was a key military storage depot. Nagasaki was a major seaport and industrial center and was still contributing significantly to the war effort.

Such, then, were the essential considerations leading to the U. S. decision to use the bomb. Looking back from our vantage point—and with the benefit of many discussions, books and symposia on the just war tradition and its relation to nuclear weapons—how are we to judge the decision?

Just war teaching requires that lethal force, if it is to be used in a morally acceptable way, must conform to principles of discrimination and proportionality. These principles require, respectively, that non-combatants not be directly, intentionally attacked, and that the good achieved be proportioned to the damage inflicted.

It is extremely difficult to see how the first of these criteria was met at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. President Truman’s directive notwithstanding, no attempt was made to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants in the two cities. The targets were the cities themselves. As William V. O’Brien, dean of American Catholic just war theorists, points out: “The proportions were such that the destruction of the cities emerges as the primary purpose of the attacks while the incidental destruction of military targets appears to fall into the category of collateral damage, thus reversing the usual and preferred ratio” [The Conduct of Just and Limited War, Praeger, 1981, p. 85]. There is no way around it: the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were grevious violations of the jus in bello principle of discrimination. Applying this moral test, we must judge the attacks to be morally blameworthy.

What about the principle of proportionality? After a careful analysis, Professor O’Brien concludes “that the atomic attacks were proportionate insofar as they accomplished a strategic task with less loss of life and damage to the Japanese society than would have occurred in a conventional campaign.” Thus, a persuasive case can be made that the good achieved—the prompt surrender of Japan and the avoidance, on both sides, of thousands (perhaps millions) of casualties and of the destruction of many cities in the event of an invasion—was proportionate to the evil inflicted on two final targets, the destruction of which brought about the prompt end of the war.

Moral analysis thus yields a two-fold and conflicting assessment: the attacks violated the criterion of discrimination, but passed the test of proportionality. Yet there are grounds for insisting that the criterion of discrimination takes precedence over that of proportionality (since it is never right intentionally and directly to kill innocent persons) and that therefore a favorable assessment of proportionality cannot extenuate our condemnation of the bomb’s use. William O’Brien contends that the principle of discrimination does not have such a clear-cut priority over other just war considerations. In the Catholic tradition, he avers, “When weapons systems or forms of warfare are condemned, deplored, or reluctantly condoned, the rationales are so generalized that the judgments appear to be based on a mixed application of the principles of proportion and discrimination” (emphasis added). O’Brien adds that the “just-war principle of discrimination is not an absolute limitation on belligerent conduct. There is no evidence that such a principle was ever seriously advanced by the church. . . .” [ibid., p. 45].

Perhaps. Yet O’Brien’s contention is not convincing. In the first place, the Second Vatican Council held that “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.” This suggests that the principle of discrimination does have a privileged status in the ensemble of just war principles. Only if an act of war first passes the test of discrimination does proportionality carry probative weight. If the act is indiscriminate, proportionality is not sufficient to balance the scales. This was, surely, the case at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Secondly, an important Catholic moral principle holds that one is never justified in doing evil in order that good may result. The question, of course, is whether evil was done in August 1945. The foregoing application of the discrimination test yields an affirmative answer. The two principles converge when we think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and reinforce our sense that these were indeed terrible deeds.

But there is also the imperative to choose the lesser evil. The question that insistently forces itself upon us—as it did on those faced with the decision—is, were there alternatives to the bomb that would occasion lesser evil? Clearly, as we have seen, American leaders thought not. They believed that none of the available options were untainted. Henry Stimson put this view in forceful terms:

In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use [the bomb] and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face.

Stimson and his colleagues felt that they had chosen the route that promised the best balance of good to evil in the context in which they had to act. Much depends, then, on the contours of this context. Two factors stand out as especially crucial.

First, the situation was already morally compromised by several instances of indiscriminate use of force, including German terror bombing of London, Allied retaliation on Dresden and Hamburg and Japanese devastation of Manila. Cities having been accepted as legitimate military targets, the distinction between civilian areas and military targets was already blurred. As Michael Walzer points out, the rationale for using the bomb did not have the form, “if we don’t do x (bomb cities), they will do y (win the war, establish tyrannical rule, slaughter their opponents)”, but the form “if we don’t do x [use the bomb], we will do y [invade Japan, continue the conventional bombing of cities].” The lack of restraint in conventional bombing thus established a precedent which made the atomic attacks seem to be more humane than they might otherwise have appeared. To some extent, then, Americans were responsible for shaping the context of the decision. As John Courtney Murray has pointed out, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Second, the demand for “unconditional surrender,” and the ambiguities surrounding its meaning, contributed considerably to Japanese resistance to American diplomatic efforts to secure surrender. First announced (without elaboration) by President Roosevelt early in 1943, the demand for unconditional surrender was formally issued by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference in mid-July, 1945. For the Japanese, the sticking point concerned whether this meant abolition of the Emperor and the imperial system of government. Given this interpretation of unconditional surrender, the Japanese were resolutely determined to fight on to the bitter, bloody end. As they saw it, they would be defending their very existence as a people.

Privately, American statesmen were moving toward an interpretation of unconditional surrender that, had it been clearly communicated to the Japanese, might have perhaps allayed their fears. The Potsdam Declaration spoke only of “the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces.” (Three million Japanese soldiers were still in the field on the Asian mainland and in the Pacific.) The Allies’ aims were to ensure that Japan relinquish all conquered territory, to dismantle its capacity to wage war and to abolish every vestige of militarism. Some in the U. S. government argued that unconditional surrender required removal of the Emperor others went so far as to recommend trying the Emperor as a war criminal. Wiser voices urged President Truman to declare explicitly that unconditional surrender was compatible with the continued existence of the Emperor. Truman agreed with the more flexible and temperate policy, but he worried that the American people, and the Congress, would strongly oppose an unambiguous declaration to this effect. So he hedged. Instead of an explicit statement that the Emperor could remain on the throne, the Potsdam Declaration called merely for the establishment, “in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people,” of “a peacefully inclined and responsible government.” No mention was made of the Emperor’s status after surrender. Though this formulation was intended to reassure the Japanese, its correct interpretation required them to read between the lines. This they failed to do.

Two weeks prior to the issuance of the Potsdam statement, American officials missed what appears to have been a major opportunity to end the war through diplomatic channels. On July 13, prior to the Potsdam Conference, U. S. intelligence intercepted a cable from the Japanese Foreign Minister to his Ambassador in Moscow. The message expressed “His Majesty’s strong desire to secure termination of the war” and noted that “unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace.” The cable also stipulated—in what was interpreted by the Americans as bellicose language—that so long as the Allies insisted on unconditional surrender, Japan would most certainly continue to fight.

The contents of this cable were made available to Truman shortly before the meeting at Potsdam. Neither he nor his aides treated this information as an opportunity to be exploited. Instead, they focused on the Foreign Minister’s avowal to continue the war rather than accept unconditional terms. They did not sufficiently appreciate the weight of the Minister’s willingness to accept capitulation just short of unconditional surrender, nor did they ask themselves whether the Japanese attached the same meaning to the crucial term as did the Allies. Whether due to the press of time, the uncertainty of ascertaining with exactness Japan’s intentions, or just plain bad judgment, it seems evident that the U.S. missed an important chance to end the war in midsummer of 1945, before the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In any case, the Potsdam Declaration resulted in the continuation of the impasse among Japan’s rulers, who were deeply divided between the still-belligerent military and the more conciliatory civilian ministers. (It was this political Gordian knot which the Americans hoped to cut by using the bomb and, indeed, the unprecedented personal intervention of the Emperor was eventually required—on August 9, the day the second bomb was dropped in Nagasaki—to tip the scales in favor of the end-the-war party.) The “doves” urged acceptance of the Allied terms (providing assurances about the Emperor were proffered). The “hawks” pushed for a contemptuous rejection. A compromise “wait-and-see,” or “no comment,” policy was finally settled upon. The Japanese still hoped for diplomatic assistance from the Soviet Union, and hoped by their response to buy more time. Unfortunately, Japanese newspapers and radio stations, which were monitored by the U.S., reported the government’s response in terms much stronger than intended, as “ignoring” and “taking no notice of” the Allied offer. Mislead about Japan’s intentions, the Americans thought it had brusquely rejected their terms. Potsdam had warned Japan that in this event it faced “complete and utter destruction”—though no explicit reference to atomic bombs was made. The U. S. now saw no alternative but to carry out its threat.

Had the U. S. not been so insistent on unconditional surrender, or had it been clearer and more explicit that unconditional surrender did not mean removal of the Emperor, use of the bomb might have been avoided. No doubt, hindsight makes the tangled web of misperceptions, mistaken judgments and missed opportunities stand out more clearly to us, forty years later, than to those caught in the swiftly moving stream of historical events. Unquestionably, however, the policy of unconditional surrender as stated now seems imprudent, and tragic in its results.

One more perspective on unconditional surrender deserves mention. While some moralists, notably John Courtney Murray, maintain that adherence to this policy compromised the just war principle of right intention, an evaluation of the latter must include recognition of America’s treatment of Japan after the war. Even as plans to use the bomb were in progress, Stimson formulated for Truman America’s post-war objectives, which included enabling Japan to become a peaceful member of the community of nations and the re-establishment of a healthy economy, sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living. The implementation of these aims was carried out by Douglas MacArthur, who committed U. S. policy to observance of the principles of democratic freedoms, equality and human rights for which America had fought the war. One of his first acts was to import food for the war-ravaged population. Witnessing the behavior of the conquerors, a Japanese diplomat posed the question, “whether it would have been possible for us, had we been victorious, to embrace the vanquished with a similar magnanimity. Clearly it would have been different.”

In an instructive essay on the decision to use the bomb, Rev. William Wallace, O.P. has observed that “when ethics and prudence are employed… it is important to realize that there can be no absolute truth or mathematical certitude about a future action that is to be placed…. Many a ‘Saturday-afternoon-quarterback’ has made a prudential decision that lost a football game, on which account he is much maligned by the ‘Monday-morning-quarterback.’ ” [See “The Atom Bomb: A Moral Dilemma,” in From a Realist Point of View, University Press of America, 1979.] Forty years after the bomb, in the calm of one’s study—and with no analogous responsibility for many thousands of lives—it is easy to assume the role of “Monday-morning-quarterback” and judge the actions of American leaders to have been morally flawed. Surely, we cannot help believing, a way to avoid using the bomb, at least against cities, could have been found with a bit more diligence and forebearance. Even so, a thorough examination of the historical record leaves one with the conviction that Truman, Stimson et al., though morally culpable, probably did the best that could be expected of them in the crucible of pressures and obligations they faced.

Their “lesser evil” reasoning cannot be lightly set aside, even if in the final analysis it must be. Winston Churchill—the preeminent example of the magnanimous statesmen in our time—proclaimed the atomic bomb “a miracle of deliverance.” Years after those terrible days of August 6 and 9, an American veteran echoed Churchill:

I was a 21-year-old second lieutenant leading a rifle platoon although still officially in one piece, I had already been wounded in the leg and back severely enough to be adjudged, after the war, 40 percent disabled. But even if my legs buckled whenever I jumped out of the back of a truck, my condition was held to be satisfactory for whatever lay ahead. When the bomb dropped and the news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, take place, that we would not be obliged to run up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being mortared and shelled, for all the fake manliness of our facades, we cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow up to adulthood after all.

The same could be said for many Japanese soldiers scattered throughout East Asia. Yet many in two Japanese cities would not grow to manhood. Such was the cruel dilemma that summer forty years ago.

If dropping the two bombs constituted an evil act—and as I have argued, a quite convincing case can be made that it was—it was done by men who were not themselves evil, in the service of a cause that was not evil. This may not be enough to exonerate or excuse what they did. But it may be enough to pardon them.

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Third Nuclear Atrocity: the Corruption of Science

On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, articles are appearing everywhere discussing the historical, philosophical, scientific, public health and social meaning of this event (I almost wrote ‘war crime’).

The bombings can be extrapolated onward in time through the atmospheric testing fallout and Chernobyl, to the more recent contamination in Japan after Fukushima.

Today, the analysis of the health risks from the Japanese A-Bombs is being cleverly twisted to provide a rationale for the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not just some historical tableaux that we can weep crocodile tears over, and discuss as socio-historic phenomena.

They are here today, present as ghosts, in all the manipulations and devious calculations made by the international radiation risk agencies and nuclear-industry scientists giving results that continue to permit the release into the environment of the same deadly substances that emerged for the first time in 1945.

Abusing Hiroshima to deny nuclear bomb health damage

I am currently presenting a case for the British Atomic Test veterans in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The case pivots on the faulty radiation and health risk model that is based on the Lifespan Study of the Japanese A-Bomb survivors.

This model, of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), is used by the Ministry of Defense in the courts to deny responsibility for the cancers in the Nuclear Test Veterans and the congenital disease in their children and grandchildren.

However, the Hiroshima model also predicts that those exposed to radiation and fallout from future nuclear ‘exchanges’ would suffer little downstream genetic damage. Thus the Doctors Strangelove and the generals can argue that a nuclear war is winnable and that the increases in cancer and genetic effects in those exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) in Iraq somehow don’t exist.

The bogus analysis of the health outcomes from Hiroshima has left the world with a major public health problem. In an effort to refute the mounting evidence, the ICRP model was relaunched by The Lancet to coincide with the Hiroshima anniversary.

A whole issue is given over to the presentation of wacko accounts of the health consequences of Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Fukushima through articles (at least partly) written by those who hold the reins of the ICRP chariot. The key issue is accurately described at the start:

However, these current health management practices are wildly in error.

Nuclear war

Everyone has seen the photos of Hiroshima. The primitive Uranium-235 bomb ‘Little Boy’ that fell on Hiroshima with an explosive power of 13 kilotons (13,000 tons of TNT, the conventional chemical explosive) flattened the city and killed some 80,000 people of which 45,000 died on the first day.

Within four months the death toll was about 140,000. Three days after Hiroshima, a 20kT Plutonium bomb ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki (Why? Did the US think perhaps the Hiroshima bomb might have been overlooked?). Both weapons were mostly made of Uranium.

Note that. Since then, from 1950, a study of the survivors by the US funded Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission ABCC (and later the Radiation Effects Research Foundation) has defined the relationship between radiation dose and cancer.

In passing, recall that the explosive power was 13 kilotons. Anyone who wants nightmares should buy the standard work: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, by Samuel Glasstone, the physical chemist. The more recent versions of this book have a nifty little plastic calculator in the back where you may, by rotating the bezel, inform yourself of the radii of blast, radiation dose, building destruction etc. for any size of bomb.

The US has spent lots of money and time blowing up stuff in the Nevada and Pacific test sites to obtain these data. Modern thermonuclear warheads, of which there are currently some 15,000, pack about 800kT. Just one of these jobs would put paid to most of New York, Tehran or Jerusalem.

I visualize some poor civil defense chief sitting in a shelter somewhere desperately twisting the scales on this pretty ‘Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer’ (developed by the Lovelace Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico) whilst waiting for the ground to disappear.

The ruins of Nagasaki the day after the bombing.

Nuclear war is not longer unthinkable

The problem we have in the world in 2015 is that the economic system and power relations between countries encourages those taking big decisions to think in terms of geopolitical strategies that include the use of nuclear weapons.

There are potential resource wars there are food-production issues following changes in global weather patterns, there are technological developments in what were historically manipulatable countries. Nuclear weapons are now in the hands of nine nations including three which are not party to the non-proliferation treaty (and why should they be?): India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Negotiations with Iran are currently argued to be “of tremendous importance” in a region where Israel has the nuclear potential to wipe out all the local Arab states at a sitting. The Russians have massive nuclear capability and are being baited on their borders in Ukraine by NATO and those who control NATO.

This shit-stirring now has moved to the Baltic States. I live in Latvia, and this Spring I saw a new tank with a Latvian flag rolling though the center of Ropazi, a small town 40km west of Riga near where I live. Every day, the sky overhead had big helicopters and transport aircraft, donated to the Latvians by the US. Why?

The Baltic States and Poland are conscripting armies to defend the motherland against invasion by the Russians. What’s going on? Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind, my grandmother would say. Let us hope not.

