Yesterday August 6th marked the anniversary of the terrible decision to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Several days later on August 9th commemorates the equally tragic dropping of another nuclear device on Nagasaki in 1945. Japan was compelled to sign an unconditional surrender weeks later or face utter destruction.
The regime of Japan with Hideki Tojo as the belligerent leader, prime minister, and general of the Japanese Imperial Army, could be described as brutal. With the unauthorized attack on Manchuria, the Tokyo civilian government was powerless to stop the Army’s adventurism and became hostage to the whims of the Army and Navy.
Germany and Italy took note that the League of Nations could do little to stop a powerful incursion of Japan into China.
Meanwhile after the Japanese capture Shanghai, there was a brutal march to Nanking the capital of the Republic of China where the infamous “rape of Nanking” took place while involving the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
During one unabated thirst for killing, two Japanese officers held a contest about who could slay 100 people the fastest with swords. An article was published in the “Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun” reading “Incredible Record in the contest to cut down 100 people—Lt. Mukai, 106—105 Lt. Noda, both lieutenants go into extra innings”.
There were ongoing war crimes being committed in a variety of areas as the Bataan Death March where Filipino and American prisoners were brutalized and murdered. The Japanese culture had the attitude that anyone that surrendered had no honor and could be treated ruthlessly since those that surrendered were “subhuman and animals”.
This is the mindset American had to deal with during the time of World War 2. There was a culture of absolute disregard to the lives of anyone not being Japanese. Attempting to transfer a humanitarian concept to an enemy that absolutely despised their adversaries was something that did not work.
The fanatical mindset of many Japanese would drive many to die rather than accept surrender. During the closing periods of World War 2 with Japan going on the defensive, a form a fighter known as “kamikaze”, translated as divine wind, was something totally foreign to the concepts of American values. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze
The huge error historians and revisionist make is projecting their own value system over to another culture that has a totally different paradigm. As with dealing with radical Islam today, the mindset of the Japanese military was far different than that of the American soldier, and the culture created by Tojo in Japan would have never submitted or surrendered under normal circumstances.
Proof of that was the additional ferocity the Japanese soldiers fought as the Pacific campaign drew ever closer to the Japanese mainland. America was facing an enemy that would have gladly taken as many soldiers as possible along with them.
Estimates about American casualties from an invasion of the Japanese mainland varied to as high as one million.
Bombing Japanese cities would have devastated the infrastructure even worse. There was no such thing as minimizing civilian casualties if it meant more casualties of your own. Civilian casualties were an expectation as demonstrated time again with the bombing of Tokyo and the bombing campaign in Europe. The military did not put themselves at more unnecessary risk simply because the enemy’s civilians were located near military targets.
Consequently Japan faced millions of additional deaths and unprecedented destruction should a conventional military campaign had been waged against Japan. A conventional war would have given Japan additional time to develop its own nuclear weapon, something revisionists and critics of the United States dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also failed to consider.
When one considers how swiftly the Japanese decided to unconditionally surrender after the dropping of the two atomic bombs, it became a merciful end to war in all likelihood would have dragged on for years. You can bet these same critics would then be speculating the wisdom of going a different route instead of waging a conventional war that would have created a million more American casualties. You never make a correct decision with an arm chair quarterback.
Fighting a war theoretically after the fact is always more effective.