In retrospect, can the use of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII be justified?
No, not at all, here
23.5% (19)
23.5% (19)
Not really, but it
4.9% (4)
4.9% (4)
Maybe, but it
13.6% (11)
13.6% (11)
Yes, here
56.8% (46)
56.8% (46)
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Poll: Use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagaski - justified?

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Not G. Ivingname:
The children you taught weren't poured properganda as their education and weren't told every day by their teachers, parents, and friends that dying for the emperor is something to aspire to, or that they were a superior race that was destined to be above the lesser people of the Earth.

ehhh... I disagree. A hallmark of modern Japanese education is teaching self-sacrifice. And while I've been in few schools that explicitly teach that Japanese are superior as a race, it's quite common to come across schools that teach that the Japanese race is uniquely unique.

Remember, many villages in the Japanese islands, the old, the young, and everyone inbetween, thought it was better to walk off a cliff than be captured by the Americans.

This is a really gross simplification of the situation. Yes, there were villages who thought that- because they were subjected to Imperial Army propaganda that told them that the Allies were so cruel that capture by them would be a fate worse than death. Villagers that didn't kill themselves when Allies won local battles quickly learned otherwise. The fact that Japanese soldiers had to try to force Okinawans to kill themselves with grenades rather than surrender shows how weak the Imperial hold on regular Japanese citizens was.

Whenever people talk about the fanatic devotion supposedly Japanese citizens had towards the Emperor, I smell casual racism disguised as nationalism. While many Japanese people did believe that Western soldeirs would be cruel, from everything I have read, that belief came not from fanatic racism and instead came from pure uninformed ignorance. I contend that an allied invasion force armed with truckloads of rice and chocolate could have pacified a local populace every bit as effectively as a nuclear bomb could have.

Helmholtz Watson:
However I would also like to add that believe that a living god(state Shintoism IIRC) supports your military is a very large influence on the people as well.

Yeah... That's a very shallow appraisal of the situation informed mostly by a modern Abrahamic notion of religion. The Emperor was not a God in the Leto Atreides sense.

From what I understand today, the only role that the Emperor really plays at all is when he waves at people when they celebrate his birthday every year.

He plays the exact same role that he played in the war- non-Imperial leaders make the decisions, and the Emperor smiles and goes along with it. In all of Japan's history, the Emperor has almost never had any real executive power.

My view is that the United States was morally justified in pursuing unconditional surrender against Japan, and that it was permissible that they utilized the most expedient means to do so since Japan began the hostilities.

The United States had three options with regard to winding down the war against the Empire of Japan:

*Don't require unconditional surrender (in this case one's argument is with the Potsdam Declaration, not the nuclear bombings)
*Invade until an unconditional surrender is achieved
*Devastate the islands until an unconditional surrender is achieved, either with nuclear weapons or more 'conventional' bombardment.

The analysis of the United States military is that an invasion would be more costly for both the United States and Japan. However, even if that was not the case I don't feel that the United States was under any obligation to favor Japanese civilians over the lives of its own military anyway. We have people who were part of the machinery of war of an aggressor nation weighed against our own men in uniform. Just because they're in uniform-- or that they are male adults-- doesn't make their lives any less worthwhile. One can't even make the argument that they had agreed to the risks of joining the military as there was a draft. Japan was not morally justified in attacking the United States, so the United States in turn should not have been under any obligation to make sacrifices to the benefit of the Japanese people in prosecuting the war.

If you can achieve victory with airborne terrorism and spare your personnel the hardship and danger of a land invasion-- especially without significant international outcry-- you'd be a fool not to do so. And if the war was begun by the enemy, the moral responsibility for the consequences to their people of its prosecution are ultimately on them. Expediency is a luxury more willingly afforded to those responding to aggression, and for good reason. Where possible, the price in blood of peace ought to be charged to those more responsible for the aggression. And whatever one has to say about the innocence of the Japanese people in all this, they are closer to being responsible for the aggression of the Japanese government than United States military personnel are.

SillyBear:

GunsmithKitten:

Well, right now, it's purely anecdotal on your end, so it'll be on my end.

Nope. You're the one making the claim that civilians knew about the war crimes going on. Burden of proof is on your end, my friend.

If you're satisfied with "inconclusive" as the answer to the question of whether civilians knew about the war crimes going on, then sure. Otherwise you both have it because you both appear to have some investment in the argument to which that may be relevant. That the Japanese people didn't know of the war crimes seems to be an important part of your position. So if you're satisfied with your position being very questionable, then by all means...

GunsmithKitten:
ATOMIC weapons, actually.

Fission and fusion are both nuclear reactions. Plutonium or Uranium bombs are just as much nuclear weapons as hydrogen bombs.

Katatori-kun:

Not G. Ivingname:
The children you taught weren't poured properganda as their education and weren't told every day by their teachers, parents, and friends that dying for the emperor is something to aspire to, or that they were a superior race that was destined to be above the lesser people of the Earth.

ehhh... I disagree. A hallmark of modern Japanese education is teaching self-sacrifice. And while I've been in few schools that explicitly teach that Japanese are superior as a race, it's quite common to come across schools that teach that the Japanese race is uniquely unique.

Possible derailment question: Uniquely unique? I'm curious what that means in the context of their education.

of course not, no one should wield that kind of power.
isnt that why we are trying to get rid of them right now?

by saying "it was ok then" you might as well say "and it will be ok in the future"

LetalisK:

Katatori-kun:

Not G. Ivingname:
The children you taught weren't poured properganda as their education and weren't told every day by their teachers, parents, and friends that dying for the emperor is something to aspire to, or that they were a superior race that was destined to be above the lesser people of the Earth.

ehhh... I disagree. A hallmark of modern Japanese education is teaching self-sacrifice. And while I've been in few schools that explicitly teach that Japanese are superior as a race, it's quite common to come across schools that teach that the Japanese race is uniquely unique.

Possible derailment question: Uniquely unique? I'm curious what that means in the context of their education.

They are better at some things than others. But not neccesarily overall superior. Also they're special.

