War Is Hell

Teaming up with Hitler didn’t work out very well for the Japanese.

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32 Responses to War Is Hell

  1. rah says:

    The Strategic Bombing of Imperial Japan (And the deadliest single air raid in history)

    This is my own small attempt to set one little piece of the record straight.

    By March 1945 the US had been at war nearly 3 1/2 years. The war in Europe was nearing its end but the cost had been high. It was already known that many of the veterans of the war in Europe would have to be shipped to the Pacific theater to fight the Japanese.

    On April 12th, 1945 FDR died suddenly. To most Americans at that time Franklin D. Roosevelt had been the guiding hand. He held more political power than any president of the 20th century. When he died during this fourth term FDR had been in office so long that he was the only president that most of the Americans serving in the war had ever known. FDR’s replacement, Harry S.Truman, was an unknown having been totally overshadowed by his boss and not allowed into his inner circle. Truman didn’t even learn about the program to develop the atomic bombs until after he was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States. Under these conditions Truman took up the reins of power to guide the US to the completion of the war. Among his many problems was an ever increasing pressure to end the war quickly. The American people wanted their boys home!

    Most Americans seem to believe that it was the Atomic bombs that finally brought Imperial Japan to her knees in 1945. In my opinion this is not exactly correct, or at least a very simplified view of what actually happened. I view the use of those two bombs, “Little Boy”, dropped on Hiroshima Aug 6th, and “Fat Man”, dropped on Nagasaki Aug. 9th,as the final paragraph of a chapter that encompasses a destructive six months for which there is no parallel in the history of warfare.

    The stories of development of the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the bombs and the Manhattan project which produced the first nuclear weapons, and the actual use of those super weapons are worthy subjects covered very thoroughly in various texts. However the story of the firebombing of Japan is one that has received less attention and needs to be told in more detail. This is unfortunate because the story of the strategic bombing campaign against Japan lends context to those other stories allowing us to better understand why they happened.

    The strategic bombing campaign against Japan marks the only time in history that such a campaign ended a major war through destruction from the air. The allied strategic bombing campaign in Europe materially aided in the ultimate defeat of Germany but did not bring that country to its knees. It took an actual invasion of Germany to secure the defeat of that nation and the cost in lives for the allies who carried out that strategic bombing campaign in Europe was staggering. It cost about 55,000 United Kingdom air crew killed, and about 33,000 US air crew killed. (Though the Royal Air Force was considerably smaller than US Army Air Forces and bombed at night while the US bombed during the day, the RAF was in the fight against Germany almost 3 years longer than the USAF.)

    The Problems:

    The first successful incendiary raid against the Japanese homeland took place on Feb. 3rd, 1945 at Kobe Japan. 159 tons of incendiaries were dropped from high altitude with the result of more than 1,000 buildings being burned. This was an experiment ordered by the new commander of the 21st Bomber Command Maj. Gen. Curtiss LeMay. An earlier high altitude incendiary raid against Nagoya Japan had been a failure.

    LeMay had been sent by Commander of the US Army Air Forces, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, to take over the B-29 bombing campaign against Japan because of the poor results of high altitude precision raids. Hap Arnold’s order to LeMay was simply “get results”. Arnold had been a driving force behind the huge and expensive program to develop and build the B-29 (Development of the B-29 cost much more than the development of the Atomic bombs) and thus his reputation, legacy, and the future of the strategic bombing force, and in fact strategic bombing as a viable method of making war was tied to it’s performance. In short, the survival of the Air Force’s strategic bombers in the downsized military of post war America was at stake and Arnold knew it.

    Before the use of incendiaries B-29 bombers had been used in high altitude (27,500 to 33,000 feet) “precision” bombing raids using conventional explosive bombs. This was essentially the same tactic that was successful in Europe. The results of this type bombing against Japan were mixed but generally did not produce adequate results to justify the effort. In seven missions flow where the B-29’s dropped 1,550 tons of bombs it was found that not even 2% had hit within a 1,000 foot radius of the target. The B 29s flew 350 sorties against Japans Musashino aircraft engine plant near Tokyo and the result was only 34 hits on the buildings themselves.

    And losses of B-29s were relatively high for these meager results. In sixteen raids twenty nine of the bombers had been lost to enemy action and another twenty one to mechanical failures or pilot error.

    A huge investment had been made in developing the B-29 Superfortress and the allied combined joint chiefs of staff were unanimous in their declaration that the B-29 was not living up to it’s potential. What had worked against Germany was not succeeding in the war against Japan even though the Japanese air defenses were less well developed and not nearly as effective as Germanys.

    The failure of high altitude precision bombing of Japan can be attributed to a number of factors. The biggest problem the US bombers faced was the weather over Japan. The configuration of the jet streams which flow out of Siberia and Manchuria over Japan made the weather even more variable and less predictable than it was in Europe. The higher the bombers flew the more they and the drop of their bombs were affected by the high speed winds of the jet streams. Weather forecasting for Japan was much poorer than that for Europe because neither the Soviets nor Chinese to the west where the weather came from, would or could provide adequate data for US meteorologists to produce accurate forecasts. The OSS and US Navy did manage to get a couple of rudimentary weather stations working in the Gobi desert and though they were valuable they could not provide nearly the data that US forces in Europe enjoyed. Thus bombing accuracy was so poor due to the weather that the standard joke in Tokyo during the time of the early B-29 raids was that the US was trying to starve them by bombing the fish in Tokyo bay.

