Ending the war
The bomb didn't win it
Saturday August 6, 2005
The idea that it was militarily necessary to drop the atomic bomb in 1945 is now discredited. The first exhaustive examination of Japanese, Soviet and US archives, by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, confirms the argument that Truman went ahead in order to get Japan to end the war quickly before the Soviet Union came into the Pacific war and demanded a say in Asia.
The use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not provide the US with the free hand it had wanted and has proved disastrous for the world.
It did not bring about surrender. With 62 Japanese cities destroyed by firebombs and napalm, Japan was not overwhelmed by the destruction of one more. The army minister, General Korechika Anami, told the supreme war council that he would fight on. What actually brought about surrender was the combination of the Soviet Union's entry into the war on August 8 and the US decision to let Japan retain the emperor.
Max Hastings, on these pages last week, gave the impression that most of Truman's contemporaries thought he did the right thing. Eisenhower urged Henry Stimson, the secretary of state, not to use the bomb on the basis of his belief "that Japan was already defeated and that the dropping of the atomic bomb was completely unnecessary". Other commanders made similar statements. The men in command and on the ground did not share Hastings's argument that the "inexorable logic of war" meant the US had to drop the bomb.
· Dominick Jenkins is Greenpeace UK's disarmament campaigner and author of The Final Frontier: America, Science and Terror
Too bad Mr, Jenkins knows nothing about Asian history or the end of WWII. The History Channel has been running a documentary for months on the subject.
I'm sure it aired in the UK as well. He should have watched it.
Yes, the US wanted to prevent Stalin from doing in Asia what he did in Europe, that was a legitimate political aim, but since Mr. Jenkins doesn't understand the history of that period, that was only one reason. There were many others.
First of all, there was a coup attempt, after the second bomb, to seize the Emperor
Even after the second atomic bomb attack, disagreement raged within the Japanese government between peace advocates and those who urged continued resistance. An attempted coup by militant extremists failed and on August 14 Japan surrendered unconditionally. In a break with tradition, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender in a recorded radio message. Japan accepted the terms of the July 26th Potsdam Declaration calling for unconditional surrender, terms which the Japanese had rejected previously. This was the first time the Japanese people had ever heard their emperor's voice, and some Japanese officers committed suicide upon hearing his decision.
Second, 8,000 people were dying a day under Japanese control. It was estimated that if the war lasted another six months, all the POW's would be dead as well. 28 percent had died while in Japanese captivity, four percent in German captivity.
The critics of the atomic bombing often have a very narrow picture of the war at that point. The British were one month away from invading Malaya, on a beach, which later turned out to be a mud flat. The Australians were fighting in Bouganville, Rabaul, New Guinea and Borneo. They were also fighting in China as well. So how many allied soldiers and civilians were to die waiting for the Japanese to surrender?
Mr. Jenkins should consider what the commanders in the Pacific thought. They authorized the bombing. Eisenhower had been more than ready to use the bomb against the Germans. If the Normandy invasion had failed or been halted, those B-29's would have blown up Berlin or Rostock or some other German city in the summer of 1945. The soldiers who would have invaded Japan saw it as a suicide mission.
It is easy, through smugness and politics, to declare that dropping the bomb was unnecessary. There was considerable belief in the scientific community that using the bomb against Japan was wrong. They thought the power of the bomb could be demonstrated. But no one knew if it would work.If it failed, it would be of no purpose.
However, as events showed, even two atomic bombings were not enough to get the Japanese to surrender. It wasn't, as Mr. Jenkins contends, unneccesary, however. It, as well as the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, allowed the emperor to sue for peace. He finally appealed to the generals based on the atomic bombings, asking if they could withstand more of them, which the US was willing to do.
The Japanese Army was more than willing to commit national suicide, sending spear armed women to fight battle tested US troops. Without the bombings, Operations Olympic and Coronet would have taken place. And let's not forget that the Japanese had succesfully used germ warfare against the Chinese and on US POW's. They evenpracticed cannibalism on them as well.
So without the atomic bombs, it is possible that the Japanese would have defended themselves with germ weapons on the invasion beaches.
