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Eyewitness to History
June 17, 2005 8:34 AM   Subscribe

American's censored Nagasaki A-bomb report unearthed after 60 years: The first reporter to reach Nagasaki following the August 1945 “Fat Man” atomic attack had his newspaper stories censored and banned by US General Douglas MacArthur’s office. The reporter, George Weller, who worked for the (defunct) Chicago Daily News, was prevented from reporting on a mysterious “Disease X” out of fear that the stories of radiation poisoning would horrify the world and shift public attitudes regarding the bomb.

Weller died two years ago. Carbons of the articles were discovered by his son, Anthony.

Four of them were published today for the first time by the Tokyo daily Mainichi Shimbun, which purchased them from Anthony Weller.
posted by zarq (83 comments total)

 
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posted by shmegegge at 8:37 AM on June 17, 2005


Really interesting, thank you.
posted by loquax at 8:48 AM on June 17, 2005


Fascinating stuff.
posted by Rothko at 8:49 AM on June 17, 2005


aside: the reason you hardly ever hear about Nagasaki, but hear about Hiroshima instead, is that Nagasaki had the largest christian population in Japan.
posted by modernerd at 8:53 AM on June 17, 2005


After posting I found an article about it in Editor and Publisher.
posted by zarq at 8:56 AM on June 17, 2005


There's a considerable body of opinion that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the final shots of World War II, but the first shots of the cold war. It's sickening that the US may have killed so many just to make an impression on the soviets.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:03 AM on June 17, 2005


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(Popular Ethics: How many Native Americans did they kill? Mexicans? How about African slaves? What about Dresden? Not intending to marginalize the insane horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the very real possibility it was more political than tactical, but it seems par for the course.)
posted by loquacious at 9:08 AM on June 17, 2005


Knowing the ahistorical liberals around here, I'm gonna get flamed for this, and frankly I don't care.

After Pearl Harbor and four years of war, though, it did force an immediate surrender and forestall an invasion that would've been far bloodier. Or maybe, with all the naval and air power (especially the highly effective submarine force) the US had by the summer of 1945, the US could've switched tactics entirely and declared an air and maritime exclusion zone around the Japanese home islands -- and, instead of shooting and bombing them, simply starved them into unconditional surrender.

Japan got off lightly compared to Adm. William Halsey's vow, when the Enterprise steamed into Pearl Harbor on 8 December 1941 and he saw the destruction, that "When this war is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell."
posted by alumshubby at 9:25 AM on June 17, 2005


loquax: You're welcome!
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on June 17, 2005


the reason you hardly ever hear about Nagasaki, but hear about Hiroshima instead, is that Nagasaki had the largest christian population in Japan.

Or Hiroshima was simply first (August 6). There does seem to be a news coverage difference between the first atomic bomb used in warfare and all subsequent (ie, Nagasaki on August 9). Americans always love irrelevant distinctions about which one was "first" (ie, man in space, man on the moon, etc)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2005


alumshubby: The NYTimes published articles late in the war and afterward that described Japanese wartime atrocities during the Rape of Nanking, such as skewering babies on bayonets and multiple rapes of Chinese women. They stirred fear in the American populace with true accounts of an invading, barbaric Japanese army. From that alone, it shouldn't be a surprise that many Americans supported the bombing.

Wikipedia has a good breakdown of the pro and con arguments of bombing Japan.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2005


Thank you for this excellent link and information! It's important I think to out conspiracies that silence truth speakers.
posted by nickyskye at 9:38 AM on June 17, 2005


My mother’s aunt and her aunt’s daughter were vaporized in the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Other members of her family were horribly injured and some died of cancer from the nuclear radiation.

When I was 11 yrs. old, my mother and my siblings went back to Japan and visited Nagasaki. At the site where the A-bomb hit, nothing indicated that this was ground, there was just a small store. But the residents of Nagasaki have not forgotten. In an outdoor shopping mall, pictures of the victims of the bomb were displayed. There was also a museum in their honor. Even at that young age, I could not bring myself to look at either of those pictures or go into that museum.

alumshubby: Thanks for reminding that you don’t care that about their deaths, and thousands like them, because, hey, the U.S. won the WAR, so what the fuck, a few Japs died.
posted by lola at 9:40 AM on June 17, 2005


Iola, your comment to Alumshubby is crap. That is not what he said at all, and you know it.
posted by LarryC at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2005


Oh, and great post Zarq, thanks!
posted by LarryC at 9:46 AM on June 17, 2005


Thanks for reminding that you don’t care that about their deaths, and thousands like them, because, hey, the U.S. won the WAR, so what the fuck, a few Japs died.

Just as surly as you don't care about the Americans who were killed by Japanese during the war, or the Chinese that were murdered at the hands of the Japanese, right?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:48 AM on June 17, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: What atomic bombs other than the two used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been used in warfare? I thought they were the first and last....
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on June 17, 2005


Now, now, there was no "Rape of Nanking" just the "First date with Nanking that ended badly."

The monster becomes the "victim" again.
posted by TetrisKid at 9:55 AM on June 17, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: What atomic bombs other than the two used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been used in warfare? I thought they were the first and last....

They were the first and last. Hence the use of "ie" (as in "meaning") rather than "eg" (as in "for example") in the parenthetical. The point is that Americans have a somewhat stupid habit of caring a lot more about "first!" than anything else (see "first post!", first in space, etc). Hiroshima was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare. That is a much easier explanation of why it is more talked-about than Nagasaki than a theory about the relative Christian populations of different regions of Japan.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:57 AM on June 17, 2005


Zarq. Way to go Bro. Great find.

Lola - while the bomb did leave a terrible legacy that should never be forgotten, let's not leave out the part about the millions of innocents the Japanese murdered, raped, and tortured through out Asia for nearly 20 years. Not to mention medical experiments on thousands of children so the Japanese could developed their OWN WMD - biological and radiological. One can not help to wonder what would have happened should the Imperial Army, the organization that created the thousands of Comfort Women (sex slaves) of Korea, have completed it's own Plague weapons.
posted by tkchrist at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2005


Steve_at_Linnwood: I fully realize that the Japanese also perpetrated horrible atrocities during the war. The dropping of the nuclear bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima did ultimately save lives on all sides. I just have a more personal connection to the deaths the bomb caused.
posted by lola at 9:59 AM on June 17, 2005


Symptoms of "Disease X" include an insatiable craving for bukkake and tentacle porn.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2005


Sigh. It seems the inevitable derailing of this thread has begun. For my part in it, I apologize.

