Early August 1945 was a confusing time for many Americans, who were experiencing some combination of celebration, sadness and foreboding.
The war in Europe was over, bringing home thousands of gleeful troops by ship. Yet newspapers were still catching up on reports of individual soldiers killed during winter and spring, while men continued to die in the Pacific. That meant Americans were learning nearly every day the names of friends and neighbors who did not make it back.
What would it take to defeat Japan and finally bring World War II to a close? The conventional wisdom was pessimistic — only a U.S. ground invasion would bring down the empire, requiring the deployment of 1 million men to Japan at a cost of hundreds of thousands more American lives.