Talk:Japanese nuclear weapon program/Archive 1

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Genzai bakudan

I removed this from the article. I'm about 99.99% sure this isn't a real Japanese word. It is repeated in English articles on the net, and seems to have originated from a newspaper article: which also makes lots of mistakes. See the discussion on google groups for more. --DannyWilde 05:12, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Hmmm... in this case maybe we should include the wrong word as (sometimes incorrectly called Genzai bakudan)? Thanks for the update! -- Chris 73 Talk 07:34, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
I thought of doing that but I wasn't sure where to put it in the article, so I just removed it from laziness. Please edit a note as you see fit. --DannyWilde 08:38, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
Done. Feel free to change it if needed, and thanks for the quick response. Happy editing -- Chris 73 Talk 09:25, 7 October 2005 (UTC)


I think we should change this article to "Japan and weapons of mass destruction," and add a bit about chemical and biological weapons in the past or present. Since I am unqualified to discuss this topic, i request someone with knowlege to do this.

Tony Cheng, Aug 25, 2005.

This page gives way too much credit to a theory -- that they actually developed a bomb -- which is completely disputed in all modern scholarly literature. This page needs to be about the primary view -- that the program was in a very primative stage, no reactors, no mass spectrometers, nothing except a single lab or so working on it -- and mention the conspiracy theory that they made one and detonated it towards the end, and then demark it as having very little truck among people in the know. Until then, I'm going to insist on a disputed tag, this is really misleading. --Fastfission 14:47, 6 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have significantly reduced the claims, and now they are listed as disputed wherever they are mentioned. Would this be acceptable for you to remove the Dispute tag? Please let me know. -- Chris 73 Talk 11:36, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC)
No, I don't think so. These claims have no place in an encyclopedia article on this topic. I think the dispute tag should remain in place until all mentions of this anecdote about a test explosion are removed. --Eric Forste 04:52, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I would object the removal of the anecdote. While it is doubtful that it happend, it should not be removed but

instead presented as... well... doubtful. I reworded the intro again, as there seems to be some uncertainty about the size of the program in general. I used a statement similiar to text from the FAS website. (Note: I am not Japanese, and this is not an issue of national pride for me, I am also unrelated to the book authors) -- Chris 73 Talk 01:11, Dec 26, 2004 (UTC)

I did not remove the anecdote from the article (even though this is an encyclopedia article in which such things have no place). I did, however, remove mention of the anecdote from the opening paragraph of the article, and you immediately restored that. In my personal opinion, extensive discussion of an isolated anecdote that is generally rejected by most scholars working in the field of history of technology doesn't even belong in the article at all. It most certainly does not merit any mention in the opening paragraph. I looked at the FAS website, and it confirmed that the Japanese program never isolated enough uranium-235 to make such a device, and never succeeded in manufacturing any plutonium at all. I pointed out these two facts in my version of the introductory paragraph, but you immediately removed my mention of these two facts. I do object to your removal of salient facts which you do not seem to be disputing and have no direct counterreferences for. I'd really like to see this article brought up to quality so we can remove the disputed tag. As the article stands, the disputed tag must stay in place. Eric Forste 06:24, 26 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I added the info about the lack of uranium-235 again to the intro, since it is better with the comment (My mistake, sorry). Now only one sentence mentions the testing reports, with the credibility listed as isolated and disputed report. I definitely appreciate your contributions, and this article was also on my "to fix" list basically since i wrote it. Do you like the new intro better? -- Chris 73 Talk 07:50, Dec 26, 2004 (UTC)

Just curious if our brave skeptic on this page would consider the WW2 Japanese atomic bomb program to be "primitive" if it could be documented that it managed to produce at least one (and probably more than one) working warhead design. What?!? Yes, boys and girls, you can see this in at least two mainstream and one "fringe" source. Mainstream: 1) google the following: "atomic plans returned to japan". 2) See also the Japan Times article "Japan's Wartime Atomic Bomb Still A Long Way Off in '45"---although of course I disagree with the headline's premise. For the supposedly "fringe" source, go to and look up the article "Japan's Atomic Bomb", which is based on the recollection of an Occupation-era US soldier who claims to have known an OSS officer who showed him diagrams of a Japanese warhead. (Note: Leon Thompson, the soldier interviewed in this article, made two mistakes. First, the cargo of the German submarine U-234 was uranium, not plutonium. Second, he echoes a rumor planted by a downed B-29 crewman that Tokyo would have been the their atomic target when it fact it would have been Kokura. Kokura was the primary target of the second mission, which flew on to Nagasaki due to cloud cover---and maybe artifically produced fog!---over the target. However, it is noteworthy that the rest of his recollection squares with the research conducted by the Derek de Solla Price-Deborah Shapley-Robert Wilcox camp and NOT the leftist apologetics of the John Dower camp.)

The real roots of the controversy over this issue go back to the differing assessments of the progress of Japan's WW2 atomic weapons research that were offered up by the two US bureaucratic entities charged with investigating that progress. They were: the Scientific Intelligence Survey, an organ of the US State Dept, and the Atomic Bomb Mission, which was attached to what was then known as the Manhattan Engineer District and thus was the Japanese version of the earlier "Alsos" European atomic intel mission. The Survey, headed by President Truman's closest science advisor, Dr. Karl Compton, asserted "Japanese science was poorly organized for the war effort" and really wanted nothing to do with the peristent reports that something much more significant might have happened. The Mission, however, was never quite so sure than Japan had not made a lot more progress towards a bomb than was commonly thought. The Occupation years saw a similar pattern repeated over and over. A report indicating more advanced Japanese weapons development would surface, Mission personnel would go ballistic, they would then call in all the Japanese scientists and related experts they could find, they would question them, sort-of-conclude that everything was okay, and then go back to business as usual until the next alarm went off. The first example of this pattern was of course the destruction of the five remaining Japanese cyclotrons by Occupation forces on 22 November 1945, an event alluded to above. Certainly an extreme measure if there was no uncertainty over the state of Japanese weapons research, no? You can read Robert Wilcox's supposedly "sensationalistic" (but definitely not) book, Japan's Secret War to see additional examples of the confused and disjointed attempts by US Occupation intelligence to get a true picture of Japan's atomic weapons reasearch.

When one is investigating the Snell story, it is of course noteworthy that his is the only Western source to date that claims Japan actually test-fired its own atomic bomb. But it is also noteworthy that the trend of scholarship about the Japanese bomb programs is definitely this: the further we go in time, the bigger their programs get and the closer they came to a weapon (so to speak). In other words, immediately after the war, the official line at first was, "Well, the Japanese had a couple of bright guys, but their science was nowhere close to a weapon and there was no threat of a Japanese bomb." (See for example, the New York Times piece pooh-poohing Snell's article that ran the day after Snell's story ran in the Atlanta Constitution. The Pentagon trotted out their M.I.T. "expert" in order to lend credence to the spin-doctoring.) Later on, in the early 1960s, Yale University professor Derek de Solla Price, with his Japanese graduate student, Eri Yagi, investigated the story and went so far as to publish a letter in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in which he made a public call for more information. Predictably, the silence was deafening. Price, by the way, was one of the true intellectual giants of the 20th century, most definitely NOT a "fringe" figure. He went on to write the introduction to Wilcox's book, just prior to his death, in 1985.

When Deborah Shapley published her 1978 Science magazine article, "Japan's Wartime Nuclear Weapons Projects Revealed", the spin-doctoring coming from US and Japanese government and academic officialdom changed a little. Now it was, "Well, they had a couple of bright guys, and they did some preliminary work towards a weapon, but they had very limited facilities, they never produced any weapons-grade material, and there was never any threat of a Japanese bomb". This line persisted even after Wilcox's book, despite his documentation of greater-than-previously-acknowledged nuclear cooperation between Germany and Japan. The Federation of American Scientists, by the way, certainly NOT any kind of "fringe" organization, agrees that there are "indications" of nuclear co-operation between the two biggest Axis powers. (There were in fact at least six attempted submarine missions mounted during the War, and probably many more than that. There was a History Channel History Undercover documentary that ran in July 2003 in which a Japanese official whose name I can't recall just now said there were 3 Japanese boats that made it to Germany but were supposedly sunk on the way back to Japan. There is also a story with related pictorial in the Time-Life WW2 series documenting numerous rendezvous between German and Japanese subs in the Indian Ocean.)

In the mid 1990s, still more information emerged that definitely showed greater-than-previously-acknowledged progress. In 1995, Tatsusaburo Suzuki called a press conference in Tokyo at which he said the Japanese had actually managed to produce a small amount (he said it was 11 pounds) of highly enriched uranium. Certainly this was nowhere near enough for a working gun-type warhead---the American Little Boy weapon had nearly 200 pounds of 80-85% HEU---but again, notice the trend: the Japanese bomb program(s) keep getting bigger, and they keep getting closer to a weapon.

