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Debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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The debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki concerns the ethical
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, legal and military controversies surrounding the United States' atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

 on 6 August and 9 August 1945 at the close of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (1939–45). Some debaters focus on the presidential decision making process, and others on whether or not the bombings were the proximate cause of Japanese surrender. Over the course of time different arguments have gained and lost support as new evidence has become available and as new major studies have been completed. However, a primary and continuing focus has been on the role of the bombings in Japan's surrender
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

 and the U.S.'s justification for them based upon the premise that the bombing precipitated the surrender. This remains the subject of both scholarly
Scholarly method
Scholarly method or scholarship is the body of principles and practices used by scholars to make their claims about the world as valid and trustworthy as possible, and to make them known to the scholarly public.-Methods:...

 and popular debate.

In 2005 in an overview of historiography about the matter, J. Samuel Walker wrote that "the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue." Walker stated that "The fundamental issue that has divided scholars over a period of nearly four decades is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States."

Supporters of the bombings generally assert that they caused the Japanese surrender, preventing massive casualties on both sides in the planned invasion
Operation Downfall
Operation Downfall was the Allied plan for the invasion of Japan near the end of World War II. The operation was cancelled when Japan surrendered after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan. The operation had two parts: Operation...

 of Japan: Kyūshū
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

 was to be invaded in October 1945 and Honshū
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

 five months later. Those who oppose the bombings argue that it was simply an extension of the already fierce conventional air raids on Japan
Air raids on Japan
During World War II the Allied forces conducted many air raids on Japan which caused extensive destruction to the country's cities and killed over 300,000 people. These attacks began with the Doolittle Raid in mid-April 1942, but did not resume until June 1944 when United States Army Air Forces ...

 and, therefore, militarily unnecessary, inherently immoral, a war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

, or a form of state terrorism
State terrorism
State terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people. It can also refer to acts of violence by a state against its own people.-Definition:...


Preferable to invasion

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, leader of the Opposition
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

, in a speech to the British House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

, August 1945

Those who argue in favor of the decision to drop the atom bomb
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s believe that massive casualties on both sides would have occurred in Operation Downfall
Operation Downfall
Operation Downfall was the Allied plan for the invasion of Japan near the end of World War II. The operation was cancelled when Japan surrendered after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan. The operation had two parts: Operation...

, the planned invasion of Japan.

The U.S. side anticipated losing many soldiers in the planned invasion of Japan, although the number of expected fatalities and wounded is subject to some debate. U.S. President Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 stated after the war that he had been advised that U.S. casualties could range from 250,000 to one million men. In a study done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in April 1945, the figures of 7.45 casualties per 1,000 man-days and 1.78 fatalities per 1,000 man-days were developed. This implied that the two planned campaigns to conquer Japan would cost 1.6 million U.S. casualties, including 380,000 dead. A later study by the Joint War Plans Committee, who provided planning information to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

, estimated that an invasion of Japan would result in 40,000 U.S. dead and 150,000 wounded. Delivered on June 15, 1945 after insight gained from the Battle of Okinawa, the study noted Japan's inadequate defenses due to the very effective sea blockade and the American firebombing campaign. Generals George C. Marshall and Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 signed documents agreeing with the Joint War Plans Committee estimate.

In addition, millions of Japanese military and civilian casualties were expected as a result of such actions. An Air Force Association
Air Force Association
The Air Force Association is an independent, 501 non-profit, civilian education organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia...

 webpage states that "Millions of women, old men, and boys and girls had been trained to resist by such means as attacking with bamboo spears and strapping explosives to their bodies and throwing themselves under advancing tanks." The AFA noted that "[t]he Japanese cabinet had approved a measure extending the draft to include men from ages fifteen to sixty and women from seventeen to forty-five (an additional 28 million people)."

Supporters also point to an order given by the Japanese War Ministry on 1 August 1944, ordering the disposal and execution of all Allied prisoners of war, numbering over 100,000, if an invasion of the Japanese mainland took place.

The US military had nearly 500,000 Purple Heart
Purple Heart
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York...

 medals manufactured in anticipation of potential casualties from the planned invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the 60 years following the end of World War II—including the Korean
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

s—have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock. Because of the number available, combat units in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers on the field.

Speedy end of war saved lives

Supporters of the bombing argue that to have waited for the Japanese to surrender would also have cost lives. "For China alone, depending upon what number one chooses for overall Chinese casualties, in each of the ninety-seven months between July 1937 and August 1945, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 persons perished, the vast majority of them noncombatants. For the other Asian states alone, the average probably ranged in the tens of thousands per month, but the actual numbers were almost certainly greater in 1945, notably due to the mass death in a famine in Vietnam. Newman concluded that each month that the war continued in 1945 would have produced the deaths of 'upwards of 250,000 people, mostly Asian but some Westerners.'"

The end of the war liberated millions of laborers working in harsh conditions under a forced mobilization. In the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

, there was a "forced mobilization of some 4 million—although some estimates are as high as 10 million—romusha (manual laborers)...About 270,000 romusha were sent to the Outer Islands and Japanese-held territories in Southeast Asia, where they joined other Asians in performing wartime construction projects. At the end of the war, only 52,000 were repatriated to Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...


