So on the upcoming anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, we're going to be treated to another round of anti-Americanism and knee-jerk support of the "innocent" Japanese civilians who were "wrongly" bombed by imperialist Cold Warriors whose true goal was to make a show for the Soviets blah blah blah.
This view is supported in this AFP piece via Yahoo News, a story about yet another memorial to be built and dedicated in Hiroshima. A few classic quotes are in order.
The privately funded monument was dedicated by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who came up with the idea of 10 gates symbolizing Dante's nine circles of Hell plus one more: Hiroshima.
"After the world commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, I found it impossible to do nothing to pay tribute to Hiroshima's dead and remind people what barbarism men are capable of," Halter said.
Then we turn to the Guardian, bastion of conservative political thought and militarism. Interestingly enough, they have a somewhat different view.
Plentiful evidence is available to both schools. In the spring of 1945, Americans fighting in the Pacific were awed by the suicidal resistance they encountered. Hundreds of Japanese pilots, thousands of soldiers and civilians, immolated themselves, inflicting heavy US losses, rather than accept the logic of surrender.
It was well-known that the Japanese forces were preparing a similar sacrificial defence of their homeland. Allied planning for an invasion in the autumn of 1945 assumed hundreds of thousands of casualties. Allied soldiers - and prisoners - in the far east were profoundly grateful when the atomic bombs, in their eyes, saved their lives.
Yes, let's not forget the millions of Chinese civilians, the numbers of whose deaths make Hitler's mass exterminations seem trivial. Let's not forget the kamikazes, suicide bombers that they were. Let's not forget the Bataan Death March, the bayonettings and sport beheadings, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Let's remember who the enemy was, and the depravity they were capable of.
Japan's occupation of China had cost 15 million Chinese lives. Civilians had been raped, tortured, enslaved and massacred, while British and US prisoners were subjected to hideous maltreatment. The Japanese had been waging biological warfare in China. Their notorious Unit 731 subjected hundreds of prisoners to vivisection. Many captured American airmen were beheaded. Some were eaten. A B-29 crew was dissected alive at a Japanese city hospital.
Americans, in their turn, showed themselves reluctant to take prisoners. They subjected Japan's cities to the vast fire-bombing raids which began in March 1945, killing half a million people. Lawrence Freedman and Saki Dockrill, in a powerful analysis, argue that the nuclear assault must be perceived in the context of the deadly incendiary raids that preceded it: "Nobody involved in the decision on the atomic bombs could have seen themselves as setting new precedents for mass destruction in scale - only in efficiency." More people - 100,000 - died in the March 9 Tokyo incendiary attack than at Hiroshima.
This next quote struck home with me.
In August 1945, amid a world sick of death in the cause of defeating evil, allied lives seemed very precious, while the enemy appeared to value neither his own nor those of the innocent. Truman's Hiroshima judgment may seem wrong in the eyes of posterity, but it is easy to understand why it seemed right to most of his contemporaries. (emphasis mine--Darren)
Dropping the atomic bomb killed people and did damage, no doubt about it. Was it justified? I don't see how a reasonable or dispassionate person could, given applicable facts, argue that it was not.
And it's high time it was taught this way rather than pushing some multi-culti, moral relativism crap that ignores context and the times and seems intent on casting aspersions on America's use of a weapon that effectively ended a war that cost the lives of at least 8 digits' worth of people, well on the way to 9 digits' worth.
Because you will probably delete this post as well I will not go in depth other than to say you truly seem to be blood thirsty and that your believe in the necessity of dropping the bomb is predicated on the fact that it was okay to kill thousands in order to save thousands. You did not consider the fact that Japan HAD BEEN WILLING TO SURRENDER PRIOR TO THE BOMB if the U.S. would allow the Emperor to stay in power. The U.S. denied this request at first and demanded total surrender, thus, a part to the motivation to drop the bomb. Sadly, the U.S. did let Japan keep the Emperor title in the end, which they could have done before they dropped the bomb and avoided deaths on all sides. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are ugly episodes in our nations past. Al l the evidence you sight to indicate more deaths has merit. Nonetheless, you fail to account for the fact that the Soviets were on their way to joing the pacific thater and would have lightened the American role and death total, as well as further motivated the Japanese to surrender withoout much more incident.