In 2002, the widow of Japanese wartime chemist Kazuo Kuroda came forwad in America with a copy of a Japanese warhead design that dates from 1943. This gives the lie, yet again, to the "conventional" wisdom of people like John Dower, who likes to say things like "the Japanese never progressed to the stage of actually working seriously on the theory of the bomb itself". Wrong.

The picture that emerges is, Japan had the necessary science to produce a true supercritical detonation warhead. The Germans, we now know from the release of the previously-classified Farm Hall recordings, did not. (German scientists apparently did not understand the difference between the slow-neutron reaction, as found in power plants, and the fast-neutron reaction, as found in weapons.) However, the Germans did have plenty of uranium, or at least, uranium ores and oxides. FAS says the cargo of U-234 was uranium oxide, but I am aware of at least one source that documents statements by German crewmen that they saw "U-235" labels on the uranium containers and that they were lined with gold for fear of a chain reaction. Consider also that the same History Channel documentary mentioned earlier contains testimony by a Manhattan Project logistics officer---a certain Major whose name I likewise can't remember while I am typing this on my work computer---that the uranium captured by the US from U-234 was used in the Little Boy Hiroshima bomb. If this is so---and that controversy has likewise been raging for years---I wonder if even the massive separator plants at Oak Ridge, TN, could have processed the nearly half a ton of captured, supposedly non-weapons grade "uranium oxide" in time to make it into Little Boy's core? In other words, if the cargo of U-234 was NOT already HEU, could the Oak Ridge plants have separated the U-235 from the uranium oxide in only two months? U-234 was captured in May, 1945, and Little Boy was assembled on Tinian in early August. Allowing for transport time from the East Coast port where the sub was interned, then loading and processing at Oak Ridge, then trans-shipment across the US and onto the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, was there enough time for "uranium oxide" to become 80-85% HEU? I doubt it, given that the production capacity of Little Boy bombs was 2-4 per year, and that another Little Boy weapon would not have been available until December 1945. (Four months after the first one.) The conclusion, IF all of the above is true, is that the cargo of U-234 was already at least partially-enriched U-235. There are two implications, both of them at odds with commonly accepted liberal academic orthodoxy: first, that Germany's atomic program was NOT only an attempt at making a plutonium bomb through construction of breeder reactors. Second, that Japan and Germany did the logical thing, which was to mate Japan's more advanced nuclear weapons physics with Germany's more abundant uranium.

The most doubtful aspect of the Snell story is the separator angle. That is, even on the Price-Shapley-Wilcox side of the argument---where I also am, obviously---it is doubtful that Japan alone possessed enough of an industrial infrastructure to successfully produce enough HEU to enable them to finish at least one atomic bomb by August 1945. Therefore, the clandestine nuclear co-operation between Japan and Germany is where one must look in order to find out definitively how far Japan got. Unless there really WAS a crash end of the war weapons program in Korea, in which case the Russians are likely the only ones who still possess any documentation, and they aren't talking. On that score, it is noteworthy that the Korean Hungnam industrial complex was the mightiest in all of Asia during the War, it was captured almost intact by the Russians, and it produced heavy water after the War that was carried back to the USSR by submarine. It is also documented that many Hungnam activities were bureaucratically camouflaged as "jet fuel factories", something the Germans are known to have done with their own abortive nuclear efforts.

As for the V-2, it is true that the usual warhead was about a ton or so of high explosive. However, it does not necessarily follow that it could not have lifted a heavier load because the thrust-to-weight ratio of that missile was so great. The V-2, it should be noted, was the highest flying man-made object ever produced until Sputnik made it into orbit 12 years later.

There is much more information available on this subject, but I hope this will do for starters. See also my article, "The Japanese Bomb and Why It Matters" from the May-June 2004 edition of the Cold War Times. See also the excellent discussion on under the thread, "Atomic Plans Returned to Japan".

"Fringe theory"? Hardly.


William J. Pellas Louisville, KY, USA

You're wrapping a number of things into one big pile of nonsense, I'm afraid. The "plans" for the bomb were no doubt primitive as there is little evidence that the Japanese had hard data on critical mass measurements. I'd be interested in seeing them, though.
But regardless -- the fact is that a "plan" for a bomb is not anywhere near the same thing as an actual bomb. And there are many different types of "plans", different amounts of detail, calculations, etc., at that, and without additional evidence I think it would be pretty ridiculous to assume that the Japanese had what we might call a "workable" plan in a strict sense, considering the amount of infrastructure and testing required by the US program to progress from the "idea-plan" stage to the "engineer-plan" stage. Years of testing at dozens of sites around the US were required. Such progress or commitment is not reflected in any estimates of the Japanese program. All of this is still without inquiring about the production of fissile material, which seems to have been nil.
And sorry -- without documentation of some sort, hard historical facts, I just don't trust the recollections of military officers. Why? I don't know who they are, I don't know what their agenda is, I don't know their mental state, I don't know whether they were lied to, I don't have any way to confirm it. So we've got to just drop all anecdotal evidence out the back door unless we've got something "hard" to correlate it against. And every bit of hard evidence seems to decidely not correlate against such an interpretation.
One of the key logical flaws I think you are making is in understanding each member of the occupying force to understand what was a very new technology and science at that time. The destruction of the Japanese cyclotrons was performed by GIs and officers who had a marginal idea about their utility or lack-thereof in weapons work, and was protested by many of the weapons scientists. Who do you think had a better idea about their worth -- the Army men (who had only learned of the bomb a week or two before), or the men who spent the last five years actually making the bomb? Again, your "History Channel" sources fall into the same category.
The other "facts" brought up have the same logical holes as talked about a thousand times before (whether the uranium on the German boat was U-235 or not, whether the V-2 was in any way related). Here's an idea: if the idea was that they should mix German uranium with Japanese "plans", why didn't the Japanese just send the Germans their plans? Which is easier to transport: blueprints or uranium? The "program gets bigger" theory doesn't hold up either; the program, whatever more information is known, is still well below the threshhold for anything workable. If you put the German programs and Japanese programs together, at their highest credible estimates, you still are nowhere near the level of something like the Manhattan Project in terms of funding, infrastructure, scientific commitment, etc. This fact alone lays the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of anyone who claims that they could have achieved analogous results.
Lastly, "fringe" is not a marker which talks about the accuracy of information. It talks about the ways in which the source of the information is connected to respectable and reliable communication networks (whether they be of scientists, historians, etc.). I regret to inform, your theory is still "fringe". I have to admit I find it a bit cute the way you label yourself a "historian" on your web page though you seem to only have a bachellor's degree and have self-published one book. Keep up the good work, bucko, you and your "think tank" included. In the meantime, don't expect to be taken too seriously without real footnotes, and realize on an intuitive level that great claims require great proof. There's no conspiracy here -- if I could prove the Japanese had a bomb, let me tell you, I'd (a decidely "not fringe" sort of fellow) jump on that in a snap. --Fastfission

Regarding the Japanese cyclotrons: it is true that even if they had been dedicated specifically to U-235 separation, their rate of production would have been miniscule. The cyclotron-derived Calutron, the brain child of Cal-Berkeley's E. O. Lawrence, was much larger than the Japanese machines and was produced in greater numbers. It is unlikely that Japan ever actually used its cyclotrons in an effort to produce HEU, although they certainly did use them to measure the neutron fission cross-section of uranium. (See Richard Rhodes for a good discussion on the problems the Japanese faced with their cyclotrons.)

However, there is another intriguing possibility. G-2 and OSS reports document a great deal of thorium mining by Japan during the war. By war's end, Japan had more thorium on hand than uranium. They may have had in mind to use their cylcotrons to bombard Thorium-232 in order to produce Uranium-233, another highly fissile isotope. I hasten to add that there is no evidence of which I am aware at this time that the cyclotrons were actually employed this way, but the fact that Japan was mining thorium---lots of it---may mean that this route to a bomb was at least considered. This is discussed, with citations, by another author on the thread, "Atomic Plans Returned to Japan" if anyone is curious.

  • Possibilities hold a lot less weight than evidence around here. Even running a full-time thorium bombardment with five cyclotrons would likely not produce enough uranium for any sort of practical use. There is no debate that the Japanese had a program but is seems to have been generally in a simple research phase, never moving into a mass-production phase. It is worth recalling again that the most difficult and expensive aspect of the Manhattan Project was also production, never research. --Fastfission 20:36, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Now, Fastfission, you are obviously an articulate fellow, but you are committing at least two rhetorical / logical errors in your argument against Mr. Wilcox. You state that you will give him more credit when the (presumably expert but maybe not) "mainstream" decides to recognize him and the work he has done. Surely you are aware that to make such a statement is to commit the rhetorical fallacy of "Appeal To Authority", right? The fact that the supposedly expert "scholarly mainstream" generally does not give a lot of weight to Wilcox's work does not necessarily mean that his work is in error. The "scholarly mainstream" has failed in endless instances in the past to give a lot of weight to a lot of people who turned out to be quite correct. This brings us to your second error, the fallacy of "Alleged Certainty". Simply asserting that "everybody knows" the Japanese program(s) were small, disjointed research operations with little or no HEU production capacity is not sufficient to put to rest the possibility that they had much more of such capacity than is usually acknowledged.

