What Was The Alternative To Dropping The Atomic Bomb On Japan?

January 15, 2020 | No Comments » | Topics: History

operation downfall

The alternative to bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been Operation Downfall. Operation Downfall would be split into two parts: Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet.

Operation Olympic was scheduled for November 1st, 1945. It’s goal was the invasion of the southern part of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four Japanese main islands. It was to involve forty-two aircraft carriers, twenty-four battleships and over four-hundred cruisers, destroyers and destroyer escorts.

By comparison today’s US navy only consists of 271 deployable combat ships. Fourteen Army and Marine Corps divisions would have invaded the beaches. The Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces would have provided tactical air support for the troops on the beaches, with the Twentieth Air Force continuing their strategic bombing of Japanese infrastructure, in the hopes of slowing down the Japanese main counterattack.

Operation Coronet was scheduled for March 1st, 1946. Twenty-five Army and Marine divisions would have landed on two opposing beaches, with the plan being to take Tokyo in a large pincer movement. By comparison, the entirety of all American, Canadian and British forces landing on D-Day amounted to twelve divisions.

The Japanese also had some plans of their own. Operation Ketsugō would employ five thousand kamikaze aircraft. They planned to target the troop carriers ferrying troops to the beaches, which alone could have destroyed one third of the invasion force before it even arrived. They would also employ over four-hundred submarines and over two-thousand suicide boats to attack Allied transports. They also planned on using “human mines” – men in diving gear who would swim out and detonate bombs as the American transports passed overhead.

The Japanese moved one million soldiers to Kyushu. They also forced civilians into the fight, training women, schoolchildren and old men to kill Americans with muskets, longbows and bamboo spears. Casualty predictions varied widely but were extremely high for both sides. Depending on the degree to which Japanese civilians resisted the invasion, estimates ran into the millions for Allied casualties, and tens of millions for Japanese casualties.

Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the sixty years following the end of World War II—including the Korean and Vietnam Wars—have not exceeded that number.

The irony however, is that some plans for Downfall called for the usage of atomic bombs anyways. Numbers vary from seven up to twenty bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed either way, but they were planning on using the bombs on the beaches to soften up Japanese defenses as well. Considering the lack of knowledge about radiation at the time, the troops would be marching through the still glowing impact zone, possibly killing every single one of them.

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