Friday, August 06, 2010

65th Anniversary of Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima - When will the US Apologize?

With all the historical information available to everyone, such as Japan was trying to surrender but were being ignored, it is difficult to justify the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet some still try to claim it was war, it was necessary, and there is no need to apologize. Unfortunately, this blogsite tries to present both points of view on many topics, and sometimes there are more than two views to consider, however, in this case, I apologize for the ignorant point of view some writers take when they try to justify the killing of innocent civilians instead of condemning the American government for dropping two atomic bombs to make a polical statement. Truman may have given the order but the question to ask is who ordered him to bomb Japan and why?
The Hiroshima Question
Iranian Bomb: All the sad and painful lessons of Hiroshima will have been lost
By Bruce Walker
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Representatives of the American government are attending, for the first time, the Hiroshima Ceremony which this year marks the 65th anniversary of the use of fission weapons on Japanese cities. Democrat and Republican administrations alike have consistently refused to participate in this ceremony, which implicitly suggests American guilt.
Some Japanese are now saying that attending without a formal apology (which Obama will not give) is inadequate. There is no reason for America to apologize at all for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
War is Hell, and the Second World War was a particularly grisly reminder of that grim fact. Some governments began wars. Stalin conspired with Hitler to begin the war in Europe and both warred on weak neighbors before the Fall of France. Mussolini gratuitously entered the war after France fell. Japan invaded Manchuria and then the rest of China long before Pearl Harbor. These aggressors are primarily responsible for the horrors that followed. Other nations like Britain, France, and America, went to extraordinary lengths to prevent war.
Some nations waged war with sadism which defies sane contemplation. The Holocaust, of course, is well known – although its true dimensions cannot be grasped. The Soviets not only continued to send its subjects to the Gulag while the war went on, but as the Red Army entered Europe its soldiers engaged in an orgy of rapine and mayhem which has few equals in human history. Japan at Nanking in 1938 may have committed the worst single incident of crimes against humanity in history. Beyond that, the Japanese treatment of captured Allied soldiers was much worse than the treatment meted out by the Nazis. America did not treat Japanese POWs the way Japan treated American POWs. Our nation did not vivisect captured Japanese under the pretext of medical research. After the war, some Japanese were tried for crimes against humanity, but like at Nuremberg, these were not kangaroo courts but actual trials.
Waging aggressive wars of conquest with incredible brutality is fundamentally different than resisting conquerors with every weapon available. Japan, like Germany and Russia, were ruthless totalitarian nations who murdered many millions of innocent people in wars which were not necessary for self-defense or any reason beyond conquest and domination. America fought back with every weapon and every strategy which would bring the war to a quick and victorious end, which was the only proper moral course.
If America had developed a fission bomb in 1943, rather than 1945, should we have used that weapon on Berlin? Half of those murdered in the Holocaust died in the last year. Those victims, along with all the soldiers on all the bloody fronts – and all the Germans who died in our strategic bombing campaign – would have been spared more death and misery.
Can anyone seriously argue that fighting the Nazis with conventional weapons would have been, somehow, morally superior to using an atomic bomb to quickly end the war? Was that better than allowing more victims of Nazism to suffer, more soldiers on all sides to be killed or injured, and more German cities to be bombed into rubble?
Would winning the war with conventional weapons have been more compassionate for the people of Japan than dropping two atomic bombs? Before Hiroshima, America had been firebombing Japanese cities. American submarines were starving the Japanese people to death with an iron blockade. Invasion of Japan, the next step in the war, would have cost millions of Japanese lives. Because the Soviet Union was now in the war against Japan, an invasion could easily have led to the occupation of part of Japan by rapacious Red Army soldiers. Japan by August 1945 had lost the war. It needed, desperately, to end the war too.
Does Hiroshima represent the ghastliness of atomic, and then nuclear, weapons? Yes, but that very ghastliness has prevented another world war for sixty-five years. The real lesson of the Second World War, the real lesson of Hiroshima, is this: the good guys, those who hate war and who love liberty, cannot afford to wait before building the awful engines of war. Time and space are too compressed in our world to allow conquering aggressors a season of triumph.
