Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday snippet: The atomic bomb, Hiroshima, and choices

I've quoted before from George MacDonald Fraser's magnificent World War II memoir, "Quartered Safe Out Here".

It's one of the finest memoirs by a British enlisted man to come out of that conflict, ranking right up there with Eugene Sledge's "With The Old Breed", perhaps the best American enlisted memoir of the war.

Fraser's memoir is even more eloquent because he was one of the great raconteurs of British literature after World War II, in journalism, fiction and screenwriting.  He was one of the best authors of his generation, and it shows in his retrospective look at his wartime career.

Since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, I thought it might be appropriate to excerpt in full Fraser's thoughts on what that meant to the ordinary fighting soldiers of his generation, specifically those in the Scottish regiment in which he served.  My father, who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, and would have been part of the proposed invasion of Japan if that had been necessary, spoke very approvingly of Fraser's opinion on the matter.

It was a fine sunny morning when the news, in its garbled form, ran round the battalion, and if it changed the world, it didn’t change Nine Section. They sat on the floor of the basha, backs to the wall, supping chah [tea] and being sceptical. “Secret weapon” was an expression bandied about with cynical humour all through the war; Foshie’s socks and Grandarse’s flatulence, those were secret weapons, and super-bombs were the stuff of fantasy. I didn’t believe it, that first day, although from the talk at company H.Q. it was fairly clear that something big had happened, or was about to happen. And even when it was confirmed, and unheard of expressions like “atomic bomb” and “Hiroshima” (then pronounced Hirosheema) were bandied about, it all seemed very distant and unlikely. Three days after the first rumour, on the very day that the second bomb fell on Nagasaki, one of the battalion’s companies was duffying with a Jap force on the Sittang bank and killing 21 of them – that was the war, not what was happening hundreds of miles away. As Grandarse so sagely observed: “They want tae drop their fookin’ atoms on the Pegu Yomas, then we’ll git the bleedin’ war ower.” Even then, Nick wasn’t prepared to bet that we wouldn’t be going into Malaya with mules; we would all, he prophesied, get killed.

It took a week, as all the world knows now, for the Japanese government to call it a day, but even after the official surrender of August 14 there was no cease-fire along the Rangoon road; it was almost a fortnight before the Japs in the field started to come in, and the business of rounding up and disarming the remnants began, but by that time I was over the hills and far away, perspiring before a selection board at Chittagong, playing idiotic games of word association, trying to convince psychiatrists that I combined the qualities of Francis of Assisi and Genghiz Khan, that I knew which knife and fork to use, and “actually, sir, the reason I want to be an officer is, honestly, that I’m sure it’s how I can best serve the Army, if you know what I mean, sir.” “Quite so, corporal – now, when I say the word ‘rape’ what’s the first thought that comes to your mind?” “Sir? Sorry, sir, I didn’t quite catch that . . .”

But that was still in the future. The war ended in mid-August, and even before then Nine Section had decided that the fight, if not necessarily done, had reached a stage where celebration was permissible. I joined them in the makeshift canteen, quantities of beer were shifted, Forster sang “Cumberland Way” and “The Horn of the Hunter” in an excruciating nasal croak with his eyes closed, Wedge wept and was sick, Wattie passed out, Morton became bellicose because, he alleged, Forster had pinched his pint, Parker and Stanley separated them, and harmony of a sort was restored with a thunderous rendering of “John Peel”, all verses, from Denton Holme to Scratchmere Scar with Peel’s view-halloo awakening the dead – Cumbrians may be among the world’s worst vocalists, but they alone can sing that rousing anthem of pursuit as it should be sung, with a wild primitive violence that makes the Horst Wessel sound like a lullaby, Grandarse red-faced and roaring and Nick pounding the time and somehow managing to sing with his pipe clenched in his teeth.

Like everyone else, we were glad it was over, brought to a sudden, devastating stop by those two bombs that fell on Japan. We had no slightest thought of what it would mean for the future, or even what it meant at the time; we did not know what the immediate effect of those bombs had been on their targets, and we didn’t much care. We were of a generation to whom Coventry and the London Blitz and Clydebank and Liverpool and Plymouth were more than just names; our country had been hammered mercilessly from the sky, and so had Germany; we had seen the pictures of Belsen and of the frozen horror of the Russian front; part of our higher education had been devoted to techniques of killing and destruction; we were not going to lose sleep because the Japanese homeland had taken its turn. If anything, at the time, remembering the kind of war it had been, and the kind of people we, personally, had been up against, we probably felt that justice had been done. But it was of small importance when weighed against the glorious fact that the war was over at last.

