The Invasion of Japan


I’m always confused by people who take the position that we should not have dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

I don’t think it’s something that should exactly be celebrated, but I think it was absolutely the right and proper decision.

Like the recent Wall Street bailout, the dropping of the bombs was a necessary evil. Not something to be cheered, but something that had to be done because the alternative of not doing it would have been just disastrously bad.

I’d bet this blog’s readership is a major exception, but very few people know that, in August 1945, the United States was ramping up for the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. Major elements of the forces that had defeated Hitler, including the entire 8th Air Force, were being rerouted to the Pacific theater for the effort.

I first learned about Operations Olympic and Coronet as a kid, playing the 1946 expansion pack for the flight sim Aces of the Pacific.

I’ve known since then that estimates called for as many as a million U.S. casualties. A horrific toll that by itself justified the use of atomic weapons.

In the years since, I’ve come to firmly believe that the atomic bomb probably saved tens of millions of more lives by deterring what would have otherwise been an almost inevitable war with the Soviet Union in Europe.

Today, my grandfather sent along a remarkable PDF detailing exactly what the U.S. would have faced in an invasion of Japan. It contains details of which I was unfamiliar, especially regarding the potency of Japan’s defensive planning. If you have any interest in the history of the war and what might have been, it’s a must read.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Scott Atchison says:

    I LOVED that game! Read this if you want to know what an invasion of Japan would have been like.

    I bought this,, at Borders during their fire sales. It’s on the reading list.

  2. keith rudzik says:

    Utterly breathtaking, Doogs [ your gramps letter ].After reading it,I genuinally feel “Operation Downfall” would have failed , requiring either a second plan & attempt or allowing Japan to surrender on Their terms.What with over 12,000 suicide aircraft,their submarines,and other suicide water-bourne devices, would our Troop transport [ and all the other vessels ] even survive in sufficiant nimbers to carry on the invasion.Even if the invasion went off,their ground forces & defensive measures would have made D-Day seem like a cake-walk.Then to have the civilan forces,Chemical & biological attacks to further contend with. If I was alive then,I’d have bet on Japan.I’m printing & saving the letter so that the next time a debate pops up about our use of atomic weapons,I can blunt any naysayer by having that read to them. Thank You so much for sharing it to us all. Keith R.

  3. Tim Wilding says:

    Great letter explaining Operation Downfall. It is hard to believe that the intel on Japanese aircraft was so far off, but we did not have a lot of intel assists in Japan. I believe we would have used the bomb during the invasion at some time. We would have had at least 4 to 6 bombs done by Nov.1, 1945 and I could see tactical use of the bomb against Toyko or against Japanese troop concentrations. Then that would have opened the door for U.S. troops and more civilans getting radiation sickness from the fall out.

    The book “1945” by Robert Conroy is a good alternative history of what an invasion would have been like. A part of his story is that the Russians invade Manchuria, then the Japanese Army withdraw into Korea, and the Russians let the them escape back to Japan to fight the Americans. Interesting idea.

    The huge Japanese Army in China is not mentioned at all in this letter, but I am sure it was a big concern.

  4. Rick says:

    A nice read Doogs, thanks for sharing. My Dad was USN radioman 44-46 on the USS Saranac AO74. 58TF/3rd & 7th Fleet. I was aware of the lack of intel and how Japan was prepared for the ultimate “Death Match”.

    Every time there was any reference to a B29, the next words out of his mouth were, “that plane saved my life.”

    He passed in 2008 and I inherited over 200 books on WWII, boxes and boxes of “stuff” from the greatest adventure of his life.

    He was the epitome of a pack rat. Business card from a brothel in Tsingtao, the card read complete with address and free dance: “Welcome American Sailor and Soldier * Best Whores House”. He swears he has a kid in Tsingtao.

    Some of the stories we would hear over and over again sounded more like McHale’s Navy than sweating bullets in the South Pacific. When given an opportunity to play, Pop and his buddies would play real hard. Plenty of scary stuff though, like bomb strikes, subs and typhoons. I try to put myself in that position when I was 17/18 years old, truly amazes me what they experienced and how they coped and achieved (front lines and home front) during those years.

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