Talk:Nuclear attacks against Japan

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Reexamining prior dialogue

It's been a while, but, as I remember, I split this from a much larger air war article simply for size reasons. It still, however, reads like an essay to me, with much pushing of Stimson as the fundamental policymaker: not universally agreed. The author and I disagreed.

Further, it doesn't really address the development of the U.S. nuclear weapon, British cooperation, Soviet espionage, and German and Japanese programs.

Is this retrievable or should it be restarted? Howard C. Berkowitz 00:27, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

I think it does push a certain position, but I don't know enough of the details to judge. I only know isolated bits that could be added, e.g. Truman's quote about how the bomb "would keep the Russians straight". Another thing is we might consider Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or some-such as a more accurate title. John Stephenson 09:46, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure that would be more accurate, other than as a subset. First, there was the major U.S./U.K. development program, not just the Manhattan Project but the actual task force to use them. Second, there were German, Japanese,and Soviet programs. Third, if Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not been bombed, there were very active plans to use up to nine bombs in the Operation OLYMPIC invasion of southern Japan.
It would have been the bombings of Hiroshima and Kokura, if the weather had been better above Kokura; Nagasaki was a secondary target. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:40, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

Stimson material

I moved this here for discussion; it is by no means universally believed that Henry Stimson was so responsible for U.S. policy. If this is the case, I'd like to see some more accessible, and indeed more recent citations. These are appear to be historical sources, and there is little from the views of nuclear strategists or professional military literature. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:29, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

===Stimson's vision===
In retrospect it seems likely that the impact of continued blockade, relentless bombing, and the Russian invasion of Manchuria would have somehow forced the Japanese Army to surrender sometime in late 1945 or early 1946 even without the atomic bombs (though not without very large numbers of Japanese casualties.)[1] But Stimson saw well beyond the immediate end of the war. He was the only top government official who tried to predict the meaning of the atomic age--he envisioned a new era in human affairs. For a half century he had worked to inject order, science, and moralism into matters of law, of state, and of diplomacy. His views had seemed outdated in the age of total warfare, but now he held what he called "the royal straight flush." The impact of the atom, he foresaw, would go far beyond military concerns to encompass diplomacy and world affairs, as well as business, economics and science. Above all, said Stimson, this "most terrible weapon ever known in human history" opened up "the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved." That is, the very destructiveness of the new weaponry would shatter the ages-old belief that wars could be advantageous. It might now be possible to call a halt to the use of destruction as a ready solution to human conflicts. Indeed, society's new control over the most elemental forces of nature finally "caps the climax of the race between man's growing technical power for destructiveness and his psychological power of self-control and group control--his moral power."
In 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria Stimson, then Secretary of State, proclaimed the famous "Stimson Doctrine." It said no fruits of illegal aggression would ever be recognized by the United States. Japan just laughed. Now the wheels of justice had turned and the "peace-loving" nations (as Stimson called them) had the chance to punish Japan's misdeeds in a manner that would warn aggressor nations never again to invade their neighbors. To validate the new moral order, the atomic bomb had to be used against civilians. Indeed, the Japanese people since 1945 have been intensely anti-militaristic, pointing with anguish to their experience at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was Stimson then guilty of a crime (as many Japanese now believe)? Perhaps, but it has to be recognized that he moved the issue to a higher plane than one of military ethics. The question was not one of whether soldiers should use this weapon or not. Involved was the simple issue of ending a horrible war, and the more subtle and more important question of the possibility of genuine peace among nations. Stimson's decision involved the fate of mankind, and he posed the problem to the world in such clear and articulate fashion that there was near unanimous agreement mankind had to find a way so that atomic weapons would never be used again. Thanks in great part to Stimson's vision, they never have been used since August of 1945.[2]

Howard C. Berkowitz 23:29, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Title: break up article first?