There was certainly no moralising, no feeling at all of the guilt which some thinkers nowadays seem to want to attach to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And because so many myths have been carefully fostered about it, and so much emotion generated, all on one side, with no real thought for those most affected by it on the Allied side, I would like just to look at it, briefly, from our minority point of view. And not only ours, but perhaps yours, too.

Some years ago I heard a man denounce the nuclear bombing of Japan as an obscenity; it was monstrous, barbarous, and no civilised people could even have contemplated it; we should all be thoroughly ashamed of it.

I couldn’t argue with him, or deny the obscenity, monstrosity, and barbarism. I could only ask him questions, such as:

“Where were you when the war ended?”

“In Glasgow.”

“Will you answer a hypothetical question: if it were possible, would you give your life now, to restore one of the lives of Hiroshima?”

He wriggled a good deal, said it wasn’t relevant, or logical, or whatever, but in the end, to do him justice, he admitted that he wouldn’t.

So I asked him: “By what right, then, do you say that Allied lives should have been sacrificed to save the victims of Hiroshima? Because what you’re saying is that, while you’re not willing to give your life, Allied soldiers should have given theirs. Mine for one, possibly.”

It was a bit unfair, perhaps, if only because I am rather heavily built and he was an elderly philosopher and I was obviously much moved, which may have flustered him, because he was unwise enough to say that that was the point – we were soldiers, the bomb victims were civilians. I did not pursue the question whether the lives of your own soldiers should be sacrificed for the safety of enemy civilians, because if you get into that particular moral jungle you’ll never come out; but I did point out that we were, in fact, civilians, too – civilians in uniform, and could he understand our possible resentment that people whose lives and liberties we had been fighting to protect (him, in fact) should be ready to expend us for the sake of Japanese?

He was getting quite alarmed now, because I do have a tendency to raise my voice in debate. But he stuck to his guns and cried “Japanese women and children!”

I conceded this, and pointed out that I had three children – but if I’d gone down in Malaya they’d never have been born; they would, in fact, have been as effectively deprived of existence as the children of Nagasaki. Was he advocating that?

He pointed out, fairly, that I might not have gone down in Malaya, to which I (only too glad to escape from the argumentum ad hominem which I’d introduced, because it makes you sound like a right moaning “I-was-there” jungle-basher) retorted that someone would surely have bought his lot in Malaya, and how about his children?

He bolted, predictably, along the only escape route open to him – and a well-worn one it has become – by saying that the bombs were unnecessary because Japan was ready to surrender anyway, and it was only done because Truman wanted to use the thing to frighten the Russians, and all this talk that it would have cost 50,000 Allied lives to storm Japan was horse manure, because it would never have come to that.

“You think,” I said, “you hope. But you don’t know.”

Yes, he did, and cited authorities.

“All right,” I said. “Leave aside that I am arguably in a better position than you are to judge whether Jap was ready to surrender or not, at least at the sharp end, whatever Hirohito and Co were thinking – are you saying that the war would have ended on August 15 if the bombs hadn’t been dropped?”

“No, of course not. But not long after . . . a few weeks . . .”

“Months, maybe?”

“Possibly . . . not likely . . .”

“But at any rate, some Allied lives would have been lost, after August 15 – lives which in fact were saved by the bombs?” Not mine, because I’d been in India by then, and the war would have had to go on for several months for me to get involved again. I didn’t tell him that; it would just have confused the issue.

Yes, he admitted, some additional Allied lives would have been lost; he didn’t say they were expendable, but he plainly thought so.

“And that would have been all right with you? British, Indian, American, Australian, Chinese – my God, yes, even Russian – all right for them to die, but not the people of Hiroshima – or you?”

He said something about military casualties being inevitable in war (he was telling me!), but that the scale of Hiroshima, the devastation, the after-effects, the calculated immolation of a whole city’s population. . .

“Look,” I said, “I’m not arguing with you. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you. I just wanted to know where you stood, and to mention some points which you may not have considered, and to have you ask yourself if you are really in a position, morally speaking, to say who should have died and who shouldn’t?”

“Well!” he said, looking aggrieved. “Where do you stand?”

“None of your goddam business,” I said, sweetly reasonable as always, “but wherever it is, or was, it’s somewhere you have never been, among people whom you wouldn’t understand.” Which was a bit over the score, but these armchair philosophers who live in their safe havens of the mind, and take their extensive moral views without ever really thinking, or exploring those unpleasant dark corners of debate which they don’t like to think are there – they can, as Grandarse would have said, get on my wick.

