A historian's comments on current events, foreign and domestic.
Professor:I have seen recently several articles purporting the idea that Japan did not surrender because of the nuclear weapons at all. The articles state that we had been destroying Japanese cities all summer, some worse than those bombed by nuclear weapons. Their idea is that Japan surrendered entirely because of Stalin sending his army into the islands of the northern parts of Japan and knowing the Japanese destruction would be worse if Stalin had anything to do with it.Would you comment, please.
ProfessorGreat article. Assurance has a point, which you also adverted to in the Time article, bombing cities wantonly.I wonder whether any discussion about the Russo Japanese Nonaggression Pact, or whatever it is called, might come as a surprise to Assurance, as well. It did to me when I first read about it. Soviet Russia ostensibly on our side in the West and on Japan's in the East. Of course that was before Pearl Harbor, and enabled it.All the best
To assurance: The Soviets did declare war and began operations in Manchuria. To my knowledge they did not land in any Japanese territory proper, including the Kuriles, in the few days between their entry and the Japanese surrender. And while it is true that firebombing had wreaked as much damage on some Japanese cities as the A-bombs did, the bomb was unprecedented and gave the Emperor and some of his government the excuse they needed to surrender. The Soviet entry alone would probably not have.
Let's suppose both of the arguments, threatening russia and ending japanese resistance, are both equally weighted. Technophilia of rulers would be 3rd. Abomb was a new toy. What good if it wasn't used. At any rate a new world order putting old world under american rule would be logical. Everyone in western europe, eastern asia would all see USA like invading aliens, way above them and behave after A-bomb like aborigines, primitives in south sea. USA had a cargo cult of plenty. Now it is running out as it was based on a military, technological advance of decades which has been lost entirely. Reagan tried to retain it with sdi. American way of life has spread after communism. Since Putin russia has gotten a jump in military. Word of relative poverty and corruption in USA has discredited the halo of USA. Better education and way of life, health, education exist in other industrial countries. 6 weeks standard vacation, cheap health, free university education, etc. Now Russia, china, iran can down any rockets or easily sink aircraft carriers. Electronics dependent military of USA is easily crippled by new russian technology. The American jump on the others was based on on destruction of their economies after the war and a political lustre lent by culture and goodwill which has all been used up over time. GM foods, TTIP, middle eastern wars is all part of USA permanent dominance scheme.
An excellent, balanced, and informative essay on a highly emotive subject, for which many thanks. I offer only one comment, which is that as an American based in the UK, one of the things which I have long noted about the British in WW II is that there was one block of the British military who did not receive campaign medals - the veterans of Bomber Command. Their commander, Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, was the architect and chief proponent of the saturation bombing of German cities, and (I think) of the firebombing of those cities. While his strategy obviously won support, as it was carried out, it does appear to have been controversial at the time within the highest circles, and has certainly continued to be since. When a statue of Harris was commissioned, erected outside the RAF chapel in the Strand, in London, and unveiled by the Queen Mother, there was a considerable outcry, which I remember well. I haven't read any of the serious historical literature on the subject, which doubtless contains all the bias one would expect from such an emotional subject, even the most superficial knowledge indicates that there was resistance, at least at the beginning. I say all of this because I think it is almost certain that the close working relationship between the US and UK military in Europe against Germany must have had some influence on American thinking at the highest levels as to the bombing strategy and tactics in Japan.
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