Last modified on April 9, 2019, at 05:43

Bombing of Japan

The Bombing of Japan by the United States in World War II was a war-winning strategy, but it raises moral issues.

The B-29 en route to Japan

Strategic Bombing of Japan

Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall explained American strategy three weeks before Pearl Harbor:[1]

"We are preparing for an offensive war against Japan, whereas the Japs believe we are preparing only to defend the Phillipines. ...We have 35 Flying Fortresses already there—the largest concentration anywhere in the world. Twenty more will be added next month, and 60 more in January....If war with the Japanese does come, we'll fight mercilessly. Flying fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There wont be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out."

When war began the Philippine airbases were quickly lost and the B-17 Flying Fortress lacked the needed range to hit Japan. American strategy then focused on getting forward airbases close enough to Japan to use the very-long-range B-29 bomber, then in development. At first the B-29's were stationed in China and made raids in 1944; the logistics made China an impossible base. Finally, in summer 1944, the U.S. won the Battle of the Philippine Sea and captured islands that were in range.


The flamability of Japan's large cities, and the concentration of munitions production there, made strategic bombing the war-winning weapon. Two months before Pearl Harbor Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek proposed sending Flying Fortresses over Tokyo and Osaka, "whose paper and bamboo houses would go up in smoke if subjected to bombing raids." Massive efforts (costing $4.5 billion) to establish air bases in China failed. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese peasants broke rocks with little hammers and dug drainage ditches by hand. Shipping supplies around the world to equip the bases was almost impossible, and when some bases were ready in 1944 the Japanese Army simply moved overland and captured them. The Marianas, captured in June 1944, gave a close secure base, and the B-29 gave the Americans the weapon they needed. The B-29 represented the highest achievement of traditional (pre-jet) aeronautics. Its four 2,200 horsepower Wright R-3350 supercharged engines could lift four tons of bombs 3,500 miles at 33,000 feet (high above Japanese flak or fighters). Computerized fire-control mechanisms made its 13 guns exceptionally lethal against fighters. However, the systematic raids that began in June, 1944, were unsatisfactory, because the AAF had learned too much in Europe; it overemphasized self-defense.

LeMay's Tactics

LeMay in Time Aug. 13, 1945

Arnold, in personal charge of the campaign (bypassing the theater commanders) brought in a new leader, brilliant, indefatigable, hard-charging General Curtis LeMay. In early 1945, LeMay ordered a radical change in tactics: remove the machine guns and gunners, fly in low at night. (Much fuel was used to get to 30,000 feet; it could now be replaced with more bombs.) The Japanese radar, fighter, and anti-aircraft systems were mostly ineffective in bringing down the bombers. Fires raged through the cities, and millions of civilians fled to the mountains. Tokyo was hit repeatedly, and suffered a fire storm in March 1945 which killed 83,000 people. On June 5, 51,000 buildings in four miles of Kobe were burned out by 473 B-29s; Japanese opposition was fierce, as 11 B-29s went down and 176 were damaged. Osaka, where one-sixth of the Empire's munitions were made, was hit by 1,733 tons of incendiaries dropped by 247 B-29s. A firestorm burned out 8.1 square miles, including 135,000 houses; 4,000 people died. The police reported: Although damage to big factories was slight, approximately one-fourth of some 4,000 lesser factories, which operated hand-in-hand with the big factories, were completely destroyed by fire. Moreover, owing to the rising fear of air attacks, workers in general were reluctant to work in the factories, and the attendance fluctuated as much as 50 percent.

