Who Opposed Nuking Japan?

“The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” —Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

“In 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.” —Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul.” —Herbert Hoover

“[T]he Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945 … up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; … [I]f such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the bombs.” —Herber Hoover

“I told [Gen. Douglas] 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

“General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster. I had a long talk with him today, necessitated by the impending trip to Okinawa. He wants time to think the thing out, so he has postponed the trip to some future date to be decided later.” —Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s pilot, Weldon E. Rhoades

“[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants…MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off…” —Richard Nixon

“The Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and the Swiss. And that suggestion of giving a warning of the atomic bomb was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted. In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb.” —Under Secretary of the Navy, Ralph Bird

“The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.” —General “Hap” Arnold

“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” — Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.” Adm. Nimitz

“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.” —Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman

“Truman told me it was agreed they would use it, after military men’s statements that it would save many, many American lives, by shortening the war, only to hit military objectives. Of course, then they went ahead and killed as many women and children as they could, which was just what they wanted all the time.” —Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman

“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.” — Major General Curtis LeMay, XXI Bomber Command

“[LeMay said] if we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals. And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” —Robert MacNamara

“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.” — Fleet Admiral William Halsey Jr.

“I concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months. My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945. Even without the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed highly unlikely, given what we found to have been the mood of the Japanese government, that a U.S. invasion of the islands scheduled for 1 November 1945 would have been necessary.” —Paul Nitze, director and then Vice Chairman of the Strategic Bombing Survey

“[E]ven without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” —U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 1946

“Just when the Japanese were ready to capitulate, we went ahead and introduced to the world the most devastating weapon it had ever seen and, in effect, gave the go-ahead to Russia to swarm over Eastern Asia. Washington decided it was time to use the A-bomb. I submit that it was the wrong decision. It was wrong on strategic grounds. And it was wrong on humanitarian grounds.” —Ellis Zacharias Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence

“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. Many other high-level military officers concurred.” —Brigadier General Carter Clarke, the Military Intelligence officer in charge of preparing summaries of intercepted Japanese cables for President Truman and his advisors

“The commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945, had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. —Brigadier General Carter Clarke

“I proposed to Secretary Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used… the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate… My proposal… was that the weapon should be demonstrated over… a large forest of cryptomeria trees not far from Tokyo… Would lay the trees out in windrows from the center of the explosion in all directions as though they were matchsticks, and, of course, set them afire in the center. It seemed to me that a demonstration of this sort would prove to the Japanese that we could destroy any of their cities at will… Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation… It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world.” —Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy Lewis Strauss

“In the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the retention of the dynasty had been issued in May 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the Japanese government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clear cut decision. If surrender could have been brought about in May 1945, or even in June, or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the Pacific war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer.” —Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew

And for what it’s worth, then-Army Chief George Marshall wanted only to hit military facilities with it, not cities.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

18 thoughts on “Who Opposed Nuking Japan?”

  1. Thank you, Scott, this is an excellent collection of quotes from those who were in some position to know what was really going on as far as Japan’s willingness to negotiate an end the war and more importantly, what it would mean for everyone in the future.

    1. Sir: may I suggest you do some actual research on the issues involved here. Mr. Scott Horton sure as hell didn’t – from what I can tell he appears to have cut/pasted Gar Alperovitz’s BS.

      You might start with this paper:
      Ike and Hiroshima: Did he oppose it?

      Eisenhower was lying. Consider how he threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea. When he became president the US nuclear arsenal was somewhere between one and two hundred bombs. When he left office in 1960, the number had jumped to between 18,000 and 19,000. Anti-nuke types don’t do that sort of thing.

      The rest of the claims are just plain silly – written/spoken by people who had axes to grind. The Air Force wanted credit for winning the war with their Strategic Bombing campaign. The Navy brass pushed the claim it was the submarines which had starved Japan into submission. MacArthure was pissed off that the Downfall invasion didn’t happen – if it had been successful he would surely have become President in 1948.

      Admiral Leahey was a 70-year-old man who had known about the Manhattan project, and guaranteed the Bomb wouldn’t work.

      Who the hell cares what Herbert Hoover thought about the matter – the rightwingnut who had crashed and burned the nation wanted to let Japan get off easy – even urging Truman to allow Japan to keep Korea as a colony.

      Worst article I’ve seen here, and if saying that gets me banned from the site, so be it.

      1. Wait, you’re telling me a politician later claimed to not have held a position? Stop the presses! Holy shit, your image of part of an article totally proves that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary! Good job, highly intelligent repeater of broadly accepted story!

