Why Nagasaki?

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by CoachC, Oct 25, 2004.

  1. CoachC

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    I heard a history professor say to our class once that "the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was the first shot of WWIII."

    Do you agree or disagree and why?
     
  2. Stratiotes

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    I think it depends on how you want to define "war" - as either a "formal" arrangement between two more beligerents to fight one another or as a cultural/paradigm shift in thinking.

    I think the Hiroshima bomb gave us the latter - it moved warfare theory into a new realm of over-reliance on technology as a saviour that would limit war's destruction by making full-scale war unthinkable. It seemed to make sense at one time but I think it merely resulted in making conventional war more bloody than ever. If the paradigm shift alone is a "war" then I guess I agree to a point but I don't see much difference between the first and second bombs.
     
  3. Phillip

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    I think your history teacher is making light of the fact that he feels that the first bomb may have been a necessary evil, but the second bomb was unnecessary to achieve the goal. History does not necessarily prove that he is right, but it does not disprove it either.

    Time frames were placed on Japan, much the same way we have placed time frames on Iraq in the recent wars. It could be argued that time and negotiation could have been used in place of the destructive power of the second bomb.

    Personally, I disagree with this and we had a short window to invade Japan to keep the element of tactical surprise on our side. Invasion would have costs many thousands of American and Japanese lives; much more than those cost by the weapons.

    It was argued by many that we should have demonstrated the bomb to the Japanese first, before we used it. The sad fact is, in order to get a country to turn against a war started and maintained by their own government, the easiest way is to take it to the population and civilians. This sounds harsh, but in today's sterile and surgical warfare, we hit strategic targets and do our best not to kill civilians.

    When one hundred civilians are killed in a shelter used by the enemy, it makes major headlines. World War II saw the Japanese, and Germany attacking civilians with pre-emptive first strikes. We must never forget the V1 and V2 strikes against London proper. Although they did little damage, they were terror weapons used on civilians. Nothing solidified the resolve of the English people more than striking their civililans. But, it also works the other way around. When a country is down, but refuses to quit until the last man falls--striking at the civilians will make the civilians realize that their own government brought them into this mess and often this is the only way to wrap up an already nasty situation.

    Hindsight is 20/20, but I don't think the second weapon caused WWIII any more than the first weapon. True, Americans were the first to use the nuclear weapon, but if we had not have developed it first, do not think for a minute that our enemy would have used it against us. This was a war for world dominance, not a war for a few oilwells.
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    Three thoughts -

    1. Hiroshima did NOT bring the immediate reaction of the Japanese military that optomists had hoped; (they were still fighting the emperor's decision to surrender a week later). Nagasaki implied that we had an unlimited supply of super weapons - in actuality, that was it for a few month.

    2. The bombs dropped on the two cities were different construction and style. Military needed to know which would be MORE effective.

    3. USSR, johnny-come-lately into the war, needed to know to stop and not push because we had a super weapon that they did not.
     
  5. CoachC

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    I think the teacher was going toward the Russian angle more than anything. Truman was a very smart geo-political cold warrior and I think an astute judge of people.

    By using the second weapon against Nagasaki and placing MacArthur at the head of the occupation governmnet of Japan, Truman sent a very clear message to Uncle Joseph. "This is not Germany, and we will not be divvying up any land in Japan."

    How much more difficult would the cold war have been if the Soviets had been able to get a war water port on Honshu or one of the other home islands of Japan.

    Bravo Mr. Truman, if only your party were as dedicated to the defense of America today as you were then.
     
  6. CoachC

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    sorry, that should have been "warm" water port.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    "war" water works, too!

    Just read the bio of Truman (unabridged books on tape as I drive cross country) and my respect for the man grew immeasurably.
     
  8. The Galatian

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    An interesting note:
    The majority of Japanese Christians lived in Nagasaki.

    We reduced the Japanese Christian population significantly that day.

    The second bomb may well have been an error. The Japanese response to our demand after the first bomb was mistranslated.

    There were, of course, some Japanese who would have preferred the whole nation die rather than surrender, but the first one convinced the emperor, who was ultimately the deciding force.
     