As to where I stand – oh, in so many different places. They change with time, and my view is coloured by many different considerations. These are some of them.

The dropping of the bombs was a hideous thing, and I do not wonder that some of those who bore a part in it have been haunted by it all their lives. If it was not barbaric, the word has no meaning.

I led Nine Section for a time; leading or not, I was part of it. They were my mates, and to them I was bound by ties of duty, loyalty, and honour. Now, take Nine Section as representing those Allied soldiers who would certainly have died if the bombs had not been dropped (and remember that Nine Section might well have been not representatives, but the men themselves). Could I say, yes, Grandarse or Nick or Forster were expendable, and should have died rather than the victims of Hiroshima? No, never. And that goes for every Indian, American, Australian, African, Chinese and other soldier whose life was on the line in August, 1945. So drop the bomb.

And it was not only their lives, as I pointed out to my antibomb disputant. To reduce it to a selfish, personal level . . . if the bombs had been withheld, and the war had continued on conventional lines, then even if I’d failed my board and gone with the battalion into Malaya, the odds are that I’d have survived: 4 to 1 actuarially speaking, on the section’s Burma fatalities. But I might have been that one, in which case my three children and six grandchildren would never have been born. And that, I’m afraid, is where all discussion of pros and cons evaporates and becomes meaningless, because for those nine lives I would pull the plug on the whole Japanese nation and never even blink. And so, I dare suggest, would you. And if you wouldn’t, you may be nearer to the divine than I am but you sure as hell aren’t fit to be parents or grandparents.

It comes to this, then, that I think the bombing was right? On those two counts, without a doubt. If it wasn’t, what were we fighting for? And then I have another thought.

You see, I have a feeling that if – and I know it’s an impossible if – but if, on that sunny August morning, Nine Section had known all that we know now of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and could have been shown the effect of that bombing, and if some voice from on high had said: “There – that can end the war for you, if you want. But it doesn’t have to happen; the alternative is that the war, as you’ve known it, goes on to a normal victorious conclusion, which may take some time, and if the past is anything to go by, some of you won’t reach the end of the road. Anyway, Malaya’s down that way . . . it’s up to you”, I think I know what would have happened. They would have cried “Aw, fook that!” with one voice, and then they would have sat about, snarling, and lapsed into silence, and then someone would have said heavily, “Aye, weel,” and got to his feet, and been asked “W’eer th’ ‘ell you gan, then?” and given no reply, and at last the rest would have got up, too, gathering their gear with moaning and foul language and ill-tempered harking back to the long dirty bloody miles from the Imphal boxes to the Sittang Bend and the iniquity of having to do it again, slinging their rifles and bickering about who was to go on point, and “Ah’s aboot ’ed it, me!” and “You, ye bugger, ye’re knackered afower ye start, you!” and “We’ll a’ git killed!”, and then they would have been moving south. Because that is the kind of men they were. And that is why I have written this book.

Quite so.

For a trenchant memoir of Fraser's later years, and his caustic observations on it, see his "The Light's On at Signpost".

Both of his memoirs are highly recommended reading, as are all his books.



GLT said...

My late father-in-law, a veteran of the 7th Marines fight on Okinawa, said, only once, “Thank God for the atomic bomb”. He told me that he and the other few survivors of his rifle company had already decided they would all die on Japanese soil.

Ritchie said...

I, too, have a stake in the question. My Dad was training in P51s when Nagasaki had its double sunrise. He would have been on deck for 6 hour single engine over water escort and attack missions. Even then, it took Russia's announcement of entry into the Pacific theater to seal the deal.

STxAR said...

The salient point for me was the Purple Heart medal. We are still using the stock they made for the invasion of Japan. Every Purple Heart issued since September 1945 has been from the pile that they knew they would need for Operation Olympic and Operation Downfall.

And those same women and children made explosive balloons that flew to north America. Those were still killing people in the 50's.

My belief is there is a Japan today for the simple reason they quit when they did. There would have been very few left if the invasion had happened.

Dad29 said...

An interesting counter to the 'bomb was best' theory is posted today at ZeroHedge.

Those opposed to using the bomb: Eisenhower, Nimitz, Halsey, the CNO, and the Chair, JCS. TUrns out Japan had already begun informal negotiations for surrender in July.....

The President of Harvard, however, wanted to use the bomb.

John Cunningham said...

