The Opening Act of the Cold War. The Atomic Bombs as a Demonstration of Power

Essay, 2012

27 Pages, Grade: 1

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The Opening Act of the Cold War

Brandon Bagley

Why did President Harry S. Truman decide to use the atomic bombs on Japan? It is easy to find an American historian or politician claiming the bombs ended the war against Japan and saved American lives. However, over the last couple decades many documents pertinent to this topic have been declassified. This paper will analyze these documents along with other research. Prior to the analysis, information on the background of developing the bomb, how the leaders of the United States felt about using it and thoughts on Japan surrendering will be discussed. The paper will lead to a conclusion not widely accepted in American history. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not necessary to attain a Japanese surrender, even without a land invasion, therefore the bombs were dropped to test different bombs worth billions of dollars, avenge Pearl Harbor, and keep the Soviet Union from gaining territory and spreading communist influence in Asia and Europe.

The United States entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, December 7, 1941.[1] However, this was not the reason the atomic bombs came about. The development of the atomic bomb was actually a race with Hitler. It started when Albert Einstein signed and forwarded a letter, written by Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard, to President Roosevelt informing him that Germany was developing an atomic bomb and they should do the same hence, the Manhattan Project.[2] Though Einstein's formula, , was the key to the project the leading scientist behind the development of the bomb was J. Robert Oppenheimer.[3]

As far as the bomb being used is concerned, the journey began with the presidency of Harry S. Truman. President Roosevelt's main interest before he died was getting the Soviet Union to agree to enter the Pacific War. This was achieved in February of 1945, at the meeting of the big three; Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. The Yalta meeting (Crimea Conference) concluded: "the leaders of the three great powers — the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain — have agreed that in two or three months (later 90 days) after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe has terminated, the Soviet Union shall enter into the war against Japan on the side of the allies..."[4] The Soviet Union was also promised territory in return for its help.

Truman ascended to the presidency upon Roosevelt's death, April 12, 1945.[5] It is unclear how much Truman knew about the Manhattan Project before he was President, but he was an influential man in the Senate who helped approve funding for the project. Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War, sent him a letter discussing the matter on April 24, 1945 which reads, "I think it is very important I should have a talk with you as soon as possible on a highly secret matter … I mentioned it to you shortly after you took office… has such a bearing on our present foreign relations… I think you ought to know…"[6]

From that moment on the bomb would be considered to be used on Japan, if completed in time. Truman was unprepared and out of the loop when he became President. Furthermore, April was one of the most hectic months of the war. In addition to the death of President Roosevelt, and the Soviet Union announcing it would not renew the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact (April 5), Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on April 30th.[7] Following his death Germany surrendered on May 8th. According to the Yalta agreement the Soviet Union would enter the war on August 8th.

Another big three meeting was expected to take place following the surrender of Germany. It was delayed due to deterioration in relations with the Soviet Union. Gar Alperovitz asserts in his thoroughly researched book, the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,"the first detailed information on the atomic bomb, in fact, was not brought to the attention of President Truman in connection with the war against Japan. His initial full briefing on the new weapon came about in the context of a diplomatic confrontation with the Soviet Union."[8] This refers to the letter from Stimson to Truman mentioned above. The conflict with the Soviet Union was over the Polish government. The United States wanted Poland to have a democratic election and the Soviet Union felt they would not be "Soviet friendly."

The conflict began to involve most of Eastern Europe because as Germany disintegrated the Red Army marched from East to Central Europe. "Stimson informed Truman on May 16 that all agree as to the probability of pestilence and famine in Central Europe next winter. This is likely to be followed by political revolution and communist infiltration…it is vital to keep those countries from being driven to revolution or communism."[9] This type of thinking would later be called the cold war mentality and the domino theory (the spread of communism) but it was prevalent during World War II.

On May 11th, Churchill urged Truman to have another big three meeting to settle issues with Russia and decide what to do with Germany and its territories.[10] However, Truman had decided to delay the meeting until July 17. Truman writes in his memoirs, "[James F.] Byrnes had already told me that the weapon might be so powerful as to be potentially capable of wiping out entire cities and killing people on a wide scale and he added that in his belief the bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war."[11] In addition, Truman writes Stimson told him, "the atomic bomb would be certain to have a decisive influence on our relations with other countries, and if it worked, the bomb, in all probability, would shorten the war."[12]

Evidently, here the idea of the bomb shortening the war is seen as a bonus as compared to giving the United States power over other countries in a time of confrontation with Stalin. This is why Truman delayed the meetings until July, which is when the first test of the atomic bomb was to be completed. Churchill tried to get the meeting moved to June 15, with no success.[13] "J. Robert Oppenheimer later recalled, 'I don’t think there was a time where we worked harder at the speed [of the bomb] than in the period after the German surrender and [before] the actual combat use of the bomb.'"[14]

The United States tried to make sure they would be the only ones with the bomb and its power. They started collecting and stockpiling resources used for the bomb. As early as 1943 "Groves had launched an effort to gain as complete control as possible over uranium resources of the entire world."[15] A monopoly over the resources, the essential ingredients, to build the atomic bomb would assure that the Russians could not build one.[16] President Truman was informed by Stimson and Groves of this strategy on April 25, and agreed to proceed and create the Interim Committee on May 2 which would be an advisory group on postwar policies and relations with other governments.[17]

In the months between Truman coming into office and the Potsdam meeting there was also a big change in the status of Japan. There were questions on which was the best way to end the war with Japan. It was discussed that a Russian entry into the war would drastically increase the chances of a Japanese Surrender.

