What did the Japanese believe about the USA capability of making/using additional atomic bombs?

What did the Japanese believe about the USA capability of making/using additional atomic bombs?

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Clearly the Japanese believed that if they did not surrender another atomic bomb would be used on them.

However how soon did they believe this would happen?
And how many atomic bombs did they believe the USA would have access to?

I think you are formulating the debate in the wrong terms.

There were Japanese who correctly believed that the war was lost, nukes or no nukes.

There also were Japanese, who believed that an honorable settlement was still possible, through some far fetched pipe dream scheme like Soviet mediation or Kamikaze pilot wild successes.

Nukes gave the former a decisive argument against the latter. It did not really matter how many more bombs the US had. What did matter was that the latter group of Japanese leaders could no longer deny that their near future involved a complete extermination.

The Japanese had no real idea how many atomic bombs might be available. They had not had any specific knowledge of the Manhattan Project. Their scientists were aware of the possibility that such bombs could be built, and they had a small atomic weapons research project (it didn't get anywhere).

Once the first bomb was dropped, their scientists realised what had happened within about two days, although explaining it to the military and politicians was harder.

Using the second bomb relatively quickly may have been intended to give the impression that there were plenty more. Another would have been ready for August 19th, with three more in September and three in October.

Richard B Frank's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire is a pretty good source on this period.

Wikipedia has some information on that. First of all, since the Japanese did have their own nuclear project, they knew that separating uranium was slow and costly, and (correctly) understood that the US would only have a few bombs. In fact, second bomb was dropped shortly after the first partly with a specific goal of making the impression that the US had a large supply.

However, on August 8th, a US pilot Marcus McDilda was captured and, under torture, claimed that the US had 100 bombs and is intending to use them soon (in reality, he knew nothing relevant). Apparently, this was taken seriously by the Japanese, at least the war minister Anami informed the cabinet, influencing the surrender discussions.

Truman drops hint to Stalin about a "terrible" new weapon

On July 25, 1945, President Harry S. Truman hints to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin that the United States has successfully developed a new weapon. In his diary, Truman privately referred to the new weapon, the atomic bomb, as the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.

The United States had successfully tested the world’s first atomic weapon near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Truman received the news while in Potsdam, Germany, conferring with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on post-World War II policy in Europe. On July 17, Truman told Churchill of the test’s success and the two agreed to put off telling Stalin about what Truman called the dynamite news until later—Truman first wanted to get Stalin to agree to enter the Pacific war on the Allies’ side with no strings on it.

On July 25, after receiving Stalin’s pledge to join the U.S. in the war against Japan in the Pacific, Truman casually informed the Soviet leader that the United States had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. Although Stalin did not appear to be impressed by the news, Truman hoped the information would increase the pressure on Stalin to concede to the Allies’ demands regarding the post-war division of Europe.

In his diary entry for July 25, Truman wrote that the new weapon would be used against military targets in Japan before August 10. He specifically mentioned avoiding women and children and mused it is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb.

Why Did the US Drop the Bomb?

Why did the United States drop the bomb on Japan in August 1945? Was Japan a threat? Or more disturbingly, was the U.S. just testing out its power?

In 1945, most people in the United States had no doubt that it was necessary to bomb Japan. The citizens of the United States thought that the bombings brought about the end of the Pacific war, and saved countless lives (Frank, 2005). At the time of the bombing, 50 million people had already died in World War II (Kingsbury, 2005). On the other hand, some critics state that Japan&aposs situation in 1945 was already "catastrophically hopeless," and that prior to the bombing, in summer 1945, Japanese leaders were preparing to surrender. It has even been suggested that the United States had decoded Japan&aposs messages, and was aware of the impending surrender when they dropped the bomb if true, this would mean the horrors unleashed on Hiroshima were completely unnecessary. Lastly, and most disturbingly, it has been suggested that President Truman dropped the bomb to intimidate the USSR (Frank, 2005). It is likely that we will never know the complete truth of why the bomb was dropped, but what is distressingly clear are the facts of what came after the bomb.

Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary?

Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, at the fag end of World War II. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. This was the second atomic bomb dropped by the US, the first being on Hiroshima on August 6. The two bombs together killed at least 1,29,000 people, most of whom died on the day of the bombing. Many survivors died later through radioactive injuries which had no cure.

The two bombings are the only times nuclear weapons have ever been used in history. Following the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan quickly surrendered, virtually ending World War II.

It has been often believed that the use of the bomb caused Japan to surrender. However, not all historians, scholars and military men agree that it was justified or necessary to use this weapon of war.

There has always been a debate on the necessity of the bomb, but its implications were so severe that such an attack has never been carried out again. Let us examine some of the arguments for and against the bomb.

The first argument in favour of the US action is that the Allied Powers estimated that Japan would fight out a long and bloody war if a decisive weapon was not used. The Allies, consisting of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union in essence, realised that Japan was ready to fight until there was mass destruction of the country or a military coup overthrew the emperor Hirohito.

By August 1945, Germany had surrendered and the war in the Pacific refocused mainly on Japan. The Allies had planned an invasion of Japan in the autumn of 1945, code named Operation Downfall. This operation was divided into Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet. Set to begin in October 1945, Operation Olympic was intended to capture the southern third of the southernmost main Japanese island, Kyushu. Operation Coronet was supposed to target the Konto Plain near Tokyo, and was planned for spring in 1946.

However, the Allied military chiefs, especially of the US and Britain, believed that Operation Downfall would result in many military and civilian casualties on both sides. US President Harry Truman had been informed that US military casualties could range from 2,50,000 to 1 million - depending upon the length of Operation Downfall. Some estimates put the figure at 1.6 million. In addition, Japan was expected to lose up to as many as 10 million men. The conservative estimate was 2,00,000 to 3 million Japanese. Some 400,000 additional Japanese deaths might have been suffered in the expected Russian invasion of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands. Russia however did not possess the naval capability to take Hokkaido, which could further prolong the war.

This was the first reason provided for seeking a 'quick end' to the war through the use of atomic weapons.

The second reason was the attitude of the Japanese government to war. Under a National Mobilization Law passed in 1938, Japan engaged in a 'total war', meaning that the war was not restricted to the military of Japan. It involved the diversion of all resources, money and materials to the war effort. But most horrifyingly, it involved the use of noncombatants - civilians - as soldiers to fight the war. Essentially, the entire able population of Japan was expected to fight a lethal war. In fact, the Japanese armed ordinary civilians with a wide range of weapons. Some of these were as crude as bamboo spears, but in other cases, civilians strapped explosives to their bodies and blew themselves in front of advancing armies. Lakhs of Japanese also died by ritual sacrifice, as a traditional code of honour meant surrender was considered intolerable. There was a philosophical argument that Japanese civilians were not innocent non-combatants once they took up weapons in a total war.

It is often questioned whether the bombing of Nagasaki was necessary after Hiroshima had been destroyed. The Western powers however felt that Japan would not be cowed by a one-off bombing. Indeed, the Japanese leaders refused to acknowledge that a nuclear weapon had been used on Hiroshima in the days following August 6. There was an erroneous belief that the US possessed just one bomb and that they would take a long time to create another. Thus, the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki was intended to scare the Japanese into believing that the US possessed many such devices. Indeed, the US had prepared for the use of a third bomb on August 19, and a fourth in September.

Another theory put forth for the use of the atomic weapons was the growing bitterness between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was becoming increasingly clear from the conduct of the Soviet Union that there would be a split within the allies following the war. The United States and Britain felt that the Soviets were not to be trusted, and a demonstration of Western military power was necessary to avoid Soviet Communist expansionism in the east. This view has never been publicly admitted by heads of state in the US and UK, but several scholars suggest that the US wanted to demonstrate military superiority in the Pacific, not far from the borders of the Soviet Union, in order to cow it into submission after the war. Many issues such as repatriation of POWs, division of captured and disputed territory etc would come up in the aftermath of the war, and the US desired to have an upper hand in negotiations. Thus, some scholars feel that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a way to pre-empt Soviet dreams of Communist expansionism.

Additionally, the US and Britain wrongly believed that the Soviet Union had no clue about the development of an extremely powerful, new weapon of war - the atomic bomb. But the Soviets had already discovered the US, British and Canadian nuclear project - the Manhattan Project - through a well-entrenched network of spies working in the West. The Western powers, ignorant to this reality felt that the Soviet Union would be shocked by the use of a nuclear weapon.

US President Harry Truman should however, had smelt a rat at the Potsdam Conference, when he hinted to Joseph Stalin about the West developing a top-secret, all-powerful weapon. Joseph Stalin showed remarkably little interest in this information, something that struck Truman as strange.

Opponents of the use of the atomic bomb site this as one of their central arguments. They argue that in retrospect, the Soviet knowledge about the nuclear project rendered the bombing useless from a strategic point of view.

One interesting factor in the strategic equation was the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. The Japanese, at the beginning of the war sought a pact with the Soviet Union, in the face on rapidly deteriorating relations with the USA and the never-ending war with China. It was felt in Japan that the country could secure its northern frontier against the Soviets, who had entered the war on the Allied side. Stalin signed the treaty because he believed it would ensure that the USSR did not have to fight a land war against Germany as well as a war in or against Japan.

Crucially, the USSR had not been a signatory to the Potsdam declaration which called for unconditional Japanese surrender. Japan had always intended to use the neutrality pact to enable a negotiated settlement with the Western powers in case the country found itself unable to win the war. When such an eventuality did arise in 1945, Japan made overtures to the USSR for negotiations with the Western powers. The USSR however decided not to renew this treaty in April 1945, indicating to the Japanese that the treaty would be void after the mandatory 12-month notice period. Then they resorted to delaying tactics. Concurrently, the US and UK had extracted a promise from Stalin (in exchange for many concessions) that the USSR would attack Japan in the face of an Allied invasion. In fact, the Soviets unilaterally broke the pact in August, just following the bombing of Hiroshima, and invaded Manchuria on August 8.

How does this undermine the impact of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Some scholars have argued that it was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria which ended the war, because it suddenly convinced Japan that no negotiated settlement with the Western powers was possible. It is said that emperor Hirohito was unmoved by the destruction of Hiroshima, but balked when the USSR invaded.

Second, some military experts argue that the firebombing of Japanese cities from late 1944 had been far more destructive than the use of a nuclear weapon. Firebombing killed lakhs of Japanese armymen and civilians, an effect not nearly achieved by the nuclear bomb. As fires spread through cities, death and destruction multiplied.

There is a conspiracy theory that the Japanese themselves were engaged in exploring the possibility of a nuclear weapon. This theory has been discredited though, not least because the Japanese nuclear programme was in its infancy when the US already possessed plutonium and uranium bombs.