    Other problems were a result of the long distances the aircraft had to fly to get to the target and back. Because of the distances involved the B-29s had their bomb loads reduced. Most of the long distance flown by the bombers was over vast expanses of open water. Prior to Iwo Jima being secured the chances of survival were poor for B-29 crews who’s aircraft had to ditch due to battle damage suffered over Japan despite a concerted effort by the US Navy to station submarines and the Army to station rescue aircraft along the routes that the B-29s would take. So the pilots naturally tended to be very conservative when they experienced a mechanical problem and had to decide if they would abort or go on and fly the mission. This was caution was prudent because the B-29 was the most complex machine man had ever truly mass produced up to that time and still suffered from engine fires and a considerable number of electrical problems.

    Even worse, partly due to policy and partly due to necessity, Japans industry was not organized to be concentrated in particular regions as was found in Europe (such as the Ruhr valley in Germany), nor to be as centralized, so the targets were more diffuse requiring more raids. Much of Japans industrial complex was organized as a series of cottage industries (the Japanese called them “shadow factories”) run out of family homes feeding parts and components made there to small shops which in turn supplied sub assemblies to larger shops and factories.

    The Bombs:
    Henry Kaiser, the same industrialist that had built the Liberty Ship building program from the ground up as he had so many other great projects, had gotten in the business of making magnesium. This metal, lighter and much harder than aluminum, was critical for the war effort. It was estimated that about 12 million pounds a year would be needed by the US and it’s allies and yet there was only one plant making the stuff in 1940. That single plant was owned and run by Dow Chemical and used it’s own proprietary and secret process. (Eventually Dow would share it’s production method for the good of the war effort) Kaiser, in his typical fashion, saw there was going to be a shortage and tried to do something about it. He set up a plant to use a different process for producing the critical metal. But the project was filled with problems and failures. It was not until 1943 that Kaiser’s engineers had worked out all the problems.

    In making the magnesium a great deal of magnesium dust was created. It was a highly flammable and explosive hazard and the stuff had to constantly be swept up. They also used an asphalt product to capture the fine magnesium dust particles. This by-product of asphalt laden with magnesium dust came to be called “goop” and someone finally realized that this by product could possibly be a very effective incendiary weapon.

    So the Army built a complete Japanese village five blocks square with industrial and residential buildings using typical Japanese construction materials and techniques on the test range at of Dugway Proving ground in the middle of the Utah desert. The village even had air raid wardens and firemen to try and put out the flames the goop produced and they couldn’t do it. The Army was impressed and ordered a weapon made with goop as the incendiary component.

    Over the next year Kaiser produced 410,000 tons of goop and much of it was put into weapons headed across the Pacific.

    The weapon used for most of the low level firebomb raids against Japan was a cluster weapon. The M-31 cluster bomb weighed 562 lb and contained 38 M-79 10lb. bomblets. When released the cluster would arm and eject the M-79 bomblets desired altitude allowing the individually fused bomblets to spread over an area. It was much more effective than thermite and white phosphorous filled incendiary devices for causing conflagrations and particularly so in urban areas where most buildings were constructed of wood as was the case in Japan. Water did not extinguish the magnesium fed flames but actually helped to spread the burning liquid.

    The Debate:
    Based on the information gained from the successful incendiary raid on Kobe, LeMay proposed firebombing every major city in Japan to his superiors. Some, of the high command objected to the incendiary bombing of urban areas. Admiral Chester Nimitz, navy commander of the Pacific objected on moral grounds.

    During the same period when LeMay was proposing the firebombing of Japanese cities the invasion of Iwo Jima was in it’s final planning stages. Previous invasions at other islands like at Tarawa, Saipan, and Guam and made it clear that the fanatical Japanese defenders would be prepared and fight to the death causing huge American casualties. And now as the Americans approached closer to Japan the specter of the Kamikazes attacking the troop carriers of any invasion fleet became more ominous. The longer it took to conquer an Island the longer the US fleets had to stay concentrated in that vicinity in order to support the invasion and thus the longer they would be most vulnerable to Japans super weapon. In the event a US/Allied invasion fleet had to lie off Japan’s coast it would not enjoy the forewarning of Kamikaze attacks that it enjoyed during the invasion of the Iwo Jima, Okinawa.

    At Okinawa and Iwo Jima the Japanese aircraft had to fly over hundreds of miles of ocean where their presence was detected by radar long before they reached the fleet where their targets were located. At Okinawa a Picket line of Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts was placed between the main fleet and the bases from which Japans aircraft must fly to provide even more forewarning for the fleet. During an invasion of Japan proper the Kamikazes would come from over the mountainous terrain of the Japanese islands proper. This would mask the radar from detecting the attacking aircraft until they were almost upon the fleet. It would also make the troop transports a much easier target since the warships with all of their heavy antiaircraft armament would not be between the kamikazes and the vessels carrying and supporting the invasion forces as they were at Okinawa. And Japan’s military commanders had already figured out that in the event of an invasion of the home islands the principle targets of their suicide bombers should be the troops transports and not the capital ships as before.