Katatori-kun:

Helmholtz Watson:
However I would also like to add that believe that a living god(state Shintoism IIRC) supports your military is a very large influence on the people as well.

Yeah... That's a very shallow appraisal of the situation informed mostly by a modern Abrahamic notion of religion. The Emperor was not a God in the Leto Atreides sense.

Help me understand then, because I was always under the impression that the Emperor is supposed to be a direct descendent of Amaterasu, right? Doesn't that mean that the Emperor is divine as well? Maybe not having all the attributes of a Abrahamic God, but divine all the same, right?

From what I understand today, the only role that the Emperor really plays at all is when he waves at people when they celebrate his birthday every year.

Katatori-kun:

He plays the exact same role that he played in the war- non-Imperial leaders make the decisions, and the Emperor smiles and goes along with it. In all of Japan's history, the Emperor has almost never had any real executive power.

What about the acusations that Emperor Hirohito was involved in war crimes of WWII?

Btw, if it means anything to you I like the current emperor. The man seems to sincerely want to build relations between Japanese and Korean people, which is an impressive thing given how some Japanese people have grown to dislike Fuji Tv and associate Zainichi Koreans with the mafia.

the one thing that western (especially american) history teachers like to leave out is that the japanese empire had signaled willingnes to surrender weeks prior to the bombings. their only condition was that the emperor remained in office (happened anyway after the surrender) but they were turned down. the u.s. was hell bent on deploying their nice new toys, mainly to intimidate the percieved rising threat of communist russia.

Seanchaidh:

The United States had three options with regard to winding down the war against the Empire of Japan:

*Don't require unconditional surrender (in this case one's argument is with the Potsdam Declaration, not the nuclear bombings)
*Invade until an unconditional surrender is achieved
*Devastate the islands until an unconditional surrender is achieved, either with nuclear weapons or more 'conventional' bombardment.

If you're trying to make a good argument, listing three vague "options" and acting like only one of those could have happened isn't a good way to start.

Seanchaidh:
The analysis of the United States military is that an invasion would be more costly for both the United States and Japan.

Well, duh, of course they said that. They're the ones that dropped the bomb.

Seanchaidh:
However, even if that was not the case I don't feel that the United States was under any obligation to favor Japanese civilians over the lives of its own military anyway.

You're making the leap that it was either nuke Japan or sacrifice US lives in a land invasion. It wasn't like that - that's a total lie that the US government and the US military created in order to justify the bombing.

I find it strange that you seem to be speaking as somewhat of an intellectual regarding the matter, but you've completely ignored/forgotten the Soviet Union - and how desperately the Japanese were attempting to surrender to them in order to keep several aspects of their national identity (such as keeping the Emperor - something the US allowed them to do anyway despite ordering them to disown him....funny that).

The only reason the USA used the bombs to begin with was to make Japan fall to their terms and to get influence of the region for themselves. They didn't want Russia to have a place there. Don't you find it odd that after Russia invaded Manchuria and kicked out the Japanese, the USA decided to launch a second bomb? What does that tell you?

There were also numerous discussions of surrender and peace treaties between the Japanese and the USA in which the USA deliberately skirted around and ensured that surrender wasn't happening until they dropped the bombs.

Eisenhower, being the brilliant man that he was, was one of the only US officials who was actually honest about the ordeal and plainly told the Secretary of War it didn't need to be done;

"I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing..."

So if things were so one sided and so straight forward as you have put it, why the hell would Eisenhower have disagreed with the decision?

Do you honestly believe that the goings on behind the scenes were as innocent as you make out? You really think the US were sitting around thinking "We have to bomb Japan so we don't have to invade!" and that was that? If so, I believe that to be a tall order of naivety.

The bombings had more to do with the Cold War than World War 2.

I fully believe that if the USA and Russia had pure intentions, there were millions of ways to force a reasonable surrender from the Japanese. The problem was, they both wanted to have control and wanted to out do each other. They both knew that war would ensue if they both got equal shares of the pie (and it ended up happening anyway... *cough* Korea)

Seanchaidh:
Japan was not morally justified in attacking the United States

Morality is subjective; that statement is weightless. You're forgetting that the US at the time of Pearl Harbor weren't just innocent bystanders. They were doing everything they could to fuck Japan over without firing a shot - and they were doing a damn good job of it.

Japan had every reason to attack the USA - the USA was stopping them from achieving their goals of expansion. It was either stop what they were doing and cancel or their plans, or try to hurt the USA enough to force a treaty or a deal with them. They chose the latter. It turned out to be a bad choice, but hindsight it always 20/20. The Japanese realised that they stood no chance of actually beating the Americans in conventional warfare, and figured a quick skirmish or two might make them back off.

Both sides knew that after Midway there was no chance of a Japanese victory.

Seanchaidh:
so the United States in turn should not have been under any obligation to make sacrifices to the benefit of the Japanese people in prosecuting the war.

Once again, you're sticking to this false notion that not nuking civilians in Japan means sacrificing US soldiers. That isn't necessarily true at all.

Seanchaidh:
And whatever one has to say about the innocence of the Japanese people in all this, they are closer to being responsible for the aggression of the Japanese government than United States military personnel are.

That's some fucking dodgy ground to be treading on. I've heard similar shit been said about American civilians from the mouth of Bin Laden.

nikki191:
the US military expected so many casualties that they made 500,000 purple hearts in preperation for the invasion of japan. to put that in perspective. when an american soldier is wonded in action today they get a purple heart from that stock pile and there is still over 120,000 left.

the initial invasion of the island of kyushu was expected to face 3 japanese divisions but the choice to drop the bombs was made after intelligence discovered the landing would be opposed with 13 japanese division.in comparison the allied forces were expected to land 14 divisions.

if the japanese hadnt of surrendered and the invasion went ahead then in the initial landings 7 atomic weapons were scheduled to be used to support the landings with a further 5 ready for use the following month.

after kyushu was eventually taken the plan was to blockade japan and to use the new airbases for bombing japan with an amphibious invasion of the plains around tokyo in 1946.

as for the expected numbers of casulaties.. the battle of okinawa was 82 days long and ended in june 1945 cost 72,000 allied casulties.

