How could US drop the a-bomb on Civilians?

Discussion in 'History' started by aaqucnaona, Jan 18, 2012.


Was Us justified in dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    While I do not agree that the use of nuclear weapons against innocent civilians is justified, I would also point out that there were other allied bombing campaigns against civilians that were similar in terms of destruction and loss of human life. The firebombing of Dresden killed between 25,000 and 200,000 peopled depending on which estimates you use; the firebombing of Hamburg killed 50,000. Compare that to the two atomic bombs which killed ~70,000 and ~120,000 a piece.

    The problem is that in the end analysis, the victors write history - and thus can use that platform to attempt to justify any action.
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Not true during the war - but certainly true by the end of the war. That's the main reason the allies won. While the allies continued to pound Germany's rubber, ball bearing and electrical factories, the US's untouchable economy kept pouring aircraft, ammunition and tanks into the war effort.

    There is a common misconception that the allies won the war by their superior fighting skills, superior equipment, superior leadership etc etc. Not really true. After the war the French countryside was littered with crashed Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs, most caused by mechanical failure or pilot error. They actually far outnumbered the number the Germans shot down.

    But every time we'd crash an airplane (and every time the Germans shot one down) we'd roll out ten more. Every time the Germans lost a plane they'd lose another set of irreplaceable tires, ball bearings, engines and guns. They might win against the allies in a one-to-one fight but they could not win the war of attrition.
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  5. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    No, those people were not actively engaged in any kind of war against Al Qaeda.
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  7. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  8. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Don't forget about the war of human attrition waged between the Nazis and USSR.

    Or the intelligence war. The fact that the USA and UK were reading Axis communications (but not, mostly, the other way around) made a massive - and frequently underappreciated - difference.
  9. superstring01 Moderator

    I accidentally hit the "no" when I meant yes.

    The question cannot arbitrarily single out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The USA, Britain, Canada, Australia, China and the USSR mercilessly targeted cities in Italy, Japan and Germany for fire bombing. No target was considered to sacred. The was was one of survival for a good number of those involved (the USA and Canada being noteworthy for not having their direct survival at stake). Since each nation had mobilized its entire civilian and industrial base for war, the war was brought to the people.

    In Germany and Japan, entire cities were firebombed. More people died during the fire bombings--and at significantly increased risk to the Allies--than did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But "saving lives" wasn't even on the radar for the allies, nor should it have been. The USA would have been justified in dropping its paltry supply of one nuke a month--in-perpetuity--until the entire Japanese archipelago was sterilized or until surrender. That is the nature of "all out war".

    So, yes. The USA was justified. Japan was a blood-thirsty and implacable enemy intent on crushing every one of her neighbors. She dragged China, Britain and the USA into war with her. The nation marched thousands to their deaths and slaughtered millions during its war of conquest in Asia.

    The Japanese were so resolute in their unwillingness to surrender that even after one atomic bomb was dropped, the Japanese war ministry refused to surrender. After the second was dropped, the Japanese military attempted a coup to prevent the Japanese from surrendering.

    The Allies had issues the Potsdam Proclamation against the Japanese. After years of Japanese and German slaughtering millions of people, it was determined that their existence would be up to the Allies to determine and that ONLY upon their surrender to the Allies would any mercy be shown. The Japanese knew, full well, that they had lost and had every single opportunity available to them to sue for peace. They did not.

    The USA was not obligated to tell the Japanese about the bomb. Even the idea that the US could give such a warning is a bit strange, kind of like the continued 'why didn't the Americans bomb the camp rails' question, seems nice and clean on the surface but consider:

    1. US/Japan negotiations were in a slow complex phase. At this point the US was having trouble fully understanding the meaning of Japan's response to requests for surrender.

    2. The US and Japan didn't have diplomatic relations. US would have needed to go through a third party to make such messages, likely the Soviet Union. The US would have NEVER given the Soviets any intelligence about the nuclear bomb. Nor would the US have allowed any nation to know about it. The nuclear bomb was America's number one secret, no middle man could have been trusted.

