Were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary to end WW2?
Debate Rounds (5)
Necessary: required to be done, achieved, or present; needed; essential.
Pro can begin arguing in round 1
Dropping the bombs was absolutely necessary to end the war. Before I get into the details, I want to explain something about Japanese culture in the 40's- and even today. The Japanese were fiercely loyal to their country. They would fight to the last man. For them, surrender was unthinkable. American soldiers invading Japanese controlled islands in 1944 and 1945 saw Japanese gunners with limbs blown off continue to fire their machine guns at the advancing GI's . Japanese sailors who had had their ships sunk would swallow water and drown to avoid being taken prisoner by the Americans. And 1945 saw extensive use of kamikaze pilots and kaitens. A kamikaze pilot was a pilot that loaded his plane with as much explosive as possible, then crashed it into enemy ships. He would die. A kaiten was a manned torpedo. A kaiten operator had no chance of survival. If his torpedo hit his mark, he would die in the explosion. If his torpedo missed, it would run out of fuel and he would sink to the ocean floor. Their were nearly no recorded Japanese surrenders in WWII. There is a reason for that.
Now, you may be asking what this has to do with the bombs. Well, if the bombs hadn't been dropped, and invasion of the Japanese homeland would have been necessary. And the Japanese would've fought back tooth and nail. They would've given everything from rifles to rocks to Japanese citizens aged from 70 to 7, and told them to die for their country. And they would have obeyed. If you think that having 7-year-olds in combat is crazy, well, it's not a hyperbole. Young Japanese children fought the British in Burma all the way up to the surrender. So yes. To preserve all those lives, military and civilian, the dropping of the bomb was necessary.
I hope you're not offended that I didn't type that all out again.
Point 1: The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary because Japan was already on the brink of collapse. It is well documented that Japan was extremely damaged by the war already. American air raids ravaged what remained of the Japanese Empire. Massive air raids were conducted by the American Air Force. One of these, on May 23 1945, consisted of 520 B-29 "Superfortresses" dropping 4,500 TONS of incendiary bombs upon the capital city of Tokyo. After a second strike with 502 B-29's two days later, they collectively obliterated 56 SQUARE MILES of Japan's capital. The American Air Force General Curtis LeMay even boasted that we were "driving them [Japanese] back to the stone age."
The amount of destruction and plain chaos in Japan, as well as the almost gone military, make atomic bombs unnecessary to the war. There was no way Japan could retaliate, as they had nothing to retaliate with. This leads right into my second point.
Point 2: The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary because Japan was already trying to negotiate peace with the allies, using Russia as the medium. By early July 1945 the US had intercepted messages from Togo to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, showing that the Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort, and had directed that the Soviet Union be asked to help end the war. It is widely documented that this is the case. The State Department in 1945 even reported it, as I will let the historian Gar Alperovitz (who is arguably an expert on the use of the atomic bomb) describe:
"In mid-April  the [US] Joint Intelligence Committee reported that Japanese leaders were looking for a way to modify the surrender terms to end the war. The State Department was convinced the Emperor was actively seeking a way to stop the fighting."
President Roosevelt received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials. (The complete text of an article describing this is in the Winter 1985-86 Journal, pp. 508-512.)
This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 -- that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. Specifically, the terms of these peace overtures included:
* Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.
* Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
* Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
* Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.
* Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
* Surrender of designated war criminals.
This memorandum is completely authentic. General Douglas MacArthur confirmed it in 1951. This clearly shows that surrender terms had been put forward by the Japanese before the bombs were dropped.
And the US certainly knew how to get the information on Japan's negotiation attempts. The Army broke the Japanese code long before the atomic bombs. In fact, it was broken before Pearl Harbor. There was no doubt that Japan was defeated, and was trying to surrender. Even before surrender attempts with Russia, they had tried with Sweden and Portugal and Switzerland (neutral countries). Sweden actually sent the message to the US, but the Secretary of State Edward Stettinius said to "show no interest or take any initiative in pursuit of the matter."
So which officials believed the bombs weren't necessary? Among the voices of dissent were: General Eisenhower, Admiral William Leahy, General Douglas MacArthur, the Assistant Secretary of War, General Curtis LeMay, Brigadier General Bonnie Fellers, and dozens of other influential officials. Even the Japanese (specifically, the Prime Minister of Japan) said that it was not the atomic bombs that made them surrender, but the bombing from B-29's.
