Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Those fateful days of 6th August and 9th August, 1945 left a vast impact on today’s society, as approximately 225,000 civilians and soldiers lost their lives. As more succumbed to injuries and the radiation in the coming days, the death toll was increasing by the day. Japan surrendered and essentially became a puppet state of the USA, while maintaining a passive foreign policy for decades until the recent antics of Kim Jong-un. In this continuing series of “What if?”, we will answer the question “What if Japan was never bombed by the USA?”
To understand as to why the United States wanted to take such drastic measures, we need to look back to 7th December, 1941. Japan and the Axis Powers (namely Germany and Italy), were dominating World War II. It almost looked like the 3 countries were going to jointly take over the world. Japan would have asserted its dominance over the Indo-Pacific region, and the other 2 nations would have taken care of the rest. Japan, was close to capturing most of Asia, and they had their eyes on the biggest prize, the United States of America.
The USA chose to remain neutral throughout the war (or so, it seemed). For this reason alone, they were viewed as a soft target, despite their military prowess in World War I. Japan needed to conquer certain strategic lands (such as Guam) in the southern Pacific in order to go after the United States, whose very fleet of ships were guarding these lands. Thus, Japan decided to bomb one of the more strategic fleet sites of the United States, Pearl Harbour, located in Hawaii. This was done to not only scare away the USA, but to also prevent further ships from guarding these lands. 353 Kamikaze pilots flew over the harbour and launched a massive aerial assault, that led to over 2500 American deaths. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan, and the USA officially entered World War II. This led to the fast tracking of America’s nuclear program (which became the Manhattan Project), and the eventual production of the atomic bomb.
We’ll assume that the Manhattan Project did exist, but that the USA never chose to bomb Japan. Here are a few reasoned predictions from mainly a political perspective.
1. The Allied powers would have won the war anyway
The Axis powers were on the verge of being wiped out. Germany surrendered on May 1945, Italy had surrendered more than a year ago on October 1943. The war was close to being over. 2 months after Germany’s surrender, world leaders met in Potsdam and called for the unconditional surrender of Japan. Non-compliance of which would lead to “Complete and utter destruction of Japan”. Japan, whose citizens worshipped their king as a God, refused to surrender. The USA made plans to invade Japan. Operation Olympic and Coronet, were planned well in advance, and people expected the war to go towards the end of 1946 due to the challenges posed by Japan’s geography. Even though Japan had 2.3 million soldiers defending their country, they would have been decimated. The Allied powers were superior in technology, and had surrounded Japan with their fleet and soldiers. The losses however would be staggering. It was expected that there would be about 30,000 Allied deaths and over 300,000 casualties, and countless more for Japan. If the invasion idea didn’t seem feasible, the USA had many more plans of trying to defeat Japan, one of which was the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb, from an Allied perspective, would mean absolutely no casualties for the allies, while quite possibly ending the war with devastating losses for the Japanese. This was viewed as a win-win for the Allied powers.
2. The public wouldn’t have heard about nuclear war being a possibility, till about the 1960’s (Cold War period)
Without the atomic bomb, the public would have never heard of such a device back then. The concept of Nuclear winter had come during the 60’s, when the United States and Soviet Russia were very close to declaring a nuclear war. The cold war was predominantly caused due to the aftermath of the pseudo-annexation of Europe by the Soviet Union and the rest of the allied powers. Therefore, the cold war would have still taken place, regardless of the atomic bomb being dropped or not. However, the tensions and the fear placed in people’s minds would have not been nearly as high as it was, as a nuclear weapon would have never been tested on civilians. This lack of fear could have led countries to freely develop their nuclear projects, be it making power plants or missiles. Nuclear “armament” would thus be considered a non-issue when it came to foreign policy, and this would have led to sanctions on Iran and North Korea, never existing in the first place. It could be argued that the USA’s influence on foreign policy would be greatly reduced.
3. Japan might have been a communist state
While there were major plans by the United States to invade Japan, it was the Soviet Union that captured the majority of Japan, in the Soviet-Japanese war which took place between early August and September of 1945. The United States was able to assert its dominance over Japan, simply due to the massive destruction they caused in the 2 cities. This was also a sort of retribution for the Pearl Harbour bombings. Without the USA bombing the 2 cities, the Soviet Union would have had leverage in claiming Japan and possibly making its puppet state. This would have definitely changed the balance of power in Asia. The free market wouldn’t really exist, which would have led to countless digital inventions (à la Walkman) not being accessible to people all over the world. Censorship would mean that entertainment such as Anime or Manga would not be as popular.
These are the three things that could have happened if one of the deadliest attacks on humankind never took place. The predictions, however, are endless owing to the multiple variables in place. This article simply looked at the likeliest of scenarios if things didn’t pan out as they did.