Fascinating article on the decision to drop Atomic bombd on two Japanese cities at the end of World War II. Some newly released documents shed light on Truman’s thinking. Notable:

But it is clear that all three of the critics’ central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved
the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood–as one analytical piece in the “Magic” Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts — that “until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies.” This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.

I’ve often wondered why we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki three days apart, and then waited six days for Japan to surrender. If we were willing to wait six days, why drop two bombs? This article doesn’t speak to this, but does say that “no one expected (Hiroshima) to prompt a quick surrender.” Odd. I would think one nuclear bomb would prompt anyone to surrender.

UPDATE: Just read the wikipedia entry for the bombings. Because of the way wikipedia works (anyone can write and edit), the site does a tremendous job offering the arugments of both supporters and critics of the bombings. The article briefly mentions the point about the second bombing but doesn’t offer any insight. Apparently Kurt Vonnegut made the same observation, so I’ve got that going for me.