What was Plan B if the Atomic Bombs Hadn’t Worked?

Even after the second atomic bomb was dropped at Nagasaki, and the Soviets entered the war, there was still no certainty that Japan would quit. What was Plan B? Were there more bombs being made, and how long would it take to get them? Would we invade the home islands? Did the US have a Plan B?

Gregory Taylor

? ? ?

Dear Gregory,

The atomic bombs were Plan B. Plan A was Operation Olympic, the projected invasion of Japan. After Nagasaki, it would have taken too long to create more nuclear weapons, but even conventional bombing had proven sufficient to ruin Japan’s infrastructure and exterminate its populace—the bombing of Tokyo on March 10, 1945 had killed 100,000 people in a single night. Moreover, as of August 9, 1945, the Japanese were not just facing the prospect of an Anglo-American invasion, but one by the Soviet Union, which even the most diehard Japanese fanatics had heavily counted on staying out of the Far Eastern war. Bombs or no bombs, when the Soviets entered the war as promised at Potsdam, shredded the largest Japanese army on the Asian continent in a matter of days, and began making preparations to land in the Kuriles, all but the most insane Japanese knew it was over. There was no need for a Plan C.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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3 Responses

  1. Alastair

    With Hiroshima and Nagasaki the USA had fired off the entire nuclear arsenal. Another 6 atomic bombs would have been available in 1946.

    As a student of military history, I am of two minds about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am appalled at the terrible loss of life both at the time and since then due to radiation effects. The total I believe may be several hundred thousand.

    On the other hand the invasion of the Japanese main islands was scheduled for the spring of 1946. Military planners were already well aware that the Japanese defense would be desperate and deadly. The official Japanese slogan of the day was “90 million die together”. The Allied planners were preparing for 6 million casualties in the invasion. It was estimated that 2 million of those would be deaths.

    It must have been a heart wrenching decision for Truman to have to make. Remember that he had available only those two bombs. Another six would be available in 1946. He may very well have made the right decision based on the lesser of two evils proposition.

    What Truman did not know, and is still little known today, is that the Japanese nuclear program was well advanced and was not years behind but only a few weeks behind. Their main research and development facility was located in what is now North Korea at Project Z. There is evidence that the Japanese actually conducted a successful nuclear test in the Sea of Japan off the coast of North Korea on the day before the Emperor intervened and forced the Japanese surrender.

    Interestingly enough, Project Z fell into the hands of the Russian occupiers of North Korea and Russia was a nuclear power within a few short years.

  2. SuperPaulion.

    The third bomb would have been available for sometime in September 1945. The Hiroshima bomb wasn’t enough, considering the fact that the Japanese government had miscalculated that we only had one bomb left. So they thought they should continue on with the war as usual and pretend that the entire thing does not happen. It must been a bothersome to the Japanese government, because they could not believe that we had a weapon that could wage destruction on every square inch of the path with a blink of an eye. The codebreakers found out what just had happened, and was pretty shocked that one bomb wasn’t enough to smash them instantly and tipping them over the edge to the point they give up the fight. So the second bomb was dropped on Japan and now that put Japan in a great state of fear of not just further destruction but the display of overwhelming power of the nuclear weapons that would have inflicted on them. The Japanese had to be put to the very halt, considering its forces were killing tens of thousands of people every day of the week by the time of the atomic bombings.

    If I were in Truman’s position, I would have done the same thing as he did. Using whatever necessary means of disposal in order to overpower the enemy and save millions of lives under my command. Not one of my soldiers should have their intestines blown out, his guts spilling out, and screaming for his life in the cold dirty beach, when we had a weapon that could put an end to all of that.

    The blame for the nuclear attacks laid on the feet against those who attacked and killed 2,403 innocents at Pearl Harbor especially without warning, against those who starved and beaten and killed millions of innocents during the Pacific War, against those who deliberately ignore the international laws of warfare, and against those who could have ended the war early by signing a piece of paper instead of going on with the war and let their own people die by the thousands around them.


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