A systematic cover-up of nuclear dangers

In all the high level strategic thinking that is associated with this nuclear warmongering, the post attack population death yields from fallout are computed according to the ICRP risk model. But that Hiroshima model is a chimeric construction, built in the Cold War to back up the atmospheric testing.

The observable effects (increases in infant mortality, the 1980s cancer epidemic) were covered up following a 1959 agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization, which left the IAEA, the nuclear physicists, the bomb makers, the deniers of Chernobyl and Fukushima effects, in charge of the research into health.

And so it remains today with The Lancet article ‘Long-term effects of radiation exposure on health‘, co-written by particle physicist Richard Wakeford, ex-head of research of British Nuclear Fuels at Sellafield, nuclear industry representative on the UK CERRIE committee, member of the ICRP, adviser to the Japanese on Fukushima, and so forth.

The evidence from real studies of the offspring of the test veterans, and the soldiers and civilians exposed to Depleted Uranium, is that a nuclear war will be the end of life on earth as we know it.

The test veterans have a 10-fold excess risk of children with birth defects, 9-fold in the grandchildren. Although millions will be blasted away, the real outcome will be global sterility, cancer and malformation. All the Mad Max stuff but worse: Hollywood got it right.

Evidence and errors in the Hiroshima lifespan studies

If you find that there is a doubling of breast cancer or child leukemia in those living downwind of a nuclear power station, at an ‘estimated dose’ less than external background, the ICRP model tells you that the effect cannot be due to the releases from the power station because the dose is too low.

The epidemiologist Martin Tondel found in 2004 that there was a significant excess cancer risk in Northern Sweden after Chernobyl. He was told to shut up because what he found was impossible: In other words, the dose was too low.

The same in Belarus and Ukraine where my colleague Alexey Yablokov has collected together an enormous compilation of peer reviewed evidence of appalling effects. Most recently we see the Hiroshima-based denials in the case of thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture (see below).

The study groups for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) probe were assembled in 1950. Thus there were five years in which those who were badly affected by the radiation could die. The study was of a “healthy survivor” group, something which the late Dr Alice Stewart demonstrated.

But that is not the worst accusation. There were roughly 109,000 individuals recruited, including six dose groups from 0 to 200 rad (0-2+ Gy) and two Not in City (NIC) groups, the 4,607 Early Entrants (NIC-EE) and 21,915 Late Entrants (NIC-LE).

These NIC groups should have been the controls, but they were not. If you look at the reports you find they were abandoned as being ‘too healthy’. The final exposure groups were defined by how far they were from the detonation.

But all groups were exposed to residual radioactivity from the bombs. The US and ABCC denied (and still denies) this. There were internal exposures to all the groups whatever their external dose had been at the detonation.

Uranium: a genetic poison that targets DNA

The origin was the “black rain” which contained Uranium-235, Uranium-238 and particularly Uranium-234, which is the missing exposure, and is probably responsible for most of the cancer effects in all the survivors. We know that the Uranium was there because it was measured by Japanese scientists in 1983.

A recently declassified US document tabulates the enormous U-234 content of the enriched Uranium used in the bombs, codename: Oralloy. The Uranium nanoparticles in the Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) black rain were available for inhalation by all the exposure groups in the ruins of Hiroshima for years after the bomb.

All the bombs were made of Uranium, about 1 ton per Megaton yield. For all those tests in Nevada, the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan, Christmas Island, the results were the same: down came the nanoparticles to be inhaled by anyone nearby and distant.

Why does this matter? New research has been carried out on Uranium. We find that Uranium targets DNA through chemical affinity. This causes terrible and anomalous genetic damage, out or all proportion to its “dose” as calculated by ICRP. Other fallout components also bind chemically to DNA, e.g. Strontium-90, Barium-140.

Those exposed: Uranium miners, Gulf Veterans, Test Veterans, DU civilians, Nuclear Uranium workers, Nuclear Site downwinders, all suffer chromosome damage, cancer, leukemia, heart disease, the works. All this is published, as are the results of laboratory and theoretical studies showing mechanisms. But in the Lancet: nothing.

S L Simon and A Bouville who wrote the article on the health effects of the nuclear testing did not even mention Uranium there, nor in their epic 2010 study of the Marshall Islands exposures. The Nevada site data that they used for their baseline calculations ignored it totally.

In 2012, I made a presentation for the Marshall Islanders at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, attacking the Simon et al analysis. In their Lancet nuclear test article, Simon and Bouville major on Iodine effects. So let’s look at those.

Scientific evidence from Fukushima: massive excess of thyroid cancers

In Fukushima Prefecture, surveys have confirmed 103 thyroid cancers in 380,000 18-year olds (25 or so are still being checked out). The Lancet article by Wakeford et al. presents an excess Relative Risk culled from the Hiroshima studies of 0.6 per Sievert (Fig 2 p 473). In the very same issue, the maximum thyroid dose was given as 18mSv with the median dose as 0.67mSv.

So in the two years of screening, if everyone screened got the maximum thyroid dose of 18mSv we should expect an increase of 0.018 x 0.6 = 0.011, a 1.1% increase in the background rate. This background is about 1 per 100,000 per year or 7.6 in two years in 380,000. So the radiation should increase this to 7.7 cases (i.e. one extra case in 10 years).

There are 103, that is 95 more cases than expected, an error in the ICRP model of 95/0.14 = 678-fold. That is, there are 678 times more thyroid cancers than the Hiroshima-based ICRP model predicts.

This calculation is based on what was written in The Lancet – but nobody made the calculation. This on its own should show the authorities (and the public) that the game is up. But instead of doing the simple calculation, another article in The Lancet, written by Geoff Watts, praises the work of those at Fukushima Medical University, who are busy telling everyone that the increases in thyroid cancer cannot be caused by the radiation.

In other words, once again, the predictions from Hiroshima are believed, rather than the evidence in front of their eyes. It’s a kind of mass hypnosis (or maybe not).

Finally, someone is trying to get to the truth of the matter

In case you think this is all mad stuff, there does at last seem to be some measure of concern evolving in this area of internal radiation, though no one in The Lancet articles mentions it. The European Union radiation research organization MELODI has finally moved into action, led by the French radiation protection agency IRSN.

The matter was raised (by me) at the inaugural MELODI conference in Paris in 2011, but nothing seemed to develop. I said that there are likely to be dose estimation problems associated with internal exposure to nuclides which bind to DNA, and particularly Uranium that this potentially falsified the Hiroshima risk model.

A hugely expensive European research project has now been proposed. It is CURE: Concerted Uranium Research Europe. In the report launching this development in March 2015 the authors wrote: a large scale integrated collaborative project will be proposed to improve the characterization of the biological and health effects associated with uranium internal contamination in Europe.

In the future, it might be envisaged to extend collaborations with other countries outside the European Union, to apply the proposed approach to other internal emitters and other exposure situations of internal contamination, and to open the reflections to other disciplines interested in the effects of internal contaminations by radionuclides.

In the future, Hiroshima should not be remembered not just for the destruction of its inhabitants, but also for being the flag for the epidemiological cover-up of the biggest public health scandal in human history, whose victims number hundreds of millions – in cancer deaths and miscarriages, infant deaths, loss of fertility and the introduction of genomic instability to all creatures on Earth.

Let us pray that it will not be allowed to sanction the final nuclear exchange, on the mistaken prediction that such an event will be winnable.

Veteran's Story | Witnessing the devastation in Hiroshima after the bomb that ended WWII

Harold Baughman served in the United States Army during WWII. He remained in Japan as part of the occupation army after the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, helping rebuild by fixing telephone poles and wires. (Photo: Submitted)

Editor's Note: One in a series of stories on local veterans' military service.

Veteran: Harold Baughman, age 93

Branch: United States Army

Service period: Jan. 2, 1945, to Nov. 26, 1946

“They were getting ready for the invasion of Japan they loaded us up on LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) and we were heading north. Then (President) Harry Truman dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and they (Japan) quit.”

A then 21-year-old Harold Baughman and the rest of the Allied forces scheduled to invade Japan had narrowly avoided what would have been one of the deadliest invasions in the history of warfare. United States War Department studies in 1945 estimated the number of Allied casualties would be between 1.7 to four million, with a forecast of anywhere between 400,000 to 800,000 combat deaths.

Growing up outside of Mount Gilead in Morrow County, Harold Baughman was a country boy, helping his uncle run the family farm. He graduated from Chester-Franklin High School in 1942 and was granted an agricultural deferment from military service farming was considered that important to the war effort during World War II.

“I wish I hadn’t took it, but that might be the reason I’m alive (today),” Harold said. “If I’d have gone to basic training a few months earlier, that group (ahead of Harold) had their training cut short. They flew them to Europe and dumped them right in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.”

Baughman was eventually drafted into the United States Army. “I was kind of relieved when I got my notice,” he said. “I wish my mother hadn’t thrown it away because I’d have it framed and on the wall.”

Basic training was at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, just north of Macon.

“I enjoyed boot camp. The (training) cadre was all older men. Old Sergeant Potter, I’ll never forget him. He formed us all up and told us how it was. ‘I can’t make you do anything’, he said, ‘but I can sure make you wish you had.’ I liked the regimentation, the camaraderie of training. Everything was by the numbers.”

Harold Baughman, 93, is a Morrow County native who served in the United States Army during WWII. (Photo: Submitted)

Harold spent a 10-day furlough at home after completing boot camp, then was ordered to San Francisco.

“They put us on an old steamer (steam engine train) and we stopped at Fort Riley, Kansas, along the way. I think they gave us more clothing there, then we went on west. When we crossed the Great (Continental) Divide our train stalled going up through the mountains. They had to send another engine to boost us the rest of the way up, about 6 miles.”

Once in the Bay City, Harold said his outfit was subjected to a lot of physical training and close-order drills, which he estimated lasted about two weeks. “I was a pretty damn good physical specimen,” he chuckled. “I wasn’t very big, only 160 pounds, but I was all bone and gristle.”

Then came the day to ship out for the south Pacific. “They put us on one of those ‘liberty’ ships and we spent 30 days going across the ocean. The Pacific was like a pane of glass. It was monotonous but it was all new to me I’d never been out of Ohio. The ship wasn’t real fast but they got us there.”

Assigned to the 41st Infantry Division, Baughman said his ship first stopped in the Gilbert Islands before moving on to Manila Bay in the Philippine Islands. “We were in a replacement billet for a few days, then they loaded us up on, I don’t know, a big barge and took us to the southernmost island, Mindanao. It wasn’t developed much, dense jungle, and a lot of (guys) got malaria there. Guys didn’t want to take their malaria pills because it turned your skin yellow and a lot of them got sick.”

Harold recounted some of the dangers on Mindanao.

“There were still a few Japanese there, they were high up in the mountain jungles but worse than them were the Moros.” Moros are Muslim tribal peoples who have inhabited several southern Philippine islands for centuries. “They were little men, but wiry. They carried great big, long sabers and they’d get in fights and start chopping arms and legs off. They were brutal people. They didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother them, but we posted a lot of guards at night because we didn’t know what they might do. They were crazy.”

While in the Philippine Islands, the young soldier took on a new military specialty. “I got there and they said, ‘We’ve got enough infantry. You’re going to be an artilleryman.’ I didn’t know anything about artillery but they trained us on those big 105 (millimeter) guns. When we fired those, the (carriage) wheels would jump right up off the ground.”

Training then took an ominous turn. “We did a lot of hand-to-hand combat training and bayonet training. They knew if we went into Japan we’d be fighting everyone, including women and children. They all would have fought us because we’d be in their home country.”

The two atomic weapons used at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, however, brought the Japanese empire to its knees and the invasion was averted. “We sailed ‘Big Mo’ (the battleship U.S.S. Missouri) right into Tokyo Bay and they signed the surrender documents on her decks.”

Baughman remained in Japan as part of the occupation army and was transferred to the 3147th Signal Brigade maintenance company. “I strung a lot of (telephone) wire high up on those poles. They were big poles, I’ll tell you.” He was also witness to devastation caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. “Me and some other guys took a truck and drove through parts of the city. It was terrible. There would be walls up to about 3 feet high and then it looked like someone had just chopped them off. There were big marbles of melted glass in the streets. The people had it rough, too. I saw children eating out of garbage cans. It was tragic.”

Eventually discharged from the Army, Harold Baughman returned to Morrow County and his roots in farming he moved on to the military depot in Marion, where he worked for 15 years, and finally settled in for 35 years working highway maintenance for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Harold retired Dec. 31, 1987.

Now living with his wife of 15 years, Jean, in the home he built himself southeast of Mount Gilead, Harold likes to spend his time gardening. “I used to be a pretty good carpenter, too, but I got too old,” he laughed.

Recalling his time spent in the Army, Baughman remarked, “The Army was good for me, and old Sgt. Potter in boot camp was one of the best men I ever ran across.”

Hiroshima in History : The Myths of Revisionism

When President Harry Truman authorized the use of atomic weapons against Japan, he did so to end a bloody war that would have been bloodier still had the planned invasion of Japan proved necessary. Revisionists claim that Truman's real interest was a power play with the Soviet Union and that the Japanese would have surrendered even earlier had the retention of their imperial system been assured. Truman wanted the war to continue, they insist, in order to show off America's powerful new weapon.

This anthology exposes revisionist fallacies about Truman's motives, the cost of an invasion, and the question of Japan's surrender. Essays by prominent military and diplomatic historians reveal the hollowness of revisionist claims, exposing the degree to which these agenda-driven scholars have manipulated the historical record to support their contentions. They show that, although some Japanese businessmen and minor officials indicated a willingness to negotiate peace, no one in a governmental decision-making capacity even suggested surrender. And although casualty estimates for an invasion vary considerably, the more authoritative approximations point to the very bloodbath that Truman sought to avoid.

Volume editor Robert Maddox first examines the writings of revisionist Gar Alperovitz to expose the unscholarly methods Alperovitz employed to support his claims, then distinguished Japanese historian Sadao Asada reveals how difficult it was for his country's peace faction to prevail even after the bombs had been dropped. Other contributors point to continuing Japanese military buildups, analyze the revisionists' low casualty estimates for an invasion, reveal manipulations of the Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, and show how even the exhibit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum hewed to the revisionist line. And a close reading of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's acclaimed Racing the Enemy exposes many grave discrepancies between that recent revisionist text and its sources.

The use of atomic bombs against Japan remains one of the most controversial issues in American history. Gathered in a single volume for the first time, these insightful readings take a major step toward settling that controversy by showing how insubstantial Hiroshima revisionism really is--and that sometimes history cannot proceed without decisive action, however regrettable.


