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.
Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Episode 111 – Rain of Ruin, Part 4

  1. Gwen Moscoe

    About two minutes into the podcast you mention that the Stimson report was released in February of 1945. I assume you meant 1947. Given this factoid was so early in the narrative, and jarringly inaccurate, I’d urge you to correct that piece if you technically can.

    The rest of it was really good. I learned things I hadn’t known before, which in one of my greatest joys in life. 🙂

    One concern I have going into next week that this week germinated is the variable of the Soviets. You spend the end of the cast explaining how effective the blockade was, and of course that is true. But extrapolating the blockade six months or a year into the future ignores the fact that the US was not the only force that could have invaded Japan. Stalin was readying in the north, and in fact there are still territorial disputes up there because the Soviets did take islands before the “allied” occupiers could secure them. The option of just letting Japan starve wasn’t a viable one to planners in Washington in July 1945, rather it simply ceded Japan to Stalin. Even the US invasion plan, Overlord, would have likely ended up with Japan split north/south like Korea…with profound impacts on the cold war and Japan’s post-war development.

    Now I’m betting you’re holding the Soviet issue for next week given it’s the gem in the revisionist’s cap, and that’s fine. I wouldn’t be mentioning this if I wasn’t concerned about how the blockade option was presented, namely as a viable alternative to using the bombs. Things were going to happen, the Soviets would see to it insomuch as Hokkaido and northern Honshu weather would allow. Simply waiting Japan out wasn’t an option on the table in summer 1945

    Another point I’d make is American public opinion. As much as Tom Brokaw and others talk of the Greatest Generation, patience with the war was not an infinite resource in the US. My understanding is that public opinion after VE Day was moving toward wanting the boys home. If the invasion of Kyushu went as bloody as some predicted, the invasion of Honshu wasn’t necessarily a sure followup. Given Stalin had no such problems with his population, the result could even have been a mostly Communist Japan.

    Finally, as I’ve said before, I might not be here if an invasion had happened. Millions of Americans today are in the same boat. In war, the goal is not to die for your country (something the Japanese military was consistently confused about). The point is to make the other damn bastard die for his country. Now that gets really messy when we talk of civilians, but given the death tolls the alternatives offered as described in your podcast, I think the sentiment, the core of military planning even today, rings true.

  2. Believe me, we will be spending quite a bit of time on the Soviets next week — you guessed completely right.
    I think all of your points are extremely valid, and do kind of expose the weakness of doing 20 minute lectures on topics that you could easily spend a career working on. The blockade is an interesting factor in particular, since a lot of people in the navy (Ernest King, Ralph Bard, Chester Nimitz and Will Leahy come to mind) considered the bomb unnecessary in light of the blockade — you can find statements from all of them to that effect.But none of them did talk about a Soviet invasion, which you’re right to bring up. I wonder if there was a US Navy contingency plan in case of Soviet naval invasion of Japan…

  3. Gwen Moscoe

    I really am excited to hear the next installment. I promise to take a Xanax before listen and respond to it. 😉

    Thanks again so much for doing this project, Isaac. It’s 32 flavors of awesome. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Episode 112 – Rain of Ruin, Part 5 | History of Japan Podcast

  5. Pingback: Episode 113 – Rain of Ruin, Part 6 | History of Japan Podcast

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s