"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 almost defeated and ready to surrender...in being the first to use it, we...adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
---Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy,
Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II
January 1945 - MacArthur forwarded to the President a Japanese offer to surrender to which was exactly what we accepted 7 months later. Had it been accepted when first offered, there would have been no heavy loss of life on Iwo Jima (over 26,033 Americans killed or wounded, approximately 21,000 Japanese killed) and Okinawa (over 39,000 U.S. dead and wounded, 109,000 Japanese dead), no fire bombing of Japanese cities by B-29 bombers (it is estimated that the dropping of 1,700 tons of incendiary explosives on Japanese cities during March 9th-10th alone killed over 80,000 civilians and destroyed 260,000 buildings), and no
use of the atomic bomb (200,000 killed).
5 April 1945 - Japan appointed Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro who was known to be a peace advocate.
8 May 1945 - Japan tried to surrender through the Soviet Union.
June 1945 - Both the US Army and Navy recommended to Truman that he clarify the US demands in regard to the Emperor. It was recognized that he was absolutely essential so he could order his men to lay down their arms. Without him, there would have been anarchy in Japan.
11 July 1945 - Japan offered to surrender unconditionally, with one exception - they wished to retain their monarchy. They didn't insist on retaining Emperor Hirohito. They were willing to replace him with his small son, for example. The US wouldn't even talk to them - the bomb was dropped on them without the US ever responding to any of their peace feelers. Since we let them keep their monarchy (they never unconditionally surrendered - the US offered assurrances to the Emperor on August 11 after both bombs were dropped, when they had the assurrences they surrendered), there was no difference between this offer and what happened on August 14. Every death after July 11, both US and Japanese, was a war crime committed by Harry Truman. In July, Japan was totally helpless and was being shelled from sea and air. Japan had been bombed back to the stone age. Its population was facing imminent starvation. Much of the Japanese Army was stranded in China or scattered across islands like the Philippines or New Britain.
The Japanese Navy had, capable of unaided movement, two aircraft carriers (one damaged) with no planes, three damaged cruisers, 41 destroyers, most damaged to some degree, and 59 submarines. There were 829 vessels incapable of movement, some lying on the bottom in shallow water, some floating upside down, some listing, others awash.
Here are a few of the Japanese attempts to end the war in July:
July 11: "make clear to Russia... We have no intention of annexing or taking possession of the areas which we have been occupying as a result of the war; we hope to terminate the war".
July 12: "it is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war".
July 13: "I sent Ando, Director of the Bureau of Political Affairs to communicate to the [Soviet] Ambassador that His Majesty desired to dispatch Prince Konoye as special envoy, carrying with him the personal letter of His Majesty stating the Imperial wish to end the war" (for above items, see: U.S. Dept. of State, Potsdam 1, pg. 873-879).
July 18: "Negotiations... necessary... for soliciting Russia's good offices in concluding the war and also in improving the basis for negotiations with England and America." (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/18/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
July 22: "Special Envoy Konoye's mission will be in obedience to the Imperial Will. He will request assistance in bringing about an end to the war through the good offices of the Soviet Government." The July 21st communication from Togo also noted that a conference between the Emperor's emissary, Prince Konoye, and the Soviet Union, was sought, in preparation for contacting the U.S. and Great Britain (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/22/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
July 26: Japan's Ambassador to Moscow, Sato, to the Soviet Acting Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Lozovsky: "The aim of the Japanese Government with regard to Prince Konoye's mission is to enlist the good offices of the Soviet Government in order to end the war." (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/26/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
1945 Truman used atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. Now generally considered a war crime, at the minimum it was the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. There was no lack of military targets or a demonstration in a remote place was possible, so the selection of targets is indefensible, leaving aside the issue of whether the bombing was justified in the first place. To make this decision Truman had to wave aside concerns about post blast radiation, which was an unknown quantity at that time, and even the possibility of an unstoppable chain reaction in the atmosphere which would destroy the world. It was pointed out to him that one bomb dropped on a city would have an effect undistinguishable from and no greater than a big B-29 incendiary raid of the kind already in progress, in terms of immediate casualties and total damage. In other words, this was utterly senseless.
And why the second bomb?
Whatever point Truman thought he was making was made with the first one. Dropping the bomb to "end the war sooner" was a falsification of history because Truman, in fact, lengthened the war in order to drop the bomb. First he postponed the Potsdam Conference and thereby the Russian declaration of war on Japan for two weeks until the bomb was ready and then he had the language for assurances to the Emperor deleted so the Potsdam Declaration would be unacceptable to the Japanese.
The US Strategic Bombing Survey explicitly stated that the war would have ended sooner if they had chosen different targets – but the goal was not to end the war but to support an invasion . As to the argument that the bomb saved American lives - it is spurious to assert as fact that obliterating Hiroshima in August was needed to obviate an invasion in November - the date we had planned. The April 30, 1946 study by the War Department's Military Intelligence Division concluded, "The war would almost certainly have terminated when Russia entered the war against Japan." This remains the only use of atomic weapons in anger.
Before the bomb was dropped, some scientists of the Manhattan Project produced the Franck Report which questioned the ability of destroying Japanese cities with atomic bombs to bring surrender when destroying Japanese cities with conventional bombs had not done so. It recommended a demonstration of the atomic bomb for Japan in an unpopulated area.
Facing the long-term consequences with Russia, the report stated prophetically:
"If no international agreement is concluded immediately after the first demonstration, this will mean a flying start of an unlimited armaments race."
The report pointed out that the United States, with its highly concentrated urban areas, would become a prime target for nuclear weapons and concluded:
"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."When Eisenhower was told of the bomb he said: "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." - Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63
On August 8, 1945, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Herbert Hoover wrote to Army and Navy Journal, "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."
May of 1946 Hoover met with General Douglas MacArthur. Hoover recorded in his diary, "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria."
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:
"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 he war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
Why did Truman drop the bomb?
The best explanation is a quote by Truman and the thinking of his Secretary of State Byrnes. Brynes view was that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make the Soviets more "managable" in Europe. Truman said, "If this explodes as I think it will, I'll certainly have a hammer on those boys." indicating the Russians - ch 19 page 239 of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz, NY:Knopf, 1995. Truman took a hardline in Potsdam because he had the bomb. Another view is that Truman and some advisors like Hopkins thought it would force countries into a world government. Some aides may have been that far-thinking or pie-in-the-sky, but Truman only graduated from high school. A joke idea is that he didn't want the billions of dollars spent on the project wasted. General Groves, who was in charge of the atom bomb project, wrote "The President did not ever show any concern over the amount of funds being spent..." 1946-1947 Truman with the other allies sent more than two million fugitives of the Soviet government to their deaths. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, NY:Harper and Row 1973, chapter 2, page 85; Also The Last Secret by Nicholas Bethall, NY 1974. Operation Keelhaul, Julius Epstein, 1973.