The Use of Atomics on Japan
– With the end of the European war, the Allies focused their efforts on Japan. Japan still fought fanatically, despite being badly hurt by bombing and blockade.
– The Potsdam Proclamation, which demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan, was issued. It made no mention of Japan’s central surrender condition: the status of the Emperor. Japan rejected the Proclamation.
– The Japanese believed the Emperor to be a god (this is a key point).
– The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia declared war against Japan.
– Japan, because of its military, still refused to surrender.
– Japanese peace advocates, fearing the imminent destruction of the Emperor, prevailed upon the Emperor to break with tradition and make government policy by calling for peace now. The Emperor did so.
– As the result of the Emperor’s call for surrender, the entire Japanese cabinet, including the military, agreed to surrender. The cabinet saw that this would allow the Emperor to be retained.
– Even Japan’s doves would have fought to the death had they not felt the Emperor would be spared. They saw “unconditional surrender” as a threat to the Emperor.
– President Truman had been advised of the importance of the Emperor to the Japanese.
– Japan was seeking Russia’s help to end the war in July 1945. The U.S. was aware of this at the time thru intercepted Japanese cables. But the U.S. did not keep up with this change in Japan’s position.
– The U.S. chose military methods of ending the war rather than diplomatic methods. The desire for revenge helped make military methods more attractive.
– We probably could have ended the war sooner with fewer deaths on all sides by using the full carrot and stick: 1) offer retention of the Emperor for a quick surrender; and 2) threaten Russian invasion and 3) atomic destruction as the alternative. None of these key incentives to surrender were used prior to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
– Had the above method failed, and had the Russian invasion failed to bring surrender soon, the atomic bombs were still available – but as a last resort.
– After the atomic bombings, Japan was allowed to retain their Emperor, anyway.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also not targeted because of their industrial importance, however. Contrary to the “Interim Committee” recommendation that the bomb be targeted at an important industrial facility surrounded by workers’ houses, at Hiroshima most major industry was known to be outside the designated target area.

Few analysts have noticed that the Interim Committee recommendation was not actually followed. In fact, the way in which the bombing was planned–and carried out–specifically avoided significant war plants. The subject came up at the Target Committee meeting of May 28–and, as the minutes show:

Dr. Stearns presented data on Kyoto, Hiroshima and Niigata and the following conclusions were reached:

not to specify aiming points, this to be left to later determination at base when weather conditions are known.
to neglect location of industrial areas as pin point target, since on these three targets such areas are small, spread on fringes of cities and quite dispersed.
to endeavor to place first gadget in center of selected city; that is, not to allow for later 1 or 2 gadgets for complete destruction.

Subsequently the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey also confirmed that “all major factories in Hiroshima were on the periphery of the city–and escaped serious damage. . . .”

The Target Committee also recommended on May 31, 1945, “that we should seek to make a profound psychological impression on as many of the inhabitants as possible.” The goal was essentially to show that the bomb could destroy a whole city.

A grateful nation, hopeful that this new weapon will result in the saving of thousands of American lives, feels a deep sense of appreciation for your accomplishment.

– To the annual Gridiron Dinner on December 15, 1945 he explained that at the time he made the decision to use the atomic bomb:

It occurred to me that a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities, and I still think they were and are.

– On April 6, 1949 the president told a group of new Democratic senators and representatives that he

made that decision because I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved by making that decision, and some 3[00,000] or 400,000 of the enemy would be saved by making that decision.

– On April 28, 1959 Truman told students at Columbia University simply that “the dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives”