The REAL Reason America Used Nuclear Weapons Against Japan

George Washington's picture

Atomic Weapons Were Not Needed to End the War or Save Lives

Like all Americans, I was taught that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end WWII and save both American and Japanese lives.

But most of the top American military officials at the time said otherwise.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that concluded (52-56):

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

General (and later president) Dwight Eisenhower – then Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces, and the officer who created most of America’s WWII military plans for Europe and Japan – said:

The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

Newsweek, 11/11/63, Ike on Ike

Eisenhower also noted (pg. 380):

In [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.


During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude….

Admiral William Leahy – the highest ranking member of the U.S. military from 1942 until retiring in 1949, who was the first de facto Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and who was at the center of all major American military decisions in World War II – wrote (pg. 441):

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.


The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

General Douglas MacArthur agreed (pg. 65, 70-71):

MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed …. When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

Moreover (pg. 512):

The Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face ‘prompt and utter destruction.’ MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General’s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.

Similarly, Assistant Secretary of War John McLoy noted (pg. 500):

I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.

Under Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bird said:

I think that the Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and, I think, the Swiss. And that suggestion of [giving] a warning [of the atomic bomb] was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted.




In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb. Thus, it wouldn’t have been necessary for us to disclose our nuclear position and stimulate the Russians to develop the same thing much more rapidly than they would have if we had not dropped the bomb.

War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb, U.S. News and World Report, 8/15/60, pg. 73-75.

He also noted (pg. 144-145, 324):

It definitely seemed to me that the Japanese were becoming weaker and weaker. They were surrounded by the Navy. They couldn’t get any imports and they couldn’t export anything. Naturally, as time went on and the war developed in our favor it was quite logical to hope and expect that with the proper kind of a warning the Japanese would then be in a position to make peace, which would have made it unnecessary for us to drop the bomb and have had to bring Russia in.

General Curtis LeMay, the tough cigar-smoking Army Air Force “hawk,” stated publicly shortly before the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan:

The war would have been over in two weeks. . . . The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.

The Vice Chairman of the U.S. Bombing Survey Paul Nitze wrote (pg. 36-37, 44-45):

[I] concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945.




Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary.

Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence Ellis Zacharias wrote:

Just when the Japanese were ready to capitulate, we went ahead and introduced to the world the most devastating weapon it had ever seen and, in effect, gave the go-ahead to Russia to swarm over Eastern Asia.


Washington decided that Japan had been given its chance and now it was time to use the A-bomb.


I submit that it was the wrong decision. It was wrong on strategic grounds. And it was wrong on humanitarian grounds.

Ellis Zacharias, How We Bungled the Japanese Surrender, Look, 6/6/50, pg. 19-21.

Brigadier General Carter Clarke – the military intelligence officer in charge of preparing summaries of intercepted Japanese cables for President Truman and his advisors – said (pg. 359):

When we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.

Many other high-level military officers concurred. For example:

The commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945, had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. Also, the opinion of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was reported to have said in a press conference on September 22, 1945, that “The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia’s entry into the war.” In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.” It was learned also that on or about July 20, 1945, General Eisenhower had urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower’s assessment was “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime.” Eisenhower also stated that it wasn’t necessary for Truman to “succumb” to [the tiny handful of people putting pressure on the president to drop atom bombs on Japan.]

British officers were of the same mind. For example, General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, said to Prime Minister Churchill that “when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor.”

On hearing that the atomic test was successful, Ismay’s private reaction was one of “revulsion.”

Why Were Bombs Dropped on Populated Cities Without Military Value?

Even military officers who favored use of nuclear weapons mainly favored using them on unpopulated areas or Japanese military targets ... not cities

For example, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy Lewis Strauss proposed to Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal that a non-lethal demonstration of  atomic weapons would be enough to convince the Japanese to surrender … and the Navy Secretary agreed (pg. 145, 325):

I proposed to Secretary Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used. Primarily it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate… My proposal to the Secretary was that the weapon should be demonstrated over some area accessible to Japanese observers and where its effects would be dramatic. I remember suggesting that a satisfactory place for such a demonstration would be a large forest of cryptomeria trees not far from Tokyo. The cryptomeria tree is the Japanese version of our redwood… I anticipated that a bomb detonated at a suitable height above such a forest… would lay the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they were matchsticks, and, of course, set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities at will… Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation


It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world…

General George Marshall agreed:

Contemporary documents show that Marshall felt “these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave–telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers….”


