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Nuking Japan Saved Millions? Horsehockey

Discussion in 'Legal' started by RGR, Apr 5, 2004.

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  1. RGR

    RGR Member

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    One reason I decided to stop posting to this forum is that I never see anyone acknowledge a point well made by an opponent. What consistently happens is that the point is ignored, and the focus of the discussion is shifted to something else -- often, to repeating some other point that has ALSO already been refuted. I don't expect this to change. I came back because I realized (again) that there must be many, many people who lurk here and never post, but who DO pay attention and can tell when a point has been well made. I'm sure everyone is thrilled that I've returned. :D

    Hapafish twice made the utterly discredited but immortal claim that millions of US soldiers would have been killed in an invasion of Japan, and he stated or implied that the Japanese would not have surrendered without either an invasion or the atomic bombings. Neither claim can withstand an honest examination of the evidence. First, the death estimate is an exaggeration by two orders of magnitude. Second, the Japanese war machine was broken, and its leaders were ready to surrender if only the US would agree not to try the Emperor for war crimes and allow him to keep his seat, which it later did anyway. US leaders knew this because Japanese codes had been broken.

    Exaggerations of the cost of the contemplated invasion, if made with any thought at all, are made by those who believe the bombing was an inherently horrible thing, justifiable (if at all) only by a worse horror that was the inevitable alternative. Why else would they exaggerate? People with that belief should give it up if they cannot undermine the evidence or the logic of the case against the bombing. They should not say, "OK, it wasn't millions, but it doesn't matter. However many US lives would have been saved was worth any number of Japanese civilian deaths." Some people here write as if one American life is worth any number of "enemy" deaths -- whether it's of soldiers, armed fanatics in a mob, teenage rock-throwers, old men, women, or children -- is required to prevent it. I am not addressing this post to anyone who believes that. I don't have enough common ground with them to debate anything.

    On to the evidence and argument.

    One good source I've found on the question of US leaders' motives for the atomic bombings is _Fathering the Unthinkable_ by Brian Easley. Easley's discussion goes on for several pages (Pluto Press ed., 1983, paper, pgs 98-110), noting the relevant events and the views of key participants. One especially telling point he brings up is that the Potsdam Declaration omitted any mention of weapons of mass destruction, of nuclear weapons in particular, and of respecting the Japanese condition regarding the Emperor. Why? "Stalin would have wanted details" about the bomb, and "Japan might possibly have surrendered before the bombs could be dropped ... without allowing [the US] to demonstrate to Stalin the power of the new weapons and the willingness of American administration to use them." Easley cites Charles L. Mee, an historian, who sizes up Truman's efforts toward the end of the war: "'[V]ery little that Truman did could be construed as part of a plan for tranquillity.'" (pgs 104-105)

    Howard Zinn, in his _People's History of the United States_ (New York: Harper and Row; 1980 paper ed.), gives an account that belies the purity of U.S. motives. For one thing, "Japan, by August 1945, was in desperate shape and ready to surrender" (p. 413). He quotes New York Times military analyst Hanson Baldwin, who says we almost certainly did not need to nuke the two cities. Zinn describes how the Japanese code had been broken by that time. American intelligence was relaying messages to the effect that the Japanese were ready to surrender if only the US would agree not to try the Emperor for war crimes and allow him to keep his seat, which it later did anyway.

    Zinn suggests that perhaps the money and effort invested in developing the Bomb influenced the decision to go ahead and use it. The military's desire to see the effects of nuclear weapons, one uranium-fueled, the other plutonium-fueled, on populated areas was another probable contributing motive. This is supported by the scheduling of the two bombings only one day apart, so that there would be no time for Japan to surrender before the second bomb was dropped. Zinn cites P. M. S. Blackett (_Fear, War, and the Bomb_) and Gar Alperovitz (_Atomic Diplomacy_), who separately argue that political considerations with regard to the Soviet Union definitely played a major role in the decision. Alperovitz quotes Navy Secretary James Forrestal "describing Secretary of State James F. Byrnes as 'most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in'" (Zinn, p. 415).