Was it better for America to build and use fission bombs before Japan or Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia could? Yes. There is a very real, very present, and very pointed example of the lessons of Hiroshima in our world today: the Iranian Bomb, which will be built unless we act. Those who hate, those who lust for the murder of others, cannot have the upper hand in war. When that happens – when Tehran feels that it can safely threaten or incinerate its chosen victims – then all the sad and painful lessons of Hiroshima will have been lost.

The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima
(August 6, 1945)
Events: Dawn of the Atomic Era, 1945
In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed north by northwest toward Japan. The bomber's primary target was the city of Hiroshima, located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea. Hiroshima had a civilian population of almost 300,000 and was an important military center, containing about 43,000 soldiers.
The bomber, piloted by the commander of the 509th Composite Group, Colonel Paul Tibbets, flew at low altitude on automatic pilot before climbing to 31,000 feet as it neared the target area. At approximately 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time the Enola Gay released "Little Boy," its 9,700-pound uranium bomb, over the city. Tibbets immediately dove away to avoid the anticipated shock wave. Forty-three seconds later, a huge explosion lit the morning sky as Little Boy detonated 1,900 feet above the city, directly over a parade field where soldiers of the Japanese Second Army were doing calisthenics. Though already eleven and a half miles away, the Enola Gay was rocked by the blast. At first, Tibbets thought he was taking flak. After a second shock wave (reflected from the ground) hit the plane, the crew looked back at Hiroshima. "The city was hidden by that awful cloud . . . boiling up, mushrooming, terrible and incredibly tall," Tibbets recalled. The yield of the explosion was later estimated at 15 kilotons (the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT).
On the ground moments before the blast it was a calm and sunny Monday morning. An air raid alert from earlier that morning had been called off after only a solitary aircraft was seen (the weather plane), and by 8:15 the city was alive with activity -- soldiers doing their morning calisthenics, commuters on foot or on bicycles, groups of women and children working outside to clear firebreaks. Those closest to the explosion died instantly, their bodies turned to black char. Nearby birds burst into flames in mid-air, and dry, combustible materials such as paper instantly ignited as far away as 6,400 feet from ground zero. The white light acted as a giant flashbulb, burning the dark patterns of clothing onto skin (right) and the shadows of bodies onto walls. Survivors outdoors close to the blast generally describe a literally blinding light combined with a sudden and overwhelming wave of heat. (The effects of radiation are usually not immediately apparent.) The blast wave followed almost instantly for those close-in, often knocking them from their feet. Those that were indoors were usually spared the flash burns, but flying glass from broken windows filled most rooms, and all but the very strongest structures collapsed. One boy was blown through the windows of his house and across the street as the house collapsed behind him. Within minutes 9 out of 10 people half a mile or less from ground zero were dead.
People farther from the point of detonation experienced first the flash and heat, followed seconds later by a deafening boom and the blast wave. Nearly every structure within one mile of ground zero was destroyed, and almost every building within three miles was damaged. Less than 10 percent of the buildings in the city survived without any damage, and the blast wave shattered glass in suburbs twelve miles away. The most common first reaction of those that were indoors even miles from ground zero was that their building had just suffered a direct hit by a bomb. Small ad hoc rescue parties soon began to operate, but roughly half of the city's population was dead or injured. In those areas most seriously affected virtually no one escaped serious injury. The numerous small fires that erupted simultaneously all around the city soon merged into one large firestorm, creating extremely strong winds that blew towards the center of the fire. The firestorm eventually engulfed 4.4 square miles of the city, killing anyone who had not escaped in the first minutes after the attack. One postwar study of the victims of Hiroshima found that less than 4.5 percent of survivors suffered leg fractures. Such injuries were not uncommon; it was just that most who could not walk were engulfed by the firestorm.
Even after the flames had subsided, relief from the outside was slow in coming. For hours after the attack the Japanese government did not even know for sure what had happened. Radio and telegraph communications with Hiroshima had suddenly ended at 8:16 a.m., and vague reports of some sort of large explosion had begun to filter in, but the Japanese high command knew that no large-scale air raid had taken place over the city and that there were no large stores of explosives there. Eventually a Japanese staff officer was dispatched by plane to survey the city from overhead, and while he was still nearly 100 miles away from the city he began to report on a huge cloud of smoke that hung over it.