Japan's stocks of guns, shells, explosives, and other military supplies were thoroughly protected in dispersed or underground storage depots, and were not vulnerable to air attack. The bombing did affect long-term factors of production. The Japanese built airplane components in thousands of small shops scattered about their major cities; they did not use their small towns and villages. The U.S. Army Air Force answered the dispersion by burning out entire large cities (while avoiding the small towns and villages). Physical damage to factories, plus decreases due to dispersal forced by the threat of further physical damage, reduced physical productive capacity by roughly the following percentages of pre-attack plant capacity: oil refineries, 83%; aircraft engine plants, 75%; air-frame plants, 60%; electronics and communication equipment plants, 70%; army ordnance plants, 30%; naval ordnance plants, 28%; merchant and naval shipyards, 15%; aluminum, 35%; steel, 15%; and chemicals, 10%.[2]

Munitions output plummeted, and by July, 1945, Japan no longer had an industrial base. The problem was that it still had an army, which was not based in the cities, and was largely undamaged by the raids. The army was short of food and gasoline, but, as Iwo Jima and Okinawa proved, was capable of ferocious resistance. Further, fierce resistance at Okinawa came from the Kamikaze attacks which were flung at the American fleet. The desperate measures used were to make the advances of the U.S. forces a "costly battle of attrition". Japan, now more and more controlled by Emperor Hirohito and the Imperial General Headquarters denied it was losing and refused to surrender. Hirohito's main goal was to keep his throne, no matter how many people died. The Japanese staff officers wanted, " 'all able-bodied Japanese, regardless of sex, engage in battle.' "[3]


The Americans repeatedly warned Japanese civilians to leave the major cities. B-29 bombers dropped a massive number of Japanese-language flyers warning of the devastation coming. It was a psychological success. Most did leave, with only the essential war workers left behind who risked becoming the casualties of the air raids. Japan moved ten million people to the countryside, including two-thirds of the residents of the Tokyo and the five other largest cities. As for morality of bombing innocent civilians, the American position was, and is, that the local government, not the US, is responsible for protecting its civilians. If they are innocent they should be evacuated to the safe countryside.

Total Japanese military fatalities between 1937 and 1945 were 2.1 million, and many more were wounded; most of the deaths came in the last year of the war. Starvation or malnutrition-re­lated illness accounted for roughly 80% of Japanese Army deaths in the Philippines, and 50% of army fatalities in China. The aerial bombing of a total of 65 Japanese cities appears to have taken a minimum of 400,000 and possibly closer to 600,000 civilian lives (over 100,000 in Tokyo alone, over 200,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, and 80,000-150,000 civilian deaths in the battle of Okina­wa). Civilian death among settlers who died attempting to re­turn to Japan from Manchuria in the winter of 1945 were probably around 100,000.[4]


Why the Atomic Bomb?

Why did the US drop the atomic bomb? Historians have debated the issue over the years. On the one hand, Japan was defeated and many civilian leaders wanted to reach conditional surrender terms. After sifting through the records and cross-examining Japanese leaders, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded in 1946 that Japan would have surrendered by the end of 1945 because of the devastation wrought by the sea/air blockade, the incessant B-29 and carrier raids. The Survey lends weight to the conclusion, after the war, that the atomic bomb did not have to be used to gain victory. Some "revisionists" have suggested Hiroshima was supposed to be an unmistakable signal to Stalin to play along diplomatically with the Americans who planned to rule the postwar world. Others have wondered whether some sort of demonstration explosion could have been made, in order to frighten Tokyo without killing so many people. The option was considered, but only two bombs were available. Truman decided instead to drop millions of leaflets upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki warning people to leave immediately, and at the Potsdam Conference in mid-July 1945, he explicitly warned Japan it must surrender immediately or be hit with terrible force.

The civilian government in Tokyo wanted peace on conditional terms, but that was impossible because of Roosevelt's policy of "unconditional" surrender, and because the civilians did not control Japan's decisions—the Imperial Army did (in the name of the Emperor). It is often assumed that the atomic bombs caused Japan to finally surrender. However, others point to the declaration of war by the Soviet Union who, invaded Manchuria, and crushed the Japanese Army there. Thus ending Japan's feeble hopes for a negotiated peace. However, in reply, other historians have noted that the Soviet Union did not declare war on Japan until August 8, 1945; two days after the first atomic bomb had been dropped.[5] It was a last-minute grab for the spoils of war. It is known that after Hiroshima and the invasion of Manchuria the army and navy still wanted to fight on, while the civilians wanted to give up. The decisive move was the unprecedented intervention of Emperor Hirohito, who ordered negotiations to be opened after the second atomic bomb had been dropped. Even then a small number of Imperial officers tried to stage a coup by occupying the palace grounds. They planned to not allow the broadcast of Hirohito's order; however, their actions failed. With Roosevelt gone, the Americans redefined "unconditional" to allow continuance of the Emperor. On August 15, 1945, Hirohito then broadcast an order to the nation and its armed forces to surrender, which was obeyed by all but a few who carried out futile last minute suicide attacks which failed. Until that day, the Japanese military leaders were still making their preparations for resisting the expected Allied invasion of the home islands.[6]