In an attempt to re-rail: Though the army may have been quick to sensor the press, they did allow scientists into the area shortly after to study the health effects of the survivors. That research formed the bulk of our current understanding of human radiation-biology. With what we learned we can now set safe exposure limits for, among other things, nuclear medicine. This, of course, isn't a justification for the killing of so many civilians, but we may gather some comfort knowing that their sacrifice is helping people today beat cancer.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2005


Oh, boy...right again...

lola, here's an offer of mutual sympathy: I'll care about the deaths of your mother's aunt and her aunt's daughter if you'll agree to care about a cousin of mine who died aboard a troopship that was sunk in action. Or, on second thought, so what the fuck, a few Americans died, right? Having watched my own father, a World War II veteran, sitting alone every night for decades at a kitchen table, chain-smoking in the dark, I can attest to my own personal if second-hand experience of the horrors of war.

I expected I'd see an emotional response or two like yours. I'll entertain the notion that the A-bombs shouldn't have been dropped: In that case, your mother's aunt and her aunt's daughter, and many, many more Japanese, plus a lot of US soldiers and Marines, would've had the opportunity to die no less horribly, if more conventionally. Follow this link, scroll down to "Estimated Casualties for Downfall," and find out how much worse it would've been. Compared to these estimates, the Japanese got off incredibly lightly.

If you're under the mistaken impression that I don't care about deaths, guess again. I'm glad it didn't go on longer with a much higher butcher's bill. The only good thing about the Second World War was that it ended as speedily as possible.
posted by alumshubby at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2005


Actually the first man in space was Russian, so I am not sure Americans have much interest in that.

On topic: alternate histories of the War-If-The-Bomb-Hadn't-Been-Used are just idle speculation of the if pigs had wings then beggars would fly variety. Alumshubbie's scenario is possible. That doesn't diminish the horror of Nagasaki. What if the bomb had been used to blow the top off Mt Fuji as a demonstration? Hirohito was looking for an excuse to surrender. We'll never know.
posted by Rumple at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2005


There is - or there used to be - a big difference between an innocent auntie incinerated in her home and a navy sailor sunk in a warship by the enemy. Do we all subscribe to "total war" doctrine now?
posted by Rumple at 10:22 AM on June 17, 2005


I applaud your civility, alumshubby
posted by pmbuko at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2005


The bomb would not have blown the top off Mt. Fuji, btw. That would require an underground detination, and bunker-busters had not yet been invented.

I, for one, still draw a thick line between civilian and soldier. And, acknowledging recent history, I realize this can sometimes be a difficult task. But it was not always so. I could much more easily stomach the deaths of 10,000 American soliders vs. 100 foreign civilians.
posted by pmbuko at 10:29 AM on June 17, 2005


American or foreign soldiers vs. 100 American or foreign cilvilans.
posted by pmbuko at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2005


Hirohito was looking for an excuse to surrender.

I'd like to know where you get that because evidence is to the contrary. IOW his generals and admirals wanted to keep fighting even after the second bomb was dropped. Mt. Fuji? Are you kidding? Remember, Hirohito didn't surrender after the first one was dropped on his OWN people.

Like I said. What if the Imperial Army had the bomb? What if we would of had to make a landing invasion preceded by a long bombing campaign. Look, these aren't fantasies. They are the realities of the time.

"Well never know" Yes. But if history is any example we can make some fairly educated guesses. And invading Japan would MOST LIKELY have led to millions of deaths.
posted by tkchrist at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2005


Rumple, yes, since the first attacking army sacked the first city back in antiquity. "Rules of war" have been more the exception than the rule. (Have you ever heard of the Athenia, for example?)

pmbuko, thank you.
posted by alumshubby at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2005


alumshubby: My sympathies to you and your family also. I do care deeply about ALL the death and destruction incurred on either side of any war. My comment was to give a human face to what happened on that day, which somehow got lost in my comment. The people that die in any war are not just numbers, every side has lost a father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. The powers that be start the wars, the civilians suffer the casualties.
posted by lola at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2005


Alumshubby -- it is still an ideal we can adhere to and deplore when it is breached, by whatever side, and recognize that a warrior's death is not directly equivalent to that of a civilian.

I should have put a ? after the Hirohito comment to make it part of the speculative history. Remember the generals etc were defending the emperor's honour. The command structure may have been a house of cards. When he said the word, they followed. Hirohito was hardly a warlord but carried a huge burden in an honour based society. Three days after Hiroshima did not necessarily leave enough time for the full impact of that event to sink in. What surrender demands were made between Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
posted by Rumple at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2005


Rumple *nod* Kokura was the designated target for the bomb that hit Nagasaki. Kyoto, Yokohama and the Emperor's Palace were on the original short list of possible targets. Alternate history is essentially an act of intellectual masturbation.

This is from the Wikipedia entry I posted earlier: "The Japanese government never did decide what terms, beyond preservation of an imperial system, they would have accepted to end the war; as late as August 9, the Supreme Council was still split, with the hardliners insisting Japan should demobilize its own forces, no war crimes trials, and no occupation. Only the direct intervention of the Emperor ended the dispute, and even after that a military coup was attempted to prevent the surrender (although it was easily suppressed).

Some believe more effort to reduce casualties should have been made. Further, some claim this could have been done without affecting the stated purposes of the bombing. "No evidence has ever been uncovered that leaflets warning of atomic attack were dropped on Hiroshima. Indeed, the decision of the Interim Committee was that we could not give the Japanese any warning." However, after the Hiroshima bombing, Truman announced "If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth." On August 8, 1945 leaflets were dropped and warnings were given to Japan by Radio Saipan. (Nagasaki did not receive warning leaflets until August 10)."

Text of the leaflets can be seen here.
posted by zarq at 11:08 AM on June 17, 2005


popular ethics: Thanks for posting that link!! Nice to see that at least some good came out of such tragedy.

LarryC, tkchrist and nickysyke, thank you.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on June 17, 2005


Yes. But if history is any example we can make some fairly educated guesses. And invading Japan would MOST LIKELY have led to millions of deaths.

There's no hindsight since invasion didn't happen, and this is not a fair point to bring up, because it is hypothetical. That said, there is plenty of contrary evidence stating it would not have cost millions of lives, and that this particular figure was invented after the fact.
posted by tweak at 11:15 AM on June 17, 2005


lola:

alumshubby: Thanks for reminding that you don’t care that about their deaths, and thousands like them, because, hey, the U.S. won the WAR, so what the fuck, a few Japs died.

Nice attempt to "give a human face to" your insults. Better luck next thread.

Rumple: Maybe you and pmbuko ought to get together to "stomach far more easily" the deaths of combatants who got drafted, or thought they were defending their homelands, or just thought they'd look good in uniform. It's all a total train wreck to me; sometimes more avoidable, sometimes less.

