Episode 111 – Rain of Ruin, Part 4

This week, we’ll be covering the Orthodox position on the atomic bomb: the defense of the bomb as necessary in the face of Japanese unwillingness to surrender. We’ll look at the original impetus for putting forth a systemic defense of the bomb as well as the basic arguments often used to defend its use.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.

Butow, Robert. Japan’s Decision to Surrender.

Frank, Richard. Downfall.

Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy.

Hogan, Michael, Ed. Hiroshima in History and Memory.

Miscamble, Wilson. The Most Controversial Decision.

Stimson, Henry. “The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb.”

Images

Henry Stimson "wrote" an article for Harpers Magazine in 1947 defending the use of the atomic bomb.
Henry Stimson “wrote” an article for Harpers Magazine in 1947 defending the use of the atomic bomb.
Mc George Bundy, the ghostwriter on both Henry Stimson's memoir and his article in Harpers in 1947.
Mc George Bundy, the ghostwriter on both Henry Stimson’s memoir and his article in Harpers in 1947.
Reinhold Niebuhr, whose critique of the atomic bomb helped spur Stimson to defend Truman administration policy.
Reinhold Niebuhr, whose critique of the atomic bomb helped spur Stimson to defend Truman administration policy.
Richard Frank's Downfall is the best recent work in the orthodox camp.
Richard Frank’s Downfall is the best recent work in the orthodox camp.
US plan of battle for Operation Olympic (the invasion of Kyushu). These plans were formulated before the extent of Japanese deployment on Kyushu was clear, and it remains (thankfully) an open question how effective this plan would have been.
US plan of battle for Operation Olympic (the invasion of Kyushu). These plans were formulated before the extent of Japanese deployment on Kyushu was clear, and it remains (thankfully) an open question how effective this plan would have been.
Japanese civilians were organized into civil defense corps and armed with primitive weapons like bamboo spears in preparation for the invasion of Kyushu. Civilians were under orders to resist at all costs and to try to take as many Americans as possible with them. Again (thankfully) how many Japanese actually would have done this and how effective it would have been remains an open question.
Japanese civilians were organized into civil defense corps and armed with primitive weapons like bamboo spears in preparation for the invasion of Kyushu. Civilians were under orders to resist at all costs and to try to take as many Americans as possible with them. Again (thankfully) how many Japanese actually would have done this and how effective it would have been remains an open question.
Casualty projections for the invasion of Japan relied on data from previous battles. How likely the Japanese were to surrender without a fight remained an open question; would average soldiers be more willing to surrender now that the war was clearly going badly? Here, two Japanese soldiers and a civilian are held under guard by a US Marine on Okinawa while reading a US propaganda leaflet.
Casualty projections for the invasion of Japan relied on data from previous battles. How likely the Japanese were to surrender without a fight remained an open question; would average soldiers be more willing to surrender now that the war was clearly going badly?
Here, two Japanese soldiers and a civilian are held under guard by a US Marine on Okinawa while reading a US propaganda leaflet.
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Episode 110 – Rain of Ruin, Part 3

This week; what exactly happened during the final, fateful weeks of World War II? What sequence of events finally led to Japan’s surrender?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Butow, Robert. Japan’s Decision to Surrender.

Frank, Richard. Downfall.

Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy.