A June 13, 1945 MAGIC report included a cable sent by the Japanese Counselor of Naval Affairs in Berne, Captain Nishihara, which indicated that Japanese intelligence had gotten wind of the Yalta agreements and estimated the Russians would declare war in late August. The cable concluded: "Russia's entry into the war would probably bring about the very quick surrender of Japan.[18]

There has been an attempt by American historians to dehumanize the Japanese people as machines who do not have fear and will not surrender. The MAGIC reports are summaries of intercepted Japanese radio commissions which were being compiled since early on in the war, when the Japanese code was broken. The MAGIC reports are evidence that Japan did not want to continue the war and knew it had already lost. In this intercept it is clear Japanese officials showed fear of a Russian entry into the war.

In addition to the Russian option, another option to ending the war involved modifying the formula of "unconditional surrender." These options together were referred to as the "two-step logic." Almost all who were asked were in favor of modifying the surrender terms. Herbert Hoover in a May 30 memorandum agreed. President Truman had Hoover's memorandum analyzed by the State Department which stated on June 4,

Every evidence, without exception, that we are able to obtain of the view of the Japanese with regard to the institution of the throne, indicates that the non-molestation of the person of the present emperor and the preservation of the institution of the throne comprise irreducible Japanese terms. We are disposed to argue with the view that failure on our part to clarify our intentions in this regard, or the proclamation of our intention to try the emperor as a war criminal and to abolish the institution of the throne, will insure prolongation of the war and cost a large number of human lives.[19]

Thus, letting the Japanese know that unconditional surrender did not include removal of the emperor would make it easier for the Japanese to surrender. This is logical since the Japanese military pledge devotion, not to Japan, the military, or the government, but to the emperor in their training.[20]

"The Secretary of War (Stimson), Secretary of Navy (Forrestal), and Under Secretary of State (Grew- Previous Ambassador to Japan), Chief of Staff (General Marshall), Admiral Leahy, and all the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff… proposed a clarification of the surrender formula before Truman left for Potsdam."[21] Altering the unconditional surrender term was an intelligent idea because when Roosevelt first said it (which he regretted later), the entire phrase was "unconditional surrender of the military," but along the way it became shortened.[22] Truman in May was for conditional surrender, as was the Washington Post which posted several papers advocating conditional surrender, but he changed later.[23]

Truman seemed indecisive. Alperovitz notes what may be the cause, "Byrnes is a prime candidate for the advisor who helped Truman draft his still unexplained June 1- no-compromise stand on 'unconditional surrender'—a substantial retreat from the May 8 statement which had carefully defined 'unconditional surrender' as applying to the Japanese armed forces.[24] Byrnes, who always felt superior to Truman, was his mentor in the Senate. Truman had no background in foreign policy and trusted Byrnes with these decisions, even though Truman himself called Byrnes "conniving."[25] The two had a long history and Byrnes even drafted Truman's first speech as President.[26]

James F. Byrnes, as demonstrated early by his views, was a staunch anti-communist who advocated the use of atomic diplomacy (atomic bombing to gain dominance in foreign relations) against the Soviet Union. He also was the only cabinet one who was not for modifying the surrender formula and was Truman's number one confidant.[27] Truman even planned to have Byrnes take the office of Secretary of State July 3, just in time for the Potsdam conference.[28] This would make Byrnes the successor to the presidency if anything were to happen to Truman because at this time there was no Vice President.

Truman made no attempt to change surrender terms or assure Japan the retention of the emperor before he left for Potsdam, even with the knowledge that Japan had been declining and their situation looked bleak. Also, in April the nine month old Koiso government fell and was replaced by Suzuki, a Premier who immediately suggested a peace offensive.[29] Opinion at home in the United States showed people were aware Japan was finished. The New York Times wrote in April,

A double blow as staggering as any military defeat she [Japan] has suffered, and its cumulative effect perhaps more devastating to her hopes, has been inflicted on Japan by Moscow's curt denunciation of the Russo-Japanese neutrality pact, and the resignation of the Koiso Cabinet. . . These two events . . . tell the Japanese people beyond all prevarication of propaganda that they have lost the war."[30]

The President was aware of this information before the newspaper and his advisors had voiced their opinions. Nevertheless, he decided to go to the Potsdam conference in Berlin and meet Stalin for the first time, before he made a decision about Japan.

