Nagasaki, August 9th 1945

Interestingly enough, when Hiroshima was atom-bombed, the Tokyo government radio told the people that a “new type of bomb” had been used. The real horrors in Hiroshima were unknown to the wider populace; since the city was utterly destroyed and communications were hard, even the imperial government was not totally of what happened there. Two days would pass before the government met to discuss the new developments. In the wider world, the situation was quickly changing too; the Soviet Union’s declaration on war on Japan threw a wrench into both American and Japanese strategies.

On the American side, the decisions to use two nuclear bombs — to show than American has more than enough supply of such weapons — had been agreed upon since April 1945.  Only the potential targets were debated upon, so that the U.S. could ban conventional attacks on those cities — in part so it would be easier to measure the destruction from the atomic bomb. The top choice was the emperor’s place in Kyoto, but the decision was vetoed by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who spent his honeymoon there and enjoyed the city. (Another thing Stimson considered was that if the emperor were to perish, it would have hardened the Japanese resolve and precluded a surrender.) Top targets became Hiroshima and Kokura. However, August 9th 1945 was a particularly cloudy day in Kokura. The bombing carrying the bomb gave up on Kokura and went on to its secondary target,  Nagasaki.

The Japanese Supreme Council received the news that Nagasaki had been destroyed while they were just debating the terms of surrender. Now,  surrender was not only inevitable, but also the only route for survival. On August 15th,the Emperor’s surrender speech was broadcast over the radio — this was the first time an Emperor of Japan had deigned to speak through a radio.

On the day after the Nagaski Bombing,a military photographer  Yosuke Yamahata took over a hundred photographs of the devastated city. His photographs, taken in an interval of twelve hours in the  afternoon of August 10th, were the most extensive record of  the atomic bombings. In between Japan’s surrender and arrival of the American Occupation Forces, these photos were widely circulated; for instance, the 21 August issue of Mainichi Shinbun printed them. The Western audience would, however, have to wait further seven years before the censorship was lifted and they appeared in the 29 September 1952 issue of Life, together with Yoshito Matsushige’s photos of Hiroshima.  The same year they also appeared in the book form.

13 thoughts on “Nagasaki, August 9th 1945”

  1. The emperor’s primary residence has been in Tokyo since the 1860s, which surely the Americans knew, so a bombing raid of Kyoto was unlikely to kill him.

  2. I’ve always thought that the bombing of Nagasaki was a lot harder to justify than the bombing of Hiroshima. However much I might disagree with the bombing of the city of Hiroshima there is still an argument to be made that it was the only way to bring an end to the war without all of Japan turning into Okinawa times 100.

    Nagasaki three days later not so much.

  3. “It was Truman who made the difficult decision to drop the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the rationale being that only such a devastating, horrendous display of destructive power would convince Japan that it had to surrender. Truman also made the decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the rationale being, hey, we had another bomb.” – Dave Barry

  4. here are some quotes from top US military figures that will hopefully help you rethink your opinion about whether Truman’s decision to drop the bomb really was a necessary, last resort option to end the war.

    – “…in July 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…” – Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380

    – In a Newsweek interview, Eisenhower again recalled the meeting with Stimson: “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” – “Ike on Ike,” Newsweek, 11/11/63

    in a memo to President Truman on May 28, 1945
    -“I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan – tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists – you’ll get a peace in Japan – you’ll have both wars over.”

    after the bombing of Hirosima on August 8, 1945
    -“The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul.”

    -“I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria.” -Herbert Hoover

    – “MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed. . . When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.” -Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.

    “MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it….He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded.” -Richard M. Nixon

    The day after Hiroshima was bombed MacArthur’s pilot, Weldon E. Rhoades, noted in his diary:
    “General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb].”

    in a press conference on September 20, 1945
    “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

    ADMIRAL WILLIAM LEAHY (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff):
    “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” – William Leahy, I Was There, pg. 441.

    “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.” -H.H. Arnold, Global Mission, pg.598

    ADMIRAL WILLIAM F. HALSEY (Commander, U.S. Third Fleet)
    “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . [The scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before.” -stated publicly in 1946

    JOHN McCLOY (Assistant Secretary of War)
    “I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.”

    “Especially it is good to see the truth told about the last days of the war with Japan…..I was with the Fleet during that period; and every officer in the Fleet knew that Japan would eventually capitulate from…the tight blockade. “I, too, felt strongly that it was a mistake to drop the atom bombs, especially without warning.”

    REAR ADMIRAL LEWIS L. STRAUSS (special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy)
    “It [the atomic bomb] was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion… was clear to a number of people…that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate… was a sin – to use a good word – (a word that) should be used more often – to kill non-combatants….”

    “We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”

    LIEUTENANT GENERAL CLAIRE CHENNAULT (Commander of the “Flying Tigers”)
    “Russia’s entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped. “

  5. I read an article covering one of the observances of the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima some time ago, in the late 80s I think. The way I remember it, there was a group of Americans at Hiroshima, and one of them expressed guilt over the U.S. using the bomb. The current mayor of Hiroshima looked on, with some confusion, and supposedly said, “If we had had it, we would have dropped it on you …”. I don’t know how accurately I’ve recalled the details, but I wish I could confirm or debunk that story somehow. Has anyone else ever heard this?

  6. […] The city of Nagasaki operates an impressive museum on the atomic bomb attack, meticulously detailing its history, the attack itself and the long felt after effects. The museum complex is located not but 50 meters from the bomb site, which is memorialized through a peace and remembrance park. People from all over Japan regularly make the trip to visit the museum and I was not the only non-Japanese present. The presentation itself points no fingers at the United States but rather criticizes war and the horrific destructive power of atomic weapons. The human costs are well detailed through multimedia displays, actual pieces of burned and melted items, human remains, testimonials and data. As an American, it was an intense view of the great costs of Word War II, which are often ignored and mostly forgotten here likely due to the mass suppression of information regarding the horrific effects of the attacks. Unfortunately, American schoolchildren do not see photos of the intense devastation. […]

    1. I have been teaching for 26 years, and my students have seen the pictures. They have also seen the pictures of Shanghai, Manila, Nanking, and every other city the Japanese marched into in WW II, with their wanton slaughter of innocents, the multitude of rapes, murders and general mayhem. The Japanese of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are no more dead than those killed by the Japanese military. War sucks, anyone who thinks otherwise, is an idiot.

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