More on-topic, I'll just say what I deplore is that the US military felt it was necessary to suppress this account, and I'm glad that it was the last atomic weapon dropped in anger. (So far.)
posted by alumshubby at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2005


Is it possible to simultaneously contemplate the necessity of the bombings and to unconditionally mourn the results.
posted by Rumple at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2005


A History of World War II course I took argued that the sheer shock value of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to force the Japanese military leaders (who controlled the government and emperor) to surrender. Given that the firebombings preceding the two atomic bombings killed more Japanese than the atomic bombs did and that the Japanese military actually planned to station civilians (men, women, children) with pitchforks and knives on the beaches when the U.S. started a mainland invasion, it seems that the Japanese leadership had little concern for civilian deaths, and might have continued to endure horrific civilian casualties for whatever ideological reasons. The same course also recognized that the use of the atomic bombs was a shot across the bow of the Soviet Union and the the result of technological fanaticism (we have this, we need to use it).

It's also very important to realize that the affects of radiation were unknown at the time of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium fission and the possibility of a chain reaction (through secondary neutron emission) was not demonstrated and recognized in the physics community until 1939 when Hahn and Fritz Strasmann suspected they had split Uranium into Barium and Lanthanum, and sent their results to Lise Meitner (interesting and overlooked female physicist) and Otto Frisch for analysis. When Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear pile on the University of Chicago's football field, he recruited the football team to stack the uranium fuel and graphite bricks that comprised he reactor. The technology and theory behind nuclear weapons was very new, and the harmful effects of radiation on biological organisms weren't known until after Little Boy and Fat Man.

On Preview: Rumple, yes it is.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:29 AM on June 17, 2005


I suggest anyone who wants to look deeper into the events around the Pacific Theatre of action should watch Victory in the Pacific on PBS. I wrote about this issue more here (self link), and it is important to look at the wider events surrounding the decision to use the atomic bomb - including Yalta, why Japan waited to start surrender negotiations until after the Soviets invaded, the plan for the Invasion of Japan, etc. As for estimated casualty figures for invading the home islands tweak, the figures ranged from 30,000 to 280,000 for just invading Kyushu. On Okinawa, over 12,000 US and an unknown amount of Japanese soldiers were killed - invading the home islands would have been magnitudes worse than Okinawa.

Also note that on 9-10 May Curtis Le May firebombed Tokyo and killed an estimated 83,000 to 100,000 Japanese. It would appear that using the atomic bomb was just ratcheting up a half-step from what was done before in Tokyo and Dresden. That being said, the use of the two atomic bombs (6 Aug & 9 Aug) shortened the war both by pure firepower and by provoking the Soviets to invade (8 Aug, 11pm Tokyo time), thus forcing Hirohito's hand to finally acknowledge the Potsdam Declaration, which they had effectively ignored since 26 June. It also took continued aerial bombings which begun again on 14 August to finally force capitulation by Hirohito on 15 August.

With all of that being said, the use of this weapon was horrible, and there is a reason it has only been used twice. I also mourn those who perished during the two bombings, but at the time, the use of the bomb was necessary.
posted by plemeljr at 11:32 AM on June 17, 2005


Or, what Derive the Hamiltonian of... said.
posted by plemeljr at 11:33 AM on June 17, 2005


I applaud your civility, alumshubby

I find him quite patronizing, but whatever.

fwiw, I think area bombing campaign that leveled approx 80% of Japan's urban areas was indeed an effective way to end the war, compared to ground invasion a la Germany or a ~2 year blockade... the way I see it, the IJA needed to be decapitated, and the army leadership was hiding behind its civilians in the homeland.

I also don't see much of a difference between a draftee, US or Japanese, and a civilian. Or even a volunteer soldier fighting, and for once this can be said without irony, in defense of liberty. Japan was in the wrong with this war, and it was incumbent on Truman to bringing their leadership to an effective surrender to our terms.

This was going to require a lot of bloodshed since the Japanese military, especially the army, were some really fucked up bastards.

Having said that, I find the dismissal and excusal of what was in our countrymen's hearts 1942-1945 somewhat troubing. We killed as payback. We were angered beyond words what we had found when we liberated our POWs in the Philippines.

Our emotions then were not so noble, yet we sweep them under the rug. I do not judge this negatively, for if I were in this situation I would have behaved the same.

And on preview what the two posters above have said.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2005


Remember the generals etc were defending the emperor's honour

wrong; they were defending their institutional honor, and their place in society having launched this opportunistic war of colonial aggression, largely against the wishes of the civilians, in the first place.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:02 PM on June 17, 2005


tweak: there 's no hindsight since invasion didn't happen, and this is not a fair point to bring up, because it is hypothetical.

This seems intellectually dishonest to me. Historical precedent may be the only accurate strategic guage of how an enemy will react to a given action.

There are eyewitness accounts, historical evidence, and other confirmed reports that the Japanese raped, pillaged, burned, and murdered their way through Korea and China in the '30's. The first two decades of Hirohito's reign were aggressively bloody and expansionist and Truman and his advisers knew it.

You know, more than 3 million Japanese died in WWII -- 2.3 soldiers and 800,000 civilians. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of those civilian casualties were the result of military policies that put them in harms way. Derive the Hamiltonian of details some things that were common knowledge above. They're worth reading and investigating.
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on June 17, 2005


alumshubby: On one hand you say lola, here's an offer of mutual sympathy: I'll care about the deaths of your mother's aunt and her aunt's daughter if you'll agree to care about a cousin of mine who died aboard a troopship that was sunk in action. Which I responded to in kind.

But then you further responded: Nice attempt to "give a human face to" your insults. Better luck next thread.

I don't know what else to say. I'm genuinely sorry that bpth our families suffered casualties during the war. I hope you do too. Peace.
posted by lola at 12:09 PM on June 17, 2005


I could much more easily stomach the deaths of 10,000 American soliders vs. 100 foreign civilians.

yeah, well, the American people in 1945 couldn't, and Truman was serving them, not you. The events of 1945 were preceded by the events of 1944, and 1943, and 1942. Dec 1941 is actually NOT a direct antecedent for our decision to target Japan's cities; the USAAF only switched tactics from high-level conventional (more or less pinpoint) bombing to firebombing in early 1945 when the former tactics were not producing sustainable results.

