Marking the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this discussion paper explores whether the strategy of naval blockade and conventional bombing of Japanese cities could have been used by the US as an alternative way to force Japan to surrender. It analyses Japan’s economy in the pre-War period, the role of the zaibatsu during the war, and the appearance of atomic bombs on the stage of history.
The use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains one of the most controversial issues in American history. While some historians have tried to justify the use of atomic bombs by claiming that it saved the millions of American lives and put an early end to the war, others argue that it was used for political rather than military reasons: the US aimed to intimidate the Soviet Union with its new, devastating weapon. A third group of historians who have evaluated the issue of the use of atomic bombs from a moral and humanistic perspectives emphasize that the US did not give any detailed consideration to possible alternatives to atomic bombs. As the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approaches, this paper aims to focus on what was potentially one of the alternatives to atomic bombs: naval blockade and conventional bombing of Japanese cities. Towards the end of the war, the Japanese economy was in shreds: people were starving, and there was a lack of oil, rice, medicine and other crucial materials. The question is would Japan have surrendered unconditionally even if the US had not used the atomic bombs? If it did surrender, would it have been before November or would this strategy merely have prolonged the war? This paper looks for answers for those questions by examining the Japan’s economy during the war and the rapidly deteriorating conditions in the country prior to the events.Download the Discussion Paper