The ethical concerns of using a nuclear device can never be missed. Pacifists have argued that the use of a weapon of mass destruction was bound to kill innocent civilians in huge numbers, and it did. The fact that Hiroshima was an army base was not sufficient excuse for the use of such a powerful weapon. Moreover, the effects of the atomic bombings lasted decades, even generations. Japanese citizens even today continue to suffer from the radioactive effects of the bomb.

There is a theory that the US used Hiroshima and Nagasaki as testing grounds for the new weapon. It is horrifying to think that millions of non-combatants were used as guinea pigs for a cruel Allied experiment. Interestingly, the Allies kept Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto and some other Japanese cities untouched by conventional bombing in the autumn and winter of 1944-45. It is alleged that some cities including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto and Tokyo had already been designated as test cases for the subsequent use of the nuclear weapon.

Some have argued that the US action constituted state terrorism, and even genocide. The use of the N-bomb would have been completely incompatible with modern standards of war, and international laws governing war. During World War II, laws against massacre of civilians through land and sea attacks existed, but there were very few injunctions against an aerial strike on non combatants.

The use of the nuclear weapon did not surprise the Soviet Union, but it did spur them into action. By 1949, Soviet scientists had developed the country's first nuclear bomb. What followed was a nuclear arms race during the Cold War. Additionally, the nuclear secret was exported to other countries, prominently by rogue scientists such as AQ Khan. Eventually, North Korea, Israel and even South Africa at one point claimed to have nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan became nuclear weapons states by 1998, thus militarising the subcontinent.

The present nuclear warheads are capable of far greater and more lasting destruction than the first two atomic bombs could ever achieve. The prospect of global destruction is very real in the present age. The very fact that nuclear weapons have never been used after 1945 reveals how horrific and total their consequences are. Nevertheless, these weapons continue to exist and the world is now constantly engaged in preventing both proliferation and the passage of nuclear secrets into the hands of global terrorists.


Bioweapons Edit

Japan became interested in obtaining biological weapons during the early 1930s. [1] Following an international ban on germ warfare in 1925 by the Geneva Protocol Japan reasoned that disease epidemics must make effective weapons. [1] Japan developed new methods of biological warfare (BW) and used them on a large scale in China. [2] During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and World War II, Unit 731 and other Special Research Units of the Imperial Japanese Army conducted human experimentation on thousands, mostly Chinese, Korean, Russian, American, and other nationalities as well as some Japanese criminals from the Japanese mainlands. [3] In military campaigns, the Japanese army used biological weapons on Chinese soldiers and civilians. [4]

Japan's infamous biological warfare Unit 731 was led by Lt. General Shirō Ishii. [2] Unit 731 used plague-infected fleas and flies covered with cholera to infect the population in China. [2] The Japanese military dispersed insects by spraying them from low-flying airplanes and dropping ceramic bombs they had developed that were filled with mixtures containing insects and diseases that could affect humans, animals, and crops. [5] Localized and deadly epidemics resulted and an estimated 200,000 [1] to 500,000 Chinese died of disease. [2] [6] Recent additional firsthand accounts testify the Japanese infected civilians through the distribution of plague-infested foodstuffs, such as dumplings and vegetables. [4] During the Changde chemical weapon attacks, the Japanese also employed biological warfare by intentionally spreading infected fleas. [1] In Zhejiang Province cholera, dysentery, and typhoid were employed. [1] Harbin also suffered Japanese biological attacks. [1] Other battles include the Kaimingye germ weapon attack in Ningbo. [1]

Japan sent a submarine with unspecified biological weapons early in 1944 to defend the island of Saipan from American invasion however the submarine was sunk. [1]

Another attack against American troops with biological weapons was planned during the invasion of Iwo Jima. The planned involved towing gliders laden with pathogens over the American lines. However, this plan never took shape. Had it succeeded, thousands of American soldiers and marines may have died, and the operation as a whole may very well have failed.

Japan's biowarfare experts had hoped to launch biological attacks on the U.S. in 1944 with balloon bombs filled with bubonic plague, anthrax, rinderpest, and smut fungus. [1] A 1945-planned kamikaze attack on San Diego with I-400-class submarine aircraft carriers that would deploy Aichi M6As floatplanes and drop fleas infected with bubonic plague was code-named Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night. [1] The plans were rejected by Hideki Tojo who feared similar retaliation by the United States. [1]

Japanese scientists from Unit 731 provided research information for the United States biological weapons program in order to escape war crimes charges. [1] Bob Dohini, a former war crimes prosecution team lawyer, recently claimed that there was no mention of germ warfare in the investigation of war Japanese crimes. [7] The fact was not well known until the 1980s. Japan's emperor was unable to be tried. Later revelations indicated his knowledge of the program. [7]

Japan's employment of BW was largely viewed as ineffective, due to the absence of efficient production or delivery technology. [4] The U.S. government provided a stipend to the Japanese BW military scientists and researches. [1] Japanese biological warfare information provided to U.S. authorities after World War II remained a secret and was eventually returned to Japan. [8]

Right-wing Japanese officials claim that no proof of Japan's wartime atrocities exists. [7]

In August 2002, a Japanese court ended decades of official denials and acknowledged, for the first time, that Japan had used germ warfare in occupied China in the 1930s and 1940s. [8] The court acknowledged the existence of Japan's biological warfare program but rejected the plaintiffs' demands for compensation, saying the issue was covered under postwar treaties. [8] Following the court decision, Japanese officials announced that their government would send a delegation to China to excavate and remove hundreds of abandoned chemical weapons, including bombs, shells, and containers of mustard gas and other toxins left over from the Second World War. [8]

Chemical weapons Edit

The Japanese used mustard gas and the blister agent Lewisite, against Chinese troops and guerillas in China, amongst others during the Changde chemical weapon attack.

Experiments involving chemical weapons were conducted on live prisoners (Unit 516). As of 2005, 60 years after the end of the war, canisters that were abandoned by Japan in their hasty retreat are still being dug up in construction sites, causing injuries and allegedly even deaths.

Several chemical attacks on various people using VX gas and sarin and the Tokyo subway sarin attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, were perpetrated by members of the cult movement Aum Shinrikyo in acts of domestic terrorism. A large stockpile of other chemical agents and precursor chemicals were later found in raids on their facilities.

In 1995, JGSDF admitted possession of sarin samples for defense purposes. [ citation needed ]

Japan had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in December 1993. Japan ratified The Chemical Weapons Convention in 1995 and was thus a state party upon it entering into force in 1997. [9]

Nuclear weapons Edit

A Japanese program to develop nuclear weapons was conducted during World War II. Like the German nuclear weapons program, it suffered from an array of problems, and was ultimately unable to progress beyond the laboratory stage before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

The postwar Constitution forbids the establishment of offensive military forces, but not nuclear weapons explicitly. In 1967 it adopted the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, ruling out the production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons. Japan signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in February 1970. [10]

While there are currently no known plans in Japan to produce nuclear weapons, it has been argued that Japan has the technology, raw materials, and the capital to produce nuclear weapons within one year if necessary, and some analysts consider it a de facto nuclear state for this reason. [11] For this reason Japan is often said to be a "screwdriver's turn" [12] [13] away from possessing nuclear weapons.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election it was proposed by GOP candidates to allow both Japan and the Republic of Korea to develop nuclear weapons to counter a North Korean missile threat. [14]

Delivery systems Edit

Solid fuel rockets are the design of choice for military applications as they can remain in storage for long periods, and then reliably launch at short notice.

Lawmakers made national security arguments for keeping Japan's solid-fuel rocket technology alive after ISAS was merged into the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which also has the H-IIA liquid-fueled rocket, in 2003. The ISAS director of external affairs, Yasunori Matogawa, said, "It seems the hard-line national security proponents in parliament are increasing their influence, and they aren't getting much criticism…I think we’re moving into a very dangerous period. When you consider the current environment and the threat from North Korea, it’s scary." [15]

Toshiyuki Shikata, a government adviser and former lieutenant general, indicated that part of the rationale for the fifth M-V Hayabusa mission was that the reentry and landing of its return capsule demonstrated "that Japan's ballistic missile capability is credible." [16]

At a technical level the M-V design could be weaponised quickly (as an Intercontinental ballistic missile) although this would be politically unlikely. [17]

In response to the perceived threat from North Korean-launched ballistic missiles, Japanese government officials have proposed developing a first strike capability for Japan's military that includes ballistic and cruise missiles. [18]

The threat of North Korea-based ballistic missiles that are within range of Japan have guided Japanese and U.S. defense and deterrence strategies. [18]

South Korean interest in developing an atomic bomb began in 1950. The interest was partially a result of the rapid surrender of Korea's then-enemy Japan following use of atomic bombs in World War II. Post-war aggression from the North and from the People's Republic of China solidified that interest. A South Korean nuclear facility began to reprocess fuel and enrich plutonium based on the observation that Japan was also producing it. [14]

In late 1958, nuclear weapons were deployed by the U.S. from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea in order to oppose military actions by the People's Republic of China during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. [19]

Okinawa has long been viewed as a stepping-stone to force open the remainder of Japan and Asia. Commodore Perry's gunboat diplomacy expedition to open Japan to U.S. trade began in Okinawa in 1852.

