LosingTheWar.doc

Axis secrets were being revealed not by spies or

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and up the hierarchies of command. Axis secrets were being revealed not by spies or resistance groups (despite their popularity in Hollywood, they’d proved largely useless in the high-tech environment of the war), but by another new ultrasecret gadget: the electronic computer. In this sense the Manhattan project was unremarkable. Maybe it was more ruinously expensive than any of the other projects, but it was just as speculative. The only thing that made it noticeable to the cognoscenti was that it didn’t produce any results. Month after month, year after year there was silence from that base in the desert. Maybe what they were after was impossible — after all, the project had been funded in the first place only because of frantic rumors early in the war that Nazi scientists were conducting similar experiments, and the Allies had since learned that the Nazis had dropped the idea as too difficult and improbable. But the U.S. project had its own momentum. By the summer of 1945 the Nazis had fallen, Europe was securely under martial law, and Hitler was missing and presumed dead somewhere in the wreckage of Berlin — only then did the Manhattan scientists inform their superiors that they were ready to test their weapon for the first time. If the war had been over by then the test might never have happened. But the Japanese still hadn’t surrendered. It seems obvious now that they must have been about to — their situation was hopeless, and they couldn’t have endured the overwhelming fury of the American firebombing raids much longer. But the Americans didn’t see it that way. The logic of the war had taught them to expect the exact opposite. Japanese soldiers had routinely responded to hopeless situations by fighting to the death and to the last man, and Japanese civilians throughout the Pacific had typically committed
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mass suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured. Their resistance had grown exponentially as the Americans approached the home islands. Why should anybody think it would break down now? The Americans still believed there was only one way they could put an end to the war: invade Japan and depose the emperor. Throughout the summer of 1945 they worked out the details. It would be a two-front invasion, like the one in Europe. The Soviet army, already massing on the Manchurian border, would in late summer move overland to the Chinese coast. The American forces, greatly augmented by the armies about to be transferred from Europe, would land on the southernmost of the home islands, Kyushu, and island-hop toward Tokyo. The American landing was scheduled for November 1, with the Russian landing to follow, and the whole campaign was expected to last through the following spring. Everybody knew it was going to be a nightmare — maybe the single most violent campaign of the war. The figure floating around the American planning sessions was one million Allied casualties. That seems preposterously high, but the planners were still in
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