As the document concerning Marshall’s views suggests, the question of whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified turns  … on whether the bombs had to be used against a largely civilian target rather than a strictly military target—which, in fact, was the explicit choice since although there were Japanese troops in the cities, neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki was deemed militarily vital by U.S. planners. (This is one of the reasons neither had been heavily bombed up to this point in the war.) Moreover, targeting [at Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was aimed explicitly on non-military facilities surrounded by workers’ homes.

Historians Agree that the Bomb Wasn’t Needed

Historians agree that nuclear weapons did not need to be used to stop the war or save lives.

As historian Doug Long notes:

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission historian J. Samuel Walker has studied the history of research on the decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan. In his conclusion he writes, “The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisors knew it.” (J. Samuel Walker, The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update, Diplomatic History, Winter 1990, pg. 110).

Politicians Agreed

Many high-level politicians agreed.  For example, Herbert Hoover said (pg. 142):

The Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945…up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; …if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs.

Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew noted (pg. 29-32):

In the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the [retention of the] dynasty had been issued in May, 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the [Japanese] Government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clearcut decision.


If surrender could have been brought about in May, 1945, or even in June or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the [Pacific] war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer.

Why Then Were Atom Bombs Dropped on Japan?

If dropping nuclear bombs was unnecessary to end the war or to save lives, why was the decision to drop them made? Especially over the objections of so many top military and political figures?

One theory is that scientists like to play with their toys:

On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was publicly quoted extensively as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a “toy and they wanted to try it out . . . .” He further stated, “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment . . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it.”

However, most of the Manhattan Project scientists who developed the atom bomb were opposed to using it on Japan.

Albert Einstein – an important catalyst for the development of the atom bomb (but not directly connected with the Manhattan Project) -  said differently:

“A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb.” In Einstein’s judgment, the dropping of the bomb was a political – diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision.

Indeed, some of the Manhattan Project scientists wrote directly to the secretary of defense in 1945 to try to dissuade him from dropping the bomb:

We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan inadvisable. If the United States would be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race of armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons.

Political and Social Problems, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 76, National Archives (also contained in: Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 1987 edition, pg. 323-333).

The scientists questioned the ability of destroying Japanese cities with atomic bombs to bring surrender when destroying Japanese cities with conventional bombs had not done so, and – like some of the military officers quoted above – recommended a demonstration of the atomic bomb for Japan in an unpopulated area.

The Real Explanation? notes:

In the years since the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, a number of historians have suggested that the weapons had a two-pronged objective …. It has been suggested that the second objective was to demonstrate the new weapon of mass destruction to the Soviet Union. By August 1945, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had deteriorated badly. The Potsdam Conference between U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Russian leader Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill (before being replaced by Clement Attlee) ended just four days before the bombing of Hiroshima. The meeting was marked by recriminations and suspicion between the Americans and Soviets. Russian armies were occupying most of Eastern Europe. Truman and many of his advisers hoped that the U.S. atomic monopoly might offer diplomatic leverage with the Soviets. In this fashion, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan can be seen as the first shot of the Cold War.

New Scientist reported in 2005:

The US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was meant to kick-start the Cold War rather than end the Second World War, according to two nuclear historians who say they have new evidence backing the controversial theory.


Causing a fission reaction in several kilograms of uranium and plutonium and killing over 200,000 people 60 years ago was done more to impress the Soviet Union than to cow Japan, they say. And the US President who took the decision, Harry Truman, was culpable, they add.


“He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species,” says Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington DC, US. “It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity.”




[The conventional explanation of using the bombs to end the war and save lives] is disputed by Kuznick and Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US.




New studies of the US, Japanese and Soviet diplomatic archives suggest that Truman’s main motive was to limit Soviet expansion in Asia, Kuznick claims. Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union began an invasion a few days after the Hiroshima bombing, not because of the atomic bombs themselves, he says.