By the early 1950s and the outbreak of the Korean War, Okinawa was seen as America's Gibraltar of the Pacific. [20]

U.S. bioweapons and Japan Edit

In 1939, the U.S. State Department reported that a Japanese Army physician in New York City had attempted to obtain a Yellow fever virus sample from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. The incident contributed to a sense of urgency in the United States to research a BW capability. By 1942 George W. Merck, president of Merck and Company, was made chairman of the War Research Service which was established to oversee the U.S. development of BW-related technology at Camp Detrick. [21]

After World War II ended, a U.S. War Departments report notes that "in addition to the results of human experimentation much data is available from the Japanese experiments on animals and food crops". [22] The technical information of Japan's BW program participants was transferred into U.S. intelligence agencies and BW programs in exchange for immunity for war crimes charges. [1] [21]

Korean War allegations Edit

In 1951, the first of many allegations were made against the United States by the communist belligerent nations in the Korean war of employing biological warfare using various techniques in attacks launched from bases on Okinawa. [4]

U.S. anti-plant biological weapons research Edit

In 1945 Japan's rice crop was terribly affected by rice blast disease. The outbreak as well as another in Germany's potato crop coincided with covert Allied research in these areas. The timing of these outbreaks generated persistent speculation of some connection between the events however the rumors were never proven and the outbreaks could have been naturally occurring. [23]

Sheldon H. Harris in Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932–1945, and the American Cover Up wrote:

This was at least one year prior to the creation of Project 112. The Okinawa anti-crop research project may lend some insight to the larger projects Project 112 sponsored. BW experts in Okinawa and "at several sites in the Midwest and South" conducted in 1961 "field tests" for wheat rust and rice blast disease. These tests met with "partial success" in the gathering of data, and led, therefore, to a significant increase in research dollars in fiscal year 1962 to conduct additional research in these areas. The money was devoted largely to developing "technical advice on the conduct of defoliation and anti-crop activities in Southeast Asia." [4] : 232–233

U.S. anti-plant chemical agents research Edit

During the Second World War limited test use of aerial spray delivery systems was employed only on several Japanese-controlled tropical islands to demarcate points for navigation and to kill dense island foliage. Despite the availability of the spray equipment, herbicide application with aerial chemical delivery systems were not systematically implemented in the Pacific theater during the war. [24]

At the close of World War Two, the U.S. planned to attack Japan's food supply with anti-crop chemical agents and by July 1945 had stockpiled an amount of chemicals "sufficient to destroy one-tenth of the rice crop of Japan." [25] However, logistical problems would have reduced that estimate. [25]

In addition to work done in the anti-crop theater during the Cold War, the screening program for chemical defoliants was greatly accelerated. By the end of fiscal year 1962, the Chemical Corps had let or were negotiating contracts for over one thousand chemical defoliants. [26] "The Okinawa tests evidently were fruitful." [4] The presence of so-called rainbow herbicides such as Agent Orange has been widely reported on Okinawa as well as at other locations in Japan. The U.S. government disputes these assertions and the issues surrounding the subject of military use anti-plant agents in Japan during the 1950s through the 1970s remains a controversy.

Arthropod vector research Edit

At Kadena Air Force Base, an Entomology Branch of the U.S. Army Preventive Medicine Activity, U.S. Army Medical Center was used to grow "medically important" arthropods, including many strains of mosquitoes in a study of disease vector efficiency. [27] The program reportedly supported a research program studying taxonomic and ecological data surveys for the Smithsonian Institution." [27] The Smithsonian Institution and The National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council administered special research projects in the Pacific. [28] The Far East Section of the Office of the Foreign Secretary administered two such projects which focused "on the flora of Okinawa" and "trapping of airborne insects and arthropods for the study of the natural dispersal of insects and arthropods over the ocean." [28] : 59 The motivation for civilian research programs of this nature was questioned when it was learned that such international research was in fact funded by and provided to the U.S. Army as requirement related to the U.S. military's biological warfare research. [29] [30]

Weather modification research Edit

Operation Pop Eye / Motorpool / Intermediary-Compatriot was a highly classified weather modification program in Southeast Asia during 1967-1972 that was developed from cloud seeding research conducted on Okinawa and other tropical locations. A report titled Rainmaking in SEASIA outlines use of silver iodide deployed by aircraft in a program that was developed in California at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The technique was refined and tested in Okinawa, Guam, Philippines, Texas, and Florida in a hurricane study program called Project Stormfury. [31] [32]

The chemical weather modification program was conducted from Thailand over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The program was allegedly sponsored by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency without the authorization of Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. Laird had categorically denied to Congress that a program for modification of the weather existed. [33] The program employed cloud seeding as a weapon which was used to induce rain and extend the East Asian Monsoon season in support of U.S. government strategic efforts related to the War in Southeast Asia. The use of a military weather control program was related to the destruction of enemy food crops. [34] Whether the use of a weather modification program was directly related to any of the chemical and biological warfare programs is not documented. However, it is certain that some of the military herbicides in use in Vietnam required rainfall to be absorbed.

In theory, any CBW program employing fungus spores or a mosquito vector would have also benefited from prolonged periods of rain. Rice blast sporulation on diseased leaves occurs when relative humidity approaches 100%. Laboratory measurements indicate sporulation increases with the length of time 100% relative humidity prevails. [35] The Aedes aegypti mosquito lays eggs and requires standing water to reproduce. Approximately three days after it feeds on blood, the mosquito lays her eggs over a period of several days. The eggs are resistant to desiccation and can survive for periods of six or more months. When rain floods the eggs with water, the larvae hatch. [36]

U.S. chemical weapons and Japan Edit

U.S. chemical weapons in Japan were deployed to Okinawa in the early 1950s. The Red Hat mission deployed additional chemical agents in three military operations code named YBA, YBB, and YBF. The operation deployed chemical agents to the 267th Chemical Platoon on Okinawa during the early 1960s under Project 112. [37] The shipments, according to declassified documents, included sarin, VX, and mustard gas. By 1969, according to later newspaper reports, there was an estimated 1.9 million kg (1,900 metric tons) of VX stored on Okinawa. [38] The chemical weapons brought to Okinawa included nerve and blister agents contained in rockets, artillery shells, bombs, mines, and one-ton (900 kg) containers. The chemicals were stored at Chibana Ammunition Depot. The depot was a hill-top installation next to Kadena Air Base. [38]

In 1969, over 20 servicemen (23 U.S. soldiers and one U.S. civilian, according to other reports) were exposed to low levels of the nerve agent sarin while sandblasting and repainting storage containers. [38] The resultant publicity appears to have contributed to the decision to move the weapons off Okinawa. The U.S. then government directed relocation of chemical munitions. The chemical warfare agents were removed from Okinawa in 1971 during Operation Red Hat. Operation Red Hat involved the removal of chemical warfare munitions from Okinawa to Johnston Atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean. [39] An official U.S. film on the mission says that 'safety was the primary concern during the operation,' though Japanese resentment of U.S. military activities on Okinawa also complicated the situation. At the technical level, time pressures imposed to complete the mission, the heat, and water rationing problems also complicated the planning. [39]

The initial phase of Operation Red Hat involved the movement of chemical munitions from a depot storage site to Tengan Pier, eight miles away, and required 1,332 trailers in 148 convoys. The second phase of the operation moved the munitions to Johnston Atoll. [40] The Army leased 41 acres (170,000 m 2 ) on Johnston. Phase I of the operation took place in January and moved 150 tons of distilled mustard agent. The USNS Lt. James E. Robinson (T-AK-274) arrived at Johnston Atoll with the first load of projectiles on January 13, 1971. Phase II completed cargo discharge to Johnston Atoll with five moves of the remaining 12,500 tons of munitions, in August and September 1971. [41] Units operating under United States Army Ryukyu Islands (USARYIS) were 2nd Logistical Command and the 267th Chemical Company, the 5th and 196th Ordnance Detachments (EOD), and the 175th Ordnance Detachment.

Originally, it was planned that the munitions be moved to Umatilla Chemical Depot but this never happened due to public opposition and political pressure. [42] The Congress passed legislation on January 12, 1971 (PL 91-672) that prohibited the transfer of nerve agent, mustard agent, agent orange and other chemical munitions to all 50 U.S. states. [43] In 1985 the U.S. Congress mandated that all chemical weapons stockpiled at Johnston Atoll, mostly mustard gas, Sarin, and VX gas, be destroyed. [44] Prior to the beginning of destruction operations, Johnston Atoll held about 6.6 percent of the entire U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons. [45] The Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) was built to destroy all the chemical munitions stored on Johnston island. [46] The first weapon disposal incineration operation took place on June 30, 1990. The last munitions were destroyed in 2000.

U.S. nuclear weapons and Japan Edit

The intensity of the fighting and the high number of casualties during the Battle of Okinawa formed the basis of the casualty estimates projected for the invasion of Japan that led to the decision to launch the atomic bombing of Japan. Atomic bombs were deployed in order to avoid having “an[nother] Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.” [47]

The atomic age on Japan's southern islands began during the final weeks of the war when the U.S. Army Air Force launched two atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki from bases on Tinian in the Marianas Islands. Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped the Fat Man nuclear weapon on Nagasaki, landed at Yontan Airfield on Okinawa on August 9, 1945. [48] The U.S. military immediately began constructing a second B-29 base and a facility for atom bomb processing in Okinawa to be completed in September 1945 that would open more targets in mainland Japan. [49]

U.S. nuclear weapon atmospheric testing Edit

Japanese naval warships captured by the U.S. after Japan's surrender in World War II, including the Nagato, were used as target ships and destroyed in 1946 in nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads. The atomic testing was conducted in the Marshall Islands group that U.S. forces captured in early 1944 from the Japanese. [50]

The first hydrogen bomb detonation, known as Castle Bravo, contaminated Japanese fisherman on the Daigo Fukuryū Maru with nuclear fallout on March 4, 1954. The incident further rallied a powerful anti-nuclear movement.

Nuclear weapons agreements Edit

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, written by MacArthur immediately after the war, does not explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons. But when the U.S. military occupation of Japan ended in 1951, a new security treaty was signed that granted the United States rights to base its "land, sea, and air forces in and about Japan." [51]

It is true that Chichi Jima, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were under U.S. occupation, that the bombs stored on the mainland lacked their plutonium and/or uranium cores, and that the nuclear-armed ships were a legal inch away from Japanese soil. All in all, this elaborate strategem maintained the technicality that the United States had no nuclear weapons "in Japan." [51]

In 1959, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi stated that Japan would neither develop nuclear weapons nor permit them on its territory". [51] He instituted the Three Non-Nuclear Principles--"no production, no possession, and no introduction."