  2. “Of course, then they went ahead and killed as many women and children
    as they could, which was just what they wanted all the time.”

    I am reminded of a propaganda film produced shortly after the war. In it the narrator solemnly states that the Nagasaki bomb was aimed midway between two military targets, the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works to the south, and the
    Mitsubishi-Urakami Torpedo Works to the north, in a valley that contained the blast largely to those military targets and some surrounding area. People will get upset at the idea that Nagasaki was in any way ‘contained’, but there were less square miles of damage and fewer casualities despite being a bigger bomb.

    Of course it detonated there because they were having a hard time dropping it by sight and it went way off-target. It was meant for the city center.

    I’m not saying there’s any good spot to drop the bomb, but that always struck me as one of the most disgustingly disingenuous things I ever heard in my life.

    1. Are you saying there weren’t any Americans whom did not want to kill as many “japs” as possible, or that they could get away with ?

      1. Well, I hope they were happy with the idea that American POW were incinerated.

        Truman was told about them. He said drop them anyway.

        1. I somehow doubt they were happy about it, and I’m pretty sure Truman didn’t know about them specifically. None of that absolves the crime of dropping the bombs, obv.

      2. What idiot would say that, and why would you try to put those very strange words in my mouth? Did you even actually read my comment?

        I’m saying there was a propaganda film after the war that tried to claim we aimed for the military target on purpose, when in fact we aimed for the civilian target and missed, and that lie has always bothered me.

        1. Your statement “most disgustingly disingenuous things I ever heard” can apply two ways the way you wrote it. That is why I asked. Reading doesn’t always help with poor writing.

          1. Ah you know what, fair point. The fact that I have a quotation set apart at the top of the page makes it look like I’m saying that’s disingenuous, even though I switch right after to talking about the propaganda film, the quotation marks and placement give the first sentence equal weight. Sorry about that, my bad!

  3. Anyone who has studied the pacific war knows there was no good reason to drop the bomb other than scientist wanted to see the affects on mass civilian populations , Japan was effectivly cut off from the outside world so scientist could collect ata on the effects of nuclear fall out , Japanese suvivors said years later that they were just treated as guinea pigs by the US Military doctors / scientists , there thousands of photos and miles of film never released , why ? , because of the outrage it would cause world wide , the bombing of Japan was a unpresidented war crime and the Americans know it.

  4. Thank you for this excellent compilation of quotes. I will be saving them for the Aug. anniversary and the non-stop lie fest that always ensues (on other sites of course).

  5. All of the wars before and after the World Wars that ended ended without the use of nuclear weapons. If the A-Bomb were not around, the war would still end but no one would say dropping the bombs on Japan was necessary. The US decided to use it because it was the first nation to have it. If the US invented the A-Bomb during the Spanish-American War, it would have dropped those bombs on Seville and Barcelona after Spain would surrender but the US would say it did it because Spain refused to surrender.
    The wars the US and many of its allies are in have been going on much longer than the other wars in which they were involved and no one is dropping nuclear bombs on them to make them end their endless wars.

  6. The Enola Gay, the plane that carried the bomb to Hiroshima, was unarmed except for the bomb and was unescorted by fighter aircraft as were the two observation planes that followed shortly behind. There was no anti aircraft weaponry to fear, no enemy aircraft to worry about, nothing, because we had previously bombed Japan with conventional weapons so severly the war was effectively already won. The people of Japan were defenseless, like sitting ducks. The reasons we went ahead and did the despicable act when it was totally unnecessary will probably be argued for ever. One thing I got from reading his memoirs is Truman was giddy with power, said the bomb was the greatest scientific achievement of all times. How some of these guys get to be President is beyond me.

    1. Well in Truman’s case he was chosen by some party bosses because FDRs current VP at the time was too progressive i.e. not racist enough. FDR would have dropped it, but I’m not sure Wallace would have if he had remained on the ticket.

      I just read Richard Rhodes’ book on the bomb, and my takeaway was they were all giddy with power, anyone that knew about it, except the scientists whose motives mostly leaned more towards keeping the Nazis from having an advantage. The generals were willing to do absolutely anything to acquire as many bombs as possible as fast as possible, no matter what the consequences.

  7. I first heard from David Irving a few years ago that Japan was willing to surrender weeks before the bombs were dropped.

    Even Eisenhower was against but his hands were drained in blood when Dresden was completely destructed in the bombings of 13 -14 march 1945. 200 – 300 000 women, children an civilians were burned to death. And also behind this atrocity was Churchill and his bombing advisor, professor Lindeman, blinded of hate to the German people.

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