Oddly, having a dog in this fight, my grandfather, who had just fought in two horrific island battles, and would have been in a third to fight through Tokyo, has had a way of ... clarifying ... my thinking in this matter.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:09 PM on June 17, 2005


and murdered their way through Korea

that was more a fait accompli, fallout of the 1895 Japan-China war. The Japanese were moving into Mancuria in the 1930s, and the conflicts in China proper in the 1930s are some of the more complex sociohistorical events that I am aware of...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:13 PM on June 17, 2005


David Pryce's piece In the Shadow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - The Cultural Conditions of Unconditional Surrender contains some information gleaned from intercepts of German intelligence available to the allies on the eve the atomic bomb attacks. Among them:

"Report of peace sentiment in Japanese armed forces: On 5 May the German Naval Attaché in Tokyo dispatched the following message to Admiral Doenitz:
'An influential member of the Admiralty Staff has given me to understand that, since the situation is clearly recognized to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavor an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard, provided they were halfway honorable.'

Note [by U.S. military intelligence]: Previously noted diplomatic reports have commented on signs of war weariness in official Japanese Navy circles, but have not mentioned such an attitude in Army quarters."

The calculus of weighing civilian massacres against terms of surrender seems pretty cruel to me at the very least.
posted by Dunder at 12:16 PM on June 17, 2005


lola, you tried to be all hypersensitive and snotty in the same post, and I think I've been pretty forbearing in spite of it. Would you have preferred a nice, simple "go to hell"? (And Heywood Mogroot, is that patronizing enough to suit you?)
posted by alumshubby at 12:23 PM on June 17, 2005


dunder

Well, my grandfather was a civilian in 1943, and returned to being one in ~1947 after coming back from occupation duties in China. The bulk of the Japanese Army was brainwashed growing up by a militarist educational system, drafted out of school, brutalized in basic training, and sent off to die for the emperor somewhere.

The Navy, being a more internationalized service, wasn't entirely sure of this war thing going in but felt their own institutional honor did not allow them to obstruct the war spirit of 1940-41, when it seemed the events in Europe presented Japan with an unrepeatable opportunity to forcefully restructure the various currency blocs and colonial holdings in East Asia to their benefit.

The Army was confident in its ability to defeat any foreign army able to present itself in East Asia (save for the Russians, but that is another story). The Navy knew it would have a hard time winning a war of attrition, but was duty-bound to go along with the plan. When the defense perimeters began falling 1943-44, the IJN knew their war was lost and it was up to the IJA. By 1945 the IJN had nothing serviceable larger than a destroyer, so it was pretty easy for them to desire surrender. The IJA still held vast swaths of empire on the mainland, and a million men under arms at home, thousands of suicide aircraft held ready, so it was not crystal clear to them that the war was yet unwinnable.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:31 PM on June 17, 2005


Metafilter: Would you have preferred a nice, simple "go to hell"?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:35 PM on June 17, 2005


From President Truman's August 9, 1945 radio address [.au] announcing the bombing of Hiroshima:
The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction.
Nagasaki had been bombed earlier the same day.

According to this CIA monograph on US invasion planning and the decision to drop the bomb, the initial estimates of American casualties ranged from 132,500 to 220,000, depending on the invasion scenario.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:39 PM on June 17, 2005


alumshubby: Mea Culpa. I'm sorry I insulted you by misinterpreting you original comment because I am hypersentive due to the deaths of my family members. What I said to you was crap and you have every right to tell me to "go to hell.". I'll shut the fuck up now and move on.
posted by lola at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2005


The IJA still held vast swaths of empire on the mainland, and a million men under arms at home, thousands of suicide aircraft held ready, so it was not crystal clear to them that the war was yet unwinnable.

I agree with you on that, Heywood, but when the eventual surrender came, the IJA fell into line with the conditions handed down to them.

From the article I linked to it's clear that the desire for surrender was by no means unique to the Japanese navy, "Japanese Ambassador Sato advocated his desire for a Japanese surrender if the United States would assure him that the "Imperial House" would remain in existence."

The point is, Truman never even laid out his conditions for unconditional surrender to the Japanese, let alone attempting to negotiate a surrender.
posted by Dunder at 12:55 PM on June 17, 2005


kirkaracha: Hiroshima was an important transit center and home of an important army HQ, but calling it a military base was somewhat deceptive or ignorant... Those 'thousands of civilian lives' the Truman address aludes to had already been taken.

fwiw, I don't think the American leadership had any reason to expect the Japanese militarists would surrender to the Allies any easier than the Nazis did, and the Nazis largely fought to the last bullet and last man.

One interesting point here is that the area bombing campaign changed the rules of war on the militarists. Going in, bombers flying from Guam, raining destruction on most of the major Japanese cities on such a massively painful scale was simply inconceivable, due to both existing Hague Conventions and the current state of the art in airplanes (the B-17 didn't have the range).

The Japanese war planners assumed they had many years to profit from their takings and prepare their defenses, and that of course the hardened Japanese soldier with his fanatical devotion to fatherland and emperor would overmatch the ragtag jazz-dancing American GIs drafted from farms and dumped into combat on Japan's doorstep.

One thing can be said about the US war effort: we didn't fuck around, unlike our record against AQ ~1995- 9/10/2001.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:55 PM on June 17, 2005


The point is, Truman never even laid out his conditions for unconditional surrender to the Japanese

What is so hard to understand about unconditional surrender? The lessons of WWI were engraved in everyone's mind in 1945.

let alone attempting to negotiate a surrender.

Attempting to negotiate with the peace faction would strengthen the diehards. #1 rule of war: don't fuck around.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:04 PM on June 17, 2005


The IJA still held vast swaths of empire on the mainland, and a million men under arms at home, thousands of suicide aircraft held ready, so it was not crystal clear to them that the war was yet unwinnable.

I agree with you on that, Heywood, but when the eventual surrender came, the IJA fell into line with the conditions handed down to them.

From the article I linked to it's clear that the desire for surrender was by no means unique to the Japanese navy, "Japanese Ambassador Sato advocated his desire for a Japanese surrender if the United States would assure him that the "Imperial House" would remain in existence."

The point is, Truman never even laid out his conditions for unconditional surrender to the Japanese, let alone attempting to negotiate a surrender.
posted by Dunder at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2005


Thank you kirkaracha, for that valuable information

I also don't see much of a difference between a draftee, US or Japanese, and a civilian.

History remembers warriors as noble, compassionate and most often merciless. Today it seems we're running low of the noble and compassionate, but for better or worse, we have retained the merciless.
posted by futureproof at 1:24 PM on June 17, 2005


Sorry about the double post - it's been flagged as such.

What is so hard to understand about unconditional surrender?

You can understand what unconditional surrender means but, by definition, you cannot understand what it's ramifications will be. That's a big a if, big enough to prolong a war that can otherwise be ended.

Attempting to negotiate with the peace faction would strengthen the diehards.

We'll never know.

#1 rule of war: don't fuck around.

I'd add "with nukes!" [/personal bias]
posted by Dunder at 1:27 PM on June 17, 2005


you cannot understand what it's ramifications will be

Back at ya.