    Japan’s desperate strategy of causing maximum casualties to the invaders in order to buy time and gain a limited armistice was made possible by it’s perverted version of the Bushido code of the ancient Samurai. It was the belief in this perverted code of honor which drove the Japanese soldier to fight to the death even when the situation was hopeless, or failing that, to commit suicide. And to make matters worse it had become quite evident during the invasions of the very Mariana Islands where the B-29s were then based, that significant numbers of Japanese civilians would also adhere to the Bushido code and fight to the death or commit suicide. These demonstrations of mass suicide by the Japanese civilians, including mothers carrying their babies, on Saipan and Guam had raised the specter of the possible elimination of a whole culture in the event of an invasion of Japan.

    Faced with this information and these dire possibilities during the initial planning for the invasion of Iwo Jima it was proposed in the Lethbridge Report to the allied high command that Iwo Jima be “drenched” with a Mustard gas like blister agent. Admiral Chester Nimitz along with most of the allied high command approved of this proposal knowing that the Japanese capabilities in chemical warfare were limited, but President Roosevelt vetoed the idea stating his fear of the use of such weapons against allied troops if and when an invasion of the home islands of Japan became necessary. However it was with these same fears in mind of the potentially tremendous casualties on both sides that LeMay was given approval for his fire bombing scheme over the objections of the Navy to the scheme.

    The Raids:
    After getting the approval for the firebombing of Japans major cities, LeMay sat down with his staff to develop a plan. LeMay proposed flying in for mass incendiary raids at low altitude (5,000 to 8,000 feet) at night in B-29 bombers stripped of their defensive guns and minus all but one of the gunners. The bombers would not fly in a particular formation and each pilot would be able to choose his course on the approach to the target area. It was hoped that this tactic of bombers approaching from multiple directions at varying altitudes at night would minimize the effectiveness of the Japanese antiaircraft defenses.

    Most of LeMay’s staff objected, fearing high casualty rates with one of his experts estimating losses of up to 75% of the aircraft. They had every right to be concerned because previous experience with low level raids by large numbers of heavy bombers in Europe, such as against the Polesti oil refineries in Romania, had resulted in terrible losses for the attacking bomber force. Gen. LeMay finally overruled them and said “Well, if those figures happen to be correct, then we’ll have to send for more B-29 combat crews, won’t we!” When the air crews got wind of the idea most thought it suicidal.

    Thus it was decided. The first target was Tokyo, the capital of Japan, at that time the 3rd largest city in the world, and the best defended city in Japan. The first raid would be a maximum effort code named “Meetinghouse”. 325 of the B-29 heavy bombers would be stripped of all their defensive guns except the tail guns. The only gunner to go would serve as an observer and to operate the tail gun. There was also no need for a bombardier since the raid was at such low level Removing the guns, their ammunition, the gunners and bombardier saved 3,000 lb. allowing the bomb load to be increased by that much so each B-29 could carry about 12,000 lbs incendiary bombs. This maximum load dropped from this altitude would result in each B-29 bomber dispersing 912 M-79 bomblets filled with Kaiser’s “goop” in a pattern approximately ½ mile wide by 1 ½ mile long.

    The bombers were to concentrate their bombing in a five square mile area of the city. It was hoped that by doing this a massive and uncontrollable conflagration would result and it would spread down wind through the city.

    At 6:00 PM on March 9th, 1945 the crews of 325 B-29s stationed on the hard won islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam climbed into their bombers for what would turn out to be the single most destructive air raid in history. Only a few aborted.

    Many of the bomber crews flew over Iwo Jima where that bloody battle still raged in it’s final stages and fellow Americans were dying. By this time in the war, the crews were aware of the stories of Japanese atrocities in the areas they occupied and the murder and abuse of American POWs during the Bataan death march and while captives of Japan. And by this time the use of Kamikazes was well known, and even some B-29s had been intentionally rammed over Japan. Thus it should not be surprising that relatively few of the crew members had any moral reservations about bombing the urban areas of Japan if it could possibly end the war more quickly. The crews main objection was that they feared they would not survive at low level over Japan. But they swallowed their feelings and flew the mission.

    After the first few waves of bombers had dropped their loads the following crews could see the glow of Tokyo burning from 50 miles away. They flew over the conflagration in the smoke of the fires which reached 10,000 feet. In the smoke they smelled the nauseating odor of burning human flesh and many put on their oxygen masks during the raid to keep from vomiting from the smell. Many a crewman missed a couple meals after the raid because they couldn’t get that odor out of their noses. One crewman described what he saw as “a nightmare out of Dante’s inferno.”

    As they passed over the burning areas their bombers were cast about by the powerful thermals created by the super heated air. Several aircraft were completely flipped over by the those thermals and others described the blast of air that threw their aircraft upward as producing the highest “G” load they ever felt in their flying career. Their aircraft were driven upward as if they were “a feather in a high wind”. In some cases the “G” force was so powerful the pilots could not lift their arms to control the aircraft until the thermal updraft released its hold on them. All the B-29s returning to base had the undersides of their wings blackened by the soot from the fires.

