15. Japan Might Have Gotten Nuked Because of a Translation Error
After World War II, a myth grew that the atomic bombing of Japan had been unnecessary because Japan had supposedly been on her last legs, and on the verge of surrendering at any moment. As the myth’s purveyors put it, all the Allies had to do was simply blockade Japan, and the Japanese government would have given in. There might have been something to that line of reasoning – if the war had been confined solely to Japan, where the Japanese could have been isolated in their home islands. Unfortunately, that was not the case: at war’s end, Japan still held an extensive empire in the Pacific and Asia, in which hundreds of millions were forced to endure a barbaric occupation. Additionally, millions of Japanese soldiers were still fighting Allied forces in China, Burma, and the Pacific.
Whether or not the Japanese homeland was blockaded, the war still went on beyond Japan. Also, the Japanese held hundreds of thousands of Allied POWs and subjected them daily to brutal treatment. In short, every day the war continued was another day in which millions suffered, and in which thousands more became casualties. From that perspective, America and her allies were not mistaken in treating Japan as a formidable foe who was causing serious harm every day, and would keep doing so until stopped. So the Allies dealt with Japan as a menace that needed putting down ASAP. However, a simple mistake in translation might have determined when and how the US went about putting Japan down and led to the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It might have been the most momentous translation mistake in history.