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Subject: Pearl Harbor and the Atom Bomb rss

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Michael Sanches
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I just watched Pearl Harbor for the third or 4th time. It has been 75+ years since Pearl Harbor.

We can debate the necessity from now until doomsday and I doubt anybody will change their minds. But, considering those times and all that transpired, only a fool would condemn anyone for dropping the bomb back then.
 
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Josh
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Why would you watch that crappy movie more than once? There are plenty of good accurate documentaries, don't need horrible acting and historical inaccuracies.
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Shadrach wrote:
Why would you watch that crappy movie more than once? There are plenty of good accurate documentaries, don't need horrible acting and historical inaccuracies.


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Hindsight is 20/20. If the choice really was the death of many American soldiers and many Japanese civilians and soldiers or the atomic bombs, then that was a rational choice. If "other factors" such as our desire to demonstrate the atomic bomb to the Russians played a role and Japan would have surrendered without one or both bombs, the questions becomes much more morally iffy.

The nation of Japan did terrible things and the people of Japan paid a terrible price.
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huskerdude wrote:
I just watched Pearl Harbor for the third or 4th time. It has been 75+ years since Pearl Harbor.

We can debate the necessity from now until doomsday and I doubt anybody will change their minds. But, considering those times and all that transpired, only a fool would condemn anyone for dropping the bomb back then.


So, you watched an american propaganda movie and now agree with their position? Ok.
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huskerdude wrote:
I just watched Pearl Harbor for the third or 4th time.


Liar.
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Rachel Simmons
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Deliberate attacks on civilian populations with the intent of causing suffering and death on a mass scale isn't something I ever feel ready to justify.
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Ken
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Seriously? You could stomach that piece of junk and somehow think it was relevant to a real discussion of history? My suggestion if you actually care about the subject - hit some actual history or historical commentary (I'm currently working through Dan Carlin's discussion of nuclear weapons that obviously starts with discussing the A-Bomb).

How 'bout we do something smart like, oh, consider things realistically.

1. There was no chance that the A-Bomb wouldn't be used once it had been developed. None.

2. The allies engaged in practices that we would (and should) find horrific today. Had the Germans or Japanese used firebombing, we almost certainly would have contemplated calling them war crimes.

3. Strategic bombing, whether that's the firebombing or the use of nuclear weapons, was a failure at producing the desired results.

4. We shouldn't bother with jingoistic pieces of Hollywood crap outside of film criticism classes.
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Shadrach wrote:
Why would you watch that crappy movie more than once?


I'm going to guess Kate Beckinsale.
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EMBison wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
Why would you watch that crappy movie more than once?


I'm going to guess Kate Beckinsale.


The internet is for porn, watching a whole movie to giggle at some titties is so 80s.
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bowen wrote:
Deliberate attacks on civilian populations with the intent of causing suffering and death on a mass scale isn't something I ever feel ready to justify.


well it was largely aimed at industrial centers.

If they'd gone through with bomging Kyoto then you would have a very very good case.
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windsagio wrote:
bowen wrote:
Deliberate attacks on civilian populations with the intent of causing suffering and death on a mass scale isn't something I ever feel ready to justify.


well it was largely aimed at industrial centers.


Deciding that it's OK to kill tens of thousands of people because you can't hit the targets you want with precision bombing of the industrial centers doesn't alter the calculus much.

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If they'd gone through with bomging Kyoto then you would have a very very good case.


You're talking about raids that killed as many as 80,000 people in a single night. And left as many as 1,000,000 homeless from a single raid.

Firebombing to hit an industrial target really doesn't excuse the willingness to inflict massive civilian casualties. From a damage perspective, the firebombing often did damage approaching that inflicted by the A-bombs. And really didn't do much to advance ending the war. Would you be as sanguine about the US dropping one of those on a city to hit a factory?
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perfalbion wrote:
Had the Germans or Japanese used firebombing, we almost certainly would have contemplated calling them war crimes.