Perhaps the biggest and most qualified voice of dissent was the US Strategic Bombing Survey, created in 1946 by the US government, and headed by the Secretary of War to review the usage of bombs in WWII impartially. This survey reviewed the use of bombs from Berlin to Tokyo. It was incredibly comprehensive and was comprised of thousands of pages of data and summary on the use of bombs in the war. Even though they generally favored the allies use of bombs (not through bias, but through fact), there was one thing they most certainly were unfavorable towards. The use of the atomic bombs. To quote their report directly:
"The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the testimony of the enemy leaders who ended the war did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender. The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended even if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms ...
Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets, stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity ...
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 [the date of the planned American invasion], 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."
The bombs were clearly unnecessary.
Point 3: The USSR was going to invade Japan. Just one day after we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, The USSR was set to declare war on Japan. Even before the second bomb was dropped, the USSR started to invade Manchuria with thousands of troops. This was likely a major cause for the Japanese surrender, according to historians. As Germany had been subdued earlier that year, Japan understood that the Allies were about to concentrate the full power of their military unto Japan. Waiting just a couple more days would have brought around an unconditional surrender, without the loss of 225,000 civilian lives.
This counters your points about Japan being proud and continuing to fight long after they would without the bombs.
Once again, thank you Pro for accepting. And don't worry about the copying thing, as long as we get to debate it doesn't matter whether you write it or copy it from your earlier posts.
Also, can we have no forfeits? It's annoying when you put time and effort into an argument, only to see it go to waste.
I await your responses!
Point 1 Rebuttal: Yes, the Japanese empire (If it could even be considered an empire at this point in the war), was certainly on the brink of collapse in early to mid 1945. That point is not up for debate, so your evidence there is superfluous. (Although still appreciated, I'm glad that you're taking this seriously.) However, what is up for debate is whether or not this made dropping the bombs unnecessary. I would argue that no, it did not. You have to consider, what was the alternative? An invasion of Japan?
If you read the following Atlantic article (http://www.theatlantic.com...), you will see that an amphibious landing, while possible, would have been disastrous for both sides. Yes, the result would have been the Star Spangled Banner flapping over Tokyo. But, -if you will allow a cliche here- at what cost? Notice the wording of the anonymous Japanese officer in paragraph four. "We would have kept on fighting until all Japanese were killed, but we would not have been defeated." All Japanese? All? There were 71,998,104 people living in Japan in 1945. His statement is a hyperbole- but not an extreme one. If we assume that 50% of the Japanese population would have been told to fight (see my first argument) and another 50% of them were killed, we have a Japanese death toll of... 17,999,526. Add this to the U.S. military's estimated casualties in an invasion (A quarter million), and we have... 18,249,526 lives lost. At absolute most (just google lives lost in the bombs), there were 225,000 people killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Little Boy and Fat Man saved 18,024,526 lives. And to say that the Japanese had nothing to fight back with is not true. They had rocks. Knives. This is no exaggeration. I'm sure you agree with me that this is a sobering thought.
Point 2 Rebuttal: Japan's main government was six people, known as "The Big Six", a brilliantly creative name. ;) Three political leaders, three military. It's true, the political leaders wanted peace. But the military leaders objected. Surrender was the most shameful thing ever, in their opinion, and they would have to part in it. And as long as they remained undecided, there would be war. However, if the Japanese were open to peace, they had the chance to lay down their arms. The Potsdam Declaration was an attempt by the British and The U.S. governments at peace, delivered several days before the bombs. Here is the link: (http://www.ndl.go.jp...) Please take note of the following quotes "Given an opportunity to end this war." (Paragraph One) and "The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." (Paragraph Thirteen) They show that, yes, Japanese surrender was possible, even wanted, by the allies. And the second quote, while it doesn't specifically mention the bomb, is warning enough for the Japanese. In fact, leaflets (http://www.pbs.org...) were dropped on Japanese cities, detailing the horrors about to be visited upon them. There was ample warning. And I would like to inquire exactly when the "40-page memorandum" was received. I trust that it is authentic, but is it possible that it was sent after the bombs were dropped? Please date this document in your next argument.