The first confirmation of exactly what had happened came only sixteen hours later with the announcement of the bombing by the United States. Relief workers from outside the city eventually began to arrive and the situation stabilized somewhat. Power in undamaged areas of the city was even restored on August 7th, with limited rail service resuming the following day. Several days after the blast, however, medical staff began to recognize the first symptoms of radiation sickness among the survivors. Soon the death rate actually began to climb again as patients who had appeared to be recovering began suffering from this strange new illness. Deaths from radiation sickness did not peak until three to four weeks after the attacks and did not taper off until seven to eight weeks after the attack. Long-range health dangers associated with radiation exposure, such as an increased danger of cancer, would linger for the rest of the victims' lives, as would the psychological effects of the attack.
No one will ever know for certain how many died as a result of the attack on Hiroshima. Some 70,000 people probably died as a result of initial blast, heat, and radiation effects. This included about twenty American airmen being held as prisoners in the city. By the end of 1945, because of the lingering effects of radioactive fallout and other after effects, the Hiroshima death toll was probably over 100,000. The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold.
At 11:00 a.m., August 6 (Washington D.C. time), radio stations began playing a prepared statement from President Truman informing the American public that the United States had dropped an entirely new type of bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima -- an "atomic bomb." Truman warned that if Japan still refused to surrender unconditionally, as demanded by the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, the United States would attack additional targets with equally devastating results. Two days later, on August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and attacked Japanese forces in Manchuria, ending American hopes that the war would end before Russian entry into the Pacific theater. By August 9th, American aircraft were showering leaflets all over Japan informing its people that "We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man.
A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2,000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate. We have just begun to to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city." Meanwhile, Tibbets's bomber group was simply waiting for the weather to clear in order to drop its next bomb, the plutonium weapon nicknamed "Fat Man" (above) that was destined for the city of Nagasaki.
The Atomic Bomb 1945
In 1942, The first atomic pile, a sustained controllable nuclear chain reaction, came online in Chicago. Scientist and inventor Enrico Fermi remarked, "This will be remembered as the darkest day in history," referring to both the atomic pile and that day's announcement of Nazi death camps operating in occupied Europe. Actually, most people have no knowledge of that day; they remember the ultimate achievement that began on that date - the atomic bomb.
The Manhattan Project - named because the first team started working in Manhattan - was started before the war began at the urging of Einstein and other scientists. The warning was terrifyingly simple - the best theoretical physics was being done in Germany. A weapon of unimaginable power is possible. If the Nazis get it first, it won't matter what the size is of the Allied Armed Forces, they could be annihilated in nuclear fire.
But raids on the German uranium and heavy water production facilities showed they were far behind the American efforts. A comprehensive facility, secretly built in Los Alamos, was administrated by US Army General Leslie Groves and managed by civilian scientist Robert Oppenheimer. By 1944, they were developing an atomic weapon that would deliver a knockout blow to Nazi Germany.
But as the spring of 1945 ended, and the bomb moved from theory to reality, the scientists began to question whether it was necessary to develop a weapon. When the bomb was ready for testing in July 1945, a group of scientists, led by Leo Silzard, questioned if dropping the bomb was needed at all.
But the decision was already being made in favor of dropping the weapon on Japan. It was prepared for the B-29, a plane only operating in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. In Utah, The 504th composite group began practicing on dropping one bomb from a high altitude and turning around quickly. The pilots were sworn to secrecy without even knowing what the secret was.
On July 14, 1945, the bomb was detonated in a test in New Mexico. The scientists had no idea of how much explosive power the bomb would have; ideas ran from a dud to setting the atmosphere on fire. Edward Teller, after the war the father of American nuclear doctrine, had the highest guess: 1,000,000 tons of TNT. The bomb had the power of 20,000 tons of TNT. A cover story was that a munitions depot exploded. A blind woman claimed to see the atomic light from miles away; unfortunately, that was the last time anyone connected with nuclear weapons saw the light through blind eyes.
Within two weeks, the 504th Composite Group was ready to fly from Tinian to Japan and deliver its multimillion-dollar payload. From the list of targets that had been preserved for the test, the primary target of Hiroshima was selected. The B-29, "Enola Gay," piloted by the squadron commander, Col. Paul Tibbets, flew to Japan and dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945. The bomb was nicknamed “Little Boy” and used U-238 as its nuclear core.