Asking whether or not the bomb was justified is not very simple. Ask anyone of that era and most will answer with a yes. Nontheless, we have the benefit of now knowing more today about what was going on than the public knew then. We know the U.S. could have ended the war with Japan without dropping the bomb and risking continued warfare if we would have allowed the Emperor to remain--a condition the U.S. wound up allowing for anyways! Thus, the bomb was unessesary and the U.S. did kill thousands of civilians!
That is another point, we hit a civilian target--twice--even the Japanese kept their attack on Pearl Harbor targeted at military sites!
Got Spell Check?
Oh, even if you can defend Hiroshima what in the world is the defense for bombing Nagasaki and fire bombing Tokyo (a war crime by the way)?
I had a feeling this would bring you out of your cave.
I defend the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden by saying that Total War was the practice of the times.
The Japanese may have attacked only military targets in Hawaii, but the Koreans and Chinese and Filipinos will tell a different story. But then again, so what? The Japanese waged total war, and they got it in return.
Nagasaki? They hadn't surrendered yet. Unconditional surrender was the rule of the day. If they didn't want to surrender unconditionally, I don't see how they can cry about more of their own citizens dying.
What's really honestly truly so bad about an atomic bomb, anyway? What makes it worse than 1000-plane raids, or the London Blitz, or the bombing of Coventry?
As for war crimes, I think I'll let history, and not the history teacher, have the last word on that one :-)
And as for the Soviets, the Guardian article I linked to discussed that. I'm not convinced that having a Communist Japan would have been the ideal way to "have lightened the American role"; the atomic bomb did that quite nicely, and I think even you'll have to agree that it was effective.
I'll never understand the America Is To Blame crowd, especially the Americans in that crowd. Crap on your grandparents and great-grandparents if you desire, but I choose to value the WWII military service of 3 of my 4 grandparents. Good gawd, is there *any* US military action that you view as worthwhile, necessary, or moral?
Congarts, I have decided to make you the misinformed person of the week on my blog for your complete lack of feeling and knowledge and abitlty to think for yourself! Congrats!
I decided to use your replies as a point for discussion because they are so ignorant that I fell out of my chair laughing, but sad, that there are people like you left. I don't even think many conservatives, other than your friends and blog viewers who would agree with you! You are an example of what is wrong with today;s conservative! Wow, thanks for the ammo! I couldn't have made it up!
Slavery and Jim Crow use to be the rule of the day so I guess it was justified according to your stance. Thanks for this one man! You only have yourself to blame! Hee Hee!
With regards to the Soviets lightening the load, first, the Soviet Union was a land power, and would have contributed to defeating troops on the mainland--which was quite irrelevant (strategically) since, second, our dominance of the sea and air prevented them from being reinforced or resupplied and precluded the need for the Soviet Navy. This was the "wither on the vine" part of the island-hopping strategy. We even had enough manpower reserves in the Pacific that we were able to liberate some such occupied areas. The Soviet contribution would not help the war effort, it's only benefit was the humanitarian goal of liberating occupied peoples. Since, however, the Soviets proceeded to "liberate" most of Manchuria's industry, their contribution to the war in the Pacfic was essentially nil. It would have been better for them to remain pacifist and act as an intermediary (since all other diplomatic routes between the U.S. and Japan were closed.
Progressive Pete is right about firebombing being a war crime... now. Fire bombing falls under area bombardment in Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, part I, article 51, section five. Available here.
Amazing how no one will address the part about the conditions of surrender before the war to after the war. It is inconienent to your logic I guess.
