Historians, Military Commanders Agree: Atomic Bombs Were Unnecessary

John LaForge

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima Japan Aug. 6, 1945 (pictured above after streets were cleared) was gob-smacking. It incinerated with one device what had taken 464 separate B-29 bombers using firebombs to accomplish against Tokyo on April 26 that year.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima Japan Aug. 6, 1945 (pictured above after streets were cleared) was gob-smacking. It incinerated with one device what had taken 464 separate B-29 bombers using firebombs to accomplish against Tokyo on April 26 that year.

Seventy years ago, in April 1946, the US Strategic Bombing Survey, led by Paul Nitze, concluded its extensive official study and concluded, “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
“[C]ertainly prior to 31 December and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945” the official survey found, according to Gar Alperovitz in his definitive work on the subject, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth” (Knopf 1995).
Likewise, the official report of the Intelligence Group of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division – also completed in April 1946, yet only discovered in 1989 – concluded the atomic bomb had not been needed to end the war. According to Alperovitz in The Decision, the Group “judged that it was ‘almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war.’”
The Russians declared war on Japan on Aug. 8, 1945, and, – expanding on President Truman’s July 17 journal entry, “Fini Japs when that comes about” – Major General Curtis LeMay, Chief of the 21st Bomber Command, declared for the record at a press conference Sept. 20, 1945: “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.” Pressed by a reported who asked, “Had they not surrendered because of the atomic bomb?” LeMay answered, “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.” General LeMay calculated that the Japanese would surrender by September 1, after his mass firebombing effort would have destroyed “everything” in Japan.
Former governor Sarah Palin criticized Barak Obama his May 27 visit to Hiroshima. Gov. Palin said Obama had insulted veterans of WW II. On the contrary, the story that the atomic bombings were justifiable retribution for Japanese aggression and to prevent US military casualties is the worst insult and trivialization of Pacific theater veterans. The death-defying bomber units and combat troops that sacrificed so mightily in bloody drawn-out battles for Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and elsewhere are the people who actually won the war as dozens of high-level military officers have testified.
Admiral Lewis Strauss wrote to the naval historian Robert G. Albion Dec. 19, 1960: for “authoritative statements as to the condition of Japan in the late spring, at least from the Navy’s point of view, there are statements by Admiral [Ernest J.] King, Admiral [William F.] Halsey, Admiral [Arthur] Radford, Admiral [Chester W.] Nimitz and others who expressed themselves to the effect that neither the atomic bomb nor the proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland were necessary to produce the surrender.” Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s Chief of Staff, was adamant: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan,” and generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall also opposed or had reservations about the atomic bombings
While most reporters, editors and columnists persist to this day in repeating the story that US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war in the Pacific, J. Samuel Walker, former chief historian for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, wrote in the winter 1990 issue of the professional journal Diplomatic History: “The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.”
Of course the effort to reinforce the official reasons for the massacres included governmental censorship and secrecy. Greg Mitchell’s book “Atomic Cover-Up: Two US Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Never Made” (Sinclair Books, 2011) recounts the 20 hours of color film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how it was kept hidden for decades. Reporters were censored by US occupation forces, and photographs of human victims were confiscated, classified SECRET. Joseph Gerson’s book “Empire and the Bomb” (Pluto Press 2007) explains that the hush-up campaign had several goals: “to obscure the true reasons for the A-bombs; to limit understanding of the death and destruction wrought by the A-bombs; and to maintain popular support for continuing preparation and threats to initiate future nuclear wars.”
The government’s public rationalizations for incinerating Hiroshima and Nagasaki still dominate public opinion. In 2005, a Gallop poll reported that 57 percent of people surveyed in the US believed the bombings were justified and legitimate. The myth, although rejected by a consensus of informed scholars, retains its usefulness. President Obama’s proposed 30-year, trillion-dollar program to rebuild the nuclear weapons production establishment can only go ahead if taxpayers hold fast to the belief that something good can somehow come from the mass destruction of civilians.