In addition to that, they were also testing mustard gas on Australian soldiers in preperation for an attack on Japan.

...

Whether or not the Japanese civilians would rise up to fight the invaders is almost irrelevant, it's whether or not the Allies thought they would (I'd point out that the Japanese didn't surrender before the first device was used, or before the second device was used, and, IIRC, many in the leadership were opposed even after that).

And, I daresay that whatever the circumstances, some Japanese civilians would have resisted. Now, we see the results when the US invades somewhere it is trying to limit casualties in. IIRC, marine units in WW2 would tinker with their flamethrowers in the hope that Japanese soldiers would take longer to burn to death. Even units formed later for the occupation, who'd never seen action against the Japanese, committed atrocities against teh subjugated population. After the the first civilian tries to kill you, may as well kill or maim the others to be on the safe side...can't hurt.

IMHO, an invasion of Japan would have turned into a bloodbath, as a defiant, resisting Japanese populace had to be crushed. This would have happened regardless of whether or not the Japanese populace was actually defiant or resisting.

SillyBear:

Seanchaidh:

The United States had three options with regard to winding down the war against the Empire of Japan:

*Don't require unconditional surrender (in this case one's argument is with the Potsdam Declaration, not the nuclear bombings)
*Invade until an unconditional surrender is achieved
*Devastate the islands until an unconditional surrender is achieved, either with nuclear weapons or more 'conventional' bombardment.

If you're trying to make a good argument, listing three vague "options" and acting like only one of those could have happened isn't a good way to start.

What other plausible option isn't described by one of those three?

Seanchaidh:
The analysis of the United States military is that an invasion would be more costly for both the United States and Japan.

Well, duh, of course they said that. They're the ones that dropped the bomb.

Do you have a better analysis, or just hand-waving and accusations of bias? Coming from a position of bias doesn't make something wrong, it just raises the question of reliability. In the absence of a better analysis or evidence (beyond mere motive) that the analysis was falsified, it beats nothing.

Seanchaidh:
However, even if that was not the case I don't feel that the United States was under any obligation to favor Japanese civilians over the lives of its own military anyway.

You're making the leap that it was either nuke Japan or sacrifice US lives in a land invasion. It wasn't like that - that's a total lie that the US government and the US military created in order to justify the bombing.

So what was the better alternative, then?

I find it strange that you seem to be speaking as somewhat of an intellectual regarding the matter, but you've completely ignored/forgotten the Soviet Union - and how desperately the Japanese were attempting to surrender to them in order to keep several aspects of their national identity (such as keeping the Emperor - something the US allowed them to do anyway despite ordering them to disown him....funny that).

The only reason the USA used the bombs to begin with was to make Japan fall to their terms and to get influence of the region for themselves. They didn't want Russia to have a place there. Don't you find it odd that after Russia invaded Manchuria and kicked out the Japanese, the USA decided to launch a second bomb? What does that tell you?

If you're correct about their timing, it says that Russia wanted as much territory as possible for as little effort as possible and decided to invade in the three days between the two atomic bombings.

There were also numerous discussions of surrender and peace treaties between the Japanese and the USA in which the USA deliberately skirted around and ensured that surrender wasn't happening until they dropped the bombs.

That can be explained just as easily as Japanese intransigence.

Eisenhower, being the brilliant man that he was, was one of the only US officials who was actually honest about the ordeal and plainly told the Secretary of War it didn't need to be done;

"I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing..."

So if things were so one sided and so straight forward as you have put it, why the hell would Eisenhower have disagreed with the decision?

Such decisions always admit of disagreement? Who said it needed to be cut and dry? Did Eisenhower disagree with the strategic bombing of Japan as well, or is his view merely based on anti-nuclear prejudice?

Do you honestly believe that the goings on behind the scenes were as innocent as you make out? You really think the US were sitting around thinking "We have to bomb Japan so we don't have to invade!" and that was that? If so, I believe that to be a tall order of naivety.

The bombings had more to do with the Cold War than World War 2.

It doesn't matter what was "going on behind the scenes." What matters is whether the United States was justified in seeking an unconditional surrender from the Empire of Japan and to what extent it was permissible for it to utilize the most expedient means to do so.

I fully believe that if the USA and Russia had pure intentions, there were millions of ways to force a reasonable surrender from the Japanese. The problem was, they both wanted to have control and wanted to out do each other. They both knew that war would ensue if they both got equal shares of the pie (and it ended up happening anyway... *cough* Korea)

Are there any among those 'millions' that don't involve harming the Japanese people?

Seanchaidh:
Japan was not morally justified in attacking the United States

Morality is subjective; that statement is weightless. You're forgetting that the US at the time of Pearl Harbor weren't just innocent bystanders. They were doing everything they could to fuck Japan over without firing a shot - and they were doing a damn good job of it.

Japan had every reason to attack the USA - the USA was stopping them from achieving their goals of expansion. It was either stop what they were doing and cancel or their plans, or try to hurt the USA enough to force a treaty or a deal with them. They chose the latter. It turned out to be a bad choice, but hindsight it always 20/20. The Japanese realised that they stood no chance of actually beating the Americans in conventional warfare, and figured a quick skirmish or two might make them back off.

If you'll excuse me for thinking so, I don't think being an obstacle to racial supremacist aggressive militaristic expansionism is a legitimate casus belli, though perhaps you bring up a better argument:

Morality is subjective; your opposition is weightless.

Hey, that was easy. Thread over, we can all go home.

Both sides knew that after Midway there was no chance of a Japanese victory.

Then that is when they should have surrendered unconditionally. They chose to do something else.

Seanchaidh:
so the United States in turn should not have been under any obligation to make sacrifices to the benefit of the Japanese people in prosecuting the war.

Once again, you're sticking to this false notion that not nuking civilians in Japan means sacrificing US soldiers. That isn't necessarily true at all.

