Was the US justified in dropping the bomb

No podcast this time, just looking for general knowledge.

I say, we were not. We could have accepted a less demeaning truce with Japan, leaving the emperor in place, but powerless. We did not need complete control of their country. I’ve seen the numbers of predicted lives lost if we kept fighting in the Pacific, but I think they would have surrendered.

The worst consequence is we lost the moral high ground to negotiate for less nuclear weapons in the world. Having seen our willingness to use them, everyone else felt they were necessary.

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Could it also have been to show the rest of the world “We have the Big Stick (first)” ?

Of course, that would not have been very marketable back then.
Today, I think it would go over well with a certain sector.

Look who’s got a super-sonic missile, and used (proved) it.

I don’t remember who the generals were, but Truman trusted them. It was their decision. Then they dropped it and Truman stepped in and said stop. And then they came up with the "football "

Naah…I think Japan had lost the moral high ground by their dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor while their representatives were in negotiation with Wash. DC…

Was the US negotiating with Japan before Pearl Harbor?

The Complicated Lead Up to Pearl Harbor

In the summer of 1941, Japan moved to take the rest of Indochina. This aggression launched major diplomatic negotiations between Japan and the United States that would continue up until the attack on Pearl Harbor . While the U.S. had put embargoes on Japan in the past, in 1941 it completely froze all trade with Japan. Dec 7, 2016

Actually, they dropped two bombs. The second one was totally unnecessary and the first one, IMO was not necessary. Einstein didn’t want them to use the H-bomb at all.

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My fourth grade teacher made a big deal about telling us that the Japanese amassador was in DC when they attacked. He was escorted to his plane and allowed to leave safely

In fact the war was lost by Japan, but Japan was unable to acknowledge that.

The use of the first atomic bombs saved many lives, Japanese civil ones mainly.

The battle was the bloodiest in the Pacific, with approximately 160,000 military casualties combined: at least 50,000 Allied and 84,166–117,000 Japanese, including drafted Okinawans wearing Japanese uniforms. According to local authorities, at least 149,425 Okinawan people were killed, died by suicide or went missing, roughly half of the estimated pre-war population of about 300,000.

Imagine the costs of an invasion of Japan !!!

[Battle of Okinawa - Wikipedia]

On 7 August, a day after Hiroshima was destroyed, Dr. Yoshio Nishina and other atomic physicists arrived at the city, and carefully examined the damage. They then went back to Tokyo and told the cabinet that Hiroshima was indeed destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the Chief of the Naval General Staff, estimated that no more than one or two additional bombs could be readied, so they decided to endure the remaining attacks, acknowledging “there would be more destruction but the war would go on”. American Magic codebreakers intercepted the cabinet’s messages.

[Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Wikipedia]

In fact, the A bomb saved hundred of thousands ofJapanese and US lives.

Japanese leaders were fanatics. They had to be removed from power.

 Until 9 August, Japan's war council still insisted on its four conditions for surrender. The full cabinet met at 14:30 on 9 August, and spent most of the day debating surrender. Anami conceded that victory was unlikely, but argued in favor of continuing the war nonetheless. The meeting ended at 17:30, with no decision having been reached. Suzuki went to the palace to report on the outcome of the meeting, where he met with Kōichi Kido, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan. Kido informed him that the emperor had agreed to hold an imperial conference, and gave a strong indication that the emperor would consent to surrender on condition that kokutai be preserved. A second cabinet meeting was held at 18:00. Only four ministers supported Anami's position of adhering to the four conditions, but since cabinet decisions had to be unanimous, no decision was reached before it ended at 22:00.

Calling an imperial conference required the signatures of the prime minister and the two service chiefs, but the Chief Cabinet Secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu had already obtained signatures from Toyoda and General Yoshijirō Umezu in advance, and he reneged on his promise to inform them if a meeting was to be held. The meeting commenced at 23:50. No consensus had emerged by 02:00 on 10 August, but the emperor gave his “sacred decision”, authorizing the Foreign Minister, Shigenori Tōgō, to notify the Allies that Japan would accept their terms on one condition, that the declaration “does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign ruler.”