Military Opposition to A-Bomb

No military ethic in the end supports the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both cities were major seaports and had a number of both military and industrial installations, but the military value of those targets was not great. The target committee felt both cities made excellent psychological targets as they had been untouched by earlier bombing raids. The committee recommended the bomb should be used on the Japanese Empire mainland to save American lives and produce maximum shock to try to convince the Japanese to surrender. The civilians made the final call for use of the bombs.

The U.S. Navy had very little to do with the atomic bomb decision. However, having temporarily lost 5 of its 11 big carriers at Okinawa, it did not want to face the Kamikazes again during an invasion of Japan. It argued that the blockade was working well, cutting off nearly all oil, food and troop movements to and from Japan. It expected that the blockade would eventually lead to surrender. Not for several years thereafter were the admirals able to integrate atomic weapons into their Mahanian doctrine.

In July 1945 the AAF saw its doctrine of strategic bombing working. The original plan was to have used B-29 bombers, from high altitude, with greater precision than the B-17 and B-24 bombers used in Europe. Unexpected high-altitude winds proved this was impossible, and Gen. Curtis LeMay, newly commanding the strategic bombers, on his own authority changed to low-altitude incendiary bombing. He had the bombers shed their machine guns and gunners, and the gasoline no longer needed to lift the planes to 30,000 feet. The result was a doubling of the bomb load, and very scared fliers who were greatly relieved to discover their losses were less using the new tactics.[7] From the first raid on March 9, the new tactic was devastating. The B-29 dropping conventional high explosives and incendiaries was the perfect instrument to destroy the infrastructure of Japan's larger cities. The great bombing campaign had just started; it was planned to peak in 1946. The atomic bomb was not part of AAF doctrine; the AAF generals knew very little about the bomb and demanded a direct order from President Truman before they agreed to explode it.

The U.S. Army agreed that the combination of blockade and strategic bombing would eventually destroy every Japanese city, but felt it could not destroy the Japanese Army, which was widely dispersed and dug in. The Japanese military had in fact planned by the end of 1945 to have 2.5 million troops under arms in the Home Islands. To defend Kyushu alone they would have approx. 600,000 to 900,000 troops available by November, 1945. Coastal fortifications were also being built on the islands. Nearly 1/4 of the Japanese population (including women and children) were conscripted or volunteered for local defense.[8]

General Marshall worried that the American people would grow weary of more years of warfare, and might even demand some sort of compromise peace in order to bring the soldiers home. Marshall underestimated the intense determination of nearly all Americans to defeat Imperial Japan. A poll in June 1945, found that 70 percent were in favor of either imprisonment or executing Hirohito. Marshall also objected to dropping the bombs on cities fearing that Japan might become an enemy forever. Most of all, he had a tactical rather than strategic use in mind. Only a handful of bombs were being built, (two to four per month) and MacArthur's invasion forces ought to have all of them. Marshall and his planners concluded that Japan would surrender only after ground troops captured Tokyo. The invasion of Kyushu was scheduled November 1, 1945; all bombs available then (probably seven) should be used there. They would give invading infantry forces enough firepower to destroy defensive ground installations, communications facilities, kill exposed enemy soldiers, and also block the arrival of reinforcements. To waste the precious bombs on irrelevant civilian targets would cause more American casualties in the phased invasion of the home islands. Marshall told Truman that if the invasion of the home islands took place, a minimum of 250,000 U.S. servicemen would be lost.

