The A-Bombs Were Unnecessary
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)