    For nearly three hours the B-29s passed over Tokyo adding their incendiaries to the holocaust below on an area of the city with an average population density greater than 103,000 per square mile. The temperature in the heart of the conflagration is estimated to have reached 1,800 deg. F., and water in the canals boiled. Winds of super heated air reaching hurricane force raged through the streets of the areas about to be consumed. Many were killed by breathing superheated air before they were consumed by the flames. Bomb shelters were death traps because those in them not roasted by the heat were asphyxiated as the fire sucked all the available air from the confined space they were in. There was no way of effectively fighting the fire.

    When it was over 16 square miles of the third most populous cities on earth had been completely burned out. 25% of all buildings (more than ¼ million) in Tokyo had been utterly destroyed. Japans official casualty estimate was 83,783 killed and 50,000 wounded but there is reason to believe that the death toll was actually somewhat higher and probably exceeded 100,000. Nearly one million Tokyo residents were homeless. By any measure the destruction and death tolls from this single firebomb raid exceeded that wrought by either atomic bomb, and thus it is the most destructive and deadly single air raid in history.

    LeMay described the effects of the attack as “It was as though Tokyo had dropped through the floor of the world and into the mouth of hell”

    And this was just the beginning of the most destructive and deadly 6 months in the history of aerial warfare. With the success of the raid all talk of the B-29 being a failure ceased. Bolstered by the success of the Tokyo raid LeMay drove his crews hard and they participated in a bombing blitz that made the German version against Britain pale in comparison. In quick succession the industrial cities of Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe received their destruction by fire. In a fourteen day period starting with the Tokyo fire raid 32 square miles of hearts of Japans four greatest industrial cities were burned out.

    This blitz resulted in the depletion of the M-79 incendiaries but raids using conventional bombs and the older types of incendiary bombs continued until the stocks of the M-79 incendiaries were replenished.

    During this period Iwo Jima was secured and large numbers of fighter escort were then based there. Iwo Jima was close enough to most of the targets in Japan that starting on April 7th the B-29s enjoyed the protection of a fighter escort for their raids and the island also served as an emergency airstrip for bombers in trouble. And this, along with Japanese military leadership’s determination to harbor their aircraft for resistance to future invasions made it safe enough to conduct raids using mixed loads of incendiary and high explosives in daylight at medium altitudes. In the end, more air crews lives were saved by the protection and air fields the island provided for damaged aircraft than the Marines and sailors lost taking Iwo Jima. It is still argued if the cost of taking Iwo Jima was worth it. Iwo and the other sulpher islands were along the route from the established B-29 bases in the Marianas and so I believe the cost was justified.

    By August 6th, when Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, an average of nearly 30% of Japans 20 largest cities had been utterly destroyed resulting in the deaths of nearly a million of their citizens. This is was about twice as many killed as the Germans, Italians, and their forced labor forces had suffered from strategic bombing during the whole war in Europe.

    During this same period B-29s also dropped 10s of 1,000s of mines in the waters off Japan. This effort in combination with the efforts of the US Navy, especially the silent service (submarines), resulted in the nearly complete shutdown of merchant shipping months before the war ended.

    During 15 months of operation against the Japanese homeland the B-29s dropped almost 170,000 tons of bombs and incendiaries on Japan. They had flown 34,790 sorties. It had cost 414 B-29 bombers and 3,015 crew casualties.

    The ultimate effect:
    That many of the leadership of Japan knew the war was lost before the atomic bombs were dropped is borne out by their post war statements. Prince Konoye of the Japanese Royal family said “Fundamentally, the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing by the B-29s.” The Japanese Premier Suzuki said “I, myself, on the basis of the B-29 raids, felt that the cause was hopeless.” Tojo, before his execution, said that he “knew in his heart that Japan could not win the war after the loss of Saipan and the Marianas islands.” So the Imperial family knew that the war was lost and wanted to end it because of the B-29 raids before the use of the atomic bombs. But it was the use of the atomic bombs that made it possible for the emperor, at great peril to himself and his office, to take on the military establishment running the government and surrender his nation and even then there was an attack on the Imperial Palace to try and prevent the broadcast of the Emperors message of surrendure.

    In the end, it cannot be credibly argued that the Strategic bombing of Japan, including the use of the atomic bombs was not the deciding factor in ending the war before the invasion of Japan proper was required. That first invasion was to begin Nov 1, 1945 and the Combined Joint Chiefs had estimated allied casualties for just the first phase of the invasion to be 500,000. The US had suffered 12,520 killed during the invasion of the Okinawa as compared to about 110,000 Japanese soldiers and airmen killed in the battle for that island. For every American KIA there were over 7 Japanese military KIA, and add to that another 2-5 Japanese civilians killed (estimates vary greatly and the true number will never be known). This ratio of 7-1 military KIA was right on par with what had been the average result in nearly every US invasion of Japanese held islands since the first major one at Guadalcanal. Thus it is not unreasonable to estimate that had the allies invaded Japan and the Japanese had fought to the last as most of the Japanese military leaders wanted, the defenders would have suffered millions both military and civilian killed. The numbers make it clear that in the final analysis the only reasonable conclusion is that the firebombing of Japan and use of the atomic bombs actually saved millions of lives in the long run.