Point 3 Rebuttal: The USSR definitely wanted a piece of the collapsing Japanese empire. But were they willing to invade after their own losses on the front with Germany? This is not a challenge, I just think it far more likely that they would have simply let the Americans take the last of the Japanese bullets. I actually, to be honest, have never heard this opinion. If you can provide some evidence, I'd actually like to look into that. It sounds interesting.
If you want to see a list of the Japanese high command (I believe several of these men were in the Big Six) go here: (http://secondworldwar.co.uk...) And I certainly hope to give you a challenging argument! Thank you for actually providing evidence and backing up your arguments (Unlike many on this site). Happy Memorial Day!
I shall rebut you points in order too, to keep it neat.
Point 1 rebut: The alternative was most definitely not an invasion of Japan. My point 2 showed that Japan was trying to surrender and the Emperor (who was viewed as a god to the Japanese) was heading the effort. As the leader of Japan, his officers could not argue with him. I'm sure you know many officers didn't want to end the war even after the bombs. But they laid down their weapons when the Emperor commanded it of them. The exact same thing would have happened if we hadn't dropped the bomb. Since what defeated them "was the prolonged bombing from the B-29's", as the Japanese Prime Minister of the time said, the Japanese would have still done what the emperor commanded of them, and ended the war by laying down their weapons. Historians, ranked officials, the Strategic Bombing Survey (which, if I may remind you, is the most complete review of the atomic bombs use, ever)... they all say the exact same thing.
The anonymous Japanese officer laid down his arms when the surrender was signed, did he not? So did the military leaders? Even though they believed it to be the most shameful thing to do, and they wanted to keep fighting, they respected the Emperors wishes. This shows how willing they were to do what he commanded. Once again, combine this with the fact that it was the mass bombings of Tokyo and other cities that pushed Japan to surrender, and the evidence shows that a surrender before the bombs would have been just as easy as the surrender that took place after the bombs were dropped.
The Potsdam declaration was an unconditional surrender put forth by the allies. As Japan did not know what exactly that entailed, they thought it was simply another allied proposal, rehashed. However, what they did not realize, and what the US did not specify, was that the unconditional surrender actually held virtually the same terms as the surrender Japan had sent to the US months earlier. One notable condition detailed in Japan's message was that they would be allowed to keep the Emperor on the throne. The US was opposed vehemently to this idea, but allowed him to stay on the throne even after the unconditional surrender was signed. If Japan had known this and a few other things in advance, it is in all likelihood that they would have signed onto the Potsdam declaration.
That 40 page was sent to the US while Roosevelt was still in office. This means that it was received before April 12, 1945. The US rejected that surrender, which they could have accepted and stopped the war. That is why the bombs were not necessary to end WWII. There were multiple times where the US could have ended it without bloodshed. And to quote the Institute for Historical Review (an extremely informative and fact based institute regarding much of US history):
"Trohan's article revealed that two days prior to Roosevelt's departure for Yalta, the president received a crucial, forty page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from highly placed Jap officials offering surrender terms which were virtually identical to the ones eventually dictated by the Allies to the Japanese in August.
The MacArthur communication was leaked to Trohan in early 1945 by Admiral William D. Leahy, FDR's chief of staff, who feared it would be classified as top secret for decades or even destroyed. The authenticity of Trohan's article (which elicited no editorial notice or re-publication in any other major U.S. newspaper), was never challenged by the White House. Former President Herbert Hoover personally queried General MacArthur on the Tribune's story and the general acknowledged its accuracy in every detail.
According to Harry Elmer Barnes (famed American scholar and historian) Truman was aware of the January surrender offer by the Japanese and privately confessed that both atomic warfare as well as further conventional military operations were unnecessary for concluding the war in the Pacific."
This shows that not only is this memorandum backed up by MacArthur, FDR, and William D. Leahy, but Truman HIMSELF confessed that the atomic bombs were not necessary. So Japan might have refused the Potsdam Declaration (for fear of the "unconditional" part of the surrender), they sent an entire 40 page message to the US on behalf of five different surrenders from executive Japanese officials.
