If I remember my history correctly, the DoD at the time ordered 500,000 purple heart medals in expectation for casualties during the first WEEK of the invasion. The Japanese had moved their weapons industry as to wait out allied bombing. They had suicide cruiser missiles (basically German V1s with a pilot) and THOUSANDS of airplans hidden throughout the island with young teenage boys taught how to start them up, take off and dive into Allied ships or troops. Every male that could fight was armed with a rifle- granted they were about as primative as a rifle can get and their ability to fire questionable- or grenades or swords. Women and children were taught to use bayonets welded onto lengths of metal piping and sharpened bamboo sticks on how to make banzai charges. THAT is the type of resolve the US and it's allies were facing.
Also, the Russians (who were by now looking more and more like enemies than allies) also declared war on Japan in July of 1945 and invaded Manchuria and started kicking Japanese ass there. There was a race to Berlin in Europe, there WOULD have been a similar race in Asia too.
First of all, I'd have the Army Air Force carpet bomb the **** out of the main island of Japan so that there wasn't even a friggin tree left standing. B29s from the Marianas and B-17s and B-24s from China and Okinawa.
Then, I was throw in everything I had to soften up a landing zone. A nice solid shore bombardment from every US, British, Canadia, Australian, French, Italian (yup, they're allies by now), etc. battleship and cruiser I could spare AND I'd have Corsairs, Avengers, Helldivers, etc. from every carrier I could spare light up Tokyo Bay and the City of Tokyo (which had been left alone from US bombings for the most part.) like the 4th of July for a good solid week or two (time is of the essence! The Russians are coming! We must beat the Russians!). Navy Hellcats, Royal Navy/USMC Corsairs, USAAF P-51s and P-38s will sweep the skies clear of anything that flies higher than a ladybug.
I'd save the paratroopers for something else. No pre-invasion drop. Keep reading to find out why.
Once the landing zone looked like the surface of the moon, I'd land all five US Marine Divisions - the first waves in amtracks to give SOME protection- in a display of beach-storming that would make Dday look like a picnic. Since the Japanese didn't contest the landings at Iwo Jima or Okinawa, I would assume they wouldn't do so in Tokyo bay. Either way, once a beachhead was established, I'd bring in every light and heavy armored division in existance.( Hell, if they were available, I'd send in German panzer divisions. Wasn't it Patton who said the Germans were superior soldiers and we should ally ourselves with them against the Russians?) During the whole war, the Japanese showed little power in stopping American armor. In Iwo, Leyete and Okinawa, they were what turned the tide for the Americans.
From Tokyo bay, I'd have the men occupy the city. If the Emperor was dead and their capital captured with overwhelming force and thousands of tons of bombs raining down everyday MIGHT be enough to make what was left of the populace surrender. If not, well then I'd just put Patton in charge (under MacArthur's overall command) and let him do his thing with the Armored divisions in the lead, Infantry only taking the land the artillery and armor had already done once (or twice) over.
possibly starting a heavy inland bombing campaign, see how they like that, possibly getting the emporer to take not surrendering action but a ceasefire. it would leave some dignity intact for them. if that wouldnt work then after a short naval battle in thier harbours mopping up rogue ships and finishing a half hearted air fight id start a relentless off shore pounding and airial bombing not committing troops for quite some time.
nail every factory and important target. possibly start targeted bombing of national treasures, palaces etc. make them think about thier past and losing a lot of tradition. beyond that it may just get darker. i see no reason to start a land campaign overly when you could have all sides of the islands surrounded with carriers and other boats and directing strikes round the clock. possibly even pushing in and making a heavily defended land base but that could end bad in a suicide push. if they say no to a ceasefire multiple times i would change it to unconditional surrender and adjust tactics accordingly.
part of the problem with a ceasefire would be: would japan rebuild and we'd have a arms race with them also? would russia have a new allie in them?
id tend to push for a surrender. air campaign all the way.