Part of getting the IJA into acceptance mode was discrediting their ability to defend the Japanese state/kokutai, since their place in the power structure was predicated on their monopoly of, and ability to employ, force.

The German militarists of WWI did not understand why they lost that war; they had secured total victory on the Eastern front and still held large areas of France when the Armistice was declared; this held open the door to revisionism.

IMV, the IJA wasn't going to surrender their position until we had beat the stuffing out of them, and/or their society which they drew support from. The USAAF changing the rules of the game on them in 1945, dispensing the same medicine the IJA had been giving to the Chinese for the previous number of years.

This was total war, and all major wars tend to end badly for at least one side. We let the Germans off easy in WWI (until the crippling surrender terms were finalized at least) and that history was of course in minds of the actors of 1945.

The area bombing campaign (note: I see no real reason to distinguish the napalm bombs (dropped from hundreds of B-29s at a time on dozens of major cities in turn) from the two nuclear firebombs detonated over two cities -- the intent, mass destruction of cities, was the same)

We'll never know.

But we do know that organized resistance ended in short order after the two bombings. How much was due to the mass destruction that the IJA was powerless to stop, and how much was due to that bastard Stalin backstabbing the Japanese to their surprise and horror is of course debatable.

IMV, the Japanese focus too much on their own suffering in 1945. It is estimated the Vietnamese alone suffered 2M deaths due to famine in 1945 from effects of the plunderous Japanese occupation. It was stopping shit like this that the US was fighting for in the first place.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:43 PM on June 17, 2005


Heywood Mogroot: I've said it before. You rock.
posted by tkchrist at 1:45 PM on June 17, 2005


Last month I had the privilege of interviewing an old fellow who participated in two amphibious invasions in the Pacific in WW2--Tarawa and Okinawa. He had terrible stories about Tarawa in particular, where the landing craft dropped them far from the beach and they waded in under enemy fire. The corpsman in front of him was vaporized by a direct hit from a big shell, and the man himself stunned and wounded.

Anyway, I asked him about the atomic bombs. Right or wrong, he was emphatic that the bombs had saved his life. He said he was on some island, in a huge camp, with other Marines, preparing to invade the Japanese home islands. One day a cheer went up from the row of tents nearest the HQ, then spread to the next row, then so on, as word of the atom bomb was passed along. He said it was "the happiest day of my life."
posted by LarryC at 2:16 PM on June 17, 2005


LarryC: unfortunately the bug's eye view doesn't really have much dispositive value, other than underscoring the position that the average US serviceman didn't really care how many Japanese schoolchildren needed to be burned alive if it meant avoiding again having to wink out tens of thousands of fanatical Japs, this time from caves and bunkers in Kyushu.

My grandfather was also on Okinawa that summer of '45, and would have gone into the fight for Tokyo had that proved necessary.

It is indeed arguable that a slightly more flexible tack wrt the position of the Emperor in the Potsdam timeperiod or earlier could have obviated the need to employ the bombs, and I do find the argument that a desired side-effect of the bombs was to demonstrate to the Russians that these bombs could do a number on them is not dismissable, but hindsight is only good for analyzing one's mistakes, and Truman's policies did in fact wrap up the war in a relatively timely manner. The Americans, whom he served, certainly can have no complaints about it... IMV the Okinawa Campaign was a necessary brutal act to underscore to the IJA that their suicidal tactics would not prove sufficiently dampen our will.

Critics of Truman and American policy must always remember that if the Japanese wanted to avoid dying, they could have surrendered to our terms, instead of dicking around the Russians, or "trying" to surrender. IMV the bastards running Japan, seeing their plans for a Greater Japan blasted into bits, were perfectly resigned to fighting to the last soldier, man, and child, since the war was all they had left to live for.

And it must be said that the Americans implemented one of the finest, professional postwar military occupations imaginable. That we still had that caliber of people, aside from Byrnes perhaps, running things today.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:00 PM on June 17, 2005


kirkaracha: Hiroshima was an important transit center and home of an important army HQ, but calling it a military base was somewhat deceptive or ignorant... Those 'thousands of civilian lives' the Truman address aludes to had already been taken.

Yeah, that was, you know, my point. Hence the note about Nagasaki having already been bombed.

posted by kirkaracha at 3:23 PM on June 17, 2005


Great thread all around, esp H Mogroot's input.

I'm reading In Harms' Way right now which outlines a naval disaster that occurred a mere two weeks before the war's end. At that time, military brass were extremely tense as they begun estimating potential casualties of a full-on invasion of Japan: half a million Americans dead and the Japanese civilian component fighting down to the absolute last man, woman and child. There was a poster above who suggested estimates like that weren't made until long after the war. Baloney. Halsey wasn't whistling dixie. "Japan" would be a thing of the past if not for the bombs.

My old boss, a beautiful man, now dead, who flew P-47s over Tinian and Guam was on the main island for four months after the surrender. Not a day went by went they didn't find some bit of evidence—a sharpened stick of sugar cane belonging to a 9 year old boy, an improvised explosive hidden away by a housewife—that the Japanese population had no intention of surrendering no matter what the Emporer said. Fat Man and Little Boy shocked the population to their senses, or out of them, but in any case they made the right choice by surrendering the war.
posted by dhoyt at 5:02 PM on June 17, 2005


Fat Man and Little Boy shocked the population to their senses, or out of them

That's a bit simplistic, too. The a-bombs were preceded by a horrific firebombing campaign that laid waste to every major conurbation our B-29s could reach, excluding the targets we were saving for the nukes, of course.

That the two cities were wiped out in two days, I don't think, had ~that~ major an impact on the civilian psyche compared to the the dozens of other cities that had similarly been burned to the ground over that year:

In the aggregate some 40 percent of the built-up area of the 66 cities attacked was destroyed. Approximately 30 percent of the entire urban population of Japan lost their homes
...
104,000 tons of bombs were directed at 66 urban areas; 14,150 tons were directed at aircraft factories; 10,600 tons at oil refineries; 4,708 at arsenals; 3,500 tons at miscellaneous industrial targets; 8,115 tons at air fields and sea-plane bases in support of the Okinawa operation; and 12,034 mines were sown.

both from the USAAF's bombing survey.

I do think the Russian entry into the war, and the quick crumbling of the IJA frontier units there, had just as much, and probably, more significant shock to the sociopolitical system as a whole, since the militarists still had hope that they could broker some kind of deal through Stalin's good offices, or indeed retain their colonial holdings on the mainland if they could wear down the American resolve to finish the job.

There wasn't any film of the immense power of the bombs immediately available to the decision makers, the Japanese leadership received reports of the a-bomb destruction over several days.

