Three items appear below:

1    Hiroshima and Nagasaki    B M
2    Truman's Great Lie            Bob Potter
3    Hiroshima and Nagasaki    B M



(Investigator 105, 2005 November)


In July 1945 the test explosion of America's first atomic bomb proved successful. In a statement from Potsdam the Allied leaders called on Japan to surrender or face "utter destruction".

On July 30 Japanese leaders rejected the Potsdam ultimatum.


The reason for the Allied ultimatum was the prospect of destruction, death and starvation on a scale never seen before – and this they wanted to avoid.

Operation Starvation had used B-29 bombers, submarines and warships to cut Japan off from her colonies. In July the Japan government called on civilians to collect acorns for converting into food. People subsisted on an average of 1600 calories per day – only ¾ of the minimum needed for survival. By the start of 1946 deaths from starvation in Japan may have averaged a million per month.

America's invasion of Kyushu, the most southern of Japan's four main islands, was planned for November. It would have faced 600,000 Japanese troops and 2 million civilians most of them ready to die.

The invasion would also have faced 10,000 Kamikaze pilots ready to ram their planes into American ships and bombers, 2000 aircraft for conventional aerial battles, 1000 suicide ships and submarines, thousands of "human mines" with explosives strapped to their bodies, and suicide attacks such as the "Banzai" charge.  

In the pre-dawn Banzai charge of July 7 1944 on Saipan (in the Marianas) 4,000 cornered Japanese armed with rifles, swords and sticks charged into the American guns and to their deaths.

They broke through infantry defences pushed forward three kilometres and reached the artillery. As the front ranks were mowed down, others clambered over them and were mowed down in turn. In frantic close up fighting 400 Americans died and 1,000 were wounded. After that, thousands of Japanese civilians and wounded troops committed suicide many by jumping off cliffs.

The carnage on Saipan was a precedent that would have been repeated many times if Japan were invaded.

The Japanese goal on Kyushu would have been the same, to inflict casualties irrespective of the cost in Japanese lives. So many casualties that America would not dare attack the main island, Honshu, where five times as many troops awaited as on Kyushu!

Meanwhile American B-29s and warships would have kept on pulverising Japan's cities and towns killing an average of 8000 people per week.

Edwin Hoyt in Japan's War says:

Also the kamikaze spirit had taken over all the Japanese armed forces. As Admiral Ohnishi said, one did not have to have an airplane to have the kamikaze spirit; the principle was to sacrifice one's life in order to strike an effective blow at the enemy. Thus, soldiers bearing satchel charges threw themselves under tanks, soldiers from neighboring islands approached the warships at anchor around Okinawa, clambered aboard and went charging along the decks, slashing with swords any and everyone until they were cut down. One-man kaiten suicide submarines set out to ram ships. In Japan civilians were being primed to make suicide attacks when the Allied troops hit the beaches. (p. 389)
Japan's 2,500,000 troops in SE Asia, entire undefeated armies, would have fought on against China, Britain and Russia.

About 500,000 prisoners of war in Japan and her colonies would have either starved to death or been executed.

Japan's aim was not to win the war but to inflict such losses as to force a negotiated peace.

Surrender was out of the question. The attitude in Japan was: "We must give our lives to the Emperor and the country, that is our inborn feeling. We Japanese base our lives on obedience to Emperor and country … we wish for the best place – death, according to Bushido."


Bushido was the code of the Samurai of previous centuries and included no surrender in war, suicide if defeated, and total obedience to authority. Such ideas were resurrected as Japan modernised around 1900 AD and children learned from infancy that to die in war was the greatest honour.

These views were the basis of the Emperor's "burn all, kill all and steal all" orders issued to Japan's armies as World War II commenced.

Linked to Bushido was Shinto the state religion, a sort of nature worship. Bushido, Shinto and Emperor worship was the soul of the nation, the way of life. To the Japanese, the Emperor was God and, through his ancestors, descended from the Sun.

