Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the untold story
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the untold story On August 6th 1945, the first Atomic Bomb, “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima, and three days later on August 9th 1945, the second atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan’s industrial capital. The decision to use the Atomic Bomb against Japan was a poor one considering the damage, the devastation, and the amount of people left dead, injured, or suffering the loss of a family member or a friend, all for the sake of quickly ending the ongoing War. When the Japanese had realized that they were the only ones left in the war, Germany their ally, was already beaten out of the war and all efforts were now concentrated at them, the Japanese began suing for a peaceful end to the war. Apart from the fact that Japan had been suing for a peaceful end to the war, there were a number of alternative routes of action that the Americans had at their fingertips, and could have taken advantage of at a moment’s notice, which could have possibly saved a lot of lives, both American and Japanese. After analyzing the amount of damage and the amount of lives lost as a result of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, it becomes evident that dropping the bomb was not worth a quick end to the war. Much of why Japanese surrender took so long to come through reverts back to the Samurai Tradition in Japan. First, the Emperor didn’t not intervene in political affairs as he was considered to be above such petty human politics, and second, the Japanese code of honor which puts death before dishonor. The Americans had intercepted messages from the Foreign Minister Togo, to Ambassador Sato expressing the desires of the Emperor for a peaceful end to the war, “[h]is Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings greaterevil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all belligerent powers, desires from his heart thatit may be quickly terminated” (Alperovitz 23). The desire of the Emperor for an end to the war never came true until both atomic bombs had been dropped on two of Japan’s key industrial cities, as the Emperor never formally expressed this desire. In the samurai tradition, the Emperor is held at a God-like status and therefore, is considered above politics, so therefore he never intervenes, and was never expected to intervene in political issues, his role was to sanction decisions made by the Cabinet, whether he personally approved of them or not. For this reason, the Emperor never expressed his desire for peace to the Cabinet; it was an unprecedented act (Long). The retention of the Emperor was crucial to the surrender, as the Japanese believed their Emperor was a god, the heart of the people and the culture (Long). This Japanese belief is a part of a tradition that dates back to 660 B.C. when the first Japanese Emperor, Jimmu, who according to legend was a descendant of the sun god, Amaterasu. So there fore, according to the tradition, the emperor during this time, Hirohito, was said to be a divine being. It is for this reason that the Japanese sued for peace based on the “Atlantic Charter of 1941” that was drafted up by Roosevelt and Churchill on August 4th, 1941. According to the “Atlantic Charter,” every nation could choose its own form of government, thus, if Japan were to surrender based on these terms, they would be able to retain the emperor, their God (Alperovitz). However, when the United States offered a peace agreement based on “Unconditional Surrender,” the Japanese refused this offer as no provisions had been made for their Emperor. As Leon V. Sigal states, “…one point was clear to senior [United States] officials, regardless of where they stood on war termination… the critical condition for Japanese surrender was the assurance that the throne would be preserved” (Alperovitz 31). It turns out that the unconditional surrender clause of the peace agreement was the major factor that hindered Japanese surrender at this point in the war. According to the surrender agreement, “the authority that deceived the people into embarking on world conquest must be eliminated from Japan” (Long). To the Japanese this sounded like a threat being made to their Emperor. This to the Japanese would almost be like the crucifixion of Jesus in the Christian faith. The Japanese feared that if they surrendered based on these terms, first of all, they would loose their Emperor, and second, it sounds as if the Emperor would be treated as a war criminal. The Japanese officials and people were not willing to take such a risk. According to British Major General Sir Hastings Ismay in his memoirs, “…[I]f they [Japanese] were given to think that a rigid interpretation would be placed on the term ‘unconditional surrender,’ and that their Emperor would be treated as a war criminal, every man, woman, and child would fight until doomsday. If on the other hand, the terms of surrender were phrased in such a way as to appear to preserve the right of their Emperor to order them to lay down their arms, they would have done so without a moment’s hesitation” (Alperovitz 370). The Japanese people had such a passion for their Emperor that if there was the