A few ideas crossed my mind... I'll start with the least likely.
A special operation by whatever units were capable, with the objective of capturing the emperor and withdrawing. Perhaps the emperor could have been made to broadcast a radio message to Japan from the U.S.S. Missouri.
My other thought would have been to form an enormous blockade. This could be combined with daily fighter/bomber sweeps over the home islands, even if there weren't any targets designated for strikes. The civilians would simply see that we could come and go as we pleased. I would also have ordered a massive leaflet campaign to let the Japanese know that we weren't the monsters we had been made out to be - remember the mass civilian suicides on Saipan. Finally, after a couple of months, depending on what intell was available, I might order the Air Force to start dropping foodstuffs to the civilian population. My goal would be to get them to realize that they were defeated in every sense of the word, but also to show them that we were merciful and wouldn't cause them to suffer needlessly. Hopefully, they would agree to a surrender.
Another alternative, something I would be very reluctant to do, but might have done if we had had to invade - massive use of chemical weapons against military targets. I would try and spare the civilian population as much as possible, but...
Years ago I read something about the plan for invading Japan. I think all 6 Marine Divisions were to land on D-Day. The plans made no mention of the 2nd MarDiv after D+2, and no mention of any of them after I think D+7. The planners believed that they would simply have been destroyed.
This is a hard question to answer in 2003. My goal would be to affect a Japanese surrender with the minimum loss of life on both sides.
I think the above posts have covered almost all of the hypothetical bases, here are a few points/corrections:
The Russians didn't enter the war until after Hiroshima; on August 8th they invaded Japanese-held Manchuria with a million men. Hirohito was probably more concerned about their entry in the war than the atomic bombings, although they certainly caught his attention. If the bombs hadn't been dropped, would the Russians have had more say in post WWII Japan, therefore setting up another potential Cold War battlefield in a divided Japan?
Americans were also contemplating using chemical weapons against die-hard Japanese holding out in bunkers if the islands were ever invaded, which would have set a very bad precedent for later wars.
We could have bombed, strafed and landed a million men but it would have taken months if not years to defeat the Japanese at great cost to both sides. As horrible as they were, dropping the bombs were almost humane acts when one considers the other options.
Finally, my father was in transit on a troop ship just outside Hawaii when Hiroshima was bombed. He had just finished a 30 day leave after earning five battle stars in Europe with a combat engineer unit. He said the men on the ship laughed and cried hysterically when they got the news because they all knew they were headed for the invasion of Japan. Those are the men who should be asked their opinion whenever pacificistic revisionists argue about whether or not Truman should have given the order.
A qoute from "With The Old Breed", by E.B. Sledge - USMC veteran of Peleliu and Okinawa, upon hearing news of the Atomic bombs and Japan's surrender.
"We received the news with quiet disbelief coupled with a sense of relief. We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it... Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war."
I have read some stuff written by revisionistic historians about how the decision to bomb was racist. Let me just say that if my grandfather was alive, he would have been really livid with anger. He is Chinese, and he really suffered under Japanese occupation in China. Although he was just a teacher, he was arrested and tortured by the Japanese. I still remember how he walked with a distinctive limp.
We are sad that hundreds of thousands of Japaneses had to die, but let's put it in perspective - with only rifles and baynoes, the Japanese Imperial Army killed 300,000 people in Nanking in 1937. How many died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Which is more terrible?
Let me say that a lot of people in Asia appreciated the fact that the Americans had dropped the atom bombs on Japan and ended the war. Many of us Asians believed that the atom bombs finally convinced the war lords in Tokyo to stop fighting, and thus shorten the war. It ended the suffering of millions of people in Asia who were under Japanese occupation.