Pacific War

In 1945, the Pacific War between the Empire of Japan and the Allies entered its fourth year. Most Japanese military units fought fiercely, ensuring that the Allied victory would come at an enormous cost. The 1.25 million battle casualties incurred in total by the United States in World War II included both military personnel killed in action and wounded in action. Nearly one million of the casualties occurred during the last year of the war, from June 1944 to June 1945. In December 1944, American battle casualties hit an all-time monthly high of 88,000 as a result of the German Ardennes Offensive. America's reserves of manpower were running out. Deferments for groups such as agricultural workers were tightened, and there was consideration of drafting women. At the same time, the public was becoming war-weary, and demanding that long-serving servicemen be sent home. [1]

In the Pacific, the Allies returned to the Philippines, [2] recaptured Burma, [3] and invaded Borneo. [4] Offensives were undertaken to reduce the Japanese forces remaining in Bougainville, New Guinea and the Philippines. [5] In April 1945, American forces landed on Okinawa, where heavy fighting continued until June. Along the way, the ratio of Japanese to American casualties dropped from five to one in the Philippines to two to one on Okinawa. [1] Although some Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner, most fought until they were killed or committed suicide. Nearly 99 percent of the 21,000 defenders of Iwo Jima were killed. Of the 117,000 Okinawan and Japanese troops defending Okinawa in April to June 1945, 94 percent were killed [6] 7,401 Japanese soldiers surrendered, an unprecedentedly large number. [7]

As the Allies advanced towards Japan, conditions became steadily worse for the Japanese people. Japan's merchant fleet declined from 5,250,000 gross tons in 1941 to 1,560,000 tons in March 1945, and 557,000 tons in August 1945. Lack of raw materials forced the Japanese war economy into a steep decline after the middle of 1944. The civilian economy, which had slowly deteriorated throughout the war, reached disastrous levels by the middle of 1945. The loss of shipping also affected the fishing fleet, and the 1945 catch was only 22 percent of that in 1941. The 1945 rice harvest was the worst since 1909, and hunger and malnutrition became widespread. U.S. industrial production was overwhelmingly superior to Japan's. By 1943, the U.S. produced almost 100,000 aircraft a year, compared to Japan's production of 70,000 for the entire war. In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe advised Emperor Hirohito that defeat was inevitable, and urged him to abdicate. [8]

Preparations to invade Japan

Even before the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945, plans were underway for the largest operation of the Pacific War, Operation Downfall, the Allied invasion of Japan. [9] The operation had two parts: Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet. Set to begin in October 1945, Olympic involved a series of landings by the U.S. Sixth Army intended to capture the southern third of the southernmost main Japanese island, Kyūshū. [10] Operation Olympic was to be followed in March 1946 by Operation Coronet, the capture of the Kantō Plain, near Tokyo on the main Japanese island of Honshū by the U.S. First, Eighth and Tenth Armies, as well as a Commonwealth Corps made up of Australian, British and Canadian divisions. The target date was chosen to allow for Olympic to complete its objectives, for troops to be redeployed from Europe, and the Japanese winter to pass. [11]

Japan's geography made this invasion plan obvious to the Japanese they were able to predict the Allied invasion plans accurately and thus adjust their defensive plan, Operation Ketsugō, accordingly. The Japanese planned an all-out defense of Kyūshū, with little left in reserve for any subsequent defense operations. [12] Four veteran divisions were withdrawn from the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in March 1945 to strengthen the forces in Japan, [13] and 45 new divisions were activated between February and May 1945. Most were immobile formations for coastal defense, but 16 were high quality mobile divisions. [14] In all, there were 2.3 million Japanese Army troops prepared to defend the home islands, backed by a civilian militia of 28 million men and women. Casualty predictions varied widely, but were extremely high. The Vice Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, predicted up to 20 million Japanese deaths. [15]

On 15 June 1945, a study by the Joint War Plans Committee, [16] who provided planning information to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that Olympic would result in 130,000 to 220,000 U.S. casualties, with U.S. dead in the range from 25,000 to 46,000. Delivered on 15 June 1945, after insight gained from the Battle of Okinawa, the study noted Japan's inadequate defenses due to the very effective sea blockade and the American firebombing campaign. The Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General of the Army George Marshall, and the Army Commander in Chief in the Pacific, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, signed documents agreeing with the Joint War Plans Committee estimate. [17]

The Americans were alarmed by the Japanese buildup, which was accurately tracked through Ultra intelligence. [18] Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson was sufficiently concerned about high American estimates of probable casualties to commission his own study by Quincy Wright and William Shockley. Wright and Shockley spoke with Colonels James McCormack and Dean Rusk, and examined casualty forecasts by Michael E. DeBakey and Gilbert Beebe. Wright and Shockley estimated the invading Allies would suffer between 1.7 and 4 million casualties in such a scenario, of whom between 400,000 and 800,000 would be dead, while Japanese fatalities would have been around 5 to 10 million. [19] [20]

Marshall began contemplating the use of a weapon that was "readily available and which assuredly can decrease the cost in American lives": [21] poison gas. Quantities of phosgene, mustard gas, tear gas and cyanogen chloride were moved to Luzon from stockpiles in Australia and New Guinea in preparation for Operation Olympic, and MacArthur ensured that Chemical Warfare Service units were trained in their use. [21] Consideration was also given to using biological weapons against Japan. [22]

Air raids on Japan

While the United States had developed plans for an air campaign against Japan prior to the Pacific War, the capture of Allied bases in the western Pacific in the first weeks of the conflict meant that this offensive did not begin until mid-1944 when the long-ranged Boeing B-29 Superfortress became ready for use in combat. [23] Operation Matterhorn involved India-based B-29s staging through bases around Chengdu in China to make a series of raids on strategic targets in Japan. [24] This effort failed to achieve the strategic objectives that its planners had intended, largely because of logistical problems, the bomber's mechanical difficulties, the vulnerability of Chinese staging bases, and the extreme range required to reach key Japanese cities. [25]

Brigadier General Haywood S. Hansell determined that Guam, Tinian, and Saipan in the Mariana Islands would better serve as B-29 bases, but they were in Japanese hands. [26] Strategies were shifted to accommodate the air war, [27] and the islands were captured between June and August 1944. Air bases were developed, [28] and B-29 operations commenced from the Marianas in October 1944. [29] These bases were easily resupplied by cargo ships. [30] The XXI Bomber Command began missions against Japan on 18 November 1944. [31] The early attempts to bomb Japan from the Marianas proved just as ineffective as the China-based B-29s had been. Hansell continued the practice of conducting so-called high-altitude precision bombing, aimed at key industries and transportation networks, even after these tactics had not produced acceptable results. [32] These efforts proved unsuccessful due to logistical difficulties with the remote location, technical problems with the new and advanced aircraft, unfavorable weather conditions, and enemy action. [33] [34]

Hansell's successor, Major General Curtis LeMay, assumed command in January 1945 and initially continued to use the same precision bombing tactics, with equally unsatisfactory results. The attacks initially targeted key industrial facilities but much of the Japanese manufacturing process was carried out in small workshops and private homes. [38] Under pressure from United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) headquarters in Washington, LeMay changed tactics and decided that low-level incendiary raids against Japanese cities were the only way to destroy their production capabilities, shifting from precision bombing to area bombardment with incendiaries. [39] Like most strategic bombing during World War II, the aim of the air offensive against Japan was to destroy the enemy's war industries, kill or disable civilian employees of these industries, and undermine civilian morale. [40] [41]

Over the next six months, the XXI Bomber Command under LeMay firebombed 67 Japanese cities. The firebombing of Tokyo, codenamed Operation Meetinghouse, on 9–10 March killed an estimated 100,000 people and destroyed 16 square miles (41 km 2 ) of the city and 267,000 buildings in a single night. It was the deadliest bombing raid of the war, at a cost of 20 B-29s shot down by flak and fighters. [42] By May, 75 percent of bombs dropped were incendiaries designed to burn down Japan's "paper cities". By mid-June, Japan's six largest cities had been devastated. [43] The end of the fighting on Okinawa that month provided airfields even closer to the Japanese mainland, allowing the bombing campaign to be further escalated. Aircraft flying from Allied aircraft carriers and the Ryukyu Islands also regularly struck targets in Japan during 1945 in preparation for Operation Downfall. [44] Firebombing switched to smaller cities, with populations ranging from 60,000 to 350,000. According to Yuki Tanaka, the U.S. fire-bombed over a hundred Japanese towns and cities. [45] These raids were devastating. [46]

The Japanese military was unable to stop the Allied attacks and the country's civil defense preparations proved inadequate. Japanese fighters and anti-aircraft guns had difficulty engaging bombers flying at high altitude. [47] From April 1945, the Japanese interceptors also had to face American fighter escorts based on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. [48] That month, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service stopped attempting to intercept the air raids to preserve fighter aircraft to counter the expected invasion. [49] By mid-1945 the Japanese only occasionally scrambled aircraft to intercept individual B-29s conducting reconnaissance sorties over the country, to conserve supplies of fuel. [50] In July 1945, the Japanese had 1,156,000 US barrels (137,800,000 l) of avgas stockpiled for the invasion of Japan. About 604,000 US barrels (72,000,000 l) had been consumed in the home islands area in April, May and June 1945. [51] While the Japanese military decided to resume attacks on Allied bombers from late June, by this time there were too few operational fighters available for this change of tactics to hinder the Allied air raids. [52]

Atomic bomb development

The discovery of nuclear fission by German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1938, and its theoretical explanation by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch, made the development of an atomic bomb a theoretical possibility. [53] Fears that a German atomic bomb project would develop atomic weapons first, especially among scientists who were refugees from Nazi Germany and other fascist countries, were expressed in the Einstein-Szilard letter. This prompted preliminary research in the United States in late 1939. [54] Progress was slow until the arrival of the British MAUD Committee report in late 1941, which indicated that only 5 to 10 kilograms of isotopically enriched uranium-235 were needed for a bomb instead of tons of natural uranium and a neutron moderator like heavy water. [55]

The 1943 Quebec Agreement merged the nuclear weapons projects of the United Kingdom and Canada, Tube Alloys and the Montreal Laboratory, with the Manhattan Project, [56] [57] under the direction of Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [58] Groves appointed J. Robert Oppenheimer to organize and head the project's Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, where bomb design work was carried out. [59] Two types of bombs were eventually developed, both named by Robert Serber. Little Boy was a gun-type fission weapon that used uranium-235, a rare isotope of uranium separated at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. [60] The other, known as a Fat Man device, was a more powerful and efficient, but more complicated, implosion-type nuclear weapon that used plutonium created in nuclear reactors at Hanford, Washington. [61]

There was a Japanese nuclear weapon program, but it lacked the human, mineral and financial resources of the Manhattan Project, and never made much progress towards developing an atomic bomb. [62]

Organization and training

The 509th Composite Group was constituted on 9 December 1944, and activated on 17 December 1944, at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets. [63] Tibbets was assigned to organize and command a combat group to develop the means of delivering an atomic weapon against targets in Germany and Japan. Because the flying squadrons of the group consisted of both bomber and transport aircraft, the group was designated as a "composite" rather than a "bombardment" unit. [64] Working with the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, Tibbets selected Wendover for his training base over Great Bend, Kansas, and Mountain Home, Idaho, because of its remoteness. [65] Each bombardier completed at least 50 practice drops of inert or conventional explosive pumpkin bombs and Tibbets declared his group combat-ready. [66] On 5 April 1945, the code name Operation Centerboard was assigned. The officer responsible for its allocation in the War Department's Operations Division was not cleared to know any details of it. The first bombing was later codenamed Operation Centerboard I, and the second, Operation Centerboard II. [67]

The 509th Composite Group had an authorized strength of 225 officers and 1,542 enlisted men, almost all of whom eventually deployed to Tinian. In addition to its authorized strength, the 509th had attached to it on Tinian 51 civilian and military personnel from Project Alberta, [68] known as the 1st Technical Detachment. [69] The 509th Composite Group's 393d Bombardment Squadron was equipped with 15 Silverplate B-29s. These aircraft were specially adapted to carry nuclear weapons, and were equipped with fuel-injected engines, Curtiss Electric reversible-pitch propellers, pneumatic actuators for rapid opening and closing of bomb bay doors and other improvements. [70]

The ground support echelon of the 509th Composite Group moved by rail on 26 April 1945, to its port of embarkation at Seattle, Washington. On 6 May the support elements sailed on the SS Cape Victory for the Marianas, while group materiel was shipped on the SS Emile Berliner. The Cape Victory made brief port calls at Honolulu and Eniwetok but the passengers were not permitted to leave the dock area. An advance party of the air echelon, consisting of 29 officers and 61 enlisted men flew by C-54 to North Field on Tinian, between 15 and 22 May. [71] There were also two representatives from Washington, D.C., Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, the deputy commander of the Manhattan Project, and Rear Admiral William R. Purnell of the Military Policy Committee, [72] who were on hand to decide higher policy matters on the spot. Along with Captain William S. Parsons, the commander of Project Alberta, they became known as the "Tinian Joint Chiefs". [73]

Choice of targets

In April 1945, Marshall asked Groves to nominate specific targets for bombing for final approval by himself and Stimson. Groves formed a Target Committee, chaired by himself, that included Farrell, Major John A. Derry, Colonel William P. Fisher, Joyce C. Stearns and David M. Dennison from the USAAF and scientists John von Neumann, Robert R. Wilson and William Penney from the Manhattan Project. The Target Committee met in Washington on 27 April at Los Alamos on 10 May, where it was able to talk to the scientists and technicians there and finally in Washington on 28 May, where it was briefed by Tibbets and Commander Frederick Ashworth from Project Alberta, and the Manhattan Project's scientific advisor, Richard C. Tolman. [74]

The Target Committee nominated five targets: Kokura (now Kitakyushu), the site of one of Japan's largest munitions plants Hiroshima, an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of a major military headquarters Yokohama, an urban center for aircraft manufacture, machine tools, docks, electrical equipment and oil refineries Niigata, a port with industrial facilities including steel and aluminum plants and an oil refinery and Kyoto, a major industrial center. The target selection was subject to the following criteria:

  • The target was larger than 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter and was an important target in a large city.
  • The blast would create effective damage.
  • The target was unlikely to be attacked by August 1945. [75]

These cities were largely untouched during the nightly bombing raids, and the Army Air Forces agreed to leave them off the target list so accurate assessment of the damage caused by the atomic bombs could be made. Hiroshima was described as "an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. Due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target." [75]

The Target Committee stated that "It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released. . Kyoto has the advantage of the people being more highly intelligent and hence better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon. Hiroshima has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focussing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed. The Emperor's palace in Tokyo has a greater fame than any other target but is of least strategic value." [75]

Edwin O. Reischauer, a Japan expert for the U.S. Army Intelligence Service, was incorrectly said to have prevented the bombing of Kyoto. [75] In his autobiography, Reischauer specifically refuted this claim:

. the only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier. [76] [77]

On 30 May, Stimson asked Groves to remove Kyoto from the target list due to its historical, religious and cultural significance, but Groves pointed to its military and industrial significance. [78] Stimson then approached President Harry S. Truman about the matter. Truman agreed with Stimson, and Kyoto was temporarily removed from the target list. [79] Groves attempted to restore Kyoto to the target list in July, but Stimson remained adamant. [80] [81] On 25 July, Nagasaki was put on the target list in place of Kyoto. It was a major military port, one of Japan's largest shipbuilding and repair centers, and an important producer of naval ordnance. [81]

Proposed demonstration

In early May 1945, the Interim Committee was created by Stimson at the urging of leaders of the Manhattan Project and with the approval of Truman to advise on matters pertaining to nuclear energy. [82] During the meetings on 31 May and 1 June, scientist Ernest Lawrence had suggested giving the Japanese a non-combat demonstration. [83] Arthur Compton later recalled that:

It was evident that everyone would suspect trickery. If a bomb were exploded in Japan with previous notice, the Japanese air power was still adequate to give serious interference. An atomic bomb was an intricate device, still in the developmental stage. Its operation would be far from routine. If during the final adjustments of the bomb the Japanese defenders should attack, a faulty move might easily result in some kind of failure. Such an end to an advertised demonstration of power would be much worse than if the attempt had not been made. It was now evident that when the time came for the bombs to be used we should have only one of them available, followed afterwards by others at all-too-long intervals. We could not afford the chance that one of them might be a dud. If the test were made on some neutral territory, it was hard to believe that Japan's determined and fanatical military men would be impressed. If such an open test were made first and failed to bring surrender, the chance would be gone to give the shock of surprise that proved so effective. On the contrary, it would make the Japanese ready to interfere with an atomic attack if they could. Though the possibility of a demonstration that would not destroy human lives was attractive, no one could suggest a way in which it could be made so convincing that it would be likely to stop the war. [84]

The possibility of a demonstration was raised again in the Franck Report issued by physicist James Franck on 11 June and the Scientific Advisory Panel rejected his report on 16 June, saying that "we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use." Franck then took the report to Washington, D.C., where the Interim Committee met on 21 June to re-examine its earlier conclusions but it reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the use of the bomb on a military target. [85]

Like Compton, many U.S. officials and scientists argued that a demonstration would sacrifice the shock value of the atomic attack, and the Japanese could deny the atomic bomb was lethal, making the mission less likely to produce surrender. Allied prisoners of war might be moved to the demonstration site and be killed by the bomb. They also worried that the bomb might be a dud since the Trinity test was of a stationary device, not an air-dropped bomb. In addition, although more bombs were in production, only two would be available at the start of August, and they cost billions of dollars, so using one for a demonstration would be expensive. [86] [87]


