Le 6 et 9 août 1945, les États-Unis utilisaient l'arme atomique pour contraindre le Japon à une reddition inconditionnelle mettant ainsi fin à la 2e guerre mondiale. La commémoration de cet événement passe obligatoirement par une dénonciation des idées reçues entourant cet événement.

“I cannot imagine that anyone who could have been president would have failed to use atomic bombs.”

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The best worst option
Richard B. Frank*, Volume 61, Number 4, July/August 2005

I believe a sober assessment of ends, means, and costs demonstrate that the atomic bombs were the worst way to end the Pacific War—except all the others. Therefore, had the decision been mine to make, I would have authorized the use of atomic bombs. The U.S. war aim of “unconditional surrender” constituted the essential legal authority to abolish the old order in Japan, thereby transforming military victory into an enduring peace. The Japanese, however, pursued two minimal goals: preservation of the Imperial institution and of the entrenched militaristic order.

Far from regarding their situation as hopeless, Japanese leaders crafted a military-political strategy called "Ketsu Go" to secure their twin war aims. "Ketsu Go" rested on the premise that inflicting heavy losses during the initial invasion would shatter brittle American resolve. The Japanese shrewdly anticipated that southern Kyushu (Japan’s third largest island) would be the U.S. beachhead and packed it with defenses. Against this backdrop, U.S. diplomatic concessions acted not as a one-way ratchet toward peace, but as concrete vindication for the hardliner’s central premise of vulnerable American will.

U.S. leaders confronted an extensive menu of options. Naval and air officers advocated continuation of the ongoing campaign of bombardment and blockade. This strategy contemplated killing Japanese by the tens or hundreds of thousands with bombs and shells, and by the millions through starvation. U.S. decision makers looked to complement bombardment and blockade with an invasion followed by Soviet entry. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff in April 1945 defined the ultimate American nightmare not as the invasion, but the peril that, even if the Japanese government surrendered, Japan’s armed forces would not. The prospect of defeating some five million unyielding Japanese in the Home Islands, on the Asian continent, and throughout the Pacific far overshadowed the potential losses in the initial invasion of Japan.

By July and the first days of August 1945, radio intelligence demonstrated that southern Kyushu bristled with Japanese forces that far exceeded prior U.S. estimates. A radio intelligence assessment passed to senior policy makers on July 27 stated that, based on review of both the diplomatic and the military intercepts, it was clear that Japan would never submit to terms acceptable to the United States as long as the Imperial Army remained confident in "Ketsu Go". That is the most succinct and accurate assessment of the realities of 1945 as one can find. Given these revelations, I cannot imagine that anyone who could have been president would have failed to use atomic bombs.

The realization that the planned invasion of Kyushu was no longer feasible also undercut any American confidence that Soviet intervention could be decisive, since Gen. George Marshall had tied its impact to the success of the U.S. invasion. More importantly, Japanese military leaders did not regard Soviet entry as the end because the Soviets lacked the sea lift to deliver their massive armies and tactical air forces to the Home Islands. Accordingly, Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, the chief of staff of the Imperial Army, told the emperor that Soviet entry made no difference for "Ketsu Go". More ominously still, the Imperial Army rebounded from news of an imminent Soviet entry with a plan to eliminate any vestige of civilian government and rule from Imperial headquarters. This stroke would have eradicated the legal basis for the emperor’s intervention. And absent the emperor’s intervention, there was no sure path to peace.

This brings us to costs. The bombs killed between 100,000 and 200,000 Japanese—many from the horrifying effects of radiation that U.S. policy makers were ignorant of in 1945. The alternatives were worse. Beyond the military losses, the Soviet Union’s initial intervention in the war against Japan ultimately cost the lives of between 340,000 and 500,000 Japanese, overwhelmingly noncombatants. Had the war not ended when it did, many more would have perished. The blockade would have killed millions.

Finally, we now know that ending the war by August 15 was crucial. By then, a new August 13 targeting directive that sought the destruction of Japan’s railroads through strategic bombings would have gone into effect. Coupled to the annihilation of shipping and a desperate food shortage, this directive would have locked Japan inexorably on a course to a massive famine. Ghastly as the bombs were, the grim reality is that no other combination of events would have produced an enduring peace at less cost.

*Richard B. Frank is the author of Downfall: The End of the Japanese Imperial Empire (1999), which won the 2000 Harry S. Truman Book Award.

Et pour ceux qui pensent que les bombardements d'Hiroshima et de Nagasaki n'étaient pas nécessaires parce que le Japon était sur le point de se rendre, je vous conseille cet autre article de Richard B. Frank (cliquez sur le lien):

Cliquez ici pour lire la suite »