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June 15, 2006



In an flash, 10,000 civilians were killed in Hiroshima. In the days and weeks to come, thousands more would die. The hypocenter (the orange sphere) was triggered at about 600 meters above Aioi bridge. This miniature illustrates that exact point in time.

Here's another Hiroshima model, in striking before-and-after format...





Update: Thanks so much for all these great comments! Please keep it up! And just so you know, these miniatures do not overtly lay blame to one country or another. As far as I understand their purpose is more left up to the viewer, though there is text in one of the museums about the state of nuclear proliferation.

Here are some excerpts from the account of P. Siemes, survivor of the Hiroshima blast...

More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded. There are wounded soldiers, and mothers carrying burned children in their arms. From the houses of the farmers in the valley come word: " Our houses are full of wounded and dying. Can you help, at least by taking the worst cases?" The wounded come from the sections at the edge of the city. They saw the bright light, their houses collapsed and buried the inmates in their homes. Those that were in the open suffered instantaneous burns, particularly on the lightly clothed or unclothed parts of the body. Numerous fires spring up which soon consumed the entire district. We now conclude that the epicenter of the explosion was at the edge of the city near the Yokogawa Station, three kilometers away from us.

We take off again with the hand cart. The bright day now reveals the frightful picture which last night's darkness had partly concealed. Where the city stood, everything as far as the eye could reach is a waste of ashes and ruin. Only several broken skeletons of buildings completely burned out in the interior remain. The banks of the river are covered with dead and wounded, and the rising waters have here and there covered some of the corpses. On the broad street in the Hakushima district, naked, burned, cadavers are particularly numerous. Among them are the wounded who still live. A few have crawled under the burnt-out autos and trams. Frightfully injured forms beckon to us and then collapse. An old woman and a girl whom she is pulling along with her, fall down at our feet.

Update 2: I recommend the film The Fog of War, an insightful interview with Robert McNamara, who takes an honest and insightful look back on his life – WWII, Japan and the Cold War are especially interesting... and disconcerting.

Update 3: For a response to this post, read Looming Comments.

Additional Photos of Museum
General Tibbets and an Army of Ultramen – Previous post
With God on Our Side – Previous post

June 15, 2006 | Permalink


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» Hiroshima miniatures at Peace Museum from Boing Boing
Tinselman says: These Hiroshima miniatures, illustrating the devastation caused by the bomb, are incredibly provoking. But it's especially powerful seeing the before and after miniatures. Before, a quiet, almost quaint town... Link... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 15, 2006 6:13:34 PM


I cannot fathom the level of destruction brought about by that horrible creation. The fact that the same science that should have been saving lives was perverted into a dreadful weapon is frightening. We can flatten a city, but we can't cure cancer? Perhaps the 21st century will bring us hope.

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 15, 2006 6:37:12 PM

WTF...Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Pearl Harbor? Do you have any idea how many more people would have died if the war would have continued? That bomb SAVED millions of lives, and forced the coward-like Japs to surrender. How about some snobby art installation showing all the sailors killed by 15 year-old Kamikazee pilots. Please, spare us the "Oh look at this horrible thing we did!" I thank God every day we nuked those morons.

Posted by: Mike | Jun 15, 2006 7:30:38 PM

Hm. You know, you remind me of holocaust deniers - "Nothing bad happened, it's all a fabrication."

Posted by: zach | Jun 15, 2006 7:50:17 PM

The bombs were unnecessary, it's scary that people like this Mike guy on the comment above exist! I don't think he really understands what those things were and probably doesn't know much about history either.

Posted by: Gabriel | Jun 15, 2006 7:53:19 PM

Mike, just curious as to which God you thank each day for that disgusting act. I'm sure which ever one it is that killing innocent people with a nuclear weapon doesn't rank anywhere near greatness like you think it does.

Posted by: Jason | Jun 15, 2006 8:19:16 PM

This is a situation where it pays to look at the different cultural backgrounds of the two sides.

Both sides thought their code of warfare was globally accepted and understood. But both sides were wrong.

The Japanese were waging war the same way they had for centuries. Pre-emptive strikes were a valid and honourable technique, and the expectation was that their opponents also knew this and would act accordingly. Of course, America did not think that way at all (at the time, anyway.)

And vice-versa - America assumed that Japan fought wars the same way Americans did.

The Japanese were surprised when the Americans were caught off guard. The Americans were surprised when Japan attacked without prior warning.

The Japanese died in large numbers attacking a military target. The Americans bombed an incredible number of civilians from a distance without risking any of their own people. Whose act was more cowardly? It depends entirely on your point of view - and in the end it's irrelevant. It was a tragedy and a terrible act on the part of both sides.

Posted by: James | Jun 15, 2006 8:24:08 PM

Mike was a bit out of hand, there was a lot of hatred on both sides. The Japanese did a lot more than Pearl Harbor and Kamikazes. They were vicious in their attacks and enslavement in China (nearly 400,000 killed in the RApe of Nanking). Their prison camps were more like death camps (Bataan Death March and prison camps that made Japanese internment in the US look like paradise).

Their style of fighting did not enclude a simple peace treaty. They were out to control the Pacific and the lands around it. Their attack on the US was to knock out who they considered to be their rival.

Each island won by the allies was a knock down fight until there were no Japanese soldiers able to fight. THey were determined and willing to die so long as they could kill as many of their enemies as possible.

A standard attack on the mainland would have been horrible. The nuclear bomb is a truly horrible thing and nothing to be joyful about, but I do believe that in the long run its effect enabled something better to happen than if it had not been used.

The loss of life was sad, but just because it happened so quickly does not make it worse than the years of atrocities and destruction that it stopped. No amount of equivocation canchange the reality.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 15, 2006 9:06:05 PM

Its impossible to say wether the atomic bomb was hepful or not although this did help the US army , many innnocents were burnt in seconds and millions were left to suffer the effects from the radioactive effects of the bomb.

However there is a lesson that we can learn from all this is WAR just brings destruction , instead of jumping on each others throat for a piece of land , religion or selfish ideologies we should learn to accept , trust and understand.

Posted by: Javed Mandary | Jun 15, 2006 9:20:02 PM

> The Americans bombed an incredible number of civilians from a distance without risking any of their own people.

The Americans lost 80,000 soldiers in the Pacific theatre fighting the Japanese. And, yes, many airmen were lost (despite the claim that it was "from a distance without risking any of their own people"). All of them died fighting a war that the US didn't ask for.