I don't have the url now, bit Trent Telenko at had several posts in recent years about the decision to drop the bombs. He shows that recent research on Japanese forces shows that they had far more planes, attack boats, and artillery on Kyushu than Allied intelligence estimated, and that the landings could have failed. That would have led to expanded fire bombing which would have led to far more Japanese deaths than the A-bombs.

Beans said...

STaRX - post war analysis shocked the US. We would have experienced 10 times the casualties, if not more. Once we stepped on the main islands, it wouldn't have been over until either they or we were dead.

Dad29 - Yes. The Japanese were informally negotiating for surrender, a weak surrender only, stop fighting, no reparations, 'their land' like Iwo, Guam, Saipan and Tinian, the Marshalls and Gilberts, all back under their control. Same with Korea.

Which, really, was no surrender. Just a massive cease fire and step back by allied forces to antebellum lines.

The big names you mentioned? They thought they could get Japan closer to unconditional surrender. Which would have left us in the same situation as after Gulf War I with Saddam. Lives spent for nothing. Japan would have rearmed and kept going.

Unconditional surrender of all Axis nations was the only way. To let Japan get away with conditional surrender would have made all the sacrifice and death and dismemberment useless.

Remember, there were many Allied prisoners in Japan. A conditional surrender somewhere down the line would have meant more prisoners, and more prisoners dying. Unconditional surrender saved most of those prisoners. Saved most of the Japanese people, too.

See my statement to STaRX above. They were ready for us. Big time. From children (a friend of mine took a spear class from one of those children, she (yes, she) beat him senseless and he at the time was one of the best US spear martial artists and she was a little old lady) to the old, they were ready to fight and die if we stepped one foot on the main islands.

The bombs saved Japan more than they saved us. And they saved the Japanese people from the Soviets, who were already snapping up Japanese possessions. By ending it, we saved everyone (and pissed off the Soviets, so that's icing on the cake.)

Old NFO said...

Pick a side, there will always be someone on the 'other' side. My cousin was at Okinawa, prepping to go to Japan when they dropped the bomb. He said point blank he probably would have been dead had it not been for that.

Rob said...

After the Emperor had ordered the surrender the government had to put down a coup attempt by those who wanted to fight to the last breath.

tweell said...

Eisenhower, Nimitz, et al didn't believe in secret weapons, as a general rule. Not a surprise they were against a super bomb, probably figured that it was a waste of time. They'd dealt with the Nazi secret weapons, after all.

MacArthur was pushing for Operation Olympic and setting up logistics for that. It would be the greatest invasion the world had ever seen, and he was going to run it. More medals for Dugout Doug!

Nimitz and the Navy were for continuing and strengthening the blockade of Japan. The Japanese were already starving, since we had cut off oil for ships, had sunk most of their shipping and Japan, like England, couldn't feed its people without importing food. Unlike England, we were fighting them, not feeding them.

If the bomb had not been available or declared not an option, Truman was leaning towards the Navy plan, since it would cost less in blood and treasure. Millions of Japanese would have starved to death before surrender, given the attitude of their military (and because the military was going to be the last to starve). After the war, we used a lot of the supplies for Olympic to feed the Japanese. I saw a note from MacArthur (as military governor) from November 1946 authorizing an increase in food rations to 1800 calories per day. Over a year later, increasing to 1800 calories.

Note that we had done an excellent job of teaching the Japanese that we spoke the truth. When we dropped leaflets saying we would bomb a city, we bombed that city. After bombing Hiroshima, the Japanese prime minister declared they would fight on. We bombed Nagasaki three days later, and still they didn't surrender. We dumped leaflets explaining the destruction of those cities, and bluffing that we had a hundred more bombs waiting for use, ready to obliterate every city in Japan. Lies, we had no more atomic bombs ready and could only make a few more with the material we had. Finally they gave up.

How many Japanese would have died from starvation with the Navy plan? Nimitzs staff figured between 10-40% would be dead or beyond help before Japan would surrender. Millions more would have died. Alternatively, millions of Japanese and Americans would have died in the invasion.

IMHO, the atomic bomb was the cheapest way of ending the war on our terms, for good.

Retired Mustang said...

Retrospection can be useful. It's also, by definition, not available to people "in the moment." Talking to my dad about WW2, he said the thing he remembered most was how angry Americans were, from the time of Pearl Harbor onward. From his perspective, had Americans been offered realistic estimates of the deaths (on both sides) from multiple approaches, many, perhaps even most, would have said "nuke the bas****."

takirks said...

