If you were President Truman, would you rather have the US army invade Japan or just drop the bomb?

Is there a “Neither” option?

Wait, wait, wait, this isn’t a cop-out. I’m still answering the question.

I guess I would drop some bombs…. but not the Atomic bomb. No, I’m talking about a radically different sort of bomb…

Warning: Several Thousand Small, Furry Creatures were harmed in the making of this information

Before I come out and say it, what do a US Army Aifield, small flying mammals, and several tiny incendiaries have in common?

Project X-Ray.

Project X-ray, better known as the “Bat-Bomb,” was a canister around the size of a 250–500lb bomb with thousands of compartments, each containing one Mexican Free-Tailed Bat. These were no ordinary bats, however: each bat, capable of lifting almost three times its own weight, had a time-delay incendiary strapped to it. When the bomb was dropped, the canister fell open, the bats fell out, and each would fly out and roost in an attic, fuel storage facility, tree, et cetera. After a while, the time-delay would expire, triggering the incendiary, roasting the unfortunate bat and any objects that it happened to be around. In a sense, it’s the world’s first Cluster Bomb Unit with Smart capabilities.

The theory was, since Japanese houses and buildings often had large amounts of wood and paper involved in their construction, and since roosting bats were considered sacred, they could carry incendiaries into previously inaccessible locations and cause widespread fires.

The test results? It’s not only paper and wooden buildings that are susceptible to the Bat-Bomb; during the tests, errant bats roosted in the hangars and fuel storage facilities of Carlsbad Airfield, burning it, along with the mock-up “Japanese Village,” completely to the ground.

Later, it would be predicted that the Bat-bomb would, in larger numbers, cause around a thousand times more fires per bomb-load than regular incendiary devices currently used.

The project was cancelled when it was learned that it would most-likely not be ready until mid-1945, and there was already another “incendiary” believed to be capable of causing much more damage to cities: The Manhattan Project.

So, let’s compare:

Bat-Bomb Pros:

  • A much-less lethal weapon: unlike the Atomic Bomb, the fires resulting from the bats, while debilitating and destructive to morale and industry, do not vaporize everything in their blast radius
  • Much cheaper to produce, and able to be deployed in larger numbers, than their Atomic counterpart.
  • Bats do not leave radioactive fallout.
  • Bats do not usher in a new age of atomic fear.

Bat-Bomb Cons:

  • Very inhumane to the bats
  • If used en-masse, could have large ecological implications due to the depletion of bat populations
  • Not nearly as terrifying, morale-wise, as an Atomic Bomb

Atomic Bomb Cons/Pros (They’re all pretty much the same):

  • Incredibly lethal
  • Releases radioactive fallout
  • Ushered-in a new age of atomic fear
  • Incredibly Terrifying to all involved

I would far rather drop the bomb. Nearing the end of the war, Japan knew that there was no way to win. At this point the islands had amassed an enormous arsenal of aircraft, weapons, and soldiers. The entire country was mentally and physically preparing to fight the final battle- to the death. Every citizen, including women and children, was expected to fight and die for their country’s honor- and they were willing to. Though the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was sad and brutal, it was without a doubt the correct decision, not just for American troops, but for the people of Japan. Many millions more would have died in the event of an allied invasion.

If there is a hell, Truman is there along with Hitler, Churchill and Stalin. The Japanese were ready to negotiate a surrender in early 1945. The only sticking point was the post-war status of the Emperor. Should he remain as head of state? Since the Americans conceded this point anyway the A-bombing of Japan was wanton cruelty and criminality. As to an invasion, the Soviet entry into the war, destroying the Japanese army in Manchuria, combined with a U.S. naval blockade of Japan, would have forced a Japanese surrender in a matter of weeks without the need for “Operation Olympic-Downfall.”

Neither invasion of the Japanese mainland nor employing atomic weapons was militarily necessary for Japan’s capitulation. The US Joint Intelligence Committee reported in mid-April 1945 that Japan was actively seeking surrender terms and only sought assurance that they would retain their Emperor. By June 1945, Japan was utterly defeated and was being starved into submission by a completely effective naval and aerial blockage. There was not a single military target left on the Japanese mainland worth the fuel to send bombers to bomb it.

The above is the military opinion of every single top military commander of the US armed forces of World War II:

Admiral Frank Wagner, in charge of air search-and-patrol of all the East Asian seas and coasts. “… that in all those millions of square miles there was literally not a single target worth the powder to blow it up … .”

Brigadier Gen. Carter W. Clarke, commander of MAGIC intercepted cable summaries in 1945: “We brought them [the Japanese] down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”

Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff: “[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.”

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet: “”The atomic bomb played no decisive part … in the defeat of Japan.”

Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet: “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it.”

Rear Admiral L. Lewis Strauss, special assistant to the Secretary and later chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission: the use of the atomic bomb “was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion”.

Ernest J. King, commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of Naval Operations: “I didn’t like the atom bomb or any part of it.”

Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces: “The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell.”
 Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Arnold’s deputy: “Arnold’s view was that it [the dropping of the atomic bomb] was unnecessary. He said that he knew the Japanese wanted peace.”
 Major General Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the Twenty-First Bomber Command: “the atomic bomb ‘had nothing to do with the end of the war.’ He said the war would have been over in two weeks without the use of the atomic bomb or the Russian entry into the war.”
 General MacArthur’s pilot, Weldon E. Rhoades, noted in his diary: “General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster.”

Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, commander of psychological warfare on MacArthur’s staff: “Obviously . . . the atomic bomb neither induced the Emperor’s decision to surrender nor had any effect on the ultimate outcome of the war.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower when Secretary of War Stimson informed him the atomic bomb would be used: “… I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”


The Strategic Bombing Survey of Japan ordered by President Truman and completed in 1946 concluded the following:
 “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

(Pacific War)
1 JULY 1946


The question assumes flawed strictly binary thinking that is uninformed about the military history of World War II.

I think that the decisions we make should be assessed based on the circumstances at hand. Even with extensive study on the impacts of the choices we make, we can hardly predict the outcomes as there may be many factors affecting it.

The Japanese populace was strong-willed and deemed themselves as a proud race. The war was dragging on for too long and cities ravaged by wars needed to be rebuilt quickly for the sake of the people. The Allies needed a swift victory, whether by defeating the hardened soldiers on the land they were familiar with or by having the Japanese surrender.

The dropping of the atomic bomb was crucial in devastating the generals and the Japanese Emperor to believe that the war was too costly. Such a psychological impact will push them to surrender quickly and not put up a strong resistance which may even lead to greater casualties and destruction of properties on both sides of the war.

Perhaps it might have been easier on hindsight to detest that such an inhumane weapon of mass destruction was used. But who is to say that not using the atomic bombs will be better off for the people? Perhaps someone who can transverse through alternate timelines.

If I were President Truman in 1945 AND knew what I know now AND knew what he knew then, I might have made a different decision. But even now, nobody really knows what he knew then.

History is what it is. We can try to learn from it, but we can’t change what actually happened. Today, I see no excuse for the USA to ever use nuclear weapons again, not even in retaliation to a nuclear strike against us. We have better options available now that Truman would not have even imagined to be possible.

I would have a much easier time explaining why I ordered the atomic bombs to be used killing hundreds of thousands than explaining why I refused to use them and ordered the invasion of Japan killing millions.

Honestly, we do not have enough information to make a decision on that. We don’t know exactly what Truman knew.