In the final days of WWII, the United States Navy was met with a ferocious resistance as it neared the Japanese mainland. The forces of Imperial Japan refused to submit and the US military leadership began weighing methods to force a surrender. The atomic bomb was the ace up their sleeve but the US Navy also considered a blockade and invasion of the Japanese mainland.
Many of the top US military leaders opposed the use of the atomic bomb, considering it to an inhumane method war so they debated alternatives to victory. An invasion of the Japanese mainland would have been difficult due to the superior numbers of the Imperial Japanese army. Even though the US military was better equipped for the attack the unfamiliar terrain was better suited for Japanese heavy vehicles. At this point, the concept of surrender was not in the minds of any Japanese soldier. A land conflict would result in millions of casualties on both sides.
The other option on the table was a US Naval blockade of Japan, by preventing access to resources. However, there were many problems with an Allied naval blockade of Japan. The ships would be put within striking range of kamikaze planes which put too many American lives in danger. Blocking resources would essentially just be starving the Japanese who were already in the midst of starvation after food rations were diverted away from civilians to military units. There was no telling how long a blockade would take to force a surrender of a nation that was willing to do whatever it took to achieve victory.
In the end, it took two atomic bombs and a declaration of war from the Soviet Union to put an end to Imperial Japan’s reign. Military History Visualized takes a look at some of the finer points in favor of and against an invasion of mainland Japan. After watching, do you still agree with the use of atomic bombs?