  9. JamesJ

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    Actually Nakasaki was not the primary target that day, Kokura was. Kokura was overcast that day so the bomb was dropped on the secondary target. I've visited the island of Kyushu many times and visited the museum in Nagasaki dedicated to the event of the dropping of the second bomb. It's too bad that your history teacher has to discuss things this way. Was the killing of Abel the first blow struck in the first world war?
     
  10. BruceB

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    I would argue that the first engagement of WWIII (the Cold War, aka the war against communism) was Trieste. Nagasaki was the last "shot" of WWII (war against fascism and militarism).
     
  11. rsr

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    Dr. Bob said:

    "Just read the bio of Truman ..."

    Which one? McCullough?
     
  12. blackbird

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    A German prisoner was quoted as saying to his American superior

    "When this war ends---you will join us in fighting the REAL enemy!"(implication of Russia)

    Dude---was he ever right as to who the real enemy was!!
     
  13. Ben W

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    What is intersting to note is that until recent times, in Shintoism, the Emperor was literally viewed as a divine being.
     
  14. Phillip

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    My father spent a year occupying Japan after the war. He disagrees with your statement about Nagasaki. Where did you obtain your information. Book and author? or other source?

    Second, the Nagasaki bomb was planned to be dropped before Hiroshima was dropped.

    Dr. Bob was correct, we had to show that we had a unlimited supply of the bombs, not only to Japan, but the rest of the world. We also wanted to test the main design of the atomic bomb used today (except for the Hydrogen weapon). THAT was the Nagasaki bomb, (Fat man) made of a spherical, but hollow ball of plutonium vs. uranium in the first bomb. It used a lens type of implosion mechanism to hold the plutonium together for one to three generations of fission. (Of course, in the center was a device called a neutron initiator, to increase the yield.

    Oh well, off track again, but the point is that we wanted to test that particular weapon on a populated area to determine the effectivity, knowing that the Little Boy style (gun barrel Uranium) would not be used in the future due to its lower yeild vs. fuel.

    This may sound cruel, but again the point is, both bombs were planned from the beginning. In reality, I do not believe there was any intention of accepting Japan's surrender until the Fat Man was dropped. Japan did not surrender as expected because the entire bomb thing was kept such a secret, it took a while before they realize what we did to them. They were still thinking it was a major plane raid with thousands of incendiary weapons. The information flowing out of Hiroshima took a period of time due to lack of good communications and the total destruction of the infrastructure including communications.

    Remember, it was discussed whether to just show this to Japan or use it. The choice was to use it and when the choice was made, the two bombs were scheduled immediately. The third bomb was being prepared and would have been used a little later, but not as quickly as the first two.

    As was mentioned earlier, we had to show strength in more than just one superweapon and it also allowed the only test of the weapons in warfare and we knew this was likely because it then became a weapon to "prevent" war; very successfully might I add.

    Without the destruction of two cities in Japan, it is unlikely that the weapons would have been considered as so dangerous today. The actual loss of so many people and property in about 5 milliseconds was a demonstration the world would never forget.

    With a simple test, people would not have had so much fear of the weapon.

    Just some history and some things to think about. Hindsight is 20/20 and although historians are today trying to condemn the US for using the only nukes, but in my opinion, it has prevented World War III due to the knowledge of just exactly what nukes CAN do. Based on REAL destruction and death. Not on pictures of a mushroom cloud on some empty island.
     
  15. Phillip

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    As I said before my father occupied Japan for the first year after the war. General McAuther was the was the person who made the decision to leave the emperor in power, for that exact reason.

    It was and did keep the Japanese from rebelling more than they did during the occupation; however, the Japanese would get quite mad when some of the GI's would make fun of the emperor, but they would quietly sulk, knowing that if they fought back they would be killed.

    Another interesting fact was, when they hit the beaches of Japan it was as if they were going to attack (even though the Japanese had officially surrendered). When they went into town, ALL of the Japanese had run to the hills to hide from the invading evil empire.