Does Mike remind you of a holocaust denier ("Nothing bad happened, it's all a fabrication.")? I don't see how that's a valid point unless he's denying the event ever happened. The thing that you have to understand is that many people on the American Right suffer from a sincere (but somewhat wrong) belief that they are being victimized and demonized. When people bring up subjects like the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima, depending on how it is protrayed, it can appear as if the world is pointing fingers and saying, "America - the only country to have used the Bomb. They killed civilians. They are evil." Even I have to admit feeling a sense of defensiveness when a foreigner brings up the bombing of Hiroshima. My reaction in the past (somewhat to my own surprise) was, "uh oh, where is he going with this; is this a segway into making a case that the US is the world's most evil nation on earth? An excuse to hate me?" While I don't agree with Mike, you cannot understand Mike's comment without also understanding the sense of victimization and perception that the world is looking for reasons to demonize the US. No, it's not like holocaust deniers.

Posted by: BC | Jun 15, 2006 9:21:56 PM

Just as a point of reference, the estimates for fatalities suffered during an invasion of Japan ranged from "mere" tens of thousands to almost ten million, depending upon the assumptions made.


Posted by: Silence | Jun 15, 2006 9:27:37 PM

It is unfortunate, and there are no innocent parties during this conflict. What amazes me to this day though is that the Tokyo Firebombing that killed an estimated 100,000 civilians is still overshadowed by the less devastating atomic drops....

Posted by: BBC | Jun 15, 2006 9:34:35 PM

I visited the museum just 2 weeks ago. Wasn't there a no-photography rule inside?

Response to Gabriel: the bomb was a terrible event, but was it really "unnecessary"?

True, US governement did drop the bomb partially because it need a justification for money spent on the Manhatten Project. True, US at the time could also be looking ahead of the war at the threat of USSR and the cold war. It's also true that Japan was ready to surrender even without the bombs.

But keep in mind Japan was not willing to surrender without preserving the Imperial system. And it was also prepared to fight until the honorable end, on Japanese soil, and commit seppuku on a national scale--so that Japan could retain the same old order the launched the war of aggression in the first place. Can anyone imagine Germany surrendering provided that the Nazi party is allowed to continue exist?

The 2 atomic bombs were terrible, terrible events in human history. But the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were victims of war, not of the bomb. I hate myself for thinking of the bombs as retribution for even one milisecond, but as a naturalized American of Chinese descent, I get a distaste in my mouth whenever people insist on telling just one side of the story and decide to victimize Hiroshima and Nagasaki without considering the causes leading up to the bombing and the other victims of the war all over Asian, outside of Japan.

Posted by: Cho | Jun 15, 2006 9:49:04 PM

Hirohoto pledged to utilize 200,000 of his people fighting to the death to win this war. The effectiveness of kamikaze pilots was well noted by the emperor - almost all planes in production were now being fitted for kamikaze runs. These facts alone assured the destruction of our naval flett.
Add to this the barbaric and inhuman torture and medical experiments the Japanese were inflicting upon the Chinese at the northern front and it is easy to conclude...

the bomb saved many many lives by halting the war in its tracks.

Posted by: robiscus | Jun 15, 2006 10:16:44 PM

For all those who will wring their hands and whine about the atomic bomb, read some Chinese history for Pete's sake. Between the corrupt Nationalists being backed by the US as allies, the Maoist "saviors" and the Japanese, China at times resembled our great Sudanese genocide of today with the Japanese at the head of the slaughter of the commoners who wished to abstain from all sides in the conflict. As to cowardly, the Perl harbor thing was an immense Japanese tactical triumph and mistake all in one. And as to whether Japanese Soldiers being cowardly, they were willing to die to the last man without surrender in many situations where a US soldier would not be willing to do so. Some people here need to read the dictionary definition of coward and realign their thinking.

Basically, you have the balance of the great evil of Japanese Nationalist Colonial Expansion pitted against the great evil of American Atomic Weaponry. Neither was good in any way, and Americans weren't willing to waste any more of their soldiers lives taking on the invasion of mainland Japan.

They had enough experience with the Philipines, Indonesia and all those little islands where the Japanese guns wouldn't stop firing until Japanese ammunition ran out or the soldiers were killed. From what I can gather from the various veterans I've known, many Japanese soldiers would rather commit suicide than surrender.

A far different war than what was experienced by those sent to Europe who when outgunned by the opposite side (American or German) would have the possibility of becoming a POW if someone wasn't too trigger happy.

We as a species pretty much will deserve what happens to us in the end. Only when humans are all dead will there truly be peace. Clever monkeys just do not have a far reaching ability to plan for the future. And there always are a few troublemakers who will go out of their greedy way to steal from the peaceful ones. The meek will inherit the earth only to have some avaricious twit with a sword, sharp stick or bomb and an ideological or religious fervor come to take it from them. As was proved in Rawanda, machetes and sharp sticks are pretty effective weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, some people try to make a difference. The exhibit is an attempt to make us think about our destructive capabilities a little and maybe stave off the eventual self eradication of the human species off the planet a little longer.

Posted by: martinelli | Jun 15, 2006 10:19:33 PM

martinelli - well said. Well said, indeed. Both sides were barbaric.

However, the Japanese were starving and willing to surrender. We had burnt much of their major cities, and they were in no position to continue their outward aggression.

But, you built the bomb, you gotta use it.


Posted by: citizen | Jun 15, 2006 10:38:44 PM

I've lived in Tokyo for over 20 years and still the issue tears my insides out. The horror of the bombs is overwhelming and instinctly one cannot fathom the 'why' of such destruction. I lean toward pacificism but basically I DO think the bomb was a necessity. A horrible, horrible one. Hopefully never to be repeated.

Let's rewind a bit.

Nagasaki and Hiroshima were targeted in the first place because of munitions and ship building factories. The Japanese were not blameless in the war and indeed threw the first punch. Their atrocities were well documented, a short list being Nanking, the Burma Railroad, the Death March of Bataan, Unit 731, forced enslavement of Koreans in Japanese mines and factories and forced prostitution. To the Allies, the Japanese were a strong, seemingly monsterous and unstoppable foe (the Kamikazes had pretty well spooked the Allies.)

The Japanese did not at the time appear to be near surrender, even after the tremendous losses they had incurred. The ideologues in power just would not give up (hmm...sound familiar?) They were enthralled with a vision of a dominant Japan led by a deified emperor (a late 19th/early 20th century invention, by the way. Throughout most of Japanese history peasants were blithely unaware of an emperor. But I digress.)

I just happened to visit Okinawa last weekend and was graphically reminded of the tremendous toll of civilian life in that battle.

It should at least give one pause to wonder what would have happened had the Allies attacked the main islands. Okinawa's tragedies are well documented for those who wish to know more about the mass suicides, the annihilation of the Japanese forces and heavy Allied casualties.

This impact of this battle on the folks back home in the US was huge. There were 50,000 US casualities (12,000+ dead), and a clamor arose for a Congressional investigation. (The Japanese had 100,000+ military dead, and probably around 100,000-140,000 civilian dead.)

All in one prolonged 82 day nightmare of a battle.

The Japanese at that time must have been just plain crazy, similar to how the North Korean populace is now. Each loss seemed to make them more rabid.