In October of 1945, a significant typhoon developed and passed over Japan and Okinawa. This storm wrought significant havoc on the forces occupying Japan, and it is interesting to consider the likely effect if Operation Downfall had been in progress at that time.

My take on the matter is that if the invasion had gone forward and failed, then Japan would have likely been blockaded, all of its shipping sunk, and then they would have merely waited for the population to starve to death. With the loss of fishing and coastal shipping, feeding the population would have been nearly impossible, and by the end of 1946, most of the Japanese population would likely have been dead and/or in no condition to actually resist much of anything the Allies did. Especially if the Allies took up using Japan as a dumping ground for all the built-up munitions they had. Fire-bombing would have been the least of their worries--I expect that in this alternate universe, the Allies would have been using carrier-based fighter bombers to blast rice paddy dikes and any farmers/draft animals still extant and working their farms. End of the day, by '46-'47, no Japan. It would have effectively been a genocide, and I doubt that there would have been the slightest qualm about any of it.

Two things saved Japan: One, the atomic bomb enabling the US public to say "Yeah, that's enough...", and the utter and complete capitulation of the Japanese people, who had the good sense not to allow much of any resistance. Because of that, they gained sympathy from the occupying forces, and then the American public. Without those two factors, Japan would have been eradicated--Things like the Bataan death march, the treatment of POWs and interned Western civilians would have, with even more Japanese recalcitrance and bad behavior, enabled an entirely different reaction from the US, which would have been enormously different than the one we have historically. I wouldn't rule out Japan having been turned into some sort of nature reserve sans Japanese people. Certainly, nothing of the culture would have been allowed to survive.

It's something we've forgotten, but if you go back and actually read newspapers and magazines from that period, we were on the edge of committing genocide, and I don't think there would have been the slightest resistance to the idea. Even as late as the early 1950s, there was a lot of animosity and outright hatred. In one of the towns near my Mom's hometown in rural Oregon, one of the young men who'd gone to Japan after the war as part of the occupation forces brought home a Japanese war bride. He wound up having to take her to Los Angeles in order to find a place they could live with only minor harassment--The animosity was that high, and it was the 1970s before he could bring her home to visit family. Even then, there were neighbors who'd lost kin in the Philippines who said and did some pretty nasty stuff to her and their "half-breed" kids... The hatred was pretty damn strong, and perhaps justified, considering what happened to the relatives of those neighbors.

Unknown said...

When considering the casualties from an invasion of the mainland, it's important to look at what those same people predicted the casualties of the various island invasions would be at about the same time.

This estimates were all grossly low (for both sides). I don't doubt that millions of allied trrops would have been casualties and tens of millions of Japanese.

And the result on the American population after that level of losses and the need for the common troops to treat children with suspicion would have resulted in a VERY different country after that (either from so many people being hardened to the killing or the horror from what was done, whichever way it went)

The two bombings together caused ~200k civilian deaths
The invasion of Okinawa resulted in ~250k civilian deaths (including suicides suicides to prevent capture)
Tokyo firebomb raids resulted in ~220K civilian deaths in a single night.

continued conventional war would have caused FAR more civilian casualties than the bombs did, even before the invasion.

Etaoin Shrdlu said...

I have two thoughts.

First, since before the war began, the Japanese leadership held the idea that America did not have the warrior resolve to do what was necessary to win. They were proven by history to have been utterly wrong. It cost them.

Second, the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must be viewed in the context of Manilla after the Japanese chose to fight house-to-house, with civilians everywhere, unlike the behavior of the Americans, who had retreated and declared it an "open city". And the obscene Rape of Nanking, where there were no defenders remaining. Or the horrors perpetrated on he Dutch East Indies, and so many others. Of the Allied prisoners abused and murdered, including so many tens of thousands of Chinese POWs, of the unspeakable experiments performed on prisoners of war. Of the Bataan Death March. So many outrages. I would have ordered the damned bomb dropped on the Imperial Palace myself.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

I lived for a number of years in or near Washington DC. Every goddamned year some pillock would start yapping about "We should take down the Enola Gat display at the Air And Space Museum". My reaction was, and still is, "Hell no. We should add a banner that reads, in Japanese, 'You rape Nanking again, we bomb you again.'

The Japanese had behaved just as badly as the Germans did, throughout their Empire. Differently, but no better than the Death Camps. They deserved no consideration whatsoever. And they have been whining ever since about those two bombs, as if Hiroshima and Nagasaki (both of which were thriving cities again in less than a decade) made up for the pure bloody minded swinishness of the Japanese Military throughout the War.

