The A-Bombs Were Un­nec­es­sary

Flight Journal - - 10 AVIATION MYTHS OF WORLD WAR II -

akin to Western lib­er­als and paci­fists who falsely claimed that strate­gic bomb­ing made lit­tle dif­fer­ence in Europe, a cot­tage in­dus­try arose af­ter WW II in­sist­ing that the two A-bombs did not force Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der.

Not all the naysay­ers were tweedy aca­demics. Some se­nior U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cers stated the same be­nighted opin­ions, in­clud­ing Gen­eral of the Armies Dwight Eisen­hower and Fleet Ad­mi­ral Wil­liam Leahy. Eisen­hower, in Europe, never had full ac­cess to U.S. in­tel­li­gence at the time, while Leahy played ser­vice pol­i­tics try­ing to cast the Navy as more eth­i­cal than the nascent Air Force. (Leahy, FDR’s brief­case car­rier, also stated that, as an ord­nance ex­pert, he knew the A-bomb would not work.)

The fact is that the Hiroshima-Na­gasaki de­bate was con­ducted in an in­for­ma­tion vac­uum for three decades. Only af­ter the war­time de­crypts were made avail­able in the 1970s did the truth emerge: Ja­pan was not “about to sur­ren­der” in Au­gust 1945. In fact, Tokyo was in touch with Moscow, seek­ing Soviet in­ter­ces­sion to con­vince the Western Al­lies to back off. Com­bined with the Soviet Union’s in­va­sion of Manchuria that month and the doom-laden Tokyo cab­i­net still un­re­spon­sive, Em­peror Hiro­hito took the his­toric step of per­son­ally in­ter­ven­ing.

Widely ig­nored by Amer­ica’s crit­ics is Hiro­hito’s spe­cific ref­er­ence in his sur­ren­der speech: “a new and most cruel weapon, the power of which is in­cal­cu­la­ble.”

Ab­sent the Em­peror’s de­ci­sion, only one of two things would have oc­curred: a pro­longed block­ade with mil­lions of Ja­panese starved to death or a hor­rific in­va­sion with mil­lions of Al­lied and Ja­panese ca­su­al­ties.

Mean­while, Ja­panese pol­icy con­tin­ued on the Asian main­land, where as many as 50,000 or more civil­ians con­tin­ued dy­ing each month.

In the end, early pre­dic­tion of Maj. Gen.

Les­lie Groves for the Man­hat­tan Project was proven ac­cu­rate. He said that two bombs would be nec­es­sary: one to get Tokyo’s at­ten­tion and an­other to prove the first was no fluke.

Post­war ex­am­i­na­tion of Ja­panese com­mu­ni­ca­tions showed that Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary vowed to fight to the last man, which would have sent Al­lied ca­su­alty-fig­ure fore­casts soar­ing to more than a mil­lion. See­ing the ef­fect of the bombs forced Em­peror Hiro­hito to...

Bockscar, a Martin Omaha-built Sil­ver­plate B-29-36-MO #44-27297, af­ter its last flight for dis­play at the then-Air Force Mu­seum in Septem­ber 1961. It dropped his­tory’s last nu­clear de­vice to be de­ployed in war­time. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

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