A lot of you are taking those "revisionist historians" theses wrong, the point was not in whether or not dropping the bomb was the right thing to do. I believe most people agree that was either the bomb or thousands of americans on to the slaughter chopping block. The problem may have been with the site chosen i.e. heavily populated areas. You could as well have detonated the bomb somewhere public, let EVERYONE else know you have it... show the destruction and basically get the same effect. Still the first bomb did effectively end the war. The biggest question, or problem that people may have with the subject of the atomic bomb, was not the BOMB itself, but the SECOND bomb. Why was Nagasaky hit? There were reports that Hirohito was pretty much ****ting his pants after the 1st bomb.
The 2nd bomb had nothing to do with the Japanese, and everything to do with the Russians. Trumman sent a clear message to the ruskies of who had the bigger cojones... and forced Stalin to back off from further advances in the East European front. Very few people forget that there was plenty of tension right after the fall of Germany as it seemed the Russians wanted to keep on going west... And the Americans on the other hand did not like that sort of proposition. The 2nd bomb IMHO did the trick witouth firing a single shot.
First bomb, August 6, second bomb, August 9. Between the two bombs, a simple message of surrender could have been sent, but it wasn't...So, a second bomb.
People have to understand, in our entire existence, Japan had never surrender, that concept to us was worse than death and you don't have to be in the military to understood that. After the first bomb, a majority were still determine to fight to the death, though in the end, we had to swallow a lot more than our pride.
So sorry, but I disagree. You have to drop it on a heavily populated city to create maximum casualties. Only the destruction of tens of thousands of people with a single bomb could create the kind of impact to shake the hold the military hierarchy had over the nation. Read a book called "Japan's Longest Day".
It's not written by Americans, but by Japanese themselves. You will see that even with the second bomb, the military wanted to carry on fighting. But the bombs and the huge civilian casualties gave the peace faction the necessary leverage, and - more importantly - convince the Emperor that surrender was the only alternative.
You have to understand that the Japanese were not a rational people. Demonstrating the POTENTIAL of the bomb would not have worked. Only demonstrating the EFFECT of the bomb would.
As for the bomb in Nagasaki, it was only six days after that bomb, and nine days after the Hiroshima that the Japanese surrendered. In the meantime, the surrender demand of the Allies was politely ignored. The second bomb was absolutely necessary.
Don't blame the Americans for dropping the bomb. Blame the bull-headed Japanese military.
The only thing the 2nd bomb did, IMHO, was to speed up the outcome of the 1st bomb. 3 days is not enough time for the effects of the 1st one to have fully settled. Also the 2nd bomb would have been dropped to force the Japanese to an unconditional surrender, which the 1st one may not have done the trick.
I believe that the bomb did not only defeat Japan, but gave the US the stick big enough it needed to slow down/stop the Russians.
But this is quite a moot point really, as it is impossible to argue "what ifs" when it comes to history.
An invasion of the Japanese home islands would have likely resulted in (to parphrase an American General) the Japanese language only being spoken in hell.
An invasion and pacification of the islands would have required killing virtually every person on them (if the actions of both Japanese military and civillians on the smaller islands that we invaded were used as an indicator).
US casualties would have been high, at least initially.....but as they encountered less and less well armed, equipped and trained forces, it would have taken been a slaughter (I will leave the psychological implications of that on our forces to others).
Since the effects of nuclear weapons on people not killed in the blast were really mostly unknown (hence the experiments in the late 1940's and 1950's where troop concentrations were exposed to nuke tests); the US could have been using nukes to "soften up" major population centers prior to invasion or as a precursor bombardment prior to amphibious landings.
Most likely only a handful of Japanese would have remained alive at the conclusion of the campaign....presuming that the military was never held in check by the civillian leaders and ordered to stop "before the job was done".
Then throw in the wild card of the Soviets advancing into Japan from the north (they still control parts of the Bonin Islands as a part of their push into Japan late in the war). When Soviet and US forces met in Japan, would there be the same result as when they met in Germany ? Or would they run head long into one another and have the bullets keep flying ? Or would we end up with a divided Japan that would have added another front to the cold war ? (To say nothing of the volitile dimension that would have posed if the conflict in Korea still happened in '51 !)