Some more quotes from the article by Trohan (Chicago Tribune reporter Walter Trohan), written August 19, 1945, that further strengthen my argument:
"Release of all censorship restrictions in the United States makes it possible to report that the first Japanese peace bid was relayed to the White House seven months ago.
The offer, as relayed by MacArthur, contemplated abject surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. The suggestion was advanced from the Japanese quarters making the offer that the Emperor become a puppet in the hands of American forces.
Two of the five Jap overtures were made through American channels and three through British channels. All came from responsible Japanese, acting for Emperor Hirohito."
That is all for my points on the surrender of Japan.
The USSR was not ready to let the Americans take the Japanese bullets. They had amassed troops to Manchuria and were marching toward Japan when the latter agreed to the "unconditional" surrender. And yes, I would be happy to provide evidence! I will post it in the comment section by 12:00 AM CT.
Thank you for presenting a challenge to me! I have learned quote a few more things about Japan and the atomic bombs through you and through research done thanks to you.
When doing research for my argument, I came across this website (http://www.ihr.org...) This is clearly the website that you have been using for almost all your evidence. I'm not saying that's a bad thing (The site looks pretty reputable to me), but I am a little disappointed that you didn't share the URL with me. Anyway, my response.
Now that we have all each other's evidence, we can get down into the real debate. I was actually interested to see the sites and sources claiming that Japan had tried to surrender before the bombs were dropped. Now, this doesn't make that true (Although it's possible), but now let's assume that it is absolute fact. This keeps everything more organized. After learning this (Remember, treat it as a fact now.), I thought it over. It's actually really interesting. The 40 page report isn't available to the public, so we can only guess at it's content. Does it change things? So Japan tried to surrender- we "know" that. But however similar to the U.S.'s ultimatum, we know that this surrender was not exactly the same. If the Japanese had just accepted the terms, there would be no need for a 40-page report. My guess, and this as probably just as good as yours, is that the Japanese took some of the ideas from the Potsdam Declaration and "softened" them so that they would be less devastating to the Japanese economy. After all, unconditional surrender is a hard pill to swallow, especially for the Japanese pride.
So there are several possibilities here.
One, the Japanese took the Potsdam Declaration and made it more like an armistice than a surrender. If this is the case, dropping the bombs would probably have been necessary later on, but not at that time. In this case we tie.
Two, The Japanese accepted the surrender nearly as-is, except with a few changes. This may have not been reason to end the war, but it certainly made the bombs unnecessary. In this case you win.
Three, even though we are accepting the surrender as fact, I don't think there is enough concrete evidence to prove it. So the third possibility is that the surrender never happened, or can't be proved, in which case I win.
I personally think that the first possibility is the most likely. However, there is no way to be certain which- or if any - of these possibilities are true. In which case, our voters might as well "flip a three-sided coin" to decide who to vote for. In any case, thank you for introducing me to some new ideas. I'm sure you agree that our debate has moved from the realm of ethics and has turned into more of a case of "Who's evidence is correct?"
You also mentioned the USSR in Manchuria. If you could get some evidence that they were planning on invading, and I could get some evidence to the contrary, we could keep going. After all, we need to fill up two more rounds.
invasion, a surrender would be better. Plus, my arguments show that the invasion wouldn't have occurred.
I'm sorry for not linking my evidence. I just did so in the comment section if you want to refer to them, as I promised.
I did some more research into something I prematurely wrote in my last argument. The forty page memorandum was the EXACT same as the Potsdam Declaration, minus the Japanese condition that the emperor be allowed to stay in power. That is the only reason Japan did not agree to the Potsdam Declaration. In Japan, the Emperor was viewed as a god. If he was deposed by the US, or by anyone, chaos would ensue. The Japanese terms in the memorandum said to keep the Emperor on the throne, even if he is only a puppet. A quote from one of the leading historians on the atomic bombs use, Robert Butow (Kinda wordy):
"To have acted against the express wishes of an Emperor whom they had unceasingly extolled as sacred and inviolable and around whom they had woven a fabric of individual loyalty and national unity would have been to destroy the very polity in perpetuation of which they had persistently declared they were fighting."
Still, the US rejected it. If they hadn't, the war would have been over months before the atomic bomb, or even the Potsdam Declaration. So, the atomic bombs were not necessary as the war could have been ended through peaceful terms months before. This similarity between the memorandum and the Potsdam declaration means that Japan couldn't have softened the declaration, as the emperors power was the only difference.
