By mid-1945, Allied forces had moved across the Pacific defeating the Japanese. Both sides -- and civilians as well -- had sustained huge casualties at places like Saipan, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. World War II had ended in Europe in April, but even though they were losing the Pacific war, the Japanese seemed unwilling to surrender.
Many of President Harry Truman's advisors believed that the Japanese would relent before a planned U.S. invasion of Japan in November. But despite massive military losses and the threat of widespread starvation, Japanese leaders showed no interest in peace. Their Ketsu-Go plan called for the military and civilians to mount a fierce defense against invasion -- if not to defeat the U.S., then to obtain better terms for surrender.
July was the decisive month. New intelligence indicated that American casualties would reach over 600,000 during an invasion. On July 16, the U.S. Army had its first successful test of the atomic bomb. And at the end of the month, Japan rejected the U.S. call for unconditional surrender under the threat of "prompt and utter destruction" that had been part of the Potsdam agreements between the U.S.S.R., the U.S. and Great Britain.
Scholars hotly debate what would have happened if the atomic bomb had not been used in August 1945. "The basic question is: If the war continued, what was the cost?" says historian Ed Drea. "And, of course, the cost would have continued to rise for the Japanese, particularly for the Japanese civilian population."
Question: If you have been advising President Harry Truman in July 1945, would you have advocated that the U.S. use the atomic bomb?
Total number of poll participants: 3173
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This 11-hour series analyzes the costs and consequences of the war that changed a generation and continues to color American thinking today.