In mid-1945 the Japanese troops on the home islands of Kyushu and Honshu were overall poorly trained, but resistance was expected to be very heavy. Kamikazes were a great threat with the Japanese having nearly 10,000 planes (about 5,000 for Kamikaze use) and 19,000 pilots with plus gasoline for the purpose.[9]

Unlike Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Kyushu and Honshu were big enough to permit extensive use of tanks and large-scale maneuvering. In fact, the Japanese Army stock-piled at least six tank regiments for the defense of Kyushu and Honshu, alone.[10] In sum, Japanese resistance would have been suicidal, with very heavy losses, but American losses would not been as high, as MacArthur predicted. Stimson and Truman, however, overruled Marshall and decided that the first two bombs would be used on cities in order to demonstrate the power of the Allied forces and bring the war to a swift conclusion.

Manhattan Project

President Harry S. Truman, who had been completely frozen out of decision making and secret information before he suddenly became President in April, did not know what he wanted to do. He lurched this way then that, depending on who talked to him last.[11] The man who talked to him last about the bomb was Henry Stimson. Stimson rarely participated in strategic planning, but he had one card up his sleeve—the atomic bomb. To build it, Roosevelt, set up the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was managed by Major General Leslie Groves (Corps of Engineers) with a staff of reservists and many thousands of civilian scientists and engineers. Nominally Groves reported directly to Marshall, but in fact Stimson was in charge. Stimson secured the necessary money and approval from Roosevelt and from Congress, and made sure Manhattan had the highest priorities. He controlled all planning for the use of the bomb. He wanted "Little Boy" (the Hiroshima bomb) dropped within hours of its earliest possible availability. And it was. Stimson wanted Japan to surrender, and thought the Hiroshima bomb on August 6 would provide the final push Tokyo needed. When nothing happened, he recommended to Truman that "Fat Man" be dropped August 9 on Nagasaki. The Japanese offered to surrender on August 10.[12]

Stimson's vision

In retrospect it seems possible that the impact of continued blockade, relentless conventional bombing, and the Russian invasion of Manchuria would have somehow forced the Japanese Army to surrender sometime in late 1945 or early 1946 even without the atomic bombs. Millions of Japanese would have died.[13] But Stimson saw well beyond the immediate end of the war. He was the only top government official who tried to predict the meaning of the atomic age—he envisioned a new era in human affairs. For a half century he had worked to inject order, science, and moralism into matters of law, of state, and of diplomacy. His views had seemed outdated in the age of total warfare, but now he held what he called "the royal straight flush". The impact of the atom, he foresaw, would go far beyond military concerns to encompass diplomacy and world affairs, as well as business, economics and science. Above all, said Stimson, this "most terrible weapon ever known in human history" opened up "the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved." That is, the very destructiveness of the new weaponry would shatter the ages-old belief that wars could be advantageous. It might now be possible to call a halt to the use of destruction as a ready solution to human conflicts. Indeed, society's new control over the most elemental forces of nature finally "caps the climax of the race between man's growing technical power for destructiveness and his psychological power of self-control and group control--his moral power."

In 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria Stimson, then Secretary of State, proclaimed the famous "Stimson Doctrine." It said no fruits of illegal aggression would ever be recognized by the United States. Japan just laughed. Now the wheels of justice had turned and the "peace-loving" nations (as Stimson called them) had the chance to punish Japan's misdeeds in a manner that would warn aggressor nations never again to invade their neighbors. To validate the new moral order, the atomic bomb had to be used against civilians. Indeed, the Japanese people since 1945 have been intensely anti-militaristic, pointing with anguish to their experience at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was Stimson then guilty of a crime (as many Japanese now believe)? Arguably, but it has to be recognized that he moved the issue to a higher plane than one of military ethics. The question was not one of whether soldiers should use this weapon or not. Involved was the simple issue of ending a horrible war, and the more subtle and more important question of the possibility of genuine peace among nations. Stimson's decision involved the fate of mankind, and he posed the problem to the world in such clear and articulate fashion that there was near unanimous agreement mankind had to find a way so that atomic weapons would never be used again. Thanks in great part to Stimson's vision, they never have been used since August 1945.[14]