But when these non-nuclear principles were being enunciated, Japanese territory was already fully compromised, in spirit if not in letter. Although actual nuclear weapons were removed from Iwo Jima at the end of 1959, Chichi Jima, which had the same legal status, continued to house warheads with their nuclear materials until 1965. And Okinawa, of course, was chock-a-block full of nuclear weapons of all types until 1972. Nuclear-armed ships moored at U.S. Navy bases in Japan, and others called at Japanese ports without restriction. Yet, as compromised as it was, Japan's non-nuclear policy was not wholly fictitious. The Pentagon never commanded nuclear storage rights on the main islands, and it had to withdraw nuclear weapons from Okinawa in 1972. Undoubtedly, Japanese rulers firmly believed that the compromises they made with Washington were necessary for Japanese security during the dark days of the Cold War. Through it all, nonetheless, "non-nuclear Japan" was a sentiment, not a reality. [51]

A 1960 accord with Japan permits the United States to move weapons of mass destruction through Japanese territory and allows American warships and submarines to carry nuclear weapons into Japan's ports and American aircraft to bring them in during landings. [52] [53] [54] The discussion took place during negotiations in 1959, and the agreement was made in 1960 by Aiichiro Fujiyama, then Japan's Foreign Minister. [53] "There were many things left unsaid it was a very sophisticated negotiation. The Japanese are masters at understood and unspoken communication in which one is asked to draw inferences from what may not be articulated." [53]

The secret agreement was concluded without any Japanese text so that it could be plausibly denied in Japan. [51] [53] Since only the American officials recorded the oral agreement, not having the agreement recorded in Japanese allowed Japan's leaders to deny its existence without fear that someone would leak a document to prove them wrong. [53] The arrangement also made it appear that the United States alone was responsible for the transit of nuclear munitions through Japan. [53] However, the original agreement document turned up in 1969 during preparation for an updated agreement, when a memorandum was written by a group of U.S. officials from the National Security Council Staff the Departments of State, Defense, Army, Commerce and Treasury the Joint Chiefs of Staff the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Information Agency. [52] [53] [54]

A 1963 Central Intelligence Agency National Intelligence Estimate stated that: '. US bases in Japan and related problems of weapons and forces will continue to involve issues of great sensitivity in Japan-US relations. The government is bound to be responsive to the popular pressures which the left can whip up on these issues. We do not believe that this situation will lead to demands by any conservative government for evacuation of the bases.' [55]

During the early parts of the Cold War the Bonin Islands including Chichi Jima, the Ryukyu Islands including Okinawa, and the Volcano Islands including Iwo Jima were retained under American control. The islands were among "thirteen separate locations in Japan that had nuclear weapons or components, or were earmarked to receive nuclear weapons in times of crisis or war." [51] According to a former U.S. Air Force officer stationed on Iwo Jima, the island would have served as a recovery facility for bombers after they had dropped their bombs in the Soviet Union or China. War planners reasoned that bombers could return Iwo Jima, "where they would be refueled, reloaded, and readied to deliver a second salvo as an assumption was that the major U.S. Bases in Japan and the Pacific theater would be destroyed in a nuclear war." It was believed by war planners that a small base might evade destruction and be a safe harbor for surviving submarines to reload. Supplies to re-equip submarines as well as Anti-submarine weapons were stored within caves on Chichi Jima. The Johnson administration gradually realized that it would be forced to return Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima "to delay reversion of the more important Okinawa bases" however, President Johnson also wanted Japan's support for U.S. Military operations in Southeast Asia." The Bonin and Volcano islands were eventually returned to Japan in June 1968. [51]

Prime Minister Eisaku Satō and Foreign Minister Takeo Miki had explained to the Japanese parliament that "the return of the Bonins had nothing to do with nuclear weapons yet the final agreement included a secret annex, and its exact wording remained classified." A December 30, 1968, cable from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo is titled "Bonin Agreement Nuclear Storage," but within the same file "the National Archives contains a 'withdrawal sheet' for an attached Tokyo cable dated April 10, 1968, titled 'Bonins Agreement--Secret Annex,'". [51]

On the one year anniversary of the B-52 crash and explosion at Kadena Prime Minister Sato and President Nixon met in Washington, DC where several agreements including a revised Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a formal policy related to the future deployment of nuclear weapons on Okinawa were reached. [56]

A draft of the November 21st, 1969, Agreed Minute to Joint Communique of United States President Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Sato was found in 1994. "The existence of this document has never been officially recognized by the Japanese or U.S. governments." The English text of the draft agreement reads: [56]

As stated in our Joint Communique, it is the intention of the United States Government to remove all the nuclear weapons from Okinawa by the time of actual reversion of the administrative rights to Japan and thereafter the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and its related arrangements will apply to Okinawa, as described in the Joint Communique. However, in order to discharge effectively the international obligations assumed by the United States for the defense of countries in the Far East including Japan, in time of great emergency the United States Government will require the re-entry of nuclear weapons and transit rights in Okinawa with prior consultation with the Government of Japan. The United States Government would anticipate a favorable response. The United States Government also requires the standby retention and activation in time of great emergency of existing nuclear storage locations in Okinawa: Kadena, Naha, Henoko, and the Nike Hercules units.

The Government of Japan, appreciating the United States Government's requirements in time of great emergency stated above by the President, will meet these requirements without delay when such prior consultation takes place. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that this Minute, in duplicate, be kept each only in the offices of the President and the Prime Minister and be treated in the strictest confidence between only the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan.

Alleged nuclear weapons incidents on Okinawa Edit

Complete information surrounding U.S. nuclear accidents is not generally available via official channels. [52] [56] [57] [58] News of accidents on the island usually did not reach much farther than the islands local news, protest groups, eyewitnesses and rumor mills. However, the incidents that were publicized garnered international opposition to chemical and nuclear weapons and set the stage for the 1971 Okinawa Reversion Agreement to officially ending the U.S. military occupation on Okinawa. [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64]

32 Mace Missiles were kept on constant nuclear alert in hardened hangars at four of the island's launch sites. [19] The 280mm M65 Atomic Cannon nicknamed "Atomic Annie" and the projectiles it fired were also based here. [66] Okinawa at one point hosted as many as 1,200 nuclear warheads. [67] At the time, nuclear storage locations existed at Kadena AFB in Chibana and the hardened MGM-13 MACE missile launch sites Naha AFB, Henoko [Camp Henoko (Ordnance Ammunition Depot) at Camp Schwab], and the Nike Hercules units on Okinawa. [56]

In June or July 1959, a MIM-14 Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile was accidentally fired from the Nike site 8 battery at Naha Air Base on Okinawa which according to some witnesses, was complete with a nuclear warhead. [68] While the missile was undergoing continuity testing of the firing circuit, known as a squib test, stray voltage caused a short circuit in a faulty cable that was lying in a puddle and allowed the missile's rocket engines to ignite with the launcher still in a horizontal position. [68] The Nike missile left the launcher and smashed through a fence and down into a beach area skipping the warhead out across the water "like a stone." [68] The rocket's exhaust blast killed two Army technicians and injured one. [68] A similar accidental launch of a Nike-H missile had occurred on April 14, 1955, at the W-25 site in Davidsonville, Maryland, which is near the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort George G. Meade. [69]

On October 28, 1962, during the peak of Cuban Missile Crisis U.S. Strategic Forces were at Defense Condition Two or DEFCON 2. According to missile technicians who witnessed events, the four MACE B missile sites on Okinawa erroneously received coded launch orders to fire all of their 32 nuclear cruise missiles at the Soviets and their allies. Quick thinking by Capt. William Bassett who questioned whether the order was "the real thing, or the biggest screw up we will ever experience in our lifetime” delayed the orders to launch until the error was realized by the missile operations center. According to witness John Bordne, Capt. Bassett was the senior field officer commanding the missiles and was nearly forced to have a subordinate lieutenant who was intent on following the orders to launch his missiles shot by armed security guards. No U.S. Government record of this incident has ever been officially released. [70] [71] Former missileers have refuted Bordne's account. [72]

Next, on December 5, 1965, off of the coast of Okinawa, an A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft rolled off of an elevator of the aircraft carrier the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) into 16,000 feet of water resulting in the loss of the pilot, the aircraft, and the B43 nuclear bomb it was carrying, all of which were too deep for recovery. [73] Since the ship was traveling to Japan from duty in the Vietnam war zone, no public mention was made of the incident at the time and it would not come to light until 1981 when a Pentagon report revealed that a one-megaton bomb had been lost. [74] Japan then formally asked for details of the incident. [75]

Last, In September 1968, Japanese newspapers reported that radioactive Cobalt-60 had been detected contaminating portions of the Naha Port Facility, sickening three. The radioactive contamination was believed by scientists to have emanated from visiting U.S. nuclear submarines. [76]

B-52 Crash at Kadena Air Base (1968) Edit

Finally, on November 19, 1968, a U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 Stratofortress (registration number 55-01030) with a full bomb load, broke up and caught fire after the plane aborted takeoff at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa while it was conducting an Operation Arc Light bombing mission to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. [62] [77] The plane's pilot was able to keep the plane on the ground and bring the aircraft to a stop while preventing a much larger catastrophe. [59] The aircraft came to rest near the edge of the Kadena's perimeter, some 250 meters from the Chibana Ammunition Depot. [59] [77]

The fire resulting from the aborted takeoff ignited the plane's fuel and detonated the plane's 30,000-pound (13,600 kg) bomb load, causing a blast so powerful that it created a crater under the burning aircraft some thirty feet deep and sixty feet across. [77] The blast blew out the windows in the dispensary at Naha Air Base (now Naha Airport), 23 miles (37 km) away and damaged 139 houses. [59] [62] The plane was reduced "to a black spot on the runway" [62] The blast was so large that Air Force spokesman had to announce that there had only been conventional bombs on board the plane. [63] Nothing remained of the aircraft except the landing gear and engine assemblies, a few bombs, and some loose explosive that had not detonated. [59] [77] Very small fragments of aircraft metal from the enormous blast were "spread like confetti," leaving the crew to use a double entendre to refer to the cleanup work, calling it, "'52 Pickup." [59] The planes Electronic Warfare Officer and the Crew Chief later died from burn injuries after being evacuated from Okinawa. [59] [77] Two Okinawan workers were also injured in the blasts. [62]

Had the plane become airborne, only seconds later it would have crashed farther north of the runway and directly into the Chibana Ammunition Depot, [59] which stored ammunition, bombs, high explosives, tens of thousands of artillery shells, and warheads for 19 different atomic and thermonuclear weapons systems in the hardened weapon storage areas. [66] The depot held the Mark 28 nuclear bomb warheads used in the MGM-13 Mace cruise missile as well as warheads for nuclear tipped MGR-1 Honest John and MIM-14 Nike-Hercules (Nike-H) missiles. [66] The depot also included 52 igloos in the Red Hat Storage Area containing Project Red Hat's chemical weapons and presumably Project 112's biological agents. [56] [57] [78] [ circular reference ] [79]

What did the Japanese believe about the USA capability of making/using additional atomic bombs? - History

By Sam McGowan

The most controversial decision of the 20th century—probably in all of history—was the one reportedly made by President Harry S. Truman, president of the United States and commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces, in the summer of 1945 to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. No other event has affected mankind so dramatically, and no other decision is as controversial.

To the young soldiers and Marines who were in training or moving to the Pacific when “the bomb” was dropped there was no question—many of them survived the war because Harry Truman “had the guts to drop it.” This belief was burned into their young minds when they heard the news and most never bothered to question whether it was founded on fact. In recent years their sons have sought to reinforce the belief of their fathers, once again without taking a serious look at the facts surrounding the decision to drop the bomb and the events leading up to it. Yet, in reality, Truman never made an actual decision to use the bomb, and it was the one decision made by Emperor Hirohito of Japan to accept Allied surrender terms and end the war that actually spared their lives.

