The claim:

The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan … Stalin Did

Have 70 years of nuclear policy been based on a lie?

Initially, few questioned President Truman’s decision...But in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan’s leaders had wanted to surrender anyway.

Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on Aug. 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place — to ask, in essence, did it work

The Soviet invasion was strategically decisive — it foreclosed both of Japan’s options — while the bombing of Hiroshima (which foreclosed neither) was not.


Did the atomic bombs fail to cause Japan's surrender; rather the Soviet threat did?

  • "Japan’s leaders had wanted to surrender anyway." Should be easily provable. Not easily falsifiable. The traditional interpretation of events is that a land invasion would have been necessary without the bomb drops. I've never heard a serious analysis that didn't conclude Japan's surrender was already very likely, but land invasion would have cost more American lives.
    – user11643
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 15:40
  • 6
    Might be better asked on history.stackexchange.com
    – user11643
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 15:40
  • 1
    This is quite likely unresolvable using facts. Historians will have varying opinions depending on how they weigh a variety of issues and opinions. Probably better on history unless there is a smoking gun (like a record of the Japanese high command discussing their response).
    – matt_black
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:42
  • This has been argued back and forth since the bomb was dropped. It's entirely a matter of opinion and point of view. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 19:12
  • I asked this question on History.SE: history.stackexchange.com/questions/26957/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


There was never any question whether Japan could withstand total war with the US, the only question was whether the US would be willing to engage in total war against Japan. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a gamble that enough damage would be done to the Pacific Fleet that the US would conclude that rebuilding their navy would not be worth the trouble (and that by the time they did so, Japan would be entrenched enough in their positions that the US would not be willing to take the casualties needed to dislodge them), and concede the Pacific to Japan.

However, the attack failed to destroy the Pacific fleet, the US quickly built further forces that surpassed the pre-Pearl Harbor strength, the attack galvanized public opinion to support total war, the Japanese navy suffered several devastating defeats, the US cut off Japanese supply lines, and Germany was eventually taken out of the war. After Midway, it was clear that the tide had turned against the Japanese.

By the time of the first nuclear bombing (Aug 6), Germany had surrendered, the US had captured Okinawa, the home islands were cut off from supplies, the Japanese navy was almost completely destroyed, the air force was on its last legs, and the US was bombing Japan with impunity. Did the bomb beat them? No, they were already beaten.

It didn’t take a military genius to see that, while it might be possible to fight a decisive battle against one great power invading from one direction, it would not be possible to fight off two great powers attacking from two different directions.

That's silly. The Japanese military was completely outmatched by the US. Adding the USSR changed the timelines, but the ultimate outcome was already a foregone conclusion. The capture of Okinawa eliminated any military justification for continuing the war, and all that was left was psychological and political. Whether the atomic bombing or the Soviet invasion provided the final push to where the Japanese leaders were unable to continue their pretense of not yet being defeated cannot be defended on the basis of the military situation, but must appeal to the psychology of the leaders.

The Soviet invasion was strategically decisive — it foreclosed both of Japan’s options [hoping for Soviet mediation and threatening large casualties in an invasion]

The invasion did little to affect Japan's ability to inflict casualties on an invasion force. This ability was not based on lack of US forces, but on asymmetric warfare that even an overwhelming force would be vulnerable to.

Obviously, if the bombings weren’t necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong.

That is not at all obvious. If the bombings were based on a good faith belief that they were necessary, then they were not wrong, even if that belief was wrong.

  • 4
    While I agree that Japan had already been effectively beaten prior to the bombs this answer does not cite any sources, which is generally required for any good answer on skeptics. Furthermore some of your claims I am skeptical of, such as claim that the tide had clearly turned after midway, when midway was pretty much the first real victory US had, and was partially due to dumb luck, hardly proof that Japan was in trouble by itself. I generally feel the answer is slightly biased by a US-centric view and could use citing of other sources to back up it's claims.
    – dsollen
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 17:56
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    @dsollen: While I agree that sources would benefit the answer, pointing to Midway as a turning point is well within what's generally accepted history (even outside the US...). It crippled the IJN carrier force, and was Japan's last major offensive in the pacific.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 18:42
  • Downvote for answering a clearly off topic question and thus starting a discussion. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 20:36

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