slightest hint that he was going to be treated like a common war criminal, the Japanese people, man, woman, and children would rather fight to the death before they allow such a thing to take place. Even after the Atomic Bomb had been dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a vote in the Japanese government still came up deadlocked between the hawks and the doves. The doves wanted to surrender as they realized that Japan only faced more destruction if they continued the fighting. The hawks were in favor of continuing the war to the end, regardless of material damage to Japan. In the Samurai tradition, a part of the honor code is that “hopelessness in a battle is no reason to surrender” (Long), so the Japanese were not concerned about surrendering merely because the situation looked hopeless. The major concern for the Japanese military was the loss of honor; they had a code of “death before dishonor” (Long). So therefore, a Japanese soldier would prefer death to surrendering, for to surrender is to give up one’s honor. Apart from the fact that the Japanese had long wanted a peaceful end to the war, there were a number of alternatives that the Americans could have taken, as opposed to dropping the atomic bomb. The Americans had a superior air force, a superior navy, and a superior army. Along with the superiority of the American forces, Japan was decimated; the American forces had defeated Japan’s air force, navy, and army. The Japanese were completely cut off from the rest of the world, as Robert Butow said, “…the scales of the war had been tipped so steeply against the Japanese that no counterweight at their disposal could have balanced them. Germany, which for the Japanese had been a seemingly invincible first line of defense, was facing inevitable destruction; the defense perimeter that the Japanese had created far out beyond their island base had been cracked and deeply penetrated; worst of all, Japan’s military potential was dropping rapidly with her industrial capacity, as American submarines and planes cut the last of her economic lifelines to the outside world and great aerial armadas began the methodical destruction of her cities” (Alperovitz 17). The simplest alternative that the Americans could have taken would have been to sustain the blockade that had already been in place. While being bombarded from the sky, a naval blockade strangled Japan’s ability to import oil and other vital minerals, and its ability to produce war materials (Long). Due to the effective air, sea, and land blockade that was in progress, Japan was unable to “…maintain their industry, maintain their shipbuilding, and carry on their commercial life…”(Alp 327). Also, there was a heavy destruction of machinery and equipment, which were impossible to replace because of the blockade. Japan was defeated from all possible angles, according to Captain Robert Dornin, “We had then on their knees…”(Alp 329). Japan was devastated, all that the American forces had to do was to hold out the blockade, Dornin states, “…why not wait for three or four months and then if they didn’t [surrender], drop the [atomic] bomb”(Alp 329). In the course of time, the effective naval blockade would have starved the Japanese into submission through a lack of oil, rice, medicine, and other essential materials, according to Chief of the U.S. Fleet and Naval Operations, Ernest King. The Allied forces were defeating Japan in every way possible. The fall of Saipan in early July of 1944 and of Tinian and Guam one month later, provided base which brought the homeland into much closer range for B-29 conventional bombings. In September, Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, Commander of the Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific, was able to tell General “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Forces: “the situation is developing rapidly and there are trends which indicate that the Jap is not going to last much longer. His sea power is so badly depleted that it is no match for any one of several task forces we could put into action. His air power is in a bad way. He has a lot or airplanes- probably more than he had a year ago- but he has lost his elements, flight, squadron and group leaders and his hastily trained replacements haven’t the skill or ability or combat knowledge to compete with us…. Without the support of his sea power and air power, his land forces cannot do anything except hold out in isolated beleaguered spots all over the map until bombs, bullets, disease, or starvation killed them off…” The Russians, under Stalin, gave notice that it would not renew its existing Neutral Pact with Japan and would enter the war on the Allied side. So another alternative could have been to await the Russian entry into the war as an American ally. According to the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division, the entry of Russia into the war as an American ally would have caused Japan to capitulate. In 1945, Eisenhower states, “…we three, Britain with her mighty fleet, America with the strongest air force, and Russia with the strongest land force on the continent…” could have brought an end to the war (Alp 353). Even without the Russians entering the war, and without the atomic bomb being used, Japan