Images

The Suzuki Cabinet, June 9 1945. These are the men who would be charged with ending the war.  Prime Minister Suzuki stands front and center. To his right, looking dejectedly at the floor, is Navy Minister (and sole military man in the dove faction of the cabinet) Mitsumasa Yonai.  Anami Korechika, Army Minister and avowed hawk, is in the back right in an army uniform. Togo Shigenori, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in the back left -- his head is barely peeking over the man in front of him, hiding his distinctive moustache but not his thick glasses.
The Suzuki Cabinet, June 9 1945. These are the men who would be charged with ending the war.
Prime Minister Suzuki stands front and center. To his right, looking dejectedly at the floor, is Navy Minister (and sole military man in the dove faction of the cabinet) Mitsumasa Yonai.
Anami Korechika, Army Minister and avowed hawk, is in the back right in an army uniform. Togo Shigenori, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in the back left — his head is barely peeking over the man in front of him, hiding his distinctive moustache but not his thick glasses.
Suzuki Kantaro (Prime Minister, Dove Faction). Suzuki was chosen for the position primarily for his inoffensiveness; more moderate members of government hoped that choosing somebody who had nearly been killed for his support of arms limitation treaties might send a message to the Americans. It didn't work.
Suzuki Kantaro (Prime Minister, Dove Faction). Suzuki was chosen for the position primarily for his inoffensiveness; more moderate members of government hoped that choosing somebody who had nearly been killed for his support of arms limitation treaties might send a message to the Americans. It didn’t work.
Mitsumasa Yonai (Navy Minister, Peace Faction). The only strongly pro-peace military man I know of, Yonai served as Prime Minister before the war and is noteworthy for making a serious effort to defuse tensions between the US and Japan. However, he was unable to restrain more bellicose members of government.
Mitsumasa Yonai (Navy Minister, Peace Faction). The only strongly pro-peace military man I know of, Yonai served as Prime Minister before the war and is noteworthy for making a serious effort to defuse tensions between the US and Japan. However, he was unable to restrain more bellicose members of government.
Togo Shigenori (Foreign Minister, Dove Faction). Togo had argued against the war in 1941, and was chosen for Foreign Minister in 1944 because his anti-war stance would hopefully give him credibility as a peacemaker.
Togo Shigenori (Foreign Minister, Dove Faction). Togo had argued against the war in 1941, and was chosen for Foreign Minister in 1944 because his anti-war stance would hopefully give him credibility as a peacemaker.
Anami Korechika (Army Minister, Hawk Faction). Anami is an interesting character; he was a resolute hawk (at one point vowing to live in the fields and eat grass rather than give up fighting the US), but when approached on August 14 to join a coup that would have continued the war he refused. He penned a final letter apologizing for his "great crime" and committed suicide via seppuku.
Anami Korechika (Army Minister, Hawk Faction). Anami is an interesting character; he was a resolute hawk (at one point vowing to live in the fields and eat grass rather than give up fighting the US), but when approached on August 14 to join a coup that would have continued the war he refused. He penned a final letter apologizing for his “great crime” and committed suicide via seppuku.
Umezu Yoshijiro (Chief of Army General Staff, Hawk Faction). Umezu was a career army man, and believed that while a final battle on Kyushu didn't present great odds for Japan it was better than caving in without one last go.
Umezu Yoshijiro (Chief of Army General Staff, Hawk Faction). Umezu was a career army man, and believed that while a final battle on Kyushu didn’t present great odds for Japan it was better than caving in without one last go.
Toyoda Soemu (Chief of Navy General Staff, Hawk Faction). Toyoda is a functional nonentity included for the purposes of completeness.
Toyoda Soemu (Chief of Navy General Staff, Hawk Faction). Toyoda is a functional nonentity included for the purposes of completeness.
The Potsdam Conference, July 1945. Truman and Stalin are joined by Clement Atlee, who replaced Churchill in a general election during the conference.
The Potsdam Conference, July 1945. Truman and Stalin are joined by Clement Atlee, who replaced Churchill in a general election during the conference.
The Crew of the Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The name comes from Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of Paul Tibbets (the pilot) who is standing front and center.
The Crew of the Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The name comes from Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of Paul Tibbets (the pilot) who is standing front and center.
Downtown Nagasaki before and after the dropping of the bomb.
Downtown Nagasaki before and after the dropping of the bomb.
Downtown Hiroshima -- the "atomic bomb dome" is now one of the centerpieces of the Hiroshima Peace Park.
Downtown Hiroshima — the “atomic bomb dome” is now one of the centerpieces of the Hiroshima Peace Park.
Mushroom clouds of Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
Mushroom clouds of Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
Umezu Yoshijiro signs the instrument of surrender, Sept 2 1945.
Umezu Yoshijiro signs the instrument of surrender, Sept 2 1945.

Episode 109 – Rain of Ruin, Part 2

For our longest (non-Q&A) episode ever, we’ll discuss the development of the Manhattan Project as the odd couple of Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer work to complete the greatest feat of scientific engineering in history.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Groves, Leslie. Now It Can Be Told.

Monk, Raymond. Robert Oppenheimer.

Sherwin, Martin J and Kai Bird. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Smith, Jeffrey K. Fire in the Sky: the Story of the Atomic Bomb.