This memorandum was received when president Roosevelt was still president. Specifically, it was received February 1st, 1945. That is approximately five months before the Potsdam Declaration was sent to Japan. There was no way the memorandum could have been influenced by a declaration released 5 months later, as you seem to believe.
And remember, General MacArthur, Admiral Leahy and FDR all back up this memorandum as true. Even Truman confessed to the bombs being unnecessary.
Were your possibilities fully hypothetical? By that, I mean do you believe that Japan had already changed the surrender to be like an armistice, and then had agreed with the US on it, or that they could do so? That will help me talk about them in the next round. And I agree, this does seem to be more about fact than ethics now. Which could be better because ethics aren't as cut and dry.
Also, what do you find to not be concrete in my evidence?
Regarding your requests about the USSR, I found quite a bit of evidence showing that on August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria with 1 million troops. This maneuver was meant to take on the 700,000 strong Japanese Army based there. They even engaged troops at Pingyanchen, killing 650 Japanese. The strength of the invasion made even the toughest military leaders of Japan waver, and forced them to accept the unconditional surrender despite the lack of terms regarding Emperor Hirohito. Waiting just a few weeks would have ensured the surrender of Japan without the death of any Americans, if the evidence of pre bomb surrender isn't enough for you. Known as the Soviet-Japanese War, it lasted 3 weeks and 3 days(August 9 through September 2), resulting in the deaths of 21,389 Japanese (Japanese data) and 12,031 Soviets (data from David Glantz, historian). There is absolutely no way Japan would have kept fighting for long, and with no American lives lost as the USSR was doing the fighting for us.
Wow. This is the most fun and challenging debate I've had so far. Thank you for it!
Yes, the possibilities were hypothetical. And any one of them is possible. However, since there is no solid evidence to back up any of them, I think that it is better if we let the voters form their own opinions about that and focus on other aspects- for example, the USSR. You also mention that the Japanese would never have acted against their emperor, and he wanted peace. That's true, but he never voiced this publicly, so they might have had no idea about his opinion.
For your claim about there being no solid evidence regarding any of those possibilities, including the surrender one:
"The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended even if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms ..."
-Very solid quote from the Strategic Bombing Survey
"...the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender."
-Dwight Eisenhower, as a general in WWII
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon 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."
-Admiral William Leahy, Chief of Staff to both Truman and FDR
"...the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945...up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; ...if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs."
-Herbert Hoover, President of the US from 1929-1933
"When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."
-Norman Cousins in interview with General Douglas MacArthur, one of our best and most famous generals.
"Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands [scheduled for November 1, 1945] would have been necessary."
-Paul Nitze, Vice Chairman of the Strategic Bombing Survey
What we can easily take from some of the most highly ranked officials in the US government, is that the atomic bombs were not at all necessary to end the war.
You mentioned that the emperor never voiced his surrender contemplation publicly, and they might have had no idea of his opinion. However, they did not resist him when he announced the surrender of Japan after the bombs. As the atomic bombs did not affect the Japanese decisons, as i will let Japanese Prime Minister of the time, Fumimaro Konoye, say: "Fundamentally, the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing by the B-29s."
This refers to the mass bombing raids set upon Japan before the atomic bomb. As the Japanese felt the same about surrender before the atomic bombs as after, the people would not have resisted the emperors decision.
A list of final sources will be posted in the comment section for those who would like to know more information (and for credibility)
Thank you for a fun and challenging debate!
"We would have kept on fighting until all Japanese were killed, but we would not have been defeated."
He also says that to them the losses of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were parts of a grand strategy to lure the American forces closer and closer to the homeland, until they could be pounced upon and utterly annihilated.
So the Japanese were not going to surrender, at least not the common soldiers. In fact, many of those kept fighting after the war was over. See this article- https://en.wikipedia.org.... The emperor wanted surrender, but he didn't request it, and that makes all the difference. As for your USSR invasion, you need to provide evidence- in the debate. So it's too late now.
Thank you as well for debating me! Oh and even though it's irrelevant, the Soviet did know about the bombs, despite the secrecy of the Manhattan project. Read "Bomb", by Steve Sheinken.
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