While the President was making his way to the conference in Berlin a significant breakthrough was taking place, the first test of the atomic bomb. Major General Leslie R. Groves, who was right beside Dr. Oppenheimer at the test, sent a report to the Secretary of War Stimson, who was with Truman at Potsdam. The July 18 report read, “16 July 1945, in a remote section of the Alamogordo Air Base, New Mexico (Trinity site), and the full scale test was made of the implosion type atomic-fission bomb. For the first time in history there was a nuclear explosion… I estimate the energy to be in excess of the equivalent to 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT, and this is a conservative estimate."[31]

Groves also reported that windows 125 miles away shattered, and a blind woman claimed to see the light.[32] Evidently, this is not the only "test" that was planned because the report also mentioned, "we are fully conscious that our real goal is still before us. The battle test is what counts in the war with Japan."[33] It is important to note the bomb tested in New Mexico was a plutonium bomb, similar to the one dropped on Nagasaki later. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was the uranium based bomb and was never tested before.[34]

This supports the theory that not only was there a desire to test the bomb in populated cities, but the bombing was testing and comparing the two different bombs. In addition, there is also the amount of money which went into the bombs giving impetus for their use. "The Manhattan Project's total cost through August 1945 was $20 billion or about $6.7 billion each for the Trinity device and the two bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man."[35] This may have been motivation to use the bombs despite Japans daunting situation. Truman wrote in his journal July 18,

Went in for lunch, P.M. [Churchill] and I ate alone. Discussed Manhattan [successful]. Decided to tell Stalin about it [he simply said "we are working on a new weapon"]. Stalin had told the P.M. of a telegram from Jap emperor asking for peace… believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in… I am sure they will when Manhattan appears over their homeland."[36]

The peace offer mentioned by Stalin was not the only one. By this time the Japanese had made several peace offers, which will be discussed later in this paper.

Truman wrote before he received the Groves report that Stalin agreed to bring Russia into the war no later than August 15, but most likely August 8.[37] Yet, he writes on July 25, after he received the Groves report on the success of the bomb, "this bomb will be used against Japan between now and August 10. I have told Mr. Stimson to use it so that military objectives… are the target."[38] According to Truman's Diary he was planning to use the bomb before the Russians entered the war, despite opinion that Russia's sole declaration of war might attain a Japanese surrender.

The Potsdam proclamation which defined the terms for the Japanese surrender was issued by President Truman, the new British Prime Minister Attlee, and concurred by the President of the National Government of China, Chiang Kai Shek, on July 26, 1945. It stated,

there must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest… stern justice will be meted out to all war criminals… we call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now that unconditional surrender of all armed forces to lay down arms… the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.[39]

Nowhere in the proclamation does it mention an atomic bomb nor does it mention the emperor. Why would there be no mention of the emperor when it was clear that Hirohito was Japan's number one concern? It is easy to infer from this document that it was possible the emperor could be tried as a war criminal.

Another interesting observation,

During the brief period Truman, Byrnes, and other American leaders were at Potsdam, the assumption that the bomb would, in fact, add powerfully to their diplomatic hand was continued in their own thinking [Truman referred to the bombs as his "two aces in the hole"].Truman and Byrnes made a conscious decision not to provide Japan with specific assurances that had been sought for the emperor (aware in so doing, that a surrender was not likely to occur). They also made a conscious decision not to encourage Soviet participation in the war.[40]

The number one priority going into Potsdam had been reaffirming the Soviet entry into the Pacific war. As stated earlier, when the President received Groves report priorities started to shift. The Japanese government either did not know how to respond or needed time to digest the information regarding the general statement from Potsdam. They chose the ambiguous word "mokusatsu," which can mean to kill with silence or ignore, which is what the Japanese Prime Minister did.[41] The Japanese had already stated they needed assurance of the emperor to please the military generals.

When Hiroshima was bombed (uranium based) on August 6, 1945 a White House press release stated, "The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold."[42] There clearly was some desire for revenge. The soviets entered the war on August 8th, quickly making their way into Asia through Manchuria. The next day, August 9, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki (plutonium based). When letters of protest from Americans and Japanese reached the President he responded with two particular justifications. The first, "nobody is more disturbed over the use of atomic bombs than I, but I was greatly disturbed by the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor… when you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast."[43]

Incendiary bombings of Tokyo had killed up to 80,000 but that was with many bombs dropped by many B-29 bombers.[44] The Hiroshima bomb alone killed an estimated 100,000 people immediately and tens of thousands later from radiation poisoning, a long and painful suffering.[45] The radiation levels put out by the bomb were known by the United States government but the effects were unknown. Also killed were twelve U.S. prisoners of war in a Hiroshima Jail.[46]

The bomb was claimed to have been dropped on a military base, refuted by the Japanese in a letter of protest, but the majority of those killed were civilians.[47] The Japanese government sent a letter to the United States through Switzerland which read,

On August 6, 1945, American airplanes released on the residential district of the town of Hiroshima bombs of a new type, killing and injuring …a large number of civilians and destroying a great part of the town. Not only is the city of Hiroshima a provincial town without any protection or special military installations of any kind, but also none of the neighboring region of this town constitutes a military objective.[48]

The government also brought up the fact that the United States government insisted that the use of weapons like gas were illegal in public opinion of civilized human society and against international public law, and clearly the atomic bomb surpasses gas in cruelty.[49]

The second way Truman justified the bombing was by claiming it saved American and Japanese lives. Clearly it did not save Japanese lives. Truman claims that without the bomb a land invasion of Kyushu would have been necessary and many Americans would have died. However, in all his addresses he can never seem to choose a specific number; 150,000, 1 million, 2 million.[50] In the film which shows these addresses, The Forgotten Bomb, it is also discussed how these numbers came from an article which was part of a propaganda campaign to defend the bomb. The article was written by the Secretary of War's assistant who seemed to have pulled the numbers out of the air.