There were already severe food shortages at the time, and Tokyo had been devasted, with 100,000 dead. Those that didn't die in the fires BOILED TO DEATH in the rivers. Think about how much heat that would take! This in the Emperor's own city. The Japanese fleet had pretty much been destroyed. Between a fourth and third of the civilian population of Okinawa dead...and yet...

...did any of that make Hirohito urge the military to surrender?

What were the Allies to think?

Engage in a land battle and end up responsible for the deaths perhaps a third of the population of Japan? How many months would this have taken? How many millions of people would that have been? How many Allied dead?

The bombs were dropped 6 weeks after the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

Posted by: Yowza | Jun 15, 2006 11:50:02 PM

I've post in italian language:



Posted by: sdamy | Jun 16, 2006 12:20:15 AM

The war was already won by the time the bombs were dropped, and it jump started the cold war, laying the foundation for the next 60+ years of military build up at the cost of freedom and liberty. Way to go Truman.

Posted by: none | Jun 16, 2006 12:49:16 AM

Was the bombing of Hiroshima necessary?

Was the bombing of Nagasaki necessary?

When I read the comments, I get the impression that the main reasons for bombing these towns was to get vengence or to punish the Japanese for their viciousness.

And every time the same examples follow:
- pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor
- prison camps in China
- Japanese were seeking control of the entire Pacific
- an emperor that will not accept that his strategy is flawed

Consider today's events in Irak, Guantanamo, the entire middle east and a president named GWB. Then ask yourself if this means that 'terrorist' actions on a nuclear scale would be justified in the USA.

You know... to 'stop the war'.

A wise man has said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

But I guess you can also find that out the hard way.

Posted by: Wig | Jun 16, 2006 1:50:36 AM

It is mystifying how some people, many of whom consider themselves christians, can think the slaughter of civilians can be justified.

Apparently the death of 4000 innocent americans in the world trade center is an atrocity, but somehow the death of innocent iraqis/japanese/assorted brown people is justified... one has to wonder.

Our collective memory seems to suffer from alzheimers.

Posted by: Chris | Jun 16, 2006 2:35:08 AM

Chris: Essentially I agree with with you. 3000 dead in the WTC is enough of an excuse for a religious zealot and former "C" student and draft dodger to launch an illegal war of aggression to destroy WMDs---uh, no, to take out an evil dictator, wait -- spread democracy--that's IT! Spread democracy! (and get oil!) Even if it triggers World War III.

But 200,000 people dead of starvation (millions more on the verge) in Dafur due to armed conflict brings the response of----oh it can't be helped. They're only brown people anyway. Plus, they don't have any oil.

How humane can we claim to be?

However, my point was that the US thought (however easy it is now to second guess) that it would be the *more* humane choice.

Not only did the US not want to incur casualties, it also did not want to INFLICT heavy civilian loss of life.

The example of Okinawa was: 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire civilian population dead.

Say what you will, but I don't think there was an appetite for that kind of killing. The Allies were also shocked by the huge amount of suicides, of mothers pushing their children off cliffs and then jumping with the baby; entire school classes committing suicide together. It was unfathomable and scary and made them think that the Japanese would continue their aggression, and never surrender.

And what seems so apparent now -- that the war was about to end -- did not seem so obvious then. It looked like the Japanese would fight on and on and on.

I also don't think they realized exactly HOW horrific the effects of the A-bomb would be, nor how great the prolonged suffering. Now we do.

I'm not saying it was 'right.' But at the time, it was definitely seen as the 'less bad' approach.

Posted by: Yowza | Jun 16, 2006 3:57:56 AM

Cherry blossoms fall
Autumn breezes WHAT'S THAT LIGHT?

Posted by: Pyster | Jun 16, 2006 5:37:19 AM

Hindsight is 20/20. Put yourself in the shoes of the average American in 1945. Four long years of fighting basically two wars, the real outcome unknown for a long time.

The battle for Europe was bad enough. D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and countless others until finally Germany surrenders. Yet, still the "other" war continues despite our small island triumphs. All the while people at home, parents and loved ones never knowing what hell the soldiers and sailors are going through each and every day.

You've all seen the pictures of the celebrations erupting in the streets following the Japanese surrender; the end of war. America's had many conflicts since World War II and never has it rejoiced like this. Imagine the relief, the elation that this tragedy was finally over.

Put yourself in that time under those circumstances and maybe how the war was won might not be the first and foremost concern, just that it be over.

Given the circumstances, Truman made the right choice. Remember, even after Hiroshima the japanese leaders gambled that we couldn't possibly have two of these bombs. Truman wanted to leave no mistake.

No one places the blame on Hiroshima and Nagasaki squarely on the shoulders of the Emperor, but it is precisely where it belongs.

Posted by: Duane | Jun 16, 2006 5:41:45 AM

As I'm sure everyone already knows (..or not...), there were worse raids than Hiroshima/Nagasaki, but those were carried out with conventional incendiary weapons.

The atomic attacks were remarkable only in that they used a single plane, with a single bomb, to achieve the same ends that previously required hundreds of bombers.

Posted by: First and last | Jun 16, 2006 5:47:55 AM

The blame for the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki lays solely on the Japanese war machine, which was not only the ruling government, but it’s civilians who’s labors maintained the war efforts. They tended the fields, sewed the uniforms, made the munitions… that allowed the war machine to commit atrocities unimaginable. Wholesale evil. After seeing the devastation of Hiroshima refusal to surrender was madness. What were they thinking?

Shed no tears for the Japanese of that era; their suffering was insignificant compared the suffering they inflicted.

It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million Russians [i.e. Soviet citizens]; the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved millions and exploited them as forced labourers — and, in the case of the Japanese, as [forced] prostitutes for front-line troops. If you were a Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (but not Russia) you faced a 4 % chance of not surviving the war; [by comparison] the death rate for Allied POWs held by the Japanese was nearly 30 %.[1]

Thankfully, the Japanese have been cured of the madness that drove them to such evil.

Posted by: someone | Jun 16, 2006 6:34:10 AM

Of course the lack of knowlege was on both sides. It's perfectly possible that if the militarists had known that the US only had the capacity to make ~2 bombs a month, they wouldn't have surrendered. Certainly measured in civilian deaths or square miles of urban area destroyed per month, tne nuclear weapons paled in comparison to the incendiary raids that were being conducted at the same time.

One of the main reasons for Nagasaki to be an alternate target was that it was the major port neccessary for the Japanese to send reinforcements to Kyushu. Once the secret of the bomb was out, those planning the invasion were considering dropping the bombs on the beaches and then landing to avoid having to take a contested beach. It's not at all clear that even if the soldiers involved knew about the risks of radiation, they wouldn't have preferred this to facing ferocious beach defenses. Many of them would have perceived dying of Leukemia in ~20 years time as a doubling of their lifespans.

Total war is a terrible thing. We should all feel happy that we live in a time when we can feel that it is repugnant rather than required.