The Japanese believed themselves the natural rulers of the world. Foreigners were considered weak and held in contempt.

Already in 1858 an official statement to the Emperor said: "the nations of the world will come to look up to our Emperor as the Great Ruler of all the nations, and they will … submit to our judgement."

Japan's airmen had no parachutes and the army only rudimentary medical supplies. The Geneva Convention was contrary to Bushido and prisoners were treated accordingly. China lost about 20 million people, including 300,000 in the "Rape of Nanking" in 1937:

A former Japanese soldier begged forgiveness…
Former soldier Shiro Azuma described how his unit divided about 7000 prisoners into groups of 300 who were executed. "We were able to kill them because we despised them," he said. (Herald Sun 1998)

On the Thai-Burma railway 100,000 prisoners died. The Death March of Bataan in 1942 started with 300 American prisoners beheaded and 7000 murdered as the march progressed. At Sandakan in Borneo only six prisoners out of 2700 survived.

As Japan's Empire declined, prisoners were transported to Japan in ships with no red cross or other identifying mark. They were trapped below deck when the ships were attacked and sunk:

Many of the men were dying before they were herded onto the ships – dysentery, beri-beri, malaria, starvation had already wasted their limbs and muscles – and once on board, food and water were almost or completely non-existent and always foul; medical aid was nil…; sanitation was usually nil, and – since they were stacked … fifteen men to a space six feet by six feet by three feet high – the prisoners could neither move nor see nor properly breath… they had no choice but to vomit where they sat, and to remain sitting there; and with bowels weakened by dysentery, they could not move from the puddles of infected faeces, nor avoid the dribbles from the stacks of men above. And during long passages especially, it became the crew's pastime to make the prisoners run the gauntlet on deck, staggering from one gun-but to the next, before executions by gun or sword. (Howarth 1985, p. 328)

And so it went on – prisoners murdered, nurses murdered, and 200,000 women from defeated nations forced to give "comfort" to Japanese troops.

By instituting slavery, murder, degradation, forced prostitution and starvation the Japanese conquerors proved their national superiority.

And with such a record the leaders feared horrific retribution if they lost the war.

And so Japanese garrisons fought virtually to the death. Saipan – 30,000 Japanese dead; Leyte Island – 56,000; Iwo Jima – 21,000; Luzon – 190,000; Okinawa – 110,000; etc.

And civilians died too. In the battle for Manilla 30,000 Japanese soldiers perished, but in an "orgy of murder, rape and destruction" they took 100,000 civilians with them. The official order was, "When killing Filipinos, assemble them together in one place … thereby saving ammunition and labour." (Howath p. 329) In one operation 2,000 civilians and suspected guerillas were herded into a prison, the buildings and people sprayed with petrol, and set alight. In another incident soldiers rampaged through the San Juan de Dios hospital bayoneting patients, nurses and doctors.

On Okinawa, adding civilian dead to the toll gives 210,000 Japanese dead. Keegan (1989) says, "Okinawa left an awful warning of what awaited the American forces as the Pacific War drew in towards the perimeter of the Japanese home islands." (p. 574)

And in July 1945 90% of Japan's army remained intact and 90% of the land area of Japan's Empire!


The Kamikaze, meaning "divine wind", were the suicide pilots. They were named after the typhoon that destroyed the Mongol invasion fleet of 1281 AD.

At Okinawa 2,000 Kamikaze sank 28 American ships and damaged over 200 and killed 5,000 American sailors. Sometimes they approached in hundreds raining down like "cherry blossoms".

A further American concern in 1945 was what would the Soviet Union do in Europe and Asia if America got bogged down in a 2 or 3-year conquest of Japan? And since the Soviet Union had agreed to join the war against Japan, how much Japanese territory would it occupy and keep?