The fact is most of Truman's advisors, with the exception of Byrnes, thought the bomb was unnecessary and a land invasion was not probable. Many of the well informed top military commanders have made their thoughts of the bomb and a land invasion being unnecessary known, before and after the war. Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of them. The Supreme Allied Commander of the army in Europe, and later President, wrote in his memoirs, The White House Years:

In 1945, Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so 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.[51]

In fact Fleet Admiral Leahy, Chief of staff to the Commander in Chief, urged his opinion to the Joint Chiefs that a land invasion of Japan was unnecessary to win the war. In his autobiography, I Was There, he wrote,

The use of [the atomic bomb] 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… The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.[52]

Truman received advice from leaders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Fleet Admiral Leahy informed the President that Japan was ready to surrender and it would be wise to clarify the surrender terms.[53]

The Commander in Chief of the U.S. fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, in a co-authored autobiography states,

the President in giving his approval for these attacks appeared to believe that many American troops would be killed in invading Japan, and in this he was correct; but King felt, as he had pointed out many times, that the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials.[54]

King, like Leahy, believes the war could have ended without the bomb or a land invasion. The statement also supports the theory that if the contemplated land invasion of November 1 was pursued, the troops would have met almost no resistance and seen a population starving to death.

In a 1960 interview with the five star Admiral Nimitz's widow, she said, "he always felt very badly about the dropping of the bomb because he said we had Japan already beaten."[55] Furthermore, she stated he said, "I felt that that was an unnecessary loss of civilian life… we had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn’t do anything."[56] These are a few of the top Navy leaders' opinions.

Leaders of the Air Force also showed opposition. "The New York Times reported the views of Major General Claire Chennault, founder of the American Volunteer Group (the famed Flying Tigers) and former U.S. Army Air Forces commander in China: [he stated] Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped."[57] Major General Curtis E. LeMay also stated to a press conference, "The atomic bombs had nothing to do with the end of the war."[58]

There are plenty of statements of opposition from the Army. Herbert Hoover discussed after the war with General Douglas MacArthur their thoughts on the subject. In his private diary it is written, "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all the losses, the atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria."[59] The discussion is referring to changing the surrender terms to attain peace with Japan.

In a post war interview with MacArthur, Norman Cousins reported, "he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the emperor."[60] Cousins' interview with MacArthur brings up an interesting point; the fact that the Potsdam Proclamation demanded Japan to unconditionally surrender, then they were bombed, and then they were given conditional surrender; retention of the emperor. Thus, therein lays an ulterior motive for dropping the bomb.

Throughout the period from Truman's ascendancy to the presidency to the dropping of the bomb, intercepted cables pointed to a deteriorating Japan and their only hope being to retain the emperor. Some of the MAGIC intercepts are still being declassified to the public, many as late as June, 2005. As early as January of 1945, intercepted messages from Japan revealed Major General Shimizu writing his government, "Japan is now facing unprecedented difficulties. If Germany fails, we will have to face alone the full strength of Britain and America. If a false step on our part should then bring Russia into the war against us we face absolute destruction."[61] This shows Japan was aware of their losing the war and very worried about Russia entering the war. Therefore, it was valid to believe that Russia's entry in the pacific might bring about a Japanese surrender.

However, not all of the information about Japan was from intercepted messages, some was direct. Japan had made peace attempts through their ambassadors in Sweden, Portugal, the Vatican, Switzerland, and Russia. On April 6, 1945, the Minister in Stockholm, Sweden, sent a cable to the Secretary of State. "The following [is] a telegram which according to Von Post, the Swedish Foreign Office has just received from the Swedish Minister at Tokyo: There is no doubt that unconditional surrender terms would be unacceptable to the Japanese, the Emperor must not be touched… however the imperial power could be somewhat democratized, like that of the English King."[62] Several times it is affirmed the only thing stopping the Japanese from surrendering was an Allied message assuring the safety of their emperor, which did not come.

A MAGIC summary of July 13, 1945 emphasized, "The emperor wishes to reestablish peace, not just for his people, but for all humanity."[63] The emperor for the first time ever was taking an active role in government. The government was listening. The emperor declared that although there were plans to protect the island of Kyushu the priority plans were to close the war.[64] The Secretary of Navy James Forrestal, who was involved in the reception of the MAGIC intercepts and of analyzing the Japanese peace feelers which came through Switzerland, gave his assessment on July 13,

the first real evidence of a Japanese desire to get out of the war came today through intercepted messages from Togo, Foreign Minister, to Sato, Jap Ambassador in Moscow, instructing the latter to see Molotov [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs] if possible before his departure for the Big Three meeting and if not then immediately afterward to lay before him the Emperor's strong desire to secure a termination of war.[65]

In addition, "Togo said further that the unconditional surrender terms of the Allies were, about the only thing in the way of the termination of the war."[66] A draft proposed by the State, War, and Navy departments which gave assurance to the emperor was prepared to go into the Potsdam Proclamation yet, was later removed for reasons not specified.[67] As discussed before, the Potsdam Proclamation gave no assurance for the emperor despite the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, and others being adamant that it would bring Japan capitulation.[68]

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was created by the War Department in 1944, to study aerial attacks and their effectiveness in the war. The survey interviewed civilians and military after the war. In 1946 it reported,

based on the detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, 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.[69]

This survey correlates to the information and opinion Truman was given prior to going to Potsdam. So why drop the bomb?