    The argument that still goes on today:
    Since those times some historians have tried to claim that Japan would have surrendered without the use of atomic bombs. They ignore the fact that far more casualties were caused by the fire bombing campaign than by the use of the atomic bombs. Why?

    As time passes and the memory of the nature of the desperate times of WW II when nations fought for their very survival fades, the judgmental voices of the morally self- righteous, or those that for some reason desire to find fault with the US begin to be heard as they always do. These voices almost always emanate from those who did not participate in the events and in fact never had to place their own lives on the line to fight for anything let alone make the life and death decisions they so often arrogantly critique so critically. Their own “analysis” of such historic events is accomplished with a bias towards reaching conclusions to justify their own current social/political agendas or opinions, and so they avoid using inconvenient facts and analysis that does not agree with their own because they cannot effectively counter it. Thus they ignore the fact that the fire bombing raids were far more destructive and deadly than the atomic weapons used were. And they ignore the fact that despite this Japan had not surrendered and in fact rejected the demands for surrender and the threat of even worse destruction to come issued in the name of the Big Three from Potsdam The facts are not on their side.

    Some of these critics point to the fact that Japan had diplomatic contacts with the Russians near the end of the war. They claim that these talks were started by Japan with the intent of getting the Russians to carry a message of Japans desire to negotiate peace to the allies. True, as far as it goes, however false in the impression it leaves. Those diplomatic discussions went on for over a month and Japans objective in these discussions with the Soviets, who had remained neutral in the war against Japan, was not surrender but was in fact an effort to get Stalin to ally with them and for the two countries to share the resources of China and Manchuria. An armistice or limited peace under these conditions was merely a stalling tactic to buy time so Japan could rearm and then with their new Soviet allies split the bounty of China. The Soviets broke off the talks suddenly when the first atomic bomb was dropped and quickly declared war on Japan.

    Others claim that the US only needed to blockade Japan and not use the atomic bombs to get the country to surrender. Based on the actions of the Japanese up to that time this is doubtful at best. And it does not account for the fact that the forces of Nippon in China, living off the bounty of that land, were still at war in the theater that resulted in far more deaths than any other Japan invaded. However if that course had been chosen the casualty rate due to starvation could have been even more horrendous than the projections for those resulting from invasion and far worse than that resulting from any bombing. The average Japanese citizen had already suffered through years of semi starvation and by 1945 the average caloric intake of Japanese civilians was 20% under the estimated minimum needed for mere sustenance. In any famine the children, the aged, and women suffer the highest mortality.

    And any Allied blockading fleet would be vulnerable to Kamikaze attacks from the home island and such casualties would have been substantial. During the invasion of Okinawa sailors suffered more casualties at sea, mostly due to kamikaze attack, than the Army and Marines suffered in battle on the island. And there is every reason to believe that Allied casualties would have been much worse off Japan because Kamikazes would be able to attack the fleet using the mountainous terrain to mask their approach from radar until they were close to the blockading fleet.

    Add to these facts, that there were nearly 150,000 Japanese military men that had been isolated on the islands in the Pacific they were sent to defend and garrison having been bypassed by the allies. These men, isolated and receiving no supplies, were starving. Allied airmen or other prisoners and even local natives that fell into their hands had ended up on the menu of some of these Japanese. So apparently those that argue now in hindsight that the blockade would have been more humane way to get Japan to surrender believe that starving a larger number of people to death, with a high proportion of them being children and women, is preferable to killing a lesser number by more violent means in order to achieve the same objective.

    And then there was the fact that the Japanese held about 30,000 starving and abused allied prisoners on their home islands as slave laborers and orders had already been issued by the Japanese high command to execute all prisoners as soon as an invasion of the home islands was initiated by the allies. In the event of a blockade the prisoners, already starving, would have certainly perished. (Japan withheld nearly all of the Red Cross Packages intended for the prisoners. If they hadn’t the prisoners would have been eating better than their guards towards the end.)

    Besides, such a course, or any course that would have extended the war denies the political and social realities in the United States at the time. The American people were war weary and they wanted their boys home!

    There is the claim that Truman and all the higher up civilians and military in the US were in on a conspiracy to use the atomic bombs to make a point to Stalin knowing that Japan was about to surrender. Never mind that there is no more evidence to back this claim than there is for the claim that FDR knew the attack on Pearl Harbor was coming. This claim ignores the fact that Truman, against the objections of Churchill, had already given in to Stalin at Potsdam there by allowing the USSR a virtually a free hand in most of Eastern Europe. Why would Truman choose to make a point to Stalin to emphasize the US commitment to stop Soviet expansion when he had already allowed half of Europe to come under Soviet control without a fight? The answer of course is that he wouldn’t have.

    And of course there are those that claim that had Truman negotiated a peace instead of standing by FDR’s policy decision that Japan’s surrender must be unconditional, the heavy strategic bombing and use of the atomic bombs would never had been necessary. This of course ignores the fact that such a negotiated peace or armistice would leave in power the very same military leadership of Japan that had perverted the Bushido code, subverted civilian democratic leadership with murder and intimidation, in order to bring about its aggressive and brutal quest for an empire in the first place would negotiate their power away when they still stood defiant as the cities burned? Is it reasonable to believe that the same people that demanded Hitler must go and prosecuted the war to the end would somehow find it acceptable to leave a Japanese military leadership in power?