The firebombing of Tokyo
Bombing of Tokyo in World War II
The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a "firebombing", was conducted by the United States Army Air Forces during the Pacific campaigns of World War II. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with large morale effects...

 had killed well over 100,000 people in Japan since February 1945, directly and indirectly. Because the USAAF wanted to use its bombs on previously undamaged cities in order to have accurate data on nuclear-caused damage, Kokura
is an ancient castle town and the center of Kitakyūshū, Japan, guarding, via its suburb Moji, the Straits of Shimonoseki between Honshū and Kyūshū. Kokura is also the name of the penultimate station on the southbound Sanyo Shinkansen line, which is owned by JR Kyūshū and an important part of the...

, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Niigata
is a name of a place of Japan and the Chubu region.Niigata may refer to:* Niigata - a city in Japan and the capital of Niigata Prefecture* Niigata Prefecture - prefecture in Japan* Albirex Niigata - the city's professional football club...

 were preserved from conventional bombing raids. Otherwise they would all have been fire-bombed.Intensive conventional bombing would have continued or increased prior to an invasion. The submarine blockade and the United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

's mining
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 operation, Operation Starvation
Operation Starvation
Operation Starvation was an American naval mining operation conducted in World War II by the Army Air Force, in which vital water routes and ports of Japan were mined by air in order to disrupt enemy shipping.-Operation:...

, had effectively cut off Japan's imports. A complementary operation against Japan's railways was about to begin, isolating the cities of southern Honshū from the food grown elsewhere in the Home Islands. "Immediately after the defeat, some estimated that 10 million people were likely to starve to death", noted historian Daikichi Irokawa. Meanwhile, fighting continued in The Philippines, New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

, and offensives were scheduled for September in southern China and Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria had, in the week before the surrender, caused over 80,000 deaths.

In September 1945, nuclear physicist Karl T. Compton, who himself took part in the Manhattan Project, visited MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, and following his visit wrote a defensive article, in which he summarized his conclusions as follows: "If the atomic bomb had not been used, evidence like that I have cited points to the practical certainty that there would have been many more months of death and destruction on an enormous scale".

Philippine justice Delfin Jaranilla, member of the Tokyo tribunal, wrote in his judgment:
"If a means is justified by an end, the use of the atomic bomb was justified for it brought Japan to her knees and ended the horrible war. If the war had gone longer, without the use of the atomic bomb, how many thousands and thousands of helpless men, women and children would have needlessly died and suffer ...?"

Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, CH is a Singaporean statesman. He was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, governing for three decades...

, the Former Prime Minister of Singapore
Prime Minister of Singapore
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore is the head of the government of the Republic of Singapore. The President of Singapore appoints as Prime Minister a Member of Parliament who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of a majority of MPs.The office of Prime Minister...

"But they also showed a meanness and viciousness towards their enemies equal to the Huns'. Genghis Khan and his hordes could not have been more merciless. I have no doubts about whether the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary. Without them, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Malaya and Singapore, and millions in Japan itself, would have perished."

Lee witnessed his home city being invaded by the Japanese and was nearly executed in the Sook Ching Massacre
Sook Ching massacre
The Sook Ching massacre was a systematic extermination of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore by the Japanese military during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, after the British colony surrendered on 15 February 1942 during the Second World War. Sook Ching was later...


Part of total war

Supporters of the bombings have argued that the Japanese government had promulgated a National Mobilization Law
National Mobilization Law
was legislated in the Diet of Japan by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe on 24 March 1938 to put the national economy of the Empire of Japan on war-time footing after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War....

 and waged total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

, ordering many civilians (including women and children) to work in factories and military offices and to fight against any invading force. Father John A. Siemes, professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo's Catholic University, and an eyewitness to the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima wrote:
"We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians."

Supporters of the bombings have emphasized the strategic significance of the targets. Hiroshima was used as headquarters of the Fifth Division and the 2nd General Army, which commanded the defense of southern Japan with 40,000 military personnel in the city. Hiroshima was a communication center, an assembly area for troops, a storage point and had several military factories as well. Nagasaki was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials.

An article published in the International Review of the Red Cross
International Review of the Red Cross
The International Review of the Red Cross is a quarterly academic journal published by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Cambridge University Press. The journal aims to serve as a forum for debate, reflection and critical analysis on international humanitarian law, humanitarian...

 notes that, with respect to the "anti-city" or "blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

" strategy, that "in examining these events in the light of international humanitarian law, it should be borne in mind that during the Second World War there was no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property." The Blitz was not one of the charges against Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, commander of the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

, at the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....


On 30 June 2007, Japan's defense minister Fumio Kyuma
Fumio Kyuma
is a Japanese politician who has served in the Diet of Japan since 1980. Kyuma graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1964 and worked for the Ministry of Agriculture...

 said the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan by the United States during World War II was an inevitable way to end the war. Kyuma said "I now have come to accept in my mind that in order to end the war, it could not be helped (Shikata ga nai
Shikata ga nai
, , is a Japanese language phrase meaning "it can't be helped" or "nothing can be done about it". , is an alternative.-Cultural associations:The phrase has been used by many western writers to describe the ability of the Japanese people to maintain dignity in the face of an unavoidable tragedy or...

