Was Dwindling US Army Manpower a Factor in the Atom Bombing of Hiroshima?


The following article is based on a paper, “The ‘Manpower Box’ of 1946: Army Ground Forces and the Planned Invasion of Honshu” presented at the Society for Military History’s 2006 conference.  Giangreco’s Eyewitness Pacific Theater, with CDR John T. Kuehn, will be released by Barnes & Noble Books in October 2008, and Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan will be released by the US Naval Institute Press in Spring 2009. Related articles can be found at The Planned Invasion of Japan - Bibliography of works by D. M. Giangreco and Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, University of Missouri Press, 2007.

The US Army had been grappling with the question of how to man its rapidly expanding force even before Pearl Harbor.   This was an increasingly critical, though largely unknown, problem throughout the war.   In the midst of a partial demobilization after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Army called together some of its sharpest minds to examine the deteriorating situation as it geared up for the planned invasions of Japan in 1945 and 1946.   One of those men was Dr. Michael DeBakey, who died last week at the age of 99. The group also included figures such as Dean Rusk and future Nobel laureate  Dr. William B. Shockley.

Analyses conducted during the early 1940s suggested that the number of Americans appropriately aged and physically fit for military service was approximately 25,000,000, and it was anticipated that industrial and agricultural needs would cut this figure down by as many as 10,000,000.   The Army originally, and optimistically, planned to raise 200 combat divisions of all types, but it didn't take long for the realities of production and Army Air Force requirements to be fully appreciated.   By 1943 the number of such formations was scaled back considerably, and eventually shrank to a planned 90 divisions.

In May 1944, Secretary of War Henry Stimson repeatedly fretted over the lack of troops being committed to the upcoming invasion of France.   He pushed hard for a greater share of the Army's limited manpower to be allotted to the formation of additional combat divisions, but the Army's senior leadership was just as adamant that the lack of soldiers--- and especially officers--- made it impossible to efficiently support more divisions.   They argued that the greatest asset the United States brought to the Allied coalition was its immense production capacity.

Stimson, fearing a possible stalemate on the Western Front, complained in his diary and to aides that Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall "takes quite a different view--- a more optimistic view on some things that I think are rather dangerous," yet he did not raise his concerns with President Roosevelt because he did not want "to make an appearance of an issue with Marshall" with whom he was in fundamental agreement on so many issues.  

As events during the German's Ardennes Offensive later proved, Stimson had been at least partially correct and, by May 1945, he was again concerned with the casualties question, this time for the invasion of Japan.   But instead of grudgingly deferring to Marshall and the Army leadership, he specifically wanted civilian personnel not connected to Army Ground Forces, or AGF,  to be called in for a reexamination of manpower "requirements" for what he and Marshall both agreed would be a more brutal slugfest than the war in Europe largely because of the terrain and the character of the Japanese soldier.

It is instructive to take a look at the casualties between Stimson's memos to Marshall on May 10 and 16, 1944, and his June 9, 1945, initiation of a top-level review of the replacement system.

The long-expected “casualty surge”--- that all had known was coming --- finally arrived in the summer of 1944 with D-Day in France and the invasion of the Mariana Islands in the Pacific.   Of America’s roughly one and a quarter million combat and combat-related casualties in World War II, nearly one million of this number would be suffered from June 1944 through June 1945, a number that Americans today understandably would find almost incomprehensible.

The US Army was suffering an average of 65,000 combat casualties each and every month during the casualty surge, with November, December, and January figures standing at 72,000, 88,000 and 79,000 respectively in postwar tabulations.   The heavy American casualties during the Ardennes offensive, and lack of US combat divisions to add weight to Allied counterattacks, spurred Stimson to press more forcefully to create additional combat formations in the European Theater--- and Marshall remained just as firm that this could not be done without creating immense manpower disruptions.

Marshall had successfully rebuffed Stimson for almost a year on this, but in the crisis atmosphere of the current emergency, "head-on fight[s]" (that's Stimson's description) erupted between Stimson, Marshall, and Marshall's Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Thomas Handy.   The compromise solution was to send the last nine uncommitted divisions across the Atlantic by mid February including two that had been trained specifically for the invasion of Japan.  Meanwhile, requirements for that very operation were moving to the front burner as letters outlining the military’s critical manpower needs were sent from Roosevelt, Marshall, and Chief of Naval Operations Ernest J. King to the House Military Affairs Committee, and released to the New York Times and other newspapers on January 17, 1945.  

