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IN THEIR OWN WORDS
What World War II Leaders Said About
the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
General Douglas MacArthur: "My staff was unanimous in believing that Japan was on
the point of collapse and surrender."
General Curtis LeMay, mastermind of the bombing campaigns against Germany and
Japan (later head of the Strategic Air Command, and Air Force chief of staff): "The
atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war."
Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman: “The use of the
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 ... 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.”
United States Strategic Bombing Survey (the group that selected bombing targets) in
its 1946 report concluded: “The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat
Japan…The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and
the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended
even if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms...The mission of the Suzuki
government, appointed 7 April 1945, was to make peace…it is the Survey's opinion that
certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the
date of a proposed American invasion], 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.”
General "Hap" Arnold, of the Army Air Forces, "…atomic bomb or no atomic bomb,
the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse."
COUNTDOWN…
Jan. 20, 1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s 40-page memorandum was received by
President Roosevelt two days before his departure for the Yalta conference. It outlined
five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials, offering surrender
terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted on September 2 – complete
surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor, including –




Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island
possessions, and in occupied countries.
Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American
direction.
Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as
Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools
of war.


Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
Surrender of designated war criminals.
April 1945: US Sec. of State Stettinius, received a message from Foreign Minister Togo
(through Swedish diplomatic channels) asking “what peace terms the US and Britain had
in mind.” The US Ambassador in Sweden was told to "show no interest or take any
initiative in pursuit of the matter."
May 7, 1945: Japanese peace signals were relayed through Portugal.
May 12, 1945: William Donovan, Director of the OSS, reports to President Truman
that Japan’s minister to Switzerland wished “to help arrange for a cessation of
hostilities.”
June 6, 1945: Sec. of War Henry Stimson’s diary entry, “I was a little fearful that before
we could get ready, the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the
new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength. [Truman] laughed
and said he understood.”
Early July: Intercepted messages from Foreign Minister Togo showed that the
Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort.
July 10, 1945: Peace overtures were made again through Sweden.
July 12, 1945: Emperor Hirohito summoned Fumimaro Konoye, who had served as
prime minister in 1940-41, to act as his personal envoy to Moscow, stating "it will be
necessary to terminate the war without delay," in order "to secure peace at any price,
notwithstanding its severity."
July 13, 1945: Foreign Minister Togo wired ambassador Sato in Moscow: "See Molotov
before his departure for Potsdam... Convey His Majesty's strong desire to secure a
termination of the war...Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace ..."
July 13, 1945, the Oak Ridge Petition by 18 Manhattan Project scientists was sent to
President Truman: “We respectfully petition that the use of atomic bombs, particularly
against cities, be sanctioned…only under the following conditions: 1. Opportunity has
been given to the Japanese to surrender on terms ensuring them the possibility of peaceful
development in their homeland. 2. Convincing warnings have been given that a refusal to
surrender will be followed by the use of a new weapon. 3. Responsibility for use of
atomic bombs is shared with our allies.
July 16, 1945: detonation of first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, NM. “Now I am
become death, the destroyer of worlds.” --Robert Oppenheimer
July 17, 1945: a petition signed by leading Manhattan Project scientist, Leo Szilard
and 69 scientists from the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago requested that the atomic
bomb not be used against Japan
In mid-July a petition signed by 67 Manhattan Project scientists at Clinton
Laboratories was sent to President Truman: “We, the undersigned scientific
personnel…believe that the…consequences of the power of the [atom bomb] impose a
special moral obligation on the government and people of the United States in
introducing the weapon in warfare…The power of this weapon should be made known by
demonstration to the peoples of the world, irrespective of the course of the present
conflict, for in this way the body of world opinion may be made the determining factor in
the absolute preservation of peace. Therefore we recommend that before this weapon be
used without restriction in the present conflict, its powers should be adequately described
and demonstrated, and the Japanese nation should be given the opportunity to consider
the consequences of further refusal to surrender. We feel that this course of action will
heighten the effectiveness of the weapon in this war and will be of tremendous effect in
the prevention of future wars.
July 17, 1945: An intercepted Japanese message revealed that the Japan was seeking
Soviet mediation to end the war.
July 17, 1945+ US naval intelligence: "Though still balking at the term unconditional
surrender," the Japanese recognized that the war was lost, and had reached the point
where they have "no objection to the restoration of peace on the basis of the [1941]
Atlantic Charter." Navy Secretary James Forrestal termed the intercepted messages
"real evidence of a Japanese desire to get out of the war."
July 20, 1945: Allen Dulles, chief of OSS in Switzerland (and subsequently Director of
the CIA): “I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War
Stimson] on what I had learned from Tokyo – they desired to surrender if they could
retain the Emperor and their constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in
Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people.’"
July 21, 1945: President Truman approves the order to use the atom bomb against
Japan.
July 26: The Potsdam declaration issued this ultimatum: "We call upon the government
of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces and to
provide proper and adequate assurance of good faith in such action. The alternative for
Japan is prompt and utter destruction."
August 1, 1945: Gen. McArthur was told about the atomic bomb.
August 6, 1945: Hiroshima
August 9, 1945: Nagasaki
August 10, 1945: President Truman accepted Japan’s surrender, and agreed to the
retention of the Emperor.
August 15, 1945: Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender in a radio broadcast.
What They Said Afterwards
US Strategic Bombing Survey: "Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets
because of their concentration of activities and population."
Brig. Gen. Leslie Groves (head of the Manhattan Project): “We were generally inured to
the mass killing of civilians."
General Dwight Eisenhower in 1963: “During [Sec. of State Stimson's] 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…”
Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers (intelligence expert and McArthur’s Psyops chief) in a memo
to Gen. MacArthur: "Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into
the war forced Japan's unconditional surrender. [Japan] was defeated before either these
events took place."
Pope Pius XII: "every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole
cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man."
The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, August 7, 1945: "This war provides a
catastrophic conclusion. Incredibly this destructive weapon remains as a temptation for
posterity.”
Leo Szilard, a leading scientist for the Manhattan Project: "Japan was essentially
defeated and it would be wrong to attack its cities with atomic bombs, as if atomic bombs
were simply another military weapon." He also wrote in 1960: "If the Germans had
dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of
atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who
were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them."