Posted by: Jim A | Jun 16, 2006 10:10:06 AM

Yes, I agree the bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki were a terrible and devastating destruction of innocent civilians.

Although, viewing this from a realistic perspective, dropping an atomic bomb was bound to happen somehwere at sometime once the bomb was created. If it didn't happen at Hiroshima & Nagasaki it would have happened somewhere.

Does that mean it was ok to drop the bomb? No, but it has happened, we've seen the effects, and we must now learn from our past.

Posted by: Realist | Jun 16, 2006 10:38:49 AM

As a person 1 year old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and having read Hersey's book in high school, I was a thoroughly convinced anti-nuclearist. I still believe it to have been an awful act. But back in 1998 I did visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima and was very surprised to have changed my opinion a bit. (I still consider that the bombing of Nagasaki was a war crime, by the way). Hiroshima was the embarkation point of troops that occupied (with prejudice) Southeast Asia, and a port that exported munitions made in the factories in and near Hiroshima. It never had been bombed for whatever reason. In the Museum it was acknowledged that Hiroshima was large in the war effort, and also ( a big surprise) that kids were brought in to work in factories and just be present there, in order to be human shields. I don't know what the Japanese text said, but the English was rather explicit. I am not a crank, by the way, but somebody who was shocked out of his mind by this. I came to the conclusion that Hiroshima was a valid target, and that its destruction could be justified (and I really feel bad for concluding this). I saw the 'shadows' of vaporized people on building stones and stood under Ground Zero, and it was devastating. Yet I reach this conclusion. God Forgive Me.

Posted by: VJB | Jun 16, 2006 10:50:21 AM

VJB, believe it or not, I understand your feelings on the matter, though I do not agree with them. The bombs were not neccesary to win the war. The Japanese were tenacious, this is true. No one denies that they attacked first, and in conflicts of any kind, given the choice between "them" and "us" there is no choice. We had the right survive, during the war, our way of life had the right to survive... that having been said, the death of civilians in war is never acceptable. Had we not used the bomb, the war would have continued, but ultimately won by our side. Perhaps more lives would have been lost, but they would have been military lives, not civilian ones. Every soldiers swears an oath upon entering the military, they know that ultimately one day they may be asked to lay down their lives for their country, their beliefs... civilians don't get to make that choice. And not to mention the children... civilian losses are nothing more than crimes against humanity. Killing is killing, hot blooded or cold, and time and distance do not seperate us from wrongdoing...

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 16, 2006 12:50:05 PM

According to Admiral William D. Leahy, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
and President Truman's Chief of Staff:
"The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the
effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional
weapons... In being the first to use it [the atomic bomb], we had adopted
an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."

Posted by: armyguy | Jun 16, 2006 2:43:51 PM

"Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'... It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
(General Dwight David Eisenhower Commander in Chief of Allied Forces in

"It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell."
(UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill.)

Posted by: armyguy | Jun 16, 2006 2:44:54 PM

"Certainly prior to 31 December 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." (US Strategic Bombing Survey, 1946.)

"General Curtis LeMay: 'The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.'

Field Marshal Montgomery ( Commander of all UK Forces in Europe) wrote in his History of Warfare: "It was unnecessary to drop the two atom bombs on Japan in August 1945, and I cannot think it was right to do so .... the dropping of the bombs was a major political blunder and is a prime example of the declining standards of the conduct of modern war."

Posted by: armyguy | Jun 16, 2006 2:46:26 PM

Truman's Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy, wrote: "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 already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons ... In being the first to use it, we adopted an ethical standard common to the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in this fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

"The dropping of the first atomic bomb was also an act of pure terrorism. It fulfilled no military purpose of any kind. Belatedly it has been disclosed that seven months before it was dropped, in January 1945, President Roosevelt received via General MacArthur's headquarters an offer by the Japanese Government to surrender on terms virtually identical to those accepted by the United States after the dropping of the bomb: in July 1945, as we now know, Roosevelt's successor, President Truman, discussed with Stalin at Bebelsberg the Japanese offer to surrender....The Japanese people were to be enlisted as human guinea-pigs for a scientific experiment."
- F.J.P Veale, Advance To Barbarism: The Development Of Total Warfare From Serajevo To Hiroshima (California: Institute for Historical Review, 1979), pp.352-53.

Posted by: armyguy | Jun 16, 2006 2:50:05 PM

Rape of motherfucking Nanking.

Posted by: Ji'han | Jun 16, 2006 6:06:02 PM

To say that the Japanese were militarily defeated by August 1945 is undeniable.

To say that the Japanese were willing to surrender is absurd.

Even after Hiroshima and Nagaski, even after Emperor Hirohito had ordered the surrender, what did the Japanese military do?

They put their beloved emperor under arrest and tried to destroy all record of the surrender order, that's what they did.

Without the A-bomb -- without USE of the A-bomb -- the bloody 82-day battle for Okinawa (during which 150,000 civilians died) would have been completed overshadowed in history by Operation Olympic as Dieppe has been overshadow by D-Day.

Posted by: Malvolio | Jun 16, 2006 6:23:03 PM

To no one in particular, I'll ask: it's easy to second guess the actions of those engaged in deadly war against an enemy, to lay the charge of barbarism upon those who decisively ended world war II, all from the comfort of your own chair and more than 60 years of distance, isn't it?

Like it or not, the atom bombs demonstrated to the Japanese that the US wasn't going to back down--and it made a bloody land war in Japan unnecessary. It was mostly a fast solution, and like it or not, it probably saved more lives than it ultimately took. (Of course, it also demonstrated to the Soviets that it was really possible to build nuclear weapons.)

But be that as it may, this _is_ an exhibit which needs to travel to every world power, atomically up and coming or otherwise. I'd love to see it in person.

No real commentary on the exhibit is needed, honestly: these were terrible events. But they were terrible times. And it's hard to say how much damage Japan has really been done since the war's end (by that I mean, I'd rather have the Japanese as our allies than as resentful rivals).

I'd say we've been pretty good, considering. Twice nuclear weapons have been used in times of war. But only twice--with the nuclear djinni out of the bottle, that's remarkable restraint. Probably won't last.

But honestly? I'm more worried about large bolides falling from the sky than Atomic Holocaust.

Posted by: Scott Elyard | Jun 16, 2006 11:21:47 PM

No sane person likes war or the killing that goes with it, but this whole sad display seems to ignore two basic facts:

Japan started the war in the Pacific with an unnecessary and unprovoked attack.

We finished it at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, avoiding the massive casualties that would NO DOUBT have come ON BOTH SIDES during prolonged war and invasion of the home islands, as the Japanese had pledged to FIGHT TO THE DEATH TO THE LAST MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD.

All the rest is just mental masturbation at best and at worst is deliberate historical revisionism.

End of story.

Posted by: Greg | Jun 17, 2006 5:04:03 AM

Just so we're clear, I'm a registered INDEPENDENT pretty much tired of all this left-right conservative-liberal Republicrat-Democan mumbo jumbo.