Ethics debate on Strategic Bombing

During the war prewar pacifists and a few churchmen (especially Catholics troubled over the bombing of Catholic cities like Rome and Cologne) began to question the morality of bombing cities. After Hiroshima the issue focused on the atomic bomb, with much of the discussion echoing the fears of the interwar period about flotillas of enemy bombers dropping poison gas on New York City. This time the technology was capable of mass destruction; everyone had genuine fears of a nuclear war that would kill tens of millions of Americans within minutes. Only the United States had ever used atomic weapons—and in both cases the victims were civilian populations. Many of the top soldiers thought the atomic bomb was unnecessary—that their particular strategy would have won the war, eventually. Each of the alternative strategies, however (such as the Army invasion of Kyushu and Honshu, the Navy's tight blockade, the Air Force's relentless firebombing) would have produced many more American casualties—and far more Japanese killed. Some historians, starting from the assumption that the bomb was "unnecessary" have speculated that it must therefore have been used for some motivation other than military victory. Perhaps the bureaucratic dynamics of the Manhattan Project were such that the bomb had to be dropped to prove the expenditures on it were not wasted? This was highly unlikely, since Truman would not have been blamed for expenditures that took place before he took charge. Other historians suggest that the bomb was dropped in order to influence or frighten the Russians, or perhaps to keep them out of the war. In fact the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House had been wanted the Russians to enter the war, and at no time did Truman ever suggest to Stalin that in fact his entry into the Pacific war was unwanted. As for frightening the Russians, that seems unlikely too. Truman and Stimson knew that Russia had the capability of building their own bomb (after the war it was discovered that Russia had already started working on one themselves which included stealing U.S. technology to do it); unleashing the American weapon was less likely to frighten the dedicated Communists than to divert them from peaceful recovery into a new arms race.

Target Cities Critical to War Effort

The large cities were prime targets because they contained most of the enemy's munitions factories, railroad yards, government offices and communications centers. According to Air Force doctrine, only a small fraction of the enemy population was targeted for attack—notably the centers of war production, communications, command and control. Civilians were repeatedly warned (by billions of leaflets) to evacuate those cities, or else they would be considered as willing participants in the enemy war effort. Without its cities, an enemy army would lose its munitions supply and its power of movement. As early as 1916, and certainly by the 1930s, it was a well-recognized concept that "civilians" who worked in munitions factories were as much a part of the war effort as soldiers in the front lines, and were legitimate targets. The munitions workers themselves felt that way, as they glanced at posters or listened to speeches from visiting dignitaries telling them how essential they were to the war. They were "non-peaceable" civilians. The efforts of civilian munitions workers in the cities across the globe were largely responsible for deciding who would win the war. Churchill strongly protested Eisenhower's plans to bomb French railroads before D-Day, warning that many Frenchmen would be killed (and therefore France would never trust Britain again.) Eisenhower insisted, and so too did French leader Charles de Gaulle. He wanted his homeland liberated! MacArthur, however, refused to allow bombing of Manila in 1945 because the Filipinos were American subjects.

Primary responsibility for saving the lives of people in the cities was held by the defending government, not by the attacking one according the US Air Force then (and now). Every government did in fact promote civil defense by installing sirens, building bomb shelters, teaching first-aid, assigning fire-fighters and rescue workers, establishing aid stations and support agencies, and training city dwellers on what to do when a raid was imminent.

Peaceable Civilians Evacuated

In World War II, bombing raids were not a sudden and totally annihilating event. Anyone who wanted to be a peaceable civilian and avoid the risk of air attack could and should have left the major cities. The major nations realized this and encouraged evacuation. A year before the Blitz began the British evacuated a million and a half women, children and elderly from London. Japan and Germany evacuated non-essential civilians from their cities, as well. Japan moved ten million people to the countryside, including two-thirds of the residents of the Tokyo and the five other largest cities.

