Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Fun Online Polls: When you heard the news & Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

What were you doing when you heard the news?

Listening to the news - 12 votes
Other, please specify - 11 votes

Top "other" answers:

Bayard: I think I was sawing a piece of wood

TDK: Running away from the Grassy Knoll trying to hide my rifle

It's seventy years since they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So that's this week's Fun Online Poll: "What would you have done if you had been US President in August 1945?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.


The Stigler said...

That's not how it happened. America bombed Hiroshima, the Japanese inspected the damage and the following day, the Japanese decided that despite the damage, the war was to continue. We know this because codebreakers decoded the messages flying around high command that said this. And after that information was received, the decision was made to bomb the 2nd target, Nagasaki.

What really got Japan to surrender was that they thought America could build a load of atomic weapons and turn all of Japan to rubble very quickly. In a nutshell, the top guys didn't mind sending millions of their countrymen to their deaths, but them and their families? Well, fuck that.

The Stigler said...

and I'm sure that in 2017 we'll have the likes of the BBC writing pieces about the 80th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, where more civilians were killed than in Hiroshima.

Sackerson said...

From my memory of President Truman's memoirs, after Hiroshima the Japanese generals wanted to fight on but Emperor sent a note to the Allies to negotiate terms of surrender via the Russians, who hung onto the note, declared war on Japan and advanced ASAP towards Japan; Truman then ordered the second bombing to force unconditional surrender before the Russians could get their paws into the conflict.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, I was basing my question on the The Official Version, i.e. "The World At War".

S, which backs up what TS says, quite possibly true but "Bombing Nagasaki to get one over the Russkis" seems pretty spiteful to me.

The Stigler said...


That doesn't add up. There was no event involving the Soviet Union between the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and the decision being taken to bomb Nagasaki:-

Declaration of War by Soviet Union on Japan: August 5th
Hiroshima: August 6th
Japanese military meet to discuss next steps: August 7th
Decision to bomb Nagasaki: August 7th
Soviet invasion: just after midnight, August 9th
Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki: around 11am, August 9th.

Sackerson said...

Just saying that's what Truman wrote.

Lola said...

TS et al. There was another calculation. The estimated total casualties - both Allied and Japanese consequent upon an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands was in the millions. This estimate included many civilians deaths as demonstrated by the US experience in taking Okinawa. Whereas the total casualties of the nuclear attacks was going to be in the few hundreds of thousands at most. On this basis it was actually likely to be less costly in terms of human life for both sides. This is actually in general accordance with military theory that a conclusive assault of the utmost violence possible causes less casualties to both the attacker and the attacked.

paulc156 said...

I'm with Sackerson regards the centrality of the Soviets. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa 'Racing the Enemy' is as far as I am aware the first historian to publish on the subject who is fluent in all three relevant languages and he lays out the case quite meticulously.

The SU decision to declare war and invade was the deciding factor in the decision to surrender when they did, that decision shook the Japanese more than either bomb although the bombs were obviously a factor. But lets face it, they'd lost more people in the fire bombing of Tokyo already. Right up to the 9th August the Japanese had been actively seeking SU intervention as a mediator! But they would almost certainly have surrendered in short order in any case even without SU invasion and without the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs.

They had been actively seeking honourable surrender terms. Eisenhower, General MacArthur and Naval Admiral William Leahy all explicitly agreed that the bomb was neither justified on military grounds nor necessary to secure surrender. In fact the 'war hungry' MacArthur was reported to have argued war might have ended weeks earlier if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

The U.S. government's real fear was not a protracted war with Japan, but rather that Russia would gain massive territories in Asia. Towards the end of the war the allies were quite focused on the SU rather than Japan which was a spent force and were effectively planning for the day after victory against the Japanese, and Germany before that.

The Stigler said...

OK. Give me a link, a paragraph that backs that up.

They didn't deserve honourable surrender terms. You don't sign honourable surrender terms with an enemy with imperial ambitions that attacks you, along with at least 2 other sovereign nations, uses toxic gas against civilians, treats civilian women as sex slaves and POWs as slaves. You get surrender on your terms. You humiliate their leaders.

And keeping the emperor? Hirohito was a total shitbag who personally involved in approving atrocities and should have been tried, and probably would have been executed if we'd treated him like the suspects at Nuremberg. And kicking out absolute monarchs is a very good thing. Democracies don't tend to go invading their neighbours and murdering millions.

Lola said...

P156. There is also some sort of argument that Roosevelt engineered the Japanese into declaring war in the first place. Overall I am not convinced that the truth will ever be revealed about both the causes of the American entry into WW2 or the eventual reasons for the Japanese surrender.
Also, the US administration was quite anti British Empire and did quite a bit to undermine it. It also thought that the New Order post war would be best split between US and USSR influence.

