In 1945, the US had two atomic bombs ready to drop on Japan.

‘Little Man’ was a uranium bomb equal to 15 thousand tons of TNT, ‘Fat Man’ was a plutonium bomb equal to 20 thousand tons of TNT.

Either bomb could wipe out a city, the point was to choose which cities.

The committee making the decision was made up of generals, scientists, and politicians.

The cities on their short list were: Hiroshima, Kyoto, Kokura, Yokahama, Tokyo, and Nigata.

Hiroshima was agreed for the first bomb and Kyoto for the second.

But Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, had Kyoto removed as second choice.

The committee replaced it saying, in a memo:

 “This target is an urban industrial area with a population of 1,000,000. It is the former capital of Japan and many people and industries are now being moved there as other areas are being destroyed. From the psychological point of view there is the advantage that Kyoto is an intellectual center for Japan and the people there are more apt to appreciate the significance of such a weapon.”

Stimson told the Commander of the Air Force, Hap Arnold, “There is one city you must not bomb without my permission, and that is Kyoto.”

But again, the committee put Kyoto back as the choice for the second bomb.

Stimson felt he had no choice, he went directly to President Truman.

He explained that Kyoto wasn’t like any other target, it was an ancient city of huge cultural importance, with 2,000 temples and shrines, Buddhist and Shinto, with pavilions, gardens, and Imperial palaces, plus ancient streets full of cherry blossoms and geishas.

Truman wasn’t impressed, he said the Japanese were “…a terribly cruel and uncivilised nation in warfare”.

In desperation, Stimson appealed to Truman’s practical side.

He said that destroying a city like Kyoto would cause the same worldwide outrage that destroying Dresden had done.

Further, he said the US had to think of the post-war situation, turning a city like Kyoto into rubble would make the Japanese hate the US and drive them towards communist Russia.

That final argument made sense to Truman and he had Kyoto removed from the list.

At which point Kokura became the target for the second bomb.

But on the day the bomb was to be dropped, there was too much cloud over Kokura, so the pilot flew on to his secondary target.

And so the bomb was released over Nagasaki, which hadn’t even been on the list until Kyoto was removed.

Kyoto meanwhile escaped the war without being bombed.

People have since wondered why Stimson defended Kyoto so adamantly.

Later it was revealed as the place where he and his wife spent their honeymoon, so it held many fond memories for him.

How Stimson behaved was a classic example of Daniel Kahnemann’s Type 1 and Type 2 thinking.

Type 1 thinking is rapid, intuitive, emotional and unconscious; Type 2 thinking is slower, logical, analytical, and conscious.

We reach a conclusion about how we feel before we’re even aware of it, then use our rational mind to justify that conclusion.

(However much we try to make it appear the other way round.)

That’s why it’s advertising’s job to provoke ‘desire’ and close the sale with ‘permission’

Or, as David Hume put it, “Reason is the slave of the passions”.