Further, if you want to argue "Duelling Experts", it would be harder to find a more famous and indisputably brilliant mind on this subject (or any other) than the late Professor, Derek de Solla Price. HE thought there was more than enough evidence to conclude that not only did Japan try to build and deploy atomic bombs against the US during WWI, but also that they came much closer to succeeding than most would like to believe. De Solla Price, who wrote the introduction Wilcox's book, was already famous for his critique of the scientific scholarly establishment and for his researches into the Antikythera Mechanism. Guess he was just a crackpot outside the mainstream, too, right? How about the CIA? Are you aware that America's top foreign intelligence bureau says in its history of the North Korean atomic program that its earliest roots are to be found in a WWII Japanese centrifuge that was located in Korea? Is the CIA also outside the mainstream?

David Snell, the journalist who wrote the Atlanta Constitution article on which Wilcox's later work is based, was certainly no crackpot, if his resume and professional affiliations are any indication.

So, the story is not so easily dismissed as you would perhaps like to think.

It's not "appeal to authority," it's "peer review." I'm appealing to the community of established historians. Which, aside from being an easy form of demarcation between fringe and mainstream, is in accordance to Wikipedia policy. Wikipedia is not a place for fringe theories or for giving too much attention to unsupported versions of historical accounts. There are plenty of conspiracy theory websites out there with a far less rigorous standard.
Also, if you have ambition to be a serious historian -- or at least a historian who will be taken seriously -- you really ought to learn a bit more about evaluating sources. Claiming that Snell's account should be taken seriously -- despite the many places it diverges from the entire other body of historian record and that it does not provide any evidence for its massive claims -- is a fairly ridiculous appeal to authority on your own part, and makes you look a bit desperate to prove a point. Snell provided no documentation, no proof, and none of what he said has been substantiated by mainstream scholars. Great claims require great proof, and all of the other work on the Japanese program is well cited and well supported. Unlike Wilcox, unlike Snell. If you're going to really try and make something of this, you ought to try getting serious about it. Get real facts, not conjectures. Don't tie together things with wisps of logic. Acknowledge the problems in the theory. Etc. You're not there yet, and neither is Wilcox, and that's why nobody thinks you're correct. Because you haven't given anything convincing.
I deal with people and their conspiracy theory versions of history on here fairly often. Everybody thinks they've uncovered something massive, something the mainstream historians have dismissed and ignored or have a conspiracy to conceal. Right. Academic historians usually go with whatever is well documented. Again, it would be lovely to have proof for a well developed Japanese program -- it would be quite a find! But the proof's just not there, and your bits of circumstantial evidence just don't add up against the loads of evidence that the program was small and unsuccessful. But "proof" aside, it doubly doesn't matter because Wikipedia is not the place for "breaking research" (see Wikipedia:No original research) -- it is an encyclopedia, a place for the tried-and-true, the reliable, the basic, the bland, the mainstream. Love it or hate it, that's the mission here, so that's what we do. Why don't you start your own Wiki, and then you and Robert Wilcox can write whatever you want, without the slightest hestitation? It would be a better use of your time than arguing on here with me. I'm not going to trust anything that's not been published in a peer reviewed journal or by a peer reviewed university press, sorry -- there are just too many crackpots in the world. --Fastfission 01:24, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I did not, not once, not ever, in my postings on this site use the term "conspiracy". That is your word, Fastfission, not mine. I certainly have suggested that there are many in the so-called "scholarly mainstream" who have a vested interest in downplaying anything that points to a WWII Japanese atomic bomb program. I hardly think that the evidence I have posted here amounts to "flimsy" and "circumstantial", especially not when most of it comes from eyewitnesses and living memory and primary source documents. You claim to have respect for history and for the historical scholarly process, but disregard first hand testimony because "you can't trust their motives". So, you don't trust the motives of the eyewitnesses, whereas I don't trust the motives of corrupt academic bureaucrats. I'll take my chances with the eyewitnesses and with other sources I have judged to be reliable and worthy of attention. A final time: the sources I have cited include, but are not limited to: the BBC, the Associated Press, the CIA, the OSS, the Suitland Archives, Alcazar de Velasco, Derek de Solla Price, Deborah Shapley, Robert Wilcox, David Snell, Tatsusaburo Suzuki, Kazuo Kuroda, the Riken Institute, and many others. You may of course choose to disregard them if you wish. I think that there is at the very least an awful lot of smoke for there to have been no fire. Again, further investigation is certainly merited. You really should read Wilcox before throwing him under the bus.

Your abhorrence for my reliance on mainstream scholarship smacks of conspiracy theories, and I'm not sure how your notion that mainstream scholars are "in bed with various interests" can be read as anything but a conspiracy theory ("corrupt academic bureaucrats" as well). Frankly I think you have little understanding of how the historical profession operates and what their goals and motivations are. There's more money, fame, and attention to be made in coming up with something provocative than there is in toeing the line for an official story, and the number of people involved in varied enough that there can hardly be said to be any sort of homogenous political or ideological agenda. Your feeling that proof comes in the number of sources cited reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of sourcing (quantity is certainly not what matters, and listing agencies tells nothing of what you cited and how you used it, whether you reached beyond the limits of what the sources said, etc.). The fact that you dismiss the scholarly profession as some sort of keystone cop conspiracy is sad to say the least, and seems to indicate that you will never get very far in convincing anybody but crackpots of your views. My advice: get serious. --Fastfission 03:01, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Fastfission. You are right. It doesn’t matter that you doubt me. But it does matter that you are able to post statements that are wrong and come from someone who has obviously not even read the book or digested the work that is smugly impugned. You say my book “seems to have been ignored by the scholarly community.” If you had opened even the first pages you would have seen that the lengthy preface was written by Professor Derek deSolla Price, the renowned scholar of the History of Science, the field in which you hope to get your Ph.D. Price was the Chair of the Yale University department encompassing the histories of science, technology and medicine and has been called the “father of scientometrics.” He was a giant in his field and the one who urged me to write my book because he believed that there was much hidden from scholars such as himself about what the Japanese accomplished in their World War II atomic bomb project. I would never have gone ahead with the project had he not urged me to do so. But there were few acknowledged as good as he in the field so I went ahead. He was the main one, not me, who made in my book what you call the “provocative claims...not supported by any evidence.”

No evidence? Lets take the controversial part of my book, the possibility that the Japanese may have moved their faltering atomic bomb project to Hungnam, Korea, in light of the fact that they were moving everything they could to that peninsula where industrial might (including 3 1/2 million kilowatts of power concentrated in one place - Hungnam), mineral resources and factories were abundant and not being attacked by B-29s. (The area was called the “Muscle Shoals” of Asia in OSS reports I have.) Does the top secret report of the head of G-2 intelligence to the occupation in 1946, Col. Cecil W. Nist, count as evidence? It says in part, “Of increasing interest have been recent reports about an apparent undercover research laboratory operated by the Japanese at...Hungnam. Many of the reports are from Japanese who formerly held positions in this company. And these reports, received separately, are surprisingly uniform as to content...All reports agree that research and experiments on atomic energy were being conducted in a section of the Hungnam plant...Further reports state that the actual experiments on atomic energy were conducted in Japan, and the Hungnam plant was opened for the development of the practical application of atomic energy to a bomb or other military use...It is felt that a great deal of credence should be attached to these reports...”

This is one of some 15 top secret documents I found that specifically state that US intelligence believed that some sort of Japanese atomic bomb project was going on at Hungnam. I found most of these specific documents in boxes in the National Archives. They had been hastily packed up by military officials when the occupation of Japan ended in the early 1950s and shipped back to the US to stay unopened until I, as the first researcher to get them declassified, was given access.

No evidence? Do you, Fastfission, consider formerly top secret “Magic” intercepts evidence? Do you know what “Magic” was? It was our super secret interception and decryption of Japanese military dispatches. It is one of the primary reasons we won the Pacific War. It figured heavily in the Battle of Midway victory. Here is a portion of Magic Far East Summary SRS 508, which I found in the National Archives and which was dispatched by the Japanese on August 10, 1945 - days AFTER the atomic bombing of Hiroshima: “Researches into the atom, Uranium 235, are being (or possibly will be) conducted at the Tokyo Imperial University under Army supervision and at the Kyoto Imperial U under Navy supervision. (Words missing) have not gone beyond the limits of theory. At (place missing), about five months ago, research was made into the (practical) application of Uranium 235, but no announcements have been made since then. However, it is believed that research into the (word missing) of the atom has been completed and (words missing) research into this is considered to be of considerable value. It is believed that it is essential that this be completed immediately.”