    In _Bombs for Beginners_, John Stockwell, the highest-ranking former CIA officer ever to resign in protest over US foreign policy, writes:

    "Knowing that Japan was facing imminent defeat, Russia declared war in early August. American leaders were desperate to cut Stalin and his cohorts out of the victory.... General Eisenhower was among those who opposed [the bombs'] use.... a demonstration bomb, dropped near Tokyo, would have conveyed the relevant message [to Japan]...[But some US leaders] were obsessed with the fervor of war. They were determined to punish the Japanese and show the world...how powerful the United States was, how tough-minded its leaders were....[p. 6 and 7] The original claim that 250,000 soldiers would be lost [in an invasion] was made, off-the-cuff, by politicians.... Truman had been given a study estimating that the invasion of Japan would be 'relatively inexpensive', costing about 45,000 soldiers' lives" (_The New York Monthly Press_, Gar Alperovitz, 1985)....[Unless Japan surrendered immediately and only to the US,] the United States would have faced a Berlin-type solution, i.e., joint occupation of Japan with the Soviets. (ibid., p 22-23)

    Sociologist Lester Kurtz of the University of Texas at Austin writes that public statements by Truman and others [to the effect] that avoiding an invasion saved 500,000 to a million American lives "were probably a deliberate lie," and concludes that "the real target of the bombing was the Soviet Union." He refers to the same briefing paper as Stockwell and Alperovitz, saying the U.S. soldier death estimate given to Truman was about 40,000. He quotes Admiral William D. Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "'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'" (Alperovitz, p. E21, in Kurtz, _The Nuclear Cage: A Sociology of the Arms Race_; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988 [paperback], p. 22). Finally, Kurtz quotes Thomas Powers, who says General Leslie Groves was convinced within a few weeks of becoming director of the Manhattan Project that "Russia was our enemy and...the project was conducted on that basis" (Powers, _Thinking about the Next War_, New York: Mentor Books, 1984, p 138, in Kurtz, p 22).
     
  2. MrAcheson

    MrAcheson Member

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    I think no one listens to you because you quote discredited works by biased partisans as if they were objective fact. Examine the suicide charges throughout the island hopping campaign. Examine the mass suicides of Okinawa civilians who refused to surrender and instead jumped to their deaths. Why would mainland Japan be any better? Examine the preparations that were being made for the invasion by the japanese when the bombs dropped. Examine the internal Japanese politics surrounding their surrender after the bombs dropped and how it still almost didn't happen.

    Would we have lost millions of people? Probably not, the Japanese war machine was broken and was never really a match for us industrially. However the Japanese would have lost millions who would rather fight or kill themselves rather than surrender. Far more than they lost due to Fat Man and Little Boy.
     
  3. agricola

    agricola Member

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    I'd challenge this:

    What the Japanese had actually done was push peace feelers out to the USSR in the hope that further losses could be prevented (this encouraged further Stalin (who had in April not renewed the non-aggression pact with Japan) to attack); yet its doubtful this had any kind of official sanction (even after the Hiroshima bomb, the Japanese cabinet couldnt come to any decision with regards to continuing the war or declaring peace), and even if they had approved it, they would have faced a coup d'etat (after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, army officers of the Imperial Guards came very close to carrying such an attempt off - without the terror that the A-bomb brought its not hard to speculate that more of the administration and armed forces would have backed a coup).

    I would also question a total of 45,000 as a total for the number of US dead caused by an invasion of the Home Islands - since any such figure is going to be a matter of guesswork, I would place it higher given the nature of Japan and the likely response of the population to the invader, a response that would to a great extent negate the difficulties that the Japanese had been suffering while the war was conducted with ships and planes.

    That said, there is much to be said for a "demonstration" bomb dropped off the coast, but near enough to a major city for everyone to see the effects, followed by peace notes that said "the next one is on Toyko".

    I agree with you about people not acknowledging serious problems of theories and statistics when those theories and statistics dont fit their scheme btw.
     
  4. Foreign Devil

    Foreign Devil Member

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    I am new here so I do not know what was said to you ...

    Who knows how many we would have lost? It is all speculation. But we would certainly be sending thousands to their deaths. Elements of the Japanese military wanted to continue the war even after the atomic bombs were dropped. They almost succeeded in a coup against the emperor, read The Last Mission for an account.
     
