This One Little Excuse Spared Kyoto From An Atomic Bomb

This One Little Excuse Spared Kyoto From An Atomic Bomb | World War Wings Videos

(Universal History Archive/Getty Images)


Hiroshima and Nagasaki have remained the only cities in history to have nuclear weapons used against them in war. They remained very isolated from conflict during WWII and were not quite the military targets everyone expected to hit. However, there were much more prominent cities to target in Japan so why did they get off without a scratch.

Tokyo was the biggest city in Japan but it had been leveled to the ground by B-29 bombing raids. With Tokyo off the list, it seemed likely that Kyoto would be the city where an atomic bomb could have the most significant impact. But, it was quickly removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry Stinson for an unusual reason.

“Kyoto was seen as an ideal target by the military because it had not been bombed at all, so many of the industries were relocated and some major factories were there.”

– Alex Wellerstein (Science Historian at Stevens Institute of Technology)

His position as Secretary of War allowed him to have control over the atomic bomb project and its intended targets. Prior to his time as Secretary of War, Henry Stinson served as Governor of the Philippines and was known to visit Japan occasionally. He actually spent his honeymoon in the city of Kyoto developed a fondness for the area. In essence, he claimed the city was too important of a cultural center to be attacked and if attacked would only result in the Japanese becoming communist sympathizers.

“The military didn’t want it removed so it kept putting Kyoto back on the list until late July but Stimson went directly to President Truman.”

– Alex Wellerstein (Science Historian at Stevens Institute of Technology)

It is ironic that Stimson would show sympathy for a Japanese city considering that he is one of the men who masterminded the internment of Japanese American citizens. So due to the Secretary of War’s sentimental nature, the city of Kyoto was never met with an atomic bomb.

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