The Stigler said...


You could say that Japan wouldn't have attacked Pearl Harbor were it not for US actions, but those actions were more about limiting Japanese imperial ambitions. It's not like Japan had just been sitting around quietly minding their own business and America decided to piss them off, though. FDR did the sort of thing that we regularly do to bad countries like banning exports and freezing bank accounts.

Sackerson said...

Stigler: sorry, read the book in the college library in the early 70s. However these references may help confirm the general picture:

1: from http://www.spectacle.org/696/long.html ...

July 1945 - Japan's peace messages

Still, the messages from Togo to Sato, read by the U.S. at the time, clearly indicated that Japan was seeking to end the war:

July 11 - "make clear to Russia... We have no intention of annexing or taking possession of the areas which we have been occupying as a result of the war; we hope to terminate the war".

July 12 - "it is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war".

July 13 - "I sent Ando... to communicate to the [Soviet] Ambassador that His Majesty desired to dispatch Prince Konoye as special envoy, carrying with him the personal letter of His Majesty stating the Imperial wish to end the war" (for above items, see: Potsdam 1, pg. 873-879).

July 21: "Special Envoy Konoye's mission will be in obedience to the Imperial Will. He will request assistance in bringing about an end to the war through the good offices of the Soviet Government." The July 21st communication from Togo also noted that a conference between the Emperor's emissary, Prince Konoye, and the Soviet Union, was sought, in preparation for contacting the U.S. and Great Britain (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/22/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).

July 25: "it is impossible to accept unconditional surrender under any circumstances, but we should like to communicate to the other party through appropriate channels that we have no objection to a peace based on the Atlantic Charter." (Potsdam 2, pg. 1260 - 1261).
President Truman knew of the messages' content, noting, for instance, in his diary on July 18, "Stalin had told P.M. [Prime Minister Churchill] of telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace" (Robert Ferrell, ed., Off the Record - the Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, pg. 53)

2: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~schochet/Truman_and_the_Atomic_Bomb.pdf

Best wishes, "Sackerson"

Lola said...

TS. Yes. Agreed. I was just mentioning some historical analysis I read somewhere. I am not saying I agree with it. I do however think that FDR was desperate to sort out the depression as his (and his wife's) statist nostrums weren't doing. Maybe he saw the Japanese foreign policy issue as something that could deflect public attention away from his economic failure at home, and it just got out of hand?

paulc156 said...

TS. I'm not really arguing one way or the other about the justification for 'honourable' surrender terms merely that's how the Japanese saw things at the time.
They didn't officially respond to the Potsdam terms which was 'publicly' taken to mean they had rejected Potsdam by the US Admin. This was false and the Americans knew it. Japan had said through diplomatic channels that Potsdam could be a basis for an end to the war and were actively and desperately seeking a way to end the war and surrender on terms that were acceptable. Due to the intercepts the Americans knew all of this. Hence Eisenhowe, Leahy et al reactions after the war. Retention of the emperor and him not being tried for war crimes being the principle sticking point. The Americans refused this and then relented after the bombs! Go figure.
So in the end total humiliation was not considered a good way to end the war even by the yanks. As we now know, they soon rehabilitated 99% of the enemy into positions of influence and power. Clearly they didn't want another Versailles and all of it's ramifications and they had the Soviets to worry about now rather than score settling with the Japanese.

Sackerson. Some of the earlier histories of the period [70's you quote] were somewhat lacking due to the closure of the Soviet archives. There was a brief period where these became accessible and the Hasegawa book 'racing the enemy' took full advantage and is reckoned to be one of the most comprehensive and inclusive studies to date. Well worth a look. In the absence of that book though I found this interesting article on Foreign Policy website. Worth a look.


Lola. The usual argument is that a November planned invasion would cost many millions of lives so the bombs were dropped to save lives. It doesn't work on two levels.
Firstly, the bombs were not the main reason the war ended as already argued. There probably would never have been any need for an invasion so no severe loss of American lives would have ensued. However any delay meant serious inroads into Japanese territory by the Soviets-guaranteed. So in the light of that the bombs seemed a no brainer.

Furthermore too many high level and high ranking American's never believed there was a case for using the weapons even then.
eg; The commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King. General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence. Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur, Admiral Leahy. Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence Ellis Zacharias. General Curtis LeMay. Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bird. Vice Chairman of the U.S. Bombing Survey Paul Nitze. Brigadier General Carter Clarke,the military intelligence officer in charge of preparing summaries of intercepted Japanese cables for President Truman. Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew.
All the above mentioned are on record for stating the bombs were unnecessary to secure surrender even 'without' any US invasion.

Bayard said...

I read somewhere that one reason for forcing a quick surrender by dropping nuclear bombs was because the Japanese had threatened to kill all the POWs if the US invaded Japan.