'Tis if you're seeking to implement the Potsdam declaration.

Seanchaidh:
And whatever one has to say about the innocence of the Japanese people in all this, they are closer to being responsible for the aggression of the Japanese government than United States military personnel are.

That's some fucking dodgy ground to be treading on. I've heard similar shit been said about American civilians from the mouth of Bin Laden.

I bet Binladin also goes to the toilet.

In any case, if the United States were seeking to expand its state to the same degree as the Empire of Japan, with the same sort of aggressive and racist militarism, and had a population that was fully mobilized to prosecute and had been prosecuting total war upon the Islamic middle east, then perhaps Osama Binladin would have been justified. Context matters.

I don't consider maintaining bases in Saudi Arabia, supporting Israel, and being the world's source of McDonald's to be offenses worthy of attacks upon civilians-- though I'm not quite sure about that last one. There's a world war of difference between the United States that Osama Binladin attacked and the Empire of Japan that the United States nuked.

They were definitely not a good thing to do. Had the firebombing of Tokyo done nothing? Imperial Japan seemed willing to destroy itself however, so yes it's justifiable. I don't like Truman, for having ordered it , but I can see the reason why.

Related:

McNamara on Bombing Japan

GunsmithKitten:

Not much fighting you can do when you can't load your guns or feed your soldiers.

I know you have some idea that every JP civilian was some samurai spirit possessed berzerker who was willing to charge a rifle line with a bamboo spear, but the behavior of civilians who have been bombed into the stone age suggest that was not a likely scenario. I don't care what your nationality is, most people when given the choice of surrender and avoid death by starvation or commit combat suicide, they're going to choose to eat.

Katatori-kun:
The a-bomb survivor I interviewed was a 14-year old girl at the time of the bombings. She was being trained to defend Japan with sticks. People like to say this is proof that Japan would have fought to the last man. I've actually worked with Japanese 14 year olds. I know what they are like. They are not prepared to sell their lives to defend their homeland. They aren't prepared to put up stout resistance to trained, adult soldiers. Japan was filled with a population that was too old, too young, too untrained, and too hungry to make a credible defense.

Vegosiux:

Katatori-kun:
-snip-

This is pretty much all that has to be said. Now, I do lack the first-person perspective, but from what I've read and seen, I'm inclined to agree.

Not justified. And anyone who seriously considers a "but otherwise X would have happened" to be a legitimate justifications should check their facts and look for something more solid.

Recognize, all three of you, that these bombings would have been JUST after dealing with and/or learning about THIS (emphasis added):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_Youth#In_World_War_II

"In 1943, the 12th SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend, under the command of SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Witt, was formed. The Division was a fully equipped Waffen-SS panzer division, with the majority of the enlisted cadre being drawn from Hitler Youth boys between the ages of 16 and 18. The division was deployed during the Battle of Normandy against the British and Canadian forces to the north of Caen. During the following months, the division earned itself a reputation for ferocity and fanaticism.

...

During the Battle of Berlin, Axmann's Hitler Youth formed a major part of the last line of German defense, and were reportedly among the fiercest fighters. Although the city commander, General Helmuth Weidling, ordered Axmann to disband the Hitler Youth combat formations; in the confusion, this order was never carried out. The remnants of the youth brigade were "mowed down" by the advancing Russian forces; only two survivors remained."

Hindsight is 20/20, yada yada. Whether or not Japan would have actually put up such a defense is, I would say, not as important as wanting to not have a building-by-building fight against tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of children and elderly desperately and dogmatically defending their homeland.

Given our own firsthand observation of Japanese brainwashing, I wouldn't call the use of at least the first nuke unreasonable as a precaution.

Edit: I will say that dickishness was definitely had on being so strict about their terms of surrender. That I won't discount, but I also, and correct me if I'm wrong, think I remember it being a joint decision to not accept anything except unconditional surrender, from multiple countries and not the US alone? More info on that section would be useful, if anyone knows.

LetalisK:

Katatori-kun:

Not G. Ivingname:
The children you taught weren't poured properganda as their education and weren't told every day by their teachers, parents, and friends that dying for the emperor is something to aspire to, or that they were a superior race that was destined to be above the lesser people of the Earth.

ehhh... I disagree. A hallmark of modern Japanese education is teaching self-sacrifice. And while I've been in few schools that explicitly teach that Japanese are superior as a race, it's quite common to come across schools that teach that the Japanese race is uniquely unique.

Possible derailment question: Uniquely unique? I'm curious what that means in the context of their education.

Well, every culture is unique, right? But in Japan one gets the impression that some people at least think that Japanese culture is more unique than others.

For example, the word for everything outside Japan is gaikoku. It literally just means "outside country". It's used the way we might use the word "overseas". Except it's also used in some very odd constructions that imply that everything outside Japan is some unified block of not-Japan. A foreigner might get asked, "So, what do people eat in gaikoku?" or, "Are you going back to gaikoku for your vacation?"

Japanese people tend to really celebrate certain aspects of Japanese culture, to the point of having a bit of myopia about the rest of the world. It's pretty common for foreigners in Japan to report being asked if their country has four seasons, as though four seasons was something special Japan has and most of the rest of the world doesn't. I also saw a comedy show where Japanese actors dressed as representatives from other countries and spun themselves on a chair and when they were thoroughly dizzy, tried to pick up conveyor belt sushi with chopsticks, kind of a play on "foreigners can't use chopsticks". Except that one of their actors was portraying a Chinese person- you know, from the country that invented chopsticks.

It's a bit analogous maybe to the way Americans may accept that other countries have freedom, but often assume that America must be the most free country in the world. Just because we're America and we always talk about how free we are. Japan's unique uniqueness isn't an explicit part of the national education curriculum, but according to recent Diet decisions Japanese teachers are tasked with fostering a "love of Japan" in their students, and so this notion of being uniquely unique seeps in with some teachers through that mission.