The public was informed in front-page articles that: “The Army must provide 600,000 replacements for overseas theaters by June 30, and, together with the Navy, will require a total of 900,000 inductions.”

This was followed by Stimson's announcement that the Army’s monthly Selective Service call-up, which had already been increased from 60,000 to 80,000 in January 1945, was going to be ratcheted up yet again in March to 100,000 men per month in anticipation of the invasion of Japan.   Simultaneously, AGF replacement training centers were expanded, and reached a wartime peak of 400,000 in June, months after US divisions had pulled to a halt along the Elbe River.

In any event, what this near-doubling of draft quotas meant in terms of the planned invasions of Japan was essentially this: Starting in March 1945, when levies were increased to 100,000 per month for the US Army and 40,000 for the Navy and Marines, nearly every man inducted would enter the “replacement stream” now oriented for a one-front war against Japan.   The Army did not sugar coat the prospect of a long, bloody war for the soldiers in the field and new inductees, and warned that various “major factors--- none of them predictable at this stage of the game--- will decide whether it will take 1 year, 2 years or longer to win the Far East war.”

By May 1945, the US was already several months along this Selective Service track to compensate for roughly the same quantity of casualties over the one-year period starting with the initial invasion operation, Olympic in the fall of 1945, as it had during the one-year "casualty surge" that began in June 1944.   At this point, however, two things happened: (1) the discovery that the Japanese Army--- on Japan itself--- was gearing up to be nearly twice as large as the estimated 3,500,000 our original manpower requirements were based on, and (2) Okinawa--- that the Japanese were capable of inflicting casualties at a much higher rate than anticipated.

The clock was ticking.   And the crux of this problem facing Stimson and the rest of the senior leadership had to do with the casualty ratios emerging from Okinawa which, if duplicated in Japan's Home Islands, threatened to outstrip the carefully constructed replacement stream for troop losses projected through the end of 1946.   This was both a military and political problem.

Early in 1945 Stimson, in conjunction with Marshall, and then Director of the Office of War Mobilization Jimmy Byrnes (Truman's future Secretary of State), had worked out the huge increase in Selective Service call-ups and other manpower issues at the exact time that numbers were being crunched within the Army to ensure that the criteria for a partial demobilization of the longest-serving troops through the "Points System" would not be so drastic as to harm further operations against Japan.  By May the politically painful Selective Service increase had been under way for several months, and the Administration was now publicly committed to the partial--- yet still huge--- mid-war demobilization.   However, when the emerging ratio from Okinawa was extrapolated against the projected troop strength resulting from the increased call-ups and concurrent demobilization, it was apparent that the Army was in danger of finding itself in a "manpower box" in which its 100,000-man-per-month replacement stream, originally believed to be more than adequate for both Olympic in 1945 and Operation Coronet in 1946 on the Tokyo Plain, would fall far short of combat needs during Coronet which involved two, then eventually three, field armies.

Military Intelligence officers in the Pentagon were beginning the process of crunching the new Japanese force structure figures and coming up with decidedly unsettling results.   And at this point in May, Stimson was also still trying to arrange a meeting between the new president and Stimson's old boss when he was secretary of state, that incurable number cruncher, Herbert Hoover, who had been testifying before multiple Congressional committees on some of the troublesome aspects of America's mobilization.

Truman and Hoover would finally have their meeting on May 24, and Hoover followed up, at Truman's request, with a memorandum which, in the middle of the bloody fighting on Okinawa, predicted up to 1,000,000 American dead during the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands--- a mortality figure double what the Army staff had used as the maximum for the manpower policy it was already intricately involved in carrying out.  Two criticisms of Hoover's figures were supplied by Marshall's staff, with Stimson, who by now was highly skeptical of the Army's official estimates relating to manpower issues, forwarding neither to Truman.

As for Hoover and his memorandum, it is well known to students of the era, but until recently it was generally assumed by both president's critics that Hoover had likely pulled the number out of thin air.   What we now know, thanks to the recently retired senior archivist at the Hoover Presidential Library, Dwight Miller, is that the estimate almost certainly originated during Hoover’s regular--- and unofficial--- briefings by Pentagon intelligence officers, a group working under assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Major General Clayton Bissell, that Robert Ferrell wryly refers to as "a cabal of smart colonels."   Interestingly, someone high up within the Navy--- apparently still angling in support of the Navy's advocacy of a strategy of blockade and bombardment instead of invasion--- also took it upon themselves to leak both the revised Japanese troop strength and the markedly higher US casualty estimates that they generated.