    3. There is no reason to suppose that Japan's rigid military government would have believed such a warning at all, or even been able to process it.

    4. The US had 3 ready nuclear bombs. It took two surprise attacks on heavily populated areas combined with a Soviet mass attack in China to finally get Japan to agree to end the war. Allowing Japan time to move people and material from cities hit would have increased the chance of Japan continuing to fight.

    5. An American President who made such a gesture towards Japan, given the climate in the US after Pearl Harbor, would have brought political destruction upon himself and his party, and might have been impeached.

    6. Japan still had some fighters and early rocket planes. Telling Japan beforehand that we are going to use our most advanced weapons upon you in location X at time T would have given Japan a chance to blow the planes out of the air. This would have rallied the people of Japan and could have significantly prolonged the war, and been an irresponsible waste of US effort and men after the largest project in world history.

    7. The US was following a merciless program of intense bombing of civilian targets. It probably would not have even crossed the minds of many to not use yet another weapon on civilian targets, as incendiary bombing had already killed many more than would ever be killed by the 2 nuclear bombs.

    8. The US was already starting not to trust the Soviet Union, and Truman most likely wanted to make it very clear to Stalin the power of the weapon the US was holding, and what the US could do to the Soviet Union

  10. leopold Valued Senior Member

    yes, some was built in germany.
    the "meat" of german productivity was in the conquered countries.
    rockets were constructed at peemunde, on the north sea, not in germany.
    the ruhr valley produced a vast amount of heavy machinery.
  11. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Both Peenemunde and the Ruhr Valley are (and were) located in Germany. Not sure what you think you're talking about.
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    And the people in Dresden were not actively engaged in any kind of war against the allies. (Other than its industrial areas, and those were ignored; the residential areas were targeted.) And Nagasaki was chosen primarily for its religious significance for the Japanese. Indeed the Targeting Committee later admitted they were not chosen because of their association with the war effort - "It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released."

    If those reasons work for us choosing those targets, they certainly work for Al Qaeda. The WTC attack was indeed spectacular, and had a very strong psychological effect. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
  13. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Yes they were. The entire German economy and nation was mobilized to wage war on the Allies at that point. There was nobody in Germany at that time who was not actively waging engaged in war against the Allies. That's what a "total war" is.

    The people who lived in those residential areas, are the people who worked in the industrial areas.

    Targetting the industry more effectively would have been a good idea. But this is a total war that we're talking about.

    Well, no. The comparison is not so simple and pat as all that. Just war theory requires that expected damages need to be in proportion to expected gains. The reasonably expected gain of bringing the war with Japan to an end is, arguably, in proportion to the damage inflicted in those bombings. The reasonable expected result of 9/11 - starting a bunch of wars - doesn't justify anything. It's aggression.

    There is also the point that WWII was an actual total war, whereas 2001 was a time of peace. The USA was not waging war on anybody, let alone total war. Comparing acts of aggression in peacetime, to acts undertaken in the context of a globe-spanning total war, is inane to the point of idiocy.

    If the Allies had up and firebombed Dresden back in, say, 1938, then you'd have a point.
  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    You can surely make that argument, that the entire population was supporting the military goals of the government (although I am sure many Dresden inhabitants would disagree.) But again, if you make that argument you can't then make the argument "but the people in NYC weren't at war with Islamic militants, because it was only our government attacking them."

    And if they achieve their goals, they are by your definition, justified - as long as they call it "total war."

    Al Qaeda had declared war on us, and we've been using the term "war on terror" to describe our actions against Al Qaeda even back in 2000, after the attack on the US Cole. We told the world we were at war with them; we can't say "well we didn't really mean it" after we dislike an action they take.