The Allied area bombing of civilians played an important role in undermining the will of the German and Japanese people to continue the war. But unlike the predictions of military strategists before the war, this did not happen quickly. For a long time, the bombing of German and Japanese civilians only stiffened their resolve to fight on. They wanted to surrender only after their countries lay in ruins, hundreds of thousands had perished, and all hope of victory was lost.
Oh, lest I forget your military heros:
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were almost defeated and ready to surrender...in being the first to use it, we...adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
---Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy,
Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II
The question of whether use of the bomb was necessary haunts us because if the bombs were not necessary they were war crimes, something painful for Americans to consider. It is true that by the end of World War II the lines between waging war and simply killing people in large numbers had been largely erased. The earlier strategy of air attacks had been to pinpoint strategic targets, but in Europe, by early 1945 the air attacks had assumed a different character--as if whatever sense of moral restraint had existed when the war began had vanished. The bombing of Dresden was not a military target. The fire bombing of that city created a fire storm resulting in a terrible loss of civilian life.
What was the real situation regarding Japan? The Japanese were concerned about whether the Emperor would be able to remain on his throne if they surrendered. As a result of the air attacks, and their steady isolation by U.S. sea power, the Japanese military were aware the war could not be won. In 1946 the official U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded:
Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.
Not known to the general public until after the war, Japan had begun to put out feelers about surrender by May of 1945. On May 12, 1945, William Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services (which later became the CIA) reported to President Truman that Shinichi Kase, Japan’s minister to Switzerland, wished "to help arrange for a cessation of hostilities." He believed one of the few provisions the Japanese would "insist upon would be the retention of the Emperor." A similar report reached Truman from Masutaro Inoue, a Japanese official in Portugal. In mid-June Admiral William D. Leahy concluded that "a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provision for America’s defense against future trans-Pacific aggression."
Meanwhile, the U.S. learned through intercepted diplomatic cables (the U.S. had broken Japanese codes early in the war) that the emperor of Japan wished to send Prince Konoye to Moscow as his personal representative to "ask the Soviet Government to take part in mediation to end the present war and to transmit the complete Japanese case in this respect." In President Truman’s handwritten journal, only released in 1979, he noted in July of 1945 that Stalin had reported "a telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace."
Why then proceed with using the atomic bomb?
The most generous explanation would be that Truman did not fully understand what the atomic bomb would do, that he saw it as simply "another weapon". However, his military advisers knew it was in a different category. Even those favoring its use urged that it be used against a clearly military target with advance warning to civilians to leave the area. It is also possible that, being a politician, Truman wanted to justify the huge expense of the special crash program to develop the bomb--using it would prove to taxpayers that their funds had been well spent.
Historians now tend to believe that there was another explanation, which was that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the opening shots fired in the Cold War. The Soviet Union did not fully convey to Truman the Japanese interest in surrender--because the Soviets wanted to enter the war and secure a place at the bargaining table. (Keep in mind that technically the Soviet Union remained an ally of Japan throughout World War II, and no state of war existed between them. The Soviets actually declared war on Japan August 8th, two days after the first atomic bomb was exploded.)
The United States, acting on the advice of conservative political advisers--not on the advice of its military leaders--dropped the first atomic bomb without responding to any of the Japanese peace feelers. Then, three days later, and after the Soviet entry in the war had made immediate Japanese surrender inevitable, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The first bomb was dropped after Japan had already begun the process of seeking the terms of surrender. The second bomb was dropped when it was clear no U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands was needed. Are crimes of war only those actions committed by the nation which committed aggression? Was it not a crime to use the nuclear bomb without exploring the Japanese peace feelers? The question remains why anyone still believes the use of the nuclear bomb was necessary. Opposing evidence is overwhelming. It is as if, to shield ourselves from knowledge of what we did, we refuse to examine the history of that period.
In closing it must be noted that neither the U.S. Congress nor the general public was even aware that a nuclear weapon was being developed, let alone that it would be used. As happens in war, morality vanished, secrecy prevailed, and great crimes were committed without consultation.