Still, people like James and BC illustrate why the right keeps getting stronger as the "left" has gone off the deep end for the most part.

Take James' comment that, "The Americans bombed an incredible number of civilians from a distance without risking any of their own people. Whose act was more cowardly?" He's wrong on several points. There was great risk to a great many people on each bombing mission, not to mention those injured and killed along the way in both military and civilian settings. James suggests it's the American way to find & bomb civilians to win wars, yet exactly the opposite is true. The current wave of fascist militant islam suicide cults around the world are based on the same concepts the Japanese used in forming the basic concept of what we called the kamikaze. In this new paradigm everyone is a legitimate target and the highest victory is achieved by maiming and killing the most innocents in the most horrible way possible. Compare and contrast this against the current trend in American warfare which avoids legitimate, important targets because of the chance of collateral damage not only to people who may be lawful combatants (but we're not sure so we abort) but also to avoid damaging CULTURAL OR RELIGIOUS sites.

Clearly James is engaging in just the sort of "imagined" demonization BC dismisses as some sort of false perception on the part of the right. You know, the same "imagined" demonization you see all over both the American primary media outlets (with the possible exception of FOX, but I've seen it there too) as well as many world media outlets. Good thing it's all just a figment of the imaginiations of those on the right, huh?

BC disqualifies himself when he speaks of what the right thinks because, as an obvious lefty, he obviously has NO IDEA what the right thinks. Few on the left know what the right really thinks, just as few on the right really understand what the left thinks. BC says it's all in the right's head. That sounds like more of the left's talking points to me - tell a lie long enough and loud enough and people start believing it.

I suppose the term "Vast right-wing conspiracy" has no meaning to BC? What about the repeated claims the right is racist & mean spirited, not to mention all the Nazi/Hitler references? Funny thing is it is the AMERICAN LEFT who wants to take the guns away from ordinary citizens as a necessary first step towards their view of a future where government knows best.

Posted by: Greg | Jun 17, 2006 5:31:52 AM

First and Last seems to understand. The idea that the choice was drop the atomic bomb or to leave them in peace a few weeks and wait for them to surrender is absurd. The choice that the U.S. leadership was making was: "Do we continue the starvation blockade and the systematic destruction of every square mile of urbanized area and the killing of the people in them until they surrender?" This might have taken several years. The alternative being considered was "Do we continue the starvation blockade and the systematic destruction of every square mile of urbanized area and the killing of the people in them in preparation for an invasion?"

Casualty estimates for invading Japan were highly colored by which of these two options the estimator favored. Those in the Navy and the Army Air Forces tended to give very high estimates for the cost of invasion because they generally advocated continued blockade and bombing. Army Ground Forces tended to give much lower casualty estimates for their prefered alternative invasion.

The perception by most Americans was that any terms less than unconditional surrender simply meant that we'd have to do it all over again in 20 years, as we had in Europe with Germany. Few seriously considered allowing the Japanese to sue for terms, even though in the end, MacArthur believed that Hirohito was more useful alive than executed. I don't think anyone seriously considered NOT using the bomb, even though the main effect was simply saving AvGas by allowing 1 bomber to do the job of hundreds.

It had been obvious to all that there was no way for Japan to win for many months. They were free to accept the terms offered for months, and had declined to do so. Their goal, rather than victory, was to be in a position to inflict enough casualties to force the U.S. to allow the continued existance of their current goverment. Japan had been defeated and refused to surrender under the terms being offered. There was no meaningful way for the U.S. decision makers to know how close the decision makers in Japan were to surrendering or what the most efficient and/or least bloody way was to convince them.

Everything but the thinnest pretense that the U.S. Strategic Bombing program was targeting individual factories had been abandoned when LeMay switched from attempting to drop high explosive bombs precisely on factories to dropping enough incendiary bombs to create massive firestorms destroying square mile uppon square mile of city. If there was any kind of moral rubicon regarding civilian deaths, it was crossed long before Hiroshima was bombed. One of the reasons that Tokyo or Nagoya wasn't the target was the fear that there was so little left of those cities that it wouldn't be a very impressive demonstration.

Undoubtedly if the U.S. had never developed the atomic bomb, Japan would still been forced into unconditional surrender. Whether they would have surrendered before or after the invasion of Kyushu, or indeed before landings on the Kanto plain and the battle of Tokyo us probably unknowable. In the end, I don't beleive that it was about revenge for Pearl Harbor or Nanking. It wasn't about showing the Soviet Union that we had atomic bombs. The long and short of it was that they refused to surrender on terms (unconditional surrender) that we found acceptable and we were willing continue prosecuting the war by ALL means neccessary until they did.

Posted by: Jim A | Jun 17, 2006 9:38:08 AM

Follow the link ::
sakamoto's project for stop the building of a reprocessing nuclear plant in rokkasho, japan. I believe getting involved with the present is more urgent than understanding the past.


Posted by: Kiles | Jun 17, 2006 10:56:27 AM

My father was on a ship in the US Navy during WWII. His ship fought many battles in the Pacific and was hit several times by kamikaze attacks, but luckily survived. Not so fortunate were many of the crew.

For all the faint of heart types here who want to talk about the horrors - it is called war. War is horrible. It is incredibly violent. Many, many people die. Whole countries are destroyed and devastated. One side must finally prevail and set the terms of a peace.

In the case of this war, the US was attacked by the Japanese without provocation at Pearl Harbor. You want to feel bad about something? Go to Hawaii, where I lived for several years. Go out to the memorial for the USS Arizona which still rests at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with over 1,300 crew members still on board.

Think back to that lazy Sunday morning in tropical paradise. Think about the sailors who get to sleep in on Sunday mornings and those who were preparing to go on watch or go to church services. And then came the Japanese. And the bombs and torpedoes. And thousands of military and civilians died. And the Japanese attackers radioed back to the aircraft carrier "Tora! Tora! Tora!" bragging that they had managed to pull off the attack with complete surprise.

They also attacked many Pacific islands in those days - some on the same day. The US recovered from that series of attacks and proceeded to fight in the Pacific at great cost in casualties for 4 years. Many US ships were sent to the bottom. Many American soldiers, Marines, and sailors died taking back what the Japanese had occupied in the Pacific. And everywhere we went, there was evidence of torture, atrocities, and worse perpetrated by the Japanese. One of their favorite amusements was taking infants out of the arms of native women in villages, tossing them into the air, and catching them with their bayonets. The laughed when they did this.

In the battle of the Coral Sea, we turned the tide and stopped the advance of the Japanese who were bent on invading Australia. Imagine what that would have been like.

And finally, given the devastating losses we suffered that increased exponentially as we approached the Japanese homeland, we knew the level of casualties we'd suffer invading Japan were intolerable.

Some have said the Japanese were starving and ready to surrender. Then why didn't they? They could have and we would have accepted it. Why did they not surrender after Hiroshima? Nagasaki would have been avoided. But they didn't.

