The better question is "what was the excuse for the first bomb?" The answer is, there was no excuse and no sound military reason to use either.
Curtis LeMay himself said (if we lost the war) he would have been tried for war crimes for the fire bombing of Tokyo and other cities, which did more damage and killed eponentially more civilians than either Fat Man or Little Boy, so we'll start from the premise that the winner writes the rules. (As well as the history.)
Fermi and his crew weren't sure the reaction from detonation could be contained. When the world didn't blow up after Hiroshima and Model A, we had to see if Nagasaki and Model B would do the trick. Anyhow, the boys with the brass, home safe in the Pentagon, wanted to compare the two types (they were totally different bombs, remember)
Oppenheimer insisted at least one, if not both, be used so he could justify the time and money that went into the project (the war consequences were, at best, secondary to him - he was worried about his place in history and in the world of physics) However, he pleaded that the bomb be dropped on an uninhabited area or at the very least on a military target. He was ignored.
We did NOT drop the bombs to convince the Japanese of anything. They were beaten. They had no navy (literally - their few remaining ships were sitting at anchor and decommissioned), their air force was all but gone and the only pilots left were being trained as Kamikazis, so they only had one flight each to fly. Replacement planes were non-existent because all raw materials had been cut off when Tojo was pushed back to Honshu and the allied navy established the embargo of the motherland. Fuel was scarce. The Japanese have never been able to feed themselves without imports and the naval blockade had cut off not only the importation of food but had terminated the Japanese fishing industry as well. The people were starving on less than 1600 calories per day and most of the civilian populace was suffering from malnutrition. The troops were not in much better shape.
Not only was the end a simple matter of waiting and starving out the few remaining ground troops that were left, but as was proven time and again, no target on the islands was out of reach of LeMay's bombers, launched from Okinawa, China and carriers which could have operated from Tokyo Bay. 66 cities were destroyed by fire bombs and high explosives from the air in the months before Hiroshima. Very few Allied planes were lost in those raids. The fire bombing of Tokyo killed more people and did more damage than the actual blast of either Fat Man or Little Boy (Radiation deaths over the ensuing years together with the birth defects caused by the bombs gives the ultimate body count to the nukes). Everyone on both sides of the front realized the war was over.
Prior to Hiroshima, according to the Bombing Survey report, "Sixty-four percent of the Japanese population stated that they had reached a point prior to surrender where they felt personally unable to go on with the war. Of these, less than one-tenth attributed the cause to military defeats, one-quarter attributed the cause to shortages of food and civilian supplies, the largest part to air attack" (exclusive of the atomic bombs). The civilians were under martial law because the cabinet feared a popular uprising to force an end to the war. Clearly, conventional weapons were doing the job and, again, they were more effective in overall destructive power.
Tojo's cabinet had fallen a year earlier because of his insistence that the war be continued with no thought of surrender. Admiral Tagaki of the Navy General Staff was pushing for surrender as early as February, 1944, and his faction was growing daily. The necessary consensus to sue for peace was almost in place in August, 1945, and from May forward, the Japanese were requesting the Soviets to intercede on their behalf with the Americans and British to end the war. MacArthur recommended negotiating, possibly while a cease fire was put into place. He found the four conditions the Japanese requested (but did not demand) to be not unreasonable. In the spring of '44, Commander Yoshiro Fujimura was sending out peace overtures from Switzerland. However, as late as August, '45, Cordell Hull was advising Harry Truman that peace by anything less than unconditional surrender would have dire political consequences at home and Harry wanted to keep his job.
The sole reason for dropping the first bomb was to let Joe Stalin and Mao know we had developed it. The sole reason for dropping the second one was to let them know we had more. By the time Berlin fell, we were getting ready for the next war and it was pretty clear who that would be with. Those same object lessons could have been made by dropping the bombs on uninhabited ground.
