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Another question about the use of Atomic Bombs in WW2....

Discussion in 'Wonder Weapons' started by Kentbloke, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. Kentbloke

    Kentbloke recruit

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    Hello everyone. I am a newcomer here, but have many years of fascination and interest in this subject.

    This is my first post, so I do apologise in advance if this is posted in the wrong place, or anything else about my post is inappropriate! please let me know if this is the case!

    My question (I'm surer this is not the first time it has been asked!!) is:

    It has long puzzled me, why did the United States NOT choose Tokyo as a target for an early A-bomb?

    Now obviously, initially the USA was keen to 1) test the devices on "virgin" (near-untouched) cities, to determine their yield and destructive power. This would have been very hard to do, if dropped on a city that was already half-flattened from previous raids; 2) show the world (or mainly, the USSR) just what an awesome new weapon it now possessed, as the early signs of a possible 'cold war' were already simmering. Again, far best demonstrated on a 'virgin' city.

    But, after the first one or two devices were dropped, with such "success", why not go for Tokyo, with the intent also of "decapitating" the regime (to use a much more recent phrase!), as well as to show the people of Japan that even their apparently immortal, God-like Emperor was at the mercy of America's new terrible weapon? it makes a whole lot of sense to me.

    I realise, of course, that the war ended soon after Nagasaki, but nowhere (at least that I have seen) is the idea of hitting Tokyo even mentioned. It does not even appear on any target lists for later devices?!

    Am I the only one to think this?

    Kentblke

    (from London, England).
     
  2. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Welcome to the forum "Kentbike", I think there is one thing which may shift your view on Tokyo as a target. After the first fire-bombings of Tokyo had been done, Gen. LeMay was specifically ordered to stop attacking Tokyo for fear of killing the "emperor/god" Hirohito. The reasoning behind this was because it was felt that as the war turned the "allies" direction his survival would be more advantageous to them than his demise.

    This was the view of both former ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew and the other "Asian experts" in D.C., it was later that MacArthur heard of and supported this position. I believe that Tokyo was removed from the "target list" for any more bombing, conventional/firebombing or atomic later in May of 1945 and never put back on the list.

    Here is some additional information I had posted elsewhere, but couldn't find easily. I found it in my old files.

    There were three ideas as to Japanese "responsibility" and as to what should be done with Hirohito post war proposed to first FDR and then Truman. The first option was the one put forward by the former ambassador to Japan; Joseph Grew, as well as Hugh Burton, andJoseph Ballentine (the Asia scholars) in America proper. This idea was later supported by Gen.MacArthur; i.e. retain the Emperor but make him subservient to the Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP). That was to be MacArthur eventually, but when put forward was not a known certainty.

    The second was to abolish the Chrysanthemum throne completely, and form a completely secular and politically democratic society. This was rejected as being too foreign to the Japanese culture to be enforced from without. If it occurred from inside, that was all well and good, but a totally new version of democracy has ever been successfully imposed on an unwilling civilization (to this day).

    The third option was to force Hirohito to abdicate, be tried for his complicityin the war, and be replaced by one of his many brothers in a constitutional monarchy modeled on the British system. (see Japan Diary, W. Sloane p.340)

    This third option was seen as the least advantageous, and in the words of MacArthur himself, the Japanese would see this as:

    "...the greatest betrayal in their history, and hatreds and resentments engendered by this thought will unquestionably last for all measurable time. A vendetta for revenge will thereby be initiated whose cycle may well not be completed in centuries, if ever." (later writing that)… "and a condition of underground chaos and disorder amounting to guerrilla warfare in the mountains and outlying regions result."

    MacArthur continues with this. "...I believe all hope of introducing modern democratic methods would disappear, and that when military control finally ceased some form of intense regimentation probably along Communist lines would arise for the masses."
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Welcome to the forum! Clint as usual said it all.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Let's not forget that it was Hirohito who made the decision to end the war when the military leadership were determined to carry on to the death - no matter how many deaths that meant. He also played a key role in post-war reconciliation.
     
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Here is a rather disturbing/interesting video narrated by Charlton Heston for the program Secrets of War from the now rather discredited History Channel. Back when they were presenting at least a semblance of history in their programming. This one is called Hirohito's War, and might change the minds of some as to Emperor Hirohito's influence (or lack thereof) in the prosecution of the war period.

    Goto:

    Hulu - Secrets of War: Hirohito's War - Watch the full episode now.
     
  6. CTBurke

    CTBurke Member

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    That Hirohito episode is REALLY WORTH WATCHING!
     
