Was it necessary for America to drop the atomic bomb on Japan?
It was not necessary for America to have dropped the atomic bomb on Japan in the Second World War. A school of revisionist argues that it was not necessary to bomb Japan because the American leaders were well aware that Japan was nearing defeat which would eventually be followed by surrender. They also argue that the bomb was used for another ulterior purpose. These purposes may include intimidating the Soviet Union and also other bureaucratic interests that America had. This school is quite sure that the Second World War could have come to an end without the use of the atomic bombs. They argue that the other motives would have worked but the other ulterior motives had blocked them (Michael 40).
These alternative approaches included accepting the offer that Japan had offered on the 10th containing the conditional surrender and the guarantee of the imperial system. This was followed by an intentional ambiguous reply by the Americans on the 11th. There was also the sharp split of the Japanese government over the decision whether to continue or end the war. The emperor of Japan had also intervened for the second time in pursuit of peace and surrender but it was not taken into consideration by the American leaders. There was also the almost successful coup in Japan which would have led to prolonged war. The war eventually ended on 14th but it is necessary to put into consideration the neglected events that had occurred between 10th and the 14th which could have led to Japan’s surrender without the use of the atomic bombs (Michael 38).
The atomic bomb was kept a secret for so long by President Truman and his top leaders. As they continued planning on the Kyushu invasion, the President and the top leaders kept it as a top secret though they knew that the invasion would not come to be. The bomb was untested and hence did not raise any suspicions that it would be used. The leaders remained wary of discussing the bomb even in the top-level sessions that they had. Therefore too little was known about the power it had, the psychological effects it would have and the expected results it would produce after being used on Japan.
In the meetings held in June 1945, the atomic bomb was a discussion because it was a prospect and not indeed a reality. This was because it was not quite necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan; the top leaders still had other options which would make the Japanese to surrender. On the part of the American leaders, they did not seek to evade the use of the atomic bomb because to them it did not create political or ethical problems. The American leaders therefore did not consider carefully the alternatives to the bomb and they easily rejected them.
Other alternatives to the atomic bomb that were easily rejected included: a noncombat demonstration to act as a dramatic warning to the Japanese; alteration of the unconditional-surrender demands and the clear promise of the imperial system; clear pursuit of the peace feelers of Japan; total reliance on siege strategy of the naval blockade and weighty conventional bombing without the atomic bomb; and finally the delay of the atomic bomb until Soviet Union’s entry into the war totally. The American leaders felt no enticement to pursue these alternative strategies to ending the Second World War and the surrender of the Japanese. From this, we can conclude that it was not necessary to use the atomic bomb because they had the other strategies that they could have pursued to put an end to the Second World War.
Earlier on before the use of the atomic bomb on Japan, the American leaders had viewed the bomb as profoundly immoral but still were chiefly inured to the mass killing of their enemies and they looked forward to their killings and they found out that the only way to accomplish this goal was through the use of the atomic bomb. The use of the atomic bomb was not necessarily to end the World War but to revenge against their enemies through killing most of their citizens who in this case are Japanese. This was one of the hidden motives of the use of the atomic bomb. Not that it was to end the war but to take revenge on the Japanese first because of the bomb that they had used on Pearl Harbor and also because of the many Americans who had been killed during the war and the fact that they had now turned to be their enemies.
The American leaders also were looking forward to the global political benefits that they would have after the use of the atomic bomb. The American leaders had this hidden motive of intimidating the Soviets to acquire the benefits that they needed. It was therefore not necessary to use the atomic bomb but they had to use it in order to benefit from the situation. The American leaders knew that they would be a great outcry in America if they never made use of the atomic bomb. This was because they had spent approximately $2 billion on the Manhattan Project and they needed to justify the use of the money they had spent. They had done so by diverting the scarce resources during the wartime and therefore if they did not use the bomb against the hated enemy, Japan, the Americans would need a clear explanation if the war went on past 1st November 1945 calling for the invasion and many Americans would be killed in it.
The domestic-political reasons that are explained above led to the use of the atomic bomb though it was not quite necessary. These reasons however blended in easily into very influential patriotic motives and these coupled with the bureaucratic and personal reasons of the leaders like Marshall, Stimson and President Truman finally led to the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. Not because the atomic bomb was quite necessary to be used on Japan to end the war but because of these reasons. These three American leaders had particular responsibility on the Manhattan project that was responsible for the production of the atomic bomb.
There are sources that show that Japan could have surrendered without the use of the atomic bomb. The minutes of the top-level meeting in the White House held on 18th June 1945 had information that makes us to conclude that it was not really necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan. They had a verbatim digest of a key JCS report that predicted the surrender by the Japanese. This would be possible through sea blockade and air bombardment; landing on Japan; and finally perhaps through the entrance or the threat of entry by Russians into the war. Marshall had the view that “the impact of Russian entry on the already hopeless Japanese may well be the decisive action levering them into capitulation at that time or shortly thereafter if we land in Japan,” (minutes). The Soviet invasion was only viewed as useful but not essential.