At 8:15 AM, the line from Hiroshima to Tokyo went dead. Reports started coming in that Hiroshima had been obliterated by air attack. Reports of the dead ranged from 75,000 to 180,000 dead; due to radiation, people would be dying for decades from cancer and birth defects.
Controversy reigns about the use of the Hiroshima bomb. Some have argued that the naval blockade would have starved Japan into submission; others have argued that without the bomb, the millions of casualties expected with the invasion of the home islands would have become a reality. The source for that estimate has never been found.
What is certain is that Japan was preparing the bloodiest reception ever for the Allies if they had invaded Honshu, the southernmost island in Japan. Truman would never have been able to hold office if he had a working weapon and choose not to use it. Also, the Alliance between the Western powers and the Soviets was growing tenuous after the fall of Germany; Truman, an unknown quantity to the Soviets, had to show he was unafraid to use a weapon of mass destruction, especially one that only the United States possessed at that time.
What is not certain is the extent that the Japanese could have responded to the Allied unconditional surrender calls of August 6 and 7, 1945. The damage by conventional bombing to the transportation and communication network prevented the Japanese government from fully understanding what had happened in Hiroshima.
So the government did nothing, and on August 9, 1945, the B-29 "Bock's Car" dropped the “Fat Man” Plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, the tertiary target. This time the bomb was dropped slightly off target, which minimized the effects, the blast stopped by hills near Nagasaki. 70,000 people were killed, but again the aftereffects caused by radiation continued to kill for decades.
On August 15, 1945, the Emperor announced the surrender. The Second World War was over.
In the 1950’s the United States flew several Japanese women to have plastic surgery for their scars caused during the bombing. Ignored in this public relations tour was that thousands of Japanese carried radioactive scars that would be passed on to their children and would trouble them to this day.
Why World War II ended with Mushroom Clouds
65 years ago, August 6 and 9, 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
By Jacques R. Pauwels
URL of this article:
Global Research, August 6, 2010
“On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, the nuclear bomb ‘Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000.”[1]
“On August 9, 1945, Nagasaki was the target of the world's second atomic bomb attack at 11:02 a.m., when the north of the city was destroyed and an estimated 40,000 people were killed by the bomb nicknamed ‘Fat Man.’ The death toll from the atomic bombing totalled 73,884, as well as another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.”[2]
In the European Theatre, World War II ended in early May 1945 with the capitulation of Nazi Germany. The “Big Three” on the side of the victors – Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – now faced the complex problem of the postwar reorganization of Europe. The United States had entered the war rather late, in December 1941, and had only started to make a truly significant military contribution to the Allied victory over Germany with the landings in Normandy in June 1944, less than one year before the end of the hostilities. When the war against Germany ended, however, Washington sat firmly and confidently at the table of the victors, determined to achieve what might be called its “war aims.”
As the country that had made the biggest contribution and suffered by far the greatest losses in the conflict against the common Nazi enemy, the Soviet Union wanted major reparation payments from Germany and security against potential future aggression, in the form of the installation in Germany, Poland and other Eastern European countries of governments that would not be hostile to the Soviets, as had been the case before the war. Moscow also expected compensation for territorial losses suffered by the Soviet Union at the time of the Revolution and the Civil War, and finally, the Soviets expected that, with the terrible ordeal of the war behind them, they would be able to resume work on the project of constructing a socialist society. The American and British leaders knew these Soviet aims and had explicitly or implicitly recognized their legitimacy, for example at the conferences of the Big Three in Tehran and Yalta. That did not mean that Washington and London were enthusiastic about the fact that the Soviet Union was to reap these rewards for its war efforts; and there undoubtedly lurked a potential conflict with Washington’s own major objective, namely, the creation of an “open door” for US exports and investments in Western Europe, in defeated Germany, and also in Central and Eastern Europe, liberated by the Soviet Union. In any event, American political and industrial leaders - including Harry Truman, who succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt as President in the spring of 1945 - had little understanding, and even less sympathy, for even the most basic expectations of the Soviets. These leaders abhorred the thought that the Soviet Union might receive considerable reparations from Germany, because such a bloodletting would eliminate Germany as a potentially extremely profitable market for US exports and investments. Instead, reparations would enable the Soviets to resume work, possibly successfully, on the project of a communist society, a “counter system” to the international capitalist system of which the USA had become the great champion. America’s political and economic elite was undoubtedly also keenly aware that German reparations to the Soviets implied that the German branch plants of US corporations such as Ford and GM, which had produced all sorts of weapons for the Nazis during the war (and made a lot of money in the process[3]) would have to produce for the benefit of the Soviets instead of continuing to enrich US owners and shareholders.