The Japanese started the war; they were brutal war criminals with no sense of surrender and at one time controlled most of the Pacific and the countries along the Pacific rim. They got what they deserved.

Dresden was worse than Hiroshima. The firestorms in Tokyo were worse than Hiroshima. But Hiroshima (followed by Nagasaki) displayed to the emperor that we had frightening powers and were not afraid to use them.

60 years later, Japan is our ally. Peace has reigned there and in most of the Pacific since that time. Many thousands of Americans lived to return to the US and help build a strong country. My Dad came home and in 1946 I was born. I'm glad he lived.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 17, 2006 3:16:31 PM

To everyone justifying this destruction, through commenting on "Japs"'s cruelty-

The US firebombed defenseless japanese cities constantly. More people died from napalm than from these two bombs, a horrible fate of burning to death. We were the demons dropping napalm on defenseless citizens living in paper houses.
The US backed up japan when they attacked Russia. The japanese made a perfect practice run of pearl harbor on the Russians, and our President at the time, i think it was Teddy Rosevelt, actually congradulated their attack in a letter to his son.
We were the ones, or rather Perry was the one, told by the US government, to go to japan and show off his naval might and force japan to trade with the rest of the world, back before the meji restoration. while they used swords and spears, we brought in a fully loaded battleship armed with many cannons, and forced them to do what we asked.
THey saw this battleship, and they became worried, deciding to construct weapons and "Join the World Powers" WE ARE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING JAPAN A MODERN MILITARY MIGHT BY WORLD WAR II.
The japanese government drilled tactics, combat skills and suicidal antics into their soldiers from a very young age. Schools were made into boot camps, almost literally. Math was taught through weapons trajecory and such, for PE they drilled combat skills, and even in their hallways they had to salute their teachers.
The lower level soldiers were taugh a butchered version of Bushido. They were taught that dying in battle for their emperor was the ultimate honor, and that nothing could beat a spirited bayonnet charge, not even a tank. Even the lowest of ancient samurai knew that living to fight another day was more effective, but the Japanese military around world war II made it clear to their soldiers:
If you die, you are honored. If you flee, we kill you. If you are captured, we will kill you when you return home. If you kill the enemy, you are victorious and will live to fight again.
They were not given provisions when they were sent overseas. This was called local provisioning, and this meant take local goods. The locals usually had no food anyway, so much of the time the soldiers had to cannibalize just to live.
During actual military training, the soldiers were beaten every day, literally to the point of passing out. EVERY DAY THEY WERE ESSENTIALLY TORTURED BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT, WHO THEN EXPECTED THEM TO FIGHT FOR THEM. In fact, some of them were beaten so fiercely that their faces became deformed.
Yes, you say, japan invaded china and killed many defenceless civilians. Ever heard of the native americans? You probably would hear alot more about them, if we hadnt slaughtered most of their population, most of the time their defenseless old men and women when the braves were away hunting.
Due to Admiral Perry of the United States of America, the Japanese realized they had to build the best military in the world and take over other countries to become a world power like the United States.
I agree that these 2 bombs were neccisary. If the japanese had not surrendered, The US would have invaded at a very stupid place, a beach between two cliffs full of caves. Many many more would have died, probably including my great uncle, who was destined to be a front-lines medic in that invasion force.
All you people defending the killing through descriptions of horrible japanese crimes against humanity- how would you feel, if your parents, grandparents, kids, wifes... were all napalmed? Constantly? Instead of focusing on attacking our pentagon or our whitehouse or our soldiers, they went out to new york city and started dropping napalm on hundreds of people packed tight into buildings?
We each have had our share of crimes against humanity, and monstrosities. Do not suggest that your country is less guilty or that killing innocent people is justifyable in any way. I dont care anymore about people dying. I belive that i will die, and i dont worry about it. I belive that human nature dictates that we will kill eachother, in horrible ways, regardless. We consider ourselves civilized now, as they did in the past. In the future, we will look upon things that happened in these modern times with disgust, regardless of their relative lack of comparison with the past.

Match japanese history to US history, or any relatively old country's history. WE ARE ALL "Brutal war criminals"

Some country does something horrible to another country, for some reason.
Then someone else will look, and say "Thats horrible" and end up doing it to someone else for their own reasons.

Killing is unjustifyable, unless you are the one doing it.

I just dont care anymore. I just hope that I dont end up doing it myself one day.

Posted by: WarlordJinsu | Jun 17, 2006 4:22:42 PM

"WE ARE ALL 'Brutal war criminals'"

I'm sorry, but that's just plain stupid. Someone being attacked has every right to defend themselves. Condemning those who wage war because the alternatives are exhausted does not make us all "brutal war criminals," most expecially not in light of the actions by the Japanese, who demonstrated no hesitation to slaughter civilians in their own conquests of the Pacific. Few people seem to know that Korean men served in WWII in labor battalions, and that Korean women served the Japanese military as "comfort women." Why? Look at any political map of Asia from 1910-1945 and you'll see why.

Any pretense of morality that cites sins two generations or more removed from the contemporary generation while blithely ignoring the contemporary generation's sins is worthless. What happened to the American indians was terrible. Trail of tears? A shameful blot upon US history. Does it have any bearing whatsoever on Allied actions in WWII? Of course not.

Another example: the weakening of the German state after the Treaty of Versailles by reparatory nations does not excuse Germany's monstrous racism of the time. The reparations demanded were maybe unfair and overly oppressive, but did this place France, Britain, and Belgium on equal moral footing with the Germany that perpetrated the Holocaust? Or because France, Britain, Belgium, and the USA were slightly better at slaughtering German soldiers in WWI than Germans were at slaughtering French, British, Belgian, and USAian soldeirs, does that somehow grant Germany equivalent moral footing with the Allies in WWII? If you think so, may I ask why?

Getting back to Japan and why the US dropped nuclear weapons on them, it's clear that some nations were a great deal naughtier than others (see: political maps of Asia 1910-1945). Innocent people, of course, don't deserve death, but so long as innocent people identify themselves as being part of a nation, and live in a nation that makes war*, there will probably always be the death of innocent people in war.

I'm glad we all agree the use of nuclear weapons in war are terrible. Problem is, some people think that makes for an easy bridge to condemn those repsonsible for their use--their _first ever_ use--and that is nothing more than an exercise in hubris.

Best ever use for nuclear weapons is, of course, accelerating spacecraft. You can get to Mars in a month that way. Who's with me?

And what about Scarecrow and Mrs. King's brain?

* Personally, I prefer anime to war as a major Japanese export. Toys and video games also rule pretty handily.

Posted by: Scott Elyard | Jun 18, 2006 1:31:53 AM

I would also like to add another aspect to this debate. It was quite possible that Japan was on the verge of completing its own nuclear weapon.
It is a fact that Japan had two Atomic Programs running, and a disputed story that they had already performed a successful test.