According to an account by Walter Brown, assistant to then-US secretary of state James Byrnes, Truman agreed at a meeting three days before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that Japan was “looking for peace”. Truman was told by his army generals, Douglas Macarthur and Dwight Eisenhower, and his naval chief of staff, William Leahy, that there was no military need to use the bomb.


“Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan,” says Selden.

John Pilger points out:

The US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was “fearful” that the US air force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon would not be able “to show its strength”. He later admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb”. His foreign policy colleagues were eager “to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis.” The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Truman voiced his satisfaction with the “overwhelming success” of “the experiment”.

We’ll give the last word to University of Maryland professor of political economy – and former Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and Special Assistant in the Department of State – Gar Alperovitz:

Though most Americans are unaware of the fact, increasing numbers of historians now recognize the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan in 1945. Moreover, this essential judgment was expressed by the vast majority of top American military leaders in all three services in the years after the war ended: Army, Navy and Army Air Force. Nor was this the judgment of “liberals,” as is sometimes thought today. In fact, leading conservatives were far more outspoken in challenging the decision as unjustified and immoral than American liberals in the years following World War II.




Instead [of allowing other options to end the war, such as letting the Soviets attack Japan with ground forces], the United States rushed to use two atomic bombs at almost exactly the time that an August 8 Soviet attack had originally been scheduled: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The timing itself has obviously raised questions among many historians. The available evidence, though not conclusive, strongly suggests that the atomic bombs may well have been used in part because American leaders “preferred”—as Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Martin Sherwin has put it—to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.




The most illuminating perspective, however, comes from top World War II American military leaders. The conventional wisdom that the atomic bomb saved a million lives is so widespread that … most Americans haven’t paused to ponder something rather striking to anyone seriously concerned with the issue: Not only did most top U.S. military leaders think the bombings were unnecessary and unjustified, many were morally offended by what they regarded as the unnecessary destruction of Japanese cities and what were essentially noncombat populations. Moreover, they spoke about it quite openly and publicly.




Shortly before his death General George C. Marshall quietly defended the decision, but for the most part he is on record as repeatedly saying that it was not a military decision, but rather a political one.

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ThisTimeIsDifferent's picture

Long article - simple flaw:

if blowing up a redwood forest would have sufficed to effect a Japanese surrender (as the experts said),

then it would also have sufficed to intimidate the Soviets.

No need for a Jewish instigated massacre of Christian-Japanese civilians.

Nagasaki has for centuries been the center of Christian life in Japan:

darteaus's picture

It should be noted that EVERYONE GW quotes was comfortably ensconced in an air-conditioned office opining on what to do. Why no quotes from POWs, servicemen injured daily in accidents, subjugated Chinese, Korean slave laborers being beaten and starved, mothers or fathers of the deployed, Okinowans, etc?

I am sure they would have been happy to keep their lives in peril as they waited "weeks" or "months" for the air-conditioned to take their time working out a "face saving surrender" procedure for the aggressors who RARELY showed mercy - Nanking comes to mind.

This is simply revisionist historians at work.

LoCicero's picture

Dear GardenWeasel,

FYI, I had never called anyone "asshole" on the internet before, but I used the term (enlightenedly) for GW and his/her supporters because ... well, because they are ASSHOLES, AND ARMCHAIR ASSHOLES AT THAT:

Either they're intentionally misleading people as part of a 'Hate America, Blame America First' campaign - thus qualifying for that highly technical & appropriate term, ASSHOLE - or they're simply blind ideologues for whom evidence doesn't matter, and again, technically qualifying as ASSHOLES.

Among the voluminous evidence supporting the case for using nuclear weapons on the enemy is the MAGIC decrypts showing the Japanese plans for a defense in-depth by 2.3 million trrops; 4 million Army/Navy employees and 25 million militia, SWORN TO FIGHT TO THE DEATH. As far as I've read, NO ONE on this thread mentioned the MAGIC decrypts, certainly not the armchair assholes. See:

As far as "incinerating civilians," recon photos after the bombing of these "civilian" areas show the landscape flatened like a pancake, when the fragile Japanese homes were obliterated, but in almost every plot (or, at least, many plots) where a home had once stood were lathes, drill presses and other machine tools contributing to the war effort.  Again, NO MENTION of this here on zertohedge about those 'innocent civilians.'