It is apparent the bombs were thought by some as a way to shorten the war before the Soviets entered on August 8, even though delaying Potsdam for the bomb to be tested and refusing to alter surrender terms can be argued to have prolonged the war. Others thought that demonstrating the bombs would give the United States diplomatic power, especially in regards to the Soviet Union. "In the Forrestal diaries on July 18, an entry states: Byrnes said he was anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in, with particular reference to Dairen and Port Arthur [promised to the Soviets for participation]. Once in there, he felt it would not be easy to get them out."[70] Further supporting evidence is supported by Churchill's memoirs, Triumph and Tragedy, " it is quite clear that the United States do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan."[71]

The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima two days before Soviet entry was expected on August 8. On May 11, 1945 General Onoda already revealed to the government in Tokyo that Russia was moving some 400,000 troops to the Manchurian border.[72] On May 28, three scientists who would later write a letter to Truman advising him not to use the bomb, including Leo Szilard, met with James F. Byrnes to discuss the bomb. Szilard was the scientist from Hungary who wrote the letter which German scientist Einstein and Italian scientist Fermi sent to Roosevelt, initiating the Manhattan Project. Szilard later reported,

Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war. He knew at that time, as the rest of the government knew that Japan was essentially defeated and that we could win the war in another 6 months. At that time Mr. Byrnes was much concerned about the spreading of Russian influence in Europe… that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable…"[73]

Szilard was correct that the government knew about the situation in Japan as demonstrated in the peace offers and MAGIC intercepts.

The information obtained through the Japanese peace attempts and intercepted cables were all valid information. After the war the Japanese government was interrogated and confirmed the information. The interrogations were conducted by the Strategic Bombing Survey mentioned earlier. Those who attempt to generalize the Japanese people as "die-hards" or machines which will never surrender would do well to read it.

In the interrogation of Sakomizu Hisatsume, Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Suzuki Cabinet, confirmed information gathered in the MAGIC summaries read by Truman and his staff before and during the Potsdam conference in Berlin. The Suzuki Cabinet was appointed April 7, 1945. Hisatsume says, "The Prime Minister Mr. Suzuki, doubted the possibility of our continuing the war, so right after the cabinet was formed he ordered me to examine… the Japanese [ability] to continue the war… I reached the conclusion that at the end of April, rather the beginning of May, Japan could not continue the war."[74]

When asked what led him to this conclusion, Hisatsume explained, "our inability to manufacture airplanes, the amount of factory damage from bombing, ship losses and damage, the food situation, and the sentiment of the people [he spoke with 20 to 30 people a day]… the people had doubt… because Okinawa fell."[75] He went on to describe how Suzuki was the first Prime Minister to ask the opinion of the Emperor, and "the Emperor knew the people did not want to continue the war, that their sentiment was antiwar."[76] Suzuki also spoke to citizens on a day to day basis and knew the Imperial Household Ministry had always been against the war.[77]

When the July 26 Potsdam proclamation came, "Suzuki, Togo, and I talked together and felt that this declaration must be accepted as the final terms of peace (surrender), whether we liked it or not. Still the military side of the government said that the terms of the proclamation were dishonorable."[78] Thus, the reason why the Japanese politicians sent peace offers asking for assurance for the emperor to placate the military. The military were pledged to protect the emperor and after the war when they voiced opposition to surrendering, it did not stop the emperor from announcing surrender.

The simple assurance of the emperor would have attained a Japanese surrender but it was never given, until after the bombing. After the bombings and the Russian entry it was the emperor’s idea to broadcast the surrender to his people. When he first told the cabinet, with emotional words, they cried openly.[79] There was a small group of military, 50 or so, which tried to stop the broadcast but it was a futile attempt. The broadcast was made August 15 to the people, projecting the emperor’s voice, announcing surrender.[80]

During World War II Ernie Pyle, an American journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner wrote a series of articles for newspapers about his combat experiences. He described the easy landing at Okinawa and one encounter with some Japanese soldiers which proves false the idea that Japanese soldiers all have the Kamikaze mentality. One day, one of the soldiers spotted some soldiers under a bush. They figured they were dead but later noticed they were alive and had rifles. The Article Reads,

So the boys went at them in earnest. The Japs were lying under two bushes. They had their hands up over their ears and were pretending to be asleep. The marines surrounded the bushes and, with guns pointing, they ordered the Japs out. But the Japs were too scared to move. They just lay there, blinking… they were petrified so the marines had to go into the bushes, lift them by the shoulders and throw them out in the open…One Jap was small, and about 30 years old. The other was just a kid of 16 or 17…had the rank of superior private and the other was a corporal. They were real Japanese from Japan, not the Okinawan home guard. They were both trembling all over…paralyzed…[81]

This correspondence and documents which are still being declassified to this day are evidence that not all Japanese were die-hard's who would rather commit suicide than surrender. Evidently, Japan did unconditionally surrender without knowing the Allies were going to let them retain their emperor. As stated prior, the United States government asked for unconditional surrender, bombed them, and then gave them conditional surrender. The emperor was never dethroned or tried as a war criminal. He was only put under the authority of the Supreme Allied Commander of Japan, Douglas MacArthur.