Edwin Clements said...

The scientists at Los Alamos were working on a 3rd atomic bomb and probably would have had it ready within 2 or 3 weeks, and used it if the Japanese had not surrendered after Nagasaki.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

I remember seeing pictures of Japanese civilians being taught how to use bamboo spears by a Japanese soldier who was teaching them to attack American Soldiers. They were weaponizing their entire population who are to serve the Emperor. I also Remembered seeing a picture of MacAuthur riding to the Emperor palace and there were almost 200,000 Japanese Soldiers facing away from him lining the route as they traveled. We would have had to eradicate the Japanese as a society and we would have had about a million casualties and the Soviets were having designs on the territories that the Japanese had. They already destroyed the Manchurian Army and had designs and occupation designs on parts of the Japanese Homeland. Americans wanted revenge for Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Bataan death March and other atrocities committed by the Japanese. the Pacific War was fought with no quarters given, the only place where the war was fought with more savagery was the Eastern Front with Germany and the Soviet Union. If we had taken a conditional surrender of the Japanese, or an armistice we would have had to fight them 5 or 10 years later after they rebuilt themselves and we have demobilized. Same thing like WWI, and the Japanese would have been stronger and it would have cost far more lives. the people viewing the decisions of 75 years ago through the modern prism totally miss the point and the cost of the war.

JG said...

My Dad spent his late teen years as a Marine going through the Pacific islands. His final landing was on Okinawa where he was was blown up. He spent a year in a Naval Hospital and finally they released him with a Marine Medical Retirement after saying there was nothing more they could do.

He retired a Gunnery Sargent and would never talk about it. I saw the horrendous scars on his body from the edge of his left shoulder to the right hip and up and down his legs. I ask one question on how he became a Gunnery Sargent so young and he did finally answer it and said simply "attrition".

The A-bombs saved lives on both sides and especially the allies. If you are going to attack a nation then do not in the future expect not to be attacked back with all forms of possible war. The present people did not have to live through this and should accept the history.

Quirel said...

Funnily enough, that factored into the Japanese Army's resistance to surrender. They consulted a professor at the University of Tokyo and rightly concluded that America couldn't have produced more than a few bombs. And these bastards certainly were willing to see a few more cities go up in flames if it let them have their glorious last stand on the beaches of Nippon.

Will said...

For a look at what was found after their surrender, read:

"Hell to Pay", by D.M. Giangreco

The Nippon military had stated that they were comfortable with losing HALF of their civilian population in an attempt to drive off an Allied invasion. They prepared for it. Think they weren't serious?

Our military intelligence estimations of what Japan could accomplish in attempting to stop the invasions was laughably off target. BTW, some of those US Army officials that were opposed to dropping the bombs on cities actually wanted them to be saved for use in clearing the way for the invasions. Wonderful. Lets irradiate most of our military, and then send them home for the public to see. Japan might have won from us walking away due to that bit of stupidity. Granted, we didn't know much about radiation damage at that point, but we sure would have gotten a hell of an education!

Will said...

One of the few smart things that MacArthur did was to forbid any active troops from the Pacific war to be part of his occupation force. He knew damn well that would just end up with an internal war. Our island hopping forces had early on reached a point that they stopped allowing Japanese soldiers to surrender, since too many of them thought that it was proper to fake that while hiding weapons like grenades. Two very disparate views of what Honor should be. I suspect this situation may have driven the "no reminiscing with the public" to such an extent, more than what the fight with the Germans seemed to do.

JaimeInTexas said...

Not theonly source but, anyone here read Herbert Hoover's America Betrayed?
Would the Japanese laid down their weapons had their Emperor surrendered ... given the chance in 1942 or 1943?

Nuke Road Warrior said...

Like many others on the blog, I have a personal stake in the dropping of the bombs on Japan. My dad's infantry division had been in combat from about September 1944 to the end of the war in Europe. Among the first divisions to be brought home they were relocated to San Luis Obispo to train for the invasion. It was estimated that the division would suffer 80% casualties during the invasion. Needless to say, he was ecstatic when the Japanese surrendered. If the invasion had been necessary I likely would not be here as mom and dad did not meet until after the war. One can argue that Japan was ready to negotiate peace with out having to annihilate two cities. However, the Japanese government's response to the first atomic bombing seems to belie that point, as does the fact that civilians were being organized as suicide attackers.

Technomad said...

My dad was in the CBI Theater as of VJ day, and might have been sent to Japan in the event of an invasion. I'm glad we dropped the bomb.