    The simple fact is that only through total defeat allowing an unconditional occupation where by the allies had a free hand to change Japans governmental structure and what elements of their society that was deemed necessary to alter could the changes be made to ensure the prevention of a military resurgence of an Imperial Japan.

    Truman faced a terrible decision. Either invade Japan knowing that even many of the civilians would fight to the death or kill themselves there by possibly destroying a whole culture and resulting in almost incomprehensible casualties for both sides or try to end the war by massive bombing and the use of nuclear weapons. But though the choices that Truman had were terrible, there is absolutely no doubt that he made the correct one.

    • philjourdan says:

      WOW! You worked long and hard on this. Much of what you write I already knew (but could never write it as eloquently). But there was a lot I did not know. I appreciate the history lesson.

      Hindsight is 20/20. We saw what a “blockade” did in Iraq. Made them martyrs. I agree it would never have worked. There is so much to comment on about your narrative that I could write almost as much. But I will leave it at that and let your words stand on their own.

      Thank you.

      • rah says:

        Thank you. I wrote that essay a few years ago and have revised portions of it several times since as I learned more. My motivation for writing it in the first place was the concerted effort by some leftist academics to revise the history to try and make the US out as being the bad guy in WW II because of causing what they claimed was unnecessary death and destruction in the final stages of the war against Imperial Japan.

        I used a plethora of sources but still have occasionally found factual errors or details that I felt were significant. So invite anyone here that can point out any error or perceives anything I might have missed is welcomed to constructively comment. Please provide the source if your correction is of some fact that I have stated.

    • Keitho says:

      That was an excellent post, thank you so much for taking the time to put it up here. If it is OK with you I want to store it on my hard drive and then send it on, with attribution of course, to those I know who are less than adequately informed on these matters.


      • rah says:

        Store and use away. I’m not a scholar nor an author that has sold anything for pay. Just a guy that loves US History and especially war history and has maintained my passion for it since I was a tyke.

        • omanuel says:

          Thanks for your report, RAH. I agree and I believe a Japanese General also said that the fire bombing raids were the reason Japan lost the war. Otherwise Japan would have bad the atomic bomb first and history books would have written about San Francisco instead of Hiroshima.

        • _Jim says:

          Oliver, Japan had ‘lost the war’ earlier than that even. That was not the problem. The rest of your post was arbitrage between the immaterial and irrelevant.

          Reading the work written by poser rah above points out the problem, it was a systemic problem embedded in the Japanese military and culture. I excerpt this from his work above as a place to start at in re-reading his excellent post:
          – – – – –

          So the Imperial family knew that the war was lost and wanted to end it because of the B-29 raids before the use of the atomic bombs. But it was the use of the atomic bombs that made it possible for the emperor, at great peril to himself and his office, to take on the military establishment running the government and surrender his nation and even then there was an attack on the Imperial Palace to try and prevent the broadcast of the Emperors message of surrender.

          In the end, it cannot be credibly argued that the Strategic bombing of Japan, including the use of the atomic bombs was not the deciding factor in ending the war before the invasion of Japan proper was required.

          – – – – – – –

          There are little ‘factoids’ like this that I had not previously considered, mostly because I have not studied the subject as completely as rah:

          And then there was the fact that the Japanese held about 30,000 starving and abused allied prisoners on their home islands as slave laborers and orders had already been issued by the Japanese high command to execute all prisoners as soon as an invasion of the home islands was initiated by the allies. In the event of a blockade the prisoners, already starving, would have certainly perished.

          – – – – – –


        • _Jim says:

          errata: make that “poster rah” in the second paragraph. mea culpa.

    • kentclizbe says:


      Thanks for your effort on that. Very interesting.

      You should publish that as an ebook–Kindle or the like.

    • Hugh K says:

      Great read rah. Thanks so much for taking the time to post.
      As an Army brat I grew up in post-WWII Germany around the mid fifties to early sixties. I remember the bombed out buildings…everywhere one traveled! 10 years post-war there remained incredible devastation. Our school would take field trips to Dachau, etc. and witness the ovens, pictures of starving inmates on the walls, the stark, cold overall feeling of the place. As a child, I wondered how man could possibly be so cruel to others. Then came the sirens during the Berlin crisis. We were told to have our possessions packed and ready to go at a moments notice. Military convoys were on the move. A very scary time. The beginning of WWIII we wondered. I wish every person in the world could have had those experiences and understand that throughout history there have always been truly bad people in the world and there still is. As I watch the extermination of Christians in the ME, Palestinians so consumed with hatred the use their own children as human shields and a US President that is so detached…..I wonder if we have learned nothing from history.

      • rah says:

        I was stationed at Bad Tolz for 3 years (1986-89) and one adds in the cumulative TDY time I spent about 5 years in Europe. Dachau, the first German Concentration Camp, was not far away and I made two trips there. One was not enough for me to get a handle on it. What I saw just did not jive with the way the industrious, religious and accommodating Bavarians had treated us troops there and to think that Hitlers political power base was in Bavaria. I finally recognized that any people can be turned to do or at least ignore evil. It is the only answer.