Truman forwarded Hoover's memorandum to the director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, Fred M. Vinson, who had no quarrel with the casualty estimate and suggested that Hoover’s paper be shown to Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew, former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Stimson (who was already completely familiar with Hoover's views).   On June 9, Truman sent copies of the memo to all three men, asking each for a written analysis of it and summoning Grew and Stimson to a meeting to discuss their analysis with him.  

None of Truman's senior advisor's batted an eye at the estimate.   Grew confirmed that "The Japanese are a fanatical people capable of fighting to the last man.   If they do this, the cost in American lives will be unpredictable."   Stimson wrote: “We shall in my opinion have to go through a more bitter finish fight than in Germany.”

Truman's reaction was to call a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Stimson, and Navy Secretary James Forrestal, for the following Monday afternoon, June 18, to discuss “the losses in dead and wounded that will result from an invasion of Japan proper.”

At the meeting all the participants agreed that an invasion of the Home Islands would he extremely costly, but that it was essential for the defeat of Imperial Japan.   As for Truman, he said that he “was clear on the situation now and was quite sure that the Joint Chiefs should proceed” but expressed the hope “that there was a possibility of preventing an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.”

Stimson, meanwhile, had been far from idle.   Returning to the never-ending manpower issue that had been severely complicated by the Japanese increases in the size of the Imperial Army, Stimson instituted an in-depth examination of the Army's replacement system as well as the underlying assumptions concerning the ultimate cost in killed and wounded that America could expect to suffer.   But having been burned--- in his opinion--- on multiple occasions by the Army's firm assurances that it had a better understanding of all the factors involved, Stimson specifically wanted, as noted earlier, civilian personnel not connected to AGF or the Army Staff to be called in to scrutinize manpower needs.

On the same day that Truman sent Hoover's memorandum to Grew, Hull, and Stimson, Stimson began his own initiative by directing Drs. E. P. Learned and Dan Smith, Harvard Business School economists on General Hap Arnold's Army Air Force staff, to take an independent look at AGF manpower and training requirements for the duration of the war against Japan.   Marshall who shared an adjoining office with Stimson, wisely kept completely out of the way of what quickly became known as the Learned-Smith Committee.

Another facet of Stimson's effort was handled by his special assistant, Dr. Edward Bowles who initiated a study on possible casualties that the Japanese as a nation might be able to inflict on an invasion force.   It included Dr. Quincy Wright from the University of Chicago and was headed up by future Nobel laureate Dr. William B. Shockley who was "on loan" to the effort from the Navy, where he served as director of research for the Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Research Group.  They were given full access to key intelligence and planning personnel, including Colonels James McCormack and Dean Rusk, intelligence officers and former Rhodes Scholars on the Operations Division's small but influential Strategic Policy Section, as well as highly classified Pentagon manpower and casualties data including the top-secret analyses of escalating US troop losses produced by Drs. Michael DeBakey and Gilbert W. Beebe.

This was quite a line-up.   Dr. DeBakey, then an Army Medical Corps colonel, would become the principal proponent behind development of MASH units and be well known to the public for his work in the field of heart surgery.   Shockley?   He was still a decade away from being awarded a Nobel Prize for his part in the development of the transistor.   Wright, who had written the two-volume A Study of War; was not a spring chicken, having received his degree at the University of Illinois in 1915, but very shortly after taking part in Stimson's initiative he entered the Army; was given the rank of colonel; and served as a technical advisor to the Nuremberg Tribunal.   Learned and Smith were already well known in the economics field and Learned's case study method is still used today as an instructional process.   McCormack was soon appointed director of the of the Atomic Energy Commission's Military Application Division, and transferred to the Air Force where he rose to major general, while Beebe played a key role in both the formation and continuing operations of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.   As for Rusk, he would have a long and distinguished career in government service.

But getting back to Stimson's initiative, beyond the officially stated reason for its formation, the low-visibility Learned-Smith Committee was created as a backstop to answer anticipated public--meaning Congressional--inquiries into the need for continued high Selective Service call-up rates and the possibility that deferments, already generating loud protests from their tightening during the run-up to the invasion of Japan, might be squeezed even further.   Other efforts, like that of the Shockley-Wright study, were geared to helping frame further discussion.