I haven't really described it well since this is the first thing I'm doing this morning after teaching myself how to make margaritas last night, but if you want to know more I recommend reading about nihonjinron. Some truly wild theories have been spouted under this umbrella, including that Japanese have unique intestines that are shorter than foreigner intestines, making it harder to digest beef, and the claim that Japanese brains process the sound of cicadas as beautiful sounds of nature because of their unique neurology while foreigners process the sound as irritating noise. I have even heard a story reported about one Japanese man who, while drunk, asked a foreigner if foreigners have feelings. Because "we Japanese" feel strong feelings when we look at cherry blossoms but "you foreigners" don't.

Helmholtz Watson:

Katatori-kun:

Helmholtz Watson:
However I would also like to add that believe that a living god(state Shintoism IIRC) supports your military is a very large influence on the people as well.

Yeah... That's a very shallow appraisal of the situation informed mostly by a modern Abrahamic notion of religion. The Emperor was not a God in the Leto Atreides sense.

Help me understand then, because I was always under the impression that the Emperor is supposed to be a direct descendent of Amaterasu, right? Doesn't that mean that the Emperor is divine as well? Maybe not having all the attributes of a Abrahamic God, but divine all the same, right?

Yes, the Japanese emperors were in the pre-war period considered divine decedents of Amaterasu. Westerners hear that and assume that means the Emperor was seen as some kind of infallible God-king, like a Pharaoh, whose every wish must be instantly obeyed. In fact, the Emperors were traditionally some of the most powerless monarchs in history. Even before the post-war constitution officially stripped the Chrysanthemum throne of political power, Japanese emperors were basically just figureheads who represented "the Japanese spirit" rather than any actual power. In the time of the shoguns a warlord would basically lay seige to the Imperial palace and force the Emperor to declare them the ruler of Japan. Now with the Meiji restoration the Emperors did gain some increased influence in government and Hirohito actually made some decisions in the war, but many of his decisions were just following the recommendations of his advisers.

However, none of this is actual evidence that the Emperor's officially divine status would have any impact on how Japanese 14 year-olds at the time would have behaved during an invasion. You're attaching western concepts of religion to State Shinto. Please provide some actual evidence to back up your assertion that Japanese children during the war would have behaved differently, and please include a claim as to how specifically their behavior would be different.

Katatori-kun:

He plays the exact same role that he played in the war- non-Imperial leaders make the decisions, and the Emperor smiles and goes along with it. In all of Japan's history, the Emperor has almost never had any real executive power.

What about the acusations that Emperor Hirohito was involved in war crimes of WWII?

Alright, I worded that overly strongly (I actually don't even remember writing it). The emperor did make executive decisions during the war, but like all Japanese decision-making there is little evidence of a top-down authoritarian command structure.

Btw, if it means anything to you I like the current emperor. The man seems to sincerely want to build relations between Japanese and Korean people, which is an impressive thing given how some Japanese people have grown to dislike Fuji Tv and associate Zainichi Koreans with the mafia.

I honestly don't give a toss about the Emperors. I'm not defending them to protect them from criticism, I'm saying that westerners hear the word "Emperor" and think of someone like Palpatine who pulls all the strings and can't be questioned. I maintain that the driving force between public support for Japanese militarism was not a fanatical religious zeal for the Imperial cult, making the Pacific war analagous to a holy crusade, but rather wartime propaganda that portrayed Americans as raping and pillaging barbarians whom the homeland must be defended from at all costs. The reason so many Japanese civilians were "encouraged" (even if at the point of a bayonet) to commit suicide rather than be captured was because Japanese leaders were afraid of what would happen when the public learned that American soldiers actually treated civilian captives pretty well, especially compared to how Japanese soldiers were treating their own captives. The "fighting spirit" American soldiers saw on Pacific islands where if there was a civilian population at all they were isolated from other civilians was radically different from what they would have seen in an actual invasion. Once American troops had landed and gained a foothold, it wouldn't have been possible to maintain the lie that they torture and rape everyone they capture. And when that happened, resistance would have crumbled.

TopazFusion:
This documentary explains it well . . .

Basically, with a ground-based invasion, there was going to be a bloodbath anyway. On both sides.
Including a multitude of civilian casualties, seeing as civilians were being conscripted, and be used as human shields.

Since Japanese casualties were going to be numerous either way (whether a nuke was used, or a ground-based invasion was launched), the choice came down to:
- Sacrifice the lives of many US soldiers in a ground-based invasion. Or ...
- Don't sacrifice their lives, and deploy the nukes instead.

Again, only believable if you think every JP civilian was some sort of insane samurai obsessed berzerker who could not only fight off starvation and deprivation, but be able to engage in an actual effective guerilla operation against a far better armed and trained force.

Yes it was justified it's easy to look back in a time of peace contemplate how things could have been done differently.

During the war the Japanese were pretty vile as a nation and as a people. They we're allied with the Nazis and shared their views of racial superiority, genocide, and ruling over their "inferiors". Ask anyone from the surrounding Asian countries from that Era about Japan. I guarantee they would say it was justified.

It seems to me that just because Japan cranked out some cartoons and video games people attribute goodness to them. If you really know Japanese people and are not some weird Asian fetishist you will know damn well that they aren't saints and nothing short of dropping a nuke would've stopped them from attacking the United States.

Seanchaidh:

What other plausible option isn't described by one of those three?

On top of my head I can think of a sustained naval blockade along with continued destruction of japanese industrial centers. Remember that the japanese isles were (as McNamara states in the clip Ralfy posted at post 48) pretty much devastated at this point and a majority of the civilians were starving, their industry was mostly reduced to rubble and even their existing military units were mosty comprised of ill-trained young boys or eldely men with a lack of equipment and supplies.

Waiting for the USSR invasion of Manchuria to commence would also have been an option (it started the day after the bombing of Hiroshima), since the destruction of the last combat worthy japanese units outside of the japanese isles and the USSRs involvement would likely have forced a surrender anyway. This option is particularly plausible since several high ranking japanese officials stated after the war that their main reason for accepting a surrender was that the USSR had entered the war against them and several documents from the Imperial administration exhibit an extreme fear of the USSR declaring war on Japan, as the IJA did not see a plausible way to defeat or force a truce with the USSR.