  5. Crownvicman

    Crownvicman Member

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    "Second, the Japanese war machine was broken, and its leaders were ready to surrender"

    What about the large Japanese Army in China? Or what about the Japanese resistance in Okinawa? Broken and ready to surrender? Not likely. Some of your sources seem biased, at least. Can you do any better?
     
  6. Ric

    Ric Member

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    Hindsight is always 20/20

    The best information and intel at the time was acted on by the duly elected representatives of this nation.

    We live in neither the times or the situation to know how they felt and reasoned. Remember, they didn't have satellites, worldwide instant news, or an internet to find out all the things that were happening on all sides.

    Besides, what should we do? Try Truman?
     
  7. Foreign Devil

    Foreign Devil Member

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    Well actually without oil and supplies the occupation troops in Asia were in very poor shape. The Soviets made short work of them in Manchuria if I recall correctly.
     
  8. MikeB

    MikeB Member

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    That most likely would not have worked. The Japanese were arguning about whether or not to surrender after the first hit on a city, I don't think one out in the ocean would have impressed them to much. Also I believe we only had 2 or 3 "atom" bombs at the time, and wouldn't have wanted to waste one.

    Regardless as to the original post we certainly would have lost many tens of thousands of our soldiers and would have had to kill probably hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians and soldiers to induce them into surrendering.

    Anyone who claims this isn't true obviously doesn't know much of the Japanese during this time period. They absolutely believed that their emperor was a GOD. They also had little regard for their own lives, they went to heaven if they died in service to their emperor. This is not unlike the suicide bombers that are muslim extremists and believe they'll get those virgins.

    Also for many years after the end of the war, many small Japanese units and individuals around the Pacific went into hiding and committed some guerilla style attacks. Some of these guy's didn't surrender for 20+ years. Imagine trying to invade and occupy a whole island that behaved that way.
     
  9. Thumper

    Thumper Member

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    Ready to surrender? You are aware that TWO detonations were necessary to effect a Japanese surrender, right?

    They had three days get right. They didn't.

    Tough noogies.

    This "U.S. as evil empire" stuff is wearing thin.
     
  10. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    "Some people here write as if one American life is worth any number of "enemy" deaths -- whether it's of soldiers, armed fanatics in a mob, teenage rock-throwers, old men, women, or children -- is required to prevent it. I am not addressing this post to anyone who believes that. I don't have enough common ground with them to debate anything."

    Some of us do believe that the interests of Americans take precedence. You got that right.
     
  11. Thumper

    Thumper Member

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    Amen, brother.
     
  12. lapidator

    lapidator Member

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    I am continually amazed at the lack of reasoning displayed by people who lament the use of Atomic weapons upon Japan during WWII.

    1) Do you know that they are STILL digging up chemical weapons in
    China -- left by Japanese soldiers during WWII?

    http://www.japantoday.com/gidx/news271977.html
    2) Somebody was going to use atomic/nuclear weapons someday. We'll never know, cannot know, the horror we prevented by using an early atomic weapon -- showing proof of their lethality at a time when the capabilities were minimal(!). If we had not used it against Japan -- we certainly would have used it against N. Korea in 1952 -- and by then the USSR had their own bomb. Granted this is not a technique I'd like to see repeated with the next stage of WMD -- but the fact remains that the world is a better place having used it in 1945.

    Wakeup!

    Lapidator
     
  13. fish2xs

    fish2xs Member

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    >> Some people here write as if one American life is worth any number of "enemy" deaths

    ...that is because they are correct.


    If you don't like fission, don't bomb our naval bases. Pretty straightfoward concept to me.
     
  14. moa

    moa Member

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    IIRC, the official estimate at the time was that the US military would suffer a total of 1,000,000 casualties taking the Japanese home islands. How many Japanese would die is probably a big unknown. I think a total of 3,000,000 Japanese died during WWII.

    Major combat on the small and crowded Japanese islands undoubtedly would have been a humanitarian disaster.

    The Japs also still had 10,000 serviceable aircraft that they could use for conventional and kamikazi attacks like they did at Okinawa where they sunk around 30 US ships and damaged many others. IIRC, something like 5,000 sailors were killed or wounded by the kamikazis.