On 12 August, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, then asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai could not be preserved. Hirohito simply replied, “Of course.” As the Allied terms seemed to leave intact the principle of the preservation of the Throne, Hirohito recorded on 14 August his capitulation announcement which was broadcast to the Japanese nation the next day despite a short rebellion by militarists opposed to the surrender.

Arguments about moral justification in war are a lost cause, but tactically and strategically we were entirely justified. It ended the war quicker on terms that were favorable to us which is really what matters.

Ultimately, it was better for Japan as well since many more would have been killed either in an invasion, or through a naval blockade that would have led to mass starvation of civilians.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the conventional bombing of Japan killed far, far more people than both atomic bombs.

Over 10 years ago I was friends with a fellow (80 years old, remembered burying friends during WWII). He told me about a group called the Flying Tigers. He suggested that Japan’s attack on America may not have been an entirely unprovoked one.

Reviewing some of the info about the Flying Tigers on Wikipedia, I see some things that make me wonder if Japan’s attack was more of a pre-emptive strike, considering we were basically planning to bomb Japan.


Recruited under President Franklin Roosevelt’s authority before Pearl Harbor, their mission was to bomb Japan and defend the Republic of China, but many delays meant the AVG first flew in combat after the US and Japan declared war.

The Flying Tigers began to arrive in China in April 1941. The group first saw combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after Pearl Harbor (local time).

So we had bombers in China 8 months before Pearl Harbor that were planning to ally with China to bomb Japan.

Yet notice this isn’t mentioned when teaching American’s about the “lead-up” to Pearl Harbor or the “unprovoked” attack by Japan. Up until my friend told me about them, I had never heard of the Flying Tigers (though, in all honesty, there’s a lot I’ve never heard of).

I believe you are mistaken in this assumption. The US was not even in the war except for landlease support.

The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into the war ,

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

By mid-1941 the United States had severed all economic relations with Japan and was providing material and financial support to China. Japan had been at war with China since 1937, and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 ensured that the Soviets were no longer a threat to the Japanese on the Asian mainland. The Japanese believed that once the U.S. Pacific Fleet was neutralized, all of Southeast Asia would be open for conquest.

Did the Pearl Harbor attack signal the beginning of World War II for the United States?

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of the Pacific war for the U.S., but it did not necessarily mean that the U.S. had become a combatant in the war in Europe. By December 1941, German armies had stalled on the Eastern Front, and it seemed foolhardy for Adolf Hitler to declare war on yet another great power under such circumstances. The Tripartite Pact only obligated Germany to defend Japan if the latter was attacked, not if it was the aggressor. Nevertheless, Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. Later that month, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met U.S. Pres. Franklin Roosevelt at the Arcadia Conference in Washington, D.C., and the two agreed on a “Europe first” policy for the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Oh, I maybe wasn’t clear at what I was implying. I think if Japan knew that the US were allying with China, and had 3 squadrons ready to assist bombing Japan, that may have been a deciding factor for Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Whether Japan knew the US was preparing to bomb Japan I can’t guess at because I have no idea of the capacity or ability of Japan’s Intelligence network.

And though there are some unknowns and conjecture, it seems to me that the fact America had bombers in China (a country so close to Japan) planning to bomb Japan before December 7th, 1941 is worth at least a brief mention in the history books.

That is a possibility, but I believe a simpler explanation is that the US had a fleet stationed in that part of the Pacific that Japan wanted to conquer and control.
By destroying that grand fleet it hoped to completely remove the US presence in the
Pacific. The attack was a clear battle victory. What followed was a disaster for Japan and a lesson to the world.

They underestimated US capacity for warfare as several other countries have done since and paid dearly for that miscalculation.

Ah yes, materials and financial support. But no mention of the American bombers which is a historical fact clearly stated on the Flying Tigers wikipedia page.

I completely agree that Japan’s reasons were more than the one I stated.

But technically the Flying Tigers was not part of the US Airforce.
They were mercenaries led by an ex-military flight instructor. The US could not legally have a direct military role and only provide the planes but no active pilots.