I lived through WW 2,  reading the news stories & seeing the news photographs daily, as well as watching the Movietone News in theaters, AND listening to the stories of returning GIs (those who survived the fanatics) and I understand there is no substitute for that kind of first-hand experience, but at least, if you weren't around then and have to rely on the post-war literature, get it right - suspend your belief in convoluted conspiracy theories, and read & accept the deliberations of the men who were there and tasked with the reponsibility of saving miilions of lives - Japanese as well as American.

Next, someone else mentioned that MacArthur, Halsey and others called certain island invasions (Iwo, Oki) "cakewalks." In almost 60 years, I never heard this, and a google search shows NO instance of our PTO leaders ever making such a statement. Either cite your source or have this comment considered a lie.

Finally, for all you MacArthur critics, read one of the greatest books written on war in general, and in particular, on the PTO, "Goodbye Darkness" by William Manchester. MacArthur, you'll learn was the most sparing of all commanders with his men's lives, far superior than that military beaurocrat, Eisenhower.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

There may have been many motives for dropping the bombs.  But for the major one, let's keep it simple.  The people wanted the war ended.  Plop, plop.  Over.

GardenWeasel's picture

Some people, and you know who you are, can't seem to make a comment without resorting to calling other people names. "armchair asshole", "ignorant idiot", etc.  sure sign of an enlightened mind there.  The size of one's patriotism or the fact that one had/have loved ones in the military doesn't add one iota of credibility to one's argument.  My father was in WW2 also, carried a rifle thru France before his 19th birthday, but that doesn't mean I'm going to check my brains at the door. 

Did someone call the attack on Pearl Harbor cowardly? It was a military target fully able to shoot back.  What do you call atom bombing a civilian target? Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen because they had not yet been bombed by the U.S. Air Force so the effect of the bomb could be more accurately determined. That's how militarily significant they were.  Flying B-17s thru AA fire and swarms of fighters to bomb factories is the work of a soldier.  Incinerating civilians, including women and children, without warning?  Not so much.  Does the fact that someone else committed war crimes make it acceptable for us to do the same?  Imagine where that kind of thinking will lead us.  

Any one out there know how many casualties the U.S. suffered in the Pacific theater in WW2? About 170,000, with 57,000 deaths.     That's for the entire war plus.  Yet for the invasion of an island that was bombed extensively, blockaded and deprived of resources (not to mention the loss of the cream of their army to the Russians in Manchuria) it was going to cost 6 times as much in casualties?   The Battle of Normandy cost the Allies 210,000 causalties.  Sorry, but I don't buy the crystal ball estimates of 1 million casualties.  Sounds like someone trying to cover up up the real reason for using the bomb, and apparently a lot of people bought it.    

It has been said "war is hell" and "all's fair in love and war". Both are true. Once one has taken to killing masses of one's fellow humans to get one's way all pretense of civility has been - and should be - abandoned. We can all rationalize barbarous acts. I know I would kill and maim in a heartbeat to defend my family, but the senseless killing of noncombatants is the act of a monster, no matter what flag he is waving.  Rationalization is not justification.

DarthVaderMentor's picture

Leahy, McArthur, Le May, Halsey, Ernie King and in particular Zacharias were the same guys that predicted that the landings in Iwo Jima and Okinawa "would be cake walks". Their arrogant confidence had cost America thousands of lives.

At the time the bombs went off, there were thousands of crosses on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and a bunch of brave dead sailors on the bottom of the waters near those two islands that proved these "sage military men" wrong. In addition, there was a panic in the fleet that the Kamikaze could begin to tip the balance of naval power. It almost did.

The Japanese blockade had been going on for months, and the top military and political leadership had called Iwo Jima and Okinawa wrong. In addition, the Russians had sensed that entering the war could get them a piece of Japan and control of the Western Pacific. That's what Truman was facing at the time of the decision.

IMHO, the evidence was overwhelming that continuing the war in  the conventional manner would have not only cost more lives, but taken a lot longer and caused a military confrontation with the Soviet Union and possibly embroiled us in the Chinese civil war between the Communists and the followers of Chiang Kai-Shek. This would have also delayed or even postponed permanently the Marshall plan.