Negotiations among the Big Three would obviously never result in the withdrawal of the Red Army from Germany and Eastern Europe before the Soviet objectives of reparations and security would be at least partly achieved. However, on April 25, 1945, Truman learned that the US would soon dispose of a powerful new weapon, the atom bomb. Possession of this weapon opened up all sorts of previously unthinkable but extremely favorable perspectives, and it is hardly surprising that the new president and his advisors fell under the spell of what the renowned American historian William Appleman Williams has called a “vision of omnipotence.”[4] It certainly no longer appeared necessary to engage in difficult negotiations with the Soviets: thanks to the atom bomb, it would be possible to force Stalin, in spite of earlier agreements, to withdraw the Red Army from Germany and to deny him a say in the postwar affairs of that country, to install “pro-western” and even anti-Soviet regimes in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and perhaps even to open up the Soviet Union itself to American investment capital as well as American political and economic influence, thus returning this communist heretic to the bosom of the universal capitalist church.
At the time of the German surrender in May 1945, the bomb was almost, but not quite, ready. Truman therefore stalled as long as possible before finally agreeing to attend a conference of the Big Three in Potsdam in the summer of 1945, where the fate of postwar Europe would be decided. The president had been informed that the bomb would likely be ready by then - ready, that is, to be used as “a hammer,” as he himself stated on one occasion, that he would wave “over the heads of those boys in the Kremlin.”[5]
At the Potsdam Conference, which lasted from July 17 to August 2, 1945, Truman did indeed receive the long-awaited message that the atom bomb had been tested successfully on July 16 in New Mexico. As of then, he no longer bothered to present proposals to Stalin, but instead made all sorts of demands; at the same time he rejected out of hand all proposals made by the Soviets, for example concerning German reparation payments, including reasonable proposals based on earlier inter-Allied agreements. Stalin failed to display the hoped-for willingness to capitulate, however, not even when Truman attempted to intimidate him by whispering ominously into his ear that America had acquired an incredible new weapon. The Soviet sphinx, who had certainly already been informed about the American atom bomb, listened in stony silence. Somewhat puzzled, Truman concluded that only an actual demonstration of the atomic bomb would persuade the Soviets to give way. Consequently, no general agreement could be achieved at Potsdam. In fact, little or nothing of substance was decided there. “The main result of the conference,” writes historian Gar Alperovitz, “was a series of decisions to disagree until the next meeting.”[6]
In the meantime the Japanese battled on in the Far East, even though their situation was totally hopeless. They were in fact prepared to surrender, but they insisted on a condition, namely, that Emperor Hirohito would be guaranteed immunity. This contravened the American demand for an unconditional capitulation. In spite of this it should have been possible to end the war on the basis of the Japanese proposal. In fact, the German surrender at Reims three months earlier had not been entirely unconditional. (The Americans had agreed to a German condition, namely, that the armistice would only go into effect after a delay of 45 hours, a delay that would allow as many German army units as possible to slip away from the eastern front in order to surrender to the Americans or the British; many of these units would actually be kept ready - in uniform, armed, and under the command of their own officers – for possible use against the Red Army, as Churchill was to admit after the war.)[7] In any event, Tokyo’s sole condition was far from essential. Indeed, later - after an unconditional surrender had been wrested from the Japanese - the Americans would never bother Hirohito, and it was thanks to Washington that he was to be able to remain emperor for many more decades.[8]
The Japanese believed that they could still afford the luxury of attaching a condition to their offer to surrender because the main force of their land army remained intact, in China, where it had spent most of the war. Tokyo thought that it could use this army to defend Japan itself and thus make the Americans pay a high price for their admittedly inevitable final victory, but this scheme would only work if the Soviet Union stayed out of the war in the Far East; a Soviet entry into the war, on the other hand, would inevitably pin down the Japanese forces on the Chinese mainland. Soviet neutrality, in other words, permitted Tokyo a small measure of hope; not hope for a victory, of course, but hope for American acceptance of their condition concerning the emperor. To a certain extent the war with Japan dragged on, then, because the Soviet Union was not yet involved in it. Already at the Conference of the Big Three in Tehran in 1943, Stalin had promised to declare war on Japan within three months after the capitulation of Germany, and he had reiterated this commitment as recently as July 17, 1945, in Potsdam. Consequently, Washington counted on a Soviet attack on Japan by the middle of August and thus knew only too well that the situation of the Japanese was hopeless. (“Fini Japs when that comes about,” Truman confided to his diary, referring to the expected Soviet entry into the war in the Far East.)[9] In addition, the American navy assured Washington that it was able to prevent the Japanese from transferring their army from China in order to defend the homeland against an American invasion. Since the US navy was undoubtedly able to force Japan to its knees by means of a blockade, an invasion was not even necessary. Deprived of imported necessities such as food and fuel, Japan could be expected to beg to capitulate unconditionally sooner or later.