JeffBergGold:
It seems to me that just because Japan cranked out some cartoons and video games people attribute goodness to them. If you really know Japanese people and are not some weird Asian fetishist you will know damn well that they aren't saints and nothing short of dropping a nuke would've stopped them from attacking the United States.

I lived in Japan for many years. I lived in Hiroshima for many years. I've personally spoken to a-bomb survivors. Quite simply, you don't have a damn idea what you're talking about.

No one has said that the Japanese Imperial army were saints. That's a complete strawman argument. The argument is whether or not it was justified to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in an instant. I contend that the killing of civilians in warfare is never justified. Ever. It doesn't matter which side the civilians are on. It doesn't matter how misinformed they are. It doesn't matter how racist they are. It doesn't matter what their army did. If they don't actively fight in the war, they aren't a valid target. End of discussion.

Gethsemani:

Seanchaidh:

What other plausible option isn't described by one of those three?

On top of my head I can think of a sustained naval blockade along with continued destruction of japanese industrial centers. Remember that the japanese isles were (as McNamara states in the clip Ralfy posted at post 48) pretty much devastated at this point and a majority of the civilians were starving, their industry was mostly reduced to rubble and even their existing military units were mosty comprised of ill-trained young boys or eldely men with a lack of equipment and supplies.

Is that significantly different from "*Devastate the islands until an unconditional surrender is achieved, either with nuclear weapons or more 'conventional' bombardment"?

Waiting for the USSR invasion of Manchuria to commence would also have been an option (it started the day after the bombing of Hiroshima), since the destruction of the last combat worthy japanese units outside of the japanese isles and the USSRs involvement would likely have forced a surrender anyway. This option is particularly plausible since several high ranking japanese officials stated after the war that their main reason for accepting a surrender was that the USSR had entered the war against them and several documents from the Imperial administration exhibit an extreme fear of the USSR declaring war on Japan, as the IJA did not see a plausible way to defeat or force a truce with the USSR.

The Soviet Union would have had the three options I outlined once it had taken down Manchuria. It's not at all clear that the Japanese would have surrendered merely from two nations maybe invading or maybe bombarding.

In any case, I don't think it really matters. The consequences of a war are the responsibility of the initial aggressor. And the strategically sound decision for the Allies was not to let up the pressure.

Katatori-kun:

JeffBergGold:
It seems to me that just because Japan cranked out some cartoons and video games people attribute goodness to them. If you really know Japanese people and are not some weird Asian fetishist you will know damn well that they aren't saints and nothing short of dropping a nuke would've stopped them from attacking the United States.

I lived in Japan for many years. I lived in Hiroshima for many years. I've personally spoken to a-bomb survivors. Quite simply, you don't have a damn idea what you're talking about.

No one has said that the Japanese Imperial army were saints. That's a complete strawman argument. The argument is whether or not it was justified to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in an instant. I contend that the killing of civilians in warfare is never justified. Ever. It doesn't matter which side the civilians are on. It doesn't matter how misinformed they are. It doesn't matter how racist they are. It doesn't matter what their army did. If they don't actively fight in the war, they aren't a valid target. End of discussion.

(Emphases mine, aside from 'never')

As an interesting exercise, I'm going to convert your argument into symbolic logic:

P.

Wait, what? That can't be it, can it? Uh... well that was quite a bit less spectacular than I thought it might be.

Well, the chances are an invasion would have resulted in more deaths than the bombings. Maybe not as many as the US claimed, but still significantly more than the bombings caused. And considering what happened to Germany, more or less every city in Japan would have been razed, instead of just two. So maybe not justified, but the lesser evil.

Katatori-kun:

JeffBergGold:
It seems to me that just because Japan cranked out some cartoons and video games people attribute goodness to them. If you really know Japanese people and are not some weird Asian fetishist you will know damn well that they aren't saints and nothing short of dropping a nuke would've stopped them from attacking the United States.

I lived in Japan for many years. I lived in Hiroshima for many years. I've personally spoken to a-bomb survivors. Quite simply, you don't have a damn idea what you're talking about.

No one has said that the Japanese Imperial army were saints. That's a complete strawman argument. The argument is whether or not it was justified to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in an instant. I contend that the killing of civilians in warfare is never justified. Ever. It doesn't matter which side the civilians are on. It doesn't matter how misinformed they are. It doesn't matter how racist they are. It doesn't matter what their army did. If they don't actively fight in the war, they aren't a valid target. End of discussion.

It seems that you're confusing what you wish war to be with what war actually is. I'm sure Sun Tzu would disagree with your proclamation and would say the U.S. made an excellent decision to achieve cease fire.

"Justified" is a squishy human concept for which we artificial intelligences have no use. What matters is "did the decision have the intended effect, with minimal unintended effects?"

And yes. It did.

JeffBergGold:
It seems that you're confusing what you wish war to be with what war actually is. I'm sure Sun Tzu would disagree with your proclamation and would say the U.S. made an excellent decision to achieve cease fire.

I pull a hair for what Sun Tzu would think. If he existed at all, he would have written his book 1500 years ago, well before even the theoretical basis for aerial bombardment let alone nuclear warfare were developed. He's not an all knowing god of war, he's just some old fart that people who want to sound clever when they don't have anything of substance to say about warfare love to quote.

Quite justified.

It would've been far too costly to win through conventional means. Their soldiers would simply refuse to surrender as they always did, with civilians caught in the crossfire, and large swaths of the country would've been razed to the ground. An undeniable and spectacular show of impossible power was by far the most efficient to rob the hawks of their leverage and secure the otherwise unthinkable surrender.