Media

Manhattan Project sites across the US and Canada.
Manhattan Project sites across the US and Canada.
Espionage was a constant worry surrounding the project (not that it stopped Stalin from infiltrating the project in 1943). In addition to pithy signs, harsh penalties were put into place to discourage any loose talk of work on the project.
Espionage was a constant worry surrounding the project (not that it stopped Stalin from infiltrating the project in 1943). In addition to pithy signs, harsh penalties were put into place to discourage any loose talk of work on the project.
The massive K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, the facility which enriched the uranium used for the Hiroshima bomb.
The massive K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, the facility which enriched the uranium used for the Hiroshima bomb.
The Hanford B Reactor. Hanford, WA was chosen as a site for the project because of its remote location. Here, the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb was enriched.
The Hanford B Reactor. Hanford, WA was chosen as a site for the project because of its remote location. Here, the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb was enriched.
The main gate of the Los Alamos Facility in New Mexico, the remote HQ of the Manhattan Project.
The main gate of the Los Alamos Facility in New Mexico, the remote HQ of the Manhattan Project.
Leslie Groves (left) and Robert Oppenheimer (right) were the chief leaders of the Manhattan Project.
Leslie Groves (left) and Robert Oppenheimer (right) were the chief leaders of the Manhattan Project.
Oppenheimer (left) and Groves (right) at the site of the Trinity detonation a few days later, because nobody really understood radiation poisoning in 1945.
Oppenheimer (left) and Groves (right) at the site of the Trinity detonation a few days later, because nobody really understood radiation poisoning in 1945.
From left to right: Ernest O. Lawrence, Enrico Fermi, and Isidor Rabi during their time working on the Manhattan Project.
From left to right: Ernest O. Lawrence, Enrico Fermi, and Isidor Rabi during their time working on the Manhattan Project.
Edward Teller, c. 1958. Teller defended the project to his grave as an absolute necessity.
Edward Teller, c. 1958. Teller defended the project to his grave as an absolute necessity.
Leo Szilard later in life. Szilard was haunted by the bomb and wracked with guilt for the rest of his life.
Leo Szilard later in life. Szilard was haunted by the bomb and wracked with guilt for the rest of his life.
Enrico Fermi, the man who trolled the Manhattan Project by suggesting the Trinity bomb might destroy New Mexico (and really, who would miss it). Also he did some cool science, I guess.
Enrico Fermi, the man who trolled the Manhattan Project by suggesting the Trinity bomb might destroy New Mexico (and really, who would miss it). Also he did some cool science, I guess.

Episode 108 – Rain of Ruin, Part 1

In our first of six episodes on the atomic bombs, we start to answer an important question; where did the idea for the bomb come from? Where did people get the idea that a sufficiently large bomb would enable them to win wars from the air?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Biddle, Tami Davis. Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas About Strategic Bombing, 1914-1945.

Douhet, Giulio. Command of the Air.

Dyer, Gwynne. War: The Lethal Custom.

Pape, Robert A. Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War.

Ross, Stewart Halsey. Strategic Bombing in World War II; The Myths and the Facts.

Tanaka, Yuki and Marilyn Young, Ed. Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History.

Werrell, Kenneth P. Death from the Heavens: A History of Strategic Bombing.

A reproduction of the Einstein-Szilard Letter

Images

Russian illustration explaining the use of balloon bombs, c. 1880. The first time such bombs were used was in 1849 against the city of Venice, to little effect.
Russian illustration explaining the use of balloon bombs, c. 1880. The first time such bombs were used was in 1849 against the city of Venice, to little effect.
Searchlights light up London during a zeppelin raid. The caption for the image gives you some idea of the propaganda value these raids had for the Allies.
Searchlights light up London during a zeppelin raid. The caption for the image gives you some idea of the propaganda value these raids had for the Allies.
Plaques like this one helped drive home the idea that anybody who would resort to aerial bombing was a ruthless monster. The solution to said monsters, however, was not to attempt to be better than them but to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Plaques like this one helped drive home the idea that anybody who would resort to aerial bombing was a ruthless monster. The solution to said monsters, however, was not to attempt to be better than them but to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Damage from a German Zeppelin raid against London, c. 1917.
Damage from a German Zeppelin raid against London, c. 1917.
Giulio Douhet, one of the most vocal postwar proponents of bombing. Douhet's ideas inspired other miltary leaders abroad, but his home nation of Italy lacked the resources to make good on his ideas.
Giulio Douhet, one of the most vocal postwar proponents of bombing. Douhet’s ideas inspired other miltary leaders abroad, but his home nation of Italy lacked the resources to make good on his ideas.
General William "Billy" Mitchell, one of the earliest proponents of using bombing to quickly win wars. Mitchell's time in the US Army Air Force was marked with controversy, but he did succeed in getting others in the officer corps to accept his ideas, laying the groundwork for future bombing campaigns.
General William “Billy” Mitchell, one of the earliest proponents of using bombing to quickly win wars. Mitchell’s time in the US Army Air Force was marked with controversy, but he did succeed in getting others in the officer corps to accept his ideas, laying the groundwork for future bombing campaigns.
The US 8th Airforce attacks Marienburg, Germany in 1943. Despite interwar protests against the inhumanity of bombing enemy nations, belligerents in World War II rapidly abandoned their scruples. After all, it's better than doing nothing, right?
The US 8th Airforce attacks Marienburg, Germany in 1943. Despite interwar protests against the inhumanity of bombing enemy nations, belligerents in World War II rapidly abandoned their scruples. After all, it’s better than doing nothing, right?
A B-29 releases incendiary bombs on Yokohama in May 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A B-29 releases incendiary bombs on Yokohama in May 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard prepare the Einstein-Szilard letter to President Roosevelt, warning of the dangers of the German atomic program.
Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard prepare the Einstein-Szilard letter to President Roosevelt, warning of the dangers of the German atomic program.