Author Topic: Did the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prevent additional casualties?  (Read 3501 times)

Bu☆ns

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So I've been wandering around the internet and I've come across some folks who can't seem to agree on this--and admittedly I'm not sure what to think. So I figure, why not bring it up here?

So pro A-Bomb side says that Japan civilians would have fought and/or committed suicide had the US invaded--possibly to the point where they would have obliterated their whole race. They claim that the 200,000 people who died from the bomb would have been upward toward a million Japanese and allied people who died in an invasion.  The Japanese thought we had only one bomb and wanted to keep fighting after Hiroshima. In addition the targets had factories and military bases that, should they have remained would have made a southern invasion incredibly difficult. This is also the position that Truman put forth (which immediately creates red flags for me, but that's just a gut reaction from this day and age.)

The anti A-Bomb side says that the Japanese were going to surrender anyway because the Soviets entered the war in Manchuria. Both Gen. Eisenhower and Gen. MacArthur have stated that the bomb didn't shorten the war.  These folks claim that the bomb was more as an effort at intimidating the Soviets and the Japanese were the perfect opportunity due to Americans' racist tendencies to think of the Japanese as "cockroaches".  That the pending surrender was based on a promise that the Allies would allow the Japanese imperial reign  to remain intact as their culture was used to.

So I DON'T want to believe that bombing and horrid aftermath of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the best solution but there seems to be a good case for it based on the evidence I've found.  The anecdotes from Eisenhower and MacArthur are...well anecdotes and Eisenhower was mostly in Europe and Africa anyway.  I heard that MacArthur was more disappointed that he couldn't do what he did best and storm in there--even after Hiroshima.

Ultimately, I WANT to believe that there is never a use for the bomb so I'd like to reconcile this--even if it means swallowing hard truths.

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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.
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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.

Pretty much this. I feel wicked ambivalent about the whole thing. My birthday is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and truth be told, I always think about Hiroshima on my birthday.

On the one hand, I consider it wrong to take human life unless it is to preserve your own life or the life of another. Kill a would-be killer, but not a has-been killer.

War's one of those things that you can't bring logical, altruistic calculations into. And history isn't black and white like people would want it to be. So, the best answer I can give you is that both camps are simultaneously right and wrong. Quite honestly, you have to look at it as this thing that happened, and it brought both good and bad. Both immediately and in the long term.
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I think we can't calculate the lives lost and the lives saved in an alternate timeline. We can't even calculate the lives saved in this. We can only calculate the lives lost. We (the United States) are the only nation to have unleashed a nuclear weapon on another. Not once, but twice. And that's the only two times it happened. And thank God for that.
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Bu☆ns

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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.


That's true.. Maybe it's better to just let it be a 'damn thing that happened' rather than take a side.  I guess I'd just really like to know if that was really thought out.  I mean Truman doesn't strike me as intelligent to consider those ramifications  and the way he reacted when he heard the news -- all giddylike -- seems to indicate that he was more power drunk than contemplative.

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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.


That's true.. Maybe it's better to just let it be a 'damn thing that happened' rather than take a side.  I guess I'd just really like to know if that was really thought out.  I mean Truman doesn't strike me as intelligent to consider those ramifications  and the way he reacted when he heard the news -- all giddylike -- seems to indicate that he was more power drunk than contemplative.

Truman was intelligent enough to find himself President. Much as we hate to admit it, there has never been a dumb President. Presidents of nations have bias though. They have to, by definition. You're assuming executive and military command of a nation state. Doesn't make it right. I dunno.
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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.

Pretty much this. I feel wicked ambivalent about the whole thing. My birthday is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and truth be told, I always think about Hiroshima on my birthday.

On the one hand, I consider it wrong to take human life unless it is to preserve your own life or the life of another. Kill a would-be killer, but not a has-been killer.

War's one of those things that you can't bring logical, altruistic calculations into. And history isn't black and white like people would want it to be. So, the best answer I can give you is that both camps are simultaneously right and wrong. Quite honestly, you have to look at it as this thing that happened, and it brought both good and bad. Both immediately and in the long term.

On your birthday? woah...that's gotta be weird...I've been thinking about this the past week or so--not so much in the ZOMG THE WORLD IS ENDING AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE sense but in the more "Hmmmmmm...." sense.  I suppose you have plenty of hours in on both counts.

But yeah, what Roger and you said...the more I study history the more it seems that there are some things that will remain endlessly debatable.  I think what gets me is not being able to fully understand the mentality of periods.  Like, the anti-Japanese thing...i can't even begin to imagine that kind of head space. 

I think we can't calculate the lives lost and the lives saved in an alternate timeline. We can't even calculate the lives saved in this. We can only calculate the lives lost. We (the United States) are the only nation to have unleashed a nuclear weapon on another. Not once, but twice. And that's the only two times it happened. And thank God for that.

Yes, indeed.  I understand what you mean...it's really about moving forward. My whole thing lately is broadening my historical perspective to better understand today's world.  So when these questions come up that I'm not sure how to file confusion sets in--especially when this whole 'the bomb helped us'/'the bomb was a mistake' debate seems so abound (at least in the internet corners where I'm poking my nose).

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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.


That's true.. Maybe it's better to just let it be a 'damn thing that happened' rather than take a side.  I guess I'd just really like to know if that was really thought out.  I mean Truman doesn't strike me as intelligent to consider those ramifications  and the way he reacted when he heard the news -- all giddylike -- seems to indicate that he was more power drunk than contemplative.

Truman was intelligent enough to find himself President. Much as we hate to admit it, there has never been a dumb President. Presidents of nations have bias though. They have to, by definition. You're assuming executive and military command of a nation state. Doesn't make it right. I dunno.