But let's assume that George Washington is right and the bombs were not necessary and were strictly detonated for political reasons to contain the Russians by impressing them with our newly developed weapon.

If it is true that Truman authorized the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima strictly to contain the Russians by the use of fear then he made the right decision. Those detonations saved a lot more lives in the next war because the Russians stopped and blinked and nuclear weapons were not used for 34+ years.  

robobbob's picture

unless someone finds a letter from truman to bertrand russell or kennan, talking about how he was going to show those reds by sticking it to those slanty eyes, you got nothing.

the japanese were not done. there was talk of a conditional ceasefire. some radicals staged a palace coup to force an immediate surrender. they failed and were executed. politically the government was starting to lean towards ending the war, but there was nothing even remotely imminent.

a letter of dialogue was sent to the soviets whom JPN thought were impartial. little did they know that the soviets had been a prime mover of the allies accepting nothing less than unconditional surrender from any axis yalta the soviets had also been promised cash, weapons, ships, and asian territories in exchange for declaring war on JPN as soon as it was militarily feasible. the letter never made it to the western allies. surprise.

and really. the US was already using mass strategic bombing of civilian targets. the a bombs didn't cause more casualties than were being racked up conventionally. only it took one plane one mission instead of thousands several days. why are revisionist historians trying to make death by atom sound more contemptable than death by phosphorus? how about the idea that bombing civs is horrible. isn't that good enough?

japan may have lost the war by the time the bombs were ready, but lost is not the same as over.  unit 731 + Kawanishi K-200 + Nakajima Kikka = whole lot more casualties before it would have been over.

it may sound naive and simplistic, but at the end of the day, JPN was warned prior to the first bomb. this nation supposedly so on the edge of surrender needed a week of contemplation afterwards, and then a second bomb, and then the soviets declaring war, before they finally threw in the towel? I'm sure there was a lot of peripheral motives, but the bottom line is it ended the way it did. unless there is sure fired evidence to the contrary, this is just monday morning finger pointing.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

I had always understood that the invasion of Japan included shipping military personnel from the European theatre to the Japanese one.  My late brother-in-law was on his way thru the Suez canal when the bombs hit.  Needless to say the men were reluctant to fight another war after winning theirs.  This may have been a factor in Truman's thinking.  My brother-in-law approved of the bombing.

On the other hand, my father a WWII pilot in the European theatre thought the bombing of women and children in this fashion was unacceptable.

onlooker's picture


My good friend Frank Farnsworth was flying off of the Tinian heart stopper airstrip doing missions on Japan. He saw the A bomb aircraft through the barbed wire fence (the crews were segregated). He was in the occupation forces sent into Japan after the surrender. Later while working for Los Angeles Water and Power he was sent as an inspection engineer to Japan to oversee production for contracted items.


His take on it from talking to Marines (some 16 years old) was that the fight with main land Japan was going to be worse than the island battles. While in Japan right after the war and then in the 1960s when he befriended many ex-Japanese military and became friends with many of the population including those who were grade school children at the end of the war. His opinion from these friendships was that the main land invasion would have been much worse than any one projected.


Frank was not a war guy and a very kind man. However, the “bomb” in his opinion saved Japan from total destruction.

morpheus000's picture

Oh man all this rationalising is based on the assumption Japan was the aggressor...questionable assumptions/flame war...

Turtle49's picture

December 7 1941 was pre-planned to get the US into the European war.  The clue is that the carriers were gone from Pearl Harbor. 

As late as June 1944 if Hitler had 24 hours he would have won World War II.  If the weather had not broken so that the landings at Normandy could proceed the invasion would have been postponed to June 1945.  If I recall correctly by June 1945 Germany would be producing 500 jets a month.  They would have swept the skies of the allied planes.  Even in the last days of the war in Europe they were able to get some jets into the air and the kill ratio was 50 to 1.  The German jets simply ran out of bullets. 