Following these events began the long period of the Cold War, in which the fear of Soviet influence in Europe and Asia continued to exacerbate paranoia and cause irrational actions and war in Korea and Vietnam. Analyzed in this paper were documents and firsthand accounts of the best informed and top ranking individuals, including military leaders, scientists, and politicians whom thought the bomb was unnecessary. Many of them recognized Byrnes' and Truman's attempt to use the atomic bomb in diplomatic strategy against Russia. Some twenty billion dollars had gone into the bomb and gave motivations to use it, as well as a desire to avenge for Pearl Harbor.

However, it is clear that any discussion during the war between these leaders involving the atomic bomb (S-1 codename) always involved talk about the Soviet Union and only sometimes in regards to Japan. This paper has demonstrated how unnecessary the bomb was to attaining a Japanese surrender, even without a land invasion. Therefore, the dropping of atomic bombs had more to do with preventing the expansion of the Soviet Union and its communist influence in Europe and Asia. Thus, making the action what Gore Vidal has called, "the opening act of the Cold War."[82]



Beitzell, Robert, ed. Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam: The Soviet Protocols. Hattiesburg, MS: Academic International, 1970.

This book consists of the documented meetings at Tehran, Yalta(Crimea), and Potsdam as recorded by the Soviet Union. They first released their minutes of the meetings due to accusations that the United States had falsified it's documents, mostly associated with Tehran. The accusations stopped and were not associated with the Yalta and Potsdam Conference. All of the meetings are primary source material and much of the book is related to the topic of dealing with Japan. For instance, provided is the agreement between the three great powers (the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain) in which Russia is to come into the war three months after Germany has surrendered and it's land taken by the Japanese be returned. Bietzell writes an analytical introduction explaining why and when the Soviet Union released it's minutes. No detectable bias. Academic International is a scholarly press which specializes in history of the Soviet Union.

Dennett, Raymond, and Robert K. Turner, eds. Documents on American Foreign Relations. July 1, 1945-December 31, 1946. Vol. VIII. Princeton, NJ: Published for The World Peace Foundation by Princeton University Press, 1948.

This book is composed of documents pertaining to American foreign relations from July 1, 1945 through December 31, 1946. It is a primary source, including material regarding the question of a Japanese surrender. It has the defining terms for the Japanese surrender signed at Potsdam and also has notes from the Secretary of State (Byrnes) regarding Japans offer of surrender through the Swiss Government. The topic of Japanese surrender is highly pertinent to the decision to use the atomic bomb. Being government documents it is scholarly material and the World Peace Foundation is a non-profit organization.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1963.

Dwight D. Eisenhower tells stories of his first administration, and events and politics surrounding World War II. Particularly he expresses his belief that the bombing of Japan and a land invasion was not necessary because Japan was already defeated. It is a primary source because he is writing and it is a a firsthand account of actual events.

Ferrell, Robert H., ed. Harry S. Truman and the Bomb: A Documentary History. Worland, WY: High Plains Pub., 1996.

Archivists from the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, compiled this collection of documents and they are edited with objective commentary by Robert H. Ferrell. Ferrell is an authority on this topic and is highly qualified. He was in the Air Force during WWII and was a intelligence analyst in the Korean War. He is an American historian and has written many works on Harry S. Truman and on American Diplomatic history. He earned his PhD from Yale. The book has many primary sources such as excerpts from Truman's diary and letters to the President from his advisors, all pertaining to the topic of using the atomic bomb on Japan.

Leahy, William D. I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman Based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time. New York: Whittlesey House, 1950.

A highly important primary source, Admiral Leahy was one the most informed men in Truman's staff and his stance on the bomb and a land invasion being unnecessary is pertinent to this paper.

MAGIC, No. 1175, June 13, 1945, RG 457, NA

The MAGIC intercepts can be found in the National Archives, through databases like LexisNexis, and this particular one was a pdf found on Wikipedia. This MAGIC summary describes the emperor of Japan wanting to attain peace and becoming politically active.

Pyle, Ernie. "Okinawa—(By Navy Radio),"Scripps Howard Newspaper Chain, April, 1945.

Ernie Pyle was a American Journalist and Pulitzer prize winner who wrote for the Scripps Howard Newspaper Chain until his death April 18, 1945. The particular article used came from sometime in April, in which he reports on finding two Japanese soldiers too scared to fight.

Truman, Harry S. Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: Year of Decisions (vol. 1). New York: Doubleday & Company, 1955.

This is Truman's first volume of his memoirs dealing with decisions in 1945. It has speeches he gave including when he first came into office. Therefore it is a primary source because it's his firsthand account and experiences while in office. There is an obvious bias as he explains and defends his decisions. However, he describes his experience with examples of reports he was given. Example include memorandums from the Secretary of State on diplomatic relations with Stalin. This volume describes Truman's experience from Franklin D. Roosevelt's death to March 1946. The audience can be anyone interested in President Truman or someone doing research on a particular subject, like the bombing of Japan or Relations with the Soviet Union.

Truman, Harry S.. President Truman's Diary July 17, 18, and 25, 1945. <> Diary written by President Truman while he was at the Potsdam Conference.

