Probably not. [1, 2]
As the table below shows, 67 Japanese cities had already been firebombed by the time the A-bombs were used. Neither of the A-bombs caused as much destruction as conventional American firebombing did, a technique they learned in Germany. From a strategic perspective, the A-bombs were neither new nor different. They were irrelevant. The Emperor of Japan's personal order of surrender didn't mention the atomic bombs. At all.
But how did we learn to firebomb? In Dresden and other German cities, Americans discovered that under the right conditions of temperature, humidity and wind, along with the right mixture of incendiary and explosives, entire city centers could be burned down.
For the bomb mix, we needed only to drop incendiaries that ignited on contact, along with high-explosives that had a 20 or 30 minute timer. The timer allowed time for local fire departments and ambulances to congregate around the burning buildings, where the high explosives would then detonate and destroy all the medical and fire personnel trying to administer humanitarian aid to survivors.
We deliberately targeted doctors, nurses and firefighters.
We targeted civilians, non-combatants, old people, women, children, in World War II.
Both the RAF and US bomber commands knew they were simply not hitting military targets. Between 50% and 93% of the time, the bombs didn't even hit within 1 to 5 miles of their military targets.
Bombing accuracy was so abominable that a 1941 British report stated that there was only a 22% chance of a bomber crew finding its way to within 5 miles of its target and for heavily defended targets in the Ruhr, the percentage dropped to 7%. Even late in the war, when radar use became widespread the specially modified “pathfinder” aircraft were used to mark targets with incendiaries; bombing accuracy had increased to a 50% chance of a bomb falling within a mile of its target.... strategic bombing was a failure.... even at the height of the bomber offensive in 1944, [German] armaments production actually increased.Curtis LeMay, head of US Strategic Bomber Command, knew he was committing war crimes:
As far as casualties were concerned I think there were more casualties in the first attack on Tokyo with incendiaries than there were with the first use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The fact that it's done instantaneously, maybe that's more humane than incendiary attacks, if you can call any war act humane. I don't, particularly, so to me there wasn't much difference. A weapon is a weapon and it really doesn't make much difference how you kill a man. If you have to kill him, well, that's the evil to start with and how you do it becomes pretty secondary. I think your choice should be which weapon is the most efficient and most likely to get the whole mess over with as early as possible.
Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time... I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.... Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier.
Even the US Air Force admits Hiroshima suffered only minor military damage:
"[Hiroshima suffered] slight industrial damage... Its shipping activities had virtually ceased by the time of the attack, however, because of sinkings and the mining of the Inland Sea....Though small workshops numbered several thousand, they represented only one-fourth of the total industrial production of Hiroshima, since many of them had only one or two workers. The bulk of the city's output came from large plants located on the outskirts of the city; one-half of the industrial production came from only five firms. Of these larger companies, only one suffered more than superficial damage. Of their working force, 94 percent were uninjured. Since electric power was available, and materials and working force were not destroyed, plants ordinarily responsible for nearly three-fourths of Hiroshima's industrial production could have resumed normal operation within 30 days of the attack had the war continued."In the pre-war years, the US condemned Japanese, Italian, and German aerial bombing of civilians. Despite this, the British deliberately bombed civilians in Germany. The Americans went one step further, and deliberately targeted civilians in Japan.
On 9 March 1945, 300 B-29s dropped half a million small incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital. The ensuing firestorm consumed 13 square miles of the city and killed an estimated 100,000 people. From this raid forward, American strategic bombing effort shifted from a Trenchard-Mitchell counter industry focus to a Douhet strategy based upon inflicting maximum damage on population centers (i.e. morale bombing).We called it "morale bombing" because "terror bombing" sounds kind of nasty. But, no matter what you call it, the effect was the same. In fact, due to LeMay's strategy of deliberately targeting the civilian population of Japan:
Between May and June 1945, Japan’s six largest cities fell to the torch of 20th Air Force B-29’s. By the end of the war in August, 58 of 62 Japanese cities with populations over 100,000 had been burned. In all, 178 square miles of urban area were razed amounting to 40 per cent of Japan’s total urban area. Twenty two million people, 30 per cent of the population, were rendered homeless. 2,200,000 civilian casualties were reported and over 900,000 fatalities were suffered, more than Japan’s combat casualties in the Pacific of 780,000.
Much has been written about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the devastation unleashed by atomic weapons. While revolutionary in nature, they added comparatively little damage in comparison to the amount of total damage inflicted on Japanese urban areas by the B-29 firebombing campaign.
|Name of firebombed Japanese city||City % destroyed||Equivalent in size to the following American City|
|Wakayama||50||Salt Lake City|