Aerial photo of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, from about 50 miles away—an hour after the atomic bomb was dropped

As we remember the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, consider an idea which history books will never tell you: the US did not have have to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II.

This makes the decision to use A-bombs to kill 200,000 people and permanently damage thousands of additional lives more  than a case of excessive force—this is a crime against humanity.

After World War II, President Harry Truman created the US Strategic Bombing Survey, which reviewed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and concluded (source):

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.

But anyone can make an after-the-fact analysis and say that hitting Japan with WMDs was wrong, right?

The atomic bomb blast reached temperatures over 10,000°F. Residents far away from the blast were not safe from tissue-scarring caused by radiation burns

This is where Admiral John Leahy, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Harry Truman’s quarterback for all military activities during World War II, comes in. Admiral Leahy wrote in his memoirs that the use of atomic bombs was unnecessary since Japan was already on the verge of defeat:

A large part of the Japanese Navy was already on the bottom of the sea. The same was true of Japanese merchant shipping. There was every indication that our Navy would soon have the rest of Tokyo’s warships sunk or out of action. The combined Navy surface and Air Force action even by this time had forced Japan into a position that made her early surrender inevitable.

Before Dwight Eisenhower became President of the United States, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. “Ike” said, according to the November 11, 1963 issue of Newsweek:

The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.

Virtually every military leader who was on active duty during World War II felt there was no need to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

The slight shadow on these bank steps indicate where a person's body was incinerated after the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast

And while dropping two WMDs on any nation is clearly a decision which warrants study and debate among senior military planners, there’s no record of such activity among the Joint Chiefs of Staff prior to the A-bomb attacks on Japan.

So, why did the US want to create so much death and destruction in Japan?

The official reason is that dropping the bombs would save lives.

No, really—the US felt that an invasion on Japan would be costly, resulting a large number of US servicemen deaths in addition to the 50,000+ American lives already lost during WWII.


But remember what all those military leaders said about Japan already being on the verge of defeat or surrender?

I get the sense that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were intended to be the America’s Superpower Coming-Out Party—so it can show the world its powerful new toy.

But the country never considered how this innovative show of force would lead to yet another brilliant invention: the modern-day arms race…

song currently stuck in my head: “all the way” – potato head people

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