My grandfather died in Bataan as a prisoner of war. When he was no longer able to keep up with the forced march, having a gangrenous infection of the shoulder that made him feverish and delirious, he was shot to death. I was five years old when they finally found something we could bury. How can we call the bombing of Nagasaki an atrocity? People who think it was are grossly mis-educated. When we look at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Bataan, how can we say that the decisive blow that broke the Axis was an atrocity, civilian targets, you say Look at what the Japanese did in the Philippines, the medical experiments, the forced incest, rape of families, fetal disembowlement these are all well documented. God bless the men who had the courage to bomb Nagasaki.
My name is Larry Beser. My father, Jacob, was the only man to be aboard both planes that dropped the bomb; the Bock's Car and the Enola Gay. As the Electronic Countermeasures Officer, it was his job to insure the bombs went off when and where they were supposed to. As the 50th anniversary approaches this August, I've seen the explosion of revisionist historians trying to spew their versions of why it would have been better to invade the Japanese home islands, killing many more on both sides with guns than what we did with two single bombs. Why would killing a man with a rifle be moral and with a bomb immoral? Some revisionists insist the Japanese were on the verge of surrender, or that the defenses on the home islands weren't 'that bad'. It's almost funny, pathetic really, how some people deny history to preserve their private morality and further their private agendas.
First, there's the basic immorality of war. By definition, war is immoral and a spawning ground for inhuman acts of man upon man. The Tokyo fire bombing killed more people than were killed at Nagasaki, just as horribly and just as dead. It was, in fact, those Tokyo raids which caused Nagasaki to be the target that day because the smoke from the firebombing obscured the primary target.
What is history? History is the collection of facts; observations of those who were actually there. Modern revisionists, interpreting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with 90's morality and perspective do not serve society as historians only as moralists who fail in the placement of fact and action in the perspective of the times in which they occurred. They may serve themselves, but they fail societal expectations of the objective historian. What matter the secrets uncovered years after the fact; what a president's advisor may have known or whatever, if at the time decisions were made those secrets were not known by the decision makers?
My father passed away several years ago, and spent his post-war life speaking to school and community groups about his experiences; trying to get the messages across that war itself is immoral as are all things done in pursuit of victory, that we as a people have seen the horror of atomic warfare and cannot afford to let it recur, but in the perspective of the times the dropping of the atomic bomb was the only decision we could have made.
Hundreds of thousands of Japanese were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that's a damn shame. They were, however, the enemy and they started it. The use of the atomic bombs, despite revisionist objections, shortened the war and saved American lives. In the perspective of the times, that's really all that matters.
What's your point? War is hell. Should have told that to the Japanese BEFORE Pear Harbor.
Richard Reynolds, survivor of WWII. Was flying against Japs in august 1945, glad when bomb dropped , still glad. The war ended for me, I had survived. The Japs who died should not have joined. If you make a fight don't cry if you lose. Life is not about turning the other cheek.
I was born in England in 1954. Although they did not say a lot Amy parents made clear to me the suffering of the people of Europe during the war. In American schools I learned that the atomic bombs brought an earlier end to the Pacific war than might otherwise have been possible. Perhaps saving millions from both sides. Maybe so but the cost was almost unspeakable. I have thought of those who died. And of those who did not. But I can t reach any satisfactory conclusion. And I 'll never feel right about it. I just can t.
I was born in 1943, so I have no personal memory of the event. However, growing up I remember a profound sense of thanks that the Manhattan Project at Chicago, along with the folks at Los Alamos developed the means to end a long war with an enemy that was responsible for Pearl Harbor, the Bataan death march and numerous atrocities and fanatical devotion to crushing lesser races, as they saw it. I believe the Japanese deserved every Roentgen! We didn't even know about such cultural quirks as the prostitution of hundreds of thousands of Korean women then.
Later, we feared the Russians after the Rosenbergs smuggled the secrets of the bomb to them, and I kind of assumed one would go off somewhere, sometime.
Use it again? Maybe. The right situation could come up again. It's just another way of making bad guys dead.