) that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and that countless numbers of people suffered great tragedy." Kyuma, who is from Nagasaki, said the bombing caused great suffering in the city, but he does not resent the U.S. because it prevented the Soviet Union from entering the war with Japan. Kyuma's comments were similar to those made by Emperor Hirohito when, in his first ever press conference given in Tokyo in 1975, he was asked what he thought of the bombing of Hiroshima, and answered: "It's very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima but it couldn't be helped (Shikata ga nai) because that happened in wartime."

Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue
Tomihisa Taue
, is the mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki; he first took office in 2007. He was a graduate from Kyushu University, and majored in jurisprudence. Iccho Itoh was his predecessor. In 2007 he has criticized Fumio Kyuma, then the Minister of Defense, as the mayor of Nagasaki for his remark on the...

 protested against Kyuma, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe
was the 90th Prime Minister of Japan, elected by a special session of the National Diet on 26 September 2006. He was Japan's youngest post–World War II prime minister and the first born after the war. Abe served as prime minister for nearly twelve months, before resigning on 12 September 2007...

 apologized over Kyuma's remark to Hiroshima A-bomb survivors. In the wake of the outrage provoked by his statements, Kyuma had to resign on 3 July.

In early July, on his way to Potsdam, Truman had re-examined the decision to use the bomb. In the end, Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. His stated intention in ordering the bombings was to bring about a quick resolution of the war by inflicting destruction, and instilling fear of further destruction, that was sufficient to cause Japan to surrender.

In his speech to the Japanese people presenting his reasons for surrender, the emperor referred specifically to the atomic bombs, stating that if they continued to fight it would result in "...an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation..." In his Rescript to the Soldiers and Sailors, delivered on 17 August, he focused however on the impact of the Soviet invasion, omitting any reference to the atomic bombings.

Japan's leaders refused to surrender

Some historians see ancient Japanese warrior traditions as a major factor in the resistance in the Japanese military to the idea of surrender. According to one Air Force account,

"The Japanese code of bushido
, meaning "Way of the Warrior-Knight", is a Japanese word which is used to describe a uniquely Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and...

—"the way of the warrior"—was deeply ingrained. The concept of Yamato-damashii
is a historically and culturally loaded word in the Japanese language. The phrase was apparently coined in the Heian period to describe the indigenous Japanese 'spirit' or cultural values as opposed to the cultural values imported into the country through contact with Tang dynasty China. Later, a...

equipped each soldier with a strict code: never be captured, never break down, and never surrender. Surrender was dishonorable. Each soldier was trained to fight to the death and was expected to die before suffering dishonor. Defeated Japanese leaders preferred to take their own lives in the painful samurai ritual of seppuku
is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies , or as a form of capital punishment...

(called hara kiri in the West). Warriors who surrendered were not deemed worthy of regard or respect."

Japanese militarism
Japanese militarism
refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.-Rise of militarism :...

 was aggravated by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and had resulted in countless assassinations of reformers attempting to check military power, among them Takahashi Korekiyo
Takahashi Korekiyo
Viscount was a Japanese politician and the 20th Prime Minister of Japan from 13 November 1921 to 12 June 1922. He was known as an expert on finance during his political career.-Early life :...

, Saitō Makoto
Saito Makoto
Viscount was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, two-time Governor-General of Korea from 1919 to 1927 and from 1929 to 1931, and the 30th Prime Minister of Japan from May 26, 1932 to July 8, 1934.-Early life:...

, and Inukai Tsuyoshi
Inukai Tsuyoshi
was a Japanese politician and the 29th Prime Minister of Japan from 13 December 1931 to 15 May 1932.-Early life:Inukai was born to a former samurai family of the Niwase Domain, in Niwase village, Bizen Province , and was a graduate of Keio Gijuku in Tokyo. In his early career, he worked as a...

. This created an environment in which opposition to war was a much riskier endeavor.

According to historian Richard B. Frank
Richard B. Frank
Richard B. Frank is an American lawyer and military historian.Frank graduated from the University of Missouri in 1969, after which he served four years in the United States Army. During the Vietnam War, he served a tour of duty as a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division...

"The intercepts of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy messages disclosed without exception that Japan's armed forces were determined to fight a final Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

 battle in the homeland against an Allied invasion. The Japanese called this strategy Ketsu Go (Operation Decisive). It was founded on the premise that American morale was brittle and could be shattered by heavy losses in the initial invasion. American politicians would then gladly negotiate an end to the war far more generous than unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender is a surrender without conditions, in which no guarantees are given to the surrendering party. In modern times unconditional surrenders most often include guarantees provided by international law. Announcing that only unconditional surrender is acceptable puts psychological...


The U.S. Department of Energy's history of the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 lends some credence to these claims, saying that military leaders in Japan
".... also hoped that if they could hold out until the ground invasion of Japan began, they would be able to inflict so many casualties on the Allies that Japan still might win some sort of negotiated settlement."

While some members of the civilian leadership did use covert diplomatic channels to attempt peace negotiation, they could not negotiate surrender or even a cease-fire. Japan could legally enter into a peace agreement only with the unanimous support of the Japanese cabinet, and in the summer of 1945, the Japanese Supreme War Council, consisting of representatives of the Army, the Navy and the civilian government, could not reach a consensus on how to proceed.

