Nuclear bombs and Japan – The story of the targeting selection
Kyoto’s too historical. The psychological impact of the atom bomb would be completely ineffective if the Japanese thought we were just going to target “strategic cites”. If they don’t believe, and if Hirohito didn’t believe, that the US would bomb any and all cities in Japan, Hirohito would have been far less likely to surrender.
At the same time that the military commander seeks to destroy his enemy, he is only doing so because destroying the enemy is the only way to save the enemy (which means surrender). Yet if we can reduce the damage and still save the enemy, efforts must be made. So the military commander is at one time, seeking to present absolute ruthlessness in his attacks and at the same time seeking to reduce the overall damage to his enemy as much as possible.
Both the psychological perspective, the military, the human, and the cultural viewpoints command me to support Truman’s decision. Controversy isn’t in my thoughts at all.
There are some things that you can do to destroy the enemy, that you should never do. Nuclearize their capital, Tokyo, is one of them. Nuclearize their cultural center, is another one. Destroying Washington D.C. does nothing but make people pissed off. It’s an emotional reaction, that you do not want to get if you want people to surrender. It would be an even bigger problem afterwards. You want the people of Japan to be demoralized, you do NOT want them to become angry. Anger, raises people’s morale, it does not decrease it. Osama should have paid more attention, before 2000.
Take these two differences between Nagasaki and Kyoto’s history.
With the Meiji Restoration, Nagasaki quickly began to assume some economic dominance, though its main industry-shipbuilding–would eventually make it a target in World War II. On August 9th, 1945, the American B-52 “Bock’s Car,” looking for the shipyards, spotted the Mitsubishi Arms Works, and dropped the second nuclear bomb in Japan. At 11am, 75,000 of Nagasaki’s 240,000 residents were killed, followed by the death of at least as many from resulting sickness and injury.
The shipbuilding works was an excuse, an excuse not to blow up Kyoto. I don’t know why people suggested Kyoto as a bombing target, but he was unwise as rocks. Actually, I just used askjeeves, and I found out who.
The Target Committe might have been nuclear scientists, but they sure as heck weren’t educated in psychological warfare. Or maybe they just didn’t know enough of Japanese culture.
7. Psychological Factors in Target Selection
A. It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released.
B. In this respect Kyoto has the advantage of the people being more highly intelligent and hence better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon. Hiroshima has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focussing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed. The Emperor’s palace in Tokyo has a greater fame than any other target but is of least strategic value.
Truman was smart and so were the military. They did not choose Kyoto. Nagasaki wasn’t even on the target listing, it was probably chosen cause of its low population and the Christian significance. If the Emperor saw that we would blow up a Christian historic city, then he would understand that the fate of japan included total destruction, that nobody would survive regardless of his religious affiliation, so long as they are Japanese and in a state of war with the United States.
Can you imagine if Truman was dumb enough to blow up Tokyo and the Emperor’s palace with a Nuclear Weapon? Tokyo AND Kyoto (former capital) survived BOTH targeting lists. That wasn’t coincidence, that was wisdom. On the part of Truman and the people educated in Japanese culture advising Truman.
People who have doubt as to Hiroshima or Nagasaki, don’t seem to understand that Kyoto and Tokyo were counter-productive targets. History is meant to be learned from reading Primary Documents. That is the best and most interesting way to learn history, as I learned in AP Euro History. Nobody’s going to give up if you shame him by destroying his cultural icons, his religious shrines, and his political leaders. What kind of ignorance, does it take, for an enemy of America to think that nuking Mount Rushmore would make America more likely to surrender? Nuking that obelisk in DC, nuking the Abraham Lincoln statue, what kind of an ignorant ignoramuss in American culture would think that destroying those things would make Americans fight less harder? We were quite lucky the military commissioned a study on Japanese cultural significance and civilian psychology. We obviously benefited much from that knowledge, when it came time to select targets.
By all means, had Truman chosen his second target with more care, the Japanese would surely be thanking us for our consideration. What would they say if we blow up Kyoto’s Shrine(s)?
Yokohama, would be an even worse target, if it can be believed that is.
In 1854(Ansei 1), the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity (Treaty of Kanagawa) was signed by representatives, Mr. Hayashi Daigaku and Mr. Commodore Perry from Japan and the USA respectively. In 1858(Ansei 5), Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed by Consul-General Harris, followed by treaties with Holland, Russia, Great Britain, and France. The opening of the port was planned for July 1st, 1859 (June 2nd in the year Ansei 6 in the lunar calendar).
Ya, we’re going to nuclear bomb them, the same city that they signed treaties with the West, bringing the West in active relation with Japan. Do you think, that it might be a little bit bitter and ironic to the Japanese to have the same port blow up by the West that the Japanese had used to sign treaties with the West? Might that not introduce the idea that the West can’t be trusted and that future dealings will only end in destruction? War ain’t rational, but that doesn’t mean you should go introducing such ideas into the enemy, that might make him reconsider about surrendering.
You ask, what about Kokura Arsenal, the most valid military target? There is some accounts that the Kokura Arsenal was the primary target for Fat Man, and that Nagasaki was the secondary target.
Kokura was the first city in Japan to be bombed, and as the “primary” for the Fat Man bomb, it very nearly was the last. But wind and water conspired to spare Kokura from the atomic fire that had already visited Hiroshima. A line of storms stretching from the Marianas to Japan separated the bomb-carrying Bockscar from its two B-29 escorts soon after take-off. Bockscar flew on alone and loitered over Yakoshima, vainly waiting for the escorts to catch up. In that lost hour, cloud and smoke settled in a sheltering blanket over Kokura. Bockscar arrived over the city only to find the aiming point utterly hidden in the haze. Bockscar’s commander made three fruitless runs over Kokura and then turned his B-29 south and west. Less than an hour later, at 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945, Fat Man ceased to exist — and along with it, several tens of thousands of Nagasaki’s citizens.
It is rather counter-productive to say that Truman should have taken greater care in choosing the second target for the second nuclear bomb. Who was he supposed to bomb, Kyoto? Tokyo? How many people do you want to have to die of nuclear radiation poisoning…
Japan saved us from incinerating their island. We saved Japan from committing hara kiri in all intents and purposes. It’s even between us. Hence, no war reparations.