There's no question this is an awkward title. My sense, however, is that this article really doesn't work as a single piece. There are the separate decisions to start the Manhattan Project, certainly not aimed against Japan alone; the choices to use nuclear weapons against Japan; and the specific effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki strikes — which really must be compared and contrasted with the firebombing campaign. This article wanders through the tradeoffs in conventional bombing, which also could be a separate article. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:53, 15 May 2010 (UTC)


The lede sentence, I think, is very clunky. The second sentence makes no sense whatsoever, as it is palpably untrue. Hayford Peirce 02:19, 15 May 2010 (UTC)

Victims "of another race."

Saying that the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are "of another race." offends me at a fundamental level. So I removed it.--David Yamakuchi 17:25, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

I think that your removal is quite arguable. This is an aspect of the situation that has certainly been brought up over the years. Perhaps it should be *sourced*, in which case it should certainly be included. Hayford Peirce 17:42, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Looking at other material by the same CZ author, some of that is stylistic--you'll find he uses anachronistic terms such as "Yankees" for Americans. There was, however, ethnic hostility and dehumanization in both directions, although I seriously doubt it made any difference in the nuclear attack decision. That needs to be explained, although probably not in this article; the whole structure of late WWII articles, especially for the Pacific, needs to be reconsidered.
There are aspects of culture, ethnic perceptions and language that should be considered in the context of the late part of the Pacific War. Some also could be considered lack of strategic intelligence. When the Tojo government fell and was replaced by Konoye, there certainly were civilians and Navy leaders that were willing to look, with varying levels of flexibility, at peace negotiations. On the Allied side, however, the unconditional surrender phrase, rather casually thrown out by Roosevelt, gave the Army faction considerable no-surrender argument, which, in turn, led to consideration of the shock value of nuclear attack. Had the US indicated that it would preserve the monarchy and the national polity, things could have been different in early 1945. A reinforcement of this position was the Foreign Ministry response to broadcasts from U.S. Navy CAPT Ellis Zacharias, well known in Japan, who was addressed as Zacharias-kun rather than Zacharias-san, implying that he was considered a wise counselor.
The poor communication was not limited to one side. Now, I am by no means fluent in Japanese, but I do know some specific context. When an official response came to a last warning, the Japanese government said it would mokusatsu it. This has at least two meanings, one of giving it serious study, and one to "kill with silence". The Allies assumed the latter; it's not completely clear if the former was being considered. Again, the big issue, not realized in the West, was the monarchy -- eventually accepted by the Allies.
When people ask me about my race, I answer "human". If the question is "color", I prefer "beige with brown spots." Howard C. Berkowitz 18:34, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Apologies, I should have been more specific in my objections and suggested a better way to incorporate the info...which has *some* validity...I think. Perhaps the main problem in terms of a CZ article is semantic: "another race" seems to exclude my uncle Ryoji Yamakuchi who served in the US Army in the 442nd; dad, who was "relocated" from Orange County (Newport Beach area I believe) to Poston, AZ; and pretty much any other "Nisei"...relocated or not...from being Americans.
As Hayford points out however, this is not the first time *I've* heard this argument either:"America would never have done that to a European city" maybe another way it's sometimes stated. This is problematic too though. Ever been to Dresden?--David Yamakuchi 21:23, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Incidentally, are you interested in working on an article on the 442nd?
Again, I'm not sure if this article is structurally correct, as it's mixing the nuclear strikes with a range of topics, ranging from the alternate invasion, to the strategic conventional bombing, to the peace strategies on both sides.
More British than American bombs hit Dresden, but the point is well taken. Also, Arthur Harris had a specific "dehousing" population bombing strategy from the beginning, and fought the Air Staff when they wanted him to change to petroleum targeting. German cities had a sharp separation between residential and industrial areas, which was less true of Japan. Curtis LeMay's low-level attacks came after the originally planned "precision" (i.e., by the standards of the day) didn't work due to unforeseen atmospheric conditions over Japan. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:45, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
I think what what is in the article now is all very good. Sure more could be added. It was a complicated political situation. I don't pretend to know what the right way to "structure" _or_ name this one is. I think your name is good too. I would love to try an article on the 442nd sometimes, but right now, I don't think I can. I was knee-deep in an "uncertainty" template over in the test wiki when I got sidetracked! Spent friutless afternoon on it. No more wiki energy today... :-(--David Yamakuchi 06:12, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Content Removal

This edit removed quite a chunk of text from the article, with the edit summary Removed ethics debate, with no sources and considerable speculation and editorializing, however I cannot find where that was discussed with the author of that piece, either here on or his talkpage.