U.S. Department of State . Foreign Relations of the United States: Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), 1945. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960. FRUS documents containing the minutes of the Potsdam conference.

U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944. Vol. V. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1965.

These FRUS documents and the two volumes noted below are all primary sources. The Diplomatic Papers are the official record of the foreign policy of the United States. They give great insight to the relations between the United States, Japan, and the Soviet Union. The documents contained are the ones incumbents and military Generals used to make decisions. This particular volume is important because it concerns the decision of the United States and the British Governments to not reply to Japanese peace feelers received through Sweden. It also deals with Japanese protests against bombing of non-military targets. This particular volume was prepared under supervision by E. Ralph Perkins, former Chief of the Foreign Relations Division.

U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers,1945. Vol. II. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967.

This volume deals with general; political and economical matters. More importantly it has minutes of conversations regarding acquisition of materials for developing the atomic bomb and monopolizing such materials to prevent other countries from having atomic energy. This is important because it shows a paranoia the United States has of other countries having power and demonstrates the what extent it will go to for keeping its power.

U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers,1945. Vol. VI. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969.

This volume again deals with the Far East but in 1945. It has reports of unofficial suggestions from Japanese sources that Japan was ready to make peace and deals with postwar planning like what to do with territories previously controlled by Japan. This is relevant to the theory that the bomb was dropped to keep the Soviet Union out of Asia. Land was promised to be returned to the Soviet Union. Also, the terms of surrender for Japan are stated and occupation and control are planned.

United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Japan's Struggle to End the War. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946.

The USSB was established in 1944 by Roosevelt to study the effect of the aerial bombing of Germany. After the Bombing of Japan Truman sent men to survey Japanese government officials, military, and civilians. Many different surveys were done including the effects of the atomic bombs, Japan's entry to the war, morale before and after the war. This excerpt of the survey attempted to find out how Japan was doing towards the end of the war and if it would have continued or surrendered, including how many men were left to fight, and what the target of the bomb should be.

United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The Decision For Peace. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946.

In this excerpt from the United States Strategic Bombing survey of June 1946 contains an interrogation of Hisatsune Sakomizu, a career government official and Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Suzuki Cabinet. In this interrogation Sakomizu gives the information that the people of Japan and public sentiment was that Japan knew it would meet its destruction. He describes the poor economic condition of Japan, its low resources signaling it could not continue the war. He discusses conversations with Japanese Citizens and with the Emperor leading to the fact that Japan knew it was not invincible and would be willing to surrender. He also describes that fact that many government officials in Japan and the public had antiwar sentiment and wanted it to be over. This is a primary research and highly valuable. Many historians on the subject of bombing Hiroshima over look these facts and only talk about the kamikazes and unbreakable will of Japan. This document gives a rebuttal from a man who was told by the Emperor to investigate the sentiment and future outcome of the war.


Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.

This book examines the decision to use the atomic bomb. It is a very thoroughly researched book which analyzes many diaries, letters, government publications related to the topic. The book has a detectable bias, it leans towards arguing the bomb should not have been dropped. It discusses how most of the Truman Administration were against dropping the bomb but how James F. Byrnes was Truman's number one advisor and was adamant about dropping it, not in the context of ending the war, but keeping the Soviet Union out of the United States' way. James F. Byrnes certainly seems to be one of the main players regarding the decision to use the bomb. Gar Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and earned his PhD from Cambridge. Called a "Revisionist" by many American Historians for his criticism of Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb. He has written many articles and books on atomic diplomacy and the decision to use the bomb. A secondary source can be no more informing than this book is on its topic.

Diggins, John P. The Proud Decades: America in War and in Peace, 1941-1960. New York: Norton, 1988.

This book provides a brief overview of World War II and the development of the war and the atomic bomb. It is somewhat bias as it is more on the side that the bomb was needed to end the war and save half a million lives. Not too scholarly when it comes to research but provides a general outlook of the conservative side of the decision to use the atomic bomb. John Patrick Diggins is an American Historian and earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California.

Schwartz, Stephen I. "Four Trillion Dollars and Counting."The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 51 (November/December 1995): 32-51.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a scholarly journal. This article discusses the costs of nuclear weapons for the United States and provides statistics. This is relevant to my thesis because it discusses the money spent on nuclear arms during World War II. For instance, "The Manhattan Project's total cost through August 1945 was $20 billion, or about $6.7 billion each for the Trinity device and the two bombs, "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively." This statistic gives information that may have played a crucial role in President Truman's decision to drop the bomb; the amount spent on creating the bombs may have influenced the decision to use them. The article is built on facts and is unbiased. Footnotes are provided to support all of the information given. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a authoritative source because it was founded in 1945 by the former Manhattan Project physicists and has continued to report on nuclear weapons since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Forgotten Bomb. Film by Stuart Overbey and Bud Ryan. Canoga Park, CA: Cinema Libre Studio, 2012. DVD.

This film follows all the events surrounding the bomb. It also has an excellent clip in which Truman in multiple interview can't decide on a number of American lives that the land invasion of Kyushu would have cost. It also discusses where that number came from.

The New York Times. April 6, 1945.

In this paper there is an article which discusses World War II on the Pacific front. More specifically, Japan's daunting situation and that the people know they are defeated.