The Germans did use firebombing extensively. That's what The Blitz was.
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Yes, but again hindsight.

The calculation they made in deciding to use the bomb, and, for that matter, the way they picked their targets, is very well documented.

In hindsight we've developed a horror of the use of nuclear weapons, partially because we saw the impact they had on Japan... a third time, hindsight.

~~~

In short order:
1) Bombings of cities happened
2) The putative invasion of Japan was going to be far more costly to both sides than one more bombing would be.
3) We were pretty ignorant and cavalier of the long term effects of radiation on people.

~~~

We should all have horror on the use of nuclear weapons, absolutely. But this second-guessing isn't exactly useful, let alone historically sound.
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damiangerous wrote:
perfalbion wrote:
Had the Germans or Japanese used firebombing, we almost certainly would have contemplated calling them war crimes.

The Germans did use firebombing extensively. That's what The Blitz was.


Firebombing is generally used to describe napalm-based incendiary bombs. The Germans didn't have napalm. No doubt they would have used it they did.
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I have been told but it might be an urban legend that at least one of the cities bombed was exempted from bombing raids so that they could more easily see the effect of the bomb.

If that is true then they Always intended to use the bomb.
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growlley wrote:
I have been told but it might be an urban legend that at least one of the cities bombed was exempted from bombing raids so that they could more easily see the effect of the bomb.

If that is true then they Always intended to use the bomb.


Wiki agrees with this, btw.

On that note, the wiki article on this subject is extremely good and REALLY REALLY DETAILED.

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growlley wrote:
I have been told but it might be an urban legend that at least one of the cities bombed was exempted from bombing raids so that they could more easily see the effect of the bomb.

If that is true then they Always intended to use the bomb.


What might seem like a minor quibble, but I think is very important to distinguish would be 'They always intended to use the bomb' with 'They were prepared to and had a reasonable expectation of using the bomb.'

Intended to would seem to require more evidence of effort into steering the events of the war in such a way that using the bomb was required and making sure the war did not end before it happened when it otherwise might have.

If as a nation you have a reasonable expectation that the show of force might be required then preparing to collect as much information from the use as you can(especially when live-testing is NOT something especially repeatable) just seems like one of those 'makes sense' at a national level and 'sounds horrible' at a personal level choices.
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Give the estimated death toll for the invasion of Japan they were right drop them.
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damiangerous wrote:
perfalbion wrote:
Had the Germans or Japanese used firebombing, we almost certainly would have contemplated calling them war crimes.

The Germans did use firebombing extensively. That's what The Blitz was.


You're correct - I'm understating their case.

But the Germans did not use firebombing the way the allies did. Partly because they really couldn't - the Luftwaffe wasn't built to really sustain a strategic bombing campaign and they lacked true heavy bombers. Still, the Allies used firebombing to horrific effect, even after it was becoming clear that the campaign was achieving none of the desired results. German raids never approached Hamburg or Dresden or Tokyo or Kobe in terms of damage or casualties. Hamburg alone is estimated to have inflicted more civilian casualties than the entire Blitz and Tokyo suffered around 85,000 deaths in a single raid - nearly double the total of the Blitz. And that's before you consider the raid on Dresden - a city that had literally zero strategic importance.

If Germany had conducted a sustained, years-long campaign with casualties that ratcheted up the way the Allies did, I don't think there's a lot of doubt that the war crimes portions of the indictment against Goering and others would have included it. The Siege of Leningrad and civilian casualties there involved fewer casualties in total and certainly fewer from any individual event (like a night of bombing), for example.
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Ken
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windsagio wrote:
Yes, but again hindsight.


I'm not so sure this was hindsight. The strategic bombing campaigns of WWII clearly weren't working - neither Germany nor Japan were induced to surrender because of them. In Japan, it's really the change of government that finally makes any thought of peace a reality. The use of the second A-bomb probably provided the Prime Minister with an event that gave him an excuse for asking the Emperor what he thought, but another massive firebombing raid could easily have done that.