For several months, the U.S. had warned civilians of potential air raids by dropping more than 63 million leaflets across Japan. Many Japanese cities suffered terrible damage from aerial bombings some were as much as 97 percent destroyed. LeMay thought that leaflets would increase the psychological impact of bombing, and reduce the international stigma of area-bombing cities. Even with the warnings, Japanese opposition to the war remained ineffective. In general, the Japanese regarded the leaflet messages as truthful, with many Japanese choosing to leave major cities. The leaflets caused such concern that the government ordered the arrest of anyone caught in possession of a leaflet. [88] [89] Leaflet texts were prepared by recent Japanese prisoners of war because they were thought to be the best choice "to appeal to their compatriots". [90]

In preparation for dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the Oppenheimer-led Scientific Panel of the Interim Committee decided against a demonstration bomb and against a special leaflet warning. Those decisions were implemented because of the uncertainty of a successful detonation and also because of the wish to maximize shock in the leadership. [91] No warning was given to Hiroshima that a new and much more destructive bomb was going to be dropped. [92] Various sources gave conflicting information about when the last leaflets were dropped on Hiroshima prior to the atomic bomb. Robert Jay Lifton wrote that it was 27 July, [92] and Theodore H. McNelly wrote that it was 30 July. [91] The USAAF history noted that eleven cities were targeted with leaflets on 27 July, but Hiroshima was not one of them, and there were no leaflet sorties on 30 July. [89] Leaflet sorties were undertaken on 1 and 4 August. Hiroshima may have been leafleted in late July or early August, as survivor accounts talk about a delivery of leaflets a few days before the atomic bomb was dropped. [92] Three versions were printed of a leaflet listing 11 or 12 cities targeted for firebombing a total of 33 cities listed. With the text of this leaflet reading in Japanese ". we cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked. " [88] Hiroshima was not listed. [93] [94]

Consultation with Britain and Canada

In 1943, the United States and the United Kingdom signed the Quebec Agreement, which stipulated that nuclear weapons would not be used against another country without mutual consent. Stimson therefore had to obtain British permission. A meeting of the Combined Policy Committee, which included one Canadian representative, was held at the Pentagon on 4 July 1945. [95] Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson announced that the British government concurred with the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, which would be officially recorded as a decision of the Combined Policy Committee. [95] [96] [97] As the release of information to third parties was also controlled by the Quebec Agreement, discussion then turned to what scientific details would be revealed in the press announcement of the bombing. The meeting also considered what Truman could reveal to Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, at the upcoming Potsdam Conference, as this also required British concurrence. [95]

Orders for the attack were issued to General Carl Spaatz on 25 July under the signature of General Thomas T. Handy, the acting Chief of Staff, since Marshall was at the Potsdam Conference with Truman. [98] It read:

  1. The 509th Composite Group, 20th Air Force will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. To carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the War Department to observe and record the effects of the explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany the airplane carrying the bomb. The observing planes will stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the bomb.
  2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further instructions will be issued concerning targets other than those listed above. [99]

That day, Truman noted in his diary that:

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo]. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one. [100]

Potsdam Declaration

The 16 July success of the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert exceeded expectations. [101] On 26 July, Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration, which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan. The declaration was presented as an ultimatum and stated that without a surrender, the Allies would attack Japan, resulting in "the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland". The atomic bomb was not mentioned in the communiqué. [102]

On 28 July, Japanese papers reported that the declaration had been rejected by the Japanese government. That afternoon, Prime Minister Suzuki Kantarō declared at a press conference that the Potsdam Declaration was no more than a rehash (yakinaoshi) of the Cairo Declaration and that the government intended to ignore it (mokusatsu, "kill by silence"). [103] The statement was taken by both Japanese and foreign papers as a clear rejection of the declaration. Emperor Hirohito, who was waiting for a Soviet reply to non-committal Japanese peace feelers, made no move to change the government position. [104] Japan's willingness to surrender remained conditional on the preservation of the kokutai (Imperial institution and national polity), assumption by the Imperial Headquarters of responsibility for disarmament and demobilization, no occupation of the Japanese Home Islands, Korea or Formosa, and delegation of the punishment of war criminals to the Japanese government. [105]

At Potsdam, Truman agreed to a request from Winston Churchill that Britain be represented when the atomic bomb was dropped. William Penney and Group Captain Leonard Cheshire were sent to Tinian, but found that LeMay would not let them accompany the mission. All they could do was send a strongly worded signal to Wilson. [106]


The Little Boy bomb, except for the uranium payload, was ready at the beginning of May 1945. [107] There were two uranium-235 components, a hollow cylindrical projectile and a cylindrical target insert. The projectile was completed on 15 June, and the target insert on 24 July. [108] The projectile and eight bomb pre-assemblies (partly assembled bombs without the powder charge and fissile components) left Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California, on 16 July aboard the cruiser USS Indianapolis, and arrived on Tinian on 26 July. [109] The target insert followed by air on 30 July, accompanied by Commander Francis Birch from Project Alberta. [108] Responding to concerns expressed by the 509th Composite Group about the possibility of a B-29 crashing on takeoff, Birch had modified the Little Boy design to incorporate a removable breech plug that would permit the bomb to be armed in flight. [107]

The first plutonium core, along with its polonium-beryllium urchin initiator, was transported in the custody of Project Alberta courier Raemer Schreiber in a magnesium field carrying case designed for the purpose by Philip Morrison. Magnesium was chosen because it does not act as a tamper. [110] The core departed from Kirtland Army Air Field on a C-54 transport aircraft of the 509th Composite Group's 320th Troop Carrier Squadron on 26 July, and arrived at North Field 28 July. Three Fat Man high-explosive pre-assemblies, designated F31, F32, and F33, were picked up at Kirtland on 28 July by three B-29s, two from the 393d Bombardment Squadron plus one from the 216th Army Air Force Base Unit, and transported to North Field, arriving on 2 August. [111]

Hiroshima during World War II

At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata's Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan, [112] and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata's command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated. [113] Also present in Hiroshima were the headquarters of the 59th Army, the 5th Division and the 224th Division, a recently formed mobile unit. [114] The city was defended by five batteries of 70 mm and 80 mm (2.8 and 3.1 inch) anti-aircraft guns of the 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division, including units from the 121st and 122nd Anti-Aircraft Regiments and the 22nd and 45th Separate Anti-Aircraft Battalions. In total, an estimated 40,000 Japanese military personnel were stationed in the city. [115]

Hiroshima was a supply and logistics base for the Japanese military. [116] The city was a communications center, a key port for shipping, and an assembly area for troops. [78] It supported a large war industry, manufacturing parts for planes and boats, for bombs, rifles, and handguns. [117] The center of the city contained several reinforced concrete buildings and lighter structures. Outside the center, the area was congested by a dense collection of small timber workshops set among Japanese houses. A few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of the city. The houses were constructed of timber with tile roofs, and many of the industrial buildings were also built around timber frames. The city as a whole was highly susceptible to fire damage. [118] It was the second largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was still undamaged by air raids, [119] primarily because it lacked the aircraft manufacturing industry that was the XXI Bomber Command's priority target. On 3 July, the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed it off limits to bombers, along with Kokura, Niigata and Kyoto. [120]

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 381,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing, the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack, the population was approximately 340,000–350,000. [121] Residents wondered why Hiroshima had been spared destruction by firebombing. [122] Some speculated that the city was to be saved for U.S. occupation headquarters, others thought perhaps their relatives in Hawaii and California had petitioned the U.S. government to avoid bombing Hiroshima. [123] More realistic city officials had ordered buildings torn down to create long, straight firebreaks. [124] These continued to be expanded and extended up to the morning of 6 August 1945. [125]

Bombing of Hiroshima

Hiroshima was the primary target of the first atomic bombing mission on 6 August, with Kokura and Nagasaki as alternative targets. The 393d Bombardment Squadron B-29 Enola Gay, named after Tibbets's mother and piloted by Tibbets, took off from North Field, Tinian, about six hours' flight time from Japan. Enola Gay was accompanied by two other B-29s: The Great Artiste, commanded by Major Charles Sweeney, which carried instrumentation, and a then-nameless aircraft later called Necessary Evil, commanded by Captain George Marquardt. Necessary Evil was the photography aircraft. [126]

Special Mission 13, primary target Hiroshima, 6 August 1945 [126] [127]
Aircraft Pilot Call sign Mission role
Straight Flush Major Claude R. Eatherly Dimples 85 Weather reconnaissance (Hiroshima)
Jabit III Major John A. Wilson Dimples 71 Weather reconnaissance (Kokura)
Full House Major Ralph R. Taylor Dimples 83 Weather reconnaissance (Nagasaki)
Enola Gay Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Dimples 82 Weapon delivery
The Great Artiste Major Charles W. Sweeney Dimples 89 Blast measurement instrumentation
Necessary Evil Captain George W. Marquardt Dimples 91 Strike observation and photography
Top Secret Captain Charles F. McKnight Dimples 72 Strike spare – did not complete mission

After leaving Tinian, the aircraft made their way separately to Iwo Jima to rendezvous with Sweeney and Marquardt at 05:55 at 9,200 feet (2,800 m), [128] and set course for Japan. The aircraft arrived over the target in clear visibility at 31,060 feet (9,470 m). [129] Parsons, who was in command of the mission, armed the bomb in flight to minimize the risks during takeoff. He had witnessed four B-29s crash and burn at takeoff, and feared that a nuclear explosion would occur if a B-29 crashed with an armed Little Boy on board. [130] His assistant, Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, removed the safety devices 30 minutes before reaching the target area. [131]

During the night of 5–6 August, Japanese early warning radar detected the approach of numerous American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan. Radar detected 65 bombers headed for Saga, 102 bound for Maebashi, 261 en route to Nishinomiya, 111 headed for Ube and 66 bound for Imabari. An alert was given and radio broadcasting stopped in many cities, among them Hiroshima. The all-clear was sounded in Hiroshima at 00:05. [133] About an hour before the bombing, the air raid alert was sounded again, as Straight Flush flew over the city. It broadcast a short message which was picked up by Enola Gay. It read: "Cloud cover less than 3/10th at all altitudes. Advice: bomb primary." [134] The all-clear was sounded over Hiroshima again at 07:09. [135]

At 08:09, Tibbets started his bomb run and handed control over to his bombardier, Major Thomas Ferebee. [136] The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and the Little Boy containing about 64 kg (141 lb) of uranium-235 took 44.4 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at about 31,000 feet (9,400 m) to a detonation height of about 1,900 feet (580 m) above the city. [137] [138] Enola Gay traveled 11.5 mi (18.5 km) before it felt the shock waves from the blast. [139]

Due to crosswind, the bomb missed the aiming point, the Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 ft (240 m) and detonated directly over Shima Surgical Clinic. [140] It released the equivalent energy of 16 ± 2 kilotons of TNT (66.9 ± 8.4 TJ). [137] The weapon was considered very inefficient, with only 1.7 percent of its material fissioning. [141] The radius of total destruction was about 1 mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 km 2 ). [142]

Enola Gay stayed over the target area for two minutes and was ten miles away when the bomb detonated. Only Tibbets, Parsons, and Ferebee knew of the nature of the weapon the others on the bomber were only told to expect a blinding flash and given black goggles. "It was hard to believe what we saw", Tibbets told reporters, while Parsons said "the whole thing was tremendous and awe-inspiring . the men aboard with me gasped 'My God'". He and Tibbets compared the shockwave to "a close burst of ack-ack fire". [143]

Events on the ground

People on the ground reported a pika ( ピカ ) —a brilliant flash of light—followed by a don ( ドン ) —a loud booming sound. [144] Some 70,000–80,000 people, around 30 percent of the population of Hiroshima at the time, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, [145] [146] and another 70,000 were injured. [147] It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Japanese military personnel were killed. [148] U.S. surveys estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 km 2 ) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69 percent of Hiroshima's buildings were destroyed and another 6 to 7 percent damaged. [149]

Some of the reinforced concrete buildings in Hiroshima had been very strongly constructed because of the earthquake danger in Japan, and their framework did not collapse even though they were fairly close to the blast center. Since the bomb detonated in the air, the blast was directed more downward than sideways, which was largely responsible for the survival of the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, now commonly known as the Genbaku (A-bomb) dome, which was only 150 m (490 ft) from ground zero (the hypocenter). The ruin was named Hiroshima Peace Memorial and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 over the objections of the United States and China, which expressed reservations on the grounds that other Asian nations were the ones who suffered the greatest loss of life and property, and a focus on Japan lacked historical perspective. [150] The bombing started intense fires that spread rapidly through timber and paper homes, burning everything in a radius of 2 kilometers (1.2 mi). [151] As in other Japanese cities, the firebreaks proved ineffective. [152]

Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bombing

Injured civilian casualties

The clothes pattern, in the tight-fitting areas on this survivor, shown burnt into the skin.

22-year old victim Toyoko Kugata being treated at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital (6 October 1945)

A photograph of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima

Memorial at Andersonville NHS for the American airmen who died in the blast.

The air raid warning had been cleared at 07:31, and many people were outside, going about their activities. [153] Eizō Nomura was the closest known survivor, being in the basement of a reinforced concrete building (it remained as the Rest House after the war) only 170 meters (560 ft) from ground zero at the time of the attack. [154] [155] He died in 1982, aged 84. [156] Akiko Takakura was among the closest survivors to the hypocenter of the blast. She was in the solidly-built Bank of Hiroshima only 300 meters (980 ft) from ground-zero at the time of the attack. [157]

Over 90 percent of the doctors and 93 percent of the nurses in Hiroshima were killed or injured—most had been in the downtown area which received the greatest damage. [161] The hospitals were destroyed or heavily damaged. Only one doctor, Terufumi Sasaki, remained on duty at the Red Cross Hospital. [152] Nonetheless, by early afternoon the police and volunteers had established evacuation centres at hospitals, schools and tram stations, and a morgue was established in the Asano library. [162]

Most elements of the Japanese Second General Army headquarters were undergoing physical training on the grounds of Hiroshima Castle, barely 900 yards (820 m) from the hypocenter. The attack killed 3,243 troops on the parade ground. [163] The communications room of Chugoku Military District Headquarters that was responsible for issuing and lifting air raid warnings was located in a semi-basement in the castle. Yoshie Oka, a Hijiyama Girls High School student who had been mobilized to serve as a communications officer, had just sent a message that the alarm had been issued for Hiroshima and neighboring Yamaguchi, when the bomb exploded. She used a special phone to inform Fukuyama Headquarters (some 100 kilometers (62 mi) away) that "Hiroshima has been attacked by a new type of bomb. The city is in a state of near-total destruction." [164]

Since Mayor Senkichi Awaya had been killed while eating breakfast with his son and granddaughter at the mayoral residence, Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, who was only slightly wounded, took over the administration of the city, and coordinated relief efforts. Many of his staff had been killed or fatally wounded, including a Korean Prince as a member of the imperial family of Korea, Yi U, who was serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Japanese Army. [165] [166] Hata's senior surviving staff officer was the wounded Colonel Kumao Imoto, who acted as his chief of staff. Soldiers from the undamaged Hiroshima Ujina Harbor used Shinyo-class suicide motorboats, intended to repel the American invasion, to collect the wounded and take them down the rivers to the military hospital at Ujina. [165] Trucks and trains brought in relief supplies and evacuated survivors from the city. [167]

Twelve American airmen were imprisoned at the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters, about 1,300 feet (400 m) from the hypocenter of the blast. [168] Most died instantly, although two were reported to have been executed by their captors, and two prisoners badly injured by the bombing were left next to the Aioi Bridge by the Kempei Tai, where they were stoned to death. [169] [170] Eight U.S. prisoners of war killed as part of the medical experiments program at Kyushu University were falsely reported by Japanese authorities as having been killed in the atomic blast as part of an attempted cover up. [171]

Japanese realization of the bombing

The Tokyo control operator of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed. [172] About 20 minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within 16 km (10 mi) of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. [173]

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the General Staff they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was felt that nothing serious had taken place and that the explosion was just a rumor. [173]

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 160 km (100 mi) from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the firestorm created by the bomb. After circling the city to survey the damage they landed south of the city, where the staff officer, after reporting to Tokyo, began to organize relief measures. Tokyo's first indication that the city had been destroyed by a new type of bomb came from President Truman's announcement of the strike, sixteen hours later. [173]

