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Response to LaForge's column about censorship

Letters to the Editor


Regarding John LaForge’s column regarding censorship of the use of American atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, he got it tactically correct, but strategically wrong.  The atomic bombs were used strictly for strategic reasons. 

Let me explain.  At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, the Allies agreed that the Soviet Union (i.e., Stalin) would attack Japanese forces in Manchuria on Aug. 9, 1945 — which it did.  However, by then, we did not need the Soviet’s help against Japan, but an agreement was made and kept. 

So, we wanted to drop the first bomb before the Soviet conventional attack in an effort to get the Japanese to surrender before it happened. However, once the attack got under way, the Japanese Imperial Army leadership knew full well what was happening in Manchuria and prepared to defend the home islands. 

As this was the first use of an atomic weapon in public, the Japanese leadership really had no idea what happened in Hiroshima as all communications were cut.  So, we dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 to encourage the Imperial Army to surrender sooner than later. 

 The biggest concern was that the Soviet Red Army would successfully defeat all Japanese forces in Manchuria and continue attacking Japanese islands (it had already started in the Kuril Islands north of Japan).  As we witnessed in Europe, once the Soviet Red Army occupied any territory, it was extremely reluctant to give it up (see the Warsaw Pact and East Berlin). 

As it turned out, the Soviet Union captured all the Kuril Islands, and to this day have not returned them to Japan.  So, strategically, the atomic bombs were used to get Japan to surrender before the Soviet Union attacked the main islands in order to prevent a North and South Japan (as we have on the Korean Peninsula).

 The secondary reason is that after spending $2 billion on the Manhattan Project, we wanted to send the Soviet Union a message not to mess around with the United States.

Steve Schwalbe, Ph.D.



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