The Shockly-Wright effort "to determine to what extent the behavior of a nation in war can be predicted from the behavior of her troops in individual battles" concluded that: "If the study shows that the behavior of nations in all historical cases comparable to Japan's has in fact been invariably consistent with the behavior of the troops in battle, then it means that the Japanese dead and ineffectives at the time of the defeat will exceed the corresponding number for the Germans.   In other words, we shall probably have to kill at least 5 to 10 million Japanese.  This might cost us between 1.7 and 4 million casualties including 400,000 and 800,000 killed."

As for the Learned-Smith Committee, when its report was made available in late June, AGF generally concurred with the committee's findings and was greatly relieved to find that the committee agreed with the current Army policy of producing replacements "against maximum requirements rather than against continually revised estimates of minimum needs."   In fact, this conclusion also has relevance for today since it can be argued that some revisionist historians (safely removed six decades from events) as well as a significant number of politicians are "minimum needs" advocates.

So what came of all this?   Essentially nothing.   The sudden and unexpected end of the war eliminated the need for these taskings before Stimson may have seen what Bowles turned up, but it is important to remember that Stimson himself initiated these efforts.   A very lengthy memorandum prepared by Colonel (later Brigadier General) John Banville for the committee apparently became much of the basis of an AGF study on replacements, and was further absorbed into the official Army history of the AGF.   And as for the Shockly-Wright study, it languished deep in the Bowles Papers at the Library of Congress, and likely elsewhere, for five decades until it was retrieved by Professor Robert P. Newman.

The irony of this is that for many years, various individuals critical of Truman's bomb decision regularly maintained that estimates of massive casualties during an invasion of Japan were a post-war creation, and when the copious documentation that they were wrong began to come to light a decade ago, then switched to the line that the estimates must certainly have been developed and seen only by "lowly subordinates" when, in fact, far from being considered by obscure officers tucked away in the recesses of the Pentagon, this vital--and highly secret--matter was being examined by some of the finest minds this country has produced from Henry Stimson to Michael DeBakey.   Moreover, Truman had not simply seen the genuinely huge numbers, but reacted decisively to them by calling the June 18, 1945, White House meeting in which the invasion of Japan was given the go-ahead in spite of their frightful dimensions.

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MITCHELL G DAY - 5/12/2010

Mr. Godemont, your gross (and bigoted) generalization about America then and now being willing to go war but not to lose men seems to imply that the U.S. and not the Fascist Empire of Japan started the war. You seem to have forgotten that until the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor WE were trying to stay out of the war. As for our unwillingness to lose men I say Thank God! Isn't that how you win a war?! As far as the Japanese people not being willing to continue to sacrifice themselves in the war how to explain the attempted palace coup the overthrow Hirohito(which failed as a direct result of the U.S.'s last fire bombing raid of the war.)? American losses were constantly being UNDERestimated by the chain of command to the troops for instance my own father was told that the battle of Iwo Jima would only take 3 DAYS! It ended up taking 5 WEEKS! And as far as why the Japanese people would be willing to continue the fight? Well, for their God-Emperor and the sacred soil of Nippon of course! The reasons they had started murdering Americans in the first place. Not that the loss of OUR lives should concern YOU over much!

Roger Godement - 8/7/2008

The problem with Americans was (and still is) that they are willing to go to war, but not to loose men. To Truman, the 12,500 dead and 50,000 wounded at Okinawa were "appalling" - this in 80 days of fighting, and with about 100,000 Japanese military dead, as well as at least as many civilians. And don't forget MacArthur 18/1 ratio at the June 18th meeting.
Being French, 86 years old, with a father who fought in the trenches of WWI for 48 months, and having read a lot,I know that War is Hell, as a (non european) general said much earlier. 12,500 dead, well, they could harvest that in one single day in 1916 France! And what do you think happened on the WWII Eastern front ?
Concerning the Japanese government desire for peace, it's obvious - otherwise why bother Sato with peace feelers ? That this should not include unconditional surrender before August 10 or so is obvious too, although Sato made it clear that the Allied would not accept anything else. Whether the surrender was due mostly to the bombs, or to the Soviet attack, or to both will be debated until the Sun cools off. I changed my opinions about it several times during the last 30 years or so, depending on what I read, and by now I no longer really care. I should however say that I find Hasegawa's thesis quite believable, because the prospect of a Soviet invasion through Hokkaido destroyed the hope for a decisive battle on Kyushu (which, by the way, would have involved atomic bombs - but of course Japanese did not know it at the time, so that this is a valueless argument).
I'm also somewhat surprised at the was Mr Gian Greco dismisses the Bombing Survey and Paul Nitze. There were also other distinguished people on the team, e.g. Galbraith and McNamara, young men with rather bright futures...
Concerning the US casualties estimates for an invasion of Japan, the least that can be said is that they are mere guesses. Truman first says tens of thousands, then 200,000, then Churchill says one million US plus half as many Allied, Groves says one million as well as Stimson-Bundy, Truman's memoirs says 500,000 dead (because his ghost writers "rectified" their boss' estimates of 500,000 casualties), etc. As Mr Gian Greco says, very high estimates were heard in July in military circles, but (comparatively) very low ones were also heard on June 18th. Shockley's estimates do not impress me; he was in operations research (anti-submarine warfare, as Mr Gian Greco remind us), and what he did amounted to multiply Okinawa's losses (on both sides) by 40; no need for future Nobel prize winners to do that (and he proved later that his business acumen was not up to his scientific genius); but why 40 ? because they thought the invasion would be "an Okinawa from one end to the other of Japan" ? They may have believed at the time that Japanese would be willing to loose (and Americans to KILL...) 8 or 10 million people - for what result ? But is it still credible sixty years later, when we know that parts of the population were restive, that Konoye feared what Communists might do, that the "peace party" believed the country could not stand much longer the bombings and the blockade, etc?

