Friday, October 06, 2006

In The Light Of a Thousand Suns > "Just Warfare Doctrine" and the A-bomb

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John Howard Yoder, unpublished, 1997. Overview subject to further editing as of spring 1997.


2 August 1939 Albert Einstein letter to FD Roosevelt suggest that nuclear technology could produce a new kind of weapon.

7 January 1943 FD Roosevelt says Japan should be bombed "heavily and relentlessly"

24-29 July 1943 Bombing of Hamburg, fire storm, 50,000 dead, 1,000,000 refugees.

24 December 1944 intelligence reports indicate that in Japan a "peace party" is forming and that there will be a new cabinet headed by Admiral Baron Suzuki charged to prepare to surrender. (Baldwin 96, Fogelman 97)

13 February 1945 Bombing of Dresden, 2,750 British and USA aircraft, est. 35,000 dead

25 February "test" fire bombing destroys one square mile of Tokyo.

9-10 March fire bombing to "wipe [Tokyo] off the map" (Gen. LeMay) (Selden xivff) 100,000 dead, similar number wounded, 1,000,000 homeless

16 March obliteration of Würzburg, small city of no military significance

7 April: New Japanese cabinet appointed, prime minister Suzuki, with the mission from Emperor Hirohito to negotiate peace. Former foreign minister Shegenori Togo recalled from retirement to assist.

12 April Harry S. Truman becomes President on the death of FDR.

25 April War Secretary Stimson first informs Truman about the existence of the Bomb. No question was raised about whether to use it.

27 May: presidential aide Harry Hopkins cables President Truman from Moscow: Peace feelers are being put out by certain elements in Japan

20 June: Supreme War Direction Council: Emperor Hirohito, Premier Suzuki, Foreign Minister, Navy Minister argue for suing for peace; Army Minister and two chiefs of staffs for continuing war.

10 July: Emperor asks USSR to mediate surrender.

12-13 July formal notification of Moscow by Japan Moscow envoy.

17 July, Alamagordo NM successful test of the first atomic bomb. Several Manhattan Project scientists (led by Leo Szilard who had been the initial liaison with Einstein) petition President Truman not to use the bomb except subject to serious restraints and prior warning (Harwit 234). Truman apparently never saw this petition.

26 July: Potsdam ultimatum (Truman, Churchill, Chiang Kai-Shek) states terms for surrender. "We will not deviate from them." No reference to possible retention of the Emperor (although all major policy-makers in the US - Truman, Stimson, Grew - were on record as favoring that). The communiqué made no specific mention of a qualitatively new level of weaponry, although the ultimatum ended: "The alternative for Japan is utter destruction." Stalin was present in the Potsdam negotiations, and was informed about the existence of the new bomb, but did not sign this declaration because USSR was not yet at war with Japan.

27 July Togo leads a discussion in the "Supreme War Direction Council" Togo advocates acceptance of the ultimatum, and that is agreed upon, but then reversed. Togo wrote, "To my amazement, the newspapers of the following morning reported that the government had decided to ignore the Potsdam declaration." He learned that a rump meeting of chiefs of staff and war ministers had swayed Suzuki. (Fogelman 74) This news got mistranslated into English as "unworthy of public notice," which was taken by the pro-bomb parties in the US as an insult an a reason to go ahead with the bombing.

6 August 8:15 AM Hiroshima bombed. Truman announces by radio that it was a military target. Immediate deaths 85,000

8 August: USSR declares war against Japan and invades Manchuria. Stalin had been pressed by the allies to enter the Pacific war, and at Potsdam he agreed to do so within three months of the end of the war in Europe, which was May 8. Japan's ambassador at Moscow is informed of this but his telegram never reaches Tokyo, where the news is learned only later by monitoring Soviet news radio.

9 August Nagasaki bombed, immediate deaths 45,000

9 August President Truman: "... the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in the first instance to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians." (Fogelman 104)

9 August: Suzuki and Hirohito decide to accept the Potsdam ultimatum. A rump meeting of the Army Hawks opposes this.

10 August: Government accepts Potsdam terms subject to the condition that "said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler."

14 August The War council being deadlocked, with the hawks still wanting to continue the war [i.e., the two atomic bombs did not change their minds], Suzuki convenes the emergency Gozenkaigi [council of elder statesmen] which agrees with Hirohito's longstanding desire to surrender: formal acceptance of the ultimatum is announced.

2 September formal signing of surrender

1 November: Projected earliest possible date for the US invasion of Kyushu (southern island) if there had had to be one.

Spring 1946: Projected earliest date for US invasion of Honshu (main Island)


Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith; Report of Commission on the Relation of the Churches to the War in the Light of the Christian Faith, Federal Council of Churches; Chairman Robert L. Calhoun (Professor, Yale Divinity School); March 1946:

* The march toward total war, which this commission and other theologians have judged irreconcilable with Christian principles, has been advanced a giant step further. ....atomic weapons clearly belong with the tools for obliteration, not precision attack.

...As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. ... whatever be one's judgment of the ethics of war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible. ...As the power that first used the atomic bomb under these circumstances, we have sinned grievously against the laws of God and against the people of Japan. Without seeking to apportion blame among individuals, we are compelled to judge our chosen course inexcusable.

... these two specific bombing sorties cannot properly be treated in isolation from the whole system of obliteration attacks... We are mindful of the horrors of incendiary raids on Tokyo, and of the saturation bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, and Berlin. ... the policy of obliteration bombing as actually practiced in World War II, culminating in the use of atomic bimbs against Japan, is not defensible on Christian premises.