With the coming of hydrogen bombs in the mid 1950s and intercontinental missiles in the early 1960s, cities became defenseless, for they could be annihilated within minutes, with no warning and no chance for evacuation. But that was not the case in World War II. The peaceable civilians had the knowledge and opportunity to get out, and most of them did so. If anyone missed the message from their own government, they could not fail to catch one of the hundreds of millions of leaflets dropped by Allied planes warning them that a real raid was imminent and they should evacuate immediately. In late 1944 American intelligence discovered that in Berlin, "Evacuation has been very thorough and the city now is relatively empty." In peacetime, Berlin had four million population; now it had scarcely one million, many of them foreign forced laborers.

Total Mobilization of Civilians

In Japan, total mobilization had been declared as early as 1938 (when Japan was fighting China): "We must mobilize our entire resources, both physical and spiritual; it is not enough merely to provide sufficient munitions."[15] Civilians were more tightly organized on behalf of the state than in any other nation, and American policy makers concluded there were no peaceable civilians in Japan. The AAF policy said that deliberate killing of innocent civilians was immoral, but that in Germany and Japan all workers "voluntary or involuntary" were assisting the enemy and should accept the risks "which must be the lot of any individual who participates directly in the war effort of a belligerent nation.[16]


Revenge played a role in the bombings. The American public demanded revenge for Pearl Harbor, and saw the Japanese as morally corrupt. The British, having watched fifty thousand civilians die from the Blitz, were more than pleased to retaliate. Strategic bombing doctrine had always held with enough pounding, enemy morale would collapse and they would be forced to surrender. That is indeed what happened with Japan. The Germans surrendered only after Berlin was captured, but the ability to resist invasion had been blasted away by the Allied bombings that Germany was helpless to stop. The bottom line regarding strategic bombing in World War II is that it was the only way a total war could be fought and won. The alternatives were compromise with the Nazis and Japanese, or invasions that would have killed far more people in Japan (and did kill far more Germans than the bombings did).[17]

See also


Basic surveys

  • Craven, Wesley Frank and J. L. Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II (1949), vol 1-5 is the official, very thorough history of strategy and operations in Europe and Pacific online edition
  • Gordin, Michael D. Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (2007) 209 pages excerpt and text search
  • Haulman, Daniel L. Hitting Home: The Air Offensive Against Japan, (1998) online edition
  • Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan (2004) online excerpt

Atomic Bomb & Surrender of Japan

  • Alperowitz, Gar. Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam: The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power. (1995), New Left version hostile to US
  • Allen, Thomas B. and Norman Polmar. Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan-And Why Truman Dropped the Bomb (1995)
  • Arens, Mark P. "Amphibious Corps Planning for Operation Olympic and the Role of Intelligence in Support of Planning." (1996), Marine Corps plans for landing on Kyushu online edition
  • Bernstein, Barton. "Eclipsed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Early Thinking About Tactical Nuclear Weapons," International Security (Spring 1991) 149-173 in JSTOR
  • Bernstein, Barton F. "The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered." Foreign Affairs, 74 (Jan-Feb 1995) 135-52.
  • Edoin, Hoito. The Night Tokyo Burned: The Incendiary Campaign against Japan (1988), Japanese viewpoint
  • Gordin, Michael D. Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (2007) 209 pages excerpt and text search
  • Haulman, Daniel L. Hitting Home: The Air Offensive Against Japan, (1998) online edition
  • Holley, I. B. ed. Hiroshima After Forty Years (1992)
  • Jones, Vincent C. Manhattan: The Army and the Bomb (GPO, 1985), official construction history of the bomb
  • Libby, Justin. "The Search for a Negotiated Peace: Japanese Diplomats Attempt to Surrender Japan Prior to the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." World Affairs, 156 (Summer 1993): 35-45.
  • Miles, Rufus E. Jr. "Hiroshima: The Strange Myth of a Half Million American Lives Saved" International Security 10 (Fall 1985): 121-40.
  • Pape, Robert A. "Why Japan Surrendered." International Security 18 (Fall 1993): 154-201 in JSTOR
  • Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985)
  • Ralph, William W. "Improvised Destruction: Arnold, LeMay, and the Firebombing of Japan," War in History, Vol. 13, No. 4, 495-522 (2006) online at Sage
  • Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), good overview excerpt and text search
  • Rotter, Andrew J. Hiroshima: The World's Bomb (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Sherry, Michael. The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (1987), important study 1930s-1960s
  • Skates, John. The Invasion of Japan (1994), excellent military history of the greatest non-battle of all time
  • United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The Campaigns of the Pacific War. (1946) Online edition
  • United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Summary Report: (Pacific War) (1946) online edition key primary source
  • VanderMuelen, Jacob. "Planning for V-J Day by the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Atomic Bomb Controversy." Journal of Strategic Studies 16 (June 1993), 227-39. AAF did not expect quick surrender; bomb was military use
  • Wheeler, Keith. The Fall of Japan (1983)