    The Japanese really showed no real sign of surrendering even though they had hundreds of thousands killed in conventional air raids. In one raid 14 square miles of Tokyo was burned out with estimates of as many as 250,000 being killed in that one raid. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were picked for the A-bomb raids because they were just about the only fair size cities still standing.
     
  15. fix

    fix Member

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    I suggest reading this for those who do not believe the casualty estimates.
     
  16. RGR

    RGR Member

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    -- MrAcheson

    "No one listens to me"? Interesting assertion, given all the responses to my posts. It IS tempting to assume that if someone doesn't agree they must not have been listening ... but I don't think I've given in to that temptation here -- at least not publicly. :D

    "Discredited works"? Where and by whom have any of the works I've ever cited been discredited, other than the doubt that was properly and admittedly cast on the Al Qaeda guy?

    "Biased partisans"? As I and one of my opponents agreed several posts ago, everyone's biased somehow. If only unbiased people researched anything and drew any conclusions, we wouldn't have any research. It isn't easy to look for evidence that goes against what one already thinks -- much less write a whole book or book chapter about it. So what if all the authors are on a "US as the evil empire" trip? You're attacking their motivations. You need to restrict yourself to attacking their logic, or evidence that weighs on the other side against the evidence that they cite. Some of the replies here did that, with comments about the leaders or the troops not wanting to surrender even after the bombs were dropped -- to which, Foreign Devil made the best response I know: the will to fight doesn't mean much if you can't get any replacement supplies.

    At least I usually CITE sources -- often scholarly books, sometimes mass media stuff if it's a current event. This forum is full of glib assertions that are made without the slightest attempt to support the factual claims or to look at contrary evidence.

    My "biased" sources quote people that most people here would consider to be biased in favor of the bombings: generals and others charged with the defense of the US and its soldiers. Are you suggesting that they are puppy lovers? Or had a failure of will?

    I think it's you who needs to (with a nod to Crownvicman) "do better."

    Ric: "The best information and intel at the time was acted on by the duly elected representatives of this nation."

    That might well be. And their intel told them 40-45,000, not a quarter million, or a million, or millions. One of my points was that people should stop defending Truman's actions by using figures that HE didn't have (and which are made up out of whole cloth anyway). I didn't attack his decision based on new information, but on what was known at the time. Even if you could argue that the bombings turned out to be a Good Thing because of what we know now, that wouldn't mean Truman's decisions weren't war crimes. The same goes for the allegations that have recently been supported by declassified documents about the "duly elected" Roosevelt and company knowingly provoking the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor to overcome the majority pacifist/isolationist sentiment among the US population. Based on what we all know now, I wish the US had gone to war against Hitler and Japan sooner. It seems likely that fewer lives would have been lost. But intentionally letting 1,800 servicemen die by keeping the fleet in harbor to manipulate public opinion is a criminal way to accomplish that goal. Kinda like terrorism.

    "You are aware that TWO detonations were necessary to effect a Japanese surrender, right? / They had three days [to] get right. They didn't."

    They still didn't, after almost a month, yet the US did not keep bombing them every three days until they did. Hence, one bomb MIGHT have led to the same result. I agree that we can't know that. My main point was, "millions saved" is a huge exaggeration, and its being made reveals consciousness of "collective guilt," a need to justify the bombings in a BS sound bite rather than through the more meaty arguments some people are now trying to make here. And the US didn't drop the bombs only to save the 40-45,000, but also for Nazi-style "research" (into the effects of atomics on a city), and to intimidate the Soviets and keep from having to share management of Japan with them. Some here have also defended the latter on its merits.
     
  17. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    RGR

    Bleed for Nanking, not for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Why should ANY more Americans have died to spare the Japanese? You talk as if 40,000 American dead were a dismissable figure.

    A lot of bloody damn islands came before those bombs went off.
     