Yes, its the military talking about atomic physics so they are not precise or as erudite as you. And there are key words missing. But they are saying that the project continues even after Nishina’s Rikken laboratory was destroyed in early 1945, which is the time the scholars you refer to so often feel the Japanese nuclear program died. Where this is going on is unfortunately missing from the intercept. But it, Nist’s G-2 reports, the exodus to Korea, and other documents and information I uncovered - some of which I’ll go on to tell you about - coincide with David Snell’s explosive interview with a Japanese security officer who said the Japanese navy was working on an atomic bomb at Hungnam, Korea. Snell’s was only the first of such reports. He was a very respected journalist but I’m not saying what the Japanese officer reported happened. Neither was Snell. He was just reporting. And in SECRET WAR I’m reporting on what I found and what US intelligence was learning. I’m not claiming anything beyond amassing these considerable and basically uniform reports and logically asking the questions they pose. There is a difference. Read the book. But lets go on with your March 25 post’s opening statement that the more “provocative claims” in my book are “not supported by any evidence.”

No evidence? What a foolish thing to write. The standard history of the Japanese atomic bomb effort - the one that most scholars who have not researched it believe, and the one which you, Fastfission, continually allude to in impugning my book and me - is that the program all but died when Nishina’s army project at the Rikken was heavily bombed. That is false. The Japanese effort actually picked up steam. After Nishina’s lab was destroyed, his work, six improved (from what Nishina had made) thermal diffusion uranium gas separators, and Col. Tatsusaburo Suzuki, under direct orders from the Japanese Premier, were detailed to the Japanese navy for a stepped up program. Of course, many others were detailed too. Read Suzuki or interview him. I did both. (Actually, you're too late. He died. But he did leave papers and published interivews.)The navy was nearly out of ships and planes by this time and was becoming desperate for win-the-war weapons. The stepped up navy program was headed by Professor Bunsaku Arakatsu of Kyoto University - or at least that's the extent of the information we have now. Arakatsu was a friend and pupil of Einstein. Hediki Yukawa, who would later win the Nobel Prize, was his theoretician. These were very good men. After the war, the military sent in investigators to find out what happened. This was after a science mission headed by Dr. Karl Compton had been duped into thinking that Nishina’s program was the zenith. I have the complete military mission report. It was declassified in 1995. In an interview with Navy Commander Tetsugo Kitagawa, it talks about 100 kilograms of uranium oxide given to Arakatsu for “experimentation” in April or May 1945, and 100 million yen paid to Shanghai black marketeers alone by the navy for 500 kilograms of uranium oxide. That equates to approximately $25 million WWII dollars, much more than Nishina ever saw and no small sum for a country like Japan devastated as it was at that time. It is indicative of the increased priority given to the project at the end of the war, just as the Magic intercept mentioned earlier indicates.

No evidence? One of the last, if not the last, submarines to leave Germany before it’s surrender was the U-234, a large cargo sub. It left in March 28, 1945 with over 1000 lbs of what is labeled on its manifest as “uranium oxide” and a jet plane destined for Japan. If the Japanese atomic program was over and had fizzled by then, what was the uranium doing being shipped to Japan? I have the manifest. Do you not consider the manifest evidence? I got it from the Navy Historical Center in Washington D.C. No one knows what happened to the U-oxide. It was heavily guarded and the New York Times recently wrote a story that scholars believe it might have been sent to Oak Ridge to ironically become part of the U that was separated into fissionable isotope and used in the Hiroshima bomb. That’s not me talking that’s the New York Times. Do they not have “any evidence” for their stories as well. One of the officers of the U-234 has written a book in which he states that the heavy gold and lead containers into which the U-oxide was put had “U-235” painted on them. Do we dismiss him too? Totally fringe lunatic? New research has begun to challenge just how far the Germans got with their atomic program. That’s not in my book and I know you don’t want anything except information that has been sanctioned by the particular group of scholars you claim are all powerful but it’s still worth considering if one truly wonders what really happened during WWII.

No evidence? For seemingly no reason that the world scientific community could comprehend, on November 22, 1945, the US military, without warning, marched into Japanese physics labs and destroyed every cyclotron in the city, throwing the chopped up remains into Tokyo Bay. Why had the US done this? The scientific community had investigated the Japanese scientists and found them sacrosanct? That is why they cried out. The War Department apologized. They’d made a mistake, they said. Yeah, right. What happened was that US investigators learned they’d been lied to. Not only about how far the Japanese program had gotten on the mainland, but they were getting serious reports about atomic activity having gone on in Hungnam. They were finding more and more stockpiles of uranium and other fissionable materials. They were scared this activity could continue and possibly lead to something disastrous. Maj. Robert Furman headed the first military mission into Japan to determine what the Japanese had done, one that was initially duped but then came back and discovered much more than they’d been told. He told me when I interviewed him that they were always afraid that something could be “cooked up in a bathtub.” Fastfission, you don’t regard this inexplicable destruction of cyclotrons evidence? Did you talk to Maj. Furman? Have you read the various reports?

No evidence? During the Korean War, US troops launched an offensive out of Hungnam, Korea. Advancing up into the mountains, the troops came upon a large cave which was reported in the New York Times on October 26, 1950, to have been a uranium processing plant. Newsweek followed with a similar report. After the Japanese surrender, the Russians had fought the last battle of World War II at Hungnam in November 1945 and after subduing a fierce resistance by the Japanese, had dismantled a lot of the machinery there and shipped it back to Russia. The Japanese said they didn’t want what they were doing at Hungnam to fall into Russians hands. As you know, the Russians were the next, after the US, to make an atomic bomb. Did they get help from Hungnam? So far, there’s no way of telling. North Korea is still unapproachable. But US intelligence in Japan thought they had, and interrogated Japanese repatriates from Hungnam about the atomic project there until the Russians exploded their bomb in 1949. Then the question became mute. I have several of the interrogations as well as numerous reports about them. They are evidence that the US, not me, believed that what you call my “provocative claims” were true. I make no such claims. I’m just reporting what went on in that region during and after the war. Doesn’t it make you curious?

One more thing in regard to Hungnam. Jane’s Intelligence Review says that “The first cyclotron in Korea was built at Hungnam (by the Japanese in 1943-4). This Japanese plant in Hungnam was captured by Soviet troops at the end of the Second World War.” Heavy water was being made at Hungnam too. I know that the presence of a cyclotron or cyclotrons at Hungnam does not a nuclear program make. Nor does the presence of heavy water manufacturing. But it’s interesting and combined with what else is known, don’t you think it warrants investigation? Do you really still maintain that there is no “evidence” of a possible program, however far it got? Are these evidences just to be tossed aside and never mentioned because you, seeking your Ph.D., don’t consider them worthy of this article about the Japanese atomic bomb project? What else is there to be discovered? Because it hasn't been determined beyond a shadow of a doubt, others should't learn that the establishment history may not be complete? Is all I've written just kook, fringe history? Derek deSolla Price didn't think so.

These are the major evidences that quickly come to my mind in contemplating the first few sentences of your most recent post. Contrary to your assertion, I have boxes full of evidence. When I read a sentence like yours that says, “it would be great fun to dance around your leaps of logic and poor historical sense,” I realize what a high opinion of yourself you have to the detriment of others. I wonder what you think of the Japanese scientists? Were they incapable of advancing beyond the few pitiful steps you believe they took regarding making a bomb? I don’t think they made a bomb, although you keep implying I do. But I do think they were top notch scientists and that they got farther than what that scholarly community believes, the community you glibly say ignores me. That too is not true. Among the scholars who wrote favorably about the book were reviewers from the Washington Post (March 31, 1985), the Washington Times (March 28, 1985), Library Journal (March 1, 1985), James L. Stokesbury, a leading WWII historian, and Edward Behr, a Cambridge-educated scholar and prize winning author of HIROHITO. There are more. Encyclopedia Britannica, for one, lists SECRET WAR as a resource for it’s article on nuclear weapons, as do other reference works. Britannica is recognized as the world’s best. There certainly were scholars who attacked me and probably continue to do so. The book goes beyond the established history. But don’t just condemn it sight unseen. Get a copy and read it and then debate it on the basis of what it says, the evidence it gives, and the story it tells and the possible areas of research it opens. Not what you think it says. The Japanese went beyond the establishment history you so revere. That’s all the book says. And if there is evidence to support that, which I contend, then that fact needs to be in articles like Wikipedia’s, not censored by self-proclaimed experts such as yourself.

You are right in principle when you write that the programs of Japan and Germany “look nothing like the efforts which produced working weapons in small time spans undertaken by the USA and the USSR.” Japan’s project is actually very similar in its beginnings. The theoretical physics had to be worked out by both. The Japanese, I am convinced - and have much evidence to support it - knew how to make a bomb and would have used it at the first opportunity had they done so. But they lacked the resources, the high priority for the program at the beginning, and the protected sites to engineer the bomb. Whether or not they went to Korea late in the war and nearly made a bomb or made some kind of crude device, as some evidence suggests, remains to be discovered. They did not have the huge program that America did. Does that mean they only got to first base? Was our way the only way to go about making an atomic bomb? Could there be other ways? In the world we live in today, this is a very important question because countries and even smaller entities are creating and contemplating creating nuclear weapons. Contrary to what you say, that the Japanese program is not worth or fitting to be in an article like this in Wikipedia, I think it is extremely important to be here. We need to study the Japanese program to see how a country with lesser resources, manpower, fewer scientists - but good scientists - and a different culture might do it. If you plan, being a Ph.D. candidate as you say you are, to contribute to science, you had better open your mind to ideas and facts that go beyond what have already been established. That is the only way you will contribute and be successful. Nobody ever won a prize or solved a problem that had already been won or solved. We all need to look beyond what the establishment says

- Robert K. Wilcox, author, JAPAN’S SECRET WAR

P.S. When you reply, Fastfission, please give your real name, as I have.