Even while millions of Americans continue to believe that the atomic bomb ended World War II, many, including some in high positions in government and the military at the time, have long believed it was unnecessary. Previously classified documents released to the National Archives in recent years support their position that the White House knew the end for Japan had already come and that the use of atomic weapons was motivated more by postwar concerns than by preventing an amphibious invasion of Japan. Furthermore, principals such as General Leslie Groves, the officer in charge of the nuclear project, have revealed that there never really was a “decision” as such by President Truman to drop the bomb, but that he simply allowed plans that were already in motion before he was thrust into office to continue. In essence, the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan was made long before Truman even had an inkling of their existence.

Building the Bomb

American research into the possibility of creating powerful weapons using nuclear fission actually predated the outbreak of World War II by several weeks. In July 1939, three European scientists met with renowned physicist Albert Einstein and persuaded him to write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt advising that a bomb designed to produce a nuclear explosion might be under development in Germany. Einstein’s letter is dated August 2, 1939, nearly a month before Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland and World War II officially began. British scientists were already working on such a weapon, and the United States began a similar, although generally unsuccessful, effort in response to the Einstein letter.ƒ

In 1941, a group of American scientists visited England, where considerable nuclear research work was being done. Prior to the visit, no American scientist believed that nuclear fission would be of critical importance to the war, but the British work so impressed the visitors that in December they recommended that a full-scale nuclear project commence in the United States. President Roosevelt authorized a research program under the code name Manhattan Engineering Project, and British nuclear experts came to the United States to work with their American counterparts in research toward the development of a nuclear weapon.

Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves.

In September 1942, the War Department assumed control of the project and Colonel Leslie R. Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers, who had previously been in charge of the construction of the Pentagon, was appointed as the project head. On December 2, 1942, Dr. Enrico Fermi, an Italian-born physicist working at the University of Chicago, achieved fission, the first controlled release of nuclear energy. Fermi’s successful experiment proved that it was indeed possible to develop a nuclear weapon and ushered the world into the nuclear age. The next step was to develop a means of maintaining the nuclear material in an inert state until the desired detonation point.

Manhattan Project scientists solved the problem by dividing nuclear material into two masses, then firing one into the other to achieve an explosion. Another method was to place the nuclear material between two masses of conventional explosives. The shock waves of their detonation would cause the plutonium to collapse and then expand again in a powerful explosion. The first method was used for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, while the second was the mechanism for the first nuclear detonation at the Trinity site in New Mexico and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The nuclear secret was so classified that President Roosevelt did not even inform his vice presidents of it. (Truman was the third of three vice presidents who served with Roosevelt. Truman was not elected until November 1944 and did not take the vice-presidential office until the following January, only a few weeks before FDR’s death.)

Finding a Suitable Delivery Vehicle

For any weapon to be effective it has to be delivered onto a target, and in the case of a nuclear weapon it has to be detonated in the air to achieve maximum effect. At the time, guided missiles did not exist and the artillery of the day lacked the range to deliver a nuclear warhead. The only option was delivery from the air in the form of an aerial bomb. In 1943, the only suitable delivery vehicle in the U.S. inventory was the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a large, long-range, four-engine bomber that was under development at the same time as the bomb itself. Originally conceived in 1940, the B-29 had been planned for extremely long-range strategic bombing missions against Germany from bases in North Africa and the northern British Isles. The B-29 program was plagued with birthing problems, but planning for a special combat unit to deliver the new weapons when they were developed began even before the first Superfortress entered operational service.

To command the new unit, which would be designated as the 509th Composite Group, Army Air Forces commander General Henry H. Arnold selected Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., a veteran bomber pilot from Columbus, Ohio, who had seen combat in Europe and North Africa but who had no experience against the Japanese. Lt. Col. Thomas J. Classen, a Pacific veteran who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for a 1943 mission in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, was selected as his deputy. Classen was already in command of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, the operational unit that would actually drop the nuclear device.

Tibbets picked most of his staff officers from members of his former group, while others were chosen because they had special qualifications that made them particularly useful. Only Tibbets himself was privy to the nuclear secret. The other members of the group knew only that when they went into combat, it would be to drop a special kind of bomb. They came to refer to the weapon they knew nothing about as “the gimmick.” Tibbets was in complete charge of organizing and staffing his new unit and with selecting the training base. He chose Wendover Field, a remote base in the Utah desert that had previously been used to train aerial gunners. Wendover’s remoteness was a major factor in Tibbets’s choice—he thought it would enhance security. The 393rd Bombardment Squadron, a B-29 squadron then in training at Fairmount, Nebraska, would be the combat element of his new command. The 509th Composite Group was activated in September 1944, and by the end of December the men of the 393rd had completed their training and were ready for combat. The question was—where?

1943: Japan Confirmed as the Target

Traditional atomic bomb lore records that the Manhattan Project was originally begun with the intent of using the weapon against Nazi Germany. Apparently, this is what the scientists working on the project, many of whom were Jews who had fled Europe, were led to believe. In January 1945, the War Department revealed that Hitler’s Germany was nowhere close to developing a nuclear bomb of its own and that the Germans were on the verge of defeat.

By this time some of the scientists involved in the project had begun to have second thoughts about the wisdom of actually using nuclear weapons. They had come to realize their awesome power and the possible implications for a future world. A number of Manhattan scientists signed a letter expressing their opposition to continuing development of the bomb because it was no longer needed to defeat Germany.

In reality, the bomb was never intended for use against Germany except, perhaps, during the first year or so of research. The Military Policy Committee, a high-level group—including Leslie Groves—that was set up to determine how best to use nuclear weapons, decided as early as May 5, 1943, that the proper target for such an awesome weapon was Japan. This decision was made more than two years before the first test of the new weapons. One possibility was the massive supply base at Truk, from which Japanese military operations in the Southwest Pacific were supplied. According to minutes of the May meeting, the Japanese were selected to be the recipients of the bomb because they “were less likely to secure knowledge from it as the Germans,” possibly in the event of a dud.

Tibbets, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general who died in 2007, has been quoted as saying that he was told that the unit would drop bombs on both Germany and Japan, but this is doubtful. The decision to use the bomb on Japan was already made long before it was close to reality and more than a year before Tibbets even knew it existed. Tibbets has revealed that he was briefed on the bomb by Colonel Edward Lansdale, an Army Air Corps officer who had close ties with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and its postwar successor, the CIA, and who evidently served as a kind of special projects officer with the War Department during the war.

The Allied Way of War

Japan was undoubtedly chosen to be the target for the bomb because of Allied policy regarding the Pacific War. In December 1941, only a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided on a Germany first policy for prosecuting the war. Under the policy, the full focus of the Allied war machine would be directed toward defeating the Nazis, who were considered a more serious threat than Japan, while maintaining a holding action in the Pacific. After Germany was defeated, the full power of the Allies would be redirected against Japan. The timetable agreed on by the senior Allied officials called for Japan not to be defeated until 1947 at the earliest, a gross underestimation as it turned out.

The Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 included (seated left to right) Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, U.S. President Harry Truman, and British Prime Minister Clement Attlee.

At the time of the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan, the Allies had made only scant progress toward driving the Japanese northward. The battle for Guadalcanal had just ended, and Japanese forces still controlled much of New Guinea and most of the Solomons, while the U.S. Navy was recovering from its carrier losses at Coral Sea and Midway as the Pacific Fleet rebuilt. The use of such a powerful weapon against Japanese installations in the Pacific was seen as a means of holding the line and perhaps advancing. The military situation at the time made the possibility of using of a powerful new weapon against Japanese forces seem logical. A few weeks previously the White House had come out with a new policy that made the possibility of such a weapon even more attractive.

After the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, President Roosevelt revealed a new policy to the press. The new policy was “unconditional surrender,” a term that did not appear in the communiqué of the conference and that both Roosevelt and Churchill later denied was premeditated. The term was quickly picked up by the media and soon became a political byword, even though the implication did not set well with many Allied military leaders who believed that depriving the Axis nations of the opportunity to negotiate a surrender or truce would prolong the war and cause needless casualties. In essence, a policy of unconditional surrender left no latitude for any of the Axis nations to negotiate peace terms. It called for complete and total war against civilians as well as military forces. Roosevelt apparently conceived the idea, and Churchill grudgingly accepted it after the American president made it public.

Keeping the Communists in Check

The third member of the so-called Grand Alliance was Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, a ruthless totalitarian dictator who basically could not have cared less about what Churchill and Roosevelt thought about anything. Chiang Kai-shek of China was the fourth major Allied leader, but his status was more of a courtesy than anything else. Chiang was not invited to most of the conferences and was usually kept in the dark about plans and policies made by the Big Three. In many respects, Stalin was as bad as and perhaps even worse than Hitler, and he had grand designs for Europe, if not the entire world.

Although the world remembers the Nazi invasion of Poland that started World War II, many often forget that Stalin’s Soviet troops invaded the country from the east in coordination with the German attack and set up an occupation force that was even more brutal than that of the Germans. Soviet troops rounded up thousands of Polish military officers and took them into the Katyn Forest where they were executed and their bodies dumped into trenches. Stalin switched his alliance—but not his allegiance—to the Allies only after Hitler broke their agreement and launched an invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. When the Germans occupied eastern Poland, they discovered mass graves in the Katyn Forest holding the remains of more than 4,000 Polish officers, each with a single bullet in the head. When Germany revealed the massacre, President Roosevelt, who knew the truth, lied to the American public and blamed the atrocity on the Nazis to protect Stalin and the Soviet allies.

In the late summer of 1944, Stalin showed his true colors and revealed his designs for Europe. When the Polish Resistance rose against the Germans, Stalin halted his forces outside Warsaw and allowed the Poles to be slaughtered. In essence, Stalin allowed the Germans to do what he would have done himself once Soviet forces occupied the area. Stalin was a ruthless and wicked ruler, and many of the Allied politicians and military commanders realized this. To those who were aware of the nuclear secret, such power was seen as a means of keeping Stalin and the Soviet Communists in check in the postwar world.

Since the Manhattan Project was classified, President Roosevelt thought the Soviets were in the dark concerning the development of the atomic bomb. Intelligence sources would later reveal that the Soviets knew every detail of the project as it developed. Among the scientists working on the bomb were some with Communist leanings, and nuclear secrets were being smuggled through Red agents to Moscow, where Soviet scientists were doing their own nuclear research. It is likely that Stalin also was well aware that U.S. grand design included the use of nuclear weapons to defend against Soviet aggression after the war.

Closing in on the Home Islands

In 1945, the Allies were winning the war on all fronts. Although the Germans had launched a major counteroffensive in the Ardennes Forest the previous December, their advance had literally run out of fuel and the Allies were able to return to the offensive by the new year. Soviet troops were advancing toward Berlin from the east, and it was obvious that Hitler’s Third Reich was in its last days. There was also good news in the Pacific. Although the original Churchill-Roosevelt plan, with Stalin and the Soviets neutral in the war against Japan, had been to hold the line in the Pacific, Allied forces fighting on a shoestring had managed to defeat the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific and were advancing northward toward Japan.