A political stalemate developed between the military and civilian leaders of Japan, the military increasingly determined to fight despite all costs and odds and the civilian leadership seeking a way to negotiate an end to the war. Further complicating the decision was the fact that no cabinet could exist without the representative of the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

. This meant that the Army and the Navy could veto any decision by having its Minister resign, thus making it the most powerful posts on the SWC. In early August 1945 the cabinet was equally split between those who advocated an end to the war on one condition, the preservation of the Kokutai
Kokutai is a politically loaded word in the Japanese language, translatable as "sovereign", "national identity; national essence; national character" or "national polity; body politic; national entity; basis for the Emperor's sovereignty; Japanese constitution". "Sovereign" is perhaps the most...

, and those who insisted on three other conditions:
  1. Leave disarmament and demobilization to Imperial General Headquarters
    Imperial General Headquarters
    The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

  2. No occupation of the Japanese Home Islands
    Japanese Archipelago
    The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

    , Korea, or Formosa
    Formosa or Ilha Formosa is a Portuguese historical name for Taiwan , literally meaning, "Beautiful Island". The term may also refer to:-Places:* Formosa Strait, another name for the Taiwan Strait...

  3. Delegation to the Japanese government of the punishment of war criminals

The "hawks" consisted of General Korechika Anami, General Yoshijirō Umezu and Admiral Soemu Toyoda and were led by Anami. The "doves" consisted of Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki
Kantaro Suzuki
Baron was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, member and final leader of the Taisei Yokusankai and 42nd Prime Minister of Japan from 7 April-17 August 1945.-Early life:...

, Naval Minister Mitsumasa Yonai
Mitsumasa Yonai
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and politician. He was the 37th Prime Minister of Japan from 16 January to 22 July 1940.-Early life & Naval career:...

 and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shigenori Tōgō
Shigenori Togo
was Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Empire of Japan at both the start and the end of the Japanese-American conflict during World War II...

 and were led by Togo. Under special permission of the Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito), the president of the Privy council, Hiranuma Kiichirō, was also a member of the imperial conference. For him, the preservation of the Kokutai
Kokutai is a politically loaded word in the Japanese language, translatable as "sovereign", "national identity; national essence; national character" or "national polity; body politic; national entity; basis for the Emperor's sovereignty; Japanese constitution". "Sovereign" is perhaps the most...

 implied not only that of the Imperial institution but also the continuation of the emperor's reign.

Japan had an example of unconditional surrender in the German Instrument of Surrender. On 26 July, Truman and other allied leaders issued The Potsdam Declaration
Potsdam Declaration
The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender is a statement calling for the Surrender of Japan in World War II. On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S...

 outlining terms of surrender for Japan. The declaration stated that "The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." It was rejected. The Emperor, who was waiting for a Soviet reply to Japanese peace feelers, made no move to change the government position. In the PBS documentary "Victory in the Pacific" (2005), broadcast in the "American Experience
American Experience
American Experience is a television program airing on the Public Broadcasting Service Public television stations in the United States. The program airs documentaries, many of which have won awards, about important or interesting events and people in American history...

" series, the historian Donald Miller argues that in the days after the declaration, the Emperor seemed more concerned with moving the Imperial Regalia of Japan
Imperial Regalia of Japan
The , also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, consist of the sword Kusanagi , the mirror Yata no Kagami , and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama...

 to a secure location than he was with "the destruction of his country." This comment is based on the declarations made by the Emperor to Kōichi Kido
Koichi Kido
Marquis served as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal from 1940 to 1945, and was the closest advisor to Emperor Showa throughout World War II.Kido was the grandson of Kido Takayoshi, one of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration...

 on 25 and 31 July 1945, when he ordered the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan
The was an administrative post not of Cabinet rank in the government of the Empire of Japan. The Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal was responsible for keeping the Privy Seal of Japan and State Seal of Japan....

 to protect "at all cost" the Imperial Regalia.

It has sometimes been argued that Japan would have surrendered if simply guaranteed that the Emperor would be allowed to continue as formal head of state. However, Japanese diplomatic messages regarding a possible Soviet mediation—intercepted through Magic
Magic (cryptography)
Magic was an Allied cryptanalysis project during World War II. It involved the United States Army's Signals Intelligence Section and the United States Navy's Communication Special Unit. -Codebreaking:...

, and made available to Allied leaders—have been interpreted by some historians to mean that "the dominant militarists insisted on preservation of the old militaristic order in Japan, the one in which they ruled." They also faced potential death sentences in trials for Japanese war crimes
Japanese war crimes
Japanese war crimes occurred during the period of Japanese imperialism, primarily during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Some of the incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities...

 if they surrendered. This was also what occurred in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

 and other tribunals.

Professor of history Robert James Maddox wrote that
Another myth that has attained wide attention is that at least several of Truman's top military advisers later informed him that using atomic bombs against Japan would be militarily unnecessary or immoral, or both. There is no persuasive evidence that any of them did so. None of the Joint Chiefs ever made such a claim, although one inventive author has tried to make it appear that Leahy did by braiding together several unrelated passages from the admiral's memoirs. Actually, two days after Hiroshima, Truman told aides that Leahy had 'said up to the last that it wouldn't go off.'
Neither MacArthur nor Nimitz ever communicated to Truman any change of mind about the need for invasion or expressed reservations about using the bombs. When first informed about their imminent use only days before Hiroshima, MacArthur responded with a lecture on the future of atomic warfare and even after Hiroshima strongly recommended that the invasion go forward. Nimitz, from whose jurisdiction the atomic strikes would be launched, was notified in early 1945. 'This sounds fine,' he told the courier, 'but this is only February. Can't we get one sooner?'
The best that can be said about Eisenhower's memory is that it had become flawed by the passage of time.
Notes made by one of Stimson's aides indicate that there was a discussion of atomic bombs, but there is no mention of any protest on Eisenhower's part.

