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Truman Had No Alternative: Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Part 2) By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 07, 2001

FIFTY-SIX YEARS AGO, ON AUGUST 6 AND 9, 1945, the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In my last article, I argued that President Truman had no alternative, since the use of the bombs was the quickest way to end the war with the least amount of casualties on both sides.

Many critics, however, have insisted that the U.S. could have devised a way to "demonstrate" the awesome power of the bomb to make the Japanese surrender. For instance, it has been argued that the Americans could have dropped the bomb on some built-up area, after giving notice to the inhabitants to evacuate.


A failure under those crucial circumstances could have done enormous, if not fatal, damage to American credibility. There were only two bombs available at the time, and the actual bomb devices were new and scarcely tested. Americans could not ignore the psychological effect on Japanese leaders if the bomb did not work.

To broadcast a "warning" was to risk the operation in other ways. It would have been child's play for the Japanese to intercept an incoming airplane, especially if they knew where and when it was expected.

Truman and his officials agonized over the fact that the Japanese could end such an endeavor altogether by placing American POWs into the "announced" target area. The Japanese had, after all, given the order to kill all POWs once an invasion of the islands began.

In pursuit of their anti-American odyssey, critics have also alleged that a "tactical strike" could have been carried through. In other words, the bomb could have been dropped on a purely military target, an arsenal or a harbor, and without advance notice. They have also theorized that the bomb could have been dropped, without advance warning, over a relatively uninhabited stretch of Japanese territory where the Japanese high command could witness it first hand, and would, therefore, finally accept the futility of their struggle.

There were, even at that time, many suggestions that advocated an explosion at night over Tokyo Bay, which might have served as a satisfactory example. Still another alternative proposed that the bomb could be detonated not on Japan but in some remote corner of the world, and that this would have been enough to scare the Japanese.

First, all of these scenarios imply that the Americans were dealing with a sane Japanese leadership. That was not the case.

Second, no known military target had a wide enough compass to contain the total destructive capacity of the bomb – and to allow it to show what it was capable of doing.

No one could suggest, or even be sure, of a way in which the bomb could be used in so convincing a manner that it would frighten a leadership that worshiped "death before dishonor." The very idea of "demonstrating" the bomb ran counter to its very purpose: to shock the Japanese out of their faith that dying in war was a noble enterprise.

Not even the scientists who made the atomic bombs were fully certain about the destructive potential of the bomb and its radioactive fall-outs. A test in a remote area, therefore, even if successful, could prove useless. It would be done on neutral soil and the Japanese could think it was a fake, accomplished with a massive amount of ordinary TNT. In addition, the Truman administration feared that advance notice of this kind of demonstration would simply give the Japanese too much useful information.

In May 1945, four distinguished physicists who served as advisers to the interim committee met in Los Alamos to consider the proposed "demonstration" theories. They were Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer. After the meeting they concluded: "We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use."

America did not develop a weapon that could end the war only to put it away while American servicemen died, and American POWs were tortured, every day.

The slaughter of civilian populations was not initiated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; such was accepted military practice on all sides. The now infamous rape of Nanking exceeded the casualties of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (approximately 200,000). The forced prostitution of Korean women, the Bataan death march, the terror of the Kempai-Tai (the Japanese secret police), and its concentration camps for the civilian population across occupied Asia, all manifested the barbarity of the Japanese regime.

President Truman did what he had to do.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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