I am a 37 year old layperson, working on a sermon to be given August 6, 1995. I am too young to have experienced anything about Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and I am not arrogant enough to believe that I know what "should" have been done in 1945 after the U.S. had been through 4 years of war, and had begun to see what the Germans had been doing. I have always felt that I would have at least chosen a military target, and waited longer after Hiroshima for Japanese surrender. Besides mourning for the lives lost, (or looking at the other side, mourning for the war victims before the bomb, also.) I am most saddened that people often see this in such a black and white. "Of course it was right!" or "We unleashed the greatest evil in the history of the world! We should be ashamed!" I believe that good people will express both views. Steve Miller -- Omaha, NE
I have always been torn on the bombing of Nagasaki. My mother is Japanese and she lived a few miles outside of Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped. She tells me she remembers the sky lighting up and feeling the ground tremble as if an earthquake had struck. Her memories of that day are very short and not as vivid as they once were. As an American, I do support the dropping of the bomb because of two reasons. First, it saved many more lives in the long run and helped accelerate the end of the war. Finally, if anything go can come out of a bomb that causes so much death and destruction is that it showed the whole world what this weapon could do. As human beings we have a responsibility to learn from our past and to prevent atomic weapons from ever being used again. Frank Benedik. Falls Church, VA
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely essential to stop the spread of human suffering and death due to the fanatical nationalistic ravings of an imperialistic, non-elected, totalitarian regime. The countless millions who suffered and died at their command, and certainly the millions who would have been wounded or killed had an all-out invasion been carried out, were spared this by the use of the bombs. As humans interested in the well-being of our fellow man, we should be eternally grateful for what Hiroshima and Nagasaki accomplished. Yes it occurred at a cost. But in terms of killing and human suffering, the cost of a full invasion would have been far greater. Bruce Miller
The extent of human suffering caused by dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is surpassed only by he attrocities perpetrated by the Japanese war machine on the innocent people of Korea, China, Singapore, and the Phillipines. The POWs of Bataan and countless others whose only crime was to be seen as insignificant by the Japanese. The Japanese are not blameless in the US decision to drop the atomic bomb. It's time Japan accepted their responsibility for the consequences of World War II.
My name is Wakatsuki Machi studying at Nagoya University Graduate School.(age 23). I do not deny the fact how cruel the atomic bomb is. But because I had been in Korea for a year and have studied what Japanese people had done to Asian people during the war, I do not think it is good idea that we focus on only the victims of the A-bomb. There were a lot of Korean people who were forced to work in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and they were injured as well as the other Japanese. We should not forget the people and the fact what we had done to them when we talk about the WWII. It is really stupid idea that French government will start the A-bomb test again and we should say NO MORE A-BOMB as well as how horrible it is.
I think the use of the atom bomb was the most heroic thing a president has every done. It took Truman a lot of courage to order it dropped. It saved many lives, both American and Japanese.
I am a 75 year old veteran stationed near Subic Bay in the Philipines on August 6 and ff. My immediate job was to supervise "combat loading" an LST for a landing in two months at Kyushu. I had been overseas in the South Pacific for over two years, away from my wife and son. When the word was broadcast over the armed forces radio I was both apprehensive and exhilarated. Apprehensive that the Japs would continue their pattern of suicide, and exhilarated that maybe the end was in sight. I was a witness to the civilian slaughter by the retreating Japs in Manila (which incidentally was greater than the combined fatalities of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was delighted then about the magnitude of the bomb. Today I am intolerant of the revisionists who claim surrender would have come some other way.
Being a computer programmer I am very aware of how technology affects people. As a child, my father served on the staff of the Admiral who led the US Navy's Caribbean Landing ships during the sixties. They constantly practiced landing Marine forces and tanks on islands After he retired he talked about beach landings, how the Cuban missile crisis of 1963 was the closest the US came to conventional or nuclear war with the Soviets and Cubans. Living at the US Naval base at San Juan Puerto Rico, as a child, we were very aware of the warning sirens, since we were so close to Cuba. I began reading and thinking about nuclear war from the time I was ten.
The Nagasaki bombing is very worthy of study. I have seen a great deal of film and still photos of victims of the bomb. This is a horrible tragedy in human terms. But consider the entire historical picture. Nazi Germany had an advanced program to develop the atomic bomb. Only British and American bombing raids against the German laboratories slowed their progress. The Germans had also built prototypes of six engine bombers capable of flying across the Atlantic to bomb the United States, perhaps with conventional bombs or worse. Only the end of the war stopped production of these bombers. If the Germans had developed a successful atomic weapon, would they have hesitated to use it against England or Russia? I believe they would have used it.