A. M. Eckstein - 7/23/2008

Dear Fahrettin,

The question is whether it would have been politically possible to allow the economic, military and political structure of Japanese fascism, as well as a significant part of the Japanese Empire, survive in the summer of 1945. The answer is: no. But that's what the Japanese government meant when it talked aobut a negotiation: the survival of the political, military and economic structures of Japanese fascism, and a significant part of the Japanese Empire. So it was not possible from the get-go.

My point about Hitler is certainly not that you were suggesting a compromise peace with Hitler, and I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I thought you were. My point was more general: that it is *always* possible to have a negotiated peace if one is willing to make big concessions. But the specific concessions demanded are the issue.

The Japanese price for peace--and it was the only price they were willing to pay--was too high for the Americans, the British, or the Russians. The reason it was high was because the Japanese armed forces didn't know about the Bomb, and were convinced that they could exact their price for peace by defeating the Allied forces on the beaches of Kyushu in the autumn (or causing such a huge American bloodbath that the American public would give up on the war). Without the Bomb, they might well have been correct in their thinking. They had almost 900,000 soldiers on Kyushu by August. It's why the Bomb was necessary--and if you read Sadao Asada, you will see that not even Hiroshima convinced the Japanese military that it was all over; it took Nagasaki. It was Nagasaki that empowered the Emperor to insist on peace. Fahrettin, you've got to read the scholarship.

You too, Mr. Mandel--you've got to read the modern scholarship. You clearly have not.

As long as they thought they could defeat the mother of all invasions, the Japanese army was prepared to *endure* the blockade and the conventional bombing, because they were convinced that they would come out the other side of the actual invasion (after defeating the invasion of Kyushu or exacting such a huge price in American blood that the Americans would tire of the war) with a good position from which to negotiate a peace with honor as they saw it. Those are the facts.

A. M. Eckstein - 7/23/2008

Japan, Mr. Mandel, was NOT on the verge of surrender. Repeat: NOT. The Japanese army was prepared to fight on under very difficult conditions. Please read the latest work, based on Japanese archival material, from Sadao Asada, in R. J. Maddox, Hiroshima and History (2007).

Mr. Fahrettin, the question is whether it would have been politically possible to allow the economic, military and political structure of Japanese fascism, as well as a significant part of the Japanese Empire, survive in the summer of 1945. The answer is: no. But that's what the Japanese government meant when it talked aobut a negotiation. So it was not possible from the get-go.

My point about Hitler is that it is always possible to have a negotiated peace if one is willing to make big concessions. The Japanese price for peace--and it was the only price they were willing to pay--was too high for the Americans, the British, or the Russians. The reason it was high was because the Japanese armed forces didn't know about the Bomb, and thought they could exact their price for peace by defeating the Allied forces on the beaches of Kyushu in the autumn. Without the Bomb, they might well have been correct. They had almost 900,000 soldiers on Kyushu by August. It's why the Bomb was necessary--and if you read Sadao Asada, you will see that not even Hiroshima convinced the Japanese military that it was all over; that took Nagasaki. It was Nagasaki that empowered the Emperor to insist on peace. You've got to read the scholarship.