  7. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Clint laid it out very well. However, I think there is an additional factor at play besides wanting to preserve Hirohito. Dropping an atomic bomb on an already-flattened city wouldn't have been much of a statement. Tokyo had already suffered a greater than or equal to number of (immediate) casualties via firebombing than both the bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki combined. Over 50% of the city was already completely destroyed, and I believe civillians would have started to evacuate in some manner. It would have been like dropping a bomb on a pile of rubble -- it would just shift things around. Given that one of the main points of the bombings was to send a message, bombing Tokyo would mean that this message lacked a "punch".
     
  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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  9. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I tried but was informed that it could only be watched in the US - very fustrating!
     
  10. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    Excellent references Clint !!

    Yes, nuking a pile of rubble would make no sense.

    It is only me, but I still say Hirohito should of been hung. Sure he put up opposition to continuing the war when the outcome of his war mongering country was determined. But he did NOTHING in the early parts of Japanese aggression.

    I realize he hated the throne and his only enjoyment was when he visited Europe in his early years. But A true statesman would of died for his reasons not playing along or conceding to Tojo and the "military machine".
     
  11. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That is the difference between the "western culture" and that held by the Japanese at the time. If he was hanged (men are hanged, pictures are hung) the Emperor/God would have made occupation of defeated Japan for all practical purposes an impossibility. It was decided long before the war concluded that Hirohito would be worth more alive than dead to the victorious allies. Killing him by bomb or trial would be counterproductive to allied interests.

    According to Bix, Hirohito was much more involved in the war than the "peaceful marine biologist" persona developed for him post-war. But keeping him alive and subservient to the Allied Supreme Commander was much more practical in the sense of controlling 1 hundred million people.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Can't say I've studied it in detail, but Hirohito's role strikes me as similar to George VI's in Britain. Neither one of them was the real power in their country. They basically ratified and supported decisions made by the government. We can't compare their responsibility to that of Tojo, Chamberlain, Churchill, et. al.
     
  13. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That is most likely a good analogy, but some of the minutes of the meetings between himself and his Army and Navy heads, taken down by the ministers secretaries, show he questioned the plans with seeming full understanding of the import and impact of the actions. He didn't exactly "make suggestions" that had to be followed as Imperial decree, but he certainly let his opinion be known.
     
  14. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Good points Carronade and Clint. At little off-topic, but it reminds me of a school assignment many years ago. The task was "find the leaders of the main axis countries". Essentially it was asking for each nation's "Hitler" -- the one responsible for the war. I already knew the answers: Hitler and Mussolini were obvious, but Japan was a bit different. Knowing that neither Hirohito nor Tojo really had complete control over the country (and seeing as how Tojo had control over the powerful military faction in the Japanese government), I put them both down and noted the ambiguity. In response, I got it wrong because the teacher's answer was "Hirohito". I tried to argue, saying the Hirohito was effectively manipulated by Tojo into entering the war, and exaplaining the military "coup" that occured in the 1920s. He never heard of anything I mentioned, so I eventually gave up.

    As a side note, I've always found the fact that fact that military officers could "disobey" the emperor by manipulating him and going against his orders (ie: the August 16 1945 coup attempt) to be ironic given that the Japanese people were raised to believe the emperor was a living god.
     
  15. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    As always, Clint hit the nail on the head. I think "decapitating" the Japanese regime would have been counter-productive. Hirohito knew more than he is credited for, but killing him would give a complete victory to the militarists, who wanted to prolong the conflict. My reading leads me to believe that they would rather fight to the death, which Hirohito opposed. The use of the atomic bomb convinced the emperor that invasion of the home islands was not in anyone's best interests, but the militarists saw invasion as inevitable, even after the bombs. In any case, Tokyo was off the books, since LeMay's bombs made it unworthy of using a bomb.
     
  16. Panzer4000

    Panzer4000 New Member

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    They chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they were major industrial districts
     
  17. green slime

    green slime Member

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    It wasn't quite that simple.

    The target selection was subject to the following criteria:
    • The target was larger than 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter and was an important target in a large urban area.
    • The blast would create effective damage.
    • The target was unlikely to be attacked by August 1945. "Any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb."[50]
    These cities were largely untouched during the nightly bombing raids and the Army Air Force agreed to leave them off the target list so accurate assessment of the weapon could be made. Hiroshima was described as "an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged.
     
  18. Wild Turkey

    Wild Turkey New Member

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    Just in case it's been overlooked we only had three "devices" -- Trinity, Fat Man and Little Boy. After Nagasaki we were out of atomic bombs for a while.

    As to Hirohito's role I think the radio address to the Japanese people when he announced the surrender (the first time most of them had heard his voice) did a lot to set up the post war reconstruction instead of the human wave homeland defense they were preparing.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There was another bomb that would have been available within a couple of weeks from what I've read and perhaps a dozen or more before the end of the year.
     
  20. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    There is a thread laying around here somewhere that gives the details on bomb production through 2Q 1946. Seems like there were going be around three or four a month produced. It was probably some good information Clint found.
     

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