After the Hiroshima bombing, Truman issued a statement announcing the use of the new weapon. He stated, "We may be grateful to Providence" that the German atomic bomb project had failed, and that the United States and its allies had "spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history—and won". Truman then warned Japan: "If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware." [174] This was a widely broadcast speech picked up by Japanese news agencies. [175]

The 50,000-watt standard wave station on Saipan, the OWI radio station, broadcast a similar message to Japan every 15 minutes about Hiroshima, stating that more Japanese cities would face a similar fate in the absence of immediate acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and emphatically urged civilians to evacuate major cities. Radio Japan, which continued to extoll victory for Japan by never surrendering, [88] had informed the Japanese of the destruction of Hiroshima by a single bomb. [178] Prime Minister Suzuki felt compelled to meet the Japanese press, to whom he reiterated his government's commitment to ignore the Allies' demands and fight on. [179]

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov had informed Tokyo of the Soviet Union's unilateral abrogation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on 5 April. [180] At two minutes past midnight on 9 August, Tokyo time, Soviet infantry, armor, and air forces had launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. [181] Four hours later, word reached Tokyo of the Soviet Union's official declaration of war. The senior leadership of the Japanese Army began preparations to impose martial law on the nation, with the support of Minister of War Korechika Anami, to stop anyone attempting to make peace. [182]

On 7 August, a day after Hiroshima was destroyed, Dr. Yoshio Nishina and other atomic physicists arrived at the city, and carefully examined the damage. They then went back to Tokyo and told the cabinet that Hiroshima was indeed destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, estimated that no more than one or two additional bombs could be readied, so they decided to endure the remaining attacks, acknowledging "there would be more destruction but the war would go on". [183] American Magic codebreakers intercepted the cabinet's messages. [184]

Purnell, Parsons, Tibbets, Spaatz, and LeMay met on Guam that same day to discuss what should be done next. [185] Since there was no indication of Japan surrendering, [184] they decided to proceed with dropping another bomb. Parsons said that Project Alberta would have it ready by 11 August, but Tibbets pointed to weather reports indicating poor flying conditions on that day due to a storm, and asked if the bomb could be readied by 9 August. Parsons agreed to try to do so. [186] [185]

Nagasaki during World War II

The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, and was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The four largest companies in the city were Mitsubishi Shipyards, Electrical Shipyards, Arms Plant, and Steel and Arms Works, which employed about 90 percent of the city's labor force, and accounted for 90 percent of the city's industry. [187] Although an important industrial city, Nagasaki had been spared from firebombing because its geography made it difficult to locate at night with AN/APQ-13 radar. [120]

Unlike the other target cities, Nagasaki had not been placed off limits to bombers by the Joint Chiefs of Staff's 3 July directive, [120] [188] and was bombed on a small scale five times. During one of these raids on 1 August, a number of conventional high-explosive bombs were dropped on the city. A few hit the shipyards and dock areas in the southwest portion of the city, and several hit the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works. [187] By early August, the city was defended by the 134th Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the 4th Anti-Aircraft Division with four batteries of 7 cm (2.8 in) anti-aircraft guns and two searchlight batteries. [115]

In contrast to Hiroshima, almost all of the buildings were of old-fashioned Japanese construction, consisting of timber or timber-framed buildings with timber walls (with or without plaster) and tile roofs. Many of the smaller industries and business establishments were also situated in buildings of timber or other materials not designed to withstand explosions. Nagasaki had been permitted to grow for many years without conforming to any definite city zoning plan residences were erected adjacent to factory buildings and to each other almost as closely as possible throughout the entire industrial valley. On the day of the bombing, an estimated 263,000 people were in Nagasaki, including 240,000 Japanese residents, 10,000 Korean residents, 2,500 conscripted Korean workers, 9,000 Japanese soldiers, 600 conscripted Chinese workers, and 400 Allied prisoners of war in a camp to the north of Nagasaki. [189]

Bombing of Nagasaki

Responsibility for the timing of the second bombing was delegated to Tibbets. Scheduled for 11 August against Kokura, the raid was moved earlier by two days to avoid a five-day period of bad weather forecast to begin on 10 August. [190] Three bomb pre-assemblies had been transported to Tinian, labeled F-31, F-32, and F-33 on their exteriors. On 8 August, a dress rehearsal was conducted off Tinian by Sweeney using Bockscar as the drop airplane. Assembly F-33 was expended testing the components and F-31 was designated for the 9 August mission. [191]

Special Mission 16, secondary target Nagasaki, 9 August 1945 [192]
Aircraft Pilot Call sign Mission role
Enola Gay Captain George W. Marquardt Dimples 82 Weather reconnaissance (Kokura)
Laggin' Dragon Captain Charles F. McKnight Dimples 95 Weather reconnaissance (Nagasaki)
Bockscar Major Charles W. Sweeney Dimples 77 Weapon delivery
The Great Artiste Captain Frederick C. Bock Dimples 89 Blast measurement instrumentation
Big Stink Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. Dimples 90 Strike observation and photography
Full House Major Ralph R. Taylor Dimples 83 Strike spare – did not complete mission

At 03:47 Tinian time (GMT+10), 02:47 Japanese time [193] on the morning of 9 August 1945, Bockscar, flown by Sweeney's crew, lifted off from Tinian island with Fat Man, with Kokura as the primary target and Nagasaki the secondary target. The mission plan for the second attack was nearly identical to that of the Hiroshima mission, with two B-29s flying an hour ahead as weather scouts and two additional B-29s in Sweeney's flight for instrumentation and photographic support of the mission. Sweeney took off with his weapon already armed but with the electrical safety plugs still engaged. [194]

During pre-flight inspection of Bockscar, the flight engineer notified Sweeney that an inoperative fuel transfer pump made it impossible to use 640 US gallons (2,400 l 530 imp gal) of fuel carried in a reserve tank. This fuel would still have to be carried all the way to Japan and back, consuming still more fuel. Replacing the pump would take hours moving the Fat Man to another aircraft might take just as long and was dangerous as well, as the bomb was live. Tibbets and Sweeney therefore elected to have Bockscar continue the mission. [195] [196]

This time Penney and Cheshire were allowed to accompany the mission, flying as observers on the third plane, Big Stink, flown by the group's operations officer, Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. Observers aboard the weather planes reported both targets clear. When Sweeney's aircraft arrived at the assembly point for his flight off the coast of Japan, Big Stink failed to make the rendezvous. [194] According to Cheshire, Hopkins was at varying heights including 9,000 feet (2,700 m) higher than he should have been, and was not flying tight circles over Yakushima as previously agreed with Sweeney and Captain Frederick C. Bock, who was piloting the support B-29 The Great Artiste. Instead, Hopkins was flying 40-mile (64 km) dogleg patterns. [197] Though ordered not to circle longer than fifteen minutes, Sweeney continued to wait for Big Stink for forty minutes. Before leaving the rendezvous point, Sweeney consulted Ashworth, who was in charge of the bomb. As commander of the aircraft, Sweeney made the decision to proceed to the primary, the city of Kokura. [198]

After exceeding the original departure time limit by nearly a half-hour, Bockscar, accompanied by The Great Artiste, proceeded to Kokura, thirty minutes away. The delay at the rendezvous had resulted in clouds and drifting smoke over Kokura from fires started by a major firebombing raid by 224 B-29s on nearby Yahata the previous day. [199] Additionally, the Yahata Steel Works intentionally burned coal tar, to produce black smoke. [200] The clouds and smoke resulted in 70 percent of the area over Kokura being covered, obscuring the aiming point. Three bomb runs were made over the next 50 minutes, burning fuel and exposing the aircraft repeatedly to the heavy defenses around Kokura, but the bombardier was unable to drop visually. By the time of the third bomb run, Japanese anti-aircraft fire was getting close, and Second Lieutenant Jacob Beser, who was monitoring Japanese communications, reported activity on the Japanese fighter direction radio bands. [201]

With fuel running low because of the failed fuel pump, Bockscar and The Great Artiste headed for their secondary target, Nagasaki. [194] Fuel consumption calculations made en route indicated that Bockscar had insufficient fuel to reach Iwo Jima and would be forced to divert to Okinawa, which had become entirely Allied-occupied territory only six weeks earlier. After initially deciding that if Nagasaki were obscured on their arrival the crew would carry the bomb to Okinawa and dispose of it in the ocean if necessary, Ashworth agreed with Sweeney's suggestion that a radar approach would be used if the target was obscured. [202] [203] At about 07:50 Japanese time, an air raid alert was sounded in Nagasaki, but the "all clear" signal was given at 08:30. When only two B-29 Superfortresses were sighted at 10:53 Japanese Time (GMT+9), the Japanese apparently assumed that the planes were only on reconnaissance and no further alarm was given. [204]

A few minutes later at 11:00 Japanese Time, The Great Artiste dropped instruments attached to three parachutes. These instruments also contained an unsigned letter to Professor Ryokichi Sagane, a physicist at the University of Tokyo who studied with three of the scientists responsible for the atomic bomb at the University of California, Berkeley, urging him to tell the public about the danger involved with these weapons of mass destruction. The messages were found by military authorities but not turned over to Sagane until a month later. [205] In 1949, one of the authors of the letter, Luis Alvarez, met with Sagane and signed the letter. [206]

At 11:01 Japanese Time, a last-minute break in the clouds over Nagasaki allowed Bockscar ' s bombardier, Captain Kermit Beahan, to visually sight the target as ordered. The Fat Man weapon, containing a core of about 5 kg (11 lb) of plutonium, was dropped over the city's industrial valley. It exploded 47 seconds later at 11:02 Japanese Time [193] at 1,650 ± 33 ft (503 ± 10 m), above a tennis court, [207] halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Nagasaki Arsenal in the north. This was nearly 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of the planned hypocenter the blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills. [208] The resulting explosion released the equivalent energy of 21 ± 2 kt (87.9 ± 8.4 TJ). [137] Big Stink spotted the explosion from a hundred miles away, and flew over to observe. [209]

Bockscar flew on to Okinawa, arriving with only sufficient fuel for a single approach. Sweeney tried repeatedly to contact the control tower for landing clearance, but received no answer. He could see heavy air traffic landing and taking off from Yontan Airfield. Firing off every flare on board to alert the field to his emergency landing, the Bockscar came in fast, landing at 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) instead of the normal 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). The number two engine died from fuel starvation as he began the final approach. Touching down on only three engines midway down the landing strip, Bockscar bounced up into the air again for about 25 feet (7.6 m) before slamming back down hard. The heavy B-29 slewed left and towards a row of parked B-24 bombers before the pilots managed to regain control. Its reversible propellers were insufficient to slow the aircraft adequately, and with both pilots standing on the brakes, Bockscar made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid running off it. A second engine died from fuel exhaustion before the plane came to a stop. [210]

Following the mission, there was confusion over the identification of the plane. The first eyewitness account by war correspondent William L. Laurence of The New York Times, who accompanied the mission aboard the aircraft piloted by Bock, reported that Sweeney was leading the mission in The Great Artiste. He also noted its "Victor" number as 77, which was that of Bockscar. [211] Laurence had interviewed Sweeney and his crew, and was aware that they referred to their airplane as The Great Artiste. Except for Enola Gay, none of the 393d's B-29s had yet had names painted on the noses, a fact which Laurence himself noted in his account. Unaware of the switch in aircraft, Laurence assumed Victor 77 was The Great Artiste, [212] which was in fact, Victor 89. [213]

Events on the ground

Although the bomb was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, its effects were confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley. [215] Of 7,500 Japanese employees who worked inside the Mitsubishi Munitions plant, including "mobilized" students and regular workers, 6,200 were killed. Some 17,000–22,000 others who worked in other war plants and factories in the city died as well. [216] Casualty estimates for immediate deaths vary widely, ranging from 22,000 to 75,000. [216] At least 35,000–40,000 people were killed and 60,000 others injured. [217] [218] In the days and months following the explosion, more people died from their injuries. Because of the presence of undocumented foreign workers, and a number of military personnel in transit, there are great discrepancies in the estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 a range of 39,000 to 80,000 can be found in various studies. [121]

Unlike Hiroshima's military death toll, only 150 Japanese soldiers were killed instantly, including 36 from the 134th AAA Regiment of the 4th AAA Division. [115] At least eight Allied prisoners of war (POWs) died from the bombing, and as many as thirteen may have died. The eight confirmed deaths included a British POW, Royal Air Force Corporal Ronald Shaw, [219] and seven Dutch POWs. [220] One American POW, Joe Kieyoomia, was in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing but survived, reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the bomb by the concrete walls of his cell. [221] There were 24 Australian POWs in Nagasaki, all of whom survived. [222]

The radius of total destruction was about 1 mi (1.6 km), followed by fires across the northern portion of the city to 2 mi (3.2 km) south of the bomb. [142] [225] About 58 percent of the Mitsubishi Arms Plant was damaged, and about 78 percent of the Mitsubishi Steel Works. The Mitsubishi Electric Works suffered only 10 percent structural damage as it was on the border of the main destruction zone. The Nagasaki Arsenal was destroyed in the blast. [226] Although many fires likewise burnt following the bombing, in contrast to Hiroshima where sufficient fuel density was available, no firestorm developed in Nagasaki as the damaged areas did not furnish enough fuel to generate the phenomenon. Instead, the ambient wind at the time pushed the fire spread along the valley. [227]

As in Hiroshima, the bombing badly dislocated the city's medical facilities. A makeshift hospital was established at the Shinkozen Primary School, which served as the main medical centre. The trains were still running, and evacuated many victims to hospitals in nearby towns. A medical team from a naval hospital reached the city in the evening, and fire-fighting brigades from the neighboring towns assisted in fighting the fires. [228] Takashi Nagai was a doctor working in the radiology department of Nagasaki Medical College Hospital. He received a serious injury that severed his right temporal artery, but joined the rest of the surviving medical staff in treating bombing victims. [229]

Groves expected to have another "Fat Man" atomic bomb ready for use on 19 August, with three more in September and a further three in October [87] a second Little Boy bomb (using U-235) would not be available until December 1945. [230] [231] On 10 August, 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." Marshall endorsed the memo with the hand-written comment, "It is not to be released over Japan without express authority from the President", [87] something Truman had requested that day. This modified the previous order that the target cities were to be attacked with atomic bombs "as made ready". [232] There was already discussion in the War Department about conserving the bombs then in production for Operation Downfall, and Marshall suggested to Stimson that the remaining cities on the target list be spared attack with atomic bombs. [233]

Two more Fat Man assemblies were readied, and scheduled to leave Kirtland Field for Tinian on 11 and 14 August, [234] and Tibbets was ordered by LeMay to return to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to collect them. [235] At Los Alamos, technicians worked 24 hours straight to cast another plutonium core. [236] Although cast, it still needed to be pressed and coated, which would take until 16 August. [237] Therefore, it could have been ready for use on 19 August. Unable to reach Marshall, Groves ordered on his own authority on 13 August that the core should not be shipped. [232]

Until 9 August, Japan's war council still insisted on its four conditions for surrender. The full cabinet met at 14:30 on 9 August, and spent most of the day debating surrender. Anami conceded that victory was unlikely, but argued in favour of continuing the war nonetheless. The meeting ended at 17:30, with no decision having been reached. Suzuki went to the palace to report on the outcome of the meeting, where he met with Kōichi Kido, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan. Kido informed him that the emperor had agreed to hold an imperial conference, and gave a strong indication that the emperor would consent to surrender on condition that kokutai be preserved. A second cabinet meeting was held at 18:00. Only four ministers supported Anami's position of adhering to the four conditions, but since cabinet decisions had to be unanimous, no decision was reached before it ended at 22:00. [238]

Calling an imperial conference required the signatures of the prime minister and the two service chiefs, but the Chief Cabinet Secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu had already obtained signatures from Toyoda and General Yoshijirō Umezu in advance, and he reneged on his promise to inform them if a meeting was to be held. The meeting commenced at 23:50. No consensus had emerged by 02:00 on 10 August, but the emperor gave his "sacred decision", [239] authorizing the Foreign Minister, Shigenori Tōgō, to notify the Allies that Japan would accept their terms on one condition, that the declaration "does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign ruler." [240]