    And if the US had dropped nuclear bombs on civilians because there was no other way to win a war, you'd have a good point with the "total war" thing. But at that point our victory was assured - we just wanted it to end faster.
  15. leopold Valued Senior Member

    hmmm . . .
    thought was given to bombing religious temples with the a-bomb but was discarded. it was thought that bombing such a place would "meld" the japanese to continue fighting.
    thought was also given to announcing the time and or place but this too was discarded. it was believed that if time /place was announced that the japanese would simply move POWS to the area.
    not sure about nagasaki but hiroshima was chosen because of its "pristine" status, it had never been bombed.
    hiroshima was indeed of major military significance to the japanese.
    it was a major troop staging area and a major military industrial producer.
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    They were "supporting" such in the sense that the entire economy was mobilized on a wartime footing.

    Whether the politically "supported" the end goals is a different matter, and not necessarily relevant.

    The US government wasn't attacking Al Qaeda, or waging war on Islam, or whatever, back in 2001. There was no state of war, and there was no corresponding total mobilization of the economy for such. Even once the wars broke out, they were not total wars - rather the opposite.

    Emphatically not. The goals in question have to, themselves, be justifiable. Aggression does not qualify. And you can't just call something a total war. It has to actually be a total war - meaning total mobilization of the entire country into the war effort.

    But an actual state of war did not exist, as the USA was not waging war.

    We didn't take any (military) actions against Al Qaeda in 2000 after the US Cole, nor can I find any reference to the phrase "war on terror" from that period.

    I do not see where we told anyone we were at war with them. This is an unsupported supposition on your part.

    But even if you insist on calling it "war," I see no grounds for labelling whatever state of relations existed at the time as "total war." You are just quibbling here, and not attempting a material rebuttal of my position.

    There is no requirement that there be no other possible means. It's simply a question of how the expected benefits compare to the expected costs.

    Easy to say in hindsight - but even if we accept that reading, the ongoing human costs of the continuance of the war were staggering. Since you haven't even attempted to quantify the benefits of concluding the war more swiftly (and without either the USA nor USSR invading mainland Japan), let alone attempted to argue that they were out of proportion with the damage inflicted by the bombing, I'll content myself to note that you aren't even making a serious attempt at a rebuttal, there.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  17. wellwisher Banned Banned

    War is hell and a world war is even worse than that. The Japanese during WWII were very viscous and were willing to commit suicide to fight the allies. The idea of invading Japan, meant there would be large losses of life on both sides, using conventional weapons. This meant both civilian and military life. The allies needed a way to send a message. The a-bomb was the spanking that got everyone's attention and stopped the war. There was a net saving of life.

  18. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member


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    “Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately”
  19. superstring01 Moderator

    I love The Daily Show, but my respect for Stewart dropped after that.

  20. Repo Man Valued Senior Member

    It's a popular opinion, and the historical knowledge of that time is fading. There are shocking number of people out there who are under the impression that the A bombs were the only bombs the US dropped on Japan. But even with full knowledge, it isn't easy to gauge the rightness or wrongness of military policy at the time. I think it was the right thing to do, but it still makes me cringe to think of it.

    "LeMay 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?" - Robert McNamara, discussing the incendiary bombing of Japan in the documentary The Fog of War
  21. leopold Valued Senior Member

    there is no "right" or "wrong" in all out war.
    the only thing we can hope for in that situation is that our moral scruples are thoroughly ingrained, but even that vanishes in all out war.
  22. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    It was believed (even if the belief was incorrect) that dropping the A bomb would save more Japanese lives than the perceived alternatives. One can dispute the correctness of that determination, but military leaders can only act on their own beliefs, and intent does matter in the law and in (many) ethical systems.
  23. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    You are seriously comparing the deaths of admitted civilians working in military factories, ammunition plants, and the like due to the actions of a unified military force during a period of ACTIVE war to the deaths of civilians working in office buildings and administrative facilities by a group of terrorists utilizing civilian planes...? REALLY?

    :shrug: There isn't much to say about this Asguard... there just isn't. You can't even BEGIN to compare the two... especially since dropping "the bomb" helped END the war, where as 9/11 pretty much created one...

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