On the morning of August 6th, 1945, America dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki. Many critics have argued that the use of atomic bombs against Japan was unnecessary, and if American officials had only been patient, Japan would have announced its unconditional surrender.
However, reports from Tokyo show that Japan had intended to fight the war to its conclusion. During a conference held in Japan on June 8th 1945, the Japanese adopted a policy which pledged to “prosecute the war to the bitter end … and accomplish the objectives for which we went to war.” President Harry S. Truman had no reason to suspect that the Japanese were bluffing.
Truman met with his chiefs, including Army chief of Staff Gen. Gorge C. Marshal. When asked for his views by Truman, Marshal, supported by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the rest of the chiefs, agreed that an invasion of Kyushu would be “the least costly worthwhile operation”.
Truman decided that the invasion of Japan was alright from a military standpoint, and directed his chiefs to go through with it. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy however, suggested threatening the Japanese with atomic weaponry if they would not surrender.
Truman wrote that using the atomic bombs prevented an invasion that would have cost more than 500,000 American soldiers their lives. Even after the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan refused to surrender, as shown in many messages intercepted from the Japanese.
The Japanese minister of war even denied that the Hiroshima bomb was atomic. MacArthur suggested going through with an invasion of Japan, and later suggested a third bomb on Tokyo after the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. According to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, the Japanese would have surrendered by November 1st even without the use of Atomic bombs or threat of an invasion, though recent scholars have said that the survey was “cooked”.
If Truman had not decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan, the war certainly would have continued for many months.