Maddox also wrote that "Even after both bombs had fallen and Russia entered the war, Japanese militants insisted on such lenient peace terms that moderates knew there was no sense even transmitting them to the United States. Hirohito had to intervene personally on two occasions during the next few days to induce hardliners to abandon their conditions." "That they would have conceded defeat months earlier, before such calamities struck, is far-fetched to say the least."

The fact that even after the triple shock of the Soviet intervention and two atomic bombs, the Japanese cabinet was deadlocked and incapable of deciding upon a course of action is telling both of the power of the Army and naval factions in the cabinet, and of their unwillingness to even consider surrender. Even following the personal intervention of the emperor to break the deadlock in favour of surrender, there were no less than three separate coup attempts by senior Japanese officers to try to prevent the surrender and take the Emperor into 'protective custody'. Once these coup attempts had failed, senior leaders of the air force and Navy ordered bombing and kamikaze raids on the US fleet (In which some of the Japanese Generals personally participated) to try to derail any possibility of peace. It is clear from these accounts that while many in the civilian government knew the war could not be won, the power of the military in the Japanese government kept surrender from even being considered as a real option prior to the two atomic bombs.

Another argument by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
is a Japanese historian, currently teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he is director of the Cold War Studies program. His current field of research includes the political history of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Soviet–Japanese relations...

 is that it was the Soviet declaration of war in the days between the bombings that caused the surrender. After the war, Admiral Soemu Toyoda said, "I believe the Russian participation in the war against Japan rather than the atom bombs did more to hasten the surrender." Prime Minister Suzuki also declared that the entry of the USSR into the war made "the continuance of the war impossible." Upon hearing news of the event from Foreign Minister Togo, Suzuki immediately said, "Let us end the war", and agreed to finally convene an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council to end the war. The official British history, The War Against Japan, also writes that the Soviet declaration of war "brought home to all members of the Supreme Council the realization that the last hope of a negotiated peace had gone and there was no alternative but to accept the Allied terms sooner or later."

The "one condition" faction, led by Togo, seized on the bombing as decisive justification of surrender. Kōichi Kido
Koichi Kido
Marquis served as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal from 1940 to 1945, and was the closest advisor to Emperor Showa throughout World War II.Kido was the grandson of Kido Takayoshi, one of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration...

, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest advisers, stated: "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war." Hisatsune Sakomizu
Hisatsune Sakomizu
was the chief secretary to the Cabinet of Japan during World War II. Sakomizu was ordered by newly appointed Prime Minister Admiral Kantarō Suzuki to investigate and analyze the economic condition of Japan, and to give a written confidential report to Suzuki....

, the chief Cabinet secretary in 1945, called the bombing "a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war."


Fundamentally immoral

On 8 August 1945, Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

 addressed the bombing of Hiroshima in an editorial in the French newspaper Combat
Combat (newspaper)
Combat was a French newspaper created during the Second World War. Originally a clandestine newspaper of the Resistance, it was headed by Albert Ollivier, Jean Bloch-Michel, Georges Altschuler and, most of all, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Malraux, Emmanuel Mounier, and then Raymond Aron...

"Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests[...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason."

In 1946, a report by the Federal Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

 entitled Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith, includes the following passage:
"As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We are agreed that, whatever be one's judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible."

The bombings as war crimes

A number of notable individuals and organizations have criticized the bombings, many of them characterizing them as war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s, crimes against humanity, and/or state terrorism
State terrorism
State terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people. It can also refer to acts of violence by a state against its own people.-Definition:...

. Early critics of the bombings were Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, Eugene Wigner and Leo Szilard
Leó Szilárd
Leó Szilárd was an Austro-Hungarian physicist and inventor who conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi, and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein's signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb...

, who had together spurred the first bomb research in 1939 with a jointly written letter to President Roosevelt. Szilard, who had gone on to play a major role in the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

, argued:
"Let me say only this much to the moral issue involved: Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester
Rochester, New York
Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, south of Lake Ontario in the United States. Known as The World's Image Centre, it was also once known as The Flour City, and more recently as The Flower City...

 and the other on Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?"

A number of scientists who worked on the bomb were against its use. Led by Dr. James Franck
James Franck
James Franck was a German Jewish physicist and Nobel laureate.-Biography:Franck was born to Jacob Franck and Rebecca Nachum Drucker. Franck completed his Ph.D...

, seven scientists submitted a report to the Interim Committee (which advised the President) in May 1945, saying:
"If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons."

Mark Selden
Mark Selden
Mark Selden is a Coordinator of the open access journal The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University, and Bartle Professor of History and Sociology at Binghamton University. He graduated from Amherst College with a major in...

 writes, "Perhaps the most trenchant contemporary critique of the American moral position on the bomb and the scales of justice in the war was voiced by the Indian jurist Radhabinod Pal, a dissenting voice at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, who balked at accepting the uniqueness of Japanese war crimes. Recalling Kaiser Wilhelm II's account of his duty to bring World War I to a swift end—"everything must be put to fire and sword; men, women and children and old men must be slaughtered and not a tree or house be left standing." Pal observed:

"This policy of indiscriminate murder to shorten the war was considered to be a crime. In the Pacific war under our consideration, if there was anything approaching what is indicated in the above letter of the German Emperor, it is the decision coming from the Allied powers to use the bomb. Future generations will judge this dire decision...If any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegal in warfare, then, in the Pacific War, this decision to use the atom bomb is the only near approach to the directives of the German Emperor during the first World War and of the Nazi leaders during the second World War."