  • I don't give real names online, and you weren't required to give yours. I have enough excitement in my life without having to worry about crackpot researchers throwing my name around. This is about a Wikipedia article, based on Wikipedia content guidelines. I'm hoping you understand that distinction. This is not a place for original research, and it is not the place to hash out historical questions. It is about writing an encyclopedia article, the most uninteresting and unoriginal form of knowledge out there—it is meant to exceed in breadth what it lacks in depth. It's a fun hobby for some of us on here, nothing else. Feel free to not take it seriously.
  • When I said your book did not attract attention from the academic community, it was based on the fact that there are something like three or four references to it or reviews in the entire JSTOR catalog of peer reviewed academic journals. All are disparaging of your conclusions and note that in your more radical conclusions you have far exceeded your sources and have used a sloppy historical methodology. I've let these sources speak for themselves on the actual article page. This counts as "being ignored by the scholarly community" in my book. In particular here I am referring to the claims in your book about a successful test (the other descriptions of the programs I find irrelevant as your book is not unique in them).
  • I find it amusing you've cited the Washington Post review. May I quote from it? "There exist several accounts of Japan's wartime nuclear experiments, most of which the author has utilized. (Unfortunately, in citing Japanese sources, he misspells not a few names.) Although he supplements this information with data he has uncovered in American archives, the evidence he presents does not add much to what is already known about the Japanese atomic bomb project." It goes on to note that your more speculative theories are just that—speculative, and would require substantiation to be taken seriously. Which seems to be the state of things.
  • There is no such thing as "just reporting," and if you don't understand that then it is quite clear why you have been criticized for making arguments which far exceed your sources and relying on poor sources.
  • It is not my goal here to spend my time arguing the ins and outs of your book. It suffices for my purposes, and for the Wikipedia goals, to note that your conclusions have not been supported by the scholarly community and are in fact at considerable odds with what is considered established knowledge.
  • A few last things to clarify: I study the history of science, I do not study science; I have never said that there should not be an article on the Japanese program on Wikipedia, only that it should reflect the understanding of this history held reliable by the scholarly community; and I think looking at a tremendously unsuccessful pre-1945 atomic bomb program a foolish way to try and assess what 21st century nuclear proliferation would look like (I find the suggestion humorous, actually).
  • I'm somewhat baffled as to why you continue to return and argue these points to me. You don't seem actually interested in changing the article content. I fear you may be feeling some sort of wounded pride, or perhaps a desire for legitimation. Neither of which are anything I really can offer to do anything about, I'm not sure what you are intending to get out of this protracted exchange. You shouldn't bother to try to change my mind—an online forum is not where I get the evidence to make historical decisions, write that off as you may. --Fastfission 03:01, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Fastfission: The reason I used the Washington Post review is it was written by Akira Iriye, professor of history at the University of Chicago. Yes, Iriye mentioned in parentheses misspells of certain Japanese sources, which is always tricky when dealing with translations. He may be right. But the review was not as you portray it. He does say “the evidence he presents does not add much to what is already known about the Japanese atomic bomb project,” which may be true for Iriye, a specialist, but not the general public which knows little to nothing of the Japanese effort. And the next sentence reads, “Still, the book is valuable as it offers several intriguing hypotheses.” And the review ends with an important point in the history of science: “Those in Japan who point their finger of accusation at the United States for its use of atomic bombs cannot profess their total innocence. They have a tendency to consider themselves victims...somehow less implicated morally because they suffered atomic bombings. The book is a reminder that in war, scientists and military alike become involved in demonic acts. At that level, there is little distinction between nations.” - Robert K. Wilcox

How to fix this page

At the moment, despite its inclusion of qualifying terms, the page still gives too much prominence to a fringe theory which has no currency in modern historical consensus. It is the same situation as if the Project Apollo page was spent primarily talking about whether or not the moon landings were a hoax. The difference here is that at least the hoax theory has enough cultural caché that someone visiting the Apollo page might wonder about the hoax, so after a page dedicated to the "standard" (non-hoax) history, there is a link to another page which is specifically about the hoax (Apollo moon landing hoax accusations). In another example, if the Abraham Lincoln page was all about recent questions about his sexuality—even if heavily qualified—it would be framing the historical debate about Lincoln as if it was only about his sexuality, when in reality there are only a few researchers who are advancing or arguing against this theory. So another page, Abraham Lincoln's sexuality was created to deal with this alternative interpretation which shouldn't dominate the discourse of the main encyclopedia article.

This article needs to be about the standard story of the Japanese atomic bomb project, not the one promoted by one guy's report in 1946 and another guy's book fifty years later, both of which advance very fringe opinions about this history. If you truly consider their theories to have enough importance to warrant representation on Wikipedia (I don't, but I'm not an authority here), then they need to be moved to another separate page of their own. As it is, any article which gives 80% of its copy to such theories, however well it qualifies them and indicates them as disputed, is not going to be encyclopedic, in my opinion.

I didn't write this page, so I won't try to perform the editorial surgery myself, but it'll need to be done. Again, I'm not saying, "scrap all of the disputed stuff," I'm saying, "move the really disputed stuff to a page of its own, make the main article about the common historical story, link to the other page from it." The "test" claims are so marginal that I had actually never heard of them before this page was created, and I'm someone who has spent a good deal of his professional time studying nuclear history. I think it is very telling that the only link to the Atlanta Constitution article is from a page with other fabulously absurd stories such as how General Groves faked the Apollo moon landing and how the Port Chicago explosion was actually an atomic bomb. This is not credible stuff, it doesn't deserve much attention in a respectable article. --Fastfission 17:47, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for your patience. I gave it a try for an rewrite, and moved all comments about the testing to the end and also significantly shortened this section. The disputed report is now only one paragraph with 4% of the total text, and preceded by a paragraph listing the source as dubious, and succeeded by a paragraph with further concerns about the accuracy of the report. To the reader it should be clear now that the reports are highly suspect. The reference section was also split to form a Disputed references.
As for moving the disputed reports to a separate page: I would much rather prefer it to be on the same page, since it is now only a small section of the text, properly discredited. Plus, I think it is useful for the reader to have it on the same page. Talk comments about this would be appreciated before moving the section. However, if the moving is necessary, it would be an easy cut/copy operation, since the disputed text is now only one section, and referred to in the other text only once as see below.
Hopefully, the disputed tag can now be removed. Let me know if this is OK with you, or if you would like further changes. Again, thanks to all for their patience. Happy editing -- Chris 73 Talk 00:46, Jan 28, 2005 (UTC)

I'm looking over it and so far I think it is much better. A few small factual questions:

The source of Uranium ore for Japan was Korea, which was under Japanese control since 1905. The uranium was enriched using the thermal diffusion method selected by Dr. Nishina, the same method used by the Manhattan program.

Do you mean gaseous diffusion? I think this should be elaborated a bit. Did they actually develop full-scale diffusion plants? I find this really hard to believe (the plants at the Oak Ridge facility for the Manhattan Project took up half the cost of the project itself, an investment I am skeptical Japan would have made). Did they just make investigations into it? Or do you mean electromagnetic separation? (which seems more plausible to me, as you can actually do that with a cyclotron used as a mass spectrometer, which is technology I know they had) Even with the latter, there's the question of whether they set up full-scale plants (again, quite large and expensive). This would make the shortage of fissile material far less surprising (the U.S. plants ran for about 2 years straight before they made barely enough material for three bombs, and each cost a little less than a billion dollars).

This submarine U-234 was sent to Japan in 1945 to deliver 560kg of uranium oxide and advanced weapons technology for the Japanese atomic program, including a disassembled Me-262 jet fighter and V2 rocket parts. ... The nuclear cargo was labeled U-235 after the content Uranium-235, and some German submariners though it was a mislabeling of the submarine U-234.

I think it's important to note if it was "uranium oxide" or "U-235," an important ambiguity! Uranium oxide cannot be used in a bomb—it must either be enriched or used to fuel a plutonium breeding reactor. The uranium cycle goes: ore -> uranium oxide -> uranium hexafloride -> enrichment/breeding -> uranium-235/plutonium. Only the final product can be used in a bomb, and using a very rough calculation, if you enriched that to about 90% purity, you'd only get about 3.6kg of uranium-235 at most (the uranium bomb used against Hiroshima had aroung 64kg of material as a comparison). 560kg of uranium-235 is enough for over 8 Hiroshima sized bombs, and is far more than the Manhattan Project itself produced. I'm also not sure how a Me-262 jet fighter and a V-2 rocket would help on their program (a V-2 rocket, aside from not being large enough to carry a primitive atomic bomb [the first US bombs weighed about 9-10 tons each], would not have the range or accuracy to be of any use for an atomic bomb).