Lets carry the supposition one more step. If Japan developed atomic weapons or if Germany shared atomic technology with Japan, would the Japanese have used the atomic bomb against the US? I suspect they would have used the bomb. Given the Japanese atrocities against Korean women, the brutal and fatal treatment of Western prisoners of War and the Japanese abuse of Chinese citizens, it is easy o court suicide character of the Japanese leaders and their army. Given the historical record of Japan's conduct of their war in Asia and the Pacific; the 30 to 35 percent casualty rate of American's killed retaking the Pacific Islands (compared to 20 percent rates in European battles), the use of atomic weapons against Japanese civilians can be seen as a brutal but necessary step to end the war.
Conducting a war is not an exercise in compassion. War is won by the cold reasoned application of sufficient and overwhelming force. I think we disregard the suffering of 18 million American servicemen and women who suffered through the war for years. I don't agree with those who criticize the decision. War is not won by kindness, but by brutal force.
My name is Ed Siebel and I am 56 years old. I was a boy of 7 in Chicago Illinois at the time of the bombing and knew only what I was told - that we had bombed Japan with a big bomb and that the war would soon be over. I find it particularly interesting to look through the "lens"of decision makers in 1945, trying to realize the pressures under which they labored, the information to which they were and were not privy and, ultimately, the humanity of which we are all a part. Given those realities at that time, I am reasonably confident that almost any set of responsible leaders would ultimately have come to the same conclusion.
I am a fourth generation Japanese American and my grand uncle fought in the 442nd in Italy. Unlike other Americans, who can view the decision to drop the bomb through the distorted racist rhetoric of politicians covering their asses decades later, I must view Japanese as human beings. Therefore, I am horrified and sickened that we dropped the bomb. I am proud to be a "Japanese"American, but I am not proud to be part of the "America"that unnecessarily dropped two atomic bombs on an already defeated nation, that put Japanese Americans in concentration camps, that denied entry visas to a hundred thousand Jews, effectively killing them all, the country that tried and still tries to turn men into slaves, my country that segregated even the army's blood plasma during the war so that if an African American soldier was bleeding to death, he would die as "white blood"stood ten feet away from him. I am not proud to be the America that will not admit to its faults, I am not proud of America the lie, America the distorted history textbook, America the damned. I grew up in this country singing "My country tis of thee...sweet land of liberty...of thee I sing."But my heart was broken when I found that this country is a lie. The bomb was unnecessary. The wonderful Roosevelt put my aunties and uncles in concentration camps because of their race. How could I be happy about that? Only the blind could be proud of this America. Only the blind are glad about the bomb. May I find compassion for the blind.
I'm interested to know why everyone says the bombs were saving lives, when Japan was already making overtures of surrender through the Vatican. If the U.S had guaranteed the Emperor's life, Japan would have surrendered before the bombings. The figure of 1,000,000 American lives saved is ridiculous at best U.S. army officials put the estimate of casualties for an invasion of Kyushu at around 40,000. Moreover, Japan in 1945 was a defeated nation, the extent of which is evident when one watches films such as Hotaru No Haka, Grave of the Fireflies Forthcoming research by Ronald Takaki shows that Macarthur, Eisenhower and the chair of the joint chiefs of staff all recommended against the bomb. It will take a long time before people accept these facts. Cheryl Thompson, 23, Redmond, Wash.
...I don't think anyone except the exceptionally cold hearted people would say the bombs should be dropped, granted they have seen the devastation, cruelty and trauma it had induced on the people, INNOCENT OR NOT. I must emphasize that "Innocent or Not"is besides the point in this issue. Even for someone who has committed a serious crime, it wouldn't justify to exercise and act of ordeal of the person. Anyone who wakes up one fine morning, having his breakfast half way and realizes that someone is blasting the entire city into ashes in the next second will have a good idea of what that mean. Cruelty is cruelty no matter how you glamorize the word.
I didn' t think about the cold war too much, I was too ignorant to know enough about it at that time, being an below average schoolboy in a pure utilitarian British Colony in South East Asia. As for now, I see no reason why the bomb or any weapon that is capable of massive destruction will definitely not be deployed, unless all the countries are made incapacitated in this respect. As a matter of fact, now that China is stretching its wings, unless some appropriate measures are taken, we may end up with another cold war. Epilogue. For those who feel angry about my opinion, or perhaps suspect that I am biased, please be informed that my mother country is "the"no.1 victim of Japanese invasion. In term of traumatic experience and casualties, the Nanking massacre is on the par with the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bomb, at the minimum. Nevertheless, I cannot agree with any sort of immense cruelty like the bomb and the massacre, of course. About me? Computer Scientist, 30. Currently living in London.