As for civilian resistance, war fatigue was quite high (the Japanese had been fighting their war since 1937), and in retrospect I doubt the Americans would have had to fight their way from Kyushu to Tokyo to effect total surrender once successful landings on Kyushu were prosecuted.

But of course I also think there was really no way for our leadership to ascertain this state of affairs at the time.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:41 PM on June 17, 2005


Heywood: Of course one man's story doesn't prove anything. I was just sharing. Great posts on this thread, by the way.

Another thing to keep in mind is the intense pressure Truman was under to bring the war to Japan and to hit them hard. The Truman library has a great collection of documents about the decision to drop the bomb online. One document is an angry cable to Truman from Senator Richard B. Russell. Russell demands that "we cease our efforts to cajole Japan into surrendering" and "carry the war to them until they beg us to accept unconditional surrender." If we run out of atom bombs, we should "carry on with TNT and firebombs" until Japan is "utterly destroyed."

Truman's response shows the humanity of the man. "I know that Japan is a terribly cruel and uncivilized nation in warfare but I can’t bring myself to believe that, because they are beasts, we should ourselves act in the same manner," he writes. "My object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children in Japan."

The online documents also include translations of two leaflets dropped on Japanese cities shortly after the first atomic bomb was dropped.
posted by LarryC at 6:04 PM on June 17, 2005


It's okay, Iola. We glorious and enlightened Americans know that the ends always justify the means. What's the big deal? We ended a brutal and horrible war with Japan with a horrifying and despicable device, excuse me, two. It saved American lives and ended 160,000 Japanese civilian lives instantly, so it must be worth it. Even stevens. See: it all works out in the end. We get what we want, so whatever morally reprehensible thing we did to get it is all hunkey dorey.
posted by effwerd at 8:31 PM on June 17, 2005


the way I see it, the IJA needed to be decapitated, and the army leadership was hiding behind its civilians in the homeland.

The way I see it killing 500,000 odd Japanese civilians is not decapitating the leadership.

Japan was in the wrong with this war, and it was incumbent on Truman to bringing their leadership to an effective surrender to our terms.

Who is "our"... Sounds a little imperialistic to me... In my opinion Japan was indeed in the wrong, because I believe that people have a right to self determination. The kind of self determination that America did not bother to encourage in places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

This was going to require a lot of bloodshed since the Japanese military, especially the army, were some really fucked up bastards.

Wow! You mean fucked up like this?

Our emotions then were not so noble, yet we sweep them under the rug. I do not judge this negatively, for if I were in this situation I would have behaved the same.

Oh, fucked up but okay... Right.

they were defending their institutional honor, and their place in society having launched this opportunistic war of colonial aggression, largely against the wishes of the civilians, in the first place.

You know, a reasonable person could say almost the same thing about the American roll in the war in the Pacific. There is at least some suggestion that the attack on Pearl Harbor was provoked after all, and until the propaganda machine started rolling American civilians didn't have any interest in the war either.

What is so hard to understand about unconditional surrender?

Well, maybe the fact that there wasn't one. Hirohito was emperor until he died in 1989.

Finally, I am a little concerned with the internal contradictions in your statements. For example, at one point you acknowledge that in hindsight the Japanese probably wouldn't have fought fanatically on the main island, but on many other occasions you reinforce the idea that every Japanese man woman and child were fanatical killers that would have fought to the bitter end.

I tend to think Truman made the wrong decision in dropping the bombs, and in the area bombing too, but that is beside the point. Weather it was the right course of action or not it was a war crime, and Truman should be condemned as a war criminal. You might choose to excuse those crimes because in this case the ends justified the means, that really doesn't change the crime.
posted by Chuckles at 10:21 PM on June 17, 2005


The way I see it killing 500,000 odd Japanese civilians is not decapitating the leadership.

Getting the militarists to (literally) hand us their swords took a lot of killing, yes.

The kind of self determination that America did not bother to encourage in places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam

Red Herring.

Wow! You mean fucked up like this?

Read some Ienaga.

Oh, fucked up but okay... Right.

Right. Nobody is a robot. Flaws exist. We can be imperfect yet still fight a greater evil.

there is at least some suggestion that the attack on Pearl Harbor was provoked after all

with the very libertarian means of (finally) refusing to trade with Japan until they quit "French" Indochina AND removed themselves from China, proper. Other than that, I am not aware of any provocation. Granted, our terms were non-starters with the Japanese, but that was their problem.

Well, maybe the fact that there wasn't one. Hirohito was emperor until he died in 1989.

Yes, the surrender was unconditional. The official response to the Japanese request to keep the Emperor was VERY tightly worded. The Japanese Foreign Ministry sagely mistranslated it to keep the militarists from rejecting the peace.

For example, at one point you acknowledge that in hindsight the Japanese probably wouldn't have fought fanatically on the main island

I am thinking of civilians here. The films of kids with bamboo poles was internal propaganda and I don't really think their hearts were in the war at that point.

but on many other occasions you reinforce the idea that every Japanese man woman and child were fanatical killers that would have fought to the bitter end.

I never said that; soldiers were a different breed. Only at the end of the Okinawa battle did we get them to surrender in any numbers (7,000 out of 100,000). I think the battle of Kyushu would have continued this trend, but that's an easy judgement to hold 60 years after the events. At the time, the Japanese soldier had earned the respect of the Allies for his fanatical commitment to his cause.

You might choose to excuse those crimes because in this case the ends justified the means, that really doesn't change the crime

Sorry. You want the protection of the Hague Conventions, a) don't break the Hague Conventions. There is no b).

By throwing its lot in with the Germans, Japan signed up for a world of pain from the Allies. There is no International Law really, just treaty relationships, and what went down between the Americans and the Japanese is between our two peoples.

I think the Americans handled the entire situation quite well in the end analysis, and given their brutal treatment of our POWs in Burma and the Philippines, the Japanese got better treatment than they deserved.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:03 AM on June 18, 2005


>Sorry. You want the protection of the Hague Conventions, a) don't break the Hague Conventions. There is no b).

>By throwing its lot in with the Germans, Japan signed up for a world of pain from the Allies. There is no International Law really, just treaty relationships, and what went down between the Americans and the Japanese is between our two peoples.

>I think the Americans handled the entire situation quite well in the end analysis, and given their brutal treatment of our POWs in Burma and the Philippines, the Japanese got better treatment than they deserved.

That's an interesting thing. From McNamara, re: the Pacific Theatre bombing campaign

"LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.' And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"

My emphasis, of course. I think your analysis, Heywood, answers the question, quite well.
posted by gsb at 3:58 AM on June 18, 2005


I'll care about the deaths of your mother's aunt and her aunt's daughter if you'll agree to care about a cousin of mine who died aboard a troopship that was sunk in action.