The original plan was for Germany to start World War II in 1945.  By that time Germany would have had aircraft carriers and bombers that could fly from Berlin to Washington DC and back without refueling. Our leaders past present and future (should we have a future) should not be trusted to help a blind lady cross the street.

morpheus000's picture

yes the Axis planned to go to war alot later it was the Anglo-Saxons who wanted an early war..Just think Germany was producing more war material at the end of the war then at the start. Nevermind, D-DAY, the Bulge is even more telling of what Germanys real capabilities were/may have been.

Tortuga's picture

So George, what say the Japanese Army and Navy personnel? After the atomic bombs were dropped, there as a coup to kit the Emperor (the emperor was ok with surrender) by the big wigs of the Japanese armed forces ( they were still in control and were of a mind to fight to the death). I call BS on this hypothesis.  This article is conjecture as is any opinions of American Generals and Admirals. My dad and 4 of his brothers were in the Pacific, getting ready to invade Japan and all of them say they were glad the bombs were dropped and they got to tear up the wills they had written. Course, they were all enlisted grunts with rifles and not big wigs so you probably don't think their opinion matters.

steve from virginia's picture


The key figure in the use of the atomic weapons against Japan was the builder of said bomb, General Leslie Groves, the man who built the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The world's largest office building at the time required 16 months to assemble and cost $83 million.


As boss of the Manhattan Project, Groves was tasked with building the infrastructure needed to produce fissile material, turn that into bomb components, assemble them into something that would fit into an airplane and have it work properly. When he started, nobody knew how to do any of these things.


The total project begun in 1942 wound up becoming larger than the entire US auto industry. It included multiple reactors and plutonium processing in Hanford, Washington, the labs and test facility in Los Alamos, the uranium refinery and gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, and hundreds of other sub-facilities built all over the country. Nuclear facilities were built in Berkeley, in Chicago and at Columbia University in New York City to produce bomb material.


Techs didn't know whether a uranium bomb or a plutonium version would work so the US built both along with all the facilities needed to produce them. Groves coordinated with the US Army Air Force to obtain the specifications for a usable bomb, capable of being carried in the largest and most technically advanced US bomber. The USAAF organized a special bomb group and trained specifically to accurately drop these weapons.


Scientists designed the bomb components while Groves' factories manufactured them more-or-less simultaneously. The physics principles were well understood but the mechancal and design aspects were not. When the first bomb was tested at Los Alamos, scientists were uncertain whether it would work.


By the way, the Japanese had none of the infrastructure needed to produce an explosive (they built a particle accelerator to refine small mounts of fissile material). It was beyond the industrial capacity of any country at the time BUT the US to produce a bomb.


Groves was an ambitious, driven, unlikable man who tended to bully subordinates as well as those who had nominal authority over his project. Groves browbeat Truman into authorizing the drops on Japan, as a matter of personal ego, for bureaucratic justification and to assert primacy for himself and his agencies over those he perceived as both competitors and inferiors, namely the military warfare bosses and the war secretariats.


There are numerous books and material about Groves, best is "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes.


As with Churchill and 'Bomber' Harris viz. the pointless bombing of Dresden, Groves became equivocal after the war: massacring tens of thousands for no reason is not easy to rationalize to oneself or to others. Groves is America's version of Albert Speer. Diff is he never did 20 years in prison. 

DarthVaderMentor's picture

Groves is America's version of Albert Speer. The reason he is celebrated and Albert Speer did 20 years in prison is because we won the war.


Victors get to write history the way they want it. Losers get to suffer in jail or die. Cowards and wannabes just yearn to re-write history. There is no substitute for victory and there is no honor in being a coward. 

MOLONAABE's picture

To bad we did not have a few more to drop!!! Patton was right we should have let him kicked russias ass too.....  Should have dropped a few on the Red chinese in korea as well!!! Oh well hindsight is always 20/20....

Sathington Willougby's picture

We now pine for the days when war was declared, Congress was more than ceremonial and bombs were dropped by pilots inside the same plane.

LoCicero's picture

Two questions:

What part of 500,000 Purple Hearts prepared for the invasion force don't you armchair assholes understand?

Why doesn't this armchair shithead call himself Benedict Arnold instead of disgracing the name of Washington?