There has been far less historical study of the Pacific War than the European War, especially with the US Army. The brutal battles in Luzon in the spring and summer of 1945 are lost to history.
Despite the hard fighting in Manila, the Bataan Peninsula, and throughout southern Luzon, the main Japanese force was in the northern part of the island. It was there that General Yamashita's Shobu Group occupied a large region resembling an inverted triangle, with northern Luzon's rugged geography as a shield. In the east rose the Sierra Madre mountain range, to the west the impressive hills of the Cordillera Central, and at the northern edge of the triangle, the Babuyan channel. In the center lay the Cagayan Valley, Luzon's rice bowl and a key supply area for the Japanese units. Yamashita had pieced together a defensive force made up of the 19th Division, the 23d Division, and elements of three others: the 103d and 10th Divisions and the 2d Tank Division. Its main purpose was to harass the Americans rather than to defeat them. Yamashita expected the main attack to come from the Manila area where American forces were consolidating their gains, particularly along the handful of roads winding north through Bambang and Baguio and into the Cagayan Valley. And there was always the possibility of amphibious landings along the northern coastline.
In February, as American troops gradually pushed the enemy out of Manila, General Krueger alerted the I Corps for an offensive into northern Luzon against Shobu Group. Originally, Krueger had planned to use a total of six divisions to gradually push north through Bambang, but MacArthur's emphasis on securing the entire Manila area first made this impossible. Nevertheless, by the end of February, General Swift, the I Corps commander, had begun probing the area north of the original beachhead with the 33d Division, which had replaced the battle-weary 43d Division and the 158th Regimental Combat Team on 13 February. Although Swift's forces were outnumbered two-to-one by the Japanese, the relative passivity of their foes encouraged the more aggressive Americans.
In early March Swift ordered the 33d Division to push northeast along Route 11, the easiest road into the mountains, toward the town of Bambang. But the attackers quickly discovered that this avenue was heavily defended and made little progress. Meanwhile, other elements of the division operating along the coast directly north from the Lingayen Gulf landing beaches found little resistance. After taking some small towns farther up the coast and turning inland Maj. Gen. Percy W. Clarkson, the division commander, decided to dash along Route 9 and attack Baguio—the prewar summer capital of the Philippines and currently Yamashita's headquarters—from the northeast. To assist, Krueger added the 37th Infantry Division to the attack and with the aid of air strikes and guerrilla harassment, wore down the defenders until they were on the verge of starvation. A small garrison made a last stand at Irisan Gorge, where the road crossed the Irisan River some three miles west of Baguio, but on 27 April the town fell to American troops.
Shobu Group had lost one of the three legs of its defensive triangle, but the battle on northern Luzon was far from over. Until the end of the war, Sixth Army forces continued to push Yamashita's men farther into the mountains, taking heavy casualties in the process. The 32d Division, which had also seen heavy fighting on Leyte, was worn down to almost nothing, but the defenders suffered even heavier battle casualties as well as losses to starvation and disease. By the end of the war, the Japanese were still holding out in the rugged Asin Valley of the Sierra Madre in north-central Luzon, enduring the drenching summer monsoons. Nevertheless, General Yamashita and about 50,500 of his men surrendered only after the close of hostilities on 15 August.
On 30 June 1945 Krueger's Sixth Army was relieved by the Eighth Army, whose task was to mop up scattered Japanese positions. By the end of March, however, the Allies controlled all of Luzon that had any strategic or economic significance.
Technically, the battle for Luzon was still not over when Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. On the northern part of the island Shobu Group remained the center of attention for the better part of three U.S. Army divisions. Altogether, almost 115,000 Japanese remained at large on Luzon and on some of the southern islands. For all practical purposes, however, the battle for control of Luzon had been over since March.
The Japanese have used the atomic bombings in some ways to blunt their absolutely henious and brutal conduct in WWII and which taints relations with their neighbors to this day.
But to judge the dropping of the bombs, you have to be able to see the entire theater, not just a wrecked Japan, to judge if the attacks were necessary. And while there was, as there should have been, moral doubts about it's use, the Japanese were willing to resist after both attacks and the lost of their army in Manchuria. Only after, did Japan end their war of aggression against their neighbors.
posted by Steve @ 12:45:00 AM