Sunday, August 06, 2006

In Memory of Hiroshima

Today is Sunday, 6 August 2006.

Most in this nation tend to forget that the competition between Japan and the USA/USE/USSA, which culminated with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on this day in 1945, began with aggression by the USA/USE/USSA against Japan.

In 1852, Japan was a nation which was, by choice of its rulers, closed to the outside world. The American government decided this was an offense to free trade, and sent a squadron of warships to demand that Japan open itself to the world and to trade, or suffer the military consequences.

At this point, the Law of Unintended Consequences reared its head. As a result of the American action, Japan’s rulers not only opened Japan to the outside world, but also soon decided to modernize its economy along Western technological lines, and become as imperialist as the West. One consequence was Pearl Harbor.

One of the commonly-held opinions about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is that, by averting an American invasion of Japan, it saved the lives of 1,000,000 American soldiers who would otherwise have died in the invasion. Is this true?

In 1946, Henry Stimson, who had been Secretary of War during World War II, was convinced by colleagues that he should write an essay (which would appear in Harper’s in 1947) justifying use of the atomic bomb. He agreed, providing it was ghosted for him, and the task fell to McGeorge Bundy, who was assisting Stimson in writing his memoirs. (Bundy would later become Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1966.)

Bundy asked the military to furnish copies of the briefings Stimson had received on projected invasion casualties, but for some reason the military never responded. Bundy and Stimson therefore settled on the nice, round figure of 1,000,000.

In fact, the actual projections which had been provided to Stimson were 220,000 casualties, of which 42,000 would be killed in action. In the context of total war, this would have been regarded as an entirely acceptable level of casualties to achieve final victory.

In fact, for some months, the Japanese government had been communicating, through third parties, its willingness to surrender, provided it was guaranteed that the Emperor would remain on the throne. The Americans who advised Truman to use the Bomb knew this; they also knew that the ability of the Japanese economy to sustain war-making was almost exhausted, and Japan must soon fall in any event.

So why was the Bomb used?

Certainly, there must have been enormous psychological pressure to use such a weapon after the colossal expense of its creation. After long study of the available evidence, and in agreement with many other scholars, I can only agree with what Bundy later wrote in his book, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years, was the primary motivation for use of the Bomb: “What is true --- and important --- is that these same decision makers were full of hope that the bomb would put new strength in the American power position.”

The Bomb was not dropped to save American lives. It was dropped because only the exemplary results of actual use would guarantee that the Bomb would be the capstone of the greatest power, economically and militarily, in the history of the world.

A minimum of 150,000 people died at Hiroshima, immediately and of radiation aftereffects. As many as 250,000 may have perished.


Anonymous La_Libertine said...

And here we are today, with everyone rattling their nuclear sabers. No one has actually "nuked" another again, yet - but depleted uranium used in weapons has already begun leaving its far reaching legacy of cancer, birth defects and more... and everybody loses.

4:07 PM  

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