In order to finish the war against Japan, Truman thus had a number of very attractive options. He could accept the trivial Japanese condition with regard to immunity for their emperor; he could also wait until the Red Army attacked the Japanese in China, thus forcing Tokyo into accepting an unconditional surrender after all; or he could starve Japan to death by means of a naval blockade that would have forced Tokyo to sue for peace sooner or later. Truman and his advisors, however, chose none of these options; instead, they decided to knock Japan out with the atomic bomb. This fateful decision, which was to cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children, offered the Americans considerable advantages. First, the bomb might force Tokyo to surrender before the Soviets got involved in the war in Asia, thus making it unnecessary to allow Moscow a say in the coming decisions about postwar Japan, about the territories which had been occupied by Japan (such as Korea and Manchuria), and about the Far East and the Pacific region in general. The USA would then enjoy a total hegemony over that part of the world, something which may be said to have been the true (though unspoken) war aim of Washington in the conflict with Japan. It was in light of this consideration that the strategy of simply blockading Japan into surrender was rejected, since the surrender might not have been forthcoming until after – and possibly well after - the Soviet Union’s entry into the war. (After the war, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey stated that “certainly prior to 31 December 1945, Japan would have surrendered, even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.”)[10]
As far as the American leaders were concerned, a Soviet intervention in the war in the Far East threatened to achieve for the Soviets the same advantage which the Yankees’ relatively late intervention in the war in Europe had produced for the United States, namely, a place at the round table of the victors who would force their will on the defeated enemy, carve occupation zones out of his territory, change borders, determine postwar social-economic and political structures, and thereby derive for themselves enormous benefits and prestige. Washington absolutely did not want the Soviet Union to enjoy this kind of input. The Americans were on the brink of victory over Japan, their great rival in that part of the world. They did not relish the idea of being saddled with a new potential rival, one whose detested communist ideology might become dangerously influential in many Asian countries. By dropping the atomic bomb, the Americans hoped to finish Japan off instantly and go to work in the Far East as cavalier seul, that is, without their victory party being spoiled by unwanted Soviet gate-crashers. Use of the atom bomb offered Washington a second important advantage. Truman’s experience in Potsdam had persuaded him that only an actual demonstration of this new weapon would make Stalin sufficiently pliable. Nuking a “Jap” city, preferably a “virgin” city, where the damage would be especially impressive, thus loomed useful as a means to intimidate the Soviets and induce them to make concessions with respect to Germany, Poland, and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.