Today, self-styled conservatives slander as "anti-American" anyone who is in the least troubled by Truman’s massacre of so many tens of thousands of Japanese innocents from the air. This shows as well as anything the difference between today’s "conservatives" and those who once deserved the name.
Oh, the use of poisonous weapons (due to the effects of the radiation) were defined as war crimes by international law of the time. Please read up on history and law before you make false staements. Facts is fact. It was a war crime . . . then and now! My god, if it was not, then what is?!
Just admit it was wrong, heal, say sorry, and move on. You will save some self respect by acknowledging it instead of seeming like a war-monger!
Oh, the use of poisonous weapons (due to the effects of the radiation) were defined as war crimes by international law of the time. Please read up on history and law before you make false staements.
If you'll read my comment carefully, you'll see that I did not say that radiation poisoning was not banned. I said that firebombing wasn't. Radiation poisoning falls under the "all analogous liquids, materials, or devices" clause of the 1925 convention.
Therefore, yes, dropping the atomic bombs was a war crime. I can't remember who said it, but the quotation, "War is an awful thing, but it is not the most awful thing", pops into mind. The issue is whether dropping the bomb was less ethical than its alternatives.
But unlike the predictions of military strategists before the war, this did not happen quickly. For a long time, the bombing of German and Japanese civilians only stiffened their resolve to fight on.
I agree. See Grossman, Lt. Col. David. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. page 56 for a psychiatric explanation of why this is so. Heck, read the whole book. It's worth it.
Question: why would anyone demand unconditional surrender? It will never make the battle easier. It will always cause more death and more destruction than a termed surrender. Without the benefit of hindsight (which has more or less exonerated Hirohito), when we still thought him to be as much of cause of atrocities as was Hitler, would it have been ethical for us to allow him to remain in power, despite the atrocities, which we thought he commanded, in China? The Japanese seeking surrender terms, when the knew precisely our intentions, could be interpreted as an attempt to stall for time.
BTW, ROTLC, sorry for causing a flame up on your blog. You may censor at will.
Hey Progressive Pete: are these your original ideas and words or did you borrow them from Gar Alperovitz's?
There are no more original ideas, right? I got everything from somewhere. (huh?!)
As I did a google search on Gar I found "THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB". That was very interesting. My statements were not as well thought out as his.
Oh, Darren will censor away, it is in his blood. Heck, (it seems) you all don't like ideas when they disagree with you and think about censorship right away.
Progressive Pete, you can continue to taunt but I won't bite. Dropping the atomic bombs was the right decision then and time hasn't changed that analysis. All your lefty diatribes don't change it, either.
Unconditional surrender is a good thing. It leaves no doubt in the mind of the vanquished that they are, in fact, defeated, need to apologize, and move on. :-)
BTW, Progressive Pete, are you working on a thesis or something? You comments are certainly less than pithy, though they merit pity.
And that, apparently, is that.
Progressive Pete won.
Nope. Darren did.
My visit this past Thursday to the D-Day museum in New Orleans has reinforced my belief we were correct in dropping both bombs. Particularly the section outlining Japanese war crimes against the Chinese and all the other 'inferior' races they were determined to wipe off the face of the planet. Your mileage may vary.
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
John Stuart Mill, English philospher
Phyllis, wasn't that museum built in New Orleans because that's where the landing craft were made? I recall seeing a report on World News Tonight when such a museum opened, and I *think* it was New Orleans.
Was it impressive?
I've never been to Normandy. Perhaps I'll get there someday.
It is indeed where the Higgins Boats were built. It was impressive, gut-wrenching, inspiring and made even more so by the numerous D-Day veterans who volunteer there as ticket takers, etc. Another great place is the Mighty 88th museum just off I-95 in Savannah and the Yorktown Carrier that is now a museum in the Charleston Harbor. My obsession with visiting WWII museums has only just begun, I'm afraid. I've also been to Pearl Harbor--the Arizona Memorial leaves you speechless. Good John Stuart Mill quote, by the way.
www.ddaymuseum.org has great educational/curriculum stuff for your history teachers.