Selden mentions another critique of the nuclear bombing, which he says the U.S. government effectively suppressed for twenty-five years, as worth mention. On 11 August 1945, the Japanese government filed an official protest over the atomic bombing to the U.S. State Department through the Swiss Legation in Tokyo, observing that:

"Combatant and noncombatant men and women, old and young, are massacred without discrimination by the atmospheric pressure of the explosion, as well as by the radiating heat which result therefrom. Consequently there is involved a bomb having the most cruel effects humanity has ever known. . . . The bombs in question, used by the Americans, by their cruelty and by their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm, the use of which is prohibited. Japanese protests against U.S. desecration of international principles of war paired the use of the atomic bomb with the earlier firebombing, which massacred old people, women and children, destroying and burning down Shinto and Buddhist temples, schools, hospitals, living quarters, etc. . . . They now use this new bomb, having an uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization."

Selden concludes that despite the war crimes committed by the Empire of Japan, nevertheless, "the Japanese protest correctly pointed to U.S. violations of internationally accepted principles of war with respect to the wholesale destruction of populations."

In 1963 the bombings were the subject of a judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

 in Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State
Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State
Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State was a case brought before the District Court of Tokyo by a group of five survivors of the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who claimed the action was illegal under the laws of war and demanded reparations from the Japanese government on the ground that...

. On the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the District Court of Tokyo declined to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons in general, but found that "the attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war."

In the opinion of the court, the act of dropping an atomic bomb on cities was at the time governed by international law found in the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907 and the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923 and was therefore illegal.

In the documentary The Fog of War
The Fog of War
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare...

, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara recalls that General Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay
Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

, who relayed the Presidential order to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, said,
"'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.' And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"

As the first military use of nuclear weapons, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent to some the crossing of a crucial barrier. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute
American University Nuclear Studies Institute
The Nuclear Studies Institute was founded in 1995 at American University in Washington, D.C. as a component of the American University College of Arts and Sciences...

 at American University
American University
American University is a private, Methodist, liberal arts, and research university in Washington, D.C. The university was chartered by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892 as "The American University", which was approved by President Benjamin Harrison on February 24, 1893...

, wrote of President Truman:
"He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species. It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."

Takashi Hiraoka, mayor of Hiroshima, upholding nuclear disarmament
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated....

, said in a hearing to The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

"It is clear that the use of nuclear weapons, which cause indiscriminate mass murder that leaves [effects on] survivors for decades, is a violation of international law".

Iccho Itoh
Iccho Itoh
, born , was the mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki; he first took office in 1995. He was a graduate from Waseda University, and majored in political science.-Career:...

, the mayor of Nagasaki, declared in the same hearing:
"It is said that the descendants of the atomic bomb survivors will have to be monitored for several generations to clarify the genetic impact, which means that the descendants will live in anxiety for [decades] to come. [...] with their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities [...] The use of nuclear weapons [...] therefore is a manifest infraction of international law."

Although bombings do not meet the definition of genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

, some consider that this definition is too strict, and that these bombings do represent a genocide.
For example, University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 historian Bruce Cumings
Bruce Cumings
Bruce Cumings is the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History at the University of Chicago and the chairperson of the history department...

 states there is a consensus among historians to Martin Sherwin's statement, that "the Nagasaki bomb was gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst."

The scholar R. J. Rummel
R. J. Rummel
Rudolph Joseph Rummel is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii. He has spent his career assembling data on collective violence and war with a view toward helping their resolution or elimination...

 instead extends the definition of genocide to what he calls democide
Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel as "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder." Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the...

, and includes the major part of deaths from the atom bombings in these. His definition of democide includes not only genocide, but also an excessive killing of civilians in war, to the extent that this is against the agreed rules for warfare; he argues that indeed the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes, and thus democide.
Rummel quotes among others an official protest from the US government in 1938 to Japan, for its bombing of Chinese cities:
"The bombing of non-combatant populations violated international and humanitarian laws."

He also considers excess deaths of civilians in firestorms caused by conventional means, such as in Tokyo, as acts of democide.

In 1967, Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 described the atomic bombings as "among the most unspeakable crimes in history". Chomsky pointed to the complicity of the American people in the bombings, referring to the bitter experiences they had undergone prior to the event as the cause for their acceptance of its legitimacy.
In 2007, a group of intellectuals in Hiroshima established an unofficial body called International Peoples' Tribunal on the Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On July 16, 2007, it delivered its verdict, stating:

About the legality and the morality of the action, the unofficial tribunal found:

Militarily unnecessary

The 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was a board tasked with examination and analysis of the United States' involvement in the World War II. Its primary purpose was to determine the effectiveness of Allied, and more specifically American, strategic bombing campaigns in Europe and in Asia...

, written by Paul Nitze
Paul Nitze
Paul Henry Nitze was a high-ranking United States government official who helped shape Cold War defense policy over the course of numerous presidential administrations.-Early life, education, and family:...