American troops had landed on Luzon in the Philippines after first landing at Leyte in October. While land and air forces under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur advanced through New Guinea toward the Philippines, Marines and soldiers serving under U.S. Navy command moved through the Solomon Islands, then northward in their assigned theater, the Central Pacific. By the end of 1943, the U.S. Navy had rebuilt from its early losses to become a powerful force. The massive Japanese depot at Truk came under air attack from carrier and land-based aircraft in early 1944 and was soon neutralized, thus eliminating it from the list of possible nuclear targets. In the summer of 1944, Central Pacific forces landed in the Marianas, securing land for the construction of air bases from which the new B-29s could launch air attacks on the Japanese Home Islands.

It is commonly believed that the Japanese intended to fight to the death, and although this may certainly have been true of the most radical of the Japanese militarists, it was not true of Japan’s civilian leadership and the population as a whole. Unlike Germany and Italy, Japan was not ruled by a dictator. Japan’s system of government was a monarchy, but the government was actually under the leadership of a prime minister, who in turn governed along with a cabinet made up of both military and civilians and a parliament known as the Diet. Furthermore, the Japanese population consisted of castes, with the militarists coming from the nobles while the rank and file were from the lower classes.

Prior to the Allied success at Saipan, the Home Islands of Japan had not been seriously threatened. Although the tide of war had turned in favor of the Allies in the Pacific, Allied victories had been in areas that had been occupied by Japan in early 1942. American bombers led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle struck Japan in April 1942, but this was a surprise attack launched from a single aircraft carrier and did little damage. As a result, Japanese forces in China went on the offensive and gained control of all areas of China from which Allied bombers could operate against Japan, thus sparing the Home Islands from air attack for more than two years.

With the exception of Guam, which was a U.S. possession, the Marianas were a different story. They were mandated to Japan by the League of Nations immediately after World War I and thus were Japanese territory. The loss of Saipan sent a message to Tokyo that Japan itself was threatened. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who had assumed the office in October 1941, was forced to resign, and a new cabinet was formed under Koiso Kuniaki, who, like Tojo, was a general in the Japanese Army.

First Strikes on Tokyo

The invasion of Saipan coincided with the commencement of an American air campaign against Japan, with the first mission directed at targets on Kyushu on the same day as the invasion. The attack was carried out by B-29s based in India and staging through advance bases in the vicinity of Chunking, China. Some of Japan’s industrial leaders said after the war that the first B-29 attack caused them to realize that the war was lost. Even though little damage was done to the target, the fact that the Allies were now in bomber range of the Home Islands was ample indication of the threat to Japan itself, a threat that was compounded by the knowledge that Saipan was close enough to Tokyo to allow attacks on the main island of Honshu and Japan’s industrialized areas around Tokyo Bay.

The country was also beginning to suffer as Allied aircraft and submarines began cutting the shipping lanes that brought raw materials and, more important, foodstuffs into Japan from the areas it had occupied elsewhere in the Pacific. Oil fields in the East Indies were still in Japanese hands, but the routes over which the tankers were obliged to sail to bring crude oil and petroleum to Japan were subject to constant attack.

The first strike on the Tokyo area occurred in late November 1944, when B-29s attacked aircraft manufacturing facilities at Mushasino. For the next several months attacks continued, although bombing results were far less than what the Allies had hoped. Initial B-29 operations against Japan were mostly daylight precision raids directed at manufacturing facilities related to the Japanese aircraft industry. Some attacks achieved better results than Allied intelligence indicated, but they would not be known until after the war when the Allies gained access to Japanese records.

In February, U.S. Marines landed on tiny Iwo Jima, a volcanic island 650 miles southeast of Tokyo. The island featured an airfield that served as a staging base for Japanese bombers on missions against the new American bases on Saipan, but the main purpose of the invasion was to secure an emergency landing field for crippled B-29s returning from raids over Japan and as a base for escort fighters and B-24 Liberators. U.S. intelligence underestimated the Japanese defenses, and the battle for Iwo Jima turned out to be one of the most intense in Marine Corps history. Although the Japanese defenders knew they were doomed, they determined to sell their lives dearly and kill as many Americans as possible in a last-ditch struggle. The resulting high number of Marine casualties led many Americans to believe that the same attitude prevailed among the Japanese population as a whole. But Japan itself had yet to be subjected to the most destructive attacks in human history.

The Air Campaign Comes in Full Force

The lack of success of the B-29 raids led the Twentieth Air Force, the U.S. Army Air Forces command element that controlled the long-range bombers, to try a change in tactics. Oriental construction methods depended largely on bamboo and even paper rather than steel and concrete, and Twentieth Air Force planners believed many structures were susceptible to incendiary attack. An incendiary raid against the Hankow docks in China in December 1944 produced spectacular results, effectively destroying the city as Japan’s main supply base in China. Test missions with incendiaries were flown against targets in Japan, but results were inconclusive and attacks continued with high explosives.

General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz headed U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific at the time of the use of the atomic bombs.

In early March XXI Bomber Command launched an incendiary mission against Tokyo, and the results left no doubt. The bombers were sent in at night at altitudes much lower than previous missions, so low that many of the crewmen thought they were suicidal. Guns, ammunition, and gunners were left off the B-29s to increase payloads, which consisted of napalm and incendiary bombs. Pathfinders went in ahead of the main force and dropped napalm to mark the target for the main force, which followed with incendiaries to spread the fires. The result of the raid was the most destructive event in human history. Winds whipped up by the fires produced a conflagration that destroyed a wide area of the city. The flames were so intense that water in the city’s canals boiled.

Japanese records revealed that 83,000 people were killed and 40,000 injured by the fires. Six firebombing missions were flown against targets around Tokyo Bay before the American landings on Okinawa led to a diversion of the B-29s to attack airfields on Kyushu. Casualties on Okinawa were again heavy as the Japanese defenders fought another stubborn battle designed to produce as many casualties as possible. The effect on morale in the United States was profound, but the loss of Okinawa had an even more profound effect on the Japanese. Once again, the Japanese cabinet was replaced. The new prime minister, Admiral Suzuki Kantaro, reported after the war that his instructions from Emperor Hirohito were to find a way to end the war as soon as possible.

As the battle for Okinawa concluded, the air campaign against Japan resumed with a vengeance. During the interim, hundreds of additional B-29s had arrived in the Marianas, allowing even larger formations for the firebombing. The B-29s were joined by smaller B-24s flying from Iwo Jima, and Liberators were soon operating from airfields on Okinawa and nearby Ie Shima as well. A second B-29 force was preparing to move to Okinawa.

U.S. Navy carrier aircraft were now free to attack targets in Japan, while Fifth Air Force fighter-bombers and light and medium bombers were striking Kyushu. Japan’s cities were literally being bombed into rubble, and the Japanese civilian leadership feared that unless the war was brought to an end soon the entire country would be destroyed. Not only that, the Home Islands had been isolated from their normal sources of food as U.S. submarines prowled Japanese waters, cutting sea arteries to the Asian mainland. Food and other commodities were in short supply, and the population was on the verge of starvation.

The Imperial Japanese Navy had been destroyed, and its air forces had been reduced to the point that they were capable only of kamikaze attacks owing to the lack of trained combat pilots and aircrews. Only the land forces on the islands were still intact, and they were made up of men with little combat experience who had been redeployed from Manchuria and Formosa as well as untried troops who had never left the Home Islands. The Army was depending to a large degree on civilians—including all women aged 16 to 40— who had been impressed into a home guard and equipped with primitive weapons. Civil defense had practically ceased to exist, with the only escape from the incessant air attacks for urban dwellers being to flee to the countryside.

Willing to Surrender

Although the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States were allies in the struggle against Nazi Germany, Moscow maintained a neutral position in the war with Japan. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, Japan elected to stay out of the war. Similarly, when the United States asked Moscow for air bases in the Soviet Far East from which to bomb Japan, the Soviets refused the request, fearing that such an action would bring them into the Pacific War at a time when they were heavily engaged against the Germans.

As it became apparent to the Japanese that they would lose the war, Japan began sending peace offers to the United States via Moscow. Stalin, who had his own reasons for prolonging the war, elected not to pass the surrender offers on to Washington. Nevertheless, U.S. intercepts of messages made the United States aware of the offers. The messages were decoded and passed on to the highest levels of the U.S. government. Other indications of a Japanese willingness to surrender came in the form of messages sent through the Swiss embassy in Tokyo. When the Swiss ambassador to the United States made the surrender feelers known in Washington, he was told to ignore them and to inform his associates in Tokyo not to accept any more such messages.

While the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who were fighting the war were preparing to invade Japan and were fearful for their lives, America’s civilian leadership was well aware that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender, and many senior military officers believed that a costly land battle would be unnecessary. Senior officers who were not privy to the radio intercepts but were familiar with Japanese capabilities also believed that Japan would surrender without an invasion, especially if guarantees were given that the emperor would be allowed to retain his throne.

One officer who believed this was General Douglas MacArthur, the senior Army officer in the Pacific and the man who had been selected for command of all Pacific forces for the impending invasion. MacArthur, who had spent much of his life in the Orient and was well acquainted with Asian philosophy, is reported to have informed Washington of his views that Japan was on the verge of surrender as early as January 1945. It is known that his chief of staff for air, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, informed Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and President Roosevelt that an invasion of Japan was possible at that time.

“Russia Was Our Enemy”

On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage, and Vice President Harry S. Truman assumed the office of president. The former senator from Missouri had been in office little more than two months and knew very little about Roosevelt’s foreign policies. Roosevelt had not even informed him of the existence of the Manhattan Project, much less of how he intended to use the atomic bomb. As a member of the Missouri National Guard, Truman had served as a captain of artillery in World War I and had risen to the rank of colonel after the war. Shortly after his arrival in the Senate, he was placed in charge of a commission investigating defense purchases. He had come to view the professional military with disdain and believed that he knew as much or more about military strategy and tactics as the Annapolis men and West Pointers who were running the war.

President Harry Truman addresses a joint session of Congress on April 16, 1945, the first such address since the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman promised a relentless prosecution of the war.

Truman’s correspondence regarding the use of the bomb was classified for a period of 50 years and was declassified only in 1995. Truman apologists claimed for decades that the president refused to discuss surrender with the Japanese because the intercepted messages indicated that they were not unconditional—that the Japanese wanted the emperor to remain on the throne. Such, however, was not really the case. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson wrote in his autobiography, “History might find that the United States, in its delay in stating its position on unconditional surrender terms, had prolonged the war.” Stimson did not state that the delay might have been due to the desire to demonstrate the power of the atomic bomb to the world, particularly the Soviets, even though he knew that was the reason. Former President Herbert Hoover wrote a letter to Truman admonishing him to make U.S. intentions regarding surrender clear. In his letter, Hoover stated that if the Japanese understood what the United States wanted they would surrender without an invasion and spare the lives of up to one million Americans.