I've never had a desire to go to Hawaii. Were I to go, the USS Arizona Memorial would be my first stop.
In the touristy area of San Francisco is the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine. Touring that is truly an experience. Sometimes moored at the same dock is the Jeremiah O'Brien, a Liberty Ship that has been restored enough that it took part in a recent D-Day ceremony in Normandy. Yes, it runs!
My paternal grandmother was in the English Army during WWII, in air defense artillery. When I was in the army in the 80s, I too was air defense artillery. Anyway, I recently found her uniform insignia in a footlocker at her house. She was there the night the Germans bombed Coventry. I love the old stories....
Wow, nobody wins in a discussion like this people. It is amazing that my humanity has been questioned by people who feel justified in dropping the bomb, killing thousands of civilians, when THE FACT IS THAT THE US COULD HAVE ACCEPTED THE SAME TERMS OF SURRENDER IT DID EVENTUALLY ACCEPT BEFORE DROPPING THE BOMBS! (Emphasis, not yelling). Go ahead and manipulate that fact if you dare. The US was not justified in dropping the bomb pure and simple. The truth is that Japan was ready to surrender without the dropping of the bombs, was in the act of trying to initiate such with the full knowledge of the US, and even most military strategists involved in WW II disagreed with it. How can you advocate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and claim to value human life when confronted with the UNCONTESTED, on the record, facts. It is amazing to me that conservatives can not acknowledge one decent thing a Democrat does but the second one drops an atomic bomb you are all right there waving the flag screaming, "these colors don't bleed!" Honoring America's glorious efforts to fight tyranny and evil, thank you FDR, does not equate loving the bomb and the death of innocent civilians. Indeed, cherishing the memory of those who fought so bravely is to remember the facts correctly, proclaim the truth of thier deeds, and work hard to maintain the peace they so violently bled for . World War II is not the sum of the atomic explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. World War II represents the efforts of America's "greatest generation" fighting off evil. To define the triumph of America's actions by proclaiming the necessity of the bombs demeans all these brave soilders fought for! The war had been won without the bomb. The war was about to end without the threat of more US casulties because the Japanese wanted to surrender before the bombs dropped. Thus, the bomb was a catastrophe and an embarrasment to the honorable mission this country took up during this horrible time.
I am proud of my grandfather's service during the war. I am proud to teach the US involvement and role in winning the war. I am saddened, however, the US dropped the bomb and I mourn the innocent lives lost to something that goes against everything we as a nation proclaim to believe in.
I contest your so-called facts. Dropping the bomb wasn't wrong, "pure and simple". If it were "pure and simple" we wouldn't be having this debate, would we?
This is the problem I have with the way you present arguments, Progressive Pete. You give your opinion as fact and then call me names when I disagree.
BTW, how many times are you going to copy stuff off your own blog and paste it here, be they entire posts or comments left on your blog? That's pretty weak, especially when you pass someone else's point there off as your own here.
I'll tell you what. You say 2 positive things about George Bush--not snide, not sarcastic, not damning with faint praise--two things he's done that you can be genuinely positive about, and I'll do the same thing for Bill Clinton. Until then, I don't want to hear you whining about what Republicans think about Democrats.
Know what's interesting? I think this thread has generated more comments than any other post I've written.
Hey Mr Miller
Yay more debate for me to put my two cents into. Now I'm not nearly as well read (or as angry) as some of the people above but I do have a few thoughts. I don’t agree with war, I don’t agree with the quote u posted above "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things...", but I do think that leaders during war walk a very fine line and they aren't always omniscient enough to see the exact consequences of their actions. Truman did what he thought was right and what he thought would save the most American and ultimately Japanese lives. It is hard, if not impossible, to fight fanatics and Truman did what he thought would help. This atomic technology was supposed to be the thing that ended all wars. It was said during the forties that once the atomic technology was perfected, war would become obsolete. Unfortunately that wasn't true, but how was Truman supposed to know that?