, concluded that the atomic bombs had been unnecessary to the winning of the war. After reviewing numerous documents, and interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, Nitze reported:

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 the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

This conclusion assumed that a conventional fire-bombing attack would have continued, with ever-increasing numbers of B-29s, and a greater level of destruction to Japan's cities and population. One of Nitze's most influential sources was Prince Fumimaro Konoe
Fumimaro Konoe
Prince was a politician in the Empire of Japan who served as the 34th, 38th and 39th Prime Minister of Japan and founder/leader of the Taisei Yokusankai.- Early life :...

, who responded to a question asking whether Japan would have surrendered if the atomic bombs had not been dropped by saying that resistance would have continued through November or December, 1945.

Historians, such as Bernstein, Hasegawa, and Newman, have criticized Nitze for drawing a conclusion that, they say, went far beyond what the available evidence warranted, in order to promote the reputation of the Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 at the expense of the Army and Navy.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 wrote in his memoir The White House Years:

In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.

Other U.S. military officers who disagreed with the necessity of the bombings include General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy
William D. Leahy
Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy was an American naval officer, building his reputation through administration and staff work. As Chief of Naval Operations he was the senior officer in Navy, overseeing the preparations for war. After retiring from the Navy he was appointed by his close friend...

 (the Chief of Staff to the President), Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials),
and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.
"The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons... The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children." Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.

Historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not even the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories in Manchuria that forced the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945, though the War Council did not know the extent of the losses to the Soviets in China at that time.

State terrorism

Historical accounts indicate that the decision to use the atomic bombs was made in order to provoke a surrender of Japan by use of an awe-inspiring power. These observations have caused Michael Walzer
Michael Walzer
Michael Walzer is a prominent American political philosopher and public intellectual. A professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, he is co-editor of Dissent, an intellectual magazine that he has been affiliated with since his years as an undergraduate at...

 to state that the incident was an act of "war terrorism". Walzer wrote, "... And, finally, there is war terrorism: the effort to kill civilians in such large numbers that their government is forced to surrender. Hiroshima seems to me the classic case."
This type of claim eventually prompted historian Robert P. Newman, a supporter of the bombings, to argue that the practice of terrorism is justified in some cases.

Certain scholars and historians have characterized the atomic bombings of Japan as a form of "state terrorism". This interpretation centers around a definition of terrorism
Definition of terrorism
There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the proper definition of the word "terrorism". Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of "terrorism". Moreover, the international community has been slow to formulate a universally agreed...

 as the targeting of innocents to achieve a political goal. As Frances V. Harbour
Frances V. Harbour
Frances Vryling Harbour is Associate Professor of Government at George Mason University, in the United States. She is a founding member and past president of the International Ethics Section of the International Studies Association and a former John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellow in...

 points out, the meeting of the Target Committee in Los Alamos
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos is a townsite and census-designated place in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, built upon four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau and the adjoining White Rock Canyon. The population of the CDP was 12,019 at the 2010 Census. The townsite or "the hill" is one part of town while...

 on 10 and 11 May 1945 suggested targeting the large population centers of Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 or Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 for a "psychological effect" and to make "the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 to be internationally recognized." As such, Professor Harbour suggests the goal was to create terror
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

 for political ends both in and beyond Japan. However, Burleigh Taylor Wilkins
Burleigh Taylor Wilkins
Burleigh Taylor Wilkins is a professor in the Department of Philosophy of the University of California, Santa Barbara....

 has written that it stretches the meaning of "terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

" to include wartime acts
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...


Japanese nuclear weapons program undeveloped

Post war claims that the Japanese nuclear research and development efforts were near completion, and therefore justified an attack, were not true. This position has been refuted by historians, who have found that the Japanese nuclear program was comparably undeveloped, even in comparison to the German nuclear energy project
German nuclear energy project
The German nuclear energy project, , was an attempted clandestine scientific effort led by Germany to develop and produce the atomic weapons during the events involving the World War II...


A review of this theory by Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 employee Roger M. Anders appeared in the journal Military Affairs:

Nagasaki bombing unnecessary

The second atomic bombing, on Nagasaki, came only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, when the devastation at Hiroshima had yet to be fully comprehended by the Japanese. Okamoto, Mitsou. "War Memories or History: The Enola Gay Debate and the Peace Prayer Memorial". Peace Studies Association Conference, Tufts University
Tufts University
Tufts University is a private research university located in Medford/Somerville, near Boston, Massachusetts. It is organized into ten schools, including two undergraduate programs and eight graduate divisions, on four campuses in Massachusetts and on the eastern border of France...

, 10 March 1994. The lack of time between the bombings has led some historians to state that the second bombing was "certainly unnecessary", "gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst", and not jus in bello. In response to the claim that the atomic bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary, Maddox wrote:
One day before the bombing of Nagasaki, the Emperor notified Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō of his desire to "insure a prompt ending of hostilities". Togo wrote in his memoir that the Emperor "warned [him] that since we could no longer continue the struggle, now that a weapon of this devastating power was used against us, we should not let slip the opportunity [to end the war] by engaging in attempts to gain more favorable conditions." The Emperor then requested Togo to communicate his wishes to the Prime Minister.

