American bombers began dropping leaflets warning the Japanese that their entire population was in danger of starvation, and it was hardly an empty threat for a country that was largely dependent on food imports. The fact that the Japanese were losing their resolve became apparent on August 4, when Fifth Air Force pilots operating over Kyushu came back to report that white flags were being waved throughout the island. Two days later, the first atomic bomb exploded in the sky over Hiroshima.
Although popular myth relates that Japan surrendered because of the detonation of the atomic bombs, in reality the new weapons had little effect on an already demoralized population. This was partially due to the distances from the target cities to Tokyo. Most Japanese were only aware that a terrible new weapon had been detonated—few realized its importance. When President Truman promised a rain of destruction from the skies on Japan, he was addressing a country that had already been bombed into near oblivion. On August 14, the emperor addressed the Japanese people for the first time in history, telling them that the country was surrendering.
This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on Warfare History Network.
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