On 12 August, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai could not be preserved. Hirohito simply replied, "Of course." [241] As the Allied terms seemed to leave intact the principle of the preservation of the Throne, Hirohito recorded on 14 August his capitulation announcement which was broadcast to the Japanese nation the next day despite a short rebellion by militarists opposed to the surrender. [242]

In his declaration, Hirohito referred to the atomic bombings and did not explicitly mention the Soviets as a factor for surrender:

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 now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it 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. [243]

In his "Rescript to the Soldiers and Sailors" delivered on 17 August, however, he stressed the impact of the Soviet invasion on his decision to surrender. [244]

On 10 August 1945, the day after the Nagasaki bombing, Yōsuke Yamahata, correspondent Higashi, and artist Yamada arrived in the city with orders to record the destruction for maximum propaganda purposes, Yamahata took scores of photographs, and on 21 August, they appeared in Mainichi Shimbun, a popular Japanese newspaper. [245] Leslie Nakashima filed the first personal account of the scene to appear in American newspapers. A version of his 27 August UPI article appeared in The New York Times on 31 August. [246]

Wilfred Burchett was the first western journalist to visit Hiroshima after the bombing, arriving alone by train from Tokyo on 2 September. His Morse code dispatch, "The Atomic Plague", was printed by the Daily Express newspaper in London on 5 September 1945. Nakashima's and Burchett's reports were the first public reports to mention the effects of radiation and nuclear fallout—radiation burns and radiation poisoning. [247] [248] Burchett's reporting was unpopular with the U.S. military, who accused Burchett of being under the sway of Japanese propaganda, and suppressed a supporting story submitted by George Weller of the Chicago Daily News. William Laurence dismissed the reports on radiation sickness as Japanese efforts to undermine American morale, ignoring his own account published one week earlier. [249]

A member of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Lieutenant Daniel McGovern, used a film crew to document the effects of the bombings in early 1946. The film crew shot 90,000 ft (27,000 m) of film, resulting in a three-hour documentary titled The Effects of the Atomic Bombs Against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The documentary included images from hospitals showing the human effects of the bomb it showed burned-out buildings and cars, and rows of skulls and bones on the ground. It was classified "secret" for the next 22 years. [250] [251] Motion picture company Nippon Eigasha started sending cameramen to Nagasaki and Hiroshima in September 1945. On 24 October 1945, a U.S. military policeman stopped a Nippon Eigasha cameraman from continuing to film in Nagasaki. All Nippon Eigasha's reels were confiscated by the American authorities, but they were requested by the Japanese government, and declassified. [251] The public release of film footage of the city post-attack, and some research about the effects of the attack, was restricted during the occupation of Japan, [252] but the Hiroshima-based magazine, Chugoku Bunka, in its first issue published on 10 March 1946, devoted itself to detailing the damage from the bombing. [253]

The book Hiroshima, written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey, which was originally published in article form in the popular magazine The New Yorker, [254] on 31 August 1946, is reported to have reached Tokyo in English by January 1947, and the translated version was released in Japan in 1949. [255] [256] [257] It narrated the stories of the lives of six bomb survivors from immediately prior to, and months after, the dropping of the Little Boy bomb. [254] Beginning in 1974, a compilation of drawings and artwork made by the survivors of the bombings began to be compiled, with completion in 1977, and under both book and exhibition format, it was titled The Unforgettable Fire. [258]

The bombing amazed Otto Hahn and other German atomic scientists, whom the British held at Farm Hall in Operation Epsilon. Hahn stated that he had not believed an atomic weapon "would be possible for another twenty years" Werner Heisenberg did not believe the news at first. Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker said "I think it's dreadful of the Americans to have done it. I think it is madness on their part", but Heisenberg replied, "One could equally well say 'That's the quickest way of ending the war'". Hahn was grateful that the German project had not succeeded in developing "such an inhumane weapon" Karl Wirtz observed that even if it had, "we would have obliterated London but would still not have conquered the world, and then they would have dropped them on us". [259]

Hahn told the others, "Once I wanted to suggest that all uranium should be sunk to the bottom of the ocean". [259] The Vatican agreed L'Osservatore Romano expressed regret that the bomb's inventors did not destroy the weapon for the benefit of humanity. [260] Rev. Cuthbert Thicknesse, the Dean of St Albans, prohibited using St Albans Abbey for a thanksgiving service for the war's end, calling the use of atomic weapons "an act of wholesale, indiscriminate massacre". [261] Nonetheless, news of the atomic bombing was greeted enthusiastically in the U.S. a poll in Fortune magazine in late 1945 showed a significant minority of Americans (23 percent) wishing that more atomic bombs could have been dropped on Japan. [262] [263] The initial positive response was supported by the imagery presented to the public (mainly the powerful images of the mushroom cloud). [262] During this time in America, it was a common practice for editors to keep graphic images of death out of films, magazines, and newspapers. [264]

An estimated 90,000 to 140,000 people in Hiroshima (up to 39 percent of the population) and 60,000 to 80,000 people in Nagasaki (up to 32 percent of the population) died in 1945, [121] though the number which died immediately as a result of exposure to the blast, heat, or due to radiation, is unknown. One Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission report discusses 6,882 people examined in Hiroshima, and 6,621 people examined in Nagasaki, who were largely within 2,000 meters (6,600 ft) from the hypocenter, who suffered injuries from the blast and heat but died from complications frequently compounded by acute radiation syndrome (ARS), all within about 20 to 30 days. [265] [266] The most well known of these was Midori Naka, some 650 meters (2,130 ft) from the hypocenter at Hiroshima, who would travel to Tokyo and then with her death on 24 August 1945 was to be the first death officially certified as a result of radiation poisoning, or as it was referred to by many, "atomic bomb disease". It was unappreciated at the time but the average radiation dose that will kill approximately 50 percent of adults, the LD50, was approximately halved, that is, smaller doses were made more lethal, when the individual experienced concurrent blast or burn polytraumatic injuries. [267] Conventional skin injuries that cover a large area frequently result in bacterial infection the risk of sepsis and death is increased when a usually non-lethal radiation dose moderately suppresses the white blood cell count. [268]

In the spring of 1948, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established in accordance with a presidential directive from Truman to the National Academy of Sciences–National Research Council to conduct investigations of the late effects of radiation among the survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [269] In 1956, the ABCC published The Effect of Exposure to the Atomic Bombs on Pregnancy Termination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [270] The ABCC became the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), on 1 April 1975. A binational organization run by both the United States and Japan, the RERF is still in operation today. [271]

Cancer increases

Cancers do not immediately emerge after exposure to radiation instead, radiation-induced cancer has a minimum latency period of some five years and above, and leukemia some two years and above, peaking around six to eight years later. [272] Dr Jarrett Foley published the first major reports on the significant increased incidence of the latter among survivors. Almost all cases of leukemia over the following 50 years were in people exposed to more than 1Gy. [273] In a strictly dependent manner dependent on their distance from the hypocenter, in the 1987 Life Span Study, conducted by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a statistical excess of 507 cancers, of undefined lethality, were observed in 79,972 hibakusha who had still been living between 1958–1987 and who took part in the study. [274] As the epidemiology study continues with time, the RERF estimates that, from 1950 to 2000, 46 percent of leukemia deaths which may include Sadako Sasaki and 11 percent of solid cancers of unspecified lethality were likely due to radiation from the bombs or some other post-attack city effects, with the statistical excess being 200 leukemia deaths and 1,700 solid cancers of undeclared lethality. Both of these statistics being derived from the observation of approximately half of the total survivors, strictly those who took part in the study. [275]

Birth defect investigations

While during the preimplantation period, that is one to ten days following conception, intrauterine radiation exposure of "at least 0.2 Gy" can cause complications of implantation and death of the human embryo. [276] The number of miscarriages caused by the radiation from the bombings, during this radiosensitive period, is not known.

One of the early studies conducted by the ABCC was on the outcome of pregnancies occurring in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in a control city, Kure, located 18 mi (29 km) south of Hiroshima, to discern the conditions and outcomes related to radiation exposure. [277] James V. Neel led the study which found that the overall number of birth defects was not significantly higher among the children of survivors who were pregnant at the time of the bombings. [278] He also studied the longevity of the children who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reporting that between 90 and 95 percent were still living 50 years later. [279]

While The National Academy of Sciences raised the possibility that Neel's procedure did not filter the Kure population for possible radiation exposure which could bias the results. [280] Overall, a statistically insignificant increase in birth defects occurred directly after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima when the cities were taken as wholes, in terms of distance from the hypocenters however, Neel and others noted that in approximately 50 humans who were of an early gestational age at the time of the bombing and who were all within about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the hypocenter, an increase in microencephaly and anencephaly was observed upon birth, with the incidence of these two particular malformations being nearly 3 times what was to be expected when compared to the control group in Kure, were approximately 20 cases were observed in a similar sample size. [281]

In 1985, Johns Hopkins University geneticist James F. Crow examined Neel's research and confirmed that the number of birth defects was not significantly higher in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [282] Many members of the ABCC and its successor Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) were still looking for possible birth defects among the survivors decades later, but found no evidence that they were significantly common among the survivors, or inherited in the children of survivors. [279] [283]

Investigations into brain development

Despite the small sample size of 1,600 to 1,800 persons who came forth as prenatally exposed at the time of the bombings, that were both within a close proximity to the two hypocenters, to survive the in utero absorption of a substantial dose of radiation and then the malnourished post-attack environment, data from this cohort does support the increased risk of severe mental retardation (SMR), that was observed in some 30 individuals, with SMR being a common outcome of the aforementioned microencephaly. While a lack of statistical data, with just 30 individuals out of 1,800, prevents a definitive determination of a threshold point, the data collected suggests a threshold intrauterine or fetal dose for SMR, at the most radiosensitive period of cognitive development, when there is the largest number of undifferentiated neural cells (8 to 15 weeks post-conception) to begin at a threshold dose of approximately "0.09" to "0.15" Gy, with the risk then linearly increasing to a 43-percent rate of SMR when exposed to a fetal dose of 1 Gy at any point during these weeks of rapid neurogenesis. [284] [285]

However either side of this radiosensitive age, none of the prenatally exposed to the bombings at an age less than 8 weeks, that is prior to synaptogenesis or at a gestational age more than 26 weeks "were observed to be mentally retarded", with the condition therefore being isolated to those solely of 8–26 weeks of age and who absorbed more than approximately "0.09" to "0.15" Gy of prompt radiation energy. [284] [286]

Examination of the prenatally exposed in terms of IQ performance and school records, determined the beginning of a statistically significant reduction in both, when exposed to greater than 0.1 to 0.5 gray, during the same gestational period of 8–25 weeks. However outside this period, at less than 8 weeks and greater than 26 after conception, "there is no evidence of a radiation-related effect on scholastic performance." [284]

The reporting of doses in terms of absorbed energy in units of grays and rads, rather than the use of the biologically significant, biologically weighted sievert in both the SMR and cognitive performance data, is typical. [286] The reported threshold dose variance between the two cities, is suggested to be a manifestation of the difference between X-ray and neutron absorption, with Little Boy emitting substantially more neutron flux, whereas the Baratol that surrounded the core of Fat Man, filtered or shifted the absorbed neutron-radiation profile, so that the dose of radiation energy received in Nagasaki, is mostly that from exposure to x-rays/gamma rays, in contrast to the environment within 1500 meters of the hypocenter at Hiroshima, were instead the in-utero dose more depended on the absorption of neutrons, which have a higher biological effect per unit of energy absorbed. [287] From the radiation dose reconstruction work, which were also informed by the 1962 BREN Tower Japanese city analog, the estimated dosimetry at Hiroshima still has the largest uncertainty as the Little Boy bomb design was never tested before deployment or afterward, therefore the estimated radiation profile absorbed by individuals at Hiroshima had required greater reliance on calculations than the Japanese soil, concrete and roof-tile measurements which began to reach accurate levels and thereby inform researchers, in the 1990s. [288] [289] [290]

Many other investigations into cognitive outcomes, such as schizophrenia as a result of prenatal exposure, have been conducted with "no statistically significant linear relationship seen", there is a suggestion that in the most extremely exposed, those who survived within a kilometer or so of the hypocenters, a trend emerges akin to that seen in SMR, though the sample size is too small to determine with any significance. [291]

The survivors of the bombings are called hibakusha ( 被爆者 , Japanese pronunciation: [çibakɯ̥ɕa] ) , a Japanese word that literally translates to "explosion-affected people". The Japanese government has recognized about 650,000 people as hibakusha. As of 31 March 2020 [update] , 136,682 were still alive, mostly in Japan (an annual decrease of around 9,200). [292] [293] The government of Japan recognizes about one percent of these as having illnesses [ ambiguous ] caused by radiation. [294] [ better source needed ] The memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain lists of the names of the hibakusha who are known to have died since the bombings. Updated annually on the anniversaries of the bombings, as of August 2020 [update] , the memorials record the names of more than 510,000 hibakusha 324,129 in Hiroshima and 185,982 in Nagasaki, up by 4,943 [295] and 3,406 [296] respectively from the previous year's figures of 319,186 [297] and 182,601. [298]

If they discuss their background, Hibakusha and their children were (and still are) victims of fear based discrimination and exclusion when it comes to prospects of marriage or work [299] due to public ignorance about the consequences of radiation sickness or that the low doses that the majority received were less than a routine diagnostic x-ray, much of the public however persist with the belief that the Hibakusha carry some hereditary or even contagious disease. [300] This is despite the fact that no statistically demonstrable increase of birth defects/congenital malformations was found among the later conceived children born to survivors of the nuclear weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or indeed has been found in the later conceived children of cancer survivors who had previously received radiotherapy. [301] [302] [303] The surviving women of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that could conceive, who were exposed to substantial amounts of radiation, went on and had children with no higher incidence of abnormalities/birth defects than the rate which is observed in the Japanese average. [304] [305] [306] A study of the long-term psychological effects of the bombings on the survivors found that even 17–20 years after the bombings had occurred survivors showed a higher prevalence of anxiety and somatization symptoms. [307]

Double survivors

Perhaps as many as 200 people from Hiroshima sought refuge in Nagasaki. The 2006 documentary Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki documented 165 nijū hibakusha (lit. double explosion-affected people), nine of whom claimed to be in the blast zone in both cities. [308] On 24 March 2009, the Japanese government officially recognized Tsutomu Yamaguchi as a double hibakusha. He was confirmed to be 3 km (1.9 mi) from ground zero in Hiroshima on a business trip when the bomb was detonated. He was seriously burnt on his left side and spent the night in Hiroshima. He arrived at his home city of Nagasaki on 8 August, the day before the bombing, and he was exposed to residual radiation while searching for his relatives. He was the first officially recognized survivor of both bombings. [309] He died on 4 January 2010, at the age of 93, after a battle with stomach cancer. [310]

Korean survivors

During the war, Japan brought as many as 670,000 Korean conscripts to Japan to work as forced labor. [311] About 5,000–8,000 Koreans were killed in Hiroshima and another 1,500–2,000 died in Nagasaki. [312] For many years, Korean survivors had a difficult time fighting for the same recognition as Hibakusha as afforded to all Japanese survivors, a situation which resulted in the denial of the free health benefits to them in Japan. Most issues were eventually addressed in 2008 through lawsuits. [313]


Hiroshima was subsequently struck by Typhoon Ida on 17 September 1945. More than half the bridges were destroyed, and the roads and railroads were damaged, further devastating the city. [314] The population increased from 83,000 soon after the bombing to 146,000 in February 1946. [315] The city was rebuilt after the war, with help from the national government through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law passed in 1949. It provided financial assistance for reconstruction, along with land donated that was previously owned by the national government and used for military purposes. [316] In 1949, a design was selected for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the closest surviving building to the location of the bomb's detonation, was designated the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was opened in 1955 in the Peace Park. [317] Hiroshima also contains a Peace Pagoda, built in 1966 by Nipponzan-Myōhōji. [318]


