On August 6th, the Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima.
On August 9th, Bockscar took off for Nagasaki.
They both delivered the psychological blows to the Japanese leadership necessary to allowed them to surrender.
1) Two Atom bomb strikes, and
2) The destruction of the Imperial Japanese Manchurian Army by the Soviets (See August Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945 and August Storm: Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, by David Glantz.),
…to shock the IJA generals into inaction for long enough so Emperor Hirohito could surrender to the Allies over the armed objections of IJA junior officers.
Lacking either of those factors, and America would have had to conduct a genocidal campaign of extermination against the Japanese people.
Point in fact, the USAAF has already destroyed more urban space and killed more Japanese in the Tokyo firebombings than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The USAAF was also starving the Japanese people via it’s aerial B-29 mining campaign and was set to go after Japan’s railroads, which would have destroyed remaining Japanese urban food distribution.
Yet the IJA was still raring to fight on.
The Japanese military had in all but name turned into a death cult that was set to consume millions.
The Japanese Emperor Hirohito knew from his viewing of the aftermath of the B-29 firbombing raid of Tokyo that if he allowed the irrational Samurai death cult military leaders running his government to fight to the end, the Japanese people would turn against the institution of the emperor.
Too paraphrase Mel Brooks in the movie “Blazing Saddles,” our air power made the continuation of the war “a threat to his phony baloney job.”
The following history cites on Japanese leadership thinking are from wikipedia but their sources check out:
1) “We gotta save out phony baloney jobs” —
a) In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe gave to Emperor Hirohito a memorandum analyzing the situation, and told Hirohito that if the war continued, the Imperial house might be in greater danger from an internal revolution than from defeat.
b) On June 9, the Emperor’s confidant, Marquis Kōichi Kido, wrote a “Draft Plan for Controlling the Crisis Situation,” warning that by the end of the year, Japan’s ability to wage modern war would be extinguished and the government would be unable to contain civil unrest. “… We cannot be sure we will not share the fate of Germany and be reduced to adverse circumstances under which we will not attain even our supreme object of safeguarding the Imperial Household and preserving the national polity.”
2) Strategic bombing did it —
“Fundamentally the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing by the B-29s.
— Prince Fumimaro Konoe
Further, Japanese Emperor Hirohito knew that he was running out of time. The Japanese Army gave orders in July 1945 that it was going to lock him up when the British landed in Malaya on September 9 1945 via Operation Zipper , at which point there would not have been any surrender. America would have had to kill most of the Japanese military. Which would have happened. Because the IJA had also already issued orders to all their foreign commands, to be executed when the British invaded Malaya, to execute:
All Allied prisoners of war;
All interned Allied civilians;
All other Allied civilians they could catch in China, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. (Though the IJA in the Philippines was mostly too busy trying to survive being hunted down by the US Eighth Army.)
This is from Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb by George Feifer, and states at page 573:
“After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchin issued an order directing his prison camp officers to kill all their captives the moment the enemy entered his southeast Asia theater. That would have been when those 200,000 British landed to retake Singapore, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender. There was a real chance that Terauchi’s order would have been carried out, in case up to 400,000 people would have been massacred.”
Allied signals intelligence (MAGIC) intercepted and decoded the mid-to-late July 1945 order from Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) to Terauchi to prepare for this. Emperor Hirohito knew this through his sources on the GHQ staff. General Marshall and the other Americans joint chiefs of staff would have read that intercept before Hirohito’s sources would have told him.
If the planned September 1945 Imperial Japanese military coup against Hirohito had succeeded, the Imperial Japanese Army would have killed at least an additional 50 million people, more than had died in all of World War Two to that point, before Allied armies could eliminate Japanese forces overseas.
It took the triple shock of two a-bombs and the Russian invasion to let Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Suzuki pull off the surrender over the leaders of the militarist death cult.
What motivated the Emperor was wanting to stay Emperor and that motivation came from the bomb bays of B-29’s.
The Japanese really required the use of two A-bombs to get them to surrender.
In the decades since then, the American military has specialized in information and high-energy warfare, and it wins wars by exploiting our advantages in those arenas against an organized enemy’s weakest point – their leadership’s desire to stay in power.
Japan wasn’t the only time America has used air power to break a totalitarian enemy’s National Command Authority — its leadership.
America can, and repeatedly has, attacked an organized enemy’s National Command Authority and its public’s will to resist directly. This is called air power whacking the opposing regime’s ability to stay in power plus the civil infrastructure. Sometimes it has been allowed to do so full. Ask Slobodan Milosevic concerning the 1999 Air War in Kosovo and Serbia.
Sometimes not — See Vietnam and North Korea
Yet the lesson is the same. The best place to fight an enemy is on their own territory, i.e., bomb the snot out of their leadership and civil infrastructure that keeps them in power.
Grab their leadership by the balls — their power — and their armed forces will obey.
This is a lesson of history the American people need to know and remember.
A dead link to a Seattle Times article on Tojo’s diaries showing his willingness to fight on even after both A-bombs were dropped was replaced with a link from sulekha.com with the same AP story.