WWII Memoirs – 1945 – Invade or Drop the Bomb

The atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a surprise to all of us, and the resulting peace brought a tremendous feeling of relief, with thoughts of going home. But to the thousands who in the weeks ahead would have been charging into the savagery on the beaches of Japan, it must have felt like divine intervention.

We knew the invasion of the Japanese homeland was scheduled for November l, l945, and that it would be a bloody, brutal scene. Casualties would be high. What we didn’t know was that the United States had a secret weapon, a special bomb, that could end the war without the further loss of American lives.

Also what we didn’t know was that President Truman and his advisers had been discussing the pros and cons of dropping the bomb. They all knew that the bomb and the invasion both would result in a many deaths. Some scientists who had helped develop the bomb were opposed to using it, especially on a civilian population.

If the president decided that the U.S. should invade, estimates placed the American casualties at 550,000. Also, Invasion would have extended the war by an estimated year and a half.

President Truman decided that we should drop the bomb, and two cities were destroyed.

The Hiroshima blast killed approximately 140,000, and the one at Nagasaki 90,000.

Estimating Japanese civilian casualties resulting from an invasion was difficult, because it was hard to know how large a role the civilians would play in repelling U.S. forces, both in the landing phase and in the countryside. The Japanese military was preparing its civilian population to resist to the end. The following passage from a source on the anticipated invasion describes this preparation:

“As on Saipan and Okinawa, not only soldiers but every man, woman, and child had to be ready to die. In cities, towns, and villages the Japanese government distributed The People’s Handbook of Resistant Combat. ‘Should the enemy invade our mainland,’ the handbook said, “100 million of us must exterminate them to protect our native soil and maintain our everlasting empire.” A primer on querrilla tactics tactics, the handbook mustered civilians into a suicidal home-defense force whose weapons included rocks, sickles, kitchen knives, and sharpened bamboo spears.” *

Imagine the nightmare American soldiers would have faced charging from their landing craft into a mass of hundreds of women with sticks and clubs, children with spears, old men with swords, and soldiers with live ammunition! Fortunately, “the bomb” made that unnecessary.

Unfortunately, one form of madness had replaced another form of madness.

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