In Japan the mobilization and training of 20 million civilians had started. They were to join the fighting even if the only weapons available for many were bamboo spears:

The Japanese had been primed … to believe that if the Americans conquered Japan the men would be reduced to slavery, the women would suffer unspeakable tortures, and the children would be brought up in foreign ways. The Japanese were not willing to accept that. More and more of them were willing to die instead. Their wish, encouraged by the government with all its might, was that they might die so valiantly and hurt the enemy so much, that he would stop his efforts to kill off the whole population and would give Japan a peace with honor. (Hoyte p. 396)

The official line now was that the Allies intended to destroy Japan and turn the Japanese into slaves. Better death than slavery; the people must be ready to defend their sacred land to the last, and if it meant the death of the Japanese race, so be it. (ibid p. 399)

On and around Okinawa, 7800 Japanese planes and 800 American planes were downed. In describing Japanese preparation on Kyushu Warner & Warner (1983) state that suicide planes swarming into American transports in waves of 300 to 400 every hour, "would have made Okinawa seem almost like a Sunday school picnic." (p. 256)

American casualties on Kyushu, it was estimated by comparison with Okinawa, would be over 260,000. And to defeat Japan completely could cost as many American casualties as in the previous 3½ years of World War II.

This expectation plus the sheer ferocity of the Okinawa campaign were the key considerations in deciding to use atomic bombs.

Theodore van Kirk, navigator of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, said in 2005 that Japan was a defeated nation but the bomb was necessary: "Because that militaristic government they had was just too stubborn [to surrender]. I guess there's no way to describe it except stupid."


And so the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 killing 70,000 and on Nagasaki on August 9 killing 40,000.

Between those dates, on August 8, Russia declared war on Japan, invaded Manchuria with 1½ million troops, and began taking on Japan's 750,000-man Kwantung Army. On August 12th Russia invaded southern Sakhalin Island.

On the 15th Japan accepted America's surrender terms and on the 18th the Emperor ordered the Kwantung Army to cease fighting. The Soviets surrounded large portions of it, which progressively surrendered, but continued advancing until Japan signed the American surrender documents on September 2. Matanle (1989) says, "Only the final surrender of Japan saved the Soviet troops from a protracted and bloody campaign of the sort the Americans had suffered…"

For a week after Hiroshima Japan's War Council remained deadlocked on whether to surrender or fight on. Some argued (correctly) that America had only one or two more atomic bombs. Japan could cope, they concluded, because atomic bombs were not as destructive as the great fire raid on Tokyo in March.

That raid obliterated 16 square miles of Tokyo and killed 89,000. The cumulative effect of all the B-29 raids was much worse again – about 670,000 died in Japan from air raids. Therefore:

[The generals] were quite willing to live with the atomic bomb… So one or two more atomic bombs would be dropped, and there would be more destruction, but the war could go on. (Hoyt p. 401)
The Emperor was then invited to vote and break the deadlock. He voted for surrender.

Even then an attempted coup by officers wanting to continue the war narrowly failed.

Some argue that Japan would have soon surrendered without atomic bombs being used. In view of Japan's rejection of the Potsdam ultimatum, the defence preparations in Japan, and the War Council's indecision even after Nagasaki this is doubtful!

Japan showed what can happen when unscientific racism, superstition, unquestioning obedience, glorification of suicide, and a brutality-promoting code become a nation's way of life.

Herald Sun, Wednesday, August 19, 1998, p. 24
Howarth, S 1985 Morning Glory, Arrow edition
Hoyt, E P 1989 Japan's War The Great Pacific Conflict, Arrow Books
Keegan, J 1989 The Second World War, Hutchinson
Matanle, I 1989 World War II, Color Library Books
Warner, D and Warner, P 1983 Kamikaze The Sacred Warriors 1944-45, Oxford University Press.


HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI – Truman's Great Lie

Bob Potter

(Investigator 106, 2006 January)

It was a surprise to read B M's article, written a decade ago, albeit "revised", as it contained none of more recent and relevant information currently available. In spite of the claims made by Harry S Truman at the time, we now know the bombing of Hiroshima was not a military necessity – indeed top American military commanders of the period were united in their opposition to the use of the bomb.