After the war, the U.S. occupation forces found a total of 5 cyclotrons that could have potentially used to enrich uranium into weapons grade material, although there seems to be some confusion between cyclotrons and centrifuges.

They did find cyclotrons, which can be used to enrich uranium but are so inefficient and paltry in their efforts that you would use them primarily to create prototypes for larger machines (the massive 184 inch cyclotron at Berkeley was used for this and itself only produced a few kg of uranium by the war's end). Centrifugal enrichment to my knowledge was not developed until some decades after WWII.

I also rewrote the last section a bit and provided the only two quotes about it I could find in respectable journals (using a JSTOR search), let me know what you think about them. I'm almost ready to say that I have no problems with this! :-) --Fastfission 05:45, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Great Work! I really like your additions. The article may eventually turn into something to be proud of. About your questions:
  1. Thermal diffusion: According to a link I just found recently (and which has some material that may be added to the article), they considered gaseous barrier diffusion, gaseous thermal diffusion, electromagnetic and centrifuge processes, before Nishina [...] focuses on thermal diffusion. I guess this would be gaseous thermal diffusion.
  2. Uranium (Oxide?): Another link states that the sub carried enough to make two atomic bombs, 1,235 pounds of 77 percent pure uranium oxide. However, other links state that it was not enough for a bomb, as does this link: that amount of uranium oxide would have contained about 3.5 kilograms of the isotope U-235, [...] about a fifth of the total U-235 needed to make one bomb. While I am not an expert, I would agree with you that the cargo was 560kg Uranium Oxide and not enough for a bomb. Maybe we can clarify in the article that this is occasionally confused.
  3. Cyclotrons: This is one point which gets me confused, too. The line although there seems to be some confusion between cyclotrons and centrifuges is actually from me, and probably should be removed, so the article is about cyclotrons only.
Your citations about the last section are also really good. I am happy with the article, although I think I will add some more detail from the link above, which I did not find when I first wrote the article. Than you very much for the great work, and also for your patience with me. -- Chris 73 Talk 06:38, Jan 28, 2005 (UTC)
I've edited a few things up based on what you've written here, changed a couple other things, and removed the disputed tag; I've got no gripes with this at all. Thanks a lot for your work, I really appreciate it. --Fastfission 07:42, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Excellent response for the other side of the issue. Briefly, in reply, here's what we have to date on the Japanese project(s): Several world-class nuclear physicists who did have sufficient knowledge to construct a weapon---that is, they did understand the fast-neutron reaction. A warhead design that would have worked with sufficient HEU---although the yield of the weapon is disputed. (Riken scientist Sagane admits Japan was trying for a 20K weapon, but says Nishina made calculation errors that meant a "relatively weak" weapon. But keep in mind the Nishina design dates from 1943; were there no further designs or modifications to the Nishina design over the final two years of the war?) Documented attempts by Germany and Japan to co-operate on nuclear weapons and to exchange war materiel. First hand testimony by Tatsusaburo Suzuki that Japan had actually gotten as far as producing a small amount of HEU. Suzuki also testified that Japan produced a target list for their weapon that included US B-29 bases. (The article in which he is quoted is called "Japanese Scientist, 83, Says Japan Tried To Build an Atomic Bomb", from the Associated Press, July 20, 1995.) Suzuki was the man who actually conducted the industrial and minerological survey in 1940 that determined a Japanese bomb was feasible and achievable. Surely he is as highly placed and as credible a source on this issue as we are likely to find. Wilcox, in Japan's Secret War, alludes to statements made in Japanese sources by Bunsaku Arakatsu in which he discussed the Navy's attempts at building centrifugal separators, but I have not personally seen this source. (On this particular issue, the Dower camp is probably right, as Dower says the Arakatsu centrifuges would not have worked even if they had been built; Dower cites the Japanese source "The Emperor and Showa History".)

Now, certainly it is one thing to have a weapon design on paper and quite another to actually field a working warhead with delivery system. But surely all of the above, even if there was nothing going on at Hungnam---which I don't personally believe---surely all of that adds up to a documented, verifiable attempt at producing and deploying atomic bombs in WW2, yes? The only issue is how far they got, how close they came to producing and using their own bomb(s).

BTW, it doesn't necessarily follow that Germany could have produced its own warhead design even if the uranium on U-234 was partially enriched HEU. This is because German industry was by this time either significantly (though not totally) disrupted by Allied bombing, or else was being physically overrun by advancing ground forces. The reason the cargo could have been HEU is that Germany was the first nation in the world to produce a working separation technology, the thermal diffusion clusius tube. One wonders why they wouldn't have done at least some work along this route to a bomb, although of course all other evidence to date points to their trying to produce a plutonium weapon through construction of breeder reactors. Your point about it being easier to exchange information than uranium is well taken, but I would ask you, why DID Germany attempt to send uranium (in whatever form) along with advanced weapons and tech support to Japan even as the Third Reich was collapsing? Was that just for fun, or did they have some reason to believe that Japan might be able to carry on if only German uranium and high tech could be transfused from Berlin to Tokyo?

Regarding the Snell article, the unfortunate fact that a photo of the original headline as it appeared in the Atlanta Constitution appears on a fringe website does NOT mean that Snell's original article and information are suspect or incorrect. Snell may have been right or he may have been wrong, but please, let's not tar him with bogus guilt by association. Remember that the Pentagon considered it important enough to trot out their M.I.T. expert in the New York Times story discussing the Snell story. The Times article ran the following day, that is, the day after Snell's article ran.

As for my personal qualifications, I have had three articles published, one of which I alluded to in the previous post. I have also spoken before numerous veterans' groups and to several historical societies and would be happy to document that for you. But really, that's not the point. It does not necessarily follow, of course, that possession of advanced academic degrees automatically means one knows what one is talking about. (Although it should.) Certainly my "think tank" (as my webmaster termed it) isn't the Rand Corporation or National Defense University or some such. But it is an informal networking of people interested in history in general and WW2 WMD history in particular.

Correction: The sentence, "BTW, it doesn't necessarily follow that Germany could have produced its own warhead design even if the uranium on U-234 was partially enriched HEU", should read, "it doesn't necessarily follow that Germany could have produced its own warhead if the uranium...was...HEU".

Again, there is no doubt that the Japanese did reseach on atomic weapons. Such is well documented and noted in this article. However, it seems that they never got anywhere near to a production much less a deployment stage. They simply did not invest the resources. And why would they? For a long while they, just like Germany, were winning without appealing to expensive and speculative weapons based on scientific principles only just discovered. The reason the Allies bothered to even do it is because they were the ones in the poorer position. Germany's technology transfer to Japan was almost certainly a hope that their allied power could potentially use them. Given the time scale though, it seems to have been rather futile. This article is concerned with what is documented and what seems to have actually occured -- not with possibilities and fanciful interpretations. You have your own bulletin boards for that sort of thing, such is not the purpose of Wikipedia. --Fastfission 20:36, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I am Robert K. Wilcox, author of JAPAN'S SECRET WAR, which Fastfission has impugned. Fastfission may be a brilliant phd student but I went out and did the hard research around the world to write my book. I talked to the people involved. I dug up the buried documents. His phrase that I am just some guy who wrote a book 50 years later doesn't take into account the considerable effort I put into that research, nor the effort I put into writing seven other books, most of them historical as well. His version of what happened regarding Japan's nuclear effort is the same that I encountered in 1980 when I began my research. It is the old view that did not have the benefit of historical research. He needs to do the kind of work I did rather than read old reports and write from second hand retellings. I went to Japan and spoke with Japanese who worked in the atomic program. I went to the National Archives and uncovered documents that had not been seen since they were packed away at the end of the occupation. I tracked down numerous people involved in investigating the Japanese effort. Fastfission needs to read my book before commenting on its contents. It is very well documented. The book does not say that the Japanese testfired a bomb. It recounts,among other things, numerous US top level intelligence reports beginning right after the war that the Japanese had moved their atomic bomb efforts to Hungnam, Korea when Allied bombing had destroyed almost everything on the mainland and the Japanese were moving anything they could to Korea. It also reports things such as the Snell article. It happened and he was a respected journalist. And it coincides with the intelligence reports that came later. What happened at Hungnam is still a mystery and that is clear in my book. After Nishina's Rikken lab was destroyed by bombing in early 1945, the Japanese navy launched it's main effort and made an atomic bomb a priority. This is when the real work picked up. This is where the real research needs to be continued. They spent 100 million yen in Shanghai alone trying to buy up uranium. My book shows documents to prove it. That dwarfs what Nishina spent the entire time he worked on the bomb. Nishina was out of the Japanese atomic bomb effort by this time. Read the 1995 Marlowe edition of my book Fastfission and you'll begin to see why the versions you are reading and trusting are out of date. The Japanese got closer to making a bomb than was publicly acknowledged. They knew how to do it and had every intention of using it. That is indisputable. How close they got is still the question and should be the object of continued research.

