Thread: Hiroshima
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Old 05-29-2016, 12:42 AM   #5
RoryTate
Circle Researcher
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 198
Default Re: Hiroshima

It is tough -- or even impossible -- to play armchair historian when it comes to wartime decisions like these, since you can't recreate the true conditions of being at war with another country. That said, there are a few things about Japan's surrender during WW2 that aren't really well known.

The way the story is told nowadays usually amounts to the following shorthand: "Aug 6 1945 - Hiroshima bombed, Aug 9 1945 - Nagasaki bombed, Japan surrenders shortly after". I can't tell you how many times I've seen/read this narrative -- a narrative that is both true and false. It is true because these dates and events are well known and documented, but it is completely false because it leaves out other equally or more important events at that time. The better and more objective timeline is as follows:

Jul 26 1945 - Allies issue the Potsdam Declaration, demanding an unconditional surrender from Japan. Historical documents show that Japan afterwards engages in backchannel negotiations through the Soviets to add four main conditions to the surrender in their favour.

Aug 6 1945 - After no official response to the declaration is received from Japan, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Aug 9 1945 - Unexpectedly, the USSR declares war on Japan, invading and almost immediately capturing Manchuria. The US drops a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Aug 12 1945 - a new offer of surrender is given to Japan by the US/Allies, this time granting the most important condition that Japan had been demanding -- the retaining of the figurehead Japanese Emperor. Historical documents show that the US were -- rightfully so -- concerned about Stalin grabbing land as WW2 ended, and this changed the political will regarding accepting this Japanese demand.

Aug 15 1945 - after being given assurances that the Emperor would not be harmed, Japan officially accepts the new terms of surrender.

So in retrospect, the surrender of Japan following the atomic bombs is perhaps more a strange quirk of history than a strict causal relationship. Indeed, since more civilians died during the fire bombing of Tokyo and other cities (total deaths of about half a million, with over 100,000 in one night), it isn't like the smaller death toll from the atomic bombs was particularly meaningful to Japan at the time. Besides, history shows us clearly that killing a large number of a country's civilian population in war simply angers that country and causes them to completely dehumanize their enemy, to the point that surrender or even negotiation is impossible.

I think that if the bombs had never been dropped, and history had still unfolded the way it did with Russia invading when their pact of non-aggression was set to expire, then we might be living in a world today where atomic weapons had never been used in war. As I said at the start though, when playing armchair historian it is impossible to know for sure and to recreate the conditions of being at war, which is why I always try to present such information in as non-judgmental a way as possible when dealing with this particular emotionally-charged issue.

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