Racism and dehumanization

Historian James J. Weingartner sees a connection between the American mutilation of Japanese war dead
American mutilation of Japanese war dead
During World War II, some United States military personnel mutilated dead Japanese service personnel in the Pacific theater of operations. The mutilation of Japanese service personnel included the taking of body parts as “war souvenirs” and “war trophies”...

 and the bombings. According to Weingartner both were partially the result of a dehumanization of the enemy. "[t]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands." On the second day after the Nagasaki bomb, President Truman had stated: "The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true".

Impact on surrender

On the question of what role the bombings played in Japan's surrender, there are varied opinions, ranging from the bombings being the deciding factor, to the bombs being a minor factor, to the entire question being unknowable.

That the bombings were the decisive factor in ending the war was the mainstream position in the United States from 1945 through the 1960s, and is termed by some the "traditionalist" view, or pejoratively as the "patriotic orthodoxy."

Others argue that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria was instead primary or decisive. In the US, this view has been particularly advanced by Robert Pape
Robert Pape
Robert Anthony Pape, Jr. , is an American political scientist known for his work on international security affairs, especially the coercive strategies of air power and the rationale of suicide terrorism. He is currently a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and founder of the...

 and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
is a Japanese historian, currently teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he is director of the Cold War Studies program. His current field of research includes the political history of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Soviet–Japanese relations...

, and found convincing by some, while criticized by others.

In Japanese writing about the surrender, the Soviet entry into the war is considered the primary reason or equal with the atomic bombs in many accounts, while others, such as the work of Sadao Asada, give primacy to the atomic bombings, particularly their impact on the emperor. The primacy of the Soviet entry as a reason for surrender is a long-standing view in the Japanese left, and has appeared in some Japanese junior high school textbooks.

The argument about the Soviet role in Japan's surrender is connected to the argument about the Soviet role in America's decision to drop the bomb: both emphasize the importance of the Soviet Union, while the former argues that Japan surrendered to the US out of fear of the Soviet Union, and the latter argues that the US dropped the bombs to intimidate the Soviet Union.

Still others have argued that war-weary Japan would likely have surrendered regardless, due to a collapse of the economy, lack of army, food, and industrial materials, threat of internal revolution, and talk of surrender since earlier in the year, while others find this unlikely, arguing that Japan may well have, or likely would have, put up a spirited resistance.

More cautiously, historians such as Hasegawa and Asada argue that there was no single decisive external factor in the decision to surrender, the atomic bombings, Soviet invasion, weakened condition of Japan, and threats of internal unrest being contributing considerations, with the ultimate decision to surrender being a personal decision by the emperor, influenced by the peace-seeking wing of the Japanese political elite.

A further traditional view, expressed by Japanese officials in interviews with Americans, is that the impact of the bombings is unknowable. Some have accepted this view, while others dismiss it as evasive and pandering. Any analysis, however, cannot exclude the fact that the Emperor's speech to his nation
The , lit. "Jewel Voice Broadcast", was the radio broadcast in which Japanese emperor Hirohito read out the , announcing to the Japanese people that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military at the end of World War II...

 initially announcing surrender specifically referred to the atomic bombings as a primary reason for ending resistance: "The enemy, moreover, has begun to employ a new most cruel bomb, the power which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation . . . but would lead also to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save millions of Our subjects, or ourselves, to atone before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial ancestors? This is the reason We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the Powers."

Atomic diplomacy

A further argument, discussed under the rubric of "atomic diplomacy" and advanced in a 1965 book of that name by Gar Alperovitz
Gar Alperovitz
Gar Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Government and Politics. He is a former Fellow of King's College, Cambridge; a founding Fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics; a Fellow at the Institute for Policy...

, is that the bombings had as primary purpose to intimidate the Soviet Union, being the opening shots of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Along these lines some argue that the US raced the Soviet Union and hoped to drop the bombs and receive surrender from Japan before a Soviet entry into the Pacific war.
However, the Soviet Union, the US and Great Britain came to an agreement at the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 on when the Soviet Union should join the war against Japan, and on how the territory of Japan is to be dismembered at the end of the war.

Others argue that such considerations played little or no role, the US being instead concerned with the defeat of Japan, and in fact that the US desired and appreciated the Soviet entry into the Pacific war, as it hastened the surrender of Japan.

W. Churchill was on vacation on Como's lake, Italy, when the bomb of Hiroshima was launched. Lord Moran, his personal physician, in his memoirs published in 1966 tells a conversation he had had with WSC. He saw the atom bomb as a way to keep Stalin in check.

Debates over the bombings

Concludes the bombings were justified.
Weighs whether the bombings were justified or necessary, concludes they were not.
Weighs whether the bombings were justified or necessary.
"The thing had to be done", but "Circumstances are heavy with misgiving."
Explains the conflicts and debates within the Japanese government from the onset of World War II until surrender. Concludes the bombings were justified.

Philosophical/moral discussion concerning the Allied strategy of area bombing in World War II, including the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Argues the bombs were not the deciding factor in ending the war. The Russian entrance into the Pacific war was the primary cause for Japan's surrender.
Author is diplomatic historian who favors Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs.
An analysis critical of postwar opposition to the atom bombings.
Covers the controversy over the content of the 1995 Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 exhibition associated with the display of the Enola Gay
Enola Gay
Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named after Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of the pilot, then-Colonel Paul Tibbets. On August 6, 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war...

; includes complete text of the planned (and canceled) exhibition.

External links