I have old Life books from WWII show pictures of thousands of dead civilians outside air raid shelters in Nanking. I read about a children's game developed by Japanese soldiers in China where they would throw an infant in the air and catch it on the end of their bayonet. If that's not enough, lets take a trip to Korea or the Philippines and see what games the Japanese soldiers and medical researchers did there. There is no valid reason to feel sorry for Hiroshima or Nagasaki because they reaped what the sowed. PS Reading from some of the letters form the aniversarry of Hiroshima, the big complaint is not that so many people died, more died in the bombing of Tokyo and Dresden, but that the destruction was caused by one bomb and the effects of residual radiation that no one knew about. When Japan apologizes for the war, for all the atrocities and pays the victims and their families for the suffering inflicted on them, then Japan may take the first step to a higher ground. Right now the Japanese government lives in a moral sewer.
Here is a piece I have written in response to the many recent articles that seem to me to go astray in significant ways. Best wishes at this time that challenges the human spirit.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are much on our minds and in exploring the background to the decision to drop the first atom bomb fifty years ago. Most such articles seek to justify or to condemn the decision on that basis: they ask in effect, did the end justify the means?
Such arguments are based on a premise that is so wholly typical of our war-torn century that it is hard for us to recognize it and still harder to realize it demands reflection. That is, such arguments quietly assume an equation between casualties suffered in battle and the strategic bombing of non-combatants.
Yes, there have always been civilian deaths in war, what the military with its cool detachment likes to call collateral damage. But strategic bombing - the military decision to target civilian populations to bring the politicians that lead them to heel - is a 20th century invention. It began with air attacks on Britain during World War I.
According to Murray Sayle writing recently in the New Yorker, there were 1400 civilian deaths recorded in the First World War. In the next war the British suffered many thousands of civilian casualties but themselves invented and, with America's help, perfected a strategic bombing technique that killed far more than the bombing of Hiroshima ever would. Using a mixture of high explosives and incendiary bombs to generate "firestorms," R.A.F. bombers destroyed four square miles in Hamburg in July 1943 and, with the help of American B-17s, the entire city of Dresden on the night of February 13, 1945 (killing between 35,000 and 100,000). A month later 16 square miles in central Tokyo were consumed along with 88,000 lives. Before the summer of 1945, firestorms would kill half a million Japanese and make homeless twenty million more.
With these numbers in mind, I find rather troubling the self-satisfaction many take at the thought that by preventing the invasion of Japan the atom bomb saved a half million or a million American lives (pick a number) or, as one writer had the audacity to argue, that it saved four Japanese lives for each life it took. Perhaps we dropped the bombs to save American lives rather than to scare the Soviets (though many believe the latter was unquestionably an element in our decision). Certainly our goal was not to save Japanese lives! But the real point, so easy to miss in this debate concerning the Hiroshima decision, is that by August 1945 we were well across a line that made the killing of 100,000 civilians by means of a single air-raid a fairly easy decision. What gets lost in the debate about that decision is the fundamental human tragedy that in this century we have become inured to mass killing (some of course would call it mass murder).
No one questions that Hiroshima let a horrible genie out of the bottle. But it is not to minimize that horror - nor the horror evoked by the thought of the million lives that might have been lost if the bomb had not been dropped - that I now urge that we realize an even more horrible demon was unleashed when we as a species and as a nation became comfortable with targeting non-combatants. It does not diminish our recognition of the suffering experienced fifty years ago to remember that just twenty-five years ago Westmoreland's policy of attrition led to the gunning down of 504 villagers in a ditch beside a single village (My Lai) by fairly ordinary - there's the horror - American soldiers, or that LBJ's policy of carpet bombing ("Rolling Thunder") killed well over a million Vietnamese villagers.
The Pentagon Papers that then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, commissioned make it clear (and his recent autobiography confirms) that it was known early in the Vietnam war at the highest echelons that both these policies would be wholly ineffective. In fact the firebombing in World War II had long before shown that civilian deaths bolstered rather than undermined a nation's resolve. And it has been argued that it was not the atom bomb that enforced Japan's surrender but rather the Soviet's invasion of Manchuria (bringing their huge mechanized land armies into the war against Japan for the first time).
My point is that the inevitable debates about the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima should not blind us to how wildly our moral compass has swung in this century and in this nation from its former bearings. World War II was a war we had to fight. But decisions like those in Hiroshima, like those in Hamburg and Dresden, like those in Vietnam, should serve ever to remind us to elect those who lead us with caution, to follow their leadership with even more caution, and finally, once they do some dire deed, to believe their explanations only with profound skepticism. "The price of liberty," said a great American, "is eternal vigilance."