Memorandum of seven nuclear scientists, led by Leo Szilard, who had originally carried to President Roosevelt Einstein's suggestion that atomic fission might be militarily used, 11 June 1945:

* ...the military advantages ... achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against Japan may be outweighed by the enduing loss of confidence and by a wave of horror and repulsion sweeping over the rest of the world and perhaps even dividing public opinion at home.... If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments and prejudice the possibility of an international agreement on the future control of such weapons. (Borchert 89, Jungk 175)

William Daniel Leahy, Admiral, Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt:

* ...the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"Bomb" is the wrong word to use for this new weapon. It is not a bomb. It is not an explosive. It is a poisonous thing that kills people by its deadly radioactive reaction, more than by the explosive force it develops.

These new concepts of "total war" are basically distasteful to the soldier and sailor of my generation.... These new and terrible instruments of uncivilized warfare represent a modern type of barbarism not worthy of Christian man. (I was There 1950 pp. 439ff. in Fogelman 30f)

Toshikazu Kase, diplomat:

* One of the first questions asked me by the American war correspondents who swarmed into Tokyo...was: "Was it the atomic bomb or Russian participation in the war that was responsible for the surrender"?..... to us who knew the inner development it seems that neither of the two basically changed the course of the war. It is certain that we would have surrendered in due time even without the terrific chastisement of the bomb or the terrible shock of the Russian attack. (Journey to the Missouri 1950 212ff in Fogelman 79ff.

U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey; established 1944 by USA Secretary of War Stimson:

* 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. (pp9-13 in Wilds, 83-87 in Fogelman)

Harry Truman:

* ..."I wanted to make sure that it would be used as a weapon of war in the manner prescribed by the laws of war. That meant that I wanted it dropped on a military target. I had told Stimson... (Memoirs 1955 419f in Fogelman 10)

Hanson W. Baldwin (Former Naval officer, military analyst and journalist):

* ...We were ... twice guilty. We dropped the bomb at a time when Japan already was negotiating for an end of the war but before those negotiations could come to fruition. We demanded unconditional surrender, then dropped the bomb and accepted conditional surrender ... the Japanese would have surrendered, even if the Bomb had not been dropped, had the Potsdam Declaration included our promise to permit the Emperor to remain on his imperial throne." in Great Mistakes of the War Harper, 1950, 88-114 (Fogelman 95ff.)

Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral, 25 January 1946:

* "The atomic bomb merely hastened a process already reaching an inevitable conclusion..." (Baldwin 94, Fogelman 97)

Admiral Noel Gaylor (then) Pacific Commander in Chief:

* however much it may be justified in the aftermath as military necessity--incorrectly--[the attack] was nonetheless genocide." (Linenthal 16; testimony to the National Air and Space Museum Research Advisotry Committee October 1988).

Minimal summary: did the bombs hasten the end of the war?

Yes, in the sense that by strengthening the hand of Hirohito, Togo, and Suzuki, over against the hawks in the high command, the capitulation may have been facilitated, may have come a few weeks sooner than otherwise, and the capitulation made more abject, so that the occupation would go more smoothly.

Certainly No, in the sense of deciding that the war would end. The surrender process was already running, and would have run faster if Potsdam had promised that the surrender could be conditional, with Japan retaining the Emperor, which in fact the Allied authorities wanted and did ultimately accept.

Yes, in the sense that US contingency plans for invasion several months later were in the works, so that the US soldiers and sailors who knew that they were in those plans could feel that they were saved from that future jeopardy. Prisoners of war in Japanese camps credited the Bomb with the rapid collapse of Japan, without which some thought they might be killed by their jailers.

No, in the sense that in view of the total economic exhaustion of Japan that vision of a full-scale invasion would never have been needed. No in the sense that even if that invasion in November 1945 had been needed, the estimate of its cost in lives was 50,000, and not the worst-case estimate twenty times that large which came up in the later literature(Stimson in Fogelman 16). "The source of the large numbers used after the war by Truman, Stimson and Churchill to justify the use of the atomic bomb has yet to be discovered... The large estimates first appeared in their postwar memoirs"(Skates p. 77)

Selective bibliography

Robert C. Batchelder (Christian ethicist) The Irreversible Decision Houghton Mifflin Boston 1961.

Wilfred Burchett (Australian journalist), Shadows of Hiroshima London, Verso Editions, 1983. Documents policies of the US occupying authorities in Japan and of Washington administrations to suppress accurate reporting of the effects of the bombing. HML: D 767.25 .H6 B86 1983

Edwin Fogelman (ed) Hiroshima: The Decision to Use the A-Bomb Scribner Research Anthologies, Mew York 1964. Gathers eighteen documents from all sides of the debate. HML D 767.25 .H6 F6

Stephen A. GArrett Ethics and Airpower in World War II New York, St. Martin's Press, 1993 HML D 786 .G36 1993

Marin Harwit An Exhibit Denied; Lobbying the History of Enola Gay New York, Copernicus/Sprionger 1996

Edward T. Linenthal History Wars New York Holt 1996

Kyoko and Mark Selden (eds.) The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki M.E.Sharpe, Armonk NY, HML: D 767.25 .H6 A87 1989 The bulk of the book is Japanese testimonies, but Sleden's introduction (xi-xxxvi) is a good overview of the argument, including the record of censorship by the US occupation.

John Ray Skates The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb U.Socar Press 1994

Summary Report on the Pacific War Strategic Bombing Survey, Government Printing House, 1946

Walter Wilds, (ed) Japan's Struggle to End the War Washington 1964

1 comment:

Starrider said...

The Hiroshima Myth

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