Richard Nixon later referred to one old soldier (well remembered by Australians!) deeply disturbed about it. Let Nixon reminisce: "MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment … MacArthur you see, was a soldier.  He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off."

Although Truman argued the atomic bomb was dictated by military requirement, evidence now unearthed from official and unofficial sources, shows that the supreme commander in the Pacific, was not the only American military leader shocked by the proposal. Virtually all senior generals and admirals of that time thought the bomb was not required to end the war against Japan.

It has long been known that Dwight Eisenhower felt "it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing"; he told both Truman and Henry Stimson, secretary of war, not to use the new weapon. Admiral William Leahy, Truman's chief of staff, also insisted the Japanese were ready to surrender and that "the use of this barbarous weapon … was of no material assistance." In his The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, Harper Collins (1995), Gar Alperovitz cites expansions of the above quotations, together with evidence from unpublished diaries, private correspondence and internal military interviews of numerous key figures.

Notes found in the papers of Averell Harriman, wartime ambassador to the Soviet Union, cast dramatic light on airforce thinking.  Following a dinner with General Carl Spaatz, then commanding general of US Army Strategic Air Force and Frederick Anderson, Spaatz's one-time deputy, Harriman wrote: "Both men felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and neither knew why the second bomb was used … I know this attitude is correctly described because I had it from the airforce when I was in Washington in April '45."

Truman's decision was political, not military; he lied to the world not yet committed to the 'cold war' he was planning. In the 1980s, the papers of John McCloy, assistant secretary of war, were made public; McCloy elaborated: "I can recall as if it were yesterday [General George Marshall, the army chief of staff's] insistence to me that whether we should drop an atomic bomb on Japan was a matter for the President to decide, not the chief of staff, since it was not a military question".

Although Truman claimed the he used the weapon because of military advice given him at the Potsdam conference, there is no evidence of any such military meeting. So what was the reason for using the bombs?  Perhaps we should consider the view expressed by Brigadier-General Carter W Clarke, in charge of preparing intercepts of secret Japanese cables, for a blunt answer? "We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs."

Most readers will be aware, there is considerable supporting material for all I have detailed above – from non-American sources, Soviet, British and Japanese. I prefer to keep my contribution short and to confine myself to a brief overview of the important American sources.   It is for the interested reader, new to this topic, to conduct their own searches; to perhaps investigate the political repercussions that necessitated ending the war with an ostensible display of US atomic power. Two 'guinea pig targets' were required for testing the two bombs – fusion and fission – and thousands of innocent civilians, living in cities selected by the USAF precisely because they were undefended and had no war industries, were condemned to be "fall guys".





(Investigator 107, 2006 March)

Dr Potter (#106) suggests that the minimising of casualties, and the risk of Russian invasion of Japan, were not an issue in 1945.

The real reasons for dropping the atomic bombs were to justify their expense, try them out, and impress the Russians:  

Dwight Eisenhower felt "it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing"; he told both Truman and Henry Stimson, secretary of war, not to use the new weapon…

We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment…

From the information I supplied (#105) it's clear the Japanese had no intention to surrender, and deaths could amount to tens of millions. Additional information is in "Operation Downfall" by D M Giangreco in Journal of Military History July 1997, 521-582.

In 1945 William Shockley – without considering the effect of continued fighting in China, Korea and elsewhere – estimated that the complete defeat of Japan could cost 10 million Japanese dead and up to 4 million American casualties including 800,000 dead.

The Japanese commanders had every hope of smashing the American invasion of Kyushu. Their plan was to overwhelm the invasion with 8,000 kamikaze plus 1,000 suicide boats. With one kamikaze in eight scoring a hit they hoped to damage 800 American warships and sink 70 in a few days.

The "bomb" wasn't "necessary" to end the war – if two years of further warfare, tens of millions of dead, and much of Japan occupied by the Soviet Union were better options.

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