How does this change the scenario? Assuming that not dropping the bomb would give the Japanese another month before being taken, is it not entirely possible that they would be able to retaliate in force?

Just something to think over.

Posted by: Anders | Jun 18, 2006 2:41:38 AM

The reactions on this post do tell me one thing for certain, no matter how sophisticated the argument, no matter how many pie charts we put in, or statistics, or quotes from old General's who are all dead now... it eventually all comes down to name calling.

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 18, 2006 6:33:54 AM

I'd like to throw this into the mix:


Deep breaths . . . and ..... FORGIVE

Posted by: Mark | Jun 18, 2006 8:51:19 AM

Look it's quite simple. Either we used that bomb first on the enemy. Or the Germans (who by the way were working on their own atomic bomb) would figure it out and drop it on us. War is indeed a sad and dirty business but anger and aggression are parts of all natural life and therefore we should not hate our country for doing what was necessary towards the defeat of the Nazis. Survival of the fittest and self-preservation, my friends, it's just a part of life.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 18, 2006 10:20:41 AM

Scott Elyard,

To no one in particular, I'll ask: it's easy to second guess the actions of those engaged in deadly war against an enemy, to lay the charge of barbarism upon those who decisively ended world war II, all from the comfort of your own chair and more than 60 years of distance, isn't it?

Yes. It is easy. That's the point: we are 60 years removed from the hysteria, paranoia, and secrecy that is the fog of war. We have declassified documents, post-war statements from central figures, and just plain old historical context to work with. It's lazy to say "We had to do what we had to do" when all available records indicate that it certaintly wasn't what we had to do.


Look it's quite simple. Either we used that bomb first on the enemy. Or the Germans (who by the way were working on their own atomic bomb) would figure it out and drop it on us.

So we had to drop atom bombs on Japan, or else the Germans, who we had already defeated, would drop one on us?

Survival of the fittest and self-preservation, my friends, it's just a part of life.

Your man-as-beast philosophy explains a lot. We're no different than animals, so let's just perpetuate war - it's just our nature, right?

Posted by: none | Jun 18, 2006 12:21:00 PM

In reply to Adam Wilmer's post.

Why is it OK to kill a farm boy from Kansas who's drafted into the army versus a woman factory worker? This is some kind of twisted sexism. It's OK to kill all the men you want, just don't hurt the poor innocent women since they can't do anything anyway.

A man in the army can use one gun at a time to fire bullets at one target at a time. A woman (or man or child) factory worker can make 1000 guns a day. Which is more valuable to the war effort? Those who make the guns or those who shoot them? Men on the field can sadly be replaced trivially. A factory takes a long time to rebuild.

This is war, it's been this way for a long time. Cut off your enemy's supply chains, destroy his means of production and if necessary kill his soldiers. But without weapons the soldiers are useless.

This is the requiem of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A horrible necessary tragedy.

Posted by: James Moriarty | Jun 18, 2006 12:36:10 PM

My grandma lived in Hiroshima. She's dead now, but luckily she was able to raise her children before she passed due to some unknown condition linked to radiation poisoning. Lucky, because otherwise I'd not exist! Grandfather lived in Nagasaki. He was lucky to be out of town during the time. Other Grandfather was in the American armed forces. Grandma cheered him on.

War, although tragic, is neither evil nor heroic. It's just an effect of human nature. The Japanese do not brag about wartime heroics, it's not a topic that is mentioned. In the fog of war, there were choices made during that time, that we can look back on and say "ahh, that was a mistake", but over all.. It played out the way it did.

No one says the American's were wrong. Most Japanese are very thankful of the generosity with which the American's treated them. MacArthur was a good man. Many Japanese knew they were in over their head during the war, but at the end they were left little choice, as the homeland was at stake, and there was fear of being taken over by a country like Russia which was viewed as ruthless. Japan is still paying it's dues to the countries it has invaded.

War happens. Japan had bad timing. The Atom bomb is an amazing power. It's amazing that man could create something like this. It was excessive, but understandable. -shrug-

Many cowardly, brave, barbaric, ruthless, compassionate..etc deeds have been carried out either inside of us, or by our ancestors at some point in time. It would not be well thought out of an opinion that indicates otherwise, I believe. Unless you're not a participant of humanity. If so, I'd like to meet you!

Posted by: Daisuke Colson | Jun 18, 2006 3:37:50 PM

1... FDR knew Pearl Harbor was coming & let it happen to turn US opinion about the war.

2... USA never would've bombed Hitler because he was white.

3... you disagree with me & I let you live... seems fair.

Posted by: cathy green | Jun 18, 2006 6:59:40 PM


First off, nothing I said in my post about civilian deaths vs. military deaths was male/female gender specific. Many men were declared 4F during the war and worked and home and military divisions such as the Navy's "W.A.V.E.S." were comprised of nothing but women. The point of my statement was to make my opinion on civilian deaths extremely clear. They are not acceptable in my opinion, female or male, etc. etc. And don't even try and argue with me that children's death's are acceptable in war... *note: someone posted earlier that the Japanese were catching babies with their swords. I don't think that's acceptable either. I'm just saying annihilating 10,000 plus men, women and children, when there were several viable military targets, is unacceptable, no matter who did it. It was just the use demonstrating its power. It was showing all of our enemies "look at how far we're willing to go, we destroyed our enemies families, do you think we give a crap about you?" Military wars should be fought with soldiers and military targets. I'm not an expert, or a general with 50 years experience, but that's what my heart tells me. To hell if somebody thinks I'm sexist because of that.

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 18, 2006 8:13:47 PM

One of the great things about the Republic of Tinselman is that someone like Wilmey is a government minister.
(NSK civilians are relieved about this too).


Posted by: Mark | Jun 19, 2006 7:24:25 AM


Posted by: Mark | Jun 19, 2006 7:27:29 AM

I remember seeing this at the Hirosima museum, and suffering what can only be called "Apocalypse fatigue" (check the link) The most amazing thing I saw there, was this amazingly dressed gay/transvestite. He was tall, slim & white, and dressed in a patchwork of amazing bright and spangly things, his head wrap and ear-rings were truly works of art. Other than that it was all a little dull, though the pictures of the aftermath and reconstruction were interesting. As I seem to recall were some of the technical exhibits.

But then American students, make jokes, laugh and have a good time as they queue to have thier photos taken in front of the Gas ovens at Dachau. Which, indidentally has a good cake shop, the town, not the death camp.

