Alan Mosley on Eisenhower’s Opposition to Atom Bombing of Japan

In the summer of 1945, President Harry Truman found himself searching for a decisive blow against the Empire of Japan. Despite the many Allied victories during 1944 and 1945, Truman believed Emperor Hirohito would urge his generals to fight on. America suffered 76,000 casualties at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Truman administration anticipated that a prolonged invasion of mainland Japan would result in even more devastating numbers. Even so, plans were drawn up to invade Japan under the name Operation Downfall.

The estimates for the potential carnage were sobering; the Joint Chiefs of Staff pegged the expected casualties at 1.2 million. Staff for Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur both expected over 1,000 casualties per day, while the personnel at the Department of the Navy thought the totals would run as high as four million, with the Japanese incurring up to 10 million of their own. The Los Angeles Times was a bit more optimistic, projecting one million casualties.

With those numbers, it’s no wonder the US opted to (literally) take the nuclear option by dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima on August 6, and then Fat Man on Nagasaki on August 9. Japan formally surrendered 24 days later, sparing potentially millions of US servicemen and vindicating the horrifying-yet-necessary bombings.

At least this is the common narrative we’re all taught in grade school. But like so many historical narratives, it’s an oversimplification and historically obtuse.

Dissenting Opinions

When Truman signed off on the deployment of the newly-developed atomic bombs, he was convinced the Japanese were planning to prosecute the war to the bitter end. Many have argued that the casualty estimates compelled him to err on the side of caution for the lives of his boys in the Pacific. But this ignores the fact that other significant figures surrounding Truman came to the opposite conclusion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, chief among the naysayers, said, “I was against (use of the atomic bomb) on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.” Although he made this statement publicly in 1963, he made the same argument to then-Secretary of War Henry Stimson in 1945, as recounted in his memoirs:

I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face.”

Another prominent figure who echoed Eisenhower’s sentiments was Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy. He ranked as the senior-most United States military officer on active duty during World War II and was among Truman’s chief military advisors. In his 1950 book I Was There, Leahy wrote, “It is my opinion that 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.” With mainland Japan under a blockade, Japanese forces in China and Korea were effectively cut off from reinforcements and supplies.

Full Post by Alan Mosley @ F.E.E. https://tinyurl.com/y9skp7go

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