With their record of countless unspeakable war crimes in a war they started, it's not like the nation itself would ever have any standing to complain anyway.

thaluikhain:

nikki191:
the US military expected so many casualties that they made 500,000 purple hearts in preperation for the invasion of japan. to put that in perspective. when an american soldier is wonded in action today they get a purple heart from that stock pile and there is still over 120,000 left.

the initial invasion of the island of kyushu was expected to face 3 japanese divisions but the choice to drop the bombs was made after intelligence discovered the landing would be opposed with 13 japanese division.in comparison the allied forces were expected to land 14 divisions.

if the japanese hadnt of surrendered and the invasion went ahead then in the initial landings 7 atomic weapons were scheduled to be used to support the landings with a further 5 ready for use the following month.

after kyushu was eventually taken the plan was to blockade japan and to use the new airbases for bombing japan with an amphibious invasion of the plains around tokyo in 1946.

as for the expected numbers of casulaties.. the battle of okinawa was 82 days long and ended in june 1945 cost 72,000 allied casulties.

In addition to that, they were also testing mustard gas on Australian soldiers in preperation for an attack on Japan.

...

Whether or not the Japanese civilians would rise up to fight the invaders is almost irrelevant, it's whether or not the Allies thought they would (I'd point out that the Japanese didn't surrender before the first device was used, or before the second device was used, and, IIRC, many in the leadership were opposed even after that).

And, I daresay that whatever the circumstances, some Japanese civilians would have resisted. Now, we see the results when the US invades somewhere it is trying to limit casualties in. IIRC, marine units in WW2 would tinker with their flamethrowers in the hope that Japanese soldiers would take longer to burn to death. Even units formed later for the occupation, who'd never seen action against the Japanese, committed atrocities against teh subjugated population. After the the first civilian tries to kill you, may as well kill or maim the others to be on the safe side...can't hurt.

IMHO, an invasion of Japan would have turned into a bloodbath, as a defiant, resisting Japanese populace had to be crushed. This would have happened regardless of whether or not the Japanese populace was actually defiant or resisting.

oh yeah they did horrific things not just to american POWs in those cams, heck they didnt even refer to them as human beings. they were called "logs". pieces of wood to be used and discarded.

one thing people are forgetting about the use of the bombs in world war 2 if that you are looking at them with hindsight from 2012. look at it from the perspective of 1945.

you have been at war for years, every single time you have engaged the japanese you have had tens of thousands killed and injured and the resistance is getting stronger the closer you get to japan, the gloves had come off years earlier and it was total war. neither side was big on taking prisoners, both sides commited attrocities, and frankly both sides saw the other as little more than animals.

if you had asked someone in 1945 if it was acceptable to of blown up a city and killed 100,000 japanese to save the allies having to loose men they would of said yes it was justified.

nikki191:
oh yeah they did horrific things not just to american POWs in those cams, heck they didnt even refer to them as human beings. they were called "logs". pieces of wood to be used and discarded.

Actually, I meant the Allies were testing mustard gas on Australian soldiers.

Katatori-kun:
I have even heard a story reported about one Japanese man who, while drunk, asked a foreigner if foreigners have feelings. Because "we Japanese" feel strong feelings when we look at cherry blossoms but "you foreigners" don't.

Hehe, this part made me chuckle. I'm a wrestling fan and Japanese wrestling crowds are known for being unnervingly silent during shows, seemingly emotionless. I've heard more than one wrestler say how it kind of messes with their mind since they don't know if they're being entertaining or not.

Japanese feel feelings more strongly than all other races, but aren't allowed to express them?

Well, no. It wasn't a good decision, in my opinion. Changed plans, and misinterpretations from the translators made it less and less viable. Only good for the dick-waving contest with the russians, and not necessary since the japanese were considering surrender anyway. Not worse than regular bombing, but I'm not saying that was justified anyway, but the nukes specifically stand out... Still, no, not justifiable.

Katatori-kun:
Unlike a lot of people here I've actually interviewed a Hiroshima victim and spent several years living near the city.

No, the bombings were not justified. They were expedient. They were not justified.

Many Americans in particular seem to really struggle to wrap their minds around this. We are inundated with war and post-war propaganda to teach that the bombing was necessary (even if it was, that doesn't make it justified. Though I contend it wasn't even necessary.)

The common argument is that invading the Japanese islands would have resulted in a million casualties on both sides. I find this number questionable given that the Truman administration had an ulterior motive to demonstrate America's new nuclear power to Communist Russia. But I find it more questionable given that the entire reason Japan relied on kamikaze bombing instead of more traditional and effective forms of warfare is because Japan was already running out of men and resources with which to fight the Pacific war. Part of the reason boys were being sent out as kamikaze pilots was because Japan didn't have time to train them how to aim bombs or land planes. The a-bomb survivor I interviewed was a 14-year old girl at the time of the bombings. She was being trained to defend Japan with sticks. People like to say this is proof that Japan would have fought to the last man. I've actually worked with Japanese 14 year olds. I know what they are like. They are not prepared to sell their lives to defend their homeland. They aren't prepared to put up stout resistance to trained, adult soldiers. Japan was filled with a population that was too old, too young, too untrained, and too hungry to make a credible defense. It would not have cost a million lives on each side.

But the biggest problem with the atomic bombings is that they didn't end the war. They simply ended the fighting. They cost America the moral high ground. The lesson Japan has come out of WWII learning was not that the actions of Imperial Japan were immoral because they treated the people of Japan's neighboring countries like they were less than cattle. It's that you shouldn't fight a war because a country larger than you might beat you. This unwillingness to recognize the true moral costs of the war and the ability to feign a victim status because of the bombing has allowed a virulent strain of nationalism to fester in Japan's underbelly. Most Japanese people today are lovely folks who would never harm a fly. But they're also absolutely unaware of the vile hatred that lurks in the ultra-nationalist segments of their population. And I often worry about what a bad enough turn in the economy might bring out of the ultra-right woodwork in Japan. I don't think most Japanese people are prepared to go along with a new fascism were it to emerge. But I don't know I can confidently say they're prepared to resist it.

Good post, but I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions of it.

