My personal stake in Hiroshima

JAPAN: BOMBING, HIROSHIMA ATOMIC BURST. At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20

I mentioned that I went to a friend’s fathers’ funeral a couple weekends ago. While there, I had a pleasant time reminiscing with three old friends from my musical group days.

At one point, one of them said, “You know we (the three other guys) talked about this the last time we were together. All three of us had fathers who served in the Pacific, and who would have had to be part of the invasion of Japan, if it had happened. So three out of four of us here might not have ever been born, if the atomic bomb hadn’t been dropped.”

I said, “You’re one short. My dad served in the Occupation forces, but he trained for the invasion.”

So it was all four of us. I think it’s pretty well established that if we’d had to invade and conquer the island of Japan, it would have been a bloodbath of unprecedented proportions. There’s a good chance all four of us might not have been born, if that had happened. And what stopped it was the atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Do I feel guilty that I may be alive because a lot of people died in the atomic attacks?

Not particularly.

I’m reading a book right now (I’ll report on it when I’m done), which seems to me to combine considerable virtues with a lot of what I’d call reflexive liberalism. The development of atomic weapons is discussed as if it were an unalloyed evil, about which no discussion is possible.

There’s plenty of scope for discussion, it seems to me. It wasn’t just American soldiers’ lives that were saved by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the lives of countless Japanese men (who would have been rallied to defend the island with whatever means they had), and of women and children (who would have been caught in the crossfire). The death toll would almost certainly have been far greater than that of the bombing victims.

Also, you can make the case that the fear of the bomb has kept Europe at peace ever since 1945.

The atomic bomb is certainly terrible in its effects, and I would not wish those effects on anyone. It breaks my heart to think of the innocents who died (the idea of bombing civilian targets is something about which I continue to have deep reservations).

But I have even greater trouble with the idea that more people dead would be preferable to fewer people dead.

3 thoughts on “My personal stake in Hiroshima”

  1. The Japanese were willing to fight to the last Japanese. The US was also willing to fight to the last Japanese.

    BTW, the military ordered so many purple heart decorations for soldiers wounded in the conquest of Japan, they used them all the way to 2000.

  2. A few other thoughts on this subject, if you don’t mind.

    I’ve studied Japan and the War II for most of my life. I’m married to a Japanese woman. I’ve lived in Japan for lengths of time.

    You mention that you and 3 other guys in your group would not have been born if not for the bomb. Just think; I’d be the only second cousin once removed in this clan if that had happened! Kinda scary all by itself, heh?

    It has been known for some time now that the Japanese rulers knew two years into the war that Japan could NOT win under any circumstances. However, huge loss of face would occur if they had ordered a surrender at that point. It might have been so bad that the civilian population might have revolted and over-thrown the government. The leaders didn’t want that. They decided the civilians needed to suffer more so they would believe the government had done its best. (From what I’ve read, this philosophy had been considered two or three times before the bombs were dropped. The emperor had great influence on this.

    The History Channel estimates that at least one million American and Allied soldiers would have perished without the bombs. For Japan, 3 to 4 times that many has been suggested.

    However, it wouldn’t have been JUST Japanese men/soldiers. Few women and children would be caught in the “cross-fire” as you mention. The women and children were hyped up by the schools and government to take up arms, (sticks, pitchforks, stones, glass,anything!), and use them to kill Allies. They were being trained to be in the thick of the battles when they came. The children especially were being trained to kill and be killed!

    Most people believe the Japanese military was done-with by the time of the bombs. Not so. There were hundreds if not thousands of airplanes hidden in the mountains to be used for suicide as well as conventional warfare against the Allies.

    They had pilots who were not so well trained for this duty… perhaps more planes than pilots depending on who you read.

    Now, re: bombing civilian targets. In Japan at that time, weapons were being produced in literally cottage industries…the civilian’s homes, schools, etc… NO ONE was an innocent to a total extent. The government had so hyped up the civilians many would have rather died than let Allies get near them. (Please note the number of cliff-jumpers on Okinawa and other islands where the Allies landed and were victorious.)

    Mothers were killing their children, especially girl children so the monster Americans wouldn’t rape the little girls! Then mothers killed themselves.

    From my son who is an acting Lt. Col. in the Army’s Green Beret;

    “In total war situations, there can be no mercy. You kill anyone who is not one of “you”. In time, the idea goes, kill enough soldiers, the mothers and wives will be fed up and want to end it. Kill enough mothers, wives, girlfriends and children AND soldiers, the soldiers will want to stop the war and keep themselves and their families safer. It takes a while, but total war kills more for awhile, but ends up saving lives in the end and stops the war earlier.”

    As an aside; My wife and I watched Clint Eastwood’s two movies on the Pacific War. In the last one put out, it showed Americans killing Japanese prisoners of war because they were an inconvenience to watch over. Also, it showed the Japanese commanders and soldiers being great family men, humorous, and really pushed into the whole thing unwillingly. It showed the Japanese giving food and medicine to the GIs after capture.

    Actually nurturing them.

    I was surprised that my wife laughed and said, “Boy! Someone is really re-writing history! Everyone knows the Japanese killed prisoners of war for seldom a good reason. Japanese rarely gave out medicine to GIs because the Japanese seldom had enough to go around for themselves. Same with food. They weren’t about to give weakling dogs who surrender and don’t fight to the death anything to make them feel better.”

    My wife was certain there were many more American soldiers killed as prisoners than there were Japanese. Japanese killed themselves before they would let themselves be captured. They lived by the CODE OF THE BUSHIDO for the most part. With this, you did NOT let the enemy capture you alive!

    Most Japanese military guys didn’t think ANYONE who surrendered before being killed in battle were human. Soldiers who surrendered, Japanese or Allied were sub-human.

    My father-in-law, at age 94 still gets a smirk and a twinkle in his eye when he tells stories about how American fliers were killed when they crash-landed their planes on Japanese occupied land. The American planes were like gold to the military. They were taken to factories in the mountains or underground so guys like my father-in-law could take them apart and see how and why they were so good.

    I could go on and on………….

    In closing… most Japanese believe they are victims of some evil doing by the US. After-all, Germany didn’t have the atomic bomb dropped on them! (Remember, only Japanese were herded into concentration camps here in the western US. No other nationalities were……)

    There were millions of Japanese who were totally peace-loving before, during and after the war. Especially after the war. But, before anyone in Hollywood makes anymore history remakes… I sure hope someone reads historical documents! There are so many now with new info that it makes you cry. Politically and financially, the US and her allies weren’t innocent babes in arms either.

  3. I just finished a quick review of WWII in HD on my blog today. One thing that I learned from looking at all the footage, which included some horrifying photography of Japanese families throwing themselves off of cliffs rather than surrender to the U.S. soldiers, was that there had to be a decisive victory that no one could question. On both the German and the Japanese sides. There was nothing else that either side would not take as a sign of weakness and use to simply start up again as soon as possible. It was so sad to look at the bodies of people from both sides and see the terrible waste of life, of living, loving people … all due to the ravages of war. Which had to be stopped.

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