    Here is the funny part. The Japanese are known for taking care of their elders? Well, they left all of the old people in the town when they ran away and only an old policeman was standing at a street corner directing the solders. The solders would hear hollering from the houses and go in, only to find elderly people who could not walk or ambulate by themselves. They were ALL left behind by the Japanese who ran to the hills.

    Just an interesting tid-bit of information from someone who was there.
     
  16. Phillip

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    Yes, it was NOT the secondary target, they were doomed by the weather, in fact, it was the SECOND backup target. With both of the first overcast.

    We could have dropped the bomb through overcast, but two reasons stopped us. First, naturally we did not have any good way to get an exact visual targetting location; plus the second reason was that without clear visibility, we could not get accurate destruction evidence via pictures and eyewitnesses. As said above, these bombs were not only to stop the war, but we seriously wanted the destructive data on real targets, so that it could be analyzed with accuracy.

    For this reason, I say again, we prevented WWIII by showing the world the real destructive force on live targets.

    Safeguards were put into place to keep countries from starting nuclear wars with each other, due to this demonstration of loss of life. They did not die in vain. Probably millions have been saved due to those two bombs, not only in an invasion, but the prevention of later-day nuclear wars.
     
  17. Turpius

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    I've heard that too, if we had not used the bomb, the War would have cost many times more lives and lasted a considerable time longer than it did.
     
  18. Phillip

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    This is a very interesting remark. The fact is, the United States had planned up to ten weapons to stop the war. Our manufacturing facilities were building the bombs as fast as we could put them out and even though you are right in implying that we were trying to indicate an unlimited supply, there were 8 more weapons being built, one at a time. There would have been a little longer delay, but that was the "top secret" plan of the day.

    We would have dropped eight more weapons, we didn't, the plan worked and ended with only two weapons used. I would say that was a positive ending to a horrible, horrible, war.
     
  19. ktn4eg

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe we're still waiting for Japan to officially apologize for Pearl Harbor, aren't we?

    Since our military strategists had to plan for the contingency of an actual land invasion of the Japanese homeland islands (remember, the closer the US came to their homeland, the more bitter and suicidal the Japanese fought [we would have too, I suppose]). They had to consider where the best landing spots would be (topography, climate, ease of defensibility, nature of surprise, etc., were all factors that came into play). Japanese defense planners were certainly doing the very same as well.

    It shouldn't come as a great surprise that when we finally captured the Japanese homeland defense planning documents that their conclusions basically mirrored ours in terms of location(s), projected casualties on both sides as well as the extent and logistics it would probably have taken to be considered a success for either side.

    One should also remember that as FDR's newest VP, Truman had absolutely no idea how far along the US nuclear engineers had progressed in developing various types of bombs until after he was sworn into office in April, 1945.

    About all he knew before his inauguration as VP in March, 1945, was that the US defense planners were sure spending a lot of money for something that they refused to tell the then chairman of a special US Senate investigating committee charged with determining the extent of the existence of any possible War Department budgetary waste/abuse.

    When one nation goes to war with another nation, the leaders (regardless of how they got to their leadership positions) must assume primary responsibility for any subsequent loss of civilian life that such a war might incur. This applies to as many "sides" as may arise in any armed conflict.

    Moreover, when was the last time you viewed a full-length documentary of how the Japanese tortured both military and civilian prisoners not only of practically every nation they conquered, but also of our own US citizens?

    One of my graduate professors was a survivor of the Bataan Death March of 1942. It was such an horrendous experience to him that for years he tried to block out his memory of it by merely stating that, from 1942-45, he was a "guest" of the Japanese government, which, by the way, was the only Axis nation to have actually occupied any US territory in North America during WWII.

    BTW, when was the last time you read MacArthur's response to the question of what he considered to be the single most important thing that the US should send to Japan in order to re-build their war-torn society (much more of which was the result of the incessant conventional US bombing than of the total of the 2 nuclear bombs we dropped)?

    His answer was for the US and her allies to send as many Christian missionaries and workers as they could just as soon as they possibly could.
     

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