General Groves added, “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 the project was conducted on that basis.” Groves had taken charge of Manhattan Project in 1942.

In late 1944, Secretary of War Stimson stated, “Troubles with Russia were connected to the future of the atomic bomb.” Arthur Compton, one of the driving forces behind the bomb’s development, wrote to Stimson in response to criticism of the project from other scientists in early 1945: “If the bomb were not used in the present war, the world would have no adequate warning as to what to expect if war should break out again.” Comments such as these leave little doubt that the primary goal behind the development of the atomic bomb was to put the United States in a preeminent position in the postwar world, and that to demonstrate its power it was imperative for it to be used before hostilities ended.

Groves also wrote that there never really was a “decision” to use or not to use the bomb, but that its use was merely the continuation of a process that had already been set in motion. President Roosevelt had decided before his death that the bomb would be used against a Japanese target at the earliest opportunity and also decided that development of nuclear weapons would continue after the war. Roosevelt’s plans were a legacy that Truman merely continued. After the Allied victory in Europe, Air Corps General Carl Spaatz was sent to the Pacific to take command of the strategic bombing campaign against Japan. On the way, he stopped in the United States for briefings and a short leave. During his time in Washington, he was informed of the impending availability of the bomb and was told that as soon as it was available he was to use it. Spaatz, who had opposed American involvement in “terror bombing” in Europe, informed Generals Arnold and Marshall that before he would use such a terrible weapon he must have a written order instructing him to do so. An order instructing the 509th Composite Group to drop an atomic bomb “not later than August 10” was issued on July 25, 1945, nine days after the first successful test. A bomb was already on the way to the island of Tinian in the Marianas, where the 509th Composite Group was based. Truman wrote in his diary that evening that he had authorized the use of the most terrible weapon in human history “only against a military target, not against women and children.”

Did the Bombing Targets Hold Strategic Importance?

A mushroom cloud billows 20,000ft above Hiroshima.

Years after the war, President Truman would claim that he had decided to use the bomb because he had been advised by General Marshall that an invasion of Japan would cost as many as a million American lives. Marshall made no such claim the figure most likely came from the Hoover letter. Expected casualties from the initial invasion of Kyushu were a small fraction of that number. American combat deaths in the entire Asiatic Theater amounted to fewer than 93,000 men, roughly one-third of U.S. combat deaths for the entire war. Truman also claimed that he asked Secretary of War Stimson which Japanese cities were devoted exclusively to war production and was advised that Hiroshima and Nagasaki fell in this category.

In fact, neither was a major war production center, and Hiroshima had been taken off the existing target list, along with Kyoto, Niigata, and Kokuru, because they had been untouched as yet by the war and were identified by the War Policy Committee as suitable targets for the new weapon. As Japan’s eighth-largest city, Hiroshima’s main military significance was that the Second Army headquarters was located there. Although there was some war production there, the city was far less important than other metropolitan areas. Had Hiroshima been militarily important, it would not have been restricted from conventional attack.

Nagasaki had been attacked before and was actually selected by XXI Bomber Command chief General Curtis LeMay as an atomic target when Kyoto was stricken from the list by Secretary of War Stimson because of its cultural and religious significance. As a principal city on Kyushu, it might have been important in the impending invasion. Even then, however, Nagasaki was third on the list and was struck only because Kokuru was obscured by clouds and orders called for the bomb to be dropped visually rather than with radar.

Did the Bombs Have Any Effect?

Remarkably, barely three weeks passed between the detonation of the Trinity weapon in New Mexico on July 16 and the appearance of the mushroom cloud in the skies over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. There was no military urgency for such quick use. The battle for Okinawa had ended almost two months before, the Philippines campaign was in its mopping-up phase after the liberation of Manila in March, and the planned date for the invasion of Japan was still nearly three months in the future. Germany had surrendered, and the Pacific War had settled into a sort of lull while Allied forces built up for the planned invasion of Kyushu. In short, there was no justifiable reason for rushing the use of the atomic bomb—unless it was out of fear that Japan would surrender before it could be used.

As it was, the use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima did not end the war. Nor did the second bomb, which was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Only silence emitted from Japan in response. Casualties from the two bombs were great—more than 70,000 dead and missing at Hiroshima and at least 40,000 at Nagasaki—but no worse than those caused by the firebombing attacks on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Although the morale in the two cities where the bombs were dropped was ruined, elsewhere in Japan news of the detonations had little effect. This was perhaps due to the considerable distances between the two atomic bomb targets and Tokyo. For that matter, the general morale of the Japanese people had already sunk to its lowest levels. After the war almost 70 percent of those interviewed by Allied intelligence said they had reached the point where they could not endure another day of war.

Meanwhile, the Japanese leaders were engaged in intense discussions. Emperor Hirohito had wanted to end the war that was destroying his country, and his desires were well known among the Japanese military and civilian leadership. The Japanese government had undergone a major shake-up in July 1944 when Tojo had been forced to resign after Saipan fell to the Allies. Since that time, there had been a rising peace movement within the Japanese government, but the military refused to consider any surrender terms that removed the emperor from his throne. A new government under Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, a former Navy chief of staff, was formed in April after the Allied invasion of Okinawa. Suzuki told interrogators after the war that the emperor had instructed him to seek peace but that he had been fearful of the militarists, who were not above assassination as a means of maintaining power and influence.

Hirohito Ends the War

The Allied Potsdam Declaration, which stated that if Japan did not surrender the nation would suffer complete and utter destruction, brought about a major debate among the Japanese leadership. Three of the leaders of the Supreme War Direction Counsel advocated immediate acceptance of the Potsdam terms, but the other three were opposed on the basis that demands were made to treat Japanese leaders as war criminals and there was no guarantee that the emperor would remain on the throne.

Hirohito was willing to accept the Potsdam demands issued on July 26 (almost two weeks before Hiroshima) as written but was unable to impose his will. Finally, two days after the detonation of the bomb over Nagasaki, Suzuki asked Hirohito to decide the issue in an Imperial Conference, a heretofore unprecedented act as the emperor’s traditional role was to approve or disapprove plans put forth by civilian and military leaders but not to advocate decisions himself.

Hirohito decided to accept the Allies’ terms, but to satisfy the militarists the Japanese surrender offer was conditional in that Japan would accept only if the emperor’s safety and continuation on the throne were guaranteed. Secretary of State James Byrnes recommended that the offer be accepted, and assurances were sent to Japan. On August 14, Hirohito informed the Japanese public of the surrender in his first-ever radio address to the nation. In the end, it was Hirohito, not Harry Truman, who made the decision that ended the war and avoided an invasion that could have cost thousands of lives.

The Atomic Bombs: A Mistaken Legacy?

When news of the Japanese surrender reached the world, Americans automatically and naturally assumed it was due to the detonation of the atomic bombs. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who were making preparations for an invasion believed that the atomic bomb had spared their lives. Because they were not privy to the information available at the highest levels of government, they had no idea that the Japanese had attempted to convey their wishes to surrender several months before the detonation of the bomb.

In contrast, many U.S. leaders, particularly those closest to the fight against Japan, believed the use of the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender without it. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, members of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey entered Japan and began a systematic survey of the Japanese cities that had been the targets. The survey concluded that even without the two bombs “air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion, probably by November 1, certainly by the end of December 1945.”

Author Sam McGowan is a licensed pilot and a resident of Missouri City, Texas. He is a frequent contributor to WWII History Magazine.


I am constantly amazed how many people try to rewrite history and consider the United States as a nation willing to use the Atomic Bomb on Japan for racial or cold War reasons. The Japanese had already proven that they were capable of very barbaric treatment of everyone, including their own people. The majority of people at the time believed them capable of fighting to the end with no surrender. The overwhelming evidence was that they would fight harder as we got closer to the homeland. They had absolutely no respect for soldiers who surrendered, and had plans to execute pows before they could be rescued. Their cultural was death or suicide was preferred to surrender. I have talked to many soldiers who served in WW2 and they all believe that the Atomic Bombs saved their lives. I have read alot of history and I put this in the same category as the bombing of Pearl Harbor was allowed to happen.
LTC SteveWeide (RET)

Was it right for the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning without a declaration of war first? Was the use of thousands of chinese pows to test germ warfare acceptable? Was the Bataan Death March “Okay”? I wonder if any of the Deathcamp survivors ever questioned the morality of what we did? James Staley.

17 comments for &ldquo ATOMIC BOMBINGS AT 75: The Mystery of the Nagasaki Bomb &rdquo

Interesting how intensely some people defend the war crime at Nagasaki, as seen here in tge comments.

But the author’s conclusion is right. I interviewed Sam Cohen, the ‘father’ of the Neutron Bomb, and he confirmed that Nagasaki had an experimental purpose. The Nagasaki bomb was a new device: he and his colleagues wanted to see what it would do.

Japan certainly made a statement at Pearl Harbor. And in the Korea and China. Not to mention the various bloody battles in the South Pacific. I have no doubt the bombs were a measure of revenge for Pearl Harbor and the countless atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army on American POWs and hapless civilians that got in their way. When we look back, we do so with perfect hindsight we judge this event with the enlightenment of the 21st Century morality. While I do not celebrate the death and destruction brought about by the decision to drop the bombs, neither can I put myself in the shoes of those that must have felt the fate of the world had been in the balance for too long. As has been documented, many questioned the decision to drop the bombs AFTER they were dropped but no one said they felt prolonging the was was a “better option”. Saying someone is prepared to surrender is a long, long way from actually surrendering. Should The Bomb ever be used again, I doubt the lessons of Nagasaki and Hiroshima with have bearing on the decision.

This completely false. Seven of eight US five-star generals at the time were opposed to using the bomb. This is not 21st Century hindsight or AFTER the fact.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that 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.” He later publicly declared, “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Even the famous hawk Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, the head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.” –Gar Alperocitz, The Nation.

“General Douglas MacArthur said that the Japanese would have gladly surrendered as early as May if the U.S. had told them they could keep the emperor. Similar views were voiced by Admirals Chester Nimitz, Ernest King and William Halsey, and General Henry Arnold….Telegrams going back and forth between Japanese officials in Tokyo and Moscow made it clear that the Japanese were seeking an honorable way to end what they had started. Retention of the emperor, as MacArthur noted, was the main stumbling block to surrender. Truman was well aware of the situation. He referred to the intercepted July 18 cable as the “telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace.” His close advisors concurred. “–Peter Kuznick, US News & World Report

Admiral William Leahy, White House chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war. Leahy wrote in his 1950 memoirs that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” Moreover, Leahy continued, “in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

Nobody knew what the first A bomb would look like, what it would do, how disastrous its effect would be for the region and for the people. But then, having seen what it did, and still go ahead and drop the second A bomb…in my eyes this is MURDER.

