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True, there *would* be more soldiers that would have died, but war is ugly. It’s messy. It is not that cut and dry. WWII was what is know as a Total War: *”warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, and justifies using weapons and tactics that result in significant civilian or other non-combatant casualties, whether collateral damage or not.”*
People would have died one way or another. Wether accidentally, wether on purpose, wether as a case of mistaken identity, whatever. Just look at all the Syrian civilians dying today, and we have more advanced precision technology nowadays than they could even dream of back then. And still the innocents die. Its an unavoidable consequence of literally any war, history will back me up on this.
Let me make something clear here: I am anti-war. I wish everyone would just get along. I want to see world peace more than you can imagine. Human nature however, seems to be dead set against that. A ground invasion of Japan would have been horrifically bloody, perhaps as bad as the invasion of Germany. The Japanese civilians would have formed ranks with the military to defend their country, the two would have been indistinguishable. Combine this with racism at the time (especially American xenophobia, see: Japanese internment camps) and I don’t find it far fetched *at all* to believe that soldiers would have made no great effort to distinguish between civilians and soldiers. “They’re just Japs boys, lets go get ’em.”
Dropping the bombs, they weren’t really concerned with Japanese lives, they just wanted to keep the surviving American men alive. Everyone was sick of the war. They had the chance to end it in one or two fell swoops. Send another ten million of your men to their death, fighting to force a surrender that would not happen without drastic actions, or kill 2% of that on the opposing side in the effort to force Japan to realize they were horribly outmatched. Up til that point, Japan had a history of repelling any attack on their soil. Any. Ever. They believed this time would be no different and the empire refused to surrender for that very reason (well, there were others, but that was a big one).
This was a case of minimizing casualties that likely would have happened anyways. The devil was offering two deals and heaven had closed up shop. They took the lesser of two evils.