The Flying Tigers: How a group of Americans ended up fighting for China in WW II

Eighty years ago this week, a small group of American aviators fought in their first battle in World War II.

Their mission was unusual: They were mercenaries hired by China to fight against Japan.

They were called the American Volunteer Group and later became known as the Flying Tigers. Though only in combat for less than seven months, the group became famous at the time for its ability to inflict outsize damage on Japan’s better-equipped and larger aircraft fleet.

@write4u It seems our sources differ a little. Yes, they were volunteers, but “recruited under President Roosevelt’s authority.”

I agree, there is a fine line. That’s why I said “technically” they were not under the command of an active serving officer in the US military. US military personnell are forbidden to serve under a different flag.

Japan government in the thirties was nationalistic, militarist and authoritarian.

Japan and Germany had signed a pact.

Japan wanted to build an empire and attacked China, killing people and committing atrocities (Nankin’s rape).

Incidentally, they were deeply racists and despised other Asian people as Whites, they saw as degenerated.

There was a disagreement among the Japan leaders about two options: North and Siberia or South-East Asia.

The Japanese leaders in Manchuria invaded Mongolia and met with a bloody defeat inflicted by Russian army. This option was closed.

The only Japanese high level leader who knew that Japan would lose war if it lasted more than a few months was Admiral Tojo who had lived in USA.

The USA answers to Japan aggressiveness gave Japan leaders a choice: to stop the war they were waging or to attack USA. For them to back was unthinkable.

Quick sidebar:
Has anyone seen “Man in the High Tower”? TV series based on a book. In an alternate reality Germany and Japan won the war and North America was divided between the two.
… then there’s some science fiction to it as well.

The Man in the High Castle Season 5 has been canceled . Amazon Prime Video confirmed that there will be no season five of their hit show, which was based on a novel by Philip K. Dick and set in an alternate history where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II.
Nov 21, 2021

I think that’s true, unless something can be learned from to make things better in the future.

I thought I’d take a moment to actually reply to the original question by @lausten

I must concede, a lot of good points here, both for and against.

Hypothetically, would it be ok for Ukraine to drop a nuke on some Russian civilian targets?

That’s not really a fair analogy though. I think most people would be against that for fear that Russia might retaliate with a nuke.

If Japan had nukes, the US probably would have decided not to use nukes against Japan.

In principle, I’m against the existence of nuclear weapons because I am pro-environment, support climate change prevention initiatives, and animal rights. I understand that nuclear weapons don’t contribute to environmental problems unless they’re detonated, but I have to acknowledge the potential for environmental devastation. I’m actually kind of surprised that climate change activists aren’t more vocal about protesting for the dismantling of existing nuclear weapons.

Also, I feel like there’s little difference between the effects of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Though I don’t claim to be extremely knowledgeable about the three, that’s just my impression from reading about them or seeing the effects in news or film clips. I don’t see how I could be for using a nuke in a time of war, but against the use of chem or bio weapons.

As one poster pointed out, to many Americans, what matters most is that the usage of nukes saved American lives. I can’t really argue with that perspective. For example, if you consider the amount, and the difference, of American lives lost in the Trade Towers attack in September of 2001, and then the amount of civilian lives that were lost on foreign soil it seems pretty clear that morality really isn’t the issue here. People simply prefer the deaths of people to happen to another race or on a different land.

For further provocation of thought, these are some examples of civilians:


It’s difficult for me to imagine them suffering from radiation poisoning or dying because they were of the same race or on the same land as one of my enemies.

I noticed the concentration camps that were created in the US during that time aren’t advertised much in American history books, as well as the genocide committed by the American government against native Americans (which was arguably very similar to Hitler’s “final solution”).

So do I think the US was morally justified in using nuclear weapons to end the war? Well, putting aside the irrelevant examples I mentioned, if I had to form an opinion on it, I’d say, “No.”

But have we learned from it, and can we learn more from discussing it in the hopes that suffering can be prevented in the future? I’d say, “I hope so.”