The atomic bomb was ready just before the Soviets became involved in the Far East. Even so, the nuclear pulverization of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, came too late to prevent the Soviets from entering the war against Japan. Tokyo did not throw in the towel immediately, as the Americans had hoped, and on August 8, 1945 - exactly three months after the German capitulation in Berlin - the Soviets declared war on Japan. The next day, on August 9, the Red Army attacked the Japanese troops stationed in northern China. Washington itself had long asked for Soviet intervention, but when that intervention finally came, Truman and his advisors were far from ecstatic about the fact that Stalin had kept his word. If Japan’s rulers did not respond immediately to the bombing of Hiroshima with an unconditional capitulation, it may have been because they could not ascertain immediately that only one plane and one bomb had done so much damage. (Many conventional bombing raids had produced equally catastrophic results; an attack by thousands of bombers on the Japanese capital on March 9-10, 1945, for example, had actually caused more casualties than the bombing of Hiroshima.) In any event, it took some time before an unconditional capitulation was forthcoming, and on account of this delay the USSR did get involved in the war against Japan after all. This made Washington extremely impatient: the day after the Soviet declaration of war, on August 9, 1945, a second bomb was dropped, this time on the city of Nagasaki. A former American army chaplain later stated: “I am of the opinion that this was one of the reasons why a second bomb was dropped: because there was a rush. They wanted to get the Japanese to capitulate before the Russians showed up.”[11] (The chaplain may or may not have been aware that among the 75,000 human beings who were “instantaneously incinerated, carbonized and evaporated” in Nagasaki were many Japanese Catholics as well an unknown number of inmates of a camp for allied POWs, whose presence had been reported to the air command, to no avail.)[12] It took another five days, that is, until August 14, before the Japanese could bring themselves to capitulate. In the meantime the Red Army was able to make considerable progress, to the great chagrin of Truman and his advisors.
And so the Americans were stuck with a Soviet partner in the Far East after all. Or were they? Truman made sure that they were not, ignoring the precedents set earlier with respect to cooperation among the Big Three in Europe. Already on August 15, 1945, Washington rejected Stalin’s request for a Soviet occupation zone in the defeated land of the rising sun. And when on September 2, 1945, General MacArthur officially accepted the Japanese surrender on the American battleship Missouri in the Bay of Tokyo, representatives of the Soviet Union - and of other allies in the Far East, such as Great Britain, France, Australia, and the Netherlands - were allowed to be present only as insignificant extras, as spectators. Unlike Germany, Japan was not carved up into occupation zones. America’s defeated rival was to be occupied by the Americans only, and as American “viceroy” in Tokyo, General MacArthur would ensure that, regardless of contributions made to the common victory, no other power had a say in the affairs of postwar Japan.
Sixty-five years ago, Truman did not have to use the atomic bomb in order to force Japan to its knees, but he had reasons to want to use the bomb. The atom bomb enabled the Americans to force Tokyo to surrender unconditionally, to keep the Soviets out of the Far East and - last but not least - to force Washington’s will on the Kremlin in Europe also. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated for these reasons, and many American historians realize this only too well; Sean Dennis Cashman, for example, writes:
With the passing of time, many historians have concluded that the bomb was used as much for political reasons...Vannevar Bush [the head of the American center for scientific research] stated that the bomb “was also delivered on time, so that there was no necessity for any concessions to Russia at the end of the war”. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes [Truman’s Secretary of State] never denied a statement attributed to him that the bomb had been used to demonstrate American power to the Soviet Union in order to make it more manageable in Europe.[13]
Truman himself, however, hypocritically declared at the time that the purpose of the two nuclear bombardments had been “to bring the boys home,” that is, to quickly finish the war without any further major loss of life on the American side. This explanation was uncritically broadcast in the American media and it developed into a myth eagerly propagated by the majority of historians and media in the USA and throughout the “Western” world. That myth, which, incidentally, also serves to justify potential future nuclear strikes on targets such as Iran and North Korea, is still very much alive - just check your mainstream newspaper on August 6 and 9!
Jacques R. Pauwels, author of The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, James Lorimer, Toronto, 2002
[3] Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, Toronto, 2002, pp. 201-05.
[4] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, revised edition, New York, 1962, p. 250.
[5] Quoted in Michael Parenti, The Anti-Communist Impulse, New York, 1969, p. 126.
[6] Gar Alperovitz Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam. The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power, new edition, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1985 (original edition 1965), p. 223.
[7] Pauwels, op. cit., p. 143.
[8] Alperovitz, op. cit., pp. 28, 156.
[9] Quoted in Alperovitz, op. cit., p. 24.
[10] Cited in David Horowitz, From Yalta to Vietnam: American Foreign Policy in the Cold War, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1967, p. 53.
[11] Studs Terkel, "The Good War": An Oral History of World War Two, New York, 1984, p. 535.
[12] Gary G. Kohls, “Whitewashing Hiroshima: The Uncritical Glorification of American Militarism,”
[13] Sean Dennis Cashman, , Roosevelt, and World War II, New York and London, 1989, p. 369.