Rarely are human events determined by single causes. We bombed Hiroshima to save American lives and to prevent another Okinawa. We bombed Hiroshima also to avenge the atrocity of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and because that and much else - including our racism - convinced us the "yellow peril" was sub-human and merited such inhumanity. We bombed Hiroshima still again also to keep the Soviets out of sharing in the peace in the Pacific and to convince them of our invincible power. Despite having so many conflicting ends, it worked. Boy, did it ever work.
But, while it is important to recognize the multiplicity of the decision's causes, doing so will not yield the correct answer to the question everyone is asking on the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima, were we right to drop the bomb? You get to the correct answer not by considering reasons, which after all is only to ask if the end justified the means, which is itself a question with shaky premises. The correct answer comes from a good moral compass, one that directs generals and politicians and the nations that elect them not to target civilian populations.
The moral paralysis America has shown recently regarding Bosnia is often explained and even applauded as an unwillingness to get bogged down in yet another quagmire. The political and ethnic situation there is mindnumbingly complex, at least as complex as that confronting us in Southeast Asia in the 50s and 60s (though through the lenses of the Cold War that conflict seemed so simple). But what is perfectly clear is that Serbs are targeting civilians in areas the world community has designated safe havens.
Perhaps our paralysis is also due to our continuing failure to accept the burden of responsibility for the mistake of targeting civilians as an ordinary part of our own military strategies from World War II to the present. It is only by shouldering that burden that America can begin to regain its internal compass. We long to fulfill the challenge of our historic and idealistic mission, to be a city on a hill, a model among nations, in short, to be on the right side and to do the right thing. Arguments that speciously defend our mistakes only compound the error. Let us acknowledge our mistake, accept our responsibility, and face whatever the morrow brings with a shriven conscience.
Randy Fertel, Ph.D. Tulane University
Gary A. Blumberg, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institue. Age 18.
I was born after WWII, but my dad grew up in the 1940s. He can remember the post-War era. It was him and his recollections that taught me. During the Cold War I can remember statistics such as we have enough nuclear weapons to annilate the whole Earth. That statement right there is ignorant and is out of control. What would be the purpose of doing that anyway? Recently I read an article in the newspaper entitled, "Only nation to drop Bomb..." This article simple stated that we are the only nation to drop a nuclear bomb in the time of war, but we are a country trying to protect the peace. We do not want war, but we will fight in a time of war. It gave examples of starting the United Nations, Bosnia, eastern Africa, Haiti, etc. As far as the atomic bomb is concerned here is my own personal opinion. When the bomb was dropped it was done to save more lives than if the war had continued on. If the United States had invaded Japan, what do you think of all the mothers of the dead personnel would say if they found out their sons could have been saved, but the White House chose not to use a certain weapon because it was too "big"of a weapon. The Japanese religion would not let themselves surrender. It basically was not in their vocabulary. When we took their islands away they did not surrender. When we bombed their cities, they still did not surrender. When we beat Germany, they did not surrender. We had to bring them to their knees to force them to surrender and we did just that. Compared to the first fire bombings on Tokyo, the Bomb was just a scratch. Compared to the human life killed by the Japanese in China, the Bomb is a toothpick. I do pray to God that no other country is forced into the situation to use nuclear weapons. Since the dawn of atomic energy, there has been so many good things that have come out of something so bad. For example, safe electrical power generation, cancer treatments, medical applications to save lives, etc.
My name is Elise. I am 17 years old. Learning about the bomb and its effects has caused me to question my own beliefs about where to draw the line in world warfare. To what lengths was it appropriate to go to stop Hitler and the slaughter of a people? To claim a victory over an opponent? To end a war? How can we consider an entire nation "enemies"? To bring a country to its knees, we destroyed millions of innocent civilians. Was it worth it?
I am 50 years old and if the bomb had been dropped 2 months sooner, my father would have been alive to share my life.
I just read more of the comments in the file ... my name is Bruce Kau, and I am 40 years old, 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Japanese by ancestry, American by birth. I live in Hawaii; my parents lived through the bombing of pearl harbor. I think we should remember the horrors and atrocities of war, but only to remind us of how we should not be. We must go beyond revenge and hatred ... we must go beyond thinking that the killing by either side was "justified"because of what "they"had done. More sickening han the killings of the past is people remembering the killing and wishing to avenge the killing -- this only results in an endless cycle of war. It must end somewhere. Let the dead have their peace and not have more blood on their memories. We must choose life.
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