You too, Mr. Mandel.

art eckstein - 7/23/2008

Mr. Mandel,

You have personal experience, and I respect that. But I remember well Russian generals on the cover of Time, with stories praising them inside; and in early 1945 the "race to beat the Russians to Berlin". That doesn't sound like the American govt or military leadership believed the Russians couldn't do anything right.

Fahrettin Tahir - 7/23/2008


I did not say it would have been a good idea to reach an agreement with Hitler. Japan is another category. Would letting them keep a part of their empire have been worse than letting Mao and Stalin keep their empires? Stalin killed far more people than the japanese, and eventually, so did Mao.

William Mandel - 7/23/2008

The only thing unexpected about the end of the war was the inability of American military leadership to drop its conviction that Russians couldn't beat Germans and Communists couldn't do anything right.
I was Russian Expert for UPI, then the United Press, and sat at the elbow of its Night Editor (the man in charge of what appeared in the nation's newspapers the next morning) in the writing of each day's war story.
I got UPI back on the front page of the NY Times after that paper had informed UPI that it would be barred from its front page for a month because an incompetent who knew only the Russian language had given the Red Army an impossible overnight advance because he didn't know that they had many towns with similar names just as we have so many places called Washington and Jefferson.
I had lived in Moscow for the year midsummer 1931 to midsummer 1932. I was totally convinced by what I had heard from Russian people that, contrary to the view of the American press and its U.S. military briefers, the Red Army would beat Hitler's Wehrmacht. It did, although at the cost of the largest number of dead in any war in human history.

William Mandel - 7/23/2008

Japan's cities, built of paper and wood, were tinderboxes. American bombing had set fire to them and virtually destroyed them. It is now known that Japan was on the verge of surrender.
Washington was much more concerned with preventing expansion of Soviet influence to Japan as its taking of Berlin had multiplied its role in the future of Europe. Use of the atom bomb was the one way to end the war quickly and keep the USSR out of Japan. So it was used, with no consideration of the immense "collateral damage" in casualties among civilians.

art eckstein - 7/22/2008

It is absolutely not the case that the main reason the bomb was used was to manage the Soviet Union--which (in case you have not noticed Fahrettin) was *not* exactly managed between 1945 and 1949, during which period it consolidated its empire in Eastern Europe.

The bomb was used to end the war. Conventional bombing would not have done it, nor would blockade. The Japanese, especially the armed forces, were prepared to fight on for a very long time under terrible conditions. The conventional invasion of Kyushu (Operation Olympic, scheduled for Nov. 1945) could well have been a disaster: Iwo Jima cost thousands of U.S. lives, and was only 2 miles by 4 miles, defended by 20,000 men. The Japanese had been almost 900,000 soldiers into Kyushu by August 1945, and much of the region is mountainous. The US Government prepared so many purple hearts for this operation that they were still being used in the 1990s.

Even after Hiroshima, the Japanese Army wanted firmly to fight on, in order to have "the mother of all invasions" (Olympic)--and destroy it. They thought they could. They might have. It took Nagasaki to strengthen the hand of the Emperor enough so that he could impose peace on his soldiers. You have to read R. Maddox, Hiroshima and History (2007), to know the truth here--instead of the propaganda you've been fed for years.

So--convention bombing would be ineffective in getting the Japanese to surrender, and blockade would not work any time soon. The Japanese armed forces were just too tough. (In the meantime, there were almost 200,000 Allied prisoners of war who would be starving to death.)

That leaves a 'negotiated settlement' as an alternative to the bomb--well, a negotiated settlement is always a way to end the war if you are willing to give big concessions, Fahrettin. The U.S. and Britain could have had a "negotiated settlement" with Hitler, too--in 1943, say. Why didn't it happen, eh? We know what the Japanese negotiating position was in summer 1945: the Japanese govt wanted to maintain not just the Emperor (which was eventually granted them after the Bomb), but the entire fascist political structure and economic structure, and a large part of the Empire--that was their "negotiation". Fahrettin, given the bitterness of the times (don't forget Pearl Harbor), and the prospect of allowing those fascist structures to reorganize themselves as the continuing government of Japan, it wasn't going to happen.

Fahrettin Tahir - 7/22/2008

Until now I believed that the US by showing that it had an atom bomb was trying to scare the Soviets who had a huge army and could not care less about casualties in conventional war. The japanese problem could have been solved by a compromise peace instead of the request for unconditional surrender, a highly unusual demand in war.