That's very generous. Especially since his mother's aunt and her aunt's daughter were probably armed and headed over to try to kill your cousin.

Can we please make the distinction between soldiers and civilians, since that's what a large proportion of international conventions on conflict try to do?

America will not understand until it has it happen to them. Of course, it will be "justified" by ending a war that would have caused untold suffering, I'm sure.
posted by dreamsign at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2005


Presumably this is Ienaga?

Well, a little bit of Ienaga on the internet is quite interesting... Sounds an awful lot like the USA to me - both past and present.

Chuckles: The kind of self determination that America did not bother to encourage in places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Heywood Mogroot: Red Herring.

No one knows how bad Asia would have been under Japan's imperial rule, but we know that under American imperial rule many places in Asia had enormous problems.

Which brings us to gsb's point. If we are just talking 'winners and losers' and 'us and them' there certainly is some logic in what you are both saying. That would be a tacit admission that American imperialism really isn't substantially different from Japanese imperialism.

You justify mass murder with 'we are better than them'. Well, that might be true, but excusing morally repugnant actions certainly weakens any 'we are better than them' arguments you might make.
posted by Chuckles at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2005


No one knows how bad Asia would have been under Japan's imperial rule

Ask the Koreans, they got a pretty good taste of it, having their national language and culture outlawed, and being treated as 2nd class citizens in their own country (eg. the highest Korean official in the Korean national railway was Asst Stationmaster).

That would be a tacit admission that American imperialism really isn't substantially different from Japanese imperialism.

Oh, that's plain bullshit. Are you really that ignorant of the differences to believe that?

Yeah, I agree it's a mixed bag when looking at the US's actions over the 20th century. But agreeing that the US isn't blameless does not excuse the brutality of the IJA's occupation of East Asian peoples, nor the IJA's institutional brutality (I beleive it is Ienaga who covered this in his history) it inflicted upon its own civilian draftees to make them the dehumanized killers they became.

The US probably killed more Vietnamese than the Japanese, did, sure, and according to our own high-level civilian DOD analysis only about 10% of our effort in SE Asia in the 1960s was directed toward the defending/increasing the 'liberty' of the (S) Vietnamese. (And I think it's safe to say the same thing can be said about our actions in Iraq today).

But the actors of 1937-1945 must be judged on their own actions, not those of their successors thirty years later.

It was our hardening support of the KMT against the Japanese incursion into their country (the means of our support was material support to the KMT, and finally stopping the shipment of war materials and oil to the Japanese) that drew us into war with the Japanese.

I do believe a lot of the history of WW2 was more over currency blocs (Germany seeking to advance its economic suzereignity in the E by force, the Japanese seeking to displace the colonial powers from East Asia, especially China), but anyone attempting to draw some moral equivalencies between Japan and the US in the 1930s and 1940s is really historically ignorant of how disgustingly brutal the Japanese colonization efforts were.

You justify mass murder with 'we are better than them'.

I justify nothing. But to meaningfully criticize an action one must provide a superior alternative. Plus it's easy criticizing the US's actions from 60 years of remove, but the events of 1945 had the important context of 1937-1944 that Japanese apologists tend to gloss over if not ignore completely.

There is more than one shade of gray between white and black, my friend.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:05 PM on June 18, 2005


The Japan at War book you cited wrt Ienaga is a highly recommended read. It really filled in gaps into the mindset of the common Japanese person who lived through the war's events.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:11 PM on June 18, 2005


America will not understand until it has it happen to them.

That's interesting. In my timeline (20 July, 2722 AUC , Neil Armstrong), Washington, Richmond, Atlanta and many other city had been put to the torch by invading armies (or their own armies, sometimes) at one time or another, some of them within memory of (very) old people at the end of the war.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:24 PM on June 18, 2005


I think we have different ways of defining 'shades of grey'. To me the question of who was worse has nothing to do with weather it was justified. The war was won, and then Americans - and in Europe the other Allies - started doing reprehensible things. That can't be justified.

The actions of imperial Japan are contemptible in their own way, and should be explored, understood and condemned for what they were independently of this question.

Chuckles: That would be a tacit admission that American imperialism really isn't substantially different from Japanese imperialism.

Heywood Mogroot: Oh, that's plain bullshit. Are you really that ignorant of the differences to believe that?

I am pretty ignorant of the actions of imperial Japan... Of course I am familiar with the broad concepts, the rape of Nanking (Nanjing?), the treatment of POWs, in Canada we hear a lot about the occupation of Hong Kong... I should understand it more.

I am, however, fairly familiar with the Nazi Holocaust, and I don't think that justified Hamburg and Dresden. Japanese atrocities have nothing to do with my opinion of mass bombing in the pacific war.

Two wrongs don't make a right and never do unto others and all that... It isn't 'never do unto others unless they did it first'.

Heywood Mogroot: Yeah, I agree it's a mixed bag when looking at the US's actions over the 20th century. But agreeing that the US isn't blameless does not excuse the brutality of the IJA's occupation of East Asian peoples, nor the IJA's institutional brutality (I believe it is Ienaga who covered this in his history) it inflicted upon its own civilian draftees to make them the dehumanized killers they became.

I don't know... How do you compare dropping a bomb on somebody to killing them face to face? In itself it is a very interesting question. Whatever the answer, it can't justify one or the other.
posted by Chuckles at 9:10 PM on June 18, 2005


Japanese atrocities have nothing to do with my opinion of mass bombing in the pacific war.

OK, that's not what you said but we'll move on. The issue as I see it was what to do on Dec 8, 1941. Do we let the warlords walk over us, take what they want, subjugate and enslave peoples, or what?

The US had no great ambition to immediately intervene in Europe in 1940-41 (but had we known that WW2 was not just another WW1 things would probably have been different), but did come to the aid of Britain and later Russia in their fight with Nazism, sending millions of dollars of worth of aid free & clear to them.

Pearl Harbor and Japan's attack on the various colonial holdings in the Pacific was a moral challenge, too. We wanted Japan to give up their intervention in China, had them by the balls, and their militarists chose war instead of abandoning their aims.

I don't think that war was going, or should have, ended until the BB Missouri was anchored in Tokyo Bay receiving the unconditional surrender of the military goverment of Japan. How to get General Umezu and his cohorts to surrender control of the Japanese civil goverment to us was the $64 billion dollar question.

Perhaps the path we chose was a failure of imagination, but it is uncumbent on you to propose a superior alternative.

Whatever the answer, it can't justify one or the other

I agree this is an interesting question. How many innocent people on both sides had to die to end the war on just terms (ie put a final end to the militarist's ambitions), and what onus was on the United States to "fight fair" and not use any method of force at its disposal to achieve these ends.