Tortuga's picture

Yes. what he said and eat shit and die if you - him.

hannah's picture

i think i will start writing articles under the name washington george...first russia really bombed japan and the usa got credit for it. see i can create bullshit also....

cabtrom's picture

Yea well it's a good thing they didn't own any black slaves or we would have wiped the whole country out! Because that's what we really care about is freedom.

sosoome's picture

It was Truman's decision and his alone.

He would not have taken such an act to his grave without considering all eventualities, for he was a man of God, fearing his own judgement upon his death.

(Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant. That's how Truman thunk).

razorthin's picture

In the tradition of the Knights Templar, he also appears to have favored the Old Testament God.

razorthin's picture

The military doesn't grow them like Ike anymore.

Yen Cross's picture

Rest assured, there will aways be a "few good men" out there.

razorthin's picture

I am sure of it.  I just wish there were enough to overrule the sociopaths.

morpheus000's picture

Im sure the next dominant power will be just as nasty with the US...:)

TrustWho's picture

Thank God the A bomb was dropped so the world could be horrified by the aftermath. If not, the cold war would have ended with radioactivity everywhere with roaches being the dominant species.

I am afraid the world needs to be horrified again. Maybe some small scale action will happen and not some large scale exchange. There are few small scale possibilities, but some do exist.

Abrick's picture

The wholesale destruction of the ability of the American population to learn is pretty 'large scale'. It is horrifying, but ignored. A win win for TPTB.

Spitzer's picture

Geroge Washington is a desgrace to ZeroHedge

He gets way to much time on here to spew his fucking BULLSHIT


Agree with you btw

realitybiter's picture


interesting tidbit 

The strategy was to set the left Coast on fire.

Segestan's picture

Poor Japs..... murdered thousands at Pearl Harbour and got there ass kicked. Then the terrible American pigs rebuilt Japan,  and even allowed their manufactured of junk to steal jobs.

Good thing the Imperialist of Japan never won.

morpheus000's picture

Pearl Harbour was not murder. It was a legit military target. WHo was really being aggressive?

Yen Cross's picture

Hey "matrix boy", shut up and fetch me a "torpedo sub" BITCH!

Spitzer's picture

Japan bullshitted the US about not wanting war and then attacked you coward

morpheus000's picture

Who cares nothing Japan was doing was wrong

besnook's picture

so the japanese should have warned the usa in advance? old myths die hard, don't they?

Yen Cross's picture

besnook are you that out of touch with reality? Do you ride the short bus to SKOOL? Does yor mama drop you on your head when you ask for "OAT MEAL"?

besnook's picture

take this for whatever you want but remember, grunts on the line and the people have no idea of the motivation of the generals and .gov. the japanese strategy in ww2 was always to inflict a definitive military blow to the usa and negotiate peace from a position of strength. all they really wanted was indonesian oil and other resources vital, not just to their military, but necessary for an industrialized economy. cutting off those resources was an accepted act of war at the time. the thinking was the pearl harbor attack and the subsequent conquest of the pacific rim would bring the usa to the table since japan had the logistical advantage. it didn't work out that way. the battle of the coral sea and midway made a lot of japanese in the know realize japan was in deep doodoo. tojo and company then thought that if they could repel an attack on the phillipines in a decisive victory or a stalemate that peace could be achieved with everyone going home with a handshake. when japan lost the philipines the fight for them became defensive. at any point after the retaking of the philipines had the usa backed off it's unconditional surrender position the war could have ended but the usa needed japan. after the loss of okinawa the only demand left on the table was the emperor. the japanese would have never surrendered peacefully without the preservation of the emperor even if the entire country was wiped out by nukes. therein lies the flaw in the saving american lives argument. why would the usa need to send troops if they could easily bomb the entire country into oblivion without an invasion. the threat of invasion had to be made as a matter of course but the buildup was really for the occupation.  the occupation would never have been peaceful had not the emperor told the japanese people to honorably accept defeat. most westerners have no idea how powerful the word of the emperor was.

strategically, the atom bombs as a demonstration to the russians to back off the pacific is the one that makes sense. the usa gained pacific dominance positioned in japan against the growing communist threat in china and russian power. the nukes were not necessary to end the pacific war but they were critical to limiting russian and chinese expansion.


hannah's picture

good old east block islamist george washington writing anti american bullshit....and the trolls come out to support or zing everything.....this is getting to easy to spot now.

