Part 2: Operation Downfall: Allied Deception Plan
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I wrote a blog a while ago called Nuclear Weapons are Dark Magic. (The link is below) I talk about how evil and destructive nuclear weapons are. However, this doesn’t mean that I think the bombs being dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were 100% unjustified. I get annoyed by the polarizing views that people often have on this subject.
I’m not a historian. But it seems like moral judgements about bombs are open to interpretation. I’ve read papers by historians who think Japan would never have surrendered, even though they were losing the war. Others claim that the Japanese were going to stop fighting, and the bombs being dropped was maliciously unnecessary. But if I understand correctly, the Japanese were not sure whether they should surrender or not. It makes sense to be so uncertain about that, right?
Even if Japan never had surrendered, does that justify killing so many innocent people in horrifying, agonizing ways? It feels like it’s at least overkill. Some of those who approve of the bombs offer calculations showing the greater numbers of casualties that would have been seen otherwise. That’s because firebombings would probably have continued, which are arguably messier than atomic bombs. That might be true. But there’s no way anyone can know for sure how many people would have been killed without nuclear weapons. Hypothetical predictions are not facts.
If the Japanese were going to surrender, maybe the bombs weren’t justified. If this is true, perhaps a large reason that nuclear weapons were used was sheer curiosity. They had been tested before, but apparently not in an urban environment with many people around. I don’t know how much of a motivation this was, but it’s possible.
However, I think there’s a low probability that the bombs were used by the Allies out of an evil desire to slaughter countless people. There are only a handful of historical figures I know of who appear to have thought that way. I wouldn’t put President Truman and other Allied leaders into this category. I would only accuse Axis leaders like Hitler and Stalin of having this motivation, and even that is debatable.
Also, most of us don’t know what it’s like to be in charge during war. I can only imagine the incredible pressure on people who had to make these decisions. It’s even harder to speculate about their thoughts when innocents get lumped in with enemies. How do you decide who lives and who dies? How can you determine the most efficient ways of killing people, while ensuring that your response is strong enough to defeat your enemies? How can you outsmart your opponent by using a magician’s misdirection?
This brings us to Operation Downfall. It was the Allied plan to continue the invasion of Japan after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Downfall was divided into Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet. Olympic would be a full scale attack by sea on a Japanese island called Kyushu, and the first domino to fall. It would have been the largest naval assault in history! General Macarthur, who was in charge of Allied command for Operation Downfall, preferred this to the navy’s proposed bombing strategy.
The plan for Coronet was to attack the largest Japanese island, Honshu, which had the highest population. This would have been an even bigger naval invasion than Olympic! Air bases captured through the first domino in this plan were meant to be used for air support.
One of the highest estimated Allied casualties for Operation Downfall was up to a million! These predictions varied widely. But this plan would have been phenomenally historically significant if it had been executed. That’s especially true since it would have been combined with the two largest naval invasions in history. One of the main goals with this operation was to hinder Japanese air power so they couldn’t attack ground forces that were intended to be used later on.
The difficult terrain of the Japanese island geography made planning difficult. This is why the Americans didn’t like the idea of using ground troops. U. S. forces had to estimate what Japanese defences would be there because it was easy to hide them from air recon. The invasion of Kyushu for Operation Olympic was scheduled for November 1st, 1945.
One part of Downfall was Operation Pastel. This was meant to trick the Japanese into thinking that the U. S. was going to attack Chinese ports around Shanghai instead of the obvious strategic targets in Japan. Dummies attached to parachutes were going to be dropped from planes the day before the assault on Kyushu. Real equipment was going to be dropped there as well. This magician’s misdirection was also meant to make it seem like Allied ground troops had arrived in the Philippines, along with the air force in Okinawa. The final version of this deception plan also included making it appear like the Americans were going to launch an assault on Shikoku island in Japan, with amphibious infantry landings. The narrative of the fake Allied landings was going to be told through methods like radio propaganda broadcasts, stories in major newspapers, and dropping leaflets. This is all psychological warfare.
Forces that were already close to Japan were intended to be used in both Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet, including British naval fleets. Once this first domino fell, Coronet was going to begin with the invasion of Honshu on March 1st, 1945.
This second phase also included detailed misdirection. The Americans were going to sell the story that they would land in Shikoku, Korea, and Hokkaido. It was broadcast that the Shikoku assault would happen one month after the real landing in Honshu, on April 1st. This would help make the Japanese be unprepared for defence. The Allies were also going to reorganize their ground troops to make it look like they were getting ready to attack Shikoku. They even got military staff in the Philippines to write and publish strategic studies of the terrain in Honshu and Shikoku.
…To be continued…