Nagasaki was also rebuilt after the war, but was dramatically changed in the process. The pace of reconstruction was initially slow, and the first simple emergency dwellings were not provided until 1946. The focus on redevelopment was the replacement of war industries with foreign trade, shipbuilding and fishing. This was formally declared when the Nagasaki International Culture City Reconstruction Law was passed in May 1949. [315] New temples were built, as well as new churches owing to an increase in the presence of Christianity. Some of the rubble was left as a memorial, such as a torii at Sannō Shrine, and an arch near ground zero. New structures were also raised as memorials, such as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, which was opened in the mid-1990s. [319]

The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender, and the ethical, legal, and military controversies surrounding the United States' justification for them have been the subject of scholarly and popular debate. [320] On one hand, it has been argued that the bombings caused the Japanese surrender, thereby preventing casualties that an invasion of Japan would have involved. [6] [321] Stimson talked of saving one million casualties. [322] The naval blockade might have starved the Japanese into submission without an invasion, but this would also have resulted in many more Japanese deaths. [323]

Japanese historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa argued that the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan "played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow's mediation". [324] A view among critics of the bombings, that was popularized by American historian Gar Alperovitz in 1965, is the idea of atomic diplomacy: that the United States used nuclear weapons to intimidate the Soviet Union in the early stages of the Cold War. Although not accepted by mainstream historians, this became the position in Japanese school history textbooks. [325]

Those who oppose the bombings give other reasons for their view, among them: a belief that atomic bombing is fundamentally immoral, that the bombings counted as war crimes, and that they constituted state terrorism. [326]

Like the way it began, the manner in which World War II ended cast a long shadow over international relations for decades to come. By 30 June 1946, there were components for nine atomic bombs in the US arsenal, all Fat Man devices identical to the one used in the bombing of Nagasaki. [327] The nuclear weapons were handmade devices, and a great deal of work remained to improve their ease of assembly, safety, reliability and storage before they were ready for production. There were also many improvements to their performance that had been suggested or recommended, but that had not been possible under the pressure of wartime development. [328] The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy had decried the use of the atomic bombs as adopting "an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages", [329] but in October 1947, he reported a military requirement for 400 bombs. [330]

The American monopoly on nuclear weapons lasted four years before the Soviet Union detonated an atomic bomb in September 1949. [330] The United States responded with the development of the hydrogen bomb, a nuclear weapon a thousand times as powerful as the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [331] Such ordinary fission bombs would henceforth be regarded as small tactical nuclear weapons. By 1986, the United States had 23,317 nuclear weapons, while the Soviet Union had 40,159. In early 2019, more than 90% of the world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States. [332] [333]

By 2020, nine nations had nuclear weapons, [334] but Japan was not one of them. [335] Japan reluctantly signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in February 1970, [336] but it is still sheltered under the American nuclear umbrella. American nuclear weapons were stored on Okinawa, and sometimes in Japan itself, albeit in contravention of agreements between the two nations. [337] Lacking the resources to fight the Soviet Union using conventional forces, the Western Alliance came to depend on the use of nuclear weapons to defend itself during the Cold War, a policy that became known in the 1950s as the New Look. [338] In the decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States would threaten to use its nuclear weapons many times. [339]

On 7 July 2017, more than 120 countries voted to adopt the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Elayne Whyte Gómez, President of the UN negotiations on the nuclear ban treaty, said "the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years," since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. [340] As of 2020 [update] , Japan has not signed the treaty. [341] [342]

Whistling Past the Graveyard: How Iwo Jima Led Toward Hiroshima

Last week marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It was the first conquest of sovereign Japanese territory in the Pacific War. That the island would fall was a certainty from the very beginning, but the Japanese intended to make the American cost of taking it so severe that they would reconsider ever invading the Japanese home islands. On this point, the Japanese condemned themselves by their very success.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal.

A volcanic ferment, Iwo Jima—or Sulphur Island—is eight square miles of spewed earth some 650 miles south of Tokyo. As a physical thing it is decried for its ugliness. William Manchester in Goodbye, Darkness, his memoir of the Pacific war, denounces Iwo as “an ugly, smelly glob of cold lava squatting in a surly ocean.” Its porkchop-shaped landscape—already conjuring images of butchered meat—is an unrelieved gray, gray-green, brown, and black, the hues of camouflage. It’s as if the reeking island was gestated and purpose-bred for war. Just so, from February 19 to March 26, 1945, 6,821 Americans and approximately 20,000 Japanese died in the fight. Twenty thousand more Americans would be wounded. Not so the Japanese. Estimates vary, but only about 216 of the 21,000-strong Japanese force survived the fight. Iwo was the only island battle of the Pacific War in which US casualties outnumbered Japanese.

US battle planners expected the fight to last under a week. The optimism wasn’t entirely without justification. By this point, the US Navy enjoyed near-total domination of sky and sea, and offshore of Iwo, the US Fifth Fleet’s months of naval and aerial bombardment of the island were thought to have killed or taken the fight out of the defenders. The V Amphibious Corps, comprised principally of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions, owned a 3-to-1 advantage over the defenders, and were better armed, more experienced, and more exhaustively supported than any fighting force in the preceding Allied island campaigns. The US force represented the zenith of forcible entry from the sea.

Marines prepare to attack Motoyama Airfield #1 at H-Hour, 0900, 500 yards inland from Yellow 2 Beach. Photographed by Ragus on February 20, 1945. US Marine Corps photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Nevertheless, along with much else, optimism died upon landing. The battle would grind on for 36 days, more than four weeks beyond the iconic flag-raising, which many assume marked the end of combat. This prolonged battle signaled that the Japanese, too, learned their lessons from previous fights. Commanding the defense, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi broke with Japanese doctrine established in earlier battles in the Gilbert, Marshall, and Mariana Islands. Instead of directly defending the beaches, Kuribayashi held back, defending more in depth. The initial landing itself received only a comparatively modest defensive response. Kuribayashi waited until, 20 minutes in, the beach was crowded with men and equipment before unleashing overlapping artillery and machine gun barrages from every angle. Deeper in, he also utilized a deadly network of nearly a dozen miles of tunnels connecting more than 1,500 concealed ammunition dumps, pillboxes, artillery emplacements, and bunkers. If the US Marines fought on Iwo Jima, the Japanese fought in it. Not only did this network allow the Japanese to largely weather the preparatory bombardments, it gave them the ability to reoccupy positions initially cleared by the Marines, causing confusion, a lethally porous frontline, and the continual reestablishment of pre-registered killing zones. Kuribayashi also refused to allow his subordinates to indulge in vainglorious and ineffective banzai charges. That every Japanese would die was presumed. But they would not gift the Americans easy targets.

The hand of a Japanese soldier, killed by a bomb blast on Iwo Jima. Photographed by the Steichen Photograph Unit, March 1945. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the National Archives.

Die the Japanese did. The 216 or so Japanese survivors were largely unintentional. Most of the Japanese taken alive were too wounded to continue fighting or to kill themselves. All war emanates a tragic stench—but the pointless fight often seems both tragic and unjust. The ominous setbacks for the Japanese in the summer and fall of 1944, culminating in the disastrous naval defeats for the Imperial Navy at the Battles of the Philippine Sea—where the Japanese lost the air—and Leyte Gulf—where they lost the sea—made clear to Japanese military leaders the ultimate fate facing Japan. The loss on the water at Leyte opened up the beachheads on the island to Allied invasion. The subsequent inability of Japanese land forces to dislodge the invaders in turn signaled the inevitable loss of the Philippines in its entirety. This was a blow from which the Japanese could not—and did not—expect to recover. Japan now knew herself to be cut off from the territories she occupied in Southeast Asia, resulting in the loss of desperately needed materials—primarily oil for ships and aircraft as well as food—to continue any reasonable prosecution of its war.

But if by January 1945, in light of its decimated naval and air forces, the Japanese people—increasingly prey to almost at-will Allied air attacks—grasped their doom, in the wake of Iwo Jima’s fall, their coming destruction became incandescently clear. At this point, if not sooner, the Japanese leadership’s failure to even consider surrender in the face of her impossible odds leaves her wartime governors culpable for the military actions that followed—including the near-impossibly grim choices the Allies faced in how to end the war.

Chaplain Hotaling committing Marine’s body to grave. Photographed by Lindsley, March 1945. US Marine Corps photograph, now in the National Archives.

The Battle of Iwo Jima displayed a Japanese strategy of desperate insanity, one which they continued in Okinawa. This strategy, born of the desperate illusion that they could somehow preserve their dream of empire, aimed at bleeding the Americans so completely that they would negotiate a ceasefire rather than suffer the price of invading the Japanese home islands. The Japanese knew they could not win a victory, but they endeavored in their defeat to wrest concessions, including the retention of not just their imperial dynasty, but of their military hierarchy and at least some of the hard-won territorial acquisitions. Further, they wanted no demobilization, no war crimes trials, and no occupation of the homeland. This arrangement was as foolish to hope to be handed as it was to attempt to seize.

Following Iwo Jima, the Battle of Okinawa proved the bloodiest fight of the Pacific War. The imperial war machine threw upwards of 225,000 souls into its suicidal scheme, including around 150,000 civilians and 77,000 warriors. The civilian count includes some 40,000 Okinawan civilians the Japanese army pressed into combat.

The Americans absorbed their lesson. Faced with the prospect of invading a homeland defended by more than 4 million uniformed military personnel and, as on Okinawa, the certainty of wide civilian conscription—as many as 32 million mobilized citizens being trained to defend their sacred soil with whatever weapons they could fashion—America sought another way forward. Yet even after those bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese war cabinet never abandoned its negotiation strategy to compel a ceasefire. Only Emperor Hirohito’s intervention overrode the push for a decisive land battle. Whatever his previous complicity, in the wake of those horrible bombs he finally exorcised from the Japanese their zealous resolve to perish as a people rather than surrender.

It is a matter of moral prudence, in the just war tradition, to know when a fight has fully been fought and should finally be abandoned. The debate remains unresolved as to when Japan ought to have stood down and whether Allied demands for unconditional surrender were justified. What remains without dispute is that as the setting sun burned out over the smoking ruin of Iwo Jima ominous shadows were cast across the Pacific. Looking back, one of them looked a lot like a mushroom cloud.

Mr. Obama’s Visit To Hiroshima

I have always enjoyed history, and also delving into “what if’s” how history would have changed but for something in the time line.

It is May, 1945 and the Nazis have surrendered. That same month, the Joint Chiefs met for approval for the plans , overall called Operation Downfall, to invade Japan. It was to start on the island of Kyushu. There were a lot of GIs in the ETO wondering if they were going to be able go home or head to the Pacific and fight Japanese. It all depended on how many points you had accrued during your service.

Imagine WW2 ending not in 1945, but as late as November 1948. Along with the 1000s of dead on beaches named Omaha and Utah, add landing sites named after cars, Cadillac, Buick and Packard with even higher casualties.

It’s a part of history that never came to be, thanks to the bombing of first, Hiroshima and then, after the Japanese still refused to surrender, Nagasaki.

Even after Nagasaki then the Japanese Supreme Council was evenly divided as to unconditional surrender, and it took the personal intervention of Emperor Hirohito to end the war.

A fact that our President, in declaring the bombing to be “evil”, seems to have ignored.

I am sure there were more than a few soldiers, sailors and Marines who would disagree with that assessment.

** 05-25-18 Link updated (Forbes Magazine link gone) – BB

update: 05-25-18 Subsequent to my posting this awhile back, I am currently reading an excellent book on that time, place and era. As to why some think the Japanese were trying to surrender, the Cliff Notes version is that we had decrypted both the Japanese Diplomatic and Military cables, but only the Diplomatic was made public. The Japanese military, under the code name Ketsu-Go, intended to fight and make the American attrition so costly as to force them to make “an honorable peace”.

Read the American anticipated casualty projections just for the invasion of Kyushu.

An example of the military’s thinking: (Page 108) “On May 6, Portuguese Minister Fernandes advised his government that “the fortification of mountains and coasts continues, giving the impression that this country, like Germany, is disposed to prosecute this war to its end without the least probability of victory”

Another startling statistic: The casualties to the invasion of Okinawa was 17% of the entire Pacific war.

update: 09-04-18 I came across this in Facebook yesterday and did a bit more research.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Myth of American Institutional Racism

In the darkest hours of August 6, 1945, Colonel Paul W. Tibbets and his crew aboard the modified B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay took off from North Field on Tinian in the Central Pacific Ocean to carry out the innocuously named Special Mission 13.

Enola Gay was part of a strike group including no fewer than three weather reconnaissance variants of the B-29, and another specialized Superfortress named Top Secret whose only job was to measure the blast created by the only bomb carried aboard Tibbets’ plane.

Major Claude R. Eatherly’s Straight Flush was the B-29 tasked with reporting weather conditions over Hiroshima, the primary target of Special Mission 13. If weather conditions were less than ideal, then Kokura and Nagasaki were next in line for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb cradled in the belly of Enola Gay. With Tibbets still an hour out, Eatherly radioed ahead, “Cloud cover less than 3/10th at all altitudes. Advice: bomb primary.”

“Primary,” needless to say, got bombed.

Tibbets began his bomb run — a specialty maneuver Tibbets designed himself, specifically for dropping atomic bombs while getting the bomber and crew safely away — at 8:09 a.m. “Little Boy” was released six minutes later, and its fall retarded by a parachute, detonated 44.4 seconds later at an altitude of 1,900 feet — and only 800 feet from off the aim point.

In a flash and a firestorm, somewhere between 90,000 and 146,000 of Emperor Hirohito’s soldiers and subjects were dead.

Three days later, Special Mission 16 took to the skies under the command of Major Charles W. Sweeney and his modified Superfortress, Bockscar. Although Bockscar carried a more powerful bomb — “Fat Man” — local conditions nevertheless meant fewer dead on the ground, with about 22,000 to 75,000 killed by immediate effects.

And countless lives were saved… on both sides.

These twin bombings, some say, were calculated acts of murderous racism.

With the 75th anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings this week, the Progressive 2020 Hindsight Crowd is out in force, questioning or even condemning President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb.

Segregation in our WWII military remains a stain on our national honor. In practical terms, it was also a detriment to our warfighting capability in a total war requiring full national effort.

But it was Truman who would soon desegregate the military. It was also Truman who spared countless white, yellow, brown, and black lives in August of 1945.

Let me show you how Truman’s decision to tear the heart out of two Japanese cities was a profoundly necessary and moral decision.

We’ll start with a look at the challenges of winning the war on acceptable terms, as they appeared to our war leaders and planners in 1945.

If you want to gain a deep and detailed appreciation for the situation in the summer of 󈧰, I highly recommend Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen’s excellent Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan-And Why Truman Dropped the Bomb.

For now, though, the short version will have to do.

Broadly speaking, Navy leadership believed that Japan could be starved into submission via naval blockade and ariel attacks on the country’s rice paddies. The process might have taken two years or longer and involved as many as 10 million deaths and unimaginable agony — all the horrors of the Seige of Leningrad on a national scale.

Also speaking broadly, Army leadership was pushing forward with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Operation Downfall, a two-stage invasion of the Japenese home islands that would have made D-Day look like two little kids playing cops and robbers in the back yard.

(Public domain.)

Scheduled for November 1, the first stage of Downfall was Operation Olympic to seize the southern third of Kyūshū, the southernmost of Japan’s home islands.

There, airbases and ports would be developed to support Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu that would culminate in the taking of Tokyo. Fifty-four divisions were to take part, compared to just ten required to take Normandy from the Germans on D-Day.

D-Day By the Numbers, By the Men

More than 6,000,000 American and British Commonwealth soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen would be required for the effort. How many of them would have to die was a subject of much debate. MacArthur’s people low-balled the casualty estimates, greatly under-estimating Imperial Japan’s remaining strength.

Operation Downfall would have made Okinawa look like a picnic. “The often-repeated common wisdom holds that there were only 5,500, or at most 7,000, aircraft available and that all of Japan’s best pilots had been killed in earlier battles, writes historian D.M Giangreco “Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-47.

“What the U.S. occupation forces found after the war, however, was that the number of aircraft exceeded 12,700, and thanks to the wholesale conversion of training units into kamikaze formations, there were some 18,600 pilots available. Most were admittedly poor flyers, but due to the massive influx of instructors into combat units, more than 4,200 were rated high enough for either twilight or night missions.”