Posted by: praxis22 | Jun 19, 2006 10:02:23 AM

The way I see it, you need to put yourselves in the shoes of the President at the time. Don't try and think the way he did, because thought processes for different people are always going to be different due to backgrounds, education, etc. Just think of yourself as the President. Go back to right before the A-bomb was dropped and try and think of what you would do if you had WWII on your hands. What WOULD you do? If you really did have all those troops already fighting in Europe - dying in Europe - and then someone bombs your land (where a great majority of your already over-stretched fleet is destroyed in an instant) on the other end, what are you gonna do? Who were you sworn in to lead? To protect? Enemy civilian casualties are always to be considered when devising strategies, but ultimately what are you trying to do? End the war as quickly as possible, while preserving as much of your nation, your PEOPLE, and resources as you can. Bombs may be indiscriminate about who they kill when they blow up a city, but then again, what's a kamikaze pilot thinking when he goes crashing into buildings and ships? Into towers? They don't care who they hit- they just hit them. Why risk losing so many more soldiers with a land invasion? Why risk losing more of your own pilots to dogfights with other pilots who weren't afraid of flying straight into you? How do you stop an enemy that's not afraid to die?
The A-bomb may be a horrible, ghastly alternative, but seriously, at that point in the war, how many options do you as the leader REALLY have? Are you really going to be willing to make the order to send more of your troops over to fight an enemy that was trained not to care about who they killed when they crashed their planes into your land? Would you be willing to hand the folded flag over to that soldier's mother and give your condolences, knowing it was you who sent him to his death? Think about it.
Visit a historic site somewhere. See the numbers of those who died - on both sides - and then form your opinion. Think of the numbers that would have been added if the war had continued, if the bomb had not been dropped and a land invasion ensued. Talk to a veteran who was there. They're dying out by the hundreds everyday, you know- hear it from their point of view while you have the chance. They had the guts to go out there and fight for this country in the midst of all that madness, which is a whole lot more than a lot of us can say of ourselves.
That's just what I think- God forgive me if I'm wrong.
What would you have done?

Posted by: Alli | Jun 19, 2006 1:26:40 PM

I'm not a big fan of the "lesser of two evils" concept. There is always a third option, even if it isn't always readily available, easy to see, and attainable by the push of a button, or the dropping of a bomb...

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 19, 2006 2:58:15 PM

True, too true. I'm sure this thing was looked at from just about all the angles there were, but for whatever reason, the powers that were saw fit to drop the things, the cities were obliterated, and the world sat back in shock and horror as they saw how awful one decision really could be. I suppose I just didn't make my question clear. By no means was I trying to defend the use of the bombs- indeed I am ashamed of them to some degree- and I have never, ever believed that the end justifies the means. Honestly, I have no clue what I would do if I were in that position (God forbid I ever am), and I pity those that have to be, I'm just saying that that was the choice they made, however wrong or brutal it may have been. And on that horribly wrong, brutal note the war was ended.
Really all I was trying to do was pose the question of what other people would have done if they had been in that position .... so what do you think the alternative could have been, aside from an invasion of Japan itself? If I'm not mistaken - and my history's a bit rusty, so correct me if I'm wrong here- but I think we were already doing the island-hopping thing and trying to reclaim all of those Pacific islands, and we were already bombing parts of the Orient to some extent. What else could we have done to help speed up the victory?

Posted by: Alli | Jun 19, 2006 6:56:05 PM

What would I have done?

True, there was a lot of slaughter and madness before the bomb 'stopped the war' . . . But by causing that much death in just a few seconds, I think the bomb was different. It set a new standard for industrial scale destruction. What if the war hadn't 'stopped' in the way it had? How many Nagasakis would it have taken? And although most 'Westerners' have enjoyed a relatively peaceful lull in the post-WW2 era, (not all, by any means, as we know!), we now are the proud owners of a planet ridden with thousands of such bombs, albeit undetonated, and there is no shortage of grievances (real or imagined). So, unless they are lucky, citizens of the world are still liable to die a violent death, albeit potentially more so. We could die fighting, but there's no proof there will be anything around to have fought for afterwards. Or we could die peacefully as ordinary decent people who would rather be called 'cowards' than contribute to the seemingly inevitable madness of war. Just think, if EVERYONE took the 'coward' option . . . I know, I know, what kind of a fantasy-land (or 'faith-based' community?) must I be living in??!!!?

I don't know what I would have done, but I know what I would hope to have not done, with hindsight.

(Apologies to Tinselman, who must be sick of this issue by now.)

Posted by: Mark | Jun 19, 2006 6:57:05 PM

There are several non-lethal approaches that were taken, and could have been taken to a more extreme levels. The trade blockade, and embargo's were working to some degree. The US could have made radical financial allies with many of Japan's industrial imports, as is Japan doesn't have much in the way of certain manufacturing capabilities. I'm not sure if I would have gone so far as to introduce a radical chemical agent into the food supply to kill the crops and slowly starve the country to death, but I might have tried something along the lines of attempting to understand the Japanese honor code, and adapting my diplomacy to match theirs. The Japanese are now, and forever have been an extremely noble and principled people by nature, one could have appealed to that given time... perhaps negotiated a peace based on our understanding of our differences, rather than a magnification of our social akwardness...

I dunno, Robyn, what do you think? I'm really curious as to what you make of this 60+ post mess...

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 19, 2006 7:05:43 PM

Not all Japanese people supported the war, or the militarist government.
I recommend you read The Bells of Nagasaki by Takeshi Nagai and A Song for Nagasaki by Paul Glynn (which gives more information about Nagai's life).
You cannot unbomb Hiroshima or Nagasaki, it's too late to worry about whether it was right or not. But if we can prevent another bombing, they will not have suffered in vain.

Posted by: Monyet Miskin | Jun 21, 2006 5:50:51 AM

I would like to add to this very thoughtful discussion that what America does isn't always for the better. Politicians do some of the dumbest things. Bombing Japan in 1945 was an immoral act of death and destruction, not unlike Nazis tring to destroy the Jews, or like Saddam Hussain killing the Kurds, etc. Since we won the war, we wrote the history books and made us the moral victors, and the men who fought, the "greatest generation".
Americans need to step back and see the world clearly. We will then be able to understand that others cultural morals are similar to our own.

Posted by: shep lovick | Jun 21, 2006 11:36:18 AM

Ok, this is getting to be a little too much. It already happened. It happened about 60 years ago. We've learned the power and the consequences of the atomic bomb, and nuclear weapons are outlawed by Geneva Convention. America and many other countries are against the production and use of nuclear weapons. Yes it was a horrible experience but it was one we learned from. Can we move on please?

Posted by: Mark | Jun 21, 2006 2:42:13 PM

No - America is not "against the production and use of nuclear weapons". It is currently upgrading its nuclear arsenal to a new generation of weapons. It categorically will not rule out nuclear first-strikes against other countries (including countries without nukes eg. Iran). American proliferation of nuclear technology to India is in breach of the Non-proliferation treaty . . .Iran's use of nuclear power is not.
Move on if you prefer, but no one has learned from past experience yet.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 22, 2006 10:05:34 PM

"In time of war, the law falls silent" -Cicero. That's what we are... modern day Rome folks... and we all know what happened to them....

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Jun 23, 2006 3:47:26 PM

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