could have been defeated, according to Major General Curtis E. Lemay, “[t]he war would have been over in weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb”(Alp 334). Even if the atomic had to be used, the Japanese should have received some warning prior to it’s use, they should have been given the chance to see the power of the bomb before it was dropped on them. According to Ralph Bard, Under Secretary of the Navy, and member of the interim Committee, “…before the bomb is used against Japan, Japan should have some preliminary warning for say two to three days in advance of use”(Bard). The Japanese should have been given some warning; the atomic bomb took them by surprise. A demonstration of some sort should have been conducted to give the Japanese a chance to see the destructive power of the atomic bomb before it was used on their country. General Spaatz stated, “… if we were going to drop the atomic bomb, drop it on the outskirts – say in Tokyo Bay – so that the effects would not be as devastating to the city and the people”(Alp 345) . Admiral L. Lewis Strauss, special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy also proposed that a demonstration be done, “…over an area accessible to the Japanese observers, and where its effects would be dramatic enough to prove to the Japanese that at any given moment the U.S. could destroy any Japanese city”(Alp 333). Evidently, all the possible alternatives to using the atomic bomb, probably the most dangerous, most destructive weapon in the history of the world, were not properly investigated. Gar Alperovitz argues that the Joint Chiefs of Staff never formally studied the decision, nor did they carry out the usual extensive staff work and evaluation of alternative measures. The American usage of the atomic bomb was irresponsible. The lives lost, the injuries inflicted, and the damages all reflect the devastating power of the atomic bomb, of which the Americans knew about. Tests conducted by the Manhattan Engineer District showed the effects of the atomic bomb when detonated on a target. Tests were done on a site 29 kilometers by 39 kilometer bombing range in the New Mexican desert. A small bomb was detonated on a 100 feet tall tower. The tower was blown to pieces; the detonation left an impression that was 2.9 meters deep and 335 meter wide (Maag & Rohrer). The Manhattan Engineers had a fairly good idea as to what kind of damage a full size atomic bomb would incur on the Japanese, but yet the bomb was still used. Though argued that the atomic bomb saved many American lives, it took a lot of innocent Japanese lives, mostly women and children. In Hiroshima, 66 thousand people were killed, and 69 thousand were injured, totally casualties were approximately a half of the population of Hiroshima. In Nagasaki, 39 thousand people were killed, and 25 thousand were injured. Most of the casualties due to the dropping of the atomic bomb were innocent women and children. Many have argued that this was the most barbaric to ever take place, “…one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history” (Alp 352) according to Admiral William D. Leahy, who also made it clear that “…war is not to be waged on women and children” (Alp 326). Leahy claims that the use of the bomb adopted the ethical standards common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. Apart from the thousands of Japanese lives that were taken, the bomb also fell on home, killing approximately 23 or more American prisoners of war held in Japanese prisons. Over 1000 Japanese-Americans were killed as a result of the dropping of the atomic bomb (Long). The ripping pressure caused by the detonation of the atomic bomb surged through the lands, and ripped through buildings and the bodies of people. Those whom the immediate effects of the bomb didn’t kill, were left injured and wishing they were dead. Most injuries resulted from the radioactive heat emitted by the detonated bomb, and other injuries were results of falling buildings or flying debris. Numerous people were reported to have suffered fire related burns; mostly “flash” burns, caused by the instantaneous radiation of heat and light, similar to excessive exposure to x-rays. Others were injured by the falling buildings, and the flying debris caused by the pressure of the waves of energy that surged through the area. Pressure waves swept through the area, wiping out just about everything in a 1-mile radius. In Hiroshima, the bomb destroyed everything within 4 square miles and in Nagasaki; it destroyed everything within 1.5 square miles. In Nagasaki, the damages cost were smaller than in Hiroshima because of the strategic position of Nagasaki. It is located between two mountains, and therefore these mountains retarded the effects of the bomb. Evidently, the atomic bomb is an extremely powerful weapon; it was described as having more power than 20 thousand tons of T.N.T. It is said to have had more blast power than that of the “British Grand Slam,” the largest bomb ever used up until that time (Manhattan Engineer District). In-fact, the bomb was so powerful that the smoke and flames were recorded to have reached a height of 40 thousand feet within eight minutes of detonation. Despite the fact that there are a number of logical and