  • Crane, Conrad C. Bombs, Cities and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II (1993)
  • Crane, Conrad C. "Evolution of U.S. Strategic Bombing of Urban Areas," Historian 50 (Nov 1987) 14-39, defends AAF
  • Schaffer, Ronald. Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II (1985)
  • Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (1977), influential philosophical approach from the left

Stimson and Truman

  • Bonnett, John. "Jekyll and Hyde: Henry L. Stimson, Mentalite, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb on Japan." War in History 1997 4(2): 174-212. Issn: 0968-3445 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Bundy, McGeorge. Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (1988)
  • Feis, Herbert. Japan Subdued: The Atomic Bomb and the End of the War in the Pacific (1961), pro-Truman
  • Malloy, Sean L. Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Morison, Elting E. Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (1960)
  • Newman, Robert P. "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 5-32 in JSTOR
  • Walker, J. Samuel. "The Decision to Drop the Bomb: A Historiographical Update," Diplomatic History 14 (1990) 97-114. Especially useful.
  • Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan (2004) online excerpt

Primary sources

  • LeMay, Curtis. Mission with LeMay (1965), autobiography, primary source


  1. Robert L. Sherrod "Memorandum for David W. Hulburd, Jr." November 15, 1941. The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland et al. vol. 2, We Cannot Delay, July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (1986), #2-602 pp. 676-681. Marshall made the statement to a secret press conference. For the full text goto and search for "mercilessly". See also Alan Armstrong, Preemptive Strike: The Secret Plan That Would Have Prevented the Attack on Pearl Harbor (2006) excerpt and text search
  2. United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Summary Report: (Pacific War) (1946) online p, 18
  3. Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985)
  4. Dower, John. "Lessons from Iwo Jima," Perspectives (Sept 2007) 45#6 pp 54-56 at [1]
  5. Sadao Asada, "The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender: a Reconsideration." Pacific Historical Review 1998 67(4): 477-512. in Jstor
  6. Wheeler, Keith. "The Fall of Japan" (1983)
  7. Craven and Cate, 5: 608-14; Thomas R. Searle "'It made a lot of sense to kill skilled workers': The firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945," Journal of Military History 103-134 66, no. 1 (Jan 2002): pp. 103-134
  8. Dunnigan & Nofi, The Pacific War Encyclopedia (1998)
  9. Dunnigan & Nofi, The Pacific War Encyclopedia (1998)
  10. Zaloga, Steven J. Japanese Tanks 1939–45 (2007)
  11. J. Samuel Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (1997) online edition
  12. Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1995)
  13. For "revisionists" who reject use of the bomb, see Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1996) and Barton J. Bernstein, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Early Nuclear History: Stimson, Conant, and Their Allies Explain the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993): 35-72
  14. See Sean L. Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008); John Bonnett, "Jekyll and Hyde: Henry L. Stimson, Mentalite, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb on Japan." War in History 1997 4(2): 174-212. Isbn: 0968-3445 Full text: Ebsco; McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (1988); Elting E. Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (1960); Robert P. Newman, "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 5-32 in JSTOR
  15. Quoted in Conrad Totman, History of Japan (2000) online p. 435
  16. Crane, Bombs, Cities, and Civilians p. 45 online
  17. Lacking strategic bombers, the Russians relied on their ground forces to capture Berlin in April, 1945. It was the bloodiest battle of the war. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed, along with very large numbers of civilians. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945 (2003)