In Truman’s diary that was found after his death, the entry on 17th July 1945, he had indicated that he believed that the entry of the Soviet would lead to the end of the war and that would be on 15th August. The President had known very well that this would be after the atomic bomb had been used. He had written “Fini Japs when that [Soviet entry] comes about,” (Diary). This meant that President Truman believed that the entry of the Soviet would lead to prompt or an immediate surrender by the Japanese. The question remains why President Truman did not accelerate greatly the economic reconversion in America, because he knew that the reconversion would be a chief problem politically buffeting the postwar administration. The reconversion would have included dealing with the troubling issues of priorities, prices, wages and jobs. He did not inform his economic planners in Washington to do something economically because they expected the war to end in September. By this words of “Fini Japs” we can conclude that he knew that Japan would soon be defeated meaning that they would have surrendered. The delay of the atomic bomb to await the entry of Soviet may have been an option but they viewed it as being risky. This is a valid factor to show that it was not necessary to use the atomic bomb because there could be other alternatives.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey in the year 1946 concluded that Japan would have surrendered prior to 1st November 1945, even though the atomic bomb was used and even though the Russians did not enter the war. The naval blockade would cause the Japanese to surrender within the course of time because they would starve into submission. This is because they would lack rice, oil, medicine and other necessary materials (King and Whitehill 621). By June 1945, the merchant fleet of Japan had reduced to almost 10% of the prewar size, the oil supplies had cut to less than 3% of the prewar peak, most of the imports of oil, foodstuffs, and all other materials had blocked and the economy of Japan was in shambles (Jerome 144). The 1945 crop of rice was a disaster and also the imports were actually impossible. In mid 1945, the then-secret Japanese analysis for the cabinet of Japan warned, “the food situation has grown worse and a crisis will be reached at the end of this year. The people will have to get along on an absolute minimum of salt and rice needed for subsistence,” (survey of national resources). Similarly after the war, Admiral King argued publicly that even a naval blockade would produce surrender of Japan. These factors also tell us that it was not necessary to use the atomic bomb. We find out that food crisis would have led to the surrender of Japan even though the atomic bomb was not used and therefore we can conclude that the atomic bomb use was not necessary.
The siege strategy would also have produced Japanese surrender by 1st November 1945 without the use of the atomic bomb. The probabilities may be low up to 25- 30% but the surrender would eventually come to happen. There surety of whether the peace forces would push for surrender and whether the government would surrender in case of division in the government were the questions that Americans were debating around. This was an option because the atomic bomb could not be used. In a diary entry by Walter Brown who was an assistant to the Secretary of State Brynes suggested and explained that Byrnes and Truman had seen the atomic bomb as an avenue to decrease the Soviet’s political authority in Asia.
The President Truman made a calculated and conscious decision to use the atomic bomb without informing the other Americans. This as we have already discussed earlier was to intimidate the Soviet Union and also to force Russia to give in to American domination and leadership immediately after the war and also in the post-war world. The President Truman however did not inform Americans but just fabricated the story that it was to save the American’s lives and to force the Japanese to surrender. It was not necessary to use the bomb because he could have informed the Americans of all the intentions that he had and may be would have disagreed with his opinion. In June 1945, the American negotiators and diplomats informed President Truman that the Japanese were ready to surrender on the condition that they would be allowed to retain their emperor. The President refused to take the conditional surrender and all they needed was unconditional surrender (Barton and Allen 484). This shows that Japan was ready for surrender even though the atomic bomb would not be used.
The top American military commanders had warned President Truman in June 1945 against using the atomic bomb on Japan. General Dwight Eisenhower who was the supreme commander of the American forces in America informed the Secretary to the war who was Stimson that Japan was already under defeat and that the bomb was not necessary. In the month of July, Eisenhower met President Truman and also gave him advise on not to bomb the Japanese. Admiral Leahy who was the chairman to joint chiefs of the staff also advised President Truman not to use the atomic bomb. General Henry Arnold who was the Army Air Force Chief also believed that Japan would have submitted and surrendered without the use of the atomic bomb. This shows that the military was against the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima (Jerome 144). They were quite certain that Japan would surrender eventually; this was because they had observed the reaction of the Japanese during the fights that were going on. From this argument we can conclude that it was unnecessary to use the atomic bombs on Japan in order to end the war.
In the diary of President Truman, he had recorded that he was well aware that Japan wanted to surrender and we are left wondering why he went ahead to use the atomic bombs. He also knew that it was not necessary to use the bombs to end the war but he still went ahead. There was a meeting in Potsdam between President Truman, Stalin, and Churchill which he delayed until he had received news that the atomic bomb had worked. When he was informed of the successful trial at Alamogordo, New Mexico on the 16th of July, he allowed the meeting to commence on July the 17th. He got the Russians to delay their entrance into the war aligned with Japan till a week later. Russia agreed to enter on 15th August and not as earlier agreed on 8th August. Shortly after they had agreed, President Truman organized and gave orders to drop the bomb in the weeks that were before 15th August when the Russians would enter into the war. The atomic bomb was then dropped on 9th of August. This delaying of the meetings makes us to conclude that the atomic bombs were not quite necessary but the President Truman had other hidden agenda (Barton and Allen 510). He could have allowed the Russians to enter the war and then the war would come to an end but he did not do so.
It is assumed and thought that Truman wanted to force Japan to quickly surrender and accept the unconditional surrender way before Russia could get involved in the Second World War and demand a responsibility in the peace after war in Asia. The Russians then entered into the war after the first bomb on the 9th of August. Then Japan surrendered on the 10th of August and so that America could keep the Russians away from any peace settlement with the Japanese and also to keep away the Russian claims on Asia, America accepted the offer by Japan and also allowed them to keep their emperor. If the Americans had taken the earlier proposal, the atomic bomb would not be used because the surrender was still conditional. We can conclude that the atomic bombs were not necessary because eventually to keep the Russians out of the war, they accepted the conditional surrender on 15th August, which they could have taken earlier on in May the same year (Michael 96).
The atomic bombs were not necessary because they then led to the start of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States.