There is no question that the A-bombs would be used, though. The cost to produce them, the implied threat of a single bomb that could do that kind of damage, the casualty estimates of an invasion, the political realities of the day (including "end the war quickly") all made it inevitable.

Quote:
We should all have horror on the use of nuclear weapons, absolutely. But this second-guessing isn't exactly useful, let alone historically sound.


Wait, who's second-guessing? Learning from history isn't second-guessing. If there's an area where we might really do some of that, it's the notion of strategic bombing in the first place. The fact that military leaders could talk themselves into this strategy and then talk the political leaders into following it is troubling. Not necessarily surprising in the middle of a war, but at least troubling.
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Ken
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jon7167 wrote:
Give the estimated death toll for the invasion of Japan they were right drop them.


I think that this was one of the reasons the US leaders had for using them, but there's not really evidence that the bombs actually accelerated the Japanese surrender. There's much better evidence that the USSR declaration of war on Japan was the decisive act. This is a pretty good write-up on the subject.
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My grandfather was a pilot flying off the deck of the USS Belleau Wood. After he passed away, I read his flight diary as he documented losing one friend after another, which for me only reinforced his comments to me when I asked him as a youngster, that he was glad the bomb was dropped, because the sense the men on the front line had was that there was no hope of a Japanese surrender, and that it was going to be a war to the death. That expectation was inculcated by Japan's tactics and the hard experiences of Iwo Jima and the invasions before. It was reinforced by Japan's barbaric behavior to prisoners, civilians, and subjugated nations throughout the war, behavior that by the time we get to the summer of 1945 was no secret to the Allies.

(It's also worth noting that behavior was radically different from Japan's treatment of prisoners during the Russo-Japanese War and its brief involvement in WW1, but that's a topic worthy of a different thread.)

Let's also remember that Japan's failures on the diplomatic front in the summer of 1945 in trying to telegraph a reluctant readiness to surrender are legion. But rather than blame this on bloody-minded vengeful Westerners, let's also remember that they were also the last bitter fruit of a domestic political front in Japan -- what with years of "government by assassination" under their belt -- that was understandably difficult to interpret from the outside. Who were we negotiating with, how much power did they have, and for how long?

President Truman could not answer any of those questions with complete confidence. Whatever else we might say about Truman's readiness to use the bomb, he cannot be faulted for a decision to not invest heavily in the 'doves' of the Japanese political scene.
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My reading is this;

a) The Soviet invasion was a major factor.
b) The bombs were also a factor, but Japan deeply underestimated the number of bombs the US could produce and were marketly cavalier about civilian deaths anyways.
c) The second Bombing happened *as the Japanese military were discussing the Soviet issue*. This is important, at least to the debate of whether the second bomb was necessary.

(more importantly)
d) They had to put down a coup attempt by militarists that wanted to continue the war.
e) Hirohito explicitly blamed the bomb for the surrender. I'll grant that it probably gave him an 'out' though.




Hasegawa's point is interesting, and I agree that it's valuable to ocnsider more than just the bomb, but his research reads as a little position-driven.

Whether the bombings were necessary directly relates to a war crime question, which he has a clear position on.

Honestly my feeling is that they're on the same level as carpetbombing and firebombing, which, whatever we think of them now, were accepted military practice at the time.
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bowen wrote:
damiangerous wrote:
perfalbion wrote:
Had the Germans or Japanese used firebombing, we almost certainly would have contemplated calling them war crimes.

The Germans did use firebombing extensively. That's what The Blitz was.


Firebombing is generally used to describe napalm-based incendiary bombs. The Germans didn't have napalm. No doubt they would have used it they did.

That's not correct. Firebombing is the bombing of targets with incendiary bombs intended to cause structural damage through widespread, uncontrollable fires (see, for example, the firebombing of Dresden). Napalm, while a type of firebombing, was not operational until near the end of the war and was used primarily in Japan. Most incendiary bombing in Europe was done with white phosphorous or thermite bombs.
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