Wow. This seems like a very fair and balanced article. And who gives a s*** what Kurt Vonnegut thinks!? Yeah, it was pretty bad what happened, but hey man it’s war. We weren’t as well educated about the bomb back then. Even if we had been, the Japanese we a very respectable force and fought with such fervor that it would have cost 1,000,000+ more lives on both sides. The Tokyo Bombings killed more people (civilians as well) than those two bombs combined. Plus, I don’t hear this article weeping for the 100s of 10-year-old Korean/Chinese girls that were raped repeatedly by Japanese soldiers. Or the decapitation (of Chinese) contests that Japanese officers used to have as a form of competition. What would times be like for those countries if we had allowed the war to drag on that much longer? It’s war. It’s not a glorious thing full of honor and pride and sometimes it’s gonna come down to a moral call that not everyone is going to agree with. This article is a bunch of crap and completely bias. A very one-sided argument. Sounds like a conspiracy theorist.

You’re not wrong about the atrocities committed by Japan, but to conclude with ‘saying Nagasaki was unnecessary and therefore a war crime is a biased conspiracy theory’ ignores Taylor, the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, calling it a war crime. Which this very article cited.

If the war was just a fight between atrocious world powers (England, waging terror against the Irish, the US against the Japanese, the Japanese against all of Eastern Asia, and Germany…) then there was no triumph of good over evil, only war between people who’d collectively lost their way.

In that context, to say, ‘hey, it’s war, man,’ and that we just didn’t know enough about the bombs, is to act like we suddenly lose our ability to premeditate logical courses of action–that we lose our reason. If that’s the case, then how were the war industries coordinated? How were new weapons designed, distributed and deployed? War, especially winning a war, is most definitely a highly coordinated effort, mostly for those not in harm’s way themselves who don’t have any of the stress of being in an actual warzone (a luxury that America itself alone enjoyed). The military industrial complex didn’t happen accidentally one night, and suddenly we had all these magic weapons that no one understood. They were engineered, tested, and repeatedly employed. All except the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which was engineered but untested like the first bomb had been.

But to say that we didn’t know enough about what it would do is not sufficient. Those who designed the bomb never doubted how destructive it would be, only the degree, ranging from those who thought it would be a mountain of TNT to those who thought it would ignite the whole atmosphere in a chain reaction. (I assume those people found no justification for dropping either bomb.) Especially after the first test and Hiroshima, those in charge of bombing Nagasaki/Tokyo knew it was going to be terrible, and did it because of it.

There are plenty of justifications that have been made in the last century about the mentality of the Japanese and what the cost of the war anyway with traditional weapons, all of which you mentioned. Ideas that feed the notion that we needed to keep making those weapons and into the 1980s believe we may need to use them, and reeks of a warhawk bias on its own. What did that mentality of mutual destruction get us? Where has more war gotten us? Is our judgment perpetually clouded because, ‘hey, life is war, man’? At which point is it okay for you to consider that Germany and Japan being wrong doesn’t make us right? That’s why war crime tribunals exist in the first place, to sift out what is justifiable and what is not, to ensure that war not remain the bloodsport it has been historically.

But since you simultaneously claim that the bomb prevented more deaths, and that we were unable to make a rational decision because we didn’t know enough, it sounds like you’re unsure about the reasons yourself but unwilling to be contrarian because you think it’s a ‘conspiracy theory’ and we should always trust the official account. You must not read the rest of the articles on this site, because the ‘official account’ is nothing but a highly formulated conspiracy.

You trot out the usual excuses for the bomb, one being that because Japanese soldiers committed atrocities (all armies do), then that makes it okay. The Bombs were a ” moral call?” Is that what that was? There was no justification for it, and you can’t or won’t understand that. It was utterly immoral, and, like torture, the same punk-ass excuses are always used to justify it.

The Japanese of that time were still in the Samari mental attitude of ritual suicide, fight to the last man and so forth. Witness their battles as America advanced closer and closer to the mainland. In Okinawa, they had to destroy the entire garrison. The Japanese never did surrender. There was no one left to surrender. Do you really think, if US troops had landed on the mainland, Japan would have simply rolled over and surrendered. One can never be sure but their past actions argued against it. Dropping the second bomb kept the Japanese high command focused and probably pushed them over the edge to surrender. She didn’t know that America didn’t have any more bombs and could see Japan being obliterated if they held out.

Wrong. Did you not read the article? They were ready to surrender. This was known at the time by everyone involved in the decision, including Truman.

The two bombs were different designs and with different materials. Uranium and Plutonium. Gun device vs. implosion device. Maybe they really wanted to test both “in the field”. Also, it was the show-off to the Russians. The first steps towards the cold war.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were all about stopping the Soviet advance and nothing to do with protecting American soldiers.

Stalin had made a secret deal at the Yalta conference that the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific war within three months of the end of the war in Europe (maybe it was 90 days, there are differing accounts of the time limit). On 8 August, three months to the day after VE (Victory in Europe) Day, it declared war against Japan.

It’s too much of a coincidence that Hiroshima was bombed just two days before that and the Nagasaki bomb was ready to be dropped the next day. The atomic bombs appear to have been used to rush the Japanese surrender before the Soviets could advance any further.

It probably didn’t make any difference anyway because the Japanese leaders seemed just as indifferent to the mass slaughter of Japanese civilians as the Americans were. Because their top priority was to save the emperor, they surrendered to the US rather than allow invasion by the Soviet Union which had previously killed its own Czar along with all his family.

Was the Soviet Union in a position to land invasion troops in any quantity in Japan in the fall of 1945?

Yaj, Within days the Soviet forces swept through Manchuria and within weeks they captured Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands which became part of the Soviet Union. Sakhalin is only a short distance away from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Some historians believe that they did not have the capability to invade Hokkaido, never mind the rest of Japan
and I don’t claim to know if they could or not. Whether that’s true or not the Japanese didn’t know it and the Soviet advance must have hastened their surrender to the USA.

Okay, Japan “didn’t” know is certainly possible.

#Brendan – As you are undoubtedly aware, the war crimes charge is entirely independent of whether the Soviets entered the war or not. It is not excusable to bomb civilian populations to send smoke signals to Russian invaders.

Activity 1. Japanese Strategy in 1941–1942

Direct students to the following documents, both of which are available at the Hyperwar site, accessible via the EDSITEment-reviewed site for the Naval Historical Center:

Alternatively, distribute excerpts from these documents, which may be found on This lesson plan's PDF.

Based on their reading of these documents, students should answer the following questions (included as part of a worksheet on the PDF):

  • Why did the Japanese believe that it was better to go to war with the United States sooner rather than later?
  • Why were Japanese military planners pessimistic about their country's chances in a long war against the United States?
  • What actions did the Japanese government take to prepare for a war in the Pacific?
  • According to Japanese military planners, how likely was war against the Soviet Union?
  • What were the three phases of Japan's strategy in the Pacific?

Next ask the students to consult the interactive map which will demonstrate how the offensive played out in reality.

Using the documents and the map, have students make a list of the areas that the Japanese hoped to seize during their offensive. After they have done this, they should click on locations 1–17 on the interactive map.

Based on their examination of these resources, students should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What was the overall Japanese strategy?
  • Why was it adopted?
  • Which strategic goals were met, and which were not?

How many atomic bombs did the US have in 1945?

The test bomb "Gadget" ( MK-III "Fat Man" type) was detonated at "Trinity" test site northwest of Alamogordo, NM on 16 July 1945 (yield of 20 kilotons). Shortly after this test it was decided to discontinue manufacture of the MK-I uranium bomb and only use the one already made and in transit at the time to Tinian aboard the Indianapolis, as it was far less efficient in material usage.

Two weapons, code named for the types of bombs and not the weapons themselves, were "Little Boy" ( MK-I ) a uranium U-235 bomb dropped on Hiroshima 06 Aug 1945 (yield of 18 kilotons) and "Fat Man" ( MK-III ) a plutonium Pu-239 bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 09 Aug 1945 (yield of 21 kilotons). Niigata and Kokura were two other of 17 targeted cities not bombed.

One more weapon, a MK-III plutonium bomb was completed before 14 August 1945 but when it arrived in San Francisco on 18 August 1945 to be flown across the Pacific to Tinian for use in late August, it was instead returned to Los Alamos to become the first atomic bomb in the US stockpile.

Tokyo was never considered a target city since the Emperor and Imperial Army and Navy High Commands would have to survive to surrender and it had already been so heavily firebombed that classifying the damage for weapons effects studies would be impossible.

The US had intended to manufacture and assemble for delivery twenty more MK-III type atomic bombs before the end of 1945 (three in September, three in October, seven in November, seven in December), but the surrender of Japan halted production and assembly of further atomic weapons. At least one of the three Hanford, WA plutonium production reactors was shutdown for repairs and the others were operated at severely reduced power to slow the unanticipated damage to their graphite moderator due to neutron irradiation. Due to this production was severely limited, but it is possible that a small number of additional bombs were built in 1945, but cannot be confirmed.

By the end of Operation Crossroads in the summer of 1946 the US had built a grand total of nine atomic bombs (one MK-I uranium bomb & eight MK-III plutonium bombs) and exploded five of those (Trinity, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Able, Baker) leaving only four atomic bombs in the stockpile.

Studies had already begun at Los Alamos before the end of 1945 for an improved plutonium bomb, which became the MK-4 but did not enter the stockpile until 1949..

Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese Surrender: Missed Opportunities, Little-Known Near Disasters, and Modern Memory

Barton J. Bernstein, Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese Surrender: Missed Opportunities, Little-Known Near Disasters, and Modern Memory, Diplomatic History, Volume 19, Issue 2, March 1995, Pages 227–273,

The Allied war against Japan ended on 14 August 1945, following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were sandwiched around Soviet entry into the Pacific war on the 8th. Tucked away amid these dramatic actions were some important but generally neglected events, virtually lost in modern memory: Japan's offer on the 10th of a conditional surrender with a guarantee of the imperial system America's intentionally ambiguous reply on the 11th a resulting sharp split in the Japanese government over whether to continue the war the emperor's second intervention to push for surrender and peace and a nearly successful coup in Japan that might have prolonged the war and provoked America's use of a third A-bomb and possibly even more atomic bombs. Because the war ended on the 14th and the third bomb was never used, analysts have generally ignored.