The american people did not shirk from sacrifice , but the Japanese were fighting a war of attrition from 1943 on. Their strategy was to inflict as much damage to us to deter us from pursuing final victory and force an armistice of some sort on us. 1944 and the first half of 1945 were especially bloody for the US.

The Japanese had already thrown out the Hague Conventions with their attacks on China and the Philippines, the Japanese state was an outlaw state, totally isolated from the United Nations, and at our mercy. The militarists could surrender to our will yet chose to fight on.

It's not a matter of two wrongs making a right, but rather prosecuting the war as quickly and safely to our interests as possible. Every month of screwing around not taking the war to the enemy is a month that the enemy can hurt us in unexpected ways. Ie the Japanese developed balloon bombs to send over to the N.A. mainland, and experiment with plague payloads for these bombs. Granted, this was a primitive and ineffective attack, but, again, the #1 rule of war is... Don't. Fuck. Around. One must also remember that Japan had launched their attack fleets in November 1941 while still engaged in peace talks with us. This perfidy sorta blew any credibility or benevolence Japan would have had from us.

War is not a game. There is no 'fighting fair' in total war. You kick the other guy in the nuts, and kick him in the face if he's on the ground. He doesn't like it, he can either surrender or try to return the favor.

Before the US switched to area bombing it was suffering 3% losses from the high-altitude campaign. That's 3% on every mission; on a 300 plane mission that's 10 planes not coming back, over 100 crewmen not coming back.

This unsustainable loss rate led to the decision to take the war down to a more brutal notch, but, again, the prosecution of the war was not going on without context. The US had already been fighting all-out for 3 full years, incurring immense expenses in capital and blood. Hitler, if not the entire German Wehrmacht, had fought us to the last bullet, and we had no reason to expect the Japanese would be any less obstinate.

Meanwhile, Japan still had under its brutal occupation most of China and Indonesia. Japan had started this war to maintain its unlawful occupation of China, and every month we dicked around was a month that the Japanese would starve, beat, and rape the Chinese and other subject peoples in their grip.
While this was not a major impetus for our actions, it is something YOU must factor in your decisionmaking process should your preferred version of events extend into 1946.

There is no need to 'justify' what the US did in WW2, I only defend the actions by giving the historical reasons. We did what we did. If you want to criticize it, feel free, but I feel the Japanese have no basis for complaint, and anyone else wanting to throw in their opinion should outline exactly what they would have done differently, and why they expected the US to decide that way, including how many more US servicemen you expect would have had to lay down their lives to accomplish your more moral proposal.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:06 AM on June 19, 2005


>If you want to criticize it, feel free, but I feel the Japanese have no basis for complaint, and anyone else wanting to throw in their opinion should outline exactly what they would have done differently, and why they expected the US to decide that way, including how many more US servicemen you expect would have had to lay down their lives to accomplish your more moral proposal.

I'm not sure it's possible to provide a satisfying answer that would not be countered with, "that's highly improbable, they wouldn't do that, they are culturally incapable."
posted by gsb at 4:35 AM on June 19, 2005


from your cite:

Racist stereotypes of maniacal Japanese soldiers and citizens fighting to the death dominated the War Department and the White House

How can a stereotype be 'racist' if it is entirely accurate? Even in Okinawa civilians were throwing themselves off cliffs rather than surrender to our troops (said civilians had been indoctrinated to fear the worst from us).

All these anti-bombing writers fail to bring to point that both the committed Nazis in Germany and the Japanese as a whole did fight fanatically against us, for 3 1/2 very bloody years.

arguing against the War Department's pull for a genocidal campaign to obliterate a "race" believed incapable of surrender

hyperbole; our aim was to destroy the warmaking potential and will to fight of Japanese civil society, not genocide.

Though it can be argued the more we destroyed the less reason the Japanese had to surrender.

The following program, had it been followed:

1) Hiroshima
2) Nagasaki
3) "Next is Kyoto"

Might have clarified things for the IJA leadership, too, but if the Japanese had called our bluff, then who knows how long the war/slaughter would have gone on.

American intelligence had good evidence that Ambassador Sato was close to surrendering to the Americans

Ok, this is just retarded. AFAIK, Sato was a feeler of the Foreign Ministry in Russia, not the Privy Council's plenipotentiary to the allies. We already know that the F.M. and the Navy leadership were for surrender, the issue was getting the IJA to surrender.

Truman's decision to use his doomsday weapon (twice) without presenting the Japanese with the actual conditions of his unconditional surrender

Same fucking wording. Can't these people think?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2005


Heywood - it's sort of like that "Who's on First" sketch:

MacArthur: President Truman demands the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Forces of Japan.

Hirohito: Oh. Most certainly. On one condition...

MacArthur: Sir! Perhaps you don't understand the gravity of the situation. You are utterly destroyed! We demand your immediate surrender...

Hirohito: And we accept... but first let us discuss terms.

MacArthur:.. eh... There are no TERMS! I said UN-conditional.

Hirohito: And we agree then. That the first condition is there shall be no terms. And now the second term shall be th...

[Hirohito continues dictating a laundry list of surrender terms]

MacArthur: Fuck it. [turns to aide] Awwwwl-right boys. Let's pack up. Time to nuke these crazy [racial expletive deleted] again.
posted by tkchrist at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2005


:) I shouldn't laugh, though, since this is one of the more tragic episodes in human history, and one apparently/perhaps easily avoided either with the application of hindsight or given a slightly more competent US Secretary of State. But I don't think the Japanese would have entertained surrender while they still held the Philippines, since the Philippines did look to be one hell of a battle of attrition and the Japanese were quite wiling to commit to it whole-heartedly (that's where the kamikaze tactic was first employed, with rather successful results).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:23 AM on June 22, 2005


tkchrist, I tend to agree with that actually. Funny how you see that as justification and I see it as thuggish... You should probably add a couple of lines of post nuke dialogue though.

MacArthur: We demand your immediate surrender!

Hirohito: Of course, but what are you going to do with us?

MacArthur: We are going to occupy your country!

Hirohito: We will tolerate this disgrace, but will I still be emperor?

MacArthur: This is not a negotiation, this is supposed to be an unconditional surrender!

Hirohito: Yes, it is. I would very much like to know, however, what will happen to my country.

MacArthur: Well in that case... We think your country would be unmanageable if we removed you from the position of Emperor.

Hirohito: Oh... This has been a terrible misunderstanding... If only you had told me that during our last conversation you could have saved those nukes for the Ruskies...
posted by Chuckles at 10:50 PM on June 22, 2005


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