I also can't find the original authors qualifications, as there is no biography on their userpage, so I don't know what experience they are judged to have, but I thought that, in certain cases, speculation and editorializing were encouraged, and sources were considered secondary to expert testimony.

And that edit note... I try to avoid putting serious comments in them because they are not easily accessible. Putting the comment on the talk page gives a better chance that it will be seen. Cheers! David Finn 07:36, 18 September 2010 (UTC)

(sorry Howard, I couldn't resist that last paragraph!) David Finn 07:38, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
ZAPPP! The sound of the edit comment...
Hopefully, this won't come across as inappropriately personal criticism. That material, which was the final removal in a second, was written by Richard Jensen. While he does have substantial credentials as a military historian, he also injected, into many articles, quite a bit of his own ideology. While he is still listed here, he contributes only at Conservapedia, which encourages ideology.
A practical problem was that he tended to write very large and unmaintainable articles about wars, and some have been split up just to be easier to edit. I'm sure some edit history got lost when spawning new articles, but I still couldn't give a better way to do it when the articles needed so much restructuring that only cut-and-paste into the new articles would work.
One of the practical problems is that he tended to use source material not available to anyone without extensive academic library privileges, so there was no way to check his work. He and I first started to get into conflict in areas where there variously was available source material, or where I had direct personal experience with the subject.
He had some opinions about Henry Stimson being the mastermind of U.S. nuclear policy that were at odds with widely held historical beliefs, and also with some documentation and experience. I take full responsibility, but I did consult with other History editors to ask if they knew anything of this premise -- and did not.
No, editorializing -- inserting things in support of a particular perspective alone -- is not encouraged. Speculation, I suppose, is permissible when clearly identified, and preferably with supporting sources. What is encouraged is synthesis and contextualization. One example of contextualization and synthesis is using Wars of Vietnam to get across that, as opposed to the belief of many Americans, the situation was far more complex than the U.S. dominated Vietnam War.
It may be less relevant as an example, but another kind of contextualizing is in the intelligence interrogation, U.S., George W. Bush Administration. Rather than make assertions about right or wrong, in the validity of interrogation methods that are certainly on the edge of torture, I simply put three columns from primary documents: the UN Convention against Torture, the language ratified by the US Senate, and the internal policy of the Bush Administration. To me, that's contextualizing -- and indeed there are links to the reasoning of some Bush administration officials justifying that policy. Howard C. Berkowitz 08:05, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
Aha, I recall now coming across this users contributions and tracing them to CP. Thanks for the explanation! David Finn 08:15, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
(undent) I think it would be more useful to have a more general article ethics of nuclear weapons. With modern hindsight, it is too easy to forget that many of the decisions for the attacks on Japan were made with very little knowledge of weapons effects, with a hot war in progress, etc. I am confident no one in the decision process was thinking about just war theory. Since then, there has been an enormous amount of data and analysis. Mutual assured destruction was conceived by people with much better understanding of weapons and policies. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:49, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
  1. for "revisionists" who reject use of the bomb, see Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1996) and Barton J. Bernstein, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Early Nuclear History: Stimson, Conant, and Their Allies Explain the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993): 35-72
  2. See Sean L. Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008); John Bonnett, "Jekyll and Hyde: Henry L. Stimson, Mentalite, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb on Japan." War in History 1997 4(2): 174-212. Issn: 0968-3445 Fulltext: Ebsco; McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (1988); Elting E. Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (1960); Robert P. Newman, "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 5-32 in JSTOR