        • philjourdan says:

          I spent 2 years in Germany in the early 70s. And my impression of the Germans was the same. A very kind and courteous folk. Which shows what can happen when a megalomaniac takes control. I doubt all the Jim Jones folks were evil or killers. But some where, and they all drank the kool aid (except his son).

    • Brian H says:

      A little-known story:

      Charles McCarry in an essay called A Strip of Exposed Film (based on a talk given at the New York Public Library and published in Paths of Resistance: The Art and Craft of the Political Novel). .

      Charles McCarry had been climbing in the Japan Alps when he and his wife were invited to visit the head man of a village called Nodaira.

      His name was Toyomi Yamagishi. The same twenty families had been living in this very remote village since the twelfth century; the first road had been built only thirty years earlier. Before that everything that went into the village and came out of the village went in or came out on the back of a human being.

      The visit took place at ten in the morning, “the usual Japanese hour for such affairs. They all sat around the kotatsu, a table with a blanket draped over it and a charcoal brazier underneath, “so that your lower body was warm enough and you warmed your upper body by drinking whiskey and sake at ten in the morning.” After they had eaten and been served green tea, Yamagishi began to speak.

      He spoke in a recitative style, somewhat like the narration of a Noh play or a Bunraku puppet theater performance, except that he was speaking modern Japanese so that we could understand what he was saying.

      He said he had invited us to his house because he had never met an American and had wanted to ever since World War II. We chatted a little about the history of the village and about the life that he and the other villagers had led before the war. He said it had been a life of ceaseless toil. As a child he had only rarely seen the faces of his parents because they worked every day from dark to dark, leaving the hut before he woke and returning after he was asleep. He had had no children of his own because he wanted to avoid this sadness in his own life. I remarked that I had grown up on a farm and knew how hard that life could be. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but you do not know. Human beings are not beasts of burden in America.”

      Yamagishi then told us about his life during the war. He had been drafted in 1944, at the age of forty, and sent to Osaka to guard the emperor’s forest. Then the Americans took Saipan and the B-29s came. “The Americans burned the forest with incendiary bombs, so it was not necessary to guard it any longer,” he said. “I became a firefighter. The Americans would drop incendiary bombs to set the city on fire, and when we went to fight the fires they would wait until we were very busy and then they would come over with other B-29s and drop antipersonnel bombs and kill the firemen. I thought, ‘The Americans are very clever.’ Then, after the whole city had been destroyed, a single B-29 flew over Osaka and dropped not bombs but hundreds of little parachutes. When these parachutes landed we saw that a gift was tied to each—a mirror, a harmonica, a fountain pen. The Japanese people had lost nearly everything in the bombing and they were very glad to have these gifts from the Americans. They ran to get them, and when they touched them they exploded in their hands, blowing off fingers and blinding people. I thought, ‘The Americans are not only clever; they are ruthless. We have lost the war.’”

      Yamagishi said, “Your ships came and shelled us. The bombers kept on also, every day. I was assigned to train people to fight the Americans when they invaded. We showed women and children how to make spears from bamboo. Every Japanese was prepared to die defending the homeland. Then the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The emperor’s voice came over loudspeakers in the streets. He told us we must surrender. No one had ever heard his voice before, and to us it was the voice of God. But our commanding officer said, ‘No! We must kill the Americans! He is no true emperor if he tells the Japanese to surrender.’ Nevertheless we obeyed the emperor, and I came back to this village. All the younger sons of every family—all twenty families—had been killed in the war. Only old men and women were left to do the work. I thought we would starve to death. But as you see, we did not.

      “Now,” the old Japanese said, “I will tell you why I invited you here. It is because I have something to say to you, and to all Americans.” He was out of breath and his face was full of color from the whiskey he had drunk, and I thought, “Well, here it comes.”

      Yamagishi said, “Thank you. Thank you for defeating Japan. If you Americans had not done so, this village would be as it always was. The militarists would never have let us have democracy. But the Americans built the road; my nephews and nieces have cars and television sets, and they see their children every day. And because they have eaten American things like milk and vegetables and fruit, instead of the millet and pickles we had to eat, they are tall and beautiful like Americans instead of short and homely like me and my wife.” He bowed and said, “Thank you.” I realized, to my surprise, and in spite of everything I believed about the morality of bombing civilians, that the U.S. Air Force had won Yamagishi’s heart and mind by pitilessly destroying Osaka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      In one of my novels a political idealist asks Paul Christopher what he believes in. Christopher replies, “I believe in consequences.” In the novel, as in politics and in life itself, you can’t know what the consequences of any act will be until you come to the end.

      • rah says:

        Thanks Brian. Excellent story. I’ll remember it.

      • omanuel says:

        Thanks, Brian, for this story.

        I heard it before, but dismissed it as probably US propaganda.

        Now I suspect the story may have validity. Anyone who lived under the tyranny of

        1. Imperialist Japan,
        2. Nazi Germany or
        3. Stalin’s Communist USSR

        Would have been happy their government was defeated.

        Unfortunately, #3 tyrannical government was not defeated.

        Thanks, again Comrade Brian, for the story.

      • Thank you for the story, Brian.