Spitzer's picture


He is a moron of the highest order and gets too much coverage on ZH

Rothosen's picture

Your right. We could have blockaded the isles causing 10 million civilians to starve and shared occupation with Russia for fifty years. A much better ending./p>

adr's picture

It would take far too much time to actually respond properly to this post. Just as it takes a lot more than what was posted here to explain why the bombs were dropped.

I studied this subject in two year long college classes and read over 10k pages on it. In the end the bombs were dropped to keep the Soviets out of Asia. Roosevelt and Stalin had already agreed that the Soviets could have half of Japan, along with a lot more land in Europe. Truman was kept in the dark. When he was sworn in, he found out the previous president of the United States was pretty much a card carrying communist who admired Stalin and wished to put America on the same path after the war.

There was not supposed to be a Cold War. The world was supposed to be trilateral, run by the USA, the Soviets, and the British. Churchill didn't want to go along with the plan and was kicked out. The USA and the Soviets would rule the world together under a global banner of Socialism.

Truman was appalled and sought to end this plan. The red army was already set to inavde Japan to "help". The prize would be much of the german technology and Japanese advancements held in the north. The bombs were dropped in the hope the Soviets would be scared into submission. Truman never knew many of the scientists working on the bomb had already smuggled much of the secrets to agents of Stalin.

There is much more to the story.

Arthur Borges's picture

Kim Philby tells a different story: he says that the MI5 and MI6 were gearing up to junk the USSR as an ally and oppose it by late 1944. How does that fit into your research?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Plus, as our experience in the middle east bears out, in order to have a proper victory you have to not only smash and kill the enemy, but you have to smash and kill their desire to oppose you, entirely and mercilessly.  If a mere spark of defiance still warms their hearts, we must rip it out and snuff it.


Germans and Japanese are, culturally, much better than lying, filthy Arabs and Muzzies, so they took their beating and shaped up.  The Muzzies need to have their pride obliterated, their shame and humiliation made so complete that they can then rebuild themselves from the ground up, as the Germans and Japanese did.


I'm thinking a genetic plague that ravages those with Arab patrilineal DNA markers going back say 120 years is the way to go.  Destroy their men and boys, and provide any antidote only to those who are westernized.

Fred Hayek's picture

George, I think there's some truth in what you say but not the whole truth. We know, for instance, that even after the two bombs had been used elements in the japanese high command were adamantly opposed to surrender and tried to find and destroy the vinyl copies of the emperor's broadcast to the japanese people telling them to surrender.

Should the U.S. have pursued talks with the japanese more consistently? Yes.

Was part of the point of dropping the bombs to make a point to psychopathic killer of millions Joe Stalin? Yes.

But it was also true that the japanese weren't rushing to hold up white flags.

Yen Cross's picture

Fred you can justify it how ever you would like! The Japanese were ruthless " rapists and killers"! I have seen the pictures!

  They made Hitler look "mild"!      You mental retarded " sankofite"!

  Then again , you probably use the old "Sir Name" Fred as a front, for your ignorant youth!

ItsDanger's picture

Totally disagree.  Would you be satisfied if they didnt use the bomb but were in the Marines at that time?  How many lives were lost talking small islands with airfields?  How many Japanese fought to the death?  Easy for politicians and the hindsight addicts.

HardAssets's picture

The Japanese had started to put out feelers on terms of surrender beforehand. (Why ?  The Russians were entering the war and they knew they were finished.)  They could have invited high Japanese officials to attend a demonstration blast. They would follow what their emperor commanded. The ole' argument of casualties caused by an invasion of the Japanese home islands has been superceded by new historical information.

The bomb was dropped on Japan to kick off the Cold War and it was directed as a demonstration to the USSR.   (In this case, there may have also been some element of racism - fueled by Japanese atrocities reported during the war - that helped some to be less concerned about using the atom bomb on the Japanese. When your enemy looks different than you, its even easier to objectify him. Even non combatant women and children. )

steveo77's picture

Sunset Pictures over the Mountains Oahu Hawaii USA

Got 2 really cool pictures while out exercising the dogs.    Worth checking.   And bear in mind, all blog owners that are adz supported do appreciate your attention.