  18. harpethriver

    harpethriver Member

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    RGR- Welcome back! Believe it or not there are probably many at THR who welcome your return, simply becuse they like to argue, as apparently do you. Healthy debate is the American way. I honor your right to do so and welcome the opportunity to read your posts and comment should I choose. Let's face it, there are those who would argue black is white and vice versa, however your rant is irrelevant because your post is not about black and white issues. To argue for or against your points requires conjecture, based on events that took place nearly 60 years ago. This sort of speculation coupled with the hindsight required to render an opinion is not black and white, much less proveable no matter which side one is on. I have found the majority of THR members to be intelligent and well read. That is typically what fuels these arguments. You seem to be intelligent, and passionate about that which you believe. Those qualities should serve you well debating on a site like THR. I believe you could choose your battle a little more wisely next time.
     
  19. fish2xs

    fish2xs Member

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    You can reference all the data you want. However, my opinion is that
    there are no 'rules of war'. Or if there is, it is "kill or be killed".

    War is horrible - and it should be. We should do all we possibly can
    to avoid it diplomatically and politically.

    But if someone really doesn't want to be subjected to "Nazi-style research"
    from the US, then don't bomb our naval bases.

    And don't fly hijacked airplanes into our buildings.

    And don't kill our civilians overseas and hang their corpses from a bridge over the Euphrates.


    I highly doubt the Japanese or militant Islam would show us the kind of compassion you are
    proposing we should emulate.
     
  20. Sean Cloherty

    Sean Cloherty Member

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  21. Thumper

    Thumper Member

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    "Collective guilt?"

    You're right...we evidently don't share enough common ground to effectively discuss this. The idea of any sort of "guilt" for taking the fight to one's mortal enemy is unthinkable.

    I have to admit that I've never heard the claim that the Hiroshima and Nagisaki bombings saved "millions," merely that they (the bombings) saved lives.

    The lives I am concerned with happen to be American. There's no argument that the bombings saved American lives. As you intimated earlier, evidently you scorn those who value American lives more than those of other countries.

    I respectfully suggest that, especially in an era of "total war," those who can't discriminate "our'n" from "their'n" are a detriment to victory and should be scorned themselves.
     
  22. Iain

    Iain Member

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    Some of us believe that the interests of the British take precedence actually.

    We also don't believe that the lives of British persons are worth 'x' number of 'enemy' lives. None of this "we'll slaughter all your children and their children if you fire at us", we'll happily settle for putting you down. Seems a little more balanced.

    As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki I am of the opinion that yes 20/20 hindsight is wonderful and those that say it never needed to be done are guilty of this. Those that say 'well it took two bombs so a demonstration would never have worked' are also equally guilty.

    Could have been tried. Probably would have failed. I am increasingly of the opinion that what happened at Dresden was overall as bad, just the absence of the word 'atomic' keeps Hiroshima's precedence intact. War is war though.
     
  23. Skofnung

    Skofnung Member

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    I could not agree with Longeyes more.

    RGR, I will suggest a book to you, The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang. If you read this book, (hell, just look at the pictures in it if you are feeling lazy) you will cease to have the warm fuzzies for the Japanese. They were monsters in this instance.

    I used to read Jeff Cooper's works and think he was being a bigot when it came to the Japanese. I no longer think he is a bigot. He saw the Japanese (military) for what they were, not what college professors think they should be.

    I think they got off easy. Not as easy as the Nazis, but still, they deserved what they got.
     
  24. fix

    fix Member

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    Folks perched up on the fence make easy targets for the bad guys and obscure the view of the good guys who are trying to protect them from the same bad guys. As long as things are theoretical, these folks are happy to sit up on the fence that they percieve to be the moral high ground. However, something tells me that in practice, they'd come down off that fence real quick if the bullets were literally flying at them. It's all well and good to think of yourself as an intellectual deep thinker, above the moral wasteland created by us ignorant knuckledraggers, but when the S hits the F for real, you'd be surprised how many deep thinking knuckledraggers are born. The problem is that these folks refuse to see the real threat until it's close enough to spit at, and even then will not acknowledge it for more than a few moments before reverting to deep thoughts and analysis. Witness the ongoing debate regarding the war on terror.
     
  25. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    Fix, well said.

    As I like to put it, even Hamlet, the most "Western" and cerebral of our archetypes, eventually went to arms.
     
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