ethical reasons why the use of the atomic bomb is looked down on, there are still people, with valid reasons as to why the atomic bomb was necessary. The most common reason advocating the use of the atomic bomb is based on the argument that it saved American lives. Secretary of War Stimson states that the atomic bomb “…was going to be used because it would save hundreds of thousands of American lives” (Alperovitz 354). According to Lemay, “[I]f a nuclear weapon shortened the war by only a week, probably it saved more lives than were taken by that single glare of heat and radiation” (Alperovitz 334). Lemay maintains, “the atomic bomb probably saved three million Japanese lives and perhaps a million American casualties” (Alperovitz 341). The bomb probably did save American lives, but who knows how many; it could have saved anywhere from one to one thousand American lives, no one knows how many. What is known however is that the bomb not only took thousands of Japanese lives, it also took approximately 23 or more lives of American prisoners of war being held in Hiroshima and over one thousand Japanese-American lives. Initially, when targets were being selected for bombing, there were four different cities selected, but only two bombs produced. Marshal states, “when we got the bombs, we had to use them in the best possible way to save American lives…” there were only two bombs and “…the situation demanded shock action” (Alperovitz 361). The truth about the bomb is that it cost too much money to make, approximately ten million dollars to produce one bomb. Plutonium, the most crucial part of the atomic bomb was hard to come by. Uranium-235 was scarce at this time, and plutonium was a by-product of uranium. Not only was the uranium to produce the plutonium hard to come by, it was also hard to process. The plutonium was hard to process and could not be produced in large amounts; it had to be produced in small quantities ( Maag & Rohrer). Marshall argues that exploding a bomb over the sea has never been tested and its behavior was unpredictable. No one knew how the atomic bomb would behave, it could be a dud, in which case the Japanese would laugh in the faces of the Americans, or it could get out of control. The truth about the situation is that there was only enough plutonium to produce two bombs, and the Americans could not afford to squander one bomb, which costs ten millions to produce, on a demonstration. There is really no way the Americans could have known what the Japanese would have done. No one knew for sure what would have happened had the bomb not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only assumptions have been made about what would have happened. For all anyone at all knew, the Japanese could have kept on fighting until the last Japanese was killed. Defending the decision to use the atomic bomb, Marshall states, “we had to assume that a force of 2.5 million Japanese would fight to the death…” kind of like how they did on the small islands that the U.S. troops attacked, “we figured that in their homeland, they would fight even harder” (Alperovitz 361). What could have possibly led Marshall to believe this is the fact that the Japanese were very resourceful. After they were blocked in, and food lines were blocked, the Japanese started to promote the substitution of acorns for rice, over one hundred and fifty millions acorns were processed for distribution across Japan as a rice substitute. Not only that, but the Japanese also discovered that the pine tree root could be processed for a small quantity of oil, so the Japanese started to vigorously cut down pine trees for processing. As far as the issue of awaiting the entry of the Russians into the war as an Allied force, the Americans were cautious. The Russian option was somewhat overlooked because of the fear of communist influence in Asia. The Allies did not really wish to exercise the option of ending the war with a Soviet attack if they could avoid doing so, only as the last possibly means (Alperovitz 84). The Americans were fearful that the Russian influence would possibly lead to widespread communism in Asia. Despite the arguments put forth by Marshal and many others who advocated the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the author of this paper still maintains that the use of the atomic as a quick end to the war was a poor choice considering the lives lost, the people killed, and the amount of damages that it caused. Close to half the population of the area that the bomb was dropped on was completely and totally wiped out. Not only did the atomic bomb kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, but it also devastated an entire country. Due to the fact that the bomb was dropped on Japan’s two industrial cities, Japan went into a total economic and traditional decline. Japan’s economy was devastated, and due to the fact that the Americans had to step in and help the Japanese economy to build back up, most of the American values and traditions were incorporated into the Japanese culture. The Americans had good intentions when they decided to use the atomic bomb, they merely wanted to stop the bloodshed and did what they thought was possibly best.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the untold story