It hardly matters whether I have doubted you. The fact is, the more provocative claims in your book have simply been judged by the larger historical community as being not supported by any evidence. And such is what this Wikipedia article says.
We could argue back and forth all day long here on this discussion page, and while it would be great fun to dance around your leaps of logic and poor historical sense, in the end it would have no effect on the article. Your theory about the bomb development and test is unsubstantiated by any reliable historical records and furthermore is contradicted by all historical records which do exist. For that reason alone it is afforded a minor position in this article, one which relies primarily upon the quotes of mainstream and reliable scholars to make its point (although, admittedly, there are not as many quotes as I would prefer -- primarily because your book seems to have been ignored by the scholarly community). Wikipedia is not a place for fringe or conspiracy theories, I'm afraid. You can chalk it up to a "mainstream bias" or whatever you want but such is how things are here. The article adequately expresses the reliable knowledge of the Japanese program -- that they had a research program, and that even in that they did not get too terribly close to producing a weapon. No matter how you dice it, the Japanese and German programs look nothing like the efforts which produced working weapons in small time spans undertaken by the USA and later the USSR. It seems highly unreasonable to overstate their "successes." When your books become respected by scholars, I'll be the first one to add their information on here, don't worry! --Fastfission 20:36, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Fastfission, evidently we are going to have to agree to disagree agreeably. I would encourage you to read Wilcox's book for yourself if you haven't already, and to pay particular attention to the footnotes and the sources cited. As he pointed out in his post on this board, Wilcox did not pull his book out of thin air. He interviewed most of the major surviving characters in the story of the WWII Japanese bomb when he was doing his original research, in the mid 1980s. Along with those interviews with eyewitnesses and participants, he also got his hands on numerous OSS, G-2, and Occupation documents that had not seen the light of day since the American Occupation officially ended in 1952. Many of these reports are quoted verbatim in his book. I would encourage you also to read my article, "The Japanese Bomb and Why It Matters" because I go into some detail about the history of the scholarly debate surrounding Wilcox.

I find it unfortunate that you seem to prefer the supposed "scholarly mainstream" when it should be obvious to you that the "mainstream"---as de Solla Price was fond of pointing out---frequently is in bed with many concerns that have nothing to do with the pursuit of truth and knowledge and everything to do with maintaining tenure, keeping the cash flowing, perpetuating various politically convenient / correct shibboleths, and so on. I am glad, though, that you admit that Japan did in fact try to build and deploy atomic weapons against the US during WWII, something which ought to be beyond dispute. The only question here, really, is how far they got, ie, how close they came to an actual, functional, deployable, deliverable weapon. We can disagree on how far they got, but surely there is enough doubt on this score to justify continued inquiry and research. Thanks for a good discussion.

The idea that the scholarly community is "in bed with many concerns" is somewhat humorous, I must admit (I'm good friends with many of the people in the field of nuclear history and I can vouch for the fact that most would be thrilled if their work was important enough to warrant the attention of ANY concerns, much less many!). If only I was in bed with concerns -- I'd probably have a substantial income! What do you think will profit an academic more: a well-supported book that uncovers previously unknown history, or toeing the line? But alas! Perhaps it is just a big conspiracy to keep the truth hidden away! The question of whether Japan had a weapons program is of course beyond dispute, and is outlined in detail in a wide variety of scholarly sources. If I have time to burn, I may someday look in detail at Wilcox's book, but the fact that he seems to have rested most of his most extreme conclusions on the most flimsy and circumstancial evidence makes me inclined to think that the scholarly assessment is probably correct. Surely you can recognize that the response of "well it must be a conspiracy" to the fact that professional historians don't agree with his conclusions puts you in a location which is rather difficult to respect. --Fastfission 00:48, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Just for the record, Fastfission, since you have indicated that there was no point in my listing specific sources such as the BBC, AP, Riken Institute, etc: I can only conclude that you did not follow up on the specific citations I gave in my earlier posts which referenced those sources. For example, the BBC website story, "Atomic Plans Returned to Japan" and the AP story, "Japanese Physicist, 83, Says Japan Tried to Build an Atomic Bomb". I mentioned these stories by name in previous posts. The list of sources I posted was done so that you could judge for yourself whether the BBC, AP, Riken, et al, fit your definition of "crackpots in the world". Also, a final time, neither Wilcox nor myself nor anyone else on our side of the issue has stated definitively that Japan actually DID test-fire its own atomic bomb a few days after the Nagasaki mission. (Not even Snell, who was reporting what his source had told him, not passing judgment on whether it actually happened.) That was the story told to Snell by a Japanese counterintelligence officer and the story may or may not be true. What we are saying is, Here is a story as reported by a reputable US newsman, here are a bunch of US intel reports and eyewitnesses saying a lot of things that are not only quite uniform in content but also point to an advanced Japanese bomb program, so is it reasonable to conclude they got further than most think, and to continue investigating? I submit that any reasonable and open minded student of this issue will answer in the affirmative.

No original research

I have to say that I was quite surprised at stumbling across the stuff at the end of this article. I spent some time today cleaning up the German nuclear energy project and thought that out of curiosity I'd see what the story was on the Japanese program (since I knew a very little about Nishina (through the crater on the moon).

This stuff has to go. While I find it very interesting, it really doesn't meet with the level of historical scrutiny and peer review that we expect of Wikipedia. Additionally, and no offence intended Mr. Wilcox, I think the original research nature of the assertion that Japan had a (even partially) successful nuclear programme borders on inappropriate given that you are the author of the book on which the vast majority of the section is based.

I don't doubt your book, I've never read it I have no reason to think that it couldn't be new and valid research on the topic, but I don't think that it fits well into the Wikipedia model since as a previous editor noted Wikipedia is about the status quo, or rather the current consensus view amongst the experts in the field. Unfortunately this means that Wikipedia by definition will always be a little bit more conservative with respect to new theories and new information than the Internet as a whole, but I support this policy. Without some sort of control on cutting edge vs. out of date the entire project will end up like the rest of the Internet -- a hit and miss affair -- rather than the relatively high quality project that it currently is.

Seperately from the content, the entire section "Disputed reports about the nuclear program in Konan in 1945" is not particularly coherent in my opinion. It seems that it may have suffered from a bit of an edit war and not have been cleaned up, but I could be wrong. I'm being bold and pulling that entire section from the article itself and bringing it here to the Talk page so that it can be cleaned up before a possible re-insertion into the main article. If somebody does reinsert it in to the article before it's been agreed upon here, I would suggest that you add a Disputed template to the article.

Disputed reports about the nuclear program in Konan in 1945

Very little is known about the size of the atomic program in Konan though it is conventionally thought to have been quite small in comparison with the successful U.S. effort. In 1946, a journalist named David Snell, working for the Atlanta Constitution, wrote a sensational story which claimed that Japan had in fact successfully developed and tested a nuclear weapon in Konan. Snell had served in the military during the war and was assigned to the 24th Criminal Investigation Detachment in Korea. During this time in Korea he interviewed "a Japanese officer, who said he was in charge of counter intelligence at the Konan project before the fall of Japan", known under the pseudonym Capt. Tsetusuo Wakabayashi.

According to Snell, the program was able to assemble a complete nuclear weapon in a cave in Konan and detonate it on August 12, 1945 on an unmanned ship nearby. Reportedly, the weapon produced a mushroom shaped cloud with a diameter of about 100 m (the first American bomb, "Trinity", had a mushroom cloud some three times the size of that), and also destroyed several ships in the test area. To the observers 20 mi (32 km) away, the bomb was brighter than the rising sun (a suspiciously common cliché about nuclear testing). Snell then claimed that the Russian Army captured Konan shortly thereafter, imprisoned the scientists and seized the remaining materials (and for some reason kept the entire thing a secret).

Even in its own time, Snell's story was viewed with suspicion. A New York Times article published the day after noted that US Army Intelligence officers found Snell's tale amusing, and both American and Japanese scientists found it to be spurious. The paper quoted an MIT scientist working for the army as having dismissed it completely: "There is no information here to justify such a story."

Mainstream historians dispute that the Japanese program ever came anywhere close to developing an atomic bomb, and cite the massive amounts of evidence that the Japanese program was small and insubstantial (compared to the dearth of evidence that it was in any way successful).