As to the history whiz kids out there that think the US was going to lose hundreds of thousands of troops in an invasion of the home islands, bear in mind that US losses in both theaters, Europe and the Pacific, amounted to fewer than 350,000 (as compared to 10 MILLION Soviet military dead). Yeah, some people would have died in a invasion - wars tend to do that to people. The thing is, no invasion would have been necessary. Read YOUR history, apply a little common sense and think about SANE military strategy. If the bombs were intended to soften the route for the invasion, they would have been dropped on troop concentrations or on targets neat the invasion routes. Neither were, nor were any of the next 11 planned drops going to be.
MacArthur, Nimitz, Eisenhower and others in similar position recommended against using either weapon, claiming they were unnecessary to end the war and would not save American (or Japanese) lives. Ike was particularly worried that the USA would be demonized by the world for using such a heinous weapon when the war was already over. Hirohito said the bombs did not bring about the surrender . You need to understand the political structure of Japan under their constitution at the time. The emperor did not have the authority to end the war - but he had told his cabinet in
April to make peace "at any cost" (including unconditional surrender). The Japanese were moving quickly in that direction and Washington knew it. Operation Downfall was NOT going to be required. That is a historical given, if you bother to read the record.
The US bombing survey concluded in July, 1946, the bombs did nothing to end the war. They concluded that even without the bombs, even without the Soviet declaration of war against Japan and even if Operation Downfall (the invasion of Japan) had not been planned or even contemplated, the Japanese surrender would have come probably by November 1, and absolutely by December 31. The significance of those dates is that Operation Olympic, the first phase of Downfall was not scheduled to commence until November at the earliest and Operation Coronet, phase two, the landings on Honshu, were not scheduled to happen until the spring of '46. Neither phase of the invasion was going to occur anywhere near either Nagasaki (which was not the original target for Fat Man in any event) or Hiroshima. Both of those cities were off limits to conventional and fire bombs by order of the Pentagon because someone wanted a virgin target so the damage could be fully assessed. More than 350 thousand Japanese civilians, along with 2000 American civilians (mostly students who had been stranded in Japan at the outset of the war) and an unknown number of American and British POWs held outside Hiroshima died so the experiment could be conducted.
What we did accomplish by using both (or either) bomb was, as Ike feared, to earn the wrath and contempt of the entire world and the casualties are still being born today. How many generations will pass before the unborn innocent victims finally shed the mutations caused by the blast.
And to those that say the Japanese had it coming, maybe you should read up on why Pearl was attacked in the first place. To call it unprovoked goes beyond ignorance and the only reason it was a "surprise" attack is that the message from Tokyo was not decoded and delivered in time. Washington knew and attack was coming, and continued to engage in the actions that provoked it right up until December 7. The only uncertainties were the date, place and time. Interestingly, only about 60 civilians died at Pearl, as compared to the 350,000 or so at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (including radiation deaths over the next few years), not to mention another 75,000 or so at Tokyo. We killed around 1 million Japanese civilians by the air attacks between April and August.
Don't take my word for it. Here's what the folks who had far better information than I ever will had to say at the time:
"The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
"The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.
"In 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. 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." Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"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." The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, July 1, 1946.
"In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity,
no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish,
the physicists have known sin"
J. Robert Oppenheimer
:That being said, of course we should have dropped the second bomb. Hey, Saddam got out of line and look what we did to him. Afghanistan did nothing and look what we did there. We refused to allow the elections promised to Viet Nam in '54, and look what we did there. Diem got uppity and where did he end up? It's the American way - just ask Red Cloud.
And we wonder why people would want to land airplanes in skyscrapers?
To all those out there who disagree with this analysis, give me some documentation to show me where I'm wrong. All the thumbs down are meaningless unless you can support, factually and logically, a contrary opinion. I understand the myths that were fabricated out of a sense of national guilt in 1945 and thereafter, but the facts don't lie. Once upon a time I believed the bombs were justified. Then I learned how to read.... I hate to admit mistakes, but boy was I wrong on that one.
Answered By: Oscar Himpflewitz - 8/29/2007