By the way Progressive Pete, Mr Miller and I have had alot of discussions over the past year, and we usually disagreed. However I have never felt the need to taunt him the way you seem to. It is actually possible to have debate without name calling. I know it’s an unusual idea but you might want to try it sometime.
Hope you're having a nice summer Mr. Miller. Did your house moving go well?
Again, you attack well but can not defend your stances—even your supporters back paddle by attacking and then acknowledging when I am right!
Otherwise known as being reasonable.
There's a little bit for everyone in a BBC article on this topic. It's worth a read.
Pete, you'll notice that I have deleted two of your comments. Their detritus remain as a reminder that I *will* delete comments that are uncivil and resort to name-calling. Intelligent debate requires civility and I insist on it. I have given you plenty of leeway and yet you refuse to play by the rules, hence you won't play. Tone it down, be respectful, recognize that people can disagree with you and still be intelligent, caring, reasonable, and rational adults.
In one of the comments I deleted, Progressive Pete did say two nice things about President Bush. Actually, three or four. I can't remember one of them, the other was something to do with the Texas Rangers, the third was his pick for a wife and his fourth was his daughters :-) Accordingly, here are my positive things about Bill Clinton:
1. He and his wife seem to be truly good parents to their daughter, especially when she was younger and growing up in the White House.
2. He supported NAFTA against the wishes of his own party and against the wishes of the labor movement, a large financial contributor to the Democrats.
See? Not so hard.
Katherine, good to hear from you!
The house moving goes tomorrow, even though as yet I don't have an operational kitchen! I'm hoping more than one or two people show up tomorrow to help, too.
And on Sunday Austin and I are leaving for British Columbia. Yay!
Are you in Switzerland now?
I've found out about our VPs. Ms. Schnepp will be our part-timer, and Ms. Adolphson will move up to full-time. Ms. Doiron moved on, no doubt unhappy with the way the district leaves VPs dangling. Oh, and Ms. Cox will be returning; we in the math department are happy about that.
Octavo Dia, *excellent* article from Auntie. You're right, there's a little bit there for everyone.
Okay, I'm game. Two positive things about GWB.
1) He's a smart dresser
2)Appears to love his momma.
You can do better than that, Phyllis!
As soon as the president starts doing better, Phyllis can do better.
a Brown Bag Blog
Anyone interested in the actual, documented details of what went into Truman's decision is invited to check here:
This might come a bit late to the debate but . . . sorry to break it to Progressive Pete (Graduate student somewhere in Sacramento?) but as a lecturer in US and British History at a major univeristy I must say that not even our most liberal of professors, out of Berkeley no less, put forward this immature and intelectually naive argument anymore. It is very simple, no one stopped the Japs from surrendering after Hiroshima (no negotiation necessary). In fact, much to our shock they hesitated in surrendering even after the second bomb. Wars are not humane and never will be, and only a fool thinks they are not necessary.
I'm not going to weigh in on the "were we right?" discussion, inasmuch as I think this country is already sufficiently and artificially divided over issues where there should be adequate common ground.
I would, however, just like to point out that NPR of all people had a handful of features last week that I thought were worth mentioning for their even-handedness. NPR gets a bad rap for being a run-away liberal propaganda machine, but I personally think in the last couple of years they've made an effort to tack back to the middle. Paraphrasing PJ O'Rourke, now it's more like "World to end soon, minorities and the poor most severely hit... but next, how the Rapture could be good news for tech stocks."
Anyway, go to NPR and do a search for Hiroshima or Enola Gay or whatever and you'll get:
Timeline: The Road to Hiroshima 08-05-05
Analysis: Would You Have Dropped the Atomic Bomb? 08-05-05, Day to Day
World: Hiroshima's 'Shockwave,' 60 Years Later 08-04-05, Talk of the Nation
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