While many argued that it was a mistake the attack happened anyway and the result was a punishment that had never been experienced before in the history of the world. The dropping of an atomic bomb changed the strategic thinking of Japan for the rest of history. Today, and for the past five decades the nation has spent its energies trying to be a friendly ally to America and Great Britain instead of trying to become more powerful than they are. It has focused its attention on technological development and assisting the world in moving forward and not on which nation has the most power, the most money or the best military forces. The strategy behind the attack on Pearl Harbor was founded in the fear of economic and trade threats. Now the nation addresses those fears through advances in technology and the sharing of those advances with the nations it used to fear.
HOW the BOMB CHANGED JAPAN'S STRATEGIC THINKING
The decision to drop a bomb was made and executed in 1945. Many believe it triggered the end of the war as the world realized the power America had and was willing to use. Strategically it produced a mindset change in the Japanese leader circle. The bomb dropping was strategic in that before this decision was made there was another plan to invade through Kyushu.
From mid-July onwards, Ultra intercepts exposed a huge military build-up on Kyushu. Japanese ground forces exceeded prior estimates by a factor of four. Instead of 3 Japanese field divisions deployed in southern Kyushu to meet the 9 U.S. divisions, there were 10 Imperial Army divisions plus additional brigades. Japanese air forces exceeded prior estimates by a factor of two to four. Instead of 2,500 to 3,000 Japanese aircraft, estimates varied between about 6,000 and 10,000. One intelligence officer commented that the Japanese defences threatened "to grow to the point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not the recipe for victory (Frank, 2005)."
Because America had to recreate American faith in its ability to protect its residents it had to be sure that any invasion of Japan or attack on Japan would be overwhelmingly successful.
It was important from a strategic standpoint as the world watched and wondered if a nation as tiny as Japan was actually able to attack the United States and get away with it. American officials had no choice but to develop a plan that would demonstrate to the world including the Soviet Union that America still considered itself the most powerful nation on earth even given the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When military intelligence told American officials that Japan had built up enough forces in Kyushu to fend off an attack or at least put up a fight that would make America look weak the leaders switched gears and instead decided to drop a bomb first on Hiroshima and then on Nagasaki.
This decision came on the heels of Truman being told by McArthur that he felt Japan was nearing the decision to surrender the war.
It was a now or never situation for American leaders. If they let this opportunity pass it would appear to the world that America could be attacked and there would be no long lasting or devastating repercussions for such a decision (Frank, 2005).
American leaders were aware of two things.
The first awareness was that Japan was fully prepared to defend Kyushu with so much military power the America troops may lose and if they did not lose there would be a significant cost involved with the decision invade.
The second thing that American leaders were conscious of was the fact that America still had not made an earth shattering impression to the world about what would happen if any nation ever again thought it could attack on American soil.
With the information and belief that Japan was readying to surrender the war American leaders had to move quickly or the window of opportunity would be forever lost. If a bomb was dropped following a surrender America would simply look like a bully, not a defensive action nation.
The decision to drop the bomb also brought a discussion that it would most likely prolong the war as Japan answered the attack by America, however, the real reaction instead was a surprisingly quick and peaceful surrender shortly after the bombs hit their targets.
For Truman the end of the war seemed at hand; the issue was no longer when the war would end, but how and on whose terms. If he believed that the war would end with Soviet entry in mid-August, then he must have realized that if the bombs were not used before that date they might well not be used at all (Alperovitz, 1995). "
The strategy behind the bomb was not solely about retribution for the attack, against Japan, but was about using that attack on Pearl Harbor to demonstrate to the world what America was capable of if any other nation had similar plan.
America will never forget the attack on Pearl Harbor, nor will the world ever forget the answer that Japan received for that attack. The development of nuclear war capabilities has been around for many decades yet nobody has pushed the button and brought them out for use. This could be due to what was witnessed when the atomic bomb landed in Japan and caused mayhem, mass destructions and countless deaths. The lesson learned by the world was that America would not sit quietly and accept military action on its own soil. The second lesson learned was that atomic bombs cause so much damage hat nations needed to agree not to use them ever again.
The strategy of Japan during its belligerence of 1941-1945 was based in its fear of being dominated by the West. Its decision to attack Pearl Harbor was based in its weakening military power and the decision to do it now or never style.
In the same manner just as Japan was about to surrender America decided to drop the bomb because the time to show the world its muscle was now or never in 1945. The strategy worked.
The Japanese have spent the past six decades working to be friends with America.
Alperovitz, Gar (1995) Hiroshima: historians reassess. (atomic bombing)
Honan, William (1991) Who Planned Pearl Harbor?;a British Expert Warned the World, but Only Japan Remembered.The Washington Post
Fallows, James (1991) the mind of Japan. (Japanese history) (Special Report: Pearl Harbor: 50 Years) (Cover Story) U.S. News & World Report
Frank, Richard (2005) Why Truman dropped the bomb: sixty years after Hiroshima, we now have the secret intercepts that shaped his decision.(Harry S. Truman)