He almost didn't get elected--Dewey had it in the bag from what I understand, but yeah I dig.  I don't think he was unintelligent, though, but maybe more like a kid in a candy store or raucous in a 'boys will be boys' kind of way. 

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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.

Pretty much this. I feel wicked ambivalent about the whole thing. My birthday is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and truth be told, I always think about Hiroshima on my birthday.

On the one hand, I consider it wrong to take human life unless it is to preserve your own life or the life of another. Kill a would-be killer, but not a has-been killer.

War's one of those things that you can't bring logical, altruistic calculations into. And history isn't black and white like people would want it to be. So, the best answer I can give you is that both camps are simultaneously right and wrong. Quite honestly, you have to look at it as this thing that happened, and it brought both good and bad. Both immediately and in the long term.

On your birthday? woah...that's gotta be weird...I've been thinking about this the past week or so--not so much in the ZOMG THE WORLD IS ENDING AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE sense but in the more "Hmmmmmm...." sense.  I suppose you have plenty of hours in on both counts.

But yeah, what Roger and you said...the more I study history the more it seems that there are some things that will remain endlessly debatable.  I think what gets me is not being able to fully understand the mentality of periods.  Like, the anti-Japanese thing...i can't even begin to imagine that kind of head space. 

I think we can't calculate the lives lost and the lives saved in an alternate timeline. We can't even calculate the lives saved in this. We can only calculate the lives lost. We (the United States) are the only nation to have unleashed a nuclear weapon on another. Not once, but twice. And that's the only two times it happened. And thank God for that.

Yes, indeed.  I understand what you mean...it's really about moving forward. My whole thing lately is broadening my historical perspective to better understand today's world.  So when these questions come up that I'm not sure how to file confusion sets in--especially when this whole 'the bomb helped us'/'the bomb was a mistake' debate seems so abound (at least in the internet corners where I'm poking my nose).

Yep. Actually, when I was working for Dr. S, I mentioned offhand that my birthday was on x day in the coming week. He paused, thought about it, and said, "a rather historic day..." (he knew I was majoring in history at the time), and I responded, "yes... not one of the proudest moments in human history..."

The bomb both helped and was a mistake. Like I said, history is rarely, if ever, clear cut. It certainly stopped the US and the Soviets from throwing down, because both sides knew that was not a fight that anyone can win, so why fight if you know that you're going to lose anyway? Instead we got proxy wars and some of the geopolitical mess that we have now.

We can't fix it. That's probably the best lesson you can learn from history. Every event is both good in some ways and bad in others.
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On one hand, it was a graphic demonstration of why global wars were no longer feasible.

On the other hand, we dropped nukes on civilians.

I don't really know what to think.  It was awful as hell, but so were world wars, and without the bomb, we'd have kept having them.


That's true.. Maybe it's better to just let it be a 'damn thing that happened' rather than take a side.  I guess I'd just really like to know if that was really thought out.  I mean Truman doesn't strike me as intelligent to consider those ramifications  and the way he reacted when he heard the news -- all giddylike -- seems to indicate that he was more power drunk than contemplative.

Truman was intelligent enough to find himself President. Much as we hate to admit it, there has never been a dumb President. Presidents of nations have bias though. They have to, by definition. You're assuming executive and military command of a nation state. Doesn't make it right. I dunno.


He almost didn't get elected--Dewey had it in the bag from what I understand, but yeah I dig.  I don't think he was unintelligent, though, but maybe more like a kid in a candy store or raucous in a 'boys will be boys' kind of way.

Like I said, the bias thing. Americans generally don't understand other countries. We view the world from American eyes. We can't step into that other guy's shoes. We just can't. Problem is, we think we know what's up, and will step in, if we think it's in our interest.
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I remember during American History II I made a rather impassioned argument with a vet about how we probably wouldn't have nuked the Nazis. I made him think from my perspective and he made me think from his.
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He and I ended up agreeing with each other, and uncomfortably so.
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An argument has been made by a Japanese historian with access to the Japanese High Command's military records that the entry of Russia into Manchuria and subsequent preparations to attack the Japanese mainland were the primary cause for the collapse of the war effort, and not the nuclear bombs.

I've not read the book myself, though I've read several reviews which suggest it is a credible piece of historical investigation and should be taken seriously.  It also coheres with what we know of the Japanese military and their abject fear of Stalin after 1938, a fear so great that they turned down German requests to open a second, Pacific front on the beleaugered Soviet Union in the wake of Operation Barbarossa.

If true, then the atom bombs were unnecessary.

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One question that occurs to me would be "If not then, then when?"

Considering the conflicts post WW2, I'm unsure if there's one that would justify it's use on civilians. That's disturbing me somewhat. If the above regarding Russia is credible, it would seem to be more of a show of force for them rather than a show of force to end the war.

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I would say it's nearly impossible to make a case for the general sense.

However, personally I can look at specific points of view and try out those shoes.

For example, I firmly believe the guy that pressed the button was wrong no matter what he believed the outcome of nuking a city would end up as.  With so much uncertainty in the world I'd rather take the chance that war continues with or without my help, rather than guarantee an absolute horror takes place by my hand, whether or not it "saves lives" in the long run.

I think individuals are always responsible for their own actions, even when under orders and against a powerful enemy.

That said, if I had a gun to my head, and had to kill people or be killed, I'm the kind of shithead that would kill people and save myself at nearly any cost.  I wouldn't consider that course of action moral or right, and I would be very ashamed and guilty, but I know I would do it anyway.

But my study of morality is limited to philosophy 101 level so grain of salt and all that

Morality aside, I don't think we will ever know for sure if and how many lives it might have saved, as the aborted potential timeline where the bombs did not go off is not available to study, and reality is a very weird and often unpredictable place.
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