At Okinawa, this piece reminds us, we suffered “more than 50,000 U.S. casualties, a quarter-million Japanese military and civilian dead, and more than 400 Allied ships sunk or damaged.”

The Joint War Plans Committee (JWPC) believed Olympic would cause between 130,000 and 220,000 U.S. casualties, and that the number of U.S. dead would be between 25,000 to 46,000.

The real situation was probably far worse than the assumptions underlying the JWPC’s estimates.

Also for our VIPs: Thoughts on July’s Record Gun-Buying Spree

Japan’s war planners didn’t have any secret decoder ring alerting them to Operation Downfall, but they could read a map just as well as MacArthur could. They correctly predicted that MacArthur would come for them first in southern Kyūshū, and had reinforced the island’s defenses with everything from crack soldiers to teenage girls armed with bamboo spears. The kamikaze effort, as noted above, was going to be worse than anything we’d yet seen.

The Japanese Army had even correctly estimated which beaches would be used for the initial landings, and which routes inland — there are few on rocky Kyūshū — the Allies would use. The entire southern half of the island had been set up as a kill zone for Allied troops, guarded by soldiers and subjects alike.

The fanatical war minister, General Anami, insisted that Japan should fight to the bitter end with the same techniques and tenacity employed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

All women and children, spurred by the pre-invasion song “One Hundred Million Souls for the Emperor,” had been equipped with a sharpened bamboo spear in preparation for a fanatical defence.

The Imperial Government had mobilized � million souls for the Emperor.” What that meant was, every Japanese subject was a solider, duty-bound to kill an American or Commonwealth soldier before dying themselves.

And the Japanese people, after centuries of emperor-worship, were largely eager to do just that.

(Public domain.)

Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson didn’t buy the JWPC’s numbers and commissioned his own report. Stimson’s people counted on between 1.7 and 4 million Allied casualties with 400,000 and 800,000 dead.

In other words, a “successful” invasion of the Japanese Home Islands likely would have increased America’s war dead by anywhere from about 50% to 100%. That’s hundreds of thousands of additional “regret to inform you…” telegrams sent to grieving war widows, mothers, and fathers.

Stimson’s study also estimated that between five and ten million Japanese would die, either from direct fighting, bombing, starvation, or exposure.

That’s not quite � million souls for the Emperor,” but given Japan’s wartime population of 71 million, it would have been shockingly close.

Also for our VIPs: Joe Biden’s Veep Delay Underscores a Campaign and a Candidate in Chaos

After three-and-a-half years of fighting and more than 600,000 Americans killed in action, Truman owed it to the American people to bring about Japan’s unconditional surrender with as little bloodshed as possible.

My studies of the Pacific Campaign have convinced me that Operation Downfall would not have led to the downfall of Imperial Japan’s militaristic governing clique.

The bloodbath on Kyūshū might have been so bad that President Harry Truman might have settled for a negotiated peace leaving Imperial Japan’s ruling war clique largely in place. After the horrors of the Central Pacific campaign — exquisitely detailed in James Hornfischer’s The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific — the razing of Manilla, the Bataan Death March, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, and all the rest…

…well, Japan’s conditional surrender was not an option Truman could entertain.

And yet, the sheer number of death notices from the Kyūshū invasion could very well have turned the American people against prosecuting the war to its necessary end.

Therefore, victory in the Pacific with minimal bloodshed required an act of violence so shocking that it would force Hirohito to reverse course and order his people not to fight.

Otherwise, � million souls for the Emperor” was on, and the unconditional surrender required for world peace was probably off.

Truman did the right thing. The necessary thing. The moral thing.

He unleashed the atom bomb and brought decades of Imperial Japanese conquest and atrocities to an end, without suffering even one more American combat fatality.

Truman’s decision saved millions of Japanese lives, too.

There had been much discussion at the highest levels of the Truman White House and within the military over the best way to deploy Fat Man and Little Boy — if at all.

Army Chief of Staff George Marshall felt the U.S. would be “in a stronger position in any postwar environment” if we didn’t go nuclear against Japan. Admiral William Leahy was eager to use almost any means to cause the greatest destruction to Japan, and yet felt that using an atomic bomb against a city would be “barbaric.” The Army Air Force’s thinking, best represented by 8th Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker and Air Force Chief of Staff General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold were both eager proponents of victory through strategic bombardment. If that included nukes — a political, not military decision — they were fine with it.

Also discussed was the option of demonstrating the atomic bomb’s destructive power to Imperial Japan’s ruling military clique.

The Franck Report, signed by several prominent nuclear physicists, urged:

A demonstration of the new weapon may best be made before the eyes of representatives of all the United Nations, on the desert or a barren island. The best possible atmosphere for the achievement of an international agreement could be achieved if America would be able to say to the world, “You see what [a] weapon we had but did not use. We are ready to renounce its use in the future and to join other nations in working out adequate supervision of the use of this nuclear weapon”

However, a demonstration was deemed to likely be ineffective.

In the end, Truman looked at the various scenarios for ending the war, America’s growing war fatigue, various casualty projections, and authorized the use of atomic weapons. The targets chosen were both of military significance to continued Japanese war-making.

If anyone of any importance was advocating “Let’s kill all the filthy Japs with all the atomic bombs,” there’s no historical record of it.

When Imperial Japan abruptly surrendered following the Nagasaki bomb and the unstoppable Soviet push into Japanese-held Manchuria, our troops went overnight from trying to kill every Japanese soldier they could, to sharing their rations with the defeated enemy.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans based solely on their race will always remain a stain on his otherwise impressive record as a war leader. Temporary internment due to security concerns during wartime is hardly evidence of systemic racism, however.

Then there’s the elephant in the room that the “America is racist!” crowd does its best to ignore: we developed the atom bomb to counter Germany, not Japan.

Had the war in Europe dragged on, as some had feared, into 1946, then the first bomb(s) would have been dropped on German cities. If the bomb had been ready to go in 1944, as some had hoped, it would certainly have been used against Germany.

That’s right: the U.S. Army’s U.K.-based Eighth Air Force would have nuked the hell out of history’s most virulent white supremacists.

So while it’s unfortunately true that there were racists within the U.S. government and military, if the U.S. were systemically racist as its wokest critics claim, in WWII we would have taken the side of Germany and Japan, two countries ruled by cliques with delusions of racial superiority.

I’ll leave you with one final thought, a question that nags me on occasion.

What motive ought we ascribe to people who try to paint the great liberators of World War II as the bad guys?

William Blum

Written in 1995 for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.

Does winning World War II and the Cold War mean never having to say you’re sorry? The Germans have apologized to the Jews and to the Poles. The Japanese have apologized to the Chinese and the Koreans, and to the United States for failing to break off diplomatic relations before attacking Pearl Harbor. The Russians have apologized to the Poles for atrocities committed against civilians, and to the Japanese for abuse of prisoners. The Soviet Communist Party even apologized for foreign policy errors that “heightened tension with the West”. 1

Is there any reason for the United States to apologize to Japan for atomizing Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Those on opposing sides of this question are lining up in battle formation for the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bombs on August 6 and 9, 1945. During last year’s heated controversy surrounding the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit on the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, US veterans went ballistic. They condemned the emphasis on the ghastly deaths caused by the bomb and the lingering aftereffects of radiation, and took offense at the portrayal of Japanese civilians as blameless victims. An Air Force group said vets were “feeling nuked”. 2

In Japan, too, the anniversary has rekindled controversy. The mayors of the two Japanese cities in question spoke out about a wide “perception gap” between the two countries. 3 Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, surmounting a cultural distaste for offending, called the bombings “one of the two great crimes against humanity in the 20th Century, along with the Holocaust”. 4

Defenders of the US action counter that the bomb actually saved lives: It ended the war sooner and obviated the need for a land invasion. Estimates of the hypothetical saved-body count, however, which range from 20,000 to 1.2 million, owe more to political agendas than to objective projections. 5

But in any event, defining the issue as a choice between the A-bomb and a land invasion is an irrelevant and wholly false dichotomy. By 1945, Japan’s entire military and industrial machine was grinding to a halt as the resources needed to wage war were all but eradicated. The navy and air force had been destroyed ship by ship, plane by plane, with no possibility of replacement. When, in the spring of 1945, the island nation’s lifeline to oil was severed, the war was over except for the fighting. By June, Gen. Curtis LeMay, in charge of the air attacks, was complaining that after months of terrible firebombing, there was nothing left of Japanese cities for his bombers but “garbage can targets”. By July, US planes could fly over Japan without resistance and bomb as much and as long as they pleased. Japan could no longer defend itself. 6

After the war, the world learned what US leaders had known by early 1945: Japan was militarily defeated long before Hiroshima. It had been trying for months, if not for years, to surrender and the US had consistently ignored these overtures. A May 5 cable, intercepted and decoded by the US, dispelled any possible doubt that the Japanese were eager to sue for peace. Sent to Berlin by the German ambassador in Tokyo, after he talked to a ranking Japanese naval officer, it read:

Since the situation is clearly recognized to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavor an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard. 7

As far as is known, Washington did nothing to pursue this opening. Later that month, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson almost capriciously dismissed three separate high-level recommendations from within the Truman administration (Roosevelt had just died) to activate peace negotiations. The proposals advocated signaling Japan that the US was willing to consider the all-important retention of the emperor system i.e., the US would not insist upon “unconditional surrender”. 8

Stimson, like other high US officials, did not really care in principle whether or not the emperor was retained. The term “unconditional surrender” was always a propaganda measure wars are always ended with some kind of conditions. To some extent the insistence was a domestic consideration – not wanting to appear to “appease” the Japanese. More important, however, it reflected a desire that the Japanese not surrender before the bomb could be used. One of the few people who had been aware of the Manhattan Project from the beginning, Stimson had come to think of it as his bomb – “my secret”, as he called it in his diary. 9 On June 6, he told President Truman he was “fearful” that before the A-bombs were ready to be delivered, the Air Force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon “would not have a fair background to show its strength”. 10 In his later memoirs, Stimson admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb”. 11

Meeting at Potsdam

And to be successful, that effort could have been minimal. In July, before the leaders of the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met at Potsdam, the Japanese government sent several radio messages to its ambassador, Naotake Sato, in Moscow, asking him to request Soviet help in mediating a peace settlement. “His Majesty is extremely anxious to terminate the war as soon as possible”, said one communication. “Should, however, the United States and Great Britain insist on unconditional surrender, Japan would be forced to fight to the bitter end.” 12

On July 25, while the Potsdam meeting was taking place, Japan instructed Sato to keep meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Molotov to impress the Russians “with the sincerity of our desire to end the war [and] have them understand that we are trying to end hostilities by asking for very reasonable terms in order to secure and maintain our national existence and honor” (a reference to retention of Emperor Hirohito). 13

Having broken the Japanese code years earlier, Washington did not have to wait to be informed by the Soviets of these peace overtures it knew immediately, and did nothing. Indeed, the National Archives in Washington contains US government documents reporting similarly ill-fated Japanese peace overtures as far back as 1943. 14

Thus, it was with full knowledge that Japan was frantically trying to end the war, that President Truman and his hardline Secretary of State, James Byrnes, included the term “unconditional surrender” in the July 26 Potsdam Declaration. This “final warning” and expression of surrender terms to Japan was in any case a charade. The day before it was issued, Harry Truman had approved the order to release a 15 kiloton atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. 15

Many US military officials were less than enthusiastic about the demand for unconditional surrender or use of the atomic bomb. At the time of Potsdam, Gen. Hap Arnold asserted that conventional bombing could end the war. Adm. Ernest King believed a naval blockade alone would starve the Japanese into submission. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, convinced that retaining the emperor was vital to an orderly transition to peace, was appalled at the demand for unconditional surrender. Adm. William Leahy concurred. Refusal to keep the emperor “would result only in making the Japanese desperate and thereby increase our casualty lists,” he argued, adding that a nearly defeated Japan might stop fighting if unconditional surrender were dropped as a demand. At a loss for a military explanation for use of the bomb, Leahy believed that the decision “was clearly a political one”, reached perhaps “because of the vast sums that had been spent on the project”. 16 Finally, we have Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s account of a conversation with Stimson in which he told the secretary of war that:

Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary. … I thought our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face”. The secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions. 17

If, as appears to be the case, the US decision to drop the A-bombs was based on neither the pursuit of the earliest possible peace nor it being the only way to avoid a land invasion, we must look elsewhere for the explanation.

Target Soviet Union

It has been asserted that dropping of the atomic bombs was not so much the last military act of the Second World War as the first act of the Cold War. Although Japan was targeted, theweapons were aimed straight to the red heart of the USSR. For more than 70 years, the determining element of US foreign policy, virtually its sine qua non, has been “the communist factor”. World War II and a battlefield alliance with the Soviet Union did not bring about an ideological change in the anti-communists who owned and ran America. It merely provided a partial breather in a struggle that had begun with the US invasion of Russia in 1918. 18 It is hardly surprising then, that 25 years later, as the Soviets were sustaining the highest casualties of any nation in World War II, the US systematically kept them in the dark about the A-bomb project, while sharing information with the British.

According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, Secretary of State Byrnes had said that the bomb’s biggest benefit was not its effect on Japan but its power to “make Russia more manageable in Europe”. 19

General Leslie Groves, Director of the Manhattan Project, testified in 1954: “There was never, from about two weeks from the time I took charge of this Project, any illusion on my part but that Russia was our enemy, and that the Project was conducted on that basis.” 20

The United States was thinking post-war. A Venezuelan diplomat reported to his government after a May 1945 meeting that Assistant Secretary of State Nelson Rockefeller “communicated to us the anxiety of the United States Government about the Russian attitude”. US officials, he said, were “beginning to speak of Communism as they once spoke of Nazism and are invoking continental solidarity and hemispheric defense against it”. 21

Churchill, who had known about the weapon before Truman, understood its use: “Here then was a speedy end to the Second World War,” he said about the bomb, and added, thinking of Russian advances into Europe, “and perhaps to much else besides. … We now had something in our hands which would redress the balance with the Russians.” 21

Referring to the immediate aftermath of Nagasaki, Stimson wrote of what came to be known as “atomic diplomacy”:

In the State Department there developed a tendency to think of the bomb as a diplomatic weapon. Outraged by constant evidence of Russian perfidy, some of the men in charge of foreign policy were eager to carry the bomb for a while as their ace-in-the-hole. … American statesmen were eager for their country to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip. 23

“The psychological effect on Stalin [of the bombs] was twofold,” observed historian Charles L. Mee, Jr. “The Americans had not only used a doomsday machine they had used it when, as Stalin knew, it was not militarily necessary. It was this last chilling fact that doubtless made the greatest impression on the Russians.” 15

After the Enola Gay released its cargo on Hiroshima on August 6, common sense – common decency wouldn’t apply here – would have dictated a pause long enough to allow Japanese officials to travel to the city, confirm the extent of the destruction, and respond before the US dropped a second bomb.

At 11 o’clock in the morning of August 9, Prime Minister Kintaro Suzuki addressed the Japanese Cabinet: “Under the present circumstances I have concluded that our only alternative is to accept the Potsdam Proclamation and terminate the war.” Moments later, the second bomb fell on Nagasaki. 25 Some hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died in the two attacks many more suffered terrible injury and permanent genetic damage.

After the war, His Majesty the Emperor still sat on his throne, and the gentlemen who ran the United States had absolutely no problem with this. They never had.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 concluded:

It seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. 26

It has been argued, to the present day, that it wouldn’t have mattered if the United States had responded to the Japanese peace overtures because the emperor was merely a puppet of the military, and the military would never have surrendered without the use of the A-bombs. However, “the emperor as puppet” thesis was a creation out of whole cloth by General MacArthur, the military governor of Japan, to justify his personal wish that the emperor not be tried as a war criminal along with many other Japanese officials. 27

In any event, this does not, and can not, excuse the United States government for not at least trying what was, from humanity’s point of view, the clearly preferable option, replying seriously to the Japanese peace overtures. No matter how much power the military leaders had, the civil forces plainly had the power to put forth the overtures and their position could only have been enhanced by a positive American response.

Watch the video: A Tale of Two Narratives #2 - The First Casualty