Firstly, the 'million casualties' is something that gets bandied around, is certainly vague and as you point out, the people coming up with the figures had ulterior motives.
So I'm going to forget about the US casualty preparations, and do some ballpark figures of my own:

So, taking the French casualty rate and applying it to Japan's wartime population of 70 million, you get just under 200,000 casualties. Obviously, this is a grossly vague estimate - but it works as a ballpark figure of the lowest possible number of civilian casualties the Japanese could be expected to take. Note that by itself it's about 2/3 the number of people that died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
That's significant because it's the absolute best case scenario. During the invasion of territory deemed hostile casualties were almost invariably higher due to less concern about civilian deaths, civilian participation in fighting, more intense fighting from the desire to protect the homeland, the targeting of inner city industrial sectors, ethnic violence, and so on.
More specifically, the facts that Japan's population density was far higher, that the invasion plan was far larger in scale[2], that your average American despised the Japanese, that the invasion force was made up entirely of Americans, who were doctrinally over-reliant on artillery, and yes, the fact that the Japanese Army were training civilians to fight fanatically, would have increased the number of casualties enormously.

I want to make clear that I don't particularly subscribe to the notion that the Japanese had a 'Samurai mentality', because I think that's rather lazy. But the lack of such a mentality doesn't preclude the possibility of civilians being put in the fight, or of actual soldiers fighting to the death. After all, on the Eastern Front in Europe, there were horrendous civilian casualties because of the Russian leadership's complete lack of interest in civilians survival. Those civilians didn't have some 'code of military honour' or whatever, but they fought because they were made to, and they died because they weren't given the opportunity to leave a warzone. I would say that a similar thing would probably have happened to the Japanese Citizen Corps, if not Japanese civilians in general.

I know you don't think that civilians would have fought, and I tend to agree that not all of those drafted into the Civilian Corps would have done, but even if only, say, one in twenty had been persuaded or coerced into combat, then that's still 1.4 million people who would most likely have been killed by American troops (who, as I mentioned, hated the Japanese anyway, had been exposed to racist propaganda for years, and more often than not were ordered to kill wounded Japanese combatants rather than help them because of the chance they had a grenade primed under them).

While they might not have all been made to fight (though some undoubtedly would have been), the fact that they were in a warzone, and would probably have been compelled to stay during the fighting in order to complete whatever tasks they were assigned to do, would make mass casualties inevitable. Especially since the Americans would probably have regarded ammunition carriers, defence builders, mine-layers, lookouts, and various sorts of kamikaze as valid military targets.

So yeah, while the million casualties figure is probably inflated, multiple hundreds of thousands could certainly have been expected, as well as further damage to infrastructure that would have meant more people starving or dying of disease in the immediate postwar period. Horrible as it was, the atomic bombings was by no means unique, and provided enough of a morale shock that led to a relatively clean surrender and occupation.

Your second idea about moral highground is the more interesting one...

There is certainly a massive contrast between how Germans and Japanese view the war today. Whereas in Germany there is broad recognition of it's crimes and holocaust denial is a crime (I don't actually agree with it being a crime but there we go), in Japan there is certainly, as you put it, a virulent strain of nationalism coupled, I would argue, with governmental shirking of moral if not material responsibility with regard to issues like the comfort women[3]

What I'm not sure of is whether you can attribute that to the a-bomb. In the postwar period, the punishments levied on the axis were enormously varied and inconsistent, and depended more on power games between the allies than any commitment to justice or fairness. I'm currently reading a book called Postwar, and it's a real eye-opener about this kind of thing:
Western Germany got the Marshall Plan, Eastern Germany got the Stazi. You could get out of using Jewish slave labour if you were good a building rockets, and if you were needed to run a country your complicity in sending Jews to Dachau could be overlooked. Hell, an example given in this book is about how 3 of the 5 Judges in the French collaborators trials had been working for the Vichy regime and paid by the Nazis. You couldn't make it up.

But this attitude also extended to the East. Japan was seen as a major strategic power base by the Americans, so there was very little interest in prosecuting for war crimes, when the time could be better spent getting Japan back on its feet.
Things like Unit 731, the disgusting treatment of POWs, and arguable genocides in China were brushed under the carpet. The Japanese never really had an analogue of the de-nazification program or the Nuremburg trials, and were never subjected to the same pariah status as the Germans[4] Instead they got massive investment so the US could have an airbase or two. My opinion is that it was these actions, not the A-bomb, and that caused the streak of denial that exists today.
Buuuut, you could argue that guilt of the atomic bombings shaped allied policy in the first place and meant that Japan was treated favourably as a way of making amends.... tis a difficult one!

Edit; fixed typo

[1] The Transportation Plan essentially limited bombing to infrastructure, in order to hinder a German counterattack to the beachhead in the first days of the invasion. Industrial sectors in France weren't targeted with anywhere near the same intensity as they were in Germany, Japan, or even the East End during the Blitz
[2] The first of two landing involved the use of 35 landing beaches as opposed to Overlord's 5 - with twice the number of divisions and with a frankly absurd 40 aircraft carriers and 25 battleships for support
[3] There's a similar issue with the Italians actually - it's pretty rich of Italian editorials to be accusing Angela Merkel of fascism; they seem to forget they were the bottom part of the axis for most of the war...
[4] I'm not necessarily arguing that Japan SHOULD have received harsher treatment, and I baulk at saying that the partition of Germany was a good thing (My family knew people who were separated from loved ones for many years)

The nukes were the best choice for the US.

We had been embroiled in a long and costly war with the Japanese for three and a half years, everyone at home wanted it to end, and of course the government wanted it to end in victory.

The last world war that ended without a Unconditional Surrender saw the Germans only coming back bigger, stronger, and meaner.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were already bigger, stronger, and meaner than they ever were, controlled most of Eastern Europe, had already demonstrated they were not shy about invading their neighbors, and the million men we were so worried about losing in Operation Downfall was POCKET CHANGE compared to the casualties on the Eastern front.

A fight with Ivan was a very real possibility and Ivan was watching very closely to see what sort of fighters we were. Did we have the stomach to use such a terrible weapon if pushed? Our answer was an unequivocal 'Yes'.

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