The World at War. Film series by Jeremy Isaacs. United Kingdom: A&E Home Video, 1973.

This series involves all aspects of World War II. The particular segment used from this series involved the training of the Japanese military in which they pledge their lives to protect the emperor.

Vidal, Gore. "Gore Vidal on the Cold War ." September 4, 2007. Interview with RealNews.

An interview by RealNews with Gore Vidal in which he discusses Truman's decision to use the bomb against advisement from the top military commanders and sees it as the opening act of the Cold War.

Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Prompt and Utter Destruction pertains directly to my thesis. Walker analyzes the United States and Soviet Union relations at the time the bomb was dropped. The book also provides information surrounding the Japanese surrender. Walker suggests that Japan was immensely weak and may have surrendered but he seems skeptical. He seems to suggest that there were not any reasons to not use the bomb. He goes further to suggest that all the theories and alternative reasons for dropping the bomb, such as keeping the Soviet Union in line, was simply a bonus to ending the war with the bomb. Samuel J. Walker is an American Historian and was hired by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1979. Also, the University of North Carolina Press is academic.

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492-present. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

Within this book is also a brief overview of the decision to use the atomic bomb, such as John Patrick Diggins has in his Proud Decades. Both books are good for an introduction on the subject, or starting point. While Diggins falls on the conservative side Howard Zinn falls on the left or "revisionist" side, arguing the bomb was not necessary to end the war. Zinn lists reasons why the bomb was not needed and how Japan was more likely to surrender than historians give credit. This book is a national bestseller and therefore many people who have an interest in the history of the United States read it. Howard Zinn was an American historian and earned a PhD from Columbia University. He was also a social activist and bombardier in World War II.


[1] John Diggins, The Proud Decades: America in War and in Peace, 1941-1960, (New York: Norton, 1988), 3.

[2] Ibid., 50.

[3] Ibid., 51.

[4] Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam: The Soviet Protocols, ed. Robert Beitzell (Hattiesburg, MS: Academic International, 1970), 139.

[5] Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 99.

[6] Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Harry S. Truman and the Bomb: A Documentary History (Worland, WY: High Plains Pub., 1996), 8.

[7] Ibid., 11.

[8] Alperovitz, 130.

[9] Ibid., 138.

[10] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), 1945 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960), 7.

[11] Harry S. Truman, Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: Year of Decisions, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1955), 87.

[12] Ibid.

[13] FRUS, Pots. I, 90-91.

[14] Alperovitz, 148.

[15] Ibid., 161.

[16] Ibid.

[17] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers,1945, Vol. II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967), 11.

[18] Ibid., 123.

[19] Ibid., 57.

[20] The World at War, Film Series by Jeremy Isaacs (United Kingdom: A&E Home Video), 1973.

[21] Alperovitz, 78.

[22] Ibid,. 40.

[23] Ibid., 41.

[24] Ibid., 210.

[25] Truman, 22.

[26] Alperovitz, 208.

[27] Ibid., 211.

[28] Ibid., 197.

[29] Ibid., 100.

[30] The New York Times, April 6, 1945, 14.

[31] Ferrell, 15.

[32] Ibid., 16-18.

[33] Ibid., 23.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Stephen I. Schwartz "Four Trillion Dollars and Counting,"The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 51 (November/December 1995): 32-51

[36] Harry S. Truman, President Truman's Diary July 17, 18, and 25, 1945, 2. <>

[37] Ferrell, 30.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Raymond Dennette and Robert K. Turner eds., Documents on American Foreign Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1948), 105-106.

[40] Alperovitz, 225.

[41] Ferrell, 37.

[42] Ibid., 48.

[43] Ibid., 72.

[44] Howard Zinn, A Peoples History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), 422.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid., 429.

[48] FRUS IV, 1945, 472.

[49] Ibid., 473.

[50] The Forgotten Bomb, Film by Stuart Overbey and Bud Ryan, (Canoga Park, CA: Cinema Libre Studio, 2012), DVD.

[51] Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1963), 312-313.

[52] William D. Leahy, I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman Based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time (New York: Whittlesey House, 1950), 441.

[53] Alperovitz, 324.

[54] Ibid., 327.

[55] Ibid., 330

[56] Ibid.

[57] Alperovitz, 335-336.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid., 351.

[60] Ibid., 357.

[61] Alperovitz, 93.

[62] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1945 vol. 5 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969), 477.

[63] MAGIC, No. 1175, June 13, 1945, RG 457, NA.

[64] Alperovitz, 232.

[65] Alperovitz, 234.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid., 235.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Zinn, 422 / United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Japan's Struggle to End the War. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946.

[70] Alperovitz, 274.

[71] Ibid.

[72] FRUS IV 1945, 479.

[73] Alperovitz, 174.

[74] United States Strategic Bombing Survey, The Decision For Peace ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), 10.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Ibid., 13.

[79] Ibid., 16.

[80] Ibid., 19.

[81] Ernie Pyle, "Okinawa—(By Navy Radio)", Scripps Howard Newspaper Chain, April, 1945.

[82] Gore Vidal, "Gore Vidal on the Cold War,"Interview with RealNews, September 4, 2007,

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The Opening Act of the Cold War. The Atomic Bombs as a Demonstration of Power
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