A 1985 book by Robert Wilcox repeated many of Snell's claims, and was critically panned. A review by a Department of Energy employee in the journal Military Affairs degraded it:

Journalist Wilcox' book describes the Japanese wartime atomic energy projects. This is a laudable, in that it illuminates a little-known episode; nevertheless, the work is marred by Wilcox' seeming eagerness to show that Japan created an atomic bomb. Tales of Japanese atomic explosions, one a fictional attack on Los Angeles, the other an unsubstantiated account of a post-Hiroshima test, begin the book. (Wilcox accepts the test story because the author [Snell], "was a distinguished journalist"). The tales, combined with Wilcox' failure to discuss the difficulty of translating scientific theory into into a workable bomb, obscure the actual story of the Japanese effort: uncoordinated laboratory-scale projects which took paths least likely to produce a bomb.

In the historical journal Isis, two historians of science said only of Wilcox's work that his thesis stood "on the flimsiest and most unconvincing of grounds," and surmised that the hidden agenda of such conspiracy theories was "to furnish a new exculpation for America's dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

While the above, at the beginning, is accurate in its discussion of how much is known about Konan, it is one-sided and biased regarding Snell and Wilcox. The forward to Wilcox’s book, Japan’s Secret War, was written by Professor Derek deSolla Price, head of Yale’s history of science department and a giant in the field, a fact that is left out of the above discussion. Price wholeheartedly endorsed it, as did other historians and reviewers. James L. Stockesbury, author of A Short History of World War II, called it “Fascinating. I had no idea the Japanese were working as seriously on an atomic bomb as the book indicates, and this has to modify our perception of one of the crucial issues of the war.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online lists Japan's Secret War as its sole source for Japan's work on the atomic bomb ( There were controversial aspects of the book that were attacked. But the book was published at a time, 1985, when practically no one outside of a few select scientists knew the Japanese even had an atomic bomb project. Most thought they were solely victims of the bomb and this was used to attack America. Except for the controversial part - the possibility that Japan had moved their program to Korea and possibly gotten farther than science had known - the book accurately portrayed what had happened on the mainland predominately through interviews with Japanese who had been part of the program and formerly top secret documents that had not been seen or used by historians prior.

Whoever wrote the above, has not read Japan’s Secret War. The book does not repeat many of Snell’s claims. Snell’s article had long been buried when it was recounted at the start of Japan’s Secret War. It was only used to launch into research about what happened at Konan, which is known as Hungnam in Korean. The basis for the possibility that Konan housed an atomic project came primarily from formerly top secret US intelligence documents, like this army G-2 summary of May 1-15, 1946, written by Col. Cecil W. Nist, which can be found in the National Archives (Record Group 319, Box 739): “Of increasing interest have been recent reports about an apparent undercover research laboratory operated by the Japanese at...Hungnam. Many of the reports are from Japanese who formerly held positions in this company. And these reports, received separately, are surprisingly uniform as to content...All reports agree that research and experiments on atomic energy were being conducted in a section of the Hungnam plant...Further reports state that the actual experiments on atomic energy were conducted in Japan, and the Hungnam plant was opened for the development of the practical application of atomic energy to a bomb or other military use...It is felt that a great deal of credence should be attached to these reports...”

The book was the first to reveal the uranium oxide aboard Nazi submarine U-234 destined for Japan's project at the end of the war. A major premises in it is that there is more to be found out about what the Japanese did regarding their atomic project than has so far come to light. To be fair and accurate, these facts should be included in any discussion of disputed reports about Konan/Hungnam.

The Federation of American Scientists article on the WWII Japanese atomic bomb projects can be found here:

The most relevant of the three brief paragraphs in that article says: There are indications that Japan had a more sizable program than is commonly understood, and that there was close cooperation among the Axis powers, including a secretive exchange of war materiel. The German submarine U-234, which surrendered to US forces in May 1945, was found to be carrying 560 kilograms of Uranium oxide destined for Japan's own atomic program. The oxide contained about 3.5 kilograms of the isotope U-235, which would have been about a fifth of the total U-235 needed to make one bomb. After Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, the occupying US Army found five Japanese cyclotrons, which could be used to separate fissionable material from ordinary uranium. The Americans smashed the cyclotrons and dumped them into Tokyo Harbor.

Williamjpellas 18:06, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

Disputed references

  • Robert K. Wilcox, Japan's Secret War: Japan's Race Against Time to Build Its Own Atomic Bomb (New York: Morrow, 1985).
  • David Snell, "Japan Developed Atom Bomb; Russia Grabbed Scientists], Atlanta Constitution (2 Oct 1946), available online at a conspiracy-theory website,

Criticism cited

  • Roger M. Anders, Review of Japan's Secret War, in Military Affairs 50:1 (Jan 1986): 56-57, quote from 57.
  • R.W. Home and Morris F. Low, "Postwar Scientific Intelligence Missions to Japan," Isis 84:3 (Sep 1993): 527-537, quote from 528fn3.
  • "Newsman Says Japanese Had Atom Bomb and Russians Now Hold the Inventors," New York Times (3 Oct 1946), 22.

Now to my point of view. I don't have Wilcox' book at my disposal and I'm generally of the opinion that if you have to rely on something that is only available in print format these days then you must be somewhat sceptical of the level of acceptance that it's recieved in the historical/scientific community. (If you want to send me a copy I'd be more than happy to read it however! ;) )

A resource that I have come to rely on over the last couple of years with respect to nuclear weapons info is The Nuclear Weapon Archive and it doesn't even mention the Japanese nuclear programme at all, let alone suggesting that it reached any level of sophistication. In fact in my research today for the German and Japanese programmes I've not come across anything on the normal sites like FAS that suggest anything to this effect either. Nobody disputes that Japan had at least a nascent programme, but nobody seems to suggest that they got much further than some early theoretical work and some mining.

I'm willing to admit that part of the reason that it's hard to confirm this theory is that it's not well accepted in the mainstream community, and while that's certainly no reason to dismiss it out of hand, it is strong grounds to exclude it, or at the very least reduce it's profile in this article. My suggestion is that the people that want to include it should condense it down to a paragraph or two to be inserted as disputed information with references at the end of the article.

I look forward to hearing what you folks have to say, if nobody steps up I may take a crack at condensing this sometime in the next day or two.

Gabe 23:36, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think taking it all out is not a good approach. It is disputed information, and should be reported as such. Wikipedia is full of conspiracy theories. The text pointed ut clearly that the information is heavily disputed, and this was discussed extensively in the talk page here. I'll add the info again for now, details can be discussed subsequently again. -- Chris 73 Talk 11:02, Apr 25, 2005 (UTC)

I’ve edited the disputed section of this article to give it some balance and correct inaccuracies in it. I've also added some to the navy project history to make it more accurate. I have no problem with printing bad reviews of my book “Japan’s Secret War.” But to put a section in this encyclopedia headed “dispute” and then to print only one side is unfair and inaccurate. “Japan’s Secret War” was not only panned. It was also praised. No less than Yale’s Professor Derek deSolla Price, a giant in the history of science, wrote the preface for it. It was he who wrote the fictional account of the nuclear bombing of Los Angeles in the beginning of the book - not me. Snell’s article is only a tiny part of my book, a jumping off point from which to write a comprehensive account of the Japanese nuclear effort during the war. Snell is maligned in this and he shouldn’t be. He was only reporting. It amazes me how people who profess to be knowledgeable can write what they represent as truth about a work they haven’t read. Or profess to be knowledgeable without having done any of the research that was done and is needed to understand this very buried subject, including months in Japan interviewing participants in the wartime program and years at the National Archives finding and studying documents about the subject. The Encyclopaedia Britannica cites “Secret War” as the work to read about the Japanese wartime project. I think they check the sources they cite. If “Secret War” was as bad as the disputed section made it seem, they wouldn’t recommend it. “Secret War,” praised or panned, gives more information in English than any other single source in the world on the Japanese wartime nuclear program, controversy or not - and there aren’t many sources of any type available - Robert K. Wilcox.

P.S. Thank you Chris 73 for the good sense and fairness of realizing that just because something about a subject is unsettled or disputed that is no reason for keeping it from those who want to learn about that subject.

Recent documents

A year or two ago, I read a document (I think it was a scanned pdf document) about the Japanese nuclear program that a woman had found in her husband or father's papers after he died. He had been a Japanese physicist. I have made a cursory search for links to this document to post them here, but so far I have had no luck. It might be interesting for this article and discussion. Filll Filll 14:32, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

The New York Times of October 10

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stated "...some studies have said (Japan) would be able to construct a (nuclear) bomb in a matter of months." It doesn't specifically mention the studies, but perhaps the paragraph under the heading 'current nuclear activities in Japan' should be updated again to reflect this new reporting. This being my first participation in the project ever, I will leave any editing to all of you who have done such an excellent job already. If you do decide to make the change, may I suggest it be, "...and the capital to produce nuclear weapons within a matter of months if necessary, and some analysts...."

-Japanart.Japanart 17:46, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

I believe that the phrase "the first American bomb, "Trinity", had a mushroom cloud some three times the size of that" in the 'Disputed reports about the nuclear program in Konan in 1945' section is incorrect. The name of the nuclear device tested in the Trinity Test was 'Gadget' not Trinity. 01:35, 6 June 2007 (UTC)