        I can’t wait to drop it on Boulder Chomskyites of my acquaintance, all of whom are also global warming devotees. I fancy the double grief Mr. Yamagishi’s dual endorsement of America’s war and carbon footprint will give them.

    • Thank you, RAH. Filing it away in my history folder.

      Also, an excellent observation about postwar Bavarians and the nature of man.

    • Gail Combs says:


      It is always nice to see the true history preserved and presented when academics are scrambling to rewrite it to make the USA look as bad as possible.

  2. omanuel says:

    Thank you, Steven aka Tony, for taking the time to research news reports from 1945. Some major events were never reported and one was not reported until fifty-seven years later [1].

    Probably we won WWII because of the decision to fire-bomb Nagoya ! That forced Japan to move its atomic bomb production facility from Nagoya, Japan to Konan, Korea. They lost three months development time in the move. Despite this delay, our first atomic bomb exploded in New Mexico on 16 July 1945 – less than one month before Japan exploded its first atomic bomb off the east coast of Konan, Korea on 12 August 1945.

    These other unreported events in late August 1945 seem to explain the abrupt changes in the direction of world governments and government-controlled science after WWII.

    _ a.) Stalin’s USSR troops captured Japan’s atomic bomb production facility
    _ b.) Stalin’s USSR troops shot down and captured the crew of an American plane near Konan
    _ c.) At least one copy of plans for building atomic bombs disappeared from government control for the next fifty-seven years (2002 – 1945 = 57 yrs):

    BBC News, “Atomic plans returned to Japan,” News Front Page, World Edition (3 Aug 2002) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2170881.stm

    • _Jim says:

      Playing the arbitrage between immaterial and irrelevant again Oliver?

      Maybe Oliver, for all his ‘musings’ about the past and ‘the bomb’ overlooks the fundamental military problem which is a space-time problem. This was observed by Nathan Bedford Forrest succinctly in his solution which was “getting there firstest with the mostest”, or the modern, contemporary equivalent :

      “A good plan executed violently is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
      . – George S. Patton

    • Who is this Rorschach guy and why do all his inkblots show the abrupt change in government-controlled science in 1945?

  3. Eric Simpson says:

    I think the point is that certain areas in (current) war should be completely razed, and turned into a people free buffer zone, and the previous inhabitants that think that they can constantly bite the hand that could annihilate them, they can go wherever, just not where they were before.

    Wasn’t it Sherman that said when he was just completely destroying much of the South that his point was to pound home the message that war is utter hell, so the South wouldn’t want to do it (war) again. Same with a current war. Everyone is getting on the case of a certain nation, no matter what they do. Well, bring it home. Make it painful for their nearby enemy. Raze the situation. Make them not want to go through that hell again, like Sherman did to the South. Otherwise you can just rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

    • Eric Simpson says:

      Ok, here’s a quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman:

      “If they want eternal war, well and good; we accept the issue, and will dispossess them and put our friends in their place. I know thousands and millions of good people who at simple notice would come to North Alabama and accept the elegant houses and plantations there. If the people of Huntsville think different, let them persist in war three years longer, and then they will not be consulted. Three years ago by a little reflection and patience they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late.
      All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can take them, and rightfully, too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence.”

      The point: some people today seem to be perversely asking and begging for war, knowing full well that the other side could completely destroy them if it wanted to. Be careful what you ask for.

      • James the Elder says:

        I can’t remember the exact quote. During The March, civilians often showed up at headquarters asking for safe passage back to places in Georgia, Alabama, etc. The majority got their passage. When a civilian showed up one day demanding passage to the north, Sherman ordered him pointed south with the remark “We have enough of your kind now.” Sherman was one cold SOB, but some of the Confederate generals understood where he was coming from and gave him his due respect by attending his funeral in the face of southern outrage. My sister-in-law’s great-grandmother in Greenville SC fed Sherman and his staff when they passed through; each officer leaving one silver dollar, then burning the place the next morning. The family still has the silver dollars.

        • philjourdan says:

          Sherman was an arsehole – but he understood war. War is not negotiation. And to wage war that way is to assure you lose. He may not have been a great general, but he was a smart one.

  4. omanuel says:

    Thank you, Tony/Steven, for your blog and for all of the information posted here.

    I am convinced that the seeds of Climategate and the UN’s IPCC sprouted in the ruins of WWII, hidden from the public by unreported events in late August 1945.

    Since Hiroshima recovered from the ruins to become a bustling city, I also suspect that the dangers of nuclear radiation were wildly exaggerated after WWII.

    Galen Winsor of the Handford, WA nuclear fuel element reprocessing plant came independently to the same conclusion, with much better documentation.

  5. omanuel says:

    Rah, Gail, Steven, Brian and other buffs of the closing days of WWII:

    I recommend that you study carefully the autobiography of my research mentor, Kazuo Kuroda aka Paul K. Kuroda, “My Early Days at the Imperial University of Tokyo”

    Click to access PKKAutobiography.pdf

    The story is very circumvent. I will try to help if you have questions. Kuroda was asked by Japan’s Navy to take over Japan’s atomic bomb project from Japan’s Army in the closing days.

  6. omanuel says:

    The last survivor of the bomber over Hiroshima, Thedore VanKirk, died today:


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